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Michael Greger MD

Michael Greger MD

Posted November 19, 2011

Published in Health

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Ask the Doctor: Q&A with Michael Greger, M.D. (Week 9)

Read More: cancer, coffee, colitis, ganoderma, Green tea, inflammatory bowel disease, medical school, Semmelweis reflex

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This is another sampling of the more than 650 comments and questions I’ve responded to on NutritionFacts.org (so far!). Please feel free to leave any follow-up questions here or on any of the hundreds of videos on the more than a thousand topics covered on NutritionFacts.org. And remember, there’s a new video posted every weekday, so to make sure you don’t miss any:

mpbailey asked on The Healthiest BeverageI have just been introduced to a product that is a combination of green tea and ganoderma (a red mushroom). It also comes mixed with coffee. I was wondering if you have seen amy research on ganoderma. Thank you so much for this website. It is wonderful!

I’m so glad you’re finding the website useful! Ganoderma lucidum is more commonly known as the reishi mushroom, one of the oldest known fungi used medicinally. According to the latest review on the subject, there are remarkably few clinical studies on its use despite its popularity throughout East Asia. It does appear to have beneficial immunomodulatory effects in cancer patients but without endpoint data (such as survival and remission rates), case reports with names like Fatal Fulminant Hepatitis Associated With Ganoderma would argue against drinking it in your coffee until we know more. The healthiest thing to drink is likely green tea. We have good evidence of its benefits and, as a bonus, no fatal side-effects!

duchaspa commented on Slowing the Growth of CancerLast week I got a yearly visit from a 40 year old patient who had had ulcerative colitis for 20 years. I told him to stop dairy and read your 2001 paper. He thanked me for his colitis stopped forthwith and since he cut all dairy. In chapter 1 of The China Study the ‘error’ with alpha F protein in Philippino kids and the reproduction in rat studies, I interpret as “Cancer cells need animal protein to grow”. If you stop it, they shrink. OK I am not a scientist but I proposed this to 7 advanced cancer patients, 2 of whom were in “palliative stage”.  All 6 are doing VERY WELL, the oncologists do not understand it. I tell them “plant based diet, no cheating”. It has worked for now, and I am flabbergasted. For the record, I got about 4 hours of nutrition in medical school, a whole semester in pharmacology, and 8 lectures on surgery of thyroid cancer. This was 1963-1967. I stopped smoking in 1988, stopped meat and dairy in 2005 (your influence Sir), I do not worry about the future. I hope to live to 80 but take one day at a time. Thank you for bringing the fun back into my medical practice.

I’m so glad you wrote in–you’ve certainly made my day! As much as I love lecturing to medical students and the general public (largely via Rotary), my most fulfilling presentations are grand rounds in hospitals for clinicians. My goal is to reignite that spark they all had when they started medical school to help people, to cure people, to make people better. As you know, too much in medicine these days is just palliation, just covering up symptoms and slowing their downward spiral into disease and disability. When I start going through the case series showing that many of the chronic diseases that make up the bulk of their practices can be reversed, that people can be restored to health, you can see their faces light up. There are powerful tools at their disposal that no one ever taught them about. Please let me know if there is ever anything I can do to help further.

In terms of some of your individual points, the latest review on the theory that a farm animal pathogen in meat and dairy may be triggering inflammatory bowel disease is worth the read: Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease: is Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis the common villain? If indeed these diseases are related to diet, then the good news the review concludes with is that “We can end the public health tragedy of Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis, in our lifetimes.”

And I continue to be as excited as you at the possibility that certain cancers can be stopped and reversed through diet as well. I’ll keep bringing everyone the latest, building off of the preliminary results presented here: Cancer reversal through diet?

Jan-Kristian Markiewicz commented on The Tomato EffectAnother one: The fact that cleaning your hands would prevent the spread of disease was ignored and ridiculed for about 50 years…

Oh that’s a great example! Everyone should know about Ignaz Phillip Semmelweis. Quoting from the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine:

“Many men have been endowed with clear intellects and hearts full of love for their fellow men, with the enthusiasm of humanity, and they have been enabled to achieve some signal service for the human race in their day and generation; but in the whole history of medicine there is only one Semmelweis in the magnitude of his services to Mankind, and in the depths of his sufferings from contemporary jealous stupidity and ingratitude.”

Let me set the scene:

The year was 1846. The place, Viennese General Hospital, the largest of its kind in the world. Semmelweis gets a job as obstetrical assistant. He notices that three times as many women are dying at the hands of the medical students than at the hands of the midwifery students from puerperal fever, commonly known at the time as, “the black death of the childbed.” Semmelweis describes: “In the medical school division the mortality from puerperal fever was so terrifying that this division became notorious….There were heart-rending scenes when [pregnant] patients knelt down, wringing their hands, to beg for a transfer [to the midwifery division]….”

Why the discrepancy? The food and ventilation was the same in both divisions. If anything, surgical skill was better in the medical school and overcrowding less. The idea at the time was that the excess mortality was due to the emotional strain of being examined by male students, since the midwives were all female. So the elders of the Medical School met in council and proceeded to exclude the foreign students from the hospital on the ground that they were, “rougher in their examination than the Viennese.” Death rates didn’t change.

Before Lister, before Pasteur, Semmelweis made the connection between the autopsies the medical students were doing and the “examining finger which introduces the cadaveric particles.” In May 1847 he required every medical student to wash his hands with a chlorine solution before making an examination and the death rate plummeted. For the first time in the history of the Vienna Hospital, the mortality rate at the medical school fell below that of the school of midwives.

Knighted, no doubt, for the discovery of the century? Hardly. Historians believe his doctrine was unpalatable to colleagues since it implied that the obstetricians were the cause of death. He shared this knowledge with his superiors. From the Proceedings: “The suggestion was unheard of! Indeed, it was sheer impertinence to suggest that the Accoucheur to the Imperial household should carry contagion upon his hands.” Semmelweis was summarily dismissed.

So he lectured, he wrote papers; he continued to be ridiculed. Doctors regarded antisepsis as a poor joke. His successor in Vienna publicly stated that the doctrine was “discredited and universally rejected.” Semmelweis wrote a book, The Cause, Nature, and Prevention of Puerperal Fever, expecting it to save thousands of lives, but it was ignored.

So he turned from academics to polemics. He started to publish open letters to midwifery professors. “Your teaching… is based on the dead bodies of… women slaughtered through ignorance. If… you continue to teach your students and midwives that puerperal fever is an ordinary epidemic disease, I proclaim you before God and the world to be an assassin….”

By the summer of 1865 he had taken to the streets of Budapest thrusting circulars into the hands of startled pedestrians. “The peril of childbed fever menaces your life! Beware of doctors for they will kill you…. Unless everything that touches you is washed with soap and water and then chlorine solution, you will die and your child with you!”

Semmelweis, at the age of 47, the father of three young children, was committed to an insane asylum in Vienna. He attempted to escape, but was forcibly restrained by several guards, secured in a straight jacket, and confined in a darkened cell. The asylum guards beat him severely.

Quoting from the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, “He was not in the asylum for long. Thirteen days after admission he was dead.” From the autopsy report: “It is obvious that these horrible injuries were… the consequences of brutal beating, tying down, trampling underfoot.”

berensen75 asked on Total recallWhen I was growing up, I ate raw cake batter and I never got sick from Salmonella. How do you explain that?

Egg-borne Salmonella is relatively new disease. Our grandparents could drink eggnog and eat raw cookie dough without fear of joining the more than a thousand Americans who now die every year from Salmonella poisoning. Before the industrial intensification of egg production, Salmonella Enteritidis was not even found in eggs in the United States. By the beginning of the 21st century, however, Salmonella Enteritidis-contaminated eggs were sickening an estimated 182,000 Americans annually. Factory farming practices such as forced starvation molting, feeding live hens “spent hen meal,” and overcrowing hens into barren “battery” cages so small they can’t even spread their wings have contributed to the epidemic of egg-borne Salmonella poisoning.

In fact, just today a story broke on Good Morning America about Sparboe Farms, our country’s fifth largest egg producer and supplier (until today) for McDonald’s Egg McMuffins. An undercover investigation found what the FDA noted were serious violations of federal Salmonella regulations. See my other Factory Farming Practices videos for more on the subject.

-Michael Greger, M.D.


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