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What's New! - A Healthy Living Newsletter

November, 2001

My patients frequently ask my opinion about new health books on the market. And there's certainly no shortage of experts peddling their advice! While many of these books are excellent, others are written by people who don't have a clinical background in the subject. Simply put - they're inaccurate.

The people writing the books either don't regularly use the medicines they write about or they're presenting theories as if they are facts. Others can be valuable tools for improving the quality of your life.

If you find this newsletter useful, please forward it to a friend!

Dressed to Kill
The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras
By Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer

Don't laugh. This is actually a thoughtful book - but maybe not for the reasons that the authors intended. Sydney and Soma are medical anthropologists studying the effects of the introduction of western medicine to the people of Fuji, when Soma, recently pregnant, develops a breast lump. That, and the women in Fuji's amazement that western women daily wear something pretty uncomfortable is the impetus for the interviews of roughly 2000 women from 10 different cities in the U.S. - and this book.

Singer and Grismaijer base their conclusion that there may be a link between breast cancer and bras on two things: breast physiology and their questionnaire. Let's start with the breast. Bras, especially if they leave a red mark, constrict the skin beneath them. We can see large busted women complain of loss of sensation in their arms not realizing that their nerves are being compressed at the shoulder where their bra strap goes. Compression of the nerves can lead to decreased sensation (tingling and numbness) farther down the arm. The authors state that bras constrict the lymphatic glands in the breast. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system. Two of its many functions are to remove toxins and to house white blood cells used to fight disease, when needed. If the lymphatic glands in the breast are severely constricted it may allow toxins to build up in the breast area - hence breast cancer.

To test their theory, Singer and Grismaijer interviewed women and found the following conclusions. Women with breast cancer wore their bras longer each day, (some even while sleeping), had more red pressure marks (compression indication) when taking the bra off in the evening and breast-fed less. From their survey they came up with the following conclusions. There is a 19-fold protection against breast cancer by wearing a bra for less than 12 hours daily. A woman who wears a bra over 12 hours daily, but not to sleep, has a 24-fold greater chance of developing breast cancer. And women who wear their bras all the time, including during sleep, have a 113-fold increase risk in breast cancer incidence.

Let's put this into perspective. This is one study, which makes it inconclusive. It takes several studies with similar results to take this theory seriously. But before you take a sigh of relief and think back to the bra-burning days, these authors may be onto something. Is it sensible to wear some garment 12+ hours a day that is uncomfortable. "But my bra is comfortable, I don't even notice that it's on", you may say. Tonight when you take off your bra, see what you do almost reflexively. You will rub the red strips of skin that the straps or the underwire have left. I urge my female readers to try going without a bra for the weekend. Monday morning you will notice a difference.

The Taste that Kills
By Russell L. Blaylock

Every once and awhile, a great book comes out; everyone raves; and then the book fades away. Excitotoxins is one of those books. Published in 1995, it links chemical additives in our foods to adverse effects in our brains potentially leading to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, Lou Gehrig disease (ALS), as well as autism, teenage behavioral problems and to plain old short-term memory loss. Dr. Blaylock, a neurosurgeon, painstakingly discusses study after study. And that is the problem. Unless you have a reasonably strong physiology background, you'll get tired of referring to the medical dictionary - and stop reading the book. Which means, you will miss out on a lot of important information. So, here is the gist of what Blaylock is saying.

It all started with World War II. The Allied soldiers soon found out that the Japanese soldiers' field rations tasted great, while their own required sufficient hunger to get down. After the war, the American food industry learned that the secret ingredient to the great tasting field rations was MSG (mono-sodium glutamate). And they went wild. They added it to baby food (it was taken out in 1969 after sufficient pressure), frozen foods, packaged foods, in short, to all but fresh foods. For that, they sold bottles of MSG to housewives directly. But what we didn't find out until later was that MSG or glutamate eaten in excess stimulates and rewires the brain in a potentially harmful way - especially in the womb and in developing children.

Glutamate, along with about 70 others including aspartame (Nutrasweet), are labeled excitotoxins. Excitotoxins stimulate the brain. One of these, Nutrasweet, can be found on the labels of many diet products, but glutamate (MSG) is harder to find. Definite sources of glutamate are hydrolyzed protein, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, gelatin and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. It may also, but not always, be found in textured protein, carrageenan or vegetable gum, seasonings or spices, flavorings or natural flavorings, (including chicken, beef, pork, and smoke flavorings), bouillon, broth or stock, barley malt, malt extract, malt flavoring, whey protein, whey protein isolate or concentrate, soy protein, soy protein isolate or concentrate, and soy sauce or extract.

Blaylock emphasized the excitotoxins insidious nature. It can take years before the brain is unable to compensate for the steady barrage of stimulation. By then, it may be too late to reverse. Excess excitotoxins during pregnancy may rewire the child's brain leading to autism, learning disorders, hyperactivity and behavioral problems in the teenage years. Excessive excitotoxins in the adult can lead to damage in the hippocampus (the short-term memory area of the brain.)

Is there any hope for the Teriyaki-addicted folks? Absolutely. Think antioxidants and magnesium. Vitamins A, E, and C and magnesium decrease the negative impact of the MSG. But for you aspartame (Nutrasweet®) users, Blaylock only recommends stopping. Sugar is less harmful for you. And I certainly agree with him.

Did your dad get Alzheimer's from MSG - probably not. But it may have contributed. This book clearly demonstrates that there is too much scientific evidence supporting Blaylock's negative view of MSG and Nutrasweet®) to ignore. And why take the chance. But where does that bring us? Back to the kitchen. Cook from scratch instead of using processed foods.. It's cheaper and healthier. And if anyone you know has an early stage neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, find someone who is very patient or has a science background to read this book. It just might help slow down the degeneration in their condition.

Asthma Survival
The Holistic Medical Treatment Program for Asthma
By Robert S. Ivker, D.O. and Todd Nelson, N.D.

Sometimes, a patient with asthma comes into my office - and I don't know where to start. He or she may have a poor diet, food allergies, a wood stove, toxic work or home environment, many pets, drink tap water, not exercise, an unhappy childhood, and is currently in an unloving relationship. It's hard not to overwhelm them with all the possibilities and ways to eliminate the asthma. Fortunately, now, thanks to Ivker and Nelson, all I have to do is hand him or her this book, Asthma Survival.

Asthma Survival is the ultimate how-to book on eliminating asthma. Just in our children alone, the U.S. national asthma rate increase has gone from 1 in 45 in 1980 to 1 in 13 in 1998. In adults, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) estimates the rate at 6.4% of the U.S. population or 17.3 million people. Asthma is a serious problem that is not showing signs of slowing down.

The book, written by a conventional-doctor-gone-holistic, starts off with defining the condition and the conventional drugs. He explains that conventional medicine tries to manage, not cure the asthma, while holistic natural medicine tries to eliminate the asthma. (Legally, we are not allowed to use the word "cure".) He believes that asthma may be caused by overuse of antibiotics, allergies, air pollution and/or unresolved negative relationships. At this point you may say "No way! Asthma is not all in my head!" Keep an open mind (no pun intended). Ivker refers to many medical studies supporting the mind-body connection. And I have seen plenty of asthma cases in my own practice, in which there was a certain amount of suppression - an inability to "breath" on one's own.

After the medical overview, Ivker walks you through all the possibilities of treatments: air filters, air ionizers, organic diet, fasting, vitamins, minerals, herbs, allergy testing, stool testing, detoxifying plants for your office or home, vacuum cleaners, meditation, exercise…Well, you get my point.

What makes this book extremely useful is its thoroughness. The reader can determine which factors may be causing or triggering his or her asthma. The bad thing about this book is how expensive all these treatment options are. Ivker doesn't keep things simple. Also, because of his conventional training, he has a more limited view of herbs and homeopathics than a naturopath would. There are other ways to successfully treat asthma without bankrupting the patient. So, if you have asthma and are frustrated with knowing that you will have to take your short term inhaler and your long term pill or inhaler forever; Asthma Survival is a wonderful starting place to understand the disease and non-conventional treatment options.

Herb Tip: People often question why the cost of the same herb varies so greatly from one store to another. The reason is - they are not getting the same quality or in many cases, even the same herb. Let me give you a common example. Panax ginseng is a popular herb used for energy. There are 6 parts to this plant: the leaves, the leafstalks, the stem, the main root, the lateral roots, and the root hairs. Each part of the herb contains chemical constituents in different proportions with the main root and lateral root containing the most beneficial. The herb suppliers sell the different parts to the different buyers. So, when you get a bottle of Panax ginseng for $3.00, you are getting the root hairs - the least beneficial part. The more expensive main and lateral roots are sold to the herbal companies who then pass on that cost to the buyer.

Next month, I will explain standardized herbs and how what you think you are getting is not necessarily what you are getting.

Health Tip

The kids have been back in school for a month and the illnesses have already started. You probably have already been using Vitamin C and Echinacea. That's great for the immediate illness. But to prevent further illness, it's a good idea to improve your immune system. There are many ways to do this. The first and best way is through the diet. Eating an organic and unprocessed diet significantly improves your immune system. This means organic meats, vegetables, and grains. No Burger King, frozen or packaged foods and cut way back on the sugar. (Sugar depletes the body of several of the B-vitamins and blocks Vitamin C from being absorbed.)

Now for a more realistic piece of advice. Yes, I heard the groans. The second best way is to buy a good quality (see my herb tip to understand what this means) immune support product. Astragulus is a wonderful long-term immune tonic that is good for everyone. If you have weak lungs, then find an immune support with Reishi and Shitake mushrooms. If your immune system is weakened by stress (and worry), look for a product with Eleuthrococcus (Siberian Ginseng) and/or Glycerrhiza (Licorice). Avoid Glycerrhiza if you have high blood pressure. Take the herbs for 1 month. Hopefully you'll fend off the post-Thanksgiving colds and flus.

Copyright 2009


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Dr. Juniper Martin
11825 SW Greenburg Road, Suite A2
Tigard, OR 97223