Archive for the ‘modern medicine’ Category

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A rude, wrong cancer doctor

June 8, 2008

Time to resume posting on this blog. The last time I posted was in August 2007. I had been busy and also doing other things.

I must thank Dr Ang Peng Tiam, who is described on one website as “a medical oncologist who is regarded as one of the best in his field in Singapore and in the region” for giving me the, er, “incentive” to start blogging again.

The background is this: On Wednesday, June 4, Dr Ang wrote a column in Mind Your Body, in which he advised:

“Don’t listen to old wives’ tales. Cancer patients often think they cannot eat dairy products, meat or sugar because these will make the cancer grow faster. Some start taking only organic foods or become vegetarian. I tell them a balanced diet is especially important when they are undergoing chemotherapy.”

I sent a letter to STForum. It was quite strongly worded, so I wasn’t surprised that my letter was not published.

Here it is:

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Dr Ang Peng Tiam is rude, wrong, unscientific and grossly irresponsible when he describes as “old wives tales” the beliefs that cancer patients should best avoid sugar, meat and milk products, adopt a vegetarian (or near vegetarian) diet and eat mostly organic foods. (It takes two to fight cancer, Mind Your Body, June 4)

He is rude to the entire community of natural health practitioners and a section of the medical profession that subscribe to such beliefs, by referring to them as “old wives”. Such name calling has no place in any discussion on any subject.

He is also wrong to say that such beliefs are old. The idea that diet is linked with cancer (and other illnesses) became popular only recently, arising from scientific research.

Nancy Appelton PhD, author of Lick the Sugar Habit, lists 76 harmful effects of excessive sugar consumption, giving scientific references mostly from the 1980s onwards. Apart from being directly associated with various types of cancer, sugar weakens immune function – and this allows cancer cells to spread.

Dr Colin T Campbell led The China Health Study – the biggest, long-term nutritional study ever undertaken. Dr Campbell grew up on a dairy farm, drinking a gallon of milk a day and believing that milk was wholesome and necessary. Today, he is a leading voice that warns against the great harm of milk.

The US-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has more than 100,000 members, including thousands of medical professionals, led by Dr Neal Barnard. It recommends a pure vegetarian diet and its website, www.pcrm.org is packed with scientific references about the harm of meat, milk and dairy.

Against all these, there is a great body of scientific literature about phytonutrients – plant nutrients – helping the body prevent and fight degenerative diseases, including cancer. And the few studies on organic foods generally show them to contain more nutrition, particularly phytonutrients.

Dr Ang dismissed all this science and more. Instead, he highlighted one isolated case of a young commando who survived toxic chemotherapy while adopting a high-calorie, high-protein diet that included milk shakes. Medical science calls such examples “anecdotal evidence” and rejects them.

By dismissing science as “old wives tales” and focussing on a single anecdotal evidence, Dr Ang is being unscientific in his approach. This makes him grossly irresponsible as a doctor and a man of science.

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What cigarette do you smoke, doctor?

July 12, 2007

I came across this YouTube video on the website of http://www.mercola.com. Simply have to share it:

Mercola, for those not familiar, runs probably the most popular health website on the Internet. He posted this TV commercial from 60 years ago, which shows doctors puffing away and enjoying the “pleasures” of smoking.

And he asks, Are doctors still this stupid?

While doctors have since wised up and they no longer recommend smoking, Mercola points out that many of the things they recommend — such as drug treatments for every medical condition — are actually more harmful than smoking.

If you are surprised that doctors at one time recommended smoking, don’t be. You see, the cigarette companies used to sponsor medical journals.

There is nothing new here. Today the journals are sponsored by pharmaceutical companies.

So… which drugs do you take, doctor?

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Doctor, no

May 27, 2007

No, this is not a post about the James Bond movie.

Doctor, no is the title of an article in the June 2007 issue of Men’s Health magazine about yours truly — about how and why I have not seen a doctor for the past 22 years. I thought it was a nice title 😉

Now Men’s Health is not the sort of magazine that I normally identify with. I just don’t fit into the image of the cover photo, which usually shows a muscled, macho guy.

But because I had been making some noise recently about trans fats and other health issues, I caught the editor’s attention and he asked if I would write some articles for the magazine. I agreed.

The article is quite long, so here are just brief excerpts:

I was born half dead. According to my mother, I was a “blue baby” – not breathing and blue all over. And a doctor massaged me to life, using brandy! At five, I developed tuberculosis, along with two of my older sisters. Once again, my life was saved by a doctor.

But while doctors gave me life, they did not give me health. I grew up weak and sickly. At one stage, I was visiting the doctors and taking their medicines every two or three weeks. Thus, it was only natural that I started to look for ways to improve my health.

I had not deliberately sought to stop seeing doctors. Like most people, I took for granted that doctors and the drugs they prescribed were absolutely necessary.

A few things had changed, however. First, I’ve learnt how to take care of myself such that, for minor ailments, all I now need to do is rest and, perhaps, take some simple home remedies.

Second, I’ve discovered that complementary and alternative healthcare often work better – faster, more effectively and without unpleasant side-effects – than chemical-based medicine.

Third, as I read and researched more about health, I also discovered that doctors often do not truly understand what is going on. For example, I once read medical literature that said: “The third leading cause of end stage kidney disease in the US is glomerulonephritis, a disease that damages the kidneys’ filtering units. In many cases, the cause of this disease is not known.”

Essentially, this tells me that kidney disease is caused by a disease that damages the kidneys! I have lost faith in people who consider such statements enlightening…..

The article goes on to talk about how plenty of carrot juice, plus a diet of mainly salads and raw fruits, helped solve the severe sinus problem that plagued me since childhood — but brought on other problems instead.

First, I developed a skin rash that would not go away for months, until my open-minded doctor recommended me to consult a Chinese sinseh. That was my introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine and I began to respect it a lot.

Then, one cold rainy night, after having a salad for dinner, I woke up with a mild asthma attack. I switched back to eating mainly cooked food after learning macrobiotics and yin and yang.

Meanwhile, I discovered the power of natural remedies… Once, I had a high fever. By that time, I no longer had any Panadol at home. I flipped through my book of natural remedies but I had none of the various herbs and other remedies recommended – except for a cold, wet towel. I applied the towel over my head and the fever subsided in half an hour.

Of course, it is not always that simple. When I fell badly ill in 2003 (it turned out I had chicken pox) no amount of home remedies, not even my trusted Chinese sinseh’s herbal brews, could provide quick relief. I had to let the illness run its course and just do my best to control the symptoms.

In such cases, perhaps a strong dose of antibiotics and other chemical medicines might have been more efficient. But by then, I also knew that such a course of action, while possibly beneficial in the short term, would weaken me in the long term.

I learnt recently that the intestines of a normal, healthy person has about 100 trillion (100,000,000,000,000) “friendly” bacteria in the intestines. They enhance immunity, help digestion and bring many other benefits. Even when a person falls ill, the good bacteria still far out number the bad.

No way am I going to destroy all of that goodness with antibiotics – and create an environment for harmful bacteria to reproduce more easily. Not when doctors are scientists are themselves finally acknowledging that antibiotics had been over-used and abused, resulting in more and more strains of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. For example, tuberculosis used to be easily treated with antibiotics, but is now more difficult to treat than ever.

The article ends off with an emphasis on the importance of research and self study, and some food for thought about the safety of modern, chemical-based medicine:

I had been gradually restoring my health since 1985 and learnt much during the process. This learning is absolutely necessary for anyone wishing to reduce his or her dependance on the medical system. It is serious learning, not from hearsay or, worse still, from the promotional literature of multi-level marketing companies touting health products.

Today, much of that learning can be done via the Internet. It’s a place of much information but, unfortunately, also misinformation, some intended, some simply misguided. You need discernment, which comes from experience as well as from making mistakes.

Fortunately, any mistakes associated with natural health and alternative medicine are usually mild. Yes, once in a very long while, someone might die from alternative medical treatment or from taking some natural food products like royal jelly. Because such incidents are exceedingly rare (like “man bites dog”), they make sensational news.

In contrast, medical treament kill hundreds of thousands of people each year. It is routine (like “dog bites man”), not news, so you seldom read about it in the newspapers.

But there is even a medical term for this – iatrogenic illness, meaning illness caused by medical treatment. These may be due to errors such as misdiagnosis, wrong treatment and wrong prescription or overdose of drugs. They may also be due to legitimate reasons such as acceptable side effects of drugs, or “normal” complications arising from surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and other routine medical treatment.

In the US, medical studies have found iatrogenic illness to be the third leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer. One 1994 study found a death rate from iarogenic illness of “only” 0.56 percent. This seemed a low and acceptable figure. But it translated to 180,000 people dying in the US each year, equivalent to three jumbo jet crashes every two days!

Comparing with other industry standards, the author of the study, Dr Lucian Leape, pointed out that a mere 0.1 percent error rate would produce:

• in aviation, two unsafe planes landing at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport every day;

• in postal services, 16,000 pieces of lost mail every hour;

• in banking, 32,000 cheques deducted from the wrong bank account every hour!

When I read reports such as this, I become more determined than ever to keep myself drug-free and doctor-free.