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Sun, 24 Jul 2016
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Better Earth

Italian farmers are planting hemp to suck up heavy metal toxins in polluted soil

© Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Can hemp crops revitalize Italian farmland tainted by heavy metals?

Farmers in Taranto, a town in the Italian region of Puglia once known for its dairy farms and traditional cheeses, are now planting cannabis crops in an effort to counteract devastating environmental pollution from a nearby massive steel plant, as reported by Slate.
The Ilva steel plant covers 15 million square meters—nearly three times the size of the city itself. It opened in 1965 and doubled in size by the 1970s. It once churned out almost one-third of Italy's steel. The plant helped turn Taranto into a grimy industrial city. Smoking chimneys, blast furnaces, and aggregates yards now dominate the once-pastoral town. Even today a giant oil refinery and a huge cement factory welcome visitors.

Comment: See also: Industrial hemp extremely useful in removing radiation and other toxins from soils
  • Industrial hemp sure to become NC's newest legal crop



Hearts

Can your gut microbes influence your food cravings?

© Orewa
Do you experience cravings for particular foods? Recent research on the gut-brain axis suggests that the microbes in your gut could strongly influence your food choices. Read on to learn how your gut microbes can manipulate your behavior and, in turn, how you might manipulate your gut microbes to curb food cravings.

A whopping 97 percent of women and 68 percent of men report experiencing cravings for certain foods (1). Cravings are thought to be a combination of social, cultural, psychological, and physiological factors and are a major barrier to weight loss and optimal health for many individuals (2).

A recent body of evidence suggests that gut microbes might play a significant role in influencing cravings. Given that microbes co-evolved with us and constantly depend on the incoming dietary substrates that we provide for their own sustenance, it's really no surprise that they are able to preferentially shape our eating preferences to improve their own chances of survival. In this article, I'll discuss our current understanding of how microbes shape eating behavior and how you might use this information to combat cravings.

Comment: Our minds and how we think are deeply connected to our microbiota and the two may even be entirely inseparable. Considering this, pathogenic microbiota of various types could even influence our thinking to serve them against our own best interests. Focusing on fostering a healthy and diverse micriobiota by working to increase health-promoting gut flora and eliminating pathogenic microbiota can go a long way to improving one's health and well-being, as well as one's mental and emotional state.


Health

Natural treatments for three common types of headaches

One major downside to having these big prominent heads stuffed with consciousness-spawning brain matter is that they sometimes ache. Nobody likes a headache. You can find fetishists who enjoy pinching, slapping, biting, burning and any matter of objectively painful stimuli. But there aren't "headache fetishists." No one's chugging a 32 ounce Slurpee in search of brain freeze, or getting drunk for the hangover.

The difficult thing about headaches is figuring out why they're occurring. Pain in other areas is different. You can look at your hand if it's hurting and figure out why. You can see the cut on your knee and know what's going on. But you are your head, and the headache is inside. Your consciousness sits behind your eyes observing reality and directing your role in it. It's all a big mystery. Or so it feels.

That doesn't mean we're helpless. There are many effective ways to manage, treat, and even blunt the painful effects of headaches.

There are different types of headaches. To fix them, you'll need to first understand which type of headache currently affects you.

The three main ones are migraines, cluster headaches, and tension headaches.

Bacon n Eggs

The Ketogenic diet: What are the effects of Ketosis on the brain?

© ISTOCK
Although mainstream sources still mistake "the brain needs glucose" for "the brain can only run on glucose," regular MDA readers know the truth: given sufficient adaptation, the brain can derive up to 75% of its fuel from ketone bodies, which the liver constructs using fatty acids. If we could only use glucose, we wouldn't make it longer than a few days without food. If our brains couldn't utilize fat-derived ketones, we'd drop dead as soon as our liver had exhausted its capacity to churn out glucose. We'd waste away, our lean tissue dissolving into amino acids for hepatic conversion into glucose to feed our rapacious brains. You'd end up a skeletal wraith with little else but your brain and a hypertrophied liver remaining until, eventually, the latter cannibalized itself in a last ditch search for glucose precursors for the tyrant upstairs. It would get ugly.

That's adaptation. But is there an actual cognitive advantage to running on ketones?

Comment: For more information on the health benefits of a Ketogenic diet:


Arrow Up

California slaps health warning label on popular weed killer - Atrazine

The most commonly found pesticide in U.S. ground and surface water - a toxic weed killer called atrazine - will now have to carry a warning label in the most populated state in the country.

Agribusiness giant Syngenta - Monsanto's biggest competitor - was dealt a major blow on Friday, when the state of California added atrazine, the company's top-selling weed killer, to the state's list of toxic chemicals.

The move by California health officials could drastically cut the use of the hormone-disrupting chemical in the state. Atrazine is the second most commonly used herbicide in the U.S., and is found in the drinking water supply of more than 27 million Americans.

Comment: More Stark Evidence of the Hazards of Atrazine
According to Open Secrets, Syngenta spends well over a million dollars a year on reported lobbying of Congress and federal agencies to limit the regulation of the chemicals it markets to American businesses and consumers, in addition to an untold sum on public relations in the US.



Health

Component of mother's milk doesn't feed the baby, it feeds the baby's gut flora

© Rachel Levit Ruiz
This is an edited excerpt from "I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life," which will be published on August 9th by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

The Foods for Health Institute, at the University of California, Davis, has the appearance of a Tuscan villa, its terra-cotta-walled buildings overlooking a large vineyard and a garden that bursts with summer vegetables. It is led by a chemist named Bruce German, and if there were a world title in extolling the virtues of milk he would surely hold it. At our first meeting, he spent half an hour monologuing on the subject, bouncing on an exercise ball and kneading a tattered shred of bubble wrap as he spoke. Milk, he said, is a perfect source of nutrition, a superfood that is actually worthy of the label.

This isn't a common view. The number of scientific publications about milk is tiny, compared with the number devoted to other bodily fluids—blood, saliva, even urine. The dairy industry has spent a fortune on extracting more and more milk from cows, but very little on understanding just what this white liquid is or how it works. Medical-funding agencies have generally dismissed it as irrelevant, German said, because "it doesn't have anything to do with the diseases of middle-aged white men." And nutritionists have looked at it as a simple cocktail of fats and sugars, one that can be easily duplicated and replaced by formulas. "People said it's just a bag of chemicals," German told me. "It's anything but that."

Comment: Further reading:


Cut

Cancer-fighting gene-editing tool Crispr to begin human trials in China

© Michael Kooren / Reuters
It may be banned in the UK, but DNA editing technology will begin trials on humans in China next month in the hope of curing lung cancer. The technique known as 'Crispr' acts like a scissors, cutting out unwanted sections of DNA.

A team of scientists at Sichuan University's West China hospital in Chengdu will be the first to use the technique on humans after successful trials with monkeys.

"If this technology has good safety and shows certain efficacy, it has wide applications," Lu You, an oncologist leading the trials, told Bloomberg.

Mail

The evidence-based mind of psychiatry on display

© boston.com
Earlier this year, Ronald Pies and Allen Frances wrote a series of blogs that collectively might be titled: "Why Robert Whitaker is Wrong about Antipsychotics." In regard to reviewing the "evidence" on that question, Pies did most of the heavy lifting, but he also told of drawing on the expertise of E. Fuller Torrey, Joseph Pierre and Bernard Carroll. Given the prominence of this group, it could be fairly said that Pies' review reflects, to a large degree, the collective "thoughts" of American psychiatry.

And with that understanding in mind, therein lies an opportunity, one not to be missed.

Over the past 35 years, psychiatry—as an institution—has remade our society. This is the medical specialty that defines what is normal and not normal. This is the medical specialty that tells us when we should take medications that will affect how we respond to the world. And this is the profession that determines whether such medications are good for our children. Given that influence, we as a society naturally have reason to want to know how the leaders in the profession think, and thus how they come to their conclusions about the merits of their drugs. The blogs by Pies and Frances provide us with just that opportunity. We can watch their minds at work and ask ourselves, do we see on display the type of thinking—the openness of mind, the critical thinking, the curiosity, the humility of character, and the devotion to public wellbeing—that we want to see in a medical specialty that has such influence over our lives?

Comment: The "institutional corruption" of Psychiatry: A discussion with the authors of 'Psychiatry Under the Influence'


Family

Study finds working overtime increases likelihood of illness and injury

© Stringer / Reuters
Working overtime is great for the wallet, but not for your health, according to a new study. The research found that a person's likelihood of becoming ill grows when they begin working extra hours.

In the largest study of its kind, reported by Politiken newspaper, researchers from the University of Copenhagen and Purdue University found that when Danish production companies experience a surge in business, their employees' workload increases, thereby negatively impacting their health.

In particular, when a production company increases its exports by 10 percent and employees must work extra hours, workers suffer more illness and injuries.

"Our results show that there are real consequences when one is made to work too much," Roland Munch of the University of Copenhagen told Politiken.

Attention

Racism: Harmful for the brain and body

Today, we are looking at the effects of racism on the health of the sufferer. According to Merriam Webster, racism is the prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior.

Especially in the United States, racism is a word some people would not want to hear. These people deny that racism exists. However, it now obvious that racism is not a perception in America, it is a reality. African-Americans and other minority groups in the country are constantly at the receiving end of racial bigotry.

But how does racism impact the health of the sufferer?

First, Sarah Zhang of the Wired News states that African-Americans face disproportionately high levels of diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. She argues further that when it comes to mental health, studies show that reporting more incidents of racism is linked to more signs of depression and anxiety on the sufferer.