I’m delighted to have the opportunity to join this outstanding group of medical professional bloggers in adding my natural products angle to the application of science-based medicine. With the exception of Dr. Gorski, who holds MD and PhD degrees, I believe I am the first “only a PhD” to be invited to SBM. However, I have spent much of my career training, and training with, physician-scientists; so enthusiastic am I about the special qualities of the physician-scientist that I married one (or, rather, she chose to marry me, truth be told.). Conversely, I view the invitation to write here as a responsibility in representing what my fellow basic scientists bring to bear on discussions of the scientific arguments for and against modalities classified broadly as complementary and alternative medicine or integrative medicine.
Why write about herbal medicines and natural products?
I have long been interested in bringing objective scientific information to the public, perhaps as early as my college years in bars while visiting my working-class hometown of Wallington, NJ, or while shooting darts with Philadelphia cops across from my undergrad apartment. Any chat I’d have with an old buddy or bartender about drugs, cancer, or drugs and cancer would invariably draw some interest from fellow patrons overhearing my discussions. These were usually followed by, “Hey, aren’t you Frankie Kroll’s boy?,” or “I’ve heard the government is hiding the cure for cancer – do you have any inside dope on that?”
OK, it’s true that I’m only scheduled to post every other week or so, but I couldn’t resist sharing this one with you (which I’ve cross-posted over at denialism blog). I promise to get back to my assigned schedule after this one. Thanks for your indulgence. –PalMD
If you’ve been a regular reader of SBM or denialism blog, you know that plausibility plays an important part in science-based medicine. If plausibility is discounted, clinical studies of improbable medical claims can show apparently positive results. But once pre-test probability is factored in, the truth is revealed—magic water can’t treat disease, no matter what a particular study may say. So it was with great dismay that I read an email from a reader telling me about parents buying hyperbaric chambers for their autistic children. Let’s review some science.
In Breathing 101, we talked about how the oxygen delivered to your lungs depends on both the percentage of oxygen in the air, and the air pressure. We looked at how diminishing atmospheric pressure, for example at altitude, makes it harder to breathe.
Of course it is also possible to expose people to increased atmospheric pressure, which has therapeutic uses in the form of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).
Oxygen delivery to tissue depends on several factors. We already talked about the air itself. Once air gets enters the lungs, most of the oxygen transported to your tissues is carried by the hemoglobin molecules in your red blood cells (under normal conditions). A small amount is directly dissolved in the blood. The amount dissolved in the blood is dependent on (no surprise) the percentage of oxygen and the atmospheric pressure. By increasing the atmospheric pressure from 1 atm (760 torr) to 3 atm, the amount of oxygen dissolved in the blood is enough to meet your body’s needs independent of heme-associated oxygen.
This is a good thing.
I recently learned of a study entitled “Dominican Children with HIV not Receiving Antiretrovirals: Massage Therapy Influences their Behavior and Development.” It disturbed me, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. They’re massaging these kids but letting them die of AIDS? I went back and read the complete article, and it left me even more disturbed.
They studied 48 Dominican children ages 2-8 with untreated HIV/AIDS, randomizing them to receive twice weekly sessions of either massage or play therapy for 12 weeks. The abstract said that those in the massage group improved in self-help abilities and communication, and that children over the age of 6 showed a decrease in depressive/anxious behaviors and negative thoughts. That’s what the abstract said. The text revealed a more complex story. (more…)