Category Archives: Health

Better Than a New General Antibiotic

Scientists at Wisconsin are working on ways to kill just one species of bacteria.  They are starting with C. diff, but the technology could potentially be used for any bacteria.  From Futurism.com:

Jan-Peter van Pijkeren, a food scientist from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is creating a probiotic cocktail that patients can swallow as a liquid or pill.

The cocktail of bacteria will include a bacteriophage – a virus that infects bacteria – capable of carrying a customized, false, CRISPR message to C. difficile. This message would cause C. difficile to make lethal cuts to its own DNA.

“The downside of antibiotics is they are a sledgehammer that depletes and destroys the gut microbial community,” van Pijkeren said to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “You want to instead use a scalpel in order to specifically eradicate the microbe of interest.”

CRISPR is ideal for this use because such drugs would be very specific to the user. They could kill a single species of germ while leaving good bacterial untouched. In contrast, regular antibiotics kill off both good and bad bacteria, leading to resistance. If proven successful, CRISPR could become, not just the world’s most effective gene editing tool, but also the best bacteria-killing technology available.

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Health Insurance Hacks

As Obamacare becomes prohibitively expensive, here are some ideas of ways to at least partially insure yourself against catastrophic healthcare costs.  From Patrick Watson, via John Mauldin:

Insurance Hacks

I suggested looking for short-term medical coverage if Obamacare becomes unavailable in your area. Reader Mike E., a Colorado insurance broker, added some details.

Temporary insurance will probably continue to be available since it’s not under the ACA restrictions. But there are several caveats:

Not only will it not cover preexisting conditions, many of the temp insurance carriers will deny any coverage if you show preexisting conditions on your application form, even common things like moderate hypertension. Leaving such details off the application is a risky prospect, because the carrier can deny all claims if they find you’ve falsified information. And if they’re receiving major claims, they’ll probably look for a reason to deny them.

The biggest downside is the total benefit limit. As far as I know, there are no plans available with a limit above $2 million. Nonetheless, temp insurance is a good option if you can qualify.

Some readers may be in a position to change their permanent residence (e.g., to a second home). Traditionally, the choice of which to use has been based on state tax rates, but now access (and cost) of health insurance may be a bigger factor.

We have been selling quite a few “microgroup” plans, partly because group insurance is the only way to get a PPO plan in Colorado for 2017. Generally, the carriers require at least two participants, one of whom has no ownership stake. (Some carriers apply other rules, including whether 1099 employees are eligible and count.) Apparently, the working population is overall considerably healthier than the non-working population, and thus the group health insurance market hasn’t seen the turmoil that the individual market has.

On small-group insurance, Ray H. said to consider using a PEO, Professional Employer Organization—what was once called employee leasing. I’ve been such an employee before (of John Mauldin, actually, many years ago) and we had big-company-style benefits. It’s worth investigating if you are self-employed.

Another idea: Go (or go back) to school. Some community colleges have student group health plans open to part-time students of any age. The rates are low because the group is mostly young—but you have to be a legitimate, enrolled student and pay tuition. That might outweigh the lower premiums.

Healthcare Cost-Sharing

From Richard J.:

Many thanks, Patrick for your letter this morning; it’s right on. And thank you for finally mentioning the religious healthcare alternative, which is getting little to no mention at all. I am relatively healthy and have been with an alternative care for 2 years now.

The savings are huge, bigger than all my investing profits during the same time, and if you’re healthy and following the suggestions in your letter, it is smart, it feels good to help others, and it’s good to know some program that really works is behind you. Keep on doing the good work.

Richard refers to the handful of religious cost-sharing cooperatives that received a special exemption in the Affordable Care Act. Participating in one satisfies the Obamacare individual mandate even though they are not “insurance” per se.

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Fat fast and ketogenic diet

Fat fast – may be a way to jump start ketosis.

So, what exactly is a fat fast? It’s eating between 1000 and 1200 calories a day, where between 80% and 90% of your calories come from fat, and fat alone. You break these 1000-1200 calories into 4 or 5 meals a day, eating in blocks of 200-250 calories per meal.

It is normally done for 2-4 days, but is never recommended to go for more than 5 days.

Here are some options for single meals:

  • 1 Oz. Macadamia Nuts
  • Macadamia Nut Butter with 2 Oz. Cream Cheese
  • 1 Oz. Chicken with 2 Tbsp. Mayonnaise
  • 2 Egg Yolks with 1 Tbsp. Mayonnaise
  • 1 Cup Coffee with ¼ Cup Heavy Cream
  • 4 Slices bacon (be careful with this, as it dwindles under 80% calories from fat)
  • ¼ Cup Heavy Cream whipped with Da Vinci Flavored Syrup
  • 2 Oz. Sour Cream with ½ Cup Cucumber
  • ½ Serving of Sugar-free Jell-O with ½ Cup Whipped Cream

More info on ketogenic diet and how it impacts your body:  http://www.diagnosisdiet.com/ketogenic-diets-for-cancer-and-beyond/

 

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Capitalism in Medicine

What Happens When Doctors Only Take Cash

the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, whose business model is different from that of most hospitals. There, the all-inclusive price for every operation is listed on the website.

In arriving at their price list, Smith and Lantier did an end run around the whole system. They asked their fellow doctors how much compensation was expected per procedure, factored in necessary expenses like surgical equipment and medical implants, then tacked on a 10% to 15% profit margin. Since their surgery center does not employ the army of administrators that is often required to haggle with insurers and follow up on Medicare reimbursements, their overhead is smaller. The whole operation is 41 people. “Finding an average price doesn’t require complicated math,” Smith says. “It’s arithmetic.” Since posting the price list eight years ago, they’ve adjusted it twice, both times to lower rates.

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Grounding / Earthing

Never heard of this before.  From NIH:

 

Multi-disciplinary research has revealed that electrically conductive contact of the human body with the surface of the Earth (grounding or earthing) produces intriguing effects on physiology and health. Such effects relate to inflammation, immune responses, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The purpose of this report is two-fold: to 1) inform researchers about what appears to be a new perspective to the study of inflammation, and 2) alert researchers that the length of time and degree (resistance to ground) of grounding of experimental animals is an important but usually overlooked factor that can influence outcomes of studies of inflammation, wound healing, and tumorigenesis.

Grounding or earthing refers to direct skin contact with the surface of the Earth, such as with bare feet or hands, or with various grounding systems. … Various grounding systems are available that enable frequent contact with the Earth, such as while sleeping, sitting at a computer, or walking outdoors. These are simple conductive systems in the form of sheets, mats, wrist or ankle bands, adhesive patches that can be used inside the home or office, and footwear. These applications are connected to the Earth via a cord inserted into a grounded wall outlet or attached to a ground rod placed in the soil outside below a window. For the footwear applications, a conductive plug is positioned in the shoe sole at the ball of the foot, under the metatarsals, at the acupuncture point known as Kidney 1. From a practical standpoint, these methods offer a convenient and routine, user-friendly approach to grounding or earthing.

Maybe this explains why I love beach vacations so much.

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More about Fasting Mimicking Diet

From Patrick Cox via John Mauldin:

During the FMD (Fasting Mimicking Diet), our genomes activate autophagy or “self-eating.” Our bodies begin to look for the components that are unnecessary and nonfunctioning. They are selectively broken down and the nutrients they contain are utilized.

For example, Longo (Valter Longo, director of the USC Longevity Institute) measured T cells—the immune system’s defense against cancers and other diseases. At any one time, about a third of your T cells are old and nonfunctioning. So, they’re broken down and utilized for their nutritional content during the FMD.

When you’ve finished the FMD and are eating in modern feast mode, your stem cell processes quickly kick in and replace those missing T cells. So, you have a supercharged fully functioning immune system, perhaps for the first time. This may explain why cancer rates in animals fall after FMD, but there is another possibility.

Our mitochondria are essentially a symbiotic species of bacteria. These aliens within come entirely from your mother’s supply and have their own short circular DNA rings called plasmids. When they are working properly, they communicate with one another and the genome, creating the intelligent energy grid that powers our bodies.

Unlike T cells and other cells, mitochondria replicate through fission, splitting into additional mitochondria in the same way that bacteria replicate. This is called mitochondrial biogenesis and it is critical to life.

Like T cells, mitochondria get old. This is a major problem because mitochondria function like batteries. On one side of an inner membrane is an area of low ion concentration. On the other side is a higher concentration. This difference in ion levels powers the production of the energy molecules our bodies require: adenosine triphosphate.

The problem is that old mitochondria leak. Ions escape and result in the formation of free radicals or reactive oxygen species. Though free radicals play necessary and important biological roles, the unintended production of these molecules is responsible for a great deal of accelerated aging and disease.

Some scientists believe the health benefits of CRON are the result of clearing out old mitochondria through autophagy. Specifically, this process of recycling malfunctioning mitochondria for their nutrient value is called mitophagy.

This view is reinforced by research showing that calorie restriction activates the creation of new mitochondria, presumably to replace those that have been cleared out by mitophagy. This may also explain why short-term FMD does not lead to a loss of muscle tissue, which is an unfortunate side effect of long-term dieting.

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Spinal Cord Stem Cell Therapy Success!

This is wonderful news.  From Patrick Cox, via John Mauldin:

USC neuroscientists just announced truly historic news about BioTime’s (BTX) (*see disclosure below) stem cell platform. For the first time, a quadriplegic patient with complete injury to the spinal cord has substantially recovered.

I’ve told you this was coming, but I wanted to get more information to you today as news of this long-awaited breakthrough in neurobiology spreads through the media. In fact, the news is even better than the information released by the Keck Medical Center of USC would indicate… and you should understand why.

A press release of this nature must follow strict conventions enforced by the SEC and FDA as well as traditional scientific guidelines. For example, the news release describes this spinal cord treatment, an injection of stem cells into the area of spinal cord injury, as “a procedure that may improve neurological function.” Watch the following video, however, and the only reasonable conclusion you can make is that the procedure has already done that.

Watch the entire B-roll video that USC has made available to the media. B-roll video isn’t edited as a story, of course. Rather, it’s meant to supply short video snippets for reporters. Nevertheless, most of this material is worth watching as it provides more information than is available in the extremely reserved press release, which is available here.

Note that Charles Liu, MD, PhD, says that this procedure should change the way that scientists and doctors think about spinal cord injury, making it possible to aim for full functional recovery for the first time.

The part of the B-roll that really gets me is seeing Kris Boesen, the 21-year-old man who received the treatment, wipe tears from his eyes while expressing his gratitude toward the scientists who made it possible. Prior to receiving BioTime’s stem cell therapy, Boesen was completely paralyzed from the neck down and couldn’t even lift his hands to his face.

Note also that Boesen mentions that his recovery is ongoing—from the top of the spine downward. We don’t yet know if he will regain use of his lower body, but he reports positive indications.

The critical part of this story that is entirely left out of the press release, however, is that the patient would have made a far better recovery if he had been treated promptly. Boesen was injured on March 6 but could only communicate his desire to participate in the clinical trial through head movements. He had to undergo assisted breathing therapy before he could give verbal consent.

That means that about a month of serious scarification took place before 10 million AST-OPC1 cells were injected into Boesen’s cervical spine. Scarring is the enemy of nerve reattachment and the reason that this procedure is only being administered to patients who have recently suffered spinal cord injuries.

Nevertheless, those stem cells managed to sort out and self-assemble, connecting severed nerves correctly from the upper and lower sides of the injury. This is the true power of regenerative medicine. It doesn’t rely on the surgeon’s skill. It’s the patient’s genome and the biological wisdom inherent in pluripotent stem cells that affect the cure.

 

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