MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

symptom-relief

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I have to admit that I had not heard of Dr Bernhoft before. I was alerted to him through the discussions about him on this blog. So, I had a look. What I found amazed me.

On his website, Bernhoft states the following:

Dr. Bernhoft is one of the nation’s leading practitioners in the field of environmental medicine. He comes to his expertise not only through extensive academic and professional training and decades as a practicing physician and surgeon, but also from the uniquely motivating perspective of having been a patient himself who had to fight desperately for his life and was literally forced to find a way to heal himself from an illness that left his MD colleagues at a loss for diagnosis and treatment…

His personal quest for survival carried him into cutting-edge advanced medicine, including gene-environment interactions. He found out that his gene which codes for an enzyme called MTHFR was hypoactive, and a second, which produces GSTM1 was absent, leaving him susceptible to poisoning by a wide range of metals and chemicals…

Because of his unique personal experience, combined with his outstanding professional credentials, he is one of the most effective spokespeople in the cause of environmental healing.

His ‘outstanding professional credentials’ consist of amongst others ‘28 peer reviewed medical articles‘, he claims. My Medline search located just 11:

  1. Cadmium toxicity and treatment. Bernhoft RA.ScientificWorldJournal. 2013 Jun 3;2013:394652. doi: 10.1155/2013/394652. Print 2013.PMID: 23844395 Free PMC article. Review.
  2. Mercury toxicity and treatment: a review of the literature.Bernhoft RA.J Environ Public Health. 2012;2012:460508. doi: 10.1155/2012/460508. Epub 2011 Dec 22.PMID: 22235210 Free PMC article. Review.
  3. Clinical detoxification: elimination of persistent toxicants from the human body.Genuis SJ, Sears ME, Schwalfenberg G, Hope J, Bernhoft R.ScientificWorldJournal. 2013 Jun 6;2013:238347. doi: 10.1155/2013/238347. Print 2013.PMID: 23844383 Free PMC article. No abstract available.
  4. Incorporating environmental health in clinical medicine.Genuis SJ, Sears M, Schwalfenberg G, Hope J, Bernhoft R.J Environ Public Health. 2012;2012:103041. doi: 10.1155/2012/103041. Epub 2012 May 17.PMID: 22675371 Free PMC article. No abstract available.
  5. Cholangitis after endoscopic sphincterotomy in patients with stricture of the biliary duct.Kracht M, Thompson JN, Bernhoft RA, Tsang V, Gibson RN, Blumgart LH.Surg Gynecol Obstet. 1986 Oct;163(4):324-6.PMID: 3764637
  6. Composition and morphologic and clinical features of common duct stones.Bernhoft RA, Pellegrini CA, Motson RW, Way LW.Am J Surg. 1984 Jul;148(1):77-85. doi: 10.1016/0002-9610(84)90292-7.PMID: 6742333
  7. Pigment sludge and stone formation in the acutely ligated dog gallbladder.Bernhoft RA, Pellegrini CA, Broderick WC, Way LW.Gastroenterology. 1983 Nov;85(5):1166-71.PMID: 6618107
  8. Vesicular transport of horseradish peroxidase during chronic bile duct obstruction in the rat.Renston RH, Zsigmond G, Bernhoft RA, Burwen SJ, Jones AL.Hepatology. 1983 Sep-Oct;3(5):673-80. doi: 10.1002/hep.1840030508.PMID: 6618434
  9. Peritoneovenous shunt for refractory ascites: operative complications and long-term results.Bernhoft RA, Pellegrini CA, Way LW.Arch Surg. 1982 May;117(5):631-5. doi: 0.1001/archsurg.1982.01380290081014.PMID: 7073482
  10. Biliary stricture.Way LW, Bernhoft RA, Thomas MJ.Surg Clin North Am. 1981 Aug;61(4):963-72. doi: 10.1016/s0039-6109(16)42492-8.PMID: 7280936
  11. The effects of a low level of dietary cadmium on blood pressure, ’24Na, ’42K, andwater retention in growing rats.Doyle JJ, Bernhoft RA, Sandstead HH.J Lab Clin Med. 1975 Jul;86(1):57-63.PMID: 1151143
Few, if any of them identify him as a leading expert in anything. Confused by this contradiction, I re-consulted Bernhoft’s website and found this:
We carry a wide selection of physician grade supplements, from beneficial probiotics, trace minerals, fish oils and other multivitamins that help detoxify and support the immune system. 
That puzzled even more. As far as I am aware, the term ‘physician grade’ is not a officially recognised qualifier; it seems to be a meaningless word that misleads consumers. More importantly, I can find no good evidence that probiotics, trace minerals, fish oils and other multivitamins help detoxify and support the immune system. Could this be another invented myth?
But my confusion was about to increase even further when I noticed that Bernhoft has another website; and on this one he no longer is an expert in in environmental medicine, but ‘an Ojai California Bioidentical Hormones Specialist‘. Is this another invented term?, I asked myself.
Now, I was understandably keen to learn more and discovered that Bernhoft makes many claims on his website:

The following are typical symptoms of hormone imbalance in both men and women:

  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety, depression, and irritability
  • Low libido
  • Memory lapses and trouble concentrating
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia and sleep apnea
  • Lack of muscle tone

Regardless of your age, gender, or specific symptoms, you can find relief with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT).

Naturally, I am keen to learn what conditions Bernhoft’s BHRT can cure. Brace yourself, the list is long:

Women’s Conditions Treated With Bioidentical Hormones

Robin A. Bernhoft, M.D. at the Bernhoft Center for Advanced Medicine specializes in Bioidentical Hormone balancing for women, which includes addressing the symptoms of hormonal imbalance and customizing individual treatment programs using Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy. Robin A. Bernhoft, M.D. will test each woman’s hormone levels to determine deficiencies, dominances, and imbalances, and he will work closely with each woman to find the correct dosages to restore optimal health. Some of the conditions that Doctor Bernhoft uses Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy to treat in women include:

ADRENAL FATIGUE SYNDROME

When you suffer from chronic or poorly managed stress, your adrenal glands do not release the level of cortisol you require to remain healthy and emotionally stable. You may struggle with anxiety, depression, insomnia, fatigue, cravings for sweets, and several other symptoms due to adrenal fatigue. Along with proper nutrition, balancing your hormones with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy helps you manage stress better by bringing your cortisol levels in balance.

ALOPECIA

Having too much of the estrogen hormone or an underactive thyroid may cause you to lose hair on your head, arms, legs, or pubic area. If you are diabetic, poor blood sugar control can also cause this problem. Robin A. Bernhoft, M.D. can take a quick blood test to determine if hormonal imbalance is causing this issue. If so, replacing your body’s lost hormones with Bioidentical ones can help you re-grow scalp and body hair.

ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION

When feelings of anxiety and depression are unrelated to a specific life event, they are often the result of unbalanced levels of estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol. You may feel weepy, irritable, nervous, guilty, and many other troublesome emotions. Having a hysterectomy or going through menopause tends to increase your risk of anxiety and depression. When anti-depressant medication doesn’t work, it’s more likely you’re experiencing hormonal depression that is treatable with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy.

CHRONIC HEADACHES

Women who are approaching middle age complain of chronic headaches more often than younger women do. This is often because of pending menopause or being at a certain point in their menstrual cycle. An unbalanced amount of the hormone progesterone may also be the cause of this misery. If Robin A. Bernhoft, M.D. discovers a problem with your progesterone, he may recommend that you start Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy along with a daily dose of the vitamin B12.

CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME

It’s normal to feel tired when you are under stress or don’t get enough sleep, but chronic fatigue lasting throughout the day is probably a sign of hormonal imbalance. Unfortunately, it causes other problems such as irritability, depression, and lowered resistance to illnesses. Low estrogen levels are often the cause of severe fatigue in women. Balancing your hormones with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy gives you the energy you need to meet everyday responsibilities and enjoy satisfying relationships.

CYSTITIS

Cystitis, or bladder infections, occurs when bacteria from outside of the body enter through the urinary tract and cause an infection. Hormonal changes that begin in perimenopause may also cause recurring bladder infections. This is because the bladder, urethra, and vagina lose muscle tone and strength as levels of estrogen slowly decline. Fortunately, you can correct this imbalance by receiving Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy. When the muscles near your bladder are stronger, it’s harder for bacteria to invade.

FIBROIDS

Uterine fibroids are masses of tissue that grow within the wall of your uterus, in it, or on it. It can result in irregular menstrual bleeding or uterine cancer in rare cases. Normally, estrogen stimulates cell growth in your body while progesterone balances it. Fibroids may be the result of unbalanced levels of estrogen, cortisol, xenoestrogens, and progesterone. Bringing all of these necessary hormones in balance with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy can help to reduce the risk of fibroids.

INSOMNIA

Insomnia, which is the consistent inability to fall or stay asleep, is both a cause and an effect of hormone imbalance. The hormonal changes of PMS, perimenopause, and menopause can all cause sleeplessness. Chronic insomnia can also make hormone imbalance worse. When your hormones are balanced through Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy, it has a less inhibiting effect on your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.

IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME

IBS is a term that describes pain with bowel movements, urge frequency, a feeling of incomplete bowel emptying, abdominal distension, and several other symptoms. Many women report worsening IBS symptoms just before their period starts. This may occur due to the fluctuation of estrogen and progesterone in the second half of the cycle. Having unbalanced levels of estrogen and progesterone can slow motility in the gut. However, balancing these hormones can greatly alleviate IBS.

LOW SEXUAL LIBIDO

Lack of desire for physical intimacy is due to an imbalance in the amounts of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in your body. When the latter two hormones start declining, it may cause estrogen dominance. This problem is also associated with weight gain, mood swings, and painful intercourse, all of which further decrease your libido. Balancing estrogen in your body so it doesn’t dominate other hormones is essential to restore your desire for sex.

MENOPAUSE

Menopause is the clinical term for 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period. As you start menopause, your estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone hormones may fluctuate wildly. Although there are dozens of symptoms associated with menopause, the most common ones include hot flashes, night sweats, low libido, mood swings, and weight gain. Replacement therapy with Bioidentical Hormones can help eliminate or reduce multiple symptoms at the same time.

PERIMENOPAUSE

Although the average age of menopause is 51, you may begin perimenopause as early as your mid 30s. Common symptoms include breast tenderness, changes in the menstrual cycle, skin changes, sexual dysfunction, and loss of bone density. These problems occur due to decreasing levels of estrogen and other essential hormones as you age. If your blood work confirms hormonal imbalance, Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy can help you feel more comfortable.

SYMPTOMS OF PRE-MENSTRUAL SYNDROME

In a normal menstrual cycle, estrogen rises for the first two weeks and then begins to fall. During the second half of the cycle, this process repeats itself with progesterone. If you’re highly sensitive to hormonal changes, you may experience worsening symptoms of PMS. Some of these include bloating, irritability, fatigue, tension, and weight gain. If your PMS symptoms are severe enough to interfere with your quality of life, consider Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy with Doctor Robin A. Bernhoft.

THYROID DISORDERS

You have a thyroid imbalance when your thyroid, which is a small nodule at the base of your neck, produces too little or too much of this hormone. When you go to a traditional doctor complaining of fatigue or difficulty losing weight, he or she may test your TSH level. However, this may not be enough to determine hormone imbalance. Robin A. Bernhoft, M.D. conducts several medical tests to see if you are a good candidate for Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy.

Men’s Conditions Treated With Bioidentical Hormones

Robin A. Bernhoft, M.D. also specializes in Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy for men, which includes addressing symptoms of hormonal imbalance and customizing individual treatment programs using Bioidentical Hormones. Robin A. Bernhoft, M.D. will apply the newest and most effective methods for restoring optimal hormone balance using Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy. He offers medically supervised programs, which include the most advanced delivery methods to help bring hormone levels back into balance. His programs can also treat the symptoms of andropause, helping men regain their health and confidence. Some of the conditions Robin A. Bernhoft, M.D. uses Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy to treat in men include:

ADRENAL FATIGUE

Your adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol in response to stress, exercise, excitement, and low blood sugar. As you age, your body has a harder time balancing your cortisol levels. This can cause unrelenting fatigue, anxiety, sexual problems, and a wide range of other symptoms due to cortisol imbalance in your adrenal glands. Hormone restoration through Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy can help speed up sluggish adrenal glands and provide you with more energy.

ALOPECIA (HAIR LOSS)

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is part of the testosterone hormone, is responsible for hair loss on your scalp, face, chest, back, arms, legs, and groin area. When this hormone is unbalanced, it causes the follicles of your hair to regress and die. High levels of DHT can result in premature balding or thinning hair. If a full head of hair is important to you, remember that Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy can stimulate hair growth.

ANDROPAUSE

By the time men reach age 70, they may have only 10 percent of the testosterone hormone they had at age 25. This explains why many men begin experiencing symptoms associated with low testosterone around age 40. Andropause is a term that describes the many physical and emotional changes that occur due to the imbalance of hormones. Testosterone replacement is essential to help you experience long-term symptom relief.

ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION

Low levels of testosterone cause an overall feeling of discontent in some men, which is the hallmark characteristic of hypogonadism. Balanced levels of this hormone are so essential that men with hypogonadism receive a diagnosis of clinical depression 400 times more often than men with normal hormone levels do. If you feel hopeless, low on energy, and irritable, ask Robin A. Bernhoft, M.D. to check your testosterone level. Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy can help balance your hormones and improve your outlook on life.

CHRONIC FATIGUE

When fatigue is chronic, you lack the energy to focus or keep up with everyday responsibilities. Declining levels of testosterone are often to blame for this problem. Chronic fatigue is also worsened by other symptoms of andropause, including night sweats, insomnia, sleep apnea, increased stress, and irritability. It’s important to note that all-day fatigue is different than feeling tired. Fortunately, balancing your testosterone and other hormones with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy helps to improve fatigue and all of its associated symptoms.

CHRONIC HEADACHES

Cortisol, the stress hormone, can go into overdrive when you are under constant, unrelenting stress. This can cause daily headaches of varying intensity. The drop in testosterone starting at age 30 can also play a role in chronic headaches; Robin A. Bernhoft, M.D. can pinpoint an exact cause with a simple blood test. If your hormones are unbalanced, treatment with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy can help alleviate headache pain.

ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION

You have erectile dysfunction when you can’t get an erection at all or maintain one long enough for satisfying sexual activity. A diminished level of testosterone is the typical cause. This also happens when the brain fails to signal the release of nitrous oxide, which is responsible for blood flow to the penis. Too much of the stress hormone cortisol also plays a role in erectile dysfunction. Balancing testosterone and cortisol with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy can eliminate or improve this problem.

GASTROINTESTINAL DISORDERS

Gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, belching, and slow digestion may all be related to imbalanced hormones in your body. Specifically, these problems could originate due to problems with normal thyroid functioning due to too much cortisol or estrogen. Many traditional doctors don’t treat digestion problems correctly because they don’t understand the connection to hormones. When diet, exercise, and medication aren’t working, consider replacing lost hormones through Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy with Doctor Bernhoft.

INSOMNIA

Because testosterone normally replenishes itself while you are sleeping, struggling with insomnia lowers your testosterone production. This causes a vicious cycle because low testosterone levels cause many sleep disturbances, including insomnia and sleep apnea. While difficulty falling or staying asleep and decreased testosterone production are both normal signs of aging, you don’t have to allow them to affect your quality of life. Providing your body the testosterone it needs through Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy can greatly improve restful sleep.

IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME

Elevated stress levels and a weakened immune system can both cause IBS, which may present itself as abdominal pain, gas, bloating, or frequent diarrhea. In many cases, both stress and immune system deficiency are related to unbalanced levels of hormones. This can trigger an attack of IBS. Determining what triggers your symptoms, including certain foods and hormone imbalance, is the first step to helping you feel better. Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy helps to balance the hormones responsible for triggering IBS symptoms.

LOW LIBIDO

The desire to have sex less often and erectile dysfunction are often related, but it’s possible to have one without the other. Testosterone stimulates the nerves in the brain to become sexually aroused, so this sensation naturally diminishes as you age. Smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and a poor diet are additional reasons your libido may be low. When combined with a healthy lifestyle, therapy with Bioidentical Hormones helps to improve your sexual desire and functioning.

LOW TESTOSTERONE

Low testosterone, which your doctor may also refer to as male menopause, hypogonadism, or andropause, is the term used to describe the multitude of symptoms many men experience as they approach middle age. Your testosterone production actually starts declining one percent every year at age 30. Sexual dysfunction, mood problems, weight gain, and low energy are common problems associated with low testosterone that are correctable with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy.

THYROID DISORDERS

Low thyroid levels in men can cause cold intolerance, fatigue, hair loss, weight gain, dry skin, and constipation; as many as one in seven men struggle with hypothyroidism. When the thyroid produces an excess of hormones, hyperthyroidism is the result. This condition has many additional symptoms, including muscle weakness, trembling hands, insomnia, and heart palpitations. Having your thyroid level checked by a hormone specialist such as Robin A. Bernhoft, M.D. and completing Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy are essential to help you feel better.

Ojai, California Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy specialist, Robin A. Bernhoft, M.D. at the Bernhoft Center for Advanced Medicine has helped countless men and women to overcome conditions related to hormonal imbalance or decline. Before beginning a Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy program, Robin A. Bernhoft, M.D. tests the levels of all essential hormones in order to get to the root of patients’ imbalances. He then designs a personalized program using dosages that are unique to each patient. Vast numbers of men and women have been able to achieve peak levels of health with Doctor Bernhoft’s specialized Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy programs.

Yes, I did try to find evidence for these claims. It’s a big job and a frustrating one too, as I was less than successful.

Now I am positively exhausted! Maybe I too need some of Bernhoft’s BHRT ?

 

Much of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is used in the management of osteoarthritis pain. Yet few of us ever seem to ask whether SCAMs are more or less effective and safe than conventional treatments.

This review determined how many patients with chronic osteoarthritis pain respond to various non-surgical treatments. Published systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that included meta-analysis of responder outcomes for at least 1 of the following interventions were included: acetaminophen, oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), topical NSAIDs, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants, cannabinoids, counselling, exercise, platelet-rich plasma, viscosupplementation (intra-articular injections usually with hyaluronic acid ), glucosamine, chondroitin, intra-articular corticosteroids, rubefacients, or opioids.

In total, 235 systematic reviews were included. Owing to limited reporting of responder meta-analyses, a post hoc decision was made to evaluate individual RCTs with responder analysis within the included systematic reviews. New meta-analyses were performed where possible. A total of 155 RCTs were included. Interventions that led to more patients attaining meaningful pain relief compared with control included:

  • exercise (risk ratio [RR] of 2.36; 95% CI 1.79 to 3.12),
  • intra-articular corticosteroids (RR = 1.74; 95% CI 1.15 to 2.62),
  • SNRIs (RR = 1.53; 95% CI 1.25 to 1.87),
  • oral NSAIDs (RR = 1.44; 95% CI 1.36 to 1.52),
  • glucosamine (RR = 1.33; 95% CI 1.02 to 1.74),
  • topical NSAIDs (RR = 1.27; 95% CI 1.16 to 1.38),
  • chondroitin (RR = 1.26; 95% CI 1.13 to 1.41),
  • viscosupplementation (RR = 1.22; 95% CI 1.12 to 1.33),
  • opioids (RR = 1.16; 95% CI 1.02 to 1.32).

Pre-planned subgroup analysis demonstrated no effect with glucosamine, chondroitin, or viscosupplementation in studies that were only publicly funded. When trials longer than 4 weeks were analysed, the benefits of opioids were not statistically significant.

The authors concluded that interventions that provide meaningful relief for chronic osteoarthritis pain might include exercise, intra-articular corticosteroids, SNRIs, oral and topical NSAIDs, glucosamine, chondroitin, viscosupplementation, and opioids. However, funding of studies and length of treatment are important considerations in interpreting these data.

Exercise clearly is an effective intervention for chronic osteoarthritis pain. It has consistently been recommended by international guideline groups as the first-line treatment in osteoarthritis management. The type of exercise is likely not important.

Pharmacotherapies such as NSAIDs and duloxetine demonstrate smaller but statistically significant benefit that continues beyond 12 weeks. Opioids appear to have short-term benefits that attenuate after 4 weeks, and intra-articular steroids after 12 weeks. Limited data (based on 2 RCTs) suggest that acetaminophen is not helpful. These findings are consistent with recent Osteoarthritis Research Society International guideline recommendations that no longer recommend acetaminophen for osteoarthritis pain management and strongly recommend against the use of opioids.

Limited benefit was observed with other interventions including glucosamine, chondroitin, and viscosupplementation. When only publicly funded trials were examined for these interventions, the results were no longer statistically significant.

Adverse events were inconsistently reported. However, withdrawal due to adverse events was consistently reported and found to be greater in patients using opioids, SNRIs, topical NSAIDs, and viscosupplementation.

Few of the interventions assessed fall under the umbrella of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM):

  • some forms of exercise,
  • cannabinoids,
  • counselling,
  • chondroitin,
  • glucosamine.

It is unclear why the authors did not include SCAMs such as chiropractic, osteopathy, massage therapy, acupuncture, herbal medicines, neural therapy, etc. in their review. All of these SCAMs are frequently used for osteoarthritis pain. If they had included these treatments, how do you think they would have fared?

This Cochrane review assessed the efficacy and safety of aromatherapy for people with dementia. The researchers  included randomised controlled trials which compared fragrance from plants in an intervention defined as aromatherapy for people with dementia with placebo aromatherapy or with treatment as usual. All doses, frequencies and fragrances of aromatherapy were considered. Participants in the included studies had a diagnosis of dementia of any subtype and severity.

The investigators included 13 studies with 708 participants. All participants had dementia and in the 12 trials which described the setting, all were resident in institutional care facilities. Nine trials recruited participants because they had significant agitation or other behavioural and psychological symptoms in dementia (BPSD) at baseline. The fragrances used were:

  • lavender (eight studies);
  • lemon balm (four studies);
  • lavender and lemon balm,
  • lavender and orange,
  • cedar extracts (one study each).

For six trials, assessment of risk of bias and extraction of results was hampered by poor reporting. Four of the other seven trials were at low risk of bias in all domains, but all were small (range 18 to 186 participants; median 66). The primary outcomes were:

  • agitation,
  • overall behavioural,
  • psychological symptoms,
  • adverse effects.

Ten trials assessed agitation using various scales. Among the 5 trials for which the confidence in the results was moderate or low, 4 trials reported no significant effect on agitation and one trial reported a significant benefit of aromatherapy. The other 5 trials either reported no useable data or the confidence in the results was very low. Eight trials assessed overall BPSD using the Neuropsychiatric Inventory and there was moderate or low confidence in the results of 5 of them. Of these, 4 reported significant benefit from aromatherapy and one reported no significant effect.

Adverse events were poorly reported or not reported at all in most trials. No more than two trials assessed each of our secondary outcomes of quality of life, mood, sleep, activities of daily living, caregiver burden. There was no evidence of benefit on these outcomes. Three trials assessed cognition: one did not report any data and the other two trials reported no significant effect of aromatherapy on cognition. The confidence in the results of these studies was low.

The authors reached the following conclusions: We have not found any convincing evidence that aromatherapy (or exposure to fragrant plant oils) is beneficial for people with dementia although there are many limitations to the data. Conduct or reporting problems in half of the included studies meant that they could not contribute to the conclusions. Results from the other studies were inconsistent. Harms were very poorly reported in the included studies. In order for clear conclusions to be drawn, better design and reporting and consistency of outcome measurement in future trials would be needed.

This is a thorough review. It makes many of the points that I so often make regarding SCAM research:

  • too many of the primary studies are badly designed;
  • too many of the primary studies are too small;
  • too many of the primary studies are poorly reported;
  • too many of the primary studies fail to mention adverse effects thus violating research ethics;
  • too many of the primary studies are done by pseudo-scientists who use research for promotion rather than testing hypotheses.

It is time that SCAM researchers, ethic review boards, funders, editors and journal reviewers take these points into serious consideration – if only to avoid clinical research getting a bad reputation and losing the support of patients without which it cannot exist.

Acute radiation-induced proctitis (ARP) is a common side effect following radiotherapy for malignant pelvic disease. It occurs in about 75% of patients and often proves difficult to treat thus causing much pain and suffering. Aloe vera has been advocated for the prevention of ARP, but does it work?

This study evaluated the efficacy of Aloe vera ointment in prevention of ARP. Forty-two patients receiving external-beam radiotherapy (RT) for pelvic malignancies were randomized to receive either Aloe vera 3% or placebo topical ointment during radiotherapy for 6 weeks. Participants applied ointments especially manufactured for the study rectally via applicator, from the first day of starting radiotherapy for 6 weeks, 1 g twice daily. They were evaluated based on the severity (grade 0-4) of the following symptoms weekly: rectal bleeding, abdominal/rectal pain, diarrhoea, or faecal urgency. RTOG acute toxicity criteria and psychosocial status of the patients were also recorded weekly. Lifestyle impact of the symptoms, and quantitative measurement of C-reactive protein (CRP), an indicator of systemic inflammation, were also measured.

The results demonstrated a significant preventive effect for Aloe vera in occurrence of symptom index for diarrhoea (p < 0.001), rectal bleeding (p < 0.001), and faecal urgency (p = 0.001). The median lifestyle score improved significantly with Aloe vera during RT (p < 0.001). Intervention patients had a significant lower burden of systemic inflammation as the values for quantitative CRP decreased significantly over 6 weeks of follow-up (p = 0.009).

The authors concluded that Aloe vera topical ointment was effective in prevention of symptoms of ARP in patients undergoing RT for pelvic cancers.

This is by no means the first study of its kind. A previous trial had concluded that a substantial number of patients with radiation proctitis seem to benefit from therapy with Aloe vera 3% ointment. And another study has shown that the prophylactic use of Aloe vera reduces the intensity of radiation-induced dermatitis.

The new trial seems to be methodologically the best so far. Yet it is not perfect, for instance, its sample size is small. Therefore, it would probably be wise to insist on more compelling evidence before this approach can be recommended in oncological routine care.

Tasuki is a sort of sash for holding up the sleeves on a kimono. It also retracts the shoulders and keeps the head straight up. By correcting the wearer’s posture, it might even prevent or treat neck pain. The greater the forward head posture, for example, the more frequent are neck problems.  However, there is little clinical evidence to support or refute this hypothesis.

This study was conducted to determine whether Tasuki-style posture supporter improves neck pain compared to waiting-list. It was designed as an individually-randomized, open-label, waiting-list-controlled study. Adults with non-specific chronic neck pain who reported 10 points or more on modified Neck Disability Index (mNDI: range, 0-50; higher points indicate worse condition) were enrolled. Participants were randomly assigned 1:1 to the intervention group or to a waiting-list control group. The primary outcome was the change in mNDI at 1 week.

In total, 50 participants were enrolled. Of these participants, 26 (52%) were randomly assigned to the intervention group and 24 to the waiting-list. Attrition rate was low in both groups (1/50). The mean mNDI change score at 1 week was more favourable for Tasuki than waiting-list (between-group difference, -3.5 points (95% confidence interval (CI), -5.3 to -1.8); P = .0002). More participants (58%) had moderate benefit (at least 30% improvement) with Tasuki than with waiting-list (13%) (relative risk 4.6 (95% CI 1.5 to 14); risk difference 0.45 (0.22 to 0.68)).

The author concluded that this trial suggests that wearing Tasuki might moderately improve neck pain. With its low-cost, low-risk, and easy-to-use nature, Tasuki could be an option for those who suffer from neck pain.

In the previous two posts, we discussed how lamentably weak the evidence for acupuncture and spinal manipulation is regarding the management of pain such as ‘mechanical’ neck pain. Here we have a well-reported study with a poor design (no control for non-specific effects) which seems to suggest that simply wearing a Tasuki is just as effective as acupuncture or spinal manipulation.

What is the lesson from this collective evidence?

Is it that we should forget about acupuncture and spinal manipulation for chronic neck pain?

Perhaps.

Or is it that poor trial designs generate unreliable evidence?

More likely.

Or is it that any treatment, however daft, will generate positive outcomes, if the researchers are sufficiently convinced of its benefit?

Yes, I think so.

___________________

 

PS

If you had chronic neck pain, would you rather have your neck manipulated, needles stuck into your body, or get a Tasuki? (Spoiler: Tasuki is risk-free, the other two treatments are not!)

 

Together with a co-worker, Prof Walach conducted a systematic review of mistletoe extracts (Rudolf Steiner’s anti-cancer drug) as a treatment for improving the quality of life (QoL) of cancer patients. They included all prospective controlled trials that compared mistletoe extracts with a control in cancer patients and reported QoL or related dimensions.

Walach included 26 publications with 30 data sets. The studies were heterogeneous. The pooled standardized mean difference (random effects model) for global QoL after treatment with mistletoe extracts vs. control was d = 0.61 (95% CI 0.41-0.81, p < 0,00001). The effect was stronger for younger patients, with longer treatment, in studies with lower risk of bias, in randomized and blinded studies. Sensitivity analyses supported the validity of the finding. 50% of the QoL subdomains (e.g. pain, nausea) showed a significant improvement after mistletoe treatment. Most studies had a high risk of bias or at least raise some concern.

The authors concluded that mistletoe extracts produce a significant, medium-sized effect on QoL in cancer. Risk of bias in the analyzed studies is likely due to the specific type of treatment, which is difficult to blind; yet this risk is unlikely to affect the outcome.

This is a surprising conclusion, not least because – as reported on this blog – only a year ago another German team of researchers conducted a similar review and came to a very different conclusion. Here is their abstract again:

Purpose: One important goal of any cancer therapy is to improve or maintain quality of life. In this context, mistletoe treatment is discussed to be highly controversial. The aim of this systematic review is to give an extensive overview about the current state of evidence concerning mistletoe therapy of oncologic patients regarding quality of life and side effects of cancer treatments.

Methods: In September and October 2017, Medline, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), PsycINFO, CINAHL and “Science Citation Index Expanded” (Web of Science) were systematically searched.

Results: The search strategy identified 3647 articles and 28 publications with 2639 patients were finally included in this review. Mistletoe was used in bladder cancer, breast cancer, other gynecological cancers (cervical cancer, corpus uteri cancer, and ovarian cancer), colorectal cancer, other gastrointestinal cancer (gastric cancer and pancreatic cancer), glioma, head and neck cancer, lung cancer, melanoma and osteosarcoma. In nearly all studies, mistletoe was added to a conventional therapy. Regarding quality of life, 17 publications reported results. Studies with better methodological quality show less or no effects on quality of life.

Conclusions: With respect to quality of life or reduction of treatment-associated side effects, a thorough review of the literature does not provide any indication to prescribe mistletoe to patients with cancer.

How can this discrepancy be explained? Which of the reviews is drawing the correct conclusion? Here are some relevant details that could help finding an answer to these questions:

  • Walach is a psychologist by training, while the senior author of the 2019 review, Jutta Huebner, is an oncologist.
  • Huebner included only randomised clinical trials (RCTs), whereas Walach included any interventional and non-interventional prospective controlled study.
  • Huebner included 17 RCTs that reported QoL data, while Walach included 26 publications with 30 data sets including 5 non-randomised studies.
  • Several of the primary studies had been published multiple times at different stages of completion. Walach included these as independent data sets, while Huebner included each study only once.
  • Huebner looked at QoL, whereas Walach also considered measurements of self-regulation as outcome measures.
  • Both reviews point out that the methodological quality of the primary studies was often poor; Walach drew a positive conclusion regardless, while Huebner did not and pointed out that studies with better methodology show less or no effects on quality of life or side effects of cancer therapy.
  • Walach’s review was funded by funded by the Förderverein komplementärmedizinische Forschung, Arlesheim, Switzerland, a lobby group for mistletoe therapy, while Huebner’s work was funded by the German Guideline “S3 Leitlinie Komplementärmedizin in der Behandlung von onkologischen PatientInnen (Registernummer 032-055OL)” funded by the German Cancer Aid (Fördernummer 11583) within the German Guideline Program in Oncology and by the working group Prevention and Integrative Oncology of the German Cancer Society.

I am sure there are other important differences, but the ones listed above suffice, I think, to decide which of the two papers is trustworthy and which is not.

DD Palmer, the founder of chiropractic, famously claimed that 95% of all diseases are caused by subluxations of the spine and the rest by subluxations of other joints. He said and stated this theory in different forms not once but dozens of times, and it thus quickly became the mantra of chiropractic. When it was noted that subluxation, as imagined by Palmer and his son BJ, did not exist, chiropractors found themselves with a considerable amount of egg on their faces.

Ever since, they have tried to cover up the blemish, some by repeatedly re-defining subluxation, others by claiming that they do not believe in Palmer’s theory anyway. The issue was and is fiercely fought over even threatened to break up the profession. At present, we are being told incessantly that large chunks of the profession are reformed, have come to terms with their profession’s foundation in a fictional concept, and have now abandoned subluxation altogether.

Critics, in turn, are quick to point out that, if that is so, chiropractors lack a ‘raison d’être’. The best chiropractors of this persuasion could do, they say, is to re-train as physiotherapists who also use spinal manipulation but without the nonsensical chiropractic ‘philosophy’.

While this debate is ongoing and shows no sign of subsiding, it is relevant, of course, to ask what proportions of the chiropractic profession belongs to which persuasion. This paper evaluated the issue of the professional identity within the profession of chiropractic based on the literature from 2000 to 2019. Initially 562 articles were sourced, of which 24 met the criteria for review.

The review confirmed three previously stated professional identity subgroups:

  • a vitalistic approach pro subluxation,
  • a approach contra subluxation,
  • a centrist or mixed view.

Whilst these three main chiropractic identity sub-types exist, the terminology used to describe them differs. Research aimed at categorising the chiropractic profession identity into exclusive sub-types found that at least 20% of chiropractors have an exclusive vertebral subluxation focus. However, deeper exploration of the literature shows that vertebral subluxation is an important practice consideration for up to 70% of chiropractors.

The review also found that practising chiropractors consider themselves to be primary care or primary contact practitioners with a broad scope of practice across a number of patient groups not limited to musculoskeletal management.

So, if I understand these findings correctly, they confirm that chiropractors like to see themselves as physicians who are able to treat most conditions that present themselves in primary care. At the same time, their majority considers that vertebral subluxation is an important practice consideration. This clearly suggests they are likely to treat most conditions by adjusting spinal subluxations. In turn, this implies that DD Palmer’s dictum, ‘95% of all conditions are caused by subluxations of the spine’, is still adhered to by about 70% of all chiropractors.

If this is so, the best advice I can give to the general public is this: if you have a health problem, the last person you should consult is a chiropractor.

Many hundreds of plants worldwide have a place in folk medicine as treatments for microbial infections and antimicrobial activity of extracts in vitro may be readily assessed in microbiology laboratories. Many so tested are reported to show inhibitory effects against a range of organisms. For less than responsible entrepreneurs, this is often enough reason to promote them as therapeutic options.

But laboratory testing can at best be only a very crude, though relatively inexpensive and rapid screen, while in vivo testing is very costly and time consuming. On this background, we conducted a review in 2003 to examine the range of plants or herbs that have been tested for antiviral properties in laboratories, animals and humans. Here is its abstract:

Background and aims: Many antiviral compounds presently in clinical use have a narrow spectrum of activity, limited therapeutic usefulness and variable toxicity. There is also an emerging problem of resistant viral strains. This study was undertaken to examine the published literature on herbs and plants with antiviral activity, their laboratory evaluation in vitro and in vivo, and evidence of human clinical efficacy.

Methods: Independent literature searches were performed on MEDLINE, EMBASE, CISCOM, AMED and Cochrane Library for information on plants and herbs with antiviral activity. There was no restriction on the language of publication. Data from clinical trials of single herb preparations used to treat uncomplicated viral infections were extracted in a standardized, predefined manner.

Results: Many hundreds of herbal preparations with antiviral activity were identified and the results of one search presented as an example. Yet extracts from only 11 species met the inclusion criteria of this review and have been tested in clinical trials. They have been used in a total of 33 randomised, and a further eight non-randomised, clinical trials. Fourteen of these trials described the use of Phyllanthus spp. for treatment of hepatitis B, seven reporting positive and seven reporting negative results. The other 10 herbal medicines had each been tested in between one and nine clinical trials. Only four of these 26 trials reported no benefit from the herbal product.

Conclusions: Though most of the clinical trials located reported some benefits from use of antiviral herbal medicines, negative trials may not be published at all. There remains a need for larger, stringently designed, randomised clinical trials to provide conclusive evidence of their efficacy.

One of the herbal remedies that seemed to show some promise specifically for upper respiratory infections was Andrographis paniculata. This evidence prompted us in 2004 to conduct a systematic review focused on this herb specifically. Here is its abstract:

Acute respiratory infections represent a significant cause of over-prescription of antibiotics and are one of the major reasons for absence from work. The leaves of Andrographis paniculata (Burm. f.) Wall ex Nees (Acanthaceae) are used as a medicinal herb in the treatment of infectious diseases. Systematic literature searches were conducted in six computerised databases and the reference lists of all papers located were checked for further relevant publications. Information was also requested from manufacturers, the spontaneous reporting schemes of the World Health Organisation and national drug safety bodies. No language restrictions were imposed. Seven double-blind, controlled trials (n = 896) met the inclusion criteria for evaluation of efficacy. All trials scored at least three, out of a maximum of five, for methodological quality on the Jadad scale. Collectively, the data suggest that A. paniculata is superior to placebo in alleviating the subjective symptoms of uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infection. There is also preliminary evidence of a preventative effect. Adverse events reported following administration of A. paniculata were generally mild and infrequent. There were few spontaneous reports of adverse events. A. paniculata may be a safe and efficacious treatment for the relief of symptoms of uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infection; more research is warranted.

Before you now rush to buy a dietary supplement of A. paniculata, let me stress this in no uncertain terms: the collective evidence is at best suggestive, but it is not compelling. Importantly, there is, to the best of my knowledge, no sound evidence that any herbal remedy is effective in preventing or treating Covid-19 infections.

I truly wished to be able to report more encouraging news, but the truth is the truth, even (I would argue, particularly) in desperate times.

An article in the ‘Long Island Press’ caught my attention. Here are some excerpts:

A simple painless spinal adjustment by a chiropractor could be the latest breakthrough in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction… Bridge Back to Life, an outpatient addiction treatment program, has teamed up with New York Chiropractic College (NYCC) … to offer the latest breakthrough therapy for substance use disorder. The first-of-a kind partnership, the brainchild of Bridge Back to Life’s medical director Dr. Russell Surasky, brings doctors from NYCC to evaluate and treat the center’s patients undergoing addiction therapy. Several diagnostic tests are performed at the base of the brainstem to determine if a misalignment exists. If present, the practitioners are taught to incorporate gentle painless, corrective spinal adjustments into the patient’s care plan. This treatment reduces stress on the spinal column and limbic system of the brain…

“Safe, painless adjustments to the upper cervical spinal bones can help normalize the brain’s limbic system by helping with the overall circulation of cerebrospinal fluid of the brain… I truly believe that this agreement with the college will serve as a national model for drug rehabilitation centers throughout the country,” says Surasky, who is triple board certified in neurology, addiction medicine, and preventive medicine. “Not only can spinal adjustments reduce the chronic pain issues that may have led patients into drug addiction in the first place, but now we also have evidence that spinal adjustments actually accelerate the healing of the brain from addiction.”

Surasky points to a study done in 2001 in the journal Nature: Molecular Psychiatry, which looked at the impact of spinal manipulations at an inpatient addiction treatment facility in Miami. The study found that chemically dependent patients who received specific spinal adjustments as part of their treatment reported fewer drug cravings and mental health symptoms. Moreover, 100 percent of the study patients who received chiropractic care completed the inpatient program, while about half of those not receiving treatments dropped out prior to completion. Yet no further studies were performed, and the information languished. Surasky began treating patients with the spinal adjustments at his private practice in Great Neck before bringing the treatment to Bridge Back to Life.

Mary W. came to Surasky’s Great Neck office for help with alcohol addiction nearly one year ago. She received monthly Vivitrol shots and had marked success in curbing her cravings and drastically reducing her drinking. But Mary still had one-day “slips” from time to time. She also complained of insomnia and migraine headaches. She recalled an accident in the past, where she hit her head. Dr. Surasky took X-rays of her upper neck and performed a Tytron scan. He said the digital images showed she had misalignments at the C1 vertebral level, likely putting pressure on the lower brainstem area. In addition to Vivitrol shots, Mary started receiving upper cervical adjustments and has remained sober since. Her migraines have dropped from five per month to one or none and she is sleeping better.

Where to start?

There is much to be concerned about in this short article. Let me mention just a few obvious points:

  1. A treatment that is not backed by solid evidence is hardly a ‘breakthrough’.
  2. The ‘misalignments’ they are looking for do not exist.
  3. Spinal manipulation is not as safe as presented here.
  4. The assumption that it reduces stress on the limbic system is far-fetched.
  5. To suggest this approach as a ‘national model’, is simply ridiculous.
  6. The notion that adjustments increase the circulation of the cerebrospinal fluid is not evidence-based.
  7. What are ‘chronic pain tissues’?
  8. The claim that spinal manipulation accelerates healing of the brain is not evidence-based.
  9. The study in Nature Molecular Psychiatry does not seem to exist (I could not find it, if anyone can, please let me know).
  10. X-ray diagnostics cannot diagnose ‘misalignments’.
  11. Tytron scans are used mostly by chiropractors are not a reliable diagnostic method.
  12. Anecdotes are not evidence.

In short: this article reads like an advertisement for chiropractic as a treatment of addictions. As there is no evidence that chiropractic spinal manipulations are effective for this indication, it is hard to think of anything more irresponsible than that.

And here is the question that I often ask myself:

Are there any bogus, profitable, unethical claims that chiropractors would shy away from?

 

Neurolinguistic programming (NLP) was developed in the mid-seventies. It is a so-called alternative therapy (SCAM) that is not easy to define. Those who started it and those involved in it use such vague language that NLP means different things to different people. One metaphor keeps recurring: NLP claims to help people change by teaching them to program their brains. We were given brains, we are told, without an instruction manual, and NLP offers a user-manual for the brain. Consciously or unconsciously, NLP is based on the assumptions that:

  • the unconscious mind constantly influences our conscious thoughts and actions;
  • Freud’s theories are correct;
  • hypnotherapy is effective.

Wikipedia is more outspoken about it: Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a pseudoscientific approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy…

Despite the fact that NLP is unproven (to say the least), the COLLEGE OF MEDICINE AND INTEGRATED HEALTH (COMAIH) is sufficiently impressed by NLP to offer a course for GPs and SCAM practitioners. Here is their announcement:

Neurolinguistic Healthcare in association with the College of Medicine brings you a 2-day Introduction to Hypnosis, Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and Neurolinguistic Healthcare (NLH). Dr Wong and Dr Akhtar who lead the course are Trainers in NLP and Hypnosis and GPs who apply their skills in daily practice within the 10-minute consultation. The course is suitable for both medical professionals and complementary therapists. This is a limited training event offered by them to share their years of knowledge and skills with you.

You will learn:

    1. A basic overview of NLP and the most useful aspects to use it to begin making effective changes in how you and the people you treat think and behave
    2. An understanding of the NLH model of the mind so that you understand the concepts of therapy using this mixed hypnosis/ NLP approach in relation to health.
    3. The ability to Hypnotise effectively in a very short period of time with practical experience – the ability to go through all the stages of hypnosis – the induction, deepening, therapy, and emergence, including rapid hypnosis techniques. (Hypnosis courses which are less practical often charge in excess of £2000 for this)
    4. Learn at least 3 therapeutic techniques, including the NLP therapeutic techniques which work much better in trance, so using and applying the skills you will learn in hypnosis
    5. Access to an online mentorship programme with Dr Akhtar or Dr Wong for 6 months and who will provide 3x30mins group webinar meetings after the course to ensure any remaining questions get answered and that you are actually going forth to apply these skills. (worth another £600 in value)
    6. Access to an online learning membership site with educational videos and other content like pain relief techniques, papers with therapeutic scripts, etc

This is an opportunity to learn a different way of helping people from doctors who target the 10-minute consultation with fast, effective formal hypnosis techniques and sleight-of-mouth. It is possible to make change happen in 10-minutes.

Note that attending this course will not make you a certified hypnotherapist, but confer you the skills you will learn to use personally and in the context of guided meditations and relaxations that are commonplace now.

And what evidence do I have for stating that NLP is unproven?

Is there an up-to-date and sound systematic review of NLP?

The answer is yes.

This systematic review of NLP included 10 experimental studies. Five studies were RCTs and five were uncontrolled pre-post studies. Targeted health conditions were anxiety disorders, weight maintenance, morning sickness, substance misuse, and claustrophobia during MRI scanning. NLP interventions were mainly delivered across 4-20 sessions although three were single session. Eighteen outcomes were reported and the RCT sample sizes ranged from 22 to 106. Four RCTs reported no significant between group differences with the fifth finding in favour of NLP. Three RCTs and five pre-post studies reported within group improvements. Risk of bias across all studies was high or uncertain.

The authors concluded that there is little evidence that NLP interventions improve health-related outcomes. This conclusion reflects the limited quantity and quality of NLP research, rather than robust evidence of no effect. There is currently insufficient evidence to support the allocation of NHS resources to NLP activities outside of research purposes.

Surprised?

I am not!

I did not expect the COMAIH to allow critical thinking to get in the way of quackery-promotion.

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