New Under the Sun:
Volume 2, Issue 4
Greetings!! Spring is officially here, the season of rebirth as flowers bloom and leaves unfurl. This is a good time to think about your own life. Is what you are doing fulfilling? Is your life in balance? Do you have an effective plan for good health? If change is necessary, this is a good time to begin.
Hygiene Hypothesis and Allergies: Late 20th/early 21st century living conditions in the US may be too sanitized, too clean for optimal health. This probably seems counter-intuitive, but much research over the past few years has pointed to the importance of childhood infections in the prevention allergies and asthma. Recent research using a mouse model found that mice infected with M. pneumoniae, a common bacterium, were protected from a hypersensitive response when made allergic to the egg protein ovalbumin. On the other hand, mice that had not been infected with M. pneumoniae did have a hypersensitive response to ovalbumin. That is, previously-infected mice displayed only a mild response to an allergen whereas non-infected mice showed changes consistent with asthma when exposed to an allergen. Chu HW, Honour JM, Rawlinson CA, Harbeck RJ, Martin RJ. Effects of respiratory Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection on allergen-induced bronchial hyperresponsiveness and lung inflammation in mice. Infect Immun 2003 Mar;71(3):1520-6.
Comment: M. pneumoniae is a common infectious agent among pre-school children, but does not usually cause serious illness until a child has suffered repeated infections. As with most health issues, balance seems to be the key. A child needs enough exposure to pathogens to prime the antibody system appropriately, but not enough to cause serious illness. A child who remains relatively pathogen free is at great risk for a hypersensitive reaction when exposed to common allergens and may develop asthma along with allergies to numerous substances. It may be that an individual who suffers from a variety of mild infections as a child will actually be a healthier adult due to having an optimally functioning immune system.
Male Pheromones Affect Female Responses: Pheromones are chemical substances secreted by the axillary (armpit) glands. Due to our reduced ability to detect odors relative to other mammals, humans do not consciously smell pheromones. Yet we react to their presence. Prior research found that women synchronize their menstrual cycles when exposed to each other’s pheromones. Current research has found that male pheromones also affect menstrual cycles. In that study, 18 healthy, normally-menstruating women between the ages of 21 and 45 were exposed to either ethanol or male pheromones (both extracts were scented with the same fragrance to disguise which was which) that were wiped on the upper lips of the women every two hours for a 12 hour period; 6 hours with one extract, then 6 hours with the other. During this same period, blood samples were drawn to examine hormone levels. The extract of male pheromones was obtained from 6 healthy males aged 22 – 45 who did not use deodorant or antiperspirant one month. For the last three weeks of that month, the men swabbed their armpits with cotton pads three times each week. The pads were collected and frozen until the extract was created by blending samples from all the men. Women exposed to the male pheromones had improvements in mood as assessed by a test. In particular, the women felt less tense and more relaxed. They also showed alterations in the timing of hormonal pulses related to the menstrual cycle, specifically the luteinizing hormone cycle was shortened. Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, the pheromones of those around us affect our behavior. Preti G, Wysocki CJ, Barnhart KT, Sondheimer SJ, Leyden JJ. Male Axillary Extracts Contain Pheromones that Affect Pulsatile Secretion of Luteinizing Hormone and Mood in Women Recipients. Biol Reprod 2003 Jan 22; [epub ahead of print]
Genital Gel and HIV/AIDS: The incidence of HIV/AIDS is increasing dramatically among women, especially among those who are poorer and/or living in countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Although condoms are an effective protective measure, they are not readily available in many of these countries. And even when they are, many men resist using them. Therefore, researchers have been trying to develop a barrier method that women can use to protect themselves when condoms are not an option. A wide variety of gel substances are under test. Initially, it was thought that nonoxynol-9, an effective spermicide, would be a good candidate. Unfortunately, it appears to actually increase the probability of HIV infection. One product, PRO 2000, was tested on 63 women in the US and South Africa who either did not have HIV or were sexually abstinent. The goal of this study was to see if the gel, applied once or twice daily to the genital area, would be perceived as easy and comfortable to use. This appeared to be the case and side effects were minimal. Now that the women in this study said they would use this product if it actually worked to prevent HIV infection, the next step is to see if it does. If this or other genital gels do prove effective, this could be a major step forward in reducing the spread and incidence of HIV/AIDS. Mayer KH, Karim SA, Kelly C, Maslankowski L, Rees H, Profy AT, Day J, Welch J, Rosenberg Z; HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 020 Protocol Team. Safety and tolerability of vaginal PRO 2000 gel in sexually active HIV-uninfected and abstinent HIV-infected women. AIDS 2003 Feb 14;17(3):321-9.
Book Review: AnthroHealth is about personal health and well being. Part of well being is feeling good about what you do to earn a living. Po Bronson takes on this issue in his new book: What Should I Do With My Life? The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question. This is not a book with checklists and tests to take that will help you determine where you might best fit. Instead, it is a collection of intimate portraits of individuals who struggled with the feeling that there must be more they should/could be doing; something that would be more fulfilling and life-enhancing than what they were currently doing. Each portrait details how individuals struggled with this question and how they met, or perhaps failed to meet, the challenge of changing their lives for the better.
One of the most important insights that Bronson arrived at is that chasing happiness did not lead to ultimate satisfaction. Instead, he suggests asking: “Is doing ____ why I am here? Will ____ be meaningful to me? Is ____ what I want to contribute to the world?” (p. 271) Bronson also points out that in a declining economy, “…it’s impractical to settle for less than a life we love” (p. 364) because it is those who are passionate about what they do that can make a real difference in business and life. Deciding what to do, for some, means working at a job that allows them to spend plenty of time with their families; for others it means living in a place that frees their spirit; for still others it means doing/creating something that will make a real difference in the lives of a particular group. Bronson skillfully weaves these stories together into a coherent whole. The book is a pleasure to read and will provide the reader with much food for thought.
AnthroHealth Tip of the Month: Water is the most important necessity to life. If one has food to eat, but no water to drink, death is probable. Unlike some other mammals, humans cannot obtain sufficient water just from their food; nor can they store water. Water must be replenished each day. It is not sufficient to wait until you feel thirsty to drink because you may already be dehydrated. According to M. Z. Vitolins, Dr. P.H., Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center [http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/02/030205073358.htm], an easy way to determine your water needs is to take your weight, divide by two, and convert that to ounces. So, if you weigh 140 lbs, that would mean you need to drink 80 ounces of water each day. If you exercising or working in hot weather, you will need more water. Vitolins also points out that sometimes when you think you are hungry, you are actually thirsty. Drinking sufficient water may help you lose weight. Making sure you drink enough water is an important step to AnthroHealth.
© 2001-2009 Kathleen E. Fuller, PhD. All rights reserved.