Congratulations to my dear friend and colleague Dr. Paul Mittman, who received some well-deserved recognition as the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) â€˜Physician of the Yearâ€? for 2007. Paul is just a great guy and a true asset to the profession. Without his early support The Institute for Human Individuality (IfHI) would have been impossible. Sadly, Paul also recently suffered the loss of his father.
Sometimes it's just nice to know how many people love and admire you, especially at times like these and (if you are reading this) Paul, know that Martha and I love and admire you very, very much.
Paul Mittman getting his Physician of the Year plaque at the 2007 AANP convention. I got one in 1990. Mine had a dent in it.
Speaking of IfHI, I just finished the new practitioner lookup page. If you are looking for someone who uses these types of principles in their practice this database can be a great resource. It is now searchable by name, state/province or country.
I was watching the news on TV and these two commentators were tossing the word â€˜terrorist' around. If you were to believe these guys, everyone in the Muslim world was a terrorist. However, as any decent historian will tell you, today's terrorist is often tomorrow's freedom fighter. During the American Revolution patriots often tarred and feathered neighbors who were loyal to England or who just wanted to be left alone and not have to choose sides. Many of these people were hounded out of their homes (which were often grabbed by deserving 'Sons of Liberty') and exiled.
Now these same terrorists get microbrewery beers named after them.
Calling someone a â€˜terrorist' is a lot like calling something â€˜unscientific.' It almost never adds anything to the discussion and likely tells you more about the accuser than it does about the accused.
Dr Ken Carlin sent me this neat link that details the migrations of humans based on Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA evidence.
We've collected some of the best pictures from IfHI 2007. Enjoy.
Should Paris Hilton serve her full sentence? Hey, why not? I've spent 45 days chained to a computer writing The Genotype Diet. I agree with Al Sharpton that the whole thing is one big insult to all those normally faceless people who just have to serve their sentences as dictated by law. Sharpton by the way, is no media pretty face. I recently did his radio show and he struck me as being quite intelligent and measured.
Wikipedia does a good job of bringing to light the differences between skepticism and pseudoskepticism, principally that pseudo skeptics have no interest other than denying what it is that they purport to be skeptical of. Much of what they brand a 'pseudoscience' is often the very beginnings of a new protoscience.
Grouppe Kurosawa has an interesting natural medicine blog that has a refreshing technical bent to it. The most recent entry is on the pathetic state of the US health care system. Think the we have the best health care system? Think again. We spend over 2 trillion dollars and rank 37th overall in quality of health care.
Now you would think that this sort of crime would generate widespread outrage. However, the Medical Industrial Complex, headed by the Current Dominant Medical System, has the public so bamboozled that this obscene lack of efficiency (which in any corporate environment would have long ago yielded to shareholder revolt and widespread executive firings) is not only tolerated, but a perverse pride is taken in the sheer magnitude of the inefficiency. We applaud as 'breakthroughs' drugs that prolong the lifespan of liver cancer patients by one month and we do nothing to address the underlying reasons people get these cancers in the first place. We wring our hands when a drug for adult onset diabetes is shown to be a menace and yet we do nothing to fix the root cause of the 'diabesity epidemic', preferring instead to find the solution through the marvelous benediction of an eleventh hour miracle drug.
And when was the last time you ever saw a pharmaceutical company post a quarterly loss?
Yet a recent show on PBS had a researcher who explained that half of all the families who file for bankruptcy are there in the aftermath of a serious medical problem. And, amazingly, about 75% of these families had health insurance at the onset of the illness or accident.
One of the reasons Allopathic medicine is so darned inefficient is that it is geared to acute medical care. This has been paraphrased as 'parking the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.' Many of its greatest breakthroughs occurred as a direct result of observations on the battlefield, and indeed when Hollywood wants to iconify modern medicine, they always put the doctors in the location where icons come naturally: The emergency room. Here comes the gurney rolling down the corridor, everyone shouting, everything purposeful.
Who wants to watch a film of some gerontologist examining the nasty feet of an 80 year old diabetic? Yet diabetic foot problems in the elderly are a major challenge to health care.
The major fallacy of Modern Medicine is that it fails to realize the difference between a chronic disease and an acute one, usually considering chronic disease just 'very long versions' of acute disease. But there are very different mechanisms involved, especially when we look at the patient's ability to compensate and recover.
Is naturopathic medicine the complete answer? Unlikely. We've got our own golden calf. However, at least we have a better comprehension of the nature of chronic illness, and the need to mobilize the patient as part of the recovery process.
I did have to laugh recently when the local hospital sent me the nicest brochure about their new 'Integrative Medicine' department. A quick read showed just what a red herring this thing was. Everyone involved was from the hospital staff, except for a harp player who was in charge of the 'therapeutic music' part of the center. Oh, sorry, there was a yoga teacher on staff as well.
All this reminds me of the quote from the English printmaker William Hogarth that I had read many years ago:
'..the problem with the ancient physicians is that they tried to make medicine an art, and failed; whilst the problem with modern physicians is that they tried to make medicine a business.. and succeeded."
Our friend Cathy Rogers called last night with the sad news that Dr. Bill Mitchell passed away the night before in his sleep. Apparently his son Noah had died of a heart attack in the arms of his girlfriend that same day, and what I knew of Bill he was just the sort of person who could die from a broken heart.
My earliest memories of Bill are the first flurry of days after my transfer to Bastyr College, in 1978. I had to interview with a board member, and so it was to Bill's office on Queen Ann Hill in Seattle Washington that I journeyed. After waiting what feel like an interminable time, out he came, wearing Birkenstocks, which I had never seen before (remember this was 1978), and could not imagine anyone would wear these to work. He was talking to the patient who had just seen him and he kind of hugged/slapped them on the back, saying he was so happy that everything had worked out for them, and if there was anything else they needed, they should feel free to call. The look on his face was a mixture of illumination and joy; that look you sometimes see on a person's face when they suddenly realize that they are doing the right thing, in the right place, at the right time.
Bill was our botanical medicine instructor. His classes were always one of the most interesting, since he had literally inhaled the work of John Bastyr and many of the other great naturopaths who were now passing into old age.
Since there were no student loans at the time, I had to work many different jobs to pay for room and board. One of these was as a roving â€˜insurance examiner' that involved visiting a person's home and doing a few perfunctory type examinations, plus some urinalysis. During my first week, I received a ticket to visit the home of a certain William Mitchell who was applying for insurance. "No.â€? I said to myself, "This can't be Bill.â€?
It was hard to decide who was more uncomfortable: The wooly herbal jazz guitar playing mountain man or the lanky East Coast SONO city-slicker still trying to adjust to a new life in the laid back Pacific Northwest. We eventually got through the exam, but not before Bill offered to taste the urine to check for diabetes, and pronounced its smell "satisfactory.â€?
Years passed, and I next saw Bill at one of the Naturopathic Conferences in the late 1980's that I presented for. There he was, in the first row, scribbling notes at a furious pace. Then at one point I looked at him and he looked at me. He had that same exact expression on his face, except this time it was the look of a teacher, watching as one of his students goes forth into the world.
Over the years we've kept in touch, usually through third parties, who had come out of school after me and had been regaled with â€˜Mitchellology' a blend of wisdom, hominess and extra-dimensional space-time travel. When it was time to draw up the speaker roster for IfHI 2007, he was at the top of my list. We will fill the slot that was for Bill, but it won't be Bill, and IfHI 2007 will be a bit sadder for me.
Busy writing weekend-- made more enjoyable by having finally migrated to topics that do not require much of an educational pre-buildup; just good old simple depictive writing. Grab this, measure this, do that. Went over to my little sailboat yesterday with Martha and together we managed to get most of the jackets, bottles, and whatnot out and into the garage. It was a great summer sailing around Long Island Sound. The winds were kind and consistent and the kids are now old enough to savor the experience. Winter just seems extra long and dreary when you can sail with your family and friends in such a great body of water.
Getting the boat over to the winter mooring was a scream. Literally. That day featured absolutely stupendous seas and 30 knot winds. Photographs never seem to do justice to the height of waves, but this photo of your humble blogger (with two sweaters underneath his coat) gives a slight idea of the beating my friend and I took that day. I don't normally wear my hats "homeboy style", but if the visor was in front I can assure you that the hat would have been floating some place in the background.
The other night we made salmon on a plank of cedar wood. I used a ginger-soy dressing that was wonderful, plus lots of garlic. You soak the plank in water for 15 minutes, then put the fish on it, add the fixings, then pop into the over at about 450 for about 15 minutes per pound. Some sautÃ©ed squash and onions, rice and we had a feast. Be advised though that the plank does make some smoke and if you have smoke alarms, you'll need to get your exhaust fans going!
After a week home writing, it's nice to be back in the clinic. The combination of the two (writing and seeing patients) rounds out the day nicely, especially if I can get in a bit of exercise. Someone showed me an article in one of the glossy weekly magazines about how an actress named Jennifer Lopez is following the BTD as an aid to having a healthy pregnancy. Good for her! It can't hurt, and often accomplishes miracles by itself when other methods of fertility have failed.
Speaking of miracles...
Time magazine had a discourse between Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins breathlessly advertised on the cover as "Science Versus God" or some similar dribble. In a rather underwhelming exchange, atheist Dawkins seemed to come out ever so slightly the worse, since Collins appeared every bit as rigorous a scientist, but felt compelled to admit that there were things in existence that he felt could not fall under the realm of scientific scrutiny. On the other hand, I got the impression that Dawkins rules out the existence of God simply because he feels that God is an improbability. Thus my problem with cover sales pitch: It should have been titled, "Science Without God Versus Science with God", since Collins (the coordinator of the US Human Genome Project) is not exactly the type of guy to go around blowing smoke out his mouth, dancing in a grass skirt.
I rather enjoy both of their writings, but each for different reasons. Dawkins, best known for his book The Selfish Gene, has a great clarity of vision that I admire and his thoughts are usually laid out in a rational step-wise order that a computer programmer geek (such as I) can appreciate. However, there is a persistently Cromwellian vehemence to some of his writings; especially when it comes to having a belief in anything other than the belief in having no belief.
Collins, who recently wrote The Language of God, is far cuddlier. He feels that "moral law" (as characterized by the writings of Kant) indicates there is such a thing as right and wrong, and there are some things that you "ought" to do, and some things that you "ought not" to do. In the Time discussion Dawkins pretty much makes it clear that he views things as having the ability to be bad or good, but denies that there is a bad or good.
I bring this point up because these types of media discussions just further convince me of the relative bankruptcy of language --which itself is a sure sign that the discussion is headed towards philosophy and away from any sort of objectivity.
My advice is to, skip the Time article, read Dawkin's The God Delusion and Collins' Language of God. Finally, read Stephen Jay Gould's classic article on nonoverlapping magisteria and draw you own conclusions.
Thomas Kuhn's little book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions identified the problem almost fifty years ago: Normal science tends to reward "puzzle-solvers" who choose only to work within the existing paradigm. Rival paradigms are incommensurable; they simply cannot understand each other through their own conceptual framework and terminology.
That's good news for Time. They can do this again next year.
'Low-Fat Diets Flub a Test' proclaims today's main editorial from the always peripatetic New York Times:
"The baffling results came from a $415 million study of almost 49,000 women age 50 to 79 who were tracked for eight years, with repeated exhortations to the low-fat dieters to stick to the regimen. In findings announced this week, the almost 20,000 women on low-fat diets had essentially the same incidence of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, heart disease and stroke as the 29,000 women who followed their normal eating patterns. The results clearly surprised the investigators and may sound the death knell for the belief that reducing the percentage of total fat in the diet is important for health."
Among other concerns, restricting fish, nuts, and seeds immediately cuts off any source of Essential Fatty Acids such as Omega-3. Low fat dieters are also more at risk of suicide.
Eat your rabbit food.
Not unexpected. There's huge amounts of money at stake: Grant money, book sales, you name it.
Although it took me the better part of my first two decades in practice to realize it, a truly resourceful approach to nutrition is not very complicated:
It is the foods that you identify as benefical for a specific person and which truly feed him, that make him more healthy. Telling a person what to avoid will sometime make him less sick, but only rarely more healthy.
I've never seen anyone improve on a diet of rice cakes and lemon water.
Future low fat gurus may want to ponder the wisdom of cajoling sick people into draconian dietary measures.
Now, before anyone thinks that this is the ultimate validation of all things Atkins, the study also found that an increased consumption of carbohydrates and grains is safe and healthy - contradicting the claims by proponents of low-carbohydrate diets such as the Atkins that high carbs increase the risk of diabetes. Those in the study "did not show any signs of diabetes, their triglycerides were normal and their blood glucose was normal," said Dr Elizabeth Nabel, director of the US's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which sponsored the $415 million study.
So, now that we know who lost, when do we find out who won?
Not any time soon. That won't happen until researchers start incorporating specific markers of genetic individuality into their study designs: Polymorphisms (like ABO blood type and secretor status); single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and metabolomics (the study of genetic differences by analysis of metabolic end products).
Until then, we will constantly be left with conflicting results and confounding, competitive theories.
Could it be that the idea was right, but the execution wrong? That the cause of some cancers does have to do with fat, but not in a way that is addressed by a low fat diet?
In other words, suppose toxins and free radicals in fat tissue do cause breast cancer and cardiovascular disease, but (unfortunately) a low fat diet in and of itself does nothing to help eliminate them?
And perhaps paradoxically, in some people, actually concentrates them instead?
Then you have a reasonable experimental model for the case of the life-long vegan who gets breast cancer.
One of my teachers used to tell us that there were two types of medical students: The first type, who go through four years of medical school; and the second type, who go through the first year of medical school four times.
Sadly, we seem destined to go through this first phase of nutrition research a few more times.
Anyway, some other news:
Put up some new sound files in the Media Center. The first is an extract of a lecture I gave at the Ontario College of Naturopathic Medicine. The second is part one of the 'Century of Blood Type Science' lecture given as the keynote address at IfHI 2003. I hope you enjoy them.
You can access these sound clips by clicking this link.