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How to Stop Left Side Back Pain After Eating

How to Stop Left Side Bасk Pain After Eating

Back pain —which affects an estimated 80% of all Americans at some time or another—can have many causes. Hоwеvеr, having pain іn  the left side оf the bасk after eating іѕ а symptom nоt experienced bу many. Uѕuаllу, the pain disappears after а couple оf minutes. Unfortunately there are cases when the pain keeps recurring.

Man experiences left side back pain
What left side back pain feels like

Consider this story of a man, I’ll call him Jack, who shared his experience in a forum about  this very subject. Jack states:

“The pain was under my ribs and the area would get tender to touch when I was in pain. It used to be so bad that I sometimes had to lie down to feel better.”

When Eating Worsens Back Pain

In fact it became so bad that he was wary of eating. I feel for Jack. He got an ultrasound and the doctor told him it was just gas. What a relief! But alas, no such luck. A few weeks later the poor fellow started getting very dizzy and anxious, and the pain returned on  the left side.

When Eating  Without  Back Pain  is Taken for Granted

Most of us look forward to a good meal, and  some of us take off  like a dog chasing a car when we need to go to the bathroom. However, no matter how much nature calls, there are people who dread a trip to the bathroom because they are afraid that their  back problem  will cause them to fall. So I can feel for someone  who looks at his or her next meal with anxiety.

Perhaps this is also your concern, and your freaking out about your pain because  you don’t know what’s causing it. This post aims to provide the answers.

Causes оf Bасk Pain after Meals

As most of you know, I am not big on science jargon. So plainly  speaking, here are some causes of back pain after meals: Your kidney and pancreas could be the culprits. These two important organs are housed on the left side of the abdomen. It looks like this:

This shows where the kidney and pancreas are housed
This is where you find the kidney and pancreas

Here’s the deal. Because they are really close to the digestive tract, when you eat you can put pressure on either of these organs and worsen the pain coming from them.

When Fluids Can Cause Left Side Back Pain After Eating—Diverticulitis

A condition called diverticulosis involves the formation оf fluid-filled pouches іn the colon wall. Thеѕе pouches аrе known аѕ diverticula. Thе inflammation оf the diverticula іѕ known аѕ diverticulitis.  “Diverticular disease occurs when the fibre content in the diet is low. If so, you’ll tend to develop higher pressures inside the bowel, which may be increased when you strain to pass a stool. The increased pressure is sufficient to literally cause areas of the bowel to ‘pop’ through the muscle lining.”[1]

This causes pain at the left side of the lower back. You know where I’m going right? Yeah, the pain spikes like crazy on eating meals.

When Bloating Can Signal  Back Pain After Eating–IBS

Technically, IBS is a functional disorder of the large intestine. Normally the muscle works in a coordinated fashion but if you have IBS, the muscles contract irregularly and tend to spasm causing alterations in bowel habit.

“The result is that the nerves in the gut and those controlling the gut are particularly sensitive. So something that would normally not pose a problem to most people, like a little intestinal gas, may cause you pain and bloating”[2]

Bloating can generate back pain
Woman experiencing back pain caused by abdominal bloating

Lactose Intolerance–When Milk Can Cause Back Pain

Lactose is a carbohydrate (natural sugar) found in all milk, including human milk. Lactose intolerance means you aren’t able to easily digest lactose because you do not have enough lactase in your system. Produced by your small intestine, this enz5mrie breaks down lactose in preparation for absorption into your bloodstream. Lactose intolerance саn cause abdominal cramps, which h саn lead tо lower left bасk pain after consuming а lot  of dairy products.

Trouble usually begins 30 minutes after eating or drinking foods that contain lactose. Common Signs and symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal Cramps

Home Remedies to Stop Back Pain After Eating

Eat а banana daily.  Mom was right when she insisted that I eat a banana every day. It  turns out that a banana can protect you against the damaging effects of acidity.

Drink plenty оf water. It flushes  out toxins and helps іn reducing bloating.

Try chewing gum. This tip surprised me, but it makes sense when you think about it. Chewing gum will increase the flow of saliva and help neutralize stomach acid.

Eat high-fiber fruits and vegetables, such as apples, legumes, and broccoli, and fully chew each bite of food. Limit your intake of stimulants, including coffee, soda, and cigarettes; these can tighten up the muscles around your spine.

Take ginger with  tea оr other foods. It will make it a whole lot easier to digest those fat-rich foods.

Learn to stress less—stop triggering your pain

Your emotions have a huge impact on your digestive system.” Researchers talk about the brain-gut axis. Many of the nerve-muscle messengers in the gut are similar to those in the brain, and reactions can be triggered by various emotions.”[3]

What this means is that when you’re stressed your digestive muscles just don’t work as well as they should. Digestive enzymes are secreted in smaller amounts and the passage of food waste through your digestive tract slows. This can cause bloating. Stress can also have the opposite effect of speeding the passage of food through your bowels, causing abdominal pain.

I have devoted several posts on the topic of managing stress. Generally speaking, you can stress less by doing things that will help you relax. These include meditation, gentle yoga, and taking a long walk or a soothing bath.

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It can be confusing  and depressing when eating results in pain  rather than pleasure. It’s natural to ask if anyone has had this before ? Can someone please give me advise on how I can start feeling normal again. I heard you and I hope this post has given you the answers that you were looking for.


to find  natural way to stop the stomach  problems that can lead to back pain after eating.

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1.“Digestion; Your in-depth introduction to common digestive problems.” Good Health, (Dec. 1, 2010)

2. Ibid



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How to Effectively Use Your WheelChair in The Rain

How to Effectively Use Your WheelChair in The Rain

Product: RehaDesign Brella Buddy Wheelchair Umbrella Holder Plus Square-A-Sol Umbrella

Price: $ 149.00

Size: When opened, the Square-A-Sol has a square canopy measuring 84 cm (33 inches) on any side.

Weight capacity: weighs less than 250 grams (less than 9 ounces).

Cheapest Place to Buy: Check with company website

Warranty: Check with Company

Rating: 8 out of 10


The topic today is how to effectively use your wheelchair  in the rain.

A kind stranger comes to the aid of a man in a wheelchair caught in the rain
A kind stranger helps a man in a wheelchair make it home in the rain

First, let me offer a useful perspective.

Readers of my website know that my mission is to provide solutions that will allow people to overcome the challenges of daily pain. As stated in a previous post, I have covered 5 main areas when it comes to chronic pain:

A woman touches the area of her back where she feels pain
This woman is showing the location of her pain

1Medical side. When one first experiences chronic pain it’s natural to seek a medical solution, to believe the problem can be solved by medications or surgery.

2Retraining The Brian.  Pain is produced by the brain. It’s possible that even when the body is out of danger, that is tissue is healed as best as possible, on going pain still persists. The brain must be retrained to deal with the sensitivity of the nervous system.

3Understanding How Emotions effect the nervous system and how to reduce stress.

4Diet, life style, and building self- esteem. What we eat, how we live, and how we feel about ourself effects how well we manage our health.

5Moving more. It’s important to understand that in most cases treating your pain means becoming more active

In some cases this means talking about products  that I will not get a commission from because I am not an affiliate. I do so because I believe that these products will bring needed solutions to my readers.

This shows a fit blonde stretching on the floor and using foam roller
This shows proper way of using foam roller

In a previous post, I have offered the following observation and suggestions:

Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists for six months or longer. A good place to get quick and effective explanation is to check out the following link . Once there, you can look at two very helpful videos. The first one summarizes the points that I have made and is called  “understanding pain: what to do”. The second one is a well presented talk by Elliot Krane called “The Mystery of Chronic Pain.”

The author,Maggie Phillips, explains that Each chapter presents a body-centered skill set to reverse chronic and persistent pain.

I am here to talk about another unaffiliated  product that I think offers a solution to back pain sufferers trying to go on with their  lives.

This time the issue is one that we don’t normally think about, but effects a lot of people. What do you do when You are stuck in a wheelchair and it starts raining?  You need to know how to effectively use your wheelchair in the rain.

Let’s jump in

Recently, Share Tap, an updated site of the best news and stories on the net, reported a  heart warming story by Holly Reyes. A good Samaritan was filmed  by a YouTuber in Canada,Penelope Derksen, pushing a disabled man in a wheel chair up a hill in a thunder storm.

“She first noticed the weather, which was somewhat alarming. The heavy rain made for difficult travels even for those in a vehicle, but this man she saw was out trying to get home in a wheelchair. The electric wheelchair, like any other, can only go to a certain speed which was certainly not fast enough to take him to safety, yet there was a kind stranger who took notice.”

You can read the entire article here

Here is the amazing Video

What The News Means For Back Pain Sufferers Using Wheel Chairs

This news is inspiring for most of us who are constantly confronted with stories about how we mistreat each other. Unfortunately the news is also troubling for back pain sufferers who rely completely on wheel chairs to go on with their daily life, because it’s next to impossible to hold an umbrella while keeping  your hands free to propel your wheelchair.

What happens if you’re caught in the rain, in your wheel chair, and there’s no one to help you? As I asked before, how would you hold an umbrella while keeping your hands free to propel your wheelchair?

The good news is that you can prevent this situation from ever happening to you.

Here’s how…

RehaDesign Brella Buddy Wheelchair Umbrella Holder Plus Square-A-Sol Umbrella

Convenient hands free wheelchair umbrella holder. It is light, functional, water and tear resistant, allows you to have your hands free and not to have anything mounted onto your wheelchair just in case it rains. Umbrella holder can be used with most straight handle umbrellas. But is most convenient with square-a-sol umbrella specially designed with long stem for your convenience.

RehaDesign Wheelchair Accessories are designed in Europe but shipped worldwide by registered international post.  The cost of shipping is included in the purchase price.  The price you see for the product is the final price you will pay.

Product Features

  • Hands  Free Wheelchair Umbrella Holder
  • Water resistant
  • Includes pockets for storage
  • Umbrella is square and has long 3 component stem
  • Umbrella is stows in umbrella bag when not in use


  • The Square-A-Sol fits inside of Brella Buddy does not require attaching anything to your wheelchair.
  • No heavy accessories to carry around with you when it is not raining.
  • The umbrella canopy is square, similar in shape to the wheelchair. This gives the wheelchair user ideal coverage and allows you to pass more easily through crowds and doorways.


  • I really can’t think of any. I think this is a solid product  that solves the problem of holding an umbrella and having your hands free to propel your wheelchair.


Suffering from back pain, especially if it’s a recent injury, can do a nasty number on your life style. In a word, it  can make it suck big

time. Fortunately it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. There are people out there thinking of intriguing and helpful solutions.

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I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.



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How to Prevent Shoulder Pain With a Knee Crutch

How to Prevent Shoulder Pain With  a Knee Crutch

Product: iWALK2.0 Hands Free Knee Alternative Crutch

Price: $ 149.00

Size: Easily adjusts for user heights from 4 feet 10 inches to 6 feet 6 inches without tools.

Weight capacity: 4.5 Pounds

Cheapest Place to Buy: Amazon

Warranty: Check with Company

Rating: 8 out of 10


How to prevent shoulder pain with  a knee crutch is something that I have been thinking about when one of my readers, who needed a walking aid, wanted to know if he would  be best served by a cane or a  pair of crutches.

You see I have written a lot on the subject of weight —bearing stress on joints and lower extremities. A big concern of mine is also the pain and damage caused by people overworking muscles.

When to Use Crutches

Any way, one should always get the advice of a physical therapist. Generally speaking, however, if you can walk without assistance but you feel you would benefit from additional support as protection against falls, then you should use a cane.

You would use crutches if  your injury meant that the  involved lower extremity should  bear no weight–for example, in the case of a fracture. There’s a big problem, though, with using your hands and arms for support—-Pain

Overuse of The Forearm Muscles Can Lead to Tendonitis

The arms become another major weight-bearing area, and they aren’t designed for it. When overloaded, the supporting muscles may become fatigued, and this will be felt especially where the limb attaches to the torso through the shoulders, creating discomfort and pain.

Crutches and Pain

Consider this story of a man using crutches—perhaps this describes your situation.

Three weeks ago, I fractured my ankle and have been on crutches ever since. My ankle is now fine, but the rest of me feels stiff and awkward; my neck and shoulders ache. But it is my wrist and elbow that hurt most. I can’t even pick up a pen without discomfort…I am 23 years old. Jason Spears, Ashford, Kent [1]

Traditional Crutches Can Ruin You

Having to get around on crutches is like suddenly deciding to go to the gym every morning to exercise only your arms with no rest days in between workouts. Overworking any muscle can cause it atrophy and actually become weaker. Reduce how much running around you do every day, especially at first. Taking frequent breaks will help your sore arms recover between hobbling from one place to another. You can also reduce the pain from exertion in your arms by shortening your crutch stride. Smaller steps put less pressure on your muscles while reducing the chances of a falling accident. [2]

Pain in Your Palm

Here is a story from someone who, on a pain forum, told his experience using traditional crutches.

“Having all your weight put onto your hands hurts, a lot! I would dread waking up and grabbing my crutches. My hands would get super sore, to the point I would not want to use my crutches. It was shooting pain through my palm.”

So, here’s your situation. You’ve just sustained an injury that requires that you use crutches, but you are miserable  as a result of shoulder pain caused by using your hands and arms for support.

What if You Could Use  Your Legs for Support Instead of Your Hands and Arms?


A man shows the usefulness of being able to use a knee crutch in the kitchen
How to use a knee crutch in the kitchen


The iWALK2.0 Hands Free Knee Alternative Crutch is a new knee crutch that provides hands free, pain free mobility for people with non-weight bearing lower leg injuries. Users experience increased efficiency of walking due to using their legs for support instead of their hands and arms.

How to Assemble The iWALK2.0 Hands Free Knee Alternative Crutch


How to Use The iWALK2.0 Hands Free Knee Alternative Crutch

Product Features

iWALK2.0 gives you back your functional, independent lifestyle.  Check out all these features and benefits:

•Functional independence

•Hands free, pain free

•Easy to learn, easy to use

•One size fits most

•Converts in seconds for left or right leg

•Video tutorials for assembly, fitting and use

•Easy tool free assembly

•Multiple award winning product


  • Allows users use of both hands to function in day to day activities.
  • Easy to adjust comfortable straps
  • Eliminates axillary nerve damage or carpal tunnel associated

with conventional crutches.


  • Ideal users weigh 275 pounds or less, are able to bend their

injured leg 90 degrees at the knee, and are motivated to have a hands free, pain free rehabilitation.

  • The iWALK 2.0 is NOT recommended for people with mobility limitations prior to their injury, those with impaired strength or balance, or with limited proprioception in their lower extremities.
  • If you could walk without limitations pre-injury, then iWALK 2.0 can give you back your ability to walk. If you couldn’t, then iWALK 2.0 cannot give you what you did not have.


The iWALK2.0 hands free crutch is the future of mobility.   It gives you hands-free / pain-free mobilty for below the knee non-weight bearing injuries.

More important, it gives you back your independent, functional lifestyle.

   and  get your life back, with the iWALK2.0.  Carry that cup of coffee, take your dog for a walk, push a shopping cart, cook in your own kitchen, go back to work.

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I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.




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How to Gain Your Bathroom Privacy With Mobility Aids

How to Gain Your Bathroom Privacy With Mobility Aids

How to gain your bathroom privacy with mobile aids may be a difficult thing to talk about. However, it will be a lot less humiliating  than having someone wipe your bottom.

I mean think about it. What could be more  an example of dependency than having to ask for help to clean yourself after going to the toilet. Yet this may be the case if your back injury is so bad that it requires  someone to perform hygiene  tasks for you.

I’ll Manage to Will Myself to The Bathroom

Okay, you have a lot of will power and maybe you might find a way of making your way to the toilet and sitting down. Consider this story of a woman who had problem with her balance but didn’t ask for help.” In the bathroom, she was able to sit down and get up from the toilet, although she needed to hold onto the sink for balance. Another time, her hand slipped off the sink, which caused her to lose her balance and fall. After she fell, she was unable to get up from the bathroom floor.”[1]

The last thing that you need, especially when suffering from back pain, is to lie a long time on the bathroom floor.

Injuries Getting on and off The Toilet

According to the New York Times, “More than a third of the injuries happen while bathing or showering. More than 14 percent occur while using the toilet.” [2]

Taking Back Your Dignity

Enabling yourself to use the toilet involves more than just ‘doing the task”. It reinforces  your belief  that you are in control of providing the best quality of life for you. I mean you don’t actually say”I have a great quality of life because I’m able to go to the bathroom by myself—that would be weird.

That said, yeah you would say your quality of life sucks if you didn’t have the independence to do go the bathroom by yourself.

Talk About a Kick in Your Self Dignity

Well, here’s the good news. I have a list of products that will help maintain your privacy in the bathroom.  No more humiliating  trip to the bathroom.

Here We Go

  1. Grab Bars.  These are available in a wide variety of lengths and styles. When installing grab bars, be sure they are the appropriate length and diameter for your needs and are placed where they will offer the most support. Installing grab bars around the toilet  is a good way to make sure you don’t fall. You can also place them by the shower or tub just to add extra  security.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year about 235,000 people over age 15 visit emergency rooms because of injuries suffered in the bathroom, and almost 14 percent are hospitalized.

They go on to say:

Injuries might be reduced through environmental modifications, such as putting non-slip strips in the tub or shower and adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower to reduce falls, and installing grab bars next to the toilet for added support if needed [2]

A good option are the Chrome plated Knurled grab bars.

They are easy to grip even in wet bathing areas

You can use the bars in the kitchen along stairways, or in the laundry room for additional fall prevention.Security Poles. I covered security poles in an earlier post about standing aids. Here is the big difference between grab bars and security or supporting poles. Unlike the grab-bar-style wall-mounted support, a support pole can be installed anywhere there is a floor and ceiling, including the middle of the room, to provide support exactly where you need it.

2) Security Pole. By holding onto the pole at a comfortable level, you can use your arm strength for balance and support as you seat yourself on the toilet or get into or out of the tub.

Man using security pole to lift himself up from toilet seat
How to lift yourself up from toilet using security pole

3)  Toilet Seat Frame.  You might also want to consider toilet safety frames. These are arm rests on either side of the toilet  that can act as a guide for sitting and as a push-off point. For added stability, look for a model that is secured to the toilet with bolts.  This is a perfect solution for anyone hating to ask for help sitting on the toilet. These arm rests will give you the independence you need since the arms can be adjusted to be right next to the toilet.


I recommend the Padded Raised Toilet Seat / Safety Frame / Commode (74654) – Eagle Health Supplies

A big selling point is that is has multi functions  which means it can save you a lot of money and space from needing multiple pieces of equipment.Specifically, it has:

•COMMODE: With the Commode Pail installed, it functions as a bedside commode.

•RAISED TOILET SEAT/SAFETY FRAME: With the Splash Guard installed, it becomes a raised toilet seat with a built-in safety frame.

•PADDED SHOWER CHAIR: With the the Splash Guard removed, it becomes a height-adjustable shower chair with comfortable padded seat.


Going to the bathroom in your own house should not be something your fear or feel humiliated  about. It’s time to regain your privacy and dignity.  on these products   and you will once again be able to go to your bathroom without assistance and be safe.

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I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.



  1. Preventing falls: how to identify risk factors, reduce complicationsRein TideiksaarGeriatrics. 51.2 (Feb. 1996): p43+.
  2. New York Times. “Watch Your Step While Washing Up” By Nicholas Bakalaraug. 15, 2011
  3. CDC Nonfatal Bathroom Injuries Among Persons Aged ≥15 Years — United States, 2008

June 10, 2011 / 60(22);729-733

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How to Better Understand Big Pharma’s Agenda Setting

How to Better Understand Big Pharma’s Agenda Setting

How to better understand big pharma’s agenda setting  is a follow up to an earlier post on  how to understand agenda setting and food shortage.

As I said in an earlier post, people  with chronic pain find reading fiction a pleasant  distraction. It can have the same calming effect of mediation.

This is an artistic inspired cover of Hemingway's "For Whom The Bell tolls"
A scenic book cover of Hemingway’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls”

 Going To Pleasant Places

I pointed out that, wе’ve аll heard the phrase “lose yourself іn а book.” In the case оf reading fiction, іt іѕ actually true. Whеn уоu curl uр with а good book, уоu аrе releasing your mind from the problems уоu’ve experienced during the day. Reading а newspaper article, fоr example, does nоt give уоu the same experience bесаuѕе іt іѕ true and саn in fact cause more worry and stress іn the brain, especially іf that article contains something that pertains tо уоu directly.

This is an oil painting by Ford Madox Brown that shows a scene from Victorian London
Work–An oil painting by Ford Madox Brown

Here’s an interesting follow up.  I have ran into pain sufferer’s who like to have their  minds distracted by topics that take a different slant from the norm. Yes, they love curling up to a good novel but they also enjoy the challenge  of looking at things anew or seeing them from a different perspective.

It’s not that different from pain sufferer’s who like to distract themselves by doing complicated math problems  in their  head. Yeah, most people, including myself, would think doing math when you are already in pain is just asking for more stress. However, the complicated sequences of advanced math can act to  serve as an interesting diversion for some pain sufferers.

A Passion For Provoking Topics

So what happens if the thing that distracts you from your pain is not the joy of math, but intriguing slants on thought  provoking  topics. Well,  the reading center is your place. Here we will explore interesting topics, not always heavy, that will always give you something other than your pain to think about.

Let’s jump in

In the second part of the agenda setting series, I take a look at the pharmaceutical industry.

In their paper, “Pharmaceutical Industry Agenda setting in Mental Health Policies”, Richard Gosden and Sharon Beder examine how the pharmaceutical companies, through front groups, use agenda setting  to expand sales of their products.

Using Front Groups  to Promote Big Pharma’s Agenda Setting

They explain the concept of front groups this way:

Thus, if Burger King were to report that a whopper is nutritious, informed consumers would probably shrug in disbelief….

But if the American Council on Science and Health and its panel of 200 “expert” scientists reported that whoppers were not so bad, consumers might actually listen…[1]

According to Gosden and Beder, “ these front groups lobby governments to legislate in corporate  interest, to oppose undesirable regulations and to introduce policies that enhance corporate profitability. Front groups also campaign to change public opinion so that the markets for corporate goods, for example of psychiatric drugs, are not threatened and are even enhanced.[2]

Gosden and Beder’s notion of the pharmaceutical industry using front groups to set an agenda is supported by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Referring to the issue of advertising in 2000 election, she said the following:


Time Magazine Cover Showing The Intense 2000 Presidential Contest Between George Bush Jr. and Al Gore
Time Magazine Cover Show The Closing Days of The 2000 Election Between George Bush Jr. and Al Gore

The Citizens for Better Medicare, which is a group organized by the pharmaceutical industry, is now approaching in the amount of advertising that it has tha amount spent by the Democratic National Committee. It raises the possibility that we have a third party, Republicans, Democrats, and Citizens for Better Medicare [3]

Violence Seems EveryWhere and That Serves Big Pharma’s Agenda Setting

An example of how the pharmaceutical industry has successfully used agenda setting through a front group can be seen with the issue of schizophrenia. A front group, such as the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC0 associates untreated schizophrenia with news stories about violent behavior.

For instance the group has said,” violent episodes by individuals with untreated schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have risen dramatically now accounting for an estimated 1,000 homicides annually in the  United States [4] This type of pronouncement helps make the case for the pharmaceutical companies.

This is a surreal picture showing the dark side of schizophrenia
A Surreal depiction of a woman suffering from schizophrenia

A Wall Street Journal article, in 20001, describes the market for schizophrenia drugs as a “ fast growing, $5 billion-a-year market in which Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa has already gained a $2.35 billion  share. [5].

When the news media report stories that link schizophrenia with violent behavior, they do the following:

  • They  fulfill the surveillance function by informing us about the dangerousness of untreated schizophrenia.
  • They also fuel the beliefs that contribute to the stigmatization of mental illness, and make us afraid of having a mental hospital in our neighborhood.
  • On the  other hand, one may lobby hard for government sponsored treatment centers to utilize the newest drugs. Thus, the pharmaceutical companies will increase their profits.

When the news media is back up by front groups it can succeed in setting an agenda that benefits industries that under normal circumstances  would be held in low regard.


I began this series examining the question of whether a world food shortage ever existed or if it was a myth created by the news media to increase profitability. In the process of trying to answer the question I have come to the conclusion, as said earlier, that a person’s personal experience determines how well agenda setting works.

Agenda Setting and Mental Illness

For example, lets take the issue of the media associating mental illness with violent behavior. My mother, a former nurse, has worked at a psychiatric ward, and over the years we have had discussions about the causes of mental illness. I have become aware that not everyone in a mental hospital is violent.

An Abstract Drawing Showing a Woman Suffering From Mental Illness
An Abstract Drawing of a Woman Suffering From Mental Illness

Sometimes, for example, people are committed because of long term depression. Violence is not always  a factor.

Also, drug therapy is not always the preferred choice for treating mental illness because not everyone disorder is biologically based.

In short, I know that there are circumstances under which a non-violent person can be committed to a mental hospital. Thus, I am likely to be skeptical about appeals that make an absolute link between violent behavior and mental illness.

On the other hand, I do not have first hand knowledge on what causes famine. Thus, if I were bombarded with news stories  that said there is a world food shortage and it is caused by floods, I would have no reason to doubt them. It is only by doing independent research that I have become skeptical about early conclusions by news media that famine in the Third World was caused by food shortage and floods.

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I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.



  2. Ibid
  4. See Note 1
  5. Wall Street Journal “Pfizer, Eli Lilly Battle for Share of Growing Schizophrenia Market.” May 8, 2001
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How to Understand Agenda Setting and Food Shortage

How to Understand Agenda Setting and Food Shortage

How to understand agenda setting and food shortage may seem like an odd topic for someone who writes  about pain management.  Here is the thing. It’s  2018, and this year one of the main focus for this website will be exploring more news stories as they affect pain sufferers.  I am doing this because many of my readers have expressed an interest in  keeping up with the news and want to be in the know. They don’t want their  pain to keep them from connecting with the issues that everyone is talking about.

This is a Photo of a Hand Holding The Globe
Photo of a Hand Holding The Globe

In short, most pain sufferers are curious and have opinions  about what’s going on in the world just like you. This post is an outlet for that curiosity.

A big issue that came up in 2017 and seemed to make a splash again in 2018 is news media and agenda setting. Without a firm grasp of how agenda setting works, one can fall prey to those who think all news is “fake” and to those who believe all news is beyond question.

The truth  of the matter is that a persons personal experience determine how well the agenda setting works. In this  2 part series of posts, I’ll take a look at agenda setting and food shortage. I will also examine the issue of agenda setting and the pharmaceutical industry. When I’m done you’ll have a solid understanding of how opposite  sides of an issue use agenda setting.

Let’s jump in

Is there a food shortage in the world, and do droughts or floods cause it? According to newspaper and television  accounts, famine appears to afflict most of the third world because of a food shortage caused by droughts or floods.

This is a Photo of Africans Moving Through a Flood
Floods Worsen Food Shortage

For example, look at the following excerpt from Newsday:

More than 10 million people are affected by droughts in the horn of Africa and aid agencies said that number could rise to 14 million unless help arrives .[1]

So without making any kinds of judgement, let’s examine whether agenda setting by the media has caused the public to believe that the world is in a constant food crisis.

What is Agenda Setting?

The agenda-setting function of the media refers to the media’s capability, through repeated news coverage, of raising the importance of an issue in the public’s mind. [2]

For instance, the media’s coverage of the O.J. Simpson case through front-page articles, breaking news on cable, and special news programing was successful at telling us what to think about.


This Photo Shows O.J. Simpson in A Suit and A Split Screen of The White Bronco in the Background
Split Screen of The White Bronco and O.J. Simpson

Now We Can Tackle The Issue of World Food Shortage

Two cases give different conclusions about the world food shortage. In one case, Bangladesh, the agenda -setting function of the news media is evident. The news media wants us to think about the following:

  • Starvation is a result of food shortage, and action is needed immediately.
  • Harvest-destroying floods cause the food shortage.
This is The Front Page Picture of the NYT Featuring A Child Dying From Hunger
A Child Dying From Hunger

On the other hand, the power of agenda setting is in question when it comes to the case of Somalia. The presentation of starving Somalian children in television news moved the United States to intervene for humanitarian reason. However, a closer look makes it clear that for a long time the story was not what most Americans were thinking about.

In short, by studying both cases we can put the world food shortage in perspective.

Agenda Setting and Bangladesh

In 1974, the news media, led by the New York Times,  covered the famine in Bangladesh.The following is an excerpt from an article by Kasturi Rangan.

“Researchers, however, found out later that despite the floods Bangladesh did not run out of food. In fact, rich farmers were hoarding rice. One peasant asked whether there was enough food in the village, replied ‘ there may not have been a lot of food, but if it had been shared no one would have died’.[3]

Starving Children Waiting For Food Reach Out Their Hands
This Photo shows Starving Children Waiting For Food

Also, researcher Nick Ebersadt, in his article “Myths of the food crisis”, makes this observation about Bangladesh:

The cameramen who photograph those living corpses for your evening consumption work hard to evoke a nation of unrecognizable monsters starving by the roadside. Unless you have been there, you would find it hard to imagine that the people of Bangladesh are friendly and energetic, and perhaps 95 percent of them eat enough to get by. [4]

Finally, Oxford University’s researcher Amartya Sen, widely  recognized for his studies on famines, found that famines occur not because  of food shortage but because people’s claim to food is disrupted. For example, people’s income may fall dramatically  because they lose their means to produce.[5]

The West, including the Untied States, sent millions of dollars to aid Bangladesh. Thus, agenda setting by the news media worked.

Now lets look at the case of Somalia.

Somalia and The Limits of Agenda Setting

In the beginning  of 1992, Jonathan Mermin, a lecture at Yale University, reported that “civil war and starvation gripped Somalia in the wake of the overthrow of Mohammed Said Barre, who had ruled the country for two decades.”[6]

He goes on to state, “without any apparent cues from Washington, CNN sent a reporter to Somalia and aired eight stories on the crisis there from May 1st  to May 15th.

According to Mermin, “in the first half of May, CNN presented the crisis in Somalia in the extraordinarily dire terms and explicitly criticized the West for declining to act.”[7]

A Screen Of CNN Breaking News of The Famine In Somalia
CNN Breaking News of Famine in Somalia

Furthermore, he states that “calls for intervention did not sound in Washington. Nor could that be heard around the United States. If letters to the editor are any indication, a LEXIS/NEXIS search of letters to none American newspapers turned up one letter on Somalia in May, one in June, and one in July.” [8]

This Photo Shows a Mass of Starving Children in Somalia
Children and The Famine in Somalia

Only after the Bush administration, out of political necessity, (Bush did not want Clinton to make Somalia an issue in the 92 campaign) put Somalia as its top agenda did most Americans begin to believe that the famine had to be addressed. The Somalia case illustrates that the agenda -setting function of the news media may be less effective, or not work at all, when it relates to foreign  policy not agreed to by the government. It may be that in certain cases, where the issue does not directly effect them, the American people take their cues from the government and not the media.

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What happens when people take their  cues from front groups organized by controversial industries?


This brings me to a recent trend in which the pharmaceutical industry uses agenda setting to promote its interest. This is the subject of my next post.

I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.



  1. “Famine ravages Ethiopia: Fears of topping 1m deaths in ’84”, Newsday, Nov. 12, 2002)
  2. Severin, W. J. & Tankard JR. JW. (2001) Communication Theories: Origins, Methods, and Users in The Mass Media. Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.
  3. Lappe, F.M. & Collins, J (1986) World Hunger: Twelve Myths, Grove Press, Inc.
  4. Eberstadt, Nick. “Myths of the food crisis”—Moral Problems (1079) Harper & Row, Inc.
  5. See Note 3
  6. Ebsco Host Research Database—Jonathan Mermin, “Television and American Intervention in Somalia: The myth of media—driven foreign policy”.
  7. Ibid
  8. Ibid