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Monday, November 01, 2010

Ruinous "Health Capital" Spending...

About six years ago I realized I was getting old, at least I thought that was the problem.

I was in my late 40's and I felt like age was catching up on me: not as much energy, not thinking as clearly as I felt I used too, over weight, stressed, digestive woes, teeth/mouth problems, the usual litany of minor health annoyances associated with 50.

I had always been physically active jogging a couple of miles a day.  Exercise had been the health mantra of my past.


You had guys like Jim Fixx out there running for health - until he died of a massive heart attack while jogging.  So while exercise is good its seems its not good enough or "the right thing" on its own.

Until this point in my life I had always thought a lot about nutrition, about how your body had to work, about all the myriad of health news you see on the TV, on the web, and in books and magazines.  What did it all mean, how did it work together, how doctors dismissed things like the cause of ulcers in the face of irrefutable evidence...?

But I hadn't done much about it for myself...  until about five years ago.

There's a lot of talk about the plaque bacteria in your mouth and how its related to your heart and plaque in your arteries.  This is something we are all told to worry about and its very bad.  And there's the usually litany of "cures"...  So, as one example of taking charge of my own health, I started to look a little deeper into this.

From WebMD: "There are a lot of studies that suggest that oral health, and gum disease in particular, are related to serious conditions like heart disease," says periodontist Sally Cram, DDS, a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association.

Now you can read this article and thousands more about this topic.  No one knows what the connection is, does oral hygiene somehow affect your heart, does your heart health affect your oral hygiene, all that sort of stuff.

But I began to think about it (feeling old and tired)...  Maybe both are related but through a different mechanism.  Say nutrition?  Could plaque in general be a symptom both in your heart and in your mouth of a nutritional problem?

Certainly I had my share of plaque on my teeth over the years. I wondered if it could that be affecting my arteries?  I had read some comments from Linus Pauling written years ago about vitamin C related to this as well subject as modern commentary from others such as this.  Pauling thought that vitamin C was a cure-all.  If it sounds too good to be true it probably is so his ideas per se not something I believe.  On the other hand what about it being more a "part" of a large solution?

I began to think that perhaps plaque build up in general is a result of poor nutrition.  Not only a symptom of low vitamin C but of other nutrients as well.  This seemed to make sense.  The modern diet is lacking in nutrients and doctors would never imagine something as simple a "proper nutrition" would affect heart disease or mouth problems in a similar way.  After all, there isn't much money to be made...

I did some research an found (summarized well in the previous link) that the minimum RDA for vitamin C is fairly low, like 65mg; just enough to prevent scurvy.  Further, unlike nearly all other mammals humans cannot manufacture vitamin C on their own - dogs, cats, lions, tigers, bears, all the rest can.

My clever wife had been independently researching "sub-clinical disease" during this time.  A sub-clinical case of a disease is one where you're just under or over the threshold of the requirement for the disease such that you don't quite have it yet in the medical sense.  So imagine if your body need, say 100mg of vitamin C, after all, not everyone is the same, but you took in only 90mg each day.  You could effectively be sick with something like scurvy and not really know it.

What would this do to you?

More research revealed that people have been thinking this is a problem for the last 75 years or so (from the JAMA in 1934): "The rapidly growing information with respect to the nature of the so-called deficiency diseases includes evidence that there are many instances of latent avitaminosis or subacute disorder not commonly recognized. Obviously, persons who give no conspicuous evidence of deficiency maladies may nevertheless be victims of the effects of less than optimal or of minimal necessary intake of essential dietary components . . ."

I further wondered if exercise, without additional nutrients, was actually a problem.  As you sweat out all sorts of necessary chemicals your body becomes further deficient (no, Gatorade doesn't really solve the problem - maybe the original formulations did back from the 60's - but I doubt very much that's what's on the self at the supermarket today.)

Jumping ahead to today...

For the last five (count'em 5) years I have stuck with exercise followed immediately by a moderate does of vitamins, C as well as others.

During this time the plaque on my teeth has virtually disappeared (no, I didn't change to a magic toothpaste or do anything else significant teeth-wise).  In addition, by age 40 or so I was getting periodic sores in my mouth - tender areas on my gums - they'd last for a while a go away.  I could never figure out what was causing them.  Now I no longer have them.

Some (not all) early symptoms of scurvy (from buzzle):

    * Muscle and joint pain
    * Fatigue and lethargy
    * Nausea
    * Irritability
    * Spongy, swollen and bleeding gums
    * Dry hair and skin
    * Wounds taking a long time to heal

Know anyone with these problems?  Know any one taking tons of medications, anti-depressants, things like that and still having these problems?  I wonder if they are simply malnourished?

I have also come to believe that missing or bad nutrition coupled with exercise is actually worse than just bad nutrition.

I believe I was literally starving my body of proper nutrition and making it worse by exercising.

I plan to write much more about this - vitamin C for me was only the tip of the iceberg.

There is also the issue of vitamin absorption as well - how much to you really absorb, do you take the vitamins in a way that makes them readily absorbable by your body, etc. 

I now believe that people in the modern world are literally slowing dying of all manner of malnutrition related diseases - we are malnourished - like the starving children in Africa we heard about as youths. This is totally unnecessary and wrong.

As you get older it gets worse.  No one goes after an elderly person to "eat their fruits, take their vitamins, ..." so many don't or can't.

Worst of all - Medicare doesn't care about your nutrition.

So my "health capital" was literally being squandered without being replaced.  Hopefully I have stemmed the outflow and have been rebuilding my health as an asset for the future.

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