December 3, 2018

500 The Last Post [3 Dec 2018]

After 500 articles over almost 10 years I am retiring this newspaper column. I’ve enjoyed writing them and, as I often say, it forced me to learn something every week.

All 500 articles will still be available on their archived blog at or from my website The online versions often have additional information that there wasn’t room for in the newspaper plus links to sources and more information. They are sorted by date and searchable by key words. I may occasionally add new articles to the blog or new comments to existing articles.

I have avoided writing exclusively about products or services that I sell – many of the articles are on “free” concepts like sleep and exercise. In most cases I have offered my take on the subject under discussion. And whenever possible I have tried to inject a little humor to add interest to otherwise boring subjects.

Here are some of the ideas I have tried to share with you over the years:
• the importance of diet in health and disease
• new or unusual products or treatments
• summaries of interesting articles and books that I came across
• concepts like the placebo effect, mitochondria, microbiome, brain-gut axis, and determinants of health
• the latest research on natural health topics
• the validity of research for many diets, nutrients and supplements (and that this information is too often ignored by the medical industry)
• the built in bias in the health industry favoring patentable drugs over non-patentable (mostly natural) products
• that not everything you read on health (natural or otherwise) is true

Thank you for reading my articles, and thanks to those who came in and told me that it was the first thing you looked for when you opened the Eagle. My hope is that you will continue to refer to these articles and use them as a springboard for further exploration of your topics of interest.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

November 26, 2018

499 The Starch Diet [26 Nov 2018]

Years ago I learned that to get a balanced view we need to read widely, especially in the field of natural health. Writers focus on one nutrient or diet and make it sound like the most important or only logical choice. Only by reading many different authors can we begin to see the whole picture. That’s what I have tried to bring to you over the past 10 years writing these articles.

A case in point is Dr. John McDougall’s 2013 book The Starch Solution (read the first chapter here). McDougall advocates a diet rich in starchy foods like grains, legumes, potatoes and sweet potatoes, along with plenty of vegetables and fruit, while eliminating meat, dairy, processed foods and most oils. This is in sharp contrast to the currently popular low-carb high-fat paleo and keto diets.

McDougall observed that when people from other countries with a traditional starch based diet who were trim and healthy moved to the USA and adopted an American diet, they became obese and developed western diseases. The immigrant grandparents remained slim and healthy; their children were overweight and unhealthy; and the grandchildren obese and sick – the opposite of what we would expect. He believed the difference was the increased meat and dairy in their diets.

Over four decades Dr. McDougall developed his diet and helped thousands of patients regain their health. McDougall claims that a diet rich in starch:
• Allowed humans to move beyond the tropics and to develop our large brains;
• fuelled the rise of civilization and fed the Greek and Roman armies;
• Healthy populations around the world get most of their calories from starch;
• will let you lose excess weight almost effortlessly;
• will improve your blood pressure and cholesterol;
• will prevent diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis;
• will make you feel, function, and live better;
• will help save the planet (beef produces 14X more greenhouse gases than potatoes per calorie); and
• will significantly reduce your grocery budget.

I believe that minimally processed starchy foods are part of a healthy diet but I’m not sure I’d take it to the extreme that McDougall does eliminating all animal products. His diet does provide a welcome balance to the high-fat keto diets but I’d like to see some good research supporting his health claims.

Next week – The Last Post. I’m retiring this column after #500.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

November 19, 2018

498 Alkaline Water [19 November 2018]

I have wanted to write about the acid-alkaline balance for years but didn’t feel I understood it well enough. A recent article by Dr. Joseph Mercola on, “Alkaline Water or Hydrogen Water” covered one aspect of the topic.

Alkaline water is made by a device that separates the water into acid and alkaline fractions by electrolysis. Promoters tell you to drink the alkaline water and feed the acidic water to your plants. They claim that the alkaline water will alkalize your (too-acidic) body providing many health benefits including prevention or treatment of arthritis, cancer, and other chronic diseases.

In his article Mercola points out that these health claims are not substantiated by research. Most studies show no benefit and the few that do were poorly designed. Mercola explains that because it isn’t buffered, alkaline water is neutralized by the stomach acid, not the other way around.

Mercola isn't the only one that believes alkalized water is overrated. Ryan Andrews of PrecisionNutrition reviews the evidence for several health claims and rates the evidence for it - mostly "weak" or "speculative".

Perceived benefits by the users could be attributed to the minerals in the water (mostly calcium, potassium and magnesium) or the placebo effect, but it turns out that it is the dissolved hydrogen (H2) gas produced during electrolysis. Mercola and his guest, hydrogen expert Tyler W. LeBaron, then discuss the research on the health benefits of molecular hydrogen gas. I encourage you to watch the entire fascinating interview.

Studies of supplemental antioxidants have had mixed results with some studies showing significant harm. That’s because while free radicals are harmful to the cell’s membranes, mitochondria and DNA, some are also used as signaling molecules in the cell. H2 is a potent antioxidant but selectively goes after the most toxic radicals like hydroxyl and superoxide. More importantly, H2 enhances production and activation of our cells’ other cyto-protective antioxidants like glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and catalase, but only as needed. Learn more about hydrogen water research at the Molecular Hydrogen Institute website.

Mercola ends by explaining the difference between hydrogen (H2) water and 3% hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and showed that H2O2 cannot convert into H2. He emphatically warns “never ingest hydrogen peroxide”– it should be only used externally or for household cleaning.

It was refreshing to see Dr. Mercola warn against a natural health fad that has little research to support it. Evidently he doesn’t sell alkalizing water filters!

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

November 12, 2018

497 Water Memory and Homeopathy

I first wrote about Homeopathy nine years ago [#36 Homeopathy, 2 Nov 2009] and explained its two paradoxical principles: that “like cures like”, and the more dilute the remedy, the stronger its effect.

Because these principles are opposite of conventional medicine, homeopathy is often maligned as having a placebo effect at best. An example is this quote from a Scottish “bioethics expert”: Homeopathy is utterly implausible. Homeopathic preparations are so thoroughly diluted that they contain no significant amounts of active ingredients, and thus can have no effects on the patient’s body.

Surprisingly, some water science physicists believe there is a plausible explanation for homeopathic medicines. They have shown that the preparation of homeopathic remedies – successive dilution and shaking – does indeed alter the structure of the water in such a way that it can carry medicinal information. Two Nobel Laureates and other eminent scientists recently presented at a London conference titled New Horizons in Water Science – The Evidence for Homeopathy?

Brian Josephson of the U. of Cambridge said that liquid crystals, which can maintain an ordered structure while flowing, support homeopathic theory. He went on to explain that biomolecules (such as hormones) also function at very dilute solutions and can operate at a distance by electromagnetic signaling rather than chemical bonding. Josephson poked fun at critics of homeopathy, saying that chemical analysis of homeopathic remedies tell you no more about their properties than chemical analysis of a CD will tell you about the music on it.

Vladimir Voeikov from Moscow State University described decades of research in Russia on the biological effects of ultrahigh dilutions. Dr. Gerald Pollack, professor of bioengineering at U. of Washington, Seattle, and author of The Fourth Phase of Water, presented his research on the crystal-like structure of water on membrane surfaces. The other Nobel winner Luc Montagnier ended his presentation by saying “It [homeopathy] is not pseudoscience. It’s not quackery. These are real phenomena which deserve further study.”

I don’t begin to understand the physics of water memory but if these scientists insist that there is something to it, it would be sheer arrogance (and ignorance) on my part to claim otherwise.

Source: Water and Homeopathy, Oct 31, 2018

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

November 5, 2018

496 Miller’s Review [5 Nov 2018]

Vaccines have been thoroughly tested for safety, reactions are rare, and no published studies show vaccines cause harm. That is the position of the pharmaceutical industry, our governments, and their health organizations. But is it true?

A recent book by Neil MillerMiller’s Review of Critical Vaccine Studies – 400 Important Scientific Papers Summarized for Parents and Researchers” (mentioned in last week's post "The Wakefield Study") summarizes research that your pediatrician or community health nurse won’t tell you about (and most likely are unaware of themselves). These studies are published in peer-reviewed medical journals and all 400 provide evidence questioning the safety or efficacy of vaccinations. Here are just a few examples.

Few studies compare vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. One such was published just last year comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated 3 to 5 month olds in the West African country of Guinea-Bissau during the introduction of DPT and oral polio vaccine in the early 1980s. The study found the death rate of all causes was a shocking five times higher in the DPT vaccinated group (keep in mind that these African infants may be malnourished and in a previously unvaccinated population so the results may not translate to North America). Previously a live measles vaccine was withdrawn after clinical trials in West Africa found that it, along with DPT, increased mortality 33% in children 4-60 months of age.

Since 1986 the American Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) has received over 500,000 reports of adverse reactions to vaccinations, with 30,000 added each year. A study of this data analyzed 38,000 severe reactions (involving hospitalization or death) and found a statistically significant increase in risk as the number of simultaneous vaccines given increased, from one right up to eight.

A CDC study found that the increased risk of autism for boys getting the MMR before age 36 months was 1.69 times higher than those who got their shot after 36 months; for African American boys the rate was 3.36 times higher. The data were manipulated to hide these findings and the study concluded there was no link.

To make informed decisions about your family’s health you need all the information. This book, Miller’s website, and other resources like the National Vaccine Information Center will complement the information you receive from your doctor or health nurse.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner. Find this article on my website for links to sources and further reading.

October 29, 2018

495 The Wakefield “Study” [29 October 2018]

Almost everyone has heard of Andrew Wakefield, the British gastroenterologist who wrote a fraudulent study in 1998 linking vaccines and autism. Wakefield was accused of falsifying data and having undisclosed financial conflicts of interest. In 2010 the Lancet retracted his paper and he lost his license to practice.

The conventional position is that vaccines have been thoroughly tested with no link ever found with any health problem including autism. The retraction of Wakefield’s study is considered further proof that any vaccine-autism link has been totally debunked.

But is all of that true?

First, the 1998 Lancet paper was not a “study”, it was a “case study”. A case study is merely a reporting of one or a group of patients with unusual symptoms. It does not make any claims or even propose a hypothesis. You can read the entire retracted paper here. The paper’s conclusion read “We have identified a chronic enterocolitis in children that may be related to neuropsychiatric dysfunction. In most cases [8 of 12], onset of symptoms was after measles, mumps and rubella immunization. Further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to this vaccine.

As to the fraud charges, David Lewis, a research microbiologist with the National Whistleblowers Center in Washington, reviewed Wakefield’s files regarding the Lancet paper and concluded that Wakefield had not intentionally misinterpreted the data, and that the BMJ’s fraud theory was “more tabloid news than science”. Wakefield has written a book (2010) called “Callous Disregard” in which he tells his side of the story.

In any case, the Wakefield paper is hardly the only evidence for vaccine safety concerns. A recent book by Neil Miller “Miller’s Review of Critical Vaccine Studies – 400 Important Scientific Papers Summarized for Parents and Researchers” summarizes research that you won’t find on the CDC website. Many show increasing risk of adverse reactions with vaccinations at an earlier age and with multiple vaccinations (both of which were a concern of Wakefield’s). We’ll look at some of these next week.

Whether you think Wakefield is a discredited fraud or a demonized hero, you can’t fault him for asking for more research into such an important health issue.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner. Find this article on my website for links to sources and further reading.

October 22, 2018

494 Nitrates and Mania [22 Oct 2018]

A connection between nitrates in processed meats and mania has been accidentally discovered. Mania is a psychiatric disorder associated with hyperactivity, euphoria and insomnia. The link appears to be the effect of nitrates on gut bacteria.

I have previously written about the connections between gut bacteria and brain function [#320 Our Gut Microbiome & Our Brain; #422 The Brain-Gut Axis; #425 Autism and Gut Bacteria].

The nitrate connection was discovered in a study by Johns Hopkins published this July in Molecular Psychiatry. The study of more than 1000 people found that those hospitalized for an episode of mania were 3.5 times more likely to have eaten nitrate-cured meats prior to hospitalization. This finding was statistically significant. No association with other foods or other psychiatric disorders were found.

Animal studies were conducted to follow up on this association. Rats fed the equivalent of a human eating a wiener or one stick of beef jerky daily developed hyperactivity and sleep disorders within two weeks. The control group, fed the same food but nitrate free exhibited normal behavior. Differences were found in the bacteria living in their intestines, and in molecular pathways known to be implicated in bipolar disorder. It would appear that the nitrates change the gut microbiome which affects brain function triggering mania in susceptible individuals.

The same research group had published a study in 2017 with the finding that a probiotic supplement reduced the incidence of delusions and hallucinations in schizophrenic patients. They were also less likely to be rehospitalized following a manic episode. The study was too small to recommend it as a treatment just yet, but it does provide more evidence for the influence of the gut microbiome on mental health.

One of the researchers, Emily Severance, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, wrote:
The mental health field is in desperate need of new treatments for psychiatric disorders… The tiny living organisms that make up the human microbiome and the overwhelming evidence for a gut-brain axis together represent a new frontier for schizophrenia research.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.