Monday, March 30, 2009

Surgical Birth

NARH is to be congratulated on “performing significantly fewer C-sections than other hospitals around the state (MA)-- an average of 18 percent of all births at the hospital compared to the state average of 34 percent, according to reports released by the state Department of Public Health.”
While this is commendable and NARH should be encouraged to lower the c-section rate even more, the larger story that emerges here gives tremendous insight as to how broken the medical model is, and how disconnected from nature we have become.
The history of the medicalization of childbirth is both fascinating and appalling and represents one of the AMA’s greatest victories in their numerous attempts to monopolize health care.
In less than 40 years the rate of hospital births increased from 30%, for abnormal or high-risk pregnancies, to today’s rate of 99% of all deliveries.
In was in the 1950’s, with the introduction of chemicals such as Pitocin, that ‘expediting childbirth began in earnest.’ giving rise to the business of birth.  Like Pitocin, subsequent medical monitoring devices and interventions, such as Electronic Fetal Monitoring, ultrasound, etc, were initially introduced as tools to help physicians with high risk births, but quickly were adapted for routine use.  Ultimately this redefined birth as an accident waiting to happen requiring medical instrumentation and intervention, as opposed to a natural physiologic process directed by the woman’s body.
All of this contributed to skyrocketing rates of c-section; from less than 15% in 1975 to well over 30% by 2005.
If we are to believe that a 34% rate of c-section is normal we would have to accept one, or all of the following conclusions: that within the past 40 years:
1.       Evolution has selected for many more women with pelvises incapable of delivering babies naturally.
2.       Women of child-bearing age have become so sick that they cannot deliver babies naturally.
3.       Something else entirely (business interests) is driving the rate of c-sections
There is NO scientific justification to support a 34% rate of c-section. In fact, as with many other medical interventions we assume to be supported by science and therefore, safe, the exact opposite is true.
Even though the United States has the most intense and widespread medical management of birth, we rank near the bottom among (33) industrialized countries in maternal (30th) and infant mortality (32nd). A woman is four times more likely to die having a c-section than a vaginal birth. …And, infants born by c-section, with no medical risk factors, are nearly three times more like to die within the first months of life than those born vaginally.” 
Not to mention, the wide range of other lifetime medical problems the mother and the baby are subject to, as a direct result of c-section, the antithesis of natural birth.
Never did two words describing a procedure exemplify the complete failure of the medical model and signify our complete disconnect with nature more than those of Elective c-section. Why we accept this notion any more than an elective kidney transplant, I have no idea.
There is NO justification for non-emergency c-section. NONE. Certainly not for the convenience of the doctor or, perhaps even more bizarrely, convenience of the mother. C-sections that are performed for any reason other than medical emergency violate the Hippocratic Oath, and should be considered medical malpractice.
Do we really need studies, like the one recently reported in The New England Journal of Medicine, to tell us that ‘Early Caesarians Pose Risks to Newborns’…and, the earlier the c-section,  the greater the problems?  Does anyone really believe that anything less than full term is best for the baby? You wouldn’t take bread out the oven 30 minutes early. It’s done, when it’s done! Pregnancy is done when labor begins naturally!  
What is driving the care? And who allows this to happen? And please: stop blaming the women!
Have we drifted so far from the natural order that we no longer trust instincts? 
There are no greater driving forces in all of nature than survival and reproduction. There is no more natural or miraculous act than natural birth. That we believe and act otherwise is disturbing.
03-30-2009:  The 26th birthday of my oldest daughter and the first of my 3 kids to be born at home.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Onion: Most Children Not In Favor Of Child Healthcare

Why is it that it often takes aburdity to best frame a problem?

While it is unjust and wrong that so many children do not have 
adequate healthcare, it is a tragic indictment of the state of American health
that so many children are so sick.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The GAIA Theory

 The GAIA Theory

The similarities between our planet and our bodies are amazing, with profound implications for both.  

In the 1960’s James Lovelock proposed what has become known as the Gaia Theory.                                 
He defined Gaia as: 

a complex entity involving the Earth's biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil; the totality constituting a feedback or cybernetic system which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet.  

In short, that planet earth is a delicately balanced, self-regulating living system (ecosystem) striving for homeostasis (balance) to support life on the planet. 

This mirrors the definition of human health: our body’s genetically programmed capacity to maintain homeostasis, and its innate ability to adapt to chemical, physical and emotional stressors that challenge that balance. 

In short, our bodies are delicately balanced, self-regulating ecosystems, striving to maintain homeostasis (health) to support our life

In a way, to be human before the modern industrial era was to be an environmentalist.” Man lived in awe of, and in harmony with, nature; respectful of its power and grateful for its life-sustaining bounty. The industrial revolution heralded man’s disconnect from nature and the balance that sustains it. In the process, and in our wake, we have depleted its resources and polluted, challenging Gaia’s homeostasis. 

Our planet is sick, and its temperature is rising. 

As the disconnect with our planet widened, so did the disconnect with our own bodies and our health. We have become poor stewards of both.  

What the industrial revolution has done to our planet the medical-pharmaceutical and processed food revolution has done to our bodies. 

We routinely and unthinkingly consume and pollute our bodies with drugs and chemically laden processed and artificial foods and apply a chemical orgy of personal body-care products while we drink polluted water and breathe polluted air. We have challenged our body’s ability to maintain its homeostasis and, as individuals and as a species, we are sick. 

What do you feel like when your temperature goes up 1 degree? Out of sorts? 2 degrees? Definitely not yourself. 3 degrees? Sick, and seeing your doctor. 4 degrees? Very sick, with medical interventions and possible hospital admissions.  5-6 degrees? Emergency measures are being implemented to lower the fever to save your life. 

The rising temperatures on our planet are having the same effects. 

Or, as some graffiti I saw long ago said: “What we do to the earth we do to ourselves.”
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In our bodies every cell functions independently, interdependently and co-dependently. The same is true for all aspects of our planet. This is the concept of holism expressed in the Gaia Theory. 

But, how can we expect someone who eats chemical foods, smokes, lives a sedentary indoor life and routinely consumes drugs for what ails them; someone who has no respect for the delicate balance of their own ecosystem, to understand that the melting of the polar ice caps and the loss of species has implications for the planet’s ability to support life on earth? 

As author Micheal Pollan wrote in The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Nature's default is health. If we stop the devastation, and if it hasn’t gone too far, nature will restore the balance to support life on the planet. 

Make no mistake about it: the planet is not in peril. Life on the planet, as we know it, is. 

If you stop the devastation of your body with unnatural and toxic chemicals and give your body what needs in a pure and sufficient quantity, the inevitable result is improved health. 

To save life on our planet, we must first save ourselves.          

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Crisis of Credit

This entry, while unrelated to your personal health, is definitely related to your  financial health.

This short video gives an easy-to-comprehend explanation of the credit crisis. It is worth viewing for a better understanding of how it all fell apart.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Misconceptions About Corn Syrup? NOT!

Talk about vigilance. Kudos to Audrae Erikson, president of the Corn Refiners Association, for spotting a single negative reference to high fructose corn syrup in a four page local newspaper (The Transcript: Elf Parlor Pouring Local Brews: ”We want everything to be as fresh and as healthy as possible. We don't use high-fructose corn syrup.")

But that is what lobbyists and political action committees are paid to do- protect the financial and political interests, and public perception and image, of their clients, huge Agra-businesses such as Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill, etc.

Erickson’s response, in my opinion, is misleading. The AMA stamp of approval has nothing to do with either public health or safety, and high fructose corn syrup is not benign.

Contrary to popular belief, the AMA is not a benevolent group of wise grey-haired doctors looking out for the health of Americans. The AMA is a political action committee dedicated to protecting the financial interests and political influence of its members.

Their history is rather appalling and finds them on the wrong side of many public health issues.

Working with the tobacco industry, they actively endorsed cigarettes and smoking, contributing to untold disease, subsequent medical interventions and deaths related to COPD and lung cancer. In another mega-boon to Agra-business, they advocated the use of margarine and vegetable oil products associated with trans-fats, over butter and other natural animal fats, contributing to untold diseases, medical management and deaths related to cardiovascular disease and cancer. And, most recently, they have frightened the public out of the sun and advocated massive use of sun block  largely contributing to the current pandemic vitamin D deficiency, that according to recent studies is associated with an increased risk ‘in all-cause mortality (deaths of all causes).’

Among other things, the AMA also vehemently opposed Medicare coverage for Americans over the age of 65, and all attempts at health care reform to date. The AMA has been found guilty in the Supreme Court, on at least two occasions, of violation of the Sherman Anti-trust Act for restraint of trade, trying to monopolize the field of health care. And more.

I suspect their recent endorsement of HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) will be found to be yet another misguided AMA position statement detrimental to public health leading to diseases requiring life-long medical management.

At, ’the site devoted to answering your questions and providing factual information about high fructose corn syrup,’ one can access studies with titles and conclusions such as: “Frequent soft-drink consumption does not lead to higher obesity rate.” (And my 87 year old mother is poised to win the Tour de France)

First of all, in terms of studies, there is a great saying: “Tell me who’s asking the questions, and I’ll tell you what answers they want.’

This study includes such stunning statements as: “In consideration with other factors that potentially influence obesity occurrence as indicated in the risk analysis, the noted frequent SSB (sugar-sweetened beverages) intake in obese adults was not sufficient to be a significant factor for elevating obesity risk.” In other words, if you are obese and frequently drink soda, it does not increase your risk of obesity.

This type of non-science, non-sense study only serves the interests of its sponsors (Regulatory, Nutritional and Scientific Affairs Group, James R. Randall Research Center, Archer Daniels Midland Company) at the expense of scientific truth and public health.

Even if we were to accept the notion that high fructose corn syrup is ‘generally regarded as safe,’ the fact that it is ubiquitous in processed foods and soft drinks makes it dangerous. Consumption of high fructose corn syrup has gone from a half pound per person in 1970 to 62 pounds per person by 2003. This is consistent with the skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and cancers in both adults and children. 

While there are other associated factors, such as sedentary lifestyle, smoking, etc., it is purely a self-serving distraction and a lie to suggest that high fructose corn syrup is safe and has not contributed hugely to the increased incidence and deaths associated with all of these diseases.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Next, Even BIGGER, Bubble!

The Next, Even Bigger, Bubble!

The monumental problems facing our health care system have many ominous similarities to the problems that precipitated the collapse of the housing bubble, and ultimately our banking system. This is another obvious bubble about to burst. (A bubble by definition is an artificial inflation based on spending money we don’t have.) 

Frighteningly, no appropriate steps are being taken to avert disaster. In fact, the only step alluded to, creating a unified payer, may only ensure our demise by sacrificing our long-term interests (our health) for potential short-term financial gains.

We need to recognize that this is not a health CARE crisis. It is NOT a crisis of access to, or costs of, care. It is a true HEALTH crisis; a sad indictment of the state of America’s health

Each year more and more Americans are getting sick and dying from the chronic degenerative diseases of obesity, stroke, cancer and heart disease. These diseases result from decades of bad lifestyle choices and toxic environmental exposures. 

What drugs, diagnostic tests or surgeries can fix that? 

What amount of money, no matter how large or who pays, can fix that? 

Moreover, does anyone really believe that if we all had unlimited access to free, after-the-fact disease care we would be any healthier? 

While the symptoms of these diseases are widely treated with drugs and surgery, the diseases themselves are not curable and most of what is done, most of the time, does nothing to alter either the progressive nature of the illness, or the course of the disease towards death. That is why patients have lifetime prescriptions for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, etc, medications, and why they have more and more invasive procedures (angioplasty, stents, bypass, etc), over time, until they die; a protracted death at costs that we can no longer afford. 

As I recently told Massachusetts State Senator Ben Downing, it frightens me to think that our State, which has instituted ‘health care reform’ by mandating health insurance and drug coverage for all residents, may actually believe they have solved the health crisis. Even more frightening is that this is being looked at, and considered, as a model solution for the nation. 

The reform mandate only deals with the symptoms of access and costs.

As more and more people access the system, due to increased rates of disease and increased unemployment, the costs will only skyrocket, and the reform, as such, is doomed to fail. 

Indeed, it already is. It is being called ‘The New Big Dig.’ 

“While pledging universal coverage is easy, the harder problem is paying for it. This year's appropriation for Commonwealth Care was $472 million, but officials have asked for an add-on that will bring it to $625 million. For 2009, Governor Deval Patrick requested $869 million but has already conceded that even that huge figure is too low. Over the coming decade, the expected overruns float in as much as $4 billion over budget.” 

No amount of money can fix this problem!!         

While largely incurable with drugs and surgery, the chronic degenerative diseases are, for the most part, preventable and reversable through lifetime, lifestyle changes. This is where we, as a society, need to focus our efforts. 

To get there we first have to let go of the false notion that medicine can save us from ourselves and from the enormous and powerful corporate influences on our eating and pill-popping habits.
This is a huge societal issue that demands bold legislated public policy initiatives to avert disaster; policies that assist and guide us towards better lifestyle choices and demand more corporate responsibility and accountability.  

We need nothing less than the creation of a cultural paradigm shift towards prevention through improved health and wellness and away from policies and medical care models that only diagnose and treat disease.