HEADLINES / TRENDS l STATS l RESEARCH l MEDIA l PEOPLE

September 2012

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Visionaries:

John Bastyr, Naturopathic Revivalist

At one time all medicine was natural, tied to healing plants and close observation of the patient as a whole person composed of body, mind and spirit. But as medicine that depends on drugs and surgery took hold the old knowledge was forced into the shadows.

Today, natural medicine has been in a revival of several decades’ standing. John Bastyr, ND, whose centennial is being celebrated this year, played a crucial role in this comeback.

“For a long time, all of the states allowed the practice of naturopathic medicine but by the 1950s and 1960s there were only a handful of states,” says Jane Guiltinan, ND, dean of the School of Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington (www.bastyr.edu). “He held the torch when the profession was at risk of going extinct. He was one of a handful who kept it alive
during its darkest days.”

Bastyr’s interest in healing started early. His father had trained as a pharmacist while his mother was interested in diet, medicinal herbs and other aspects of healthy living.

In 1928 the family moved from Minnesota to Seattle, where the young Bastyr worked in one of the drugstores his father owned. He obtained a degree from Seattle College of Chiropractic in 1931
and took a residency at the city’s Grace Hospital, earning his doctor of naturopathy degree in 1936. He married Aletha LaRoude the following year, the couple settling on a small farm in nearby Kent as he established his practice in Seattle.

One way Bastyr served natural medicine was through the dedication he showed to his patients in a
career that lasted more than 50 years. Guiltinan, who studied under Bastyr, remembers “his hands—you could just see in those hands the skill and care. He always had the patients as his primary goal, trying to figure out some way to help them.”

Bastyr fought for the legal rights of naturopathic physicians. Medical practice is regulated by each state, “so an ND can only practice within the scope regulated by law,” Guiltinan explains. Bastyr worked to keep naturopathy as a recognized profession in Washington and promoted “legislation to expand our scope of practice so we could use more modalities,” such as IV therapy. Bastyr also served two terms on the Naturopathic Advisory Committee to the state’s department of health.

In addition, Bastyr trained new generations of NDs, helping to establish the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in 1956. “He was a great mentor and role model. I would consult with him as often as I possibly could,” says Guiltinan.

When three of Bastyr’s students decided to start a school of their own in 1978, they agreed unanimously to name it after Bastyr. Guiltinan says he didn’t want that—“he was very humble”—but agreed with the founders’ desire to establish an institution that would advance naturopathic
medicine on a scientific basis. Today there are five such schools in the US (Bastyr itself has established a San Diego branch) and two in Canada.

Bastyr, who died in 1995, lived long enough to see his profession flourish. Guiltinan says his greatest legacy “is the care he had for his patients and how he went out of his way
for them. He was the quintessential family doctor.”

 

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UPDATE

Dogs Reduce Office Stress

As we learned in our April story “Winner’s Circle,” there’s a strong bond between show dogs and the
people who own and train them—a connection that can be just as solid when the dog in question is a mixed-breed shelter rescue. So it isn’t surprising that ownership of dogs (and pets in general) has been linked to health benefits that include lower blood pressure and increased exercise.

Now a study has found that taking your dog to work can reduce stress for both you and your coworkers.

A research team from Virginia Commonwealth University compared three groups of people among the 550 employees at a North Carolina firm: those who brought their dogs to work, those who kept them at home and those who didn’t own dogs. For one workweek, the study team evaluated the participants’ levels of stress and job satisfaction.

According to results published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, stress
levels went up over the course of the day for people without dogs in their work areas but down for those whose dogs were present. What’s more, employees would offer to take coworkers’ dogs on
walks, leading to more physical activity and positive feelings for everyone involved.

“Pet presence may serve as a low-cost wellness intervention readily available to many organizations,” says lead study author Randolph Barker, PhD.

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Folic Acid May Cut Cancer,

Heart Risks

Folic acid, best known for helping to prevent birth defects, has been linked to other health benefits in recently published research.

Polish scientists reported to the Annual Conference on Hereditary Cancers the results of a study that compared women who had breast or ovarian cancer with a group of healthy controls. All the women in both groups carried genetic mutations linked with these malignancies; those with the highest levels of folic acid “had a significantly lower risk of breast or ovarian cancer,” according to the research report. (Members of the same research team found a similar link between intake of selenium, a key trace mineral, and risk of breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.)

Scientists from two Chinese institutions have found a link between folic acid supplementation and reduced thickening of arterial walls, known medically as carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT). Thickening narrows arteries, leaving them more prone to being clogged by clots.

“CIMT has proved to be a good marker for the presence of early atherosclerosis,” the team wrote
in the journal Atherosclerosis. They said their investigation “demonstrated a significant linear relation between baseline CIMT levels the decrease of CIMT. These results provide further evidence that folic acid therapy is more suitable for populations with a high [cardiovascular disease] risk.”

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NUMBERS

Pricey Pounds

21%

Estimated percentage of U.S. healthcare spending
now accounted for by obesity
(compared with a previous estimate of 9%)

$2,741

Extra annual medical cost incurred by someone who is obese,
compared with normal-weight cost

Sources: Journal of Health Economics

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EDITOR'S CHOICE

Really Big Microbes

As a young lawyer, Drew Oliver had the brainstorm to create plush toys in the form of germs to teach youngsters about hygiene and good health. The softball-size stuffed toys were so popular that a decade later Oliver’s Stamford, Connecticut-based company, Giantmicrobes Inc., has expanded to include common microbes like the culprits behind the common cold [pictured above] and bad breath to more colorful bugs such as those that cause dengue fever and mad cow disease.

Our heads turned when we saw the Giant Microbes display at the International Toy Fair at the Javits Center in New York this year, as we encountered plush colorful microbes in even more categories, such as food (beer, yeast, yogurt), marine biology (red tide, algae) and, of course, an array of cells found in our bodies (nerve cells [pictured above], bone cells, red and white blood cells, and more).

“A lot of people think of getting ill as having a bad day, and you forget that it’s actually a little creature, and there are things you can do to help them stay away or help them move along,” says lawyer-turned-entrepreneur Oliver. “Without having a look at them you don’t
know that they’re there and that it’s a part of life.”

Each plush microbe comes with a description, its scientific name and an image of the actual microbes as seen under a microscope. Oliver’s microbes are one million times actual size.
This fall look for liver, cancer and muscle cells, as well as Norovirus, crab louse and an antibody.

 

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Kids and Food

It can be difficult to raise children with healthy eating habits in a chicken-fingers-and-french-fries world. But worrisome obesity rates—to say nothing of increased levels of type 2 diabetes and other serious disorders—among youngsters makes getting kids off on the right dietary foot crucial for their future well-being.

Barbara Rodriguez, who has worked as a nanny for more than two decades, sees the problem at close range. She says, “Our children are at risk of trudging through their lives on automatic pilot, fueled by fake food.”

To counteract this trend, Rodriguez has written The Organic Nanny’s Guide to Raising Healthy Kids (Da Capo). In addition to explaining how to replace the junk (especially sugar) in a child’s diet with healthier options, the book covers topics such as home detoxification, gentle plant-based remedies and wellness advice for mom.

Even normally healthy foods can harm some kids. In Feeding Eden (Sterling), New York teacher-turned-writer Susan Weissman chronicles how her son Eden’s food allergies have affected her
family.

After one scary incident, in which she had to rush Eden to the ER with uncontrollable swelling, “crazy and I became as intimate as lovers,” Weissman writes. That led her and husband Drew on a perplexing search for an answer to Eden’s problems—and eventually to engagement with the food allergy community at large and a system that works for them. “We have refashioned much of our lives,” Weissman says. “But we have what we need.”

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