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Dr. Gregory Pais, ND
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Home arrow Naturopathic News arrow Issue #51 - December 2006
Issue #51 - December 2006
  1. Happy Holidays!
  2. Website Services
  3. UnderstandingHealth and Disease: Suppression
  4. Food Labels--Beef Part 2
  5. Wait and See for Ear Infections
  6. Emerson Ecologics
Happy Holidays! Welcome to this issue of Naturopathic News, issue #51. It's my mission 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. If you would like to stop receiving my newsletter send me an email and let me know. If you have a friend or family member who you think would appreciate the information provided, send me their email address.

As of Friday October 6, 2006, my website, is up and running.
Here are some pages that are of particular interest:

Store: On this page you will find some of the more common items from Emerson. This allows you to conveniently order from my website. If one of the products that you use is not listed here let me know and I will add it. You can always order by phone from Emerson at 800-654-4432.

Here you will find all 50 issues of my health newsletter, "Naturopathic News".

This is a community calendar open to all of you. Please use it to post events and special dates that you would like to share.
You will also find the dates that I am out of town as well as my classes and lectures.

Suppression - Any treatment that removes a symptom without curing the whole person.

If you've worked with me for any length of time you've probably heard me use the term suppression in relation to the treatment of symptoms. One of the most common examples of this process is the suppression of childhood eczema with corticosteroids, coal tar products, or zinc oxide. Many individuals whose skin symptoms have been treated with such drugs end up with a 'new' diagnosis of asthma within a few years. Conventionally, though a categorical connection is made between such diagnoses, there is no awareness of the causative process that exists.

These drugs do not treat the underlying causes of eczema; much less address the overall health of the individual. For example, hydrocortisone creams suppress the immune response, thereby limiting the skin reaction, itching, etc. When the expression of the internal imbalance that underlies the eczema is thwarted by such a drug, that expression moves to a different level, often to the grouping of symptoms called 'asthma'. You'll notice a hierarchical relationship here. A more exteriorized, less severe symptom-eczema-when suppressed, is replaced by a more internalized, often more severe symptom-asthma.

I'd like to share a recent example that I observed. Every 6 weeks I attend an advanced homeopathic training program at the Hudson Valley School of Classical Homeopathy in Gardiner, NY

For almost 2 years now we've been working with a patient who presented originally with multiple complaints of severe musculoskeletal pain, chronic headaches, and insomnia. After 10+ years of receiving no benefit from drugs and surgical procedures this patient had recently begun to see improvement on several levels of her health.

At her last follow up she reported sinus symptoms that she took antibiotics for. As far as her ongoing case she stated that there hadn't been much change in her symptoms. However, when a symptom timeline was obtained, a very different picture emerged. She actually had gone 2 weeks without any headache at all. But now she was having them again. This was a very significant shift in the pattern of her symptoms, as she had not experienced such a hiatus from her chronic headaches in many years. What happened?

Turns out that because of some colored nasal discharge and a sense of pressure in her face she was prescribed and took antibiotics, because she had a 'sinus infection'. Of course, no sample was obtained to check if there were bacteria present. The assumption was that these symptoms were bacteria related so the best treatment was to kill the bacteria. Right?

There are several problems with this line of thinking. First, it has been shown that antibiotic treatment for acute sinusitis provides no advantage over non-treatment and those treated are more likely to experience side effects.
Amoxicillin-Clavulanate in Clinically Diagnosed Acute Rhinosinusitis:
A Placebo-Controlled, Double-blind, Randomized Trial in General
Practice. Arch Intern Med 2003;163:1793-1798. Vol. 163 No. 15, August 11, 2003

Second, antibiotics kill the beneficial bacteria in the gut and vaginal tract, lowering immune response and leading to secondary yeast infections. Which is why I think it is very important to take specific probiotics concurrent with antibiotic use.

Third, and most important in this case, her chronic headache returned after a 2-week absence exactly when she started the antibiotics. In other words, a relatively benign set of symptoms-colored nasal discharge and facial pressure-were suppressed. This led to the return of more internalized, serious symptomatology; chronic headaches in this patient's case. A clear case of suppression.

So, the next time a bothersome symptom comes up and you reach for your herbal or over the counter medicine to 'get rid of it', stop and think. What are you treating and why? It's not uncommon for old symptoms to return in the course of homeopathic treatment-this patient's 'sinus infection'. When the body is supported to heal itself-the Vit. C protocol in this case-suppression would not be an issue. For this patient, she has taken a step back and now we have to move forward again. A painful lesson that hopefully she won't repeat again.

 "Discover How Your Beef Is Really Raised", by Michael Pollan, New York Times, March 31, 2002. This is the second part of Michael Pollan's article on how beef is raised. If you missed Part 1 you'll find it on my website

Hadrick and I squeezed into the heated cab of a huge swivel-hipped tractor hooked up to a feed mixer: basically, a dump truck with a giant screw through the middle to blend ingredients.

First stop was a hopper filled with Rumensin, a powerful antibiotic that No. 534 will consume with his feed every day for the rest of his life. Calves have no need of regular medication while on grass, but as soon as they're placed in the backgrounding pen, they're apt to get sick.

The stress of weaning is a factor, but the main culprit is the feed. The shift to a ''hot ration'' of grain can so disturb the cow's digestive process -- its rumen, in particular -- that it can kill the animal if not managed carefully and accompanied by antibiotics.

After we'd scooped the ingredients into the hopper and turned on the mixer, Hadrick deftly sidled the tractor alongside the pen and flipped a switch to release a dusty tan stream of feed in a long, even line. No. 534 was one of the first animals to belly up to the rail for breakfast. He was heftier than his pen mates and, I decided, sparkier too. That morning, Hadrick and I gave each calf six pounds of corn mixed with seven pounds of ground alfalfa hay and a quarter-pound of Rumensin. Soon after my visit, this ration would be cranked up to 14 pounds of corn and 6 pounds of hay -- and added two and a half pounds every day to No. 534.

While I was on the ranch, I didn't talk to No. 534, pet him or otherwise try to form a connection. I also decided not to give him a name, even though my son proposed a pretty good one after seeing a snapshot. (''Night.'') My intention, after all, is to send this animal to slaughter and then eat some of him. No. 534 is not a pet, and I certainly don't want to end up with an ox in my backyard because I suddenly got sentimental.

As fall turned into winter, Hadrick sent me regular e-mail messages apprising me of my steer's progress. On Nov. 13 he weighed 650 pounds; by Christmas he was up to 798, making him the seventh-heaviest steer in his pen, an achievement in which I, idiotically, took a measure of pride. Between Nov. 13 and Jan. 4, the day he boarded the truck for Kansas, No. 534 put away 706 pounds of corn and 336 pounds of alfalfa hay, bringing his total living expenses for that period to $61.13. I was into this deal now for $659.

Hadrick's e-mail updates grew chattier as time went on, cracking a window on the rancher's life and outlook. I was especially struck by his relationship to the animals, how it manages to be at once intimate and unsentimental. One day Hadrick is tenderly nursing a newborn at 3 a.m., the next he's ''having a big prairie oyster feed'' after castrating a pen of bull calves.

Hadrick wrote empathetically about weaning (''It's like packing up and leaving the house when you are 18 and knowing you will never see your parents again'') and with restrained indignation about ''animal activists and city people'' who don't understand the first thing about a rancher's relationship to his cattle. Which, as Hadrick put it, is simply this: ''If we don't take care of these animals, they won't take care of us.''

''Everyone hears about the bad stuff,'' Hadrick wrote, ''but they don't ever see you give C.P.R. to a newborn calf that was born backward or bringing them into your house and trying to warm them up on your kitchen floor because they were born on a minus-20-degree night. Those are the kinds of things ranchers will do for their livestock. They take precedence over most everything in your life. Sorry for the sermon.''

To travel from the ranch to the feedlot, as No. 534 and I both did (in separate vehicles) the first week in January, feels a lot like going from the country to the big city. Indeed, a cattle feedlot is a kind of city, populated by as many as 100,000 animals. It is very much a premodern city, however -- crowded, filthy and stinking, with open sewers, unpaved roads and choking air.

The urbanization of the world's livestock is a fairly recent historical development, so it makes a certain sense that cow towns like Poky Feeders would recall human cities several centuries ago. As in 14th-century London, the metropolitan digestion remains vividly on display: the foodstuffs coming in, the waste streaming out. Similarly, there is the crowding together of recent arrivals from who knows where, combined with a lack of modern sanitation.

This combination has always been a recipe for disease; the only reason contemporary animal cities aren't as plague-ridden as their medieval counterparts is a single historical anomaly: the modern antibiotic.

I spent the better part of a day walking around Poky Feeders, trying to understand how its various parts fit together. In any city, it's easy to lose track of nature -- of the connections between various species and the land on which everything ultimately depends.

The feedlot's ecosystem, I could see, revolves around corn.
But its food chain doesn't end there, because the corn itself grows somewhere else, where it is implicated in a whole other set of ecological relationships. Growing the vast quantities of corn used to feed livestock in this country takes vast quantities of chemical fertilizer, which in turn takes vast quantities of oil -- 1.2 gallons for every bushel. So the modern feedlot is really a city floating on a sea of oil.

I started my tour at the feed mill, the yard's thundering hub, where three meals a day for 37,000 animals are designed and mixed by computer.
A million pounds of feed passes through the mill each day.

Every hour of every day, a tractor-trailer pulls up to disgorge another 25 tons of corn. Around the other side of the mill, tanker trucks back up to silo-shaped tanks, into which they pump thousands of gallons of liquefied fat and protein supplement.
In a shed attached to the mill sit vats of liquid vitamins and synthetic estrogen; next to these are pallets stacked with 50-pound sacks of Rumensin and tylosin, another antibiotic. Along with alfalfa hay and corn silage for roughage, all these ingredients are blended and then piped into the dump trucks that keep Poky's eight and a half miles of trough filled.

The feed mill's great din is made by two giant steel rollers turning against each other 12 hours a day, crushing steamed corn kernels into flakes. This was the only feed ingredient I tasted, and it wasn't half bad; not as crisp as Kellogg's, but with a cornier flavor. I passed, however, on the protein supplement, a sticky brown goop consisting of molasses and urea.

Corn is a mainstay of livestock diets because there is no other feed quite as cheap or plentiful: thanks to federal subsidies and ever-growing surpluses, the price of corn ($2.25 a bushel) is 50 cents less than the cost of growing it.
The rise of the modern factory farm is a direct result of these surpluses, which soared in the years following World War II, when petrochemical fertilizers came into widespread use. Ever since, the U.S.D.A.'s policy has been to help farmers dispose of surplus corn by passing as much of it as possible through the digestive tracts of food animals, converting it into protein.

Compared with grass or hay, corn is a compact and portable foodstuff, making it possible to feed tens of thousands of animals on small plots of land.
Without cheap corn, the modern urbanization of livestock would probably never have occurred.

We have come to think of ''cornfed'' as some kind of old-fashioned virtue; we shouldn't. Granted, a cornfed cow develops well-marbled flesh, giving it a taste and texture American consumers have learned to like. Yet this meat is demonstrably less healthy to eat, since it contains more saturated fat.

A recent study in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the meat of grass-fed livestock not only had substantially less fat than grain-fed meat but that the type of fats found in grass-fed meat were much healthier. (Grass-fed meat has more omega 3 fatty acids and fewer omega 6, which is believed to promote heart disease; it also contains beta carotine and CLA, another ''good'' fat.)

A growing body of research suggests that many of the health problems associated with eating beef are really problems with cornfed beef. In the same way ruminants have not evolved to eat grain, humans may not be well adapted to eating grain-fed animals. Yet the USDA's grading system continues to reward marbling -- that is, intermuscular fat -- and thus the feeding of corn to cows.

The economic logic behind corn is unassailable, and on a factory farm, there is no other kind. Calories are calories, and corn is the cheapest, most convenient source of calories. Of course the identical industrial logic -- protein is protein -- led to the feeding of rendered cow parts back to cows, a practice the F.D.A. banned in 1997 after scientists realized it was spreading mad-cow disease.

Make that mostly banned. The F.D.A.'s rules against feeding ruminant protein to ruminants make exceptions for ''blood products'' (even though they contain protein) and fat. Indeed, my steer has probably dined on beef tallow recycled from the very slaughterhouse he's heading to in June. ''Fat is fat,'' the feedlot manager shrugged when I raised an eyebrow.

FDA rules still permit feedlots to feed nonruminant animal protein to cows. Feather meal is an accepted cattle feed, as are pig and fish protein and chicken manure.

Some public-health advocates worry that since the bovine meat and bone meal that cows used to eat is now being fed to chickens, pigs and fish, infectious prions could find their way back into cattle when they eat the protein of the animals that have been eating them. To close this biological loophole, the FDA is now considering tightening its feed rules.

Until mad-cow disease, remarkably few people in the cattle business, let alone the general public, comprehended the strange semicircular food chain that industrial agriculture had devised for cattle (and, in turn, for us). When I mentioned to Rich Blair that I'd been surprised to learn that cows were eating cows, he said, ''To tell the truth, it was kind of a shock to me too.''

Yet even today, ranchers don't ask many questions about feedlot menus. Not that the answers are so easy to come by. When I asked Poky's feedlot manager what exactly was in the protein supplement, he couldn't say. ''When we buy supplement, the supplier says it's 40 percent protein, but they don't specify beyond that.'' When I called the supplier, it wouldn't divulge all its ''proprietary ingredients'' but promised that animal parts weren't among them. Protein is pretty much still protein.

Compared with ground-up cow bones, corn seems positively wholesome. Yet it wreaks considerable havoc on bovine digestion. During my day at Poky, I spent an hour or two driving around the yard with Dr. Mel Metzen, the staff veterinarian. Metzen, a 1997 graduate of Kansas State's vet school, oversees a team of eight cowboys who spend their days riding the yard, spotting sick cows and bringing them in for treatment.

A great many of their health problems can be traced to their diet. ''They're made to eat forage,'' Metzen said, ''and we're making them eat grain.''
Perhaps the most serious thing that can go wrong with a ruminant on corn is feedlot bloat. The rumen is always producing copious amounts of gas, which is normally expelled by belching during rumination.

But when the diet contains too much starch and too little roughage, rumination all but stops, and a layer of foamy slime that can trap gas forms in the rumen. The rumen inflates like a balloon, pressing against the animal's lungs. Unless action is promptly taken to relieve the pressure (usually by forcing a hose down the animal's esophagus), the cow suffocates.

A corn diet can also give a cow acidosis. Unlike that in our own highly acidic stomachs, the normal pH of a rumen is neutral. Corn makes it unnaturally acidic, however, causing a kind of bovine heartburn, which in some cases can kill the animal but usually just makes it sick.

Acidotic animals go off their feed, pant and salivate excessively, paw at their bellies and eat dirt. The condition can lead to diarrhea, ulcers, bloat, liver disease and a general weakening of the immune system that leaves the animal vulnerable to everything from pneumonia to feedlot polio.

Cows rarely live on feedlot diets for more than six months, which might be about as much as their digestive systems can tolerate. ''I don't know how long you could feed this ration before you'd see problems,'' Metzen said; another vet said that a sustained feedlot diet would eventually ''blow out their livers'' and kill them. As the acids eat away at the rumen wall, bacteria enter the bloodstream and collect in the liver. More than 13 percent of feedlot cattle are found at slaughter to have abscessed livers.
New York Times March 31, 2002
Stay tuned for Part 3 in the January 2007 issue of Naturopathic News, #52.

DR. PAIS'S COMMENTS: Michael Pollan receives my vote for writing the best food-related book in 2006, "The Omnivore's Dilemma". If you haven't yet read this book I highly recommend it. It is an excellent portrayal of what we choose to eat and how that food is produced.

In a trial reported in the Sept. 13, 2006 issue of the "Journal of the American Medical Association", the 'wait-and-see' approach to ear infections, also known as acute otitis media (AOM), is to be preferred.

15 million antibiotic prescriptions are written each year for AOM, which is the most common reason why children receive antibiotics. According to this study, left untreated, acute otitis media has a high rate of spontaneous remission. The immediate treatment of AOM with antibiotics "increases the rates of diarrhea by two to three times, compared to the 'wait-and-see' approach. These authors showed that waiting to prescribe antibiotics for acute otitis media is a "successful treatment strategy."

This randomized controlled trial has shown that waiting to use antibiotics for AOM "significantly reduces the use of antibiotics" without compromising clinical results. " The risks of antibiotics, including gastrointestinal symptoms, allergic reactions, and accelerated resistance to bacterial pathogens, must be weighed against their benefits for an illness that, for the most part, is self-limited."
"Wait-and-See Prescription for the Treatment of Acute Otitis Media: A Randomized Clinical Trial", JAMA, Vol. 296, #10, Sept. 13, 2006, pp. 1235-1241
DR. PAIS'S COMMENTS: It's my hope that this latest study (in a long line of studies going back to at least 1993) will finally begin to curtail the indiscriminate use of antibiotics for ear infections. As this study asserts, antibiotic resistance is a major public health concern and is associated with the widespread use of antibiotics. Most pediatricians in the US are trained to routinely prescribe antibiotics for AOM, supposedly because 'parents expect a prescription'.

My approach is a combination of the correct homeopathic remedy, dietary adjustments to eliminate mucus, and a specific probiotic if antibiotics have been started. Not only does this reduce acute symptoms, it prevents antibiotic side effects and helps break the cycle of recurrent infections.

I am often asked what supplements I recommend. Many of you have been surprised to discover that I favor food over pills; lifestyle changes over fads. I have been working with nutrition for 30 years, herbs for over 20 years. Where and when appropriate I recommend them to my patients. I strive to act from knowledge, experience, and research.

Emerson Ecologics (800-654-4432) carries almost all of the nutritional supplements and botanical extracts that I think are useful. Their customer service is excellent and their delivery is reliable (often only 2-3 days to this region). It's a great way to get physician quality products at reasonable prices.

To offset the cost of shipping, reference my name when you establish your account and receive a 10% discount on every order. If you have any questions about these items feel free to email me.

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.

Gregory Pais, ND, DHANP