by Chris Campbell

“I’m so mean I make medicine sick.”

– Muhammad Ali

 ** Ugh. I’m sick today.

And it’s hitting me hard.

Meaning, I’m writing to you today from home. Laid back on my couch, sipping tea and eating soup. And coughing all over my keyboard.

Just found this (below) and it’s making me feel a little better.

It’s from Allen Crawford’s awesome book, Whitman Illustrated: Song of Myself.

If you’re a Whitman fan, it’s worth a look.

** Yes… I’m still fallible.

Despite all of my recent health-habit kicks, I still caught something.

Why did I become sick despite meditation, healthy eating habits, and ample exercise?

I have a theory that one counterproductive action I”m engaged in could be compromising my health.

Before we get into that, though, there’s one BIG detail about yesterday’s episode that I’d like to clear up.

Give me a moment, please…

[Rustling through the mailbag…]

Oh. I think this is it…

[Opening up an envelope. Pulling out a letter.]

** “I still think you are a left-wing anti-American writer,” Paul W. writes, “and I have cancelled my subscription to your newsletter.”

Heh.

Nope. Not that one.

Sorry to see you go, Pa-… ahh, forget it.

Bon voyage!

[Rustling through again…]

Ah. Here it is.

** “I’m a former federal prosecutor,” Sarah M. writes. “Thanks for standing up for the Constitution.

“It, however,” Sarah goes on, “does not permit torture, even with due process.

“If you write about this again, therefore, you might want to correct the following:

“’The U.S. Constitution, you may recall, prohibits torture without due process.’”

** Yeesh. Thanks, Sarah.

Right you are.

[Let’s try that again.]

The U.S. Constitution, you may recall, prohibits torture. No matter what.

[There. That’s better.]

In fact, few seem to realize that our Founding Fathers abhorred torture.

My colleague, Dave Gonigam of The 5 Min. Forecast, sent an article over this week that knocks this point out of the park.

Its title? Why the Founding Fathers Thought Banning Torture Foundational to the U.S. Constitution.

The full article is here.

“It was the insistence of Founding Fathers,” the article’s author, Juan Cole writes, “such as George Mason and Patrick Henry that resulted in the Bill of Rights being passed to constrain the otherwise absolute power of the Federal government. And one of their primary concerns was to abolish torture.

“The Fifth and the Eighth Amendments thus together forbid torture on the “question preparatoire” (pretrial confession under duress) and the question prealable (post-conviction torture).

“That the Founding Fathers were against torture is not in question.”

OK. Now that we got that cleared up, I feel a bit better.

But I’m still sick as a dog.

** It’s better I’m sick now rather than while traveling, I suppose…

Just get it out of my system now, please.

Despite all the healthy habits I’ve been taking on lately (meditation, exercise, eating healthy)… I still caught this horrid thing.

We did, though, have a pretty raucous company-wide holiday party on Friday. Which could’ve helped to compromise my defenses.

Sometimes, though, getting sick is unavoidable.

Sometimes, something goes around that’s foreign to your immune system and BOOM…

You touch a doorknob you shouldn’t have…

Or someone sneezes and cropdusts you with the flavor of the week…

Or you stumble into a local architect’s party and kiss a cute new fling in the coat closet…

All of those are possibilities.

But I’ll admit, there is one aspect of my life that’s lacking. And it’s the most reasonable theory as to why I feel the way I do.

** What part of my life is lacking? Sleep. I’m not getting enough. And chances are, neither are you.

Approximately 80% of working adults suffer to some degree from sleep deprivation. Very few Americans get the recommended eight hours each and every night.

Don’t get me wrong.

Everyone is different. And some people, from what I understand, do not need eight hours. But, judging by how I feel in the mornings on those late nights, I do.

And it’s important stuff.

Proper amount of sleep is essential for learning and memory… a healthy metabolism and weight maintenance… a good mood… cardiovascular health… and a functioning immune system.

It’s crucial for forming memories too. And sleep plays a pivotal role in the formation of new neural connections and getting rid of the old ones.

But that’s not all it does. New research is coming out that sleep helps rid the brain of waste accumulated throughout the day. Waste such as beta-amyloid and tau, the proteins found in excess in Alzheimers and dementia patients’ brains.

Now that I’m sick, I have to slow down. Realize where I’m out of balance, and work to correct that imbalance. And that means catching up on sleep.

** I bring this up because we all have parts of our lives that are out of whack…

And the best way to deal with them is to be honest about that aspect, and then do what you can to bring it back into balance.

We covered a lot of ground on how to do that the past two weeks. Our main focal points are now aimed at two things: your health and your wealth.

Now that our little foray into the torture debate has slid through…

Over the next few days, we’ll continue to offer up actionable ways for you to boost both.

To do so, we’ve invited one colleague and health maven, Brad Lemley, to offer up some of his sage advice. Namely, how to avoid being tricked by the Big Pharma monster. And save bundles of money.

Big Pharma’s Slimy Tactics to Convince You You’re Sick

by Brad Lemley

“There’s a lot of money to be made by telling healthy people they are sick.”

So begins a pithy piece in the British Medical Journal titled “Selling Sickness: The Pharmaceutical Industry and Disease Mongering.” Published in 2002, the phenomenon it describes has only picked up steam in the last 12 years.

To be sure, there are plenty of truly sick people in modern Britain, and even more in modern America. A corrupted food culture featuring cheap, processed carbs and unnatural fats; sedentary screen-addicted lifestyles; chronic sleep deprivation; and other divergences from our evolutionary past have made diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other “diseases of civilization” skyrocket.

Such real maladies have goosed Big Pharma’s obscene profits, as advertising-addled Americans opt for drugs over lifestyle changes that could reduce or eliminate many of these conditions.

But somehow, a few million spoilsport Americans remain obstinately disease-free. Sure, they are fast becoming a minority, but hey, says Big Pharma, why leave any money on the table?

** Enter disease mongering.

The practice dates back at least to the 1920s, when the maker of Listerine mouthwash latched onto an extremely obscure medical term — halitosis — to describe bad breath.

“Listerine did not make mouthwash as much as it made halitosis,” noted advertising scholar James Twitchell. Relentless promotion of the ominous term — and of Listerine as its cure — drove revenues from $115,000 to more than $8 million in less than a decade.

To this day, a central disease-mongering tactic is to attach long, clinical-sounding names to what used to be seen as trivial, transient health problems. In most cases, the new, formidable names come complete with acronyms, which add even more gravitas. Thus:

Occasional heartburn becomes “gastroesophageal reflux disease,” or GERD
A bout of impotence becomes “erectile dysfunction,” or ED
Premenstrual tension becomes “premenstrual dysphoric disorder,” or PMDD
Shyness becomes “social anxiety disorder,” or SAD
Fidgeting legs become “restless leg syndrome” or RLS.
Extreme, persistent versions of these conditions may indeed require vigorous treatment, and in a small subset of such cases, drugs may be warranted.

But Big Pharma doesn’t even try to draw a distinction between serious and mild manifestations. Check the advertisements! Minor stomach upset following a spicy meal is labeled GERD, and butterflies before giving a speech is SAD.

Another classic tactic is to make “too high” medical test numbers equivalent to actual disease and then prescribe a drug to fix it. High LDL-C cholesterol is so flawed as a heart-disease risk predictor that it is essentially useless, yet millions of statin prescriptions are written on a single reading above the “optimal” range.

** Bottom line: Be suspicious whenever you hear of a new “disease.”

Human beings have been cataloguing true diseases for centuries; it’s unlikely they have overlooked several major ones. Increasingly, modern maladies come from the marketing department rather than the lab. Such diseases are better described as minor discomforts that come with being a human being.

The best treatments for these are low-tech, inexpensive, and safe measures such as small modifications in diet or exercise patterns, or some simple stress-reduction techniques — like making friends with people rather than glowing screens.

Or, most radical of all, the answer may simply be to do — and buy — nothing and give the body’s innate, powerful healing forces a chance to re-establish your well-being.

[Check out what book Brad recommends in our new (potentially recurring) series called On The Bookshelf…]

On Lemley’s Bookshelf: Younger Next Year

OK, I’m weird. I spend my days up to my chin (not a metaphor — you should see my desk) in stacks of medical journal articles. It’s a mass of tiny gray type that resolves, upon close inspection, into terms like “lipid profile,” “increases in adiponectin,” and the ever-popular “FO supplementation lowered triacylglycerols, increased HDL cholesterol, and improved endothelium-dependent arterial vasodilation (P < 0.05).”

But sometimes, healthy living information can be better conveyed in a popular book. One of my all-time favorites is Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, MD.

It’s not particularly new — the first edition came out in 2004, and it’s been updated a few times since.

Nor does it contain a great deal of groundbreaking information. Crowley, a 70-year-old wisecracking retired lawyer, and Lodge, a distinguished MD and gerontologist, take turns discussing various aspects of aging and how — within limits — some of them can be reversed. Chances are you’re familiar with at least some of it.

Two Levels of Appeal

First, the book is directed squarely at hardworking, reasonably successful guys in their 50s — in other words, me and, given the demographics of the Laissez Faire Letter, probably you. This makes it far more useful to us than health advice aimed at everyone in general, or women in particular — which covers about 95% of the written health advice out there. I could relate to nearly every example and anecdote, a rarity in this kind of literature.

Second, the book absolutely pounds on the importance of hard, daily exercise as the No. 1 way to keep aging at bay. Page after page, Crowley and Lodge implore you to bring the same discipline to your workouts that you do (or did) to your job, and they eloquently explain just why it matters so much.

That’s vital insight. Eating right is, obviously, important. So are sleep, socializing, supplements, and more. But the message here — that you need to step up, not dial down, your workouts in your 50s and beyond — is smack on target, and it’s something guys like us don’t hear often enough.

Get it. Read it. At this point in your life, nothing matters more than this.

-Brad Lemley

[And now for some more reader mail…]

** “I will add reason five for being against torture,” on reader, Charles L. writes.

“It is probably the most damaging reason

“It is destroying the image for goodness of the U.S. worldwide and abetting the image that U.S’ enemies have been propagandizing.

“That image is that the U.S. is a hypocrite of a nation that cannot be trusted.”

** “For what it’s worth,” John F. writes, “I agree with you completely about torture.

“Much as our emotions might prompt us to seek revenge for atrocities, in the long run it makes no sense in terms of accomplishing anything and it is clearly immoral.

“We should always seek the high ground. As far as the CIA and all other government agencies, for that matter, we should always insist on transparency and open-handedness, except where security is clearly involved.

“What crimes they commit against our enemies may well be turned on us in this topsy turkey environment where patriots are deemed to be the enemies.”

LFT: Exactly. You get it, sir. Thanks, John.

Get some sleep, dear LFT reader. I know I need to.

Until tomorrow,

Chris Campbell

Creative Commons – this article was originally published on LFB.org.