Simmering Hope

Hope is the expectation that something outside of ourselves, something or someone external, is going to come to our rescue and we will live happily ever after. – Dr. Robert Anthony

Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Apr 21, 2008

Would you really try Botox?

As a child I remember hearing once in a while that somebody died because of botulism, and without knowing at that time if that was a poison or an infection, but knowing that in almost all the cases it was associated with fish, I developed a slight paranoia fish- related.
Later on, after I took some courses in Bacteriology, I found out that botulism is caused by Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum), which is a bacterium that inhabits rivers, soil, and the guts of mammals, fish, and shellfish worldwide. These bacteria secrete a neurotoxin (nerve poison) so deadly that a few billionths of a gram could kill you. This is botulin toxin, one of the most dangerous substances known. Botulism is the condition of having been poisoned with botulin toxin.
The most common botulism occurs via food, not only fish. Most food-borne botulism is attributed to home-canned foods and it can also be transmitted by foods that are not heated, or not heated thoroughly, before eating. Almost every type of food has been associated with outbreaks of botulism, but the most commonly implicated foods are vegetables, particularly “low-acid” (i.e., higher pH) vegetables such as beans, peppers, carrots, and corn. Botulism has been related to honey as well, this being the main reason for not recommending honey to infants.

All right, so we know that botulin toxin is dangerous, and even more, it can be developed into a biological weapon.
In February 28, 2001, there was an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, titled ‘Botulinum Toxin as a Biological Weapon’
An abstract from the article, reads:

“Botulinum toxin poses a major bioweapon threat because of its extreme potency and lethality; its ease of production, transport, and misuse; and the need for prolonged intensive care among affected persons. An outbreak of botulism constitutes a medical emergency that requires prompt provision of botulinum antitoxin and, often, mechanical ventilation, and it constitutes a public health emergency that requires immediate intervention to prevent additional cases. Timely recognition of a botulism outbreak begins with an astute clinician who quickly notifies public health officials.
Botulinum toxin is the most poisonous substance known. A single gram of crystalline toxin, evenly dispersed and inhaled, would kill more than 1 million people, although technical factors would make such dissemination difficult. The basis of the phenomenal potency of botulinum toxin is enzymatic; the toxin is a zinc proteinase that cleaves 1 or more of the fusion proteins by which neuronal vesicles release acetylcholine into the neuromuscular junction.
It is regrettable that botulinum toxin still needs to be considered as a bioweapon at the historic moment when it has become the first biological toxin to become licensed for treatment of human disease. In the United States, botulinum toxin is currently licensed for treatment of cervical torticollis, strabismus, and blepharospasm associated with dystonia. It is also used “off label” for a variety of more prevalent conditions that include migraine headache, chronic low back pain, stroke, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, achalasia, and various dystonias.
Terrorists have already attempted to use botulinum toxin as a bioweapon. Aerosols were dispersed at multiple sites in downtown Tokyo, Japan, and at US military installations in Japan on at least 3 occasions between 1990 and 1995 by the Japanese cult Aum Shinriky . These attacks failed, apparently because of faulty microbiological technique, deficient aerosol-generating equipment, or internal sabotage. The perpetrators obtained their C botulinum from soil that they had collected in northern Japan.”

After this long introduction let’s get to the question: knowing all that, are you still interested in trying Botox injections to get rid- temporarily- of wrinkles?
I had a friend who tried it and I was not impressed with the results. After getting Botox injections you look like you are wearing a mask; you can’t smile let alone laugh.
Even if it’s a cheapest alternative to an expensive plastic surgery, it is still bringing the question: is it worth poisoning yourself for the sake of looking a little bit younger?

Recently, FDA ( Food and Drug Administration) warned over Botox’s side effects, including possible deaths. Although the FDA has never formally approved that use for the drugs, some other countries have.
The warning includes both Botox Cosmetic and its competitor, Myobloc, both of them using botulinum toxin to block nerve impulses, causing them to relax.
In rare cases, the toxin can spread beyond the injection site to other parts of the body, paralyzing or weakening the muscles used for breathing and swallowing, a potentially fatal side effect, the FDA said.
The FDA said the deaths it is investigating so far all involve children, mostly cerebral palsy patients being treated for spasticity in their legs.
However, the FDA warned that it also is probing reports of illnesses in people of all ages who used the drugs for a variety of conditions, including at least one hospitalization of a woman given Botox for forehead wrinkles. The agency warned that patients receiving a botulinum toxin injection for any reason — cosmetic or medical — should be told to seek immediate care if they suffer symptoms of botulism, including: difficulty swallowing or breathing, slurred speech, muscle weakness, or difficulty holding up their head.
The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen petitioned the FDA to strengthen warnings to users of Botox and Myobloc — citing 180 reports of U.S. patients suffering fluid in the lungs, difficulty swallowing or pneumonia, including 16 deaths.


Mar 28, 2008

Mafia, Mozzarella, Dioxin and Brucellosis

If you asked ‘what is the link?’ I am going to tell you right away.

Let’s start by saying that mozzarella is a big and profitable business in Italy, with an annual turnover of $500 million. Out of 33,000 tonnes of mozzarella cheese produced each year, about 16% is exported.
The water buffalo herds, the source of milk for making mozzarella, are concentrated around the city of Naples, in the Campania region.
The Naples mafia, or Camorra, is heavily involved in waste disposal in the Campania region around the city of Naples (Do you remember Tony Soprano’s main business? Waste disposal, right?), on agricultural land used for pasture.
Toxic waste contaminates buffalos’ food. The result?
In about two weeks interval, Italy was confronted with two problems: Brucellosis – found in herds- and dioxins- found in mozzarella cheese.

First problem: Brucellosis
Brucellosis is an illness characterized by fever, night sweats, extreme tiredness, loss of appetite, weight loss, headache, and arthralgia (pain in the joints). It is caused by an infection with bacteria of one of the Brucella species. The infection occurs worldwide. Areas currently listed as high risk are the Mediterranean Basin (Portugal, Spain, Southern France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, North Africa), South and Central America, Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East.
Anyone can get brucellosis if they are infected with bacteria of one of the Brucella species. Persons at highest risk for brucellosis are those who work with animals that are infected, such as veterinarians and ranchers, and persons who consume raw milk or cheeses or ice cream made with raw milk.
Brucellosis is spread to humans through contact with tissues or bodily fluids of animals who are infected with Brucella bacteria, and although direct person-to-person spread of brucellosis is extremely rare. Mothers who are breast-feeding may transmit the infection to their infants. It can also be transmitted through food to humans, causing severe intermittent fever – though the milk which produces the cheese is perfectly safe when it is pasteurized.

A preventive measure to avoid being infected with Brucella bacteria is to not consume raw milk or anything made with raw milk.
Treatment for Brucellosis: antibiotics.
Usually, doxycycline and rifampin are used in combination for 6 weeks to prevent reoccurring infection. Depending on the timing of treatment and severity of illness, recovery may take a few weeks to several
months. Mortality is low (<2%), and is usually associated with endocarditis

According to Italian papers, the Brucella bacteria had been present in herds for the past 10 years, spreading to about 30% of them, and the local vets who are supposed to test and put down infected animals have been intimidated by the Camorra – who also controls some of the farms. As an extreme measure, the Italian government will start the slaughter of 32,000 buffalo, infected with Brucellosis. In the coming weeks, armed police will accompany government vets to help with the cull and it’s going to cost Italian government closer to $97 million.

Second problem: Dioxin
Most people heard about dioxins in relation to the plastic containers heated in microwave (myth or not, it’s not up to debate right now)
Dioxin is the name generally given to a class of super-toxic chemicals, the chlorinated dioxins and furans, formed as a by-product of the manufacture, molding, or burning of organic chemicals and plastics that contain chlorine. It is the nastiest, most toxic man-made organic chemical; its toxicity is second only to radioactive waste.
Dioxin is a powerful hormone disrupting chemical. By binding to a cell’s hormone receptor, it literally modifies the functioning and genetic mechanism of the cell, causing a wide range of effects, from cancer to reduced immunity to nervous system disorders to miscarriages and birth deformity. Because it literally changes the functioning of your cells, the effects can be very obvious or very subtle. Because it changes gene functions, it can cause so-called genetic diseases to appear, and can interfere with child development. There is no “threshold” dose – the tiniest amount can cause damage, and our bodies have no defense against it.
Dioxin accumulates in the fat cells of the animals, and re-appears in meat and milk. Dioxin is virtually indestructible in most environments, and is excreted by the body extremely slowly.

The contamination in mozzarella cheese emerged during checks last week. Dioxins were found at higher than permitted levels at some mozzarella producers.
The French agriculture ministry on Friday ordered shops to withdraw the imported buffalo mozzarella as a precautionary measure. But it later reversed the decision.
Italy says it has traced the farms at the source of the contamination, and destroyed their milk.
Japan and South Korea imposed an import ban on the cheese.
Italian officials told the European Commission that 130 mozzarella production sites had been checked and dioxins above the EU limit had been found at 25 of them- which I would say it’s pretty scary, considering that it’s almost a quarter of the total production sites.

To be objective, we have to mention that dioxins could be found not only in mozzarella, but also in beef and pork, and this, only if we don’t want to touch the subject of many chemicals around us that we are happily using without realizing how much damage they bring to our health, among them chlorine bleach and all the bleached products, including food like flour (that’s exactly the reason for buying unbleached flour).


Mar 19, 2008

Have you tried Maca yet?

If not, what are you waiting for?
Maybe you have never heard anything about it or maybe you are just very skeptical that all that hype surrounding this root may be true.
And who can blame you? There are so many new super foods you are bombarded with, almost on a daily basis, that it’s becoming more and more difficult to trust something, let alone try it.

I have used maca root for about two years, and for me and my husband it only brought benefits, not only increasing our sexual drive, but bringing us the most precious gift of all: our son.

Known as “Peruvian Ginseng!”, “A Miracle Product!”, “The 21st Century Food!”, the little root vegetable that grows at high altitude- 14 000 ft above sea level- in Peru, is quickly gaining the attention and interests of a growing number of people daily.
Peruvian maca root’s main fame lies in it’s ability to increase the sexual urges and fertility rates of men and women. But there are numerous other benefits and attributes of Peruvian maca root that also are well known such as it’s ability to make people more energetic, stronger and have more endurance, and to make them feel better emotionally. Peruvian maca root is renowned for relieving the symptoms of menopause and andropause and correcting hormonal imbalances in men and women as well. As a woman approaching menopause, I can tell you that the emotional change I experience almost every day it’s overwhelming. Buts of depression alternating with insane rage, lack of patience, etc.
I have interrupted my intake of maca due to negligence mostly, but today I placed again an order and hopefully I will be able to keep my emotions under control.

According to scientific literature Peruvian maca root is amazingly rich in amino acids, phytonutrients, fatty acids, vitamin and minerals. Maybe because of the volcano enriched soil where Peruvian maca root grows and the rarified air and amazingly pure atmosphere around that area, Peruvian maca root has an abundance of trace minerals, and even some that scientists have not even classified yet. Peruvian maca root is truly a powerhouse of nutrition and energy and life giving ingredients, and a few spoonfuls of this powder every day can be a most beneficial supplement for you to take. If you are not taking a vitamin or mineral supplement, but you are taking Peruvian maca root, you will probably not be missing many essential nutrients from your diet. There is so much nutrition and goodness in this humble little tuber root that it is like a once a day supplement itself. Scientists have discovered that Peruvian maca root has the ability to regulate, support, and balance the hormonal systems of both men and women for optimal function. One of the very great things about Peruvian maca root is that it is not “gender specific” and works equally well at the hormonal changing benefits for both sexes equally.

Maca is an adaptogen, and by definition, adaptogens are substances that raise the physical body’s state of resistance to diseases through physiological health and emotional health improvements. Peruvian maca root somehow supports and rejuvenates overwhelmed, tired adrenal glands eventually resulting in much greater energy, stamina, clarity of mind and spirit, and the ability to handle stress. It should be pointed out that adaptogens work gradually and at their own speed, so the changes may take a little while to notice according to the make-up and physiological state of each individual. But continued, and persistent use of Peruvian maca root does promote phenomenal and profound changes in the hormonal, physical, and emotional states of people.

As I have already mentioned, today I placed an order. This time I am going to give it a try to gelatinized version, which does not contain starches and it’s much better for your digestive system.
Personally I like maca’s taste, although I have heard people complaining about it. It tastes somehow like backed sweet potato.

Bottom line: if you have not tried maca root yet, please do yourself a favor and try it. Preferably in the powder form, not capsules. Mix the powder in your morning smoothie and you get a nutritious and fast breakfast.


Mar 13, 2008

Are Genetically Engineered Foods dangerous to your health?

Most people will have a New Year’s resolution related to losing weight, eating healthier, being more active, etc.
Wait a minute! Did I say ‘eat healthier’? Yes I did.
Now this is when we step into uncharted territory.
Why? Because all the health gurus are going to tell you that eating less fat, meat, and more vegetables and fruits will make you feel better and all together be healthier.
But somehow all is forgotten about engineered foods, found all around us.
I remember reading about the seeds irradiated in space by some Chinese scientists, seeds that eventually yielded bigger crops. At that point I am pretty sure that most people clapped their hands in ecstasy thinking about how easy would be to feed more population with less food basically.
But those seeds were genetically modified at that point.

Moving back to North America, in the USA, over 80% of all processed foods contain genetically engineered components.
You will say that it’s easy then to avoid them: steer clear of processed foods.
But the problem is that genetically engineered foods are found in everything we eat: rice, corn, wheat; in soybeans and soy products; vegetable oils, vegetables and fruits; dairy products including eggs; meat, chicken, pork and other animal products.

We don’t know what we are eating because nowhere on the label is anything mentioned about genetically engineered food.

We know that cows are treated with growth hormone (rbGH), which will affect the milk.
The milk from cows injected with bovine growth hormone has much higher levels of the hormone IGF-1 that risks breast, prostate, colon, lung and other cancers, and it has lower nutritional value.
I was talking the other day with our secretary and she said that back in time, when she grew up at a dairy farm, they drank the milk fresh from the cows, cows not injected with hormones. The milk was not supposed to be good for 10 days or a week, because it did not have any chemicals added. Now it’s a different story; they treat milk to increase the shelf life.
The treatment of poultry and animals with hormones and antibiotics is standard procedure these days, unfortunately and it costs lots extra to buy ‘organic’ meat coming from animals not treated.
But… what did they eat?
If they were fed animal by-products (they were not apparently, or so it’s the claim made by the organic growers) it still not clean meat. Of if they were fed corn or other grains coming from genetically engineered seeds…. we are back to square one.
Disease-resistant crops may promote human viruses and eating these products may produce toxins associated with Alzheimer’s, diabetes, allergies, kidney disease and cancer.

What people seem to fail to understand is that as soon as you genetically modify something, the long time effect of this modification is unknown.

FDA and other regulating bodies, in bed with the big agribusinesses, like to say that GM crops are the same with ordinary seeds, when in fact they are not.
Agribusiness giants like their money and I have serious doubts that they would cave in and accept how dangerous GM are. On the contrary, they funded studies to prove they are safe. Really?
How objective a testing funded by this industry could be?
The most probable scenario (not unknown to other industries like the pharmaceutical one for example) is that the study funded by agribusiness would fail to investigate the impacts of GM food on liver, kidney, gut function (studies on rats showed smaller than normal liver and kidney and bigger pancreas), on the immune and endocrine system, in blood composition (studies on rats showed a decrease on the white cell counts), would fail to present the effects on the unborn as well.

Furthermore, they would cook the books.
How could they cook the books?
By diluting the GM component of feeds used, limit the duration of feeding trials, keep sample sizes too low for statistical significance and ignore animal deaths and sickness.
And most important: hide the negative results.

I took an introductory genetic course, enough to make me understand the implications of genetically modified foods.
The picture is like this: you take a seed and genetically modify the DNA. That will trigger changes in the natural functioning of the resulting plant. The inserted gene can become truncated, fragmented, and different than the original design, expressing a new GM protein maybe different than the one intended, with characteristics that may be harmful, even if the industry claims that transgenes are destroyed by our digestive system.
In reality and contrary to industry claims, transgens are not destroyed by the digestive system and the surviving foreign DNA can be transported by blood to internal organs, may proliferate over time, and get into cells DNA, possibly causing chronic diseases.
Another aspect not to be ignored: Antibiotic Resister Marker (ARM) genes are attached to transgenes prior to insertion to allow cells to survive antibiotic applications. They potentially can cause antibiotic-resistant super-diseases and these is already fact not fiction (see my article on hospital superbugs).

To the industry claim that there are no harmful effects claim I would give the example of the L-Tryptophan epidemic. L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid, was identified as the cause of the 1989 epidemic of Eosinophilia Myalgia Syndrome [EMS] in country-wide litigation against Showa Denko K. K., a major Japanese petroleum corporation that manufactured and sold L-tryptophan in the U. S.
L-tryptophan was sold as a food supplement during the late 1980s to induce sleep “naturally,” because this amino acid produces serotonin in the brain, similar to the calming role of milk as a sleep inducer.
Showa Denko’s pills had several unique contaminants that were likely to be responsible for the epidemic. In addition to that, the manufacturer was genetically engineering bacteria to produce the L-tryptophan more economically. Genes had been inserted into bacteria’s DNA in order to produce high concentrations of several enzymes used in its production.
EMS is a painful and progressive, multi-system disease which causes permanent scarring and fibrosis to nerve and muscle tissues, continuing inflammation, and provokes a permanent change in the body’s immune system. EMS is a serious systemic illness characterized by elevations of white blood cells known as eosinophils and by severe muscle pain.

Probably there is an international conspiracy of big agribusiness to control the world food supply, therefore our moaning over the health hazards of GM food fall on deaf ears.
The worries are dismissed and the pink fluffy picture of big crops and happy farmers showed to us.
The giants who are currently controlling our future existence are: Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Agrisciences, Syngenta in Switzerland (from the merger of the agriculture divisions of Novartis and AstraZeneca) and – Germany-based Bayer CropScience AG (division of Bayer AG) with its Environmental Science and BioScience headquarters in France.
Just reading the names will get your skin to crawl.


Feb 29, 2008

How to fight the hospital superbugs?

Years ago I worked in a bacteriology laboratory identifying various pathogens and I remember my boss always reminding me two things: wash your hands for at least one minute and don’t wave the loop (the gizmo used to culture bacteria).
At that time I was concerned about E.coli, S.aureus and mostly anthrax. But somehow I rested assured that there was medication around and apart from some diarrhea and other unpleasant short lived symptoms, everything would be fine.
It seems not to hold true anymore. Today we are worried about the nasty hospital superbugs, resistant to even the strongest antibiotics.
These superbugs are having a very unnerving habit: to morph into something more and more dangerous.
Disease Control and Prevention. Health Canada reports that superbug infections cost $24-33 million annually to manage and that rates of infection and colonization have doubled annually for each of the past five years.

The scientists seemed to agree that the over-prescription of antibiotics and the increased presence of antibiotics in meat and fish contribute to bacteria developing resistance to the drugs.

It’s seems to be a circle of death: antibiotics over-prescribed and meat treated with antibiotics weaken our immune system- we are more susceptible to mutant strains resistant to common antibiotics- to combat them we need stronger antibiotics which will weaken our immune system even more- bacteria will adapt and morphed to fight the antibiotic.

Let’s review the most dangerous superbugs:
– MRSA- Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus
– VISA/VRSA- Vencomycin-Intermediate/Resistant Staphylococcus aureus
– Clostridium difficile

C. difficile (Clostridium difficile) usually occurs during or after the use of antibiotics. Main symptoms include: diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain and nausea. Found in feces, it is usually spread through contaminated surfaces such as toilets, bedpans, handles and common chairs.
It is treated with….antibiotics.

MRSA is a potentially lethal bacterium that causes infections in humans and is difficult to combat because it has developed a resistance to certain antibiotics, among them being methicillin.
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus usually strikes in hospitals, where conditions suit it, but it can occur in otherwise healthy people who have not been recently hospitalized or had a medical procedure involving surgery, dialysis or catheters which tend to be a breeding ground for MRSA.
S. aureus is a bacteria normally found on the skin and mucus (nose). Most S. aureus will cause infections, like the ones normally occurring when we get a cut and it’s not properly disinfected. The bacteria move from the surface of the skin into the wound and as a normal response the white cells fight the intruders. To be on the safe side we are using over the counter antibiotic ointments like Polysporin. Again, antibiotic.

To fight MRSA the chosen antibiotic would be vancomycin, until recently when new strains of MRSA showed antibiotic resistance even to vancomycin.

Hence the new and ‘improved’ strain: VISA or vancomycin resistant S. aureus.
Treatment for this strain: the new antibiotic platensimycin.

So, to treat two highly antibiotic resistant bacteria strains we have to use stronger and stronger antibiotics.
Or, maybe start reconsidering the whole antibiotic strategy and switch to phage or maggots therapy.
Disgusting as it may sound, maggot therapy seems to be very effective.
It’s a type of biotherapy involving the introduction of live, disinfected maggots into the non-healing skin and soft tissue wound for selectively cleaning out the necrotic tissue within a wound and promote wound healing.

Phage (bacteriophage) therapy
involves the use of viruses (bacteriophages) that invades only bacterial cells causing the bacterium to burst and die, thus releasing more phages.
The theoretical benefits of phage therapy:
– less side effects
– don’t stress liver
– a small dose is sometimes sufficient
– they are specifically designed to match the bacteria

What can we do to prevent the spread of these nasty superbugs?

Apparently become cleaner.
Wash our hands more often using warm water and lots of soap and disinfect with alcohol rather then using other chemicals that will only make the bacteria to morph into something new.

I am not going to touch the stringent subject of how the contracts are given to shady companies for cleaning the hospitals even if I believe it’s one of the reasons for the hospital mess. Maybe next time.


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