Fingernails, Some Commentary On the Maxilla, and Other Late-Night Musings (Fascinating Articles This Week)

December 30, 2010

Here's an article written for elderly patients, but fascinating for people of any age who have fingernails and have ever wondered about the various annoying symptoms that can afflict these small and useful body parts:…


I generally take people's credentials with a grain of salt, but it is always especially interesting to me when “professionals” begin to question the very establishment which has credentialed them in the first place. In “Is it Mental or is it Dental?”, Raymond Silkman, D.D.S., is questioning mainstream dentistry:

Silkman writes, “The widely held model of orthodontics, which considers developmental problems in the jaws and head to be genetic in origin, never made sense to me. Since they are wedded to the genetic model, orthodontists dealing with crowded teeth end up treating the condition with tooth extraction in a majority of the cases. Even though I did not resort to pulling teeth in my practice, and I was using appliances to widen the jaws and getting the craniums to look as they should, I still could not come up with the answer as to why my patients looked the way they did. I couldn’t believe that the Creator had given them a terrible blueprint--it just did not make sense. In four years of college education, four years of dental school education and almost three years of post-graduate orthodontic training, students never...learn the true reasons for these malformations...”

I didn't find Silkman's article entirely flawless, or agree with every point--and he obviously encounters some ubiquitous challenges while interpreting his data (determining _causation_ vs. _correlation_). But he asks some good questions, presents some fascinating theories, and presents an introductory synthesis of the research that Weston Price conducted back in the 1940s.

“Price captured [images of beautiful facial development] in the photographs he took of primitive peoples throughout the globe and in so doing was able to answer this most important question: What do humans look like in health? And how have humans been able to carry on throughout history and populate such varied geographical and physical environments on the earth without our modern machines and tools?”

Very fascinating to me is Silkman's discussion of the role of the maxilla--not just in chewing, but in overall human development. Also, I recommend reading to the end of the whole article, where he discusses the “adaptive capacity” of humans (i.e. the ways that small things, like the size of our jawbones, and genetic potential vs. genetic expression, can impact such seemingly disparate things as sympathetic nervous system functioning, and posture):

“...[The maxilla, a bony structure,] provides visible structure to the whole mid-facial area. Eleven of the cranial bones directly contact the maxilla and the rest of the cranial bones have an intimate contact with the bones directly in contact with the upper jaw or maxilla. Therefore the position and size of the upper jaw has quite a lot to do with proper cranial development and facial aesthetics.

“The entire floor of the orbit or eye sockets, where the visual globes or the eyeballs are housed, is made up of the upper jaw or maxilla. When the maxilla is not well developed, and the face is long and skinny, the eye sockets do not develop properly; the eyeballs cannot develop as a sphere, but may take on a football shape. The resultant developmental pattern can create various ophthalmic issues such as astigmatism or myopia. We can treat astigmatism with corrective lenses but the treatment does not really address the root of the issues.

“The most serious consequence of under development of the maxilla is airway obstruction and mouth breathing. Eighty five percent of the nasal airway is made up of the maxilla, which provides the floor of the nasal cavity and houses all of the nasal sinuses typically referred to as the sinus cavities. Therefore, an individual with a narrow or improperly formed maxilla will have extremely narrow nasal passages, which limit flow of air and breathing capabilities, and will thus experience difficulty in having proper sinus health and drainage.

“It is an important fact that the soft tissues develop to their genetic size, even when the bones do not! You might think of the head as a box that must house all of the structures that the genetic code needs to express and that will develop, but lack of proper dimensions to the cranial bones and the cranial cavity causes overcrowding, overlapping or deviation of some soft tissue areas. This can be illustrated by the example of overpacking a suitcase.

“An example of this 'overpacked suitcase' in humans occurs in the nose. How often have you heard someone say, 'I have a deviated septum'? The septum is the cartilaginous tissue membrane that separates the two nostrils vertically. Imagine this soft tissue developing to its normal size, but the maxilla remains under-developed. The developing septum has to express its dimension somewhere, so it has two choices—it either deviates or bends to one side or the other (the deviated septum) or it grows through the maxillary suture and creates the condition known as palatal tori. These are bumps or ridges in the middle of the palate and most people have them to some degree or another.

“A deviated septum blocks proper nasal air flow causing the individual to take up mouth breathing most of the time. There are a variety of other soft and hard tissue conditions associated with the nasal cavity such as polyps, enlarged turbinates and muscosal conditions that also serve to restrict air flow.

“Breathing through the nose creates an avenue of air that’s moisturized, humidified and even somewhat filtered. Furthermore, when we breathe through our nose, the air passing through the nasal airway and contacting the turbinates--shelf- like bony structures--is slowed down. This allows the proper mixing of the air with an amazing gas produced in the nasal sinuses called nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide is secreted into the nasal passages and is inhaled through the nose. It is a potent vaso-dilator, and in the lungs it enhances the uptake of oxygen. NO is also produced in the walls of blood vessels and is critical to all organs.

“Let’s evaluate the differences in mouth breathers and nose breathers. The consequences of mouth breathing can occur from the moment of birth because all infants are obligate nose breathers. That is the mechanism by which breast feeding and breathing can occur simultaneously. If a baby has obstructed airways, he may turn away from the breast due to lack of air and prefer a bottle, which allows him to consume his food more quickly.

“A mouth breather will not be humidifying the air, or slowing it down to allow the proper mixing of NO with it. The lungs will have difficulty providing maximum oxygenation for the body with this dry, unhumidified, unfiltered and, most importantly, NO-lacking air. This constant and chronic condition affects the cardiovascular system and the heart because the smooth muscles that line all of the arteries react to this poorly oxygenated air with a kind of tightness, a kind of permanent tension, which can be very stressful and depleting to the body. Furthermore it has been clinically shown that blocking NO production in healthy individuals results in moderate hypertension and reduced heart output as well as shortened bleeding times by activation of platelet blood-clotting factors.

“Due to the lack of proper oxygenation, the ability to deliver fully oxygenated blood to the cells is also much reduced. Thus mouth breathing has a negative effect on every cell in the body as it deprives them of oxygen. Overall wellness and health requires proper oxygen as every particle of our being requires oxygen. Cancer cells, by the way, are anaerobic by design. Other manifestations of mouth breathing include snoring and cessation of breathing (also known as sleep apnea), some types of headaches, hypertension without other known clinical causes, bed wetting, chronic ear or sinus infections, TMJ pain, sleep disorders and dark patches under the eyes...”

“As I mentioned, the soft tissues of the body grow to their genetic size, even when the bony structures do not. The skin, the tongue, the tonsils and the nasal tissues grow to their genetic size but when the nutrition is missing, the bony structures are compromised. So the face will have an excess of skin and musculature, the tongue and tonsils will be too large for the mouth...”

“What we call an overbite or overjet should really be called an underbite, because it is caused by the mandible, the lower jaw, that is too far back, not the maxilla that is too far forward. But when children come to the orthodontist with what the public calls an overbite, they are often treated by removing some of the teeth in the upper jaw and then with a device known as neck gear or headgear to pull the maxilla back. The thinking is that the apparatus will stunt the growth of the maxilla and allow the lower jaw to grow and catch up, or that the maxilla has grown too far forward and must be pulled back.

“But the maxilla is already stunted due to poor nutrition and so you can imagine how this type of treatment may cause more compression, more jamming of the bones in the head with possible detrimental whole body effects. The correct treatment for this condition is to widen the palate with an appliance so the lower jaw position can be corrected forward and allow proper physiological form and function as our ancestors have enjoyed throughout the millennia.

“When children or adults are not breathing properly they tend to develop dark patches and bags under their eyes. This is due to lack of adequate circulation as well as venous blood pooling in these areas.

“Kids that are mouth breathers will always have chapped lips and typically the line separating the inner lining of the lip and the outside lining , known as the vermilion border, will be visible. Also mouth breathers in profile tend to have very weak chins and elongated faces. Typically these individuals will suffer from chronic sinusitis or sinus infections, colds, respiratory problems and lung-related issues...”

“Airway capacity is the biggest and most important part of the well-being of a human being. It is important to stress the fact that breathing through the mouth and breathing through the nose have extremely disparate effects on the body. We are not designed to breathe through our mouths. The body is able to live by breathing through the mouth, but it suffers greatly for doing it...”

The main point I took home from this article, is that Humans are masters of Compensation.


After reading about the feasibility of all-meat diets, I came upon this interesting blog post, indicating that the Inuit DO eat plants (and not _just_ animal foods)--which means that every recorded native population on earth consumes at least a tiny amount of plants in addition to animal foods.

The main plant foods consumed by the Inuit:
1. Greens in seal oil
2. Cooked and pickled leaves
3. Raw and fermented leaves
4. Berries
5. Tiny roots
6. Tea and medicinal plants

----… (Thanks, Sage!)

“Can the power of the mind help humans self-heal? That’s what a group of scientists are hoping to help determine by studying a Tibetan lama who believes he cured himself of gangrene through meditation.

“When Tibetan Lama Phakyab Rinpoche immigrated to the United States in 2003, he was a 37-year-old refugee with diabetes and Pott’s Disease. His afflictions had gotten so bad that his right foot and leg had developed gangrene. He was hospitalized and examined by three different doctors in New York City who all gave the same treatment recommendation: amputate.

“Few people would go against such medical advice, but Rinpoche (pronounced Rin-Poh-Chey) is no average person. Born in 1966 in Kham, Tibet, he was ordained at the age of 13 and named the Eighth Incarnation of the Phakyab Rinpoche by the Dalai Lama himself when he was working toward the highest level of Tibetan Buddhist study, the Geshe degree, in 1993. A deeply spiritual man who has devoted his life to the teachings of Buddhism, it was only natural that he should reach out to his mentor, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, when deciding whether to allow his leg to be cut off.

“The Dalai Lama’s response was shocking: Do not amputate. Instead, Lama Rinpoche says, the Tibetan spiritual leader advised his protégé to utilize his virtuoso skills at Tsa Lung meditation--heal himself, and then teach others the value of the ancient tradition. He sent a letter prescribing additional mantras, such as the Hayagriva, which, at the outset of new endeavors, is said to clear obstacles and provide protection in their tradition.

“It was a decision that would require an incomprehensible leap of faith. But Rinpoche says there was no doubt within him. Though doctors had made it clear he could die, he was not afraid. 'As a Buddhist, what is the worst thing that could happen if I die?' he told The Daily Beast through a translator. 'I would be reborn again. But to lose a leg in one lifetime because I didn’t try to save it didn’t make sense.'”

“...In the early days of this ritual, Lama Rinpoche remembers, the putrid ooze from his leg ran black; a few months later it turned cloudy, he said, and bruising started to appear. The swelling increased and it was more painful. The odor was sickening, he recalls. But still he felt no doubt.

“Then, after nine months, he says something began to happen that many Americans would consider a miracle. The liquid leaking from his disabled leg began to run clear. The swelling went down. Soon he could put some weight on it. At ten months, he could walk again, first with crutches. A short time later he was down to one crutch, and then, before even a year had passed, he was walking on his own.

“The progression of the degradation wasn’t simply halted--his leg was back from the dead. His diabetes and complicating Tuberculosis are gone today as well.

“Now, a group of doctors at New York University have begun studying Rinpoche—specifically, his brain. Practitioners of Tsa Lung meditation like Rinpoche visualize a wind (or 'lung,' or 'prana') that is one with the mind, moving down the center channel of their bodies, clearing blockages and impurities before moving on to ever-smaller channels.

"'This is a cognitive-behavioral practice that present East-West science suggests may be more effective that any existing strictly Western medical intervention,' says Dr. William C. Bushell, an MIT-affiliated researcher in medical anthropology and director of East-West Research for Tibet House in New York. Gangrene is not curable by current medical intervention once past a certain point in its progression, except by amputation.

“This month, Dr. Bushell and NYU neuroscientist Zoran Josipovic, Ph.D. won Lama Rinpoche’s cooperation in undergoing a functional MRI scan of his brain while he meditated inside the scanner at NYU’s Center for Brain Imaging. In this first scan the Rinpoche participated in an ongoing study of the effects of different types of meditations on anti-correlated networks in the brain that Dr. Josipovic has been conducting at NYU.

“Bushell wrote a scientific analysis of the processes occurring in the same form of meditation used by Rinpoche in a letter to Joshua Lederberg, Nobel Prize winner in medicine, some 10 years ago. Dr. Lederberg was one of the giants of modern science, father of molecular biology, infectious disease medicine, and modern genetics. His foundation published the letter, which is actually an adaptation of a scientific paper, posthumously on his website. It speaks of the mild to moderate hyperthermia resulting from the practice, which kills bacteria and aids the body in healing.

“'It is not entirely clear from a Western science perspective what the winds are, but the scientific evidence suggests to me and others that the meditative process involving winds includes increased local blood flow, metabolic activity, and oxygenation,’' Bushell explains. 'The original scientific model I developed (which is largely in a theoretical state) was based on, among other things, the pioneering work of Thomas K Hunt, MD, on the antibiotic properties of oxygenation in the blood and surrounding tissues, and was sponsored by the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Petaluma, Calif. Research shows that mental imagery directed to sites of the body, both superficial as well as deeper tissues, can with practice eventually lead to increased local blood flow, metabolic activity, and oxygenation. Such increases could in principle combat even powerful bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, which not only can be the cause of gangrene, but is now often times resistant to antibiotics.'

“Dr. Bushell’s colleague Dr. Josipovic was also very curious about Rinpoche’s abilities and, in particular, about the way they may have affected the functional and structural organization of his brain. The early results of the test are significant at first glance, he says. They show changes in a wide network of brain areas mediating attention and awareness. The team will publish their findings next year...”


The first step in developing a theory is to first Notice What's Happening. Then, one must Gather Information. The real challenge comes while trying to understand if the gathered information is relevant, and also when Examining all the Data, and eventually while Drawing Conclusions.

For instance: we have a toy steam engine, and when you drive it along the floor, it looks a lot like the real ones do. It has smokestacks and windows and big wheels and little wheels, and even those little drive rods that go up and down and around in synchrony with the wheels. But in the toy, it's the wheels which cause the (purely ornamental) drive rods to rotate; in a real locomotive, the cause and effect is opposite.

This is obvious, I know. But when Jeff was explaining to Ben the way that steam engines are powered, I noticed how Ben was understandably confused about this piece of cause and effect, due to his experience observing the toy. This made me think about how difficult it can be to interpret scientific research, _especially_ secondhand research as reported by other humans with less-than-perfectly-unbiased brains...

In “What If Sex Was Bad for Your Brain?”, the author wonders, “...How much does it concern you when you read about this or that latest study? Does it really affect how you eat, what drugs you might consider taking, or which ones you would refuse?”

What happens when you find--as you _always_ can--two studies that directly contradict each other? People keep noting this problem when they ask me about the GAPS protocol: “It sounds fascinating...but what about all that saturated fat? And don't you need lots of complex carbs for good health? Also, my doctor says that diet can't possibly affect mental health.” Etc. There are Other Experts who contradict my Experts, in other words, and all these Professionals could duke it out for our entire lifetimes without anyone finding a way to drag every single individual into their personal point of view.

Scientific study cannot fundamentally prove to you that you should believe what I or anyone else says. So how do we make our decisions? This interests me, as does: how do people come to believe what they believe, and sometimes question their beliefs, and sometimes change? This basis for an individual's belief system might not have anything do with scientific studies...

Three years ago, Cara told me about the gut flora hypothesis. Four years ago, Heather gently explained about the potential evils of grains. Kelly S. told me about the importance of enzymes, and Maya often mentioned the concept of Traditional Foods, and it was definitely clear to me that my dental health was not being well-sustained by my scrupulous whole-foods vegetarian diet. Oh yeah, and it wasn't causing my small child to thrive, either. And then finally, at exactly the moment when I was ready to question my beliefs and change my mind, Tammy thrust a useful book into my hands--and I actually read it. And suddenly, overnight, was plunged into a carnivorous, low-carbohydrate existence that made me question everything I ever thought was true.

Was it the book that did it, or was it my readiness to change my mind? Was it the evidence that changed my mind, or was it my mind that changed which evidence I was willing to accept? I was reading a book by a scientist discussing interesting studies and compelling research, and I certainly noticed that her findings directly oppose many other researchers'. And this is where each of us, being human, will find exactly how individual we all are: by deciding what Just Makes Sense, and creating a basis upon which we personally judge the validity of Things.

I suddenly noticed that my sense of right and wrong and good and bad was subject to change without notice, and Common Sense began to mean constantly asking: “What did humans used to eat, before the food pyramid and industry lobbyists and imported foodstuffs and scientific studies??” This basic question turned up entirely different ideas than my research used to do back when I was asking, “Is it gluten-free, vegetarian, and whole-grain?”

Kelly writes, “What if there was a study done and everyone in the world agreed that it was well-done, reliable and trustworthy, all variables the same, etc., and it told us that without a doubt, having sex caused premature death. Would you believe them? I know that sounds dumb, but what if over time they got every major news station, newspaper and magazine to run ads supporting the theory. Then they got huge government grants to study it more and they found similar results. Would you believe them then? What if over time people went from disbelief, to thinking, 'maybe it’s true…', to thinking, 'Well, whether or not it’s true, I’m not stopping.' Eventually some people had the willpower to stop completely, but others couldn’t or wouldn’t, and then felt guilty or weak because they couldn’t stop no matter how valiantly they tried...”

“...This is how we begin to believe crazy things [like whole milk and butter and eggs are bad for you]...For centuries people have been eating beef and drinking milk from the cows on their farms, eating eggs from their own chickens, and making their own real butter. Then 'science' began to tell us that eating beef increases mortality rates [references] or that we should drink skim milk and eat only egg whites because it’s better for our heart. Have you ever heard of a cow that produces skim milk? Chickens who lay yolk-less eggs? Are we as a country getting more or less healthy since all this garbage took hold?...”

I think I really want to be a behavioral economist when I grow up...


[An interesting note by someone named Paul, commenting on an article on the Whole Health Source Blog , on reductionist science as it concerns nutrition research.]

...Much has been said or implied about the adherence of nutrition research to the principle of reductionism and how that mimics the advance of science in general. I’d like to discuss two issues: 1) Does nutrition science need to be reductionist? 2) Is nutrition science ready to be reductionist?

1) Physics, for example, spent centuries in a form of non-reductionism until the right tool, quantum theory, came along to make true reductionism possible. Most of classical physics (pre 1900) is not reductionist in the sense of reducing the size of the assembly under study to get to an ultimate truth. Physicists understood that real-world objects could not be reduced to their component parts for study because those systems would be far too complex to analyze. Thus they considered ensembles of particles from which they could derive basic principles. Classical mechanics, classical electromagnetism, and especially thermodynamics and statistical physics all deal with the gross properties of assemblies of particles (e.g., the magnetic force due to an assembly of free electrons flowing through an assembly of copper atoms). Only in twentieth century quantum theory do we see the movement toward the strict reductionism that micronutrient research seems to revere. In quantum theory we look at the interactions of individual particles such as electrons and protons.

Micronutrient research is very reductionist compared to the bulk of physics historically and even to much of modern physics. I am making an analogy between physics and nutrition science. In nutrition science, food (e.g., raw coconut oil) is analogous to an assembly of particles in physics (e.g., a length of copper wire). In nutrition science, a micronutrient (e.g., d-alpha tocopherol) is analogous to an individual particle in physics (e.g., an electron).

Physics flourished during hundreds of years of non-reductionism before it evolved into true reductionism with the advent of quantum theory over a century ago. It would be foolish to suggest that the non-reductionism of Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, and Faraday was not real physics just because they all dealt with the gross properties of large bodies or assemblies of particles. Similarly it would be foolish to say that studying the effects of foods on humans is somehow less of a science than studying the effects of micronutrients.

2) The advance of the natural sciences has allowed nutrients to be studied at basic levels. Unfortunately the advance of human physiology and biology has yet reached the point where micronutrient research can be meaningfully wedded to the microfunctions of the human body. The human body is just too complex and poorly understood yet to be treated at such an elementary level. It makes much more sense to study the effects of foods on higher-level bodily functions than to put all our research dollars into micronutrient effects on microfunctions of the body.

I believe we are in a period where more non-reductionist research is needed in nutrition before we have the right tools, or models of human biology, to advance to reductionism. Why can’t we have two branches of nutrition—classical nutrition and micronutrition—just as we have two branches of physics—classical physics and quantum physics?


Here's a scholarly, super-footnoted site concerning cholesterol, fats, and the lipid hypothesis, among many other scintillating topics.. I plan to read through it completely sometime in the next century. But first, I want my award for making it _all the way through_ “Good Calories, Bad Calories,” by Gary Taubes, and sometimes reading relevant sections twice...


Have you noticed how just about _everyone_ is allergic or “intolerant” to foods these days? Here's an article [ublished in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, First Quarter, 2009, by Natasha Campbell-McBride; she also discusses why dietary fiber is not the panacea that many people think it is:…


“For all our revolutionary heritage, Americans in general seem to have this odd, misplaced, unblinking, and often unconscious respect for _credentialed_ authority, apparently thinking that credentials and expertise somehow cleanse people from the baser parts of human nature like self-willed agendas, petty backbiting, authoritarian behavior, the brazen seeking of power, a cultic mentality, etc....” So notes Michael Miles in his sarcastic, tongue in cheek, and definitely heretical article concerning a topic worthy of serious consideration before an emergency (God Forbid) actually occurs: “10 Tips on Surviving a Hospital Stay.”… .


Do you know anything about “metabolic typing,” or the “blood type diet”? This is what Natasha Campbell-McBride has to say on the topic:

“...There is no doubt that we are all different genetically. Some of us come from northern stock, where for millennia meat and fish were the staples. Some come from southern stock, where more fruit and grains were consumed. Some come from areas where dairy have been a staple for thousands of years, some have no tolerance of dairy and their predecessors never consumed milk. No matter what diet you are trying to follow, you have to find your own personal comfort zone in terms of ratio of different foods. The important point is to eat foods freshly prepared at home, as none of us on this planet has evolved to eat modern processed foods.

“In the Metabolic Typing you have to identify what type you belong to: “protein type”, “carbo type” or a “mixed type”. What doesn’t seem to have been taken into account is the fact that apart from genetics our state of health is important to [consider]. Many people in this world are addicted to sugar and other processed carbohydrates and have many health problems due to that. Their personality reflects their poor health and sugar addiction, so they may mistakenly identify themselves as “the carbo type” in Metabolic Typing. Regardless of what type you decided you belong to, you have to start from a low carbohydrate diet and then slowly proceed from that introducing carbohydrates. If you are addicted to sugar and have candida overgrowth, in this initial stage you will suffer from die-off and hypoglycaemia, which will make you feel very unwell. So many people with these problems just decide that they are the “carbo type” and revert back to their high carbohydrate diet with all the processed foods and sugar. Get yourself well first with the GAPS type diet, then your healthy instincts will come back and you will be able to find your comfort zone.”