Category Archives: Pharma

there’s something in the water

My friend Rachel emailed me an SF Gate article I thought was worth sharing. It’s about the adverse effect of sunscreens, which wash off people’s bodies at the beach, on fish and coral reefs. The article talks about how sunscreen is one of the many chemical personal care products that end up in the water supply, including medications. They suggest that the solution is to educate people about these chemicals so that they can demand safer products and a better water filtration system (as of now we go right ahead and drink this stuff aparently). They also have a list of sunscreen products that are better for the sea.

I remember a similar discussion a couple months back about birth control hormones ending up in the drinking water supply. I sort of shy away from this topic because (a) it’s really gross to think about drinking water that was formerly pee! and (b) I’m really conflicted. I’ve always been a pretty strong live and let live person. I certainly would never want women who wanted it to not have access to birth control. At the same time, I think these cases are good reminders that “live and let live” has some serious challenges, in that we all live in the same place.

The same issue comes up for me with chemical laundry detergents and dish cleaners. In general, I don’t use them myself (to be honest, more because they give me a rash), but I’ve never really pushed them on people in my life. Still, nothing really goes away when it goes down the drain… and sometimes it’s just coming right back out the faucet.

I’m conflicted because I guess I am feeling a little burned out on the idea of a consumer revolution. Are we really going to demand safer products? Do we have time to? Many alternative are available now and most people don’t buy them (can’t afford to? can’t find them? don’t care?). But the idea of regulation is a scary ethical minefield. Some things, such as sunscreen that still protects from sunburns but doesn’t hurt the ocean as much seems pretty uncontroversial. But birth control? What about life-saving drugs that get into the water supply?

I wish we could trust the government to decide what is reasonable for public health and safety versus individual rights, but it’s pretty obvious that we can’t (and if we do while the person we like is in power, it’s all subject to change when their term is over).

I might sound a bit pessimistic, but I’m not. I’m just mulling it over. I definitely know a lot folks who think changing consumer behavior is where it’s at. I just don’t think we can do it until we change consumers back into citizens, and that’s a formidable task. (I’ll do it if someone else pays my rent.)

In the meanwhile, there is a silver lining – at least our internal organs and our sushi won’t get sunburned!

a pretty informative and overly balanced link on tap water (though admittedly not without bias)


allergeez part II

Andrea asked such a good question it’s become a whole post. She asked how many sessions of acupuncture I would guess it would take to cure allergies. I am not really qualified to answer it, only to tell my own thoughts and experience.

I think it is an important question because a lot of people are deterred by the cost of acupuncture. For me, it was well worth it, and I will willing to cut back other areas to do it. There are free clinics and low cost days at many places, but from what I’ve heard from other people who have had success with acupuncture, the practitioner is the most important thing. There are bad acupuncturists just like there are bad doctors.

I started (I think?) in March 2005 and did not have allergies that spring. I went once a week, every week. Most of my other symptoms did not clear up quite that fast.

However, I don’t want to sound like acupuncture is magic, though I think that it requires more than memorizing points and meridians to be a good acupuncturist. Acupuncture is one tool (which was essential for me) in a large toolkit. My understanding is that many factors contribute to the imbalances that cause symptoms like allergies and, in my experience, it took many solutions.

The important thing for me was to realize that just because I always had allergies didn’t mean I had to have them forever. And also to realize that reaching for a pharma solution as a first resort sometimes aggravates the symptoms you want to relieve.

I want to advocate educating yourself and including your relationship to health in your process of healing. Seeking health when you haven’t had it is a radical act. Going to war with my symptoms by did not work for me. Finding the right tools for me changed my entire relationship to my body and to health as I had previously thought of it.

These issues remain complicated for me. Though I had many persistent and uncomfortable symptoms, I never had anything terminal or immediately life threatening. As I have watched my mother bravely battle cancer (there’s those war metaphors), I am still figuring out my understanding of healing and how we can live and thrive in a toxic world. So far, I am only sure that we can.

Thanks to Andrea (and Rand with the IM debate!) for inspiring this post.

no period? no. period.

The front page of the New York Times on Friday had an article about a new birth control pill that would cause a woman to have no period while she is taking it. The article iss about how many women (as consumers) see the period as a sign of reproductive health and many people (as experts in various fields) are troubled by the idea of eliminating it.

Birth control is a hard thing for me to even write about, because of my negative personal experiences with it. However, easy access to birth control is something I feel very strongly about – as a political issue and an issue of empowerment for women. While I personally will not take it again, I totally support women who do.

What I wonder is how we as women can take control of how we see and use birth control in our current environment. It’s hard for me to even question birth control, because it sends pangs of dread that I will somehow lend support to people who are trying to make it less accessible.

But I do question it – should it be prescribed for reasons other than controlling birth? To balance your hormones, to clear your skin, to have your period less often, and now to not have it at all? [Another issue for another day is whether it can even do these things.]

Politically, the most important thing to me is that every woman should be able to make her own choice about what is best for her own health and her own life. But how can any of us do this independently of societal pressure to perform better? What if having better skin and more balanced hormones caused a certain woman to be more confident and contributed to a promotion at work? Not losing blood might give women more energy for other things – including working more hours with less fatigue. It is impossible to me to separate societal expectation and health.

I think the problem is beyond whether we think our period is necessary for our health. It is that even if we do want to embrace our period, there isn’t enough room for it in our modern lives. And if our period is problematic, as it is for so many women, there is not good access to support to figure out why and what our options are.

sabra??? no! sabra? yes, it’s true.

SabraWe all know Sabra Hummus is more addictive than crack. Once you start that stuff, you will not be stopping. Hummus is truly one of the wonderous pleasures of gustatory experience.

Can you even believe Sabra Hummus contains sodium benzoate? WTF! Maybe that’s the “closely guarded secret Mediteranean” ingredient that makes it “richer, smoother and tastier.” Please visit, print some ‘sodium benzoate is krap’ labels and inform your fellow citizens pronto.

The good news is that there are PLENTY of alternatives and not only are they SB-free, they are usually cheaper and lower in bad fats. Once I switched to a natural brand (available anywhere, even chain groceries), when I tried Sabra again it tasted funny. Locally, I’ve found Wakim’s to be de-lish.

For the cooks out there, I’m offering this simple recipe for delicious, SB-free homemade “slightly garlicky, blissfully satisfying” hummus from Savvy Vegetarian. Let us know if you try it!