Human Anatomy at Colby

Mayra Arroyo: A Healthier and Happier Me

February 24th, 2015 · Comments Off on Mayra Arroyo: A Healthier and Happier Me

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During the 4 weeks of class I learned so much. Not only anatomy, but I also learned a lot about my lifestyle choices and my study habits. Before taking this class, I had never really thought about how the choices I made affected my learning and my health. One clear example is the number of hours I sleep. I was used to sleeping at 12 am or later and snoozing for an hour every morning. After sleeping at 10 or 11 pm every night and waking up 6 or 7 am, I was able to see a difference in my energy levels through out the day. I did not have to take naps during the day and I also did not have to drink coffee to stay awake during the day. This allowed me to be extremely productive and be fully concentrated on what I was doing.

Another example is eating breakfast. I was used to waking up too late and not having enough time to go to breakfast. With my new sleeping habit I was able to go to breakfast every morning. I was the most proud of this new eating habit, not because I started it, but because I was able to continue it the whole month without quitting.

The last lifestyle change I made occurred the last week of class after watching “Sugar: The Bitter Truth”. I started to remove all juice from my meals. I have always known that soda is extremely bad for a person’s health, but I wrongly assumed that juice was not as bad. After watching this video I learned that juice is equally as harmful, and have stopped drinking it. Although I have not been prefect and have had juice, I am much more conscious about drinking water instead of juice at every meal. I also learned from this video that many of the things that we eat today contain fructose, even things that most people would not even think, such as baby formula. This was absolutely shocking and horrifying. I have started to look at the labels of food in hopes to reduce my consumption of fructose. I know these small changes will make a huge difference to health.

This class not only helped me become a healthier individual, but it has helped me become a better student. One way is that I am now a more organized. I have started to make lists in ranking of importance of things I need to accomplish each day. This has not only helped me be more organized, but it has also helped me to prioritize. This was significant for this class, because there was a lot of material. I had to focus on the most important ideas concepts, because it was impossible to study every single topic thoroughly. Although these changes may seem minor, they are not because this is the start I needed in order to become better and healthier student. I plan to continue these new habits during the spring semester and beyond.

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Tags: Bi265j · Human Health

Calvin Robbins: My Celiac Disease Story

February 24th, 2015 · Comments Off on Calvin Robbins: My Celiac Disease Story

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Every year, the BI 265 Jan Plan class holds student run Grand Rounds presentations. A Grand Round presentation is usually done by a doctor and patient (or actor) in front of other doctors to educate them of a surprising finding or elusive diagnosis, thereby helping the doctors in attendance better diagnose the problem in the future. This year a group presented about a man who had Celiac disease but presented as a cardiac patient (check out Ari, Danielle, and Laurel’s Grand Rounds presentation on celiac disease). It inspired me to tell my own story of being diagnosed with Celiac disease.

When I was 10 years old, I started to notice that when I coughed, there were small specks of blood in the mucous. Originally this was dismissed as an issue with dry air, as it was winter at the time, but as time passed, it was recognized as a larger problem.

The obvious assumption was a respiratory issue, so I had X-rays done which showed a very mild case of pneumonia. Soon the Pneumonia was treated but the blood in the mucous remained. Next came a series of blood tests, consultations, more blood tests, MRIs, X-rays, and still more blood tests, of which the only result was slight anemia. Guesses ranged from Acute Interstitial Pneumonia to tuberculosis to cancer, to a stomach ulcer, but every test came back negative. Doctors wanted to do a lung biopsy to check for AIP but my parents elected to wait for the Celiac results as a lung biopsy is invasive, carries a high risk of infection and would have had a long recovery period for an active 10 year old.

Finally, after about 3 months into an attempted diagnosis, a blood test was performed to test for Celiac Disease. The test was positive. An endoscopy was performed to verify Celiac Disease, as blood tests are not 100% accurate. The doctors discovered an abnormality in the small intestine: the villi were heavily flattened. Given this new insight, and after about a month of a gluten free diet, the blood speckling disappeared.

Celiac Disease is a genetic disease in which the body has an immune reaction to the presence of gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. After blood testing it was found that my father and sister, who was asymptomatic, both have Celiac Disease, while my mother does not. From my family you might guess that it is recessive, but the actual inheritance mechanism is still unknown. Worldwide, it is estimated that about 1% of people are diagnosed with Celiac disease while most people with Celiac Disease actually remained undiagnosed.

Sticking with the theme of Grand Rounds, my case was actually presented as a Grand Rounds discussion by Dr. Andrew Filderman once the diagnosis was reached. It is thought that these types of atypical situations go undiagnosed or are improperly diagnosed most of the time they are presented, so spreading information about Celiac Disease is an important step in providing better care to patients.

Tags: Human Health

Lauren Shirley: BI265J and Personal Health

February 24th, 2015 · Comments Off on Lauren Shirley: BI265J and Personal Health

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One interesting aspect of BI265j was the emphasis that Dr. Klepach placed on personal health. On the first day of class, we were given sheets to track our sleep, exercise, stress, and eating habits. Initially, I was overwhelmed with the amount of information to absorb and the sheer scope of the class. Suddenly, I was trying to fit 4 hours of class, three hours of lecture online, sufficient exercise, three square meals and at least eight hours of sleep into a day, not to mention the actual studying part of learning for the class!

The first week was a bit rocky for me: trying to learn to use my time efficiently enough to get everything done while not succumbing to mental exhaustion at the amount of information I was trying to absorb was a challenge to say the least. However, switching back to a traditional classroom environment from the flipped environment was a lifesaver! By eliminating two hours of lecture from my homework load, I had sufficient time to study and exercise. I was able to go to the gym almost every day of the week (when I wasn’t fighting a flu).

I really enjoyed having part of the class be about maintaining our own personal health as a means to more effective learning. By placing an emphasis on exercise, I didn’t feel guilty leaving the library to go the gym for a study break. Instead, I embraced this new lifestyle opportunity and learned to play squash, something I had always wanted to do since coming to college, but had never been able to justify the time to do! Interestingly, I noticed that as I exercised more and put more of an emphasis on my own health rather than on numerical success in class, my stress decreased. I can’t say my quiz grades necessarily improved, but I felt like I was better able to absorb the material that was presented to me and was much happier while I was learning.

Also, by tracking my eating, I noticed that when my stress increased, my cravings for unhealthy foods increased as well. While I am not normally a person that eats a lot of baked goods or sugary foods, I definitely wanted them more when I didn’t exercise as much or get as much fresh air. This made me realize the importance of diet as a result of exercise.

Finally, I really enjoyed making sleep a priority during Jan Plan and received around eight hours of sleep every night on average with the exception of nights I was on duty as an EMT.

Thus, this class really taught me that my exercise habits impact both my stress and my diet, and that when I exercised less, other areas of my life would suffer. I was it metaphorically as similar to instructions for putting on an oxygen mask in a plane: Put on your own mask first before you help those around you. By focusing on my own health, effective learning and success will follow. Also, success is not defined just by numbers academically, but by your quality of life in general and how you feel.

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Tags: Bi265j · Human Health

Anonymous Student: Circumcision

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Anonymous Student: Circumcision

 

Dr. Peter Millard recently came in for a talk about HIV and preventative measures in Africa, specifically discussing circumcision and its effects in nations severely affected by HIV within Africa. Dr. Millard actively supports circumcision and has equated the procedure with vaccination. There are serious issues with this claim. Circumcision and vaccines can not be equated. The amount of mental acrobatics it requires to compare a quick needle stick with a 15-minute unanesthetized surgical alteration of the genitals is ridiculous. Unlike vaccinations, botched circumcisions are common. Immunization prevents disease but circumcision is 100% chance of mutilation (Rebecca Grey). Vaccination also does not deprive an individual of any functional body parts. The foreskin is not just skin as Dr. Millard alluded. It is composed of mucous membrane, also called a prepuce, analogous to the eyelid or the inside of the mouth. People designated female at birth have a foreskin equivalent called the clitoral hood which evolved from the same tissue as the foreskin. Circumcision within US history has been tied to various fleeting reasons. The procedure was popularized by Dr. Kellogs during the Victorian era (the same person who co-invented corn flakes) to curb masturbation. He said:

“ The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anæsthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment.”

This masturbation hysteria was then replaced by fear of sexually transmitted infections followed by prostate cancer, and now urinary tract infections. Parents believe that circumcision helps with cleanliness, but they do not realize that there is something called a bath or a shower. Taddio et al. performed a meta-analysis observing the pain responses to subsequent vaccinations of circumcised infants and uncircumcised infants. They found that circumcised infants showed a stronger pain response than uncircumcised infants. The trauma of circumcision has lasting effects on these children. This logic of removing a functional body part to prevent disease is the same as selling a car to prevent a car accident (Men’s Health). Safe sex practices are what stops HIV transmission.

Dr. Millard mentioned that circumcision decreased transmission of HIV by 50-60%, but did not mention that a vaccine has essentially a 95% efficacy rate. Vaccination is about immunization, circumcision is not about immunization. The US has the highest HIV transmission of all the westernized countries and the highest circumcision rates. Evidence points to insufficient education about safe sex practices. In 1992, 410,00 cases of chlamydia was reported, 20 years later, 1.3 millions cases were reported. In 2000, there were 31,618 cases of syphilis, 10 years later, 45.834 cases were reported. It seems sex education among the general population is low. Instead, doctors are telling parents to circumcise their children instead of teaching children safe sex practices. Media now takes over where various sitcoms commonly have circumcision as a plot device which actively shames those who are not circumcised. Circumcision has become naturalized and not questioned.

Within the US, infant circumcision is still endorsed and is now supported by the WHO and the CDC which is backed by data from adult circumcisions in African countries performed on “consenting” adults. Infant circumcision forcefully separates the fused foreskin from the glans which results in the tearing of the synechia (the tissue that connects the foreskin to the glans) and keratinization of the affected areas. Circumcision is commonly used as treatment for phimosis, but infants can not get phimosis as their foreskins are not naturally retractable. The loss of protective mucosal membranes and various nerves denies the child of their own bodies and decisions. Before a child can even consent to having sex, they have their bodies permanently altered.

The voluntary medical male circumcision in African countries which is backed by the WHO is packaged with connecting men to health care, access to safe sex education, condoms, HIV testing, counselling services, and links to HIV care and treatment. These incentives behind the procedure drive safe sex practices which prevent HIV transmission. Proper habitual condom-use alone prevents HIV transmission by 95%. Circumcision can not be considered voluntary when access to safe sex tools and practices that prevent HIV are contingent upon this procedure. The institutionalized industry of circumcision is backed by ministers of health, policy makers, program managers, health care providers, and donors (e.g. PEPFAR and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) who fund supporting programs. HIV transmission can also be transmitted through circumcision if the tools are not sterilized. Stopping circumcision means stopping access to health care. Of course the HIV transmission rates decrease when patients are educated on safer sex practices. The studies done in Africa were decided to be unethical after two years, but did not mention the unethical issues behind the actual circumcision itself. Long term follow-up should be required for these patients.

The exporting of circumcision results in growing acceptance of this procedure “in communities, among men and their partners, adolescents and parents” (WHO). Although studies have been done on adult men, the WHO supports influence on adolescents who are not given complete informed consent especially when their parents and the institutions manipulating the conditions favor circumcision. Many nations curtail to the US when it comes to health policies. Circumcision has become tool to normalize and impose Western standards of bodies on peoples that can not fully consent.

Circumcision in African countries are funded by western imperialism which exports this practice outside to different nations only to import the “results” back into their own countries to continue non-consensual practice of genital mutilation. This dangerous cycle impacts bodies in very specific ways to normalize cognitive dissonance. Babies do not have consent over circumcision. Continued practice of circumcision normalizes a dangerous environment for those designated male at birth. Why must this procedure be made by doctors paid to cut off foreskin? The infant has no agency over their bodies. Circumcision is a practice that attempts to manage disease, but does not answer the question of how disease can best be managed. Cultural bias coming from Dr. Millard reflects normative nontherapeutic circumcision sentiments within the US.

 

Sources

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201109/more-circumcision-myths-you-may-believe-hygiene-and-stds
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9057731
  3. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/03/12/peds.2012-2896.full.pdf
  4. http://www.parenting.com/blogs/pop-culture/shawn-parenting/circumcision-vaccine-against-bad-parenting
  5. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/circumcision-rates-declining-health-risks-rising-study-says/
  6. http://www.who.int/hiv/topics/malecircumcision/male-circumcision-info-2014/en/

 

Tags: Guest Speakers · Human Health

Rachel Bird: The End of My Gymnastics Career

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Rachel Bird: The End of My Gymnastics Career

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I used to be squeamish. I was the kid who’d cover their face during movie fight scenes and feel nauseous at the sight of a bloody hangnail. Then I hurt myself — badly — during gymnastics practice, and I realized that as queasy my innards made me, it was worth it to understand them. When I fell on the trampoline during a routine in April 2012, I shattered my left radius and ulna. The repeated bouncing after the initial fall damaged the soft tissue and left the bones in a compound fracture, puncturing my skin halfway up the forearm. Although the initial reconstructive surgeries were able to salvage some of the bone and repair the structure of my arm, the massive soft tissue damage made my arm swell under the surgical dressings. My fingers grew so puffy with edema that they pressed together, despite the dressing that kept them spread as wide as physically possible. My elbow swelled to the size of my knee, and the staples holding the skin on the inner side of my forearm split open and the wound started oozing.

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Eventually, the doctors diagnosed me with compartment syndrome, a condition that is common in crush injuries, but not frequently found in the type of break I had. Because of all the damage to the muscle tissue, my arm had swelled so much that the blood vessels were squeezed almost shut, preventing oxygen from getting to the nerves and muscles in my hand. Unfortunately, by the time I was diagnosed with compartment syndrome, the damage had already been done. The typical treatment for compartment syndrome is a WoundVac, which is essentially a vacuum that attaches onto an opening in the dermis and sucks out all the excess fluid before it can cause a problem. However, by the time the nurses had removed my surgical wraps and determined the cause of the swelling and burning sensation in my arm, the swelling had already begun to subside. Initially, the doctors believed that the nerves would be able to regrow, and most of the damage could heal on its own. However, after two months of daily occupational and physical therapy, I still had no sensation in my wrist, palm, or fingers. Even worse, the build-up scar tissue had cemented my fingers into a fist, and I only had roughly 15 degrees of mobility in my elbow and even fewer in my wrist. My hand was so stuck that I was unable to open my hand to trim my fingernails, so they were starting to grow into the skin on my palm. I didn’t even notice until it started bleeding, because I had no functioning pain nerves in my hand. I also had no proprioception, so when I wasn’t looking at my hand, I would have no idea where it was. This led to some funny encounters, because I would all-to-frequently end up with my hand in my food, or touching a stranger’ back!

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After visits to numerous specialists, Dr. Barth, an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in hand and foot injuries suggested an unusual fix. He planned to surgically open up my forearm and scrape the scar tissue off of the joints and tendons in my hand. He would also remove the dead muscle tissue, but leave the muscle bellies (the central portion of a muscle), in the hope that the few remaining muscle fibers would be able to grow. Hopefully, without all the scar tissue blocking blood flow, some of the nerves in my arm would be able to grow back.

Luckily, the surgery was mostly successful, and I was able to open my hand. Less than two weeks after I was discharged from the hospital, I was able to feel deep pressure in my wrist and in parts of my palm! Nerves regrow at approximately five millimeters per day for larger nerves, so as my median nerve inched up my palm, my occupational therapist could track its growth with touch charts and a photocopy of an anatomy textbook. However, so much muscle and tendon was removed, that even though I was slowly able to feel the proximal areas of my fingers, I didn’t have the strength to move them. My arm was so weak that I had to wear a sling for most of the day because I couldn’t support my hand. Even worse, because I couldn’t feel scratches or cuts, two small paper cuts on my fingers got infected.

Dr. Barth proposed another surgery. He wanted to transfer a tendon from my upper arm into my forearm, in the hopes that I could “retrain” my brain to use one tendon for a different purpose. The surgery transferred the brachioradialis tendon and attached it to my extensor pollicis brevis, so when I wanted to move the distal joint of my thumb, I would have to think about bending my elbow. He also transferred the flexor carpi radialis and attached it to the flexor digitorum superficialis, so when I wanted curl or flex my fingers, I would use the muscle that had previously bent my wrist.

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Although the process of recovering from this surgery and relearning how to use my hand to nearly two years, I am now able to type this paper using both hands (admittedly, it’s kind of awkward)! Unfortunately, having blood flow cut off to my nerves for so long had left me with permanent nerve damage, and I deal with chronic nerve pain and pretty limited strength and mobility. However, I can tie my shoes, dress myself and function in a classroom setting in ways that I couldn’t have dreamed of in the months following my accident, and I am so thankful to modern medicine for that!

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Tags: Human Health · Personal Story

Ivan Yang: Musings on the Fetus vs. Mother Battle

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Ivan Yang: Musings on the Fetus vs. Mother Battle

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One of the best yet most challenging parts of this course is the sheer volume of knowledge that can be gained in these four weeks. I learned a spectacular amount of information about the human body during the course, giving me a greater appreciation for the ingenuity of evolution and the delicate intricacy of the body’s structures and mechanisms. In addition, Dr. K has a knack for sprinkling little bits of knowledge throughout his lectures that, when given time to soak in, can stimulate a great deal of critical thinking.

For example, when Dr. K lectured on the respiratory system, he briefly mentioned that fetal hemoglobin has higher oxygen saturation than adult hemoglobin does at the same oxygen levels. While this assertion can be explained by the fact that the fetus has higher demand for oxygen and must compete for oxygen in slightly deoxygenated blood, it reminded me of an article I read in a previous biology class on imprinted genes.

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Imprinted genes are genes which are “marked” by the maternal or paternal parent and which are expressed over other versions of the same gene. Mechanisms of imprinted gene expression and evolutionary reasons for their existence are mostly obscure due to their relatively recent discovery. In fact, the existence of imprinted genes was only verified through cloning experiments in the late 80s. Scientists attempting to create a uniparental mouse (a mouse with two paternal or two maternal sets of DNA) found that it was impossible to create a fully-developed uniparental embryo. When the embryo was created from two maternal sets of DNA, its cells were properly organized, but the placenta was insufficient. When the embryo was created from two paternal sets of DNA, it was able to form a very healthy placenta, but the fetus itself was a disorganized mass of cells.

These results flew in the face of Mendelian genetics, which suggested that genes are merely strands of information with no history of origin. To the contrary, genes do, in a sense, remember their parental origins. The studies in the 80s suggested that the expression of certain genes in the paternal genome is responsible for making the placenta, while the expression of certain genes in the maternal genome is responsible for organizing the embryo. One of the first explanations posited that the placenta should be thought of not as a maternal organ designed to support the fetus, but rather as a fetal organ designed to parasitize the mother. While the mother and the fetus both have the common purpose of perpetuating the continued survival of the fetus, they disagree over how much of the mother’s resources should be dedicated to the fetus. In a sense, maternal genes are “selfish” and only the genes necessary to organize the fetus are expressed. Hence, the uniparental mouse embryos made of two maternal sets of DNA were unable to create a sufficient placenta.

This competition for resources between the fetus and the mother, clearly observable through research on imprinted genes, is strikingly similar to the competition for oxygen between the fetus and the mother. As previously mentioned, fetal hemoglobin has a higher oxygen affinity than adult hemoglobin does. To ensure its own survival, it is entirely conceivable that the fetus robs oxygen from the mother’s bloodstream. Perhaps this is but another example of a battle of wills between the fetus and the mother.

 

Tags: Human Health

Calvin Robbins: Lyme’s Disease

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Calvin Robbins: Lyme’s Disease

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In the last decade, occurrences of Lyme Disease in Maine have been increasing at shocking rates. Colby is a school with a very outdoor-oriented student body, so information regarding Lyme Disease and its effects on the human body is something that everybody should take the time to look at.

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Maine.gov reference

Lyme Disease is a bacteria based disease which affects several body systems. The bacteria is transferred via the bite from an infected tick, usually (although not always) resulting in a rash in the surrounding area. The classic sign of Lyme disease is this “bull’s eye” shaped rash, although recently many cases have gone undiagnosed as people with a solid rash do not suspect Lyme Disease.

The first stage of the disease is called the Early localize stage, which begins with the rash which can take up to 30 days to appear after being bitten. Early symptoms tend to present similarly to the flu, with fatigue and joint pain being key identifiers.

The next stage, Early Dissemination begins around a week to a few months after the bite. During this stage, the disease spreads from the muscles, joints and skin into the nervous and cardiac systems. Heart problems due to Lyme disease can include blockages and weak heart muscles, thus creating symptoms such as easily induced fatigue that you would expect from poor heart function. Nervous system effects, while relatively rare, are generally serious. Common issues include meningitis and numbness or pain in certain affected nerves. If treated in or before Early Dissemination, the disease generally has no lasting effects. If the disease progresses past Early Dissemination, the patient is likely to experience lasting effects.

The Late Disease is generally many months or years after the bite. The most common symptom at this stage is arthritis of the joints, usually one or both knees.

When Lyme disease is suspected, a simple blood test can confirm Lyme Disease, although they are rarely effective within the first six weeks of the disease, and even after that can often read as a false positive. If the patient is experiencing Late Disease symptoms, they are tested for septic arthritis which presents similarly, but generally with a higher fever. A final decision on this can be achieved with an analysis of the synovial fluid, which, as we learned in BI 265, is produced by the synovial membranes, which line joints. The synovial fluid is used as a lubricant for the joint.

Treatment is relatively simple and consists of a regiment of antibiotics, which are administered via IV in more severe cases. Most patients experience lasting symptoms even after antibiotics have killed the bacteria, these patients often experience joint pain and nervous system problems for months after treatment. For patients with severe joint swelling, a synovectomy (removal of a portion of the synovium from the damaged joint) is recommended to ease some of the pain.

Fortunately, this is a very easily preventable disease. When you go outside, make sure you cover your lower extremities by wearing pants. On top of this you can also use tick repellants to deter ticks from even getting on you to begin with. At the end of any outdoor activity, make sure to check all areas of the body (especially inside joints and other warm moist places). If you ever find a tick attached to you, carefully remove it with tweezers and continue to monitor the area of the bite over the course of the next few weeks. There is no vaccine for Lyme Disease so the best way to prevent it is to be aware of the signs and symptoms and to avoid tick exposure in the first place.

Tags: Human Health

Calvin Robbins: The Science Behind Run Til You Puke

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Calvin Robbins: The Science Behind Run Til You Puke

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Have you ever heard of somebody exercising to the point of vomiting? Or have you done it yourself? I never have, but during the digestive system lecture of the BI 265 Human Anatomy and Physiology class this Jan plan I had a sudden realization as to why this happens.

While nausea may be a common feeling when working out due to food or liquids in the stomach being bounced around, that is not usually why we actually end up vomiting during hard exercise. In fact, one of the biggest causes starts with the respiratory system. The job of the respiratory system is to remove CO2 from the blood and replace it with O2. During exercise, cells produce CO2 as sugars are broken apart to make ATP, which the cell uses for energy. Some of the CO2 byproduct goes into the blood and attaches to hemoglobin, but the vast majority of CO2 is actually transported as carbonic acid, which induces respiratory acidosis. When a person is doing anaerobic activity, such as running at full speed for a long enough time, their lungs are unable to get all of this accumulating CO2 and carbonic acid out of the bloodstream thus creating increasingly acidic blood. It is not due solely to lactic acid as many people believe, but the inability to exchange enough gas in the lungs.

As the blood gets increasingly acidic, the body has to find a way to get rid of all of this acid. One of the main ways the body has of releasing acid, as you may have already guessed, is through vomiting. As you vomit, the hydrochloric acid used for digestion is expelled from the stomach, which is lined with highly vascularized rugae. As the acid is forced out of the stomach, the acidic contents of the blood are pulled out to replace the Hydrochloric acid that was lost from vomit. Following the same thought process, this is why excessive puking will produce alkalosis (high pH) in the blood.

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If you vomit frequently after heavy exercise you should take a few steps to achieve a healthier and more beneficial workout:

  1. Base your workouts on a heart rate range.  This will force you to stay within a set range for aerobic exercise, which can be roughly calculated based on your age. Usually 85% of max heart rate is the highest you should be going for an aerobic workout to prevent acidosis.
  2. Drink plenty of water; if you are vomiting due to dehydration, it is a much more severe issue than acidosis. Steadily drinking water before, during, and after exercise will help, as well as a small amount of sports drink to replace some of the ions lost during the work out.

It takes a lot of anaerobic exercise for the body to get to the point of vomiting. This kind of activity, contrary to what some may think, is very bad for your body, and is not something to strive for in a hard workout. Remember to drink plenty of water and keep a reasonable heart rate target in mind for a healthy and effective workout.

Tags: Human Health · Lab · Special Activities

Rebecca Gray: Healthy For All The Right Reasons

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Rebecca Gray: Healthy For All The Right Reasons

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I love infomercials. I know it’s weird, but really I don’t think it’s any more shallow than tuning in to E! every week to see what the Kardashians have been up to. I remember being eight, and waking up at 5:30am to catch the Magic Bullet program on channel 8, which aired just before the Shark vacuum cleaner, which came on at 6. I’ll watch any infomercial–a brownie pan that cuts the brownies for you, a humidifier that cures asthma, a bra that somehow fits everyone. But what I’ve never been able to wrap my mind around are the fitness oriented ones: zumba work out tapes, overcomplicated pilates machines, a CD that somehow makes you lose weight if you fall asleep listening to it. I’ve thought a lot about this, and I think there are two reasons why I don’t find fitness programming engaging.

First, I’ve always felt generally okay with my body. I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. I eat leafy vegetables every day and drink mostly water. Throughout high school, I was always an athlete, and even now, I get outside pretty often, whether to ski or run or walk around a bit. In general, I’ve always been okay with my body and pretty proud of what it could do. These fitness programs prey on insecurity. People who feel okay about how they look aren’t going to spend money on a 30-day-shred work out DVD, and people who enjoy their exercise aren’t going to invest in an extravagant treadmill with separate tracks for each foot–they’re just gonna throw on their sneakers and head outside.

But second, and I think more importantly, I’ve never thought of eating or training as something I do for appearance. When I dragged myself out of bed at five in the morning to lift in high school, it was so I could shred my next ski meet. When I took up running last year, it was so I could get fast enough to train with my dad, who’s a speed demon, and spend time with him.    One of the most important principles I learned in A&P is that there is more to health than looking the right way or weighing the right amount. Getting enough sleep, exercising the right amount and in the right way, eating the right things at the right times, drinking gallons of water, and limiting stress are all key. But attitude is also important. Worrying night and day about whether you’re eating the right things or running enough miles is not healthy. Obsessing over ever calorie or every hour of sleep lost is not conducive to a well-rounded life. What I’ve learned is to aim for a sustainable lifestyle of health. This includes being aware of things that are good for me (skiing and hearty, unprocessed meals) and things that are bad for me (pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies and staying up all night watching Friends on Netflix), but also being gentle with myself when things don’t go perfectly. Sometimes I’m going to have weeks where I don’t get to exercise, or nights where I stay up until 3 in the morning, contemplating the universe with friends. This is okay. It doesn’t mean I’m terribly unhealthy, and it doesn’t mean I’ve doomed my body. It means I’m human.

So yeah, I love infomercials. And I’m okay with that, even though I know TV is basically melting my brain and there are more productive, fulfilling ways to spend my time. I still find solace in the fact that I can change the channel when vapid fitness programming comes on, because I am happy with my health, both physically and mentally. I am confident that I can live well, doing the right thing for my body for the right reasons (health and fun, not aesthetic), and be gentle with myself when I am not perfect. Because let’s face it, the only perfect thing in this world is the Magic Bullet, which chops a whole onion in less than 20 seconds and is still on my Christmas list.

Tags: Human Health · Personal Story

Rebecca Gray: Sociology of Epidemiology

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Rebecca Gray: Sociology of Epidemiology

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Today, I met an epidemiologist. He spoke about disease control: how germs traverse continents, how we respond to global health crises, and how we can prepare for future epidemics, because, “after all,” he said, “they are inevitable.” To begin, he offered a bit of a crash course on HIV in America; while the subject matter was grim, the bottom line felt overwhelmingly hopeful. In a nutshell, we learned that HIV, at one time the leading cause of death for men ages 25-40 in the U.S., is now a condition well-controlled with proper medication. So yes, while HIV remains a gravely serious diagnosis, and continues to spread rapidly in underdeveloped regions of Africa, the vibe of this speech was uplifting, full of the promise of research, breakthrough, and medical revolution.

But I am skeptical. I am skeptical because this crash course glossed over the very gritty history of HIV in America. It glossed over they way AIDS (Auto-Immune Deficiency Disorder) used to be called GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency). It skipped the years that HIV drugs (AZT and others) spent in gridlock, waiting to be clinically tested, because policy makers refused to fund medical initiatives for “perverts” with “homosexual tendencies”. It did not mention that the decline of HIV-related deaths in the U.S. correlated exactly with the mobilization of the gay rights movement. In short, it did not admit that disease control intersects with issues of social justice on nearly every level: race, class, gender, and sexuality.

The outbreaks we hear about, the drugs we are sold, the preventative measures we are asked to take, are carefully calculated. Information can be manipulated to reassure or scare us, to rile us up or calm us down. Our recent preoccupation with the ebola virus is a textbook example of this. As midterm elections drew near, political candidates used a health crisis occurring in Africa as ammunition in an American political debate. Articles citing the ways in which ebola can be contracted, pictures depicting its unsavory symptoms, and bold political promises to end this epidemic pervaded our lives. Then, suddenly, voting season passed, effectively closing the door on ebola discussion. This happened because government officials, now secure in their jobs, could no longer bank on public fear. In fact, our speaker did acknowledge this, and made admirable efforts to include social discussion in his lecture. It is not my intention to discredit him; I understand that in a single hour, it’s impossible to cover the field of epidemiology and all its intersections with sociology entirely. I found his presentation to be smart, well researched, and engaging. Rather, I just hope to use this blog post as a means to discuss the social implications of epidemiology in a way that we were not quite able to in class. Medicine cannot function outside the realm of social intersectionality. To say that medical information and technology are the only roadblocks, or even the largest roadblocks between ourselves and global health solutions is to be sadly mistaken. As important and exciting as medical advancement is, we must also tackle poverty and discrimination when taking on issues of global health. Class, race, gender, sexuality, age, and ableism all affect a person’s access to proper healthcare and health education.

Tags: Guest Speakers · Human Health

Choose your Poison

January 25th, 2013 · Comments Off on Choose your Poison

Everyone knows about alcohol poisoning… but what about poisoning by sugar?  Yesterday in class we learned a lot about the hormones in the gastrointestinal tract and how your body digests sugar.  I thought I had a basic working knowledge of how my own body digests food and absorbs nutrition, but what I learned yesterday totally blew that I thought I knew out of the water.

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Tags: Human Health · Uncategorized