It has been a while since I’ve used this space to educate you about the incredibleness of the microbiome and the looming bacterial takeover of the planet. But the mainstream media is fully on board with this, so there has been plenty out there for you to chew on. Everyone is talking about the microbiome these days. If you’re not taking probiotics, you’re probably eating sauerkraut and swilling kombucha. I know I am. In fact, I have a huge vat of kombucha brewing on my kitchen counter at this very moment. Did you know the slimy opaque thing growing on top of your kombucha is called a SCOBY, which is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast? Since when does a little non-word like “of” get its very own letter in an acronym? But I digress.
I’ve been doing some mindfulness meditation lately. It’s about the simplest “activity” you can imagine – you just sit on the floor, on a cushion, close your eyes, and breathe. And I’m not just doing this because I’ve moved to Vancouver and gone all yoga. Okay, it’s partly that. But it’s also been scientifically proven to build you a better brain. Studies have shown that you can improve blood pressure and anxiety levels, increase cognitive capacity, and stave off aging just by sitting and doing nothing at all. A Harvard prof has done research that shows that it only takes 8 weeks of a meditation practice to rewire your brain. The brains of the meditators actually got thicker in areas involved in attention and sensory processing. It’s like doing pushups for your brain! (And here I thought it was a bad thing to have a thick head…)
I was a little worried that after my last post, someone would stage an intervention. Take away all my running shoes, maybe, or set up a booby trap in front of the door so I would trip and sprain an ankle. Remember, way back this spring I asked you to remind me to be moderate when I started going off the deep end. Thanks for nothing, people! As it happens, I intervened all by myself and took two consecutive days off. Then I went into a funk. And that has really slowed me down.
I know I’m supposed to be in hibernation, but something came up that was so good I just had to share it with you. You know by now that I am totally fascinated by the human microbiome, those trillions of microbes that make up most of the human organism. I’ve written here on Gydle about how microbes in our guts may implicated in a variety of ailments, from diabetes to Parkinson’s to obesity and irritable bowel disease. I also wrote recently that the massive NIH-finded Human Microbiome Project has had a number of publications like this one in Nature Magazine that outline thier discoveries about the makeup and function of a “healthy” human microbiome. I have a feeling that what we find out about the microbiome may well revolutionize our approach to health and medicine. You might also remember from last year that I’m also fascinated by the concept of click here to read the whole dang post [...]
All kinds of exciting things have been happening, and I haven’t written about any of them. Some of them involve running, and they will appear in the next post. This one is about my other current favorite topic, the human microbiome. Last week The New York Times had two very interesting articles, one about eating the weeds in your backyard, and another about the human microbiome. The first one speaks for itself. Apparently eradication can be dropped in favor of ingestion. Maybe I’ll give it a try. In any case it eases my weed aversion just that much more. The second article covers research being done in association with the Human Microbiome Project. Here’s my favorite quote: Dr. Barnett Kramer, director of the division of cancer prevention at the National Cancer Institute, who was not involved with the research project, had another image. Humans, he said, in some sense are click here to read the whole dang post [...]
Once a year Lausanne hosts a big natural/holistic medicine fair called “Mednat.” I went a couple of years ago and picked up some essential oils that smelled like the pine forests back in New Mexico. This year, the headline promised an “Agrobiorama Expo” which, to me, sounded like organic farm type stuff. (“Bio” is French for organic.) Maybe the woman with heavy green eye shadow and ivy growing in her hair on the expo’s homepage should have clued me in … Thanks to my friend Matt, who gave me a copy of “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer, I can no longer eat factory farmed meat (even in Switzerland, where rules and regulations are at least 300% stricter than in the US). So, thinking I would find some sources of organic produce, chickens, eggs and beef, I paid the 17-franc entry fee.
Sometimes coincidences just jump out and tackle you. Yesterday, as I was perusing the New York Times, I came across an article entitled “Cancer’s secrets come into sharper focus” and I was hit with no less than five (5) amazing coincidences. The first coincidence is that I was thinking about cancer, because two years ago, my dad died after a 15-month bout with pancreatic cancer. Ever optimistic, he tried every treatment he could in the hopes that if he could hang on a little while longer, a better treatment would come out. He was a firm believer in the possibilities of science, being a scientist himself. In the two years that have gone by since then, I have not read about a single promising new treatment for metastatic pancreatic cancer. And I keep my eye out. The article agrees with me. We have based a large part of our cancer click here to read the whole dang post [...]
More food love: I came across this strawberry in my basket the other day. Right after taking the photo I popped the berry in my mouth and savored the love, eyes shut, taste buds tingling. Inspired by my photo and fresh out of strawberries, I headed out for a nearby auto-cueillette (that’s French for U-Pick) this afternoon. I found several mutant strawberries, but no hearts. One has to take these things when they present themselves, and not ask too many questions. On another note, in an odd fit of consistency, I followed my own advice today and checked last month’s credit card statement. It appears that someone named Enzo Arnaldo Pittau borrowed my visa card to book himself a Ryanair flight from Milan to Valencia. Enzo, Enzo… nope, I don’t know any Enzos. Whoever he is, I hope he had a good time – I’m pretty confident this one will be click here to read the whole dang post [...]
Last day of April. MAYDAY! just about captures my mood, too. While Kate and William were tying the knot, I was sitting in a doctor’s office getting sucker-punched. Sucker punch: a blow made without warning, allowing no time for preparation or defense on the part of the recipient. It is usually delivered from close range or from behind. It wasn’t the doctor who delivered the blow, but the blood pressure cuff attached to my left arm. Very close range, indeed. Oh, that’s high, the nurse says, shaking her head. That’s strange, I say. I can’t think of anything more to add. The doctor comes in and asks me about my foot, which had been hurting since mid-October, when I had made a Cardinal Mistake: I changed brands of running shoes. That was why I was here. For my foot! He asks me to stand, relaxed. How can I stand, relaxed, click here to read the whole dang post [...]
“They can conquer who believe they can…” – Virgil (70 BC – 19 BC) I started to write a long complicated post about placebos yesterday, because 1) I was worrying that this blog was in need of some Legitimate Content, 2) I am really interested in the placebo effect and 3) my brother Dave chose it when I gave him a choice between placebos, a juicy local murder mystery and a post about attention span. (I’m not entirely sure he paid attention long enough to get past the first choice…) I wanted to show you the evidence that placebos are getting more effective all the time and that the drug companies are having a harder time finding new drugs that outperform them. This is a big problem for Big Pharma because they can only continue raking in the cash if they find new drugs. If nothing they develop does any click here to read the whole dang post [...]