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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Honey


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

Honey has been valued as a natural sweetener long before sugar became widely available in the 16th century. Honey production flourished in ancient Greece and Sicily, for instance, while animals other than humans – bears, badgers, and more – have long raided honeybee hives, risking stings for the sweet reward.1

Honey is truly a remarkable substance, made even more extraordinary by the process with which it is made. This blend of sugar, trace enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids is quite unlike any other sweetener on the planet.

And while honey is high in fructose, it has many health benefits when used in moderation (assuming you’re healthy). Before I delve into those, here’s a brief “lesson” on how honey is made…  

How Honey Is Made (Fascinating!)

It takes about 60,000 bees, collectively traveling up to 55,000 miles and visiting more than 2 million flowers, to gather enough nectar to make one pound of honey.2

Once the nectar is gathered, the bee stores it in its extra stomach where it mixes with enzymes, and then passes it (via regurgitation) to another bee’s mouth. This process is repeated until the nectar becomes partially digested and is then deposited into a honeycomb.

Once there, the honeybees fan the liquid nectar with their wings, helping the water to evaporate and create the thick substance you know as “honey.” This honeycomb is then sealed with a liquid secretion from the bee’s abdomen, which hardens into beeswax. As Live Science reported:3

Away from air and water, honey can be stored indefinitely, providing bees with the perfect food source for cold winter months.”

There are more than 300 kinds of honey in the US, each with a unique color and flavor that is dependent upon the nectar source. Lighter colored honeys, such as those made from orange blossoms, tend to be milder in flavor while darker-colored honeys, like those made from wildflowers, tend to have a more robust flavor.4

5 Honey Facts You Might Not Know

Honey, particularly in its raw form, offers unique health benefits that you might not be aware of. Among them…

1. Honey Makes Excellent Cough “Medicine”

The World Health Organization (WHO) lists honey as a demulcent, which is a substance that relieves irritation in your mouth or throat by forming a protective film.5

Research shows honey works as well as dextromethorphan, a common ingredient in over the counter cough medications, to soothe cough and related sleeping difficulties due to upper respiratory tract infections in children.6

2. Honey Can Treat Wounds

Honey was a conventional therapy in fighting infection up until the early 20th century, at which time its use slowly vanished with the advent of penicillin. Now the use of honey in wound care is regaining popularity, as researchers are determining exactly how honey can help fight serious skin infections.

Honey has antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidants activities that make it ideal for treating wounds. In the US, Derma Sciences uses Manuka honey for their Medihoney wound and burn dressings.

Manuka honey is made with pollen gathered from the flowers of the Manuka bush (a medicinal plant), and clinical trials have found this type of honey can effectively eradicate more than 250 clinical strains of bacteria, including resistant varieties such as:

  • MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
  • MSSA (methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus)
  • VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci)

Compared to other types of honey, Manuka has an extra ingredient with antimicrobial qualities, called the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). It is so called because no one has yet been able to discover the unique substance involved that gives it its extraordinary antibacterial activity.

Honey releases hydrogen peroxide through an enzymatic process, which explains its general antiseptic qualities, but active Manuka honey contains “something else” that makes it far superior to other types of honey when it comes to killing off bacteria.7

That being said, research shows that any type of unprocessed honey helped wounds and ulcers heal. In one study, 58 of 59 wounds showed “remarkable improvement following topical application of honey.”8

3. Honey Improves Your Scalp

Honey diluted with a bit of warm water was shown to significantly improve seborrheic dermatitis, which is a scalp condition that causes dandruff and itching. After applying the solution every other day for four weeks, “all of the patients responded markedly.” According to the researchers:9

Itching was relieved and scaling was disappeared within one week. Skin lesions were healed and disappeared completely within 2 weeks. In addition, patients showed subjective improvement in hair loss.”

4. Help Boost Your Energy

A healthy, whole-food diet and proper sleep is the best recipe for boundless energy, but if you’re looking for a quick energy boost, such as before or after a workout, honey can suffice. This is particularly true for athletes looking for a “time-released fuel” to provide energy over a longer duration.10

5. Reduce Allergy Symptoms

Locally produced honey, which will contain pollen spores picked up by the bees from local plants, introduces a small amount of allergen into your system. Theoretically, this can activate your immune system and over time can build up your natural immunity against it.

The typical recommendation is to take about a teaspoon-full of locally produced honey per day, starting a few months PRIOR to the pollen season, to allow your system to build up immunity. And the key here is local.

This approach only works because it has pollen of local plants you may be allergic to. Honey from other parts of the country simply won’t work. While research on this has yielded conflicting results, one study found that, during birch pollen season, compared to the control group, the patients using birch pollen honey experienced:11

  • 60 percent reduction in symptoms
  • Twice as many asymptomatic days
  • 70 percent fewer days with severe symptoms
  • 50 percent decrease in usage of antihistamines

Interestingly enough, there were few differences between the two honey groups (those who took regular honey, versus those who took honey that contained birch pollen.) However, the birch pollen honey group used less histamines than those who used regular honey. The authors concluded:

“Patients who pre-seasonally used birch pollen honey had significantly better control of their symptoms than did those on conventional medication only, and they had marginally better control compared to those on regular honey. The results should be regarded as preliminary, but they indicate that birch pollen honey could serve as a complementary therapy for birch pollen allergy.”

Honey for Herpes

Good-quality honey offers several topical wound-care benefits that can explain some of its success as a remedy for herpes sores:

  • It draws fluid away from your wound
  • The high sugar content suppresses microorganism growth
  • Worker bees secrete an enzyme (glucose oxidase) into the nectar, which then releases low levels of hydrogen peroxide when the honey makes contact with your wound

In one study, 16 adult subjects with a history of recurrent labial and genital herpes attacks used honey to treat one attack, and a commonly prescribed antiviral drug, Acyclovir cream, during another. (It’s important to realize that neither the drug nor the honey will actually cure genital herpes. They only treat the symptoms.)

Interestingly, honey provided significantly better treatment results. For labial herpes, the mean healing time was 43 percent better, and for genital herpes, 59 percent better than acyclovir. Pain and crusting was also significantly reduced with the honey, compared to the drug. Two cases of labial herpes and one case of genital herpes remitted completely with the honey treatment, whereas none remitted while using acyclovir.12

3 DIY Honey Home Remedies

Honey is a humectant, which means it attracts and retains moisture, making it an ideal addition to moisturizers, shampoos, and conditioners. Along with its antimicrobial properties, honey makes a wonderful addition to homemade personal care products. The National Honey Board has a few you can try out for yourself:13

  1. Honey Hair Conditioner: Mix ½ cup honey with ¼ cup olive oil. Work a small amount through your hair until coated. Cover your hair with a shower cap and let sit for 30 minutes. Shampoo as normal and rinse.
  2. Honey Body Moisturizer: Mix 5 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons rose oil, and 2 cups almond oil in a medium-sized bottle. Apply as needed onto wet skin.
  3. Honey Almond Scrub: Mix 3 teaspoons honey, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and 6 ½ tablespoons of finely crushed almonds. Rub the exfoliating scrub onto your face gently and rinse with warm water.

The Organic Consumers Association has also published this simple honey lemon cough syrup that’s useful to keep on hand during the winter months:14

Honey Lemon Cough Syrup

Lemon helps promote health by quickly alkalinizing your body, and honey will kill most bacteria while soothing your throat. This is a perfect choice for a quick cough remedy.

  • Put a pint of raw honey in a pan on the stove on VERY low heat (Do not boil honey as this changes its medicinal properties).
  • Take a whole lemon and boil in some water in a separate pan for 2-3 minutes to both soften the lemon and kill any bacteria that may be on the lemon skin.
  • Let the lemon cool enough to handle then cut it in slices and add it to the pint of honey on the stove.
  • Let mixture cook on warm heat for about an hour.
  • Then strain the lemon from the honey making sure all lemon seeds are removed.
  • Let cool, then bottle in a jar with a lid and store in the refrigerator.

This syrup will keep for 2 months in the refrigerator. To soothe a cough, take 1/2 teaspoon for a 25 lb. child and 1 teaspoon for a 50 lb. child, about 4 times a day, or as often as needed. Adults can take 1-tablespoon doses.

Is Honey a Healthy Natural Sweetener? How to Avoid Fake Honey

As far as natural sweeteners go, honey does have a place. The main thing to remember when it comes to honey is that not all honey is created equal. The antibacterial activity in some honeys is 100 times more potent than in others, while processed refined honey will lack many of these beneficial properties altogether. Your average domestic “Grade A” type honey found in the grocery store is likely highly processed.

It’s also been found that more than 75 percent of the honey on American supermarket shelves may be ultra-processed—to the point that all inherent medicinal properties are completely gone—and then smuggled into the country by the barrel drum. Nearly all of this “fake” honey is made in China. Some of these brokers will even create bogus country of origin papers. All 60 jars of “honey” tested by Food Safety News (FSN) came back negative for pollen, which is a clear sign of ultra-processing.15 According to FSN:

“The removal of these microscopic particles from deep within a flower would make the nectar flunk the quality standards set by most of the world’s food safety agencies. The food safety divisions of the World Health Organization, the European Commission and dozens of others have also ruled that without pollen, there is no way to determine whether the honey came from legitimate and safe sources.”

In their investigation, FSN discovered the following:

  • 76 percent of honey samples bought at grocery stores (such as TOP Food, Safeway, QFC, Kroger, Harris Teeter, etc.) were absent of pollen
  • 77 percent of the honey from big box stores (like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, and Target) were absent of pollen
  • 100 percent of the honey sampled from drug stores (like Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and CVS Pharmacy) were absent of pollen

The good news is all of the samples from farmers markets, co-ops, and natural stores like Trader Joe’s had the full, proper compliment of pollen, as did organic brands from common grocery stores. When choosing honey, be sure it is raw, unfiltered, and 100% pure, from a trusted source.

Honey Should Be Consumed Only in Moderation

Honey has many healthy attributes, but it is also high in fructose, averaging around 53 percent. Each teaspoon of honey has nearly four grams of fructose, which means it can exacerbate pre-existing insulin resistance and wreak havoc on your body if consumed in excess. So when consuming honey, carefully add the total grams of fructose (including fruits) that you consume each day, and stay below 25 grams of total fructose per day.

Keep in mind, though, that if you have insulin resistance (i.e. if you are taking drugs for high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, or if you’re overweight) you’d be better off avoiding all sweeteners, including honey, since any sweetener can decrease your insulin sensitivity and worsen your insulin resistance. If you’re healthy, however, eating raw honey in moderation could provide many of the benefits listed above.


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EMRs And The Dangers Of Digital Dependency And Drop-Down Medicine


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

Electronic medical records (EMRs) now play a part in the daily documentation routine for most physicians. While improvements in access to patient data, legibility of notes, and ease of order entry are welcome enhancements, there is a significant downside to EMRs as well. Although I’ve blogged about my frustrations with nonsensical, auto-populated notes and error carry-forward, there is a more insidious problem with reliance on EMRs: digital dependency.

The idea of digital dependency first occurred to me during a conversation with a young medical resident at a hospital where we share patients. I was bemoaning the fact that I was being forced to use hospital-designed templates for admission notes, rather than a dictation system or carefully crafted note of my own choosing. She looked at me, wide-eyed and said:

“You’ve worked without templates? How do you even know where to begin? Can you really dictate an entire note off the top of your head? I couldn’t live without templates.”

As I stared back at her with an equal amount of bewilderment, I slowly realized that her thinking had been honed for drop-down menus and check boxes. Over time, she had lost the ability to construct narratives, create a cohesive case for her diagnostic impressions, and justify her patient plan of action. To this bright, highly trained mind, clinical reasoning was an exercise in multiple choice selection. Her brain had been optimized for the demands of an EMR template, and mine was a relic of the pre-EMR era. I was witnessing a fundamental cognitive shift in the way that medicine was practiced.

The problem with “drop-down medicine” is that the advantages of the human mind are muted in favor of data entry. Physicians in this model essentially provide little benefit over a computer algorithm. Intuition, clinical experience, sensory input (the smell of pseudomonas, the sound of pulmonary edema, the pulsatile mass of an aneurysm) are largely untapped.  We lose our need for team communication because “refer to my EMR note” is the way of the future. Verbal sign-outs are a thing of the past it seems, as those caring for the same patient rely on their digital documentation to serve in place of human interaction.

My advice to the next generation of physicians is to limit your dependency on digital data. Like alcohol, a little is harmless or possibly healthy, but a lot can ruin you. Leverage the convenience of the EMR but do not let it take over your brain or your patient relationships. Pay attention to what your senses tell you during your physical exam, take a careful history, listen to family members, discuss diagnostic conundrums with your peers, and always take the time for verbal sign outs. Otherwise, what advantage do you provide to patients over a computer algorithm?

Am I a curmudgeon who is bristling against forward progress, or do I have a reasonable point? Judging from the fact that my young peers copy and paste my assessment and plans into their progress notes with impressive regularity, I’d say that templatized medicine still can’t hold a candle to thoughtful prose. Even the digitally dependent know this. :-)

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Medicare Advantage Physician Evaluator Jobs: Reality Versus Advertising


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

Physicians looking for part-time jobs to supplement their income may have run across advertisements for “lucrative” Medicare Advantage evaluation opportunities. Here’s a typical ad:

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Vision |  History |  Leadership |  Services |  Contact Us

CenseoHealth is the leading Risk Adjustment provider for Medicare Advantage plans – with a network of more than 1,800 credentialed providers conducting over 20,000 member health evaluations a month. Due to our continued growth, we are currently looking to hire in-home physician evaluators to work in these states.

As a CenseoHealth physician, you will meet with Medicare Advantage members in their homes to conduct their annual medical history and physical evaluation.

Additional Information:

  • Conduct evaluations when it’s convenient for you
  • Ongoing physicians can make $3,500 to $4,000 per week
  • Physicians who work 1-3 days per week can make $800 – $2,000
  • Travel and lodging expenses are covered, plus we provide a per diem reimbursement
  • Malpractice insurance is included
  • This position does not require you to prescribe medicine, order lab tests, do blood work, or alter the member’s current treatment regimen

Please contact us, for more information.

Bryan Cooke
Director of Physician Recruiting

P: 972.715.3772
E: physicians@censeohealth.com

Sounds pretty good, right? Well here’s what they won’t tell you:

1. Low Hourly Pay. Compensation is $100 per completed evaluation – but you have to drive to each member’s house (sometimes an hour each way) to complete a 31 page history and physical exam. Members are often medically complex, cognitively impaired, and/or non-English speaking. In the end (after counting travel time, cancellations, scheduling snafus, and long hours completing paperwork and FedEx shipping) the hourly wage works out to be about $30.

2. Poor Logistics. Members are scheduled back-to-back without regard to distance between their locations. That means you are chronically late, and some members cancel their meeting with you. No-show and cancellation rates (in my experience) are about 20%. You are not compensated for any of the time associated with driving to their location, talking to them on the phone, or otherwise trying to locate them when they are not home upon your arrival. Once a member cancels, you cannot fill their slot with someone else on the same day.

3. Threat of harm. Members mostly come from low to middle class income levels. Some of them live in truly horrific living situations (no electricity, a home overrun with cockroaches, no food or running water), and others are psychologically unstable. As a female physician driving alone into a very rural area to conduct a physical exam on a male patient who is actively psychotic… this can be dangerous. You never know what or who you will face. I have had to call social services on numerous occasions and have narrowly escaped inappropriate sexual advances.

4. Limited Support. There is no guarantee that anyone from the parent company will be available via phone when you call during an emergency. I have called on several occasions during critical situations where I had to leave a voice message and was assured that “my call was very important” and someone from provider services “would get back to me within 1/2 a business day.”

5. Questionable ethics. Schedulers do not explain to the members why you are coming to their home to evaluate them. Because the schedulers seem to work on commission, they often use questionable tactics to get the members to agree to the evaluation – such as telling them that the meeting is “mandatory” and will “take 20 minutes” or is “just a wellness visit.” For this reason, many members receive you with suspicion, wondering if you’re there to try to “throw them off the Medicare plan” or are angry that they were mandated to meet with you. Lengthy conversations and apologies to set the stage for your evaluation are commonplace.

6. Payment denials and exaggerated pay potential. Evaluations must be completed meticulously or the quality assurrance reviewers will reject your forms and you will not be compensated for your work (if you, for example, forget to check a box or use a non-approved abbreviation). Although the advertisements state that some physicians complete 35-45 evaluations per week, that is nearly impossible in areas where clients are not clustered together tightly. It is an extremely misleading statement, in my experience.

7. Glitchy and costly technology. In order to save on costs, electronic evaluations can completed via an iPad rather than paper forms. Unfortunately, the software often crashes, resulting in a return to paper in the middle of an evaluation. This ends up increasing the amount of time required to complete evaluations as your evenings are spent copying paper records into the iPad program. In addition, you are required to purchase your own stylus for data entry, as well as all the equipment required during your physical exam (e.g. blood pressure cuff, bathroom scale, ophthalmoscope, stethoscope, and more).

8. Low-budget travel and accommodations. While the agency boasts that they will pay for your accommodations and rental car, that typically translates into a room at a low-budget hotel and a Toyota Yaris with roll-down windows and no GPS.

9. The truth is hidden. The real reason for the evaluations is to help health insurers obtain larger reimbursements from the government. A physician (or NP) is required to verify all of the patient’s current medical conditions. Medicare Advantage plans get paid higher fees to manage sicker patients, so they are very motivated to document the complete list of diseases and conditions per at-risk senior. Patients do benefit from having an objective third party review their health record, but this is not the main goal.

10. Treated like a number. Sadly, my experience with my recruiter (the person who matches your availability with evaluation needs in various states where you hold a medical license) has been underwhelming. I took the time to make suggestions about how to improve the process for evaluators, but my recommendations fell on deaf ears. Not only were my phone calls and emails not returned, but when I suggested that it didn’t make sense for me to continue seeing members when I had a 66% no-show rate he simply replied, “I took you off the schedule – we have an abundance of FL doctors so it is not an issue.”

Take a look at the lovely marketing promotional images for the job:

And this video of what it’s like to do a home evaluation:

Now take a look at some photos that I took while on assignment (note: these are not actual patient homes, but are very similar to ones I encountered):

Taking a job as a Medicare Advantage evaluator was a real eye-opener. Poverty and chronic illness in America takes on a whole new light when you experience patients’ actual home environments. It’s like being a medical missionary in your own country. I’ve met patients who hadn’t seen a physician in decades, diagnosed life-threatening illnesses, and made sure that care (or case management) was initiated for countless people living on the fringes of society.

I’m glad for the experience – but think that my peers considering similar work should be told the truth about what they will be doing. Being a Medicare Advantage evaluator is not like the shiny “care anywhere” ad suggests – and “lucrative” is not exactly the right adjective for $30/hour for an MD’s time. But if you don’t mind being treated poorly by your employer, investing a lot of your own money in equipment costs, and putting your life at risk in dangerous home environments – you may actually do some good for the forgotten, frail elderly of this nation, (while helping middle men like Censeo Health to profit from health insurance behemoths, alas). Now you know the truth behind the advertising and can make an informed decision about whether or not you’d like to sign up for this work.

Any takers?

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