Health and Fitness

28 February 2012

Synopsis

This writing is a collection of my opinions, beliefs, and experiences concerning conventional and complementary medical practices, nutritional systems, and exercise programs. Many of the statements made in this essay run contrary to conventional wisdom and may be considered politically incorrect.


Disclaimer

The author of this essay is not a licensed medical professional, fitness instructor or healthcare provider. The author’s educational background is in computer science. This essay is an expression of the author’s personal opinions, beliefs, and experiences and is not intended to provide medical, nutritional or fitness advice in any way, shape or form. The author strongly advises the reader to seek the advice of a licensed medical professional before changing diet, exercise regimens or current medical treatments.

The author claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application or interpretation of the material in this essay.


I view nutrition, exercise, and healthcare as three legs of a balanced overall health system. As with a mechanical tripod, the system isn’t effective if one of the legs is either missing or incompatible with the others. Most people agree that diet and exercise go together, but how many consider healthcare as part of the equation? Conventional healthcare today is primarily focused on taking various prescription and non-prescription drugs. You can prove this to yourself just by observing the number of drug commercials on TV. Try watching the CBS Sunday Morning program and count the number of drug commercials you see—it’s nauseating. For many people, ingesting drugs has become a part of their daily routine.

In this essay, you will read about my so-called unconventional views on diet, exercise, vitamins and supplements, and of course, medical practices. Even so, many of the views expressed in this writing are becoming more accepted by the general population. This can be seen merely by observing the growing number of chiropractic and acupuncture clinics that exist and are busy seeing patients. As a matter of fact, many chiropractic clinics are also providing acupuncture so that you can get full-service wellness care in one place. Since many people are now averse to taking prescription drugs, alternative therapies are becoming very attractive. You may hear stories about people who have been helped by alternative medical practices telling their family, friends, and co-workers about their experiences. By these means, the word is being spread about alternative practices. This is important because you won’t find any advertisements for alternative medicine on TV, so don’t even bother looking.

I grew up with an exposure to both conventional and alternative medical practices. I learned early about how effective chiropractic medical treatments can be. I also have some experience with what would be considered holistic medicine today. However, after many years I was steered back to conventional western medicine. Then, while engaged on a software testing contract in New York City for the Y2K conversion, I met a contractor, of Chinese descent, who would only see a Doctor of Oriental Medicine (OMD). At the time, I thought this was at best somewhat peculiar and at worst, rather extreme. I’ve seen documentaries on TV about how operations were being performed in China on patients using acupuncture who were fully awake and without the use of anesthesia. Naturally, I wrote this all off as mumbo-jumbo and voodoo. Years later, I would discover just how wrong I’ve been.

Even though alternative medicine is making inroads with the general population, many people are still allowing themselves to be brainwashed by the healthcare and fitness propagandists. How many of you out there still believe you need to “go to the gym” to exercise? How many of you drink diet soda? Quite a few, I imagine. I once put together a safety presentation on the subject of nutrition at my work place for one of our mandatory monthly safety meetings. I emphasized the potential harmful side effects of consuming aspartame,1 the sweetener used in diet soda. Very few in the audience were willing to accept what was presented as I observed the recycle bins continually being filled with empty diet soda cans. I’ll discuss this in more detail later.

If you’ve ever turned on your TV to pass the late night or early morning hours, I’m sure you would have had a hard time avoiding the plethora of infomercials about new exercise programs, devices or some weight loss scheme. You know the ones I’m talking about: Total Gym®, Bowflex®, AB Glider, Body Burner, AB Circle Pro, Air Climber System, and many, many more. Which, if any, of these devices really work or are they all just gimmicks? Or, have you ever been intrigued by some of the colon cleanser products such as the Dual-Action Cleanse? Better yet, how many of you seen one of Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures infomercials and thought “how can this guy make such outrageous claims?” In this essay, I’ll present my opinions on different medical practices, exercise, diet, and nutritional supplements and programs. Many of my opinions run contrary to popular belief and will probably offend some readers. Be that as it may and be sure to read the disclaimer.


“Having nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things…”

1 Tim. 4:7-8 New International Version

During my lifelong quest to lose weight, I think I’ve tried every exercise program known to man with varying degrees of success. You name it, from calisthenics to weight lifting, and from running to stepper machines. Here are some of the things I’ve tried over the years in the following order, more or less:

  1. Hand Grips
  2. Chest Expanders
  3. Barbells
  4. Isometrics
  5. Martial Arts
  6. Jogging / Long Distance Running
  7. Racquetball
  8. Biking
  9. Lap Swimming
  10. Nautilus® / Universal Machines
  11. Steppers / Stationary Bikes
  12. Dumbbells
  13. Walking
  14. Body Weight Exercises

It’s possible to lose weight using any of the exercise methods listed above, either individually or in combination. The question then becomes which exercise program is sustainable for most people over their entire lifetime? Of course an individual’s current age, physical condition, genetics, and medical condition need to be taken into account, so everyone’s situation is unique. However, In order for an exercise program to be followed over the long haul, it needs to have the following attributes:

  • Safe
  • Simple
  • Effective
  • Available
  • Affordable
  • Expeditious

Let’s take a look at the fourteen attributes listed above to see how they stack up.

Items 1 and 2 are certainly simple to use; inexpensive and available; and the exercises don’t take a lot of time to perform. While I thought these to be passé, I discovered a brand of chest expander being sold by LifelineUSA and recommended by Matt Furey on his website.2

Items 3 and 12 are, for the most part, the same. The exercises are fairly simple but the added notion of repetitions sets and variations tend to complicate things considerably; they may be highly effective depending on the person’s body type, however there is a risk of injury if not performed properly and loss of flexibility; they are not cheap to buy so going to a gym is necessary for most people; and the regimen is time consuming.

Item number 4 is probably the simplest to perform. They can be done almost anywhere and are quick to execute. For the most part no special equipment is necessary and they can be effective but their major drawback is that they can lead to elevated blood pressure and irregular heartbeats.3

Item number 5 is not a simple program and requires instruction by highly trained and experienced instructors or sensei. Serious programs are usually held in traditional dojos where costs may be high and workouts usually take from an hour and a half to two hours.

Item number 6 is simple—everyone knows how to run. On the downside runners can experience lower back pain, blisters, muscle tightness, and knee injuries; running can be done anywhere if you have the proper shoes and clothing, however, weather can be an impediment; running is time consuming depending on how far you can run and the time needed to perform the proper stretching exercises before and after a run and to allow for an adequate cool down period.

Racquetball, item number 7, is one heck of a workout; the drawbacks are risks from being hit by the ball—especially to the eye, blisters, and elbow injuries.

Item numbers 8 and 9, biking and swimming, I consider as similar exercises in that they are effective for both cardio and strength training. Swimming is probably one of the most beneficial upper and lower body workouts you can do—it can also save your life. The only drawback I know of is the potential for developing “swimmer’s ear.”4 Outdoor biking is fun and can even be relaxing. Well, maybe it is relaxing if you’re riding in Florida, but not so much if you’re trying to climb hills such as those around Hunterdon County, NJ, for example.

Exercise machines, item number 10 in our list, whether they are Nautilus®, Universal, Bowflex® or some other variety, including to some extent the Total Gym®, are all based on the premise of muscle isolation. That is, they attempt to target certain muscle groups. This works fairly well if you are into body building but if you are merely trying to maintain a sustainable level of fitness they may not be for you. Why? Because you need to do a lot of different exercises and the notion of sets come into play. So, exercise machines along with barbell and dumbbell training fall short of 4 out of our 5 sustainability requirements.

Steppers, item number 11, I believe are dangerous. Extended interval, high-intensity cardio training, which causes you to lose weight by elevating your heart rate for long periods of time, is unhealthy and inconsistent with the way our bodies produce and use energy.5 I’ll have more to say on this later. As far as stationary biking goes, I can’t think of anything more boring than to pedal a bike in a health club while watching TV, so outdoor biking is the way to go. You know the ole’ saying, “I feel like I’m on a treadmill,” well it applies to stationary bikes as well.

What could be more therapeutic than taking a walk outside away from your desk in the middle of the work day? Walking is natural, doesn’t cause any injuries and can be done by almost anyone. Therefore item number 13 ranks high on the sustainability scale.

I finally arrived at item number 14, body weight exercises—unfortunately, much later in life.

I mentioned swimming as a very beneficial exercise. However, beware of using public pools for this purpose. In my opinion, the busier the pool is at your local health club, the more likely the pool will be maintained properly. Health clubs that are in decline will allow the facilities to deteriorate. I’ve used health club pools where the water actually had a cloudy, greenish color. It’s easy to pick up a rash or an ear problem from dirty pools.6 But that’s not the only problem; the chlorine used to disinfect the water is not beneficial to the human body.7 Even if you don’t swallow the water, the chemicals are being absorbed through your skin.

I first started exercising, during my high school years, using hand grips, chest expanders, barbells, and some isometrics, but not very seriously. Then I tried Martial Arts from 1966-1967, but had to stop after a recurring knee injury.

I was introduced to a different exercise philosophy while taking martial arts instruction. We weren’t encouraged to do weight training; as a matter of fact it was discouraged. The reasoning was that weight training tends to decrease muscle flexibility. In martial arts you need a high-level of flexibility to perform the various punching and kicking movements. Our senseis were very lean, and not overly muscular, but they had tremendous power in their punches and kicks and they also had unbelievable balance.

After college I got hooked on the running craze, popularized by the late Jim Fixx author of The Complete Book of Running. While living in Clinton, NJ, I used to do a short run in the morning before going to work, and then on weekends, I’d do a longer distance run. One of the most challenging run I used to do was to follow Rt. 513 north from Clinton to High Bridge then over to Rt. 31 south back into Clinton. There was a section in High Bridge where I would do a hill sprint, around half way through the run. Another run was from Clinton following Rt. 31 north then around Spruce Run State Park. I also did a run from Clinton to Flemington taking Rt. 513 then Rt. 617 into Flemington. During this time, I would also take short bike rides in the local area. I then joined a Health Club in Annandale, NJ and started doing the Nautilus machines along with joining a racquetball league.

Some years later, I decided to get serious. I joined the company fitness center where I was doing contract work. Before you were allowed to use the facilities, you had to take an orientation session with one of the fitness instructors. During these sessions they told you about getting your heart rate into the target zone and also taught you to how to take your own pulse. I started out doing Universal machines for about 20 minutes, then the stepper machine for another 40 minutes. After lunch I would walk around the facility. I later modified this routine to jogging in the morning before work, then walking after lunch and then finishing off the day with about 45 minutes of dumbbell lifting. I also used to do about 100 crunches using my weight bench. I lost a lot of weight during this time, but after a while I just burned out. Yet, even though I lost weight I still looked the same, only thinner! If I got into the right position, with the light just right, I could just barely see a ripple in my abs. I was also into extreme dieting—no fats. For breakfast I ate plain bagels without butter or cream cheese, and cereal with skim milk. I was down to a 33 inch waist, but still had the same body shape. I couldn’t understand this because the fitness experts were making claims that you could change your body shape by performing the right exercises. I was practicing muscle isolation and “muscle confusion,” by varying the form, weight, and intensity of the exercises. After a while I went as far as my genetics would take me.

Since I lost a lot of weight using the stepper machines, I became a total believer in high-intensity, extended interval cardio workouts. That all changed when after a workout I began to feel light-headed and noticed my heart rate was elevated even hours after stopping. Then after being checked out by the company’s on-site nurse, she found my blood pressure was elevated also. The fitness instructor was puzzled, because the popular belief was that high-intensity cardio workouts were supposed to produce the exact opposite results—so much for popular beliefs. Think about it, if extended period, high-intensity cardio training is supposed to be really good for you and stress is not, then why do they call a common cardiac diagnostic test a stress test?

So eventually, I discovered the benefits of just walking while I was contracting in New York City. Instead of taking the subway from Port Authority Bus Terminal to the office, I would walk—rain or shine, no matter what the weather. I was able to lose a belt notch just by sticking to this routine. I continued this practice later on when I worked on Water Street in lower Manhattan by taking a 30 minute walk during lunch every day.

I’m no longer a fan of fitness clubs. If been a member of many over the years. I’ve come to the conclusion they are more like social networking venues instead of being gyms. Most people feel uncomfortable going to a gym by themselves. I guess they may feel embarrassed if they aren’t as fit as most other members. There must be some truth to this since Planet Fitness® established The Judgment Free Zone® as their slogan. This must be the club for those sensitive types. Then you have the exercise club fashionistas who never break a sweat and without a hair out of place looking like they are at a modeling photo shoot. They look down at others as if they were sweating Neanderthals. Of course, you no longer refer to fitness centers as exercise clubs or gyms; they are now called health clubs. Health clubs, really? I think they are as healthy as grabbing on to the hand rails on a crowded New York City subway.8 Make sure you’ve had your flu shot for the year.

In 2004, when I was preparing to take a new consulting assignment in Atlanta, I was searching for an exercise regimen that I could do in my apartment without a lot of equipment. I had seen the infomercials for the Bowflex® system and was seriously considering it. Then I came across an internet search result with the phrase “politically incorrect fitness” in the description which immediately got my attention. I followed the link to Furey’s site and to my surprise everything he was saying made sense to me. I recognized many of the exercises and fitness philosophy from my earlier exposure to martial arts so I knew this was legit. I ordered the Combat Conditioning book directly from his website and started out trying the routines.

I’m sure you’ll google “Matt Furey” and find a lot of crap posted by people accusing him of being a scam artist. Maybe all the fitness advice you’ve been given over the years has worked for you, as promised. Maybe you’ve spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on fitness clubs, personal trainers, exercise equipment, and the like without getting the results you expected. So, who are the real scam artists? Anyway, Matt Furey is an entrepreneur, not just a fitness coach. So, he charges money for his books, advice, and coaching sessions. If I remember I paid about $35.00 each for his Combat Conditioning and Combat Abs books. I feel they were well worth the price.

The core of the Combat Conditioning system is what Furey calls the “Royal Court”9 which consists of three exercises: Hindu Squats, Hindu Pushups, and back bridge. These body weight exercises are not Pilates or the usual calisthenics you might have done in high school or back in basic training. These exercises have their origins in wrestling and martial arts—the combat sports. The Combat Conditioning system, including many other body weight exercises presented in his two books Combat Conditioning and Combat Abs, are for functional fitness, not body building. According to a statement attributed to the great wrestler Karl Gotch, weight training and body building produce “’counterfeit’ muscles”.10

When I first started out, I thought the Hindu Squats would be a piece of cake since I was able to max out the leg press machines at the local gyms. To my surprise I could only do the squats for about a minute before I had had enough. Then I tried the pushups and could only do a handful. The back bridge was impossible. I realized I didn’t have the flexibility and couldn’t get into the proper position, which is to bridge on the forehead with your nose touching the mat!11 Many other exercises are described in the Supplementary Exercises section in the Combat Conditioning book.

Most people train their abs by doing crunches or some variation. Remember I said I was knocking out 100 crunches during a workout. Really, how effective can crunches be when so many repetitions can be done fairly easily by an average person? According to Matt Furey in the book Combat Abs, he advocates exercises that strengthen the internal organs not just the abdominals. Furey suggests that performing the “Farmer Burns’ Stomach Flattener,” the first in the “Magnificent Seven” series, is very effective in helping your internal organs function properly.12 By the way, all of these exercises are done standing up!

As far as exercise goes, the bottom line is that your body was designed for movement and activity. As one of the best lines from the popular movie Office Space says: “…we don’t have a lot of time on this earth! We weren’t meant to spend it this way. Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day…”13 I believe everyone needs to be doing 2-3 hours of low-intensity aerobic activity per day supplemented by occasional very short duration high-energy bursts. I suggest the Combat Conditioning exercises discussed previously to be sufficient for most people to achieve their high-intensity workout goals.

Again, I believe our bodies were designed for physical work—exercise is really only a substitute. With the exception of the Combat Conditioning exercises and possibly Yoga positions, most exercises are artificial. Besides, you have to know and listen to your body. It will tell you when to exercise and to what level of intensity and most important, when it’s time to rest. When you try to push beyond the limits of what your body can handle is when problems arise. For some, exercising every day is fine, for others maybe two to three times a week is enough. Forget about those muscle isolation exercises—the best exercises are the ones that involve the most muscle groups and work to stimulate the internal organs. Substitute high-intensity cardio workouts with frequent low-intensity workouts such as plain walking.


“He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, Get up Peter. Kill and eat. The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’”

Acts 10:11-13, 15

“…I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.”

Rom. 14:14

It’s fairly obvious, and most everyone would agree, that the so-called obesity epidemic is being caused by the proliferation of high-tech; gadget-driven societies where the majority of the population sit behind a desk all day at work and then sit in front of a computer or TV at night. As I’ve said before, our bodies weren’t designed to be sedentary; our bodies were designed to be physically active. Is it any surprise then how easy it is for most of us to gain weight and how hard it is to lose given our sedentary work environment? Then again, we try to compensate by “hitting the gym” to get in shape. When we hit the gym, we hit it hard. What we miss is the hours of low-intensity aerobic activity that our bodies need to optimally burn stored fat.14 This runs against the grain; against everything we’ve ever been taught.

We’ve been programed to eat mostly grains, followed by fruits and vegetables, and lastly, meats, fish and poultry. So where did the masses get the idea of eating mostly carbs? I put the blame squarely on the USDA’s 1992 Food Guide Pyramid. I believe this accusation has merit in that according to one Utah county health department website: “In 1992, the obesity epidemic began to take hold.”15 And also in an article from a US News and World Report Health website: “The epidemic of excess weight gain and obesity among young Americans began about 15 years ago.”16 Are these claims merely coincidence or is there a cause and effect relationship with the release of the Food Guide Pyramid in 1992? You may argue against the Food Pyramid being the cause of the obesity epidemic, but you have to agree that it certainly hasn’t helped. Conventional wisdom has a friend at the USDA.

According to Mark Sisson, the author of The Primal Blueprint, our bodies evolved, although I would argue designed, with two major energy systems. Our first energy system fueled by fats for low-intensity aerobic activity, and a second energy system fueled by ATP for very short bursts of high-intensity energy.17 So, if Sisson’s premise is true, we have our diet and exercise beliefs running contrary to the way our bodies work. Is it any wonder then that people are fatter now than ever before?18 The masses are being told to eat diets that are high on carbohydrates and low on fat. And fitness gurus are preaching exercise regimens that are mostly high-intensity cardio instead of low-intensity, extended period aerobics, such as walking.

I think the quickest way to be labeled a quack or an extremist is to propose any kind of diet or nutrition program that is contrary to conventional wisdom. These diets are well known and really don’t need elaboration, for example:

  • Atkins
  • Low Fat
  • South Beach Diet®
  • Grapefruit
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Rice Diet Program
  • Weight Watchers
  • Nutrisystem®
  • Jenny Craig®
  • Isagenix®

But what really works? The answer is who you decide to listen to. Conventional wisdom is promoting Low Fat / High Carb diets along with the USDA, American Heart Association, and the American Medical Association. So it now comes down to whom can you trust? If you are inclined to believe in the views promoted by the medical establishment, then you’ll probably listen to what AHA and AMA have to say. Then again, if you are lazy and have difficulty thinking for yourself and need to be told what to do, then you’ll probably be inclined to follow the USDA Food Pyramid—after all, the government really knows best. In my opinion all three organizations are in cahoots.

Okay, if you still need more convincing that the Food Pyramid is upside down, check out the Beyond Diet as promoted by Isabel De Los Rios. In the Beyond Diet, Isabel argues that sugar, processed foods, and chemical additives are our real enemies not fat.19 If that’s not bad enough, she recommends eating eggs, real butter, and all kinds of meats—including steak!20

I think eggs are one of the most beneficial foods you can eat. I always cringe and get irritated when I see someone tossing the yolk from a hard-boiled egg. People fear egg yolks today as they would a deadly poison. This is because the egg has been demonized by the medical establishment. The first thing a heart doctor will tell you is to avoid eggs and take your LIPITOR®. So, what are the facts? The nutrients found in whole eggs help promote weight loss, muscle strength, brain function, and eye health.21 If the heart is a muscle, and eggs promote muscle strength, then I think I’ll continue eating eggs.

If one of your goals is to eliminate chemical additives from your diet, I would start with aspartame. The synthesized chemical aspartame is the artificial sweetener used in many products, especially diet soda. As I mentioned earlier, I delivered a safety presentation on the hazards of consuming aspartame and other chemicals with mixed results. Some in the audience were responsive to what I had to say but others were indifferent or even passive-aggressive. The following are excerpts from my February 15, 2007 presentation. I gleaned the information below from various sources, but primarily from http://www.holisticmed.com/aspartame/aspart2.txt.

Aspartame is the technical name for the brand names, NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure.

Aspartame was discovered by accident in 1965, when James Schlatter, a chemist of G.D. Searle Company was testing an anti-ulcer drug.

In 1985, Monsanto purchased G.D. Searle and made Searle Pharmaceuticals and The NutraSweet Company separate subsidiaries.

Aspartame is, by far, the most dangerous substance on the market that is added to foods. Aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) including: Headaches / Migraines, Dizziness, Seizures, Nausea, Numbness, Muscle spasms, Weight gain, Rashes, Depression, Fatigue, Irritability, Tachycardia, Insomnia, Vision Problems, Hearing Loss, Heart palpitations, Breathing difficulties, Anxiety attacks, Slurred Speech, Loss of taste, Tinnitus, Vertigo, Memory loss, and Joint Pain.

Aspartame is made up of three chemicals, aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. The book, Prescription for Nutritional Healing by James and Phyllis Balch, lists aspartame under the category of “Chemical Poison.”

Aspartate (Aspartic Acid) and glutamate (MSG) act as neurotransmitters in the brain by facilitating the transmission of information from neuron to neuron. Too much aspartate or glutamate in the brain kills certain neurons by allowing the influx of too much calcium into the cells. This influx triggers excessive amounts of free radicals which kill the cells.

It has been shown that ingesting aspartame, especially along with carbohydrates can lead to excess levels of phenylalanine in the brain…

Excessive levels of phenylalanine in the brain can cause the levels of serotonin in the brain to decrease, leading to emotional disorders such as depression.

Methanol / wood alcohol is a deadly poison. Methanol breaks down into formic acid and formaldehyde in the body. Formaldehyde is a deadly neurotoxin.

The troops of Desert Storm were “treated” to large amounts of aspartame-sweetened beverages which had been heated to over 86 F in the Saudi Arabian sun. Many of them returned home with numerous disorders similar to what has been seen in persons who have been chemically poisoned by formaldehyde. The free methanol in the beverages may have been a contributing factor in these illnesses.

In a 1993 act that can only be described as “unconscionable,” the FDA approved aspartame as an ingredient in numerous food items that would always be heated to above 86 F (30 C).

Obviously, my presentation was considered somewhat provocative since I’m a software tester and not a nutritionist. Coincidentally, what triggered me to look into the subject of food additives for the safety presentation was an officially sanctioned flyer that was circulated earlier which made a claim that diet soda was one of a number of healthier alternatives to drinking regular soda.


 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Prov. 17:22

“And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.”

Mark 5:25-26

“In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”

Job 12:10

Drug companies are aggressively marketing prescription and non-prescription drugs to the general public more than ever before. Try watching prime time network television and you’ll be bombarded with drug commercials. You know the ones: Boniva®, Cialis®, Lunesta®, Nexium®, Viagra®, Zocor®, and many, many others. Why are these ads being targeted to consumers? I thought only licensed medical doctors can prescribe these drugs. If so, then do we really need to hear about all the side effects these drugs carry from TV commercials? The marketing gurus really know how to make you feel comfortable about taking a drug that can cause sudden death. It’s all in the presentation.

Are any of you familiar with the drug Baycol®? “Baycol® (cerivastatin) is a cholestoral-lowering prescription drug manufactured by the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG. It belongs to a family of drugs known as ‘statins,’ which lower cholesterol by blocking its production in the liver.”22 What you may or may not know is that Baycol® was taken off the market in 2001 after the FDA said Baycol® was linked to rhabdomyolysis, a sometimes-fatal muscle breakdown disorder.23 “Sometimes-fatal” doesn’t sound so bad unless the fatality happens to be you, a friend, or a close family member. From my own personal experience, let me describe what happened to just such a person who was prescribed Baycol® after recovering from heart surgery. The first sign that something was wrong was when he started having trouble climbing stairs, or simply getting up out of chairs and restaurant booths. We all had a hard time understanding this since he did very well during his rehabilitation sessions after heart surgery and he was presented with a certificate by the staff for completing his rehab program. Eventually, his doctor recommended that he undergo a muscle biopsy. The diagnosis was muscle atrophy caused by being too sedentary. But after a while, it progressed to the point where he couldn’t get up out a chair without assistance. Finally, he couldn’t stand up even after slipping out of a chair onto the floor. Given his condition, we had to admit him to a nursing home for care. After a few weeks of rehabilitation he was strong enough to come home again, albeit with occasional home nursing visits to help with bathing and other personal needs. Not long after, he was diagnosed with both kidney and heart failure. We had to re-admit him to the nursing facility again in order to receive hospice care where he eventually died of renal failure.

Then as now, many doctors are relentless in their attempts to get most everyone on some sort of statin drug. Even if you try to express your concerns about taking statin drugs with your physician, as I did, they will most likely not be empathetic and will try to discredit you. It’s not for nothing that Lipitor® is consistently the No. 1 selling drug. The problem is that I’m not so easily convinced. I refused then and I still refuse to take any kind of cholesterol lowering drug.

Healthcare is a business, not some altruistic endeavor as most people think. The more drugs sold, then the more profitable the drug companies become. So, if you think about it, there’s really no incentive to cure anything.24

Before I go on, let me be clear: I believe Western medicine is the best approach in emergency situations where the use of drugs and surgery can prevent loss of life. Also, modern restorative surgical techniques have improved the quality of life for many who’ve suffered severe and debilitating injuries. Also, I believe the use of strong pain medication for those terminally ill patients is warranted and justified. However, I also believe that Western medical practitioners are far too dependent on the use of over-the-counter and prescription drug treatments for chronic conditions. What bothers me even more is their overall hostility, in most cases, to any suggestion of substituting alternative therapies.

We have been raised believing that medical doctors are infallible—possessing superhuman powers. When we were young and our parents would take us to the doctor when we had the flu, a stomach virus or some other common condition. The doctor would examine us and then assure us we would get better. Sometimes we would get a prescription to help ease our symptoms. At other times we were just told to get rest and drink plenty of fluids. We associated getting better with our seeing a doctor and taking his or her advice. Things changed when we got older. Now when we go to the doctor with weird sounding, non-life threatening symptoms, the doctor frequently is at a loss to tell us what is wrong. Then we begin to lose our faith in medical science. I believe medicine is more art than science. In fact, some doctors are more willing to acknowledge their limitations as evidenced by the following honest and forthright post:

Real medicine is a big enigma. I’m on a neurology rotation right now, and I’d say at least 33% of people that come in to the office have something that we don’t understand. There are so many vague complaints of burning pains, shooting pains, numbness, tingling, weakness, headaches, etc. where the doctor doesn’t know what’s going on. If it isn’t something that can be found in a text book, they don’t want to hear about it.25

I like to make an analogy between a modern auto technician and a conventional medical practitioner. The modern auto technician relies on computer diagnostics to troubleshoot pesky auto malfunctions and the conventional medical practitioner relies on the text book along with the standardized charts, graphs and various thresholds. If you’re symptoms don’t fit the mold, so to speak, you’re told that nothing is wrong. It doesn’t matter that you don’t feel well—there is nothing wrong. I own a 2003 VW Jetta that I bought from my daughter when it was coming off-lease. Normally, it starts fine in the morning; however on nights when the temperature falls below 32 degrees, nothing happens when you initially turn the key. The dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree but it makes no sound whatsoever. After a few tries, depending on the temperature, the car will eventually start. The first time I took it to the VW Dealer they replaced the battery. Then the following year I had the same problem and took it back again the second time. This time they ran diagnostics and reported that everything was normal and shrugged their shoulders. Do you see what’s going on here? My car’s symptoms didn’t fit the text book. They didn’t even offer to call Volkswagen about the issue or attempt to do some research on their own. In any event, the end result is usually the same—the problem doesn’t get resolved, and you get frustrated and angry.

Vitamins and supplements are very popular today, including those for cleansing. When most people hear about cleansing the first thing that comes to mind is colon cleansing. Colon Hydrotherapy should only be performed under the advice and direction of a licensed medical professional. However, there are many products being sold as supplements which claim to cleanse the colon. As with exercise, I’m inclined to believe in the holistic approach. That is, why just cleanse the colon, why not all the organs in the body? Besides, many of these colon cleansers could be too harsh for some people. The cleansing product I’ve used and recommend is Isagenix®, specifically the 30 Day Cleanse program which includes the Cleanse for Life® product. Cleanse for Life® is a gentle whole body nutritional cleansing product which is unlike most other supplements that only target the colon. Other Isagenix® products such as Ionix® Supreme and the Isalean® Shake contain all the necessary and essential vitamins and minerals that most people need to take. For a lot of people, the 30 Day Cleanse program which only allows for 1 regular meal a day plus 1 fasting day per week will take a significant amount of willpower. I did the 30 Day Cleanse and really didn’t find it to be that difficult to endure. However, I started getting a little edgy on the last week of the program—but, it was worth it. I lost about 30 pounds. The key to keeping the weight off using the Isagenix® method is to periodically cleanse and substitute an Isalean® Shake for at least one meal a day. A lot more information on Isagenix® can be found by visiting their web site: http://www.isagenix.com or you can contact me at gsczep@comcast.net. By the way, Isagenix® also provides business opportunities through their network marketing program.

With the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, on the horizon, the general belief is that healthcare will become affordable for all citizens. I don’t think Obamacare or any other reform package being considered will really address the problem. As I mentioned before, healthcare is big business. The pharmaceutical companies, for the most part, are publicly traded companies. Have you ever considered the notion that it’s not in the drug companies’ best interest for people to become well. What would happen to profits? So, if you think the answer is socialized medicine you may want to think again. The truth is, the two government agencies that are supposed to protect the public, namely the FDA and FTC, are really part of the problem. The FDA and FTC are working hard to make sure that drugs and surgery are protected, and natural remedies suppressed.26 Why do you think every natural vitamin and supplement product must carry the warning: “this product is not intended to ‘diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease’” because according to the FDA “only a drug can legally make such a claim.”27 Speaking of curing any disease, how successful do you think this approach has been? The FDA and FTC are really protecting the pharmaceutical industry.

I’ve been seeing chiropractors since childhood. As far as I know they haven’t cured or prevented any disease—I just feel better. For the last few years, I’ve been seeing acupuncturists regularly. Again, as far as I know, they haven’t cured or prevented any disease—I just feel better. I prefer to feel better. I don’t plan to become a habitual drug user. I don’t take aspirin or any other over-the-counter pain medications. I don’t take any of those cold medications either. If I have a headache, I drink liquids and rest—it works every time. I remember another old fashioned remedy that I used as a teenager when I used to get severe sinus congestion which was to gently inhale warm salt water through the nose and then spit out the phlegm after it passes through the back of the nose and throat. Taking a swim in the ocean tends to have the same effect, especially if you get caught unaware by a strong wave. At another time, I remember being advised to use a poultice of grated raw potatoes to treat an infected pimple on my face. After a few days the pimple broke and drained without any other complications.

I believe the human body was designed to heal itself but sometimes it needs a little help. The deck has been stacked against us. Pesticides, chemical fertilizers, processed foods, food coloring, food additives, and preservatives are interfering with our bodies’ natural defense system. If the foods we eat are depleted of vitamins and minerals, then we need to take supplements. If we ingest too many chemicals, from diet soda for example, then we need natural whole body cleansing. If our internal organs or circulatory system are not functioning properly, then we need to help them regain their health through the use of acupuncture and herbs. If our skeletal system is out of alignment, then chiropractic techniques can help make the proper adjustments. If we don’t get enough physical activity during our normal day-to-day routine, then performing sensible exercises can make up the deficiency.

Also, no one should dismiss lightly the effect that a person’s mental and emotional state can have on the body’s health. Traditional Chinese medicine views the mind and body as one system, whereas Western medicine adheres to the strict scientific method in its approach to treatment and eschews anything that may resemble mysticism. Maybe what Westerners perceive as mysticism was the only way the Chinese could express the Qi or life force. The scientific method evolved from Darwinism, which doesn’t allow any room for the spiritual aspect of life. On the other hand, the Chinese take a holistic approach by taking into consideration both mind and body. Could it be that the bard William Shakespeare was influenced by Eastern philosophy when he wrote the famous line from Hamlet? There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”28 Well after all, wasn’t it the Enlightenment that later saved us from our superstitious beliefs?

I’m sure there are some readers out there who will take exception with many of the positions I’ve take in this essay. Some people can smoke almost all their lives and never develop lung cancer—some die early. As far as exercise goes, what may be working for you now in your teens and twenties, may not work for you when you reach your forties and fifties and beyond.

This essay is not about trying to debate or prove absolutes. Every person is unique. So, if you think you have a different approach, I’d like to hear about it.

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Copyright 2014 Gerard Sczepura

  1. Aspartame (NutraSweet) Toxicity Info Center, accessed February 15, 2007, http://www.holisticmed.com/aspartame/

  2. MattFurey.com, accessed November 8, 2011, http://www.mattfurey.com/expander.html

  3. “Isometric Exercises,” ABC-of-Fitness.com, accessed October 19, 2011, http://www.abc-of-fitness.com/info/isometric-exercises.asp

  4. “’Swimmer’s Ear’ (Otitis Externa),” CDC.gov, last updated August 31, 2011, http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/rwi/illnesses/swimmers-ear.html

  5. “A Case Against Cardio (from a former mileage king),” Mark Sisson, MarksDailyApple.com, accessed December 31, 2011, http://www.marksdailyapple.com/case-against-cardio/#axzz1i7s7hrYa

  6. “One in eight public pools full of disease-inducing filth, warns CD,” David Gutierrez, NaturalNews.com, published September 23, 2010, http://www.naturalnews.com/029821_public_pools_bacteria.html

  7. “Studies Show Swimming in Chlorinated Pools May Lead to Cancer,” FoxNews.com, published September 13, 2010, http://www.foxnews.com/health/2010/09/13/studies-swimming-chlorinated-pools-lead-cancer/

  8. “Avoiding Germs on Public Transportation,” Jason Menayan, HubPages.com, accessed November 13, 2011, http://livelonger.hubpages.com/hub/Avoiding_Germs_on_Public_Transportation

  9. Matt Furey, Combat Conditioning: Functional Exercises for Fitness and Combat Sports, special rev. ed., (Tampa: Matt Furey Enterprises, Inc., 2004), 17. 

  10. Ibid., 1. 

  11. Ibid., 22. 

  12. Matt Furey, Combat Abs: 50 Fat-Burning Exercises That Build Lean, Powerful and Punch-Proof Abs, (Tampa: Matt Furey Enterprises, Inc., 2004), 15. 

  13. “Memorable Quotes for Office Space,” IMDb.com, accessed December 31, 2011, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0151804/quotes

  14. Mark Sisson, The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram you genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy, (Malibu: Primal Nutrition, Inc., 2009), 26. 

  15. “Obesity Epidemic,” Tooele County Health Department, accessed December 31, 2011, http://www.tooelehealth.org/family_and_school_health/gold_medal_schools/Obesity_Epidemic.html

  16. “Epidemic of Obesity in U.S. Kids Began in Late ‘90s,” Ellin Holohan, Health Day News, published July 21, 2011, http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2011/07/21/epidemic-of-obesity-in-us-kids-began-in-late-90s

  17. Sisson, “A Case Against Cardio.” 

  18. Kevin Trudeau, Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About, updated edition (Elk Grove Village: Alliance Publishing Group, Inc., 2004), 11. 

  19. “5 Foods to NEVER Eat,” video file, BeyondDiet.com, accessed January 28, 2012, http://www.beyonddiet.com/bd/landing

  20. Ibid. 

  21. “Egg Nutrition,” IncredibleEgg.org, accessed January 28, 2012, http://www.incredibleegg.org/health-and-nutrition/egg-nutrients

  22. “Baycol Lawsuits,” Lawyers.com, accessed January 31, 2012, http://toxic-torts.lawyers.com/Toxic-Torts/Baycol-Lawsuits.html

  23. “Bayer Loses U.S. High Court Case on Baycol Class-Action Suite,” Greg Stohr, Bloomberg.com, published June 16, 2011, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-16/bayer-loses-u-s-high-court-case-on-baycol-class-action-suit-1-.html

  24. Trudeau, Natural Cures, 15. 

  25. Chris, “Medicine is an art, not a science,” A Glimpse Into My Madness (blog), December 01, 2008 (6:52 p.m.), http://disturbedgenius.blogspot.com/2008/12/medicine-is-art-not-science.html

  26. Trudeau, Natural Cures, 31. 

  27. “Overview of Dietary Supplements,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, last modified October 14, 2009, http://www.fda.gov/food/dietarysupplements/consumerinformation/ucm110417.htm

  28. Shakespeare, “Hamlet,” OpenSourceShakespeare.org, act 1, scene 5, lines 919-920. 

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