Only time will tell the whole story.

I welcome reader comments on my blog. They get me thinking. Here’s one, in response to my post, written after I tripped and gave myself a black eye.

Great blog today. I love how an unfortunate event becomes blog fodder. 😊

It made me aware that I hadn’t actually thought of my black eye as unfortunate. And with that awareness, I remembered the story that first shifted my thinking about good and bad fortune.

Here’s a charming version, narrated by philosopher, writer, and speaker, Alan Watts. Born in England, he moved to the US in 1938 and began Zen training in New York. Watts, who died in 1973, is best known as an early interpreter and popularizer of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience.

So what can we make of this ancient teaching?

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Simplify. Use your whole brain.

Making decisions about health can be complex and frustrating. How can you possibly know what is the right thing to do?

The complicating factor is that most of us make decisions with only one-half of our brain. For example, suppose you want to know what is the best diet. Your left brain will have a field day. You can listen to interviews, read blogs and books, ask family and friends. You’ll find masses of eating rules, opinions, and theories—many of them conflicting.

With all of that to consider, your left brain may be driven to distraction trying to determine the pros and cons of these various approaches. It may seize on something and make a plan with great enthusiasm, only to have it fail shortly after you implement the plan. That makes no sense to you because the idea or theory was such a logical conclusion from the information you found. Frustrating? No doubt!

Here’s the missing piece…

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Tyranny of the Test

As I mentioned recently, testing is one of the hallmarks of personalized medicine. These days there are so many tests to help zero in on what’s really happening in your body. When used judiciously, test results can provide comprehensive information which helps your doctor or health coach develop an individualized plan for you.

Lab testing

Image via NPR

Thanks to technology, doctors are able to see images of your heart and carotid arteries in action, graphs showing a heart under the stress of walking up an incline, and more graphs of your heart beats and blood pressure during daily activities. They can see your brain in glorious colour and your body in three dimensions. They’re able to monitor the level of all manner of things in your blood. They can measure good and bad bugs in your gut, and find out if you have genes that predispose you to certain conditions you’d rather not know about.

Sounds like a good thing? Continue reading

Do your assumptions trip you up?

Mine did. Literally. Tripped me up.

Here’s the evidence. In full colour, an unretouched photo.

Me with blackened eye

So…how did I get a black eye, and how does it relate to assumptions?

I tripped on a curb. Well, not a curb exactly. I was stepping onto the accessibility ramp that transitions the pavement to the sidewalk.

There was no snow or ice. I was not in a hurry. I was not distracted by my phone or iPod. I did not faint and then fall. I was wearing flat shoes that are old friends. There was no obvious reason for this to happen.  Continue reading

Personalized Medicine

Whether it’s called personalized medicine, precision medicine, or individualized medicine, it means you are being treated on the basis of your uniqueness. A study-of-one approach allows for comparison of different treatments in the same person. You get feedback by observing your condition before and after a particular treatment. It allows you to determine whether that particular treatment is effective in your case.

This is different from conventional research, which uses many subjects who are divided into two or three groups. each group is given a different treatment and then the average responses of the groups are compared. This is known as a randomized controlled trial, and study results are reported as a statistical average.

Truth is, this does not provide helpful information for us as individuals. Just because a research study found that a particular treatment works on average, it may not work for you in particular. Or it may even make your condition worse even though it worked for most people. Continue reading

Psychologist Barry Schwartz (#4 in a series: I Couldn’t Have Said It Better)

The Paradox of Choice

Last week I wrote about the dilemmas of too much information. It strikes me that too much information is like having too much choice. It complicates things, even though there’s a good side as well.

The paradox of choice caught my attention when I was teaching college classes about consumer issues. In the TED Talk below, researcher Barry Schwartz speaks about choosing consumer goods, but his findings can also be applied to health and wellness decisions. Continue reading

What if…Type 2 diabetes can be reversed?

We are typically told that once a diabetic, always a diabetic—that is, diabetes can be managed but it is not reversible once you have it. Dr Sarah Hallberg challenges this viewpoint, based on her clinical experience using a high-fat diet. Her program has been highly successful in reversing diabetes and other metabolic diseases. Continue reading

Emily Fletcher (#3 in a series: I Couldn’t Have Said It Better)

Be present to yourself.

This is being posted on Valentine’s Day, when it’s traditional to acknowledge those you love. If you aren’t on your list of people you know and love, this is a good time to think about how to change that.

Meditation is a time-honoured means of learning to be present with yourself, to get to know and appreciate who you really are.

If you’ve ever had even an inkling of interest in meditation, this video is for you. Emily Fletcher started her career in theatre. When she refers to being able to dance, that relates to her 10-year career on Broadway, which included roles in Chicago, The Producers, and A Chorus Line. Continue reading

What if…we can eat to starve cancer?

In this TED-Ed talk, William Li, MD presents a new way to think about treating cancer and other diseases. It is anti-angiogenesis, which means preventing the growth of blood vessels that feed a tumour. He says the crucial first (and best) step is eating cancer-fighting foods that cut off the supply lines and beat cancer at its own game.

Watching this reminds me of three things that are important and easily forgotten:

  1. Just because conventional wisdom has not yet embraced a new idea, that does not make the new idea untrue.
  2. What we eat does make a difference and it’s worth paying attention.
  3. As Dr. Li says (at 19:00 minutes on the video), we can empower ourselves to do the things that doctors can’t do for us, which is to use knowledge and take action.

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What if…Alzheimer’s can be reversed?

In June of 2016, Science Daily published a report describing initial results of a study underway at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. The title: “Pre and post testing show reversal of memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease in 10 patients.” It goes on…

This is the first study to objectively show that memory loss in patients can be reversed, and improvement sustained, using a complex, 36-point therapeutic personalized program that involves comprehensive changes in diet, brain stimulation, exercise, optimization of sleep, specific pharmaceuticals and vitamins, and multiple additional steps that affect brain chemistry.

Alzheimer’s reversed? Yes!

This is stunning in a healthcare culture where “everyone knows” that Alzheimer’s is a sentence to steady decline over a long period of time with no hope of recovery. Continue reading