Alcohol: a rare moment of truth
- Created on Saturday, 06 November 2010 10:40
We are inundated with reports about studies of the health benefits of alcohol, especially relating to the heart, and you have to wonder who is paying for all those studies. The alcohol industry pays for much of that research, but not as much as the U.S. government pays for. But now, scientists from the UK's Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) have released a study which assessed which drugs cause the most harm to both drug-users and to society. And according to their analysis, alcohol is the most harmful drug in the world- worse than both crack cocaine and heroin.
Published in the medical journal Lancet- one of the most respected medical journals in the world- this study used a process called "Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis" (MCDA) to assess damage caused by various drugs. Nine of the criteria looked at specific harms inflicted on drug-users, while the other seven criteria looked at the harms caused to others. The results were that alcohol was found to be nearly three times more harmful than cocaine and eight times more harmful than Ecstasy.
"It is intriguing to note that the two legal drugs assessed — alcohol and tobacco — score in the upper segment of the ranking scale, indicating that legal drugs cause at least as much harm as do illegal substances," said David Nutt, chairman of ISCD, and author of the study. His report concluded that "aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy."
Nutt was forced to resign from the British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) last year after criticizing British ministers for ignoring scientific evidence showing that alcohol, which is legal, causes more damage than cannabis (marijuana), which is illegal.
The World Health Organization estimates that risks linked to alcohol cause 2.5 million deaths a year from heart and liver disease, road accidents, suicides and cancer -- accounting for 3.8 percent of all deaths.
The WHO also says that alcohol is the third leading risk factor for premature death and disabilities worldwide.
Although this report appeared in the highly revered Lancet, coverage of it was conspicuously absent from the American mainstream media. Here they pounce on every positive news story about alcohol but go silent on the negative ones. Why is that? It's because of the War on Drugs. It makes no sense to criminalize marijuana and other drugs while alcohol is perfectly legal. So, to rationalize that hypocrisy, they laud the supposed health benefits of alcohol. But don't buy into it. Alcohol is toxic to every cell in your body, and it impairs at every level of consumption, down to the smallest drink. The intoxicating effect of alcohol can be easily demonstrated from just one drink. The ideal amount of alcohol in anyone's health program is the amount I consume, which is zero.
Diuretics: Making Medical Mischief
- Created on Saturday, 30 October 2010 17:54
I received a call yesterday from an 88 year old woman who has multiple health problems, including fluid on her lungs, and among the drugs that she is taking is a diuretic. And it got me thinking of how widespread the use of diuretics is. Diuretics are the most widely prescribed drugs to treat hypertension, and they are considered first-line treatment. Diuretics are always prescribed in cases of heart failure. Fluid retention just about anywhere in the body is treated with diuretics- and not just common leg swelling. For instance, if a patient doesn't like the puffiness around her eyes in the morning, a diuretic is often given for that too.
Let's get one thing straight: diuretics do not cure anything; they do not correct anything. What they do is add a layer of pharmacological dehydration to whatever problem already exists. In so doing, they can camouflage the existing problem. Pharmacological (drug-induced) dehydration is an abnormality, a disease, an iatrogenic disease. It is a dangerous deviation from normal. And, diuretics work not by enabling the kidneys to work better, but by interfering with and disrupting their normal, healthy function. To understand why that is so, we have to look at how the kidneys work.
Kidney filtration starts with blood passing through a specialized tuft of high-pressure capillaries called a glomerulus. Because of the high pressure, water and disssolved substances are forced out of the capillary into the capsule that surrounds the glomerulus, called Bowman's capsule. Then comes a long tubular system known as the renal tubule. There, the body reclaims some of the initial filtrate, including about two-thirds of the salt and water, and virtually all of the organic compounds, such as glucose and amino acids. The whole idea is to reclaim the good and leave behind the bad.
Diuretics work by sabotaging the reclamation process so that more of the initial glomerular filtrate reaches the bladder. When that happens, valuable minerals, such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium, are lost. And keep in mind that the normal performance of the kidneys is a very delicate and intricate process. The body goes to great and complicated lengths to balance its chemistry, including it's pH, by way of the kidneys. To go in there, as with a sledgehammer, and pharmacologically force sweeping changes to this delicate process is bound to cause havoc. You wouldn't try to adjust a wrist watch with a sledge hammer, but they might as well be doing that when they give people diuretics.
So, what is the result of taking diuretics? As I said, It puts you into a state of pharmacological dehydration which gets superimposed on top of your original pathological condition. So, are you better or worse? But, don't be fooled by appearances. The result may have some semblance to a normal, healthy state, but it is actually further removed from it. You, the poor patient, are being deceived, and unfortunately, so is your misguided doctor. It's very frustrating to me that so few doctors realize that the "improvement" that comes from taking a diuretic is just a trick, a charade, a medical shenanigan. Nobody gets their issues resolved by taking diuretics. Nobody. It's just a way of masking symptoms and putting additional strain on the body. I suppose it wouldn't matter if it were harmless. But, it isn't. It causes widespread disruption of the body's delicate balance.
I like to make an analogy to a bicycle wheel being "out of true." To get that perfect rotation back, a wobbly wheel is placed in a device, and then the spokes are adjusted- some tightened and some loosened until the wheel rotates evenly again. But, you can't go about it wily-nily. If you don't know what you're doing, and you start cavalierly tightening and loosening spokes to correct the wobble, you can easily create another wobble somewhere else that is often worse than the original one. You'd be surprised how easy it is to make a bad wheel worse when trying to fix it- if you don't know what you're doing. You can easily dig yourself in deeper. And that's exactly what happens when you take a diuretic; you're just digging yourself in deeper, making a bad situation worse. And that's why when you start taking a diuretic, your problems never go away. It's just a matter of time before the failure of it becomes apparent with the manifestation of new symptoms- that will undoubtedly be treated with other drugs. They are setting you up for unending medical dependency. So, even if there seems to be an initial improvement symptomatically from taking the diuretic, it will always prove to be temporary and fleeting. No real good comes from it. Diuretics never restored anyone to health. It's just a trap, a miserable, medical trap.
Am I saying that there is no legitamate, beneficial use of diuretics? Let me put it this way: I can't think of a single condition in which I would be willing to take a diuretic. Not one. If I had high blood pressure, I would do other things to bring it down, constructive things, relating to diet, exercise, stress relief, and the use of safe, natural supplements. If my heart were failing, I would take actions that stood a chance to make it stronger rather than cover up the manifestations of my weak heart with diuretics. If I had fluid retention relating to a glandular deficiency, I would have that situation analyzed and addressed. For instance, if I were found to be hypothyroid, I would certainly be willing to take thyroid hormone, but I would not, be willing to take diuretics. If my legs were swollen because of venous insufficiency (bad valves etc.) I would walk as much as possible, use the slant board every day, wear supportive legwear, eat well (meaning lots of fruits and vegetables), and I would take natural botannicals that have been shown to support vascular health, but I would not take diuretics. And if I had fluid on my lungs, I would address the causes of it, but I would not waste time and complicate my condition by taking diuretics. It's a road that leads nowhere good.
In case I haven't made myself clear: I DON'T LIKE DIURETICS. They don't do any good; they just create the illusion of improvement. It's just another way that doctors cause havoc under the guise of helping people.
Aspirin: Should we or shouldn't we?
- Created on Monday, 25 October 2010 18:08
A new study out of the UK found that patients taking low-dose aspirin for heart disease had a 25% lower risk of colon cancer, and there was a 30% lower risk of death from colon cancer.
Colon cancer is the most commonly occurring form of cancer, except for lung cancer, which is highly correlated with smoking tobacco. So, if you are a longterm non-smoker, colon cancer is probably the most likely cancer that you are going to get.
So, should we all get onboard the Aspirin Express? I am impressed with these results, but I am still wary. And that's because I know of too many catastrophes from taking aspirin. People have died from taking aspirin, either deliberately by taking aspirin to commit suicide (and, it is a very painful death) or dying accidentally by taking excessive amounts of aspirin in seeking pain relief.
Aspirin is a blood thinner. In a powerful way, it deactivates your blood platelets. And, you don't have to take a lot of aspirin to deactivate all of your blood platelets. And those platelets weren't put there to cause heart attacks. They were put there to deal with the traumatic hemorrhages and also the subtle little hemorrhages that are a part of daily life. I have said many times that you need your stomach acid, and you have no business trying to deactivate it. Likewise, you need your blood platelets, and you have no business trying to deactivate them.
However, I admit that when a person is on the verge of a heart attack, aspirin may make the difference between life and death. So, if a cardiologist recommends aspirin to a heart patient, I do not object.
But, that doesn't mean that I am ready to start taking aspirin myself. I like to think that I am not on the verge of a heart attack.
Aspirin is definitely an irritant. They say that every time you swallow an aspirin, you make a hole in your stomach- wherever the aspirin lands. So, some have suggested that instead of swallowing aspirin, we should let it dissolve in our mouths while moving it around so that it doesn't rest in the same place for very long. Of course, there is also buffered aspirin, but I don't know how effective it is.
In a way, we all take aspirin every day because aspirin is a form of salicylic acid, and there are natural salicylates in fresh produce- fruits and vegetables. The difference is that it's very dilute, and it's mixed with other things, so you never get a concentrated (and therefore irritating) dose, as when you swallow an aspirin tablet. So, eating a lot of fruits and vegetables is definitely a good idea- for this reason and for many other reasons.
So personally, I am not ready to start taking aspirin. But, I never say never. Perhaps at a future point in my life, I will decide to take it, depending on what's going on. But for now, I am content to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables to get those natural salicylates in a very safe form. And, I also take the herb, turmeric. Turmeric has blood-thinning effects like aspirin. Not as much- but enough. Turmeric also has a non-proliferative effect like aspirin. I am referring to the effect aspirin has of causing the cells that line the colon to shed regularly and rapidly. This helps to lower the risk of cancer. With turmeric, you get that effect without the irritating effects of aspirin. I have never heard of anyone hemorrhaging from taking turmeric. And like aspirin, turmeric has cardio-protective effects.
I'll point out that other substances in my regimen also have blood-thinning effects, including fish oil and Vitamin E. So, when you add the turmeric and the high fruit and vegetable diet, I dare say that you are getting all the bloodthinning you could possibly need- assuming that you are reasonably healthy to begin with.
So, that's why you see turmeric listed on the Daily Program page of this website, which is a list of the supplements I take. And now I hope you understand why aspirin is not on that list.
Beware the 2010/2011 Flu Vaccine
- Created on Thursday, 21 October 2010 19:53
I like to think that most of the folks who visit this site to read this blog share my way of thinking about health and refrain from getting the flu shot. But, if you are considering getting it, there are some things that you should know.
First, they have quietly added the Swine Flu vaccine to the regular Seasonal Flu vaccine. That's because they had so little success last year getting Americans to take the Swine Flu vaccine. Only about a third of eligible people actually took it, and about 100 million doses had to be discarded at a colossal loss to taxpayers.
Second, flu vaccine is one of the few vaccines that still contains mercury, and you've probably heard about all the concern over mercury in vaccines. One of our most popular supplements is DMSA, which is a mercury chelator. Lots of people are striving to get the mercury out of their bodies, and it makes no sense to let someone inject you with mercury.
Third, the flu vaccine also contains aluminum. And, flu shots have been linked to Alzheimer's disease. According to Dr. Hugh Fudenburg, one of the leading immunogeneticists in the world, those who have had 5 or more consecutive flu shots have a 10X greater risk of developing Alzheimer's disease than those who eschew flu shots.
Fourth, the government quietly admits that current swine flu inoculation has a small chance of causing Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which is the paralytic nerve disease that afflicted and killed many people during the Swine Flu Fiasco of 1976.
Fifth, Swine Flu last year proved to be very mild. In desperation, the CDC started diagnosing all cases of flu and flu-like illness as Swine Flu without doing serological testing, and that was just to boost the numbers.
Sixth, the off-stated claim that 36,000 Americans die every year of the flu is a bold-faced lie. It includes a lot of elderly people who die of pneumonia, which is a very common way for elderly people to die, in all years, and under all conditions.
Seventh, many doctors admit that flu shots don't work in the elderly anyway. For example, Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota, a leading immunologist, has stated publically that the flu vaccine does not work in the elderly because their immune systems do not respond to it. The much weaker antibody response among the elderly renders the flu vaccine practically useless in that age group. Dr. Osterholm draws the line at "60s and beyond." Hey, I am turning 60 this flu season!
And what am I doing about the flu? Well, I'll tell you what I am not doing: I am not getting a flu shot. I would rather get the flu than get the flu shot. Seriously. I am not being facetious or rhetorical. I would rather go through the aches, the pains, the fever, the nausea, etc. and just tough it out. I may feel lousy for a while, but so what. I know very well that the flu is not going to kill me. But, I'm not so sure about the vaccine. Oh, I'm not saying that I think the flu shot is likely to kill me on the spot. But yes, I do think it could shorten my life in the long run. It could increase my risk of developing a serious disease later on.
So, I am entering this flu season unvaccinated and unafraid. I know when I'm being conned with fear tactics, and I refuse to cower. I take care of myself. I eat right. I exercise. I get adequate rest and sleep. And I take supplements that I know are beneficial. And chief among them for the purpose of preventing the flu is Vitamin D3. I take 5000 IUs of Vitamin D3 every day. That's what I did last year as well, and I never came down with the flu or even a cold. Will I do as well this year? Only time will tell. But, it really doesn't matter because even if I do have to go through the flu, I will have no regrets. I am not the least bit afraid of it. I'll stop, rest, and sleep as much as I can. I'll fast or eat lightly, such as fresh juices. I'll do absolutely nothing to suppress symptoms. If I develop fever, I'll let it rage. I'll just wait for it to resolve by itself. I'm not going to suppress it. If I start coughing, I'll let myself cough. I'm not going to suppress it. My body would be trying to expel toxins and virus and exudate from my lungs, so why would I want to suppress it? Would it be better to keep that gunk down there? Wouldn't that only invite complications? And were it to happen that I got the flu, I would increase my Vitamin D consumption to 10,000 IUs a day temporarily. I might also take a couple grams of Vitamin C every day while I was in the throes of it, which is more than I take normally. But again, I'm only speaking hypothetically because I don't expect to get the flu. It's been so long since I have had the flu that I can't even remember when it was. It was many years ago.
So, I'm really not the least bit worried for myself. And no matter what the government warns us about or threatens us with, I am not getting vaccinated. Period.
More positive news about whole grains
- Created on Sunday, 17 October 2010 15:03
It's amazing that medical research has consistently demonstrated the healthy effect of whole grains on human health, but within the online community, whole grains are soundly trashed. These folks act as if it's all a government conspiracy to get us to eat more grain. Well, as you may know, I am not the least bit averse to believing in government conspiracies. I'm into JFK, MLK, RFK, Marilyn Monroe, 911, and others. However, when it comes to food, I think if there is a plot, it is to get us to eat more animal foods. Remember the "Got Milk?" ads? You paid for those ads, that is, if you are a taxpayer. The government runs those ads, and it's because the government buys so much milk to support the price of it. For decades, we have been supporting the over-production of milk and milk products in this country just to subsidize dairy farmers. It's ridiculous, and there is nothing like it pertaining to grains.
In a study, reported in the October issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers from Louisiana State University reviewed the evidence that consuming whole grains is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some types of cancer. Then, they analyzed current trends in whole grain consumption in the United States. First, they noted that among young people, average whole grain consumption is less than one serving a day. It was less than 2/3 of one serving a day. Think about that the next time someone tries to tell you that grains, including whole grains, are causing the obesity epidemic among children and young people. How could that be when they are not eating whole grains? And among American adults and seniors, average daily whole grain consumption was about 3/4 of a serving a day. Therefore, in no sector of the American population are whole grains being eaten abundantly. But for the small percentage of Americans eating whole grains regularly, the researchers found that it is giving them a significant nutritional boost in the areas of fiber, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants.
Regarding research on whole grains, I have never encountered a single study, not one, which purported to show that whole grain eaters did worse than others in regard to any aspect of health. The only negative reports you see in the scientific literature about whole grains pertains to gluten enteropathy,, otherwise known as Celiac disease. It's a very real problem, but it only affects a small percentage of people. According to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, about 1% of people test postive serologically for Celiac disease. But remember, that is a blood test, and not all of those people have symptoms or clinical manifestations of the disease. Some of them just have the immunoglobulins in their blood and that's all. In other words, the blood test tends to overestimate the true prevalence of Celiac disease.
However, diagnosing Celiac disease has become a very popular trend in Medicine, and especially in Alternative circles. And I suspect that trend is going to continue. Fortunately, there are many whole grains that are non-glutenous. Brown rice, millet, quinoa, whole grain corn including popcorn, amaranth, and others are non-glutenous. There seems to be some controversy about oats, but most researchers say that oats are non-glutenous. Spelt does contain gluten, but it's different from the gluten in wheat, and it may be better tolerated. Wheat, rye, and barley are the main glutenous grains.
I have never had a problem eating grains, including wheat, and I do eat them every day. And my favorite grain happens to be oats. I like oatmeal. I like oat cereal. And I even buy oat bread, although it also contains some wheat.
The importance that whole grains have in the diet depends on who you are and your circumstances. I do not suggest for a moment that whole grains must be eaten in order for a person to be well nourished. I realize that it is entirely possible to achieve optimum nutrition without them. However, if you are lean, as I am, and if you have a fast metabolism, as I do, and if you are very active physically, as I am, then I think whole grains are a must. I just don't think I could get enough food without them- unless I started eating things that I really do not want to eat, such as animal foods. Here is what I mean:
I am going to eat whatever amount of fresh produce I am going to eat, and that is not going to change regardless of what concentrated foods I eat. Beans and nuts are concentrated plant foods, and I think highly of both of them. However, there is a limit to how much beans and nuts you can eat. Beans are wonderful- but in small quantities. If you eat too many of them, you know the result: you get gassy, uncomfortable, and distressed in your stomach. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that. And raw nuts are fabulous- tops- but they are extremely rich, so you don't want to overeat on them either. If you do, they'll weigh you down, make you uncomfortable, and delay your digestion for hours. So, even though I eat nuts and beans regularly and prize them both very highly, I'm careful not to overeat on either one. Whole grains fill the gap for me.
Of course, the paleos like to point out that Man is (or at least was) a hunter/gatherer, and grains formed little or no part of his diet until after the Agricultural Revolution. And that wasn't that long ago- about 10,000 years. Be that as it may, I don't think it pays to get overly concerned about it. You could make the same argument about horses. They're not supposed to eat grains either. Horses are supposed to graze on grasses, clover- whatever fresh pasturage they can forage on. But, if you have a really active horse and you try nourishing him without grain, he will waste away. You'll be counting his ribs in no time. Horses can do very well on whole grains- as a small part of their diet- and so can people.
Finally, I want to point out that everything is relative. You can disparage whole grains, but if you eliminate them from your diet, what are you going to eat instead? I've already pointed out that there is a limit to how many beans and nuts you can eat. And if you are going to start loading up on meat and animal products, you are going to be inviting worse troubles than can come from eating whole grains. That seems like a sure thing to me.
So, I am going to continue eating whole grains. If they're good enough for horses, they're good enough for me.
What causes benign tumors?
- Created on Thursday, 14 October 2010 18:38
A reader asked the above question about the cause of benign tumors. As in cancer, a benign tumor involves a proliferation of cells beyond normal limits, however, there is no invasion of surrounding tissues (although there is often pressure and crowding of surrounding tissues) and there is also no spreading by metastasis, in which cancer cells break off, circulate in the blood, and then get established elsewhere in the body. And that's what makes a benign tumor "benign." However, as for what causes them, I think it's best to look at benign vs. malignant as a continuous process. Sometimes, benign tumors do become malignant. For instance, uterine fibroid tumors, which are the most common benign tumor among women, become malignant in about .1% of cases. That isn't much, but that number would probably be higher if not for the fact that surgery is often performed on fibroids.
But, as far as actions to lower the risk of tumor formation, I would recommend the following:
1. Control your weight and your caloric intake. Tumors grow under conditions of nutritional excess. That's the fuel that makes them grow. Controlling calories and keeping oneself lean is the most important thing in tumor prevention.
2. Exercise regularly. Tumors grow under stagnant circulatory conditions. And the fact that the abdomen and pelvis are the most common locations for tumors is because that's where circulatory stasis most commonly occurs. When you exercise vigorously, you drain your abdomen and pelvis of blood- temporarily- and that is a very good thing.
3. Stop all poison habits. Smoking tobacco is the leading cause of tumor formation, and drinking alcohol is high on the list as well.
4. Eat lots of fresh produce. Fruits and vegetables contain a myriad of substances called "phytochemicals" which inhibit abnormal cell growth. There are thousands of different phytochemicals. So eat a wide variety of fresh plant foods every day and include a substantial amount of raw produce. Everyone should eat at least one large raw green salad every day.
5. Take Vitamin D3. There are many supplements which may confer protection against tumors, but if I were going to recommend only one for that purpose, it would be Vitamin D3. This time of year, auturmn, I am taking 5000 IUs of Vitamin D3 daily. During the summer I take only 2000 because of all the abundant sunshine. But the rest of the year, I go up to 5000 IUs every day. Vitamin D has a specific effect to signal cellular "apoptosis" when needed, which is where abnormal cells implode, or you might say commit suicide. Realize that any of us may have already had cancer but we just don't know it because the process was stopped before it got out of hand. Vitamin D plays a cardinal role as a watchdog in this process. Overall tumor rates are lower at the equator than anywhere else in the world because of all the sun. And unless you live at the equator or close to it, you probably need to take Vitamin D for a good part of the year.
It's that season again- Pomegranate season
- Created on Sunday, 10 October 2010 12:24
Many people spend lavishly on superfruits, such as acai, mangosteen, and goji berry. And since some of these fruits are sold by multi-level marketing companies, it gets even more expensive. But, there is one superfruit you can buy at your local supermarket this time of year, and that is: pomegranate. Pomegranate is as worthy of the title superfruit as any fruit you can name. Not only is pomegranate exceedingly high in antioxidants, it has some very unique antioxidants, polyphenols known as punicalagins which are found nowhere else. And like blueberries, pomegranate is very high in anthocyanins. In mice, pomegranate not only prevented atherosclerosis but was able to reverse it. This was reported by the National Academy of Sciences. Pomegranate was also found to restore endothelial function, lower blood pressure, and prevent LDL oxidation. There is also strong evidence that pomegranate fights cancer, particularly colon, breast, and lung cancer, and especially prostate cancer.
Now, there is new evidence showing that pomegranate also aids in the battle against fat. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland have found that pomegranate juice significantly lowered the level of non-esterified fatty acids in the blood- which is the kind of fat that is linked to storage of fat around the abdomen- the most dangerous place to store fat. These subjects lost an average of 8 pounds in 6 weeks while drinking pomegranate juice. It involved drinking a 500 ml bottle of pomegranate juice a day, and that was the only intervention.
Another new study from Israel found that pomegranate increased the total antioxidant status of the blood by 130%, while serum lipid peroxidation was reduced by 79%. These are extraordinary numbers, and there can be no doubt that pomegranate is truly a superfruit.
Now that it's fall, pomegranates are once again in season, and it lasts until about New Year's. Unfortunately, pomegranates aren't cheap. I have only seen them sold by the unit, not by the pound, and typically, a large pomegranate costs about $3. Occasionally, you will see them on sale for $2. That may seem like a high price, but it's a lot cheaper than pomegranate supplements. And needless to say, it's a lot more fun to eat or drink something than to swallow a pill.
As to how to eat them, you have several options, but first note that it is the red pulp around the seeds that you want to extract. The seeds themselves are gritty, much like grape seeds. It's almost impossible to separate the seeds from the pulp, so many people just chew it all up, extracting the juice and the pulp, and then spitting out the seed residue. You probably won't want to swallow them. Moreover, the skin, membrane, and pithy portions of the pomegrantate are all quite bitter. In fact, if you decide to juice your pomegranate through a machine, as many people do, you will want to diligently remove those portions first because otherwise, they will make the juice rather bitter, and it may even pucker your mouth. However, when you make it correctly, pomegranate juice is very delicious- sweet, tangy, and intensely fruity. It also has an evolving taste that goes through phases, culminating in a great finish. It's a unique gustatory experience, much like savoring a fine wine. (I don't drink wine, but you know what I mean.) Pomegranate juice can also be combined with other juices such as orange, pineapple, or apple, especially if you have to stretch a small quantity.
You can also find ready-made, commercially-prepared pomegranate juice, usually sold as a concentrate. Just Google it. I just ordered some for the first time this year, and I have been very pleased with it. My favorite way to use it is as a base for smoothies that I make with bananas and tofu. A pomegranate, banana, and tofu shake cannot be beat.
Another option is to try to grow your own pomegranates, and I am also trying to do that. Last fall, I planted a pomegranate tree (although it's more like a bush), and without protection, it survived a very cold winter that got down to 12 degrees F! And it did very well in its first growing season, clearly getting well established in the ground and at least doubling in size. It was surprising because the soil here in Central Texas is very rocky and highly alkaline, and most fruit trees take a long time to get established. So, I am very pleased with the obvious vigor of this pomegranate tree- another sign that it is truly a superfruit.
Marilyn Monroe: the health lessons of a tragic life
- Created on Saturday, 02 October 2010 02:01
As readers of my former newsletter know, I am drawn to reading biographies, and I was drawn to reading the biography of Marilyn Monroe. It's not because she was so famous, and it's not because she was so beautiful, or even that I especially liked her movies. The only movie of hers that I really loved and admired was her last one, The Misfits. It was magnificent, and she was great in it.
I was drawn to the life of Marilyn Monroe because of the incredible arc that her life took. The transformation of her circumstances, the swing of her pendulum from alpha to omega, was more extreme and more extraordinary than anyone could imagine. Her life, the train she was on, was one-of-a-kind, and she rode it alone.
Her childhood was marked by abject poverty and abandonment by both her parents: her mother due to mental illness and her father because he just didn't care. He resented her very existence from the moment her mother refused to get an abortion. Norma Jeane Baker (her real name) was shuttled among foster homes and orphanages, and finally wound up in the custody of a friend of her mother's, Grace Goddard. But, during the very brief period that she lived with her mother (Gladys), Norma was raped by a man, a tenant who lived in their house. Gladys hushed it up, refusing to have the man prosecuted- because she didn't want to lose the rental income. Norma anguished over that for a long time.
What was her diet like growing up? I'm sure it was the typical American diet, but worse than average. Sometimes, for days at a time, she would be fed nothing but stale white bread and dated milk because that's all they could afford. Realize, it was during the Great Depression. The state of knowledge of nutrition back then was very limited. Few people realized the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Norma was skinny as a little girl, and the boys teased her, chanting, "Normal Jeane, the human bean."
But, once she entered puberty, Norma Jeane filled out quickly. Overnight it seemed, she acquired the voluptuous figure for which she became famous. And the boys did take notice. When she was 15, her caretaker Grace Goddard was preparing to move from California to West Virginia because of her husband's job transfer, and they decided not to take Norma with them. At Grace's insistence, Norma was married off to the boy next door, Jim Dougherty- on her 16th birthday.
Though in real terms, her marriage to Jim lasted only two years, they were two of the best years of Norma's life. She came to love her husband, and she enjoyed married life. Although she was later married to two famous men, Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, her marriage to Jim was the happiest and least troubled. Jim's problem was that he had wanderlust.- not for other women but for adventure. He decided he would support the war effort by joining the merchant marines. Norma begged him not to do it, but he did. So, she went to live with her mother-in-law who got her a job at the Radioplane factory in Van Nuys, California, where they made military parachutes. And that is where Norma Jeane was discovered- by military photographers who were putting together a calendar of American beauties who were supporting the war effort on the job. Her photos were dazzling, and many took notice. It was a military photographer who prepared a portfolio of her pictures and urged her to take them to a modeling agency, which she did.
I should point out that it was in her late teens that Norma developed a major sleep disorder that would plague her for the rest of her life. It played a crucial role in her life and also in her death.
But before delving into her career, I want to address her habits. It was during her marriage to Jim Dougherty that she began smoking and drinking. According to official reports, Marilyn Monroe was never a heavy smoker. However, many pictures have surfaced of her smoking, and many of the key people in her life were heavy smokers, and I think it's reasonable to assume that she was at least a moderate smoker. Of course, most people back then smoked. It's amazing that a person for whom beauty was her most valuable asset would smoke at all. However, the harmfulness of smoking was not widely known or discussed then, and the stigma about it did not exist. The modern anti-smoking campaign had not yet begun.
Regarding alcohol, she started out as just a moderate drinker, but eventually, she did become addicted to alcohol. Her favorite drink was French champagne. Many times, she drank herself into a stupor. She used alcohol as an escape, and it had a very destructive effect in her life. But again, there was little consciousness about it then. Everybody drank. As for other recreational drugs, she dabbled in them at Hollywood parties, and she even dropped Acid with Timothy Leary a few times, but for Marilyn Monroe, it was mainly prescription drugs and alcohol that decimated her.
Regarding fitness, she did calisthenics and light weight lifting to stay in shape. She also did some jogging. But by the time she made The Misfits in 1960, she weighed about 140 pounds. Where you really notice it is in the swim scene at Pyramid Lake in Nevada. She looked heavy, and to my eyes, she looked older than 34. Also, her hair was so damaged from over-treatment that she had to wear a wig.
But getting back to Norma Jeane at 19, she became an overnight success as a model, gracing magazine covers, doing commercials, and even posing for what were called "girlie magazines" - the predecessors of Playboy and Penthouse, although they were much more tame. It was then that she was encouraged to change her hair color to blonde- which she resisted doing at first. But once she did it, she never went back.
The switch from modelling to acting seemed like a natural progression, but it wasn't easy. Her first contract was with 20th Century Fox, and the first thing they did was change her name. "Marilyn Monroe" was chosen because her mother's maiden name was Monroe, and the "MM" sound was considered sensuous and erotic. Norma always liked the name Marilyn, and from then on, Norma ceased to exist. Everyone, including family and friends, had to call her Marilyn.
However, she was only given bit parts in B movies, and Fox let her go at the end of a year. That was devastating to Marilyn, and she largely disappeared from view for 8 months. It has been rumored that she had a baby during this time and gave it up for adoption. And when she returned to acting at Columbia Studio, she initially fared no better. However, her first major boost came from a small role in The Asphalt Jungle, which was followed by a small but impressive performance in All About Eve, in which she was said to outshine Bette Davis. From that point on, the 1950s became her decade, and she grew to become the biggest, most adulated movie star in the entire world and the ultimate symbol of female beauty and sexuality.
However, Marilyn continued to have major sleep problems, and studio doctors encouraged her to take barbiturates. These are very strong drugs- real knockout pills- and the morning hangover from them is nasty. To counteract that, they prescribed uppers or amphetamines- commonly known as Speed. That combination, of taking barbiturates at night to sleep, and amphetamines in the morning to wake up, is ravaging to both mind and body. A person living like that is surely in a nosedive. Today, it would be considered medical malpractice to prescribe such a regimen. But, that was Marilyn Monroe's life for at least 10 years.
Plus, she was drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and stressing out over her career, her troubled romances, and her many conflicts with the studios. And what toll did it take on her health? In her mid-20s, she developed a severe case of acute appendicitis that almost killed her. In her early 30s, she developed a severe case of gall bladder disease which also required surgery- they said she was packed with gallstones, For years, she had chronic abdominal pain and digestive complaints and became addicted to enemas. She took an enema daily, sometimes multiple times daily. She was diagnosed with colitis and was treated for that. She was prone to diarrhea, for which she was given injections. She was diagnosed with manic depression and given drugs for that. Also, she underwent years of Freudian psychoanalysis- often having long, intense sessions with her analyst on a daily basis. She even became close personal friends with Anna Freud, the daughter of Sigmund Freud. Towards the end of her life, Marilyn's psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, became her Svengali, or shall I say, her Rasputin. She even decided where to live just to be close to him. I can't help but think it was a very unhealthy and codependent relationship.
As for her diet as an adult, she ate everything, but she was especially fond of steak, liver, seafood, caviar. It was more an animal-based diet, but remember, at the time, those with income who could afford to live well, that's what they ate. She was not very domestic and preferred to eat out, but she did try to cook for her husbands. For Joe DiMaggio, she learned from his family how to make home-rolled Italian pasta. For Arthur Miller, she learned from his family how to make traditional Jewish dishes. The only fruit or vegetable mentioned in the book as a favorite of hers was grapefruit.
Marilyn Monroe developed a reputation as the ultimate Hollywood diva- always showing up late on the set, being unprepared to perform, being unfit to perform, stumbling over her lines, and costing the studios a fortune from delays and overruns. But, I don't think it was appreciated just how sick she was. It's a miracle The Misfits got finished at all. During the making of it, production shut down for a week because she had to be hospitalized, and it's believed that she attempted to kill herself by overdosing. In her final movie project, which went unfinished, called Something's Got To Give, she kept succumbing to infections- over and over again. It' seems that her whole immune system was breaking down.
To me, the biggest tragedy of Marilyn Monroe's life was that she desperately wanted to give and receive love. The love that she desperately needed as a child- that every child hungers for- never came to her, and it continued to elude her as an adult. Public adulation was one thing, but in her private life, she had mostly heartache, disappointment, and abuse. By nature, she was a very kind, generous, and compassionate person, and she did a lot for people. For instance, she gave her acting coach, Natasha Lytess, the full down payment for a house. She gave the son of Lee Strasberg, another acting coach, her racy Ford Thunderbird. During her marriage to Arthur Miller, she paid all their bills, including his massive legal bills for his "un-American activities." And when she lived in New York City, she would dress in disguise wearing a black wig and go down to the Bowery and hand out money to the bums. Yet, because of her ill-health and all the abuse heaped upon her (including physical abuse from Joe DiMaggio), her relationships suffered, and most of them ended badly. And most pivotal of them all was her relationship with President John Kennedy, with whom she had a long affair which started in 1951, and also his brother Robert Kennedy, with whom she subsequently had an affair.
And lest you have any doubt about it, I assure you that Marilyn Monroe was murdered. She did not commit suicide. She did try to commit suicide several times in her life, but not on the day she died. She died of a massive overdose of barbiturates, a combination of Nembutal and Chloral Hydrate. It was said that she had enough drugs in her system to kill 7 people. However, on autopsy, her stomach was completely empty. There were no drugs and no residues of pills or capsules in her stomach. It is widely believed that the drugs were administered by enema. Apparently, she held secrets about the Kennedys and about the US government learned from them that were a major security risk. If she had gone public with them- as she was threatening to do- it could have toppled the Kennedy presidency. So, she had to be taken out. The irony is that just 15 months later, President Kennedy was taken out, and once again, the Orwellian spin-machine sprung into action to control the public perception.
After Marilyn Monroe died in August 1962, there were repeated calls for a criminal investigation of her death- as late as the 1990s, 30 years after the fact. Yet, they always went unheeded. It's chilling to think that we live in a world in which truth is issued by decree. Not only was it a matter of "case closed," the case was never even opened.
So, what are the lessons to be learned from the life of Marilyn Monroe? First, don't be fooled by appearances. Yes, she was beautiful and sexy, but, she was also quite ill and spiraling downward. And, in the 10 years that she was in the spotlight, she aged rapidly and deteriorated markedly. Second, don't assume that just because a person is rich and famous and can afford the best medical care that they will receive good care. Marilyn Monroe's medical care was atrocious. You can argue that they gave her barbiturates because that's all they had back then, that the less brutal benzodiazepines and newer sleep drugs hadn't been developed yet. But the truth is that, to this day, Medicine has nothing constructive to offer for sleep. No prescription sleep drugs are safe and healthy. They may knock you out, but they don't deliver sound, healthy sleep. They may be less bad than what Marilyn Monroe took, but that doesn't make them good. The lesson is: don't go down that road. Don't get started with it. Just say no to it. It's a slippery slope, and once you start, it's very hard to stop. If you want to take something for sleep, try low-dose melatonin. Try theanine, which is the calming amino acid from green tea. There are relaxing herbs you can try, and the one I like best is lemon balm. Taking calcium and magnesium at night may help with sleep. And although I don't sell it, the amino acid glycine may help with sleep. All of these are safe. But avoid all prescription sleep medicines. They are ruinous.
There have been over 100 biographies written about Marilyn Monroe, but the one I read was The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe by Donald H. Wolfe, published 1998. It is very good.