|Issue #26 - November 2004|
Welcome to this issue of Naturopathic News, issue #26. 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.
HOMEOPATHY: DESCRIBING YOUR SYMPTOMS
Over the past few weeks there have been several comments from patients concerning the telling of their symptoms. These have fallen into 2-3 distinct categories and I thought it would be useful to respond to these comments in the forum of this newsletter.
One common response is along the lines of “I don’t want to talk about my symptoms, that’s whining”. Whining implies that your symptoms are inconsequential, not worthy, or that the act of discussing them is childish or just complaining. The success of homeopathy depends on hard work. It’s not easy to say what you feel, to look at the source of a problem, to recognize the patterns of behavior that underlie our dis-ease. But it can be very liberating to do so. When you dismiss your symptoms in this way you are missing out on an opportunity to actually understand what is going on.
Another comment I hear goes something like this “…I worked through that years ago in therapy, I don’t need to go over that again.” Appropriate counseling and psychotherapy can provide excellent tools for understanding oneself and changing maladaptive behavior. However, even if you are 100% successful in utilizing these methods, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the trauma that underlies the patterns of behavior has been completely healed. By working with the homeopathic approach and truly seeing the roots of the unhealthy patterns of behavior we are empowered to actually get well. Not just on the superficial level, but on the deeper levels as well.
Finally, there are a multitude of reasons why someone might be unable to articulate a particular symptom. Anger is a good example. If someone’s experience is that they were rejected whenever they communicated anger as a child or young adult, it may be very difficult to verbalize, much less express it, during their homeopathic appointment. Worse, if they were abused for expressing their anger, it may be entangled with other intense emotions—hate, fear, etc. What if being anger is associated with a parent and the patient has promised himself or herself that they will never be like that parent? This is a conundrum that may make it impossible for them to even acknowledge that they are angry.
These are just a few of the things that may stand in the way of me hearing your symptoms. There are many more. What’s the solution to this problem? I create a safe and secure environment where you have permission to describe your experience. There is no room for judgment or prejudice. Only an acknowledgment that I need to really hear you, that I need to really see you, to truly understand you. From this place healing starts. It is our privilege as homeopaths to be entrusted with this most special of gifts—the anamnesis of our patients, their story.
VITAMIN B12 DEFICIENCY
Getting tested for vitamin B12 deficiency may be extremely important for an individual. However, the standard test that—which measures blood levels—may not be sensitive enough to detect a deficiency. Due to this insensitivity, there is a better test to detect vitamin B12 deficiency.
Elevated levels of a natural compound found in the body, methylmalonic acid (MMA), indicate low levels of vitamin B12. Low vitamin B12 levels have been linked to several neurological conditions, such as:
Nitrous oxide, a general anesthetic commonly used in dental offices and hospital operating rooms, can inhibit the action of B12 when tissue stores are low. This has become a major health problem particularly for the elderly undergoing surgery that have been either undiagnosed or untreated for a deficiency. For this reason, doctors are strongly encouraged to check for vitamin B12 deficiency by measuring both vitamin B12 as well as MMA in patients prior to surgery.
GP: About 40 percent of the United States population is deficient in B12. Your body has developed a very sophisticated system to absorb B12, which involves the production of intrinsic factor in the stomach that attaches to the B12 and allows it to be absorbed in the end of the small intestine.
If your stomach lining is damaged from an ulcer or a Helicobacter infection, you will not produce intrinsic factor very well, and you will not be able to absorb B12 very well, if at all. An imbalance of bacteria in the small intestine can also produce impaired absorption, as would removal of a portion of the small intestine (commonly done in Crohn's disease).
Vitamin B12 deficiency is quite common in vegetarian and vegans who do not supplement with B12 or use fortified foods, since B12 is not readily available, if available at all, in plants. If you are a vegetarian who eats eggs or fish, the risk for B12 deficiency is considerably reduced. If you are a vegan avoiding all animal products, and you do not already supplement with B12, you should seriously consider it.
One strong inhibitor of vitamin B12 absorption is the very popular drug Prilosec, which has been clearly shown to decrease B12 absorption.
VITAMIN E FUROR
A controversial new study has found high doses of vitamin E may increase one's risk of dying. This represents a big change from previous studies that showed vitamin E lowered the mortality rate of cardiovascular disease.
Current U.S. dietary guidelines have set a high upper limit of 1,500 international units (IU) of vitamin E a day. Some adults in the United States take doses of vitamin E (greater than 400 IU a day), believing high doses will help them live longer.
This new study is a meta-analysis—a study that gets its results by analyzing the data from other studies. As you might imagine, to do this well, the data from the different studies (19 for this meta-analysis) must be critically examined for similarities and differences. If this is not done then the results are worthless to actually dangerous.
There are many problems with the meta-analysis:
None of these issues were addressed in this study.
GP: A major problem is that even a good meta-analysis of badly designed studies still results in bad statistics. In other words: 'Garbage in equals garbage out.' In the case of this study, the "garbage" involved failure to make sure that all the clinical trials used the same form of vitamin E. The vitamin E most often referred to and sold in most stores is a synthetic form called dl-alpha-tocopherol, and I DO NOT recommend synthetic vitamin E. Natural Vitamin E, d-alpha tocopherol, is the form that our body utilizes and is also the form that we know the most about. It might well have been the synthetic vitamin E that had a detrimental effect, and not natural Vitamin E.
In addition to its powerful antioxidant properties, vitamin E:
BREASTFEEDING FIGHTS ARTHRITIS
The benefits of breastfeeding for babies are well known, but there is growing evidence that breastfeeding has a positive impact on a mom's health as well. New research shows that breastfeeding lowers a woman's risk for rheumatoid arthritis. The risk is cut in half among women who breastfeed for two years or more.
Female sex hormones have long been thought to play a role in rheumatoid arthritis, which is diagnosed in women up to four times as often as in men. Rheumatoid arthritis often develops when hormone levels are changing, such as in the first few months after giving birth and around the time of menopause.
In an effort to clarify the relationship between reproductive hormones and rheumatoid arthritis, researchers from Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital examined data from a large, ongoing health study that has followed female nurses for almost three decades. After adjusting for known risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis, such as age and smoking, the researchers found breastfeeding decreased the risk. Breastfeeding for between one and two years decreased the risk of rheumatoid arthritis by 20 percent, compared with women who did not breastfeed at all. Breastfeeding for at least two years decreased the risk of rheumatoid arthritis by 50 percent. This was total time spent breastfeeding all children. Breastfeeding for less than one year total did not decrease rheumatoid arthritis risk. The number of pregnancies and children the women had did not appear to influence rheumatoid arthritis risk, nor did a woman's age at first delivery.
Arthritis and Rheumatism, November 2004; Vol. 50: pp 3458-3467
GP: Yet another reason to want to breastfeed your baby. Not only is breast milk the best food for a baby, breastfeeding is good for mom too. Any woman who breastfeeds for 2 years or more decreases her risk of rheumatoid arthritis by 50 percent. It’s hard to argue with those numbers.
HRT LINK TO HIGHER BLOOD CLOT RISK CONFIRMED
Women who receive combination hormone therapy are at double the risk of developing blood clots in their veins, according to a major government study on the treatment.
The final results from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), which appear in the Oct. 6, 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, confirm previous research on the therapy. However, they also found obesity and advancing age further increase the risk of clots, known medically as venous thrombosis, even further.
"Increasing age and obesity are two of the most important lifestyle characteristics associated with thrombosis. The risks are cumulative," said study author Dr. Mary Cushman, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. "If you are considering giving hormones to healthy women, these are two major risk factors to consider."
Meanwhile, a second study in the journal found that a certain type of estrogen, conjugated equine estrogen, increased rates of venous thrombosis.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is approved for the relief of hot flashes, night sweats, and other menopausal symptoms, but it also carries with it the risk of blood clots, heart attacks, stroke, and breast cancer. These risks led investigators to halt this segment of the WHI in July 2002. Nevertheless, a quarter of women who stopped taking hormone replacement therapy have gone back to it, according to experts.
Previous information from the WHI reported a 2.11 times increased risk of venous thrombosis based on 5.2 years of follow-up. The current study incorporates data through July 7, 2002, with an average follow-up of 5.6 years.
The trial involved 16,608 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79 who were randomly assigned to receive conjugated equine estrogen plus progestin or a placebo. Venous thrombosis occurred in 167 women taking hormones and in 76 women taking the placebo, representing about double the risk. The risk was even higher among older women and among overweight and obese women: 4.3 times for women 60 to 69 and 7.5 times women 70 to 79 compared with women 50 to 59. Overweight women had 3.8 times the risk, while obese women were at 5.6 times the risk compared with women of normal weight.
The second trial found an increased risk of venous thrombosis associated with conjugated equine estrogen (CEE), which includes horse estrogens. These study authors looked at perimenopausal and postmenopausal women, aged 30 to 89, who were members of a large health maintenance organization (HMO) in Washington State. The HMO's pharmacies switched from standard estrogen therapy to conjugated equine estrogen in October 1999, providing an opportunity to observe if the change resulted in any differences.
As it turned out, women currently taking CEE had a 65 percent increased risk of venous thrombosis compared with women not taking that type of estrogen. Higher daily doses were associated with an even higher risk.
GP: The studies keep coming out. There are more and more reasons not to automatically take hormone replacement therapy. If your MD/DO did not tell you of the risks when they first prescribed HRT for you, you should definitely have that discussion. Though the alternatives to HRT are not successful in 100% of patients, they also don’t cause dangerous side effects. And they’re not made by torturing horses (‘horse estrogens’).
MMR VACCINE AND AUTISM
A new study has confirmed a definite causal link between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism - and it has used the same data employed by an earlier study that governments have relied on to deny the link.
The vaccine increases the risk of autism by 850 per cent, or nearly 500 per cent if we allow for greater diagnostic awareness, one of the major arguments put forward for the sudden increase in autism.
This conclusion contradicts that of the Madsen study carried out in 2002, which found no link, and which governments have gratefully clung to ever since.
So why the enormous discrepancy between the two trials? Autism is usually diagnosed only at age 5 or older, or it is in Denmark from where the data for both studies has been gleaned. The Madsen study monitored the progress of vaccinated children in Denmark only for four years, so it's hardly surprising that few, if any, cases of autism were established. Less severe cases, which might have become apparent even later, were certainly not included in the findings.
The new study, carried out by American pediatricians Drs. Fouad Yazbak and G S Goldman, tracks levels of autism in Denmark from 1980 - seven years before the MMR vaccine was introduced in Denmark - until 2002. Prevalence of autism among children aged from 5 to 9 stood at 8.38 cases per 100,000 in the pre-vaccine years of 1980 to 1986, and then rose to 71.43 cases by the year 2000.
Dr Samy Suissa of McGill University had similar problems with the Madsen study. When he analyzed the statistics he discovered that the rate of autism increases to a high of 27.3 cases per 100,000 two years after vaccination compared with just 1.45 cases in non-vaccinated children.
Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, 2004; 3: 70-5; New England Journal of Medicine, 2002; 347: 1477-82
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That’s it for this issue of Naturopathic News. If you’ve thought a bit extra or learned something new, then I achieved my goal. As usual, if you have questions or concerns brought up by these subjects, let me know.