Category Archives: cancer

Fred Kummerow, PhD, fought the battle against Trans Fats for over 50 years.

Professor Fred Kummerow passed away on May 31 at his home in Urbana, Ill at age 102. He ate butter, red meat and eggs cooked in butter, along with plenty of fruits and vegetables. He avoided margarine, french fries and other fried foods, along with cookies, cake and crackers which contained artificial trans-fats. He conducted research in his nutrition science laboratory at the University of Illinois up until his death. he authored the book Cholesterol Won’t Kill You, But Trans Fat Could: Separating Scientific Fact from Nutritional Fiction in What You Eat

Fred warned the American public and scientists in the 1950s about the dangers of artificial man-made trans fats. His research was largely ignored and criticized by the food industry and by scientists who were funded by the food industry for decades. Despite mounting evidence in both animals and humans that artificial trans fats dramatically increased the risk of heart attacks, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and probably several forms of cancer, the FDA ignored his pleas to address the issue. In 2009 Professor Kummerow filed a petition with the FDA to ban the use of trans fats. Although federal law required that the FDA respond within 180 days to such a petition, the FDA remained silent. In 2013, approaching the age of 99, Professor Kummerow sued the FDA. Two years latter in 2015 the FDA declared that artificial trans-fats were unsafe and should be eliminated from the US food supply by 2018.

Through his lifelong work, Professor Kummerow has produced a policy change that will likely save hundreds of thousands of lives.

What are trans fats and why have they been in our food for 7 decades?

Although there are some forms of natural trans fats which are safe for consumption when consumed in whole foods, artificial trans-fats are produced by placing unsaturated fat (such as corn oil, soy oil) under high pressure and high temperature conditions and adding hydrogen in the presence of a metal catalyst. These fats were introduced to many American foods because they dramatically extend the shelf life of foods and give a pleasant mouth texture to a variety of processed foods. They remain in many foods still on the shelves today. You cannot rely on labels such as “NO TRANS FATS” OR “TRANS FAT FREE” because food companies are allowed to make this statement as long as the amount of trans fats does not exceed 0.5 grams per serving. No amount is safe!

The Institute of Medicine, on July 10, 2002 declared manufactured trans fatty acid (TFA) a serious danger to the health of our nation with a: “tolerable upper intake level of zero.”  This means there is no safe level of consumption. Despite that strong statement in 2002, it has taken the efforts of an elderly professor, including a lawsuit, to bring the FDA around to finally address the issue.

But it is not over yet, you can bet that the food industry will try to delay the implementation of the ban or possibly even argue against the overwhelming science that supports such a ban.

In the meantime read labels. If any food item contains “partially hydrogenated” oil of any kind or “hydrogenated oil” of any kind it contains trans fats. These foods are typically foods you should not be eating any way because they usually also contain added sugar, refined flour and/or refined easily oxidized inflammatory “vegetable” oils. They are not whole foods and therefore should not be consumed for many reasons. But if you want to eat cake, cookies, crackers, bread, or any other processed foods, beware and read the ingredients so as to at least avoid trans-fats.

You can read about Fred Kummerow, his life and research at these sites:

Fred A. Kummerow, scientist who raised early warnings about trans fats, dies at 102 – The Washington Post

Fred A. Kummerow, an Early Opponent of Trans Fats, Dies at 102 – The New York Times

Fred Kummerow, U. of I. professor who fought against trans fats, dies at 102 – Chicago Tribune

Fred also studied the effects of a oxysterols and oxidized low-density lipoprotein (OxLDL) both of which contribute to atherosclerosis.  In a  2013 publication Professor Kummerow stated

“levels of oxysterols and OxLDL increase primarily as a result of three diet or lifestyle factors: the consumption of oxysterols from commercially fried foods such as fried chicken, fish and french fries; oxidation of cholesterol in vivo driven by the consumption of excess polyunsaturated fatty acids from vegetable oils; and cigarette smoking.”

Yet the American Heart Association continues to recommend increased consumption of polyunsaturated fats from the likes of corn oil, soy oil, cottonseed and similar oils. I have discussed the problems with that advice here and here.

So the next time you avoid trans fats by reading food labels, think of Professor Kummerow who brought light to some very dark areas in the history of nutrition and food in the US.

Eat clean, live clean, and enjoy.

Dr. Bob

Nutrition Journals and the influence of the food industry

Ever wonder why the public is so confused about nutrition recommendations? Just follow the money and you will understand that most of the professional societies that publish nutrition articles are funded by big food companies that are trying to sell more sugar, refined carbs and junk food. I recently read an excellent post about this topic here:

The Vilest Villain: American Society of Nutrition

This theme is repeated by medical journals that are “The Official Journal of the Society of >>>>>>” Just fill in the blanks for just about any medical society. Funding comes from big pharmaceutical companies the same way that funding in the nutrition Journals comes from large (junk) “food” manufacturers.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of very valuable, life-saving drugs out there.

But most chronic human disease in developed societies is generated by various combinations of poor nutrition, lack of exercise, disruption of circadian rhythm, inadequate restorative sleep, stress and lack of social support systems.

The obesity and diabetes epidemics continue to worsen yet the failed dietary advise of major health organizations is slow to respond to the data. Excess refined carbs (especially in the form of “food” made with flour) and added sugar (especially in the form of HFCS) are the major driving forces for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Red meat is not the culprit, provided the meat is properly sourced (hormone and antibiotic free, grass fed) and cooked in a manner that does not create carcinogens and inflammatory mediators (cook with slow, low, moist heat, high temperature grilling and smoking cause problems, but that topic  is for another post).

Americans consume an average 130 pounds per year of added sugar and 140 pounds per year of refined flour. Those are averages so there are many people who consume more. The added sugar is not the white stuff people put in their coffee. It comes in all sorts of forms but is found in energy drinks, soda, lattes and mochas, salad dressing,  ketchup, canned soups, canned vegetables, white AND whole grain breads, pasta (even “whole grain”), crackers, breakfast cereal,  just about any packaged food that has more than one ingredient on the label. These foods represent 70% of the American diet. The problems created by this situation are enormous and will bankrupt our “healthcare system”. This is a cultural and economic problem.

The solutions are simple but largely ignored in our society. We are creatures of habit and convenience.

Eat whole foods, nothing from a package that has more than one ingredient. Eat meat, seafood, poultry, fresh organic vegetables (6-9 servings per day), fresh organic fruits, and nuts. Meat should be hormone and antibiotic free (free range, grass fed). Seafood should be wild. Poultry should be free range and the eggs should come from free range chickens, ducks, geese.

Do not worry about eating fat as long as it comes from healthy animals and sources such as coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil and clarified butter (ghee).

Do not use any “vegetable” oils (corn, soy, and other oils from grains or seeds) The vegetable oils are highly refined and inflammatory. They contain easily oxidized omega 6 fats that feed the production of inflammatory mediators in your body and create oxidized LDL leading to atherosclerosis.

Exercise daily, preferably outside in a green space. Twice per week spend 20-30 minutes  doing resistance training (lift weights, work against the resistance of bands, use your own body weight doing pushups, pull-ups etc)

Reduce stress with mediation, yoga, tai chi, dancing, engaging in fun sports and social activities. Walk on the beach, by a lake, river or stream, in the woods, listen to music.

Get some sunshine regularly especially during the morning to get your circadian rhythm in order and to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D.

Spend time with family, friends and colleagues who are supportive and fun to be around.

Sleep in the dark.

Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Avoid TV, computer screens and other electronic devices for at least 2 hours before bedtime.

Unplug from the internet, email, etc on a regular basis.

We evolved as hunter-gatherers.

Peace

Bob Hansen MD

 

 

Great lecture videos available on line

In January I attended the annual meeting of Physicians for Ancestral Health. There were great presentations on many topics related to lifestyle and health. Take a look at the website linked below to learn about many topics relating nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle to health.

Open Video Archives | Physicians for Ancestral Health

I presented a lecture titled “The Lipoprotein Retention Model, What’s Missing?” This discusses many factors (root causes) that contribute to the formation of plaque in arteries and what can be done to prevent this insidious process by adopting a “Paleo Lifestyle“.

Other videos include:

Paleopathology and the Origins of the Paleo Diet. Keynote speaker Michael Eades MD, author of several books and a well known website.

Medicine Without Evolution is like Engineering Without Physics– Randolph M Neese, MD Director of the Arizona State University Center for Evolution.

The Roles of Intermittent Fasting and Carbohydrates in Cancer Therapy– Dawn Lemanne, MD, MPH, integrative oncologist.

 23 and Me: Practical First Steps-Deborah Gordon MD, discusses a practical approach to utilizing information from this genetic test.

Histamine Intolerance-Why (food) Freshness Matters– Georgia Ede MD.

 

Mood and Memory: How Sugar Affects Brain Chemistry-Georgia Ede, MD.

Systems Analysis and Multiple Sclerosis– Tommy Wood MD, author, blogger and lecturer, frequently interviewed on topics related to exercise and nutrition.

Cholesterol OMG– Jeffry Gerber, MD “The Diet Doctor” in Denver Colorado

Bob Hansen MD

 

 

 

Babies born with more than 200 toxic chemicals in their blood

The  Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non profit organization devoted to protecting the public from one of our greatest health threats, pollution in all of it’s forms. The EWG supported a study in which newborn infants were tested for known industrial and agricultural toxic chemicals. All of the infants had > 200 and some up to 300 toxic chemicals found circulating in their blood at birth. These babies were not born to parents living in or near toxic waste dumps, or working in dangerous industrial environments. They were born to parents living like you and me. You can read about this and many other issues here.

The 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act grandfathered >70,000 industrial and agricultural chemicals already in use as “safe” and provided for no effective standardized testing requirements for the introduction of new chemicals. Heather White, Executive Director of the EWG was recently interviewed for an  Autoimmune Summit. I have attended this health related summit on-line while recovering from my surgery and was shocked to hear and then read about out environmental exposure and lack of protection.

We often think about pollution and environmental toxins as contributing to cancer, birth defects, asthma and similar problems but auto-immunity is another problem with links to our toxic exposure.

During the Auto-Immune Summit Aristo Vojdani, Ph.D., M.Sc., M.T. scientist and editor of a peer-reviewed journal on auto-immunity, estimated that 60% of auto-immune diseases are “triggered” by environmental toxins, 30% triggered by dietary components, and 10% triggered by infectious disease. He distinguished triggers from predisposing factors which represent the physiologic milieu that leads to auto-immunity. This terminology of triggers vs. predisposing factors may seem confusing and arbitrary. In a nutshell, underlying the molecular mimicry theory of auto-immunity is “leaky gut”.  The “gateway to autoimmunity” is “leaky gut” (increased intestinal permeability) which allows foreign substances to cross the intestinal barrier, enter the circulation and challenge our immune system. Leaky gut  has many contributing factors including but not limited to diet, stress, gut dysbiosis and infections.  Although the % of auto-immune disease that is “triggered by” environmental toxins (versus diet and infections) remains speculative, there is mounting evidence that all of these factors contribute to greater or lesser degrees in various patients.

The paleo community has often stressed the importance of eliminating specific foods and replacing sugar laden flour foods with nutrient dense foods. But emphasis has also been placed on eating organic foods to avoid pesticides, herbicides and hormones.

Dr Vojdani has suggested that in addition to the gut-immune related mechanisms of molecular mimicry, environmental toxins, especially heavy metals, BPA and organic solvents,  act not only has foreign invaders stimulating the immune system but also stimulate the immune system by causing tissue damage directly and thereby presenting damaged or transformed tissue to the immune system as foreign. Environmental toxins do not require a leaky gut to enter our bodies. Many are absorbed through our lungs and skin, and many are directly absorbed through our guts even in the absence of a “Leaky gut”. Heavy metals including mercury, lead and cadmium do not require a leaky gut for intestinal absorption, nor do pesticides, herbicides or hormones administered to the animal we consume. They wreak havoc not only by directly damaging our organs but also by altering our immune system.

Dr Noel Rose, Director of Center for Autoimmune Research (John’s Hopkin’s University) and Dr. Ahmet Hoke, Director, Division of Neuomuscular Disease (John’s Hopkins NIMH Center) opine that our rising rates of auto-immune disease are the result of our “unsuccessful adaptation to new environmental agents”. (See Forward written in Last Best Cure | Donna Jackson Nakazawa.)

The  Government Accountability Office (GAO) is the Federal Government’s internal watchdog agency. A GAO report ( U.S. GAO – Environmental Justice: EPA Needs to Take Additional Actions to Help Ensure Effective Implementation) revealed that 85% of the new chemicals introduced into our environment are not accessed for safety. The  Environmental Protection Agency receives 90 days notice prior to the introduction of new chemicals (industrial, agricultural, etc). Industry does not have the burden of proof relative to safety. Instead, the EPA must determine, within 90 days, if a new chemical is “safe”. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Beyond that issue we have the problem of multiple  low grade simultaneous exposures. If a given level of toxin is “safe” based on short term studies of animals or humans, how do we know that a combination of hundreds or thousands of toxins over many years are “safe”. Likewise, if  air concentrations or water concentrations of a single toxin are deemed “safe” how can we possible test the combined effects of hundreds and thousands of environmental toxins in our air, water, soil and food?

The EPA, created under the Nixon administration, was decimated during the Bush administration when budget cuts resulted in the loss of > 50% of it’s senior scientists. With that executive action most of the EPA’s institutional memory was lost and along with it many of the already limited safeguards we had in place.

The concept of “eating clean” minimizes exposure to the potentially harmful effects of anti-nutrients  and immune stimulants (harmful plant lectins and saponins, excess phytic acid, excess omega 6 fatty acids) and more importantly encourages the consumption of nutrient dense foods (lots of colorful vegetables, grass fed meats, wild seafood). But “eating clean” also requires avoiding environmental toxins, including pesticides and herbicides.

To achieve that goal within a budget you can consult the EWG’s lists of foods that have the most and the least amount/variety of pesticides/herbicides. These lists are called the “dirty dozen” and the “clean fifteen”.

To avoid heavy metal exposure (especially mercury) eat seafood that is low on the food chain (less opportunity to accumulate mercury in their tissue). Many people do not realize that most of the mercury in our seafood comes from burning coal. Multiple heavy metals are present in coal. When coal is burned to generate electricity the heavy metals are released into the air and are then washed into our rivers, streams, lakes and oceans where they can accumulate in fish. As the heavy metals work up the food chain they accumulate in tissues. The best/safeest sources of healthy omega three fats are in smaller cold water fish (sardines, anchovies, small mackeral, salmon, trout). And do not forget oysters, scallops,  mussels,  and clams which may have less amounts of omega 3 fats but are safe with respect to heavy metals being low down on the food chain.

The concept of “living clean” involves more than being selective about food and cooking techniques. It involves avoiding exposure to toxic chemicals which can be found in our water (drinking and bathing), air, soil, clothing, furniture, make-up, deodorant, toothpaste and household cleaners. You can learn about these exposures at the EWG’s website. Consumer Guides | Environmental Working Group

Here is a fact that might get your attention, 90% of red lipstick has mercury in it. That’s right, 90%. Every day women around the world are painting their lips with lipstick that has mercury. The average American uses 10-12 personal care products per day which exposes us to 120 or more toxic ingredients. The law that regulates personal care products was written in 1938 (after a woman became blind from using mascara). It needs to be updated and there is much lobbying against better regulation (lots of money in personal care products an make-up). In the meantime we need to be more aware about what we put on and in our bodies.

Our environment is filled with “endocrine disruptors” which mimic and interfere with our hormones. The most common one is BPA (plastic) which has estrogen like effects.

What are our greatest exposures to BPA? Answer: plastic lids on coffee/tea to-go cups, plastic bottles of soda and plastic bottles containing citrus juices. Heat and acid both leech BPA (and probably other toxins) out of plastic into the liquids we drink. The most acidic beverage by far is SODA (as low as pH 2.2). So toxic chemical exposure is yet another reason to avoid soda. Do not serve your guests soda or water in plastic containers at parties. Set an example. Store your foods in glass containers and especially do not put warm or hot food into plastic containers. Get a water filter for your drinking water. Some even go so far as to get a water filter for their showers and baths.

Finally, flame retardants (furniture and clothing) required by law represent major health hazards by filling the air of our homes and exposing our skin to toxic substances. Mothers and toddlers have an estimated 3 times greater risk for this exposure which has been linked to neuro-development disorders, ADHD and endocrine disruption. Firefighters have very elevated levels of toxic chemicals derived from flame retardants. Some patients with a variety of illnesses have seen improvement in symptoms by having their furniture re-upholstered with coverings that do not contain flame retardants (anecdotal reports). Consider getting a HEPA air filter for your home and office. Remember hurricane Katrina? Remember the great number of illnesses reported by families made homeless by Katrina who were relocated to live in temporary portable housing. Those buildings were releasing formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals and produced illness within just a few days.

In my next post I will provide the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” lists to help you make decisions about organic food purchases if you cannot afford to purchase 100% organic. In the meantime check out the EWG website. Also coming soon is a recipe for tumeric-ginger tea/marinade as an anti-inflammatory alternative to NSAIDs.

Live Clean and Prosper

Bob Hansen MD.

Stress Reduction and Health

Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) has been demonstrated to have beneficial effects relative to several physiologic measurements in humans. These include improved immune status, decreased inflammation as measured by blood tests, improved DNA repair (increased telomere length), and alterations in metabolic activity in areas of the brain that are viewed as beneficial relative to stress, anxiety and pain as measured by functional MRI scan of the brain (fMRI). Similarly other forms of meditation have been studied relative to cardiovascular risk in humans. The results indicate that stress reduction from meditation can decrease the “composite risk of death, heart attack and stroke” by 48% in patients who have experienced a previous heart attack. (1)

“A selected mind-body intervention, the TM program, significantly reduced risk for mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke in coronary heart disease patients. These changes were associated with lower blood pressure and psychosocial stress factors. Therefore, this practice may be clinically useful in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease.”

This degree of protection exceeds the benefits of statin drugs in patients who have had a heart attack  and exceeds the risk reduction accomplished by cardiac rehabilitation exercise programs.

A review of studies on the effects of meditation on cardiovascular disease reported: (2)

Psychosocial stress is a nontraditional risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality that may respond to behavioral or psychosocial interventions. …. Randomized controlled trials, meta-analyses, and other controlled studies indicate this meditation technique reduces risk factors and can slow or reverse the progression of pathophysiological changes underlying cardiovascular disease. Studies with this technique have revealed reductions in blood pressure, carotid artery intima-media thickness, myocardial ischemia, left ventricular hypertrophy, mortality, and other relevant outcomes. The magnitudes of these effects compare favorably with those of conventional interventions for secondary prevention

Dr. Dean Ornish utilized both meditation and yoga training in his lifestyle intervention program along with moderate exercise, smoke cessation and elimination of junk food (low fat vegan diet). The results demonstrated reduced coronary artery plaque within 2 years. Although many have attributed this to the vegan low fat diet, I have suggested in the past that the beneficial results were accomplished by stress reduction, exercise, smoke cessation, and elimination of junk food (especially refined sugar, flour, trans-fats and refined vegetable oils)

Our culture is not attuned to the regular practice of meditation or yoga. When I recommend stress reduction with these techniques to my patients few pursue it despite providing them with detailed descriptions of the physical benefits demonstrated by medical studies. One does not need to become a Buddhist in order to benefit from the practice of meditation. In the early 1970s the first stress reduction clinic utilizing MBSR(Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) and Yoga was established at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center by Jon Kabat Zinn PhD. Since then many studies have documented the benefits of stress reduction relative to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, chronic pain management, depression and anxiety.

Patients who have experienced their first major depressive episode can reduce the risk of a subsequent major depressive episode by 50% simply practicing MBSR regularly.

Unlike drugs, angioplasty, coronary stents, surgery, and injections, meditation and yoga have no potential negative side effects or complications. They simply require time, practice and a modest amount of training. Inexpensive self-help books, CDs and on-line resources are available to get started. Measurable physiologic benefits are experienced within a few weeks. Blood pressure drops, stress hormones decrease, blood sugars come down, insulin sensitivity improves, immune cells work better, sleep improves, suffering from chronic pain decreases, and functional status improves. That’s a considerable amount of benefit achieved by simply sitting quietly and observing your breath as it moves in and out of your body.

Meditation and yoga are two ways to reduce stress. For a healthy life to achieve stress reduction we must examine many areas. What aspects of daily life can increase and decrease stress and our physiologic response to stress?

Important factors to consider include social isolation, physical and social contact with friends/family/pets, meaningful work, laughter and humor, time spent outdoors, exercise, proper sleep habits and exposure to natural rather than artificial light. These all play significant roles in governing our stress levels, physiologic response to stress and the attendant changes in health.

Social isolation is harmful while regular contact with family and friends is beneficial. Caring for a pet seems to reduce blood pressure and enhance longevity. Engaging in meaningful work for pay or as a volunteer is essential for health, longevity and happiness. Spending time outdoors regularly and cycling your daily activity with the sun (circadian rhythm normalization) are essential to health and stress reduction. Laughter and social interaction provide healing while rumination over problems causes illness. All of these aspects to healthy living deserve attention but if you are ill, overweight, suffer chronic pain, disability or substance abuse then meditation and yoga can have profoundly beneficial effects. When combined with a Paleolithic diet and adequate restorative sleep, stress reduction techniques provide a powerful healing pathway.

Below is a long list of links to articles related to stress reduction, meditation, and yoga in the areas of chronic pain, cardiovascular disease, cancer, pre-natal care, anxiety disorders, depression, insomnia, smoke cessation, burnout, immune function, inflammation, migraine, blood pressure control, traumatic brain injury and even psoriasis.

Read to your heart’s content.

Bob Hansen MD

(1) Stress reduction in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: randomized, controlled trial of transcendental meditation and health education in Blacks.

(2) Psychosocial stress and cardiovascular disease Part 2: effectiveness of the Transcendental Meditation program in treatment and prevention.

Here is the long list of other references. I have tried to group them in categories. There is allot of overlap between categories so my classification is somewhat arbitrary.

Asthma

Yoga intervention for adults with mild-to-moderate asthma: a pilot study.

Cardiovascular Disease:

Stress reduction in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: randomized, controlled trial of transcendental meditation and health education in Blacks.

Usefulness of the transcendental meditation pro… [Am J Cardiol. 1996] – PubMed – NCBI

A randomised controlled trial of stress reduction for hypertension in older African Americans.

Effect of meditation on endothelial function in Black Americans with metabolic syndrome: a randomized trial.

Is there a role for stress management in reducing hypertension in African Americans?

Trial of stress reduction for hypertension in older African Americans. II. Sex and risk subgroup analysis.

Yoga for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction for prehypertension.

Yoga Nidra relaxation increases heart rate variability and is unaffected by a prior bout of Hatha yoga.

Influence of psychosocial factors and biopsychosocial interventions on outcomes after myocardial infarction.

Influence of psychosocial factors and biopsychosocial interventions on outcomes after myocardial infarction.

Trial of relaxation in reducing coronary risk: four year follow up.

When and why do heart attacks occur? Cardiovascular triggers and their potential role.

Emotional stressors trigger cardiovascular events.

How brain influences neuro-cardiovascular dysfunction.

CNS effects:

Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation

Central and autonomic nervous system interaction is altered by short-term meditation

Neruoimaging and EEG

Neural mechanisms of mindfulness and meditation: Evidence from neuroimaging studies.

Short-term meditation induces white matter changes in the anterior cingulate

Mechanisms of white matter changes induced by meditation

Meditation’s impact on default mode network and hippocampus in mild cognitive impairment: a pilot study.

Mindfulness starts with the body: somatosensory attention and top-down modulation of cortical alpha rhythms in mindfulness meditation.

Effects of mindfulness meditation training on anticipatory alpha modulation in primary somatosensory cortex.

Effects of mindfulness meditation training on anticipatory alpha modulation in primary somatosensory cortex.

Cancer:

Increased mindfulness is related to improved stress and mood following participation in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program in individuals with cancer.

Impact of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on attention, rumination and resting blood pressure in women with cancer: a waitlist-controlled study.

A non-randomized comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and healing arts programs for facilitating post-traumatic growth and spirituality in cancer outpatients.

One year pre-post intervention follow-up of psychological, immune, endocrine and blood pressure outcomes of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in breast and prostate cancer outpatients.

Impact of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on sleep, mood, stress and fatigue symptoms in cancer outpatients.

Keeping the balance–an overview of mind-body therapies in pediatric oncology.

Randomised controlled trials of yoga interventions for women with breast cancer: a systematic literature review.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction in relation to quality of life, mood, symptoms of stress and levels of cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and melatonin in breast and prostate cancer outpatients.

A pilot study evaluating the effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction on psychological status, physical status, salivary cortisol, and interleukin-6 among advanced-stage cancer patients and their caregivers.

Can diet in conjunction with stress reduction affect the rate of increase in prostate specific antigen after biochemical recurrence of prostate cancer?

Meditation, melatonin and breast/prostate cancer: hypothesis and preliminary data.

Diabetes

Mindfulness-based stress reduction is associated with improved glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a pilot study.

Immune System:

Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation.

Insomnia and Sleep Physiology.

Mind-body interventions for the treatment of insomnia: a review.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction compared with cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of insomnia comorbid with cancer: a randomized, partially blinded, noninferiority trial.

Experienced mindfulness meditators exhibit higher parietal-occipital EEG gamma activity during NREM sleep.

I-CAN SLEEP: rationale and design of a non-inferiority RCT of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the treatment of Insomnia in CANcer survivors.

New insights into circadian aspects of health and disease.

Irritable Bowel

Mindfulness-based stress reduction for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms: a randomized wait-list controlled trial.

 

Pain:

A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation.

The validation of an active control intervention for Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

[Mindfulness-based therapeutic approaches: benefits for individuals suffering from pain].

Mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and Zen meditation for depression, anxiety, pain, and psychological distress.

Mindfulness starts with the body: somatos… [Front Hum Neurosci. 2013] – PubMed – NCBI

Altered anterior insula activation during anticipation and experience of painful stimuli in expert meditators.

Differential effects on pain intensity and unpleasantness of two meditation practices.

Self-directed Mindfulness Training and Improvement in Blood Pressure, Migraine Frequency, and Quality of Life.

Effectiveness of mindfulness meditation (Vipassana) in the management of chronic low back pain.

Mindfulness meditation in the control of severe headache.

The clinical use of mindfulness meditation for the self-regulation of chronic pain.

An outpatient program in behavioral medicine for chronic pain patients based on the practice of mindfulness meditation: theoretical considerations and preliminary results.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction for chronic pain conditions: variation in treatment outcomes and role of home meditation practice.

Psych, Depression, Anxiety, Burnout, Students

Mindfulness meditation practices as adjunctive treatments for psychiatric disorders.

Reducing psychological distress and obesity through Yoga practice

Yoga and social support reduce prenatal depression, anxiety and cortisol.

Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being [Internet].

Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Tai chi training reduces self-report of inattention in healthy young adults.

Mindfulness for teachers: A pilot study to assess effects on stress, burnout and teaching efficacy.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Low-Income, Predominantly African American Women With PTSD and a History of Intimate Partner Violence.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for generalized anxiety disorder.

Three-year follow-up and clinical implications of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Enhanced response inhibition during intensive meditation training predicts improvements in self-reported adaptive socioemotional functioning.

Intensive meditation training improves perceptual discrimination and sustained attention.

Home-based deep breathing for depression in patients with coronary heart disease: a randomised controlled trial.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction lowers psychological distress in medical students.

Yoga and exercise for symptoms of depression and anxiety in people with poststroke disability: a randomized, controlled pilot trial.

The effect of yoga on coping strategies among intensive care unit nurses.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health-related quality of life in a heterogeneous patient population.

Developing mindfulness in college students through movement-based courses: effects on self-regulatory self-efficacy, mood, stress, and sleep quality.

Differential effects of mindful breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and loving-kindness meditation on decentering and negative reactions to repetitive thoughts.

Psychological and neural mechanisms of trait mindfulness in reducing depression vulnerability.

A narrative review of yoga and mindfulness as complementary therapies for addiction.

The acute effects of yogic breathing exercises on craving and withdrawal symptoms in abstaining smokers.

Yoga and massage therapy reduce prenatal depression and prematurity.

Mind-body interventions during pregnancy for preventing or treating women’s anxiety.

Misc. and General

Mindfulness-based interventions for physical conditions: a narrative review evaluating levels of evidence.

Evaluation of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program for caregivers of children with chronic conditions.

Empirical explorations of mindfulness: conceptual and methodological conundrums.

Mindfulness meditation: do-it-yourself medicalization of every moment.

Becoming conscious: the science of mindfulness.

Meditate to medicate.

Mindfulness in medicine.

Cultivating mindfulness: effects on well-being.

Mind-body medicine. An introduction and review of the literature.

Tai chi chuan in medicine and health promotion.

Tai chi/yoga effects on anxiety, heartrate, EEG and math computations.

Mindfulness Research Update: 2008.

Development and preliminary evaluation of a telephone-based mindfulness training intervention for survivors of critical illness.

A randomized controlled trial of Koru: a mindfulness program for college students and other emerging adults.

Hair Cortisol as a Biomarker of Stress in Mindfulness Training for Smokers.

A review of the literature examining the physiological processes underlying the therapeutic benefits of Hatha yoga.

Body Awareness: a phenomenological inquiry into the common ground of mind-body therapies.

Cortical dynamics as a therapeutic mechanism for touch healing.

Establishing key components of yoga interventions for musculoskeletal conditions: a Delphi survey.

Hatha yoga on body balance.

Yoga might be an alternative training for the quality of life and balance in postmenopausal osteoporosis.

Becoming conscious: the science of mindfulness.

Organ Transplant

Mindfulness meditation to reduce symptoms after organ transplant: a pilot study.

Post Traumatic Brain Injury

A pilot study examining the effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction on symptoms of chronic mild traumatic brain injury/postconcussive syndrome.

Psoriasis

Influence of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention on rates of skin clearing in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis undergoing phototherapy (UVB) and photochemotherapy (PUVA).

Telemorase, DNA, Genes

Rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators.

Can meditation slow rate of cellular aging? Cognitive stress, mindfulness, and telomeres.

Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators.

Contemplative practice, chronic fatigue, and telomerase activity: a comment on Ho et al.

Toward a unified field of study: longevity, regeneration, and protection of health through meditation and related practices.

 

The Bacteria in your Gut are essential to your health Part I

Our human body consists of about 100 trillion cells but we carry about 1000 trillion bacteria in our intestines, that represents 10 times the amount of our own cells. (1) These bacteria are variously called our micro-flora, microbiome, gut flora, etc, along with viruses and other organisms that co-exist and co-evolved with us. Advances in rapid gene identification have enabled an explosion of knowledge related to our micro-flora, health and disease. We each carry an estimated 500 to 1000 different species of bacteria in our intestines and the balance/mix of these bacterial species can have profoundly positive or negative affects on our health. Patterns of micro-flora have been identified for a variety of human disorders including obesity, diabetes type I, several kinds of cancer and  inflammatory bowel disease to name a few. The issue of association vs. causation remains to be resolved but the beneficial and therapeutic effects of pro-biotics and fecal transplant (in rodent and human studies) in a variety of situations along with the observed deleterious effects of interrupting our micro-flora speak in favor of a causative or contributory role. (2) (3)

Accumulating evidences indicate that some diseases are triggered by abnormalities of the gut microbiota. Among these, immune-related diseases can be the promising targets for probiotcs. Several studies have proved the efficacy of probiotics for preventing such diseases including cancers, infections, allergies, inflammatory bowel diseases and autoimmune diseases. Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota (LcS) is one of the most popular probiotics, benefits of which in health maintenance and disease control have been supported by several science-based evidences.(2)

Early microbial colonization of the gut reduces the incidence of infectious, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Recent population studies reveal that childhood hygiene is a significant risk factor for development of inflammatory bowel disease, thereby reinforcing the hygiene hypothesis and the potential importance of microbial colonization during early life. (3)

Early-life environment significantly affects both microbial composition of the adult gut and mucosal innate immune function. We observed that a microbiota dominated by lactobacilli may function to maintain mucosal immune homeostasis and limit pathogen colonization. (3)

The human GI tract starts with the mouth and ends with the rectum. In between lay the esophagus, stomach, and intestines which consist of the duodenum, jejunum, ileum, and colon.

The surface area of the intestines equals that of a tennis court providing a huge area for absorption, digestion and interaction between our immune system and the micro-flora. This large surface area is the result of the intestinal micro-villi which produce an undulating surface resembling a series of peaks and valleys. The constant interplay between our immune system (4) and our micro-flora from birth to death along with the signaling and communication that occurs between our micro-flora and our nervous system (5,6,7) present two physiologic mechanisms for potential symbiosis (mutually beneficial interaction) vs dysbiosis (disease causing relationship).

Before birth the mouth, skin and intestine of the fetus is sterile. The first major introduction of bacteria to the infant occurs with birth  when the infant swallows bacteria in the mother’s birth canal and the infant’s skin becomes colonized by the mother’s bacteria. Infants born by cesarean section lack this initial exposure and they suffer increased risk of allergic and auto-immune disease (8). The rate of cesarean section in the US is now about 30 % and along with that increase there has been an observed increase in allergy, auto-immune and other diseases.

The second major addition to human gut and skin flora occurs with breast feeding and again breast-fed infants show decreased rates of allergy and auto-immune disease as well as decreased infections compared to bottle fed infants.

The interaction between the micro-flora and the immune system presents many complex relationships and interactions. Immune tolerance allows the immune system to recognize “self” and “friendly bacteria”  limiting the development of auto-immune disease and enhancing anti-inflammatory processes. At the other extreme recognition of “non-self”  allows for the recognition and disposal of “foreign” invaders such as infections or mutated cancer cells.

“The Old Friends Hypothesis”
Common organisms interact with dendritic cells in the GI tract, leading to increased maturation of dendritic cells. When there is interaction with these organisms again, the dendritic cells increase Treg maturation; not Th1 or Th2. This increases the baseline amount of anti-inflammatory cytokines, producing a Bystander Suppression. Another consequence of the increased number of mature dendritic cells is as they interact with self antigens, they increase the number Treg specific to these antigens. This is referred to as Specific Suppression. Together these two arms lead to tolerance of both self antigens as well as those of helpful gut organisms. (8)

Translation:  Treg or Regulatory T cells regulate the immune system and help prevent auto-immune disease and allergic reactions. Th1 and Th2,  T helper cells , on the other hand, increase inflammation and help our bodies defend against infection. The balance between Tregs and Th1, Th2 cells governs inflammatory responses.

Premature infants have an increased risk of a developing a very severe illness called necrotizing enterocolitis. Human studies have demonstrated significant risk reduction for this problem with the administration of pro-biotics to infants in neonatal intensive care units. (9)

Similarly, administration of pro-biotics during the first few years of life (to mother and child)  have been associated with decreased risk of eczema in children. While some studies suggest reduction of allergies and asthma in children, the regular use of probiotics remains undecided relative to preventing food allergies or asthma (10, 11).

Due to the recent exponential increase in food allergies and atopic disorders, effective allergy prevention has become a public health priority in many developed regions. Important preventive strategies include the promotion of breastfeeding and vaginal deliveries, judicious use of perinatal antibiotics, as well as the avoidance of maternal tobacco smoking. Breastfeeding for at least 6 months and introduction of complementary solids from 4-6 months are generally recommended. Complex oligosaccharides in breast milk support the establishment of bifidobacteria in the neonatal gut which stimulate regulatory T lymphocyte responses and enhance tolerance development…Perinatal supplementation with probiotics and/or prebiotics may reduce the risk of atopic dermatitis, but no reliable effect on the prevention of food allergy or respiratory allergies has so far been found. A randomized trial on maternal fish oil supplementation during pregnancy found that atopic dermatitis and egg sensitization in the first year of life were significantly reduced, but no preventive effect for food allergies was demonstrated. (10)

Thus birth by cesarean section increases risk and  breast feeding decreases risk of immune related problems (allergies, auto-immune disease and infection ). Use of probiotics for mother and child decrease the risk of eczema but the use of probiotics in preventing asthma or food allergy remains unsettled. There are a host of possible probiotics available that include various combinations of “healthy bacteria”. Future posts will discuss some of these.

Our micro-flora are constantly exposed to potential changing agents. Known influences include antibiotics (as medications or in the foods that we eat), stress, sleep, and diet. Because of the ubiquitous use of antibiotics in agriculture and animal husbandry, and the sometimes excessive use of antibiotics in medicine our microbiome is frequently changed by external factors. Many experts on the microbiome  consider these influences harmful and attribute the rising rates of several diseases as consequences of disruption in our gut flora.

Clostridium Difficile Colitis , a serious infection or overgrowth of the bacterium Clostridium difficile in the intestine occurs most commonly as a result of antibiotic administration to treat infections. This serious problem responds to anti-biotic treatment (ironically both the cause and cure) 90% of the time with the first round of treatment but there is a high incidence of recurrence due to the fact that C-difficile spores are resistant to antibiotics and can cause recurrent infection. In refractory or recurrent C-difficile cases a fecal transplant (FMT or fecal microbiota transplant) from a healthy human results in a 90 to 95% cure rate with the first treatment.

Antibiotic usage disrupts the normal gut flora and leads to an increased predisposition to CDI. The risk of recurrent CDI after initial treatment of the first infection is approximately 20–25% [Kelly and Lamont, 2008; Khanna et al. 2012g] and is further increased up to 60% with the use of additional systemic antibiotics and subsequent CDI recurrences [Hu et al. 2009]. The pathophysiology of recurrent CDI involves ongoing disruption of the normal fecal flora and an inadequate host immune response. Standard CDI treatment with antibiotics such as metronidazole and vancomycin further disrupts colonic microbial communities that normally keep expansion of C. difficile populations in check. Since C. difficile spores are resistant to antibiotic therapy for CDI, they can germinate to vegetative forms after treatment has been discontinued and lead to recurrent CDI. (12)

The authors of this study review the data for fecal microbiota transplant and summarize by stating:

Therefore, existing literature suggests that fecal transplant is safe and effective with over 500 cases of recurrent CDI with no serious adverse events reported to date. FMT appears to be an appropriate treatment option for multiple CDI recurrences and may be considered for refractory moderate to severe C. difficile diarrhea, failing standard therapy. The FDA had recently announced that an Investigational New Drug Application would be required for use of FMT for CDI, but this was later changed to the use of an informed consent process to ensure communication of potential risks.

In the area of obesity rodent studies have demonstrated that fecal transplants from thin to obese subjects results in significant weight loss. Measurable differences in the microbiome of obese vs thin humans have been identified.

The prevalence of obesity and related disorders such as metabolic syndrome has vastly increased throughout the world. Recent insights have generated an entirely new perspective suggesting that our microbiota might be involved in the development of these disorders. Studies have demonstrated that obesity and metabolic syndrome may be associated with profound microbiotal changes, and the induction of a metabolic syndrome phenotype through fecal transplants corroborates the important role of the microbiota in this disease. (13)

The issue of gut flora and obesity deserves a dedicated post. Multiple research articles and review articles have been published on the topic of fecal transplantation in relation to obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune disease and cancer. (14,15,16)

Diabetes, obesity, allergy, auto-immune disease, infections, psychiatric disorders and cancer represent examples of the potential interplay between the human microbiome, human health and disease. Multiple sources of information suggest a cause and effect relationship. The results of fecal transplantation in human and rodent studies, manipulation of the gut flora with pro-biotics and pre-biotics, data on the effects of vaginal vs cesarean delivery, and the benefits of breast feeding all proclaim the importance of our micro-flora.

Most traditional cultures have one or more forms of fermented foods. Examples include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kim chee, beet kvass, kombucha. Almost any food can be fermented to produce health promoting probiotics and there is a growing movement for home-fermentation and/or consumption of purchased fermented foods. In addition to the pro-biotic nature of fermented foods and beverages, fermentation offers other potential health benefits. These include reduction of the anti-nutrients found  in various neolithic  foods (such as mineral binding phytic acid found in grains and legumes, digestive enzyme inhibitors found in soy and other legumes). Other potential health benefits include the production of Vitamin K2 found in many fermented foods.

This discussion barely scratches the surface of gut flora, health and disease. Future posts will address how our gut bacteria produce essential nutrients and affect mental health as well as physical health. Other important topics include how our activity, food, sleep and stress affect the our gut ecology. The system is dynamic with effects going in both directions.

Following the references below you will find links to NPR discussions of related topics. You can choose to read the articles and/or listen to the NPR interviews and reports.

Peace, happiness and longevity.

BOB

(1) Microbes in Gastrointestinal Health and Disease

(2) Probiotics as efficient immunopotentiators: Translational role in cancer prevention

(3) Environmentally-acquired bacteria influence microbial diversity and natural innate immune responses at gut surfaces.

(4) Has the microbiota played a critical role in the evolution of the adaptive immune system?

(5) It’s a Gut Feeling – how the gut microbiota affect… [J Physiol. 2014] – PubMed – NCBI

(6) Metabolic tinkering by the gut microbiome: Impl… [Gut Microbes. 2014] – PubMed – NCBI

(7) The gut-brain axis rewired: adding a functional vaga… [FASEB J. 2014] – PubMed – NCBI

(8) Cesarean versus vaginal delivery: long-term infant outcomes and the hygiene hypothesis.

(9) Probiotics for prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants.

(10) Preventing atopy and allergic disease.

(11) Gut microbiota and allergic disease: new findings.

(12) Clostridium Difficile Colitis ,

(13) Gut microbiome, obesity, and metabolic dysfunc… [J Clin Invest. 2011] – PubMed – NCBI

(14) Fecal microbiota transplantation: indications, methods, evidence, and future directions.

(15) Fecal microbiota transplantation: past, present and future.

(16) Therapeutic potential of fecal microbiota transplantation.

Here are the NPR and other links.

Interview: Martin Blaser, Author Of ‘Missing Microbes’ : NPR

FDA Backs Off On Regulation Of Fecal Transplants : Shots – Health News : NPR

Human Microbiome Project – Home | NIH Common Fund

Staying Healthy May Mean Learning To Love Our Microbiomes : Shots – Health News : NPR

Gut Bacteria Might Guide The Workings Of Our Minds : Shots – Health News : NPR

Worried That Your Baby’s Sick? There May Be An Upside : Shots – Health News : NPR

Over-diagnosis and Over-treament, Less is sometimes more

There have been many books published recently by physicians concerned about over-diagnosis and over-treatment. One very emotional area that caused great controversy when new prevention guidelines were published (regarding mammograms) relates to early detection and treatment of cancer. It would seem intuitively obvious that early detection and early treatment of cancer would save lives but it turns out this is not always so straight forward. Some cancers are very slow growing and early detection and treatment can cause more harm than good. This has been argued relative to screening for breast cancer, cancer of the uterus and prostate cancer, among others. For these particular cancers the screening tests are mammograms, pap smears and PSA blood test. To understand how and why less could be better you should read  Overdiagnosed.

If a cancer is diagnosed by a screening test 3 years before symptoms would have resulted in a diagnosis, but the early treatment does not change the course of the illness compared to treatment latter, it gives the appearance that the patient lived three years longer as a result of early treatment simply because the patient carries the diagnosis for three years longer. This actually turns out to be the case in many situations. Despite this knowledge our emotional response as physicians and as patients refuses to adapt to new data and we continue to follow old habits such as annual pap smears even though the data suggests that pap smears every three years would be equally  effective in saving lives and would actually prevent unnecessary, expensive and anxiety producing follow up procedures and testing. The exception to this recommendation would be for “high risk” individuals that still benefit from more frequent screening.

It turns out that in the US we likely over-diagnose and over-treat many conditions. The benefits of treatment are sometimes not justified by the side-effects and complications of the treatment. As a result of this concern the  Choosing Wisely campaign was created by a consortium of more than 30 Medical Specialty Societies with a goal of avoiding unnecessary testing and treatment. This is similar to the   Too much medicine campaign | BMJ

Medical testing can cause harm directly (complications of the test itself) but also indirectly. False positive results can lead to further invasive testing which can have complications and create anxiety for the patient.

Beyond screening tests for patients without symptoms there are many drugs now being marketed to treat “conditions” that may not need treatment. (read my posts on statins as an example) Big money is behind over-treatment and it is hard to stem the tide. Dr. Malcolm Kendrick | Scottish doctor and author of ‘The Great Cholesterol Con’

The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) has been much more active in addressing these concerns as stated below:

“Has modern medicine undermined the capacity of individuals and societies to cope with death, pain, and sickness? Has too much medicine become a threat to health? Yes, argued Ray Moynihan in a BMJ theme issue in April 2002. He accused the pharma industry of extending the boundaries of treatable disease to expand markets for new products. Barbara Mintzes http://www.bmj.com/content/324/7342 blamed direct to consumer advertising of drugs in the US for portraying a dual message of “a pill for every ill,” and “an ill for every pill.” Elsewhere in the issue, doctors were accused of colluding in and encouraging medicalisation. Leonard Leibovici and Michel Lièvre http://www.bmj.com/content/324/7342/866 wrote : “The bad things of life: old age, death, pain, and handicap are thrust on doctors to keep families and society from facing them.”

Useful links:

Treatment of GERD with prolonged use of a Proton-pump inhibitor results in increased risk of pneumonia and increased risk for vitamin B12 deficiency http://jama which can result in permanent nerve damage, anemia and other ailments. This class of drug has many other potential complications. They cause decreased intestinal absorption of minerals and other nutrients and likely alter the mix of important health-promoting bacteria in your gut. They can lead to  Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in 35% of patients who use them. They also likely contribute to increased risk of osteoporosis,  fractures and a four-fold increase in certain heart  rhythm disturbances. These drugs are now available as non-prescription medications as well as prescription medications and they are often indiscriminately used for prolonged periods of time.

Sleeping pills are another example of over-prescribed medications. The FDA has approved the use of many of these drugs for just a few weeks at a time but I see patients frequently on these medications for years. They can  lead to addiction within a few weeks, can cause dizziness, drowsiness, memory problems, confusion , hallucinations, and other side effects, and should not be used with alcohol. Sleep walking, sleep eating, sleep driving, and other abnormal-dangerous behaviors have been reported with many sleep medications. In addition to these concerns:

“An analysis of data of clinical trials submitted to the FDA concerning the drugs zolpidem, zalepon, and eszopiclone (Ambien, Sonata, and Lunesta) found that these sedative hypnotic drugs more than doubled the risks of developing depression compared to those taking placebo pill. All studies have been funded by the drug companies without independent research.”

Examples such as this abound in the US, the only developed country that permits direct to consumer advertising of drugs on TV.

Why do we pay almost twice per capita for health care in the US compared to other developed countries while ranking between 20 and 30 on various measures of public health? Over-diagnosis and over-treatment in my opinion, are big factors.

I would encourage you to explore some of the links above to learn more about over-diagnosis and over-treatment so that you can make more informed health-care decisions.

Peace

Bob Hansen MD