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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Poop and Circunstance


Dr. Lester CN Simon

With the advent of the School Meals Program and the approach of 25 years of independence, I got to thinking about what Antigua and Barbuda means to me. I was also prompted to reflect on whether my days in school prepared me to take on the world, or, I should say, to know if and when to take on the world, and to always strive to be an independent thinker. Independent thought can initially be frightening because it takes on a life of its own and it pulls you seemingly un-independently along its unseeing path. You have to be confident in the process of thinking and know when to stop. So why can’t I stop thinking about the Nonfat Dry Milk they used to serve us children in primary school, and all the big loads of stinking poops we used to let go after eating or drinking it?

The study of flatus is a worthy and noble vocation if for no other reason than it affords us the acquired ability to differentiate between an authentic poop and its covert, non-gaseous, occasional companion, the doo-doo. A comprehensive study can also inform us of the type of flatus that is forthcoming: Will it be loud and explosive or will it be soft and whistling or inaudible and malodorous? This is vital and enviable information that many highly respectable members of a congregation would swap their collection money for in church, on a beautiful Sunday morning. Sitting in the middle of the pew on the windward side of the aisle enjoying the effervescent, tropical breeze; the holy sacrament of communion is about to begin; the priest says, “This is my body and my…….”....oooops! Everyone looks at everyone else in their minds’ eyes and in that fleeting, deprecatory moment it seems that we all must have read the same flatus inspired script, Waiting To Inhale.

The New Scientist journal reported in 2001 that Dr. Michael Levitt, a gastroenterologist (who else?), had been studying flatus for over 30 years. He discovered that although some women tend to produce less flatulent emissions, there was no significant difference between males and females in the frequency of passing wind. He also analyzed and correctly identified the bouquet of gases in large numbers of poops and thus paved the way for a new type of purgative to clean the gut before performing surgical operations on the bowel. Previously, the purgatives that were used preoperatively enhanced the production of some gases that were combustible and hitherto there were cases of real fireworks and explosions during surgical operations on the bowel!

The drinking of milk or suckling by newborns is one of the defining characteristics of mammals. Lactose is the dominant carbohydrate in virtually all mammalian milk. It is digested in the intestines by an enzyme called lactase. Lactase, the enzyme, breaks down lactose, the sugar in milk. Many Black school children of the Nonfat Dry Milk era grew up to learn that we lacked the enzyme lactase and so we could not adequately digest lactose and hence we could not drink large volumes of milk. We came to understand the reason for passing all the milk inspired flatus and we were made to feel that we were abnormal; that lactose intolerance was a disease at worse or a disorder at best. After all, one must not go pooping, pooping all over the place after drinking a tall glass of milk. The effects of drinking milk must be seen, not heard.

Studies reported in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2000 by Dr. V S Tuula et al show that there is a reduction in lactase activity in the intestines soon after weaning in almost all animals and in many humans. Lactase deficiency is a normal physiological process. Remarkable! The prevalence of lactose intolerance is about 50% in South America, Africa, and Asia, reaching almost 100% in some Asians countries. In the United States, the prevalence of lactose intolerance is about 15% among whites, 53% among Mexican-Americans and 80% in the Black population. In Europe it ranges along a rising gradient from about 2% in northern areas like Scandinavia to about 70% in Sicily in the south. Did the Nonfat Dry milk school program extend throughout the entire world? Thankfully, Black people do not have a monopoly on passing flatus after copious milk ingestion. Black brothers and sisters arise. Wipe out those pooping lies!
History will “absorb” us. “Viva Poopa!”

Calcium has earned the title of “super nutrient”. It is an essential nutrient for critical biological functions. It can be obtained in high quantities from dairy foods, Chinese cabbage, Chinese mustard greens and bok choy, from calcium-fortified foods and beverages and supplements. The New Scientist reported in 2002 that scientific studies support the theory that all humans were once lactose intolerant, and that lactose tolerance evolved only after people domesticated animals and began drinking their milk. What do you think will happen if you give cow’s milk to an adult cow? Black populations like the Fulani of Western Africa that rely extensively on milk in their diet are highly tolerant to milk. Lactose intolerance is not a disease or a disorder. With varying degrees of intolerance, about two thirds of the world’s adult population is lactose intolerant.

It only goes to show that when you are called abnormal and different, do not accept the label. Do the hard, investigative work to understand the world around you and how you fit into the wider picture, even if, with the appropriate silent apologies in church on Sunday, you have to study an irreverent but essential subject such as Farting on the Nonfat Dry Milk.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Alternative Medicine


Dr. Lester CN Simon

I write in reference to the article, “Antiguan Naturopath Cures HTLV-I” submitted by Mr. Ted Emanuel and published in the Antigua Sun on Wednesday July 26, 2006. I telephoned Mr. Emanuel in Jamaica and suggested to him that his article did not contain sufficient information to conclude that the he cured the patient of HTLV-I.

HTLV-I means Human T cell Lymphotropic Virus type I. Like all viruses, HTLV-I needs a living cell to reproduce because it does not have the full reproduction machinery for this vital function. Viruses may show a particular affinity or tropism for certain types of cells. The members of the group of viruses called HTLV derive their group name from their affinities or tropism for human T lymphocytes, which are types of white blood cells.

HTLV-I is the first member of a distinct group of viruses. Other members of the group include HTLV-II, which cases a blood cancer, and the HIV viruses that cause AIDS. HTLV-I does not cause AIDS. HTLV-I is associated with some types of cancer, a nerve disorder, skin problems and other abnormalities. The major routes of transmission of all these viruses include sexual activity, blood transfusion and mother-to-child.

Many tests for viruses, including HTLV-I, are actually tests for the substances called antibodies that the body makes in response to infection by the virus. A person may be virus positive and antibody negative because the antibodies are in very low, immeasurable quantities. Hence the article by the Antiguan naturopath should have stated whether the test on the patient was a test for the antibodies or a test for the virus. Additionally, the sensitivity and specificity of any test should be included and referenced to a gold standard, which is a test that detects extremely small amounts of the tested material. Everyone is familiar with the fact that the inability to detect something does not necessarily mean that it is absent.

In the absence of pertinent scientific data, the article submitted by Mr. Ted Emanuel falls short of basic scientific principles. In this regard, I wish to note that there is a place for naturopathic medicine in the healing process but that place must be earned and maintain by proper attention to scientific principles in medicine, statistics and logic.

I am a medical doctor and I have no hesitation at all in saying that we must acknowledge the shortcomings of orthodox medicine and attend to them. But we must not discard the baby with the bathwater. Reverting solely to natural medicine without attention to orthodox medicine, science, statistics and logic would be akin to discarding the baby, the bathwater, the basin and the entire bathroom.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Music Gone To The Pigs


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Quite a lot has been said and written about the way we dance at Carnival time; how the wining is too rude and vulgar and is nothing short of adulterated, orgiastic sex. The good news is that you are right; the bad news is that we do not examine why and suggest how we should dance. Maybe it is our refusal to take on fundamental issues and move from banal observation to analytical discourse that makes us pig tail and pig mouth people. We don’t want no reason. We don’t want no cause. We don’t want no basis. We don’t want no sense. Everybody shout out: All we want is pig tail and pig mouth; pig tail and pig mouth!

Dance is a form of social intercourse, with emphasis on social. We dance to music. The contribution of Africa to Caribbean and world music is so emphatic that we make the mistake of thinking that only black people got rhythm. Well, all God’s children got rhythm but one man’s rhythm may be another man’s confusion.

Examine a few of the dance forms in the Caribbean and Latin America and take a hard look at two of them. Argentina developed the Tango and Martinique and Guadeloupe developed the Beguine. How do you dance to Calypso? Is there a specific and recognizable Calypso dance? Dorbrene O’Marde says that King Obstinate says there is no such thing as a Calypso dance. And Obsti should know. Could it be that the dances we develop or fail to develop in the Caribbean and Latina America are reflections of the social intercourse between the colonial Europeans and the transplanted Africans?

A recent article called Contrasting Empires by J. H. Elliott in the August 2006 edition of History Today compared Spanish and English colonialism and concluded that the Spaniards were more accommodating to their colonies. The late, Lord Bold Face must be blue vexed (with people trying to ambush market his name). I guess it’s like saying that all colonialisms are unequal but some are more or less unequal than others.

The Tango is a stylized, extremely sensual, adulterated, almost artificial form of what we are accused of doing at Carnival time. Yet it is very popular internationally and it attracts highly sophisticated people. I have never been to Argentina but I suspect you can find there a more vulgar form of Tango that will make the international, provocative Tango look like a May pole dance at a Sunday school picnic. I hear that the Beguine dance is one in which there are loads of waist movement (rolling hips, like rolling hills for crying out loud) but the upper body is stiff, stiff, stiff. Again, a more stylized, adulterated form of what we do at Carnival time. The French West Indian inventor of the Beguine must have had the good sense of humour that only a West Indian can muster.

What was it about English colonialism that differed from French and Spanish colonialism regarding social interaction between whites and natives? Is the absence of a calypso dance an indictment of the English speaking West Indian, reflecting our failure to weave a stylized, ornate, artificial dance that represents the conjoining of the two cultures? Is this one of the reasons why Calypso is not so popular internationally? Surely a music with a distinctive, accommodating dance will go further than a music to which you just do what comes naturally. Why has the English speaking West Indian middle class (the same ones rightfully crying out against the overt wining at Carnival) failed to find a dance between the staid ballroom dancing of the Europeans and the earthy “Sylvie Breakaway” of the Carnival wining dancers, especially when the literature of calypso is uniquely chock full of humour and mockery?

A word of caution is in order for those who may be thinking that African dancing is all about wining and vulgar simulation of sex. I have seen African dancers on stage with bare breasted women wining much more than the slackers you see at Carnival time. The female African dancers I saw were moving all over the stage and despite of (or because of) the naked breasts and the gyrating, the theme and purpose of the dance attracted more attention. In fact (wait for it) they reminded me of ballerinas. It may surprise you to learn that if you observe ballerinas carefully you will discover that when they move, especially when dancing on pointe their entire body is shaking. It has to do that for proper balance. The ballerinas are really wining but they are wining to a different rhythm.

So if you want the vulgar, adulterated sexual wining to stop, let us choreograph a dance in which the wining comes second and the entire dance and theme and story come first and we end up with a new, stylized, hybrid dance form. But this will require that we desire more, much more (mucho más) than just the succulent pig tail and pig mouth.