Sunday, April 14, 2013

Some real facts on Vaccinations

It's that time of year again when vaccinations are in the news. Down under in Oz, it's the start of the Flu vaccination "season" whilst up in the northern climes, there is an outbreak of Measles in Wales that is causing great concern because of the recent low vaccination rates amongst infants.

So what is it about vaccinations that seems to scare so many people? Are we starting to believe all those Zombie movies that tell of rogue scientists creating 'orrible vaccines that turn us all into dribbling maniacs?

Point one: Vaccines have become far "smarter" than they were a decade ago. Back in the last Millenia - think the 1990's - although there were fewer diseases covered in a single vaccine such as diptheria  tetanus or measles, the number of antigens that were actually injected into the infant was around several thousand. Today, we might have more diseases covered in each vaccination, but the actual number of antigens with those vaccines is down to 365! Smarter, safer and better targeted.

Point Two: Thimerosal. Many parents have been alarmed by media reports of the rise in Autism Spectrum Disorder and the possible link with Thimerosal, BUT the scientific facts differ radically from the inflammatory headlines screamed from certain Newspaper Headlines. Several large and reliable studies have shown that Thimerosal is not linked to Autism and despite that fact that Thimerosla was removed from vaccines back in 2001, the rate of Autism has continued to increase!

Point Three: I have patients who tell me that each year I give them a Flu shot, they get the flu! The Influenza vaccine doesn't contain any live virus so cannot cause an infection. The vaccine contains certain protein markers from 3 or 4 influenza strains and these are given to stimulate your body's immune system to be prepared for those viruses - should they appear in your community - so that they don't overwhelm it and "give you the flu" before your immune system is able to produce enough killer T cells and wipe them out! But we have to remember that there are approximately 100 influenza viruses continually circulating and mutating around the world and the Flu vaccination will only protect you against the three most likely and most unpleasant of those.

Vaccinations have saved millions of lives and will save millions more: low immunization levels not only put you and your family at risk, they endanger those in your community who are less able to fight off infection - those who are aged, the pregnant and those on chemotherapy. If you have a concern, then ask an expert and don't rely on the headlines in the newspaper or the latest rumour circulating on the web: your health is worth more than that.

Ampersands & angle brackets need to be encoded.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Bowels, Bugs and an unfolding mystery.

I've written a few blogs on the evolving, largely unexplored, universe that is our very own "Bio-sphere": those Gazillions of bacteria and microscopic organisms that call "yours truly" Home Sweet Home. Just to re-cap on how many there are: if you imagine your body as representing the total number of cells that you call "you", then the area below your left knee represents the number of human cells in your "body" and the rest represents the number of organisms that make up that svelte human being you call you!

But it's in the gloomy recesses of our bowels that mystery unfolds upon mystery. Now it appears that there could be links between what sorts of bacteria are in our bowels and perhaps a gut based immune imbalance that can lead to Diabetes. Then there are theories that certain types of gut bacteria may be linked to why people develop Obesity. Now there are suggestions that bugs in our bowels may feast on the red meat we consume and increase the risks of having a heart attack!

The red meat bit has been around for a long time as vegetarians and vegens have a lower heart attack risk than red meat eaters, and for a long time we have linked the fat in red meat with the increased risk - hence the push for less red meat, make sure it's lean and try to replace it with fish and chicken. But now scientists are saying that there is a chemical in red meat called Carnitine - also found in energy drinks by the way - that might be another link in the Cholesterol/red meat chain. Carnitine is found naturally in red meat and the more you eat then the more Carnitine gets in to your guts. Certain bacteria love the stuff too and create a metabolite (a cute word for chemical) that enhances our body's ability to make cholesterol in the blood stream more likely to stick to the wrong spots!

Yet again, it's early days but my take is that we all eat too much red meat (and urban legend has it that "they" pump our cattle full of antibiotics and chemicals anyway) and that we can get most of our protein and iron needs from other sources. So cut back the red meat to once a week, eat more fish, chicken and all those amazing fresh veggies that are in the supermarkets and stores ( and growing your own is even more fun!) and let those bugs in your bowel get on with the job the good Lord intended for them: and that's to make our lives healthier and happier!

Ampersands & angle brackets need to be encoded.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Questions and courage will help the Kids

I'm continuing with my theme of how to help young Moms in our communities, because no-one grows up in isolation and we can all play a part - however small - to help lift vulnerable kids out of the mire of despair and give them a chance of making something out of there lives.

Today the CDC reports that 1 in 5 teenage births is a "repeat" and that's a massive challenge for young people to take on and to survive! What that sort of information suggests to me is that it's not just a matter of better birth control - that's vitally important too, but even after decades of information about the pill and condoms only 22% of teenagers used effective methods of contraception - but's it also involves education, literacy, numeracy, parenting skills, having someone they can trust (and for many, that person may not actually be in the community where they currently live), learning the basics of budgeting money, good health information, basic dietary advice to fit their location and their income .. it's a long list and it needs to be accessible to the Mom wherever she is: and that's where the genius of social media may help us play a big part.

Question: Would you be prepared to offer simple, on-line support to a young Mom in your area?

I ask this because it does raise the issue of how much do "I" want to be involved: how can I protect my own identity: what if "they" get to depend on me too much, and "I've got my own problems to contend with"? All of these questions and more need to be asked and some answers found before any website is "switched on": and you, my dear friends, have some of the answers and many of the questions that need to be aired.

But you know what? Despite the tension between our desire to help and our worries about what might be asked of us, none of it compares to the probably life long misery, hurt and destruction that many of these young Moms and their kids face if we people of good will don't at least attempt to do something, however small or seemingly insignificant.

This project will take months/years to get "legs", but I have real faith that eventually something of worth will be created to help those who are most vulnerable. I hope some of you will join me in the journey.

Ampersands & angle brackets need to be encoded.