Archive | January, 2011

Antibiotics overkill

31 Jan

You only have to read a few posts of the WB before you find out that I am a former IBS sufferer. In fact, I would say IBS is  one of the top three reasons I turned to alternative and nutritional medicine.  No conventional physician was able to help me solve my IBS, which for me appeared as daily diarrhea, bloating, and gas.

Now, doctors are starting to push antibiotics for a condition that may often be solved by lifestyle and diet adjustments, as well as less invasive alternative treatments?? Give me a break! Here is a perspective on this new development from WB community member and licensed acupuncturist, Sara Calabro.

By Sara Calabro, LAc
Founding editor of AcuTake

Doctors are like kids in candy stores when it comes to antibiotics. They just can’t help themselves. Despite overwhelming evidence of antibiotics resistance and the fact that in the majority of cases the risk of taking antibiotics far outweighs the benefit, prescriptions are still flying off their pads. Now, with the release of new research on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), doctors are faced with the temptation to put even more people on antibiotics. It’s as if the candy store just doubled in size.

The research, published in a January issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, shows that a two-week course of antibiotics helped IBS symptoms in 41 percent of patients. Although the findings are neither impressive (30 percent got better with placebo), comprehensive (patients with constipation were not included), nor unbiased (the studies were sponsored by Salix Pharmaceuticals, the drug’s maker), they provide doctors, finally, with something to offer their IBS patients.

IBS has proven especially tough for mainstream medicine to gets its arms around. Stress is known to play a significant role, leading many doctors to prescribe anxiety or depression drugs, but a clear physiological explanation remains elusive within biomedical parameters. Acupuncture, because it considers the interdependent relationships of anatomical structures and how they’re affected by emotional and environmental factors, is a more sensible approach than medication for IBS.

Given the complicated nature of IBS, it’s not surprising that medications, which work by targeting isolated structures within the body, have so far been a bust. Zelnorm, a popular IBS drug for people who tended toward constipation, was pulled from the market in 2007 because it was shown to increase risk of stroke and heart attack. Lotronex, given to people whose IBS mostly involves diarrhea, is known to cause serious side effects such as colitis and severe constipation.

The fact that these medications—as well as rifaximin, the antibiotic used in the NEJM studies—treat constipation or diarrhea is problematic. Many people with IBS suffer from both constipation and diarrhea, an alternating of the two. It’s an issue of regulation, or lack thereof. Even in people who tend toward one or the other, completely shutting down or revving up the bowel is not going to solve the larger imbalance that’s causing symptoms in the first place.

Acupuncture works differently than medications in that its effects are dictated by the person receiving the treatment. For example, ST25, a common acupuncture point for digestive disorders, is used for both constipation and diarrhea. In a person with constipation, ST25 activates the bowel, while in someone with diarrhea, it slows things down. Medications force the body toward a particular outcome, usually by either adding or taking something away—the NEJM study, for example, was based on the idea is that IBS symptoms are caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine; by killing that bacteria, you kill the symptoms. In contrast, acupuncture gets the body’s existing components working more smoothly.

One way it does this is by calming the sympathetic nervous system. Stress, in biomedical and acupuncture circles alike, is an established component of IBS. According to Hans Selye’s General Adaptation theory, our bodies react to long-term stress by developing patterns, or diseases, of adaptation. These can be anything from IBS to insomnia to back pain. Acupuncture helps modulate our natural stress response, thereby decreasing the “need” to develop adaptation patterns/diseases.

But even once a pattern has developed, acupuncture is still a better bet than meds. Chronic stress—emotional as well as physical stress, such as too many sit-up exercises—can lead to trigger points in the abdominal muscles. While trigger points are traditionally thought of in relation to pain, they also can cause visceral symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea and others that are characteristic of IBS. When indicated, trigger-point acupuncture can resolve many of these problems.

According to NPR, rifaximin has limited side effects because it stays in the gut and doesn’t enter the bloodstream the way other antibiotics do. But PubMed lists the following as potential side effects: hives; skin rashes; itching; difficulty breathing or swallowing; swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs; hoarseness; fever, chills, sore throat, and other signs of infection. And this list does not even touch upon the potential long-term repercussions of killing off all bacteria, good and bad, in a part of the body whose function is dependent on a healthy bacterial balance.

Even more troubling than the risk of side effects may be mainstream medicine’s tendency to overuse antibiotics. Since rifaximin is already approved for travelers’ diarrhea, it’s available now for doctors to prescribe off-label for IBS. But the two-week course of treatment is pricey, about $900. These recent studies allow Salix to apply for FDA approval for the IBS indication. If that comes through, insurance companies are more likely to cover it and doctors are more likely to prescribe it.

Mainstream medicine’s reliance on antibiotics is already a problem of epic proportions, thanks to years and years of inappropriately treated ear infections and sore throats. If your doctor suggests antibiotics for IBS, think twice—question the recommendation and do your homework. There are other options worth trying first. Acupuncture is a safe and comprehensive way to effectively address this multifaceted condition.

Sara Calabro, LAc, is a former healthcare business journalist and the founding editor of AcuTake, a website dedicated to improving acupuncture education and access.


29 Jan

Is there someone in your life who continues to roll their eyes or silently condemn you for choosing to buy products that are more expensive, but better for you?

Yeah. Me, too.

On the one hand, it pisses me off pure and simple. Someone thinks I don’t make enough money to be able to “afford” the non-toxic products I buy (in my case, organic produce, gluten-free flours and pasta, non-toxic beauty care, and green cleaning products) or the out-of-network services I occasionally employ (chiropractic, yoga, osteopathy). The truth is: They’re right. I don’t make enough money.

But, rather than condem me for making bad choices, I’d much prefer your compassion. And, even moreso, would welcome your volunteer efforts at finding me a corporate sponsor to fuel my family’s needs.

If you know anyone in the biz, feel free to tip them off to my family. You know: Tinkyada, Udi’s, Stonyfield Farms, Ecover. I’d gladly place their banners on not only my blog, but also on my vehicle, house, and at least two of my children’s foreheads if they decide to sponsor our family.

In the meantime, instead of talking about me behind my back, perhaps you should consider the back pain/chronic cough/sinus infection/asthma/ADHD/ear infections, you and your offspring seem to suffer from quite often. Perhaps you should consider spending less time counting my money (or lack therof) and more time reading the books and articles that continue to show the links between lifestyle choices and illness.

Perhaps you have my best interest in mind (and at heart).

Perhaps you only want me to have the best and to succeed.

Perhaps you worry about me.


But, perhaps you should consider that there are many elements that make up a happy and healthy life.

Perhaps, the organic produce makes me sick less often, so I don’t miss work.

Perhaps, the gluten-free diet gives me more energy, which allows me to pursue greater, and more lucrative opportunities.

Perhaps, the less toxic household cleaners keeps us away from the pediatrician and the steroids and the high pharmacy bills.


Catching Diabetes

26 Jan

When I read this article, I knew I had to repost it on The WB. Thanks Dr. Lesniak for your permission to reprint.

By Dennis Lesniak
Lesniak Chiropractic Whole Health Specialists

I previously had a client who was in her early 20s that stated “my doctor told me I caught diabetes.”  For some of you, this statement may seem totally normal.  Others of you may be completely outraged.

Labeling certain conditions as diseases is not only misleading, but it is wrong.  These conditions should be deemed lifestyle pathologies.  Lifestyle pathologies are serious medical conditions brought about by environmental, nutritional, and physical stressors.  This is unlike a traditional disease where there is exposure to the pathogen and exposure directly correlates to contraction of the disease.  Now, I understand the definition is not perfect; it is a work in progress and will evolve over time.

However, the point is to get you to shift your paradigm of thinking.

Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney stones, Chron’s disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, headaches, heart disease, some neurodegenerative diseases, and even many cancers can be avoided, prevented, and treated with simple, effective nutritional changes.  Nutrition is medicine from nature; it may not be as easy to swallow as a pill, but it does a better job and has very little side effects except feeling better. 

People do not seem to understand that the above lifestyle pathologies are caused by the choices that we make every day.  Decide to skip breakfast, or grab that bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on a bagel; you contributed to over half of the above listed conditions. 

You do not simply “catch” these diseases and then be stricken with them for the rest of your life.  Most doctors tell their patients that they need to change their eating habits, exercise more, and then we will look at a medication.  However, most people are too lazy and stubborn to fix what is wrong.  Instead they opt for the pill thinking it cures the condition when, in fact, it just hides what is going on while this lifestyle pathology is left to wreak havoc on the body unnoticed for sometimes years.

Changing your eating habits is not going on a diet.  Going on a diet implies that it is going to end. This change does not end unless you want to go back to what got you to this spot in the first place.  Your habits are learned from family and are passed on to your children.  This not only creates the “genetic” component, but it increases the likelihood of your children suffering a similar fate.

Speaking of the genetic component, I am sure there are some doubters thinking “my condition is genetic and there is nothing I can do about it”.  Yes, there is some genetic predisposition to a lifestyle pathology, but you control the expression of your genes.  This can lead to a dramatic reduction in the likelihood of your development of the condition.  Your health is like a game of poker where you are the dealer who can see all the cards being dealt out.  You would always deal yourself the best hand, right?  Then why not do so in real life.

Are you interested in submitting a guest blog post to The Wellness Bitch? From time to time, we publish guest posts that are well-written, carefully edited, and related to the topics we blog about here on the WB (wellness, green living, holistic health, fitness, food politics, Big Pharma, etc.) Submissions should be no more than 500 words. Please consider our style when composing your post and please include any relevant hyperlinks when possible.

Email us your submissions to


25 Jan

Before I moved to Israel last month, I stocked up on all the “necessary” items that make my life easier, and more important, less toxic. I had heard that some earth-friendly beauty care products and cleaners were available in Israel, but was warned that prices were double or triple what they were in the States. (Yes, shocking that the prices could get any higher than they already are.)

So, when my shipment with my belongings arrived from the States, the first box I desparately reached for was the one marked “bathroom.” I had spent the last month using a variety of borrowed, strongly fragranced, SLS-filled shampoos and conditioners in other people’s showers. And while my hair was as silky as an Herbal Essences hair model, my experience in the shower wasn’t quite as…orgasmic. It was closer to the beginning of an antihistamine commercial…you know, before they’re “Claritin Clear.”

I smiled from head-to-toe as I picked up my 365 Whole Foods brand shampoo in my shower and prepared to lather up my hair. Except there was no lather.

Now, SLS-free shampoos typically don’t foam, but usually you can get a little bit of a lather.

Here in Northern Israel: Nothing. It’s the water. I’ve never understood the difference between hard and soft water (which is which.) But the kind here is the kind that leaves a white film on your dishes. And it seems to be adding a film to my hair.

There is a missing ingredient in the chemical equation I try to create each morning in the shower. And the end result is a greasier head than when I started.

I know it sounds vain, but my hair has always been the body part I can count on. I still can’t get complete control over the hormone-induced breakouts, or get rid of that pasty white look in the middle of winter. But I’ve always had awesome hair.

Not anymore.

Do I return to the toxic, but foamy shampoo? Do I do what so many otherwise health-conscious women often do — forsake their commitment to wellness for beauty? (Admit it. You buy organic fruits, but you still use the super-strength salon shampoo and wrinkle cream.)

Or, do I choose the other side of the spectrum; embrace a dirty, greasy “kibbutz chic?” Grow my hair long enough for dreads and quit shaving?

I’d prefer something in the middle.

And a solution could put me on the map here in Israel.

 ”Wellness Bitch Brand Shampoo: It’s Time to Wake Up Your Hair With Toxic-Free Care”

I welcome your recipes and suggestions. I have some Dr. Bronner’s, as well as a few essential oils. Hook me up with a winning recipe and maybe I’ll give you a cut of the millions of dollars I make when I market it here.

Performance review

23 Jan

Um…I don’t know how to tell you this, but I have writer’s block.

Well, specifically bitchy writer’s block.

It’s not that I’m without wellness-related topics to bitch about; it’s just that I feel so darn happy these past few days that I don’t want to mess it up by making a fuss about how the government screws us over or ranting about the poor choices people make.

I’d prefer to stay here in my little cocoon and let you all figure it out for yourself.

Interestingly enough, though, this week marks the one year anniversary that I started wellness bitchin’. Which would make this a good time for an annual evaluation and performance review, don’t you think?

It’s been exciting watching this community build and grow. And I’ve had the privilege this year to partner with other revolutionaries who are fearlessly trying not only to change the system (which is hard enough), but also to transform the way their friends and family think about health, food, and living (which is much, much more of a challenge, if you ask me.)

Through the Wellness Bitch, I’ve been fortunate to host guest blogs from visionary thinkers and change makers; to interview passionate and bold practitioners; and to engage in dialogue with all of you. It’s been inspiring.

And I don’t want that to end.


What I am thinking is I’d like to hear from you what moves you about The Wellness Bitch. What you’d like to see more of. Who you want contributions from. Why you think this type of forum is necessary (or not).

Help me move past my writer’s block.

I want you to.