From the monthly archives: "August 2007"

Guess that ol’ magic bullet gets another notch up on the pedestal today. Current research shows that surgically induced weight loss significantly reduces death as long as 10 years following the operation. Not only that, but this procedure also reduces diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, as well as improves the quality of life for the former obese patient.

All right, I’ve got nothing against this concept. I think it’s wonderful that people can get their lives back after becoming morbidly obese, but I’m afraid that news like this might do more harm then good. Any time a new magic bullet comes around, human health suffers.

A magic bullet is any drug, therapy, or procedure that is considered a miracle solution or cure. As I’ve discussed on the Dr. Nick Show (Episode 2), the concept of a cure is a fallacy. The body heals, plain and simple. It might have help, but it’s the innate healing ability of the body that gives and preserves life. Whenever, medical science seems to find a magic bullet, it gives society a false sense of security, and practical wisdom goes out the window.

“Well, I know I’d be better off not drinking this 12-pack of Bud, but…well…aw shoot, what the heck, I’ll try to exercise tomorrow, and if I can’t, heck, I’ll just get a stomach reduction.” If it’s good enough for Star Jones, dammit, then it’s good enough for Al Roker.

Oh, by the way, I saw an incredible interview with Al Roker urging people not to get this surgery unless it’s the most-absolute-gonna-drop-dead-tomorrow-last-resort they have (Read this icredible interview here). I gained a lot of respect for the man for that, and I couldn’t agree more.

Once again, it’s truly a blessing that we have a surgery like this to give people a second chance. But be careful not to rely on it as a magic bullet. The magic bullet fantasy is one of the major factors leading to our poor health status in this country today, and if we don’t let it go, things will only get worse.

We’ve all had the experience of speaking to somebody who has bad breath. It’s never a comfortable situation. Do you hand them a mint or do you try very hard to hold your breath for ten second increments and get out of there as fast as possible? Especially hard is when that person is your friend or your loved one. You’ve just got to let them know – you’re their friend, dammit. It’s your duty.

Well, medical and dental science is now making bad breath, or halitosis, a top priority. Last week, nearly 200 scientists attended the International Conference on Breath Odor Research in Chicago. Attendees included dentists, chemists, microbiologists, psychologists and even flavor researchers. The topics of the conference included causes of bad breath, studies on the most effective natural flavors for treating it, the development of an artificial nose for sniffing out oral malodor, and links between exhaled air and disease.

O.k., bravo, bravo, for finally understanding that bad breath is a health issue. It’s true that some bad breath issues come from poor oral hygiene; however, I am convinced that many cases of severe bad breath – halitosis – come from deep in the digestive system. I’ve met a few people in my travels who couldn’t cover their bad breath with chewing gums or mints, no matter how hard they tried. That’s a internal issue. In these cases, I believe it stems from one of three things:

  1. The person is ingesting a food substance, usually something they eat regularly, that he or she cannot properly digest.
  2. The person is on drugs or medications that dry out the mouth.
  3. The person has another underlying disease
Either way, it is necessary to look into the issue. If you find that you have chronic bad breath, or that no one wants to be around you, make note of any medications you’re taking and discuss it with your doctor. Get checked out by your doctor for any illness, especially if their are other accompanying symptoms, like bloating, gas, pain, diarrhea, or anything else. And finally, start eliminating foods categorically to find the offending agent. I assure you if you go on the hunt, you’ll find the problem and reverse it.

Everybody must certainly know that anti-aging is the health-marketing buzzword of the New Millennium. Like weight loss, attach the word anti-aging to any health book or product and watch sales soar. Quite a few millionaires have made their fortunes in the field of anti-aging.

So, is anti-aging possible?

I dunno, what is it?

Anti means opposite, opposing, or against. Anti-aging, then, means the opposite of getting older. So, getting younger I guess.

OK, we know this is not possible, right? It’s simple physics, right? Did I miss class that day? I mean, we can’t oppose aging, now, can we? Time moves forward – even if just in our perceptions, right? I mean, we do experience time in that way, don’t we?

But wait. We can slow the aging process down – this much is true. It’s precisely this concept that’s being sold to us by doctors, vitamin and cosmetics companies, and others. But can a pill or a procedure do all that it promises with regard to slowing down the aging process? Well, it depends.

We know of many natural substances and activities that slow down the aging process significantly. One is exercise. The ways in which regular exercise decelerates – and even reverses – aging is well known; I discuss many of them in my upcoming book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, but we keep learning of new ways that the body does this amazing feat. Take, for instance, a new study showing that regular, moderate exercise relaxes blood vessels and makes them more “youthful”. Amazing! Exercise makes blood vessels more pliable, significantly lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke, the top killers of our day.

Especially exciting is that older, sedentary people can now take up exercise and reverse any damage that might have been done by just sitting around on their keesters for the last couple of decades. That’s right! It’s not too late. Get up now and get moving – get walking, get dancing, and get bocce ballin’. Get shuffle boarding. Whatever. Start now and enjoy the fountain of youth. It’s there for the taking – you’ve just got to drink.

This month on the Dr. Nick Show, I talk at length about lifestyle drugs. Lifestyle drugs are devised to treat conditions that fall outside the medical realm of illness. Take male pattern baldness for instance – medical illness or life circumstance? Oh well, we have drugs to treat it either way. Should insurance companies (read: insurance premium holders/consumers/you and me) have to pay for it?

Another way to define lifestyle drugs is: medicines that treat conditions caused by lifestyle choices. So, for instance, there are some groovy weight-loss drugs on the market right now. Cool. Should you rely on them solely? Hmmm. Or, should you pound the treadmill, pound the weights, and cut the calories? I mean, why should one do all that hard work when there’s this cool little pill? I dunno, why?

Well if you listen to the latest episode of the Dr. Nick Show, you’ll get all the details on lifestyle drugs, and you’ll be able to make a decision on your own. And no matter what, you’ll see how these drugs are defining the direction our culture is moving with regard to pharmaceutical science.

It’s no problem – it simply is what it is. However, just know that every substances comes with an added risk. And there just ain’t an easy answer – like a pill – that can fix all of our problems. The piper always gets paid in one way or another, ya know.
Anyway, lifestyle drugs are here to stay. It’s big business. Check out these booming numbersBusinessWeek calls them blockbusters (with sales of $1 billion or more a year). Drugs to help people wake and sleep as they please are particularly popular. And, of course, let’s not forget the drugs that help men have better erections.
No, no Campos – that’s help men who can’t have erections.
Uh, no…it’s not. Lot’s of young, healthy guys are partying on Viagra – Viagra and methamphetamine, that is. Or ecstasy. Or coke. Swear. Check it out here. But don’t forget the risks gents. There’s always risks. For instance, the baldness drug propecia can cause birth defects if pregnant women inhale particles of broken pills (dosages are taken in half pills, so consumers must break them in half – brilliant, right?) or handle whole pills. And some cancer concerns exist with propecia too (scroll down to possible health concerns).
So, like I said, the lifestyle drugs are here to stay. Risk aside, the market is far too lucrative for pharmaceutical companies to slow down development. No to worry, just know the risks and be careful. Avoiding lifestyle drugs, in my opinion is always best, but, if ya gotta do ‘em, then do ‘em intelligently – which is, for a very short period of time.

If it ain’t enough that sugary drinks (read: soda, diet soda, juice cocktails, and energy drinks) contribute to obesity, a new study shows that they may also increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart and vascular disease, as well as metabolic syndrome – all of which may lead to diabetes and heart disease.
A new study shows that sugary drinks can lead to higher uric acid levels, which, in turn, can lead to disease. It is no surprise that soda is the number one drink Americans choose, even ahead of water, but here go some more interesting statistics. People who drink more than one soda a day have:
  • 31% greater risk of becoming obese.
  • 30 percent increased risk of adding belly fat.
  • 25 percent higher risk of developing high blood triglycerides or high blood sugar.
  • 32 percent higher risk of having low HDL (good cholesterol) levels.
And now, as we are learning, higher uric acid levels. Uric acid is the body’s natural breakdown product of protein. When blood levels of uric acid are high, it can lead to disorders such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, kidney stones, gout and more.
These conditions don’t happen over night, so if you are a soda drinker, you can halt their progression by cutting down or quitting soft drinks altogether. The reality is that soft drinks provide nothing by way of nutrition – and they certainly don’t get you drunk – so my question is: Why?
“Well they taste good.”
They taste good?
“Yeah. They taste good.”
Sheesh. At the risk of standing on a pulpit, here. Aren’t good tasting things supposed to be occasional treats. We’re drinking this stuff more than water. Did you know that without water there would be no life at all? Anywhere?
How can we drink more soda than water? I’m sorry but it’s beyond me. Please enjoy a soda now and again, but, well, we all know at least one person who drinks three, four, even six cans of soda per day. Is anybody still perplexed as to why obesity is epidemic in this country? Still scratching your heads over America’s world health rankings? I promise you’ll be hearing more about soda’s ill effects on health in the years to come. But fear not Coca-Cola shareholders – soft drink companies will not be going out of business anytime soon. Heavens no. They’ve already firmly established themselves in the next big market – bottled tap water. Stay tuned for more.

The FDA has warned that breast-feeding mothers who take prescription pain killers containing codeine may put their babies at risk of a morphine overdose. Officials became concerned last year when a breast-fed 13-day-old baby died of just that. Following a routine episiotomy, the mother took a very small dose of pain medication that was rapidly converted to morphine in her body and passed on to her child through her breast milk.

Codeine, a narcotic, is apparently converted to morphine rapidly in the body in a small number of women. Codeine is a common ingredient in prescription pain relievers and some over-the-counter cough syrups. Women who convert codeine to morphine quickly are called ultra-rapid metabolizers. Their prevalence within the population varies between 1-28% depending on who gives the estimate, but it is believed that rates are highest among North African, Ethiopian and Saudi Arabian women.

This is just another reason why new mothers should be cautious of what they take. Drugs are routinely prescribed, but it does not mean they are without risk. You are always safer minimizing the chemical substances you ingest. This does not mean you shouldn’t have help if you need it, however, less is best. And knowing the latest in health information is crucial.

Now that you know that some women are ultra-rapid metabolizers of morphine, you can obtain a laboratory test through your doctor to determine if you fall into this category. Otherwise, ask your prescribing doctor what’s in the drug they’re recommending. If it contains codeine, ask for an alternative. And remember, sometimes it pays to just deal with the discomfort.

New research shows that long-term memory storage is not as secure as once thought. In fact, it is now evident that memory can be erased. You heard me right. All those fond recollections of our youth can be whisked away forever by just blocking a protein that controls information flow between brain cells.

U.S. and Israeli researchers found these results by feeding rats saccharine, which made them sick, and then teaching the rats to associate the taste of saccharine with feeling ill. The scientists then injected the rats with an enzyme inhibitor called ZIP, blocking the protein PKMzeta, which controls memory. As a result, the rats were unable to remember the association with saccharine (feeling ill), regardless of how long they were trained. This suggests that a key mechanism in the brain works like a piece of machinery to store long-term memory. According to Yadin Dudai who led the study, “Long-term memory can be erased.”

This study is being touted as a breakthrough for the understanding and future treatment of dementia, a progressive decline of mental function well beyond that associated with normal aging. I certainly think that this is one potential use for these recent findings; however, I can’t help but feel a little creeped out by the possibility that we may be seeing the future with regard to some Orwellian “mind control”, a la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And it’s not lost on me that this study was conducted by two groups that could greatly benefit from a few erased memories in the world of politics and national security. Although I’m not usually one to subscribe to conspiracy theories, I still feel a bit uneasy about any research that leads to tampering with brain function. I mean, we think therefore we are, right? Oh well, I guess we’ve got to take the good with the bad with every situation, and that includes with science. Let’s just hope human trials won’t be taking place anytime soon.

Just another blow to American health care. New reports show the U.S. slipping in life expectancy rankings compared to other countries of the world. In my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, I point out that the World Health Organization (WHO) ranks the U.S. 37th out of 191 nations with regard to overall health. And now we’ve fallen to number 42 on the life expectancy chart with countries such as Jordan, Guam, and the Caymen Islands ranking ahead of us.

Can anybody else see the paradox in all of this? How can one of the richest nations in the world, the most technologically advanced, and the most medically innovative fall so low on the world health scale? Some very important people in health care and politics (as well as one obnoxious film maker) believe it’s because we do not have socialized health care. But is it?

Let’s look at the facts. The biggest killers in this country are heart disease and cancer, both preventable conditions, not a lack of medical care. Perhaps, a lack of access leads to a few less saved lives, but these people are still having heart attacks. The problem, once again, has to do with our current health paradigm. It’s all about saving the lives of people who are dying, rather than preserving the lives of people who are living, before they get ill. Duh. What’s so hard about that concept? Why don’t these brilliant policy makers see that? I just don’t get it.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t focus on saving lives – heck no. Please save my life, my wife’s, or my daughter’s if you can. Please! I’m ever so grateful for having the best system in the world for doing that (there is no denying that we are at the very top in saving lives in the U.S.). But we are talking about health and life expectancy here. Very different concepts indeed. Health and life expectancy depend on what we do to take care of ourselves, not how quickly you can perform a bypass surgery on Mr. Jones, whose left anterior descending artery is clogged shut.

If we continue to make the process of saving lives the focus of health, then we’re fighting a losing battle. Don’t get me wrong, innovation in the medical sciences will continue to flourish, and newer, more incredible ways to save lives will be discovered for years to come. And it will continue to be a trillion, maybe even quadrillion, dollar industry. You certainly can’t complain about that. However, if we are to ever raise our position within the world health rankings, then we will need to start by focusing on the basics – that is, doing the things that preserve and optimize health; diet, exercise, bodywork, rest, and so on. There isn’t a better place to start than by learning how, and I know of a great source coming out this fall that can guide you purposefully. Stay tuned for more.

We now have concrete proof that the grass is not always greener in other pastures. In a recent study published in the Annals of Plastic Surgery, researchers found that women who have breast implants are three times more likely to commit suicide than other women. These findings should act as an alert to plastic surgeons to screen for heightened suicide risk among their clients.

This comes as no surprise to me. At the risk of offending every active member of the Silicon Sisters Society, I would assume that a significant percentage of women who seek out breast augmentation have serious self esteem issues.* Just so everybody knows that I am not pointing the finger here, we all do to one degree or another. I mean, everybody I have ever met has at least one physical characteristic they would like to change if they could – it’s part of the human mind game. However, altering your body to fit within the illusion that you’ll be more attractive and more desirable as a result of breast enlargement is just plain crazy. Big breasts don’t make a woman’s life any better than a bigger wallet does a man’s, although many are convinced that both of these things are necessary to attract the opposite sex. Uh, no, sorry.
According to the study, “The increased risk of suicide was not apparent until 10 years after implantation.” Also no surprises here. It likely takes this amount of time to realize that bigger breasts do not make life easier, happier, or more fulfilling. Big boobied birdies have just as many ups and downs as their smaller sisters do. And a lift here, a tuck there, doesn’t remove the challenges we all must face in our lives.
But before you think my assessment is presumptive, please make note that the study also showed that women who opt for breast enlargement are three times as likely to die from drug and alcohol related deaths too, further pointing to self-esteem or body image problems. If you are contemplating having plastic surgery to improve your life, please give it a second thought. You’re not going to suddenly find happiness in a bigger bra size.
*Please note: This study does not lead to the conclusion that all women who have breast augmentation have poor self esteem. Actually, it is more likely that women who have pathologically poor self esteem will look to external factors, like drugs, alcohol, and plastic surgery to boost their feelings of self worth.

Welp, they almost got it right. Medical science is working very hard to jump onto the wellness bandwagon. There was a time when the term prevention was considered an “alternative” concept – that is, medical science placed very little stock in the idea of practicing preventative measures. But not anymore. Oh no. Not only is it very hip (medically speaking) to promote prevention, but now mainstream medicine is trying to form the term to fit within its own paradigm.

Imagine my excitement when I caught the headline, Preventive steps could save 100,000 U.S. lives: study. What? Do my eyes deceive me? Is the mainstream medical information machine really going to push the same agenda as I do with The Six Keys to Optimal Health? Wow, cool man. Let me check it out.

Hmmm. Not quite. But I guess it’s a start. The premise of the article is that if people were to take preventative measures, such as taking an aspirin every day, quitting smoking, getting more colorectal exams, getting more mamograms, and getting annual flu shots, then many life threatening diseases could be averted. OK, that’s true. But is that the gist of prevention? What about health, I mean, that surely can’t be all there is to it, can it?

Heck no. And the problem lies within the philosophy of our current health paradigm, which is: you are fine until you have symptoms, and when you do, you’re sick, and then you’ve got to be treated for your particular illness. All right, we know that one. It’s been in place for at least a century, so we’ve all been there, done that. And we ain’t gettin’ any healthier, now, are we? No, but we do have an overloaded medical system, which creates quite a problem.

I’m not going to go into all the details of why our current system doesn’t work and how we can change it into something more useful. Let’s save that for my upcoming book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health. You’ll find that I do a very thorough job of dissecting the current health paradigm and how we can now take our understanding of health to the next level. And based on the studies coming from our current health authorities, I can assure you the change isn’t going to come from that camp any time soon.

Instead, if I were to rewrite this study, it might read something like this:

Increased use of just five preventive services would save more than 100,000 lives every year in the United States, and they are:

These tips are just a small taste of what you’ll find in my upcoming book, and I’ll provide the information to prove them. You better believe that. When you’re done, you won’t even think about prevention, because if you do things right, there will be nothing to prevent.

You heard right – that miraculous healing art called chiropractic can actually prevent drug addiction. Here’s how: According to a large study conducted at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, nearly four percent of chronic pain patients abuse opioid drugs, such as OxyContin or Percocet. The findings are relevant because these numbers suggest that chronic pain sufferers are four times more likely to abuse opioid drugs then people in the general population (3.8% to 0.9% respectively). Since many chronic pain sufferers report great results through regular chiropractic care, it stands to reason that utilizing this exceptional form of bodywork can lower the risks of opioid drug addiction.

When it comes to pain, it is important to remember one thing, the function of pain is to tell you something is wrong. Whether that something is a biomechanical dysfunction or the onset of an organic disease (cancer, heart disease, etc.), the pain response acts as a warning signal to let you know that a problem is present. It seems that chronic pain is becoming more and more looked upon as an entity unto itself, and being treated as such with powerful opioid drugs. No doubt that occasionally the system goes haywire and pain develops for no apparent physical reason; however, this is more the exception than the rule (and likely due to other chemical, hormonal, neurological or organic imbalances), and it would, therefore, be prudent to find and correct the cause than simply treat the symptom with dangerous pharmaceuticals.

Drugs are important. They help us get over humps that can act as obstacles to our healing. Case in point: I had an emergency appendectomy last summer and I don’t know what I would have done without a couple – OK, seven – shots of morphine. The pain associated with appendicitis is excruciating – I was literally bowled over – and the opioid medication allowed me to handle the 22 hour wait for surgery. So I’m all for the drugs, man. But when they are prescribed simply for chronic pain – most commonly low back pain – something is seriously wrong.

I can’t say that all chronic pain sufferers can be helped by chiropractic care, but I know through my own observations, that far too many neglect to give it a serious try. If they are not fixed within one or two visits, they quit. And off to the pain specialist for a dose of OxyContin – the easy route, since pain will be alleviated quickly, although only temporarily. And since opioids also feel good – that is, they get you high – it’s no surprise that many people would rather take these addictive drugs, than suffer through chiropractic care and ice therapy, which takes longer and requires more work and has a financial commitment.

Fortunately, more people are looking to complimentary and alternative (CAM) health practices like chiropractic care, massage and acupuncture, to help alleviate their physical problems. According to the study, 54% of subjects had used or were currently using chiropractic care to treat chronic pain. Some other notable characteristics of CAM users are:

  • adults between 35-49 years of age
  • college educated
  • incomes above $35,000
  • have a holistic orientation to health.

And I would add wiser, more attractive, funnier, and all around better people. But, hey, that’s just my humble opinion.

TEMPUR-PEDIC PILLOW GIVEAWAY

Congratulations to Laurie H. of Los Angeles for winning the Tempur-Pedic Comfort Pillow in our Independence Day Raffle. Laurie says she’s especially excited since her neck has been bothering her. Nothing a little chiropractic care and a nice soft pillow can’t resolve. Thanks everyone for playing.
D.C.

This battle just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Marijuana, that killer weed, is in the news again. More health risks associated with pot smoking: A new studyshows that one joint causes the same amount of lung damage as 2.5 to five tobacco cigarettes.Researchers at the New Zealand Medical Research Institute used lung function tests, high-resolution X-rays and questionnaires to look at the lungs of pot smokers, tobacco smokers, and smokers of both marijuana and tobacco. What they found was that long term pot smokers developed asthma, bronchitis, obstruction of the large airways and excessive lung inflation just like tobacco smokers do. You don’t say? However, they found that marijuana smoking does not seem to increase the risk of developing emphysema.

Looks like we’re going to be seeing much more negative press about the ol’ Mary Jane over the next few weeks, months, or years(?). As I said in my earlier post, Dummy Weed?, this is a real battle between Legalize Pot/medical marijuana advocates and the “Just Say No” crew. It’s no surprise to me that a bevy of studies is now being released as things heat up around the legality of medical marijuana clinics. C’mon now, medical science has suddenly become this interested in the physiological effects of marijuana, even after forty years of mainstream use? I know, studies have been done consistently throughout the years, but mark my words, you’re going to hear more – much more – about this in the near future.

All this attention on marijuana, I think, is going to get people talking, and I think we’re on the verge of social change. As they say, there’s no such thing as bad press, and the times they are a-changin’, so stay tuned for more.

This Week’s Stupid Health News

For this week’s dumbest health story: Researchers at the University of Texas conducted an exhaustive study on the reasons people have sex and found the most common reason was: It Feels Good. No kidding? Glad to see the innovation at our Nation’s Universities continues to flourish. Can’t wait for more of the same:

  • Why People Drink Beer: It Gets Me Loopy
  • Why People Run to the Can: I Gotta Go
  • Why People Pick Their Noses: Big Boogers Bug

Now that’s money well spent.

Scientists have been genetically engineering laboratory mice to develop the physical and psychological characteristics of schizophrenia. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, used genetic engineering techniques to create mice that suffer from delusions, mood changes and paranoia – the same symptoms human schizophrenics suffer from. They say the findings will help in the understanding and treatment of this disorder, especially in how external factors, like stress or viruses, might aggravate symptoms. Take a peek here to see what one of theses rodents looks like

My only question is this: How did they observe delusions in rodents? A delusion is a pathologically false belief, and I just can’t imagine what a mouse would have to do to be labeled that! Perhaps it was an incorrigible conviction that a cat was a hunk of cheese, or something like that. Either way, it’s cruel and unusual – placing that cat in front of a cheese-hallucinating mouse. I’m not the only one who thinks so, either. Animal rights groups are up in arms over this study. They do not believe its necessary to “create” animals with this type of disorder, since schizophrenia is a “uniquely human feature.”

I’d have to agree. But there is an insistence within medical science to find the biochemical cause of mental illness – the same nonsense they have been trying to convince us of regarding depression for the last two decades. Find a biochemical cause, develop a biochemical “cure” – a new pharmaceutical, that is. At least that’s the rationale anyway.

Unfortunately, things are not that simple. When it comes to the human brain, there is still so much we do not yet know. At this time, not one shred of evidence points toward depression having a biochemical cause – but antidepressants are now the number one prescribed medication in the U.S.! Woohoo! Party! I talk at length about depression and antidepressant drug therapy in my upcoming book – The Six Keys to Optimal Health. And I guarantee you, it’s an eye-opener.

OK, now my other only question: If antidepressants are so good, why aren’t prescriptions going down? Hmmm…makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

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