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:  (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 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.



Posted by: Chris Maloney | August 13, 2016

Lithgow Library Reopens Today!

I’m so excited!  Our new expanded Lithgow Library, originally christened back in 1894, is going to reopen. Lithgow was where I took my infant son when we needed a place for nap time. He could sleep and I could consume books like the omnivorous reader I am.

How excited am I about Lithgow? I wrote a book to support the Library, full of historical figures like the Masons, James Blaine, and the two pennies hidden in Lithgow’s cornerstone. It’s a ghost story suitable for young children and anyone who like history.

To honor my grandfather, I listed Roy as the author, but the work is mine.

In honor of Lithgow reopening, I’ve dropped the price on two pennies to 5.95 (as low as Amazon will let me go) and the kindle price down to 0.99 cents. Go to Lithgow, read Two Pennies, and see if you can find the stained glass, the stacks, and the ghosts of masons past.


Quick, have you or anyone you know recently been to Florida? Do you live near an airport? If the answers are yes to either question, you might be feeling a tad uneasy about the CDC’s unique new warnings about Miami.

It’s hard to understand the CDC’s announcement that pregnant women should avoid an  area in Miami’s  Wynwood arts district. The last time I checked, mosquitoes don’t read road signs. Other that financially destroying a region of Miami (where should we go to dinner? Zika or Non-Zika?) the CDC’s unprecedented announcement seems both myopic and overblown.

To begin with, the CDC backdates its warning to June 15th, so anyone who’s visited Miami and is now living in Maine suddenly needs to be concerned. The CDC also goes through an extensive set of restrictions for couples wanting to conceive that extends far beyond avoiding the Miami area.

It is one thing to say mosquitoes in a certain area in Miami should be avoided. It is another for the CDC to say that: “All pregnant women in the United States should be assessed for possible Zika virus exposure during each prenatal care visit.” The first is a dramatic warning for a small area, the second is an admission that mosquitoes are not the primary cause of Zika spread (people are) and that Zika is a sexually transmitted disease that is not limited to any region in the U.S. It’s pretty concerning to have the CDC confirm: it’s here, it’s everywhere, and we have no treatment.

But before we all run around screaming about Zika, what’s missing from this discussion is any larger picture. We need a reasonable plan, not an area quarantine that the mosquitoes won’t obey. After financially destroying an area of Miami, what’s next? Should we avoid Austin, San Diego, anywhere Zika cases arise? Of course not. The vast majority of people are at tiny risk from Zika. Even the overwhelming majority of women who catch Zika will have no birth defects. But we’re not hearing that, we’re hearing increasing terror and an arbitrary warning that will make no difference to the spread of the disease. Because it’s people, not mosquitoes, that we need  to stop spreading Zika.

I’ve written a very short book that lays out why, while concerned, we shouldn’t be panicked by Zika. I also lay out a case that women who just have Zika without other similar exposures may have even less risk. We need to have someone step in and lower our panic, not increase it with quarantine announcements.

Posted by: Chris Maloney | July 27, 2016

Pelvic Congestion Syndrome: Is There A Cure?

Quick, what disease affects 25% of the world’s women? Chronic pelvic pain. What’s the cause? We don’t know. But we have a treatment.

Surgeons have decided that chronic pelvic pain is caused by varicose veins in the pelvis. The disease has been termed pelvic congestion syndrome, pelvic venous congestion, or pelvic vein incompetence. Specifically, these veins tend to be around the ovaries. Ignoring that women without any pain also have these varicose veins, surgeons are currently cutting or blocking the veins with some success.

The number of studies on Pelvic Congestion Syndrome makes it almost non-existent (242 studies, bunions have 3,000 studies). We don’t have definitive studies that show that the varicose veins cause the pain, but we do have pain relief for patients who’ve had the surgery. This varies from half to 75% of women, which is a good number unless you realize that almost half of the women undergoing blockage of their veins continued to experience pain. If the venous congestion causes the pain, and you resolve the congestion, wouldn’t we expect a near-universal decrease in pain?

Pain is the symptom most likely to respond to a useless intervention. A recent acupuncture study found that almost half of the placebo group felt pain relief for chronic pelvic pain (compared to 92% of those actively treated). For placebo response, surgery is particularly likely to give a high response rate (see Huffington Post discussion). And without large-scale trials, blocking the veins in the pelvis may not be that effective.

But what if it is? Other studies show that an imbalance in estrogen may make the difference in whether or not a woman experiences pelvic pain. Surgery blocking the veins to the ovaries doesn’t just affect pain. According to one case report “(a)fter the treatment, all subjects experienced a dramatic decrease in pelvic pain, as well as an improvement in two or more preexisting symptoms, including extremity swelling, dyspareunia, external varicosities, constipation, and emotional disturbance.” All that from a little vein blocking? Yes, because blocking the flow from the ovaries would also affect the amount of estrogen they secrete into the body.

It may seem backhanded to apply a surgical solution to a hormonal imbalance, but for women with chronic pain the payoff may be worth it. Especially if they have searched for years for a diagnosis and hit upon something that sounds official. We have a diagnosis: Pelvic Congestion Syndrome. We have a solution: a low risk surgical blockage of those veins. We have outcomes: a great number of women experienced pain relief.  And we have very few other options being offered. The lack of randomized trials or high quality trials means little to someone in chronic pain.





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