This past weekend I wandered into and out of a health food store. Within I found 101 types of “green” cleaning agents and cosmetics. And some organically grown and bulk foods. And shelf after shelf of supplements and teas and tinctures and…. These might be described as products designed to “help your body heal itself.” Or perhaps: “To optimize your health so as to prevent future ill-health.”
Preventing ill-health. It’s actually a smart way to spend your money. Preventative measures are frequently less costly and distressing than dealing with full-blown disease states down the line.
Of course, whether some/most diseases can actually be prevented, and what means most effectively accomplish this — these are two very important questions. Questions I wouldn’t assume an answer to, one way or the other.
Can using green products — besides, perhaps, keeping less-biodegradible and more . . . toxic? . . . agents from the home environment and water treatment plants, too, maybe — bolster a person’s health, or at least put less stress on it? My guess is that for a minority of individuals with allergies and rare sensitivities, yes. For most people — minimally at best. But that is just a guess. A relatively informed guess, but just a guess. How to know for sure? One word: test. Run it through a few scientific hurdles.
Yogurt is a mainstay in the diet of many a healthy-eating enthusiast. And it seems that at least one pro-biotically enhanced type (now with even more friendly bacteria of the most friendly kind!) has recently cleared a hurdle.
The probiotic yogurt-like drink DanActive reduced the rate of common sicknesses such as ear infections, sinusitis, the flu and diarrhea in daycare children.
Well, that’s good news. So perhaps to the health advice, “sleep well, eat well, and get plenty of exercise,” we should add, “and regularly consume billions of the Lactobacillus casei (L. casei) strain of bacteria.”
[For more of the study details, scroll to the post foot.]
Should the health food store items aimed at prevention of disease be considered “alternative medicine”? Although millions of dollars are likely spent on “alternative medicines” in stores like these and on products of the sort mentioned above, I would use neither alternative nor medicine to describe them.
First, alternative. Alternative to what? Call them holistic, call them gentle, call them traditional. But in terms of medicine, they are not alternative medicine because the vast majority are not yet know to have actual medicinal properties. Call them pre-medicine.
Which brings me to the second point. Medicines and treatments deserve to be called such only if we know they are actually effective to one degree or another. And how do we know they are? Through the frankly non-holistic practice of isolating variables and testing. Measuring results. Otherwise, what have you got but callow hypotheses and guesses? Health is serious business. Why leave it up to guesses?
More about the particular scientific hurdle cleared:
The study, titled DRINK (Decreasing the Rates of Illness in Kids), was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study — the gold standard in clinical research design. It included 638 healthy children, aged three to six, who attended school five days a week. Parents were asked to give their child a daily strawberry yogurt-like drink. Some of the drinks were supplemented with the probiotic strain L. casei DN-114 001 (DanActive), while others had no probiotics (placebo). Neither the study coordinators, the children, nor the parents knew which drink was given to which participant until the study ended. In addition to phone interviews with researchers, parents kept daily diaries of their child’s health and the number of drinks consumed.
Researchers found a 19 percent decrease of common infections among the children who drank the yogurt-like drink with L. casei DN-114 001 compared to those whose drink did not have the probiotic. More specifically, those who drank DanActive had 24 percent fewer gastrointestinal infections (such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting), and 18 percent fewer upper respiratory tract infections (such as ear infections, sinusitis and strep). However, the reduction in infections did not result in fewer missed school days or activities — also a primary outcome of the study.
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