|Issue #18 - March 2004|
Welcome to this issue of Naturopathic News, issue #18. It’s my goal to help you find natural solutions to health problems. This newsletter is one way to do that. The more educated you are about your health options the better able you will be to take control of your health. Any feedback in the form of comments, letters to the editor, success stories, etc., is appreciated.
HOMEOPATHY—HOW DOES IT WORK?
Continuing in the series of newsletter articles on homeopathy I want to discuss the principles that underlie how homeopathy works. To do so we need to look at homeopathy’s foundation as well as the basis of conventional (allopathic) medicine.
The bedrock principle of homeopathy is that “Like Cures Like”. If one understands what this axiom truly means one understands homeopathy. On a basic level, “Like Cures Like” denotes that we treat the symptoms of disease with substances that have been experimentally shown to produce symptoms similar to the disease state in question. A simple example is when the symptoms of a cold are treated with the homeopathic remedy, Allium cepa (homeopathic preparation of red onion). Think of it, what happens when you peel an onion? There is a burning in your eyes, tears form, your nose runs, etc. Not every person with a cold has these symptoms. Which is why Allium cepa is not a panacea for all colds. But, for those whose symptoms are similar to the symptoms of this homeopathic medicine, they will see results. The key word is similar. A person with a disease is treated with a homeopathic medicine with similar symptoms—a similar, artificial disease. The result is cure. In other words, when the natural disease is treated with the similar, artificial disease (homeopathic medicine), it is cured. Hahnemann observed this early on in his experiments with Peruvian Tree Bark—Cinchona officinalis. The pattern of fever symptoms exhibited by the use of Cinchona is similar to what was then called intermittent fever (malaria). There are many recorded cures of malaria by Cinchona in the homeopathic literature.
If the enactment of “Like Cures Like” produces cure what happens when the treatment of opposites is employed? The use of conventional, allopathic drugs shows us the answer. One could describe the employment of allopathic medicines as based on the law of opposites. One takes an anti-histamine for a runny nose. Or an anti-depressant for depression. An overgrowth of bacteria is treated with an antibiotic. The natural disease is being treated with its opposite—a dissimilar disease. Allopathy intentionally tries to create a 100% dissimilar disease. There are 3 possible outcomes when two dissimilar diseases come together:
In essence, the homeopathic remedy creates a similar, but much stronger, artificial disease, which overcomes the natural disease present in the patient. So, you have a patient with a natural disease and you create an artificial disease that is somewhat stronger, therefore can overcome, due to the Law of Similars, the natural disease. The artificial disease created by the remedy is very easy to manipulate by the homeopath. The dose, potency, frequency of dosage, number of succussions—all can be used to affect the artificial disease. The goal is rapid, gentle, and permanent restoration of health.
VITAMIN D AND OSTEOPOROSIS
Calcium has been the focus of nutritional research for the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis as many clinical trials of calcium supplementation have found that it can indeed reduce bone loss and lower the risk of bone fractures.
However, the trials often include a simultaneous treatment with vitamin D, which makes it difficult to attribute the benefits to calcium alone. Also, the bone density increase found during the first year or two of calcium supplementation may not substantially increase in the long term.
In contrast to most clinical data, most observational studies did not find a significant association between calcium intake and fracture risk or bone loss. Despite this, and based largely on the clinical evidence, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences raised the recommended daily dose of calcium for women over 50 years of age to 1200 mg.
Commercial cow milk (‘fortified’ with the wrong form of Vitamin D) is often thought to decrease osteoporotic bone loss and fracture risk. However, there has been no clear benefit documented for women over the age of 50 years. It is known that calcium, at low or moderate doses, is largely dependent on the action of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D for active transport. Sufficient amounts of vitamin D are important in the prevention of postmenopausal bone loss.
For instance, one 18-year study, which examined calcium and vitamin D intakes, milk consumption, and use of calcium supplements among postmenopausal women, found that those with higher vitamin D intakes, either from food alone or from food plus supplements, had a significantly lower risk of hip fracture. However, calcium intake did not appear to be associated with fracture risk.
Insufficient vitamin D leads to less calcium absorption, elevated blood concentrations of parathyroid hormone, and increased rates of bone resorption, which may eventually lead to bone fracture. In line with this are several studies that have found that older people who experience a hip fracture have lower serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D than do those without a fracture.
Some 25 percent to 50 percent of the elderly have vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to loss of muscle strength and an increased likelihood of falling that, in turn, increases the risk of hip fracture.
Sunlight exposure is a major source of vitamin D, however older adults may not spend enough time in the sun to get adequate amounts of vitamin D. Also, sunscreens, of which usage has increased, significantly reduce skin production of vitamin D. Another problem with obtaining vitamin D from sunlight is that synthesis of vitamin D is absent during the winter months in higher latitudes where nearly all of the United States is located.
As we age, vitamin D status may be further affected by a decreased capacity of the skin to manufacture vitamin D, a reduced ability of the liver or kidney to hydroxylate vitamin D to its metabolically active form, or a lower consumption of dairy foods or diminished intestinal absorption of vitamin D.
American Journal Clinical Nutrition February 2003;77:495-503
It used to be that antibacterial soaps were used mainly in clinical health care environments. Now, antibacterial soaps are used in households across the country where they amount to a $16 billion-a-year industry. Some 72 percent of all liquid soap sold in the United States now contains antibacterial ingredients.
The active ingredient in most antibacterial products is triclosan, an antibacterial agent that kills bacteria and inhibits bacterial growth. But not only does triclosan kill bacteria, it also has been shown to kill human cells. Triclosan was introduced into consumer products in 1995, and its use has spread rapidly.
Antibacterial ingredients have become so prevalent in the United States that there are now antibacterial soaps, laundry detergents, shampoos, toothpastes, body washes, dish soaps and many household-cleaning products.
Consumers use these products because they have been marketed as an effective and necessary way to lower the risk of infection. However, many scientists fear that the widespread use could lead to a strain of resistant bacteria, or “super bugs,” and cause the ingredients to lose effectiveness for the times when they really are needed.
And now, the first major test in people's homes has found that using antibacterial products apparently offers little protection against the most common germs. The study represents the first time scientists have attempted to evaluate the products under real-life, day-to-day conditions in homes.
In the study, published in the March 2, 2004 journal Annals of Internal Medicine, people who used antibacterial soaps and cleansers developed cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms just as often as people who used products that did not contain antibacterial ingredients.
The researchers pointed out that most of the symptoms experienced by the study participants are typically caused by viruses, which the antibacterial soaps don’t protect against. And for the symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, which may be caused by bacteria, the people who used regular soaps had no greater risk than those who used antibacterial products.
Further, many traditional medical circles now accept the hygiene hypothesis, which centers on the idea that children need to be exposed to some bacteria in early childhood in order to strengthen their immune systems. Children who are not exposed to common bacteria, which are wiped out by antibacterial soap, may be more prone to allergies and asthma.
Even the American Medical Association (AMA) does not recommend these products. So why do they persist? Simple; the manufacturers have relied on using fear to convince people that they need to use them to stay healthy. So, avoid being duped by these companies. All you need to use is a plain, chemical-free soap that you can pick up in your local health food store, as washing with plain soap and water will get rid of most all bacteria.
BREAST CANCER AND ANTIBIOTIC USE
Antibiotic use is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, according to this study, and the more antibiotics used the more the risk of breast cancer increased.
The study of more than 10,000 women found that women who took antibiotics for more than 500 days--or had more than 25 prescriptions--over an average period of 17 years had more than twice the risk of breast cancer as women who had not taken any antibiotics. Even women who had between one and 25 prescriptions over the same time period were about 1.5 times more likely to get breast cancer.
The results do not necessarily mean that antibiotics cause breast cancer; it could also mean that the something about the women who are using antibiotics is increasing the risk. For instance, they may be biologically predisposed to breast cancer by a hormonal imbalance that is increasing their risk for infections and prompting their antibiotic use.
The authors suggested a few other possible explanations for the observed association between antibiotic use and increased breast cancer risk including:
Antibiotics can affect bacteria in the intestine, which may impact how certain foods that might prevent cancer are broken down in the body.
Antibiotics may affect the body's immune response and response to inflammation, which could also be related to the development of cancer.
Women with frequent infections may be generally less healthy as those without such infections, and may therefore be more likely to get breast cancer.
A study conducted in Finland in 2000 also found an association between antibiotics and breast cancer, and prompted the current study.
In an accompanying JAMA editorial, it is noted that the finding is particularly worrisome as exposure to antibiotics is so prevalent, and often not necessary. Therefore, the risk could be substantial and largely preventable. They also raise the question of whether the use of antibiotics is a risk factor for other cancers, and point to a need for further research to address this concern.
More than 200,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and 40,000 die from the disease, making it the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women.
Journal of the American Medical Association February 18, 2004;291(7):827-35
The next time you or your child is given antibiotics unnecessarily—for colds, earaches, sinus infections, etc., you might want to read this excerpt again.