Friday, March 20, 2009

It's, Like, A Third Of A Stealth Bomber

The rhetoric in the healthcare reform debate is rising. Much of the, in the trenches, battle is being waged in the blogosphere, but it is spilling out into the mainstream media, and they're behaving, pretty much, true to form. Newspapers are failing left and right. What sustains them is advertising. One business that does continue to spend money advertising is the drug industry. Not biting the hand that feeds you does not make you inherently evil, but it does bring your objectivity into question, and before you go calling for my public execution, yes, I realize that applies to me, as well.

The prize in this fight is over funding of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or NCCAM. NCCAM is a subset of the Nationl Institute of Health. NIH has a budget of about 29 billion, about 300 million of which goes to alternative medicine.(1) Drug companies routinely invest 100 million to get approval for one blockbuster drug that can return somewhere on the order of 13 billion per year in sales, as Lipitor does. Point being this seems to be much ado over a relatively paltry chunk of change. It's like, a third of a stealth bomber.

So, who's throwing the sand?

There are numerous websites that go by some pretty high sounding names, like, which publish posts by people who can put MD behind their names, and many, lesser lights, like and Naturowatch, which are the brainchild of one of the bigger quacks out there, one Stephen Barret.(2) Takes one to know one, I guess.

One of the stars of this group is a fellow by the name of Kimball Atwood IV MD. Dr. Atwood is a board certified Anesthesiologist and a Clinical Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine.

Now, I have no doubt that the good doctor is a bright boy, and genuinely sincere in his beliefs, but he is obsessive in his violent opposition to functional medicine. He's also wrong a lot.

Earlier today he reposted an article he wrote in 2001 on entitled, Naturopathy and Liberal Politics: Strange Bedfellows. I'll post a link to the entire article at the bottom of this.(3) There are a few excerpts that are kind of intrigueing:

He recalls his undergraduate days in the early 70's as being a time of "intellectual laissez-faire".

He then goes on to state some of the most intellectually laissez-faire ideas imaginable:

1. "Streptococcal pharyngitis is dangerous, and so far we have only one sure way to reduce the danger."

True. The only way to REDUCE THE DANGER, is to have a healthy, functioning immune system. Treating it once we have it has little to do with reducing the danger.

2."Heavy metal toxicity is rare"

The increases in Autism, Alzheimers and Parkinson's alone suggest otherwise. Maybe in 1850, but not today.

3. ..." as are food allergies"...

Food allergies are quite common. Food sensitivities even more so.

4. ..."and chronic yeast infections"...

Also, quite common. The modern diet is grain based, which feeds yeast. Gonna happen.

5. "Sugar in the diet doesn't have anything to do with ear infections."

In small amounts, maybe, but the average diet has a huge excess of it which is inflammatory and does contribute to feeding the bacteria, so, yes, it does have something to do with it.

6. "Childhood immunizations really do, dramatically and safely, prevent terrible diseases."

Depends on your definition of safely. If 90% of kids vaccinated don't have a problem, that might be considered safe, unless your child was one of the ten. they're safe, as long as you test your child to determine if they're good detoxifiers. If they have low levels of glutathione, have had digestive problems, or a hair analysis shows that they aren't excreting mercury efficiently, they're very much not safe.

7. "An acute asthma attack needs to be treated with a bronchodilator."

True. But what does that have to do with interventions in the form of dietary, and environmental changes done before the acute attack that will lessen their frequency?

8. "Goldenseal doesn't act, in any significant, clinical way, as an antibiotic."

Maybe, maybe not, but there is some interesting evidence that it may inhibit tumor growth.(4) We certainly need to study this further.

And, finally, the piece de resistance; "So far, the only way humanity has found to understand the objective world is through scientific research, and the knowledge gained through science is cumulative, even if at some level it remains tentative."

Here, Dr Atwood is hoisted by his own petard. He claims scientific research is needed, yet he petitions to cut funding for that very research.

Our healthcare is at a crossroads. We have to understand these other modalities. Cutting funding for that science makes no sense. Better administration of it makes a lot of sense. Better study design makes even more.

I don't know what the underlying agendas are for people like Kimball Atwood or Stephen Barret. I do know their arguements don't hold up to scrutiny.






Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tending Your Intestinal Garden

A reader from upstate New York had taken a job at a local health food store and asked about probiotics, which she was getting many requests for from her customers.

Even most doctors know enough now to recommend some kind of probiotic, if only a yogurt a day, to their patients who've been prescribed an antibiotic. Which ones and how many are a bit more complicated.

In order to get some perspective on the role these things play in overall health, I'll refer to an earlier post here where I compared the intestines to a faulty car exhaust. By way of review, if a car exhaust leaks carbon monoxide back into the car, that's bad. Intestinal leakage back into the body, same thing.

Our digestive system, from beginning to end, comprises over half of our bodies surface area. At a glance, that may seem far fetched, but if you remember your high school biology, the intestines, both small and large, are not smooth stretches of pipe, but convoluted, pocketed organs. The villi and diverticuli are nooks and crannies, that if you stretched them out, would cover a lot of ground.

Hopefully, it isn't too big a leap to think that, if this is over half of our bodies surface area, a similar amount of our immune activity will take place there. This does appear to be the case. Good intestinal flora are critical for good immune function. If there's one key to a long and healthy life, it's a healthy, properly functioning immune system. Just type the words intestinal flora and immune health into and you'll find about 100 studies, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. It's important.

Visualize your intestines as a garden, with bad, disease causing bacteria as weeds that threaten to choke out good, flowering probiotic strains. Think of populating your intestines with probiotics as tending your intestinal garden.

There are many, many strains of probiotics, the most researched being lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacteria bifidum, aka acididopilus and bifidus. Saccharomyces boulardii, a probiotic yeast, is, also, of keen interest to researchers because of its, apparent, ability to resist antibiotics.

You want to get them past your stomach and into your intestines and have them colonize. This is easier said, than done, as the stomach tends to be acidic, the intestines alkaline, and their survival on a trip over terrain that varied is difficult. For this reason, good probiotic supplements will have cultures numbering in the billions. Not all the soldiers survive the trip.

Napolean had a line, "An army travels on its stomach." This probiotic army is no exception. The food it eats are complex sugars known as prebiotics, mainly inulin, found in jerusalem artichokes, chicory, garlic, and FOS(fructo-oligosaccharides). Prebiotics help probiotics adhere to the intestinal wall, and enhance the likelihood that the colony will survive. Many of the more advanced blends on the market contain both pre and pro biotics.

Probiotic blends that are live cultures must be refrigerated. Although there are many non-refrigerated, soil based bacteria forms on the shelves of health food stores, they really don't work very well.

Also, it's best to take them between meals. Probiotics have difficulty sticking to the intestinal walls if they are taken with food.

Finally, this is about far more than simple, good digestive health, or something to do to counter an antibiotic. Good intestinal flora is crucial in the management of virtually every auto-immune disorder, from rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, all the inflammatory bowel issues, asthma, allergies, psoriasis, eczema, cancer, autism, the list goes on. There are a handful of supplements that I tell clients are non-negotiable. A good probiotic is on that short list.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Symptoms vs. Systems

A reader asked if there was a link between LSD use by parents and autism in their children.

I typed LSD and autism into ,and got 8 hits, 2 of which had nothing directly related to the question, 4 that were published before 1975, and only 2 that were even remotely recent, and they didn't directly address the question, which lead me to conclude that we really don't know.

His question, however, opens up a, veritable, pandora's box of follow up questions, most obvious, to me, at least, is, Why don't we know?, followed by, What do we know?, followed by, What role does the media play in all this?

The first question is for another day. I'm going to try to narrow the focus on the other two by jumping to a highly volatile, emotionally charged, question about autism, namely what role, if any, vaccinations play in autism. I realize it's a jump from LSD and autism to vaccines and autism, but I do think it can better illustrate how things get convoluted.

In order to get your mitts around this, you need to go back to the late 90's, when an English doctor named Andrew Wakefield got his study linking the MMR Measles, Mumps and Rubella triple vaccine to autism published in the Lancet.

Long story short, his research was later found to be totally corrupt.(1)

Fast forward a few years and The New England Journal of Medicine publishes a study "proving" that mercury in vaccines plays no role in autism.

This study was also later found to be just as hopelessly corrupt. (2)

So, you now have dueling studies, each claiming the opposite, published in what are, argueably, the two most prestigious, peer reviewed medical journals in the western world, that are both bogus.

If you can't trust the New England Journal of Medicine or the Lancet, who can you trust?

This still leaves the question unanswered. Is there a link between mercury laden vaccines and autism?

Autism is not a single cause disorder. It is systemic, and the factors present vary by individual. But there are some consistencies that do show up fairly often. People with autism tend to have low levels of glutathione, which is a key detoxifier in the body, particularly of metals. They also have a higher than normal incidence of inflamed bowels. Up to 95% of autistic kids have intestinal problems.(3) This is akin to having a car with a bad exhaust system that sends carbon monoxide back into the car. There's a condition called leaky gut, which is pretty much, as it sounds. Waste material leaks out of the digestive system back into the body.

Now, thimerosol laden vaccines can put 187.5 ug/kg of mercury into a childs body, when the EPA lists .5ug/kg as the safe limit.(4) You tell me. You overload an at risk person's body like that, what do you think the result will be?

Granted, not everyone's at risk. Check your child's glutathione levels. Hair analysis can give you an indication whether they are excreting mercury. Have a stool sample done to determine gut permeability, flora balance and for fungal infestation before you allow them to be vaccinated. And if your school district pressures you, get a lawyer.

2. Hyman, M. Altrn Ther Health Med 2008 14(6)12-15
3. Ibid p 14
4. Ibid p 15