Rethink Health -September 2011

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Mind the Bugs Don't Bite

We are apparently becoming infested. Not with bacteria, but bedbugs. 

These  tiny insects resemble miniature woodlice. They are clearly visible to the naked eye, being about 4mm long and 2mm wide. They don't fly, but inhabit clothing, mattresses, bedding and upholstery. 

They share their home with house dust mites but are distinct in their habits. House dust mite waste is very irritant to the noses and skin of most people, and allergenic to some; but they do not bite. Bedbugs feed like mosquitos, probing for blood. These bites produce itchy bumps - often very numerous and widespread.

Bedbugs used to be very common, but were more or less eradicated in the 1940s. They have been on the increase again from about 1980, and seem to be multiplying and spreading rapidly since the turn of the century. The worst places seem to be hotels in our major cities, suggesting that the spread has been promoted by increasing foreign travel.

If you need to use a hotel, especially near an airport, it is worth inspecting the mattress, bed linen and headboard for evidence of small black spots which are the insect's excreta. If you miss this and are unfortunate enough to be bitten you should assume that some bugs will be in your bed-clothing. Shower and wear a complete change as you leave the hotel. Bag up everything that may be contaminated in a stout plastic bag and seal it firmly. Wash every stitch at high temperature on return home. Include the clothing  you came home in if you have the least suspicion of insects in it. A good hot shower with soap and water should dispose of any that remain on your body.

The insect are hard to kill because they have become resistant to most pesticides, but in a way that is a relief. These pesticides do us almost as much harm as the insects! However they die quickly above 46 dec C, or below -32 deg C. They also succumb quickly to carbon dioxide. So a good treatment for mattresses and upholstery is dry ice, scattered liberally on the mattress sealed inside a large polythene bag. It has to be a valuable mattress to be worth it! It's a lot easier to dump and incinerate the mattress.

There is another simple defence that requires a new habit. Polish your skin every day with a dry loofah. Try not to miss any part of it. This gradually hardens the outer layer and makes penetration by insect bites less deep. If they fail to reach a blood vessel, you will not be aware of any after-effect at all. This goes for mosquitos, but alas bees and wasps are stronger stuff! 

Don't Trust Screening

Evidence published recently in the British Medical Journal suggests that screening for breast cancer contributes little to any decline in deaths from the disease. These have fallen anyway, with or without screening, at roughly parallel rates in different countries. 

The UK public health authorities beg to differ, of course, but I have never encouraged you to rely on screening anyway. The foundation of your defence should be a diet based heavily on organic vegetation with minimum reliance on beef or dairy food from cows. Purification of your drinking water is particularly important in an urban area, where inevitably you are drinking recycled water with some contraceptive hormones still in it - they cannot easily be removed except by reverse osmosis which, fortunately, is now easily affordable for home use. Similar precautions help to deter prostate cancer in men. 

Progesterone supplementation may be justifiable for women with a clear history suggesting deficiency - such as PMT, difficulty with periods and with conception. 

Betacarotene - an orange anti-oxidant material from which you make Vitamin A - is a natural chemotherapy. Several carrots a day will provide ample protection. Other natural cancer-killers are Vitamin D (from regular sun exposure) and a wide range of other anti-oxidants - most of them found in vividly coloured vegetation.

If you do discover a suspect lump, cross-question your consultant closely about what he intends to do. There is a tendency to hit even the least harmful cancers just as hard as the most dangerously developed ones, "to be on the safe side". Unfortunately, some forms of treatment harm the healthy parts of your body, and can make you a good deal less well than you were before treatment. 

You can have a confidence in these general defences that your consultant will probably not share. They are your secret weapons, very effective and entirely harmless. If they have been in place for years already, the lump is probably a good deal less harmful than it might have been. Seek a compromise using medical methods of lesser impact, at least in the first place. In centres where cancer help is respected, the best results come from good natural methods combined with smaller doses of medical intervention.


The chattering classes continue to comment at length about the deprivation of looters and their search for status and self-esteem.

Self-esteem is not self-centred. It entails equal esteem for others. There can be no such thing as self-esteem based on possessions. That is esteem of the possessions.

Most people, unfortunately, value themselves according to their "net worth" and social standing. Healthy people value themselves  and other selves for being alive, and for their part in the creation going on all round them. We need a lot more role models of this kind! But they are infectious, so a minority can leaven the lump of society. And they do it without biting!