Sunday, September 25, 2016

Could it Be B12; An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses

Could it Be B12?; An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses”, by Sally M. Pacholok, R.N., B.S.N. and Jeffery J. Stuart, D.O., appears to be written by people who work in a clinical setting where they routinely see people misdiagnosed with fatal conditions when all they have is a severe vitamin B12 shortage. The book is primarily a compilation of misdiagnoses cases and the patients’ amazing recoveries, often within hours of receiving a B12 shot. The stories raise troubling questions about how the current medical establishment has a tendency to diagnose older Americans with untreatable chronic conditions without further investigation, even something as simple as an inexpensive B12 blood test.

Initially I was unhappy that the book did not provide an explanation about why B12 is so important for your health.  So I started to research what B12 does in the body and I learned that it does so many critical functions that it would require another book to explain them all. Having investigated  B12 made reading the book more enjoyable for me as I could see how a lack of B12 could lead to all the misdiagnosed conditions mentioned. Below is list of some of the things B12 does for our bodies:
·       B12 is required for the formation of red blood cells. Red blood cells (the hemoglobin inside red blood cells) carry oxygen to the body from the lungs and carbon dioxide to the lungs to be expelled.
·       B12 is needed to convert heart and vessel damaging homocysteine to healthy methionine. Methionine is needed to make S-adenosylmethione, which is needed to make DNA for cell replication and to make RNA.
·       B12 is needed for the metabolism of every cell in our body.

Every cell in the body needs B12 to function properly which explains why a shortage of it can cause symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis (MS). A shortage can also cause mental illness, heart disease, an impaired immunity system, auto immune diseases, cancer, infertility, autism, and brain damage in children.  

As I read through the stories and symptoms of acute B12 shortage I started wondering if I might have a B12 shortage. The authors implore readers to get a B12 blood test before taking B12 supplements to see if you actually have a B12 shortage.  According to them, the minimum level is 450pg/ml, which is 80% percent above the current recommended 250pg/ml. Of course I totally ignored their advice to get a blood test and began taking B12 supplements. I took the type they recommended, methyl cobalamin, 2 mg or 2000mcg, in a sub lingual pill.

The book does an excellent job of explaining the reasons why older people tend to be short of B12. Many medications keep B12 from being absorbed in the intestines and to get B12 from food requires the right stomach acid strength and a critical enzyme.  If these are missing, it is easy to get short of B12. The authors recommend taking B12 as a shot or as a sub lingual pill that you dissolve under your tongue to help bypass stomach acid and enzyme problems.

The book gives great advice about B12’s interactions with other drugs. Folic acid, for example, which is taken as a supplement by some people, masks a B12 shortage.  I was surprised that the authors didn’t make a distinction between the natural version of folate and synthetic made folic acid; my research about folic acid indicates it has lots of negative side effects that natural folate (which is in fresh lettuce and greens) does not. I take folate supplements with my B12.

The book was a great read that inspired me to start taking B12 supplements with my folate and B6 supplements. So far the result have been very positive; I feel like I have more energy and my memory is improving.  I recommend reading it, especially if you are over 50. Five Stars. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

This book, by Rebecca Skloot, tells the extraordinary story of how Henrietta Lacks’s cancer cells became immortal. On one level the book detailed how cancer researchers in the 1950's were able to keep Henrietta’s cancer cells alive in the laboratory and how her immortal cancer cells led to amazing things such as making the Salk polio vaccine available, discovering chemicals that caused cancer, and designing drugs for chemotherapy. Researchers learned how cells grow, how DNA works, and so many fundamental discoveries in biology and medicine from research on Henrietta’s cells that many biologists believe her cells were the single biggest development in biology in the 20th century.  

On another level the book told the personal story of Henrietta Lacks and how destructive her death from cervical cancer was to her family. The book moved between the personal story of Henrietta’s family and the revolutionary discoveries and huge profits in the pharmaceutical industry made from her cancer cells.

The most disturbing part of the story was that the family was never told that their mother’s cells were being grown in thousands of laboratories around the world. Her cells were unique and amazing because they quickly grew in a lab and unlike other cells, if cared for, they never died. Countless researchers have worked with her cells, known in laboratory circles as HeLa cells for the first two initials of her name. Many of the researchers who made discovery after discovery using her cells became curious about Henrietta Lacks.

Over time a huge scientific controversy developed between rich and famous cancer researchers who had identified eight unique types of cancer cells and a young scientist who claimed the eight unique properties were all in fact just HeLa cells. This made previous cancer research not only invalid but a waste of hundreds of millions of dollars. The only way to prove the young scientist’s claim was to get a DNA sample from Henrietta’s now grown children. Although the family was living in incredible poverty, they freely gave blood samples to help the researchers. However, the researchers leaked their names to the press and the subsequent stories written about them caused the family great distress.  They had no idea that their mother’s cells were still alive and being grown in laboratories around the world. The staggering poverty of the family of a woman whose immortal cancer cells had revolutionized 20th century medicine stood in stark contrast to the billions of dollars the pharmaceutical industry generated every year from discoveries using her cells.

At the end of the book, it described the legal cases that determined that when you give a tissue or blood sample to your doctor, you lose all rights to it.  Researchers and companies have taken peoples’ samples during the course of their treatments, patented their DNA, and made billions using it for unique treatments.  I would never have guessed.

In spite of what sounds like very dry subject matter, I found the book compelling and entertaining and I could not put it down.