A Holistic Approach to Cancer

The Disease of Civilization

Let’s begin with a definition of cancer. Cancer is the situation that occurs when a certain type of cell out of the many different types of cells in our body—such as blood cells, pancreas cells, brain cells, liver cells, connective tissue cells—decides to grow in an uncontrolled way, in an excessive way, and at the expense of all the other types of cells in the body.

If you had one word or brief phrase to answer the question, “What causes cancer?” what might it be? You might respond with “emotions,” “toxins,” “fungus,” “stress,” or “bad terrain of the body.” Those are all great answers. But they are not my answer. In my twenty-five years of being a doctor and thinking about food and cancer and health issues for pretty much every day of those twenty-five years, I can say—and I don’t wish to say this in an arrogant way—that I have no doubt in my mind that I know what causes cancer. I have come to the conclusion that I have this one right. My answer in one word is “civilization.”

THE BANE OF CIVILIZATION

I’m not the first person to think this way. That is actually the title of one of my favorite books, a book by Vilhjalmur Stefansson called Cancer: Disease of Civilization? (1960). The idea started some time before Stefansson in a lecture given at a Paris medical society in 1842 by Stanislas Tanchou, a physician and one of Napoleon’s surgeons. At that time France was a primary center of science and medicine in the world. You have to remember where we were in the world at that time: it was the era of scientific discovery and manifest destiny; white people were going to conquer and civilize the world and make it safe for Christianity. Against this political backdrop Tanchou in his lecture claimed he could predict the exact incidence of cancer in all the major European cities over the next fifty years, and it was all dependent on the percentage of grain in their diets.

Tanchou’s numbers were all recorded and in time they came exactly true—a certain cancer percentage for Berlin, a certain percentage for Munich, and so on. The cancer incidence all depended on the amount of cereal grains in the diet. This set off a huge furor around the world since the great mission of the age was to civilize every inch of the globe. Here was somebody in a center of civilization who declared that these people who don’t eat grains, who have the more indigenous hunter-gatherer diet, never get cancer.

This provocative idea motivated many thinkers between 1842 to about 1950, as archeologists, anthropologists, medical doctors, missionaries and explorers took up the challenge of answering the question. Whether he knew it or not, Weston Price’s research came as a result of Tanchou’s fundamental question. Price focused on dental health as a kind of proxy to the question, “Is it true that cancer is a disease of civilization?”

Another thinker who took up this challenge was George Caitlin, a mid-nineteenth century American lawyer and portraitist. Caitlin spent twenty years of his life living and studying with Native Americans in indigenous hunter-gatherer populations all over the western part of the United States. About the people with whom he lived, Caitlin noted: “I love a people who have always made me feel welcome to the best they had, who were honest without laws, who had no jails, no poor houses, who keep the commandments without ever having read them or heard them preached from the pulpit, never swear, never take the name of God in vain, love their neighbor as themselves, free of religious animosity. I love a people who have never raised a hand against me, or stole my property, when there was no law to punish them for either. I love a people who have never fought a battle with white men except on their own ground. I love a people who live and keep what is their own without locks and keys. And oh, how I love a people who don’t live for the love of money.”

UNCONTROLLED GROWTH

The premise that we are examining is whether cancer is a disease of civilization, but I say that civilization is the cause of cancer. But first we need to define civilization. We know what cancer is: uncontrolled growth of one of the members of a community; that is, one cell type deciding to grow at an excessive rate compared to the rest of the community of cells. This civilization project, if you want to call it that, which started about ten thousand years ago, probably in the Tigris and Euphrates delta, is the process wherein humans decided to co-opt the natural resources of the land base and set off to grow themselves at the expense of the rest of the community. That is the definition of civilization, this co-opting of the resources of the land base, this mining of the resources which is essentially mining the soil. If you go on long enough, you turn productive soil into a desert, and the region of the Garden of Eden in the Tigris and Euphrates delta is now a desert. It took ten thousand years, which is the blink of an eye in the overall picture of humanity.

Civilization can also be seen as the process of extracting the resources from the earth in order to grow one particular species of the landed community, namely humans.

When I give that definition it might remind you of the cancer process. We believe deeply in growth. In order to grow we co-opt the resources from the rest of the earth’s community. Given enough time, the rest of the community withers and dies and this one particular species of the community grows more and more until it kills the land base or the person. That is the definition of civilization.

Think of the Great Plains—this once fertile region extending from Minnesota to Texas. According to early white explorers, the top soil on the Great Plains was twelve feet deep. Interestingly, by the 1930s, before chemical agriculture, before GMOs, before Monsanto, barely a hundred years of growing grains—and growing them organically—turned those twelve feet into a mere twelve inches, which in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s blew away to the Gulf of Mexico. That is what happened because of organic agriculture. For those of us who say the solution is to simply to go back to organic agriculture, remember that the Tigris and Euphrates Delta became the desert of Iraq solely through organic agriculture, and maybe some over-grazing.

But the point is that the hunter-gatherer indigenous populations that were dependent upon animals feeding on perennial grass-based environments lived free of cancer for literally thousands and thousands of years. Organic agriculture turned the soil into nearly a desert, and brought cancer to a people who had no cancer. Weston Price got in at the tail end of this inquiry in the 1930s and documented the health of these people from the standpoint of their teeth. But again whenever we look at the health of nonindustrialized peoples we see the same thing: these are people without cancer, and also without heart disease. Any anthropologist can tell you this bone was from a hunter-gatherer, a pre-grain eating person, and this bone, by contrast, from a grain-eating person, because the latter has holes in it and looks like it has arthritis and it not as thick and strong. You can see physical degeneration almost every place where people have switched from indigenous diets to primarily grain-based diets.

HUNTER-GATHERER DIET

So the next step is to discover what these healthy people ate. As you know, Weston Price found healthy isolated peoples who were eating small amounts grains, usually prepared through a fermentation process. But the basic diet of these people was about 65 percent animal foods with a definite predominance of fats over protein. It was not a low-protein diet but a diet that included adequate protein, and then about thirty-five percent fermented grains, low-starch seeds, nuts and vegetables and perhaps a natural sweetener, such as honey.

Does that type of diet square with the human anatomy? I’m not against changing certain patterns of the diet based on what a person can tolerate. But when someone says this person because of their blood type needs to be an herbivore, a vegan, I think to myself well, yes, that would be fine if they had a rumen. Let me tell you, the first cancer patient who comes in with a rumen, I’m putting them on a vegetarian diet, I don’t care what blood type they are. If they have very long intestines and a rumen with bacteria to ferment cellulose, I’d put them on a vegetarian diet.

THE GORILLA SYNDROME

Interestingly, the primate that has the largest amount of plant food in the diet, the gorilla, has a very long digestive tract and the smallest brain of any primate. If you were in the jungle and had only leaves to eat, you would starve in the midst of abundance because you cannot digest leaves, at least most leaves. But the gorilla is so contructed that he can eat high-cellulose plant foods like leaves.

Remember that the herbivorous animals literally must eat all day to extract nutrients from grass, leaves and seeds. You, as the predator human, can get concentrated fats and protein from the herbivores, and you need only a short digestive system to get all you need to develop a healthy body and a healthier more robust brain to talk, think and create. You don’t have to eat all day long. When you revert to a more “gorilla-ish” way of life, you increase the number of times you have to eat, increase the size of your digestive apparatus, and shrink your brain, which is exactly what has happened to us over the last ten thousand years. I’m not so sure that this is the way we want to go.

I wish I had a dollar for every patient who walked into my office—usually a female patient— who has said, “My belly is bloated and I’m full of gas; I have digestive disturbance and a foggy brain.” Usually they end up with a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. When you ask them what they eat, they tell me, “I’m mostly vegetarian.” They have gorilla syndrome.

The human anatomy is precisely designed for a hunter-gatherer diet of about 70 percent animal food, predominantly fat (as much as they could tolerate and digest) including organ meats and bones (usually in the form of broth), but not so much protein—something like two to four ounces of protein, two to three times a day was about the average of what people ate. The remaining 30-35 percent plant foods provides variety and additional amounts of vitamins and minerals. The protein and fat part is what builds a healthy body structure, the endocrine and immune systems, and, most importantly, the brain and nervous systems. People ate plants for balancing their pH, for accessing different minerals and phytochemicals. Because these plant foods were often fermented, they served as food for bacteria, which greatly increased their vitamin content for the benefit of humans.

This is the framework to the hypothesis that cancer is a disease of civilization. Taking these ideas as a basis, my cancer therapy is based on the GAPS diet, low-dose naltroxone (LDN), Iscador (mistletoe extract) and cardiotonics in order to create a “pre-civilization” milieu for the cancer patient.

GAPS DIET

The diet I use for treating cancer patients is the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet, formulated by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride in her book of the same name. Let me give a brief description of how the GAPS diet works. The healthy intestine contains millions of tiny absorptive villi. It also contains a layer of good bacteria, a diverse colony. We have, or should have, more microorganisms in our gut—five to seven pounds of them—than we have human cells in our body. These bacteria represent our immune system. Children with autism have holes in their intestinal walls that allow toxic proteins and other chemicals to leak through their porous guts into their blood stream. The two most serious are casomorphin and gluteomorphin. These leak into the blood stream and cause neurological symptoms.

Think of your intestines as soil and grass: the villi are like the soil, and the layer of good bacteria is like the grass covering the soil. If you go to a meadow or a perennial grass field and you overgraze or do something to strip the grass, the soil will become eroded. If this condition continues, you get further erosion of soil, you get cracks in the soil, and surface material starts seeping into the ground water. That is exactly the same process that happens in the human gut. People “strip their grass” with antibiotics, with vaccines, with processed foods, with not getting the right flora via the birth canal due either to a C-section or gut dysbiosis in the mother. Lastly, “civilized” people today are no longer eating probiotic foods. All these factors create an unhealthy gut ecology, a flattening of the villi, and actual holes in the gut wall.

The villi are a source of the enzyme disaccharidase, which digests disaccharides, just as lipase digests lipids and protease digests protein. As you lose the integrity of the villi you lose the ability to digest disaccharides because you lose the ability to produce the enzymes solely responsible for this function. If you continue to eat disaccharides, they cannot be digested, and instead feed fungus, yeasts, and toxic microorganisms that are present in the gut. These are like crab grass growing on the soil. Crab grass doesn’t protect the soil, it doesn’t make the good micronutrients, it doesn’t make the B vitamins, and it doesn’t protect the lining. Instead, it results in bloating and gas and all the other things that people with sickness experience. As the condition of the villi worsens, even less disaccharidase is produced, and we have a vicious cycle. Eventually you get ulcerative colitis—an erosion through the mucosa into the muscle layer, and that is like a bad crater in the soil. As a result of this leakiness of the gut you end up with these two predominant chemicals, gluteomorphin and casomorphin, getting absorbed into the blood stream. These substances are opiates, and opiates essentially paralyze your immune response.

So in the GAPS diet we eliminate all disaccharides including sugar, potatoes, sweet potatoes and grains; lactose is also a disaccharide so fluid milk, even raw milk, needs to be avoided. The diet emphasizes lots of healthy fats like butter, ghee and coconut oil, grass-fed meats and organ meats, wild seafood, fermented raw dairy products, low-starch vegetables, some fruit, bone broths and cod liver oil.

I should add that I also prescribe pancreatic enzymes, based on the work of Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez (see review). I use lyophilized pancreatic enzymes from Allergy Research extracted from New Zealand pork, lamb and beef, all at one time. The dose is 10-15 capsules, three times per day, on an empty stomach.

LOW DOSE NALTREXONE

Now let’s introduce low dose naltrexone (LDN) into this picture, and see what it has to do with the GAPS diet. We’ll also discuss what it has to do with cancer and civilization.

Naltrexone is a drug that was developed in the late 1960s to treat heroin overdose. It is an opiate receptor blocking agent. Three hundred milligrams of intravenous naltrexone would block the receptors of someone who had overdosed on heroin and save him from respiratory arrest and death.

Oral naltrexone in a fifty-milligram dose was next tried as a strategy to stop heroin addiction. Two interesting things happened. First, the fifty milligrams would block the opiate receptors all day and the heroin would have no effect. Addicts would stop using heroin because it wouldn’t make them high. But unfortunately, the people who took the fifty-milligram dose of naltrexone felt so lousy they said they’d rather be dead than take this stuff. The therapy completely failed as an addiction drug, but Bernard Bihari, a neurologist in New York City, had a lot of AIDS patients who were also heroin addicts. Bihari knew the story of naltrexone and this led to an attempt to discover why people taking naltrexone felt so lousy.

The answer is that heroin and morphine are identical to chemicals we make in our bodies called endorphins. These are the chemicals that make you feel good. If you block the body’s production of natural endorphins—which is an inadvertent effect of blocking the exogenous opiates, heroin and morphine—then this complete embargo on endorphins makes you feel worse than worse. The result is a lifeless life with no feelings of joy, since this is what endorphins are intimately associated with. If you feel miserable all the time, you probably suffer from a deficiency of endorphins.

The feeling of well-being is connected with your immune response. Endorphins are literally the fuel for the activity of your T cells; they have to do with your natural killer cells and the synthesis of tumor necrosis factor. All of this is clearly delineated in the medical literature.

The next step for Bihari was to test the heroin addicts who had AIDS and MS and other immune system problems to see whether they were actually low in endorphins. Bihari was the first to hypothesize that we can trick the body into making more endorphins by giving a very low dose of naltrexone. If fifty milligrams blocks the opiate receptors for a day, he reasoned, then three or four milligrams will block the receptors for about an hour. We give the dose at bedtime and the body says, “Hey, somebody blocked my endorphin sites! I need to make more endorphins.” Sometimes there is a ten-fold increase in the number of endorphins produced. The next thing you know you find a normal or even heightened response in endorphin production leading to improved immune function. In one survey, forty out of forty-two MS patients went into remission using LDN. Their autoimmune disease had been based on toxic opiates replacing healthy endorphins in their immune response. There are many classes of diseases that have been helped with this therapy and you can find much more information at www.lowdosenaltrexone.org.

How does the use of LDN fit into our theory that cancer is a disease of civilization? First, the foods of civilization, especially the current lowfat (or wrong-fat) and low-cholesterol diet, impede the body’s production of natural endorphins; second, civilized peoples are addicted to substances that stress the adrenal glands, such as coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar and stronger drugs—you might say that the process of becoming civilized takes us from the slow lane to the fast lane—and as the adrenals are involved in endorphin production, with so much stress and over-use, our innate feel-good mechanism breaks down. Finally, civilization puts millions of people into jobs they can’t stand, relationships that are stressful, activities they don’t enjoy. Civilization is interesting and challenging, but it is also stressful.

We often hear of a person diagnosed with cancer who says to himself, “Well, if I have only a few months to live, I’m going to do what I always wanted to do.” So he quits his work and plays the cello, or takes up oil painting. And lo and behold, his cancer goes into remission. Why? Because his body is finally producing and benefitting from endorphins, his immune system can finally work again, and he gets well.

It is interesting to compare this therapy to the GAPS diet, which eliminates the disaccharides found in grains, potatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet milk and a few other foods. The diet also avoids the exogenous opiates: casomorphins and gluteomorphins found in grains and unfermented dairy products. The GAPS diet mirrors the pre-civilized diet of 60-70 percent animal foods, with fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts as sort of “vitamin pill” supplement. The strategy is to get rid of toxic opiates, heal the gut, stimulate the production of healthy endorphins, and normalize the immune response. A significant number of people with autoimmune disease and cancer have a positive response to this combination.

ISCADOR

The next modality in my approach to cancer treatment is mistletoe therapy, otherwise known as Iscador. This is the backbone of anthroposophical medical therapy and I’m a trained anthroposophical physician. This philosophy is associated with Waldorf schools and biodynamic farming, started by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s.

The mistletoe plant is made into a number of different cancer preparations, but the original one formulated by Rudolf Steiner is called Iscador. The formulation involves an extremely complicated pharmaceutical process using winter and summer sap from the Viscum album plant and mixing it in a gold-plated centrifuge rotated at the exact speed of the earth. It is an amazing process.

You may be surprised to learn that Iscador is the most prescribed cancer medicine in the world. At a conference I attended a few years ago, a German oncologist quoted 400,000 registered cancer patients in Germany, 310,000 of whom take some kind of mistletoe preparation. (Unfortunately, European doctors usually prescribe it in conjunction with conventional therapy.) You may have heard that the celebrity Suzanne Somers is an ardent proponent of Iscador, which has played a big part in her successful treatment of her breast cancer, along with a low-carbohydrate diet and hormones.

I’ve been treating cancer patients with Iscador for twenty-five years or so, and almost every patient I see is prescribed the diet that I have described, along with Iscador and LDN. That is the mainstay of my therapeutic protocol. How does it fit in with our “cancer is a disease of civilization” hypothesis? Rudolf Steiner was the first to describe Iscador, but he was by no means the first to describe the theory of Iscador. Twenty-five hundred years ago Hippocrates said, “Give me a medicine that can produce a fever and I can cure any disease.”

The way that I explain this to my patients is to note that the job of the doctor is to distinguish between the therapy and the illness. What I mean by that is if you get a splinter in your finger, and then your body makes pus to get the splinter out, is the pus the therapy or the disease? We know that pus indicates infection and the presence of microorganisms, and we learned in medical school that doctors should kill the pus. But I don’t think it is that far of a stretch to see that if you have a splinter in your finger, the pus is the therapy for the splinter. If you don’t take the splinter out, the pus will do it for you. If you mistakenly think that the pus is the disease and you destroy the pus, the splinter will stay and your body will attempt this process again. If you destroy the pus again, your body might repeat this process three or four more times. Then you have a chronic infection as the body keeps trying to remove the splinter. Eventually it will either succeed, or it will encapsulate the splinter, which is a tumor, a new growth. It is not a cancerous tumor but a benign cystic tumor of the splinter. The understanding that the pus is the therapy allows you to predict what is going to happen in the future.

Now think of this example. Joe Bloke is a smoker. In other words, he puts a bunch of splinters in his lungs every day. Twice a year Joe gets cough, fever, mucus—all to get the splinters out of his lungs. I prefer to say “cough, fever, mucus” rather than “bronchitis” because the word “bronchitis” separates you from the reality of the situation. His body is producing an inflammatory response—it is making a mucus-pus-fever response to cleanse his lungs of splinters. If Joe goes to a doctor who makes the mistake of thinking that the response is the problem, he will give drugs to stop the bronchitis—which is actually the medicine. So Joe will be left with the splinters. That scenario will happen twice a year for thirty years and then Joe has a big bag of splinters in his lungs, and we call that lung cancer.

We know that epidemiologically every culture that has embarked on aggressive prevention of infectious disease with vaccines and antibiotic treatment has seen infectious diseases diminish, but deaths from cancer increase. Every single one. This paradox is not unknown to the medical profession.

William Coley was a surgeon in New York City at the end of the nineteenth century and the inventor of a cancer therapy called Coley’s Toxins, which was basically just rotting meat. Coley knew of the apparent relationship between infection and cancer regression. His protocol was to inject terminally ill cancer patients with an agent to make them get really sick and produce a fever. Somewhere between 20-40 percent of the terminally ill cancer patients who received this treatment, especially with combinations of Streptococcus and Serratia, went into remission. The treatment produced high fevers for a week, a lot of mucus, and a lot of what we call sickness. It is also undeniably true that the thing we call sickness is the immune response. The bacteria and the viruses don’t actually make us sick. They trigger an immune response and the symptoms which we deem as unpleasant—fever, mucus and so on—those are the response to the foreign situation. With Coley’s Toxins, 20-40 percent of these patients, as written up by the New York Academy of Sciences, went into remission.

Unfortunately, another 20-40 percent died from sepsis; that is, from the therapy, and another 20 percent or so had no response. It was a toxic therapy, or you might say a last ditch effort, but the point remains that the fevers and the pus and the mucus—and the interleukin-2 and the interferon and all these tumor necrosis factors and natural killer cells that constitute our immune response—that is the therapy for cancer. As Hippocrates said, give me a medicine that produces a fever, that provokes an immune response, and I can cure any disease.

Rudolf Steiner was asked how Iscador works in the body. He replied that it simulates a bacterial infection. You get the warmth, the interferon, the interleukin-2 response, the natural killer cell response; you get everything you would get from an infection except the bacterial infection and the sepsis, which are the toxic parts. So instead of 20-40 percent of patients dying from Coley’s Toxins from sepsis, you have an activation of the immune response but no side effects. This response is demonstrated when you inject the Iscador, because the body temperature increases, and you see actual signs of an inflammatory response. This inflammatory response digests the tumor.

Then you can help the dead material out of the body with coffee enemas, hot baths and so on. This is one of the most effective therapies for all solid tumor cancers.

ASSAULT ON THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

If you look at this process you might wonder how we got into this mess of so many people with a diminished cell-mediated inflammatory response. A cell-mediated inflammatory response— the part that we call “being sick”—is the activation of the white blood cells. Whenever we have a normal infection like chicken pox, two arms of our immune system get activated. First is the humoral immune response, or antibody-based response in the B cells, which make antibodies to remember what happened. Second is a cell-mediated activation, where the white blood cells chew up the invader and spit it out through fever, mucus, rash, achiness and sweating—all those things we call being sick. That is what happens with every naturally occurring infection. Is there something that we are doing that is somehow turning on the humoral immunity and deactivating the cell-mediated immunity?

A vaccine is a specific attempt to activate a humoral response—antibodies—and to deactivate the cell-mediated response. Why do I say that? If you get sick with fever, rash, mucus, after you had a vaccine, then that would be a bad vaccine. No one would want that vaccine. The whole point of a vaccine is to deactivate the cell-mediated response so you don’t feel sick, but to activate the humoral response.

This is exactly the same immune situation that you see with cancer and auto-immune disease. The cell-mediated response is the only way your body expels microorganisms and foreign proteins, and that response gets shut down with vaccinations. Everyone who is vaccinated ends up with an over-stimulated humoral antibody system and an under-stimulated cell-mediated system. Add to that the use of fever-suppressing drugs like aspirin and Tylenol, as well as antibiotics that kill the bacteria in our guts, and we have a recipe for cancer.

The incidence of cancer has skyrocketed with the introduction of vaccines and with the suppression of the acute sick response. Unlike the primitive man who accepts everything in nature and in the body as a natural process, the civilized man tries to suppress natural processes; he is afraid of them, or thinks they serve no purpose, and cancer is the result.

CARDIOTONICS

A fourth component of my cancer therapy involves cardiotonics. Cardiac glycosides are novel therapeutic agents belonging to a family of substances that come mostly from plants. They are a source of proteins (glycosides) that stimulate the metabolism of the heart. The two main cardiac glycosides are digitalis from the foxglove and a substance called ouabain—which I prefer to use—from the strophanthus plant. This African vine was originally used by tribes for hunting. They would dip their arrows into a substance taken from the seeds and it would cause a temporary stoppage of the heart in the animal they shot.

Researchers understood that this was a cardiac active substance and when they isolated it they found it was a hormone, which they called ouabain (through French from Somali waabaayo, “arrow poison”) or strophanthin. Until the 1990s, the very similar digitalis was the main treatment for heart problems. And there have been a number of studies over the years of women with breast cancer, and men with prostate cancer who have been put on digitalis for their heart problems. These patients have an incidence of cancer ten times lower than controls and if they already had cancer, digitalis lowers their recurrence rate seven- to twenty-fold.

Ouabain is an excellent medicine for the heart. I have a patient from Germany who has a doctorate in biochemistry. About twenty-eight years ago, he had three heart attacks, bypass surgery and stents. Nothing worked, and he was given up for dead. He had heard about ouabain as a medicine for heart attacks and angina. He found a source of it, started taking it, and he is still alive today. Recently he sent me what he hopes to be a published paper in the American Journal of Oncology on the entire world literature pertaining to the use and actions of ouabain (its trade name is Strodival).

I’ve been using Strodival for heart patients for five or six years. It’s been a great help for people with angina, heart disease and congestive heart failure. Many have better outcomes, less angina and better exercise tolerance.

But what does ouabain have to do with cancer and civilization? According to my biochemist patient, ouabain does two things: it flushes lactic acid from the cells, and it catalyzes the ability of the cells, particularly the heart cells, to metabolize fats into energy. He calls it the “insulin of the heart,” or the “insulin of fat metabolism.” Without the hormone ouabain you have a difficult time digesting fats, which may be why you temporarily seem better on a carbohydrate diet. If you don’t have enough ouabain, you can’t metabolize fats, and you can’t get energy from fats. We actually know the specific biochemical fat metabolism blockade that it overcomes. But the next question is: how could this substance from an African vine have anything to do with helping cancer patients in civilization?

What I have learned from this biochemist and others in studying the history of ouabain is an interesting revelation. Here is a chemical, a hormone that is found only in this one African vine, strophanthus. By an amazing quirk of nature we humans make the exact same chemical in our adrenal glands. You can radioactively tag precursors of this hormone and the precursors light up in the adrenal glands; ouabain also lights up the adrenal glands, proving that you actually make ouabain from this precursor. It goes into the blood, into the heart and all the other cells in the body, allowing you to use fats as fuel while also flushing out lactic acid from your cells.

The inability to metabolize fats is in some ways exactly the defect we have with cancer. The inability to use fat as fuel, and therefore the reliance on sugar, causes increased levels of insulin. Excess insulin stimulates growth, and an increase in lactic acid builds up because of the deficiency of ouabain. This leads to a state of acidosis which is essentially necrosis—it poisons the cells.

Cancer cells are cells in a state of acidosis. This is why people came up with alkalinizing diets for cancer patients; but these diets rarely work in the long run because your body doesn’t actually need more alkaline foods; what it needs is more fat. What you need to do is change your metabolism so that lactic acid doesn’t build up in your cells, and the adrenal hormone ouabain helps you do that.

By the way, ouabain is made out of cholesterol; or to put it another way, ouabain is made from animal fats. And since the widely used statin drugs inhibit the production of cholesterol, they also inhibit the production of ouabain. Here is yet another example of fear about one of nature’s vital processes—the use of cholesterol in the human body—that is so characteristic of civilized man.

Fear of cholesterol and saturated fat has led to a vicious cycle. Ouabain catalyzes the metabolism of fats, allowing you to eat them, so you eat more. If you don’t eat cholesterol and fats, or if you try to lower your cholesterol, you can’t make oaubain and then you can’t eat fats, and so you think you are doing better if you decrease the amount of fats in your diet. The next thing you know you have more insulin from increased carbohydrate consumption, and then you are in big trouble.

DON’T WORK FOR MONEY!

Steiner once said that for mankind to make progress, men and women would need to learn not to work for money. Of course you want to be paid for what you do, but you should not work simply for money. If you work every day in a job you don’t love, then you are going to put enormous stress on your adrenal glands. Eventually they will not be able to produce the cardiotonics and endorphins that you need to stay well, happy and cancer free.

In fact, everything we do should be enjoyable—our work, our leisure time, our family life, our food—yet even eating has become stressful today as we are hounded to stick to a soulless lowfat diet. The threat of cancer should challenge us to humanize our existence, to inject the stress-free attitude of primitive peoples into our stressful, goal-oriented civilized lives.

This is really our only choice because we can’t go back. Very few of us would want to go back to primitive tribal life, a life without electricity, without gadgets, without books and computers, a life, in fact, without the opportunity for personal choice that we have become used to. What we can do is choose to bring the village life back to civilization, by choosing not to work for money, by choosing to enjoy our food, by choosing to do the things we love to do, by reducing the pace, by socializing with friends, by taking naps, by doing as much for ourselves as we do for others, by supporting old-fashioned and sustainable agriculture, and above all by eating lots and lots of animal fats.


SIDEBARS

RUNNING SHOES, MONKEYS AND CANCER

I sometimes say that having access to the Weston Price philosophy is a bit like taking a test and knowing the answer beforehand. When you wonder how to proceed with any subset of human endeavor, you can look backward to find (or remember) the right answer. Along with this, I’m sure you’ve heard about the “hundredth-monkey” effect. This phenomenon refers to the instantaneous, paranormal spreading of an idea or ability to the remainder of a population once a certain portion of that population has heard of the new idea or learned the new ability. When the hundredth monkey learned to wash sweet potatoes, then every monkey in the world was supposedly washing sweet potatoes as well via this process.

There are certain things that bubble up out of the culture at certain times. The thing that is bubbling up right now, for the obvious reason that we are poisoning and killing ourselves environmentally and in a lot of other ways, is this big question of how we should live. This question affects even very small, specific matters in our lives.

I read a book recently called Born to Run. The theory of this book is that human beings evolved running and walking barefoot. As soon as you run and walk with shoes on you will have injuries to your legs and back. In fact they point out a study from the American College of Orthopedic Medicine that seventy percent of all runners have a significant injury within a year, and the number one thing that correlates with the likelihood of having an injury is the price of your running shoes. The higher the price of your shoes the more likely you are to injure yourself. Because the foot craves to find a hard place to impact the ground, and the more expensive running shoes have more cushion in the heel and now even springs, you really have to grind your leg in order to find that hard place. That puts stress on your ankle and knee and then hip and then back. We even know the physiological mechanism of how that works. But as I said, you already know the answer to the question of what to put on your feet, because the healthiest people, the ones who didn’t have leg and back problems were these “uncivilized” people who walked and ran barefoot all the time. You already knew the answer to that conundrum; we just had to fill in the science.

This thinking process can be applied to shoes; it can also be applied to electromagnetic fields, to cell phones. If you look at the life of these “uncivilized” people, they didn’t have cell phones, they didn’t have electromagnetic fields. If you ask me when to go to bed at night, ask instead when did they do it? They went to bed when it got dark and woke up when it got light. If you have a serious illness like cancer and you know these people never had cancer, then you might want to consider emulating their lifestyle strategy not only in their diet but in every possible way: walk barefoot on the beach; when you wear shoes, wear shoes with flat soles; throw away your cell phone; live as far away from a cell tower as you can; go to bed when the sun goes down and don’t sleep near any electric appliances like alarm clocks, and certainly not under an electric blanket.

WHY CANCER PATIENTS NEED MORE FAT

If you have cancer of your colon or liver, breast or prostate, and we want to know if the cancer has spread to any other part of the body, we can use a nuclear medicine imaging technique called PET (positron emission topography). This technique highlights any other nests of cancer cells and is the conventional approach for checking on the spread of cancer. The process involves radioactively tagged glucose that is injected into the body and then that glucose is selectively picked up by various cells in the body. We know that cancer cells love to eat glucose, so they actively pick up the tagged glucose. The highlighted nests of radioactive glucose therefore indicate areas of the strongest growth of cancer cells. In other words, cancer cells thrive on sugar. Cancer cells use an anaerobic respiration of sugar to form acids. That is the metabolism of cancer cells. The reason the cancer patient starves while the cancer cells grow is because they are much better at taking up the sugar than are normal cells. If we understand this selective metabolism of cancer well enough to diagnose its growth, then the next step is to withhold sugar and see what happens. The trouble is we need a backup fuel source. And there is a back up fuel source: ketones from fats. Cancer cells cannot metobolize ketones. Normal cells do fine on ketones; we know this from fifty years of successfully utilizing a therapeutic very high-fat ketogenic diet. Cancer patients on a ketogenic diet will often have their tumors shrink and will halt their cachexia—their physical wasting and weight loss. The cancer cells starve on a ketogenic diet, but normal cells thrive.

Now take a moment to think of these pre-civilized people 10,000 years ago before the cultivation of grains. I hope by now you are convinced they did not suffer from cancer. These people ate a ketogenic diet. Think about pre-grain, pre-potatoes, pre-milk—where were the carbohydrates? They ate seventy percent animal foods, a little bit of seeds and nuts, a few vegetables that they could find, honey when they could chase off the bees. And we know that they favored the animal fats rather than the proteins. Their main fuel was ketones. Our whole notion of the right diet for cancer patients today is backwards. The knee-jerk dietary prescription for cancer patients is a lowfat, high-carbohydrate diet. But the primary fuel for many human groups is ketones, and the backup fuel is glucose. Glucose as a fuel source would have been used in an emergency—to sprint away from a dangerous situation, for example. It is essentially an anaerobic backup system that produces lactic acid and acidosis and is only meant to be used for a brief period of time.

It is also important to note that with the ketogenic diet protein intake is kept low to moderate, with fat as the main fuel source. Protein consumption in excess of your actual needs will be metabolized like sugars, by the way. Insulin has long been implicated as the growth hormone, stimulating growth in cancer cells as well. We want to lower the insulin levels in the blood and by far the most reliable way to do that is to get rid of the sugar.

A DIET FULL OF FAT

How does one achieve a diet that is 80 percent fat? It’s not as hard as you think, because by 80 percent, we mean 80 percent of calories, not 80 percent of weight or volume. Since there are twice as many calories in a gram of fat compared to a gram of carbohydrate or protein, and since fat contains no water but carbohydrate and protein foods can be up to 90 percent water, that means that if your diet is about 10 percent of fat by volume or weight, you will probably be eating 80 percent of your calories as fat. (For a detailed explanation see Adventures in Macronutrient Land at westonaprice.org.)

Here are some ways to increase your fat intake:

• Take 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil in hot water before a meal.
• Add an extra yolk to scrambled eggs.
• Cook some fruit along with your bacon so you soak up some bacon fat into the fruit.
• Use plenty of butter in your oatmeal or on your bread—you should put enough butter on your bread to show teeth marks when you bite into it.
• Put lots of melted butter on your vegetables or even on your meat and fish.
• Use cream in sauces.
• Make gravy with pan drippings.
• Always consume whole dairy products—whole milk, whole yoghurt, full-fat cheese.
• Cook in generous amounts of lard, ghee, butter, goose fat or duck fat.
• Spreads like paté are a good way to consume extra fat.

If you are not used to eating a lot of fat, you will need to build up slowly. Start with 1/4 teaspoon coconut oil in hot water, small amounts of butter on your bread or vegetables, small servings of whole dairy products. Swedish bitters taken morning and evening (1 teaspoon in water) will help your liver produce bile for fat digestion. If you still have trouble with all that fat, you can take an ox bile tablet with your meal, or lipase enzymes. Eventually you will be able to tolerate and enjoy a diet full of healthy fats. You may also find that any cravings for carbohydrates subside once your body gets the fat it needs.

SOME RECENT STUDIES INVOLVING MISTLETOE EXTRACT

This study showed that complementary treatment with sME [a mistletoe extract] can beneficially reduce the side-effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients and thus improve quality of life (Anticancer Res 2004 Jan-Feb;24(1):303-9).

The results of this study show that sensitivity to IscadorQu [a mistletoe extract] treatment varies strongly between different cell lines. In sensitive cell lines, including tumor and endothelial cell cultures, IscadorQu caused early cell cycle inhibition followed by apoptosis in a dose-dependent manner (Int J Oncol 2004 Dec;25(6):1521-9).

Complementary treatment of breast cancer patients with lectin-standardized mistletoe extract (sME) proved to be a well tolerated optimization of standard tumor-destructive therapies, mainly improving quality of life and relapse-free intervals in defined UICC stages (Anticancer Res 2003 Nov-Dec;23(6D):5081-7).

Mistletoe extracts have immunomodulatory activity. We show that nontoxic concentrations of Viscum album [mistletoe] extracts increase natural killer (NK) cell-mediated killing of tumor cells but spare nontarget cells from NK lysis (Eur J Biochem 2002 May;269(10):2591-600).

Results from the present study suggest that VA [an extract of mistletoe] extract-induced endothelial apoptosis may explain the tumor regression associated with the therapeutic use of VA preparations and support further investigations to develop novel anti-angiogenic compounds based on mistletoe compounds (Mol Med 2002 Oct;8(10):600-6).

These results demonstrate the presence of insulin-releasing natural product(s) in Viscum album [mistletoe] which may contribute to the reported antidiabetic property of the plant (J Endocrinol 1999 Mar;160(3):409-14).

Selective apoptotic effects of VAA-I [a mistletoe extract] may represent a novel approach for pharmacological manipulation of the balance between cell growth and programmed cell death. Appropriate combination of immunomodulatory and cytotoxic doses may open new clinical perspectives in the mistletoe therapy (Forsch Komplementarmed 1999 Aug;6(4):186-94).

GRAINS AND CIVILIZATION

Although I have pointed out the destructive nature of grain production—and, I should also add, of feeding grains to ruminant animals—and of the “civilized” attitudes that lead to cancer, please don’t think that I am against grains and against civilization. In every mythology, grains are said to be a gift of the gods. Steiner taught that grains were the gift of a great wise man named Zarathustra, and that along with grains he gave us one other gift: the knowledge of our mortality. With the knowledge of our mortality, we become individuals and can no longer participate in the group soul of the tribe or village. Instead we must build a civilization as individuals, and grains make civilization possible.

All this is as it should be: we need to make our way in the world and learn to understand the world as an individual. Along with this comes the scientific method and a rejection of anything that smacks of “intuition” or “superstition.” All this has created a feeling of alienation and loneliness in “civilized” men and women, but again, this is part of our spiritual evolution. Grains have played a role in moving us forward.

The challenge for any individual is to go forward on this great adventure of spiritual evolution without causing too much suffering to ourselves or to others. In the case of grains, this means raising them in a way that does not deplete the earth (which means cultivating grains in rotation with animal agriculture), eating them in moderation, preparing them properly so that they don’t cause health problems, and then consuming them properly, which means with plenty of fat. In fact, if you think of it, it would be hard to eat four tablespoons of butter alone, but very easy to eat four tablespoons of butter on a piece of sourdough bread—the bread makes the butter go down well and the butter makes the bread go down well.

When we are very sick with a disease of civilization—such as cancer, heart disease or arthritis—then we need to step back to a more hunter-gatherer diet, perhaps even avoid grains altogether for a time. But the goal should be to incorporate them into our diet, because we need grains to make spiritual progress, that is, to be healthy on all levels.

I had a patient who had many health problems and the GAPS diet helped her recover from them. But after recovery she continued on the GAPS diet and she started to go downhill—not with the old symptoms, but she just got more and more tired. I advised her to add more grains to her diet—soaked oatmeal and sourdough bread—and she immediately snapped out of it. So there is a time to go off grains and a time to reintroduce them!


This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2009.

Raw Milk

by Tom Cowan, MD

As I’m sure most of you know by now, there are very few subjects as emotionally charged as the choice of one’s diet. Sexual relations, marriage and finances come to mind as similarly charged subjects and, like diet, we are all sure we know all we need to know about each of these subjects. The subject of milk, as I have discovered during the past four years, when properly viewed will challenge every notion you currently have about what is good food and what isn’t. The story of milk is complex and goes something like this.

Back in the preprocessed food era (that is before about 1930 in this country) milk was considered an important food, especially for children. Not only was there an entire segment of our economy built up around milk but, as I remember, each house had its own milk chute for the delivery of fresh milk directly to the house. It was unquestioned that milk was good for us and that a safe, plentiful milk supply was actually vital to our national health and well-being. It was also a time (now I’m referring to the early part of the century) when many of the illnesses which we currently suffer from were rare. As an example, family doctors would often go their whole careers without ever seeing a patient with significant coronary artery disease, breast or prostate cancer, whereas current doctors can hardly go one month without encountering a patient with such an illness. Furthermore, as scientists such as Weston Price, DDS discovered, there were pockets of extremely healthy, long-lived people scattered about the earth who used dairy products in various forms as the staple of their diets — further evidence that milk and its by-products were amongst the most healthful foods man has ever encountered.

If we fast forward to the 1980’s, we now find an entirely different picture. For one thing, there have been numerous books written in the past decade about the dangers of dairy products — the most influential being a book by Frank Oski, MD, the current chairman of pediatrics of Johns Hopkins University and perhaps the most influential pediatrician in this country. It’s called Don’t Drink Your Milk. In it Oski pins just about every health problem in children to the consumption of milk, everything from acute and chronic ear infections, constipation, asthma, eczema, and so on. Secondly, just about all patients I have now in their initial visit proudly announce that they have a good diet and that, specifically, they don’t eat dairy (which they pronounce with such disdain).

One might well ask where the truth in this picture. Perhaps the experiments of Dr. Francis Pottenger in the 1940’s can help to solve this mystery. In these experiments Dr. Pottenger fed one group of cats a diet consisting of raw milk, raw meat and cod liver oil. Other groups were given pasteurized milk, evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk instead of raw milk. The results were conclusive and astounding. Those that ate raw milk and raw meat did well and lived long, happy, active lives free of any signs of degenerative disease. Those cats on pasteurized milk suffered from acute illnesses (vomiting, diarrhea) and succumbed to every degenerative disease now flourishing in our population, even though they were also getting raw meat and cod liver oil. By the 3rd generation a vast majority of the cats were infertile and exhibited “anti-social” behavior — in short, they were like modern Americans.

Since the 40’s the “qualities” of milk have been extensively studied to try to find an explanation for these dramatic changes. Studies have shown that before heating, milk is a living food rich in colloidal minerals and enzymes necessary for the absorption and utilization of the sugars, fats and minerals in the milk. For example, milk has an enzyme called phosphatase that allows the body to absorb the calcium from the milk. Lactase is an enzyme that allows for the digestion of lactose.

Butterfat has a cortisone-like factor which is heat sensitive (destroyed by heat) that prevents stiffness in the joints. Raw milk contains beneficial bacteria as well as lactic acids that allow these beneficial bacteria to implant in the intestines. All of these qualities are destroyed during pasteurization. Once heated, milk becomes rotten, with precipitated minerals that can’t be absorbed (hence osteoporosis), with sugars that can’t be digested (hence allergies), and with fats that are toxic.

Raw milk has been used as a therapy in folk medicine — and even in the Mayo Clinic — for centuries. It has been used in the pre-insulin days to treat diabetes (I’ve tried it — it works), as well as eczema, intestinal worms, allergies, and arthritis, all for reasons which can be understood when we realize just what is in milk — such as the cortisone-like factor for allergies and eczema.

Another way we ruin milk is by feeding cows high protein feed made from soybeans and other inappropriate foodstuffs. Rarely is anyone truly allergic to grass-fed cow’s milk.

Fresh raw milk, from cows eating well-manured green grass is a living unprocessed whole food. Compare this to the supposedly “healthy” soy milk which has been washed in acids and alkalis, ultrapasteurized, then allowed to sit in a box for many months.

The Pottenger cat studies provide a simple but profound lesson for all Americans: Processed, dead foods don’t support life or a happy well-functioning society. We must return to eating pure, wholesome, unprocessed foods, including whole raw milk from pasture fed cows.

In my practice I ALWAYS start there — I encourage, insist, even beg people to eat real foods— no matter what the problem. Often with just this intervention the results are gratifying. SO, find a cow, find a farmer, make sure the cow (or goat, llama, or whatever) is healthy and start your return to good health!

Reprinted from the
Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation Health Journal
Vol 21, No 2

Moods and the Immune System

How Low-Dose Naltrexone Can Make You Feel Better, Mentally and Physically

I remember a poignant and pivotal moment when I was in medical school back in the early 1980s. I was doing gastroenterology with a proctologist, a doctor who treats diseases of the anus and rectum. The patient was a farmer who had a frank way of talking. He told the proctologist that he had an itchy butt.

The doctor then explained that there would be a number of causes of his condition. It could be parasites, it could be ulcerative proctitis, it could be cancer of the rectum or anal region, and that he would have to order some tests. So he ordered a stool test, he ordered a blood test, and he did a sigmoidoscopy and a colonoscopy of the lower GI, which is a barium X-ray of his lower bowel. And all this cost about ten thousand dollars and took a couple weeks.

Then the farmer came back to his office and the doctor said, “I’ve found out what’s the matter with you. You have pruritus ani.” Pruritus ani in Latin means “itchy anus.” I started to laugh, which probably wasn’t a good thing for my grade. I knew a little bit of Latin at the time and I said, “But he told you that.”

But the proctologist was very serious: “Yes, but this is an official medical diagnosis. There is a very specific treatment for pruritus ani, using cortisone creams. You can find it in the textbooks.”

Disappointing Answers

Unfortunately, a lot of medical diagnoses are like the diagnosis the farmer got from his proctologist. For example, eczema means “skin rash” in Latin. So you go to an expensive dermatologist and tell him that your skin itches. The dermatologist looks at it and five minutes later he tells you that you have eczema. My guess is that 80-90 percent of all medical diagnoses are actually the Latin translation of what the patient told the doctor.

And that’s not what you want these days. That’s not why people are going to the doctor. The question is, what are patients really looking for?

Let me answer this with an analogy. Let’s say you’re a young man and you’re interested in a young woman at your office. You ask her out for a date and say, “I’ll meet you at this bar at seven o’clock on Friday night. I’ll see you there.” And she agrees. You’re really interested in her but you’re not so sure she’s interested in you. So on Friday evening, you show up at the bar. You wait and wait, until after eight o’clock, and she doesn’t show up.

When you see her at the office the next day you ask her, “What’s the deal? You didn’t show up for our date? You said you were going to come.”

And she answers, “Well, you know, the bus system in San Francisco is not very good. There’s all kinds of trouble. The supervisors are arguing with each other about the public transportation system. They don’t really run on time, and so I wasn’t there.” How do you feel when you hear this kind of answer? It’s definitely an explanation, and it’s probably true. Yes, there is trouble with the public transportation system. But the question is, how do you feel when you hear that explanation? You feel disappointed or unfulfilled, which is pretty much the same as you should feel if you’re told you have pruritus ani after a lot of expensive tests. There’s a sense of inner disappointment. This is not a fulfilling experience.

So you go back to the young woman and say, “I don’t really like this explanation. Could you say more?”

“Well,” she says, “dates are not necessarily good things because they lead to relationships, and I don’t really like relationships, and so I’m not sure about how much that was going to work. Anyway, human history has been clouded by trouble with relationships.”

So now how do you feel? Not good, right? She’s given you an unfulfilling answer.

Today we live in the age that Rudolf Steiner, founder of Anthroposophy, called the Age of Consciousness. And today, there is only one answer that would satisfy you in this situation. which is: “I don’t like you. I didn’t want to show up because I didn’t want to spend that two hours on a date with you.” That answer might hurt you, but it would also provide a deep satisfaction because it gives you the reason why this happened. You are disappointed but you’ll move on because there is a certain sense of completeness and fulfillment in the experience.

I would submit to you that it’s exactly the same with medicine. You go to the doctor and you say, “My butt itches, I have a skin rash. When I walk upstairs, I get chest pain.” Or, something that is very common these days: “I’m emotionally depressed. I feel sad and lonely about life, especially in the winter.” When you tell your doctor that you are depressed during the winter months, you don’t want to hear, “You have seasonal affective disorder.” That’s like telling you that the buses don’t run on time when you’ve been stood up on a date. Seasonal affective disorder means sadness during winter. Well, that’s what you told the doctor. “Now it’s winter and I’m sad, and you tell me I have seasonal affective disorder?”

Let’s say that you feel sad all the time, that you have depression. Sometimes the doctor will say you have clinical depression. Clinical means a clinician (such as a doctor) told you that you’re sad. Would you feel satisfied with that response? “Oh, now I know what’s the matter with me.” Of course not!

We live in the Age of the Consciousness Soul. Anything less than conscious choosing about how we are going to live our life leaves us feeling unsatisfied. And conscious choosing means that we accept the consequences of our choices. In other words, most people want to know, when they go to a doctor, what did I do? What are the consequences of the choices that I made with my diet, with my movement, with my spiritual development, with my emotional life, with my choice of laundry soap, with my choice of partners, with my choice of houses? What is it that I chose that has led to my butt itching? Or to my sadness in the winter? Is it because I believed the dermatologist who said I should never go out in the sun? Or that I believed the doctors who said I should never eat animal fat because it is full of cholesterol?

It turns out that vitamin D is made from sunlight interacting with the cholesterol in the fat of our skin. So if you choose to believe your doctors, avoiding the sun and animal fats, you’re going to have low vitamin D and you’re going to be seasonally affectively sad because of the consequences of that choice. Such an answer might make us feel bad— like being stood up on a date— but ultimately it is the kind of answer that satisfies us in this Age of Consciousness.

Unfortunately, if you insist on answers like this from your physician, most of them will be very frustrated because they don’t think like this. They don’t have a conception of the world that’s based on people choosing and accepting the consequences of their choosing. Instead, they blame most disease on germs or genes, something we can’t see and presumably have no control over.

A Frame of Reference

Every doctor who’s working with patients has a frame of reference that he or she uses to understand the manifestations of a person’s illness. For the vast majority today, the frame of reference is one of materialistic science, which leads to a Latin diagnosis and treatment with a pharmaceutical prescription.

My frame of reference is inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner. It is a frame of reference based on deep philosophical questions— something frowned on by conventional medicine.

People living today basically have two conventional philosophical views to choose from. One is the notion of intelligent design, namely that plants, animals and humans were created by God, and then boom, it’s all over, here’s the finished product. The other is the Darwinian theory of evolution, a slow evolution by chance, without any choices, without any direction, from slime mold up to humans, step by step, billions of years. Those are the two models we have to choose from.

However, when you look into the world, you will find some phenomena that cannot fit into either a “by chance” or an “intelligent design” model. Steiner proposes a third model: gradual evolution through conscious intelligent design. The premise is that life forms were created at certain times in such a way that certain functions were actually cast out from the human being into nature and exist there as self-contained entities that we call an animal or a plant or a mineral. It’s like saying, “In the beginning was human being,” or “In the beginning was everything.”

A good analogy is a sculpture. What did Michelangelo say about the creation of the statue of David? “The statue of David, the form, exists inside the marble and I took the extraneous bits away and the form emerged as the statue of David.” That’s exactly what Michelangelo said. Amazingly, that’s what Rudolf Steiner said about the evolution— a kind of reverse evolution— or the creation of the human being.

In Man, In Nature

Think of the digitalis plant— think of it as one chip of marble that falls to the ground during the creation-evolution of man and grows into the foxglove plant. At the same time on an inner plane, the human heart is formed. That’s a pretty wacky idea but that’s what Steiner said. Steiner said that we will know that the foxglove was formed in parallel with the formation of the human being because when you look into the human being, you will find the remnant or essence of digitalis still remaining there. And he is correct because the human heart actually has digitalis receptors, which are like locks. Digoxin is produced in our adrenal glands. It goes into the blood and works like a key on the locks in the heart. Amazingly, this chemical is only otherwise produced in nature by the foxglove plant. This fact is a very difficult thing to explain through either natural selection or intelligent design.

Likewise our bodies produce feel-good chemicals that are also produced in nature by plants like marijuana and the opium poppy. This is one of the most amazing medical discoveries of the last twenty years. The endorphins, the so-called feel-good chemicals in our bodies, are the same as those produced by certain plants. If you are a thinking person, if you are truly conscious, these discoveries will require you to engage in some deep philosophical considerations.

What is Illness?

We now come to the question, “What is an illness?” According to this line of thinking, an illness is a situation where at a particular place in your life, you need to be reunited with something in the natural world outside yourself, say, with the digitalis plant, for your future health and evolution to progress. The disease represents an inner need for reunification with something that was cast out of you into the world, and you need to have it brought back. So the process of healing is a kind of reunification process, reunification with something we prematurely lost as a human being. In this way of thinking, the world out there was created as a reservoir for us so that when we need to be reunited, it exists out there in a form that we can use. That’s a really different view of medicine!

Let me give you some examples of the process of conscious choice, leading to repercussions, that is illness, and ending up with a need for reunification. In other words: see the world out there, choose something from the world, reunite with it, make all better. That’s the process. Let’s take the case of a Jane Smith who makes a conscious choice to consume a lowfat diet and to use margarine instead of butter. She chooses this way of eating because she thinks it is the proper, conscious choice for a human being. Then, as the years go by, she becomes overweight and sluggish, with sluggish thyroid function, and she ends up with sluggish gall bladder function.

At this point we can discuss biochemistry. We know that we make bile acids (also called bile salts) out of cholesterol and healthy fats. If you lead a life of eating trans fats, if you eat processed transformed fats which don’t have the right chemistry, you will end up with bile acids that are too thick and sludgy. As the years go by, the bile gets thicker and thicker, and Jane Smith’s body gets into a kind of negative feedback system because the bile salts digest fats. You have weird bile salts, you don’t digest the fats right. Therefore, it’s harder to make healthy bile salts. The whole process just keeps going round and round and Ms. Smith ends up with sluggish bile flow, pain when she eats, difficulty digesting fats and maybe even gall stones. You can see how this happens. You can see that whole process from conscious choice into the biochemistry into physiological consequence into pathology— that is, gall stones that you can see on an ultrasound.

Then she goes to the doctor and says, “I have pain when I eat fat and the pain is here.” He looks and does an ultrasound and says, “You have gall stones.” For the thinking patient, this is an unsatisfactory answer because you knew you probably had gall stones. The conventional solution is to take your gall bladder out. So the physician takes Jane’s gall bladder out— but she’s not restored. There’s no reunification, there’s no learning, no change in diet. There’s just more to the vicious cycle because people who have their gall bladder out have a higher incidence of cancer of the colon. That’s because the bile doesn’t flow properly. So taking Jane’s gall bladder out is a very unsatisfying solution for her.

True Healing

If you want to restore healthy bile flow, what do you do? There are two actions necessary. One is to make different choices, which means eating healthy fats, eating healthy cholesterol, and therefore making healthy bile acids which help digest the fats properly. The other is to look for a substance out there in the world that represents bile flow.

Steiner often described plants as three-fold, flipped-upside-down versions of the human being. The human body has three main areas, the head, the heart and lungs, and the belly or metabolic area where digestion and reproduction take place. Plants are organized in the same way, only flipped upside down. The nerve or head pole of the plant is in the roots, where the plant senses environmental conditions and takes in nutrients; the breathing is in the leaves; and the metabolicreproductive pole is in the flowers.

One plant that stimulates the healthy flow of bile is called Chelidonium major, which has a bilious fluid in the roots. According to what’s called the doctrine of signatures, you can see from the way a plant grows, and from what the plant does differently from other plants, what this plant is telling you. Chelidonium major tells us, “I am the reunification of the stimulation of healthy bile flow.” So you extract the plant, make a preparation, reunite that with the human being and end up with healthy bile flow. Healthy bile flow plus conscious choices about food and how you live, that’s a different kind of healing, true healing that involves reunification and an education of the human being so that his or her life is better. That’s what we’re looking for.

So the job of a doctor is to read the book of nature and to understand what it is that the human being is expressing, where that similar phenomenon is expressed in nature, and then reunify them to create a healing.

Here’s another example. What’s the hallmark of Parkinson’s disease? There’s tremor, shuffling gait and so forth, but these are characteristic of a number of diseases. But there’s one thing about Parkinson’s disease that’s very distinct, very unusual and almost spooky. The essence of Parkinson’s manifests in the face with staring, with a wide-eyed, blank face. Where do you see that in nature? You see it in the octopus, which seems to be all head. The whole thing appears to be a head floating in the ocean with an unblinking eye staring out at you. It looks for all the world like the picture of a Parkinsonian face. The octopus is the picture of Parkinson’s floating in the ocean.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Inside the octopus you find a dark liquid called sepia. They used to use sepia as ink. In fact the US Constitution was written with sepia ink. So you have this picture of a blank staring face secreting a puff of black inky juice which is how it wards off predators so they don’t see it. The site of the pathology in Parkinson’s is in the substantia nigra, which means “black substance.” In the very deep part of the brain there’s a little gland called the substantia nigra which secretes black inky juice. This juice contains dopamine and other neuro-hormones, which supposedly are deficient in the case of Parkinson’s. Like the bile salts, many of these neuro-hormones are made of cholesterol. So in addition to requiring unification with something in the outer world, the Parkinson’s patient also needs to make changes in his or her diet.

Thus we now have a picture of the Parkinson’s patient, who for many years chose a deficient diet, resulting in a lack of neuro-hormone production in the substantia nigra, now needing reunification with a certain kind of octopus right down into its black inky juice. That substance can be supplied with homeopathic sepia, made from black ink from a similar species, the squid. Lifestyle choices are also involved because there are certain environmental poisons, such as agricultural chemicals and trans fats, which specifically target the substantia nigra.

So, we really have a very different concept about what we mean by medicine and what healing is, which is a kind of reunification combined with education about the choices that led you to develop the disease in the first place.

A Lesson From Heroin Addicts

Let’s switch gears now and talk about a very interesting medicine called naltrexone. Naltrexone was created in the late 1970s as a drug to treat heroin overdose. This was around the time when there was a lot of heroin use in this country. When you overdose on heroin it depresses your respiratory centers and you go into respiratory arrest and then die. So the pharmaceutical industry spent some time looking for an antidote to heroin overdose and they came up with naltrexone.

Having worked in emergency rooms for ten years on and off, I have prescribed it myself. A person overdoses with heroin, you give him 300 mg naltrexone by IV, and it immediately reverses the respiratory decline from the heroin. The patient wakes up, walks out the door and goes and uses heroin again. Great stuff!

Nevertheless, a number of doctors in the early 1980s decided to see whether naltrexone could help heroin addicts recover from their addiction. They treated a group of heroin addicts, many of whom had AIDS and other immune problems, with 50 mg of oral naltrexone. Two things happened. One, the oral naltrexone bound with the opiate receptors and competitively blocked them. Heroin is like a key that goes into the cell, which has a specifically designed lock that fits only opiates. This is another example, as Rudolf Steiner said, of the opiates being made in a certain relationship to the human being. We actually have receptors for poppy opiate chemicals that live out there in nature.

When they gave these people 50 mg of oral naltrexone, it blocked the receptors and heroin wouldn’t make them high. So the addicts said, “We’d rather be dead than take this stuff.” Naltrexone failed as an opiate heroin addiction medicine because all the addicts who used it felt terrible all the time.

Why did it make them feel so bad? That question led to the discovery of something probably everybody has heard of, which are endorphins, our body’s own feel-good chemicals. Endorphins comprise a category of at least twenty neuro-hormones, meaning hormone-like chemicals that are made in the nervous system and other places in the body, specifically in the adrenal glands. Some of these are biochemical copies of the opiates the poppy plant makes, or perhaps we should say that the opiates the poppy plant makes are biochemical copies of the endorphins we make in our bodies. The same is true for the cannabinoids— our bodies make the same chemicals the marijuana plant makes.

Rudolf Steiner would put it like this: when the nervous system was organizing itself into a functional system, it made neural chemicals, the endorphins, in our body. As a reservoir, it put the poppy plant and the marijuana plant on the outside world as free, growing plants. As all heroin addicts have learned, if your own opiates are not being produced, or the receptors are not working (probably because of dietary choices that you have made for many years), you have a strong urge to reunite with the identical chemicals produced in the world outside yourself. They make you feel good for a while until they wear off. And of course, because they are not carefully regulated like the ones in our bodies, those from nature have terrible side effects.

The failure of naltrexone for heroin addiction directly led to the discovery of endorphins and to the discovery that feeling good, having an elevated mood, has something to do with the chemicals in our body. The research also confirmed the fact that the world out there is a mirror of the world inside ourselves.

The next step in this story involved a neurologist and immunologist named Bernard Bahari in New York City, who had a lot of AIDS patients who were heroin addicts. He had the insight to check their endorphin levels. Lo and behold he found that their endorphin levels were extremely low, maybe as a consequence of taking heroin but maybe just naturally occurring. If you take heroin it actually suppresses endorphin production, so it’s hard to know which comes first.

The next discovery was even more amazing. The researchers isolated the T-cells and found that most of the receptors on the cells of the immune system—the B-cells, T-cells, thymus cells and so forth— are endorphin receptors. That’s right, over 90 percent of the receptors on all the immune cells of our bodies are endorphin receptors. These cells are like an endorphin-coding apparatus. Here’s another way of saying it: the endorphins are the fuel for the proper functioning of our immune system. Without endorphins, the B-cells don’t work, the T-cells don’t work, and eventually our immune system starts misbehaving.

Just think of how clever your body is! It hooks up your immune system— your protection against bacteria, viruses, cancer and autoimmune disease—with the chemicals that determine how you feel about life. This is a very profound statement by the body. In other words, if you find yourself saying, “I don’t feel very good, I don’t really like my life, it’s not going very well,” but don’t make any changes to remedy the situation, this chronic condition of feeling bad will have a profound impact on your immune function and even on your propensity to get immune-related illnesses such as cancer. If you’re feeling bad, you’re not supplying your immune system with the fuel it needs to function properly. So how you feel is not just emotional matter. There is no division of body here and mind there. There’s just you. How you function and how you feel about how you function is a direct reflection and manifestation of how your body will work. One of the best ways of seeing this is through this whole endorphin story. The endorphins control the immune system.

Increasing Endorphin Levels

Now let’s consider how to go about increasing the endorphin levels in people. We need to consider the premise that low endorphin levels are what cause people to use drugs like heroin in the first place. They’re a supplement for addicts, who have an endorphin deficiency, which makes them feel bad. So if we get them to make more endorphins or give them more endorphins, maybe they’ll feel better and maybe that will stimulate their immune system to function properly so they won’t get diseases like AIDS.

Researchers have tried all different ways to increase endorphin levels. Intravenous human endorphins cost one hundred thousand dollars per shot, last about five seconds and don’t really work very well. They tried giving them orally. Like insulin taken orally, they don’t get absorbed and so that doesn’t work either.

In the process of this research they discovered a few things that naturally boost endorphin levels. The first is high-intensity exercise, the so-called runner’s high, that feeling that you get when you’re really exercising, when you have your second wind and you feel you won’t ever get tired. We know that high-intensity exercise absolutely will boost our endorphin levels.

Another one is acupuncture. Probably one reason you can take someone’s appendix out under pure acupuncture anesthesia, or do dental procedures, is because acupuncture seems to release these bursts of endorphins so you don’t feel anything painful at all. You feel that life is good so you don’t feel pain.

The third one, which every woman knows about, is chocolate. Chocolate has a chemical called l-phenylalanine which prevents the breakdown of endorphins, so it’s a bit like sustainedrelease endorphins, except it doesn’t last forever. Then you need more chocolate. A lot of women have found that out the hard way.

The fourth way to increase endorphin levels, which was discovered in the mid 1980s, is lowdose naltrexone. Remember that the researchers found that 50 mg blocks the endorphin receptors all day, which makes you feel terrible. But what about giving addicts 3 mg of naltrexone? And what about giving it to them right before bed?

It takes about two hours for naltrexone to get absorbed and block the receptors, and the low dose of naltrexone will only block the receptors for about an hour. Then the block wears off. The body looks at this situation and says, “Hey, somebody blocked my receptors. I need more endorphins.” So it responds by producing more.

The reason you can almost consider this natural medicine is because the low amount of naltrexone doesn’t do anything harmful, except, in a few cases, inhibit sleep. Instead, it tells your body to respond in a certain direction. It is the most powerful, effective, easy and simple way discovered to boost endorphin levels. A lot of these early heroin addict patients with AIDS were treated with low-dose naltrexone in the early 1980s, and many of them are still alive.

Autoimmune Disease

According to the New England Journal of Medicine (November 13, 2003), “Preclinical evidence indicates overwhelmingly that opioids alter the development, differentiation and function of immune cells, and that both innate and adaptive systems are affected.” Bone marrow progenitor cells, macrophages, natural killer cells, immature thymocites, T- cells and B-cells are all involved. Thus the whole gamut of cells that we associate with the immune response is dependent on naturally produced opiates. In other words, autoimmune disease is really an endorphin deficiency—that’s the proper diagnosis. These diseases are not caused by an over-activity of the immune system, as we’ve been told. They are caused by the immune system not getting what it’s looking for. The immune system wants to be reunited with the poppy plant. Low-dose naltrexone helps the body reunite with its inner poppy nature by stimulating it to produce more endorphins, and when that happens, your autoimmune disease vanishes.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease. Bernard Bahari treated 44 patients with MS. Forty-two of them went into remission—their disease stabilized and they stayed that way for the next fifteen or more years. When they discontinued taking it, their symptoms returned within one month. So this treatment does not really heal anything. But if there is anything that will help someone with MS feel better, will alleviate their spasticity and perhaps stop the autoimmune attack on their myelin, I’m all for it.

Crohn’s disease is a debilitating autoimmune disease. The April 2007 issue of theAmerican Journal of Gastroenterology published an article entitled, “Low-dose Naltrexone in Crohn’s Disease.” The researchers found that 67 percent of Crohn’s disease patients went into remission with no other therapy but 3-4 mg of low-dose naltrexone before bed. About 80 percent of the participants reported a significant improvement.

I have used low-dose naltrexone successfully for Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and even Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. In fact, for the first time I can see the way towards successfully treating autoimmune thyroid disease whereas before nothing really worked.

Low-dose naltrexone also works for rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus, in fact any autoimmune disease. However, it will not work with osteoarthritis, which is not an autoimmune condition.

Basically every illness that researchers have looked at—MS, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis— shows improvement with low-dose naltrexone. The first thing that happens, as you would expect, is that people feel great because their inner poppy plant deficiency has been resolved. The second things is their disease over time (usually two to four months) starts to go into remission, as if their cells are getting what they need and the proper fuel is there. It sure beats eating a ton of chocolate.

The GAPS Diet

I would like to correlate these findings with the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet described in the book by the same name by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, because there are always deeper ways of looking at any of these diseases. By the way, the correlation with the gut and the brain is not something that Dr. Campbell-McBride came up with. Other books have explored this subject, including The Second Brain, published in 1999 by Michael Gershon, head of gastroenterology at Cornell.

Rudolf Steiner also made this connection. He once said, “The brain is just smooshed up guts.” If you imagine the intestines coiled up into the cranium, that’s what they would look like. The gut has the same receptors as the brain, including receptors for serotonin, and it works on the same sort of biochemistry as the brain.

For those who have heard Dr. Campbell-McBride, you know that the two most predominant chemicals in the GAPS syndrome, chemicals that alter the immune function as well as our neurological responses, are gluteo- morphines and caseo-morphines. These are morphine-like chemicals made from gluten in grains like wheat and casein in milk. These mimic the endorphin system of our bodies and cause it to get imperfect chemicals or morphine-like derivatives, not the ones it’s really looking for, which are naturally made endorphins. It’s as though your body is making abnormal poppy plants in your gut. You feel weird and that’s why your immune system is dysfunctioning.

This is somewhat similar to the mechanism of low-dose naltrexone. What you need to do is stimulate healthy endorphins and get rid of that block as you heal the leaking gut and get rid of these toxic morphine-like derivatives. That will lead to the whole resolution of the autoimmune disease and at the same time create a feeling of emotional well-being.

The Treatment

Of course, I never use low-dose naltrexone as the only treatment. Patients need to change their diet and to exercise. I usually start them out on a GAPS diet and then they transition to the more liberal Weston A. Price Foundation principles. Exercise is important and I particularly recommend Superslow weight training (see sidebar).

One hundred years ago, the healthiest people lived on farms. They ate nutrient-dense traditional foods and did hard physical labor. It would be good if we could live as close to nature and its rhythms as possible, even getting rid of electricity, microwaves, computers and cell phones. That’s impractical today—nobody wants to live without all these modern inventions. But we can still be healthy by following the principles of healthy diets, exercising and, when needed, reuniting ourselves with certain plants that produce the same substances our bodies produce.

In the case of the endorphins, however, those same substances produced by plants can be addictive and have harmful effects. That’s where low-dose naltrexone comes in. When you take heroin, you tell your body that you won’t be needing it to make endorphins anymore, that you will just get them from the outside. So when the heroin wears off, you feel terrible. With low-dose naltrexone, you can convince the body to make its own endorphins by blocking the receptors for just a short time. And this happens when you are asleep, so the body can devote considerable energy to this process.

The Right Diagnosis

We started this discussion by talking about making the right diagnosis. Telling patients that they have an auto-immune disease, depression or addiction is like telling them they have eczema or pruritus ani. It’s just a way of stating the obvious.

But when we diagnose these conditions as an endorphin deficiency, we provide a satisfactory, fulfilling answer, one that allows us to come up with a solution that really works. That solution includes the use of low-dose naltrexone to stimulate the body into making the natural opiates it needs to be healthy and feel good.


SIDEBARS

Protocol for Low-Dose Naltrexone

Naltrexone is a prescription drug that requires a doctor’s prescription, available from specialized pharmacies that know how to make it in that dose. Do not use a time-release version. There are about seven pharmacies that can produce low-dose naltrexone, including one in Scotland and one in Canada, listed at lowdosenaltrexone.org. If you contact these pharmacies as a patient, they will give you the names of physicians who will prescribe it. You usually start with 3 mg taken before bed. The website is also a resource for the many studies carried out on low-dose naltrexone.

There are virtually no reported side effects from low-dose naltrexone except, in rare occasions, temporary sleep distrubances. Some patients have taken it for 25 years, and it seems to not lose its effectiveness. The most common reported effect is an increased sense of well-being.

Superslow Weight Training

Superslow weight training was developed by some orthopedic doctors in the 1980s to treat women with osteoporosis. It turns out to be a terrific exercise regime not only for osteoporosis, but also for high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritic problems and just feeling good about life. In fact, this type of exercise will help almost everyone become fit and muscular, and engage in whatever activity they want, such as golf, tennis, hiking, canoeing, or simply being able to walk through life without feeling any pain whatsoever. To achieve this goal, you need a strong, healthy, intact muscular body.

The theory is that the very slow, weight-bearing exercise results in better musculature and more oxygenated blood. It is called “SuperSlow” because each “rep” lasts as long as twenty seconds instead of the standard five to seven. Proponents say slow lifting has a decided advantage over standard weight-training techniques because it puts greater demand on the muscles, thus burning calories faster while minimizing the jerking motions that can lead to injuries. The twenty-minute sessions once or twice a week are said to provide all the cardiovascular benefits of running, cycling and other aerobic activities.

Superslow weight training provides an answer to the question, how do you get your muscles fitter? And particularly, how do you take the typical American with skinny muscles and a big belly and help him or her get strong muscles and less of a belly, in other words, to get healthier? What is it in our bodies that makes us get stronger muscles? The answer is growth hormone and testosterone. So to get stronger and healthier, we want a strategy that will help our bodies make more growth hormone and testosterone. We don’t want to do this by taking testosterone or male herbs, which can have side effects, but by stimulating the body to make its own.

Superslow weight training is predicated on the premise that the way to make a muscle get stronger is to do something the muscle can’t do. So, for example, you push weights with your leg in an exercise machine. You set the weight and after a certain amount of time, you can’t push anymore. That’s called muscle failure. In Superslow weight training, the trainer tells you to keep pushing even though you can’t push anymore. He tells you to keep pushing until your arms start to shake and you’re about to collapse. By contrast, with normal weight lifting you use the same muscles in repetitive actions and what does that tell your muscles? That you’re strong enough to do this. So the muscles don’t need to do anything. They feel smug about themselves.

With Superslow, every time you do it, you fail, and then you wait until you have healed before trying again. Let’s say you do 50 pounds in a leg press in two minutes on Monday, and then fail to do any more. On Wednesday you would only be able to do 46 pounds in two minutes because you’ve injured yourself on Monday and you are still weak on Wednesday. So there’s no point in doing it on Wednesday because you’re weak. If you wait till Friday, you’re back up to 50 pounds in two minutes. There’s no point in doing it on Friday because you already did 50 pounds. So you wait till Monday and now the trainer raises it to 51 pounds and you do two minutes again till you fail. And your body thinks, OK, now I can do 50 pounds. The repeated failures and muscle injury stimulate your body to produce growth hormones and testosterone, and that helps your muscles get stronger and your body develop an overall sense of wellness.

The first time I did the training, I pushed 205 pounds in a leg press for one minute, 57 seconds. I went in for training once a week every week for about a year. After a year I did 295 pounds for two minutes, seven seconds. In other words, 92 pounds more in about seven seconds longer because each time I tricked my muscles into getting stronger. Lots of other parameters also improve—not just strength in every muscle group but also blood pressure, heart rate variability and energy levels.

I began Superslow weight training because I saw many patients doing the training who were so much better than I thought they would be. When I first started, the trainer said that I wouldn’t need to do cardiovascular exercise. “Just do your muscles,” he said, “and the heart will follow.” I thought he was nuts. At the time I was running about two or three times per week and every month I would time myself on the 400-yard dash. My best time was two minutes, three seconds. Then I started Superslow training and went nine months without running—I didn’t even run for a bus. No cardiovascular exercise. Then my son came to visit and he challenged me to the 400-yard dash. Without having run in nine months, I did it in one minute, 44 seconds, and I wasn’t even as tired or winded.

There are a lot of documented effects on neural endocrine endorphin release with Superslow. As with low-dose naltrexone, Superslow tricks your body into making more of the hormones it needs to be strong and fit.


This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2008.

Treating Diabetes: Practical Advice for Combatting a Modern Epidemic

Adapted from The Fourfold Path to Healing by Tom Cowan, MD, with Sally Fallon and Jaimen McMillan, to be published Spring 2004, NewTrends Publishing.

Diabetes is so common in America and other western countries that its presence in any human group has become a marker for civilization. Ironically, in no other field of western medicine has the promise of scientific breakthrough failed so poignantly as in the treatment of diabetes.

Diabetes is characterized by abnormally high levels of sugar or glucose in the blood, which spills into the urine, causing it to be sweet. The disease was first described by the Greeks who called it diabetes mellitus or “honey passing through.” Today there are at least 20 million diabetics in America, six million of whom must take shots of insulin daily. Scientists hailed the discovery of insulin in the 1920s as one of medicine’s greatest achievements–as, in fact, it was. Insulin is a pancreatic hormone needed for the transfer of glucose from the blood to the cells. When this system fails–when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the insulin cannot get the glucose into the cells–then the sugar level in the blood remains abnormally high. This is the disease we call diabetes.

Originally, doctors thought that diabetes was simply a disease of insulin deficiency, a disease in which the pancreas was unable to produce enough insulin to meet the body’s demands, and that it could be successfully managed once the right knowledge and technology were in place. Over time, researchers have produced better delivery systems for insulin, and ways to produce more purified and effective types of insulin–from porcine insulin to human insulin produced through genetic engineering. The medical profession has learned that giving insulin orally was unsuccessful, that subcutaneous injections were better, and that delivering it through a pump was best. Yet with all the improvements that have been made since 1920, diabetes remains one of the leading causes of death and disability in the western world. Complications of diabetes include heart disease and circulation problems; kidney disease; degeneration of the retina leading to blindness; neuropathy resulting in numbness, tingling, pain and burning in the extremities; foot ulcers leading to gangrene; and high risk of infection.

TYPE I AND TYPE II

Today, doctors realize that diabetes is a much more complicated condition than one of simple insulin deficiency. They have also discovered that there are two types of diabetes. Type I diabetes, which is also called insulin-dependent or childhood diabetes, usually develops before the age of 30, and involves a malfunction of the pancreas. Type I diabetes is thought of as autoimmune disease in which some trigger causes the body’s immune system to attack its own insulin-producing cells, the beta-cells in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. In time, the pancreas loses its ability to produce insulin, blood sugar rises, and serious adverse consequences, including death, can occur if the person is not supplied with insulin. As yet, there is no consensus as to what the autoimmune trigger for Type I diabetes might be. Some evidence points to early feeding of pasteurized cow’s milk, soy products and grains, or the use of vaccines, as likely triggers. Type I diabetes is often very difficult to control and, if not successfully controlled, can lead to the early onset of many of the complications listed above.

Type II diabetes, which is much more common than Type I diabetes, has a different etiology. It is the form of diabetes that is literally crying out for a new perspective from the one currently offered by the medical profession.

HYPOGLYCEMIA

In order to understand the diabetes epidemic in the Western world, and why the conventional treatment for this scourge has made almost no dent in its long-term impact on those who suffer from it, we must understand some basic biochemistry. The control of the blood sugar is one of the most fundamental requirements for a healthy life. Blood sugar levels can become abnormal in one of two ways: they can become too low, which we define as a blood sugar less than 80 and call hypoglycemia; or they can become too high, defined as a blood sugar over 110, which is called hyperglycemia. While neither hypoglycemia, nor hyperglycemia is good for your health, they appear to call forth very different reactions in the human being. For example, if your blood sugar drops below 40, you will become disoriented, confused, and if the situation persists, slip into a coma and die. This situation is a true medical emergency. When blood sugar is between 40-60, you feel shaky, jittery, anxious, sweaty, confused and irritable. When blood sugar is between 60-80 these same symptoms occur, but they are less severe.

The body reacts to the emergency situation of low blood sugar in many ways. When blood sugar even begins to drop below 80, the body produces a number of hormones, principally adrenaline and glucagon. The main effect of adrenaline is to make more sugar available to the cells. It is the production of adrenaline that accounts for the familiar shaky, jittery feeling that many have experienced during these hypoglycemic episodes. Glucagon helps raise blood sugar levels by increasing fat breakdown and stimulates the conversion of fat into sugar.

There may be at least 10 more hormonal or biochemical reactions that occur during the early stages of hypoglycemia. One is the release of growth hormone, which has also been found to increase blood sugar in times of stress. As you can see, the body is well prepared to ward off this potential emergency. It has multiple overlapping mechanisms to prevent a precipitous fall in blood sugar, and many of these reactions produce clear symptoms that provoke us into action. Severe hypoglycemia is clearly a situation our adaptive physiology has learned to avoid.

HYPERGLYCEMIA

The situation is very different with respect to hyperglycemia. Many times during my practice I have asked a new diabetic patient how they felt and heard them reply, “A little tired, but not bad.” Yet routine screening blood tests tell me that some of these unsuspecting patients have blood sugar levels as high as 400, almost 4 times the normal level. These people are at strong risk for all the major complications of diabetes including coronary artery disease and neurological disease, yet they feel nothing, their bodies give them little warning. Why is this?

Some have conjectured that the body has a hard time dealing with hyperglycemia because the condition that causes it–namely overeating– is a relatively new phenomenon in human history. On the other hand, hypoglycemia induced by lack of food has been a frequent occurrence to which the body has adapted with a variety of mechanisms. Compared to dozens of hormones that are produced when our blood sugar drops too low, the body has only two mechanisms to deal with blood sugar that goes too high. One is exercise–any muscular activity drives the sugar from the blood into the muscle cells where it is used as fuel. The second is the production of insulin. Insulin production is the body’s way of saying that the sugar level is too high, that the body is overfed with sugar. Insulin helps remove sugar from the blood into the cells where it is stored as fat. (It is interesting to note that the type of fat that is made by the body under the guidance of insulin is saturated fat.)

Understanding this basic physiology leads to some interesting conclusions. One is that controlling the level of insulin produced is the key to controlling obesity. For without insulin there can be no weight gain. People who lose the ability to make insulin (type I diabetics) will never gain weight no matter how much food they eat unless they are supplemented with insulin. In fact, without insulin they literally starve to death.

The second conclusion we can draw is that the cause of type II diabetes is actually quite simple. Type II diabetes occurs when for many years the consumption of foods that raise the blood sugar chronically exceeds the amount of sugar needed by the muscles for exercise. This forces the body to gradually make more and more insulin in order to bring this sugar level down. Eventually, the body cannot make enough insulin to lower the sugar level, the sugar level remains chronically high and the patient is diagnosed with diabetes.

INSULIN RESISTANCE

Along the way a curious thing happens called insulin resistance. This means that as the blood sugars are chronically elevated, and the insulin levels are rising, the cells build a shield or wall around themselves to slow down this influx of excess sugar. Insulin resistance is a protective or adaptive response, it is the best the body can do to protect the cells from too much glucose. But as time goes on the sugar in the blood increases, more insulin is made by the pancreas to deal with this elevated sugar and the cells resist this sugar influx by becoming insulin resistant, in a sense by shutting the gates. This leads to the curious situation in which blood sugar levels are high but cellular sugar levels are low. The body perceives this as low blood sugar. The patient has low energy and feels hungry so he eats more, and the vicious cycle is under way.

Having a chronically elevated insulin level is detrimental for many other reasons. Not only do high insulin levels cause obesity (insulin tells your body to store fat), but they also signal that fluid should be retained, leading to edema and hypertension. Chronic high insulin provokes plaque development inside the arteries and also suppresses growth hormone needed for the regeneration of the tissues and many other physiological responses.

During the 1980s, researchers began to ask whether obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension and other common medical problems that occur together are really separate diseases, or manifestations of one common physiological defect. The evidence now points to one defect and that is hyperinsulinemia, or excessive insulin levels in the blood. Hyperinsulinemia is the physiological event that links virtually all of our degenerative diseases. It is the biochemical corollary or marker of the events described in heart disease.

The question we need to answer, then, is what causes hyperinsulinemia? In basic biochemistry we learn about the three food groups: fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Under normal circumstances it is the carbohydrates that are transformed into the sugar that goes into the blood. Fats are broken down into fatty acids and become the building blocks for hormones, prostaglandins and cell membranes. Proteins are broken down into amino acids which then are rebuilt into the various proteins in our bodies. Carbohydrates are used for one thing only and that is energy generation. This allows us to define a “balanced” diet, which is one where the energy used in movement and exercise equals the energy provided by the carbohydrates we consume.

For a person of a given size, protein and fat requirements are relatively fixed and can be controlled with the appetite. (It is actually difficult to overeat fats and proteins, as our bodies make us nauseous when we do.) However, carbohydrate intake should be intimately related to our level of activity. If we run a marathon every day, a balanced diet would probably include about 300 grams of carbohydrates per day, the amount contained in 20 potatoes or 6 brownies. If we sit on the couch all day, obviously our requirement for energy food will be less. In this case a balanced diet would include only about 65-70 grams of carbohydrate per day. Any more, and our bodies are forced to make more insulin and the whole vicious cycle begins.

The problem of diabetes can be summarized by saying that the western diet has us eating like marathon runners, when in fact most of us simply sit on the couch. When we regulate the carbohydrate intake to match our exercise level, type II diabetes cannot develop, and in fact, I have found that most cases of type II diabetes respond well to treatment when these basic principles are kept in mind. Type I diabetes responds equally well to a high-fat, low carbohydrate diet. In fact, before insulin was available, the only way to treat type I diabetes was a high-fat diet from which carbohydrate foods were completely excluded because the body does not need insulin to assimilate proteins and fats.

Unless eaten to great excess, fats do not contribute to diabetes–with one exception. Trans fatty acids in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils can cause insulin resistance. When these man-made fats get built into the cell membrane, they interfere with the insulin receptors. In theory, this means that one could develop insulin resistance without eating lots of carbohydrates. But in practice, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are always used in the very high-carbohydrate foods–french fries, cookies, crackers, donuts and margarine on bread or potatoes–that flood the bloodstream with sugar. Trans fatty acids in modern processed foods present a double whammy for which the human species has developed no defenses.

DIET FOR DIABETICS

Studies of indigenous peoples by Weston Price and many others reveal the wisdom of native diets and life-style. For not only did so-called primitive peoples follow the “perfect” anti-diabetes life-style program, but their diets incorporated specific foods only recently discovered to play an important role in the prevention and treatment of this disease. In general, indigenous peoples had a low carbohydrate intake coupled with a lot of physical activity. In fact, those peoples especially prone to diabetes today, such as northern Native Americans and Inuits, consumed virtually no carbohydrate foods. In warmer climates, where tubers and fruits were more abundant, these foods were usually fermented and consumed with adequate protein and fat. It is only in the change to Western habits that their so-called “genetic” tendency to diabetes manifests.

There are three other nutritional factors in indigenous diets that are helpful for diabetics. First, the diets were rich in trace minerals. Modern science has shown us that trace mineral deficiencies–particularly deficiencies in zinc, vanadium and chromium–inhibit insulin production and absorption. Without vanadium, sugar in the blood cannot be driven into the cells and chromium is necessary for carbohydrate metabolism and the proper functioning of the insulin receptors. Zinc is a co-factor in the production of insulin. Traditional foods were grown in mineral-rich soil, contained mineral-rich bone broth and salt, and included mineral-rich water or beverages made with such water. In the modern diet, the best sources of zinc are red meats and shell fish, particularly oysters. Extra virgin unfiltered olive oil supplies vanadium, and chromium is found in nutritional yeast, molasses and organ meats like liver.

Second, indigenous peoples ate a portion of their animal foods, such as fish, milk or meat, uncooked–either raw or fermented. This strategy conserves vitamin B6, which is easily destroyed by heat. Vitamin B6 is essential for carbohydrate metabolism; it is often the rate-limiting vitamin of the B vitamin complex because it is one of the most difficult to obtain in the diet. Indigenous peoples intuitively understood the need to eat a portion of their animal foods completely raw.

Third, traditional peoples consumed foods rich in fat-soluble vitamins, including butterfat from grass-fed animals, organ meats, shellfish, fish liver oils and the fats of certain animals like bear and pig. High levels of vitamin A are absolutely essential for the diabetic because diabetics are unable to convert the carotenes in plant foods into true vitamin A. Vitamin A and vitamin D also protect against the complications of diabetes, such as retina and kidney problems. And vitamin D is necessary for the production of insulin.

Putting all these rules together, we find that a nutrient-dense traditional diet fits all the requirements for the prevention and treatment of diabetes. The diet should include sufficient trace minerals from organic and biodynamic foods, Celtic sea salt, bone broths, shellfish, red meat, organ meats, unfiltered olive oil and nutritional yeast. High levels of vitamins A and D are essential, as are raw animal foods to provide vitamin B6.

Most importantly, diabetics must strictly limit their daily carbohydrate intake. While the optimum amount of carbohydrate foods depends somewhat on activity levels, most diabetics need to start on a 60-gram-per-day carbohydrate regimen until their sugars normalize. I recommend The Schwarzbein Principle as a guide to carbohydrate consumption. The book contains easy-to-use charts that allow you to assess carbohydrate values. During the initial period of treatment, which can take up to a year, average blood sugar levels should be determined by a blood test that measures HgbA1c, a compound that indicates average blood sugar levels over a period of about 6 weeks. Carbohydrate restriction will also help with weight loss.

For Type II diabetics, this diet should help both blood sugar levels and weight to normalize, after which the daily carbohydrate intake can be liberalized to about 72 grams per day. This level should be maintained throughout the life of the diabetic. The same approach applies to the Type I diabetic, although it may not allow him to get off insulin. However, strict carbohydrate restriction should reduce insulin requirements, help keep blood sugar stable and, most importantly, prevent the many side effects associated with diabetes.

Please note that in this approach there are no restrictions on total food intake, nor do we pay attention to the so-called glycemic index of various carbohydrate foods. Fats consumed with any carbohydrate food will lower the glycemic index. Worrying about glycemic indices adds nothing to the therapy and only increases time spent calculating food values rather than enjoying its goodness. One should eat abundantly from good fats and proteins–only carbohydrate foods need to be restricted.

With this approach, diabetics can expect greatly improved quality of life and even a complete cure.


Sidebars

INSULIN AND GLUCAGON

One of the most finely tuned mechanisms of the human body is the regulation of sugar levels in the bloodstream. While levels of cholesterol and triglycerides can vary widely, the levels of glucose in the blood must be maintained within a narrow range for the body to function at optimum levels–or even to function at all.The regulation of blood sugar levels is carried out by two hormones, insulin and glycogon. The principal role of insulin is to rapidly remove glucose from the blood and transport it into the muscles, liver and adipose tissue, thus lowering the blood sugar level and feeding the cells. (Note: the red blood cells and the cells in the brain, kidney and intestinal tract do not require insulin for glucose uptake.) Insulin promotes the storage of glucose as glycogen in the liver and adipose tissues. Glucagon has the opposite effect to insulin. In response to low levels of blood sugar, its task is to increase glucose concentration. Glucagon acts primarily on the liver and adipose tissue (but not on the skeletal muscle) to stimulate the production of glucose from glycogen and raise the blood sugar levels to normal.

Insulin is produced by the so-called beta-cells while glucagon is produced by the alpha-cells, both of which are found in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. The ratio of insulin to glucagon in the blood determines whether glucose is used for energy or stored. If insulin is high compared to glucagon, carbohydrates will be created and/or stored after a meal; if insulin is low compared to glucagon, glucose will be added to the bloodstream rather than stored. Thus the type-II diabetic, who produces plenty of insulin that stays in the bloodstream rather than interacts with the cell membrane, will tend to gain weight easily, whereas the type-I diabetic, whose insulin production is low or non-existent, will not gain weight no matter how much he eats.

DIABETES AND STRESS

The main cause of diabetes is the western diet–based on refined carbohydrates that rush sugar into the bloodstream, trans fatty acids that interfere with insulin receptors in the cells, and difficult-to-digest foods like pasteurized milk and modern soy foods that put a strain on the pancreas–but another cause of chronic high blood sugar levels, one that is often overlooked, is stress. Under stress, the adrenal glands produce adrenaline, an important stimulus for the production of glucagon, which raises blood sugar levels and allows the body to react with a “fight or flight” response. Chronic stress–the stress on the adult in the workplace, the stress on the student under pressure to perform, the stress on the child expected to conform to rigid guidelines or who has been sexually or emotionally abused, even the stress of a spiritual or religious outlook that assumes a clockwork universe or a vengeful god–results in constant outpourings of adrenaline resulting in overstimulation of glucagon to keep blood sugar levels high. The body then responds with increased production of insulin to bring blood sugar levels down.

Polyneuronal Extopy (PNE), more commonly known as panic disorder, is a common symptom of a condition in which high levels of insulin accompany normal blood sugar levels. The condition derives from the vicious circle of constant stress causing increased release of sugar into the bloodstream, kept in check by increased outpourings of insulin, leading to chronic anxiety even under conditions that normally should not produce stress. Over time, especially when the diet is poor, the beta-cells of the pancreas become exhausted and can no longer produce large amounts of insulin. The result is full blown diabetes, characterized by chronically high blood sugar levels–as though the body has balanced a kind of bitterness in the exterior world with excess sweetness in the blood.

Treatment of diabetes may thus entail a strong emotional or spiritual component; a good diet will go a long way to lower insulin requirements and heal the insulin-production mechanism, but removing the origins of stress is an important factor for long-term recovery. A change in job or life-style, therapy and a reassessment of any philosophical assumptions that breed fear rather than love may all be necessary to bring harmony to the body’s finely tuned mechanism for keeping blood sugar levels in balance.

HERBS AND MEDICINES FOR DIABETES

Gymnema: Ayurvedic practitioners referred to gymnema as the “sugar-buster.” If you chew some leaves of this inauspicious plant, you completely eliminate the ability of your taste buds to perceive the sweet taste. If you eat a piece of candy or even some honey ten minutes later, it will taste like chalk. One can almost hear a slight chuckle emanating from the plant as if to say, “I truly am the sugar buster.” Gymnema also helps reduce blood sugar levels. It does this by lowering insulin resistance, much like conventional oral diabetic drugs, and also by increasing the secretion of insulin from the pancreas. Furthermore, gymnema actually helps regenerate destroyed pancreatic islet cells in type I diabetics. Use of gymnema may not completely reverse type I diabetes, but it always improves glucose control. Thus, gymnema addresses within itself the multifactorial etiology of diabetes in that it helps your body make more insulin, if that is needed, and it makes the insulin more effective. With gymnema there is no risk of provoking the dangerous hypoglycemic reactions so common with the conventional oral diabetic medication.

Bitter Melon: Bitter melon is a fruit that is widely used as food as well as medicine in Asia. Research suggests that bitter melon helps increase the number of beta cells in the pancreas, thereby improving the body’s ability to produce insulin. Furthermore, at least three different groups of constituents provide blood-sugar-lowering effects–steroidal saponins known as charantin, insulin-like peptides and alkaloids.

Bilberry: Used by the British Royal Air Force during World War II to improve night vision, bilberry contains tannins that help shrink up swollen and leaky tissue. The theory of diabetic retinopathy is that it is caused by leaky blood vessels surrounding the eye. Bilberry also contains compounds called OPCs which are good for the eyesight and the blood vessels.

Birch Leaf Tea: Birch leaf tea is excellent for the overweight Type II diabetic as it helps the body get rid of excess fluid and furthers weight loss.

Diaplex: Diaplex is the Standard Process diabetes preparation made from organically grown food containing abundant trace minerals as well as vitamin B6from raw animal extracts.

DRUGS FOR DIABETES

INSULIN: Insulin has saved the lives of millions of diabetics and studies show that it delays the onset of complications in type I diabetics–which is what motivates the patient to endure daily finger pricks to determine blood sugar levels, followed by self-administered insulin shots, often three times per day. However it is difficult to fine tune the dosage and many diabetics have experienced episodes of very low blood sugar with symptoms of trembling, hunger, weakness and irritability. If blood sugar drops too low, death from insulin shock may occur. Since 1982, so-called “human” insulin has been available, a form produced by genetic engineering. Writing for Soil & Health, July 1999, Jenny Hirst, Co-Chair of the UK Insulin Dependent Diabetes Trust, argues that the new GE insulin creates many problems compared to the earlier porcine insulin, including frequent low-blood-sugar reactions without the necessary safeguard of warning signs, extreme lethargy, behavioral changes (aggression and violence), memory loss, confusion, depression, joint pains, weight increase and changes in the menstrual cycle. Porcine insulin is still available but not in convenient insulin pens.

ORAL HYPOGLYCEMICS: Easier to take than insulin, the pharmaceutical industry has long sought a safe and effective anti-diabetes drug but the results so far have been disappointing. Unlike insulin, the oral hypoglycemics are only somewhat effective in lowering blood sugar, failing to control high levels in 20-40 percent of patients. Furthermore, studies indicate that they do not prevent long-term complications such as kidney disease and blindness. In fact, they may increase the risk from cardiovascular disease. Most disturbing have been the side effects, including breathing difficulties, drowsiness, muscle cramps, seizures, swelling, water retention and weakness that can be life-threatening in some patients. One drug, called Rezulin, generated sales of over $2 billion in the US after its release in March 1997, only to be withdrawn three years later after causing at least 90 cases of liver failure.

ONE CASE HISTORY

A recent patient of mine was a 67-year-old retired white male who gave a history of diabetes for about 4 years. He suffered from the typical symptoms including high blood pressure in the 160/95 range, diminishing eyesight and the recent onset of protein in his urine. This patient was about 35-40 pounds overweight, and he complained of increasing fatigue and lethargy.

This is the classic presentation of type II, or non-insulin-dependent diabetes. The typical story is onset in the 50s to 60s in a person who is significantly overweight. Diabetes often goes along with high blood pressure, both as a direct consequence of being overweight and as a result of the fact that excess insulin (the hallmark of type II diabetes) itself causes high blood pressure because it stimulates the retention of fluid in the body. The protein in the urine is a sign that the diabetes is affecting his kidneys and that they are starting to “leak” protein. This is usually a harbinger of advanced diabetes and if not corrected will eventually lead to compromised kidney function and the misery of regular dialysis treatment. The eyesight problem is also a direct consequence of the diabetes because diabetes leads to a deterioration of the small blood vessels everywhere in the body. This includes the retina, where one begins to see exudates or leaking of blood from the blood vessels of the eye into the retina. Eventually, this process will lead to further impairment of the vision, if it is not reversed. I have also found that many of my patients with this kind of advancing diabetes also complain of not feeling well in a non-specific sort of way. Often the complaint is fatigue, lethargy, or just a decreased joy in life.

As is usual in these cases, my patient was on a number of drugs to address his health concerns. He was on an oral hypoglycemic agent to lower his blood sugar, a beta-blocker to lower his blood pressure (which incidentally raises the blood sugar), and an ACE inhibitor to lower the blood pressure and protect the kidneys. He believed that these drugs were contributing to his feeling unwell.

On his initial visit to me, in spite of these drugs, his blood pressure was 165/95, and his HgbA1c ( a measure of the average blood sugar over the past 6 weeks) was 8.1 (normal is 5.5-6.5). He had been instructed in the American Diabetes Association diet which is calorie-restricted and fat-restricted–and also universally reviled by the patients. Clearly, in spite of the best that Western medicine had to offer, he was not doing well.

I suggested a strict 60-70 gram per day carbohydrate intake while implementing a nourishing traditional diet to guide his food choices and food preparation. He was to eat plentifully of all the good fats and non-starchy vegetables without overeating protein (e.g., eat egg yolks in preference to egg whites, fatty fish instead of lean fish, cream instead of milk, etc.). He was not to limit his total food intake, but rather to strictly limit his carbohydrate consumption to the amount listed above. The patient also began taking a number of medicines which are my staples for treating patients with his constellation of troubles stemming from diabetes, including diaplex, gymnema, bilberry, and birch leaf tea, along with cod liver oil to supply 20,000 IU vitamin A daily.

In 6 months of strictly following this program the results were nothing short of remarkable (though actually predictable). He had lost 35 pounds without increasing his exercise, he felt much more energetic, he loved his food again, and he was off all conventional medicines. When I saw him at 6 months his blood pressure was 135/80, and there was no protein in his urine. The HgbA1c was 6.7 (almost normal) and he could sense his eyesight improving. Confirmation came when he had his checkup with his eye doctor, who produced an after picture showing that his retinal hemorrhages had healed considerably over the previous six months. The doctor commented that he had never seen such a thing.

This story shows that there is hope with diabetes and that with sound thinking and sound intervention much of the ravages of this illness can be prevented and treated.

NUTRITION FOR DIABETICS

Vitamin A: Plentiful vitamin A is crucial to the successful treatment of diabetes. The diabetic pancreas is deficient not only in its ability to produce insulin, but also in the production of a variety of key enzymes, including the enzymes the body needs to convert carotenes into vitamin A. Therefore, the diabetic must take in more pre-formed vitamin A than the non-diabetic. Vitamin A is key to the prevention of the side effects of diabetes, including retina problems, kidney problems, neuropathy, infection and slowness to heal. The diabetic should take cod liver oil to provide a minimum dose of 20,000 IU vitamin A per day, in addition to vitamin A-rich foods like liver, egg yolks, seafood and cream and butter from pasture-fed animals.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is needed for the production of insulin. A dose of cod liver oil that provides 20,000 IU vitamin A will provide 2,000 IU vitamin D. Several recent studies have shown that babies who receive cod liver oil during infancy, and whose mothers take cod liver oil during pregnancy, have much lower rates of diabetes. Other sources include lard, shellfish (especially shrimp), organ meats, egg yolks and cream and butter from pasture-fed animals.

Fatty Acids: The diabetic lacks the enzymes needed to make special long-chain, super-unsaturated fatty acids from essential fatty acids. Cod liver oil provides EPA and DHA from the omega-3 family. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) from the omega-6 family is provided by evening primrose oil, black currant oil or borage oil. Four capsules per day providing about 200 mg GLA is recommended.

Vitamin B1: A recent study found that diabetic rats given vitamin B1 (thiamine) had a 70-80 percent reduction in the development of kidney damage. Good sources include nutritional yeast, nuts, vegetables, liver and pork.

Vitamin B6: Plentiful supplies of vitamin B6 are critical for the health of the diabetic. B6 helps prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, to which the diabetic is prone. The best sources of B6 are raw animal foods such as raw whole milk, raw cheeses, raw fish and raw meat. Use only dairy products that are raw and include an ethnic raw meat or raw fish dish in the diet several times per week.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid: Also known as thoitic acid, alpha-lipoic acid is a vitamin-like enzyme cofactor necessary for converting glucose into ATP (chemical energy). Produced naturally in the body, it is also found in potatoes, carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, beets and red meat. As the diabetic needs to limit consumption of starchy vegetables, the best sources would be red meats and small amounts of pickled beets.

Chromium: A key mineral for diabetics, chromium is necessary for carbohydrate metabolism and proper functioning of the insulin receptors. Sources include nutritional yeast, molasses and organ meats like liver. Diabetics should eat liver at least once a week and take 1 tablespoon Frontier brand nutritional yeast mixed with water per day.

Vanadium: Without vanadium, sugar in the blood cannot be driven into the cells. An excellent source is unfiltered extra virgin olive oil.

Zinc: Zinc is a co-factor in the production of insulin. The best sources of zinc are red meats and shell fish, particularly oysters.

Thus, supplements for the diabetic should include cod liver oil; evening primrose, borage or black currant oil; and nutritional yeast.

The diet should be rich in animal foods including raw butter, cream, whole milk and cheese from pastured animals; raw meat and fish; beef and lamb; seafood, especially shellfish; unrefined salt for trace minerals; bone broths for minerals; unfiltered olive oil; molasses, egg yolks; and a variety of fresh and fermented vegetables, especially beets.


This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2003.

What Causes Heart Attacks

The kidneys nourish the heart.
-Traditional Chinese medical texts.

The story of how I came to understand the cause, and therefore the appropriate treatment, of acute coronary syndrome involves fascinating elements of surprise and serendipity. I thought it best, therefore, to describe how this tale unfolded for me.

Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) describes a constellation of illnesses that include angina (chest pain), unstable angina (basically bad chest pain) and myocardial infarction (otherwise known as heart attack or MI). These three illnesses form a continuum, with angina as the mildest symptom and heart attack—when there is actual death of the heart cells—as the most severe. The history of thought about this group of illnesses is both fascinating and controversial.

It seems that heart attacks were rare in this country until about the 1930s. The incidence of fatal MIs quickly increased from about 3,000 per year during that decade to almost half a million per year during the 1950s. In fact, mid century, this formerly rare disease had become the leading cause of death in the US. The incidence has risen continually since then until just recently, when it seems that the tide may be turning a bit and the incidence lessening, or at least leveling off. Nevertheless, after decades of reckless fiddling with the American diet as a way to prevent heart disease, almost a million Americans still die from heart disease each year.

The Conventional Theory

As you can imagine, when it became clear that we were suffering from an epidemic of this disease, physicians and cardiologists developed an intense interest in the cause and possible treatment of the disease. Around the late 1940s, the medical establishment proposed a simple and plausible explanation for MI, and this explanation soon became universally accepted.

The current thinking about heart attacks focuses on the blood supply to the myocardial (heart) cells from the network of coronary arteries, that is, the arteries that supply blood to the heart itself. There are four main arteries, each supplying blood to a different region of the heart. Medical experts believe that when one or more of these arteries gets blocked with plaque, a condition called atherosclerosis, then the inside of the artery becomes narrowed, the blood flow becomes compromised and, in times of myocardial stress (such as exercise or emotional trauma), the insufficient blood flow causes damage to the particular region of the heart fed by the blocked artery. This diminished blood flow first causes pain (angina) and then, if more severe, death to the heart tissue.

Here was an elegant and plausible theory. Voilà! Case closed. The only thing left to figure out was what was causing the arterial blockages. This answer was famously supplied by Dr. Ancel Keys in the 1950s. Keys fingered cholesterol as the culprit, claiming that excess cholesterol floating around in the blood built up as plaque in the arteries. For over fifty years the theory has survived without any significant changes. In fact, if someone has a heart attack today, we often call it a “coronary,” referring to the presumed source of the problem, the coronary arteries.

This theory about the cause of heart attacks is so ingrained in our culture that until recently, even a medical skeptic like myself never really questioned it. My only issue with the theory centered on the material in the plaque, which research subsequently revealed to be mostly inflammatory debris, not cholesterol. But I never really gave any thought to the basic premise, namely, that blocked arteries cause heart attacks.

It should be mentioned that this theory about the cause of heart attacks has led to a massive industry devoted to its diagnosis and treatment. Angiograms (in which dye is injected into the vessels to see if they are blocked), bypasses, stents, angioplasties (like roto-rooters for blocked arteries), cholesterol- lowering drugs and lowfat, low-cholesterol diets are all based one hundred percent on the acceptance of blocked arteries as The Cause of acute coronary syndrome.

The whole debate in modern cardiology, both alternative and conventional, is how to stop the buildup of plaque or—more recently— how to prevent plaque in the arteries from breaking free and forming a clot, thereby completely blocking an artery already narrowed by the buildup.

The Digitalis Connection

Around two years ago I received an email from the son-in-law of a recently deceased and apparently well-known Brazilian cardiologist, Quintilaino H. de Mesquita. Before he died, Dr. Mesquita had published a summary of twentynine years of research carried out at his cardiology hospital, data on what he called the “true cause and effective treatment of MIs.” His son-in-law and fellow researcher, Carlos Monteiro, emailed me a simple question, which was: “When you put your cancer patients on low-dose whole digitalis plant extract, does this lower their incidence of MIs?”

His question was actually a response to a series of articles describing the effectiveness of low-dose whole digitalis leaf extract in the treatment of a variety of cancers, which I had recently posted on my website, www.fourfoldhealing. com. I wrote back asking why he wanted to know this. He replied that in Dr. Mesquita’s groundbreaking study on what he called the myogenic (that is, arising from the muscle) theory of heart disease, he had stumbled on an unexpected result: the digitalis they were using to treat MIs had also dramatically lowered the incidence of cancer in their heart patients, and mine was the only website they found that mentioned this association.

As I had never heard of either the myogenic theory or of the use of digitalis for heart attack, I asked what this was all about. His response was a box of articles and books all published over the last fifty years that seemed to refute the coronary blockage theory of MIs and support what he called the myogenic theory. I spent the next two months poring over these studies until I became convinced that this was perhaps the biggest medical news of the decade, maybe of the entire century.

The Myogenic Theory

Briefly, the myogenic theory of MIs states that:

  1. The coronary obstruction theory does not adequately explain all the observed facts concerning MIs.
  2. The major etiologic (cause and effect) factor in an MI is a destructive chemical process; specifically, in situations of stress on the myocardial (heart muscle) tissue, often as a result of small vessel disease, the myocardial tissue gets insufficient oxygen and nutrients. This leads to destructive lactic acidosis in the tissue which, if unchecked, leads to death of the myocardial cells. This process is largely unrelated to coronary artery disease.
  3. The regular use of cardiotonics, primarily low-dose whole digitalis extracts or an extract of another herb called g-strophanthin, prevents this lethal acidosis and therefore prevents and corrects the true cause of this syndrome. The result is substantially lower morbidity and mortality from heart disease.

Let’s look at some of the data supporting these three conclusions. First, does the coronary obstruction theory adequately explain the observed facts? Interestingly, in the 1940s and 1950s, when the coronary blockage theory was first proposed, the majority of cardiologists did not accept it. They pointed out that while coronary arteries are not the only arteries to have plaque, the only tissue to suffer from decreased blood flow during a heart attack is that of the heart. In other words, no one has a spleen attack or a kidney attack, yet the arteries feeding these organs also get plaque buildup.

Furthermore, the medical literature reveals some surprising findings. In a 1998 paper by Mirakami,1 the author found that of those with an acute MI, 49 percent had a blockage, 30 percent had no coronary blockage, 14 percent had insufficient blockage to impair blood flow, and 7 percent had “another condition.” In a 1972 paper,2 a researcher named Roberts showed that in acute MIs, only 50-60 percent had evidence of sufficient blockage to impair blood flow. And a 25-year autopsy study of patients who died from an acute MI, carried out by Spain and Bradess, found that only 25 percent had sufficient blockage to account for their MI, while a total of 75 percent had only mild to moderate blockage.3 In a second paper,4 these same authors reported on a surprising discovery: when a heart attack is fatal, the longer the time elapsed between the MI and death (and then subsequent autopsy), the more likely they were to find significant blockages. If death occurred one hour after onset of an MI, only 16 percent had sufficient blockages to account for their MI; if death occurred 24 hours after the onset of an MI, the number with sufficient blockages to account for the heart attack increased to 53 percent. The authors concluded that the arterial blockages are a consequence, not a cause, of myocardial infarction.

As I looked into this subject further, I found that some of the most prominent cardiologists in our history were skeptical about the coronary artery theory of MI. For example, in 1972, Dr. George E. Burch stated, “The cardiac patient does not die from coronary disease, he dies from myocardial disease.”5 A 1980 editorial in the prestigious journal Circulation states, “These data support the concept that an occlusive coronary thrombus (otherwise known as a blockage) has no primary role in the pathogenesis of a myocardial infarct.”6 Finally, as recently as 1988, Dr. Epstein of the National Institutes of Health states: “They found that in an advanced state of narrowing of the coronary arteries, the supply of blood to the heart muscles is fully assured via collaterals that enlarge naturally in response to the blockage.”7 In fact, researchers have found that the more the coronaries narrow, the less danger there is of a heart infarct.

These shocking studies dovetail perfectly with a different study, one that rocked the world of cardiology, published in 1988 titled “Twenty years of coronary bypass surgery.”8 Referring to two major studies, the Veterans Administration (VA) study and the NIH Coronary Artery Surgery Study (CASS), the authors made the following statement: “Neither the VA nor the CASS has detected a significant difference in long-term survival between the medical and surgical treatment groups when all patients were included.” In other words, surgery to bypass blocked arteries did not improve the chances of patient survival—not the result one would expect if blocked arteries were the cause of heart attacks. Thus, evidence for the coronary artery theory of MI is not strong; in fact, it is actually refuted in the relevant literature.

The Theory Fits The Facts

So, if heart attacks are not the result of coronary artery disease, then what does cause all these MIs? The myogenic theory of Dr. Mesquita, in fact, fits all the current observations about this condition. The myogenic theory postulates that as a result of disease in the small vessels—the capillaries and small arterioles—which is a consequence of such factors as stress, diabetes, smoking and nutritional deficiencies, heart cells, which are very active metabolically, suffer from inadequate oxygen and nutrient supply. This oxygen and nutrient deficiency increases under stressful conditions. When this happens, the heart cells revert to their backup system, which is anaerobic fermentation for energy generation— very similar to what happens in your leg muscles when you run too far or too hard. The anaerobic fermentation produces lactic acid which collects in the tissues. Because the heart, unlike your leg muscles, cannot rest, the acidosis progresses if untreated, leading to actual death of the myocardial cells.

As a result of this necrotic process, inflammatory debris collects in the tissues, and it is this debris that is the actual source of the coronary artery blockages seen in death from acute MI. As you would predict, the longer the time period between the MI and death, the greater the likelihood of blockage—exactly as observed in the studies. The only conclusion one can draw from this is that the heart cells die first and only then does the artery become blocked with debris liberated at myocardial cell death, which is precisely the kind of debris that is found in these blockages. The current practice of flushing out arterial blockages can help remove the debris and restore blood flow to the compromised arterial system, but this in no way suggests that blocked arteries represent the primary event in the sequence leading to an MI. However, the whole emphasis on the coronary artery blockage is fundamentally a dead end and doomed to failure, whether it is approached from a surgical (bypass, stents, etc.) or a medical (cholesterol-lowering drugs, restricted diets, etc.) point of view.

Myogenic Therapy

The myogenic theory points us to a very different kind of preventive treatment for heart disease, one that focuses on small vessel disease and the prevention of heart tissue acidosis. The theory also explains why stress, diabetes and smoking are such strong risk factors for MI, because these factors have all been shown to primarily affect small capillaries and small blood vessels, not the large coronary arteries. But the story gets even more interesting.

It turns out that there are simple, inexpensive and very effective compounds that effectively prevent lactic acidosis in the heart tissues. These medicines have been known for centuries as cardiotonics and have been used for treating heart disease in every traditional medical system in the world. The two best known are digitalis (the common foxglove) and strophanthus, an African vine. These plants are the source of so-called cardiac glycosides: digoxin and digitoxin from digitalis, and ouabain from strophanthus. The function of these compounds is to regulate the rhythm and power of the cardiac contraction and to prevent or reverse lactic acid buildup in the cardiac tissue. This is why these plants have been used for centuries to treat congestive heart failure, rhythm disturbances and other disorders of heart function.

The amazing thing is that these compounds are exact chemical copies of hormones made by our adrenal glands. And our adrenal glands produce these cardiotonics out of . . . cholesterol! Now we know why all the draconian dietary and pharmaceutical measures to lower cholesterol have not resulted in a decrease in the rates of MI, and why numerous studies have shown that as we age, those with the highest levels of cholesterol live the longest. When we lower cholesterol, we are depriving our bodies of the very substance they need to manufacture cardiotonics.

The myogenic theory also explains why stress can lead to heart attacks. In conditions of stress, our adrenal glands must work very hard to create numerous hormones that regulate the blood sugar and help the body heal. If the adrenal glands are weak or overloaded, production of cardiotonics goes on the back burner.

While there are few studies in the conventional literature that have considered the effectiveness of digitalis or strophanthus in the treatment of MI, Dr. Mesquita’s clinical results over twenty-nine years show a dramatic lowering of the death rate, recurrent MI rate, angina rate and all symptoms in the spectrum of acute coronary syndrome with the use of oral low-dose digitalis glycosides. These results are published in Teoria Miogenica Do Enfarte Miocardico, available through the Infarct Combat project website, www.infarctcombat.org.

Also, a German cardiologist, Dr. Berthold Kern, used g-strophanthin in a study for the German government which showed a dramatic reduction in MIs in his practice, down from the expected 400 to 20, with the use of this medicine.9 Furthermore, many reports are coming in from Germany in which doctors have noted a decrease of up to 81 percent in angina attacks with the use of oral g-strophanthin.10

In my practice, I generally use oral strophanthin in the form of the preparation known as Strodival for all my angina and MI patients, and I have uniformly recorded a decrease in angina episodes, improved exercise tolerance and, thus far, no MIs. When combined with a nourishing traditional diet, cod liver oil, high vitamin butter oil, CoQ10 (which helps strengthen the heart muscle) and Standard Process heart nutrients (Cardioplus, two capsules three times per day, and Cataplex E2, two tablets three times per day), I have seen a huge improvement in the lives of patients with this otherwise devastating condition. (Note: Both digitialis leaf and Strodival are prescription-only items which need to be prescribed by a doctor who is well versed in their use.)

The final irony is that the traditional Chinese doctors were correct. The kidneys (their way of referring to the adrenal glands) help the body deal with stress as well as make hormones (digoxin and ouabain) that keep our marvelous hearts healthy, strong and open to enjoy the full richness of life


Sidebars

Why Plaque Is A Problem

While plaque in the arteries leading to blockage may not be the main cause of heart disease, there is no doubt that the phenomena of athersclerosis (plaque formation) is a real problem in people, especially as we age. Certain sections of our arteries are subject to thickening and the formation of what is called fatty streaks for reasons that have to do with flow dynamics, that is, the velocity of blood flow and turbulence in that particular artery. A certain amount of thickening in places where the blood creates a lot of pressure on the arteries is normal and protective, and it therefore occurs in everyone. But the build up of plaque is a different situation and can lead to many problems. For example, blocked arteries in the legs can cause calf cramps and pain, which we refer to as intermittent claudication (leg pain while walking). In the brain, plaque formation leads to ischemic (lack of blood flow) stroke. In the kidneys, diminished blood flow due to plaque formation is a possible contributing factor in some cases of hypertension (high blood pressure). Likewise, blocked arteries leading to the liver or spleen can result in reduced function of these organs. The reasons for this plaque formation are unclear. Although scientists have long blamed such build up on high cholesterol levels in the blood, informed medical researchers today often cite inflammation in the vessels as the cause. Of course, this inflammation is secondary to other factors, such as stress, consumption of processed vegetable oils and nutrient deficiencies (particularly of vitamins A and C and minerals like copper). But plaque formation is not a sufficient explanation for the whole phenomena of myocardial ischemia. The reason the heart but not the spleen or the liver has “attacks” is because the energy use of the heart is so much higher and also because the heart can never rest. Because scientists have overlooked these factors, treatment of heart disease today is far less effective than it otherwise could be. The only other organ that might be said to suffer from an “attack” is the brain when a stroke occurs. However, strokes usually happen when a clot forms in one of the arteries feeding the brain. The process is not the same as lactic acid build up in the heart.

How To Protect Your Capillaries

  • Avoid high blood sugar: diabetes is a serious risk factor for capillary damage. A high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet is your best defense against diabetes. If you have diabetes, follow the protocol posted at www.westonaprice.org/moderndiseases/ diabetes.html.
  • Don’t smoke! Smoking is a risk factor for capillary damage.
  • Engage in moderate outdoor exercise.
  • Avoid commercial liquid vegetable oils, which are full of free radicals that can damage capillaries.
  • Follow a nutrient-dense traditional diet

Be Kind To Your Adrenal Glands

Since the adrenal glands, specifically the adrenal cortex (the outer portion of the adrenal gland), produce protective cardiotonics, an important strategy in protecting yourself against heart attack is to strengthen the ability of this important gland to work properly.

  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and related substances in coffee, tea and chocolate. Caffeine causes the adrenal medulla (the inner part of the adrenal gland) to produce adrenaline. In response, the adrenal cortex must produce a host of corticoid hormones that bring the body back into homeostasis. Repeated jolts of caffeine can lead to adrenal burnout, a situation in which the adrenal cortex is unable to produce the myriad of protective and healing substance for the body, including the cardiotonics.
  • Don’t try to lower your cholesterol—the cardiotonics are made from cholesterol.
  • Take cod liver oil for vitamin A. The body needs vitamin A to make all the adrenal cortex hormones from cholesterol. Vitamin A intake should be balanced with vitamin D (from cod liver oil) and vitamin K2 (from the fats and organ meats of grass-fed animals).
  • Don’t consume trans fats. Trans fats (from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) interfere with the enzyme system needed for the production of adrenal cortex hormones.
  • Take care to avoid low blood sugar. When blood sugar drops too low, the adrenal glands go into overdrive to produce hormones that bring the blood sugar back up. This means avoiding sugar and not skipping meals. There is just no substitute for three good meals a day, at regular intervals, which contain adequate protein and plentiful amounts of good fat.

References

  1. American Journal of Cardiology, 1998; 82:839-44.
  2. Circulation, 1972; 49:1.
  3. American Journal of Medical Science, 1960 240:701.
  4. Circulation,1960, 22: 816.
  5. American Heart Journal. 1972 Mar;83(3):340-50.
  6. Circulation 1980 Jul;62(1):17-19.
  7. Epstein SE. American Journal of Cardiology 1988 Apr 1;61(10):866-8.
  8. Killip T. New England Journal of Medicine 1988 Aug 11;319(6):366-8.
  9. Unpublished communication.
  10. Unpublished communication.

This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2007.

Man in the Iron Mask: The Holistic Treatment of Men’s Diseases

Holistic medicine begins with the premise that we can achieve an understanding of human illness by studying a corresponding process in nature. For example, insights into the treatment of women’s diseases come to us from the mythology of the moon and the metal silver. So too, we can look to nature for enlightenment on the subject of men’s diseases. Not surprisingly, the challenges to the health of the male anatomy are bound up in the metal iron, the characteristic metal of Mars or Ares.

The correspondence of iron to the biochemistry of the male organism shows up at puberty, which usually occurs around the age of 13 or 14. Puberty marks the entrance into the third phase of a boy’s life and the beginning of a third major physical transformation. The first physical transformation in any life is, of course, the birth of the physical body. After an average of seven years, most individuals begin the next major physical transformation, marked by the loss of baby teeth and the development of adult or permanent teeth.

The eruption of permanent teeth heralds an important step in the development of the child. The whole face undergoes a dramatic restructuring. The child begins school and embarks on a more independent life, often preferring the company of friends of his own choosing to that of parents and siblings. According to Steiner, the age of seven marks the birth of the etheric body, in which the force of pure growth becomes at least partially freed from the demands of physical growth and available for the development of other faculties. For example, academic learning is possible for the first time during this second seven-year period.

THE THIRD PHASE

We then come to the start of the third seven-year stage, the stage that affects the underlying dynamics of men’s health. Many traditional cultures mark the transformation called puberty with a ceremony, such as the Jewish bar mitzvah, the Christian confirmation and the traditional African rites of passage. All these traditions mark the boy’s passage into manhood, both in his physical body and in that portion we call the soul. We must therefore look at what actually happens both physically and in the soul of the boy at this time.

Physically, we see a number of changes. Pubic hair begins to develop under the arms, followed by the gradual growth of hair all over the body. The musculature of the boy’s body starts to develop, growing heavier, thicker and stronger. The voice deepens, the penis enlarges and the production of sperm and semen begins.

Another change that takes place, one that is not visible, is a slight rise in the iron content of the blood. This change is especially striking because it contrasts with the blood changes of adolescent girls, who experience a slight lowering of their blood iron levels at this time. This phenomenon has perplexed the medical profession for many years. No one knows just why this happens, but the fact that it occurs is unmistakable. Researchers have devised many experiments to help them understand how or why these changes come about and in the process have discarded many theories. One explanation was that the decline in blood iron levels in girls was due to loss of blood in the menses. However, studies of girls who never menstruate have shown that this drop still occurs. Other explanations, such as lower activity levels and differences in the diet, also fail to provide a conclusive answer.

The answer can be found in the relationship between the human being and iron, and to the soul changes we undergo during puberty. For it is during this period that the characteristics of the inner life manifest in the physical world. During this phase, boys generally become more inward, more withdrawn and less communicative. Those who have been parents of teenage boys count themselves lucky to get one sentence a week. Girls, on the other hand, often turn outward. They can become very social, very chatty and, in more extreme cases, even coquettish. The manifestation of these inner changes–highly “feminine” for girls and “masculine” or “macho” for boys–usually lasts throughout this seven-year phase, after which a more balanced personality emerges.

How, then, does this essential male process shed light on the illnesses men experience later in their lives? One conclusion is that the challenge of the male lies in balancing the heaviness or inwardness to which he is first subjected at puberty with more buoyant and outward tendencies. According to Steiner, it is during puberty that the emotional body or soul force is born. Consequently, for the first time, the developing man can work with the world of emotions. However, this newborn emotional life finds itself trapped in a world characterized by the qualities of iron–martial, somber and heavy.

Iron is an interesting substance. It is the only metal found in significant quantities in the human body, and therefore the only metal not called a trace metal. Instead, it is a substantial metal, substantial not only in quantity but also in its effect. It is the component of red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also a component of certain enzyme systems where its ability to change easily from a 2+ to a 3+ valence allows for the transference of oxygen in the cellular respiratory cycle.

Thus, the metal associated with clanking armor and impassible barriers (the iron mask, the iron curtain) is the very metal that allows oxygen to be transported in the body and used by the cells. And because iron can exist as a 2+ or 3+ valence with equal ease, this weighty metal can transform itself according to the amount of oxygen available. We are all familiar with the phenomenon of iron oxidation because when iron becomes saturated or filled with oxygen, rust forms. The more oxygen it takes on, the heavier and more weighed down it gets.

Metaphorically speaking, iron is the perfect substance to modulate the process of puberty, and even to physically distinguish man from woman. Increased iron brings more robust life to the youthful frame while its heaviness presages the weightier matters of adult life.

As we have seen, illness often results from a normal process taken too far. For example, mineralization is the normal way we form our bones. However, mineralization in the gall bladder can lead to gall stones and excessive mineralization in the joints can lead to osteoarthritis. Likewise, the process of oxidation as mediated by the iron in our blood is normal, but oxidation is akin to burning and brings about tissue destruction when it becomes excessive. Heaviness is also not an illness in and of itself, for heaviness also confers strength and power to our muscles. However, when we are too subject to the forces of gravity, we can become stiff, even leaden.

Heaviness in the soul is not a pathology either, for emotional heaviness leads to depth of ideas and feelings. However, when taken too far, the result can be the uncommunicative, somber, middle-aged man so common in our culture. It is a sign of the biochemical dominance of the traits conferred by iron.

Thus, the intriguing phenomenon of elevated serum iron levels in men tells us that being male is intimately connected to the properties of iron. Just as iron assumes its unique place in our physiology because of its ability to change valences and become heavier, so, too, is the male physiology largely dependent upon the mediation of this tendency to become heavy. If the attribute becomes extreme and stiffness and inflexibility prevail, the stage is set for the appearance of the illnesses to which men are subject later in life.

Many traditional forms of medicine associate the metal iron with the planet Mars. Mars was the patron and protector of Rome, a culture that epitomized the masculine or macho tendencies of the human spirit. The Martian properties thought to rule the male character include aggression, passion, dominance and fire, in contrast to the more feminine or Venusian attributes of passivity, receptivity and openness.

An interesting confirmation of the thesis that excess iron causes disease, especially in men, comes in the form of reports that men who donate blood regularly live longer, healthier lives than those who don’t. Besides the positive feedback from the altruism involved, regularly losing some blood helps keep the iron stores low and prevents the kinds of oxidative and inflammatory diseases to which men are prone. The ancient practice of bloodletting may indeed have some basis in fact.

It is clear, then, that iron serves as one of the body’s primary modulators of the oxidative processes. We know that excessive iron in the blood has a toxic effect on the heart and liver and can be a primary cause of early coronary artery disease. We can also say that, in general, the higher level of iron in men predisposes them to a greater tendency for oxidative damage. Chronic inflammation follows, with scarring and sclerosis (hardening). This conclusion is supported by epidemiological data which suggests that coronary artery disease is highest in the same geographical areas where other diseases of oxidative stress are high–diseases like cancer, diabetes and macular degeneration. All of these diseases are thought to be caused by oxidative damage to the tissue.

In addition, oxidative damage in the blood vessels leads to other developments characteristic of male tendencies, causing the arteries to become stiffer, harder, heavier and constricted. It is as though the blood vessels themselves show the physical corollary to the physiological and soul tendencies of men. The situation is aggravated when a man demonstrates all the typical or exaggerated male characteristics. Repeatedly, studies have shown that dominant, aggressive, uncommunicative men–men with the “Type A” personality–have a greater tendency to coronary artery disease. We might say that the working of iron is too strong in their physiology. As a result, they become subject to the oxidative damage characterized by iron excess.

Unbeknownst to many patients and even some physicians, the understanding of the underlying dynamics of coronary artery disease has undergone a major change in the past decade or so. The old theory was that plaque in one of the coronary blood vessels blocks the blood flow through that vessel downstream to the heart muscle. According to the old theory, when sufficient blockage occurs, ischemia or lack of blood supply in the heart muscle causes that part of the heart muscle to die. However, a recent study, reported in a major cardiology journal, found that only 10 percent of heart attack victims have greater than 70 percent occlusion or blockage in one of the major coronary blood vessels. (An occlusion level of 70 percent is considered necessary for a heart attack to occur.) The authors commented that heart attacks seemed to occur not so much because of the amount of occlusion but because of what goes on within the arteries. They found that arteries that had friable plaque, that is plaque that is easily broken apart, were much more likely to lead to heart attacks than arteries with stable plaque. It only remains to find the source of friability of this plaque. Although excess iron has not yet been studied as a cause, it is tempting to compare friable plaque to rusted iron, which easily flakes off. Interestingly, new data indicates that adequate levels of copper protect against the breaking off of plaque. When copper, the feminine element, is adequate, the plaque in the blood vessels is stable, and heart attacks do not occur.

THE ROLE OF ZINC

Another substance that plays an important role in reproductive and prostate health is the trace mineral zinc. While the connection between zinc and iron is not immediately obvious, a deeper examination of the characteristics of zinc reveals important similarities to iron, as well as interesting distinctions. In nature zinc is mostly found in carbonate deposits, always in conjunction with iron. Zinc has the same relation to the process of oxidation as does iron, in that it forms different oxidative states known respectively as carbonates, hydrates and oxides. Like iron, zinc is necessary for mammalian life, and also like iron, it is needed in substantial, not minute, amounts. The mammalian organs richest in zinc, besides the prostate gland, are the muscles and bones, exactly the organs that outwardly differentiate the male from the female physiognomy. As shown by the sites in which it localizes, zinc participates with iron in the process of heaviness or earthiness of the male muscle and bone structure. Brittle bones and weak muscles are a defining sign of zinc deficiency.

Zinc’s opposition to iron most clearly reveals itself in the fact that while iron may be called the central element of the red blood cells, zinc has an analogous role in the white blood cells, the cells that mediate our immune function. Zinc functions as a kind of inner armor, protecting us from invasion and occupation by invaders of many sorts. Like the physical outer armor made of iron, we also have an inner armor in the form of white blood cells, which contain large amounts of zinc.

Semen, the secretion product of the prostate gland, contains large amounts of zinc and the prostate gland concentrates this nutrient. In animal studies, zinc deficiency results in complete sterility. In addition, zinc is a cofactor in many reactions involving our immune system. Zinc deficiency is often associated with immune dysfunction, resulting in a number of disease conditions, from chronic viral infections to cancer. Zinc deficiency is also related to prostate enlargement. Many researchers believe that chronic zinc deficiency results in gradual enlargement of the prostate in much the same way that chronic iodine deficiency results in enlargement of the thyroid gland.

MALE REPRODUCTIVE DISORDERS

As recently as 20 years ago, when I was in medical school, doctors avoided discussion of male reproductive disorders. Male impotence, now called “erectile dysfunction,” was relegated to the domain of sex clinics. Doctors considered benign prostatic hypertrophy a normal part of aging, and prostate cancer occurred much less often than it does today.

Other issues affecting the health of the American male have yet to receive the same national attention. For example, the average sperm count of today’s adult male is about 50 percent lower than it was 50 years ago. Infertility rates among American couples now approach 25 percent, a heartbreaking situation that can be partially explained by lower sperm counts and decreased viability of the sperm. These changes parallel the findings seen in other mammalian species, including lowered fertility rates, decreased sperm counts and anatomical changes in the male reproductive organs.

Clearly, environmental changes that have accelerated during the past 40 to 50 years affect the reproductive health of males of different species. Exogenous estrogens in our environment undoubtedly contribute to the feminization of males in many mammalian species, as well as the lowered sperm counts of the American male.

DIETARY FACTORS

Another cause, one far less recognized or discussed in scientific circles, involves the huge change in the American diet during the past 80 years. The decline in soil fertility translates into lower mineral content in our food, and the substitution of vegetables oils for animal fats has robbed the developing male of the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A and D) that he needs to make testosterone out of cholesterol. In addition, the vegetable oils are invariably rancid, causing irritations and inflammation in the arteries. The trans fats in margarines and shortenings used in processed foods also interfere with the production of testosterone.

Another nutrient that has declined in the modern diet is vitamin E, normally found in whole grains, cold pressed vegetable oils, egg yolks, butterfat and dark green vegetables. Modern processing destroys vitamin E in grains and oils, and consumption of vegetable oils actually increases the body’s need for vitamin E. The scientific name for vitamin E is “tocopherol,” which in Greek means “to beget or carry offspring.” Numerous experiments with animals have shown that vitamin E, originally used in the form of wheat germ oil, is absolutely necessary for an animal to achieve and maintain fertility. Studies have also shown that the purified products, such as alpha-tocopherol, are not nearly as effective in maintaining fertility as feeding whole wheat germ oil or an ample supply of whole grains. In addition, vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and can protect us from overly exuberant oxidation of substances like iron.

SOURCES OF ZINC

The best dietary sources of zinc are red meat and seafood, especially oysters. Any man suffering from problems with the reproductive tract should eat oysters once or twice a week. Other animal foods include wild, ocean-going fish, butter from pastured cows and eggs (particularly the yolks) from pastured chickens.

An important source of zinc is unrefined sea salt, another commodity that has disappeared from the American diet during the past 50 years. When salt is refined, most of its minerals, including zinc, are removed. Today, the typical American male will never eat any salt in his whole life that contains even a trace of this valuable mineral. Nutritionists have been relatively successful in spreading the word about the dangers of refined sugar, but few voices warn us about an equally severe problem of mineral deficiencies caused by the consumption of refined salt. This is why I strongly encourage all my patients to use Celtic sea salt exclusively for all their cooking, as this is one of the few commercially available salts that still has its full complement of minerals, including valuable zinc.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

Another dietary component vital for men’s health is sufficient fatty acids of the omega-3 type, including the forms with two double bonds found in flax oil, organic whole grains and leafy green vegetables. The longer and more unsaturated forms occur in cod liver oil, seafood (especially wild salmon, fish eggs and shell fish), organ meats and eggs from pastured chickens. These foods also provide many of the nutrients mentioned earlier–vitamins A, D, E, iron and zinc. Fish eggs, in particular, provide a complete packet of minerals, fat-soluble vitamins and elongated omega-3 fatty acids–many traditional cultures value fish eggs as an aphrodisiac.

FOODS TO AVOID

In addition to incorporating certain nutrient-dense foods in the diet, men should also avoid consumption of foods fortified with iron. Most men have no need for any more iron than that which occurs naturally in food. Consumption of iron-fortified foods, or of supplements containing iron, can cause a toxic overload and contribute to heart disease, liver disease and perhaps even cancer–numerous studies have shown a relationship between high iron levels and increased cancer incidence. Plentiful fat-soluble vitamins in the diet help the body absorb the iron it needs without accumulating an excess.

My caveat against iron-fortified foods does not include liver. Although liver is rich in iron, it is also our best dietary source of copper, so vital for healthy arteries. I recommend including liver in the diet at least once a week.

Any therapy for reproductive disorders and prostate problems must include avoidance of all processed foods, vegetables oils, white flour products (“fortified” with inorganic iron) and extruded grain products. Cold whole-grain breakfast cereals made by the extrusion process not only contain rancid vegetables oils, they are also high in phytic acid, an organic acid that blocks zinc. All grain products must be properly soaked to neutralize phytic acid. Soy foods not only block zinc, but they contain plant-based estrogens that can have feminizing effects.

Caffeine, found in coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate, is best avoided as it stresses the adrenal glands, ultimately affecting male potency.

SUPPLEMENTS

Supplements for men’s health include cod liver oil for vitamins A and D (providing at least 10,000 IU vitamin A per day) and wheat germ oil for vitamin E. I recommend Standard Process wheat germ oil, 4 capsules per day. For those who don’t like oysters, I recommend zinc-liver chelate from Standard Process, 1-2 tablets 3 times per day. Avoid supplements of vitamin C as the synthetic form increases iron absorption and blocks copper.

ACUTE PROSTATITIS

The prostate gland is a walnut-sized muscular organ responsible for making and secreting semen. As with any muscular structure, it is susceptible to contractions, spasms and overuse. Many cases of acute prostatitis result from overworking the gland, as in a burst of abnormally high sexual activity (when previously there was no sexual activity). The prostate becomes enlarged, painful and swollen, often felt as an uncomfortable lump in the rectal area, occasionally accompanied by difficulty or pain in urination. Often the patient has a fever and occasionally a pus-like discharge from the penis. On examination of the prostate through the rectum, the gland will be very painful to touch. It often feels swollen and even warm or hot.

One of the controversies surrounding the etiology and treatment of prostatitis is whether or not this condition is an infection or an inflammation of the gland. As a result, it is unclear whether the conventional treatment with oral antibiotics really addresses the problem. In my experience, only the most extreme cases require antibiotics.

Taking our cue from the fact that the prostate is a muscular gland, one can treat acute prostatitis in the same way one treats other strained and inflamed muscles, with rest and Epsom salts. Ejaculation should be avoided for at least two weeks. I recommend regular soaking in a warm or hot bath, to which is added 1 cup of Epsom salts. If possible, soak in the bath 20 minutes, 2 times per day for 10 days. This bath treatment will relax the muscle as the Epsom salts help cleanse the gland by promoting secretion of its contents. Many patients experience immediate relief with this intensive bath therapy.

I also suggest oral medicines that work in an anti-inflammatory way on the prostate including Echinacea Premium (by Mediherb), 2 tablets every 2-3 hours until better, saw palmetto extract (by Mediherb), 1 teaspoon 2 times per day, prostate PMG (the Standard Process protomorphogen extract) 1-2 tablets 3 times per day, and Erysidoron 1, an anthroposophical anti-inflammatory medicine, at a dose of 10-15 drops 4 times per day. This regimen should resolve the problem in less than one week. If not, antibiotics may be prescribed.

BENIGN PROSTATIC HYPERTROPHY (BPH)

BPH is relatively easy to control with the proper intervention and the cooperation of the patient. The major symptom is difficulty in urination, which happens as the gland swells and puts pressure on the urethra, directly adjacent to the prostate gland. As a result of this pressure, the caliber of the urethra gets smaller and the urine has a more difficult time passing through. The patient experiences this as a weakening of the urine stream, a need to urinate more often while passing only small amounts at any one time, and finally, nocturia, or the need to make frequent trips to the bathroom during the night. This is the symptom that usually brings the male patient to the doctor, as the disturbed sleep begins to interfere with his ability to function optimally during the day.

I should stress that as far as we know there is no relationship between BPH and prostate cancer. The current understanding is that large, swollen glands are no more likely to be prone to cancer than glands of normal size.

As BPH is a chronic rather than an acute condition, its treatment must be based first and foremost on the dietary protocols given above. The medicine that many practitioners, including myself, have found effective is a lipid extract of the saw palmetto plant. Saw palmetto is a small woody shrub that produces berries with high concentrations of a medicinal oil rich in a cholesterol-like substance that has a direct influence on testosterone metabolism. It may seem surprising that a kind of plant cholesterol would be the therapy for BPH, but a closer examination makes sense of this phenomenon. Research shows that chronic overstimulation of certain types of the hormone testosterone is one of the reasons for enlargement of the prostate gland. As mentioned earlier, testosterone, like the other sex hormones, is a derivative of cholesterol. Men who take medicines that block the action of testosterone, or men who have been castrated, do not suffer from prostate disease. This is why doctors consider prolonged exposure to excessive testosterone as one of the causes of BPH. The active ingredient in saw palmetto seems to act as a kind of testosterone mimic that binds to the testosterone receptors in the prostate and thereby prevents the testosterone from having its influence. As we have seen, a common way for plants to exert their effect is to mimic the normal action of an endogenous hormone or neurotransmitter. Thus it is with saw palmetto, which mimics the body’s own testosterone, thereby blocking its exuberant and injurious effects on the prostate gland. I use the saw palmetto extract from Mediherb, 1-2 teaspoons per day, sometimes along with nettle root extract by Mediherb, another plant with a therapeutic effect on BPH, also at the dose of 1-2 teaspoons per day.

PROSTATE CANCER

Just a few decades ago, prostate cancer was uncommon and considered nonvirulent. Today it is the second most common form of cancer leading to death in men. In addition, a study of autopsies suggests that more than 70 percent of men older than 70 who die from other causes have some prostate cancer which may not have been detected. Thus, prostate cancer truly qualifies as an epidemic in our time.

In many ways the epidemiology of this disease is like that of breast cancer; it has had the same recent dramatic rise in incidence, it has the same pattern of growth, and even shares in the medical controversies on the best type of treatment. This controversy centers on a fundamental issue with cancer in general and these two cancers in particular, which is whether cancer is a localized phenomenon or a general, systemic illness. In conventional medicine, cancer is believed to start in one location, then spread to many sites in the body. This view holds that while the cancer is still encapsulated, one can effectively remove all traces of it by removing the tumor.

Both breast and prostate cancer, with their often confounding histories, frequently contradict this rule. In both these types of cancer, removal of the encapsulated tumor does not necessarily render the patient cancer-free, although in some cases the cancer will not return until almost 20 years later. This phenomenon has led some prominent breast and prostate cancer doctors to claim that the only true way to say that someone has been cured of these cancers is for them die of some unrelated disease after a long period during which they were cancer-free. What this means is that removal of the gland or the breast does not eliminate the disease, for it doesn’t change the underlying dynamics that led to its emergence.

The practical consequence of this conclusion is that the physician has difficulty in counseling the many men who have newly diagnosed prostate cancer. Usually their cancer is discovered by a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) screening test and then confirmed by biopsy. At this point the patient often goes through an agonizing decision process. On the one hand, removal of the prostate results in the best chances for five-year survival, according to current statistics; on the other hand, we all know that removal cannot be considered a cure. In addition, a high percentage of men have symptoms of incontinence or impotency following prostate removal. We also know that because removing the prostate cannot be considered a complete solution, the patient still has many other issues to address.

My advice at this point is to go ahead with the prostatectomy only if there is a very high chance that the disease is still totally confined to the prostate gland. This is usually the case when the PSA is relatively low, the biopsy shows encapsulation, and all the other tests (liver enzymes, CT scan of pelvis, and bone scan) are normal. I then encourage the patient to follow the advice given about diet and mistletoe therapy for cancer in my book The Fourfold Path to Healing. Even in those patients who choose prostatectomy, I still urge them to follow the cancer diet, and to do mistletoe therapy for at least three years.

Like breast cancer, prostate cancer has a profound effect on the body and soul of the patient. It provides a kind of life-training in living with uncertainty in that the patient can never be sure the disease has truly been eliminated. As a result, many prostate cancer patients find they have to reorient how they think and feel about their life. There can be no more waiting another five years to reconcile with an estranged loved one, no more putting off beginning the type of work one has always longed to do. One of the clarion calls of this disease is that the time to act–the time to change, the time to make of one’s life what one wants, the time to fulfill one’s goals–can only be in the present. For many, life becomes clearer, as though the camera lens of perception is brought into a sharper focus through the very uncertainty that this illness presents. The epidemic of prostate cancer is a message to all of us that it is time to clean up our environment, improve our diet, enjoy relationships and apply ourselves to meaningful work in the present, before we are forced to do so under the threat of cancer. Cancer is the modern voice that reminds us of the uncertainty and transitory nature of all of our lives and urges us to live as though we really knew this truth.

IMPOTENCE

Surprisingly, the treatment of impotency has a long history. Over two thousand years ago, traditional Chinese physicians theorized about the causes and treatments of this common dilemma. In fact, almost without exception, all traditional medical schemes have included the treatment of male impotency as one of their central concerns. Curiously, when one looks behind the disparate terminology, one finds a general uniformity of opinion as to the cause and treatment of this situation. In many ways, the traditional views on impotency and its treatment are in agreement with current scientific information about this condition.

Impotency is not an isolated event, but is closely related to aging and loss of vitality. The Chinese held that this vitality was closely aligned with overall physical vigor and was also organ-specific. They associated male potency with Kidney Yang energy, which refers to the ability of the kidney area, particularly the adrenal glands, to generate warmth or fire. Many other traditional medical schemes relate loss of “fire” to the problem of impotency and conclude that the kidney/adrenal system is the generative organ for this fire. According to the principles of anthroposophical medicine, the kidney/adrenal system is the house of the Emotional or Soul body. It is not a huge stretch to conclude that the Emotional body has some role to play in our ability to engage in healthy sex, one of the most important manifestations of our emotional life.

The interconnection between the kidney/adrenal system and male sexuality contains further mysteries. If asked which organ is most related to impotence, most modern physiologists would choose the testicles or, if they were more emotionally inclined, the brain. Why the adrenal gland?

The adrenal gland is the master organ of the endocrine system. Through their adaptation to stress mechanisms, the adrenal glands direct the synthesis and flow of virtually all the other hormones. The adrenals also have the ability to produce hormones that are normally made by other glands. A particularly striking example of this is the hormone estrogen. After menopause, when the ovaries reduce the production of estrogen and progesterone, healthy adrenal glands can make up the difference and set the basis for a long healthy life with little or no repercussions from the loss of ovarian function.

In a similar way, while science has clearly demonstrated that sexual drive and performance in both men and women relates to testosterone levels, the traditional medicines for treating impotency have had their main field of action on the production of adrenal hormones. Thus, there is no sense in speaking of a therapy for impotence that does not address the patient’s overall health. You cannot separate sexual function and treat it as though it were unrelated to the whole.

Moreover, the level of potency is intimately related to the emotional, or soul health, of the man, as well as his overall physical vigor. When a boy or man suffers undue pressures on his emotional life, either through childhood traumas, repressed feelings or the everyday strains of life in modern America, his emotional balance and sexual ability may suffer.

Impotency is not primarily a problem of testicular dysfunction or testosterone deficiency. Rather, it involves an imbalance of the entire hormonal axis–pituitary gland, adrenal glands, testicles and even the thyroid gland. All of these glands are governed by the same feedback loops between the brain and the body. They function as a group and have much to do with determining our overall health. Impotency is not simply due to deficiency of testosterone–or Viagra; the treatment of impotency must involve the restoration of health. Science actually corroborates the practices of ancient physicians, who treated impotency by restoring male vigor. This is best accomplished by relieving emotional blocks, often old lingering impediments that still stand in our way, and by taking steps to restore the health of the adrenal gland.

In addition to the diet and the work on soul connections and our relationships, I recommend several interventions that have proven useful in treating impotency. The first is the herbal extract of Tribulus terrestris, from Mediherb. Tribulus is adaptogenic, meaning that it helps our bodies adapt to stress by improving adrenal hormonal production. A number of studies involving both animals and people indicate that the herb improves erectile function, decreases the latency period (that is the time between ejaculations), and increases the length of time that an erection can be sustained. It does not provide any testosterone, nor is it clear that it improves the ability of the testicles to produce testosterone. Rather, the herb seems to directly stimulate the adrenal glands to produce their hormonal products and therefore adapt to stress, even the stress of aging. Studies also indicate that tribulus improves cardiovascular endurance and slightly dilates the coronary arteries, thereby allowing improved oxygenation of the heart. The recommended dose is 1 tablet 3 times per day, for at least 6 months. Many men report an improvement in their potency during the third to fourth month of treatment.

In more severe cases, or with men who have lost overall vitality in addition to sexual potency, I recommend Bacopa complex, a Mediherb preparation that combines schisandra (a liver herb) and Siberian ginseng (a well-known adaptogenic herb) with bacopa (an adaptogenic herb that has a specific effect on improving memory). Together these herbs help strengthen the nervous system, liver and adrenal glands. The dose is 1 tablet 3-4 times per day for at least 6 months.

Finally, to help restore the glandular health of the entire pituitary-adrenal-testicular-thyroid axis, I use the Standard Process preparation Symplex M, which contains the proto-morphogen extracts from each of these glands. In fact, it was the genius of Royal Lee who recognized, well before it was appreciated by normal science, that effective treatment of any of these glands requires treatment of the whole group or axis, rather than treatment of each in its own fiefdom. The dose is 1-2 tablets 3 times per day for 6 months.

FROM SWORDS TO PLOWSHARES

The mystic and philosopher Rudolf Steiner made an interesting remark when speaking about the nature of the genders. He stated that the soul of the human being has the opposite gender to that of the physical body. Thus, those living in male bodies have feminine souls. Many other religious traditions have hinted at the dual nature of the human being. In Hinduism, for example, the road to salvation is depicted as the merging of opposite genders in one person. In contemporary thought, Carl Jung’s psychological philosophy includes the notion that each of us harbors the opposite gender within our souls. According to Jung, one of the main tasks of self-actualization involves the reconciliation of these opposites. For men this means blending one’s feminine side into the overall personality–a notion that has taken on a certain triteness these days with frequent repetition. Nevertheless, it is a profound insight, one that has reemerged after centuries of darkness. In fact, it is the most important challenge any man faces in working with his soul life.

The soul that dwells in a masculine body can automatically express the typical masculine attributes of aggression, action and decisiveness. However, to achieve optimal health, these need to be balanced with the more feminine, intuitive nature that most males struggle so mightily to comprehend. As predicted from our earlier discussion, iron and the male attributes may lead to action but they also lead to disease, particularly to the sclerotic diseases that afflict so many in our culture. The feminine, on the other hand, is the healer. Most traditional cultures clearly recognized this fact and consigned the healing arts to the hands of women. In our time we need both, and each person needs to make space within to accommodate both genders. Living in a culture that struggles to value the feminine side of life only makes this reconciliation harder for today’s males as they find themselves caught between the outer demands of their culture and their own, often weak inner voice.

There is no magic formula for finding one’s inner feminine aspects. But the most important step is simply to understand that this is necessary and then to try to open oneself to what life brings, paying particular attention to the feelings and intuitions that arise. As you contemplate the events of your life, focus on those actions that integrated feeling and intuition with action. Those who carry out this process in earnest will find themselves on the path that transforms the sword of iron and destruction into the plowshare of peace and good health.


Sidebar

Summary for Men’s Health

Acute Prostatitis

Hot sitz baths with 1 cup of Epsom salts, 20 minutes, 2 times per day for 10 days.
Echinacea Premium by Mediherb, 2 tablets every 2-3 hours.
Saw palmetto extract by Mediherb, 1 teaspoon 2 times per day.
Prostate PMG by Standard Process, 1-2 tablets 3 times per day.
Erysidoron 1, 10-15 drops 4 times per day.
In cases unresolved by the above, antibiotics are usually needed.

Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH)

Saw palmetto extract by Mediherb, 1-2 teaspoons per day.
Nettle root extract by Mediherb, 1-2 teaspoons per day.

Prostate Cancer

Use the cancer therapeutics described in Chapter 2 of The Fourfold Path to Healing.

Impotence

Tribulus herbal extract by Mediherb, 1 tablet 3 times per day, for at least 6 months.
Bacopa complex, 1 tablet 3-4 times per day for at least 6 months.
Simplex M by Standard Process, 1-2 tablets 3 times per day for 6 months.


This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2004.

What to do About Tetnus

Question: What are your thoughts on getting the tetanus vaccine? Are there any natural ways of treating tetanus?

Answer: This is a question that has come up many times over my years of medical practice. Parents have often asked my advice about tetanus prophylaxis for their children. As with other areas of medicine, I can lay out the issues, but it is difficult for me to say that there is only one way to handle this question.

First, the basic facts. Tetanus is the name we give to the illness that is caused by the toxin secreted by the bacteria Clostridium tetanii. This bacterium is an obligate anaerobe which means it can only live in the absence of oxygen. It is ubiquitous in the soil, and is widely distributed all over the world. When the bacteria enters the human body in a wound, and if the wound is devoid of oxygen (such as a puncture wound from a nail) then the bacteria can flourish inside the wound. If the wound is exposed to oxygen, which is what happens with common lacerations, then thetetanii bacteria will be unable to grow. If they grow, they eventually will produce a tetanus toxin (a poison) that selectively puts the skeletal muscles of humans into a tight spasm. The skeletal muscles include the major muscles of movement. The smooth muscle, such as the viscera (intestines) or the specialized muscle of the heart are unaffected by the tetanus toxin. As more and more of the toxin is produced, the affected person will eventually go into full body spasms and then develop “lockjaw” which is the dreaded outcome of a tetanus exposure as the jaws remain tightly clenched.

The mortality rate for an episode of full blown tetanus is high and in some studies upwards of 50 percent of the patients who contract tetanus will not survive. If one does survive, the tetanus toxin is eventually cleared from the body and no residual repercussions remain. The key point in this is that even though the tetanus toxin is made by a bacterium there usually is no significant infection at the site of the wound. In some cases, the doctors have actually been unable to locate any overt signs of infection at all, but somehow the bacteria had grown in the body and had made their toxin. Also, the symptoms of tetanus usually start about one week after exposure to the bacteria (from the wound) but can occur up to months following the incident. This makes it even more difficult to track down the infection or to be confident that any particular incident no longer presents a danger.

In the U.S., there are about fifty cases of tetanus per year; it is a much bigger problem in third world countries, especially among infants who can contract tetanus from the cutting of the umbilical cord with an unsterile instrument.

Conventional medicine offers two ways to deal with tetanus. The first and most common is to give people, usually children, a series of tetanus shots or vaccines. The vaccine contains a very small dose of the tetanus toxin and the theory is that the vaccine recipient will make antibodies that can neutralize the toxin if it should every occur as a result of infection. Usually an initial series of three shots is given at two, four and six months and then “boosters” at varying intervals thereafter.

The second method of dealing with tetanus is to wait until an exposure has occurred, or at least a likely exposure and then give what is called hypertet, which is serum containing the neutralizing antibodies. In this case, the recipient is not making antibodies himself; he is given them to neutralize the toxins that are already in his system.

Back when I was first practicing, hypertet (tetanus immune globulin) was made from collecting the serum of horses that were “hyperimmunized” with tetanus. The rate of severe anaphylactic reaction to this medicine was about 20 percent, with most of these reacting patients dying from the medicine. Luckily, I have never been in a situation that required me to give anyone this treatment and for that I have always been grateful.

Today, the hypertet is made from recombinant DNA, maybe not the greatest thing in the world, but it is nowhere near as lethal. Still, there have been numerous episodes of hypertet contaminated with various viruses so this preparation is also to be avoided if at all possible.

This then brings us to the bottom line: since we all want to avoid taking the hypertet, the real choice is whether to use the vaccine preventatively or do nothing except practice good wound care.

Regarding the vaccine, it is important to note that tetanus vaccinations are different from all the other vaccines. First, tetanus is unlike the other illnesses for which children are given vaccines. It is not a childhood illness, like pertussis or measles. It really isn’t even an infection, its more of poisoning, from poison made by bacteria. This means there is nothing good about getting tetanus, unlike the immune enhancement that comes about through the usual childhood illnesses.

Second, unlike the other vaccines, there is no cell-mediated immunity—white blood cells clearing the virus—with tetanus, because it is a poisoning, not an infection.

The bottom line here is that unlike all the other childhood illnesses, there is nothing good about having gone through tetanus or contracting tetanus; it is a fairly deadly poisoning which is best handled only by prevention. Thus, for a number of years, tetanus was the only vaccine I ever gave the children in my practice. I gave three shots, usually starting at about two years old and I never gave boosters. This was because of National Institutes of Health research, which claims that no one who has received all three shots for tetanus has contracting clinical tetanus. By the way, the vaccine does not contain thimerosol; however, there is no telling whether it contains other questionable ingredients.

During the last decade, however, there have been some counter arguments that have stayed my hand with regard to giving the tetanus vaccine and made the whole situation unsettled. First, it has become clear that the incidence of clinical tetanus dropped to a very low level even before routine vaccination was practiced in this country. Why this is no one knows, but it mirrors the pattern seen in the rest of the childhood illnesses. Second, there have been some published studies showing that having tetanus antibodies facilitates the penetration of unrelated viruses into the cells. One of the viruses mentioned was HIV, another was hepatitis C. The implication is that somehow having tetanus antibodies from the tetanus vaccine makes one susceptible to seemingly unrelated viral infections. The mechanism of this is obscure and as far as I know there has been no follow-up. I can’t find this original reference, but I distinctly remember a patient showing me the research in the early 1990s. This, plus the worry about the chemicals used to preserve the vaccine, make this a more difficult choice than it was in the early days.

A few other points are worth mentioning. One is that a number of patients over the years have told me they wanted to have only the tetanus vaccination but were told by their pediatrician that it was unavailable as a single vaccine. This is not true: any doctor can purchase plain tetanus toxoid from any of the major vaccine manufacturers. Second, there is no reason to get a booster tetanus shot after a wound if you have already been vaccinated. As I said, you are protected if you have had three vaccines at any time in your life, even fifty years ago. There is also no reason to give hypertet to anyone who has done the original series of three shots. And finally, even though there are worries about the vaccines, it is something that, given at the right time—certainly not at two months—in an otherwise healthy child is a fairly reasonable prevention strategy.

What if you get a puncture wound from a nail or a staple, have not had the vaccinations, and do not want to take the hypertet? Obviously scrupulous wound care is the first priority. In addition, it makes sense that super nutrition could help your body deal with the toxin should it take hold. That means extra cod liver oil, natural vitamin C, lacto-fermented foods and plenty of bone broths. Avoid stresses after the injury and get plenty of bed rest so your body can devote itself to dealing with the challenge.

TETANUS FOLLOWUP

I was excited to see an article by Dr. Thomas Cowan on tetanus (Fall, 2009). As a family doctor in New Zealand I have to work hard to get balanced information so that my patients can make informed decisions about vaccination.I found the article very good but with one concern.

Dr. Cowan states, “As I said, you are protected if you have had three vaccines at any time in your life, even fifty years ago.” He was referring to an earlier statement about National Institutes of Health research claiming no one who has received all three shots for tetanus has contracted clinical tetanus.

Reading the epidemiological study (www.medscape.com/medline/abstract/ 9665156), the findings actually indicate that 13 percent of cases of tetanus between 1995-1997 had reported that they had received the full primary series of tetanus vaccinations. Admittedly we are talking very small numbers here (roughly a one-in-fifty-million chance per year) and as a result, Dr. Cowan’s statements remain in essence true, especially as 9 percent of those 13 percent had had four or more vaccinations for tetanus—it seems as though those people were probably going to get tetanus no matter how much they were vaccinated. It might seem nit-picky but I believe that integrity and transparency are vital if we are to rise above the rhetoric and propaganda.

I have to mention that I greatly respect Dr. Cowan’s stand for health and get a great deal of value out of Wise Traditions. I am a staunch advocate of the WAPF philosophy and continue to try and influence my practice with its truisms. Many thanks indeed.

Dr. Mark Edmond, MB ChB
Christchurch, New Zealand

This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2009.

Varicose Veins

Question: I am starting to suffer from varicose veins. Is there any way this unsightly condition can be avoided?

Answer: The problem of varicose veins runs the gamut from a harmless cosmetic annoyance to an almost life-threatening situation. Varicose veins usually manifest as prominent, swollen, blue-to purplish-color veins in the lower legs. These veins are rarely painful and rarely constitute a genuine medical problem. But for the elderly, swollen veins can become engorged with blood, leading to infection and a situation we call phlebitis, which can then lead to cellulitis, an infection of the tissues around the veins. At times, these infections can become chronic, severely interfering with the patient’s quality of life.

Furthermore, this same process can take place in other parts of the body, wherever the venous blood flow becomes sluggish, and can lead to engorged, swollen veins. Examples of this include hemorrhoids, which could be referred to as varicose veins in the rectal area. Clearly, an understanding and solution to the problem of venous blood flow is needed in order to help these sufferers.

In the chapter on heart disease in my book The Fourfold Path to Healing, you know that I presented a view of the circulation at variance to the usual views expressed in conventional medicine and physiology. That is, rather than seeing the motive force for the movement or circulation of the blood in the heart, I point out that the true force that “pumps” the blood is the generation of osmotic pressure at the cellular level. This osmotic pressure is generated primarily through the creation of water from the metabolism of food. The food that is the most efficient at generating water are the fats for the simple reason that fats possess copious amounts of hydrogen that can combine with oxygen in the process of cellular metabolism.

Furthermore, the more saturated the fat, the more hydrogen it contains, and therefore the more water generated from its breakdown. The osmotic pressure generated in the veins through the creation of new water in the cells is the motive force for “pushing” the blood uphill in the veins. This continual osmotic pressure generated provides a continuous push up the hill towards the heart, and this prevents the blood from falling back down the hill, creating downward pressure on the veins. When the circulation is sluggish, varicose veins eventually develop, a situation in which this downward pressure pushes out and eventually breaks the walls of the veins.

Rudolf Steiner, when describing the mechanism of circulation of the blood, referred to the force that moves the blood as a kind of “primary streaming” akin to the force that causes the sap to move up the tree from the soil to the crown of the tree. This primary streaming is an integral part of any living being; Steiner called it the etheric or life force, the force that counteracts gravity and that is the essence of the difference between the living and non-living world.

Varicose veins therefore develop out of two co-existing situations. First, there is insufficient osmotic pressure generated in the cells, resulting in a weak upward flow. This is often caused by insufficient or poor quality fats in the diet, or the inability to metabolize these fats into water. Second, there can be a weak primary streaming force in the person, a situation that often gets worse as the person ages. In a sense, as we age our basic “vital” force gets weaker, the very force that “pushes” the blood up our veins and the sap up the trees. This can be the result of a myriad of causes, some of which must be addressed in a true therapy for varicose veins.

Two other issues must be addressed in a comprehensive therapy for varicose veins: the tendency to infections and a progressive weakening of the walls of the veins.

In order to increase the osmotic push in the veins, the first part of the therapy is to ensure adequate good quality saturated fats in the diet. This should include the whole nourishing traditional dietary approach, with particular attention on including liberal amounts of butter and coconut oil in the diet. Coconut oil not only provides saturated fats, but the lauric acid in coconut oil has the added benefit of an anti-microbial element.

In order to help with the digestion of fats, the diet should include lacto-fermented vegetables, particularly sauerkraut, and bone broth, which is a general digestive tonic.

The blood vessel walls are nourished by certain food factors, especially foods that contain tannins, and rutins, a family of compounds in the vitamin C co-factor group. These factors are found in many green vegetables, fruits and tannin-rich herbs. These can be included in the diet and used medicinally.

The best studied herb for varicose veins is horse chestnut, an herb that contains a rutin-like compound called aesculin, which is a specific nutrient that strengthens the blood vessel walls–the tannins in the horse chestnut “tan” the blood vessels, just like they tan a hide, which means they shrink and strengthen the walls. The preparation I like is Horse Chestnut comp from Mediherb, which is a mixture of Horse Chestnut and other tannin-rich herbs. The dose is 2 tablets twice per day for at least one year if significant symptoms are present.

Finally, the most rutin rich food source is probably buckwheat greens. The best supplement for this is the Standard Process product Cyruta Plus, given at the dose of 2 tablets three times per day.

In order to help strengthen the vital force, perhaps the best therapy is regular vigorous movement of the lower limbs. This can be a regular walking program, yoga, spatial dynamics exercises, rebounding or any activity that tones and activates the muscles in the legs. This should be done on a daily basis to see optimal benefits.

This intervention should prevent further development of varicose veins and, if followed faithfully, even help them regress.

If signs of redness and infection are present, the legs should be elevated most of the day, hot compresses with a solution of Epsom salts should be applied 1-2 hours per day, and Echinacea, 2 tablets three times per day should be added to the therapy. In many cases, antibiotics can be avoided through these interventions.

This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2006.

Sunburn

Question: Summer is here and my fair-skinned three-year-old has come home with a horrible sunburn after his first day at the beach. Is there anything I can do to relieve the burning and itching that is keeping him awake at night? And how do I prevent this from happening on our next outing to the beach?

Answer: If you consult any of the books on child care, they will tell you that the most important treatment for sunburn is prevention. Of course this advice does you no good if your child is already sunburned.

A very good topical treatment for sunburn is an ointment or gel called Combudoron by Weleda (www.weleda.com). It contains a number of ingredients that can help heal sunburn. Chief among them is Urtica urens, or small stinging nettle. Like other nettles, Urtica urens causes a burning sensation when it comes in contact with the skin. In this preparation, it acts like a homeopathic remedy to take away the burn.

Other ingredients in this soothing ointment include Echinacea and Calendula for wound healing and antiseptic action; Hypericum for its anti-viral properties; Aloe vera to accelerate wound healing in burns; Equisetum for wound healing; and Lavender and Pine essential oils.

In cases of open blisters and sores, the best treatment is fresh squeezed aloe juice. You’ll need to purchase an aloe plant at a nursery. Split a leaf lengthwise and squeeze out plenty of the juice onto the blisters. They should then be covered, not only to protect the wounds, but also because the flow of air over a wound can exacerbate the pain. Cover the wounds with saran wrap and then lightly with gauze.

By mouth, the patient can take homeopathic Cantharis and Arnica. Cantharis is derived from the green blister beetle, also known as Spanish fly, which has a burning bite. Arnica, as is well known, helps with achiness and soreness.

There are also dietary remedies that can help. Cod liver oil can help calm the nerves and hasten the healing process. Likewise, a natural vitamin C, such as Amla-C from Radiant Life (888-593-8333) will support healing and calm itchiness; taken at night a natural vitamin C will make it easier to sleep.

MSG exacerbates pain so care should be taken to avoid all processed food, most of which contains MSG. This may be a tall order in the summer when children are spending time on the beach and other areas where fast food is so readily available.

Sugar and sweet foods should be minimized, as these cause either low or high blood sugar, both of which make it difficult to heal and worsen feeling of pain. One theory holds that sugar consumption exacerbates the tendency to sunburn rather than tan.

As for avoiding a recurrence of sunburn, it is important to limit time in the sun, so that a tan can be developed gradually. The best thing is to cover the torso with a lightweight, light colored tee-shirt while at the beach and in the bright sunlight.

I do not recommend sunscreens as these have been implicated as contributing to skin cancer, but zinc oxide can be applied to the most vulnerable spots, such as the nose and shoulders.

With these precautions you should be able to avoid a repeat of the unpleasant effects of sunburn.

This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2006.

Skin Cancer

Question: About six months ago I had a small growth on my cheek biopsied at the University of Iowa’s School of Dermatology. It came back as basal cell carcinoma. I already had one basal cell carcinoma excised from the top of my head. My face is starting to heal from the biopsy. I was advised to have the margins removed but have been hesitant because of the scarring. Is there anything I can do besides surgery to my beautiful face?

Answer: The history of skin cancer and its treatment is a very interesting exploration into the history of medicine in general and the treatment of cancer in particular. But first a little primer on skin cancer.

There are many different types of skin cancer, all of which get their names from the appearance of the various cells under the microscope. Practically speaking, there are two broad categories of skin cancer—melanoma and non-melanoma. This is the most practical way to think about skin cancer because melanomas have the possibility of spreading and killing the person, while generally speaking all of the other types of skin cancers do not spread except locally. By locally I mean a non-melanoma growth may “eat” away a large area around the original site, but it will never go to the lungs, liver, brain, etc. This is unlike melanoma, which can spread even in the early stages of the illness. In fact, I have known patients with very small original growths whose melanoma had already spread (metastasized) by the time of the diagnosis.

Because these types of cancer act so differently, they also need different treatments–the melanoma type more directed at stopping the metastasis, the non-melanoma types aimed at stopping the localized growth. Another general point is that non-melanoma skin cancers have been more conclusively associated with trauma to the skin, usually in the form of sunburns, while melanomas may not have any relationship at all to sun exposure, although this is controversial in the dermatology world.

For the treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers, like the basal cell cancer you have, it turns out there is a safe and effective alternative treatment out there which has been around for at least 200 years, perhaps even longer. The only problem is that the treatment is not for “the faint of heart.” The treatment is called escharotic therapy and is best described in a recently published book by Ingrid Naiman called Cancer Salves. With escharotic therapy, you put a caustic agent (usually sanguinaria root, but other caustics have been used throughout the centuries) in the form of a paste onto the skin cancer, then you cover the area. A few days later, the skin growth will be gone but there will be an open wound in its place. Properly done, with the proper herbs, all of the cancer cells will have been eliminated by the paste and then an eschar, or big thick scab, will form. This scab then takes from three weeks to a year to heal and fall off, depending on how big the scab is. When all is complete, there should be healthy new skin in the area, skin that is totally cancer-free. You can find a full description of these procedures in Naiman’s book, and can actually obtain the particular herbs on her website,www.cancersalves.com.

I have followed this procedure in my patients four or five times, and in each instance the area eventually healed without any trace of the original cancer nor, as of yet, with any recurrence of the growth—after many years in some cases. The comment about “faint of heart” I include because many people don’t enjoy having a large black scab on their face for months. Also, some but not all patients complain of a kind of painful, pulling sensation as the scab heals and a kind of burning sensation in the initial few days of treatment. Neither is extreme, and in all cases the patients say they would do the treatment again, but these cautions are worth noting.

For people with multiple or recurring growths in which it would be difficult to do multiple escharotic treatments, I would use the Iscador treatment discussed on my website www.fourfoldhealing.com and in my book the Fourfold Path to Healing. In fact, I have often had the situation where I was treating a patient for another form of cancer with Iscador and incidentally their non-melanoma skin cancers either got better or didn’t recur in the usual pattern.

I would also include the Mediherb Burdock comp at 2 tablets twice a day to this regimen, as the Essiac formula on which it is patterned has been very helpful for a variety of different types of skin cancer. This could be because its main herb, burdock root, has a particular affinity for the skin. Of course, in addition to these medicines and local treatments, a nourishing traditional diet and cod liver oil should be used as well.

This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2005/Spring 2006.