issue #17

All the News that Isn’t

All the News that Isn’t

News outlets – feeds, papers, and broadcasts – are constantly touting the latest medical breakthroughs, and it’s hard to know what to listen to, what and whose advice to take, especially given all the past bad – harmful! – recommendations we’ve gotten from the medical community, government, and information disseminators of all stripes. Like everything else, medical news is filtered through agendas, biases, and spin, while scientific results are difficult to evaluate – the studies themselves are often unavailable to the public, and if they are available the data and results need parsing and unpacking, sometimes mathematically. Conclusions are hard to draw, and recommendations hard to trust, for all these reasons.

There are several popular procedures and regimens that are discredited by follow-up studies and experiments, and by the hidden practices of the medical community.

I’ll start with calcium, because I’ve experienced first hand the one hundred and eighty degree turnaround in medical talking points about dietary supplementation. My gynecologist starting pushing calcium and vitamin D supplements when I was fifty, ostensibly to protect my bones as I aged. As someone with a deep background in science I was/am naturally skeptical and critical, so I read what literature I could find and decided instead to eat two servings of dairy a day, include weight-bearing exercise in my routine, and make sure to be in the sun for at least fifteen minutes. My doctor and I argued about it every visit, until I confronted him with a study that concluded there was no health benefit (preventing or repairing bone loss) for peri-menopausal women from calcium supplements – rather there were indications that it might even be harmful. Of course he agreed, but with no acknowledgement that previous recommendations were flawed. I still don’t take either vitamin D or calcium supplements (although I am reconsidering vitamin D for other reasons), and I have a new gynecologist. Here is a summary/analysis article about vitamin D and calcium research:
“Are guidelines for calcium and vitamin D rooted in evidence or vested interests?”1

If you are older than forty, you are probably familiar with the old “Food Pyramid” government dietary recommendation circa 1974 that pushed carbs, carbs, carbs, and limited fats. As it turns out, saturated fats in the diet are disputed as a cause of either high cholesterol in the blood or the associated heart disease. And carbohydrates – especially sugars and processed grains – are implicated, along with margarines made from trans-fats. Other fats are good for you. Oops. Have you heard the medical community backtracking convincingly? Media? The USDA has issued new guidelines replacing the original pyramid, but I’m not convinced they are founded in definitive research. As always, caveat emptor. I recommend that you investigate, to make sure you are eating what’s right for you. Here is an article from Scientific American, to get you started: “Rebuilding the Food Pyramid”2

More thought provoking information I’ve discovered falls into the category of Doctors Do Differently Than They Recommend. Physicians know the real efficacy and benefits of many sanctioned preventative procedures, and they opt out. But you know why they want you to do them – it’s an income source, and lawsuit protection. Here are a few interesting items about the ways in which doctors doctor themselves:

Female physicians do not get yearly or regular mammograms. What do they know that you don’t? Breast cancer is least likely to be discovered by mammogram – most women find lumps and other changes by physical exam (performed themselves or by a health care professional). And outcomes (to mean cancer survival rates) are not improved by the earlier detection mammograms may provide. So why subject yourself to a yearly dose of radiation – which is known to cause cancer? Doctors don’t, given the choice. So ask yourself, why should you? The stakes are really different though, if you have had breast or ovarian cancer, if either disease runs in your family, if you are of Ashkenazi descent, or if you have the BRCA genes. Know your risks, and proceed accordingly.

“Ask the doctors, not all women need a yearly mammogram”3

“When should women start regular mammograms? 40? 50? and how often is regular?”4

Female physicians of child-bearing age take birth control pills continually – they do not follow the protocol of three weeks on, and one week off to menstruate. Why? Because birth control pills simulate pregnancy, hormonally, and pregnancy is the best protection against female cancers of all kinds. Has any gynecologist ever recommended that regimen for you or your wife/daughter/sister/mother? Would your insurance company pay? Hmmmmm …

Doctors on average do not have colonoscopies. Why? Because colon cancer risk is high only for certain populations – those people with a family history, or other risk factors like Crohn’s disease or IBF. Canada’s health care system does not even cover screening colonoscopy for average populations.

“Canada rejects routine colonoscopy screening.”5

A few other common practices that are worth reconsidering, based on research, new and old: fish oil supplements, vitamin supplements, yearly physicals, daily mouthwash, probiotics, and sunscreen.

Really, I don’t want you to take my word for any of this, I want you to question and educate yourself instead. These sites do a fairly good job of explaining and vetting medical research:

• sciencebasedmedicine.org
• sciencedaily.com
• medscape.com

If you are keen on the details, here is a source research paper, with my analysis.

I find the best protection is to discuss issues I’ve researched with physicians, directly. If that makes you uncomfortable, you can always ask your doctor, “Is this what you’d recommend for your sister/mother/daughter/wife (father/brother/husband/son)? Do you follow this practice/regimen/protocol yourself?” “Why or why not?”

Wishing you the best of health!


 

What I Do (& Don’t)

What I Do (& Don’t)

DIET
I eat very little sugar (including alcohol), (and no artificial sweeteners) to prevent insulin resistance/metabolic syndrome, obesity, and to promote good gut bacteria
I have celiac disease, so I have eliminated gluten from my diet. But I DO NOT recommend this unless you have celiac disease or another gluten sensitivity, or are sensitive to FODMAPS (short-chain carbohydrates, poorly absorbed by the small intestine) in wheat.
I eat loads of vegetables, nuts, and some whole grains (quinoa, wild and brown rices, oatmeal) and some fruit for fiber, vitamins and nutrients, and overall gut health
I eat all meats and fish, and vegetable and animal fats (including olive oil, butter, lard, tallow, coconut, grapeseed, walnut, sesame, mustard, and avocado)
I limit dairy. Sheepsmilk and goat milk cheeses are among the least inflammatory dairy products
I do eat rice pasta, buckwheat noodles, and white rice.
I fast intermittently (eat all meals within an eight hour window, sixteen hours off)
I get at least 15 minutes of sunshine every day, especially in winter! for vitamin D


EXERCISE
To maintain good balance, strength, and mobility, and to protect cognitive function as I age, I exercise in a variety of ways: 2- and 3-mile walks, yoga, weights (for my arms), biking with Bruce, and rowing. I aim for six days out of seven.


PREVENTIONS
Vaccinations – against the flu, shingles, hepatitus, tetanus/whooping cough/diptheria. I will ask at my next physical about boosters for measles and mumps, because all the anti-vacc-ers put the herd at risk. I will get pneumonia vaccines when I am older.

I have no health problems so I get a physical once every two to three years. Same for gynecological check-ups. I stagger them, so I am seeing a medical professional at least once every one and a half years

I am considering discontinuing mammography, and relying on monthly personal checks for lumps and changes – the most breast cancers are found this way. Significantly, female physicians over fifty do not get yearly or regular mammograms!

I had one clear colonoscopy twelve years ago, and have no family risk factors, so I will not get another. Annual fecal tests make more sense for me.

I have had bone scans, but will not repeat them on a yearly basis.

I floss, to prevent gum disease that may be a precursor to Alzheimer’s.

Gut bacteria research is revealing the connectedness of our intestinal flora with body-wide health and disease, so I am keeping up with the research. at this point dietary fiber appears instrumental in maintaining a healthy gut.


MENTAL HEALTH

I take time every day “to smell the roses”, mostly by observing and being in nature – fussing in the garden, walking, talking to my backyard visitors.

I also need “stare at the wall time” to keep my creative juices flowing. Some kinds of exercise can fulfill this, like walking.

I listen to classical music, all day long.

I structure my day to include chores (just a few), work time (writing, making art, reading), exercise, together time with Bruce + friends. And a little bit of time for keeping up with current events.

I limit my friendships and neighbor time to those that are truly reciprocal, enriching, and healthy. I have learned to easily say No to toxic people and situations.

I keep our house tidy and uncluttered, because I am here all day, and because it reduces everyone’s anxiety to be in a calm environment. Chaos is ok in studio, though, especially when I am working.


POLLUTANTS

I eat organic food, where it matters. Here is one list of fruits and vegetables most contaminated with pesticides, and another of those with negligible amounts:
High levels in: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, sweet and hot peppers, snap peas, blueberries.1
Low levels in:avocado, sweet corn, pineapple, cabbage, onion, frozen sweet peas, papaya, asparagus, mango, eggplant, honeydew melon, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower, and broccoli.2
I consume organic dairy products, and meats from animals raised on pasture and without antibiotics whenever I can (so expensive!)

I use cleaning products with the most natural, least toxic ingredients, including laundry detergent and dish soap.

I do not smoke, or let anyone else smoke in my house or on my property.

I do not use air fresheners.

All products used outside on the lawn and garden are environmentally safe and friendly.


 

Food for Thought

Food for Thought

I have been watching – bingeing – Jamie & Jimmy’s Food Fight on Netflix. Chef Jamie Oliver and childhood friend Jimmy Doherty star in a cooking show that features simple and delicious main dish recipes, to make on weekends, for a crowd of friends. But not only that – Jamie and Jimmy are determined to inspire Brits to eat sustainably, which translates into fighting food waste at a commercial scale. Each episode has a segment that showcases their novel and inspiring solutions, with ideas as diverse as eating locally caught seafood (langoustine and herring, all currently exported from the British Isles), championing not-ready-for-primetime “ugly vegg”, devising restaurant-worthy recipes for seasonal produce like pullet eggs, and making beer from leftover bakery and supermarket bread. The principles translate easily to any country, and it would be smart to develop and adopt them here in the U.S.

But our first response to the show is to cook! Besides the tempting recipes, Jimmy promotes easy DIY smokers, roasters, ovens, and ice-cream makers for your backyard.
We will start with salmon, home-cured in Jimmy’s simple smoker made from cardboard. Just in time for our mid-April Magnolia Party …

Here’s what we will serve:

Buckwheat blini, topped with smoked salmon, cream fraiche, caviar, egg, red onion and dill


Terrine of smoked salmon, early peas, cauliflower, and carrot mousse, served with apple and beet chips


Smoked salmon “ceviche”, on mini tostadas with avocado cream, radish, corn & sweet potato salsa, pickled cabbage


Smoked salmon sushi, with pickled cucumber, sweet omelette and asparagus


Potent potables: horseradish vodka, red sorghum beer (gluten free, for me), Pisco sours

Delicious food shared with friends, out-of-doors, to welcome spring –
What could be healthier?

Sport of Nature

Sport of Nature

Hi Matt,

I’ve wanted to converse with you and share some of my ideas about mental health for quite awhile now, but I thought it best to wait until the OT fireworks died down. Several posters really got under your skin in the Fraud thread, especially those who challenged you regarding the safety and reasonableness of your dream and chosen state of homelessness – some even questioning your sanity. I wanted your anger to pass before I engaged you, so you could consider my take with an open mind and heart.

I’m going back to Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” as a preface and olive branch. These two lines are my offering:

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too

which together mean to me, “Trust yourself, but listen to others, because you may not see or know all.” (Really, no one can.) Please consider what we have to say.

You and I agree, I think, on the basic idea that normality – whether cognitive, social, sexual, or psychological – is a construction, one based on the mathematical normative principle, which, in a social or psychological sense, simply defines normal as those things which most people do. Society conforms to and supports the cognitive styles, social inclinations, and behaviors exhibited by most of its members, responsively. This is reinforcing and accommodating and protective of those who fall under the norm, yet not necessarily harmful to those who live at the margins, or even outside the bell-shaped curve. Small variations are commonplace and go unremarked, but even exceptional people find ways to either accommodate the system or ingeniously adapt the system to accommodate them, at little cost to individuality. Most people who recognize their own differences also see that the much much greater number of those unlike us are the same to each other, so we don’t require or request a wholesale overturning of norms on our behalf. We defer to the good of the whole, and adapt. How much a society can tolerate difference probably is tied to how communally dependent that society is, in terms of survival. I see difference as an evolutionary stressor. Only very stable apple carts can be jostled without being upset.

This understanding depends completely on my own experience with difference, and on those of people close to me. Knowing myself and others with special talents for spatial thinking puts me at loggerheads with people who can’t navigate using maps, or who can’t parallel park. I am astounded, but in the main grateful (on their behalf) for GPS, and all manner of assisted driving apps. I would be much more upset, though, if I couldn’t turn all the functions off. I feel the same way about religion. It’s nothing I need, as a community sustainer, or moral compass, or solace for the inherent tragedy of mortality, but I am happy it is there for those who do need it. As long as I am safe not to practice.

Someone very close to me has ADHD, and one of the journeys of his adult life has been to mediate the social handicap this cognitive difference burdens him with. He has, for the most part, developed a kit of coping skills that let him participate fully in the world – to both his and the world’s benefit. There are perspectives and ideas unique to him (his way of thinking) that are not lost, but rather gifted to the community of ‘normal’ thinkers. He does rely on the goodwill and patience of those around him occasionally, but because he is good-natured and even, smart and capable and inventive, accepting and responsible, we can all be generous. I think the same can be said for people with Aspergers/autism, Down’s syndrome, and the many other sports of nature whose differences nonetheless do not inhibit participation in the social order, and whose desire to do so assuages the challenges their differences present.

This is a long way around to the topic of mental illness, but it helps me to define it. Rather than label cognitive, psychological, or social exceptions as disorders, I think instead in terms of behavioral consequences. I use two simple rules to assess mental health: do the behaviors in question interfere with daily living? Do they expose anyone to harm?

You are in so many ways outside societal norms, and this is the basis for all OT concern. Those who are loving and kind, and also those who are blunt or aggressive, believe that your behavior and thinking patterns are so outside the bell-shaped curve as to be unhealthy. OT-ers worry that you put your present and future self in real danger with your perceived-as-flawed decisions and actions.

Of course, societies and communities can be dysfunctional, and discussions of abnormalities must allow for the possibility that behavioral aberrations are sometimes exactly the expression of mental health. But I’m not sure this is the case for you.

For me you fall into a gray area, so I worry too. Choosing homelessness, and pursuing your dream of walking across the U.S. could be rational, positive choices for extremely capable, self-sufficient, and intelligent people. While your smart insights and rational takes on so many OT topics indicate keen intelligence, you can be an emotional and impulsive decision-maker. I think your history with Goodwill is an example. Let me stipulate that I do believe you were the object of Goodwill’s underhanded “CBT”, and experienced it as gaslighting. Clearly, there is a company policy of psychological intervention, ostensibly to support Goodwill employees in living fuller, richer, safer, and more stable lives as part of a larger community. What concerns me is not that you were offended or annoyed or angered by the company’s attempt to intervene in your life. Rather, it is your response to their exercise of their mission that troubles me.

You didn’t find another job. Having decided to stay at Goodwill you did not avail yourself of the many avenues available to address your grievances: you did not challenge Goodwill in their practices, nor did you document your complaints. You did not ask HR/management to stop their ministering, or establish a paper trail with supervisors, HR, and upper level management. In other words, you did not stand up for yourself, either to make your needs known or give Goodwill the opportunity to discipline co-workers and change their remediation plans. Instead, you let everything smolder, and fumed until you couldn’t take it anymore, then quit on a pretext (as you admit). Your subsequent futile attempt to engage the courts on your behalf is equally off-kilter, displaying a lack of understanding of how the world really works. It is apparent through subsequent posts that you understand your errors now, at least those pertaining to the proof needed for legal remedy. But you aren’t questioning your core behaviors or beliefs. So many seem maladaptive rather than lifestyle alternatives – ways of being you developed to survive your awful childhood, that don’t serve you well now.

What all of us see is that you put yourself in harm’s way, homeless without income or savings, having done no forward thinking and made no preparations for any of the consequences you chose. All the while expecting deus ex machina or magical reality to bail you out. I hope you can see that your unregarded actions – and the flawed belief system they imply – is the source of all our collective concern. For many OT-ers, the choice to be homeless is enough to call into question your sanity. For you to be winging it, out on the unstructured and unpredictable path of your dream is alarming. Your drug use is another warning sign.

My suggestion for you goes deeper than the simplistic fixes espoused by Powers, AshMads and other posters, i.e., to grow up, get a (real) job, and/or medicate yourself. Your inability to effectively stand up for yourself makes me think you have not completely overcome the horrible abuse you suffered. Maybe you could start there? Find your voice; reclaim your power. Take small steps like learning to say no, learning to speak your needs. Recognize – and grieve – what you have done without. Find ways to get it now. Open yourself a bit, to let others care for you a little, parent and mentor you a little more. As you learn to parent yourself. We at OT are offering. You have done without love for a very long time. Open yourself to it.
Health and fulfillment will follow.

Wanting all the best for you,
XOXO

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