Getting vindicated for announcing bad news years before anyone recognizes them is a bittersweet validation.
I spent almost 8 years, from 1990 til 1997, writing a book that never got published. It ended up being 700 pages long, after three major re-writes, with hundreds of references, and a clear but unpalatable message. The working title, which went through many changes, was “Raising Healthy Children.” The original title was actually “The Fourth Generation”.
What was the message? Essentially, it was “be careful with the drugs of pharmacological medicine – they could make your children really sick. And they’ll make their children sick and their children’s children too, until the fourth generation.” With much research in the biomedical literature, I had uncovered numerous issues that at the time very few people addressed. Among them were the following:
– Drugs and painkillers for the mother at birth can make babies more likely to become addicted to recreational drugs when they reach their teens.
– Ultrasound during pregnancy can affect some children’s hearing later on.
– Breast feeding is very clearly superior to bottle feeding, and is associated with a stronger immune system and higher IQ.
– Vaccines can cause serious adverse effects, including neurological disorders and autism.
– Acetaminophen (the main ingredient in Tylenol and other pain killers) was associated with a condition called “acetaminophen-induced fulminant hepatic failure.” In other words, it could cause rapid liver failure, and perhaps require an immediate transplant.
– Antibiotics damage the intestinal flora and could be associated with Candida Albicans overgrowth and a general weakening of the immune system.
These effects, I theorized, were cumulative – and the more of these practices a person was exposed to, the more likely his or her immune system would be damaged.
I won’t bore you with my long saga with this book. Suffice it to say that no publisher wanted it, not even the one that had originally contracted for it. Standard response: “It’s a good book and well written and well researched. But you’re not a doctor and you can’t talk about these things.” Eventually I gave up and went to get myself a doctorate, which turned out to be a fun and satisfying pursuit.
Meanwhile, in the past ten years things have changed dramatically in the public consciousness.
– There is no more doubt that breast is superior to bottle; it doesn’t have to be argued. Parents who bottlefeed do so because they feel they have no choice, for a variety of reasons, but rarely for health.
– Pediatricians are more cautious about giving antibiotics for viral illnesses and ear infections to children to avoid adverse effects. It has become clear that the extensive use of these drugs is behind the alarming increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, so that when antibiotics are REALLY needed, they don’t work anymore.
– The connection between vaccines and autism (and other neurological conditions) is now the subject of intense discussion and controversy. Here is a really interesting bit of investigative reporting on that subject: A recent report for UPI by Dan Olmstead detailed his search for autistic adults or children among the Amish, who typically don’t vaccinate and rarely use Western medicine. Instead of the several hundred that would be expected, he found one – a child adopted from China who got all her vaccines in her native country plus another batch when she came to the US – (http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20050417-052541-5549r.htm). I know this doesn’t “prove” anything, but it surely is “suggestive.”
– Several years ago parents whose children got liver damage from Tylenol sued and won. This was about 1996 or ‘7. I later met the pediatric gastroenterologist who was the expert witness for the parents, and who confirmed the case. Of course the PR campaign after that was skilled and extensive enough so that hardly anyone remembers this issue.
The information that actually triggered this article is a new study from the University of Michigan Medical School. This study done on rats showed very clearly that antibiotic treatment followed by exposure to antigens or allergenic material caused asthma. The researchers noted that the antibiotic alone didn’t cause the asthma, it did so in only if it was followed by the antigens. The presence of the antigens alone, without the antibiotics, didn’t cause asthma either. This information shows the way to start looking about whether something does or does not cause a certain condition or disease: it is not usually one thing, but several in conjunction. That’s why not everybody who gets antibiotics gets asthma. But the drug is in the mix, and could be the major trigger.
In other words, the old linear approach of one cause-one result no longer applies. Complexity is the name of the game. Multiple agents – physical, environmental, dietary, medical, emotional, spiritual – affect our health, both for causing disease and for promoting healing.
The medical-pharmacological approach is linear, and doesn’t take into account the body’s total response to it. As Richard Grossinger has pointed out in Planet Medicine, this is a cognitive failure that causes disruption.
Here is the great conundrum. Modern medicine has indeed helped millions of people in many ways, either with acute lifesaving care, or with maintaining life and function through chronic disease management such as diabetes and indeed asthma. There may be side effects – steroids used to manage asthma may cause osteoporosis, for example – but if the clear choice is either not breathing or getting a little shorter, few of us would doubt what to choose. The benefits of any treatment should clearly outweigh the risks. And the risks are many: Gary Null, Ph.D., Carolyn Dean, MD, Martin Feldman, MD, and Debora Rasio MD, have written an astonishing monograph on the dangers of modern medicine called “Death by Medicine.” (www.garynull.com). They show that illness and death as side effects of medical treatment surpasses by far that of any other causes. By the way, next time you see a commercial on TV for some kind of drug you should “talk to your doctor” about, close your eyes and listen – they have to tell you all the adverse effects, but usually the pictures are so pretty and bucolic that the real information does not sink in.
What would happen if people used biomedicine only in extreme situations where it is clearly helpful and the benefits outweigh the risks, and used only a variety of non-toxic therapies such as acupuncture, herbs, food, chiropractic, and mind-body therapies for all minor, non-threatening, and self-limiting conditions? It would be an interesting experiment, for sure. It would save a lot of money and avoid many of the “adverse effects” that so plague the users of pharmacological drugs. On the other hand, if enough people pulled out of the drug world it would cut down on the income of many who work in the health care and pharmaceutical fields. It would confuse and perhaps benefit the health insurance industry, which at this time makes money on healthy people who pay their premiums.
Would we be healthier? Who knows? It is assumed that being healthy is desirable. But sickness fulfills many functions, including that of giving us a vacation when we don’t bother to take it otherwise. Even the healthiest people get sick sometimes. Lots of people who eat junk food are seldom sick. And getting over a sickness with natural remedies increases our immune strength. As the old saying goes, damned if you do and damned if you don’t. It’s a puzzlement. We’ll just have to do the best we can under the confusing circumstances, and notice the interesting results.
Meanwhile, for the warmer weather, here’s a quick and easy lunch for 2:
Lemony Sardine Salad
4 c mesclun salad
1 can sardines (with skin and bones) packed in olive oil, ½ of the oil drained off
juice of 1 lemon
– Place 2 cups of salad in each of two large bowls, add half the sardines to each with their oil, and drizzle ½ the lemon juice over each. Serve with crusty wholegrain bread.