digestion, GI health, healing, hood river naturopath

A German Writer Translates a Puzzling Illness Into a Best-Selling Book

MANNHEIM, Germany — IF Giulia Enders had not contracted a mysterious illness as a teenager that left her covered with sores, she, like most of us, might never have thought much about her digestive tract, except when it was out of whack. She might never have enrolled in medical school, either, and she almost certainly would not have written a best-selling book about digestion last year that has captivated Germany, a nation viewed, fairly or not, as exceedingly anal-retentive.

Back in 2007, after a series of mostly ineffective treatments prescribed by doctors, Ms. Enders, then 17, decided to take matters into her own hands. Convinced that the illness was somehow associated with her intestines, she pored over gastroenterological research, consumed probiotic bacterial cultures meant to aid digestion and tried out mineral supplements.

The experiments worked (although she is not sure which one did the trick), leaving her with healthy skin and a newfound interest in her intestines. “I experienced with my own body that knowledge is power,” she writes of the episode in “Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ,” which was published in North America last month after its surprising success in Germany, where it has sold almost 1.5 million copies since its release in March 2014.

Inspired by her successful self-experimentation, Ms. Enders enrolled in medical school in 2009 at Goethe University Frankfurt and is now working toward a doctoral degree in microbiology there.

DURING a recent interview in a cafe here next to the Neckar River, not far from her childhood home, Ms. Enders, now 25, sipped chamomile tea and described with characteristic enthusiasm the first stomach operation she saw in person. “The whole body moves like this or like that, but the intestines move in entirely a different way,” she said. “It’s incredibly harmonious!”

Ms. Enders’s wonder at the strange ways of the gut is matched only by her incredulity at the limited public knowledge on the subject. “I’m almost shocked,” she recalled thinking during her first years in medical school as she learned, for example, that it is easier to burp lying on your left side than your right because of the position at which the esophagus connects to the stomach. “Why doesn’t everybody know this?”

In 2012, she began taking it upon herself to fill people in. She had heard about a student event space in Freiburg that was hosting a “science slam,” an open-mike event where young researchers give presentations, and decided to prepare a short lecture on digestion.

Onstage, Ms. Enders was bouncy and jocular, as a video of the event shows. She speaks rapidly, hardly able to contain her excitement, describing the components of the digestive system and lamenting its poor reputation.

“It’s really too bad, because the intestines are totally charming,” she says, citing as evidence the sophisticated communication between our inner and outer sphincter muscles and the some hundred trillion bacteria in our guts that facilitate digestion.

The crowd was smitten. Ms. Enders won the competition and went on to participate in two more science slams in Karlsruhe and Berlin. Soon, videos of her presentations were attracting attention online, and a literary agent contacted her about writing a book.

FANS have praised Ms. Enders for translating abstruse gastroenterological research into breezy, entertaining prose. On a talk show here last April, she described the large intestine as the “chiller” of the two because it processes nutrients at a leisurely pace of about 16 hours on average, compared with the two to five hours that the small intestine needs.

In her book, she catalogs the myriad elaborate operations that our guts dutifully perform every day, like the cleaning mechanism that kicks in a few hours after we eat and keeps the small intestine — all 20 or so feet of it — remarkably tidy. This “little housekeeper,” as Ms. Enders calls it, turns out to be the real source of the grumbling that most attribute to the stomach and mistake as a sign of hunger.

Then there is the growing body of research indicating that our intestines may have a far greater influence on our feelings, decisions and behavior than previously realized. The primary evidence for this, Ms. Enders writes, is the vast network of nerves attached to our guts that monitors our deepest internal experiences and sends information to the brain, including to those regions responsible for self-awareness, memory and even morality.

Just how much your lunch will affect ethical decision making remains unclear; we still know very little about this “gut brain,” as Ms. Enders refers to it. But this byzantine neural architecture suggests that our intestines may play a large part in determining who we are and what we do.

These essential but little-known features of our guts — our identities at their most raw and visceral, Ms. Enders suggests — have riveted Germans. The surprising popularity of Ms. Enders’s book has itself become a topic for discussion, with some commentators invoking Freud to explain Germans’ apparent fascination with their bowels. Profanity here tends to skew to the scatological, and Germans are, according to stereotypes, obsessed with order and neatness.

Ms. Enders dismisses such talk, noting that the book has also topped best-seller lists in Finland, the Netherlands and elsewhere. She suggests that its appeal lies in its frank treatment of topics usually left undiscussed. “Shame always disappears when you really understand something,” she said.

MS. ENDERS grew up on the outskirts of Mannheim, a sleepy city of almost 300,000 residents that was largely flattened by Allied bombs in World War II and filled back in with prim, modern buildings. Her parents split up when she was young, and her father was an irregular presence during her childhood. “You can only say Lebenskünstler,” she said to describe him — a term that means “life artist” and connotes a bohemian disregard for societal conventions.

Instead, it was her mother, a former documentary filmmaker, and grandmother who raised Ms. Enders and her older sister, now a graphic designer based in Karlsruhe who contributed illustrations to the book. Her grandmother, an interpreter by training, proved particularly influential. “She showed us very early on that intellectuality doesn’t have to be so serious,” said Ms. Enders, who recalled free-form games of chess with her grandmother in which they ignored half of the rules.

But Ms. Enders’s interest in science is relatively new. She was, by her own assessment, a mediocre student in elementary school, owing mostly to self-described boredom with the rote exercises in primary education. While her grades improved in high school, her fascination with medicine began outside the classroom, with the unexplained sores she had as a teenager.

By her own account, Ms. Enders’s sudden fame has not changed her life very much. She still shares the same apartment in Frankfurt with five friends. She recently completed a state medical exam and will soon begin a yearlong residency at a hospital.

She does not have any immediate plans to write another book. “If I have that feeling again,” she said, referring to her surprise at how little most people knew about digestion, “then I’d do it. But only then. And if that feeling doesn’t come, then hopefully I’ll just be a good doctor.”

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childbirth, labor, oxytocin, pregnancy

Pitocin Is Not Oxytocin

Pitocin-Is-Not-Oxytocin
The role of hormones in our body are so vast and dynamic!  Here is a quick article looking at only one of the hormones that help regulate us.

BY KELLY BROGAN MD

“The Love Hormone”.  Sounds important, no? Turns out that we know very little about the hormone oxytocin, beyond that it is incredibly relevant to multiple metabolic, behavioral, and endocrine functions. In a compelling review entitled Beyond Labor: The Role of Natural and Synthetic Oxytocin in the Transition to Motherhood, Bell et al explore the literature suggesting that, once again, we cannot outsmart, outdo, or circumvent nature with pharmaceutical products.

What is Oxytocin?

One of the known roles of oxytocin is in the complex physiology of labor and birth. Perceived by the obstetrical establishment to be a “contraction chemical”, oxytocin’s effects are bodywide, and most notably, brain-based. During pregnancy, oxytocin receptors increase in areas of the maternal brain related to mood, stress, and attachment behavior. Specifically, its activity has been studied in the hypothalamus, lateral septal nucleus, periaqueductal grey, Broca’s area, nucleus basalis of Meynert, locus coeruleus, vagus, solitary tract, trigeminal nerve, and lateral reticular formation. It is secreted continuously in the brain and in a pulsatile manner to the body through the posterior pituitary. Despite efforts, the brain-blood ratio has not been well-elucidated leaving major gaps in our understanding. When it comes to hormones, the production and release of the hormone is critical, but so is the receptor activity – the action of the baseball in the catchers mitt, and receptor sensitivity varies from person to person based on genetics and adaptation to experience.

What is Pitocin?

So, when we manufacture a synthetic version of this hormone and commandeer a woman’s labor physiology, it should come as no surprise that there are unintended and poorly understood consequences. Pitocin®  or “Pit” as it’s called on the floors, is the obstetrician’s whip. They snap this whip when your baby is not conforming to their non-evidenced-based schedules. When your due date is wrong, when you’re forced to birth in highly artificial circumstances, or when your physiology has been hijacked by an epidural.

Bell et al discuss a number of concerns related to the administration of synthetic oxytocin:

  • Because of its hydrophilic (fat-loving) nature and molecular size,Pitocin®  is unlikely to cross the blood brain barrier. But maternal oxytocin is very active in the brain, inducing secretion of other hormones including endorphins (buffering fear and pain). It is also active in the fetalbrain, protecting receptors such as GABA, from potential hypoxia of birth.
  • If, in fact, synthetic oxytocin does reach the maternal brain (because of barrier permeability or active transport of some kind), the authors state:

    “Whether the maternal brain will reliably respond to exogenous oxytocin by decreasing or increasing the synthesis or release of endogenous oxytocin is unknown.”

What about after labor is over?

Women are struggling to breastfeed in proportions likely never seen in human history. Bell et al reference a powerful study that implicates Pitocin in this phenomenon.

“Compared to all other study groups, women exposed to Pitocin® in labor combined with an epidural demonstrated significantly lower oxytocin levels during breastfeeding. Overall, the total quantity of synthetic oxytocin administered during parturition was negatively correlated to levels of oxytocin in plasma two days following birth.”

This may be related to the effects of a pharmaceutical-grade agonist stimulating the oxytocin receptor and causing modeling changes at the membrane level. When receptors are overstimulated, they are internalized and downregulated through changes in gene transcription. Bell et al reference a study demonstrating that:

Participants with oxytocin-induced labor had a 300-fold down-regulation of the OTR gene in uterine muscle, when compared to receptor availability in spontaneous labor.

The role of oxytocin in the HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) may explain why:

“Lactating women show increased vagal tone, decreased blood pressure and decreased heart rate when compared to non-lactating women, especially in response to a stressor.”

Data analyzing the role of oxytocin in response to postpartum stress suggests that it is a buffer to the negative effects of the experience. When this buffering effect is inadequate, we may see the emergence of postpartum depressive symptoms. One study found that bottle feeding women had lower levels of oxytocin, higher heart rates, and higher cortisol, but that breastfeeding depressed women shared this profile, implicating low oxytocin levels in depression.

Amazingly, some of oxytocin’s effects may actually be mediated by gut bacteria (is there anything the microbiome doesn’t manage?) as was demonstrated in this study showing a lactic acid bacteria accelerated (doubled) wound healing in rodents by increasing oxytocin levels. In psychiatry, there is sparse literature supporting the use of intranasal oxytocin in autism, schizophrenia, OCD, social phobia, depression/postpartum depression, and anorexia but notable theoretical underpinnings for consideration in these cases and minimal risk.

While we attempt to understand the variables contributing to altered oxytocin response in the body, deliberately interfering with this feedback system through the use of synthetic hormone should be exposed for what it really is: a dangerous fix for the problems of a medicalized birth.

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alternative medicine, bone broth, columbia gorge, health, hood river midwife, hood river naturopath, nutrition, paleo, pdx, pnw, portland, primal, wellness

Portland Gets Its First Dedicated Bone Broth Bar

bone-broth_vyg6haIt was only a matter of time. Portland will soon be home to Broth Bar—located on NE Sixth and Couch next door to Ristretto Roasters—showcasing bone broth from grass-fed and pasture-raised animals.

Packed with easily digestible minerals and gut-healing gelatin, bone broth has been a nutritional darling for years, slowly working its way from the fringes to full-on trend status alongside green smoothies, hot yoga, and organic apothecaries. Popularized by proponents of the paleo diet, ancestral health movements, and food-as-medicine folks, it’s hard to open a magazine or scan a health blog without the buzzy broth popping up. Broth windows, food trucks, and cafés have been popping up in New York, Los Angeles, and Vancouver, BC. Several local restaurants have also jumped on the trend, including Noraneko, Lincoln, and JoLa Café—but Broth Bar will be the first Portland destination to focus first and foremost on the nutritional powerhouse.

What’s more, the idea may capture the healthy food zeitgeist, but the bar is the brainchild of Portland’s own bone broth pioneer, Tressa Yellig of Salt, Fire & Time, who brought retail bone broth to Portland in 2009. Long before broth became the “It Ingredient” of celebrity detoxes, Yellig was crafting healing, small-batch broths from pasture-raised, hormone-free bones sourced from local ranchers, and has earned a loyal following of fans who credit her products with restoring health during and after cancer treatments and other major health crises.

The small-but-mighty 800-square-foot Broth Bar will feature a rotating selection of bone broths—including chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, pork, and bison—with optional add-in “bundles” to turn a mug of broth into a meal, from seasonal kraut and kelp noodles to chickpea miso, grated turmeric, ginger, and soft boiled eggs. A self-serve condiment bar will take the customization even farther, with a dash of tamari, Hot Mama hot sauce, housemade seaweed gomasio, and a variety of salts.

In addition to the main event in a mug, the bright and cheery bar will offer four varieties of Salt, Fire & Time’s kombucha on tap, grab-and-go “picnic-style” fare, and a micro-market stocking hard-to-find supplements, high-quality butter, artisan ingredients, and seasonal produce from local farms.

Broth Bar is set to open in late June, and Yellig—along with sister and business partner Katie Yellig—hopes to host small classes, tastings, cookbook signings, healing food pop-ups, and weekly hamburger nights (featuring Salt, Fire & Time’s organ burgers and fermented condiments).

With the expansion, Yellig wants fans of the brand to have no doubt about the company’s continued dedication to impeccable sourcing of bones, add-ins, and market products. “We want people to never doubt the quality of the ingredients,” says Yellig. “We’re not compromising about how we source, and that will never change.” So grab a mug, get ready, and stay tuned for more details.

Broth Bar
115 NE Sixth, off of NE Couch

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alternative medicine, columbia gorge, homeopathy, hood river midwife, hood river naturopath

FDA Ponders Putting Homeopathy To A Tougher Test

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Katherine Streeter for NPR

It’s another busy morning at Dr. Anthony Aurigemma’s homeopathy practice in Bethesda, Md.

Wendy Resnick, 58, is here because she’s suffering from a nasty bout of laryngitis. “I don’t feel great,” she says. “I don’t feel myself.”

Resnick, who lives in Millersville, Md., has been seeing Aurigemma for years for a variety of health problems, including ankle and knee injuries and back problems. “I don’t know what I would do without him,” she says. “The traditional treatments just weren’t helping me at all.”

Aurigemma listens to Resnick’s lungs, checks her throat and then asks detailed questions about her symptoms and other things as well, such as whether she’s been having any unusual cravings for food.

Aurigemma went to medical school and practiced as a regular doctor before switching to homeopathy more than 30 years ago. He says he got disillusioned by mainstream medicine because of the side effects caused by many drugs. “I don’t reject conventional medicine. I use it when I have to,” Aurigemma says.

Throughout his career, homeopathy has been regulated differently from mainstream medicine.

In 1988, the Food and Drug Administration decided not to require homeopathic remedies to go through the same drug-approval process as standard medical treatments. Now the FDA is revisiting that decision. It will hold two days of hearings this week to decide whether homeopathic remedies should have to be proven safe and effective.

“So this will be the first dose,” he says. “Then I’ll give you a daily dose, to try to get underneath into your immune system to try to help you strengthen your energy, basically.”

Homeopathic medicine has long been controversial. It’s based on an idea known as “like cures like,” which means if you give somebody a dose of a substance — such as a plant or a mineral — that can cause the symptoms of their illness, it can, in theory, cure that illness if the substance has been diluted so much that it’s essentially no longer in the dose.

“We believe that there is a memory left in the solution. You might call it a memory. You might call it energy,” Aurigemma says. “Each substance in nature has a certain set of characteristics. And when a patient comes who matches the physical, mental and emotional symptoms that a remedy produces — that medicine may heal the person’s problem.”

Critics say those ideas are nonsense, and that study after study has failed to find any evidence that homeopathy works.

“Homeopathy is an excellent example of the purest form of pseudoscience,” says Steven Novella, a neurologist at Yale and executive editor of the website Science-Based Medicine. “These are principles that are not based upon science.”

Novella thinks consumers are wasting their money on homeopathic remedies. The cost of such treatments vary, with some over-the-counter products costing less than $10.

Some of the costs, such as visits to doctors and the therapies they prescribe, may be covered by insurance. But Novella says with so many people using homeopathic remedies, the costs add up.

There’s also some concern that homeopathic remedies could be dangerous if they’re contaminated or not completely diluted, or even if they simply don’t work.

Somebody who’s having an acute asthma attack, for example, who takes a homeopathic asthma remedy, “may very well die of their acute asthma attack because they were relying on a completely inert and ineffective treatment,” Novella says.

For years, critics like Novella have been asking the FDA to regulate homeopathy more aggressively. The FDA’s decision to revisit the issue now was motivated by several factors, including the growing popularity of homeopathic remedies and the length of time that has passed since the agency last considered the issue.

The FDA is also concerned about the quality of remedies, according to Cynthia Schnedar, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office of Compliance. The agency has issued a series of warnings about individual homeopathic products in recent years, including one that involved tablets being sold to alleviate teething pain in babies.

“So we thought it was time to take another look at our policy,” Schnedar says.

The FDA’s decision to examine the issue is making homeopathic practitioners like Aurigemma and their patients nervous. “It would be a terrible loss to this country if they were to do something drastic,” he says.

He also disputes claims that homeopathy doesn’t work and is unsafe.

“There’s no question that it helps patients. I have too many files on too many patients that have shown improvements,” Aurigemma says, although he acknowledges some homeopathic products sold over the counter make misleading claims.

Companies that make homeopathic remedies defend their products as well.

“Homeopathic medicines have a very long history of safety,” says Mark Land, vice president of operations and regulatory affairs for Boiron USA, which makes homeopathic products. “One of the hallmarks of homeopathic medicines is safety,” says Land, who is also president of the American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists.

“The potential risk [of greater FDA regulation] to consumers is if any change in regulation were to limit access to these products,” says Land.

That’s what worries Resnick. She says homeopathic remedies have helped alleviate a long list of health problems she’s experienced over the years. “Why would they want to take that away from us?” she says. “Let us have the freedom to decide what works the best for us.”

The FDA says this week’s hearing is just a chance to start gathering information to decide what — if anything — the agency should do about homeopathy.

For full story see: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/04/20/398806514/fda-ponders-whether-homeopathy-is-medicine

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birth, documentary, pregnancy

Microbirth

Have you heard of this? LSFF-2014-WinnerMicroBirth is a new feature-length documentary looking at birth in a whole new way; through the lens of a microscope. The film investigates the latest scientific research that is starting to link the way babies are born with health in later life, particularly the increased risk of children developing certain immune-related conditions, including asthma, type 1 diabetes, celiac (coeliac) disease, obesity, cardio-vascular diseases, mental health disorders and even some cancers.

The purpose of the documentary is to raise public awareness of the importance of “seeding the baby’s microbiome” at birth with the mother’s own bacteria – this bacteria helps train the immune system to recognise what is “friend” and what is “foe”. We believe “seeding of the baby’s microbiome” should be on every birth plan – for even if vaginal birth isn’t possible, immediate skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding can still help to provide bacteria crucial to the development of the baby’s immune system. In the scientists’ view, if we can get the seeding of the baby’s microbiome right at birth, this could make a massive difference to the baby’s health for the rest of its life.

Check out the trailer at:  http://www.oneworldbirth.net/microbirth/

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BPA, pediatrics, plastic

BPA-Free and Plant-Based Plastics More Dangerous Than We Thought

Ugh!  Glass it is then.foods_bpa-free2In my house, we only permit BPA-free toys, sippy cups, and other plastics while trying to minimize our use of plastic altogether. Doing so is supposed to spare us from hormone-disrupting chemicals found in  bisphenol-A. But these plastic items still aren’t safe (if by safe we mean products that don’t leach other hormone-disrupting chemicals). Research now indicates that nearly every plastic product (including BPA-free) is made up of chemicals that stimulate estrogenic activity (EA) in human cells.

Estrogen made by our bodies in the right quantities at the right time is a good thing. But chemicals with EA have been linked to a whole slew of frightening problems like increased rates of  asthma, obesity, premature puberty in girls, infertility, reproductive cancers, and a number of neurodevelopmental disorders.

To perform the study, University of Texas researchers purchased 455 widely available plastic products. Although most were labeled “BPA-free” it wasn’t possible to determine exactly what chemicals they contained. Apparently this is proprietary information closely guarded by industry. To determine if the products had estrogenic effects, researchers exposed extracted versions to solvents meant to mimic food and beverage items these plastics were likely to contain. Then, they exposed these extracts to a type of human breast cancer cell that’s highly receptive to estrogen. Cells that multiplied in the presence of plastic extracts indicated that those particular chemicals were estrogenic.

The results? Nearly every plastic product they tested leached EA chemicals. Some BPA-free products actually released more EA than other plastics. That included eco-friendly plastics made from plant products, which apparently released EA due to the additives used.

A more recent study by University of Calgary scientists indicates that bisphenol-S, found in many products with the “BPA-free” label, might actually be more harmful than BPA itself. Researchers exposed zebra fish, a good model to study human brain development, to bisphenol-S (an ingredient found in many products deemed “BPA-free”). The results showed abnormally timed growth of neurons in the embryos, the same growth surges found when embryos are exposed to BPA. The disruption of prenatal cellular activity appeared to result in hyperactive behavior. In fact, early abnormal growth of brain cells was specific to male hormones, perhaps indicating why more boys than girls are diagnosed with certain neurodevelopmental disorders.

Researcher Deborah Kurrasch was surprised by the results, especially since the dose used was “a very, very, very low dose, so I didn’t think using a dose this low could have any effect.” Another researcher in the study, Hamid Habibi, said “Finding the mechanism linking low doses of BPA to adverse brain development and hyperactivity is almost like finding a smoking gun.” They recommend pregnant women limit their exposure to products containing bisphenols and say this and other studies support removing bisphenols and structurally similar chemicals from consumer products.

Ninety percent of Americans show trace amounts of BPA in urine, breast milk, and umbilical cord blood. Why are potentially dangerous plastics used in toys, food packaging, and beverage cups (as well as in healthcare)? The  Food and Drug Administration considers compounds safe until proven otherwise.

– See more at: http://www.mothering.com/articles/bpa-free-plastic-evil/#sthash.2IxYoxCu.dpuf

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