As 2013 rushed in, my desk was piled with new books that were aimed at some aspect of wellness, mental or physical, technical or fun. Among them, I found a few that are all quite unlike each other except for the shared goal of giving the reader something that's needed in order to be better, whether for you that means happier or healthier or simply more self-aware.
These four books fit into that category. It would be a shame to overlook them.
"HONEST MEDICINE," by Julia Schopick, Innovative Health Publishing, $14.95, www.honestmedicine.com.
Shopick is an award-winning health writer and blogger whose husband, Tim Fisher, had a malignant brain tumor. Much of her writing stemmed from their intensive journey deep into the health care system as they tried very hard to save his life. He lived for 15 years after his first diagnosis, but in the end, he didn't make it once his cancer recurred.
When he had a wound that would not heal, Schopick launched into a search for any kind of treatment that would help, willing to explore supplements, complementary medicine, anything that would work, no matter how alternative it was. And that's what she found in the form of a little-known treatment called Silverlon.
It healed his wound, although he would not overcome the overwhelming toll of his illness and he ultimately died. She came away from the whole experience convinced that conventional medicine is biased against certain treatments and that most doctors are reluctant to consider them, often simply because they don't know about them and are not willing to learn.
The book is about three treatments she thinks fit into that category, all readily available in the United States, England and Canada, as well as some other parts of the world. They are not new; the youngest is 25, the oldest 90. They all have conventional doctors who are vocal in supporting them, as well as patients who would scream their success if they had a way. And they are all quite inexpensive compared to the price of most treatments that are more widely offered for the conditions being treated.
Those treatments, which Schopick explains to readers in some detail, are intravenous alpha lipoic acid, the Ketogenic Diet and use of low-dose Naltrexone. The latter is used in small amounts to treat substance abuse. It's the off-label use to treat some immune system disorders like MS that interest Schopick.
She is knowledgeable, her writing is easy to digest and her conclusions are backed up by her research and that of others. She believes there are ways to treat multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and liver disease that are being ignored and could benefit patients.
It is a book that makes one want to ask more questions and push back a little when told there's just one medical solution or that nothing more can be done.
"THE CARE AND KEEPING OF YOU 2: The Body Book for Older Girls," by Dr. Cara Natterson, published by American Girl, $12.99
I'm the mom of teenage girls, now almost 15 and 16. And I promise you, if I had had this book about three years ago, I'd have skipped a couple of very awkward conversations. Or maybe not skipped, but delayed them until the girls had had a chance to read this book.
"The Care and Keeping of You 2" is all about change — body shapes, moods, interests and more. And it's both informative and highly entertaining as it explains everything from menses to why legs get hairy, the importance of sleep and how crucial washing hands correctly is and why.
If it sounds silly, I'm not presenting it very well. This book is a quick read that imparts a lot of information, with quirky illustrations by Josee Masse.
If you have a tween or young teen, I highly recommend this book.
"BESIDE THE MOUNTAIN: Finding Strength and Courage Through My Father's Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease," by Stefania Silvestri, $13.95.
She wrote the book for herself mostly, Stefania Silvestri told me a few months ago when I interviewed her for a story on end-of-life issues. It started as her thesis at Emerson College, where it won the 2011 Dean's Award. Then she published it.
As a writer, Silvestri is a siren, drawing one close to be smashed upon a rock. That rock is Alzheimer's disease, which claimed the father she loved so much. Her father was a young man when dementia started stealing pieces of him. He was only 48 when diagnosed with the early onset form. The disease creates a journey at once personal — like snowflakes, no two are identical — and almost formulaic, with a mostly predictable downslide, the loss of senses and sensibilities, diminished dignity and ultimate death.
It's also a love story, told passionately. Silvestri and her mom and two sisters carry Giovanni Silvestri's ashes back to his hometown in Italy, the tale of two countries and lives woven skillfully.
She writes with passion, yearning, sorrow — and moments of resounding joy. The book gives one the sense that Alzheimer's doesn't have to feel like such a solitary trial.
"COULD IT BE B12?" by Sally M. Pacholok and Dr. Jeffrey J. Stuart, Quill Driver Books, $14.95.
The second edition of what's being billed as an "underground classic that has saved lives" is built around one premise in particular: People are suffering from a lack of a much-needed vitamin and some are being misdiagnosed, while others find their complaints dismissed. It's written by a doctor, Stuart, and a nurse, Pacholok.Comment on this story
This vitamin deficiency has diverse effects, they say, including symptoms that are similar in some cases to dementia, or multiple sclerosis, autism or depression, infertility or developmental delay. Frequents falls, mental illness, forgetfulness and more may in fact have a single underlying cause: not enough B12.
It's not just a matter of dealing with feeling bad, either. Failure to treat the deficiency has long-term results, including severe nerve damage, these experts warn.
This is a guide to how B12 works, how problems are diagnosed and what someone can do to see if that's the problem. Besides describing symptoms that can occur, it also provides information to share with physicians and breaks down the costs — of dealing with and of letting it go.
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