Posted by: Chris Maloney | July 15, 2018

Are Lectins Bad For You?

As a vegan, one of the few criticisms you don’t regularly hear is that all those nuts and seeds are destroying your health.  Vegans are pasty, uptight, annoyingly righteous and smug, sure. But most people grudgingly admit your diet choices are likely more healthy than drive through food.

Not Dr. Steven Gundry. He believes you’re killing yourself with all those plant lectins.

Dr. Steven Gundry hates lectins. In his own words, “I’ve become convinced that plant lectins and the havoc they promote are the root causes of almost all diseases.” But keep in mind his claims are directly opposed to people who’ve spent their lives researching in the field, like Dr. Campbell (The China Study). Unlike Dr. Gundry, Dr. Campbell bases his recommendations for an entirely plant-based diet (just chock full of lectins) on the largest population study ever done in human history as well as a lifetime dedicated to food research. So we’re not comparing apples with apples here.

There’s a second issue with Dr. Gundry’s current focus on lectins. Back in 2008, Dr. Gundry published another book called Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution. In the first chapter of that book, he talks about, you guessed it, “The Real Cause of All Our Modern Diseases.” (p. 20) The culprit in 2008 is the Standard American Diet (SAD), lots of refined carbs, and lots of sugar. Dr. Gundry claims this combination turns on “killer genes” that will destroy you. 

Fast forward ten years, and now Dr. Gundry is convinced that the very diet he recommended, low calories and high vegetables, is responsible for all diseases? Really? As far as I can tell, we didn’t suddenly get thinner as a nation. The fast food franchises are still thriving, and here in Maine ice cream, not lettuce, is sold at every corner.

I’m unconvinced. (Read the complete reason why, with lots of footnotes, here.)

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Avoid these lectin-containing foods and green things like them?

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Posted by: Chris Maloney | June 7, 2018

Meat Allergy And Ticks: Is The Lone Star Alone?

My friend told me recently about a tick bite that caused people to become allergic to eating meat. Let’s take a moment to consider the irony of a meat-allergy-causing tick being associated with the Lone Star state of Texas. I’m fascinated with all things tick borne, having written two books on them recently. So I went searching.

CBS news carried the story in May, 2018. Evidently being bitten by the Lone Star tick can make you reactive to alpha-gal, which is found in beef, lamb, venison, and pork. Giving all the vegans out there a new catchphrase, “I’m just allergic to meat.”

But reading through the news stories, I was struck that many of these people weren’t in “Lone Star territory” but much further north. While they overlap, I typically think of myself as living in “Lyme country” while the Southeastern U.S. is more “Lone Star territory.” So is this an issue only found in Lone Star Ticks, or is it a tick issue we should be worried about elsewhere?

The way that researchers discovered the Lone Star/meat allergy connection is pretty lucky. They were researching the connection between a drug (cetuximab) and delayed meat allergy, when: “three members of our group developed red meat allergy and each one distinctly remembered being bitten by ticks.” So they made the connection and the news media has run with it. But in the same article, the researchers note that ticks in Europe and Australia, not the Lone Star, can also make people allergic to meat. Of all the ticks, they exclude the Lyme tick because “bites of Ixodes scapularis that transmit Lyme disease are not associated with itching.” Really? That seems like a pretty broad statement about something like a tick bite. John Hopkins (which has been widely repeated across the web) describes the bite of a Lyme tick as “much less itchy than poison ivy.” Another study says that 17% of people bitten experienced itching from Lyme ticks. It goes on to say that people who itch more are less likely to develop Lyme (an interesting benefit).

A recent study in Sweden tracing the connection between Lyme and meat allergy found something strange. First, a lot of Swedish people are allergic to meat (around 15%). Far more than anything the U.S. has reported. So meat allergy likely follows a spectrum of reaction rather than just the few extreme cases the U.S. media has reported. Second, Lyme and meat allergy are connected, but Lyme ticks don’t necessarily cause meat allergy. People who are reactive to Lyme (big rash) are also more likely to be reactive to meat (more anti-meat antibodies).

The reason for the tick to pass on or not pass on meat allergy may be because the tick itself may or may not be reacting to meat. Other researchers found antibodies to meat in the guts of the ticks. It may be that the tick, regardless of species, is just acting like a “dirty needle” and passing on whatever it’s been exposed to itself. While we can all cringe at the thought, we are “sharing unprotected body fluids” with the little parasites. So anything they’ve been exposed to, bacteria, virus, or other, we get exposed to. And maybe, if our biting tick is allergic to meat, we can pick that up along the way?

Just so those of us in Lyme territory can get some company in our misery, it’s pretty clear that what we would generally call Lyme can be passed by the Lone Star tick. Except the CDC is determined to call that something different in an effort to…I’m not sure what the point is of calling it “Master’s disease.” It’s not technically Lyme because that is only one species officially. But Lone Star ticks carry other species and many of the co-infections.

If this feels confusing, it’s because it is. I wrote two books to help explain it further. The first lays out the arguments for and against Chronic Lyme (spoiler: both sides are right). The second book is for my patients and lays out why you should never feel worse while getting Lyme treatment, as well as twenty treatments we’re not currently using.

 

 

Posted by: Chris Maloney | April 29, 2018

Got C. Diff? Avoid Artificial Sweeteners.

A quiet revolution in how we understand the gut has happened since we have been able to map the full diversity of the bugs that live inside us. One recent finding reported in the New York Times is that, while we don’t digest artificial sweeteners, our gut bugs can.

Great, we might think. Calories for my gut bugs but not for my hips.

Except that the kind of bugs that are growing are not the kind we’d like to have growing. We like bugs like lacto- and bifido- bacteria, the smiling junior high kids that make up most of the bugs in yogurt. Instead, we’re growing the delinquent bugs like clostridium difficile, a bacterial cousin to tetanus and botulism. Not only that, artificial sweeteners seem to grow the most depraved delinquents of a bad bunch.

How bad? Following the NYT article back to the study in Nature, mice who had the worst bugs died at three times the rate as other mice. Both sugar and the artificial sweetener trehalose caused the growth of the really bad version of C. difficile. Different artificial sweeteners might vary in their effect because they contain different sugars.

The take home for patients in a hospital setting who’ve been diagnosed with C. difficile is to not get the sugar-free dessert. Better to skip dessert altogether. C. difficile causes half a million illnesses a year in the U.S., and 29,000 people die. That reflects a five-fold increase and puts C. difficile deaths equal to the number of deaths we have from influenza in an average year.

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But the bigger picture for all of us is that we cannot predict what our guts will do with what we dump down onto them. None of us have the same gut bacteria, we are literally a unique rain forest habitat within ourselves. For more on this, have a look at my book, Tending Your Internal Garden, which quickly and humorously covers just how amazing we are inside.

If we think for a moment about how our gut bacteria deal with artificial sweeteners, think about what those same bacteria might be doing with your medications? No studies yet exist on gut bacteria and common drugs, but I’m betting our gut bugs make a huge difference in how well our drugs work for or against us. At this point, we know one in four drugs likely slows the growth of one or more of our own bacteria, so they are definitely interacting.

Posted by: Chris Maloney | February 2, 2018

Why We Believe What We Believe: Does Pride Come Before A Fall?

If I were to tell you that pride cometh before a fall, you’d probably nod your head. After all, Proverbs 16:18 is pretty clear. It says a haughty spirit goes before a fall, but we know that is basically the same thing. But is it true? It is literally true? Do people with a lot of pride fall down more? pexels-photo-772286.jpeg

A group of English researchers tracked a group of elderly patients over time. One of the questions the patients answered early on was how much pride they had. The groups were divided into low pride, moderate pride, and high pride. Over time, the groups did differ in how often they fell down. One group fell down almost half as often as the other groups. 

Yep, pride cometh before not falling. Researchers found that self-reported high pride was an independent factor for not falling down. And that’s after factoring out confounding things like: previous falls, eyesight, etc. The people with the most pride fell down less.

That got me interested in whether pride is a major factor in community falling. Bankruptcy is an easy marker of a community failure. And pride is not really a major player. “Research has found that the primary cause of personal bankruptcy is a high level of consumer debt often coupled with an unexpected insolvency event, such as divorce, job loss, death of a spouse or a major medical expense not covered by insurance.” Pride might have caused the initial debt, but the rest sounds like non-pride issues.

What about emotional? Are people with high levels of pride more prone to emotional problems? Not really. Pride in leisure activities for Americans and altruism among Koreans could alleviate depression. While regrets and pride explained a small amount of the variance in the GDS scores, current life stressors greatly contributed to geriatric depression.”

OK, but surely proud people are more prone to spiritual failure? This is problematic because most studies find people take a lot of pride in their religion. If a person is proud because they are religious, how can that pride make them more prone to religious failure? So there is no clear answer here as well.

I’m not sure we can make any broader associations, I just thought the English study was cute enough to write about. But perhaps this post will lead to some questioning of what we unthinkingly believe about the world.

Posted by: Chris Maloney | December 26, 2017

What To Do For Diabetes This New Year

It’s time to think about New Year’s resolutions. So here’s a resolution for anyone with type 2 diabetes out there, (and there’s a lot of you because the rates have doubled in the last twenty years).

Resolution: lose thirty pounds.

Possible result of resolution: stop having diabetes.

Sound impossible? Not according to researchers in England, who tracked low calorie dieters for year. Instead of using drugs, half of the diabetics using diet stopped being diabetics. Even if they’d been diabetic for years. (Read more)

Posted by: Chris Maloney | November 30, 2017

Seeing The Outback Vision Protocol Clearly.

Here’s the question: if something is amazingly successful, why does it need to saturate the airwaves with advertising?

That’s the problem with the Outback Vision Protocol, which was first sent to me by a patient. The extremely long infomercial-style presentation promised me that two marvelous supplements would cure very serious vision problems. My hearty presenter informed me that these supplements, with the addition of kangaroo meat, are what a keen-eyed group of soldiers use for superhuman vision. They cured his wife’s eye problems and they could cure mine.

Some of you already can see what’s coming. But if you’re one of the millions of people dealing with macular degeneration, you might keep reading and pull out your credit card. So let me save you the time. (Read more here).

Posted by: Chris Maloney | November 28, 2017

Can Diet Alter the Course of NF1?

A new study, brought to my attention by a patient, shows wonderful news for both children and adults with NF1. We finally have evidence that this genetic disease can be seriously improved through dietary intervention. It also gives evidence that supplements added to a bad diet won’t help much.

The study followed NF1 patients for six months, on either the Mediterranean or Western diets. Neither diet impacted the rate of neurofibromas. Then the researchers added 1200 mg (three capsules worth) of turmeric to the diets. Adding turmeric to the western diet did nothing. But adding it to the Mediterranean diet caused a slowing in the buildup of neurofibromas. Some patients even saw reversing disease.

Read more here

Book on NF1 for parents.

Posted by: Chris Maloney | November 9, 2017

When Is It Fake News? Time Delays And Medical Breakthroughs.

I’m been tracking multiple newsfeeds, and adding Newsmax to my information diet has  made my life interesting. As a Conservative newsfeed, it doesn’t seem to give me that much of a different view politically. But it certainly sells me hard on medical news, which makes me wonder if being Conservative is a health risk.

A recent headline from Newsmax in October caught my eye, “CT Scans Tied to 24% Cancer Increase.” It’s certainly within the realm of possibility since increased exposure to X rays will increase your risk of cancer. But by a quarter? That’s a little bit of a stretch. So I went looking for the article.

Newsmax has a terrible habit of making it difficult to find the medical journal articles they are citing. There’s no direct link, and often only an oblique reference to the journal or the authors. I guess most Newsmax readers don’t care about the source as much as I do.

When I did find the article, it was published in 2013. So why is an article published in May of 2013 being promoted as new healthcare news in October of 2017? Is there a four year lag time for medical news on Newsmax? I don’t think so. I think the Newsmax medical author Dr. Brownstein may have finally gotten to his February article of this year which says that the additional CT risk of cancer for older patients is a whopping 0.05%. Unhappy with this result, he went back and decided to trumpet the 2013 result instead. It suits his personal message that CT scans are bad for you.

Now, both reports are correct. The more recent one in 2017 was on older people who smoked. Their additional risk of getting cancer from CT scans of their lungs is pretty low. The earlier study in 2013 was done on children in Australia. Having more CT scans done as a child when your cells are still rapidly dividing will raise your risk of cancer.

The take-home message on CT scans? Don’t irradiate your kids if you can help it, but smokers should get checked for cancer.

But I’m interested in the larger message. Is promoting the truth with a time lag the same as fabricating news? If someone was yelling “fresh apples!” and you bought them but the apples were four years old, I think a complaint is in order. It’s not enough that they were fresh once. Apples have a shelf-life of a few weeks.

In our instant world, what is the acceptable time lag for news? Is it a few hours, a few weeks, a few months, or a few years?

Or is news timeless? Can I write a blog post about handwashing being better for killing germs than those perfumed alcohol rinses every few years, and have it be news all over again? I wrote one of those back in 2013, so maybe our news cycle has done a full turnover since 2013 and I can start reposting my old blog posts as if they were all new again.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Chris Maloney | October 7, 2017

Is There Such A Thing As A Bad Vegan?

We all know that there is such a thing as an annoying vegan. An annoying vegan is an evangelical vegan, one who considers your food choices to be at least a venial sin. The really annoying vegans claim that your consumption of ribs near them is disruptive of their ability to consume their arugula spout parfait with the proper zenlike yogic breaths.

But in a recent New York Times article, Jane Brody tries to make the case for an unhealthy veganism. She cites the reality that vegans now have a wide choice of vegan junk food, and creates a fictional vegan who abhors meat but consumes nothing but chips and soda. Such a creature may exist, but I’ve never met her.

The rest of Brody’s article feels like backsliding. First, she backslides to the reality that we all should be eating a plant-based diet. Then she’s citing several recent studies that found, shockingly, that a plant-based diet leads to less heart disease. So we don’t really have a sense of those bad vegans, just those bad meat eaters.

Brody also discusses the vegans’ need for full proteins at meals, a concept generated by Francis Moore Lappe’s first edition of Diet For A Small Planet and which has been debunked for decades. Lappe herself has worked hard to undo the myth she created. It turns out that the studies Lappe was using about complementary plant protein combining were based on the need to recreate the egg protein content at every meal. We now know that the body can actually store different parts of protein and you don’t need to constantly think about eating complementary plant protein sources three meals a day. The studies the Lappe had access to were in part based on using chickens as a model for what we humans need to eat every day. And yes, for a chicken the egg protein is ideal. Not so much for humans.

The other concern for vegans is getting enough B12, which is simply a matter of getting sublingual tablets. Yes, having no B12 in your body will do very bad things to you, including making you crazy. But you don’t need to be a vegan to get deficient. You can have low stomach acid (from heartburn medications) or an infection of your stomach that blocks the intrinsic factor you need to absorb the B12. Medical researchers note that B12 deficiency is extremely rare in vegans and is much more common in people with abdominal illnesses that block absorption. So the argument for vegans lacking nutrients lacks substance.

But the vegan/non-vegan split is an artificial one. Those of us who live in the food wars know that a locally grown, grass-fed cow has as much in common with something you pick up through a fast food window as Venus does to Mars. Technically, they’re both meat, but that’s where the comparison ends. The same would be true of a locally grown, farmer’s market salad and one that requires your sub-Saharan superfruit be flown to you from some dictatorship. There are good food choices and poor foods choices, and they have more to do with a larger, much more complex situation than with the dairy council’s ancient four food group teachings (they still fund nutritional education right up through medical school, and only a quarter of doctors get any required training in nutrition.)

If you’re eating antioxidant capsules brought to you by slave labor from another country, you’re missing the point. Just as you are when you’ve stared down the poor man with his ribs halfway across the restaurant. In a world where we just live and let live, compassion needs to replace condemnation.

A bad vegan is not unhealthy from a lack of nutrients but from a lack of common courtesy. In these trying times, we need to be as aware of our contempt footprint as much as our carbon footprint. So let’s all keep our self-righteousness in check out there.

Disclosure: Christopher Maloney, N.D., is a 95% vegan with an affection for occasional fish. He’s also gluten-free and sugar-free. Currently, he is working on a (very short) cookbook. For people with abdominal problems, he wrote a book: Tending Your Internal Garden.es-1-plate

Posted by: Chris Maloney | September 22, 2017

Pregnant Moms Dealing With Zika Fears

My article on Zika was just published this month by Naturopathic Doctor News and Review (NDNR). The article, entitled Zika: Original Antigenic Sin? is written for my medical colleagues and might be dense (a nice word for mind-numbingly boring) for someone expecting.

In the article, I talk about how Zika’s birth defects might be tied to other infections. Specifically previous infections by the dengue virus. The previous dengue infection attacks the Zika virus, surrounding it, but does not kill it. Instead, the immune system allows the now surrounded Zika virus to enter the brain and spinal cord. It’s this reaction, not just the virus itself, that allows Zika to do what it does to infants.

The take home for expecting moms is: previous dengue infection? Greater risk of birth defects. No previous dengue infection? Probably much lower risk of birth defects.

Oh, and I mention that Zika isn’t passed from person-to-person primarily via mosquitoes. It’s likely passed by unprotected sex. So for those of you patting yourself on the back because you don’t happen to live in Houston these days, remember that you don’t need a mosquito bite to get infected.

Want a lot more? I wrote a short book about it, called Zika Virus When You’re Expecting. If you’d like it in Spanish, the translated version is Todo lo que necesitas saber sobre el virus del Zika

Zika Virus When You're Expecting

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