15 things about the tongue

A few tidbits:

  • The blue whale has the largest tongue in the animal kingdom. It’s the size of an elephant and weighs 5,400 lbs.
  • The five known tastes detected by the tongue are: bitter, sour, salty, sweet and umami.
  • Tongue cleaning with a tongue scraper is proven to help prevent heart attacks, pneumonia, premature births, diabetes, osteoporosis and infertility in men.

15 Things about the Tongue


Don’t play with Tussionex

Late last night, I kept coughing due to a passing cold. After taking several doses of other cough syrups during the evening, which had obviously not done their job, I decided to take some Tussionex — my ultimate weapon against coughing. I try to use it only when I absolutely need it, because it’s fairly expensive and it’s also hard to get (it can only be prescribed by a doctor). But after three days of coughing through the night and keeping my wife and myself awake, I figured the time had come. I took a teaspoon, waited a half hour, and nothing happened. I took another, waited another half hour, and still the coughing continued. I began to worry: had the syrup expired? Was my coughing so bad that I needed to take more? I took another teaspoon. Bad idea!


Soon after that, I started to feel the effects. Tussionex contains a codeine derivative, which means that, along with stopping my cough, it usually gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling that wears off in a couple of hours or so. This time, because I’d unwittingly (and stupidly) overdosed, the effect was very pronounced, and it was mixed with a sensation of nausea. I found it hard to sit up or stand up and went to bed, where I fell asleep immediately.

Here’s the full list of side effects for Tussionex, from the PDR (Physician’s Desk Reference):

“Anxiety, constipation, decreased mental and physical performance, difficulty breathing, difficulty urinating, dizziness, drowsiness, dry throat, emotional dependence, exaggerated feeling of depression, extreme calm (sedation), exaggerated sense of well-being, fear, itching, mental clouding, mood changes, nausea, rash, restlessness, sluggishness, tightness in chest, vomiting.”

I guess I should be thankful the only side effect I’d experienced before this was the “exaggerated sense of well-being”, along with a slight headache which occurred a few hours after taking the medication. Things were going to be very different now.

I woke up early in the morning, around 6 am, feeling rested and alert. I figured the effects of the overdose had worn off. They hadn’t. I got up to go about my business, and shortly after that, a general, overpowering feeling of nausea swept over me. I could not stand up. I couldn’t keep my balance at all. I felt sick, wasn’t seeing straight, I couldn’t control my movements and had trouble putting words together. It didn’t take long after that for me to experience a fuller spectrum of the side effects: decreased mental and physical performance, dizziness, drowsiness, mental clouding, nausea and finally, vomiting. That’s right, I did it again… I vomited more often in these past few months than in the past several years, and I don’t like it.

I’m still in bed as I write this. The moment I stand or sit upright, the nausea comes back, my face turns white, etc. I’ll be in bed for a while, hopefully not the whole day. All this fun gave me a chance to think about the situation. It’s clear that this wouldn’t have occurred if I hadn’t overdosed. The recommended dosage is one teaspoon every 12 hours. The PDR says: “The usual dose is 1 teaspoonful (5 milliliters) every 12 hours. Do not take more than 2 teaspoonfuls in 24 hours.”

I took three teaspoons within 1 ½ hours. That was incredibly stupid and irresponsible of me, and truthfully, I should be thankful I’m still alive. Here’s what one should expect from a Tussionex overdose:

“Blue skin color due to lack of oxygen, cardiac arrest, cold and clammy skin, decreased or difficult breathing, extreme sleepiness leading to stupor or coma, low blood pressure, muscle flabbiness, slow heartbeat, temporary cessation of breathing”

There it is, in black and white: cardiac arrest, stupor or coma. Instead of getting up from my bed last night and doing a quick search for this info last night, I overdosed like a dummy. My wife could have woken up next to my corpse. Thank God that didn’t happen!

I found out this morning that the FDA, since 2008, is also cautioning healthcare providers, pharmacists and patients, to guard against Tussionex overdose. After my own accidental brush with death, I agree with them.

Recommended Site: Many have become so addicted to certain cough medicine brands that prescription drug abuse treatment has become necessary for them. 

Still, I’m not sorry I took Tussionex. I’m definitely sorry I overdosed though. I’ve used many cough syrups over the years, and none stops my coughing like Tussionex. Here’s a sample of the stuff I tried in only the past few months:


Coughend Sirop


Ketof is the only other cough syrup that helps me marginally. The rest are garbage, particularly that Coughend Sirop. I also used a syrup called Prospan (not pictured here) in the last few days, which I found did a good job at clearing my throat. It tastes great, but still, it doesn’t stop my coughing. And of course I tried plenty of American cough syrups over the years, none of which helped.

Don’t think I cough all the time, either. But I’m stubborn like a mule, and will often go outside when it’s cold and I’m not dressed adequately. So naturally, I catch colds, and when I do, I cough a lot.

This experience also got me thinking about drugs and their effects on the body. Our bodies, you see, are endowed with the capability to heal themselves. That capability works better or worse in people, depending on how well they take care of themselves (diet, exercise, regular sleep, etc.) Drugs will usually only mask the symptoms of a disease, not cure it. Even though I’m not coughing now, that doesn’t mean Tussionex cured my cough and sore throat. It only stopped my coughing. Here’s what the PDR says about it:

“Tussionex Extended-Release Suspension is a cough-suppressant/antihistamine combination used to relieve coughs and the upper respiratory symptoms of colds and allergies. Hydrocodone, a mild narcotic similar to codeine, is believed to work directly on the cough center. Chlorpheniramine, an antihistamine, reduces itching and swelling and dries up secretions from the eyes, nose, and throat.”

You see, it’s used to “relieve” coughs and other symptoms, not “cure” them. They’re not even sure how it works. They “believe” the codeine derivative in it works directly on the cough center. The human body’s internal chemistry is so complex that I don’t know if we’ll ever figure it out properly. Right now, we’re still just stabbing in the dark when it comes to medicating people. We give them a drug and then, oops, we realize the effect isn’t the desired one, or that it interacts with other drugs and causes undesirable side effects. The PDR says about Tussionex that its “side effects cannot be anticipated”. And there’s also a section dedicated to its possible food and drug interactions. Here’s what that says:

“Tussionex may increase the effects of alcohol. Do not drink alcohol while taking this medication. If Tussionex is taken with certain other drugs, the effects of either could be increased, decreased, or altered. It is especially important to check with your doctor before combining Tussionex with the following:

  • Antispasmodic medications such as Bentyl and Cogentin
  • Major tranquilizers such as Thorazine and Compazine
  • MAO inhibitor drugs (antidepressant drugs such as Nardil and Parnate)
  • Medications for anxiety such as Xanax and Valium
  • Medications for depression such as Elavil and Prozac
  • Other antihistamines such as Benadryl
  • Other narcotics such as Percocet and Demerol”

You see, this is what medicine has become these days: the chemistry of drug interactions. Every physician that works in a field where they prescribe lots of medications has to know drug interactions perfectly, or they will put their patients’ lives at risk. Sadly, most do not know all they need to know, because the interactions are so complex.

My dad is a psychiatrist. He made it a point to know all the psychiatric drug interactions and those of common drugs administered by other doctors, such as primary care providers or internal medicine specialists. He studies them all the time and keeps up to date with all the latest medications. He meets plenty of other doctors who aren’t as well prepared as he is, and he’s told me often how shocked he is to find these people are prescribing drugs that readily conflict with others, creating undesired and potentially lethal side effects. The sad part is that when he tries to let them know about it, they usually brush him off. And then we wonder why so many patients do poorly in hospitals… Isn’t it to be expected when most doctors are ill-prepared to prescribe medications for their patients?

I think the takeaway lesson from all this is that prescription drugs can be very dangerous. They are not to be treated lightly, like I treated Tussionex — even though its nature is supposedly benign — it is, after all, “only” a cough syrup, right? A drug’s side effects and its interactions with other drugs need to be known not only by the doctor but also by the patient, so that each of us is aware of what we are putting inside our bodies. The consequences — if we don’t do this — can be fatal at times. I may not realize it fully right now, but I might not have been around today, and it was all because I self-medicated carelessly.

Updated 1/11/10: I’ve gotten a number of rude comments since I wrote this article, none of which were published, where dorm room heroes and couch potato experts called me all sorts of names, all because the dosage that I took was too low by their standards. They’d have been satisfied if I drank a whole bottle of Tussionex and woken up a month later out of a coma, or if I hadn’t woken up at all. What can I say, other than your mileage may vary. People react differently to different dosages. I suppose if my body had been addled by years of alcohol and prescription drug abuse, my tolerance level for the drug would have been higher, and three teaspoons wouldn’t have done much for me. However, when you lead a clean life and are in full possession of your senses, you tend to be much more sensitive to these situations. So please stop criticizing the article. I wrote it not to draw attention to myself, but to put up a warning sign about prescription drug abuse.


This is how you can look at 72

Meet Jim Morris, a 72-year old California man, who has been working out every day for most of his life and has won many bodybuilding competitions. He does it because he loves it. There’s a video of him working out on YouTube, originally broadcast one one of the local TV stations where he lives. The photo you see below is him at age 71, about a year ago.

Jim Morris 1

You can read more about his life and dedication to the sport of bodybuilding on his website. He is a personal trainer, and has helped many people get fit over the years, starting in the early 1950s. His diet is also something special. He only eats nuts, fruits, beans and vegetables.

Can it be done by anyone? I think so. You just need the inspiration, which Jim Morris has just provided, and the drive, which you must work up yourself. I think it’s worth it. Do you?

Images used courtesy of Jim Morris.

Exercise, How To

Starting a vegan diet

First, if you are indeed motivated to go vegan, I want to congratulate you, and to let you know that the advantages are incredible. But… going on a vegan diet could be a very drastic step for anybody, especially if they’re eating the usual American fare: red meat, fries, cola and coffee. You will experience significant withdrawal symptoms, even if you are now a vegetarian. You will definitely crave all of your old favorites, and there will be plenty of times when you’ll ask yourself why. It’ll be up to you to let your mind overcome your senses, and to choose health over appetites.

No matter what we think of food, it is a drug. Although it may not come in test tubes, it is made up chemicals which trigger certain reactions in our body. Some of these chemicals are addictive. Sugar for example, is an addictive chemical. We humans will crave sugar if we get our body used to a certain quantity of it on a daily basis. Similarly, certain chemicals in red meat are also addictive. When the animals are killed, they release certain “fight or flight” hormones in their bloodstream, which quickly travel to the muscle cells that make up the meat. These chemicals remain there through the cooking process until those of us who still eat meat consume it. Once in our body, these hormones, which are still active, trigger certain sensations of well-being and raised awareness, which are then associated with meat-eating. And we probably all know about the addictive qualities of coffee…

In a similar manner, although not as obtrusively, all of the food we eat either gets associated with positive or negative feelings. That is why we like certain foods. And we don’t even have to like them to experience withdrawal symptoms, we just have to be used to eating them. Their absence in our diet will make us miss them.

It is for these reasons that a great many people fail in their resolution to stay vegan, and revert to much less healthful lifestyles. Of course, there are other, secondary reasons, such as convenience (you can get a burger and a cola pretty much anywhere, but it’s much harder to find good vegan food) or health problems caused by a lack of planning in their diets.

Being a vegan by definition means eating a variety of vegan foods: vegetables, fruits and legumes. There are certain vitamins or minerals that only certain foods can provide, and if one sticks to the obvious lettuce and tomatoes and the hardy beans and potatoes and perhaps a few apples and bananas here and there, they’re going to run into serious health problems. While proper planning in a vegan diet will be treated in another article (and I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to write it,) here I simply want to introduce the concept of dietary planning and make you aware of the dangers inherent in a lack of planning.

How does one become a vegan? Well, as you’ve already seen, one has to be fairly motivated, and the strongest motivator that one can have is the desire to stay healthy and live a long life. And given all of the health problems caused by meat and dairy-based diets, going and staying vegan is the only way to ensure that your body can function at its best.

What’s next after motivation? Putting your beliefs into practice. My advice is to take it slowly. It’s not going to be good for you to go vegan cold turkey, because you’ll quickly get discouraged and might revert back to your old lifestyle. Vegan food tastes very bland to a person who’s been eating meat. You’ll need to get your taste buds and mind accustomed to the taste of vegan food, and after a few months of eating it, you’ll finally discover the finer flavors and textures of it. You may even begin to like it. Please don’t think this sounds dreary. I don’t look forward to my meals as a bland experience, but you may. Just realize that your attitude will change, but it may take months.

So how do you do it? If you’re now eating meat, calculate how many times a week you eat it, and reduce the number of meat-containing meals, replacing those meals with either chicken or fish, or vegetarian meals. You may be inclined to drop meat completely out of your diet. Good for you! Do it, but stick in there. If you’ve switched to chicken or fish, continue on this diet for about 1-2 months, all the while reducing the number of times you eat chicken or fish per week and replacing those meals with vegetarian meals. After 2-3 months at the most, you should be a vegetarian. Sounds easy? It is, if you stick to my plan.

Now that you’re a full fledged vegetarian, start planning your diet. Make sure you include all of the veggies and fruits that you need in your diet. And if you’re still consuming milk and cheese and eggs, drop the American-made cheese as fast as you can. I’m referring to the non-organic American cheeses. They are one of the least healthy foods on this planet. They are made from the milk of cows treated with all sorts of hormones that will wreak havoc in your body. Also, as a rule, dry cheese is not very healthy. Wet cheese (feta cheese, cottage cheese, etc.) is okay. But be sure to get only organic cheeses.

Next, drop the eggs. If you like them, you may want to read about their high fat and cholesterol content, and about the hormones they use to grow the chickens. You may also want to think about the fact that eggs are really the placenta and embryo of the chicken. If you must have eggs, get the organic kind. Next, drop the milk. The non-organic milk is loaded with unhealthy hormones, and it actually causes cancer cells in your body to grow and develop into tumors, because the cows here in the States are treated with growth factors (certain chemicals which cause cellular growth). These chemicals accumulate in the milk, and they’re not destroyed by pasteurization. If you must have milk, get the organic kind.

You shouldn’t stay in the vegetarian phase too long, or you’ll get stuck there, midway. Make the move fast, within 1-2 months of becoming vegetarian. Start reading about the vegan diet, and start planning your move. Make sure you know where to buy all of the vegetables and fruits that you need at reasonable prices. Have everything ready, learn a few good dishes to get you through the first vegan week, and then take the plunge. Throw away any vestige of your old lifestyle: any stale meat in the freezer, any cheese or eggs that you might have around the house, any candy bars, any cookies or potato chips. Clean out your house, so nothing tempts you, then start being a vegan.

Now you’ll be in for a few rough weeks, or even months, as your mouth will water at the sight of old foods. Stay in there, and read about the dangers of eating the old foods. It’ll keep you motivated. Believe me, you will begin to love vegan food, and you will also feel disgust at the sight or smell of old food, because now you’ll know exactly what’s in it and why it smells and looks the way it does.


Finding the right resolve for exercise

Exercise today is in bad shape. This is not because people are exercising too little, or because the general public’s perception of exercise is disdainful. We are being inundated with reasons to exercise these days. Virtually all magazines are full of large-type promises: a leaner waist, tighter abs, bigger arms, etc. The list goes on and on.

People’s approach to exercise today is very piecemeal. They focus on the trees instead of looking at the forest. Most every fitness article that I read mentions nothing about whole body workouts or gymnastics. Instead, they all give the “perfect” prescription for getting rid of fat in problem areas, or tightening/enlarging a specific muscle. Your body is not a machine. You cannot replace the spare tire around your waist by just working your abs. You cannot work on just specific parts and ignore the rest. You can focus on specific body parts, but you need to work your entire body.

What’s worse, the wrong reasons are offered for exercising. Have you looked at the headlines lately? “Have better sex”, “Have better orgasms”, “Impress the girls”, “Get the biceps that will turn eyes”, “Girls, get a tighter butt”, etc. Are those really the reasons that people should exercise? No!

Exercising simply to obtain those benefits is a short-sighted, egotistical approach that will only make it harder for you to have a positive body image. Exercising for these reasons will definitely enforce negative habits and cause you to obsess unnecessarily about things that are out of your control.

Imagine your kids are walking through the supermarket, and they stumble upon these magazines. Do you really want their impressionable minds to be stamped with these ideas?! You work hard enough trying to keep them on a good path in life, do you really want some profit-minded magazine editor making your life harder? Are these the goals that you would like them to strive for when they are exercising?

Here are the reasons for exercising on a regular basis:

  • Better health, even perfect health. Yes, this is an attainable goal! Good exercise coupled with a healthy diet and sleeping habits is the winning combination for perfect health. Without good health, we cannot lead normal lives. Our intellect is impaired and we cannot work and create at our best, our day to day activities have to be reduced, life is not enjoyed as much, personal relationships suffer enormously… I’m sure we can all think of many more problems that arise when we are not healthy.
  • A longer life. Yup, you’ll live much longer if you exercise on a regular basis. The statistics are all fairly conservative on the issue, but I can tell you that you’ll probably add 10 or more years to your life if you keep exercising till the day you die. Just think of all the people that have died in the prime of their life because they were overweight or simply did not exercise.
  • A faster, more powerful brain. Many research studies have talked about this lately. Exercise makes your mind work better. It’s a given. If you don’t believe me, try it out for yourself. Start an exercise program, and even after just one week, you’ll see a marked difference in the way you think and solve problems.
  • More physical strength. A balanced exercise program will increase your physical strength over time. Your strength can double, or even triple or quadruple depending on your current state.
  • A better posture. Exercise will make you stand up straighter, and will even help correct curvature issues of the spinal column such as scoliosis. Once the muscles in your back get stronger, and if you maintain good body posture at all times while exercising, mild to moderate scoliosis can be corrected largely or entirely. In addition to these benefits, people will give you more respect once you keep a straight body posture. It’s all in the body language. A person with slumped shoulders and a downturned head simply does not get as much respect as a person with correct body posture.
  • Increased flexibility. A good exercise program should make all of your muscles more flexible. Flexibility is the key to staying injury-free when we get older. It is because muscles aren’t flexible and don’t answer as fast that older people lose their balance and fall, breaking hips, legs and hands, sometimes even their necks.
  • Denser bone. Why should you care about this one? Because bones that are less dense are more likely to break. Older people get a disease called osteoporosis, where bones get less dense and as a result are brittle and break very easily. This disease is caused by age-related hormonal imbalances, but exercise can make their and your bones denser, because the effort of the movement not only stimulates your body to make the hormones necessary for bone health, but it also works the bones themselves, literally rejuvenating them. Blood once more circulates through them, and as they twist and turn with your muscles, they start once again to acquire the flexibility and density they possessed in your youth.

Now what do you think of exercise? I could come up with many more reasons, but these are the most important ones. And you will not get these benefits unless your exercise program is put together with them in mind. You will most certainly not get these if your workouts are motivated by a desire to turn heads or have better sex. Why? Because attitude is so important in any activity that we do. And when our attitude is selfish or it focuses on one shortsighted aspect instead of embracing the entire picture, our results suffer.

How then should we structure our exercise programs? Here are a few important guidelines:

  • You should take your entire body into consideration. I’m at the gym about 4-5 times a week, and I see people go there on a regular basis just to work on their abs, or just to work on their arms. I see people that just go there to run on the treadmills or just to use the stairmasters. That’s not the way to do it. An asymmetric approach will produce asymmetric results. People that run all the time may find that they still can’t get rid of the fat around their waists even though they run miles and miles every day. I see people who have indeed developed certain body parts very well, but others lag far behind. For example, their arms, especially their biceps, may be big, but their chest is small, and their legs are pencil thin. They not only put themselves in jeopardy because any one overdeveloped body part will cause imbalances in the rest of your body, but they also proliferate negative weightlifter stereotypes.
  • You should include a lot of stretching exercises in your workouts. As a rule, you should stretch before exercising, during your exercises, and after you are finished with your workout. Read these articles for some great stretching exercises.
  • You should not push your body too hard all the time. Don’t expect to set new personal records with every workout that you do. You will burn out, and that’s guaranteed. Instead, focus your efforts on maintaining good form in all your exercises, and on finishing all the sets that you planned to do. Personal records will come of themselves.
  • You should balance out your exercises. If you are a weightlifter, make sure your have days when you just stretch, run or swim. Plan ahead. Don’t do just one type of exercise all of the time. It may make your ego feel better, but your body will feel worse.

If you put the advice in this article into practice, I guarantee you that you will be pleasantly surprised. You will eventually receive all of the benefits mentioned here, and many more to boot. You may find that you have gotten rid of that spare fat around your waist, that you are indeed turning heads, and that your intimate relationships have improved, but these will be side effects. They should always be considered just side effects!

The main focus of all your exercises should be to maintain and increase your health. If you do this, all the other benefits will come as a nice bonus, as the icing on the cake. But your health should always come first. That should be your motivation, and that should be your goal.