Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine ● Longevity Nutrition

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A wise shaman once said, “Don’t confuse compassion with sacrifice. The divine mother is a warrior who is fierce, fearless and full of compassion.” She does not bring forth life into this world with the dainty beauty that has befallen the stereotype of women. She births life as a bloody, ripping warrior whose battle cries reverberate through her body with the echo of a billion lives that came before her. Some made it. Most never survived that journey. Under the escort of Kali, they returned into loving arms of the place from where we all came. And here you stand on this Earth. One of the few whose DNA survived the journey over billions of years. One who survived the War of Nature[1] long before mammals even existed. Who survived famines and floods, droughts and disease, fires, volcanoes, and ice ages. One who defied predation. Much later your genetic material survived tribal wars and world wars, injustices, abuses and epidemics. Your DNA even survived childbirth. Along the journey, your triumphs picked up many friends along the way.

In 1953, Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA opened our naïve minds to the possibility that life could be as simple as a blueprint. Seemingly endless combinations of codons have been passed from generation to generation from the genesis of life itself. As we sorted through the simplicities of blue or brown eyes, red or blond hair, our genome taught us that an entire existence has come with us that we still don’t completely understand. What we once thought was “junk DNA” was later discovered to be our viral ancestors. One was given the name ERVWE1. Her very presence birthed our own ability to carry out placental development and thus, embryo survival[2].  Through coding for a protein called syncytin[3], she grants sperm and egg another chance to come together for another shuffle of adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. Without her, mammalian mothers cease to exist.

Later we discovered completely different type of DNA inside each cell that has nothing to do with the color of our eyes. This DNA resides inside the cell’s mitochondria and enables almost all living beings to convert food into energy. It is a bridge for nutrients between our inner world and Mother Earth. Whether it autogenously developed on its own or came from an ancient bacterium is still a mystery. Unlike the DNA that is passed on from the union of male and female, mitochondrial DNA comes exclusively from the mothers who have passed it through ova from generation to generation.

 

Another universe of genetic material that is passed from the mother is the microbiome. This is “the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic, and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space.”[4],[5]. These various bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses provide signaling that influences the inner workings of our entire body.   They support immune function, moderate inflammatory responses, generate vitamins that we are not capable of making, produce hormones from some of the foods we eat, help us to absorb minerals, and regulate the production of neurotransmitters. Most importantly, they allow our immune system to remain competitive with the rate of evolution of pathogens.

Comprised of the same creatures found in the Earth itself, this genetic material that we carry inside us has been passed down through thousands of generations. Most animals on the planet, including many (and possibly all) born through eggs[6] receive this life-giving inoculation of Earth as they pass through their mother’s birth canal.

Just a few years ago on February 15th, 2001 we saw our first glimpse of a complete human genome published in the journal Nature. What we thought was a blueprint for solving the mysteries of human disease quickly clouded our concept of the things that us grant us a long and healthy life. Numerous studies appearing in prestigious journals have shown us again and again that genetics plays only a small role in the outcome of our lives[7] [8] [9]. In fact, as little as 10% of our health and longevity is determined by our genetic programming. The rest comes from the daunting myriad of external influences encompassed by entire universes about which we know very little. After all, we’ve only cultured and identified less than 1% of the life within soil, which carries the same microorganisms as our bodies.   The rest is still a mystery. Perhaps understanding them from a scientific basis carries little merit. Wisdom has been passed down in many forms. The original innate wisdom requires no explanation. Its knowledge lies in the very fact that we share this space and time with millions of other creatures whose DNA also survived this epic journey. Because they are here, we are here. Compliments of the fierce compassion of our mothers who carried forth pieces of The Living Goddess.

[1] Darwin, Charles M.A. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. 24 November 1859. Nature 1st ed.) (London: John Murray) p. 503

[2] Lavialle C, Cornelis G, Dupressoir A, Esnault C, Heidmann O, Vernochet C, Heidmann T. (Aug 2013). “Paleovirology of ‘syncytins’, retroviral env genes exapted for a role in placentation.”. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 368 (1626). doi:10.1098/rstb.2012.0507. PMID 23938756

[3] Esnault C, Cornelis G, Heidmann O, Heidmann T (2013) Differential Evolutionary Fate of an Ancestral Primate Endogenous Retrovirus Envelope Gene, the EnvV Syncytin, Captured for a Function in Placentation. March 23, 1013. PLoS Genet 9(3): e1003400. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003400

[4] Lederberg J, McCray AT. ’Ome Sweet ’Omics—a genealogical treasury of words. Scientist. 2001;15:8

[5] The NIH HMP Working Group. 2009. The NIH Human Microbiome Project. Genome Res. 2009 December; 19(12): 2317–2323.

[6] University of Georgia “Healthy Intestinal Bacteria Found Within Chicken Eggs.” Science Daily June 3 2008.

[7] Prof Salim Yusuf DPhil,Steven Hawken MSc,Stephanie Ôunpuu PhD,Tony Dans MD,Alvaro Avezum MD,Fernando Lanas MD,Matthew McQueen FRCP,Andrzej Budaj MD,Prem Pais MD,John Varigos BSc,Liu Lisheng MD,on behalf of the INTERHEART Study Investigators Effect of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with myocardial infarction in 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study

The Lancet – 11 September 2004 ( Vol. 364, Issue 9438, Pages 937-952 )

DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(04)17018-9

[8] Mozaffarian D, Kamineni A, Carnethon M, Djoussé L, Mukamal KJ, Siscovick D. Lifestyle Risk Factors and New-Onset Diabetes Mellitus in Older Adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(8):798-807. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.21.

[9] Steingraber, Sandra. Living Downstream.   Reading, Mass., Addison–Wesley, 1997 “80% of all cancer is attributable to environmental [external] influences.”(Steingraber, 1998 p 60)

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With the best of intentions are we slowly rendering our population incapable of developing natural, adaptive immunity?  In his upcoming book, Doc, Terry Grossman M.D. gives a powerful example of this as he discusses the pros and cons of vaccines.  I would like to expand on the subject.

In 2005, a study by W Katherine Yih et al, was published demonstrating that from 1998-2003 “As varicella vaccine coverage in children increased, the incidence of varicella (chickenpox) decreased [by 79%] and the occurrence of herpes zoster (shingles) increased [by 90%]”. These figures are beyond statistically significant.  Similar trends were observed in several areas where the varicella vaccine was initially introduced.  The explanation for the unexpected emergence of shingles was this.  In any given population, there would have been an ongoing percentage of people with active varicella infection.  Chronic, low-grade exposure to the virus throughout the population ensures that it remains on the immune system’s “radar screen” and is therefore kept at bay by our own adaptive immunity.  Vaccinations work in a similar fashion.  Another study done by Bryson et. Al. predicted that “a substantial increase in herpes zoster cases over the first 30–50 years after the initiation of mass vaccination, peaking about 20 years after the start of mass vaccination at an incidence of 51 percent over the pre-vaccination level and eventually falling below the initial incidence”. doi: 10.1016/S0264-410X(02)00180-9  Another study conducted in Germany also concluded there was sufficient evidence to suggest that varicella vaccinations lead to higher incidents of herpes zoster in the older population.

To be objective, before 2003, herpes zoster was not identified as a nationally notifiable disease, and no states in the US required reporting of cases.  The study mentioned above seems to have accounted for record discrepancies within the chosen test site.  However, a study came out in 2008 doi: 10.1086/522162 demonstrating that some areas where the varicella vaccine was introduced saw minimal change in reporting of herpes zoster cases.  There is one claim in this study that I take major issue with. They state “Evidence from population-based studies suggests that rates of HZ [herpes zoster] were increasing in the United States before the introduction of the varicella vaccination program.”  Another study  states that the incidence of herpes zoster has been increasing since 1945.  In both of these studies, several crucial data points were not accounted for.  First, there was no oversight or requirement in reporting of herpes zoster events before the introduction of the vaccine in 1995.  Second, access to health care has increased between 1945 and the present.  Reports of incidents would not have been consistent through any subsection of the general population.  I’m not saying they don’t have some valid points but in a scientific paper, these are presumptive and irresponsible statements.  Their conclusion should have been that the data is inconsistent and not available.

There are always unknowns.  However, the current research suggests that the introduction of the varicella vaccine saved an average of 90 lives per year and created an anthropogenic chasm in an entire system, between virus and human, that had evolved over the millennia to reach a steady state.  Trends like this have the potential to remove human beings from the interconnected web of Evolution and Natural Selection.  In this way, technology loses its place as a luxury and instead becomes a necessity of human survival.

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