January 23, 2012

The wonders of historical medicine.

I have been collecting old medical tomes for years now and always marvel at the crazy things that we called medicine back in the day.

Think about leaches and blood letting or purging evil spirits with emetics or sanitariums for tuberculosis! Back in the early 1900's to 1950's there was a condition known as enlarged thymus and thymic asthma. The thymus is a gland in the neck that is critical to immune function. Doctors believed that this enlarged gland was a cause of sudden infant death and other disorders. The treatment was radiation to the thymus the equivalent of 10 modern CT scans! The result - cancer and autoimmunity in these patients and early death.

Fast forward to the 1970's and beyond. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids must be a problem of the tissue and thus they started to be removed. Few people are looking in to "why are these glands enlarged?" Again we have an organ that is important in immune function being pulled out. I find that in my practice the enlarged immune glands are a response to immune dysregulation and are overactive. The root cause needs to be established.

Often we see this with milk protein intolerance or wheat intolerance. In a 2011 study by Van Den Aardweg et al in the British Medical Journal they showed that removal of the adenoid has no effect on recurrent upper respiratory infections, colds. Removing the tonsils and adenoids will help reduce ear infections but at what cost? Use this treatment as a last resort after exhausting other food elimination options. Ideally, the answer is not removal but understanding the root cause.

Today, recent data is proving another myth wrong. The appendix is thought to be vestigial and non functional. Robb Dunn at NC state has turned this myth upside down. It turns out that if you do not have your appendix, you are at increased risk of serious bacterial infections like clostridium difficile. The appendix' function is to recolonize your intestines with friendly bacteria, commensal, after an infection or with intestinal dysbiosis. Having the appropriate bacteria in your intestines is crucial to your health. Therefore, it appears that your appendix is necessary as well.

Finally, junk DNA is a term that I learned in medical school. It was used to describe the portion of our genes that we did not understand. To believe that we actually called a part of the body "Junk" is absurd. The medical community thought that this part of DNA was just a space filler. The epigenetics movement has proven that junk DNA is actually an active part of the signaling system between the environment and our genome. It is another elegant display of our incredible human body.

Every piece of our body has an important function despite our lack of knowledge in it.

My take home point today: Don't remove any part of your body unless you are left with no choice!!!!!

Common sense,

Dr. Magryta