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Drawing of colon seen from front (the appendix is colored red). Credit: Wikipedia.

Over  time researchers have learned that the appendix is more complex than originally thought, and that it is beneficial to health. It's where good bacteria go to hideout during sickness (e.g., food poisoning) or when a person is taking antibiotics, and it acts as a "training camp" for the immune system.

This is the direct opposite of what was thought for years - that it is a vestigial organ with no purpose. Instead, research found that removing the appendix increases the risk for irritable bowel syndrome and colon cancer. It also plays a role in several medical conditions, such as ulcerative colitis, colorectal cancer, Parkinson's disease, and lupus.

One possibility is that it protects against diarrhea. The appendix acts as a safe house for beneficial bacteria. We now know that it contains a thick layer of beneficial bacteria. People who've had their appendix removed have a less diverse gut microbiome, and with lesser amounts of beneficial species.

By the way, recent research found that antibiotics can successfully treat up to 70% of uncomplicated appendicitis cases. For this reason, it is recommended that antibiotics should be tried first in uncomplicated appendicitis cases. And if needed (e.g., if there are recurrences of appendicitis) surgery can be done.

Excerpts from Medscape: The 'Useless' Appendix Is More Fascinating Than We Thought

When doctors and patients consider the appendix, it's often with urgency. In cases of appendicitis, the clock could be ticking down to a life-threatening burst. Thus, despite recent research suggesting antibiotics could be an alternative therapy, appendectomy remains standard for uncomplicated appendicitis.

But what if removing the appendix could raise the risk for gastrointestinal (GI) diseases like irritable bowel syndrome and colorectal cancer? ...continue reading "The Appendix Has Health Benefits"

Great news for individuals with lower back pain. Which is a lot of us. A recent study found that the simple act of walking helps  with prevention of low back pain episodes!

In the study, persons who had recently recovered from an episode of lower back pain were randomly assigned either to 1) an individualized and progressive walking intervention, along with 6 sessions with a physical therapist over a 6 month period (to discuss the walking) or to 2) a no treatment control group. Afterwards, the walking group took an a median of 208 days until their next activity-limiting episode of lower back pain, while the control (no walking) group took a median of 112 days.

In other words, walking regularly resulted in going twice as long until the next occurrence of low back pain compared to non-walkers. They also had fewer occurrences of activity limiting low back pain episodes. Note that these were individuals (43 to 66 years) who had a history of low back pain episodes

How much did they walk? The walkers kept a walking diary, with the median 80 minutes of walking in week 1, which increased to 130 minutes by week 12. They walked a median of 3 times in week one, which increased to 4 times in week 12.

From Science Daily: Walking brings huge benefits for low back pain

Adults with a history of low back pain went nearly twice as long without a recurrence of their back pain if they walked regularly, a world-first study has found. ...continue reading "Walking Helps Prevent Low Back Pain Episodes"

The CDC currently recommends only consuming pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized milk and dairy products. This is because heating milk kills off the bird flu virus (H5N1) now circulating among dairy cows in the USA. Another serious virus that pasteurization and ultra-pasteurization of milk kills off is the tick-borne encephalitis that occurs throughout central and eastern Europe.

Tick bites are the major way tick-borne encephalitis is spread. But a minority of cases are spread by consuming raw milk or dairy products from recently infected livestock (goats, sheep, and cows).

Tick-borne encephalitis is a serious viral infection of the central nervous system. It starts out with symptoms such as fever, headaches, chills, but up to 39% of cases result in more serious neurological symptoms (meningitis, encephalitis). Infected persons may experience long-term neurological effects lasting years.

Two ways to avoid the tick-borne encephalitis virus: only consuming pasteurized milk and dairy products (and avoiding raw milk and dairy products) or getting vaccinated with the tick-borne encephalitis vaccine (TicoVac, TBE vaccine).

Bottom line: Only consume pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized milk and dairy products.

From article (page 3) in Medscape: Fast Five Quiz: Diagnose and Treat Tick-Borne Illnesses

Tick-borne encephalitis virus can be transmitted by ticks and the alimentary tract. A recent meta-analysis of 410 foodborne tick-borne encephalitis cases, mostly from a region in central and eastern Europe, aimed to describe cases of tick-borne encephalitis acquired through alimentary transmission in Europe from 1980 to 2021. ...continue reading "Raw Milk In Europe May Contain A Serious Virus"

It shouldn't be a surprise to read that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are surging and accumulating faster than ever. In May, it surged to 427 parts per million (426.90 ppm) - while in 1960 it was about 320 ppm.  It's depressing, and it doesn't bode well for our future.

These high levels of carbon dioxide are a major driver of the record-setting heat we've been experiencing in recent years. Carbon dioxide is the gas that accounts for the majority of global warming (yes, climate change) and is caused by human activities. The human activities are burning of fossil fuels, such as gas and oil - in vehicles, coal-fired plants, large industrial operations, ships, airplanes, rockets.

Graph of carbon dioxide levels increasing Credit: NOAA

Excerpts from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration): During a year of extremes, carbon dioxide levels surge faster than ever

Carbon dioxide is accumulating in the atmosphere faster than ever — accelerating on a steep rise to levels far above any experienced during human existence, scientists from NOAA and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography offsite link at the University of California San Diego announced today. ...continue reading "Carbon Dioxide Levels In Atmosphere Keep Rapidly Rising"

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The ingredient xylitol is added to a number of products, but recent studies find it to have no health benefits (in sinus products) or even associated with health harms. A recent study found that xylitol is linked with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Xylitol is used in a large variety of products, especially as a sugar substitute (artificial sweetener). However, the research shows that xylitol it is prothrombotic - it causes platelets to clot, and increases the risk of thrombosis or clotting of the blood.

Interestingly, when comparing xylitol vs a glucose (sugar) in a study - drinking a xylitol sweetened drink increased every measure of platelet clotting in humans, but the glucose-sweetened drink did not.

From Science Daily: Sugar substitute linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke, study finds

Cleveland Clinic researchers found higher amounts of the sugar alcohol xylitol are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke. ...continue reading "Study Finds That Xylitol Is Linked To A Higher Risk of Stroke and Heart Attack"

Credit: Wikipedia

It turns out there are a number of simple things you can do to keep your sinuses healthy and reduce the chances of developing another sinus infection. A lot of these suggestions involve preventing nasal stuffiness and congestion, and to improve sinus drainage.

Because, as we all know - once those nasal passages get clogged, the odds of another sinus infection increases. When the nasal passages are inflamed or blocked, then mucus can't properly drain from the sinuses.

Chronic sinusitis goes hand in hand with rhinitis, which is why the medical literature refers to chronic sinusitis as chronic rhinosinusitis. It can be allergic rhinitis or non-allergic rhinitis - that is, with known or unknown triggers leading to a dripping nose, congestion, increased mucus, even sneezing or coughing. Dust, irritants, fragrances, allergies (e.g., tree pollen), spicy foods, and air pollution are all examples of triggers.

Some of the following tips are to avoid fragrances and scented products. This is because they are considered indoor air pollutants. They release chemicals that cause nasal inflammation, which can result in rhinitis symptoms, and possibly lead to sinusitis. All air pollution (whether indoors or outdoors) can cause nasal inflammation.

TWENTY TIPS FOR SINUS HEALTH:

1) Sleep with 2 or more pillows in a semi-upright position. This helps with mucus drainage in the nasal passages.

2) When needed, use an ordinary saline nasal rinse once or twice a day. This helps with nasal congestion.

3) When needed, use a 12-hour 1200 mg guaifenesin non-prescription product (e.g., Mucinex) at night. It helps to thin mucus.

4) Can use antihistamines (for allergies) and nasal corticosteroid sprays (especially for nasal polyps) when needed.

5) Can use a premade saline mist spray (e.g., Arm and Hammer simply saline mist) to help relieve minor congestion. This can be helpful any place with stuffy air.

6) Shower at night to wash away dust and allergens.

7) Use unscented personal care products as much as possible (e.g., unscented deodorant). Or if that's not possible, try for minimally scented products.

8) Avoid cigarette smoke and smoke-filled air as much as possible.

9) Consider limiting your intake of alcohol. Alcohol causes temporary nasal inflammation in everyone, but for some persons the swelling lasts a long time and can cause nasal congestion and other symptoms.

10) Avoid the use of scented products in the home, including air fresheners, scented candles, incense, essential oils, clothes detergents, and scented dryer sheets (fragrances/chemicals are air pollutants - in the air, get on our clothes, and us).

11) Frequently open windows to air out the home, even if only for a few minutes. Use bathroom fans if you have them.

12) When cooking, use a kitchen exhaust fan that vents to the outside, especially if you have a gas stove and oven.

13) Vacuum frequently with a good vacuum cleaner.

14) Wall to wall carpeting can be a problem for many, especially in the bedroom. They accumulate dust and contaminants, which are hard to clean.

15) Change your A/C and heating filters frequently.

16) Consider getting a good air purifier (check Consumer Reports and Wirecutter. Especially powerful are the Austin Air Purifiers.)

17) Make sure there isn't a hidden mold problem, and clean up any mold you find. Also, make sure that water isn't getting into the house. [CDC guidelines]

WHEN STARTING TO FEEL SINUSITIS SYMPTOMS:

18) Get enough sleep. When sleep deprived, people can feel “mucusy”. They are also more susceptible to viruses.

19) At the start of a sore throat or infection - suck on a zinc tablet or lozenge. It may stop the viral infection.

20) Use L. sakei (e.g., Lanto Sinus) at the start of a sinus infection. (Stop using it when feeling better.)

Additionally, try to boost your immune system by eating a healthy diet (one rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, legumes, olive oil), getting plenty of sleep, drinking plenty of  water, and getting enough exercise or physical activity (Government guidelines say at least 2 1/2 hours per week of physical activity, including walking).

Can also take a vitamin D supplement (research shows it can decrease the number of respiratory infections) or get enough sunlight. After all, vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin.

Good health!

Many people wonder if the organic food that they buy really is organic. Well... when they buy imported organic foods from outside the United States - they may not be getting organic foods. Fraud occurs due to a major loophole in the current organic standards, a loophole that certain big companies and organizations want to keep.

OrganicEye, a non-profit investigative organization (organic industry watchdog) has published a paper outlining this loophole leading to fraud in organic imports, and the damage to American small organic farmers.

The loophole is that organic food imports do not have to meet the same standards as American organic growers. Imported organic foods farmers or producers do not have to have annual inspections, record-keeping, or any documentation that they are producing organic food. And on and on. Instead, a large organization can just announce that all the food from all sorts of places is "organic", and that's that. Nothing further needed.

Of course there is massive fraud of organic imports, which has been documented over and over. [By the way, avoid organic foods from China, Brazil, and Turkey - many are known to actually not be organic (fraud!)] It is cheaper to grow foods conventionally, but sell it as organic. Big $$$!

And who gets screwed? Consumers, as well as American organic farmers who have to maintain certain standards, have annual inspections, etc. - all of which cost money. This is why the foods American farmers grow/produce cost more than imports, and why so many of them are forced out of business

What to do? Look for and buy organic food produced in the US. Support small organic farmers - a good place to find such foods are farmers markets.

Excerpts from Organic Eye: USDA Sides with Corporate Agribusiness Lobbyists as Massive Quantities of Illegal Imports Crush US Organic Farmers

LA FARGE, WIS. — An organic industry watchdog has released a white paper outlining how uninspected organic imports have driven US farmers out of lucrative markets. The results of their findings triggered a formal request to the USDA Office of Inspector General to investigate the apparent systemic failure by the agency’s National Organic Program to enforce federal law.

...continue reading "Organic Food Imports Don’t Have To Meet Organic Food Standards"

For good health, eating a variety of foods is best. But some foods, such as olive oil, seem to be especially beneficial. A recent study found that high olive oil consumption lowers the risk of developing dementia, perhaps due to its anti-inflammatory properties and improving vascular health.

The large long-term study found that high olive oil consumption significantly decreased rates of developing and dying with dementia. Consuming at least half a tablespoon (7 grams) of olive oil was associated with a 28% lower risk for dementia-related death. And it didn't matter what the rest of the diet was.

Even replacing one teaspoon of margarine or mayonnaise with olive oil was beneficial - about 8 to 14% lower chances of dying with dementia. By the way, both margarine and mayonnaise are ultra-processed foods (look at the ingredients!).

Other benefits of olive oil: it lowers the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, is anti-inflammatory, and helps preserve cognitive health as a person ages (it's neuroprotective).

Research finds that for health benefits, best is extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Extra virgin olive oil is anti-inflammatory and contains oleocanthal, which has anticancer effects. Health benefits are both if eaten as is (e.g., dunk bread, in salad dressings) or cooked (e.g. roast vegetables, in sauces, cooking foods).

From Medical Xpress: Study suggests daily consumption of olive oil reduces chances of developing dementia

A team of nutritionists and medical researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found evidence that daily consumption of olive oil may reduce the chances of developing dementia. ...continue reading "Daily Olive Oil Consumption Lowers Risk of Developing Dementia"

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The bird flu virus (H5N1 virus) has now been found in a number of American dairy herds and in raw milk from infected cows. Thus the medical advice is to avoid raw milk and raw milk products (such as raw milk cheeses). But medical experts and the CDC are now also warning about thoroughly cooking eggs and meat.

The virus is now in numerous dairy herds, in chicken flocks, and there have been outbreaks among more than 200 mammalian species. This is why medical advice is to avoid eating runny eggs and raw or medium raw beef.

The USDA conducted a study in which high amounts of the virus was injected into beef. No trace of the virus was left after the meat was cooked medium to well done (about 145 to 160 degrees F), but the virus was found in meat cooked to lower temperatures (120 degrees F). [By the way, the USDA recently tested 30 samples of grocery store ground beef and all 30 tested negative for the bird flu virus. But it was only 30 samples!!]

CDC guidelines for Preparing and Consuming Food:

For poultry:

  • Cooking poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165˚F kills bacteria and viruses, including bird flu viruses. People should separate uncooked (raw) poultry from cooked foods and foods that won’t be cooked. Cook all poultry and poultry products (including eggs) all the way before eating. More information about safe handling and cooking of poultry can be found here: Chicken and Food Poisoning 

For beef:

  • Cooking beef to the appropriate internal temperature kills bacteria and viruses, including avian influenza viruses. Cook all beef products thoroughly before eating. Refer to this list of safe minimum internal temperatures for different cuts of beef. Separate uncooked (raw) beef from cooked foods or foods that won’t be cooked to prevent cross-contamination.

...continue reading "Bird Flu Virus and Cooking Beef"