Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I water down my Coke. Is it OK to drink bottled water?

I buy bottled water.  I drink bottle water.  I've heard all the theories about bottled water is bad for me, bad for the environment.... I should drink tap water.

Truth be told, I have no idea what the truth is. Let's check some commonly expressed opinions.
1. Bottled water is not good value.  Tap water is cheaper.
2. It's no healthier than tap water.
3. Water is being bought up by corporations and changed to a commodity.
4. Bottled water isn't 'green'.

But wait, there's more... There are the poison plastic reasons:
1. Plastic water bottles can release hormone like chemicals when they are heated. If the bottle sits in a hot car, for example.
2. Plastic bottle in the environment last hundreds or thousands of years.
... and so on...

But what's the reality?  Is it bad to choose bottled water?

Bottled water is a health choice. First of all, let's understand that most, probably all health choices have positive and negative aspects. I'm in favour of health freedom, freedom to make personal choices. Bottled water can also be a healthy choice.

I also think it is important to look at the choice, the decision, not just the perceived BAD 'bottled water'. Let's look more closely at the choice.  Here's the choice I encounter often.

I am thirsty.  I want something to drink in my car, on my bike, on my walk, etc... There is no fountain or tap nearby.  But there is a gas station, a small store - or a large store.  I want something that I can carry with me, sip slowly, rather than gulping a lot at one time.

I can choose bottled Coca Cola, bottled Pepsi, Sprite or 7-UP.  Or I might choose bottled orange juice, or an energy drink.  Or bottled water.

What's the healthiest choice? Bottled water.

 When we check the list of objections to bottled water - they all apply to Coca Cola, to Pepsi, to bottled juices.  But all of those other choices have more negatives.  Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, and 7-UP all have high sugar content, definitely a health negative. The diet versions might actually be worse - virutally all of the sugar substitutes used in pop are poorly tested, potentially dangerous chemicals.  Juices are generally high in sugar or non-organic sugar substitutes.  Even 100 percent Orange Juice is not real Orange Juice - it is a highly processed juice to ensure a long shelf life.  As far as I know, there has been very little study of the health effects of processed OJ.  Choose milk?  Commercially available milk is highly processed, often supplemented with many other chemicals - and possibly taken from antibiotic dosed, hormone injected cows. I can buy flavoured water - but when I think about it - I find myself reading the list of ingredients -and moving over to choose bottled water again.

The healthy choice is bottled water.

You might hear comments like 'why is water the same price as Cola, it's just water?'  I, on the other hand, wonder why they don't charge MORE for bottled water.  It is the healthiest choice - maybe it should be more expensive?

Which is healthier for the environment?  All choices seem to have the same effect on the environment.  So why is it OK to buy Coke, but NOT OK to buy bottled water?

The final nail.  I have heard it said that, if I want bottled water - I should get some bottles and take tap water with me instead of buying bottled water.  It's a good suggestion some of the time - and I do it some of the time.  Maybe you've done the same?

But did you notice?  I certainly did - that tap water does not do well in plastic bottles.  What's up with that?  When I put tap water in a plastic bottle, and leave it in my car for a few days - it develops a strange smell. It goes 'skunky'. But I can open a commercial bottle of water and sip it over several days without any strange smells.  I don't know what's happening there - but it reinforces my decision.

Bottled water is a healthy choice. When I can, I drink tap water.  I'm not happy that tap water in my city, and in many cities, contains fluoride. I travel to many countries - and I sometimes drink tap water.  When I need a bottle of water - I make that choice, over other, less healthy, drinks. Sometimes, I drink Coca Cola, or Pepsi.  I like the taste, but it's too sweet for me, so I tend to water them down - with tap water of course.  

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


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Genetic Healthicine

If you want to live a long, healthy life - choose your parents well.

How can we tell if we have healthy genes?  Can we measure the health of our genes? Can we affect our healthiness through choices related to our genes?

You have probably seen reports of diseases that are caused by genetic defects, or genetic tendencies towards disease.

A Search for the Healthy Genes, an article from Wired magazine, suggests that maybe we should search for, in the words of Maynard Olsen "mutated genes that make people healthier."

What is healthier? Should we search for genes that 'make people healthier'?  Or search for genes that make us healthy. Maynard goes on with an important observation:

"This is what physicians have always done: find sick people and find out why they're sick," he said. "It can't be emphasized enough how embedded that (mindset) is. "Studying healthy people is an essentially unexplored approach, and healthy genes are probably plentiful."

The field of genetic health is virtually unexplored in humans.  We have some research into genetic illness, and genetic dispositions for illness, but virtually no research into healthiness genes. 

We do know some complexities.  Many genetic factors that we know about can be good and bad.  Is there a  word for something that is good and bad? The genetic tendency for sickle cell anaemia, for example protects against malaria, but when the gene occurs twice, it cause the disease sickle cell anaemia. 

Many genetic factors are good for some aspects of health - and  not good for other aspects.  

When we look at the other layers in the hierarchy of health - it gets more complex.  How do our genes affect our nutritional health?  How do they affect our cellular health, our tissue health, our organ health, system health, body health, mind health, spirit health and community healthiness? 

We do know some simple things - most adult Asians, for example, are lactose intolerant. Is lactose intolerance healthy? or unhealthy?  It's not that simple. People who are lactose intolerant as adults should not consume milk. Most adult mammals are lactose intolerant, presumably an adaptation to ensure that the young animals get the milk.  We humans have adapted and take milk from cows (sheep, goats, etc.), so milk shortage is not an issue.  As a result, some humans can consume milk as adults.  This might be a healthy adaptation - but it's moot.  If you are, or are not - you can't choose lactose tolerance. You can only choose to drink, or not to drink milk. Or maybe you can.  Genes are 'activated'.  The gene for lactose intolerance appears to be activated by weaning - up to that time, it is dormant. Maybe if Asians don't stop drinking milk - then won't become lactose intolerant?  Maybe we have more genetic choices than think.

Each of us is an alphabet soup of genetics, with random genes chosen from each of our parents, and random (or not) genes activated by our environments. Genes can be activated, modulated or silenced. 

Genetics and Nutritional Health:  How do our genes affect our nutrition?  How does the activation of our genes affect our nutrition? Can we learn about our individual genetics to improve our personal nutrition health?  For example, we can find people proposing a "body type diet", a 'blood type diet", "nutritional typing".  Is there any scientific research to support any of these dietary approaches?  If so, can these diets be linked to genetic factors?  Do our nutritional needs change as genes are activated and modulated?

Genetics and Cellular Health:  do genes affect the health of our cells?  In fact, the activation of genes determines what types of cells develop in each part of our body.  Can we choose to influence these genes?  Scientists are starting to learn.  Sickle cell anaemia is a direct link from genetics to cells. 

There is another important genetic component of cellular health.  Many of the functioning cells in our bodies are foreign.  Our mouth, stomach, intestines and bowels have a very active group of healthy foreign cells to aid our digestion. It is estimated that the average healthy person harbours 500 different species of healthy bacteria cells. What do we know about the genetics of the healthy bacteria we harbour?  And what about the unhealthy bacteria?   Are some bacteria healthy sometimes - and unhealthy in other situations? 

Genetics and Tissue Health: is the health of our muscular tissues, our connective tissues, other tissues affected by our genes and by our genetic healthiness - the activation of our genes? There are, for example, connective tissue illnesses that are linked to genetics.  How about connective tissue healthiness that is linked to genetics? How much control might we have over this aspect or our health as we learn to understand genetic healthiness? 

Genetics and Organ Health: can we influence the health of our organs by making decisions about our genetics?   As we move through the Hierarchy of Health it becomes apparent that our current studies of health and healthiness are very shallow. Will we learn to regenerate damaged organs through studies of genetic healthiness? 

Genetics and Body Health: We tend to think of diet and exercise as the ways to improve the health of our bodies.   Those are the easiest to control directly and see positive or negative results. What types of exercise, for example are best for your body?  Can clues be found in your genetics?  What diets are best for your body?  What clues lie in your genes? 

Genetics and Mind Health: do your genes make your mind more active?  Less active? More fragile? Less fragile?  More prone to illness?  Less prone to illness? than someone else's genes?  Studies of twins suggest that tendencies to be introverted, or extroverted are linked to genetics.  Is it healthier to be introverted? Or Extroverted?  Probably neither is healthier - but it may help us improve our health, or take healthier actions if we understand our genetic mind tendencies. 

Genetics and Spiritual Health: It is interesting that the Catholic church expects priests to not have children. If the spirituality in the priest is not passed to a child - does the Catholic religion tend to 'breed out' spirituality?  Spirituality and spiritual healthiness is very poorly understood. We do not have any effective way to measure spiritual health - certainly not a way that would be accepted by all religions.  If we cannot measure spiritual healthiness - how can we expect to improve it?  Is genetics linked to spiritual health? 

Genetics and Community Health: An interesting concept.  Is community health learned?  Or genetic?  We can understand that community health of bees, wasps and ants is a result of their unique genetics.  What about people?  Measurement of community health is also a challenge we have not attempted to study.  We have many measures of the illnesses - but not the health -- of individuals in different communities.  Is that community health?  We need distinct measurements to determine and compare the health of different communities. Once we learn to effectively measure the health of communities - we will be able to start the analysis of how genetics and gene activation of individuals affect the health of the community. 

I'm not suggesting we try to change the world by controlling genetics through controlled reproduction.  The concepts of eugenics directly conflict with the goals of this blog - Personal Health Freedom

We need to study genetics from a health point of view.  And health from a genetics point of view.  At present, most 'scientific studies' of genetics seem to be done by drug companies, looking for ways to cure illness.  

We need to find ways to find and to create healthiness in and through our genes.

To your health,  tracy

Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hans Rosling: Beautiful Statistics about Communities, Health and Money

Hans Rosling speaks elegantly about the health of communities (countries) and how it has changed over the last century - with some predictions into the future.  He gives us a 'grandmother' view of statistics in a most interesting presentaiton and finishes by demonstrating that the seemingly impossible is possible.


Hans demonstrates over and over that the richest people are not the healthiest people.

You can see an earlier presentation, somewhat of a foundation for this one, here: http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_shows_the_best_stats_you_ve_ever_seen.html
where he demonstrates that the problem with his students is not ignorance - it is pre-concieved ideas about 'we' and 'them'. The graphic presentation of statistics is the best I have ever seen.

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

Friday, January 20, 2012

Are you Sick? Or just Unhealthy?

Mike goes to the doctor with a cough.  Is he sick? Or just unhealthy?

The doctor asks how many cigarettes Mike smokes - a pack a day, for 25 years.  Is Mike sick?  Or just unhealthy?

It's not easy to tell if someone is sick, or just unhealthy.  Even in Mike's situation.  If the cough just came on in the past few days, and there are other symptoms - Mike is probably sick.  But if the cough is a nagging cough that has been present and growing, Mike is probably 'just unhealthy'.

Mike's case is a simple one. It can get much more complicated. Let's look again at Alice and Zizi.  You might remember that Alice and Zizi are the same age, similar in many ways, but Alice gets 5 to 7 colds a year, whereas Zizi gets a cold once every 1 or 2 years. Now, Alice develops a cough.  Is she sick? Or just unhealthy? It might be difficult to tell. Alice might have a cough because she ate something that caused her to cough,, or because she is in the final stages of a cold. Presumably, if she is in the final stages of 'another' cold, then she has a cough because she is unhealthy - compared to Zizi - and because she is sick with a cold.

What is unhealthiness? Is there a difference between unhealthiness and sickness.

Merriam-Webster defines unhealthy as "not in good health : sickly, diseased".

People tend to use the words sickness, illness and disease interchangeably. Medical condition is sometimes used for special illnesses like a bone fracture, or bullet puncture - but, medical condition can also be used to name all variations of sickness, illness, disease and medical condition.

In our studies of health and healthiness, it is important to have a clearly defined meaning for unhealthiness.  Health has been defined as: a measure of the state of wellness of a personor community. Health can be seen as a measure, between 0 and 100 percent, that defines the state of wellness.  It is clear than that un-health should be the other percentage, the state of unwellness. 

For example, if your health score is 80 precent, which might be a higher than average score, then your unhealthiness would be 100 - 80, or 20 percent unhealthiness.  

We tend to think of unhealthiness is a condition that is within personal control.  This includes: 
 - poor nutrition 
 - poor cleanliness
 - laziness (insufficient exercise, insufficient mental stress, etc.)

Where is the line between unhealthiness and illness?  When does unhealthiness become a medical condition?  What does it mean when unhealthiness becomes a medical condition? 
This diagram shows a transition from healthiness to unhealthiness to medical condition. The black line represents the point of diagnosable illness. 

If you are simply 'unhealthy' by one of many measurements, you can change.  An unhealthy diet can be changed, improved and eventually become a healthy diet. Of course you can never be 100 percent healthy.  If you are ill, you might be able to increase your level of health - and become not ill - depending on the illness.

So can someone be 'unhealthy'?  In light of this information, it's difficult to define a specific line where unhealthiness begins.  We have no statistics on the health of 'normal people' so we can hardly define those who are 'unhealthy'. But of course it gets more complicated. 

The hierarchy of healthiness has 10 layers of health, from genetics to community health.

In each layer, we have a health score and, by subtracting the health score from 100, we can calculate an unhealthiness score for that area.

In this example, we can see a Community unhealthiness of 18, a Spirit unhealthiness of 22, etc to a Nutrient unhealthiness score of 32 and Genetic unhealthiness of 22. The overall unhealthiness score is 100-78 = 22.

Is healthiness, or unhealthiness is some areas more important than in other areas? Should some illnesses be classified as 'unhealthiness' instead of illness?  Will that help us to determine the best actions?

When we learn to measure healthiness effectively, we will also learn to measure unhealthiness.  And then we will have a better understanding of the choices we can make with regards to both our healthiness and our illnesses.

Illness (sickness)
 - can be diagnosed
 - often the result of external conditions (virus, germs, etc)
 - often a temporary condition (time heals all wounds)
 - may require treatment

 - a result of long term health actions or inactions
 - not a temporary condition - will not change without changes in activities
 - generally not affected by 'treatments' or medicines

We treat illness directly, and we treat unhealthiness indirectly, by healthy actions, for the most effective results.

It is important to ask ourselves, are we sick?  Or just unhealthy?

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


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Don't Like Analysis

Are people who "don't like" more healthy, or less, healthy?

I often see reports like: people who drink red wine are less likely to have heart attacks;  people who smoke are more likely to develop lung cancer; people who drink green tea have fewer cancers.  Sometimes it seems like everything is bad for you - unless someone is selling it, in which case everything is good for you.

It can't possibly get more complicated - or can it?

I often meet people who "don't like" specific foods.  Some people "can't eat" specific foods, saying "I'm allergic to...".

Green peppers are perhaps the most famous - because people who don't like the taste of them 'really don't like them a lot'. There are lots of theories about green peppers.  I like them, and I have my own theory about why people don't like them.

Green peppers can cause people to burp - because the skin is harder to digest.  And when you burp - you taste and smell the food that caused the discomfort - so you learn that green peppers cause digestive problems.  This is a natural defense to keep us from eating foods that are toxic.  Burping after you eat any new food can lead to a dislike that is hard to shake.  Green peppers are often used in pizza - and I can see another source of dislike.  Pizza is not a very safe food, prone to food poisoning if you are not careful.  If you get food poisoning from pizza, you might burp - you might throw up. And which of the ingredients will you remember?  I'm betting it's the green pepper.  It is easy to learn to dislike the taste of green pepper.

Beer is one of the least famous. Many people don't like the taste of beer, especially people in their late teens to mid-twenties. But many people who don't like the taste of beer 'like to drink' beer so cold that the taste disappears. I like the taste of beer, so I don't like cold beer - it has no taste.

Our diets change over time, often without our awareness.  We can learn to like things that we don't like.  And we can learn to dislike things that we do like.  When we are children, our likes and dislikes are often created by comments from parents or siblings - who might say things like "YUCK, how can you eat that?". I know several people who's fathers served in the war - and learned to hate mutton.  So the children learned a dislike for the taste of lamb. Over time, each of us develops a unique "Don't Like" profile.

As I encounter people who don't like certain foods, or who cannot eat certain foods because of allergies - I sometimes wonder if anyone has studied Don't Likes and related them to illness.  What if we created a field of study called "Don't Like Analysis"?

Are people who don't like green peppers more likely to develop certain illnesses?

Are people who have a lot of Don't Likes healthier, or less healthy than people who have few dislikes? 

Are there clusters of people who don't like groups of foods?  How does the health of these people compare to people who do like most foods in that group?

Do our tastes change, or mature over time?  It seems that young people don't like red wine, or olives.  But as we grow older our taste changes - and we might learn to love both.  Does this happen for all foods, or just some foods?

I like the taste of lobster, but it seems that, about 50 percent of the time, if I eat lobster - I break out in  a serious case of hives the next day.  It generally lasts less than 8 hours, but is very uncomfortable.  So, I don't eat lobster - even though I like the taste.  I can't be sure if it will get better or worse.  Once I had a similar experience from trout - which I also love.  I assumed the trout may have been processed over a table that also processed lobster.  I've enjoyed trout many times since then without incident.  It would have been easy to decide that I shouldn't eat trout.

Now that I've started to think about it...  I suspect there have been few health, or illness, studies on what people like to eat.  It's difficult to measure what people actually eat and then study their health.  It might be easier to ask them what foods and drinks they really like - and then analyze their health and illness for correlations.

Which goes to show - we don't know much about health.  There are many more questions than answers. It reminds me of a quote that a co-worker kept over her desk:

We have not succeeded in answering all our problems. The answers we have found only serve to raise a whole set of new questions. In some ways we feel we are as confused as ever, but we believe we are confused on a higher level and about more important things.

We are confused about health. There seem to be more questions than answers.  Each answer seems to raise a whole new set of questions.  We are getting more and more confused.

But our confusion about health seems to be very erratic. We are not asking questions, and finding answers that raise our confusion to a higher level. We are jumping from one answer to another.  From one confusion to another.  Red wine is good. Alcohol is bad.

We are not creating a foundation of knowledge, we are not "confused at a higher level and about more important things".

If we ar to raise our knowledge of health to a higher level, we need to study and understand the hierarchy of health. We need to learn to measure health in each of the layers, and each of the components of health - separately from illness.  When we learn to measure health, we can learn which health measurements are most useful. Today we only study the usefulness of illness measurements.

When we learn which health measurements are most useful, most indicative of overall health status - we will have answered questions that raise our knowledge to a higher level.  Then we can ask questions about "what people don't like", and measure the results - relating them directly to health.

 Maybe someday we will find health practitioners with this quote variation over their desk:

We have not succeeded in answering all health questions. The answers we have found only serve to raise a whole set of new questions. In some ways we feel we are as confused as ever, but we believe we are confused on a higher level and about more important things.

I want to be confused about health - at a higher level, and about more important things.

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

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Health Help ! ! ! ! Phase Two: Community

January 2012 is time for a new start.  This blog has progressed slowly but steadily over the past few years, growing from an idea, to a concept - to a solid foundation for the understanding of health and freedoms.  It's time to go to the next level.  First, let's review where we are.

We have:

1. A declaration of the right to Personal Health Freedom - Everyone has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of healthiness. 

2. Definitions of health and healthiness, that are useful and can be measured.  Health is a measure of the states of wellness of a person, or community. Healthiness is a specific incidence, or measurement, of health. Overall health is a summary of a set of measurements of healthiness. 

3. A comprehensive hierarchy of health from genetics, through nutrition, cells, tissues, organs, systems, body, mind, spirit and community, that facilitates study of specific primary layers, and secondary studies of how layers integrate.

4. A clear summary of the causes of illness - specific deficiencies or excesses and a definition of Primary Illness - an illness that has a single cause. 

Where to go next?

The foundation is solid and might lead us in many directions.  We can analyze further, although it may lead to more questions than answers - hopefully the questions raised are more important than the questions we face today.

Answers, according to John Ralston Saul, are simply "a mechanism for avoiding questions". One of the missions of my blog is to find some of the questions that no-one asks about health.  It's too easy to ask questions about illness, and so hard to find the right questions about health. I expect that as we propose and find answers - they will lead us to more important questions as well.

I believe it is time to build a community of healthiness and the study of healthiness. Maybe to find a community of healthiness.  Does one exist today?  Do several exist?  Do they know they exist?  

What do you know about health?  What are your most important illness questions?  For most of us, that's easy.

What are your most important health questions?

That's more difficult.  Is it possible to think about and discuss health without referring to illness?  Is it possible to find a health website that does not, in actual fact, look for solutions to illness rather than ways to improve health?

What books do you think give the best health information?

What websites give health information, not just medical or illness information?

Where can we find health?

I'm looking for your input, your questions and your opinions so that we can all learn together.  My aim is to provide a list of book reviews, website reviews, etc from a health perspective.  Send me your suggestions, ideas, etc.

Together we can build a community of health.

yours in health, tracy

Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: