Monday, July 31, 2006

Two Products that Changed My Life

I know what you're thinking. I'm going to blog about some new techno-toys, but no.

These are two ordinary household products that have absolutely changed how I live. Both of them were introduced to me in the past year.

First is stevia. I use Sweet Leaf Stevia products to sweeten my daily glasses of water to make a really nice drink. They have just normal stevia, but they also have very neat flavors. I like Vanilla Creme and Raspberry. But I really love the Root Beer flavor. It takes me back to when my parents would take us into town (we lived on a farm) and we'd go to A&W for root beer and hamburgers. That was just heaven.

The second thing is Miracle II. Yes, it's soap. Miracle II is a type of soap that is made from certain ingredients from coconuts and stuff. It is antiviral, antibacterial and yet it doesn't contain any bleaches or antibiotics. In fact, you can drink it. In fact, you should drink it. It is a neutralizer, so when you're using it, it is neutralizing the odors, the stains, whatever. When you drink it, it is neutralizing your body, bringing its pH value back to normal.

I just love Miracle II, using it as a soap, floor cleaner, shampoo, toothpaste, you name it. This is just my personal opinion, but I am a very happy customer of this stuff.

I sprayed a little Miracle II on our yard plants this spring, and I was really surprised at the results. Our lilac tree blossomed for the first time since we planted it eight years ago. Our hedge started popping out some type of pears, which we had no idea it was even capable of. That hedge has been here since we moved in 10 years ago and it's never had any indication of fruit!

I did a podcast with Steve Heilich a few months ago. He is a Miracle II rep. That was very informative for me, and several listeners have commented saying the same thing.

Anyway, these are two things I love - stevia and Miracle II.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

How to Close the Organic Gap

The New York Times just came out with an article on how "organic" really isn't "organic" in many cases. This was no surprise to me, but apparently the columnist was shocked to find this out.

It's a good article. It reinforces what I've decided to do with my own grocery shopping. Yes, I'm the shopper in the family. My wife used to do almost all the shopping, but she is such a bargain hunter that she would usually spend about 4-5 hours a week just traipsing from store to store, so we decided that I should be the shopper. I quite enjoy it.

I found out about the "organic gap" several years ago. To me, as usual, the government is a major problem. The Bush administration (and previous admins) are happy to bend to industry's demands, the the big industrial food producers would like government standards that say that anything and everything is organic, so they can plaster the stickers on their food and charge more.

This is inevitable. The organic sticker on food will never mean much, even though there are supposedly USDA standards for it. Industry will always have its way.

For me, the trick is to shift my allegiance from the producer to the retailer. The producers will find ways to put organic labels on their food through legal sleight-of-hand, with the USDA and FDA in close cooperation.

But retailing is a different story. If I could only find a retailer who prides themselves on selling only the least harmful food, with the least exposure to pssticides, herbicides, with no GMOs, with as close to "true organic" processes as possible.

Yes, Daryl, there is such a retailer. It's called Whole Foods Market.

Whole Foods has a two-part strategy for taking ownership of this retail space. First, they widely position themselves as the grocery store that specializes in natural, organic food, and they clearly indicate the food in their store that is NOT organic by USDA standards. However, these supposedly non-organic foods are often safer than food labeled as organic by the big producers.

The second part of their strategy is to investigate the suppliers, not to "take their word for it." Whole Foods has a policy of visiting their suppliers and ensuring that the processes are still in place to produce the best, healthiest, least harmful food possible.

To me, this is the solution. Yes, Whole Foods has been slammed for various "infringements" of healthy food sales. But in the cases I've been able to find, it is mostly from people who think Whole Foods shouldn't sell anything with sugar, or should abandon their meat sales and go completely vegan, etc. In other words, various food religious wars played out on the supermarket store floor.

What I haven't heard is any Whole Foods products testing positive for pssticides, herbicides or GMOs. If this happens, Whole Foods reputation would go down the drain and they'd be just like any other big grocer. They can't afford for that to happen. And so far, it hasn't.

I watched a movie called "Touch and Go" a few months ago. It's an ice hockey drama with Michael Keaton done back in 1986. In it, Keaton's character is asked "Who do you trust?" He replies "I find the people who have the same goals as me, and I trust them."

I think this is such a great statement. Obviously, a person should be more trusting than that, but if someone has the same goal as you do, that's a good indicator that you can trust them.

I think Whole Foods has the same goal as me, with different reasons. I want a grocery store that will sell me the best, healthy food. That's my goal. And Whole Foods wants to sell me that. Not just because they're altruistically wanting the best for me, but because their entire reputation as a retailer relies on this happening. If I found out their food had a bunch of pesticides or GMOs, I would be so disappointed, and so would 100% of their customers. Their business depends on it. And that's makes me comfortable shopping there.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Paul Zane Pilzer and Wellness

Paul Zane Pilzer's book "The Wellness Revolution - How to Make a Fortune in the Next Trillion Dollar Industry" is a page-turner. When I first bought this book, shortly after it came out in 2003, I literally didn't go to bed until I had read the whole thing.

This book changed my life.

For one thing, it changed my approach to health insurance. Pilzer introduced me to the Health Savings Account (then called the Medical Savings Account) and actually motivated me to write my own book on the HSA.

As Pilzer says, the HSA changes everything. It puts the day-to-day decisions of your healthcare back into your lap. Not with the insurance company.

Look at what happens today with most people. I want to do something about my waistline, so I go to my doctor (because he's in my insurance network, so it's just a $15 co-pay). The doctor says "Here, take this drug" because this drug is covered by my insurance company. Or, so we thought. It turns out, it's a little too new, so my insurance company complains that the doctor should have used an older, cheaper drug and they don't pay me for the prescription. Damn it!

Then I find there are some serious side-effects to this drug. My stomach is constantly upset, I have headaches I didn't have before, my vision is becoming blurry sometimes. What the hell! Yes, I'm starting to lose some pounds, but do I really want that at the expense of all these other symptoms? I start to get discouraged and I quit taking the drug. I go back to the doctor and ask for something else. He gives me a different drug and we start again.

Here I've made a series of bad decisions, in retrospect. First of all, doctors are not very knowledgeable about weight loss. Second, taking a drug to lose weight is helping with the symptom (overweight) but not with the cause (eating too much, wrong foods, toxic colon, don't exercise, etc.). And I'm making all these decisions BECAUSE it's covered by insurance.

But what if I had a high-deductible health plan, let's say $5,000? What would my decisions be then for this annoying but not immediately life-threatening problem?

Well, for me, I would probably take a much longer term view. First, I'd probably go to see a naturopathic physician instead of an MD. They know much more about weight loss. Second, they would NEVER give me a drug for weight loss, they'd help me change my habits (exercise, eating, toxicity, etc.). THe prescriptions would be herbs, etc. not drugs. Thus, the side-effects would be minimized or non-existant.

And, if I stuck to them, they would work in most cases. Plus, I've addressed the causes, not just the symptoms.

The Health Savings Account (HSA) gives us a way to have a high-deductible health plan without the risk. You can put savings into the HSA each year, and build it up until you have enough to cover your high deductible. If your yearly deductible is $5,000, you'd need to have $5,000 in your HSA. You can take as long as you want to build that up, or you can do it all at once.

In Pilzer's book, he takes us through this logic, and shows how it will push us all towards more holistic options. In essence, using this financial vehicle, the HSA, can actually MAKE YOU HEALTHIER! How amazing is that?

Pilzer takes us through all the business opportunities in this field. From food (organic, etc.) to insurance to what he calls "wellness distribution," the chances are good to make money in these areas.

I think Pilzer has done an amazing public service with this book. He changed my own thinking so much it shifted my own insurance approach, my healthcare approach and even my own businesses. I can't think of too many books that have had that kind of impact on me in my life, maybe 1 or 2.

However, let me say what I found wrong with Pilzer's book too.

Pilzer comes from the multi-level marketing community, he's written several books in that ilk. To me, the MLM or network marketing approach IS NOT the wave of the future. There are too many companies in this area that operate unscrupulously, and as a result, the whole sector stinks to high heaven. Yes, I know there are a few good MLM companies, but I do not think they are representative of MLM.

Having said that, I'm happy to report that Pilzer does not stress the MLM aspect a whole lot in Wellness Revolution. The undertone is there, even in the subtitle "Make Your Fortune..." but he doesn't harp on it.

And I feel the overall focus of the book, rather than showing how we could "make our fortune" could have been more instructive if it was focused on what the consumer could do to switch to this lifestyle effectively.

That is where I decided to go with my book "Health Insurance Off the Grid - A Wonderful Way to Use Alternative Medicine and Save Money on Insurance Using the New Health Savings Account (HSA)."

I took Pilzer's ideas and changed the perspective from the businessperson to the consumer. My audience is especially the holistic consumer. The person who is interested in holistic healthcare options, like naturopathy, yoga, acupuncture, etc. - but doesn't use it much because it "isn't covered by my insurance."

I would also say that my audience is exactly the set of people who are underserved by insurance today - self-employed, underinsured, uninsured. These people benefit most from my book, and from the whole HSA approach.

Another big problem I have with Pilzer's book "Wellness Revolution" is that he overestimates the wellness industry. He includes services like Lasik eye surgery, cosmetics, proactive MRI/CAT scanning salons, etc. in wellness. To me, these are ABSOLUTELY NOT WELLNESS. These services are not about "staying well." They are either fixes (eye surgery) or they are early detection of disease. Not wellness. For my definitions of wellness, as well as alternative medicine, etc. please see this earlier blog post.

Since releasing my book in 2004, which is now in its second edition, Pilzer has written another book which I also want to review here. It's called "The New Health Insurance Solution." Again, it is an excellent book, maybe even better than the Wellness Revolution. But, with this book, he leaves out the all-important piece of holistic healthcare, and just focused on how to construct your high deductible health plan and your HSA. Incredibly valuable information, to be sure, but I feel my book still provides the missing link between his two books.

I promise to review this other book on this blog very soon. I have lots to say about it too!

Paul Zane Pilzer, whatever you want to say about his network marketing side, has been an extremely influential writer for me. I hope you decide to read "Wellness Revolution" too.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Bariatric Surgery Causes Complications 40% of the Time

I've always been intrigued by the phenomenon of bariatric surgery. In my understanding, this is a technique where a person who is obese can have their stomach reduced to about the size of a walnut using surgery.

The theory is that if your stomach is smaller then you can't eat as much, so you will lose weight.

Does this make sense to anyone? So here is a person with an unhealthy lifestyle, eats too much, doesn't exercise enough, and the answer is SURGERY?

Surgery is so dangerous in general, but it sounds like this procedure is more so. Forbes magazine reports that 40% of people who have bariatric surgery have complications in the subsequent six months. These complications include leaks, hernias, infections and pneumonia. It also includes something called "dumping syndrome" (???) which means vomiting, reflux and diarrhea. Sounds nice, huh?

Of course, the excuses are coming out of the woodwork as to why this study should be ignored. The data is too old (2001). Dumping syndrome isn't that bad. As long as it isn't you who's dumping, I suppose it's fine.

Why would someone do this? Yes, changing your eating habits is hard. I can testify to that. Yes, establishing a good exercise ritual is hard. But seeing surgery as a viable option is just beyond my comprehension.

I don't like to post rants on this blog, generally, but this one just set me off.

Monday, July 17, 2006

My UML Podcast

By the way, I did start my Unified Modeling Language (UML) podcast a few weeks ago. I call it "UML in Seven Minutes."

I just uploaded podcast #11. I'm using this podcast as a very basic starter guide for people learning the UML. Right now, I'm doing a tour of the UML diagrams one by one - class, use case, sequence, communication/collaboration and state machine so far. The rest of the diagrams will come next.

I'll also be getting into topics about Agile development, Rational Unified Process, iterative/incremental lifecycle and much more.

This has been a fun project. It has been a great challenge fitting a description of each diagram into seven minutes, but I think it's worthwhile for the listeners, especially considering the comments I'm getting back.

If you're interested in the Unified Modeling Language (i.e. you're a computer software analyst, developer, tester, etc.) please check out my "other" podcast at

Also, I have a related blog at Click here to read my "other" blog from my "other" life. In my "other" life, I was co-author of the book "Use Cases: Requirements in Context" which has sold a surprising 20,000+ copies.

I've enjoyed keeping in touch with my former associates in the software development field ever since leaving it officially in 2002. The UML podcast is a way to continue stay connected with that world.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Hyperstrike Virtual Personal Trainer

You know I spend time thinking about what it means to be holistic, or to be pursuing wellness, etc.

One thing I really think is holistic is just getting exercise. You can do it yourself (in fact, you HAVE TO do it yourself), it energizes all your systems, it helps many chronic conditions. Fitness is holistic fitness.

I wrote about the Hyperstrike virtual personal trainer a few weeks ago on this blog.

As usual for me, I used my virtual personal trainer at Hyperstrike faithfully for about a week, then had a set of classes that I had to teach over the weekend, which got me out of my new habit, and that was it.

I'm starting again. I've nabbed a tacky little banner from Hyperstrike that you can use to click over to their site. My indiscretions aside, it really is a good service. It's free and it gives you an incredible variety of exercises for warm-ups, cardio, strength and stretching. I had no idea most of these exercises existed. I'm glad to have the videos that show how to do them in motion, otherwise I think I'd be lost.

Ha! It looks like the banner doesn't always work to click to the site so you can just click here to go to Hyperstrike.

Have fun with it! It really is a lot of fun, very motivating.

My Free Report on Starting a Massage Business

I decided a month ago to provide a free report on starting a massage business. The response has been spectacular! Almost 300 people have downloaded this report in a little more than 30 days. Thank you everyone!!

For those who want more information, there is also a second report available for $9. But for many, the free report is enough information to get started. Click here to go to the download page.

Complementary Medicine, Alternative Medicine, Wellness, Holistic Health - What Do They All Mean?

Alternative medicine has grown in so many ways in North America. More people are visiting alternative medical practitioners than Western medical doctors. People spend more money on alternative medicine than they do out-of-pocket on Western medicine.

Another way that alternative medicine has grown is in the different labels. We have so many!

What do they all mean?

All these terms refer to a wide variety of healthcare practices originating from various countries and cultures. They include acupuncture, yoga, herbs, vitamin therapy, nutrition, exercise, reiki, reflexology, polarity and many, many other therapies.

However, each label also has its own unique twist when referring to this set of practices.

Let me take the labels one-by-one and give you a short description. Please note that these are my descriptions for each term, and other people may not agree. But I think I'm using the most widely-used definitions here.

Alternative Medicine

The term alternative medicine is probably the oldest and most widely used term. Unfortunately, it is also the most misleading.

Alternative medicine means that these healthcare practices (acupuncture, yoga, etc.) are used instead of Western medicine. A patient swears off any type of pharmaceutical drug or surgical technique and uses only Chinese medicine or homeopathy or whatever.

This hardly ever happens. Few patients are so myopic to close themselves off from all Western medical treatments. It really isn't advisable. I know many, many holistic practitioners and I've never heard any of them advise a patient to close themselves off from Western medicine. How silly! Western medicine has its own benefits to offer too, why ignore them.

But, that is the real definition of alternative medicine. You can see why it is being phased out slowly.

Complementary Medicine

A newer term is complementary medicine. This means that the practices I list above may be used as a complement to Western medicine. You go to your doctor, and he prescribes some drugs and/or surgery, then if that doesn't work, he asks you to try some other complementary approaches. Or, it may also mean when the above practices are used side-by-side with Western medicine. An example of this is when acupuncture is used for chemotherapy cancer patients to relieve the nausea and pain. This would be considered complementary medicine.

Be careful of the spelling here too. Complementary means a side-by-side approach to medicine. Complimentary means that it is free, no charge.

Integrative Medicine

A term pioneered by Dr. Andrew Weil from the University of Arizona is integrative medicine.

This means that physicians (Western and otherwise) have an integrated system of medicine that involves certain pieces of Western medicine and certain parts from the Chinese, Indian, etc. therapies that I listed above. All the therapies intermix and you have the best possible “super therapy” as a result.

As much as I like and respect Dr. Weil, I have to say that my experience says that truly integrative medicine does not yet exist anywhere yet. I've never seen a physician or any kind of practitioner who has an integrated plan for his patients that includes little bits of Western medicine and bits from multiple holistic practices.

This is probably the “Holy Grail” of medicine, but I think it will be a long time coming. The clinics that proclaim themselves to be “integrative medicine” centers are usually just a collection of different practitioners who share the rent together in one building. True integration would be great, I just haven't seen it happen.


If the previous terms have been misleading or overly optimistic, this term is really succinct and accurate. The term wellness applies to everything a person does to stay well. It is all about prevention and achieving the greatest health a person can achieve.

This is extremely accurate in describing the Chinese or Indian systems of medicine. And it is the best possible advice for patients, to get them on the track of staying well, rather than fixing illnesses.

But, as you might guess, this term has a problem too. (Don't they all?) Wellness has been hijacked as a label for “early detection of disease.” Many hospitals have a “Wellness Center” where they conduct cancer screenings and do possible unnecessary MRI scans to look for problems or potential problems. These are great profit centers for the hospitals, but unfortunately they have ZERO to do with wellness.

Wellness is about eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising, taking the right herbs and having great relationships. It is NOT about early detection of disease. That doesn't help you stay well, it just allows you to jump on an illness before it has the chance to become life-threatening. Valuable, sure, but it is not wellness.

Holistic Health

Finally, we come to the term holistic health. You could also call it holistic medicine or holistic practices. It is also sometimes spelled “wholistic."

Holistic comes from “the whole.” It means to take a person as a whole being. The Chinese and Indian healing systems see a person, not just as a physical body, but as a body-mind-spirit. Their healing practices allow for all parts of the person and treat all parts equally. They have methodologies for solving problems in all three areas, and especially for finding problems that crisscross between body, mind and spirit (which most health problems do).

Holistic health is my favorite term. It too has problems, though. Sometimes, holistic health is perceived as a “New Age” term, evoking angels and witches and crystal balls. These off-beat practices can certainly be included as part of holistic health, but they are not at its center. Practices like naturopathy, homeopathy, Chinese medicine, Indian ayurveda are truly about holistic health.

But it will be hard to shake the New Age association for people who use the term holistic health.

There's your whirlwind tour of definitions for alternative medicine. I hope this has been helpful. Use the definition that makes most sense to you. And be well!

Daryl Kulak is the author of Health Insurance Off the Grid, a book that provides a simple, effective plan to reduce insurance costs for the self-employed, unemployed and underinsured. The book puts the new Health Savings Account (HSA) together with alternative medicine to create a workable, cost-effective plan for many Americans. The book is available at the Website

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Podcast #24 - Herpes is the Gift I

The latest podcast is an interview (Part 1) with Christopher Scipio, an expert in helping those with herpes in a holistic way.

Christopher lives near Vancouver British Columbia and helps many of his clients over the Internet.

The podcast is available for listening here.

Christopher's blog is here.

His e-Book on herpes is called "Making Peace with Herpes."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Helpful Blog for Alternative Health Practices

Here's a very helpful blog by a consultant who helps alternative health practitioners with business issues.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Upcoming Podcast Topics

I have an amazing set of interviews and topics coming up on my podcast "Holistic Health Nation:"
  • interview with an author who has looked at the history of holistic healing in Christianity

  • Alexander Technique interview

  • Investigating the high costs of healthcare

  • Medical intuition

  • Alternative health insurance

  • Getting kids to concentrate

  • Rethinking vaccines

  • Midwifery

This is only a small sample of what's coming. I have a list of almost 100 ideas that will come to life in the next year or two on the podcast.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

My TiVO Thinks I'm Twelve

Have you heard of the guy who recorded "The L Word" and a few movies with a gay theme and then TiVO began recording all the gay stuff it could, and the guy wasn't gay?

That was an interesting story. But now I'm facing the same thing. My wife enjoys watching the Adult Swim type of cartoons, including Futurama, Simpsons, Robot Chicken, King of the Hill, etc.

I like them too, but she really loves them. Well, now TiVO has noticed this preponderance towards cartoons and it's recording a bunch of kids stuff from Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, etc. Superhero stuff, Power Puff Girls, you name it.

This is another example of where a machine just can't quite get it right in guessing the preferences of a human being. Amazon's system of guessing what books you'll like has a similar problem. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, was doing a demo and his book suggestions came up with "Amazon Women from the Moon" because he had bought some other books with the name Amazon in them. Too funny.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Tonight's Beer

Tonight I had a Belhaven Scottish Ale. It's a very nice beer, but it almost gave me a heart attack.

There is a little plastic "widget" floating in the can that I didn't notice until it was almost empty. Suddenly, I heard a little clunking noise when I moved the can. I looked inside and saw plastic.

"There's a friggin' syringe in my beer!" I thought.

I took a can opener and ripped the top of the can off. Then I read the label (duh).

The widget is meant to help hold the fizziness so it acts like draught.

I don't really like plastic floaties in my beer can.

Here's the beer.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Podcast #23 - New Ideas About Treating Cancer - Part Two

My latest podcast is up. It's part two of my interview with Jon Barron of the Baseline of Health Foundation. A very knowledgeable nutrition expert, he gives us the lowdown on what it takes to beat cancer (or to avoid it in the first place).

Listen here.

Even at Advised Doses, Tylenol Can Cause Liver Damage

The L.A. Times reports that Tylenol is the leading cause of acute liver failure.

Taking herbs is the leading cause of...what? Healthier lives??

Click here to read more.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Another View of the Bosnian Pyramid

I was introduced to a blog yesterday that has an alternative view of the Bosnian Pyramid problem.

Click here to read it. Unfortunately, the blog entry just quotes from Archaeology Magazine, but in his comments to me, this blogger said that he believes that the pyramid is just a "pyramid shaped hill" and the underground passageways could be "mines from Roman times." Good points, all.

Is he skillfully showing amateurs what the facts really are, or is he blindly following whatever the establishment tells him? He wasn't able to respond to my questions about how to respond when the establishment has been wrong so many times in the past, whether in archaeology, physics, healthcare, or whatever.

But still, it's worth looking at all sides of this debate. It's not that the establishment is always wrong, but it is certainly dangerous to blindly follow them into a canyon.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Christianity and Holistic Healthcare

A Florida State professor named Amanda Porterfield has written a book called "The History of Healing in Christianity," which tackles the question of why we see these two things as somehow separate - Christianity and holistic health.

For so many years, they've been closely linked, but in the past 200 years, somehow they've been separated. This separation is unnatural and Amanda takes us into the history to find out, perhaps, how to piece things back together again.

Click here for Florida State's press release on the book.

Click here to see her book on Amazon.

I hope to interview Amanda on a future podcast. I wanted to have a topic on "Holistic Healthcare for Christians" anyway, so she sounds like the perfect guest!

Want a Clear View on Global Warming? Ask an Insurance Company

Here's what Richard Jones of the Hartford Insurance Company had to say about global warming.

This article from Mother Jones magazine (it's a year old article, but still very topical):

If you want to hear some tough talk about global warming, talk to an insurer. Take this recent statement by Richard Jones, the vice president for engineering of the Hartford Insurance Company. “Climate change is real,” said Jones. “To me, proving that earth’s climate is changing from human actions—namely global warming—is like statistically ‘proving’ the pavement exists after you have jumped out a 30-story building. After each floor, your analysis would say, ‘so far, so good,’ and then, at the pavement, all uncertainty is removed.” Jones’s alarm over the impending climate catastrophe is not uncommon, even in an industry known for its buttoned-down, by-the-book image. As the cost of droughts, floods, wind storms, and other weather events linked to climate change multiply, insurers have taken a remarkably active role in speaking out about global warming.

Click here to read the whole article.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Seattle Mother Jailed for Trying to Avoid Baby's Surgery

Tina Marie Carlsen, a young mother in Seattle, was arrested and put in jail because she didn't want her 9 month old baby, Riley, to have to undergo a dangerous kidney operation.

The jail time meant that Tina was not able to provide her mother's milk to her child for several days.

The charge? She was charged with kidnapping her own baby, as certain hospital specialists said initially that the baby's life was in "imminent danger" but later reversed their statements saying there was no imminent threat.

To me, this is outrageous. It is a clear sign of government gone too far, and of Western medicine gone crazy.

A parent should always have the right to choose the right therapy for his or her children. No exceptions. Western medicine nut cases need to be taken out of the decision making process.

If you're interested in helping the Carlsen's case, you can donate here.

Bosnian Pyramid Syndrome

Again, I'm posting an article from a different discipline that so closely parallels medicine.

A pyramid has been found in Bosnia, in Europe.

An amateur archaeologist realized that a particular hill, all covered with grass now, looked a lot like a pyramid and began investigating. Sure enough, he found a structure underneath and even passageways into the "hill."

This pyramid shares much in common with the Egyptian pyramids in its structure and approach, but is also quite different.

The "experts" in archaeology are calling this a "fake." Their responses are that this was just an "amateur archaeologist" and that "everyone was living in caves in Europe at that time in history."

Do you see how strong a mental model can be? There is the pyramid, sitting right there. IT'S RIGHT THERE! And the "expert" looks at it and basically CANNOT SEE IT. His mental model prevents him from believing that a) an amateur could find such an amazing thing and b) that his mental model about the history of Europe could be so wrong.

Again, I bring the topic back to Western medicine.

When a nurse, or any amateur medical practitioner comes up with a new idea to help with healthcare, the "experts" band together to discredit it, based ONLY on the that fact the person is not educated as a Western medical doctor.

But in Western medicine it's even worse, because even when a doctor makes a discovery that challenges the Western medical model, he is pushed down and out as quickly as possible.

Mental models about medicine seem to be the hardest to change. In my podcast last week, I interviewed a nutrition expert who stated that the studies clearly show that if a person is over 50 and has lung cancer, chemotherapy has a 1% chance of helping him. And yet, it will be prescribed over and over again. A damaging, deceptive mental model at work.

I don't know what the answer is. Our mental models come with us as human beings. The inflexibility of mental models is something we all share. For instance, I have a mental model that President George W. Bush is evil and stupid. And no matter what he does, I can't shake that model. President Bush signed the Health Savings Account into law in 2003, which I think is one of the best things to hit healthcare in the last fifty years. I even wrote a book on the topic of HSAs. But did that change my mental model of him? Nope.

Let me know your thoughts on mental models and the Bosnian Pyramid Syndrome.

Real-Life Experience Versus Studies from Afar

I listened to a very intriguing lecture by Jessica Stern, who interviewed dozens of terrorists and tried to understand what makes them tick.

This lecture is part of the "Big Ideas" show on TV Ontario, also distributed as a podcast. Click here for more info.

Anyway, Jessica told several stories about the terrorists she met and the detailed insights she gained while on this trek of "curiosity," as she called it. This was obviously very dangerous for her to do, but we can be glad she had the courage to do it and we should pay close attention to the observations she's made about terrorism.

But, about half way through the speech, she began to lapse into quoting various statistics about "why terrorism happens." These statistics were not based on her work, but instead were collected by various academics who did not go through the experiences that Jessica did with the up-close-and-personal interviews.

I was struck by the irony of a woman who obviously had such detailed knowledge of this subject deferring to these academic studies as to what the cause of terrorism was. The studies looked at the impact of poverty, gross domestic product, male-to-female ratio, level of education, etc. and tried to correlate these to terrorism levels.

I wanted to hear what Jessica thought! But, instead, here she was, quoting statistics from people with LESS KNOWLEDGE THAN HERSELF! The Big Ideas podcast often cuts the speeches off at the end, so I'm not sure if she ever did explain her views about what causes terrorism.

Then, I reflected on how similar this was to Western medicine.

Medical doctors routinely ignore the findings of their own practices to defer to what the "clinical studies" say, however ridiculous or obviously wrong those conclusions are.

Even worse is the trend of doctors using techniques unproven by clinical studies OR hands-on experience, as reported in BusinessWeek magazine a few weeks ago in their cover story "Medical Guesswork."

But that aside, why would a perfectly competent doctor toss aside his own observations in favor of clinical studies? My only answer is that it is the product of a culture in medicine that has gone astray, that has told doctors they must do this seemingly unintuitive thing in their own practices, with their own patients.

Perhaps it is the fear of malpractice suits, or even hearings in front of the state medical boards, that causes doctors to fall in line with whatever the "common wisdom" is.

I heard Dr. Andrew Weil speak a few years ago, when he said that, in a debate with a conventional MD, he was shouted down every time he himself used the phrase " my experience..." because doctors weren't supposed to rely on their own experience, they were supposed to follow the results of clinical studies. Doesn't that seem backwards??

In any event, it is a truly dangerous phenomenon for us patients that this is occuring so regularly. I wish all doctors would pay attention to their own empirical evidence unfolding in front of them.

And, Jessica, if you're reading this, please tell us what YOU think causes terrorism!

And thanks for taking the risks you did to bring us new information from the front lines of terror.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Cato Institute Calls for "Large Health Savings Accounts"

The Cato Institute, a conservative, free-market think tank, proposed in 2005 that we enhance the Health Savings Account (HSA) to something they call a "Large Health Savings Account."

It seems like President Bush and the Republican Congress are in favor of this, because Bush mentioned it in his State of the Union speech. However, the HSA legislation has not come up yet, hopefully it will soon.

The Cato Institute is saying that we should be able to use our HSAs for paying our health insurance premiums as well as for medical expenses.

They are also advocating increasing the contribution limits from $2700 (individual) and $5450 (family) today up to $8000 (individual) and $16,000 (family).

They are further saying that we should abolish the restriction that in order to get an HSA you must have a health insurance policy.

I personally think that these are very, VERY positive changes. By allowing us to pay for health insurance premiums out of the HSA, we can save money on taxes for all self-employed people. And also people who are employees of larger companies can get a lump sum from their company deposited into their Health Savings Account, which they can then decide how to spend. Perhaps they'll take spend it on health insurance through their own company, or maybe they'll shop around for a better deal somewhere else. This means that there will certainly be insurance companies springing up that offer alternative medicine, because they would snare so many of these now captive corporate employees.

Dropping the requirement to have an insurance policy means that part-time and low-wage workers who have no insurance and no HSA today, could open an HSA to save for their own healthcare needs and save money on taxes too. If they do decide to get a policy, they can use that HSA money to pay for the premiums (all pre-tax).

Any expansion of the HSA program is exciting to me, but these changes are very useful for the self-employed, the working poor and the corporate employee.

For more information, click here for the Cato Institute reports on the topic of "Large Health Savings Accounts."

If you'd like to hear Michael Cannon from the Cato Institute explain his reports (mp3 format), here are Parts One, Two and Three of his talk.

I can't believe it took me this long to catch on this proposal. Although I'm in good company. When I searched for "large health savings account" on Google, there were only 2 references (search in quotes).

I think we need to push for these reforms. HSAs are a fantastic tool today, but look at how much better they could be. I am not a huge fan of the Cato Institute, especially when it comes to programs for the poor, etc., but I feel they nailed this issue on the head.

Incidentally, the Cato Institute was where the idea of the Health Savings Account came from originally in 1992.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Podcast #22 - New Ideas About Treating Cancer

This week's podcast is with a very special guest, Jon Barron, internationally recognized nutrition expert. He talks about how cancer happens, how each of us basically get cancer every day, and how to prevent and treat it with nutrition.

Listen here!

Tonight's Beer

Thought I'd let you in on a special brew from England that I like. It's called Hobgoblin and it's from Wychwood Breweries.

We'll Know Holistic Healthcare Has Made It When...

We'll know that holistic healthcare has succeeded when we have companies where holistic practitioners can work that will offer salary and benefits.

My wife, Tamara, had a total brainstorm today. She said that it's so interesting that most people, MOST people, who go to college to learn a profession, come out and work for a company. This makes sense, because they shouldn't have to take the risk of becoming their own company immediately after graduating.

However, in holistic health, almost every single grad must come out and immediately start their own business. That's very difficult! They must know marketing, sales, bookkeeping, taxes - you name it - in order to even do day-to-day work in this field.

The day when someone can graduate from massage school, or polarity school or Barbara Brennan's School of Healing and come out and work in a company for a salary with benefits - we'll know we've made it as an industry.

What are the intermediate steps to this goal? Or is it a worthy goal to you?

Post-Health Freedom America

I tend to think of things "from the end," as Stephen Covey says, so I've been thinking about what it will be like once we pass the Health Freedom Bill in Ohio and the idea takes hold in the entire U.S.

And I've realized something that is almost guaranteed to happen.

Yes, we will have lots of good things for holistic practitioners and, especially, for consumers.

But there will also be something unpleasant.

A backlash against Western medicine.

It is something easy to predict that once the American public realizes the pain, suffering and death caused by today's Western medical establishment, there will be a mighty movement against Western medicine completely. People will use their newly-found holistic services, but they are quite likely to "punish" their Western MDs for holding them hostage all these years to medical practices that were more dangerous than necessary, more costly and less effective.

And this is really, really bad. Western medicine has its rightful place within holism, and we should not cut it off at the knees at any time in the future.

I'd like to begin thinking about how we can avoid this backlash right now because it WILL happen.

I guess one idea is to embrace any of the establishment doctors, hospital administrators and even FDA executives who are even the least bit willing to think about holistic means. That way, maybe we can show that they were involved in the changeover, and that they should NOT be "punished" by being driven out of healthcare completely.

Other ideas??