Last month, WDDTY was saddened to learn of the passing of Dr Annemarie Colbin, one of its panel members, a visionary in the natural-food movement and a dear friend. In 1977, in need of income to support her young daughters, Dr Colbin started the Natural Gourmet Cookery School in the kitchen of her Upper West Side apartment. As the school likes to advertise, she was teaching kale and quinoa before the general public had ever heard of it.
Nearly 40 years later, the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts, as it’s now known and which long ago moved to its own premises in Manhattan, became one of the top schools in America for natural cookery, and the first and only natural-foods cooking school accredited by the New York State education department to offer a chef’s training programme in the subject, graduating to date more than 2,500 natural gourmet chefs from 45 nations.
Annemarie was one of the early proponents of a wholefood diet, and was instrumental in popularizing the natural-foods movement as the key to a long and healthy life. “Change your diet, and you change your life,” she said.
Early on, she was suspicious of ‘fake’ foods years before anyone had even thought to question processed foods. “To insure you have good food, cook it yourself: Teach kids to cook at home from scratch, not the microwave. Value the importance of families sitting down and eating together,” she said, a vital message in an age where TV and mobile phones have replaced the art of conversation.
Annemarie went on to author a number of best-selling books, including Food and Healing, her masterpiece, became a visiting professor at a variety of universities, and numbered among her students John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Lennon’s famous stay-at-home, bread-baking phase probably began in Annemarie’s kitchen.
Annemarie was steely tough, largely due to adversity. She had been born in the Netherlands during World War II, and once spoke of the fear she’d felt as a young child, huddled in a basement among strangers during the war, before her family emigrated to Argentina. Only after knowing her for years did we learn that her first child had died in a fire, started by a careless babysitter, and she had nearly lost her second.
“How did you survive that?” I once asked her. “You get up in the morning and you go to bed at night,” she replied with characteristic pragmatism.
Although an early visionary of the natural-foods movement, in other parts of her life she was a late bloomer. In her 60s, she decided to get a PhD, choosing, as her subject, quantum biology and the effect of food on this quantum system. She became adjunct professor of nutrition at Empire State College and Touro College and, fascinated by the new science, chair of the Friends of the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
Also relatively late in life—her mid-40s—she found lasting love. She began dating Bernard Gavzer, an investigative reporter and NBC producer then in his mid-60s, which is where our paths crossed; Gavzer was a friend and colleague from my days as a young investigative reporter in New York.
During the Battle of the Bulge, Gavzer had saved the life of the man who eventually became Annemarie’s first husband. When the two soldiers reunited 40 years later, long after Annemarie and Rod were divorced, Gavzer began seeing her himself.
For both, who’d each been married twice before, it was third time lucky. They got married when Bernie was in his early 70s, Annemarie in her early 50s. “We’ll have maybe 10 good years together,” she said. In the event, their partnership lasted 25 years—a testimony to the fact that it’s never too late.
They were also a testimony to how to model a modern family. The five children they had between them all adored each other and became close friends; each year at Thanksgiving, Bernie and Annemarie, with their former partners and all their joint children and grandchildren, would celebrate the holiday together. She was in her late 60s and he in his 80s, and they were having the time of their lives.
Bernie died at home at 90 after a short illness, with Annemarie and Jon, his eldest son, by his side. Six months later, Annemarie began complaining of heart failure and, although generally suspicious of conventional medicine, she was persuaded to undergo open-heart surgery. She had a stroke on the operating table and never fully recovered. After a second stroke this year, she died at 72.
Annemarie was an extraordinary pioneer to whom this magazine owes an enormous debt for all her prescient ideas. Ultimately, she outlived her far older husband by just two years, dying—in our view—of a broken heart. True love proved to be her best recipe of all.
In 1992, after rediscovering a network of neurotransmitters in
the gut that act in a similar way to ordinary neurons, Dr Michael
Gershon, chairman of the department of anatomy and cell biology at New
York–Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, an expert in the
new field of neurogastroenterology, christened this phenomenon ‘the second brain’.
and others have since found that the enteric nervous system, as its technically
known, consists of some 30 neurotransmitters and vast sheaths of neurons embedded
all along the nine meters of our alimentary canal—100 million of them in all,
more than are present in either the spinal cord or peripheral nervous system. In
fact, the self-same genes involved in the formation of synapses between neurons
in the primary brain are also involved in the formation of synapses in the gut
In some ways, the second brain is autonomous, controlling
gut behaviour ‘on site’ and independently of the actual brain, according to
Gershon. “The brain in the head doesn't need to get its hands dirty with the
messy business of digestion, which is delegated to the brain in the gut.”
But even more surprising is that the primary brain is
often informed about the rest of the body from the gut brain, and not the other
way round. The scientific community were recently shocked to learn that some 90
per cent of fibres in the vagus, the longest cranial nerve in the body, were delivering
information from the gut to the brain, but not the other way around.
Scientists like Gershon are only now conceding what
alternative practitioners have long known: the second brain may play a major role
in a large array of diseases.
All manner of
modern-day illnesses—in fact, most of the chronic problems medicine has no
answer forjoint and muscle pain, skin conditions of every variety, mood
problems, allergies, sleep problems, general immune dysfunction, emotional or
mental problems of all varieties, even autoimmune diseases like motor neurone
disease, rheumatoid arthritis and some forms of diabetes—link back to
disturbances in the digestive system.
In preliminary studies, researchers from Columbia University
Medical Center have even demonstrated that a hormone secreted from the enteric
nervous system is able to regulate bone mass and counteract osteoporosis.
Dr Alan Ebringer of London’s Middlesex Hospital has
linked ankylosing spondylitis, a painful arthritic disease resulting in
progressive stiffening of joints, with a type of bacteria that lives in the
bowel and feeds off carbohydrate residues. Many patients have resolved their
long-standing conditions simply by switching to a low-carb diet.
In this issue, we have zeroed in on two major gut-related problems. Our
special report focuses on an unlikely cause of chronic tiredness—whether
full-blown chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or simple fatigue. UK general practitioner
Dr Sarah Myhill, who has treated thousands of CFS patients successfully, has
made the connection between chronic fatigue and poorly functioning
mitochondria, the cause of which, in most cases, lies in allergies, diet or
faulty digestion (page xx).
We also tell two case stories of patients who beat Crohn’s disease with
alternative measures. Karen Ward beat her crippling illness by adopting an
anti-inflammation diet (page xx), and Kiasha Patel’s mother substituted dietary
treatment for the cocktail of six powerful drugs given to her 14-year-old
daughter for her inflamed gut.
Perhaps the most surprising element of Gershon’s work is the discovery
of the degree to which our second brain influences our emotions. This is not
simply due to indigestion, but to the likelihood that our emotional equilibrium
may rely on the subtle communication going on from one brain to the other. Indeed,
some 95 per cent of the body's serotonin—the feel-good hormone associated with
mood—resides in the gut, not the brain.
Work going on now at the University of California at Los
Angeles is examining how the human biome—the trillions of bacteria residing in
the gut—communicates with nervous system cells, and how this affects our
emotions and mood.
Factor in the state of the gut bacteria and their ability to communicate
with the gut brain, and you begin to recognize how central digestion is to
overcoming all manner of physical and even mental illness.
What goes on in your bowel has
everything to do with what goes on elsewhere in your body. The Hermetic tradition coined the phrase ‘as
above, so below’ and believed it to hold the key to all the mysteries of the
universe. When it comes to the mystery of illness, it may well be ‘as below, so
We are a society gripped by constant pain of one sort or
another—and life appears to be getting more painful by the year. In the UK
alone, according to government statistics, at least a third of all households—representing
some eight million of us—have one or more members suffering from moderate-to-severe
persistent pain of some variety. This is two to three times more than the
number of such sufferers in the 1970s.
Matters are even worse in the US. According to the American
Pain Foundation, more than 26 million Americans ages 20 to 64 experience
frequent back pain alone. Almost a third of all adults aged 65 or over report
some variety of knee pain, and more than one-sixth report having hip pain or
stiffness. Staggeringly, some 25 million cases of pain have to do with
migraine, or lower facial pain or jaw pain such as a temporomandibular joint
Despite the fact that pain is the biggest ‘illness’ of our
times—vastly overtaking cancer, diabetes or any of the other degenerative
diseases in incidence—medicine’s only answer is to use chemicals to block or
suppress pain signals or inflammation in the nerves, brain or muscles. Millions
of patients survive on years of taking over-the-counter medications like
paracetamol, aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, despite
warnings against their long-term use.
It’s now becoming obvious, though, that the pills just don’t
work. Most nursing-home patients remain in moderate or severe pain despite the
universal use of a plethora of painkilling medications. And most of the rest of
us report that, most of the time, our pain is beyond the reach of most drugs.
This is not surprising, given what we’re now learning about
how the body works. The rationale for pharmaceutical medicines rests on the
premise that chemical processes in the body progress in a linear and orderly
fashion, so that a drug can precisely target tab A to pop it nicely into slot
However, we’re now beginning to realize that chemical
reactions in the body are distinctly not linear, but chaotic. As frontier
biologist Bruce Lipton observed in his seminal book The Biology of Belief, interactions between a small group of
cellular proteins in fruit-fly cells involved in the synthesis and metabolism
of RNA molecules make up an impossibly complicated web of interconnectedness
that can never be reduced to the simple linear progression of cause and effect.
Recently, scientists have theorized that the more than 6,000
proteins in the human body have a network of more than 70,000 physical
interactions. Proteins with certain physiological functions, such as gender
determination, also influence proteins that have an entirely different job,
such as RNA synthesis. Trying to tease apart any protein’s sole job in any
genuine sense becomes virtually impossible.
Furthermore, we are now beginning to recognize that Nature
is economical with her building blocks: the same proteins or signals may be
used in entirely different organs or tissues of the body for completely
Pain, we are learning, is not merely symptomatic of
mechanical parts breaking down, but relates to a complex interaction between
mind and body. New theories show that pain results not only from mechanical
effects on nerves, but also from what is referred to as ‘biochemical
irritation’, which can come from any physical, mental or emotional cause. New
evidence, for instance, shows that pain is often the side-effect of a simple
lack of vitamin D—which may be why the British, living as they do in a
sunshine-poor country, have a disproportionately high incidence of pain.
As our cover story demonstrates, one of the major causes of
persistent pain is emotional stress. A number of maverick practitioners like the now retired Dr John Sarno, a clinical rehabilitative expert formerly at the New York University School of Medicine, reckons that virtually all back problems are caused by
unresolved emotional stress, and some 85 per cent of his patients resolve their
back pain by achieving closure of their emotional issues.
This means that many alternative forms of new medicine can
treat pain by targeting mental and emotional issues. Practitioners of these new
modalities recognize that pain can be a symptom of too little or too much of something
our body needs, but also of something unresolved in our emotional past. But
most significantly, as tapping pioneer Nick Ortner has discovered (see our
Cover Story, page xx), addressing emotional issues through one of the new
energy-medicine techniques can accomplish the seemingly impossible: years of
intractable pain can vanish in a matter of minutes.
Clearly, it’s time
that we stop trying to just temporarily turn off pain and, instead, listen
harder to what it’s trying to tell us.
The scene would not look out of place
in Breaking Bad. Special Forces in
camouflage gear and night-vision goggles stealthily break into a house and hold
up its terrified owner, still in his dressing gown, shining a light in his face
as they catch him holding a bottle of what appears to be illegal contraband.
“Guys, GUYS,” says the terrified owner,
who turns out to be Mel Gibson, “it’s only vitamins.” The SWAT team are unimpressed.
Gibson is still trying to get them to see sense as they arrest him and clamp on
the cuffs: “Vitamin C, you know, like in oranges?”
Gibson had donated his time for this
1992 video, which was meant to be a call to action for citizens concerned about
US federal legislation, which the film said is “actually considering
classifying most vitamins and other supplements as drugs. The FDA has already
conducted raids on doctors’ offices and health-food stores. Could raids on
individuals be next?”
The American public certainly thought
so, because the advert, and other aspects of a well-organized grassroots movement,
created massive support for what ultimately became the Dietary Supplement
Health and Education Act of 1994, or DSHEA, the law that today protects Americans’
access to dietary supplements as well as information about these products.
Despite the passage of that bill, the
desire of the US and UK regulatory authorities to gain control of the vast
natural-medicine market has never quite gone away. Nor has the influence of the
The UK Medicines and
Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is
becoming increasingly populated with ex-drug-industry old boys and indeed, like
the FDA, is now funded by Big Pharma. As US health-freedom advocate Elissa
Meininger once said, “Among the events that led up to the passage of DSHEA was
the publication of the FDA’s Task Force report on dietary supplements. In it,
there was a statement that I saw as a smoking gun. It stated that the presence
of dietary supplements on the market represented a ‘disincentive’ (the FDA’s
word) for patented drug research.”
recently discovered, the flak jackets were out in force again recently, when
investigators from the MHRA staged an unannounced raid on the new laboratory
premises of Immuno Biotech in Cambridgeshire, confiscating 10,000 vials of the
naturally occurring glycoprotein called ‘GcMAF’ and closing down the facility
before it had, in fact, even opened (see News Focus, page xx).
GcMAF, WDDTY readers may remember, is one of the more promising new treatments
for cancer. In our November 2014 issue, we featured four cancer patients and
one patient with autism whose symptoms were entirely turned around by this natural
‘supermolecule’. Shutting down the manufacture of this product for the most
spurious of reasons, when very little other treatment for cancer or autism is
actually working, is nothing less than a violation of human rights.
The climate seemed likely to change
with advertising magnate Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill, which would
have allowed doctors to try out experimental cancer treatments without running
the risk of being sued. It had been promoted by Lord
Saatchi after his wife Josephine Hart died from ovarian cancer, and had
passed the House of Lords after several amendments were introduced at the
Government’s behest. It only had to make it through the Commons before
Parliament dissolved in March in the run up to the election. Thousands of
patients supported this bill, and it was also backed by the Conservative party.
Shockingly, instead of allowing for
debate or improvement of the law, the Liberal Democrats broke rank with their
Tory coalition and simply vetoed it out of hand, claiming they had listened to patient
groups, medical/scientific journals and professional bodies—most of them in
some way reliant on the drugs industry.
Several weeks ago, we attended a meeting
held in Parliament with many of the heads of natural-medicine organizations which
announced the results of two rigorous meta-analyses of non-contact healing, carried
out by the University of Northampton. The studies showed strong evidence that,
in fact, non-contact healing of every stripe works on animals, plants and people
(see page xx) better than many drugs do. When we discussed how to get this
information out there, the consensus was that we shouldn’t waste time trying to
convince sceptics and professional bodies; we needed to tell our MPs.
The only way to get natural medicine
accepted and enshrined in law is to create a DSHEA-style grassroots movement that
makes it a political issue. Those at the meeting recommended that we tell our
readers to visit their MPs’ surgeries and demand protection for natural
medicine and innovations like GcMAF. Discussions are underway about creating
such a movement.
The conservative government (and no
doubt every member of government) regards drug companies as a backbone of
British industry. But the one thing any politician wants even more than a
thriving economy is to keep his job.
Vow to make a nuisance of yourself at
your MP’s next surgery. This time, in the wake of the Scottish referendum and
UKIP, believe me, he’ll be listening.
January, all of us in the West have been horrified by the spectacle of Islamic
fanatics storming into the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and assassinating 10 of
its staff, including its editor, Stéphane Charbonnier,
and his police bodyguard.
shocks us precisely because we believe that one of our most fundamental
freedoms, the right to free speech, is presently under threat by the most
militant of political extremists, and preserving it has now become a
a January BBC One Question Time about
the shootings, that week’s panel made a number of high-minded statements about
the importance of “standing shoulder to shoulder” with France to safeguard
freedom of the press, and tut-tutted over the newspaper editors around the
world “bottling it” and being too frightened to publish the offending cartoons.
fought” freedom of speech is also about “the right to criticize, satirize and
show disrespect for” things, Labour Party Shadow Health Minister Liz Kendall
I were able to orchestrate one reaction to yesterday, I would want every single
editor of every paper in Europe and the rest of the world to carry their
cartoons,” Conservative former Home Secretary David Davis chimed in.
point is, when it comes to the free dispersal of information, Wednesday’s
attack is only a more savage version of what is already taking place here in
the UK and in America, only this time the terrorists are all those social
structures meant to safeguard our right to free speech.
examine a few inconvenient truths, which represent just those examples of press
suppression that we have personally experienced—mainly relating to the freedom
to publish any information that places modern medicine in a less than favourable
all of its literature to parents, the Department of Health does not publish one
word of information about potential side-effects or lack of efficacy of any
vaccine, even though this material is freely available in other countries.
the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the major
government agency charged with studying vaccines, has consistently buried
unfavourable data about the measles–mumps–rubella (MMR) vaccine and its link to
autism by massaging the data.
a CDC whistleblower scientist recently blew the story about the CDC burying these
data—a scandal of Watergate proportions—not one major paper in the US or UK was
willing to carry the story.
this magazine supplied every major newspaper in Britain with reams of
scientific evidence on the dangers of the cervical cancer vaccine (a
controversy that had been well covered by the American press years before), not
one British newspaper was brave enough to publish it for fear of “offending” the
Medical Establishment or “frightening” patients into not trusting their
years ago, we were invited to write a column for London’s Times newspaper. My first article was about the MMR and revealed
secret documents I’d obtained from a whistleblower inside a CDC panel. The Times allowed the UK government to
respond, but refused to allow us the right of reply. That was the moment we quit
The Times, London’s paper of
record, also refused to allow What
Doctors Don’t Tell You to correct its 1 November 2013 article,
which quoted ‘experts’ (all members of a Big Pharma-sponsored lobbying group)
claiming this magazine should be banned, even when the article was filled with
false information. The Times also
refused to publish any letters of support from our readers.
which appears to have disdain for alternative medicine, allows any troll to
stampede the pages of advocates and researchers of alternative medicine and paint
them in an unfavourable light. Any attempts to correct clear factual errors are
quickly changed back to the original.
Smith, the so-called UK ‘champion’ of the small press, will not carry this
magazine because the same pharmaceutically supported lobby group mentioned
above orchestrated a phony, staged campaign protesting against it.
to say, I am not making comparisons between WDDTY’s
own experience of censorship with the horrific shootings in Paris; I’m talking
about hypocrisy. Despite all the prettily turned phrases about our ‘hard-won’
press freedoms, we no longer have freedom of the press but a corporate-controlled
press and information system.
broadcaster and columnist Julia Hartley-Brewer put it, “Freedom of speech and
religion goes hand in hand with freedom to offend. We have the right to offend
in this country. If we don’t stand up for that, we will see our freedoms ebb
away very quickly.”
not, it seems, when it comes to an alternative view of health and medicine. In
that case, Je suis
We are fat and getting fatter by the day.Several years ago, Johns Hopkins University did a study showing that, if obesity trends continue, in four years, an astonishing three-quarters of all Americans will be overweight. In Britain, according to an Oxford University epidemiologist, who wrote a government report on the subject, in less than 15 years, 86 per cent of UK men will be overweight and, in 20 years, 70 per centof UK women will reach the same level of obesity.
As fatness becomes the norm, increasing thinness becomes the ideal. Two decades ago, the average model weighed 8-per-cent less than the average woman; today’s models weigh 23-per-cent less than today’s average woman. With such a dysmorphic body ideal, it’s small wonder that we’re addicted to dieting.
Nevertheless, as a corrective measure, dieting is, by any standard, an absolute disaster: 90–95 per cent of dieters regain the weight they lost, and continue on a yo-yo cycle of dieting and weight gain that wreaks havoc with their hormones, setting up a hormonal imbalance with parallels to type 2 diabetes.
In our special report this month, we examine new evidence showing that, far from a failure of willpower, failed dieting often results from a broken fat thermostat. Two recently discovered hormones, leptin and ghrelin, carefully police current fuel and fuel supply, or stored fat, and constantly signal the brain when more food is required. When levels of leptin are high, and levels of ghrelin low, the brain knows you’ve had enough food and creates a feeling of satiety. The reverse hormonal situation tells the brain that you need more food and it gets to work, making you feel hungry.
In the overweight, this complex signaling system is often scrambled. The brain is deaf to any messages about energy supplies and consequently creates a situation in which the individual is literally hungry all the time. Likewise, when people undergo a crash diet and leptin levels fall, your brain thinks you’re starving and stimulates great hunger to restore your leptin levels to normal.
Bad lifestyle habits—from eating too much sugar and processed food to living under constant stress—cause the brain to stop responding to this hormonal signalling. As our cover story notes, one highly overlooked factor in obesity is chronic sleep deprivation.
The complex interrelationship between the two ‘fat hormones’ and the rest of the body, what you eat, and how well you rest, exercise and cope with the challenges all around you suggests that dieting is far too narrow a solution for obesity.
As with other aspects of health, your weight is a holistic issue, a snapshot of how well you live your life, and correcting weight, like correcting much disease, can never be viewed in isolation.
The biggest headache for any drug-company executive is the placebo, or ‘sugar pill’, used in controlled trials to show that a drug in question works. Patients are divided into two groups, one of which is given the active drug, while the other takes the placebo, but no one knows who got what, not even those giving the pills. The idea is that far more patients will improve with the drug than with the placebo. Upon this assumption is built the entire edifice of modern medicine.
In practice, so many patients receive the same relief and even the same side-effects with a placebo as with the drug itself that a placebo is not a true control. Indeed, placebo power was best illustrated in patients with Parkinson’s disease, where the body’s system for releasing the brain chemical dopamine is faulty. The standard treatment for Parkinson’s is a synthetic form of dopamine. Yet, in one study, doctors at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver showed on PET scans that, when patients given inert placebos were told they had received dopamine, their brains substantially increased the release of their own stores of the chemical (Science, 2001: 293: 1164–6).
The placebo problem—the subject of this month’s News Focus—was raised to another degree of complexity when Harvard’s professor of medicine Ted Kaptchuk ran a double-blind trial in which patients with irritable bowel syndrome were given a placebo, but told that they were taking a sugar pill, while the other patients were given nothing at all (PLoS ONE, 2010; 5: e15591). The placebo group were also told that placebos have been shown to create powerful mind–body self-healing.
Kaptchuk found that nearly two-thirds of his placebo group reported symptom improvement—even more than had improved with the powerful IBS drug alosetron in a recent trial (Clin Ther, 2008; 30: 884–901).
This raises the very basic question I’ve been wrestling with for some time: do pharmaceutical drugs ever work? Is it ever the drug itself that heals, or is the mental expectation of healing enough to marshal the body’s healing mechanisms?
Other research bolsters the idea that the ‘healer’ may be more powerful than any agent. A recent study of 83 rheumatoid arthritis patients attended by a homeopath concluded that the consultation with a sympathetic practitioner—rather than the remedy itself—was the cause of the physical improvements reported by the patients (Rheumatology, 2010; doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keq234).
There’s also the power of healing rituals—the idea of ‘taking some-thing’, even when that something is known to be fake. Of 46,000 heart patients, those taking a placebo fared as well as those using the heart drug. The only survival factor appeared to be the belief that the therapy would work and a willingness to follow it religiously. Those who tended not to survive were those who had been lax with the regimen—whether active drug or placebo (BMJ, 2003; 326: 841–4).
Such studies suggest that what we take doesn’t matter; the connection with the healer, the healing words and practices, the expectation of healing—in other words, our thoughts about healing—are always what turns out to be the true healer.
Nearly a year ago, Hollywood was shocked when actress Brittany Murphy, just 32, died from pneumonia, which she contracted after taking over-the-counter drugs. Within five months, her doting husband, British screenwriter Simon Monjack, aged 40, was also dead from a cardiac arrest—his heart had literally broken.
This phenomenon, called ‘stress cardiomyopathy’, is extraordinarily common; an emotional upset, such as the loss of a loved one, causes heart dysfunction and failure in people without previous heart disease.
As with Monjack, the heart muscle weakens, causing it to literally break. Those left behind die of a broken heart—largely due to loneliness.
Of all the potential risk factors, our cover story this month shows that loneliness is the greatest of all. Heart expert Dr Dean Ornish has discovered that every so-called lifestyle risk factor laid at the door of cardiovascular disease by the medical community has less to do with having a heart attack than simple loneliness. All the usual risk factors—smoking, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and high-fat diet—only account for half of all heart disease.
No single environmental or dietary risk factor appears to be more important than isolation—from other people, from our own feelings and from a higher source. In that sense, heart disease—like a goodly number of other illnesses—can be viewed as a disease of being on our own.
Researchers at Brigham Young University were so intrigued by such statistics that they pooled and analyzed data from 148 studies comparing human interaction with health outcomes over an average of seven years. Their stark conclusion: relationships of any sort—good or bad—improve your odds of survival by 50 per cent.
Isolation was equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic, and twice as harmful as obesity. And the survival advantage may be an underestimation of the benefits of healthy relationships.
Social psychologists at the UK’s University of Exeter have shown that the most important predictor of health—even more than diet and exercise—is the number of groups to which you belong, particularly if you have strong relationships within them. The greater your group membership in voluntary social organizations such as religious groups or unions, the lower your risk of death from all causes.
“As a rough rule of thumb,” wrote Harvard political scientist Robert D. Putnam in his book Bowling Alone (Simon & Schuster, 2002), “if you belong to no groups but decide to join one, you cut your risk of dying over the next year in half.”
This research demonstrates something fundamental about the human experience—or, indeed, the experience of all living beings. The need to move beyond the boundaries of our individual selves is more vital than any diet or exercise programme; it protects against the worst toxins and greatest adversity. This connection is the most fundamental need we have because it generates our most authentic state of being.
Despite our propensity for one-upsmanship and competition, our most basic urge always is to connect. May your year be full of joy and health for you—primarily through connection.
Our dog Ollie, as a small, tricolored Cavalier King Charles spaniel, was bred by royal decree and born with a peculiar sense of regal entitlement and a permanent look of disdain. He belongs in a Peanuts cartoon—the curmudgeonly dog whose thought balloon continuously registers exasperation with his clueless owners. He refuses to eat except when it’s inconvenient, and is extraordinarily picky, even when fresh organic meat is his for the taking.
Consequently, it’s fascinating to see what Ollie eats in the wild, especially when he’s out of sorts. Invariably, he heads for certain grasses or leaves and, after feasting on bunches of them, is completely cured.
Animal behaviourists realize that animals, across species, appear to have a natural instinct for determining which plants can heal different diseases. Stories abound of animals eating just the right things to heal themselves. After witnessing sick bears eating Ligusticum roots and getting better afterwards, Native Americans dubbed the plants with a name that means ‘bear medicine’.
In her book, Wild Health, animal behaviorist Cindy Engel offers scientific evidence that animals instinctively know how to maintain optimum health. Given a smorgasbord of choice, even animals like rats will choose a nutritionally balanced diet.
Perhaps more extraordinary is the evidence that animals know how to self-medicate against a host of problems, including parasites, infection, skin conditions and accidental poisoning. Scientific evidence shows that animals are somehow able to differentiate among the thousands of toxic secondary compounds in plants that kill internal parasites. A number of species, including rhinoceroses and wild bison, feast on a specific bark known to be toxic to the microbes that cause dysentery.
Even animals in captivity often show a native sense of self-medication superior to their doctors. A captive capuchin monkey with a severe skin infection didn’t get better until given access to tobacco leaves, which cured its skin condition permanently.
All this is relevant to two features in this month’s issue. In our Special Report (pp 10–4), WDDTY publisher Bryan Hubbard has amassed extra-ordinary evidence that the contents of your fridge or larder not only can protect against illness, but may also cure disease once it takes hold. Cancer, asthma, Alzheimer’s, dementia—and a host of other serious and even life-threatening illness—is vanquished by the likes of apple juice, rhubarb, brussels sprouts and blueberries.
Yet, we’re eating less and less real food (p 5). A team that recently analyzed McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets found that barely half of it is chicken—the rest is taste enhancers and other chemicals, including a compound used in Silly Putty and another used in lighter fluid.
The medicine we take is also increasingly dangerous, even contaminated, as was the case of millions of drugs produced by GSK, for which it has been fined by the American Food and Drug Administration (p 6).
Considering an animal’s natural instinct for the healthy, one wonders what animals like Ollie would make of our tendency to consume toxic junk as food and toxic chemicals as medicine.
All of us at WDDTY are shaken to the core by the recent disclosures that most studies in the medical literature are marketing dressed up as research. For as many as 90,000 published drug trials, a drug company hired a PR firm—a ‘medical education and communication company’ (MECC)—to carry out its clinical trials, engaged a ‘ghost’ to write an article with a positive spin, enlisted a prominent academic to put his name to the paper he’s had nothing to do with—and then succeeded in getting it published in a peer-reviewed journal.
This widespread practice came to light a few months ago during the discovery process of a class-action lawsuit against drug manufacturer Wyeth by 14,000 women who developed breast cancer after taking HRT.
The 1500 documents afford an unprecedented glimpse into the underworld of pharmaceutical marketing. The paper trail reveals how an MECC called DesignWrite, hired by Wyeth, launched a major damage-limitation exercise after a major study demonstrated an unequivocal link between HRT and life-threatening illness.
Wyeth’s HRT products had reached annual revenues of $2 billion, but nose-dived by 65 per cent in 2002, when the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study found that hormone replacement therapy—specifically Wyeth’s version—increased the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, stroke and heart disease.
DesignWrite proceeded to flood the professional press with positive reports of Premarin, cast doubt on the WHI, downplayed the cancer-causing potential of HRT and claimed cardiovascular benefits, while promoting unproven uses of HRT such as for preventing dementia.
A few months later, the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, which produces evidence-based consumer-health information, encountered “serious obstacles” in trying to wrest all sponsored published and unpublished studies from Pfizer on its antidepressant reboxetine. Eventually, it emerged that the company had withheld three-quarters of its patient data from unpublished trials. After these hidden data were finally handed over, the Institute concluded that the drug was “overall an ineffective and potentially harmful antidepressant”.
There’s no way to determine the full extent of such dirty research, although one review concluded that as much as three-quarters of every journal is ghosted. As Dr Joseph S. Ross of New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine put it: “It’s almost like steroids and baseball. You don’t know who was using and who wasn’t; you don’t know which articles are tainted and which aren’t.”
These disclosures undermine the entire edifice of modern medicine. The BMJ now plans to encourage efforts to “re-evaluate the integrity of the existing base of research evidence”—in other words, virtually the whole of existing medical research needs to be done all over again.
The most insidious aspect of this story is the topic of this month’s special report—that the extraordinary disease-fighting power of a simple nutrient like vitamin C has been virtually ignored by the modern medical press. The published medical evidence was promising 70 years ago—long before MECCs were around to tinker with the data.
Dr Bruce Moseley, an orthopaedic specialist at Methodist Hospital in Houston, TX, was convinced of the powerful effect of the human mind on healing. He recruited 180 patients with severe knee osteoarthritis and divided them into three groups, two of which underwent true surgery to clear out degenerative tissue and debris. The third group underwent a sham operation: they were surgically prepared, put under anaesthesia and wheeled into the operating room, where incisions were made in their knees, but no procedure was carried out.
Over the next two years, none of the patients knew who had received the real operations and who had received the placebo treatment, yet all three groups reported moderate improvements in pain and joint function. In fact, the placebo group reported better results than some of those who had received the genuine operation.
The mental expectation of healing was enough to marshal the body’s healing mechanisms. The intention, brought about by the expectation of successful surgery, led to physical change (N Engl J Med, 2002; 347: 81–8).
The role of the mind in healing—the subject of Bryan Hubbard’s cover story this month—completely baffles the medical community. Yet, it is well documented that belief in a placebo will bring about the same physiological effects as an active agent—so much so that it causes the drug industry enormous difficulty when designing trials; as so many patients report the same relief and even the same side-effects with a placebo as with the tested drug itself, a placebo is not a true control.
How can belief—and, in this case, a wrongheaded belief—affect the outcome of healing? Some clues come from intriguing brain studies showing that the electrical activity within the brain, and between the brain and other parts of the body, is identical whether we are merely thinking about doing something or actually doing it.
In weightlifters, for instance, the EEG patterns in the brain that are activated to produce specific motor skills become activated while the skill is only being simulated mentally. Indeed, just the thought is enough to produce the neural instructions to carry out the physical act.
In the case of placebos, our bodies don’t distinguish between a chemical process and the thought of a chemical process.
According to a major review, the only factor for survival appears to be a belief that the therapy will work and a willingness to follow it religiously. Patients who stick to their doctor’s orders fared equally well whether taking a drug or a sugar pill. In contrast, those who tended not to survive were those who were lax with their regimens, regardless of whether it was a placebo or an actual drug (BMJ, 2006; 333: 15–9).
Such studies suggest that our beliefs—about our medicine, about the outcome of a health crisis, about our connections to our place in the world—are a more powerful healer than any diet or exercise programme; they protect us against the worst toxins and the greatest adversity.
Knowing this, every doctor now has a duty to never give a negative diagnosis, and every patient has a duty to follow only the regime that he truly believes in. The thought it generates in us—whether positive or negative—is our most potent medicine. May we always use it wisely.
Just occasionally, I come across a doctor willing to break the conspiracy of silence on the damage caused by their tools. My hero of the hour is American psychiatrist Grace E. Jackson, who is utterly and refreshingly horrified by psychiatric and most other forms of pharmaceutical medicine. In fact, so incensed was Jackson over the current state of affairs that she felt compelled to self-publish a whistle-blowing book—Drug-Induced Dementia—that painstakingly catalogues the vast amount of scientific proof that modern medicine is the primary culprit behind all forms of dementia, one of the more rampant epidemic conditions of our time.
One of her more outrageous snippets of information is that, in the 1950s, doctors discovered that synthetic-dye and rocket-fuel derivatives had what they considered to be medicinal effects on psychiatric patients. Chlorpromazine, the first antipsychotic agent, was born.
There was only one hitch: the drugs caused the patient to ape the symptoms of sleeping sickness. The doctors also noted that, over time, the drugs produced all the hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease—abnormal gait, tremor, dementia and involuntary movements. Patients were also stupefied, with no feelings or excitation—in effect, a vegetable.
However, with the sort of logic peculiar to modern medicine, these debilitating effects were welcomed as being better than having a crazed hallucinating patient. Indeed, doctors viewed the arrival of parkinsonian effects as a benchmark of the patient’s therapeutic progress: they were proof-positive that the drugs were working.
Yet, the damage caused by psychiatric medicine is only the tip of the iceberg. As our cover story this month reveals, a number of the major classes of drugs can bring on dementia, including heart drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs, sleeping pills, antidepressants, narcotics, stimulants, anticholinergics and antiepileptics.
As most people over the age of 50 are taking at least one prescription drug, and up to six or more a decade later, it’s small wonder that dementia is one of the world’s fastest-growing disorders, now absorbing one-third of the entire US Medicare bill. It’s now expected that one in four of us will have some form of dementia by the time we reach 80.
This giant problem, created entirely by the pharmaceutical industry, is once again a byproduct of the refusal of our current medicine to consider the body a holistic entity.
In 1970, German physicist Fritz-Albert Popp stumbled upon the fact that humans emit a tiny current of photons, or light, from the DNA of every cell. He also discovered something else remarkable. If a medicine was applied to one part of the body, a massive change occurred in the amount of light emitted not only from where he’d applied the agent, but also from other, more distant parts of the body. Popp soon recognized that this light was a communication channel within a living organism—a means of instantaneous, or ‘non-local’, global signaling.
Popp’s work affords us a glimpse of the body at work as an exquisite, interconnected whole. What affects one part affects every other part simultaneously. Whenever we atomize anything, such as our body—dividing it up and treating each piece separately—we invite calamity.
In 2002, WDDTY learned of plans within the European Union to radically restrict natural medicine across all member countries, starting with laws to create a very low ceiling of ‘safe upper limits’ in vitamins.
Although the laws were ostensibly to create a ‘level playing field’ within the European supplement market, the proposals bore the heavy hand of Big Pharma.
At the time, the solution appeared simple. As most people in the UK use some form of natural medicine, all we needed to do was band together and whip up a national protest to stop them in their tracks.
In early 2003, we invited all the heads of the largest vitamin companies and representatives of all the leading natural medicine organizations—homeopathy, herbal medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture and others—to a meeting in central London.
Many of the organizations never showed up. Of the 50 or so that did, many felt that our concerns were alarmist. Others welcomed the new moves as good for business. The few attempting to fight the legislation were more busy fighting each other.
No group seemed able to see the bigger picture. Each organization was mainly concerned with whether their own business was under fire. If it wasn’t, they weren’t interested. Not my problem.
As publisher Bryan Hubbard makes clear in this month’s cover story, Big Pharma had big plans even then. Without sufficient opposition, within the next year or two, laws will come into effect in the EU that will drastically restrict all access to high-dose vitamins and herbal medicine.
And this pogrom won’t end with Europe. The near-identical international laws that have been drafted within the United Nations suggest that a well-organized, concerted effort is afoot to finish off any forms of alternative options to orthodox medicine.
The plan is to watch Europe closely to assess the level of consumer protest. Thus far, that protest has been minimal. The Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) and Consumers for Health Choice—the two consumer groups that have maintained any sort of consistent attack, challenged the law and lobbied Parliament—are starved of funds.
The individual organizations to this day remain isolationist. Not my problem. This attitude reminds me what Pastor Martin Niemöller reportedly said about the passivity of many Germans towards Nazism:
“First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn’t a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Social Democrats, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn't a Social Democrat;
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn't a Jew;
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”
For all of us wishing to maintain alternatives to drug-based orthodox medicine, these laws are all our problem, and every last one of us has an obligation to speak up now.
In these austere times, President Obama’s Congress and the fledgling UK coalition government are casting around furiously for ways to trim their bloated deficits. Yet, in the midst of all this slashing and burning, healthcare is the area that clearly remains a no-go zone.
In the UK, although Prime Minister David Cameron has been combing through the UK’s £156 billion budget deficit for savings, he remains committed to apportioning even more money to the UK’s National Health Service. Spending is expected to rise every year for the NHS, commensurate with inflation, during his government.
Today, the NHS costs taxpayers about £100 billion each year. That’s about 10 times what was spent (in real terms) in 1948, when it started with a budget of £437 million (which translates to about £9 billion in today’s money). Furthermore, the NHS has recently hugely overspent and is itself estimated to be in debt for £7 billion.
Part of the reason for the vast budget increase has to do with recent modernization efforts. However, by the NHS’ own reckoning, one-fifth of the total budget—or £20 billion—is spent on prescription drugs. Of the total £100 billion NHS cost, 12 per cent (£12 billion) is being spent on new drugs—many of which are merely ‘me-toos’ of earlier drugs.
Meanwhile, the US spends some $2 trillion on all forms of health-care—more than the entire Third World debt combined. Once Obama’s healthcare plan comes into effect, it will cost £700 billion more per year.
Universal healthcare is still a cherished ideal. Although the British NHS and the Obama plan are laudable, the problem isn’t the principle—it’s what the money is being spent on.
In our cover story this month, publisher Bryan Hubbard found that even doctors are now complaining that enormous numbers of expensive procedures and drugs are useless, dangerous, or both. US experts are even asking doctors to nominate their top-five useless treatments, and many are balking at having to keep the list so short.
Topping the list is a wide range of high-profile drugs for a range of diseases from arthritis to ADHD. Despite the claims and the invariably high cost, most of these medications are not safe and have never been proven to work. Also, many of the high-tech, so-called ‘miracle’ treatments most beloved by hospital doctors, such as angioplasty, not only have no proven benefit, but often can kill the patient. In addition, in most cases, the big expensive tests—mammograms, biopsies, electrocardiograms, X-rays—cause or spread cancer and don’t even spot anything useful.
The problem is not simply a waste of lives and money. Useless medicine requires even more expenditure to clean up the mess—$77 billion in extra costs every year in the US alone, as reported in 2000 by the American Medical Association. But because healthcare for all is such a lofty notion (and such a political hot potato), healthcare is never called to account for its expenditures. The National Audit Office readily admits that it never audits whether patients ever get better.
Yet, by asking this simple question and acting on the answer, both Cameron and Obama could make the kindest cut of all.
It’s reassuring to think that there are big organizations out there so wedded to our best interests that they are beyond reproach, impossible to buy or sell. The premiere organization with this kind of impeccable reputation the world over is the World Health Organization, one of original agencies set up by the newly formed United Nations. Its objectives were lofty; as described in its founding constitution, it was intended to “combat disease, especially key infectious diseases, and to promote the general health of the people of the world”.
The WHO, as it’s commonly known, was set up three years after the end of World War II, and its headquarters—as if to underscore its even-handed mandate—were in formerly neutral Switzerland.
At the time of its inception, polio raged around the world so, in short order, the WHO’s main line of focus became infectious disease. In 1980 the WHO triumphantly declared that smallpox had been wiped off the face of the earth and set, as its next target, the eradication of polio.
So, it came as a shock to all of us in these offices to find out just how cozy a relationship there had been between senior members of the WHO and the pharmaceutical industry in the swine-flu affair of last year.
As you may recall, it was the WHO that first raised the alarm over swine flu, predicting a phase-6, or runaway, pandemic that was expected to claim the lives of millions of people just in the US, the UK and Europe alone. This, of course, persuaded countries in Europe and in North America to splash out millions for supplies of Tamiflu and flu vaccines.
Yet, we all now realize that the pandemic never arrived, leaving many countries, including the UK, with huge unused stocks of antivirals and vaccines that were not needed—and lots of egg on its face.
In this month’s special editorial (WDDTY vol 21 no 3), we’re told that senior representatives of the drug companies making the drugs in question funded a group of scientists claiming to be an independent working party on influenza, headed by someone who is among the WHO’s most influential scientists on vaccines. Furthermore, a batch of senior execs met with the WHO’s Director-General to press her into revealing when she was going to announce a phase-6 pandemic. These disquieting relations led to worldwide fear, damage by unnecessary (and dangerous) drugs and, of course, record profits for Big Pharma.
That the line between regulation and commerce is becoming ever thinner is also apparent in the cancer industry. As our cover story reveals, an enormous body of evidence shows that cancer may be caused by bugs after all—specifically, by an imbalance in our usual bacterial flora caused by environmental insults. Yet, every scientist who has ever touched this proposition has been vilified or even imprisoned by the regulatory agencies or big cancer organizations—again largely advised or funded by the pharmaceuticals.
Big Pharma has become rather like the Matrix—invisible, all-powerful, almost impossible to control. One way to make progress in cancer and to stop phony wars like swine flu is to make a clean sweep of all those so-called watchdog agencies that are supposed to be safeguarding the public interest.