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detox

Detoxing is a scam, isn’t it?

Detoxing is a scam.
So says The Guardian in a new feature that has been reverberating around the internet, ruffling feathers and eliciting nods of agreement in equal parts.

The word detox, originally used to describe the treatment of those with life-threatening addictions to drugs or alcohol, has been “hijacked”.

“The word [has been] hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated,” says Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University.

Assuming our bodies are healthy we already have a perfect detoxification system in the form of kidneys, a liver, skin and lungs, he says.

Claims therefore of needing to “cleanse” our body of “toxins” through various treatments are bogus, Ernst argues.

Or are they?

The debate is, in part, one about semantics.

“It’s all about what you define ‘detoxing’ as,” says Dr Kerryn Phelps, an adjunct professor at Sydney University’s faculty of medicine as well as the founder of Sydney Integrative Medicine.

“I use it to describe removing as many of the potentially health-affecting chemicals from your body as you can.

“There are, Phelps says, a range of chemicals associated with cancers, chronic illnesses and undefined illnesses like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

She also says that the emerging science of epigenetics is revealing the way certain chemicals can switch our genes on or off.

“When people take those unnecessary chemicals out of the body, they tend to feel better, they lose weight and symptoms like headaches and lethargy often disappear,” Phelps says.

Kirsten Shanks, nutritionist, naturopath and founder of Orchard St Juices says reducing exposure to such chemicals is the basis for many “detoxes” and helps the body’s own detoxification mechanism.

The Guardian article calls environmental toxins ‘elusive’,” she says.

“If only they were. The literature suggests that PCBs, pesticides, Bisphenol-A, dioxins, phthalates and heavy metals are around us in increasing levels and we know that long-term exposure to these chemicals have some very serious health outcomes.

“Detoxification is a naturally occurring and efficient bodily process, but even in healthy people the system can come under strain. A legitimate detox product is one that serves to reduce that strain.”

As with many industries, however, there are plenty of shonky products and claims within the wellness sphere.

In 2009 scientists called out a range of products, including shampoos, supplements and smoothies that claimed to “detoxify”. Not one of the manufacturers could provide evidence for their claims, The Guardian article notes.

“It’s a scandal,” Ernst fumed to The Guardian. “It’s criminal exploitation of the gullible man on the street and it sort of keys into something that we all would love to have – a simple remedy that frees us of our sins, so to speak. It’s nice to think that it could exist but unfortunately it doesn’t.”

Naturopath and founder of The Body Harmony Society Cassie Mendoza-Jones is in two minds about this.

“One side of me completely agrees in that the idea of detoxing all of your impurities does indeed sell you ‘things’, and it also sells the most precious commodity of all – hope. The hope that you can cleanse your body of that drinking binge or chocolate mud cake by simply drinking a greens powder,” she says.

“I don’t think we need to live our lives believing that every wrongdoing can be fixed with a colonic (it can’t) and I do believe the body’s eliminatory organs are working 24 hours a day to cleanse your body of impurities, but with many peoples’ toxic lifestyles, a little natural helping hand can only … well, help.

Accredited practising dietitian Jessica Bailes is also ambivalent about the idea of detoxing.

“There are two types of detoxes: those that are dangerous, because you’re starving your body of the nutrients it needs. These include the juice detox and the lemon detox. I would definitely steer clear of those,” she says.

“The other is those that are really just a health kick with some extra supplements a company is trying to make a big profit off – those aren’t dangerous, but they are a waste of money.”

Kirsten Shanks argues that people enjoy juice fasts because fresh vegetable juices can provide them with a range of nutrients in an easily absorbable form, while they also put a pause to putting crap into their system.

It is a chance to reset.

“They also provide a good stepping stone into a more conscious diet in the longer term,” she says of juice “cleanses”.

On this point, Bailes agrees.

“What a ‘detox’ can do is break unhealthy habits,” she says. “For example, a chocolate ‘detox’ could be three weeks without chocolate, which may break that habit of a chocolate every day from the vending machine at work … It takes 21 days to form a habit, so a ‘detox’ may be a great way to set up some healthy habits.”

Phelps  is also uneasy about “detox” treatments, including colonics and “starving yourself” on juice or herbal cleanses.

“These sorts of practices are, to me, not medically sound or in the best practice of wellbeing,” she says. “If you’re young and fit and do a juice fast for a week, you’ll be fine, but if you have diabetes or a range of other health problems, you have to be very careful.

“I don’t think one size fits all.”

For her, it comes back to definitions.

“What is the ‘tox’ in ‘detox’,” she asks.

“There are things that are easy to change – removing things like nicotine and alcohol, which is now listed as a grade one carcinogen. Look at things in your household too.”

She suggests throwing away products that are filled with “unpronounceable chemicals” and replacing them with products that are “better for you and better for the environment”.

Avoiding preservatives, fillers and artificial flavours and colours in your food is another place to start.

“‘Detoxing’ is about cleaning up your act,” Phelps says. “It’s saying I’m going to make a mindful decision to make healthier choices. That is what I consider a ‘detox’.”

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‘Superbugs’ Kill India’s Babies and Pose an Overseas Threat

AMRAVATI, India — A deadly epidemic that could have global implications is quietly sweeping India, and among its many victims are tens of thousands of newborns dying because once-miraculous cures no longer work.

These infants are born with bacterial infections that are resistant to most known antibiotics, and more than 58,000 died last year as a result, a recent study found. While that is still a fraction of the nearly 800,000 newborns who die annually in India, Indian pediatricians say that the rising toll of resistant infections could soon swamp efforts to improve India’s abysmal infant death rate. Nearly a third of the world’s newborn deaths occur in India.

“Reducing newborn deaths in India is one of the most important public health priorities in the world, and this will require treating an increasing number of neonates who have sepsis and pneumonia,” said Dr. Vinod Paul, chief of pediatrics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the leader of the study. “But if resistant infections keep growing, that progress could slow, stop or even reverse itself. And that would be a disaster for not only India but the entire world.”

In visits to neonatal intensive care wards in five Indian states, doctors reported being overwhelmed by such cases.

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Mothers and newborns shared a bed at a hospital in Haryana.

“Five years ago, we almost never saw these kinds of infections,” said Dr. Neelam Kler, chairwoman of the department of neonatology at New Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, one of India’s most prestigious private hospitals. “Now, close to 100 percent of the babies referred to us have multidrug resistant infections. It’s scary.”

These babies are part of a disquieting outbreak. A growing chorus of researchers say the evidence is now overwhelming that a significant share of the bacteria present in India — in its water, sewage, animals, soil and even its mothers — are immune to nearly all antibiotics.

Newborns are particularly vulnerable because their immune systems are fragile, leaving little time for doctors to find a drug that works. But everyone is at risk. Uppalapu Shrinivas, one of India’s most famous musicians, died Sept. 19 at age 45 because of an infection that doctors could not cure.

While far from alone in creating antibiotic resistance, India’s resistant infections have already begun to migrate elsewhere.

“India’s dreadful sanitation, uncontrolled use of antibiotics and overcrowding coupled with a complete lack of monitoring the problem has created a tsunami of antibiotic resistance that is reaching just about every country in the world,” said Dr. Timothy R. Walsh, a professor of microbiology at Cardiff University.

Indeed, researchers have already found “superbugs” carrying a genetic code first identified in India — NDM1 (or New Delhi metallo-beta lactamase 1) — around the world, including in France, Japan, Oman and the United States.

Anju Thakur’s daughter, born prematurely a year ago, was one of the epidemic’s victims in Amravati, a city in central India. Doctors assured Ms. Thakur that her daughter, despite weighing just four pounds, would be fine. Her husband gave sweets to neighbors in celebration.

Three days later, Ms. Thakur knew something was wrong. Her daughter’s stomach swelled, her limbs stiffened and her skin thickened — classic signs of a blood infection. As a precaution, doctors had given the baby two powerful antibiotics soon after birth. Doctors switched to other antibiotics and switched again. Nothing worked. Ms. Thakur gave a puja, or prayer, to the goddess Durga, but the baby’s condition worsened. She died, just seven days old.

“We tried everything we could,” said Dr. Swapnil Talvekar, the pediatrician who treated her. Ms. Thakur was inconsolable. “I never thought I’d stop crying,” she said.

A test later revealed that the infection was immune to almost every antibiotic. The child’s rapid death meant the bacteria probably came from her mother, doctors said.

Health officials have warned for decades that overuse of antibiotics — miracle drugs that changed the course of human health in the 20th century — would eventually lead bacteria to evolve in a way that made the drugs useless. In September, the Obama administration announced measures to tackle this problem, which officials termed a threat to national security.

Some studies have found that developing countries have bacterial rates of resistance to antibiotics that are far higher than those in developed nations, with India the global focal point.

Bacteria spread easily in India, experts say, because half of Indians defecate outdoors, and much of the sewage generated by those who do use toilets is untreated. As a result, Indians have among the highest rates of bacterial infections in the world and collectively take more antibiotics, which are sold over the counter here, than any other nationality.

A recent study found that Indian children living in places where people are less likely to use a toilet tend to get diarrhea and be given antibiotics more often than those in places with more toilet use. On Oct. 2, the Indian government began a campaign to clean the country and build toilets, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly sweeping a Delhi neighborhood. But the task is monumental.

“In the absence of better sanitation and hygiene, we are forced to rely heavily on antibiotics to reduce infections,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, vice president for research and policy at the Public Health Foundation of India. “The result is that we are losing these drugs, and our newborns are already facing the consequences of untreatable sepsis,” or blood infections.

Some health experts and officials here say that these killer bugs are largely confined to hospitals, where heavy use of antibiotics leads to localized colonies.

But India’s top neonatologists suspect the large number of resistant infections in newborns in their first days of life demonstrates that these dangerous bacteria are thriving in communities and even pregnant women’s bodies.

“Our hypothesis is that resistant infections in newborns may be originating from the maternal genital tract and not just the environment,” Dr. Paul said in an interview.

In a continuing study in Delhi at several government-run hospitals that has so far included more than 12,000 high-risk newborns, and was made available to The New York Times, about 70 percent of the babies’ infections were found to be immune to multiple powerful antibiotics, confirming the results of earlier and smaller studies.

Doctors interviewed in hospitals across India said that a large number of the infections they found in newborns were resistant to many antibiotics. Awareness of the problem has begun to grow, with Indian medical associations calling for efforts to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use. But there is keen sensitivity here to any alert to the dangers. A 2010 discovery of a New Delhi “superbug” caused intense controversy because of fears that publicity would threaten India’s profitable medical tourism industry. Government officials have stopped some studies of the problem, Dr. Walsh said.

The effects of antibiotic-resistant bacteria on treating disease in India could be enormous. Tuberculosis is just one example of the challenges doctors face. India has the world’s largest number of cases, and recent studies using the latest genetic tests have shown that as many as 10 percent of untreated patients in places as far apart as Mumbai and Sikkim have resistant infections. These patients are catching resistant bugs at home, not hospitals, making the epidemic very difficult to control, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, director of the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis, said in an interview.

“It’s startling and very worrying,” Dr. Swaminathan said. Unless the government makes profound and drastic changes, tuberculosis in India may soon become untreatable, she said.

Although resistant bugs are everywhere here, hospitals have become factories for untreatable “superbugs.” A government program that pays women to have babies in hospitals has in 10 years more than doubled the share of hospital-born babies to 82 percent, but the government did little to increase hospital capacity to deal with the crush. Maternity wards often have two and three women in each bed, allowing infections to spread rapidly.

Besides being desperately crowded, many hospitals are unhygienic, allowing the bugs to flourish. A Unicef survey of 94 district hospitals and health centers in Rajasthan last year found that 70 percent had possibly contaminated water and 78 percent had no soap available at hand-washing sinks, while 67 percent of toilets were unsanitary.

Doctors across India have responded to the sanitation crisis in hospitals by giving antibiotics freely.

In Haryana, for instance, almost every baby born in hospitals in recent years was injected with antibiotics whether they showed signs of illness or not, Dr. Suresh Dalpat, deputy director of child health in the state of Haryana, said in an interview. “Now, with proper training, we are bringing that down.”

All those drugs create resistant bacteria that find their way into hospital sewage, which is mostly dumped untreated into rivers, canals and pits in the surrounding community where pregnant women can become infected.

The most frequent causes of resistant newborn infections in India are bacteria like Klebsiella and Acinetobacter, which are found in untreated human waste. Such bacteria rarely infect newborns in developed nations, said Dr. Paul.

India and other developing nations are by no means alone in threatening the future of antibiotics. Overuse of the drugs in chicken, hog and cattle farms in the United States has led to the rise of resistant strains there, and research has shown that as much as half of antibiotic prescriptions in the United States are unnecessary.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated last year that two million people are sickened by resistant bacteria every year in the United States and 23,000 die as a result. But efforts to crack down on inappropriate antibiotic use in the United States and much of Europe have been successful, with prescriptions dropping from 2000 to 2010. That drop was more than offset, however, by growing use in the developing world.

Global sales of antibiotics for human consumption rose 36 percent from 2000 to 2010, with Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa accounting for 76 percent of that increase. In India, much of that growth has been driven by private doctors who deliver about 90 percent of care here and are often poorly trained. Much of these doctors’ income comes from drug sales.

Just as worrisome has been the rapid growth of India’s industrialized animal husbandry, where antibiotics are widespread. Most large chicken farms here use feed laced with antibiotics banned for use in animals in the United States. A New Delhi science group recently found antibiotic residues in 40 percent of chicken samples tested.

But the effects in children are perhaps the most heart-wrenching. After her baby’s death a year ago, Ms. Thakur, 21, was soon pregnant again. She gave birth on Sept. 21 to a baby girl. On a visit shortly after the baby’s birth, Ms. Thakur was shivering from a severe infection while staying in a home with no toilet or running water. She nursed her tiny infant, Khushi, under a small shrine with pictures of Durga and Krishna.

 

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New vaccine for deadly H3N2 virus flu mutation being produced by CSL in Australia

VACCINE manufacturer CSL has worked “around the clock’” to produce a new influenza jab in time for the upcoming season after a mutated strain caused havoc in the northern hemisphere.

More than 100 children have died in the US because of the H3N2 virus mutation, which has rendered the pre-prepared vaccine for 2014-2015 useless.

The deadly strain has forced Australian producers to ­­develop an entirely new vaccine, stretching resources and ­pushing production back by a month.

“In order to produce a whole new vaccine, it takes more time, they needed an extra month, but by changing the strain we are covering for the strains that have caused all the problems in the northern hemisphere,” Professor Robert Booy, from the Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee, said.

“The 2015 southern hemisphere influenza vaccine will contain three seasonal ­influenza strains, with two strain changes from the 2014 vaccine to accommodate the mutated strain.”

CSL spokeswoman Sharon McHale said that some doses had already been made available on the private market but it would take until April 20 for the national influenza immunisation program to ensure the vaccine’s safety for general ­release.

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Joseph Boschatt, 88, receives a flu vaccine from Dr Brian Morton in Northbridge to ward of from this year’s flu season. Picture: Craig Greenhill

Ms McHale reassured consumers there would be no ­repeat of a 2010 incidence of febrile convulsions in children under five associated with the then H1N1 Fluvax released to counter the pandemic.

“Our vaccine is not available for use in children under five and between the ages of five and nine it is only recommended for use if other vaccines are not available after a risk benefit is weighed up by a doctor,” she said.

Despite increased warnings, each year dozens of Fluvax shots are inadvertently or deliberately given to children under five.

In 2012 Lachlan Neylan was left brain damaged after being given the CSL Fluvax shot in 2012 at age 22 months, two years after it had been banned for use in children under five. He was one of 115 children given the banned shot that year.

The Fluvax vaccination products

The Fluvax vaccination products with cautionary labelling. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

In 2013 there were 44 children and in 2014, there were “34 confirmed administrations of bioCSL’s Fluvax given to children under five years of age,” a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said.

“Fortunately we do not have any recorded adverse events from those administrations,” she said.

Ms McHale said CSL had added more safeguards and warnings on the packaging to stop such mistakes being made again.

“It’s a concern this is still happening, but there will now be a pop up on the pharmacist’s screen not to be used in children under five as well as labelling all over the package, on the syringe, on the box and on the outer wrapper,” Ms McHale said.

Flu vaccines are not subjected to clinical trials because it’s time frame for development each year does not allow for trials.

“Influenza vaccines have been around for years, so essentially it is the same medicine, only the strains change each year,” Ms McHale said.

The virus is injected into fertilised hen’s eggs and incubated for several days before the virus containing fluid is then harvested and killed.

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