Monday, December 18, 2017

Health Tip: Avoid Refined Sugar

A Serious Threat to the Heart

A sugar-laden diet increases your risk of dying from heart disease, regardless of your weight.  

In a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine, scientists found that participants whose diets included 25% or more added sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who took in less than 10% added sugar.

The higher the percentage of refined sugar in the diet, the higher the odds of death by heart disease. And this is true irrespective of weight, age, sex, and physical fitness.

The researchers also found that no matter how healthy the participants’ diets are, and how well they comply with the federal dietary guidelines, those who consumed more refined sugar still face a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

How excess sugar intake harms the heart isn’t well established. One finding reveals that consuming sugary drinks can raise blood pressure, while a sugar-rich diet may stimulate the liver to throw more bad fats into the bloodstream. High blood pressure and fats in the bloodstream are both known to jack up the risk of heart disease.

“A Weapon of Mass Destruction” on the Liver

What do alcohol and sugar have in common? They’re both bad for your liver. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is on the rise, and sugar is mostly to blame. Specifically, sugar in the form of high-fructose corn syrup found in drinks and processed foods.

According to findings, people who consume at least one drink that contains added sugars is more likely to develop to NAFLD than those who avoid sugar-sweetened beverages.

NAFLD affects about 17% to 33% of Americans, a rising problem that rivals the prevalence of type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance.

The take-away? Steering clear of added sugar consumption lowers the odds of having NAFLD.

Higher Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

For every 150 calories of sugar a person takes in a day, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases by 1.1%. The heightened risk is true regardless of the types of food that people eat, physical activity, and alcohol use.

Risk of type 2 diabetes increases especially when people are consuming high levels of animal fat, while also consuming refined sugar. The effect that fat has on our cells prevents insulin from reaching those cells, and instead, raises blood sugar levels. 

Link to Tumour Growth and Cancer

Even with an absence of a cause-and-effect relationship, several studies have identified a link between sugar and some cancers.

Added sugars heighten the risk of esophageal cancer

Added fructose, specifically high-fructose corn syrup contribute to the risk of cancer in the small intestine

High intake of added sugars increases the risk of colon cancer (adjusted for factors like obesity and diabetes)

Refined sugar can contribute to the development of breast cancer tumours and metastasis to the lungs.

To manage your sugar intake, experts recommend the following:


Consume refined carbs, like cereals, bagels, waffles, etc.

Binge on sweets like cookies, cakes, pies, and anything else that combines high sugar with high fat – this wreaks havoc on our blood sugar levels. 

Swap corn syrup with artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame.


Drink water, and nothing else.

Eat healthy fats, such as omega-3, which can be found in chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseed, virgin olive oil, raw nuts, etc.

Introduce fermented foods to your diet, such as kimchi, kombucha, and fermented vegetables. The bacteria found in these foods can support digestion and detoxification, helping lessen the fructose burden on your liver.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Thelonious Monk: Limited Edition Vinyl Set

“The Complete Prestige 10-Inch LP Collection” -- spanning 1952-1954, this limited-edition vinyl box set celebrates the early career of Thelonious Monk with five 10” LPs, faithfully reproduced artwork (from the jackets to the labels), new liner notes, and beautifully restored audio, remastered from the original analog tapes. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Harry H. Begay: Art of the Navajo Cuff

Harry H. Begay began his jewelry making career in the early 1970s. He is widely recognized as reviving traditional Native American silver smithing by building a piece of jewelry out of ingot sterling silver. He heats the ingot and anneals it prior to hammering out the desired shape. He then pulls the wire to be used in the piece through an iron block with different sized holes to create different gauges. Harry’s work is significant in that the resulting piece is so thick and heavy that it could not have been purchased from sheet and wire at a commercial supply store. This process is so labor-intensive that it takes many times longer to create a piece. It is for this reason that he only uses the finest turquoise on the market. This includes the classic mines from Nevada, including Lone Mountain, Pilot Mountain, Red Mountain, Royston, Candelaria, Carico Lake and Godber Burnham. Harry’s contribution is so significant that he ranks as one of the most collectible Navajo silversmiths of the twentieth century. 

Winsor McCay: Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend

Dreams -- the original "mash-ups"...

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Ketamine: Potential Treatment for Chronic Depression and OCD

All I can say "anecdotally" is that it worked great when I received a one-time "medically-supervised" dose during my last colonoscopy.

"Inside the ‘Mad Rush’ for Ketamine Treatment
By Randy Doting, "Clinical Psychiatry News"

Ketamine, once best known as a "pet anesthetic" and "party drug" (Special K), is taking the United States by storm. Dozens of ketamine treatment centers are operating from coast to coast.

Big cities like Baltimore, Boston, and Phoenix have them. So do Charleston, S.C., and Boise, Idaho. Two such clinics are in sparsely populated New Mexico. And one national chain went from a pair of clinics to 10 in fewer than two years.

“There’s been a mad rush on the part of desperate patients to seek care,” said ketamine researcher Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD, chair of the psychiatry department at Columbia University, New York; director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute; and a past president of the American Psychiatric Association.

Never mind that these expensive treatments for conditions like depression are not covered by insurers or approved for this use by the Food and Drug Administration. Other questions also persist. “There is a considerable body of evidence that proves it really does work,” Dr. Lieberman said. “But we don’t know the extent of the range of conditions for which it might be effective, what the optimal frequency and concentration for dosing is, and what the long-term consequences are.”

To make matters more complicated, it’s anesthesiologists – not psychiatrists – who are leading the way toward a ketamine-infused future.

“This was a truly novel breakthrough in the field, but we have to be careful. We have to develop this rationally,” said ketamine researcher Gerard Sanacora, MD, PhD, lead author of an APA consensus statement published in JAMA Psychiatry (2017;74[4]:399-405) urging caution on use of ketamine for mood disorders, and professor of psychiatry and director of the Depression Research Program at Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

For now, however, hundreds and perhaps even thousands of patients are serving as ketamine test cases with psychiatrists only assisting remotely, if at all.

A stunningly rapid rise

Sara M. Markey, MD, is one of the rare psychiatrists in the United States who’s fully embraced ketamine treatment for mental illness.

She recalled first hearing about ketamine as an anesthetic in medical school. Best known as an anesthetic in animals, it’s also occasionally given to children and adults, although the drug’s dissociative properties have prevented widespread use.

In 2006, word spread about ketamine’s use as a painkiller. “I also began hearing and reading about its potential use/efficacy in treatment-resistant depression,” said Dr. Markey, who practices in Denver. “It was difficult to find information about ketamine, and many of my colleagues were hostile to the idea of using ketamine in clinical practice.”

She persisted, however, and prescribed intranasal and oral ketamine to depressed patients with “mild success.” She also saw patients whose psychiatrists refused to consider ketamine.

In early 2016, with Steven P. Levine, MD, a New Jersey psychiatrist who pioneered ketamine use for depression, Dr. Markey opened a ketamine infusion clinic in the Mile High City.

At at that time, it was only the second in a national chain called Ketamine Treatment Centers. Now, not even two years later, the chain has a new name – Actify Neurotherapies – and a total of 10 clinics from San Francisco and Beverly Hills, Calif., to Palm Beach, Fla.; Raleigh, N.C.; and New York City.

“It is wonderful,” she said, “to have an opportunity to provide a medication to people that does not cause weight gain, has very few medication interactions, and which is well tolerated and generic.”

Big short-term benefits

Treatment outcomes with ketamine – which is thought to act on glutamate and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors – can be dramatic. “Some patients describe the ketamine treatments as life saving,” said Allison F. Wells, MD, an anesthesiologist who runs a clinic in Houston.

One depressed young man who tried ketamine at a Phoenix clinic in 2013 reportedly told the news site that he “felt good for a week” after his first treatment: “Not the kind of bipolar ‘good’ where I’d be manic. I just felt pleasant, and not crazy or compulsive. I felt normal for the first time in a long time.” Another depressed patient told National Public Radio that ketamine transformed his life: “I remember I was in my bathroom, and I literally fell to my knees crying because I had no anxiety; I had no depression.”

Enrique A. Abreu, DO, an anesthesiologist who offers ketamine therapy in Seattle and Portland, Ore., said he’s seen anxiety relief and a decrease in rumination in these patients. “They’re able to go back to work; a lot haven’t been able to work for a long time. And motivation is a big thing. They’re able to do things they haven’t been able to do.”

In addition, ketamine can reduce suicidal thinking, Dr. Markey said. “I am continually astounded to hear patients who come in with acute or chronic suicidal thinking report that those ideas and/or intrusive thoughts have disappeared. When they are absent, people need to be reminded of when they had them. They seem to have forgotten about them.”

‘Mystical experiences’

Dr. Markey said a retrospective analysis of about 740 patients at her chain’s clinics showed a response rate of about 75%. Other research has shown similarly high response levels.

“Multiple clinical trials suggest that a single low dose (0.5mg/kg) of IV ketamine results in a 50%-70% response rate in patients with treatment-resistant depression,” reported a 2016 clinical review. “Additional research has shown that depressed patients can experience symptom relief as early two [hours], and lasting up to two weeks after a single administration of IV ketamine,” according to the review in Evidence Based Mental Health (2016 May;19[2]:35-8

Patients remain conscious during treatment, said anesthesiologist Gregory Simelgor, MD, who runs a ketamine clinic near Minneapolis. As for side effects, “a lot of them feel like they’re flying, and some of them have a mystical experience, wondering about the mysteries of life. And some dissociate.”

Adverse effects can include nausea and headache in patients with a history of migraine, he said. Over the long term, ketamine use can lead to incontinence and urinary urgency, he said.

As for ketamine addiction, Dr. Simelgor calls it unlikely at the lower doses that are used. However, he said, “I can’t say 100% that it won’t cause addiction.”

Who benefits? The jury’s still out

Considering its positive effects, why shouldn’t the mental health community embrace ketamine? Because, two prominent researchers say, best practices are still absent in a whole range of areas.

For example, there’s no agreement about who should undergo ketamine treatments beyond patients with treatment-resistant depression, especially those who have failed or cannot undergo electroconvulsive therapy. Ketamine therapy also is being touted by some as a treatment for a long list of other conditions from obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety to fibromyalgia and chronic pain disorders.

There are also limited data about dosing, making it “not possible to clarify the relative benefits and risks of doses other than 0.5 mg/kg delivered intravenously over 40 minutes,” cautioned Dr. Sanacora and Samuel T. Wilkinson, MD, also at Yale, in a 2017 commentary in JAMA (2017;318[9]:793-4).

In fact, they write, “Most published data supporting the use of ketamine as a treatment for mood disorders are based on trials that have followed up patients for just one week after a single administration of the drug.”

Unchartered waters

There’s also no accepted protocol beyond a typical six treatments over two or more weeks. This is relevant because the benefits of a series of treatments often fade away after a few weeks.

“Some patients describe the results lasting indefinitely, while most patients who respond to the treatments get to the point where they are going roughly 4-12 weeks with sustained results,” Dr. Wells said.

“When the effects start to wear off, they don’t crash,” said Dr. Abreu. Instead, he said, symptoms slowly reappear.

It’s typical for patients at Dr. Abreu’s clinic and others to return within a couple of months to go through another round of ketamine treatments. In some cases, “they continue to see us indefinitely to get them back up to where they need to be with a booster type of session,” he said.

Ketamine treatment costs vary widely, and insurers don’t cover this off-label treatment. The clinic operators quoted in this article reported a range of per-infusion costs from $350 (Dr. Markey’s clinic in Denver) to $675 (Dr. Abreu’s clinics in the Northwest).

“We have to have a talk with them: Can you afford this? This is going to take a significant amount of money every month to keep you well,” Dr. Abreu said. On the other hand, he said, the need for other medications goes away, eliminating that cost. (“They’re on [selective serotonin reputake inhibitors] usually,” he said, “but those drugs don’t work.”)

Nonpsychiatrists in forefront

At Dr. Markey’s clinic in Denver, all patients are required to see either her or a psychiatrist colleague. Some other ketamine clinics are run by psychiatrists, but that’s far from common.

Clinics often have no mental health professionals on staff and are run by anesthesiologists or other kinds of physicians.

Some clinic owners, Dr. Wells said, require patients to be under the care of a psychiatrist, neurologist, pain doctor, or other appropriate professional. “I do not intend, nor do I act, to displace psychiatrists, or the relationships our patients have with their psychiatrists, or the care they receive from their psychiatrists,” she said.

In the Northwest, Dr. Abreu said his patients take mood questionnaires, and he’s experimenting with a text-based mood monitoring system. In the Minneapolis area, anesthesiologist Dr. Simelgor is looking for a psychiatrist or psychiatrist partner for his ketamine clinic. “My thinking,” he said, “is that we need to work together.”

Still, there do not appear to be any requirements that ketamine clinic practitioners have connections to mental health professionals. Yet, as Dr. Sanacora put it: “Delivering the drug is the easiest part of the treatment. The hard part is managing the depression.”

Dr. Lieberman, Dr. Wells, Dr. Abreu, Dr. Simelgor, and Dr. Markey reported no relevant disclosures. Dr. Sanacora reported consulting fees and research contracts for multiple drug makers over the past 24 months. He holds shares in Biohaven Pharmaceuticals and is a coinventor on a U.S. patent (No. 8778979) on using glutamate agents to treat mental disorders held by Yale University."

Friday, December 8, 2017

For Highly-Sensitive People: Grounding

Here are some ways to help highly-sensitive people from absorbing other people's "negative energy."
Get Grounded
You can do this first thing in the morning -- and it's a great start to your day. Highly-sensitive people often have trouble staying grounded because they feel everything so intensely and live in their heads. Grounding is a good first step to take so that we don’t carry around other people’s emotions and energy as if they were your own. You can practise the following:
Have a shower in the morning and imagine the water washing away all of your negative energy down the drain, and the water filing you with white light and love. Drinking at least one large glass of water upon waking up will help a lot, too. Water is naturally grounding.
Visualize roots growing out of the bottom of your feet. The roots reach deep into the ground. Picture this until your feet feel weighted down.
Spend five minutes each morning meditating, and focusing on your breath. Breathe in for seven seconds, hold for four seconds, then exhale for seven seconds, and hold for another four seconds before repeating. This is a great way to get in touch with your breath and inner-self.
Sit on or touch the earth/ground. Walk on the ground in bare feet. Going into nature is one of the most grounding experiences a person can have. It is powerfully cleansing and helps us focus on a world outside of ourselves.
Visualization and Clearing 
Visualization is a great way for keeping other people’s energy separate from your own. You can visualize yourself protected by a huge rainbow bubble when interacting with “energy-suckers”, or you can visualize yourself in a box. The box allows positive energy to enter, but repels any energy you don’t want. You can still sense what others are feeling and thinking, but once you have recognized their energy, it stays with them. You don’t become entangled in their energy at the end of a conversation.