Disease and the Conquest of the Americas

In his book, Born To Die, Cook explores the role that disease played in the European conquest of the Americas. Cook maintains that contrary to the Black Legend, so popular during colonial times and ever since, Old World diseases were immensely more successful than Spanish cruelty and atrocities in the conquering and subjugation of the indigenous peoples in the Americas.

While not denying that there were atrocities committed by Spaniards, Cook insists that the deaths of so many native peoples cannot be attributed to the atrocities exclusively, since “there were too few Spaniards to have killed the millions who were reported to have died” (Cook 9). Cook also points out that native peoples died wherever they came into contact with Europeans, be they Portuguese, English, French, or Dutch. The popularity of the Black Death was due, in large part, to what was occurring in Europe at the time. This was the period of the Spanish Armada and the Inquisition. Other nations used the Black Legend to justify taking actions against the Spaniards “in Europe or within their overseas territories” (Cook 8).

Cook begins his discussion where contact was first made: the island of Hispaniola. Within fifty years after contact, the native people were “virtually extinct” (Cook 16). According to Cook, this extinction of the Caribbean peoples “set a pattern that was repeated time and time again” in the Americas (Cook 16). Cook goes into much detail, in subsequent chapters, tracing the spread of diseases throughout the Latin American continent and North America. Numerous diseases afflicted the native peoples who had no immunity to them; smallpox, measles, influenza, typhus, bubonic plaque, yellow fever, and malaria spread quickly among the native peoples throughout the continents. These outbreaks of diseases were usually intensified through malnutrition and lack of medicines, and they were most often followed by pestilence, famine, and starvation. He draws his evidence concerning the disease epidemics mostly through missionaries’ and crown officials’ letters to the Spanish king.

Cook also refutes the accuracy of the Black Legend by insisting the Spaniards would not have committed indiscriminate slaughter of entire indigenous populations. Indeed, it was in the Spaniards’ best interests to protect the natives, since they needed the natives’ labor in the fields and mines. Cook contends that the Spaniards did take measures to protect the natives. They established quarantines to limit the spread of disease, but which were rarely successful. Spaniards also established laws to protect the natives from abuses by their employers or overseers, which the natives took full advantage in seeking justice from Spanish courts. These measures were undertaken to protect the Spaniards’ economic interests, no doubt, but they were undertaken, which disproves that Spaniards were indiscriminately murdering entire populations.

Unlike the Spaniards who tried to prevent the spread of disease, the English in the New England area of North America deliberately encouraged it. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, New England Puritans, deliberately and knowingly, gave the indigenous peoples “blankets infected with the smallpox virus” (Cook 213). Their motivation for these actions were to clear the land of people, who, they felt, stood in the way of their establishing “God’s City on a Hill” (Cook 213).

Cook contends that the “natural flow of epidemics followed normal trade and communications routes between groups of peoples” (Cook 209). This would explain how some communities fell victim to Old World diseases even before coming into contact with Europeans. It also would explain how many communities were not affected by diseases concurrently, but in many cases, it was years later before the epidemics showed up among their peoples.

Cook’s most convincing evidence to refute the Black Legend comes from his contention that it was not in the Spaniards’ best economic interest to wipe out entire communities of indigenous peoples from the area. The Spaniards needed their labor and, moreover, sincerely desired to convert them to Christianity. The laws passed by Spaniards to protect the natives from cruelty and exploitation, and the establishment of quarantines, further testify that the Black Legend is fundamentally untrue.

Cook offers compelling evidence in support of his refutation of the Black Legend, but the manner he presents the evidence is, on the whole, rather disjointed and confusing. His tendency to lump many different epidemics in different regions and at different time periods invariably forces the reader to continuously search for the particular time and place.

His writing style reads more like a collection of statistics, except for Chapter Two, which was rather lively and interesting. The reason it is more interesting is because Cook provides personal insights of the natives’ responses (e.g. running away to evade infection) and the effects of the epidemics (e.g. the struggle for power between Atahualpa and his brother Huascar after the prior Inca ruler succumbed to disease).

Despite the text being dry and hard to follow, it is very beneficial in refuting the common belief of the Black Legend. Although I have long known that disease played a role in the conquest of the Americas, I also believed that the Black Legend was the primary factor that brought conquest to fruition (so strongly was this belief that my personal name for Columbus Day is Mass Murder Day). While I still believe that European cruelties were excessive, I now see that disease, propagated by pestilence and malnutrition, was the cause of the majority of the deaths in the Americas.

Cook, Noble David. Born to Die: Disease and New World Conquest, 1492-1650. Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Is There Hope for Degenerative Disc Disease Sufferers?

If you have degenerative disc disease you know the pain it can cause. The areas where the degeneration occurs the pain can feel so intense you may wonder if you are simply broken.

What is degenerative disc disease?

It’s a disease where the spine breaks down and loses its flexibility. It is the #1 cause of back pain. Discs that act like cushions wear down and cause friction and resulting pain.

What causes it?

Physically demanding repetitive jobs, falls, accidents, misalignment and wear and tear, smoking, bad posture over time. As the condition progresses the discs may bugle or even herniate. It can feel very much like a grinding stiff mass of possibly broken bone inside of your body despite the fact that nothing is actually broken or chipped. It can be disturbing, hard to deal with and scary. It can become distracting to the point of finding it difficult to go on with everyday life.

The good news is that there most certainly is help, and it lies in chiropractic treatment. In many cases, even just the first treatment can bring some level of relief. When patients are treated in a course or series of treatments, relief on some level, varying by damage, is almost always found.

The Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation conducted a study with 40 male participants ages 30-40. All had diagnoses of degenerative lumbar disease. They were split into two groups. One given a placebo treatment and the other spinal manipulation. The results showed that the group receiving the spinal manipulations recovered far more quickly.

What are the presenting symptoms?

Debilitating Pain

Numbness

Tingling

Feeling a crunching of uncomfortable movement in the area

All may radiate from the affected area

How it’s treated

Chiropractic spinal manipulation (adjustments), exercise, decompression therapy, manual therapy, massage and trigger point therapy, ultrasound, ice, heat and interferential electrotherapy as well.

These have all been shown, especially when used in conjunction, to help reduce pain and even prevent further impairment.

Don’t live with pain. I have treated many patients with degeneration of the pelvis and hip joints. It starts as a simple misalignment of the pelvis. When the pelvic bones misalign, the hips cannot ride in the hip sockets like it was designed.

The first symptom is hip pain which may come and go, then progresses to bursitis, then on to osteoarthritis, and eventually, leads to hip replacement. It can be prevented!

Alzheimer’s Disease Signs and Symptoms Help Identify Alzheimer’s Disease Early

There are a number Alzheimer’s disease signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for which can help diagnose this disease. The most prominent which is memory loss? What seems to be a simple mistake in memory may be the start of Alzheimer’s. Anyone can suffer short periods of forgetfulness. Alzheimer’s is much more than that; it actually attacks your short-term memory first. Then slowly keeps progressing.

Since 1906 when the German born psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer first discovered Alzheimer’s disease in a patient, until this very day. Alzheimer’s remains a fatal ailment that has both absolutely no cause as well as no known cure.

There are however medications to help slow this disease from developing into its final stages. In addition there are drugs already available that can assist the sufferer and manage the side effects of depression, hallucinations and delusions.

As Alzheimer’s disease signs and symptoms progress the patient will start to forget familiar things and will begin to lose well-known skills. The patient will begin to start forgetting people’s names. Then they will actually become unable to identify their friends and family.

It wouldn’t be fair to blame all memory loss on Alzheimer’s disease. There are two basic reasons for memory loss. Naturally the patient’s age is a factor.One of Ten people 65 years of age and older will be experiencing some form of Alzheimer’s. And 50% of people 85 years of age and older will also experience some form, Alzheimer’s.

Presently here in United States as of 2011 there are over 5 million sufferers. As the baby boomer generation begins to reach their golden years, this monster of a disease will be waiting for them. The first early sign of Alzheimer’s is memory loss. Alzheimer’s disease will first attack the frontal lobe where the short-term memory is stored, and in many cases not affect the patient’s long-term memory. But as the disease progresses the patient will lose more and more of their skills. It will affect the way an individual thinks their ability to speak, and their behavior.

The patient will become indecisive and can start having trouble within decision-making processes. These lapses of memory as well as cognitive functions are based on the frontal as well as temporal lobes of the brain.

The patient may experience mood swings and may become violent or even excessive passivity. The later on stages will be more terrible. Alzheimer’s patients will begin to loss control of their body functions and muscle control as well as mobility.

Alzheimer’s generally develops and become deadly within approximately 5 to 20 years.

Since Dr. Alzheimer identified the disease in 1903, there have been medical breakthroughs and research studies that have been discovered to be beneficial in preventing or even delaying Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers believe that physical exercise and eating properly can reduce the chance of contracting this disease.people with high blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol, and low levels of vitamin b appeared to be at higher risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease.

The Truth About Red Wine and Heart Disease

Red Wine, Heart Disease, Hungry Sharks and Knights in Shining Armor

What is so special about wine? What is it that makes it potentially more protective against coronary heart disease, and perhaps other diseases, that other forms of alcohol?

In recent years, scientists have concluded without doubt that many human diseases such as heart disease, cancer and the aging process is caused or stimulated by a ravenous group of chemicals called free radicals, that act like hungry sharks. These highly charged little villains prowl the body and attack healthy cell membranes through a process that is called oxidation. In this scenario, there is however a knight in shining armor that jumps to the rescue and purges these ever hungry little killers. The name of our crusader is antioxidants.

Without getting too technical, the oxidation process in our bodies is crucial for health, without it, for instance, we would not be able to extract energy from our food. But if there are too many free radicals in our bodies this can be harmful.

Our body has its own defenses against free radicals, in the form of enzymes that are able to turn the hungry little sharks into harmless water. However, sometimes our body’s natural defense mechanisms can’t cope. Other times, external events can cause huge increases of free radicals within our bodies, such as x-rays, cigarette smoke and exposure to toxic substances. At times, this surge of free radicals can swamp our defenses and illnesses such as radiation sickness may take place.

So what does oxidation and free radicals have to do with heart disease?

Low density lipoproteins, commonly know as “bad” LDL, can penetrate and gather against the inner walls of our arteries, under certain conditions, forming fatty streaks and plaque. Taken alone, LDL particles aren’t so dangerous it seems, however, when attacked by free radicals they turn into dangerous and somewhat aggressive cells, capable of actually penetrating and harming the smooth inner walls of our arteries. This process is called oxidation. Oxidized LDL is known to be the culprit in stimulating atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke.

Antioxidants, as the name suggests (anti-oxidants) can help stop the oxidation process, which are the results of free radicals doing their stuff. Most antioxidant research has been carried out on vitamins (A, E, beta carotene) but quite a lot of work has also been done on the healthy benefits of red wine. While most research on red wine has been done in relation to coronary heart disease, it seems that the benefits of wine don’t stop there.

Red wine and Coronary Heart Disease

Red wine contains a wide range of flavanoids; these are the chemicals that give the wine its particular taste and character, making one different from another. Many of these flavanoids act like antioxidants. Perhaps the forerunner of wine research was carried out by a certain Serge Renaud, who discovered the French Paradox, which suggested that wine was the decisive factor in protecting the people in southern France from their very high fat diets and ultimately coronary heart disease. Even if these people do eat large quantities of high fat cheese, pâté, and salami they have some of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world.

Another study, statistical rather than practical, by a Professor Grey of the University of Bern in Switzerland focused on the low, medium and high coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality figures of the World Health Organization.

What did he find? Well from among the high mortality areas were Finland and Scotland, the middle areas included Ireland, and the low CHD areas included Spain, Italy and France. He then compared heart attack rates with antioxidant levels in blood samples taken from men living in those areas.

Vitamin E and Heart Disease

What he found was very interesting, the results showed that high antioxidant levels, in particular vitamin E, coincided with low death rates of heart disease. Moreover, his results showed that vitamin E levels were 94% more accurate in predicting CHD rates than were cholesterol levels or blood pressure figures! Apart from diet, the high CHD regions drink very little, if any wine, whereas the low regions traditionally accompany their meals most days with wine.

It certainly seems strange that two much studied cities; Glasgow in Scotland and Toulouse in France show many similarities and yet many differences. The inhabitants of both cities eat tremendous amounts of high fat foods, traditionally take little exercise and drink alcohol. The surprising difference is that while the people of Glasgow have one of the highest rates of CHD in the world, the fortunate people of Toulouse have one of the lowest. Traditionally beer and spirits are the preferred drinks in Glasgow, while the folks in Toulouse drink red wine.

It has also been suggested that drinking in moderation together with meals is beneficial, while binge drinking at bars in the evening is harmful. It seems the southern Europeans don’t drink for the alcohol buzz, but just as a pleasant accompaniment to their meals.

At first the large heart institutions such as the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association ignored both antioxidants and frowned upon wine. While it is clear that it could be potentially dangerous for a physician to recommend his patients start drinking alcohol, it is also strange that they pretended for so many years to ignore the evidence. Well, now even if they don’t promote the taking of vitamin pills; antioxidants and free radicals are now recognized. However, according to the AHA “There is no scientific proof that drinking wine or any other alcoholic beverage can replace conventional measures. No direct comparison trials have been done to determine the specific effect of wine or other alcohol on the risk of developing heart disease or stroke. Just ask yourself who would pay for such studies. Clinical Trials have the purpose of showing one thing to be better than another, or whether a certain substance is beneficial to health. The costs of clinical trials is so high that only the pharmaceutical industry have the financial clout to invest in them – invest is the correct word. What a surprise.