I mentioned the book Spontaneous Healing by Dr. Andrew Weil in a previous issue of The Mutable Dilemma. It helps people discover and enhance their natural healing ability. An increasing number of books and newsletters by doctors provide similar information. Most of this material is still focused primarily on physical activities—diet and exercise, but at least some of them include the role of emotions in health. For those who are trying to gain or maintain health and willing to venture beyond western allopathy, some recent books might be helpful. Christiane Northrup M.D. offers a book called Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom which is astonishingly inclusive for an M.D. She ranges from quoting Deepak Chopra to talking about "subtle energies" and chakras. The book is primarily written for women, and focuses on their special issues, but the discussions of the role of the emotions and the need to "listen" to one's body can be helpful to everyone. An extensive list of references and an index are included. Dr. Northrup also publishes a monthly newsletter. The book was published by Bantam in July 1994.
A book by Dr. Edward Wagner with Sylvia Goldfarb is called How to Stay Out of the Doctor's Office, published by Instant Improvement, Inc., in 1992. Dr. Wagner's subtitle is "An Encyclopedia for Alternative Healing," and he emphasizes vitamins and herbs. I had already purchased several similar books, but I was more impressed by Wagner's work. A series of case histories are included at the end of the book. Both Wagner and Northrup (as well as Weil, of course) emphasize that their information should be used to complement rather than to replace what is helpful in mainline western medicine.
Henry Dreher is the author of The Immune Power Personality, published by Dutton in 1995. Dreher describes seven researchers who have identified personality "traits" which seem to strengthen the immune system and help individuals handle stress without becoming ill. The "seven traits" do include a lot of overlap as each researcher has pursued his or her own way of formulating the issues involved in mind-body connections, but it can be helpful to arrive at similar conclusions from varying points of view and using different experiments. One of the intriguing parts of the book is a set of mental/emotional exercises designed to strengthen each of the personality traits which theoretically aids immunity. At the end of the book, Dreher described his own personal experiment. He had his immune system tested, then carried out the suggested seven sets of exercises, and then was tested again. His immune system was basically healthy in the initial tests, but the one weak area was improved in the final tests. Dreher also includes extensive references and an index.
Another current book which deals with the power of the emotions is called Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. As part of emotional intelligence, Goleman includes self-awareness, impulse control, persistence, zeal, self-motivation, empathy and social deftness. He suggests that these qualities explain why some people with cognitive skills flounder and some people with modest IQs do very well. He also connects deficits in emotional intelligence to problems in marriage, parenting and physical health. They also contribute to our current "uncivil" world. But Goleman also thinks that these abilities can be taught and learned and offers ways in which schools and parents can help to develop them in children.
As I have written before, the low carbohydrate diet advocated for many years by Dr. Atkins continues to work well for me. I lost 65 pounds between November 1994 and August 1995, in spite of several trips when, as usual, I gained or did not lose weight. Since August 1995, I have maintained the loss, continuing to gain when I travel or eat out when I consume more carbohydrates and then dropping it off when I return home.
The February 1996 issue of Let's Live, which is published by General Nutrition Centers, a major producer of vitamins, includes an interview with Robert Atkins M.D. on his disagreement with Ornish, Pritikin and Whitaker who advocate an extremely low fat diet composed mostly of complex carbohydrates. Atkins says, along with others, that it is low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglycerides which threaten the health rather than over-all high cholesterol. He claims that the high carbohydrate diet of Ornish actually raised the triglycerides in his subjects while the low carbohydrate diet raises the beneficial HDL and lowers the triglycerides. In the latest of his monthly newsletters, Dr. Atkins writes that he and Dr. Whitaker will have a debate in New York on their opposing views on fat in the diet.
Another article in the same issue of Let's Live describes the Dean Ornish approach to unblocking clogged arteries with a combination of therapies including a low-fat diet, exercise, meditation, visualization, and group psychotherapy. Dr. Lee Lipsenthal, the medical director of Ornish's institute emphasizes that heart disease is a behavioral illness which requires more than diet and exercise. The psychosocial aspects are very important, including emotions such as anxiety, anger, depression, and social isolation. The Ornish program says it is necessary to deal with all of these.
The current fat-phobia in western medicine singles out saturated fat as the major enemy while the natural health writers have said for years that the biggest problem is with hydrogenated and homogenized fats which include most of the supposedly healthy vegetable oils used in commercially produced foods and most of the milk in the U.S. Proponents of "natural health" point out that we ate far more meat and its saturated fat in the last century but that the explosion of heart problems started in this century when we switched to hydrogenated and homogenized fat. (Atkins pointed out that a Harvard study found that people eating a lot of margarine had a 66% higher risk of heart disease). There are essential fatty acids which are, as the name says, essential for life. The fat soluble vitamins including A and E can only be assimilated by the body when accompanied by fat. The new fat-substitute, Olestra, which was just approved by our FDA for use in snack foods, carries a real risk. It not only passes through the body without being digested, but it also carries other fats with it. Nutritionists have pointed out that it could produce a major increase in vitamin deficiencies.
The February 1996 issue of Dr. Atkins newsletter includes an article on strokes and heart attacks. Atkins points out that in recent years the U.S. and Canada had the lowest rate of strokes in the developed world while Portugal and Greece had among the highest rates at the same time that they had much lower rates of heart disease. Atkins suggests that strokes are largely due to high blood pressure and that the U.S. leads the world in the use of drugs to lower blood pressure. But the cost of lowering the incidence of strokes may be an increase in side effects from the drugs which can include kidney problems, weakness, impotence, disruptions in blood sugar and heart failure. Atkins also describes a dramatic 42% drop in the stroke rate in Spain between 1973 and 1990. The major change in the country was an improvement in their general economy which led to their more than doubling the consumption of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and cheese while the consumption of bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes dropped by more than half! Their sugar intake also fell dramatically. The mainstream mindset calls this the "Spanish paradox" and continues to fight protein and fat and mostly ignore sugar. (Shades of the "French paradox". The French eat more fat and less sugar than the U.S., but the "experts" want to give the credit to their consumption of red wine for their lower levels of heart attacks.) Books and magazines, including those supposedly committed to "natural health," continue to publish low-fat recipes which are loaded with many varieties of sugar as the way to attain health.
The February 17, 1996 issue of Science News describes relevant research done in South Australia which supports the benefits of fat from fish and flaxseeds. The studies were focused on two hormonelike proteins which help regulate the intensity and duration of immune responses which appear to foster both rheumatoid arthritis and atherosclerosis. Less of these proteins are produced by white blood cells which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which should theoretically reduce the problems with these autoimmune illnesses. The researchers were able to get the desired increase in the level of omega-3 in the subjects when they got most of their fat from fish oil or from flaxseed oil. Sunflower oil did not change the amount of omega-3 in the blood.
In another experiment, cows were fed twice their usual fat ratio in their food, but were given monounsaturated fat from canola and soybeans. The milk from these cows was changed so that it had 70% less saturated fat and nearly 40% more monounsaturated. 33 volunteers were fed cheese, ice cream, and other dairy products made from this less saturated fat milk, and after three weeks, their cholesterol dropped an average of 4.3%. The article did not specify whether the cholesterol changes were in the LDL, HDL, or triglycerides, so the value of the changes is questionable. Cholesterol is essential in our functioning, and the body creates it if we fail to get enough in our food.
The February 24, 1996 issue of Science News describes an ongoing study in England which is working with a compound apparently made by cancer cells that attacks the body's muscles and causes the serious weight loss experienced by about 50% of cancer patients. The compound is a protein to which carbohydrates have been attached and it somehow degrades existing muscle proteins and inhibits the creation of new proteins. A fatty acid derived from fish oil is showing promise in counteracting this result.
(This makes sense astrologically. Fat is associated with Jupiter and muscles with Mars. Venus is connected with sugar and probably the starchy carbohydrates. Fire symbolizes our faith—in ourselves with Mars and in a higher power with Jupiter—and they are mutually supportive of our power to recuperate in contrast to the passivity associated with Venus.)
The vol. IV no. 3 issue of Mental Medicine Update by Ornstein and Sobel describes a recent study which found that women younger than 45 who are divorced, separated, or widowed have significantly higher total cholesterol, including the harmful LDL, than married women. They point to emotional stress as a primary cause of the rising cholesterol levels, due to increased demands of work and child-rearing without the financial and emotional support of marriage. Since our experience of stress is dependent on our evaluation of what is happening in our lives, we need to build our psychological/emotional and physical immune systems by increasing our faith; including faith in our own capacity to cope and faith in a higher power after we have done what is within our own power.
Shifting gears to another area of mainstream mindset, most economic "experts" continue to call for balancing the federal budget deficit as the solution to our economic problems. A small and definitely liberal weekly publication called The Washington Spectator offers a contrary opinion. The January 1, 1996 issue included an article by a historian named Frederick Thayer titled "Do Balanced Budgets Cause Depressions?" Thayer claims that though there have been other downward periods in the business cycle, our nation has had only six major depressions when the economy really collapsed. Five of these were in the last century with the last being the so-called "great depression" of the 1930s. Thayer writes that every one of these followed a period of some years when the federal government was reducing its deficit. Obviously, there are always other factors in the situation, including debt in the private sector getting out of control, but Thayer's data is impressive.
1817-1821 national debt reduced by 29% to 90 million. Our first acknowledged major depression began in 1819.
1823-1836 national debt reduced by 99.7% to $38,000. A major depression began in 1837.
1852-1857 national debt reduced by 59% to $28.7 million. A major depression began in 1857.
1867-1873 national debt reduced by 27% to $2.2 billion. A major depression began in 1873.
1880-1893 national debt reduced by 57% to $1 billion. A major depression began in 1893.
1920-1930 national debt reduced by 36% to $16.2 billion. A major depression began in 1929.
Thayer agrees that ultimate proof of a proposition is not possible, but he adds that the claims that reducing the deficit will economically benefit the country should also require proof, that at present it can only be regarded as a myth. Absolute numbers for the deficit are less important than its proportion in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). These figures are in the same range now that they were in the 1930s—2 to 5 % of what was then called the GNP. In the 1940s as we fought World War II, the figures were 20 to 31% of the GNP. What would our situation be now if the authorities in the 1940s had opted out of fighting Japan and Germany because it would increase the deficit and that would threaten future generations? Individuals are applauded when they buy homes priced at 300 to 400% of their annual incomes. Government investments in infrastructure (highways, railroads, weather monitoring, research in health and technology, etc.) are comparable. Thayer points out that so many Americans were underfed and unhealthy in the 1930s that physical examination rejections of 40 to 50% of possible draftees were common as we tried to create an army in the early 1940s. If education is to help the people at the bottom of the society, school lunches are needed. Hungry kids don't learn as well.
Thayer's article includes much more, and I recommend the publication to any readers who want to see material from a liberal point of view. It costs only $10 a year. Send checks to the Public Concern Foundation, London Terrace Station, P.O. Box 20065, New York, NY 10011.
The deficit proportion of our GDP has actually gone down during Clinton's administration, partly because of increased taxes, but this has not stopped the rich from profiting even more at the same time that they scream about exorbitant taxes. On the elite side of the aisle, I also subscribe to Strategic Investment, which is written by and for the wealthy. I try to keep up with as many viewpoints as my time and budget will allow. The February 1996 issue of Strategic Investment has an interesting article by Lard Rees-Mogg, one of the founders of the publication along with James Davidson of the U.S. Rees-Mogg describes the cycle analyses of William Stanley Jevons, an Englishman who wrote in the last century. Jevons postulated that the business cycle was related to the intensity of sun spots which have a cycle of 10.45 years. He listed stock market collapses and/or depressions at approximately 10 year intervals starting in 1720-1721. Every fifth cycle, a more major collapse is suggested, including 1930 which was years after Jevons' death. The time-table can also be extended back to the Dutch tulip mania in 1637. Rees-Mogg suggests that the World War and Korean war in the early 1940s and 1950s prevented the cycle, and it also missed 1962, but it appeared again in 1972, 1982 and 1992. He points to 2034 or 2035 as a time of major collapse since it will be the 10th cycle after the 1930s and the 30th cycle after the South Sea Bubble. He does not mention 2002-2003, but putting 2 & 2 together, that is the goal of the Republicans for reaching a balanced budget and maybe it is about right for our seventh major depression to be blamed on budget cutting?