Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mustard and our using our minds

It's been a bit too long since I last blogged!

The mustard has worked well in the few recipes we've made, or rather, it's been a good flavor in the recipes we've made. The recipes themselves, I understand, did not go over so well. We tried a chicken salad with cilantro dressing, for example, but again, marinated the food too long (that seems to be a habit for me. I'm a marinade rebel or something, I suppose). In the end, the chicken picked up too much vinegar from the marinade and ended up far too sour.

However, the kids really liked the little mustard kick to it, so I think that counts as a condiment well done. It's not as useful as I had hoped, however, because of the chunky style. We have more recipes that require smooth mustard than whole grain, so that'll be the next thing we try.

But in between trying, I have been taking a break to have a little snit over how willing we can be to believe something we want to be true.

The other day, I received an email from a gal in a group I belong to, one of those that forwards along a letter, supposedly by a good source. In this case, it was a letter from Johns Hopkins, an excerpt from a pamphlet they send out to patients, supposedly. Part of the letter discusses how we should stop eating meat to avoid cancer.

My face looked something like this after reading that: 0.o

The advice is all over the place, from what prevents cancer to what can be done to treat it - it all involved eating and lifestyle changes, however. The lifestyle changes very closely resembled the Alkaline Diet that's popular right now. Veggies and raw foods were good - hey, most of us agree. Meat was bad - not so much agreement there, although moderation tends to be a good thing. Attitude makes a difference. Well, yeah, but I'm surprised Johns Hopkins would say something about it and...

Surgery and chemo are bad.

Again: 0.o

Now, I know chemo sucks to have, and doesn't always work. And surgery can have it's problems too, but this seemed so far off the mark from everything I've heard in the medical field that it started ringing alarm bells. And then came the kicker: products were mentioned by name.

Johns Hopkins, recommending that we take Bragg's aminos to prevent cancer? No, no, and no again. Ain't gonna happen. I cannot believe that a medical institution like this would actually tell patients to use a particular food product. They just don't DO that.

Turns out, that was a good call, as this is a completely fabricated letter. In fact, Johns Hopkins was so irritated by the letter itself, they issued a rebuttal that refuted or corrected every point. And as I was reading over the letter myself, I had to think about how many people have been forwarding this along - for three years now! - and believe it. I'm sure I've done it myself with other emails: medical, political, philosophical.

Why do we do this? Do we simply want something to be true so badly that we fail to use our critical thinking to look it over? Do we trust the source and assume that they must have reviewed it, so we can believe it whole cloth?

I suppose I find it disturbing these days because with the internet, where anyone in the world can put something out and say whatever they want about it and its sources, we need our critical thinking to kick in more often, not less. As more and more of us are taking our health into our own hands - some of us from sheer necessity - we don't want to screw ourselves up because we want something to be true so badly that we refuse to think about it clearly.

Because of how much difficulty I've been having lately, I've had many, many people offer up different methods, diets, and solutions that I should try. I haven't tried a single one, to date, because so far, they don't hold up once I check them out, or I'm not confident enough I could find one that would help instead of harm me.

The Alkaline Diet - One of the biggest proponents for the Alkaline Diet lied about his credentials and is being scrutinized by the National Council Against Health Fraud. There's been no reliable studies that the foods recommended result in alkaline or acidic conditions within the body. At all.

NAET - The story of the founder of NAET, Dr. Devi S. Nambudripad, is full of information that cannot be true and tests done on the process show it has no better results than random guessing. One of my favorite claims is that Dr. Nambudripad had an allergy to vitamin C - which doesn't exist, I'm sorry, but no - and so had to live off of Broccoli and rice for year...a diet that is really high in vitamin C. Now, I believe this person had major food problems - how could I not, with my history? - but the entire theory behind the NAET diet is badly flawed.

Homeopathic remedies - I like the idea of using less processed medicines to help heal, in part because I'm less likely (one would hope) to get allergens I can't have, like corn and gluten. However, there's a few problems.

1. The herbal industry in the United States is not known for its regulation, and that means that they can put nearly whatever they want in their bottles and sell it until they get caught. Many are good companies, of course, but you're still going to get the bad egg here and there. If you want to see if an herbal supplement or remedy you want to use is good, there is an independent website that tests foods and herbs ( Europe regulates its herbals for content, so if you can order from them, you have a better chance of getting what it claims). Another good one to check has been herbalwatch, which reports 'bad' companies for known fraud, harm, etc... But so far, it's been more trouble than its worth to hunt down what I might use.

2. The second problem is accuracy of information. There just aren't enough studies done on herbal remedies. I find that a shame, as some of these suckers have been around for hundreds of years, and really do seem to work, but without a very, very reliable herbalist who you know is studying this, and trying to be as accurate and up to date as possible, it's a bit of a crapshoot to figure out what is really a remedy, and what's a load of hooey, as this article discusses briefly. I always think of this old russian remedy I came across while studying folk medicine. It was a cure for what we now call TB, using cockroaches and piss as two of the ingredients. Blech, right? Only it turns out, this particular russian cockroach actually contains a chemical that is now used in some modern cures for TB. The piss seemed to help break it down to a usable form.

This sort of thing tells me that finding the answer as to what really works is going to be a very long process. Maybe some day I'll find someone who I feel I can trust fully with one of these alternative remedies, but until then, I'll have to keep plugging away!

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