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All Posts in Category: Funny facts!

Men on the Pill?

Whether it’s an IUD, an implant, a shot or a daily pill, birth control is a regular part of many adult women’s lives. It has left a lot of women asking: Why not men? Why are they spared?

Well, it’s not simple. Let’s take a look.

With all the abundance of choices women have in the contraceptive realm, men, on the other hand, have only two choices:

  • condoms – a barrier form of contraception that stops sperm reaching and fertilizing an egg
  • vasectomy – a minor surgical procedure that stops sperm being ejaculated from the penis during sex (it is usually permanent). We don’t want this usually!

For years, scientist have tried to create other alternative birth control methods for men, realizing that this is an untapped market.

There are two directions that this research went:

Hormonal contraception

The World Health Organization commissioned a few years ago what sounded like a promising trial, a two-hormone injection designed to temporarily stop the development of healthy sperm. Initial results looked like it would be 96 percent effective in preventing pregnancy in the participants’ partners. (The effectiveness rate for women’s birth control pill is 99%). But the Stage II trial was stopped after an independent review panel found that the drug had too many side effects. The most common side effect was acne, and sometimes it was pretty severe. Some men also developed mood swings and in some cases those mood swings got pretty bad. One man developed severe depression, and another tried to commit suicide.

I can already see eye rolling from women at this point knowing that women have been experiencing things like mood swings and weight gain for decades with hormonal birth control pills without complaints! But when we do it we go all the way and we don’t take side effects lightly! We are big babies after all, aren’t we?

The other reason this trial was stopped is that even though it seemed a very sound theoretical approach with very good results in the beginning some men, despite all this, still carried on producing enough sperm to cause a pregnancy! Cause: unknown! Aren’t we stubborn sometimes? Yes, we are!

Non-hormonal contraception

One very promising avenue of research is a technique called reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance (RISUG). During this technique, a non-toxic synthetic chemical, a polymer called VASALGEL is injected into the vas deferens.  This is the tube that sperm pass through on their way to the penis. This tube is cut during a vasectomy. (hence the name: vas-ectomy – cutting the vas!).

The chemical reacts and blocks the vas deferens. It also kills sperm when they come into contact with it. The chemical is effective almost immediately after it is injected.

The chemical stays in place until a man decides that he wants to have children. It can then be washed out using another injection which dissolves the polymer and flushes it out of the vas deferens. Another advantage of Vasalgel is that while it blocks sperm, other fluid can still pass through. This should reduce any risk of pain due to back pressure, an occasional issue with vasectomies (fluid backup!)

A variation of this technique is the intra-vas device (IVD). It involves injecting a “plug” into the vas deferens which can be removed later. The IVD filters out the sperm as it passes through the vas deferens.

Initial results of RISUG and IVD are promising, but further research is needed to assess the long-term effectiveness and safety of both techniques. But it seems that this is way to go with men.

 

Why is it harder to develop birth control for men than women?

That’s the big question. There are a couple of reasons. One is that it’s harder from a biological point of view. If you think about it, it’s a numbers game: Women produce one egg a month, while men are producing millions of sperm constantly (as a side note: it has been calculated that a man will produce in a lifetime an average of 110 liters of semen – the equivalent of an average bathtub! Or a big fish tank! I hope they are wrong!) With women, you can take advantage of their normal monthly cycle with the birth control pill. There’s nothing equivalent to that in men. We produce sperm relentlessly! 1,500 sperm cells per second! That’s right, you read well!

Other reason is the un-willingness of men to take some side effects (hormonal especially).

And the third reason is that funding this type of research is tough. In fact, there’s more money dedicated to figuring out how to best to sterilize your family dog than there is to research new male contraceptives! Nice, right?

For women, it will be life-changing to have men help out in the contraceptive department, with a method other than condoms. They could replace or supplementing a woman’s existing method—both partners taking something is better than one.

This would be a game changer for couples, as well as single women and men. It would move the contraceptive burden into shared territory.

 

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Can you swallow your tongue?

You have probably heard this before: when you see someone passing out or having a seizure, in general, losing consciousness due to various reasons, there seems to be always someone saying that you should try to get the poor fella’s tongue out of his mouth so he will not swallow it. This is a myth.

But before explaining that, let’s get some facts straight.

Tongue is an amazing muscular organ that is covered by a thin mucous membrane. It lies partly in the mouth cavity and partly in the oropharynx. It is highly mobile and can be shifted into a number of different positions and also assume various shapes. The tongue’s primary function is often seen as that of being the organ of taste, however, its role in various other activities is also crucial.

Functions of the tongue:

  • Taste. The taste buds, the sensory receptors for taste, are located on the tongue.
  • Speech. The movements of the tongue are crucial for articulation.
  • Chewing and swallowing. The tongue helps the teeth and other parts of the mouth with chewing food and passing it down the throat as the first part of the swallowing process.
  • Cleaning. The movements of the tongue dislodge food particles stuck between the teeth, gum and cheek so that it can be spat out or swallowed.

The tongue is a muscular mass and although it is made up of several muscles, all act in conjunction with each other to perform various movements. The tongue muscles can be divided into the intrinsic and extrinsic groups. Broadly the intrinsic muscles can alter the shape of the tongue while the extrinsic muscles change the position of the tongue.

Anatomy of the mouth

Other interesting facts about the human tongue:

  • Tongue is the only muscle in human body that works without any support from the skeleton! It is a biological structure known in mammals as muscular hydrostat; the most common recognized muscular hydrostat is the trunk of an elephant.
  • There are specific segments on tongue for sensing different tastes. The notion that different parts of the tongue is responsible for sensing different types of tastes (in other words, there are taste belts) is actually a myth. Our tongue can taste sour, sweet, bitter, salty and umami. Umami is actually a very new variant of taste discovered by a Japanese scientist who found that the chemical that is responsible for this taste is monosodium glutamate (the famous “MSG”).
  • The tongue is THE STRONGEST muscle in entire body. However, it is at the same time, one of THE MOST SENSITIVE muscles as well.
  • Women have shorter tongues compared to males.
  • Our tongue has a very unique property. It is incapable of detecting taste if it is dry! This means that if you place a piece of lemon on a dry tongue, you will not be able to tell that it is sour. The tongue gets its ability to sense taste only in the presence of saliva that keeps it moist. The most common source of dry mouth/tongue is the prescribed medication.
  • Sticking out your tongue is considered unacceptable behavior in many cultures, but it is a sign of respect in others. In Tibet, sticking out the tongue is a greeting. When two people meet, they stick out their tongues at each other. Among the Maori people of New Zealand, sticking out the tongue is part of a war chant and is meant to intimidate the enemy. If you want to see it yourself and you like rugby, please watch on YouTube the ceremonial Haka before a rugby game of New Zealand (“All Blacks”).

There is a common belief that you can swallow your tongue but it is not actual possible to do it. What the people would actually mean is that tongue can block the opening of the airway (trachea); one of the first things you are taught in basic life support is that if someone is having difficulty breathing you should tilt his/her head and lift the chin; this will help to remove the tongue as an obstruction.

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Cordyceps: the killer fungus!

Cordyceps sinensis is a very interesting medicinal mushroom that has been used for medicinal purposes in Asia for centuries. It is used mainly to restore lost energy and vigor and to stimulate a fatigued immune system acting like a general tonic for the body.

In addition to the English term “caterpillar fungus” there are other interesting names of this killer fungus. In Tibetan it is referred to as Yartsa gunbu. The Chinese name is dong chong xia cao (meaning “winter worm, summer grass”). The Latin name cordyceps means “club head”, and sinensis is “from China”. According to the recent DNA review of the genus Cordyceps, the new name for Cordyceps sinensis is actually Ophiocordyceps sinensis.

It grows only in the mountains of Himalaya, on the Tibetan plateau, at the altitude of 3,000-5,000 m in cold snowy marsh lands of China (Tibet), Nepal, India or Bhutan.

This fungus is also known for its unique way of reproducing. It sprouts from the body of dead caterpillar in the wild, entering the body of a live caterpillar while it is in the larval form of a large moth (Thitarodes spp.) native to the region. Upon infection from the spores, strands of filaments called “hyphae” begin to sprout from the spores that then leads to the death of the caterpillar. That’s a parasite with no scruples! The hyphae grow longer and multiply and develop into a relatively large stalk-like fungal fruiting body that emerges from the insect’s carcass after having sapped the caterpillar’s body of all nutrients thus killing and mummifying the remains. This horror movie action makes Cordyceps one of the coolest mushrooms around!

The killer fungus in action!

The fruiting body is usually up to 4 inches (around 10 cm) long and 0.3 inches (1/2 cm) wide. Unlike a typical mushroom, these are curved and finger-shaped like a small cane. They’re usually orange or brown. It can be a very important source of income for people living in rural Tibet.

Cordyceps sinensis – sprouting from buried caterpillars

BBC News reported a few years ago that some Himalayan villagers make their living by collecting the fungus along the mountainous regions of Tibet to sell to a Chinese market that can be as high as tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram. In fact, the money to be made is so lucrative that it resulted in multiple homicides as villagers from one region tried to prevent outsiders from cashing in on their limited supply. It was estimated that the price of Cordyceps sinensis on the Tibetan Plateau rose dramatically by 900% between 1998 and 2008 due to the demand from the Western hemisphere and Europe Today, in order to meet this demand, Cordyceps is grown in climate-controlled greenhouses within a grain-based substrate.

Tibetan mountains

Cordyceps fungus has a long history of use in traditional medicine in China and now worldwide. It has numerous bioactive compounds, including polysaccharides and nucleosides (organic molecules that will be converted into building blocks of the genetic material DNA) which have been studied for their broad range of biological activities. Its main constituents are Unsaturated fatty acids, Amino acids and Adenosine, Adenine, Uracil, Uridine and Cordycepin (3′-deoxyadenosine). It is usually standardized to 4% cordycepic acid and 0.25% adenosine (Metagenics). Cordycepin is known as a nucleotide analogue, due to its structural similarities to adenosine.

It is sweet in flavor, slightly warm in nature and in Traditional Chinese Medicine this fungus mainly manifests its therapeutics actions in the Lung and Kidney meridians (enhances Kdnney Yang and replenishes Essence, invigorates the Lungs, stops bleeding and dissolves Phlegm).

In the Western medical world, the health benefits of Cordyceps sisnesis are:

  • Stimulation of the immune function
  • General adaptogen, resulting in more energy, strength and stamina
  • Anti-tumor properties (good for cancer)
  • Anemia (builds bone marrow)
  • Persistent cough (reduces excess phlegm and increases oxygenation in the lungs)
  • General sexual tonic and libido/performance enhancer (“Viagra” of Asia)
  • Reduces cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, VLDl and increases HDL
  • Improves Arrhythmia
  • Improves Tinnitus
  • Hypoglycemic effects (reduces blood glucose and benefits insulin resistence)
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Medicinal Mushrooms

Mushrooms are awesome and a fascinating life form!

They belong neither to the plant nor animal kingdoms, and they actually share more DNA with animals that they do with plants. Adding to their strangeness, the largest organism ever discovered on the planet is a network of mushroom mycelium that weaves across a colossal 2,200 acres underneath Oregon’s ancient Malheur National Forest!

Human use of medicinal mushrooms has a long and rich history, and the valuable medicines of mushrooms are important elements in protecting our health. Fungi have developed incredible properties to ward off bacteria and mold that would compete with them. When humans consume these fungi, most of all they are imparted with a strong immunity. This will be an important theme throughout the article and in general, and of vital importance in our day and age. These benefits and many more can be yours when you embrace the mushroom medicine! I did!

A large amount of the world’s population live on a mostly vegetarian diet. Especially in Asia, they consume Mushrooms as a staple food. This could well be the secret to their longevity and success!

One of the misconceptions about mushrooms is that they carry little nutritional value. However this is further from the truth. Apart from being a low calorie highly nutritional food source, mushrooms carry unique compounds such as for example an antioxidant called L-ergothioneine and are choked-full of B vitamins. Also 5 little button mushrooms contain more potassium than an orange!

But the most important here is that mushrooms have been scientifically proved to having anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties which assist the body in fending off diseases like Polio, Hepatitis B, HIV, Influenza, HSV-1 and HSV-2 as well as the small pox virus. There is a number of compounds in fungi that can stimulate immune function and inhibit tumor growth. In particular, compounds called polysaccharides, which are large, complex branched chain-like molecules built from many smaller units of sugar molecules, have been intensively studied since the 1950s. Time and time again they have been shown to have antitumor and immune-stimulating properties, not only from many of the medicinal mushrooms studied, but also from lichens (such as usnea), bacteria, and even from the cell wall of a yeast (called zymosan). Recently, German researchers have demonstrated that immune-activating polysaccharides similar to those found in many fungi are also found in other plants, such as the widely popular Echinacea, and Astragalus (an important Chinese herb).

One of the most important and researched polysaccharide is called beta glucan and it was studied for its effects on the immune system and its anti-tumor properties. An assay to detect the presence of beta-D-glucans in the human blood is marketed as a means of diagnosing invasive fungal infection in patients.

The polysaccharides are not the only immune-modulating compounds found in mushrooms but only the most important one. There is seven primary constituent classes, or “pillars”, that all together add up to the immunity enhancing effects of mushrooms. These are:

  • Polysaccharides (ex. Alpha & Beta-glucans): Immunomodulating effects
  • Glycoproteins (ex. PSK): Immunomodulating effects
  • Triterpenes (Sterols, ex. sistosterols, stigmasterols, campesterols)
  • Lipids: Cholesterol modulating effects
  • Proteins (Enzymes): Antioxidants properties
  • Cyathane derivatives (ex. erinacines & hericenones, nerve growth stimulant factors)
  • Secondary Metabolites

Beside the immuno-modulating properties, mushrooms also offer other potentially important health benefits, including liver protection, antioxidants, anti-hypertensive and cholesterol-lowering properties, as well as anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. These properties have attracted the interest of many pharmaceutical companies, which are viewing the medicinal mushroom as a rich source of innovative biomedical molecules.

Shiitake mushrooms

The Chinese and the Egyptians were among the first people to appreciate the value of the mushroom. Egyptians associated mushroom with immortality and since they revered their Pharaohs, they included mushroom as a specialty in the diet of the royal family. Many countries in Asia and Eastern Europe too have been fascinated by the mushroom for centuries. China in particular associated it with longevity, a good immune system and strength.

Others like the Romans, however, went to the other extreme by chastising the mushroom for its poisonous potency since it apparently killed their Emperor Claudius in a premeditated murder.

Today, outside the medicinal use, the mushroom is part of expensive cuisines in luxurious restaurants all over the world. Mushroom is also used as an effective leavening and fermentation agent in food processes.

An in-depth analysis of mushrooms a few decades ago also led to some interesting discoveries. Scientists discovered that some enzymes present in the stipe (the stem of the mushroom) can be used in the manufacture of detergents. On the other hand, toxic elements in some mushroom species that the plant presumably uses to deter predators (including humans), can be used to produce environmentally friendly pesticides.

Mushrooms also seem to have great potential in the field of biotechnology. It is already being used to spur plant growth and or lower the level of bacterial contamination in water. The US Patent and Trademark Office has registered different patents in relation to the specialized fields of myco-remediation, (“myco-“ means fungus) a cleaning process where contaminants are biodegraded to clean the environment and myco-filtration, a filtration process that gets rid of disease causing elements like the bacteria, e.coli and the protozoa plasmodium falciparum.

It is therefore evident from all its various uses, dietary and most importantly medicinal use that the mushroom is the most significant fungus after penicillin.

In the end, I just wanted to introduce here six of the most well-researched anti-cancer mushrooms rich in polysaccharides and beta glucans, the primary active immune-enhancing constituents: Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) “The Mushroom of Immortality”; Shitake (Lentinula edodes) – Black Forest Tree Mushroom; Coriolus (Trametes versicolor) “Turkey tail Mushroom” ; Cordyceps sinensis – Chinese Caterpillar Fungus; Maitake (Grifola frondosa) – Cloud Mushroom; Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) – Black Tree Fungus.

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Halloween background

Tips for a healthier Halloween

It is true that Halloween is a wonderful holiday and a ritual passed down through generations and many kids are sooooo eager to go out and Trick-or-Treat the neighbors. The concern for the healthy-conscious parents are the candy that the kids bring home in bags and hats. They are the nightmares of dentists too. It is true again that these treats are mostly empty calories, full of sugar and artificial dyes, preservatives and trans-fat, part of the so-called “junk food” category.

Like alcohol, candy is considered a discretionary calorie, which means that it contains no nutritional value and it is recommended by the medical community that we should consume only 100-200 of these type of calories per day. I would say consume None of it and you will be better off.

So the question bears: is there anything we can do about it and ease off the guilt that we have by either giving away empty calories or by allowing our kids to eat these sugary bombs? Here are some tips:

  • Dark chocolate – the health benefits of dark chocolate are all over the internet and I will not bother you again with them. This is your best bet. Now many major candy companies are starting to offer a dark chocolate version of some of the most popular treats so please look for these one when buying candy (i.e. Kit Kat, Aero, Hershey’s)
  • Water bottles – I know it sounds creepy but the parents will thank you! (in secret!)
  • Juice boxes – there are some juice boxes now that are sugar free (apple, orange) and even organic!
  • Dried fruit – here the most used are raisins, which are small and easy to pack in a small box. Other dried fruit in boxes are more expensive (if you can afford it).
  • Fat-free candy – these candy are supposedly better that regular candy but they are still bad. Pure sugar.

And some other tips for Halloween:

  • Demand you kid to have dinner before trick-or-treating to avoid candy binges later!
  • Ask the kid to brush her/his teeth before going to bed. Flossing is vital now!
  • Allow them to eat only a few pieces at one sitting, not continuously through the day, to avoid prolonged sugar exposure and drive everyone crazy!
  • Throw away candy after two weeks! Stay in control folks!

I hope this helps and nobody will toilet-paper your house!

Happy Halloween!

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Memory loss, dementia

AMNESIA in the movies: myth or reality?

It seems that in Hollywood AMNESIA is a favorite topic for screenwriters because it brings about an easiness in the plot where the writers can turn people and events around and make the movie more interesting. The most memorable movies where AMNESIA played a big role are: Memento (2000), Total recall (1990), The Bourne series (2002-2016), 50 first dates (2004), The Island (2005), Desperately seeking Susan (1985), Amnesiac (2014) and the list can go on and on and on.

In almost all these movies, there is a profound misconceptions and misrepresentations of this syndrome that need to be addressed.

Let’s start with a definition.

As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, amnesia is a loss of memory due usually to brain injury, shock, fatigue, repression, or illness.

As succinctly explained by the Mayo Clinic, the two main features of amnesia are:

  • Impaired ability to learn new information following the onset of amnesia (anterograde amnesia)
  • Impaired ability to recall past events and previously familiar information (retrograde amnesia)

Amnesia isn’t the same as dementia. Dementia often includes memory loss, but it also involves other significant cognitive problems that lead to a decline in the ability to carry out daily activities.

The most profound amnesic syndromes usually develop as a result of neurosurgery, brain infection, or a stroke. These factors are overlooked at the movies in favor of the much more dramatic head injury. Road traffic crashes and assault are the most common causes for amnesia in movie characters. Although post-traumatic amnesia is common in survivors of road crashes and assaults in the real world, the profound loss of identity and knowledge repeatedly portrayed at the movies is unrealistic and comic sometimes.

In the real world, most profound amnesic syndromes have a clear neurological or psychiatric basis. True dissociative amnesia (when a person blocks out certain information, usually associated with a stressful or traumatic event, leaving him or her unable to remember important personal information) are rare, but people with such conditions are able to learn new information and perform everyday tasks. The most commonly agreed features of amnesic syndromes include normal intelligence and attention span, with severe and permanent difficulties in taking in new information. Personality and identity are unaffected. These distinctions, which in a medical setting are critical in terms of prognosis and treatment, are often blurred at the movies, to enhance the spectacular.

Neurodegeneration

Loss of memory in people after a certain age

In this pool of misconceptions about amnesia, three films are an exception that need to be mentioned here. In Se Quien Eres (2000) a psychiatrist treats a patient with Korsakoff’s syndrome. In this movie, you can see clearly that the writers and director have clearly done their research into the condition and there is good depiction of this syndrome.

The movie Memento (2000) also deserves a special remark. Apparently inspired partly by the neuropsychological studies of the famous patient HM (who developed severe memory injury after neurosurgery to control his epileptic seizures) and the temporal lobe amnesic syndrome, the movie portrays the difficulties faced by Leonard (the main character), who develops a severe anterograde amnesia after an attack in which his wife is killed. Unlike in most films in this genre, this amnesic character retains his identity, has little retrograde amnesia, and shows several of the severe everyday real-life memory difficulties associated with the disorder.

It is perhaps ironic that one of the most neuro-psychologically accurate portrayals of an amnesic syndrome at the movies comes not from a human character but an animated blue tropical fish. In Finding Nemo (2003) Dory is a fish with profound memory disturbance. The cause of amnesia is unclear (it will be explained later on, in the Finding Dory (2016)), but her difficulties in learning and retaining any new information, recalling names, and knowing where she is going or why are an accurate portrayal of the considerable memory difficulties faced daily by people with profound amnesic syndromes. (Good for you screenwriters! You’ve finally nailed it!) The frustration of the other fish around her with constant repetition also accurately reflects the feelings of people who live with amnesic patients. Although her condition is often played for laughs during the film, poignant aspects of her memory loss are also portrayed, when she is alone, lost, and profoundly confused. Funny but sad at the same time.

In the end, to answer the question from the title, in case you didn’t figure out my stance by now: this is Hollywood folks! Welcome to the movies! Free dreaming for all!

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Marijuana vs Cigarettes: which one is more dangerous?

I am writing this article to answer a question an patient of mine asked me the other day; in fact many Canadians often wonders if marijuana is as dangerous as cigarettes.

So, what do you believe, which one is worse?

I will present to you the facts and let YOU decide.

But let’s take it concisely.

Cigarettes:

  • Increase the risk for heart disease and stroke (main culprit: nicotine)
  • Can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body; lung cancer is just the most common form.
  • Smoking is a cause of type 2 diabetes mellitus and can make it harder to control. The risk of developing diabetes is 30–40% higher for active smokers than nonsmokers.
  • Affect a woman’s fertility and can affect her baby’s health before and after birth.
  • Affect men’s sperm, which can reduce fertility and also increase risks for birth defects and miscarriage.
  • Smoking can affect bone health.
  • Smoking is a cause of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Can damage your eyes and increase your risk for cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens that makes it hard for you to see) and age-related macular degeneration (damage to a small spot near the center of the retina, the part of the eye needed for central vision).
  • Women past childbearing years who smoke have weaker bones than women who never smoked, and are at greater risk for broken bones.
  • Affect the health of your teeth and gums and can cause tooth loss.
  • Smoking causes general adverse effects on the body, including inflammation and decreased immune function and thus reduces the overall health of the smoker.

 

Marijuana:

  • can have an impact on brain development; can cause short-term memory impairment and slowness of learning.
  • can impair lung function similar to that found in cigarette smokers; more serious effects, such as cancer and other lung disease, can follow extended use, due to carcinogenic effects of the smoke; it has been reported that cannabis smoke contained higher amounts of ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, and nitrogen oxides, but lower levels of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); the relationship between marijuana and lung cancer is not so well studied, like in the association between cigarettes and cancer.
  • decreased sperm count and sperm motility.
  • low rate of addiction compared to tobacco (it is estimated that around 10% of users will become addicted); but with the increased concentration of THC (the active ingredient) in marijuana, gone from 1% to around 12%, this will soon start to increase as well.
  • have a negative effect on driving ability; acute cannabis use increases the risk of an automobile crash.
  • interference with ovulation and pre-natal development.
  • impaired immune response, lowering the ability of the body to fight infections.
  • possible adverse effects on heart function, but less in significance, because does not contain nicotine.
  • by-products of marijuana remaining in body fat for several weeks, with unidentified consequences. The storage of these by-products increases the possibilities for chronic, as well as residual, effects on physical and mental performance, even after the acute reaction to the drug has worn off.

Well, that’s all folks.

If you’re asking me, I think the cigarettes are worse, with heavier and longer-term impact on your health and wellbeing. But both of them do have serious side effects that do not need to be dismissed lightly.

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The Science behind the Grey Hair and Debunking its myths

I was always intrigued by why people turn grey hair at some point in their life.  What is the science behind this? And what is the truth behind the all the myths about grey hair?

Let’s take it step by step.

Scientists have long known that greying is the result of a gradual disappearance of melanin in hair follicles – melanin is the protein responsible for giving hair its color.

Anatomically, each hair on our heads is made up of two parts:

  • a shaft — the colored part we see growing out of our heads and beards (males only!)
  • a root — the bottom part, which keeps the hair anchored under the scalp

The root of every strand of hair is surrounded by a tube of tissue under the skin that is called the hair follicle. Each hair follicle contains a certain number of pigment cells. These pigment cells constantly produce a chemical called melanin that gives the growing shaft of hair its color of brown, blonde, red, and anything in between.

Melanin is the same substance that makes our skin’s color fair or darker. It also helps determine whether a person will burn or tan in the sun. The dark or light color of someone’s hair depends on how much melanin each hair contains.

As we get older, the pigment cells in our hair follicles progressively die. When there are fewer pigment cells in a hair follicle, that strand of hair will no longer have as much melanin and will become a more transparent color — like gray, silver, or white — as it grows. As people continue to get older (and they will!), fewer pigment cells will be around to produce melanin. Eventually, the hair will look completely gray. This is, in short, the science behind grey hair.

And now the myths:

Can you give yourself grey hair?

There is no scientific evidence to back this myth up. One compelling argument that you will often hear is “just look at the USA presidents when they took office and look again when they leave the office!” It seems that all of them will turn greyer during this time. But this is just an observational study and there is no science behind it. Stress seems to accelerate this process, but if you want to blame someone for this, blame your parents; genetics plays a big role in this one. If you want to know how soon you will grey, take a look at your parents or ask them when they started to grey. This is a pretty accurate indicator. What is written in your DNA nobody can change or erase.

If I pluck one grey will it grow 2-3 instead?

You probably heard this before. Just old folklore. There is not one bit of truth behind this. Plucking will remove the hair, but there is no connection with the strands around that hair. And it will not remove the hair follicle. And the new hair growing from that follicle will continue to grow as it was doing before: with no pigmentation! And even worse, sometimes, it can damage the follicle so instead of one hair growing back, you might end up with no hair at all! Just leave it alone, and go with the flow! Grey hair looks great on men past 40!

If I dye excessively will my hair turn grey faster?

No, there is no science behind this either. You can breathe easily now. Just invest in some natural, good-quality products (herbal dyes or hypo-allergenic dyes, without PPD or ammonia) and have fun. But don’t tell your teen kids yet!

Is smoking causing me grey hair?

This one seems to be Plausible. Or even True. You are far more predisposed to to greying hair as compared to an individual who do not smoke. Smoking has been said to play a role in the ageing process of hair since it creates oxidative stress. A study in 2013 showed a link between smoking and turning grey before 30. So if you want to have dark and lustrous hair, consider quitting smoking altogether. The benefits far outweigh the short-lived rush of pleasure when smoking cigarettes!

Is the excessive sun exposure responsible for grey hair?

I would say for this one that is Plausible. Some scientist say No, some say Yes. It’s more about what happens inside of the cells than external factors. Long exposure to sun will create hydrogen peroxide in excess that will eventually play a part in the process of greying but the extent of this in the whole picture is not known yet. Gray hair is more susceptible to sun damage, since it has less melanin. So it doesn’t hurt to wear a hat.

Can white hair turn grey overnight?

Scientifically and medically, this is impossible; there is no mechanism by which hair could organically turn white, either suddenly or overnight. Hair is always dead. Once the hair grows out of the head, it can’t be influenced by any psychological or physiological processes in the body. It would be weeks before the effect of some extreme shock/stress would be visible because only the root would be affected.

But…historically, there were tales of people whom, sentenced to death penalty, turned grey overnight. The best examples that I could find were: the French queen, Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) when led to the guillotine at the age of 38, during the French Revolution, her hair is said to have turned white the night before her execution. This is even now called Marie Antoinette syndrome in the dermatological circles, when someone suddenly turns grey/white in short term.

Another famous example is the English lawyer Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), who was canonised and declared a martyr in 1935 by the Pope Pius XI, was executed in the Tower of London in 1535, and again his hair was reported to have turned white before his death. He was opposing the Henry VIII separation from the Catholic Church, opposing thus the Protestant Reformation.

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Are Canker Sores contagious?

Medically known as aphtous ulcers, these nuisance, small lesions on the inside of your mouth or at the base of the gums, are a medical mystery in its own right. We don’t know how and why they appear. Mystery. Medicine doesn’t have all the answers, after all.
The work canker means “spreading ulcer” and it was the common word for the disease that we all now as cancer until 1700 and in time its meaning shifted to become a general term for ulceration.
They are very common. In fact, they are so common, that nobody is keeping track of its epidemiology, and when researched, all you can get is a wide range of percentages, like 5-70% incidence rate in Canada.
Despite many studies trying to identify a causal microorganism, canker sores do not appear to be infectious, contagious, or sexually transmitted. Immune mechanisms appear at play in persons with a genetic predisposition to oral ulceration. It appears that they are the result of a T cell–mediated response to the antigens of Streptococcus sanguis, a nasty bacterium.
People often confuse them with the Cold sores, which are completely different. Cold sores, also called fever blisters or herpes simplex (HPV) type 1, are groups of painful, fluid-filled blisters. Unlike canker sores, cold sores are caused by a virus and are extremely contagious. Also, cold sores typically appear outside the mouth – usually under the nose, around the lips, or under the chin – while canker sores occur inside the mouth.
What triggers these pesky things on the inside of your mouth?
Stress or tissue injury is thought to be the cause of simple canker sores. Certain foods, some people reported citrus or acidic fruits and vegetables (such as lemons, oranges, pineapples, apples, figs, tomatoes, and strawberries), can trigger a canker sore or make the problem worse. Sometimes a sharp tooth surface or dental appliance, such as braces or ill-fitting dentures, might also trigger canker sores.
In the matter of how you treat them, and because we don’t know what exactly cause them, medicine doesn’t have much to offer. Conventional medicine says Just pay attention to the triggers and avoid them. Complementary medicine will offer you coconut oil, sage or honey rub, cayenne cream, aloe rinse, gargle with warm salt water etc. With or without treatment, the pain lessens after 2-3 days and the canker sores will heal in 7-10 days anyway.
So, to answer to the question from the title, canker sores are not contagious (if you were afraid of that) and they will spontaneous heal in 7-10 days. The miracles and mysteries of the human body.

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Blood – sacred fluid or commodity?

The history of blood in medicine and its symbolic meaning is as old as medicine itself.
Human beings, from ancient times, have viewed blood as miraculous, sacred, have been terrified of it, killed because of the “purity” or “impurity” of it and have died rather than betray it.
Blood is the ultimate symbol of life – a sacred fluid associated with birth, nobility, purity, fortitude, fertility and death. The ideas of monarchy and royalty rest upon the (outdated) notion of “blue blood” or pure blood that some members of our society acquire by simply being born from “noble” ancestors.
As a side note, a popular theory is that the phrase “blue blood” describes a condition caused by a rare genetic defect that is carried by the royal families of Europe due to their habit of only marrying from the same breeding pool, thus leading to a blood condition called hemophilia. In reality, the actual origin of the term “blue blood” comes from Spanish and it used to describe that when conquering lands held by Moors, the Spanish nobility displayed the fact that they had very white (never labored) untanned skin, though which blue veins were easily seen, in contrast with the darker skinned Moors.
All major cultures have used and treated blood in ways that reflect its symbolic importance. The Egyptians were mystified of blood and offered wine as “blood of the gods” for rituals; the Nile waters were turned to blood in the Ten Plagues of Egypt; the Egyptians bathed in blood to regain powers lost through illness or injury. The Mayans viewed blood as the supreme nourishment for their deities and the most important rituals culminated with a blood (human) sacrifice, either by decapitation or by heart removal.
Blood also plays a central role in the Christian sacramental traditions, where it is transformed into wine and consumed as the essence of life, the very presence of the “living God”, in the real belief that is the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
The science of blood took a major leap forward with the discovery of (by an English physician named William Harvey) the actual circulation of blood in humans, clarifying the role of the heart, lungs, arteries and veins in the circulatory system in a pamphlet called De Moto Cordis. It was 1628. Before this, it was presumed that the liver was the organ responsible for the “spontaneous” creation of blood from ingested food, a theory that lasted more than 1,000 years due to the crushing influence of Galen in this matter and in medicine in general.
The history of the blood as commodity begins with its value in saving lives through transfusion. According to some historians, the first attempt to transfuse blood from one human to another took place more than 500 years ago, when a dying Pope Innocent III received blood from 3 healthy boys with a disastrous results: the boys died, the Pope died and the physician fled the country!
Fast forward 500 years later, the technology has come to age. Countless lives are saved by transfusions all over the world. The science has started to de-mystify the blood and use it as a new commodity, with a market that started to come alive after the WWII. The years of 1950’s to 70’s were a boom in this market with blood being sold in USA at an ever growing pace. Then the ethical and moral issues started to become more prevalent and the desire to protect against the exploitations of those selling blood (usually poor, from low-income class). The open sale of blood created one of most bitter controversies over the ethics of establishing a commercial market for human body materials.
The boom in the increase worldwide sale of blood prompted various international agencies to act, encouraging governments and people alike for non-paid blood donations as a compromise to the problem. Was blood a “gift”, retaining some of its symbolic sacredness, to be donated by and to a community as an act of social benevolence? Or it was a new commodity, a product, like a car, that could be advertised and sold like any other commodity?
The “gift concept” of blood donation and the blood volunteerism belief slowly advanced over the next two decades (70’s to 90’s) and finally triumphed in the USA, when an sustained campaign by the numerous agencies have managed to change the mindset from blood as commodity to blood donation in order to express compassion for their fellow men and women and to show devotion to their community.
This was a long journey for blood. From the magical, sacramental definitions of antiquity to the market definition of today. Blood and blood products (plasma, antibodies, clotting factors) are still being sold and bought around the world as a growing part of the pharmaceutical industry, becoming over the last 15 years a major medical commodity.
The debate over the paid versus non-paid blood donations is still on.

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