Thursday, September 12, 2019

Learning about Korea (North and South)

During the month of August our family learned about Korea. We started with North Korea for a few days and watched a NK-made documentary that was full of glowing falsehoods. We called my husband "Dear Leader," and once I sent a child to feather-dust photos of her daddy hanging on the walls of our home. Yes, we were mocking the Kim rulers of North Korea a bit. They richly deserve it, for they are obese and self-indulgent while they make their people suffer hunger and deprivation of basic human rights in the name of a stupid "juche" ("self-reliance") struggle that has become merely a codeword for the Kims' efforts to keep a stranglehold on political power. My oldest daughter and I listened to the audiobook of Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea to Freedom in the West about Shin Dong-hyuk (, who was born into a North Korean prison camp and managed to escape; it was a well-told account of an awful childhood and youth. North Korea's government is clearly guilty of many crimes against humanity.

We happily moved on to learning about South Korea. We delighted in our freedom and that of the South Koreans. We went to a Korean independence day celebration where we saw Korean-Americans perform traditional dances in beautiful costumes. We went to Korean supermarkets, as well as to a Korean restaurant for a great lunch (jap-chae, bulgogi, and bibimbop were the favorite dishes). We read some children's books about Korean people. We ate with metal chopsticks. I bought dried anchovies and seaweed and used them to make broths. I made crockpot versions of bulgogi repeatedly due to family demand for them. We did try to get the children to eat a lot of cabbage kimchi and rice, but the kimchi was too spicy for them. We listened to Psy sing "Gangnam Style" and the K-Pop girl band "Twice." We learned about plastic surgery in Korea. One of our very favorite things we did was watch a Korean miniseries called Chicago Typewriter ( together. I highly recommend it; it can be viewed (with English subtitles, fortunately) at Here's a teaser video of it; it's partly a "period drama," and the 1930s scenes are beautiful:

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Potential of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to help treat tracheobronchomalacia

I just found out the beautiful young wife of a long-time acquaintance died one year ago, apparently from an illness called tracheobronchomalacia. She was treated with a breathing tube per the pictures I saw of her. I'd never heard of the illness before today. This is what I found on it:

The cause of tracheobronchomalacia (TBM) varies depending on whether a person has primary TBM (also called congenital TBM) or acquired TBM (also called secondary TBM). Most cases of primary TBM are caused by underlying genetic conditions that weaken the walls of the airway (the trachea and bronchi). For example, primary TBM has been reported in people with mucopolysaccharidoses (such as Hunter syndrome and Hurler syndrome), Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and a variety of chromosome abnormalities. Primary TBM can also be idiopathic (unknown cause) or associated with prematurity and certain birth defects (such as a tracheoesophageal fistula).[3][1][5] A small proportion of adults with TBM have the primary form but are not diagnosed until adulthood.[4]
Acquired TBM is generally caused by the degeneration (break down) of cartilage that typically supports the airways. In most adults with acquired TBM, the underlying cause of this cannot be identified.[4] Many adults diagnosed with acquired TBM have common respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.[4] Acquired TBM may be associated with inflammatory conditions (such as relapsing polychondritis), exposure to toxins (e.g. mustard gas), enlargement of structures near the airway (such as goiter or a tumor), and complications from medical procedures (such as endotracheal intubation).

Excerted from

The weakened airway walls--the trachea and the bronchi--are the ones that have the hyaline cartilage that I was researching in the winter of 2018 when I looked into why influenza often brings on pneumonia, usually bacterial pneumonia that is caused by bacteria that normally populate the upper respiratory tract without causing problems. Tracheobronchomalacia appears to be a slow-motion pneumonia.

Because of my research on pneumonia and cartilage, I now keep a combination glucosamine-chondrotitin sulfate supplement in my home and regularly use it whenever someone in my family has a sore throat or a cough. The purpose of the glucosamine is to protect the hyaline cartilage in the upper respiratory tract, and that of the chondroitin sulfate is to help provide the hyaline cartilage with what it needs to rebuild itself well. We suck on the tablets like lozenges so as to get the cartilage-supporting compounds partially aerosolized within the upper respiratory tract and thus deliver them to the surfaces that most need them.

I haven't had that many opportunities to use the glucosamine-chondroitin sulfate supplement recently because it has been summer here, but when we have used it, it seems to stop the progression of the soreness and/or cough and put us on the road to recovery. I hope someone has seen my video (at or my blog post (see about the potential of glucosamine to help support the structural integrity of the upper respiratory tract and begun to investigate it for themselves. Perhaps such an effort will lead to better, more effective treatments for tracheobronchomalacia in the future.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Learning about Equatorial Guinea

During the second half of July, our family learned about the little country of Equatorial Guinea, a Spanish-speaking country on the western coast of Africa which is sort-of on the equator. I say "sort of" because its land mass on the African continent and islands don't actually have the equator running through any of them, but it does possess islands on both the north and the south sides of the equator. The current capital, Malabo, is on one of those islands, but they are using much of their oil revenue to build a new capital city on the African continent that looks like it will have a much better infrastructure and allow for many people to live a good middle class existence there eventually.

Right now, there are slums where most of the Equatoguineans live and then some nice places for the few rich elites who run the country. But it looks like they're trying to create a more equal future for their society. The schools function, and they have a literacy rate of 95% (I'm sure the regular spelling of the Spanish language has helped them reach such a high rate). The new capital city, while definitely a work in progress right now, looks like one the whole country will be proud of. It's nice to see people use the money from their natural resources to work towards a good future for an entire country.

We ate a lot of West African cooking. Fufus made of cassava, plantains, and cocoyams; corn mush; fish stew; goat meat; many dishes with boiled peanuts and peanut butter; papaya; spinach and other greens; red palm oil; and snails. Yes, we ate snails for dinner one night. The snails were canned and sitting right in the "canned meat" section at Walmart. How could I resist? Any meat tastes good with garlicky butter and parsley on it! I teased the children that we would also do the North American version of "bushmeat" and hunt the squirrels and bunny rabbits in our neighborhood, but they knew I wasn't serious.

We didn't find much in the way of music or movies/shows from Equatorial Guinea, but I did discover a great aunt/niece singing duo called Hijas del Sol; they come from Equatorial Guinea, although they had to move to Spain. This is my favorite song by them:

Friday, August 2, 2019

Learning about Denmark

For the first half of July, we learned about Denmark. We visited a Lego store and played with Lego for hours. We taste-tested various "Danish" pastries (did you know they're called Viennese pastries in Denmark?). We read and watched fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen. And we listened over and over to the wonderful Eurovision Song Contest entry from Denmark's Leonora this year (see video below).

Monday, July 1, 2019

Learning about Russia this summer

We ended up traveling for most of the two weeks that was allotted to learning about Russia this summer and so spent less time learning about it than I would have liked. We did watch a couple of movies about Russia and have a Russia-themed party with some friends where we ate Russian food (including the cheapest caviar I could find). While driving on our family trip, we listened to Russian music and watched a favorite movie, Чёрная Молния (Black Lightning) (, which was in Russian with English subtitles; it's a fun "superhero" movie starring a flying Volga car ( from the Soviet era.

Also, we listened to Sergey Lazarev's ( music a lot. He sang "Scream," the song below, in this year's Eurovision Song Contest:

Nutritionally, I found the lecithin content of sunflower seeds and buckwheat, both eaten at a higher level in Russia than in the USA, to be very interesting. Lecithin is often included in weight loss supplements, and Russia is one of the countries where obesity used to be low (but, wow, has that changed quickly-- However, the usually-claimed mechanisms for how lecithin might help reduce extra weight do not appear to convince generally, and there are no good studies to support the use of lecithin for weight loss. I think I might have deduced a new mechanism by which lecithin could help keep obesity under control and how to increase that effect so that it is easier to observe in a controlled trial, but I want to test it myself before investing more time and research effort into writing up a formal hypothesis. My powdered lecithin delivery arrived yesterday, so the testing has begun.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Learning about the Netherlands

Our family just spent the past few weeks learning about the Netherlands. We looked for tulips as we drove around town, we ate Dutch chocolate sprinkles on our buttered bread, and we learned about dikes (the levees used to keep parts of the Netherlands from being taken over by the ocean).

The Dutch language is close enough to German and English that I kept almost understanding Dutch lyrics and sentences that we heard and saw. But not quite.

One fun thing I came across in my research a couple weeks ago was a study finding that licochalcone A, a compound in licorice, which the Dutch eat a lot of, can ameliorate obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in mice fed a high-fat diet. ( Despite eating a lot of very fatty foods (mmm, cheese:, the Dutch are apparently not experiencing the rise in obesity that is affecting nearly every other country in Europe. ( In light of the statistic that around 1/5 of the candy purchased in the Netherlands is licorice, or drop in Dutch (, I suspect their candy preference helps them fill up their adipocytes more slowly than they otherwise would.

The above video shows the flag of the Netherlands and plays the national anthem of the Netherlands, the "Wilhelmus," which was written in 1572 and so is the national anthem with the oldest music. The song is about William of Orange who led a revolt against Spain due to its harsh punishments of those who favored religious tolerance; that revolt eventually ended in an independent Dutch republic.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Summer Country Studies 2019

We have decided which countries/cultures to study this summer. First, the Netherlands (which won the Eurovision Song Contest last week and so will host the competition in 2020). Second, Russia (which we wish would have won the Eurovision Song Contest last week because we think Sergey Lazarev is great). Third, Denmark (which we also wish would have won the Eurovision Song Contest last week because Leonora was adorable in "Love is Forever"). Fourth, Equatorial Guinea (which has absolutely no tie-in with this year's ESC). Fifth, Korea (one week on the North, one week on the South).

This will, as always, be a summer of good music, tasty food, and fun. We've already started eating Dutch food: bread, cheese (especially Gouda), rice pudding, and fish. We typically eat a lot of bread and cheese anyway. As I read about Dutch cuisine, I realized that it was quite similar to our family's "normal" eating habits, which I wouldn't have expected given our lack of Dutch family heritage.

Here's Sergey's first appearance in Eurovision in 2016. He wowed us then with his energy, creative staging, and voice. His 2019 entry was less active, but we like it even more. I'll post it later in the summer when we're learning about Russia.

Monday, April 29, 2019

A mom's successful efforts to alleviate adolescent acne, part two

Here's the promised second installment of this series (the first post is here) on how we alleviate acne. We've tried several things as "spot treatments" for zits that have already started forming, and the most success we've had so far has been application of the same diluted Dove White Bar solution that my daughter uses as a twice-daily face wash.

This is her current face care regime:
  • Morning and evening: wash face at sink with mixture of water and Dove White Bar soap shavings. No need to wash it all off (unlike with other cleansers we've tried....).
  • Don't touch or rub her face unnecessarily, for it triggers pimple formation. (Luckily for her, she never got to the point where she was tempted to wear cover-up makeup, so she never had to remove said makeup.)
  • If a zit forms, repeatedly apply the mixture of water and Dove White Bar soap shavings to it. Don't wash the solution off afterward.
Simple, cheap, and her skin looks very good. She doesn't have to restrict her diet either.

I hope this information helps some other people out there. Everyone is different, and something that works for one family might not help another family the same way due to genetic differences, but Dove White soap is inexpensive and easy to try, so why not?

Thursday, April 4, 2019

A mom's successful efforts to alleviate adolescent acne, part one

Last blog post, I wrote about a health problem that is characteristic of my mother's stage of life. Today I'll write about a health problem that is characteristic of my oldest child's stage of life.

Approximately one year ago, I realized that I needed to do something to help my teenage daughter with acne. I did a lot of reading and studying and had her try many different things. I was set off in an odd direction for many months by a discovery that application of UHT milk helped lessen her acne. Finding out later that it only really worked with a specific brand of cotton balls made the issue even more interesting and confusing. I looked into alkaline phosphatases, acid phosphatases, gossypol, sodium carbonate, pleurotin, urea, and the nitroxyl radical. During all this, my child learned to limit her consumption of peanut butter, not leave Cetaphil on her face, and avoid rubbing/covering areas of her face with a hat/fingers/etc.

Finally, after noticing that UHT milk on the correct cotton balls turned a rather bright yellow, I realized that a sulfur compound was most likely involved. That sulfur can help with acne is old knowledge (see, but I wanted a sulfur-based skin product that would be inexpensive, not overly drying, and easy for my daughter to use.

Enter Dove White Beauty Bar: Two of its main ingredients are sulfur compounds (sodium lauroyl isethionate and sodium isethionate), and it doesn't have chemicals in it that we have found to be problematic (glycerin, methylchloroisothiazolinone, and methylisothiazolinone). A friend had recently reported that when her grandson stopped using the popular teenager skin washes (nearly all of which contain methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone) and switched to plain Dove, his acne improved significantly. Many people on the internet report that Dove White soap has helped them with acne, too. So my daughter tried it.

I mixed some small pieces of Dove White Beauty Bar in water to make a skin wash that she could easily wash off (glycerin-containing products such as Cetaphil were hard for her to wash off thoroughly, resulting in blocked pores and then new zits), and she began using the mixture as a facial wash once in the morning and once at night. It worked!

How does sulfur help prevent acne? My daughter says the Dove face wash leaves her face drier and less oily, but apparently without the oft-noted rebound effect many report after use of oil-stripping cleansers. The tiny sulfur-containing signal molecule hydrogen sulfide (H2S) can regulate lipid (i.e. fat) metabolism (see, so I suspect it is involved.

My daughter still gets the occasional zit in places that have been rubbed or covered with something, but we think we figured out a good spot treatment to quickly reverse the inflammation process in those zits. I'll blog about that tomorrow. She is happy to be able to eat peanut butter again, and I'm happy to have a child who doesn't have to deal with acne-caused feelings of insecurity. I hope this post can help many other people working to combat acne.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Update on sage use to slow cognitive decline

My 78-year-old mother wants me to blog about this subject again to report on how it's going, so I dutifully do so. (I first posted about this subject seven months ago at

She has been adding the culinary herb sage--usually on soup, but sometimes in homemade bread--to her diet on and off for months. She has noticed a marked decrease in her short-term memory loss after periods during which she has been consistent in her sage consumption. While I am very pleased to have my intelligent mother back to her usual conversational abilities, I didn't want to blog about it beforehand because correlation is not the same as causation. After all, it could have been that her memory happened to be better sometimes and it was during those times that she remembered to eat the sage.

My mother has been firm in saying for the past few weeks that sage causes her memory to be better. So I told two other post-menopausal women who had been complaining about memory loss.  One woman had very noticeable memory issues a few weeks ago, so I gave her a container of sage; it cost me only $1.00 at the grocery store. Two days ago, I sat in a meeting with her, and her memory issues appeared to have nearly completely receded. At the end of the evening, I asked her if she had been using sage. I was hoping, of course, that the experiment with sage was bearing fruit. She dashed my hopes initially by saying she wasn't using it nearly enough...then she finished her answer saying, "just once a day." Once a day! My mother laughed hard when she heard that, for once a day is very consistent use in her book.

I'll check with the third woman and see if she is also trying sage and demonstrating improvement in her memory issues. If so, I'll go do some more research on how sage might be helping. Is it by inhibition of caspase-3? Is it by inhibition of lipase, alpha-amylase, and/or alpha-glucosidase? Or something else?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

More on molybdenum and diarrhea

An older gentleman I know recently decided to try molybdenum glycinate to alleviate his recurring diarrhea, and it helped him. That brings the number of people to three--of whom I know--who have found molybdenum relieves their (non-viral-gastroenteritis-associated) diarrhea. How does it do it? The most plausible mechanism I've come across is molybdenum's role--as part of a cofactor needed by enzymes mARC-1, mARC-2, xanthine oxidase, and aldehyde oxidase--in converting nitrite into nitric oxide, which nitric oxide then inhibits an "on-switch" (adenylyl cyclase) of secretory diarrhea. (Links to supporting studies are in this earlier post.)

But some people report that molybdenum supplementation causes diarrhea in them. (See I think the best explanation for that happening is individual variations in gut bacteria. For example, a study last year found that depriving a certain category of gut bacteria of molybdenum resulted in reduced colitis-associated inflammation.

 In a provocative study recently published by Zhu et al., the authors demonstrated how precision editing of the gut microbiota may be used as a treatment for gastrointestinal inflammatory disease []. The authors had previously identified Enterobacteriaceae family expansion and overrepresentation of molybdenum-cofactor-dependent metabolic pathways in a model of chemically induced colitis. Molybdenum-cofactor-dependent pathways are essential for the overgrowth of Enterobacteriaceae in the inflamed gut [], and Zhu et al. demonstrated the targeted inhibition of these pathways by oral administration of tungstate, as tungsten can replace molybdenum in the molybdopterin cofactor. The resulting restriction of Enterobacteriaceae growth restored the microbial diversity to a normal state. Furthermore, colitis-associated inflammation was reduced in the tungstate-treated animals by up to 90%.
In the next step toward translating this treatment to humans, the authors took gut microbiota from a subset of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and transferred these communities into germ-free mice. When inducing colitis, animals receiving tungstate showed decreased Enterobacteriaceae expansion and associated markers of inflammation, thereby demonstrating that this treatment, or other means of inhibiting molybdenum-cofactor-dependent pathways in bacteria, may be an effective means of controlling inflammation in patients with IBD []. 

- Extract from Petrosino "The microbiome in precision medicine: the way forward" Genome Med (2018) 10:12 (online at, which summarized the findings of Zhu, Wenhan et al. "Precision editing of the gut microbiota ameliorates colitis" Nature (2018) 553(7687):208-211 (online at

What the above means is that someone suffering from colitis (inflammation of the colon), a symptom of which can be diarrhea (see, could be better off avoiding molybdenum supplements if they have too many inflammation-associated Enterobacteriaceae in their gut.

Molybdenum is not a panacea. It's shown itself awesome for many ills--namely, gastroenteritis (especially viral), migraines, and secretory diarrhea--and it deserves far more attention than it currently gets. But like everything else that can affect our bodies and the bacteria within us, it needs to be used wisely.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Molly Versus the Trolls

My wonderful family helped me make a cartoon video dramatizing molybdenum glycinate's helpfulness in dealing with the symptoms of viral gastroenteritis. Here it is!

While I appreciate all the cute art in it, the slide that makes me laugh is the one of the human with his/her head in the toilet. A blunt reminder of how unpleasant vomiting is makes molybdenum shine even more!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Bacterial gastroenteritis and molybdenum's limitations in dealing with it

In the past couple years, I've seen many instances of molybdenum glycinate causing dramatic relief of viral gastroenteritis. However, I've also seen a handful of cases where it didn't do much, if anything, to stop vomiting. In those cases, there has been reason to suspect infection with listeria, salmonella, or another food-borne bacteria.

Bacteria make their own toxins. Viruses, on the other hand, typically attack our own cells with the main aim being to use our own cells to replicate and spread the viruses as quickly as possible. My hypothesis is that during these viral attacks, excess sulfite--a metabolic product of hydrogen sulfide, which is used in protecting the gastric mucosa from injury--is a primary trigger of the vomiting associated with viral gastroenteritis; the molybdoenzyme sulfite oxidase converts sulfite to sulfate, which I think is how molybdenum glycinate alleviates vomiting from viral gastroenteritis.

But getting back to bacteria. Stupid bacteria. We don't know they're in us till they make us sick with their toxins. Salmonella releases toxins when it dies. Can molybdenum do anything for bacterial gastroenteritis? Based on what I've seen so far, which is not a very large sample*, a relatively short bout of vomiting will occur, despite taking molybdenum, as the body rids the stomach and proximal small intestine of the bacterial toxins within them. I suspect that antiemetic medications--even ginger, which has a compound that is a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist ( help prevent this vomiting, but I'm not sure that we want to prevent it; after all, do we want those toxins to remain in our body? I don't know the answer to that question.

I have noticed that molybdenum glycinate seems to shorten the course of vomiting from probable bacterial gastroenteritis. Once and done, sometimes ( Perhaps the bacterial toxins damage cells in the stomach and so trigger an increase in sulfite, which the molybdenum then helps with via sulfite oxidase (see the discussion of viral gastroenteritis above).

One clear benefit molybdenum appears to give in bacterial gastroenteritis is relief from diarrhea in nearly all the cases I've heard about.

Only one person said it didn't help her with diarrhea--apparently from bacterial gastroenteritis--despite pre-dosing for a few days before coming down with the same "bug" that hit her young children earlier. Her children threw up but never had diarrhea; I assume she gave them molybdenum since she was pre-dosing herself with it. When she came down with the "bug," she had severe diarrhea. Because molybdenum is stored in the liver and delivered from there to the duodenum, I asked her whether she had known liver issues, and it turns out she does have elevated liver enzymes. I also heard of a man a while back who had been horribly sick with gastroenteritis for days before I happened to run into his wife and told her about molybdenum; when his wife, a nurse, gave him molybdenum, he was able to keep food/drink down, but only when he took molybdenum. This indicates to me that some people have difficulty retrieving molybdenum out of storage in the liver and delivering it to where it needs to go; they will thus need more frequent doses of molybdenum and will not be helped by pre-dosing.

To sum up the above, molybdenum glycinate can ameliorate bacterial gastroenteritis symptoms, especially diarrhea, but its preventative effects on vomiting will be generally be markedly less than is seen with viral gastroenteritis. Moreover, people with liver and biliary tract issues appear to benefit most from "as-needed" doses of molybdenum glcyinate since the molybdenum stored in the liver is less able to quickly get where it needs to during gastroenteritis (be it bacterial or viral); pre-dosing with molybdenum glycinate will likely not help them.

[Updated 10:30 am, January 17, 2019: My teenage daughter came to me less than an hour after I'd posted the above saying that her head had started hurting ten minutes earlier and that her stomach had started hurting two minutes earlier. Early this morning, I was talking with her friend's mother, who very recently had a bout of what might have been salmonella and during which molybdenum was unable to prevent vomiting. Our conversation about it, which took place while my child was in a classroom with her two teenage children (meaning my daughter was possibly getting exposed) was part of the impetus for the post. While writing the post, I pondered on ways to prevent bacterial toxins in the stomach from triggering vomiting; one way to do so should be to get the stomach to empty faster. It has been reported that peppermint oil enhances gastric emptying (, and I have candy canes leftover from Christmas. So I gave my daughter molybdenum glycinate tablets to dissolve in her mouth, a cup of water to sip on, and some candy canes to suck on between sips. By an hour later, her stomach had stopped hurting, so I took her candy canes away, but her head still hurt. Since her stomach was better, I gave her one acetaminophen to swallow. Then a few minutes later, she called out from the couch, "My stomach hurts again." But she says it's a different kind of pain, so I suspect it's just the acetaminophen irritating her stomach. I gave her back her candy canes. A few minutes later, her stomach was better and her headache was lessened. I've taken to carrying a bottle of molybdenum in my purse during the last year as a first aid supply, and it looks like I'm going to have to add peppermint oil-containing candies to my purse now, too. And I thought I wouldn't need a big purse when my kids got older....]

* Seriously, isn't there someone out there with more resources willing to take over on this? I'm a housewife. I should not be the only person trying to figure out what is going on with molybdenum's effects on the body when given in doses larger than the RDA. Please email me. You can find my email address on my publications, which I link to in earlier blog posts.