Logan Stiner

Prom king, Logan Stiner dead from caffeine overdose

This post is for the fellas—especially those of you just coming up. Listen up, men—there is no quick road to anything. I know, I know…this or that guy told you this or that…it’s a bunch of horse turds, believe me. Take getting cut-up—there simply isn’t a pill or drink that’s going to do it for you faster or better than the ol’ tried and true, not without a major risk anyway, and one that might just cost you your life. Case in point: A high school senior was found dead in his home on May 27th, a victim of caffeine overdose. Caffeine?! Yes…caffeine.

Eighteen-year-old Logan Stiner, an Ohio teenager collapsed just days before his graduation. Found by his brother, the initial coroner’s report had natural causes listed as a cause of death. Then his mother found bags of caffeine powder, and a subsequent autopsy uncovered that he had 70 micrograms of caffeine per milliliter of blood in his system, 23 times that found in the average coffee or soda drinker’s blood. 50 micrograms of caffeine per milliliter of blood is considered lethal. That’s right—caffeine can kill you.

Why would a teenager be taking this kind of caffeine substance, and where the hell did he get it? Authorities seem perplexed on the former, dumbfounded on the latter, but let me shed some light: You see, Steiner was a wrestler, and he once told his mom he was taking the caffeine as a sort of “pre-workout” substance. Yes wrestlers, like boxers and other fighters, are under weight restrictions—that is, they compete in a weight class. It keeps competition fair, so that one competitor does not have an unfair advantage over another purely on weight and size. It is not uncommon for fighters to squeeze by, literally, into lower weight classes, or for athletes of the more endo- or meso-morphic body types to control their weight. Wrestlers, like bulimics, have been known to purge, and even do stupid things like wear rubber suits to try and sweat off the pounds. High doses of caffeine, no doubt, are being used to serve the same purpose, and can be added to the stupid category.

Caffeine PowderCaffeine powder is not hard to get; it is sold as a dietary supplement, allowing it to evade typical regulations on caffeinated products, highlighting one of the dark spots on the supplement industry, an open venue for shysters and anybody putting profits above public safety. Users add it to drinks to boost their workouts or control weight. A mere 1/16th of a teaspoon can contain about 200 milligrams of caffeine, roughly the equivalent of two large cups of coffee. What makes this product especially scary is its inability to be measured properly with common kitchen utensils, according to the FDA.

“The difference between a safe amount and a lethal dose of caffeine in these powdered products is very small,” FDA spokeswoman Jennifer Dooren said.

Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said he’s seen several younger patients experience complications from caffeine in the last few months. Some arrive with rapid heart rates.

“They’re starting to latch onto the powders more because they see it as a more potent way to lose weight,” Glatter said.

The number of emergency department visits involving energy drinks, which are high in caffeine, doubled—from 10,068 visits in 2007 to 20,783 visits in 2011, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Most of the cases involved teens or young adults.

len-bias-boston-celtics-1986 (Copy)Listen fellas, these practices are usually handed down from one guy to another after hearing of its miraculous powers. Whether we’re talking steroids, rubber suits, ephedrine, or even substances like meth as a means of getting cut (or high, or whatever), I’ve got news for you—that decision could be your very last. When I was a kid, this truth was brought to surface by a future NBA superstar, Len Bias. Oh, you don’t know his story? Read here.

Back then it was cocaine; today it’s caffeine. Seems crazy doesn’t it? Well it is. Listen to this story of prom king and stand-out athlete, Logan Steiner. It could happen to you too. Not worth it, man. Anything you want you can achieve on your own, without the external help. And if you truly need a boost to compete—well, then it’s probably not your real calling anyway. Hope Logan Stiner’s story wakes you up, and keeps you off the powder.

iPad RashWell more trouble for iPad users. If iPad neck wasn’t enough, now you’ve got to contend with iPad allergies. Yup, you got that right—iPads are causing allergies in some users. And before you think your Kindle or cellphone is off the hook, all new tablet/phone technology is being implicated, even laptops. Doh!

According to recent reports in medical journals, nickel used in the outer casings of various electronic devices can cause an allergy in some people. Nickel—one of the most allergy inducing metals—can cause uncomfortable skin rashes, like that which happened to an 11-year-old boy who used an iPad daily, as reported in the recent issue of Pediatrics. His rash was throughout his whole body, and although he has a known condition causing scaly skin, this particular rash did not go away prompting the skin testing.

It turns out that diagnosed nickel allergies—as determined by skin testing—are on the rise. According to national data, about 25 percent of children who get skin tested have allergies to nickel, versus about 17 percent a decade ago. Fortunately, nickel allergies are not life threatening and can be treated with steroids (or iPad use discontinuation…er, scratch that).

A simple and better long-term solution is to put your iPads and cell phones in protective cases. Since the nickel is on the outer covering itself, it only makes sense. Anyway, cases protect the devices from breaking, so duh…

Flip-Phones-Cause-Nickel-Allergies (Copy)Not everyone has to worry about nickel allergies, however. If you are, in fact, allergic to nickel but don’t know it yet, you will get a reaction from contact with nickel anywhere from minutes to never. According to to an advisory about cellphones on the website of the  Nickel Institute, a global association based in Toronto representing nickel producers, the risk arises from contact with nickel-plated outer surfaces “over prolonged periods of time,” so again, a protective cover seems the simplest method for prevention.

“The length of time required to elicit an allergic reaction will vary from 5 or 10 minutes to never, depending on the sensitivity of the individual,” the advisory says. And a nickel allergy rash doesn’t have to come from electronic devices; it can also develop from jewelry, eyeglass frames and zippers.

So if you have developed an unexplained rash you might want to get skin tested for nickel allergies. And, of course, doctors need to be on the alert for this uncommon, but growing, condition. Yes, our modern conveniences are godsends, but remember that nothing comes without its downside; and for our mobile computing devices, looks like nickel allergies are at least one…for now.


NickstrodamusCall me the Nostradamus of health care, as I did warn of impending doom. I said one of the ramifications of socialized health care in the U.S. would be treatments which only the privileged could afford. I know you didn’t believe me then; you wanted to believe the politicians and pundits who were selling equality through entitlement…yeah right…and I’ve got a bridge for sale. So as I, Nostradamus, have predicted: medical innovation will continue to boom. Case in point: we now have our first serious hepatitis C cure, but reports have its price tag listed at $1,000 per pill. Egads…and a full treatment may cost along the lines of…ya ready?…gulp…$90,000! Yes and even better: it probably won’t be covered under Obamacare.

The new pill, called Sovaldi, apparently cures nine out of every ten patients treated for liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). An estimated 150–200 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C, a virus that infects the liver and which, when chronic, can lead to liver failure, liver cancer, or life-threatening esophageal and gastric varices. The virus is spread blood to blood, so from intravenous drug use (sharing needles), dirty tattoo parlors, and blood transfusions (see photo below). People who do develop cirrhosis or liver cancer may require a liver transplant.

Causes of hep CBecause the infection is often without symptoms, many of the 3 million Americans that carry the hep C virus don’t realize it. And even though no conclusive evidence shows HCV to be transmissible by sexual intercourse, multiple sex partners is in fact a risk factor. In 2007,  it surpassed AIDS as a cause of death, as an estimated 15,000 people died in the U.S. from complications associated with the infection.

While the discovery of Sovaldi is a godsend for anyone infected with HCV, the cost is something that brings to light the ugly realities of a new system intending to curb health care cost. Insurers, naturally, are balking at the price. Dr. Sharon Levine, a top official working on drug policy with insurer Kaiser Permanente, believes the price is out of line. She notes that countries where the government sets drug prices are paying much less. And while U.S. insurers aren’t interested in price controls, said Levine, “eventually the American public is going to start getting very uncomfortable” with high prices.

SovaldiThe California Technology Assessment Forum, a private group that reviews medical treatments, recently voted Sovaldi a “low value,” because it would be cost-prohibitive to treat the high number of potentially eligible patients. But after their own assessment, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases issued clinical guidelines recommending that doctors use Sovaldi as a primary treatment.

See the conundrum? Remember my words from February 2012 when I said, medical innovations will continue to flourish provided we do not try to curb costs. The socialist in us all can cry equality til we’re blue in the face, but the cold, hard fact is that drug research and development (R&D) is costly. If pharmaceutical companies cannot turn a profit, then expect innovation to fall in the lap of…gulp…academia. And well…ya know…

haves-havenotsBut if medical technology is allowed to flourish on its own, well then it is going to cost, especially for a big gun like Sovaldi. Drug maker Gilead Sciences, Inc., reported Sovaldi sales of $2.3 billion worldwide in just the first three months of this year. Gilead will not disclose its pricing methods, but vice president Gregg Alton said the drug’s high cure rate makes it “a real huge value.” As it should be.

Listen folks, I’ll say it again, you can’t have it both ways. You want ground-breaking medical science—bionic eyes, magic penis pills, and cure-me-from-instant-death-NOW medicines? Those cost ducketts. But if what you want is everybody gets the same…it ain’t gonna be Sovaldi, sorry. Anyway, it’s a rhetorical question because we human beings will not stifle progress ever—we can’t; it’s hardwired in us. But we can create greater discrepancies between the haves and have-nots. Trying to lower health care costs to satisfy insurance industry interests will be the greatest driver of that discrepancy. So say I, Nostradamus.

Neck pain has become more prevalent over the last decade probably as a result of increased computer usage, especially hand-held devices and tablets. Anybody that has had chronic neck pain knows how un-fun it can be. In fact, for some, neck pain along with its oft-associated shoulder pain, arm pain, or numbness/tingling can be unnerving, and enough to drive one slowly insane (I know, I speak from experience). So the following are the ten steps necessary to beat neck pain:



The first is to go see a chiropractor. Don’t delay—the longer you wait, the harder your neck pain becomes to treat, and the longer you can count on its sticking around. Neck pain can be stiffness, achiness, sharp or shooting pain, or severe pain on movement. If you have neurological symptoms—like numbness and tingling—in a limb, you really can’t afford to wait. Don’t lose limb function—get to your chiropractor (or medical doctor) right away.

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illuminatedtree-570x356 (Copy) You have heard me talk about it over and over—tune into your dharma, find your purpose, connect all your endeavors to your life’s mission. I preach it because I am certain of its universality—knowing and carrying out your life’s purpose will bring you the greatest fulfillment, while serving humanity and the universal dharma at the same time. If you thought my discourse has been purely spiritual mumbo-jumbo, well think again, because a recent study suggests that having a purpose in life actually increases longevity. That’s right—living to fulfill a mission gives more life. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

The study, published in Psychological Science, looked at data from over 6000 participants collected in the longitudinal Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) sample, and found that people who self-reported “purpose” to their lives lived longer than their counterparts during the 14 years after the baseline assessment, even when controlling for other markers of psychological and affective well-being.

Said lead study author Patrick Hill of Carleton University in Canada:

master-class-maya-angelou-2-600x411 (Copy)“Our findings point to the fact that finding a direction for life, and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer, regardless of when you find your purpose,” says Hill. “So the earlier someone comes to a direction for life, the earlier these protective effects may be able to occur.”

Wow! Moreover, longevity benefits were not dependent on age, how long participants lived during the follow-up period, or whether they had retired from the workforce. Simply put: having a life’s purpose “appears to buffer against mortality risk across the adult years.”

But even so, researchers were surprised by the results: “These findings suggest that there’s something unique about finding a purpose that seems to be leading to greater longevity,” said Hill.

The longevity benefits of purpose in life held even after other indicators of psychological well-being, such as positive relations and positive emotions, were taken into account.

Mandela at 90Well I am not surprised; as I said, it makes sense. When living ‘on purpose,’ we have a reason to get up and go every morning, afternoon, and evening. This must have an effect on our physiology—rarely do body and mind act independently. Just think of stories we hear of people exhibiting super-human strength to save a loved one who’s in danger; or even the somewhat-known statistics showing that many people die shortly following retirement. Once the purpose goes, so often does the will to live.

Purpose gives meaning, and meaning drives us to carry on, so again, to me, these new results are not surprising in the slightest. I will keep pushing people to find their purpose in life—we all have one, on display or latent, I believe we all have a reason for existing in this lifetime. So find it and live it…and you might find that life gives you just the right time to accomplish your mission. If you need help tapping into your purpose—contact me; I have fool-proof methods for uncovering your dharma. And if you are fully attuned to your life’s purpose now—great, keep moving in the direction of its accomplishment, and you will find your fulfillment complete as well.

Love is NOT:

Always being happy

Never fighting

Agreeing on everything

Having all the same interests

Expecting one to live up to unrealistic idealisms

Always having the same vision

Not hurting one another

Never crying

Having the same friends

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Love is:

Accepting and honoring the whole person

Freedom to grow

Wanting the best for everyone

Even if it goes against what you want

Supporting the path of another

Even when that path differs from your own

Working to help others get what they love

While getting what you love

And knowing when to walk away instead of standing in the way…

That’s love

Part 2 of a multipart series (part 1 here)

So what if the flow stops flowing? Can you say it has ever been flowing? Ask yourself the tough question, because if the answer is no, then it is quite possible that you aren’t living according to your values. Huh? Yeah…it really isn’t that uncommon, people living according to someone else’s values, or even to what they think their values should be.

MVrlpMO (Copy)Take money for example: I have yet to met a Westerner who has said he or she doesn’t want it; that he or she, in fact, renounces wealth. Uh uh… In fact, if you were to ask a roomful of Americans, Canadians, Brits, Australians or other European or South American people whether or not they would love to be wealthy, I am certain that 99.9999999% of them would say, “Yes definitely!”

But how many people actually do what it takes to be wealthy? Sure, sure, we all think of the mega-superstar, multi-platinum performing artist—the Jay-Zs, the Calvin Harris’s, the Kardashians (or insert any superstar in your industry)—and think that is the way to riches, and that it just might happen for us too. Yeah right. Sorry but those people are not even the 1% (.05% by one calculation).

No to become wealthy requires saving, accumulating and earning interest (or capital gains or profit). And only when people value money do they actually do this. Most people, in my observation, value what they can buy with money. In other words, it’s something other than the money they truly value, even though money is the means by which they acquire it.

MillionaireI know a man who epitomizes true wealth valuing. This man rarely spends money. He wears old tattered tee-shirts. He always looks for bargains. If he has to pay a fine or a ticket of some sort, he nearly has a heart attack. And this man is rich—filthy, stinkin’ rich—he can afford it, but that’s besides the point to him. He drives the cheapest car he can find; he doesn’t care. If you explained ‘bling’ to him, he’d laugh, guaranteed. Bling is for people who don’t really value money—they value bling. And they often don’t keep their money for very long either. That is reality.

Nonetheless, ask most Westerners if they would love to be wealthy, and most will say yes. But why, then, are so few people monetarily rich? Simply put: because in reality, most people only think they value wealth—or even more accurately, they think they are supposed to value wealth. We are so inundated with the concept of bling in the Western world, and the illusions of wealth put forth by the popular media, that people create a fantasy that they, too, want bling.

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Think of all the stuff one could buy, or do, or the power, or the girls, or the guys, or whatever… And when one’s current reality doesn’t live up to one’s created fantasy, then the inevitable happens: one beats oneself up…and says their flow is not flowing.

donald-trump (Copy)Yes this is the quintessential example of living by someone else’s values. Observing the illusions of the outer world and desiring them without doing what it takes to truly achieve them. Sorry but here’s a wake up call: If you want Donald Trump money, then you gotta to act, think and breathe like The Donald. But if you aren’t thinking, living, or breathing money 24/7; if you aren’t saving more than you are spending, and if you aren’t sacrificing your consumerist urges to watch your bank account grow, then well…keep dreaming.

Stressed_Mom_and_Baby_Web (Copy)But not just money that people mistakenly think they value: also success, relationships, children, a particular career can all be false drives when a person thinks those things are virtuous and should be valued. However, if I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times: No values are more virtuous than any others! You love art, fashion, music, sports, physical intimacy, animals, math, scuba diving—then indulge in them. You are not required to value money, a particular profession, children, or anything else. In fact trying to do so, outside of your true values, is the quickest way to frustration, and ultimately to depression.

So when you think that the flow has stopped flowing, just ask yourself: what is my criteria? Is it financial gain, recognition, helping people, or creating something? And is your criteria aligned with your values? Because if you are only using finances as your criteria, and you don’t actually value money, but instead value what it affords you, then you will have a hard time seeing any flow other than outflow: from your bank account to your vendors.

dsc_1734 (Copy)A better approach, then, would be to be honest about what you really value—let’s say, helping people—and if you are doing it, then your flow is flowing, simple as that. However, we all know how important money is to survival, and because of this people think they must value it. Just remember that earning money and accumulating money are two very different things (ask Mike Tyson). So you can connect your earning potential to your true values very simply, but that is an entirely different subject—one I can help you with if you contact me (drnick@drnickcampos.com).

Next time I will discuss the very real scenario of decreased money flow despite money being a true value.


Knee pain is not uncommon in athletes, particularly in sports that require lots of sharp cuts and turns like basketball, football and soccer. But even the amateur and non- athlete are prone to knee pain and injury. Walk or run for health purposes and increase your susceptibility to knee pain and injury. In fact, people who are not regular exercisers, but pick up activity to get back into shape, are at a higher risk for knee injury, and when it happens it can be the killer of any future exercise regimen. So what to do? The following are the seven most important steps to take when you feel knee pain or suffer an injury:

Get evaluated by a sports chiropractor

Get evaluated by a sports chiropractor

The first step is to get evaluated by a professional. There can be a simple fix for some knee pain, but not caring for your injured knee properly can make things worse, and leave you susceptible to further damage (some irreparable without surgery). Being evaluated, at the very least, will set you in the right direction, and might even solve your problem without the knife.

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Part 1 of a multipart series

business planTwo years ago I wrote a piece called, Planning To Go With the Flow, in which I described a strategy for launching any endeavor, whether that be a new business, a creative project, or even starting a family. I explained the necessity of having a ‘purpose’ to one’s cause—what Aristotle called the final cause—and then constructing a blueprint to achieve that cause. Once the cause is determined, I explained, it is wholly appropriate to research, plan, influence, seek help and so on—what I call the planning or pushing stage.

There comes a point, however, when it is simply wise to let nature take its course. You have done all the planning; you have started the action necessary to get the ball rolling—the things you can control have been taken care of. Unfortunately many continue to push here, and if things do not go according to plan, then frustration set in…the stress. My suggestion here, then, is for one to allow things to just happen naturally—to go with the flow—because the unexpected, the stuff we cannot predict, very often leads to the greatest discoveries, the greatest implementations, the things we simply could not plan, those which make an endeavor unique, outstanding instead of just good.

dry riverThis piece stirred some thought in my readers, and an excellent question came as a result: What if the flow stops flowing? What if where there was once a stream stagnancy now sits? My initial answer was that many factors could be responsible for that type of scenario, as well there being multiple solutions, each depending on the cause of the drying up. Over the next few posts I will address some of the reasons why someone’s flow might stop flowing.

The first question I would ask a person in this situation is how they are determining flow. Aha! Back to the final cause… Yes! What is the purpose of the endeavor? Is it fulfilling a need; is it filling a void? Who’s void? What is the purpose to the one carrying out the endeavor—what Aristotle would call the efficient cause? Is it a money maker? Is it one’s dharma? Or is it purely what one loves to do? We must know both the final and efficient causes to answer the stop-flow question sufficiently.

I am certain that we all have a dharma—our truth; our life’s purpose if you will. I am equally certain that if every undertaking is aligned with one’s dharma, one can never go wrong. But the biggest challenge I see people face is that they are not in-tune with what that is. What is your dharma? Call it the final cause of your life—what do you envision your life to be about, its meaning? When you are in those last moments of life, and your history flashes before your eyes, what would you love that story to be? If you have not thought about it, well now is the time to do so.

You will never have a problem refocusing your flow if you tune-into your dharma. I have said it before: Your purpose need not be grand or lofty. It may simply be to raise healthy, fulfilled and prepared children so that they may carry out their own dharma—can anybody argue the virtue of that? Perhaps you are a teacher, or a merchant, or in transportation—can’t you see the necessity of your life to the entire operation? Take not one life lightly—they all matter.

ripplesBut again when you tune-into your dharma, it will be impossible for the flow to stop flowing; on the contrary, you will flow even beyond your lifetime, because the ripples of your life affect those you come into contact with daily, and can extend outward to an unknown number of generations. I have read how deeply impacted a twelve-year-old Jack Kerouac was by seeing a man drop dead in the middle of the street one evening, to the degree that it influenced his writing. Just think how one anonymous man’s death became part of a literature that shaped a generation. Nothing is insignificant.

Always have the end in mind, whether in an endeavor or your life. Take the time to think about your dharma, your life’s purpose, and connect all your undertakings to it. If you still find the flow not flowing, then you will know it is for a reason related to—or better yet detached from—your purpose. Next time I will discuss the magnitude of being true to your values.

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:

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Wrong! Rounding the back while stretching hamstrings can lead to herniated discs. I know he’s old; he probably shouldn’t be doing that version…find the stretch right for your level.

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Perfect! Back straight and leg at proper height to maintain arch. No matter which version you do, maintaining back arch of utmost importance.

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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.

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Human Longevity Inc. founder Craig Venter

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.

personalized med (Copy)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.

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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.

Happy sequencing.

thyroid cancerLooks 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.

thyroid cancer symptomsThe 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.”

Thyroid Cancer Treatment

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.

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

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?

Medical Weed for Cash Only

Medical Weed for Cash Only

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.

Federal Law for Marijuana Rooted in Puritanism

Federal Law for Marijuana Rooted in Puritanism

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!

Legalize Marijuana?

Legalize Marijuana?

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.

Juicing for Health

Juicing for Health

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.

Child and Teen Nutrition

Child and Teen Nutrition

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.

Healthy Nutrition and Juicing Machines

Healthy Nutrition and Juicing Machines

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?

Nutrition Education (explains why I could probably eat this whole thing)

Nutrition Education (explains why I could probably eat this whole thing)

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.

Juicing Benefits

Juicing Benefits

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:

Juicing Recipes:

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
Juice Diet—more for less

Juice Diet—more for less

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.

Juice: healthy food choices

Juice: healthy food choices

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.

safety for preschoolersSome 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.

Car seat installation essential to protect in car crashes

Car seat installation essential to protect in car crashes

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:

Child safety requires all precautions including seat orientation

Child safety requires necessary precautions including seat orientation

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.

Pile of Refined SugarExtra, 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.

Cocaine sugar drugs heart diseasePeople getting more than 25% of their daily calories from sugar had a nearly three times increased risk of dying from CVD when compared to people getting the least amount.

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.

sugar damageYes 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

drugs cocaine

Drugs cocaine and sugar equally hard to kick

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.

new-years-resolutionsAs 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.

new years resolutionNext 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.

Good New Years ResolutionsIn 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.”

running a non profitSo 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.

new years eve resolutionsI 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!

Multi-colored auroraNext 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).

Magnificent_CME_Erupts_on_the_Sun_-_August_31 (Copy)

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.

auroral zoneBecause 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.

Arctic CircleSome 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).

Aurora Borealis Tromso

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.

Back to GodheadI 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.

Zach Grether, A Canyon Lake Morning"  - 2013 International Earth & Sky Photo Contest, 2nd Place in Against the Lights Category
Zach Grether, A Canyon Lake Morning” – 2013 International Earth & Sky Photo Contest, 2nd Place in Against the Lights Category

Dharma

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.

samadhi

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: drnick@drnickcampos.com

frozen veggiesAre 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

Juice

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)

For meat

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)

imagesIt’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.

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