Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Alberta Views: The Urge To Purge - A Health Centred Response

Alberta Views Magazine
Re: The Urge to Purge article - November 2011

When I opened Alberta Views and saw the article Urge to Purge. I was excited that I might learn something new.  I dived in at speed.  It was only a few seconds when I spotted the name Stephen Barrett.  I knew you’d been hoodwinked.  So, I read on, but got more and more depressed and dissatisfied as the article passed thru my ummmm….

Stephen Barrett reminds me of A.A. Milne’s poem Lines and Squares:

Whenever I walk in a London street,
I’m ever so careful to watch my feet;
And I keep in the squares,
And the masses of bears,
Who wait on the corners all ready to eat
The sillies who tread on the lines of the street
Go back to their lairs,
And I say to them, “Bears,
Just look how I’m walking in all the squares!”

I can see why Deepak Chopra describes Stephen Barrett as the “self appointed vigilante for the suppression of curiosity”.  I agree with Deepak Chopra.  Stephen Barrett never steps outside of the squares.  And he thinks that anyone who does is a bear (or worse, a quack).
Enough ranting about Barrett.  What about detox? 

The article subtitle 
Cleansing and detoxing isn’t scientific, so why do so many Albertans do it?

Let’s deal first with the technical error, the statement that “detoxing isn’t scientific”.  I suggest you look up scientific in a dictionary.  Trees are not scientific. Drugs and treatments are not scientific.  A healthy diet is not scientific. Scientific defines a process by which things are measured against a hypothesis. ‘Things’ are not scientific, with the exception of things like scientific procedures, scientific studies,scientific measurement and the like. Note, this phrase appears again in the conclusion – it’s just as silly there. And wrong too.

I think you meant to say 
there is no scientific evidence to support the statement that detoxing prevents illness”. 

And that is where we part company.  You are right.  And very wrong.

I run a blog called Personal Health Freedom. You can find me at www.personalhealthfreedom.com

My blog is about health – not about illness.  I write about the need to define and measure health. I define a hierarchy of health, so that we might learn how to study health - as opposed to studying illness.  I do take time out to define illness and the causes of illness, most of my energy is towards ‘health’. I take care to tell readers that I am not a doctor. Don't rely on my advice.  Check for yourself.

Health must be defined and measured separately from illness.  No-one bothers to measure health – our medical systems only measure illness.

Let me give a little example to clarify. Let’s talk about two hypothetical women, Alice and Zizi, both in their mid-forties.  You might know someone in each profile.

Alice gets, on average 5 to 7 colds a year, over the past 10 years. When she gets a cold, she is quite seriously affected, and the cold lasts, typically, between 8 and 10 days.

Zizi gets on average, a cold every 1 or 2 years.  Her colds typically last 3 to 5 days and she suffers only minor systems.

That’s what the medical system knows about Alice and Zizi.  About their illness.  But the medical system never looks at their health; in fact Alice and Zizi only contact the medical system when they are sick. And Zizi, because she is generally not seriously affected by her colds – has almost no contact with the medical system.  Alice is well known at the clinic, if not looking for medicine; she is at the very least, looking for a doctor’s note to stay home from work.

Now, the critical questions.  Who is healthier, Alice or Zizi?  I think we can agree that Zizi is the most healthy.  But we can also see that she is ignored by the (so called) ‘health system’, because the ‘health system’ is in fact a ‘medical system’, not a health system.

But if Alice and Zizi go to a doctor when they do not have a cold, they might both be told they are 'perfectly healthy'.  As if health was measure using yes or no answers.  "No illness" equals health. 

We don’t have a health system. There are no professionals, there is no scientific community that studies Zizi – and no-one that studies the differences between them.  Our medical system pays a lot of attention to Alice, and tries to cure or prevent her colds – but it ignores Zizi. Zizi is healthy, and there is no ‘health system’.

Now a more challenging question.   On November 12th, 2010 – Zizi got a cold.  It was minor on November 12th, full blown on November 13th – and she was recovering by November 14th. During that span of time, Alice did not have a cold.

So, on November 12th who was healthier?  Alice or Zizi?  On November 13th, who was healthier, Alice or Zizi?  On November 14th, who was healthier – Alice or Zizi.

It is clear that on November 11thAlice was healthier, and on November 15th, she was healthier again.    

A scientific answer should be independent of your opinion – and independent of my opinion.  

How would we obtain a scientific measurement of the health of Alice and Zizi?  Is it appropriate to measure healthiness – every day?  Or can we only measure sickness every day? Maybe, when we study healthiness – we will learn that the minimum resolution of a health measurement is 3 weeks.  Or longer. That a health measurement of one day, or even 3 days is irrelevant to health status, only relevant to ‘illness status’.

It seems clear that we need different ways to measure healthiness from illness.  Each illness is measured by a different set of symptoms, tests, and observations. But these symptoms, tests and observations do not measure healthiness.  

I believe an objective test for healthiness must ignore the cold, which is a temporary ‘illness’.  When we have a true test for healthiness - it will detect a significant difference between the healthiness levels of Alice and Zizi, without reference to the frequency or duration of colds. 

So what has this to do with detox?

Let’s go back to the scientific method question. Your quote: “why (do) detox diets never undergo scientific tests?”  You say “Then there’s the scientific method.  Detox proponents don’t seem to care for it.” 

But you, and the detox proponents and opponents, aren't understanding science. Detox proponents aren't necessarily the ones who don’t like the scientific method.  It might be the medical establishment that doesn’t like the scientific method (except when it is used for medical purposes). 

You asked Oregon naturopathic physician Dickson Thom why “detox diets never undergo scientific tests?”  he could only joke.  Why? Because he is so imbedded in the medical system he can’t see the forest (health) for the diseased trees (illnesses).  

If detox diets are about health, the scientific tests, to date, are measuring the wrong thing. 

If detox diets are about health, not about illness, then we need a scientific test to measure the health of people before, during and after the detox treatment.  We might search for a similar scientific test to use as a model.  Search away.  There are, at present, NO SCIENTIFIC STUDIES of the effect of any substance, treatment or action on HEALTH.  There are only scientific studies of the effects of substances, treatments and actions on illness.  Detox is about health, not about illness. Illness is not health.

So, let’s suppose that detox improves your health. I’m not saying it does – I’m interested in science.  But let’s suppose that a specific detox treatment improves your health, by x percent, on average. 

All tests by the ‘scientific medical system’ will not detect nor measure the improvement.  Our medical systems and our medical tests do not measure the difference between Alice and Zizi.  Because they don’t measure health.

We don’t have any independent, objective tests to measure health – so we cannot tell if health was improved or not. 

Let’s suppose the relationship is more complex.  If, as the medical scientists claim, detox kits might release toxins and thus actually harm your health status – then we need to take the measurement further.  It might be, for example that using a detox kit decreases your health for several days, or even a few weeks – but after that, your health is actually better.  Maybe this happened to you? Sort of like learning – first seem to go backwards and then rebound later.

But… Have there been any scientific tests to measure this possibility?  No.  There have been no tests of detox that measure effects on health, short term nor the long term.

So, is detox scientific?  Duh.  The people who, like Stephen Barrett, claim that ‘detoxing does not improve health’ are not scientific – because there has never been a test.  But Barrett claims that science proves detox is useless.  Where is the scientific evidence? There is some evidence that our ‘medical system’ and its ‘scientific tests’ cannot measure benefits from detox.  Is that because there are no benefits?  Or is it a deficiency in the scientific tests?  We don’t know.

What does each person who buys a detox kit decide?  I’m guessing they say something like this
   - I know it’s painful
   -  I believe my health is better after it is over
So they buy.  And use.  And if they feel healthier - that's the only measuring stick we have for health at present, they do it again, when they feel 'less healthy'. 

I make the same judgement when I go for my swim.  I know it’s painful.  Cold.  Wet. Messy.  But I believe my health is better if I do it regularly.  I know my health status does not change ‘because I went swimming once’.  I go and I swim. I suffer, and I feel better and I get healthier.

The scientific tests don’t measure this reasoning.  They measure ‘medical effects’, not health effects.

You are not the only person to make this mistake.  Many of the people you talked to in ‘health stores’ don’t understand the concept of health.  So you were told that ‘your thinking is too linear’ – when in fact Willard simply could not explain the situation in ‘medical terms’ – because it is not a medical question.  

He has not learned to think in terms of health. He may work in a 'health store', but he thinks in 'medical paradigms'. 

Arpana Taylor speaks of a necessary  ‘paradigm shift’, but cannot define the new paradigm.  Aparna might understand unconsciously that detox is about health, not about illness – but our ‘health systems’ only deal with medical issues  - and Aparna needs his own paradigm shift to understand, and then explain it to you.

Your conclusions, two:
  - detox may have its merits, but it is not scientific
  - detox diets don’t remove harmful substances from the body (Barrett is right)

Are false and misleading. 

As noted above, the statement that ‘detox is not scientific’ is not a scientific statement. If it is not false, it is nonsense.

If you meant to say “detox is not supported by scientific studies of illness”, you might be technically right. But if people take detox for their health - the statement is irrelevant. 

No-one has scientifically measured the health effects of detox.  Frankly, no one has scientifically measured the health effects of Vitamin C nor penicillin.  We have only measured their illness effects. 

The statement that “Detox diets don’t remove harmful substances from the body” is also unscientific, as is most of what Barrett says. 

There are no scientific studies concluding that detox does not remove toxic substances from the body. Proving that a detox diet does not remove a harmful substance from my body requires an exhaustive study of detox diets along with an exhaustive study of what is excreted from my body – through various orifaces, before I am on the detox diet and then again while on the detox diet and again after I complete the detox protocol. This study has not been started, and I suspect it will never be completed.

The statement that 'detox diets don't remove harmful substances from the body' is what I call a 'black swan statement'.  It is a wide generalization that can be proven wrong by a single exception. You can find a more detailed description and some examples of black swan statements in health here

A final comment...

You mention the possibility of a placebo effect.  But you missed a valuable alternative explanation.  The change effect.  The saying goes - a change is as good as a rest. Our diets sometimes tend to get 'stuck'.  If we do not exercise care, we might find ourselves eating the same thing, every week, every month, over and over and over again for years.  The detox diet changes this up - maybe only for a short period.  But this change might be enough to improve our health.  We don't know, because we cannot measure healthiness. 

To your health, tracy

Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why we don't have Health Freedom - Ed Griffin on the politics of health

Two drug company executives are walking down the street, when they see a man limping heavily on his right leg, lurching from side to side, arms swinging, head falling and rising.

One said to the other - "a pity we can't do something for him".  
The reply "Well of course we can.  And we can make money in the process.  We need to design a drug that paralyzes his left leg and then he'll be perfectly balanced." 
"Interesting.  But what about side effects?"
"Just look at him, he's lurching from side to side.  I'll bet he's suffering from nausea, and possibly headaches - and he probably has pain in his left leg because it's working so hard.  So what does it matter if the drug causes nausea, headaches, muscle pain?   We'll just add them to the label." 
"But, what if his right leg recovers? Then he'll lurch the other way?" 
"Another opportunity.  We can develop a mirror image drug that only affects his right leg, so that problem can be treated as well." 

Isn't it just too close to the truth? All disease and illness is caused by imbalance.

Health is optimal balance.  Healing is optimizing balance.

Drugs are toxins, often designed to throw your balance 'the other way', without healing the imbalance.  Sometimes they give your body time to heal and recover balance - sometimes not.

Illnesses have symptoms, like headache, nausea, pain.  Many of those symptoms are not directly caused by the illness but are secondary symptoms that arise as the illness causes other imbalances. Many drugs are designed to treat the symptoms, not the imbalance that is the illness.

Ed Griffin - talks about The Politics of Health

Video Transciption

In this video, Ed Griffin explains the reason we have no health freedom.  He explains the history of medicine in America - and how that history is specifically designed to restrict treatments that are not 'drugs'.

It is unfortunate that Ed Griffin, like most people who attempt to speak on this subject mis-titled his video.  It is called The Politics of Health.  But in actual fact it is The Politics of Illness and Treatments.

Health is ignored by our medical system.  But not by me.

Yours in health, tracy
Personal Health Freedom

Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Community Health - can we measure the health of our communities?

Community Health is the top layer of the hierarchy of health.  What is a community?  What is community health?  How can we measure community health?  How healthy are our communities?

The first level of community is the "community of self". Each of us lives in the community of our body, our mind, our spirit with our gods - and our devils.

No person is independent. Most interact with other people and other communities. Even a total hermit lives in a community of plants, animals, sun, moon and stars as well as his own mind, body and spirit.

The household is a fundamental unit of community and a valuable component of community health. A household might have only one person, interacting with their internal communities (mind, body, spirit) and external communities - but most households harbor more than one person, forming another community.  A household might be so large that it contains an extended family community - or even more.

Communities exist in many formal and informal ways.

Individuals, families and households interact with many external communities;  like minded people community associations (sports, leisure, goal oriented, etc.), business communities, worker communities, government communities, religious communities, to local community associations (residential area communities, civic communities, etc), communities of state, province, nation and ultimately the community of our planet - ultimately at least until we start to establish communities on other planets.

Support Wikipedia Often, as I write my blog, my research puts me to Wikipedia - today I decided it's time to make a donation.

Freedom of association and freedom of assembly are fundamental freedoms recognized by many human rights organizations. They are also fundamental components of health freedom.

You have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of healthiness. Of course you cannot pursue healthiness without the right to freely develop, associate with, join, work in and if we wish leave - our communities. Of course, the saying goes "you can choose your friends, but you are stuck with your family". We also exercise our freedoms to try and change our communities - to improve our healthiness.

The health of our communities is an important factor in the health of each of us.

Can we measure the health of our communities?  I have always believed that if you think you can, or you think you cannot - you are right.  I think we can measure the health of our communities. I believe we should start today.  We have already started.

Are some communities toxic?  What does that mean?  What can we do about toxic communities?  What communities are 'most healthy'?  What does that mean?  How can we encourage communities to move towards health?

I don't believe any community is totally toxic, or totally healthy. Measuring the health of our communities is a useful tool to measure overall health.

There have been some interesting attempts to measure health of communities.

Sam Harris, in his interesting book "The Moral Landscape, how Science can Determine Human Values" suggests that one moral framework is better than another when it "increases the well-being of conscious creatures". An interesting proposition that we could apply directly to the health of communities.  A community is healthier when it "increases the well-being of conscious creatures".  Of course each community's goal is to look after its own members - so there may be conflicts between communities.  But in general, a community's framework might be judged to be healthy - if it increases the well being of its members, and even healthier if it increases the well-being of all conscious creatures. We may find that some communities are happy to increase the well being of their members - to the detriment of non-members.  Or even communities that work to increase the well being of some members while decreasing the well being of other members - Hitler's Germany immediately comes to mind. Communities can have sub-communities that are at odds with the goals of the larger community.

Richard Wilkinson in his TED presentation titled "How economic inequality harms societies" measures ill health of different communities - states and countries and compares the ill health to economic inequality. If we are measuring health of individuals - I might complain that he measures illness, not health, but when measuring health of large communities - a measurement of illness is a somewhat reliable indicator of health.  Richard concludes that, as his title suggests, "economic inequality harms" communities, thus providing some valuable insight into how we might improve the health of our communities.  He leaves the details to us, and our communities.

Each of us live our lives in many communities.  Our health is affected by the health and healthiness of these communities. We can change our health status, by working to make our communities healthier.  Many communities work directly to improve our health.

We might ask if there exist communities that work to decrease healthiness?  I believe any community that attempts to restrict health freedom risks decreasing healthiness.  A community that attempt to eradicate another community, or the members of another community - is clearly working to decrease healthiness - even if they believe they are making their own community 'more healthy'.

Yours in health, tracy
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Personal Health Freedom 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The 1 percent vs Community Health

I have defined a hierarchy of health, that rises from genetics and nutrients, to cells, tissues, organs, systems, bodies, minds and spirit - to community. And I constantly suggest that we need to measure health at all levels.

This TED presentation, by Richard Wilkinson, makes it very clear that the 1 percent vs 99 percent problem in the USA is the cause of many health issues at the personal, spiritual and community levels.  Stunning.


yours in health, tracy
Personal Health Freedom 
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Great New Drug Discovery, Prevents Cancer Too

A recent study reports that over 75 percent of advanced cancer patients have low levels of Vitamin D.  Read about it here. The lowest levels of Vitamin D are associated with the most advanced cancers.

Vitamin D has become the new wonder drug. Vitamin D deficiency is implicated in Multiple Sclerosis. Flu season is the season when our sunlight deficiency causes a drop in our Vitamin D levels and a corresponding drop in the health of our immune systems.  Moderate to high doses may reduce heart disease, and can slow the progress of congestive heart failure. Of course we have known for years that Vitamin D deficiency causes as loss of bone density progressing to rickets.  Vitamin D is a commonly recommended preventative for osteoporosis. Vitamin D is now being studied for diabetes because it decreases insulin resistance - a benefit for diabetics.

What's wrong with this picture?  It hi-lights some serious deficiencies in our medical paradigm.  We need a health paradigm. 

1. Vitamin D is a nutrient. Not a drug. It is studied as it if was a drug.

2. The main natural source of Vitamin D is sunshine. But people who sell sunscreen have built a huge propaganda message against sunshine - so many doctors are reluctant to prescribe sunshine to prevent disease.  Fewer are likely to recommend sunshine for health. I have read - but not seen specific studies - that melanomas do NOT develop on areas of our skin that receive the most sun - the face and hands. Research published in the British Journal of Dermatology concluded that the perceived statistical increase in melanomas is most likely due to a shift in diagnoses which classify non-malignant lesions as cancerous. And countries near the equator,where the sun is strongest - tend to have lowest incidences of skin cancer. What's up with that? Here's Mercola's post on this item - the comments are interesting as well.

The wind is my drug - and now the sun as well. 

3. We have clearly documented measurements of 'the amount of Vitamin D required to prevent illness'.  Of course these numbers are being revised in light of new findings.  But we have no recommendations, and no studies, of the amount of Vitamin D consumption (or creation via exposure to sunlight) that will optimize health. We only research for the 'minimum to prevent disease' and then we measure drug like effects when Vitamin D is used to treat disease.

4. You can be deficient in Vitamin D.  Deficiency in Vitamin D means that you are consuming, or producing through exposure to sunlight, less than the RDA of Vitamin D.  You can be preficient in Vitamin D.  Preficiency exists when your Vitamin D levels are below the 'optimal' level of Vitamin D. But we do not know the optimal levels of Vitamin D.  There are no studies to measure the optimal intake, or even optimal range, of any nutrient. So, we don't know what amount of Vitamin D is most healthy. And we don't know what amount of sunshine is most healthy.

5. Vitamin D affects your health. But we don't study health, we only study illness. How Vitamin D affects your health is poorly studied - and recent studies of Vitamin D are all focused on illness, not on health.

This might explain why the information about Vitamin D has remained hidden from view for so long. We are now starting to study Vitamin D deficiency more often, but we do not yet study Vitamin D preficiency, nor Vitamin D health. It also makes me wonder what other nutrient imbalances hold keys to illness - that we don't understand because we don't study health.

6. Vitamin D is studied in isolation. All nutrients tend to be studied, as if  they are drugs, in isolation. When we learn to measure health, and to determine the correct amounts of nutrients for optimal health - we will learn about combinations of nutrients and how they affect health.  Studies to date on multi-vitamin supplements, for example, treat each multi-vitamin recipe as a drug, and measure results as if they were drugs.  Effects on health are not measured, because we don't measure health effectively. Only effects on illness are measured.

In theory, we should be able to:

a) Measure the health level of a person and the changes over a span of time, along many of the dimensions in the hierarchy of health.  At present there are no established techniques to effectively measure and compare the health of so called 'healthy' individuals.

b) Measure the nutrient intake and changes in nutrient intake of the same person over the same span of time.  It is very easy for our intake of nutrients to drift over time, without us being aware.  We seldom evaluate diets - and are less likely to evaluate diets for overall nutrient content.  Instead, diets are evaluated for factors that do not contribute directly to health - but might contribute to illness - calories, unhealthy fats, etc.

c) Analyze the relationships between nutrient intake, changes in nutrient intake, and health.

Instead, we measure when illness is found. We deliberately wait until something breaks, and then try to fix it, or try to figure out how to prevent it from breaking, without understanding

Your body is always growing, healing, repairing, working to improve your health.  Working to restore health imbalances. Every person has a different level of health, different health strengths and weaknesses. But none of us have a clear idea what our individual strengths and weaknesses are.  Which of the over 100 essential nutrients are in your diet in healthy amounts?  What types of exercise are most healthy for your personal body?

Frankly, we don't know much about health. Hopefully we can start learning. You have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of healthiness.

Yours in health, tracy
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Personal Health Freedom 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Are You Preficient

What is preficient?  Deficient is a medical term, relating to illness, not to health.

Preficient is when your nutrient consumption is below the amount for optimal health.

This raises two issues:
1. We don't know the optimal healthy amount for any nutrient
2. We don't measure health scientifically, so we cannot make scientific statements about health optimization.

But we can know many things, and use this information to build healthier bodies, families and communities. Let's start with the basic diagram of deficiency, healthy and excessive nutrient consumption. We'll start with Vitamin A.  What do we know about healthy consumption of Vitamin A? Your consumption of Vitamin A might be deficient, healthy, or excessive.

The RDA, or AI - Adequate Intake of Vitamin A, according to the  Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences  is 900 ug per day (600 ug for females due to smaller size). The tolerable upper level is 3000 ug per day. Note the IOM advises that these numbers are general - individual results may vary.

So, the optimal amount for optimal health might be somewhere between 900 mg per day, and 3000 mg per day, according to the scientific opinions of the IOM.  These numbers are not exact, and have personal individual variations even in healthy individuals. They are designed for use in planning nutrients for healthy people. They are also constantly being researched and debated.

We can update the diagram with these numbers.

The definition of the RDA is such that prolonged deficiency results in a medical condition.  The UL is defined where prolonged excess results in symptoms, eg - the IOM does not define the level at which a medical condition will result from excessive Vitamin A.

Somewhere between the RDA and possibly above the UL - is where we will find the optimal nutrient intake level for Vitamin A.

The IOM does not attempt to define an intake level of Vitamin A (or any nutrient) to optimize health - IOM recommendations are specifically designed to avoid illness (deficiency) or symptoms (in excess). There are other sources that do research and provide recommendations for health.

SONA (Suggested Optimum Nutrient Allowance) provides a well researched estimate of the optimal intake of Vitamin A. Their recommendations are summarized in this diagram:

SONA recommends 2000 ug per day for adults to create optimal health.  They state that toxicity can appear at 100,000 ug per day in healthy individuals - but caution that lower toxicity levels exist during pregnancy.

Clearly looking from a health view (SONA) provides very different advice than looking from a sickness view (IOM).  As we should expect.

But, the title of this blog is "Are You Preficient?"  What is 'preficient'?  Preficient is pre-deficient. Eg. it is the space between the optimal consumption of Vitamin A and the deficiency (RDA) level of Vitamin A consumption.

You might be preficient, or deficient.  If deficient, you might suffer specific illnesses over the long term.  If preficient - you will not have optimal health.

When we map the IOM numbers (RDA) and the SONA numbers into a diagram, we can clearly see deficiency and preficiency levels.

X marks the area of preficiency for Vitamin A.  If you are a male, over the age of 19 consuming less than 2000 ug per day - you may be preficient.  If you consume less than 900 ug per day, you may be deficient.

What do we know about deficiency?  Vitamin A deficiency over long periods of time, causes disease.

What do we know about preficiency? Preficiency is defined as 'the level below optimal health'.  Preficiency might cause disease, or contribute to illness - where we have not yet found a link between the preficiency and the illness.

Vitamin A deficiency causes night blindness.  Many seniors develop night blindness - which in some cases can be successfully treated with high doses of Vitamin A.  Could long term deficiency, or even long term preficiency of Vitamin A cause night blindness? If we simply 'treat' night blindness with high doses of Vitamin A - we simply fix the problem when it is detected.  If we act to improve health, instead of simply treating illness - we can avoid the problem before it occurs. We will also be acting to prevent permanent damage caused by Vitamin A preficiency or deficiency.

You might think that no-one, or hardly anyone is deficient.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture USDA's Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals, 60.1 percent of males over the age of 19 do not consume the RDA of Vitamin A.  And 58.7 percent of females as well. Over 25 percent of males and females consumed less than half the RDA of Vitamin A.

Approximately sixty percent of us may be deficient in Vitamin A.  Over 25 percent are almost certainly deficient in Vitamin A.  However, it is important to note that the Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institute of Health reports "Vitamin A deficiency rarely occurs in the United States"  -- strange? What's going on here?

How many are preficient?  We don't know, but we do know it is higher than 60 percent.

Vitamin A is a single nutrient. We know that a majority of adults are preficient of Vitamin A.  We can guess that there are many other nutrients that are also preficient.  But we don't measure preficiency. And we don't measure health - nor health level changes that might be caused by preficiency.

We should.  We might learn, for example, that some specific diseases are caused by combined preficiencies.  For example, if an adult is preficient in Vitamin A, and preficient in Omega 3 oils, and deficient in Vitamin B5 - we might find a very specific disease that is directly caused by this combination.

The truth is, we hardly measure deficiencies.  And we don't study illness and disease caused by minor, or short term deficiencies.  So we cannot take the next step - and measure illness and disease caused by combinations of deficiencies. There are many groups of diseases where our current 'medical paradigm' cannot find the cause. Maybe a health paradigm will help us to find some of these causes.

What can you do?  You have only one choice - to do your own research, and make your own decisions.  Because even the best information available from the IOM is only valid for 'healthy individuals'.  And we don't measure health, so we have no idea how healthy you are - or how healthy I am. You may be able to change your diet to ensure that you consume sufficient quantities of Vitamin A.  But if you think you can meet all of your nutritional needs for optimal health through diet - you may want to check out the food myth. 

I am not a doctor - I cannot make medical recommendations. But in the case of Vitamin A, there is an easy out.  You can consume beta-carotene, which your body uses to create Vitamin A as required.  Beta-carotene is benign - it does not appear to be toxic even at extremely high levels of consumption.  So you can safely change your diet, or supplement your diet to increase your intake of Beta-carotene, and ensure your Vitamin A consumption is not preficient.

How many other nutrients are essential to optimal health?  We don't know for certain.  What quantities are required for optimal health? For certain - we don't know.

Yours in health,
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Clap on Three and Five

I have a lot of musical friends, some have posted "Friends don't let Friends Clap on One and Three".

In this blog, about HEALTH,

I clap on three and five.

People who clap on 2 and 4, assume I'm clapping on one and three.  They're not listening.  Some, who might clap on 1 and 3, think I'm with them. They're not listening either.

Of course it's more complicated. I write this blog about HEALTH.

There are two main camps in medicine (both often call themselves 'health') care.  One, I call the "conventional medical community".  Medical doctors.The other's call themselves "alternative health", they are the "alternative medicine community".

I'm clapping on 5, for health.  Unfortunately, the health community does not exist.  Each side assumes the health community is part of their community.

Conventional medical people think they're clapping on 2 and 4 - and try to help me join them.

Alternative health people think they are really the ones on 2 and 4 - and try to get me to join.  On their 2 and 4, of course, because they are right.

Both complain when they hear me clapping on one and three. No-one hears me clapping on three and five.  They hear me on three.  And they hear me clap again, but they stopped counting at 4.

I clap on three and five.

It's the only way I can get my message across. My message is not the same as either side. Both think they hold the tune and the time, clapping 2 and 4. And my message is not on 1 and 3. It's different. My message can only be seen from a different place. When you are standing with either of the 2 and 4 groups you can't hear me.

I have noticed some curious effects as a result of clapping on three and five.  One comment to a blog post, for example:

Started with: " Interesting post."
Then: " I don't think your point ... is correct"
And finished with: "I do agree..."

We started out clapping together, drifted apart and then joined up again. All in a single paragraph.  All on a single subject.

Why do I clap on three and five?

My blog is about health.  Everyone knows something about health.  Unfortunately, most of what people know about health is actually NOT about health, it's about illness and disease.

So, I start talking about health, the hierarchy of health, disciplines of health, measurement of health, etc... - and people think I'm with them, on two and four.  But, they are thinking about illness and disease.  We're so close together. But so out of synchronization.  We're sort of together on three. They just think I'm slightly off beat.  And when I get to 5 - they think I've thrown a curve ball - or fallen off my rocker.

The fundamental concept, that all illness is caused by a deficiency or an excess - seems to trivial to be true, or too trivial to be useful.  It is true, and useful.  This simple concept, combined with the hierarchy of health, presents a completely new way to look at health.  And thus, a new way to look at illness.  And there's a problem.

The medical practitioners, and the alternative health practitioners are so busy looking at illness - they can't see health. And they have a lot invested in illness.  Their entire lives and careers. They can't afford to see, or hear, or dance to new music about health.

Suddenly I clap on five. They are dancing in 4/4 time. There is no 5.

So, they hear me clapping on 1. But something's wrong. I'm not on one and three.  I'm not on 2 and 4.  I'm not a doctor.  I'm not an alternative health practitioner. 

I'm a retired systems analyst, with 30 years experience analyzing systems from the inside and the outside, making challenges and changes to objectives, goals, policies, procedures and processes in a bureaucratic organization that wants positive change at the same time as it resists change.

I'm a thinker, blogger, a writer, a student of health with a unique point of view, a unique sense of time and place and a unique sense of health. I'm on the outside, on three and five.

I believe we need to study health, before illness.

When 'medical practitioners' (either side), study 'health', they think of health as binary. Either you are healthy, or you are not. - eg. You are sick. When you are sick, they want to help you - and when you are healthy - they move on to someone else. This view of health is so ingrained that it permeates the future. In Star Trek - where the 'medical tricorder' measures only illness, and comes up blank if there is no illness.

This blog is about health. Not about illness.  About health before illness.

This blog is about exploring the fundamental concepts of health - so that we can better understand illness.

And it's about freedom. The freedom we all need to make our own decisions.  The freedom of knowledge and information that we need to support the best decisions. And the freedom to make mistakes.  Right now, only doctors are allowed to make mistakes.  That's very wrong.

The freedom to clap on three and five.  Even if the best musicians know that 3 is wrong, and 5 does not exist.

For your health,

ps. If you enjoy my posts, please share - and you might LIKE my facebook page

Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Wave of Awareness - Staving Injury - Saving Lives

Whenever I walk across the street,
I'm ever so careful, to place my feet
Slowly, no running, not looking at stars,
And ever so careful to wave at the cars.
                                     (apologies to Alan Alexander Milne)

When I cross the street, I make a point of waving.  My 'wave of awareness'.  I don't always get a wave back, but often, I get an acknowledgement, a nod - and most important, a brake.

When I drive, I am always thankful for a 'wave of awareness' from pedestrians.

They see me. They're paying attention.  I feel a bit safer for them - we've connected via the wave.  When pedestrians don't acknowledge my  presence, or the fact that I slowed for them, I worry that the next driver might not be so careful.  Sometimes, I'm worried the driver behind me has not seen them - and might crash into me as I slow down.

Wave please. It's safer for you. And me too. I don't want to run over anyone. I know the mantra 'look both ways before you cross the street'.  And the driver's advice, 'watch out for pedestrians'.  But I also know the dangers.  Sometimes, when I'm driving - the sun is in my eyes.  Or bright lights.  Or rain or snow. I can't see everything.  I drive carefully, but I'm always worried.  What if a young child runs out in front of me without looking?

Just last week, a young schoolgirl stepped out from behind a bus - and was hit by a truck.  She lived, but it was not pleasant.  She didn't wave.  He didn't wave.

We need to go beyond 'look both ways'.

To a 'wave of awareness'.

When  you want to cross the street, even if you think the traffic is stopping - wave.  Don't waive your safety.

If you are driving, and someone wants to cross - a wave back says you've seen them, and you are stopping.  Flashing your lights can be a wave - it also says "OK, I see you, I'm stopping".

Connie Kaldor, one of my favorite singers; "I come from a land that is harsh and unforgiving.  Winter snows can kill you, and the summer burn you dry."  The pedestrian is outside, in the cold, or heat - and the driver is inside, usually warmer, or cooler.  In my world, the person on foot should have the right of way.

Sometimes I find myself in a wave war.  A nervous pedestrian wants me to go first.  I do so, carefully.  There may be a reason they want me to go first (they might be waiting to get into a car that is behind me).  But someone behind them might step out, assuming that I am stopping.

Some drivers are very worried about hitting pedestrians.  That's OK too.  They too also wind up in a 'war of waves', each trying to push the other forward.  First rule in a wave war?  Smile! Every wave is a gesture of friendliness.

One winter, many years ago, I was driving around a traffic circle, and a group of young teens were running through the centre.  They were not paying attention, and I slowed as I drove towards them - lucky for them, the traffic behind me slowed as well. One of them tripped on the curb, and fell onto the road in front of me.  I stopped. When she got up, I waved.  And she waved. I wished she had learnt the wave of awareness, I'd be happy to stop. She was embarrassed, I'm sure, but not badly hurt.

She looked.  I looked.  She thought she could get through before I got there - so she didn't stop.  She didn't wave.  She was talking to her friends, aware of the traffic, not aware of the curb. Lucky for her, and for me - I was paying attention, not eating, talking on my phone, or tuning the radio.  A moment of in-attention could have led to disaster.

Teach your children well.  Teach them to wave. And when they learn to drive - teach them to wave back.

What does the 'wave of awareness' look like?  It's not just a wave.  It's a wave of communications.  A stiff arm at the crosswalk can be a wave - if it's friendly. You might intend to communicate that you are crossing, but if the driver is.... not alert, blinded by sun or bright lights, distracted... there will be no return wave - and danger.

A wave of awareness looks for a response.

The response might not be a full wave. A raised hand, a tip of the head, or a flash of headlights.  No matter - the return wave says 'I see you, go ahead'. That too is a wave of awareness and communication.

If the traffic is already slowing or stopped - the wave is a thank you.

Of course you still need to be careful.  Is the traffic already slowing?  Has the driver really seen you? A thank you wave is always a good idea.

Is there traffic in the next lane? You may need to repeat the wave or look for a second or third acknowledgement. I grew up in a small town.  Everybody waved to everybody.  It works in the city too.

If you have the light, and the traffic is stopped, do you need to wave?  Of course not, but it never hurts to say thank you.  The wave of awareness is also a thank you.

But also, be aware... beware...

Even if you don't wave, it helps to 'think wave'.  When you 'think wave', you look.  Even when you have the light, and the traffic is stopped.  The driver turning right can 'go after stopping' on a red light - if the way is clear. But that driver might be in a hurry. Might not stop every time, might not see you.  That last lane, when you think you are almost safe - still needs a wave of awareness.

Watch out for that turning lane when you leave the curb as well.  The driver may be looking left, for traffic and not see you, on the right.  A wave of awareness, acknowledged, says it's OK to cross.

When driving, watch for the wave.  When walking - wave.  The wave of awareness, making friends, staving injury, saving lives. Don't rush to an accident.

yours in health, tracy
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Is Listening to the Blues Healthy?

Is listening to Blues Music Healthy? Is that such a strange question? Is it strange because the blues are often a complaining musical style - or is it because we don't really know what health is?

We have very poor techniques for measuring what is healthy, and what is unhealthy. Is there a way to measure health such that we can answer the question, or perhaps just explore the question "are the Blues healthy".

Health is very broad, rich and complex.  And seldom measured. We tend to measure illness - and pretend we are measuring health.  Even the futuristic Medical Tricorder on Star Trek appears to only measure illness.  Health it seems is binary.  Either you are, or you are not.  Health is not measured.

But if it was measured, could we set up a study to determine if people who listen to the blues are healthier than those who don't - in the same community?  I don't mean measure who is 'most likely to be sick'.  A measurement of sickness is not a measure of health.  Just ask anyone who got a clean 'bill of health' last week, and a death sentence this week.  Shhhh... It happens.

So, is listening to the blues healthy?  Or perhaps I should re-phrase the question.  Is listening to the blues likely to increase, or to decrease your level of health? Think about it.

You can listen to the blues on your iPod, or radio, or computer, or... you might listen to blues music 'live'.

Let's confine our discussion to listening to live blues music.  Is it healthy?  Does it increase your health?

The hierarchy of health  shows that health has hundreds, possibly thousands of components, in 10 layers, from genetics, through nutrition, cells, all the way up to healthy communities. Let's do a quick back of the envelope review.

Listening to the blues is unlikely to affect your genetic makeup.  Although it might be good, or bad, for the genetic makeup of your future children.

Can listening to the blues affect your nutritional status? It might enhance your nutritional status - by getting you out to different places, in contact with different people - so you might eat more varieties of food than someone who does not listen to live blues music, or someone who just listens at home. Eating a wider variety of food improves your nutritional status.

Of course you can always have too much of a good thing.  If you eat too much of any healthy food, even water, it becomes unhealthy.  And I suppose it may be possible to listen to too much blues - neglecting other aspects of your health.  But that's not the question we're asking.

Listening to live blues music is a social activity.  Nutrition may be a social benefit.  Of course for some people, listening to the blues may be an opportunity to drink a lot of alcohol - and avoid eating.  So.. the jury is out.  More study may be needed on the nutritional question.

How about cells, tissues, organs, systems and your body.  Is listening to the blues good for your cells?  Your body?  Blues music is 'movement music'. It might not induce aerobic exercise, but it does get people's bodies up moving, maybe dancing, or at least swaying to the beat.  Even though the lyrics may be angry, or unhappy - the beat, the rhythm, the energy inherent in the blues - gets your mojo working. Whatever that means, it sounds healthy to me!

What about your mind?  It is well known that music exercises the mind. And blues music is no exception.  It gets you singing along, exercising your brain as well as your lungs.

And it lifts your spirits.  Strange, but true, hearing someone sing "my wife left me" or perhaps "my wife won't leave me alone" - can make you feel better. Your troubles are forgotten.  You might forget about your pain while you listen to someone else's pain.  It's like the perfect placebo - or the perfect drug - with no side effects.  And not addictive.

And your community health? Listening to the blues is a social activity.  Few people go out to listen to the blues - and then sit in the corner avoiding everyone. You meet people, discuss, build your community.  Some people, I am sure, listen to the blues because of the community - and see it as more important than the music.

There are some who might argue that playing the blues is bad for your health. But I've seen only anecdotal evidence.  Some well known blues musicians have drug or alcohol problems.  But, I know blues musicians who don't drink, or don't drink excessively, for example.  They just like playing the blues.  Maybe, it's like anything else.  If you spend too much time  playing the blues, or listening to the blues - to the detriment of other healthy activities - your health will suffer.  But a bit of blues is good for the mind, body, soul and community.

How much blues is good for  your health?  Enough, and maybe a bit more.

How much is too much?

It's personal - and it can change as you change, from day to day, week to week, year to year. Of course if you have a blues partner, this might be a more complex question.

to your health, tracy  (heading out to get some blues tonight)

Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The concepts of Illness and Disease

Note: These concepts, first published in 2011, have led to the book: Healthicine: The Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness which expands on them in detail.

As we live, and love, and work to understand and improve our health, we encounter illness and disease. We should take some time to understand the concepts and causes of illness and disease. What is disease, what causes illness?

It's always worthwhile to check the dictionary - and you can spend a lot of time checking different dictionaries and definitions.  I'll stick with Merriam-Webster.

Disease: trouble (obsolete); a condition of the living animal or plant or one of its part that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms; a harmful development (as in a social institution).

Illness: wickedness and unpleasantness (obsolete); an unhealthy condition of body and mind.

So, illness and disease can range from unhealthy bodily state, like a minor temporary dehydration caused by exercise, to a disease like cancer - which can kill an individual, to contagious disease that spreads through a population, to the diseases of crime and intolerance which can affect an entire society.  The word illness seems a bit more restrictive - but I'll use both interchangeably.

What is the cause of disease?

The generalized cause of all disease, is a deficiency or an excess. Although this might seem trivial, it is an important concept to the understanding of health and disease.

We can see in the image, that the defined transition from health to disease is very gradual.  The distinction moves very gradually from healthy to deficient, or from healthy to excessive. Of course a specific illnesses like a gunshot wound (excessive physical stress), can occur very quickly in time.
The specific cause determines the type and affects the severity of the disease.

A primary illness is one that has a single cause. A secondary illness is an illness that has two sequential causes, where the second cause is enabled by a primary illness. A complex illness is one that has more than one cause.

Another important distinction is the definition of a 'medical condition', which is diagnosed by a doctor based on  specific symptoms and signs.  A 'medical condition' is an illness or disease that passes a specific level of severity.  Note: Merriam-Webster does not define medical condition, an online search for medical condition takes you to the definition for disease. This a slightly different diagram shows the significance of a medical condition.
Note added Dec 30, 2011 "You can see in the above diagram that health includes, and is larger than illness."

To illustrate the variability of illness, you might have a gunshot wound through the tip of your fingernail - an insignificant illness for most of us, to a gunshot wound scraping the skin, requiring a band-aid, to a flesh wound, requiring a diagnosis and treatment by a physician, to a mortal wound. Each is an excess of physical stress, from minor to fatal. A medical condition does not formally exist until a physician makes a diagnosis.

In my blog, I often use the term 'wide grey' to define the gradual shading change seen as we gradually move from perfectly healthy to a serious state of deficiency or excess. I've deliberately used a gunshot wound to demonstrate the transition, and also to give an example of an illness that is very visible throughout the transition.  A medical condition is not a gray-scale.  It must be diagnosed, so there is a hard line where the existence of a medical condition is created by a physician.

It is unlikely that you would have the symptoms of a gunshot wound and not know the cause. There are many symptoms of illness where you do not know the cause.  And unless you are diagnosed by a physician, you might not know the name of the illness.

What is a symptom?  Merriam-Webster is a bit confusing on this definition: subjective evidence of disease or physical disturbance; broadly : something that indicates the presence of bodily disorder; a slight indication. I say it is confusing for two reasons.  Merriam-Webster's definition does not seem to recognize 'objective symptoms', which doctors generally seek for a more accurate diagnosis.  Also, it appears to restrict symptoms to indications of 'bodily disorders', thus excluding mental disorders, social disorders, etc. Although the third definition is vague and general enough to cover everything, perhaps even the symptom of dawn light as a symptom of the coming sunrise.

From the health point of view, a symptom is an indication that health is less than optimal.  Your health might be less than optimal - without symptoms.  However, once you experience, or someone, for example a doctor, detects something indicating that your health is less than optimal - that something is a symptom.

The hierarchy of health defines the layers and components of health from an overall view. Each component of health can range from perfectly healthy to deficient or excessive.

Many illnesses, in minor or severe states, have similar symptoms.  One of the most common symptoms is irritation or pain. It is important to remember that even the absence of pain can indicate an illness. Our sensations of irritation and pain can range from deficient to healthy to excessive.

As a result of the many hundreds, perhaps thousands of health components, and the overlapping of symptoms of illness, determining the cause of an illness is very complex.

Physicians can, and often do, diagnose the name of the illness, and prescribe treatment - without determining the cause.  Treatment, especially in an emergency situation, is more important than understanding the cause.

Identifying the cause is primarily useful for prevention of illness and disease.

What is the difference between healthiness and illness?

I view health as a natural state. And illness as an unnatural state.  And the transition, or wide grey area between health and illness as the way to measure health. It is important to measure health in order to study health scientifically.  Most of today's 'studies' of health are actually studies of illness - a powerful perspective to deal with illness, but a very weak perspective to understand health.

Perfect health is unattainable. The WHO (World Health Organization) definition of health is not useful to understand health, because it defines 'perfect health', saying "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being..."  This state cannot be attained.  Health must be measured. WHO spends lots of time and energy measuring illness - but health is not measured.  I believe this is partly because the WHO definition of health does not encompass the ability to measure health.

Because perfect health is unattainable - we can always measure the health of any health component, the health of an individual and even the health of a community.

Health is measured as between 100 (perfection) and zero (non-existent).  Health is the good stuff...

Illness is measured the other way. Illness is measured as zero (non-existent) to 100 (a confirmed diagnosis).  Illness is the bad stuff.

Are healthiness and illness opposites, or opposite ends of the same scale of life?  I don't look at it that way.  Our medical systems focus entirely on illness.  Only illness is measured, diagnosed and treated. Health is ignored, as if it only exists in perfection and as if nothing can be learned from studying health.

We should not confuse the good stuff (health) with the bad stuff (illness and disease).

I believe we must study health, separately from illness - to learn about health and improve our health.

That, in a nutshell, is the mission of this blog.  We need personal health freedom so that we can study health, learn about health, understand health better, and experience and improve our health as a result.

to your health,
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 


ps. If you enjoy my posts, please share - and you might LIKE my facebook page