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From the Townsend Letter
November 2013

briefed by Jule Klotter
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Biofield Research
Biofield therapies, such as external qigong, Healing Touch, Reiki, and Therapeutic Touch, lessen pain and change biomarkers. These therapies, which may or may not involve physical contact, aim to influence the patient's biofield. "We infer that such healing can occur since living systems coexist within and co-contribute to a biofield, which we define in terms of electric, magnetic, and electromagnetic fields as well as subtle energies (energies that appear to exist but have not yet been measured)," Richard Hammerschlag said during a Roundtable Discussion at the May 2012 International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health (Portland, Oregon). The SQUID magnetometer, a new device used by conventional researchers, measures biomagnetic fields emitted from the heart, brain, and muscles. It can also measure energy being emitted from the hands and hearts of biofield practitioners.

Pain relief using biofield therapies has been the subject of numerous studies. Roundtable comoderator Shamini Jain and P. J. Mills conducted a systemic review of 66 clinical studies of "medium reporting and design quality" (
Int J Behav Med. 2010;17:1–16). "Through our best-evidence synthesis, we found strong evidence for reduction of pain intensity in pain populations and moderate evidence for reduction of pain intensity in hospitalized and cancer populations," Jain said. A 2008 Cochrane Review, led by P. S. So, also reported significant pain reduction in patients given biofield therapy compared with control patients receiving sham touch or no treatment.

Biofield therapies also affect biochemistry. Thirteen of 20 nontouch biofield therapies in a systematic review, led by Hammerschlag, observed "at least one statistically significant biomarker effect" (
BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012;12 [suppl 1]:P02.42). Roundtable participant Susan Lutgendorf described a clinical study that she led at the University of Iowa (Brain Behav Immun. 2010;24:1231–1240). Before starting chemoradiation therapy, 60 women with cervical cancer were randomly assigned to receive Healing Touch (a hands-on and hands-off therapy), relaxation therapy with a facilitator (active control), or usual treatment. Healing Touch or relaxation therapy was given for 20 to 30 minutes after each radiation treatment (4 times a week for 6 weeks). Natural killer cell activity against tumor cells decreased far more in the relaxation and usual care groups than in the Healing Touch group: "This between-group difference over time was highly significant," Lutgendorf said.

Experiments conducted by J. Zimmerman in 1990 and A. Seto et 1992 indicate that biofield practitioners emit energy from their hands and/or hearts during healing sessions. When Ann Baldwin, W. L. Rand, and G. E. Schwartz tried to recreate these studies using a SQUID on Reiki practitioners, they did not observe any surge in energy (
Altern Complement Med. June 2013;19(6):518–526). Unlike in the earlier experiments, the Reiki practitioners were sitting in a magnetically shielded room. Baldwin and colleagues suggest that biofield practitioners draw on electromagnetic radiation in the environment to trigger the flow of healing energy. If this hypothesis is true, the magnetic shielding would have prevented a change in the practitioners' energy levels.

The roundtable participants, all of whom are "conventional biomedical researchers," would like to see more funding for biofield physiology. The effects are real, but why biofield therapies work and how to use them most effectively are still puzzling.

Hammerschlag R, Jain S, Baldwin AL, et al.Biofield research: a roundtable discussion of scientific and methodological issues.
J Altern Complement Med. 2012; 18(12): 1081–1086. Available at Accessed August 7, 2013.

Aluminum, Macrophagic Myofasciitis, and CFS
Aluminum hydroxide, an adjuvant in vaccines, is causing joint and muscle pains, chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, and cognitive dysfunction in some people, according to French myopathologists. The researchers call the condition macrophagic myofasciitis (MMF). Deltoid muscle biopsies from these patients reveal a high number of macrophages with aluminum nanocrystals in their cytoplasm. Aluminum salts have been used as vaccine adjuvants for decades to increase immune response to the vaccine's antigen.

Romain K. Gherardi and François-Jérôme Authier say that MMF appeared in France during the 1990s, after intramuscular vaccination replaced the subcutaneous route, hepatitis B vaccination increased among adults, and the deltoid muscle became the preferred site for routine muscle biopsies. Macrophages engulf aluminum particles at the vaccine injection site and form a characteristic MMF lesion. Some aluminum particles are carried to the lymphatic system, bloodstream, and brain, according to laboratory experiments. Gherardi and Authier say that genetic susceptibility may have a role in MMF.

Christopher Exley and colleagues present a MMF case report of a 43-year-old man who developed vertigo, anxiety, left-sided diplopia, and chronic fatigue some months after receiving vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, polio, and tetanus/diphtheria in April and May 2003. Each of the vaccines contained an aluminum adjuvant. A June 2006 muscle biopsy revealed the presence of aluminum, confirming a diagnosis of macrophagic myofasciitis. The aluminum content of five consecutive 24-hour urine samples, taken in May 2007, produced 5903 nmol of aluminum with a mean of 1181 ± 232 nmol/24 hours. (Mayo Medical Laboratories says that daily excretion over 20 mcg/specimen, about 551.8 nmol, indicates excessive exposure to aluminum.) Two months later, the man took part in another 5-day urine collection. This time, he drank up to 1.5 liters/day of a silicon-rich mineral water, which titrates aluminum from body tissue. Over the 5 days, he excreted 7217 nmol of aluminum. In August 2007, an industrial injuries tribunal cited the vaccination series as the cause of his ongoing psychological and muscular impairments and granted him 50% disability.

Gherardi and Authier say that most MMF patients have symptoms that match the international criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). They recommend getting a vaccine history for CFS patients. If symptoms appeared after vaccination with aluminum-containing vaccines, muscle biopsy at the injection site can confirm or negate MMF. Gherardi and Authier also point to similarities between MMF and Gulf War syndrome. The two researchers consider MMF and Gulf War syndrome to be forms of ASIA (autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants,) a term originated by Israeli researcher Y. Shoenfeld.

Exley C, Swarbrick L, Gherardi RK, Authier F-J. A role for the body burden of aluminium in vaccine-associated macrophagic myofasciitis and chronic fatigue syndrome. Med Hypotheses. February 2009; 72(2):135–139. Available at Accessed August 11, 2013.

Gherardi RK, Authier F-J. Macrophagic myofasciitis: characterization and pathophysiology. Lupus. February 2012;21(2):184–189. Available at Accessed August 11, 2013.

Frequency-Specific Microcurrent Therapy for Fibromyalgia
Carolyn McMakin, DC, of Portland, Oregon, uses frequency-specific microcurrent as an adjunct therapy to treat chronic pain associated with diverse conditions, including fibromyalgia and myofascial pain.The electrical current, which is too small to be felt, is delivered to problem areas through the fingertips of vinyl graphite gloves. McMakin has found that each condition responds to specific frequencies.

McMakin and colleagues tested the effectiveness of a frequency protocol for fibromyalgia in a 2005 uncontrolled retrospective study. Fifty-four consecutive patients with fibromyalgia associated with cervical spine trauma (e.g., car accidents, falls, lifting accidents) were given microamperage current with frequencies of 40 and 10 Hz. Five patients could not tolerate the treatment. (Some people with electromagnetic sensitivity, such as to cell phones, cannot handle this therapy, according to researcher John Addington.) "The remaining 49 patients reported reduction in pain on a 10-point visual analog scale (VAS) from an average baseline score of 7.3± 1.3 to 1.3 ± 1.1 with the first [90-minute] treatment. (P<0.0001)."

Biochemical changes were monitored in a subset of six patients using chromatography. With the first 90-minute treatment, levels for pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin-1 and interleukin-6 as well as substance P, which is related to pain transmission, all declined. IL-1 decreased from an average of 330 to 80 pg/ml (p = 0.004); IL-6 fell from 239 to 76 pg/ml (p = 0.0008), and substance P from 180 to 54 pg/ml (p = 0.0001). Tumor necrosis factor, a cytokine inducer, also decreased from 305 to 78 pg/ml (p = 0.002). In addition, pain-relieving beta-endorphin rose an average of 8.2 to 71.1 pg/ml (p = 0.003) and cortisol rose from 14.7 to 105.3 µg/ml (p = 0.03).

Tender point sensitivity and sleep quality resolved in 31 of the 49 patients after an average of 8 treatments. One patient relapsed. Thirteen of the 49 stopped treatment "for reasons not directly related to the treatment." Only 3 of the 13 received microcurrent therapy for over 8 weeks; most (54%) quit within the first week. "Based on the observations reported in this analysis," the authors state, "controlled prospective clinical studies to evaluate the clinical efficacy of microcurrent treatment of FMS associated with cervical spine trauma are warranted."

McMakin has written a book called Frequency-Specific Microcurrent in Pain Management and holds seminars. More information is available at

Addington JW. Relief of fibromyalgia through microcurrent therapy [online document]. July 11, 2011. Accessed August 11, 2013.

McMakin CR, Gregory WM, Phillips TM. Cytokine changes with microcurrent treatment of fibromyalgia associated with cervical spine trauma. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2005;9;169–176. Available at Accessed August 11, 2013.

Joint Pain and Serotonin Syndrome
Joint pain and muscle spasms are among the symptoms of serotonin syndrome, a condition in which serotonin receptors become overstimulated due to a buildup of serotonergic drugs in the body. A 2008 case report by physical therapist Gregory M. Alnwick describes a 42-year-old woman, diagnosed with fibromyalgia after six years of increasingly debilitating symptoms. Her symptoms began with nausea and vomiting when she first started taking the SSRI antidepressant citalopram (Celexa). Alnwick suggested that she consult a neurologist when he observed reflex disturbances, nystagmus (involuntary, rhythmic eye movement), and muscular tenderness that did not show a fibromyalgia-type pattern.

At the time of her first physical therapy session, the woman reported a pain rating of 8 on an 11-point (0–10) scale. On good days, her pain level was 4 of 10. Too much activity pushed the pain level to 10 of 10 ("the worst pain possible"). In addition to joint pain, the woman also had throbbing headaches, dizziness, hypersensitivity to light and sound, memory loss and confusion, insomnia, muscle tightness and weakness, restlessness, anxiety, and fatigue. She was unable to work and needed a cane to walk. The neurologist diagnosed serotonin syndrome and gradually weaned her off citalopram, which she was taking in combination with other drugs, and replaced it with a non-SSRI antidepressant. "Within 2 weeks after withdrawal of the citalopram, the patient reported feeling less dizzy, experiencing less pain, and no longer needing her cane to ambulate," Alnwick reports. Nine months after the serotonin syndrome diagnosis, she had returned to work and hobbies.

Severe serotonin syndrome, characterized by muscle rigidity and high fever, is life-threatening. But serotonin syndrome can also have milder, nonspecific symptoms – as in this case. "Mild [serotonin syndrome] may have a more subacute or even chronic presentation. In such cases, symptoms might be dismissed by clinicians or not attributed to the medication," according to Charles H. Brown, RPh, professor emeritus of clinical pharmacy, Purdue University (West Lafayette, Indiana).

Alnwick GM. Misdiagnosis of serotonin syndrome as fibromyalgia and the role of physical therapists. Phys Ther. 2008;88:757–765. Available at Accessed August 6, 2013.

Brown CH. Drug-induced serotonin syndrome. U.S. Pharmacist. November 17, 2010;35(11):HS-16–HS-21. Available at Accessed August 6, 2013.

Detoxification Through Sweat
Sweating appears to be the most effective means of removing many toxic metals and chemicals from the body, according to recent studies. These toxins can trigger and worsen chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and chemical sensitivity symptoms. A 2011 study, led by Stephen J. Genuis, measured levels for about 120 compounds, including toxic metals, in the blood, urine, and sweat of 10 healthy people and 10 people with health problems. "Many toxic elements appeared to be preferentially excreted through sweat," say the authors. "Presumably stored in tissues, some toxic elements readily identified in the perspiration of some participants were not found in their serum." A 2012 literature review, led by Margaret E. Sears, found that, in general, more arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury appeared in sweat than in blood or urine samples taken from people with higher exposure or greater body burden. Studies such as these indicate that blood and urine tests may not be an accurate way to access total metal body burden.

Genuis also led a 2012 study that looked at how the body eliminates phthalate compounds, found in plastics. Phthalates disrupt endocrine activity, affecting reproductive development and function. Phthalate exposure has also been linked to allergy and asthma symptoms in children. These chemicals leach into food and liquids from plastic containers and plastic wrap. Many personal-care products also contain phthalates, which can absorb into the skin. Genuis et al. found, "Some parent phthalate compounds and their metabolites appear to be readily excreted in sweat; others do not." Some of these compounds appear in urine but not in sweat.

Margaret Sears and colleagues point out that sweating during exercise or sauna use has been a long-valued health practice in numerous cultures. However, people with a high toxicant body burden often have a difficult time sweating because toxic metals disrupt the autonomic nervous system's heat regulatory mechanisms. Diet, nutritional supplements, drinking sufficient water, and persistent sauna use will usually produce sweating eventually. Sauna therapy is contraindicated in people with unstable angina pectoris, recent myocardial infarction, severe aortic stenosis, and high-risk pregnancy.

Genuis SJ, Beesoon S, Lobo RA, Birkholz D. Human elimination of phthalate compounds: Blood, Urine, and Sweat (BUS) study. Sci World J. 2012. Available at Accessed August 7, 2013.

Genuis SJ, Birkholz D, Rodushkin I, Beesoon S. Blood, urine, and sweat (BUS) study: monitoring and elimination of bioaccumulated toxic elements [abstract]. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. August 2011;61(2):344–357. Available at Accessed August 7, 2013.

Sears ME, Kerr KJ, Bray RI. Arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury in sweat: a systematic review. J Environ Public Health. 2012. Available at 3312275. Accessed August 7, 2013.

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