Mark Twain was right… Tuesday, Mar 30 2010 

…when he said, “an armed society is a polite society.”

MSNBC reporter Mike Stuckey cited Centers for Disease Control statistics and noted that “Americans overall are far less likely to be killed with a firearm than they were when it was much more difficult to obtain a concealed-weapons permit.” Stuckey also reports that “the decline in gun homicides also comes as U.S. firearm sales are skyrocketing.”


Tuesday, Mar 23 2010 

John Steinbeck Photo

Greatness lies in the one who triumphs equally from victory or defeat John Steinbeck

Bad Back Treatments. Monday, Mar 22 2010 

by Timothy Carey, MD, MPH  

Back pain — it’s not so much a question of if you’ll get it, but when. Four out of five people experience annoying lower back pain at some time in life… and it’s natural to want to do something to fix it. But before you do, know this: The scientific evidence now shows that for lower back pain, waiting it out is just about as effective as more dramatic (and risky) treatments, such as surgery, narcotics and steroids.

 Back Attack

 Before we go further with this, though, we need to be clear on one point. Back pain that is of sudden onset due to a fall or blow to the back, or accompanied by other symptoms that could indicate a heart attack or other medical emergency requires an immediate trip to the ER. And if you experience back pain and you also have other medical issues (such as cancer or neurological problems), see your doctor to be sure it isn’t a sign that something else is going on.

A  study published in the medical journal Spine, reported that people with back pain were getting complicated treatments that don’t help and may in fact cause harm… while less than half get a prescription for the safe, effective and simple self-treatment proven to make things better — which is exercise. I called the study author, Timothy Carey, MD, professor of social medicine at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and director of the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, to ask some questions. Dr. Carey told me that low back pain does not always require tests, such as CT scans or MRIs. Unless you have a history of cancer, osteoporosis, fever, weight loss (these are sometimes called red-flag symptoms) or current muscle weakness or urinary difficulty, it probably makes sense to wait one month before proceeding with such tests.

 Why Tests May Cause Harm

 A recent study from Stanford University showed that in regions of the US where there is lots of MRI technology available, there are far more back surgeries — and also that having an MRI early in the course of back pain not only doesn’t tend to lead to a better outcome, it may actually induce health-care providers to suggest unneeded surgery. Aggressive use of CT scans also can lead to overtreatment, Dr. Carey noted. “These imaging techniques provide wonderful pictures of the anatomy of the back, but the images are only loosely correlated with how the back functions,” he said.

 Dr. Carey’s advice: Before agreeing to undergo an imaging procedure, discuss with your doctor what next steps are being considered. As Dr. Carey points out, “if the results aren’t going to change treatment, then there’s not a good reason to get the test.”

 We all know the dangers of narcotic drugs, which are often overused for back pain, Dr. Carey told me. He authored a study (also reported in the journal Spine) that looked at 732 people with chronic low back pain that had lasted longer than three months. Sixty-one percent had been treated with narcotics. “These can have significant side effects and can be habit forming, and there’s very little evidence that they work well to improve patients’ functioning,” he added.

 What’s a Back Patient To Do?

 Meanwhile, only half the respondents in Dr. Carey’s study had been given a prescription for exercise even though there’s strong evidence that engaging in aerobic exercise several times a week helps alleviate back pain. He told me that exercise can be very effective if you take it seriously as a therapy and really do it. “Just as you take a medication at a specific dose, a specific number of times a day, for a specific number of days, exercise also needs to be structured,” he explained. If you aren’t particularly fit or haven’t been exercising, Dr. Carey advises walking briskly 10 minutes a day for the first week, then checking with your doctor before extending your workout to 20 and eventually to 30 minutes a day.

 Try this: Also good are range of motion exercises for the spine, such as slow rotations. Gradually (over 30 seconds or so) bend from one side through the front and then on to the other side — then reverse the movement. Do this for five to 10 minutes before aerobic exercise, said Dr. Carey. The stretching and strengthening that yoga offers can be helpful in relieving back pain, too. He said it’s best to “get out and get moving,” noting that prolonged bed rest is bad for the back and should be avoided. He acknowledged that people with back pain may find exercise increases their discomfort initially, but he urges sticking with it. “You’re not damaging your back, and after a week or two, the pain level will start to decline,” he said.

 If you do need a pain reliever, several are effective and safe when taken for a short time. These include acetaminophen (Tylenol)… over-the-counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil)… and prescription muscle relaxants, such as cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), especially if you’re having trouble sleeping. All muscle relaxants tend to be sedating, so be cautious if you’re going to drive, and never combine them with alcohol.

 You may have an uncomfortable week or two while recovering from benign low back pain but, with patience and conservative treatment, most such back pain improves, notes Dr. Carey. In a small number of cases, the pain doesn’t improve — and then it may be time for more doctor visits and tests.


Timothy Carey, MD, MPH, professor of social medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and director of The Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, Chapel Hill

Health Traps in Gluten-Free Diet Tuesday, Mar 16 2010 

  by Andrew L. Rubman, ND

 What’s The Real Problem?

 First and most obvious, it may be that you are unknowingly still eating gluten. Besides the obvious, that you’re getting gluten from places you don’t expect it (such as sauces and medications), Dr. Rubman outlined two other possibilities.

 Celiac disease or gluten intolerance isn’t your only digestive issue…

 It could be that you have other dietary sensitivities as well. One common problem is that many people who are gluten-intolerant also are sensitive to cow’s-milk protein, Dr. Rubman said. Symptoms of this intolerance include increased mucus production, postnasal drip, low-grade inflammation, trouble swallowing and a lump in the throat. Another possibility is that your digestive problems are of a different nature altogether. For instance, you may be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or colitis. Rubman’s solution: See your physician for proper evaluation and treatment. Generally speaking, a good doctor will first try to improve overall digestive function and elimination and then, if that’s not the answer, test for various intolerances and allergies.

 Or, the culprit may be an unhealthy diet.

 Gluten-free is not necessarily the same thing as healthy, Dr. Rubman said. If the mandate to avoid gluten in your diet leads you directly to the gluten-free aisle in your supermarket where you buy the same types of processed, packaged and frozen foods you were eating before, you’re likely solving one problem and creating another. According to Dr. Rubman, many gluten-free products are loaded with unhealthy ingredients, such as sugar and saturated fat, which makes them taste better so that you will eat more of them. You’re not eating gluten, but you still feel sluggish, bloated, fatigued and irritable. Also, Dr. Rubman notes, eating lots of carbohydrates (particularly simple ones) may further compromise an already sensitive gastrointestinal tract by encouraging the overgrowth of unhelpful bacteria and yeast, which in turn leads to acid reflux, stuffy nose and other ailments. Rubman’s solution: Even gluten-free products should be looked at carefully for their overall healthfulness. Sugar is still sugar… fried is still fried… salt is still salt… processed is still processed. The more you emphasize whole foods in your diet, the better you will feel — period. In place of wheat, barley and rye, experiment with nutrient-rich, tasty and naturally gluten-free alternatives, such as amaranth, buckwheat, millet and quinoa. Try eating this way and see — it’s quite likely that within weeks of making these changes, your digestive disturbances will abate and you’ll have more energy, focus and immune strength… all of which will leave you feeling great.


Andrew L. Rubman, ND, medical director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury, Connecticut.

The Unsavory Truth about Vegetable Oils Monday, Mar 15 2010 

by Maggie Ward, MS, RD, LDL

 In a recent profile of Whole Foods cofounder and CEO John Mackey, he said that he had given up sugar, most processed foods and vegetable oils. Vegetable oils? Most people think these are healthy, but they’re not… here’s why. It used to be that heavy weights were used to squeeze the oil from plants (which is what’s really meant by the term “vegetable oil”), but now most manufacturers use heat and chemical solvents, in particular petroleum-derived hexane. Both methods end up removing potential health benefits, I learned from Maggie Ward, MS, RD, LDN, nutrition director of Dr. Mark Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. The principle demon is heat. At certain temperatures, heat oxidizes and neutralizes many of the plant’s nutrients. This makes the oil rancid (yes — even though you can’t tell, which I will explain in a minute) and as a result, the oil’s healthy antioxidants and essential fatty acids are replaced by destructive free radicals. Adding insult to injury, most vegetable oils are then refined after extraction — using yet more chemicals and high heat to bleach and deodorize them. This removes color to make the oil look more appealing and erases any rancid smell and taste. The result is oil that is bland enough to add moisture and texture without changing the taste of baked foods, for instance. And the supposed benefit is that cooks can use these oils for frying, because they can be taken to high temperatures without smoking. But the real result of all this processing means that we end up using nutritionally void oil to cook in a way that is inherently unhealthful. And yes, this includes oils such as soybean and canola oil that are marketed as “healthy” and “good for you.”

Does Healthful Oil Exist?

 Don’t throw up your hands in frustration — there are oils that are good for you, produced in ways that preserve their health-giving properties, says Ward. Here’s a list, along with what you need to know about them…

Olive oil. Olive oil is the leader of the pack when it comes to health, but it requires careful handling. Purchase only olive oil that is cold-pressed (it will say this on the label) and preferably extra-virgin, which will have the most nutrients. When cooking with olive oil, Ward cautions against using heat higher than medium, and if the oil does start to smoke, she says, it should be thrown out. Not only will the heat make it rancid, it will destroy nutrients and create carcinogens, Ward says. To cook healthfully with olive oil, preheat the pan for up to a minute and then add the food and oil at the same time rather than starting with the oil alone. This prevents overheating and provides a bonus — the food better absorbs the oil’s healthy essential fatty acids. For added flavor and health, sprinkle a bit of olive oil over the food when you have finished cooking. To store olive oil: Keep it in a dark glass bottle or any opaque container in your cabinet or on the counter — no need to refrigerate unless your kitchen is exceptionally warm.

Tropical oils. Coconut and, to a lesser degree, palm oil have had a health resurgence in recent years. As saturated fats, these used to be considered heart unhealthy, but this type of oil is now recognized by physicians and scientists as necessary and good for you (though not in excess). These oils will not oxidize, so you can cook with them at higher temperatures. Storage for coconut and palm oils: Since these oils are not temperature- or light-sensitive, it is fine to store them on the counter or in the pantry.

 Seed and nut oils. Some seed and nut oils have become popular as seasoning added to salads and other dishes after cooking. Sesame oil, for example, has plenty of antioxidants, and Ward says that unrefined sesame oil retains more of its nutrients because the seeds are easy to press. However, seed and nut oils turn rancid quickly (even when kept cool), so it is best to buy small quantities that you can use within a few weeks. Sniff the oil before using — toss it if it no longer smells fresh. Nut and seed oil storage: Refrigerate in dark bottles.

Source(s): Maggie Ward, MS, RD, LDL, nutrition director of Dr. Mark Hyman’s UltraWellness Center, Lenox, Massachusetts.

Brighter Weather, Brighter Song Thursday, Mar 11 2010 

KWAG Music fans, last time I posted a song was a snowy day. Yesterday at lunch this melody came to me and I today put some backing to it:

AlteredCircumstances sheet music

Give Altered Circumstances a listen if you’d like.   Let me know what you think.

Relief from IBS Naturally Thursday, Mar 11 2010 


by Alexander C. Ford, MD and Andrew L. Rubman, ND

Sometimes old-fashioned remedies work best, and for the millions of people with one very hard-to-treat condition — irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — an old remedy beats everything modern science has dreamed up. If you or someone you know has IBS, please read on.

As many as one in five Americans suffer from IBS, a miserable disorder that can bring an endless progression of constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating and stomach cramps. Where expensive new IBS drugs have been disappointing, it turns out that a classic stomachache remedy, peppermint oil, can often get the job done more effectively.

In with the Old, Out with the New

At McMaster University in Ontario, Alexander C. Ford, MD, and his colleagues analyzed the results of many previously published studies on adults with IBS, including 12 comparing fiber with placebo, 22 comparing antispasmodics with placebo, and four comparing peppermint oil with placebo. Peppermint oil was surprisingly effective, bringing relief to 74% of patients. This compares very favorably with antispasmodics, which helped only 61%, and fiber, which was beneficial to just 48%.

Peppermint oil may be most helpful in soothing the abdominal pain and cramping that are common IBS symptoms and, over time, it may also help ease diarrhea or constipation. Scientists believe it works by blocking the movement of calcium into muscle cells in the gastrointestinal tract, thereby reducing muscle contractions, discomfort and bloating.

How to Make Your IBS Better

Look for “enteric coated” peppermint oil capsules at your health food store, since taking peppermint oil straight can produce reflux symptoms, suggests Daily Health News contributing medical editor Andrew L. Rubman, ND. Dr. Rubman often prescribes doses of 200 mg to 300 mg to be taken once, twice or three times daily — but not more often, as larger doses can be toxic. He says most patients find it helpful to take a dose just before eating a meal.

Several factors should be weighed in identifying the right treatment for an IBS patient, including whether symptoms are dominated by diarrhea or constipation or whether both occur about equally. If your doctor seems quick to recommend newer pharmaceuticals, consider seeing a specialist in natural medicine to discuss the older remedies and over-the-counter medicines. As Dr. Ford pointed out to me, even though peppermint oil helped the most people in his analysis, the other two treatments — fiber and antispasmodics (which lessen spasms in the GI tract) — were effective for many, and they are safe, inexpensive and readily available over the counter at most pharmacies. Also, Dr. Rubman pointed out that there are many other useful botanical extracts that are antispasmodic as well, including valerian, skullcap, viburnum, juniper berry, hyoscamus niger, gentian and gelsemium. “Their effects may vary from minor to profound, so it’s best to use these only under physician care,” he added.

Dr. Ford has also been exploring another “new old” remedy for IBS –probiotics — and results are promising. Bottom Line’s Daily Health News will keep you up to date.


 Alexander C. Ford, MD, gastroenterology division, Hamilton Health Sciences Centre, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

 Andrew L. Rubman, ND, medical director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury, Connecticut.

Without Followers a Leader is Just a Guy Taking a Walk Wednesday, Mar 10 2010 

I thought of that line, uttered by Martin Sheen as President Jed Bartlett in the gone but not forgotten “West Wing” TV series.  I just read this article in the Harvard Business Review and of course the leadership secrets as shared by “The Dancing Guy”

Enjoy and embrace.

Job-Search Strategies for Mid-Career Transitions Wednesday, Mar 10 2010 

by Abby M. Locke

Do you find yourself on the executive job search for the first time in more than 10 years? If you’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a long, consistent career with the same company, the prospect of unemployment or a career transition can be unsettling — especially in light of the brave new world of online job searches.
Even if you’re Internet savvy, it’s easy to get lost in a maze of job boards and company databases. Remember: While it’s critical to employ the Web in your job search, it should only be a portion of your job-search strategy.

Try these tips right now to re–brand yourself, revive your network and reposition your experience for top–paying career opportunities.

  1. Know where you want to go. Before burying yourself in a pile of resume and cover letter drafts, determine your target. Do you want to stay in the same field, are you using this opportunity to pursue your dream job, or are you only interested in a lateral move until retirement? Once you’ve narrowed down the companies you want to pursue, use resources like, and to find critical insider information about them.
  2. Promote your personal brand. Your job search is not worth the effort unless you have clearly identified your personal brand (or unique value proposition) for potential employers. You must be able to articulate why a company should hire you and highlight consistent achievements in a narrative that encompasses your career. Are you the cost-savings guru, have you been repeatedly called upon to lead high–profile initiatives, or can you be classified as the turnaround agent?
    For example, a manufacturing executive’s personal brand could be focused on his use of cutting–edge technologies to increase productivity.
  3. Produce an achievement–driven resume. Your executive resume should be a strategic career-marketing document, not a career obituary. Focus on relevant content supported by career–defining, “WOW” achievements throughout the resume. Use the Situation–Task–Action–Results formula to develop achievement statements. For example:
    • Situation: Synthesized finance and operations departments following the merger of two manufacturing companies.
    • Task: Eliminated duplication of resources, increased operational efficiency, work productivity and results.
    • Action: Developed a short–term strategy and execution plan by developing a team of key representatives for technology, finance and operations divisions.
    • Results: Reduced company’s overhead costs by $5 million in six months and improved efficiency 25 percent.
    • Achievement statement for resume: Shrunk annual overhead costs by $5 million in six months by assembling a core operations team that further eliminated duplication of resources and increased operational efficiency by 25 percent.
  4. Rehearse a memorable 30–second commercial. Once you get to the networking phase of your job search, you need to display confidence in your verbal presentation. Build on your personal brand to create a unique, 30-second commercial that speaks volumes about what you can bring to the table. For example:
    “Hi, my name is Carl Brown. As an experienced manufacturing executive, I have enjoyed a progressive career with top companies like ABC Plastics, Newform Manufacturing and TechNec Corporation. With a reputation for engaging cutting–edge technologies that help global manufacturing companies achieve aggressive revenue growth and improve operating cost objectives, I am seeking new executive opportunities at global companies that would benefit from my strengths in P&L management, product innovation and turnaround operations.”
  5. Start networking. Join professional and industry–related associations, alumni groups and Chamber of Commerce committees. Identify key industry leaders you want to meet, schedule informational meetings/interviews and start building your own team of alliances.
    Don’t forget to use online social networks like, E–, and to connect with former associates and friends. These sources can also be used to search for industry experts and top people in your target companies.
  6. Work with specialty recruiters. Many recruiters focus on specific industries and functions. Sources like provide online databases for recruiters that may specialize in your area.


Abby M. Locke, executive director of Premier Writing Solutions, is a nationally certified resume writer and personal-brand strategist who helps senior-level professionals and C-level executives achieve personal success with customized, branded executive resumes and career marketing documents. Her resume samples have been published in Top Notch Executive Resumes,” “Nail the Resume! Great Tips for Creating Dynamic Resumes,” “Same-Day Resumes, and “Quick Resume and Cover Letter Handbook.”

A new quarter is coming soon. I have ide Wednesday, Mar 10 2010 

A new quarter is coming soon. I have ideas to share to make the most of your upcoming sales / revenue / membership meetings.

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