Archive for February, 2012

What To Buy With 70 Million In Lottery Money: A Good Used Car.

English: The winners parking spots at the Atla...

Image via Wikipedia

Well, some lucky person has won the 70 million dollar Powerball.  So that person’s life is going to be golden from now on, right?

Not so fast.  Haven’t we all heard about the whole “bankrupt lottery winners” rumor?  Sort of a sour grapes version of “he’ll just blow it anyway.”

So is that true?  Are people really better off getting wicked rich overnight (Mainerism intentional)?

The people selling financial advice to lottery winners definitely think so.  You win the lottery, you need these guys.  Otherwise you’ll go ape and start buying every beanie baby ever made or something.  Here’s their scary quote: The reality is that 70 percent of all lottery winners will squander away their  winnings in a few years,” the Connecticut financial advisers said in a news  release. “In the process, they will see family and friendships destroyed and the  financial security they hoped for disappear.”
Read more:

Ouch!  But wait a minute.  You can’t lump all lottery winners in together.  Yeah, the five dollar winners definitely “squandered their winnings.”  It probably didn’t even take them to the end of the week, much less a few years.  And even the ones who made twenty grand probably plopped it down against some debt.  So no fair.  What we really want to know about are the REAL winners, the million plus crowd.

Turns out, that’s more of a mixed bag.  Some of them definitely hit the skids.  They forget to pay their taxes (oops!) and can’t deal with people asking them for money.  But a good many of them are happier, primarily due to increased financial security.  Amazingly, only one percent got cosmetic surgery.  Some gained weight, some lost weight.  My favorite statistic is that 52% of those with 2 million plus in winnings still consider themselves working class.  Hello, one percenter?  Time to face facts.

All of these fun facts have been supplied by a google answerer who made an extra twenty bucks as a tip.

But what should we all really do?  Take a deep breath and realize that much money isn’t going to change who we are.  It just makes us more intensely who we already are, without poverty as a moderating buffer.  If you were a spendthrift before, now you’re out of control.  If you were a little paranoid before, guess what?  Now they really are all watching you.  If you were having fights about money with your spouse, dump on a million plus in kindling.  And if you have that secret little habit of collecting weird bottle caps from around the world, now you can live the dream.

Here’s a great story about how one guy handled his winnings.  He set up a foundation, and bought a used car.  How did it change him?  He’s the same guy.  “I still teach a spinning class there twice a week. I took some time off after the whole thing because everybody had investment opportunities that were the greatest thing since sliced bread, and there were 100 of them every day. So I had to get out of there for a while, but when I went back, the people I’d been teaching for the last 8 years were still the same people, and I was still the same instructor.”

He also gives you tips on the numbering system he used to beat the odds and win.  Yep, the article appears in Fortune magazine, not Vegan Monthly, or Bellybutton Gazers United.  Those people pride themselves on not being interested in money until they have that sweaty, guilty moment at the lotto machine.




, , , , , , ,


Regaining Sight After Drinking Enough Methanol To Go Blind. Sheer Luck, Or Cosmic Unfairness?

English: display of betel and nut (Areca catec...

Image via Wikipedia

Anyone who has ever been tempted to swig wood alcohol might take a moment to reflect that 10 ml (that’s less than a teaspoon) can make you go blind.  The stuff converts to formaldehyde and then on to formic acid.  It still ranks as one of the dumbest highs ever (bath salts might give it a run for the title).

So they add it to industrial ethanol to avoid people drinking without paying taxes on it.

But some clever, clever souls (sarcasm dripping here) just want to bypass the tax man and get the straight stuff.  So we get this amazing anecdote about a man who decided methanol was just his ticket out on the town.  (Complete abstract below).

It was a slow high, and he had 36 hours to come off it before he went blind.  Mind you, he drank 100 ml of methanol, which should have outright killed him. The only way it didn’t was that he was probably pretty well pickled already.

But, miraculously over time his sight gradually returned.  First, he should have been dead.  Second, the methanol permanently destroys the optic nerve.  There is no way he should have regained his sight.

The miracle drug?  Betel nut.  It’s actually the areca nut, chewed commonly with the betel leaf.  Chewing both can cause lots of cancer everywhere.  But in this lovely fellow, the betel nut combination gradually helped him regain his sight.

There you have it folks.  If you’re going to drink methanol, at least go whole hog and chew carcinogens as well.  You might just end up doing yourself some good.  And for all you health nuts out there?  There is no justice.

Med J Aust. 1982 Nov 13;2(10):481-3.

Delayed recovery of vision after blindness caused by methanol poisoning.


Total blindness developed in an adult Melanesian man 36 hours after he drank 100 mL of 100% methanol. On admission to hospital, he had a blood methanol level of 0.5 g/L and severe acidosis. Peritoneal dialysis was carried out, and he was treated with sodium bicarbonate and ethanol for one week. After 12 days of blindness, he regained some light perception. Progressive improvement in vision occurred. Twelve weeks after the methanol poisoning, his visual acuity was: right eye, able to see hand movements at one metre; left eye, 6/12. However, a right central scotoma persisted, and bilateral optic atrophy was present. No reason for the exceptional delay before recovery and degree of recovery could be deduced, although throughout his convalescence he frequently chewed betel nut. We recommend further studies to determine if any of the constituents of betel nut diminish the toxic effects of methanol on the eye.

PMID: 7155031


, , , , , ,


Kombucha Tea, Cure All Or Flatulence Factory?

English: Mature Kombucha

Image via Wikipedia

Whenever we talk about probiotics these days, no one has anything to say but positives.  Medical doctors may not think there’s anything to fermented products, but as long as they are prepared in sterile conditions, they don’t really care.

Let’s be clear.  Probiotics are good for many people.  They are also an explosive and painful addition to other people’s diets.

For context, let’s look at what happens if you and I suddenly go to Mexico.  Better yet, let’s have some misguided Mexicans come to Maine for snowmobiling.  They go to a local place and have the lobstah bisque.  Now, this is a homey hole-in-the-wall, practically a smelt shack, so they don’t have sterile conditions.  Instead, they get a good dosing of Mainah bacteria.

Nothing wrong with Mainah bacteria for Mainers.  But our Mexican friends find it doesn’t agree with them.  They spend the next day visiting the port-a-potty rather than snowmobiling.  When they get home, they tell their friends they had a bad bout of Mainah’s Revenge, which is just like Montezuma’s Revenge, only worse.  Meanwhile two Mainers coming back from Mexico might complain about how that food just “didn’t agree with them.”

If you suddenly change over the bacteria in your gut, you’re in trouble.  We like to think of ourselves as one person, but we’re really a giant hotel.  The bacteria in your gut outnumber your very cells by something like ten to one.  It’s the bacteria, not you, who determine what you feel like in your belly on a given day.

So if you go dumping in a whole truckload of new immigrant bacteria, they need to find a place to stay.  Sometimes they settle in quietly, but sometimes they find trouble and you get diarrhea.  Other times they find a whole bunch of undigested food that nobody was using, and go nuts.  When they do that, they ferment.  When they ferment enough, you get lift off!

Now, Kombucha tea contains one of my favorite probiotics, Sacchromyces boulardii.  This happy little bug is a relative of the beer yeast and was created for the AIDS population to oppose candida infections.  Overwhelmingly, it does good things for people and beats the pants off all the Lacto and Bifida probiotic clones out there.  BUT…Kombucha also has a variety of other species and those ferment some people like crazy.  I start people on the straight S. boulardii BEFORE they start on Kombucha.  Otherwise I get angry phone calls as people hover near the ceiling all night.

So, before you indulge, take a moment to think about what you’re trying to do.  I remember feeling fine and feeling like I “should” try probiotics.  In the health food nut community we don’t take silly little capsules.  We take sachets of probiotics.  That’s right, basically whole bottles at a go.  My sachet didn’t agree with me.  So I asked one of my professors who unwisely said:  “you just didn’t take enough.”  That was the weekend of the six sachets.  I was NOT a happy camper.  So don’t mess with it if it isn’t broken.

If, on the other hand, you have current bleeding and ulcerations in your gut, it’s worth looking at something like S. boulardii with your doctor.  Right now, you’ve got secondary strep and staph overgrowth from all that free blood (which is a free lunch for them) so pretty much anything is an improvement.  But talk it over, don’t just start in with the six bottle of Kombucha weekend bender.  Unless you like hovering near the ceiling.  Wasn’t that a scene in Mary Poppins?


, , , , , ,


Agorafabulous: Coping With Agoraphobia.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Image via Wikipedia

Agoraphobia should not be confused with Argylophobia, the specific fear of argyle socks (I made that up, don’t get phobophobia- a fear of phobias).  Agoraphobia is a fear of social situations but it goes a bit further than that.  The NIH defines it as: “a fear of being in places where escape might be difficult, or where help might not be available.”

For many people, that can include their homes.  But for author Sara Benincasa, her bed at least was a safe place.  Now she can write about spending years in her bed, in her new book Agorafabulous.  The exciting intro blurb talks about her “relieving herself in cereal bowls” to avoid getting out of bed.

I myself have been blessed with a number of patients who have emetophobia, the fear of public vomiting.  It’s an extraordinary thing to realize the number of disabling phobias I do NOT have.  Wiki and other places provide us with lists.

When we look to treat these phobias, conventional medicine does not have great options.  One recent case note discussed a successful case of phobia relief…using electroshock therapy.  The patient improved after a mere thirteen sessions of having his body convulsed and his brain fritzed.  Sign me up!

As I know in my own practice, we don’t really have a clear handle on agoraphobia.  In the book’s case, the illness worsened after 9/11.  I suspect there are literally millions of people still suffering from the effects of that day.  The entire country got PTSD.

But if someone hates their work and has no friends, does that make them agoraphobic or just sane when they don’t want to leave their houses?  Aren’t there whole neighborhoods where being agoraphobic is a lifesaving adaption?  I can just see a newly medicated agoraphobe “reaching out” to his or her neighbors.  Yikes!  That only works out well in the Brady Bunch reruns.

So until we redefine agoraphobia as something that means something specific, we’ll keep lumping it in with “panic attacks” and throwing medication at it.  It occurs to me that for a true agorophobe numbing them is only a temporary step to get them to the redefining stage.

From an alternative standpoint, we have lots of options for helping, but the first and most important thing is to address the who, what, when, where, and why of the thing.  Then you get to the how to treat effectively.  Don’t just start throwing inositol or kava at it.


, , , , , , , ,


Garlic Does More Than Keep The Ill Away. RCT Lessens Flu.

English: A basket of garlic (allium sativum) o...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m always fascinated by the rejection of garlic for cold and flu symptoms.  For the simple, stinky fact that when you’ve eaten your body weight in garlic even people with colds can smell you.  You get a better cough-to-face radius, and may even send people out of the room.

So garlic is effective for that reason alone.  But it also does really wonderful things to bacteria and viruses in test tubes.  That lovely tangy nastiness is like a mini-flamethrower on the microscopic set.  Perhaps they can smell it too and just curl up and die.

But wait, there’s more!

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial, aged garlic takers had half the number of days lost from colds and flus.  They still caught the bug, but it didn’t stay around very long and didn’t bother them very much.

So let’s stink it up, people.

Here’s the study:

Clin Nutr. 2012 Jan 24. [Epub ahead of print]

Supplementation with aged garlic extract improves both NK and γδ-T cell function and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled nutrition intervention.


Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, University of Florida, Box 110370, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.



Earlier studies show that dietary bioactive compounds can modify proliferation of γδ-T cells. Garlic contains numerous compounds that have this potential and, in addition, has been shown to influence NK cell function. Our primary aim was to demonstrate that aged garlic extract could modify these immune cells.


A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled parallel intervention study recruited 120 healthy subjects (60 per group) to determine the effect of aged garlic extract supplementation (2.56 g/d) on immune cell proliferation and cold and flu symptoms.


After 45 d of consuming an encapsulated aged garlic extract, γδ-T cells (p = 0.039, n = 56) and NK cells (p = 0.043, n = 56) were shown to proliferate better compared to placebo. After 90 d of supplementation, illness diary entries showed that the incidence of colds and flu, a secondary outcome, were not statistically different; however, the group consuming the aged garlic extract appeared to have reduced severity as noted by a reduction in the number of symptoms reported (21% fewer, p < 0.001, z-test of proportions), a reduction in the number of days (61% fewer, p < 0.001, z-test) and incidences (58% fewer p < 0.001, z-test) where the subjects functioned sub-optimally and the number of work/school days missed due to illness (58% fewer, p = 0.035, z-test).


These results suggest that supplementation of the diet with aged garlic extract may enhance immune cell function and that this may be responsible, in part, for reduced severity of colds and flu.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd and European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism. All rights reserved.

PMID:  22280901


, , , , , ,


Drunk Flies Avoid Parasites, How About Drunk Humans?

Wasp sting, with a droplet of venom

Image via Wikipedia

In an interesting twist on self-medication with alcohol, there’s a nice mini-series over at Scientific American on the possible benefits of alcohol.

Specifically, there’s a wasp that lays its eggs in fruit fly larva.  If the flies drink, they are less likely to become hosts.  So those alcoholic fruit flies you see zig zagging around just have waspophobia.  (Yes, the technical term is Spheksophobia, but not many people know the Greek word for wasp.  Geek down, people.)

So do humans self-medicate for parasites?  It’s an interesting angle, but we lack a giant human-infecting parasite wasp predator (NOT a movie worth making).  We do have things like h. pylori, which causes stomach ulcers.  And alcohol seems to help.

Before you forego your in-the-arm shots for on-the-bar shots, too much alcohol is bad for you (gasp!).  It also doesn’t kill things inside you as fast as you’d like.  But it isn’t entirely useless, either.

What is missing from the mini-series is when people do smart things like drink alcohol and then take probiotics like yogurt or sauerkraut.  That would give you some half-decent results.

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Eat More, Weigh Less. Dr. Oz Talks About the All Calories Are Equal Myth.

English: Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (...

Image via Wikipedia

Ranting and venting, with some humor.

In the fallout from the sugar is evil news, now we’ll find out that different foods make a difference in how much weight you put on from Dr. Oz.

One of my favorite things to suggest to the calories in=calories out folks is that they consume all of their calories for a week as straight sugar.  I have not found any takers, despite the ubiquitous “just eat less and exercise more” broken record.

There are, however, a number of sites that talk about going off sugar.  They are worth going to just for a “but for the grace of God…” ogle.  I love this Valentine’s Day post about the joys of unsweetened carob chips.  It won’t fly in Whoopie Pie country.

If you’re familiar with my writing, you’ll know I’ve literally put my body where my mouth is.  Online, you can read a year of my weight.  That’s right, a year, with notations on what makes a difference for me.  What did I find?  That my weight fluctuates far more than fat accumulation would address.  It also DOES NOT correlate to calories in=calories out.

I wish it did.  I really do.  It would be so simple to just avoid food for a while, but it doesn’t work.  So when I see M.D.s peddling that to their patients, I just want to hand them a five pound bag of granulated sugar and say:  “Here you go!  Think of the cost savings for this week!  You get this and water.  At the end of the week if you still have a liver and haven’t succumbed to an insulin coma we’ll talk about how food isn’t all equal.”

How do we tell how many calories a food has?  We burn it.  That’s right.  Then measure the amount of heat it gave off.  That’s the science behind it.  How is that even close to the body process?  Maybe if we were tin woodpeople with furnace stomachs it would be accurate.

So could we all legitimately just drop the calories thing?  It doesn’t work, it’s never worked.  When people lose weight they do so my choosing different foods that do a variety of different things to their bodies.   If they lose weight due to those foods, it has much more to do with an extraordinary dance of complexity as the biochemistry of their body shifts than it has to do with what that food gives off as heat when exploded.


, , , , , ,