A Wellspring for Our Community Renewing Mind, Body and Spirit From Stephanie Taylor, M.D., Ph.D.
“True wellness and deep healing is more than the application of a pill to a diagnosis. I have pioneered a new approach to healthcare that is based on personal and community wellness. Here is what this means:
The first community is you. Each person is a composite of their own life experiences and their own circle of support. Every factor needs to be evaluated to develop a picture of the whole person. Each element can then be recruited into the healing process.
The second community is where you live. The majority of public health research shows that the health of individuals is not separate from the health of the community. We have an obligation to ourselves to care for our community. This means taking the ecological initiative and also supporting the small businesses that are based in our community, especially our local farmers. Over time the community that you care for will also care for you.
The center of the program is the office visit. We offer 30 and 60 minute patient visits. This gives us enough time to really get to know you. The relationship does not end at the office visit. You will enter a supportive community linked by regular newsletters and educational programs. You will have the opportunity to re-discover yourself and the joys of living on the Monterey Peninsula. Visit Medical Program and Educational Program and see how this unique holistic program can benefit you and assist you in achieving your life’s purpose.”
- Eat organic-avoid “Dirty Dozen” (www.ewg.org), wash and peel non-organic
- Limit animal fat-source of lipophilic halogenated chemicals
- Limit fish to low mercury
- Animal protein (meat, dairy and eggs) should be organic fed/free range/hormone free
- Dairy should be free of rBGH
- Avoid canned goods
- Avoid food packaging
- Drink filtered H2O from non-plastic container
- Wash hands frequently with plain soap and water, not sanitizing soaps
- Limit touching receipts which may contain BPA
- Use only glass/metal containers
- Do not microwave in plastic containers
- Eliminate phthalate containing household items (PVC plastic), toys, personal care products
- Eliminate products containing “fragrance”
- Use non-toxic cleaning products (http://www.epa.gov/epp/pubs/cleaning.htm)
- Avoid chemical based dry cleaning
- Use a water filter which removes chemicals
- Avoid car exhaust and gasoline fumes, especially diesel
- Avoid skin lightening creams or home remedies that contain mercury
- Avoid sources of lead: pica, certain hobbies/occupations, lead contaminated dust from pre 1978 homes, and certain traditional remedies from overseas
- Remove shoes before coming in the home
- Wet mop floors regularly and vacuum with HEPA filter
- Avoid carpeting/furniture with flame retardants
- Subscribe to Integrated Pest Management techniques (http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/GENERAL/whatisipm.html) and avoid pesticide use/application in and around the home or on pets
- Use no/low VOC paint products
- Don’t burn trash
- Test homes for radon, use, carbon monoxide monitors
- Food Matters: In the Womb and Beyond, Health Care Without Harm: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zTfTBQ3Qi8
- The Human Experiment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3crXxGSemv4&feature=youtu.be
Genetics for you
Mini Medical School #6
December 5, 2015
Presented by Stephanie Taylor MD PhD
History of genetics:
Many of you are familiar with Gregor Mendel, who lived in the mid-19th century. He was an Augustinian friar who did significant genetic research. You may not know that he initially started his research with mice. Apparently his superiors felt that keeping mice in his monk’s cell was unseemly. In addition the fact that he was propagating mice by mating was also unseemly for celibate friar. His superiors suggested he work with another less human organism and he retreated to the safety of the lowly garden pea. His work was lost in obscurity until it was rediscovered in 1905. This work formed the foundation of modern genetic teaching of autosomal dominant and recessive inheritance. This is probably what you remember from your years in high school taking biology. For example, the gene for blue eyes is thought to be recessive. Two individuals with blue eyes should only have blue-eyed children. However a parent with brown eyes who carried a recessive gene for blue eyes married to another brown-eyed parent also carrying the recessive blue eyed gene, would have 25% possibility of having a blue-eyed child. We now know that inheritance is much more complex, even with a simple model such as eye color.
Watson and Crick published a paper proposing the double helix model of DNA in 1953. It’s not well known, however, that they got significant assistance from reviewing Rosalind Franklin’s x-ray crystallography data strongly supporting the double helical structure of DNA. Rosalind Franklin was a very gifted young scientist who did not get along well with her supervisor. While she was away from the laboratory, her supervisor showed her research to Watson and Crick providing critical insight on the correct 3-D configuration of the DNA helix. She is now getting the recognition that she deserves. Unfortunately Rosalind Franklin died very young of ovarian cancer and never shared the Nobel Prize with Watson and Crick.
The next major advance in genetics was nucleotide sequencing which began in 1977. It was originally a very slow and expensive process. Technology continued to improve and the human genome was sequenced in 2003 to much fanfare. This took a massive effort over a long period of time to sequence one person’s genetic code. Even though sequencing the human genome was a significant advance we still only knew about one individual. We knew the code but we did not know how the code was regulated. To learn more about this will need to look at a short video describing the process of translating the DNA code into a protein. This is called The Central Dogma.
Using the knowledge-Rare disorders
Let’s see how this knowledge has been applied. We will look at genetic research on rare disorders and direct to consumer genetic testing for ancestry and health risks. We will then move on to epigenetics-the regulation of the genome, pharmaco-genomics, nutri-genomics and the inheritance of acquired characteristics.
Rare disorders are a very fruitful field of study because there is often an identifiable underlying metabolic dysfunction that causes a significant disease. Understanding these rare dysfunctions often adds important details to our understanding of normal metabolism. Populations that are relatively small and have some degree of consanguinity have a higher frequency of rare mutations. A familiar example, is the BRCA gene which is much more common among Ashkenazi Jews than other Caucasians from Northern Europe. In the United States, the Amish population, which is quite small, also has a higher frequency of rare disorders.
The Clinic for Special Children in Pennsylvania is an extraordinary institution that is created for and supported by the Amish population. The clinic does cutting edge research, diagnosis and specific therapy for children with genetically determined diseases. If that was not extraordinary enough, the clinic is supported primarily by the Amish community annual craft fundraiser and private charitable grants. The Amish community donated the 2 ½ acres for the clinic site, gave the lumber and raised the building themselves. The advantage of community outreach and early intervention is illustrated in this family history. The older brother came to the clinic at four years of age already significantly disabled by his disorder. The metabolic defect was identified and after consultation with experts in the field he was successfully treated with a relatively common over-the-counter supplement called betaine. He recovered some neurological function, but remains partially disabled. His sister, born two years later, was treated immediately at birth and is entirely normal as long as she takes her supplement. This illustrates the importance of early diagnosis and intervention in metabolic genetic disorders. The gratifying part of this particular story is that the treatment is relatively easy and inexpensive once the diagnosis is established.
Significant discoveries beneficial to the larger population can come from studying relatively rare genetic variants. The Amish population has an unusually high frequency bipolar disorder, a source of tremendous suffering in the community. Careful investigation of affected persons identified a gene segment that may be a candidate for therapy. The function of this section of the DNA involves potassium movement across cell membranes and partially explains the cyclic nature of bipolar disease. Hopefully, further study will suggest a relatively simple and more direct treatment.
Using the Knowledge-Direct to consumer genetic testing
23 and me is the leader in direct to consumer genetic testing. 23 and me was founded by Linda Avey, Paul Cusenza and Anne Wojcicki in 2006. Their strength is the reliance on very large volumes of data (Metadata) and the computing power to perform deep analytics on that data. Right now they have over 1 million individual’s gene sequences. They have recently been FDA approved to reinstitute the health module and in the interim have been continuing to do their ancestry testing.
Testing is performed on a saliva sample results are obtainable in several weeks. It takes quite a while to amplify and sequence the DNA. This is done on highly sophisticated processing machines. Here is an entertaining short marketing summary of the journey of your DNA at 23 and me.
Even though your health report from 23 and me is somewhat constrained by FDA guidelines you do still have access to the raw data. The 23 and me website allows you to upload your raw data to other services. Dr. Taylor cannot endorse any of these sites but if you want to do your own independent research and are willing to assume the privacy risks they are reasonable options. This is an opportune moment to discuss privacy matters. When genetic testing was first developed many individuals refused testing because they feared discrimination by employers and insurance companies. Legislation was passed to prevent discrimination regarding employment and insurance coverage however that did not extend to life and disability health coverage. An additional concern is the possibility that your personal information could be hacked with the relatively small amount of information publically available on the Internet. This is a decision that you will have to make personally given your own unique situation.
Using the knowledge-Pharmacogenomics
Pharmacogenetics is the study of how your unique genetic constitution affects your response to prescription medications. It is a relatively new field combining pharmacology and genetics. Pharmacogenetics testing profiles an individual’s ability to activate and metabolize prescription medications. Individuals vary a great deal in their metabolic pathways. Knowing this information before prescribing a medication will help your physician prescribe a medication that will be both effective and have minimal side effects. This is the heart of The Precision Medicine initiative announced by Pres. Obama and funded for 2016. The tag line for this initiative is “the right drug, at the right dose, at the right time”.
Watch Jo Handelsman, Associate Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, explain the Precision Medicine Initiative.
Here is a familiar example of a drug-gene interaction that is entirely preventable. Cholesterol-lowering medications, despite all being HMG CoA reductase inhibitors, are metabolized differently. For example, Lipitor is metabolized in the liver by the 3A4 and 3A5 P450 system, Lescol by the C29 P450 system and Crestor is not metabolized at all, and is excreted unchanged. Consequently an individual whose 3A4 or 3A5 system was slow would have an increased risk of side effects by taking Lipitor. Cholesterol in that individual would be better controlled with a drug such as Crestor which is not dependent on the 3A4 and 3A5 systems.
Using the Knowledge-Nutrigenomics
Nutri-genomics is the study of the effect of foods on gene expression, colloquially put: you are what you eat. The research focuses on understanding the interaction between individual nutrients and regulation of DNA expression. This is a vast topic but one familiar example that is quite compelling are the foods that influence cancer risk. Examples of protective foods are green tea, carrots, leafy greens, turmeric, blueberries, raspberries, cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, grapes, plums, and berries. These foods respectively contain EGCG, beta-carotene, curcumin, delphinidin, isothocyanates, lycopene and resveratrol, and cumulatively confer significant protection against cancer.
Using the knowledge-The inheritance of acquired characteristics
Can you inherit memories?
There is very exciting recent research in both animal and human models demonstrating the transgenerational inheritance of experience. The most compelling research is done in mice, since several generations can be followed. In our example, mice are exposed to a strong odor and given a mildly painful stimulus. They associate the odor with a shock, and become afraid of the odor even when it is not paired with a shock. The olfactory receptor for this specific odor as well as the DNA code for expressing that receptor has been very well-characterized in the past. The mice continue to have a negative reaction to the odor even though the shock is been gone for a very long time. Of interest to you, is the observation that the fear of the specific odor is passed down to the next generation. Because it is possible that dysfunctional parenting may account for the offspring’s fear, the newborn pups were fostered to a mouse that had never been conditioned to be afraid of the odor. The offspring raised by foster parents still have the fear of the odor. Second generation mice born by in vitro fertilization using a fearful parents DNA also still had the fear of the odor. This suggests the presence of an inheritable modification of the DNA. Fortunately since this receptor and its code have been so well-characterized was possible to demonstrate a heritable change in the methylation of the DNA regulatory sequence which codes for that receptor. A more familiar example from human health is the inheritance of posttraumatic stress disorder. Many children of individuals who have severe PTSD have exaggerated fear responses, even though they have never been exposed to their parent’s traumatic situation. The children’s behavior was originally thought to be due to dysfunctional parenting but once again there is the research support for a heritable modification in the DNA. Additional research on these questions have been primarily carried out in mice however the implications to the human situation are compelling. It is possible to deconditioned the fear response and actually demonstrate changes on a molecular level in DNA methylation. Hopefully it will be possible to break the chain of suffering. The old adage that the sins of the father will be visited upon the future generations can be modified to include the sentence “unless we do something about it”.
As you can see, we are at the beginning of a big adventure in human health and genetics. I hope that this brief review has given you a foundation as well as a curiosity about future developments.MORE
Are you confused about the conflicting recommendations for breast cancer screening? Here is a quick summary of the issues.
The US Preventive Services Task Force's strongest recommendation was breast cancer screening every two years for low risk women aged 50-74. Starting earlier or continuing after 74 was an individual decision.
More recently the American Cancer Society (ACS) presented another set of recommendations for average risk women. Briefly, average risk means no personal risk of breast cancer, no genetic risk (e.g., BRCA), and no history of radiotherapy to the chest at a young age, no significant family history of breast cancer, no prior diagnosis of benign proliferative disease, and no significant mammographic breast density.
The new ACS recommendations are:
Annual screening, age 45-54.
Biennial screening at 55.
Younger women who desire screening should not be refused.
Screening should continue until the woman has less than 10 years of future life expectancy.
Physical exam of the breasts as a part of the annual exam and breast self-exam is not recommended. (Weak Recommendation).
The American College of OB-GYN responded by reaffirming their guidelines, which are annual screening for ages 40 and up, breast self-exam, and a medical breast exam as part of the annual exam for women aged 19 and up.
How do we make sense of these conflicting guidelines? Dr. Jennifer Harvey, Professor of Radiology at the University of Virginia discussed these conflicting recommendations in greater depth. Here is a summary of her opinion founded in her daily practice of breast cancer detection and prevention.
Breast cancer diagnosed in young women represents a more aggressive form of the disease, and these lives are worth saving. The down side of early screening is the increased risk of a false positive mammogram. If this is a major concern, consideration should be given to other imaging such as 3D tomography, which reduces false positives 15-30% and increases detection of invasive cancers 30-40%. Changing to screening every 2 years for low risk women is problematic because there is no accurate method to identify low and high risk women. For example, no risk assessment method accurately accounts for breast density.
Her recommendation is for women to start at age 40 with annual mammograms and continue as long as they are in good health and their life expectancy is 10 years or longer.
If you are interested in some background material on the upcoming Mini-Medical Schools, I have included a short annotated bibliography.
The August session will feature Francesca Ferrari, L.Ac. Doctor of Medical Qigong speaking on Chinese Medicine. The classic introductory book of Chinese Medicine for laypersons is: The Web That Has No Weaver by Ted Kaptchuk, OMD. This is a tour de force of the theory of Chinese medicine told by the acknowledged master. His manner is engaging and there are illustrations from daily life that bring the text alive.
The October session will be presented by MarthaElin Mountain, Ed.D., M.A., MFT. I heartily recommend her book Midlife Check-In: Who am I Really? This book reveals your unique midlife path not by telling, but by your own direct experience as you work through the interactive exercises. The text draws from the tradition of depth psychology which was enriched by generations of thoughtful and gifted women. A real gem of a book.
In December, we will talk about the new genetics and its impact on healthcare. You can get a wonderful, free book and other materials from the National Institute of Health website: http://publications.nigms.nih.gov/thenewgenetics/
I also strongly recommend you look at the crowd-sourced website for rare and chronic diseases, Patients Like Me: https://www.patientslikeme.com/
Have a wonderful summer.MORE
Mini-Medical School #3 2015
Calling Dr. Google?
By Cynthia Johnson, Medical Librarian, Natividad Medical Center
For our third Mini-Medical School of 2015, Cynthia Johnson, Medical Librarian for Natividad Medical Center spoke on searching the Internet for medical information.
She made it very clear that the Internet has no truth in advertising and showed us an amusing website selling dehydrated water. This product was available on Amazon, and she brought in a sample. We passed around the capsuled of non-existent water than can be reconstituted with common tap water. Having made clear that there is no regulation on the Internet, MS Johnson, gave is guidelines for evaluating website information and a portal for reliable sites.
With east coast flair, she enlightened us on the C-R-A-P Test for evaluating website content.
C= Currency- How recent is the information? When was the page updated?
R=Reliability- Is the content fact or opinion? Are there references to support statements?
A= Authority-Can you determine who the author is? What are their credentials? Who is the site sponsor?
P=Purpose/Point of View- What is the purpose if the website? Is it sales? If there are ads on the website, how do they relate to the content? Is the content sales directed or information directed?
There is some regulation of sites, and she showed us the HONCode, and HONSearch certification codes created by the Health on the New Foundation. More information is available at:
The Medical Library Association has also compiled a list of reliable sites and this is available at:
In closing, Cynthia reminded the audience that your local public library has resources for searching as well as interlibrary loans. She also pointed out that the Hartnell college library is open to the public and has a nice collection of medical information.
Our final discussion emphasized the importance of a dialogue with your physician. Internet searches will give you information, but you need the perspective of a seasoned physician to put the information into the context that fits your particular situation.
MiniMed # 2 April, 2015
Dr. Joanne Perron, MD, MPH
Our special invited speaker for the second 2015 Mini-Medical School, Dr. Joanne Perron, presented a massive amount of evidence on environmental contaminants that affect human health as well as clear actions you can take to protect yourself and your family.
Few of us really appreciate the extent of the problem, and when we do, it is so massive as to be paralyzing. This is what is facing us: there are more than 84,000 chemicals in commerce today and, of these, 62,000 were grandfathered into circulation without testing as GRAS (generally considered safe). Far from being safe, as industry claims, they are clearly identified by solid scientific research to be harmful, not only to ourselves but to future generations. The historic American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology 2013 Committee Opinion (partially authored by Dr. Perron) states “Exposure to toxic environmental agents is also implicated in increases in adverse reproductive health outcomes that emerged since WWII; these changes have occurred at a rapid rate that cannot be explained by changes in genetics alone, which occur at a slower pace.” The Endocrine Society issued a Scientific Statement in 2009 clearly outlining the risks. This Scientific Statement makes clear that the risks are real, and that the Precautionary Principle should apply. The Precautionary Principle applied means that current evidence indicates the risk is dire and we do not need to wait decades for additional scientific data. They also issue a call for additional research across specialty societies. This is everyone’s problem, and there is no escape. We live in a pristine environment, but we are close to conventionally farmed agricultural fields, and no one will forget the Light Brown Apple Moth aerial sprayings imposed on us without due process.
In Dr. Perron’s words “What’s a girl to do? Here is the list of action points and ready resources.