Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pretty Close to the Truth

Here's your Saturday smile, courtesy of that excellent site Cute Overload:

Among nature’s miracles we find the leukocytes, or white blood cells. These form the backbone of the immune system, fighting off invaders such as diseases and Visigoths. In this simulation, a cluster of styrophilli cells rally to subdue felinus lazii, which is a strain of parasite.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Artificial Sweeteners and Glucose Intolerance

Do you consume artificial sweeteners? I have to confess that I do. It's one of those guilty pleasures that I indulge in: I have the vague sense that these chemicals cannot possibly be good for me, yet dang. I really love Diet Pepsi. I've tried repeatedly to quit drinking the stuff but somehow I end up with a bubbly glassful in my hand far too often.

After reading this article, thanks to a Sjogren's Forum tweet, I've decided that I'm going cold turkey and give all Nutrasweet, Splenda, and all their other artificial sweetener pals the boot from our house. Read this from the New York Times Well column, entitled Artificial Sweeteners May Disrupt Body’s Blood Sugar Controls written by Kenneth Chang:
Artificial sweeteners may disrupt the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, causing metabolic changes that can be a precursor to diabetes, researchers are reporting.
That is “the very same condition that we often aim to prevent” by consuming sweeteners instead of sugar, said Dr. Eran Elinav, an immunologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, at a news conference to discuss the findings.
The scientists performed a multitude of experiments, mostly on mice, to back up their assertion that the sweeteners alter the microbiome, the population of bacteria that is in the digestive system. 
The different mix of microbes, the researchers contend, changes the metabolism of glucose, causing levels to rise higher after eating and to decline more slowly than they otherwise would. 
The findings by Dr. Elinav and his collaborators in Israel, including Eran Segal, a professor of computer science and applied mathematics at Weizmann, are being published Wednesday by the journal Nature.
So buh bye, Crystal Light. I do a great job keeping me pudgy all by myself. I don't need your help, thank you very much.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Consider This

Attention San Francisco and surrounding area readers. Here's an opportunity to participate in a Sjogren's Syndrome study:
Stanford & UCSF researchers need adult volunteers over the age of 18 who have been diagnosed with Sjögren’s Syndrome!
The purpose of the research: We are studying how having low amounts of saliva impacts oral microbial communities, predisposing individuals with Sjögren’s Syndrome to oral disease, such as an increase in dental cavities and other oral infections. Ultimately, we are interested in developing novel, ecologically-based therapeutics that target the altered microbial communities present in individuals with reduced salivary flow due to Sjögren’s Syndrome, medication usage, and radiation therapy.
What will we do with the samples we collect? We will extract genomic DNA from each of the samples we collect. We will perform DNA sequencing to identify the composition and relative abundance of the bacteria present in each of the samples. In addition to sequencing the DNA of bacteria, we will use mass spectrometry to identify small molecules that are produced by the bacteria present in a select subset of samples. We will perform statistical tests to evaluate the spatial and temporal variation of bacterial communities within individuals and among individuals sampled in this experiment.
clockWhat would be my time commitment? Participants are asked to attend a dental screening examination that will last approximately 2.5 hours and a sample collection appointment that will last approximately 2.5 hours. The maximum time commitment is expected to be 5 hours.
stopExclusion criteria: Individuals should not have taken oral, systemic antibiotics or antifungals during the six months prior to enrollment. Individuals should not have diabetes mellitus, HIV, acid reflux, or asthma. Individuals should not have other medical conditions such as hypothyroidism or hypertension that are not well controlled (i.e., treatment is intermittent or treatment was initiated less than three months ago). Individuals with a past history of drug abuse or of eating disorders will also be excluded.
What are the costs of participation? There will be no costs to volunteers for participating in this research study. We will provide volunteers with a parking sticker to cover the cost of parking in the Millbery Union Parking Garage for the duration of each clinical sample collection appointment.
What are the benefits to participants? Participants will receive a no-cost dental examination, a maximum of $40, and the satisfaction of helping advance our understanding of the microbial ecosystem that defines human health!
Where can I get more information? For additional information, please contact the study coordinator, Danielle Drury by email at or by phone at (415) 794-5539.
nidcr_logoThis not-for-profit research project is funded by a National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research grant (R01-DE23113-001) to Dr. David Relman.

For general information about participant rights, contact 1-(866)-680-2906.
This study's specifics can be found on the website, here
This post edited on 9/19/2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Avast, Me Hearties!

Did you know that the "Talk Like a Pirate Day" is this Friday, September 19th? You didn't?

Me either.

That is, I didn't until I read it on the Savage Chickens site. I just love Doug Savage's chickens. He's decided that he will draw a pirate themed chicken cartoon every day of this week. Here's the ones from Monday and Tuesday, but head over there to see them all.

Want to practice your pirate-speak before Friday? Read this.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

They'll Be Done by Thanksgiving

I had such a great weekend. My friend Karen came to visit. We've known each other since our college days, and even though we only see each other about three times a year, we pick up where we left off as if we had just visited the day before.

So Friday night, we were considering our options for Saturday which included canoeing around the lake with Karen paddling and me lazing in the back covered in sunscreen -- or to re-cover the dining room chairs.

We chose to recover the dining room chairs. We love a project.

These chairs really need it. They've seen fifteen huge Thanksgiving dinners, and Easter Ham-O-Ramas, and Christmases.

Karen helped me choose the fabric. I decided to go with a darker color. 

There were three layers of stapes in those chairs!

I love the results. Two down and six to go.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Do you ever feel a bit powerless when thinking about our disease? As if there's very little that can be done to change the progression of Sjogren's Syndrome?

I do. Especially since it appears that there are so many unknowns about the causes and treatment for autoimmune diseases.

I find this infographic tweeted by rheumatologist Dr. Paul Sufka somewhat reassuring. Empowering. Why? Because the biggest risks contributing to mortality according to the NHS are things over which I definitely have some control:

  • Smoking? Never started, so that's an easy one. 
  • High blood pressure and... 
  • ....High cholesterol can be controlled especially if the next risk -- obesity -- is also addressed. 
  • Ah. Obesity. That's an issue for me. 
  • Fruits and veggies? Consumed in abundance. Check.
  • I find physical inactivity also to be problematic. Granted, Sjogren's and it's fatigue contributes a great deal towards inactivity but for me, there's definitely room for improvement here. 
  • I just don't tolerate alcohol any more; so my consumption is zip. Nada. 

It's important for me to see information like this. It makes me realize that while there's no doubt that my autoimmune diseases have had an enormous impact on my life, there's other extremely important factors that contribute to my health over which I DO have some control.

Hm. (Diet) food for thought.

image found here 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sky Lights

Image found on OregonLive here. 

So, did ya'll stay up last night waiting for the aurora borealis -- aka Northern Lights -- from the recent solar flare?

We did. Well, kind of. Terese, Greg, my college buddy Karen, and some other friends bundled up in sweatshirts, fortified ourselves with adult beverages (except for me) and pointed our eyeballs upwards. It was a beautiful clear night. We saw the moon rise over the Cascade Mountain foothills. We all downloaded and experimented with constellation apps for our smartphones. We yakked away for hours.

But, alas. The promised lights didn't materialize. It could be that there was simply too much light pollution in our neighborhood.

Did you see them?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Family in Need

Man. I feel kind of ashamed of my self absorption over the past few weeks. My puny issues like dairy intolerance and a rash pale in comparison to the health crisis that my friend and her family are facing.

My friend's mother is entering a very difficult phase in her struggle with Alzheimer's Disease, and the  distress and anguish that it is causing her mother is equally as devastating to her family.

If you pray; please say a prayer for this family,  or send some positive thoughts their way.

And thanks.

Friday, September 12, 2014


Guys. I've been really feeling sorry for myself.

Me. The original dairy gal. An ice cream fanatic. A milk guzzler. A cheese chomper. And now, all that dairy consumption is a thing of the past, and I really, really miss it since I discovered dairy really, really doesn't like me.

But all the whining and pouting is over. Because I have found THIS:

Hear the choirs of angels singing? It's good. It's THAT good. I was grumping around Whole Foods longingly staring into the ice cream freezer, when an employee asked if he could help me with anything.

So I unloaded all my angst about dairy withdrawal, and the poor guy listened patiently. Then grabbed a container (which was ridiculously expensive, btw) and told me that he guaranteed that this was the answer to my ice cream cravings.

He was right. Even though it was SEVEN DOLLARS for a dinky little two cup container.

Who knew cashew milk frozen dessert tasted that good?


I'm thinking that it's probably good thing that it's crazy expensive. I don't see myself forking out all that cash except for the occasional splurge. But just knowing it's out there is a good thing.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Shopping is Therapeutic

Well, guys. After my scandalous butt-baring incident at the pool the other day, I was in serious need of some post traumatic-stress treatment. (I would guess that anyone who was unfortunate enough to see me probably needs some therapeutic intervention as well.)

For me, there's no better way to heal my wounded psyche than to shop. I really do subscribe to the "retail therapy" school of medicine. So I went in search of a replacement swimming suit.

I found this one on Amazon. I like it because there's TWO layers of fabric covering my backside. The attached panty, and the attached skirt. I figure wearing this suit would be kind of like packing an emergency parachute inside your main parachute. If one least I'd have the other layer. 

Wouldn't it be great if I looked as good as this cute young lady wearing that thing? But alas.....I know better. And I'm certain that this lovely girl is categorized as a "plus size" model. Pfffffttttt. That's ridiculous. 

Don't get me started.