Archive for the ‘health’ Category

No, not that, though we HAVE been eating a lot of beans around here since we got the slow cooker.

Our carbon monoxide detector went off today. We’re not sure why, and to confuse matters further, it said it was in Test Mode… yet it said it had seen (when? now?) 287ppm. The furnace, hot water heater, and oven were all going. I’m scheduling a check for all of the gas appliances, since we haven’t had them checked in more than a year– in fact, more than 2 years. The time just slips away.

The alarm is not going off now. By the end of today we will have several new CO detectors in the house, a mix of the battery-powered type and the house-current type. I’ve learned a number of things in the past few hours which surprised me, including things I was Just Plain Wrong about. Fortunately, not Dead Wrong. If the situation were different, though, my lack of correct information might have been fatal. So, let me share, just in case you know some of the same wrong things.

What to do first. If you’re like most people, including us, the first thing you do is go to the alarm and see what’s up, then start looking for the problem. No. Not even remotely correct. The FIRST THING you do is LEAVE THE HOUSE. Period. No questions. Grab all family members and pets and get out. Only then do you think about what to do next and make a plan of action. [1]

Why? Because in case your alarm went off only in the cumulative exposure fuzzy-headed stage, you may already be at risk of going to the next level of CO poisoning. It can be abrupt, and you could go from ‘mostly fine’ to ‘I can’t think and need to just sit down for a moment’ without any real warning. If it turns out to be that bad, you might never stand up again.

The next thing that everybody does is start opening up windows ‘just in case’. Apparently that’s also wrong. Instead, you should, theoretically, call the fire department, your appliance repair person, or your utility company and actually have them do a check. If you’re like most of us, you’re probably not going to do that, you’re going to change the battery in the thing instead (you did write the date of the last change on the battery with a sharpie, yes?) and if it goes off again, then you’re going to think about calling someone.

At least get folks out of the house first, and don’t go opening all the windows yet. “Many CO alarm calls have been classified as ‘false alarms’ because the homeowner has ventilated the home and turned off the equipment before firemen or technicians can measure the CO levels and find the source.” [2]

Another ‘everybody knows’ pseudo-fact is as long as you don’t have a skull-splitting headache, you’re okay. NOT! What most folks don’t know, and I sure didn’t, is that low levels of exposure commonly cause flu-like symptoms, including sniffling, red eyes, tiredness, nausea, mild headache. At medium levels of exposure, the ones that could tip suddenly depending on your physiology, that’s where you get symptoms like “severe throbbing headache, drowsiness, confusion, fast heart rate.” [3]

If you tend to be sniffly and tired at home in the evenings or weekends, but feel better at work or out of the house, well, that could be a lot of things from needing to clean the ducts to vacuuming to dust mites. But it could also be low-level CO exposure, so add that to your list. Get yourself a CO detector that measures continual exposure and make sure you get your appliances checked annually.

Speaking of which, as long as the flame is blue, not orange we tend to think it’s ok. Leaky ducting can cause CO exposure even when the flame adjustment is ok, so don’t rule it out just because the flame looks right. Get somebody with a sniffer to confirm your in-house levels.

The CO detector should be in your bedroom, right? Maybe one of those little plug-in ones? Well, partially. Ideally, the CO detector should be either on the ceiling or about 5 feet off the ground, since CO is generally lighter than room air. I was unpleasantly shocked to find out that the only CO detector in our place was actually in the 2nd bedroom, which Mike uses as a workroom. Why? We don’t remember. Well, that will change by this evening!

We also tend to think that as long as the ‘test’ button works, the alarm works. Wrong, alas. Apparently very few CO or smoke detectors actually test the detector, rather than the audible alert. Pressing the ‘test’ button tests the NOISE circuit, not the detector, in the vast majority of detectors.

We purchased our detector when we moved in, almost 5 years ago. We assumed it was good ‘forever’ as long as we changed the batteries. Nope. The mechanisms they use to detect CO differ, and many of the small battery-powered ones use a colored disk that they monitor for changes, rather than more direct chemical means. Multiple sources say that most CO detectors have a 5-year lifespan but some may be valid for only a couple of years. Either way, we need to replace ours.

What kind should you get? Here in the States, I quote Underwriters’ Labs: Rather than looking for specific features, look for the UL Mark with the adjacent phrase “Single Station Carbon Monoxide Alarm.” [3]

Why? Because it’s required to have a silence button and to re-alarm within 6 minutes if the condition persists. Many detectors will just happily shut up and not go off again if you silence them. Low batteries can cause an alarm to go off, so if one does go off, after you think it’s safe (remember the first part of this article) then you can change the batteries and see if it goes off AGAIN.

There’s so much more, but that’s a good start. Don’t freak out, but take part of an afternoon and put some safety in the bank for you and your family. Have a safe n happy new year!

[1] http://www.carbonmonoxidekills.com/faq.htm
[2] Incredibly detailed and helpful info from our Canadian buddies: http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/maho/yohoyohe/inaiqu/inaiqu_002.cfm
[3] http://www.ul.com/consumers/co.html


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Plz! No paparazzi at naptime!

Our bestest buddy the Booster is doing really well and has regained much of the weight she lost this past fall, when we feared the worst. None of the tests we ran turned up anything: she was pronounced incredibly healthy for a 13.5 year old kitteh, but she was growing noticeably skinnier and I could feel more bones along her back.

I started reading the labels on the canned food, the treats, and dry food in the pet store. The dry food has 2 to 2.5 times the protein of the canned stuff, and more carbs, and the treats were similar. I wondered if the canned food was simply not providing enough protein and carbs to maintain Boo’s muscle mass and keep her warm during the colder fall/winter weather. I got some high-quality dry food and started offering them free-choice dry food again. They were all over it with great enthusiasm.

When I listen to sidewalk, I can hear ocean! … What you mean, no?

Within the week, Boo stopped losing muscle mass. Her hind legs, which were getting so thin that I could feel the tendons near her paws, plumped up again. She’s regained all her muscle mass, though not much fat, and her neck and back are noticeably more muscular. I’m really shocked that high-end canned food made with good ingredients is not enough to keep her healthy. I am very glad that she is fine again, and kind of shocked and scared that I could have been accidentally starving her! OK, not *starving*, the vet said that she was a far cry from that, but it was a startling change in Boo that I picked up on pretty quickly.

All’s well now, but I wanted to post about it in case other folks’ aging kittehs are starting to get bony. Don’t just chalk it up to the aging process. See if different or better food, or combinations of food, will work. Feed high-energy treats like Greenies, bits of cheese, etc, to help your fuzzball build up strength. And don’t give up! I look forward to many more happy years with the Booster Bunny. They don’t stay with us forever, but we want them with us as long as possible, as long as they are still enjoying being here. She’s back to her sassy self!

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Back in the golden age of rock-n-roll, Chubby Checker exhorted us to “Shake It Up, Baby!” Turns out he had a darn good idea, when applied to medical imaging techniques. In 1999, some clever researchers at the Mayo Clinic came up with an idea they called ultrasound-stimulated vibro-acoustic imaging (USVA). Since then, they’ve shortened the mouthful to “vibro-acoustic imaging” (VA), and found numerous uses for the technology, from using VA to detect subtle flaws in biomedical equipment to monitoring surgery in-progress.

VA is an extension of the widely-popular ultrasound technology used for so many life-saving diagnoses today. Like most really brilliant ideas, it sounds very simple and obvious once you hear it: introduce two known sources of vibration to cause resonance at a known frequency; listen to the reflections made;  tumors or calcium deposits will reflect the vibrated ultrasound back differently than healthy tissue.  There’s a really nice summary of VA research and innovation on the Mayo Clinic website as part of a retrospective of one of the co-inventors, a Dr. Greenleaf.  Technical types will also want to read this detailed technical paper on VA imaging.

A paper being presented this week at a medical imaging conference describes using VA to distinguish benign fibroids from malignant tumors in the thyroid.  This is especially good news for folks, like me, with thyroid problems. Most of us have thyroid nodules, and most thyroid nodules are benign.  Of course, when they’re not, it’s often too late to do anything about them.  Detection is mostly about watching for changes,  which involves annual or quarterly expensive additional ultrasound or MRI that insurance companies are understandably reluctant to cover.  The thyroid is sufficiently small that attempting to remove the items will usually result in removal of a substantial portion of the organ, and if they were benign, well, oops.

Another application is the extension of traditional mammography with VA techniques.  Using VA, researchers were able to detect calcification in breast tissue samples.   They have worked out a protocol to extend traditional mammograms with VA.  There are also successful clinical trials are underway, using VA for early detection of breast cancer.

You’ll undoubtedly be hearing more about this non-destructive and incredibly useful imaging technique in medical news over the next few years.  A 2005 paper describes a number of innovative future uses for vibro-acoustography, and I’m sure that more will follow.    Many of the core technology elements are patented by the Mayo Foundation.  I hope that they will be generous with licensing so that the technology can be deployed globally wherever there is need, especially in places where surgical biopsy is considered overly invasive for cultural reasons.   

Thanks to the always-interesting Physics News Updates for the tip!

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Found this stunning blog entry about the death of someone’s mom via ‘s journal. Went on to read the comments (oh, the comments … heartbreaking) and the follow-up posting. [Edit: and the third posting.]

When I think about my ever-escalating war against the medical establishment to get GOOD treatment for my autoimmune diseases, and my supplement and lifestyle changes to prevent fibro or CFS, I realize that sometimes being a stubborn b**ch can be a good thing.

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Worked up a rather long reply to a friend who has a parent with some issues, and thought others might appreciate the info. Getting a parent to actually TAKE vitamins or admit anything is wrong might be, well, some kind of karmic irony in action. But maybe you can use the info to get their doctor to evaluate and propose some supplemental nutrition.

  • The excellent Alzheimer’s pages at Healing with Nutrition mention that “Two of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the elderly are folic acid and vitamin B12. These deficiencies lead to motor skill disturbances, confusion, delusion, fatigue, memory loss, numbness, and ringing in the ears. Sounds like dementia, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue, and multiple sclerosis all rolled up into one. The important thing to realize is that there are often no differences between the subtle signs of nutrition deficiency and what we interpret as “old age.””
  • Some doctors’ papers available at an Australian site offer a lot of hope:
    “Not a single one of the scores of middle-aged-to-elderly people who have consulted me since 1981 for memory-loss or early Alzheimer’s dementia – and who stayed on my program – has ever gone on to develop the full-blown Alzheimer’s Disease.”
  • This research paper indicates that “cholinesterase inhibitors, FDA-approved drugs that slow the breakdown of acetylcholine in Alzheimer’s patients, help alleviate dementia symptoms.”
  • Try increasing available acetylcholine via nutritional supplements.
  • Look at other medications the folks are on to find any anticholinergic drugs that may be bringing on dementia-like symptoms; also check the listed side effects and interactions to see if ‘cognitive impairment’ is listed.
  • Consider applying several of the suggested therapies from CERI’s table of anti-Alzheimer’s recommendations, especially DMAE, glutathione, and lots and lots of lethicin and B’s. Note that we forwarded info from CERI’s programs on dealing with Downs Syndrome via nutritional therapy to Mike’s brother when our little niece was born with it. She is mainstreamed and does really well, though she may top out at some point (is only 11 now). Mike’s mom thinks that it’s because little A “only had a mild case”– um, yeah. Trisomy-21, you have it or you don’t, eh? Dunno if their Alzheimer’s stuff is as good, but give it a shot.
  • This MIT research “suggests that a cocktail treatment of omega-3 fatty acids and two other compounds normally present in the blood, could delay the cognitive decline seen in Alzheimer’s disease” (omega-3’s, uridine, and choline)
  • Wild-caught Alaskan salmon oil, or deep-sea norweigan fish oil, are both the best omega-3/omega-6 good-ratio supplements out there. Flaxseed oil requires the body to do more conversion (a conversion which cats can’t do, found out about it on a make your own petfood site). Pasture-raised eggs, specifically the yolks, are an excellent source of omega-3; current indoor, factory-farmed eggs and meats are quite lacking in them compared to historical values. Most modern grain-heavy diets provide a ton of omega-6 but without omega-3 in the right ratios you run into trouble. Yes, that’s a very vague statement; go look these up yourself, I’m tired now.
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    I found a holistic cat care page with some advice, but, even though I am not a vet, my advice is different. Why? Because a lot of vets, even holistic ones, still have the ‘treat the symptom’ mentality that doesn’t always think about side effects. Do your own research, including talking to vets.

    Before going into ANY of the holistic vet advice, first I say, GET RID OF YOUR DRY CAT FOOD. NOW. Either switch your cats to canned food or, if your cats hunt or are kittens, get them started on a RAW diet. You will never regret that– they’ll be cheaper to feed and healthier cats! Mine were too old and didn’t wanna do it, but I may try again sometime. 🙂

    I got my kitties off the dry food because of the petfood scare. Now that they are off it, I am blown away by the positive changes, ranging from one cat’s arthritis largely disappearing to the other cat being less skittish. Cats aren’t meant to eat lots of grain. They can if they have to, and even seem to thrive. I always got lots of complements at the vet’s on the condition of my cats, as I fed them Iam’s dry and a can of Fancy Feast daily. I didn’t know how much better they could be doing!

    It is going to be more expensive, yes. But I find that if I read can ingredients and look for sales, it’s not that bad. It probably averages about $1.30/day total to feed the pair of them, an 8 pound and an 11 pound cat. If you can’t do that, I understand– time was I couldn’t either. So do what you can, and supplement with what you can afford. It is still cheaper than the vet bills in the long run, but there was a time we couldn’t afford those, either. I know you love your kitties, so don’t get bummed out if you’re reading this and feel like you can’t do it all!

    So, on to the vet’s advice:

    If, despite your efforts, your cat does develop kidney disease, these strategies may help. Use supplements designed for humans (grind them up or puncture gel capsules) and adjust dosages accordingly.

    1. Antioxidants. Which ones and how much?
    Vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) – 50 I.U. per day
    Vitamin C (sodium ascorbate powder tastes less sour than ascorbic acid and is easier to hide in food) – 250 mg twice a day

    I strongly disagree. Vitamin C in excess can cause bleeding, which is the LAST thing you want in major blood filtering organs. The problem with ‘excess’ is that it’s highly individual. Now that I eat a lot of veggies from my garden, I find that if I eat a lot of fruit (like 3 or 4 peaches over the course of a day, I can get a killer nosebleed from it. I’ve had an “Emergen-C” packet set off a giant nosebleed. I never realized that I was overdosing with C until reading that as a side effect– I figured I was just prone to nosebleeds, and was getting off Allegra in case it was that. Nope! As for Vitamin E, kittygrass and good food will do that.

    2. Coenzyme Q-10 – 10 mg once to twice a day.

    Don’t know any reason to contraindicate this, though I’m wary of supplementing cats rather than bettering their quality of food. Despite the plethora of CoQ-10 supplements that are certified as egg-free, egg yolk remains one of the best sources of ubiquinone-10. An occasional raw organic egg yolk is also excellent kitty nutrition. If yours are like mine, they may need you to over-easy it and eat the white, then give them the plate and make them think they’re getting away with something.

    3. Omega-3 fatty acids may help improve kidney function. Be sure to supplement with fish oil, not flax seed oil, since cats can’t convert the linoleic acid in flax seed oil to the final form, arachidonic acid. How much? Pop a hole in a fish-oil capsule and give your cat about 2 drops daily.

    Great advice re: the fish vs flax. But 2 drops from a capsule daily? Much better to share a tin of wild-caught sardines in WATER with your cat once a week, giving the cat the juice and a sardine or two. The organs and tiny bones in the sardines are full of the goodness that kitties are designed for, and they’re good for YOU too.

    4. All nutrients needed to grow kidney tissue are found in kidney tissue, so supplementation with glandular kidney tissue ensures that any nutrients we aren’t supplying to our cats are obtained. How much? 1/4 capsule of desiccated kidney tissue, twice daily.

    Ask the butcher at your local Whole Foods for organic kidney, rather than buying the dessicated kidney pills that many holistic cat care folks recommend. Since the kidney is a filter, who wants factory-farmed poisoned animals supplying kidney, ugh?! They sell the Rocky chicken livers, but may have kidney and hearts from roasting chickens or from whole turkeys. Any of the organic organ meats are *great* for kitties if yours will eat them. Ours eat liver cooked, but won’t eat it raw, silly things.

    5. Acupuncture helps appetite and improves blood flow to the kidneys.

    Could be. I doubt that it would outweigh the trauma of transport, though– the kitty doesn’t know that she is going for a relaxing, painless acupuncture treatment. She knows that the carrier usually means a butt-probe and a shot, possibly other indignities as well. Even worse if the acupuncturist works out of your vet’s office, where the all too familiar smells and sounds will make your kitty long to be home before something happens to her.

    6. B-complex vitamins are lost with the increased urination, vomiting, and diarrhea which often accompany kidney disease. So, a B-complex supplement can help. How much? 1/4 of a B-50 tablet, twice daily. Also, anemia, often seen in early kidney disease, may respond to an increase in B vitamins, but anemia in end-stage kidney disease will not.

    If you’re not already feeding Nutritional Yeast (large flake in bulk bins at many food stores), it’s a good idea, as the B vitamins are critical in kidney health. Also, most cats LOOOOVE it, which can’t be said about pills.

    7. Supplementation with calcium carbonate may help gastrointestinal problems, acidosis, and calcium imbalance. How much? 100mg, twice daily

    No, don’t feed kitty gritty stuff that makes her like her food less. Give her more sardines, with their tiny bones, or make a bonestock for kitty by intensely stewing some chicken bones like you would for soup stock, and feeding her the broth as a treat.

    Dr. Nancy Scanlan has a holistic veterinary practice in Sherman Oaks, Calif.

    And I’m not at all casting aspersions on her abilities as a vet. I do think that many vets don’t fully consider how stressful small changes can be to cats, even ones that are well. Of course your kitty will eventually eat her food if she is hungry, and you will think “oh, she is taking the supplements just fine now!”. But it’s another little layer of stress on top of the illness, and hiding the illness (because that’s what cats DO). Also, the straight supplement path ignores the possiblity for healing synergy from complementary ingredients, such as the extra protein in fish and egg yolk.

    Good luck, and healthy kitties!! [ok to link to this, I’m keeping it public for that specifically; I am screening comments, though, as this may be a contentious topic]

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    Via Farber’s IP list:

    10 Things Your Grocery Store Doesn’t Want You to Know, including:

    1. The shopping carts have cooties.

    According to studies done on shopping carts, more than 60 percent of them are harboring coliform bacteria (the sort more often associated with public toilet seats). “These bacteria may be coming from raw foods or from children who sit in the carts,” says Chuck Gerba, Ph.D., a microbiologist at University of Arizona. “Just think about the fact that a few minutes ago, some kid’s bottom was where you are now putting your broccoli.” According to studies done by Gerba and his colleagues at University of Arizona, shopping carts had more bacteria than other surfaces they tested—even more than escalators, public phones and public bathrooms. To avoid picking up nasty bacteria, Gerba recommends using sanitizing wipes to clean off cart handles and seats, and to wash your hands after you finish shopping.

    Blerg. I’d always thought that the little sanitation-wipe stations that are springing up at grocery stores were to placate the paranoid, not for practical purposes. That’s pretty gross.

    Then again, if you want to culture antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria, the best place to get a swab is on a doctor’s stethoscope, even if it has a fabric ‘safety’ cover. Oh, and if your doctor is wearing a tie, insist that the doctor wash again. Then there are all the patient-care providers (horrifying stats here)

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    Discovered the excellent Public Health and Nutrition List” run out of UW. Lots of cites of interesting nutritional, morbidity, and research info.

    A really great posting by on the topic of thyroid and chronic fatigue led me to the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers web pages. Highly recommended. I’ll see if there’s one in the SF Bay Area, to support me in my continuing struggle to balance thyroid/energy levels and activity levels, with fewer stall-outs at 30K feet.

    For those looking for some of the research I’ve mentioned socially, here is one of the key papers on cinnamon’s effect on blood glucose, with a list of related papers at the end (most with links).

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