Thursday, October 29, 2009

An Economy in Need of Holistic Medicine

New York Times Article, October 23, 2009, By Anand Giridharadas

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS — The American economy is having what doctors call an acute episode.

Employment won’t throb. The circulation of capital remains weak. Industry is breathing, but barely. And if we can agree on anything one year into this mess, it is that there is little we can do when the patient arrives already this bad.

That is why the talk now is so often of prevention. Prevent the next crisis through health insurance and a green-energy sector, the American president says. Prevent it by cutting spending and nurturing personal responsibility, American conservatives retort.

But the truth is that politicians, and not just in the United States, are rarely willing to invest in a problem that hasn’t occurred. Consensus and action are easier to come by after a 9/11 or a Lehman Brothers than before. Problems in the embryonic, soluble phase don’t interest us; and those that do interest us are often too big to solve.

Which is where acupuncture comes in.

Western medical practices have attracted similar criticisms in recent years, for an emphasis on intervening in disease rather than preventing it beforehand and promoting quotidian well-being. But in health, unlike politics, an alternative approach called wellness has emerged, focused on investing in health before it breaks down.

What can wellness tell us about our present economic malady? As it moves from fringe to mainstream — with wellness programs in the health care reform proposals now in Congress, wellness manifestos on the best-seller lists and a U.S. Army wellness program that asks soldiers to introspect and meditate — I asked experts about the approach’s core tenets and how they might be applied to the body politic.

Nip it in the bud. Wellness argues for cultivating health a little every day, not just restoring it during calamities. We increasingly accept that it is better to monitor a diabetic’s blood sugar with regular clinic visits than to amputate her limbs. We accept that businesses can avoid costly cancer treatments by encouraging workers to stop smoking. But in our political life, we prefer to wait until things reach the emergency room.

We barely regulate financial markets for years, thinking regulation oppressive, until we are compelled to nationalize private firms. We avoid expensive investments and controversial new methods in public education, then pay the price in lower social mobility and vast prison populations. We neglect building roads and bridges and Internet highways, fearing the cost, and then reap the much greater costs of whole regions falling off the economic grid.

“With a lot of social problems, we’re not sure how to prevent it, and therefore we don’t spend money on it, because we always have a lot of other priorities,” said David Cutler, a Harvard economist who has advised both the Clinton and Obama White Houses on health care.

Go to the roots. Western medicine tends to fight symptoms, whether suppressing coughs or flooding the brains of the depressed with serotonin. Wellness is interested in underlying causes. It is inclined to see an infertile woman, for example, as a stressed woman rather than a woman with defunct ovaries, and may suggest that she eat and work differently rather than take ovary-manipulating pills.

In public policy, a symptom bias rules. A housing crisis? Enact a tax credit! Bank failures? Bail them out!

There is nothing wrong with such steps — except for what they leave out, as most economists will tell you.

Even amid all this action, we have virtually ignored the complex weave of issues beneath the issues: meager savings, a debt addiction, a congenitally spendthrift political system, an almost pathological craving for stuff. And, with our topical cures, we should not be surprised to see new symptoms of the old maladies appearing: insurance again being packaged into derivatives, bonuses again soaring on Wall Street.

“We treat symptoms, and we do not look at the causes of the symptoms,” Deepak Chopra, the famed alternative-medicine and wellness guru, said when asked to extend the wellness metaphor to the economy. “We are totally at this moment looking at it in a reductionist manner. The reductionist manner is a bailout. And somehow that’s supposed to solve the problem, whereas the problem occurred because we were thinking reductively.”

Look within. Wellness sees the causes of and remedies for ailments as lying within us. Avoid infection by building immunity. Defeat disease by eating foods that help the body heal itself.

With the economy, we look everywhere but within. It’s the fault of greedy Wall Street bankers. It’s Washington’s fault. Bush’s fault. Obama’s fault. Greenspan’s fault. Somebody fix it!

But what about us? Why can’t we acknowledge that it was us who bought all those unaffordable houses, us who listened to that zero-gravity financial “advice,” us who bought and bought and never kept a rainy-day fund? And why, in solving the problem, do we expect the state to create substitute dynamism instead of renewing the culture of decentralized dynamism that made the U.S. economy so vital to begin with?

“Conventional medicine is very unbalanced in placing all its emphasis on external interventions rather than looking to advance that internal capacity to maintain healing,” said Andrew Weil, founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and the author of several books on wellness. Likewise with the economy, he said: “Instead of simply identifying external threats and developing weapons and strategies against them, we should instead identify and strengthen immunity and resistance.”

A politics of wellness would transcend party. It would emphasize the up-front investments that Democrats like in order to achieve the long-run fiscal solvency on which Republicans insist. It would fulfill the liberal belief in a positive role for government in maintaining well-being but would honor the conservative conviction that government’s chief role is to help the social organism heal itself. It would acknowledge, with the left, the complex lattice of cultural and institutional influences that govern a society’s well-being, while emphasizing, with the right, the limits of what any external healer can do.

Think wellness in these hard times. The most urgent problems, after all, may be the ones we haven’t had yet.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Producing a Healthy, Long-Lived Populace on a Budget – Who in the World is Getting the Job Done? Part 3

In Part 1 of this article, I expressed the desire to take an objective view at the health care systems of different nations to see if I could find a good example of a country who was pulling off a healthy population, a high life expectancy, and a quality health care system without breaking the bank.

In Part 2, I discussed the shining example of Singapore in doing just that – Singapore has the 4th highest life expectancy in the world (people live to age 82 on average), has the 6th best health care system, and the government of Singapore spends only 3.7% of its GDP on health care! For the details on how they accomplish this, read here.

In this final section I wished to contrast Singapore, who literally is getting the job done, to that of another part of the world. In this part of the world, government leaders decided that instead of finding a way to focus on having healthy citizens while cutting unnecessary costs, they would instead focus on making sure the entire population had health insurance. Health insurance, they surmised, was the key to the population’s health, as well as the key to keeping down the health care costs for both the government and the citizenry.

What have been the results? Did this government achieve its objective of insuring the masses? And if so, has this brought the desired curb in health care costs? Are the previously uninsured better off now that they have this insurance? Is everyone enjoying the fruits of this initiative?

I am sad to say that this experiment took place in our very own state of Massachusetts, and so far, it doesn’t look good.

According to a March 2, 2009 article in the Boston Globe, healthcare reform in Massachusetts


  1. Failed to achieve universal coverage (200,000 are still without health insurance),
  2. Failed to address the problem of health insurance being tied to ones’ employment,
  3. Failed to make health insurance affordable for many citizens (including middle and low-income individuals and families),
  4. Failed to shore in costs for the state (healthcare costs for the state of Massachusetts have doubled from $630 million in 2007 to an estimated $1.3 billion for 2009),
  5. Failed to assure citizens’ access to healthcare.
A more recent Christian Science article from October 21, 2009 concludes that “a mandate on individuals to buy health insurance can work – just don’t expect it to reduce the cost of care.”

There may be some residents of Massachusetts who are happy with the results of the healthcare reform that have been enacted there, but the problems remain paramount.

If Massachusetts is, at best, no better off for its healthcare reform that has doubled healthcare expenses for the state, then should we not take some heed as our entire nation appears ready to plunge onto a similar course?

Should our main focus as a nation be universal health insurance? Shouldn’t we find a way follow the example of Singapore and focus on:

  1. Population wellness through disease prevention,
  2. Enacting policies that put more healthcare decisions into the hands of individuals, and fewer into the hands of the government?

For a brilliant essay on healthcare reform by a Democrat who has come to some of the same conclusions that I have in my cursory research, check out -- .

In the meantime, I suggest each of us take actions to give us the best chances of having good health -- eating a balanced diet low in processed foods and high in minimally-processed plant-based foods, drinking plenty of clean water, getting adequate exercise and sleep, and using low-cost and oftentimes effective holistic means for taking care of problems when they first arise (such as herbs, essential oils, massage, acupuncture, reflexology, etc...), thus potentially using more expensive Western modalities more sparingly as a result.

To your health!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Cautionary Tale -- Make SURE you Pay Your Taxes (unless you are Tim Geithner, Charles Rangel, or otherwise have connections) . . .

In honor of last Thursday's tax deadline, I thought I would post a link to an interesting blog article I just came across depicting the harsh, Sovietesque consequences of tax evasion experienced by a couple in New Hampshire in 2007.

A thought-provoking juxtaposition is brought to the forefront in how Timothy Geithner, in the hearings for him to be instated as Secretary of Treasury earlier this year, received hardly a slap on the hand for his neglecting to pay Medicare and Social Security taxes for several years. Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee (ironically, the very entitee that oversees the taxation of the American populace) neglected to pay taxes on $75,000 in rental income from properties he owns in the Caribbean. Was Rangel unaware that this income was taxable according to the IRS code?

Read more here.

I can't say I am an advocate of tax evasion, and the Brown's of New Hampshire surely could have anticipated severe government action against them (especially after the infamous attack on armed American citizens at Waco, TX in 1993) for their acts of non-compliance and out-right disobedience.

But why is it that we hear account after account of government officials, including cabinet members selected by President Obama, with "inconsistencies" in their histories of paying taxes, with no such harsh reprimands being levied? Why are raids, jailings, and seizure of property reserved for everyday Americans while those with connections are given the benefit of the doubt?

For some possible answers to these and more questions, I suggest you take some time to view the documentary America: Freedom to Fascism made by acclaimed filmmaker Aaron Russo.

Lastly, as I ponder the personal financial life of Congressman Rangel in all its fraudulent (and/or negligent) glory, I am not comforted in the least that he is the one of the very individuals overseeing the monetary aspects of the health care reform bill.

Are you?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Recover From CFS | Get Healthy | Live Well: What Is The XMRV Retroviral Study Really Going to Mean For People With CFS?

In light of the recent discovery of the strong correlation between retrovirus XMRV and chronic fatigue syndrome, here is an interesting take that I tend to agree with:

Recover From CFS | Get Healthy | Live Well: What Is The XMRV Retroviral Study Really Going to Mean For People With CFS?

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a devastating illness that affects more than 1 million Americans to this day, and though I have never seen any statistics showing how many people have recovered, I have read that a complete recovery is rare. Check out my previous blog post on how I had a complete recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome four years ago. Though the exact things that worked for me may not be a complete answer for everyone, I believe the principles I outline here are applicable to many.

And although I support continued research on the link between XMRV and chronic fatigue syndrome, it is my hope that sufferers won't hold their breath waiting for an anti-retroviral drug to solve all their problems, but focus on receiving healing to their mind, body, and spirit with less expensive and less toxic means.

Happy healing! =)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Producing a Healthy, Long-Lived Populace on a Budget – Who in the World is Getting the Job Done? Part 2

The debate on health care reform in Congress continues. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Are those who oppose some of the proposed reforms evil, selfish people who delight in seeing their fellow man suffer? Are those who staunchly support the proposed reforms living in a dream-world?

I am not qualified to give a definitive answer. But what I am qualified to do is poke around online and see who in the world is achieving the objective of health care reform explicitly laid out by President Obama – providing a way for all individuals to receive health care without fear that they are “one illness away from bankruptcy”, and reducing costs in the process.

So, who is doing the best job in the world achieving this goal?

The answer might surprise you.

In this relatively small island-nation, you can be treated to views of towering skyscrapers, mosques and temples of ancient Malay and Hindu civilizations, as well as innumerable Western-style shopping malls. Welcome to Singapore!

Singapore boasts the 6th best health care system in the world with an infant morality rate almost 1/3 of that of the U.S. (there are just 2.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in Singapore as opposed to 6.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in the U.S.). Its populace is the fourth longest-lived in the world, with an average life expectancy of 81.98 years.

And Singapore accomplishes this by spending only 3.7 percent of its GDP (only $381 per capita) on health, as opposed to America’s 15.4 percent expenditure!

What can account for Singapore being a shining example of a functional, frugal health care system? How does this system work?

In Singapore, individuals are required to set aside 6-8% of their income into what is essentially a health savings account (employers contribute to these accounts as well). This money earns interest, is tax-free, and can be withdrawn at any time to cover the health care expenses of ones’ self or family members. Unspent money accrues and rolls over from year to year. This program is called Medisave.

Citizens of Singapore may purchase additional coverage for catastrophic events with Medishield (or Medishield Plus which offers even more coverage), and their premium payments may come out of their Medisave accounts.

The government subsidizes the health care of those who cannot cover their expenses with either Medisave or Medishield through the Medifund program. For the elderly and disabled, government-subsidized ElderShield pays for health care expenses that the individual cannot cover himself.

Here are some important points:

• Singapore’s vision as a state is “adding years of healthy life,” by focusing less on healing sickness, and in the words of the Singapore Health Ministry, more on “the more difficult but infinitely more rewarding task of preventing illness and preserving health and quality of life.”

• The people of Singapore willingly take responsibility for their own health by spending their own money to fund most of their health care costs.

• “The reason the system works so well is that it puts decisions in the hands of patients and doctors rather than of government bureaucrats and insurers. The state’s role is to provide a safety net for the few people unable to save enough to pay their way, to subsidize public hospitals, and to fund preventative health campaigns.”

• 75% of the populace of Singapore uses less-expensive holistic/complementary medicine at least once per year in preventing and treating illness.

• Complementary medicine is widely accepted by the medical community at large as an important contributor to the nation's health.

Phua Kai Hong, associate professor of health policy and management at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore gives the following reasons for Singapore's successful health care system:

• "the creation of incentives for responsible behavior and the efficient delivery of services;

• the discouragement of overconsumption through cost-sharing;

• the regulation of hospital beds, doctors, and the use of high-cost medical technology;

• the promotion of personal responsibility;

• targeted government subsidies;

• and the injection of competition through a mix of public- and private-sector providers.’”

What can we in the United States of America learn from Singapore? Why don't we try to emulate some of the things that have worked in Singapore in our own health care reform?

Before I discuss this in a subsequent post, in my next post I will outline the health care system of a part of the world where a push to give health insurance to all is doing just that, but costs are continuing to skyrocket and hardships for middle class citizens in obtaining health care continue in full force.

Unfortunately, the latter is the system we are emulating, and it appears that almost no-one is paying attention!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Swine Flu Vaccine -- WHO do you believe?

The WHO (World Health Organization) is urging people to get their Swine Flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available in their area. Ignoring the fact that safety testing on this vaccine has been minimal at best, officials are calling this vaccine their "most important tool" against a pandemic. Pregnant women and small children are to be the first in line for the vaccine.

So if the WHO is so sure that this vaccine is the answer, why would someone like me who has at least a reasonable level of intelligence and personal responsibility choose to decline?

Here are Ten Reasons I Won't Be Lining Up For the Swine Flu Vaccine --

10. While the Swine Flu appears to be more contagious than many other bugs running around out there, and certain populations may be at greater risk of catching it, it is no deadlier than the seasonal flu on the public at large. Actually, you have a 293% greater chance of dying in a car crash this fall/winter than you do of dying of the Swine Flu (1.2 million people worldwide die each year in car accidents. So far, 4,100 people worldwide have died of the Swine Flu).

9. Vaccine companies now have legal immunity against lawsuits should their vaccines be found to have caused injury, giving them little incentive for rigorous safety testing.

8. Vaccine companies have a HUGE profit incentive to rush vaccines to the market regardless of how much safety testing has been completed (and by the way, I've always wondered who in the world would volunteer to be a first-round guinea pig in these tests!!).

7. Look what happened with the Swine Flu vaccine debacle of 1976! Four thousand Americans sued the government because of damages from this vaccine, two-thirds of which were neurological in nature, and some quite severe --

6. Don’t think things like this happen today? Take a look at what has happened with Gardasil, the vaccine for HPV given to young girls to protect against some types of cervical cancer. Paralysis and death, two of its "minor" side effects, have impacted real Americans --

5. Chemicals such as thimerosal (which has mercury in it), squalene (causes severe autoimmune response when injected into rats), and ethylene glycol (anti-freeze) are in the vaccines as preservatives and "adjuvants", which are to shock the immune system into creating antibodies against the microbe. But what else do these chemicals do when injected into the body, especially that of a small child or pregnant woman??

Check out the following lovely assortment of potential side effects, and remember -- if you happen to be one of the unlucky who gets one of the more serious side effects, you will have no legal recourse --

*Local injection site reactions (including pain, pain limiting limb movement, redness, swelling, warmth, ecchymosis, induration)
*Hot flashes/flushes

*Facial edema.
*Immune system disorders
*Hypersensitivity reactions (including throat and/or mouth edema)
*In rare cases, hypersensitivity reactions have lead to anaphylactic shock and death

*Cardiovascular disorders
*Vasculitis (in rare cases with transient renal involvement)
*Syncope shortly after vaccination
*Digestive disorders
*Abdominal pain.
*Blood and lymphatic disorders
*Local lymphadenopathy
*Transient thrombocytopenia.
*Metabolic and nutritional disorders
*Loss of appetite.
*Nervous system disorders
*Febrile convulsions
*Guillain-Barré Syndrome
*Myelitis (including encephalomyelitis and transverse myelitis)
*Neuropathy (including neuritis)
*Paralysis (including Bell’s Palsy)
*Respiratory disorders
*Chest pain
*Stevens-Johnson syndrome
*Rash (including non-specific, maculopapular, and vesiculobulbous) .

(*These are listed as potential side effects in the insert for the influenza A (H1N1) 2009 Monovalent Vaccine manufactured by Novartis.)

4. The swine flu vaccine (and many other vaccines, for that matter) also contains foreign genetic material from chicken embryos, since the H1N1 for the vaccine is cultured inside fertilized chicken eggs. The potentially negative effects of having foreign genetic material injected into your body are unknown, but even industry insiders have expressed concerns about this (see my previous blog post for details).

3. I have already personally experienced negative reactions to vaccines -- a tetanus shot at age 15 that led to pain, heat, and swelling in my arm and has caused a loss of range of motion in my left shoulder that persists to this day, as well as sickness after receiving a few vaccines before moving to Russia years ago. Did these vaccines protect me from illness or death? It is possible. But I subsequently had an autoimmune illness for 6 years and now I don't need any more shocks to the system. I'll take my chances with the Swine Flu.

2. Speaking of which, I did take my chances with the Swine Flu because I had it back in July. Although some have not been as fortunate as I have and the truth is some people have gotten quite sick and died, my experience with the Swine Flu involved a half a day of fatigue, fever, malaise, and cold chills. I got myself to my ND (naturopathic doctor) that day, and within 1 minute of taking the H1N1 homeopathy along with some herbal tinctures for the immune system, I was about 75% better. I went home, took it easy, used some of my anti-viral essential oils, and was up and running the very next day.

A healthy lifestyle and effective, natural remedies are the foundation of my healthcare plan. In my book, I'll reserve the doctors and the drugs primarily for emergencies!

1. Until the CDC and the WHO get honest with the masses and tell them how they can do some simple, natural things to boost their immune system and prevent flu (such as get adequate sun exposure to boost Vitamin D levels), allow natural remedies with clinical results be openly promoted as effective with certain issues, and stop promoting vaccines and Tamiflu as "the way, the truth, and the life", it's hard for me to believe that their close ties with the pharmaceutical industry are completely innocent.

When government authorities open their eyes to see the damage being done by a purely pharmaceutical approach in public health, and stop blackballing those things that have been used effectively for thousands of years, they will have my ear! Until that time, I'll get my health information elsewhere.


Lastly, check out the concerns of some New York State healthcare workers who would rather be fired from their jobs than be forced to get both the seasonal and Swine Flu vaccines as was mandated recently --

Monday, October 5, 2009

Producing a Healthy, Long-Lived Populace on a Budget– Who in the World is Getting the Job Done? Part 1

Are you familiar with the saying that if you want to become successful at something, find someone who has what you want and do what they do?

Applying this simple wisdom to the healthcare debate, I decided to see what I could turn up. Out of all the countries in the world, which nations have the populations with the best health measured by the highest life expectancy, and how is this accomplished?

I was hoping to come across a comprehensive study by some think-tank or prominent university giving detailed statistical analyses of factors affecting life expectancy and health, showing which nations around the world have the healthiest populations, and how they accomplish this, but I couldn’t find anything substantial.

I will attempt to provide some rudimentary findings in this article.

I started with searching for life expectancy rates in the different nations. I figured that life expectancy was the simplest measurement of the health of a populace. Here is the Top 10 List:

Countries with Highest Life Expectancy

  1. Macau (part of China) -- 84.36
  2. Andorra -- 82.51
  3. Japan -- 82.12
  4. Singapore -- 81.98
  5. San Marino -- 81.97
  6. Hong Kong -- 81.86
  7. Australia -- 81.63
  8. Canada -- 81.23
  9. France (metropolitan) -- 80.98
  10. Sweden 80.86

-- -- --

50. United States 78.11

Why do people living in these countries on average outlive the rest of the world? Does universal health care coverage play a key role? What about the lifestyle of these groups? What about factors that can’t be changed, but still play a role such as wealth and demographics of the populations?

Wouldn’t it be important to have an in-depth understanding of why these populations are so long-lived before undertaking any expensive, extensive, and potentially revolutionary changes to our own health care system?

As it turns out, each of the nations that made the top ten are relatively wealthy when compared with many other parts of the world, but those with the highest life expectancy are certainly not the wealthiest. From this, I must conclude that wealth may play a role in life expectancy, but there are clearly other factors involved.

Japan is noted for its extraordinarily low obesity rate – only 3% of Japanese citizens are obese (while in the United States, a full 32% of the populace is obese)! Since several of the top killers of Americans are chronic illnesses that occur with a significantly greater prevalence in the obese (heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes), it would make sense that America’s portly and out-of-shape populace is a literal drag on the nations’s life expectancy. Japan’s relatively lower rates of these chronic diseases gives further credence the significant role of obesity in life expectancy.

An interesting side note about Japan’s low obesity rate is how they avoid this modern plague – Japanese children are taught to eat only until 80% full, fresh vegetables and fish are eaten in abundance, sweets are eaten occasionally, and more people in Japan get exercise in their daily lives than in America. I think we can learn a lot about a healthy lifestyle from the Japanese!

In terms of demographics, some of the countries in this top-ten list have a tiny population size with a racially homogenous populace (such as San Marino, Andorra, Macau, and even Sweden). Others have larger populations, but still a very homogenous population such as Japan and Australia (92% of the Australian population is of European descent). But Canada, France, and Singapore all have a good degree of racial diversity.

A quick look at demographics reveals that having a small, homogenous populations may be positively associated with higher life expectancy, but it is clearly not the main player in the life expectancy game.

Next I wanted to look at the health care systems of each of the countries on this top-ten list.

Unfortunately, a complete statistical analysis of the health care systems of nations with high life expectancies is beyond the ability of my poor little brain, and beyond the scope of a blog entry. But here's what I can say so far:

Each of the nations and nation-states with the highest life expectancies appear to give access of at least basic health care to even the poorest of their citizens. If someone is having a heart attack, they won’t be turned away. If someone is mauled in an accident of some type, they will receive care. Any person with a chronic illness will receive at least basic care in a public clinic of some kind.

I have much more research to do to compare how this differs from what is currently offered to the poor in the United States under the Medicaid and Medicare program. I’m sure there are may be some significant differences, and I would like to know what they are.

In my research on health care systems, I made a very surprising find that I want to share. Did you know that in the list of countries with highest life expectancies that there is a country that is less affluent than the U.S. that has an infant mortality rate one-third less than that of the U.S., that spends one-seventh of what the U.S. government spends on health care for its populace, and its population lives an average of almost four years longer?

What country is this, and what are they doing right?

And did you know that there is a part of the world where a push to give each and every citizen health insurance has succeeded at insuring almost everyone, but has increased the cost of health care for many of its citizens while showing little or negligible increases in their actual health, while practically bankrupting its government in the process?

Stay tuned for the scoop.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Janine Roberts -- exposer of blood diamonds and genocide in the Congo reveals the dark side of vaccines

I don't have a lot of time this morning, but I wanted to share an article I just read on vaccines. I have researched the potential negative effects of vaccine adjuvants (additives that shock the immune system) on the body, but this article looks at another aspect of vaccines that I believe every person ought to know before they allow themselves or their children to receive another vaccine:

I share information of this type not to depress myself and others, but because the knowledge of truth will make us free!