SALT by Mark Kurlansky

Pub. Jonathan Cape, London 2002 (hardback), Vintage 2003 (paperback) 

This is a fascinating tale highlighting the importance of salt throughout our known history. Salt has been given a bad press in modern times, and people have avoided using it - because it has been used to excess in processed and junk foods. In fact, we need a moderate amount of salt, assuming we drink enough water each day. Without enough salt, one can fall ill and even die of hyponatraemia. This book is a well-written and far-reaching account, and contains a lot of information, ranging from interesting to vital. VG

NUTRIENTS A-Z, by Dr. Michael Sharon

First published by Prion Books Ltd (UK) 1998, 4th edition Carlton Books 2009. 

Food choices have become increasingly complicated because of modern agricultural and food processing methods. Michael Sharon PhD is a scientist with long-standing expertise in the field of nutrition. Nutrition is essential to human wellbeing and longevity. We need to know what foodstuffs consist of, in order to understand how to choose the best foods for our health. Food choices are very individual. Michael Sharon's book offers a comprehensive overview of the properties of a large number of common and more rare foodstuffs and nutrition sources. It is an excellent reference book, handily arranged in alphabetical order, with concise but fully informative descriptions for each item. It is an invaluable resource. VG

LIVING PROOF, by Michael Gearin-Tosh

pub. Scribner (an imprint of Simon & Schuster, London, UK) 2002

Subtitled 'a medical mutiny', this is the story of an Oxford don's response to being diagnosed with myeloma. The prognosis was bleak: death in a few months without chemotherapy treatment, or in two or three years with it. He decided to seek alternatives, and, with the help of his many friends, worked out his own treatment regime. He survived for eleven more years, and died of an infection not directly related to his cancer. Publicizing his rejection of received medical wisdom made Professor Gearin-Tosh unpopular with some medics, while others welcomed the fact that he had opened up debate. One cancer specialist described his actions as 'laudable, brave, and a little awe inspiring'. The message of this book is not in the various merits and de-merits of the treatments used or those which were rejected. It is much more a demonstration of the fact that the patient of sound mind has the right to choose, and practitioners should always respect that right, whatever they think of the actual choices made. Michael Gearin-Tosh's example has certainly helped others face serious illness in a more positive frame of mind. Apart from the happy memories he left his friends, students and colleagues, his legacy is this book and the website, 'Survive Cancer', which arose out of his experiences. VG

THE GREATEST BENEFIT TO MANKIND, by Roy Porter

pub. W.W.Norton & Co. Inc., New York, London, 1999 (paperback edition)

First published in 1997

Subtitled 'A Medical History of Humanity', this encyclopaedic tome covers a massive amount of material, detailing vast numbers of facts. Yet it is a compelling, fascinating read, revealing the traditions from which modern medical practices have arisen, and how developments and breakthroughs happened. Some significant advances happened by chance, many arose as the result of clinical experiences, and yet others as the result of painstaking research. The evocative but factual descriptions help modern-day practitioners and patients to understand the nature of medical treatment, and to make reasoned choices about what treatment to apply or receive in given circumstances. VG

WHAT DOCTORS DON'T TELL YOU, by Lynne McTaggart

pub. Thorsons, 2005, 2nd edition

Lynne McTaggart is a health campaigner who for years has been encouraging people to take responsibility for their medical care in the face of illness. Patients have the right to know what any treatment entails, and what the risls of that treatment are, if any. They have the right to choose whether to undergo a particular type of treatment or not. In order to make reasoned choices, they have to know the facts about what treatments are available. This book is essential reading for patients, helping them to make informed choices about their health and how to deal with medical problems. VG

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