Archive for July, 2014

Flora, Fauna, and Flossing

July 17, 2014

While the challenge to see that the food we eat is free of mercury, pesticides, hormones, and whatever else threatens rather than supports robust health, we sometimes need reminders to be sure that we toss our food into a clean mouth bowl after going to all that trouble to check the food out.

It may help to visualize how perfectly arranged the mouth bowl is to house a variety of bacteria, not all of them friendly. Bacteria love dark, moist places and a steady diet of sugar. Any pockets in the gums surrounding our teeth are a housing bonanza for bacteria, depending on how welcome we make them. Unchecked, bacteria create gum disease, get into the blood stream, and create plaques in our arteries that lead to heart disease.

While we deplore the amount of sugar degenerating our diet, this is not really a new phenomenon. I was raised in the penny candy days and there was a regular stash at the corner store in my neighborhood. There was a sugar bowl on every kitchen table and plenty of home baked cookies and bars. Cakes had an inch of frosting on them and fruit pies were common desserts. However, carbonated drinks were only had on special occasions. They took up a minor section of an aisle in the grocery store, not the whole aisle. Orange juice was only had by squeezing oranges so it was consumed in small glasses.

The problem with today’s soda is that it is sipped throughout the day, along with snacks providing bacteria with a steady diet of sugar and setting off just as steady a stream of bacterial plaque and tooth decay. Hygienists patiently demonstrate flossing technique and the necessity of routing out the bacteria before they form plaques and start eroding the enamel on our teeth. It is not enough to slide the floss up and down between each tooth. We need to wrap it around the base of every side of every tooth to rout out any bacteria in residence. If you then rinse your mouth with about a tablespoon of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide– brace yourself– you will immediately see the spots you missed.

Food is meant to be digested standing up. Anyone who regularly takes a nap directly after a meal is in for a foul awakening as remnants of the meal shift into reverse, travel back up the esophagus, and start over again in the mouth, definitely not as tasty the second time around.

Step one is to remain in an upright position for 3-4 hours after eating to give the meal a fair chance to enter the relay race through the digestive tract, at least to make it beyond the second gate, the pyloric valve, at the entrance to the small intestine. Water we swish and swallow between meals also keeps nutrients moving easily in the right direction.

So, on any visit to a dental hygienist for a cleaning, listen up for a longer, healthier life.

PS: The most effective toothpaste I know is a tsp. of baking soda with a squirt of lemon juice. Watch it foam and load up your brush!

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Counterclockwise: Think Positive Health

July 10, 2014

Every day we hear of amazing feats that defy the notion that life, health, or events are predictable with inevitable results. Harvard social psychologist, Ellen Langer’s latest book, Counterclockwise, is just that – a mind-blowing collection of positive outcomes that trump dire predictions. She gives a steady stream of reversals of everything from stage 4 cancer, hearing, vision and memory loss, paralysis, cardiac problems and more, when we keep a mindful, positive attitude toward challenges.

Her strategy is that there is “always a step small enough from where we are to get us where we want to be. If we take that small step, there’s always another we can take, and eventually a goal thought to be too far to reach becomes achievable.” It was refreshing to read a book with positive outcomes that happened simply by reframing someone’s perspective.

Langer points out that the expression, “we won’t know unless we try” is misleading because if we try and fail, we still don’t know whether another attempt might be successful. We still do not know that it can’t be. And: there’s a lot we don’t know yet.

I continue to be concerned about the effect of overhead power lines on our children who live in close proximity to high-density lines. I realize that there have been no rigorous double blind studies done with experimental and control groups, studies that lay out results of how many died, developed birth defects, etc. in each group. I admire the countries in Europe that have decided to pass Bury the Lines Laws after simply seeing the association studies showing rates of cancer and birth defects among children living near high power lines. Those countries value the lives and health of their children so much that they are not taking any chances on even potential effects of power lines that might threaten their health.

Bill Dowey’s, Letter to the Editor (Plymouth NH Record Enterprise, 7-3-14) “25 solar arrays for 25 New Hampshire small towns to meet the 2025 Energy goals” is an example of small town ingenuity and positive attitude. Bristol, NH is now on track to meet the town library’s annual power needs through its solar array because it tried solar energy and not only succeeded, it has come up with a plan that can easily be replicated by other small towns.

ISO New England (International Organization for Standardization) has come up with a plan to smother New England with a giant cobweb of above ground lines crisscrossing the state. This archaic, outmoded plan comes at a time when more modern towns and cities are streamlining lines underground, and exploring forms of renewable energy such as solar and geothermal that protect environmental webs of life.

At the same time, the NE governors are meeting to decide whether to approve a plan that would allow one gas pipeline and one electric transmission line from Canada through New England. This, despite the fact that Hydro Quebec could not provide the power last winter when it was needed, not even for Quebec. If the governors agree, our rights to eminent domain are also at risk with this new deal – a deal put together by Northeast Utilities – like putting a fox in charge of the henhouse.

Each of us has a choice in any event. Hopefully, we will dare to put our energies into positive, healthful outcomes for the future. One small step we can each take is to call Governor Hassan (603-271-2121) and let her know how we would vote.

Solar Energy: Our Turning Point

July 10, 2014

The cost of solar is equal to or less than the cost of electricity powering electric grids in at least 79 countries, according to Al Gore’s piece in Rolling Stone (The Turning Point: New Hope for the Climate, 6/18/14). Gore alerts us to the reality that the tide is turning in favor of consumers for our energy needs. No more blatant example of this can be found than in our struggle with Hydro Quebec over their Northern Pass Project. We have struggled for 4 years against HQ’s slick advertizing, empty promises and outright lies in their efforts to sucker NH into caving into their scam.

To illustrate the turning point, Gore uses the example of Solar energy’s growth, thanks to consumer initiatives. People have gradually been adding solar to heat their water and their homes. Like cell phones that began as big boxes 25 years ago and have now streamlined to small handheld devices affordable by most consumers, solar is gradually becoming streamlined and more affordable, thanks to ordinary citizens, not corporate power.

Key to this turning point is our ability as individuals to keep alert and informed about new possibilities for renewable energy. Massive campaigns by centralized corporations, full of empty promises of affordable energy, need to be recognized for what they are.
In Arizona, the Koch brothers tried to stop homeowners from expanding their use of solar by funding a campaign that asked the public utility commission to tax solar households up to $150. a month. The opposition (grass roots people like you and me) worked out a compromise that reduced the tax to $5. a month.

Keeping each other well becomes possible when we choose to stay awake and informed and, as Gore says, “empowered by a sense of urgency and emboldened with the courage to reject despair and become active.”

With elections coming, we have the opportunity to attend candidates nights and find out where candidates stand on energy issues. We can talk with neighbors who are exploring solar and other renewable energy systems. We can keep informed by reading Gore’s and other articles about climate change and real renewable energy available free on the internet. We can keep our governor and legislators posted on our concerns.

As always, it’s that first step that counts.