Apple-icious – An apple a day can help keep you trim, strong and young.

Apples offer fairly amazing health benefits. As folk wisdom, the term, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” has long reflected this fact, but modern science now fills in intriguing details. As it turns out, that apple a day is boosting your health by keeping you lean, by making you stronger and by slowing aging.

The apple can serve as a centerpiece of a weight control regimen. That’s right, eating apples can be a powerful cornerstone in helping conquer obesity! Doing so does not involve eating just apples; just be sure to eat one a day! Actually, eating 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables of various types each day is nutritionally wise and hugely beneficial to long term weight control. These low-calorie-density, high-nutrient-density plant foods fill you up. They also provide the phytochemicals and other nutritious molecules utterly missing in typical fast food meals. By making part of this plant-heavy diet, an apple a day, you add a powerful to help you lose weight and maintain weight loss. Although the apple theoretically adds about 100 calories per day to your diet, in practice it will prevent your intake of far more calories. You may, in fact, balk at eating an apple a day. There are many varieties of great apples out there, experiment. Fujis are a favorite for many.

Some of the apple’s capability to cause loss of fat may come from its facility to build muscles. New studies show that the ursolic acid in the apple peel helps prevent muscle atrophy. Loss of muscle causes disability and loss of mobility in old age.  Strong elders function a much higher levels. The presence of muscles serve as calorie furnaces to help burn energy from fat around the clock. In addition, muscles provide the personal mobility for walking, jogging or other activities that so burn calories and promote vitality.

Much of the apple’s nutritional “goodie” comes from the peel. Most of the apple’s fiber is found in the skin.  Such fiber is lacking in obesogenic (obesity-causing) diets, such as those eaten by overweight Americans. Fiber promotes satiety, feeling full, the key in signalling to stop us eating. Fiber rich meals and snacks are eaten more slowly, and help prevent other eating episodes by dimming hunger between meals. Fibrous foods are generally nutrient dense but lean in calories. Apple skin offers more than fiber however. With ursolic acid, apple skin helps boost muscle growth, mass and strength.

The peel can also present a danger as it may contain pesticides. All apples should be washed before being eaten. Buying organic apples free of pesticides may  be money well spent. Apple seeds are mildly poisonous and a few people have allergies to apples, so take a few precautions when adding an apple a day to your diet.

Running speed and prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Running speed a great indicator of health.

Running speed a great indicator of health.

The key role of cardiovascular exercise in keeping healthy and hearty has been confirmed in a couple of important studies. They point out the amount of time it takes you to run a mile is a great indicator of cardiovascular health and your danger of heart attack and stroke.

Reported in Red Orbit and elsewhere, two studies of this behavioral indicator of cardiovascular health, showed that for middle-aged men, the length of time required to run one mile (1,609 meters) predicted heart attack and stroke better than did blood pressure or cholesterol levels.

Faster times predict fewer heart and brain attacks. A 55 year old male who requires 15 minutes to walk/run a mile (only 4 miles per hour) faces a 30% chance of suffering cardiovascular disease. A man of the same age who can run a mile in just 8 minutes (7.5 miles per hour) faces far lower danger of cardiovascular disease, less than 10 percent.

One way to increase running speed is with interval training, brief bursts at higher speed. After warm up jogging, a common interval is one minute slow jogging speed followed by one minute high intensity running, then repeating the sequence up to 10 times. This writer has been experimenting with slow jog/fast walk for 90 seconds, interspersed with 30 seconds high speed. This rhythm seems well suited for a non-punishing work-out made plenty intense with the periods at high speed. These high speed intervals quickly boost heart rate and sweating, both goals of a good conditioning, fat-burning workout.

High levels of physical activity such as running seem to correspond with activation of the endocannabinoid regulatory system, the receptor based system also activated by the THC in cannabis. Indeed, the fabled “runner’s high” might be the result of this system, rather than (or in addition to) to endorphins. More about this in a future post.

Caution: For those poorly conditioned, increasing activity and especially trying to push up maximum speed can present some dangers. A consultation with your (fit) medical practitioner and taking a stress EKG test is a good precaution.

Caution: Being poorly conditioned and not participating in physical activity presents an enormous risk of cardiovascular disease, along with obesity, diabetes and a host of other diseases.

Cannabis dispensaries can be true wellness clinics.

Cannabis dispensaries and clinics are multiplying as citizens of ever-more American states vote to decriminalize medical marijuana. Many use the term “wellness” to describe their wider range of services. In fact, as medical cannabis becomes evermore accepted for the variety of conditions for which the herb provides benefit, dispensaries and clinics really can provide a mechanism for providing true wellness services.

The term “wellness” relates to a high level of health status, not simply the absence of disease, but the presence of behaviors that help prevent disease and cause the body to thrive. This behavioral perspective emphasizes the health practices that provide prevention effects from today’s causes of death and disability. High level wellness indicates a body not just disease-free, but strong, toned, nutritionally well fed, and free of excess tension. Wellness also refers to a relaxed but purposeful mental set, engaged with the world.

Several health behaviors are key determinants of our health status and our health future. A few of the physical activity behavioral goals may be beyond the capabilities of those with serious physical ailments, but serve as important guidelines to all. As a wellness center, the dispensary can communicate these basic practices and their importance to all patients in a variety of unobtrusive and complementary ways.

Virtually every person should:

  • Get sufficient exercise, especially walking.
  • Maintain good body composition with considerable muscle and little to moderate fat.
  • Practice good nutrition, focused on nutrient-dense, calorie-lean foods.
  • Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke.
  • Cultivate a supportive social life.
  • Manage and reduce stress.

Open Source Health Care

Two huge problems, besides the obscene cost, beset the current state of health care in the USA. One is the general non-availability of cannabinoid medications for most Americans. The other is the lack of prevention perspective; in fact, current “health care” is mainly medical care, focusing on relieving and curing established diseases.   Despite the fact that most of the ailments and diseases afflicting Americans are related to health behaviors, there is very little true prevention effort. The open source health care alternative for the 21st Century will enable people to harness cannabis for pain relief, anti-inflammation, glaucoma prevention and a dozen other conditions for which medical marijuana provides results superior to the mainstream medical/pharmaceutical approach. It will also provide a harm reduction, health promotion, preventive alternative to the current curative medical approach. Both these two problems could be addressed by dispensaries providing cannabinoid-based medications and true wellness services. Such services would address the health behaviors above:

Get sufficient exercise, especially walking. Most Americans walk far to little, depriving themselves of muscle and burdening themselves with fat. Taking at least 10,000 steps each day is a key health behavior of huge value to your health, and a crucial foundation for a preventive, wellness lifestyle. Even better is when some of these steps, or additional steps, are taken a faster pace, such as jogging a mile a day. Dispensaries could encourage patients to aspire to such basic fitness guidelines in a variety of ways:

  • Pedometers retail for $5. Providing each patient with one for no cost as part of the wellness services would send a profound message a hugely useful tool. The pedometer would of course bear the clinic’s logo.
  • Posters at the dispensary could impart more awareness of the 10,000 steps per day guideline.
  • If the clinic does the medical evaluations for eligibility for medical cannabis, this presents a perfect opportunity to encourage physical fitness goals such as 10,000 steps per day.

Maintain good body composition with considerable muscle and little to moderate fat.

America, and much of the world is suffering a crisis in body composition. Our bodies are composed evermore of excess fat. Plus we tend to carry too little muscle. Sufficient walking, see above, is key to building muscle tone and preventing fat, but additional muscle building is a healthy practice. A more muscular body composition helps burn calories, but more importantly provides a basic framework of physical strength that provides preventive and fitness dividends. Dispensaries could help patients gain the benefits of strength training with the same method as above, including posters and other messaging. The question of the obesity of its clients is important to a dispensary. Wanting to, “first, do no harm,” the clinic should confirm that its cannabis medication does not contribute to such problems. Cannabis is very effective at ending the wasting syndrome by helping people eat; its effect on people that are overweight may be less helpful. Obesity might even be seen as a contraindication in the prescription or recommendation of cannabis.

Practice good nutrition, especially nutrient-dense, calorie-lean foods.

  • The clinic or dispensary could educate on the quite incredible nutritional value of cannabis itself, in the form of hemp seed and hemp oil. Hemp seed is perhaps the most nutritious single food source, filled with essential fatty acids and proteins. The omega-3 profile of hemp seed is nearly optimal.
  • Good nutrition sets focus on nutrient-dense, calorie-lean foods, nearly the opposite of an American fast food meal.

Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke. The smoke from cigarettes, inhaled directly or as second-hand smoke, is a deadly toxin that kills over 400,000 Americans each year. Avoiding such exposure is a key preventive behavior. The reduction of cigarette smoking and proliferation of non-smoking areas providing freedom from this toxin have been a major public health victory in the last generation (and it was accomplished with zero SWAT raids and no one going to jail.

Although cannabis smoke appears far safer than cigarette smoke (marijuana smoking is not associated with lung cancer nor emphysema, two of the great risks of cigarette smoking, it is still smoke and contains toxins such as carbon monoxide (CO). Vaporizers provide a safe way to gain the medical benefits of cannabinoids with no exposure to smoke, and should be encouraged, and sold in dispensaries. With vaporizers, medical users can titrate dosages nearly as well as with smoking. In California, clinics, dispensaries and collectives have helped pioneer other ways of medicating with cannabis in a smoke-free manner. Tinctures with alcohol and edibles offer yet other alternatives. Invention, or rather reinvention of these medications (tinctures of cannabis were available to Americans 100 years ago) has been a major contribution of dispensaries in California.

Cultivate a supportive social life. Isolation is detrimental to physical and especially, mental, health. Although most important social interactions occur with family and friends, the dispensaries themselves could help provide some of this social glue so important to health.

Manage and reduce stress. Cannabis itself, especially types rich with a variety of cannabinoids, is a natural stress reducer. Indeed, much of the so called “recreational” use of cannabis helps users maintain a relaxed and happy state of mind. Stress reduction is of course a huge topic and the steps a clinic or dispensary might take are virtually limitless, from yoga classes, to progressive relaxation to massage.

Wellness and open source health care are giant topics that will be revisited.

Medicine Grown by Hand: Medical Cannabis as an open-source model.

In his near-future dystopian novel, World Made by Hand, James Howard Kunstler presents a bleak portrayal of a small upstate New York town a couple of decades hence. The federal government had collapsed, Washington DC was nuked and the availability of gasoline and electricity ended. Ex-motor cycle toughs run the community’s central resource, the old town dump, now the source of riches such as nails. In this new world, owning a horse makes one wealthy.

In the novel, the system no longer provides medication nor medical care. The town’s doctor is the protagonist. He faces the frustrations and tragedies of having to practice medicine with no modern supplies, tools or services. With pharmaceuticals unavailable, the good doctor grows medicinal herbs. A key medication for pain relief and succor from various ailments is one not freely available before the collapse, cannabis. Treatment with cannabis is part of open-source health care in this new world. Seeds are the open source. Such self-treatment will become an ever more important part of our own health care future.

In health care, the term open-source includes self-care, with the individual taking more responsibility for his or her health and treatment. In some cases, the person (the term patient not quite right) becomes the source of treatment. Self-care itself is part of a larger wellness model that focuses upon a preventive lifestyle, especially with sufficient exercise and mindful nutrition, as key aspects of health.

Without doubt, more open-source medication, especially with cannabis, will be part of America’s health care future. For many people, including the 45 million uninsured Americans, the current health care system does not work. It has many problems:

  • The current medical care colossus sucks up one dollar out of 5 in the American economy.
  • The American system is by far the most expensive, and offers far less care for the dollar than in other countries.
  • Much of what passes for medical care is in reality too late and inefficient. It does not do well treating the huge class of auto-immune inflammatory disorders that most afflict the health of Americans with chronic degenerative diseases.
  • Medicine is (over)used to try to stave off injury of primarily a behavioral nature. Medical technology is used to try to fix damage caused by behaviors such as cigarette smoking and sedentary lifestyle.
  • Pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed for most ailments. Mortality from these drugs alone is a major cause of death.

The choices and actions of Americans, especially regarding physical (in)activity and (over)eating behaviors underlie much of what ails us. In most of the degenerative, inflammatory diseases that bedevil modern Americans, much medical care is merely palliative, relieving just the symptoms, symptoms of behavior-caused damage. Obesity, flaccid body composition and sickly organs damaged from cigarette smoking and alcohol poisoning are examples.

Type II diabetes is essentially a self-chosen disease; walking 10,000 steps a day is a robust preventative, even cure for Type II diabetes. Personal health actions such as increasing physical exercise, if universally adopted, could abolish many of the inflammatory ails that now pass for disease.

  • To ignore these preventatives and to proceed as before with a late intervention, medical and pharmaceutical approach to life-style-based health problems is folly.
  • Just as the pre-diabetic can literally walk away from diabetes, so too our general health practices determine how healthy we really are. The 10,000 steps-a-day prescription is not just for those threatened by diabetes or obesity, but serve as a good goal for nearly everyone. Such activity is open-source self-care at its best.
  • Eating daily 5 to 9 fruits and vegetables is the core of healthy nutrition. Rich in nutrients and sparse in calories, this plant based foundation provides much fiber. High fiber helps us stay full and tune the digestive system.

Aspirin-taking is open-source self-medication. Because aspirin is a legal and available drug that provides relief for a wide variety of ailments, we are free to use it for self-medication. Aspirin is very useful, but not without some dangers, such as attacking the stomach. Like most drugs, it has a lethal dose and several hundred people die from aspirin poisoning each year. Still, its ability to reduce pain and inflammation and to provide protective cardio-vascular effects make it a key open source medication.

Another substance to relieve a wide variety of symptoms such as pain and inflammation is cannabis. Unlike aspirin, no deaths are associated with its use. Like aspirin, cannabis is medically useful not just for a small array of discrete problems. Although it does provide fairly specific prevention and therapy of maladies such as glaucoma, and works wonderfully for reducing the worse symptoms of chemotherapy, its applications are broad. It is useful in treating a dozen major diseases. Other benefits are less specific. The cannabinoids in cannabis are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and analgesic. The latter, pain relief, points to the more generalized medical benefits of cannabinoids.

Pain is one of the chief reasons people seek medical care at all. What percentage of the humankind, what single person, does not experience pain at sometime in life? To quell pain is the reason most people take an aspirin. To quell pain is the main reason tens of millions of Californians in the future may take a tincture of cannabis.

  • A century hence, and hopefully far sooner, Americans will regain the pain-relieving, self-health remedies available to their ancestors. They already have in California and a dozen other states.

In a country supposedly searching for national health care answers, the open-source, self-care benefits of medical cannabis must not be ignored. Medical cannabis will not be ignored by those without insurance, nor those increasing millions who become aware of the superiority of pain relief and other medical benefits available to them with cannabis. Bizarrely, conservatives who worry that a national health care system would deny medical choices are the first to deny totally American citizens the right to choose cannabis-based medications.

Americans will make these choices anyway, using the cannabis seed as the open-source basis for their medication. Hopefully they will have state laws in place to provide them some safety from the dangers inflicted upon them by their government, as they again produce their medicine grown by hand.