In June of 2016, Science Daily published a report describing initial results of a study underway at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. The title: “Pre and post testing show reversal of memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease in 10 patients.” It goes on…
This is the first study to objectively show that memory loss in patients can be reversed, and improvement sustained, using a complex, 36-point therapeutic personalized program that involves comprehensive changes in diet, brain stimulation, exercise, optimization of sleep, specific pharmaceuticals and vitamins, and multiple additional steps that affect brain chemistry.
Alzheimer’s reversed? Yes!
This is stunning in a healthcare culture where “everyone knows” that Alzheimer’s is a sentence to steady decline over a long period of time with no hope of recovery. Continue reading →
We are typically told that once a diabetic, always a diabetic—that is, diabetes can be managed but it is not reversible once you have it. Dr Sarah Hallberg challenges this viewpoint, based on her clinical experience using a high-fat diet. Her program has been highly successful in reversing diabetes and other metabolic diseases. Continue reading →
Apparently it is true. Your genes could have been altered even before your mother was born.
In December of 2013, there was a flurry of media activity reporting on a study published in Nature Neuroscience. Richard Gray, Science Correspondent for The Telegraph, describes the essence of the study:
Researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, found that mice can pass on learned information about traumatic or stressful experiences–in this case a fear of the smell of cherry blossom–to subsequent generations. The results may help to explain why people suffer from seemingly irrational phobias–it may be based on the inherited experiences of their ancestors.
Just who is fixing the healthcare system? That’s the question I asked at the end of last week’s blog when I discussed having empathy for our doctors, who must work in a broken system.
So, who is trying to make it better? Apparently not our governments who, despite sometimes-good intentions, become bogged down in bureaucracy. And not conventional medical channels, through which it takes 17 years for new information to make it into clinical practice.
In a limited way, we can contribute to making things better by keeping ourselves as healthy as possible so as not to over-use the system. We don’t have to ask permission or medical sanction to eat fresh food, plant a garden, think differently about our stress, take probiotics, get a pet, meet new people, move our bodies, improve the quality of our sleep, and be of service to others.
In this TED-Ed talk, William Li, MD presents a new way to think about treating cancer and other diseases. It is anti-angiogenesis, which means preventing the growth of blood vessels that feed a tumour. He says the crucial first (and best) step is eating cancer-fighting foods that cut off the supply lines and beat cancer at its own game.
Watching this reminds me of three things that are important and easily forgotten:
Just because conventional wisdom has not yet embraced a new idea, that does not make the new idea untrue.
What we eat does make a difference and it’s worth paying attention.
As Dr. Li says (at 19:00 minutes on the video), we can empower ourselves to do the things that doctors can’t do for us, which is to use knowledge and take action.
Because I write about alternative approaches to health, I suspect some readers may think I’m opposed to everything conventional. Today I’d like to set the record straight.
[tweetshare tweet=”Out-of-hand rejection of conventional medicine would be as shortsighted as never considering alternative practices.” username=”LauranaRayne”]
When I’m working toward resolution of a health issue, it’s so much more constructive to consider all available options and adopt those that best suit me and the situation at hand. The considerations could include surgery and prescription medications offered by conventional medicine, in conjunction with the holistic perspective and nutritional knowledge of functional practitioners.
Case in point…
I recently had cataract surgery. Removing a cloudy lens and putting in a new one is an amazing procedure. I greatly appreciate living in a time and place where this surgery is readily available.
Cataracts are not an emergency; they develop over time. When the optometrist first noticed mine, I asked if there was anything I could do. “No,” she said. “When they progress far enough, I’ll refer you to an ophthalmologist for removal.” And that’s what she did.
In the year I waited for the ophthalmologist to have an opening in his surgical schedule, I had time to think. And I kept coming back to the idea that there must be something I could do. If not to change the course of the cataracts, then at least to help my eyes be as healthy as possible before the procedure was undertaken. I needed advice from someone who took a holistic view.
I spoke to my functional medicine doctor, who referred me to a functional optometrist. A functional optometrist has traditional training as a doctor of optometry, with additional courses in functional medicine. She knew everything my previous optometrist did, and more.
[tweetshare tweet=”When choosing how to treat health issues, a both/and mindset gives us a huge advantage.” username=”LauranaRayne”]
From her broad base of information, the functional optometrist advised me that my somewhat-fragile eyes would benefit from specific supplements. I brought the list home, muscle tested to find out what would be optimum for me, and took them regularly.
It’s now two weeks after the second eye was done. The procedures went well, and I had no pain at all. I’m both continuing the supplements and applying several eye drops multiple times a day as prescribed. So far, so good.
I’ve been told that I don’t think like other people. I take that as a compliment. Since the way I think comes naturally to me, I sometimes puzzle over what is different and why.
What’s different? I think it’s that I’m eclectic. Here’s the first definition that came up when I searched. I’d say both aspects apply to how I think.
1. deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources. “her musical tastes are eclectic”
2. PHILOSOPHY: of, denoting, or belonging to a class of ancient philosophers who did not belong to or found any recognized school of thought but selected…as they wished from various schools.
I draw from the resources around me, and bring together elements that are best suited to me in my situation. This means that I don’t buy into any particular point of view. For example, when the first optometrist said there was nothing to be done, I recognized that as the conventional mindset. I knew it had a limited focus, and didn’t accept it as the only possibility. I was open to finding more options than were offered by that practitioner.
A lot of my blogging has been about alternative means of resolving health issues. I present this information with a view to helping others expand their sense of what is possible. In the works: A resource guide to bring these resources together in one easily accessible, user-friendly format.
Checking options against your needs…
As I mentioned in my eye story, when I was given a list of eye-related supplements to take, I checked to see what my body needed at the time. Recommendations are always based on averages, so checking allows me to optimize the information as it applies to me. Doing this enables me to proceed with confidence. For more about how to check what your body needs, refer to my blogs here and here.
Pre- and post-operative care…
In my experience, which includes two major surgeries before the above-mentioned cataract procedure, patients receive little advice about what they should do before or after surgery—other than no food or water for a specified time before going to the hospital, and taking any prescribed medications once you are sent home.
Because it’s treated so casually, we don’t really appreciate how invasive and disruptive the surgical experience is. Yet there is so much we can do to reduce the impact of surgery and foster healing afterwards. Restorative measures include:
Nutrition and supplements
Probiotics to mitigate effect of antibiotics
Herbals and homeopathics
Meditation to reduce anxiety and discomfort
Energy practices like Chi gong and tai chi
Acupuncture and acupressure
Movement and gentle exercise
There’s plenty online material to expand your awareness of what to consider. If you search for “pre-and post operative instructions” you’ll get lists of standard recommendations from hospitals, clinics, and universities. If you want to tap into alternative approaches and holistic thinking, try “functional approach to recovering from surgery.”
Here is a comprehensive article from a website I respect. This site focuses on paleo eating, but don’t let that throw you. The article covers important aspects of recovery and contains plenty of sensible advice. I would add…ask family and friends to help, both before and after. What you need will depend on many factors.
Be realistic and plan accordingly as one of my friends did when she was scheduled for a procedure that required a day of rigorous and unpleasant advance preparation. Although she probably could have toughed it out and made her way through it alone, she enlisted help from two friends. One came to spend the day, facilitating the process in a number of ways. I arrived late in the afternoon, stayed overnight, took her to the hospital in the morning, brought her home, warmed up some lunch, and stayed until I was sure the sedative had worn off and she would be okay on her own.
A few days later, she commented how much better the experience was than it might have been. I was glad to help, and she gets full marks for recognizing what she needed and asking for it. This little plaque, and the Beatles, remind us that we all need a little help from our friends sometimes.
Enlist an advocate…
We should also think about who we can ask to advocate for us in the hospital. The need for such a person isn’t top of mind before surgery, when we are clear-headed and feeling capable. But once we are in the hospital, that changes.
The system is set up to be disempowering. I was surprised how much I lost my get-up-and-go once I had changed into the short ugly gown that gaped at the back no matter how tightly I tied the two pairs of strings. And once I’d had anesthetic and pain killers, I felt feeble in both brain and body. Certainly, I wasn’t in any shape to effectively look after myself and my interests.
For more about the systemic issues, read this article by David Katz, a medical doctor with a 25-year clinical career, writing on the topic after a family member was hospitalized. His experience is in the US, so there are some structural differences from what we experience in Canada. But the fundamental premises and resulting attitudes are similar.
Before I start, let me be clear that this post is not about artificial intelligence (AI). It’s about navigating life as AI becomes smarter than us.
The ChatGPT backstory…
Last week I mentioned a recent development that has disrupted our comfortable lives—the release of ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer). To elaborate:
ChatGPT is a large language model designed to produce natural human language. Much like having a conversation with someone, you can talk to ChatGPT, and it will remember things you have said in the past while also being capable of correcting itself when challenged. … ChatGPT was trained using a mix of machine learning and human intervention, using a method called reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF). Take note of this last point because it is relevant to the proposal in the video that follows.
After being in the works for several years, ChatGPT was released on the internet by OpenAI in November 2022. Now, the summer of 2023, it’s creating a buzz everywhere.
Initial public concerns were about the ease of fraudulent communications—written, visual, and voice. This could show up in activities such as impersonating others, students submitting essays they didn’t write or even fact-check, and misleading news reports. Granted, these things already happen with our present technology, but the sophistication of AI makes it almost instantaneous, very convincing, readily accessible, and highly pervasive.
These characteristics of AI have raised concerns such as: How will we know what is real any more? What is real anyway? Does it matter? What will happen to jobs? Especially my job?
Then in March 2023, the Future of Life Institute published an open letter calling for “...all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.” According to a CityyNews article, it was signed by “more than 1,000 researchers and technologists, including Elon Musk.“
That letter was followed by several highly publicized cautions from early developers such as Prof Yoshua Bengio and Dr. Geoffrey Hinton. These and many other voices of industry insiders have raised the really big questions: Are we past the point of no return? (Yes) How long will it take for AI to be smarter than humans? (5 years, maybe less)
Whereas the experts are deeply concerned because of what they know from working in the field, the rest of us experience the disempowerment of fear without knowledge. That makes fear doubly scary in any situation.
The logic of fear…
The logic of fear is that a moment in the future is less safe for me than this moment.
Therefore, it’s safer for me to preserve the conditions of this moment, to keep everything the same, to hold the line against change.
The fallacy of this viewpoint is that it’s not the nature of nature to stay the same. We’ve all heard the truism that nothing is certain but change. So we are wasting a lot of energy when we fear the future and try to keep things the way they are.
A more constructive approach…
Given what experts are saying about the inevitability of AI’s rapid evolution, it’s unrealistic to think we can hold the line at the existing level of artificial intelligence (social media, chatbots as customer service contacts, GPS on our mobile phones, autocorrect on text messages, digital assistants, and e-payments).
Rather than trying to halt it, our energy will be much better spent in thinking about how we can navigate life with AI to achieve the best outcome for us, the planet, and humanity.
Sounds good in theory, but it seems huge beyond anything we can do. How will we ever be able to navigate what’s next?
The value of thinking differently…
When we don’t know what to do, the best thing is to change our perspective, to look at the situation from a different viewpoint. As Einstein famously said, we can’t solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it.
Mo Gawdat is approaching the AI situation from a higher consciousness. He’s a former industry insider who is thinking differently about how we can navigate life as AI becomes smarter than us.
It’s a radically different viewpoint, but who’s to say it wouldn’t work? As noted at the beginning of this post, ChatGPT was trained using a mix of machine learning and human intervention, using a method called reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF). As explained on the OpenAI website, this is “a method that uses human demonstrations and preference comparisons to guide the model toward desired behavior.” This suggests to me that we can play a constructive role here.
For a description of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, a concept in game theory in which everyone has an incentive to defect in their own self-interst and, as a result, everyone is worse off.
To hear Mo Gawdat speak at greater depth about this idea, go to 1:50 of his interview with Tom Bilyeu. For more context, start earier, at 1:18.
In times when every “next thing” presents another big challenge that seems beyond our control, we will navigate more easily if we consciously avoid a knee-jerk fear reaction and instead put our attention on discovering empowering possibilities for action.
As Mo Gawdat says, “We might as well…ask them [AI] to do what’s good for us, good for the planet, and good for humanity.”
From my perspective, our human superpower is that we can choose to think differently—and thus create the more beautiful world we know in our hearts is possible.
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