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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Food, or lack thereof, causes nightmares...

Tuesday night I dreamt that I helped some friends clean up a grisly murder. Why I was friends with people who kill- I dunno. Anyway, there was blood everywhere so I brought the bleach but I was scared about being caught so the dream was quite scary.
That was after I stuffed myself on enchiladas and paczkis and beer so I blamed the weird food combo for addling my brain.
Well last night- after day one of the cleanse- I had an arguably more disturbing dream. I dreamt I was at my stepmom's house (which is scary, trust me) and everywhere I looked the only thing to eat were cookies, cakes and pies. Oh and bread and butter. So, I turned on the TV to distract myself from hunger. The only thing on TV was a movie about Justin Timberlake and Brittney Spears-like characters, except they were totally C-List. A cross between a VH1 behind the Scenes and a Lifetime movie with REALLY bad music.
Finally I started sneaking pieces of bread and buttering them and eating them. And it wasn't even good bread- it was store bought, pre-sliced and bagged stuff.
I woke up feeling like I had actually eaten the bread and felt soooo guilty.
Now, why is that dream worse that cleaning up a brutal murder? Because it could really happen. I know I will never be friends with people who want me to supply get away cars and bleach for their crimes but the bread is always taunting me and I could snap at any time. The bread is real. And it is looking at me. Seriously...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

And the cleanse starts.......NOW!

Yesterday was Fat Tueday and I lived it up- enchiladas, beer and not one but TWO Paczkis. Today, however, is when I start my cleanse and I will right all the wrongs of the past 3 months. I hope.
This cleanse will be a bit more relaxed than my last one. Before it was no wheat, no refined sugar, no caffeine, no booze, no red meat and no dairy.
This time, I am focusing less on elimination more on 'brain healthy'foods and habits.
I still intend to eliminate refined sugars altogether. I will NOT eliminate wheat but I will eliminated baked goods with wheat flour. In fact, I'll eliminate baked goods altogether. So that means things like tabbouleh are ok.
Alcohol is out-for now. I may reintroduce red wine in a few weeks after my tolerance is lowered and one glass will do. Dairy is out for now and but will be reintroduced in moderation in a few weeks. I will allow myself dairy when I can get to the point where I don't see a 3lb block of cheese and seriously consider just eating it straight from the wrapper.
I don't eat much red meat so I'm good there and I will keep caffeine in the form of black and green tea. Caffeine is on the 'improved brain function' approved list!
I have my Metagenics UltraMeal again and I will start the BrainSustain in about a week.
I know, you're thinking "Kate! That sounds like a breeze! Especially compared to your last cleanse!"
Well here's the catch- one of the things I will be doing is a 'calorie restricted' diet.
According to the article Six Ways to Boost Brainpower
It’s not just what you eat that affects the brain. It’s also how much. Research has shown that laboratory animals fed calorie-restricted diets—anywhere from 25 to 50 percent less than normal—live longer than other animals do. And it turns out they also have improved brain function, performing better on tests of memory and coordination. Rodents on calorie-restricted diets are also better able to resist the damage that accompanies Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.

Seriously, my current caloric intake is atrocious. A 1700 calorie diet would probably be a 50% reduction in my case- hello, did you not see the part where I ate TWO paczkis yesterday- so I am aiming for that. I also have to cut saturated fats out- unless they come in the form of nuts or fish which have enough 'good' fats to negate the 'bad' ones. Walnuts are apparently best for Omega fats which improve brain function. Blueberries and spinach are also on the menu.
Other brain boosters-
--I need aerobic exercise- so daily GoGo is back on the schedule.
--I need to listen to music- this should be easy. I have really lapsed in my music listening as I listen to WBEZ/NPR all day now, so I need to work it back into the daily schedule.
--I need to play video games. Seriously, it's on the list. I suck at video games and never play them. I may need Rob's help with this one.
--I need to meditate. Another hard one. I have a rough time sitting still for any length of time unless I am asleep. Maybe I will be so weakened from my calorie restricted diet it won't be so hard.

we'll see....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The quest to grow my brain mad scientist style.

Last May I did a cleanse- no wheat, no refine sugar, no dairy, no caffeine, no alcohol and no red meat. I did about 3-4 weeks of this and also used the Metagenics medical food supplements UltraMeal and UltraClear to help. After about 3 or 4 days of feeling totally awful I started feeling totally awesome- I had more energy than ever, slept great and was much calmer and happier. Oh, and I was also exercising almost everyday as I was rehearsing for my first show with The Janes. The purpose of this cleanse was to feel better and break some bad habits- daily doses coffee, sugar and booze.It worked- for several months in fact- but now I need to go back to dietary boot camp and try again. The long cold winter months of comfort food and red wine have taken their toll and now I am feeling sluggish and slow every day.
So now, in preparation for starting graduate school, I am going to focus this cleanse on improving my brain function through nutrition, exercise and other habits. It just so happens that Scientific American posted an article entitled Six Ways to Boost Brain Power this month- as if they knew what I was up to.
Using the information in this article- among others- along with UltraMeal and Dr Perlmutter's Brain Sustain I intend to make the next month all about clearing the winter fuzz from my head and wake up from this long winter nap. And I'll start right after Paczki season...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Science: Somewhere between Spock and a soul.

I opened the Scientific American website today and saw this article title:
Would Your Clone Have Its Own Soul, or Be a Soulless Version of You?
I gave it a quick scan and the author basically explores the idea of what makes us 'us'and how what we believe the essence of being human to be informs our ideas on the ethics of cloning, stem cell research and the like.
What I found interesting were some of the reactions to the article:
Sigh. Why do philosophy questions keep being brought into science? This is more appropriately a discussion of dualism, which makes me wonder what its doing in Scientific American. However, in the last decade they do seem to have dumb downed the magazine so I guess this should be no surprise.


Are you editors finished asking asinine questions that have nothing to do with science? ...You guys run a SCIENCE magazine. Or at least you used to. What a waste of electrons.

not to be outdone by...

Why would Scientific American have "Would Your Clone Have Its Own Soul, or Be a Soulless Version of You?" for the title of an article?...I know this magazine dumbed down to appeal to the non-scientist, but this is conscionable.

So, science is science and philosophy is philosophy and soul is soul and never the three shall meet.
The end.

Um, not so fast.

Yes, the article is what I would consider 'light' on actual science however it is an important article because it poses the very questions that need to be asked as science- particularly medical science- progresses. You can't divorce the unknown human element from scientific research involving humans simply because it can't be defined. It defeats the purpose. I mean, if we don't really acknowledge or even care about the 'essence', why bother?
It cannot be denied that science got its street cred during the Renaissance. How we understood the universe was changed forever by the scientific exploration of the Renaissance. One of the driving ideas of the Renaissance was that if we could understand the world around us as completely as possible- we would be closer to god. In effect,science- as well as art- was a means to a spiritual end.
In that regard, modern science owes a lot to questions of the soul.

On the flip side of this is this story I heard on NPR this week. It is about religious leaders embracing Darwin- to the dismay of the church. A sample:
Henry Green is a rarity among Southern Baptists. The pastor of Heritage Baptist church in Annapolis, Md., is openly skeptical that the Bible is the literal word of God, that the Earth was created in a few thousand years, and that Adam and Eve were created from dirt.

He says that for too long, conservatives have tried to reconcile faith and science by throwing out science.

This weekend, nearly 1,000 clerics worldwide will proclaim their belief that science and religion can coexist as they celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin during events on what has become known as Evolution Weekend.
"Fundamentalists want to take people away from real science and put on some sort of bogus discussion about intelligent design or creationism," Green says. "Well, guess what? I believe God created. But I just happen to believe that the scientists have it right in understanding that creation."
Tim Bagwell, pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church in Macon, Ga., says that even in the Bible Belt there's a quiet shift away from literalism. When he preaches about the compatibility of science and faith, he says, members of his congregation often come to him with this question: "Why didn't you tell me about this before? I've had all of these questions for all of these years and no one's ever talked with me, no one's ever given me permission to ask the questions that have been deep down inside of my soul."

So, science-philes eschewing talk of 'souls' while religious leaders are embracing Darwin.
I know, responses to one article on a web site does not a trend make. But I do find it an interesting comparison.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Verdict is in: MMR vax did not cause autism and Dr. Wakefield may have lied.

Or so say the special masters for the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Three separate cases were in the courts recently- and all three were found to have insufficient evidence to support the claim. In one case:
In his strongly worded decision, the special master, George L. Hastings Jr. ruled that the government’s expert witnesses were “far better qualified, far more experienced and far more persuasive” than the Cedillos. Although the Cedillos only had to show that the preponderance of the evidence was on their side, the judge ruled that it was “not a close case” because the evidence was “overwhelmingly contrary” to their argument.

While expressing “deep sympathy and admiration” for the Cedillo family, he ruled that they were “misled by physicians who are guilty, in my view, of gross medical misjudgment.”

from aNew York Times article
Now, does this mean conclusively that there is NO link between autism and vaccines? Not really, it just means that the evidence we have is does not bring us to that conclusion. Autism is such an enigma that I can't believe that there are not myriad reasons for why it develops in some children and not others but with the evidence I have read I am inclined to believe that vaccines are a minor part of the puzzle- if a part of the puzzle at all.
One big reason why I don't think vaccines are much of an autism threat is because of what I consider to be an even more significant development in the vaccine/autism link theory which is that British researcher Andrew Wakefield, M.D.- the 'father' of the vaccine/autism 'link'- has been formally accused of falsifying his 1998 research to support a link between vaccines and autism. In 2004 it was discovered
Dr. Wakefield's research was partially, and secretly, funded by plaintiffs' lawyers in suits against vaccine makers, and that he had cut procedural corners in the research...The 1998 study was the first to be published in a reputable journal that suggested the MMR vaccine could lead to autism.

Um, conflict of interest much?

The discrepancies:
In the 1998 paper, Dr. Wakefield and colleagues presented evidence that the children had developed intestinal inflammation following vaccination. They suggested that the inflammation released gut proteins into the circulation that eventually migrated to the brain, causing permanent damage reflected in autism symptoms.

But according to the Times, the children's original hospital records differed in important ways from the descriptions in the Lancet paper.

Whereas the paper indicated that, in most cases, symptoms developed within days of vaccination, the records indicated that this was true only for one child, according to the Times.

The children's records also indicated that five of the children had psychosocial problems before vaccination, said the Times, but the paper described them as "developmentally normal."

In addition, the Lancet paper described abnormal intestinal pathology results in the children, but the hospital pathology reports showed no findings of inflammation, the Times report said.

The consequences:
Following its publication, rates of childhood vaccination in Britain and elsewhere fell dramatically.

The Times story noted that 1,348 cases of measles were reported in England and Wales in 2008, compared with 56 in 1998.

In the U.S., a large spike in measles cases was seen in 2008

The original research paper had 13 authors, 10 of them retracted their conclusions of an MMR vax/autism link after the 2004 conflict of interest disclosure but Dr Wakefield and 2 of his cohorts did not and therefore face charges:
Dr. Wakefield and two of his Lancet co-authors are currently facing misconduct charges before Great Britain's medical licensing board, the General Medical Council, related to the 1998 study and subsequent research.

They are accused of failing to obtain required approvals for the tests they performed on the children and other ethical violations, but the data-manipulation charges reported in the Times are not at question in the hearings.

Rightfully so, I say.

You can read the full article on Dr. Wakefield here

No matter where you fall in this debate or how you feel about vaccines I would hope that even the hint of impropriety on the part of researchers should make you question the answers they give you. Even if those answers are what you want to hear.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Why remove a kidney through the vagina?

No, it's not the opening to a joke, they really did this.
in this Scientific American article they explain the benefits 'natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery' or NOTES.

How is the new NOTES procedure done?
You make a six-inch incision in the back of the vaginal wall and insert one flexible tube that contains four channels through which you insert surgical instruments and cameras. Then you dissect upwards toward the kidney, which is located midway up the back. Dissecting means you are using scissors to open up layers of tissue, called fascial planes, to get to the kidney. Separating these layers of tissue feels like peeling away layers of cotton candy. Once you get to the kidney, you identify blood vessels supplying it with blood, put clips on the vessels so they don't bleed, and cut them free from the kidney. (The clips are actually left in the body after the surgery.) To remove the organ, doctors might use the "Roth Net" retrieval net, which is like a collapsible butterfly net. You thread the Roth Net through the tube, which opens up on the other side and "catches" the kidney like a net capturing a butterfly. Then kidney is pulled through the vaginal incision.

[Instead of using the Roth Net, the Hopkins team actually used a sterile plastic bag to extract the kidney, according to Allaf. The bag is similar to the Roth Net in that it slides through a narrow tube, opens at the end and captures the kidney.]


Spring is springing...

But I'm sure it won't last. it IS only February after all. All this great weather, and this weekend's overindulgence in booze and bacon, make me realize that another cleanse is in order. So, for the month of march I will be heading down the healthy path once again. I work out the details of my cleanse and post more later but for now I just had to announce it because once you post it in the internet, it's real gosh darn it! LOL
March is 19 days away so 2 and a half weeks to say good by to all the wine, bacon, sugar and bread in my house.