Communion Of Dreams


You can never be too rich or too tall.*
May 27, 2014, 9:44 am
Filed under: Health, Humor, Science, Society | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The doctor looked up from her laptop, where the patient’s medical history was displayed. “Have you been doing those exercises we discussed?”

“Every day. Well, most days. I miss doing them sometimes if I’m traveling or if the kids are running late in the morning.”

“You do understand that they’re really important, right?” She looked her patient right in the eye. “Every. Single. Day.”

He looked down at his feet, dangling off of the exam table. “Sorry. I’ll try and do better.”

“I certainly hope so.  Lifespan is correlated with how tall you are. Short people just do not live as long.” She glanced at the laptop again. “Now, how about your meds & vitamin supplements? Taking those?”

The patient didn’t look up. “The vitamins, yes. Religiously. But the prescriptions … they’re *SO* expensive. My insurance company doesn’t cover them, because my shortness is considered a lifestyle choice.”

The doctor shook her head. “Yeah, I know. Medical science still considers height as being only partially due to genetics. But still, you really have to do your best. Take the meds. I’ll get you some free samples — the sales reps are always leaving that stuff for us.”

“Thanks.” He looked up. “Doc, what do you think of maybe the surgical option?”

“Surgery?”

“Yeah.”

“Does your insurance cover it?”

“Surprisingly, yes. Well, not here in the States.”

“What do you mean?”

“They’ve got a thing set-up with a clinic in India: for the whole six-month breaking & lengthening process, they cover it. Lots less expensive than here in the US.”

The doctor made a face. “I know they’re supposed to do good work … ”

“Doc, they can add two inches to my overall height.”

“Yes, but at what risk?”

“Not much. Not too different than having it done here.” His face brightened a bit. “I’m not getting any younger. You know what a difference it can make for dating and career. Just think … I could be almost six foot tall!”

The doctor sighed. “Look, I know this is hard. But stick with the stretching exercises and meds I’ve prescribed. Maybe start going to a rack therapist — they can usually add up to an inch in the course of a year.”

“Yeah, OK.”

“And watch your diet. Stay away from those short sugars. Proteins are long. Makes a difference.”

 

Jim Downey

*With apologies to Her Grace.

 



The other 90% of you.

Your body has something on the order of 10 trillion individual cells. But surprisingly, it has nine or ten times that number of microorganisms which it hosts in some capacity or another, many of which we have co-evolved with and which seem to be critical to our long health. While these microorganisms are typically much smaller than human body cells, in one very real sense, “you” is actually only about 10% “you.”

These microorganisms have a substantial impact on how your body digests food. On whether you can resist various kinds of infection or develop any of a range of auto-immune diseases. Perhaps even on your mood and risk assessment.

Would it therefore be any kind of a surprise at all if doing something to change the “mix” of these microorganisms had an impact on you?

Hell, it’d be a surprise if it didn’t.

Almost all of us know what happens when you have to take a broad-spectrum antibiotic: usually some degree of diarrhea and intestinal discomfort. And in the last decade or two it has become commonplace for people to seek out some variety of probiotics, frequently in the form of live yogurt, as a way to replenish gut flora following antibiotic treatment. I do it myself.

So, extending that idea a bit, researchers are now investigating whether part of the slow-moving plague of obesity can be due to the changes created in the human-hosted microorganisms:

Early use of antibiotics linked to obesity, research finds

The use of antibiotics in young children might lead to a higher risk of obesity, and two new studies, one on mice and one on humans, conclude that changes of the intestinal bacteria caused by antibiotics could be responsible.

Taken together, the New York University researchers conclude that it might be necessary to broaden our concept of the causes of obesity and urge more caution in using antibiotics. Both studies focus on the early age, because that is when obesity begins, the scientists say.

As I’ve noted previously:

In Communion I have a post-pandemic society, one which is recovering from a massive disruption caused by a flu virus which caused rapid death in a large percentage of the population. But the reality of what we’re dealing with might be even more insidious.

More insidious in this case because we have done it to ourselves.

And perhaps not even with direct antibiotic treatment to deal with some kind of life-threatening infection. Consider that it is still a widespread practice to boost livestock weight gain through the use of antibiotics, and that leaves a residue of antibiotics in the meat. If it boosts weight gain in feed animals, why wouldn’t it do the same to us?

I’ve said before that there has been some kind of change to the way our bodies absorb nutrients in the last 40 or 50 years, and that that is behind the global rise in obesity. Previously there were indications that it might be due to some kind of virus. Or an immune response to the germaphobia of the 20th century. But maybe it is more directly our own damned fault, and we’ve traded the ability to defeat infections for a different kind of health risk.

Jim Downey