Do Allergy Shots Work? Is Immunotherapy Effective?

I have been unknowingly suffering from allergies for years. In the spring and fall I would suddenly become “sick” and nothing I did could get rid of it. It took years for me to discover that it was allergies, not a virus each time, because my allergy symptoms are identical to that of the flu (fatigue, sneezing, itchy throat etc.).

Eventually I figured that I may actually be suffering from allergies, and after taking allergy meds I started to feel much better. The only problem: allergy meds knock me out. Even non-drowsy options make me feel tired and weird. The solution: allergy shots (immonotherapy)!

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What happened to the Discovery Channel and TLC? Trash TV, the New Norm

Television has been on a steady decline for many years now — not just fewer eyeballs watching glowing rectangles, but also due to a severe drop in content quality. There was a time, believe it or not, when there was intelligent and educational programming on TV. Unfortunately, those days have come and gone.

What happened to the Discover Channel and TLC?

Both the Discovery Channel and TLC have seen dramatic changes to their programming over the last decade or so, a dramatic shift from stimulating and educational to low-brow, sensationalist “reality TV”. There was a time when you might refer to TLC as The Learning Channel. Alas, that time is no more.

I grew up watching these channels, learning about the diversity of wildlife, history, science and technology and can honestly say that a good portion of what I know about the world came from these two channels that I used to watch religiously with my father. I cannot imagine what would happen to a child that were to grow up watching these channels now. Would they end up as a societal travesty like Honey Boo Boo?

TLC is undoubtedly the winner of the “Biggest Drop in Content Quality” award but Discovery comes in a close second with the History Channel as an honourable mention. While TLC has completely discarded any semblance of its former self, Discovery has tried to camouflage its content decline. While Discovery has kept a select few reasonable shows like Mythbusters, it has largely abandoned quality content as well with few shows that are not reality shows and car modification train wrecks.

Hilariously, Discovery will occasionally air a documentary to try and maintain this camouflage, however it recently blundered badly. Last month, on August 4th, 2013, Discovery aired a fake documentary about the Megalodon, a prehistoric shark that is believed to be extinct for the last 1.5 million years. They eventually confessed by adding a disclaimer at the beginning of the mockumentary the next time it was aired.

I still haven’t answered the main question posed in this post but the answer should be obvious. Discovery and TLC used to be extremely popular with intellectuals that love to learn about the world around them. Unfortunately, it seems intellectuals are too “niche”. So they have ditched their old high-brow content for something that appeals more to the “average” person.

What is truly unfortunate, is that they must be making more money as a result because they have not gone back to their previous ways yet. They pursued the dollar to the detriment of everything they used to stand for.

Thankfully, there is still one way out: Discovery World. It seems to have taken the place of the original Discovery Channel. It is still not the same, but the content is much closer to the way it used to be.

Unfortunately, it looks like intellectuals will be left to suffer in the new world of television. It’s okay, just close your eyes and do your best to block out the Honey Boo Boos and Jershey Shores in this new hell.

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Billions of 17 Year Cicadas are Coming!

17 Year Cicada

Billions of so-called “17 year Cicadas” are about to emerge, primarily from the North-Eastern United States soon. That’s right, billions. No word yet on if the Cicada invasion will affect Torontonians, but given Toronto’s proximity to New York/North Carolina, the main area to be hit by this invasion, we could very easily see a portion of the swarm as well.

For the uninitiated, Cicadas are devilishly disgusting creatures (see image, left) that cause virtually no harm to humans, and yet I hate them so. You know that buzzing sound you hear all summer long? Yeah, that’s them. It’s not a particularly annoying sound, although it is quite loud. They make that noise just to let you know they are there, lurking.

Cicadas are known to live underground as nymphs for most of their lives — sometimes as long as 17 years, as is the case with the “17 year Cicadas”. This particularly cohort stays underground longer than any other and when they emerge, they do so by the billions. The BBC video embedded below provides a great background on these disgusting and yet, amazing, creatures.

Cicadas are also known to be eaten around the world — their popularity likely comes from the fact that they are in plentiful supply and are so big they can quickly make a full meal. Of course, I cannot even begin to understand how people could eat such a thing but such is the diversity of human life!

So when you hear that persistent buzzing sound this summer, you will now understand what is making that noise. Perhaps you wish not to have been told.

Cold Can Help You Burn Fat and Lose Weight (Seriously), New Studies Suggest

According to a series of scientific studies springing up across the United States, keeping cold may cause you to burn additional calories and allow you to lose weight. A recent article in Wired, “Tapping the Power of Cold to Lose Weight“, describes the medical race that has begun to take advantage of this theory.

The concept is simple: all day long, whether you are awake or asleep, your body is burning calories to keep itself warm. So, in theory, the colder your environment, the harder your body has to work to maintain a constant body temperature —burning more calories and fat to accomplish this.

I say “in theory” but a number of studies now suggest that there is a close correlation between body temperature and on-going calorie burning. The most brilliant thing about the concept is how simple it is. How the body regulates heat is fairly well understood, so it is surprising that it took this long for the idea of using cold temperatures to burn additional calories to come to light.

Pharmaceutical companies are now working diligently to develop drugs that will invoke the physiological processes involved in keeping the body warm. It is believed that BAT (brown adipose tissue), a special type of fat that is involved in converting fat to energy, can be influenced to increase fat burning. Drugs are now being developed to trigger BAT processes and increase the amount of BAT an individual has.

Ray Cronise, a former NASA material scientist, is the man behind the movement. He formulated his “cold weight loss” theory after investigating Michael Phelps. Phelps is known to consume 12,000 calories a day and yet did not gain weight in doing so. Many people believed it was because of his exercise routine but despite Phelps’ rigorous training, it did not explain how he was able to burn off 12,000 calories a day (more than 6 times more than the average man). Ray believes it is because he trains in the water which lowers his body temperature, contributing to an above-average calorie burn.Using Cold Exercise to Lose Weight and Burn Fat - Michael Phelps

Ray has since put his theory to the test by trying to keep his environment cold as much as possible, day and night. He was able to shed 27 pounds in 6 weeks by incorporating cold treatment into his exercise and calorie-restriction routine.

Ray and other scientists throughout the U.S. are now actively studying the affects of cold on the body as it relates to weight loss, as well as how BAT plays into the equation. For the fat nations of the world, where the U.S. is truly #1, this cold therapy may be exactly what the doctor ordered.