obesity (Copy)To do my part in the War on Obesity I decided to rekindle some old posts from 2011 and Tweet my thoughts on extreme fatness. As far as I can see, obesity numbers haven’t budged in the last two years, and even more likely is that they continue to creep upward. For those who don’t know:

In the US:

  • More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese.
  • Between 1988–1994 and 2007–2008 the prevalence of obesity increased in adults at all income and education levels.
  • In 2010, there were 12 states with an obesity prevalence of 30%. In 2000, no state had an obesity prevalence of 30% or more.
  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
  • In 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

And in England:

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    The proportion of adults with a normal BMI decreased between 1993 and 2011 from 41% to 34% among men and from 50% to 39% among women.
  • The proportion that were overweight including obese increased from 58% to 65% in men and from 49% to 58% in women between 1993 and 2011
  • There was a marked increase in the proportion of adults that were obese from 13% in 1993 to 24% in 2011 for men and from 16% to 26% for women.
  • In 2011/12, around one in ten pupils in Reception class (aged 4-5 years) were classified as obese (9.5%) which compares to around a fifth of pupils in Year 6 (aged 10-11 years) (19.2%)

And just as when I first wrote those posts in 2011, the reaction was heated. So many ‘experts’ having the answer. Obesity is this. Obesity is that…yet I still hear the same ol’ stuff: straw grasping, the hope of finding that one thing that will deflate the worldwide obesity epidemic. Yeah, okay…

KC_Fitness_Magazine_launches_new_weight__523650000_20130426113224_640_480 (Copy)Honestly, I find it humorous…the numbers that come forward when the obesity Tweets go up, proclaiming this or that great idea or program. So convinced are these folks that they are wowing the world with groundbreaking information—something new; something we haven’t heard before. Genetics, hormones, enzyme imbalance, biochemistry… Wow! Really?! My goodness, who would have thought…?! Call the Nobel people…

Really it’s what I think when the responses come pouring in. And that’s exactly what I thought when I was approached by a young doctor and researcher by the name of Jameson Voss, a third year Preventive Medicine Resident at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.  His current research focuses on obesity, specifically the correlation between obesity and altitude, which has an inverse relationship he’s found. His recent work has investigated the obesity numbers throughout the United States and has found that as elevation increases, obesity numbers actually decrease, and they do so significantly. Hmmm…

downloadAs I started scanning his work, two things about Dr. Voss became immediately apparent: one is that he is a real professional, doing real work in the realm of the physiological sciences, not simply some schmuck selling books, or a weight loss program, or a television show, like many people I encounter when the obesity subject arises; and two, his work actually demonstrates some interesting aspects of obesity (or morphology, in general) that may not be readily apparent on first glance; but I assure you that if you think about it, and think about some physiological principles, as well as some of the things that I’ve been discussing in those earlier posts, you will see that it all makes perfect sense. You will see that Dr. Voss’ findings fit perfectly with the criteria that I’ve been screaming about for years: That there is no need to attempt to change what we already know about human physiology and metabolism; that there is no need to create a whole new theory on metabolic physiology by throwing out fundamental concepts—like calories, food type, or average food volume consumed—and instead focus on the biochemical and/or hormonal markers as the keys to understanding (and ‘defeating’) this seemingly enigmatic disorder.

Doctor Voss’ study found two interesting things: one, as I’ve already mentioned, is the inverse correlation between obesity and altitude, and two, a second inverse correlation, this time to urbanization. So as population density increases, obesity goes down. Wow, so what’s happening here?

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Age Adjusted Obesity Prevalence by County. This image was obtained from cdc.gov/diabetes, but this particular map represents obesity prevalence and not diabetes.

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A topographical map of the USA. Note the similarities with the figure above.

If you remember my post on the parasympathetic nervous system, and the role it plays in metabolism, I discussed that when we perceive ourselves to be in a stressful/challenging situation, our sympathetic nervous system kicks in to put us into the fight-or-flight mode. When that challenge then diminishes, and we feel safe, when we perceive ourselves to be supported and secure, when we essentially feel comfortable, then we go into a parasympathetic response—the rest-and-digest mode. Remember that I described how obese people have been found to be in an ANS (autonomic nervous system) or  parasympathetic imbalance—their rest-and-digest is overactive. In this state, metabolism slows down and fat storage increases, and this is one reason why obese people show slower gains in losing weight than do non-obese people.

fat-man-on-segway (Copy)Okay, so what does this have to do with Dr. Voss’ work? As I explained in those post on obesity and ANS imbalance, I believe there is an unrecognized, or better an unacknowledged, mental component to obesity. I believe that as people feel comfortable, as their daily challenges decrease, the more they operate in the rest-and-digest mode. People that live in cities just have to deal with a higher volume of daily stresses than do people living rurally or in the suburbs. Take it from a guy that has spent the last twenty plus years fighting Los Angeles traffic. I’ve had a knife put up to my neck simply for asking a young man to graciously remove his car from my office parking space…yes, these are the types of stresses which are so commonplace among urban jungle dwellers. You just never know when you’ll be the next person to be thrown onto the subway tracks…get it? It’s not that people living outside of cities don’t have stress, but as a way of life…well, I just never have trouble finding parking at the 7-11 outside the city’s parameters, if you know what I mean.

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And what about elevation? Well again it has to do with challenge, but this time the challenge is of a physiological nature. Because of the lower density of oxygen at higher altitudes, it is much harder to pick up this vital molecule during respiration, and as a result the body has to work harder for the same oxygen need as it does at sea level.

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download (1)This fact is precisely why boxers have trained at higher elevations for years (and the effects cyclists try to recreate doping with erythropoietin [EPO]). The challenges to cellular and cardiopulmonary respiration force the body to produce more red blood cells, because quantity here makes up for the decreased quality of oxygen uptake by the present red blood cells, and so a stress to the body occurs. This challenge, I believe, like any challenge to the body (and mind for that matter) forces the body into a higher metabolic rate—in other words, burning fuel becomes more efficient to power the increased demand on the human body. And because this physiological challenge is persistent, it gives people living in higher elevations an advantage with regard to burning fuel. Does this mean that people living at higher elevations won’t put on weight? No! We all have the potential to become overweight or obese, no matter what the elevation; but the increased physiological challenge across the population would explain why, relative to people living closer to sea level, that this population has significantly lower obesity rates.

09-pg-horizontal (Copy)Again, however, I wish to remind the reader to not get fixated on the physical aspect of stress. I truly believe that what we are seeing physiologically with populations living in higher elevations is a similar phenomenon to what we see with urbanization—it’s stress, both physical and mental, that puts people into sympathetic overdrive, and thus more efficient fuel (fat) burners. As I pointed out in some of the post from 2011, obesity is far more prevalent in Western developed nations. Again, when we feel relatively secure, safe, and supported—like we do in most western nations—we will have the tendency to lean toward a predominantly parasympathetic state. Wars, drought, famine or the constant threat of terrorism do not allow for parasympathetic imbalance, and thus obesity is purely an epidemic of wealth and convenience.

Obesity by Nations

So in my mind the answer is not to be found solely in one physical activity over another, as in diet over exercise, or by sitting in a  hypobaric chamber, nor will it be found solely in challenging oneself, because the obesity epidemic (not case-by-case obesity, but in its totality) is more complex than that. Other psychological factors play a role too, I believe—far too numerous to discuss in this piece—but I’ve touched upon some in the past. I just wish to be clear that I believe the missing piece to the obesity puzzle is in psychology, not simply in more reductive physiology.

060823_altitude_train_vlrg_8a.widec (Copy)Saying that, I am impressed with Dr. Voss’ work and his group’s observation of the inverse correlation between both elevation and urbanization and the prevalence of obesity. To me it is clear-cut evidence that the body responds to perceived stresses—both physical (as in respiratory challenges, or knives to the neck) and mental (perceived challenges, traffic, and so forth)—by entering a sympathetic response, and thus increased metabolism. The more time spent under perceived stress, the more the sympathetic response will be (which comes with its own associated negative physical consequences—like high blood pressure, myocardial infarction, among other symptoms and conditions).

Thank you Dr. Voss for your work. For me, at least, it provides some hard data illustrating real physiological and metabolic principles. It fits into a framework of what we already know about physiology, metabolism and obesity. But most important, it isn’t trying to recreate the wheel by claiming any new and fantastic theories about nature and the underlying mechanisms of metabolism within the obese physiology. That is exceptional work in my book.

human_guinea_pigsHow does it feel to be a human medical guinea pig, part of vast research project to determine whether ADHD is a true medical condition or not? And also to determine whether the current prescribed treatment—pharmaceutical speed—is a valuable treatment option for said potential disorder? Forget that the researchers (scientists, doctors, politicians, school officials, teachers, parents) have already made up their minds before the results have come in—that’s today’s medical research, philosophy and practice whether you like it or not. But how does it feel that your children are the ones being indiscriminately tested on? Oh wait…you don’t believe me…ah, I see…well then:

A recent study now suggests that Ritalin and other speed drugs regularly fed to children might cause long-term brain changes. You don’t say? Gosh, I recall some quack with a blog reporting that vociferously over the last few years… Yes, according to the study, users of methylphenidate (most commonly sold as Ritalin) had higher levels of a protein called the dopamine transporter in their brains after one year of treatment compared to before they starting taking the drug. And these increased levels may lead to future drug tolerance, and get this…”could result in more severe inattention”!

Dopamine_TransporterScientists have speculated that people with ADHD naturally have more dopamine transporters in their brains, but according to study researcher Dr. Gene-Jack Wang, of Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., the new study suggests that the increase comes from the drug treatment itself and is not associated with the so-called condition alone. Prior to the study, none of the participants had ever been treated with ADHD drugs.

Even scarier is that this study only looked at the effects following one year of speed medication therapy. It is unknown what the longer-term effects might be. Do you still feel good about subjecting your kid to an ongoing medical study?

Among study participants, a 24% increase in the number of dopamine transporters was found in some areas of the brain, while there was no increase in dopamine transporters in a group of healthy participants who did not take Ritalin.

doctor worship (Copy)So my question to parents is, “Why?” Why do some of you so unquestioningly trust the authority of a profession that treats with dangerous drugs first, does research later? Isn’t anyone else out there uncomfortable with the notions of, “We believe that possibly…,” “We think it might…,” and other rationalizations of uncertainty when it comes to the health of your children? I would never, ever, ever subject my child to drugs because some arrogant professionals tell me that they “believe it might help.” Sorry but that’s sloppy parenting.

Unfortunately, too many people still consider medical science their ultimate health authority. No doubt, modern medicine does some pretty incredible things, but I am not placing my faith in a practice and industry that often acts before it knows…not when it comes to the health of me and my loved ones. Yes, I am offended by the modern medical approach to what I have so openly called a “non-condition.” ADD is NOT a disorder. We all have it when we are forced to endure something that doesn’t inspire us. Drugging our children because we can’t understand how to tap into their inspiration is not the answer. Hopefully this study is the beginning of the end to this massive public guinea pig project…but I doubt it.

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I recently discussed the concept of physiological variability, and how it’s factor most responsible for rendering a one-diet-best-for-all nonexistent. Part of that variability expresses itself in the form of food sensitivities. Every person walking this planet has a sensitivity to one food item or another–of this I am convinced; and it would make sense, since we probably share some genetic differences with a group of others, which account for these sensitivities. And it’s these food sensitivities, I believe, that are responsible for the majority of gastrointestinal or digestive ailments plaguing the world today.

To give you an example, I cannot handle berries of any kind digestively. Yes berries. They give me heartburn. Now I can eat a handful here or there; a small amount not being the problem (a blessing that allows me occasional indulgences). It is if I were to eat either a large amount in one sitting (unlikely), or a moderate amount over a longer period (much more likely) that I would experience significant symptoms.

berries (Copy)How do I know that berries bother me? Well I didn’t for many years, but I simply observed…and as I learned to become more in-tune with the messages my body sends me (subject of an upcoming post), I became aware of the various foods that caused me symptoms.

It is not that a handful of berries is benign to my body, I’d like to point out–I just don’t have symptoms severe enough to really challenge me one way or another with a small amount. So even just a moderate amount of berries can give me an ever-so-slight heartburn. But I am definitely aware of the subtle change. To be so one really needs to practice tuning into one’s interoceptive senses.

food-sensitivities (Copy)Most people, however, are unaware of which foods they are sensitive to, with the exception perhaps of some real obvious ones, like lactose intolerance, for example, or allergies to shell fish…you know, the typical “food allergies” recognized by medical science. But sensitivity to berries, or mint, or chocolate (all sensitivities of mine) are not, and may never be, recognized by western medicine; I guess only time will tell. But again, I believe that every person walking the planet has sensitivities to foods western medical science would consider perfectly normal, non-reactive foods.

But one need only look as far as the prevalence of gastrointestinal disorders in the U.S. According to the Health and Human Service’s National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC):

  • 60 to 70 million people in the U.S. affected by one digestive disorder or another
  • 13.5 million people hospitalized every year
  • 236,164 annual deaths
  • 12 percent of all inpatient procedures
  • 31 percent of all ambulatory procedures

The conditions include:

Why so many digestive disorders? As I’ve said before, when medical science has no explanation for the true cause of disease, it tends to fall back on the ol’ randomness reasoning, disguised as something sophisticated, which they call genetics. Yeah right. Genetics are highly intertwined with evolutionary processes; our digestive systems evolved over millions of years. Genetics, as it is rationalized, is NOT the cause of the high prevalence of GI disorders—it’s diet!

gene-11 (Copy)Yes, GI disorders are about what you eat and drink. Some of that is obvious, like the amount of food one eats, or how much booze one imbibes, but I am convinced that the majority of digestive disorders stems from people chronically ingesting foods that they are sensitive to. It can be subtle enough for awhile that they don’t catch what’s bothering them—and believe me it’s very easy to blow off when symptoms are minor and transient—but over time, or as a particular food increases in frequency of consumption, symptoms can intensify, and even lead to flat out disease. Further, because many of these foods are considered “healthy” by medical science, academia, the popular media, and the average man’s common sense…well, they get overlooked.

Because, yeah, everybody knows that berries are good for you—why would they be harmful?

Next post: The probable sequence of events leading from sensitivity to disease. Stay tuned.

hysteriaHave your chaise longues ready folks, because this post is guaranteed to tickle. For me it’s in the taste of irony with regard to the history of an old guard prone to the accusations, oppression and persecution of any professions that it has considered an economic or authoritative competitor. But for you it may be the tickle of a different sort, one regarding a history of another kind.

Once upon a time the medical profession recognized a disorder known as female hysteria.  In the mid-19th century this condition was thought to result from the stresses of modern living. As the name indicates, it was a purely female phenomenon, and the symptoms included faintness, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and “a tendency to cause trouble.” Although the notion of female hysteria actually dates as far back as ancient Greece, it is the relatively more recent classification that interests me.

dr_swift (Copy)“The women who visit me vary in age and social standing. Some of the women have husbands, some are single and there have even been ladies of the night pay me a visit. There is no pattern to when or how their female hysteria will be brought on and the only way I have found to effect a cure is by the method of pelvic massage.”*

The prescribed treatment for this gender-specific stress disorder was the pelvic massage. Yes, doctors would treat patients to a hands-on genital rubbing, until the hysterical female reached sexual climax. Voilà! Patient cured by orgasm—well, until the next episode that is…

“My husband was shocked at my repeat visits to the doctor but insisted I should employ a maid at the house who would learn the doctor’s methods and deal with me whenever I required her services.”*

On first thought it might be easy to misconstrue that treating female hysteria was a pleasurable act for both doctor and patient, but in actuality it was an arduous task, so much that it was not uncommon for the therapeutic duties to be passed on to a midwife, or even a husband. Some women would take hours to reach “healing”, and this seriously cut into the time and economics for the doctor. As a result, a number of useful items were born, because as they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

f6a6ede3bcedba45ed13366ca63d3b84_vice_670 (Copy)The first item of interest was the fainting room. Homes we’re built with private rooms in which hysterical ladies would be treated; they were furnished with the latest in hysteria decor, like the fainting couch. These chaise longues were specifically designed for the ease and comfort of receiving pelvic massages. Finally, as doctors became overwhelmed by ever-increasing patient load, two nifty little devices were spawned. The water massager and the vibrator.

5898537729_539d755884_z (Copy)“In 1902, the American company Hamilton Beach patented the first electric vibrator available for consumer retail sale as opposed to medical usage, making the vibrator the fifth domestic appliance to be electrified, after the sewing machine, fan, tea kettle, and toaster, and about a decade before the vacuum cleaner and electric iron.” ~ Wikipedia

That’s right, folks—you can thank modern medical science for your pocket rockets, magic wands and jack rabbits–mechanical massagers designed to cure the ubiquitous condition of female hysteria. In an era when it was unfathomable that women had sexual needs that went beyond reproduction, these handy little stimulators were the buzz of medical technology.

“To get the best possible results and a thorough massage you must use The American Vibrator. No modern home is complete without one. Our machine is guaranteed.” ~ American Vibrator Company, St. Louis, Mo.

firstvibrator1902 (Copy)The twentieth century saw a sharp decline in the number of diagnosed cases of female hysteria, as study and observation could yield no particular cause for the disorder. In fact, over 75 pages of different causes were ascribed to female hysteria, some pointing out that it became a catchall diagnosis for any unidentifiable ailment.

800px-Designvibratoren (Copy)Sigmund Freud himself was at the forefront of reclassifying hysteria (from schizophreniaconversion disorders and anxiety attacks for example) into the now more commonly used anxiety neurosis. As society learned more about human sexuality, the practice of classifying what we would consider today as the need for a good ol’ romp a medical disorder diminished. Lucky for us the manufacture and sale of vibrators continued, but starting in the 1960′s they were hawked for the same uses that they are today—as sexual stimulators.

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The irony for me is that  today modern medicine continues to focus on other (alternative) healing professions’ sometimes less than rational historical roots, as a way to undermine what have become in many cases very rational practices. But from bloodletting to lobotomies, modern medicine has had its fair share of irrational theories and practices, some that continue today (like pharmaceutical treatments for ADD and depression). Cultural practices evolve with our understanding of the body, mind and physics. As we learn more, we adapt how we address “problems”. Sometimes it’s as simple as doing away with an illogical morality, as the curious case of female hysteria has proven. Paradigms change, and when we change our behaviors as a result we get closer to truly helping people. By the same token, without the challenge of finding a cure for female hysteria, we might still have some very overworked doctors, midwives and husbands. Phew…hallelujah.

*Legitimacy of quote unconfirmed

94_G (Copy)This post is not for the squeamish. If you’re grossed out easily–stop reading–because it’s about cerumen…yes, earwax. If you’ve ever had a feeling of fullness in one ear or both, or even heard crackling or swishing sounds, you may have an ear canal full of wax. I’ve had it before, a potato farm in fact, and was just reminded today of the possibility when a client asked me about his “stuffed up ear”.

Earwax or cerumen is the body’s natural protector of the ear canalInnate Intelligence at work in the same way tears, mucus, and saliva protect their respective entrance ways from microorganisms. A yellowish waxy substance, cerumen protects the skin of the human ear canal, assists in cleaning and lubrication, and also provides protection from bacteria, fungi, insects and water. But when earwax gets impacted into the ear canal, it can lead to some annoyances and a few flat out problems.

Impacted cerumen can block the auditory canal leading to tinnitus (a ringing, swishing, or other type of noise). Because of the multitude of head noises, anything that blocks the ear canal lessens incoming noises from the outside environment, and thus increases one’s awareness of the inner movements of fluids and such. Water can also get trapped in the blocked canal creating a swishing sound, particularly on moving the head. Anybody who has experienced this know how unnerving it can be.

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Cerumen can get impacted from using a Q-tip to clean the ears. That was the case with me, and I was certain my ears were clean, as was my client today, but I soon learned otherwise. While in chiropractic college, my first student intern took a look in my ears and exclaimed, “Holy ear funk–you’ve got a lot of wax!” Nonsense I thought, but he advised I buy an irrigation tool and clean out my ear canals that way. And boy was he right. Pencil eraser shaped bullets washed out of my ears. Yeah, it was a sight.

But it wasn’t until I went to see an ENT (ears, nose and throat doctor) for severe sinus headaches that I had the shock of my life. He went into my ear with a little sculpting like tool, and out came a rock the size of Gibraltar. Truly I was shocked by the size because I would have never even guessed the ear canal to be able to hold such a geological specimen. Dang!

earwax_twig_ruler (Copy)Although tinnitus can be caused by a number of other things, impacted earwax can lead to some real hearing problems. One is conductive hearing loss. As opposed to sensorineural hearing loss, which is an actual insult to the auditory nerve, conductive hearing loss results from the blockage of sound waves into the ear canal. So if you find yourself saying, “Huh? What? Whadja say?” a lot…you might want to get your ears checked for impacted wax.

Some other symptoms of impacted cerumen:

  • A feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Pain in the ear
  • A feeling of itchiness in the ear
  • Discharge from the ear
  • Odor coming from the ear
  • Dizziness

2008_11_01 (Copy)My client today was quick and adamant to let me know his ears were clean. And I relayed my Rock of Gibraltar story to him, because…yeah, I thought mine were too. But unless someone is looking in with an otoscope…uh, don’t be so sure. And if you just can’t stomach going to the doctor, then purchase an irrigation tool kit. This setup will have some oil drops to place in your ears to soften the wax. After a few minutes you can stat squirting water in with the bulb, and trust me when I say you might be in for a shock. Just don’t be so quick with putting a lid on the job, because it may take a number of squirts–ten, twenty, just hang in there. And, really, stop the Q-tip stuff. Believe me that activity as a regular practice is probably doing more harm then good by really packing that wax in tight. Okay, you don’t want to be oozing cerumen on your collar–a Q-tip can be sometimes appropriate, but I certainly wouldn’t make it a daily habit.

There you go: If you’ve made it this far, you’ve got an iron stomach. Or very waxy ears. What?! Huh?! Whadja say?! Clean your ears, pops.

130111132600-pmt-dr-mehmet-oz-piers-gets-a-flu-shot-00003502-horizontal-gallery (Copy)You know what I love about T.V.? Watching it evolve from a thoroughly controlled entity replete with scripts, laugh tracks and network censorship, to a medium of ‘reality’ documentation—free-flowing, Kardashian-like dimensionality, every turd up for evaluation. Just brilliant!

And nothing more perfect to shed light on one of our most archaic belief systems than the good ol’ fashioned boob tube. The scene couldn’t have been more perfect. While every other industry has been molded and reshaped like a burning rod of steel pounded unmercifully by the hammer of modernity, the outside-in disease model of modern medicine has, oddly, remained unscathed. As a result, the old guard has clung to their outdated beliefs so strongly that they have literally blinded themselves to common sense. No, not common sense in the mass consciousness tomfoolery sort of way that the term is usually meant for, but in the “we-are-having-keen-observations-in-spite-of-the-BS-you’ve-been-trying-to-feed-us” kind of way.

Take the flu shot for example: I’ve reported in this blog numerous times the evidence implicating the vaccine as the biggest medical hoax of the last hundred years. In fact, I got so tired presenting obvious holes in the flu shot bull shot that I vowed to retire from the business. But then along comes a story so juicy, I just couldn’t resist. Thank you T.V. 2013!

Piers Sick After Flu Shot (Copy)In true dramatic form, American television unleashed two of its brightest stars—Piers Morgan, the pompous British ‘reality T.V.’ journalist, and Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Oprah spin-off in his most famous role as the culture’s leading medical authority—in an attempt to strengthen the establishment’s propaganda on the flu shot. If you are unaware of the script—and you’d really have to have spent the last two decades tucked away in a cave for that to be the case—then let me just fill you in. Goes something like this: If you are to survive the most horrendous scourge of the modern age, The Flu (or swine flu back in 2009), then you’d better get your flu vaccination. Oh…and if you don’t: You’re stupid!

Yes the western medical  model, so convinced of its paradigmatic correctness, comes up with one rationalization after another to explain the notorious ineffectiveness of its modern miracle:

The last one is my particular favorite and what this post is all about. True, ye’ old flu-shot proponents, an inactivated virus like the ones that make up the flu shot can’t cause infection, because…well, they’re dead. But they do, in fact, cause an immune response…uh, that’s the point…and that response will be fraught with symptoms like body aches, fever, congestion, cough, and so forth. And that’s just what happened in the latest episode of “Pound My Paradigm,” starring Piers Morgan who took the flu shot, and Dr. Oz who administered it (video below): The patient got observably ill immediately following the injection….ha ha haaaaaa….I love T.V.!

Now I know that you Neandrethalic noblemen championing the flu-shot are perfectly correct in asserting that Mr. Morgan does NOT have the flu; not from the flu shot anyway. I mean he could…um…have gotten it…um, days, hours, minutes before he actually got the shot…uh yeah, that MUST be it!…that fits the paradigm perfectly. Yes, he got it right before he got the flu shot, because everyone knows…the flu shot works. Duuuuuuuhhhhh!

Thank you, again, Mr. Morgan and Dr. Oz for your fabulous performances on ‘reality’ T.V. Couldn’t have written the script better myself.

*And thank you Dr. Brent for the heads-up on this laugher.

The Wellnss JourneyLater today I will be interviewed (archived podcast here) on The Wellness Journey with Lynnis Woods-Mullins (@PraiseWorks), and we’ll be discussing the wellness aspect of social media. Wellness and social media? You bet. Social media is simply an extension of our already hard-wired nature to form social groups. The stronger (and for some people bigger) the groups, the more mental and physical advantages one has. There may even be a connection to longevity. Dang! Yes, being social is a part of the human evolution.

Our strongest advantage as a species is our ability to organize and manage large groups. We learned early on that we would be more powerful as one thousand than as simply one or a few, and so we took advantage of our capacity to cooperate and form civilizations. Now cooperation is not a purely human phenomenon, as many animal species do it, but in sheer capacity and sophistication, humans take the cake. We’ve expanded our social organization progressively from the beginning of existence, moving from hunter-gatherer tribes to the internet. Social media is just the next leg of that human social evolution.

Scientist have recently become increasingly interested in the social benefits to health. Several 2008-2009 studies showed promising results:

  • computer-cc36a4c4552c434fd40d98e79fa1dabeddea202a-s6-c10 (Copy)A 2008 study of stroke sufferers showed that being able to maintain valued group memberships played as important a role in positive recovery as an ability to overcome cognitive difficulties (e.g., problems with memory and language). After their stroke, people’s life satisfaction increased by 12% for every group membership that they were able to retain.
  • A 2009 study of residents entering a new care home. This showed that those who participated as a group in decisions related to the decoration of communal areas used those areas 57% more over the next month and were far happier as a result. In contrast, the use of space by residents in a control group declined by 60%. Moreover, these differences were still apparent three months later.
  • Another 2009 study looked at the impact of group interventions on the health and well-being of 73 people residing in care. After a period of six weeks the researchers found that people who took part in a reminiscence group showed a 12% increase in their memory performance, while those who received individual reminiscence or a control intervention showed no change.
  • Another 2009 study also studied nursing home residents and looked at the relationship between their sense of identity and well-being and the severity of their dementia. The study’s key finding was that a strong sense of identity associated with perceived membership of social groups, was a much better predictor of residents’ well-being than their level of dementia.

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Professor Jolanda Jetten from the University of Queensland, Australia commented on the findings from these studies: “New research shows just how important groups and social identity are to well-being. This is something that people often overlook in the rush to find medical solutions to problems associated with ageing, but it is time that these factors were taken much more seriously”.

And says Dr Catherine Haslam of the University of Exeter in the U.K.: “On the basis of what is now a very large body of research we would urge the medical community to recognize the key role that participation in group life can play in protecting our mental and physical health. It’s much cheaper than medication, with far fewer side effects, and is also much more enjoyable.”

Other studies that I have reported on in this blog also show the wellness benefits to social interactions. One study (2008) showed that people with large and strong social networks fared better following surgery—in healing time and extent. Another study (2008) showed that our sociability is actually a biological/neurological  trait, giving further evidence to its role and interdependence in human evolution.

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Another in 2009 which showed that repressed emotions can lead to greater risk of dying from a cardiac event, while a 2010 study showed that having strong social networks and interactions actually decreased death, in general, by 50%.

These studies simply confirm why using social media to remain connected, and thus in wellness, is the wisest practice people can adopt. Social media isn’t just digital narcissism, as some skeptics have defined it. It is real interactions, in real time, with real people (and if you really can’t tell the difference, then you really do need to get out more)—the perfect ingredients to rich social health and wellness. Keep Tweeting.

fat-meal-restaurants (Copy)When it comes to good nutrition, there is little doubt that eating out is inferior to dining at home. People whose lifestyles dictate that they primarily eat on the road are coming out the worst for it. Studies show that foods prepared at restaurants—whether fast-food or sit down—are higher in calories, saturated fat, salt and sugar, and lower in dietary fiber. A recent European study has even found a link between eating fast-food and the increased incidence of allergies, asthma and eczema in children.

According to an international collaboration that included researchers in New Zealand, Spain, Australia, Germany and the UK, young teenagers are particularly likely to have severe asthma (nearly 40% greater incidence) if they eat burgers and other types of fast-food more than three times a week. For children aged six to seven the risk increased by 27%. Children eating fast-food were also more likely to get severe eczema and rhinitis (stuffy, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes). The results were published in the journal Thorax.

Despite being too soon to show causation, the paper says that the link between fast-foods and asthma/allergies is entirely plausible. It could be “related to higher saturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids, sodium, carbohydrates and sugar levels of fast-food and possibly preservatives”.

sugarYes, every compounds above could potentially be the culprit, if causation is actually determined. But it may even be simpler than that. Last post I discussed the four dietary universals—energy, nutrition, hydration and environment—and I also discussed how a junk food diet increased the likelihood of having none of the universals satisfied, so it is also possible that the resulting sub-clinical malnourishment from a chronic fast-food diet can lead to an overall weakening of a body’s constitution, thereby setting it up for immune dysfunction.

Here’s the skinny (pun intended, pun intended!): Repeatedly eating out is murder on the body. It doesn’t matter how “nice” the restaurant might be, food prepared outside of the home will nearly always have more calories, preservatives, salt and sugar than food prepared at home—it’s got to taste good, fer crying out loud. And it will always have a higher probability of causing foodborne illness (food poisoning). Not that one can’t get food poisoning from food prepared inside their own kitchen, but realize this: Food from a restaurant touches an inordinately greater amount of hands than the food you purchase fresh. Yes, foods obtained at a grocery store are handled as well, no doubt, but food at restaurants is handled way more, believe me. I worked in restaurants for years. I know.

092585524589920f0977bbb0be41Listen, eating out is fun. Some of the most amazing food I’ve ever experienced has been at restaurants, but anything more than occasionally just isn’t conducive to optimal health. The bad news is that Americans in general, and probably the entire western world, seem to be eating out more than ever before. A new report from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) reveals food prepared away from home—whether eaten in restaurants, fast-food and other locations, or as take-out or delivery to be eaten at home—is now a routine part of most Americans’ diets, accounting for 41% of food expenditures and 32% of caloric intake.

The good news, on the other hand, is that a 2011 survey showed that home cooking has become an increasingly popular among younger generations (18-35 year-olds). Wonderful! That’s the way it should be. I am pleased to see young folk interested in this type of living—it’s smart and will take them farthest with regard to health and quality of life.

I’ve included a video below to gross you out. I am grateful for the access to this kind of information on the Web, because people should know what they actually don’t see behind a kitchen’s closed doors. Enjoy, but have barf-bag handy.

earth2 (Copy)When I talk about health, I generally like to focus on universals–that is, what is true for everybody across the board, and not just the nuances of one diet or another. For example, drinking the juice of an açaía berry is not universal. It may be rich in antioxidants (although there is no scientific evidence to support this marketing claim), but it is not an essential food consumed by people all over the world. Having a diet rich in antioxidants, however, is a universal. Drinking water from a hole in Costa Rica is also not a universal, although maintaining sufficient hydration most certainly is. To pound the point home, there isn’t one person reading this that wouldn’t suffer the same fate were he or she to swan dive off a ten-story building. That’s because everybody is subject to the law of gravity–it’s universal, get it?

Okay so when it comes to dietary health, then, only four universals exist. The human diet must fulfill all four of the following:

  • Act as an energy source—food provides us with energy, measured in calories; energy not immediately used is stored as fat.
  • Act as a nutrient source—in the form of vitamins and minerals that are necessary for metabolism, regulation and tissue repair.
  • bigstock-close-up-view-of-bacteria-12354305 (Copy)Provide water for proper hydration—some “experts” believe that we get all the fluids we need from our food, but I am not one of them; no doubt, though, that diets high in plant-based sources get a good portion of their daily water replenishment from food.
  • Maintain a beneficial gut environment—we now know that the foods we eat directly influence our gut microbiota: the organisms that inhabit our intestines and, among other things, help the digestive process.

That’s it. A healthy diet should fulfill these four universal requirements in the most efficient way. This is a point worth elaborating: While many diets (and I’m speaking of a way of eating here, not a fad diet, per se) may fulfill all four universals, they may not do so efficiently. This is likely the case for the majority of people on the typical western diet (some whole foods, lots of processed foods), which is high in calories and low in nutrients. These people often get their necessary nutrients, but at the expense of having to eat more food to do so. They are not malnourished, but instead over-nourished. Think about it, a diet low in essential nutrients will cause the body to communicate, “More nutrients, please!” in the only way it knows how: By increasing the appetite.

malnourished (Copy)Other diets, like those based on junk food, candy, and/or near-starvation (anorexia) lead to none of the universal being fulfilled, which causes malnutrition, and eventually the breakdown of the body.

So, again, the healthiest diets fulfill the four universals most efficiently. But what’s the best diet for you?  The one that fulfills all four universals with the least amount of food.

Now to say there is one diet that can fulfill this requirement for all people would be lie…because everybody is different. My body type is such that I need lots of protein. When I eat carbohydrate-rich meals, regardless of the source, I get weak and shaky within an hour. Thus, I need protein in every meal. Because of this personal nuance, I find that concentrated sources (meat, eggs, dairy) work best for me. This is NOT a universal; it is a nuance of my dietary needs. Believe me, I know plenty of people that thrive on a predominantly plant-based diet. Physiological variability I tell you.

That’s why I say stick to the universals. If veganism gets you there, then groovy, man. If it’s raw foodism—rock out. All that matters is that the four universals are most efficiently met.

Don’t get caught up into dietary nuances. Eat the widest variety of whole, natural foods that your body likes and craves, and try to get everything you need nutritionally with the least amount of food possible. I promise that you’ll get closer to achieving optimal nutrition by following these principles. It’s the human variability that throws the monkey-wrench into most popular diets, but universal is universal, so keep that in mind every time you eat. And if your way of eating already fulfills all four dietary universals, then you’re doing just fine.

Christmas tree (Copy)Twas the night before Christmas, and all through my mind, a question began stirring, of what the function the Christmas holiday might hold to the human psyche and development. Now why, I wondered, have we continued to practice this ritual for all of two millennia. No doubt that, for some, a real significance lies in the religious traditions that Christmas is said to represent today. But for anybody who takes the time to look into the history of the practice will find that what we currently celebrate is very different from what has been practiced throughout the ages. This, however, does not mean that in and of itself the ritual of Christmas celebration isn’t important to the human mind and soul. On the contrary, this holiday is one of the most important rituals we have for keeping us attached to our humanity—a necessary undertaking in an era when intellectual and technological advances pose a real threat to human social unity.

Winter_solsticeThe Christmas holiday has its roots in Pagan traditions. Early Europeans celebrated the winter solstice—the point of lowest solar altitude above the horizon—as this time meant that the days would gradually grow shorter and the nights longer. The Yule log was burned in Pagan Scandinavia as a way to celebrate the return of the sun, while some of the foods we consider traditional Christmas fare, as well as the Christmas tree (15th century), came from the early traditions of Germany. The Roman celebration of Saturnalia is where the gift-giving tradition of Christmas began.

Christmas, like all rituals, was an important way to unify people. Many would starve to death during the rough days of winter, when food was scarce, so that groups ultimately learned to cultivate their food and drink, including spirits, and fresh meats from slaughtered cattle, so that the winter celebrations were true feasts to honor a successful harvest. The yearly rhythm of the winter rituals kept people connected to the perpetual cycles of nature—the annual seasons, the changing length of daylight, and the life cycle itself. In this way, the internal clock or biorhythms were set both in the psyche and the physiology, and eventually in the culture as a whole.

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The evolution of the Christian version of Christmas didn’t fully take hold until the 19th century, although it had transformed slowly over the previous two hundred years. But even in this version, which became a little less festive than the earlier celebrations, as they brought the tradition from outdoors in nature to inside the home, it was still a way to celebrate new beginnings—the coming of the Sun—although this Son was now the symbol of divinity, and not merely a cycle of nature.

Nativity-Wallpaper-05 (Copy)Whichever form of winter celebration we consider, each has held a function of bringing individuals together to strengthen the group. While every person is unique and important as an individual, by virtue of being the planet’s most social species, we derive our greatest powers by working together in groups; and thus a tradition like Christmas, a ritual in its most fundamental sense, strengthens societies and cultures, creating cohesion of beliefs, understanding and gratitude for nature, life and divinity—all aspects of humanity that we can easily overlook in our day-to-day lives.

As civilization advances intellectually and technologically, we become vulnerable to the paradox of being both better connected, yet also more isolated. Man and machine will evolve together as an inevitable consequence of expanding intelligence, but that is where the risk of losing touch with our humanity will be the greatest. It will be so easy to become enamored with our expanding capabilities, to the degree that we may think that the symbiosis of man and machine transcends our natural and divine heritage. But this will be a mistake, because as far as we can surmise, machine intelligence will have the capacity to far exceed our own, rapidly, and we will never know what that might ultimately bring.

Confucius (Copy)Only by keeping in touch with our humanity will we preserve the wits and caution to remain the dominant species on the planet, and thus assure our continued existence. It is in our daily, monthly, and yearly rituals that we best keep connected to our humanity, and unity of species. The great sage Confucius understood the importance of ritual, and he taught it fervently; for through ritual we become and remain virtuous in character. It was his version of maintaining humanity, although I cannot imagine he would have predicted his ideas being pondered in terms of machine dominance. But timeless wisdom is pertinent in any circumstance, and thus the Confucian idea of maintaining and honoring ritual is universal in its applicability.

So Christmas has a function that goes well beyond what we tend to think of it as—it is more than just a celebration, and more than an honoring of a fruitful harvest, or the birth of savior. Like every ritual in which humans engage, it is a way of connecting on a deeper level of unity to one another, to nature, and to our divine essence—to the great organizing intelligence of the universe, and our place within it. This is why our winter ritual of honoring the cycles of life should not—and will not—ever die, because it is a celebration of being a part of the divine nature of the universe.

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Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Oh the holidays—a time for joy, and a time for stress. From office parties to last minute shopping, the holidays can be taxing to some. But the stress I observe the most in people passing through my health practice revolves around their discipline, or lack thereof, for moderation when it comes to indulging in the temptations waiting at the banquet table (or bar) during the holiday season.

I fully understand this stress, as I’ve been there plenty of times myself. Abstinence is not always an easy option, though; especially if you wish to keep your friends. I mean how do you refuse food and drink during these merriest of times? Frankly, your holiday diet will have little meaning to most party hosts, let alone other guests who can’t understand why you won’t try even one of those little powdered cookies. And what merit will it have for you, anyway, when the eggnog comes a-calling? No matter how you slice it, the pressure will be on.

But for you, the body you’ve worked on so hard over the summer does matter, and as we all know, a moment on the lips…

I am, therefore, going to share with you a couple possible solutions to this common holiday problem, which should help ease the stresses involved in choosing between your palate and your physique.

Solution #1: Utmost Discipline

The first is practicing the utmost moderation and discipline. It is simply saying, “No”—no to the cookies, no to the second cocktail, no to the extra plate of food—which will require a Herculean stoutness, as temptations have a way of preoccupying one’s mind. But if you are firm in your convictions, of what you are striving for, then you can focus on that, and it should help you overcome most persuasions.

To master the mind in this capacity, I suggest writing down fifty to one hundred ways in which practicing restraint can help you achieve your goals. Whether that goal is to maintain your figure or to preserve vitality, whatever we want badly enough (our values) has a way of keeping us on purpose, despite temptations. And by putting pen to paper, not only will you establish it firmly in your mind, but the process of writing has a profound ability to make things happen. Some have said that nothing exists until it is written down.

Although this first option of practicing discipline is by far the more boring of the two, in some regards it may be the best for your health. And in the big picture, practicing discipline is the best approach toward mastering your life. But it is also the more immediately difficult of the two options, and if you can’t seem to hold yourself to it, then you’ll want to try option number two.

Solution #2: Moderation & Exercise

The second potential solution is for you to sustain your exercise regimen throughout the holiday season. Although continuing to exercise will not counter the effects of eating too much sugar or drinking too much alcohol, it will most certainly help you preserve two important factors: your figure and the habit of exercising.

I find that the single most detrimental behavior during the holidays is allowing oneself to get too busy to exercise. Put simply: You can’t have your Christmas cake and eat it too. In other words, you cannot both drop your discipline at the banquet table, and the gym, and not expect to suffer the consequences. The reason so many people resort to the New Year’s “weight-loss resolution” is that they feel guilty over giving in to all their indulgences over the holidays. Why waste time with another unresolved New Year’s fantasy? If you must give in, then simply stick to your workout regimen. I assure you that, at the very least, it will subdue some of the guilt that has people stressing the most over the holidays—that they are undoing what they’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Listen, I have lived a life of excess, as well as an undisciplined life. I remember the self-defeating thoughts that followed the few weeks of giving in to my indulgences. It becomes a vicious cycle—feel like dirt, beat yourself up, indulge in defeat, feel more like dirt, and so on. I personally do not advocate complete abstinence, because I believe that this frame of mind has the highest probability of leading to binge and purge behavior—not the best habit for one’s health.

I am much more supportive of the moderation-is-best mentality, as well as maintaining health habits whenever possible, particularly when one area may get challenged, like during the holidays.

3 Choices…

So, ultimately, you have three choices: Practice the utmost discipline, and put not one cookie crumb to mouth, practice moderation and continue to exercise diligently throughout the holidays, or do neither and stress out. For my money, I’d enjoy the holidays in full-but-modest-fashion, and simply work out regularly the way I always do (but not more), so that when the festivities are over, I am still in my groove, and I don’t have to fantasize about all the weight I am going to lose in the New Year. Happy Holidays.

Let’s talk about judgment. Everybody has an idea of what they think this is. Some even feel that it is a virtue to try and remove judgment from our lives. “Judge not that ye be not judged,”* as if judgment is something we can function without. Hopefully, I will be able to convince you that not only can you forget about removing the vital process of judgment from your life, but that you would be wise to understand it, embrace it, and then see the whole picture masked by the illusion of a one-sided universe created in the mind. If you can do this, you will see an effective method for transcending your momentary judgments, and board a launching pad to jump into your next level of awareness.

Try as we might, we cannot escape judgment—not our own, and not that of others. Judgment, at its most basic, is a way to categorize the world around us. The sky is up and the ground is down: this is a judgment we make unconsciously every moment. If your feet are up and your head is down, you are either doing a handstand or free-falling, both of which require your brain to be in complete awareness. This type of judgment is based on neurology, physics and language—that is, what we have decided to call something that we all experience and agree upon.

We do it with people too, although it isn’t as clear-cut. He’s nice; she’s mean. He looks shady and dangerous; I think I’ll walk on the other side of the street. She’s only interested in money, or her looks, or whatever else our mind tells us about that person. This is a normal and necessary function; it allows us to walk through life, making decisions that could affect our very survival. These types of judgments are not based solely on absolutes, but instead on a number of factors including upbringing, past experiences and even book, newspaper or teacher learning.

Events and experiences are subject to our judgments, as well. This experience was bad, that one good—again, we base these judgments on a number of factors. If you think about it, though, you’ll see that these types of judgments are purely perceptual. Were the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers good or bad? Well that depends on which side you are viewing it from. As horrifying as they were for most people in the western world, many in the Middle East celebrated it. And this is true of every event. From lawsuits, to fistfights, to simple descriptions of common everyday occurrences, some people will see things one way, while others see it another way.

This brings up a deep philosophical question—are there absolutes when it comes to making judgments? Plenty of people will argue that there are; however, you will agree that no matter what transpires in the world, there is a group that sees it through their perspective, and another that sees it a different way. My point is this: We make judgments based on our values. They are necessary for us to navigate through life. You will never be without judgment because it is as vital to your survival as breathing is. Every conscious creature no matter where it stands on the evolutionary chain has to make judgments all the time. Is that food or is it death? Is it safe to come out of hiding? If I make this decision, how will it affect the rest of my life, or my family, or the world around me? Truth is we are judging all the time.

But even in its necessity, our minds’ propensity to judge is not presenting us with the full reality. In actuality, there is no absolute right or wrong, good or bad—it comes down to what serves us in the moment. And this is based on our values. Predator captures prey, has a meal and lives another day—good for the predator, bad for the prey. The boyfriend or girlfriend that breaks up with you, is he or she nice or mean? Perhaps you judge them as mean in your initial assessment, but as it allows you to move on with your life and meet your future spouse…well, ha ha…I guess that can go either way, too.

Better to understand that judgment is a process of the mind, and that no event is either good or bad until we judge it. And further, if you look hard enough, you will see that all events have both advantages and disadvantages to everyone involved. This is tricky, and no doubt that everyone reading this can come up with their “absolute” examples to try and disprove what I am saying. But if you look hard enough you will find that even in those things you come up with, as with everything that has ever happened in your life which you have consequently labeled as either good or bad, has a flip side to it that gives an advantage or opportunity, along with an associated disadvantage or closed door.

By seeking and finding how every event that you judge has the equal and opposite side to it, you will see the totality of the universe. Whether we are talking about people or experiences, by seeing the full spectrum, outside of your momentary and one-sided judgments, it allows you to make leaps in your consciousness. In fact, I am certain that we all do this all the time, and it is how we ultimately grow into our next level of awareness. Once we are able to get over the initial hurt of a breakup, and see how it is serving us to move on with our lives and into something more useful for the moment, we transcend the hurt. Who hasn’t done this? Okay, no doubt some people are slower to see than others, which, if nothing else, has helped make daytime talk shows popular; but in the big picture, we all eventually see some things in their completeness.

I believe that the wisest thing to do is seek the whole as quickly as possible. Not only does it allow you to shed the pains that may be keeping you from moving forward, but it also allows you to see a larger sphere of truth. Truth isn’t only present in the judgment itself—a half-truth at best—but in the full picture, including the parts our minds are concealing.

Seek to find the whole in your experiences and you will leap into a new level of awareness and consciousness. Don’t beat yourself up for judging, though, because we need to do so for survival, and as a way to guide us into the next stage of learning. But look for the other side, no matter how hard your mind tries to resist, because I assure you it’s there. When you find it, you will have an “a-ha moment,” and you will see the magnificence of the universe open up to you briefly…and then it’s on to the next judgment.

So maybe we can stop striving to “not judge” and instead accept judging as a part of the human condition, one rooted in evolution and a necessity for our very survival. But we also do not have to become slaves to our half-truth judgments. By seeking the hidden part, the one our mind is blocking, we see the whole truth, and this allows us to move into the next stage of our own evolution.

*I realize this is a misinterpretation of an oft-misinterpreted quote, but I am merely using it to make a point.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions;” ever hear that one? No? How ’bout: Don’t eat wild vegetation indiscriminately. And another oldie but goodie: If you are a caretaker of others, do not experiment with their health. Oh yeeeeeah, timeless wisdom all; and all appropriate to this story: A third person has now died in a California nursing home, apparently the victim of an accidental poisoning from wild mushrooms.

According to the California state Department of Social Services, a 90-year-old man died on Saturday at a senior care facility where a caretaker found the fungus in the backyard and used it to make soup. The Gold Age Villa in Loomis, California (near Sacramento) has reported three deaths (the others, women aged 86 and 73) from the homemade soup served on November 8, and it is being described as a terrible accident. The caretaker at the six-bed care facility did not know the mushrooms were poisonous, investigators said. The following day, those who ate the soup were ill.

The symptoms included vomiting and diarrhea–typical body responses in an attempt to expel toxic substances. Because symptoms related to mushroom toxicity can take up to 12 hours to surface, it can make it difficult to diagnose. Says Dr. Kent R. Olson, medical director of the San Francisco division of the California Poison Control System, ”People don’t necessarily make a connection right away,” unlike food poisoning, which comes on much more quickly.

Signs that a mushroom may be poisonous

The main problem with mushroom poisoning is that it attacks the liver, halting  normal protein production, and eventually shutting the organ down and causing death.

“Once that happens the liver can’t regenerate, so they go into a liver failure,” Olson said. “It’s quite dramatic.”

Treatment for mushroom poisoning is to give massive amounts of IV fluids to prevent kidney failure, and activated charcoal to absorb the poison. In the past, the mortality rate was as high as 90% worldwide. But with the supportive care, Olson said it has declined in recent years to about 15%. This depends on proper diagnosis, and, of course, time.

In Northern California, it’s the season for wild chanterelle mushrooms (a highly sought-after variety) and for the amanita species of mushrooms that include what are known as “death cap” and “death angel” varieties–probably something to know if one is going to prepare foraged food.* Young poisonous North American amanitas often look like an edible version of a wild mushroom popular in Asia. Olson said they grow in large numbers in the San Francisco Bay area around Sacramento and in the Sierra foothills.

Listen, this is a tragedy, and I am certain it is a common mistake. In fact, California recorded 1,700 cases of mushroom-related illnesses from 2009 to 2010, including two deaths. However, the state Department of Public Health periodically issues warnings about consumption of wild mushrooms, especially after someone eats a poisonous variety. But why not just keep things simple? Stick to foods you buy at the grocery store or farmers markets, or at the very least ones you grow yourself, but that you’ve, of course, researched and know well. Otherwise, stick to the domesticated variety.

Further, if you are going to experiment, then uh…you taste first…and then give it twenty-four hours. That way you won’t harm those entrusting you with their care. And finally, we all know that most of us want to do the right thing; but no need to reinvent the wheel. Just stick to the tried and true, and leave the wild mushrooms to foraging animals. Believe me, if they were edible, something would have probably gotten to it before you. Their presence alone should be warning enough.

*If you must forage, please educate yourself first: A simple Google search provided me with guide in 0.18 seconds http://www.wikihow.com/Pick-Wild-Chanterelle-Mushrooms

Surprise, surprise…Americans are getting just as many calories from booze as they are from soda. And being of the “empty” variety, calories from both booze and soda add to the girth without adding to energy stores. A government study released today has implicated alcoholic beverages for 5% of the average American’s daily caloric intake, while sodas make up 6%. But what’s the big deal? None really…except that overweight or obese Americans now make up over 60% of the population!

Think about that–being overweight or obese is the norm in the U.S. And while many heads are pounding trying to figure out one extravagant reason or another, it’s really no big mystery to me, as I’ve written extensively about it in this blog. In my 2008 book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, I described the role booze plays in weight gain,

With alcohol providing about seven calories per gram, one might mistake it for a great energy source. However, alcohol is metabolized far too slowly for it to be an efficient fuel; and therefore, it is simply converted to fat and stored. Alcohol is also very high in calories compared to carbohydrates and proteins (four calories per gram apiece), which makes it nothing more than an excellent source of weight gain. Unfortunately alcohol has no nutritional value whatsoever–no vitamins, no minerals, nothing—so the pounds it provides come without the added benefits found in food…as a dietary staple, alcohol provides little by way of nutrition.

The study found:

  • On any given day, about one-third of men and one-fifth of women consumed calories from beer, wine or liquor.
  • Averaged out to all adults, the average guy drinks 150 calories from alcohol each day, or the equivalent of a can of Budweiser.
  • The average woman drinks about 50 calories, or roughly half a glass of wine.
  • Men drink mostly beer. For women, there was no clear favorite among alcoholic beverages.
  • There was no racial or ethnic difference in average calories consumed from alcoholic beverages. But there was an age difference, with younger adults putting more of it away.

For reference, a 12-ounce can of regular Coca-Cola has 140 calories, slightly less than a same-sized can of regular Bud. A 5-ounce glass of wine is around 100 calories.

Now let me make something perfectly clear here, something I have also been very open about in this blog: I do not advocate the government placing restrictions on the sale or consumption of either alcohol or soft drinks, as New York has done. In fact, I find it ludicrous. When people need their government to step in and prevent them from becoming fat…well, that’s just pathetic. People need to wake the eff up! I’m telling you right now that booze puts on weight without any nutritional benefit. Sure, getting a buzz on is fun, but if you do it anything more than occasionally, expect to get fat, simple as that. The younger you are, the stronger the illusion of this not happening to you. I promise you with all certainty that if you drink more than occasionally, and you do it for long enough, you will wake up fat one day. G’head…prove me wrong. You’ll lose.

But, no, governments shouldn’t be stepping in and mandating smaller drinks any more than they should have done with sodas. But you might just see this become a new controversy, because as Americans continue to blow up, the powers that be will grasp for anything to try and slow it down. So drink sizes in New York may be next—you may be drinking draft beer out of shot glasses (for $20 a pop) before you know it. Just pointing out the absurdity of regulating what people do with their own bodies, that’s all.

In the end, it’s up to you. Starts with information, so now you know. Booze adds empty calories and anything more than an occasional buzz-up will lead to fatness. Your choice. But don’t cry later and demand the government abolish everyone’s’ rights to drink to fatness, because you knew. Okay that’s all, folks…

If you own a company but are not on social media, then you are hurting your business. If you are in health care but not on social media, or on social media but not very active, then you, too, are hurting your business. The world is changing and doing so rapidly. Social media, review sites and smartphones are all part of the new technology shaping the world today. And if you are not on that train, then…well, you are being left behind.

Mass marketing through advertising is the old way, and if you don’t have a few million bucks to spend, then you are just not reaching people with that medium. And even for big companies that have that kind of money—the Coca Colas, Fords, and Starbucks of the world—social media is a HUGE part of their marketing plan. Why? Because social media is where the people be hangin’.

As a result, today’s marketing requires person-to-person interaction. People want to engage with companies, professionals and artists—they want personal attention, as personal attention builds trust. Why would anybody today want to do business with you, or listen to what you have to say, if you don’t give them personal attention, but your competitor does? Listen, economics are tight all over and people want to spend their money most effectively. The way people, today, feel most confident in doing so is through personal attention and interaction.

Enter social media—Twitter, Facebook, YouTube—sources anybody can use to connect to companies, celebrities, journalists, athletes, teachers, professionals—you name it. And that includes you. Website magazine recently reported that people who engage with companies on social media spend 20-40% more money with those companies than do other customers. That’s huge!

But not just businesses—anybody with an inspired message can use social media to influence others. Be it a political campaign (just ask President Barack Obama, a Twitter master), a charitable cause, or a world changing idea (like Changing the Way the World Thinks About Health™), nothing has been more important in leveling the playing field for marketing and message-spreading.

Health care providers absolutely need to be on social media, specifically Twitter. There are currently 200 million active users on Twitter—two hundred million! And Twitter is now one of the top ten visited websites on the Internet. Duh! You want to reach people? You want to educate them? You’ve got to be on Twitter. And you’ve got to learn to use it right. There are ways to master Twitter, and then there is just inefficiency. That’s why it’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “I don’t like Twitter.” Yeah, you haven’t learned to use it in the most fun and effective way yet. Believe me, learn that and your perceptions will change.

Watch the video below to hear how people are using Twitter to spread their message effectively (don’t let the first 55 seconds fool you…there’s lots of visuals to stimulate your mind). If you are in any health field whatsoever—chiropractic, medicine, psychology, personal training, physical therapy, nutrition, acupuncture, yoga, Reiki, or any other—you absolutely must watch this video. And then check out my book, How to Win Friends and Influence People (on Twitter), and you will learn the ins-and-outs of becoming a Twitter ★SuperStar★.

A common misconception people have about stretching is that it is a passive activity–that is, the muscles should be stretched by using of gravity to pull the muscles. Wrong! In fact, over time passive stretching is the best way to injure yourself.

Active stretching is really the proper way to stretch. An active stretch is contracting the muscles as you stretch, both the muscle being stretched and its antagonist–the muscle doing the opposite action. As an example let’s take the hamstrings: most people, when doing a hamstring stretch, will just bend forward at the waist, passively, letting everything–head, neck and arms included–just hang down.

An active version of the same stretch would be bending forward at the waist, but now maintaining an arch in the back to preserve the discs of the lumbar spine (a common source of severe low back injury). Then while pushing the heels down into the ground and the knees back (which contracts the quadriceps, the antagonists to the hamstrings), the butt is actively lifted upward toward the ceiling, literally pulling the hamstrings from one end (the knees) and oppositely from the other (buttocks). That, my friends, is an active stretch.

Watch the video below to see a demonstration of active stretching. Passive stretching is sometimes warranted, particularly if you have never stretched, or it’s been so long it may as well be considered never…in these cases, a passive stretch will be just fine. But over the long haul, if you want to prevent injury and get the best stretch you can, that comes from active stretching.

In my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, I state:

What are the criteria you can use to evaluate your health? I believe that you can do it most effectively by simply observing three things: how you look, how you feel, and especially, how you function.

That was 2008. Today, in 2012, a Danish study has linked “looking old” to an increased risk for heart disease.

According to the study, 11,000 people were followed from as far back as 1976, and it was found that four physical appearance markers were associated with a greater risk of developing heart disease. They were receding hairline, baldness on top of the head, earlobe creases and yellow, fatty deposits around the eyelid. People with at least three of these markers for aging had a 57% increased risk for heart attack and a 39% increased risk for heart disease.

Although when considering gender specifically, women did not show an increased risk with hair loss. Men, however, had a 40% greater risk of developing heart disease when they had receding hairlines. The group for whom these results showed the greatest risk was men between ages 70 and 79. In this group, 45% of those with all four aging signs developed heart disease, compared to 31% of those with none of the four.

“Looking old for your age, by [having] these aging signs, marks poor cardiovascular health,” said study researcher Dr. Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen, a professor and chief physician in the department of clinical biochemistry at Copenhagen University Hospital. She also points out that these signs signify physical aging not biological aging.

So what does this mean for you? Well, taking poor care of your health will lead to increased physical aging, despite your true age. We all know people that look much younger than their years, and we also all know others that look a bit older than they actually are. Poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, increased consumption of alcohol and drugs (both prescription and recreational), lack of sleep, and those neglected body aches and pains, can all lead to quicker break down of the body. I’d also add chronic stress into the mix, of which much can be linked to unresolved mental misperceptions, in my opinion.

What can you do? First, start taking care of your health now. Eat well, exercise, get regular bodywork, rest and relaxation, and minimize toxins in the form of booze, cigarettes, and drugs. Second, if you are exhibiting those signs now–it’s not too late to make a change in your lifestyle. Being aware of these signs is crucial, and then doing something about it pronto might just end up saving your life. But I certainly would advise anybody exhibiting these signs to get in and see a doctor right away. Plaque build-up has likely already started, and so being aware of your risks might be wise before starting any rigorous exercise program.

Yes, to me it made complete sense last decade when I wrote The Six Keys that your physical appearance will mirror your overall health. Now we have scientific proof.

Quite a few people experience chronic tightness in the inner thighs, and some even end up straining the area, which is one type of “groin strain” you might have heard of (of experienced). The inner thighs occupied by a group of muscles called the adductors. Adduction, as a movement, is bringing a limb back to the body–or “adding” to the body–and thus the name.

There are five adductor muscles: pectineus, adductor brevis (means short), adductor longus, adductor magnus and gracilis. Each one acts to bring the leg back toward the midline, among other specialized functions. We can split these five muscles into two groups–the short and long adductors. The first three named above make up the short adductor group, and these attach from the pelvis to the upper thigh, while the latter two make up the long adductors, which attach from the pelvis to the lower thigh and inner knee.

I’ve already showed you a great stretch for the short adductors–the frog stretch–and I hope you’ve been doing it. Now I want to show you a great stretch for the long adductor group. Watch the video below to see a great stretch for the long adductors, but please be careful as you do it, because if you strain this area, you may find it difficult to treat, and thus, hanging around for awhile. Once you start to open the inner thigh area, you’ll see how your hips and back thighs (hamstrings) respond by opening too. Enjoy the stretch.

All is flux, nothing is stationary…is what they say. And I can tell you from my experience that…well, it seems to be true. Change is inevitable, so why do we fight it? More importantly, why do we avoid being the changer, the one directing the flux?

Well, we do this mostly because change is hard—it can be painful, filled with uncertainty and makes us come to terms with our illusions—all daunting to our sometimes fragile, and very often vulnerable, egos. But change IS inevitable, that I can assure you, so why not be the master of your destiny?

Now it’s important to understand how crucial dissatisfaction is to human development. It is in our dissatisfaction that we strive to change, to grow, whether we are talking about an individual, society or humanity as a whole. Change is growth.

That doesn’t mean that dissatisfaction alone will bring the change we want. On the contrary, the more charge behind a dissatisfaction, the more likely we are to experience it, because the human mind has a way of seeing that which we despise all around us. Have you ever noticed that the more you are put off by an action or behavior, the more those around you exhibit that action or behavior? Hmmm…

So that brings me to an important point—change doesn’t always mean that people should alter their situations or circumstances, but instead that they change their perspective. Everything that dissatisfies us does so because we cannot see how it is serving us in the moment. By searching for, and eventually finding, the purpose of any given situation in our life right now, we can understand its importance to our overall growth and development—something that we stall when we fail to see the big picture.

So I would say that the first step in creating change is to love our circumstances, no matter how difficult that may be. Ask yourself, how does my current circumstance serve me in the big picture? Does it allow me to be free, to pursue my life in the ways I love? Does it teach me how to walk through the world with strength and dignity? Or maybe it teaches me things to teach others—so that they can transition into change more easily? You have to look for the answer within yourself, but I assure you: Your current condition serves you in some way.

With that in mind, how can you be the director of change in your life? I believe that it starts by writing things down. Write what you’d love to become, what you’d love your future to be. Write down what you’d love to do, where you’d love to go. And write down the life you’d love to have in every aspect…and start today. Only by writing down what you would love in every aspect of your life will you stimulate the change you desire.

I do this exercise every new year, and have done so for the last decade. I write down everything I want in my life, in well thought out detail, and as it turns out, I see my life move in that direction. It happens because it’s in my heart; and by writing it all down, I set the wheels in motion. I read, and then re-read, my list throughout the year, and it’s amazing what I accomplish.

But I always remember to seek and understand how my current challenges are leading me toward my destiny. By putting things into perspective, particularly when I find myself dissatisfied, I make it easier for change to occur on its own, without stalling it through my discontent.

We can be the masters of our destiny. And although we cannot control every single situation in our lives—nor avoid the pain, uncertainty or shattering of our illusions—we can direct our ultimate destination by loving every circumstance along the way. Then by writing down what we would love in our lives, in its entirety, we can be the directors of our change, and not leave it carelessly to the wind.


Have you ever heard that you need to balance your work and personal life? In the world of separation, perhaps, that may be true, as balance is the true nature of all things; but in an integrated world, work and life are often the same.

No doubt that not everyone values their work above all else. Some don’t even have it in their top three priorities or highest values, so what the heck am I talking about? Well whether your work is your life, or you merely work to live, a psychic connection to your vocation can be rewarding, as it can help you gain a new appreciation for each dynamic responsible for the complete synthesis of your life.

When you do what you love; when your work is a part of your life’s mission, then it isn’t work at all—it’s just life. Can you imagine Isaac Newton needing some downtime? “Gone fishin’” posted on his office door at Cambridge? Or Albert Einstein needing a break to go “find himself”? Puh-leeze! No doubt, stepping away from your work is periodically necessary to maintain mental balance, as well as to keep the creative juices flowing; but seeing work as a drag, or living for the weekend, or counting the months till your 65th birthday, and its ensuing retirement, is definitely not living your life’s purpose through your work.

Listen, sometimes people just have to survive, and that’s what work is for them. And in these cases, of course, a balance between work and personal life must exist. However, I don’t think anybody in this mind-frame needs reminding. No, the advice to seek balance is usually left for people who are working hard, because it is either a part of their life’s mission, or they have an end in mind, and the advisors just can’t relate to that. But even so, for these people, an occasional stepping away will help them accomplish more, as the break will surely allow their brains and bodies to recharge. However, when one’s work and life’s purpose are properly aligned, then it really is misguided to try and change that.

But how about for people whose life’s purpose is not connected to their work? Well, I think for these people it is still important to see how their work allows them to live more fully. For instance, one might be dedicated to raising a beautiful, healthy and fulfilled family. Their mission might include the activities they do with their children, the things they teach them, and the experiences which they expose them to, and so on. What a beautiful life’s purpose that is!

It would be a shame to not see how one’s work actually allows for this dynamic to unfold. When we spend time resenting our work, and fail to see the interconnectedness between it and our personal life, then we block the channels to our own fulfillment. This mental dissatisfaction can lead to an incomplete awareness of the magnificence of our existence. But nothing is ever out of order.

Some people feel that when their job isn’t their life’s purpose that somehow things are not right. That’s why it’s important to be aligned with what your life’s purpose is. Don’t try to force what you think it should be. You know deep down inside, because your life’s purpose is what you love. It’s what you do every day that nobody needs to remind you of, or motivate you to do.

So again, by connecting to how your work allows you to carry out that purpose is the most empowering thing you can do in this regard. When you view things in this manner, you won’t feel the need to create balance. Balance is only needed when the misperception of imbalance exists, and this will be pervasive if you can’t see the divine connection among all your roles in your complete life; in other words, seeing the whole and not just the fragmented parts we label as duties.

So finding a balance between your work and personal life is somewhat of a fallacy, since different people have different relationships to their work. For those whose work is their life’s purpose—then live it, baby; but, of course, take the occasional break to recharge your creative batteries. For those working solely to reach a particular goal, like making your first million, then yeah, being aware of, and proactively focusing on, balance may end up saving your life. But for those of you that work simply to live, so that you may carry out your true life’s purpose, then seeing how that work allows the totality of your life to be expressed is essential…and if you can do that, you might find that’s all the balance you need.

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