Being an avid exerciser for decades, as well as a sports chiropractor for going on fifteen years, I have seen my fair share poor form SNAFUs. Improper form when working out can lead to injuries, from the minor, to the severe, to the flat-out serious. Here are ten of the worst offenders causing sports injuries to walk into my West Hollywood Sports Chiropractic Clinic:
Wake up world! The future isn’t in “affordable health care,” it’s in genomics; genomic medicine to be exact. While the masses grasp for the hope of equality, the real world manifests duplicity. Standard health care may, in fact, become etched into the collective consciousness as a so-called entitlement, but cutting edge will always go to those who can afford it.
Take medical genomics, for example—it has been plugged as the next panacea since penicillin for over a decade now. But civilization may finally be on the verge of its newest major paradigm: man-machine integration—a synthesis of super-human existence through the assimilation of technology with biology. And it appears that genomic medicine is the beginning.
Leading the charge to bring genomic medicine to the mainstream is Human Longevity Inc., a company founded by genomics-pioneer Craig Venter; a sort of Larry Ellison meets Robert Jarvik meets Deepak Chopra. Venter and Human Longevity Inc. are no dummies when it comes to the big bucks inherent in genomic medicine, and they’ve got a plan to get every man, woman and child sequenced—that’s biotech speak for mapping the genome.
The belief has been that to know one’s genome is to have the best form of prevention available, because we all know that genetics is everything when it comes to health…right? I mean anybody following health news could see that genetics has become the cultural health authority’s explanatory standby for many of medicine’s biggest mysteries. Everything from cancer, to heart disease , to Alzheimer’s would be at the mercy of genomic medicine, for if the genetic code is the blueprint of life, then surely the cause, and cure, for many diseases has to be wrapped up into the code in some way.
The big idea behind genomic medicine is that everyday people like you and me would be wise to get our genomes sequenced. By comparing our genome to that of a database, we can determine where we fall into the health norm, and where, by mutation or risk thereof, we might be susceptible to illness, disease or faulty physiology (think high cholesterol).
But the coolest thing about this story, by far, is that “the first complete (six-billion-letter) genome of an individual human” ever sequenced was Venter’s itself. While working for Celera Genomics, another company he founded, but which was seeded by private investors, Venter switched his own DNA with the composite samples the company had planned on sequencing (in its race against the government-funded Human Genome Project). As a result the first mapped human genomes belong to Venter and DNA double helix discoverer, James Watson (also financed by private company), of Watson and Crick fame.
According to his biography, and the original genome sequencing publication, some chains in Venter’s genome are associated with wet earwax, increased risk of antisocial behavior, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular diseases. Can you see the ginormous benefits here? Vetner does, and he always has: His company Human Longevity Inc. is setting out to make what industry insiders have long thought to be economically prohibitive—the cost of sequencing—affordable for all. At $1,000 a pop, many genetics-is-the-answer-to-everything proponents are singing the praises of this move. Venter’s goal with Human Longevity Inc. is to sequence 40, 000 human genomes a year, in a search for new therapies for some of today’s most tenacious diseases. The low-cost of sequencing, due in part to what Venter calls “pretty stunning” recent advances, promises to fulfill this mission of creating a comprehensive human genomic database over the upcoming years, and genomics is “just on the threshold” of delivering results, Venter says.
Knowing one’s individual genomic sequence, the idea goes, will lead to highly personalized treatments, and that’s where the real money is to be made. Venter and Human Longevity Inc. have thus decided to take on cancer first.
“We’ve still only scratched the surface of what the genome holds,” said Jay Flatley, Chief Executive at Illumina Inc., makers of the HiSeq X Ten machine, a high-speed sequencer can map a single genome for as little as $1,000. Compare that to the government-funded Human Genome Project which spent $3 billion and took 13 years to sequence the human genome. “What we need to do now is get hundreds of thousands to millions of genomes in databases with clinical information.”
Can you see where we’re headed? Listen I am not suggesting this is a bad thing at all, in and of itself—just pointing out the direction medicine is going. But if you think the ground-breaking treatments that are discovered as a result of this technology, if any at all, will be cheap, then…can I offer you another bucket of Obama Care?
Understand that dirt cheap genome sequencing is mostly a way to get the data base populated and paid for by consumers, a win-win if you happen to think that genetics is the answer to most of mankind’s health woes. While the consumer receives a ‘blue print’ of their potential problems—“you’re at risk for heart disease, NOW you’ll exercise, won’t you? God bless genomic medicine”—the biotech/health industry gets…well, cha-ching!
And, again, that’s not a bad thing; but the treatments may not necessarily be offered up as standard care. Worse yet will be the potential for standard care to simply become a litany of lifestyle drugs—à la statins, antidepressants and Ritalin—sold as prevention. Don’t underestimate the drive for profit in every new paradigm. And I have no reason to believe that genomic sequencing itself won’t be covered by insurers. That’s a no-brainer: Anything that promises to reduce insurance reimbursements through prevention (wink, wink), and maybe even uncover some potential risks so important in evaluating any insured-to-be, will be accepted with open arms by the insurance industry. These economic factors make it clear to me, along with Venter and many other string-pullers, that medical genomics is the next frontier in modern medicine.
But again I believe the greatest use of genomic sequencing will be for those that can afford it—not the sequencing itself, because at $1,000 a pop it’s a bargain. Venter and other biomedical entrepreneurs are smart enough to know that the current ‘sickness’ paradigm lends its way perfectly to swaying the masses in the direction of needing to know their genetic susceptibility to disease, so offering sequencing for a modest price (relative to the sophistication of the technology) is a rather genius form of seed-planting.
No the real costs, and profits, will come as the actual actions one takes to prevent their potentialities from expressing—in the form of double mastectomies, bariatric surgery, lifestyle drugs, and so forth. Health care entitlement will be to know, in this case to know one’s susceptibility to disease, while the actual doing something about it will cost. Your doctor’s opinion will no longer be enough to keep you medicalized for life—for that you will need genetic proof. And thanks to Venter and his colleagues within the biomedical sciences business, genomic medicine will be that proof.
Looks like the thyroid is going the way of the spinal disc, with a diagnostic system prone to overdiagnosis, false positives and aggressive, unnecessary treatment. A recent study finds that thyroid cancer diagnoses have nearly tripled since 1975, and many, the study claims, are treated more aggressively than necessary. And although thyroid cancer remains rare overall, this study points to the we-do-because-we-can phenomenon potentially at play.
The study, published online Thursday in JAMA Otolaryngology, found that thyroid cancers jumped from 5 cases per 100,000 people to 14 per 100,000 (that’s 15,695 to 43,946 in real numbers). Because the most common treatment is surgical removal, which is recommended and carried out in over 85% of thyroid cancer cases, the study calls into question the practice as many thyroid cancers (along with certain breast, lung and prostate cancers) have been shown in previous studies to be slow growing, and not deadly.
The thyroid is a hormone-releasing gland (endocrine) in the neck that helps regulate the body’s metabolism. Thyroid cancer treatment often includes surgery to remove the butterfly-shaped gland, followed by lifelong daily hormone pills.
However the study’s authors believe that the low risk of the majority of thyroid cancers really calls industry standards into question. Says Dr. Gilbert Welch, co-author of the thyroid study and a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, patients “can no longer assume” that labeling a disease as cancer means treatment is necessary. “It’s a challenging rethinking,” he added.
Yes precisely. With the arrival of newer, more accurate diagnostic testing, diagnoses go up almost by necessity. We saw it happen with the advent of advanced diagnostic imaging, or radiology. Along came MRIs and up and away went herniated disc diagnoses. Were there more herniated disks than ever before, needing more discectomies than ever before? If judging by the enormous rise in numbers of bulging discs discovered by MRI, then yes!…it would seem so to the indiscriminate eye. But as one of my teachers in chiropractic college would say so eloquently, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
I have always felt that one should be careful in how vigorously one chooses to ‘locate’ a problem, because I have always felt that one might just get what one is looking for…or worse. Not that people shouldn’t be prudent in trying to figure out why they might not be doing/feeling well. However, when the doc tells you that you are okay…well then gosh… I feel like far too many people become adamant about finding something. And this story certainly confirms to me that we (almost) always get what we are looking for. But in this case the thyroid cancer diagnoses are questionable…and the subsequent treatment (a thyroidectomy) is too.
“Our old strategy of looking as hard as possible to find cancer has some real side effects,” said Dr. Gilbert Welch
Hey I don’t deny that some people just feel better from getting medical procedures done—any procedure for some people, as I know one couple that prides themselves on their annual body parts removals…seriously…ok maybe ‘pride’ is subjective. Nonetheless they seem to feel comfortable (and happy) each time they get this or that procedure done. Great. To each his own.
But if you aren’t really into donating your body parts to science, then I would question everything. Find out if the “-ectomy” is truly necessary. And doctors it is okay to discuss it with the patient, and not simply assume that he would be as open to the idea of surgery if he were to understand that risk of death (without tumor or gland removal) is rather low.
Another step in the right direction here in the U.S. as the Obama Administration has issued new law-enforcement guidelines aimed at encouraging banks to start doing business with state-licensed marijuana suppliers. Bravo! Bout time. Although marijuana distribution remains illegal under federal law, the administration recognizes the massive revenue amassed by the marijuana industry, and while these guidelines seek to protect public safety, they are also likely intended keep tabs on the gajillions funneling into ganja dispensaries.
As it now stands, marijuana suppliers must deal strictly in cash—to purchase inventory, pay employees and conduct sales, requiring elaborate and expensive security measures and putting them at risk of robbery. Yes you think having stockpiles of cash lying around might attract some undesirables like street thugs, drug cartels and terrorist organizations? Uh…. And purely cash-based businesses make accounting for Uncle Sam far more difficult—I mean, the tax man needs to get a piece of the action too, right?
The new guidelines, which make sense on many levels, are not without potential problems. To begin with, many in the banking industry fear prosecution for dealing with technically illegal businesses. Says American Bankers Association attorney, Rob Rowe, “Compliance by a bank will still require extensive resources to monitor any of these businesses, and it’s unlikely the benefits would exceed the costs.”
That could be true, although I suspect the banking industry just wants to protect it’s own arse. The Justice Department has said that the administration was planning ways to accommodate marijuana businesses so they would not always be dealing in cash. Said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder,
“There’s a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash, substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited, is something that would worry me just from a law enforcement perspective,”
Uhhh…yah! However, a separate memorandum from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) laid out the due diligence that banks should carry out, both before working with a marijuana business and during the relationship. That means banks would have to check state licenses, understand the normal activity for the business and monitor for suspicious activity…and they would not be immune from state laws: As more states allow marijuana distribution either medically or recreationally, a number still do not, and they regulate the drug strictly (still a Schedule 1 substance, meaning no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse). So wire transfers entering states where marijuana is illegal could put banks at risk of money-laundering.
Yes…still a complicated issue stemming from our historically Puritanical perspective on cannabis use. Oh well, nothing worth doing comes easy. In my opinion, doing whatever it takes to change our archaic laws regarding marijuana sales/distribution is wisdom. I’ve written extensively on the subject, and to me it’s a real no-brainer: tax revenue, strengthening the economy, and a bunch of smiling people walking around…duh! And next we need to remove marijuana’s Schedule 1 classification. Under this grouping, marijuana is restricted from scientific research. Now does that seem appropriate, worthwhile or wise? Enough people report physical and psychological benefits from the substance to warrant study. Freakin’ duh!
I applaud the Obama administration for recognizing the value in the national marijuana trade. Federal authorities say they believe the new guidance will get more marijuana money into the banking system. A win-win-win-win, as far as I can see.
Those most likely to open their doors to marijuana businesses first would be “probably some of the smaller or medium banks rather than some of the largest ones in this country,” a FinCEN official said.
“The amount of money in this business is significant,” the official said.
No s#%&! Decriminalize it.
Last year I wrote a couple pieces on nutrition in which I discussed the details around food sensitivities (and here). I have also explained the dietary universals—the aspects of nutrition applicable to all people; not just the nuances so often discussed by proponents of one dietary system over another. And while I do not discount the validity of many of these systems (vegan, raw food, Paleo and so forth), no one system is right for every person. So when I discuss universals, I mean, what you need to survive and thrive as a human being—nutritionally, hydrationally and environmentally (internal).
In this post I am going to discuss a powerful health practice from the context of maintaining and maximizing one of these universals—nutrition. The practice is juicing, and the benefit, in a nutshell, is receiving the maximal amount of nutrients in smallest quantity of food. I will tell you my personal experience with juicing—both as a youth and an adult—what I think is happening physiologically when we consume a high-nutrient food source, and why I think juicing as a practice is such a powerhouse for maintaining and optimizing nutritional health.
I have been juicing, in a sense, since I was a preteen. My mom did the juicing, but I was the recipient of the health benefits during my most formative developmental years. My mom would make many different blends, but carrot juice was always a staple. My teen years had the typical moments of poor food choices, and sometimes far more than I had been used to at a younger age. My mom was convinced that the juice would give me the “necessary nutrients,” and that she could feel at ease about my health, knowing full well how I was challenging it on my own accord. We ate well at home always: With my mom, it was top quality foods all the time—hearty, healthy and full of love. But I was drinking (booze), smoking (everything), and eating junk food on a regular basis, and so she just sensed that it would be the most protective health practice against the lifestyle I was leading.
As I entered adulthood, I would continue to have fresh juice occasionally, usually from a health food store (Erewhon Juice Bar, baby!), which can be expensive, and thus limited…but always when I was with my mom. She always had juicers at her place, multiple kinds at times, and it was simply a staple that she had gotten used to. However, my habit never picked up on its own until just recently.
It is no secret that I have had a number of digestive challenges over the last few years, and as a result, I have had to find the diet that works best for me. Again when I speak of diet, I am not speaking of the fad variety, but of a way of eating. I have already explained the certain food sensitivities I have, so I actually have a limited pool of foods that I can eat from comfortably. For this reason, I must have a way to get the maximal nutrients, otherwise I risk malnutrition.
Regular readers of this blog will remember that, three years ago last week, I purchased my first personal juicer—the Omega J8003 Juice Machine. I have been drinking fresh juice 4-6 times per week consistently ever since, and my experiences have been amazing! Because of the big bang of nutrients I get with each juicing, I have had to eat far less than what I’ve needed in the past, which has actually led to significant weight loss. Did I need to lose weight? No! But as a result of this habit, I have morphed into a new ‘healthy weight,’ shape and size…really impressive for a man whose age is considered the typical time of decline by conventional wisdom. But more importantly, my energy levels are at their tip-top, and here is what I think is happening:
As I discuss in my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, poor nutrient intake is a very likely factor in overeating, weight gain and obesity. When the body needs nutrients it will do what it knows best: create the hunger response to ensure that more nutrients are brought in. It does not know which foods will actually be consumed, but the Innate Intelligence of the body will always work toward getting what it needs through its physiology, so the hunger response is an obvious tool it has to increase the chances of getting the necessary nutrients. I really started thinking about this concept when I had considered how many times I have eaten pizza in far larger quantities than I normally eat as a whole. I am sure many of you have had a similar experience: Three large slices of pizza consumed, yet three more could easily be put away, while that overfull, but still hungry feeling, persists. C’mon, you’ve done it, or you’ve seen someone else do it. And when it happens you think…how the heck did I just put away that entire large pizza?
I believe it is because the pizza, being high in calories—from dough to cheese to meats—yet low in nutrients (tomato sauce is not an adequate source of calories, nor are the multitudes of vegetables one can put on their pizza, although I am certain the more produce the better) that the body can go through hunger pangs despite the quantity of food consumed being large. And it doesn’t have to be pizza either—it can be any nutrient-poor meal, including some of the ones people regularly prepare at home. But of course this is all purely speculation, and as such I would need more information to solidify my suspicions about this physiological phenomenon.
Once I started juicing, however, I noticed that I needed less food overall. My hunger levels diminished, so that even the portions I consume at my regular (non-juice) meals have decreased significantly. Again, because of my diet, I have a somewhat narrower pool of food items from which to choose, those which my body responds to positively in vibrancy and smooth (functional) digestion. This parameter ends up making me a creature of habit, even more so than my natural tendencies. I am fortunate as well that I only eat when I feel hungry—no snacking or nervous/bored eating for me—which may seem like a no-brainer, but it is habit many people pick up, and consequently have a hard time shaking. So because of my habits of eating only when hungry and choosing from a small group of food items, I pretty much eat the same things every day—same breakfast and same basic lunch. And for dinner…well it’s a pint or two of fresh juice for me.
I only drink two different mixes of juice, which I alternate on successive juicing days. I make a carrot, apple, and ginger concoction, as well as something I call the Citrus Blast—orange, grapefruit and lemon. For my personal physiology—my nuanced physical body—the carrot concoction aids in my digestion, and gives me a quick burst of energy, while the Citrus Blast is a load of energy that might actually keep me up at night if I end up drinking it too late. This burst of energy is not a wiry caffeine-type of energy, but a pure, clean and unmistakable feeling within me. My body thrives on these juices.
I have noticed that when I am hungry at night a juice will usually satisfy it. Rarely do I require more food. Can you understand what this does for my calorie intake? It has been reduced significantly. So I get this blast of nutrients—vitamins C, A and some Bs from the citrus, while the carrot concoction provides vitamins A, C, K as well as potassium from the carrots, apples and ginger—which seems to be what my body loves, and this keeps me from having to eat larger quantities of food to provide the same amount of nutrients. As it turns out, the calories I receive from breakfast and lunch, along with those provided by the juice, is enough to power me through the night (most often spent doing mental work, which requires a higher carbohydrate load to power the brain. The carbohydrate dominant juice, then, balances the higher protein of my earlier meals).
Just think about what I get from each glass of juice:
Campos’ Carrot Concoction
- 12-14 carrots (depending upon size)
- 2 apples
- ~ 4 oz ginger(maybe the size of a medium adult fist)
Campos’ Citrus Blast
- 4 oranges
- 2 grapefruits
- 1 whole lemon
Look at how many fruits I would have to eat for an equivalence of nutrients. Granted, there are other benefits to eating the whole fruit, as proponents of eating whole fruits and vegetables so rightly point out—from fiber to bioflavonoids—but as far as getting optimal nutrients is concerned…well I am sure you can see where the advantage lies.
This is the power of juicing: A blast of nutrients, low calories, and a high propensity for curbing hunger make juicing a super-activity when it comes to nutritional health. Yes some in the health sciences try to refute many nutritional claims, citing lack of evidence as the rationale; and as I said in the beginning of this piece, I can only speculate because truth be told, the studies haven’t been done to answer some of these claims (although plenty of supportive evidence exists to the benefits of good nutrition in health and wellbeing). But I can assert confidently that neither is there evidence showing the harm of certain nutritional practices, and of which I am certain none will be found to implicate the practice of juicing as a detriment to anyone’s health. What this means for you, then, is that the proof is in the pudding. For a few pennies a day (in comparison to meals eaten outside of the home, including juices made at juice bars the cost of juicing at home is nominal), you can prove to yourself the power of juicing.
You are not bound by my nuances either—if you can handle greens, by all means, green it up. Berries, bananas, flax seed, you name it—juice whatever you’d like. Just remember that the produce must be clean and fresh. You cannot be harmed by drinking fresh juices (unless you are diabetic). So for the cost…well, it’s a no-brainer to me: it’s so worth the try. A good juicer will run you about $200 (US). That’s a big fat “Duh!” from a middle-aged fart who has lost weight and increased his energy levels just by juicing.
Getting sufficient (if not optimal) nutrients at the most efficient calorie intake necessary for survival is a metabolic universal. Obviously the activity and lifestyle of the organism will dictate the most efficient levels. But in today’s modern world, where the ever-growing number of conveniences decreases our energy expenditures greatly, we would all benefit from packing the most nutrient-rich punch in the smallest amount of food possible…and for my money it’s fresh juices all the way. Try juicing—you’ll see soon enough.
Some good news in the world of health today: Children are dying much less in traffic accidents (US). And the downward trend is due to the widespread use of car seats and boosters. Bravo! A new government reports discloses that child fatalities on the road have dropped a solid 43%. The downside is that some children are still not being buckled up, and many of these deaths, then, might have been prevented.
A report from the CDC looked at children under 12 from 2002-2011, and it showed a decline that hasn’t been at this low level since the 1940s. This age group generally makes up a small percentage of traffic fatalities anyway, but of course we all welcome any drop no matter to which group, but especially for our little tykes, the truly dependent and powerless. Teens and young adults, unfortunately (yet understandably) still make up the largest group of traffic deaths in the country.
Although the study was not actually designed to uncover the reason for the drop, experts believe that it does stem from the increased use of car seats and booster. A racial disparity, however, does seem to be at play, as almost 50% of black and Hispanic children involved in fatalities were not buckled up. This compared to only 25% Caucasian children. Experts again weigh in and suggest that income disparities may be a factor leading to the inability to purchase or install new seats.
I speak from recent experience to say that parents really want to make sure they have new and excellently working child safety equipment, and also that their seat belts are working flawlessly. Proper seat installation is important too. I have personally witnessed a few shoddy installation jobs of car seats with some families I’ve met or known, mostly I gather due to the parents doing the installation themselves. I was flabbergasted by one such family that, as far as I could see, installed the seat based on ease and speed, more than on diligent application it seemed. Belts appeared loose, the car seat moved around on turning corners—really just shoddy installation all around. The parent, I believe, was just lucky that they were never in an accident, because I am sure that seat wouldn’t have help up.
We have gotten our car seats installed by the LAPD traffic division, through a service they provide the community. Yes we had to make an appointment, and the installation of each seat took a little time, but my gawd, isn’t it worth the time investment? We learned a lot from the officers, who not only install seats but educate parents while doing it. This is what we found out:
Outside of neglecting to buckle up, many child fatalities are from improperly installed seats. Loose seats move around on impact, and the child can be suffocated by expanding air bags, or crushed between the moving car seat and the passenger seat directly in front of it. When car seats are turned to face forward too early (infants are to face the rear of the car), again the child can be crushed or suffocated by the bags.
Parents may not know these mechanisms of death, and thus cannot conceptualize the importance of every belt tightening done during professional installation (and I can tell you it’s a lot). Police are often first responders to traffic accidents—they see the end result. If they tell me that’s the most common way children die in auto accidents…well I’ll take their word for it. No playing around with my precious cargo.
Accidents can be real bad—I know this firsthand from treating thousands of auto accident cases. But no need to put your child at greater risk, particularly in accidents not technically bad enough to harm the child if the car seat was installed properly. Believe me: taking the time to visit the local police station is worth it (you will have to find out who performs the service in your community). If you truly do not have this option, then please read and follow the installation instructions to the tee…and don’t throw it in while have a few brews with yer pal Gomer…focus, man, focus…these are your babies.
Okay, all in all, great job folks! Child fatalities in traffic accidents is way down—let’s keep up the great work and bring it down even more. Bravo again.
Extra, extra…! Sugar found to be deadly to people with heart disease. So says a recent study published in the latest JAMA Internal Medicine (published online February 03, 2014). Not only are most Americans consuming more than the safest amounts of daily sugar, but 1 in 10 are taking in twenty five percent or more of their daily calories from the sweet stuff. And the results showed that those people taking in the most sugar have an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD).
The study, a prospective cohort of a nationally representative sample of US adults taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) of 1998-2010, looked at the diets of more than 30,000 American adults aged 44 on average, and did fifteen years of follow up to analyze death risk as it related to sugar and CVD. The results, according to Lead author Quanhe Yang of the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, were “sobering”.
Study participants were divided into five groups according to sugar intake, from less than 10 percent of daily calories—the safest amount—to more than 25%. As sugar intake increased so did the risk of dying from heart disease, and it did so significantly.
For those who got more than 15%—equivalent to about two cans of soda out of 2,000 calories daily—the risk was almost 20% higher than the safest level. If you don’t know, a 12-ounce can of non-diet soda contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar or about 140 calories. US government dietary guidelines issued in 2010 say “empty” calories including those from added sugars should account for no more than 15% of total daily calories. Despite this, there is no universal consensus on how much sugar is too much.
Researchers focused on sugar added to processed foods or drinks, or sprinkled in coffee or cereal. Many “regular” foods have added sugar, including many brands of packaged bread, tomato sauce and salad dressing. Naturally occurring sugar, in fruit and some other foods, wasn’t counted.
“Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick,” said Laura Schmidt, a health policy specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. And says Dr. Jonathan Purnell, a professor at Oregon Health & Science University’s Knight Cardiovascular Institute, that while the research doesn’t prove “sugar can cause you to die of a heart attack”, it adds to a growing body of circumstantial evidence suggesting that limiting sugar intake can lead to healthier, longer lives.
Yes I will step out on limb here and say that sugar might be one of if not the major factor in the high incidence of CVD in western society. Heart disease has risen right along with the prevalence of adding sugar to everything from snacks to “staples,” and my observation in doctor school was that, along with tobacco and alcohol, sugar led to the greatest damage to human physiology. Not just heart disease, but diabetes, vascular disease, liver damage, ocular disease, kidney disease…and the list goes on and on.
We have been chasing one dead end after another when it comes to causes of heart disease, including the current favorite: elevated cholesterol. But despite a few modest improvements, heart disease remains the number one killer in the US. Well can we please start looking a little harder at sugar now, then? Duh—even with regard to the obesity epidemic, sugar is not taken as seriously as some other far reaching theories like genetics and hormones. C’mon…
Listen, many of us that think about health regularly have suspected sugar as major detriment to health for a long time. I can tell you from my own experience that significantly reducing sugar from my diet (I’m not 100%)—which I did almost five years ago—was harder than quitting smoking or drugs/alcohol. The stuff is mega-addictive! Processed foods with massive amounts of hidden sugar are some of the most popular dishes in America, so it isn’t too hard to see why most are getting unhealthy amounts of sugar in their daily intake (the average American consumes forty four pounds of sugar per year).
And don’t think cold hard cash isn’t a factor in our delayed approach to looking at sugar, either. The sugar cartel is huge and powerful. You don’t get embedded into the world food supply at random. So really no surprises there…but really you don’t have to be another casualty. If you didn’t know before, you do now—sugar is a killer. Give it up today (or mostly, like me), and I can almost guarantee that by tomorrow (okay maybe over the next few months) you won’t miss it at all.
As we say goodbye to the first month of 2014, most of you who have made New Year’s resolutions have already abandoned the effort. In fact, nearly 80% of all people making New Year’s resolutions quit by the end of January. I believe this abandonment is due to four specific failures that people make when setting their New Year resolution, and which I have outlined here. But like most people, I too start my year, every year, by setting intentions (not resolutions, because even though I think there are some pretty good New Years resolutions one can focus on, I believe that intentions—what you would love to accomplish, as opposed to what you want to give up—are simply more powerful) which I plan to concentrate on throughout the year. I can tell you that not only do I maintain my commitment over the entire year, but I accomplish a high percentage of those things I set out to do. In this post I will describe how I set my intentions, and how I address them throughout the year; and I will also discuss the actions and behaviors that keep me on purpose and completing most of my intentions and goals in a given year. It is not too late to start your year right. Just follow what I outline here and you will be surprised at what you will accomplish in 2014.
To begin with, when setting my New Year’s intentions, I make sure that everything I set out to accomplish is aligned with my dharma—or my life’s purpose. I realize that not everyone is in-tune with their dharma, or have a deep understanding of what their life’s purpose is, but I believe this is available to anybody who is willing to take the effort to uncover it. I have methods of which I am certain can help anybody uncover their life’s purpose, so if you are committed to tuning-into yours, please contact me. I work with clients regularly to help them discover their divine missions in life. But I can tell you that I started this New Year’s ritual of setting my intentions well before I myself was tuned-into my dharma. So you can get the ball rolling now, even in the absence of this understanding. The important thing is to keep your goals or intentions realistic. Unrealistic goals will only lead to frustration and abandonment. Saying that, however, if you are connected to your life’s purpose, then be sure to align your every intention with this in mind.
Next I focus on every aspect of life, and categorize my intentions as such. The seven aspects of life are physical, mental, spiritual, social, financial, professional and familial. I write down exactly what I would love in each one of these areas. I then write down everything I would love to accomplish in each life category. For example, every year I read or take courses that equal up to thirty books. I have an idea of what I would love to learn through the knowledge of my dharma, and so when focusing on that, it guides me to the books and courses which I will tackle in any given year. It would be highly unrealistic of me to set an intention of reading forty books in a year. It might be possible…just rather unlikely, so I don’t set my sights that high. I think setting the intention of twelve to twenty books to read is doable. But I don’t just say, “I will read 12-20 books this year.” I actually write down the titles of the books I know I will wish to tackle. Sometimes I don’t read every single book on my list, but I can tell you that I mostly do.
Another example would be that, in my physical life, I may wish to learn a new form of physical activity, like I did in 2011: I wanted to start learning and practicing martial arts, so in that year I wrote down that I would love to start a martial arts program…and I did! But I also write down how many days a week I plan to exercise, which days they will most likely be, and what types of exercise (yoga, weight training, or simply daily stretching) I will do on which given day. Yes I will even set the length of the workouts, because I am quite certain that that kind of detail is of the utmost importance.
In the family section, I may want to teach one of my children how to swim—and onto the list it goes. I may wish to focus on saving a certain percentage of my income—and onto the financial list it goes. I may want to dedicate a certain amount of time to social media—I don’t leave this to chance or chaos; instead I allot a certain amount of time/energy and then stick to it. You see, God is in the details, as they say, and so any detail you leave out is a detail that will be determined by an outside force…or chaos, if you will. I do this in every area until I have a solid list of doable goals set by my intention to accomplish them.
Once finished with my lists, I print them onto sheets of paper, which I carry around in my briefcase. And here is the kicker—the thing that you MUST do in order to make sure you will complete your intentions: you must read the list at least once per week, and often even more. Yes! This one simple action is the difference, I believe, between accomplishing what you set out to do in January, and abandonment, which is the norm for most people as I’ve already pointed out. You see, by reading and rereading every week, you are reminded repeatedly of what you would love to accomplish; and even if you don’t get to any particular intention by the final months of the year, you will still have a few months to get it going, as long as you remind yourself to do so. That is exactly what I did in 2011, and by October of that year, I was enrolled in a martial arts program, because every month, I reread my intentions, and I would say, “Oh yeah, better get on that—the year is coming to an end.”
So you may have a dream of running a nonprofit organization or nonprofit website, or maybe you would like to start a small business. You may know that to accomplish either, you will have to pick up information on starting a non profit or small business. Great! By reading and rereading this intention throughout the year, you will be more likely to take that first step toward accomplishing these goals.
Do I accomplish everything on my list? No, never! Duh, who cares…I consistently complete more than 75% of what I intention in any given year. And for the things that I don’t get to…well they simply go on next year’s list. Okay there are a few things that, year after year, get pushed aside. Guess what? Those are probably false intentions anyway, ones not really aligned with your dharma. Great! You can thus abandon them completely (or just keep them on the list; the end result will be the same). I assure you, however, that the goals and intentions which ARE aligned with your dharma will give you no trouble at all to start and complete, because that is how all humans are wired: we do the things that bring us closest to fulfilling our values.
One other practice I do every New Year’s Eve is to write down everything I have accomplished during the year, as well as everything I am grateful for which I had experienced throughout the year. Whether pleasureful or painful, I give thanks to the universe for the experience, knowing full well that our challenges are what lead to our greatest growth and expansion. Why wouldn’t I be thankful for that? I also print out this list and read it along with my intentions every week (every day, three days, or whatever time frame you choose), so that I remember what I accomplished the year before, which simply acts as another driver for me to get started on my listed intentions. This Gratitude List acts as a confidence builder, because I know that not only did I keep my commitments, but that I also overcame some real obstacles to get there.
I can almost guarantee that if you take up this practice I have shared with you, and you start today, you will be amazed at what you end up accomplishing this year. Yes, things will be that much clearer and ‘on purpose’ if you connect your goals and intentions to your dharma (and as I said you can contact me when you are ready to uncover it). But get started on what I’ve outlined here, and do so today, even if you do not fully know your divine mission. I promise that this little exercise will have your head spinning by how much you accomplish in any given year. I have done it myself, faithfully, for the last fourteen years, and I can say with confidence that I would not be who I am today without this yearly habit. Try it, do it as I describe here, and you will see exactly what I mean. Have fun creating the new you. And Happy New Year!
Next month I will embark on a spiritual trip that has been in the works for over a year—one of many, I presume, that will put me directly under the divine lights (and enormous energy) of the aurora borealis. Rightfully, the aurora borealis is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, and I am certain that along with the majestic display of Mother Nature illuminating the skies above, the spiritual power of Mother Divine will also be in full effect.
The aurora is a spectacular cosmic light show performed yearly by the Sun and the Earth, each contributing physical properties and phenomena which light up Earth’s atmosphere to vibrant reds, greens and purples, particularly at the poles (aurora borealis in the north, aurora australis in the south). Solar winds produced by the Sun send charged particles into the Earth’s magnetosphere, causing geomagnetic disturbances, while some of these particles are whisked into the Earth’s magnetic field and ultimately into the atmosphere, where they then react with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere (thermosphere), releasing photons that present in different colors from green (most common), to pink, to red, to yellow, to blue (least common).
Auroras are most visible at the poles—in an area called the auroral zone—where the ionized (charged) particles are most heavily concentrated and accelerated toward the Earth by the force of its own magnetic field. The auroral zone sits typically at 3-6o degrees in latitudinal extent and at all local times or longitude (and ~ 10° to 20° from the magnetic pole defined by the axis of the Earth’s magnetic dipole); in other words, like a fluorescent halo surrounding an earthly crown, auroras light up the poles in vivid colors in ways which we only imagine when meditating on our own polar chakras.
Because the majority of the Earth’s magnetic field lines enters and exits at the Earth’s poles, these areas are of high magnetic energy, which not only draws in charged particles, but also affects the human energetic system. For this reason, visiting the poles, and carrying out certain mental practices while there, could enhance one’s spiritual energy.
In fact the auroras have been the subject of many spiritual beliefs and superstitions throughout the ages. From Seneca, to Ben Franklin, to Tycho Brahe, the auroras have captured the inquisitive and reflective minds of many who have asked what these magnificent multicolored manifestations might mean. Since they originate at the sun as ejaculated particles from coronal mass ejections, shooting into the depths of the Earth’s magnetosphere, where a select few find their way into the Fallopian tubes of her magnet field, one could say that the auroras are birthed as a cosmic creation emanating from a celestial love dance between Father Sun and Divine Mother Earth.
We can thus look upon the auroras symbolically: as the universal creative process carried out by nature, or we could look at it as the macro-version of what we ourselves do as living beings—as divine creative beings—all the time. We emanate light and create form through our own microcosmic processes in exactly the same manner as the heavenly bodies do above and beneath us. We could say that all things in the universe are merely mirrors of one another—paralleling each other in phenomenal fashion, and that the universal creative process is no exception to this rule.
Some spiritual teachings, particularly those of the Hindu-based philosophies, speak of regions of the Earth which contain and emanate enormous energy. It is said that when one visits these regions one can feel the vibrations emanating from the Earth. I believe the auroral zones are one of these regions. Whether in Alaska, Canada, Norway or any other location lying within the Arctic Circle, the strength of the Earth’s magnetic fields at this latitude creates a tremendous power, of which the vibrations can be felt by those tuned-into deeper levels of awareness. More importantly, though, the vibrations and heavy magnetism can recalibrate our own subtle electromagnetic fields, particularly when aligned within one’s consciousness. While the degree of ‘conscious attunement’ (which is really just a way to say intense focus) determines the level of recalibration (a quantum process), anybody focusing on ‘tapping into’ the essence of these Earthly vibrations, no matter what their current level, will feel and respond to the massive electromagnetic energy of the planet. Additionally the sky, air (wind) and even water in these regions will have resonating effects on the subtle body. Focusing on the creative process during meditation, then, both universally (with nature as our model) and individually (our creativity), while underneath the auroras, can have an enormous impact on our awareness (illumination) and influence (emanation).
So whether we choose to look at auroras as purely physical phenomena—a light show created by simple atmospheric chemistry—or as actually having deep spiritual meaning, anyone who has had the great fortune of witnessing this miraculous display of nature can agree that the northern and southern lights are heavenly beauties just magnificent to behold. In my mind the lights are the physical embodiment of the elusively luminescent progeny of a paternal Sun and a divinely creative Mother.
I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures.
I am convinced that all people have a life’s purpose. We are ‘born’ into this existence with certain qualities and drives that are direct reflection of this purpose. The Hindu teachings call it dharma, and the epic scripture, The Bhagavad Gita, spends much time explaining it. It’s easy for people of atheistic or materialistic philosophies to dismiss this idea as simply spiritual mumbo jumbo, but if these people could open their minds to the fact that certain human struggles are timeless, then they might be able to appreciate the true origination of these works or philosophies.
As I said, we are all born into this existence with a dharma. In its full definition, dharma is the universal order—it is pure reality.
Verily, that which is Dharma is truth.
Therefore they say of a man who speaks truth, “He speaks the Dharma,”
or of a man who speaks the Dharma, “He speaks the Truth.”
Verily, both these things are the same.
~ Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad, 1.4.14
All aspects of the universe are determined by their dharma—it is the law that runs the entire operation (and beyond); the harmony in which all things resonate.
What are those qualities that determine our dharma? Essentially, they are our values, the inner drives that determine how we spend our time and what we work on (toward). Each one of us is unique in the totality and hierarchy of these values, and they are part and parcel with our dharma, not one the cause or result of the other.
My dharma is to teach and to heal—I know this within the depths of my soul. I have no uncertainty about it whatsoever. It runs a little deeper (much deeper), but I want you to understand the essence of dharma. All my decisions are based on this duty I have to the universe, to existence and all its inhabitants. I take this duty seriously. It’s why I am here.
Nothing takes precedence over my purpose, nothing. This does not mean that I do not attend to other aspects of my life—earning money, my children, my relationships, my health. On the contrary, I connect all parts of my life to my purpose, which has been monumental for my decision-making abilities. If it doesn’t fit into my dharma—and believe me, many things don’t—then I don’t do it, period.
It is so easy to get caught up in the externals of life, and in this case, I mean external to our purpose (not dismissing the reality of the interconnectedness of all things). But here is something I discovered: When we are following our purpose (dharma)—when we are doing what we love, what we are here to do—we do not need to focus on the outer details. When we focus on the outer details (the externals), they simply become distractors to our true work. When we focus on our purpose, without attachment to the outcome, trusting in the universal dharma, the outer details take care of themselves. As hard as this may be for some to believe, just consider your life an experiment on this principle, and act accordingly…and you shall soon see.
But dharma again has a deeper meaning than just purpose, and this is a point of focus in The Bhagavad Gita: our dharma, our life’s purpose, is simply a tool for us to understand ourselves on a deeper level, and in this regard, as a matter of indistinguishability, for us to understand God.
And this is where I’ve likely lost the atheistic/materialistic among us. However, if you are still here, just appreciate that we all have a life’s purpose. It need not be grand or lofty, as being the loving caretaker of a beautiful garden and animal children is equally valuable as striving to end all suffering. In the end, our purpose—our dharma—is what drives us. You can help make your life easier (and more fulfilling) by basing all your decisions on your dharma, not focusing on results but on the work itself, and getting to know yourself, and God (sorry atheists) more deeply through complete dedication to your dharma.
*For anyone who would love to uncover his or her dharma, I am available for consultations: firstname.lastname@example.org
Are frozen vegetables as good as fresh? Are canned? How about frozen dinners—all the same, right? I definitely believe there is a hierarchy when it comes to food, and I follow this pattern when making food choices. I’ve been doing it for so long that really it’s second nature for me, but I think being conscious of this hierarchy is a good idea for everybody so here goes.
For produce (fruits and vegetables):
Fresh and organic (if it lacks a thick skin, like apples or berries) > fresh and conventional > dried > frozen > canned > nothing > sweetened
I think juiced is better than whole if the volume of produce (fruits and vegetables) one consumes is generally low, or as people get older and have a harder time digesting fiber (it happens in some of us)
Fresh (the fresher the better), non-hormone, grass-fed (if beef) > fresh conventional > frozen* > cured* > canned* > processed
*(freezing, curing or canning your own fresh caught/cut meats better than mass produced)
It’s not that I totally avoid anything lower on the chain—that’s crazy. But the majority of what I eat—and I strongly believe this is the best practice—is on the top of the chain. It’s one reason I deplore eating out as a regular practice; you just can’t guarantee top quality ingredients all the time. And I don’t care how ‘nice’ the restaurant is, because you just never really know the whole of it (and anyway, there are other reasons, I believe, that dining out regularly is a poor health practice). It makes travel tough for me, unless I have access to grocery stores, because as I’ve said, I naturally lean toward following these hierarchies.
I think that once one develops a taste for fresh, whole foods it’s pretty hard to veer from them too often…that’s my experience anyway.
We often hold ourselves back by using limited perceptions to fantasize about how great our lives will be once we achieve what we desire, but in reality we simply do not yet understand how what we think we want is very different from the way we imagine it. Only through tenacity, struggle, and disillusionment do we fully realize our dreams. You see, reality is far richer than the limited illusions we create in our minds, because without the struggle, the overcoming of obstacles and the disenchantment we wouldn’t fully awaken to the true glory of our magnificent vision. Only in fullness do we experience worldly phenomena, not in the fantasy of the ‘all good, all positive, and all effortless’ like our minds weave from the start. You don’t become your full self by having partial experiences. Not until you experience the full reality of any phenomenon will you graduate to your next ambition. So don’t become blind by chasing the unattainable and running away from the unavoidable—you will get more out of life by not allowing your unrealistic fantasies to guide you.
Saw the tagline, “Same job for 5 years no raise, living the dream…” on Twitter the other day, and I liked it. The line got me thinking about value—both for oneself and others. Now I’m not trying to embarrass anybody by pulling out this tagline, but I think we all can reflect on, and maybe even learn from, the reality that this statement embodies.
I am intrigued by how many people just do not understand the concept of value, particularly the measure of value, which is one of the five functions of money. What something is worth to another person depends on how much they need it (demand), and how easily one can attain that same thing elsewhere (supply). If the item—and this can be an employee performing a certain task, duty or service—is readily available without much difference between sources, then its value will not be very high. If something is specialized, or harder to get, and people need or want that thing, then the value for that item or person providing it will be high. Now obviously economics becomes more complicated as we consider things like minimum wage, regulation and other factors, but in the general sense, monetary compensation is determined by worth to others.
So how does this apply to individuals or businesses? Well on the side of business, perceived value is set in the pricing of goods or services. Again in a general sense, the market will tell a business if the prices it has set really reflect its worth. I say “in general” because other factors, of course, are involved in whether a company is profitable or not—things like marketing, understanding one’s demographics or niche, overhead costs, and so forth—which ultimately will determine the life or death of that business. So in the big picture a company has to be valuable in terms of goods, services and price to the people and communities it serves.
For individuals, two types of worth are important to consider: self-worth (how valuable you are to yourself) and worth to others. Self-worth is important because it determines how we think of ourselves, the goals we set, the risks we take, and ultimately how big we allow ourselves to dream. Low self-worth individuals keep themselves thinking and playing small, they allow others to walk all over them, and they allow fear (based on not feeling worthy enough) to guide their actions, and thus govern what they receive in life.
Many of us have had low self-worth at some point in our lives. And many of us have also changed those patterns of belief within ourselves, and have thus gotten to experience the profound transformations that occur as a result of doing so. You may wonder how self-worth is truly and permanently changed in individuals, but this I will have to save for another post.* Just suffice it to say that it can be changed by anyone.
The other type of value is one’s worth to others. What do you provide for the world; what do you provide for others? Do you do something that makes other peoples’ lives easier? Have you created something—a tool perhaps (an app, software, process, etc.)? Do you make beautiful things? Do you make people look or feel beautiful? Do you do specialized work, like adjust the spine, clean pools, build things, or something that takes skill and know-how? Do you have special knowledge—of the law, of the human body, of metaphysics, of connecting to God? What do you do that other people can benefit from? And within your area of expertise, what makes you different from the others that do similar work? Aha! And this final question is what brings us back to square one.
You see, in the real world, what makes you special (self and other worth) is the most important factor in determining how much money you make. People are only going to pay you if you provide them with something they value. I remember a young street girl in Berkeley where I was a university student asking me for money one day; when I refused, she offered to recite a poem for a price. Now while I’m sure that she was a uniquely talented artist, her offer simply held no value for me. Had she offered to teach me physics or write a paper for me, on the other hand, I might have considered it…but clearly her solicitation was not considering the concept of value in an exchange.
The same holds true in any monetary exchange including employment. If you work for a company and you do nothing to increase your value to them, then the chances that you will get a pay increase are pretty slim. Time served is simply not enough. Employees don’t always understand that laws prevent companies from just dumping people that don’t stand out, but you can probably bet (now that you are reading this) that your failure to get a pay raise is a direct reflection of your value to the company. It means that your work isn’t very much different from that of your peers; and it probably also means that the company believes if you were to leave—on your own volition, of course—that they probably couldn’t do any worse with somebody else, and they might even do better. That’s value connected to supply and demand!
So how can you get a pay increase? You must demonstrate value to the person or company employing you, and that value has to be above and beyond what your competitors (peers) are offering. You first must be crystal clear on what that person or company values. This is where many people fail. They think that it should be something like time served, or a winning personality, or something else that likely only has value to them. But please understand that companies exist to earn profit. This is not an evil thing. Companies also provide goods and services, yes, and thus they provide a value to the world; but in the end: no profit = no company. And no company means every person working for that company is now unemployed. You see, it’s easy to vilify business in its quest for profits, but in the end many lives are connected to the life or death of a company, so considering the big picture is more realistic than what many do when evaluating the ethics of capitalism.
Here’s the bottom line: You want a pay raise—you need to show that business how you will help them be more profitable, period.
If you can’t show a company how you will help them be profitable, then why would they value you above the average employee? Oh you think you are entitled to it over time…not if the company is not hugely successful you’re not. Yes if a company explodes—like Google, Facebook, or the government—then you’ll get a pay increase just for being on the team. But that’s not 99% of businesses: Profitability and extreme profitability are not the same, so if you aren’t showing your value to the company—how you individually and uniquely help that company be profitable—then you can hold your breath for your ten-year gold Rolex, because you probably aren’t going to get much of a pay hike unless the entire market goes upward. But if you can show your employer (clients) how what you do is valuable for them, and how if you were to no longer do it they might actually be less profitable and maybe even lose money (time, health, their freedom, etc), then you will be of utmost value to them, and I promise you, any smart company will pay for that.
*If you would love to know how to increase your self-worth your worth to others, and thus your financial worth, I am available for consultations: contact email@example.com
We often hold ourselves back by using limited perceptions to imagine what our obstacles might be, but in reality we have no idea of what we will actually encounter in any endeavor. We think that we understand how the game is played, so we can, to some degree, know how things will carry out, but all we really have is an idea of what we think should happen, a script that only exists in our minds. Funny how the things we assume will challenge us are very often not the real obstacles; but other things come, things we can’t predict or even imagine until we actually take the leap. You have to understand that you will find a new way to solve the problems that you couldn’t even conceive were coming; and that you will forge who you are exactly by carrying out a unique struggle in that area of life in which you are choosing to play. So don’t hold yourself back from playing—you will get more out of life by not allowing your unfounded fears to guide you.
Two important studies for mind-body dynamics have been recently published showing more evidence for the crucial role of the mind in the healing process.While it might be tempting to think that healing is of a purely physical nature, evidence is surfacing to show us just how integral the mind really is in the process. These current studies just deepen the possibility that the mental is as important as physical when it comes to the body’s recovery, restoration and repair.
The most interesting aspect of these findings, however, are being largely ignored by the researchers, I believe . While I agree with the conclusions on both studies, I think that they are merely touching the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps they feel the necessity to remain conservative in their analysis, so as not to push any paradigmatic parameters, but I think their results reveal something even bigger—and a massive opening for further research. Check it:
The first study, published in the December 2012 issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science, looked at people who had undergone surgery for the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a common and serious knee injury. Participants were split into two groups—one receiving rehab only and one receiving rehab plus guided imagery (a form of visualization). Both groups completed six months of rehab. The guided imagery was carried out with the help of a therapist, and included mentally rehearsing physical therapy exercises, as well as visualizing the physiological healing process—for example, scar tissue breaking up and gentle stretching. The group practicing the guided imagery showed greater improvement in knee stability and decreased levels of stress hormones. Wow!
The second study, conducted at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and published in the February 2012 issue of the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, looked at a group of patients scheduled to undergo gallbladder removal. Again the patients were split into two groups—one receiving standard care only, and the other receiving standard care plus relaxation and guided imagery techniques for three days prior and seven days after surgery.
“We used a relaxation intervention to try to reduce stress and therefore get a better inflammatory response to surgery and improve healing.” ~ Elizabeth Broadbent, professor of medicine, University of Auckland, in New Zealand
The first three days of guided imagery were focused on being relaxed and ready for the surgery, while the seven days following the procedure were focused on the body’s healing process (the group visualized oxygen and nutrients travelling to the wound site and helping the body knit the skin back together, easing discomfort, and providing “soothing relief.”) The group practicing the imaging techniques reported a larger reduction in stress than the control group, while their wound showed signs of greater collagen deposition and faster healing. Booyah!
But here is where I feel that both sets of authors might be practicing a bit of conservative caution. They believe that their results showed, most predominantly, a decreased stress response, which is what improved healing. Now there’s no doubt in my mind that this is an essential piece to the puzzle—yet it is merely one piece, I believe, and a small one at that. What these studies say to me is that the mind is a major player in the healing process (and all physiological processes for that matter), and by using it in a focused manner—by visualizing details of the physiological mechanism of healing—we can actually guide the process along. Because, you see, I am certain we ‘create’ physical phenomena all the time. We already know that we can stimulate physiological processes (like heart rate and ventilation) by visualizing physical exertion (like running on a treadmill). So it’s no surprise to me that study participants increased their healing response by visualizing it happening on the cellular and molecular level.
I introduce this concept in my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, where I describe the digestive process in detail, and encourage readers to visualize the process as they eat a meal, to enhance digestion (more on this in a future post). Yes I am sure guided imagery also helped the subjects relax, and that the decreased stress response assisted in recovery by creating an environment conducive to healing. But I just can’t ignore the real possibility that by mentally visualizing the physical processes unfolding the entire phenomenon is enhanced in some way. It makes me recall the neurological findings that our bodies already carry out some ‘conscious’ physical actions before we are actually aware of them. So, somehow, we are not as conscious of our actions as we think. This is obvious when we consider the autonomic processes, but maybe not so much (although equally possible) when considering other physiological processes like healing.
Now I know at least one criticism to my thoughts on this subject will be: But people heal all the time without visualizing the process, so that can’t be the sole, or even the primary, factor in healing…to which I would reply: Right, because on some level everybody is in-tune with the fact that, as living organisms, we do heal…so that belief, that understanding, that expectation, is already playing a role in the healing process, even if unconsciously. However, by focusing conscious thought on the healing process itself, I believe that it is possible to enhance the outcome, and these studies only seem to add credence to this notion. The real beauty in all of this is that for the open-minded scientist these findings are preliminary data that can and should lead to more detailed studies in the future investigating the mind’s role in the physiological mechanisms that make up the healing process. Pretty cool if you ask me.
Several months ago I wrote a post on food sensitivities, and how I believe this ubiquitous human trait to be at the root of the inordinate amount of digestive disorders plaguing the US and much of the western world today. I would like to take this time to explain the process by which I believe food sensitivities move from a source of irritation, to symptoms, to chronic conditions, to frank diseases over time; and I will also discuss how this process is currently dealt with by the mainstream medical machine (your doctors). Once I am finished, I think you will clearly understand why I think this dynamic is what’s really leading to the explosion of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders in modern society.
As I have explained before, I believe that every person on this planet is sensitive to a variety of foods. These sensitivities differ from individual to individual. They can be as unique in their totality as the person possessing them. Some people are sensitive to nuts, some to dairy and others to shellfish—yes, you’re typical food allergens; the one’s that medical science recognizes and even tests for.
But some people are sensitive to foods that modern medicine would never consider causative agents in your typical GI disorders. Berries, melons, leafy green vegetables, chocolate, mint can all be disruptive to some people. I know—I happen to be sensitive to every one of these foods, each causing me symptoms that over time can become quite serious (I’ve done the research). And I have seen everything from chicken, to blueberries, to tomatoes cause symptoms in my children. Now while I believe that food sensitivities vary among people, I am quite certain that they follow a pattern of inheritance. One of my children definitely shares my sensitivities, while the other is similar to her mother, a food sensitivity body-type inheritance if you will.
I wish to be clear that I am not talking about food allergies here, which are a very distinct type of immune reaction to undigested proteins. The body sees these proteins as foreign and, as a result, goes on attack. This is precisely what medical science looks for when they do food allergy testing. The foods typically known to cause allergic reactions (some life threatening, like anaphylaxis) are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, shellfish, soy and wheat (the “big eight”).
Food sensitivities, however, are somewhat controversial among medical professionals (particularly in the UK and Netherlands), and thus do not show up on the radar of most medical doctors. Although I know a handful of rather open-minded and wise docs, I am certain that most shrug-off the notion that food sensitivities are primary causative factors to many GI symptoms epidemic in modern society. This is a big mistake.
After consuming a food that one is sensitive to, the body can respond in a number of different ways. My observation is that there exists a sensitivity spectrum within each person, such that some foods will cause a worse reaction than others in a person. For instance, I can actually have a few berries here and there—a blessing as I absolutely love them—and an occasional green salad won’t bother me too much, despite the fact that I can barely digest lettuce (I’ll spare you from the gory details, but let’s just say my body removes it as quickly as possible). Too much of either, however, and I get heartburn (acid reflux) and watery stool respectively (Sorry! Some gory details are necessary). Pork is another food I must be cautious with. While I love salami, more than just a little leads to some serious heartburn for me, which can last as long as a few days. Chocolate, on the other hand, hits me hard: I’ve had multiple episodes of severe gastritis, which on at least one occasion had sent me to the ER, where I had my healthy appendix graciously removed (because the notion that food sensitivities might be leading to a severe case of gastritis just wasn’t in the playbook [read: consciousness] of the staff there).
All of these GI symptoms—from the minor to the severe—are simply the body’s attempt to remove an ingested food item that is acting like a poison to that body-type. I will admit, though, that I do not know the exact mechanism of the food sensitivity reactions. That will be for medical science to figure out once they finally acknowledge the prevalence and etiology of the phenomenon. But I am rather confident that most GI symptoms are the body’s intelligent response to the ingestion of a food which is an irritant (in the case of foods which lie on the milder side of the spectrum) or toxin (chocolate in me) to that body.
Think about it: Halitosis, hiccups, heartburn, excessive gas, bloating, cramping, nausea, constipation, and diarrhea—all are symptoms of the body trying to either remove an ingested food item, or the effects of that item being digested incompletely. But since your average medical doctor will likely not consider food sensitivities as a factor in your GI disorder, what do you think happens? Yes, he or she will go into the standard medical playbook, consider the symptoms only, and prescribe a treatment based on the severity and duration of those symptoms. Short-term and mild GI symptoms (those on the lower end of the spectrum) will get medicated, while the more severe and chronic cases will receive first a bevy of diagnostic testing (to observe how your physiology is changing—think endoscopy and colonoscopy) and then either medication, surgery or both. No doubt some docs will consider diet to a slight degree in your case management, but rarely will they do so as a serious or long term approach. And that’s where the real fun begins.
So the patient goes home with his or her medication and goes back to business as usual. You see, the rationale behind the medical approach to GI disorders, in general, is that it’s due to a genetic predisposition. In other words, they believe that by chance one just overproduces gastric acid leading to reflux; or by poor luck of the draw, one’s intestinal motility lags, so digested food is passed through the system slowly (causing constipation). The answer, then, is to overcome this genetic defect in physiological function by prescribing a powerful chemical substance. So essentially the medical message is, “Sorry but you’re just one unlucky sucker, but you’re lucky because we have the solution—medicine!” Now does this message really make sense?
Try applying that logic to any other physical phenomenon and you will see how truly pathetic it is. It’s akin to believing in spirits, and you know how science feels about that… This belief, which unfortunately has been infused into the consciousness of the general public, leads to symptom suppression, which works for a short time only, since the actual cause of symptoms has not been addressed. Ultimately, the body will work hard to overcome this suppression, because symptoms are not only the body’s response to insult, but also its communication—a way of letting us know that something is wrong. In this case, digestive symptoms are our body’s way of letting us know that we are poisoning it. And how does the human body overcome medicinal suppression—by increasing its physiological response, which in turn, increases symptoms.
So in practical terms: If you take heartburn meds for long enough, your body will fight back with greater heartburn. If you take antiflatulents, anti-diarrheals or anti-constipation meds long-term, then just watch your body rebound with even worse flatulence, worse diarrhea and worse constipation, whatever the case might be. Don’t believe me? Then go for it, but if you’re wise you’ll just take a look around you at all the people suffering from digestive disorders, and you’ll see them playing out the exact scenario I am describing.
Over time this cycle of increasing GI symptoms, to suppression with medications, to even worse GI symptoms, to suppression with more potent medication, to even worse symptoms, is what I believe is the precursor to serious GI diseases—things like Barrett’s esophagus, stomach cancer, acute pancreatitis, cholecystitis, gallstones, Crohn’s disease, and colon cancer. I’m fairly confident that every one of these disorders results from repeatedly eating foods that the body is sensitive to, and ultimately, they act as a form of poison leading to pathophysiology and frank disease.
I’d like to finish by asking two final questions: One, do you really think pharmaceutical scientists, medical doctors, herb pushers or anybody else selling an outside-in remedy for your digestive disorders is smarter than your own body? And two, do you really think that the random chance, crummy luck of the genetic draw explanation for the prevalence of digestive disorders in the western world makes more sense than the innate intelligence of the body communicating through symptoms explanation? I thought so. Listen to your body.
More to come.
To do my part in the War on Obesity I decided to rekindle some old posts from 2011 and Tweet my thoughts on extreme fatness. As far as I can see, obesity numbers haven’t budged in the last two years, and even more likely is that they continue to creep upward. For those who don’t know:
In the US:
- More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese.
- Between 1988–1994 and 2007–2008 the prevalence of obesity increased in adults at all income and education levels.
- In 2010, there were 12 states with an obesity prevalence of 30%. In 2000, no state had an obesity prevalence of 30% or more.
- Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
- In 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
And in England:
The proportion of adults with a normal BMI decreased between 1993 and 2011 from 41% to 34% among men and from 50% to 39% among women.
The proportion that were overweight including obese increased from 58% to 65% in men and from 49% to 58% in women between 1993 and 2011
There was a marked increase in the proportion of adults that were obese from 13% in 1993 to 24% in 2011 for men and from 16% to 26% for women.
In 2011/12, around one in ten pupils in Reception class (aged 4-5 years) were classified as obese (9.5%) which compares to around a fifth of pupils in Year 6 (aged 10-11 years) (19.2%)
And just as when I first wrote those posts in 2011, the reaction was heated. So many ‘experts’ having the answer. Obesity is this. Obesity is that…yet I still hear the same ol’ stuff: straw grasping, the hope of finding that one thing that will deflate the worldwide obesity epidemic. Yeah, okay…
Honestly, I find it humorous…the numbers that come forward when the obesity Tweets go up, proclaiming this or that great idea or program. So convinced are these folks that they are wowing the world with groundbreaking information—something new; something we haven’t heard before. Genetics, hormones, enzyme imbalance, biochemistry… Wow! Really?! My goodness, who would have thought…?! Call the Nobel people…
Really it’s what I think when the responses come pouring in. And that’s exactly what I thought when I was approached by a young doctor and researcher by the name of Jameson Voss, a third year Preventive Medicine Resident at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. His current research focuses on obesity, specifically the correlation between obesity and altitude, which has an inverse relationship he’s found. His recent work has investigated the obesity numbers throughout the United States and has found that as elevation increases, obesity numbers actually decrease, and they do so significantly. Hmmm…
As I started scanning his work, two things about Dr. Voss became immediately apparent: one is that he is a real professional, doing real work in the realm of the physiological sciences, not simply some schmuck selling books, or a weight loss program, or a television show, like many people I encounter when the obesity subject arises; and two, his work actually demonstrates some interesting aspects of obesity (or morphology, in general) that may not be readily apparent on first glance; but I assure you that if you think about it, and think about some physiological principles, as well as some of the things that I’ve been discussing in those earlier posts, you will see that it all makes perfect sense. You will see that Dr. Voss’ findings fit perfectly with the criteria that I’ve been screaming about for years: That there is no need to attempt to change what we already know about human physiology and metabolism; that there is no need to create a whole new theory on metabolic physiology by throwing out fundamental concepts—like calories, food type, or average food volume consumed—and instead focus on the biochemical and/or hormonal markers as the keys to understanding (and ‘defeating’) this seemingly enigmatic disorder.
Doctor Voss’ study found two interesting things: one, as I’ve already mentioned, is the inverse correlation between obesity and altitude, and two, a second inverse correlation, this time to urbanization. So as population density increases, obesity goes down. Wow, so what’s happening here?
If you remember my post on the parasympathetic nervous system, and the role it plays in metabolism, I discussed that when we perceive ourselves to be in a stressful/challenging situation, our sympathetic nervous system kicks in to put us into the fight-or-flight mode. When that challenge then diminishes, and we feel safe, when we perceive ourselves to be supported and secure, when we essentially feel comfortable, then we go into a parasympathetic response—the rest-and-digest mode. Remember that I described how obese people have been found to be in an ANS (autonomic nervous system) or parasympathetic imbalance—their rest-and-digest is overactive. In this state, metabolism slows down and fat storage increases, and this is one reason why obese people show slower gains in losing weight than do non-obese people.
Okay, so what does this have to do with Dr. Voss’ work? As I explained in those post on obesity and ANS imbalance, I believe there is an unrecognized, or better an unacknowledged, mental component to obesity. I believe that as people feel comfortable, as their daily challenges decrease, the more they operate in the rest-and-digest mode. People that live in cities just have to deal with a higher volume of daily stresses than do people living rurally or in the suburbs. Take it from a guy that has spent the last twenty plus years fighting Los Angeles traffic. I’ve had a knife put up to my neck simply for asking a young man to graciously remove his car from my office parking space…yes, these are the types of stresses which are so commonplace among urban jungle dwellers. You just never know when you’ll be the next person to be thrown onto the subway tracks…get it? It’s not that people living outside of cities don’t have stress, but as a way of life…well, I just never have trouble finding parking at the 7-11 outside the city’s parameters, if you know what I mean.
And what about elevation? Well again it has to do with challenge, but this time the challenge is of a physiological nature. Because of the lower density of oxygen at higher altitudes, it is much harder to pick up this vital molecule during respiration, and as a result the body has to work harder for the same oxygen need as it does at sea level.
This fact is precisely why boxers have trained at higher elevations for years (and the effects cyclists try to recreate doping with erythropoietin [EPO]). The challenges to cellular and cardiopulmonary respiration force the body to produce more red blood cells, because quantity here makes up for the decreased quality of oxygen uptake by the present red blood cells, and so a stress to the body occurs. This challenge, I believe, like any challenge to the body (and mind for that matter) forces the body into a higher metabolic rate—in other words, burning fuel becomes more efficient to power the increased demand on the human body. And because this physiological challenge is persistent, it gives people living in higher elevations an advantage with regard to burning fuel. Does this mean that people living at higher elevations won’t put on weight? No! We all have the potential to become overweight or obese, no matter what the elevation; but the increased physiological challenge across the population would explain why, relative to people living closer to sea level, that this population has significantly lower obesity rates.
Again, however, I wish to remind the reader to not get fixated on the physical aspect of stress. I truly believe that what we are seeing physiologically with populations living in higher elevations is a similar phenomenon to what we see with urbanization—it’s stress, both physical and mental, that puts people into sympathetic overdrive, and thus more efficient fuel (fat) burners. As I pointed out in some of the post from 2011, obesity is far more prevalent in Western developed nations. Again, when we feel relatively secure, safe, and supported—like we do in most western nations—we will have the tendency to lean toward a predominantly parasympathetic state. Wars, drought, famine or the constant threat of terrorism do not allow for parasympathetic imbalance, and thus obesity is purely an epidemic of wealth and convenience.
So in my mind the answer is not to be found solely in one physical activity over another, as in diet over exercise, or by sitting in a hypobaric chamber, nor will it be found solely in challenging oneself, because the obesity epidemic (not case-by-case obesity, but in its totality) is more complex than that. Other psychological factors play a role too, I believe—far too numerous to discuss in this piece—but I’ve touched upon some in the past. I just wish to be clear that I believe the missing piece to the obesity puzzle is in psychology, not simply in more reductive physiology.
Saying that, I am impressed with Dr. Voss’ work and his group’s observation of the inverse correlation between both elevation and urbanization and the prevalence of obesity. To me it is clear-cut evidence that the body responds to perceived stresses—both physical (as in respiratory challenges, or knives to the neck) and mental (perceived challenges, traffic, and so forth)—by entering a sympathetic response, and thus increased metabolism. The more time spent under perceived stress, the more the sympathetic response will be (which comes with its own associated negative physical consequences—like high blood pressure, myocardial infarction, among other symptoms and conditions).
Thank you Dr. Voss for your work. For me, at least, it provides some hard data illustrating real physiological and metabolic principles. It fits into a framework of what we already know about physiology, metabolism and obesity. But most important, it isn’t trying to recreate the wheel by claiming any new and fantastic theories about nature and the underlying mechanisms of metabolism within the obese physiology. That is exceptional work in my book.
How does it feel to be a human medical guinea pig, part of vast research project to determine whether ADHD is a true medical condition or not? And also to determine whether the current prescribed treatment—pharmaceutical speed—is a valuable treatment option for said potential disorder? Forget that the researchers (scientists, doctors, politicians, school officials, teachers, parents) have already made up their minds before the results have come in—that’s today’s medical research, philosophy and practice whether you like it or not. But how does it feel that your children are the ones being indiscriminately tested on? Oh wait…you don’t believe me…ah, I see…well then:
A recent study now suggests that Ritalin and other speed drugs regularly fed to children might cause long-term brain changes. You don’t say? Gosh, I recall some quack with a blog reporting that vociferously over the last few years… Yes, according to the study, users of methylphenidate (most commonly sold as Ritalin) had higher levels of a protein called the dopamine transporter in their brains after one year of treatment compared to before they starting taking the drug. And these increased levels may lead to future drug tolerance, and get this…”could result in more severe inattention”!
Scientists have speculated that people with ADHD naturally have more dopamine transporters in their brains, but according to study researcher Dr. Gene-Jack Wang, of Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., the new study suggests that the increase comes from the drug treatment itself and is not associated with the so-called condition alone. Prior to the study, none of the participants had ever been treated with ADHD drugs.
Even scarier is that this study only looked at the effects following one year of speed medication therapy. It is unknown what the longer-term effects might be. Do you still feel good about subjecting your kid to an ongoing medical study?
Among study participants, a 24% increase in the number of dopamine transporters was found in some areas of the brain, while there was no increase in dopamine transporters in a group of healthy participants who did not take Ritalin.
So my question to parents is, “Why?” Why do some of you so unquestioningly trust the authority of a profession that treats with dangerous drugs first, does research later? Isn’t anyone else out there uncomfortable with the notions of, “We believe that possibly…,” “We think it might…,” and other rationalizations of uncertainty when it comes to the health of your children? I would never, ever, ever subject my child to drugs because some arrogant professionals tell me that they “believe it might help.” Sorry but that’s sloppy parenting.
Unfortunately, too many people still consider medical science their ultimate health authority. No doubt, modern medicine does some pretty incredible things, but I am not placing my faith in a practice and industry that often acts before it knows…not when it comes to the health of me and my loved ones. Yes, I am offended by the modern medical approach to what I have so openly called a “non-condition.” ADD is NOT a disorder. We all have it when we are forced to endure something that doesn’t inspire us. Drugging our children because we can’t understand how to tap into their inspiration is not the answer. Hopefully this study is the beginning of the end to this massive public guinea pig project…but I doubt it.
I recently discussed the concept of physiological variability, and how it’s factor most responsible for rendering a one-diet-best-for-all nonexistent. Part of that variability expresses itself in the form of food sensitivities. Every person walking this planet has a sensitivity to one food item or another–of this I am convinced; and it would make sense, since we probably share some genetic differences with a group of others, which account for these sensitivities. And it’s these food sensitivities, I believe, that are responsible for the majority of gastrointestinal or digestive ailments plaguing the world today.
To give you an example, I cannot handle berries of any kind digestively. Yes berries. They give me heartburn. Now I can eat a handful here or there; a small amount not being the problem (a blessing that allows me occasional indulgences). It is if I were to eat, either a large amount in one sitting (unlikely), or moderately over a longer period (much more likely) that I would experience significant symptoms.
How do I know that berries bother me? Well I didn’t for many years, but I simply observed…and as I learned to become more in-tune with the messages my body sends me (subject of an upcoming post), I became aware of the various foods that caused me symptoms.
It is not that a handful of berries is benign to my body, I’d like to point out–I just don’t have symptoms severe enough to really challenge me one way or another with a small amount. So even just a moderate amount of berries can give me an ever-so-slight heartburn. But I am definitely aware of the subtle change. To be so one really needs to practice tuning into one’s interoceptive senses.
Most people, however, are unaware of which foods they are sensitive to, with the exception perhaps of some real obvious ones, like lactose intolerance, for example, or allergies to shell fish…you know, the typical “food allergies” recognized by medical science. But sensitivity to berries, or mint, or chocolate (all sensitivities of mine) are not, and may never be, recognized by western medicine; I guess only time will tell. But again, I believe that every person walking the planet has sensitivities to foods western medical science would consider perfectly normal, non-reactive foods.
But one need only look as far as the prevalence of gastrointestinal disorders in the U.S. According to the Health and Human Service’s National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC):
- 60 to 70 million people in the U.S. affected by one digestive disorder or another
- 13.5 million people hospitalized every year
- 236,164 annual deaths
- 12 percent of all inpatient procedures
- 31 percent of all ambulatory procedures
The conditions include:
- Chronic constipation
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) — including heartburn — In the Western world between 10 and 20% of the population is affected (!)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Peptic Ulcer Disease
Why so many digestive disorders? As I’ve said before, when medical science has no explanation for the true cause of disease, it tends to fall back on the ol’ randomness reasoning, disguised as something sophisticated, which they call genetics. Yeah right. Genetics are highly intertwined with evolutionary processes; our digestive systems evolved over millions of years. Genetics, as it is rationalized, is NOT the cause of the high prevalence of GI disorders—it’s diet!
Yes, GI disorders are about what you eat and drink. Some of that is obvious, like the amount of food one eats, or how much booze one imbibes, but I am convinced that the majority of digestive disorders stems from people chronically ingesting foods that they are sensitive to. It can subtle enough for awhile that they don’t catch what’s bothering them—and believe me it’s very easy to blow off when symptoms are minor and transient—but over time, or as a particular food increases in frequency of consumption, symptoms can intensify, and even lead to flat out disease. Further, because many of these foods are considered “healthy” by medical science, academia, the popular media, and the average man’s common sense…well, they get overlooked.
Because, yeah, everybody knows berries are good for you—why would they be harmful?
Next post: The probable sequence of events leading from sensitivity to disease. Stay tuned.
Have your chaise longues ready folks, because this post is guaranteed to tickle. For me it’s in the taste of irony with regard to the history of an old guard prone to the accusations, oppression and persecution of any professions that it has considered an economic or authoritative competitor. But for you it may be the tickle of a different sort, one regarding a history of another kind.
Once upon a time the medical profession recognized a disorder known as female hysteria. In the mid-19th century this condition was thought to result from the stresses of modern living. As the name indicates, it was a purely female phenomenon, and the symptoms included faintness, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and “a tendency to cause trouble.” Although the notion of female hysteria actually dates as far back as ancient Greece, it is the relatively more recent classification that interests me.
“The women who visit me vary in age and social standing. Some of the women have husbands, some are single and there have even been ladies of the night pay me a visit. There is no pattern to when or how their female hysteria will be brought on and the only way I have found to effect a cure is by the method of pelvic massage.”*
The prescribed treatment for this gender-specific stress disorder was the pelvic massage. Yes, doctors would treat patients to a hands-on genital rubbing, until the hysterical female reached sexual climax. Voilà! Patient cured by orgasm—well, until the next episode that is…
“My husband was shocked at my repeat visits to the doctor but insisted I should employ a maid at the house who would learn the doctor’s methods and deal with me whenever I required her services.”*
On first thought it might be easy to misconstrue that treating female hysteria was a pleasurable act for both doctor and patient, but in actuality it was an arduous task, so much that it was not uncommon for the therapeutic duties to be passed on to a midwife, or even a husband. Some women would take hours to reach “healing”, and this seriously cut into the time and economics for the doctor. As a result, a number of useful items were born, because as they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
The first item of interest was the fainting room. Homes we’re built with private rooms in which hysterical ladies would be treated; they were furnished with the latest in hysteria decor, like the fainting couch. These chaise longues were specifically designed for the ease and comfort of receiving pelvic massages. Finally, as doctors became overwhelmed by ever-increasing patient load, two nifty little devices were spawned. The water massager and the vibrator.
“In 1902, the American company Hamilton Beach patented the first electric vibrator available for consumer retail sale as opposed to medical usage, making the vibrator the fifth domestic appliance to be electrified, after the sewing machine, fan, tea kettle, and toaster, and about a decade before the vacuum cleaner and electric iron.” ~ Wikipedia
That’s right, folks—you can thank modern medical science for your pocket rockets, magic wands and jack rabbits–mechanical massagers designed to cure the ubiquitous condition of female hysteria. In an era when it was unfathomable that women had sexual needs that went beyond reproduction, these handy little stimulators were the buzz of medical technology.
“To get the best possible results and a thorough massage you must use The American Vibrator. No modern home is complete without one. Our machine is guaranteed.” ~ American Vibrator Company, St. Louis, Mo.
The twentieth century saw a sharp decline in the number of diagnosed cases of female hysteria, as study and observation could yield no particular cause for the disorder. In fact, over 75 pages of different causes were ascribed to female hysteria, some pointing out that it became a catchall diagnosis for any unidentifiable ailment.
Sigmund Freud himself was at the forefront of reclassifying hysteria (from schizophrenia, conversion disorders and anxiety attacks for example) into the now more commonly used anxiety neurosis. As society learned more about human sexuality, the practice of classifying what we would consider today as the need for a good ol’ romp instead of a medical disorder diminished. Lucky for us the manufacture and sale of vibrators continued, but starting in the 1960′s they were hawked for the same uses that they are today—as sexual stimulators.
The irony for me is that today modern medicine continues to focus on other (alternative) healing professions’ sometimes less than rational historical roots, as a way to undermine what have become in many cases very rational practices. But from bloodletting to lobotomies, modern medicine has had its fair share of irrational theories and practices, some that continue today (like pharmaceutical treatments for ADD and depression). Cultural practices evolve with our understanding of the body, mind and physics. As we learn more, we adapt how we address “problems”. Sometimes it’s as simple as doing away with an illogical morality, as the curious case of female hysteria has proven. Paradigms change, and when we change our behaviors as a result we get closer to truly helping people. By the same token, without the challenge of finding a cure for female hysteria, we might still have some very overworked doctors, midwives and husbands. Phew…hallelujah.
*Legitimacy of quote unconfirmed
Dr. Nick Campos
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