On Those Homeopathic Teething Products…

teethingOctober started with a new warning from the FDA: Don’t use homeopathic teething tablets and gels According to the New York Times,

The F.D.A. issued a similar warning in 2010, saying that the products contain “inconsistent amounts” of belladonna, a plant compound that can be dangerous at high doses. At that time, Hyland’s recalled its products, changed the formula and then began selling them again in 2011.

The current F.D.A. warning does not mention belladonna or other specific components of the products as posing health risks. Hyland’s statement said that the amount of belladonna in the product is two-trillionths of a gram per tablet and that “a child would have to eat multiple bottles at once to experience the first side effect of belladonna, which is typically dry mouth.”

Of course, if there’s any belladonna – or other medicament – in the remedy at all, can it really be considered “homeopathic”?

Sure, you typically hear that a homeopathic remedy contains “very tiny doses of natural substances,” as an article in Popular Science recently put it. But that’s incorrect.

Homeopathy is a form of energy medicine. Unlike a drug, which delivers molecules that force a desired physical reaction (and undesired ones – a/k/a “side effects” – as well), a homeopathic preparation delivers information that’s been energetically transmitted to the carrier substance. As Dr. Christopher Fabricius explains in his excellent primer on homeopathy,

You can test a homeopathic remedy again and again; molecularly, you’ll find only the carrier substance. Such a remedy isn’t made by putting any physical substance into water or other medium. Rather, the structure of the medium is changed and impressed with information to deliver to the subtle, organizing energetic fields that wisely and sentiently govern all life processes down to the cells and extracellular matrix (biological terrain). That structure is distinct, as many studies have shown….

It’s the information that matters.

With a homeopathic, the material component is merely a carrier of therapeutic information. The carrier is not the remedy itself – just as a book is not the information it contains. Both are physical delivery systems for information. Through paper, ink and glue, the book conveys its message; through water, SI card or other physical substance, the homeopathic conveys its own.

What that information does or becomes happens within the individual receiving it.

There are, as we’ve noted before, some excellent, high quality homeoapthics that can help ease the discomfort of teething: Body Mend and Inflammation, both from BioEnergetics. But they’re not exactly necessary. Chilled teething rings and gently massaging your infant’s gums may be enough.

But the fact that there are good remedies available should you want them points to the larger lesson this recent news suggests – one we’ve returned to time and again on this blog with respect to supplements in particular: quality matters. Buying over-the-counter can sometimes be a bit of a crap shoot. By consulting a biological dentist, naturopath, or other integrative practitioner, you can get guidance not only to quality products but products that are appropriate for the condition you seek help with, removing the guess-work.

Image by Daniel Schwen, via Wikimedia Commons

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KTH Flashback: How Your Attitude Can Affect Your Health

Originally posted February 10, 2016

Thoughts are powerful. When they become actions, of course, they can change the world. But even when we keep them inside our own heads, they can affect not only the way we see the world but our very health and well-being.

A new study on attitudes toward aging gives a powerful reminder of this.

happy older coupleResearchers had more than 4000 participants from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging complete a series of three tests of their perception of aging, cognitive ability and level of frailty. Those with a negative attitude toward aging proved to have worse physical and cognitive health than those with a positive outlook.

This was the case even after medications, mood, life circumstances and other health changes during the two year study period were accounted for.

“Furthermore,” according to the Trinity College Dublin press release on the study,

negative attitudes towards ageing seemed to affect how different health conditions interacted. Frail older adults are at risk of multiple health problems including worse cognition. In the TILDA sample frail participants with negative attitudes towards ageing had worse cognition compared to participants who were not frail. However frail participants with positive attitudes towards ageing had the same level of cognitive ability as their non-frail peers.

But it’s not just older folks whose health is affected by their outlook. It’s all of us. According to the Mayo Clinic, research has found a number of health benefits to positive thinking. These include

  • Increased life span.
  • Lower rates of depression.
  • Lower levels of distress.
  • Greater resistance to the common cold.
  • Better psychological and physical well-being.
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress.

On the flipside, negativity tends to generate a host of physical problems including muscle pain and tension, headaches, fatigue, and digestive problems. It can prime the proverbial pump for anxiety, depression, mood changes, and lack of focus. It can motivate behaviors like substance abuse and social withdrawal.

So is cultivating a positive attitude a guarantee of good health and a long life? Of course not. But what the research does suggest is that if you do get sick, a positive outlook can help you be more resilient through your healing.

And it’s an attitude that you can nurture. Tiny Buddha offers some especially good tips for doing so, as does Helen Sanders over at Health Ambition.

Attitude, as they say, is everything.

Image by Family Portraits from Ryan Smith Photography

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Emotional Health Is Part of Your Overall Health

In this powerful TEDx Talk, psychologist Dr. Guy Winch explains why we need to tend to our emotional health as much as we do our oral and overall health:

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No Surprise: What You Eat Affects Your Teeth

teethAs if we needed more confirmation that what we eat affects our oral health, a new study in the Journal of Dentistry pounds the point home: In children and adolescents, tooth decay is greatly influenced by diet. And it’s the usual culprits at work: soft drinks, acidic foods, sweets, and fruit juice (a double-whammy of sugar and acid).

All those foods are deeply damaging to tooth enamel. Without that protective outer layer intact, the tissues within are vulnerable to infection, to decay. (Deficiencies in certain nutrients during tooth development can also impair tooth structure, making them more vulnerable to decay.)

Dairy, on the other hand, was found to have a more protective effect – as research has broadly and consistently shown.

Yet many teens actually think that products like sports drinks and other sugary, acidic foods are healthier choices. (Thank you, Marketeers!) And so they consume them. A lot. One 2010 study in Pediatrics, for instance, found that 28% of teens claimed to drink three or more sports drinks daily. That’s more than 100 grams of sugar a day just from the drinks alone – double the maximum WHO recommendation and far, far, far above the 3% of daily calories that’s the max for preventing caries.

A more recent study – this, in the BDJ – found that nearly 90% of teens consume sports drinks, with half drinking them at least twice a week.

The mere fact that sports drinks are frequently consumed socially amongst groups of adolescents does not bode well for their future health. It is fair to assume that the high levels of sugars and acids will not only contribute to an increase in dental caries and erosion but also to general health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease, in frequent sports drinks consumers.

But it’s not just the Marketeers who may encourage outcomes like this. Kids’ perceptions of healthy or good food is greatly influenced by their parents’ food choices and methods of controlling behavior through food. As one study in Health Education Research put it some years ago,

a positive parental role model may be a better method for improving a child’s diet than attempts at dietary control.

Yet parents often find themselves directed toward snacks with hidden additives like sugars. Take a look at what’s typically handed out after a football game or at a school Fun Night. It’s pretty rare to find a parent who brings fresh fruit or vegetables and skips the sugary drink. (At sporting events, the kids should have already brought water, right?).

Yet there are plenty of healthy, real food options out there. Here are a couple of particularly helpful posts we’ve found to get your imagination going:

Image by Alena Navarros-Whyte, via Flickr

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Healthy Eating: Let’s Talk Instant Gratification

fresh produceMost of us are raised to eat around emotional situations. When we have something to celebrate, we go out, have a “nice dinner,” and raise our glass. When we mourn the loss of a loved one or celebrate the birth of a child – or when we get fired or accept a new position; when we end a relationship or start a new one – we recognize the event with food and drinks.

And let’s not even get started on the holidays. They can be all about indulgence.

Of course, after a night of indulgence, you may wake up and feel horrible, in all senses of the word. Your body feels heavy and bloated, energy levels are low, and you just feel slow.

The comfort and pleasure of instant gratification has given way to something that can feel more like withdrawal.

You may feel grumpy, short-tempered or heavy with feelings of regret, guilt, and even shame. Your conscience may start to bother you as you calculate the calories, carbs, and sugar you enjoyed.

But just as there can be negative emotional responses to unhealthy eating, there are positive emotional responses to healthy eating.

In fact, a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health showed that those benefits come relatively quickly. Analyzing food diaries from more than 12,000 Australian adults, the authors found that

Increased fruit and vegetable consumption was predictive of increased happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being. They were up to 0.24 life-satisfaction points (for an increase of 8 portions a day), which is equal in size to the psychological gain of moving from unemployment to employment. Improvements occurred within 24 months.

For one real-life example of the effects of swapping out sugary, hyper-processed food for the real deal, check out the story of this guy who quit sugar and alcohol for just one month:

As ever, the best way to eat healthy food is to buy real food. There are no labels on raw fruits and vegetables.

Of course, sometimes the hardest part of eating healthier is letting yourself accept that fruit and vegetables actually taste good. Really good. There are more ways of preparing these foods than you might imagine – so many different cooking methods, seasoning options, and uses! If you don’t typically eat a lot of fresh food today, you may need to “trial and error” a bit before just *knowing* that you’re not going to like it. So throw some spinach in your lasagna. Try spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti noodles. Wrap that taco in a lettuce leaf. Sautee some onions and green peppers to add to your egg and cheese omelet.

For other easy ways to incorporate more fruit and vegetables in your meals, browse these recipes to see just a few alternatives to our standard carb-filled plates. (There are plenty more out there!)

And instead of recognizing a colleague or family member with indulgent but not exactly healthful food, consider a different kind of treat. For instance, why not spend the money on an activity or gift card toward a fun way to spend time (movie tickets, art exhibit, escape rooms, or just a couple of hours of PTO)?

After all, there’s something else science shows: Experiences are more meaningful than things.

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Don’t Treat Illness – Restore the Body’s Coherence & Function Instead

By Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN

melancholy expressionMany seem to think that health and disease are random things, matters of chance. How else can they explain how people can live under virtually the same conditions – same home, same foods, same water, same products, same air – yet have totally different health outcomes?

One person gets heart disease. One gets cancer. Another gets Alzheimer’s. Some may develop type 2 diabetes; some, arthritis or thyroid disease. Ad infinitum.

And most of us these days are sick. According to the CDC, about half of all American adults have at least one chronic health condition. One in four have at least two. Seven of the top 10 causes of death are chronic diseases. Just two of them – heart disease and cancer – led to nearly half of all deaths. Most health care spending – 86% – goes toward people with chronic medical conditions.

What accounts for so much sickness? Just the random luck of having parents who gave you bad genes? Or is it what happens to those genes over the course of a lifetime?

Our regular readers and longtime biological patients alike know that the answer is in epigenetics – the impact of environment on gene expression.

Mass Media & the Disease-ification of Symptoms

The human body is an amazing organism. Every cell, every organ, every ounce of fluid, every structure of our body is masterpiece of perfection.

Just think about that for a moment. Realize that your body is made up of about 37 trillion cells. The synchronicity of all those cells working together to maintain life is truly a wonder!

Health is largely a matter of giving those cells what they need to keep that beautiful synchronicity going. It takes things like an optimal, natural diet; pure water; clean air; sufficient rest and quality sleep – the essentials for replenishing and refurbishing our bodies on a daily basis. If we’re able to maintain such a healthy lifestyle, we’re doing all we can to enjoy a happy, disease-free life for as long as possible.

And it follows that in so far as we fall short – either through our own choices or through environmental exposures we have little control over – we will court illness in all its various manifestations. Yet the majority of medical researchers seem just as stumped about the causes of disease as they were more than 50 years ago, when I was taking general pathology at the University of Washington.

TV zombieOf course, part of the problem stems from the tendency to confuse symptoms with disease – as in, notoriously, all the drug ads we see in the media these days: Have to go to the bathroom a lot? You may suffer from this disease! Are your knees sore? You might have this disease! Ask your doctor….

No doubt, this “disease-ifying” of symptoms has much to do with our soaring rates of illness – not just in overdiagnosis but the effects of continually feeding ourselves drugs, synthetic chemicals our bodies were never designed to consume.

Yet consume, we do – in so far as we buy the messages we’re sold, whether through drug ads or corporate-influenced news or movies and other fictions written by people who have bought into popular ideology.

Directly or indirectly, mass media tells the public what to think about world issues and stories. It delivers an image of what the world “should be like,” which lingers in the subconscious. The more this view is endorsed by the majority, the more we may come to accept as “reality” ourselves.

A patient of mine, a former drug sales rep, once shared with me how so much of what we see in mainstream news today is what’s called “pre-produced news” from PR agencies and marketers. How many of those “breakthrough drug” and “medical miracle” stories are actually covert commercials for Big Pharma? Yet NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, and the rest play them out like they’re actually real news.

Children especially absorb such media messages with ease. Recently, I read a story on a blog about a grade schooler who went with his mother to the pediatrician and asked, “Hey, can I have some Lunesta? There’s a pretty butterfly in the commercials!”

Direct-to-consumer marketing has certainly swollen the bottom line for the drug industry, or they never would have lobbied it into existence. So of course they’ll attack any challenge from functional, integrative, or complimentary medicine.

But we don’t have to buy what they’re selling – neither their drugs nor their broader, cultural message about what health is and isn’t. Just as we can accept the conventional wisdom, we can question and challenge it. And we should. It’s the only way progress is made. It’s the only way growth happens.

The Proper Understanding of Disease

Of course, biological medicine is one major challenge to the status quo. Based on Hans-Heinrich Reckeweg’s Theory of Homotoxicology, it holds that

each living organism is a dynamic flow system constantly adjusting to the surrounding environment and attempting to remain in a state of balance. We are constantly in contact with substances that influence our flow system. Substances that disturb this flow are toxins (homotoxin refers to toxins that affect the human organism.) When the body encounters homotoxins it attempts to eliminate them by activating the defense systems of the body. The symptoms associated with a disease are a manifestation of the body attempting to heal itself.

This view understands that disease never crops up all at once but evolves over time as the body responds to various influences. Epigenetics follows naturally from this concept.

(If you missed our last issue, you may want to read my previous article before continuing here, as well as our booklet “How Illness Happens,” for an intro to the biological terrain and the concept of pleomorphism.)

cellModern medicine dates back to the introduction of good quality, high power microscopes, as well as the formation of the theory – by German biologists Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann – that all plants and animals are composed of cells, each featuring a membrane, nucleus, and body.

The idea that illnesses are based on pathological changes in the cells was first proposed by German physiologist Johannes Mueller in the early 1850s. His student Rudolf Virchow expanded on this work. He explained that human diseases arise in the organs and tissues, and can be traced directly to abnormal life conditions in the body’s individual cells.

During the late 19th century, bacteriologists Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur and botanist Ferdinand Cohn performed pioneering research in microbiology from which came the concept of monomorphism: “bacteria appear in a constant growth form and cannot change.” It wasn’t long, though, before they were challenged by a trio of German researchers who insisted that the bacteria indeed showed variability. Microorganisms, they showed, can go through different stages of development and evolve into different forms throughout a single life cycle.

This concept of pleomorphismpleo meaning “many,” morphism indicating “changes” – was picked up next by Antoine Bechamp. In 1883, this chemist and biologist postulated that all animal and plant cells contained molecular granules – autonomous living elements he called “microzymes” [small ferments]. Under certain conditions, he said, these granules could evolve into other microorganisms.

Thus, in this understanding, viruses, bacteria, and fungi are nothing more than various developmental stages of a certain species of microbes. As such, they appeared as the indestructible transition between living and non-living matter.

Disease therefore had its origins inside the body, not outside, he deduced.

This was the idea that French physiologist Claude Bernard ran with in asserting that the idea that bacteria cannot change was “an enormous mistake.” “Le microbe c’est rien,” he wrote, “le terrain c’est tout” – “The microbe is nothing, the terrain is everything.” It’s the body’s attempts to self-regulate the terrain – the internal environment – that generate the symptoms that doctors then classify into diseases.

Gunther Enderlein & the Missing “Missing Link”

Gunther EnderleinThen there was Gunther Enderlein, the German zoologist and bacteriologist who used a darkfield microscope to view microorganisms in live blood. His main discovery came in 1916, when, working on typhus, he showed the presence of specific microbes at different evolutionary stages. He saw many tiny moving elements which joined with more highly organized bacteria. After this union, the elements were no longer visible.

He named these tiny organisms “spermits” and maintained that they lived in harmony with the body’s own cells, performing functions beneficial to health. They were the same thing Bechamp had called “microzymes,” and not independent organisms but microbes in various stages of transformation. That transformation happens when the body’s internal environment is polluted. Microbes transform from simple bacteria to complex fungi and viruses, which just add to the pollution.

The more compromised the environment, the more severe the illness.

Enderlein published his major work, Bakterien-Cyclogenie, in 1925. His arguments and proofs for pleomorphism have yet to be refuted.

Still, far too many researchers seem oblivious to this solid body of research. You see them searching for the missing link yet wind up grasping at straws. Perhaps nowhere is this more clear than in the field of immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy is based on the promise of being able to use a body’s own immune system to attack cancer in the way it responds to other foreign invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. The challenge has been that cancer is a trickier foe than others and has ways of putting the brakes on our immune system. Researchers are working on two different ways to get around this issue. One involves supercharging your immune cells to create “armies” that can attack cancer. The other involves what are known as “immune checkpoint blockade inhibitors,” which Parker describes as “retraining” the “troops” to be able to get around cancer’s defenses.

Yet there is bafflement over why it doesn’t work for everyone.

The treatments have worked wonders in some patients, especially those with melanoma, but have not worked or have even been toxic for others. Those patients who we thought were lucky because they respond well to immunotherapy aren’t actually lucky. There’s something about their genetic or biological makeup that determines how they react, and the institute is launching a series of studies to systematically look at all of the different factors that may play a role.

Similarly, in another Washington Post article:

Scientists don’t know why some patients benefit from immunotherapy and others don’t. In many trials, for example, less than a third of patients have had a positive response. Researchers think that proportion can be increased by combining these “checkpoint inhibitor” drugs — three have been approved by the government, with several more in development — or by adding conventional treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

Ah, yes, throw more drugs at it – force the body to react in preferred ways rather than stimulate its inherent healing mechanisms! That’s always the answer – at least when you neglect the work of Enderlein, Bernard, Reckeweg, and so many others; when you remain oblivious to the role of the extracellular matrix in Ground System Regulation.

Those Who Cannot Remember the Past…

Enderlein’s theories go far in explaining the genesis of diseases like cancer, as well as things like the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and why oral bacteria are linked to a higher risk of pancreatic cancer.

Those disease manifestations are your cells’ response to environmental triggers. Your body naturally has within itself all the controlling mechanisms and potential necessary to produce unfriendly microforms and all the symptoms that initiate. They evolve because of an unfriendly, unphysiological, compromised terrain.

This is why, again, any true healing can only begin with improving the state of the terrain. Improve the terrain, and the body will return to proper function.

In 1952, Reckeweg wrote,

Perhaps the most insidious aspect of these illnesses gradually develops over a period of time and initially are not diagnosable….that chronic illnesses tend to develop in burdened tissues (terrain) and organs.

This is why treating the illness makes no sense. Rather, we focus on restoring coherence and proper function to the proper environment – to help the body unburden itself and heal.

To focus on illness is to lend proof to philosopher George Santayana’s famous aphorism, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The exception to the rule? Those who possess the attributes of critical thinking and complex reasoning in order to maximize their patients’ longevity and quality of life.

Melancholy image by Andrew Mason;
cell image by Kelvin Song, via Wikimedia Commons

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Guest Post: Should You Try an “Oil Pulling Mouthwash”?

Our thanks to the office of Houston biological dentist Dr. Bill Glaros for letting us share this recent post from their blog!
With a headline asking “Is Fluoride the New Mercury?” how could you not go see what it has to say, even if it’s on a site you never, ever visit – in this case, Vogue?

Is fluoride the new mercury? Neither belongs in the human body. Both are neurotoxins.

But that’s not what the article was about, and it’s not what made it interesting. Under the headline was a slideshow of “natural toothpaste alternatives,” which included, weirdly, a lot of mouthwashes – and mouthwash just can’t do the job that brushing and flossing are needed to do.

But that’s not the interesting part either.

No, what caught our attention was one product in particular – an “oil pulling mouthwash.” Instantly, we suspected that this was one of those products trying to piggyback on the popularity of something genuinely healthful, like “organic water,” to use perhaps the most notorious example.

coconut oilOil pulling, as we’ve noted before, is a practice that can really do wonders, especially for periodontal (gum) health and especially when done with coconut oil. And there’s good science backing it up – as well as demonstrating the antimicrobial qualities of coconut oil in particular. Clinically, we see that it works.

But it’s nothing like using a mouthwash. That’s something you swish around for a few seconds. Oil pulling is something you do for 15 minutes or so.

Mouthwash is largely about freshening breath. Oil pulling is about pulling out and spitting out oral pathogens and other toxins.

And mouthwash is liquid. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature (well, maybe not in Texas on a summer day, but you get the idea). And the product we saw in that slideshow looked really liquidy.

So we hopped on over to the product website to see what’s actually in it.

First item in the ingredient list? Sesame oil. Liquid. Okay. That’s one of the traditional oil pulling oils.

fractionated coconut oilThen comes “MCT oil (fractionated coconut oil).” MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides, or fatty acids. It’s part of coconut oil – a fraction – but not the whole oil. In fact, one of the most important compounds in coconut oil is precisely what gets fractioned out – the lauric acid.

Take that out, and the oil will remain liquid at room temperature. But you also take out what makes coconut oil so effective. It’s the source of its antimicrobial properties.

Interestingly, we found other “oil pulling mouthwashes” – such as this one – which emphasize Capric-Caprylic acid in the ingredients list. Well, that’s nice, and Capric acid may have some antimicrobial qualities, as well. Still, it seems to indicate a fractionated oil – one missing that important lauric acid.

And these products are expensive, too – $5 per ounce expensive, or $40 for an 8 ounce bottle! You can get a 16 ounce jar of good quality extra virgin coconut oil, on the other hand, for about $10 or less.

And you get coconut oil’s full power, too.

Learn more about coconut oil:


Previously on Know Thy Health

Coconut oil in spoon image by Paul Reis123, via Wikimedia Commons

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