Currently viewing the tag: "symptoms"

A funny thing happened on the way to the 2020s. Our TV-filled minds and soda-soaked bodies got spun in a real life episode of Black Mirror. I have been writing this blog since 2007, and the primary theme for most of those years has been “mind your health.” I approached this mission from a number of angles. I stressed:

  • Be mindful of your self-care: watch what you eat, move regularly, balance your activities with rest, balance your perceptions to minimize volatilities, address your pain, and minimize toxins
  • Be hygienic and do not be petrified of pathogens. Focus more on your immune function than on any germ
  • See symptoms as your body doing its job, and think of “illness” as an opportunity
  • Keep challenging yourself physically and mentally for continuous conditioning and adaptation

My way, especially in the early years, was to pound that message into my audience, over and over again, perhaps changing the scenario or details of the story, but keeping the main points the same, always. I am big on universals.

It’s also important to be rational – that is, not have expectations that fall outside of reality. Unfortunately, it seems to be the folly of the human mind to place hope in the irrational. While the trait is widespread among us all, it generally operates beneath our awareness. A common expression of this trait is we want to save or eradicate one thing or another – many of which are simply a reality of this world and are neither savable nor eradicatable.

Take death for example. Everyone will tell you that they accept death, and they do, in the long run, without exception. However, when one takes the time to actually think about and assess our underlying views: collectively, people believe we should save life and prevent death at all costs. Our medical system runs with this as its fundamental purpose, and public opinion is often aligned with this sentiment: Nobody should die.

HealthyPreventCovidDeath3I do not believe this is a bad view. We should want to prevent death in others, particularly our loved ones, because it is a distinctively human trait. We do not need to change the things that make us beautiful as humans. But it does help in keeping bigger events in perspective when we are frank with ourselves. For instance, in accepting that all dynamical events (events moving through time) involving a life form come with an inherent probability of death. In other words, death is a part of life. There is death everywhere, and in everything there is a way to die. We might die from something we enjoy and we might die from something we don’t. There is no predicting it at all, not if you allow nature to be the director.

And, of course, that means the world will have death. We tend to perceive large scale, high probability death events as horrific: War, natural disaster, disease – all tragic, all unnecessary, all regretful. Naturally, as humans we wish to eradicate them all. It would seem absurd, of course, to most of us for the hope of the abolition of natural disasters. There isn’t a soul who fails to get that we have no control over the elements of nature. Yet, surely, the other two are controllable. War and illness are large-scale dynamic events very similar to what we might consider “natural” phenomena. But human developments are no less natural in how they flow through time, with human decision-making and action leading to an unfolding of events not under individual control. While collaborative efforts can, and certainly do, affect outcomes, they mostly contribute to the flow and unfolding of events more than they “alter” history, as we often perceive, and report on, our heroic efforts.

Understanding these “realities,” as I have already said, gives clarity to our ability to assess larger-scale phenomena. Take Covid-19, for instance: We have had nine-months, maybe longer, to observe and analyze the virus responsible, SARS-CoV-2. We have solid numbers now. Why are we acting irrationally in the face of the facts?

For nine months, I have read, listened, watched Congressional hearings on, discussed and cross-referenced this pandemic. I have heard many arguments on a few different sides, and the conclusions always depend on who is doing the talking. Some people believe we are under-reacting; others believe we are going too far. Animosity is simmering and beginning to roll to a boil. Some have been willing to unleash their aggressions on those they think are either selfish or sheep, depending on their overall perspective. But is it warranted?

I think I have laid the groundwork for an argument which I believe stems from the human propensity to not want others to die. Most of us feel that way on one level or another; it’s understandable, and in my perspective, desirable and beautiful to want others to live. But on the other hand, it seems irrational to continue strict quarantine measures, when the numbers do not justify the reaction.

The two most fundamental characteristics of a pathogen are its contagiousness and its pathogenicity. A pathogen’s contagiousness is how quickly and readily it will spread among people. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a rapid spreader. This to me is the most relevant attribute of this virus. The pathogenicity of a microorganism is its ability to cause disease. A highly pathogenic organism can cause serious damage – to individuals, yes, but also to populations as a whole. If a pathogen is both highly contagious and highly virulent, there will be enormous death. Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of the bubonic plague, the Black Death, is contagious and highly virulent. If left untreated, the death rate for this pathogen is 70-100%. As a result, it led to the death of over a third of the population of Europe.

How virulent is SARS-CoV-2? As a novel virus – meaning, it is relatively new to us – we could only estimate early on the virus’ pathogenicity, to which we then attributed a death rate. Now, understandably, in the first few months of the pandemic, we estimated high. The numbers were not large enough to approach the mean, and without a doubt, it was wise to be safe over sorry. Death rate [or infection fatality rate more accurately (IFR)] is simply calculated:

# of deaths/# of cases

As we are now nine or more months into things, the numbers are large enough that we can assume we are approximating the mean (or average). The U.S. death rate, then, using the most current numbers (as of December 17, 2020):

311,000/17,300,000 = 0.018 or 1.8% (approximately 1 in 50)

Studies like this one estimate that the actual SARS-CoV-2 infections is anywhere from 3-20 times higher than current confirmed cases. At the low end that would make the death rate

311,000/51,900,000 = .0059 or .59% (approximately 1 in 200)

At the high end

311,000/346,000,000 = .00089 or .09% (less than 1 in 1000)

Deaths-by-Age-Group-ChartFurther, approximately 40% of all U.S. deaths have been in nursing homes. If we were to remove the 100,000 nursing home deaths from the numbers above, the death rate would look like this:

211,000/17,200,000 = 0.012 or 1.2% (approximately 1 in 100)
211,000/51,800,000 = .0040 or .40% (approximately 1 in 250)

211,000/345,900,000 = .00061 or .06% (approximately 1 in 2000)

Seen from another angle, the number of people who have been infected and who have survived is as high as 1,999 of every 2,000.

This study from September 2020, estimates the infection fatality rate as .28-.31%, or roughly 3 deaths in every 1,000 infections, and according to some experts the actual death rate [case fatality ratio (CFR)] is closer to 0.02% (that’s 1 in every 5,000).

More importantly, and the real point I wish to make, is that 94% of deaths reported have had associated comorbidities, in other words, underlying health issues. Does this mean that only 6% actually died of Covid-19? No but what it does mean, though, is that people who have underlying illnesses are at a greater risk of dying from Covid-19. Well I’ve got news for you: People who have underlying illnesses are at a greater risk of dying, period. I have been trying to get this point across for going on two decades now. When will people get it? And the vast majority of underlying illnesses today are lifestyle related – that means they are PREVENTABLE! Some of the most common comorbidities associated with Covid-19 deaths are influenza and pneumonia, respiratory failure, hypertensive disease, diabetes, cardiac arrest, heart or renal failure, and obesity.

HealthyPreventCovidDeathBelieve it or not, every one of these Covid-19 death associated illnesses can be minimized by adopting healthy lifestyle habits. It’s amazing how many people get angry at me for stating this fact, that they could actually improve their health, improve their lives, and minimize illness and suffering by practicing simple healthy habits. Eating well, exercising, stretching, sleeping well, addressing emotional stresses, addressing physical pains and injuries wisely, and keeping the drugs, alcohol, and other medications to moderate levels will significantly impact your life for the better. These are simple actions that everyone can adopt, but the reality is that only a small percentage of the population actually does so. People, in general, want easy fixes, which just do not exist in the realm of health and wellness. Fixes which appear to be quick and easy (and that includes many surgeries) almost always come with unwanted consequences (aka side effects). Dying of Covid-19 is one of them.

Listen, the numbers do not lie. What makes things uncertain for the masses is the volume of different interpretations. Granted most people wish to be safe over sorry – I both get that and agree with it. However, you cannot leave your health to chance and then expect a different outcome. It is not too late for the vast majority of people. I have come to understand that only a small portion of the population will heed my words. This article is for YOU – the person who recognizes the wisdom in what I say. Do highly virulent pathogens exist? Yes. Is SARS-CoV-2 that pathogen? Not by the numbers, it isn’t. Despite hearing for months that the death rate would climb to its more accurate number, it hasn’t gone up at all – it has gone down, and in my opinion it will prove to be even lower. Does this mean we should take it lightly? NO! Do the right things for yourself and your family (what you teach them today becomes habit tomorrow). That has always been my message and it will continue to be so – it is universal.

When giving health talks I usually ask, “What is health?”  I am amazed at some of the answers that seem to come up again and again.  The most common is disease or symptom free.  This answer comes up so frequently that, obviously, it’s what most people think, if they think about it at all.  Unfortunately, this definition or belief is probably what guides these people in their health decisions, whether consciously or not; and approaching health from this angle won’t always lead to wise choices.

The truth is that symptoms actually are health.  Think of your common cold symptoms–runny nose, sneezing, coughing, congested sinuses, fever, and night sweats.  Each one of these has a role to play in fighting the infecting organism:

  • Runny nosemucous membranes in the nasal passages and nasopharynx (orifice connecting nasal passages to the throat) release a thick, sticky substance that carries away microorganisms which have tried to infiltrate this primary entrance to our internal environment.  Think of mucus as quicksand or mud in a mudslide–nothing will escape.
  • Sneeze–a powerful blast of air, saliva, lacrimal secretions (tears) and mucus taking out anything and everything in its path.  Microorganisms entering the mouth, nose or pharynx are sneeze-blasted the heck out of there.  Consider a sneeze your body’s internal tornado, just worse.
  • Cough–similar to a sneeze, just clearing out the lungs, bronchi and oropharynx, as well as the nose and mouth.  We’ll call the cough the body’s internal hurricane–not a dang thing left unshaken; and during a coughing fit–fuggedaboutitcategory 5 cyclone!
  • Congested sinuses–infections or any other irritants, including allergens, can lead to swelling of the mucous membranes; as membranes swell, they close off the nasal passages.  Essentially, sinus congestion is the Royal Guard–try getting in, go ahead…try.
  • Fever–heats the body to incinerator temperatures, much higher than in what microorganisms can survive.  Fever is Death Valley for germs.
  • Night sweats–heat and sweat flush the external barriers out, so the skin, scalp and orifices are like a hot, wet boiler room.  Consider night sweats a monsoon for microbes.

You can see that each one of these symptoms is the body’s way of protecting itself.  And every illness/disease has associated symptoms to return the body to homeostasis.*  So why associate symptoms with sickness?

It’s because historically–at least over the last 80 years or so–medical care has focused on relieving symptoms.  OK, that’s nothing new–we all know that.  However, it is the reason why so many people still see the presence or absence of symptoms as the definitions of illness and health.  But I assure you what most consider illness actually is health.  Any questions?

*Or in the case of the body being overloaded by disease (AIDS, let’s say), it’s the body’s attempt to return to homeostasis.  Whether or not the body can return to homeostasis is the true difference between illness and health.

A reader has asked me to explain that if I don’t believe ADD/ADHD is a disorder, then what do I believe it to be?  This is a complex question because it requires an understanding of history, politics and human dynamics.  I’m going to attempt a concise explanation here that, hopefully, will bring a new understanding to a controversial health issue that may never be solved due to its ubiquitous nature as a component of the human mind.

So I’ve set out to uncover ADD/ADHD piece by piece in this blog over the next two weeks.  I’ll discuss how the “disorder” got its start, the belief system that gives it life, some neurological facts, and discuss why ADD remains a controversial topic, despite “most health care providers accept ADHD as a genuine disorder.”  We’ll investigate a new way of approaching what people call the symptoms of ADD, and we’ll look deep into why the current medical treatment for ADD is counter-productive and harmful.

Before we begin, let’s define some terms.  Since ADD and ADHD are essentially the same thing with a hyperactivity component to the latter, I will refer to both together as ADD.  If a distinction needs to be made, then I will do so.

Let it be understood that I am in no way advocating people on ADD medications to stop taking them.  These pharmaceuticals are serious and must be discontinued under the supervision of a medical doctor.  These post are for informational purposes only.  They are not intended, nor are they to be relied upon, as a diagnostic tool, professional medical advice regarding diagnosis or treatment, or a substitute for a professional medical diagnosis, opinion or suggested course of treatment by a qualified health care professional.  We assume no responsibility for what you do with the information contained.

Stay tuned.


Have you ever heard somebody say, “I never get sick?” Or the nonsensical equivalent, “I haven’t been sick in three years (five years, ten years, whatever).” Now is that really possible? I think those that say it have little or no understanding of human physiology.

The human immune system has evolved to distinguish self from non-self, normal and healthy metabolites from foreign invaders. When the immune system encounters a foreign substance, it goes through a cascade of responses that include humoral, cell-mediated, and non-specific immune processes. Our bodies essentially create symptoms (those things most people consider as being sick, but of which I’ll argue is really health) to fight various insults to the body, including microorganisms, toxins, and many cancers. Inflammation itself is a healing process.

To say one never gets sick in the layman’s term (and only a layman would say such a thing), means one never experiences symptoms. To say one never experiences symptoms would either mean the person never encounters a foreign substance (they must live in a plastic bubble), or she has zero healthy response to foreign invaders. Would this be healthy? Would this be possible?

Since I’ve never personally recorded a someone’s health/non-illness status who makes this claim, I have no idea if it really exists, although I’ve certainly explained why I doubt it. If it truly does exist, then I would say to that person, “Watch out–your body’s lack of healthful immune response means that it’s not doing the job it has evolved to.” It is virtually impossible for any human being to not encounter foreign pathogens. Sorry.

Interestingly, allergies are on the rise in developed countries including the U.S. One hypothesis, which I consider highly plausible, is that our drive to never encounter foreign substances (or in other words, our attempt at “never being sick”) through hyper-cleanliness and hyper-vaccination leads to an under-stimulated immune system. Preventing normal/natural exposure to dirt, germs or pathogens causes our immune system to get “bored.” As a result, the immune system begins to attack itself causing allergies (and other auto-immune disorders). This is called the hygiene hypothesis, and is merely one of many hypotheses trying to explain the increased incidence of allergies.

We have evolved an immune system for a reason–the world is filled with opportunistic organisms fighting to survive like every living thing. Our immune system is our natural defense that has allowed us to live in a dangerous world for millions of years. To suggest that one has transcended human evolution by taking supplements, exercising or any other reason people use to tell the world how healthy they are, is complete folly. It warrants a reminder: The expression of symptoms is health–therefore, no illness, no health.

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