Archive for September, 2007

In recent days, a controversy has arisen regarding the validity of Homoeopathy, following “The Lancet” journal publication of a Swiss study which says that Homoeopathy has no more effect than a placebo. For information of readers, a placebo is a pill or tablet without any medicinal value, given just to please a patient, as it usually has a beneficial effect on the patient’s mind. According to this recent controversial study, meta-analysis was carried out on 110 previous studies of double-blind trials in Homoeopathy, and similar analyses were carried out with placebos and with conventional medicine. Their findings stated that while conventional medicine trials showed distinct results, the trials on Homoeopathy did not fare any better than the placebo trials.

Truth needs no defence, and the patients who have seen the clear benefit of Homoeopathic treatment in their own cases or in the cases of their loved ones, will certainly not give any value to this study, however, in the interest of staving off wrong information and wrong findings, we do not wish to remain mute witnesses to this entire drama.

There are several points which are to be raised here.
Firstly, let us understand what a double-blind trial is. Giving an example in simple terms, in a double-blind trial, if there are 100 patients, 50 of them will receive placebo and 50 will receive the chosen medication, the patients will not be told what they are receiving, and the scientist/doctor who is administering the medicine will also not know whether it is placebo or medicine, only the controller of the trial will have a record of who gets what. The results are then analyzed. Now such trials are perfect for conventional medicine, because they have specific medicines for a particular diagnostic condition, hence it is apt to see how the chosen medicine fares for that condition in a trial. In Homoeopathy, we do not treat diseases based on their medical diagnosis, but remedies are chosen based on the individualizing features of each case, hence 100 patients of, say, high blood pressure, may probably need 100 different remedies, each patient receiving a remedy to suit him/her best. Once this is understood, it is easy to comprehend that the double-blind trial method is simply not suitable for a study of Homoeopathy. If the efficacy of Homoeopathy needs to be analyzed, it has to be done on cases which are under Homoeopathic treatment, according to the laws of Homoeopathic practice where the remedies have been chosen for each patient according to their individuality.

The second point which needs to be cleared is about the Homoeopathic medicines themselves, where sceptics time and again, have stated that in the highly dilute state, there can be no medicinal activity left. Let us make it clear, that the manufacture of Homoeopathic medicines is not just a process of dilution, but a process of dilution with potentization at each step along the way. Potentization involves strong vibrations being imparted to the medicinal liquid, whereby medicine releases energy into the diluent liquid and the diluent liquid then carries the energy which later on gets imparted to the patient. As further proof, spectrophotometry analysis of high potencies show distinct differences from a plain non-Homoeopathic solution. Recently, the Bio-Medical Instrumentation Department of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), in Mumbai, have created an instrument called Medical Analyser, which is able to show distinct effects of Homoeopathic remedies even in the higher potencies, and though the instrument is in its early days, it has also been able to identify the remedy in some tests. We of the Homoeopathic fraternity, look forward to participating in further studies with the Medical Analyser, in collaboration with BARC.

The third point raised in the Swiss study, was that whatever benefit people claim to receive is due to the holistic approach, the detailed talking and the sympathetic approach that Homoeopathy adopts. However, there is no question of this sort of approach being used in cases of infants and animals, where despite the lack of ‘talking’, Homoeopathy always shows great results.

Homoeopathy has been in existence for over 200 years and has been growing by leaps and bounds especially in recent decades, and will continue to grow so long as patients continue to benefit.

September, 2005.

A migraine is an intense, incapacitating headache, accompanied by other symptoms, that occurs repeatedly in some persons, occurring in episodes or ‘attacks’. It can affect both sexes but is more common in females. The nature of attacks varies between persons and from time to time in the same person. Attacks may last from 4 hours to 72 hours in some individuals.

Symptoms of a classic migraine attack may appear as follows:
Some sufferers have a warning ‘aura’, which is often visual in nature, flashing lights, zig-zag lines etc. Some people may get other warning symptoms like tingling of the side of the head or face, etc. The pain may be throbbing or pulsating, often affecting one side of the head. It may be accompanied by nausea or vomiting.

It is believed that constriction, then dilatation and inflammation of blood vessels that go to the scalp and brain result in migraine headaches. Vision disturbances occur when blood vessels narrow. Headache begins when they widen again.

Attacks may be triggered by:
· Tension or stress. Emotional problems are probably the most common reason for migraine attacks, but headaches don’t necessarily coincide with emotional upset. They often occur on weekends when stress is decreased.
· Menstruation.
· Use of oral contraceptives.
· Consumption of alcohol or certain foods.
· Bright lights or flickering lights.
· Lack of sleep or too much sleep.

The risk of developing migraines increases with a stressful life style, be it at the home or at the office, a family history of migraines, smoking or excess alcohol consumption.

Hence it is important to cut down the stress in your life. Practicing relaxing techniques, Yoga, meditation are of benefit. During a severe attack, rest is essential but in between attacks, exercise is essential to maintain a general level of fitness. Exercise (including deep breathing exercises) also works as a stress reliever. Two key points for reducing pain with acupressure are the web between the forefinger and thumb (squeeze there until you feel pain) and under the bony ridges at the back of the neck (use both thumbs to apply pressure there). Foods like nuts, chocolates, cheese, excess salt may trigger headaches. No particular dietary restrictions are necessary unless you find that a certain item of food triggers your headaches.

Homoeopathy has a holistic approach to a human being and hence is well suited to curing a person who suffers from migraines. The Homoeopath will take a detailed history of the individual that will encompass his mental, physical and emotional profile along with the main problem. Treatment will then be instituted, aiming at bringing in greater balance at all levels, thus making the person better adapted to life’s stresses and strains. Immune levels are improved, and the person is put on the road to cure.

Nowadays Noise Pollution has become rampant in our society, and most of the time we put up with it, partly because we have no idea about what steps can be taken to control it. We tolerate the discomfort others put us through, but it is necessary to be aware of what influence noise has on our bodies, apart from the basic nuisance of having to listen to unwanted noise.

EFFECT ON HEARING: The ability to hear is one of our most precious gifts. Without it, it is very difficult to lead a full life. The damage done by noise depends mainly on how loud it is and on the length of exposure. The frequency or pitch can also have some effect, since high-pitched sounds are more damaging than low-pitched ones. Initially, loud noise tires out the inner ear, leading to temporary hearing loss. However, with continual noise exposure, the ear will lose its ability to recover from temporary hearing loss, and the damage will become permanent. Permanent hearing loss results from the destruction of cells in the inner ear-cells which can never be replaced or repaired. Such damage can be caused by long-term exposure to loud noise or, in some cases, by brief exposures to very loud noises.

EFFECT ON OTHER BODY SYSTEMS: Excessive noise can not only destroy the ability to hear, but may also put stress on other parts of the body. Affecting the heart, noise can cause quickened pulse rate, increased blood pressure and a narrowing of the blood vessels. Over a long period of time, these may place an added burden on the heart. People exposed to noise sometimes complain of nervousness, sleeplessness and fatigue. Excessive noise exposure also can reduce job performance and may cause high rates of absenteeism. People living near airports, railway tracks, busy roads, or other noise-emitting facilities consider sleep disturbance as the most deleterious effect of noise. The data suggest that these noises might affect mood, well-being, and performance the next day. Sleep disturbances are suspected to contribute eventually to the development of chronic health disorders. Most reviewers agree that the effects on sleep depend on the physical characteristics of the noises as well as on individual and situational factors. Noise may also put stress on the body by causing the abnormal secretion of hormones and tensing of muscles. Noise causes the release of different stress hormones. The part of the brain called hypothalamus receives input from, and sends signals to, other parts of the brain, and it produces hormones that stimulate or inhibit the release of other hormones from the anterior pituitary. The pituitary hormones, in turn, stimulate or inhibit the adrenal gland to secrete its hormones, one of the major adrenal hormones being Cortisol. The whole complex interaction of the Hypothalamus, Pituitary and Adrenal Glands is very important and in medical terms, we call it the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis of the body. The effects of longer-lasting activation of the HPA-axis, especially long term increase of cortisol, are manifold: immune suppression, insulin resistance (e.g. diabetes), cardiovascular diseases (e.g. hypertension and arteriosclerosis), catabolism (e.g. ostoeporosis), intestinal problems (e.g. stress ulcer) etc. Even worse may be the widespread effects of other hormones outside the hypothalamic system, which have the potential to influence nearly all regulatory systems, causing other medical conditions as signs of disturbed hormonal balance.

EFFECT ON CHILDREN: Compared to earlier years, the lives of children are getting noisier and noisier. Noise levels of the environment, like road traffic, railway sounds, aircraft, etc., have increased considerably. Noise levels at school have also increased dramatically, where more and more use of mikes and amplifiers is being made to reach out to a large number of students. Outdoor leisure activities of children and toys have also become more noisy. Even at home, a large number of households encourage TV sets remaining on for a major part of the day. All this contributes in creating an almost permanently noisy atmosphere for children.
Children possess less well-developed coping responses, and are often less able to control their environments, and as a result effects of noise seem to be more harmful to children in many ways. Aggressive behaviour and hyperactivity seem to be, in part, a consequence of this everlasting noise exposure that children face today.
The information available on noise-induced effects on the fetus shows hearing impairment associated with exposure to high occupational noise levels during pregnancy. On-going research indicates that growth retardation of the child may also be associated with extensive occupational noise exposure of the pregnant mother. It cannot be excluded, but is seems unlikely, that environmental noise causes fetal abnormalities. This may however, be due to lack of proper methods to ascertain this possibility.
Babies who are born pre-term, have to cope with their environment with immature organ systems, especially, the auditory, visual and central nervous systems, which are the last systems to mature. These last stages occur, in part, during the time the pre-term child is in the incubator or neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Studies need to be conducted to evaluate thoroughly, what effect excessive noise might have on the developing auditory system which would be more vulnerable to hearing impairment.
Where children are concerned, sleep is very important for good health, and studies do show that sleep patterns get disturbed from exposure to noise. As children grow, it has been found that there is a considerable difference in the blood pressures of those exposed to road traffic noise and those not exposed. However, where aircraft noise is concerned, studies show that children adapt to aircraft noise without any major ill effects, this adaptation is not seen in cases of road traffic noise exposure.
Development of reading skills seems to be affected adversely in school children with a long-term exposure to high levels of traffic noise from either aircraft, road or railway traffic. Long term noise-exposed children also seem to suffer from difficulty in concentration and difficulty in focusing their attention, esp. when someone is speaking to them. This perhaps occurs because children learn how to ignore sound stimuli as a way to cope with long-term noise exposure. Unfortunately, this tuning out process may over-generalise so that children learn to tune out not only noise, but also relevant other auditory signals, such as speech.
In families where noise is a part of daily living, parents too seem to be less attentive to their children. This could affect the confidence levels of children as well. Some studies showed that children highly exposed to environmental noise for prolonged periods of time are less motivated when placed in situations where task performance is dependent on persistence. Prolonged exposure to uncontrollable noise seems to induce feelings of helplessness and behavioural patterns which also reflect helplessness. As the child continues to struggle unsuccessfully with an uncontrollable stimulus, it eventually learns that it is helpless to do anything about the situation, as manifested by feelings of hopelessness and reduced persistence. However, personal character traits of a child modify this to a significant extent.
Where teenagers are concerned, studies have concentrated only on the effects of noise causing noise-induced hearing impairment. Listening to music through head phones certainly causes hearing impairment at loud volumes.

According to the National Institute of Occupational Health, continuous exposure to noise levels above 90 decibels can produce adverse auditory and non-auditory health effects. If we want to reduce the chances of these adverse health effects happening to ourselves and to our loved ones, it is essential that every one of us protests whenever someone exposes us to high noise levels and it is our duty, in turn, to see that we do not expose someone else to our noise.

A kidney stone is a solid piece of material that forms in the kidney out of substances in the urine.
A stone may stay in the kidney or break loose and travel down the urinary tract. A small stone may pass all the way out of the body without causing too much pain. A larger stone may get stuck in a ureter, the bladder, or the urethra. A problem stone can block the flow of urine and cause great pain. The presence of stones can lead to urinary infections and also kidney damage in the long term. Stones vary from the size of a grain of sand to a golf ball, and there may be one or several.

Signs to watch out for are:
· Episodes of severe, colicky (intermittent) pain every few minutes. The pain usually appears first in the back, just below the ribs. Over several hours or days, the pain follows the stone’s course through the ureter toward the groin. Pain stops when the stone passes.
· Frequent nausea with severe pain.
· Traces of blood in the urine. Urine may appear cloudy or dark.

Several factors increase the risk for developing kidney stones, including inadequate fluid intake and dehydration, reduced urinary flow and volume, certain chemical levels in the urine that are too high (e.g., calcium, oxalate, uric acid) or too low (e.g., citrate), and several medical conditions. Anything that blocks or reduces the flow of urine (e.g., urinary obstruction, genetic abnormality) also increases the risk.

Preventive measures:
– Drink about 15 glasses of fluid, mostly purified water, every day. It is important that you pass about 2 litres of urine per day.
– Avoid milk and milk products if you have had a calcium or phosphorus kidney stone.
– Avoid excessive sweating.
– If your stones are calcium oxalate stones, restrict your intake of oxalate rich foods like beans, beets, chocolate, grapes, green peppers, spinach, strawberries and tea.
– Some studies have found that a daily intake of 10 mgs of magnesium supplementation reduces stone recurrence by almost 90 %. The best food sources of magnesium are green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts and dried beans. Meat, milk and other starches are moderate suppliers. Because refined foods have the least, magnesium intake has dropped since we now eat more refined and processed foods than ever.
– Activity helps, as people who are inactive tend to accumulate a lot of calcium in the bloodstream. Activity helps to pull calcium back into the bones, where it belongs.
– Be cautious of a high protein diet, as protein tends to increase the presence of uric acid, calcium and phosphorus in the urine, which could lead to the formation of stones in some susceptible people. Cut down on meat in case of uric acid stones.
– Consumption of large amounts of Vitamin C – in excess of 3 – 4 grams a day – can increase oxalate production and increase the risk of stones.

Homoeopathy has very good medicines to help make the stones smaller and help them to pass out from the urinary tract. During an acute episode of renal colic where the stone is trying to pass, painkillers and anti-spasmodic medication may be necessary if the pain is too severe. Homoeopathically, medicines like Colocynthis, Magnesium Phosphoricum, Pareira Brava, Ocimum Canum, Berberis Vulgaris, Sarsaparilla, etc may be used during the acute stage of renal colic. The choice of medicine will depend on the symptoms the patient has at that point in time. After the stones have passed, Homoeopathic medication can help prevent recurrence by suitably modifying the susceptibility of the patient. Such treatment will be directed towards correcting a uric acid diathesis and tendency to stone formation by taking into account personal factors of the individual patient.