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Why Vaccines Are Our Friends

Transmission electron micrograph of rubella virus.

Say hello to the Rubella virus!

Hello there internet folk!  Been a bit since my last blog, my apologies.  Fear not, for I have returned.  I’ve been thinking about doing this blog for a while, and finally have been inspired by a news report I heard yesterday.  Public Health Canada reported that 4632 cases of influenza A have been reported by the end of last week, which means we will likely be continuing the trend of higher Influenza rates per capita in Canada, on average, over the last 5 years or so.  In 2000, there were only 4151 cases reported the entire year.  In 2011-2012, over 16,000 were reported.  The reasons for this are myriad, including an aging, urbanized  population, and a bit of “vaccine burnout,” following the frenzy of H1N1 pandemic influenza  (which turned out to be more fizzle than fire).  This is a great time however to talk about vaccines in general, which have been a real hot button issue for the last 10 years or so.

So, just what is a vaccine?  In general, basic terms, vaccines are small bits or parts of a harmful virus or bacteria.  These parts are most often taken from a deadened or deactivated form of the virus or bacteria they are made to protect us from.  These bits of dead substance are then put in an injectable, inhalation or swallowable form.  In Canada, we routinely vaccinate against Measles, Mumps, Rubella (German Measles), Diptheria, Tetanus (Lockjaw), Pertussis (Whooping Cough), Polio, Haemophilus Influenza B and Hepatitis B.  “Optionally,”  other vaccines are offered, like the flu shot, Varicella (chickenpox and the shingles) Meningiitis, Pneumonia and Human Papilloma Virus, which are offered to all, but encouraged for certain patient populations (suppressed immune systems, the elderly, etc).

How do vaccines work?  Picture your immune system as a massive security force, guarding your body, just like what happens in the real world, for a major sporting event or concert.  Now, like that security force, your immune system knows to look for anything fishy going on, but like the most ingenious of villains, viruses and bacteria learn ways to hide from our body’s security forces and sneak in.  If we didn’t know what they looked like, they would wreak havoc.  Now picture the vaccine  acting as a wanted poster for the bacteria or virus it is made to fight.  That gives your immune system a heads up on what it looks like, and can say “hey, there the bad guys are!!!”  before they can get up to trouble.  Our immune system then can take out the trash and protect you from ever getting sick.  This happens in the natural way your body would recognize an illness and eradicate it, it just has the vaccine to get it started faster.  The concept (first discovered by Sir Edward Jenner for smallpox in 1796) has literally changed our lives, and is

probably the single most positive contribution towards the health of humankind by any kind of medical system in all of history,  ever.  No other intervention, medicine, practice  etc has saved more lives and prevented more illness, than vaccines, full stop, end of argument.  This is incontrovertible fact.  All those illness listed above have had the shit kicked out of them by vaccines.  Smallpox has been eradicated from the face of the earth (existing now only in highly secure research labs).   Vaccines can last around 10 years (like Tetanus), or lifetime (like most of the others, espeically the multidose ones).

So some of you may be asking if vaccines are so much the cat’s pajamas, why the recent backlash against them?    Well my friends, a combination of bullshit research, poor media reporting, misguided ideas and

Edward Jenner

Edward Jenner: genius and hero.

general ignorance.  For the most part, this all started back in 1998 by a real jackass named Andrew Wakefield, who reported in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, a study that “showed” that there may be an association between the MMR vaccine and autism, and that was blamed on thimerosol, a preservative which was claimed to have mercury in it.  Autism rates

English: Jenny McCarthy at E3 2006.

Jenny McCarthy: semi-professional blowhard.

were/are on the rise, toss in some conspiracy theorists led by blowhards like Jenny McCarthy and some bad reporting and bingo!  You have yourselves a media firestorm.  Never mind that thimerosol isn’t used in most vaccine, hasn’t been in years.   Disregard that one of the main reasons for the rise in autism is that we now know what it is, and the medical community has gotten much better at diagnosing it.  The damage was brutal, with campaigns against the Big Pharma and their horrible vaccines, as the new moms of the world turned away for the first time, from a lifesaving measure that ironically their own mothers were amazed existed and lined up to get.  Jenny McCarthy’s mom lived a world with polio everywhere, not like now.

So what is the truth?  Well, the Wakefield study was proven to be complete bullshit.  Amongst many other cardinal sins, it turned out instead of selecting patients randomly who got MMR and saw who got autism and who didn’t, Wakefield purposefully selected patients of his who were already diagnosed to puff up the results.  His study was retracted in 2004 and its results have been proven wrong in many studies since.  But the damage was done.  In the collective minds of pop culture, vaccines could be poisonous and that fear is very hard to defeat for good.  We now have outbreaks in countries like Canada, the US and Australia of  old timey diseases like Rubella, Measles, Whooping Cough that many newer doctors have never seen (because of vaccines) These are serious illness that can and do make kids really sick, or kill them!!   And yet one would risk getting those diseases, which are real, for the fear of avoiding another disorder which only ever was theoretical and now is known to be false!  For etherial, airy fairy reasons like “not wanting to expose my baby to chemicals”.  Sorry, but if the kid breathes, eats and drinks, he/she is getting exposed to lots of chemicals.  C’mon moms, be smart!  Oh and finally, tons of highly regarded and dependable data is coming showing that thimersol does not in anyway leach mercury into people, people’s levels of mercury do not change, and it was a better preservative than other ones used for the same purpose.  So crazy people of the world, all that whining about thimerosol has been for nothing, and has harmed and killed people who’ve refused vaccinations for this bogus scare.  Way to go crackpots!

The take home message:  Vaccines are our friends.  They help your body via its natural disease fighting mechanisms to keep incredibly harmful diseases at bay.  The only “real risk” posed by vaccines are allergic reactions, which occur very rarely (like 0.1 to 1 case per 100,000 immunizations) .   Literally millions of lives have been saved by vaccines, and real, dangerous diseases (like polio and smallpox) have been reduced to small areas or eradicated outright.   Vaccines will not cause autism or any other nonsensical conditions any more than they would cause demonic possession.  So don’t be afraid, be healthy, be smart!  Get your kids vaccinated, keep doctors out of work!

And remember, keep your swords sharp, your shurikens shiny and yourselves healthy….and get a flu shot!


UFC 153: Mission Accomplished

So, UFC 153 is in the books, and by all accounts a far larger success than was hoped a few weeks ago, back when the injury bug came biting.  It was certainly one of the more interesting UFC events I’ve seen in a while, and did much in a subtle way to illuminate many issues prevalent in the current UFC.


First off, why so many injuries?  This card was nearly as mangled by fighter injuries as UFC 149.  As previously discussed, many reasons are bandied about in all media forms about why there are so many injuries.  For example, fighter insurance covering medical care and some funding (thus saving fighters from having to fight injured), fighters training too hard, fighters sustaining too high a pace, substance/supplementation use/abuse, etc.  I don’t buy the fighter insurance argument, I’d rather not see injured fighters trying to gut through a fight for money.  When you see it happen, it makes for terrible fights.  Fights that unfold or end in a suspicious manner (like Anderson Silva not being very competitive in Silva vs Chael Sonnen I,), when the fighters don’t perform as they should, they often turn out to be masking an injury, or at least claiming so (Silva was reportedly masking a rib injury in his first match against Sonnen).  I do think MMA fighters train too hard and the pace of cards are too high with all the PPVs, TUFs, UFCs on Fuel, FX and Fox, etc.  We are watching a sport reinvent itself and evolve before our eyes.  I believe we’ll see fighters learn to push themselves in smarter ways in the future, to avoid being benched long term like Georges St. Pierre has recently endured.  Sustaining a long term injury could  be a career ending eventuality for a young up and comer who doesn’t have money and sponsors to keep him going.  GSP was fortunate enough to rely on his fame and well…fortune!  I do wonder at some about substance abuse (definitely not with GSP) and the recent increase injury frequency/severity.  Nothing is free and there are no magic training substances that can increase strength, speed, power, etc without a price.  Any steroid related substance, aside from turning your cajones into raisinettes, will cause ligament and tendon inflammation, fact.  Add to that increased muscle mass pulling on those inflamed tendons, and being able to push yourself harder; you have a recipe for injury.  Other banned substances have similar effects, safety is one of the reasons they are banned!

Second on the UFC 153 docket of issues is the continuance of the gimmick fight:  Silva vs Bonner.  Don’t get me wrong, Silva is my favorite fighter by far.  In my living room right now, i have an autographed replica of his Middleweight belt on the far wall, flanked by a pair of his signed UFC gloves.  In the dining room, his signature sits on a pair of US desert combat boots (with all the other UFC champs at the time) I got from a charity auction.  This is Silva friendly country.  Any chance I get to see him fight is a privilege.  It’s akin to watching a performance art as much as a fight, literal superhuman action in motion.  But, of all the people for him to fight, Stephan Bonnar?  I like Bonnar, funny guy, good commentator, deserving all the props in the world for helping the UFC achieve its current level of success with the Griffin vs Bonnar TUF finale, all those years ago.  He’s a bit old in the tooth now, and while on a bit of a small time win streak, posed no threat to Silva, the pound for pound best MMA fighter in the world, and likely of all time.  Silva offered to fight to “save the card,” in Brazil.  Putting him on any card, even against a one armed monkey with an eyepatch, would garner huge ratings in Brazil.  But for the rest of the world, there are literally dozens of fighters, many who haven’t fought in a long time, who would have been more interesting.  And the UFC was toting this fight as “Bonnar’s Rocky moment” (near sacrilege), how much bigger Bonnar was, and basically positioning him as a credible threat to Silva.  Come on guys.  I knew Silva would destroy Bonnar, but figured they’d make it to the second round.  Almost…  They should have just called it for what it was, a semi-serious fight, meant to plug a hole.  A fun fight, a chance to see Silva do what he does best.  He won’t have that many fights left, he is 37 after all.  That’s what it was, fun to watch. Not an iota of the anxiety and pent up angst like Silva vs Sonnen II.  A good time fight, nothing wrong with those.  And it was a pleasure to watch, a good win, and Bonnar didn’t even get hurt seriously…everybody wins!  But playing up the gimmick aspects (the “Rocky Factor” this time) grates on the nerves.  Just let it be what it is, we’ll watch, don’t worry.

English: Stephan Bonnar posing

Finally for this card, the Jon Fitch Factor.  Everyone gets on this poor guy, labelling him as the most boring fighter ever, really raining the hate down on him, loathing his every move. In reality, he’s been the #2 Welterweight in the world for years, behind only GSP.  Hendricks caught him with a lucky one in his last fight (UFC 141), but other than that, has been a career juggernaut of wrestling grindy ground and pound.  But due to his lack of popularity and inability to please the fickle crowds, he’s apparently in significant financial difficulty, stating that should he not win, he’d have to get a job (gasp!).  Apparently the  sponsors aren’t lining up at his door. He came into the fight clearly stating he was aiming for no less than Fight of the Night  against young upstart phenom Erick Silva.   Fitch was actually the underdog on the betting books, a plus 160 or so.  Well, money was lost Saturday night for sure.  Fitch came in and did exactly what he said he would.  There were some back and forth moments, but for the most part, Fitch pitched a beating on Erick Silva, totally gassing him out in the third round and indeed winning Fight of the Night.  It was amusingly gratifying to see him tell his family on the PPV camera that “daddy’s coming home with a big cheque.”  70K for the FOTN bonus alone!  Nice!  But this does illustrate the disparity between earnings amongst UFC fighters, even really good ones.  Anderson Silva, GSP and guys of that calibre hardly have enough room to put all their sponsors on their clothes.  Look at Josh Koshchek, who hasn’t been relevant since TUF 12 and its finale at UFC 124 in Dec 2010.  He’s been on MTV Cribs, has his own plane, lives like a modest rock star!  Then you have Fitch, the number 2 guy in Koscheck’s division, well head of Kos in terms of ability,  and he has to worry about paying the mortgage?   Doesn’t seem right, but such is the way of the sport as it is now.  A tough situation address as well, it’s not like the UFC is going to put all its fighters on a salary.

English: Jon Fitch at the UFC 111 weigh-ins.

Jon Fitch

In other MMA news, kudos to Invicta MMA for another successful event last week, good to see competitive women’s MMA holding its own.  It will be interesting to see what will happen Strikeforce in the future.  If/when it goes  belly up, will that be good or bad for Invicta?  Will the female fighters like Rhonda Rousey and Cyborg Santos go to Invicta?  Or will the UFC scoop some up for a female division?  If so, will that be good or bad for Invicta?  Would that steal their viewership, or bring women’s MMA more fame?  I am divided on the issue.  I think women’s MMA has merit, but it’s still developing.  I don’t doubt in the future there will be significant depth and talent and they will earn a fair place in the MMA world.  Right now though, its a bit shallow.  Once you get past Rousey, Santos, Meisha Tate and Gina Carano, even most MMA fans would be hard pressed to name any others.  It’s like the UFC’s new flyweight division, right now there’s only 4 or 5 fighters in it, they have a 4 man tourney and name a champ.  Nearly all of the Flyweight fights have been booed.  I don’t want to see that happen to women’s MMA, there’s too much potential.  Take  your time Women’s MMA, develop and grow until you can’t be ignored, then pounce like Rousey on an armbar.

That’s probably enough for today, I was going to chat a bit about Jeremy Stephens and his current legal woes, but this is going on pretty long, and I think instead I’ll write again later about  about him and other fighters in legal trouble and committing “extracurricular” violent acts.  The research should prove captivating!

So kids, until next time, keep your shurikens sharp, your swords shiny and most importantly all, yourselves healthy!

UFC 153: Not Again!!


English: Vitor Belfort

Vitor Belfort


English: Stephan Bonnar posing


Greetings and salutations!  It is good to be back blogging again, I haven’t posted one in quite a while, my wireless keyboard broke,  rendering my Ipad largely mute.  I finally  made it over to the local Future Shop, and found a suitable replacement and am back on again!  Nice!


In my absence, there has been lots going on, mostly for the worst in the UFC, much to my chagrin.  First off we had the deplorable behavior of Jon Jones with the whole UFC 151 drama.  I was thunderstruck at the loss of a card, and still hardly can fathom it.  Admittedly, the undercard was pretty weak, and was hinging mostly on the Jones/Henderson fight.  I still don’t know quite what to think of Jon Jones refusing to take the Chael Sonnen fight.  Most of me wants to be a Jones fan, he has the talent, he seems nice at times, and he hooked me early with running down the mugger before winning the UFC Light Heavyweight belt last year.  But he behaves very questionably at times, shown most visibly in his DUI conviction (not to mention the adultery probably involved).  Then turning down the fight and letting UFC 151 go down the flush went a long way in alienating many of his already fleeing fans.  That bombshell was followed by the “who will fight Jones next” shell game, up with Vitor Belfort?  Really?  What did he do to earn a LH shot other than eat some Anderson Silva foot last year?  So  there goes what will likely be a sub par card, in the big venue in Toronto no less.  That will be 2 crappy UFC events in Canada.  I went to 149 in Calgary as we had prepurchased tickets.  We had a great time, but it was because of the UFC staff, especially the VP of Community Relations, Reed Harris, who went out of his way to get us autographs and meet fighters and UFC  staff like Dana White and Joe Rogan.  The fight was thoroughly booed through the entire fight however, not exactly a harbinger of acceptance for the event.


And now, we have UFC 153 bungled by injuries.  At first it got better when Frankie Edgar replaced an injured Eric Koch, but then Jose Aldo got hurt, canceling the Featherweight title fight altogether.  And then Quentin “Rampage” Jackson hurts his knee, thus calling of the co-main event the very same day.  For a while, it looked as though 153 was either going to go the route of 149 (a still happening, but bad UFC card, the “functional alcoholic” choice), or even worse, 151  (which to extend the metaphor would make it the “nonfunctioning alcoholic choice I guess).  But after some serious fanagling, they decide to toss in a fattened up Anderson Silva, to fight, of all people, Stephan Bonnar!  By putting Silva in, they guarantee a good Brazillian audience, as that would be like tossing Wayne Gretzky into Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals to us.  They also dig up another Brazillian, Fabio Maldonado to fill in for Rampage, and the card limps onward.  Silva is my favorite fighter, so I will probably purchase the card, but I do so in protest only.   The  bad luck continues for Frankie Edgar, who now has to wait until Aldo comes back.  Who gets the first shot is anyone’s guess…Koch?  Edgar?  An interim belt?  Who knows.


To me, this largely illustrates the same problem I talked about in previous  blogs.  Like the last bit of Cheeze Whiz  at the bottom of the bottle, the UFC has itself spread way too thinly over the toast of too many events, to the point where one injury, or one whiny fighter can sink an entire card.  That isn’t the way it should be for an organization looking to continue to expand its brand to the heights.  They are putting way too many small shows on Fox, FX and Fuel, I never know when they will be on.  Plus, the show that really got them started in the mainstream, “The Ultimate Fighter,” starts next week I think.  I don’t know the day or the time, and have largely heard nothing I have not sought out with some diligence.  Shane Carwin (who I have met a couple of times and like as a person) coaches a team that will compete with Roy “Big Country” Nelson, who has turned out not to be a pleasant redneck jelly roll (who I liked) and is instead this loudmouth, poor


English: Jon "Bones" Jones with fans...

Jon “Bones” Jones with fans


mannered, jelly roll with a bad attitude, whom I hope Carwin stomps into the mud.  I’m not sure where the UFC is going with all of this, but the failing cards, poorly advertised events and constant injuries have them look like they are running a bit out of gas as an organization, despite having over 300 fighters on their roster.  We’ll have to just watch and see where they go from here.  Hopefully, the big shows they have planned for the fall and early winter will get things back     on track.


That’s it for today mes amis.  Until next time,  keep your shurikens shiny, your swords sharp, and yourselves healthy!




Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Hapsburgs!


English: Heredity in the house of Hapsburg

Hello, hello, and hello once more!  Welcome back  to my ramblings.  Today friends, we will discuss one of the more interesting proclivities in anthropology and human history; the phenomenon of willing consanguineous marital relationships, also known as “marryin’ yer relatives,”  or inbreeding.   As abhorrent as such a prospect may sound to the average individual today, there are numerous cultures, especially the ruling castes, who practiced close relation marriages preferably, with the goal of “keeping their bloodlines pure.”  These poor sods were blissfully unaware of the dark spectre of genetics and how their choices would often seal their fate.

One of the first and most famous practitioners of closely related marriages were the Pharonic caste of ancient Egypt.  It was commonplace for a Pharaoh to marry a cousin, aunt and in some cases even a sister!  They did this with the aforementioned goal of keeping their bloodlines pure, but ironically, were committing the worst atrocity possible to it, introducing much higher chances of catastrophic birth defects to their offspring.  The Egyptian religion was very well developed and complex, including a large and stable pantheon of deities, a well established clerical caste, etc.  It is quite probably that upon the birth of a deformed child, the event was blamed on the displeasure of their gods, and moreover, that the union of their related parents was preferential, not detrimental.  One can forgive the Egyptians, they did exist thousands of years ago.  Watson and Crick were quite a while ahead.  The most famous example of this would have to be Cleopatra and Ptolomey XIII.  He ultimately got dumped for Julius Caesar and then Marc Antony.

Now again, I can read your mind…”wait a minute, the Egyptian Kingdoms lasted for thousands of years, how can that be if they were spitting out deformed heirs left and right?” You’re right, their kingdoms did last for a long, long time.  How can that be?  Well, there are many factors.    One being, not all their children were born with problems.  There was only one Pharaoh most of the time, so all you needed was to have one viable male offspring, and you got through that generation with a leader.  If that child married someone they were not related too, all the better, one could  mostly reset the gene pool and carry on.  Moreover, there were multiple kingdoms and dynasties in Egyptian ruling history, and when the leadership changed over, the entire dynastic family would naturally be changed out, and they’d start all over again.   It would take quite a few generations for the genetic damage to accumulate to levels that would result in either non-viable offspring, or offspring unfit for leadership.  The problem with divine autocratic rule however, is that if a leader got on the throne with poor decision making skills, their decrees were automatically law, for the better or worse of the kingdom.  It it likely that at least in some cases, the results of multiple familial marriages played a part in the downfall of a kingdom.

My personal favorite example of the folly of consanguineous marriages is the Hapsburg Empire of Austria.  Starting out in humble beginnings in a small canton in Switzerland way back in the 13th century, this family moved to Austria, and mostly via strategic family alliances, Hapsburg monarchs ruled Austria, Hungary, Germany, France, Croatia, Belgium, England, Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Switzerland and more!  Their empire grew exponentially until the 18th century.    They were strong proponents of inter-familial marriages, not wanting to mix with the “dirty blood” of the rest of Europe.  This led to big problems for the family however.  Unlike Egypt, the Hapsburg Empire was ruled by many monarchs, each country requiring its own Hapsburg monarch.  This led to a lot of “breeding pressure,”  as they had to sire 10, maybe 15 leaders.

Beginning fairly early in the familial, the evidence of genetic issues began to show, most notably in the famous “Hapsburg Jaw,” a specific type of prognathism found in almost all of the later Hapsburg to varying degrees.  In some of was simply noticeable, but in others, it interfered with speaking and eating.   Over time, the mutations kept piling on, until in the 16th century and beyond, they began producing non-viable or non-fertile offspring, and branches of the family tree began dying out.   Being a very strong Roman Catholic family (the head of the senior branch of the family was the Holy Roman Emperor), they blamed their deformed children on themselves for angering the Lord with their sinful behavior, and unknowingly carrying on with the very behaviour causing the problems.  Incidentally, incest and consanguineous marriages are outlawed very clearly in the Bible, maybe they didn’t read that part…    Other common birth defects included abnormally large tongue, mental impairment, various facial deformities, very high infant and child mortality and infertility.  Other common results of inbreeding (heart defects, organic brain defects, etc) are suspected but unconfirmed due to the scientific limitations of the time.  Their family tree is fascinating, like all normal ones, it starts out in a pyramid, but by the 16th century and beyond, it begins shrinking, and ends up in the shape of a diamond, with the last true Hapsburg monarch being King Charles II of Spain who ruled until 1700.  After that, the true Hapsburg family was extinct in the male line, and died out in the female line in 1780 with Maria Theresa.  Studies done in Spain illustrate that due to the succession of cousin and uncle/aunt and neice/nephew marriages, Charles II’s resulting “inbreeding coefficient” was as high as if his parents were brother and sister!  He had the Hapsburg Jaw to the extent where he could barely chew food, and had significant mental impairment, which often showed itself in bizarre superstitions and behaviours.  Ultimately was infertile and the ruling line ended with him.  The House of Lorraine, the next rulers of the area and era adopted the Hapsburg name for the sake of legitimacy, resulting in the House of Hapsburg-Lorraine, which was unrelated to the actual Hapsburgs.

English: The ancestry of King Charles II of Sp...

English: The ancestry of King Charles II of Spain (1661-1700) Created by user:Lec CRP1 Title edited by Cfvh on November 16th, 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Hapsburg Line is a fascinating cautionary tale for anyone with a penchant for a little web research.  It gets positively spooky when looking at various portraits of the rulers through the generations.  One can literally see the chin get bigger and more extended, regardless of the artistic conventions of the time.  They were the last of the large monarchies to inbreed at such a level, although almost all royal families are guilty of this to some degree.  Even the vaunted royal family of England had a disproportionately high level of haemophilia in the descendants of Queen Victoria.  But the Hapsburgs were the most ardent practitioners in recent history, and they paid the ultimate price for it, familial extinction and the downfall of an empire.

Well, that’s enough for today.  Until next time, be sure to keep your shurikens shiny, your swords sharp, and yourselves healthy!!


Time Is On Your Side: When Is The Best Time For Exercise?

Greetings and salutations!  It is I, your friendly neighbourhood Ninjadoc, here today to talk to you about a very important healthy living topic:  when during your busy day is the best time for exercise.  There has been a significant

Overview of biological circadian clock in huma...

Overview of biological circadian clock in humans. Biological clock affects the daily rhythm of many physiological processes. This diagram depicts the circadian patterns typical of someone who rises early in morning, eats lunch around noon, and sleeps at night (10 p.m.). Although circadian rhythms tend to be synchronized with cycles of light and dark, other factors – such as ambient temperature, meal times, stress and exercise – can influence the timing as well. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

amount of research and opinions given about this subject,  with every so-called “expert” seeming to have a different answer.

Research is hard to do reliably on this topic, because it is incredibly difficult to standardize behaviour amongst the people you are studying when it comes to activity.  It’s not like trying to see which pill works the best, where you have 2 groups of people, one taking a medicine and the other group taking a different medicine or a placebo (fake medicine).  With activity, there are too many variables to control.  To do it right, you’d have to collect a bunch of identical twins, and make them live exactly the same lifestyle down to the nearest detail, and make them do the exact same workout, at different times of day.  It’s just not practical.  So, we use less reliable research, giving lower quality, often differing results.

To begin, let’s have a quick examination of Circadian  rhythms, as they play very important roles in when is the best time for a person to exercise.  Your Circadian rhythm is basically your biological clock, telling your body when to go through many of its automatic biological processes.  Operated by your hypothalamus (a small part of your brain), your Circadian rhythm dictates numerous vital physiological functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and  various hormone levels.  For example, melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy is low in the morning, and peaks at night.  Heart rate and blood pressure are low when you sleep at night, and higher during the day.  Your Circadian rhythm “knows what time it is” from photoreceptors in your retina, which detect light, telling your hypothalamus its day or night.  You can get your Circadian rhythm “checked” by  certain natural/alternative/complimentary health methods, but the reliability of these tests is questionable at best.  The best way to assess Circadian rhythm is to simply know yourself; are you a morning person, or a night owl?  If you are a morning person, then perhaps morning is the best time to exercise.  If you are a night person, then afternoons/evenings are probably better for you.  One thing is certain, night workouts are not optimal, as doing so will likely interfere with your sleep pattern.  For proper “sleep hygiene, you should not exercise within 2 hours the time you want to go to sleep.

Advantages to working  out in the morning do exist and can have significant impacts on your exercise program.  Men’s testosterone levels are peaked in the morning, resting cortisol levels are higher (in both genders) as well.  Insulin works at a faster rate in the morning, processing glucose faster than at other times of the day.  Morning workouts can raise your metabolism for the rest of the day, and the latest research is beginning to show  you may burn more fat if you work out in the morning.  If you are in a large city and exercise outside, air pollution levels are lower in the morning.  Finally, if you are a coffee drinker, and you have your morning coffee, the caffeine can raise your exercise capacity as much as 10 to 15%!  Overall, if the purpose of your workout is to burn fat and lose weight, then morning workouts may be for you, if you can reliably get up in the morning regularly and do it.

There are tangible advantages to exercising in the afternoon as well; for example, testosterone and cortisol response levels (how much they increase in response to exercise)  is measurably higher in the afternoon.  This means that it may be easier to build muscle in strength training workouts conducted in the afternoon.   Your body is warmed up from daily activities, thus exercise related injuries tend to occur a little less often in the afternoon.  The latest research shows a slight, but measurable increase in endurance amongst those who exercise in the afternoon.  Thus, if you are looking to build strength, muscle or endurance, it may be more advantageous for you to exercise in the afternoon.

Another related question people often ask is whether one should work out before or after eating.  Studies conducted on this show increased weight loss if you workout before meals, with the greatest impact seen if you workout before breakfast.  This makes theoretical sense as well.  If you work out before eating, your body will burn through the ambient blood  sugar you have (the blood sugar just floating around in your body) pretty quickly, then switch to glycogen (the “backup energy supply you have in your liver).   If you are working out with significant intensity for long enough, then you could directly burn  some fat as well.  Your post workout meal then goes to replacing the glycogen and blood sugar, as well as repairing your body and muscles.  You have to be careful though, some people get dizzy and feel unwell working out on an empty stomach.  If this is you, then have a little snack or at least some fluids with some calories (like a glass of milk or juice) before your workout.

Two views of local Extension leaders drilling ...

So, in the end what conclusions can we draw?   Well, the first thing you should do is assess your Circadian rhythm; are you a morning person or a later in the day person.  Then ask yourself what are you trying to do, lose weight (which may be slightly easier in the morning), or build strength and endurance (which may be a little better suited to afternoon workouts).  Then assess which time fits better into your schedule (work, family, other commitments).  With this information, you are ready to pick a time of day, then select your workout of choice and get moving!

My last piece of advice is the most common-sensical:  more important than the time of day is whether you exercise at all.  If you do, or are getting ready to start, try to find a regular time of day so that you establish some consistency.  If you do something for 21 days, you  actually “reprogram” your brain and form a habit, and in this case, its a very good habit.  When exercise becomes a habit, it will have long term health benefits for certain.  So, pick your time, pick your workout, and get into the habit!
Keep your shurikens shiny, your sword sharp and yourself healthy!

Silva Shows Both Sides In Crushing Victory: UFC 148, Silva vs Sonnen II

Hello there fellow surfers of “the weeb!”  Selecting a topic for today’s blog was a no brainer:  after months of buildup, last night on Saturday, July 7, 2012 we finally got to see the most anticipated fight in UFC  history, the rematch


Anderson “The Spider” Silva

between Anderson “The Spider” Silva, vs Chael “The American Gangster” Sonnen.  I have blogged recently about this fight already, focused on what type of fighter would Silva be; his aggressive best, or lacklustre least.  I have been on edge about this fight for at least the last week or two.  My wife would tease me about it, and was rooting for Chael in what I think is an early attempt to drive me to insanity.  “It’s just a fight,” people who don’t get it say.  Well it is, but it’s a lot more than that too.

In this day and age, it’s hard to have heros that you can look up to across an array of attributes.  Sure there’s a lot of talented people out there, but not a lot of role model types, people you can look up to and say “that’s the type of guy/girl more people should strive to be like.”  In the UFC there aren’t that many at all, and most of them (like Georges St. Pierre, Jose Aldo, Dominic Cruz) have long term injuries and we barely see them.  Jon “Bones” Jones has done serious damage to his reputation with the whole DUI thing.  That will have reverberations  on his career for a while to come yet.  Junior Dos Santos is one of the only really good active examples right now, but he’s still got to prove himself.

Anderson Silva is one of those “role model types” as well.  He’s a dedicated family man, does a ton of local charity work at home in Brazil (but does not seek recognition for it), is soft spoken, polite, full of positive energy  and abhors the limelight and fame that comes with the  vast talent he possesses.  Contrast him to the loud, abrasive, disrespectful Chael Sonnen, and you can see what I mean.  Chael Sonnen as UFC Champion would give him and his load of bull a voice, and that’s all we would hear until someone dethroned him in return.  The whole problem with Sonnen is that he actually is very talented, and could win last night’s fight.   My last active UFC hero could lose his belt.  And that really would close out an era of greatness, in my humble opinion.

My last blog on this topic was about which Silva would show up to the fight.  All that day, that question consumed my thoughts, I was one Tense Tony when the event started. The earlier fights on UFC 148 were pretty good, but often ended very quickly.  It was almost like whoever/whatever you believe dictates fate wanted to hurry up and get to the big show.  And finally, it was time for the main event.  Fate, destiny, inevitability was falling down to us like a piano out the window.  I was Nervous Nellie Ninjadoc.

After all the getting checked out by the refs and introduced, the fight was on.  It would be the critical moments of the first round that dictated the fight.  I had every finger and toe crossed.  Which Silva is here?  On the way down, and right before the start, he looked nervous,  which was not a good sign.  The bell rings, and 6 seconds in, Sonnen was on Silva like maple syrup on a pancake.  Next thing you know, Silva’s on his back and getting pounded on again, just like their first fight!  Noooo!  Now he was calmer,  and the announcers (Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg) were expostulating on how Silva was controlling Sonnen’s posture and he couldn’t get any big punches off and so on, but for the whole first round, Silva got beat up.  And the cold fear gripped me…wussy Silva was here.  He was content to just hold on to Sonnen and ride the round out.

Silva’s corner reassured him that the first round was no big deal, but he had to start fighting now, and he agreed (and so did I!!!).  And he comes out for the second round, passive looking as ever.  Throws a punch or two, and Sonnen goes  in for another takedown.  I, half the crowd and probably millions of people collectively groan:  here we go again…except we didn’t go there again.  Silva stuffs the takedown, tosses a couple of punches that hit.  And then it happened…and I saw it right away.

When Anderson Silva is at his best, some kind of switch goes off inside him, almost like a multiple personality or something of that nature.  The posture, facial expression, the way he moves all just changes.  You can see it best in his eyes.  At about 1:00 minute in, after stuffing a takedown and pushing Sonnen away, I could see those eyes.  And I began to have hope!  Sonnen never caught it, he had no idea that the wolf was suddenly loose in his henhouse, and he wades back in.  And this time is met by Silva’s pinpoint accurate fists in his face.  Sonnen was rocked by the punches and shocked by sudden change right off the bat.  After a second failed takedown and more super-humanly accurate strikes, Sonnen tried for a spinning backfist (out of desperation), missed and fell down.  And then we could all see wobbly he was already.  Silva was on him like lightning, and like only he could do, finds the one opening in a curled up Sonnen, delivering an absolutely brutal flying knee to the sternum.  You could see the damage inflicted on Sonnen’s face.  He was done right there, but too stubborn to give in, so Silva kept on him, and you could see the emotion, the result of months of trash talking aimed at him, his family, his country, etc.  It all came down to this, and he let it all out, unleashing a hurricane of violence on a curling up, fetal positioned Chael Sonnen.   The ref stopped the fight, and there you have it!  Silva was victorious in dramatic fashion!  Not only retaining his  belt, but truly solidifying himself as the best pound for pound fighter in the UFC, and probably in all of  Mixed Martial Arts.

In a funny sidenote, when he began to strike Sonnen, I had an emotional catharsis of my own.  I had been wound up about this fight for weeks, not wanting my hero to lose to this joker.  When Silva started winning, I practically reverted to a primal scream of delight,  surprising myself, my wife and scaring the tar out of our dogs, it was hilarious!  My throat hurt by the time he finally won!

So in the end, Anderson Silva answered me and everyone else.  Both Silva’s came to UFC 148, the  lackadaisical, non-aggressive  Silva who frustrates people so much because they know what he can do, and he also brought the guy that can do it; the near super–human, perfect purveyor of controlled violence.  It just took the right time to bring that Silva out, and when he showed up to fight, he reminded us all just how he got to where he is, and it was a joyous thing to behold!.  After the fight, to show his class, Silva had the Brazilian fans at the event cheer for Sonnen, he applauded his efforts, and even invited him to his home in Brazil for a barbeque.  Sonnen was quite gracious in return in defeat, and thus, the Silva/Sonnen rivalry died a violent death last night.

Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen

Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen

After that satisfying win, now the question becomes who next for Silva?  There are a lot of middling guys in the division (Michael Bisping, Mark Munoz, Brian Stann), but no real big time contender types.  It will take some grooming, and after last night, they probably won’t be falling all over themselves to be the next bowling pin Silva rolls over.

Well that’s all for today.  Next up in topics we will head back to the medical world and discuss what time of day is best for working out and why.   Keep those questions coming into the comment box too!

Until next time, keep your shurikens shiny, your sword sharp, and yourself healthy!


The Many Faces of Anderson Silva; Who Shows Up For UFC 148?

English: Chael Sonnen after doing the UFC Q&A ...

 Chael Sonnen


Anderson “The Spider” Silva

Hello once more fellow surfers of the interweb! I hope you are all as well as you can be. Over the last few blogs, it’s been mostly medical chit chat, so today we will return to our other favourite subject, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), as variety is the spice of life after all. Specifically, let’s talk about the upcoming main event of July 7, 2012’s, UFC 148, which is destined to be one of the best and most important MMA events of the year. Aptly named Sonnen vs Silva II, the main event is the long awaited rematch between   Chael Sonnen and Anderson “The Spider” Silva, the longtime UFC Middleweight Champion (maximum allowable weight 185 lbs).

Their last fight,  UFC 117 in August 2010, was an edge of your seat nail biter, as Sonnen came in full of intensity, spitting fiery trash talk and looked to be in great shape.  What came next was filled with confusion and what should have been impossibility,  as Sonnen stunned and surprised a lacklustre Silva.  Sonnen, a world class wrestler with pretty good striking abilities, repeatedly took Silva down, and to be honest, put a solid four and a half round beating on him.  I was dumbfounded throughout, for being a longtime hardcore Silva fan,  in general means being accustomed to quick, flashy victories.  I had given up, certain that the  champ would be champ no more.  Then, in the last 30 seconds of the final round, a triumphant Sonnen (who’s weakness is hubris) got a little too cocky, complacent and too loose on his defence.  Out of nowhere, like an anaconda, Silva snaps a leg choke on him, which came to be known as “The Triangle Choke Heard Around The World.”  To everyone’s disbelief, it worked, Sonnen “tapped out,” Silva got the win and retains his belt.   I felt a strange combination of elation and frustration.  I was very pleased he won, but highly unimpressed with the rest of his performance, knowing what Silva is capable when motivated.   Due to the controversial late sort of upset, an immediate rematch was planned afterwords, but then Chael Sonnen failed his Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) test, and was suspended for a year.  So to me, that explained some of what had happened from Sonnen’s standpoint (the sheer aggression and power), but did not excuse Silva for his poor performance.

That feeling is the most annoying (sometimes rage inducing) part of being a Silva fan.  He’s like  Forrest Gump’s chocolates, “you never know what you’re going to get.”  Using a hybrid Muay Thai (striking) and Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu (grappling)  style, Silva possesses skills  that when applied to their fullest, boggle the mind.  There are fights that look like a scene right out of “The Matrix,” where normal MMA pros (all elite, world-class fighters in their own right) throw punches and kicks at dead air, have all of their takedowns stuffed, and end up with their lights out, and wondering what happened.

The best example of this type of unmitigated Anderson Silva-induced destruction would be his fight against Forrest Griffin, UFC 101 in December 2009.  Griffin, the original “Ultimate Fighter”” winner and former Light Heavyweight Champion of the UFC, looked like an octogenarian, chasing Silva around the ring, swinging at nothing.   Silva was at his best, shucking and jiving, hands down, slipping every Griffin blow by a mile, and after several pinpoint punch-begotten knockdowns, mercifully put Griffin down for good with a left jab…while backing up.  Let that sink in…the left jab the very useful, but by far weakest punch), while backing up (where your power is the lowest, as your mass is moving away from your target).  It was like watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or a Bruce Lee movie or something.  Silva looked, and in my opinion, fought, at a superhuman level that day.  Most of us are capable of summoning our own version of an effort at extreme moments in our lives, but what sets Silva apart is that he can bring that kind of performance at will.

Silva was motivated for that fight, and fighting at a higher weight class (Light Heavyweight, max of 205lbs) than normal for him.  He took Griffin seriously, and came out with intensity and bad intentions.  This is what Silva can do, this is why he is my favourite of all MMA fighters. He can do things no other human being can do, and like Wayne Gretzky, we may never see the like again.  He has been the Middleweight UFC Champion since absolutely destroying Rich “Ace” Franklin (the champ at the time)  at UFC 64 in October 2006.   He has not lost since January 2006,  and is on a 14 victory long win streak, including a UFC record 12 straight  title belt defences!

His abilities are hard to put into words.  He’s not like UFC Welterweight Champion (max  170 lbs) Georges “Rush” St. Pierre, who  is a pure athlete, maintains unbelievable shape and comes into a fight with a brilliant game plan.  Nor is he like Jon “Bones” Jones, the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion  (max 205 lbs)  who possesses an incredibly keen fighting acumen, amazing physical attributes (he has an 85 inch reach, the longest in MMA) and uses them perfectly.   Silva is an unassuming looking guy, with a strangely high voice, who can unleash a torrent of violent perfection at the drop of a hat.  When it happens, it is truly a site to behold.  Ask Vitor Belfort, Rich Franklin, Yushin Okami,  James Irvin, Nate Marqhardt and Chris Leben, all KOs or TKOs, often in breathtaking fashion.  For Vitor Belfort (a longtime fellow Brazilian rival), he actually used the “crane kick,” from (yes, you guessed it) the Karate Kid  movie!  Right on the chin, Belfort was out before he hit the canvas floor.  He was fine after, just shamed.  After something like that,  the audience left feeling as though they had truly witnessed greatness.

But the problem  is, that guy doesn’t come out every fight.  Some events get this other Anderson Silva, a cocky, disinterested, lazy fighter, who looks bored and obviously doesn’t take his opponent seriously, and it shows.  Fans grow disinterested, his opponent often gets  frustrated and the whole thing just dissolves into an uncomfortable, and perhaps most importantly, hard to watch mess.   The Patrick Cote  (UFC 90), Damian Maia (UFC 112), Thales  Lietes (UFC 97) and of course  Chael Sonnen fights are examples of when he acts that way.  Dana White (UFC President) gets enraged when Silva fights like this, as it makes for bad sport (and even worse for the UFC, bad TV) and has called him out on it several times publicly.  Luckily, that seems to spur Silva into action, and his next few fights are solid.

So finally,  after much adieu due to injuries and PED suspension, this coming Saturday, July 7, 2012, Silva vs Sonnen II!!!!  Of the many faces of Anderson Silva, which one will show up?  If it’s the one who comes to fight, Sonnen is in some serious trouble.  But if Lazy Silva shows up like in their last match…I shudder to think of the consequences!  One thing about the whole issue, the human drama behind it entertains like no other!  The sport being one on one, single elimination, anything can happen.  This is why I love this sport.  My wife and I have UFC day, where we get the comfy clothes on, get our food all ready, and OD on UFC.  Perfection!

Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen

Silva vs Sonnen I, UFC 117, August 7, 2010

Next up will probably be an answer to one of my latest questions.  Keep em coming in the Comment Box!

So, until next time keep your shurkiens shiny, your swords sharp, and yourselves healthy!


Who Are You Calling Fatty, Acid? Omega 3 And You.

English: General Formation of Fatty Acids

Good day to you, and welcome once more!  Today we’re going to discuss, in a roundabout and hopefully entertaining fashion, Fatty Acids in general.  In particular we will talk about Omega 3 Fatty Acid (FA), my personal favourite, I don’t know about you.  So, you ask yourself, just what is a Fatty Acid?  A Fatty Acid is a molecule, or a small collection of stuff, made from other smaller molecules you may have heard of, like triglycerides and phospholipids.  For our purposes today, it’s not important to know how they are made, but it is good to know that they fall into 2 categories, the ones we can make in our bodies , and the ones we cannot (which are known as “Essential,” because it’s essential that we eat them).  So, you want to know, just what do these crazy things do anyway?  Well, Fatty Acids perform a variety of tasks in the body, including making up important structurall parts of cells (what we are made of), becoming parts of hormones (chemical signals the body uses to send messages to other parts of the body) and are even used for fuel.

As I said in the above, today we are going to talk about Omega 3 FA, one of the most important of the Essential Fatty Acids.  If you’re one of those people who take supplements   and take Fatty Acids, you may have noticed that a lot of times Omega 3 FA is packaged up with one of its siblings, Omega 6 FA.  Later on we’ll find out that putting them together like that isn’t all that smart, but we do it anyway.  Why would we do that, if it’s not very smart, you ask?  Because we don’t always know as much as we think we do.

OK, time for a joke:

A man is yelling frantically into the phone, talking to the doctor on call at the local hospital:  “Doctor, my wife is having contractions every 2 minutes!  I don’t know what to do?

Doctor:  “Is this her first child?”

Man:  “No you idiot, this is her husband!!!”  Ba dum bum!

Omega 3 Fatty Acid is essential, and thus, must be ingested.  Ok, easy enough you say, where can I get me some?  Most people know an excellent source of Omega 3 is from fish or fish oil.  Some people believe the fish make it, but they would be mistaken and should feel shame.  The main source of Omega 3 FA are algae, which are eaten by wild fish, building up Omega 3 in their body.  We in turn, living comfortably on our perch at the top of the food chain, eat the fish, and get all that hard earned Omega 3 for free!  What a bargain!  Herring (sardines), salmon, mackerel and swordfish have the highest amounts, but most fish have some.  Fish oil is high in Omega 3, making it a popular supplement, but no one really knows how well the Omega 3 in it gets absorbed.  Other sources of Omega 3s include grass fed red meats (where the cow, for example, gets the Omega 3 from grass and stores it up for us),  eggs and poultry (via the same way as the cow), seal meat and oil and certain plants like flax, many seeds and nuts.

Diet supplement - omega 3 fish oil-based

(Photo credit: Wikipedia(flax, seaweed, and then some less common types like perilla, lingonberries and chia seeds).

So,  after all the hype, what effects do Omega 3s have on the body that make them such hot stuff?  Well, it all stems from them being natural anti-inflammatory powerhouses.  They basically float around the body, looking for things that should not be inflamed, and put out  the fires, naturally.  Now it is important to know Omega 3 is not a miracle cure-all, but certainly does have positive effects.  It has been shown, as it floats around being anti-inflammatory, to have modest, but measurable effects on the breakdown of fibrin (part of the clotting function of the body, and by stopping this process, Omega 3s  can help prevent blockages in blood vessels),  lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol  and triglycerides (different forms of fat in your bloodstream).  This means Omega 3s may help prevent having a heart attack or storke.  Omega 3s have also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on sufferers of arthritis, as patients with the disease report having reduced pain and needing less medication when taking it.  Not too shabby Omega 3 FA!

OK, how about another joke:

Did you know an apple a day really can keep the doctor away

It can, but only if you aim it very well…ha ha ha ha!

OK, so now I am an expert on Omega 3 FA, what about the other one we mentioned?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Omega 6 FA actually have the exact opposite effects of Omega 3s, meaning that, they are pro-inflammatory.  Some of their functions include the increase of fats (in the forms of cholesterol and triglycerides) in the blood, increase the likelihood of having a blood clot (thus heart attacks and stokes  as well), can increase arthritis inflammation and pain,  and have even been linked in lab tests (at really high doses) to causing cancer!  So why would we want to take any in supplements?  We don’t, we get enough of many nutrients in our natural diets.  Grains are the major source of Omega 6 FAs, and we eat a lot of grain, as it has many good nutrients in it we need.  Also,  we all need some Omega 6s to be able to have inflammation when you need to (like when you injure yourself).  The problem arises our consumption of corn, as corn (a major source of Omega 6s) is taking a larger and larger role in the  Western diet.  What’s more, like algae/grass and Omega 3s, as animals eat corn, they absorb higher and higher amounts of Omega 6s, which we in turn get from them.  Cows in feedlots are fed primarily corn, poultry is fed primarily corn, and now even farmed salmon are being fed corn in some salmon farms!  Corn is not a natural part of the diet of cows, salmon and poultry, it’s an artificial diet we invented for convenience.  The result is that, beef, poultry, eggs , milk, even salmon are showing higher and higher levels of Omega 6!  Uh oh!

So, what do we do about this?  Well for one, if you’re taking Omega 6 FA supplements, stop, get the ones that only have Omega 3 FAs, if you’re going to take any at all.  And eat more careful diet.  For example, grass fed beef, free range chickens, and non farmed fish all have natural levels of Omega 6 FA, and nice healthy levels of our old friend Omega 3 FA.    See, that wasn’t so bad now was it?   Also to keep in mind, it’s not food being organic that is important for Omega 3 FA, as organic really only means there are no pesticides and unnatural additives.  It’s what is eaten by us, and the animals we consume (natural foods vs corn) that brings the Omega 3s.   Go find some good healthy sources!

Well, that pretty much wraps up our crash course on Omega 3 Fatty Acids.  For further knowledge, I would recommend reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” and/or “In Defense of Food” both by Michael Pollan..  Also an excellent read is “Fast Food Nation,” by Eric Schlosser.  Each of these books go into great detail exploring the above and many other interesting aspects of what we eat, how we eat, how it affects us biologically and socially.  Finally, “Food, Inc.” is a documentary that actually interviews the above authors and uses their perspectives to explore the same themes visually.  Enjoy!

Cover of

Cover of Fast Food Nation

Until next time, keep your shurikens shiny, your swords sharp and yourselves healthy!


Water, Water Everywhere, How Much Should We Drink?

Hello out there, and welcome to the latest and greatest instalment of our blog.  This one is a special one to me, it’s the first question sent in by you, the hale and hearty reader!  Thanks for them, and keep them coming!   Today we are going to discuss a very timely question which has been in the sports medicine world a lot lately.  It’s also just in time for summer, and you just know is on the mind of all the Olympic athletes out there getting ready for London next month; hydration.  Namely, just how much water should people drink in a day.   I can hear you yawning from here, give it a chance, it’ll be more interesting than you think!

The human body is full of water, it makes up about 60% of your weight!   They say the “average” human weighs 70 Kg (154 lbs), so that means 42 Kg (92.5 lbs) of our bodies are water!    As everyone knows, every part of you is make up either of specialized cells (such as osteocytes, or bone cells for example), products that those cells have made (like bone matrix), and the spaces between the cells (known as the interstitial space).  All those cells (over 50 trillion of them) and the spaces between them are filled with fluid that is mostly water.  So are your blood vessels, most of which is a fluid called plasma, which again, is mostly water. That’s a lot of water! When it comes to drinking, the tried and true mantra is one everyone has heard before:  everyone should drink “8 glasses of 8 oz of water a day.”  So that’s 64 oz, or 8 cups of water, which for you metric buffs is just a shade shy of 2 Litres (2000 mLs) of water.  Seems like a lot when you think of it that way.  But how much does your body use, how much water do we need?  Well let’s see, to calculate total daily water loss, you urinate about 1500 mLs, you sweat and breathe out about 800 mLs more, you need about 100 mLs to make poop, which adds up to about 2500 mLs total, per day.

OK, I’m bored, time for a joke:

Nurse:  “Doctor, there is an invisible man in the waiting room!”

Doctor:  “Well, I can’t see him now.  Next!”     Ba ha ha ha ha ha!

Ok, back to work.  See, I know you’re sharp, and you’ve caught on that if you drink your 8 glasses of water a day, you’re getting around 2000 mLs (or  64 Fl Oz) of water.  But turns out you need 2500 mLs (or around 80 Fl Oz) of water a day, holy crap, we’re falling behind….by 500 mLs… every day!  I’m shrivelling!  Like a pale California Raisin….   Shrivelling…..  Easy now.  We gain the rest (at least that pesky 500 mLs a day)  from what we eat, as the body extracts water from the food we consume too.  Some foods have way more water than others (think soup, fruit and veggies, lots of water there). Your body also makes a little bit of water from chemical reactions it does, just doing various bodily functions.    So, it pretty much evens out in the end.

Sidebar:  Now keep in mind, the above doesn’t count hard activity or exercise, which of course makes you sweat.    Everyone sweats at different rates, but the average is about 230 mLs (8 Fl oz, or 1 cup) per 15 minutes of moderate to hard exercise.  So, you should drink that much fluid as well, to balance out.  You’ll notice most bottles of water are 500 mLs, which will get you through a half hour of solid activity.  Coincidence?  I think not!

So, that just all seemed to work out didn’t it?  All wrapped up in a tight little bow?  Well I have news for you.  You’ve been lied to friend!  The nutritionists, the teachers, the coaches, the TV, they all lied to you!  I think they’ve been bribed by “Big Water,” to get that message out there.   All a pack of lies.  As recent sports medicine research has shown, it doesn’t have to be just water that you drink.   Pick a fluid, any fluid you may drink, we will say orange juice for example.  Turns out OJ is 88% water, so it’s not too hard to get by just on it, but, you get a lot of sugar in there too.  The only fluids that this won’t work for are those containing higher amounts of caffeine or alcohol, both of which make you pee and dehydrate you, which is counter productive of our mission of knocking water off it’s high horse.  So, if you drink around 8 glasses of any of your favourite fluids in the run of a day (including with meals), then you are A-OK.  That’s a lot easier than chugging a glass of water every hour for eight hours, which is what the mantra says.

English: A glass of Orange juice. Esperanto: O...

I’m almost all water…sounds a lot easier than chugging a glass of  water every hour or so.  Join me in snickering at those people running around with their Nalgene bottles all the time.

Time for a joke again:

Patient:  “Doctor, do you think I should file my nails?”

Doctor:   “Heck no, throw them away like everyone else.  Gross!”       Ba dum bum

While we are getting on water’s case , it turns out that a great deal of recent research shows that for folks doing longer term sustained physical activity, like marathon runners, triathletes, and so on, or even sports teams in long tournaments (where they would play multiple games in a short time frame), if you stick to just water, you can actually do harm to yourself!   When you engage in sustained physical activity, you sweat a lot, and that sweat is full of electrolytes, Sodium and Chloride in particular.   These electrolytes fill many important functions in the body, arguably the most important being conducting the signals through all of your nerves.  That’s why you hear sometimes of a very fit athlete collapsing while participating in their sport, if he she came to a hospital, one of the first things that would be checked would the electrolyte levels.  The current advice from sports medicine experts is to mix at least half of that water with an electrolyte-containing fluid or drink mix, to maintain safe levels of those all important electrolytes.   Another myth about pure water dispelled!  All in a day’s work.

One last joke for today:

Hypochondriac patient:  “Doctor, if I give up drinking, smoking, gambling and the night life, will I truly live longer?”

Doctor:  “No, but on the upside, it sure will feel like forever!”   Wonh wonh wooongh!

Well, now that we put that snooty water in its place, we can call it a day.  I hope that answered the question well enough.  And look at what we’ve learned!  We’ve uncovered some  background knowledge on some interesting tidbits around exercise,  physiology, biochemistry, we’re on fire today!  Next topic  will be Omega 3 fatty acids.  I can’t promise we won’t talk about some of the other fatty acids too…Omega 6 can be the jealous type….  It will be interesting, as we’ll delve a bit into nutritionism as well…the scary, science-ish topic that can be.

Don’t forget to drop any questions or topics you may have in the comment section,  adds more grist to the mill.

Until next time, keep your shurikens shiny, your swords sharp, and yourself healthy!


The Wackiest Dieases You’ve Never Heard Of: Culturally Bound Syndromes

A Papua New Guinean wearing traditional garb. ...

A Papua New Guinean wearing traditional garb. Bago-Bago, Papua New Guinea in 2005, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good day to you, and welcome back!  This time we will explore one of my all time favorite topics, Culturally Bound Medical Syndromes (CBS), which are disorders or illnesses,  or perhaps more importantly, perceived illnesses, that only exist in a very discrete society or part of the world.  No other societies or groups would  have ever heard of it.  Often these disorders have a penchant to be really wierd as well.  Almost all of the known CBS have no physical or “hard” findings as well, meaning you can’t do any tests to ferret out what’s going on with the patient, but to the inflicted, the experience is very real.  How did I find out or become interested in CBS you ask?  Well, in the time before medical school, I did an undergraduate degree with Honours in Medical/Cultural Anthropology, and went on to do a Masters’s in Cultural Anthropology after that.   Along the way, I encountered numerous examples of interesting, amusing and sometimes disturbing CBS.  It amazes me how people experience the world around them, and how entities like  CBS develop in response to different social pressures, events in history, encounters with environment and other peoples, just  about anything could start what may someday become a CBS. I thought it would be rather entertaining to share the best of them with you, so on we go.  Some are pretty out there and downright whacky, so be forewarned!

The  first CBS we’ll discuss is Amok, which is found in a small group of South Asian countries including Maylaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, occurs in an otherwise normal patient, who for no apparent reason, freaks out, becomes violent, swears, destroys property, and generally becomes a whirlwind of nuisance, then runs out into the world.  They come out of it about an hour later, and have no memory of what happened.  Nothing is ever found on medical tests (like drug use, epilepsy, tumors, etc), and often never happens to the patient again.  In some cases, the patient even sustains injuries and doesn’t seem to notice.  No real cause has ever been associated with the condition.  A very similar CBS occurs on a regular basis to the Inuit as well, called Pibloktoq, with the same symptoms and amnesia…interesting.  A lesser violent but otherwise similar condition can be found in Papua New Guinea (which must be a heck of a wierd place, you’ll see it turns up a few times ) and is known to them as Gururumba, again, with the amnesia.  I’ll have to try that here, mess some stuff up, run for the woods and claim I don’t remember a thing…just like Days of Our Lives!

Mount Tarvurvur in Papua New Guinea

Ghost sickness is a CBS afflicting the Navajo Native Americans, in which patients believe they are possessed by a specific ghost who is angry he/she did not get proper burial rituals and is trapped in the “living world” forever.  The poor Navajo suddenly develops nightmares, episodes of terror, fainting spells, weakness and stops eating/drinking.  It is up to the local shaman or medicine man to try and banish the spirit, with differing degrees of success.  If it doesn’t work it is reported the patient will die, but this is unconfirmed.

One CBS you probably are familiar with is “Mal de Oro” or “The Evil Eye.” Most common in the Mediterranean and parts of China, the Evil Eye is a certain look a “powerful person” gives you, which from then on will cause you to have bad luck, encounter undue injury and even death!  In the Mediterranean, this can result in Vendetta, or revenge, which literally would end up being a battle of the Evil Eyes.  I can see all the unibrows now…

Speaking of death, the one  CBS you didn’t want to cross paths with Bone Death, occuring in Papua New Guinea and among the Australian Aborigines.  In this case, someone with the know-how points a magic infused bone at a person and extracts the soul.  This tended to inconvenient, for without a soul one can’t live, and the family would quite literally kick him/her out.  The patient would withdraw, stop eating/drinking and without fail, die.  Early explorers and settlers report trying  everything they could think of, to no avail.

Hmong Sudden Death is found in Laos, and is as much cultural explanation as it is a culturally bound medical syndrome.  A patient with Hmong has to have recently suffered trauma of serious note.  Spirits enter the wounds, causing nightmares, and it is felt by Laotions that the spirits, not the trauma, kills the patient in his/her sleep.

English: Huli Wigman from the Southern Highlan...

English: Huli Wigman from the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Windego afflicts Algonquin Natives in North America, causing the patient to feel he/she to be possessed by the Windego, a monster that eats only human flesh.  The patient becomes obsessed with cannibalism, and often has to be restrained. Windego tends to occur in the middle of winter, causing anthropologists to feel that the pressure of winter survival plays a role, as is likely with Inuit Pibloktoq.

Then there is Latah, which mostly affects middle aged women in Maylaysia and Indonesia (what a fussy disease), causing a freak reaction to being startled.  The women will suddenly erupt into fits of screaming, swearing, jumping and running, which can last over 30 minutes.  This time they remember  what they were doing, but had no control over it, and have no explanation as to why it happens.

The most colorful of the Culturally Bound Syndromes relate to sexual function.  If you have any proclivities that make you uncomfortable reading about sex stuff, skip this one paragraph, there is more fun to follow.  Dhat syndrome affects males of the Indian subcontinent, suffering from idiopathic (no known cause) impotence, premature ejaculation, and the belief they are urinating out all of their semen.  They become fearful of having sex and depleting any remaining vitality they may have.  Not to be outdone, several groups in South East Asia suffer (and they do suffer) from Koro, a highly inconvenient illness in which men obsessively fear their penis is retracting inside them  and will disappear (like permanent pool shrinkage).  It is very common for someone who’s come down with the Koro to tie rocks, sticks, their legs, etc to their penis, to “anchor” their penis and save what’s left.  Upon measuring it, no change is noted by missionary/explorer journals, so it turns out Koro is basically “penis dysmorphia.”

So, that was a quick discussion of Culturally Bound Syndromes around the world.  I bet you’ve been thinking “well those are a lot of far out strange places, no wonder they have weird beliefs.”  To that I say, shame on you judgey!  Also, there are a fair share of CBS in the Western world as well, betcha didn’t know!  Let’s start with France (and the Basque area of Spain), where men can sometimes encounter Couvade Syndrome, which is when a man who has a pregnant wife begins to develop several of the symptoms of pregnancy himself including nausea/vomiting, weight gain (in the belly), mood changes, even in some cases gynecomastia and lactation!  However, as far is medical science records, no baby…yet… 😉

From here we’ll move to of all places, the Hutterite communities in Western North America, small groups of German descent peoples who live very much like the Amish in isolated communities, abhorring most modern technology.  They can sometimes suffer from Anfechtung, which causes the patient to feel as though they are extremely sinful and unworthy of being in the community and church.  This in turn causes extreme depression and anxiety, withdrawing from the all important community  and having frequent thoughts of suicide.  Usually this is treated by the community and church basically keeping on the patients’ case until the condition passes.  With the isolated and regulated manner of such colony lifestyle one has to wonder if social pressure plays a role in this illness as well.

“Well” you say “that’s still not us.”  Sure, but the following are and will give you a bit of pause to think, I believe.   Two of the most devastating illnesses a patient can have, definitely among the most difficult mental health illnesses to treat are Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa.  Bulimia is where a patient, motivated by constantly and usually falsely believing they are overweight ( a condition called body dysmorphia) will crave and binge on huge amounts of foods and then purge them by vomiting, laxatives or excessive exercise.  Anorexia is when a patient, with the same body dysmorphic feelings of being fat and unattractive, will starve themselves, eating nothing, or extremely little.  Both conditions have huge health risks, and both are notorious for being difficult to treat.  Both can, and in many cases do end in death from organ failure with the kidneys being the most vulnerable (constant dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, tissue breakdown).  These illness are most common among younger women, and are entirely culturally bound syndromes of the Western world.  Men suffer from them as well, but less often.  However, men have their own body dysmorphic condition, Hyper-muscularity.  You’ve seen them at the gym, the steroid infested muscleheads, generally parked in front of the mirror flexing.  They’re the ones who make the huge noises lifting weights.  People (women can suffer from this as well) with this illness feel they are too small, and need more muscle and bulk, but they have to be “cut” as well,  meaning the musculature  has to be kept as well defined as absolutely possible, causing them to often abuse diuretics (to make them pee of excess water) and laxatives (same reason, different orafice).  Again, a disease entirely contained in the Western world.

Finally, one that really caught me by surprise is Disassociative Identity Disorder, better known as “Multiple Personality Disorder.”  This illness is still poorly understood, but the theory is that childhood trauma (often involving sexual abuse) damages the psyche, and multiple personalities develop to help cushion the conscious mind from the pain of the abuse.  This illness is highly controversial for myriad reasons, and found solely in the Western world, with most cases in North America.   I hadn’t suspected it to be culturally bound to the Western world,  so everyone learns today!

Well, that concludes our romp through the world of Culturally Bound Syndromes. There are many more, but the blogtastic list above covers the best and most interesting of them.  I am fascinated by how they develop, and what meaning they have for the cultures they exist within.   I can say with anorexia, bulimia and body dysmorphic disorder that I think in many ways, they are a response to feeling pressured by society and feeling out of control.  During the mental health phases of my medical training, I spent a lot of time with patients suffering from them, and many to report feeling out of control of their lives be it things at school, work, family life, etc.  Since their body is the one thing totally under their control, anorexia and/or bulimia become an outlet for that pressure.  But that is generalizing, I know.  I can’t explain the other cultures, only to continue learning…

I hope this was as entertaining to read as it was to research and write.  I got to dig out all my old texts and anthropology notes.  Ahhh, the good old days.  I didn’t do references as I didn’t do quotes and this is only a  light fluffy general infotainment blog, not a thesis..

Please leave comments and let me know what you think of the old blog so far, and with any questions, topics, issues you’d like to hear about in the entire world of medicine, health, healthy living, and martial arts/Mixed Martial Arts/Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Until next time, keep your shurikens shiny, your swords sharp, and yourself healthy!