Monday, January 20, 2014

Homeopathy – Nothing but Water?

There was a lot of social comment on the internet this week as a reaction to the publicity surrounding Target selling a homeopathic based asthma product. The comments were, as one might expect, wide ranging with very few intelligent remakes about homeopathy. The common misperception is that homeopathic remedies are nothing but water. They contain none or so little of the original ingredients they could not possibly have any therapeutic value other than as a placebo.

Homeopathic remedies are based on the concept of “like curing like” and that the more dilute the remedy, the more powerful it becomes. Both of these concepts are counterintuitive so the criticism comes quick. Early in the 20th century about 25% of practicing medical doctors in the United States were homeopaths. As acceptance of the germ theory grew and health care focused on killing bugs to cure disease, the popularity of homeopathy diminished.

Homeopathic remedies take a substance that is known to cause the very symptoms being experienced by the patient. Then, through a series of dilutions, the substances is reduced to infinitesimal amounts, or often removed completely. The resulting remedy is then induces the opposite effect, relieving those very symptoms. The theory is that as the molecules are removed, the energy of the substance is left behind and actually increased. For example, if you were bitten by an eastern diamond rattlesnake, the poison coursing through your body can be neutralized by injection a serial dilution of snake venom taken from the same species of snake. This works well, despite the fact that the antidote is obviously given after the snake bite rather than as an immunization prior to exposure. Strychine, a poison from the nuts of a tree creates nausea, vomiting, and potentially death. When diluted to homeopathic levels, it is called Nux Vomica, and is used to treat nausea, vomiting, and other digestive disturbances.

Recently, support for the homeopathic theory is coming from an unusual source – quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics states that the energy of molecules operates outside of time and space. In theory, the molecules in your body are in contact with molecules on the asteroid Pluto and also with the molecules of a wooly mammoth as you read this blog. Now that’s counterintuitive!

Current research indicates that the sense of smell may not require contact from molecules of a substance. When you smell jasmine in bloom, it has long been thought that molecules from the plant enter your nose, stimulate your sense of smell, and you are able to identify the substance. A recently released study indicates that the energy of the molecules is the stimulation, rather that the molecules themselves. Our nervous system then reacts to this unseen force. No physical contact is required.

Our knowledge is growing exponentially. However, we know very little about the world around us, and even less about how the human body works. I have found homeopathic remedies to be a very effective tool in my practice. In a similar vein, I also use herbs for which little or no research has been conducted. However, these herbs have been used successfully for six thousand years. Please keep an open mind.

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Blood Pressure Guidelines

Fewer people should take medicine to control their high blood pressure, a new set of guidelines recommends.
Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2013

Adults age 60 or older should only take blood pressure medication if their blood pressure exceeds 150/90, which sets the bar higher than the current guideline of 140/90, according to the report, published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The guidelines also recommend that diabetes and kidney patients younger than 60 be treated at the same point as everyone else that age, when their blood pressure exceeds 140/90. Until now, people with those chronic conditions have been prescribed medication when their blood pressure reading topped 130/90.

Blood pressure is the force exerted on the inner walls of blood vessels as the heart pumps blood to all parts of the body. The upper reading, the systolic pressure, measures the force as the heart contracts. The lower reading, the diastolic pressure, measures the residual as the heart relaxes between contractions. The normal adult blood pressure is 120/80.

The recommendations are based on clinical evidence showing that stricter guidelines provided no additional benefit to patients, explained guidelines author Dr. Paul James, head of the department of family medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

“We really couldn’t see additional health benefits by driving blood pressure lower than 150 in people over 60,” James explained. “It was very clear that 150 was the best number.”

The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) did not review the new guidelines, but the AHA has expressed reservations about the panel’s conclusions.

About one in three adults in the United States has high blood pressure, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

These new guidelines are a step in the right direction. Although the existing guidelines from both the AHA and ACC call for lifestyle changes in additional to medication, the reality is most physicians just place their patients on medication with little or no attempt at reversing the cause of high blood pressure.

I loved the quote from Dr. James about no additional health benefit from driving the blood pressure down below 150. That’s what beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and ACE inhibitors do, drive down blood pressure.

One in three Americans has high blood pressure. Seventy-five percent remain undiagnosed, just treated with medication. Kidney, lung, and liver dysfunction are the most common causes. High blood pressure is also one of the indicators for metabolic syndrome.

High blood pressure is not a disease. It is not even a symptom, although symptoms are associated with it. Blood pressure is a test. Treating the test is not the answer. Finding out why the blood pressure is elevated and correcting the health problem causing this abnormal test is the real solution.

If you have high blood pressure find a doctor who will investigate the cause and help you to reverse the problem. Take a good look at your lifestyle – Are you overweight? Do you exercise on a regular basis? Don’t settle for just medicating the test.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Probiotics Were Number One In 2013

More research articles were written about probiotics this past year than any other topic in nutrition. Vitamin D, number one for the past several years, was displaced by both probiotics and omega 3 fatty acids. Please review my recent blogs on vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids.

Probiotics are now recognized as having a profound influence on human health. Thanks to Jamie Lee Curtis the public is well aware of probiotics. However, there is some misinformation.

Each of us has between 500 and 1000 different bacterial strains in our digestive tract. Most of them can not be identified by simple stool testing. However that is beginning to change. Every month a few more species are isolated, identified, and then cataloged for future testing. If we could identify every microorganism in your gut, it would be as unique as a fingerprint.

The bacteria are divided into three categories – friendly, pathological, and comensal. The first two you understand. The third, comensal bacteria, can be friendly, neutral, or pathological. So even if you identify some of the bacteria are they friend or foe? Part of the answer can be determined by measuring the antibody response in the gut. If the secretory IGA is high or low, then the comensal bacteria are probably an issue. For example, some forms of Candida are friendly, others are comensal or pathological. If various strains of Candida are detected and the IGA is normal, they are probably not an issue. If the IGA is low, the immune system is being suppressed. If the IGA is high there is an overt infection that needs to be treated.

Probiotics can be friendly, pathological or comensal as well. Just because your body needs a specific probiotic, does not mean that I need or can even tolerate the same probiotic. We now know that all probiotics stimulate an immune response from the GALT (gut associated lymphatic tissue). If your secretory IGA is elevated, then many probiotics will further inflame the gut, even if the probiotic is dead on consumption.

Dead probiotics? There is a lot of hype in the ads about how many millions or billions of bacteria are in each probiotic tablet. But if they are not living they can not help you, but very likely will hurt you by adversely stimulating the GALT. Even if they are viable when taken, can you keep them alive? It’s pretty crowded in the gut with millions of bacteria in every square inch of the colon. New bacteria need to be fed to survive.

In general, healthy bacteria eat soluble fiber (contained in plants). When they digest the soluble fiber, they produce short chain fatty acids. Our cells that line the digestive tract then eat the short chain fatty acids. This relationship, including the stimulation of the GALT, is called “cross talk” and it is vital to our health and mutual survival. It establishes our initial immune response in the thymus. In fact, recent research suggests we should consider ourselves part of a collective of organisms rather than a host organism. These organisms actually modify our DNA and may even be the stimulus for evolution.

Unfortunately, we have taken what little we know of this complex relationship and commercialized it in the form of a daily probiotic. I estimate that 25% of my patient population takes probiotics daily despite my warnings. Just like vitamin C, vitamin D, and so many others, probiotics are not the cure all. However, the potential for harm is much higher with inappropriate use.

Take a probiotic after antibiotic therapy, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. Take it short term. Limit your probiotics to Lactobacillus acidophilus and/or bulgaris unless advised otherwise by a health care professional. Test your probiotic to see if it is viable. When dissolved in orange juice, it should lighten the color within 20 minutes as the bacteria digest the sugar in the drink. If you suffer from dysbiosis, consult with a qualified nutritionist about taking any probiotic.