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Why Tuesday?

The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Scent of A Woman

It is summer in Vancouver and the city is a tourist haven. My apartment building has become a high-class hostel for any tourist who can afford to shell out a couple grand a month for a place to stay.

You should know that as a rule, some tourists (you know who you are) are not big fans of deodorant. In fact the elevator has become the perfumed equivalent of a Paris Metro.

What is with the body odour thing? Is it like a Survivor episode where people can’t smell themselves because they’ve been stinking for so long they’ve adapted? I understand that during Henry VIII reign, the king’s court smelled like a shit hole. Women fainted from the stench, the corsets and the general lack of oxygen. Bathing was done about once a week at best. People adapted because essentially everyone smelled... to varying degrees. That was then and this is now. Corsets and beheadings be gone. With democracy comes soap and water.

As I sit to write this very entry I am in a café in Vancouver’s West End and a couple has taken the table next to me. They each have a set of dreadlocks that by their very scented nature have not been washed since the early 90’s. When they lay their heads down on pillows at night, do they fall asleep or just pass out from the fumes?

I know I am being cruel, but as a doctor, I have had my nose near a lot of nasty… this was not good. This was bad body smell…. I was trying to drink my coffee and They were ruining my buzz.

The good news is that this café has a lovely bakery attached to it and now smells like a combination of bad feet and cinnamon buns. I had always wanted to try one of said pastries and now am officially off carbohydrates for at least another month.

I am not suggesting we all visit the Jo Malone Counter at Saks or Neimans or Holts and find our “signature scent”, but a little modicum of deodorant, hell even soap? Is it too much to ask for people to NOT go around smelling like they are living out of their cars?

I realize my cyber sisters that some of you have now stopped to smell yourselves…. I know you’ve put the laptop down for but a moment to take a whiff of your own “pits” just to assess the “state of the nation”. Let me expand your horizons with knowledge whilst you sample the fragrance counter.

Sweat is truly odourless. That is FRESH sweat. IN fact our skin produces two main forms of moisture…. Sweat and sebum. Each are produced by sweat and sebaceous glands respectively and designed to cool the body down and lubricate the skin. Both don’t have a scent about them. It is the bacteria that live on our skin that break down said fluids into other chemicals that in fact cause the individual ranker that can be savored in my apartment elevator.

The more bacteria on skin… the more the smell. Why do arm pits and certain cracks and crevices smell worse than the back of your hand? Simple…. The more bacteria, the more chemical breakdown of sebum and sweat and thus the more pungent the body part. Pure chemistry my dear girlfriends….

Furthermore, certain foods, stress hormones and certain disease states can also alter both bacterial composition and odour levels of the skin.

Several studies have looked at human body odour and shown it to be similar to one’s fingerprint. The bacteria present on each of our bodies are slightly different in all of us. It goes to reason, if we have different bacterial flora then we’ll wind up with a different scent once these “multicultural” critters go to work breaking down our own genetically different fluids. Yes, each of us is our own smelly little snowflake….

Several studies have shown that women smell differently based on their menstrual cycles. One such study showed a distinct correlation between human body odour during a woman’s menstrual cycle and their attractiveness to men.

The study, published by the Royal Society of London took 29 women and had them wear the same t-shirt for three consecutive nights during different stages of their menstrual cycle. First they wore the t-shirt for three nights while menstruating. They then wore another t-shirt for three nights during their ovulating phase and a third t-shirt for three nights during the luteal (post-ovulation and prementruation) phase.

Independent male counterparts smelled the shirts and gave “feedback” about which ones were most attractive.

In 26 of the 29 shirts the men voted the ovulation phase as the most attractive. Be advised, sisters, these boys did not know which phase was what and the t-shirts were apparently stored in some super top-secret smell preserving chamber….

You know how particular the British can be…

Silly study? But of course…. But hell it sure made me say, “hmmmm”.

It also made me get up from this posting and immediately shower, talc and spritz. Lather rinse repeat, ladies…. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Anger Management

I rarely read the newspaper. This is a fact of which I am NOT proud. I realize I should be more well informed and that the world will go on around me if I am not careful. However, should I be ashamed to say that I much prefer looking at the pictures?

Perhaps it is due to countless years of schooling. Perhaps it is due to the fact that I learned to read at the age of six and have pretty much been doing it full time ever since. Is it so bad to not want to to add a daily newspaper to the barrage of information I am faced with daily?

Besides in my experience, the news has become ever more a parade of opinions as opposed to facts. So you can imagine my dismay when I found myself in a departure lounge at the airport stuck with a Globe and Mail in my lap.

In my defense, I was lured in by the fabulous colour photo of Marc Jacobs fall line strewn across the front page of the STYLE section. Flipping to said section of the paper involved parading past an article that, well, quite frankly, just pissed me off. Just when I thought it would be safe to read a newsprint…

According to my friends at the Globe, there is in fact a clinic in downtown Toronto that charges $100 for intravenous vitamin infusions.

Yes dear sisters, you heard it here by way of my need to “stay informed”. This is clearly the last time I will fall down the headline rabbit hole.

IN the province of Ontario there are approximately 856 Naturopath’s of which 156 are trained in Intravenous Therapy. This means you go into their offices, and have an IV cannula inserted into your vein after which you are hooked up to a “cocktail” of saline and vitamins.

I kid you not that the article goes on to interview… get this an MTV “V.J.” who touts the benefit of said “treatment”. His testimony can not be denied…. Yes, dear girlfriends, after 45 minutes of IV vitamin “whatever” he was truly a new man at this year’s music awards. WTF?

To add insult to my rant…. There is a photo above said story of a couple hooked up to said IV’s in barka loungers. He is checking his Ipod and she is…. Wait for it… Breast Feeding. Enough said. Motherfucker.

Intravenous Mineral therapy according the the scientific evidence is…. Bullshit at best. Firstly many of these minerals and vitamins in higher dosages have not shown any clinical benefit and secondly, our bodies were not made to absorb minerals and vitamins in this manner.

One of the claims of the therapy is that it allows for a convenient way to “get all the necessary vitamins at once”. Instead of “lugging around” 18 bottles of multivitamins you can have all your cake…. And injected too!

Let’s rebut… Who the hell needs or even takes 18 multivitamins. To date there are only two studies supporting additional vitamin or mineral ingestion. Vitamin D (1000mg per day) has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer in women according to one large scale placebo controlled Canadian trial. In fact a recent position paper by the Canadian Osteoporosis foundation has suggested we increase our consumption of vitamin D to at least 800 mg per day and up to 2000 mg per day for people over the age of 50.

Calcium in women over 50 has been shown to improve bone health in a recommended dosage of 1500mg of elemental calcium per day.

A recent Danish study of almost 4000 senior showed a 25% reduction in development of Dementia in people who consumed 18 mg/day of Vitmain E.

Let’s do the math….. this equated to 6 ounces of Salmon, 20 almonds, a glass of milk, a yogurt and a multivitamin daily.

If you are too busy to feed your body properly then give the body back. Someone else can surely use a perfectly good specimen. A one hundred dollar IV mineral therapy “secret sauce” in a downtown Toronto clinic that is endorsed by an MTV Video peronality and a busy PR agent is just, well… both lazy and quite frankly yet another symbol of all that is wrong in the world.

And this- my cyber sisters is why I don’t read the newspaper. Although it is great fodder for my weekly medical rants… it is quite honestly not worth the aggravation. I am not a fan of Naturopaths (let it be known) and this IV therapy is yet another source of my strife. Between the cost ($100 per shot) and the lack of scientific support on safety and efficacy I can’t help myself.

Where is the evidence? Since when did an MTV personality become the scientific source of this “snake oil” come “chemotherapy”. Stick to introducing Lady Gaga’s new video and I will sing only in the shower.

As for the Globe ad Mail? One might say I am now more well informed. I, would argue that I am just a little pissed off.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

High Art

Living in Vancouver has many a benefit. Vancouverites truly love their city. Having lived here for five years, I too have begun to drink the Kool-Aid. The city is veritable urban village. It truly is the perfect blend of the natural and the artificial enough to keep anyone amused. In what other place on earth can you find a beach, an organic food market, a five star restaurant, an Art Gallery and a Holt Renfrew all within a twenty block radius?

Last week I decided to truly “take in” my town. The day was perfect. You know, those amazing summer days when all is right with the world. And so, I spent the good part of a Thursday afternoon last week at the beach.

Here is what I learned….

Number one: Aside from a huge tourist boom in this city, not many people work on a perfect sunny Thursday in Vancouver. The beach was packed at one o’clock in the afternoon.

Number two: People who go to the beach on a weekday afternoon watch a great deal of MTV and model their fashion after any one of its reality television series. I am not exaggerating when I state that there were more "Jersey Shore" look-a-likes at Kitsilano Beach than there were on the New Jersey banks of the Atlantic Ocean. People who were not dressed like Snooky or Jwoww looked like Tila Tequila or the next cast of the Real World. Suffice to say, this was NOT your mother’s West Coast Beach experience.

Finally: Tattoos are an impulse purchase.

Have I missed something? Since when did tattoos become an impulse purchase? I’m not talking about the body art that you spend hours constructing in your head…. Carefully searching books and the Internet for the perfect image. You now, the iconic graphic that will define you and summarize your belief system in one picturesque display. No, tattoos are no longer chosen as a statement of one’s being. They are no longer a symbol of something we’ve lost or hope to gain…. Instead they have become a cartoon of what I can only assume is a 16 year old’s bad fly by the seat of your pants decision.

There was once a time when body art was truly an expression of the sacred. There was an art form to it, rooted in history and skill. Today it has become as much of a personal expression as a package of gum. You walk into a tattoo parlour, pick a symbol of the wall and have it inked onto your skin. What the hell?

Where’s the contemplation, the thought, the artistic expression?

Does that tribal half sleeve really say something about you? Are you even Gaelic or did the Gaelic cross just look cool? How many bad bullshit butterfly tattoos are there on ankles across this nation? Do their owner even like butterflies?

There I sat people watching perfectly sculpted bodies all along Kits Beach and all I could think was…. If I had a body that great, I would not write all over it. One such perfect couple sat next to me. He could have easily been in a Fireman’s calendar and here silicon breasts were perfect. She could not help but share with me that her husband had her initials tattooed over his heart. I leaned over her to inspect a perfect man’s “chest art”. He had a beautiful chest. It was lovely. He was well muscled and toned with amazing skin and not a hair on him.

That’s where it ends. For across the whole left side of his perfect in black ink were the initials “C. L. B.” each letter, easily the size of my fist. I many might think this to be a romantic gesture. I do not share this sentiment. I think he took a perfectly good chest and turned it into a high school art project. It was like graffiti on the Chrystler Building. I was less than impressed. Could he not have just bought his wife a lovely piece of jewelry and expressed his love in another art form?

A cross sectional study looking at why people get tattoos was conducted out of the University of Texas and published in the Journal of adolescent Health in 2004. The study looked at a cross-sectional sample of more than 2000 adolescents from eight states in the USA. More than half the teenagers surveyed (55%) expressed an interest in tattooing. Blood bourne illnesses and permanent markings were the chief reasons why kids did not get a tattoos.

More than 10% of those surveyed (ages 15-18) had body ink and responded with their experiences. Tattooing was frequently done around the 9th grade and as early as 8 years of age; over half (56%) reported academic grades of As and Bs. The study indicated that adolescents who want a tattoo will obtain one, regardless of money, regulations, or risks.

A further study conducted in Germany was designed to obtain data on the incidence and relationship of psychological factors to tattooing and body piercing from a large and representative sample of German citizens.

The study examined 2036 German citizens ages 14-93 and their association between body markings (tattoos and piercings) and their quality of life and mental and physical well being. The prevalence of tattooing in the general German population are 8.5%. Individuals aged between 14 and 24 years display the highest rate of tattoos (females, 21%; males, 17%). Positive reasons for tattooing among participants included being motivated by fashion and the urge to fit in with one's peers. There was a correlation between tattooing and a higher rate of unemployment as well as reduced social integration, and increased sensation-seeking behavior.

Attitudes of health care providers and medical and nursing students towards tattooed adults and adolescents were examined in another study from the University of Texas. Womens' attitudes were consistently less favourable than those of men, especially towards tattooed professional women. Attitudes towards tattooed adolescents were generally less positive than attitudes towards the adult groups. Further studies have shown that attitudes of health care professionals DO impact the quality of care they deliver.

I could not help but wonder if I would have treated any one of these human canvases along Kits Beach differently had they presented themselves to my office. I have had countless patients with body art and I can honestly confess that it has not impacted the quality of care I deliver.

Hell, when I am listening to a chest or feeling a liver, I quite like a little art work to break up the day.

That being said, I miss the days when spending hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars on permanent body marking meant something. Where have all the Japanese Koi or Jericho Roses gone?

In my office, or in an emergency room, a blue bruise of a name or a yellow tweety bird will be treated with respect and kindness. I’m not rushing out to have a shoe inked onto my skin any time soon. I will however spend many a day at the beach this summer judging the art work on display….

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sweetness and Light

I’ve been doing some research lately my dear cyber sisters and I have concluded and yes, you may quote me…. High Fructose corn syrup is a motherfucker.

Now I realize this statement is quite bold and somewhat brash, but the truth often is. Let me mix no words here. Let me fully assert my opinion - “grey” is a fabulous colour- but the only place is belongs is on a PRADA summer runway. Fences were made to keep people in or out- not to sit on. PICK A SIDE....

High Fructose corn syrup or as many of you may now refer to it ; “the motherf*&ker” is also called glucose-fructose syrup in Canada. It comprises a group of corn syrups that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert glucose into fructose and then has been mixed with pure corn syrup. (essentially the sweetening equivalent of an "acrylic blend")

The most widely used form of high fructose corn syrup is HFCS-55 which as the name suggests is 55% fructose, 45% glucose. This form is used in most soft drinks and sugar drinks. HFCS-42 (again 42% fructose) is used in most baked goods, while HFCS-90is used in most candies.

The benefit of this Mother of a molecule is it is cheap and sweetens like no other. Import taxes on foreign sugar have raised the price of sucrose, while the government in the US and Canada have offered a significant amount of subsidies to corn growers. This amounts to HFCS being a relatively cheap alternative to beet sugar or other forms of sucrose.

High fructose corn syrup was first produced by Marshall and Moffat in 1957 and was mass produced for industry in Japan in the late 1960's. From 1975-1985 it was as common in processed foods as a Madonna remix at a gay pride parade.

And now, my cyber sisters... a lesson in sweetness....

Cane sugar and beet sugar are essentially pure sucrose. Sucrose is a disaccharide- meaning it is composed of two monosacharides (glucose and fructose) put together with a relatively weak bond. Think of sucrose as a fabulous power suit, while fructose is this season's boyfriend jacket. Both do the job- but for different occasions.

Honey has a glucose/fructose ratio very similar to HFCS and in fact the motherfucker has been used to "stretch" honey during production.

Make no mistake, sugar is sugar regardless of the source. Cane, Beet or Honey if eaten in large quantities will still make your ass look big. It does not matter if the sugar source is a rainforest in Peru, a sugar beet in Saskatchewan or the product of a bunch of honey bees vomitting for queen and country.

However, there appears to be more to the High Frcutose Corn Syrup than just the sugar itself....In fact, recent studies have shown just what an asshole this sweetner really is.

A study published in the Journal of Nephrology on July 1, 2010, looked at HFCS consumption in 4528 American adults. The study was sponsored by the National Institute of Health and found taht those inidvuals drinking more thhan 75 grams of fructose per day (2.5 sugary drinks per day) had the highest rate of high blood pressure. This study controlled for all other risk factors for hypertension including age, obesity, family history and smoking.

A further study out of the University of Colorado in 2007 looked at the effects of fructose on certain metabolic factors in otherwise healthy men. Two groups of men (12 in each group) were fed two different diets for 4 weeks. One group had a diet rich in fructose the other rich in glucose. The high fructose group had a significant increase in their blood pressure, abdominal fat and insulin levels compared to the glucose group after only four weeks.

One of the theories as to why frucotse is so toxic is that it breaks down in the body to uric acid, which in high levels increases blood pressure and insulin levels and cardiovascular risk in the body.

Interestingly, fruit in its raw form does not have the same effect as fructose. The theory behind this is that the fibre and Vitamin C in fruit counteract the effect of fructose.

Look, I know that that fructose is not the only thing to blame here In fact I have never been a fan of just holding one culprit accountable. I like to blame multiple people and have them share the resposibility for the world's current state of affairs. Last week it was the skinny jean, the week before it was BP oil, next week is really a crap shoot. Who knows who will disappoint me in the next 7 days?

But for now, I have raged a war on all fruit juices, jams, canned soups and cereals. Our pantry is now down to one single cupboard which contains mostly spices and a few cans of tuna (more on mercury at a later date).

No it won't solve the world's problems but at least I can sit on my high horse for another few hours and feel a sense of self importance that no sugar rush could even hope to compare to.... so it is written, so it shall be done.