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Mistletoe the parasite July 16, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Cancer, Dreamhealer, Health, Integrative Medicine, Research.
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Mistletoe therapy is emerging as a potent cancer therapy

Mistletoe therapy is emerging as a potent cancer therapy

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that directly derives almost all of its nutrition from other flowering plants. By parasitizing other plants, they have a competitive advantage over many other forms of life because they do not have to compete in soil for their water and nutrient needs. This description of mistletoe sounds surprisingly similar to how cancer operates. When you look at mistletoe growing on a tree it looks very much like a tumour. Cancer gets all of its nutrition from other cells within the human body and it has a competitive advantage because it does not abide by the same rules as other cells in the body.

It turns out the mistletoe can be used to effectively treat cancer, even in advanced cases1,2,3. In North America this is often considered a “fringe treatment” yet if you go to Germany this is a mainstream therapy that is well established by the scientific community. The use of mistletoe dramatically reduces the side effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation. The effects are so dramatic that some countries have already made this the standard of care for cancer treatment. The use of mistletoe as the new standard of care was of huge financial benefit to these countries because of the significant decrease in complications from chemotherapy and radiation.

Although there are several different ways to administer mistletoe, the most common is regular subcutaneous injections. This involves the use of small insulin needles and injecting the mistletoe just under the skin. After injecting the mistletoe lectins the immune system immediately begins to attack the injected fluid resulting in a small red rash around the injection site. This immune activation is an excellent outcome in the context of cancer. By activating the immune system at the site of injection it consequently activates the immune system in the entire body.

Mistletoe has been shown to stimulate increases in the number and the activity of several types of white blood cells4. Immune-system-enhancing cytokines, such as interleukin-1, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor -alpha, are released by white blood cells after exposure to mistletoe extracts5,6. Other evidence suggests that mistletoe exerts its cytotoxic effects by interfering with protein synthesis in target cells and by inducing apoptosis7.

Just like any cancer therapy it is essential that it is used in the right context. When this therapy is used there will initially be a swelling of the tumour, this is a consequence of the immune activation. If there are any detectable masses contained within the skull, then clearly swelling is not desirable. Mistletoe therapy is contraindicated in patients that have any detectable mass in the brain. It also must be used with caution on patients that are are cachexic and malnourished. The sudden release of cytokines associated with immune activation can worsen the malnourished state.

Mistletoe therapy only costs approximately $250 dollars per month and it can be used in conjunction with other medical therapies. I regularly use mistletoe with my patients at the clinic and it is an effective cancer therapy when used appropriately. On a regular basis I see patients improve when they use this therapy as part of a comprehensive integrative cancer therapy. Contact Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic to see if this is the right therapy for you.

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, First Nations Healer, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

 

References:

1. Mistletoe. In: Murray MT: The Healing Power of Herbs. Roseville, Calif: Prima Publishing, 1995, pp 253-9.

2. Samtleben R, Hajto T, Hostanska K, et al.: Mistletoe lectins as immunostimulants (chemistry, pharmacology and clinic). In: Wagner H, ed.: Immunomodulatory Agents from Plants. Basel, Switzerland: Birkhauser Verlag, 1999, pp 223-41.

3. Hajto T, Lanzrein C: Natural killer and antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity activities and large granular lymphocyte frequencies in Viscum album-treated breast cancer patients. Oncology 43 (2): 93-7, 1986.

4. Büssing A, Regnery A, Schweizer K: Effects of Viscum album L. on cyclophosphamide-treated peripheral blood mononuclear cells in vitro: sister chromatid exchanges and activation/proliferation marker expression. Cancer Lett 94 (2): 199-205, 1995.

5. Hajto T: Immunomodulatory effects of iscador: a Viscum album preparation. Oncology 43 (Suppl 1): 51-65, 1986.

6. Hajto T, Hostanska K, Frei K, et al.: Increased secretion of tumor necrosis factors alpha, interleukin 1, and interleukin 6 by human mononuclear cells exposed to beta-galactoside-specific lectin from clinically applied mistletoe extract. Cancer Res 50 (11): 3322-6, 1990.

7. Mengs U, Schwarz T, Bulitta M, et al.: Antitumoral effects of an intravesically applied aqueous mistletoe extract on urinary bladder carcinoma MB49 in mice. Anticancer Res 20 (5B): 3565-8, 2000 Sep- Oct.

When is high dose IV Vitamin C indicated? June 22, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Cancer, Chemotherapy, Health, Integrative Medicine, Naturopathic Medicine, vitamins.
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High dose IV Vitamin C is emerging as a powerful cancer therapy

By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND

High dose intravenous Vitamin C has gained a lot of attention in the media lately as an anti-cancer therapy. There is no doubt that when used appropriately this can be an effective integrative cancer therapy1. As the evidence mounts, mainstream medicine is slowly beginning to embrace high dose IV Vitamin C.

Oncologists will frequently tell their patients to fear antioxidants because they will neutralize the effects of the chemotherapy. The rationale is that chemotherapy works by adding oxidative stress to cancer cells and antioxidants will neutralize this effect. On an intuitive level this makes sense but the majority of the scientific evidence indicates that when used appropriately antioxidants protect healthy cells without interfering with the effects of the chemotherapy2,3.

It is important to point out that Vitamin C is not an antioxidant when given at high doses intravenously4. When taken orally at low doses Vitamin C is an effective antioxidant and it has many positive benefits. At high doses Vitamin C switches roles and acts as a potent oxidative molecule, which is the complete opposite of its antioxidant role at lower doses. Studies show that at high doses Vitamin C is very toxic to cancer cells6. In this cellular context it is a potent oxidative molecule that works synergistically with most conventional therapies.

Patients who undergo this therapy tend to experience less significant side effects from the chemotherapy7,8. IV Vitamin C can vastly improve quality of life by increasing appetite, raising platelet counts, easing fatigue and reducing pain. When patients are supported by the appropriate nutrients and supplements, the side effects from chemotherapy are less intense. Studies consistently show that at these high doses, Vitamin C is toxic to cancer cells while protecting healthy cells from the effects of chemotherapy. The evidence indicates that IV Vitamin C is effective when used in conjunction with chemotherapy rather than as a stand alone therapy.

There are several different situations where high dose IV Vitamin C is not safe. Although it is safe to use with most chemotherapies, it is not safe to use with Velcade (Bortezomib)5. There are a number of studies that show a negative interaction between this particular drug and Vitamin C. When injecting Vitamin C there is a significant amount of sodium that is in the infusion and this can add a significant burden to the kidneys. This stress to the kidneys is only a concern in patients that have significantly compromised kidney function. There is also a rare genetic condition known as G6PD and in these patients it is not safe to give them high doses of Vitamin C. You need an experienced health care professional to assess your health history and ensure that you do not have any contraindications to this therapy.

I regularly run IV Vitamin C on my patients at the clinic and it is a very effective cancer therapy when used appropriately. On a regular basis I see patients improve significantly when they use this therapy as part of a comprehensive integrative cancer therapy. Contact Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic to see if this is the right therapy for you.

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, First Nations Healer, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

 

References:

1) Vollbracht, Claudia, et al. “Intravenous vitamin C administration improves quality of life in breast cancer patients during chemo-/radiotherapy and aftercare: results of a retrospective, multicentre, epidemiological cohort study in Germany.” in vivo 25.6 (2011): 983-990.

2) Suhail, N., et al. “Effect of vitamins C and E on antioxidant status of breast‐cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.” Journal of clinical pharmacy and therapeutics 37.1 (2012): 22-26.

3) Tabassum, A., R. G. Bristow, and V. Venkateswaran. “Ingestion of selenium and other antioxidants during prostate cancer radiotherapy: a good thing?.” Cancer treatment reviews36.3 (2010): 230-234.

4) Carr, Anitra, and Balz Frei. “Does vitamin C act as a pro-oxidant under physiological conditions?.” The FASEB Journal 13.9 (1999): 1007-1024.

5) Perrone, G., et al. “Ascorbic acid inhibits antitumor activity of bortezomib in vivo.” Leukemia23.9 (2009): 1679-1686.

6) Riordan, N. H., et al. “Intravenous ascorbate as a tumor cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agent.”Medical hypotheses 44.3 (1995): 207-213.

7) Weijl, N. I., et al. “Supplementation with antioxidant micronutrients and chemotherapy-induced toxicity in cancer patients treated with cisplatin-based chemotherapy: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.” European Journal of Cancer 40.11 (2004): 1713-1723.

8) Takemura, Yukitoshi, et al. “High dose of ascorbic acid induces cell death in mesothelioma cells.” Biochemical and biophysical research communications 394.2 (2010): 249-253.

Heat: The Achilles Heel of Cancer June 2, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Cancer, Dreamhealer, Healing, Health, Integrative Medicine, naturopathic, Naturopathic Medicine, Naturopathy, Prostate Cancer, Research.
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Heat: The Achilles Heel of Cancer

Written By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND

It is a well established fact that cancer cells are vulnerable to heat1,2. On a cellular level it makes intuitive sense that cancer cells would be sensitive to heat. Normal cells are spatially arranged so that heat can be distributed evenly and they will not divide if they are physically in contact with adjacent cells. Cancer cells within a tumour will continue to divide regardless of the proximity of adjacent cells; this is one of the hallmarks of cancer. As a result of this uncontrolled growth, the cells in the tumour become densely packed together and this makes it very difficult for them to effectively distribute heat.

Hyperthermia treatment is rapidly becoming a mainstream therapy for patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. During these treatments the patients’ core body temperature is artificially raised to mimic a strong fever. This is not a pleasant experience for the patient but it is very effective at weakening the cancer cells. It makes these cancer cells more vulnerable to chemotherapy and radiation.

When any cell is exposed to heat there are immediate biochemical and genetic changes that occur so that the cell can adapt to the new warm environment. One of the most potent responses that allows these cells to survive the heat is the production of heat shock proteins (HSP)3. These HSPs protect components within the cell that are vulnerable to heat damage and during hyperthermia the production of these proteins within cancer cells is what allows them to survive. Currently there is a major push with pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs that inhibit these proteins.

There are several different natural compounds which are well documented heat shock protein inhibitors. These substances are safe when used in the right clinical context and you need to consult a Naturopathic Doctor to know if this is the best therapy for that specific type of cancer. One example is Quercetin, a bioflavonoid that is well documented as a potent inhibitor of heat shock proteins in cancer cells4,5,6,7,8,9.

Cancer cells are naturally very vulnerable to heat based on how densely the cells are packed together. When hyperthermia is combined with Quercetin the results are very dramatic10. In one study on prostate carcinoma they concluded that, “When combined in a treatment protocol with hyperthermia, Quercetin drastically inhibited tumour growth and potently amplified the effects of hyperthermia on two prostate tumour types, PC-3 and DU-145 in vivo. These experiments, thus, suggest the use of Quercetin as a hyperthermia sensitizer in the treatment of prostate carcinoma.”

It is extremely important to point out two things. Firstly, Quercetin is safe with most but not all chemotherapy drugs and you need professional guidance from a Naturopathic Doctor who focuses in oncology to know if this is safe for you. Secondly, the quality of the Quercetin supplement makes a big difference. Generally speaking Quercetin is very poorly absorbed and there are only a few professional brands of sufficient quality that are effective at sensitizing the cancer cells. In some cases, intravenous Quercetin is more appropriate.

The mainstream medical community is changing its tune with regards to hyperthermia. In private hospitals in the United States it is very commonly used because it is so effective. In Canada, there are only a handful of clinics that currently offer this therapy. As the evidence for this therapy accumulates, in the near future hyperthermia combined with these natural approaches will undoubtedly become the standard of care for cancer patients.

 

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, First Nations Healer, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

References:

1. Van der Zee J. Heating the patient: a promising approach? Ann Oncol, 2002. 13(8): p. 1173-84.

2. Van der Zee J and MC Erasmus. Hyperthermia in addition to radiotherapy. Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol), 2007. 19(3 Suppl): S18.

3. De Maio A (January 1999). “Heat shock proteins: facts, thoughts, and dreams”. Shock (Augusta, Ga.) 11 (1):1-12.

4.  Hansen, R. K., et al. “Quercetin inhibits heat shock protein induction but not heat shock factor DNA-binding in human breast carcinoma cells.” Biochemical and biophysical research communications 239.3 (1997): 851-856.

5. Gonzalez, Oscar, et al. “The heat shock protein inhibitor Quercetin attenuates hepatitis C virus production.” Hepatology 50.6 (2009): 1756-1764.

6. Wei, Yu-quan, et al. “Induction of apoptosis by quercetin: involvement of heat shock protein.” Cancer Research 54.18 (1994): 4952-4957.

7. Zanini, Cristina, et al. “Inhibition of heat shock proteins (HSP) expression by quercetin and differential doxorubicin sensitization in neuroblastoma and Ewing’s sarcoma cell lines.” Journal of neurochemistry 103.4 (2007): 1344-1354.

8. Hosokawa, Nobuko, et al. “Flavonoids inhibit the expression of heat shock proteins.” Cell structure and function 15.6 (1990): 393-401.

9. Elia, Guiliano, and M. G. Santoro. “Regulation of heat shock protein synthesis by quercetin in human erythroleukaemia cells.” Biochem. J 300 (1994): 201-209.

10. Asea, A., et al. “Effects of the flavonoid drug quercetin on the response of human prostate tumours to hyperthermia in vitro and in vivo.” International journal of hyperthermia 17.4 (2001): 347-356.

 

“My oncologist said that it doesn’t matter what I eat.” May 22, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Cancer, Diet, Dreamhealer, Healing, Integrative Medicine, Naturopathic Medicine, Research.
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Written By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, BSc (Hon)

I see a lot of patients with cancer at my clinic. The vast majority of my patients tell me that their oncologist bluntly told them that it doesn’t matter what they eat during their chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Some of these oncologists are so ingrained with this belief and they give zero dietary advice because they are convinced that diet will not make a difference.

As a molecular biologist this rationale made no sense to me. During these aggressive therapies every cell in the body is under an enormous amount of stress. The metabolic demands on your cells are obviously increased so that they can survive in the presence of these toxins. If the metabolic demands are increased then they clearly need nutrients to supply this demand. There is a big difference in the nutrient content of a Twinkie compared to an apple. Logic dictates that this difference in nutrients should make a big difference when your cells are bathed in chemotherapy and radiation in an effort to kill cancer.

Could all of these oncologists be wrong? They are very educated and if they feel so passionately about role of diet (or lack thereof) in cancer then surely there must be a scientific reason for this. I decided to look at peer-reviewed articles that study how diets affect patients during chemotherapy and radiation. It turns out that this attitude from oncologists is not based on logic or scientific fact. The evidence is clear; diet makes a big difference when patients are on chemotherapy and radiation. Oncologists who claim to be practicing evidence based medicine need to stop telling patients that it makes no difference because this is not what the evidence shows.

Many studies have been done on humans and rats, which clearly show positive affects from diet during chemotherapy. When given a diet that is rich in nutrients, rats are able to tolerate significantly higher doses of chemotherapy and radiation1,2. This is consistent with the ultimate goal of keeping your cells strong so that chemotherapy can be better tolerated by the patient. A recent article in the journal “The Oncologist” breaks down the different mechanisms as to how caloric restriction can enhance the effects of chemotherapy and radiation3. The conclusion of their research is: “Caloric restriction by fasting is likely an effective method to potentiate the cytotoxicity of chemotherapy and radiation therapy because of the overlapping induction of molecular profiles, and it may also provide a beneficial means of improving the overall health and metabolic profiles of patients. At this time, clinical trials evaluating caloric restriction as a complementary therapy in the treatment of cancer are warranted.” Caloric restriction is a method where the patient maintains their nutrient status while decreasing the number of calories that they are ingesting. Pilot trials have been completed on the ketogenic diet and how it affects the quality of life in advanced cancer patients. The results clearly show that specific diets can improve quality of life in these patients4. These are just a few examples of how different diets can impact your health during chemotherapy.

Diet alone is not a cure for cancer but when used properly it can help patients maintain their nutrient status during chemotherapy and radiation. I know that oncologists sincerely want the best for their patients and I have great respect for the work that they do. However, when they are asked about diet it is probably better that they say, “I don’t know” rather than “Don’t waste your time with diets because it won’t make a difference.” Unfortunately, oncologists do not get any training in nutrition and its role in cancer therapy. Their lack of training in nutrition is very apparent when you consider their position on the subject despite the evidence showing that it can be an effective tool6.

The bottom line is that diet does make a difference as this is what the evidence shows. There is no question that a healthy balanced diet will make it easier for patients to tolerate chemotherapy and radiation. Even though many of these patients have low energy levels during chemotherapy it is important to point out that research indicates patients are willing and able to adhere to specific diets during chemotherapy5. Anyone who eats a low quality diet will have lower energy and consequently a lower quality of life (recall the movie “Supersize Me”). This is common sense and this concept obviously applies to those who are undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. It is not uncommon in my practice for patients to be going through chemotherapy and radiation with minimal side effects because they are nutritionally supported during this process. If you eat a high quality diet under the supervision of a Naturopathic doctor (ND), then your cells with be better nourished to deal with the stresses of cancer and the aggressive treatments associated with cancer.

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, First Nations Healer, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author http://www.dreamhealer.com

He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

References:

1)    Bounous G, Le Bel E, Shuster J, Gold P, Tahan WT, Bastin E. Dietary protection during radiation therapy..  PubMed PMID: 807995.

2) Richard F. Branda, Zhuan Chen, Elice M. Brooks, Shelly J. Naud, Thomas D. Trainer, John J. McCormack, Diet modulates the toxicity of cancer chemotherapy in rats, Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine, Volume 140, Issue 5, November 2002, Pages 358-368, ISSN 0022-2143

3) Champ, Colin E., et al. “Nutrient restriction and radiation therapy for cancer treatment: when less is more.” The oncologist 18.1 (2013): 97-103.

4) Schmidt, Melanie, et al. “Effects of a ketogenic diet on the quality of life in 16 patients with advanced cancer: A pilot trial.” Nutr Metab (Lond) 8.1 (2011): 54.

5) von Gruenigen, Vivian E., et al. “Feasibility of a lifestyle intervention for ovarian cancer patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy.” Gynecologic oncology 122.2 (2011): 328-333.

6) Rock, C. L., Doyle, C., Demark-Wahnefried, W., Meyerhardt, J., Courneya, K. S., Schwartz, A. L., Bandera, E. V., Hamilton, K. K., Grant, B., McCullough, M., Byers, T. and Gansler, T. (2012), Nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer survivors. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 62: 242–274. doi: 10.3322/caac.21142

Dreamhealer Clinic is now open! April 26, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Healing.
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 dreamhealer clinic

I am very excited to announce the opening of my new clinic in Vancouver, BC. For the last 10 years I have been studying at university about how the body works on a molecular and physiological level. Finally I have the opportunity to integrate all the amazing tools that Naturopathic medicine has to offer with energy medicine.

Energy medicine blends together very well with Naturopathic medicine to optimize the patients healing. At the clinic I often combine energy medicine with acupuncture. The acupuncture helps to stimulate the meridians and when combined with energy medicine this can rapidly restore the flow of energy in the body.

To read more about the clinic, visit the website: http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

If you would like to book an appointment, please send an email to appointments@yaletownnaturopathic.com.

If you want updates on the clinic make sure you follow us on twitter and like us on facebook!

Dr. Adam McLeod, BSc, ND

Seeing your Doctor to Prevent Illness April 11, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Cancer, Dreamhealer, Energy Healing, Naturopathic Medicine.
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Written By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND

A patient waits in the doctor’s office. When he enters the doctor asks, “What brings you in here today?” The patient replies, “I have no health concerns at all. I am actually very healthy. I just want to learn how to stay healthy.” This scenario may sound bizarre to some people. Why would someone book an appointment with their doctor if they are perfectly healthy? These types of appointments need to become more common in our health care system!

In our culture there are many in the mainstream medical community that regularly speak about the importance of preventative medicine. There is no doubt that preventative medicine is effective and it ultimately saves our health care system billions of dollars in the long-term. Preventative medicine is more effective when the patient is treated before they are sick. By definition preventative medicine is the art of medicine that prevents patients from getting ill in the first place.

Patients should be encouraged to visit their doctor even when there is no health concern. Obviously regular checkups are important to ensure that the patient is indeed in good health but there also needs to be an active effort to keep them healthy. The solution to preventative medicine is not simply taking a pill to control a marker on a blood test. The solution must include getting the patient engaged in their own health.

Patients need to be actively encouraged to participate in the healing process. We live in a culture where people tend to pass on the responsibility of their health on to their doctor. Of course the doctor has some responsibility to ensure that the patient is receiving the care that they need. But the patient must also accept responsibility for his or her own healing. Be proactive and get engaged with your own healing process!

There are so many basic changes that can be made to your lifestyle that will make a substantial difference when trying to prevent an illness. Many of these changes we are all well aware of but we could use some encouragement from our doctor to make these changes. We should all exercise regularly; eat a balanced healthy diet and practice focusing our mind. Even just a few minutes of focused intention before bed can make a substantial difference in your life. It can help to reduce stress and organize your thoughts more effectively so that you can get through the next day with ease.

It can be very difficult to get some patients to make these basic positive changes in their life. A big component of the art of medicine is learning to meet the patient where they are at. Even if they are resistant to change their doctor should make an effort to encourage these positive changes at every opportunity. Developing a healthy lifestyle is a process and it is unlikely that a patient will make all of these changes at once and stick with it. Positive changes must be added over time as the patient makes strides in the direction of health.

Naturopathic doctors are experts in preventative medicine and they are trained to assess every aspect of your health and customize a treatment plan that is right for you. They can help to improve every aspect of your lifestyle in a way that will help to prevent the development of illness. Be proactive and get involved in your own healing. Your local naturopathic doctor can help you to find the path to a healthy balanced life.

For more information about Dr. Adam McLeod‘s practice visit: http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

Note: Due to the high volume of calls the best way to book an appointment is send an email to appointments@yaletownnaturopathic.com and the clinic will contact you when there is an available appointment.

Bacteria help kids stay healthy! March 30, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Allergies, Alternative medicine, Antibiotics, Colds, Diet, Dreamhealer, Experiments, Healing, Health, Integrative Medicine, naturopathic, Naturopathic Medicine, Naturopathy, Research, Skeptics.
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By: Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden

Breaking news: Bacteria help kids stay healthy! In a study published this month in the Journal of Pediatrics, scientist found that daily probiotics help toddlers avoid certain infections. Researchers enrolled 300 children, ages 6 months to 36 months, in day care centers in a double-blinded study. Half of the children received placebos and half received probiotics.

For the children who received probiotics, it was found that there was a reduction in frequency and duration of diarrhea episodes. And surprisingly, there was also a reduction in respiratory tract infections in the children who took probiotics.

The children in the study received the probiotic Lactobaccillus reuteri daily for three months. In addition to the already-mentioned health benefits, the study found a reduction in the number of doctor visits, antibiotic use, absenteeism from day school and parental absenteeism from work.

Other studies on probiotics have found that probiotics may help in reducing acute diarrhea, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, atopic eczema, tooth decay, C. diff. bacteria colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, including pouchitis.

So what is this miracle drug? Probiotics are live microorganisms numbering over 100 trillion, including over 500 bacterial species, which normally reside in the human intestinal tract. These microorganisms help in digestion, provide the body with nutrients, help the immune system and help keep harmful microorganisms in check.

Common probiotics are Lactobacillus bulgaris, Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactobacillus acidophilus and casei, and Bifidobacteria. One can maintain a healthy balance of these “good bacteria” in the body by taking products which contain live and active cultures of these bacteria. These can include the pill and liquid probiotic supplements, as well as foods such as yogurt, and fermented foods such as brewer’s yeast, miso, sauerkraut or micro algae.

If you need additional nondairy yogurt options, yogurts made from rice, soy and coconut milk are available on the market. Some of these can contain added probiotics that provide the same benefits as regular yogurt. To ensure that you are getting the benefit of the probiotics in the foods that you are eating, pick those that state “live and active cultures” on the label. Also look for supplements that are not close to their expiration date, as the live bacteria dwindle over time.

Retrieved from: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2014/03/28/3027893/integrative-medicine-probiotics.html

For more information about alternative medicine check out http://www.dreamhealer.com

Growing evidence that autism is linked to pollution with babies 283% more likely to suffer from the condition compared to other birth defects March 17, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Diet, Dreamhealer, Energy Healing, Genetics, Healing, Health, Pollution, Workshops.
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By: Daily mail reporter

Adam McLeod

Exposure to traffic fumes, industrial air pollution and other environmental toxins can dramatically increase a mother’s chances of having a child with autism.

Researchers studied insurance claims from around 100 million people in the U.S., and used congenital malformations in boys as an indicator for parental exposure to environmental toxins.

Several studies have already shown a link between air pollution and autism, but this latest study published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology is one of the largest to put the two together.

‘Autism appears to be strongly correlated with rate of congenital malformations of the genitals in males across the country. This gives an indicator of environmental load and the effect is surprisingly strong,’ study author Andrey Rzhetsky from the University of Chicago.

The report looked at birth defects associated with parental exposure to pollution and found a 1% increase in the defects corresponded to a 283% increase in autism.

Although the findings are still being analyzed, researchers say they offer support for the theory that environmental pollutants, in addition to genetics, play a role in the development of autism.

Autism is a developmental disorder that interferes with social and communication skills.

It covers a ‘spectrum’ of conditions that may be mild or very severe, requiring round-the-clock care.

The scientists found a clear link between being pregnant somewhere with high levels of pollution and having an autistic child.

The findings published this week in the PLOS Computational Biology Journal were culled from health records of over 100 million Americans in an effort to shift research from almost exclusively genetic to include environmental factors.

Essentially what happens is during pregnancy there are certain sensitive periods where the fetus is very vulnerable to a range of small molecules – from things like plasticizers, prescription drugs, environmental pesticides and other things,’ said study author Andrey Rzhetsky.

‘Some of these small molecules essentially alter normal development,’ the University of Chicago professor of genetic medicine and human genetics continued. ‘It’s not really well known why, but it’s an experimental observation.’

The defects were especially noticeable in boys’ reproductive systems, Rzhetsky noted.

Women living in the top fifth of locations with the highest levels of these pollutants were twice as likely to give birth to a child with autism as those in areas with the lowest levels.

Women with the highest levels of exposure to these substances were about 50 per cent more likely to have a child who develops autism.

Most pollutants were more strongly associated with autism in boys than in girls.

Boys are in any case much more likely to have the disorder.

Air pollutants contain many toxins that are known to affect neurological function and fetal development.

One in 88 children suffers from autism, and diagnoses in boys greatly outnumber those in girls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No clear cause has been established for the disorder.

‘The environment may play a very significant role in autism, and we should be paying more attention to it,’ said Rzhetsky. ‘We should definitely take into account environmental factors.’

Article retrieved from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2581663/Growing-evidence-autism-linked-pollution-babies-283-likely-suffer-condition-compared-birth-defects.html

To learn more about how the environment influences our genetics check out upcoming Dreamhealer workshops

http://www.dreamhealer.com/workshop

Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes March 2, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Dreamhealer, Experiments, Genetics, Healing, Naturopathic Medicine, Research, Workshops.
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By: Dan Hurley

Your ancestors’ lousy childhoods or excellent adventures might change your personality, bequeathing anxiety or resilience by altering the epigenetic expressions of genes in the brain.

Darwin and Freud walk into a bar. Two alcoholic mice — a mother and her son — sit on two bar stools, lapping gin from two thimbles.

The mother mouse looks up and says, “Hey, geniuses, tell me how my son got into this sorry state.”

“Bad inheritance,” says Darwin.

“Bad mothering,” says Freud.

For over a hundred years, those two views — nature or nurture, biology or psychology — offered opposing explanations for how behaviors develop and persist, not only within a single individual but across generations.

And then, in 1992, two young scientists following in Freud’s and Darwin’s footsteps actually did walk into a bar. And by the time they walked out, a few beers later, they had begun to forge a revolutionary new synthesis of how life experiences could directly affect your genes — and not only your own life experiences, but those of your mother’s, grandmother’s and beyond.

The bar was in Madrid, where the Cajal Institute, Spain’s oldest academic center for the study of neurobiology, was holding an international meeting. Moshe Szyf, a molecular biologist and geneticist at McGill University in Montreal, had never studied psychology or neurology, but he had been talked into attending by a colleague who thought his work might have some application. Likewise, Michael Meaney, a McGill neurobiologist, had been talked into attending by the same colleague, who thought Meaney’s research into animal models of maternal neglect might benefit from Szyf’s perspective.

“I can still visualize the place — it was a corner bar that specialized in pizza,” Meaney says. “Moshe, being kosher, was interested in kosher calories. Beer is kosher. Moshe can drink beer anywhere. And I’m Irish. So it was perfect.”

The two engaged in animated conversation about a hot new line of research in genetics. Since the 1970s, researchers had known that the tightly wound spools of DNA inside each cell’s nucleus require something extra to tell them exactly which genes to transcribe, whether for a heart cell, a liver cell or a brain cell.

One such extra element is the methyl group, a common structural component of organic molecules. The methyl group works like a placeholder in a cookbook, attaching to the DNA within each cell to select only those recipes — er, genes — necessary for that particular cell’s proteins. Because methyl groups are attached to the genes, residing beside but separate from the double-helix DNA code, the field was dubbed epigenetics, from the prefix epi (Greek for over, outer, above).

Originally these epigenetic changes were believed to occur only during fetal development. But pioneering studies showed that molecular bric-a-brac could be added to DNA in adulthood, setting off a cascade of cellular changes resulting in cancer. Sometimes methyl groups attached to DNA thanks to changes in diet; other times, exposure to certain chemicals appeared to be the cause. Szyf showed that correcting epigenetic changes with drugs could cure certain cancers in animals.

Geneticists were especially surprised to find that epigenetic change could be passed down from parent to child, one generation after the next. A study from Randy Jirtle of Duke University showed that when female mice are fed a diet rich in methyl groups, the fur pigment of subsequent offspring is permanently altered. Without any change to DNA at all, methyl groups could be added or subtracted, and the changes were inherited much like a mutation in a gene.

Now, at the bar in Madrid, Szyf and Meaney considered a hypothesis as improbable as it was profound: If diet and chemicals can cause epigenetic changes, could certain experiences — child neglect, drug abuse or other severe stresses — also set off epigenetic changes to the DNA inside the neurons of a person’s brain? That question turned out to be the basis of a new field, behavioral epigenetics, now so vibrant it has spawned dozens of studies and suggested profound new treatments to heal the brain.

According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA. Jews whose great-grandparents were chased from their Russian shtetls; Chinese whose grandparents lived through the ravages of the Cultural Revolution; young immigrants from Africa whose parents survived massacres; adults of every ethnicity who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents — all carry with them more than just memories.

Like silt deposited on the cogs of a finely tuned machine after the seawater of a tsunami recedes, our experiences, and those of our forebears, are never gone, even if they have been forgotten. They become a part of us, a molecular residue holding fast to our genetic scaffolding. The DNA remains the same, but psychological and behavioral tendencies are inherited. You might have inherited not just your grandmother’s knobby knees, but also her predisposition toward depression caused by the neglect she suffered as a newborn.

Or not. If your grandmother was adopted by nurturing parents, you might be enjoying the boost she received thanks to their love and support. The mechanisms of behavioral epigenetics underlie not only deficits and weaknesses but strengths and resiliencies, too. And for those unlucky enough to descend from miserable or withholding grandparents, emerging drug treatments could reset not just mood, but the epigenetic changes themselves. Like grandmother’s vintage dress, you could wear it or have it altered. The genome has long been known as the blueprint of life, but the epigenome is life’s Etch A Sketch: Shake it hard enough, and you can wipe clean the family curse.

Voodoo Genetics 

Twenty years after helping to set off a revolution, Meaney sits behind a wide walnut table that serves as his desk. A January storm has deposited half a foot of snow outside the picture windows lining his fourth-floor corner office at the Douglas Institute, a mental health affiliate of McGill. He has the rugged good looks and tousled salt-and-pepper hair of someone found on a ski slope — precisely where he plans to go this weekend. On the floor lays an arrangement of helium balloons in various stages of deflation. “Happy 60th!” one announces.

“I’ve always been interested in what makes people different from each other,” he says. “The way we act, the way we behave — some people are optimistic, some are pessimistic. What produces that variation? Evolution selects the variance that is most successful, but what produces the grist for the mill?”

Meaney pursued the question of individual differences by studying how the rearing habits of mother rats caused lifelong changes in their offspring. Research dating back to the 1950s had shown that rats handled by humans for as little as five to 15 minutes per day during their first three weeks of life grew up to be calmer and less reactive to stressful environments compared with their non-handled littermates. Seeking to tease out the mechanism behind such an enduring effect, Meaney and others established that the benefit was not actually conveyed by the human handling. Rather, the handling simply provoked the rats’ mothers to lick and groom their pups more, and to engage more often in a behavior called arched-back nursing, in which the mother gives the pups extra room to suckle against her underside.

“It’s all about the tactile stimulation,” Meaney says.

In a landmark 1997 paper in Science, he showed that natural variations in the amount of licking and grooming received during infancy had a direct effect on how stress hormones, including corticosterone, were expressed in adulthood. The more licking as babies, the lower the stress hormones as grown-ups. It was almost as if the mother rats were licking away at a genetic dimmer switch. What the paper didn’t explain was how such a thing could be possible.

“What we had done up to that point in time was to identify maternal care and its influence on specific genes,” Meaney says. “But epigenetics wasn’t a topic I knew very much about.”

And then he met Szyf.

Postnatal Inheritance 

“I was going to be a dentist,” Szyf says with a laugh. Slight, pale and balding, he sits in a small office at the back of his bustling laboratory — a room so Spartan, it contains just a single picture, a photograph of two embryos in a womb.

Needing to write a thesis in the late 1970s for his doctorate in dentistry at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Szyf approached a young biochemistry professor named Aharon Razin, who had recently made a splash by publishing his first few studies in some of the world’s top scientific journals. The studies were the first to show that the action of genes could be modulated by structures called methyl groups, a subject about which Szyf knew precisely nothing. But he needed a thesis adviser, and Razin was there. Szyf found himself swept up to the forefront of the hot new field of epigenetics and never looked back.

Until researchers like Razin came along, the basic story line on how genes get transcribed in a cell was neat and simple. DNA is the master code, residing inside the nucleus of every cell; RNA transcribes the code to build whatever proteins the cell needs. Then some of Razin’s colleagues showed that methyl groups could attach to cytosine, one of the chemical bases in DNA and RNA.

It was Razin, working with fellow biochemist Howard Cedar, who showed these attachments weren’t just brief, meaningless affairs. The methyl groups could become married permanently to the DNA, getting replicated right along with it through a hundred generations. As in any good marriage, moreover, the attachment of the methyl groups significantly altered the behavior of whichever gene they wed, inhibiting its transcription, much like a jealous spouse. It did so, Razin and Cedar showed, by tightening the thread of DNA as it wrapped around a molecular spool, called a histone, inside the nucleus. The tighter it is wrapped, the harder to produce proteins from the gene.

Consider what that means: Without a mutation to the DNA code itself, the attached methyl groups cause long-term, heritable change in gene function. Other molecules, called acetyl groups, were found to play the opposite role, unwinding DNA around the histone spool, and so making it easier for RNA to transcribe a given gene.

By the time Szyf arrived at McGill in the late 1980s, he had become an expert in the mechanics of epigenetic change. But until meeting Meaney, he had never heard anyone suggest that such changes could occur in the brain, simply due to maternal care.

“It sounded like voodoo at first,” Szyf admits. “For a molecular biologist, anything that didn’t have a clear molecular pathway was not serious science. But the longer we talked, the more I realized that maternal care just might be capable of causing changes in DNA methylation, as crazy as that sounded. So Michael and I decided we’d have to do the experiment to find out.”

Actually, they ended up doing a series of elaborate experiments. With the assistance of postdoctoral researchers, they began by selecting mother rats who were either highly attentive or highly inattentive. Once a pup had grown up into adulthood, the team examined its hippocampus, a brain region essential for regulating the stress response. In the pups of inattentive mothers, they found that genes regulating the production of glucocorticoid receptors, which regulate sensitivity to stress hormones, were highly methylated; in the pups of conscientious moms, the genes for the glucocorticoid receptors were rarely methylated.

Methylation just gums up the works. So the less the better when it comes to transcribing the affected gene. In this case, methylation associated with miserable mothering prevented the normal number of glucocorticoid receptors from being transcribed in the baby’s hippocampus. And so for want of sufficient glucocorticoid receptors, the rats grew up to be nervous wrecks.

To demonstrate that the effects were purely due to the mother’s behavior and not her genes, Meaney and colleagues performed a second experiment. They took rat pups born to inattentive mothers and gave them to attentive ones, and vice versa. As they predicted, the rats born to attentive mothers but raised by inattentive ones grew up to have low levels of glucocorticoid receptors in their hippocampus and behaved skittishly. Likewise, those born to bad mothers but raised by good ones grew up to be calm and brave and had high levels of glucocorticoid receptors.

Before publishing their findings, Meaney and Szyf conducted a third crucial experiment, hoping to overwhelm the inevitable skeptics who would rise up to question their results. After all, it could be argued, what if the epigenetic changes observed in the rats’ brains were not directly causing the behavioral changes in the adults, but were merely co-occurring? Freud certainly knew the enduring power of bad mothers to screw up people’s lives. Maybe the emotional effects were unrelated to the epigenetic change.

To test that possibility, Meaney and Szyf took yet another litter of rats raised by rotten mothers. This time, after the usual damage had been done, they infused their brains with trichostatin A, a drug that can remove methyl groups. These animals showed none of the behavioral deficits usually seen in such offspring, and their brains showed none of the epigenetic changes.

“It was crazy to think that injecting it straight into the brain would work,” says Szyf. “But it did. It was like rebooting a computer.”

Despite such seemingly overwhelming evidence, when the pair wrote it all up in a paper, one of the reviewers at a top science journal refused to believe it, stating he had never before seen evidence that a mother’s behavior could cause epigenetic change.

“Of course he hadn’t,” Szyf says. “We wouldn’t have bothered to report the study if it had already been proved.”

In the end, their landmark paper, “Epigenetic programming by maternal behavior,” was published in June 2004 in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Meaney and Szyf had proved something incredible. Call it postnatal inheritance: With no changes to their genetic code, the baby rats nonetheless gained genetic attachments due solely to their upbringing — epigenetic additions of methyl groups sticking like umbrellas out the elevator doors of their histones, gumming up the works and altering the function of the brain.

The Beat Goes On

Together, Meaney and Szyf have gone on to publish some two-dozen papers, finding evidence along the way of epigenetic changes to many other genes active in the brain. Perhaps most significantly, in a study led by Frances Champagne — then a graduate student in Meaney’s lab, now an associate professor with her own lab at Columbia University in New York — they found that inattentive mothering in rodents causes methylation of the genes for estrogen receptors in the brain. When those babies grow up, the resulting decrease of estrogen receptors makes them less attentive to their babies. And so the beat goes on.

As animal experiments continue apace, Szyf and Meaney have entered into the next great step in the study of behavioral epigenetics: human studies. In a 2008 paper, they compared the brains of people who had committed suicide with the brains of people who had died suddenly of factors other than suicide. They found excess methylation of genes in the suicide brains’ hippocampus, a region critical to memory acquisition and stress response. If the suicide victims had been abused as children, they found, their brains were more methylated.

Why can’t your friend “just get over” her upbringing by an angry, distant mother? Why can’t she “just snap out of it”? The reason may well be due to methyl groups that were added in childhood to genes in her brain, thereby handcuffing her mood to feelings of fear and despair.

Of course, it is generally not possible to sample the brains of living people. But examining blood samples in humans is routine, and Szyf has gone searching there for markers of epigenetic methylation. Sure enough, in 2011 he reported on a genome-wide analysis of blood samples taken from 40 men who participated in a British study of people born in England in 1958.

All the men had been at a socioeconomic extreme, either very rich or very poor, at some point in their lives ranging from early childhood to mid-adulthood. In all, Szyf analyzed the methylation state of about 20,000 genes. Of these, 6,176 genes varied significantly based on poverty or wealth. Most striking, however, was the finding that genes were more than twice as likely to show methylation changes based on family income during early childhood versus economic status as adults.

Timing, in other words, matters. Your parents winning the lottery or going bankrupt when you’re 2 years old will likely affect the epigenome of your brain, and your resulting emotional tendencies, far more strongly than whatever fortune finds you in middle age.

Last year, Szyf and researchers from Yale University published another study of human blood samples, comparing 14 children raised in Russian orphanages with 14 other Russian children raised by their biological parents. They found far more methylation in the orphans’ genes, including many that play an important role in neural communication and brain development and function.

“Our study shows that the early stress of separation from a biological parent impacts long-term programming of genome function; this might explain why adopted children may be particularly vulnerable to harsh parenting in terms of their physical and mental health,” said Szyf’s co-author, psychologist Elena Grigorenko of the Child Study Center at Yale. “Parenting adopted children might require much more nurturing care to reverse these changes in genome regulation.”

A case study in the epigenetic effects of upbringing in humans can be seen in the life of Szyf’s and Meaney’s onetime collaborator, Frances Champagne. “My mom studied prolactin, a hormone involved in maternal behavior. She was a driving force in encouraging me to go into science,” she recalls. Now a leading figure in the study of maternal influence, Champagne just had her first child, a daughter. And epigenetic research has taught her something not found in the What to Expect books or even her mother’s former lab.

“The thing I’ve gained from the work I do is that stress is a big suppressor of maternal behavior,” she says. “We see it in the animal studies, and it’s true in humans. So the best thing you can do is not to worry all the time about whether you’re doing the right thing. Keeping the stress level down is the most important thing. And tactile interaction — that’s certainly what the good mother rats are doing with their babies. That sensory input, the touching, is so important for the developing brain.”

The Mark Of Cain 

The message that a mother’s love can make all the difference in a child’s life is nothing new. But the ability of epigenetic change to persist across generations remains the subject of debate. Is methylation transmitted directly through the fertilized egg, or is each infant born pure, a methylated virgin, with the attachments of methyl groups slathered on solely by parents after birth?

Neuroscientist Eric Nestler of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York has been seeking an answer for years. In one study, he exposed male mice to 10 days of bullying by larger, more aggressive mice. At the end of the experiment, the bullied mice were socially withdrawn.

To test whether such effects could be transmitted to the next generation, Nestler took another group of bullied mice and bred them with females, but kept them from ever meeting their offspring.

Despite having no contact with their depressed fathers, the offspring grew up to be hypersensitive to stress. “It was not a subtle effect; the offspring were dramatically more susceptible to developing signs of depression,” he says.

In further testing, Nestler took sperm from defeated males and impregnated females through in vitro fertilization. The offspring did not show most of the behavioral abnormalities, suggesting that epigenetic transmission may not be at the root. Instead, Nestler proposes, “the female might know she had sex with a loser. She knows it’s a tainted male she had sex with, so she cares for her pups differently,” accounting for the results.

Despite his findings, no consensus has yet emerged. The latest evidence, published in the Jan. 25 issue of the journal Science, suggests that epigenetic changes in mice are usually erased, but not always. The erasure is imperfect, and sometimes the affected genes may make it through to the next generation, setting the stage for transmission of the altered traits in descendants as well.

What’s Next?

The studies keep piling on. One line of research traces memory loss in old age to epigenetic alterations in brain neurons. Another connects post-traumatic stress disorder to methylation of the gene coding for neurotrophic factor, a protein that regulates the growth of neurons in the brain.

If it is true that epigenetic changes to genes active in certain regions of the brain underlie our emotional and intellectual intelligence — our tendency to be calm or fearful, our ability to learn or to forget — then the question arises: Why can’t we just take a drug to rinse away the unwanted methyl groups like a bar of epigenetic Irish Spring?

The hunt is on. Giant pharmaceutical and smaller biotech firms are searching for epigenetic compounds to boost learning and memory. It has been lost on no one that epigenetic medications might succeed in treating depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder where today’s psychiatric drugs have failed.

But it is going to be a leap. How could we be sure that epigenetic drugs would scrub clean only the dangerous marks, leaving beneficial — perhaps essential — methyl groups intact? And what if we could create a pill potent enough to wipe clean the epigenetic slate of all that history wrote? If such a pill could free the genes within your brain of the epigenetic detritus left by all the wars, the rapes, the abandonments and cheated childhoods of your ancestors, would you take it?

Retrieved from: http://discovermagazine.com/2013/may/13-grandmas-experiences-leave-epigenetic-mark-on-your-genes#.UxPna_RdXWo

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It’s Time for a New Approach to Mammograms February 13, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Breast Cancer, Cancer, Diet, Dreamhealer, Energy Healing, Health, Integrative Medicine, Naturopathic Medicine, Press, Research, Skeptics.
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By: Charles J Wright

Dreamhealer_cancer

When first introduced four decades ago, breast cancer screening with mammography was widely regarded as an important tool in the fight against a terrible disease. It seemed obvious that the earlier it could be diagnosed the more lives could be saved. Aggressive treatment, it was thought, would prevent the cancer from spreading through the body. A huge amount of research evidence since then has slowly and painfully led to a different conclusion.

It is now clear that the benefits of screening mammography have been greatly exaggerated and the serious adverse effects all but ignored in the enthusiasm to support breast screening programs. It’s time for these programs to be reconsidered.

It must be emphasized that this is the case for population screening of healthy women, not those with extra high risk factors.

This is a very unpleasant message for modern developed societies where three generations of women have been led to believe that regular mammograms will save their lives and where an enormous related industry has been built up, but it is time to face the facts.

Unscientific opinions and powerful vested interests abound on this subject, so it is essential to focus on well-conducted studies from independent sources to summarize the evidence. One of the most trusted of these, the Cochrane Collaboration, has been studying screening mammography intensively. Its most recent bulletin states that the benefit of screening 2,000 women regularly for 10 years is that one woman may have her life prolonged. Of the other 1,999 women, at least 200 will have false positive mammograms leading to biopsies and surgery, and at least 10 women will be falsely diagnosed with breast cancer and consequently subjected to unnecessary surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

This problem, called over-diagnosis, occurs when a biopsy reveals microscopic cells that are currently labeled as “cancer” by the pathologist, but with uncertain potential to cause any significant problem for the patient in the future. The “c” word inevitably causes fear and distress for the patient and an aggressive treatment plan from the doctors. This is now widely recognized, even by the U.S. National Cancer Institute which has recently recommended that these uncertain “cancers” should instead be labeled “IDLE” (indolent lesions) until research can help us differentiate those that need treatment from those that do not.

Now we have more evidence. The Canadian National Breast Cancer Screening Study published this week in the British Medical Journal, and widely reported in the international media, solidly confirms that there is no upside to breast screening healthy women in terms of mortality benefit in exchange for the downside of all the adverse consequences. In this study, 90,000 women aged 40-59 were randomly allocated to the mammography screening program or to annual physical examination only, with follow up to 25 years. The mortality was the same in both groups (500 in the first group and 505 in the second).

Adverse consequences from screening can include false negatives (a cancer is growing but missed by the mammogram), and potentially cancer-causing cumulative X-ray exposure. Not to mention the anxiety, pain and discomfort that women experience with the procedure and the huge cost of these programs to the health care system.

This new study, along with the Cochrane analysis, represent the beginning of a growing consensus among scientists and clinical epidemiologists that the evidence no longer supports population screening of healthy women with mammography. Several prominent female U.K. doctors have gone public about choosing not to have breast cancer screening, including the editor of the BMJ, the past president of the Royal College of GPs, and the professor of obstetrics at King’s College London.

Nobody can be happy about all of this disappointing news with its serious public, professional and political implications, but surely we cannot ignore it. The hope that breast screening could cause a reduction in the mortality from this terrible disease was at first well placed 40 years ago, but it is no longer possible to advocate for an intervention that carries such a tiny (if any) likelihood of benefit along with such a huge burden of harmful consequences.

The very essence of science is about seeking truth through the constant cycle of evidence, analysis and revision. In response to a hostile question, John Maynard Keynes famously remarked “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” We should heed that lesson here.

It may take a long time to dispel the false hope that has been given to women with mammogram screening, but the very least and immediate response should be the development of a mandatory consent form for women to sign before screening that distinguishes the most recent and overwhelming evidence from the current inappropriate enthusiasm. Women would then be empowered to make an informed choice.

Public health agencies should also consider a comprehensive plan for public re-education about screening mammography, followed by the gradual dismantling of population breast screening programs across the country.

Retrieved from: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/now-that-we-know-mammograms-are-flawed-its-time-to-change-course/article16847982/

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