Archive for September, 2009
Happyman ?!? Maybe it should be called Happywoman instead...
A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Health, is coming to stores on October 16! (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As well as continuing to expand on posts from the General Edition, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from the Modern Culture devotional. Today’s entry on “Ginseng” is from the “Drugs & Alternative Treatments” section of the Health edition.
It is estimated that 30 million men in the United States suffer from erectile dysfunction, making it the most prevalent sexual disorder in men. Erectile dysfunction is defined as the ongoing inability to achieve and/or maintain an erection for satisfactory sexual performance. Erectile dysfunction can be diagnosed as mild (successful erections are achieved 70-80% of the time), moderate (40-60%) or severe (0-30% of the time). The likelihood of developing erectile dysfunction increases with age: 39% of 40 year-olds suffer from the condition, and a whopping 65% of men over the age of 65 have reported difficulties with achieving or maintaining erections. A number of physical and psychological factors may contribute to the development of erectile dysfunction, such as depression (and conversely the use of anti-depressants), diabetes and illness.
Countless men have found relief from their erectile dysfunction since 1998, when the wonder drug Viagra became available by prescription. However, Viagra and its competitors (Cialis, Levitra) are not without their side effects and not all medical insurances cover these drugs. Moreover, these medications can be prohibitively expensive for those who must purchase it out of pocket. As such, a number of alternative treatments, such as red ginseng, are being researched for their efficacy in treating erectile dysfunction.
There are two common types of ginseng: “red” Panax ginseng (Asian) and “green” ginseng Panax quinquefolius (North American). While North American ginseng is used for its “cooling” properties, Asian ginseng has “heating” properties, i.e. it is thought to improve circulation. Some studies have found that penile rigidity and girth, libido and patient satisfaction was markedly higher amongst test subjects who had taken red ginseng treatments instead of the placebo.
However, findings have thus far not been conclusive and there have been too few studies for researchers to make any definitive claims. Moreover, many scientists have expressed reservations about administering high doses of herbal remedies to patients, as they are not currently regulated by the FDA and may cause unaccounted for side effects. Thus, until a reliable and less expensive alternative is discovered to be effective, men with ED will simply have to shell out for Viagra or hope that a romantic weekend getaway does the trick….
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A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Health, is coming to stores on October 16! (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As well as continuing to expand on posts from the General Edition, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from the Modern Culture devotional. Today’s entry on “Gastroenteritis” is from the “Children & Adolescents” section of the Health edition.
Gastroenteritis is caused by the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, involving both the stomach and the small intestine. It results in acute diarrhea that can lead to life-threatening dehydration in developing countries where there is limited access to fresh water. Gastroenteritis is usually caused by a viral infection (especially the rotavirus), but can also be caused by bacteria, parasites or an adverse reaction to food or medication. Viral gastroenteritis generally manifests itself with low-grade fever and vomiting, followed by copious watery diarrhea, with symptoms usually lasting between 3-8 days. In developed countries, noroviruses (which are the result of food borne contaminants) are responsible for 65-80% of all gastroenteritis outbreaks. In the developing world, rotavirus is the most prevalent viral pathogen, and is responsible for more that 50% of all gastroenteritis cases.
In the developed world, clean drinking water and adequate medical care have removed many of the potential risks associated with gastroenteritis, such as acute dehydration. As such, it is generally perceived to be an uncomfortable, albeit benign disease if it is properly treated. However, every year, rotavirus causes gastroenteritis in an estimated 111 million children under the age of 5 years old, and leads to nearly 1.8 million deaths (82% of these deaths occur in developing countries). Lack of potable water and poor sewage treatment has been the major cause of the spread of infectious gastroenteritis and the accompanying acute dehydration that can prove lethal if an infected person can be adequately rehydrated.
Thanks to the implementation of oral rehydration therapy, annual mortality rates have fallen significantly since 2000. Despite this improvement, the World Health Organization has made the development of a rotavirus vaccine one of their top priorities in their effort to curb global preventative deaths.
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A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Health, is coming to stores on October 16! (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As well as continuing to expand on posts from the General Edition, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from the Modern Culture devotional. Today’s entry on “Angelman Syndrome” is from the “Children & Adolescents” section of the Health edition.
Angelman syndrome (AS), a neuro-genetic disorder, is characterized by cognitive and motor skill delays, absent speech, sleep disturbances, seizures, jerky movements, frequent bursts of unprovoked laughter and smiling and an unusually cheerful demeanor. It was discovered in 1965 by pediatrician Dr. Harry Angelman, who noticed that three of his patients had the same cluster of confounding symptoms that did not fit within any established diagnosis. He referred to these patients as “puppet children,” on account of the jerky gait typical of the disease. Many members of the medical community initially doubted the existence of this disorder; however, other doctors subsequently began reporting cases with the same symptoms, and affected people soon acquired the nickname “happy puppet children.” In 1982, it was suggested that the name should be changed to Angelman’s syndrome, in an effort to be sensitive to the families of those with the disease.
While AS is characterized by a host of cognitive, motor, developmental and physical symptoms, what sets this condition apart from many others is the unusually cheerful, gregarious disposition of the people affected with the disease, as well as their and their unusually youthful appearance. It is estimated that a whopping 70% of people with AS engage in frequent bursts of laughter, giggling and chortling and persistent social smiling.
Researchers have ruled out epilepsy as a cause of these fits of laughter. Interestingly, neuroimaging studies conducted on people with AS have revealed the cortical and subcortical regions of the brain that are linked to humor and laughter in normal individuals, namely:
1) The frontal lobe, which is key to cognitive processing;
2) The supplementary motor area, which controls the motor aspects of humor (laughter, smiling); and
3) The nucleus accumbens, which is linked to the experience of pleasure.
These findings suggest that the left hemisphere of the brain, combined with its subcortical and dopaminergic structures, play an integral role in the human experience of humor and laughter.
With respect to people with AS, neuroimaging studies have not revealed any specific defect in their brains that suggests a laughter-inducing abnormality. However, these studies have revealed differences in their humor-processing pathways, specifically in the regions associated with the reward mechanisms linked to humor/laughter and the motor regions that control laughing. Thus, scientists have theorized that excessive laughter and persistent smiling characteristic to AS is probably an expressive motor event; for mysterious reasons, people with AS respond to most stimuli, whether it be physical or mental, with sudden and protracted outbursts of laughter. Thus, even though people with AS are able to experience a range of emotions, it appears that their brains are mostly wired for happiness….
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Not your typical lamaze class...
A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Health, is coming to stores on October 16! (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As well as continuing to expand on posts from the General Edition, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from the Modern Culture devotional. Today’s entry on “Lamaze” is from the “Medical Milestones” section of the Health edition.
The Lamaze technique of childbirth, developed by the French obstetrician Dr. Fernand Lamaze, was created as a method of giving birth that helped women avoid medical intervention. Dr. Lamaze was inspired by his observation of Soviet birthing practices, where women were taught to use breathing and relaxation techniques to promote a smoother delivery. The Lamaze technique became popular in the United States in the early 1960s, after Marjorie Karmel wrote a book about her birth experience titled, Thank you Dr. Lamaze. The Lamaze technique is partially credited for the shift towards including the fathers in the child-birthing process.
Modern day proponents of the Lamaze technique have expressed alarm at the staggering rise in the number of women who currently give birth by cesarean section (31.8%). Will all to common, cesarean sections are major abdominal surgeries, and carries risks to women, such as infection, blood loss, scarring and severe pain. Moreover, the healing time for a woman who has given birth by cesarean section is significantly longer and more painful.
The Lamaze philosophy of the birthing process endorses the following rules for healthy birthing practices:
• Let labor begin on its own. Letting the body go into labor on its own is almost always the best way to know that the baby is ready to be born and the body is ready for labor.
• Walk, move around and change positions throughout labor. Moving in labor (not confined to a bed) helps women cope with strong and painful contractions, while gently moving the baby into the pelvis and through the birth canal.
• Bring a loved one, friend or doula for continuous support. In childbirth, a woman feels better when supported by people she trusts and those who use encouragement.
• Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary. When interventions (e.g., induction, epidural, continuous monitoring) are used in a routine manner, women and babies are exposed to unnecessary risks.
• Avoid giving birth on back and follow the body’s urges to push. Upright positions are safe during pushing and can make it easier to push the baby out. This could mean squatting, sitting or lying on the side
• Keep mother and baby together – it’s best for mother, baby and breastfeeding. Mother and baby share a natural instinct to be close after birth, and experts recommend that a healthy newborn be placed and cared for skin-to-skin on the mother’s abdomen or chest.
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A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Health, is coming to stores on October 16! (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As well as continuing to expand on posts from the General Edition, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from the Modern Culture devotional. Today’s entry on “Trace Elements” is from the “Lifestyle and Preventative Medicine” section of the Health edition.
Trace elements, also referred to as micronutrients, are dietary nutrients that the body requires in small quantities (generally less than 100 micrograms per day) for proper growth and development. Included in the category of trace elements are the minerals iron, cobalt, chromium, copper, iodine, manganese, selenium, zinc and molybdenum. Even though the body only needs trace elements in small quantities, they are crucial for health. Unfortunately, crop micronutrient deficiencies are extremely common, especially in the developing world (it is estimated that 50% of the world cereal soils are deficient in zinc, and 30% of all crops are iron deficient). As such, many scientists enthusiastically endorse the use of micronutrient-enriched fertilizers, especially in developing countries, for the purposes of correcting plant nutritive deficiencies (thus benefiting the humans and animals that consume them).
Proponents of the use of micronutrient enriched fertilizers, such as the Micronutrient Initiative (MI), refer to the chronic nutritive deficiencies prevalent in the developing world as “hidden hunger.” Hidden hunger is distinguished from hunger in that it does not arise as a result of a lack of food. Rather, it is caused by a chronic lack of vitamins and minerals that can have very serious consequences, such as poor cognitive development, impaired health loss of productivity and maternal death. A report compiled by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank goes as far as to claim that micronutrient-enriched fertilizers could improve the cognitive capabilities, productivity and overall health of people in developing countries (and significantly decrease maternal deaths). “Probably no other technology,” the World Bank report said with respect to micronutrients, “offers as large an opportunity to improve lives … at such low cost and in such a short time.”
Despite raves from the international scientific community, developing countries have been frustratingly slow in implementing the use of available micronutrient enriching technologies. Many advocates attribute this to the fact that micro-nutrients suffer from a publicity problem, i.e. they simply aren’t very glamorous (even prominent do-gooder Angelina Jolie has managed to overlook them). However, awareness of the importance of micronutrients is growing, which will hopefully spur developing countries to take action.
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A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Health, is coming to stores on October 16! (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As well as continuing to expand on posts from the General Edition, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from the Modern Culture devotional. Today’s entry on “AIDS” is from the “Sexuality and Reproduction” section of the Health edition.
On September 19, 2009, scientists from the International Aids Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) announced that they have isolated two antibodies (referred to as RV 144) that kill the Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a discovery that is hoped will pave the way for the development of a vaccine against the virus that causes Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is an infectious disease of the immune system that progressively diminishes its ability to ward off infections. HIV is transmitted when a mucous membrane or the bloodstream of an uninfected person comes into contact with the bodily fluids (blood, semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk) of someone infected with the virus. Thus, HIV can be passed through anal, vaginal, or oral sex, blood transfusion and contaminated hypodermic needles. Moreover, HIV can be transmitted between a mother and her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.
AIDS is now considered a pandemic: in 2007, it was estimated that 33.2 million people were infected with the disease worldwide, and that AIDS led to the deaths of 2.1 million people, including 330,000 children (over 75% of these deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa alone). The search for an HIV vaccine has been in the works since 1984, when researchers discovered that the HIV virus caused AIDS. To the frustration of scientists, these efforts had been largely unsuccessful, with some 95 failed research trials worldwide preceding IAVI’s recent breakthrough. According to IAVI, developing an effective vaccine against HIV has been uniquely challenging for researchers, to say the least; it has been described as the “most mutable pathogen” ever encountered by modern science.
RV 144 is actually the combination of two failed vaccines (Alvac-HIV and AIDSVAX), and attacks the HIV virus in two ways: it creates antibodies to attack the virus and also boosted the body’s response time to alert white blood cells to attack the virus. Unfortunately, trials of RV 144 have only demonstrated its efficacy with respect to HIV types B/E (the most common subtypes of the virus in Thailand and the United States). Moreover, IAVI scientists urge cautious optimism, noting that RV 144 is at best a stepping-stone towards the development of the vaccine.
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A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Health, is coming to stores on October 16! (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As well as continuing to expand on posts from the General Edition, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from the Modern Culture devotional. Today’s entry on “SAM” is from the “Drugs and Alternative Treatments” section of the Health edition.
SAM is the synthetic form of a compound that is naturally produced by the body by the liver and is an integral factor in methylation, a chemical process essential to many chemical processes in the body, including the production of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. In the United States, SAM is widely available as a nutritional supplement, and is sold under the names SAM-e, SAME or SAMe (all pronounced “Sammy”). Many clinical trials have indicated that SAM helps fight depression, arthritis and liver disease, and it has been prescribed for depression in Europe for over two decades (it purportedly outsells Prozac in Italy). Additionally, several studies have indicated that natural SAM levels are markedly lower in individuals who suffer from chronic depression. However, scientists still do not know exactly how the nutritional supplement affects brain functioning. So far, the most promising theories suggest that SAM either slows down the breakdown of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, or that it speeds production of the receptors that receive these neurotransmitters, which allows them to work more effectively.
The popularity of SAM supplements exploded in the mid-1990s, after the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act was passed in 1994. Under this law, SAM was classified as a dietary supplement, which allowed it to bypass rigorous and time-consuming FDA regulations that are required for all “drugs”. The fact that SAM is not FDA-regulated has not gone unnoticed within the medical community, and many scientists have expressed concerns that the supplement has not been sufficiently tested for both short and long-term side effect. The most commonly reported side effects of SAM are upset stomach, skin rash, lowered blood sugar, dry mouth, bloody stool, excessive thirst, increased urination, headache, hyperactivity, anxiety and insomnia. People suffering from bipolar disorder should not take SAM-e unless indicated by their doctor under any circumstances, as it has been associated with inducing bouts of hypomania and mania in individuals with the condition.
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