Thoughts On Coca, Cannabis, Opium & Tobacco – Gifts Of The Great Spirit

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Is A Simple Nutritional Supplement Poisoning You?

Are you or someone you care about suffering from muscle pain, abdominal pain, neurological symptoms including numbness and blurred vision, nausea, fatigue, gut irritability, severe digestive problems, and symptoms of an impaired immune system including severe reactions to some foods? Are you unable to find a diagnosis that will enable treatment? Have you tried everything?

My wife had all of these symptoms to the point that she could barely get out of bed most days and would cry from the continual pain and despair. She became afraid of eating because almost everything hurt. We tested for literally everything. We did find that she has Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, but now has it under control. But that was it – nothing else was found after literally dozens of kinds of tests. We actually had to wrestle with doctors to get some of those tests ordered – including the one that found Hashimoto’s, which that doc tried to shame us out of demanding.

Life was getting to the point where we were seriously talking about the “Thelma & Louise” solution. She couldn’t face living this way and I couldn’t face living without her.

I know that many people are going through something similar, and haven’t been able to find a doctor who could help. As you probably know, most docs don’t like to see patients who they can’t “cure” with a prescription. Anything else and you are put into the “difficult patient” category and they start working hard to convince you that you are causing your own problem. Women especially find male doctors suggesting that their problem is what used to be called “hysteria”. Most doctors where we live simply didn’t believe her and told her so, and it got to the point where she stopped trying to get medical help from such idiots.

We are both reasonably intelligent people and we have spent literally years reading everything that might offer a clue. We are careful what we read, and most of what we pay attention to is on the fantastic NIH database PubMed, which has ONLY peer-reviewed medical journal articles. There are so many diseases and conditions with some or all of her symptoms, but no definitive answers emerged.

My wife has always taken nutritional supplements including probiotics. She is very careful about the quality of what she takes, and we learned long ago to check what is actually in the supplement in addition to its “main” ingredient. For example, it is very hard to find Vitamin C that doesn’t include “citrus bioflavonoids”, and she reacts violently to all forms of citrus, pineapple, cherry, etc., so we have always been careful.

I’m getting to something that may be important for you to know, but had to give you some background.

Here it is.

Several years ago one of her doctors, a really brilliant female naturopath with a full MD and a background as an ER physician, recommended that she begin taking a Zinc supplement. Specifically she recommended Zinc Picolinate, because it is a form of Zinc that is “more easily absorbed”.

So after looking around we settled on a Bluebonnet brand 50mg Zinc Picolinate supplement, once daily with a meal. It became part of her everyday program, and we never questioned its value.

Then for some reason – perhaps a guardian angel whispering in our ear – two weeks ago we decided to look into Zinc toxicity, and up popped a bunch of citations, but the Mayo Clinic’s comments were a revelation. According to Mayo, the UPPER LEVEL of daily intake of Zinc for an average adult is 40mg. That’s zinc from ALL sources, not just a pill. Even 40 mg/day is WAY excessive for most people, but going over that can lead to exactly the list of symptoms that my wife has been experiencing, all getting progressively worse over time because Zinc toxicity is cumulative. There it was – she was POISONING HERSELF WITH ZINC.

And how do we know that? She stopped taking the Zinc supplement and within two days ALL of her symptoms began to decrease. It has been almost two weeks and almost every symptom is GONE. She has energy, her muscles don’t hurt, she can eat without pain, she can be active without crashing and burning, her brain fog is gone, and her spirit is strong again. She can even eat a little popcorn. With butter! (Goat butter – she’s not ready to risk cow dairy yet.)

We are even hopeful that once the toxicity that has been building up for years is gone (it can be gradually excreted, although some damage may be permanent – we don’t yet know), perhaps she will be able to enjoy a more varied diet, even – please God – the occasional pasta dinner and maybe even an egg and piece of toast with butter for breakfast. It’s probably too much to wish that she could also enjoy a glass of OJ, but who knows?

If you, or that person you care for, are taking a Zinc supplement in the “standard” 50 mg dose, you are exceeding the UPPER LIMIT according to the Mayo Clinic and you might want to consider leaving it out of your diet for a week and just see what happens. It appears that this has been the problem all along for my wife. This is surely not the only health issue she faces, nor the answer to everything, but it seems that we have just received a miracle.

Perhaps this simple solution will help you. It appears to have worked for us. Good luck to us all. God bless.

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Inflammatory Comments About Sick Guts

As a long-time advocate for the medical applications of Cannabis as a natural medicine I’ve noticed that a rather overwhelming number of people these days who suffer from so-called gastro-intestinal ‘diseases’. I say so-called not because I am an expert, or a doctor, or a scientist, but because the person I love most in the world has been on a very long and painful ten-year journey during which she has been continually failed by every expert, scientist and doctor we have asked for help – although there have been a few who sincerely tried to be helpful.

During this journey we have had to basically help ourselves because as I’m sure you know if you have a medical problem that can’t be easily ‘cured’ most doctors quickly lose patience with you and can’t wait for you to disappear and stop ruining their self-image as infallible healers. So for years my wife and I have spent hundreds of hours researching the literatures of medicine, science, nutrition, folk-medicine, healing arts, and anywhere else we could think of looking, trying to discover what makes sense and what doesn’t.

I would like to share some of what we believe are useful discoveries we’ve made that complement the almost magical properties of Cannabis and some of the other medicinal plants that we believe are gifts of the Great Spirit to the People of the world.

Your Tube

Your gut, as you know, is a long tube running from your mouth to your anus. It’s natural to think of your gut as being inside your body, but think about that for a minute and you’ll realize that whatever is inside your gut, that 36′ or so of tube, is actually outside your body. In a very real sense, the walls of your gut are the outside of your body very much like your skin, and whatever is inside your gut is not very different from whatever is on your skin – both are outside your body.

The reason this is important to visualize is that when your gut is compromised, what is inside your gut, much of which is naturally supposed to be kept outside your body, can move into your body in ways that nature did not intend. In other words, the purpose of your gut is to process your food and then allow ONLY the things your body needs to come through the wall of the gut and enter your body. These are mostly nutrients and water, and the rest of what is in your gut – the waste or non-useful materials that are supposed to be excreted – are meant by nature to be kept OUT of your body.

Just like when your skin is broken and you get an infection because foreign materials (and bugs) have moved into your body through the broken barrier of the skin, and your body rallies its defenses, led by inflammation, its #1 defense, when your gut is compromised materials (and bugs) that are supposed to be kept outside can move into your body where they trigger the body’s immune system defenses.

The skin and the walls of the gut are obviously both somewhat permeable. In other words, you can absorb certain kinds of things through your skin, but your gut tissues are designed to be much more absorptive. One big difference between your skin and your gut is that the tissues of the gut are very specialized and are designed to allow nutrients from your food through so that you can be nourished. And that is where the beginnings of so many of our GI ‘diseases’ occur. When the gut tissues are compromised, and the barriers that have previously only allowed fully digested nutrients to move through the gut wall now allow other materials, like undigested proteins, to move through the wall, the body’s immune system is triggered and all kinds of hell break loose.

Good Bugs/Bad Bugs

One of the realities of our gut is that it is absolutely chock full of bugs. All kinds of bacteria thrive in our gut, which as far as the bugs are concerned is divided into two sections – the upper gut and the lower gut. To oversimplify a little – not much – the good bugs live in your upper gut and the bad bugs live in your lower gut. The good bugs are all those species that are involved in keeping you healthy, helping you digest your food, creating hormones that help regulate your body’s functions, communicating back & forth with your brain, and importantly, keeping the bad bugs where they belong by colonizing the upper gut so completely that there is no place for the bad bugs to get a foothold even if they wanted to.

Now you take some antibiotics. It doesn’t really matter what kind – any anti-biotic will do. What happens? Well of course the anti-biotic is designed to kill bacteria and while some (very few) antibiotics kill only bad bugs like those causing an infection somewhere in your body, many antibiotics kill bugs rather indiscriminately. One of the realities of life is that it is harder to kill bad bugs than it is to kill good bugs, so anytime that strong systemic antibiotics are used there is a big die-off of the good bugs in the upper gut, whereas the bad bugs in the lower gut hang in there.

But the story doesn’t end there, unfortunately. After the battle there is lots of open territory in your upper gut where colonies of good bugs used to live, and the bad bugs somehow know that this is the case (remember, these bugs communicate with each other) and they begin migrating upwards, staking out ground as they advance. And keep in mind that the bad bugs doing this are the ones who survived the antibiotics – only now they are resistant and much harder to kill.

One of the reasons that these are bad bugs, or pathogens, is that they don’t live in harmony with their host. When they are kept down in the lower gut, there are strong natural barriers to keep them from breaking down the tissues of the gut wall wherever they establish their colonies, but in the upper gut there are no such defenses and before long these colonies of bad bugs begin creating weak spots in the wall of the upper gut. They do this in various ways – by secreting acids that eat through the tissues, by killing off the specialized cells that regulate nutrient transport, and by slipping through the gut wall themselves to make a new home somewhere comfy like your heart or brain. Medicine even has a name for this situation – SIBO, or small intestine bacterial overgrowth. And the almost invariably prescribed ‘cure’ for SIBO? Well, you guessed it. More anti-biotics. If the phrase ‘vicious cycle’ is running through your mind at this point, you’re on target.

Many people already know about the importance of taking wide-spectrum Pro-Biotics to help restore the good bugs in your intestines after taking any kind of anti-biotic. Most doctors will not tell you this – they just prescribe or use these ‘medicines’ on you and then let you walk away to deal with the almost inevitable consequences. If I were a more cynical person I might suspect that they do this because it is good for business – they ‘cure’ or ‘protect’ you with anti-biotics and then because your gut has been compromised you are literally forced to come back to them because you now have all kinds of other problems that they can also charge you for ‘curing’. But that would be really cynical of me, wouldn’t it?

Please realize if you don’t already that it isn’t enough to just eat yogurt containing acidophilus bacteria – in nature there are thousands – maybe millions – of different kinds of bacteria and other micro-organisms that live in your gut, and just like in a forest or meadow diversity is the key to ecosystem health, so too in your gut. There are many different brands of wide-spectrum Pro-Biotics, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good one. My advice – for what its worth – is to look for a brand that has at least 3-4 billion bacteria per dose and has at least 6 different species of bacteria.

The Problem With ‘Medicines’

If you are one of millions of people who have been diagnosed with gastrointestinal disease you already know that none of the expensive, often toxic ‘medicines’ and ‘treatments’ actually help much although, as my wife and I can testify, the ‘system’ is set up to keep draining you financially until there is nothing left at which point you are cast aside, with your life ruined and your health unimproved. Medical marijuana advocates also know that not only medical marijuana but other inexpensive natural medicines can help tremendously, and although there is still no cure for these diseases, Cannabis offers a better more natural way of managing the symptoms than what any of the conventional treatments and “medicines” have to offer.

Before I get into some of the things that my wife and have found actually can make a huge difference in your health if you are living with a compromised gut, let me first bring up what we have learned about an undiagnosed problem directly related to a compromised gut that actually can be very effectively diagnosed and managed, and that affects at least 10-15 million people in North America alone without most of them knowing they are slowly being literally eaten alive.

It all begins with your body’s immune system. I don’t pretend to understand this complex system of defenses, but I do know one important thing, and that is that the immune system can sometimes go a little crazy and start doing things it was never supposed to do – like attacking the body itself rather than attacking outside threats to the body that have somehow entered or invaded the body. This is called an auto-immune response, headed by inflammation, and is I believe at the root of a huge undiagnosed problem that I hope anyone who suffers from any kind of gut issues will think about carefully.

Many if not most people who suffer from intestinal diseases also have been diagnosed, or just simply know from their own experience, that they are either sensitive to or intolerant of gluten. Briefly gluten is a naturally occurring protein found concentrated in wheat and related grass seeds – what we call grains in our diet. Without going into detail, which is readily available elsewhere, modern wheat bears little if any resemblance to its natural ancestors. The two biggest ways that modern wheat varies is that it is extremely high on the glycemic index, and it is extremely high in gluten.

But this post isn’t about gluten, so let me move to the key point I want you to know. When the body is gluten-sensitive or intolerant this can only occur because the gluten is moving from inside your gut through the wall of the gut as an undigested protein, and the immune system which is always on high alert for foreign proteins (like foreign bacteria) sees it and attacks. The results are so unpleasant that many people try, and some succeed, in switching to a gluten-free diet. But here is the important point. What these folks, and those who don’t stop eating gluten, don’t realize is that the gluten protein molecule is a precise double for a protein found in the human thyroid, and once the immune system has been triggered to attack a gluten molecule that has migrated through the intestinal wall it is forever on the outlook for precisely that protein. Whenever it detects that protein it will attack and destroy it.

Which means (I know you’re ahead of me here) that once your immune system is trained to attack gluten it will start attacking your thyroid too and will not stop until your thyroid is destroyed. There is a name for this process and it is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and it is estimated that 10-15 million people in North America have it and don’t know it and so, of course, are not treating it. The really strange part of this is that while your immune system is attacking and destroying your thyroid, the most common tests for thyroid function that doctors order – the T3 and T4 tests – will almost always show that your thyroid is normal. Unless your doctor orders two tests for thyroid antibodies there is no way to know whether or not your thyroid is being destroyed by your body’s immune system. Be prepared for your doc to say “You don’t need that test – your Thyroid levels are normal.” I would guess that well over 90% of the docs in America would say just that. Maybe they aren’t idiots, but they are incredibly irresponsible to take that position. Of course it is all driven by insurance companies who are forever pressuring doctors who order “unnecessary” tests. In the case of Thyroid antibody tests, which even if you pay 100% of the cost yourself will run about $60, there is simply no excuse for not ruling out – or in – Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

But once you have these simple, inexpensive tests, if they reveal that you do have Hashimoto’s, a small miracle will come your way. Once you begin hormone replacement therapy, which is as simple as a very small dose of thyroid hormone every day, you will be amazed at how much better you begin to feel almost immediately. Many of your gastrointestinal symptoms will in fact begin to diminish and disappear. If you have been going through these painful, unpleasant, debilitating symptoms for many years, and many people have, it will seem almost too good to be true. And while it is not too god to be true, it is still not enough – there is more that you must do. But at least you will now be getting significant relief.

The Role of Diet

I’ve already promised that I won’t try to propose some universal cure for GI “diseases” like IBS, colitis and Crohns. For many readers it is enough that medicinal marijuana provides daily relief, and some may not want to go to the trouble of going further in self-treatment, especially through making dietary changes that can be difficult. But for those who are motivated I would like to make a few recommendations for things you might try. No promises, but these methods have worked for my wife and for others.

We’ve already discussed the role of gluten in triggering your body’s immune system, but for people with a compromised gut, whether from bacterial overgrowth due to misuse of antibiotics or for whatever reason, it is very important to ensure that no proteins can make it through your gut walls into your bloodstream because while the immune system is on guard for many different kinds of things, foreign life forms (except viruses, which may or may not be a life form) are always protein-based, and so any proteins – not just gluten – that get through the gut wall barrier trigger a massive immune response led by whole-body inflammation. This inflammation isn’t easy to understand or diagnose – it can mask itself as weight gain or as a wide range of other symptoms which appear to have no specific origin. Also whole-body inflammation isn’t like an infected finger or toe – it isn’t localized and therefore doesn’t stand out from the surrounding tissue. It is everywhere, and it is so subtle that most of us never spot it the way we would an infected finger.

Fortunately there is a relatively simple change that you can make that will reduce the migration of proteins through the gut wall and therefore greatly reduce the inflammation that always accompanies immune system’s inflammatory auto-immune response and that, in turn, lies at the heart of so much of what we call disease – especially disease that appears to Western medicine to have no specific cause. If it isn’t a bug or virus causing the disease, or an injury, or a cancer, or degeneration of an organ – then Western medicine is pretty much stumped. While many doctors are beginning to appreciate the role of inflammation in these diseases without an obvious origin, allopathic (Western) medicine still has very few effective tools for dealing with inflammation, which means that you are pretty much on your own.

But, here’s what you can do. It is called partitioning your diet, and the principles are simple. You divide your meals into two parts. Part one is the protein, and Part two is everything else. Since undigested proteins are one of the major triggers of immune system’s auto-immune response leading to inflammation, divide your meals into a protein part which you eat first, and then wait 30 minutes for your stomach acid to break it all down into the smallest possible components that can then be processed by the enzymes in your upper gut so that no undigested protein remains to penetrate the compromised wall of your upper gut. It takes about 30 minutes for the protein component of your meal to be broken down. Since so many ‘treatments’ of GI problems involve taking ‘medicines’ like Omeprazole that act to reduce stomach acid, if you are taking any of these drugs you may need to look into natural digestive aids like enzymes to help you break this protein down once it makes it into your upper gut. It is important not to drink liquids during the time your protein meal is in your stomach – this dilutes the stomach acid and defeats the goal of complete breakdown of the proteins.

Once you’re confident that your stomach has emptied go ahead and enjoy the your veggies and, if you can tolerate them, maybe non-gluten grains like rice and quinoa – although some people simply have to get all grains out of their diet. If you have had a compromised gut for a while you may also have developed multiple food allergies. Some of these can seem very strange. My wife, for example, reacts very strongly to all citrus, to pineapple, dairy and simple carbs like potatoes. She has decided that she just has to adjust to life without these things in her diet and is strong-willed enough to stick to her decision. I know that there are times she would kill for a bag of potato chips or a pizza with triple cheese, but she has made the decision that she would rather not be sick and so these things are gone forever. I hope that you, reading this, are not forced to such extremes but if you are I hope and pray that you will find the strength to treat yourself right and do whatever is necessary.

In honor of the central theme of the role of marijuana in self-treatment of a wide range of disease, let me offer three research citations that show that Marijuana plays its therapeutic role by reducing inflammatory responses – in other words, by regulating the immune system to reduce its auto-immune activities. These studies point to why so many people who are using Marijuana to treat their inflammatory diseases, whether of the bowel or elsewhere in the body, are having so much relief.

I’m writing this post to urge you not to stop there, but if you are not already taking some of the other steps covered here to treat the underlying cause of the inflammatory response rather than simply treating it with Marijuana, you might benefit greatly from doing so. The changes that you have to make to get further relief may or may not be drastic – everyone is different. But since you already know that there is at least one natural way to treat a medical problem that has the best minds in Allopathic medicine pretty much stumped, why not consider going even further and acting to remove some, if not all, of the major underlying causes of the problem that arise from what you eat and how you eat.

Three Studies

Israel Med Assoc J. 2011 Aug;13(8):455-8.

Treatment of Crohn’s disease with Cannabis: an observational study.

Naftali T, Lev LB, Yablecovitch D, Half E, Konikoff FM.


Institute of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Meir Medical Center, Kfar Saba affiliated with Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel.


The marijuana plant cannabis is known to have therapeutic effects, including improvement of inflammatory processes. However, no report of patients using cannabis for Crohn’s disease (CD) was ever published.


To describe the effects of cannabis use in patients suffering from CD.


In this retrospective observational study we examined disease activity, use of medication, need for surgery, and hospitalization before and after cannabis use in 30 patients (26 males) with CD. Disease activity was assessed by the Harvey Bradshaw index for Crohn’s disease.


Of the 30 patients 21 improved significantly after treatment with cannabis. The average Harvey Bradshaw index improved from 14 +/- 6.7 to 7 +/- 4.7 (P < 0.001). The need for other medication was significantly reduced. Fifteen of the patients had 19 surgeries during an average period of 9 years before cannabis use, but only 2 required surgery during an average period of 3 years of cannabis use.


Journal of Molecular Medicine (Berlin). 2009 Nov; 87(11):1111-21. Epub 2009 Aug 20.

Cannabidiol, a safe and non-psychotropic ingredient of the marijuana plant Cannabis sativa, is protective in a murine model of colitis.

Borrelli F, Aviello G, Romano B, Orlando P, Capasso R, Maiello F, Guadagno F, Petrosino S, Capasso F, Di Marzo V, Izzo AA.


Department of Experimental Pharmacology, University of Naples Federico II, via D Montesano 49, 80131 Naples, Italy.


Inflammatory bowel disease affects millions of individuals; nevertheless, pharmacological treatment is disappointingly unsatisfactory. Cannabidiol, a safe and non-psychotropic ingredient of marijuana, exerts pharmacological effects (e.g., antioxidant) and mechanisms (e.g., inhibition of endocannabinoids enzymatic degradation) potentially beneficial for the inflamed gut. Thus, we investigated the effect of cannabidiol in a murine model of colitis. Colitis was induced in mice by intracolonic administration of dinitrobenzene sulfonic acid. Inflammation was assessed both macroscopically and histologically. In the inflamed colon, cyclooxygenase-2 and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) were evaluated by Western blot, interleukin-1beta and interleukin-10 by ELISA, and endocannabinoids by isotope dilution liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Human colon adenocarcinoma (Caco-2) cells were used to evaluate the effect of cannabidiol on oxidative stress. Cannabidiol reduced colon injury, inducible iNOS (but not cyclooxygenase-2) expression, and interleukin-1beta, interleukin-10, and endocannabinoid changes associated with 2,4,6-dinitrobenzene sulfonic acid administration. In Caco-2 cells, cannabidiol reduced reactive oxygen species production and lipid peroxidation. In conclusion, cannabidiol, a likely safe compound, prevents experimental colitis in mice


Arthritis Res Ther. 2008;10(2):R43. Epub 2008 Apr 16.

Characterisation of the cannabinoid receptor system in synovial tissue and fluid in patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Richardson D, Pearson RG, Kurian N, Latif ML, Garle MJ, Barrett DA, Kendall DA, Scammell BE, Reeve AJ, Chapman V.


Centre for Analytical Bioscience, School of Pharmacy, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK.



Cannabis-based medicines have a number of therapeutic indications, including anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. The endocannabinoid receptor system, including the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and receptor 2 (CB2) and the endocannabinoids, are implicated in a wide range of physiological and pathophysiological processes. Pre-clinical and clinical studies have demonstrated that cannabis-based drugs have therapeutic potential in inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and multiple sclerosis. The aim of this study was to determine whether the key elements of the endocannabinoid signalling system, which produces immunosuppression and analgesia, are expressed in the synovia of patients with osteoarthritis (OA) or RA.


Thirty-two OA and 13 RA patients undergoing total knee arthroplasty were included in this study. Clinical staging was conducted from x-rays scored according to Kellgren-Lawrence and Larsen scales, and synovitis of synovial biopsies was graded. Endocannabinoid levels were quantified in synovial fluid by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. The expression of CB1 and CB2 protein and RNA in synovial biopsies was investigated. Functional activity of these receptors was determined with mitogen-activated protein kinase assays. To assess the impact of OA and RA on this receptor system, levels of endocannabinoids in the synovial fluid of patients and non-inflamed healthy volunteers were compared. The activity of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), the predominant catabolic endocannabinoid enzyme, was measured in synovium.


CB1 and CB2 protein and RNA were present in the synovia of OA and RA patients. Cannabinoid receptor stimulation of fibroblast-like cells from OA and RA patients produced a time-dependent phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-1 and ERK-2 which was significantly blocked by the CB1 antagonist SR141716A. The endocannabinoids anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonyl glycerol (2-AG) were identified in the synovial fluid of OA and RA patients. However, neither AEA nor 2-AG was detected in synovial fluid from normal volunteers. FAAH was active in the synovia of OA and RA patients and was sensitive to inhibition by URB597 (3′-(aminocarbonyl) [1,1′-biphenyl]-3-yl)-cyclohexylcarbamate).


Our data predict that the cannabinoid receptor system present in the synovium may be an important therapeutic target for the treatment of pain and inflammation associated with OA and RA.

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Can This Potent Probiotic Prevent Food Poisoning Deaths?

E. coli is in the news a lot for its role in causing “food poisoning”, which kills and sickens huge numbers of people every year. In this post I will briefly review the most comprehensive study (2008) to date on the use of a remarkable probiotic with the potential to both treat and prevent E. coli infections. If you choose to follow the link at the end of the post to read the whole study, you’ll also find links to hundreds of related studies, many of them more current.

(Some readers may wonder why I post so much on the subject of gut bacteria when this blog is nominally about the Coca plant and its medical potential. The two subjects are closely related, and although it may be years before we see open access to pure, natural Coca Leaf and its healing potential, research into the role of gut bacteria in mediating the balance between whole body health and disease is exploding. I have received strong messages of encouragement from readers of this blog to continue to point out information resources that may be relevant and helpful for those who are struggling with gut disease.)

According to the website : “The E. coli that are responsible for the numerous reports of contaminated foods and beverages are those that produce Shiga toxin, so called because the toxin is virtually identical to that produced by Shigella dysenteria type 1. The best-known and also most notorious E. coli bacteria that produce Shiga toxin is E. coli O157:H7. Shiga toxin–producing E. coli (STEC) cause approximately 100,000 illnesses, 3,000 hospitalizations, and 90 deaths annually in the United States. Most reported STEC infections in the United States are caused by E. coli O157:H7, with an estimated 73,000 cases occurring each year. A study published in 2005 estimated the annual cost of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses to be $405 million (in 2003 dollars), which included $370 million for premature deaths, $30 million for medical care, and $5 million for lost productivity.”

Perhaps it is needless to point this out, but this data is only on the US – the toll taken by E. coli worldwide is in the millions of people, disproportionately the very young and very old.

Because antibiotics are not effective against E. coli there is no treatment for this potentially deadly infection – doctors are limited to hydrating and nourishing the patient while their immune system attempts to overcome this tenacious invader. Meanwhile, E. coli is busy attacking the victim’s gut using multiple strategies. The bug’s primary weapon is its ability to attach itself to the lining of the gut and produce lesions. These lesions break down the tightly-bound specialized cells of the gut lining, which are designed to keep large molecular structures from passing through the gut wall, producing a condition known as “leaky gut”, which can trigger a range of dangerous immune system reactions. An E. coli infection also produces acute diarrhea, hemorrhagic colitis, and hemolytic-uremic syndrome among other potentially life-threatening outcomes.

The study that is the subject of this post, published in the journal “Infection and Immunity”, is entitled “Lactobacillus rhamnosus Strain GG Prevents Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7-Induced Changes in Epithelial Barrier Function”.
While this is a lengthy and complex paper, here is how the authors “bottom line” their findings:

“Taken together, the results of this study indicate that L. rhamnosus GG has the ability to protect against E. coli O157:H7-induced damage of the epithelial monolayer barrier function by preventing changes in host cell morphology, A/E lesion formation, monolayer resistance, and macromolecular permeability. In addition, L. rhamnosus GG pretreatment prevents E. coli O157:H7-induced morphological redistribution of intercellular tight junction proteins and a decrease in the expression of ZO-1.”

“We expanded findings of previous investigators by demonstrating that L. rhamnosus GG pretreatment interrupts the infectious processes of E. coli O157:H7, without bactericidal activity. By demonstrating the mode of action of this probiotic strain in attenuating E. coli O157:H7 infection, we expanded our knowledge regarding the unique protective contributions of this specific probiotic bacterium when it is cultured with epithelial cells. It is increasingly recognized that the effects of probiotics are both species and strain specific. Accordingly, it is important to better define how individual probiotics elicit their beneficial effects as biotherapeutic agents against pathogen-induced disorders of the gastrointestinal tract”

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when reviewing this research is that it was performed “in vitro” – literally in petri dishes, and not “in vivo”- in living organisms such as mice or humans. So we can’t take the findings of this research and conclude that the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus Strain GG will definitely prevent E. coli infections in the human gut and/or prevent or limit damage from E. coli infections in humans once they have occurred.

However, while we can’t draw those conclusions based on this research, after reading this research carefully we can legitimately conclude that there seems to be a very high likelihood that Lactobacillus rhamnosus Strain GG will do just that.

When you follow this link you will land on the full article in the journal “Infection and Immunity”. The article is long and detailed and requires a certain amount of scientific and medical vocabulary to gain a full understanding of what the cited research does, and does not show. However, as long as you are not intimidated by technical language, if you follow the link you’ll find an even greater treasure trove of informatio on this article’s National Institutes of Health webpage.

Just to the right of the Title & Authors you’ll see a feature entitled “Similar Articles in PubMed”. As you look down the short list of articles you’ll see a link that says “See All”. If you click that link you’ll get to a page that shows you the first 20 of 198 similar articles. They are displayed 20 to a page by default, but you can change that by looking at the very top of the page and clicking the down arrow next to “20 per page”. That down arrow will then give you a drop-down menu that will let you choose to display up to 200 citations at one time. If you choose this option you will have all 198 citations on a single page, making it much easier to save the whole list for your leisurely inspection.

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Reject Authoritarian Medical Bullshit, Do Your Own Careful Research, Live Long, And Prosper

While the advent of legal Medical Cannabis in many states has made the task of successful self-diagnosis and treatment far less difficult for many people suffering from a wide range of conditions and diseases, and has also made collaborative diagnosis and treatment far easier for people who are fortunate enough to find a thoughtful and insightful physician to work with, there are still many states where people don’t have the Medical Cannabis option, and even in those states where that option is available there are still many people with conditions and diseases for which Medical Cannabis is not the answer, or is not the whole answer. In every state, with or without legal Medical Cannabis, people are still faced with the challenge of finding a doctor who they can work with, and then figuring out how to accomplish that often difficult task.

Doctors wear white coats for the same reason that judges wear black robes, cops wear Darth Vader gear, the Pope wears funny hats, kings and queens wear crowns, corporate zombies wear suits, and soldiers display nasty weapons and paint their faces black – they all want you to see that they have authority, and you don’t. This means, among other things, that you are supposed to do what they say, and not ask questions – or else.

It is an extremely rare doctor who welcomes questions from their patients, unless those questions are asking for their advice – certainly questions that challenge their advice are not welcome. However in my experience that is exactly what you have to do every step of the way if you are going to actually be healed of whatever disease or ailment you are suffering from because if you don’t the odds of a successful outcome drop dramatically.

Doctors are busy people and for the most part stopped keeping up with research in their field the moment they left medical school, with the exception of what they gather attending seminars at medical conventions and from the pharmaceutical industry reps who bring them “the latest research” which incidentally involves giving their patients the latest drug their company is pushing. They certainly don’t have time to study research that is outside their field – a gastroenterologist generally has no idea what the latest research in endocrinology shows, and vice versa. If you go to a cardiologist to complain about pains in your chest, sure enough you’ll get that heart of yours tested, but the heart doc will probably never consider the possibility that diaphragm spasms caused by SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) is pulling on your heart, or that you have a massive ulcer caused by helicobacter pylori infection in your stomach that is creating referred pain to your heart.

Likewise if you go to a gastroenterologist complaining of certain kinds of gut problems you’ll no doubt be tested for Celiac disease and Crohns, but there’s almost no chance that the gastro guy will order a panel of thyroid tests to see if you have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis caused by an immune response to certain proteins in your diet which cause a parallel auto-immune attack on your thyroid. Wheat gluten protein and certain tissues in the thyroid have virtually identical molecular structures, so if you have the genetic predisposition to gluten intolerance, or if your gut microbiome is compromised by something like long-term exposure to RoundUp in your food, your immune system considers both gluten and your Thyroid to be the same foreign protein and attacks both.

Even if you have been tested for Gluten intolerance by the usual blood test, and your test shows no problems with gluten, that’s no guarantee that your immune system will agree with the test results. Equally unfortunately your thyroid can be under immune system attack and you can have perfectly normal TSH and T4 test results – Hashimoto’s only shows up when you are tested for thyroid antibodies (anti-TPO and TgAb), which most docs simply won’t do without a lot of arm-twisting, for some reason known only to them. The Thyroid antibody tests are certainly cheap enough (around $60 most places) even if you are self-pay, and they are definitive. If you have a lot of gut symptoms that don’t yield to conventional diagnosis this might be a possibility for you to explore. If you test positive for anti-TPO and TgAb you have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and while it can’t be cured it can be managed and the destruction of your Thyroid can be slowed or stopped.

The point is that while doctors are often very good at diagnosing and treating the 80% or so of patients whose problems in fact do lie within the boundaries of their specialty, almost none of them will ever consider stepping outside that specialized area of knowledge to look for linkages. Now, supposedly, that’s where the generalists like GPs and Internal Medicine docs come in – they are supposed to have an overview that gives them a more holistic perspective on you and your health issues. However these docs suffer from the same lack of time (and personal initiative) to stay on top of all relevant research in all fields so that they can in fact do their job of finding linkages between sets of symptoms that fall under different medical specialties and then send you to the appropriate practitioners in those specialties.

Most doctors would like for you to get better, and they would like to get credit for it, but even more they want to get paid whether they help you or not, and if they try everything they know how to do and you still don’t get better then a subtle shift takes place and they begin sending you semi-concealed but obvious “go away” messages. Doctors know that 80% or more of the people who walk through their doors can be easily diagnosed and treated to everyone’s satisfaction, and unless they are exceptionally dedicated physicians they are perfectly satisfied to be seen as heroes by 80% of their patients, and would rather that the remainder, who can’t be diagnosed or treated without a great deal of effort, would just disappear. That’s when you are told “there’s nothing more we can do for you”. Far too many doctors like to think of themselves as people with a magic kiss that can make the boo-boo go away, and when their magic doesn’t work, it somehow becomes your fault. That’s just human nature at work – but you wind up on the short end of that particular stick.

This is where you come in. Only you have a really pressing reason to spend the time and energy needed to thoroughly research your health issues – you want to get better! However, before you even start doing your own research there are a couple of things that you must do. The first is to find a GP or Internal Medicine doctor who is a good listener and who doesn’t think they know everything. Next you have to understand what kind of information this doctor (any doctor really) will give credibility to, and why. Finally you have to be able to research within the framework of that kind of information and, as you begin to discover what may be wrong with you, you have to know how to approach the doctor with that information. Finally, although you can certainly mine the internet chat rooms and health-related websites for information, you must follow the old CIA adage “Trust, but verify.”

Let’s take this one step at a time. If you don’t already know a doc who listens and doesn’t think they already know all there is to know, you are going to have to network with your friends and family until you find someone who knows such a doctor, and then you have to get into their practice. Fortunately there are plenty – well, quite a few anyway – of good docs out there. You just have to sort them out until you find the one who is right for you.

Then you have to get on the internet and find out everything you can about your symptoms. We all know that the internet is full of as much bad information as good, and it’s a matter of using your judgment. In general I would say that web sites that are pushing a product or a program for money are not good sources of information. Discussion groups and moderated forums tend to be much more productive. Finding people who are dealing with the same set of issues and symptoms as you are can be quite helpful. They can help you connect your symptoms with a set of possible diagnoses – but this isn’t information you want to print out and take to your doctor. This is just the first of two key steps – identifying what might be the cause or causes of your problems, with or without the help of other people.

The next and most critical step is to understand that doctors only accept one kind of medical/scientific information – the kind that comes from peer-reviewed articles in recognized medical journals. This is actually a good thing because it sets a high standard for the authenticity of the information. And here’s where things get really cool!

The National Institutes of Health, an agency of the US government, publishes an online database containing abstracts of over 23 million peer-reviewed articles (as of 2015) from recognized medical journals around the world – not just from the US. There are articles from peer-reviewed medical journals from dozens of countries with advanced medical research facilities. The database goes back as far as the 1960s and comes all the way forward to abstracts of articles that haven’t yet been published. Even better, the articles all cite the names of the researchers who did the work and are publishing it, and there are almost always direct email links to the researchers. I’ve found that many of these researchers will respond to requests for information – for example, links to other research they have published, or links to other relevant research by their peers. Just don’t overwhelm them with complicated requests, long narratives of what is wrong with you, or tearful pleas for help. Just let them know that you found the abstract of their work on PubMed useful and relevant to your health issues and that you would appreciate any additional information they care to share with you.

So once you’ve done your background research in forums and discussion groups online, you then move to the NIH database and begin using your symptoms, as well as any diagnosis that you think might apply, as key words to troll for medical journal articles where your symptoms are discussed. This can be time-consuming, and you have to be able to understand some pretty high-level scientific/medical language to make sense of what is bring written, but don’t let that discourage you, because these abstracts are almost always written with good clear language, if not exactly layman’s language, and with a little effort you’ll be able to penetrate the language.

It also helps (a lot) if you understand elementary statistics, because most of these abstracts discuss their findings using statistical language in the body of the abstract. But even if you don’t understand statistics very well, or at all, don’t despair, because there is always a short paragraph at the end of the abstract called ‘Results’ or ‘Conclusions’ or ‘Findings’ in which everything is summarized in reasonably plain language.

I won’t keep you waiting any longer – you can link to PubMed here

Once you log on you’ll see a simple search box at the top of the page where you can enter your search terms and go. On the home page you also see a lot of other specialized search options, but stick with the simple search box at the top at first. Once you get into the database you’ll see that the articles are generally arranged with the most recent on top. When you click on an article that looks relevant, you’ll get the abstract of that article but you’ll also get a box on the right hand side of the screen that suggests related articles you may want to investigate. As you proceed with your research, keep a Word document open on your desktop and just drag to select the abstract and its author data, then copy and paste this into your Word doc, which becomes your file of possibly relevant information.

My suggestion would be to spend a little more time once you’ve collected your abstracts and go through them putting the most relevant at the top of the document, saving your doctor the time and trouble of sorting through the information themselves. You are a lot more likely to get even a good, attentive doc’s attention if you hand them a single sheet with a couple of really juicy abstracts rather than a folder full of stuff for them to read. (And don’t forget, the contact email addresses for the researchers are almost always at the top of the abstract, so if you make sure that the links are “live” in the word document you give to your doctor, he or she can be in touch with the authors if they want more detailed information.) Once they have read what you give them, and you get their opinion on whether or not this might be relevant to what you’re dealing with, then is the time to hand them all the relevant info you’ve uncovered and say “Oh by the way, here are some more articles I thought were relevant – I just didn’t want to overwhelm you with all this before we had a chance to look at the ones I thought were most interesting.”

Let me end this foray into how to research your own health issues and find a doctor who is willing to consider information that lies outside their own field of knowledge with a short story on how I came to understand this process.

My wife was diagnosed several years back with a condition called ‘Barrett’s Esophagus’. There was a pre-cancerous lesion in her esophagus where it joins the stomach. It’s presence was confirmed by tissue pathology as well as a visual endoscopy. Barrett’s is almost always caused by reflux, which in my wife’s case was the result of SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) which in turn had been caused by being given an overdose of the wrong kind of a powerful antibiotic (Vancomycin) for an operation, which destroyed the ‘good bacteria’ in her upper GI tract allowing pathogenic bacteria to move upward from her colon where they are normally kept in check by the good bugs in the upper reaches of the gut. The good news, the gastroenterologist told us, is that the lesion was in its very early stages. The bad news, he told us, is that Barrett’s invariably progresses into full-blown esophageal cancer and at some point we were going to have to take extreme measures including surgery and radiation.

Aren’t there any treatments for Barrett’s in this early stage, we asked. No, he solemnly intoned, we have no research that gives us any treatment modalities. (They just love to use words like ‘modalities’.)

Now, I have since that time learned that when a doctor uses the word “We” he means the entire medical profession, and that is supposed to end the discussion right there, because if the entire profession doesn’t have a cure, then none exists – right? “We” is his cover story. So this doctor told us to go home and enjoy the life we had left together, and gave us maybe 5 years before things got really bad.

Neither my wife nor I take that kind of bullshit for an answer, but we had long ago grown tired of confronting pompous idiots in white coats, so we paid the guy’s bill and left.

Having been through this before the first thing we did was to log on to PubMed and start looking. At first we kept running into dead ends, but one thing about research is that you simply have to keep trying – shuffle your key words around, re-phrase, come up with new key words, etc. And here’s where PubMed really shines – it includes worldwide data – not just US studies. After you spend some time on PubMed you’ll see that there is a tremendous amount of research going on in Europe and Asia that the medical establishment in the US never hears about and, in many cases, actively rejects or ignores. This turned out to be the case with what ultimately led to a complete cure for my wife’s Barrett’s.

To keep this story short, we finally found a research paper presented in France by a US gastroenterologist, Dr. Stephen Stowe of North Carolina, whose research was not accepted (to say the least) by his peers in the US but which had attracted the attention of the European medical community. What we found was his address to a convention of internal medicine specialists from all over Europe in Marseilles, where his findings were hailed as a true breakthrough in the treatment and cure of Barrett’s. His treatment method was simple and non-invasive, and it used very inexpensive medications, and it worked – a huge percentage of his female Barrett’s patients had experienced complete remission within three years of beginning treatment, and most had been successful within one year. In retrospect it’s easy to see why his work was rejected by the US gastroenterology establishment – it was simple, inexpensive, and worked without any of their fancy technology and high-priced drugs. Can’t have that, now can we? That’s no way to pay for the wife’s Mercedes and a second home in Aspen, is it?

We tracked this doctor down (he had retired but a nurse in his former clinic put us in touch with him) and he agreed to call our doctor ( a naturopath, not the gastro guy) and discuss his treatment with her. They spent an hour on the phone and our doc came back to us and said that his research was impeccable and that we should begin immediately. We did, and it worked. A year later in a follow-up endoscopy (not the same gastro guy, needless to say) the lab results of tissue analysis showed NO TRACE of pathological changes. Her esophagus was healed. End of story. And five years later, another follow-up endoscopy has shown the same thing.

Here is an article that describe Dr. Stowe’s work in some detail. (After his acceptance in Europe the American College of Gastroenterology was forced to recognize him. However, note how they pooh-pooh his findings at the end of the article.)

Barrett’s Esophagus Reversal Seen With Combination Medical Therapy

A medical approach consisting of 3 agents (“triple therapy”) can reverse Barrett’s esophagus and the dysplasia that often follows, eliminating the risk for esophageal adenocarcinoma, according to investigators who presented their findings here at the 71st annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG).
The treatment consists of a proton pump inhibitor to treat acid reflux, sucralfate suspension to treat bile and pepsin reflux, and folic acid as chemoprevention against dysplasia.

“Medical therapy with these 3 modalities reverses dysplasia and Barrett’s esophagus in clinical and endoscopic follow-up,” said principal investigator Stephen P. Stowe, MD. Dr. Stowe is medical director of the Lake Norman Center for Digestive and Liver Disease in Mooresville, North Carolina. “We saw no difference in dysplasia clearance in men and women or in those with and without a family history of Barrett’s esophagus. We saw no progression to cancer in 301 patient-years of follow-up.”

Dr. Stowe and his coinvestigator conducted the phase 2 study in 81 patients with Barrett’s esophagus who were selected from 3495 consecutive patients in a single practice who were scheduled to undergo esophageal endoscopy. Of these 81 patients, 44 were men and 37 were women. The investigators categorized patients by the presence of dysplasia and stratified their treatment accordingly. Those with no dysplasia received daily treatment with a proton pump inhibitor of choice, 1 mg daily of folic acid, and 10 cc of sucralfate at bedtime. Those with dysplasia were on doubled therapy: twice-daily doses of the proton pump inhibitor and folic acid, and 10 cc of sucralfate upon rising and at bedtime.

Follow-up regimens were also based on patients’ dysplasia status. Those with no dysplasia underwent conventional endoscopy and chromo-endoscopy beginning 12 months after the initiation of treatment. Those with mild dysplasia underwent these studies beginning 9 to 12 months after treatment started. Those with moderate to severe dysplasia underwent these studies beginning 3 to 6 months after initiating therapy. Patients were assigned a score based on endoscopy findings as well as clinical findings, such as symptoms of reflux and choking; the affected length of the esophagus, the presence of scarring; stenosis or ulcer; the severity of dyspepsia.

“Healing was evident starting at 9 months after treatment began, and most were healed by 48 months with some stragglers at 72 to 80 months,” said Dr. Stowe. “We documented full healing in 72% of very short and short segments, 75% of intermediate segments, and 17% of long segments.” Long segments were defined as more than 6 cm in length. Although healing of Barrett’s esophagus was slightly better in women and those with a family history of Barrett’s esophagus, there was no statistically significant difference by sex or family history for reversal of dysplasia, he said.

When they analyzed their data by the severity of dysplasia, the investigators found that 4 of 5 patients with moderate dysplasia had both reversal of dysplasia and healing of Barrett’s esophagus, as did 8 of 15 patients with mild dysplasia and 8 of 23 patients with indefinite dysplasia.

No patients in the overall group progressed to cancer after 301 patient-years of follow-up. Similarly, they documented no progression among the 48 patients with dysplasia and 177 patient-years of follow-up.

“To my knowledge this is the first study showing a reversal of Barrett’s with noninvasive methods. We find this intriguing and interesting,” said Phillip E. Jaffe, MD, in a phone interview. Dr. Jaffe, who was not involved in the study, is an associate professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, and he practices in Hamden, Connecticut. He spoke as a member of the ACG public relations committee.

“Do remember that is a single-center, retrospective study, and it needs to be replicated on a prospective manner, but it gives us hope that people with Barrett’s and dysplasia may benefit from a noninvasive intervention,” Dr. Jaffe added. “We don’t want people to adopt this as a primary mode of therapy until we have a lot more data, but we think it’s interesting.”

I wish that I could promise that every person’s medical dilemma can be cured as simply as my wife’s Barrett’s ultimately was, but of course I can’t. What I can promise is that if you don’t confront and challenge medical authority, and if you don’t understand how to do it effectively, then your chances of being cured go way, way down. Self-treating with alternative medicines and techniques are excellent choices for some people with some health issues, but they are unlikely to be the overall answer especially when you are dealing with many of the more serious health issues, so at some point you are probably going to have to take advantage of the best that conventional medicine also has to offer too. When you do, if you are well prepared with the facts in a form that a doctor who is willing to listen can deal with, your chances of successfully recovering your health are far increased. It really is that simple.

Reject bullshit, do your own research, live long, and prosper.