Thursday, 28 May 2009

Daniel Hauser: Safe At Last?

After the comments I got about my first post, I decided to see if perhaps I was being delusional and went searching for updates.

The sad thing is that this paricular situation is muddied by the mother's new-found religious affiliation.

So any meaningful discussion is quickly distorted by the red haze of reaction.

People keep talking about the motive for Daniel's mum bolting. The implication is that Daniel was frightened after his first chemo dose. This was exacerbated by the fact that his aunt had died after under-going chemo in different circumstances.

Well, of course he was frightened. Chemo is a poison. Sure, modern methods are far less brutal than the chemo of 20 years ago ... but it still boils down to massive additional stress on an already-compromised immune system.

But what I don't fully understand is why it is inconceivable to the majority of sentient people out there that any other option could be valid. Why is every other non-medical protocol "quackery" or "unscientific"?

There are numerous documented cases of successful non-medical treatments using gentler methods, in many cases overseen by highly qualified, dedicated and passionate individuals with brains, scruples and respected reputations. And medical qualifications!

Why does "non-medical" immediately equate to "dubious" in the eyes of so many?

Perhaps if we weren't so quick to crucify people for trying to think outside the box in desperate situations, we may have a better chance of securing our own sorry futures.

The sad thing is that Daniel's mum has been written off as a cult-embracing criminal without anyone knowing, or caring, whether there was real substance behind her actions. We will never know whether she was just protecting her boy from something he was obviously afraid of ... or whether she truly believed there might just be a better way.

It appears charges against her have been dropped because the boy is now safe in hospital. Let's hope Daniel survives and flourishes.

But anger and mis-directed emotion has left an indelible mark on our collective psyche. Parents are no longer deemed fit to take full responsibility for their children if they fall outside "socially acceptable" parameters. No wonder they look to the state instead of in the mirror when the wheels fall off.

And millions will continue to suffer because of closed minds and ingrained prejudices.

And now to a different subject ... I saw an interesting clip this morning talking about the increased incidence of type 1 diabetes in under-5's with projected cases set to double between 2005 and 2020.

What makes this so interesting is that this type of diabetes has always been considered to be caused by genetics. Now the Lancet suggests that lifestyle factors may play a part. And people are panicking about the projected costs to the NHS because this problem is even more pronounced in the UK than in Europe.

Fancy that ... more that our "real" scientists just don't have a clue about.

And finally, some good news! It appears that the sentence for the creature that raped a toddler, then killed Baby Peter, is under review. Apparently someone else thinks that 10 years is insufficient for repeated crimes of this magnitude.

Or maybe he should be released into state care and monitored in a hospital facility? After all, it's not his fault.

OK ... I'm done!

Friday, 22 May 2009

I Keep Just Shaking My Head!

Today's post is about a story that really upset me.

I don't expect many people will support my view, but here goes anyway. I'm not planning on running for mayor any time soon.

The report cites the case of a 13 year-old American boy suffering from Hodgkin's lymphoma ... a cancer that attacks the lymph system and is considered rare in children.

Doctors say time is running out and they want to try chemotherapy. His mum wants to try a more natural route first. In her words " give us some time to heal our son and if it does not work the door is still open on both ends".

Now here's the catch. The courts are forcing the parents to surrender the child for mandated treatment!

And in response, the mum has taken off, supposedly heading towards Mexico with the child. Dad is stuck at home appealing to his wife to reconsider her action.

What a situation!

How screwed up is it when parents have no say in something as critical, or as controversial, as healing their own son ... and a mother is forced to break the law in order to do what she feels is right?

Of course, she is citing religious grounds. And when I heard that I, like many of you too I expect, felt my shutters go down instinctively too.

But then I thought, with everything I have learnt over the last 35 years, that she was absolutely right! This is her child's life we're talking about, not some government statistic.

If I was told I had cancer and had doctors baying for a chance to pump me full of chemicals ... I would also look to try a natural strategy of healing as my first port of call. I would do this even if my back was against the wall and I knew my time was limited.

Why? Because modern medicine does not have all the answers and just maybe there is a better way. We are so quick to pump people full of chemicals, even when their resistance is already greatly diminished.

I would also spend every waking moment I had getting informed and making contact with people who had beaten cancer going this route. I would talk to doctors and survivors. I would think outside the box. I would try with every fibre of my being to find something that may work. It sounds like this is pretty much what this woman was wanting to do too.

And I can hear you baying for my blood already, saying "but it's a child who has no say". We must protect our children.


The fact that parents are over-ruled in a situation where a) their course of proposed action is not unreasonable and b) she was still not closing any doors if the natural route was obviously a dead end ... meant she was a mother, not a zealot.

Now we'll never know, because that poor mother, whose own child is dying, won't even have the luxury of going on-line and getting more information. She'll be stressed out and running for her life. And what impact will that have on her child's health?

She was following her instincts. And she was frightened. Her husband figured that out and seems like a gentle soul on the brink.

And she was just asking for some time to get informed and try something that made sense to her. Stranger things have happened.

How dare our society over-ride the reasonable wishes of a parent and presume to play God?

But when this poor kid dies, we'll hear sage men in white coats or grey suits say "I told you so". Where was their emotional investment?

My heart goes out to this woman. I wish her and her child a miracle ... because her hand has been forced and that's exactly what it's going to take now.

By the way, I also support Jack Kervorkian. All governments should stay out of private matters! What could be more private than a terminal patient with all their faculties who's ready to die ... or a mother on the threshold of losing her own child.

Back off Big Brother ... don't you have some sheep to clone somewhere, or a distant galaxy to befoul with space debris or something?

And while I'm in rant mode and going far beyong the usual scope of this blog, I thought I'd comment on something that's going on right here in the UK. We have a government who also professes to care about the rights of children.

Strange then that the creature that killed baby Peter got 10 years in gaol. Ten years!!!! ...The child died from systematic abuse. He had a broken back and ribs.

And this was the perpetrator's second offense. Oh yeah, the first time he raped a two year old child!

And we have a system that looks out for kids!

Surely if you rape a two year old, you don't get a chance to destroy another child's life ... because you are in gaol for the rest of your existence?

But perhaps he had a harsh upbringing and society is to blame.

Yes folks ... after today I really could just howl at the moon. Please tell me I'm not alone on this one.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Why Do We Overeat?

I thought I'd take a closer look at some of the reasons we overeat.

People who follow my other blog will know that I strongly believe that those of us that overeat are food addicts.

Many people who overeat do so because they are slaves to dopamine and get their strongest dopamine response from calorie-dense foods. Food manufacturers exploit this mercilessly by adding flour, oil and sugar to processed foods ... then banging in one final nail with the addition of salt (for taste, of course).

For those of you unfamiliar with dopamine, this is the chemical responsible for pleasure. It is released when we eat and when we have sex. We have also become pretty adept at artificially inducing dopamine release with the recreational drugs that the underground chemists amongst us have so cleverly cooked up.

And of course, for the more law-abiding, you can always settle for good old-fashioned booze, coffee or cigarettes.

Dopamine release obviously happens for a reason. Our population growth, for example, may not have been quite so prolific without this wondrous chemical working its magic. In fact, if you stop to think about it, why would anyone go to all that bother, if there wasn't a dopamine bone at the end of the rainbow?

But, as is usually the case with us humans, we have gone to extremes in our zeal to over-indulge our senses.

Which brings me back to over-eating. We eat too much because that is the way we have evolved. Years ago, in millenia gone by, food wasn't perhaps quite so conveniently abundant as it is today. So you pretty much had to grab what you could get, when you could get it. If you didn't, then maybe you might have been prejudicing your survival and we couldn't have that.

So we adapted to this inconsistency of food supply by ensuring that, when food was available, we got our fill with interest! Human calorie camels!

Today the only thing that's changed is scarcity ... there is none. For most people in developed countries, food is available, inexpensive and convenient. And loaded with empty calories! And as a result, we just keep flooding our little brains with as much dopamine as we can.

I think we might even be oblivious to this biological imperative. Sharks are not the only creature known for feeding frenzies.

But it could also be argued that addiction is not the only driver of over-indulgence. What about emotional eating? Most of us have issues ... and food provides temporary comfort. OK, maybe that's our old friend dopamine weaving her magic again.

Or how about boredom? Or habit? Maybe. After all when we catch ourselves over-eating it does seem pretty mindless.

Maybe it's "true" physiological hunger. We may be overfed, but we're also probably undernourished because, for some of us at least, what nutrition do we get from icecream, chocolate, biscuits and Mickey-D's?

What I have observed in myself has nothing to do with real hunger, or lack of nutrients. I eat a wide variety of organic foods and my habits aren't particularly quirky, although I won't go near liver!

But I eat plenty of veg, fruits, nuts, fish, berries, unprocessed grains ... as well as the odd chicken breast, steak, or omelette. Grass-fed, free-range, organic everything ... it can't possibly be malnutrition for me.

But I still have moments where I could eat an entire wild salmon, or a whole bag of organic carrots, or 6 pears at a sitting!

That's narrows things down for me to "emotional" eating and flat-out addiction.

And discipline and moderation seem like ridiculous concepts for me in my battle to combat the siren call of dopamine.

I know I'm not alone in feeling this way ... so tell me how it is for you. What are your thoughts? Are you "addicted" to nutritious "healthy" food, or just calorie-dense rubbish with no nutritional value whatsoever?

Go ahead ... post a comment and let us know your own insight into this universal affliction. Food addicts need more direction than just moderation, discipline and restraint.

Or are we just weak and pathetic?

Your views please?

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Better Chow For UK Troops!

An interesting report on BBC yesterday caught my eye.

The Ministry of Defense has unveiled new-look ration packs for troops, with halal, vegetarian, Sikh and Hindu variations. How's that for covering all one's bases?

Apparently frontline troops were suffering from menu fatigue ... the same bully beef every day for months on end! Baked beans didn't inject that much more variety, so the current choice of a cooked breakfast, muesli or porridge is considered an infinite improvement.

Because of demanding regimens, UK troops consume about 4000 calories per day. The old days of tasteless heavy tin cans have been replaced by sachets with seasoning, Tabasco sauce, biscuits and even items such as green curries and salmon pastas!

Interesting though ... no mention anywhere of nutritional value. Just calories and taste.

Oh well, at least things seem to be going in the right direction as far as variety is concerned. And I guess if meals have to survive different climates and last for as long as 18 months, the possibility of fresh, natural foods must be completely out of the question.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Swine Flu: What A Fuss!

In the UK fliers about swine flu were distributed widely yesterday. Ads abounded and schools were closed.

On TV, pitiful images of kids with face masks, probably terrified, sequestered from the rest of humanity. Now there's a good way to reinforce to our kids that we're there for them.

School closures were intended by the health department as a way to contain the spread of the virus. Many people see it more as a monumental disruption of daily life.

And our wonder-drug Tamiflu? Well it's supposed to prevent the excretion of the virus ... but not all kids in the initiative will take it because of its unpleasant side-effects.

At last count there have been 34 confirmed cases in the UK, 13 of which have been kids. Globally 31 people have now died, all but 2 have been in Mexico.

Experts are now saying it is expected to behave like seasonal flu ... meaning that, theoretically, the only people that should be seriously concerned are standard at-risk groups. That is, babies, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients on chemotherapy.

Yet, with respect to those who have died, we are still 5 out of 6 on the pandemic scale, with no apparent attempt to qualify this number and give the average person a more appropriate perspective.

Scare-mongering, over-reaction and profiteering may be pandemic ... but swine flu appears to be no more than a disease that reflects problems systemic in global commercial farming practices ... with a name that sells papers.

And I still think it's wrong to treat children like lepers!

Advice to the rational: practice "good" respiratory hygeine (didn't your mum teach you not to cough and splutter over other people?) ... and pick another honeymoon destination until something sexier comes along to whip up a new frenzy.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Swine Flu: Impending Disaster, Or Opportunity?

Tamiflu, an anti-flu drug that works by blocking an enzyme that makes our respiratory tracts vulnerable to the virus, has a shelf life of only 3 years.

Critically, it is also largely ineffective against secondary bacterial infections. And it was these infections which were largely responsible for the huge number of deaths in the pandemic of 1918 mentioned in my previous post.

When used as directed, Tamiflu reduces symptoms by a day or two at best! Hardly a miracle drug. And not without potential side-effects. In fact, Japan banned in use for children in 2007.

Yet, in response to the birdflu threat, the USA ordered 20 million doses (about $2 billion) around October 2005, with the UK ordering 14.6 million doses at roughly the same time.

Big money, for big companies ... fuelled by fear, speculation, maybe even expedience. All justified conveniently by the unchartered territory of potential disaster.

Call me a cynic.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Will The Vaccine Be Scarier Than The Swine Flu?

After a brief respite from my usual sarcasm, I have decided that today's post will, once again, delicately point out more absurdity.

First, I should point out that I know very little about flu, or pandemics, or even pigs. Yes folks ... my post today is about swine flu.

First a little historical context. In the flu pandemic of 1918 it is estimated that over 40 million people lost their lives. This was in fact bird flu and not swine flu. Which is worse? I have no idea. I'm resonably sure it depends on the strain. And I'm also fairly certain nobody else knows either, with respect to the WHO.

Fast forward to 1976, Fort Dix army base in New Jersey. One 19 year old soldier died, hundreds more infected. Predicatably, perhaps justifiably, President Gerald Ford panicked, spending hundreds of millions of 1970's dollars on a nationwide vaccination program.

This vaccine resulted in the deaths of more than 30 people from the paralysing nerve disease Guillain-Barre syndrome ... and who knows how many others incapacitated.

Facing protests, the program was scrapped within the year.

What have we learnt? Not too much, by all accounts. The UK has already ordered over 30 million face masks, even though a face mask offers only marginal "protection" over a window estimated at less than 3 hours. And everyone's gearing up for a pandemic. We're now a "5" on a scale of "6". At the time this level was upgraded, 7 people were dead and person to person infection had only just been established as a possibility.

I wonder if we'll all be forced to take a vaccine and play more Russian Roulette with our lives and well-being?