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New York Times

Why big scary predators are good for your health

Every year, at least 30,000 people — and possibly 10 times that — are infected with the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, most in the Northeast and upper Midwest. Symptoms can include fatigue, joint pain, memory problems and even temporary paralysis. In a small minority of cases, the malaise can persist for many months. So it’s worrisome that in recent decades, Lyme cases have surged, nearly quadrupling in Michigan
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Health secrets of the Amish – NYT

In recent decades, the prevalence of asthma and allergies has increased between two- and threefold in the United States. These days, one in 12 kids has asthma. More are allergic. The uptick is often said to have started in the late 20th century. But the first hint of a population-wide affliction — the sneezing masses — came earlier, in the late 19th century, among the American and British upper classes. Hay fever so
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The Parasite Underground – NYT Mag

When Vik was in his late 20s, blood started appearing in his stool. He found himself rushing to the bathroom as many as nine times a day, and he quit his job at a software company. He received a diagnosis of severe ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory condition of the colon. Steroids, which suppress inflammation, didn’t work for him. Sulfasalazine suppositories offered only the slightest relief. A year and a half afte
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Notes on Parasite Underground

I have a piece in the NYT Mag on the community of people who self-treat with parasites. They operate almost entirely outside of any regulatory or medical oversight. This is a story about desperate people trying to cure themselves with an unproven therapy. It’s not a story about whether the therapy works. We don’t know if it does. And in fact, there’s good evidence, in the form of double-blinded placebo-controlled stu
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Educate your immune system – NYT

IN the last half-century, the prevalence of autoimmune disease — disorders in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue in the body — has increased sharply in the developed world. An estimated one in 13 Americans has one of these often debilitating, generally lifelong conditions. Many, like Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, are linked with specific gene variants of the immune system, suggesting a strong geneti
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On NPR’s Tell Me More with Michel Martin

On NPR’s “Tell Me More” with host Michel Martin. The co-guest was Mauricio Lim Miller, founder of the Family Independence Initiative, a very interesting nonprofit that’s driven by some very interesting ideas about what drives the cycle of poverty (hint: dependence and loss of — let’s just call it faith in one’s ability to get stuff done, or agency). I was there apropos of my
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What Happens When the Poor Receive a Stipend?

Growing up poor has long been associated with reduced educational attainment and lower lifetime earnings. Some evidence also suggests a higher risk of depression, substance abuse and other diseases in adulthood. Even for those who manage to overcome humble beginnings, early-life poverty may leave a lasting mark, accelerating aging and increasing the risk of degenerative disease in adulthood. Today, more than one in f
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A cure for the Allergy Epidemic?

Allergies are often seen as an accident. Your immune system misinterprets a harmless protein like dust or peanuts as a threat, and when you encounter it, you pay the price with sneezing, wheezing, and in the worst cases, death. What prompts some immune systems to err like this, while others never do? Some of the vulnerability is surely genetic. But comparative studies highlight the importance of environment, beginnin
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Status and Stress

Although professionals may bemoan their long work hours and high-pressure careers, really, there’s stress, and then there’s Stress with a capital “S.” The former can be considered a manageable if unpleasant part of life; in the right amount, it may even strengthen one’s mettle. The latter kills. What’s the difference? Scientists have settled on an oddly subjective explanation: the more helpless one feels when facing
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What Really Causes Celiac Disease?

WE know that the proteins called gluten, found in wheat and other grains, provoke celiac disease. And we know how to treat the illness: a gluten-free diet. But the rapidly increasing prevalence of celiac disease, which has quadrupled in the United States in just 50 years, is still mystifying. Scientists are pursuing some intriguing possibilities. One is that breast-feeding may protect against the disease. Another is
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