The germ theory

Thus the germ theory, long before it led to medical treatments, drove down mortality rates by revolutionizing sanitation and hygiene.

~ Jason Crawford from,

No, literally draining the swamp. There are a few reasons to click through on that. The most amazing is simply to scroll through the long article and glance at all the graphs; Graphs of magnificent drops in mortality rates by the 1950s. The 50s and 60s were demonstrably amazing simply for the fact that by then, most people weren’t dying of the same infectious things that have been killing people for millennia.

But the little gem quoted above was something that made me pause. Yes, it’s always fun to chuckle from the privileged perspective of the third millennia of the Common Era: The germ theory. *giggles* “Theory.” That’s so cute. What made me pause though was the thought about sanitation. I’d always thought of how the germ theory *giggles* affected medical treatments—washing hands by physicians and surgeons and penicillin and all that good stuff. But the idea that, “hey tiny stuff we can’t see can hurt us… maybe we should, ya know, filter and treat the drinking water?” …it hadn’t occurred to me that that too became a thing we actually started doing because of the germ theory.


Herbal bitters

Bitter herbs have a well-deserved reputation as digestive aids in most systems of traditional medicine, and in many systems of cuisine. The ability of bitters to support balanced secretion and motility, especially in the gastric phase of digestion, relies on a few important mechanisms that are mediated through taste receptors (T2R family) and involve neuronal, hormonal, and vascular effectors.

~ Guido Masé, from Herbal Bitters (2015)

Bitter herbs have a role in appetite regulation, blood glucose management, and obesity. This is something I’m only just now learning. They have been used medicinal for, pretty much, all of recorded history, and the more medical science looks the better things are looking. More recent traditions have added “bitters” to drinks (an Old Fashioned is a classic example) but—say it ain’t so western culture!—the bitters at your local bar are more for taste then for function.

Anyway. The linked PDF paper was an eye opener.

Also eye opening: We sat around our kitchen table this morning tasting various bitters—the same way you’d do beer, scotch, wine… or any other tasting. Tres interessant!



Network Theory applied to altitude sickness

They then mapped out the correlations between the various symptoms, creating a network. An increasingly standard tool in network theory these days is cluster detection–the ability to spot parts of a network that are more strongly linked together than others.


Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a common problem among visitors at high altitude, and may progress to life-threatening pulmonary and cerebral oedema in a minority of cases. … These results challenge the accepted paradigm that AMS is a single disease process and describe at least two distinct syndromes following acute ascent to high altitude. This approach to analysing symptom patterns has potential utility in other clinical syndromes.