From the monthly archives: "February 2014"

thyroid cancerLooks like the thyroid is going the way of the spinal disc, with a diagnostic system prone to overdiagnosis, false positives and aggressive, unnecessary treatment. A recent study finds that thyroid cancer diagnoses have nearly tripled since 1975, and many, the study claims, are treated more aggressively than necessary. And although thyroid cancer remains rare overall, this study points to the we-do-because-we-can phenomenon potentially at play.

The study, published online Thursday in JAMA Otolaryngology, found that thyroid cancers jumped from 5 cases per 100,000 people to 14 per 100,000 (that’s 15,695 to 43,946 in real numbers). Because the most common treatment is surgical removal, which is recommended and carried out in over 85% of thyroid cancer cases, the study calls into question the practice as many thyroid cancers (along with certain breast, lung and prostate cancers) have been shown in previous studies to be slow growing, and not deadly.

thyroid cancer symptomsThe thyroid is a hormone-releasing gland (endocrine) in the neck that helps regulate the body’s metabolism. Thyroid cancer treatment often includes surgery to remove the butterfly-shaped gland, followed by lifelong daily hormone pills.

However the study’s authors believe that the low risk of the majority of thyroid cancers really calls industry standards into question. Says Dr. Gilbert Welch, co-author of the thyroid study and a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, patients “can no longer assume” that labeling a disease as cancer means treatment is necessary. “It’s a challenging rethinking,” he added.

Yes precisely. With the arrival of newer, more accurate diagnostic testing, diagnoses go up almost by necessity. We saw it happen with the advent of advanced diagnostic imaging, or radiology. Along came MRIs and up and away went herniated disc diagnoses. Were there more herniated disks than ever before, needing more discectomies than ever before? If judging by the enormous rise in numbers of bulging discs discovered by MRI, then yes!…it would seem so to the indiscriminate eye. But as one of my teachers in chiropractic college would say so eloquently, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Thyroid Cancer Treatment

I have always felt that one should be careful in how vigorously one chooses to ‘locate’ a problem, because I have always felt that one might just get what one is looking for…or worse. Not that people shouldn’t be prudent in trying to figure out why they might not be doing/feeling well. However, when the doc tells you that you are okay…well then gosh… I feel like far too many people become adamant about finding something. And this story certainly confirms to me that we (almost) always get what we are looking for. But in this case the thyroid cancer diagnoses are questionable…and the subsequent treatment (a thyroidectomy) is too.

“Our old strategy of looking as hard as possible to find cancer has some real side effects,” said Dr. Gilbert Welch

Hey I don’t deny that some people just feel better from getting medical procedures done—any procedure for some people, as I know one couple that prides themselves on their annual body parts removals…seriously…ok maybe ‘pride’ is subjective. Nonetheless they seem to feel comfortable (and happy) each time they get this or that procedure done. Great. To each his own.

But if you aren’t really into donating your body parts to science, then I would question everything. Find out if the “-ectomy” is truly necessary. And doctors it is okay to discuss it with the patient, and not simply assume that he would be as open to the idea of surgery if he were to understand that risk of death (without tumor or gland removal) is rather low.

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Another step in the right direction here in the U.S. as the Obama Administration has issued new law-enforcement guidelines aimed at encouraging banks to start doing business with state-licensed marijuana suppliers. Bravo! Bout time. Although marijuana distribution remains illegal under federal law, the administration recognizes the massive revenue amassed by the marijuana industry, and while these guidelines seek to protect public safety, they are also likely intended keep tabs on the gajillions funneling into ganja dispensaries.

As it now stands, marijuana suppliers must deal strictly in cash—to purchase inventory, pay employees and conduct sales, requiring elaborate and expensive security measures and putting them at risk of robbery. Yes you think having stockpiles of cash lying around might attract some undesirables like street thugs, drug cartels and terrorist organizations? Uh…. And purely cash-based businesses make accounting for Uncle Sam far more difficult—I mean, the tax man needs to get a piece of the action too, right?

Medical Weed for Cash Only

Medical Weed for Cash Only

The new guidelines, which make sense on many levels, are not without potential problems. To begin with, many in the banking industry fear prosecution for dealing with technically illegal businesses. Says American Bankers Association attorney, Rob Rowe, “Compliance by a bank will still require extensive resources to monitor any of these businesses, and it’s unlikely the benefits would exceed the costs.”

That could be true, although I suspect the banking industry just wants to protect it’s own arse. The Justice Department has said that the administration was planning ways to accommodate marijuana businesses so they would not always be dealing in cash. Said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder,

“There’s a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash, substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited, is something that would worry me just from a law enforcement perspective,”

Uhhh…yah! However, a separate memorandum from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) laid out the due diligence that banks should carry out, both before working with a marijuana business and during the relationship. That means banks would have to check state licenses, understand the normal activity for the business and monitor for suspicious activity…and they would not be immune from state laws: As more states allow marijuana distribution either medically or recreationally, a number still do not, and they regulate the drug strictly (still a Schedule 1 substance, meaning no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse). So wire transfers entering states where marijuana is illegal could put banks at risk of money-laundering.

Federal Law for Marijuana Rooted in Puritanism

Federal Law for Marijuana Rooted in Puritanism

Yes…still a complicated issue stemming from our historically Puritanical perspective on cannabis use. Oh well, nothing worth doing comes easy. In my opinion, doing whatever it takes to change our archaic laws regarding marijuana sales/distribution is wisdom. I’ve written extensively on the subject, and to me it’s a real no-brainer: tax revenue, strengthening the economy, and a bunch of smiling people walking around…duh! And  next we need to remove marijuana’s Schedule 1 classification. Under this grouping, marijuana is restricted from scientific research. Now does that seem appropriate, worthwhile or wise? Enough people report physical and psychological benefits from the substance to warrant study. Freakin’ duh!

Legalize Marijuana?

Legalize Marijuana?

I applaud the Obama administration for recognizing the value in the national marijuana trade. Federal authorities say they believe the new guidance will get more marijuana money into the banking system. A win-win-win-win, as far as I can see.

Those most likely to open their doors to marijuana businesses first would be “probably some of the smaller or medium banks rather than some of the largest ones in this country,” a FinCEN official said.

“The amount of money in this business is significant,” the official said.

No s#%&! Decriminalize it.

Juicing for Health

Juicing for Health

Last year I wrote a couple pieces on nutrition in which I discussed the details around food sensitivities (and here). I have also explained the dietary universals—the aspects of nutrition applicable to all people; not just the nuances so often discussed by proponents of one dietary system over another. And while I do not discount the validity of many of these systems (vegan, raw food, Paleo and so forth), no one system is right for every person. So when I discuss universals, I mean, what you need to survive and thrive as a human being—nutritionally, hydrationally and environmentally (internal).

In this post I am going to discuss a powerful health practice from the context of maintaining and maximizing one of these universals—nutrition. The practice is juicing, and the benefit, in a nutshell, is receiving the maximal amount of nutrients in smallest quantity of food. I will tell you my personal experience with juicing—both as a youth and an adult—what I think is happening physiologically when we consume a high-nutrient food source, and why I think juicing as a practice is such a powerhouse for maintaining and optimizing nutritional health.

Child and Teen Nutrition

Child and Teen Nutrition

I have been juicing, in a sense, since I was a preteen. My mom did the juicing, but I was the recipient of the health benefits during my most formative developmental years. My mom would make many different blends, but carrot juice was always a staple. My teen years had the typical moments of poor food choices, and sometimes far more than I had been used to at a younger age. My mom was convinced that the juice would give me the “necessary nutrients,” and that she could feel at ease about my health, knowing full well how I was challenging it on my own accord. We ate well at home always: With my mom, it was top quality foods all the time—hearty, healthy and full of love. But I was drinking (booze), smoking (everything), and eating junk food on a regular basis, and so she just sensed that it would be the most protective health practice against the lifestyle I was leading.

As I entered adulthood, I would continue to have fresh juice occasionally, usually from a health food store (Erewhon Juice Bar, baby!), which can be expensive, and thus limited…but always when I was with my mom. She always had juicers at her place, multiple kinds at times, and it was simply a staple that she had gotten used to. However, my habit never picked up on its own until just recently.

It is no secret that I have had a number of digestive challenges over the last few years, and as a result, I have had to find the diet that works best for me. Again when I speak of diet, I am not speaking of the fad variety, but of a way of eating. I have already explained the certain food sensitivities I have, so I actually have a limited pool of foods that I can eat from comfortably. For this reason, I must have a way to get the maximal nutrients, otherwise I risk malnutrition.

Healthy Nutrition and Juicing Machines

Healthy Nutrition and Juicing Machines

Regular readers of this blog will remember that, three years ago last week, I purchased my first personal juicer—the Omega J8003 Juice Machine. I have been drinking fresh juice 4-6 times per week consistently ever since, and my experiences have been amazing! Because of the big bang of nutrients I get with each juicing, I have had to eat far less than what I’ve needed in the past, which has actually led to significant weight loss. Did I need to lose weight? No! But as a result of this habit, I have morphed into a new ‘healthy weight,’ shape and size…really impressive for a man whose age is considered the typical time of decline by conventional wisdom. But more importantly, my energy levels are at their tip-top, and here is what I think is happening:

As I discuss in my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, poor nutrient intake is a very likely factor in overeating, weight gain and obesity. When the body needs nutrients it will do what it knows best: create the hunger response to ensure that more nutrients are brought in. It does not know which foods will actually be consumed, but the Innate Intelligence of the body will always work toward getting what it needs through its physiology, so the hunger response is an obvious tool it has to increase the chances of getting the necessary nutrients. I really started thinking about this concept when I had considered how many times I have eaten pizza in far larger quantities than I normally eat as a whole. I am sure many of you have had a similar experience: Three large slices of pizza consumed, yet three more could easily be put away, while that overfull, but still hungry feeling, persists. C’mon, you’ve done it, or you’ve seen someone else do it. And when it happens you think…how the heck did I just put away that entire large pizza?

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

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

I believe it is because the pizza, being high in calories—from dough to cheese to meats—yet low in nutrients (tomato sauce is not an adequate source of calories, nor are the multitudes of vegetables one can put on their pizza, although I am certain the more produce the better) that the body can go through hunger pangs despite the quantity of food consumed being large. And it doesn’t have to be pizza either—it can be any nutrient-poor meal, including some of the ones people regularly prepare at home. But of course this is all purely speculation, and as such I would need more information to solidify my suspicions about this physiological phenomenon.

Once I started juicing, however, I noticed that I needed less food overall. My hunger levels diminished, so that even the portions I consume at my regular (non-juice) meals have decreased significantly. Again, because of my diet, I have a somewhat narrower pool of food items from which to choose, those which my body responds to positively in vibrancy and smooth (functional) digestion. This parameter ends up making me a creature of habit, even more so than my natural tendencies. I am fortunate as well that I only eat when I feel hungry—no snacking or nervous/bored eating for me—which may seem like a no-brainer, but it is habit many people pick up, and consequently have a hard time shaking. So because of my habits of eating only when hungry and choosing from a small group of food items, I pretty much eat the same things every day—same breakfast and same basic lunch. And for dinner…well it’s a pint or two of fresh juice for me.

I only drink two different mixes of juice, which I alternate on successive juicing days. I make a carrot, apple, and ginger concoction, as well as something I call the Citrus Blast—orange, grapefruit and lemon. For my personal physiology—my nuanced physical body—the carrot concoction aids in my digestion, and gives me a quick burst of energy, while the Citrus Blast is a load of energy that might actually keep me up at night if I end up drinking it too late. This burst of energy is not a wiry caffeine-type of energy, but a pure, clean and unmistakable feeling within me. My body thrives on these juices.

Juicing Benefits

Juicing Benefits

I have noticed that when I am hungry at night a juice will usually satisfy it. Rarely do I require more food. Can you understand what this does for my calorie intake? It has been reduced significantly. So I get this blast of nutrients—vitamins C, A and some Bs from the citrus, while the carrot concoction provides vitamins A, C, K as well as potassium from the carrots, apples and ginger—which seems to be what my body loves, and this keeps me from having to eat larger quantities of food to provide the same amount of nutrients. As it turns out, the calories I receive from breakfast and lunch, along with those provided by the juice, is enough to power me through the night (most often spent doing mental work, which requires a higher carbohydrate load to power the brain. The carbohydrate dominant juice, then, balances the higher protein of my earlier meals).

Just think about what I get from each glass of juice:

Juicing Recipes:

Campos’ Carrot Concoction

  • 12-14 carrots (depending upon size)
  • 2 apples
  • ~ 4 oz ginger(maybe the size of a medium adult fist)

Campos’ Citrus Blast

  • 4 oranges
  • 2 grapefruits
  • 1 whole lemon
Juice Diet—more for less

Juice Diet—more for less

Look at how many fruits I would have to eat for an equivalence of nutrients. Granted, there are other benefits to eating the whole fruit, as proponents of eating whole fruits and vegetables so rightly point out—from fiber to bioflavonoids—but as far as getting optimal nutrients is concerned…well I am sure you can see where the advantage lies.

This is the power of juicing: A blast of nutrients, low calories, and a high propensity for curbing hunger make juicing a super-activity when it comes to nutritional health. Yes some in the health sciences try to refute many nutritional claims, citing lack of evidence as the rationale; and as I said in the beginning of this piece, I can only speculate because truth be told, the studies haven’t been done to answer some of these claims (although plenty of supportive evidence exists to the benefits of good nutrition in health and wellbeing). But I can assert confidently that neither is there evidence showing the harm of certain nutritional practices, and of which I am certain none will be found to implicate the practice of juicing as a detriment to anyone’s health. What this means for you, then, is that the proof is in the pudding. For a few pennies a day (in comparison to meals eaten outside of the home, including juices made at juice bars the cost of juicing at home is nominal), you can prove to yourself the power of juicing.

Juice: healthy food choices

Juice: healthy food choices

You are not bound by my nuances either—if you can handle greens, by all means, green it up. Berries, bananas, flax seed, you name it—juice whatever you’d like.  Just remember that the produce must be clean and fresh. You cannot be harmed by drinking fresh juices (unless you are diabetic). So for the cost…well, it’s a no-brainer to me: it’s so worth the try. A good juicer will run you about $200 (US). That’s a big fat “Duh!” from a middle-aged fart who has lost weight and increased his energy levels just by juicing.

Getting sufficient (if not optimal) nutrients at the most efficient calorie intake necessary for survival is a metabolic universal. Obviously the activity and lifestyle of the organism will dictate the most efficient levels. But in today’s modern world, where the ever-growing number of conveniences decreases our energy expenditures greatly, we would all benefit from packing the most nutrient-rich punch in the smallest amount of food possible…and for my money it’s fresh juices all the way. Try juicing—you’ll see soon enough.

safety for preschoolersSome good news in the world of health today: Children are dying much less in traffic accidents (US). And the downward trend is due to the widespread use of car seats and boosters. Bravo! A new government report discloses that child fatalities on the road have dropped a solid 43%. The downside is that some children are still not being buckled up, and many of these deaths, then, might have been prevented.

A report from the CDC looked at children under 12 from 2002-2011, and it showed a decline that hasn’t been at this low level since the 1940s. This age group generally makes up a small percentage of traffic fatalities anyway, but of course we all welcome any drop no matter to which group, but especially for our little tykes, the truly dependent and powerless. Teens and young adults, unfortunately (yet understandably) still make up the largest group of traffic deaths in the country.

Although the study was not actually designed to uncover the reason for the drop, experts believe that it does stem from the increased use of car seats and booster. A racial disparity, however, does seem to be at play, as almost 50% of black and Hispanic children involved in fatalities were not buckled up. This compared to only 25% Caucasian children. Experts again weigh in and suggest that income disparities may be a factor leading to the inability to purchase or install new seats.

Car seat installation essential to protect in car crashes

Car seat installation essential to protect in car crashes

I speak from recent experience to say that parents really want to make sure they have new and excellently working child safety equipment, and also that their seat belts are working flawlessly. Proper seat installation is important too. I have personally witnessed a few shoddy installation jobs of car seats with some families I’ve met or known, mostly I gather due to the parents doing the installation themselves. I was flabbergasted by one such family that, as far as I could see, installed the seat based on ease and speed, more than on diligent application it seemed. Belts appeared loose, the car seat moved around on turning corners—really just shoddy installation all around. The parent, I believe, was just lucky that they were never in an accident, because I am sure that seat wouldn’t have help up.

We have gotten our car seats installed by the LAPD traffic division, through a service they provide the community. Yes we had to make an appointment, and the installation of each seat took a little time, but my gawd, isn’t it worth the time investment? We learned a lot from the officers, who not only install seats but educate parents while doing it. This is what we found out:

Child safety requires all precautions including seat orientation

Child safety requires necessary precautions including seat orientation

Outside of neglecting to buckle up, many child fatalities are from improperly installed seats. Loose seats move around on impact, and the child can be suffocated by expanding air bags, or crushed between the moving car seat and the passenger seat directly in front of it. When car seats are turned to face forward too early (infants are to face the rear of the car), again the child can be crushed or suffocated by the bags.

Parents may not know these mechanisms of death, and thus cannot conceptualize the importance of every belt tightening done during professional installation (and I can tell you it’s a lot). Police are often first responders to traffic accidents—they see the end result. If they tell me that’s the most common way children die in auto accidents…well I’ll take their word for it. No playing around with my precious cargo.

Accidents can be real bad—I know this firsthand from treating thousands of auto accident cases. But no need to put your child at greater risk, particularly in accidents not technically bad enough to harm the child if the car seat was installed properly. Believe me: taking the time to visit the local police station is worth it (you will have to find out who performs the service in your community). If you truly do not have this option, then please read and follow the installation instructions to the tee…and don’t throw it in while have a few brews with yer pal Gomer…focus, man, focus…these are your babies.

Okay, all in all, great job folks! Child fatalities in traffic accidents is way down—let’s keep up the great work and bring it down even more. Bravo again.

Pile of Refined SugarExtra, extra…! Sugar found to be deadly to people with heart disease. So says a recent study published in the latest JAMA Internal Medicine (published online February 03, 2014). Not only are most Americans consuming more than the safest amounts of daily sugar, but 1 in 10 are taking in twenty five percent or more of their daily calories from the sweet stuff. And the results showed that those people taking in the most sugar have an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD).

The study, a prospective cohort of a nationally representative sample of US adults taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) of 1998-2010, looked at the diets of more than 30,000 American adults aged 44 on average, and did fifteen years of follow up to analyze death risk as it related to sugar and CVD. The results, according to Lead author Quanhe Yang of the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, were “sobering”.

Study participants were divided into five groups according to sugar intake, from less than 10 percent of daily calories—the safest amount—to more than 25%. As sugar intake increased so did the risk of dying from heart disease, and it did so significantly.

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

For those who got more than 15%—equivalent to about two cans of soda out of 2,000 calories daily—the risk was almost 20% higher than the safest level. If you don’t know, a 12-ounce can of non-diet soda contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar or about 140 calories. US government dietary guidelines issued in 2010 say “empty” calories including those from added sugars should account for no more than 15% of total daily calories. Despite this, there is no universal consensus on how much sugar is too much.

Researchers focused on sugar added to processed foods or drinks, or sprinkled in coffee or cereal. Many “regular” foods have added sugar, including many brands of packaged bread, tomato sauce and salad dressing. Naturally occurring sugar, in fruit and some other foods, wasn’t counted.

“Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick,” said Laura Schmidt, a health policy specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. And says Dr. Jonathan Purnell, a professor at Oregon Health & Science University’s Knight Cardiovascular Institute, that while the research doesn’t prove “sugar can cause you to die of a heart attack”, it adds to a growing body of circumstantial evidence suggesting that limiting sugar intake can lead to healthier, longer lives.

sugar damageYes I will step out on limb here and say that sugar might be one of if not the major factor in the high incidence of CVD in western society. Heart disease has risen right along with the prevalence of adding sugar to everything from snacks to “staples,” and my observation in doctor school was that, along with tobacco and alcohol, sugar led to the greatest damage to human physiology. Not just heart disease, but diabetes, vascular disease, liver damage, ocular disease, kidney disease…and the list goes on and on.

We have been chasing one dead end after another when it comes to causes of heart disease, including the current favorite: elevated cholesterol. But despite a few modest improvements, heart disease remains the number one killer in the US. Well can we please start looking a little harder at sugar now, then? Duh—even with regard to the obesity epidemic, sugar is not taken as seriously as some other far reaching theories like genetics and hormones. C’mon

drugs cocaine

Drugs cocaine and sugar equally hard to kick

Listen, many of us that think about health regularly have suspected sugar as major detriment to health for a long time. I can tell you from my own experience that significantly reducing sugar from my diet (I’m not 100%)—which I did almost five years ago—was harder than quitting smoking or drugs/alcohol. The stuff is mega-addictive! Processed foods with massive amounts of hidden sugar are some of the most popular dishes in America, so it isn’t too hard to see why most are getting unhealthy amounts of sugar in their daily intake (the average American consumes forty four pounds of sugar per year).

And don’t think cold hard cash isn’t a factor in our delayed approach to looking at sugar, either. The sugar cartel is huge and powerful. You don’t get embedded into the world food supply at random. So really no surprises there…but really you don’t have to be another casualty. If you didn’t know before, you do now—sugar is a killer. Give it up today (or mostly, like me), and I can almost guarantee that by tomorrow (okay maybe over the next few months) you won’t miss it at all.

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