William Whitt suffered violent diarrhea for days. But once he began vomiting blood, he knew it was time to rush to the hospital. His body swelled up so much that his wife thought he looked like the Michelin Man, and on the inside, his intestines were inflamed and bleeding.
For four days last spring, doctors struggled to control the infection that was ravaging Whitt, a father of three in western Idaho. The pain was excruciating, even though he was given opioid painkillers intravenously every 10 minutes for days.
His family feared they would lose him.
“I was terrified. I wouldn’t leave the hospital because I wasn’t sure he was still going to be there when I got back,” said Whitt’s wife, Melinda.
Whitt and his family were baffled: How could a healthy 37-year-old suddenly get so sick? While he was fighting for his life, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quizzed Whitt, seeking information about what had sickened him.
Finally, the agency’s second call offered a clue: “They kept drilling me about salad,” Whitt recalled. Before he fell ill, he had eaten two salads from a pizza shop.
The gut has made a sudden rise to prominence as an arbiter of overall health. It’s well established that gut bacteria, also known as the microbiome, can influence digestion, allergies and metabolism. But these microbes’ reach may extend much further – into the brain. Conditions including depression and anxiety are now being linked to the digestive system.
The brain may be one of the most complex objects known to humankind, but science has suggested the digestive system is of equal importance, especially when it comes to our emotional health. Your gut is teeming with trillions of bacteria, making up what’s known as the microbiome. Collectively weighing up to two kilograms (heavier than the average brain), the microbiome plays a vital role in your health, breaking down food, supporting immunity and, perhaps surprisingly, affecting mood. Nutritionist Rebecca Pilkington believes keeping the microbiome balanced is the key to optimal physical and mental health. “If your gut is out of whack,” she says, “this can lead to inflammation, believed to be one of the biggest causes of depression.”
Great investigation by ProPublica into the dangers of Teflon and Scotchgard.
The chemicals once seemed near magical, able to repel water, oil and stains.
By the 1970s, DuPont and 3M had used them to develop Teflon and Scotchgard, and they slipped into an array of everyday products, from gum wrappers to sofas to frying pans to carpets. Known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, they were a boon to the military, too, which used them in foam that snuffed out explosive oil and fuel fires.
It’s long been known that, in certain concentrations, the compounds could be dangerous if they got into water or if people breathed dust or ate food that contained them. Tests showed they accumulated in the blood of chemical factory workers and residents living nearby, and studies linked some of the chemicals to cancers and birth defects.
Now two new analyses of drinking water data and the science used to analyze it make clear the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Defense have downplayed the public threat posed by these chemicals. Far more people have likely been exposed to dangerous levels of them than has previously been reported because contamination from them is more widespread than has ever been officially acknowledged.
Here’s a frightening, detailed account of what it’s like to become a victim of the mystery sonic/microwave attacks that have plagued our diplomatic corps.
WASHINGTON — Alone in her bed in a sprawling Chinese metropolis, Catherine Werner was jolted awake one night by a pulsing, humming sound. It seemed to be coming from a specific direction.
Perhaps the A.C. unit in her upscale Guangzhou apartment was malfunctioning, the American diplomat thought. But at the same moment, she also noticed intense pressure in her head.
The sounds and sensations returned, night after night, for months. When Werner’s health began declining in late 2017 — vomiting, headaches, loss of balance — she brushed it off at first, thinking China’s polluted air and water were getting to her.
It wasn’t until months later — after her mother, Laura Hughes, grew alarmed, flew in from the U.S. and then got sick, too — that Werner was medevaced from China back to the States. Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania found a vision disorder, a balance disorder and an “organic brain injury” — diagnoses similar to those of 26 U.S. diplomats and spies in Cuba who started hearing strange sounds and falling ill in late 2016.
The recommended amount of sleep an adult needs is between seven and nine hours each night. But for many, finding this time isn’t the problem–it’s falling asleep once your head hits the pillow. I’m one of those people who occasionally has this problem, and in the past have tried everything from meditation to medication. But for the last four weeks, I tried something different–and it’s something worth trying if you have sleep problems.
Recently, an old method used by the U.S. Army to help soldiers fall to sleep in less than ideal conditions (like battlefields) has resurfaced. The Independent says the technique was first described in a book from 1981 called Relax and Win: Championship Performance by Lloyd Bud Winter.
In the book, Winter describes the technique designed by the U.S. Army to make sure soldiers didn’t make mistakes due to grogginess. The technique apparently sends you off to sleep within two minutes.
Nearly one-third of the US military personnel deployed in the 1991 Gulf War continue to suffer from Gulf War Illness (GWI), a set of symptoms including chronic pain, fatigue, and memory impairment. Although the exact biology of GWI remains unknown, previous research suggests it is related to neuroinflammation caused by chemical exposure during the war.
Oleoylethanolamide (OEA), which is commonly used as a weight-loss supplement, could reduce GWI symptoms, according to a new study co-authored by a School of Public Health researcher in collaboration with Roskamp Institute investigators.
I got the urge last week to set up a meeting with my former USS Elliot shipmate, Orlando Brown. Orlando, or “OC” as we call him, lives near Creedmoor and so picked out a beer joint in that neck of the woods. It took me the better part of the hour to navigate my way there last night, with my T-Mobile cellphone losing its network signal in the thick woods.
When I walked in, 15 minutes late, there was OC along with another shipmate I hadn’t seen for over thirty years: Robert Nordman. I had been hoping that OC had thought to invite him, which was easy to do because he and OC live so close to each other.
We spent three hours catching up, telling sea stories, and being thankful that we’re still here to tell the tales. Rob was in very good spirits in spite of having been diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. He has always worked his ass off at whatever he does and OC and I kept him out later than he would’ve liked as he was running out of steam.
I was also struck by Rob’s mention that many of our shipmates are dealing with illnesses, many of which sound like Gulf War Illness. Some of these guys can’t even walk anymore and they’re no older than 50. I’ll have more to say on this in a future post but last night served as a kick in the pants to pursue my own Gulf War Illness issues, get what I have diagnosed, and potentially get my VA disability claim filed. Life is too short, y’all.
Anyway, I love these guys like brothers.
I took the day off yesterday to travel to Boston University to participate in a Gulf War Illness research study. The study is looking to identify biomarkers that might indicate Gulf War Illness. It cost me a day off of work and paying for my travel expenses but I was able to add my information to the pool of data so that it might help other Gulf War veterans.
Part of yesterday’s tests included a structural MRI, after which I was sent home with a copy of my imaging data. Being a data nerd, this thrilled me and I couldn’t wait to check out what was on my CD. While the typical image tools available for Linux like GIMP were able to view the images, it wasn’t until I installed the MRIcron application that I was able to view my imagery in three dimensions. MRIcon converts the DICOM files that the MRI generated into an open format that can then be manipulated by MRIcron.
Pretty cool, although a bit disconcerting to realize I’m looking at tiny slices of my own head. There’s a strong part of me that keeps thinking “man, you’re not dead yet! You should not be seeing your brain!” Coupled with my image data, MRIcon is a really captivating tool for exploring the structure my brain (and my head as well).
Looking closely at the third image you can clearly see that my eyeballs are shaped completely differently. This probably accounts for my unusual combination of nearsightedness and farsightedness. Good times.
I had my first drink in six weeks yesterday, in honor of achieving a goal I had set before Memorial Day to give up drinking until the Fourth of July. My dry spell wasn’t brought on by anything in particular. My VA doctor had before suggested that I cut back on alcohol, though I averaged less than a single drink a day so my drinking wasn’t excessive. Mostly the challenge was just to see how easily I could do it and if it benefited my health in any way.
My results? It was far easier than I anticipated and, well, I do think my health is somewhat improved but the results aren’t all that dramatic (probably because I didn’t drink much to begin with).
Sonic attacks on American diplomats continue, this time in China.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that an incident involving a US government employee stationed in China who reported “abnormal sensations of sound and pressure” suggesting a mild brain injury has medical indications that are “very similar” and “entirely consistent” to those experienced by American diplomats posted in Havana.
US officials have issued a health alert in China following the incident. Additionally, the US State Department is looking into whether the incident is similar to what happened in Cuba in 2016 and 2017, a US diplomatic official told CNN, which the US government characterized as a “sonic attack.” That incident led to a reduction in staffing at the US Embassy in Havana.