Are Chronic Disease Patients Pill Hoarders?

Do you suffer from a chronic disease like arthritis?  Do you have a medicine cupboard full of pills?  I sure do.

I think that having suffered in pain so many times over the years, and suffered the embarrassment that is psoriasis, I keep all the meds my doctors have given me even if I didn’t finish a full course.  I have bags full of celebrex, steroid creams, anti-inflammatories, pain killers, immodium, buscopan, etc. etc.

I shudder to think of the suffering that would ensue if I woke in the middle of the night with an outbreak of pain or rash, and didn’t have any medication on hand to treat it.

And if the zombies attack then I want to make sure I’ll have enough meds for at least a couple of years right?

Are you a chronic disease sufferer with a cupboard full of pills?

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Sugar will make you stupid. Really.

So regular readers will know that I’m not a proponent of sugar and strongly believe that if one wants to be healthy then sugar is the evil nutrient, not fat.  There are many links on this site to research articles etc. if one is interested in finding out more.

What I wanted to post today is a recent study out of UCLA that states:

“a diet high in fructose won’t just make you fat, it may also make you stupid”

What the study did was test rats running through a maze over a 5 day period, then load up half of them on a high sugar (corn syrup) diet and then test again.  They found that those rats on the high sugar diets had much more trouble negotiating the maze.

Now sure these were rats, not humans, however there are similarities between the physiology of rats and humans – which is why they use them.  I’m sure the big sugar companies are pointing to that and screaming for anyone who will hear that “you should ignore the results as it wasn’t tested on humans”.  I don’t know about you, but with all the research out there on how sugar increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and fatty liver, I’m not so fussed on rolling the dice and keeping a high sugar diet.  If it walks like a duck….

By the way, if you do keep your high-sugar ways then how long will it take for stupidness to set in?  According to the scientists:

“In terms of humans, Gomez-Pinilla predicts such changes in the brain to happen within six months to a year.”

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Restless Legs and Neurontin

So in my last post I mentioned that I have started taking Neurontin to treat my restless legs rather than using Tramadol. That post was last Wednesday, today is Tuesday, so what has happened in between, I hear you asking.

On Wednesday night I took Neurontin again, but took 900mg.  I fell asleep pretty quickly but unfortunately woke up after 2 hours with intense restless legs.  It was terrible.  Anyone who has been woken up with bad restless legs will know exactly what I’m talking about.  You are really tired and just want to sleep, but can’t due to your damn legs.  In this situation I usually overreact in an attempt to get quick resolution, and indeed did overreact, by taking 100mg of tramadol when 50mg probably would have done the job.  The tramadol still took 45 minutes to kick in.  45 minutes of hell!

So Thursday I don’t start feeling any Tramadol withdrawal symptoms until around 2.50pm.  So that means approx 16 hours since my last dose.  I take another 50mg tab and within an hour the withdrawal symptoms are gone.  That night (Thursday) I took 1,200 mg at 8pm in order to avoid the nightmare of the previous evening, and am happy to report that I slept through without needing any Tramadol again!  I am a little groggy in the morning but am still able to function ok.

At 8.15am I start getting sweaty and fidgety.  It isn’t too bad yet but I have a meeting at 10am and rather than risk functioning poorly at the meeting, I pop a Tramadol 50mg.  Within an hour the fidgeting and sweats have gone.  8pm at night to 8.15am means 12 hours since my last dose (as opposed to 16 hours the day before).  I think the literature says that 12-16 hours is typical for Tramadol withdrawal.

Friday I went out with some friends and had quite a few drinks.  I know that alcohol (especially wine – which I avoid) sets off RLS, but I still took 1,200mg of Neurontin and no Tramadol just to see how it would cope.  It did pretty well until 3am when I woke with mild restless legs, so I took 50mg of Tramadol.  I remember seeing my clock again at 3.30am and then nothing, so I guess it worked!

I started getting some Tramadol withdrawals late afternoon on Saturday (which coincided with my last dose at 3am), so I took another Tramadol.  That night I took 1,200mg Neurontin and slept through the night.

So that has pretty much been the pattern.

Since the doctor didn’t give me very much Neurontin, I had to go back yesterday (Monday) for a refill.  I saw a different doctor (who I think was better) and I explained my need for more Neurontin as well as my history with RLS.  I also explained that I was pretty sure I was suffering a dependence on Tramadol and was weaning myself off, trying to stick to one 50mg tab per day, and whether 25mg tabs existed.  The doctor said that in his opinion Neurontin was a much better drug to be taking for RLS than Tramadol if the Neurontin was working.  I agreed with him explaining that I hated talking to doctors about how I took Tramadol to control RLS as they always looked at me with the “here’s another addict” look afterwards.  He nodded in agreement!  He said that 25mg tabs of Tramadol don’t exist and that I shouldn’t open the capsule to remove some powder (I suggested this as a method to cut down) as I may not remove the active ingredient.  Instead he prescribed me some low dose xanax (0.25 mg) and said that every 4th day or so I should try and get through the day by taking xanax for the withdrawal symptoms rather than Tramadol, with the long term plan being to get me free of xanax.

To be honest I felt great after seeing him.  It seemed like he was knowledgeable, caring and genuinely interested in seeing me get better.  Didn’t seem to judge me at all for being dependent on Tramadol, and didn’t have a punishment complex like I’ve seen on some (usually older) doctors.

He also gave me a refill of Neurontin, this time giving me 600mg tablets rather than the 300mg capsules I had previously.  Last night I took 1,200mg of Neurontin at 8pm, and didn’t feel sleepy or any effect. At about 9.30pm my legs were restless and I tried a 0.25mg  xanax.  I was still awake at 10pm, and took a Tramadol as my legs were mildly restless.  I finally went to sleep around midnight.  Not sure why this time Neurontin didn’t make me sleepy.  I’m wondering if it was the Neurontin (perhaps bioavailability of pills is less than capsules) or something else. Tonight I plan on taking the Neurontin at 7pm to see if timing makes a difference.  I do note that those on the trial took their Neurontin at 5pm.

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Goodbye Tramadol?

Ok, so last night I had my first dose of Neurontin to control my RLS instead of taking Tramadol.  Would it work?  I must admit I was highly skeptical that it would, and had my card of Tramadol pills next to the bed just in case.  I had also told my Doctor that if I woke up with RLS then I would take Tramadol and then try again the following night with a higher dose of Neurontin.

My Doctor suggested I start with a dose of 300mg, which is the lowest available for Neurontin.  As you may recall my rheumatologist said that patients who take 600mg get really knocked out.  In the end I really didn’t want to wake with RLS and also actually liked the thought of being knocked out to go to sleep, so I took 600mg at about 8pm.  Now according to the study on Horizant, patients took 1,200 mg at 5pm.  So I also wondered if I’d feel anything at 8pm.

By 9pm I didn’t feel sleepy and I didn’t have any restless legs.  I read my book for about an hour and then decided to try to get to sleep.  I wasn’t feeling particularly sleepy at that stage however I must have fallen asleep pretty quickly.  I recall waking a couple of times during the night, not fully awake and with my legs feeling not quite right – but not enough that they would keep me awake, so I managed to get back to sleep.

In the morning although I had slept through the night without getting up I felt quite groggy.  I’m not sure if that is due to the Neurontin or just because I didn’t sleep solidly.

Without a doubt I was surprised that I made it one night without Tramadol!  I still can’t believe it.  I can’t recall the last time I slept a night without Tramadol to control RLS – it must be more than 4 years I’m sure.

At work I’m not feeling 100%.  I just feel fidgety all over, I seem to be sneezing more than usual, and I’m feeling hot and cold.  The first thing that I thought was “is it Tramadol withdrawal?”  I’ve blogged before about my fear of being addicted to Tramadol, and so I already had some knowledge about the symptoms.  In fact Wikipedia states that abrupt withdrawal of Tramadol can cause:

“uncontrollable nervous tremors, muscle contracture, and ‘thrashing’ in bed (similar to restless leg syndrome) if weaned off the medication too quickly. Anxiety, ‘buzzing’, ‘electrical shock’ and other sensations may also be present”

So perhaps my “fidgety” feeling is just another way of describing “buzzing” or “uncontrollable nervous tremors”?  Wikipedia goes on to note that for physical withdrawal:

Symptoms may include those of SSRI discontinuation syndrome, such as anxiety, depression, anguish, severe mood swings, aggressiveness, brain “zaps”, electric-shock-like sensations throughout the body, paresthesias, sweating, palpitations, restless legs syndrome, sneezing, insomnia, vivid dreams or nightmares, micropsia and/or macropsia, tremors, and headache among others”

Well, my sneezing, tremors and sweating all match.  Fortunately I haven’t experienced any of the others – although I had some really weird dreams last night!  That may have also been the Alpha Brain I take though too. Phew – fingers crossed it won’t get too bad.

Wikipedia noted that Tramadol withdrawal typically kicks in between 12 to 20 hours after the last dose of Tramadol.  As I type this my last dose of Tramadol was about 23 hours ago so I’m certainly in the time frame for withdrawal.

One side of me is actually a little pissed off that my body is reacting in this way.  How can I be addicted to a medication!  Isn’t this something that happens to “drug addicts”?  Is someone trying to imply that I am a drug addict??  Ugh.  You can maybe see why the feeling of being addicted is unappealing to me.  I guess I’m a bit of a control freak.

So if these feelings of fidgeting, hot & cold flushes and sneezing are from Tramadol withdrawal, how long will it last?

Tramadol withdrawal lasts longer than that of other opioids; seven days or more of acute withdrawal symptoms can occur as opposed to typically three or four days for other codeine analogues

Oh.  Wow.  Seven days.   The medical advice states that because the withdrawal is so long then people wanting to stop Tramadol should slowly taper down their dose before stopping altogether.  For me I think that the amount of Tramadol I was taking wasn’t that high so it should be ok that I’ve just stopped it all together.  Ha, I just sneezed again!

I’ve read some comments from other people who were asking about stopping Tramadol, and they were taking really high doses!  If you want to see those comments you can see it here.

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Ixekizumab Normalizes Mutant Psoriasis Genes

I copied the headline for this blog from the article here.   I have no idea how to pronounce Ixekizumab so please don’t ask me, however I think it looks great.

It is wonderful that research continues on how to cure psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.  Although Ixekizumab, if it successfully passes all clinical trials, is not theoretically a cure (rather an effective treatment) I think it still helps us get closer to a cure.  For a cure I mean finding out why one’s genes is producing an excessive amount of interleukin-17.

I’ve blogged before about Google’s driver less car and how I think it is a great thing.  Just imagine if it was law that everyone had to use driver-less cars – no more assholes cutting in or breaking road rules – no more speeding and accidents through driver error.  Bring it on I say.  Anyway, I see that California has just passed legislation allowing driver-less cars.  My vote goes to you California.

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Neurontin for RLS

I posted previously about Horizant, a new drug for the treatment of Restless Leg Syndrome.  I mentioned that Horizant (Gabapentin Enacarbil) is not available in Thailand but Gabapentin is.  I have now found out that the brand name for the Gabapentin available in Thailand is called Neurontin.

I have been waiting for my rheumatologist to get back to me regarding a prescription for Neurontin but I guess she forgot, and with me being busy it slipped down my list of priorities.  Well today I had to have a quick checkup to get a medical certificate for my annual visa renewal.  I decided to talk to the Doctor at the same time about Gabapentin and she agreed that we should give it a shot.  So I now have a prescription of Neurontin in hand and will try it out tonight.

You may recall that according to the study that was done with Horizant, the usual dose at night is 1,200 mg.  My rheumatologist had made the comment that this is a high dose and would likely lay me out.  My Doctor today made the same observation and suggested that I start first at 300mg, and if it doesn’t work then the following night increase to 600mg etc.  So I’ll try it out and let you know if it works.  It really would be great if I wasn’t so dependent on Tramadol to control RLS!

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Cut out Sugar, Lose Weight

Another study came out this week showing the link between sugar consumption and weight gain.  In this case the study specifically looked at sodas and found:

“the results strongly suggest that sugary drinks cause people to pack on the pounds”

So what is the one most important step you can do if you want to be healthier?  In one study over 200 kids were divided into two groups with one allowed to drink sugary sodas and the other not.  Nothing else was changed.  After one year the sugary soda group all weighed an average 4 pounds heavier than the non-sugary soda group!  The Doctor running the study stated:

“I know of no other single food product whose elimination can produce this degree of weight change”

So you want to be healthier & lose weight?  Stop the sugar!

I like to drink a diet soda now and then, which of course does not contain any sugar.  Now I’m aware of some claims that diet soda has the same affect as sugary sodas (i.e. you will still gain weight) as the body reacts to the “sweetness”.  It was refreshing therefore to see this myth debunked.  The study noted:

“two other major experiments have found that giving children and teens calorie-free alternatives to the sugary drinks they usually consume leads to less weight gain”

As you probably know I cut out as much sugar as possible several weeks ago and where needed, replaced it with stevia.  I published in an earlier blog my recipe for sugar-free ice-cream, and it is still wonderful.  I have at least one serving everyday, sometimes 2!  Can you imagine being able to eat ice-cream everyday?  It is truly wonderful.  And guess what?  Without changing anything else in my lifestyle (i.e. just cutting sugar), my weight has dropped by just about 9 pounds (4 kgs)!  My waist has also dropped an inch.

FYI, I have tweaked the ice-cream recipe a little and here is my latest favorite.  Note, I love caramel so worked to come up with a sweet creamy caramel ice-cream.  Here it is:

  • Around 200 mls of low-fat milk (all the milk I look at has some sugar in it – naturally occurring I guess – and the lowest I could find was New Zealand Pure low fat which has about 2 teaspoons of sugar in 200 mls.
  • 1 scoop of casein protein powder.  I use French vanilla flavor, which I get through  Casein protein makes much creamier ice-cream than whey.  I have also ordered some hemp protein powder and will let you know how that turns out in ice-cream once it arrives
  • 1 teaspoon of stevia
  • 3-4 tablespoons of Da Vinci classic sugar-free caramel flavor

Today I had to go and have a quick checkup to get a medical certificate for my annual visa renewal.  My blood pressure was 126/73.

Cut out the sugar people!

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Colin McGinn’s Argument Against the Existence of God

Yesterday I mentioned my disgust with how religion holds back humanity.  I also mentioned that I had recently heard a great argument against the existence of God.  This argument comes via Colin McGinn being interviewed in a series called The Atheism Tapes.  If you follow the link you can see the video – he talks about “the problem of Evil” at about the 3 minute mark.  I have written out the dialogue for you to read, below.

Interviewer:  What are arguments against the existence of God?

Colin:  God is meant to be a being who is all knowing, all powerful, and all good. So how come there is suffering and pain in the world? Why does God allow it? If God is all good then He must think it is bad that suffering & pain occurs, and would rather it didn’t occur, like any decent person, and yet He lets it occur. Now that would be okay if He didn’t have the power to change it, yet He is meant to be all powerful, and we are told by religious people that He intervenes all the time in various things. So why doesn’t He intervene to prevent, you know, the death of a child or the torture of a prisoner? He doesn’t do it. So one could conclude from that, that God is quite bad. That God is a bad person. That is a conceivable conclusion that you might draw. But what you [also] conclude from it is that the combination of these two characteristics is inconsistent. He is all powerful and all good. He is all knowing too of course because he has to know what is going on. So it is essentially the conflict between being all powerful and all good, and the existence of evil.

And the standard reply to that, the apologists of religion will give is, that God created human beings with free will. Now there is a question, why did He do that? So why did He do that knowing that the results were going to be horrific? That was a pretty wicked thing to do, to start with, but let’s put that one aside. The problem with that argument is that not all pain and suffering in the world comes from the exercise of free will. Much of it comes from human… not human…. natural catastrophes, or disease, or accidents, and all sorts of things can cause tremendous suffering in humans. You know, someone can be born with a genetic disease – no human being had any role whatsoever in creating that. That comes from nature. God’s creation of course, we are told. So God created a world in which it was inevitable that there would be tremendous suffering on the part of completely innocent human beings.

Interviewer:  But there might be religious arguments to the effect that He created this obstacle course for his created creatures, endowed with free will, in order to bring out the best in them.

Colin:  Yes, and I always find that this one, to me, brings out the hard-hearted, immoral side to the way of thinking about things. Just think about what is being said, when someone says that. You’ve got the innocent child with some terrible disease, and you’ve God up there saying “I really need to test some people here. Let me pick on this 2 year old girl. Put her through this terrible ordeal, and I’ll test the other people”. I mean if any human being had told you that this is what they had done….. Suppose that I decided in my wisdom “I need to test some people here. I need to improve their moral characters. So I’m going to do this terrible thing to their child.” You’d think I was the wickedest person in the world if I did that. So if that is what God does then I have no respect for Him. I think that is a wicked thing to do. God shouldn’t do that. If God cares about human beings then He shouldn’t allow that to happen.

Naturally Colin doesn’t believe in any kind of supernatural / supreme being.  The tapes have some other great interviews with famous people for those who are interested.  As some of you may know I used to be a Christian and it used to really confuse me whenever people attributed something good happening to be “due to god’s intervention” and then totally ignoring the shitty injustice that happens in the world.  I saw a great example of that here.  A person’s house burns down yet the bible is “miraculously” preserved, and the owner proclaims it a “miracle of god”.

What???? So let’s see the logic here.  According to the owner god had the power to intervene and did so, ensuring that the bible wasn’t damaged.  That means god ignored the burning down of the house and all the possessions of the owner?  ON PURPOSE!  If someone had the ability to save my house and possessions from burning but only saved a bible sitting in my house, I’d call the person an asshole.   But wait there is more.  The article goes on to explain that the owner “lost her husband, she was diagnosed with cancer, survived open heart surgery, and now this.”  Yes, god has the ability to intervene (being all powerful) and chooses to ignore cancer, the death of a partner, burning down of a house, but saves a bible?   What does the son of the owner say?

“Just the Lord. It’s gotta be,”

Ha. Anyone who has the power to help but doesn’t certainly isn’t a friend.  Like I said, an asshole.

Naturally I don’t think god is an asshole, because I know god doesn’t exist!

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What Will The Future Hold? Can 3 Parent IVF Cure Psoriasis?

I’ve blogged before about the exciting scientific developments happening every day in our world.  About how we could be very close to understanding (and replicating) a human brain and solving the issues of longevity and dying.  Recently I joined, an organization starting by a group of Russian scientists and business people who are serious about being able to create an “avatar” and upload one’s brain to it, by the year 2045.  I have no idea if they will be successful but I love the idea and want to keep track of it (and contribute if at all possible).

The group have broken the task into several steps and set deadlines for each one.  You can view the details on their website.  They also have great links to emerging discoveries, such as Microsoft filing a patent for a “holodeck” style gaming system.  All very interesting.

Today I came across two interesting discoveries, one of which has the potential to cure psoriasis.  The first discovery is that a group of scientists were able to implant a chip into a brain, to improve brain function such as memory.  The experiment was done on monkeys and the outcome amazing.

“Scientists have designed a brain implant that sharpened decision making and restored lost mental capacity in monkey”

Wow.  The potential for the future of a ‘Brain chip” is mind boggling.

The second article is regarding three parent IVF treatment.  This is a new treatment currently being researched in the UK and USA, and involves using the mitochondrial DNA from a 3rd party to fix an inherited disease in an egg of a mother so that she wouldn’t pass the disease on to her children.  Currently psoriasis isn’t on the list, but fatal heart problems, liver failure, brain disorders, blindness and muscular weakness are.  Britain has launched a public consultation to get feedback, and the treatment has already been approved and passed by a “medical ethics panel”.

I think this is wonderful news.  If I had the choice to have my wife’s eggs undergo some treatment so that I knew my kids would never develop psoriasis I would sign up in a heartbeat.  This is exactly what science is looking to do – improve lives and our standard of living.  I must admit though that as I was reading the article I had a feeling of dread that the religious nuts would make a hue and cry about it being “against the will of god” or some such nonsense.  Yes – sure enough I read further on:

“Some pro-life campaigners have already criticised the scientific research, saying that creating embryonic children in a lab abuses them by subjecting them to unnatural processes”

Argh.  I’ve written before about how I strongly believe that religion is holding back humanity.  We see it everyday in the stupid wars, violence and death instigated in the name of someone’s religion or due to “offense”.   For a logical person such as myself there is so much evidence against the possibility of a “god” existing.  It is so hard for an indoctrinated person to have the confidence to truthfully examine the evidence when the answer could mean a total disruption and change in the way they live.  That is very scary for many people, and for good reason.  I long for the day when people put their values in things that are concrete and secure, such as family, friends and things that make one happy, rather than religion or the church.

I heard a wonderful argument recently against the existence of god and will post it separately since it is so long.  It is a very interesting read.

Posted in Live Forever, Psoriasis, Psoriasis Treatment, Psoriatic Arthritis, Science Fiction | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Belly Fat More Important Than BMI

Earlier this year I blogged about my frustration at insurance companies and others using the Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine the health of individual people.  Basically, if you don’t meet the BMI for your height, then you are automatically considered overweight and a health risk. This was NEVER the intended use for BMI and is incredibly inaccurate.

I blogged at the time about how a study found that BMI was wrong 50% of the time as an indicator of obesity in women.  For more information on how bad BMI is, please read that blog.

How is it that companies still continue to use this measure?  I believe that insurance companies are able to sting a lot of customers for increased insurance premiums using “failing to meet BMI” as an excuse for the extra “loading”.  They don’t take into account body fat or more importantly – waist size!!!!!!

In my previous blog I explained how study after study has determined that waist size is a far better indicator of predisposition to future health problems, than BMI.  How simple would it be for a doctor to throw a measuring tape around someone’s waist at a health checkup?  Yes – incredibly simple isn’t it.

So this last week I read yet another study related to this.  The study by the Mayo Clinic showed that the amount of Belly Fat is a far better indicator of health risk than obesity according to BMI.

“A new study suggests that adults who aren’t technically overweight but have a lot of fat around their guts run a higher death risk than people who are obese”

And for the lovers of BMI they spelt out the conclusion that numerous other studies have found:

”   the body mass index — a ratio of weight to height that’s commonly abbreviated as BMI — is not always the best indicator of health risks caused by excess weight”

To be clear (in case you don’t read the link article as something is wrong with your Internet connection – it just couldn’t be because you are too lazy!) those people who had a normal BMI but central belly fat had a higher death risk.

One easy step to get rid of that fat?  Cut out the sugar!  Lovely to read that the US, and particularly NYC are the pioneers in leading the correct way to look after your health “NYC Bans BIg, Sugary Drinks at Restaurants“.

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