Shellfish Alert

Last Friday, Washington State health officials reported the first U.S. illnesses linked to a single strain of toxin triggered by an algal bloom. Three people came down with Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP) after dining on mussels from Sequim Bay, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

While the culprit biotoxin had not been detected previously at unsafe levels in U.S. shellfish, thousands of people in Europe, Asia and South America have also suffered its unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms recently.

Harmful algal blooms, known as red tides, may occur naturally in both marine or fresh waters, and have been recognized as public health threats since well before humans began altering the environment.

Many experts however suggest that some of the toxins released by various algae species are becoming increasingly prevalent and virulent across the U.S. from the Oregon coast to Chesapeake Bay.

Superfluous nutrients entering the waterway, such as fertilizers, pet waste and sewage, might also contribute to the proliferation of the microscopic marine plants.

While experts expect climate change to bring both warmer waters and episodes of heavier rains, they are wary to make a direct link between global and local phenomena. The role of pollution, and why these microorganisms produce the poisons in the first place, remains unclear as well.

What is clear however is that the Pacific Northwest is getting inundated with the toxins and their consequences: DSP joins the region’s potentially fatal PSP and amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP) strains.

That Florida Red Tide manufactures a biotoxin which can cause near-fatal Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP) through ingestion as well as respiratory troubles through inhalation, in addition to killing fish, marine mammals and seabirds.

Researchers are just now beginning to understand why the algae excrete the physiologically taxing toxin?” One research lab discovered that the nutrients associated with man-made activities, like sewage and agricultural fertilizer, only cause certain species of algae to become more toxic.

That knowledge could increase researchers’ ability to monitor coastal areas, and quickly shut them before an algal bloom starts causing harm.

This could also allow lucrative fisheries to stay open longer. California, for instance, shuts down all coastal areas for recreational mussel harvesting between May and October as a precaution. In the Pacific Northwest, many Native Americans living off of Sequim Bay sell shellfish for subsistence.

Cave Man Diet

In the quest for optimum weight and health, perhaps humans should think about looking back at what their ancestors consumed. Well at least according to the theory proposed by the “Paleo Diet” (aka, Caveman Diet), that recommends following cues from the age of hunters and gatherers and ditching some modern food groups.

Here’s what to do:
Eat a diet which is totally gluten-free, however rich in fish, organic meats, poultry, vegetables, eggs, fruit and nuts. Leave out all grains, dairy products, legumes, salt, refined sugar and processed oils – and make sure it is all locally sourced.

One dietician says: “Eating like this is good for maintaining a healthy metabolism, and reducing inflammation within the body. It’s been doing great things for my energy levels, body composition and performance in the gym. It also helps to minimize my risk for a whole host of lifestyle diseases and conditions, like diabetes, heart attack and stroke…People who eat diets high in whole grains, beans, and low-fat dairy tend to be healthier because these foods are nutrient-rich and there are mountains of research about the health benefits of diets that include, not exclude, these foods…”

Dietician Ben Harder told ABC News: “For the Paleo Diet, additional evidence is needed to show conclusively whether or not it is as effective as some people hypothesize…The most relevant studies have been small, as our published review of the Paleo Diet indicates. We hope researchers will publish more — and larger — studies on the Paleo Diet so that health experts, including our expert panel, have more evidence to consider in the future.”

Oh Momma, I Got The HPV Blues

Half of men in the general population might be infected by human papillomavirus. That is the human wart virus which causes cervical and other cancers. The new information strengthens the case for vaccinating boys against HPV. Previously, vaccinations were only offered to young women, as HPV infection is the primary cause of cervical cancer, the second most common cancer in women. However, various strains of HPV also cause penile, anal, head and neck cancer.

Anna Giuliano of the H Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, has been studying infection rates in more than 1,000 men between the ages 18 and 70 in the United States, Mexico and Brazil.

She wrote:

“We found that there is a high proportion of men who have genital HPV infections. At enrollment, it was 50 percent.”

The rate at which men acquire new HPV infections is quite similar to women. They found about 6 percent of men per year will break out in a new HPV 16 infection, the strain known for causing cancer.

Protection is offered by vaccines made by Merck & Co and GlaxoSmithKline.

“The biology seems to be very similar (to women)…What is different is men seem to have high prevalence of genital HPV infections throughout their lifespans.”

said Giuliano.

Women are more able to clear an HPV infection, especially while they age, but men do not seem to have such an ability.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Gardasil vaccinations for women between 11 and 26 years old. Gardasil had sales more than $1 billion last year. While doctors are free to use the vaccine in boys and men ages 9 through 26, U.S. health officials have thus far declined to recommend routine vaccination for males.

Recently, Dr. Anne Szarewski of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London said:

“This study highlights the high incidence of HPV infection in men, which emphasizes their role in transmission of HPV to women…It must surely strengthen the argument for vaccination of men, both for their own protection, and that of their partners.”

In December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Merck’s Gardasil HPV vaccine for prevention of anal cancers in both women and men, based on studies showing that Gardasil was effective in homosexual men.

Wind Turbines Present Health Concerns

A group of residents living close to wind farms in Canada have joined forces to form an anti-wind power movement. According to CNN, the group is concerned with complaints that turbines may cause health problems.

Wind power is growing quicker in Ontario than in all other parts of the country, and government officials are relying on green technology to not only provide clean energy, but they also come with new job opportunities.

Wind Turbines FarmIn the United States, studies have found that 80% of residents in the Northwest support having wind farms near their homes, while the minority of homeowners in the United States, have complained about wind turbine noise.

While a small number of people that live near wind turbines complain of sound-related health concerns and anxiety, citizens living near oil, coal and natural gas sites complain of poisoned water, cancer, lung disease, earthquakes and death.

The risks of drilling for oil have also been observed recently in the news. The effects of the massive BP oil spill will last for years to come. And then there is the recent verdict that Chevron should pay $8 billion to Ecuador’s neighbors along the Amazon border for the environmental and health damage it caused through harmful drilling practices.

What The Doctor Didn’t Tell You: Gifts for Health

Listen, we all know that there are various ways to stay healthy. Taking vitamins, meditating, exercise, eating healthy, dressing warmly when it is cold outside and keeping your body and hands clean are all common and practical ways to keep your health in check.

Well, another idea is wearing spiritual jewelry, for yourself or as a Gift for Health given to a friend. The practice of practical Kabbalah has for years employed talismans, amulets and various other pendants and charms for the purpose of keeping the body and spirit protected from diseases and illnesses.

Never overlook the metaphysical.

Recovery Solomon Seal Kabbalah Silk String Bracelet on AmuletGifts.comWith the growing demand for Kabbalah inspired objects on the world market, a resurgence in Kabbalah jewelry has occurred.

Today, the teachings of Kabbalah have become accessible to every reach of society in our culture. Kabbalah provides us with hope to promote desired changes in our lives. Kabbalah jewelry refers to a wide variety of jewelry accessories which include well-known Kabbalist motifs.

Such spiritual keys used in the practice of practical Kabbalah promote positive energies by mediating between the material world and the spiritual world, which is usually out of sight. One of the most popular spiritual keys is the 72 Names of God. These are comprised of 72 three-letter sequences which enhance various aspects of life such as success, love and, oh, of course health. Each of the 72 names has its own respective and unique power and energy depending on the purpose given.

By now, You’ve most likely heard about the famous Kabbalah red string, a simple bracelet worn on the left wrist, for protection against the evil eye. Well, sometimes a simple charm is added to bring protection, say, from disease. And it works!

Never overlook the metaphysical!

Lance Armstrong: A Champion on Two Fronts

If you’ve never heard the name Lance Armstrong, you must have been living under a rock for the last decade. Winning the prestigious Tour de France bicycle race for the seventh consecutive year in 2005 made Armstrong one of the most celebrated athletes in the world. But if this is no easy feat on its own – imagine winning all of these races after recovering from testicular cancer – this is Armstrong’s story and this is why he is a champion on two fronts.

Picture to the right: “David Gerstein Armstrong Bike Rider Free Standing Sculpture
David Gerstein "Armstrong Bike Rider" Free Standing Sculpture
Lance Armstrong was born on September 18, 1971, in Plano, Texas, near the major city of Dallas. His parents were divorced when he was just a small child, and his mother, Linda, who was only seventeen years old when she had Lance, was left to raise her son on her own. When Lance was three, his mother married Terry Armstrong, who adopted him. Later, Linda and Terry were also divorced, and Linda was once again a single mother. Lance often credits his mother for instilling in him the drive and motivation that makes him such a champion.

When he was seven years old, Linda bought Armstrong his first bike. It was a Schwinn Mag Scrambler. When he was in the fifth grade, Lance began running six miles a day after school, and soon was entering long-distance running competitions on weekends. Armstrong also tried team sports like football, baseball, and basketball, but found that he was better at activities which require much endurance. When he joined the local swim club, Lance would ride his bike ten miles to practices early in the morning and then pedal to school. And after school he would jump back on his bike and ride ten miles back to the club to swim more laps.

At age thirteen, Armstrong took home the “If you worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on.” top prize at the IronKids Triathlon, which includes swimming 200 meters, cycling 6.2 miles, and running 1.2 miles.

In 1987, at age sixteen, Armstrong turned professional in the triathlon. In the same year he was invited to be tested by the Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research in Houston, Texas. Researchers measured the amount of oxygen his lungs consumed during exercise and found that Armstrong’s oxygen levels were the highest the clinic ever recorded, which meant that his lung capacity, critical for endurance, made him a natural athlete.

In 1990 Lance became the U.S. National Amateur Champion. In the next year he won Italy’s eleven-day Settimana Bergamasca race, and in 1992, he competed in the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. He came in 14th place, and immediately turned professional.

Throughout the next few years Lance dominated in the world circuit.

But on October 2, 1996, just a few weeks after his twenty-fifth birthday, tragedy hit. The young cyclist was diagnosed with testicular cancer which had also spread to his lungs, abdomen, lymph nodes, and brain. Doctors predicted a less than 40% chance for recovery.

Well, the champion read everything he could about the disease and changed his diet, giving up coffee, dairy products, and red meat. After consulting his doctors, Armstrong opted to forego the traditional treatment for brain tumors – radiation. Instead doctors performed surgery to remove his tumors, and then administered an alternative and aggressive form of chemotherapy.

Between rounds of chemotherapy Lance continued to ride his bicycle as much as he could. On February of 1997, he was declared cancer-free.

Being dropped by his former sponsors just pushed Armstrong harder upon his return to the circuit – he eventually won the Tour de Luxembourg. And then went on to be victorious in every Tour de France over the next five years. On July 25, 2004, he set a new Tour de France record by taking home the top prize for the sixth consecutive year.

He formed the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) in 1997. He has emerged as a leading spokesman and activist in the fight against cancer. Because of its many fund-raising and education-based initiatives, the foundation has become recognized throughout the world.

Eco-Friendly Recovery from the Flu and Common Cold

box of tissuesSneezing green may be a duality – one interpretation comes with ease, the other, very much not so. When your head is pounding and you’ve been hacking up a lung all night, the last thought on your mind is, how can I make this experience more eco-friendly?

Times of illness do not a conservationist make: It is pretty much just scrapping for whatever will provide relief, whether that is three-times-a-day deliveries of tom yum gai or a medicine cabinet stuffed with decongestants.

I’m actually just recovering from a two-week bought with bronchitis. I feel quite guilty about this; yesterday, I stood in the tissue aisle of the drugstore for a full 10 minutes, debating whether my nose was worth the destruction of so many old-growth forests.

In this case, sadly, I must admit: I decided that it was. Had I felt like my normal and healthy, eco-crusader self, I would have made the schlep to the supermarket that I know stocks sustainable boxes of 100% recycled, chlorine-free Seventh Generation tissue.

With a bit of knowledge, even the most pathetic of cold-sufferers can lessen the damage of their feverish footprint. Here are some ideas:

Washable tissues are an elegant, eco-friendly option. In the privacy of your home, who cares if you look like a granny when you’re blowing your nose in an old-timey tissue? You’ll find that they’re also a nice alternative to recycled facial tissues, which feel like sandpaper.

It’s not fun or easy to cook when you’re sick, but a week’s worth of wonton soup delivery can add up to a pile of trash, definitely due to all of that unnecessary packaging (who needs 10 packets of soy sauce anyway?). Just cook up a giant pot of soup that’s full of organic veggies.

With the threat of H1N1 this flu season, it seems like everyone’s going crazy with the hand sanitizer. Though many conventional sanitizers contain harmful chemicals like phthalates, and can actually promote the growth of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria if they contain the antimicrobial triclosan, a suspected endocrine disruptor. Bottom line? To prevent your illness from infecting others, nothing is as safe and effective as washing your hands with soap and water.

Don’t pressure your doc into prescribing an antibiotic for your runny nose. The common cold and flu are viral illnesses, and while it’s not fun to wait it out for a week while your cough dies off, a dose of amoxicillin will not make you healthier. In fact, it could harm you, since every time you take an antibiotic when you don’t actually have a bacterial infection, you actually increase your risk of later developing a life-threatening superbug.

It’s very tempting to arm yourself with an arsenal of decongestants and sleeping aids, but most of these medications come with a whole slew of side effects — and actually do nothing to lessen the duration of your illness. They also will pollute our soil and groundwater with chemicals once they’re thrown in the trash. Interestingly, some of the best remedies are also the most eco-friendly: a salt water gargle to soothe a sore throat and hot lemon water with honey to calm a cough.

Nearsightedness Could Be Due to Too Much Text Messaging

Nearsightedness or Myopia is when the eyes focus incorrectly, making distant objects appear to be blurred. The problem can be cured by corrective eyeglasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery.

A new study by the National Eye Institute shows that nearsightedness or Myopia has risen in America 66%. In the 1970’s the percentage of people who suffered from Myopia was 25%, as opposed to this last decade, when the percentage grew to 41%. That is 40-50 million Americans. A whopping figure! It costs Americans 2 to 3 billion dollars per year, to treat.

Among the contributing factors which we can pinpoint are genetics – that is if your parents had nearsightedness, there is a good chance that you too will acquire it and a lack of outdoor light.

eyeWhile it stands right now as just a hypothesis, society’s growing dependence on computers, cell phones and video games, very well may be a cause. Activities such as these and reading are called, “near-work”, and as you may have noticed they DO strain the eyes.

In 2009 alone, an approximate total of 110 billion text messages were sent. This is double the amount from last year.

Good advice is to look into getting a regular eye exam. And for parents, switch off that computer and TV and send your kids outside to play in the sun.

Smoking Laws are on the Rise and so is Cigarette Smoke

cigarette manTo think that cigarette smoking among adults is on a steady decline and has been since the 70’s or 80’s is actually false. Check out some of this new data:

For the first time in 15 years, cigarette smoking slightly rose this year. About 21% of U.S. adults said that they smoked. This report comes from a survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This rate is up from 19.8% last year. It is the first increase in adult smoking since 1994.

Because of indoor smoking laws, taxes and a recent decision by congress to allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco, it is a fallacy to believe that everyone in the country has stopped the disgusting habit. Tobacco companies are obviously overcoming these new and growing obstacles.

The tobacco industry has been discounting the price of cigarettes, in an attempt to offset tax increases and marketing to kids and minorities has not stopped either.

Between 1997 and 2004, the retail price of a pack of cigarettes, jumped 63% and adult smoking declined about 15%. Between 2004 and 2008, the price rose just 2%, while adult smoking declined by just about 1%.

Cigarette smoking is still the leading preventable cause of death and illness in the U.S. – despite the dropping smoker’s rate since the mid-60’s, when 2 out of 5 adults smoked. Now the ratio is 1 to 5.

The states which have the lowest smoking rates are those that have been the most aggressive about indoor smoking laws and about state taxes which drive up the cost of cigarettes.

Healthy Spirits

beerI don’t know about you guys, but I am a passionate drinker. That means, when I have a delicious meal, or some time to relax, I enjoy it with a nice alcoholic beverage. Maybe I will sip on a Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale while I read the paper; or perhaps I will enjoy a 2006 Flam Cabernet Reserve, with a nice cut of meat.

However, I always put my health first. So I did some research to see what health benefits there may be to responsible and moderate drinking; and what health issues, to be wary of. I found that there have been lots of studies done on this recently. Here’s what I came up with:

There is a myth that different red wine grapes possess different health benefits. I found that this is not true. They all have the same benefits. It is true that one glass of wine is good for the heart. Resveratrol is a chemical found in the skin of grapes which provides antioxidants which lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin, making it beneficial for diabetes. However, red wine, which does not eat away at your tooth enamel as fast as white wine does, does have a tendency to stain teeth.

Beer, as once thought, does not raise cholesterol. In fact it increases HTL’s, which are somewhat beneficial for your cholesterol count. Though, if you think that beer is good for preventing and curing heart disease, you are unfortunately mistaken.

Also, for you college kids…

WARNING: Beer Not Good For Hangovers. This is because when you are ‘hung-over’, your body is dehydrated. Beer will only make you more dehydrated.
Bottoms Up …..