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From the Townsend Letter
October 2006


Letter from the Publisher
Jonathan Collin, MD

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Two disturbing events were reported in early August by the Associated Press. The first report noted the sudden failure of chicks in a wild bird colony on an island near San Francisco. The second report concerned the measurement of high particulate matter from China's Gobi Desert in the air of a state park, also near San Francisco.

Sand from China and dying bird chicks may not seem related, but there may be more to worry about than meets the eye. The birds, Cassin's Auklets, are considerably smaller than sea gulls, but both like to make Farallon National Wildwife Refuge, an island 30 miles from San Francisco, a home to breed. The auklet chick needs krill, a tiny shrimp-like crustacean, for food. For the past two years, the ocean waters surrounding Farallon, normally rich in krill, have had nary a krill for the auklet. The result has been the near-complete loss of breeding chicks. Oceanographers have noted that the surrounding water temperatures are about five degrees higher than normal. Krill require colder temperatures and are generally found in colder water currents deep in the ocean. For these currents to reach the Pacific Coast, the Alaskan current must drive the colder water streams south, but the warmer ocean temperatures have buffeted the Alaskan currents far north. The consequence is no krill and a greatly endangered auklet population.

Marine scientists worry that this occurrence, happening in a non-El Nino year, could spell serious problems, not just for the auklet; marine organism survival overall could be threatened.

Not far from Farallon, scientists have studied pollution particulates found in an isolated state park around Mount Tamalpais. Pollution researchers are used to measuring high levels of particulates from industrial emissions in areas downstream from smelters and petrochemical plants. Usually, these power plants or factories are within a few hundred miles of where the high levels are recorded. So when researchers recently assayed the particulate pollution and found Gobi Desert sand particles in Northern California, they understood that "downstream pollution" is now originating half-a-world away.

Along with Gobi sand, the researchers found petroleum byproducts of diesel engines and toxic heavy metals associated with burning coal. It has been well established that mercury is released when coal is burned together with sulfur and other carbon-based pollutants.

With China developing one coal power plant nearly every day, there is growing concern that this particulate pollution will become a major health hazard in the US. Already China ranks as having the highest number of polluted cities and waterways in the world, with nearly 400,000 premature births attributed to pollution effects. If China's burgeoning economy translates into nearly all consumers driving cars, the Chinese contribution to worldwide pollution will multiply dramatically. Similar projections are made for India and much of Asia. Does increasing particulate pollution lead to warming of the ocean waters? We don't know for sure, but there may be a relationship between Gobi sand found in a California state park and the decline of that state's auklet chicks

A world away, the lives of many families are being turned upside down. As a sovereign nation defends its borders against a well-armed guerrilla militia, civilians on all sides are suffering greatly. With all the advances in technology, the burgeoning libraries of academia, the sophistication of diplomacy, and the determination to stop domestic violence, sovereign nations still solve problems with violence and bloodshed. One can say we have not advanced an iota from the savagery of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Why is it wrong for a husband to beat his wife, but acceptable for a nation to drop a bomb on an apartment building and kill husbands and wives, children, and grandchildren? Why is it wrong to beat up somebody on the next barstool after he makes a slurring remark about your manhood, but quite reasonable to thoroughly and totally destroy the infrastructure of a society based on dubious claims that this violence will root out the enemy and provide peace? I have a reprint in my home near my bedroom of Picasso's Guernica, and I am reminded daily of the horrors of bombing, bloodshed, and human suffering due to war.

In addition, the toll of war on the global physical environment is profound and will no doubt affect all of us now and in the future. If particulates from the Gobi Desert are finding their way into a California park and overseas pollution is causing an ocean-warming trend that threatens a domestic bird population, can we doubt that the overwhelming expulsion into the environment of war-related chemicals and fuels will impact our lives one day soon? There is simply no excuse for sovereign nations to engage in savagery and widespread destruction; the presidents and generals of these sovereign nations should all be tried for high crimes.

If we were to name in five words or less the principal problems alternative medicine is most able to address, "fatigue, depression, pain, hypersensitivity, and inattentiveness" would stand out. The medical conditions of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and chemical hypersensitivity all share elements of these symptoms. Other conditions treated under the rubric of natural medicine – including hypoglycemia, candidiasis, leaky gut syndrome, liver dysfunction, and stress disorder – also share these elements. In the past, patients would have been labeled with hysteria, weakened glands, goiter, dyspepsia and gut putrefaction. The labels all serve to focus on an organ or system of weakness, with schools of healing dedicated to detoxifying and repairing the weakest organ.

Conventional medicine limits its treatment approach to designing medications most efficient in quelling symptoms. Presumably pharmaceuticals are addressing many of the brain neurochemicals usually associated with depression to calm the pain, fatigue, and inattentiveness. Recent advances in fibromyalgia medicine have focused on pharmaceuticals that address dopamine, a chemical usually found to be depleted in Parkinsonism. Hence, anti-Parkinson drugs or similar agents have been thought to be helpful for fibromyalgia. Yet, most fibromyalgia patients approaching alternative medicine are seeking supports that do not depend on pharmaceutical treatment. At the least, these patients want additional supports beyond the prescription antidepressants they have been advised. Natural medicine seeks to address fibromyalgia with nutrient therapy administered orally and intravenously; herbal and homeopathic support; and essential fatty acid and amino acid supplementation to replenish depleted organ systems.

In this issue, Chuck Bates, PhD, argues that a rigorous program of elimination of allergic foods, chemicals, and other offending agents needs to be carried out to lessen or eliminate the pain of fibromyalgia. Robert Bradford, PhD, emphasizes the role of undiagnosed and unobserved microorganisms in the blood, which parasitize blood cells and the immune system, while depleting hormone output and brain neurochemistry. He recommends an aggressive protocol to treat microorganism overgrowth in our blood. The basic problem remains that most physicians are not able to diagnose microorganism involvement, since basic microbiology cultures do not diagnose organism overgrowth.

In the August/September 2006 issue of the Townsend Letter columnist Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, wrote about conventional and natural treatments for neuropathic pain.
His report discusses the remarkable advance of prescription topical gels as a support for localized pain, especially nerve pain, and should prove interesting to readers of this month's issue as well. News items appearing in this issue talk about a medical device for home use as well as laser treatment to support fibromyalgia treatment. In his monthly column, Robert Anderson, MD, points out that many symptoms of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and depression can be addressed with counseling, meditation, guided imagery, and other relaxation techniques. Drs. Gaby, Werbach, and Nick argue for nutritional intervention to control and treat fibromyalgia. Clearly, when the fibromyalgia support groups and societies complain that there is no cure for fibromyalgia and that the only treatments are antidepressant drugs and experimental pharmaceuticals, they give short shrift to what we have to offer.

Jonathan Collin, MD

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