Nobody likes to be sick, and especially nobody likes children to be sick. But if you are a child, today is a much better time than 50 years ago to face a mild illness. I don’t mean because of all the new vaccines—I actually look back with some fondness on the days of chicken pox, measles, and German measles. (I missed out on that other great disease of early childhood, mumps, despite repeated visits to my friend when she was afflicted.) Nor do I mean the obvious improvements in the treatment of many diseases, and in emergency medicine, not that I’m not grateful for them.
What I’m thankful for is that we have outgrown the sick-children-must-stay-in-bed philosophy. Bed is fine when you’re too miserable to do anything else, but in the 50’s and 60’s bed rest was still considered an important part of the cure, and often imposed long after the child would have been much better off up and about. (More)
Healing through Exercise: Scientifically-Proven Ways to Prevent and Overcome Illness and Lengthen Your Life, by Jörg Blech (Da Capo Press, 2009) Originally published as Heilen mit Bewergung (S. Fischer Verlag, 2009)
We all know exercise is good for us, right? So who needs yet another book telling us so?
Knowing what we should be doing is one thing, but actually doing it is another, and Healing through Exercise provides motivation in spades.
Beware the cure that is marketed as a panacea, we are told: if it claims to fix all ills, it’s probably a fraud. That’s sound advice, but Jörg Blech makes a convincing case that simple, regular exercise is as close to a cure-all as we’ll ever find. Whether the issue is heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, cholesterol, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, back pain, cancer, impotence, ADHD, depression, brain development, immune system health, stress overload, or “old age,” moderate, regular exercise is essential—and in some cases even sufficient—for preventing illness and restoring health. We’re more familiar with the preventative side, but Blech cites study after study showing how exercise can even reverse existing damage. It’s never too late to take advantage of the benefits of exercise. (Note to self: this should be incentive to get started at any age, but never an excuse for procrastination.) (More)
I am thankful for the baby formula that is available today.
I know. Me, the Notorious Despiser of Artificial Baby Feeding, thankful for infant formula. But it’s true. (More)
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Continuing with the Thanksgiving/Good New Days series, today (and every day) I am thankful for smoke-free restaurants, homes, airplanes, offices, grocery stores, and even bowling alleys! This is a societal sea-change that is most definitely for the better.
You youngsters simply cannot imagine what it was like. (More)
Temple Grandin (HBO, NR)
Why are you reading this post when you could be rushing to your nearest video store (is that phrase as passé as "dialing a phone number"?) and grabbing a copy of Temple Grandin? It would be trite to say that this is one of the most amazing and inspiring movies I have ever seen, though it is. It would be understatement to say that Temple Grandin is an incredibly amazing and inspiring person.
"Highly functioning autistic" doesn't begin to describe this brilliant visual thinker—and university professor—whose humane designs have revolutionized livestock handling. My introduction to Temple Grandin was through her TED lecture, The World Needs All Kinds of Minds. That's a good place to start, but don't miss the movie. (As far as I can recall it is completely grandchild safe.) (More)
"Harm reduction," a new term to me, though not a new concept, is a controversial approach to social problems, in which illegal, immoral, or otherwise harmful behaviors are attacked, not at the root, but at the branches: distributing condoms to slow the spread of AIDS, needle exchange programs for drug addicts, and legalized prostitution, for example. It is palliative care: attempting to ameliorate the symptoms of an apparently incurable social disorder.
Whether you approve of the idea or think it only exacerbates the problem—like Needle Park in Zurich, one of Switzerland's early experiments, which succeeded in reducing AIDS infections and drug-related deaths, but attracted addicts and professional drug dealers from all over Europe—the following story is heartwarming. It brings to mind Mother Teresa, who, if she couldn't cure the ills of the lowest and the poorest in Calcutta, at least gave them the touch of a loving hand, and a clean, safe, comfortable place in which to die. (More)
I wrote about xylitol when I discovered it in Japan four years ago, and that remains one of my most popular posts. Although I did not experiment further with xylitol as a sugar substitute, I continued to use it as a dental rinse, swishing a small spoonful around in my mouth after brushing my teeth at night.
Until I started worrying about the fact that the xylitol I had was made in China, that is. Chinese manufacturers were caught substituting poisonous substances for more expensive, safe ingredients in toothpaste and children's toys, as I wrote about in 2007, and later in baby formula, candy, and other products containing milk. I wrote to the manufacturer of my xylitol, seeking reassurance, but received no answer. (More)
Super Size Me (Sony, 2004, PG-13)
When Morgan Spurlock was growing up, his mother made the family's meals at home; they ate at restaurants only on very rare, special occasions. Once a common scenario, it is no longer true for Fast Food America.
Spurlock, young, healthy, and in fine physical condition, turned himself into a human guinea pig to investigate the health effects of fast food: For 30 days, he ate at McDonalds, and only McDonalds, three meals a day, every day. His progress (regress) was evaluated and monitored by three doctors, who expected to see no more problems from his change of diet than a moderate rise in his triglyceride levels. Instead, nearly every aspect of his physical and mental health disintegrated rapidly; it took him more than a year to recover from his month-long binge.
Super Size Me is a dramatic condemnation of the fast food industry, and even more so of modern America's eating habits. However, it would have been more effective, if less dramatic, had Spurlock have eaten reasonably instead of deliberately (and sickeningly) gorging himself at every meal. He conflates problems of food quality and food quantity, muddying the results.
The movie is somewhat interesting, but I'd rate it worse than PG-13 for sexual content and language. Unlike some reviewers, I don't find the graphic bariatric surgery to be a problem, but I wouldn't watch it while eating.
The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge (Penguin, New York, 2007)
The idea that our brains are fixed, hard-wired machines was (and in many cases still is) so deeply entrenched in the scientific establishment that evidence to the contrary was not only suppressed, but often not even seen because the minds of even respectable scientists could not absorb what they were certain was impossible. Having been familiar since the 1960s with the work of Glenn Doman and the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, the idea that the human brain is continually changing itself and can recover from injury in astonishing ways did not surprise me. In fact, the only shock was that in a 400 page book on neuroplasticity and the persecution of its early pioneers I found not one mention of Doman's name. But the stories are none the less astonishing for that.
In Chapter 1 we meet woman whose vestibular system was destroyed by antibiotic side-effects. She is freed by a sensor held on her tongue and a computerized helmet from the severely disabling feeling that she is falling all the time, even when lying flat. That's the stuff of science fiction, but what's most astounding is that the effect lingers for a few minutes after she removes the apparatus the first time, and after several sessions she no longer needs the device. (More)
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Category Reviews: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Health: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Children & Family Issues: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
Today's Mallard Fillmore comic inspired this post, which Li'l Writer Guy had actually been working on in the background ever since a conversation we had about the subject last night.
Mind you, I don't know any of the details of how it will work, and am only commenting on the theory that children should be covered on their parents' health insurance until they are 26 years old. (More)
Janet alerted me to Jamie Oliver; DSTB followed up with what is apparently a new show on ABC. It starts next Friday, but the pilot was shown last night; fortunately it's available both at the show site and Hulu, so I was able to watch it. Jamie's attempt to get the people of Huntington, West Virginia to take a healthier approach to eating has the faults of American commercial television (just as does Who Do You Think You Are?), but it's not bad and (so far) is not as over the top as what I've seen of his British shows. If his personality is a little too dramatic for my taste, there's no doubting the sincerity of his preaching and his mission. His gospel is good, fresh food, and in this episode he takes on school lunches.
[Excuse me, school meals. The only meal these children eat at home is dinner. In Oliver's unfeigned horror at the meals served at our public schools, he misses what strikes me as the more important point: Why are all these children eating school food? Why aren't they bringing lunches from home, and why, for Pete's sake, don't they eat breakfast before going to school? If the schools are going to offer food, certainly it should be healthy food, but where are the parents? There's absolutely no need to subject one's children to American public school food, good or bad. The school lunch (and now breakfast) program does serve a useful purpose, making sure children whose parents can't provide meals for them aren't trying to learn on empty stomachs. That's a good thing. But somehow the whole system got skewed; I know that the goal of the school lunch program at our kids' school was to have everyone participate. (We didn't.) I saw not one lunchbox in the show. I hope that while he teaches the adults how easy it is to put together healthy meals, he also teaches the kids how easy it is to make their own healthy lunches. But that's another issue; I know I'm taking on a Great American Icon by dissing the school lunch program.] (More)
In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, by Michael Pollan (Penguin, New York, 2008)
I'm in the middle (okay, the beginning) of two rather hefty books at the moment, Susan Wise Bauer's The History of the Ancient World, and my latest review book from Thomas Nelson, The Chronological Guide to the Bible. It's great to be reading the two of them together, though that means it will be a long time before I can review either one.
And now longer still, as the library e-mailed to let me know that I'd made it to the top of the waiting list for In Defense of Food. Michael Pollan is shaping up to be the next John Taylor Gatto for me: a modern author whose books I simply can't resist and can't put down. Reading was the easy part; reviewing without quoting from every page is the difficulty. The book is bristling with my neon green and pink sticky notes. (More)
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan (Penguin, New York, 2006)
My limited knowledge of Michael Pollan prior to devouring this book was primarily his mantra for healthy eating: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. There's a lot of wisdom there — not that I'm very good at following it — but that phrase itself is not found in The Omnivore's Dilemma. It is the beginning, however, of an excellent Pollan article in the New York Times, Unhappy Meals.
I'll admit I was expecting a diatribe, a full-force blast against agri-business and the factory farm, more along the lines of what we hear from the more strident vegans and animal rights activists. Pollan, however, is much too skilled as a journalist and writer for that. If his journeys lead him to both Food Hell and Food Heaven, they also show him that there is no clear, simple, and easy path to salvation when it comes to eating. (More)
Most of you can stop reading right now. The Pap smear is not a subject of general interest, but I spent five years working in a cytopathology automation research laboratory, part of an attempt to make the reading of Pap smears easier and more accurate. Thus the following headline was sure to catch my eye: Should HPV Test Replace the Pap Smear?
The primary purpose of the Pap smear is the early detection of cervical cancer, it is argued, but testing for human papillomavirus is easier and actually does a better job, although it generates more false positives, especially in younger women.
What I find most interesting is the unmentioned, but logical implication that those who are at no risk of contracting HPV, due to the simple expediencies of virginity or faithful monogamy, can dispense with both tests—surely a course of action the medical industry would not wish to endorse! Gastroenterologists have adopted a once-every-ten-year colonoscopy recommendation for low-risk patients, perhaps gynecologists should follow their example.
[This] recommendation is based on a study that found that the human papillomavirus (HPV) test prevented more cases of cervical cancer than the conventional Pap smear. Results of the study were published online Jan. 19 in The Lancet Oncology.
The HPV test should become the screening tool of choice for women 35 and older, the researchers said. It could be done less frequently than the Pap test, which could be used only in women who have tested positive for HPV, they said.
Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall (Knopf, New York, 2009)
A book about running? Not my thing. On my daily walks (where by "daily" I mean five days a week and only when I'm not on the road) I've managed to work my way up to doing a quarter of my four miles at what could charitably be called a slow jog, but there my interest ended. However, my nephew received Born to Run for Christmas, and I was curious enough to flip quickly through it.Born to Run is a fascinating and groundbreaking book. Actually, it's at least three books, interwoven, and it's no coincidence that when I perused it I couldn't decide if it was meant to be nonfiction or a novel. (More)