medical marvels

April 15, 2009

part 1: inspired by soup
a couple of months ago, i was having a typical phone conversation with my sister: we were both cooking at the time (in our respective apartments about 30 miles apart), and rambling on about all sorts of random topics to pass the time as things were simmered and chopped. the subject of asparagus came up, probably because one of us was roasting some.

i mentioned offhandedly that i hated how pee smelled after eating it, because we are sisters and have no problem talking about such things. i was shocked — SHOCKED! — at her response, “yeah, i’ve heard people say that, but i have no idea what you are talking about.”

at first, i thought she was probably just incredibly unobservant (neither of us typically win prizes in that category), or that maybe she just flushed more quickly. i had assumed that everyone who ate asparagus had the same bathroom experience that i did! but a little bit of internet research revealed that actually, not everyone who eats asparagus produces malodorous urine, and furthermore, not everyone has the olfactory capabilities to smell it. i have yet to smell her pee to help place her into either (or both!) of the ‘non-producer’ and/or ‘nonsmelling’ categories, but i’m sure it will happen sooner or later.

apparently, i am not the only one who thinks this is at least somewhat fascinating. this morning, i came across an entire scientific review article by a UK author (in an actual, peer-reviewed journal) on the effects of asparagus (and beets!) in urine.
from Drug Metabolism and Disposition, 29(4), 2001:

below are 2 excerpts from the article:

excreters vs. nonexcreters
perhaps the brits have no reason to converse on the subject, but because i am gauche and improper (at least with my sister), i was able to make this discovery prior to reading about it!

according to the article, between 40-50% of brits in one study were excreters.

complicating matters: perceivers and nonperceivers
this makes things much more interesting! if you yourself have never detected the odor in your urine, aren’t you curious about which category or categories you fall into?

obviously, i am an excreter/perceiver. and proud of it!

part 2: cure for what ails you
as part of my efforts to be a better, smarter resident, i spent some time yesterday reading some of the articles provided for the rotation that i am on. i came across an interesting peds in review article on multicultural perspectives on the common cold. it had some good points about the dangers of prescribing medicines for upper respiratory infections — in addition to cost and potentially harmful side effects, giving patients a prescription for their kid-with-a-cold means that every time little johnny (or jose, as the case may be) sneezes, he will be back for more, perpetuating the cycle.

i treated enough colds in the ER to see exactly how this works (although i am happy to say that we do not hand out meds in this fashion). something i was not aware of is that apparently in many other countries, antibiotics are available over the counter and used by parents to treat ailments such as a cold. while there is excellent data (and logic!) to prove that this is only going to cause diarrhea and breed resistent bacteria, not everyone is aware of that. and think about it — if your kid got better every time you bought him antibiotics, you would probably be convinced that they work.

anyway, all of that was helpful, but the reason i wanted to write about it was that in the article was a great chart of home cold remedies in various nations. here are some of my favorites:

hawaii: go for a swim in the ocean. sounds good to me!

china: boiled cola with ginger. really, like coke or pepsi? ew! can anyone from china, or who has been to china, confirm or deny?

mongolia: hot aarts, which is acid yak milk. YUM! i think one would have a hard time procuring this in chapel hill.

russia: alcohol (vodka:water 4:1) compresses to the neck. i can only imagine how many uses there are for vodka in russian culture.

france: grog (black tea with rum, lemon & honey) — hmm, i think i can guess which ingredient effectively puts your sick child into a comfortable deep sleep.

part 3: in which i am poked and prodded
i am getting an ultrasound today! no, not the kind where you get to see a little baby beating heart — don’t get all excited. this is an ultrasound of my kidneys and the blood flowing to them. you might not guess from looking at me, but see, i’m hypertensive. not ‘about-to-bust-a-cerebral-artery!’ hypertensive, but ‘oh dear, is that really your blood pressure? let me check again’ hypertensive. since this is a change from my previous good BP and because it does not really fall in line with the rest of my health, my doctor is being uberconservative and making sure it’s not secondary to any other issue.

i am 99.9% sure that i am just unlucky (and that i probably eat too much salt, although i’m working on it) but i suppose where kidneys and things are concerned it’s probably good to be careful.



workout: 5 miles @ 8:52/mi (outside in CH — managed to beat the rain!) + level 2 of the 30-day shred.

doin’ time: the soup that inspired this post — asparagus, of course!
recipe is on the sidebar. i liked this soup, but probably would have preferred less lemon and a bit more cream. it was a pleasant and very easy weeknight dinner, though, thanks to the immersion blender. josh was on call, so i ate with murakami — and finished kafka on the shore! i’ll write more about that tomorrow.

reading: a solid hour of dental modules and 30-45 minutes of cultural competency. i don’t think i can count my asparagus research.

flossing: yes. it’s starting to feel like a regular habit again. whew.


  • Reply Aimee March 10, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    I hope you don’t have RAS!

  • Reply Anonymous March 10, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    I liked your discussion on the results of asparagus. I even know someone who shuns asparagus because of its effect. I am curious if research has shown whether one’s “excretion vs non-excretion” or “perception vs non-perception” can change over time. I don’t remember experiencing that malodious effect when I was younger, but now I do. So what do you think?

  • Reply HangryPants March 10, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    We had asparagus at Easter and all the kids in my family were lined up (we had a buffet) to try it. This seemed odd to me, so I asked them if they liked asparagus. “Oh yes,” they told me. They proceeded to explain to me that they liked how it made their pee bright and stinky. 😀

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