As readers of my former newsletter know, I am drawn to reading biographies, and I was drawn to reading the biography of Marilyn Monroe. It's not because she was so famous, and it's not because she was so beautiful, or even that I especially liked her movies. The only movie of hers that I really loved and admired was her last one, The Misfits. It was magnificent, and she was great in it.
I was drawn to the life of Marilyn Monroe because of the incredible arc that her life took. The transformation of her circumstances, the swing of her pendulum from alpha to omega, was more extreme and more extraordinary than anyone could imagine. Her life, the train she was on, was one-of-a-kind, and she rode it alone.
Her childhood was marked by abject poverty and abandonment by both her parents: her mother due to mental illness and her father because he just didn't care. He resented her very existence from the moment her mother refused to get an abortion. Norma Jeane Baker (her real name) was shuttled among foster homes and orphanages, and finally wound up in the custody of a friend of her mother's, Grace Goddard. But, during the very brief period that she lived with her mother (Gladys), Norma was raped by a man, a tenant who lived in their house. Gladys hushed it up, refusing to have the man prosecuted- because she didn't want to lose the rental income. Norma anguished over that for a long time.
What was her diet like growing up? I'm sure it was the typical American diet, but worse than average. Sometimes, for days at a time, she would be fed nothing but stale white bread and dated milk because that's all they could afford. Realize, it was during the Great Depression. The state of knowledge of nutrition back then was very limited. Few people realized the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Norma was skinny as a little girl, and the boys teased her, chanting, "Normal Jeane, the human bean."
But, once she entered puberty, Norma Jeane filled out quickly. Overnight it seemed, she acquired the voluptuous figure for which she became famous. And the boys did take notice. When she was 15, her caretaker Grace Goddard was preparing to move from California to West Virginia because of her husband's job transfer, and they decided not to take Norma with them. At Grace's insistence, Norma was married off to the boy next door, Jim Dougherty- on her 16th birthday.
Though in real terms, her marriage to Jim lasted only two years, they were two of the best years of Norma's life. She came to love her husband, and she enjoyed married life. Although she was later married to two famous men, Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, her marriage to Jim was the happiest and least troubled. Jim's problem was that he had wanderlust.- not for other women but for adventure. He decided he would support the war effort by joining the merchant marines. Norma begged him not to do it, but he did. So, she went to live with her mother-in-law who got her a job at the Radioplane factory in Van Nuys, California, where they made military parachutes. And that is where Norma Jeane was discovered- by military photographers who were putting together a calendar of American beauties who were supporting the war effort on the job. Her photos were dazzling, and many took notice. It was a military photographer who prepared a portfolio of her pictures and urged her to take them to a modeling agency, which she did.
I should point out that it was in her late teens that Norma developed a major sleep disorder that would plague her for the rest of her life. It played a crucial role in her life and also in her death.
But before delving into her career, I want to address her habits. It was during her marriage to Jim Dougherty that she began smoking and drinking. According to official reports, Marilyn Monroe was never a heavy smoker. However, many pictures have surfaced of her smoking, and many of the key people in her life were heavy smokers, and I think it's reasonable to assume that she was at least a moderate smoker. Of course, most people back then smoked. It's amazing that a person for whom beauty was her most valuable asset would smoke at all. However, the harmfulness of smoking was not widely known or discussed then, and the stigma about it did not exist. The modern anti-smoking campaign had not yet begun.
Regarding alcohol, she started out as just a moderate drinker, but eventually, she did become addicted to alcohol. Her favorite drink was French champagne. Many times, she drank herself into a stupor. She used alcohol as an escape, and it had a very destructive effect in her life. But again, there was little consciousness about it then. Everybody drank. As for other recreational drugs, she dabbled in them at Hollywood parties, and she even dropped Acid with Timothy Leary a few times, but for Marilyn Monroe, it was mainly prescription drugs and alcohol that decimated her.
Regarding fitness, she did calisthenics and light weight lifting to stay in shape. She also did some jogging. But by the time she made The Misfits in 1960, she weighed about 140 pounds. Where you really notice it is in the swim scene at Pyramid Lake in Nevada. She looked heavy, and to my eyes, she looked older than 34. Also, her hair was so damaged from over-treatment that she had to wear a wig.
But getting back to Norma Jeane at 19, she became an overnight success as a model, gracing magazine covers, doing commercials, and even posing for what were called "girlie magazines" - the predecessors of Playboy and Penthouse, although they were much more tame. It was then that she was encouraged to change her hair color to blonde- which she resisted doing at first. But once she did it, she never went back.
The switch from modelling to acting seemed like a natural progression, but it wasn't easy. Her first contract was with 20th Century Fox, and the first thing they did was change her name. "Marilyn Monroe" was chosen because her mother's maiden name was Monroe, and the "MM" sound was considered sensuous and erotic. Norma always liked the name Marilyn, and from then on, Norma ceased to exist. Everyone, including family and friends, had to call her Marilyn.
However, she was only given bit parts in B movies, and Fox let her go at the end of a year. That was devastating to Marilyn, and she largely disappeared from view for 8 months. It has been rumored that she had a baby during this time and gave it up for adoption. And when she returned to acting at Columbia Studio, she initially fared no better. However, her first major boost came from a small role in The Asphalt Jungle, which was followed by a small but impressive performance in All About Eve, in which she was said to outshine Bette Davis. From that point on, the 1950s became her decade, and she grew to become the biggest, most adulated movie star in the entire world and the ultimate symbol of female beauty and sexuality.
However, Marilyn continued to have major sleep problems, and studio doctors encouraged her to take barbiturates. These are very strong drugs- real knockout pills- and the morning hangover from them is nasty. To counteract that, they prescribed uppers or amphetamines- commonly known as Speed. That combination, of taking barbiturates at night to sleep, and amphetamines in the morning to wake up, is ravaging to both mind and body. A person living like that is surely in a nosedive. Today, it would be considered medical malpractice to prescribe such a regimen. But, that was Marilyn Monroe's life for at least 10 years.
Plus, she was drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and stressing out over her career, her troubled romances, and her many conflicts with the studios. And what toll did it take on her health? In her mid-20s, she developed a severe case of acute appendicitis that almost killed her. In her early 30s, she developed a severe case of gall bladder disease which also required surgery- they said she was packed with gallstones, For years, she had chronic abdominal pain and digestive complaints and became addicted to enemas. She took an enema daily, sometimes multiple times daily. She was diagnosed with colitis and was treated for that. She was prone to diarrhea, for which she was given injections. She was diagnosed with manic depression and given drugs for that. Also, she underwent years of Freudian psychoanalysis- often having long, intense sessions with her analyst on a daily basis. She even became close personal friends with Anna Freud, the daughter of Sigmund Freud. Towards the end of her life, Marilyn's psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, became her Svengali, or shall I say, her Rasputin. She even decided where to live just to be close to him. I can't help but think it was a very unhealthy and codependent relationship.
As for her diet as an adult, she ate everything, but she was especially fond of steak, liver, seafood, caviar. It was more an animal-based diet, but remember, at the time, those with income who could afford to live well, that's what they ate. She was not very domestic and preferred to eat out, but she did try to cook for her husbands. For Joe DiMaggio, she learned from his family how to make home-rolled Italian pasta. For Arthur Miller, she learned from his family how to make traditional Jewish dishes. The only fruit or vegetable mentioned in the book as a favorite of hers was grapefruit.
Marilyn Monroe developed a reputation as the ultimate Hollywood diva- always showing up late on the set, being unprepared to perform, being unfit to perform, stumbling over her lines, and costing the studios a fortune from delays and overruns. But, I don't think it was appreciated just how sick she was. It's a miracle The Misfits got finished at all. During the making of it, production shut down for a week because she had to be hospitalized, and it's believed that she attempted to kill herself by overdosing. In her final movie project, which went unfinished, called Something's Got To Give, she kept succumbing to infections- over and over again. It' seems that her whole immune system was breaking down.
To me, the biggest tragedy of Marilyn Monroe's life was that she desperately wanted to give and receive love. The love that she desperately needed as a child- that every child hungers for- never came to her, and it continued to elude her as an adult. Public adulation was one thing, but in her private life, she had mostly heartache, disappointment, and abuse. By nature, she was a very kind, generous, and compassionate person, and she did a lot for people. For instance, she gave her acting coach, Natasha Lytess, the full down payment for a house. She gave the son of Lee Strasberg, another acting coach, her racy Ford Thunderbird. During her marriage to Arthur Miller, she paid all their bills, including his massive legal bills for his "un-American activities." And when she lived in New York City, she would dress in disguise wearing a black wig and go down to the Bowery and hand out money to the bums. Yet, because of her ill-health and all the abuse heaped upon her (including physical abuse from Joe DiMaggio), her relationships suffered, and most of them ended badly. And most pivotal of them all was her relationship with President John Kennedy, with whom she had a long affair which started in 1951, and also his brother Robert Kennedy, with whom she subsequently had an affair.
And lest you have any doubt about it, I assure you that Marilyn Monroe was murdered. She did not commit suicide. She did try to commit suicide several times in her life, but not on the day she died. She died of a massive overdose of barbiturates, a combination of Nembutal and Chloral Hydrate. It was said that she had enough drugs in her system to kill 7 people. However, on autopsy, her stomach was completely empty. There were no drugs and no residues of pills or capsules in her stomach. It is widely believed that the drugs were administered by enema. Apparently, she held secrets about the Kennedys and about the US government learned from them that were a major security risk. If she had gone public with them- as she was threatening to do- it could have toppled the Kennedy presidency. So, she had to be taken out. The irony is that just 15 months later, President Kennedy was taken out, and once again, the Orwellian spin-machine sprung into action to control the public perception.
After Marilyn Monroe died in August 1962, there were repeated calls for a criminal investigation of her death- as late as the 1990s, 30 years after the fact. Yet, they always went unheeded. It's chilling to think that we live in a world in which truth is issued by decree. Not only was it a matter of "case closed," the case was never even opened.
So, what are the lessons to be learned from the life of Marilyn Monroe? First, don't be fooled by appearances. Yes, she was beautiful and sexy, but, she was also quite ill and spiraling downward. And, in the 10 years that she was in the spotlight, she aged rapidly and deteriorated markedly. Second, don't assume that just because a person is rich and famous and can afford the best medical care that they will receive good care. Marilyn Monroe's medical care was atrocious. You can argue that they gave her barbiturates because that's all they had back then, that the less brutal benzodiazepines and newer sleep drugs hadn't been developed yet. But the truth is that, to this day, Medicine has nothing constructive to offer for sleep. No prescription sleep drugs are safe and healthy. They may knock you out, but they don't deliver sound, healthy sleep. They may be less bad than what Marilyn Monroe took, but that doesn't make them good. The lesson is: don't go down that road. Don't get started with it. Just say no to it. It's a slippery slope, and once you start, it's very hard to stop. If you want to take something for sleep, try low-dose melatonin. Try theanine, which is the calming amino acid from green tea. There are relaxing herbs you can try, and the one I like best is lemon balm. Taking calcium and magnesium at night may help with sleep. And although I don't sell it, the amino acid glycine may help with sleep. All of these are safe. But avoid all prescription sleep medicines. They are ruinous.
There have been over 100 biographies written about Marilyn Monroe, but the one I read was The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe by Donald H. Wolfe, published 1998. It is very good.
European regulators have just ordered the complete removal of the diabetes drug Avandia from the market, while the FDA has placed severe restrictions on its use in the US, saying that heart attack risks from it pose too great a risk to most patients. It was only a few years ago that Avandia was a high-flying drug. Worldwide sales for GlaxoSmithKline in 2006 were over than 2.5 billion dollars. Now, as the lawsuits pile up, there is no telling how much they will have to shell out in compensation to victims and their families. The company has already agreed to settlements in 11,000 cases, but there are plenty more on dockets. Surely, it will be in the billions. This is the phamaceutical equivalent of the BP oil spill.
Of course, this isn't the first major prescription drug scandal- far from it. But unfortunately, it isn't the first major prescription drug scandal regarding diabetes either. It follows on the heels of the Sulfonlurea scandal, which was described by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick (one of the most astute medical observers in the world IMHO) as "the greatest medical scandal ever." Based on published reports, Dr. Kendrick estimates 158,000 deaths annually from Sulfonylurea drugs going back decades, therefore, millions of deaths in total.
And there are other classes of diabetes drugs suspected of doing profound harm as well. And there are new diabetes drugs that I predict will become fiascoes in the future. For instance, they have a new drug that impairs the kidneys in a way that causes them to spill sugar into the urine. That happens anyway if the level rises high enough, but the drug causes it to happen sooner. Under normal healthy conditions, there should not be any sugar in the urine. It is always pathological, so they are creating disease. It is just a trick, a gimmick. It has nothing to do with restoring health, and no good is going to come from it.
What does this latest Avandia scandal portend? I think it means that the time has come for all of us to start making our own medical decisions. I'm not saying that we should never follow a doctor's advice. I'm saying that we should never do it on faith. We have the right and the responsibility to use our own judgment because, obviously, we are going to have to live with the consequences- or not live at all. And today, we not only have the right and the responsibility, but we also have the means. Because of the Internet, all of the knowledge about drugs that is available to doctors, is available to you. Therefore, your first step when given a prescription for a medication should not be to stop at the pharmacy to fill it, but rather, to go home, get online, and start researching it. Get used to saying to doctors, "I'll have to think about it."
As I see it, when you visit a doctor, first and foreemost, you are there to find out what is wrong with you. You are there for a diagnosis. And after that, you want his or her opinion about the best treatment options. But, it's your body and your life, and ultimately, you will decide what action to take. Is this being arrogant? Maybe, maybe not. But, it doesn't matter. The fact is: too many bad things have happened involving prescription drugs. Dr. Ron Paul, Congressman, Presidential candidate, and bonafide leader of the Liberty movement, has pointed out that more people have died from prescription drugs than from all the illicit drugs combined. Our faith is shattered. Drugs are inherently dangerous, very dangerous, and we can no longer give them the benefit of the doubt.
But, let's get back to diabetes. I am as personally concerned about avoiding diabetes as anybody because it runs strongly on both sides of my family. My paternal grandfather died of diabetes in his 60s, and not before losing both his legs to it and going completely blind. I run bloodwork on myself annually in the Spring, and fortunately, my blood sugar has always been normal. If it ever became high, I would first seek to manage it with diet and exercise. Of course, I am diligent already, but I suppose I could be more diligent. However, there is one diabetes drug that I would consider taking, and that is Metformin. Metformin is a derivative of a natural herb called Goat's Rue. It has been in use for centuries. It does not increase the insulin level, rather, it increases the sensitivity of the insulin receptors, rendering the insulin you have more effective. There has been a lot of research done on Metformin, and some of it is very impressive. For instance, Metformin has been shown to have a life-extending effect in animals. And, Metformin has an excellent safety record. Rather than increase the risk of heart attack, as Avandia does, Metformin reduces it. Today, there are thousands of health enthusiasts who are taking Metformin in hopes of getting a life-extending effect- and many of them are not even diabetic! I am not willing to go that far, but again, if in the future my blood sugar were to rise, I would consider taking Metformin.
And second, the main contention of the high-protein crowd- that even unrefined carbohydrates cause excessive insulin release- is false. Carbohydrates do provoke insulin release, but so do proteins and fats. The fact is: calories- from all sources- provoke insulin release. An Australian study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1997 reported the insulin score of many different foods. Museli, a traditional European whole grain dish, had an insulin score of only 46, which was much lower than fish at 59. Whole grain pasta had an insulin score of only 40, which was much lower than beef at 51. The cause of high serum insulin is insulin resistance which is caused mainly by being overweight- too fat. Unrefined carbohydrates do not make people fat. So, all this fearmongering about whole grains sabotaging insulin is pure hogwash, and those who spout it are just repeating each other.
So, what do I do to prevent diabetes?
First, I stay thin. I don't let myself get fat. I am 5' 6" and weigh 135 pounds, and I'm fairly well-muscled. I am careful about what I eat, and I eat almost a completely vegan diet. I don't restrict carbohydrates or fats, but I'm careful to eat only wholesome forms of each, such as whole grains and raw nuts. I avoid refined carbohydrates of all kinds. All the typical desserts that people commonly eat, I pass on completely: no exceptions. I watch my weight. I weigh myself every day, first thing in the morning, without clothes. I don't say that you have to weigh that often, but I think it's a good idea to keep your eye on it. You'd be surprised how many people are shocked to find out how much they weigh.
Second, I stay active physically. I do strength training, mainly with the Total Gym machine, which I have at home. I get cardiac/aerobic exercise from hiking, biking, and swimming. Both kinds of exercise are important in diabetes prevention. Strength training is important because muscles are reservoirs for blood sugar. The larger they are, the more glycogen they store, and the more they dampen the effect of eating. I don't say that you need to have muscles like Arnold, but it's vital to be well-toned and fit.
Third, regarding supplements, I haven't had the mindset to take anything specifically to prevent diabetes, but, some of the supplements I take for general health do help in that way. For instance, Carnosine and Benfotiamine are powerful anti-glycation agents, and glycation is what does the damage in diabetes. Turmeric, green tea, resveratrol, and lipoic acid, all of which I take, have also been shown to help prevent diabetes. And some of the nutrients in my Extend Core multi, such as the MTHF form of folate and the P5P form of Vitamin B6 also ward off diabetes. Even Vitamin D is known to help prevent diabetes, and I take 5000 IUs of that.
VRP also offers a formula called GluControl which includes Goat's Rue, which, as I mentioned, is the herbal form of Metformin. I am not taking GluControl at this time, but if my blood sugar were to rise, I would consider taking it. One advantage it has over Metformin is that it is available without a prescription.
Be aware that diabetes varies a lot in degree, and milder cases of it may be corrected without taking anything. Diet, exercise, and weight management may be all that are needed to reverse it. None of us can be certain that we'll never get diabetes, but I am confident that, with everything I am doing, that I'll never get more than a mild case of it- no matter how long I live. That's my worst case scenario. I am not going to wind up like my grandfather, and it's empowering to know that.
But, nationwide and worldwide, diabetes is a huge and growing problem. Medicine has nothing useful to offer except Metformin. I believe the time is now and the need is urgent for every man, woman, and child to get serious about diabetes prevention. That means adopting an unrefined, plant-based diet, exercising diligently and regularly, and getting down to lean body weight. Drop all morbid body fat ASAP.
I heard from an older man this evening who is contemplating marriage, and he's concerned because he experiences a lot of intestinal gas, every day, and he knows it can only disrupt the marital bliss. I informed him that, according to Medicine, the average person passes gas about 14 times a day, and he informed me that he thinks he's passing gas about 50 times a day. I agreed that that's excessive. He also informed me that he's trying to eat healthily, with lots of fruits, vegetables, and green salads, and also nuts and beans. I agreed that it's very healthy food, but it's also more gas-forming than the usual fare that most people eat.
So, what is the solution? We certainly don't want to start living on hamburger and white bread just to avoid getting gas. But, I know very well that we can eat heartily of whole, natural plant foods without getting an inordinate amount of gas.
I realize that is a qualified statement. I wish I could tell you that I know how you can avoid getting gas completely. But, that would be a lie because I'm human too, and I experience some gas myself. But, not an inordinate amount. Not an amount that interferes with my social life or my love life. And that's what we are aiming for.
First, I want to suggest tried and true eating rules to help control gas.
1. Don't overeat. It is the single biggest cause of excess gas. Don't eat until you are stuffed. The goal is not to feel "full" but rather to feel "smug" which means content and satisfied. Remember also that when you finish eating that it takes time for your stomach to release all the digestive juices that are involved in processing the meal. So, if you feel physically full when you put your fork down, imagine how you are going to feel a half hour later when your stomach has added more secretions. So, leave room for that. DON"T OVEREAT.
2. Don't eat between meals. People are surprised when I tell them that I never snack. They think I must have some kind of iron will. But, it has nothing to do with that. I simply respect my stomach, and I understand how it works. When you consume a meal, you have given your stomach an assignment, and it tackles it. But then, if you start eating again while it's still digesting the previous meal, it's like throwing a monkeywrench into the machinery. It also triggers what is known as a "gastro-colic" reflex. If the body thinks another meal is coming, it may try to quickly pass the previous meal to make room for the new one, and so it rushes undigested or partially digested food into the lower intestine. Well, that is definitely going to cause gas. Bacteria are going to have a field day with that. So, the idea is that we should give our digestive system a job, a project, and then leave it alone for several hours. Don't disturb it. Don't give it anything else to do. Let it do its work unencumbered. Think of the intervals between meals as your fasting periods. Remember, we're not cows, and we're not gorillas (both of whom are grazers). We're human beings, and we eat at distinct times called "meals." Don't eat between meals.
3. What about food combining rules? I know all about the food combining rules, but I am not a staunch proponent of food combining. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with eating different kinds of food at the same meal. Individual foods are very complex as it is. The problem is that "Variety is the spice of gluttony." We tend to eat more food when there are a lot of choices on the table. And that brings us back to our first axiom, DON'T OVEREAT. But, although I am not in favor of rigid, universal food combining rules, it doesn't mean that you can't go by your own experience and limit certain combinations that you know tend to cause you trouble.
4. Eat slowly and chew your food well. If you tend to gulp your food down quickly, it's a bad habit, and you just have to break it.
5. Avoid eating late at night. I think we all know from experience that late night eating invites digestive trouble, sour stomach, gas, etc.
6. It shouldn't be necessary to drink during meals. If you tend to get thirsty during a meal, it means one of two things: either you were dehydrated before you started eating OR you're not including enough water-sufficient foods (fruits and vegetables) at the meal. Another possibility is that you are consuming too much salt at the meal, but that's a subject in itself.
7. What about excluding certain gas-forming foods, such as pears, broccoli, onions, etc.? You can play around with that, but don't get carried away with it. The truth is that all fruits and vegetables, and all high-fiber foods like whole grains and legumes, can be gas-forming. If you were going to eliminate everything that could potentially cause gas, you would wind up steering your diet in a most unhealthful direction. So, don't go too far down that road. Focus instead on the tactics listed above.
Applying the above ideas should help mitigate your gas problem. Again, I'm not suggesting that you are never going to pass gas again, but it should be much less. But, is there anything you can do?
Yes, you could try taking probiotics and digestive enzymes. Probiotics, of course, are the beneficial bacteria, and they actually help us digest our food, and they also help crowd out harmful yeast and Candida, etc. which can cause gas. So, it wouldn't hurt a thing, and it might help a lot for a person with a major gas problem to take Probiotics, at least for a while. There are a lot of good ones. We offer two: BioPRO, which is an excellent proprietary formula made by Vitamin Research Products. And we offer Culturelle, which is a leading probiotic made by another company. It has a patented strain of Lactobacilli with years of clinical research behind it.
Digestive Enzymes (and we actually have a product by that name) consists of the various enzymes such as amylase for starch, lipase for fat, and protease for protein. Most people are familiar with the product Beano, which contains the enzyme: alpha-galactosidase, which aids carbohydrate digestion. But, I think it's better to take a comprehensive enzyme product if you're going to do it at all.
Finally, I want to point out that in the most severe cases, I will recommend our Gastric Aid formula, which contains a form of hydrochloric acid: Betaine Hydrochloride. In a world in which millions of people take acid-blocking drugs every day, it may seem crazy to try to increase the amount of stomach acid. But, believe me, it often works wonders. There are more people suffering from too little stomach acid than too much. The stomach is supposed to be acid: very acid. And, destroying a person's stomach acid is a form of medical malpractice- in my opinion. It certainly does not restore the person to health, and it only invites other problems. Even when it seems to work symptomatically, I still think it's a bad idea.