Posted by: Chris Maloney | August 6, 2017

Can We Move Beyond Dieting?

When the New York Times magazine starts talking about a post-dieting era, it’s mostly wrong. A study published this year in Eating Behaviors shows that one in four girls and one in five boys was on a diet in the past month. In middle school. That’s right, during the peak growth period of young person’s life, many young people are depriving themselves of food.

But it is true that by the time we reach our fifties, after decades of failure, we’ve started to become jaded to the constant promises that this next diet will do the trick. So the sale of diet products has dropped, but only a bit. Don’t feel bad for the diet industry, which still averages about twenty billion dollars a year, most of that from women.

Is the failure of dieting just more fake news? Not really. The fake news would be if introduction-3someone said that any of the diets were superior. All of them work short term, about equally. But the weight loss is only tracked for a year, because all of the diet sellers know that over about two years the weight is regained. No, it’s not you. It’s pretty much everyone, except those highly paid spokespeople who’s job it is to convince you to buy their diet product.

Just want to have that fat suctioned away? Unfortunately, it comes back.  Women who had liposuction looked better for a few months, but returned to their previous state within three to twenty months. Even bariatric surgery, that last resort, shows mixed results for the truly obese. In the first year, it had a higher mortality than not doing the surgery. For other obese patients, short term surgery results are dramatic, but no one is tracking patients for longer than a few years to see if they keep the benefits.

The newest thing on the horizon, and look for this to be marketed hard as soon as they figure out how to package it, is going to be fecal transplants. If you haven’t heard about these, it’s exactly what it sounds like. You literally eat someone else’s poop. Maybe our dogs have known something we don’t know all this time. Why does this work? Because the bacteria in your gut largely determine how many calories you absorb. We figured this out when germ-free mice suddenly got fat after getting the gut bugs of obese mice. They didn’t eat more, they just gained weight while eating the same amount. Now we’ve moved into testing human twins’ gut bacteria on mice. Once again, the mice getting the fatter person’s bacteria got fatter.

So should we just give up on trying to change our diets at all? No, but we do need to reframe our expectations. The idea that our bodies will lose a significant amount of weight and keep it off doesn’t really mesh with the whole survive as a species idea. Here’s a TED talk that pretty much does in the idea of permanent long-term weight change.

But, while I find that inarguable, I will say that permanent, sustainable, and dramatic lifestyle change is possible. In the last two years, I’ve dropped five pounds. That’s well within the range of my internal set point of ten to fifteen pounds as detailed by the TED talk.

Big whoop, you say. Yep, that’s why diets fail, because my five-pound weight loss is the average for all diets over the period of a year. But let’s drill down into my weight loss to point out the failure of conventional wisdom about weight-loss and why we’re not fated to live out our lives determined by a set point.

In full disclosure, I was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2015 (I’m fine now, thanks, but your ongoing prayers are appreciated). At my diagnosis, I became a sugar-free, gluten-free vegan. (Yes, I’m writing a cook book -it’s very thin.) Surprisingly, this diet stuck when nothing I’ve done over the years has. Call it the “I don’t wanna die” diet, which is evidently what I needed to get serious.

So how come I’ve only lost five pounds? Well, see the rest of the article. Then take a moment to realize that, unless you’re going full Fruitarian, you won’t out-strict me in your weight loss efforts.

BUT…I lost two belt loops. That’s right, my belly is about two inches smaller. Did I forget to mention that I exercise six days a week? Yeah, my body is the same weight, but it’s not the same shape. I can do things easily now that I couldn’t before. I look better than I have in years. And my body continues to reshape itself, almost two years in.

What’s the change? Well, complete diet and lifestyle shift, which seems to be lifelong. That will work for weight loss, and explains every person you’ve ever seen who’s lost weight and kept it off. So the goal can’t be dieting, which involves an arbitrary end date where you supposedly won’t be dieting. It has to be change that you can maintain for the rest of your life. Finding that change, which is individualized, is the key to getting and staying healthier.

 

Posted by: Chris Maloney | July 18, 2017

Is Spin Class Killing You?

The New York Times reports on a hospitalization after a person’s first spin class, and notes that “at least 46 other cases of people developing the condition after a spin class were documented in the medical literature, 42 of them in people taking their first class.”

Pushing beyond our boundaries is a good thing, until we find ourselves exhausted or sore to the point of destroying our own torn muscles. That process of massive muscle breakdown, called rhabdomyolysis, is what caused hospitalization.

How do you know you’ve gone too far? You know if you’ve had experience with lower intensity work outs and spent a couple of days limping around. But if you’re just starting out, you may look around you and see the other experienced

But if you’re just starting out, you may look around you and see the other experienced cyclers working at twice your speed. Human competitive spirit can kick in and you can push yourself beyond sanity.

Of course, the experts are quick to add that they would never discourage exercise in any form. But when you’ve pushed beyond your boundaries, that’s not exercise. It’s like starting an exercise group with hundred pound barbells and telling them to lift it. They might do it, but only by injuring themselves. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

As we get busier lives, the push to intensify exercise feels seductive. Maximize performance, minimize time. Isn’t that the modern mantra? But we need to remember that just because our phones got upgraded last week our knees didn’t get improved any time recently. Pushing our bodies beyond what they can reasonably do is a recipe for injury, not a lifestyle choice. IMG_0754

Perhaps in the future we’ll have an outdoor saunter class for every spin class, more people walking than weight lifting. But until we find balance as a society, find your limits slowly and honor them.

Posted by: Chris Maloney | July 14, 2017

Jamestown Canyon Virus, Another Maine Horror Story?

The Jamestown Canyon Virus is now in Maine. And right in my county too, which makes me feel like I should close the windows and slather on something to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Definitely never go outside again. Shocked Senior Man in Dining Room with a Laptop Computer

When Stephen King writes about strange creatures prowling the woods of Maine, even he didn’t think he was telling the truth. He just got the size of the creatures wrong. Instead of demon-possessed dogs, we’ve got demon-possessed mosquitoes?

Barely a month ago we had an outbreak of Powassan virus, which sounds a lot like something you’d get from defiling a Native American burial ground. Now we’ve got something that combines the puritanical Jamestown with pioneer Daniel Boone’s canyons. Maybe our ancestors really are spinning over in their graves?

Jamestown Canyon virus was discovered, you guessed it, in Jamestown Canyon, Colorado, back in 1961. It’s part of a viral family that has about 170 members, all of them with strange sounding names. Maybe it’s time to stop calling viruses after where you find them. Other members of the Jamestown family include the Main Drain virus and the Mahogany Hammock virus (both real!). It’s hard to imagine doctors taking a case of Mahogany Hammock illness as seriously as they should.

 

None of the Jamestown family of viruses is well-known, mostly because they haven’t caused much illness in the U.S. Jamestown itself is one of the most dangerous ones and caused 31 cases in the thirteen years between 2000-2013. But if you look at the chart of those illnesses, it tells a different story. Almost all of the cases have been in the last few years, which means cases are increasing (or we’re just testing more for the illness). Of the 31 cases, only half were hospitalized with meningitis and there were no deaths.

What does Jamestown feel like? A case in Montana was described as: “fever, severe frontal headache, dizziness, left-sided numbness, and tingling.” Not something you’d ignore. That patient was initially diagnosed with West Nile virus because he had antibodies and only later diagnosed with Jamestown.

So should we all fear Jamestown Canyon virus? Maybe, but it’s likely that it’s a lot more widespread than the severe cases. In a study of Michigan residents, 27% of them had antibodies to Jamestown Canyon virus. The culprit appears to be the nearness of the person to white-tailed deer, who are the primary carriers of the virus with the mosquitoes as intermediaries. Can we have a show of hands of the number of Mainers who think we don’t all live in proximity to white-tailed deer? Yep. About one in four of you have likely already had Jamestown Canyon virus. And if you get symptoms of left sided numbness and tingling combined with a severe frontal headache, get to an ER in any case. Stroke, not a rare virus, is your primary concern.

Posted by: Chris Maloney | July 7, 2017

Another Reason To Love Your Dog: Walking Probiotics.

Gleason shots Nov 2011 030When I was writing my book on the microbiome, Tending Your Internal Garden (free ebook until 7/13/17), I was amazed that we tend to share more of our bacteria with our dogs than our children. It makes sense, since dogs tend to lick us more than our children (at least after the age of three). But a recent study reported by the New York Times now tells us that all that dog licking is good for us.

According to the NYT, dog licking and the bacteria they bring with them raised the number of 56 different bacterial species found in our homes. Dogs outperformed cats, who only brought in 24 different species.

Now, keep in mind that the average home has 125,000 bacterial species and 70,000 species of fungi. We’re giving off roughly 38 million bacteria ourselves every hour. So a few more species shouldn’t make that much difference.

But, as I point out in Tending Your Internal Garden, diversity is the key. More species compete with each other. They keep each other in check, much like a perpetual round of antibiotics. What you don’t want is one dominant species, either in your home or in your body. One species left unchecked will change into a tyrant, rapidly reproducing itself and impacting your immune system.

The real enemy is sterility, or the myth of sterility. Washed hands, operating rooms, even NASA space probes are not sterile. They are MOSTLY sterile. Which means that they harbor a few resistant bacteria who will take over that vast stretch of empty space if given the chance. (A concerned mother has asked me to add: You should still wash your hands, because it will decrease the number of bacteria right before you eat. But if you have washed your hands hours ago, your hands are no longer clean.)

Even if the bacteria don’t get you, your immune system might. We’re set up to be dirty, absolutely filthy. Your immune system, bless its little heart, is a bit like a biker gang running security at a heavy metal concert. Give it a few rowdies, and it’s happy. But if it’s a hippie love-in with no rowdies, the immune system is going to start wanting to crack some heads just for the heck of it. We experience these overreactions as allergies, since the immune system has gone after dust mite turds or flower pollen as a possible threat to our existence.

Enter our faithful hound, dragging eu de skunk, every flower pollen in the yard, and more than dust mite turds into our homes. All these little nuisances are just what we and our offspring need to lower our allergic responses. After 40,000 years, dogs are finally getting their due as man’s best friend.

Posted by: Chris Maloney | June 14, 2017

Why Chronic Lyme Doesn’t (And Does) Exist.

A patient asked me why some of her doctors believed her and some of them didn’t when she said she had Chronic Lyme. Another patient came in with a new Lyme diagnosis confused by the avalanche of information on the internet. I didn’t have a simple answer for either of them.

So I wrote a book about the Lyme Wars. It does what I haven’t seen any book do, say both sides are right and both sides are wrong. And I should start by saying to all my colleagues on both sides of the Lyme Wars that I’m sorry I’ll be kicking your sacred cows. We need someone to come to the middle to help move the debate beyond yes/no to both/and. The only way to do that is to understand where the other side is coming from and to admit that we don’t have all the answers.

And I should start by saying to all my friends on both sides of the Lyme Wars that I’m sorry I’ll be kicking your sacred cows. We need someone to come to the middle to help move the debate beyond yes/no to both/and. The only way to do that is to understand where the other side is coming from and to admit that we don’t have all the answers.

If you’re newly diagnosed with Lyme, or if you’ve been diagnosed but think one side is right and the other is crazy, this is the book for you.

Lyme Common Ground rough

Posted by: Chris Maloney | June 14, 2017

A 200% Increase In Powassan Virus In Maine?

Is your inner anxiety not yet up to “impending catastrophe?” Are you not watching enough political media to make your blood boil? Here’s a new threat, possibly lurking in your backyard, Powassan virus!

For the few of you heedless folk who ignore the Lyme warnings, who’ve still been frolicking in the buff in tick-infested fields, I doubt if the added threat of Powassan will convince you to change your behavior. This post is for the rest of us, to help us understand the threat and take proper precautions. To summarize, it’s not that bad. If that’s all you wanted to know, back to your cat videos. If you want to know more, I have the complete information

This post is for the rest of us, to help us understand the threat and take proper precautions. To summarize, it’s not that bad. If that’s all you wanted to know, back to your cat videos. If you want to know more, I have the complete information

If that’s all you wanted to know, back to your cat videos. If you want to know more, I have the complete information

If you want to know more, I have the complete information at: http://naturopathicmaine.com/2017/06/a-200-increase-in-powassan-virus-in-maine/  (yes, I’m shamelessly sending you to my website, because this blog doesn’t allow book promotion)

 

Posted by: Chris Maloney | September 14, 2016

Spice: Voluntary Zombie Apocalypse?

Here in Maine we’ve been seeing increased use of Spice, the catch-all phrase for “whatever-chemicals-we-want-to-spray-on-plant-matter-and-sell-you-as-synthetic-pot.” Users are described as congregating in “spice alley” and standing around like zombies. Bringing to mind the question: what if the zombie apocalypse was voluntary? What if we got to opt in to become zombies of our own free will? How many of us would voluntarily join the hungry pack rather than be one of the hunted?

Despite Maine’s upsurge, Spice use isn’t increasing nationally. A survey of high school users found that Spice use dropped from 12% in 2011 to 5% in 2015. That’s right, high schoolers are smart enough to know that Spice is bad news. They know, as researchers have confirmed, that Spice makes you crazy (about 4x more than pot) and way more agitated. In other words, it’s not worth it on any measure. A survey of college athletes found that Spice use dropped to 2% (had ever tried it. Only one guy was still using.)

But is Spice really that bad? Yes. Yes, it is. Back in 2011 when the risks of Spice were less well known, ” In 2011, synthetic cannabinoids were the only substance involved in 65 percent of ED visits by those aged 20 or younger.” That’s right. With all the other drugs on the market, Spice caused the vast majority of emergency room visits. Most people got the message: “don’t inhale random chemicals and expect a good high.” The only ones who didn’t are the ones cruising spice alley looking for a cheap high. Cheap? How cheap is your sanity? How much would you pay for the following: “The adverse effects of synthetic cannabinoids include severe agitation, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, tachycardia (racing heartbeat), elevated blood pressure, tremors, seizures, hallucinations, paranoid behavior, and nonresponsiveness.” You could even die. Not a very cheap high at all.

The recent upsurge of Spice has to be due more to a new group of unsuspecting users rather than a return of past users. Ultimately, because Spice can be tweaked to avoid legal banning, users themselves have to understand its toxicity. But unfortunately, there is always another group of teenagers who want to experiment. Here’s the skinny kids: when someone offers you something that specifically says “not for human consumption” don’t take it. It’s like those “don’t drink the water” signs, there are just some things that are never cool to do. Just say no to becoming part of the zombie horde.

Posted by: Chris Maloney | August 27, 2016

Zika is An STD, Passed By Mosquitoes.

As the CDC calls for nationwide blood testing for Zika virus, someone in Maine might wonder exactly what the risk is here in Maine. The answer is either slight or the same as in Miami.

The risk of getting Zika is slight if you think about it as a mosquito borne illness, because we don’t (currently) have the mosquitoes known to pass the virus. But the risk is the same as Miami (or anywhere in the mosquito belt) if you have unprotected sex with someone who might have been exposed.

Asking your partner if they’ve had Zika isn’t enough, because the CDC confirmed today that Zika can be passed by symptomless partners. “The man said he had been exposed to mosquitoes during his travels, but had not experienced fever, rash, conjunctivitis, or other hallmarks of Zika before or after returning to the United States.”

The bottom line is that 80% of people exposed to Zika won’t show symptoms so we need to move away from the mosquito warnings and start focusing on the reality of a rampant STD that we still aren’t treating or warning people about appropriately.

At the same time, I wish public health officials would dial back the terror for pregnant women. As I point out in my book, The Bare Essentials of Zika Virus, the official estimate for birth defects is about 1% for women who develop symptoms. I also believe the risk from Zika alone is less than that because co-infections may be necessary to cause microcephaly (small heads). You can find more research (or buy my book) here.

Posted by: Chris Maloney | August 24, 2016

Is CNN Just Promoting Cogniflex Or Does It Really Work?

It’s hard to tell sometimes when articles become advertisements. Today’s CNN article on Cogniflex appearing here (and on Facebook) looks like it was also published in March. We have unbelievable endorsements from Stephen Hawkings and Harvard, check. We have a movie tie-in, check. And we have a single, anecdotal report from a single CNN employee Alan Frasier saying the drug was wonderful. All three basics of an advertisement. Further quick checking shows that Cogniflex is just a rehash of Addium, MZT-48, Adderin, etc. The fake article and quotes are nearly identical. Thanks to supplementcritique.com for going through all of these so I didn’t have to.

The article is a fake. But the concept is certainly supported by CNN, which touts other drugs for high achieving executives.

So, let’s look at Cogniflex and see if anything could be there. The official website lists ingredients L-carnitine, L-theanine, caffeine, bacopa monnieri, rhodiola rosea, and vitamin B6. All of these are generally familiar to anyone looking for a brain boost, with the possible addition of bacopa, which is an Indian herb called brahmi. Of the ingredients, carnitine, theanine, and vitamin B6 are less likely to be very active, bacopa and rhodiola are boosters, and caffeine is the active ingredient. Does caffeine affect alertness? Duh.

But does Cogniflex outperform a cup of Joe? Have the creators come up with boosters in the right combination to maintain the caffeine’s effect over the day? First, you can go to the free website pubmed and see if there are any studies on cogniflex. None. So no, the creators didn’t do anything besides create an amazing amount of fake news about their product that they are now recycling with new names. They aren’t interested in anything but your credit card.

Just say no.

If we go further and look at the individual ingredients, bacopa does have a long history of being helpful in brain function (for impaired people over twelve weeks, not overnight). It also appears to be mostly nontoxic (they couldn’t kill a rat with it). I found a fairly exhaustive rundown of the many rodent studies and small human studies here. The examiner gives bacopa higher marks than I would, but the author admits taking the herb.

Cost of bacopa? Probably five dollars a bottle from a discounter. So if you feel you need to shell out for a brain booster, save yourself a few dollars, talk with your doctor, and try the raw ingredient instead of a mix. That’s likely a good rule of thumb. Look at the ingredients, talk with your doctor, and try an individual ingredient rather than paying anyone to put them together for you.

Or, even better, you could get away from the computer and go exercise. That definitely helps brain function.

 

Posted by: Chris Maloney | August 14, 2016

Page Turner On Sale In Honor of Lithgow’s Reopening!

I live next to a cemetery. James G. Blaine, Maine’s most famous senator, sleeps at the top of the hill. Just down from him is the Turner family, resting together. The youngest Turner, Page, was born on my birthday in 1889. She would have visited the original Lithgow Library during her lifetime. But she didn’t live very long. Page died in 1906, just shy of seventeen.

It seemed so sad to me that someone named Page Turner should die before her life really got started. So I wrote a book for her. A little austenesque, a little steam punk, a little weird, Page in my book is defined by her name. All the characters are, like self-aware Dickens characters who can’t escape their fates because of a few letters applied like a spell to their destinies.

The book is mostly fit for young readers with the possible exception of one death. It’s in self-defense, but death-by-pencil is still a bit grizzly. If you’ve the stomach for it, Page Turner is, well, it lives up to its name.

In honor of Lithgow’s reopening, I’ve dropped the prices on Page Turner as low as I can go on Amazon and kindle. Go to Lithgow, then take a trip up the hill to visit Blaine and catch Page on the way back down.

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