Wake Up, Philippines!

Melatonin enhances sleep, boosts energy

Posted in Health, Sleep by Erineus on April 19, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – Rosario P., 72-year-old grandmother; Mauro T., 32-year-old call center agent; Lisandro D., 54-year-old stressed executive who travels frequently, and Laura D., 52-year-old housewife who is a self-confessed television addict.

What do these people have in common? They used to have sleep problems and have benefited a lot from taking melatonin supplementation nightly.

A good night’s sleep is an important means of the body and mind to recharge, and the use of natural sleep enhancers like Melatonin-T can also help improve one’s health and wellness.

Increased vigor and vitality also follow with the improvement in sleep.

Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates sleep. During daylight, the pineal gland in the brain produces an important neurotransmitter called serotonin. (A neurotransmitter is a chemical that relays messages between nerve cells.)

But at night, the pineal gland stops producing serotonin and instead makes melatonin. This melatonin release helps trigger sleep.

The production of melatonin varies according to the amount of light one is exposed to, such that the body produces more melatonin in a completely dark room than in a dimly lit one.

Melatonin secretion decreases as one gets older. Scientists believe this may be the reason why older people have problems sleeping and have shorter hours of sleep.

Health experts are also now seriously studying the possibility of melatonin’s potential benefit in extending lifespan.

In test-tube and animal experiments, researchers have found that melatonin protects cells, strengthens the immune system, slows the growth of some tumors, and protects the heart and blood vessels.

Trianon Melatonin-T is available as an over-the-counter supplement in Mercury, Watson and other leading drugstores nationwide. The brand has received several awards locally for product and marketing excellence.


Omega-3 protects women against heart attack

Posted in Health, heart by Erineus on April 19, 2009

Updated March 12, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Post-menopausal women, losing the heart-protective effects of their reproductive hormones after menopause, become vulnerable to develop serious cardiovascular complications such as heart attack and stroke.

A study published in the international journal JAMA has shown that among women, a higher consumption of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids is associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), particularly CHD deaths.

In what is considered a landmark study, the investigators tracked down 84,688 female nurses enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study aged 34 to 59 and free from cardiovascular disease and cancer at baseline in 1980.

During the 16-year follow-up, women with a higher intake of omega-3 had lower risk factors, so the effect on the outcome was mainly attributed to the intake of omega-3 sources.

Even after adjustment for age and other cardiac risk factors, the women with higher omega-3 intake had a 31-percent lower risk for CHD.

Health experts consider this new finding as significant since based on scientific reports, heart disease claims more women’s lives, particularly after menopause than other dreaded diseases including breast cancer.

Another study from the Physicians Health Study (PHS), also published in JAMA, also showed that higher intake of omega-3 reduced risk from sudden death, a common fear of heart patients.

Seventeen years of follow-up revealed that progressively higher serum levels of omega-3 fatty acids were associated with progressively and dramatically lower risk for sudden cardiac death.

A third study (from Italy) assessed data from more than 11,000 patients with recent heart attack who had been given omega-3 supplementation, vitamin E or both.

Omega-3 fatty acid supplement reduced death risk by 41 percent at three months, mostly from reduced risk for sudden death. Vitamin E added no benefit.

Heart experts recommend that eating fish regularly (especially deep-sea fish such as salmon) or taking omega-3 fish oil supplement appears to reduce heart disease risk safely and cheaply for most people.

The beneficial effects of fish oils have been attributed to various mechanisms, including reduced triglyceride levels, reduced inflammation in the arteries causing atherosclerosis or narrowing, slightly lowered blood pressure, reduced blood clotting, and reduced tendency of the heart to develop abnormal rhythms.

Other benefits attributed to the regular intake of fish oil include alleviation of symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, improvement of brain function, and protection of kidneys in transplant patients receiving immunosuppressive therapy.

Omegabloc is one of the brands of omega-3 fish oil locally available in Mercury and other leading drugstores.

It has been available in the country for more than 10 years. Usual recommended dose is one softgel capsule two to three times daily.

Omegabloc comes from NOW Foods in the United States, one of the top manufacturers of vitamins and food supplements worldwide. NOW Foods is represented in the Philippines by Trianon International.

Charles Cultura, Trianon International sales and marketing manager, said that although Omegabloc is an over-the-counter product and requires no prescription, many doctors are now prescribing it to their patients with established heart disease or those with multiple risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol problems, obesity and smoking.

He said provincial distributors are welcome and interested parties may call 892-0723 or 24 or text 0917-8858786.

Your daily health checklist

Posted in Health, Health Care by Erineus on April 19, 2009

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If you’re an organized person (bordering on being OC?), you probably draw up a daily checklist of things to do at home and at work, so that your life runs like clockwork. Without your checklist, your multi-tasking life could go haywire. Or you could go bonkers.

On top of our daily checklist, we must have a (mini) health audit every day, according to Handbook for Life (how to make friends, beds, love, tea, money … and the world a better place) by Caroline Righton (available at National Book Store).

Right on, Caroline! Listen up, everyone: “Whoever you are and whatever your age and general state of health, the key thing is to ask yourself if your body easily meets the demands made on it by the life you lead, and whether, if you would like to have a different sort of life, you might need to raise your game to improve your health …”

So, what are the things you need to ask yourself when you do your mini health audit? Here are a few questions and some answers:

1) Do you sleep well?

I guess for most of us who work such looong hours, the answer is a yawning no. Yes, says Caroline, “Most people need between seven and eight hours’ sleep a night … Sleep is needed by your body and brain to recharge and stay healthy. Too little and your immunity can decrease and your concentration suffer. Too much and you may feel lethargic and even depressed.”

What to do?

Take a few tips for a night of bedded bliss:

• Don’t eat or drink too late, yes, and say no to spicy foods, caffeine or alcohol.

• Take a warm milky drink. Milk does help as it contains brain-calming tryptophan.

• Don’t do any strenuous exercise close to bedtime. Allow your body several hours to relax and cool down before getting some shut-eye.

If the problem persists, says Caroline, go and see your doctor. For sure, you won’t be the only insomniac in the waiting room. Zzzz you there!

2) Do you feel stiff or have creaky joints when you wake up?

If your only form of exercise is stretching a point or bending your principles, you could be in trouble. “This (having creaky joints) is probably a reflection of your level of fitness,” writes Caroline. “… If you are worried about it, of course see your doctor, because it can be an indication of medical problems, but first try stretching out and gently flexing the offending creaking parts while lying in bed … Even gentle exercise, such as swimming, can help if it’s carried out regularly.”

3) Does your tongue look less than rosy pink?

Now, that’s no tongue-in-cheek question. Caroline has a mouthful to say on that: “Tongues really aren’t at their best in the morning, but serious badger’s bum furring is most likely to indicate that you are dehydrated and so, drinking the recommended eight glasses of water a day and not overdoing coffee and booze should help.”

4) What color is your urine and does it smell?

Don’t get pissed off now, but your urine has a lot of story to tell about your health. For instance, smelly pee means you might have a urinary tract infection. And the darker yellow it is, the more likely you are to be dehydrated. Drinking alcohol can dehydrate your body so your urine may be dark after a night of boozing it up. Rehydrate, but if your problem persists, see a doctor.

5) Is your waist size over 94 cm. (man), 80 cm. (women)?

As the experts say, “The broader the waistline, the shorter the lifeline.” For an overall picture, says Caroline, look at your body fat percentage, your blood pressure, resting heart rate, and cholesterol levels.

6) Have you got your stress levels under control?

Caroline’s book can’t stress this enough: “Stress is a killer, which is ironic given that it was once a lifesaver as the body’s front-line defense mechanism.”

Today, you are probably stressed if you feel guilty when you relax — yup, you’re stressed because there’s no stress in your life.

Here’s an antidote to stress, according to Caroline: “Get the stress in perspective … Count your blessings and accentuate the positive in your life …”

It’s a fact, as proven by medical tests, that optimists respond better to medical treatment. Indeed, a dose of positivism keeps ill health at bay.

7) Do you eat a sensible diet with restricted fatty or sugary foods?

Once more with feeling: A high-fat, high-sugar diet puts one at high risk of heart disease and diabetes.

8) Do you keep your salt intake low — to less than 6 g. a day?

How low should you go? Here’s the lowdown on salt from the life audit handbook: 6 g. is about the same amount as one level teaspoon. Too much salt raises the blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack. You better watch out, too, for processed foods, bread and cereals that contain salt.

9) Do you drink enough water?

How much is enough? Answer: Eight or more glasses keep the immune system healthy. An added bonus is that it helps you lose weight, too. But that’s another weighty issue that deserves another lengthy discussion.

So, how did you fare in this life audit?

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We’d love to hear from you. E-mail us at ching_alano@yahoo.com.

View previous articles of this column.

Jn 20:19-31 – Sunday Gospel Reflection

Posted in Easter, Gospel of John by Erineus on April 19, 2009

John 20:19-31 – Appearance to the Disciples
Second Sunday of Easter

When the other disciples reported to Thomas what had happened, telling him that they had seen the resurrected Jesus, Thomas did not believe on account of their testimony, however. He flatly refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead unless he could see the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and put his hand into the spear wound in Jesus’ side.

Eight days later the disciples were again together behind closed doors. This time Thomas was present with the other disciples. Jesus (who is portrayed as knowing precisely what Thomas had said previously about what it would take to make him believe) now turned to Thomas and offered him the opportunity to touch the nail marks in his hands and the spear wound in his side. He, then, exhorted him,  “do not be unbelieving but believe” (Jn 20:27).  Thomas’ answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God”! (Jn 20:28).

Thomas’ statement, while it may have been an exclamation, does in fact confess the faith which he had previously lacked. Thomas’ reply is not simply an exclamation: it is an assertion, an admirable act of faith in the divinity of Christ: “My Lord and my God!”

Thomas’ confession, is the culmination of the gospel’s Christology, since it acknowledges the crucified/exalted Jesus as “Lord and God” (other acclamations in the Gospel, 1:49; 4:42; 6:69; 9:37-38; 11:27; 16:30; see cf. JBC 61:235). The Fourth Gospel opened with many other titles for Jesus: the Lamb of God (1:29, 36); the Son of God (1:34, 49); Rabbi (1:38); Messiah (1:41); the King of Israel (1:49); the Son of Man (1:51). Now the climax is reached with the proclamation by Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”  Thomas’ confession of faith  has become the ejaculatory prayer often used by Christians all over the world, especially as an act of faith in the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Eucharist.

It is significant that Jesus does not reject or modify Thomas’ confession. Instead he accepts it approvingly but reprimands Thomas for demanding such a sign before he will believe (Jn 20:25; cf. 4:48). He should believe in the basis of the word which has been spoken to him by others (e.g., 17:20;  see cf. JBC 61:235).

Jesus in saying those words concludes that those Christians who have believed without seeing have the same faith which is in no way different from that of the first disciples. These refer to the  future disciples who would believe without the benefit of seeing but have come to believe in Jesus through the words of his disciples and their successors.

As we celebrate today the Second Sunday of Easter, let us heed the Lord’s exhortation to stop our unbelief and beg Him to increase our faith so that, like Thomas, we can also acclaim the highest Christological confession of faith, “My Lord and my God!,” that resounded throughout all history (Jn 20:28). When we are in doubt let us learn from Thomas who has recovered from the crisis caused by doubt and imitate his example. Few moments from now, we will witness the priest prays the consecration and elevates the body and blood of Jesus, let us be one in heart and mind with Thomas the Apostle in acclaiming, “My Lord and God!” (Jn 20:28).

Is Cha-cha dead?

Posted in Charter Change, Congress, Legislation, Politics by Erineus on April 19, 2009

By Artemio V. Panganiban
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:17:00 04/18/2009

THE HEAT is on Speaker Prospero Nograles. And he is sweating because he could not produce 196 signatures to support the resolution authored principally by Representative Luis Villafuerte calling for Charter change (Cha-cha) via a constituent assembly (con-ass). Implicit is the unspoken undertone that the con-ass would eventually install the parliamentary system.

June 6 extension. Before the onset of the Holy Week, Nograles promised to file the resolution formally in the House of Representatives so that it could be publicly scrutinized. However, not having succeeded in getting the 196 signatures, all that he could do – after Congress resumed its sessions early this week – was to award himself an extension of up to June 6, the end of the congressional session, within which to move the process and get the required support.

The proponents believe – wrongly, in my humble view – that the signatures of 196 congressmen, even without the participation of a single senator, are enough to comply with the constitutional requirement of three-fourths vote “of all the members of Congress” to pass constitutional amendments.

(Parenthetically, I wonder why Nograles fixed the number at “197.” Currently, there are 238 congressmen and 23 senators or a total of 261 “members of Congress.” Three-fourths of 261 is 195.75. This can be rounded off to 196.)

A congressman present during the House leadership caucus last April 14 told me that the resolution has only 178 signatures; thus, it needs at least 18 more. Despite their best efforts during the last six months, the proponents still failed to get 196 signatures. Why?

Let us analyze. Of the 238 incumbent congressmen, 89 belong to the Lakas Party, 52 to Kampi, 30 to the Nationalist People’s Coalition, 20 to the Liberal Party, 10 to the Nacionalista Party and the rest are distributed among the LDP, PMP, PDSP, PDP-Laban and Uno. Also included were 22 partylist representatives and two independents. Except for the partylists, party affiliations were volatile and change every day.

Disparate ruling coalition. Since most of the parties belong to the ruling coalition, one will expect all their members to support the resolution hatched by their leaders. But no such solidarity exists. For instance, Representatives Jose de Venecia and Edcel Lagman, both of Lakas, have made it plain that they would oppose Charter change not only in the House but also in the Supreme Court. The same is true of NPC’s Darlene Antonino-Custodio and Abraham Mitra.

Consider too that many congressmen are already committed to their favorite presidential candidates; the NPCs to Chiz Escudero or Loren Legarda; the LPs to Mar Roxas and the NPs to Manny Villar. They do not want Cha-cha now because it will derail the May 10, 2010 presidential elections.

Also, Representative Jack Duavit, the suave NPC secretary general, told me during a dinner two weeks ago that his party’s preferred Cha-cha mode was the constitutional convention, not the con-ass.

He stressed that while many NPC members including him have signed the resolution as a courtesy to Nograles, they reserved their right to contest specific amendments that might be proposed once the con-ass would be convened.

Duavit added that the NPC would oppose a “House-only” con-ass. “We cannot ignore our colleagues in the Senate. The three-fourths majority required by the Constitution should be obtained in both the House and the Senate, voting separately.”

Ditto for the Liberals and the Nacionalistas. For its part, the Palace confessed its alleged “helplessness.” Instead of supporting Cha-cha, it is supposedly focused only on the 2010 elections. Based on these disparities and pronouncements, the con-ass is hopeless.

By this time, the proponents know that the Cha-cha is dead. Only the Palace can resurrect it with patronage, arm-twisting and other unconventional methods of persuasion. And even if the 196 signatures are obtained, not all signatories as above explained would ignore the Senate. That is why I think there is only one way for Cha-cha to succeed – by railroading it with Malacañang’s grease.

Cha-cha railroad. How? Once the 196 signatures are obtained, the proponents will immediately forward the resolution to and compel the Commission on Elections to set the plebiscite pronto. The railroad option explains why the goal is 196 signatures. If the only aim is to discuss Charter change and not to install the parliamentary system, why wait for the 196? After all, only a simple majority is needed to convene a con-ass but 196 are necessary to approve the parliamentary target.

This is exactly how the House impeached President Joseph Estrada. After the constitutionally required signatures were obtained, then Speaker Manuel Villar speedily forwarded the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate without any discussion and formal voting.

Once this happens, the senators and the militants will immediately run to the Supreme Court. This will put the Court to a litmus test. Will it stamp its imprimatur to such a mockery of our Constitution?

It will also trigger massive protests. Considering the latest First Quarter 2009 SWS survey showing that 66 percent of Pinoys oppose Charter change, expect piercing rallies and demos that will dwarf the Bangkok “red shirts.”

In sum, Cha-cha is dead but it can resurrect if the Palace actively intervenes and greases the railroad. Surely such ploy will enrage the people. By greasing the hated Cha-cha express, the Palace will ram the economy and risk people power, mutinies and armed rebellions.

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Comments are welcome are chiefjusticepanganiban@hotmail.com