Richard G. Petty, MD

National Acupuncture Detoxification Association

I had the pleasure and privilege of being on Scott Cluthe’s show on Lime Radio this evening. It’s on Sirius Satellite Channel 114, and if you are interested in the new holistic worldview that is emerging all over the planet, I highly recommend Scott’s show and, in fact, all the shows that I have heard on Lime. I have also had a link to Lime website for some time now, and it always has a great deal of excellent material.

There were some excellent questions from listeners, and one caused me to do some research. The question was about the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA). The Association is a nonprofit that conducts training and provides public education about the use of acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment for addictions and mental disorders.

There is a substantial body of research literature on the topic of using acupuncture as part of a package of measures for treating substance abuse, and although it is still considered controversial in some quarters, it is being used in over 1,500 places around the world, and that does not include China and Japan, where I have seen acupuncture used a great deal in addictive disorders.

My own experience has been mixed. I have had little success I treating smoking addiction with acupuncture, though I have many colleagues who say that it is extremely helpful. I have had more success in using thought field therapy and homeopathy for treating smoking addiction, even though there is so far no good research data on the use of either for smoking.

If you are interested in the use of acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment for substance abuse, the NADA website if a good place to start.

Asthma, Air and Allergies

After a couple of weeks away I was distressed to see that I was going to be returning to a city which has just been rated as the most challenging place in America for people with asthma.

This is the list according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America:

  1. Atlanta
  2. Philadelphia
  3. Raleigh, North Carolina
  4. Knoxville, Tennessee
  5. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  6. Grand Rapids, Michigan
  7. Milwaukee
  8. Greensboro, North Carolina
  9. Scranton, Pennsylvania
  10. Little Rock, Arkansas

I am pleased to say that I do not have asthma, though I have a strong family history of it. If you live in one of these cities, or any other with a high rate of pollution, there is nothing much to be done apart from:

Staying indoors when the weather is bad

Using an air purifier

Keep to a diet designed to reduce your risk of inflammation

Use homeopathy and tapping therapies to help when necessary.

And sadly, for some people, medicines are the only option. But I always try the other approaches as well.

Pesticides, Weight Gain and Insulin Resistance

On this blog and in Healing, Meaning and Purpose, I have talked about some of the less well recognized contributors to obesity, including:

  1. Stress
  2. Salt
  3. Viruses
  4. Pesticides
  5. Intestinal bacteria

There is some new evidence from Korea published in the journal Diabetes Care, supporting the possible contribution of pesticides to insulin resistance.

People with high levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in their blood were more likely to develop insulin resistance, which may lead to type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance may also lead to obesity, hypertension and an array of other diseases. It is well recognized that increasing amounts of intra-abdominal fat may increase insulin resistance. It is less well known that this obesity is part of a viscous circle, with insulin resistance being associated with elevated insulin levels that may cause fat to be laid down throughout the body. Once the fat is laid down in the abdomen, it can break down, releasing fatty acids and triglycerides that in turn affect the breakdown of insulin by the liver and the release of insulin by the pancreas.

Previous research by the same group found a link between POPs and type 2 diabetes. This study confirms that background exposure to some POPs, chemicals such as organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), is also associated with insulin resistance among people who do not yet have diabetes.

The researchers also found that the association between organochlorine pesticides and insulin resistance became stronger as people got fatter. However, among people who had very low concentrations of pesticides in their blood, the researchers found little association between waist size and insulin resistance.

Some studies have suggested an association between background exposure to POPs and a variety of adverse health effects in humans and wildlife. POPs can be particularly problematic because they persist for long periods of time in the environment, accumulate up the food chain, and can travel great distances through the air and water. Therefore, even people and animals that live nowhere near a place where POPs are being applied often show high levels of these chemicals in their bloodstream.

An international treaty banning a dozen of the world’s most dangerous POPs has helped reduce exposures, but many harmful chemicals remain in use and even those that have been banned may linger in our environment for years to come. For example, chlordane was banned two decades ago in the United States but continues to be present at high levels in our food supply.

The researchers concluded that some POPs "may be involved in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance." They advise urgent prospective studies among those who have background exposure to POPs, which mostly comes from eating fatty animal foods. Since obesity may increase the toxicity of POPs, controlling weight could also help to reduce the impacts of these molecules.

In separate research involving mice, Frederick vom Saal from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri has studied the effects of a different class of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including bisphenol-A (BPA). Not long ago, BPA made news in San Francisco, where there was a lot of controversy over an ordinance that seeks to ban its use in children’s products. vom Saal’s most recent work was presented at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He found that endocrine-disrupting chemicals cause mice to be
born at very low birth weights and then very rapidly gain abnormally
large amounts of weight: they could more than double their body weight
in just seven days. Vom Saal followed the mice as they got older and
found that these mice were obese throughout their lives. He said
studies of low-birth-weight children have shown a similar
overcompensation after birth resulting in lifelong obesity.

(Regular readers might remember the concept of the thrifty phenotype, and see how this research ties in with that concept). More research must be done to determine which chemicals cause this metabolic effect. According to vom Saal, there are approximately 55,000 manmade chemicals in the world, and 1,000 of those might fall into the category of endocrine disrupting. These chemicals are found in common products, from plastic bottles and containers to pesticides and electronics.

These chemicals are so pervasive that it is difficult to avoid them, and there is scant evidence that "detoxification" helps clear them. That being said, and depsite the lack of evidence, we recommend certified organic produce and regular mild detoxification programs, together with nutritional support and  tapping therapies.

Daniel J. Benor's WHEE

I have become convinced that the so-called tapping therapies have a great deal to offer many people, as bizarre a they appear the first time that you encounter them!

I have recently come across another form of therapy developed by the holistic psychiatrist and author Daniel J. Benor. I have met Dan many times, and he is one of the most knowledgeable people that I know when it comes to healing, and this new technique seems to be helping a great many people.

He calls it WHEE: Whole Healing – Easily and Effectively, a.k.a. Wholistic Hybrid derived from EMDR and EFT.

Like the other tapping therapies, it seems often to be a quick way to release psychological and physical pains, and it is said to enhance performance in sports. Interestingly, it also seems to help some allergies. There are many helpful resources and a articles at the parent website: Wholistic Healing Research.

If you are looking for more options in your own path toward wellness, or if you have some stubborn problem to deal with, WHEE and the accompanying materials might well be worth your attention.


Back Pain, The Brain and Pain Cycles

A German research team using a specialized imaging technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to look at the differences between back pain sufferers’ and healthy volunteers’ brains found that individuals suffering from chronic low back pain also had micro-structural changes in their brains. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago by the lead researcher Dr Jurgen Lutz, a radiologist at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany.

DTI tracks the movement of water molecules in the brain’s gray and white matter. Individual water molecules are constantly in motion, colliding with each other and other nearby molecules, causing them to spread out, or diffuse. DTI allows us to analyze water diffusion in the tissues of the brain. In normal white matter, water diffuses in only one direction. So if they are moving in the “wrong” direction, we can use this as an indication that there are changes in the fiber pathways.

The investigators studied 20 patients who were experiencing chronic back pain with no precisely identifiable cause and 20 age- and gender-matched healthy volunteers. DTI was performed to measure the diffusion in several areas of each patient’s brain.

They discovered the brains of patients with chronic back pain had a more complex and active microstructure compared with the healthy volunteers’ brains.

The changes were found in regions of the brain associated with pain-processing, emotion and stress response, including the cingulate gyrus, postcentral gyrus and superior frontal gyrus.

Although it is possible that theses structural disturbances are a cause of chronic pain, it is more likely to be the other way round.

This leads us to a very important concept that is not talked about as much as it should be: it is the idea of pain cycles. Pain cycles can have a physical or psychological origin and are thought to be maintained by some of the centers in the brain that process pain and emotional distress. The two are often mixed together: pain is extremely common in both depression and in bipolar disorder, and pain can, of course, make you feel depressed.

Theses pain cycles will often persist for long periods after the original cause of the pain has gone. So we may continue to feel pain long after a broken bone has healed, or we may continue to suffer emotionally long after a bad relationship should have been dead and buried. Many interventions like acupuncture or injecting steroids or anesthetics into trigger points can interfere with the pain cycle. Similarly there are many therapies, including some of the tapping therapies, that seem to “re-set” some of the systems in the nervous and subtle systems of the body.

In my forthcoming book Sacred Cycles, I talk a lo about these vicious pain cycles and how to interrupt them.

“Pain is part of being alive and we need to learn that. Pain does not last forever, nor is it necessarily unbeatable, and we need to be taught that.”
–Rabbi Harold S. Kushner (American Rabbi Aligned with the Progressive Wing of Conservative Judaism and Writer, 1935-)

“Softness is a dream in every ache to become a better soul.”
–John Kells (Irish-born British Grand Master of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, 1940-)

Of Horses and Hearts

I live on a horse farm, so I see the interactions between horses and between horses and humans almost every day. Horses are extraordinarily sensitive creatures with their own sets of emotions and highly developed sense of propriety. They are also very good barometers for the emotional states of humans. We could not work out why one of the horses at another farm was consistently bratty with one particular rider, until we discovered that she was high on ecstasy. Her “energy” was a mess and it totally confused the horse.

On the other hand, horses are often used therapeutically with emotionally and mentally ill and handicapped children and adults. My old horse – Mr. Black – was a perfect therapy horse: nothing ever fazed him.

There is now some more research demonstrating one of the possible mechanisms by which horses may be able to pick up on a rider’s emotional states.

I have a couple of times mentioned some of the work being done at the Institute of HeartMath in California.

Some of their work is controversial, but most has been quite convincing.

I have for several years now been interested in the phenomenon of Heart Rate Variability (HRV). As the name implies, it is a measurement of the beat-to-beat variation in the heart’s rate. Alteration (primarily reductions) of HRV has been reported to be associated with various pathologic conditions like hypertension, hemorrhagic shock, and septic shock. It has found its role as a predictor of mortality after an acute myocardial infarction. It may also be disturbed in major depressive disorder.

I knew about it from the days that I worked at the National Heart Hospital in London, but Roger Callahan – the discover of Thought Field Therapy (TFT) – has been able to show that TFT is one of the few therapies that can normalize it. We also discussed it in the context of the vagal nerve and compassion.

From a pilot study by the Institute and Dr. Ellen Gehrke from Alliant University it appears that a horse’s heart rhythms reflect their emotional state and can respond to the emotional state of a nearby human. When in contact, a horse’s heart rate may mirror a human’s emotions, implying a close unspoken form of communication between the two.

The study took place at Dr. Gehrke’s ranch in San Diego, where electrocardiogram (ECG) recorders were placed on her and also on four of her horses. All five were monitored during a 24-hour period in which the horses were under a variety of normal conditions and activities such as eating, grooming or being alone. Measurements were also done while they were being ridden and accompanied by Dr. Gehrke.

The ECG recorders projected increased coherent HRV patterns for the horses during times of close, calm contact between them and Dr. Gehrke. Coherent HRV patterns have been shown to be the result of positive emotions and facilitate brain function.

Dr. Gehrke said, “Horses receive information from body language and give feedback. They don’t think very much, they feel. They are very emotional and honest. They also have a powerful impact on your sense of self and ability to lead.”

I don’t think that cardiac coherence is the whole story. They also respond to micro-movements – small movements of the legs, arms and trunk that are all but imperceptible to humans – and we have seen many of them sense events at long range. I travel a great deal and come home at odd times. But several witnesses saw Mr. Black start to become very excited 20-30 minutes before I would arrive home. In England, Rupert Sheldrake has amassed a considerable body of evidence to support those observations.

Nonetheless, this is very important research and I shall be very interested to see the final version once it has been subject to peer review.

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”
–Sir Winston Churchill (English Statesman, British Prime Minister, 1940-1945 and 1951-1955, and, in 1953, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1874-1965)

A man on a horse is spiritually as well as physically bigger than a man on foot.”
–John Steinbeck (American Writer and, in 1962, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1902-1968)

“Wherever man has left his footprint in the long ascent from barbarism to civilization we will find the hoofprint of the horse beside it.”
–John Moore (American Man of Letters and Former Archivist and Librarian for the State of Tennessee, 1858-1929)

“I’d rather have a goddam horse. A horse is at least human, for God’s sake.”
–J.D. Salinger (American Writer, Student of Advaita Vedanta and Recluse, 1919-)

And finally:
“In my opinion, a horse is the animal to have. Eleven-hundred pounds of raw muscle, power, grace, and sweat between your legs – it’s something you just can’t get from a pet hamster!”
–Unknown Author

A Very Useful Demonstration of Thought Field Therapy

I have written several times about the tapping therapies: primarily thought field therapy (TFT) and its child: emotional freedom technique (EFT). They also play a central role in the combination of techniques that I discuss in Healing, Meaning and Purpose, and my forthcoming book, Sacred Cycles.

Andy Hunt in the UK has a very nice blog, and I found a reference to another website for the Center for Integrative Psychotherapy. This one contains a very nicely done short video demonstrating TFT.

I’ve had a lot of experience with these therapies, and despite a paucity of research, they really do seem to work with a great many people. This video is a wonderful service: it shows you what to expect from treatment.

Thank you Andy for alerting me to the site, and thank you to Mary Sise for making the video and for making it available for free.

The Ethics of Complementary, Alternative and Integrated Medicine

In my recent item about ethics I mentioned that Paul Root Wolpe from the University of Pennsylvania is interested in the ethics of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), and, by extension, its offspring, Integrated Medicine. This caused some raised eyebrows, but it shouldn’t.

Using unorthodox therapies carries a number of ethical and moral responsibilities.

When I was still on faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, on one occasion I caused outrage amongst many friends using natural medicine, when I pointed out on a TV show that just because something’s natural doesn’t mean it’s safe. Think arsenic, deadly nightshade and hurricanes! But there is more to the ethics of CAM than just the safety of the treatments involved.

Just a few months ago I was asked to look at a study by someone claiming to debunk one of the tapping therapies. Neither the investigator nor the practitioners and patients inveigled into the “research,” understood the principles of informed consent. This is important: one of the many consequences of the Holocaust was a re-consideration of what to do with medical “data” collected by Nazi doctors in the most unprincipled ways imaginable. Should the data be kept, so that people would not have died in vain? Or should it be destroyed, because information from unethical experiments was tainted. After a great deal of heart searching, it was decided that any information obtained under those circumstances was likely to be junk. This is one of the reasons for the absolute insistence on informed consent. I shall say something else about consent in just a moment.

Let’s have a look at the ethical issues involved in CAM, because much of the criticism of the emerging models of healthcare has come from people genuinely concerned about patient welfare.

  1. If we do anything with or for an individual, there has to be informed consent. Informed consent includes full disclosure not just of the chances of efficacy, but also of the possible toxicity of a treatment and an agreement of what we hope to achieve. A therapist may want to balance your Qi and stop you getting sick in the future. You may just want to be rid of your headaches. When we ask about the chances of efficacy, we all run into the problem of positive bias. I was once planning some research with a very well known practitioner in the UK, who told me that he cured every single person he saw, whether they had cancer, schizophrenia, heart disease or anything else. I was astonished, and asked him for something to backup what he said. He flew into a rage! “How dare I question him?” he said.It soon turned out that although he probably was a genuine healer who got a lot of people better, he had no evidence at all. It was like a study in the medical arena in which the investigators decided that anyone who did not come back for treatment was cured! Not a common reaction if someone fails to turn up for an appointment!
  2. People often say to me that there can be no harm in giving someone a homeopathic remedy. And of course, from a purely physical and psychological perspective, that’s probably true. Though I once participated in an experiment in which I took the homeopathic remedy Pulsatilla, that is prepared from the Passion Flower. I had what is known as an exacerbation, and was unable to function for several hours. But we also need to think about some of the other things that can follow from using treatments that work at the level of the subtle systems. One of our biggest objections to people who believe that they can do acupuncture after a weekend course, is that acupuncture, homeopathy and the rest are powerful medicines. Putting a needle into the wrong part of a person’s anatomy may not just cause physical harm, but can do extraordinary things to a person’s subtle systems. A fact that is exploited in some martial arts. In the Jet Li movie Kiss of the Dragon, Jet uses acupuncture needles to do some extraordinary things. The filmmakers used little artistic license: with one exception I have personally seen all of the things demonstrated in the movie.
  3. I mentioned that informed consent includes full disclosure about the chances of efficacy and toxicity of a treatment and agreement on therapeutic goals. We can find ourselves in a real ethical dilemma when patients have unrealistic expectations for an untested remedy. Sometimes people don’t inform their patients realistically, and they rationalize it as either choosing not to remove hope or as providing support. But we have to be sure that we are not supporting potentially dangerous or harmful decisions. The problem is not necessarily the treatment itself. Using an untested treatment in place of something that we know can be effective can also lead us into difficult ethical waters. Regular readers will remember a sad case that I highlighted a few months ago.

I’m all for holistic therapy: the less invasive the better. I’ve spent the last 35 years helping develop new and better ways of integrating treatments.

But it’s really important to be realistic, to use what we know works and if we don’t know if a thing works, then to be totally honest with the individual, and keep meticulous records of why we want to use an untested remedy in combination with the conventional.

In the 1980s, the Research Council for Complementary Medicine began to train complementary practitioners in the basics of research, so that they could be better at obtaining informed consent and monitoring the effectiveness of treatments that they were using. We had some success, and it is high time that we helped practitioners in other parts of the world do the same thing.

Tapping Therapies

Hearing that my friends in the United Kingdom at were about to have a conference on Thought Field Therapy (TFT) was all the encouragement that I needed to write a few more words about TFT and some of the other tapping therapies. I made mention of two of them in a blog entry for February 28th 2006, and I have dedicated several sections to it in my book and CD series Healing Meaning and Purpose.

TFT was the creation of the psychologist Roger Callahan, who discovered that stimulating a number of acupuncture points while connecting with an negative emotion, thought, impulse or memory, could initiate a cascade of healthy neurological, chemical, emotional, cognitive and even physical effects. There is an interesting sidebar here. When I first came across his work, it seemed absurd. It looked like a collection of unproven techniques cobbled together into some sort of system. I worry about sick people being treated by ineffective therapies, so I was determined to debunk TFT. I was a little taken aback when I sent for some of the Callahan materials and saw a smoker permanently cured in about five minutes. Undeterred, I flew to California to expose what I thought might be another scam. Within two days, I discovered that it was no scam. Roger has indeed made an extraordinarily important discovery that supports the notion that the laws of healing are changing. As a simple example, I used one of Roger’s simplest treatments on inveterate smokers. The first 11 whom I treated all stopped smoking, and when I followed up almost one year later they still were not smoking. This could have been beginner’s luck or a placebo effect, but both are unlikely. We know a great deal about the duration of the effectiveness of placebos.

TFT is based on the concept that thought is a form of energy, structured by a field and that psychological problems are manifestations of distortions within “thought fields,” which Roger defines as “a complex of forces that serve as causative agents in human behavior.” He conceptualizes psychological problems as the consequence of “perturbations” in the thought field. These perturbations contain the information that triggers negative emotions, and they also have relationships with specific major acupuncture points on the body. Fixing these perturbations involves tapping specific points in a specific order, while doing a series of other small tasks.

An important aspect of TFT is the concept of psychological reversal. Roger calls this the energetic blockade of natural healing, caused by reversals in the flow of Qi through the acupuncture channels. It now seems that much of what has been described as therapeutic resistance, self-sabotage or lack of willpower is a result of psychological reversal. He has devised some deceptively simple treatments that have shown us that people’s difficulties were often not a matter of a lack of willpower at all, but were the result of reversed energy. Deal with that, and many problems can melt away.

Like Roger Callahan, I emphasize the importance of toxins, of extending our concept of them, so that we conceptualize them as units of rogue information. In recent years Roger has done pioneering work into how to track down and deal with them.

Not everyone will be helped with any single form of treatment, and even with the best therapists, TFT is not for everyone. However, when someone says that he or she has not been helped with TFT, it most often for one of these seven reasons:
1. The treatment has not been done quite correctly.
2. The problem has been only partially treated.
3. Psychological reversal has not been dealt with.
4. There are still some toxins lurking around.
5. There is more than one problem, and they haven’t both been treated. (Somebody who said that he felt silly doing TFT needed to treat that fear of appearing foolish and then getting on with the primary problem.)
6. The problem may need the help of someone trained in TFT.
7. The person may have needed a combination of therapies.

TFT is the original tapping therapy, but others have now sprung up, including Emotional Freedom Techniques, and I have just read a new book called the Tapping Cure that claims that tapping an array of points on the surface of the body, while at the same time doing a specific affirmation, can be just as effective.

I have tried all these techniques, with varying degrees of success. Not just for clinical problems, but also for sports and other types of performance. While I was recording the CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose, I several times found places where I fluffed my lines. On each occasion, the problem was resolved by tapping the border of my hand, because I was developing psychological reversal.

Unfortunately, proponents of each of these – and there are others – tend to be competitive with proponents of other techniques. And some enthusiasts have made some pretty incredible claims about what they claim to be able to cure. The competing claims really need to be resolved through empirical research.

Until we have that, I strongly suggest exploring the tapping techniques as adjuncts to other forms of therapy.

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