Rethink Health - September  2012

News through the GoodHealthKeeping lens

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It's Up To Us

Have you noticed how nobody seems prepared these days to admit any kind of personal responsibility for anything? It's always someone else's fault - entirely! Whether it's bankers, the police, public health authorities, or a deprived childhood, I apparently bear no blame for borrowing too much, or crowding in late, or looting a shop. 

This can work both ways. A recent report suggested that stress at work, over which the hapless employee has no control, is a contributor to coronary disease. (Did that really need research? - it seems rather obvious.) But the Department of Health responded that smoking, alcohol and obesity were much bigger causes. In other words, it's your fault if you have a coronary. And they're more right than wrong, though your unreasonable employer - or weak public health officials -  should not get off the hook so easily.

We also heard that, according to the latest report on the effectiveness or otherwise of breast cancer screening, on balance screening does more good than harm. Despite submitting many women to treatment they did not need for a disease they did not have, the test catches twice as many who do have the disease and can be treated successfully. I don't endorse this conclusion since it takes no account of symptoms from the unnecessary treatment. A relative of mine was never the same after treatment of this kind - and died eventually of dementia that seemed to date from it.

Whatever we may think of this report, the actual screening does nothing to prevent a cancer from forming. Furthermore, the treatment arising from it is a lazy, inefficient and expensive way out. If all a woman does about cancer is to turn up for screening when invited, then she has wasted a great opportunity. We know a lot now about how to prevent the disease, all of it by personal action available to every woman, every day of her life. 

The same actions that would prevent breast cancer in most cases would also prevent other cancers, and indeed most other diseases. Nature is not perverse. Rather, it is perverse, unreasonable and unrealistic to rely on a list of separate screening and preventative measures, each designed to prevent or detect one condition only. There are just too many conditions to prevent!

It is tempting, of course, to blame the drug manufacturers. They would rather we relied on their products, and as many of them as possible. Then there are the various government departments that adopt these products uncritically, and press us to rely on them. They should be setting drugs and vaccines in a much bigger perspective and using them sparingly, in favour of prudent living we can all indulge in - even enjoy.

But the drug industry is with us, along with death and taxes. We have to do the thinking, and the living, for ourselves.

If we neglect the simple personal actions that can prevent our own disease, then we should not blame others when something bad happens. We should not expect to be salvaged at public expense. If the Big Society is to mean anything at all, it must exert mass cultural pressure toward self-reliance. There's not much a community cannot do for itself, once it has set its collective mind to it.

So what do you do?

Another Rubbish Report

A recent American report adds to the long list of studies unable to find differences in the nutritional content of organic food, as compared with that grown intensively with chemicals.

That's because chemical analysis tells us nothing of the structure or energy - vitality - of the food, only the amount of each chemical element it contains.

Imagine a hotel with a crowded bar. The number of drinkers tells us nothing about the hotel. Only those who have booked rooms are really part of the outfit, and contributing to its success. Well, much the same applies to nitrogen in a plant that was sprayed on the day before yesterday. It makes no structural contribution, but it weighs heavy in the chemical analysis.

Organic food contains much less pesticide of course, but much more vitality and structure - perhaps 20-100 times more.  You need the structure and the energy if you are to live out your full span in perfect health. It can be done. You can do it.

Toxoplasmosis

You should take seriously the risk of infection with toxoplasma from the faeces of cats. Let the animal bury its waste outdoors, as it wants to. Don't rely on shallow litter indoors. Wash and disinfect your hands carefully after handling litter or grooming. There's a smaller additional risk from poorly washed vegetables and undercooked meat, particularly lamb.