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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, June 25, 2013

Fairytale Told

Confession time dear girlfriends… yes it’s Tuesday and I feel the need to spill. Who needs a shrink when you have the Internet I always say? I’m worried that in my older years I may becoming a little bit cynical.

Don’t laugh out loud…. I realize I am not the eternal optimist of our generation. I do have my hopeful qualities nonetheless…. I have faith that my perfect outfit is just around the corner.

Still somehow I have come to believe a fairytale is that bullshit story we tell ourselves in order to go to sleep at night. (Personally, I like to fall asleep to the sound of reality television playing in the background).

Remember when we were kids and the fairytale reigned supreme. Remember our role models growing up? Cinderella and Snow White and Rapunzell?

These bitches messed us up big time.

Good old Cinderella works her ass off for a family unit that treats her like a slave and one night POOF she goes to a ball in a great dress, leave her shoe at the door and walks away two days later as a princess.

Snow White cleaned up after 7 little men in what can only be considered a Disney version of a frat house. One day she meets a witch who poisons her (literally) but is rescued by a prince and with one kiss hits the mother load.

Rapunzel was locked in a castle with the need for a deep condition and sure enough she let her hair down and her world became magical.

Were these the women we were supposed to emulate? Work hard; suffer for the cause and one day your prince will come?

Remember the saying “Shoot for the moon and if you fall, at least you will catch a star’? Who in their right mind tells a child such horseshit?

Thereafter my bedtime fairytales became a series of aspiration indices. I remember from then on instantly thinking that the world owed me big time.

If I worked hard and paid my dues…. The world would stand and deliver. I studied hard in school and made sure I aced most tests. When you are in grade school doing exceptionally well on a scholastic endeavor is really not the sport of champions.

Let’s be honest- as long as you have a decent memory and are not into drugs and alcohol- junior high is pretty much a sure thing. Apart from my big hair, bad fashion choices and chubby misdemeanors, grade 7-10 were mine for the taking.

Years passed and I went on going to bed each night thinking that life was mine for the taking and I should in fact get a return on my investment whatever that may be.

It seemed like a logical thing in my mind- if I tried my best and worked hard and did what I was told…. Life would pay me back big time.

And then I learned that the world did NOT owe me and that sometimes…. Despite our best intentions we shoot for the moon and fall on our ass.

Case and point: I turned 16 and went for my drivers test. I had read all the manuals and practiced the drivers test until I was blue in the face. I was ready to be a licensed driver. I could parallel park for Canada. I was number one in my Drivers’ Ed class. I was the best student driver they had ever seen.

I failed my test on the first try. I hit the pylons trying to parallel park and was immediately ejected from the contest so to speak. I was crushed. Life was shit.

I shot for the moon and caught…. Shit. No stars, nothing. The world had officially let me down.

Yes, this was my right of passage and little did I know at the time that my first failure of many would not leave as big a scar on my psych as I thought.

Now a days I am faced with the constant realization that life sometimes does not make sense. Good decent people get really bad cancers and Snooky has her own book deal. Enough said.

I don’t mean to burst your optimistic bubbles… I do still want us all to dream big. I just think it’s time once in a while for us to face the fact that sometimes- our dreams are just that…. DREAMS.

Look- I would love to be a fashion stylist. I would love to spend my days sitting in the front rows of designer shows from Paris to Milan. But try as I might the closest I am going to get to New York City Fashion week is drinking a skinny latte while reading the fashion section of Sunday’s New York Times.

Once we learn that not everyone gets what she deserves in life we can in fact soldier on. I think it’s okay to dream as long as I realize it’s only just that- it’s me in my head and not me planning ahead.

Do remember Barbie? The bitch had everything? She had a great body and a perfect boyfriend and she looked good in polyester sparkles? Hell she even had a pink camper van. Did I want to BE Barbie? Not really…. But for the hour or so each night that I dressed that blonde bombshell up and pranced her around my basement- I was okay with a world where a broad like Barbie just did not exist.

Back then my expectations were suspended and I could just dream.

I wonder when it all went wrong…. When we no longer just wanted to play with the blonde in the sequence ball gown- instead we got it into our heads that we wanted to BE the blonde in the sequence ball gown.

Remember how I told you I failed my drivers’ test the first time out? Three months later- I took the test again and passed. Twenty-five years later- I hate driving and would prefer a driver to a license any day.

As study published in the New York Times in 2010 showed that 70% of women were disillusioned with their sex lives, 30% were disillusioned with their relationships and 45% were disillusioned with motherhood. 65% of women were disenchanted with their jobs and career… there is a unity in what we want to do over, no?

Should we tell our daughters to just settle in or should we still encourage them to “dream big”? I wonder. I have two nieces whom I love to death and I am always telling them that they can be whatever they want to. Am I doing them a big disservice? Should I instead tell them to balance their expectations with their level of commitment taking into account their own limitations from a socioeconomic standpoint?

What the Fuck? I catch myself saying those words out loud; dear girlfriends and I want to smack my own mouth.

Here I am working it through. Most of the time this blog is for my cyber sisters… to learn and be entertained… Today this blog’s for the little girl in all of us who lost her way along the way… for the one who forgot to dress up last week just because she could.

For even I, on this moist cynical of Tuesdays, I have learned that I should still dream. I can still put on a great pair of Dior boots after a bad day and walk around the house and pretend I have somewhere fabulous and important to go. I can forget about matching my expectations with my reality and I can suspend belief for long enough to know that although that skirt is not age or work appropriate…. I am Cinderella and my time is now.

Thanks for listening to my rant, my sisters of mercy. If you will excuse me- I must fetch old Barbie out of storage and go dwell in the possibilities.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Meditations for New World

Lately my girlfriends I must say that my head is full. Really. My brain indeed hurts. It’s been a long few months and well, my sisters, I’m feeling the need , somedays to just shut off.

Likely some of you indeed know what I mean? Don’t some of my girlfriends out there ever feel the need to quite the voices in your head? Fret not- we are not talking the kind voices that tell me to do irrational things- no, these are more the voices that ride a fine line between the mundain and the things that need to be done.

Some suggested I take up Yoga- an hour class of stretching in order to quite the mind. Unfortunately my sisters- I have never been a fan of Yoga. As many of my girlfriends know- I am more of a run the sea wall kind of girl than stretch it till it hurts….. as far as aligning my CHAKRAS? It’s best that they run free.

Besides in the midst of training for a half Iron Man…. Who has the time for a 90 minute yoga experience? Sure it might be good to stretch it all out and blah, blah, blah. Yes, it hurts just to write it down, never mind register for a class.

And so in the spirit of a quite mind- I decided to take up meditation.

Yes, meditation. This is where you pick a quite place in your home close the lights and just breathe.

I know. Those of you who know me might be in a bit of shock. Me, Meditate? As in just be still and let my insides quite? Could it be done you ask? Where would she find the time? Where would she find the space? Can she even sit still for a few minutes without medication on board?

Trust me my sisters- I pondered these

And so I went in search of the perfect steps to learn how to meditate in 5 steps or less.

Step 1:
Set an alarm. According to the interweb (how did we learn before cyberspace?) I am to chose a quiet place and set an alarm.

Step 2:
Pick a quiet friendly place in the home that is dark and happy. I have chosen my…. Closet. Screw Disneyland- THIS is my happiest place on earth. It’s small, intimate and my happiest times are often spent here. No judgement sisters- she who is without flaws will cast the first open toe pump.

Step 3:
Sit in a comfortable position. I am training for a Half Iron Man. No position is comfortable. My hips are killing me. I lie flat on my back in a closet in the dark. Yes…. This is comical.

Step 4:
Breathe and quite the mind. This sounds easy. It is not. My mind wanders to things to do, missed deadlines and what I should eat for breakfast. But I continue to push all these thoughts aside and quiet the mind.

Step 5:
Breathe and wait for the alarm to go off.

And so, to summarize,  the first day of my meditation went something like this:

Set the alarm on my iphone for 5 minutes. Settle in to my closet (aka- my happiest place on earth) closed the door shut the lights and lit a candle. Sat on the floor crossed legged. 15 seconds later- blew the candle out- the smell and light were distracting. Ahhhh much better. Now in the complete darkness. My hips are killing me. My hip flexors are screaming. Shhhh I tell myself- quite your mind. Quite your mind. It is now a battle between my mind and my hips. I uncross my legs, lie flat on the floor and let my mind and my legs shut up.

It was one entire week of meditation before I gave up the ghost. Make no mistake- I am sure it is a completely noble practice- but like many things in the world- it is not for me.

I gave meditation 10 good days before I realized that it was really just another thing for me to do. No, this practice did not enrich my soul and no I was not more productive in my daily life. Here’s the thing…. I’m not convinced there was a good deal wrong with my inner quite before I started the whole process. Sure- I’m high  energy and yes, I find t a challenge to sit still but if I am okay with it and my life is not out of limits than what is indeed the harm. Physically I’m in great health and mentally I am likely as neurotic as the next sister- so when it all comes out in the wash? Nobody gets hurt- if I don’t sit in my closet for 5 minutes every morning and try to shut off my brain.

A study published in 2007 in the American Journal of Hypertension showed that indeed meditation can be used to lower blood pressure. The study was  a meta-analysis of nine randomized controlled trials looking at the effects of transcendental meditation and the effects on blood pressure in participants. Overall patients who participated in daily meditation in these studies had an average systolic reduction in blood pressure of 4.7 mmHg (range of 7.4-1.9 mmHg reduction)  and an average diastolic reduction  of 3.2 mmHg (with a  range of 5.4-1.3 mmHg).

The study looked at the effects of meditation in a population of patient with borderline hypertension. The studies did not examine the effects in patients without high blood pressure nor in those with hypertension. Criticisms of these studies have cited that there indeed was a bias in term of how the studies were conducted,in that it would be hard to standardize a person’s meditation experience.

As for mindfulness meditation which is what I indeed tried? According to a review published in the British Medical Journal in 2004, controlled trials of mindful meditation have not used true controls in their studies and so specific effects of meditation in this form can not be isolated.

There you have it my sisters…. A little bit of evidence one way and not so much in the other.  I can meditate or I can use the evidence to sit on my ass in my closet and just look at my shoes…. There you have it girlfriends. Meditate on that.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Sweet Position.

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.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sunnier Times

My sisters, summer is upon us. And with a change of season comes a change of closet and yes, another set of controversies. This one is all about the sun. Or shall I say, the sunscreen.  In my pursuit of larger brain capacity I have been reading up about this little this little concept called ULTRAVIOLET Rays. I wanted to know what indeed was my SPF (Sun protection factor) protecting and whether SPF 50 was indeed too much of a good thing. 

It turns out that SPF in a suntan lotion only covers the UVB rays of the sun and not the UVA rays. Melanoma is chiefly caused by UVB rays, while non-melanoma skin cancer are more closely related to UVA rays. 

And then, amongst my knowledge quest came the controversy. There indeed is a suspicion out there that sunscreen indeed may be linked to skin cancers. Has the world gone completely bat-shit, I thought? Black is white? Left is right? Wrong is right? What the ....? 

Twenty five years ago I worshipped the sun as much as any eighties-child with a bottle of baby oil and a backyard. There we lay out on fold away cots made of multicoloured vinyl straps purchased from our local K-Mart. Coppertone coco butter scented oil poured as freely as oil from the Gulf as we waited for our pigments to turn and our lives to change.

I know now that my moment in the sun was indeed not a good idea. I realize my baby oil was a bad thing- not just in principle but in action. As we grow older in life we do indeed realize that certain life choices are not the best ones. Could the same be said for my now SPF 50? 

Make no mistake, I acknowledge as a doctor that indeed nothing is black and white. We all indeed must weigh the risks and  benefits. I do think when it comes to certain schools of thought- we've gone a bit, shall we say, off the deep end of common sense and jumped right into crazy town. 

It's no longer about simple protection from the sun. Now, products have to be hypo-allergenic, water resistant and fast-absorbing, infused with antioxidants, with high photo stability and specially engineered with patented ultraviolet absorbers to guard against a broad spectrum of harmful rays.

Meanwhile, environmental advocates are increasingly warning that a significant number of sunscreens also contain a host of risky ingredients that could potentially cause cancer or other serious health effects.

Part of the uncertainty stems from the growing availability of products that boast protection from both ultraviolet B and ultraviolet A rays. Traditionally, sunscreens have offered protection against UVB rays, which cause the skin to burn and indeed cause melanoma. 

Interestingly enough the SPF factor does not correlate with the amount of time you can spend out in the sun. For example- SPF 15 protects against about 94% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 protects against 98%. As for SPF 60? That's about 99% anything higher is just more chemical. 

UVA rays were once thought not to be of concern. Current science indeed shows that UVA rays 
penetrate deeper into the skin and can cause premature aging, as well as increase the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.

Sunscreens guard against sunburns these two common forms of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC), and several sunscreen ingredients protect against tumor development in photocarcinogenicity tests in mice. 

However, there is some evidence, largely arising from correlational studies and in vitro experiments, that particular sunscreen ingredients (such as oxybenzone, benzophenone, octocrylene, or octyl methoxycinnamate) may be linked to increased risks of malignant melanoma, a rarer but more deadly form of skin cancer. It has also been linked to Vitamin D deficiency.

Two small studies have shown that Malignant melanoma has been found more frequently in sunscreen users compared to non-users in some studies. However a large scale met-analysis of 9067 patients from 11 case–control studies found no association between sunscreen use and development of malignant melanoma.

Further studies have suggested that sunscreens block the natural warnings and adaptations mediated by UVB, but allow damage from UVA to go unchecked. These claims were bullshit and essentially not supported in three separate metaanalysis in the Annals of Epidemiology.

Overall the only evidence to correlate a risk of melanoma and suncreen use is circumstantial and there are a few rat models. That being said the mice they used in those studies were specifically engineered to develop cancer.

In 2008, a clinical study showed that the application of sunscreen prevents SCC, BCC and actinic keratosis. The study included 60 transplant patients who received immunosuppression, a group of persons with a particularly high risk to develop skin cancer. The patients were very compliant, using sunscreen 5.6 days per week on average. The control group was recruited retrospectively and consisted of 60 transplant patients equally matched for age, skin type and kind of transplant organ. The control group had been instructed to use sunscreen as well, but were not provided with cost-free sunscreen and showed very poor compliance.

After 24 months, the sunscreen group showed a 53% reduction of actinic keratosis, while the control group showed an increase of 38%. The difference in the development of SCC and BCC were also highly significant. Non-significant results included a slight decrease of herpes and warts and a slight increase in acne in the sunscreen group

My head is spinning. After reviewing it all I think it is yet another bullshit marketing ploy to get people to use "natural sunscreen" or confuse the public. Remember.... Grey is fabulous when it come to fall fashion and morality.... Grey areas are bullshit when it come to health promotion.

Here's my solutions.... Put on some CLOTHES damn it. YES! My reason for living saves the day again. I always wanted to know that my closet would protect me from cancer.... and here it is. Now... can I right it off as a health tax benefit?