In my blog on proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) a couple of weeks ago, I discussed the dangers of these drugs that are commonly prescribed for treating GERD and indigestion. Patients often ask me if there are natural alternatives to PPIs.

I recommend complete digestive support that focuses on safely alleviating symptoms and restoring digestive tract health. The goals should be to:

  • Neutralize stomach acid to relieve heartburn, acid indigestion, bloating, GERD, and upset stomach.
  • Support digestion and normal gastrointestinal (GI) health and response.
  • Support normal GI immune and inflammatory response.
  • Support normal GI tract healing, provide support and protection to the mucosal lining, enhance GI permeability health, and address leaky gut syndrome and immune dis-regulation.
  • Provide optimal support for the epithelial lining of the GI tract, esophagus, throat and mouth.
  • Support nervous system/digestive system connection and assist the gut, nervous system, and brain network.
  • Support gum and oral tissue health.

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Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are among the 10 most widely used drugs in the world. In 2012, there were 157 million prescriptions written for these stomach-acid inhibiting drugs.1 More than likely, either you or someone you know is taking these medications.

While PPIs may alleviate the problem of excess stomach acid, many people don’t realize that these drugs are associated with an increased risk of gastric cancer, pneumonia, c. difficile infections, osteoporosis (you need stomach acid to absorb nutrients such as magnesium and calcium into bones), and vitamin B12 deficiency, among other serious diseases.2

The Rationale Behind PPIs

The stomach secretes digestive fluids with a pH2 value, which creates a highly acidic environment. These acidic gastric secretions sterilize bacteria in foods that are eaten, and are essential for the digestion and absorption of various nutrients, including protein, iron, calcium, and vitamin B12.

Obviously, stomach acid that can digest food can also damage delicate intestinal mucosa. The body has protective mechanisms—including mucosal mucous/bicarbonate secretion and sphincter contraction of the gastroesophageal junction—to prevent gastroesophageal damage. But if the sphincter is weakened, stomach acid can flow back into the esophagus. The backwash of acid irritates the esophageal lining, causing heartburn and the regurgitation of food. If the condition persists, it may cause chest pain, difficulty swallowing, chronic cough, hoarseness, and disrupted sleep. Left untreated, GERD can lead to esophageal ulcers, narrowing of the esophagus, and precancerous changes known as Barrett’s esophagus. 


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I recently read a paper entitled “Integrative Oncology” 1 published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. To say I was shocked at the misrepresentation presented as “fact” is an understatement.

I am strongly compelled to offer a rebuttal to this article. I can only hope that those who most need the perspective of someone who has worked in clinical practice with cancer patients on a daily basis for almost three decades will benefit from my experience.

Personally, I prefer to use the term “Unified Medicine” over “Integrative Oncology” to more appropriately describe the wholistic ETMS (Eclectic Triphasic Medical System) model I developed and practice, known as ‘Mederi Medicine’ or ‘Mederi Care’.

Mederi Medicine is an approach where all aspects of an individual are addressed for optimal health and well being. This includes the fundamental building blocks of nutrition, herbs, lifestyle, and spiritual and emotional health, with the tools of modern conventional medicine employed when necessary. As a musician, I think of Mederi Medicine as similar to the way that the various parts of an orchestra each play an essential role in creating beautiful music. The ETMS is not a fragmented approach, but is synergistic, meaning that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This harmonious approach is something that is sorely lacking in modern conventional medicine”.

 

“I think of Mederi Medicine as similar to the way that the various parts of an orchestra each play an essential role in creating beautiful music”

What’s Wrong with the “Integrative Oncology” Paper?

Honestly, when I first saw the title “Integrative Oncology” I felt hopeful. I thought perhaps this paper would offer helpful information to those suffering from cancer, or to those who dedicate their lives to working with people with cancer. Instead, I found bias, misrepresentation, and outright twisting of the facts and outcomes of studies. This paper clearly states that it has been peer-reviewed, but given the many errors, I find that difficult to believe.

I find it strange that the subtext delineates “integrative approaches (e.g., lifestyle, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, massage)” but overlooks botanical and nutritional medicines, which are widely used as adjunct therapies in cancer protocols. I have no idea what the underlying agenda is in this paper. Why would scientifically and clinically proven modalities be dismissed or overlooked when they offer the potential for help without harm?


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Enhancing Cellular Defense Mechanisms with Adaptogens

Aging is associated with a decrease in adaptive abilities along with increased vulnerability to stress. At the same time, aging is a complex process involving a persistent activation of some stress response systems, often involving transcriptional reprogramming, and the activation of vitagenes, which can be consider a ‘geroprotective’ adaptation.13   Environmental stressors induce specific and predictable epigenetic changes that can eventually result in an adaptive response to the stimulus. It seems likely that mild stress-induced hormetic response involves mechanisms similar to those that underlie developmental epigenetic adaptations.

The illustration below shows the involvement of hormesis in the epigenetic processes that determine age-related disorders and longevity.14

adaptogens

Dose–response curve depicting the quantitative features of hormesis

Hormesis is a biological phenomenon whereby a beneficial effect (improved health, stress tolerance, growth or longevity) results from exposure to low doses of an agent that is otherwise toxic or lethal when given at higher doses.


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Pursuit of Truth requires being and listening, rather than doing and assuming; and slowing down rather than speeding up. You must cultivate Truth. The great Eclectic School of Medicine of the early 1900’s had a Motto, which I stand by today. It read: “To Love the Truth, To Prove the Truth, To Apply the Truth, and To Promote the Truth.”

In today’s times, the term “evidence based medicine” is often used and in the past decade has been readily adopted largely by the naturopathic field when speaking in the context of plant-based medicines (the primary “toolbox” of wholistic practitioners) in an effort to gain more acceptance through applying equally high standards of “safety and validity” to those of conventional medicine. However, this is often far from what can be called “truth” since the motive behind clinical research is not to prove “truth” but to have a drug or device approved by the FDA. The problem with using “evidence based medicine” exclusively, rather than “evidence informed medicine”, which I prefer, is that the term originated from the randomized controlled trial research paradigm used to study drugs. Such clinical studies are set up specifically in a reductionist method, removing all variables, which is essential for a drug.


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In my last post, I broadly discussed the exciting field of epigenetics, which is radically changing the landscape of what we’ve long believed about genetics and biological destiny. Emerging research shows that food and herbs may be the most important factors in our genetic well-being, directly affecting our health, disease risk, and longevity.

As a clinical herbalist, I find the relationship between herbs and epigenetics particularly compelling. A large body of research shows that a wide array of botanical compounds work in a variety of ways to maintain health at the cellular level, and offer great promise in improving our molecular expression, protecting against cellular stressors and aging by normalizing gene behavior. We cannot change the genes we have, but we can positively alter the fate and behavior of our genes by supplying them with beneficial herbal and dietary compounds.

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