Young Patients With Chronic Illnesses Find Relief In Acupuncture

CHICAGO – Doctors at Rush University Medical Center are offering pediatric patients diagnosed with chronic illnesses acupuncture therapy to help ease the pain and negative side effects like nausea, fatigue, and vomiting caused by chronic health conditions and intensive treatments. The confluence of Chinese and Western medicine at Rush Children’s Hospital is part of a study to analyze and document how acupuncture might help in reducing pain in children and increase quality of life.

“Treating children with acupuncture is a new frontier,” said Dr. Paul Kent, pediatric hematology and oncology expert, Rush Children’s Hospital. “We are looking to see if there is an effective pain management therapy we can offer that does not have the serious side effects that can be caused by narcotics and other serious pain medications.”

The lack of options for pain management in children has been reported as one of the most difficult aspects of providing care to pediatric patients. Research indicates that up to 70 percent of pediatric patients experience pain and those with chronic illnesses often do not have adequate relief or prevention of pain.

“Acupuncture could be a potential solution to this dilemma of controlling pain in pediatric patients,” said Angela Johnson, Chinese medicine practitioner at Rush.

Acupuncture is the use of tiny, hair-thin needles which are gently inserted along various parts of the body. The therapy is based on the premise that patterns of energy flowing through the body are essential for health. This energy, called Qi, flows along certain pathways. It is believed that placing the tiny needles at points along the pathways reduce pain and improve the healing process.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has published a statement concluding that acupuncture is effective for treating adults for nausea following chemotherapy and for pain after dental surgery. The agency also said that the therapy might be useful in treating other health issues such as addiction, migraines, headaches, menstrual cramps, abdominal pain, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, arthritis, low-back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and asthma. In some pediatric studies, both patients and parents have stated that acupuncture treatments were both helpful and relaxing.

Rush will be offering acupuncture therapy to pediatric patients between the ages of 5-20 years of age, who are experiencing pain. A practitioner who is licensed in acupuncture by the State of Illinois and certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine will be giving the treatments. Study participants will receive eight acupuncture treatments at no charge.

“Many children with chronic or acute health issues turn to complementary or integrative approaches after all other conventional treatment options are exhausted,” said Johnson. “Parents should be aware that integrative therapies like acupuncture can be helpful from the onset of disease and can have a tremendously positive influence on a child’s quality of life.”

Well-Being: Hawaii Tops Utah for Nation’s Best

Compared with 2008, 27 states improved, 18 deteriorated, and 5 unchanged

by Elizabeth Mendes

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hawaii’s residents had the highest well-being in the nation in 2009, pulling ahead of 2008 leader Utah, and coming in with a new high state Well-Being Index score of 70.2. Utah and Montana are also among the top well-being states in the country, sharing the same score of 68.3. Kentucky (62.3) and West Virginia (60.5) have the two lowest well-being scores, as they did in 2008.

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Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index 2009 state-level data encompass more than 350,000 interviews conducted among national adults aged 18 older across all 50 states. Gallup and Healthways started tracking state-level well-being in 2008. The Well-Being Index score for the nation and for each state is an average of six sub-indexes, which individually examine life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and access to basic necessities.

The Well-Being Index is calculated on a scale of 0 to 100, where a score of 100 would represent ideal well-being. Well-Being Index scores among states vary by a narrow range of 9.7 points. The 2009 Well-Being Index score for the country is 65.9, unchanged from 2008.

Nine of the top 10 well-being states — Hawaii, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, Kansas, Montana, Colorado, Utah, and Alaska — are in the Midwest and the West. Seven of the 11 lowest well-being states are in the South. The general geography of well-being in 2009 remained similar to 2008.

In addition to having the highest overall Well-Being Index score, Hawaii was best in the nation on three of the six well-being sub-indexes, Life Evaluation, Emotional Health, and Physical Health. At the opposite end of the spectrum is West Virginia, which performed the worst on the same three sub-indexes. Utah does the best on the Work Environment Index, with a score more than 10 points higher than that of the worst state on this measure, Delaware. As in 2008, Mississippi is at the bottom on the Basic Access Index, and Kentucky scores the worst on the Healthy Behavior Index.


Each state’s sub-index score reflects the average of the positive percentages found for each of items detailed in the chart above. For example, Mississippi’s Basic Access Index score of 77.3 means that, on average, more than three-quarters of its residents do have access across each of the basic necessities asked about in the sub-index, but that still leaves a large number who are in need, representing millions of people.

Change in Well-Being From 2008 to 2009

Generally speaking, well-being has been fairly stable over time; most states exhibited little change from 2008 to 2009. Only four states — South Dakota, Mississippi, Hawaii, and Iowa — saw an increase of two or more points in their Well-Being Index score from 2008 to 2009. Wyoming saw the largest decrease at 1.3 points. Overall, 18 states moved in a negative direction, 27 in a positive direction, and 5 remained unchanged.


Some of the six sub-indexes scores are more likely to move because of several factors including the number of questions included in the sub-index and the content of the questions. For example, the Life Evaluation Index, which is calculated using two questions asking respondents to rate their lives now and in the future, score changes a good deal throughout the course of the year. Across states, 2008 to 2009 change in Life Evaluation Index scores ranged from 11.0 in Maine to -1.7 in Wyoming. After Maine, two of the biggest gains in Life Evaluation scores from 2008 to 2009, 10.7 and 10.5 points, were in North Dakota and South Dakota, respectively, also the two states with the highest percentage of residents who were satisfied with their standard of living in 2009. Although Wyoming was the only state in which the Life Evaluation Index score decreased last year in comparison to 2008, the downtick is not statistically significant.


Basic Access Index scores, on the other hand, are less likely to change over time. This sub-index is made up of 13 individual questions, many of which are items that require community, business, or governmental intervention to change such as if the city where the respondent lives in is getting better or worse as a place to live and if it is easy to get affordable fruits and vegetables where the respondent lives. The year-over-year range of change on this measure is from 0.8 points to -2.1 points and most of the change is not statistically significant, meaning that access to the basic necessities a person needs to have high well-being is essentially stagnant across the United States. However, cities and communities potentially have the opportunity to move the needle on the Basic Access metric by taking significant steps to improve the health and well-being of their residents.

While certain metrics are in the control of the individual and others fall upon businesses and the government to change, what is clear is that a much bigger society-wide effort is needed for more Americans to move their Well-Being Index score closer to the optimal level of 100 points.

Sweat Lodges, Steam Rooms Aren’t for Detox

BLOOMINGTON – The Web is filled with products and practices that promise to “detoxify” the body through various means, from extreme diets to spa treatments to sweating.

Though some may be relatively harmless, the desire to detox was brought to a tragic conclusion last fall when three participants died and several were made seriously ill during a pricey sweat lodge ceremony in Arizona. Self-help guru James Arthur Ray was arrested Feb. 3 and charged with three counts of manslaughter in the deaths.

Doctors say the notion that you can — or should — undertake special efforts to cleanse the body of impurities is not only not necessary but potentially dangerous. The body has evolved through time to detoxify itself through its own processes, said Dr. Rachel Vreeman, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and co-author of Don’t Swallow Your Gum! Myths, Half-Truths and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health.

When it comes to removing toxins from the body, several organs are designed to do just that.

    * The liver plays a major role in breaking down and filtering substances from the bloodstream that the body can’t use.

    * The kidneys remove substances such as urea, a byproduct of protein metabolism.

    * The gastrointestinal tract, including the colon, is also designed to get rid of what the body cannot use and to keep what it needs.

“There are myths that toxins clog up or get stuck in these organs,” Vreeman said. “That is just not true.”

And without a doubt, she said, sweating definitely would not be the way to go about it.

The primary reason we sweat is to regulate the body temperature. When moisture produced by the sweat glands evaporates, it cools the body.

Though the main component of sweat is water, sweat does contain small amounts of dissolved minerals and trace elements, including sodium, lactate, urea, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, nickel, iron, chromium — none of which are considered toxic, Vreeman said.

When you sweat, the major thing you lose is water — something your body can’t survive long without.

“The term ‘detoxify’ is used so often that it makes people think that special steps need to be taken so ‘detoxifying’ happens,” Vreeman said. “It leads to people not trusting their bodies. Your body, however, does not need special cleansing efforts. What it does need is for you to get enough fluids and to eat a healthy, balanced diet.”

That’s not to say sweating, or spending time in a sauna, has been proven to have no health benefits.

Some studies have indicated that saunas lower blood pressure, enhance blood flow and improve cardiac functioning in people with congestive heart failure or other cardiovascular disease, Vreeman said. One study found weak evidence that saunas could help with chronic pain, and another showed minor benefits for some with chronic fatigue syndrome. There have been almost no studies done specifically on steam rooms or sweat lodges.

Western medicine has largely ignored sweat lodges, but they continue to play a significant role in Native American culture, said David Delgado Shorter, an associate professor of world arts and cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Sweats” have been used for many centuries to purify the mind and body among tribes throughout the Americas, Shorter said. Women in Mayan and Aztec culture, for example, used them as a fertility ritual, and men among the Plains tribes used sweats in preparation for hunts, among other reasons.

“The combination of the physical, emotional, psychological and religious is something many tribes find incredibly important and have fought for their right to do that,” Shorter said.

During earlier times, when colonial settlers and government agents were sometimes violently suppressing Native American religion and culture, tribes fought to hold on to the tradition, for both spiritual and practical reasons. Sweat lodges offered a private place to sing, pray and gather.

That’s why many in the Native American community take offense to non-Native Americans co-opting and charging for participation in sweat lodges, Shorter said.

Anyone thinking of participating in a sweat lodge ceremony or something approximating it should exercise caution, experts say. In harsh environments, hot or cold, the body will work hard to balance how much heat it makes and how much it loses. But if you are in conditions that are too hot for too long, the body may not be able to cool you off sufficiently.

In Arizona, in addition to those who died, 18 people were hospitalized with burns, dehydration, respiratory arrest or kidney failure, according to published reports. Participants, who had paid $9,695 for the “Spiritual Warrior” retreat, said that some people were vomiting, lethargic and collapsing after an hour into the session.

“These are all signs of heat illness and are warnings that your body cannot keep itself cool,” Vreeman said. “Vomiting, thirst, dizziness, being uncoordinated or clumsy are all signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heat illness can kill you and should be treated as an emergency.”

Someone who becomes overheated should get to a cool place, drink fluids and seek medical care, Vreeman said. People with heart conditions should always talk to their doctor before trying a sweat lodge or sauna.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on heat illness.

One in Five U.S. Teenagers Has High Cholesterol

A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that over 20 percent of teenagers in the U.S. have elevated cholesterol levels.

The national study covered more than 3,000 teens whose blood test results were collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

High levels of LDL or triglycerides, and low HDL levels were associated with weight, and the heavier the teenagers were, the more likely they were to have abnormal levels (nearly 43% if they were obese), but even among those with normal body weight over 14% had unhealthy levels.

High cholesterol levels were at first associated with the middle-aged and elderly, but are increasingly beginning to appear in late childhood and the teenage years.

    This finding already has researchers urging cholesterol screening for about one-third of teens who are overweight or obese, which will put many of these kids right in the line of fire to be prescribed a dangerous statin drug.

    In 2007, the American Heart Association first recommended the use of statin drugs for children with high cholesterol. Then in 2008 the American Academy of Pediatrics followed suit, recommending cholesterol-lowering drugs for children as young as 8!

    There is such overwhelming evidence — nearly 900 studies compiled in this link — showing the damage statins inflict, that this recommendation should qualify as criminal malpractice.

    Some of the possible consequences of taking statins for a lengthy period of time, which many of these kids undoubtedly would do, include:

          Cognitive loss




          Frequent fevers


          Sexual dysfunction


    Then there is the serious risk of potentially permanent muscle damage, and the depletion of Co-Q10, which can harm your heart and muscles alike.

    Statin drugs used to lower cholesterol are the best-selling drugs in the United States. In 2008 alone they brought in $14.5 billion in sales!

    The odds are very high, greater than 100 to 1, that anyone taking statin drugs does not need them.  The ONLY subgroup that MAY benefit are those born with a genetic defect called familial hypercholesterolemia, as this makes them resistant to traditional measures to normalize cholesterol.

    And the first step to understanding why lies in understanding the role of cholesterol in your health, not in disease.

Why Cholesterol is Not “Evil”

    Cholesterol has been traditionally vilified, when in reality it is essential and crucial for a wide variety of vital functions in your body.

    It’s an integral part of your cell membranes, and it’s also the precursor (the raw material) your body uses to make your steroid hormones – one of which is vitamin D. Your skin contains cholesterol, and when UVB rays from the sun hit your skin, it converts that form of cholesterol to vitamin D3, which is then transported to your blood. Your body then further converts it into the active form of vitamin D.

    It’s important to realize that there’s a big difference between “average” and “healthy” cholesterol levels. It’s very similar to what we’re now seeing with vitamin D levels.

    Please understand that you have not been told the whole truth about cholesterol. Rather, what you’re getting from most conventional health practitioners is little more than cleverly distorted marketing.

    Before 2004, a 130 LDL cholesterol level was considered healthy. The updated guidelines, however, recommended levels of less than 100, or even less than 70 for patients at very high risk.

    In order to achieve these outrageous and dangerously low targets, you typically need to take multiple cholesterol-lowering drugs. So the guidelines instantly increased the market for these dangerous drugs. Now, with testing children’s cholesterol levels, they’re increasing their market even more.

Total Cholesterol Level is a Virtually Useless Test

    If your doctor is urging your child to get a total cholesterol level check, you should know that this test will tell you virtually nothing about his or her risk of heart disease — unless it is 330 or higher.

    And, perhaps more importantly, you need to be aware that cholesterol is not the CAUSE of heart disease.

    If you become overly concerned with trying to lower your child’s cholesterol level to some set number, you will be completely missing the real problem.

    In fact, I have seen a number of people with levels over 250 who actually were at low heart disease risk due to their elevated HDL levels. Conversely, I have seen even more who had cholesterol levels under 200 that were at a very high risk of heart disease based on the following additional tests:

          Your HDL/Cholesterol ratio

          Your Triglyceride/HDL ratios

    HDL percentage is a very potent heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL level by your cholesterol. That percentage should ideally be above 24 percent. Below 10 percent, it’s a significant indicator of risk for heart disease.

    You can also do the same thing with your triglycerides and HDL ratio. That percentage should be below 2.

How to Get Your Children Healthy

    While I don’t believe high cholesterol is typically a concern (again unless it is over 330), many teens are overweight, obese or showing signs of being at risk of heart disease based on the tests I described above.

    In this case, you do need to take some steps to help him or her get healthy.

    Fortunately, there are simple, basic strategies that can help your teen not only regulate cholesterol in a healthy way, but also build a foundation for a healthy heart and body that will support him throughout his life.

Get an appropriate amount of exercise.

Reduce, with the plan of eliminating, grains and sugars in your daily diet. Foods like these will increase your insulin levels, which will also contribute to high cholesterol by making your liver produce more of it.

Eat the right foods for your nutritional type.

Eat a good portion of your food raw.

Make sure you’re getting plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega3-fats. I prefer those from krill oil.

 Avoid smoking and alcohol.

Have solid strategies to address your emotional challenges.

    Finally, please do make sure your, and your child’s, vitamin D levels are where they need to be. Vitamin D is not “just a vitamin,” but rather the only known substrate for a potent, pleiotropic (meaning it produces multiple effects), repair and maintenance seco-steroid hormone that serves multiple gene-regulatory functions in your body.

    Low levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, which is what parents of teens with “high” cholesterol are most concerned about.

    About 70 percent of U.S. children have low levels of vitamin D, so this should be one of the first issues you address to keep your teen’s heart healthy.


Courtesy of Dr. Mercola.

Cookware Chemical Linked to Thyroid Disease

Nonstick pannonstick panA study links thyroid disease with human exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). PFOA is a persistent organic chemical used in industrial and consumer goods including most nonstick cookware and stain- and water-resistant coatings for carpets and fabrics.

The study included nearly 4000 adults aged 20 and older whose blood serum was sampled between 1999 and 2006 for PFOA.

The researchers found that the individuals with the highest PFOA concentrations were more than twice as likely to report current thyroid disease.

Previous animal studies carried out by other scientists have shown that the compounds can affect the function of the mammalian thyroid hormone system. This system is essential for maintaining heart rate, regulating body temperature and supporting many other body functions, including metabolism, reproduction, digestion and mental health.

    I know it might seem a bit of an extreme position but you can do your health a great service by getting rid of any Teflon-coated cookware immediately.

    Like so many products developed for the sake of convenience without concern for human health, Teflon coated non-stick cookware when heated has proven to be a primary source of a dangerous toxic fluoride derivative, specifically perfluorinated chemicals (PFOAs).

    PFOA and other perfluorinated chemicals are used to create heat-resistant and non-stick coatings on cookware, as well as grease-resistant food packaging and stain-resistant clothing. Studies have linked these chemicals to a range of health problems, including thyroid disease, infertility in women, and developmental and reproductive problems in lab animals.

    Teflon pans quickly reach temperatures that cause the non-stick coating to begin breaking down, releasing toxins into the air surrounding you.

    When your Teflon pot or pan reaches 680 degrees F (which takes about three to five minutes of heating), at least six toxic gases are released. At 1,000 degrees F, the coatings on your cookware break down into a chemical warfare agent known as PFIB.

    These chemicals are easily absorbed by your body, and have been linked to a growing number of health concerns. That healthy, home-cooked meal becomes toxic when prepared in unsafe cookware.

Should you be Concerned About PFOA?

    Teflon, created in 1938 by the DuPont Company, gained wide distribution before scientists began looking into its impact on human health.

    It can now be found in many areas throughout your home.  Not only on your pots and pans in your kitchen, and all of your stain resistant laundry, but it can also pervade your entire home if you have wall-to-wall, stain resistant carpeting.

    Vacuuming carpet that contains stain-resistant coating will release these chemicals into the air to be circulated in your home.

    I don’t recommend eating microwave popcorn for many reasons, but did you know that PFOA is not only present in the inner coating of the bag, but it also migrates to the oil from the packaging during heating?

    At this point PFOA is so prevalent, that even many of your sources of drinking water have been contaminated.

    Not surprisingly, this toxic chemical is likely lurking in your body right now.

    The CDC’s Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, 2009, which is considered the most comprehensive assessment to date of the exposure of the U.S. population to chemicals in our environment, detected not one but 12 types of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in Americans, including PFOA.

    This group of chemicals is among 75 that have never before been measured in the U.S. population, but now is showing up with great frequency.

How PFOA Damages Your Thyroid and Health

    The latest research points to some very concerning news about PFOA and thyroid function. People with the highest 25% of PFOA concentrations (above 5.7ng/ml) were more than twice as likely to have thyroid disease than those with the lowest 50% of PFOA concentrations (below 4.0ng/ml).

    Your thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland in your throat area that contains thyroglobulin protein, which binds to iodine to form hormones, which in turn influence essentially every organ, tissue and cell in your body.

    Thyroid hormones are used by every cell of your body to regulate metabolism and body weight by controlling the burning of fat for energy and heat. Thyroid hormones are also required for growth and development in children.

    Thyroid disease, if left untreated, can lead to heart disease, infertility, muscle weakness, osteoporosis and, in extreme cases, coma or death. Exposure to these toxic chemicals is likely one reason why thyroid disorders are becoming so widespread.

    If you’re concerned you may be suffering from thyroid disease, especially hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, please watch my recent video on the topic.

Do You Really Want to Cook Your Eggs in This?

    Non-stick cookware has become enormously popular because of its convenience factor; foods don’t stick to the surface, and the classic example is the sunny-side-up eggs that slide right out of the pan.

    Now, about 70 percent of cookware sold in the U.S. contains a non-stick coating … and most Americans test positive for PFOA in their blood.

    Aside from potentially harming your thyroid, these nasty chemicals have also been linked to lower birth weights among newborns, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that PFOA “poses developmental and reproductive risks to humans” — an extreme understatement.

    PFOA was linked to a 60 percent to 154 percent increase in the chance of infertility!

    Further, in animal studies PFOA has been associated with:

    *          “Significant increases in treatment related deaths” in rat offspring at doses that did not affect the mothers

   *          Serious changes in the weight of various organs, including the brain, prostate, liver, thymus, and kidneys

   *          The deaths of a significant number of rat pups of mothers that had been exposed to PFOA

  *          Damage to the pituitary at all doses in female rat offspring (The pituitary secretes hormones that regulate growth, reproduction, and many metabolic processes. Change in pituitary size is associated with toxicity)

    PFOA has even been associated with tumors in at least four different organs in animal tests, and has been associated with increases in prostate cancer in PFOA plant workers. The EPA has also ruled PFCs as “likely carcinogens.”

Take Control of Your Health and Get PFOAs Out of Your House NOW

    A voluntary program for companies to reduce PFOA emissions and products by 2010, and eliminate them entirely by 2015, has been introduced by the EPA. But it is entirely voluntary, so I recommend you take matters into your own hands and ditch any products that contain these toxic compounds.

    Some of the products that contain PFCs, which I highly recommend getting rid of, include:

        * Teflon and similar types of non-stick cookware: Replace it with either ceramic or glass. My personal choice is ceramic cookware, because it’s very durable and easy to clean, and there’s absolutely no risk of exposure to harmful chemicals.

          IMPORTANT NOTE Our current ceramic cookware is not actually nonstick but this summer we will be introducing a completely PFOA-free, safe nonstick metal frying pan made out of zirconium.  Very high tech, completely safe and absolutely amazing

         *         Microwave popcorn bags

        *          Packaging for greasy foods

        *          Stain-proof clothing

        *          Carpet and fabric stain protectors

        *          Flame retardants and products that contain them

    Avoiding these products is especially crucial for pregnant women or couples who want to have children, but really anyone who is interested in protecting their health would benefit by seeking to avoid them.

Courtesy of Dr. Mercola.

Introducting CAM – Complementary and Alternative Medicine

What is CAM?

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a term used to describe a diverse group of healing systems that are not presently considered to be part of mainstream medicine. The goal of conventional medicine is to locate the physical source of a particular disease and then remove it. For example, if a patient has some sort of infection, a conventional doctor would probably prescribe a specific antibiotic to kill the invading bacteria. CAM practitioners, on the other hand, take a more “holistic” approach to healthcare. They believe that health and disease involve a complex interaction of physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, and social factors. In order to treat a disease or simply promote good health, CAM practitioners treat the whole body by taking all of these factors into account.

In the United States, this holistic approach to health has been labeled “alternative” for a variety of scientific, cultural, and political reasons. In many cases it is very difficult to scientifically test alternative practices, such as acupuncture, in the same way that certain conventional practices, such as medications, are tested. Although alternative therapies are often based on hundreds — in some cases thousands — of years of experience, the conventional medical community relies heavily on scientific evidence (rather than clinical experience) when evaluating the safety and effectiveness of a particular therapy. For this reason, many alternative practices that have not been thoroughly tested (or cannot be thoroughly tested) are considered “unscientific” by modern Western standards. In addition, many non-Western healing practices are not taught in United States medical schools, available to patients in U.S. hospitals, or even covered by health insurance in the country.

What does complementary medicine and alternative medicine mean?

The terms “complementary medicine” and “alternative medicine,” although often used to mean the same thing, actually have quite different implications. Complementary medicine refers to medical practices used together with conventional medicine while alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. An example of complementary medicine is the use of hypnotherapy together with pain medications to reduce anxiety and enhance relaxation in people recovering from severe burns. Following a special diet rather than taking medications to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is an example of alternative medicine.

What is integrative medicine?

The term “integrative medicine” is often used interchangeably with CAM, but it has a subtle and very important different meaning. Professionals who practice integrative medicine blend appropriate CAM therapies with mainstream medicine rather than simply adding one complementary therapy (such as herbs, for example) to a standard medical treatment. For example, an integrative treatment for Alzheimer’s disease may include a combination of the following: (1) medications that increase certain brain chemicals, (2) antioxidants (such as vitamin E and ginkgo biloba) that scavenge free radicals, (3) changes in lifestyle (such as walking programs and relaxation training) to reduce anxiety and improve behavior, and (4) music therapy to bolster the immune system. More and more Americans are becoming familiar with the term “integrative medicine,” and studies have found that this blended approach to healthcare is safe and effective for a growing number of medical conditions.

What are the basic principles of CAM?

Although CAM therapies vary widely, several themes can be traced through them all:

The focus is on the whole person — physical, emotional, social, and spiritual.

Prevention of illness is a primary concern.

Treatments are highly individualized.

Treatments are aimed at the causes of illness rather than at its symptoms.

Treatments are designed to support the natural healing processes of the body.

Who is using CAM?

The barriers to integrative medicine are beginning to fall — or, at least are becoming less difficult to overcome. Alternative healing practices are increasingly being tested for effectiveness and safety in well-designed research studies. The intermixing of diverse cultures in the West are bringing once distant healing practices to the forefront and more Americans are turning to integrative medical care than ever before.

The movement toward integrative medicine in the United States has been prompted by a growing consumer demand for CAM services. A landmark study published in 1993 found that more than one-third of Americans had sought CAM therapies, that in 1990 they had made more visits to CAM providers than to their primary care physicians, and that consumers had spent more than 13 billion dollars out-of-pocket for these CAM visits.

Studies suggest that demand for CAM services continues to grow at a startling rate. A 2001 survey found that nearly 70% of Americans have used at least one form of CAM therapy in their lifetime, making this “unconventional” medical approach one of the fastest growing sectors of American healthcare. Although herbs and supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pharmacies across the country are experiencing a tremendous surge in the demand for these alternative remedies. From 1991 to 1996 alone, the demand for over-the-counter natural remedies (including herbs and supplements) doubled. In a 1996 survey by Landmark Healthcare, more than 70% of HMOs reported an increase in requests for CAM by their members. Most patients (56%) requested acupuncture, followed by chiropractic (45%), massage (25%), acupressure and biofeedback (21% each), hypnotherapy (8%), and reflexology (4%).

Studies also suggest that U.S. medical schools may be warming up to CAM. As of 1998, 75 out of 117 (64%) U.S. medical schools offer at least one course in CAM. In a 1994 survey, 60 percent of doctors reported recommending CAM to their patients. Nearly half of the doctors who responded to the survey acknowledged that they used CAM themselves. More and more health insurance plans are also covering CAM, particularly treatments such as acupuncture and chiropractic, whose safety and effectiveness in the treatment of certain health problems has been fairly well researched. A number of health plans now cover the Ornish heart program, which has a basis in yoga and nutrition. All of these changes in American healthcare point to the careful movement—often with a healthy dose of skepticism—toward an integrative medicine system that incorporates the most useful therapies from the world’s many healing traditions.

What are the major types of CAM?

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) classifies CAM therapies into five major groups:

Alternative Medical Systems: built upon complete systems of theory and practice. Examples include homeopathy, naturopathy, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and Ayurveda.

Biological Medicine: use of substances found in nature, such as herbs, foods, and vitamins to promote health.

Energy Medicine: involves the use of energy fields to promote health. Some forms of energy medicine (known as biofield therapies) are designed to influence energy fields that are believed to surround and penetrate the human body. Examples of biofield therapies include qi gong, Reiki, and Therapeutic Touch. Other forms of energy medicine (known as bioelectromagnetic-based medicine) involve the use of electromagnetic fields, such as electroacupuncture.

Manual Medicine: based on manipulation and/or movement of one or more parts of the body. Examples include osteopathy, physical therapy, massage, chiropractic, Feldeinkrais, and reflexology.

Mind-Body Medicine: uses a range of techniques that help boost the mind’s ability to influence bodily functions and symptoms. Examples include biofeedback, deep relaxation, guided imagery, hypnotherapy, meditation, prayer, support groups, and yoga.

Milk During Pregnancy May Lower a Baby’s Risk of Developing MS Later in Life

Recent media reports have covered research announced ahead of the American Academy of Neurology’s (AAN) Annual Meeting in April which suggested that milk during pregnancy may lower a baby’s risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) later in life.

The theory from the researchers in Boston, announced in an AAN press release, was based on a survey of American mothers.

It was claimed that MS risk was lower among women born to mothers with high milk or dietary vitamin D intake in pregnancy.

Unfortunately UK media reports focused on the milk link ; however it is in fact the case that there are only trace elements of vitamin D in milk consumed in this country.

Unlike America, most of Britain’s milk is not fortified with vitamin D and so whatever quantity of milk is ingested, vitamin D levels in the body are likely to remain unaffected.

While it may be true that vitamin D has previously been shown to potentially play a role in MS, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet including oily fish and exposing skin to safe levels of sunshine are the best ways to increase levels of vitamin D.

Bangladesh Telemedicine Firm Plans to Reach Out to South Asian Workers

A Bangladeshi telemedicine company is set to provide healthcare services for more than five million South Asian workers in the Middle East and Malaysia in a couple of months.

Telemedicine Reference Centre Ltd (TRCL) has already signed agreements with around 25 Gulf and Malaysian companies that recruit workers from South Asia.

Telemedicine is a rapidly developing application of clinical medicine where medical information is transferred through the phone or the internet.

TRCL will launch the mobile phone-based service, said Dr Sikder M Zakir, managing director of the company.

“Under the project, we will start providing medical call-centre services to two million Bangladeshi, 1.5 million Indian and two million Nepalese and Pakistani workers,” Zakir added.

Prime Bank and two investors from the US and India are funding the project, he said.

TRCL has also signed deals with seven mobile phone companies in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait.

The company is working to set up multilinguistic medical call centres in India, Pakistan and Nepal, from where dedicated physicians will provide healthcare advice to the expatriate workers.

All the workers under the 25 recruiting companies will be registered with TRCL to get the services free of cost. They will call a particular number and get advice in their own language.

The recruiting firms will pay the service charge to TRCL on behalf of the workers, which is no more than one US dollar a month for a person, Zakir said.

They will also be referred to hospitals if necessary.

Zakir said TRCL is now setting up branch offices in nine countries including Malaysia, UAE and Saudi Arabia to comply with those countries’ regulatory requirements.

“It’s a milestone for telemedicine service. The sector is getting institutional shape,” he added.

Established in 1999, TRCL is operating the first medical call centre or electronic referral centre manned by physicians for the largest cellphone operator in Bangladesh — Grameenphone. More than 10,000 people are using the service by dialling a hotline number (789) from their mobile phones every day.