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The Magic of Medicinal Mushrooms January 22, 2013

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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The mushrooms you love so much may be better for you than you know.

Evidence of the curative effects of mushrooms dates to prehistoric times in Africa, Egypt and Mesoamerica, depicted by hieroglyphs and petroglyphs, and two types discovered in pouches found in 1991 on the body of a 5,000 year old European, Oetzi the Iceman. The West has acknowledged the powerful use of mushrooms as medicine, but most of the globe has worshipped–often literally–the fungi for millennia.

Medicinal mushrooms possess latent cancer preventive properties. Studies in Japan and Brazil strongly indicate that regular consumption over prolonged periods significantly reduces cancer incidence. One Japanese epidemiological survey over a period of 14 years revealed that cancer rates of workers at medicinal mushroom farms were 1 in 1,000 compared to 1 in 600 for the general population. A mixture of the active ingredients from different mushrooms maximizes the immune response by providing multiple stimuli to the body’s natural defenses. Cancer Research UK also found increasing experimental evidence that medicinal mushrooms demonstrate both high anti-tumor activity and restricting metastasis of tumors. They even reverse the harmful effects of radiation and chemotherapy.

Reishi mushroom. Photo by Eric Steinert.

Reishi mushrooms are the oldest in Traditional Chinese Medicine, still widely used today.
Photo by Eric Steinert.

Reishi has been rated the top medicinal herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2,000 years. So highly valued, it was traded for its own weight in gold and available only to Emperors. It is still the most important herb in Asia, where the focus is on preventive medicine as opposed to the West’s reactive. It contains over 200 active ingredients and unique compounds that are the most biologically active from any plant source. Reishi is normally taken as an extract because it is a very tough, woody mushroom and difficult to digest raw. Its dynamic antioxidant action and immune stimulating effects make it so treasured.

Nearly any type of common mushroom you choose to incorporate into your daily life will have a multitude of medicinal effects, most of them supremely positive. Raw mushrooms dried in the sun will multiply their stores of vitamin D for up to one year. Vitamin D deficiency accounts for many symptoms of decreased health including death from cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in older adults, severe asthma in children, cancer, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance and multiple sclerosis.

Fresh mushrooms are readily available and easy to incorporate into any diet. Exotic Asian varieties now normally found on supermarket shelves (shitake, maitake, oyster and enoki) have anticancer properties, lower cholesterol and strengthen the immune system. Common varieties such as button, Portobello and crimini contain some benefits (Portobellos have high potassium and B12 levels) but also naturally contain substances that in large doses may increase tumor risk in animals. These should always be consumed thoroughly cooked, broiled or grilled to decrease the toxins and ease digestion.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, natural medicine researcher and father of nutritarian eating, provides us with a longevity equation: H=N/C or healthy life expectancy is proportional to the lifetime intake of micronutrient diversity and quantity per calorie. His advocacy of micronutrient-rich diets is featured in Whole Foods Markets and inspired millions to consume anti-cancer foods as part of their regular diets. According to Dr. Fuhrman,

Mushrooms block tumor growth and have anti-estrogenic activity. Frequent consumption of mushrooms, approximately one button mushroom per day, has been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer by 60-70%. Mushrooms are thought to protect against breast cancer particularly because they inhibit an enzyme called aromatase, which produces estrogen. Mushrooms are one of the very few foods that inhibit aromatase, and several varieties of mushrooms have strong anti-aromatase activity, including the common varieties like white button and Portobello mushrooms.

Other North American mushrooms contain health benefits too. You may have seen these while hiking:

Cauliflower mushrooms contain chemicals which enhance the immune system and have anti-tumor properties. Photo by Nick Valdez.

Cauliflower mushrooms contain chemicals which enhance the immune system and have anti-tumor properties.
Photo by Nick Valdez.

shaggy mane

Shaggy Mane’s polysaccharides and triterpenes fight cancer and existing tumors, stabilize blood pressure and keep blood sugar even. It benefits asthma, anxiety, diabetes, hepatitis, and leukemia.
Photo by Nick Valdez.

Earth Star Mushroom

Earth Star mushroom spore dust is used in TCM and applied externally to stop wound bleeding and reduce chilblains. Also prohibits tumor growth and has spurned research interest for immunomodulatory and antitumor properties.
Photo by Nick Valdez.

chanterelle mushrooms health benefits

White Chanterelles, indicative of healthy, old-growth forests, contain protein, vitamins B and D, riboflavin, niacin and thiamine. Minerals include potassium, copper and selenium.
Photo by Nick Valdez.

Magic Mushrooms

Use of psilocybin or magic mushrooms is often found in ancient records of spiritual and shamanistic rituals. Unlike manufactured psychotropic drugs (LSD), these mushrooms do not technically cause hallucinations, but alter perceptions of objects and time. They are non-addictive but can quickly become tolerable, lessening the effects with increased use. They are not known for their health benefits.

Today, psychotropic mushrooms are foraged wild and easily cultivated. They are ingested raw, added to stews or sauces, or steeped into a tea, causing long-term feelings of well-being. A 2011 Johns Hopkins study found that just one dose of this created personality shifts in “openness,” abstract ideas, creativity and aesthetics lasting up to one year. Each participant in the study relayed this as a life-changing experience for the better. Mushrooms were administered in a hospital setting with two people acting as guards over a period of eight hours. This is breakthrough news, as it was previously thought that personality was a set determinant. In the study, 60% of participants were markedly changed with a single high dose of psilocybin. (Note that psilocybin is illegal, classified as a Schedule 1 substance by the DEA.)


Unlike psilocybin mushrooms, psychotropic Amanita muscaria is popular but not often consumed due to its toxicity and unpredictable psychological effects. Often brewed as a tea for entheogenic use, its personality effects can be depressant or ultimately positively life-changing.
Photo by Steve Childress.

“Renaissance Mycologist” Paul Stamets walks us through the science, history and future of our world with mushrooms in this incredible TED talk.


Research well whatever type of mushroom you eat and consult your doctor before making changes to your diet. Many varieties will react adversely with prescription medications. There are several types of lethal mushrooms, often ingested due to misidentification. White and yellow Amanita phalloides are responsible for the majority of mushroom deaths every year. Cooking poisonous mushrooms will not release their toxins and will remain deadly.

Related Reading

South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

North American Mycological Association

American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

“Healthy” Mushroom Recipes

Neurogastroenterology: The Study of Our Second Brain January 1, 2013

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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thEarly in embryogenesis our brains and our gut are formed from the same tissue mass with one half becoming the central nervous system and the other the enteric nervous system, connected by the vagus nerve. Half our nerves are located in our brain, and half in the gut which translates into a lot more than feeling butterflies in our stomach when we’re nervous.

This enteric nervous system is comprised of one hundred million autonomously functioning neurons, neurotransmitters and proteins with the ability to communicate with the central nervous system through the vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system. Coupled with the intestinal microbiome, it’s been coined our “second brain” by Dr. Michael Gershon, professor of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City in 1988. What we put into one brain drastically affects the other.

If we add the nerve cells of the esophagus, stomach and large intestine, there are more nerve cells in the gut than there are in the entire remainder of the peripheral nervous system. Nearly every chemical that controls the brain in the head has been identified in the gut, including hormones and neurotransmitters.

Flora, the microorganisms that typically inhabit a body organ, while plentiful, have not evolved enough to withstand processed and junk foods. Intestinal flora is also destroyed by considerable amounts of stress, alcohol, and antibiotics which will leave a body more open to infection.

Brain/Gut Disease States

Nearly 60 million people suffer from digestive issues, often resulting from poor management of the second brain. Many are temporary ill feelings, while others are chronic and debilitating. The brain/gut connection has spurned interest in new research and procedures.

Gastrointestinal: The gut produces 95% of mood-stabilizing serotonin. So when it’s not functioning properly, our moods will show it. Conversely, when brain chemistry is off-balance, the bowels will suffer. Nearly 90% of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and non-ulcerative dyspepsia suffer from some sort of mental anxiety (or worse). These patients also frequently encounter abnormal REM sleep and wake feeling fatigued. These sleep disorders are often treated with low-dose antidepressants, regularly prescribed to treat IBS, depression, PTSD and bacterial infections.

Diabetes: Now epidemic in many countries, diabetes’ side effects can be devastating to the body, and treatment and utilization rates are drowning health care resources. The race is on to find new methods to slow glucose production to decrease related morbidity. Clinical trials show that fats activate a subset of nerves in the intestine, signaling the brain, which then signals the liver, to reduce glucose production. This helps to slow the production of sugar in the body. Now the gut, instead of the brain, will be the target for new therapies.

Anxiety and Depression: Antidepressant drugs commonly cause gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, diarrhea and constipation. This is because they inhibit the uptake of serotonin, normally calming to the digestive tract. Morphine and heroin act on the central nervous system and attach to the gut’s opiate receptors, producing constipation. The gut also produces benzodiazepines, chemicals that relieve pain and are found in anti-anxiety drugs like Valium. In extreme pain, the gut over-produces these chemicals and sends them to the brain. Stress signals are sent to the enteric nervous system, slowing digestion while the intestines painfully contract.

GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or heartburn): Prevalence of GERD has increased 50% in the past decade, affecting 20% of adults. Stress, a common cause of acid reflux and chronic heartburn, excites areas of the brain that make esophageal pain receptors more active. These patients often have a drop in prostaglandins which coat the stomach lining and protect it from acid. Anti-inflammatory drugs reduce production of prostaglandins, which is why this class of drug commonly causes ulcers and nausea. Add alcohol to stress, and the increase in stomach acid weakens the esophageal sphincter allowing caustic acid into your upper GI tract.

Settle Your Stomach

Try incorporating these into your lifestyle for good gut/brain health:

  • Probiotics
  • Turmeric
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Kefir
  • Ginger
  • Eliminate fatty foods and caffeine (try calming herbal teas, like chamomile)
  • Stay hydrated
  • Improve posture

What’s your gut feeling?

Related Reading:

Lipman, Frank, MD, (2011) Revive: Stop Feeling Spent And Start Living Again.

The Gut-Brain-Liver Axis: A New Option to Treat Obesity and Diabetes? (www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com)

Foods that Fight Heartburn (www.LIVESTRONG.com)

December 1, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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From 2011 but still pertinent. Worthwhile message in the video!

Amy Croan MPH

World AIDS Day, HIV goalsThirty years of an infectious pandemic, drug research, public health education, and counseling have brought us to the point where we boldly announce the goal of an HIV-free generation in the next three years. This may seem attainable as HIV is a preventable disease. Personal behavior changes will determine the rate of infection. Assuming we will curb behaviors of all people who engage in IV drug use and unprotected sex, especially at a time when economies are struggling, is delusional.

Greece’s troubled economy has seen new infections rise by 52% in 2011, and that rate is expected to increase to 60% by the end of the year. (The US rate of increase is about 7%.) The rate of injected drug use is increasing because people can no longer afford other methods, and there have been heavy cuts to prevention in the form of free needles. The World Health Organization recommends…

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Farming For Our Future November 29, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Global Health, Public Health.
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More households turn to growing their own food as unsustainable food production practices ravage large crop lands.

We’re on track to deplete the earth of it’s ability to produce food.

Global crop land increased by 12% but agricultural production by 150% over the last 50 years. We’ve managed to keep barely ahead of the curve for overall food production. But not sustainably. The projected world population growth will pass 9 billion by 2050, and that means an increase in food production by 70% and better methods of distribution to meet the food security demand.

Agriculture’s continued dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels for production/fertilizer/irrigation, machinery, processing, transportation, packaging and marketing has direct and unsustainable consequences for farmlands. A recent United Nations study indicates that “all continents are experiencing land degradation, with particularly high incidence along the west coast of the Americas, across the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe and North Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, and throughout Asia. The greatest threat is the loss of soil quality, followed by biodiversity loss and depletion of water resources.”

Farmed animals consume 70% of the grains produced on U.S. farms. Droughts have already caused food riots and war in recent years. Irrigation currently accounts for 70% of all water use and 19% of farm energy use in the U.S. Once groundwater sources are depleted, the amount of land available for cultivation will diminish substantially. Groundwater levels of the North China plains have declined to the point where rice production, which accounts for 90% of water usage there, are overexploited and now scarce.

Maintaining and improving ecosystems, including coastal habitats and oceans is also critical, as TIME reports

“The world has ignored the ominous constellation of factors that now make feeding humanity sustainably our most pressing task – even in times of economic and climatic crisis,” writes Professor Cribb. But Professor Cribb  isn’t the only scientist clamoring for politicians to take climate change seriously. In a recent study by the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, it warned of a potential mass extinction as the number of ocean dead zones – waters starved of oxygen – increase at an accelerating pace.  The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research also put out a study that shows the increasing likelihood of frightening changes to rainfall, water supplies, weather systems, sea levels and crop harvests by the end of the century.

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/12/07/impending-crisis-earth-to-run-out-of-food-by-2050/#ixzz2DSOyogVl

Progress exists somewhat in alternative forms of energy– nuclear, coal, wind and solar–but none produce liquid fuels. Countries gather regularly to discuss these impending changes, but have yet to enact solutions on the largest crop lands.

Transitional Farms

Pickards Mountain Eco-Institute, a Chapel Hill, NC educational farm and sustainability living center, was established by Tim Toben, an eco-revolutionary who believes sustainability will require more personal responsibility and that farms will be plentiful in rural areas by 2050 as Americans minimize their grandiose lifestyles out of necessity. This transitional farming is self-sustaining and, he believes, is likely to become the new American Dream.

What kind of connection do you want to have with your food? Will you make any changes to help ensure our planet is able to produce enough food for us in the next decades? Would you live in a cob cottage or stop eating industrial meat in order to preserve the land?

Related Reading:

The Future of Farming: Eight Solutions For a Hungry World (www.popsci.com)

Investing In Ecosystem Services Can Boost Food Security, Raise Incomes (www.un.org)

The Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (www.peakoil.net)

Regreening Africa (www.thenation.com)

Children of Our Fields (www.acroan.com)

Hidden Hunger in the Heartland (www.acroan.com)

Location, location, location! The High Cost of Living in a Food Desert (www.acroan.com)

Children of Our Fields November 1, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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Every time we sit at a table at night or in the morning to enjoy the fruits and grain and vegetables from our good earth, remember that they come from the work of men and women and children who have been exploited for generations. -Cesar Chavez

Of the three to five million U.S. migrant and legal immigrant workers, about 600,000 of them are children. It’s difficult to ascertain an accurate count, because they are under-reported.

Most industries allow minors to work from the age of 16, but for agriculture the minimum age drops to 12. The migrant field worker families often have several children whom each year they uproot from their homes and schools to travel sometimes many states away, to work in endless fields 10-14 hours per day from the age of 12. Sometimes as young as 7 because there is no childcare. And they do this because they feel they have no other choice.

From today’s Latin American Herald Times,

North Carolina’s regional coordinator of Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs, Emily Drakage’s, mission is to document the amount of child labor in the agricultural sector, educate the public and local leaders about the conditions in which the children work and seek support from other organizations to get these minors out of the fields.

“It’s a very tough problem. There are cultural and linguistic barriers, economic interests, immigration, educational and health problems, but someone has to speak for these workers who have no voice and are unaware of their rights,” Drakage said.

Farm workers earn an average of just $7,000 a year and must pay part of their salary to their employer to cover transport and housing costs. Children earn $1,000 a year.

Usual migrant housing is filthy, rusted and cramped. Poverty levels are extremely high. Little to no access to health care is common. Health insurance is unheard of. One hundred thousand children are injured by sharp blades and other farm machinery each year.

Farmworkers are among the highest risk groups for:

  • Poverty–among 97% of migrant workers
  • Lack of basic education, literacy and language skills, job training
  • Poor health: respiratory and dermatological illnesses, dehydration, heat stroke and heat illness, chronic muscular and skeletal pain, direct exposure to sanitation chemicals and pesticides, infectious disease, chronic disease, work-related injuries, depression and substance abuse, lack of sanitation
  • Death
  • Sexual abuse
  • Gang activity
  • Marginalization
  • Slave wages and wage fraud
  • Failure to thrive under provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and child labor laws

In 1960, Edward R. Murrow’s “Harvest of Shame” aired the day after Thanksgiving. Fifty years later, CBS News revisits the very topic and details again the deplorable working conditions of the migrant family.

Feeling grateful this month as you prepare the bounty for your Thanksgiving table? In a nation where 2/3 of adults and 1/3 of children are overweight or obese from making poor choices about food, one-fifth of our farm workforce is children. These workers drive the agricultural sector and provide fresh food the millions of the rest of us enjoy everyday.

Related Reading:

Itinerant LIfe Weighs on Farmworkers’ Children (www.nytimes.com)

NOW With Bill Moyers  (www.pbs.org)

Shame On Obama Administration For Sacrificing Children to Keep Agribusiness Happy (www.citizen.org)

United Farm Workers (www.ufw.org)

Keepin’ It Real (with Real Food) October 23, 2012

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Wednesday, October 24 is Food Day. Join in this second annual national event where thousands of businesses, coalitions and other participants are holding Food Day celebrations to promote healthy, affordable and sustainable food. 

Food Day, Food Pyramid Killing Us, diet, nutrition, USDA, agriculture, corn, grocery, government

Created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Day has become a movement to increase awareness of the usual unhealthy American diet which is leading to our top three causes of death and other forms of morbidity.

Our nation’s food system is not focused on promoting health, but maintaining agribusiness and food production as cheaply as possible. Fellow blogger, Ellice Campbell of Enlightened Lotus Wellness, just published a worthwhile post, Corn And It’s Stranglehold on the Food Industry. Also, have a look at The Trouble With Corn Subsidies. About 75% of all grocery store food products contain some form of corn (not the sweet kind that we enjoy during the summer) and high fructose corn syrup. This is creating a sugar addiction among our children and is one factor contributing to increased diagnoses of diabetes in adults and children, not to mention obesity. I find this to be an outrage.

What we put into our bodies is 100% up to us! Just because cheap and processed foods are available everywhere we look, does not mean we must succumb to eating them. As one of my blog readers previously commented, “Eat what you want–no one is forcing you not to.” Every time we eat and every thing we eat is completely our choice. I feel this is too fundamental to blog about, but as a nation, we are clearly not making the best choices.

Of course this has implications beyond personal diet and disease. According to CSPI, only minor amounts of Farm Bill funding support organic and sustainable farms, while those growing the crops most harmful to us reap the major funds. We have allowed our government to carry on this way for decades. Food production methods are harmful to workers, animals and the environment.

How will you celebrate Food Day? Click the link for inspiration, activities, recipes and a zip code map to see what is offered in your area. Or, take a page from their school curriculum, eat real around your dinner table and discuss healthy eating and where your food comes from.

Eat Real, y’all. Practice mindful eating and the world will be better off. Really.

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West Nile Virus Death Toll Climbing October 11, 2012

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West Nile Virus, mosquito, encephalitis, horse health, public health

CDC expects more West Nile Virus deaths this fall

The number of humans with West Nile Virus climbed 40% this week, bringing the total to 4,249 cases and 168 deaths. All contiguous states have reported cases and are on alert to take preventive measures as the CDC warns that more deaths are expected.

West Nile Virus comes to us through infected birds via mosquitos and is worst during summer months, tapering off in fall. A small number of dogs and cats have been infected, and some hundreds of horses. Many horse owners have opted for the equine vaccine, however, no vaccine exists for humans. There have been no cases of horses transmitting the virus to other horses or to humans. The only human transmission of the disease was transplacental, reported in 2002, and one case of transference through breast milk.

Symptoms and Risk Factors

Symptoms appear between 3 and 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Approximately 80% of infected people will show no symptoms. About 20% present with fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph glands and occasionally a skin rash on chest, stomach and back. One in 150 infected will develop severe neuroinvasive disease such as West Nile encephalitis, West Nile meningitis, West Nile meningoencephalitis and West Nile poliomyelitis, and require hospitalization. However, to date 53% of reported cases have been classified as neuroinvasive. Symptoms of severe disease can include high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions and paralysis. In all cases the symptoms may last several days or several weeks.

Residents of any area where virus activity has been identified are at risk. People over age 50 are of highest risk.


  • Mosquitos breed and lay their eggs in shallow, standing water. Several times per week empty water from pet dishes, birdbaths, buckets and cans. Clean out any clogged rain gutters. Drill holes in tire swings to allow water to drain.
  • Communities and cities may use vector management programs to reduce mosquito populations.
  • Try to remain indoors during dawn and dusk when mosquitos are most active. Wear protective clothing and then spray the clothing with an insect repellant containing DEET.
  • Ensure all doors and windows are screened, and consider using mosquito netting around cribs and children’s beds in areas with highest rates of West Nile Virus.

Do not handle dead birds. Contact your local health department to dispose of the body.

Related Reading

West Nile Virus, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Human West Nile Virus Map

“I Knew My Husband Was Going To Go,” West Nile widow says.

Central woman survives West Nile Virus (wafb.com)

September’s Foodie Penpal September 30, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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September has been such a whirlwind month at our house so the many treats in this month’s foodie penpal box were much appreciated. If you don’t yet know, foodie penpals was started exactly one year ago by Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean blog and now has over 1,300 food lovers sending great packages to each other. She’ll pair you up with a sender and a receiver and is open to anyone.

This month, Jennifer thoughtfully sent delicious vegan treats. While not everyone in my family sticks to a vegan diet, everyone did ravage the contents of the box!


The two bags of chips were fun for us to try. Since it’s been ages since I bought a regular bag of potato chips, these two kinds of Terra chips were a big hit with the kids. I had no qualms about letting them snack on these. They were very tasty and probably the only way the kids would eat beets or sweet potatoes.

This was the second time we have received seaweed snacks. These, being plain, were easier to eat than the super hot wasabi type. The paper-thin (or thinner) sheets of seaweed are great to crumble on a salad, or easy to grab as a quick snack.



There is something in every box I set aside just for me. This combination of Lady Grey tea and ginger thin cookies would give me pause during a hectic day, I thought. Setting the box aside was not enough. I should have hidden it before curious fingers happened upon it. I did get to enjoy my cup of tea with the thins before they were gone, but I’ll be on the lookout for another box as I still have quite a bit of the lovely tea. Thank you, Jennifer!

You never know what you’ll receive in your foodie penpal box. But it’s been a fun way of introducing us to new foods that might not catch my eye in the store, or sampling a bit of local flavor from across the country. Don’t forget, you can be a foodie penpal too!

Addicted To Their Mother’s Drugs September 10, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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NAS, drug addicted mothers, prenatal care, addicted babies, drug overdose, prescription drug use pregnancy

Drug dependent newborns are the newest US epidemic

In Tennessee the number of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) cases doubled from 2010 to 2011. Kentucky has seen a three-fold increase. Twelve thousand NAS babies are born every year in Washington. Maine’s opiate use is 8.6 times higher than the national average.

At least two Florida counties have lax regulations regarding ease of obtaining and filling prescriptions. Rates in Broward County have quadrupled, and Lee County has seen a 657% increase since 2005. These counties draw out-of-towners and have become the base for the 1,000 mile “Pill-Pipeline” running from Florida to Kentucky along Interstate-75, spiking rates of NAS along that route.

No neighborhood is immune, it seems, to the ever-growing demand and physician compliance for chronic pain medications. The resulting NAS epidemic devours states’ Medicaid funds and places a heavy burden on social services. This epidemic is 100% preventable by mothers choosing to abstain either from drugs or from unprotected sex while addicted.

A mother’s 20-minute high creates the same prolonged response in the baby over a two-week period. Stopping drug use during pregnancy is not recommended, as the babies may experience fatal seizures in utero. Babies suffer withdrawal because they have been continually exposed to drugs before birth and no longer receive them after birth. Within hours to days they exhibit withdrawal symptoms seen in high-pitched constant shrieking, tremors and inability to feed. The average age of addicted mothers is 17-25.

This week we welcome an interview with a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) who is employed by Pediatric Interim Care Center. This unique non-profit organization is a 24-hour care facility created with the intent to assist medically fragile newborns suffering from NAS. Due to the sensitive nature of her work, I am withholding her name from this publication.

Q: Do you find that the majority of your infants are suffering from prescription drug dependence?

A: Toxicology reports are only 60% accurate so we can’t identify all the drugs. Depending on the drugs and the mixture of drugs, some can be identified. Some examples are the tremors of meth and heroine-dependent babies. Because more meth makers no longer use a purification process, when the baby stools, the chemicals excreted burn the babies’ bottoms. Cocaine-dependent babies tend to be much calmer than babies with no drug dependency, but they never feel hungry so we have to train/teach them to eat. It’s extremely important to keep them on a feeding schedule so they learn to be hungry. The most that I have seen in one baby are 10-15 different drugs, but this is according to the mother’s reported use.

Q: How long does an infant’s withdrawal treatment usually last?

A: Withdrawal depends on length of use during pregnancy and on the mixture of drugs. Some withdrawals are not apparent until baby is a couple weeks old. The treatment could be three weeks or three months.

Q: Are there other organizations like PICC? Is PICC used when NICU/hospital benefits run out?

A: PICC is the only center of its kind. Many states have contacted [us for] help because hospital staff aren’t trained and become overwhelmed. Here in Washington, it is cheaper to send babies to PICC versus staying in a hospital. State funded medical assistance will pay for a mother’s recovery but not a baby’s.

Q: How do you calm and treat the babies?

A: The babies are in pain, like any user who is trying to recover from addiction. We treat the harsh cases with morphine to help with the withdrawal, we hold them, keep them swaddled, and love them.

Thank you for your candid look into caring for NAS babies.

Every day, 2,200 youth ages 12-17 use a pain reliever for the first time. More teens abuse illicit drugs than any other drug except for marijuana. Seventy percent of the prescription drugs come from a friend or relative with 56% of those being given for free. Only 4% are purchased from a drug dealer.

The amount of prescribed medication from physicians for chronic pain is at an all-time high. Some of these are highly addictive, and frequently adults carelessly leave them in cabinets after they no longer need them. Among 12 and 13 year-olds, prescriptions drugs are the drug of choice because of their availability.

This begins the downward spiral resulting in neonatal abstinence syndrome, with 75% of addicted mothers not receiving prenatal care, and a resulting 50% increase in children requiring foster care. Furthermore, current policies allow funding for maternal treatment of addiction, but not for their babies. Developmental delays and behavioral issues are common but not a guarantee.

This epidemic is too new to have any long-term study results, but PICC has seen several of their babies continue on to graduate high school, ever-grateful for the help they received as infants.


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August Foodie Penpal Revealed August 31, 2012

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August was my second month participating in the Lean Green Bean’s fun Foodie Penpal Program. Lindsay will pair you up with a recipient and a sender and the anticipation of the foodie box brings great excitement to the household. Katie from Knoxville, TN sent a lovely box to us!

vegan snacks

Katie included a lovely note describing all the great treats in our box. She is excited to have a new Trader Joe’s in her town (as would I be, as some of you know), and relied on it to find foods suitable for a vegan diet. She did a great job!

Trader Joes marshmallow treats

We were all pleased with the brown rice vegan marshmallow treat bars. As you may know, regular marshmallows are made from gelatin, the collagen being derived from meat by-products. I’ll spare you the rest of the details here, but we found these to be a yummy alternative.

trader joes wasabi seaweed

Hold onto your hat when you eat these wasabi seaweed snacks, because they’ll blow your head clean off! These aren’t made with “just a hint” of wasabi, they’re for the die-hard fans. But like Katie mentions in her note, they are curiously addictive. She suggested adding them to a salad, and I also used them to spice up a coconut milk soup.

vegan snacks

Ah, a huge bag of roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds! This was most welcome to everyone in my family. Most salted nuts in the stores are just too dang salty, and we cannot usually find unsalted ones unless we buy them in bulk, which we do occasionally. We snack on these at my son’s baseball games, and add to many regular dishes. It’s nice to have such a big sack.

vegan snacks

Whoever came up with the name “Dark Chocolate Dreams” Peanut Butter was spot on. It IS dreamy and this was fun for us to try. The only chocolate I allow in the house, if any, is dark. You can imagine the scrambling that took place to be the first one to try it! The jar did not last long.

And, inside this handy smoothie travel cup which I like very much, Katie included Good ‘N Natural and Luna bars. These I had to declare were only for the Foodie Penpal participant of the house. 😉

Katie admitted in her note that adhering to a vegan diet was tough and I agree, so it was really great of her to find these new snack foods for us. If you’d like to see what her Foodie Penpal sent to her, visit her blog. Thank you, Katie!


August 19, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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Living with Pelvic Organ Prolapse August 7, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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Today I welcome a guest post contributed by DrugWatch.com, an online consumer protection group for those affected by dangerous drugs.

Pelvic organ prolapse, POP, incontinence,

Transvaginal mesh, a health risk, is used in many types of surgery

Women diagnosed with Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) may leave their doctor’s office feeling confused.

POP isn’t a subject that is often discussed and unfortunately, many doctors don’t take the time to thoroughly explain what it is.

POP occurs when connective tissues and muscles in the pelvic floor begin to weaken. The organs can begin to shift or drop into the vagina as a woman ages. Organs most commonly affected are the uterus, bladder and rectum. Women can have different medical issues depending on what type of POP they are experiencing.

Symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Pelvic Organ Prolapse occurs most frequently in women who have experienced pregnancy and childbirth. Caucasian women run a higher risk of being diagnosed with POP, as do post-menopausal women, smokers, women who are overweight, and any woman who has suffered a pelvic injury in the past. Sometimes the condition is so minor that a woman does not even know she has POP until it is diagnosed by her health practitioner during a pelvic exam.

Symptoms of POP may include:

  • Inability to use a tampon anymore
  • Pain, discomfort and or dryness during sexual intercourse
  • Having to press on the vagina in order to have a bowel movement
  • A weakened urine stream
  • Incontinence
  • Constipation

Treatments for Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Many doctors agree that unless the side effects are debilitating, women who are asymptomatic or are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms should treat the symptoms naturally and do not need any surgical intervention.

There are several natural treatments for POP which should be sought after before any woman considers surgical intervention. The exception to this is if POP is causing severe symptoms and/or debilitating side effects. Surgical procedures using transvaginal mesh should be scrutinized carefully. These mesh products are labeled a serious health risk by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to high levels of complications.

It is important that all women, especially those who have had children, perform exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Kegel exercises, or activities like Yoga or Pilates, strengthen the pelvic floor and core muscles. There is also a product called a Vaginal Pessary which is used effectively to treat the side effects of POP.

Women can further decrease their risk by maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly. Smokers should quit smoking as soon as possible. Avoiding strenuous activities and heavy lifting can also reverse or prevent symptoms of POP from progressing.

Surgical procedures should be the last option presented to women and only if they have moderate to severe problems related to POP. If surgery is required, women should talk to their doctor about repairing the tissues naturally instead of using synthetic transvaginal mesh. Vaginal mesh has been known to cause serious complications including organ puncture and infection. These complications are so severe that many women have begun to file a vaginal mesh lawsuit against the manufacturers.

Proper treatment of POP will allow women to live a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle, free from the side effects of POP.

July Foodie Penpal Reveal Day July 31, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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This is not within my realm of public health posts, alas I have signed up with Foodie Penpals and must reveal the contents of the box I received this month on this, my only blog.

And I’m excited to share it with you!

Foodie Penpals is a fun foodie exchange initiated by Lindsay of The Lean Green Bean blog. Lindsay will pair you up with a sender and a recipient, minimal rules, and tons of fun if you like sending packages to and receiving them from complete strangers.

This month, my Foodie Penpal was Chelsea from Troy, NY. I was surprised with a big box stuffed with goodies tailored to me. Yes, it’s true!

Foodie Penpal, vegan snacks, healthy diet

Chelsea went to her local Farmer’s Market where she finds Flour City Pasta from Rochester, and generously sent me 2 packages of unique pastas: chipotle shells and bon vivant orzo.

Chipotle shells, Bon vivant orzo

Here’s the bon vivant orzo prepared with the included recipe. This uses mushrooms, pine nuts, shallots and snow peas which I harvested from my garden, and a splash of lemon juice. Delish!

Vegan, healthy side dish

She also included 2 organic, vegan snack bars. Recently vegan, believe me, I have tried numerous vegan bars just in the hopes of saving a few hours of chopping and chewing. I haven’t found one that was actually palatable. But when I tasted and then gave my kids a bite of these bars, I heard, “Yumm-o! Let me have the rest of that awesome bar!” I had to reply that no, it was really just for me. That’s how fantastic the chocolate and peanut butter bars are. I will be on the lookout for Good ‘n Natural Fruit, Nut & Seed Bars to keep all of us happy.

vegan snacks, vegan diet

No, they’re really just for me.

It takes some moxie to send coffee to a Seattleite, but it’s like she already knew me inside and out. Chelsea sent Mocha Java from her fave coffee shop and nailed it. Totally my complete order. And it is perfect. She included a coffee-to-go mug and 2 reusable canvas bags for groceries as she knows we like to keep it green here in the Emerald City.

Chelsea was a sweetheart to stick to my dietary preferences and I loved having a bite of Troy right here in my own kitchen all the way across the country. Her lovely letter explained her choice of items on a personal level. Thank you, Chelsea!

Comment to let me know if you decide to sign up to be a Foodie Penpal. It’ll bring a welcome, quaint, yummy box to your door every month.

The Road to Health July 19, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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medical tourism, global health, travel, medical procedures abroad, healthcare

Medical tourism. How far down the road will you travel to surgeon-shop?

The state of US healthcare looms near-crisis and unemployment levels remain steadily high. Over 16% of US citizens are without health insurance, and the rate is climbing. This combination will spur over 1.6 million Americans to seek affordable medical treatment abroad this year.

Granted, many of the procedures are elective: dental veneers, liposuction or breast augmentation. But some necessary treatments are plainly a better deal in other countries. A hip replacement will cost $43,000 in the US, but only $9,000 in India. The physicians are usually US or UK board certified, so quality of care is not necessarily compromised.

Medical tourism has grown so quickly that 50 countries now recognize it as a major national industry.  There’s a Medical Tourism Association & Global Healthcare Congress, medical travel companies, and guided tours for travel companions.

And even if you’re not signing up for heart bypass surgery which is likely to cost $144,000 in the states, $25,000 in Costa Rica and only $8,500 in India, you may just pick up a few packs of antibiotics without prescription the next time you’re vacationing in Mexico.

Here’s a breakdown of treatments by country provided by mint.com:

Cardiology: India, where over 20,000 heart procedures are performed with a 98% success rate; South Africa

Cancer: Singapore Johns Hopkins at 40% discount.

Cosmetic Surgery: Brazil-for you or your pet!; South Africa where a “Surgeon + Safari” is popular.

Dentistry: Costa Rica, at a discounted rate of 70%; Mexico, which hosts 50,000 Americans each year.

Fertility/IVF: Barbados and Israel offer 50% savings.

Everything: Thailand accepts 400,000 patients each year for all the above plus transgender operations.

Don’t feel beholden to the US practices to provide optimum care. If you happen to be traveling anyway or want to combine a health treatment into your travels, it’s easy to do. A successful global free market will be created where competitive industries win. And contrary to popular thought, most people do not just travel for a better deal, but in search of the most advanced medical technologies, to receive better care, and quicker access to care, according to a McKinsey consultancy firm survey. Do a bit of preliminary homework and be wary of malpractice laws.

Further reading:

Patients Beyond Borders

July 6, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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A Mover's Blog

“Food Safety Now!”

Who wouldn’t rally behind such a cause?

This has been the battle cry of those in the uppermost echelons of our food regulatory bodies and public health departments for years now. With each widely-publicized food-borne disease outbreak comes more proposed controls on who, where, when, why and how we can put food on our tables. With such names as The Food Safety Modernization Act, it’s hard to argue against the proposals…at least until you peel away the layers.

The vast majority of these bills are simply means to control the food supply; and thereby control the citizenry. Sure there are some well-intentioned, pure-hearted advocates of food safety out there. You’ll always see some grieving mother who’s child fell victim to a tainted chicken finger but the legislation seldom addresses the source of the problem. The majority of the food-related regulations that are proposed (these bills are chock…

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