Alternative Medicine – Toxic World of Cosmetics

When my daughter was in her mid teens she would apply a hefty amount of lip gloss of various colors and flavors before heading out of the house.  At that time she espoused vegetarianism and wasn’t on the healthiest of diets.  I think because of this she was a bit of a canary in the mine shaft.

We saw a cycle of acute illness with stomach pains, nausea and fatigue every 3-4 weeks.  I asked her to stop using the lip gloss since her stomach seemed to be most affected.  She agreed and withheld its use for a month or so until the memory of her being sick had faded. 

And again after about 3 weeks of using the lip gloss the same condition appeared.  After about 1 year of this pattern she has stopped applying cosmetics to her lips and the problem has not reoccured.

Don’t Be Naive (Stupid)

  • There is very little regulation of the cosmetic industry in terms of what they can put into their products.
  • Every ingredient that is applied to the skin will, to some extent, be absorbed through the skin into the lymph and blood stream.
  • Many moisturizers contain penetration enhancers that facilitate absorption into the lower layers of skin and into the bloodstream.
  • There are ingredients in cosmetics which would never be allowed in food.
  • Many ingredients are known carcinogens and endocrine disrupting chemicals.
  • Hormones are used in facial creams to enhance their anti-ageing effects.  These hormones may have physical and emotional side effects which a physician would seldom relate to the use of cosmetics.
  • Many products in the U.S. contain ingredients banned in cosmetics in other countries like Japan, Canada, and the European Union.
  •  Products labeled “natural” and “hypoallergenic” are not necessarily safer.  These terms are not regulated in the cosmetic industry. Any company can label their product “natural” regardless of the ingredients inside it.
  • If there is any problem with a cosmetic, the FDA has no authority to recall harmful cosmetics, or to require companies to report injuries caused by their products.

Self-Responsibility & Physician Awareness

People seldom consider the absorption of cosmetics and creams into their system and would not link their illness or their symptoms to their use of cosmetics.

Seldom would a physician inquire about the use of cosmetics unless the problem was localized such as a skin eruption. 

With the practice of alternative medicine everything must be considered.  This includes the person’s living and work environment, the ecology or environment of their gastrointestinal system, and what enters the body through their skin and lungs. 

Dr. Alexander Haskell, N.D.

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Alternative Medicine – The Diagnosis

When visiting a physician we expect them to diagnose our condition and to understand the reasons why we feel the way we do.  A diagnosis is made through an analysis of symptoms, a physical exam, lab tests and other means.  After sifting through this information the physician offers us a term which should offer some explanation about our condition.

Here are a few examples of diagnoses.

  • Atrial fibrillation: rapid beating of the upper half of the heart.
  • Myasthenia Gravis: literally means muscle weakness or debility that is severe, describing an autoimmune neuromuscular disease treated primarily with immune suppressants.
  • Osteoarthritis: inflammation of the joints leading to degeneration, treated primarily with pain killers.
  • Nephrotic Syndrome: from the Greek “nephros” meaning kidney, referring to kidney damage with excess proteins in the urine.
  • Ulcerative Colitis: inflammation to the point of ulceration in the colon with the usual treatment being steroids.

As you can see these diagnoses and most others are simply descriptive labels of the tissue involved and its condition. 

A German born American physician, Dr. Martin H. Fisher, M.D., said, “Diagnosis is not the end, but the beginning of practice.”  What might he have meant by this?

The first task of the physician is to understand the condition of the tissues involved with a person’s complaints.  If it is abdominal pains then the first question is which tissues in the abdomen are causing symptoms.  This investigative approach is true for most physical complaints.  But I believe what Dr. Fisher is suggesting is that this first step in the investigation must be followed by a second and third.

Once the condition has been labeled, and this is not always possible, we must then investigate the causes which can be many; environmental toxins at work and in the home, nerve subluxations, localized or distal infections, poor nutrition, harmful habits and lifestyle, worries and anxieties, heavy metals, lack of essential nutrients, and others. 

Once we have settled on the diagnosis and investigated the causes, we can then apply the third step which treats or addresses these causes. 

Presently our health care system focuses primarily on the diagnosis and then simply applies a drug or surgery to this diagnosis.  All diagnoses have their recommended drug protocols and most physicians, once the diagnosis has been made, simply apply the appropriate drug without much investigation as to the cause.

This three step approach to the restoration of health must be the practical application of alternative medicine.

Dr. Alexander Haskell, N.D.

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Altnative Medicine – Micro & Macro Cosmos

We often define “Alternative Medicine” as an approach to treatment which considers the whole person and not just their parts. 

We do not treat pains in the stomach without considering nutrition, emotions such as anxiety, the nerves that innervate the stomach, a stomach infection (H. pylori), an infected tooth, mercury amalgams, and others.  Obviously it is important to consider all the possibilities which might cause a person’s symptoms. 

But let’s step back even a little further, taking on a broader perspective.

An American neurosurgeon and a pioneer of brain surgery, Dr. Harvey Cushing, M.D., said, “A physician is obligated to consider more than a diseased organ, more even than the whole man – he must view the man in his world.”

Dr. Cushing, considered to be the father of modern neurosurgery, spoke of a very important approach, an almost three dimensional way of deciphering the causes of a person’s suffering.

How can a physician not consider the world which surrounds their patient?  Certainly entering the hidden and microscopic world through X-rays, lab testing, biopsies, and the testing of other specimens reveal important information yet we are viewing the results, often the pathology, of years and decades of a slowly degenerating condition.  This microscopic perspective does not tell us, does not inform us, as to how this came to be.

We must venture into the depths of a person’s physique and their psyche while viewing it against the landscape of the broad expanse of their past and the world which surrounds and influences them today.

Our biology influences our biography.  The chemistry that flows through our veins today affects our immediate decisions.

Our psychology affects our physiology.  It is true that our thoughts and emotions influence the chemistry which bathes our every cell and tissue.   

In the French language there is the word “comportement” which means a person’s demeanor or behavior, and a person’s comportement is influenced by their social environment.

There are a myriad of influences which affect the body, mind and spirit.  One role of the practitioner of the art of medicine, of alternative medicine, is to help their patient to become more aware, more conscious, of how various influences surrounding them impact their health.

Dr. Alexander Haskell, N.D.

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Alternative Medicine – The Best of Both Worlds

You can call it alternative medicine, complementary medicine or holistic medicine.  It’s all one in the same yet can anyone simply call themselves a practitioner of alternative medicine when they haven’t had any medical training?

I think it’s the word “medicine” which needs some clarification.  Just because a person is offering an alternative to mainstream or orthodox medicine does not mean they are practicing alternative “medicine.”  Without medical training a person should not be considered a practitioner of medicine, no matter what form it takes.  Understanding a person’s illness requires knowledge and clinical experience.  Treating anyone with a medical condition without this training is bordering on quackery especially if the client has been told they don’t need a physician. 

There is certainly a place for herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture, raw foods, massage, and chiropractic but only if their client has been thoroughly investigated by a knowledgeable, alternative, licensed physician who can interpret lab results and other means of diagnostics such as thermography and ultrasound. 

In an ideal world a person should work with a cooperative team including a knowledgeable physician in conjunction with other supportive health professionals.  Any health professional who thinks they can do it alone without the support of others in the field of health and wellness may not have the best interest of their client in mind. 

Alternative medicine is not simply an alternative to allopathic or “medical” health care.  It is using and combining every tool and every means we have available to support a client’s health.  If this means using pharmacy, then so be it.  If the person is strong or vital enough to respond to nutrition, supplements, and homeoapthy alone, then so be it.

But we, as professionals, are realizing more and more every day that what people used to be able to respond to to recover their health is changing.  It requires much more now. 

People are definitely more stressed these days, have been on nutrient deficient foods for much longer, and have accumulated many more toxins in the last decade than any decade before. 

So if you are a health professional or a person seeking help from a practitioner of alternative medicine, let us understand that just because a person uses the term alternative medicine it doesn’t mean that this person has the knowledge or the experience to understand the underlying cause of their client’s condition and without this it is impossible to know what approach needs to be administered.

Thank you,

Dr. Alexander Haskell, N.D.

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Iodine Supplements – Improving Children’s Cognition

A recent double-blind trial in the medical journal, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, placed 184 iodine deficient children into two groups with the first group receiving just 150mcg of iodine and the second group a placebo.

After 28 weeks the supplemented group’s iodine status improved whereas the placebo group remained iodine deficient. 

Their conclusion was “Iodine supplementation improved perceptual reasoning in the iodine deficient children and suggests that iodine deficiency could prevent children from attaining their full intellectual potential.”

In my practice, unless the person was already using an iodine supplement, every single person I tested, using the same methods as this trial, had either an iodine deficiency or an iodine insufficiency. 

Iodine should be provided for every child from day one and even during their fetal months.  There are many factors for a child’s low performance in school but an iodine deficiency is one that’s very easy to correct.

Dr. Alexander Haskell, N.D.

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Iodine Supplements – Prevalence of Thyroid Dysfunction

In a study just published in the medical journal Entdocrine, October 23, 2010, a total of 1,124 men and women in Spain were studied to determine if there was any correlation between thyroid dysfunction and their urinary output of iodine.  There wasn’t but what they did find was that 9.4% of the women and 2.4% of the men had previously undiagnosed thyroid antibodies, a condition by the name of Hasimoto’s. 

Looking at the percentages with a total of 11.8% of the people in the study having this thyroid autoimmune condition, and considering what these figures might mean in the US population, we could be looking at 30 million plus people with undiagnosed Hashimoto’s.

Since iodine and iodine can aggravate this disease people seeking out iodine supplements thinking this will help their condition should be made aware of the possiblity that these trace minerals might very well worsen their condition.

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Iodine Supplements – Dangers of Too Much Iodine

We hear a lot about the need for iodine especially since billions of people around the world are suffering from this deficiency (World Health Organization estimates).  Yet we also find articles about the risks of iodine and iodide ingestion published in many well recognized medical journals.  This creates a great deal of confusion in the minds of physicians and the public.

No physician would ever deny the fact that we require iodine and iodide for our health.  Yet from the literature iodine and iodide seem to be a double-edged sword with too little as well as too much being the cause of illness.  How can we sort through this topic and find the truth?

Soy, Seaweed & Selenium

From The Medical Journal of Australia, 2010, we find several cases of reported thyroid dysfunction in adults associated with the ingestion of a brand of soymilk fortified with kombu (seaweed).  This brand was found to contain high levels of iodine (and most likely iodide since kelp contains both).

Here we have their opening statement which just leads to the confusion.  “Despite increasing awareness of iodine deficiency the potential for iodine toxicity, particularly from souces such as seaweed, is less well recognized.” 

“In November 2008, a 36-year-old woman presented with a mildly elevated serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level. Her urinary iodine level was measured to exclude iodine deficiency; this level of iodine was markedly elevated at 4445 μg/L with a normal reference range less than 200 μg/L.” 

You’ll notice here that this woman had her urinary iodine checked because they were looking for one cause of elevated TSH which is low iodine and low iodide.  In this woman’s case the cause of her elevated TSH was from the iodine.  I’ll explain this in just a moment.

“Three months later, a 38-year-old man presented with florid thyrotoxicosis (overactivity of thyroid gland). A scan result, in combination with his elevated urinary iodine level (1278 μg/L), indicated that iodine toxicity was the most likely cause of the thyrotoxicosis. He drank brands of soy milk other than Bonsoy, but also drank Bonsoy (includes seaweed) in takeaway coffee. After he ceased drinking all soy milk, his symptoms rapidly abated and his serum TSH level normalised 3 months later.”  Was it the soy or was it the iodine, or both?

What most physicians don’t understand is that iodine and iodide increase the production of TSH.  Why is this?

Both of these trace minerals are considered by the body to be precious, both elements having to do with survival and reproduction.  (Note that the tissue which has the highest concentration of iodine, second only to the thyroid, is the ovary.)  So when iodine and iodide are ingested the body has a way to store them.  Various tissues including the thyroid, ovaries, breasts, salivary glands, prostate and others have small channels called sodium-iodide symports (NIS) which actively uptake iodide and some believe iodine (debatable). 

When iodine and iodide enter the body these channels become activated.  It wasn’t until just recently that we came to understand what actually stimulates the activity of these channels.  It’s TSH.  This hormone not only stimulates them but it also increases the number of them.

Therefore the ingestion of iodine and iodide stimulate TSH production.  But elevated levels of TSH have other effects as well.  TSH also stimulates thyroid cells to make thyroid hormones.  But how?

TSH & Thyroid Hormone Production

Along the assembly line of thyroid hormone production we find the final product has atoms of iodine attached.  But if we go back up that assembly line we find that one of the original steps is the formation of iodine from iodide.  Thyroid cells do not absorb iodine.  They absorb and trap iodide and use it when needed to make thyroid hormones.  When a thyroid cell is stimulated to make its hormones this iodide is changed into iodine and the assembly line takes off.  How does the thyroid cell change iodide into iodine?

Thyroid cells make hydrogen peroxide which oxidizes iodide to become iodine.  And what stimulates thyroid cells to make hydrogen peroxide?  Exactly, TSH.

Normally there is a kind of see-sawing between TSH and thyroid hormones.  When thyroid hormones in the blood begin to decline, TSH production goes up.  As TSH goes up then the thyroid’s production of its hormones increases.  And as thyroid hormones enter the blood stream the production of TSH declines.

Yet if we continually ingest iodine and iodide TSH will remain elevated.  This is what most physicians do not understand.  This elevated TSH will continually stimulate thyroid cells to make more and more hydrogen peroxide which will eventually lead to thyroid cell irritation and inflammation (thyroiditis).

This is the danger or risk of taking too much iodine and iodide. 

But this research is very narrow, looking at just one factor for thyroid dysfunction.  This has its shortcomings.  I would venture a guess that developing thyroid issues from ingesting kelp has a selenium deficiency.  Selenium plays a very important role in thyroid hormone metabolism and in helping to reduce thyroid inflammation.

Genistein & Soy

It should also be noted that including soy in this journal study was another factor which wasn’t taken into consider. 

Soy is known to produce estrogenic isoflavones with genistein being the primary one. 

From the Journal of Neurological Sciences, 2009, “Genistein and diadzein from soy inhibit thyroperoxidase (a thyroid enzyme) that catalyzes (stimulates) iodination (the assembling of iodine to a protein to make the hormone) and thyroid hormone biosynthesis.”

This decrease in the synthesis of thyroid hormones due to soy would also lead to an increase in TSH (the see-saw). 

I do not think that ingesting seaweed by itself would have created the severity of symptoms in the subjects of this study yet I am adamant about the use of selenium whenever using an iodine supplement.

Dr. Alexander Haskell, ND

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