Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Medicine for Society

As a naturopathic physician, I work to treat the whole person.  Part of the whole person is the society in which we live.  If we pick up the news from somewhere, it is not hard to discern that the society around us has some health problems.  I don't mean people with health problems, but the collective of people we call "society" and how we treat problems we all face.  Take gun violence for instance.  My oldest daughter attends Seattle Pacific University and had her math class in the building where the recent school shooting took place.  To put it mildly, it rattled her sense of well being substantially, even though she was thankfully not on campus at the exact time of the shooting.  My younger daughter is graduating from high school tonight and last night she sent be a text from bed saying, "I'm worried about graduation tomorrow.  What happens if someone brings a gun and starts shooting everyone?"  When the effects of gun violence begin infiltrating our homes because we continue refusing to take even the simplest rudimentary steps toward protecting our most vulnerable members, there is a disease in the society!

There is a study out of the University of California just released online from the Annals of Epidemiology that looked at gun violence and its association with mental illness (another society health problem.)  It basically shows that gun violence is NOT typically being perpetrated by the mentally ill.  One could argue that it takes mental illness to pull a trigger and randomly kill someone.  However, people who are diagnosed with a mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar, or depression are very rarely involved in the mass shootings that have become a weekly event.  Only about 4% of the mass shooting events involve such a person.  In fact, this study reports that 6 out of 10 gun deaths are suicides.  As Jeffrey W. Swanson, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical School says in the study report:  "It shouldn't be harder for a person in a suicidal mental health crisis to get treatment than to get a handgun."

There are 3.5 million people with serious mental illness who are not being treated in this country and more of them are committing suicide than are committing acts of violence against helpless classrooms of youth and children.  Domestic violence (another societal health problem) and people with violent behavior patterns are far more likely profile groups, and as the study in essence says -- these are the ones we need better protection from, and are the ones we need to prevent getting their hands on a gun.

If we're going to prevent fear, maiming, and death in our society, we simply must begin taking steps to curb the ready availability of firearms to people not trustworthy enough to possess them.  In Washington State we have Initiative 594 coming up on our ballots in the not distant future.  It takes a sadly infinitesimally small step to require background checks on all guns sales, including private sales and gun shows.  But, it's a start!  It's time.  Time for ratcheting down the ready availability of guns to those who can't use them morally, for providing mental health treatment over warehousing and ignoring mental illness, and to do something about the all too common social solution of getting angry and resorting to violence to make what irritates disappear.  Use your vote and take a small step for preventive health!!

You can read the abstracts of the above mentioned study here.
University of California - Los Angeles. "Gun violence and mental illness: Study addresses perception vs. reality." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 June 2014. .

For information about Initiative 594 you can visit this website.  Initiative 594

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Experiments With Diet

With obesity and diabetes in the weekly news circuits, we are all perpetually being faced with another weight loss commercial that promises fantastic results.  Frequently, or even most of the time, these diets take more weight off your bank account than they do your body.  Every entrepreneur has a weight fix-it and a lot of people join the ranks of diet dropouts because they don't work.  Why is this?

The main reason is we want things to be simple.  The medical field, in particular, seems driven to find One-Size-Fits-All solutions for all seven billion human beings on the planet.  But, seven billion people have seven billion sets of fingerprints - all of them unique.  Seven billion people have thousands of biochemical reactions taking place in their bodies every second, most of those reactions having their own unique quirks for each individual person.  Which leads me to say this about diets and weigh loss -- what works for you, works for you; you have to find what that is.  To find out what works you have to be willing to experiment, and be prepared to be disappointed many times in the quest.  Like the Hero's Journey, you have to overcome initial resistance and obstacles; descend into the dark mists of turmoil, hard work, and struggle; and gain a few allies and helpers before achieving success and finding a new relationship with food (your most long-lasting intimate friend.)

There are many options out there.  Dr. Mercola highlighted one this morning in his daily email that I'm going to try.  I actually make a hobby of, and enjoy trying out, new diet approaches!  This one is the "Intermittent Fast."  Calorie restriction diets have shown the most promise in longevity studies with animals, and some of the more obsessed-for-longevity folks have embarked on this difficult and trying path -- it's not for wimps!!!  Some studious diet experts have found some impressive successes in following a regimented, regular fasting schedule.  Of course, there is no agreement on what that exact schedule is among these experts.  Some advocate for fasting every other day (fasting = 500-600 calories a day) and eating anything you want the other days.  Some advocate fasting two days a week (the same 2 days split - e.g. every Tuesday and Thursday.)  The results appear to be comparable: weight loss, better blood sugar numbers (and control), and lower triglycerides and cholesterol.  Mercola, in his usual thorough way, covers all the health benefits and you can read about them by clicking here.  If you haven't registered with Mercola.com you may be asked to in order to see the article, but it's free and his information is always at least interesting - though I will say I don't agree with a good amount of what he claims.  Enjoy that!

Summer is a GREAT time for changing up your dietary and life style pace!  There's lots of fresh produce at farmers' markets and lots of time to get an exercise routine in place.  So make a fresh health pact with yourself and experiment with something new!

NatureWords for your Health!!