Friday, July 29, 2011

Sunscreen - Bringing Sunscreen Ingredients to Light

Sunscreen sucks... I simply despise the stuff. 

It smells, it’s greasy and it makes me feel slimy when I wear it. Since I wear a sunhat, sunglasses, and usually wear long clothing to cover my skin on sunny days, is it really worth slobbering on sunscreen?

The media tries to persuade us to use sunscreen, supposedly to protect us from skin cancer. But does sunscreen actually prevent cancer? Most importantly, does sunscreen protect against malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer?

I also worry, is it really such a great idea to cover ourselves and our children skin with the questionable chemicals in sunscreen? Shouldn’t we be more concerned that chemical sunscreens get absorbed by our skin, which then can effect the rest of our bodies?

And don’t we need sunlight? Since life on earth depends on sunlight...doesn’t that mean that we do too?

The short answer to these questions is there is no “one size fits all solution” to the value or risks of using sunscreen. It really depends on where you live, your skin characteristics, your clothing preferences, and, perhaps most importantly, the wisdom with which you choose your sunscreen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mold - A Culture Inside Your Appliances

This past weekend, our dishwasher started leaking. By the time we noticed, a serious puddle of water accumulated under the dishwasher and started making its way toward the hardwood floors in the rest of the kitchen.

Unfortunately, I have experience with water damage causing mold in our home. We once had an irresponsible contractor who caused a water leak during remodelling and then somehow just “forgot” to mention it. By the time we were made aware of the leak (we were living in England at the time, trying to get this house ready for our return to the States), our kitchen was a disaster. The beautiful hardwood floors warped beyond repair and the sub-floor was covered in disgusting, potentially deadly black mold.

Given this experience, I knew that water leaking anywhere in my home is cause for alarm and so I went immediately into “urgent action mode” to prevent another major problem. First, I enlisted everyone in the house to soak up all the water with a stack of cheap towels we save for just such dirty, smelly occasions. We dried the interior and exterior of the dishwasher, our kitchen floor, and we tried our best to dry the puddle underneath the machine. Then, we focused a fan to the underside of the dishwasher to speed up evaporation of any remaining moisture that may have soaked into the wood sub-floor.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Arsenic may not be the ingredient you expect in your kid’s apple juice, but recent findings suggest it could be on the table. It turns out that non-organic apple juice may have dangerous levels of arsenic.

Recent testing by Food and Water Watch exposed apple juice containing over 5 times the legal limit (55ppm) of arsenic imposed by the EPA for drinking water (10ppm). Food and Water Watch released this information along with a letter they wrote to the FDA asking for them to finally establish safety limits for arsenic in fruit juice. There is currently no legal limit on arsenic (or other heavy metals) in fruit juice established or enforced by the FDA.

While Food and Water Watch did not speculate on the source of the arsenic contamination, but there is a likely culprit. It turns out that some pesticides contain arsenic and other heavy metals. Apparently, in the breakdown of these chemicals, some of the arsenic can be absorbed by the apple tree and end up in the fruit... and then in your juice. Not exactly the ingredients you want to be feeding your toddler, is it?

This release comes just on the heels of Food and Water Watch’s report titled “A Decade of Dangerous Food Imports from China”. In our previous posts, we have discussed the importance of buying and consuming organic foods that are from sources you trust. Organic foods are restricted from using almost all synthetic pesticides, making them a safer choice. Because growers try to reduce blemishes on their fruits, they use more pesticides than in most other crops. Apples made it onto the top of this year’s EWG list of most pesticide laden foods. As with any health issue, it’s what you don’t know that could hurt you.

Researched and written by Dr. Rebecca Malamed, M.D. with assistance from Mr. Malcolm Potter.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dysbiosis - A Gut Reaction

What do stool transplants, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, gluten sensitivity, and probiotics have in common? They are all related to a phenomenon that is known as Dysbiosis, a condition where the normal, healthy balance of bacteria, fungus, and other micro-organisms in the gut are out of balance. Evidence is mounting that anything that disturbs the normal balance of micro-organisms in the gut could have profound health consequences. These can be very severe, as in Clostridium difficile Enterocolitis, which can be life threatening, or they can be subtle, as in vague symptoms of fatigue, bloating, allergies, intermittent abdominal pain and/or diarrhea (often diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome). How is it that so many problems can be caused by a just a few abnormal micro-organisms?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Drug Resistant Gonorrhea Found

The last remaining, safe treatments for Gonorrhea are
becoming less effective as more resistant strains develop.

Wired Science has an article about Multidrug-Resistant strains of Gonorrhea, which are being found worldwide. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report detailing the rising threat and rapidly decreasing number of treatment options available. From the Wired article:

“Now comes the CDC to say that, in a survey of gonorrhea (Neisseria gonorrhoeae) isolates from across the US between 2000 and 2010, the agency has spotted rising rates of decreasing susceptibility not only to cefixime, but also to ceftriaxone. The increases are small — from 0.2% of about 5,900 isolates per year in 2000 to 1.4%  in 2010 for cefixime, and from 0.1% in 2000 to 0.3% in 2010 for ceftriaxone — but that they are occurring at all should ring an alarm bell.”

We have previously discussed anti-microbial resistance and this increasing problem. This particular increase in gonorrhea is scary because almost all of the primary treatments are showing greatly reduced efficacy. When people are treated for STDs like Gonorrhea, it is important that the treatment is both inexpensive (so clinics can afford to treat people) and as close to a one time treatment as possibe. If a patient has to do more to manage their own treatment (a full course of antibiotics, or multiple visits to a clinic), then the risks of incomplete treatments (causing even faster development of resistant strains) greatly increases. As we run out of effective treatments, less safe drugs may be the only treatment, but with greater risk of side effects.

NSAIDs - Risks and Alternatives

Now with New and Improved Side Effects!
Doctors used to say “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” These days it sounds more like “take two NSAIDs and call me in the morning.” Aspirin was the first pharmaceutical to take advantage of the natural healing qualities found in Willow Bark. Aspirin has the ability to decrease inflammation, pain and fever. Aspirin has many valuable qualities but also a large number of side effects and dangers, gastro-intestinal bleeding being the most recognized example.

NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) are the single most commonly used class of drugs in the developed world. Almost everyone from professional athletes to elderly patients in nursing homes use them, many on a daily basis, to reduce swelling (inflammation) or pain. They come in many shapes, sizes, colors, and brand names -- Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Ketoprofen, Aleve (Sodium Naproxen), and many more. NSAIDs are considered by many to be a great treatment for inflammation or pain, and indeed they work well for this purpose, but there is more to the story.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Corruption of Science - Financial Ties Compromise Health Research

Richard Feynman's famous quotation about Science. 

At Dr. Rebecca’s Healthy Planet, we want to bring you unbiased, quality research and information about health. However, this turns out to be a lot harder than you might imagine. With corporate interests funding science and the media reporting the results, facts and study results can be twisted beyond recognition, especially when it comes to protecting us from hazardous and dangerous products.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Obesity - An Epidemic of Malnutrition ?

Processed food, is it really food?
Image credit by Danielle Scott
Everyone is talking about the epidemic of obesity, but is that really the issue? Perhaps what we should be talking about is the epidemic of malnutrition. Malnutrition is increasingly being observed in association with obesity. Is a diet consisting primarily of processed, yet supposedly “enriched” foods providing us with sufficient nutrition, and at what cost?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Antibiotic Resistance from Chickens?

Image by Martin Cathrae

(For more information on this subject please read our previous post: Antibiotic Resistance: Bacteria are winning the battle against antibiotics faster than we can invent them.)

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the US have released an article in their journal (Emerging Infectious Diseases) about antibiotic resistance. In this article, scientists link the overuse of antibiotics in livestock to an increase of resistant strains of bacteria (E. coli) in animals and also to the transmission of resistant strains to people. In this study, approximately 80% of all chicken meat samples contained drug resistant strains of E. coli... the same strains found in almost 75% of people in the study who got sick from E. coli.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Take Charge of Your Medical Care

"Take Charge of Your Medical Care" is a post by guest writer Laird Malamed.

Recently, my wife underwent back surgery. After years of lower back pain and leg pain that impacted her quality of life, she chose this elective operation. Sitting through a movie or driving across town brought intolerable pain. Flying across the country to visit our son required purchasing three seats and schlepping a foam pad to construct a makeshift bed on board. Undertaking long distance travel, something she loves, left her recovering for days or weeks. Now a few weeks post-op, initial results on the surgery promise a successful outcome.

During the pre-6 AM check in, the admission and nurse staff asked my wife multiple times to describe the planned treatment, and they went so far as to use a permanent marker to mark which vertebrae was to be operated on. Why? Because back surgery comes with inherent risks, but can you imagine what would happen if the doctor replaced the wrong vertebral disc? Or he took out her gall bladder or a kidney by accident? These horrible mistakes happen from time-to-time (they often make local news broadcasts), and hospitals requesting that patients describe and confirm the planned operation, as well as a good permanent marker, help prevent these types of critical errors. And of course, at any time that morning, my wife could have backed out. Upon waking from the operation, she knew the right surgery had been performed given the complete absence of right leg pain after four long years.

Now, you might wonder how mistaken procedures happen if a patient must confirm their operation or test. However, I nearly had this happen to me with a lab test. While the test that was almost undertaken would not have reduced my total organs by one or demanded weeks of recovery versus none at all, I am a firm believer of only doing what is medically necessary.