Welcome to the next exciting edition of my Self-Care Challenge! Feel free to follow along in the Health Storylines app that I use to journal my progress. Or let me know about your progress below in the comments. (There are a few advantages to using an app to track your progress, which I’ll reference below.)
This time I am focusing on nutrition — specifically, nutrition and weight management.
As you may know from following my blog or my social media posts (links in the right column of this page), I lost a fair amount of weight in February. Being down over 20 pounds as a result of radiation to my intestines and then a bout of the stomach flu took quite a toll on me. Not only did I look a lot different, but I felt weak and, of course, my clothes no longer fit me — not even my “skinny” clothes. Fortunately, I started regaining some of that weight quickly and managed to put on about ten of the lost pounds within a couple of weeks. Continue reading Self-Care Challenge #2: Nutrition→
Here’s a thought that needs to be considered. Since the United States is not doing its part to fight global climate change, nature will not be able to keep up. This REQUIRES us to be open-minded about the advantages science offers to help our species adapt. Science-denial is one of the biggest reasons we are in this mess, but science can help mitigate the damage if it is embraced and supported in a reasonable, methodical and pro-active manner. One of the areas that must be re-evaluated by many is the use of GMO crops.
There is overwhelming evidence from unbiased sources that show the safety of these crops, many of which are modified explicitly to be able to grow under hotter and drier conditions, or in soil that would not otherwise support proper plant development. Already, without the use of GMO crops, it would be difficult to keep up with the food production needs of the planet. Within the next decade, there is little doubt left that human food will be largely reliant upon GMO crops for minimum sustainability. I propose that it is time to look at the science objectively and stop reacting to fear-based marketing that mostly just serves alternative health websites and their advertisers or overpriced processed food manufacturers.
In the spirit of an interview I will be conducting tomorrow on Critical Thinking, I invite you to check your confirmation bias before reading the link below. Now, more than ever, this is becoming an essential skill, especially in the age of social media and 10,000 clicks per second “information” sharing.
Also essential is the ability to differentiate legitimate viewpoints from pure nonsense. (“Nonsense” would be any argument for the existence of chemtrails, for example.) A “legitimate” viewpoint always requires two things: clear logic and reliable sources. This is an incredibly low bar, but people, it seems, are often inclined to stoop much lower.
As a disclaimer, I buy a lot of organic food. But not because I think it is safer or healthier. I am much more inclined to buy LOCAL, which has a greater positive impact than organic and often tastes better, too, though I am fortunate enough to live in an area where much of the local is organic, if that is what I am looking for. But I have also talked with people who source organic for their products about why sometimes they specifically choose non-organic, not the least reason being that it is often ethically superior and more environmentally friendly NOT to be organic. Organizations like the EWG (Environmental Working Group) tend to only tell a distorted part of the story, and they certainly present data from a heavily skewed perspective (we expect this from corporate mouthpieces for Big Agriculture, and the EWG is no different — it is just a corporate propaganda arm for the organic foods industry).
But, like I said, if you can, let go of your confirmation bias. Assume that what you “feel” isn’t necessarily true. Assume that you are wrong, or at least only partially right, and that maybe you will find something to fill in the blanks and help you arrive at a reasonable conclusion. It’s good practice. We all need it. Only an exercised skill stays sharp and critical thinking is no different.
Read this article by Steven Savage and feel free to come back here and comment.
One of the great wedges used by the anti-medical and anti-science proponents of these alternative treatments is the suggestion that the mainstream medical community cannot be trusted because they are all about the profits and not about actually curing disease. The suggestion is that Big Pharma is something of a shadow organization, bribing doctors and hospitals in order to maximize their corporate wealth — and there is just enough truth to thatfor it to be believable. The conspiracy generally lumps in a wide range of health practitioners, insinuating that MDs are systemically part of the problem and that anyone who speaks out against potentially deadly alternatives is automatically a shill for pharmaceutical companies. I get that one leveled at me from time to time, in spite of the fact that I advocate for a well-rounded and well-researched approach to personal care.
As the alternative crowd is fond of saying, if you want to know who to trust, you should follow the money. See what any particular site has to gain for spreading its message and, when possible, look at personal motivations from the authors. I have been fairly transparent in this regard, but perhaps I could go farther with my history. I am no “True Believer” in the medical establishment, at least not insofar as I put blind faith in doctors to automatically do what is right and best for every patient. I do think that most doctors genuinely try and that they believe they offer the best solutions. But I have also witnessed patients being treated like cattle, given no real consideration, and pushed toward drugs or treatments they probably neither needed not benefited from. And I fervently believe that my own father was pushed toward an early death by being overly and improperly medicated by too many “specialists” who failed to communicate with one another or fully attempt an understanding of what was going on with his health. Continue reading The Truth About the Truth About Cancer – Myth of the Wellness Warrior Part 3→
I was going to title this post “Why I Love Parabens.” I had been reading up on them lately for a number of reasons, mostly surrounding a largely unfounded controversy surrounding a type of lip balm my daughter had been using. In the case of the lip balm, the “paraben-free” product was being accused of harboring mold with the implication being that this was a manufacturing defect. Examination of the claims revealed, however, that the mold was most likely the result of misuse or poor storage of the product which, due to the lack of effective preservatives, would be expected to mold if it was exposed to moisture and kept in the dark. This does, however, beg the question as to why a lip balm, of all things, would be sold without effective preservatives to protect against mold.
The answer, of course, is the unwarranted vilification of parabens. The natural cosmetics industry, and perhaps more accurately the Environmental Working Group and other activist organizations have been disseminating information about parabens for over a decade now, describing how they are endocrine disruptors and probably cause cancer. And this is where we get to the point of where science is occluded by hype, to the detriment of the consumer, the patient, the regular person on the street…Continue reading Parabens, Fear and Junk Science→
I’ve heard a lot lately about fears that a conspiracy is being perpetrated by the pharmaceutical industry and the government to keep natural cancer cures (and natural or holistic care in general) away from patients. It makes for a dramatic story with lots of Hollywood appeal, but examining the accusations leads down a more insidious path. To get there and understand the full extent of the problem, we need to step back and look at a range of sub-industries within the healthcare umbrella, what they provide and how they intertwine. We also need to understand some basics about statistics and probability that will clarify what some of the facts surrounding this conspiracy really mean. [And when you are done reading this, please continue on with the next chapter in this ongoing series.]
Supplementing the Truth
To begin with, let’s examine the hugely profitable supplements industry (mentioned in Forbes’ SportsMoney column as one of the fastest growing industries in the world). “Natural health” advocates and self-proclaimed gurus often have their own supplement brands which they sell as part of treatment plans pushed on their web sites, or they have affiliate arrangements with a brand that they offer as being somehow superior to other brands. The supplement industry has grown from the notion that manufactured (or synthetic) vitamins could be used to supplement areas in the diet where a person was not able to consume adequate quantities to be healthy. In an indirect way, it can be traced back hundreds of years to the discovery that citrus fruit — particularly lemons — could prevent sailors from getting scurvy. It turned out that scurvy was a disease caused by a Vitamin C deficiency. By “supplementing” this vitamin, the disease could be avoided. Continue reading Myth of the Wellness Warrior, Part 2: Supplements, Denial and the Birthday Problem→
The World Health Organization recently released an important report about the cancer risks associated with eating processed meat in general and red meat in particular. The report itself, as I have commented, is quite valid and important when we discuss how overall health and dietary habits impact both the healthy population and cancer patients, alike. But does this mean our lunch is going to give us cancer? If we eat a meat sandwich to get us through the day, are we causing irreparable harm? As with most nutritional issues, we need to look at this from a less simplistic point of view and a focus on moderation.
To begin with, let us discuss the sandwich model by creating the model sandwich.
We get some insight from the WHO report about the populations that are most adversely affected by processed and red meat consumption. It has long been know that eating habits hold a lot of sway when it comes to healthy issues, cancer among them. And one of the most important places we see increases in disease is among the obese. There is a strong correlation between obesity and a high consumption of processed foods, including inexpensive meats such as hot dogs, lunch meat, salami, etc. What there is not a frequent correlation to, however, is an equal intake of vegetables and fruit, fresh or otherwise. Fiber plays a strong role in our digestive system, without which we are much more prone to a range of maladies. And fresh fruits and vegetables are nutritionally dense compared to processed foods, offering vitamins and minerals that are necessary for bodies to function properly, maintain good immune support and otherwise keep us in good health. Continue reading Worried That Your Sandwich Will Cause Cancer?→
Let’s put the Cannabis Cancer Cure into some perspective.
If we face the facts, anyone purveying hemp oil or cannabis as a cancer cure is either willfully ignorant of the facts or is delusional about its proven effects. While certain cannabinoids or other chemicals found in the cannabis certainly show promise for potential cancer treatments, thus far the only valid studies have occurred in Petri dishes or grafted animal tumors. And there is one insidious fact left out of the claims proliferating across the Inter Webs.
That’s right, the same chemical components that appear to kill or slow the progression of some cancer cells have also been shown to speed the growth of other cancer cells. There is a matter of dosing, too: some doses help reduce tumors while other doses will actually cause progression. And this is still in a highly controlled lab dish setting. Getting those doses correct through the filter of individual human metabolism could be a disaster, if it even works at all. Continue reading The Cannabis Cancer Cure Explained→
Aside from my ever diminishing veins, the infusions during maintenance continue to be easy and relaxing. I guess I am lucky in that way — I know people who have different cocktails that they have various reactions to, from rash to fever to nausea on one end and flat out groggy sleep on the other. During these Alimta cycles, I am in and out fairly quickly and my biggest complaint is not having enough time here with the heated massage chair and my morning coffee to, uh, get any real work done…
Two infusions ago this chemo drug appeared to really mess with my digestive system, but it cleared up just in time for my scheduled CT scan and did not recur with the following round. The assumption now is that I simply caught a stomach bug that lingered for a couple weeks. The whole repressed immunity thing has been on my mind lately, and not just because what probably should have been a 24 hour virus took me 14 times longer to purge from my system.
Although the ensuing three weeks were relatively symptom-free (steroids make me irritable, mess up my sleep for three or four days and make me an emotional raw nerve; the chemotherapy wreaks havoc with my joyous time travel into the land of teenage acne, but even these things seemed to lessen somewhat), the issue of immunity and, more specifically herd immunity, was thrust back front and center when we brought a new kitten home from the pound. Continue reading The Chemo Diaries: More Summer Fun→
Please note, this is Part One of a series. Click here to jump to Part Two or follow the link at the end of this post. Part Two contains some very important information that greatly expands upon some of what is raised here.
Somehow I managed to miss the name Candice-Marie Fox when I was going through earlier research on foods that are claimed to cure cancer, of which her pineapple diet ranks as one of the more ludicrous. Through the grapevine, I learned of this diet yesterday and immediately I wanted to find out if there was anything plausible about it. Certainly, pineapple is healthy to eat and it is often used for digestive issues due to its enzymatic activity, so I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt. Of course, I did not expect that there would be an actual cure in there, but maybe I could ascertain some actual benefits to the diet that transcended my initial skepticism. I was excited about this possibility; less so about discovering one more person preparing to cash in on a faux cure.
A quick Google search brought up hundreds of articles online about how this woman, Candice-Marie Fox, a former model (always in the lead of the story), beat “Stage 3” or “Stage 4” (depending on the article) thyroid cancer by “ditching her husband” and eating a diet dominated by pineapple and other fruits. As is often the case in this sort of story, even as it is translated into multiple languages, the text is almost identical from web site to web site. And most of those articles can be traced back to a source in that British rag called the Daily Mail — not exactly a solid, investigative news source.
A few other “news” outlets picked the story up. It makes great click bait, after all. But fascinatingly, these actual news stories manage to get a whole bunch of facts wrong. Which is not surprising, as the former model herself seems to trip over her own facts many times, even in interviews on other web sites after her celebrity began to grow.