Note from Diana: Sorry that I didn’t post this announcement when the column was published! I didn’t realize that it was in the queue.

My latest Forbes column discusses the latest debate over raising the legal age for smoking: “Smoking Is Bad, But 18-Year-Olds Should Be Allowed to Smoke“.

In particular, any debate on this should include the following three questions:

1) Is it the government’s job to stop legal adults from making unhealthy life choices?

2) Is it right for the government to restrict the freedom of adults over 18, because others under 18 might be more tempted to smoke?

3) Whose body is it, anyways?

People don’t always make the best choices for themselves.  But in a free society, they should be able to do so, provided they aren’t violating the rights of others.

 

 

Apr 082015
 

An overweight woman in an innocent moment at the gym became an object of laughter and derision on the internet. Her story — What it’s like to be laughed at on the Internet — is painful and heartbreaking and worth reading. Here’s a bit:

It’s not just the fat-bashing that hurts. Or the humiliation, the shaming, this last safe societal prejudice. All that is bad, of course. What really hurts, though, is how much the boys who took that photo of me “doing it wrong”—and the thousands of people who see it—will never know.

They’ll never know how experiences just like this began dividing me—early—from my body. That the taunts of “fatty” and “blubber” and “lardass” when I was 6 made me stand at my bedroom window and wonder if it was a long enough way down to the ground; that when the kids at lunch poked my stomach with pencils to see if I’d deflate, I honestly wished I would, with a long, satisfying “sssssss”; that by the time Ms. Gleby was leading my entire sixth grade Phys Ed class in laughing at me, I no longer had a body at all. I was a floating head, and I was determined to think of my physical form as a brick that I had to suffer the inconvenience of dragging around. My body wasn’t me. It was despicable. It was nothing.

The people who laugh at this picture won’t know that every jeer, every “mooooo,” and every “sorry, no fatties” made me more and more successful at being bodiless.

And they won’t know how scary it’s been to decide to maybe make a different choice.

They’ll never know what came before that treadmill-sitting moment: 80 minutes of aerobic exercise. They’ll never know how long it took me to feel worthy of motion, worthy of joining a gym, how long it took me to decide that moving actually felt good, and then the discovery that this was the way to reunite my floating head with the rest of me, to feel my body at its most basic, a biochemical machine that supports me. That’s what I am on a treadmill. That’s what bodies are. They are not appearance. They are purpose. It’s so hard—irrationally hard—to remember that. The world makes it hard to remember.

Hear, hear.

 

Monica Hughes recently gave an excellent talk on, “The Transformation of American Healthcare: Lessons from the Veterans Administration and Existing FDA Standards of Care” to Liberty On The Rocks at Flatirons.

 

Her talk is now available on YouTube (3 parts).

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Disclaimer and synopsis:

DISCLAIMER: The speaker is not a medical doctor or health care practitioner. The ideas in this video are not intended as a substitute for the advice of a trained health professional. All matters regarding your health require medical supervision. Consult your physician and/or health care professional before adopting any nutritional, exercise, or medical protocol, as well as about any condition that may require diagnosis or medical attention. In addition, statements regarding certain products and services represent the views of the speaker alone and do not constitute a recommendation or endorsement or any product or service.

Synopsis: In January 2014, Robb was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), one of the deadliest brain cancers in existence. Nicknamed “The Terminator” the median survival time is around 11 months. Robb had brain surgery on January 16, which was performed by a team of surgeons while Robb was awake. The surgery was a success.

Monica’s research into the post-surgery treatments that worked best for other survivors showed that they were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, so they’d have to go to a cancer center that sprouted up in Tijuana, Mexico for treatment which included a 100 year-old immune system booster called Coley’s Vaccine.

Bio: Monica Hughes has bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees in biology and has taught college biology since 2006. Previously, Monica served as a medical writer for National Jewish Health, a premier research hospital for respiratory and immune disorders, and is now a patient advocate specializing in literature research.

Robb LeChevalier has served in the Air Force and has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He designed his own home situated in the foothills outside of Denver, and currently develops high speed electronics for his own company, Astronix Research. He has been an Objectivist for 40 years.

More: Robb was given 2 months to live without surgery, a maximum of 6 months to live with surgery only, and an unspecified amount of time with additional therapy due to the unusually aggressive nature of his particular tumor. He and his wife Monica faced seemingly insurmountable hurdles by the Veterans Administration along the way, including timely care from the VA and a delay of emergency surgery that could have cost Robb his life had they not pushed for a special dispensation from a panel of VA doctors within the 48 hours leading up to his scheduled surgery. They are currently contesting 58 claims denials by the VA totaling nearly $250,000 in unpaid medical bills.

In the days following Robb’s surgery, they discovered that immunotherapy held the best chance of long-term and quality survival for this cancer. Historical 3 year survival with FDA-approved standard of care for GBM is around 7%. 3-5 year survival for some GBM patients in clinical trials using cancer vaccines is between 20%-50%, depending on the vaccine. Yet they discovered that due to FDA regulations, it is impossible to enter these clinical trials without first or concurrently undergoing FDA-approved standard of care, and that such care would greatly reduce his likelihood of responding to immunotherapy, if he was lucky enough to meet the criteria for the study and be placed in the treatment arm of such a trial.

Given these poor odds, Robb chose to forego all standard of care therapy after surgery, and opted for an immunotherapy protocol abroad that, according to current MRI results, has left him without evidence of disease. As of June 10, 2014, their new low deductible PPO health insurance policy, purchased on the Obamacare exchange, has not paid out a single penny of reimbursement for Robb’s cancer treatment.

(Note: I also discussed their case in my 5/28/2014 Forbes piece, “VA Denies Coverage For US Air Force Veteran With Malignant Brain Tumor“.)

Jan 222014
 

I’m a bit late in blogging this news, but I’m delighted to report that the Institute for Justice has created a Food Freedom Initiative:

A new national initiative launched [November 19, 2013] by the Institute for Justice seeks to make sure the government stays out of some of the most personal decisions people make every day: What we eat and how we get our food. This nationwide campaign will bring property rights, economic liberty and free speech challenges to laws that dictate what Americans can grow, raise, eat or even talk about.

To kick off the initiative, IJ is today filing three separate lawsuits challenging Miami Shores, Florida’s ban on front-yard vegetable gardens; Minnesota’s severe restrictions on home bakers, or “cottage food” producers; and Oregon’s ban on the advertisement of raw–or unpasteurized–milk. Each case demonstrates how real the need for food freedom is in every corner of the country.

“More and more, the government is demanding a seat at our dining room tables, attempting to dictate what we put on our plates, in our glasses and, ultimately, in our bodies,” said Michael Bindas, an IJ senior attorney who heads up the new initiative. “The National Food Freedom Initiative will end government’s meddlesome and unconstitutional interference in our food choices so that Americans can once again know true food freedom.”

  • IJ is challenging Miami Shores’ front-yard vegetable garden ban in state court on behalf of Herminie Ricketts and Tom Carroll, a married couple who grew vegetables on their own property for their own consumption for nearly two decades before Miami Shores officials ordered them to tear up the very source of their sustenance or face fines of $50 per day. Learn more about their case: www.ij.org/FlVeggies.
  • Minnesota allows food entrepreneurs to make certain inherently safe foods–such as baked goods–in home kitchens, but it: (1) prohibits their sale anywhere other than farmers’ markets and community events; and (2) limits revenues to $5,000 per year. Violating these restrictions can lead to fines of up to $7,500 or up to 90 days in jail. IJ is challenging these restrictions under the Minnesota Constitution on behalf of cottage food entrepreneurs Jane Astramecki and Mara Heck. Learn more about their case at: www.ij.org/MNCottageFoods.
  • In Oregon, it is legal for small farmers to sell raw milk, but they are flatly forbidden from advertising it. If they do advertise their milk, they face a fine of $6,250 and civil penalties as high as $10,000–plus one year in jail. IJ is challenging this ban under the First Amendment on behalf of farmer Christine Anderson of Cast Iron Farm. Learn more about Christine’s case at: www.ij.org/ORMilk.

These three cases raise important constitutional questions that show how meddlesome government has become in our food choices: Can government really prohibit you from peacefully and productively using your own property to feed your family? Can government really restrict how many cakes a baker sells and where she sells them? Can government really ban speech about a legal product like raw milk? The answer is no.

IJ’s President and General Counsel, Chip Mellor, said, “For 22 years, IJ has been on the forefront of protecting Americans’ property rights, economic liberty and freedom of speech. With our National Food Freedom Initiative, IJ will now bring that experience to bear in the most fundamental area–food–so that Americans can be truly free to produce, market, procure and consume the foods of their choice.”

If you care about your access to foods of your own choosing and the rights of food producers to engage in voluntary trade, please consider donating to IJ! IJ is extremely effective and principled in their advocacy of liberty, and I know that my donor dollars are going to very good use.

P.S. With this initiative, the Institute for Justice is tackling a really important and growing aspect of statism in a way that resonates with ordinary Americans. They’re doing so on the basis of sound principles and facts, and they’re likely to effect change through the courts and public outreach. In contrast, ARI’s only activity in this area has been a series of propagandistic blog posts in defense of GMOs by an astrophysicist without an adequate understanding of relevant principles of biology. Basically, ARI’s approach seems little better than what Christian Wernstedt satirized here: The Tragedy of Milkia®: The Luddite Attack Against Industrial Dairy Progress. For this reason and about a hundred others, I’m glad that my donor dollars have long gone elsewhere, particularly to IJ.

My January Whole 30

 Posted by on 1 January 2014 at 9:00 am  Food, Health
Jan 012014
 

As y’all know, I’ve eaten a paleo diet since mid-2008. As a result, I’m no longer beholden to sugar, my weight is stable, and I don’t suffer from migraines or sciatica any longer.

However, I’ve gotten a bit lax lately, particularly about sugar. So I’ve decided to do a reset by doing a Whole30 in January. I’ll eat nothing but “real food — meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts, and seeds.” I’ll eat not the slightest hint of grains, sugar, no alcohol, dairy, legumes, white potatoes, preservatives, or paleofied desserts. Also, I won’t take any body measurements — although I gave up on that some months ago for the sake of my own mental health.

To keep myself honest, Greg and Tammy Perkins will be my accountabilibuddies: I’ll pay them $5 every time I stray intentionally or negligently from the Whole30. I’ve hacked my diet enough — including with a much more strict elimination diet — that I don’t require such incentives … usually. However, I’ll be travelling quite a bit in January, so I want some extra incentives not to cheat.

If you want to start your own Whole30, you can start today or tomorrow and still wrap it up by the end of January. If you don’t have an accountabilibuddy handy, you’re more than welcome to use Philosophy in Action’s Tip Jar!

If you want to know more, check out It Starts with Food in hardback or kindle.

Update: NOMNOMNOM! Here’s breakfast:

That’s chicken and apple sausage, plus two fried eggs in coconut oil. (Hooray “diet” food!) I’m drinking chocolate-raspberry tea, which is raspberry tea with a spoonful of cocoa powder.

MRSA on the March

 Posted by on 18 December 2013 at 10:00 am  Health, Medicine
Dec 182013
 

This USA Today article — Dangerous MRSA bacteria expand into communities — is a good bit of journalism. It begins:

Eric Allen went to bed March 1, thinking he had a light flu. By the time he staggered into the hospital in London, Ky., the next day, he was coughing up bits of lung tissue. Within hours, organs failing, he was in a coma.

Tests showed that Allen, 39, had a ravaging pneumonia caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria once confined to hospitals and other health care facilities. Allen hadn’t been near a doctor or a hospital.

Same with the next victim, a 54-year-old man, who came in days later and died within hours. And the victim after that, a 28-year-old woman, dead on arrival.

The doctors were alarmed.

“What really bothered me was the rapidity of their deterioration, a matter of hours,” says Muhammad Iqbal, a pulmonologist who chairs the infection control committee at Saint Joseph-London hospital. “We were worried that something was spreading across the community.”

Indeed, a deadly form of MRSA had sprung from nowhere, picking off otherwise healthy people. The cases thrust Iqbal and his colleagues to the front lines of modern medicine’s struggle against antibiotic resistant bacteria – perhaps the nation’s most daunting public health threat. No drug-defying bug has proved more persistent than MRSA, none has caused more frustration and none has spread more widely. In recent years, new MRSA strains have emerged to strike in community settings, reaching far beyond hospitals to infect schoolchildren, soldiers, prison inmates, even NFL players.

A USA TODAY examination finds that MRSA infections, particularly outside of health care facilities, are much more common than government statistics suggest. They sicken hundreds of thousands of Americans each year in various ways, from minor skin boils to deadly pneumonia, claiming upward of 20,000 lives. The inability to detect or track cases is confounding efforts by public health officials to develop prevention strategies and keep the bacteria from threatening vast new swaths of the population.

Now… go read the whole thing: Dangerous MRSA bacteria expand into communities. It’s well-worth a few minutes of your time!

I was intrigued by the hypothesis that MRSA is carried by a certain low percentage of the population, then strikes when its host is weakened by flu or other illness. However MRSA is spread, the prospect of life in a post-antibiotic world is damn scary.

As it happens, I answered a question about antibiotic resistance in a free society on the 17 February 2013 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio that might be of interest. If you’ve not yet heard it, you can listen to or download the relevant segment of the podcast here:

For more details, check out the question’s archive page.

Adrian Peterson’s Adult-Onset Shellfish Allergy

 Posted by on 4 December 2013 at 1:00 pm  Food, Health
Dec 042013
 

Via Jenn Casey, I found this interview in Allergic Living with NFL player Adrian Peterson on his adult-onset shellfish allergy. I was particularly struck with his account of the severity of his first allergic reaction:

Allergic Living: Many of us heard that you had a big allergic reaction. Could you take us back to those moments: where were you, what were you eating, what happened?

Adrian Peterson: It was 2011 at training camp and we were at lunch. I had a bowl of gumbo – it had the normal stuff, shrimp, scallops, seafood. Maybe 30 minutes after I ate lunch and got back to my room, I was relaxing, resting up before afternoon practice – that’s when I started experiencing symptoms of anaphylaxis, though I didn’t know at the time. My throat started to itch, my eyes were extremely itchy. I remember laying down rubbing my eyes; it kind of raised a red flag.

When I stood up and looked in the mirror, I saw my eyes were swollen, and my throat was starting to swell up on me, so I called my athletic trainer and told him the symptoms. Immediately he was like, ‘Hold on, I’m coming up, just wait for me!’

When he got there, he had the EpiPen auto-injector, I administered it into my thigh, and immediately I felt my throat start to open up. I was able to breathe better, and it gave me the time I needed to get to the hospital to seek further assistance.

It kind of threw me off guard, because I eat seafood all the time, and I’ve always eaten seafood my entire life and then – just out of the blue – I have this life-threatening allergic reaction.

After training camp I went to see an allergist and found out that I’m allergic to shrimp, lobster and scallops. From that point on, I’ve had my action plan, which is knowing my allergic triggers, and always having access to my EpiPen, just in case I have an allergic reaction. I have my EpiPen on me at all times.

And:

AL: What felt better: being chosen as the 2012 MVP, or having your allergic reaction stopped by the auto-injector?

AP: [laughs] Having my allergic reaction stopped! You know what the crazy thing is, after I got off the phone with my athletic trainer, it seemed like everything kept getting even worse. When I hung up the phone I couldn’t breathe out of my nose, period. Then my throat started to really close up on me, so I’m sitting there, I’m searching, scratching for air, just barely getting air.

I got to the point where I was actually leaving, to try and meet him wherever he was coming from – I just wanted to get help – and as soon as I opened the door he ran out the elevator, he had the EpiPen, and I administered it.

These kinds of stories make me think that EpiPens should be a standard part of every first aid kit. Without that EpiPen from the trainer, he might not have survived — or the reaction might have done him serious damage.

For more information about living with food allergies, check out my two interviews with Jenn Casey.

Living Safely with Food Allergies: Part 1

Living Safely with Food Allergies: Part 2

 

October 2013 is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Hence, it’s apropos that Forbes has just published my latest OpEd on this topic, “Why The Federal Government Wants To Redefine The Word ‘Cancer’“.  Here is the opening:

The federal government wants to reduce the number of Americans diagnosed each year with cancer. But not by better preventive care or healthier living. Instead, the government wants to redefine the term “cancer” so that fewer conditions qualify as a true cancer. What does this mean for ordinary Americans — and should we be concerned?…

I discuss the reasons behind the proposed redefinition, why it could matter from a political (as well as medical) standpoint, and implications for patients and doctors.

I’d like to thank Dr. Milton Wolf for providing the quote at the end!

(Read the full text of”Why The Federal Government Wants To Redefine The Word ‘Cancer’“.)

Coping with Life-Threatening Food Allergies

 Posted by on 23 September 2013 at 10:00 am  Food, Health, Medicine
Sep 232013
 

On Wednesday — the 25th — I’ll interview food allergy mom Jenn Casey about living well despite life-threatening food allergies. Unfortunately, the topic has been in the news of late, due to the death of Natalie Giorgi.

Here’s what happen to Natalie, as told by her parents:

Natalie Giorgi died July 26 after eating a Rice Krispie treat that had been prepared with peanut products at Camp Sacramento on the final day of a multi-family camping trip, her parents said. Giorgi had a documented allergy to peanuts.

“We had been there before. We had eaten their Rice Krispie treats before. We had never had a problem before,” Louis Giorgi said.

Giorgi said immediately after taking one bite of the treat, his daughter told her parents. She had been dancing with friends when she took the bite. “We gave her Benadryl like we’d been told,” Natalie’s father said.

Over the next several minutes, the Giorgis said their daughter showed no signs of a reaction whatsoever. “I kept asking, ‘are you OK?’ She kept telling me she was fine, and she wanted to go back to dancing with her friends,” Natalie’s mom said. Natalie kept asking her parents to go back to her friends, but they kept telling her she had to stay with them, to make sure she was OK.

“Then suddenly, she started vomiting,” Louis said. “It spiraled downhill out of control so quickly.” Natalie’s father, a physician, administered both of the EPI-Pens — used to slow or stop an allergic reaction — that the family carried with them. A third was obtained from the camp and administered. None of them stopped her reaction. Her dad called 911.

“I did everything right, in my opinion. I couldn’t save her,” Louis Giorgi said. Emergency responders who arrived later couldn’t save her, either.

“She had been fine, and had been talking to us. This was a worst-case scenario. One of the last things she said was, ‘I’m sorry, mom,’” Natalie’s mother said as she wiped a tear away from her cheek.

It’s a heartbreaking story, particularly because neither Natalie nor her parents were in any way irresponsible about their daughter’s food allergy.

Natalie’s death has raised a new round of questions about when epi-pens should be administered — after the ingestion of the known allergen or when symptoms appear. Natalie’s parents followed the latter protocol (which many doctors endorse) but that was too late.

On that question, this “Ask the Expert” Column from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology was very informative. Here’s a bit:

These cases [of death due to ingestion of an allergen] illustrate a very important point. That is, the mean time to respiratory or cardiovascular arrest after the ingestion of a food to which a patient is allergic is 30 minutes (Pumphrey RS, Clinical and Experimental Allergy 2000; 30(8):1144-1150). Thus there is very little time for one to act after patients express even the mildest symptom of an anaphylactic event.

Nonetheless, we have all seen children (and adults) who experience initial symptoms such as itching of the back of the throat or nausea after eating a food, and who recover spontaneously. In the practice of Allergy, we do food allergen challenges on a regular basis and observe these spontaneous recoveries. Thus we are all prejudiced by these observations. These personal anecdotal observations have resulted in the debate as framed in this quote from the Journal of allergy and Clinical Immunology:

“Although there is little debate about using epinephrine to treat a SCIT SR” (meaning anaphylactic reactions to injection of an allergen), “there is a lack of consensus about when it should be first used.”

This debate has certainly extended to anaphylactic reactions to foods. The issue is not whether epinephrine is the drug of choice. Clearly it is. Other agents such as antihistamines do not act in time to prevent fatalities. Thus if we are going to prevent a fatality, the only tool we have to do so is epinephrine.

So what should be done? (Mind you, even if you don’t have food allergies, you might need to give someone advice on this matter at some point — and you could save their life!)

As the article says: “In July 2008, the World Allergy Organization published the following statements:”

Anaphylaxis is an acute and potentially lethal multisystem allergic reaction. Most consensus guidelines for the past 30 years have held that epinephrine is the drug of choice and the first drug that should be administered in acute anaphylaxis. Some state that properly administered epinephrine has no absolute contraindication in this clinical setting. A committee of anaphylaxis experts assembled by the World Allergy Organization has examined the evidence from the medical literature concerning the appropriate use of epinephrine for anaphylaxis. The committee strongly believes that epinephrine is currently underused and often dosed suboptimally to treat anaphylaxis, is underprescribed for potential future self-administration, that most of the reasons proposed to withhold its clinical use are flawed, and that the therapeutic benefits of epinephrine exceed the risk when given in appropriate intramuscular doses.

Again, I hope that you join Jenn and me on Wednesday for our discussion of living well with food allergies. We won’t just be focused on the person who has the food allergy: we’ll talk quite a bit about what friends and family can (and should) do to keep that person safe, without driving anyone crazy.

 

I’m really quite late in posting this update, as I’ve just finished my seventh sheet of high intensity training. However, as I often say, better late than never! If you’ve not read my prior posts, but you want to see my progress, check out:

Here’s the latest sheet:

Here’s a summary of my progress on various movements, starting from Session 80 from Sheet 5 to Session 96 on Sheet 6. All the machines are Nautilus, except the lower back and the torso rotation. As before, only Leg Press and Lower Back are done every session; all other movements are done every other session.

As you’ll see below, I continued making steady progress on leg press, which I really wanted to do. As a result, I stalled out on some other movements or even decreased. Overall, I’d say it was a good sheet.

Every week:

  • LP: Leg Press: 260 to 280 lbs. I was very happy to be making steady progress again.
  • LB: Lower Back: 160 to 162 lbs. I didn’t make much progress on this wider range of motion, but that’s okay!

Every other week:

  • Hip AB: Hip Abduction: 95 to 85 lbs. It helps to vary the weight on this machine a bit, given that I’m pretty much at my limit.
  • Hip AD: Hip Adduction: 115 to 105 lbs. Same as above
  • CR: Calf Raises: 300 lbs. I didn’t do this often.
  • Lower Back (see above)
  • PD: Lat Pull-Down: 130 lbs. No progress.
  • Leg Press (see above)
  • CP: Chest Press: 75 to 65 lbs. We decreased my weight because I’m just tapped out immediately after leg press.
  • Row: Row: 60 lbs. I still hate this machine, but the movement is exactly one that I use for riding, to get Lila up off her forehand, so I’d better get it done!
  • Ab C: Ab Crunch: Steady at 15 lbs.
Every other week:

  • LE: Leg Extension: 65 to 70 lbs. I went back up to 70 lbs.
  • LC: Leg Curls: LC is a 90-second curl of the leg, with progressive intensity, backward against a stable frame.
  • Lower Back (see above)
  • Leg Press (see above)
  • Bicep: Steady at 45 lbs: It’s still hard to make progress with this machine given that it’s immediately after leg press. Oh well!
  • Tricep: Steady at 80 lbs: Again, no progress, no worries.
  • Rot T: Rotate Torso: 44 to 46 lbs. On this sheet, we began doing a hold rather than movement, which is incredible hard but a much better workout. Now I struggle with muscle failure, rather than the movement.
  • New MXCP: (Funky MedX Ab Cruncher Hold): steady at 75 lbs: All good.

P.S. If you decide to try my SuperSlow gym — now TruFit Health — in south Denver, please tell them that I referred you!

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