Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mercy Hospital's Definition of Naturopathy: MD Diagnosis, alternative treatment.

I was very pleasantly surprised by Mercy Hospital's lovely discussion of CAM.  I like their definition of Naturopathy, which is succinct if a little inaccurate.  Generally we spend an great deal more time diagnosing than what is allowed by a fifteen minute office visit.  We also tend to try and link different body symptoms together:  chronic tension and upset stomach, insomnia and foot pain, etc. 

I've compiled a definition of Naturopathy under What in the World is a Naturopath?  It gives the scope of Naturopathy in comparison to MDs and DOs. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thirteen Virtues: Does Anyone Do Ben's List Today?

When he was twenty years old, Benjamin Franklin wrote a list of virtues for himself and evidently tried to practice them for the rest of his life. 

So there's a free website set up called Thirteen, but it appears to be defunct.  So is anyone still trying to follow Franklin's advice? 

I admit to trying, but I never really got into it.  Maybe a week is too long a period for modern life. 

Here are the virtues (listed on Wikipedia.)

1.Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

2.Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

3.Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

4.Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

5.Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

6.Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

7.Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

8.Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

9.Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10.Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.

11.Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

12.Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

13.Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Heartburn: Now It's a Problem for Kids?

It's very troubling to have the expansion of heartburn medication to children and even infants.  Especially when we have no evidence that they are effective and we do have evidence that long term use of acid blockers affects bone health.  But without evidence, we're still seeing prescriptions for the medication.  Here's the expert meta-analysis from the Cochrane database.  I've highlighted the relevant sentence. 

Pediatrics. 2011 Apr 4. [Epub ahead of print]

Efficacy of Proton-Pump Inhibitors in Children With Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: A Systematic Review.

van der Pol RJ, Smits MJ, van Wijk MP, Omari TI, Tabbers MM, Benninga MA.

SourceDepartment of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Emma Children's Hospital AMC, Amsterdam, Netherlands;


Introduction: Use of proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in children has increased enormously. However, effectiveness and safety of PPIs for pediatric GERD are under debate. Objectives: We performed a systematic review to determine effectiveness and safety of PPIs in children with GERD. Methods: We searched PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews for randomized controlled trials and crossover studies investigating efficacy and safety of PPIs in children aged 0 to 18 years with GERD for reduction in GERD symptoms, gastric pH, histologic aberrations, and reported adverse events. Results: Twelve studies were included with data from children aged 0-17 years. For infants, PPIs were more effective in 1 study (compared with hydrolyzed formula), not effective in 2 studies, and equally effective in 2 studies (compared with placebo) for the reduction of GERD symptoms. For children and adolescents, PPIs were equally effective (compared with alginates, ranitidine, or a different PPI dosage). For gastric acidity, in infants and children PPIs were more effective (compared with placebo, alginates, or ranitidine) in 4 studies. For reducing histologic aberrations, PPIs showed no difference (compared with ranitidine or alginates) in 3 studies. Six studies reported no differences in treatment-related adverse events (compared with placebo or a different PPI dosage). Conclusions: PPIs are not effective in reducing GERD symptoms in infants. Placebo-controlled trials in older children are lacking. Although PPIs seem to be well tolerated during short-term use, evidence supporting the safety of PPIs is lacking.


So let's all step away from treating colic, which is likely to be associated with overgrowth of bacteria, with acid blockers. 

I have extensive information on options for adults on my website: under What Do I Treat? and GERD

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How Many of Us Are Dying Because We Go To Our Doctors? (As Opposed To Dying Because We Can't Afford To Go.)

I'm often curious about the denial of the pretty clear reality that our medical system needs serious help.  One of the denial sticking points is the number of deaths directly attributable to medical care.  Let's be clear.  Almost everyone dies under medical care at some point.  But a fair percent of patients are helped on their way unnecessarily and prematurely by the very people who want to preserve their lives. 

We rank poorly (twelfth out of fifteen) in comparison to other industrialized nations' healthcare.  Before you blame the fat Americans, we rank 3rd lowest in smokers and fifth lowest in drinkers.  U.S. men 50-70 have the lowest cholesterol of the group.  So it isn't just that we're less healthy. 

"According to several research studies in the last decade, a total of 225,000 Americans per year have died as a result of their medical treatments:

• 12,000 deaths per year due to unnecessary surgery

• 7000 deaths per year due to medication errors in hospitals
• 20,000 deaths per year due to other errors in hospitals
• 80,000 deaths per year due to infections in hospitals
• 106,000 deaths per year due to negative effects of drugs
Thus, America's healthcare-system-induced deaths are the third leading cause of the death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.

Where am I getting all these disturbing statistics?  From the Journal of the American Medical Association, that den of alternative radicalism (seriously, one of the most conservative medical journals on the planet).  Here's the data written out at a radical blog and here's -WAIT-where is that pesky journal article?  Oh, right here on the JAMA website.  Oh, and if you had some concerns about Starfield's credentials, she works at John Hopkins.  So that's where we get our statistics. 

If you'd like a whole book on our chilling reality, check out Money Driven Medicine.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Differentiating between Naturopaths and Naturopathic Physicians.

For anyone not involved in the field, it can be incredibly difficult to differentiate the relative training and authenticity of degrees within alternative medicine.  Let me say that within all of medicine, it matters far more how ethical the person is than what degree they have. We all know stories of top ranked surgeons who have failed to practice ethically, and relative laypeople provide the backbone of much of our hospice and homecare structures.  So the degree doesn't matter in one sense.  But in another sense it really does matter, especially when it becomes the focus. 

Here's the information on Robert Theil.  "He is not a medical doctor, but is registered as a naturopath by the Federal District of Columbia, licensed as a Naturopath by the State of North Carolina, licensed as a Naturopathic Scientist by the State of Alabama and is licensed as a Naturopathic Physician by Bingham County, Idaho." 

Wow!  So if I were anyone other than who I am, I would think this guy is a naturopathic doctor, same as doc maloney.  Well, no.  Every place that he lists happens to not require a four year degree, boards, etc.  So he didn't go to Naturopathic medical school.  It doesn't mean he's a bad person, just that he's not licensed. 

In fact, the organization that Robert Thiel is a major member of, the American Naturopathic Medical Association, is the one fighting licensing and the medicalization of Naturopathy.  That's right, the ANMA is against the licensure of N.D.s  They run a program where you get a correspondence degree when you are board certified by the American Naturopathic Medical Certification and Accreditation Board.  Yep, they are board certified, not licensed.  It's kind of the cart without the horse, and if it seems confusing, it's meant to be.  It is this confusion, and the layering on of degrees without depth, that truly bothers me.  I have one degree, from one state, and it is more comprehensive than I can hope to master in my lifetime.  I can't imagine trying to fully master a variety of degrees from a variety of states. 

So a traditional Naturopath like Robert Thiel is not to be confused with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians ( which is the professional group advocating for the licensure of N.D.s.  We all get licensed, and practice medicine, which includes diagnosing and treating disease.  In Maine, I do not use the term physician, but the term Naturopathic Doctor.  See  But I was trained in Oregon, where we are Naturopathic Physicians. 

Now, I also saw a nice looking book from an English Naturopath, and I have no idea of her relative level of qualification.  It just shows the level of knowledge necessary to differentiate.  But it also matters what people do it their practices.  So, to show that differentiating does not mean discarding, have a look at both their books. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why We Get Fat: It's the Carbs or our Genotype?

Gary Taubes has a new book that explains why we get fat.  Guess what?  It has nothing to do with calories.  Well, it does to some extent, but what should be obvious from the title of his previous work is that all calories are not equal.
So Taubes sets out to convince that calories alone do not explain our weight gain.  Then he progresses on to basically say:  meat is good.  Carbs are bad.  The first part is great the second part has yet to be proven (NY Times reviewer agrees.)

Ok, I'm already convinced that calories don't work.  But I'll also say that low carb is effective for only some people.  Yes, it is an answer for a very select subsection of the population.  But the rest of us do not need a blanket prescription for low carb.  We need to look at individual variation in food choices. 

The D'Adamos had at least a little variety, although they based it all on blood type, which is only one factor in individual makeup.  Now Peter D'Adamo has moved on to genotyping the diet, which is really cool and hopefully leads to more options.  But it isn't the genes, it's the histones.  They determine the activation of the genes.  So maybe I'll get a jump on everyone and start promoting the Histone Diet (patent pending).  Watch for it!  

By the way, Taubes Good Calories book does a number on a lot of diet myths.  It just concludes the way he wants it to conclude, because we don't have the perfect diet data yet. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More information on radiation than you should want to read.

Wow, it just keeps getting more scary in Japan.  So here's a whole range of resources for those of you who are busy watching it real time and hearing about it on the news. 

First, take a minute to check the EPA's up-to-date radiation readings for your area.  (When are they going to start adding this to the weather report?)

Then, take a few moments to read what the National Institutes of Health has to say about radiation exposure. 

If you're more of a visual person, here is a fun (in a gallows humor sort of way) way to visualize your relative exposures to radiation

As I've pointed out at alternative health answers and at my website, the ionizing radiation you receive from medical testing is likely to far outweigh your exposure from Japan. 

If we take that idea to the next level, there is a whole group that irradiates people for a living.  Radiation oncologists specialize in treating you with radiation.  They just celebrated a century of using radiation as a treatment for cancer.  If you look at the second abstract, in many cases radiation therapy is the only available treatment.  The doses being used to palliate suffering are astronomically higher than anything we see anywhere else. 

If you look at the third abstract, in cases of advanced head and neck cancer the application of radiation in huge doses directly to the area is often not sufficient to cause hypothyroidism.  We're talking about extraordinary exposure, and still the body keeps on ticking.  It's a wonderful thing. 

If you are still panting for more information on radiation,  I've attached links to three books on the subject.  Bring your medical dictionaries and dig in.  Or maybe take a walk outside and breathe easy. 

Nat Rev Cancer. 2004 Sep;4(9):737-47.

Radiation oncology: a century of achievements.

Bernier J, Hall EJ, Giaccia A.

Department of Radio-Oncology, Oncology Institute of Southern Switzerland, CH-6504 Bellinzona, Switzerland.


Over the twentieth century the discipline of radiation oncology has developed from an experimental application of X-rays to a highly sophisticated treatment of cancer. Experts from many disciplines - chiefly clinicians, physicists and biologists - have contributed to these advances. Whereas the emphasis in the past was on refining techniques to ensure the accurate delivery of radiation, the future of radiation oncology lies in exploiting the genetics or the microenvironment of the tumour to turn cancer from an acute disease to a chronic disease that can be treated effectively with radiation.

PMID: 15343280

Radiother Oncol. 2011 Mar;98(3):287-91.

Palliative radiotherapy for cervical carcinoma, a systematic review.

van Lonkhuijzen L, Thomas G.

Odette Cancer Centre, ON, Canada.


Purpose: Worldwide, particularly in developing countries, many women present with advanced stage cervical cancer for which palliative radiotherapy is the treatment of choice or may be the only available treatment. The purpose of this study was to determine from the literature the optimal palliative radiation scheme for the treatment of advanced cervical cancer. Design: A systematic literature review up to January 2010 was performed in Medline, Embase, the Cochrane database, CinHL and Google Scholar using a combination of synonyms for: cervical cancer, palliative treatment and radiation therapy. No limitations were applied for language or study types. For included papers data were extracted and described. Results: Only eight papers were identified and none compared the results of different fractionation schemes. Most used observational retrospective study design with considerable sources of bias. No studies used validated endpoints for symptom relief nor did they include measures of the quality of life. Several papers described the experience with single or multiple monthly 10Gy doses or with a higher total dose delivered in 2-4 fractions within 48h to 1week. Studies report varying amounts of relief from bleeding. The effect on other symptoms such as pain and discharge is not evaluable. Acute and late toxicity is poorly documented. Conclusion: There is a dearth of information in the current literature to guide selection of an optimal palliative radiation schedule for treatment of patients with advanced cervical cancer. Based on this review and information from other solid tumors, there is no evidence to support the common belief that better and longer palliation is achieved with a high dose delivered in multiple smaller fractions. There is a clear need for comparative studies of different radiation fractionation schedules in order to identify an optimal palliative radiation scheme. These studies require the use of validated endpoints to measure specific symptom relief as well as accompanying quality of life.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

PMID: 21316785

Radiother Oncol. 2011 Apr 1. [Epub ahead of print]

Radiation-induced hypothyroidism in head and neck cancer patients: A systematic review.

Boomsma MJ, Bijl HP, Langendijk JA.

Department of Radiation Oncology, University Medical Center Groningen, The Netherlands.


PURPOSE: To review literature on the relationship between the dose distribution in the thyroid gland and the incidence of radiation-induced hypothyroidism in adults.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Articles were identified through a search in MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library. Approximately 2449 articles were screened and selected by inclusion- and exclusion criteria. Eventually, there were five papers that fulfilled the eligibility criteria to be included in this review.

RESULTS: The sample sizes of the reviewed studies vary from 57 to 390 patients. The incidence of hypothyroidism was much higher (23-53%) than would be expected in a non-irradiated cohort. There was a large heterogeneity between the studies regarding study design, estimation of the dose to the thyroid gland and definition of endpoints. In general, the relationship between thyroid gland volume absorbing 10-70Gy (V10-V70), mean dose (Dmean), minimal dose (Dmin), maximum dose (Dmax) and point doses with hypothyroidism were analysed. An association between dose-volume parameters and hypothyroidism was found in two studies.

CONCLUSIONS: Hypothyroidism is frequently observed after radiation. Although the results suggest that higher radiation doses to the thyroid gland are associated with hypothyroidism, it was not possible to define a clear threshold radiation dose for the thyroid gland.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

PMID: 21459468


Friday, April 8, 2011

A primer on radiation of all types.

Paul Herscu has prepared a nice primer for everyone on radiation of all types.  Spoiler:  stop smoking and check for radon before you buy iodide. 

In lighter reading, Amy Rothenberg has written a book on cured cases from Natural Medicine.  She loves Oliver Sachs, so we should get lots of good stories.  Look at the book here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hiroshima: The Last Japanese Nuclear Crisis.

For anyone watching the news it is important to realize that for many older Japanese this is the worst nuclear disaster since the bomb was dropped on them.  Even as we support them in this crisis, it is important to realize that many of them may be experiencing PTSD as an aspect of this crisis.

I wonder if we worried about our radiation exposure back then?  Were we even checking radiation levels?  It is somewhat ironic that we were likely the recipients of much of that blown radiation.    

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Journal Article on Harmful Herbs in Liver Foundation Magazine.

I was really excited to have my herbs that harm article finally published.  Have a look at the American Liver Foundation website (I'm on page 26). 

Monday, April 4, 2011

How Many Ways Can We Say: Eat Well, Exercise, and Do It For Life?

Evidently we can say it to the tune of $48.7 billions dollars.  That's with a B, not an M, and that was for 2005 alone.  According to Forbes, lots of good diets exist.  There are many sites out there to rate the different diets, including those with reviews of the different diets.  I like the one I linked to because it focuses on the safety of diet plans.  A number of diets out there are just not a great idea in terms of your health. 

The most effective diet book I've ever read isn't a diet book at all.  It's the China Study, which goes over in detail the largest study ever done on diet and cancer.  The first part is intense because of his studies on rats and cancer production.  If you don't like that stuff, skip ahead to the huge studies on the Han Chinese, which provides conclusive evidence that diet activates or deactivates cancer. 

I guess the most disturbing thing about the book is that we haven't really shifted our diets to conform to what he found.  This was the big one.  I think they had 500,000 survey takers, and covered millions of people.  To paraphrase what he found, Campbell is now a vegan.  To give that context, he began life as a cattleman researcher, trying to find ways to increase our meat yields.  I still struggle to get my mind around what he found, and I still don't follow his diet.  But I keep trying, which is more than I can say of any other diet book I've read from years ago. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

HCG Diet: Boy, I Wish I Could Get Behind It, But I Can't.

For those of you living in seclusion, the HCG diet is a great new craze.  Thank Kevin Trudeau, who publicized his own weight loss using the diet. 

Now, the basis of the HCG diet is a five hundred calorie diet.  Guess what, that's effective.  Starvation does actually lead to weight loss.  But the next step is to inject yourself with HCG.  For the men out there, this is the stuff that pregnant ladies generate.  And you'll be injecting that into yourself.  Hence my initial difficulty with the concept.

So does the HCG do anything?  Well, no.  It really doesn't.  Don't believe the experts, don't believe common sense.  Just have a look at the double blind, placebo controlled study.

S Afr Med J. 1990 Feb 17;77(4):185-9.
Human chorionic gonadotrophin and weight loss. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

Bosch B, Venter I, Stewart RI, Bertram SR.
Department of Medical Physiology and Biochemistry, University of Stellenbosch, Parowvallei, CP.

Low-dose human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) combined with a severe diet remains a popular treatment for obesity, despite equivocal evidence of its effectiveness. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, the effects of HCG on weight loss were compared with placebo injections. Forty obese women (body mass index greater than 30 kg/m2) were placed on the same diet supplying 5,000 kJ per day and received daily intramuscular injections of saline or HCG, 6 days a week for 6 weeks. A psychological profile, hunger level, body circumferences, a fasting blood sample and food records were obtained at the start and end of the study, while body weight was measured weekly. Subjects receiving HCG injections showed no advantages over those on placebo in respect of any of the variables recorded. Furthermore, weight loss on our diet was similar to that on severely restricted intake. We conclude that there is no rationale for the use of HCG injections in the treatment of obesity.
PMID: 2405506 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

So, while I'd love to have lots of patients and put them all on HCG, it hasn't been shown to work.  Starvation does work short term, but it generates long term problems.  As you generate a deficiency in the body, you are telling the fat cells that are left to become more active.  Fat is not just passive storage.  It works for your body by generating a range of hormones. 

BMC Med. 2011 Mar 16;9(1):25. [Epub ahead of print]

Regulation of vascular tone by adipocytes.

Maenhaut N, Van de Voorde J.

ABSTRACT: Recent studies have shown that adipose tissue is an active endocrine and paracrine organ secreting several mediators called adipokines. Adipokines include hormones, inflammatory cytokines and other proteins. In obesity, adipose tissue becomes dysfunctional, resulting in an overproduction of proinflammatory adipokines and a lower production of anti-inflammatory adipokines. The pathological accumulation of dysfunctional adipose tissue that characterizes obesity is a major risk factor for many other diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Multiple physiological roles have been assigned to adipokines, including the regulation of vascular tone. For example, the unidentified adipocyte-derived relaxing factor (ADRF) released from adipose tissue has been shown to relax arteries. Besides ADRF, other adipokines such as adiponectin, omentin and visfatin are vasorelaxants. On the other hand, angiotensin II and resistin are vasoconstrictors released by adipocytes. Reactive oxygen species, leptin, tumour necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-6 and apelin share both vasorelaxing and constricting properties. Dysregulated synthesis of the vasoactive and proinflammatory adipokines may underlie the compromised vascular reactivity in obesity and obesity-related disorders.
PMID: 21410966

The bottom line is that I've just talked myself out of a whole bunch of patients looking for a quick weight loss solution.  But that's not what I want to do with patients.  What I want for patients is not term weight control, not just short term weight loss.  For that we have to use the body's wisdom to help people figure out what works for them. 

Kathryn Retzler of Hormone Synergy has done a wonderful job of summarizing the data on HCG.  I hope she publishes her position paper, because we need people to understand the whole picture about HCG. 

Homeopathy: Boy, It Makes the Pharma Boys Quake.

Imagine, just imagine, that we had a process whereby we could take a single bottle of aspirin and use it to treat every single person on the planet.  Where we could orally vaccinate an entire third world country for a tenth of the cost.  Where families that could not afford medications for their dying children could receive medications for free.  Not donated by a charity, for free because the cost of producing the medication is so low that it can be given away by other families for free.  Wouldn't that be a good thing? 

Not if you want to make money, it wouldn't.  Hence the amazing resistance to homeopathy, and the perpetual attacks upon it.  If homeopathy replaced pharmaceuticals in even a small area, the billions saved would make the whole world sit up and take notice.  We'd have a roll-back to patients preparing their own remedies, a drop-off in surgeries and office visits, and a significant decrease in the total dollars spent on health care.  Most importantly, we'd finally see the huge hole in the logic that the "cure" for anything is a pharmaceutical.  Pharmaceuticals primarily manage, they rarely cure. 

 I got to read another salvo from Dr. Steven Novella recently.  He's upset because Dr. Oz has a TV show and he doesn't.  So he attacks Dr. Oz's credibility and insults his wife.  It's sort of disturbing, but since Dr. Novella works for Yale as a professional skeptic/neurologist I suppose we should assume he's well balanced. 

So here's a nice video of that supposed quack Dr. Oz washing up for surgery.  Compare him to his critic lower down. 

I do wonder what Dr. Novella will do with the upcoming radio show for Dana Ullman, author of the Homeopathic Revolution.  I imagine a bit of frothing at the mouth, following by some eye twitching.  All in a day's work for a professional skeptic.  I can only imagine that they must run shrieking from the aisles of supplements filling every supermarket, hunkering down in the canned goods aisles and filling their baskets with conservative choices like Spam and Twinkies.  At the checkout line they have to avert their eyes from every magazine, all trumpeting alternative treatments.  It's a lonely life, somewhat of a hermetic existance, and the nightly flagellation in penance for enjoying aromatherapy candles or a nice long bath has to get a bit wearing. 

That most skeptics are men is telling.  They also must be clueless men, because in all likelihood their spouses are merrily buying all the soaps and supplements they desire.  So these men, unable to bring their version of truth into the home,  seek solace with other men online.  What they are really saying is the world isn't going my way and I don't like it.  It is fortunate that the women of the world are running things, because for these guys anything beyond the stone scapel and a rock to bite on is too newfangled to be trusted.

For some basic research about homeopathy, please have a look at  

Friday, April 1, 2011

Running in the Right Direction: A Run For Naturopathic Medicine.

A Naturopathic Doctor is planning to run across the U.S. to raise awareness of Naturopathic Medicine.  You can read all about it at: