Author Archives: Dana Ullman, M.P.H.

About Dana Ullman, M.P.H.

Dana Ullman, M.P.H. is an American author, publisher, journalist, and proponent in the field of homeopathy. Ullman received his MPH from the University of California at Berkeley, and has since taught homeopathy and integrative health care. Dana Ullman co-authored America's most popular homeopathic guidebook, Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicines. Visit www.homeopathic.com

Exploring the Research on Homeopathic Treatment for Fibromyalgia

Published: October 13, 2015 | By Dana Ullman, M.P.H.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic ailment without a known cause and without a safe, effective conventional medical treatment. However, the three to six million Americans who suffer with fibromyalgia will be pleased to know that several studies published in leading medical journals have found outstanding results from homeopathic treatment.

Well-designed high quality scientific studies published in the British Medical Journal and in Rheumatology (the journal of the British Society for Rheumatology) have confirmed the real benefits of homeopathic medicines as distinct from a placebo.

Fibromyalgia is not considered to be a “disease” by the conventional medical standards but is recognized and referred to as a “syndrome.” Although there are no specific blood tests, x-rays or any other type of technology that is presently accepted by conventional medicine for diagnosis of this condition, the diagnosis is based on clinical findings from the history and physical exam (pain in tender points).

Fibromyalgia was previously called “fibrositis,” but this name was changed when it became evident that inflammation was not a part of this condition. In 1990 the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) established criteria for the classification of fibromyalgia as a product of a well-designed, multi-center study of the condition (Wolfe F et al, 1990). As defined by ACR, fibromyalgia must include:

1. A history of widespread pain for at least three months. Widespread pain must have all of the following: pain in the left side of the body, pain in the right side of the body, pain above the waist and pain below the waist. In addition, axial skeletal pain (cervical spine or anterior chest or thoracic spine or low back) must be present.

2. The patient must report feeling pain in 11 of 18 tender sites on digital palpation (with 4 kg of force) which are located bilaterally on the body.

3. Lastly, the presence of a second clinical disorder does not exclude the diagnosis of fibromyalgia.

The syndrome of fibromyalgia can cause stiffness, fatigue, myalgias (muscle pain), subjective numbness, headaches (often migraine), dizziness, paraesthesias, IBS-like gastrointestinal disturbances, memory and concentration problems, sleep disorders and various states of anxiety and depression (Chakrabarty and Zoorob, 2007).

A recent meta-analysis of the efficacy of fibromyalgia pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments found that there was no clear indicator that specialized care provided more than the same moderate efficacy obtained in primary care settings with routine treatments (Garcia-Campayo J et al, 2008). Recommendations for the conventional medical management of fibromyalgia typically are based on a program that emphasized education, use of antidepressants and/or muscle relaxants, exercise and cognitive therapy best accomplished when the patient and healthcare providers work as a team (Goldenberg, et al, 2004).

In 2004, Goldenberg et al published results from an extensive literature search of fibromyalgia treatment trials and found no evidence for efficacy of opioids, corticosteroids, NSAIDs, benzodiazepines and nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics, melatonin, calcitonin, thyroid hormone, guaifenesin, dehydroepiandrosterone or magnesium. Since this article’s publication, duloxetine (Cymbalta), milnacipran (Savella) and pregabalin (Lyrica) have attained FDA approval for treatment of fibromyalgia, although as is typical, each of these drugs is known to cause a variety of side effects, including significant fatigue, dizziness, nausea, headache, insomnia, sexual problems (that can even last for years after stopping drug treatment), weight gain, excessive sweating and constipation. The most serious adverse effects cases, admittedly rare, are uncontrolled hypertension, hepatotoxicity (liver toxicity) or suicide. Even more problematic is the fact that each of these drugs is known to create a wide variety of minor and serious symptoms if or when the patient tries to stop taking the drug.

In 2010, a systematic review of the most recently used conventional drugs for fibromyalgia was published in a leading scientific journal (Clauw, 2010). Although some drugs had beneficial effects, the author acknowledged the significant limitations of these benefits and the need to utilize other treatment options. He wrote, “Because of the modest overall analgesic efficacy seen with any class of analgesic drug in any chronic pain state, we should be particularly aggressive about using more non-pharmacological therapies in treating patients with chronic pain.”

Conventional physicians are usually forced to use combinations of drugs to control the numerous and varied symptoms expressed by fibromyalgia patients, though the use of multiple drugs concurrently generates additional pathology and further challenges when the patient wishes to slow down or end the medication. Further, little research has been conducted to date evaluating the use of polypharmacy methods for these patients (thus, whatever research has been conducted on individual drugs becomes questionably relevant to those patients taking multiple drugs).

Fibromyalgia affects women 10 times more often than men, and is most common in women 20-50 years old (Chakrabarty and Zoorob, 2007). This condition also has been observed in children and adolescence and is more common in relatives of patients with fibromyalgia, suggesting the contribution of both genetic and environmental factors, which naturopathic and homeopathic practitioners are especially trained to address and manage effectively.

Homeopathic Treatment:
Homeopathic medicine is a 200+-year-old system of medicine that utilizes specially prepared doses of medicines made from various substances of the plant, mineral or animal kingdom. Each medicine is prescribed for its capacity to cause, if given in overdose to healthy people, symptoms similar to those that the sick person is experiencing. Because basic physiology recognizes that symptoms represent defenses of the body (and mind) in its efforts to fight infection and/or adapt to stress, a homeopathic medicine is selected for its capacity to mimic a person’s own symptoms, thereby augmenting their own defensive response.

Just as vaccines and allergy treatments are in part based on this same premise — whatever a substance causes in overdose, it will elicit an immune response when taken in small doses — homeopathic medicines are a system of helping the “wisdom of the body” defend and heal itself.

In homeopathy, ALL ailments are considered “syndromes,” that is, all disease is a constellation of physical and psychological symptoms, and each patient has his or her own subtly different syndrome of a disease. The fact that people with fibromyalgia tend to have sometimes slightly or overtly differing symptoms from each other is no significant problem for homeopathic treatment. In fact, homeopathic treatment tends to be easier when patients have idiosyncratic or unusual symptoms.

The good news for fibromyalgia patients who receive homeopathic medicines is that these remedies are not known to cause direct drug interactions with any conventional drugs the patient may be taking. The pharmaceutical lobby decries homeopathy for its lack of effect: the problem for them is that if one unfathomable homeopathic treatment works, their argument is in tatters. Patients are also spared some of the conventional drug artillery used to limit symptoms. Further, because people with fibromyalgia tend to have distinct and unusual symptoms, this situation actually makes it easier for homeopaths to treat them successfully.

Other advantages homeopathy has over conventional drug therapies are lower cost and the avoidance of the usual GI, headache and CNS side effects as well as reactions that can be life threatening.

However, newspapers, magazines and even books on fibromyalgia, typically ignore studies showing the efficacy of a homeopathic medicine in its treatment. This omission occurs despite evidence of its significant efficacy as verified in several studies published in major medical journals. In addition to the scientific evidence for homeopathic treatment, surveys of people with fibromyalgia tend to show that homeopathic medicines is one of the more popular alternative treatments used by people suffering from this ailment. For instance, Dietlind et al (2005) found that 10 percent of patients answering a survey on their use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine for fibromyalgia symptoms reported using homeopathy.

Scientific Evidence for Homeopathy
The first controlled trial testing the homeopathic treatment of patients with fibromyalgia was an impressive and sophisticated double-blind “crossover” trial that was published in the prestigious British Medical Journal (Fisher et al, 1989). A crossover trial is a sophisticated method to test the efficacy of a treatment because each patient’s results with the “real treatment” are compared with that same patient’s results with a placebo. While most double-blind studies compare one group of people who receive the “real treatment” with another (hopefully similar) group of people who receive a placebo, crossover trials compare the results of each person and his/her response to real treatment with his/her response to placebo.

Because of the nature of a crossover trial, the researchers chose to accept into this study only patients that fitted the symptom-syndrome for needing just one homeopathic medicine that tends to be one of the most commonly indicated remedies for fibromyalgia patients. The researchers found a surprisingly high percentage of patients (42 percent) whose symptoms indicated a need for this medicine, Rhus toxicodendron (Rhus tox).

After the researchers found 30 patients who seemed to fit the symptoms of Rhus tox, half of the subjects were given a placebo during the first half of the experiment, while the other half were given the homeopathic medicine. Then, halfway through the experiment, each subject’s treatment was switched.

The homeopathic dose of the medicine used was 6C. The researchers specifically chose to use a low potency dose of this medicine for this trial because these less potent doses provide short-term results. Over 200 years of homeopathic practice have found that homeopathic medicines that are of a higher potency — that is, those that have undergone a greater number of dilutions, with vigorous shaking of the solution in between dilutions — have a longer term effect [1]. Because halfway through this study each subject was given either a placebo or a homeopathic medicine, the researchers only wanted to use a medicine that provided a short-term result and this is precisely what their results confirmed.

The researchers found that there was a substantially significant degree of improvement in the reduction of tender points and improved pain and sleep when the subjects were taking the homeopathic medicine, as compared to when these same subjects were taking a placebo. In other words, twice as many people experienced significantly less pain or significantly improved sleep when they were taking the homeopathic medicine as compared to when they were taking the placebo.

Iris Bell, M.D., Ph.D. and her colleagues at the University of Arizona School of Medicine conducted a study funded by National Institutes of Health which resulted in four articles published in peer-review medical journals (Bell et al, 2004a; Bell et al, 2004b; Bell et al, 2004c; Bell et al, 2004d). The primary clinical results from this study were published in the highly respected journal, Rheumatology (published by the British Society for Rheumatology), and it found statistically significant results from homeopathic treatment. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with 62 fibromyalgia patients received an oral daily dose of an individually chosen homeopathic medicine (or a placebo) and were evaluated at baseline, two months and four months (Bell, et al, 2004a).

The study found that 50 percent of patients given a homeopathic medicine experienced a 25 percent or greater improvement in tender point pain on examination, whereas only 15 percent of those who were given a placebo experienced a similar degree of improvement. After four months, the homeopathic patients also rated the “helpfulness of the treatment” significantly greater than did those who were given a placebo. It is therefore not surprising that the study also showed that the average number of remedies recommended by the homeopaths was substantially higher to those in the placebo group as compared with the real treatment group.

One special additional feature of this trial was that the first dose of medicine was given by smell and that both groups were monitored with EEG. The researchers found that there was a significant and identifiable difference in the EEG readings in patients who were given the real homeopathic medicine as compared to those given the placebo (Bell et al, 2004b; Bell et al, 2004c). Each patient had three laboratory sessions, including at baseline, at three months and at six months after initial treatment. The researchers found that the active treatment group experienced significant increases in the EEG relative alpha magnitude, while patients given a placebo experienced a decrease in this measurement.

Another unique feature of this study was that it included an optional crossover design, allowing patients who had initially been prescribed one treatment (placebo or medication) to switch to the “other” treatment (Bell et al, 2004d). The researchers found that 31 percent of those patients who had been prescribed the real medication chose to switch, while 41 percent of those patients who had been prescribed the placebo chose to switch.

The combined evidence of clinical improvement along with physiological response to the homeopathic medicine gives these results additional significance.

The newest randomized controlled trial was conducted comparing “usual medical care” compared with usual medical care plus adjunctive care by a homeopath for patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS)(Relton et al., 2009). Adjunctive care consisted of five in depth interviews and individualized homeopathic medicines. The primary outcome measure was the difference in Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire total score at 22 weeks. (“Usual care” refers to one or more of the following: physiotherapy, aerobic exercise, analgesics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants.)

A total of 47 patients were recruited. Drop out rate in the usual care group was higher than the homeopath care group (8/24 vs 3/23). Adjusted for baseline, there was a significantly greater mean reduction in the FIQ total score (function) in the homeopathic care group than the usual care group (-7.62 vs 3.63). There were significantly greater reductions in the homeopath care group in the McGill pain score, FIQ fatigue, and ‘tiredness upon waking’ scores. The study also found a small effect on pain score (0.21, 95 percent CI -1.42 to 1.84) (despite what may be considered a relatively small effect on pain, this degree of benefit resembles the small to modest effect from conventional medications described above); but this trial found a surprisingly large effect on function (0.81, 95 percent CI -8.17 to 9.79). Of additional importance, there were no reported adverse events from homeopathic medicines.

Ultimately, the homeopathic treatment of patients with fibromyalgia requires individualized care by clinicians who are adequately trained in homeopathy. This condition is too complex for ‘self-care treatment’ or for treatment by clinicians who have not received professional training.

The body of scientific evidence showing efficacy of individualized homeopathic treatment in the care of patients with fibromyalgia suggests significant benefits. If you or someone near and dear to you has fibromyalgia, consider getting professional homeopathic care for both safe and effective treatment. Further, although fibromyalgia is not officially considered a type of arthritis, a review of homeopathic research found patients with this more common ailment also benefit from homeopathic treatment (Jonas, et al, 2000).

A Note to and about Skeptics of Homeopathy:
Skepticism of homeopathy, like skepticism of any subject, can be healthy, except when this skepticism is based on ignorance of the subject and except when one maintains a closed mind or denies good scientific evidence. Sadly, the vast majority of people who express skepticism about homeopathy do not maintain a “healthy skepticism” but tend to be uninformed, misinformed, and simply in denial about homeopathy and the body of evidence that confirms its benefits.

It is more than a tad ironic that those people who hold themselves out as “defenders of medical science” tend to have such an unscientific attitude towards homeopathy. These people tend to show evidence of both ignorance about homeopathy and (worse) arrogance about their viewpoints. These people who are “medical fundamentalists” love to attack homeopathy saying that “there is no evidence that homeopathy works.” In fact, they make this assertion so often that they have gotten some people to actually believe them. Needless to say, anyone who says that there is no scientific evidence that homeopathic medicines work is simply proving their ignorance of the subject (as this article on fibromyalgia validates) or verifying their propensity for misinformation.

These fundamentalists also love to assert that “there is no plausible mechanism” for how homeopathic medicines work. Such statements display a serious ignorance of medical history because people who say this ignore the fact that it was only relatively recently did physicians understood how aspirin worked, and yet, no doctor (or patient) chose to not use this drug simply because the mechanism of action was not adequately understood.

Whenever good scientists or physicians make reference to the many clinical and laboratory studies that verify the efficacy of homeopathic medicines, the “deniers” assert that the scientist is only “cherry-picking” the good studies and ignoring the others. In reference to fibromyalgia, there have been no studies that have shown that homeopathic medicines don’t work. The only studies that have been conducted to date have shown efficacy of homeopathic treatment. Obviously, there is no cherry-picking here.

Sadly, many people who claim to be skeptics are simply representatives of Big Pharma. In England, the leading anti-homeopathy organization, Sense about Science, is led by a former public relations expert who has a long history of representing Big Pharma companies (SourceWatch.org – see link in References).

Some “deniers” are audacious enough to suggest that the “weight of evidence” evaluating homeopathy shows that these medicines do not have any benefit beyond that of a placebo. Was Thomas Edison’s discovery of electricity false because 999 experiments failed to produce electricity and only one that was successful? Is the weight of evidence that he failed?

Deniers will inevitably assert that Edison’s discovery is proven every day, and yet, homeopaths likewise will say that homeopathy is proven every day by the hundreds of millions of its users worldwide, including many of the most respected scientists, physicians, corporate leaders, political leaders, clergy and spiritual leaders, literary greats, sports superstars, and every day average people.

The bottom line about research on homeopathy is that the denialists tend to evaluate a study by determining whether it was “well-conducted” according to inappropriate scientific standards. They do not evaluate whether the homeopathic medicine tested was the RIGHT medicine for the patient or not. For instance, if a researcher gave every patient the SAME drug no matter what disease they had, this study would not be a good test of that drug, even if it was “well-designed” (ie, it was randomized, double-blind, and placebo controlled). And yet, it is common for these denialists to assume that just because a study testing homeopathy was well-controlled does NOT mean that it was a fair or adequate test of the homeopathic method.

People still skeptical about homeopathy might benefit from reading of body of previous articles that I have written at this website. More specifically, there is a body of evidence showing efficacy of homeopathic treatment of respiratory allergiesinfluenza, and many other conditions. Of additional importance is the fact that homeopathic medicine today is the leading alternative therapy used by physicians in Europe and that dozens of surveys have confirmed that patients who use homeopathic medicines tend to be significantly more educated than those who do not .

Perhaps the best evidence to verify the value of homeopathic medicines and the serious threat that homeopathy plays occurred in mid-2010 when the British Medical Association deemed homeopathy to be “witchcraft” (Donnelly, 2010). Because history confirms that “witches” were women healers, herbalists, and intuitives who were a threat to local doctors and the church, many of us who are involved in homeopathy are honored to be aligned with witches.

Finally, it may be appropriate for the medical fundamentalists to heed to words of the founder of homeopathic medicine, Samuel Hahnemann, M.D. On his gravestone are the Latin words, “Aude sapere,” which translates as “dare to taste, to experience.” Indeed, despite whatever skepticism one has, the proof is in the pudding. Try it yourself and see for yourself.


Special appreciation to June Riedlinger, R.Ph, Pharm.D., ND, who contributed to an earlier version of this article.

REFERENCES:

Bell IR, et al: Improved clinical status in fibromyalgia patients treated with individualized homeopathic remedies versus placebo, Rheumatology, 43:577-82, 2004a.

Bell IR, et al: EEG alpha sensitization in individualized homeopathic treatment of fibromyalgia, Int J Neurosci.114(9):1195-1220, 2004b.

Bell IR, et al: Electroencephalographic cordance patterns distinguish exception clinical responders with fibromyalgia to individualized homeopathic medicines. J Alt Comp Med, 10(2):285-299, 2004c.

Bell et al, Individual differences in response to randomly assigned active individualized homeopathic and placebo treatment in fibromyalgia: implications of a double-blinded optional crossover design. J Alt Comp Med, 10(2):269-283, 2004d.

Chakrabarty S, Zoorob R: Fibromyalgia, Am Fam Physician, 76:247-54, 2007.

Clauw DJ. Fibromyalgia Drugs are ‘As Good as it Gets’ in Chronic Pain, Nat Rev Rheumatol., 2010;6(8):439-440.

Dietlind L, et al: Use of complementary and alternative medical therapies by patients referred to a fibromyalgia treatment program at a tertiary care center, Mayo Clin Proc, 80(1):55-60, 2005.

Donnelly L. Homeopathy is witchcraft, says doctors. The Daily Telegraph, May 15, 2010.

Fisher P et al: Effect of homoeopathic treatment on fibrositis (primary fibromyalgia), BMJ, 299(6695):365-6, 1989.

Garcia-Campayo J, et.al: A meta-analysis of the efficacy of fibromyalgia treatment according to level of care, Arthritis Research & Therapy 10(4):R81-96, 2008. Clin-eguide: Drug Information. Facts & Comparisons 4.0., St Louis, MO, 2009, Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.
Goldenberg DL, et al: Management of fibromyalgia syndrome. JAMA 292:2388-95, 2004.

Jonas WB, Linde K, and Ramirez G, Homeopathy and rheumatic disease, Rheumatic Disease Clinics of North America, February 2000,1:117-123.

Relton C, et al: Healthcare provided by a homeopath as an adjunct to usual care for Fibromyalgia (FMS): results of a pilot randomized controlled trial, Homeopathy98(2):77-82, 2009.

SourceWatch.org: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Sense_about_Science

FOOTNOTE:

[1] People who are interested in understanding how and why homeopathic medicines have this increased effect will benefit from reading, “The Case FOR Homeopathic Medicine: Historical and Scientific Evidence” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-ullman/the-case-for-homeopathic_b_451187.html). Further, interested individuals will benefit from reviewing the writings of Professor Martin Chaplin, a world renowned expert on water: http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/water/homeop.html and http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/water/memory.html.

Homeopathy Vindicated as Cost-Effective by Swiss Government

Published: January 22, 2015 | By Dana Ullman, M.P.H.

In a story akin to “the mouse that roared,” the Swiss government has determined that the very small doses commonly used in homeopathic medicine are both effective and cost-effective. Despite the impressive technological prowess of conventional medicine today, the Swiss government has determined that homeopathy is considerably more cost effective.

My previous article highlighted a remarkable report on homeopathic medicine conducted by and for the government of Switzerland. This previous article described the significant body of evidence from multiple sources that verify the efficacy of homeopathic medicines, while this new article focuses on another body of evidence reviewed for the Swiss government that investigated the cost-effectiveness of homeopathic treatment.

In this day and age of economically-challenging times for both individuals and governments, this report from the Swiss government has confirmed the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of homeopathic treatment. The fact that homeopathy is also widely recognized as one of the safest methods of medicine is but one additional special benefit for this natural medicine.

Ultimately, the Swiss government’s report was the most comprehensive review to date of any governmental body on the scientific evidence on homeopathic medicine. The Swiss’ “Health Technology Assessment” was a thorough analysis of a wide variety of clinical studies and laboratory research.(1) The report also reviewed the body of evidence on cost-effectiveness research for homeopathic care, and it even conducted its own cost-effectiveness study among Swiss physicians and patients.

Drawing cost data of participating physicians from Swiss health insurers, this review included all expenditures covered from consultation costs (diagnostic and therapeutic procedures), costs for medication (directly dispensed or prescriptions), costs for external laboratory analyses, and costs for physiotherapy.

The Swiss report found that total practice costs for physicians who specialized in homeopathic medicine had an overall 15.4 percent reduction in overall health care costs associated with their practice, as compared with physicians who practiced conventional medicine as well as those physicians who practice other “complementary and alternative medicine” treatments (but not homeopathic medicine). (2) The significant reduction in health care costs from homeopathic treatment represents a potential savings in hundreds of millions of dollars or more in many countries.

The authors of the Swiss report noted patients seeking homeopathic and alternative health care treatment tended to have more chronic illness (greater than three months) and more serious illness, factors that would usually lead to higher health care costs, but it was also discovered that the homeopathic patients tended to be younger, which would usually lead to lower health care costs.

This significant 15 percent saving from homeopathic care confirmed from an independent Dutch study that analyzed claims from a major health insurer which also found a 15 percent reduction in health care costs associated with alternative medical care by physicians who were trained in homeopathic medicine, acupuncture, or anthrosophical medicine (Kooreman, Baars, 2011). The health economists who conducted this research concluded that the lower costs resulted from fewer hospital stays and fewer expensive prescription drugs. It is of further importance to note that the authors also found that patients who go to physicians who practice complementary and alternative medicine live longer lives too.

The Swiss government’s report on homeopathy also referenced numerous studies that evaluated the cost-effectiveness of homeopathic vs. conventional medical care for people suffering from specific health problems, including female fertility, rheumatoid arthritis, otitis media, respiratory allergies, and dyspepsia. Of special significance was the truly substantial difference between the costs of homeopathic treatment of women experiencing fertility problems as compared with women seeking conventional medical care. A study of children with upper respiratory tract infections found that children who received homeopathic treatment had fewer recurrences and lower antibiotic consumption than children using conventional treatment. Further, an economic assessment of 569 patients with rheumatic disorders found that 29 percent could stop taking their conventional medications, 33 percent could reduce their dependence on drugs, and only 6 percent chose to increase their medication once homeopathic treatment began.

A report from the German government was also cited in this Swiss study because it compared hospitalization rates of female patients who sought care from conventional physicians as compared with those females who from homeopathic physicians. This study found that female patients were six times more hospitalizations from conventional physicians as from homeopathic physicians.

In addition to reduced health care costs from homeopathic treatment, the report also noted reductions in various indirect costs, including some studies showing reduced days off from sickness in those patients under homeopathic care.

The Swiss report further discovered that patients reported better quality of the patient-physician relationship and fewer adverse side effects with physicians who practiced CAM, thus, leading the report to conclude higher cost-effectiveness for this type of medical practices.

The “appropriateness” of homeopathy as a health care option was also evaluated in the Swiss report, which the authors have divided into two sections: demand/use and safety. Based on the high demand of the Swiss population for homeopathy and the high levels of safety that is widely known about homeopathy, the Swiss report asserts that there is substantial appropriateness for homeopathy for the Swiss public. Surveys estimate that 57 percent of the Swiss population uses complementary and alternative medicine, and about 40 percent of all medical practitioners in Switzerland prescribed alternative and complementary medicine treatments and 62.5 percent were “in favor of CAM” (Rist and Schwabl, 2009).

The Swiss government also funded a study of more than 3,000 people that compared “patient satisfaction” from those who sought care from a homeopathic physician vs. those who sought care from a conventional medical doctor (Marian, Joost, Saini, et al, 2008). Patients of homeopathic physicians were significantly more often “completely satisfied” (53 percent vs. 43 percent) with their treatment than patients of conventional doctors, without significant differences in the fulfillment of their treatment related expectations. This study also discovered that patients who sought treatment from a conventional doctor had almost four times as many serious side effects as those who sought homeopathic treatment.

Besides finding reducing costs to homeopathic treatment, the Swiss report referenced a significant number of randomized double-blind clinical studies showing efficacy of treatment from homeopathic care. Of greater significance, they found that 20 of 22 systematic reviews (meta-analyses) detected at least a trend in favor of homeopathy, with at least five reviews yielding results indicating clear evidence for homeopathic therapy. Although the Swiss report is not available online, interested readers with an interest in research published in peer-review medical journals will benefit from reading the numerous articles that I have published at this website in the past.

The Swiss report acknowledged that some clinical studies do not show positive results for homeopathy, though the authors of this governmental report note that most of these studies were conducted in a way that ignored some important principles of homeopathy, setting themselves up for a negative outcome and thereby creating a false-negative result. Skeptics of homeopathy commonly refer to a select group of seemingly high-quality studies that show that homeopathic medicines did not work, but these skeptics ignore the fact that many of these studies did not use the correct medicine for the condition. For instance, one study used a homeopathic dose of a medicine for weight-loss when it is well-known that there is no one remedy that will work for everyone who wishes to lose weight.

The bottom line is that large numbers of the Swiss population use homeopathic medicines and select other natural therapies. After a nationwide referendum in May 2009 that found a two-thirds majority (!) favoring the integration of CAM into the Swiss health system, the Swiss Minister of Health approved reimbursement by the government’s health program for five leading natural therapies, including anthroposophic medicine, homeopathy, neural therapy, phytotherapy/herbal medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine, for a test period until 2018.

The Swiss report noted that one of the first health economic studies to compare homeopathic and conventional medical treatment was conducted in 1900 (Bradford, 1900). This book, simply entitled The Logic of Figures, compared the morbidity (disease) and mortality (death) rates in homeopathic vs. conventional medical hospitals, as well as these rates in mental institutions and penitentiaries in which either homeopathic OR conventional medical services were provided. Much to the surprise of conventional medicine, the death rates were typically two to eight times higher in those patients who received conventional medical care as compared with those who received homeopathic treatment (literally hundreds of hospitals’ records were compared). Of special interest were the impressive results that patients received from homeopathic medicines in the treatment of the many feared infectious diseases, including cholera, typhoid, yellow fever, scarlet fever, pneumonia, and influenza.

In addition to the above research conducted for the Swiss government, other researchers in North America have found efficacy and cost-effectiveness of various “integrative health practices” (Guarneri, Horrigan, Pechura 2010). Data supporting the efficacy and cost effectiveness of an integrative approach to healthcare comes from three sources: medical research conducted at universities, studies carried out by corporations developing employee wellness programs, and pilot projects run by insurance companies.

The most famous words from Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, were “First, do no harm.” In the light of the fact that homeopathic and various integrative health practices being so much safer than conventional medical strategies, it may be time for governments and insurers to follow the lead of the government and people of Switzerland.

FOOTNOTES:

(1) Although this Swiss government report was just published in book form in 2011, the report was finalized in 2006. In light of this date, the authors evaluated systematic reviews and meta-analyses on homeopathic research up until June 2003. 

(2) The researchers of this cost-effectiveness study provided statistical adjustment for seven cofactors that would lead one treatment to have an economic advantage over the others, such as when a population of patients is younger or older than another groups.

REFERENCES:

Bornhoft, Gudrun, and Matthiessen, Peter F.  Homeopathy in Healthcare: Effectiveness, Appropriateness, Safety, Costs. Goslar, Germany: Springer, 2011.  http://rd.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-642-20638-2/page/1

Bornhöft G, Wolf U, von Ammon K, Righetti M, Maxion-Bergemann S, Baumgartner S, Thurneysen AE, Matthiessen PF.  Effectiveness, safety and cost-effectiveness of homeopathy in general practice – summarized health technology assessment. Forschende Komplementärmedizin (2006);13 Suppl 2:19-29. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16883077

Bradford T. The Logic of Figures or comparative results of homoeopathic and other treatments. Philadelphia: Boericke and Tafel, 1900. http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015020118058

Guarneri, Erminia (Mimi); Horrigan Bonnie J; Pechura Constance M.  The Efficacy and Cost Effectiveness of Integrative Medicine: A Review of the Medical and Corporate Literature. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing – September 2010 (Vol. 6, Issue 5, Pages 308-312, DOI: 10.1016/j http://www.explorejournal.com/article/S1550-8307(10)00144-8/abstract; full article:  http://www.bravewell.org/content/IM_E_CE_Final.pdf

Kooreman P, Baars E: Patients whose GP knows complementary medicine have lower costs and live longer. Eur J Health Econ 2011; DOI: 10.1007/s10198-011-0330-2.  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0415641211002062

Marian F, Joost K, Saini KD, von Ammon K, Thurneysen A, Busato A. Patient satisfaction and side effects in primary care: an observational study comparing homeopathy and conventional medicine. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2008 Sep 18;8:52.  http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/8/52

Rist L, Schwabl H: Komplementärmedizin im politischen Prozess. Schweizer Bevölkerungstimmt über Verfassungsartikel «Zukunft mit Komplementärmedizin» ab. Forsch Komplementmed 2009, doi 10.1159/000203073. (Translation: Complementary medicine in the political process: The Swiss population votes on the Constitutional Articlehttp://www.ayurveda-association.eu/files/swiss_referendum_on_cam_-_forschkomplementmed_2009.pdf

Homeopathy For Radiation Poisoning

Published: | By Dana Ullman, M.P.H.

Introduction:

A homeopath by the name of Emil Grubbe, M.D. (1875-1960) was the first person to use radiation to treat a person with cancer (Dearborn, 2005).

In January 1896, Grubbe was a student at the Hahnemann Medical College (of Chicago, a famous homeopathic medical school). He gave radiation treatment to Mrs. Rose Lee, a woman with breast cancer.

Grubbe got the idea of using radiation as a treatment for Lee’s breast cancer from Reuben Ludlam, M.D., a professor at the homeopathic medical school. Ludlam knew that Grubbe had previously experimented with X-ray as a diagnostic procedure so much that he developed blisters and tumors on his hand and neck as a result of overexposure to this new technology.

Because one of the basic premises of homeopathic medicine is that small doses of a treatment can help to heal those symptoms that large doses are known to cause, Ludlam suggested to Grubbe that radiation may be a treatment for conditions such as tumors because it also causes them.

This incident is but one more example from history in which an insight from a homeopathic perspective has provided an important breakthrough in medical treatment.

Even though Grubbe had to have one hand amputated early in life due to the high exposures received from his early experiences with radiation, he ultimately lived a long and full life of 85 years, in part due to the homeopathic treatment he received throughout his life. Grubbe also had a long and distinguished career as a professor of electro-therapeutics and radiography at Hahnemann Medical College, and he is thought to have become the first professor of Roentgenology in the world (Hodges, 1964).

True to his interests in conveying his discoveries to all doctors, Dr. Grubbe served as professor at four different Chicago medical schools, including homeopathic, eclectic, and allopathic medical schools.

Grubbe’s contribution to medicine and science was further enhanced by the fact that he was the first to use lead as a protection against radiation exposure.

The point of this introduction is to confirm that homeopaths have a long history of using homeopathic medicines in the treatment of people who have been exposed to radiation … including many people, such as Emil Grubbe who were exposed to significant amounts of radiation and lived long and fruitful lives.

In these opening remarks, I also want to urge us all to avoid spreading fear within ourselves and to others. Although it is good to be prepared for potential disasters, it is important to avoid exacerbating these emotions by overfeeding them.

With the media-promoted concerns about radiation drift from Japan and the real and exaggerated fears that many people are experiencing now, the first homeopathic medicine that people today may consider taking is Arsenicum album 30C. Arsenicum album is a leading homeopathic medicine for anxiety and fear, especially around health issues and about being poisoned. Taking a single dose whenever one notices these strong emotional states is reasonable, but consider repeated use if recommended to do so by a professional homeopath.

Conventional Thinking as a Reasonable First Step

The official line about the type and intensity of radiation exposure we face seems to change every day everywhere. People can and should consider this issue when evaluating and determining what they will do.

The American Center for Disease Control (CDC) ( recommends potassium iodide for helping prevent the absorption of radiation into the thyroid gland and provides good, practical information. Essentially, they recommend that people over 12 years of age take 130 mg of iodine in order to flood the thyroid, thereby disabling it from absorbing radioactive iodine. Such actions are certainly prudent if and when there is evidence of radioactive iodide, though to date, exposure to it has not been a public health concern. My discussion of what my family and I will be doing to protect and/or treat exposure to radioactivity is in addition to the CDC recommendations.

Please note, however, that potassium iodide seems to only protect against iodine-related radiation, not other types of radiation from cesium, strontium, nitrogen, and tritium. Further, the Japanese are working to reduce radiation emission by dousing the container with graphite and borax, both of which may change the nature of the emissions.

Scientific Evidence for the Homeopathic Treatment of Environmental Poisons

Before discussing the history of use of homeopathic medicines for exposure to radioactivity, it is first important to know that there is a significant body of research to show the benefits of homeopathic medicines in treating environmental exposures of toxic substances.

Back in 1994, a highly respected group of researchers reviewed 105 animal studies that evaluated the ability of homeopathic medicines to discharge heavy metals from the bodies of mice (Linde, Jonas, Melchart, et al, 1994). This review found that the best results were in the studies that were deemed to be scientifically rigorous. When evaluating only these higher quality studies, the researchers found a significant reduced death rate from exposure to toxic minerals (arsenic, mercury, cadmium, bismuth) when homeopathic doses of these substances were given to the animals (as compared with those given a placebo).

Since 1994, more than a dozen new studies have confirmed these results. A group of university researchers in India have conducted a body of laboratory trials testing the effects of heavy metals on mice which were given homeopathic doses of these toxic substances after exposure (Datta, Mallick, Khuda-Bukhsh, 2001; Mallick, Chakrabart, Khuda-Bukhsh, 2003; Banerjee P, Mallick, Chakrabarti, Guha, et al, 2003; Bhattacharya, 2003; Bhattacharyya SS, Pathak S, 2008; Human and Experimental Toxicology, 2010). * (*It is not appropriate to list all of the studies here, but people with an interest in this subject can review the references in these articles.)

At present, arsenic in groundwater has affected millions of people globally distributed over 20 countries. In parts of West Bengal (India) and Bangladesh alone, over 100 million people are at risk, and supply of arsenic-free water is grossly inadequate.

Attempts to remove groundwater arsenic by using orthodox medicines have mostly been unsuccessful. A potentized homeopathic remedy made from arsenic (Arsenicum album 30C) was administered in a double-blind, placebo-control study to a group of groundwater arsenic affected people, and the arsenic contents in urine and blood were periodically evaluated (Khuda-Bukhsh, AR, Pathak, S, Guha, 2005; Belon, Banerjee, Karmakar, et al, 2007). The activities of various toxicity marker enzymes and compounds in the blood, namely aspartate amino transferase, alanine amino transferase, acid phosphatase, alkaline phosphatase, lipid peroxidation and reduced glutathione, were also periodically monitored up to three months. The results are highly encouraging and suggest that the drug can alleviate arsenic poisoning in humans.

Based on this research, it is reasonable to ask if homeopathic doses of radioactive elements and other substances with apparently similar effects are useful.

Experimental Evidence from Homeopathic Treatment of Radiation Exposure

There is not a significant body of studies evaluating the use of homeopathic medicines in the treatment of radiation exposure, but there are a couple of experiments about which people may benefit knowing. Hopefully, knowledge about these previous studies will encourage researchers to replicate them.

Homeopathic research has evaluated the effects of homeopathic medicines to protect against radiation (Khuda-Bukhsh, and Banik, 1991a, 1991b). Albino mice were exposed to 100 to 200 rad of X-rays (sublethal doses) and then evaluated after 24, 48, and 72 hours. Ginseng 6X, 30X, and 200X and Ruta graveolens 30X and 200X were administered before and after exposure. When compared with mice given a placebo as treatment, mice given any of the above homeopathic medicines experienced significantly less chromosomal or cellular damage. Ginseng 30X and 200X, in particular, had significant and sometimes substantial benefits.

In addition to the evidence for the benefits from homeopathic doses of ginseng is other research testing crude doses of it which find that it repairs DNA after radiation exposure (Kim, Lee, Cho, et al., 1996).

In another study, albino guinea pigs were exposed to small doses of X-ray that caused reddening of the skin. Studies showed that homeopathic honeybee (Apis mellifica 7C or 9C) had a protective effect and a roughly 50 percent curative effect on X-ray-induced redness of the skin (Bildet, Guyot, Bonini, et al., 1990). Apis mellifica is a homeopathic medicine for redness, swelling, and itching, all of which are common symptoms that crude doses of bee venom cause … and thus, homeopathic doses will be found to be effective in treating these symptoms.

Derived from the homeopathic literature and clinical experience over the past many decades, some other potential homeopathic remedies for radiation exposure are listed below, though it is highly recommended to seek out professional homeopathic care to determine the best dose and potency schedule:

  • Radium bromatum
  • X-ray
  • Uranium nitricum
  • Strontium carbonicum
  • Calendula ointment
  • Cadmium sulphuratum
  • Cadmium iodatum
  • Ceanothus americanus

Several of the above medicines are derived from radioactive substances, while others have become known after many decades of clinical experience.

Cadmium sulphuratum, for instance, is a well-known homeopathic medicine used to treat people with cancer who experience side effects from radiation treatment.

Cadmium iodatum might be considered for those people exposed to radiation who did not protect the thyroid with crude doses of potassium iodide. Ceanothus is a leading remedy for spleen problems, and because the effects of radiation are known to affect the spleen, this remedy may be an important one for radioprotection. Calendula (marigold) is a well-known herbal and homeopathic medicine. Highly respected research has found excellent results in using Calendula ointment on people who experienced radiotherapy-induced dermatitis (skin rashes) (Kassab S, Cummings M, Berkovitz, 2009).

It should be noted that homeopaths tend to think of themselves as a part of a health care team. As such, they work with other health and medical professionals as well as public health officials to provide options for people and communities so that safe and effective health care can be available.

Important Reference: People who want reference to and description of hundreds of clinical studies published in peer-review medical and scientific journals, could consider getting an ebook that I wrote titled “Homeopathic Family Medicine: Evidence Based Nano-pharmacology” .

My thanks to J. Satti, P.hD, a radiation physicist, and Francis Treuherz, FSHom. for their comments and editorial input to this article.

References: 

Banerjee P, Bhattacharyya SS, Pathak S, Naoual B, Belon P, Khuda-Bukhsh AR. Comparative Efficacy of Two Microdoses of a Potentized Homeopathic Drug, Arsenicum Album, to Ameliorate Toxicity Induced by Repeated Sublethal Injections of Arsenic Trioxide in Mice. Pathobiology 2008;75:156-170. DOI: 10.1159/000124976.

Banerjee, P.; Biswas, S. J.; Belon, P.; Khuda-Bukhsh, A. R. A Potentized Homeopathic Drug, Arsenicum Album 200, Can Ameliorate Genotoxicity Induced by Repeated Injections of Arsenic Trioxide in Mice. Journal of Veterinary Medicine, Series A, Volume 54, Number 7, September 2007 , pp. 370-376(7). DOI: 10.1111/j.1439-0442.2007.00945.x

Belon P, Banerjee A, Karmakar SR, Biswas SJ, Choudhury SC, Banerjee P, Das JK, Pathak S, Guha B, Paul S, Bhattacharjee N, Khuda-Bukhsh AR. Homeopathic remedy for arsenic toxicity?: Evidence-based findings from a randomized placebo-controlled double blind human trial. Sci Total Environ. 2007 Jul 10.

Bhattacharya S. Homeopathy reduces arsenic poisoning in mice. New Scientist. October 22, 2003.
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4305-homeopathy-reduces-arsenic-poisoning-in-mice.html

Bildet, J.,Guyot, M., Bonini, F., et al. (1990) “Demonstrating the Effects of Apis mellifica and Apium virus Dilutions on Erythema Induced by U.V. Radiation on Guinea Pigs,” Berlin Journal of Research in Homeopathy, 1:28.

Datta, SS, Mallick, PP, Khuda-Bukhsh, AR, Comparative Efficacy of Two Microdoses of a Potentized Homoeopathic Drug, Cadmium Sulphoricum, in Reducing Genotoxic Effects Produced by Cadmium Chloride in Mice: A Time Course Study, BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2001;1:9.

Dearborn, F. Encyclopedia of 20th-Century Technology (2 vols.). New York: Routledge, 2005.

Hodges, P. C. The Life and Times of Emil H. Grubbe. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1964.

Human and Experimental Toxicology, July 2010 (this entire issue to devoted to “Hormesis and Homeopathy” — hormesis is the study of low-dose effects: http://het.sagepub.com/content/vol29/issue7/
To access free copies of these articles, see: http://www.siomi.it/siomifile/siomi_pdf/BELLE_newsletter.pdf

Kassab S, Cummings M, Berkovitz S, van Haselen R, Fisher P. Homeopathic medicines for adverse effects of cancer treatments. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD004845. DOI:10.1002/14651858.CD004845.pub2.

Khuda-Bukhsh, A.R., Banik, S. (1991a) “Assessment of Cytogenetic Damage in X-irradiated Mice and its Alteration by Oral Adminis¬tration of Potentized Homeopathic Drug, Ginseng D200,” Berlin Journal of Research in Homeopathy, 1,4/5:254.

Khuda-Bukhsh, A.R. Maity, S. (1991b) “Alteration of Cytogenetic Effects by Oral Administration of Potentized Homeopathic Drug, Ruta graveolens in Mice Exposed to Sub-lethal X-radiation,” Berlin Journal of Research in Homeopathy, 1, 4/5:264.

Kim TH, Lee YS, Cho CK, et al. Protective effect of ginseng on radiation-induced DNA double strand breaks and repair in murine lymphocytes. Cancer Biother Radiopharm. 1996 Aug;11(4):267-72.

Linde, K., Jonas, W.B., Melchart, D., et al. (1994) “Critical Review and Meta-Analysis of Serial Agitated Dilutions in Experimental Toxicology,” Human and Experimental Toxicology, 13:481-92.

Mallick, P, Chakrabarti (Mallick), J, Bibhas, G, Khuda-Bukhsh, AR. Ameliorating Effect of Microdoses of a Potentized Homeopathic Durg, Arsencium Album, on Arsenic-Induced Toxicity in Mice. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2003,3:7.

Our Planet, Our Selves: The Earth’s Symptoms and What to Do About Them

Published: | By Dana Ullman, M.P.H.

“The creature that wins against its environment destroys itself.”

— Gregory Bateson

Our planet is not called “Mother Earth” for only symbolic reasons. We have been born to and from this Earth. We are not simply on this planet but of this planet. Unless we learn to take care of our home, we will all be prematurely buried six feet deep under it.

Just as the human body can become ill, so can a planet’s body. Global pollution is turning the Earth prematurely gray. Our planet is presently experiencing a global warming, a fever and inflammatory condition that is slowly cooking us all. The life-giving blood of the planet is in great disorder as a result of water pollution, and the planet’s respiration is being choked by air pollution. Our planet’s most efficient oxygen-manufacturing plants are the rain forests, and they are being wiped out at an alarming rate, and anemic soil conditions are creating biological malnourishment and chronic fatigue, turning lush plant life into desert.

The more complex web of life on our planet is, the more stable and sustainable it is. And yet, the overuse of pesticides (like antibiotics) indiscriminately kills both “pests” and “friends” alike. Worst of all, pesticides over-simplify and destroy the complex web of life, often turning a “solution” into a greater problem.

Overpopulation is creating congestion, a type of constipation in which increased waste build-up leads to diminished capabilities of storage and elimination. Toxic waste sites have become the planet’s newest infections, resulting in corrosive materials opportunistically oozing and seeping out wherever they can.

Of greatest long-term potential danger to our Mother Earth is nuclear waste storage, which creates a hereditary disturbance that can strike at the heart of the planet’s life. Such storage becomes the Earth’s legacy. It is a Pandora’s Box that must never be opened, and yet, we can only hope that time and circumstance does not disturb or open it.

Like the human body’s response to symptoms, the planet’s symptoms are its efforts to call attention to a problem, reduce it and to attempt to heal itself. Sometimes, however, the stress is persistent, and the Earth cannot heal itself adequately or rapidly enough against the ravages of our progressive human race. It adapts, it deforms itself and it rids itself of any vulnerable life form, even if it means destroying its children to save itself.

Ignoring symptoms of the Earth or simply providing short-term “solutions” that suppress (or bury) the problem does not create real healing. Biomimicry (the application of technologies that mimics nature’s wisdom) uses nature as a model and as a mentor for sustainability. The closer that our technologies mimic nature’s sophisticated, evolved state, the more likely these technologies will be a part of the real solution and less likely to create new problems.

Humans may indeed be clever, but nature has wisdom.

Human health is more dependent on the health of the planet than the planet is dependent on human health. Until and unless we learn to live in harmony in our home planet, we will be expelled from this once pristine Garden of Eden.

We are finally waking up to the need for a healthy home, both for our own and our planet’s benefit. It is now becoming patriotic to conserve energy, to recycle, and to use biodegradable products, though some individuals and companies are just pretending to be green as a clever marketing tool (“greenwashing”).

There are innumerable decisions that each person makes every day that can slightly and sometimes greatly reduce the Earth’s resources. We must make these decisions more consciously so that we learn to live in greater harmony with our home.

Acting as individuals, we must also try to reduce the toil and trouble that our lifestyle creates for our environment. We must also encourage the companies for which we work and other companies with whom we do business to become ecologically concerned, both in the products they create and how they manufacture them. Ultimately, every action and every purchase must be considered for their environmental effect.

Although these efforts are vital for our survival and for that of our children, we must do more. Due to the already present environmental problems, we must now go on a “planetary diet.” We must extend our efforts beyond simply maintaining the Earth as it is to ways that will help the Earth recover from her severe illness. It is incumbent upon us all to encourage governments to make more forthright efforts to clean up the mess we have created.

It has been said that one person’s right to wave a fist ends where another’s nose begins. Because everything in this home planet is so interconnected, our nose, metaphorically speaking, is actually much larger than most of us realize, not just to fists but to various environmental assaults. The effect of everyone’s actions has repercussive and cascading effects. Unless we learn to live lightly on our planet, our children will carry the heavy burden of our conscious and unconscious indiscretions.

Key Resource:

Biomimicry Institute:  Biomimicry Institute

Is it Unhealthy To Be Too Obsessed With Health?

Published: | By Dana Ullman, M.P.H.

“A halo only has to fall a couple of inches to become a noose.”
Farmer’s Almanac

If there were an organization called Healthaholics Anonymous, it would probably be immensely popular. A growing number of people are becoming more than concerned about their health; they are becoming obsessed with it. These people are not just interested in exploring specific health strategies — they are “into” them. They are “into” macrobiotics, “into” massage or “into” yoga. Such people can become neurotic or needy kneaders and being “into” yogic postures can create special problems, because it may be difficult to get out of them.

There is a real difference between concern about health and obsession with it. Some people obsess about nutrition but oversimplify the subject and believe that there are only two types of food: those that cure almost everything and those that cause slow, painful death. Some people obsess over stress management strategies, but spend so much energy managing their lives that they neglect to live them. Some people obsess with vitamins, but turn useful supplements into potentially dangerous substances by taking huge doses of them. And some people obsess with meditation but end up sitting on all of their other needs.

The most common obsession in the health area is with food. Anyone who starts to research the various theories about nutrition ultimately discovers that almost any food is thought to be poison according one school of thought or another. Meat is poison to vegetarians, milk products are poisons to vegans, tomatoes and eggplant are poisons to macrobiotics, cooked foods are poisons to the raw foodists, and on and on.

Anyone can think of one reason or another that any food may not be good for you, but one can also consider ways that most food provides certain benefits. Meats may have too much fat, but they are also a densely packed with numerous nutrients. Eggs may have cholesterol in them, but they have lecithin in them that helps digest cholesterol and other fats more effectively. Cooked foods may lose certain nutrients, but such heating of food can make some of its nutrients more easily assimilated. Ice cream may have a lot of fat, but it can be an important “mental health food.”

Perhaps most dangerous for people obsessed with nutrition is the amount of fear that they ingest with their meals. Fears of pesticides, hormones, fluoridation, chlorination, radiation and heavy metals are ingested with every meal. While the negative effects of these toxic ingredients are very real, one can only wonder if the state of fear experienced by some people is poisoning them more than the foods and drinks that they ingest.

Obsession with exercise is also common. Although this obsession may seem more beneficial than harmful, the dark side of exercise fanaticism is evident when exercise dominates a person’s life. When you begin to live for the gym or your 50 miles a week, when your personal relationships begin to suffer because your exercise routine always comes first, when you exercise in spite of injury or start climbing the walls when you can’t work out, you may wake up one morning to discover that the only thing left in your life is exercise. And this is seriously unhealthy. I believe that the purpose of good health and exercise is to enrich your life — not for exercise to become your life.

Exercise addiction is particularly problematic when you become obsessed solely with workouts and neglect other valuable ways to build and maintain health. The athlete who eats junk food and the bodybuilder who can’t relax are two stereotypical examples of this obsession. Although there are certainly worse addictions than exercise, any action that limits a person’s freedom diminishes his or her health.

One way to detect if you are obsessed with health is if you are passionate about a single health discipline — be it nutrition, exercise, homeopathy, herbs or yoga — but ignore other health strategies. Health is feeling whole; it is a balance of the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of our being.

It is certainly healthy to be concerned about your health, but obsessions and addictions fragment the wholeness of health and ultimately disrupt the quality of your life. As members of Healthaholics Anonymous might some day say, “May God grant me the serenity to accept the health conditions I cannot change, the courage to heal myself of the ones I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Dana Ullman, M.P.H., is America’s leading spokesperson for homeopathy and is the founder of www.homeopathic.com . He is the author of 10 books, including his bestseller, Everybody’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicines. His most recent book is, The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy (the Foreword to this book was written by Dr. Peter Fisher, the Physician to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II). Dana lives, practices, and writes from Berkeley, California.