Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What Is Cancer?

Cancer is simply an "overgrowth" of mutated cells.  Everyone has cancerous cells in their body at all times and free radicals are necessarily generated as a function of metabolism.  This is unavoidable, but the body also has very effective built-in mechanisms to control the proliferation of cancerous cells.  It's only when the body can no longer keep up with the rate of cell mutation that we say "this person has cancer". 

Chemotherapy focuses on destroying cancerous cells (along with healthy cells) whereas nutrition focuses on giving the body what it needs to make healthy cells again.  You don't necessarily have to kill cancer cells with drugs or radiation if you can:
1- get the body to start making healthy cells again by giving it the nutrients it lacks and
2- rebuild the mechanisms in the body that destroy cancerous cells but have been disabled due to malnutrition. 

We can say that cancer is generally caused by putting lots of toxins into the body while depriving the body of the nutrients it needs to run the systems that neutralize these toxins.  This is exactly what the Standard American Diet does.  Stress and other less tangible factors are also toxic to the body and can incapacitate and destroy, sometimes beyond repair, crucial protective mechanisms and even entire glands. 

The body literally makes millions of cells every hour.  Every single cell in the GI tract is replaced every 3-5 days and most cells in the body are replaced at least every three weeks!  And as you might imagine, replicating a million healthy cells every hour requires a constant supply of many nutrients.  Cell replication is impaired when the nutrients necessary for healthy cell replication are absent, which in turn leads to mutations and cancer.

Cancer is one possible end result of chronic malnutrition.  There are many others, but they are all "lifestyle diseases" caused by what is often very treatable and preventable malnutrition.  Give the body what it needs to protect itself and the odds you'll ever need cancer treatment - natural, drug-based, or otherwise - become very low. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

An Anniversary on a High Note

Last night Holly and I celebrated our fourth anniversary by going to see the Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks, an incredible outdoor music venue outside of Denver.  It was a great night and the icing on the cake was that tickets were only $20!

How could this be possible, to see the symphony perform at a venue where tickets are often three times what we paid?


The event was sponsored by marijuana industry companies. 

My hat's off to the state of Colorado for passing Amendment 64, which made all this possible.  Instead of arresting people for possessing a plant, we pumped $12 million in tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales into the state's coffers in the first half of 2014.

Even more than that, a thousand people and many families went to see the symphony last night, people who might not have been able or willing to afford it otherwise.  A good, wholesome time was had by many, and it was made possible by money contributed by the marijuana companies.

Of course, there's nothing especially noble about sponsoring an event as a way of promoting one's own business, but it's nice that we're finally allowing the marijuana industry a chance to become legitimate, pay taxes, and be a part of the community and above-ground market.

It's win-win.

The marijuana industry gets to be a legitimate part of society and business, and we get their innovative ideas, like making a symphony performance available at a price that many can afford.

There are plenty of things that are not right in this world, but I take some solace in the turning tide marking the end of marijuana prohibition.  I take solace in events like the one I went to last night.

It is one of the many positive side-effects of ending marijuana prohibition.

Thank you, reason, for finding your way into Colorado's approach to regulating marijuana.  It made for a lovely anniversary!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Modest Proposal

For argument’s sake, let’s all agree that the gender wage gap is objectively valid and that the data indicating that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes are correct.  Assuming we agree on that, what if we decided to think of part of that disparity as compensation paid to men in return for signing up for the selective service?  Think of it as a way to compensate men for pledging to defend our country with their very lives, should it come down to that.  This is a service that is not and has never been expected of women, but men are required by law to provide this service or risk up to five years in jail and fines up to $250,000.  It is a service for which men are not directly compensated in any other way.  I don’t know that it’s worth paying men 23% more than women, but isn’t it worth something?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Dubious Merits of Scientific Consensus

I recently got into a discussion on facebook regarding the safety of GMOs, which quickly (and perhaps somewhat predictably) devolved into a pointless argument.  I was primarily talking with two musicians, friends of a friend, who insisted that the overwhelming scientific consensus on GMOs was that they were safe and there was really no room for conversation on the subject.  I was told that the question of GMO safety boils down to ”whether you accept the validity of scientific consensus or whether you're plugged into one of the AltMed quasi-cults.  All this from a musician!  (I should mention for any who don’t know that I’m a nutrition student.)  I like musicians, and I like music, but I don’t usually seek out musicians’ professional opinions on health-related questions. 

Arguably one of the biggest take-home messages I’ve received from studying nutrition so far is that the human body is extremely complicated.  Everyone is different and each person is different depending on time of day, what they just ate, and a hundred other factors.  Anybody who’s ever studied organic chemistry can attest to how complex the human body and metabolic pathways are.  It’s appealing to think that when you eat 8oz of broccoli, predictable and consistent effects on the body will occur for everyone.  It’s appealing, but it’s just not true.  The human body is made up of complex, sophisticated mechanisms that take significant study to understand.  And it’s really a beautiful thing, because these mechanisms serve to protect the body in a multitude of circumstances.

This brings me back to the arrogant musicians on facebook.  There is a false sense of being objective, scientific, and knowledgeable that comes from blindly accepting the majority opinion.  One of these guys argued that it would be illogical for him to stray from the “scientific consensus” opinion that GMOs are safe because, as he is a layman in this subject, all he can do is listen to what experts say.  Funny that being a layman doesn’t also preclude him from telling me, someone who is actually studying the subject, that I’m wrong before even hearing my arguments.  Even if GMOs are safe, I still say that his logic is flawed:

It’s not unscientific to disagree with the majority opinion if you’ve studied the subject and reached a differing conclusion that you can back up.  In fact, I would argue that this kind of dissent embodies what science is at its core.  However, agreeing with the majority opinion simply because it is the majority opinion makes one a blind follower with no understanding of the subject, and vulnerable to becoming a patsy in someone else’s scam.  The musician doesn’t understand the issue himself but is content to parrot what he has read, and does not hesitate to tell anyone who disagrees that they’re wrong, even if they might be more knowledgeable than he is.

I agree that it is at least somewhat logical for a layman to subscribe to the majority opinion.  I understand this reasoning.  But what is not logical is to fiercely argue a point of view on an issue that one really doesn’t understand.  This is not scientific; this is dangerous and ignorant.  One good and recent example of the dangers of widely accepted misinformation in the arena of health is the recent debunking of the myth that saturated fat causes heart disease.  The recent well-publicized cover of Time about the merits of dietary fat is a testament to this struggle.  Mainstream science and medicine has only recently come around on this myth, just ahead of Time magazine.  Until very recently, the idea that saturated fat causes heart disease was completely embraced by the medical community for 60 years – but why?

One guy, Ancel Keys, came up with a theory which he first presented in the 1950s that sought to establish a causal link between saturated fat and heart disease.  He cherry–picked data to support his theory and pushed it hard, hard enough that it came to be regarded as scientific fact, despite the significant flaws in his data.  The musicians from facebook would have been satisfied – “scientific consensus” had been reached, but that didn’t make Keys’ theory true.  However, that didn’t stop his theory from being quickly embraced with very little scrutiny, and the medically accepted recommendation for heart health given to nearly everyone for decades became to replace healthy saturated fats with vegetable oils and margarine. 

It has only been in the last few years that this has begun to change, even though the “AltMed quasi-cults” had been trying to warn us.  It turns out that saturated fat is much healthier for most people than the vegetable oils that margarine is made from.  In fact, heart disease has skyrocketed since the switch to margarine and vegetable oils, and we now understand that widespread consumption of low quality vegetable oils is largely responsible for the modern epidemic of heart disease we currently face. 

We must live with the fact that we let one man so drastically influence medical consensus without properly reviewing his flimsy data.  We must also live with the fact that it took 60 years and the prodding of the AltMed quasi-cults to get the medical community to wake up and notice, to put it bluntly, that anybody had done any research since Keys.  In the case of saturated fat, scientific consensus let ignorance reign and people died because of it.  We would be wise to learn from this mistake and do our best not to repeat it.

I personally don’t have much reverence for scientific consensus.  Some people get really turned on by it, but I don’t understand the appeal.  If everybody agrees about something it means we’re on the cusp of a new understanding of that subject, not that we’ve finally got it figured out!  When has that ever happened?  Never!  No, instead it means it’s time to question everything and to be ready to make that next quantum leap to the next level of understanding, even if doing so illuminates how wrong we’ve been about some things.  I firmly believe that almost every scientific consensus that has ever existed will eventually be proven wrong, and that revering them serves only to slow progress. 

Getting back to Keys and his hijacking of the scientific consensus, it’s absolutely amazing and terrifying that one person was able to singlehandedly derail medicine’s understanding of heart disease and saturated fat for 60 years.  It gives me goose bumps, and I think it’s worth reflecting on the weight of this for a few moments.  It’s not difficult to see the dangers of blindly following the consensus on anything, especially an area as important, complex, and as quickly evolving as health and medicine. 

Neither is it hard to see the parallels between the saturated fat debate and the current debate about GMOs.  At their core, both are about the food industry which is, in turn, about money.  The margarine industry years ago needed a scientific consensus to declare margarine “the heart-healthy alternative to saturated fat” in order to convince consumers to buy its margarine, and capitalized on Keys’ flawed research to market their products.  And Keys, of course, was happy to receive free publicity for his theory.

Fast-forward back to current day and the story is much the same, but with different players:  Companies like Monsanto want to patent and sell their GMO products and make money.  Making money is what businesses do, after all, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing.  But we need to make sure that we’re not repeating the mistake of blindly following what we’re told is scientific consensus, as we did with saturated fat.  We need to make sure that private interests are not rushing the availability and sale of dangerous products that have not been adequately tested for safety.

Maybe GMOs are safe.  That’s really not what this about.  I have gone out of my way to make this not be about that.  

This is about the perils of blindly following popular opinion, the so-called scientific consensus, a practice and mindset that are decidedly unscientific.  It’s about being aware that for many of the people involved, this is just a business decision, and that “scientific consensus” is a commodity to be purchased.  It’s about being aware that real science questions everything all the time, and that constant, meticulous and unrelenting self-scrutiny is what makes science such an incredibly powerful tool that is worthy of our respect.  But judging the merits of a scientific theory based on its popularity is just that – a popularity contest, and something that bears little resemblance to science as I understand it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Rape Culture: Female Chauvanism In Action

This is a response to an essay called "A letter to the guy who harassed me outside the bar".  The link to that article is listed at the end of my essay, but I don't think reading it is vital to understanding the points I hope to make. 

I simply cannot stand rape culture theory, for one specific reason: It is guilty of all the legitimately reprehensible behaviors it claims to denounce. 

Like men who harass and intimidate women, women who espouse rape culture rhetoric do so in an attempt to dominate, subjugate and control the opposite sex.

This essay claims to address a man who harassed the author outside a bar, however this is clearly not true.  The author acknowledges this in a concluding sentence that's littered with unnecessary commas: "So, to you, the man on the sidewalk [outside the bar], I’m quite sure you will never read this essay."

Then why are you writing it, and who is your audience?  Though at first glance these questions may seem somewhat trivial, they warrant some serious consideration.

Rape culture theory tells us that when a man harasses a woman, it makes her fear that she may be assaulted.  Many fears pass through a woman's mind in a situation like this - fear of being assaulted, fear of being labeled a whore or a slut, whether by herself or by society at large...  Genuine terror and a multitude of other emotions can spontaneously erupt in a split second, this much is certainly true.

But let's try the shoe on the other foot.  Similar to a man who harasses women, this essay makes men feel they must act a certain way around women.  How might an assertion like that make an individual man feel?  Certainly, some men wouldn't give it much thought.  But like a rape victim who internalizes her assault (why did this happen to me? what did I do to deserve this?) some men may worry:

Am I threatening to women?  What is it about me that makes me threatening?  I didn't know I was a source of fear for other people.  Am I making half the population fear for their safety?!?  What's wrong with me?!  How do I know if I am even guilty of this?  I think of myself as friendly and approachable; I don't want to be a source of worry and fear for other people! 

You can see how this thought process may easily snowball into a chain reaction of worry and self-reproach, much like the target of unwanted harassment or sexual advances might question herself and what she did to make herself the target of such abuse.  And rape culture theory is right there, waiting to allay these mens' apprehension with specific instructions on just how to act so as not to be a source of fear for women.

Rape culture doesn't consider how its assertions may make men feel because in rape culture theory, men are not people.  They are only relevant and worth discussing in terms of how they relate to women: Is this man conscientious towards women?  How does he make them feel? 

Everything is secondary to how women feel, and how a man feels about being told how to behave just doesn't come up. 

Behind a veil of addressing the man outside the bar, the author writes to all men as if they were that terrible man.  She lumps all men into the same boat.  Because to her, what's the difference?  Men exist to her as either threats or non-threats, but rarely as people.  And it's easy to ignore the feelings of a potential threat.

She is entitled to dismiss my feelings.  This is not sarcasm or insincere rhetoric, but merely a statement of fact: She is under no obligation to look out for my feelings or well-being.  But by the same token, neither am I obligated in any way to her, and that is exactly my point:

It is not anyone's responsibility to make sure that anyone else feels any certain way.  Period.

If you feel threatened, do something about it.  Fight fire with fire and beat him at his own game.  Make his interaction with you so incredibly unpleasant that he shudders any time he thinks of you for the rest of his life.

Rape culture tells you that you don't have control over that situation, but you do.  Be empowered.  Make him the victim.  And if you can't, move to a safer neighborhood, buy pepper spray, get into therapy, or take a self-defense class.  Do what you gotta do to address the issue.

Fight your own fucking battles and stop telling half the population to act a certain way so that you may feel safe, if for no other reason than this:

Harassment and rape don't really have much to do with each other.  Even if we're all super polite and respectful towards women, rape won't magically cease to exist.  Society will just look like we went back in time several hundred years, with rigid rules of acceptable social interaction and decorum around women.

Feeling safe and secure - and indeed, feeling any certain way, comes from within. The responsibility to manage these feelings lies with the individual experiencing them, not the rest of the world. 

It's your responsibility.  Own your shit.

The original essay: http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2012-12-a-letter-to-the-guy-who-harrassed-me-outside-the-bar

Monday, September 10, 2012

Walking a Mile in Someone Else's Shoes

This is a response to a tumblr post by UnWinona, entitled "I debated whether or not to share this story".

As she says in her closing remarks, UnWinona wants men “to be forced to feel, for even one minute, what it feels like to have so much verbal hatred and physical intimidation thrown at them for nothing more than being female and not wanting to share.“

Well UnWinona, in the spirit of putting oneself in someone else’s shoes:

I want you to appreciate that other people experience difficult, painful situations too, even men. 

I want you to know what it feels like to be expected to defend your country with your life, should it come to that, simply because you’re a man. 

I want you to recognize that a man who harasses you on the train might well be a veteran who was drafted and forced to murder, a duty from which you are exempt as a woman.  I want you to develop some appreciation for the men who suffer for the rest of their lives because of what they were required to do as men. 

You seem to think that men should walk a mile in your shoes.  I encourage you to take your own advice and put yourself in someone else’s shoes.  You might be surprised how your perspective changes.  You might find that being the attractive woman who gets harassed on the train isn’t so bad in the grand scheme of things.

Then again, you might not.  I have no idea.  And my point is not to say that your life isn’t really so hard, because I don’t know anything about you or what your life is like.  I am only trying to convey that everyone has their difficulties.  Everyone faces hardships and truly trying situations, and I genuinely believe that you might be happier in the end if you garnered more of an appreciation for that fact.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fever Pitch

I never did measure up to my potential.
Adults always made sure to tell me so.
Why would I want to? I never understood.
Everything was always about the future.

Well the future is here and now,
And the adults were right to warn me.

But I can't help but think:

Learning how to be happy in the moment seems
Like a valuable skill for me to have learned,
More important than citing references properly,
And more relevant than calculus.

I'm still young, and yet it's already nearly over.
Fates are sealed so early.

There are people who follow their dreams.
I know, I've met some of them.
But dreams are impractical.
Once I accomplish lots of things, maybe I'll have time for dreams.

But without dreams, who gives a shit
About accomplishing anything?
It's another Catch-22.
Oh well, no time for that: it's time for work.

Those dreams will one day become another stack of drawings
Gathering dust in the closet.
Those dreams will be something to remind me about my limitless potential
That I'm still not measuring up to.

Sorry, “to which I'm still not measuring up”,
Not that anybody under thirty knows the difference.

A good job that was, taking AP English:
Learning how not to end a sentence with a preposition.
That's been tremendously useful knowledge.
Many people I know can barely read, much less identify a preposition.

But the people who can read are generally intolerable.
Don't get me wrong, I hang out with the illiterates for a reason.
I made my choice; I guess I shouldn't complain.
But to be fair, I think my options were a bit limited.

The fool asks:

What is my place in this world?
There must be something I have to offer,
Some balance I can achieve.
I've no more patience for this life.

I get up in the morning because
It's better than getting fired
From a job I hate.
This is not good enough.