Monday, December 21, 2009

Doctors Weigh in on Health Care Reform

Dermatologists feel reform is a rash decision
Gastroenterologists are getting heartburn over it
Internists feel it is a bitter pill to swallow
Gynecologists feel it is a bloody issue
Obstetricians expect changes to be delivered
Plastic surgeons want a new face on it
Surgeons wash their hands of it
Anesthesiologists think it is a gas
Pediatricians feel legislators need to grow up
Psychiatrists feel they are crazy in D.C.
And Proctologists think the A******* in D.C. are messing the whole thing up.

I am a Family Practitioner, but I agree with the Proctologists.

It is shameful how the outcome of health care reform seems to be shaping up as predicted: the big winners are the AMA, Big Pharma and Insurance companies. After all, they each spent over $10 million in lobbying.

Forget the public. Our Republic has descended into FASCISM, or the alliance of government and corporations.

If you have not started to look into self-sufficiency, community connections and food storage, you need to get going.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Still Ignoring New Research on Obesity

You may have seen the recent study saying that the “increased food energy supply is more than sufficient to explain the US epidemic of obesity” (Am J Clin Nutr 2009 90: 145). If it is frustrating to me, not being overweight, I can imagine how frustrating it must be to all those poor people who don’t eat very much and cannot lose weight. Are you one of them? Even if you are not, you may have noticed that there is more to obesity than just counting calories.

The old “calories in = calories out” dogma does get you in the ballpark, but not to home plate. The essential issue ignored by the proponents of this outdated paradigm is that food is not just Energy or calories. Food = Energy AND Information, E&I.

I have talked about this issue ad nauseum in my newsletters and in my lectures (references on demand). The prime example is diet soda pop. Surely you have heard that it also makes people obese. Why? It has no calories; but it does have lots of bad Information: think of artificial sweeteners, and who knows what else they put in their secret formulas.

Processed food is the epitome of lots of Energy and very little Information. Our thermostat in the brain does not do well with poor E&I. In fact, nothing in the Universe does.

Here is a quick review of a powerpoint lecture I just gave in Niagara Falls, Canada, on the neglected issues behind the obesity epidemic:

Metabolism: just like we have cars with different gas mileage, some of us are more efficient than others.

TOILing membranes: our cell membranes, the brain of our cells, are Toxic, Oxidized, Inflamed and Lacking in optimal mitochondrial function. This TOILing leads to insulin resistance. Our cells are not getting proper E&I to do what they need to do, particularly in the hypothalamic thermostat.

Xenohormesis: literally, “foreign control.” Very small amounts of micronutrients and toxins, whether in excess or in over-abundance, can have a profound effect on our cells requirements for E&I.

Nutragenomics: the E&I in food affect our DNA copying. Even though we may have “obesity” genes,” we may overcome genetic tendencies by eating a good diet.

Addiction: it is impossible to be thin when we are addicted to refined sugars. The addiction is as strong as a heroin addiction. Anyone trying to help people lose weight must be ready to assume the role of a counselor. Anyone wanting to lose weight must be prepared to go through sugar withdrawals.

Food Politics: the food industry knows their refined foods are addicting. We cannot lose weight unless we are prepared to face head on the underlying, ubiquitous and relentless advertisement that makes the addiction so socially acceptable.

Community structures: we drive everywhere we go. Our cities are built for “car standards.” We need to restructure them for “pedestrian standards.”

Pollution: “persistent organic pollutants,” or P.O.P. are poisoning our cell membranes. One may be overweight, but no diabetes or other chronic diseases develop unless we are carrying too many pollutants. You did not read this wrong: pollutants are making us more obese. Get your doctor to check a GGT level in the liver. If it is pushing the upper limits of normal, you are running out of glutathione, the antioxidant in charge of detoxifying POPs.

Gut connection: you may be colonized by micro organisms in the gut that are not only changing the way you process calories in the gut, but also screaming at you to keep feeding them sugar and chocolate.

Thermostat: again, your thermostat may be TOILing. It may need antioxidants like alpha lipoid acid, resveratrol, and omega oils to get back on line. With a healthy thermostat we can “obey our hunger” and be satiated with healthy food. Have you ever seen anybody get fat on nuts, fruits and vegetables?

“Birds of a feather:” if you hang out with obese people, you are more likely to become obese. This does not mean we should dump them, but that we could all resolve to eat better as a group.

Mind-body-spirit connection: stress, loneliness, depression are closely related to obesity. We need to look inside our hearts for resolution of physical problems like obesity. In fact, abused children tend to be obese.

Exercise: ok, this one is talked about, but not enough: you will never look the way you want to, unless you work out 1 hour a day. Sorry to put like that.

Sex: there are not too many things that motivate people more powerfully than sex. For men this is a “duhhh” issue (for some women, too); for a significant number of men and women, it is a matter of how they look. Rather than hating me for stating the obvious, let us concede that losing weight for purely health reasons may not be as powerful a motivator as sexuality. Being open to more pleasure in sex may motivate many to change the way we eat and tackle the above issues. Let me say it another way: would you refrain from eating that twinkie if you knew that doing so will improve your sex life?

Of course, the amount of calories we eat is relevant. My contention is simply that calories are not the whole story.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

“Ce n’est pas pas le germ; c’est le terrain”

Several patients, hoping to have found the magic bullet that will cure their chronic fatigue, have brought to my office an article they feel shows that a retrovirus causes fatigue.[1] First of all, the article merely “links” the virus to fatigue; it does not prove a cause and effect relationship, which is what the authors recommend to do.

Are micro organisms to blame for all diseases? I don’t believe so. Attempts to do so are commonplace, given our present infectious paradigm in medicine. This is unfortunate and reminiscent of our general attitude to blame outside factors for our problems, including character and relationship problems. This is why I tend to side with Pasteur; after a brilliant career that included the creation of vaccines in the West, he ended up stating that “the germ is nothing; the terrain (or our immune system) is everything”.

The retrovirus is yet another clue that our immune system is not adequately protecting those who are affected by fatigue. If the virus was the main cause for fatigue we would all be tired, since that family of viruses is found in practically all people. When we consider that most of our immune system is in the intestines, we can see that any compromise of intestinal function will lead to poor absorption of the energy we consume in food; hence, fatigue. In other words, most immune system defects point to the gut.

Also, the immune system consumes significant amounts of energy. Food intake is the main factor in how our metabolism works, or how we use the energy of food at the cellular level. It is our metabolism that determines how strong our defenses may be against micro organisms. The worse our diet, the weaker our immune system is.[2] The other critical factor for both our metabolism and our immune system in the intestines is the friendly organisms that live therein. Pardon me for highlighting this concept so often, but the medical literature is abuzz with research into these wonderful organisms. The point here is that probiotics strengthen our immune system much better than all the garbage people take over the counter for their colds. A study showed that supplementing probiotics reduced rates of fever by 73%, cough by 62%, and a runny nose by 58% compared to placebo.[3]

[1] J. Science 2009;326:585

[2] “The Intricate Interface Between the Immune System and Metabolism”, J. Trends in Immunology 2004;25:193

[3] J. Pediatrics 2009;124:e172

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

November Books

November books

Unaccustomed Earth
By Jhumpa Lahiri

She is a great story teller; very touching short stories of family and love relationships. The first one got to me the most, as I become “the old man” to my 2 grown daughters. Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize with her superb writing (“The Namesake”).

The fly in the ointment is her constant name-dropping of Ivy League schools and higher education. Not that I am opposed to education, “au contraire”; I only argue that it does not confer superiority or maturity over people who have not had the same opportunities. If anything, “noblesse oblige”.
What about common Indian folk? No doubt she writes about her experiences and social strata, but, it would have been easier to swallow if she had included Indian immigrants from different backgrounds, just for spice. Nonetheless, this is a very good book.

Serpent of Light
By Drunvalo Melchizedek

Don’t waste your time with this one, unless you are a burnt-out new age hippie and/or you feel 2012 is going to bring significant changes (nothing wrong with that). The few pearls are:

1. The “spiritual center” of the Earth will move from Tibet to the Northern Chilean Andes.

2. Female sexuality needs to become more balanced with male sexuality. Yes, but the author says nothing about the reverse: what is good for the gander is good for the goose.

After Dark
By Haruki Murakami

I loved it! This is my second book by a very Kafka-like author. This very simple story takes place in one night. The writing is even simpler and more condensed than Hemingway’s. I enjoy simplicity, especially from the pen of a mature human being.

History is Wrong
By Erick Von Daniken

If you enjoy alternative history you may want to read this book, that is, if you can put up with the writer’s egocentricity, rudeness and unscientific tone. Van Daniken sold millions of copies of his book “Chariots of the Gods”, which alleges that the Gods were ETs. In this book Van Daniken gets into gold plates and Mormon lore. He also tackles Enoch/Thoth, who is a favorite of mine; I keep his figurine on my desk, next to Don Quijote.

Wisdom of the Ancients
By Francis Bacon (a.k.a. Shakespeare?)

Wonderful book if you are into scholarly writing. A must read for those who enjoy Greek mythology. Bacon examines ancient legends, tales, myths and fables and the wisdom contained in them. Read my blog “Wisdom of the Ancients” if you want to get a feel for this book.

White Guard
By Mikhail Bulgakov

I took one of my Russian patients’ suggestion to read about the Bolshevik revolution (calm down- I am not a communist) in Ukraine through the eyes of a young doctor. Bulgakov also writes, symbolically, about the revolution raging in the hearts of Russians: rich versus poor, proletariat vs. intelligentsia, etc.

It is unfortunate that here in the USA we have allowed ideologies to ignore the suffering of millions of Russians who lost their lives and/or were unfairly imprisoned through their revolution and WW I & II. Their losses, through many other historical events, have shaped their souls and produced unparalleled music, literature and science.

Suffering has a way of refining the human spirit. Or, it may lead us to alcoholism, addictions and many other self-defeating behaviors. The choice is ours.
But, Bulgakov is no Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky; his writing does not flow, at least not for me. If you enjoy history and a style of writing somewhat similar to Faulkner’s (translation factored in) this would be a good book to read.