Saturday, February 22, 2014

The On-going Battle With Bacterial Infections

Years ago there was a comic strip in the newspaper where a pickup truck was turned over on the side of the road with smoke coming out of it.  There were tumbleweeds blowing across the road and on the hill overlooking the carnage a small tumbleweed was talking into a communicator saying, "The Venusians score another one for planetary domination."  Reading about infectious disease these days sounds a lot like that, like the bacteria are winning the war.  MRSA (methicillin resistant staph aureus) causes over 80,000 skin, lung, or septic infections a year with 11,000 deaths.  It's just one of a growing legion of different bacterial species that are antibiotic resistant.  Their resistance developed by  natural selection aided with the speed of their reproductive capability and our gross over-use of antibiotics.  Hospitals, nursing homes, and group care facilities are the largest incubation chambers, but make no mistake -- you can come into contact with them virtually anywhere.  The last two or three generations have hardly known what serious bacterial infections could do because we have had antibiotics readily available.  To now read about dangerous infections that we lack treatments for is frightening.

The good news is that from the natural side of medicine there are weapons against even these mutated bacteria.  The inhabitants of planet Earth would not have survived this long if there were not an effective system of checks and balances firmly in place.  So, here are a few of the ways bacterial infections get treated in naturopathic medicine.  (Most of these methods have been and are being tested against MRSA.  There is no reason they should not work as well with other species of bacteria.) 

A.  Build Immune Defenses:

  1. Radically limit or eliminate sugar from your diet.  Sugar completely weakens the immune system.
  2. Exercise daily to build strength and stamina, and increase lung and cardiovascular capacity and circulation.
  3. Insure you are getting enough protein and good fats in your diet.  Both are essential for healthy white blood cells.
  4. Wash your hands often.  Work to break any habit of touching your face and mouth with your hands and fingers.
  5. Take a hot bath daily.  Raising your body temperature temporarily will destroy a lot of bacteria and viruses, as well as stimulate more vigilance by white blood cells. (This is even more effective if you have the courage to take a minute long cold shower afterwards.)

B.  Eliminate the Bacteria: I'm just going to list the substances that are getting used with effective success.  For how to use them, you'll have to talk to me.

  1. Neem
  2. Tea Tree oil
  3. Garlic
  4. Turmeric
  5. Homeopathy
  6. Coniferous tree essential oils such as Cedar, Pine, and Blue/Black spruce*
  7. Colostrum*
* The last 2 have no scientific studies that I'm aware of, however, I have had good results using them with ordinary bacterial and viral infections.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Toxins in the Food Chain

There are more than 4,000 chemicals in use for food packaging.  These chemicals fall in a category known in the industry as Food Contact Materials (FCM).  These synthetic agents could pose health risks to us when they leach into the foods we eat, says a report from environmental scientists.(1)  Some of these chemicals include cancer initiators (e.g. formaldehyde, bisphenol A) and hormone disrupters (e.g.  phthalates.)  Because so much of the food supply comes packaged it's exceedingly difficult to avoid FCMs.  We do not know what the real health impacts are over our lifetime exposure to them, but the scientists are warning that many "epidemic" chronic illnesses such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases could be getting made worse by FCMs.  Trying to pinpoint the health effects on a ubiquitous presence of 4000 synthetics is like looking for needles in haystacks.

The researchers identified the FCM's that have the largest potential for health impacts are from the hormone disrupters.  Many synthetic chemicals disrupt the metabolism of estrogen in particular.  In my clinical practice it is startling the numbers of women who have difficulties with their periods, like PMS, cramping, and heavy flows.  In men as well, the whole thing about low testosterone is being talked about in the media a lot.  While there is no small degree of marketing going into this, the environmental exposures to hormone disrupters could quite logically be at play in creating the symptoms.

What can be done?  Chiefly, one big way to avoid FCM's is to go back in time (so to speak) to growing your own fruits and vegetables, or buying them at farmer's markets and "putting them up."  In the summer my parents used dozens of Mason & Kerr jars of all sizes for foods from jams and jellies to applesauce to beets and green beans.  At summer's end our basement shelves were lined with jars and jars of food that we ate on all winter.

There are bisphenol A-free plastic storage bags for putting foods up in the freezer.  And, food dehydrators could certainly be used more.

To detoxify your body the following supplements and foods can be helpful.  Cruciferous vegetables (bok choy, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts.) supply healthy amounts of sulpher compounds that your liver uses to metabolize various chemical compounds.  Cilantro has strong detoxifying capability, as does cholorphyll (available at health food stores.)  Drink lots of water (from glass containers), exercise or take hot baths/saunas to stimulate sweating and deeper breathing, and get at least 25-30 gm of fiber a day will all contribute to keeping elimination pathways open so toxins can more readily leave your body.

So, you are not a hapless victim to the industrialized food manufacturers.  You have some concrete means at the very least of cutting down a lot on the exposures to FCMs and ridding your body of the ones you do have to be exposed to.

  1. J. Muncke, J. Peterson Myers, M. Scheringer, M. Porta. Food packaging and migration of food contact materials: will epidemiologists rise to the neotoxic challenge? Epidemiology and Community Health, 2014 (in press) DOI:10.1136/jech-2013-202593


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Guidelines for Women to Reduce Stroke Risk

Earlier this week I did a class with a group of women at Salvation Army about Heart Health in Women.  If you'd like my notes on that, or the quiz I gave them leave a comment here, or email me.

To add to that, there is this information on how women can reduce their stroke risk later in life.  It's important to know this information early in your adult female life, as what you do early can have payoff benefits in your older age.  Strokes still kill and disable more women than men, and they are the 4th leading cause of death in the United States.

The Guidelines:

1.  Before going on a birth control pill you should be screened for high blood pressure.  You should get your blood pressure checked regularly while taking birth control pills.

2.  Women with a history of high blood pressure before getting pregnant should take low dose aspirin and/or calcium/magnesium during pregnancy to help prevent preeclampsia.

3.  If you have had a pregnancy with preeclampsia you are at twice the risk for stroke and four times the risk for high blood pressure later in life.  Therefore, be more vigilant about blood pressure checks as you age, and even more so if you also have other stroke risk factors such as obesity, high cholesterol, or smoking history.

4.  If you develop high blood pressure during pregnancy, it should most likely be treated to reduce chances for strokes then or later.

  1. C. Bushnell, L. D. McCullough, I. A. Awad, M. V. Chireau, W. N. Fedder, K. L. Furie, V. J. Howard, J. H. Lichtman, L. D. Lisabeth, I. L. Pina, M. J. Reeves, K. M. Rexrode, G. Saposnik, V. Singh, A. Towfighi, V. Vaccarino, M. R. Walters.Guidelines for the Prevention of Stroke in Women: A Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association/American Stroke AssociationStroke, 2014; DOI:10.1161/%u200B01.str.0000442009.06663.48

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mammograms Take a Hit of Their Own

This news out of Canada: 

So out of Canada comes the pretty solid evidence that screening mammograms are not adding a thing to women's health care except a lot of unnecessary expense and anxiety.  All the hype about early detection of breast cancer and the shaming of women who do not choose to get mammograms amounts to a lot of hot air.  Yet once again, this is news that isn't really new, but it has been difficult to tell women they didn't need mammograms with all of the high powered brain washers going full tilt. 

The problem belongs in the laps of all those who are super keen about new technologies.  Sciency-types all presume their new technology inventions will save the world.  They convince everyone and put their machines out for sale on the gossamer theories of how the technology is supposed to work on paper.  We all flock to see the bells and whistles and put all our hopes in the newest science to save us.  This goes for mammogram machine manufacturers as well as pharmaceutical drug creators, and computer giants.  We all begin to wonder how the world survived without MRI's, CT-scans, ultrasounds, mammograms, and maybe a few hundred or even a thousand blood tests.  We're technology happy, whether it works like it's advertised or not.  In the case of mammograms they don't work, not any better in terms of mortality than an old-fashioned physical breast exam.  If a woman wants just a little extra technology boost then why not use thermography rather than shooting a bunch of x-rays through her body?  It's been a question I've had for more than ten years, and why I've continued doing thermograms even when the mammogram-crazed professionals stared at me with incredulity.  Sadly, we can't have 100% guarantees - not 100% accuracy in detection,  not 100% effective therapy, and not 100% remissions for life.  But, in medicine we work really hard to do no harm.  I'm grateful for the Canadian study that it, at least. gives back to women the level field to more rationally choose whether to shoot their breasts with x-ray radiation or not.  May the mammogram intimidation end!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

This is Your Brain on Stress

"Wow, this is pretty stunning," was my primary thought when I read the results of a study out of the U. of California, Berkeley, reported in Molecular Psychiatry and abstracted by Science Daily.(1)

In a nutshell, the researchers found that rats that underwent long periods of chronic stress wound up with structural brain changes.  These changes created a streamlined communication linkage between the emotional center (hippocampus) and the fight-flight reaction center (amygdala) and reduced connectivity to the prefrontal cortex (where rational thought resides.)  This shift in brain structure strongly suggests that chronic stress can lead to anxiety, panic, and other mood disorders.  So, chronic stress is making substantial organic changes in the brain with at least long-lasting, if not permanent, changes.  Are you mentally checking your stress levels  yet?

This is a pretty substantial discovery.  American society has turned into a seriously stressed out place to live.  Fears, worries, busy-ness, financial pressures, craving for personal attention or professional recognition, and massive social media voyeurism each ratchet up the overblown consciousness of doing life perfectly enough.  27% of high school students report feeling extreme stress during the school year.  "There's never enough hours in a day."  So, stress like this, experienced over the long run, leads to brain alterations that super charge the communication between the emotion center and the fight-flight center.'

I have the following suggestions for reducing stress:

  1.   Reduce use of social media.
  2.   Exercise regularly.
  3.   Get adequate amounts of sleep, target 8 hours (adults), 9.5 hours (teens).
  4.   Meditate or pray daily.
  5.   Avoid procrastination.
  6.   Eat well -- lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, plenty of fruits & vegetables, and  limit saturated fats but include good fats.
  7.   Don't eat when you're feeling stressed.
  8.   Limit or avoid pointless conflicts.
  9.   Listen to calming music where possible throughout your day.
  10.   Simplify your life and reduce clutter and disorganization.
  11.   Write in a personal journal daily and/or process feelings with a close friend or therapist.
  12.   Structure in time weekly for relaxing or enjoyable hobbies or activities.
  13.   Limit caffeine use.
  14.   Utilize adrenal supplements like Siberian ginseng, Rhodiola rosea, Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5), L-theanine, glutamine, and 5-HTP.

(1)  University of California - Berkeley. "How chronic stress predisposes brain to mental disorders." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 February 2014. .