Category Archives: health reference and research tools

Six links for August 2013

Here’s a selection of articles I’ve tweeted/facebooked/google-plussed about this month. I jumped off the social media hamster wheel for a few weeks so the list is shorter than usual.

  1. More applications for hallucinogenic mushrooms
  2. Another condition to investigate if you’ve been chronically, mysteriously ill: high oxalates
  3. Prickly pear for jet lag. Hangover & high blood sugar, too. (Available as juice or tablets.)
  4. Why the 3,500 calorie daily diet of 19th-century Victorians is better than ours
  5. How chicken feed led to discovery of vitamins
  6. Nurse practitioners offer patients more non-drug approaches than doctors

Adventures in Nutritional Therapy

Discussion forum misinformation

Updated August 20, 2013

Some of us still remember when “regular” people were dressed, coached, prompted and edited before they were allowed to appear on any wide-reaching media — on TV or in newspapers or magazines. Almost everyone on TV looked and sounded exactly alike and were probably clones of each other kept in a basement at CBS Studios and rented out to ABC and NBC. But they were polite and proper and gave you the idea that Americans were good people and that our educational system worked, darnit.

Now we know better. Now we have the internet. Somehow Americans got the idea that if they can type, their opinions matter. (Let me be clear here — except for one obnoxious industry shill, I have no complaints about MY commenters.)

Here are ten irksome points that keep showing up on discussion forums whenever the topic turns to nutritional therapy.

1. “That health issue is genetic, so nothing you can do would help.” Now replace “that health issue” with “diabetes” — see how stupid that sounds? Just because your mother/grandfather/great-aunt didn’t figure out the problem doesn’t mean you can’t.

2. “Vitamin/mineral XX has nothing to do with [bodily process].” Each nutrient has a ton of responsibilities. It isn’t just calcium for bones and potassium for dehydration and vitamin C for colds.

3. “Vitamin/mineral XX doesn’t work for [health complaint]. I tried it and it didn’t work.” That’s right! All ailments have ONLY one cause, all people have ONLY one nutrient makeup, and the exact same thing must be behind all symptoms in all people! And all broken legs are caused by tripping over the dog at the top of the stairs!

4. “Vitamin and mineral supplements don’t have side effects.” Supplements can indeed have unexpected and undesired effects. All the nutrients in our bodies interact in a gazillion ways, and how you react depends on your body and nutrient status. What supplements don’t do is bludgeon your systems into submission the way prescription drugs do, wreaking havoc in ways that the manufacturer often does not understand or is aware of or will admit to.

5. “Vitamin/mineral XX always/never has that effect.” See above.

6. “PubMed/ncbi said so.” PubMed is like the Bible. You can find proof for whatever theory you want to believe in. For every study that says zinc prevents vampirism, there will be two that says it doesn’t. If you know a lot about study design and sample size, and are willing to look up what entity sponsored the study, you might have more faith in these sites.

7. “The supplement didn’t work but I didn’t want to waste my money so I kept taking them.” You’d be surprised at how many people are not embarrassed to say this.

8. “You’re better off getting the nutrients you need from the food you eat.” Chris Kesser, Dave Asprey, and Mark Sisson go into detail about why this isn’t true. The basics:

  1. Our soils are depleted, a fact Congress has been made aware since the 1930s at the latest.
  2. We don’t eat enough calories, because we don’t move around enough anymore. (See Chris Kesser’s post on the Victorians and their 3-4,000 calories a day vs. our 2,000-calorie diets.)
  3. We don’t get out in the sun enough, or are sunblocked from it.
  4. Toxins in the environment are messin’ us up all kinda crazy.

Which isn’t to say that I believe anyone knows which supplements can stave off age-related disease or prolong your life. All I know is that when your health goes awry, cherchez la deficiency.

9. “Make you sure you consult your doctor before starting a supplement regimen.” Okay, yeah, if you’re taking a prescription drug or have a health condition you’re worried about, you should ask the doctor about interactions and contraindications. But if you believe your doctor is going to have any interest, never mind knowledge, in what nutritional supplements can do for you and how they work together, you’re either very, very lucky or woefully deluded. I think a lot of people say this when they have nothing else to contribute to the discussion but want to participate anyway.

10. “If a supplement works, it’s just a placebo effect.” The placebo effect refers to the phenomenon wherein a reliable percentage of patients will report improved results from a medical complaint when they are given an INERT substance such as a sugar pill or salt water injection. Presumably, then, just expecting that a treatment will work creates a psychological response that makes you feel better.

Some day I will compose a brilliant, epoch-shattering expose of the moronic misuse of this concept, even by doctors. For now, I’ll just point out that if you’re on a discussion forum for a certain medical issue or supplement, it’s probably because you’ve tried other treatments and they’ve failed. You are not the type of person who is going to experience the placebo effect.

The idea that only a medical professional or scientist, never mind some random online commenter, can judge the accuracy of your own experience, of what goes on in your own biocontainer, is asinine. No one but you (or the researcher or doctor who actually gives you a sugar pill) can decide if your reaction is due to the placebo effect. Which is why you use the scientific method in your self-experiments, right?


Ten links for July 2013

Here’s a selection of articles I’ve tweeted/facebooked/google-plussed about this month.

  1. Until the insomnia cooling cap hits the market, would this pillow work?
  2. Anxious? Stressed? Visit a therapy llama!
  3. Blogger Stefani Ruger on using Epsom baths and diet to manipulate calcium levels
  4. Searchable public database lists side effects of vaccines:
  5. Ecstasy pills OK’d for Vancouver PTSD treatment trial
  6. Blame bacteria if you start putting on weight
  7. How chicken feed led to the discovery of vitamins
  8. What mid-Victorians can teach us about nutrition and health
  9. Prickly pear offers new remedy for jet lag
  10. Magic mushrooms can erase fear in mice

Adventures in Nutritional Therapy

Twenty links for June 2013

Here’s a selection of articles I’ve tweeted/facebooked/google-plussed about this month.

  1. If someone asks you for a double-blind study proving that vitamin XYZ works…
  2. 97 percent of UK doctors have given placebos to patients at least once
  3. Yes, you can be overweight and malnourished
  4. World’s first clinical trial supports use of kava to treat anxiety
  5. Your gut flora might determine whether or not you develop celiac disease
  6. Seth Roberts on how to encourage personal science (AKA self-experimentation)
  7. Magnetic pulses now used in Britain to treat depression
  8. Rosemary aroma may help you remember to do things
  9. Sun exposure benefits may outweigh risks
  10. The quality of your health insurance has little effect on your health
  11. Infographic: Why you still feel like crap: the vicious cycle of drugs and side effects
  12. Flawed papers appear regularly in science journals, says biotech research expert
  13. China report on human rights in US points out deaths due to lack of health coverage
  14. Giving up reading the news will make you happier!
  15. JAMA study on why US adults use supplements
  16., a social network for health issues
  17. Modest changes in miltary dining facilities promoted healthier eating
  18. Hands-on treatment improves chronic low back pain, reduces medication use
  19. PepsiCo to halt use of bromides in Gatorade
  20. Brain cancer patient asks online world for input into cancer treatment

Ten links for May 2013

A selection of articles I’ve recently posted on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. If anyone can demonstrate to me that Google+ is of any use to anyone whatsoever anywhere, please let me know.

  1. Brian Eno designs stress-reduction room for UK hospital
  2. Watch out for counterfeit medical journals online. Even scientists are being fooled.
  3. Animation of the gut’s immune system and how it can go wrong
  4. Make your own probiotics! 10 fermented foods that kids love
  5. Are supplements really necessary? (Chris Kesser)
  6. 4-part blog series on Weston Price’s scientific approach
  7. Another non-invasive brain stimulation treatment for mood problems
  8. Calcium supplements ineffective for bone health and might harm heart (Chris Kesser)
  9. Niacin doesn’t help heart, may cause harm, study says
  10. Doctors/surgeons with revoked licenses can legally begin a new practice in another state

Wake therapy (staying up all night) for depression

After a reader pointed me to a New York Times article on chronotherapy — using light exposure and waking times to affect mood — I ordered one of the publications it referred to: Chronotherapeutics for Affective Disorders: A Clinician’s Manual for Light and Wake Therapy. The manual’s authors, three clinical researchers/professors in psychiatric neuro-stuff in Italy, Switzerland, and New York, have been experimenting with chronotherapy on hospitalized bipolar and depressive patients. They themselves do not use prescription drugs in their treatment, but their patients’ other psychiatrists and doctors often do, so the manual includes guidelines on how to incorporate meds into each treatment.

Among the many topics the authors cover — bright light therapy, melatonin, and generally futzing with a person’s circadian rhythms in multiple ways — they mention that they’ve found that their depressed patients often benefit from staying awake all night once or twice a week. Specifically, the second half of the night seems to be key — you stay awake from about 2 a.m. until 7:30 a.m. You can actually go to bed early and wake up at 2 a.m.

The therapy calls for a well-lit environment, moving around a lot to stay awake, coffee or caffeine if necessary, and eating whenever you’re hungry.

The authors say that “the clinical improvement after a single night of wake therapy is remarkable,” but some patients need two or even three nights in a week (not sure if they have to be in a row) to see results. However, a good response seems to be pretty long-lasting. Patients can maintain the effect using light therapy alone or occasional nights of wake therapy.

I recommend this book if you’re looking for non-Rx ways to treat mood disorders. It’s written in normal language and the authors seem to care a lot about their patients. They cover all kinds of depression, all kinds of treatments, and all kinds of combinations of treatments. They cover blue-blocking lenses and something called social rhythm therapy, which involves paying attention to your daily activities and how they affect your internal clock. (That reminds me of Seth Roberts’ discovery that his mood was noticeably better on days when he watched TV shows featuring large faces — that is, with the camera zoomed in, as on talk shows — in the morning.)

Here’s a link to the table of contents on the Swiss publisher’s website, although it’s weirdly formatted. You can get to the order form from that page, too. The manual was about $52, including shipping from Switzerland.

Wake therapy for depression