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SAUERKRAUT INSTEAD OF PHARMACEUTICALS
Last year, Korean scientists showed that kimchee, the spicy fermented cabbage dish, is effective in preventing bird flu in chickens. The studies followed the observation that bird farmers who ate kimchee did not become sick, even when their birds were infected. In fact, there have been no human cases of bird flu in Japan or Korea, both countries where kimchee is popular. In further studies, Seoul National University has shown that fermented cabbage has the same benefits, even without the traditional spices. Long time patients have heard for some time my recommendation that they include some naturally fermented foods to their diet. Unfortunately, all sauerkraut from the industrial food industry is pasteurized or otherwise sterilized.
Except for Reuben sandwiches and on top of the occasional hot dog, modern Westerners are not in the habit of eating sauerkraut, and given the taste difference between homemade and the industrial product, this is no surprise. Nevertheless, there is some historical precedent for adding this ingredient back to the diet: During World War I, homemade sauerkraut was such a popular dish in America it was renamed “liberty cabbage” in deference to anti German propaganda. Aficionados of maritime history will also recall that Captain James Cook relied on sauerkraut to prevent scurvy in his sailors.
Fortunately, it is very easy to make sauerkraut or kimchee. I prefer to use red cabbage, but have also successfully used Napa cabbage or Bok choy, adding ginger, cayenne, onion and turmeric to make a more kimchee-like dish. For those of you who want the authentic taste, fish sauce is added. For those who cannot imagine eating sauerkraut on a regular basis, making your own pickles or fermenting other vegetables is an easy and tasty option. Since bird flu has already developed resistance to Tamiflu®, protecting your family with fermented vegetables is a realistic and much safer option. (L.B. Grotte, 2006)
POOR RESULTS WITH ECHINACEA FOR CHILDREN’S COLDS
New research has cast doubt on the ability of Echinacea to reduce the symptoms of colds in children. 524 children between the ages of 2 and 11 were followed for four months. If they got a cold during that time, they were given either echinacea or a placebo for up to 10 days. The parents recorded the child’s symptoms, their severity and duration as well as the number of days of fever, if any. Analysis of the data revealed no difference in symptoms, duration of symptoms, overall days of illness or days of fever between the two groups. The only observed difference was a negative one, with rashes appearing in 7% of children who took echinacea compared to 2% of those treated with placebo. ( Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003;290:2824-2830).
HRT & ASTHMA
Researchers from Bergen in Norway studied data from 2589 women aged between 26 and 54, living in 7 areas of northern Europe (in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia and Iceland). The women were sent a questionnaire ten years ago and then contacted again between 1999 and 2002. The results indicated that women taking HRT are 40 to 50% more likely to suffer from asthma or to exhibit asthma symptoms, and the increased risk rises to 60% in the case of allergic asthma. The women on HRT were also 30% more often affected by hay fever. When the study was restricted to non-smoking women, HRT practically doubled the likelihood of having asthma or hay fever. (Presented at the 13th Annual Congress of the European Respiratory Society, 2003).
HRT & OVARIAN CANCER
A new study has indicated that estrogen plus progestogen replacement therapy may increase a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer and may also increase the number of endometrial biopsies that women need before cancer can be diagnosed. An analysis of data from the recently completed women’s health initiative (WHI) trial into HRT (stopped early in 2002 because of health risks) found that estrogen plus progestogen reduced rates of endometrial cancer by 19% but increased rates of ovarian cancer by 58%. (BMJ 2003;327:767).
ANTACIDS & FOOD ALLERGIES
Research on both humans and animals suggests that taking antacid medication, which affects gastric acid secretions, can result in normally digestible proteins acting as food allergens. Up to 10% of the adult population may take antacids. (World Allergy Congress, Vancouver, 2003).
FRUIT, VEGETABLES & LONGEVITY
Older people with high blood levels of vitamin C (ascorbate) live longer than people with low levels, according to a study of 1214 people between the ages of 75 and 84 years. Researchers found that ascorbate concentrations decreased markedly with age and that participants with the highest blood levels of ascorbate (greater than 66 micromol/L) had about half the risk of dying during the 4-year follow-up period as did participants with the lowest blood levels (less than 17 Micromol/L). Blood levels of the other antioxidants measured did not correlate with mortality. Only 17% of the participants took vitamin C supplements and this did not appear to affect the correlation between blood levels of ascorbate and mortality, which rather related to fruit and vegetable intake. (Am J Clin Nutr 2003 78: 999-1010).
ACUPUNCTURE & CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE
The Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California has received a $2 million, five-year federal grant to continue studying how acupuncture can help treat cardiovascular illnesses such as heart disease, hypertension and arrhythmias. This grant extends a previous five-year grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The study, lead by Dr. John Longhurst, a practicing cardiologist, will look at how acupuncture excites brain cells to release neurotransmitters that either inhibit or heighten cardiovascular activity. Longhurst says that needling specific acupuncture points triggers the release of opioid chemicals that reduce excitatory responses in the cardiovascular system. This decreases the heart’s activity and its need for oxygen, which in turn lowers blood pressure and promotes healing for a number of cardiac ailments, such as myocardial ischemia (insufficient blood flow to the heart) and arrhythmias. “What we’re trying to show is that acupuncture can be an excellent complement to other medical treatments, especially for those treating the cardiac system,” Longhurst said. Longhurst has received an additional $2 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to study central nervous system mechanisms triggered by acupuncture. (www.today.uci.edu/news/release_detail asp?key=1091).
ACUPUNCTURE & PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE
In a single-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study, 12 male volunteers (aged 21-26) were tested using cycle spiroergometry (measurement of oxygen uptake during bicycle exercising). Prior to exercising, volunteers received true acupuncture at different points, placebo acupuncture or no acupuncture. Needling of points Hegu L.I.-4 and Zusanli ST-36 was found to result in an increased maximum work load and significantly increased work load and oxygen uptake at the anaerobic threshold. (Deutsche Zeitschrift fur Akupunktur, 47. January 2004, pp.6-17).
ACUPUNCTURE & ANXIETY
In this study, patients who required ambulance transport secondary to medical conditions, were randomized to receive auricular acupressure either at the ‘relaxation point’ or at a sham point. Patients treated with the true point reported significantly less anxiety than patients in the sham group on arrival at the hospital. Further, their perception of pain during treatment, as well as treatment outcomes for their illness, were significantly more positive than in the sham group. Anesthesiology 2003; 98:1328-32).
ACUPUNCTURE FOR OSTEOARTHRITIS OF THE KNEE
30 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee were randomized to one of three groups: 1. acupuncture alone at Hegu L.I.-4, Xuehai SP-10, Xiyan (MN-LE-16), Yinlingquan SP-9, Yanglingquan GB-34, Zusanli ST-36, Taichong LIV–3, Weizhong BL-40 and Chengshan BL-57 (twice weekly treatment, obtaining of deqi, 10 treatments in total, using electro-acupuncture at most points); 2. identical acupuncture plus continuation of their symptomatic Western medication; 3. symptomatic medication alone for five weeks, followed by a course of acupuncture as above. Outcome measures (visual analogue pain scale/VAS and Western Ontario McMaster questionnaire/WOMAC) were administered by a blinded observer. Highly significant improvements in both measures were observed in the first two groups, and there was no change in the third group until they received acupuncture, when significant changes were observed. The benefits were maintained one month after the end of the course of acupuncture. (Acupuncture in Medicine 2004;22(1):14-22). In another study, 563 patients with arthritis of the knee (54% of 5- 10 year duration; 23% more than 10 years) were treated with acupuncture for a maximum of 15 sessions, with treatment cessation if no improvement was noted after three treatments (these patients were included in the study results). Of the 85% of patients who completed treatment (standard points and additional points according to TCM pattern, with deqi, average 8.9 sessions per patient), 75% experienced a greater than 45% relief in pain scores. There was a significant difference in quantity of analgesics taken at completion of treatment (most of the 45% pain-relief responders ceased medication entirely). Cost analysis showed a reduction from a mean of .91 euros a day before treatment, to .18 euros a day after treatment, representing a daily saving of 349.50 euros a day for the 478 patients who stayed in the study.(Acupuncture in Medicine 2004;22(1):23-28).
ACUPUNCTURE VERSUS ACUPUNCTURE + HERBS FOR HAY FEVER
Although many Asian practitioners are happy to specialize as acupuncturists, and therefore do not prescribe herbs, there has been a tendency in the west to feel that acupuncture alone is somehow inadequate. In the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis at least, this does not seem to be the case. In a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial, 65 patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis received acupuncture twice a week for 8 weeks plus either a Chinese herbal drug formula (intervention group, 33 patients) or placebo (control group, 32 patients) at a dosage of four capsules, three times daily. Acupuncture was given at Yingxiang L.I.-20, Yintang (M-HN-3), Fengchi GB-20, plus (according to pattern) Taiyuan LU-9, Feishu BL-13, Pishu BL-20, Zusanli ST-36, Shenshu BL-23, Qihai REN-6, all with needle manipulation). Herbal treatment consisted of an 18-herb formula that had demonstrated its effectiveness in a previous trial (Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2003; 9(5): 80-87). After 8 weeks, no significant difference was found between the two groups in the severity of nasal and non-nasal symptoms and in rhinitis quality of life questionnaire scores. Moderate-to-marked improvement rates of 72.7% and 81.2% were found in the intervention and control groups respectively. (Hong Kong Med J. 2003 Dec;9(6):427-34).