A Guide for the Hung-Over

Yes, New Years Eve came and went, leaving for some a resolution and others a hangover. It is not too late, however, to shed some light on the cure of the latter.

Curing a hangover is not much of a mystery to those who are of the age and enjoy a night on the town: take an aspirin before bed, drink lots of Vitamin C, eat a big brunch, hit the hot tub, and you’re ready for that next cocktail.

But just what is it about drinking too much alcohol that drags our bodies into the miserable inferno which we’ve all experienced.

Dr. Jamshid Ghajarm a neurosurgeon and president of The Brain Trauma Foundation in New York has broken down the enigma into a mindless equation, “dehydration plus fatigue equals hangover.”

Alcohol, you see, is a diuretic. This accounts both for the incessant peeing, and dehydration. The excessive loss of fluids interferes with circulation and this is what causes you to feel headachy, dizzy, and weak.

To reduce the chances of hangover, alternate glasses of water with alcoholic beverages; and of course, do not drink on an empty stomach.

The fatigue which accompanies hangovers results from the alcohol-induced buzz preventing the brain from getting a normal night of sleep. Alcohol works as a depressant. It numbs your central nervous system, “like anesthesia,” according to Dr. Ghajar.

“People don’t realize that. They think it’s like cocaine.” He says, “You want to reach that middle range of blood alcohol where you get a nice buzz but you’re still awake.”

When we drink well past the normal limit and go to sleep, our liver does its job, metabolizing the booze, ushering it out of our blood stream. Within hours, our alcohol level has gone down, our excitatory brain circuits have rallied, and we are back to the level of buzzed arousal. This is why, when we go to bed drunk, we find ourselves wide-awake at four in the morning, sleepless, nauseous.

When we wake up in the morning, we feel dehydrated, fatigued, nauseous, and our electrolytes are all out of whack – our blood sugar levels, alas, plunged.

This has to do with why hangovers often bring an emotional depression. Dr. Harris Stratyner, clinical associate professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and vice chairman to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence’s board of directors says, “A hangover plays out psychologically just as much as it does physiologically.” So our minds mirror our bodies, you could say.

Therefore, realizing that getting drunk at parties is inevitable, along with the hang over, Dr. Sratyner says,

“I would say to the people who are hung over and depressed: This too shall pass.”

Surprising New Cancer Survey

According to a shocking new study, the cost of treating cancer in the United States almost doubled over the past two decades.
However the cost of cancer drugs is not necessarily the cause. While the price of new cancer treatments is indeed soaring, researchers conclude that the rising costs were mostly driven by the growing number of cancer patients.
Researchers also found that private insurers now cover a greater share of cancer treatment costs — actually about 50% — while patients’ out-of-pocket costs have taken somewhat of a dive over the last two decades.
Cancer Cell
The study is first to combine national cancer costs for all variables of payers and see how they have transformed over time. The figures are reported in 2007 dollars.

The costs of cancer treatment rose from nearly $25 billion in 1987 to more than $48 billion by the end of year 2005.
The rise in costs is due to an increase, over 20 years, in how many cancer cases there are reported. The researchers made use of data from national telephone surveys done in 1987, and from 2001 through 2005, which collected information on medical conditions as well as who paid the bills. More than 164,000 people participated in the survey.

The study, however, did not offer precise estimates of how the number of people treated for cancer changed from the late 1980s to the early 2000s. It showed, however, dramatic increases in the number of cancer cases covered by the government’s Medicare and Medicaid programs. Medicare has consistently covered about a third of the U.S’s cancer costs. Medicaid accounts for only 3%.

Also found by the researchers:
The percentage of cancer costs from inpatient hospital care fell from 64% to about 27%. A shift to less expensive outpatient care and cost containment efforts by large health insurers, assisted in keeping down increases in the costs per patient.
The proportion of cancer costs which were paid by private insurers climbed from 42 to 50%.
The proportion of costs paid out of the pocket of patients — including co-payments and deductibles — dropped from 17 to 8%.
The percentage of Americans with private health insurance has been shrinking and recently hit its lowest point of 50 years. While the proportion of cancer treatment costs paid by private insurance rose.

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.

PreCrea All Natural Blood Sugar Levels Reduction

PreCreaLocated in our pancreas are cell clusters called the Islets of Langerhans. About 60% of these cells, called Beta Cells, are designed to transform sugar into glycogen, which is basically a chain of sugars that your body can store away out of the blood and into the liver for energy reserves. The Beta Cells do this by secreting a hormone we know as insulin. If these cells start malfunctioning and can’t produce enough, then sugar stays in the blood and can’t be stored. Then the sugar starts damaging the organs and causes a whole slough of problems. The disease is called diabetes.

Nobody knows all the reasons why Beta Cells sometimes just conk out on us, but we do know that genetics coupled with overtaxing the cells has a lot to do with it. Meaning, a high sugar diet with little exercise can make your cells burn out. Luckily, there are warning signs before this happens. First, they start getting tired and produce less insulin. This condition is known as Pre-diabetes. If diagnosed early, steps can be taken to reenergize the cells and prevent full blown diabates from setting in.

PreCrea, a new herbal supplement, is one of these steps. It’s a twice-daily botanical cocktail designed to treat pre-diabates from three directions. First, one of its active ingredients, pterocarpus marsupium, actually helps protect and regenerate Beta Cells so the can produce more insulin. Second, cinnamon, another PreCrea herb, contains a chemical that functions as a copy of insulin. Third, Bitter Melon and Gurmar help prevent the absorption of sugars from the small intestine, so there’s actually less sugar for your Beta Cells to deal with, lightening their load.

And of course, if there’s less sugar in your body, you lose weight, which is another effect of PreCrea. As of now, it can be ordered by mail from their website. It has no known side effects as all ingredients are natural. So even if you don’t have pre-diabetes, nothing bad will happen to you. But you still might want to get diagnosed first.


Cheap Drugs vs. Newer Drugs

Cheap drugs vs. Newer and better drugs — this seems to be the equation world governments are facing.

If drug companies are to invest huge sums of money (over many years) in researching and developing new treatments and new medications, they need to know they will have a return on their investment. However, in order to accumulate this ROI, they’re using patent laws that prohibit the introduction of cheap generic variants into the market.

Their argument goes as follows: “After we’ve spent years and millions of dollars in developing this formula, we can’t allow a third-party to come along and sell it themselves. This would severely cut our revenues; not to mention we wouldn’t have enough funds in order to research other new medications.”

It’s a valid argument… until it comes down to people not purchasing necessary medication due to its lofty price.

IMHO, local governments must intervene either by sponsoring the research process, or by subsidizing the patented drugs.

Photo by bitzi
Photo by bitzi


Perhaps one day we will witness a form of R&D (Research and Development) that is “Open Source” and collaborative.

Abdominal Brain – Introduction

Get acquainted:

The digestive system is endowed with its own, local nervous system referred to as the enteric or intrinsic nervous system. The magnitude and complexity of the enteric nervous system is immense – it contains as many neurons as the spinal cord.

A Scientific Overview:

Brain in the Belly

Conventional medical treatment for neurological disorders such as epilepsy, migraine, and autism focuses on the brain. Although standard medical treatment is often helpful, the underlying causes of these disorders are not well understood. Furthermore, some individuals respond poorly, or not all to regular medicine. Evidence is accumulating in the medical literature that the enteric nervous system (ENS) – that part of the nervous system associated with the alimentary canal – also plays a role in these disorders. Historically, the concept of an autonomous abdominal nervous system was advocated by Byron Robinson, Johannis Langley, and Edgar Cayce. The work of these three prominent historical figures is considered along with modern viewpoints on the abdominal nervous system. Complementary therapies that address the nervous system of the abdomen hold potential as useful adjuncts to conventional treatment for certain neurological disorders.

Now let’s see why this is important:

As light is shed on the circuitry between the two brains, researchers are beginning to understand why people act and feel the way they do. When the central brain encounters a frightening situation, it releases stress hormones that prepare the body to fight or flee. The stomach contains many sensory nerves that are stimulated by this chemical surge – hence the “butterflies”. On the battlefield, the higher brain tells the gut brain to shut down. A frightened running animal does not stop to defecate, according to Dr. Gershon.

Fear also causes the vagus nerve to “turn up the volume” on serotonin circuits in the gut. Thus over stimulated, the gut goes into higher gear and diarrhea results. Similarly, people sometimes “choke” with emotion. When nerves in the esophagus are highly stimulated, people have trouble swallowing.

Miraculin – The Secret Natural Sweetener

Synsepalum Dolcificum, Miracle Fruit, Magic Berry, Flavor Berry — all these names refer to the same olive-sized fruit, indigenous to West Africa. This tiny fruit contains a unique chemical substance, known as Miraculin, which interacts with the taste buds on our tongue, and temporarily deactivates our sour and bitter tastebuds! In other words, after chewing this fruit, one could drink beer and experience a taste that resembles ice coffee much more than it resembles… well, beer.

Natural SweetenerIt was already known in the 70’s, but rumors have it that the FDA refused to approve it back then due to the Sugar Industry exerting considerable pressure to prevent the fruit from entering the market and damaging their profits.

Nevertheless, the fruit has gained growing popularity in Europe recently, and is used by some to avoid the harsh taste of many kinds of medicines.

In San Fransisco and New York some folks even arrange “flavor tripping” parties, in which the participants lick magic berries and go around tasting all kinds of everyday food in order to attain a mind-boggling experience.

When science finally succeeds at mass-producing Miraculin, it should radically change our culinary lifestyle.

Picture by The Banana Tree

Seaweed for good health and nutrition

With world population figures now passing 6.5 billion, future sources of human nutrition will most likely come from what covers at least 70% of the world’s surface – the sea. Many countries, especially those with large shorelines, have been receiving a good part of their food from the sea for years. The Japanese in particular have eaten aquatic plant life, known otherwise as seaweed, for centuries; and have also used the beneficial qualities of algae and other plants for traditional health remedies and medicine.

Besides being high in fiber content, seaweed also contains many essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and B12. High amounts of iodine and calcium are also present in many varieties.

SeaweedAlthough not all seaweed is edible, there are some types that are used extensively by the Japanese and other sea peoples; and not just for delicacies like Sushi. Some of these types include:

Sargassum – a brownish-green leafy algae, known as haizao to the Japanese and used a lot in oriental medicine.

Porphyra – a purplish-brown algae, known as nori in Japan and is the most commonly used material for wrapping Sushi.

Kelp – a common green seaweed known as kombu in Japan and konbu in China. It is used as food in a number of ways including soups, flavoring, and even picked. Like Nori, it is easily found in oriental food stores or in oriental food sections of most supermarkets.

Laminaria – a green leafy algae called Kunbu in Japan and used in various medicinal remedies including those for the liver, kidneys, lungs, and other organs.

Undaria pinnatifida – a broad leafy form of algae, most popular in soups and salads. Known as Wakame in Japan, it is considered to be a luxury food and is so popular that demand of it far exceeds supply. For this reason, Wakame is often grown extensively in seaweed farms in Japan, Korea, and China.

To give you an idea of the economic importance of seaweed, Japan alone imports around $150 million worth of various seaweed annually from countries like Korea, and exports at least $15 million worth of Nori seaweed wrappings to satisfy the worlds’ growing fondness of Sushi and Nori products. In Japan alone around 21 species of seaweed are eaten as food and the annual per capita consumption of seaweed products is around 4 kilograms. Agar-agar, a gelatin made from Gracilaria and Gelidium types of seaweed, is used both for food and in scientific laboratories as the culture base for growing bacteria specimens. Japan alone exports more than 1,000 tons of Agar annually.

The future of seaweed as a food source will largely depend on the future of the world’s seas and oceans, which are already becoming threatened by widespread pollution. Global warming is also a factor as some seaweed specials are affected by changes in ocean temperatures. In addition, we must also realize that seaweed accounts for more than 20% of our planet’s total oxygen supply, making this perhaps one of the most important attributes for maintaining life on earth.

Source and Picture by Institute for Traditional Medicine

Overdosing on vitamins and food supplements

Literally millions of people in North America, the U.K. and other western countries are taking daily vitamin and mineral supplements, as well as nutritional supplements containing vitamins. This phenomenon is not new, and many large companies producing these products are not only very rich but getting richer by feeding on the “hype” that people are receiving concerning the need for these supplements, which often cost hundreds of dollars per month.

Both family physicians and professional nutritionists are now agreeing that too many vitamin supplements are not only non-effective, but may actually be damaging to a person’s health. In an article that came out in the New York Times a few years ago, prominent research physicians, such as Dr. Annette Dickson, president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, noted that more than 70% of all Americans take some kind of vitamin supplement which come in many forms; including fortified cereal, bread products, and other types of food. When combined with a ‘super fortified’ multi-vitamin product, the result, according to these health experts, can not only accomplish little or nothing towards maintaining good health, but can also be a cause of serious and often fatal health problems.

A few types of vitamins that people appear to be overtaking include Vitamins A, C, and E. Vitamin C, for example, is often recommended to be taken in high daily doses to either prevent or reduce the symptoms of a common cold. What usually happens, according to these doctors, is that the excess vitamin C is simply excreted by the person’s urine. Other vitamins, particularly those such as vitamin A and E, are stored in organs like the liver and can even result in conditions such as heart attacks and strokes.

Many take vitamin D supplements, often found in fortified milk and other dairy products, due to not being outdoors enough to let their bodies synthesize it. It has been pointed out however as people grow older, their skin looses the ability to synthesize this vitamin, and taking supplements containing vitamin D do not help to manufacture it.

While it was once thought that taking large amounts of vitamin supplements helped prevent the risk of cardio-vascular conditions, it is now being found that the opposite often takes place. And older people who take increased doses of vitamins A and D to decrease the risk of osteoporosis, usually prescribed as around 1,500 micrograms per tablet or capsule, are actually taking twice as much as what is actually needed, resulting in an even greater risk of having this condition.

Many doctors, however, are still convinced that taking multiple vitamins is essential to maintaining good health. These include Dr. Joann e. Manson, Chief of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston, Mass. Dr. Manson said, however, that taking these vitamins are only recommended if a person has severe diet deficiencies and must augment their diets by taking supplements.

But doctors and nutritionists alike agree that proper nutrition, including eating healthier diets, may reduce or even eliminate the need to take vitamin supplements. This is especially true for people whose diets are high in so called “junk foods”. There is no ‘magic bullet’ to cure an unhealthy diet, most health professionals agree.

Good news for beer drinkers

For those of you who only thought that drinking red wine is good for one’s health, and not beer, think again. Beer is now being found to be not only as good as red wine for maintaining good health, but in many cases even better. Beer contains many healthful nutrients, including B vitamins, and is found to decrease the risks of heart attacks in a similar manner as red wine does.

beerIn a study conducted by Dr. Norman Kaplan, a professor of internal medicine at the Southwest Regional Medical Center of the University Texas at Dallas, it was found that people consuming moderate amounts of beer had less hypertension and reduced risks of coronary artery disease. The study included a survey conducted with more than 128,000 adults who belong to a major health care organization. As compared to people who did not drink beer, or drank red wine instead, it was found that moderate beer consumption not only decreased risks of heart disease but also increased bone density.

Certain types of beer, especially the more dense varieties such as porter and stout, contain high amounts of B vitamins, iron, and folates. Folates help reduce levels of homocysteine, a chemical that increases risks of heart attacks.

In addition to lowering the risks of both heart attacks and strokes, moderate daily beer consumption helps reduce the chance of contracting Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis (due to beer’s high silicon content), and old age dementia, otherwise known as senility.

Moderate beer consumption, is around two 12 oz glasses of beer per day for men, and one glass per day for women. Those who drink large quantities of beer or other alcoholic beverages per day (known as “binge” drinking), run the chance of doing adverse damage to their bodies, as well as becoming what is known as “alcoholics”.

Beer has always had a place in what is known as folk medicine; especially brands containing large quantities of malt. But like many other things done excessively drinking too much can be harmful. So, the key to maintaining good health is to drink no more than two beers per day to “keep the doctor away”.