Know thyself, most of all your body

City talk | Susan Liang 23 Oct 2020

One should know one's body, and for starters, read a book called The Body by Bill Bryson.

Bryson was chancellor of Durham University between 2005 and 2011. He remains an honorary fellow of the Royal Society and has authored many books.

In particular, I was fascinated by the chapter on skin and hair.

Apparently, the skin is the largest human organ, and if not well maintained, it can affect our appearance and health.

It is a wonderful organ that produces melanin to protect us from the sun's rays and repairs itself - unlike the heart - as we shed our skin in a way that is like a snake, only more gradually.

Hence, I do not understand why hair salons are promoting keratin treatments and shampoos when we already have the protein in our hair.

I also believe that such treatments in some cases can damage rather than treat the hair, since they involve chemical processes.

A study by the New York University in 2007 found that most people have about 200 different species of microbes on their skin, but the load can differ from person to person, and they also reside on one's head.

However, they are generally harmless and invisible.

Sometimes, your scalp can become inflamed from contact dermatitis, but if you continue to scratch it, the irritated area will never heal.

However, what men fear the most is losing their hair.

Around 60 percent of men are substantially bald by age 50.

Little is known about why this happens, except that there is a hormone called dihydrotestosterone that tends to go haywire with age, causing the hair follicles to shut down. The only known cure for baldness is castration, which is a bit drastic.

With the ongoing pandemic, it is all the more important to know about your body.

There is an interesting chapter in the book on the immune system, lungs, whether a virus may be responsible for the onset of asthma and whether having a cat early in one's life can prevent asthma.

A virus, in the words of British Nobel laureate Peter Medawar, is a "piece of bad news wrapped up in a protein."

In fact, not all viruses are actually harmful, as they are lifeless until put in a living cell, after which they reproduce furiously.

There is also a chapter on nerves and pain, which remain science's greatest challenges, as the brain has no pain receptors itself, yet it is where all pain is felt.

Incidentally, pain and suffering are also categories of damages that a plaintiff may be awarded in a lawsuit caused by injury due to a defendant's negligence.

Despite the fact that pharmaceutical companies have poured billions of dollars into drug development, they still haven't come up with a drug that controls pain effectively and does not cause addiction.

As everyone knows, painkillers are opioids like heroin. Around 250,000 Americans died from opioid overdose between 1999 and 2014, while about two million Americans are opioid addicts currently.

The book also deals with various strange viruses that can kill you.

But what makes Covid-19 stand out is that it remains a mystery as to how it is transmitted - whether by air or by contact - and why it kills more men than women.

Scott Atlas, US President Donald Trump's medical adviser and a neuroradiologist with no background in epidemiology, has even put forward a herd immunity theory regarding the epidemic.

Susan Liang is a lawyer who likes to speak her mind on issues that concern the man on the street

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November 2020

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