Health Notes

Echinacea: It’s not just for colds anymore

Researchers at McGill University in Canada have come up with an interesting, and seemingly significant, discovery in the field of nutrition: The common herb echinacea appears to have cancer-ameliorating properties.

Natural killer (NK) cells are those cells of the immune system that are “cytolytic” (cell-destroying) to many tumor cells as well as cells invaded by viruses. In the McGill study, echinacea caused a significant elevation of NK cells. “Such boosting of this fundamental immune cell population suggests a prophylactic role,” the researchers reported.

“Leukemic” mice are a clever and useful innovation to the study of cancer. They are mice bred to contract leukemia and are extremely helpful in studying the effectiveness of various treatments. In this study, a group of leukemic mice was treated with echinacea and compared with a control group of leukemic mice not treated with echinacea.

In just nine days, the number of NK cells in the echinacea-treated group increased to 2 1/2 times the original level. Three months after the onset of leukemia, the echinacea-treated mice still had two to three times the normal number of NK cells. Moreover, at three months post-tumor onset, all the major blood cells and immune cells in their bone marrow were recorded to be at normal levels. After three months the mice in the control group weren’t so lucky: They were all dead.

Action to take:

Mice are mice, after all, and echinacea has yet to be tested on humans with cancer. But if I were you, I would take two echinacea capsules twice daily. You can buy echinacea supplements almost everywhere these days-from health food stores to good old Wal-Mart.

Currier N.L. and S.C. Miller. “Echinacea purpurea augment natural-killer cells in leukemic mice and prolong life span.” Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 6/01

Update: DHA and infant formula-the FDA creeps into the 21st century

In the August issue of Real Health, I told you about the importance of DHA, a fatty acid crucial in proper mental development. Humans cannot produce their own DHA, and must get it instead from food or supplements. A baby’s best source of DHA is breast milk. (The level of DHA in the milk directly reflects how much DHA is in the mother’s diet.)

But since the FDA has refused to approve its addition to baby formula, formula-fed babies have been at a significant developmental disadvantage.

Well, after 20 years of diddling, the great sloth, the FDA, has finally made a move to mend its ways-at least in this area. The U.S. government has “cleared the way” for companies to begin enhancing formula with DHA-just like medically advanced countries do.

Here is a gem quoted from the Associated Press article that reported the breaking news: “Not all mothers can or will breast-feed, so health officials tightly control infant formula to guarantee that formula-fed babies thrive too.”

They do WHAT?! The refusal to allow baby formula manufacturers to put DHA in their products has caused an immense brain drain in the United States for the past 40 years. Are these reporters stupid, blind, or simply too cowardly to state the obvious truth that these bottle-fed “health officials” have shortchanged million of American children?

Bottle-fed babies get a fighting chance

Eileen Birch of the Retina Foundation of the Southwest commented to the Associated Press that all this is “very exciting” because enriched formula will offer the upcoming generation of bottle babies “an advantage.” By “advantage,” Eileen means that these nutritionally deprived babies will now be allowed to develop more like normal, breast-fed babies, with a full deck of cards and an equal chance to finish high school.

After creating three generations of mental cripples, the FDA has now “cleared the way” for DHA. Future mothers can be grateful. Past mothers might want to see a hanging party on the mall in Washington.

Here’s another gem from the AP report: “It’s impossible to walk out on the street and pick out a baby who was breast-fed or formula-fed, so you know you’re not talking huge differences,” cautions Dr. William Heird of the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.

Now that’s a specious statement-and a non sequitur if I ever heard one. You can’t tell the difference walking on the street? Did anyone say you could? Well, William, could you tell a difference of seven IQ points in the classroom?

Researcher Birch found that the IQs of 18-month-olds who were fed enriched formula for four months increased by an average of seven points more than babies fed regular formula. For Dr. Heird’s elucidation, seven IQ points could mean the difference between going to college and flipping burgers for the rest of your life.

Were these research doctors all suckled on soy sauce?

Neergaard, Lauran. “News: Baby Formula to Resemble Breast Milk,” Associated Press, 7/31/01.

Soothing an irritable bowel

After I reported on the FDA scandal regarding Lotronex for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in the October issue of Real Health, a concerned reader wrote to me, pointing out that my report made it seem as if there is no satisfactory treatment for this troublesome condition.

Cortisone, hypnosis, acupuncture, Christian Science, chiropractic treatments, drugs, enemas, cabbage juice, meditation, vitamins and minerals, fiber, yoga, oils, and African juju are all a waste of time in this disease.

But there is a satisfactory treatment for IBS, which is 99 percent effective if the diagnosis is correct and if you have the patience to follow the instructions. You must first find a health care professional, which usually means someone other than an M.D., who will put you on an elimination diet-a regimen that will eventually identify all the foods that irritate your bowel.

There are many reasons why an M.D. is usually not your best choice. Most of them do not want to take the time to do it right. Most of them don’t understand the importance of food allergy/sensitivity in IBS. They get discouraged at the low level of compliance by patients-and, at least in this regard, you can’t blame them: Patients want a quick fix.

Unfortunately, this disease is not one subject to a quick fix. If you soldier through it however, you are cured for life, and not many diseases offer the option of a total, lifelong cure.

Action to take:

Go to a qualified M.D. to be sure your diagnosis is IBS. Then go to an alternative health care professional. I don’t care if he is a chiropractor, an astrophysicist, or an auto mechanic, as long as he understands the elimination diet. But just to be on the safe side, contact the American College for Advancement in Medicine at (800)532-3688 or for a referral to a qualified alternative physician in your area. Follow their advice regarding the elimination diet and you will get cured, and stay cured, so long as you behave yourself.

Exorcising the exercise myth

For the past few decades, we’ve been continually bombarded by exercise propaganda that tells us bouncing around and working up a sweat is the key to good health.

But I still maintain that if you have a good diet, low in carbohydrates and vegetable fats and high in animal fats and animal protein and if you take adequate amounts of testosterone, creatine, and human growth hormone, exercise isn’t really needed at all to maintain muscle mass and good health. Exercise will, of course, increase exercise tolerance, but that does not guarantee that you are going to live longer. I recommend a book titled The Exercise Myth, by Henry A. Solomon, M.D., for a good perspective on this subject.

However, for people in a sedentary job, which means most of us, a moderate amount of weightlifting is a good thing.

For people entering middle age, it’s more than a good thing; it is essential to preventing muscular atrophy. Creatine is a useful adjunct to this; so is testosterone if blood levels are low and in most men, testosterone levels begin dropping by the age of 40.