Tag Archives: auto-immune disease

Measles: Get A Grip

Mrs. Brady's homegrown vaccination card

Mrs. Brady’s homegrown immunization card – looks like the gang is getting measles!

Oh boy the latest Disneyland measles outbreak is generating some serious name-calling and reprimanding in the newspapers these days and it’s not even limited to the editorials section.

The story is that in January 2015, six people (five unvaccinated) in Southern California came down with measles and they had all been to Disneyland in late December. Since then, the virus has spread to over 100 people. Now there are even 10 cases in Ontario, way up here in Canada and many miles from Disneyland. I guess it really is a small world after all

The way this story is being covered in North America, it sounds like the cause of the outbreak is unvaccinated locals and in particular the parents of unvaccinated children, who are portrayed as selfish, resistant to science and downright stupid.

However the way this story is being covered in Europe is that most likely someone from abroad (Europe, or the Philippines) went to Disneyland and unwittingly spread measles to both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, which is much closer to the truth.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE OLD COUNTRY…

There is currently a slightly larger measles outbreak in Germany, instigated most likely by an influx of unvaccinated Bosnian, Herzegovinian and Serbian refugees – but the Germans have totally got a grip and are not overly concerned about it.

In fact, maybe they are eating ice cream and happily watching translated re-runs of the Brady Bunch episode where the whole gosh darn gang gets measles at the same time! (see link at end of post – you have got to watch this episode to see how completely irrational we have become in the last 40 years).

One thing our media refuses to cover is that some of our unvaccinated people may actually be seeking out measles in order to contract and survive the disease – to give themselves guaranteed lifelong immunity, a stronger immune system, greater resistance to various diseases potentially including some cancers, and if they are women to confer immunity to their newborns until they are at least 6 months old.

However when stories of “measles parties” surfaced in January, they were quickly denied as required in a litigious society like Marin County. Although such a media outcome may have disappointed scores of injury lawyers, it may or may not be true. My guess is that “measles parties” have gone the way of raw milk purchases – something you participate in secretly in the shadows.

MEASLES KILLS! SOME PEOPLE!

Let’s get some things straight: measles can be deadly or cause permanent damage if you are exposed to it when you are in the womb, under the age of one-ish, old-ish and weak-ish, chronically malnourished (that can include you, college kids) or suffering from some other issue like auto-immune disease or anything where your immune system is already compromised, including pregnancy.

And if you look at the people who have died, ever, from measles, you will find that these contributing factors were always involved. It is for these people’s sake that we vaccinate the rest of us, just like it is for the peanut-allergic person’s sake that we don’t eat nuts on planes or schools, and for the disabled person’s sake that our building codes enforce ramps and elevators. It may be irritating that we have to avoid peanuts, spend money on ramps and get a couple dozen immunization shots, but all of those irritations are the cost of living in close quarters and being exposed to globalization.

Most people don’t actually die of measles, they die of pneumonia or encephalitis which can also be brought on by scores of other childhood diseases including the flu, colds, herpes and chicken pox, and also from various mosquito-borne viruses. Famously, the children’s author Roald Dahl tragically lost his daughter to encephalitis after she first contracted measles. He led a compelling pro-vaccination movement in England in the 1960s, spearheaded by a very moving letter which I will link to at the end.

At the time, he was certainly acting on the best recommendations and research available. But we’ve learned a lot since then.

I’m no doctor, but 7 year-old Olivia Dahl’s problem might not have been so much that she contracted measles, but that it progressed to encephalitis which killed her. However, eradicating measles will not eradicate encephilitis, as it can be caused by so many other exposures.

A different measure might be to stop measles from progressing to more complicated and dangerous illnesses by the since-proven method of administering high doses of vitamin A and also starting out with adequate nutritional vitamin A levels (source: PubMed).

MEASLES AS A TEACHER

Measles rashBut let’s get something else straight: if you are healthy and properly nourished, it is actually more beneficial to contract measles between the age of 3 – 10-ish than to never contract it at all.

Measles is yet another essential agent in stimulating and teaching young immune systems how to react to greater threats later in life (mechanism works similarly to benefits from parasites, helminths and germ exposure).

Contracting measles has reversed some cancers and has even eliminated a tumor in only two weeks (source:Nature), and prompted pharmaceutical companies to pursue a super-measles “vaccine” as a cancer therapy, which has been used successfully in those patients who didn’t die from the lab-created super-measles. (source: CNN)

So are “anti-vaxxers” really selfish and stupid? In some ways, for sure. But it’s not black and white like that. There is a sweet spot for not vaccinating your kid, and the risk-reward is different for every disease. Since we’re talking about measles though, let’s start there.

If all the adults in the household have either had measles or are up-to-date on their vaccines, you could consider not vaccinating your children for measles. But ideally you also live in a small community of like-minded people, who are super health-conscious, devoted to biodynamic farming and bioavailable vitamin A, and do not plan on traveling the world or going to the Big City.

In addition, you and your community need to have “measles parties” where you force your 3 – 10 year olds to catch measles together and remain quarantined from the younger kids and the pregnant women and oldies. You also want to make sure that no one in your community has any allergies or other immune compromised issues, or at least keep your quarantine very, very tight.

I have to be very clear here: the point of not vaccinating your kid should only be because you intend for them to catch and survive the wild virus. You can’t not vaccinate and then avoid measles – it will catch up to your kids when they are adults and the complications can be much worse, or lethal. In addition, later in life you could catch measles and be a carrier who then goes on to infect vulnerable people.

There is NO BENEFIT to avoiding the vaccine unless you are determined to catch and survive wild measles in your youth. So if “anti-vaxxers” do not intend to give their children wild measles at the appropriate age, then yes I agree they are stupid.

BUT GETTING MEASLES IS HARD NOWADAYS

However even if you do plan to introduce wild measles to your kids,  the isolation of your idyllic community (hell let’s just call it a commune) means that you might have trouble contracting the disease in the first place.

In that event, you may have to fly a few of your commune’s 3 – 10 year olds to Switzerland for a few weeks, or maybe to EuroDisney if that’s even still around. It’s a lot easier to get measles in Europe, and nearly impossible to find it in North America. However it is also nearly impossible to bring your measles infection home on the airplane while simultaneously following adequate quarantine protocols, so this solution creates a huge risk to other people.

A better compromise might be to get your kids a season pass to Disneyland and tell them to seek out European-looking people presenting with a respiratory infection, until they catch wild measles. For all we know, this is just what the “anti-vaxxers” did.

STILL, MEASLES KILLS!

I have to be very clear on another thing: not every 3 – 10 year old survives wild measles!

Things that will help are super nutrition, especially natural fats and fat soluble vitamins like A and D. In fact at the first indication of measles (respiratory infection with white spots in the mouth), anyone should immediately start taking at least 10,000 IU of retinol (vitamin A) every hour for at least three days but probably for the duration of the disease.

There are also herbal preparations that can curtail the cytokine cascade, like Chinese skullcap, houttuynia, ginger and licorice. (Okay post-collapse in Ontario you would have to settle for local wild solutions like blue cohosh rhizome, the invasive kudzu root and elder berry tincture.)

The other question, are “anti-vaxxers” selfish, requires stepping back a little further. In the small picture, it is certainly selfish to risk exposing the young/old/immune compromised to measles knowing that these sick-prone members of the community can literally die or get compilations like brain damage.

However in the much bigger picture, it’s a different story.

WELCOME TO THE BIG PICTURE

If you subscribe to the idea that we are going to suffer through a collapse event in the next 100 years (or much sooner), then these “anti-vaxxers” who expose their children to wild viruses on purpose are in fact preserving a gene pool of potentially higher resistance to plagues and pestilence, and also passing on a learned immune response to disease. If collapse comes for us, the “anti-vaxxers'” immune systems may be better prepared to survive disease, and you might want to consider breeding with them to ensure the viability of your offspring.

Wait, collapse? All civilizations have collapsed, and those that haven’t are simply in the “yet” category. It doesn’t really matter what the cause is, we have so many potentials to choose from: antibacterial resistance, climate change, resource scarcity leading to increased warfare, ecosystem impoverishment, pandemic resulting from factory farming, robot overlord enslavement, financial and political collapse… whatever! The fact is, all civilizations try to squeeze the most out of the short term that they can, and pretend the bigger picture is never gonna happen.

It doesn’t mean civilization won’t come back again; we always do! But your position on vaccinations has to include whether you are willing to sacrifice your genetic lineage for the short-term right to be a beloved member of polite society’s herd immunity protocols. Since most of us live here, in this polite society, we have made the choice to vaccinate our children.

I’m just begging everyone to stop hating the “anti-vaxxers”; those that survive wild measles and respect quarantine protocols are doing a service for the bigger picture post-apocolyptic scenarios. Systems may be more efficient when there is homogeny, however they are safer and more durable when there is diversity.

The “anti-vaxxers” are that diversity for us, because if they are doing it right, they are catching diseases and developing immunities and then passing those learned responses along to their children. When the next pandemic hits, they will fare better than us and basically inherit the earth.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF MEASLES?

We are the ebola bats in this case, harboring pestilence! We can successfully live with measles! Although we don’t have any predators or species left who might encroach on us, measles may have helped us deal with encroachment in the past. For example you can spread measles to your pet monkey by coughing on him. Likewise a primate invading your territory could tear your body to bits and feast on your raw, measles-infected flesh and then catch and spread measles to his invading brethren, which would be more virulent in his species than in humans.

And who knows? Maybe an alien army will land on our planet and try to invade us. All we have to do is expose them to our measles and they will drop like flies, having no ability to survive it nor create natural immunity as we do. Alien attack = thwarted!

WHAT YOU CAN DO

If you come down with measles tomorrow and you are not in a particularly high risk group (not pregnant, not auto-immune, not an oldie etc), then there is nothing that a doctor will do for you except advise rest and fluids, and there is nothing a hospital will do for you except give you an IV of sugar water so you don’t get dehydrated.

If your case progresses or you are in a high risk group, you may be treated to pharmaceutical antivirals and anti-inflammatories which should limit the disease. The doctors will probably not ask about or test your vitamin A levels. However here is my quick checklist for a nutritional approach to vitamin A:

  • do you take cod liver oil?
  • do you eat liver or pate at least once a week?
  • do you add generous amounts of grass-fed butter to your diet?
  • if you eat dairy, is it always high fat, grass-fed (organic) versions?
  • do you eat fish and eggs at least a couple times a week?
  • do you always add butter or natural fat to yellow and orange vegetables?
  • do you always add butter or natural fat to green leafy vegetables?

If you can honestly answer yes to most of those bullets, then you are going to coast through measles. If you are missing more than three of those bullets however, then you have probably also noticed that you get sick frequently and have trouble fighting off viruses. In addition, your long term health will suffer.

Low-fat vegetarians in particular are at risk of low levels of vitamin A. There is some dogma that suggests beta-carotene in yellow and orange vegetables, and also in green leafy vegetables, is a good enough pre-cursor to vitamin A. Part of that depends on how the vegetables are prepared (for example, steaming carrots increases the bio-availablility of beta-carotene whereas it is virtually locked up in a raw carrot), but also on whether or not they are consumed along with fat.

Vitamin A is a “fat soluble vitamin”, which means if you consume vegetables high in beta-carotene without fat you are essentially wasting them.

Now let’s say your diet checks out just fine, but now you have measles. The very first thing to do is start taking at least 200,000 IU of vitamin A for at least two days and probably for the duration of your illness. The cheapest and easiest way to administer this mega dose is with synthetic Vitamin A capsules (retinol). I would start with 20,000 IU (two pills) every hour for the first five hours and then reduce to 10,000 IU every hour for the remaining ten or so waking hours. Then I would repeat the next day and every day after that.

Mega-doses of vitamin A prevent the measles virus from replicating. (source: Pubmed) Taking vitamin D, say 6000 IU per day, will help protect you from the mega dose of vitamin A. And taking vitamin C, say another 1000mg every hour, will add antiviral power.

In addition, there were the herbs I mentioned earlier and there are some homeopathic protocols that people rave about.

But these nutritional and herbal additions are not the only interventions you are going to have to make…

QUARANTINE COURTESY

So now let’s take a moment and talk about quarantine. You may know logically that when someone in your household gets sick you are supposed to quarantine them, but chances are you have been playing fast and loose with this rule.

Do you sleep in a separate bed from your spouse when he’s sick? Do you use separate toilets? Good for you if you do, but not everyone lives in a palace with all these extra beds and toilets, so it may not be possible.

My point is that we have become super casual about sickness, as if 4 inches of space and super-high thread-count sheets is enough of a quarantine. Frankly I don’t care if you quarantine during the cold or flu – in fact I prefer if everyone goes for it and gets sick together, has intense symptoms and then recovers with the resulting stronger immune system. Again, this can be a risk if anyone in your household is less than one, pregnant, super old or already compromised. However we should at least understand the basics of quarantine in case a more serious disease emerges in our households.

Fly this Quarantine flag if you want people to leave you alone

Fly this Quarantine flag if you want people to leave you alone

The word quarantine is loosely derived from the Italian “forty days”, which is how long ships had to remain isolated before coming to shore during the various plague, yellow fever, smallpox and cholera years. Sanitation

The town of Leicester in England perfected land-based quarantine in the late 1800s with their “Leicester Method”, which they employed in lieu of mandatory smallpox vaccinations. A doctor would investigate any initial cases, get full reports on travel and whereabouts and then contact each and every potential person who had been exposed, and ask them to voluntarily quarantine.

Quarantine could take place in a hospital or in the person’s home, and it was shown that there were better results by keeping the infected people isolated in their own homes due to segregation and reduced travel.

Further elements of the Leicester Method included thoroughly sanitizing the home, maintaining civic sanitation standards, and burning exposed clothing and bedding when necessary. Quarantines for smallpox lasted 14 days.

QUARANTINE WORKS

Just last year a village of 30,000 people in China was quarantined after a 38 year-old man died of the bubonic plague. Yes, I said the freaking bubonic plague in 2014!  He caught it from an infected marmot that he cut up to feed his dog. No one else was infected, and after about a week the quarantine was lifted.

I think quarantine is an essential skill, and requires far more empathy and courtesy for others than just relying on a vaccine.

THE BC CASE: FIRST GENOTYPING TO DETERMINE MEASLES STRAIN

Consider that in the fall of 2013 in British Columbia, the MMR vaccine itself was at last shown to actually cause measles (source: Eurosurveillance). In most cases where vaccinated children acquire measles, it is assumed that they caught the wild virus and that for some reason their vaccine didn’t take.

However in this case in British Columbia, for the first time genotyping was performed to determine that the infecting measles strain was not wild but from the vaccine itself, and infected the toddler a full 5 weeks after she had been vaccinated.

Obviously this begs the question, should MMR-vaccinated children be self-quarantined for at least 5 or 6 weeks? Is there a way to tell who is and isn’t shedding the virus? Is there a way to tell who is and isn’t susceptible to vaccine-virus shedding?

Could there be more sense in requiring recently vaccinated children to stay home from school and self-quarantine than requiring unvaccinated children to do so? Is there any chance that would ever happen? Of course not.

OUR CRUDE INTERVENTIONS

Vaccines are an awesome idea – I mean there are so many wretched diseases out there that may have been prevented by this invention.

In addition to the many regular vaccinations I have received, I also did a slew of them before an extended trip around Nepal, Thailand and Laos. After all of these various shots, I had no adverse reactions and then proceeded not to catch the diseases I was vaccinated for. From my experience and point of view, vaccines have not been a problem and may have even been a lifesaver, or at least given me the convenience of traveling without catching typhoid, Japanese Encephalitis or yellow fever.

The alternative might have meant being bitten by a Laotian mosquito, catching Yellow Fever, and in the best case recovering after a few days despite a yellow cast of jaundice. Next I might have caught Japanese Encephalitis from a different mosquito living near domestic pigs or herons. In that best case I may have avoided the acute brain swelling which leads to retardation and death, and perhaps started to feel better after 5 days. Only next to catch typhoid from essentially eating bacteria-infected feces in food. This best case scenario would be roughing it out for a few weeks without antibiotics, or for about a week with antibiotics.  So even the best case scenario with catching all of these diseases would have made my trip much more expensive and uncomfortable.

The benefit, if you’ll let me call it that, would have been that then I would have developed real life-long immunity to those diseases and could thereafter travel with much more impunity. Of course, I also could have died of those diseases, which would have sucked harder.

And so because of our profound fear of dying and our nearly as profound fear of being inconvenienced, we have this wonderful invention of vaccines.

But that doesn’t change the fact that our vaccines are just a crude hack on our immune system, and an incomplete, transient and sometimes dangerous hack at that. Vaccines are viruses made benign (attenuated). They aren’t supposed to make you sick, but they are meant to stimulate the humoral immune system just enough that it will create antibodies.

The whole faith in vaccines is based on the idea that synthetically increasing antibodies confers immunity.

DOES IT?

From as long ago as 1974, it was well-documented that antibodies were in fact not required to survive the measles virus – survival was dependent on the “other arm” of the immune system, known as the cell-mediated response. In P.J. Lachmann’s paper “Immunopathology of Measles“, he writes:

“Thus, children with antibody deficiency syndromes (specific deficiencies of the B cell system) have quite unremarkable attacks of measles with the characteristic rash and normal recovery. Furthermore, they are not unduly prone to reinfection. It therefore seems that serum antibody, at any rate in any quantity, is not required for the production of measles rash; nor for the normal recovery from the disease; nor to prevent reinfection. Nevertheless, as has already been discussed, there is no doubt that antibody given passively can provide a perfectly adequate protection against measles infection. Anti-measles antibody thus provides a sufficient but not a necessary mechanism for anti-measles immunity.”

So the measles vaccine works, but it’s not in the usual way the body chooses to create immunity. It is a hack that has been adopted around the world without considering the consequences of ignoring the essential role of cell-mediated immunity, the other arm of the immune system.

This research is ongoing, though more subtly in mice. Recent studies confirm that no antibodies at all are required to confer immunity. While humoral B-cells (which produce antibodies) are essential at fighting off viral infection, it appears they can do it independently of actually producing antibodies.

In other words, maybe the source of “immunity” is further upstream and more complicated than just downstream antibodies. (source: PubMed study on mice bred with B-cells that don’t make antibodies). In addition, many people continue to suffer from diseases despite having been vaccinated for them and having created adequate antibodies against them. (source: PubMed paper on severe tetanus cases in people despite high antibodies against it).

HOW DOES NATURAL IMMUNITY WORK?

To create a lasting and legacy immunity, both arms of the immune system need to be stimulated – the humoral as well as the cell-mediated response – but the most essential one is the cell-mediated response. Cell-mediated immunity is the system of white blood cells that attack pathogens and also create the feelings of sickness inside you – from fevers to rashes to inflammations, and this also has to evolve with every pathogen.

At this point in time, a guaranteed immunity can only be generated by responding to an actual disease. Immunization is a word that specifically means you have cell-mediated immunity to a disease; it is not the same as mere vaccination or introduction of serum antibodies. However the words immunization and vaccination are frequently bandied about the by the government, the media and the CDC as if they are equally powerful actions. They are not even close.

Another day, I will get into what the possible consequences could be of filling people with viral antibodies without teaching their bodies the corresponding cell-mediated response. While the viral antibodies (vaccinations) can prevent specific diseases, they are simultaneously dumbing down the cell-mediated immune system. Now that’s an interesting conversation!

In the meantime, understand that cell-mediated immunity is the kind of immune system you want to pass on to your children, provided you can survive the diseases that teach it.

And that’s a tough lesson, but it should be your takeaway:

Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. 

—————————

FURTHER READING

Why is Germany So Calm About Its Measles Outbreak?” – The Atlantic, February 2015

Is There a Doctor In The House?” – The Brady Bunch episode from early 1970s where the whole family comically succumbs to the measles and is generally treated with ice cream sundaes

Roald Dahl’s moving letter to implore parents to vaccinate their children against measles as a way of preventing the complications of measles.

Vitamin A prevents the measles virus from replicating by up-regulating elements of the innate immune response in uninfected bystander cells.

Read about The Leicester Method of quarantine, which proved more effective against mortality than the early smallpox vaccine.

Bubonic plague kills man in China, and whole town is appropriately quarantined – 2014.

Case report of a 2013 B.C. measles infection caused 37 days after a toddler was given the MMR vaccination, and genotyped to show that her infection was the same strain as the vaccination, and therefore a direct result of the vaccination.

Mice bred with B-cells that don’t make antibodies survive deathly virus despite not having antibodies – are antibodies as essential as we thought?

So many cases like this, but here’s Severe Tetanus in people regardless that they were vaccinated and created strong antibodies.

And finally, please re-read my review of “An Epidemic of Absence: A New Way of Understanding Allergies and Auto-Immune Disease” for a recap on how childhood infections with parasites, helminths and germs informs the immune system and prevents auto-immune diseases and allergies later in life.

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A Toast To Your Health: Hot Buttered Rum

hot buttered rumOkay I’m actually going to do this. While everyone else – including those in my own family – are pushing for a “dry January”, I’m going to be contrarian and promote the Devil’s water, also known as alcohol. Specifically, I am going to try to seduce you into drinking hot, buttered rum.

For starters, let’s look at the fact that drinking alcohol is not a new thing for humans. It’s probably pretty close to the oldest thing. In other words, we have evolved alongside drinking alcohol since the beginning. Ingesting fermented fruits and honey were an early window into the spirit world. Archeologists have found evidence of honey fermentation as long as 40,000 years ago. That’s not to say we haven’t been doing it for longer – just that’s all we can find hard evidence for. It is possible and largely speculated that humans settled down to farm in the cradle of civilization not primarily to grow food but to grow grains specifically for fermenting into alcohol. Have you ever noticed that humans are not entirely practical? (Ever seen Easter Island?) We don’t change our ways just for a bland food choice like sprouted grains. Nope, we dream bigger than that. Humans put to rest our nomadic ways in order to grow ancient barley to ferment into beer – a product that brought us closer to the gods and delivered us untold status. In other words, there would be no civilization without the promise of beer.

Now beer isn’t for everybody, and certainly not for celiacs or anyone with gluten/gut sensitivities, which includes anyone with auto-immune issues. Alcohol and wine isn’t for everyone either – particularly not anyone with addiction issues or possibly chronic, debilitating illness. No, alcohol is mostly for healthy people – and believe it or not – in moderation it actually promotes health.

In moderation, alcohol seems to prevent osteoporosis, various cancers (kidney, thyroid, Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and pancreatic cancers have been studied so far), gallbladder disease, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, metabolic syndrome (the blanket pre-cursor to type II diabetes, obesity and heart disease), arthritis, enlarged prostate, macular degeneration, kidney stones, stress and depression, tremors and among other things, the common cold.

Now I’m not just talking about the resveratrol darling, red wine. A glass of red wine a day seems to be unequivocally better than not having a glass a day: for heart health, longevity, etc. But the benefits are not just from the antioxidant resveratrol (which is in pretty small amounts in a glass of wine); the benefits are mostly from the ethanol content itself.

SOME ETHANOL A DAY KEEPS THE DOCTOR AWAY

Again let me be very clear: I am not talking about binge drinking, or even drinking the way I have always known it. I’m only talking about moderate drinking which means from 1 – 2 alcoholic drinks per day, but mostly landing on one drink per day if you are a small woman and two drinks a day if you are a large man. One drink is a 5oz glass of wine or a 12oz can of beer or an ounce and a half shot of alcohol spirits. Period!

So before I go any further you are probably going to want some bullet points and some studies. I could do this all day, but here is a short selection:

  • A study that examined nearly 10,000 men and women at age 23 and again at age 33 found that the moderate drinkers experience lower levels of poor general health, long-term illness, and psychological distress when compared to abstainers and heavy drinkers.(1)
  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has found that the lowest death rate from all causes occurs at the level of one to two drinks each day.(2)
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation (1-2 drinks per day for women and 2-4 for men) was found to reduce risk of mortality significantly according to meta-analysis of 34 studies of alcohol and total mortality among 1,015,835 men and women around the world.(3)
  • A Harvard study found the risk of death from all causes to be 21% to 28% lower among men who drank alcohol moderately, compared with abstainers. (4)
  • Harvard’s Nurses’ Health Study of over 85,000 women found reduced mortality among moderate drinkers. (5)
  • A study of more than 40,000 people by the Cancer Research Center in Honolulu found that “persons with moderate alcohol intake appear to have a significantly lower risk of dying than nondrinkers.” (6)
  • A review of the research reports that moderate drinking appears to reduce the risk of numerous diseases. “These include duodenal ulcer, gallstones, enteric infections, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and diabetes mellitus (type II). Compared with abstainers, moderate drinkers exhibit improved mental status characterized by decreased stress and depression, lower absenteeism from work, and decreased dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease).” (7)
  • Researchers examined the evidence from 33 studies and found that alcohol consumption increased neck bone density for each drink per day over the range of 0-3 drinks per day; reduced the risk for hip fracture with increasing quantities consumed; and was generally associated with reduced bone loss over time, compared with abstention from alcohol. (8)
  • The National Osteoporosis Risk Assessment followed over 200,000 postmenopausal women in the U.S. with no previous diagnosis of osteoporosis who were seen at doctors’ offices, with no previous diagnosis of osteoporosis. As a result of screening, the study found that 39.6% had osteopenia or low bone density and 7% had osteoporosis. The study found that drinking alcohol reduced the chances of developing osteoporosis. (9)
  • Scientists at the University of London concluded that light and moderate drinking saves more lives in England and Wales than are lost through the abuse of alcohol. If everyone abstained from alcohol, death rates would be significantly higher. (10)

Like I said, I could go on all day – but I’m going to stop there, and pause, to reflect on that last statement: “If everyone abstained from alcohol, death rates would be significantly higher.” In fact, that’s such a big deal that I’m going to make it a heading:

IF EVERYONE ABSTAINED FROM ALCOHOL, DEATH RATES WOULD BE SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER

I know this seems shocking, but we have to step back and look at the cultural bias that we have all been raised under. We are a product of the pious Protestants, the people who burned witches (women, basically) and anyone who threatened the church’s power. We have a belief system that holds on dearly to the idea that alcohol is bad and leads to immoral acts (like enjoying sex, and having fun!). So let’s step back and take the long view. Biologically, we are not the product of the last 400 years. We are the product of millions of years – and for at least tens to hundreds of thousands of those years, our biology has adapted to drinking (or eating) some version or another of ethanol.

What we are NOT adapted to: abstaining from alcohol. It is literally unhealthy to abstain from alcohol, unless you have contraindications (like being an infant or in a growth stage, being pregnant or nursing, being on certain medications etc) or you are performing some kind of specific fasting period. So I’m going to give the “dry January” folks a green light since their teetotaling has an end date. Possibly taking a month off of alcohol also helps you to reset your tolerance and habits, and to better appreciate and respect alcohol once you reintroduce it.

WHY IS ETHANOL SO AWESOME

Alcohol, in moderation, appears to improve cholesterol particle size, while increasing HDL and decreasing LDL; it decreases thrombosis (blood clotting) and also helps make existing clots dissolve; it reduces blood pressure and reduces blood insulin levels; it increases blood flow to the brain which increases brain function; it increases coronary blood flow while decreasing coronary spasm reactions in response to stress (abstainers from alcohol have DOUBLE the stroke risk of moderate drinkers).

AN EXCEPTION: CERTAIN CANCERS

Alcohol seems to slightly increase levels of endogenous estrogen in the body, which is a risk factor for breast cancer and other estrogen-receptor positive tumors. So: if you have breast cancer or are already in a high-risk category for breast cancer – no booze for you! No sugar either, friend.

Possibly by another mechanism altogether, alcohol is positively associated with greater morbidity from colorectal cancer. So this doesn’t mean alcohol will put you at greater risk of getting colorectal cancer, just that if you already have it then get on the wagon and get out of here.

And obviously if you have cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer or Hepatitis C or something similar, you shouldn’t drink any form of alcohol at all. But I didn’t have to tell you that. Like, duh.

HOW TO DRINK FOR BEST HEALTH

Now we are going to run into a problem pretty quickly because a lot of alcoholic drinks are also full of carbohydrates, and as we have explored previously, excessive carbohydrates are a menace leading to metabolic disorders like diabetes, heart disease and dementia; causing dysbiosis of the gut flora which presents as auto-immune diseases; as well as promoting and feeding cancer cells.

For example, a 12oz can of regular beer has about 13g of carbohydrates. If you drank two in a day, you would use up at least half, if not all, of the carbohydrate amount that I think you should be consuming in a day for optimum health (as recommended by the LCHF – Low Carbohydrate High Fat – loving Swedes and a long tradition of Northern Europeans). Now beer does have some nutrients to recommend it – a can has almost 13% of your RDA for Vitamin B6 and B3, and almost 2g of protein. It also has decent amounts of trace metals and minerals. However beer has negligible amounts of anything else. All those carbohydrates for such slim nutritional benefits is just not acceptable, in my opinion. Better to eat carbohydrates as broccoli, salad or tomato sauce.

Now a 5oz glass of wine has about 5g of carbohydrates. Actually it has 4g, but let’s face facts and recognize that you’re never going to pour yourself a measly 5oz glass of wine. For all of wine’s resveratrol and other anti-oxidant potential, a serving has less B vitamins than beer (by half), a little bit of iron and negligible protein. So it’s not a bad option by any means, but it is still a source of largely empty carbohydrates.

Now let’s talk spirits. A serving of spirits such as vodka, gin, whiskey, rum and tequila has no carbohydrates to speak of (and no protein, vitamins, minerals or otherwise). All of the sugars have been converted by fermentation into ethanol. The health problem with consuming spirits in moderation arises when you add margarita mix, cola and other cocktail blends. For example, an 8oz vodka tonic has 22g of carbohydrates, whereas vodka on its own has no carbohydrates.

Now there are all sorts of industries popping up creating low carb cocktails (hello, Skinny Girl) and even bartenders mixing up drinks with Splenda and Truvia. And while this is a possibility (but please try not to use nasty artificial sweeteners very often), it would be nice to find an alcoholic drink that is full of bona-fide nutrition.

WELCOME TO HOT, BUTTERED RUM

I’m choosing old-fashioned dark rum, distilled from cane sugar or molasses, because it was the first commercially produced spirit, and one of the oldest spirits humans have experimented with. Which means we might be pretty well adapted to it, all things considered. In its day, rum was considered medicinal and necessary. Again, there is a difference between a daily ration of rum and getting drunk on rum. In the 1600s, the sailor’s rum ration was “half a pint” or about 8oz per day, to be drunk at noon, but it is not known if that ration was pure or diluted with water by thrifty sea captains. A large and active sailor of yore could probably have metabolized a safe 4oz of rum per day and reaped the health benefits. However 8oz per day is NOT what I am suggesting; I am only suggesting between 1oz and 3oz per day, depending on body size.

1.5oz of rum is 80% “proof” or 80% full of health-promoting ethanol. On its own, rum has a pretty harsh kick to it, and burns going down.

To perfect this drink, add 1 Tbsp of pastured butter (Kerrygold, Organic Valley Pasture Butter etc), and top off with boiling water to melt the butter. The butter will give you 12g of fat (7g saturated) – remember that this is a good thing so long as we are not going to add any sugar. Saturated fat from appropriate sources (biodynamically pastured ruminants, for example) is the good fat! Saturated fat is made up of stable molecules, unlike polyunsaturated fats which have unstable electrons which easily oxidize and create damaging free radicals in the body. If you are looking for a safe, stable fat – butter and coconut oil are the bombs. The butter  in this drink also has 8% of your vitamin A for the day and some CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and Omega-3 fatty acids. Pasture butter’s vitamin A is perfectly balanced with vitamin D and vitamin K2 – the golden triad of vitamins for bone, heart and general health.

Now all you have to do is sip this concoction in front of a roaring fire and you are drinking hot, buttered rum.

LET’S KEEP GOING

Your basic hot, buttered rum is still a bit harsh for me.

So I like to add some spices: cinnamon, nutmeg and the tiniest bit of cloves. Maybe a bit of vanilla. Hey, why not some ginger – or add hot ginger tea instead of boiling water!? You could add up to a teaspoon of cinnamon, which contains 28 mg of calcium, 1 mg iron, 1 g fiber, and considerable vitamin C, K and manganese. Cinnamon improves insulin resistance, digestion and is a powerful anti-inflammatory.

And then for extra sweetness (and fat!) I add another tablespoon of coconut oil. There are no carbohydrates in coconut oil, but it has a sort of “sweet” mouthfeel to me. The coconut oil will add more CLA along with antimicrobial and antiviral properties. I don’t know HOW you could ever get a cold if you drink one of these every night.

The coconut oil will add 14g of fat (12g saturated). It will also essentially compete with the rum’s ethanol to enter brain cells, possibly protecting against brain cell tolerance to drinking – so that you can keep getting the same “feeling” of mild intoxication at the same level of alcohol. (This is complicated, but when an alcoholic gives up drinking booze cold turkey, her brain is barely able to function because it has sort of been adapted to run on ethanol instead of glucose. Take away the ethanol and the ethanol-adapted brain cells need time to adapt back to glucose, resulting in impaired brain function and withdrawal symptoms – but use coconut oil and the transition is easier and smoother. Short story: coconut oil is awesome for alcoholics too! Both for withdrawal, and for continued abuse!)

MY HOT, BUTTERED RUM RECIPE

I must be really healthy because I've almost finished my bottle of Mount Gay

I must be really healthy because I’ve almost finished my bottle of Mount Gay

  • 1.5 oz dark rum
  • 1 Tbsp pastured butter
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • up to a tsp cinnamon
  • dash of vanilla, nutmeg and cloves
  • mugful of boiling water or ginger tea

Now I throw it all in a blender, Vitamix or Magic Bullet and emulsify it until it turns a frothy caramel color. Pull up a chair to the roaring fire, lean into your knitting and drink up.

Happy New Year!

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REFERENCES CITED ABOVE

(1) Power, C., et al. U-shaped relation for alcohol consumption and health in early adulthood and implications for mortality. The Lancet, 1998, 352, 9131.

(2) Highlights of the NIAAA position paper on moderate alcohol consumption. Press release from the journal, Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, July 14, 2004.

(3)  Di Castelnuovo, Augusto, et al. Alcohol dosing and total mortality in men and women: An updated meta-analysis of 34 prospective studies. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2006, 166, 2437-2445.

(4) Camargo, C. A., et al. Prospective study of moderate alcohol consumption and mortality in US male physicians. Archives of Internal Medicine, 1997, 157, 79-85.

(5)  Fuchs, C. S., et al. Alcohol consumption and mortality among women. The New England Journal of Medicine, 1995, 332(19), 1245-1250.

(6) Maskarinec, G., et al. Alcohol intake, body weight, and mortality in a multiethnic prospective cohort. Epidemiology, 1998, 9(6), 654-661.

(7) Power, C., et al. Goldberg, D. M., et al. Moderate alcohol consumption: the gentle face of Janus. Clinical Biochemistry, 1999, 32(7), 505-518.

(8) Karina M. Berg, Hillary V. Kunins, Jeffrey L. Jackson, Shadi Nahvi, Amina Chaudhry, Kenneth A. Harris, Rubina Malik & Julia H. Arnsten. Association Between Alcohol Consumption and Both Osteoporotic Fracture and Bone Density
The American Journal of Medicine, 2008 (May), 121(5), 406-418.

(9) Siris, E.S. Identification and fracture outcomes of undiagnosed low bone density in postmenopausal women: Results from the National Osteoporosis Risk Assessment. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001, 286(22), 2815-2822.

(10) Britton, A., and McPherson, K. Mortality in England and Wales attributable to current alcohol consumption. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2001, 55(6), 383-388.

FURTHER READING

An introduction to LCHF

How to Eat More Butter

Pubmed article on alcohol as a risk factor in breast cancer. And another meta-analysis.

What sugar does for cancer (spoiler: promotes and feeds it!) and what a lack of sugar does (starves it out)

Want another weird drink that’s full of antioxidants and spices? Don’t forget to make The Crazy Hot Drink – it’s a Foundation Drink after all.

Why I don’t use hyperlinks within the body of my arguments anymore! I have also finally dug into my pockets for the $30 charge to eliminate ads from my blog. You’re welcome.

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