Natural healing, body systems, pergolide, Zelnorm, pharmaceuticals, dysbiosis, irritable bowel,

The Human Body: Friend or Foe?

The Human Body: Friend or Foe?

After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it.

I have often pondered those words, which were written to the Christian church at Ephesus in approximately 62 A.D. Based upon my observations as a physician, I would have to clarify the statement by saying, “No one in his right mind”, “No sane person”, or “No reasonable person” ever hated his own body. I have known too many people who intentionally mutilated their bodies, starved their bodies, or neglected their bodies to accept the statement as a universal truth.

Ascetic cults that considered abuse or neglect of the body a path to spiritual purity have existed in all ages, but never has hatred of one’s own body been as commonplace as it is in today’s American society. Evidence of this is abundant.

In some cases the hatred of one’s body is limited to one or more “imperfections” that need correction. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons recently reported that Americans spent $9,433,551,672 in 2005 to have tummies tucked, cheeks enhanced, noses trimmed, breasts enlarged or reduced, hair replaced or removed, wrinkles smoothed, faces lifted, or to have an almost limitless number of other perceived bodily imperfections corrected.

Very often, the body’s size or fat distribution is the focus of disdain. It is estimated that Americans spent $34.7 billion on weight loss products in 2000, and that those expenditures are increasing by 17 % every year. Liposuction has gained steadily in popularity, and it is now one of the most common surgical procedures.

Nowhere, however, is our society’s hatred of the human body more evident that in our obsession with healthcare. The United States spends a greater percentage of its gross national product on healthcare than any other country in the world. In 2003 healthcare expenditures were 15 % of our GNP. Our closest competitors were Germany and Switzerland, who spent 11 % of their GNP on healthcare. All other countries spent 10 % or less.

Viewed another way, the United States’ annual per capita expenditure on health care in 2004 was $5,635. We spent twice as much per capita as the United Kingdom and more than triple that of countries like Spain and Portugal.

One would think that seeking healthcare would indicate a love of one’s body – a desire to protect and support it, but health care in the United States is a paradox. What is euphemistically referred to as health care is actually disease care, and in American medicine’s war on disease, the human body is considered public enemy # 1.

Disease, when it appears, is almost always viewed as the result of a body run amuck. People die of heart attacks because their bodies are producing too much bad cholesterol. Many develop arthritis because their bodies are producing too many bad leukotrienes. Individuals are dying of cancer because one of their organs was genetically programmed to go bad. (Consider the rising popularity of prophylactic mastectomies – surgical removal of the breast to prevent breast cancer.)

Since the body is the considered the source of disease, the response of American medicine when an illness appears is to attack the body and beat it into submission. This is most commonly done by cutting (surgery), burning (radiation), or poisoning (drugs).

It is necessary to understand that there are, indeed, times when a part of the body that is diseased must be sacrificed for the sake of the whole. There are times when burning an area of diseased tissue is expedient. There are occasions when discreet use of poison can help to restore equilibrium. These instances, however, should be exercised because of extreme need. They should be exceptions to the standard of care, not the rule.

As I write this article, two drugs have been withdrawn for this very reason. The first was a drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease. Pergolide (Permax) was intended to simulate the action of the neurotransmitting chemical dopamine in the brain. By improving the activity of nerves in the brain, pergolide eased the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Unfortunately, pergolide also affected the heart, causing valve leakage in approximately one fourth of those taking it.

The second was Zelnorm (tegaserod), which was used to ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. While Zelnorm was effective in some individuals, primarily by easing constipation, those taking it were found to be at a higher risk of requiring gall bladder removal and other abdominal surgeries. Its withdrawal from the United States market was due to reports that use of the drug was associated with a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.

A third drug did not make it to market. Pre-marketing trials of torcetrapib, a drug designed to increase levels of HDL cholesterol in the body by blocking an enzyme called cholesterol ester transfer protein, were abruptly discontinued when it was discovered that people on the drug were dying at over 1 ½ times the rate of those who were not taking it.

With the exception of hormone replacement products, nearly all drugs attack the body’s ability to function properly. Cholesterol-lowering drugs, for example, block the body’s ability to manufacture cholesterol and coenzyme Q10. Anti-inflammatory drugs block the body’s ability to produce certain chemicals called prostaglandins, which are produced by the body to regulate various activities. Acid suppressing drugs inhibit the body’s ability to produce stomach acid.

Because drugs are blocking the body’s ability to perform various functions, side effects invariably occur. In blocking the body’s ability to manufacture cholesterol in the liver, for example, statin drugs also block the body’s ability to produce coenzyme Q10. When physicians attempt to prevent heart attacks by prescribing statins or alternative practitioners recommend red yeast rice with the same intent, they simultaneously increase the likelihood that congestive heart failure will develop. When physicians prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to block the production of prostaglandins that cause joint pain and inflammation they simultaneously block the production of prostaglandins that protect the lining of the stomach from the acid it contains. They adversely affect kidney function and once again increase the likelihood that congestive heart failure will appear.

Drug use, therefore, is dictated by a hatred for or distrust of the body. When that is understood, it is alarming to view the rise in prescription drug use in our society. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the number of prescrip­tions purchased in the United States increased 68% between 1994 to 2004, (from 2.1 billion to 3.5 billion), compared to a US population growth of 12%. The average number of retail prescriptions per capita increased from 7.9 in 1994 to 12.0 in 2004. The percent of the population with a prescription drug expense in 2002 was 61% (for those under age 65) and 91% (for those 65 and older). Spending in the US for prescription drugs was $179.2 billion in 2003, almost 4½ times larger than the $40.3 billion spent in 1990.

The degree to which we Americans are attacking our bodies becomes even more evident when the number of drugs we are taking is considered. According to the Centers for Disease Control the average American between the ages of 45 and 65 is prescribed 4.5 different drugs each year. Persons over the age of 65 receive prescriptions for nearly twice that number.

I do not believe that anyone would knowingly attack his or her body if they loved it and were seeking to feed and care for it. Indeed, a high percentage of those seeking my council intuitively know that many of the drugs they are taking are not in their best interest. “I don’t want to take this,” they will say, or “I don’t feel right about taking this.” Many people come to me for the expressed purpose of getting off of the drugs they are taking.

While to a casual observer I may appear to simply be exchanging one pill for another, there is a profound difference between my approach to illness and the one in which I, along with my medical peers, was trained. I saw firsthand the folly of modern medical practice during the many years I attempted to heal the body by assaulting it. Perhaps that is why I now so fervently believe in doing everything possible to strengthen rather than weaken the body’s systems.

I have a deep and abiding respect for the design and nature of the human body. It is, as the psalmist states, “fearfully and wonderfully made”. My goal, when approaching an illness is not to beat the body into submission, but rather to nourish and support it to the best of my ability, trusting that its innate healing mechanisms will restore health.

The recently withdrawal of Zelnorm serves as an illustration of how disease can be addressed more effectively by supporting rather than abusing the body. Zelnorm was intended to relieve constipation and abdominal pain by attaching to receptor sites for serotonin, a naturally occurring body chemical, in the intestinal tract. It was not directed toward resolving any underlying cause of irritable bowel syndrome.

In my experience one of the leading causes of irritable bowel syndrome is a condition called dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is a descriptive term meaning an abnormal growth of organisms. It is a condition in which the helpful bacteria that normally live in the intestinal tract have been displaced by potentially harmful organisms.

Friendly bacteria such as lactobacilli aid in food digestion, manufacture B vitamins, and guard against the overgrowth of undesirable organisms. When the normal population of bacteria is lost due to antibiotic use or the intake of chlorinated water, yeasts or other microorganisms that are less susceptible to destruction take over. The abnormal growth causes the cells lining the intestinal tract to become inflamed. This, in turn, allows undigested food particles to be absorbed, leading to food allergies.

Dysbiosis can be corrected in nearly all cases by administering a combination of pau d’arco (extracted from a South American tree bark), Undecyn (containing calcium undecylenate, grapefruit seed extract, Bentonite clay, & betaine hydrochloride), and lactobacillus acidophilus. As the intestinal growth of desirable bacteria is restored, gassiness, bloating, and irregularity commonly disappear.

Another cause of irritable bowel symptoms is inadequate water intake. When an individual fails to drink enough water, stools become dry and move through more slowly. This can lead to cramping and constipation. Drinking enough water to keep the urine pale assures that the intestinal tract will be able to retain enough water to ensure soft stools.

A magnesium deficiency is another common cause of constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. This should not come as a surprise, since milk of magnesia is commonly used as a laxative. When magnesium stores are low the smooth muscle in the intestinal walls cannot contract and relax to move the intestinal contents along smoothly, a process called peristalsis. Raising magnesium to optimum levels in the body can restore normal peristalsis.

Just as inadequate water consumption can cause stools to become dry and move through more slowly, insufficient fiber intake can slow the movement of stool through the intestinal tract. Increasing the fiber content of the diet by eating foods that contain bran, fruits or vegetables with skin, legumes (beans and peas), crucifers (broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage), nuts, and berries can often work wonders in easing irritable bowel symptoms. Fiber supplements, such as psyllium, often work very effectively in normalizing the stool pattern and eliminating gassiness, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.

Zelnorm was able to ease abdominal pain and constipation by interfering with the body’s ability to use serotonin to regulate bowel action. It did so at a price. Individuals taking the drug required abdominal surgery more frequently than people not taking Zelnorm. It was withdrawn when post-marketing reports showed that heart attacks and strokes were occurring more frequently in those taking the drug.

The supportive measures of restoring a normal intestinal environment, drinking adequate amounts of water, increasing fiber intake, and normalizing magnesium levels allow the body’s intestinal function to return to normal without any adverse effects. At the same time, they promote general health and therefore decrease the likelihood that other disease processes will appear.

Disease occurs not because the human body is bad or defective, but rather because the body has been attacked and has been unable to respond effectively. This is often because the body has not been properly fed and cared for prior to the attack. A wide variety of nutrients are required to enable the body’s defenses to work properly. If they have not been provided and are lacking, hostile invaders find it easy to gain the upper hand, renegade cells are able to establish themselves as an independent cancerous growth, and aging cells and worn tissues break down because the body is not able to repair or replace them. A body that has been well cared for – that has received proper nourishment, adequate rest, and protection from environmental insults will be able to withstand most assaults. It will be able to conquer nearly all challenges if given optimum support when symptoms of disease first appear.

When disease occurs, the body is not the enemy; it is our greatest ally in the fight to regain our health. It deserves and needs our support. After all, no one (in his right mind) ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it.