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And it looks like I may have gotten hit. Well actually I don’t know, it certainly looked that way in the morning, but it’s amazing what a 3-hour long nap and hot tea can do. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Ironically, for someone who wants to be a doctor as badly as I do, I tend to avoid medicine like the plague. I just don’t think loading up on meds is necessarily the best approach to fighting an illness, though then again, everyone’s different. I was one of those people who would down Vicks 44M and a host of other random OTC meds at the first sign of a sniffle. It never did much good, and I found that I got very sick very often and medication became less and less effective each time around.
Of course, certain medications are definitely good and very necessary. Tamiflu has been one of the best prescription meds in terms of effectiveness with few side effects, in the treatment of the flu. Yet it is showing a decline in effectiveness against newer strains of the flu, possibly owing to its overuse.
Cue a mini-biology lesson:
Viruses and bacteria are living things like the rest of us, obviously. All living things are subject to the laws of natural selection. Natural selection dictates that those with favorable traits will win out over those who don’t possess those traits. Winning out, in a biological sense, means being able to survive to reproduction, where those favorable traits can be passed on to the next generation.
In a normal situation, everyone coexists with little trouble. It’s when there is a rapid change in the environment that you see one group of organisms within a species start to overtake the others because they are better equipped to handle the change. Medicines can, in a way, represent that rapid change. Loading up on meds can kill most of the germs, but set the stage for one or two gene variants to survive in that environment.
There is also the fact that loading up on medicines tends to put a damper on immune system activity. I touched on this slightly in another post relating to the increasing prevalence of childhood allergies. Let the immune system do its thing. Yes it’s unpleasant, with the fevers and sniffles and coughing, but it’s worth it. Of course if the fever goes to 100+ for extended periods of time (over a day), go for the meds, or see a doctor.
This is not to say medicine should be avoided when it’s really needed, such as in more serious ailments like TB, pneumonia, parasitic infections, neurological diseases, and cancer, among others. Those need the appropriate drug regimens. It is those diseases that are much less harmful, like the cold, the flu, headaches, and minor GI upsets that should be treated with medications as more of a last resort.
If I get a cold, I tend to stick with remedies, with pretty good success. Here are some things I tend to have:
1. Tea: Just the right amount of caffeine to snap you out of that funk. The warmth helps to clear out congestion too.
2. Soup: Any old soup works, not just chicken soup. I love tomato soup, so I go all out and make homemade croutons. Might as well make the best of it, right?
3. Rasam: Basically this is a thin soup/curry. There are many recipes, but the one I’ve had most of my life is very simple: tomatoes, lots of garlic, and lots of freshly ground pepper. I tend to have it with rice like any other curry, but you can have it plain too.
4. Anything spicy: Being Indian, this isn’t too hard. Spicy foods help tremendously with sinus and chest congestion. Even things like wasabi–which is not spicy in the conventional sense of the word–works well.
5. Funny shows/movies: There’s nothing fun about being sick and gloomy, so liven things up with a bit of comedy. Laughter and a positive outlook really is the best medicine, in most cases.
6. Sleep: This goes without saying. Sleep is fantastic.
7. Not giving into the notion that you are sick: Ok, you are mostly resting, eating differently, and changing your routine to allow your body to fight off whatever is ailing you. That does not mean wallow in self-pity, it doesn’t make you feel any better, and you tend to stay sick longer (personal experience). It’s a minor setback, not the end of the world.
If you really need the meds, go for it. I’m just saying we shouldn’t be so wholly dependent on meds that it becomes the first mode of action, if not the only mode of action. Our bodies have immune systems for a reason; they need cajoling, not a holiday, when it comes to helping us recover.
I love sushi. Those who know me know that all too well. There is a reason I stopped just a little short of becoming a vegetarian. Yet people, probably the majority of people, are either weirded out by sushi or frightened of trying it in light of recent news stories.
Sushi was created, originally, as a preservation mechanism. Sushi as it’s known today was invented by Hanaya Yohei, who used freshly caught fish from the bays surrounding the city of Edo, and marinated them in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar. Nigirizushi–sushi defined as a layer of fish on top of a small, pressed block of seasoned rice–originated in Tokyo. Other types of sushi include temaki (hand rolls) and makizushi (rolled sushi).
Here are the two arguments that deter people from trying sushi. The first is the all-encompassing “it’s raw fish” argument. The second is the mercury content. Should we be scared?
Sushi-grade fish has to be of a higher quality and freshness than other fish, obviously, and it takes a trained eye to know how to handle the fish. The argument among sushi critics is that raw fish means there is a high risk of bacterial contamination. Yes, that’s true, if it’s not handled well. The fish, as a matter of procedure, is flash frozen to kill most bacteria. Then during preparation, there are two modes of defense. The first is the vinegar. Vinegar is combined with rice to impart both flavor and a slight antimicrobial effect. The second is wasabi–a condiment often served with sushi–is a strong antibacterial agent. Here’s a journal article investigating its effects on Helicobacter pylori, a particulary nasty bacterium linked to stomach ulcers:
Ginger, often served in thin slices alongside sushi, is a great antimicrobial and antiparasitic as well.
The second concern, mercury, is a bit harder to tackle. The New York Times ran an article earlier in the year, revealing that sushi samples from several top notch sushi restaurants in Manhattan were found to have levels of mercury far greater than recommended, or expected:
Here’s the thing. It’s just tuna sushi, for the most part, that happens to contain a high amount of methylmercury. Methylmercury is regular, old, elemental mercury (Hg) that, generally after being metabolized by oceanic bacteria (since a lot of mercury ends up washing out to sea), ends up with that methyl group. This methyl group makes it much more readily absorbed in organisms. The mercury content in organisms is also amplified as one goes up the food chain, not unlike say, DDT. Hence tuna, the top of its food chain (or near the top) once consumed by humans, delivers a high dose of methylmercury.
The issue, therefore, is not that all sushi has mercury but that certain types of fish do. Tuna is one culprit, as well as any other so-called predatory fish near the top of their respective food chains. So long as one doesn’t have tuna sushi all day, everyday, they’re in the clear. Maybe once every two weeks, max. Otherwise, other sushi is generally all right. The FDA does put out a list of fish and their respective mercury contents, it can’t hurt to use that as a guide if you are worried.
Oh and if you’re worried about pufferfish? I don’t think many restaurants, if any at all, serve it in the U.S. If you want to go out on a limb and try it, just be careful. The issue with pufferfish is tetrodotoxin which, while generally removed from properly prepared pufferfish, has the potential to kill within minutes. Yet the thrill, I guess, is in cheating death.
So why do I like sushi? Oddly enough I didn’t always like fish, mostly because fish smelled and tasted…well…fishy. Not the case with sushi. Assuming you don’t like fish as it’s normally prepared, this is a valid alternative. The omega-3 fatty acids in many types of fish make fish an ideal addition to one’s diet. Plus, at least for me, it got me more interested in fish in general, sushi or cooked.
To end off, I leave you with an informative and hilarious video a friend sent me a while back detailing traditional rituals when going out for sushi in Japan: