Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Energy of Life

This is an image of a live worm photographed using polarised light microscopy by Mae-Wan Ho. See how this picture was taken and why it demonstrates the dynamic coherence in organisms. Read On.

More photos of the crystaline structure of living cells here.

Mae-Wan Ho presents a powerful way to understand health and the disordering of organization that creates disease (much like Chinese Medicine). See next post. Acupuncture is able to manipulate this bioenergy to "rebalance" the system. Mae-Wan Ho has a sophisticated bio-energetic theory based upon modern physics to explain the same thing.

Why should you be interested in this woman?

Acupuncture, Coherent Energy and Liquid Crystalline Meridians

Mae-Wan Ho writes: "There can be no real progress in conventional healthcare unless this theory (of the physics of organisms) is taken seriously." This is a bold statement for anyone to make but this woman has the chops to do so. (See her credentials here. ) This lady has some powerful things to say.

Excerpt from a talk given to the British Acupuncture Society: Until quite recently, I have thought little about acupuncture. Instead, I have been involved, since 1985, in trying to understand living organisation from the perspective of contemporary physics, especially of non-equilibrium thermodynamics and quantum theory. At the same time, I was developing and using new experimental approaches to investigate organisms non-destructively, as they are living and developing. As a result, I have now come to an understanding of the organism that is beginning to connect with the meridian theory, and, I hope, in due course, with holistic health systems of all other cultures. I have outlined a tentative theory of the organism in the second edition of my book, The Rainbow and The Worm, The Physics of Organisms (Ho, 1998). Let me briefly describe it and then show how it may link up with the meridian theory. Read on.

In my 10 plus years in acupuncture I have never heard a scientific explanation of the meridian system like this one. My hats off to you, Dr. Ho. You are a pioneer.
For more of her writings click here.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Head and Neck Cancer Complications Treated With Acupuncture

Radiotherapeutic treatment of head and neck cancer patients often causes long-term dysfunction involving their salivary function, swallowing capabilities, and taste. Salivary gland dysfunction from radiation therapy is often the most unpleasant side effect of treatment. (See full text article on Acupuncture for xerostomia) Other preliminary data also suggests acupuncture might be effective for chemotherapy-induced leukopenia, postchemotherapy fatigue, radiation therapy-induced xerostomia, insomnia, and anxiety. However, the utilization rate of acupuncture remains low despite the wide use of other complementary and alternative medical therapies among cancer patients. This low usage of acupuncture in cancer patients indicates a health care quality issue. IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSING PRACTICE: Oncology nurses need to increase their awareness of the available evidence in the use of acupuncture in the supportive care of cancer patients.See abstract

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Ginkgo May Slow The Growth of Aggressive Cancers?

In the January-February issue of the journal Anticancer Research, the investigators reported that treating mice with an extract of leaves of Ginkgo biloba both before and after implanting human breast or brain (glioma) tumors decreased expression of a cell receptor associated with invasive cancer. This decreased expression slowed the growth of the breast tumors by 80 percent as long as the extract was used, compared to untreated mice, and also reduced the size of the brain tumors, but temporarily, and to a lesser extent. For the press release click here.
For the abstract click here

I found just under 1800 citations for ginkgo in PubMed. and 56 studies under the search terms ginkgo and cancer which turned up a few other surprises about investigations into the efficacy of this herb with oral cancers, upper GI cancers, liver cancers, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer and ameliorating the cardiotoxicity of Doxirubicin and radiation therapy. There is even research about Ginkgo ameliorationg the brain damaging effects of cell phone use.

There are drug interactions to watch out for: Ginkgo biloba (ginkgo) caused bleeding when combined with warfarin or aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), raised blood pressure when combined with a thiazide diuretic and even caused coma when combined with trazodone in patients. To find out more about this herb see a 2003 review of ginkgo in the American Family Physician.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Can Acupuncture Help Me?

The role of acupuncture in the curative group is in its adjunctive use in anesthesia, in post-operative pain control, and in aiding and hastening recovery from the side effects of the various therapies. Acupuncture is effective for control of pain, of local swelling post-operatively, for shortening the resolution of hematoma and tissue swelling and for minimizing use of medications and their attendant side effects. Energetic acupuncture, an approach consisting of the use of needles with electricity and moxibustion (a form of local heating with herbs imparts a sense of well being and accelerates patients' recovery. In conjunction with nutritional support, its use is routinely employed in some cancer institutions. Full Text
This quote comes from an article by Eugene Mak, MD Board Certified Oncologist and MARF Board Member. Medical Acupuncture Research Foundation website.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Improving Communications

There is a telling report about a meeting of cancer patients held to teach them how to improve communication with their health care providers. The conclusion the authors drew from this 1 day seminar:
Many participated in order to share their experiences with others rather than to be taught effective communication skills. Humor, spirituality, and the association between cancer and death were prevalent issues. click here for abstract
Alex's Reply:
Being able to share experience is important. It gives a person a feeling of being more alive, more connected to themselves and thereby others. When a person is able to express a truth within themselves the heart opens. Personal mythology - the story we tell about ourselves can enhance healing if we play it right. Or it can reinforce poor health with a story that promotes it. A patient of mine refers to this as the "organ recital". The worst is not expressing anything.

An Acupuncturist friend of mine has a signature on his email:
"Life is suffering, pain is optional"
Taking the human form causes suffering. How we deal with that suffering is what is most interesting. Isn't this at least part of the reason why we are so interested in other's stories?

If you want to share your story please feel free.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Acupuncture For Vasomotor Symptoms With Cancer

A recent study reports:
Acupuncture including self acupuncture is associated with long-term relief of vasomotor symptoms in cancer patients.

The study explains:
...Several randomised controlled trials have shown that acupuncture reduces menopausal symptoms in patients experiencing the normal climacteric. It may have this effect by raising serotonin levels which alter the temperature set point in the hypothalamus. Vasomotor symptoms can be extreme in breast cancer patients and patients with prostate cancer who are undergoing anticancer therapy...
Click here for the abstract

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Insights Into Cancer Lectures Online

Many patients with cancer choose to use dietary supplements and herbs during their cancer care. Some want to mitigate the side effects of conventional therapy while others feel desperate that no other therapy seems to be working. Friends and family often urge patients to use natural products while medical providers are often kept in the dark about this use....
for full text click here

This is one of a cancer lecture series at UCLA. They can all be viewed as a video by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Herbs With Tamoxifen

This is a post I made to answer a question posed by another herbalist at the yahoo group message board for Chinese herbalists Chineseherbacademy.

Should I prescribe Da Bu Yin Wan (a Chinese Herbal formula often used for menopausal hot flashes) to a patient taking tamoxifen?

My answer is no. Simply because there is no research that I could
find for Chinese herbs with Tamoxifen. The most researched herb forclimacteric symptoms with Tamoxifen is Black Cohosh - cimicufuga Racemosa (not to be confused with sheng ma another cimicifuga). Black Cohosh has been found to not effect estrogen while being effective for hot flashes.

There are in-vitro, in-vivo rats, and human trials using black cohoshand Tamoxifen with cancer. In vitro studies show that black cohosh
does not induce proliferation of breast cancer cell line MCF-7. When
given to rats with induced endometrial cancer Black Cohosh did not
effect growth or metastizing potential of the primary tumor. In a
human trial RCT Black Cohosh favorably helped reduce hot flashes over
the control group for cancer surviving women taking Tamoxifen. The
recommended length of time of black cohosh use for this purpose is 1

Soy is such a mixed bag of contradictory info. it is hard for me to
tell what it does based upon reading the literature. My advice with
soy is to not use it in high doses, certainly avoid protein isolates
and eat it like the Asians do as part of their diet not as an animal
protein substitute and not as protein isolates.

With all that said here is a list of what is in Da Bu yin wan:
Sheng di Huang, Gui Ban, Zhi Mu, Huang Bai

Sheng di, and zhi mu contain beta sitosterols which have been shown to
inhibit proliferation of breast cancer cell lines (as well as reduce
cholesterol). See John Boik's book Natural Compounds in Cancer
. Also See the full text review Phytosterols as anticancer dietary components: evidence and mechanism of action

Here is what I would do for this situation: Acupuncture. see the folowing 2 studies.
A comparison of acupuncture and oral estradiol treatment of vasomotor symptoms in postmenopausal women.
Can acupuncture ease the symptoms of menopause?
fish oils and an adrenal supplement that did not have glandulars in it. (I have
heard in a lecture, though not confirmed, that glandulars have a lot
of copper in them which helps blood vessel formation and can
contribute to angiogenesis.) Depending on the pattern discrimination
formulas like jia wei xiao yao san may have some use and might not
conflict with the hormonal pathways of estrogen antagonism that
tamoxifen uses. But the key word is might. Even our beloved Dang Gui
(which is in xiao yao san) has been shown in in vitro studies to help
estrogen and non-estrogen breast cancer cell lines grow. So its use
warrants caution with a breast cancer survivor until more is known.
Doesn't that suck! There is a huge step between what is found to
effect something in a test tube versus what happens when metabolized
in the body.

Anyone else have any better ideas?

A Lesson On Creating Peace

Yesterday evening I went to visit a patient of mine on hospice care. Her cancer had taken control and she was in the process of passing. She had become “holocaust” thin. I had not seen her in 6 or so months and I could hardly tell it was her until she smiled a few minutes into our meeting. Then I saw a glimpse of her former physical self. She was surrounded by flowers, spiritual books, and poetry.

For most of my patients that I see on a regular or semi regular basis I get to know them well as I am using a system of medicine that seeks to balance the body, mind and spirit. Thus many aspects of their intimate personal struggles, lifestyle, beliefs and diet for example may come out over time.

I had treated Tricia since before she was diagnosed with cancer. She had been a Psychotherapist in training, while supporting herself as a bookkeeper and taking care of her dying mother. I remember, it was hard for her to maintain her work schedule with the disease but she needed to and was given the support of an anonymous scholarship to continue her studies. We had worked on breathing practices and relaxing to relieve asthma along with acupuncture. All that was behind her now.

Before I even sat down in the room she says to her friend, who had been reading her poetry before I arrived, “another sign of completion”.

I remember the books I have read about dying. On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, Who Dies by Stephen Levine, Tuesdays with Morey.

She asks me if I had any questions. I stumble with my words and say I am not prepared for such a big question. Than I blurt out something about my curiosity about the process of her making peace and the legacy she would like to leave. She forgives me for not staying in closer communication. I walk away deeply moved.

We are created in the act of love, and hopefully die with peace after a life of giving and receiving love. The complexity of what John Kabbat Zinn calls the full catastrophe can teach us peace if we let it.

Her dying reminds me that our prognosis is terminal - we all die - the question is how do you want to live before your time is up?

Thank you for reminding me of this. I love you Tricia

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Proposal For Winning The War On Cancer

Dr. Guy B. Faguet's proposal for winning the war on cancer is threefold:
"The time has come to abandon the cell-kill paradigm and to anchor cancer control on an incremental, three-tier approach that incorporates prevention, early diagnosis, and when these fail, on controlling the aberrant genetic defects that lead to the development, growth and dissemination of cancer" (p. 183).
Ralph Moss Phd reviews the book The War on Cancer: An Anatomy of Failure, A Blueprint for the Future (Springer, 2005).

Mind-Body Medicine

"Evidence that the mind and body influence each other abounds. And suggests something much stranger: That awareness isn't confined to the brain; it operates 'nonlocally,' beyond the biochemical lines between brain and, say, the immune system. This consciousness revolution is rattling the very foundation of Western medicine."
See interesting mind-body articles from Note: This is the largest liberal political blog on the internet.

I have t0 remind myself sometimes why the conventional approach is the conventional approach. Because it works (duh) or is accepted as the "standard" because there is nothing better. I am always looking for a better way. When it comes to human maladies there are plenty of better, unconventional ways.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Harnessing Intention

Health care is like a puzzle except you don’t always know if you have all the pieces. So you start with the corners and the borders (foundational health, lifestyle, suffiicient sleep, water, diet) then you try and fill in the pieces to complete the picture (so the puzzle can look like the picture on the box). I help people find the missing pieces of their puzzle. Of course, it is nice when a simple solution will create a simple answer, but life is not always that simple.

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." I don't believe we have consciously or subconciously created all of our health problems. However, relieving pain and restoring health is facilitated by identifying blockages in the mind, body and even collective unconcious. This is where my intention comes into play with you. The amazing thing is you don't have to be in the same location as me to benefit by this. This healing power transcends space and time.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Chinese Herbs in Cancer Treatment

The importance of Chinese herbs in the cancer fight is multifactorial. Chinese Herbs can help build qi and blood as is the case with herbs used to cook with.

Certain herbs such as Reishi Mushroom and Astragalus have immunomodulating and antioxidant properties. Others can help treat side effects and promote healing. Still others have strong antitumor properties in their own right. One of the most intersting that is Bai Hua She She Cao - Oldenlandia. This herb I have seen have a strong chemotherapeutic action, but is not toxic to the organs, even at high dosages. It does however cause white blood cell counts to drop. This herb and most all Chinese herbs are used in combinations and formulas tailored to the needs of the individual and the disease. It is not wise to start taking oldenlandia unless you know what you are doing.

See research on Oldenalndia.
Oldenlandia diffusa extract effectively inhibited the growth of all the eight cancer cell lines and induced significant increase of apoptosis. The extract exhibited minimum toxic effect on normal pancreatic cells. Furthermore, there was a significant inhibition of lung metastases in the animal model with no noticeable adverse effects. The herb extract could be a potential anticancer agent.
I must reniforce, using herbs or coming to see me is not a substitute for standard medical supervision, especially with a cancer diagnosis. When a person decides to use alternative medicine, tell your doctor. Some herbs may interact with other treatment agents. We are all looking for the safest, best way to treat. Keping everyone informed is just smart.

I must also emphasize, the most effective treatment for many cancers begins with early detection and surgical removal of the tumor if possible, not seeing if herbs and nutrients can impact what could be a life-threatening situation.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Bone Marrow Soup Recipe

Soups are a good way to get easily digestable nutrient dense, warm food, and get extra fluid. This is especially important under the stress of cytotoxic cancer therapies.

The following recipe has plenty of chlorophyll rich greens for their vitamins, minerals and fiber, medicinal mushrooms for immune system support and liver function, as well as bone marrow to fortify what is termed in Asian medicine as essence or jing.

Beef Stock

1 Beef Shank, w/bone
1 Bunch Kale
2 Shallot Bulbs, Separated and chopped
1 Garlic Bulb, Separated into cloves
Ginger Root, Sliced
1 Cup Italian Parsley
1 Baby Bok Choy
∏ lb. Carrots
6 oz. Shitake mushrooms Sliced
1 Small Bunch Sage
∏ oz. Chives
1 Cherry Tomato, Quartered
Ground Black Pepper
Splash Balsamic Vinegar

Cook meat (attached to bone) with a few cloves of garlic, a few mushrooms and ∏ of the shallots in a shallow roasting pan for 30 minutes @ 425 degrees, increasing temperature to 450 degrees for an additional 10 minutes (total cooking time = 40 minutes).

In a large stock pot combine cooked meat and bone with remaining ingredients, excluding black pepper & balsamic vinegar. Add 15 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Add black pepper and balsamic vinegar. Cover, allow to cook at a slow boil/simmer for 6 ∏ hours. Remove from heat.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Alkylating Agents and Mustard Gas

As amazing as it sounds Alkylating chemotherapy agents are derivatives of mustard gas! Yep mustard gas. The story of their discovery is really amazing:

During World War II, Rhoads was stationed at the southeastern Italian seaport of Bari. Allied ships were using the port of Bari to make deliveries of supplies and munitions. On the night of December 3, 1943, German bombers raided the harbor and sixteen ships were sunk. Among them was the ship Liberty, that had been carrying explosives as well as a top-secret cargo of 100 tons of mustard gas. The mustard gas, a poisonous gas used as a weapon during World War I, had been loaded into warheads of airplane bombs, ready for use. Later, officials claimed that they were intended only for defensive purposes.For the full story click here

Alkylating agents: Busulfan | Carboplatin | Chlorambucil | Cisplatin | Cyclophosphamide | Ifosfamide | Melphalan | Mechlorethamine | Oxaliplatin | Uramustine

The story here is: Toxin to treat a toxin. Great when you really need it. But the side effects can be serious. One question: What nutrients can increase the effectiveness of a chemotherapeutic agent while decreasing side effects? One example: Vitamin E and Cisplatin. There are others that will help mitigate and prevent long-lasting side-effects, and promote faster recovery. This is why integrative management of cancer is so important.

Managing Chemotherapy and Radiation

This WebMD article is standard bland information about how to manage chemotherapy side effects. I can provide more help than this. Part of my job is to bring the concept of evidence based targeted nutrition to the forefront. I feel this is about more than mitigating side-effects. Use of nutrients is also about personal empowerment and control. Consult with your Oncologist, before starting on a supplement program.

"...The role of glutamine as an adjuvant oncology treatment is very promising. The simple process of glutamine supplementation may help patients experience fewer side effects from therapy, including GI damage, mucositis, stomatitis, and neuromuscular pain..... "See the whole article: THE ROLE OF GLUTAMINE IN ONCOLOGY THERAPY

Glutamine is not just for cancer. It will help the gut heal from many conditions such as ulcers, autoimmune gut problems and burns. That is not all. Atheletes use it to releive sore muscles. For a broader overview of glutamine click here. This link goes to the Memorial Sloane Kettering website which has a good library of botanicals and supplements with research abstracts and footnotes.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been?

If you have been a patient of Alex's and want to post a testimonial or comment or ask a question this is an open thread.

Acupuncture For The Cancer Patient

While your oncologist is treating the cancer directly, I can treat the patient, which is to say improve the quality of life (QOL). This is a great use for acupuncture. Here are a few details of what acupuncture can do for a cancer patient

Side Effects of Chemotherapy and Radiation:
  • Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
  • Radiotherapy-induced complications
  • Cancer-related dyspnea (difficulty breathing)
  • Bone marrow suppression
  • Suppressed immune system such as shingles
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Poor appetite
General symptoms:
  • Cancer-related pain
  • Relaxing the nervous system to treat emotional distress. According to the Wellness Community this is the most common and under-reported side-effect of cancer.
  • Treatment-related hot flashes
  • Postsurgical complications
  • Restorative care post-treatment

Kenneth Conklin MD PhD wrote a good review (full text) : The Use of Acupuncture in The Cancer Patient

Use of Antioxidants in Cancer

Ralph Moss Ph.D writes:
"Physicians whose goal is comprehensive cancer therapy should refer their patients to qualified integrative practitioners who have such training and expertise to guide patients. A blanket rejection of the concurrent use of antioxidants with chemotherapy is not justified by the preponderance of evidence at this time and serves neither the scientific community nor cancer patients."

I couldn't agree more. The author of this article, Ralph Moss is a titan of complimentary and alternative cancer. He is an outspoken and poignant critic of the cancer establishment in books and articles. He also has a great free weekly newsletter that I find is an important information source. Check out Ralph Moss's website
He is one of my favorites.

This is the abstract of the Ralph Moss rebutal to the link below by Gabriella D'Andrea: Should Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy Be Prescribed Antioxidants?

Use of Antioxidants during Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy should be avoided (full text) by Gabriella D'Andrea, MD. She concludes:

"Clinicians should advise their patients against the use of antioxidant dietary supplements during chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Such caution should be seen as the standard approach for any unproven agent that may be harmful."

I have given you quite a bit of info. to discuss with your Oncologist and make up your own mind.

Another of my favorite writers on this subject is Kenneth Conklin MD, PhD. He has written review articles of alternative therapies in cancer see full text here. Here is another full text article he wrote on the use of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Impact on Cancer Chemotherpay and Radiation.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Brain Tumor conference at UCLA

Yesterday I went to see Lynn Katzin speak at the UCLA Brain Tumor Conference for patients. She is a good speaker, knowledgeable and experienced. For my money I wished she had come out a bit stronger about the the targeted use of specific antioxidant nutrients when taking certain kinds of chemo. That was perhaps not her role in this conference. Lynn Katzin's website is: CANCERNUTRITION.COM

I stayed to listen to a UCLA Oncologist talk about gliomas. It was frustrating to listen to Dr. Lai speak, not because he was a bad speaker but because the info. he presented was so grim. Referring to a Lancet study (366: 985-990, 2005) he said that it didn't matter if you started radiation early in the diagnosis or later after the glioma progressed, the 5 year survival rate was the same. Translation: They all died. Then he said, three was no Quality of Life Analysis to see who felt better. That sucks. My spirits were lifted at this point though because I am a quality of life practitioner (QOL). What could help a brain tumor patient?

I went up and talked to Dr. Lai afterwards and asked him about phospholipids and their use post-radiation for brain tumors (or any radiation for that matter). He didn't know if you could take them orally as a supplement (you can) or whether they would get to where they are needed in the brain (they do). Is it safe to try? Yes. Will it have an effect on a radiation induced brain damage? Maybe. It is worth a try considering that they make up a significant portion of the brain, help with neurotransmitter acetylcholine production and are used for loss of cognitive function. For more information on nutrients for brain health see the formula Brain Vitale from Designs for health. Please see a review of all the properties of Phosphotidyl Choline.

That's me behind the big dog. On the right is my childhood friend Paul Rubin.

Taking Control

One thing is clear to me. To effectively treat a person with a complex disease you have to treat the person not the disease. Why? Because the uniqueness of each individual and how they present and what they personally need to do to get control of their health can be unique.

This is important when treating complex conditions, because balancing the functional health of an individual is unique. How the digestive tract, adrenal glands, liver, lungs, blood sugar metabolism etc. perform functionally is different for different people.

When a patient can get some control over how they feel through health-style change or taking an herb or supplement than they are on the road to healing. What will effect that control is different for everyone.