Where there is no doctor… online!

Where there is no doctor… online!

If  y’all haven’t seen the fantastic book “Where There is No Doctor”, it’s great! There are useful charts for identifying skin disorders, as well as a fascinating chapter regarding home remedies and popular beliefs that should be absolutely required reading for all radicals and punks. (Go read it now!) It’s also available in full, online, for free! Thanks to http://www.anarchapistemology.net for pointing this out. Attention punks with printing presses… maybe it would be helpful to print some of the charts (or chapters?!) to give out at the next book fair?


Spaghetti “Fungus”, Philly Funk

[Bottom line: It’s not a fungus. Shave your armpits and keep them dry until it’s gone. ]

While we’re on the subject of armpits, let’s talk about the Philly Funk, shall we? This condition has a lot of names punk circles, probably because it is really common. Like how there are lots of names for dandelions (puffball, clock, &c). I’ve mostly heard the armpit hair stuff called “Philly funk” or “spaghetti fungus”. In case you don’t already know what I’m talking about, it’s when armpit hair (and sometimes groin hair) gets a yellowish or reddish or even black coating of schmutz on it. This changes the texture of the hair, and generally makes the area more smelly than usual. If you are rather observant, you might notice the hair coating swells when it’s wet, becoming more noticeable. It also sometimes leaves yellow or red stains on clothing! So… lots of us have experience with this… what the heck is it?

Despite the name and common assumption, it is actually an overgrowth of bacteria rather than a fungus. Clearly, someone else thought it was a fungus as well, since the latin name for it —Trichomycosis axillaris– means ‘hair fungus of the armpit’. So, everyone can be surprised to find it’s a bacteria. Why do we care about the difference? Because you do different stuff to get rid of it. If you read the previous post, you will already understand that bacterial poop is what makes the armpits smelly and thus know that it stands to reason that the Philly funk would be extra smelly. In short, that’s a lot of bacteria, and it’s making a lot of poop, and that makes for a noticeable smell. You might notice smelling a bit different than your normal smell.

Where does it come from? T. axillaris is caused by gram positive bacteria in theCorynebacterium genus who love warm, consistently moist conditions. Not bathing much, not shaving the armpits, and otherwise being a radical armpit, really sets these guys up nicely and they take off encrusting everything!

Here’s how to get rid of it… Have a clean shirt ready. Shave your armpits (I know, I know. I promise it will grow back) if you can’t shave them for some reason, carefully removed as much hair as you can with scissors. Put on that clean shirt. Don’t put on any shirts you haven’t just washed or get in any bedding you were in before you shaved those pits. Wash everything first! Shaving your pits and washing your clothes and bedding alone might do the trick especially if you wear anti-antiperspirant every day, but honestly, you’d be lucky if that’s all it took. To really send it running, splash your armpits with rubbing alcohol after showering, and every day for a while, maybe a week or two. Wait an hour or so after shaving before applying rubbing alcohol to avoid the sting. An alternative to alcohol is to wash your (hairless) armpits daily with benzoyl peroxide. This is an ingredient in some face washes (like Neutrogena Clear Pore). Try to keep the area as dry as possible, by using an anti-antiperspirant for a while, or a drying powder. If you don’t want to do either of those things, change clothes often to keep pits as dry as you can. The same procedures can be used on the groin area, though I don’t think you ought to be putting antiperspirant down there and a benzoyl peroxide cleanser might carry less sting than rubbing alcohol. This should do the trick! If it doesn’t, of course you may have misdiagnosed it. Or, if you have a really persistent case, you might need a topical antibiotic. As always, see a healthcare professional whenever you can instead of taking advice from blogs. For real. It may not be as expensive as you’d think, and getting regular checkups is worth every penny. Those folks go to school for a long time, and even after all that school, diagnosing things correctly is still one of the most difficult skills they develop. To think we can do it without any training and by using the internet is actually pretty foolish, but I digress. This regimen ought to beat the Philly Funk, good luck!! Leave a comment if you’ve heard another name for this!



Axillary Auxiliary (Armpits!)

It’s getting to be winter in the northern hemisphere, and that means more time spent indoors. And for some it means travel, holiday gatherings, and generally more time spent in close proximity to others. For a lot of us punk type folks, winter also means experiencing a wide range of quickly changing temperatures along with sometimes negotiating space with non-punks. Maybe it’s cold where you sleep, and hot where you work. Or it’s cold where you usually sleep, and hot where you’re spending your holidays. For me, being in a warm place often coincides with being around people I don’t want to share my smell with Here’s the scene: it’s chilly where I get dressed so I sleep in long-johns, jump out of bed and put on lots of layers as fast as I can, then I go somewhere hot and take off layers, only to discover that I totally stink under there. Sometimes, like when I’m with a lover, this is totally fine- even preferred. Other times, I’m with people I don’t want to share ‘smell-intimacy’ with, for me that’s some friends, some co-workers, classmates, and family. Personally, I only like to share the way my body smells with people I share other things about my body with. For me, my smell is personal and lovely and I don’t want to share it with just anyone. Some people figure capitalist society wants to reduce our smell to reduce our wildness, I personally think they just like to capitalize on insecurity because it’s a great way to sell people stuff. For me, deciding to stink all the time in reaction to capitalism would still be a way of making a decision about my body with culture at the center, rather than myself. Relationship to body odor is of course different for everyone, but whatever your own reasons are for wanting understand the causes or perhaps lessen your odor, read on!

So, first things first: how does it work? Body odor (here i’m speaking mostly of armpit smell) is caused by several things. I’m going to keep this post simple, the main cause is bacterial poop. Sweat itself has no smell. For real. It really doesn’t. Ok. Folks have loads of bacteria on our skin at all times, just like we have bacteria in our guts. These bacteria (also referred to as “normal flora” just like the gut bacteria) are mostly helpful, living peacefully on your skin and taking up all the space so that bad bacteria can’t get established and cause trouble. These bacteria need to eat and poop (or “take in nutrients and excrete”, the process looks a bit different for them than it does for us) just like every other living thing. Their poop makes up your smell. It’s your smell because they are your bacteria.

So, the smell in your armpits is (pretty much) due to bacterial poop. They (pretty much) eat your sweat. People have different smells because they have different bodies, and different habits, and slightly different bacteria. This has to do with genetics, habits, favorite foods, medications, environment, etc!The immune system balances our skin flora and there isn’t generally a reason to worry with its composition. The immune system sorts them out and if all is going pretty alright, it ‘picks’ the ones for you. Interestingly, there is evidence that people are attracted to the body odor of people whose immune systems are very different than their own! Some people have an “extra” type of sweat gland in their armpits that secrete a milky sweat that’s rich in proteins, pheromones, and other things bacteria love to snack on. This sweat doesn’t have it’s own smell either, but it contributes to a more odoriferous armpit by being really nutritious as compared to that of folks who just have the one kind of sweat gland. But the point is really the bacteria and their poop here, not the sweat, so let’s get back to that.

There are several ways to reduce armpit smell. Below are some of my favorites.

Generally speaking, these strategies work best after cleaning the armpits with soap and water.

No ins, No outs: you can reduce the amount you sweat thus taking away the bacteria’s food. No food means no poop means no smell. This is a little hard to accomplish, and is basically the arena of anti-perspirants. I go this route when I know i’m going to be sweating, like during stressful interviews. This way I also avoid looking quite as nervous, i.e., no tell-tale wet spots on my nice shirts. Anti-perspirants aren’t too good for your health though, so I recommend using them somewhat sparingly.

Is that… swamp violets?: you can cover the smell with another smell. Sometimes this works just fine, sometimes it is not helpful (some personal smells are just too strong). This is the realm of deodorants without anti-perspirant. If you are taking this route, I suggest picking a scent that “goes along with” your own scent, rather than against it. I personally think muskier, woodsier scents tend to go well with body odor and powdery/floral scents go badly with it. This is clearly a matter of opinion.

Faster– Kill!! Kill!!: If you kill off the bacteria in your armpits, you won’t have armpit smell until they come back. Don’t worry, they repopulate just fine from the surrounding area, but you’ll have a little while (hours?) scent-free. Basically, splash or wipe your ‘pits with rubbing alcohol. This is a great method to use if you don’t have any deodorant on hand but you do have rubbing alcohol. It isn’t great for your skin, so don’t do it all the time. But, say you only need to not-smell like once a year (holidays, anyone?) and you don’t want to buy deodorant just for that one day… this is a great method! I use this method also when I’m working in a clinic or hospital (where alcohol wipes are plentiful) and forgot to de-stink before I got there. An extra note- a good option if you have “the philly funk”, also known as “spaghetti fungus”, the alcohol will help you get rid of it.

No home and it’s got to roam(?): If you shave your armpits, you will smell less. The hair traps the smell and holds onto it. Shaving won’t totally eliminate it, but it really can make a big difference. I prefer to trim the hair really short with a beard trimmer, myself. I do this before I go traveling, or any other time I might not be showering as much.

ARRRRTTAAAXXXX!!!! or, too slow to poop: this is your salt “crystal” deodorants. The salt makes your armpits so dang salty that the bacteria either die, or slow their metabolism so much that they aren’t pooping. I think of it as if they are stuck in quick-sand, though this metaphor actually has nothing to do with what’s physically happening. This stuff works really well and as far as I can tell, isn’t bad for you. You will still sweat, and the bacteria will live, but they will not be able to grow and eat and poop. Here’s the deal though: the crystal-salt has to actually coat your skin. This means if you have a lot of armpit hair, it’s not going to work quite as well. My suggestions here, either shave the hair or trim it short with clippers (I use a beard trimmer), then wet the crystal and rub it on your armpit. The trick here is to rub it all over and rub it a lot of times. Try rubbing up and down and also side to side. It’s got to coat the area. If you don’t want to remove hair, or if you don’t have ready access to water, I suggest the crystal roll on or spray- it’s already liquified and more easily coats and gets past hair. Either way, once you get it on there, it basically lasts until you shower or rub it off. This is a really good option for many punks in my opinion. It doesn’t add extra smells necessarily, and it works, and it isn’t bad for you. Your punk friends won’t know you’re using deodorant, and you also won’t be sharing your personal smell with others. The other punk-friendly thing here is that the solid forms of crystal deodorant last for years. I’ve been using the same crystal deodorant for almost three years now! Note- I’m talking about potassium alum, sold as “crystal deodorant”, not table-salt or quartz.

Well, that’s sums it up for now! There are surely other methods out there, let me know if you know of any good ones! I hope negotiating this coming holiday(s) goes alright for folks. 

Unfuck That Punk House Grime

[Bottom line: check out http://www.unfuckyourhabitat.com/%5D

For those of you who live in punk houses, or dirty houses… Houses do not need to be sterile in any way, and *some* exposure to microbes is good, but dust and grime and trash can bring down your general health and your well being. This is particularly true of houses that dogs come into. Living in a house that is dirty (I’m not just talking about clutter here, but actual dirt) can also bring down your mood in ways that might not be apparent until the house is clean(er). Also, you may get sick less. A co-worker of mine once moved out of her punk house because the shower was too dirty to use, and she felt it was uncleanable. I didn’t see it myself, but few showers, if any, are actually uncleanable in and of themselves. If you are interested in living in somewhat cleaner quarters, I highly suggest checking out this website: http://www.unfuckyourhabitat.com/  I love how it offers fierce, compassionate assistance to those who are intimidated by cleaning, or who find it emotionally troubling, or who live with people who are uninterested in a cleaner house. Also, I know we all love the earth. But, if you are facing a really daunting cleaning task, I highly suggest getting the cheapest, most chemical-laden cleaners at the dollar store or hardware store and using those, at least at first. “Pine Shine” is just as good as the more expensive stuff. Eco-products with happy babies and sunshine and such on the labels require a lot of elbow grease, and in my experience work much better to clean a home that’s pretty much already clean. Get those after you’ve scrubbed all the visible grime off with the harsher stuff. If you’d like, wear vinyl gloves, open the windows, and feel free to wear your gas mask if you want! Also, if you are averse to cleaning but wish it was a little cleaner, stronger products can sometimes be sprayed on and left for a while, making stuff easier to wipe up. If its in the shower, you can sometimes spray, leave, and rinse. Some products are even marketed for that! In the case of my co-workers gross shower, I bet leaving a spray cleaner on overnight, rinsing in the morning, and repeating would have made a major dent in the problem and saved her the hassle of moving. Feel free to email me if you want to know how to clean something but don’t know how, I’ll help if I can!

True facts.

You know how there’s a lot of bacteria in the world, but you know, they’re really, really small? Well, if you put all the bacteria currently living on earth end-to-end, they would reach all the way to the edge of the visible UNIVERSE.


This wasn’t actually a true fact! Using William Whitman’s 1998 estimate of 5*1030 total bacteria on earth and an average bacterial length of 2micrometers, I calculate that they would stretch about 1.0579 light years, or about 1 billion light years. Hubble has been able to see things around 10-15 billion light years away, which gives us the size of the visible universe. Note that visible and observable are different things as it comes to astronomy. SO, all the bacteria on earth would stretch a bit more than 1 billion light years, or about 1/10th of the visible universe. That’s about 10,570 milky way galaxies lined up end to end. Still pretty impressive.

The Yeast Beast!

Hello darlings! My friends often call me up to ask about yeast infections, and they often have crazy ideas about them. I’m going to try to settle some of the punk myths and point y’all toward some true facts about your friend and mine, Candida.

To start off, there are four main bodily locations of yeast infections: mouth, the “vagina”, feet, blood. These are respectively called: oral thrush, ‘innie’ genital (sometimes called “vaginal”) yeast infections, athlete’s foot, and systemic yeast. There are also yeast infections of the skin in general, but that’s a different topic I’m not covering here. A lot of punks erroneously confuse one yeast infection for another!

These are all overgrowths of yeasts in the Candida family. It is normal and healthy to have some Candida yeasts growing in and on the body all the time. Remember when giant jellyfish were attacking Japan and Florida? (http://www.nature.com/news/marine-ecology-attack-of-the-blobs-1.9929) Yeast infections are a little bit like that. It’s normal for the ocean to have some jellyfish in it, but when some ecologic disturbance happens, or sometime just because, jellyfish bloom out of control and other fish are crowded out. That’s sort of what happens with yeast.

[EDIT: This may actually be the normal cycle of jellyfish and not aberrant. I still like the metaphor.]

It’s healthy and normal and all that jazz to have some yeast in and on the body all the time. It normally lives peaceably with its neighbors in small quantities. Every now and then, something upsets the balance and yeast blooms out of control and crowds everything else out. That’s when you have a problem.

Myth 1: Genital yeast can be cured by diet changes.

Genital yeast lives in the interior portion of AFAB1 genitals or of surgically constructed vaginas. The interior portions of the genitals, where yeast is most commonly a problem, are not connected to the intestines2. There is a wall of tissue and muscle between the intestines and the inside genitals. It’s part of what makes anal sex different from genital sex. It’s what keeps poop from coming out of the genitals. Yeast cannot walk through this wall. Yeast eats sugars, so many people claim that not eating sugar will cure a genital yeast infection. When you eat sugar, it goes through the mouth, to the stomach, through the intestines, and out as poop. In this journey, it does not normally pass through the genitals. Therefore, putting sugar in your mouth is not the same as putting sugar in the genitals. Unless you have severe untreated diabetes, the body’s blood sugar is well-regulated. Try this simple experiment if you do not believe me: eat a bunch of sugar, rinse your mouth with water, wait a while, lick your skin. Lick in several places. Does it taste like sugar? Spoiler alert; it won’t. So, it might be generally healthy to avoid sugar, but avoiding it will not “starve out” a yeast infection. That said, if you have a yeast infection, you may want to avoid putting sugar directly on or in your genitals (whipped cream, jelly, etc) until the infection is gone. If you have yeast in your mouth (called “thrush”), it makes sense to avoid putting sugar in your mouth.

Note, it is possible to have a yeast infection in both the intestines and the genitals at the same time, just like you can have say, a cold and also have pink eye, but it doesn’t mean they are the same thing or necessarily cause one another.

EDIT: I have gotten a lot of questions asking if the rise in blood sugar after eating gives sugar to the yeast. I have finally found a good answer! Here is the pathway: When a non-diabetic person eats, their blood sugar does rise. However, it will not rise above 180, even if they mainline glucose. This is because the body produces a hormone called ‘insulin’ in response to a rise in blood sugar. This insulin is like a ‘key’ that lets the sugar into the ‘locked’ cells of the body. Once the sugars are inside the body’s cells they are no longer accessible to yeasts. It is true that a small amount sugars may remain for a time in the fluid between cells, but it is not enough sugar to make a difference to the yeast. So, yes, there is a tiny amount of sugar that might theoretically become accessible to yeast after you eat, but even if it did, it is not enough to really feed the yeast, and definitely not enough to make a difference one way or another to the infection.

Take-Home message: Do Not attempt to cure a (non-oral) yeast infection through diet changes. It will not work and may cause other problems.


 Myth 2: Genital yeast infections are caused by eating bread, drinking beer, or otherwise ingesting yeasts.

The type of yeast that causes most yeast infections is Candida albicans. The less common infection-causing yeasts are other members of the family Candida. The yeasts used in beer and bread making are usually in the Saccharomycetaceae family. They are not the same. If you are MOSTLY eating bread and drinking alcohol, such as drunk punks who live on dumpstered bagels do, you may end up with yeast simply because this diet completely trashes the immune system along with the rest of the body. You may also end up with scurvy, which is way less romantic to experience than it might sound. The yeast that makes the infection is part of the normal flora of the body.


Myth 3: My genitals itch, I probably have systemic yeast (yeast in my blood).

Yeast infections can end up in the bloodstream of people with severely compromised immune systems, such as people with HIV/AIDS or people on chemotherapy. This is a serious, life-threatening condition called candidemia. If you have a severely compromised immune system, you hopefully do not need me to tell you it’s absolutely imperative that you do not seek out health opinions from blogs. Do what you know you should and see a professional health care provider. If you do not have the kind of severely compromised immune system that occurs with chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS, etc, and you aren’t in an intensive care unit in a hospital, you pretty much don’t have this issue. Keep in mind that my opinions are absolutely not medical advice, and I’m no authority on these things, and neither are most other punks! If you think you have this kind of condition, absolutely see a doctor or a physician’s assistant right now! Otherwise, calm down and try not to look up medical symptoms on the internet and then assume the worst.


Myth 4: Tea-tree oil is a gentle way to treat a genital yeast infection.

Tea tree oil applied to genital mucosa, especially when the tissue is irritated by yeast, hurts like the dickens. It burns and hurts and stings and it’s oil, so it’s hard to get it out of there once it goes in. If you’re into that kind of thing, more power to you. There are other treatments, both alternative and conventional that don’t hurt like crap. I’m not sure what you think “gentle” means, but to me, burning pain and gentle aren’t the same thing. I’d suggest other treatments instead. Tea tree oil is fine for yeast on the feet, also called “athlete’s foot”, where it might sting some, but the skin’s less sensitive and it’s easier to wash off if you can’t stand it.


Myth 5: Probiotics such as those in yogurt can cure a yeast infection.

Probiotics do a great job at preventing yeast infections, but they do not do much to cure them on their own. If you are on antibiotics, or otherwise feel the need to actively prevent an infection, by all means, use probiotics. If you already have an infection, you’re going to need to treat the infection you have before you can start preventing the next one. Keep in mind that the probiotics that live in AFAB and other innie genitals are NOT the same ones that live in the intestine, nor the ones in yogurt. Also, please see the above discussion of how the genitals are not connected to the intestine. The idea of eating yogurt is that somehow the bacteria will survive the entire intestinal tract and then “walk” from the anus to the genital opening, this is really unlikely and also you should generally be avoiding bacterial transfer in that direction. i.e., you should wipe front to back. Some recent evidence suggests the probiotics in yogurt aren’t the ones that are present in healthy innie genitals anyway. The best way to get probiotics into the genitals is to get suppositories made especially for that area.


Myth 6: I’ve been treating a yeast infection for months, they just take a long time to go away.

Yeast infections generally clear up in a matter of days. That is to say, less than one week. If you have been treating a yeast infection for longer than a week, you either: have a different kind of infection (such as a bacterial infection), or your treatment isn’t working and you need to try something else. I’d say, if you’ve been trying an herbal remedy, it’s time to try a conventional one. If you’ve been trying a conventional one, it’s time to see a professional for an accurate diagnosis. Don’t suffer for weeks or months! There is no need to do that. Anyone who tells you otherwise is in my opinion misguided and isn’t looking out for your interests. There is plenty of suffering in life already, and suffering from yeast is not some kind of punishment for sinfulness or whatever. For real, I think a lot of punks have a quasi-religious mindset that they deserve what’s coming to them. Point is, if your treatment isn’t working in a matter of days, it isn’t going to up and start working later.


Myth 7: My genitals are itchy. It’s yeast.

Maybe, but it could also be bacterial vaginosis or an STD. The symptoms are incredibly similar. The best way to tell is to swab the area, but the swab on a microscope slide, treat THE SLIDE (not the body!!!) with a strong base to lyse (pop) the human cells, and look at the slide under the microscope. If you have equipment and training to do that, neat! Why are you readin’ this? If you don’t (or if you do, honestly), the very best way to get diagnosed is to see a health professional that can actually look at the beasts and identify them. Want to know what’s rustling around your tent? Is it a possum or a raccoon? You can lie awake and guess all night, or you can get a flashlight and look at the darn thing. If you want to treat it as yeast first, be my guest, but if it doesn’t work, see a professional, you may need antibiotics or some such.


Myth 8: Yeast infections are not STIs (sexually transmitted infections).

While yeast infections are not ‘truly’ STIs, they can be transmitted by sexual contact. Be sure to wash any toys, clothing items, or other stuff that comes in contact with your yeast infected area before sharing the items and also before using it again on yourself! You can theoretically re-infect yourself later. People do not commonly get yeast infections on their hands, but you may want to avoid having genital to genital contact while you have a yeast infection. (You should definitely avoid genital-genital contact until you get a professional diagnosis, because what if it turns out you have the clap and you told your sex partner/s that it was yeast?) You should also avoid mouth-to-genital contact, cases of thrush can be spread to genitals, and genital yeast can be spread to the mouth as thrush. Healthy adults do not commonly get thrush, so it’s fairly low risk but still possible to transmit yeast from genitals to mouths. If you have had sexual contact, you may all want to be treated for yeast infections before you have sex (with whatever parts have the yeast) again. If you have regular sex with someone, and you can’t figure out where you keep getting yeast infections from and you’ve been tested for diabetes and other stuff, you might want to consider the possibility that they have yeast and are giving it to you over and over! Also, some people just get yeast infections more commonly than others because everyone’s different! Sorry!


I hope that cleared some things up. If you have any questions or if you’ve heard any punk myths about yeast I haven’t included here, I’d love to hear about it!

1AFAB means “assigned female at birth”. I will be using the terms “AFAB genital yeast”, “innie genitals”, or “genital yeast” to refer to what some might call “vaginal yeast” because many people with this anatomic structure do not call it a vagina. Some people do call it a vagina, and that’s great too. Please keep in mind that there are yeasts of the outie-style genitals, but I will not be discussing those yeasts in this post!

2Sometimes they are. This is called a “vaginal fistula”, and believe me, you’d know it if you had one. If you do, you already know you should clearly consult a professional about your situation.