Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Toxic soup

I’ve noticed a propensity I have for blaming myself if something goes wrong with my body.  Particularly, I zero in on eating habits, exercise habits and the like.  And you know, that often IS a big part of the problem.  But this book I’m reading now, The Ultra Mind Solution: The Simple Way to Defeat Depression, Overcome Anxiety, and Sharpen Your Mind by Mark Hyman,  M.D., while supporting that as an essential factor to look at in disease, is also calling to mind external causes and internal causes over which we have no control – our genetic makeup.

This book is truly fascinating – broadening my perspective in so many ways and providing clear antidotes to the issues raised.

Example:  “Researchers from the Free University of Berlin discovered a new virus called Bornavirus found in the limbic system (or emotional center) of the brain in 30 percent of the population.  One in six people who carry the virus have depression and can be cured by treatment with short-term anti-viral medication.  Think about it: a virus can cause depression and treating the virus can cure, not just reduce the symptoms of, depression.  Even the best antidepressant drugs don’t’ cure depression.”- p. 181

In the chapter I read last night on detoxification Dr. Hyman gave an example of a patient named George who had 4 different gene abnormalities, all of which impaired the ability of the body to detoxify heavy metals.  That’s the loaded gun – the genetic predisposition.  George couldn’t do anything to change the loaded gun.  However, it was George’s environment – his exposure to mercury (among other ways through the fillings in his teeth) that pulled the trigger.

The great news for George – and for us, really – is that Dr. Hyman’s 7 steps towards ultra wellness and specific herbs, vitamins, nutritional recommendations, et al – provided a way for George’s body to clear the heavy overdose of mercury. 

By the way, George got to Dr. Hyman because of early onset dementia.  After clearing the mercury from his body he was able to resume a normal life.

So for Puritanical Diane who assumes all problems are from the other causes Dr. Hyman calls out (nutrition, etc.) it is eye-opening to consider that the toxic soup we all live in could be contributing to any malaise I might be having. For instance, almost every year since I’ve lived in my upscale Chicago suburb, we get a notice from the EPA about the heavy metals, including arsenic, in our water.  It always says “but this water is safer for human consumption.” Uh, yeah.

So, on my next doctor visit, I’m going to ask for some blood tests for heavy metals in the spirit of ‘can’t hurt, could help’.  And I’m forging ahead with the positive changes I continue to make in caring for my body/mind.

What’s your take?  Do you believe that our genes doom us to ill-health?  That it’s “luck” or “just the way it is”?  Do you  depend on drugs to save you if “bad luck” sends disease your way?  Or do you prefer Dr. Hyman’s approach?  As always, I really want to know!



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I haven’t written a book review in awhile and that’s mostly because my brain seems to be on summer vacation – lots of Words with Friends and magazines at night rather than reading. But I recently picked up a copy of Mark Hyman’s  2010 book The UltraMind Solution: The Simple Way to Defeat Depression, Overcome Anxiety, and Sharpen Your Mind.

My primary health care person, Lisa Decatorsmith of Healing Traditions of Barrington, had recommended Dr. Hyman’s Ultra Metabolism book to me a few years ago.  I read it and liked it and incorporated a lot of what he suggested at that time.  So when I saw this book I was intrigued.

I’m about 200 pages into it (about half way through) and it’s really good!  His evidence-based writing about the effects of various vitamins and minerals was so compelling that it got me into action about being more diligent about taking vitamins. 

He has compelling evidence on the perniciousness of sugar, which is really pushing me towards eliminating it entirely – I’m not there yet, but getting closer….

I’ve long believed that much of what we consider “our genes” or “bad luck” is, in fact, bad lifestyle choices.  I have believed that we have way more control over our physical health than most people seem to think.

But it’s intriguing to read about how much our lifestyle choices affect things like dementia, Alzheimer’s, forgetfulness that we associate with aging, or “mood disorders” such as depression, anxiety.  He makes a strong case that even things that I believed were intractable – bipolar disorder, autism, ADHD – can be ameliorated with nutrition, exercise and the like.

He believes, as I do, that people aren’t born with a Prozac deficiency (just as we aren’t born with a Lipitor deficiency). 

I’m very intrigued by this book and you’ll be hearing more about it – with quotes – from me.

How about you?  Have you read The Ultra Mind solution?  Have you seen changes in your cognition or moods based on what you eat, how much you sleep, the exercise  you get?  I know for me, on the infrequent times I have suffered from depression exercise is 100% guaranteed to alleviate it.  I’m curious to hear your stories!  As always, I really want to know!

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Pretty gloomy day here in Chicago yesterday.  And I’m ready to be back at work yet right livelihood hasn’t appeared exactly to the minute on my timetable.  I was feeling pretty glum.

My grandma said “if you’re unhappy, pick up your broom.”  My spiritual path teaches that the way out of our self-absorbed unhappiness is to be of service to others.  So after I painted a door in my basement (“pick up your broom”) I called my friend Kay and asked if she wanted to go visit our friend Ann.

About a month ago Ann, who had a serious stroke 14 years ago, was on her way to a medical appointment with her husband Tom.  They had a head-on car accident and Tom was killed.  Ann’s ‘bad’ leg (the one the stroke left impaired) was crushed.  The stroke left her unable to care for herself – Tom has been doing that.  Her fate is pretty up in the air right now and her day-to-day looks very hard.

We hope our visit was of some cheer to Ann – Kay and I remarked how it didn’t exactly lift our low spirits but that we were very glad we went.

Still feeling glum, I called my best friend who reminded me that walking always helps my disposition.  While on my walk, I got a call from my friend Caryn who reported that her new chemotherapy is working – her cancer cells are WAY down.

That’s when it all came together for me:”

“It’s all right
Even if the sun don’t shine
…happy just to be here
happy to be alive…”

Each morning when I awaken, my initial prayer includes gratitude for my good health and asking God for good health for today.

Kay and I had reflected on our car ride back how lucky we are to drive, to open our water bottle by ourselves, to walk into the house unaided, etc.

I forget that.  I forget how totally blessed I am to have robust good health.  Yes, I focus on health and try to ‘do the next right thing’ – but honestly? Ann probably did too.  Some of it is just ‘luck’/’chance’/being abundantly blessed.

So today, no matter what happens, it’s a GREAT day thanks to the tremendous blessing of health.  I am so grateful, I am so blessed!

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Slaying shibboleths?

“A shibboleth is a custom, principle, or belief distinguishing a particular class or group of people, especially a long-standing one regarded as outmoded or no longer important.” – Wikipedia

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon lately.  When I post articles on Facebook that challenge the drug industry I almost always get immediate feedback saying, essentially, ‘you’re wrong, drugs are helpful.’

What’s interesting about this is that it doesn’t map to the point of the articles.  If I only posted “drugs are BAD – do not take them ever” articles this response would make sense.

Here’s two recent examples.

  1. ADHD Drugs lose effectiveness over time.  (I don’t think this was the EXACT article I posted about on Facebook, but I believe the one I had linked to this one).  The point of the article was that these drugs, effective at first, lose efficacy over time, and, given their side-effects, may be a bad choice because of that.  I got very negative feedback on this from people saying “these drugs helped me” or “these drugs helped my kids” — when the point was never “they don’t help” but they stop being effective
  2. Cocktail of popular drugs may cloud brain.  The point of this article was that people, most especially the elderly, can have brain fog:  “Called anticholinergics, the drugs block the action of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, sometimes as a direct action, but often as a side effect. Acetylcholine is a chemical messenger with a range of functions in the body, memory production and cognitive function among them.”  It went on to say that these anticholinergics are present in a wide variety of very common drugs and over the counter medications and the danger isn’t in taking one such medication, but from multiple medications.  In posting the article I wrote “think that’s why I’m relatively healthy – I take no prescriptions and virtually no over the counter – NOT taking drugs keeps me healthy, imho.  Have a read – what do YOU think?”  One of my friends responded that ‘some medications can save lives.’

I have strong opinions (have you noticed) and I have a passionate interest in health and in politics.  I would assume my political postings could annoy people as much as my health postings, but they never generate the firestorm that my health-related postings do.

I recognize that while my “anti-Big-Pharma” stance is partially based simply on the facts, it is clouded by emotion in that I feel that doctors and their drugs were major contributors to my mother’s lifelong health issues and ultimate death.  My family, by the way, probably does not agree with me on that – but that’s how I feel.

So I’m sure the emotional tinge to my postings probably does not help in my message.

But I think there’s more to it.

It seems to me that this ‘drug/no-drug’ issue is part of the big shift that’s happening now.  It’s my belief that the old order is beginning to die away and those attached to it are not happy about it.

It has also struck me at times that people don’t read the article in question – and I get that.  I know I have done that too – put in my two cents without reading the entire article in question.  I’m going to change that – I’m not going to allow myself to add my two cents about something without having first read/listened to/watched the item in question.

I’m doing some self-examination as well on my own openness to new ideas.  I really AM passionate about health, and it is my belief that I’m open to the debunking of theories I’ve espoused when I see new evidence that proves my beliefs wrong.  I’m after good health, a long and healthy and happy life – if my outdated beliefs are preventing that, I change them.  That’s at least how I see it – I’ll follow-up with my close friends to see what their opinion is.

How about you?  What role do YOU think drugs should have in health care?  Primary?  Part of an overall regime?  Used only as a last resort?

What triggers you and why (as in my anger at Big Pharma and where it came from)?

And what sacred cows are you loathe to examine or get rid of?

Not just with health either – I really want to know about the shibboleths in YOUR life!

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One of the pages I follow on Facebook is Mother Jones magazine.  They have progressive, thought-provoking content.  Yesterday they had an interactive tool on their magazine’s web site – Is Your Food Spending Normal?  I’m a sucker for these types of quizzes.  I also am competitive – I like to win.  So (insert frowny face here) I was at first bummed at seeing that I, picturing myself as Ms. Frugal (I am Scottish and Dutch, after all, nationalities touted for frugality) spends too much on food.

The me who can be negative and judgmental had a little snippy remark to self about comparing checkbook size and waist size.  But then I thought “Oh wait! Create Positive Change!  How can I make this into a GOOD story?”

While I am the first to admit that my food expenditures are not just on apples, broccoli and cod, and that Ms. No-to-Big-Corporations has a robust Starbucks addiction going, I DO think that eating high quality, nutritious food is part of the reason why I spend more —- on Food.

On health care?  not so much.

And I think there’s a correlation.  I had asked my friend Kay, when she worked as a nurse in our local hospital, what percentage of people were in the hospital due to lifestyle factors as opposed to genetics or accidents.  At that point she said something like “over 75%”.  When she and I discussed this again last week, she said she thinks it is well over 90%. This 2005 article “Only 3 percent of Americans live a healthy lifestyle” would seem to substantiate that.  Some common diseases caused by lifestyle (nutrition, exercise, smoking) are outlined in this recent Livestrong article.  And though this article is from 2003, I suspect the depressing facts and figures on how obesity contributes to health and health care spending have gotten more depressing, not less.

I could provide a million links, but you get my point.  As I’ve written here before, when people point out that it costs money to eat healthfully, I always say that I’d rather spend money now on good food than later on cancer or diabetes care.

Does eating healthfully guarantee that I won’t develop heart disease, cancer, diabetes or other lifestyle-related leading causes of death?  No, life does not come with guarantees other than death itself.  But if articles like this one are correct (and if you read just ONE link from today’s blog, make it this one) you can save lots of money for yourself – and the government (as you may well get these diseases once you’re on Medicare – the effects of bad choices often take a few decades to kick in).

So – the Create Positive Change me DOES need to look at some of the unhealthy food choices I make with all that excessive spending (can I justify a Snickers bar?  I’m thinking no.  The Starbucks, however, shall remain).  But I can feel good about the choices I make  – food, my gym membership, even reading Prevention magazine to stay motivated – that are helping me save money – both now and in the future – on health care.

How about you?  How did you do on MoJo’s “Is Your Food Spending Normal” quiz?  Do you feel okay about the results?  Or do you need to make some changes?  I really want to know!

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