Apple Cider Vinegar and “Alkalizing” the Body: Why An Acid Can Never Raise Body pH

Woo.

A colloquial term for “bunk”, “junk science”, and generally unfounded, unproven ideas that we encounter in digital “print” (an oxymoron in past for sure, not so today) all the time. Sometimes, we find the phrase “woo-woo.” littering a blog entry or respected article; of course, this is non-standard, non-traditional usage and definition of the word, but by now many of us know what it means when an author brings out this larky (yet powerful) phrase, “It’s just woo”: It’s a clear signal that an author or blogger or news-writer is no proponent of pseudo-science, and will in no way entertain ludicrous, unsound concepts. It shows that the author respects Evidence-Based Medicine, as situated plainly as a class far  above junk science. It further suggests what’s been labeled “woo” is laughable, embarrassing even.

quackery

quackery

Is the term appropriate, ever? Is the idea of “alkalizing” the body with Apple Cider Vinegar appropriately filed under the big “WWW”, the Woebegone Woo Wackiness folder? Personally, I do not use the term “woo” in this manner, and have no such folder in my mind, or on my laptop, or anywhere else; it’s just not a very useful way of looking at things, and may be more limiting than helpful.

Of course, some notions that may be labeled as “woo” by the many may later turn out to be scientifically supported later; it’s probably not the most open-minded or intelligent way to proceed when encountering new ideas and concepts; merely mentally filing unproven theories as “theorems” and “postulations” and “possible explanations” is certainly enough, without imposing biased prejudgments on any new concepts outside our own usual idea-set and experience.

Possibly, this term came into usage in this manner drawing from its original usage; as people were “wooed” by those hawking dubious health cures, or at least it may have seemed that way in the eyes of third parties, watching the “cures” bought and sold.  Perhaps some were wooed by slick sales pitches, but time has told that many traditional  cures of various cultures , as well as contemporary alternative health remedies, do have scientifically-sound reasons for working. People just didn’t know; they did have the empirical evidence, though, gained from experience and casual observation.

If many ill patients “got better”, a substance was deemed “good.” If the treatment did nothing to improve a patient’s condition, or harmed, it was “bad.” Very simple. Over many generations, this feedback loop provides a lot of data, however invisible or inaccessible. In any case, only those “cures” that had at least a marginal rate of success survived the passage of time over the centuries and millenia. However, even if a cure “worked” (as in, “cured” the patient), both patients and healers working with”medicine” from traditional cultures in the past, may have entertained false ideas and attributed a rationale for its success that was totally askew. The two are (obviously) not mutually exclusive.

Aple Cider Vinegar image credit: jeepersmedia Improved at NJMAssages.com/articles

Apple Cider Vinegar
image credit: jeepersmedia

It’s not difficult finding people on-line stating that Apple Cider Vinegar acts to alkalize the body, raising internal pH, something many claim is an amazing thing, positively affecting health in a plethora of observable ways. But we’ve all studied chemistry in middle school high school, and again at university, and most of us can remember that vinegar is a weak acid. Perhaps some will even recall pH of vinegar is about 3 – 5.

Acids acidify.

So how can ingesting an acidic substance ever result in an increase in the body’s pH? Does this make sense to a logical mind?

To answer the first question, of course acidic substances lower pH of any liquid medium, and our bodies are about 70% water. Does it make sense that an acid can actually RAISE pH? No; it does not.   Most websites trying to suggest such never actually get to the supporting argumentation, merely stating that the “digestive process” for apple cider vinegar actually *raises* pH in the body, unlike other vinegars sourced from other ingredients.

One argument Internet users may stumble upon states that the body can dispense with releasing tons of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, as ACV “fills in”. Firstly, it’s not a strong acid like HCl, and secondly, even if it were more acidic (like lemon juice at at pH of 2), that means the acid usually released in the stomach to digest food and then be excreted, would remain in the body, but  alkaline bile would still be released to counter the lowered pH of the stomach contents, regardless of whether the acid was exogenous or not. The end result? A net loss of alkaline ions and retaining of acidic ones, clearly not a way to raise the pH of anything.

So, we’re left with what seems like a clear understanding: Apple Cider Vinegar cannot raise the PH of the body. Ever. This is basic chemistry.

However, living beings are complex biochemically; we are not the equivalent to a breathing glass of water and the underlying reactions that the body performs when we ingest vinegar are numerous. And so, the puzzle is not quite so simple as it may initially seem…

A letter to the editor, a case report appearing in Nephron, describes a patient consuming over eight ounces a day of Apple Cider Vinegar (the same as two-thirds the volume of a can of soda). Actually, a can of soda also has a relatively low pH: Coke Classic has a pH of 2.5 due to the addition of phosphoric acid for flavor. It’s not from the “metal in the can” or anything like that; the glass-bottled variety of the popular soft drink is equally low in pH. And of course, it’s not just Coke, but rather most brands of soda.

Drink Coke Ad. Restored On Brick Wall Image Credit: Donald Lee Pardue Image Improved at NJMassages.COM Uneding Health Quest Article August 2018

Drink Coke Ad. Restored On Brick Wall
Image Credit: Donald Lee Pardue

Apple Cider Vinegar isn’t the world’s strongest acid and doesn’t have the lowest pH of everything we drink or eat, but is strong enough to have left children, and sensitive adults, with harmful esophageal burns when imbibed (in its undiluted form), usually for its “health benefits.”

The metabolism of acetate from, the acetic acid in vinegar (standardized in Italian Balsamic Vinegar to be 8+% acetic acid) releases a good amount of bicarbonate into the bloodstream, which itself possesses a high pH, without depleting body stores of other positive ions used for internal pH neutralization and buffering. The result is “…massive bicarbonate excretion.” upon ingestion of ACV, to cite the Nephron journal article appearing in 1998 entitled, “Hypokalemia, Hyperreninemia and Osteoporosis in a Patient Ingesting Large Amounts of Cider Vinegar.” (Karl Lhotta, Gunther Hofle, Rudolf Gasser, and Gerd Finkenstedt, Department of Internal Medicine, Innsbruck University Hospital, Innsbruck, Austria)

Therefore, vinegar of ALL varieties, and not just ACV, all being comprised of a significant proportion of acetic acid, can actually create a net pH change that is less significant (in terms of depletion of positive ions) than would be the case with other acids, at least in small amounts.

Other studies with animal organs suggest heart tissue, as well as diaphragm tissue, will create some CO2 locally after higher levels of exposure to acetic acid, however CO2 is acidic, unlike bicarbonate, which is basic.

Kidney patients needing to raise body pH rely on baking soda with its high pH and proven track record as an innocuous means of raising the body’s pH with ease and few side effects, a few ingredient we all eat all the time anyway. In fact, studies suggest that daily ingestion of sodium bicarbonate can help kidney patients with metabolic acidosis avoid the need for dialysis. The study was published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology by  Dr. Ione De BritoAshurst and her colleagues from the Department of Renal Medicine and Transplantation from William Harvey Research Institute Barts, as well as the London NHS Trust.

The body prevents acidosis on consumption of large amounts of (any type of) acidic food or drink by leaching calcium carbonate from bone, if need be, as well as exchange with sodium and potassium ions. Thus, consuming too much vinegar can definitely lead to osteoporosis, as the body seeks to buffer pH beyond the amount that acetate conversion to bicarbonate could permit. This can even happen with over-consumption of your favorite soft drink or even antioxidant-rich tea! Bad news: Coffee has a low pH as well. Realistically, we have more to fear, in terms of body acidification, from our habits of what we drink and how frequently.

Kaya Doing a- pH Test by Terren

Kaya Doing a pH Test
Image Credit: Terren Va

If actively seeking to raise the body’s pH, it seems one should avoid foods with a low pH, and favor those with a high value, simply. But maybe it’s not quite so simple. Some acids, in minute amounts, namely acetic acid in vinegar, its chief acidic substance, can be buffered in ways other than leaching precious bone ions. The key here seems to be the amount of acid consumed, as well as the type.

Bicarbonate that starts out as acetate begins with acetate being hydrolyzed to carbon dioxide and water, over time. A hydrogen ion completes the task, finishing the conversion into bicarbonate. According to an article entitled “Critical Care Pearl: Metabolic Acidosis” (Victoria Weston, MD; Kevin Bajer, ParmD, Randy Orr, MD), this reaction occurs mainly in the liver, however, the pancreas also releases bicarbonate as well.

In conclusion, we cannot find evidence that Apple Cider Vinegar raises body pH. That is (seemingly) impossible. Interestingly, however, the novel mechanism for adjustment of pH back to neutral, when concerning moderate amounts of acetate, doesn’t deplete bone as other acids (possibly) would, potentially making it a useful addition, in small quantities, to an alkaline-forming diet.

Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena

Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena

And, this is true for ALL vinegar, especially those types high in acetic acid, like Balsamic Vinegar from Modena, Italy, a standardized product guaranteeing highest levels of acetic acid.  However, this variety of (Protected Designation of Origin) vinegar is generally not used in the same manner as apple cider vinegar by health enthusiasts; the anecdotal accounts suggest apple cider vinegar is what people use for “alkalizing” and more.

It’s within the realm of possibility that vinegar, and Apple Cider Vinegar specifically, holds other promising health benefits generally not acknowledged beyond the (largely) untrue claim of having the ability to “alkalize”; this shall be explored in a later article on this topic in Unending Health Quest.

Authored by Dee Alban, Copyright 2018 H Miller, D Alban.

Unending Health Quest sponsor: Mobile Massage by Mountainside Onsite Massage

Posted in Alternative Health, Alternative Health Remedies, Child Health, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health and the Environment, Health Studies, Personal Growth, Pseudoscience | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Is Hate(ful-Sounding) Speech Acceptable By Media Professionals? An Inquiry Into Tweets by New York Times Editor Sarah Jeong of #CancelWhitePeople Fame

Recently, the blogs, social networks, and message boards on the Internets have been all abuzz with frantic news reports that the newly appointed New York Times editorial board member, Sarah Jeong, had published messages on the Twitter social media platform some years ago that many have found to be indistinguishable from the trite canards of hate speech.

Surely, even speech at its most hateful and disgusting deserves protection under the First Amendment, and Ms. Jeong certainly had every right in the world to publish her views, as uncompassionate-seeming, judgmental-looking, and narrow-minded-feeling as they were, and are. I think Ms. Jeong truly meant well, I really do, even if the outcome was less-than-good.

However, when we look more carefully at the content of the Tweets in question, I find that although I support Sarah Jeong’s every right to speak, think, and act freely, precisely as !she! chooses, I cannot help but feel that perhaps such disrespectful, hateful, and damaging public messages are mutually exclusive with Ms. Jeong’s newly appointed position working as editor charged with technology topics at the Times.

It’s time Ms.Jeong distances herself from her statements; by this I do not mean the content, but rather the means of conveying such content, the actual language; no need to renounce her dedication to fighting for those who could use some help.

And of course, many congratulations, to Ms. Jeong, truly! Her new position means many will be challenging her because of her views and how she chose to express them publicly; hopefully Sarah Jeong will think of these as opportunities to demonstrate her caring character and strong moral fiber. How we respond to others is important; it shows a lot.

I am not a cruel person and so do not wish to see Ms. Jeong fired or demoted, necessarily even, and certainly not end up homeless or permanently ostracized from the news industry! However, some accountability is in order. Merely acknowledging that this was not the best way to communicate her ideas is probably not enough.

Ms. Jeong states that, “…these comments were not aimed at a general audience…”, however, even with context, the content of the tweets does nothing to help the reader understand whom the precise target of the tweets was; the language is far too vague and inclusive, the groups too overarchingly broad. An apology is in order, for sure. While Ms. Jeong states she “regrets” her statements, one may easily regret an error that calls one’s reputation into question, without being truly sorry to the parties harmed by such error.

Think of all those included in the group: White people who are poor along with those who are wealthy, the disenfranchised as well as well-connected, boys, girls, Grandmas, Grandpas, cousins, sisters, brothers, everyone. No one should have to contend with an editor of a well-respected newspaper wanting any group of people, their own or any other, “cancelled”.

It’s just wrong. An effective writer is clear; a good editor seeks clarity in all she edits. Surely, clarity of intent, as well as clarity of meaning, are both on sabbatical in the instance of these tweets.

Of course, these messages were tweeted out a few years ago, and Sarah Jeong was not yet an NYT editor. From all appearances, Sarah is a woman deeply concerned with contemporary social issues in America, and freely identifies with those less fortunate.

At the time, her tweets numbered a few among a far wider field of such mean-sounding tweets, from all sides. My feeling is that we should all cut her some slack, and permit Jeong the opportunity to distance herself from her more youthfully angsty, rebellious sentiment and statements.

As long as such online messages are following the rules of the private system they were posted to, however, we must do our best to ascertain the meaning of all this and grow as a society together, as well as consider the unspoken implications of these mean-spirited-sounding posts, as such are now (a permanent) part of the online fabric of our collective meaning and expression. As for Twitter, it seems that Sarah Jeong’s posts shall stand. Forever.

That’s fine. Twitter can enforce their rules as they see fit. It is a private space after all. Odd how free-market people with views more to the Right speak exasperatedly about enacting government control over private online space; this paradox confounds, surely; this runs counter to everything such people usually claim to want for a future.

Now that we’re stuck with Ms. Jeong’s words, let’s delve deeper still. Sarah Jeong is Asian-American, and she has provided hateful messages she’s received online over the years, from people attacking her (perceived) sexuality, attacking her race, attacking her national origin, all because of her stated political views.

While all this is truly heinous, I wonder whether she ever experienced such terribly alienating bias in real life, or offline, if you will, outside of any politically charged context, for instance at Harvard, where she received her education. Sarah is a “…woman of color”, as she rightfully describes herself, and identifies with the narratives of other women of color, like Hispanic and Black women. That is truly noble.

Even so, I do believe that Sarah Jeong has likely experienced racism because of her appearance and gender in real life like she clearly has online. But online, it’s likely far worse. People online, on all sides, generally have no regard for those with opposing (or different) ideas, and forget they’re talking with other living, breathing beings.

Everyone objectifies.

Hiding behind a screen, many feel emboldened to dump on others. At least in face-to-face interactions, we would hope all sides respect one another’s person-hood enough to listen and keep from hurtful, destructive language.

Are these not considered biased tweets simply because these comments are directed at Whites, as opposed to a marginalized group such as American Blacks? Or, because Ms. Jeong is an Asian-American, a Woman of Color? Some claim that racism against White folks is an impossibility, considering the long-standing power differential between Whites and other groups, as well as our unique history of race relations here in the United States.

To this fallacious argument, I reply that racism and bias exist worldwide, sometimes among two or more groups totally ignorant of the four hundred (plus) year drama yet unfolding between White and Black people here in America, always with their own unique and complex histories.

Any time any person hates another because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, perceived gender, nation of origin, or ethnicity, it’s bias, plain and simple. Trying to deconstruct the issue and re-frame it any other way is disingenuous and counter-productive to our seeking of actual Truth and Understanding.

In fact, there is great confusion because some of the more recognizable Power Brokers on Earth are White people. However, at such levels of world power we find Middle Easterners, Asians, Europeans, Americans of diverse background, and people inhabiting lands flung far and wide across the globe. It’s far from a White Man’s club; that’s merely a meme.

The country with the largest growing number of new Forbes billionaires is not America, but rather China, a communist state experimenting (quite successfully, apparently!) with free markets. Just another lazy meme.

Clearly, the notion that “Whites” oppress(ed) “Blacks” (or even Asians), does not take into account that there are many, many more disenfranchised White people than White folks at the top. And, many more White people had nothing at all to do with slavery or even segregation, having arrived at Ellis Island from Europe dirt poor and settling in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, nearly literally, or then moving out West and North, spreading slowly.

Could such people have been racist? Certainly, though most would not be in any position of individual power to yield much sway in oppressing anyone, and aside from those (relatively) few joining organized groups that had sprung up here and there across the country, using questionable, and often violent and unlawful methods to oppress, these majority poor Whites had no means of oppressing anyone, White, Black, or any color. But of course, some were racist, either way.

These White Europeans may have even experienced real and serious racism at the hands of other Whites. The largest mass lynching in the United States was not against African-Americans, but rather Sicilians. This happened in Louisiana in 1890, after a murder of a police superintendent, and a mob took care of the rest.

Is this what the Sicilian-American Mob was formed for, defense of Sicilians from lynch mobs (in addition to smuggling Canadian Prohibition whiskey a few decades later, of course)? Sicilians experienced many other terrible episodes of racism at the hands of other whites in the South in the 1890s. Are we to somehow compartmentalize this in our minds when we consider racism against Black people in the South? Or how Native Americans were treated at the time, in the same place?

Ironically, some White people can recount experiencing racism on car trips with the family to Florida through the Deep South, where dark-skinned Italians, Portuguese, Spaniards, and other Southern Europeans had to worry about hate and vitriol directed against their own families, back in the 60s and prior!

Living in urban areas back up North, people (pretty much) learned to coexist. This was proven by the higher numbers of inter-racial babies born over time. It isn’t just an illusion or nice-sounding words; this is what happened over the generations. Racism still exists; racism will always exist as long as people choose to entertain such vile feelings and ideas.

While Eddie Murphy’s 1980s’ SNL skit about the ever-present White culture he discovers (while cosmetically adjusted to appear White, as well as learning how to “walk White” with a stiff butt) that’s like a wonderful 24/7 party hidden from Black people, is surely genius comedy, truly hilarious, hinting at many areas we should all take a better look at while making us laugh, there is, in my experience, little cohesiveness among White folks merely because of skin color.

Ethnicity, religion, national origin, yes; if a person who’s Macedonian-Italian is going for a job at a place run by Macedonian or Italian people, surely it’s a foot in the door. But if he’s Irish or Scottish? It’s doubtful. The cultures are not one and the same; there is no monolithic “White culture”, just as there’s no single Black culture.

If the owner of a newspaper is a native of Portugal and I greet her with, “Komu eshta?” and ramble on in her tongue with the ease of a native speaker, I know I’m good (at least getting to the next phase of hiring)! Of course, this is all assuming I’m qualified for the position; I think any wise business owner would rather have a qualified Black, Indian, Asian, Native American, Jewish, Muslim, or White person performing the duties of the job best, rather than simply going with a candidate who can only claim that they’re the best choice for the job because their last name is similar to that of the business owner. That’s just dumb.

And of course, there’s Classism, something most people with Leftist ideologies should definitely know all about. The Upper Class and Upper Middle Class White folks have little to do with Working Class or Struggling Poor White people faring even worse, in terms of how these groups socialize and interact.

Just because both happen to be “white” doesn’t mean very much, in reality. People inhabit different social spheres, even those of the same race, national origin, or faith. Possibly, their only interaction would be between a donor to a nonprofit and the recipients helped by the foundation, if the nonprofit focused on human aid. And of course, such aid is truly color blind, so this proves nothing. Or, possibly encountering a working class white while being served in some capacity, as there are yet many service jobs available for all.

“Whiteness” is not a culture; the distinct Black cultures in America, from Southern to Louisiana Creole (…”Colonists referred to themselves and enslaved Black people who were native-born as creole” – Wikipedia “Louisiana Creole” entry), to Northeast Urban, evolved in specific sets of harsh and unforgiving circumstances; White people did not arrive here as slaves, as the few Black people who survived the terrible cross-ocean journey, did. While death was harsh, survival was harsher, though survive and thrive many Black people did, in time.

 

Ghandi Image Credit & Copyright: NEO11

Ghandi
Image Credit & Copyright: NEO11

Mahatma Ghandi quelled the bias of Muslims by Hindus, the bias of Hindus by Muslims, by uniting all of India for a time, now so many decades ago, under his banner of nonviolent resistance referred to as Satyagraha, roughly translated from Hindi as “Soul Force.”

In retrospect, it seems unbelievable that any one person could accomplish anything like this. Are we to believe, as some avid social justice advocates in America claim, that such bias is qualitatively different than bias between other groups elsewhere in the world, or even within the borders of the US? True, every case of bias has its own unique history, but who are we to grade and compare which are legitimate cases of bias, and which are not, using our own concepts and history as a measuring rod of authenticity?

Bias is bias, simply.

Somehow, because of the history of the former American institution of slavery, some feel that only our own American narrative of less-than-stellar race relations is “real” racism, and certainly only when perpetrated by White people against Black people, a seriously ethnocentric view devoid of heart and soul, or any real analysis.

And, unlike the social awareness movement that swept the US in the 1960s and early 70s, American Indians are nowhere to be found, to any significant degree, in any of these present-day social justice crusades by those on the Left. This group, the peoples indigenous to our Lands, were also heavily marginalized, and over time have fared comparatively poorly, in many instances. Many modern-day thinkers on the Left talk about racism and forget all about the plight of the American Natives and Canadian First Peoples.

Whether groups experience social conflict over race, religion, sexual orientation, or other perceived differences makes little difference, really. It all hurts; it all causes real pain and crippling emotional and mental distress, and eventually real physical sickness as well.

Of course, there may be (members of) a group in power oppressing another group; there may be deeply ingrained racist attitudes (among some) even though institutional racism has been (largely) quashed by Rule of Law. Certainly, there are still significant issues Black people face, that may fall under the category of institutional racism, such as some disparities in prison sentencing for drugs (which may be argued as Classist as well), quality of health care, and more.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t grow up hearing about stories of oppression from my Dad’s friends, how “Driving While Black” was a serious offense in Los Angeles even in the 1990s (well before Rodney King). But those stories are about unspoken, unwritten bias, quite different than hearing other stories about performing in the Deep South as a Black musician during segregation times, right before its close when racism was perhaps at its ugliest. That was truly institutional racism, while the first example is just a product of deeply ingrained racism that just won’t go away; not at all the same.

However, on an *individual* basis, a member of the oppressed group may act and speak with bias (including violence and hate) against a member of the group that includes the (perceived) oppressors, even though such members of the oppressor group (race/religion/etc.) have nothing at all to do with this longstanding situation, even remotely. Clearly, this is just another lame example of stereotyping blindly. Love is blind, we’re told, but stereotyping blinds us. Not quite the same thing.

Vox writer Zack Beauchamp argues that “#CancelWhitePeople”, and other disturbing messages by Jueng on Twitter, are part of a different lexicon, a vernacular particular to the marginalized groups that Jeong, and the Left at large, seek to represent ( undeniably with good cause). These are socially-aware people; they are seeking to make change, however discarding Positivity and Mutual Understanding, and what are we all to work with in building bridges? (This goes for the Right as well.)

People embracing such Left-leaning ideas feel that in no way was Jeong calling for physical violence against White Americans, and also seem to believe that if one is not part of this activist sub-culture, then one (absolutely) won’t “get” the true meaning behind the message; it’s easily misunderstood, only something that certain individuals and groups (“in the know”) will rightly recognize as NOT violent hate speech, but rather just dramatic expression. This doesn’t sound egalitarian, and further seems a situation of ambiguity ripe for confusion, anything but a clear way of conveying meaning beyond the in-group.

The target of these attacks, namely White people, is in no way privy to such understanding, unless already involved with Leftist ideas of using violent language to imply nonviolent change, according to Mr. Beauchamp’s explanation.

Keeping this discussion presently confined to the topic of this one hashtag, #CancelWhitePeople, this one statement only, and a serious issue remains. “Cancel white people” may be a hash-tag on Twitter, but it’s also an imperative sentence (command), one of the four basic types of sentences.

It’s a complete thought, with a subject (implied as “you”, the reader, the person being addressed and requested to “take action”), and a verb predicating action against the group being objectified, namely White people. “Cancel” is actually a word derived from the Latin verb “cancellare“, which passed down to us after first maturing into the Old French “canceller”. It’s meaning is clear: cancel means to end something, to finish it finally, to make it “history”. Clear enough, no?

This is undeniably a call to violent action (or materially indistinguishable from such) and not merely protest and acceptable resistance; if Martin Shkreli was found to be endangering lives because some unhinged person might have taken him seriously for his wacky online comments about desiring a hair from Senator Clinton to prove she wasn’t a space alien, when such statements were clearly framed as part of a longstanding one-man comedy routine, entertaining or not, his actions were dangerous and irresponsible enough to warrant his bail being revoked at the time, merely because he joked around in a decidedly uncouth and irresponsible manner. Someone could have been hurt by his keyboard diarrhea, the US Federal Judge assigned to his case quickly decided.

What if a reader of Sarah Jeong’s tweets isn’t part of her exclusive anti-establishment sub-culture, yet identifies with the underlying message? What if that person has violent tendencies…and what if that same hypothetical individual this message resonates with suffers from untreated, un-medicated, !significant! mental health issues? “Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.” -NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health Statistics)

Could someone wrongly misunderstand that these Tweets are not a call to actual violence, even if the tweets are actually not intended as such, as Ms. Jeong claims? Is it really a stretch to assume that a (admittedly quite small) percentage of Twitter users, and now readers of news stories and consumers of video news reports, may not understand the humor in this, and an even smaller subset of mentally ill people may take this command literally, as a suggested course of violent action and become radicalized against their own fellow Citizens?

It is my personal hope that Sarah Jeong further addresses this issue forthright; biased individuals publicly displaying such sentiment have no place in New York City’s, and the world’s, most respected periodical, especially when they do not understand the power of words to incite all manner of responses. I don’t care, particularly, that her diatribe was about White people. It would be just as sordid and outside the bounds of acceptability were she to write #CancelItalians, #CancelLatinas, #CancelJews, #CancelEskimos, or any other group of people, (presently) marginalized or not.

Such (seemingly?) violent catch phrases have no place on a public forum, where anyone could read this and decide to take action, putting ideas into motion, but we’re stuck with them. If it had been #OvercomeWhitePeople or #RiseAboveWhitePeople, I’d be all for her bravery in standing up to her perceived bully; I’d be right behind her noble efforts at enacting social change for identified issues she wants to help improve in our world.

As long as such messages are determined to fall within the rules of the private computer system they were posted to, however, there is little anyone can do beyond comment on the matter and try to elucidate the quandary.

What about if Ms. Jeong absolutely loves the verb “cancel”, and could not do without its use? #CancelRacism or even #CancelWhiteRacism are two fitting hashtags, neither stinking of pukish vitriol or jaw-grinding rage. As a professional writer, we cannot pretend that such an accomplished wordsmith does not understand the fineness of distinction between various phrases. And, to feign such ignorance is insensible, insincere even.

But let’s be honest: Sarah Jeong did not invent this hash-tag. Did she?

It’s just a phrase people have been using to communicate their desire to end what they see as rampant inequality and White favoritism in all matters. Are all the readers out there even familiar with how Twitter works? Apparently, studies show that the Facebook set doesn’t venture onto Twitter as often as younger people. A hash-tag looks like this: “#equality,” and it’s a way of searching for messages that Twitterers included so that others can later easily find the messages when interested in searching on that particular topic. It’s like a (voluntary) filing system for tweets. OK?

Let’s suppose that no one takes such directives literally, and we all understand it’s just a hash-tag, a way of organizing and later retrieving tweets. OK. Let’s further suppose that there is no hazard or physical threat to White children, elderly White folks, or other White Americans. Would such tweets be acceptable, then? In the context of her OTHER tweets about White people, there is clearly a pattern of behavior that suggests (potential)  ill will toward White people, and not merely a desire to help encourage social change.

Can we accept hate in any form? That is the question today; whether directed at Blacks, Whites, Mexicans, or members of any other group, the clear answer – no – should be staring us all in the face, boldly beckoning us to consider the matter even more carefully. After all, this is an exercise in Being Americans, and we all have our say, our own unique perspective worth sharing…as long as such sharing is done respectfully, of course.

Is hate speech healthy?

Certainly, most readers already know the answer: Of course hate speech is unhealthy; unrest in communities causes stress to individuals and families, and hate speech is a surefire way to stir up resentment and fear in any targeted community, group, nation, or demographic.

Then, there’s the stress of being a victim of such an attack directly, as well as the doubtless real stress of merely witnessing such as a third party, watching others being attacked and marginalized in such a crude and uncivilized manner. It’s enough to raise pulses and set emotions on edge; to ignore why White people, or any other people in support of White folks, consider this language retrograde and out-of-sync, is to ignore the language and words in question.

Racism, sexism, genderism, ageism, ableism, bias in any form of speech or online written commentary or “humor/satire” pollutes and degrades our social fabric. Hate speech also takes a valued message of needed societal self-examination and trashes it, replacing cool analysis and warm compassion with cold, dark, raging hatred.

In fact, these nasty biases cause undue stress and suffering, and erode our sense of community; America is a melting pot if nothing else; argue that this metaphor misses the mark and America’s a more pluralistic “salad bowl” instead, a better description of the sociological scene in American society today, and such inflammatory, hurtful, and insensitive speech still has no place at all. Either way one chooses to look at the world and America, hate speech has NO place.

Can written hateful diatribes merely get shrugged off as slightly insensitive jokes? Is it that easy to be a biased individual and then pretend one is actually not, leaning on your own race, ethnicity, or gender identity, to name but a few ways writers may hide from their own disturbing shared musings?

The Times is claiming that Ms. Jeong’s comments were, in fact, satirical responses to bias directed at HER by such groups, “counter-trolling” if you will, to borrow from Ms. Jeung. But does this claim stand the test of real scrutiny? Claiming that these were just “mocking the tone” of *true* oppressors is lame, and could conceivably be used as an excuse to spout hatred, as long as it wasn’t done first, anywhere, any time.

Let’s consider what else Sarah Jeong had to say: “While it was intended as satire, I deeply regret that I mimicked the language of my harassers.” What, I wonder, was satirical about trash talking men, police officers, White people? When did police officers ever troll Ms. Jeung and use similar language? I can assure the reader that this NEVER happened, yet there are those tweets, all the same, here for us all to contemplate.

Does anyone even recall the definition of satire? Well, here’s a refresher: Satire is the use of “humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices.” The word first passed into the language in the sixteenth century, from French, and earlier the Latin, “satura“, meaning “poetic medley”, usually referring to a poem focusing on then-contemporary vices or hard-headedness.

A bevy of bluntly anti-law enforcement tweets: “f*** the police” , “cops were s*** even before broken windows policing”, and more, as well as other “literary gems” of (the former limit of) 140 character Twitter brevity directed unapologetically against men, such as: “kill more men”.

Perhaps the idea of irony is lost on me; it definitely isn’t due to a lack of sincere will to try to understand where the humor lies in such tweets. How are these statements ironic, exactly? And why are so many on the Left all about censorship of everyone else but those sharing their own views? That’s not really the definition of a Liberal!

Jerry Seinfeld is a Master of the Art of Comedy, and a good amount of his material requires us all to strip ourselves of any dumb pride, or even a sense of anger at ANY subject being targeted by Mr. Seinfeld in his past show with the same name: His jokes were witty and brilliant commentary and social record of many quirky aspects of 1990s American life in New York City. Everyone was fair game. EVERYONE. No “Sacred Cows” Here. Still, there was a real innocence and respect to it all; there was never an intent to hurt anyone, just playfully make us laugh ’til our sides split.

Recently, I made a crude joke (in private company) in quite poor taste. I was speaking regarding what I feel some media activists would likely wish as a fate for Mr. Seinfeld; honestly, I stated that it seems some of those seeking politically correct speech for all might imagine the King of Comedy (here and now so dubbed) to suffer the same fate as the World’s Most Famous Jewish Man of All Time, the “Other” King (with an even bigger audience than Mr. Seinfeld, now in re-runs for over 2000 years)!

Yikes. A Truly Tasteless Joke. Juvenile and puerile. Rude, even.

The person whom I told it to wasn’t fazed; he turned out to be an Atheist. How ironic. Either way, he didn’t find it particularly funny.

Still, I apologized for this immediately after saying such, as it just didn’t seem right. Jews and Christians are living people, and people of sometimes great faith, and there was just something inherently disrespectful in what I so casually stated for the sake of a laugh. I was only trying to make a somewhat (greatly) exaggerated comparison; I considered a future social climate so cold that comedians are afraid to make jokes. So I made an extra-bold one myself, and in the process I think I disrespected too many, even though this was not told publicly. Well, now it has been, but with an explanation.

But was my joke at all hateful? Do I say I hate Jews? Christians? Jesus? Comedians, even? Is it ever even implied? Clearly, the answer is a definite NO. I was just proving a point, in a colorful (and far-less-than-politically-correct) manner, using a comparison that fits the idea. However, many will find this joke disrespectful, as religious matters, and faith itself even, are respected topics in polite society, and daring to say something that compares a stand-up comedian to the Christian Messiah probably borders on insanity, at least by 12th century Church standards.

Even so, as tasteless as my own joke was, I did not call for violence against anyone, nor make blanket condemnations against any group. If anything, I’ve elevated Jerry Seinfeld to the level of “comedy gawd”. (How’s that for pressure to live up to a GOLD standard next season, Mr. Seinfeld?! lol Just kidding; JS never fails to deliver!)

Today, we can still be faithful without taking ourselves nearly so seriously, thankfully! Still, I felt that saying this was somehow disrespectful to Christians , as well as Jews (but not Mr. Seinfeld, personally). In future, I likely will not joke around in this way. It can be too hurtful, and my intention wasn’t to hurt, disrespect, or diminish anyone’s faith in any way.

Some people literally do call for violence against others as a (misguided) means of solving problems; it isn’t beyond conception that we may one day have a future where people are afraid to perform comedy live for fear of offending someone and inciting violence or being screamed down for doing performance art. Let’s hope not. No; let’s *pray* not. (Atheists can send good vibes!) Society should never come to that point.

Perhaps that’s the highest mark of an artist, having hordes coming with (virtual Internet) torches to persecute that individual for creating so freely, with such abandon and trueness? Can we accept that Ms. Jeong is a brilliant satirist, a comedian of epic proportions, and all of this controversy is in response to her unbridled genius?

Perhaps some of the material featured on the show Seinfeld might not have been so well-received had it been produced in the last few years instead of decades ago; perhaps there would have been zero issues, regardless when it was made, because the show was always just so very funny and interesting.

The social mores of the 1990s were without a doubt, somewhat different than today, and what’s labeled hateful now was often just plain funny in yesteryear. True, comedians were freely more controversial and surely not at all concerned with hurting feelings, but at least these pent-up emotions had a positive shared outlet, a healthy way of being addressed without hate.

Wait. Go back. The 1990s as “yesteryear”? Yes; it’s happened; the 1990s are now just a vague and distant memory like the 1890s, fuzzy images cemented together into a cohesive Time Frame by our memories and TV shows and Kodak photo prints in the closet, carefully arranged in neat albums with floral print covers, not quite so garish and gaudy as those (even  older) photo albums from the 70s, or as vibrantly green, orange, or yellow, for that matter. In time, things change.

In any case, Jerry Seinfeld is a stand-up comic, clearly on stage (or a stage set or now even in incredibly cool cars) to entertain us, to make us laugh and get into the present moment, to be real. For this, I am incredibly grateful to Mr. Seinfeld; humor is the mark of a mirthful soul and levity can take a serious issue and render it more palatable and agreeable. Plus, it’s just great (and healthy, considering the bent of this article journal, this should be particularly important to our subscribers) to laugh and laugh and feel good doing so.

We know Seinfeld was created with the viewer’s laughter and giddiness in mind, first and foremost, and can in no way be taken as Jerry Seinfeld’s personal opinions on *anything*. Like the comedian says, it’s a show about nothing. Seinfeld pokes fun at everything and everyone, and manages to get us to reflect deeply on life, in the hilarious process.

If you’re a Seinfeld viewer, perhaps you wonder whether his character’s love for breakfast cereals was a true-to-life characteristic of Mr. Seinfeld at the time of his show’s debut and subsequent successful run? I’m guessing yes. Anyone who’s a fan and knows for sure, or even Mr. Seinfeld himself, please kindly reply and let us all know; finding out for sure would finally put the matter to rest in all of our minds, finally and forever.

The same cannot be said for Ms. Jeong’s tweets. She is not a comedian, and thus we cannot possibly place her comments in such a light, even if we try. Plus, they’re just not that funny.

Of course, I am not suggesting that Ms. Jeong (literally) wants to hang White people out to dry like the wash before the clothes dryer and modern appliances  arrived on the American scene, but we really should consider whether such talk, and use of such harsh-sounding hash-tags and language online), ever brings people together, or just creates more divisiveness and discord, more hatred and less understanding, for all people on ALL sides.

And of course, as stated, that was just a recycled hash-tag, not even a product of her own mind. But what of the other tweets? We should all be thinking more about using language to reach out to those who think differently than ourselves, especially writers and editors, but really all of us.

And finally, to answer the question posed in the title of this piece: In my most sincere estimation, the answer to “When Is Hate(ful-Sounding) Speech Acceptable By A Media Professional?” is that it’s sometimes acceptable, sometimes not. In this situation, NYT has decided it’s acceptable, just something from Sarah Jeong’s past, not any indicator that Sarah hates anyone. Of course, the controversy continues, as not everyone seems to agree. (Edit: Added this conclusion August 8th, 2018)

(Apologies for an UNFINISHED, pre-spell checked, unedited version of this article that was accidentally published August 5rth, 2018,  without images!  I’ve since decided to stick with the single image of Ghandi, which had been posted as well.
For me, serious writing is a process of writing and re-writing, adding and subtracting, arriving closer and closer to a point of objectivity, so of course many modifications were made! This piece grew and grew, and changed and morphed into its present form with time. Even this disclaimer changed and evolved. 🙂
Also, as a side-note: I CAN type, really I can, but now it’s not a secret that I mistype practically as many words as I type correctly; I don’t care, really; this way, I type super-fast!  It works for me.)

* * * * *

August 24, 2018

We are quite lucky to have Mr. Seinfeld’s wise words on matters related to those discussed in the above article in the recent New York Times piece entitled “Jerry Seinfeld Says Jokes Are Not Real Life” published August 15, 2018.  Please enjoy the below exceprt from this most interesting and important interview by Dan Amira with Mr. Seinfeld:

“You’ve been outspoken about stand-up audiences being too sensitive and politically correct these days. Have you ever apologized for a joke?

No. Jokes are not real. People assume that when you say something that you believe it. It’s purely comedic invention. You know, I do this whole bit about Pop-Tarts and how much I love them. I don’t love Pop-Tarts. It’s just funny. It’s funny to say it, so I say it.”

Worlds of thanks to Mr. Seinfeld for his much-welcomed, heartfelt and intelligent words on the topic. And so, we now know that when it comes to breakfast foods and Jerry Seinfeld’s  real-life likes, the character “Jerry” on Seinfeld was just that: a character created by a comedian to make us laugh (and reflect).

Sadly, I missed seeing Jerry Seinfeld perform at the Concord when I was younger, though I did see Howie Mandel live doing  his “Bobby” character-voice from the cartoon series, Bobby’s World. What Mr. Seinfeld says makes perfect sense; if Bobby enjoyed stewed peas and mashed fruits, that does not mean the comedian behind the laughter felt the same. Of course, concerning more sensitive matters than diet (though that’s getting to be yet another area it’s best not to approach with flexitarians, vegans, paleos, raw foodists, and so many more complex ways to eat food), it’s still the same. Comedy is not politics.

Authored by: !!!!*&%_N@#b. Unending Health Quest article index brought to you by Mountainside On-site Massage Therapy.

Posted in Alternative Health, Bigotry and Health, Current Events in NJ, Current Events in NYC, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health and the Environment, Health Studies, Heroin Crisis, Personal Growth, Stopping Kids Bullying | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vaccine Religious Exemptions & Tests Of Faith: Querying the US Constitutional Bounds of Protected Rights

Vaccines. A current debate. But alas, a debate not at all the focus of this particular piece. In fact, as most other readers may have postulated by the title, you are likely considering that the central idea this article shall concern will be religious exemptions for vaccines and US Constitutional Law. In fact, this is so; vaccines are a part of modern life in most nations, and those families seeking religious exemptions in the US draw from the world’s numerous faiths as well.

Cholera Vaccine. by Lars Kristian Fleming

Cholera Vaccine.
Image Credit: Lars Kristian Fleming

In New York State, parents wishing to have their children forego the customary vaccinations because of religious belief must undergo a “Sincerity Test” in order to be eligible for vaccine exemption. While it is merely an urban legend and longstanding American cultural myth that there was ever a legalized, clearly delineated (or even stated) separation of Church and State in the US Constitution and associated rules and laws, there is in fact a protection of adherents to all faiths, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Jainist, Hindu, or even Satanist.

That protection is the First Amendment to the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In no clearer language could the torch-bearers of American Sentiment and Rule of Law have been clearer in their intentions; the people of the Nation shall be respected, when it concerns the free practice of their various (not enumerated or limited) faiths. In fact, this article focuses squarely on constitutional law and Sincerity Tests, rather than than the merits or hazards of childhood vaccines; sorry to disappoint if you were expecting something more dramatic, perhaps a paper taking a stronger stance, one way or the other?

The Constitution Protets US Citizens' Rights. Image Credit: sarowen

The Constitution Protects US Citizens’ Rights.
Image Credit: sarowen

In no way shall the author attempt to undertake this quite different task; that’s for a different writer, a different journal piece. Perhaps the same writer, a different time, even? Perhaps not. Either way, it’s outside the scope of this piece.

The stark question remains, whether we love and trust vaccines or loathe and regard the lot of them as poison: Can a municipality, state, or Federal authority administer a “test of faith?” Whether lawful and legal or not, certainly most of us do not definitively know the answer, one way or the other. A first objection might be that even if there are no such enumerated or granted or assumed powers, such powers may exist in time of National Emergency.

In fact, this is likely true. Let’s use a 1962 scenario: If there were bombers from QuintreNooNoon about to hit our coastal cities (yes; a deliberately outmoded notion cited), Civil Defense would demand citizens stay at home, get to shelters, or evacuate right away. Unless the church or temple was also a designated shelter, which many may in fact be, going to such Places of Divinity might be against the law at such times.

Bombers Were the Bane of 1960s Calmness in the USA.

Bombers Were the Bane of 1960s Calmness in the USA.

But faiths are not dumb; from Jews and Christians to Buddhists and secular humanists and other adherents to non-deified faith in rationality and the progress of thinking humanity, there is no religion that does not intelligently allow the breaking of one rule to follow a more important one. And in this case that Most Essential Rule is keeping everyone alive and safe.

Such measures as Civil Defense actions are clearly and undeniably for the safety of the citizens, and have no political tone or context. Such edicts directed at the American public would almost certainly restrict how people might practice their faith, at least temporarily. However, there is no test involved, and when the risk is real and undeniable, it seems all faiths allow for putting Life of the People first, and for the State to intervene in people’s daily lives and matters that are usually forbidden territory. Of course, in this instance all Americans of ALL faiths are dealt with in the same manner, another key legal protection we are all granted under the 14th Amendment: “Equal protection under the law for all Citizens.”

Air Raid Tunnels Protected People During WW II. Image Credit: DiscDan

Air Raid Tunnels Protected People During WW II.
Image Credit: DiscDan

Of course, the focus of this article, religious vaccination exemption tests for parents of young children, is a quite different issue, and must be considered distinctly. Could vaccinations be ordered by the Health Department in the event of a National Crisis, such as a fast-spreading pandemic for which there might exist a provably effective, affordable vaccine that could easily be developed and deployed? Surely, any sane individual would consider anything otherwise as a betrayal of the health and future of the people.

However, under ordinary circumstances, when there is no Declaration of War, pandemic, or other crisis, either natural disaster or calamity or due to people’s actions or errors, one rightly questions whether New York State is overstepping its bounds, transgressing the sacred, protected boundaries established by the US Constitution, in ordering a religious test for any matter, public or private.

This debate could have arisen over any State-mandated citizen action, not necessarily vaccines. That this issue arose around an already hotly debated subject may, in fact, shield the truly onerous nature of such Faith Tests from non-obfuscated public view by the masses.

Needle-By-Dr.-Partha-Sarathi-Sahana

Needles Aren’t the Issue.
Image Credit: Dr.-Partha-Sarathi-Sahana

If it were the case that an un-vaccinated child endangers the entire population of students by remaining unvaccinated, then this would also be within the government’s purview to demand certain actions of its Citizens, trying to accommodate religious need, but ultimately caving to a more vital need: Keeping the population safe and healthy. However, this situation has not obtained; possibly if large pockets of urban citizens stop vaccinating one day, perhaps that might generate such an issue under certain circumstances. Historically, this has not yet happened in any identifiable and significant manner.

We are not at the point, with regard to any vaccination for any disease, where non-vaccination would have socially destabilizing effects or endanger Americans. And, even if we were, NYS’s claim of a right to a religious test still seems outside of the boundaries established as rightly those of the Citizens that are to be protected, not to be trod upon by other Citizens, people of foreign lands, states, municipalities, unions, groups, or even the Federal Government itself, in all its different auspices and contacts with each Citizen.

Even having religious authorities step in as a sort of mediator to establish who passes a religious test seems still too cozy an arrangement; surely the State is then relying on religious authority as to whether a supposed adherent to such faith is actually faithful. The State is still administering a religious test by proxy. And, even if we were to deny this fact, the state is still carrying out administrative decisions based on a religious test, regardless of its origin.

Obelisk at Vatican by Dennis Jarvis

Obelisk at Vatican by
Dennis Jarvis

Is this practice, in any clear way, at odds with the First Amendment? How might these tests interfere with a citizen’s right to freely practice their religion? To assess the ways in which such Faith Tests might violate citizens’ rights, we must think more deeply, and consider various scenarios in which these religious examinations may do so.

Would every rabbi or minister, even of the same exact denomination, agree as to what precisely constitutes a faithful individual? Faith is a highly personal aspect of who we all are, and having to establish and definitively prove  that our faith is sincere, consistent with doctrine, and actually the true reason to choose not to vaccinate our kids, is both ludicrous, and outside the bounds of what is ethical or even sensible. But, most importantly with respect to this discussion,  does this rise to the level of keeping someone from practicing their faith?

Merely having to submit to a Faith Test as the definite outcome of choosing to file for a religious exemption for kids’ vaccinations neutralizes citizens’ rights to practice their faith without evaluation or scrutiny. When did the State get in the business of deciding who is TRULY religious; can a wrong decision hamper a person’s rights to practice their faith freely?

It’s far beyond the purview of the State of New York, the State of Vermont, in fact any US state, to establish a religious test, or even work with an established religion to get their assessment of a Citizen’s level of faithfulness. Should it be Pass/Fail? A letter grade? Default to the precision of a numerical percentage of valid faith? Is this not the place of the Creator, in most religious cosmologies?  Isn’t this the harshest judging of all, having to submit to our fellow man for the delivery of a verdict of whether we are religious enough?

Vaccination is not the primary issue in my thinking; the denial of parents’ rights to practice their faith as they see fit, without challenge by the state, in fact, is.

Do there even exist legitimate grounds for rejection of vaccines based on faith? Jehovah’s Witnesses believe only in praying over a sick person. Catholics may have moral issue with the use of vaccines produced with human fetal tissue. Though not a faith exactly, secular humanism is a way of life; the rational secular humanist may be concerned because she’s read that vaccines are not thoroughly tested, and have many known, reported, and documented potential side-effects.

What about the Satanist? How does their faith fit in? One can only guess. Perhaps they feel that the body of evidence suggests that a developing infant, toddler, and small child have a higher chance of negative impact, and delaying the vaccines would lead to a stronger, more robust child, and weakness is against their law? Who knows.

"Satanism FAIL" Image Credit: Ted Majo

“Satanism FAIL”
Image Credit: Ted Majo

And what about the great many people who practice yoga and meditation daily, eat an organic vegan (Sattvic) diet, and consider themselves, “Spiritual”, but essentially practice (an often) non-deified Buddhist or Hindu-derived way of life,  or even newcomers to such faiths, those who were born adherents to other religious or no religions at all? Are these group likely to be marginalized because their lives do not fit any of the pre-defined boxes quite so well as more traditionally-oriented Citizens?

What about those parents, who are less educated, and by life’s circumstances (and often poverty and struggle), could not stay close with their respective Churches, Synagogues, and Temples, or even secular schools, for that matter? What about those who believe (as many Jews, Catholics, and Hindus I know do), that personal worship is best, and that organized religious is not quite their thing?

NYC Rabbi. Image Credit: Thomas Hawk

NYC Rabbi.
Image Credit: Thomas Hawkt

Some people did not have the time to learn to read, even with a strong will to do so; it’s a sad truth, but it does happen that kids have to endure gripping poverty, often taking care of younger (or even older disabled) siblings, moving from shelter to shelter, and are in such a high state of constant anxiety that all but the most basic learning is dampened, as would be expected when focus is scattered.

Such Americans with backgrounds that are not quite so rosy might still have Strong Faith, truly as close to the Book (whichever book) and live that Truth each day, but may have trouble articulating those Ideas and Feelings to a Sincerity Tester. Such people may have the most beautifully brilliant, perfect faith of all, however solely the dominion of their own memory and Divinity. Aren’t we punishing them, limiting their choices, based on their past? Does it not seem out of place to judge, even? And does not this example demonstrate that such tests are essentially junk?

To be quite clear, it isn’t really anyone’s business, at all, in what ways we are religious. Such questions by the state should be a relic of our not-so-distant past. Religious tests in the United States of America should go the way of Literacy Tests and other misused tools that should never have been.

If you’re arguing that it’s all for the Public Good, then of course we need a direct order based on an emergency, not an established procedure for handling religious tests of any nature. Dispensing rights is not the place of any of the states of the Union. Of course, NYS is trying to maintain that applicants are sincere and forthright, but in the process of doing so, the state breaks laws that are more central to the core thinking of what, exactly, America is all about, at its best, in its truest form.

"Sadhu in Nepal." Image Credit: Kiril Rusev

A sadhu at Pashupatinath, Kathmandu, Nepal
Image Credit: Kiril Rusev

Maybe the State of New York could have a “Morality Exemption?”, rather than a religious one?

Then, parents or guardians could object based on principles, whether drawn from religious faith, life experience, personal research, just a parental hunch, or all of the above. It would be legal, after all, and New York State is presently seeking to make everything more inclusive and non-preferential, so it makes more sense than the present system, which penalizes both followers of organized religions, as well as “spiritual” Americans not affiliated with any specific faith, yet still strongly moral individuals. At the very least, such an exemption would be a legal and lawful test, without treading on the Constitution in any manner. If the reader is thinking this is silly legalism, it is not. Spend some time daydreaming of the implications and slippery slope we’ve been living with.

Now, the above ideas are based on my own mentation and practice of philosophical inquiry into a matter of public interest, considering morality as well as the Color of Law in American culture and tradition. However, I’m not a Constitutional expert, nor a member of the Bar Association, but rather merely a concerned citizen with a mind and heart, an uninvolved bystander observing the fray, if you will.

 Matt Wade

The Stately Supreme Court
Image Credit: Matt Wade

But if we consider the words of Supreme Court Justices on this matter, voices many seek to hear when looking for guidance, we learn that states do, in fact, hold police powers over the people with regard to vaccination. This was established clearly in Jacobson v. Massachusetts way back in 1905.

However, does that ruling provide the right to administer or grade Faith Tests, or even receive such services and results, from religious authorities, concerning a Citizen?   Definitely, the answer is, not in any sense. Do any of the Justices in the ruling mention Faith Tests, even?  Apparently, no, this was not the issue at hand at the turn of the twentieth century. Nor have such topics as Faith Tests been addressed in Supreme Court cases focusing solely on this one single (significant!)  issue, a particularly relevant footnote in the evolving vaccine debate and discussion in America today.

Authored by D Alban.

(C) 2018 Unending Health Quest, H Miller, D Alban

Unending Health Quest brought to you by Mountainside Onsite Massage.

Posted in Alternative Health, Child Health, Current Events in NJ, Current Events in NYC, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health Studies, Vaccination Debate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Robots Are Coming! The Robots Are Coming! Massage Therapy By Robots A Reality Right Now!

The robots are coming! The robots are coming!

Car Assembly Line Robot.

Car Assembly Line Robot.

Wait, what? When we think of robots, we conjure images of everything from 1980s Detroit  automobile assembly-line behemoths that looked little like most of our collective associations and imagery of robots, to ASIMO, the famed bipedal humanoid robot debuted at the Expo 2005, which is precisely what most of us imagine when the term is spoken or read. In fact, a robot is simply a machine programmed by a computer to perform a series of tasks; it need not resemble a person in any way!

Rather, most robots on Earth today usually assumes the form most appropriate to their specific machine function. (Again, consider those unmoving, legless robots back in Detroit, still in use to this day…and still fixed in that one spot!) And, robots can be massively large to unbelievably small; nanobots, impossibly tiny robots that are not science fiction but rather science fact, already ex-

Sophia Robot Speaks At The United Nations.

Sophia Robot Speaks At The United Nations.

ist and have been proposed for many, many uses over diverse fields of endeavor.

Robots are fast becoming ubiquitous in the workplace; now these machine-helpers are finding their way into modern leisure activities. In The recent Wall Street Journal piece by Natasha Khan entitled, “Your Next Robot Encounter: Dinner, Drinks, and a Massage” featured in the WSJ Business section, the author details how “cobots”, or collaborative robots, are now helping at bars, as well as providing massage.

While the labor-intensive and hazard-fraught task of scaling a wall of spirits to find that choice bottle demanded by a knowing patron was gladly assumed by a cobot, and other ‘bots have also been programmed to easily drain a bottle of wine without disturbing the cork, two tasks that are menial and repetitive, to say the least, Kahn’s article also delves into the use of robots to provide medical massage.

Universal Robots, one of the firms contributing technology to most commercially available cobots, releases its programming code as open source; for those unfamiliar with the term, this means that the purchaser, if possessing such skills, can re-program the bot to suit their needs. In contrast, most software is not open source, but already compiled, and sometimes even encrypted, to keep the licensee from altering the programming. Even if not encrypted or complied, unless expressly permitted to do so, programming code cannot be altered, by the terms of the licensing agreement.

Robot Massage (Prototype MSG5000)

Robot Massage Prototype MSG5000
RevB
Note motor control board on front for easy replacement, as boards overheated easily on older RevA versions. Also note “HIYKUARSRIJGS” manufacturer name. (Transliteration of Xumedian)

AiTreat, affiliated with Nanyang Technological University, has successfully programmed robots to provide Chinese acupressure massage. According to the article, the bots are, “…warmed to 100 degrees Fahrenheit to mimic human hands…” Here’s where a first legitimate concern arises. Chinese acupressure massage is part of a larger meta-system of Chinese Medicine, which acknowledges the existence of “Chi”, or universal energy concentrated in living organisms. It isn’t merely heat, or even infrared radiation; human hands may emit a range of light emissions, and even vibration, but again Chi is none of those things. Chi, itself, is considered something else entirely, thought it may produce those secondary effects cited above.

Massage Chairs already exist. If we want to be technically correct, these are programmed massage robots, already at your corner town hair salon for decades, now. And, from what I’ve heard from clients, such machines cannot compare to a massage performed by a skilled therapist. Even if we were to ignore the existence of “chi”, as it’s presently not scientifically accepted in the Western world, there are other reasons why a massage bot may try, but will always ultimately fail, at simulating a human massage therapist.

Massage Chairs Were The First Massage Robots.

Massage Chairs Were The First Massage Robots.

Massage Therapy is an act of empathy; better therapists know this and live it every session. It’s an act of the heart, truly, as therapists’ hands can actually affect positive change in a patient. We say this about so many disciplines, but with massage it’s a palpable truth. Massage is an intrinsically human activity, like walking or breathing or eating. Even a robot with advanced AI and not simple IF-THEN logic, cannot compare to a session delivered by a live person. Face it; a robot doesn’t really care about the patient; modern-day robots aren’t even self-aware to any degree.

No doubt, a part of the healing is having a person willful and consciously helping another; this simple act somehow brings both therapist and client an element of healing that can’t be simulated by a bot, much less an uncaring or uninspired Massage Therapist. That caring is somehow, in itself, intrinsically healing, and if absent, makes for a therapist that may be technically proficient, but lacks any real personal massage style or “heart.”

Reading cues about how the patient is responding requires skills that a human will always excel over a robot in. Always. Likewise, a Master Massage Therapist will use her hands, forearms, and elbows, propelled by body weight and gravity, combining knowledge, experience, and intuition, to deliver a session that can transform a person, no exaggeration.

Human Hand by Paolo Garcia's Mom.

Human Hand by Paolo Garcia’s Mom.

Fine hands that do massage well are often attached to empathic, sensitive individuals; when working on clients, empathic therapists care about the outcome, and put every fibre of their being into the session. Does this matter? I definitely can say my own experience makes it clear that this is significant and worthy for others to seriously consider.

A massage session includes a “Spiritual” component, which again, cannot be quantified. Energy Work, which may be described as framed within a Spiritual, Religious, or even non-religious context, is an attempt to define and delineate this “extra” component of what is happening when a massage is administered. According to such ideas, much like the Asian concept of Chi (and Prana in India), there is an energy that exists within and between living things, much like George Lucas’ idea of “The Force” in Star Wars.

Circuit Board

Circuit Board

Can a robot possess intuition? Scientists say that our nerves in our stomachs and intestines are part of both our immune system, as well as our conscious perception of how we experience situations and reality. We “get a stomach ache” when stressed or feeling wary; we experience life through not just our analytical mind, but also our senses, as well as our emotions, driven by the endocrine system.

Having decades of experience programming using everything from low-level languages like Microsoft BASIC to highest-level assembly language, the modern, mindfully created PHP and more, I can emphatically state that no machine, at this point, can possibly emulate all that goes into human intuition, or human empathy and caring, and I further propose that such elements are part and parcel of a serious Massage Therapist.

Nor can a skilled therapist’s hand motions and shape and form be easily simulated; shall masterful therapists be concerned that a company may be mining their style for ripping and loading into their new bot line?! Will master therapists have bot programs with their signature style? Believe it or not, these are questions I’ve asked myself for years, having a longstanding interest in AI and robotics.

Transformer Robot

Transformer Robot

Without a glove attached to tens of thousands of sensors, and artificial robotic hands of mechanical fineness the world has not yet seen, there’s no way a robot can match a therapist’s soft-yet-hard hands. None. When massage is happening, our hands are molding to the shape they need to be, changing by the minute. So, more tech won’t solve the issue in any real way.

Perhaps Massage Therapists and musicians are two groups of professionals that will be hardest to replicate with robotics; both involve the analytical mind, emotion, experience, and intuition, all somehow connected to the hands that must be more dynamic, flexible, and adaptive than in any other discipline.

"Sad Anastasia" by NesMi Yana. True, Anastasia was not a LMT or sad about being overworked or squeezed out of her job, bit it fits.

“Sad Anastasia” by NesMi Yana. True, Anastasia was not a LMT or sad about being overworked or squeezed out of her job, but it fits.

Finally, Massage Therapists are often underpaid and overworked. As small spas fell to megalithic chains, and therapists often took a steep reduction in pay, this underrepresented group just had to stand tall and bear it. Massage Therapists do not have worker’s unions; most are female part-timers or contractors and do not receive health benefits (ironically, as LMTs are health care professionals), nor other often unappreciated “perks” of almost any other occupation. Many do no possess other skills or advanced degrees, and a diploma from a Massage trade school, as well as their State License, is what keeps them, and their children, alive.

Of course, these large chain owners would likely love to replace their frail human workers who get sprained wrists all the time and have their daughter’s dance recitals and Girl Scouts meetings to attend with reliable bots that are never tardy or call out sick, only rust or get dusty, nothing some paint or a damp towel can’t remedy. Expect a gradual social conditioning to help us accept robots taking our jobs; cobots will be “cool”; human-provided services will be tagged “awkward.” and something to “AVOID”.

True, maybe there is a moment of awkwardness when a Massage Therapist greets a client, but this just because we are all just human beings playing our roles, healthily respecting one another’s boundaries and personhood. Yes; being thrown into a situation where a therapist is helping someone with a longstanding injury can be a lot, emotionally, but it wouldn’t make sense any other way. That awkwardness is part of being human; I’d feel weird going to an LMT that isn’t respectful of my boundaries, or has no boundaries of their own. Assertiveness is key in life, and a big part of assertiveness is not only maintaining one’s own boundaries, but also respecting the boundaries of others, as well.

Eventually, we all must think about whether legal protections must be drafted to shield professionals from encroaching robotics in the workplace. Massage Therapists, in most states, must possess a license, as well as CPR and First Aid training. Of course, robots will have none of these credentials, just the (rather simple) programming included in their logic and memory. Even future massage robots with robust AI and more articulated hands will not truly be an equivalent to human Massage Therapists. Chances are, massage robots will complete in the already-crowded massage therapist market presently consisting solely of human therapists.

Massage Associations, including ABMP, AMTA, and others, must advocate now to protect the rights of Massage Therapists, a group of skilled, schooled, and tested workers, so that a “massage” may only be performed by a Massage Therapist, and their valued skill remains perceived as such: Something that is an intrinsically human social healing activity, done by humans, and for humans*. *as well as other living beings, of course

Authored by D Alban, (C) Dee Alban, 2018

Posted in Alternative Health, At-Home Massage Articles, Massage and Culture, Massage and Empathy, Massage and Health, Massage and Technology, Therapeutic Massage and Society | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oils, Syntax, AND/OR Food Labeling: The Era of Thinking All Food Oil Is Identical is Over

Do you read food labels? And if so, do you even know what you’re reading? Certainly, I mean no offense to the reader; it’s just that many pre-packaged foods we buy at the supermarket contain ingredients with strange-sounding multi-syllabic names that sound more appropriate in a lab setting, which most people have never heard uttered before, though fairly commonly used as food ingredients in processed foods.

A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives by Ruth Winter, M.S.

Essential reading, kids. A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives by Ruth Winter, M.S.

Whether you recognize every ingredient or not, reading labels is an essential step in self-empowerment and control of one’s diet. So, start on your next trip to the store or keep up the good habit! Slowly, as you learn the foreign language of the American food label, all the jargon will be deciphered and you’ll understand what every ingredient is and where it comes from. Mandatory reading is A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives by Ruth Winter, M.S.

I noticed something rather peculiar about our US labeling laws that I’ve meant to write about for years and years, literally. In fact, I’d like to see the laws changed, if possible. By now, if you’re not curious whether this is just a teaser or there’s some potentially hazardous practice when it concerns food labeling, you should be.

In fact, this is not a teaser or an attempt to garner views by sensationalism. And, the changes I propose could save lives, or at the very least, help us all to be more informed food product consumers. What I find so disturbing is this: All labels, for all sorts of food products, have an ingredient list –so far, so good — however,  some labels are ambiguous about precisely which oils are used in creation of that particular item.

Comparison of Dietary Fats Image Credit: Wikipedia.Org

Comparison of Dietary Fats. Notice, all differ significantly.
Image Credit: Wikipedia.Org
from Wikipedia

Particularly, we find the phrase “and/or” indicating that the food item may made with any of the oils listed sequentially as a sub-list within the ingredient list, either singly or in combination. How confusing!

Food Label With AND/OR Logic.

Food Label With AND/OR Logic.

In the era when food labeling became mandatory, far less was known about human nutrition. As it turns out, not all oils are the same nutritionally, and have vastly different lipid molecule profiles and effects on health.

Oil isn’t just a food lubricant or generic term; different types of vegetable oil contain different aromatics, as well as potential allergic compounds. Shouldn’t the consumer know exactly what she is about to purchase and ultimately consume?

Allergens are common; this is acknowledged fact. Having precise labeling makes more sense, in that a consumer always knows exactly what’s in a particular product. There is no room for ambiguity here; consumers should know exactly what they’re eating.

The Waning Days of Summer image credit: Robert Cross

The Waning Days of Summer.
image credit: Robert Cross
Fields of gold under Norwegian skies, as the days are getting noticeably shorter. Where has the time gone? Image Credit: David Cross

There are also numerous studied benefits attributable to certain oils; if a consumer buys a food product for its nutriceutical qualities, shouldn’t they be sure that the oil conferring any health benefits is actually contained in the product?

And, with the focus on health and longevity and epi-genetic data that suggests lifestyle change could affect DNA expression positively, many more people are assuming conscious mindful control of their nutritional habits, not just dieting to shed pounds or trim the tummy, as was the case for the last century, but actually eating more healthily by making more informed food choices for themselves and their families. This is certainly an aspect of our emerging wellness-oriented culture.

Palm Oil Production Image Credit: Hodag

Palm Oil Production.
Image Credit: Hodag

So for many, knowing precisely which oil they’re eating is just as important as whether the grain used in the product is derived from oats, corn, or wheat.  Further, some actively avoid certain oils, such as canola, corn, or even palm oil. Some avoid these ingredients because of the ethics involved in harvesting and de-forestation, as is the case with palm oil.

Other people claim that canola oil is unhealthy; this is their right, and if it’s based in science, why not? Actually, we can pick and choose what we eat even based on our capricious whims; again, that’s our right, after all.

And, there’s cost. Some oils are just cheaper than others; another fact we can’t avoid in this discussion. Is it fair to the consumer to be “baited and switched”, loading up in the cheap oil, say palm oil,  while avoiding the finer, more expensive oil in the ingredient list, for example olive oil? Surely, this hasn’t been found to be the case, but then consider that  no one is checking. Of course, as is, companies can be unclear and dupe the consumer.

Olive Oil image credit: You as A Machine

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the Elixir of Life, Claim Many.
image credit: You as A Machine

Finally, there is a more serious issue: Each oil has a different profile of different types of lipids, such as Omega-6 and Omega-9, to name but two of far many more. How could the percentages of saturated and unsaturated fats always be accurate on a product label that uses the sentential connective “OR”, provided that there are variable blends of oil used with different percentages of saturated and unsaturated fats?

Certainly, the result of a change in oil constituency would mean that a truly scientifically accurate label must necessarily change to reflect the different amounts of fats in each oil, as no two oils are identical in this regard.

What next? Maybe a move to petition a change in the law. Food labels should never contain the OR logical function, as a recipe may contain a set of alternative ingredients, but not a food label. Labels should always consist of a list of ingredients that is static, in set amounts, at least until a product improvement or change.

Syntax is crucial; the way we choose to set rules for our food labeling actually determines a lot about how informed consumers will be, and ultimately how much control we all have over our food choices. And, presently, the FDA law permits consumers to be in the dark on a very important part of their food, the choice of cooking oil used by the manufacturer.

Authored by D Alban. Copyright 2018 D ALBAN, H MILLER (NJMassages.Com/Articles)

Posted in Alternative Health, Alternative Health Remedies, At-Home Massage Articles, Child Health, Diet and Health, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health and the Environment, Health Studies, Nutrition and Health, Pregnancy and Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marijuana Prohibition and Law Enforcement Officers: Effective Medicine & Alternative to Alcohol As Stress Reliever, Denied.

There’s a raucous row in New York City right now about a police sergeant assigned to Gracie Mansion failing a drug test for pot and claiming that the sample was accidentally snipped from her weave and not her own locks. Later, a DNA test refuted this claim.

Sgt. Tracy Gittens emphatically stated, “I do not do drugs.” Could the test have shown a false positive if the sergeant had merely been around sufficient clouds of secondhand cannabis smoke? Do we even have the research to disprove her claim?

"Nubian Badassery" photo credit: carlos newsome

“Nubian Badassery” photo credit: carlos newsome

After all, in New York City, marijuana is decriminalized, and it is possible that the law enforcement officer in question had been at someone’s home, maybe a barbecue, out at a bar or elsewhere, where marijuana smoke was billowing in great pungent mini-cumulus clouds from those around her.

It’s not quite so uncommon a scent and scene, even among friends and family of police officers in New York City. Cannabis isn’t heroin, seriously.  Should law enforcement officers not socialize, for fear that marijuana may show up in a drug screening merely because they inhaled some secondhand smoke, far less than would even have a noticeable effect?

"Storm Approaching NYC" image credit: Andrew Dallos.

“Storm Approaching NYC” image credit: Andrew Dallos.

What if the officer had walked into an apartment where a suspect had just “puffed a blunt?” Or, if her mother, whom she provides care to, is a valid medical-marijuana recipient in New Jersey, where cannabis may be legally smoked as medicine? Those scenarios may also produce false positives in the future, for other LEOs. Beware!

Medical Marijuana is legal in New Jersey, New York, and in more than half of US states, while decriminalization is also fairly widespread, and growing steadily with time. Each state has its own rules and regulations, to be sure. While this is true, there’s an unlikely paradox, as the plant is still a Federally Controlled Substance, Schedule I, with no acknowledged medical use.

Of course, anecdotal accounts, as well as many recent studies, suggest otherwise. At this point in the evolution of our understanding of marijuana’s cannabinoid phytochemical activity, it’s highly likely that the US government will one day (soon) update this scheduling in the face of overwhelming facts to the contrary. Keeping things as they are just empowers and enriches the cartels, and cooler heads will prevail and see this is a poor plan.

Is cannabis a healthier recreational choice than alcohol? Research suggests this may well be so, as cannabis is a neuroprotectant, rather than a neurotoxin, like alcohol. (Cannabis actually protects your brain cells, although it has a reputation for killing them!) And, it holds a myriad of other potential health benefits, rather than health hazards, like alcohol consumption does. Even so, the fact remains: it’s illegal. Of course, police officers are going to gravitate toward the legal alternatives when it concerns their own personal choice of mind alterants.

Medical Cannabis Growing Operation in Oakland, California. image credit: Rusty Blazenhoff

Medical Cannabis Growing Operation in Oakland, California. image credit: Rusty Blazenhoff

Policing is a high stress job. Many of my relatives have served in this profession since before I was born and I’ve witnessed firsthand the toll police work takes on the individual and the stress it can place on a family.  These are just some of the sacrifices made.

It’s normal to seek relaxation during off-hours; many cops enjoy drinking as a social activity among their friends and fellow police officers. However, alcoholism and “problem drinking” behaviors among police officers is high, attributable to the high-stress nature of the job, as well as social factors.  While alcohol is an effective social glue, it can also cause problems with health, personal relationships, and even job performance.

Communications Division, New York Police Department. image credit: André Gustavo Stumpf

Communications Division, New York Police Department.
image credit: André Gustavo Stumpf

What about the law enforcement officers who might rather try eating a cannabis-infused cookie than drinking whiskey after work? Realistically, the risks are just too numerous. However, we’re not talking at all about health risks. A positive random drug test could mean real problems for a police officer, like disciplinary action or worse. Therefore law enforcement officers cannot consume cannabis, even if it’s medically necessary.

Marijuana produces fat-soluble by-products that stay in the body for up to a month. This is, by far, longer than any other controlled substance, most of which filter out of the blood in mere days. At the very least, all municipal workers should be permitted to use medical marijuana if a physician prescribes it; of course, this still leaves alcohol as the only real choice, when it comes to non-medical social use.

Cookies. Oliver Laudmann

Cookies.
image credit: Oliver Laudmann

Is this a good thing? Would rates of alcoholism fall if drug testing for cannabis were abolished? Anyone old enough can tell tales of how the private sector, as well as many jobs serving the public, began drug testing in the 1980s. I’ve heard many such stories, from people who worked at all sorts of occupations.

Some more resourceful  people devised crazy schemes to pass the tests, from adulterating the sample with salt to render the test ineffective, to using prosthetic simulated body parts attached to a hidden bag of urine, substituting “clean” urine from their drug-averse sister taped to the abdomen to keep the fluid warm, once companies caught on and began making sure nothing shady was going on and started watching employees pee.

Many more people likely decided the risk-to-reward ratio was not worth the effort and shifted from consuming cannabis and alcohol to strictly using alcohol. While this surely helped the bottom line of liquor companies throughout the land, it’s doubtful that this had any tangible benefit to the worker or hiring body, as alcohol has worse degenerative effects on health and society than marijuana, by far. At the very least, alcohol can be lethal in sufficient quantity, while cannabis cannot ever be lethal, regardless of dose.

Whiskey. image credit: Scott

Whiskey. image credit: Scott

Presently, some companies in states where cannabis is now legal for medicinal and/or recreational use, are discontinuing drug testing for marijuana, with 66% testing for cannabiniods, down from 77% the prior year in Colorado, one such state.  Do we really care if a bureaucrat at some digital service company avoids smoking a joint every Friday night while watching TV and instead has a Michelob? Or, that the Customer Care manager at that big media concern on main street stops eating weed brownies before going out to the movies, instead bringing the good old flask of whiskey to get the job done?

Do you think in the short or the long term, this will help the employee or the company or the consumer, in any way? Not to mention, it seems weird to even care what employees do on their weekends, let alone have the employee undergo the demeaning and weird experience of not only having to submit a urine sample, but being watched the entire time, as well. Creepy!

In summary, what could be said now is what could be said always. While Sergeant Gittens stated that she did not use drugs, what she really meant was that she does not use illegal drugs. More than likely, she drinks alcohol socially, maybe even nurses a few cups of coffee each harrowing day. These other substances are, in fact, drugs. Some might even be inclined to include refined sugar in the group.

"Into The Back" image credit: Halahmoon

“Into The Back”
image credit: Halahmoon

Either way, our societal concepts of what constitutes a “drug” and what drugs should be permitted and forbidden, should reflect science, namely anthropology and sociology, as well as psychology, pharmacology, and real data from sound medical studies covering all medical aspects. Only then will we have a culture where we understand that not all drugs are illegal, and not all legal drugs as risk-free.

Of course, drugs classified as legal should include substances that pose little to no risk to the user or society, the decision whether to prohibit uninfluenced by historical innuendo, racism, or classism, as these have no place in America.  Nor should any sort of prohibition serve to benefit as a boon to alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceutical concerns, or any other financial entities, at the expense of our citizens’ free choices, as well as the sound judgement of their physicians.

Authored by D Alban. © Copyright 2018 D ALBAN, H MILLER.

Posted in Alternative Health, Current Events in NJ, Current Events in NYC, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health and the Environment, Health Studies, Heroin Crisis, Medical Marijuana, Personal Growth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NYC Mayor and New York State Governor Declare *WAR* On Single-Use Plastic Bags!

"Where Your Crap Goes"

“Where Your Crap Goes” photo credit: Alan Levine

In case you haven’t heard, the big issue sweeping NYC and the entire state of New York is whether plastic bags should be banned. According to Mayor DeBlasio, ““We need to ban plastic bags — the time for debate on this is over. They’re bad for the environment, they’re bad for the economy, they’re bad for New York.”

While all of us are undoubtedly aware of the damaging effects of negligent stewardship of the natural environment, not all of us agree that plastic bags are the scourge they’re presented as lately by our elected officials.

Single-use plastic bags are anything but. The intelligent and resourceful residents of New York, New Jersey, and likely well beyond, use these “throwaway” bags for everything from scooping up their dogs’ poop to placing their own kitchen and bathroom trash in.

Plastic bags can be doubled for strength and brought to work, the beach, anywhere really. True; it’s not the most elegant solution to toting your stuff around, but when you need a few bags to bring used books back to the paperback trader, single-use plastic bags work quite well.

Refuse at Landfill

Refuse at Landfill image credit: Dmitri_66

Most often, we hear environmental crusaders nudging us toward carrying a re-usable shopping bag. That may work for some single twentysomething urban dwellers who make frequent trips to the grocery store to get a few crucial items for the day, but what about Moms who shop once a week for a family of six?

Should they bring twelve re-usable shopping bags along? What if they need more groceries than they have re-usable bags to hold? Should they then be penalized with an economic sanction of a bag fee for store-supplied bags for the remainder of their purchased items? This seems unfair and unreasonable.

In 2011, a collaborative research effort between the Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona,  Loma Linda University School of Public health,  and the Department of Environmental Health of Loma Linda, California, conducted a study focusing on whether reusable bags pose any significant threat to consumers, in terms of cross-contamination potential for food.

Landfill

Landfill.
image credit: Sbak Pksa

The results are indisputable; using a re-usable bag can be hazardous to your health, and the health of your loved ones. The researchers found that most people do not wash their re-usable grocery bags, and large bacterial colonies were cultured from almost every single bag! Escherichia coli (E. coli) was found in nearly ten percent of the bags, as well as “a wide range of enteric bacteria, including several opportunistic pathogens.”

Of course, the researchers also tested whether cleaning, either with a washing machine or by hand, would affect the rate of bacteria lurking in the re-usable shopping bags. In fact, cleaning removed >99.9% of bacteria from the bags. So the conclusion of this is, as practiced, that the environmentally-conscious habit of carrying one’s own re-usable shopping bag, without washing between uses, can actually be detrimental to one’s own personal environment and health, as well as the health of one’s family! Far too often, this trend predominates when it concerns efforts to make less of an impact on the environment.

E. coli Bacteria Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli, grown in culture and adhered to a cover slip.

E. coli Bacteria
“Multi-Hue Colorized” scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli, grown in culture and adhered to a cover slip.
image credit: AIAID, color enhanced by Dee Alban

One other such example of instances when environmentally-friendly meant no-so-personally-friendly was the replacement of ozone-killing room freshener sprays, so common in the 1980s, with plug-ins; while better for the environment, these next-generation scent bombs may not be so great for YOU.

And, another easily cited example could be the widespread use of fluorescent light bulbs. These could leak mercury into your personal environment, but they do not consume as much electricity to operate as incandescent bulbs, which did not contain the hazardous liquid metal.

Little Grocery Shop

Little Grocery Shop
image credit: 1sock

Measures to make life more ecologically sound and environmentally sustainable should be reasonable and well-considered. Single-use shopping bags are seldom used once; re-usable shopping bags may, in fact, spread disease. These are the true facts, unpoliticized.

A bag fee will burden the lowest economic classes, the working poor and those families struggling to make ends meet. Even if food program recipients are permitted to take and use disposable bags free of charge, there are still many citizens comprising the socio-economic classes just above those on public assistance,  struggling to save every dollar every week in order to feed their families. Bag fees would adversely affect the disadvantaged who may not have quite enough extra to ever purchase re-usable bags.

There are other considerations as well. One isn’t always going to the market as a planned event; there are such times that spontaneity arises and an unplanned trip happens, even on foot. Why penalize citizens monetarily for getting some exercise? No person is going to always carry a grocery bag on their person; it’s unreasonable to expect this.

A better solution is encouraging large chain stores to require plastic bags that are bio-degradable, or even better, compostable bags.  New York State, the State of New Jersey, or any city or town, anywhere in the US,  for that matter, could also impose fees on companies choosing to continue using non-environmentally-friendly bags.

EnviGreen Compostable Plastic Bags

Ashwath Hegde and his EnviGreen Compostable Plastic Bags

In India, plastic bags were banned in several cities. Ashwath Hegde, a Mangalore-born entrepreneur states, ““The Mangalore City Corporation implemented a ban on the manufacture, sale, and distribution of plastic bags in the year 2012. But the decision was taken without preparations for alternatives. People were concerned about how they would carry products from the market now. Everyone cannot afford a bag worth Rs. 5 or Rs. 15 to carry a kilogram of sugar. I decided to come up with alternatives after hearing about these problems in my hometown.”

The results of his efforts were the creation of 100% natural and organic plastic bags, free of any chemicals. The EnviGreen bags are, in fact, comprised of natural starch from potatoes and corn and vegetable oil derivatives, a total of twelve ingredients, also including  tapioca, banana, and flower oil. Sounds delicious!

These bags are, in fact,  edible (though not suggested); they dissolve in boiling water in under a minute; outdoors, they break down in half-a-year. And, the cost is only fifty percent higher than the standard single-use

Compostable Plastic Bag

Compostable Plastic Bag

plastic bags that were commonly used before the ban.

It’s time we look into alternatives, surely; however, leaving multiple options for businesses and consumers alike may be the best choice for all.  Imposing fines and fees on a necessity that most of us rely on is unfair and unnecessary; there are alternatives, clearly.

D Alban, Author. © Copyright 2018 D Alban, H Miller, njmassages.com

Posted in Alternative Health, Child Health, Current Events in NJ, Current Events in NYC, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health and the Environment, Health Studies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drug Injection Sites: Communities Cry “NIMBY” While People OD and DIE on MY Block

Recently, the idea of state-approved injection centers where people addicted to heroin may “shoot up” in a safe environment was proposed for further review in New York City. While heroin use is not in any way a social good, such facilities might help tremendously in the war against opiate addiction and drug cartels, at the very least.

This issue is so important to contemporary American society that we must look beyond our personal politics to band together as a society to explore and fund research into viable solutions to the social health crisis, and the answer may well be a medley of ideas from diverse sources, including drug interdiction, medicalizing the opiate drug crisis, as well as enhancing border patrols.

In 2016, over 50,000 deaths were reported as having been caused by opiate overdose. And now, Naloxone,  a nasal spray that can reverse overdoses by blocking the drug’s effects, is certainly lowering the death toll, but also hiding the true cost of the epidemic, in many cases just postponing the inevitable for addicted persons.

Syringe by ZaldyImg

Safe Injection Zones Are Already Up and Running in Europe and Canada.
Image Credit: Syringe by ZaldyImg

While my community feigns shock at the idea of safe injection sites, needles line the gutters of most neighborhoods in my town of a half million people. Even the areas with smartly designed custom mega-homes with neatly manicured lawns and shrubbery on  quiet tree-lined streets  are suffering in this same exact way; it’s an epidemic that crosses socio-economic, ethnic, and racial lines.

Europe, the land many Americans can claim at least some ancestors hail from, (including many Black folks – these days genetic testing is revealing this for so many people) is no stranger to what are referred to on that side of the Atlantic drily as “drug consumption rooms.” There’s no way to get confused about what goes on in there; it’s about as unglamorous a name as could be devised, apparently.

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug-Addiction, such facilities have been successfully operating in Europe for over three decades. The safe spaces aren’t there to let users consume drugs with abandon; rather, there are many important community-aiding functions, which may be quantified and tracked, in terms of results and success.  Harm-reduction policies are tested and the data is there: These systems, when carefully implemented, do work to bring down the death-tolls, at the very least.

Needles by Cat Branchman

Needles by Cat Branchman

Having sanctioned areas for addicts to use their drugs in a medical setting sends “the wrong message” to our youth, claim opponents. With supervised injection centers, society is actually medicalizing a longstanding, festering social ill that presently has no end in sight.

Past criminalization of opiate addicts’ behavior of buying and using drugs by our society decades ago was sensible, but had the additional side-effect of sending this population scurrying further underground. This, compounded with the very real fact that many drug addicts stole and committed other crimes to get cash to buy chemicals, and authorities could do little to help.

Today, I witnessed firsthand as the police raided and shut down a “heroin house” on my block. Sadly, in the last few years, two individuals died in that same house, only five doors down, both succumbing to heroin overdose.

Beyond that, the police and ambulances had been on the block regularly to administer “saves’ with Naloxone. Right now, kids (and people of all ages, if you check the obituaries) are using heroin all over my town. Why do the children living on my block have to see two bodies being brought out in bags? What message is this sending? Surely, kids see that drug use is ultimately fatal, and maybe such scary images are, in fact, a good reinforcement in the long-term, but consider the trauma such scenes could bring to the soul of a ten year old.

Heroin Graffiti by Duncan C

Heroin Graffiti by Duncan C

Intravenous opiate drug use, and its associated ills, belong in a medical setting, where addiction and overdose can be addressed by professionals there for this express purpose. There could even be opiate purity testing for drugs that addicts buy elsewhere and bring into the center to have tested. If the ultimate goal is harm reduction and lowering of death tolls, then there may be no other way.

Every time an addict enters a safe “shooting gallery” in a hospital or medical building, they

Protester with NIMBY Sign

Protester with NIMBY Sign

have the chance to get help with their addiction. If asked each and every time they got high if this would be the day they wanted to stop the horrible cycle, help would only be an affirmative response away, a simple nod of the head or meek uttering of a faint whisper, a monosyllabic, “Yes!” Communities are up in arms, with the “Not In My Backyard!” chant growing louder by the week. Are we also opposed to methadone clinics? If so, I have bad news for you: Chances are, they’re already in your backyard, have been for years, and you probably haven’t even noticed.

The complaints that legal safe spaces for opiate addicts will bring drug dealers to the area are likely unfounded, as methadone clinics, the best example we an use that exists today,  are probably not hot-spots for illicit drug activity in most places, though opponents may have a valid point because we just don’t know yet. However, remain mindful of the fact that the medical professionals at a legal heroin-use zone or methadone clinic would quickly call the authorities if anything illegal happens to be observed outside. If we’re unsure, why not assign police to the area? The “shooting areas” and methadone clinics will be the safest places in town, without a doubt.

Medical professionals are in no way there to foster or encourage drug abuse, only minimize it’s harmful effects on the individual and society. Another key role, besides being a fast route for addicted persons seeking immediate help, would be the dissemination of factual information. Pamphlets, business cards, and a small library pertaining strictly to all aspects of opiates, from law to health issues, would permit users a chance to learn more about the pharmacology of their addiction, as well as the bodily harms that eventually come with continual use of the drug.

Clean needles can also be provided; again, this is not to encourage drug use, but to rather decrease collateral damage to the individual and society, by keeping HIV, hepatitis, and other blood-borne pathogens that love needle-sharing at bay. Large cities across the US have already been doing this for decades, with positive results, in terms of helping keep disease from spreading among the IV-drug-using population.

Dave Conner Northern Constabulary

The police have the tools and training necessary to keep out public spaces safe. Image Credit: Dave Conner
Northern Constabulary

Today on my street, the brave police officers walked into a house that could have been a very unsafe experience for them. There’s always a place for interdiction, of course, but this may not solve the entirety of the problem as easily or quickly as dealing with this as a public health crisis, firstly, and crime scene, secondly.

The police, as our society is now structured, are often the last line an opiate addict crosses before death; carrying the lifesaver Naloxone, law enforcement officers have been saving individuals from death every day in almost every town and city in the US. But those same police resources are stretched thin, and are also needed to fight the War on Heroin and deal with law enforcement issues of all kinds as well.

And, Naloxone is not always going to help; the newer synthetics like Fentanyl and Carfentanyl are so powerful, Naloxone will not always bring back an overdose victim, or the patient will just go right back into an overdose state after only a few minutes of regained consciousness, requiring additional doses of Naloxone.

Our police should be fighting crime, including opiate-dealing, as well as keeping our public spaces safe, like our schools and libraries, as well as our private areas by supplementing private security in spots like malls and movie theatres. Right now, the police are doing noble work, but running around administering Naloxone might be a distraction from other important tasks that affect the safety and security of many more citizens.

There lately has been a debate about how to best keep our schools safe. Arming teachers is not viable in most areas; in some rural communities, where everyone is already armed and carries firearms, this is a great plan, easily put into action. But in cities like New York, Newark, and others, this is never gong to happen. Still, places where people gather must be protected.

And,

Rocks by Sandor Weisz

Kids learning to throw rocks at attackers. Why not? Image Credit: Rocks by Sandor Weisz

realistically, protection by a firearm and a licensed and trained operator is the best protection to be found. Training kids to throw rocks is a novel and possibly effective way to slow an emotionally disturbed gunner down; an armed police presence at a school will surely do far more in that regard.

There are even more stark and drastic options available, if we seek to end this culture of heroin addiction as quickly as possible, but I must warn that they’re even more controversial than even legal shooting galleries.

Straying further from the known, we can consider research into the benefits of  having a “heroin license” that addicted persons can trade for their driver’s/equipment operator’s license, permitting them to possess small amounts of heroin for personal use instead that cannot be traded or resold. If we seek fewer obstacles to success, pure medical-grade heroin powder and opiate pills would also be available to users, sold without profit at a small fee to the individual, supervised by the DEA, via physicians who are also drug-addiction specialists at the IV-drug users’ health centers.

DEA resources could grow to include managing socks of opiates for hospital supplies for addicts. Image Credit: Brett-Neilson

DEA resources could grow to include managing stocks of opiates for hospital supplies for addicts. Image Credit: Brett Neilson

This may seem like a 360 degree turnaround from current policy, but reducing trafficking would be the ultimate goal of such centers  focusing on opiate addiction . The way to drive the cartels and gangs away is to destroy the possibility for easy high profits; this worked with alcohol re-legalization, why can’t it work with the drug cartels now? Only the details change; the game remains the same. It’s worth at least a thought.

And, if addicts knew their heroin from the hospital was pure and standardized, there would be far less need for anyone to administer Naloxone, anywhere. Choosing the cheaper and purer substance might be an good alternative for someone who’s already ODed five times and lost ten friends to street heroin of unknown purity, often laced with Fentanyl and other substances many times more dangerous than heroin.

Brickfair 2011 - Southside Gangster with Tommy Gun prototype and BARShowcasing the Southside Gangster fig with his heavy weapons of choice!

Brickfair 2011 – Southside Gangster with Tommy Gun prototype Image Credit: enigmabadger

In the end, measures such as creating safe shooting spaces are of limited value, to be sure. The issue is, most addicts would not use such facilities, unless such facilities were also cheaply selling or freely sharing the drug. Co-locating on the campuses of mental health centers or hospitals would be most appropriate, in terms of having support systems only a few hundred feet away if there were to be an overdose or complication, as well as keeping the drugs further framed within a medical context for all, and keeping the whole worrisome matter out of the sight of the public.

Most addicts will likely continue to use intravenous opiate drugs in the privacy of their homes, regardless of what else society tries to do to accommodate them. There is simply a mistrust of authority within this sub-culture, and many would likely feel wary of participating.

In time, if such a program proved not to be a “sting” or “set-up”, word would get out and heroin users would know this is the way to both better and cleaner drugs, and the very real path back to society. It’s a means of leading people back to health, back to reality, away from the drug dealers and stigma and shame associated with the heroin drug culture.

Kristian Mollenborg FDNY - Ambulance

Kristian Mollenborg
FDNY – Ambulance

We need to think about a society that’s a lot safer for police to work in, and the average citizen to live in. A two-pronged approach, targeting both supply and demand, will bring America back from our dark days faster and with greater ease. Addicts have definitely made poor choices, there’s no contesting that; but it’s in all of our best interest that they survive and thrive. Some say that we should let addicts overdoes and be gone; that’s heartless, a really cold way of looking at people and the world.

The nature of physical addiction means it’s easier to want to stop than to actually do so, with heroin and opiate pills. Nicotine is NOT more addictive than heroin, contrary to urban legend and popular memes! If you’re a recovering alcoholic, only then do you know the grip a powerful physically-addictive substance can hold over your life, and many say heroin addiction is worse.

By the time a person is addicted to opiates, their continual use of a drug has temporarily changed the complex chemical profile of the brain, and depleted necessary stores of various neurotransmitters. The body eventually gets used to the poison (not that it’s now less harmful) and strong cravings seek to keep the user motivated to get the drugs once more, as a fresh blast of heroin will artificially raise the output of waning neurotransmitters again briefly, ceasing the otherwise rapid decline to dangerously low levels from past depletion caused by recent opiate use. And thus, the cycle of opiate addiction continues.

Education of the youth is the way to prevent demand. It is truly unbelievable, that with decades of history of its sordid killings and social harm, that heroin is even still abused, anywhere in the US or world, let alone the center of a modern day scourge. Kicking your morning cup of caffeine-laden coffee or your binge watching of old Simpsons episodes on Netflix just isn’t the same.

Sorry. I know you may have strongly believed that this was the case, but facts are facts, and physical addiction and psychological addiction are two different beasts, for sure. Giving up eating, fun habits, and sometimes even not-so-fun habits, can be tough. But imagine if a chemical were driving you, via severe discomfort and pain, to act counter to your choices to stop, motivating you to do the exact opposite and keep going? It would be worlds tougher to give up eating the buttered popcorn with those Nexflix shows, no?

Governor Tom Wolf Governor Wolf Announces Pennsylvania

Governor Tom Wolf
Governor Wolf Announces Pennsylvania Capitol Police to Carry Naloxone

Having addicted people engaging with a medical team in a health care setting can only work to lessen their experience of isolation and shame, bringing many out of the shadows where they can far more easily get help, or at least re-assess their lives from a different viewpoint.

And, perspective is always good. Further, many addicts have become addicted because of emotional or mental pain that they found overwhelming; they took the drugs to cope. Perhaps social counseling services at the shooting gallery would do more to help individuals crawl out of their pain than anything else we could ever provide. Sometimes a caring listener is key.

And, still many more ended up on heroin either because their doctor ordered them to take opiate pills because of a work injury or because the pills were cheap and plentiful “kicks” before becoming far less accessible because of New York’s I-stop program, and similar programs in other states.

Again, an integrative approach is the only answer, using both traditional policing, as well as alternative health concepts borrowed from other cultures. Whether we go with legal heroin use zones or not, we must act quickly, and do something differently.

The number of overdoses cannot keep climbing, year after year. A whirlwind of socially disastrous consequences awaits, if we cannot take the helm and steer a clear course away from these known deadly hazards. Whatever we do, we have to act now.

Because our President, as well as governors and mayors are concerned and looking for answers, this problem will have a definite end, hopefully sooner rather than later, regardless of what methods and means we choose to end it.

The most significant issue seems to be the constant push and pull between lawmakers of opposing camps with different underlying social and economic philosophies; again I implore the reader to abandon such notions when considering this extremely urgent topic and just explore solutions that make sense, even if such answers seem counter-intuitive at first.

Authored by D Alban

Posted in Alternative Health, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health Studies, Heroin Crisis, Non-Profit Foundations, Personal Growth | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Decides When Medicine Is Quackery? Debunking The Alternative Medicine Debunkers With Scientific Fact

An article appeared on Forbes today wherein the author wrote disparagingly about alternative medicine treatments and research, entitled “$142 Million For Quack Medicine Buried Inside The New 2018 Budget.”    The article detailed how terrible the author felt about the current US federal budget including ANY funding whatsoever for the research and study of the effectiveness of alternative medicine treatments for chronic health conditions.

One has to wonder where the dismissiveness and vitriol comes from as regards this Forbes writer, Steven Salzberg, and his feelings toward alternative medicine. For a distinguished, disinterested researcher, he certainly has strong opinions on incompletely researched topics.  The central idea of the article is that the money spent by our government on “alternative medicine”  is a complete waste and nothing “alternative” has ever turned out

Vitamins

Alternative Treatments: A Serious Hazard NOT Worth Investigating. (this is the subtext of the Forbes piece)

 

to be useful.

This is where we would say, “Hold on, back up, please.”  This is simply not true.  Even though proponents of conventional medicine assert that alternative medicine is useless, and further, that we must all use ONLY conventional treatments because only these have been proven to work, this is actually not the case.  However, most Americans believe  inaccurate memes because of articles such as the Forbes piece and many others like it which they are barraged with on a continual basis.

Here are some facts about conventional medicine that you may not be aware of:  First, there is massive corruption concerning pharmaceutical companies and manipulation: manipulation of data in the drug studies (where the FDA takes them to court and wins, and then the drug company has to make a statement of ethics and promise never to do this

pharmacy

pharmacy

again….and they then get sued again later for the same offense with a different drug – according to researcher Peter Gøtzsche in Deadly Medicine and Organized Crime); manipulation of doctors with gifts, trips, money, and dinners (which has become so excessive that New Jersey has just made a law against it); and the incredible number of doctor-caused deaths in hospitals, making iatrogenic death (doctor-caused death) about the third-leading cause of death in this country.

This last statement comes from an article in the JAMA which was published on their website, but has since been removed.  You can still find the text of this article in a PDF on the Johns Hopkins website.

Some might make the argument that Dr. Starfield, the author of the JAMA article, is the only person to have made this assertion; a quick  look to the British Medical Journal disproves this notion.  U.S. News has shared the content of the BMJ article wherein two other researchers (lead author Dr. Marty Makary, also of Johns Hopkins!)  state that medical errors are responsible for 250,000 deaths per year in the US (the same number as Starfield concludes).

Syringe by ZaldyImg

Syringe by ZaldyImg

These are deaths tallied from medical errors inclusive of all classes of doctor or hospital-caused deaths, where Barbara Starfield further presents a breakdown of deaths due to correctly prescribed medications, infections in hospitals, other errors in hospitals, unnecessary surgeries, and medication errors. These are in descending order, from highest occurrence to lowest.

Since all of these can be classed together as medical errors, it is safe to say that doctors are the third-leading cause of death in this country.  Just to be clear, there is no similar track record among alternative medicine practitioners.  Whenever a patient dies while undergoing an alternative treatment, even if the death is not caused by the treatment itself, there is generally such bad press and backlash that the alternative health provider is driven out of business post-haste.  Yet hospitals continue causing unnecessary patient deaths, year after year, without much concern expressed by the public.

Wouter van Doorn Need some drugs?

Wouter van Doorn
Need some drugs?

It is also true that when persons die or experience life-altering complications outside of a hospital from a properly-prescribed and correctly taken medication, it is unlikely that their cause of death will be attributed to the medication that was actually responsible.  It is more likely that their death will be attributed to the secondary effect, such as when the medication causes a heart attack or a stroke.  Then, the cause of death would be listed as a stroke, rather than as a result of the medication (such as one of the leading NSAID drugs, its black-box warnings clearly state that they can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke).

In addition, all reporting of adverse events, reactions, and deaths is performed by doctors.  There is no consumer reporting database collecting reports, where a family member of someone who died of a stroke could easily make a report to state that their medication was being taken prior to death or debilitation. Such anecdotal data could be useful in providing more complete data for aggregation and pattern tracking.

Abandoned Hospital by Gentleman of Decay

Abandoned Hospital by Gentleman of Decay

The American Journal Of Medical Quality  found in surveys at hospitals that the reporting systems in place are under-utilized by doctors, with only about 43% of physicians contributing to the database at all.  There is no Federal mandate, as of yet,  with regard to reporting systems, though over half the states now have such systems in place.

This likely means that the incidence of errors, including doctor-caused deaths, is likely higher than the present projected numbers could possibly indicate, since most doctors are not reporting possible or known issues.

The author of the Forbes piece, Steven Salzberg, is a respected researcher at the very same place that Barbara Starfield, now passed, once taught at, Johns Hopkins University.  Therefore, Mr. Salzberg  should be familiar with her past research and similar studies that have been conducted demonstrating that conventional medicine is actually the “dangerous” medicine, warranting caution, at the very least.

Yet, the premise of his article completely ignores this important fact.  Why provide more money for research to the NIH, as he suggests, when there may be less dangerous alternative medical treatments for the same conditions?  Considering that the facts are the converse of what he suggests, why would a researcher discourage alternatives to something that is among leading causes of death for Americans?

So, now we shall return to the main premise of the Forbes article: that there are no effective alternative treatments for any health condition that have been discovered through research.  This is an untrue statement that does not reflect the reality of present-day research.

PhotoAtelier - "Remedies"

PhotoAtelier
Remedies
North by Northwest Antiques & Books just south of Lincoln City, Oregon

We shall show the effects of two such “alternative health” discoveries that are now in the mainstream and have been researched extensively, one of them by the very same group lauded by Salzberg in the Forbes article, the National Eye Institute, part of the Federal government’s National Institutes of Health umbrella organization.

The other discovery was researched and discovered by the March of Dimes after many years dedicated to exploring all avenues that may help reduce suffering by preventing birth defects.  I choose to discuss only two here, for the sake of brevity.  This article would be exhaustively verbose if we discussed every alternative treatment with evidence supporting it.

Perhaps you are aware of the detrimental effect of macular degeneration on the quality of life in the aging population.  The authors would wonder if the reader is also aware of the AREDS study, and its results.

The AREDS study was conducted by the NEI of the NIH.  While unusual for the NIH to research an herbal formulation, this study was crucial, since macular degeneration has no real conventional treatment, and affects a large percentage of the aging population.  With America set to have record numbers of retirees as the Boomer generation gets older, this is especially significant.

OnCall team Nurses of the Holy Trinity Photo taken in Togo, West Africa, by Julius Cruickshank

OnCall team
Nurses of the Holy Trinity
Photo taken in Togo, West Africa, by Julius Cruickshank

It could just as easily and

appropriately have been conducted by the NCCIH, because this is an herb and vitamin combination and the NCCIH focuses on herbs and vitamins, among other relevant topics.

 

This study shows definitively, and in multiple follow-up studies, that the herbal and vitamin combination used in the trials prevented and, in many cases, reversed macular degeneration, especially where one eye with MD was compared with the other healthy eye of the same patient.  The risk of developing MD was reduced by about 25%, and the risk of complete vision loss caused by MD (in patients already suffering from macular degeneration) was reduced by about 19% with this anti-oxidant “alternative medicine” formula.  The combination consists of lutein and zeaxanthin (herbal extracts from marigolds), and high doses of zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

Many older adults have already been prescribed this alternative remedy.  A significant number have had excellent results, depending on their vision and level of degeneration when they started supplementation, as well as the quality and dosage of the supplement they received.

The second alternative medicine treatment that has been extensively researched and has entered into the mainstream is folic acid.  For many years, the March of Dimes had their annual walk, collected a lot of money, and conducted important research.

At least one amazing discovery came of all that research.  Neural tube defects, which were responsible for many cases of birth defects that affected survival rates among newborns, as well as adversely affecting intelligence and learning capabilities, could be prevented by taking a single vitamin, Folic Acid, also known as Vitamin B9.

It is this group, and this discovery, that has made it mandatory for every pregnant woman in the United States and in many other countries to take prenatal vitamin supplements.  The addition of folic acid prevents neural tube defects;this is now accepted medical fact.

Chris Potter Prescription Prices Ver5

Chris Potter
Prescription Prices Ver5

As a consequence, the rate of this particular type of birth defect has gone down significantly.  This supplement has been shown to be directly responsible for the decline in these birth defects in studies by the NIH in a South Carolina population, among other populations where similar studies have been carried out.

So before accepting without question what this Forbes article purports as a legitimate viewpoint, that funding the NCCIH is a waste of money, and that “alternative” treatments are dangerous, consider that the opposite is, in fact,  the case, and can be supported by evidence.

Wayne S. Grazio Old Medicine

Wayne S. Grazio
Old Medicine

There are very few adverse reactions to herbs, vitamins, supplements, and other alternative treatments, while the same cannot be said of conventional medical treatments.  This is despite the fact that it has been legally required for all adverse events possibly caused supplements to be meticulously recorded in a database.

Poison Control Center data also shows a similar disparity in the incidence of negative effects from vitamins and supplements, when compared to medications.  In fact, the National Poison Control Center reports the highest numbers of poisoning calls, year after year, from poisoning by medications, especially analgesics, sedatives, anti-depressants, and cardiovascular drugs;  these are their top four call types, in fact.

These medications actually lead the list of substances poisoning adults, according to the NPCC data.  It is interesting to note that there are no poisonings of adults from vitamins or supplements of any kind listed.

So,  before you go into your kitchen cupboard and toss all your supplements, do the research yourself!  You, as an intelligent consumer, should not be swayed by ad hominen attacks against alternative medicine, entire groups of practitioners of alternative therapies, misrepresentation, or ignorance of fact.  In our presentation, we relied strictly upon factual evidence, not biases toward or against any modality, whether allopathic or alternative. Such a disinterested attitude is crucial, when considering science.

We challenge Steven Salzberg to prove his claims that “alternative medicine” is harmful, and provide data demonstrating any statistically significant loss of life or harm to patients resulting directly from “alternative medicine” treatments, alone.  Even under such circumstances involving statistically significant death or permanent harm,  Mr. Salzberg’s assertions that research by the NCCIH be curtailed fall flat, as such issues certainly call for more research as well, in order that consumers not be harmed in future.

Authored by H Miller with D Alban © 2018 D Alban, H Miller

Posted in Alternative Health, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health Studies, Pregnancy and Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unplug That Thing, Mom! Air Fresheners, Hazardous Chemicals, and Disease Potential

Nobody likes to come home to a musty-smelling living room. For reasons most of us can easily understand, it’s just not that hot a plan. Of course, it’s always best to be neat and clean, and keep the space moisture-controlled, but what about if you enjoy a pleasant, calming scent? Most people I meet would at this point tell me what brand of plug-in air freshener they use at home; these are so widespread, it’s difficult to not find a home without at least three, gracing the living room, bathroom, and bedroom, typically.

Plug In Air Freshener

Plug-In Air Freshener

These plug-in scent dispersers are environmentally-friendly, that is true. Plug-ins replaced the aerosol spray scent canisters used by most of us up until about the 1990s. But are there any hidden costs to using plug-in room deodorizers? It turns out, there certainly are concerns. The first, is that these units are risks for household fires. Of course, this is great cause for alarm, but according to the best set of facts we can find, it’s just not true.

This is only a lame meme, an Internet-email-spawned modern global urban legend, of sorts. According to Snopes , this is a false claim. Of course, I do not default to a website’s claims in my search for answers, but letters from the SC Johnson company verify that these units pose no real risk. Perhaps it’s really because of a product recall that happened all the way back in 2002, involving plug-in air fresheners. In any event, fire is definitely not a high risk.

Rusted Old Aerosol Can by Rob Swatski

Rusted Old Aerosol Can by Rob Swatski

According to a news story by WABC (NY)  at the time, the facts are slightly different, and there were, in fact, fires caused by these units, hence the recall. In any event, if there had been a fire hazard, it has long since been addressed by the manufacturers.

So is it all good, then? Should we buy an additional three plug-ins now, maybe one for the basement den, another for the kids’ bedroom, and a sixth for the pantry? Wait. One. Second. There’s unfortunately more data that we can find, suggesting that this may not be

the best idea. What if plug-ins were pollution-averting devices that save the ozone layer but actually pollute your personal space and environment?

Well, if you’re a big fan of plug-ins, I’ve got some sad news for you: There’s more to it. Far more, in fact.

WABC Channel 7 News Story, 2002, On Plug-In Air Fresheners and Home Fires

WABC Channel 7 News Story, 2002, On Plug-In Air Fresheners and Home Fires

While this may seem dramatic, perhaps I’m not expressing this in sufficiently dramatic terms. For starters, these are not “air fresheners”. In no way are they actually “freshening” anything. While your space may, in fact, smell quite nice, plug-in air fresheners are continuously pumping pollutants into the air, day and night.

Phthalates, a class of synthetic chemicals that can wreak havoc on health in myriad ways, comprises one of the ingredients in many brands, and include di-butyl phthalate (DBP), di-ethyl phthalate (DEP), di-isobutyl phthalate (DIBP), and di-methyl phthalate (DMP) (see Figure 3). Di-isohexyl phthalate (DIHP).

Lupus Erythematosus. Chromolithograph. c. 1878-1888 Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Lupus Erythematosus. Chromolithograph. c. 1878-1888
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Without the efforts of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) , we wouldn’t know that nearly 90% of brands contain this class of chemicals. In, Hidden H

azards of Air Fresheners, the NRDC’s publication, we find that phthalates, “…can cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects, and reproductive problems.” Suggestions include limiting exposure of pregnant women and children to these chemicals.

According to the document, air freshener products are listed by the State of California as chemicals “known to cause birth defects or reproductive harm….and has also been associated with allergic symptoms and asthma.” A 2005 European Consumers Union study also found these products loaded with VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, certainly not a class of substances you’d want to intentionally load your home’s air with.

There are even more grave concerns, that phthalates may cause cancer or trigger autoimmune disease as an epigenetic-triggering factor. According to the study entitled, Autoimmune Disease: Phthalate Linked to Lupus in Mice by Carol Potera, “researchers at

Indiana State

University may have strengthened the environmental evidence by discovering that phthalates trigger lupus antibodies in a mouse model.”

 

Houseplants by FarOutFlora

Houseplants by FarOutFlora

While mouse models aren’t always completely applicable to humans, this should be a serious cause for concern, especially if you or a family member are suffering from an autoimmune condition, and your family uses these air scenting devices.

So, what do we do? Sit around all day smelling the dogs and old couches? No; certainly not. Plants can actually clean the air of pollutants, including VOCs, so get some plants, and grow them large!  First of all, fresh air is always beneficial, except if you live in certain parts of New Jersey along what’s known as the “Chemical Coast“. You can open windows more, or freshen the air with an utrasonic aromatherapy scent diffuser.

Ultrasonic Air Freshener

Ultrasonic Air Freshener

These devices can deliver 100% organic essential oils into the air, without

addition of any phthalates. An additional benefit is that you can collect essential oils and have a different scent every day, or blend various oils to get a custom scent that matches your home and personal vibe.

Simplers Botanicals and Nature's Alchemy are my preferred brands after over a decade of testing. (I do not get paid to say this!)

Simplers Botanicals and Nature’s Alchemy are my preferred brands after over a decade of testing. (I do not get paid to say this!)

Just be sure you are not getting “fragrance oils”, but rather only 100% natural, or organic, essential oils.  (Two brands I’ve found to be amazing are Nature’s Alchemy and Simplers Botanicals.)  And, be forewarned, every company puts out a vastly different product, even for the same plant oil.

Some of the inexpensive brands may also seem

Nells the Couch Potato by Heather Morrison

Nells the Couch Potato by Heather Morrison

diluted, or less highly scented, so it isn’t quite a steal of a deal. Experiment, and see what you find. Be especially careful with overseas sellers hawking wares without branding.

In any event, it’s worth reconsidering all your habits, especially if you’re suffering with autoimmune conditions. Many of the ideas that we must challenge on our journey toward health are long-held ideas and may seem strange, or just downright silly.

Even so, it’s worth looking into any and all sources of unintended environmental pollution that may be plaguing your home, family, and pets. Alternative health does not refer to anything outside of science, but rather examining an alternative set of scientific and anecdotal evidential data that may be presently ignored or overlooked.

Authored by D Alban (C) Copyright 2018 D Alban, H Miller

Posted in Alternative Health, At-Home Massage Articles, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health and the Environment | Leave a comment