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Doctors and quacks

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Today I finally got around to seeing the GP so we can officially agree a course of action for a case of advanced gallstones. Given I’ve not spent much time with doctors, GPs, hospitals or the medical profession, I was expecting the usual you know nothing, doctor knows best kind of patronising bull. Why? Well, we all know that several major scientific discoveries have been suppressed right from cancer through to AIDs yeah? No? Well, prepare to be enlightened…

So, let’s kick off with mental illness. It’s a complicated thing right, what with depression, schizophrenia, psychotic episodes and what have you that’s spurned a whole branches of neuro science. But science has overlooked something pretty important; namely the Kadir-Buxton method (google him – house style here is no linking to tools). Got a mental illness? A quick head punch sorts that out. Been raped? Two punches and you’ll forget about it. Bad sex? You guessed it… more punches. I suspect this method – ostensibly beating the shit out of patients – would be pretty effective in a number of medical areas. Sweet. Link courtesy of Ben Goldacre, who’s got a degree in psychiatry, presumably now nervous that someone’s rumbled his profession.

How about cancer? Well, as anyone who’s got access to the internet clearly knows, it’s a global conspiracy innit? Yeah, that’s right, the cure is out there, but the authorities want you to die a slow horrible death, and they cover it up oh so well, by spending tens of millions of pounds on the latest radiology units, and performing (presumably the same flawed) exhaustive experiments to keep the scientists from discovering the unbearably simple facts. The truth being that vitamin B17 (not strictly a vitamin, but this is not strictly science) can cure ALL CANCER. Available from World without Cancer, which coincidentally is probably the only place where this might work. They accept Visa, naturally. I’m wondering how to break the news to the lab researcher I know at Cancer Research. She’ll be beside herself when I tell her she should have just used Google and the job would be done by now.

That’s not all. AIDS. You thought it was a global pandemic that medical advances were still struggling to crack? You know nothing. The President of Gambia, in between running the country, in January 2007 had some good news for everyone:

“I can treat asthma and HIV/AIDS and the cure is a day’s treatment. Within three days the person should be tested again and I can tell you that he/she will be negative... The mandate I have is that HIV/AIDS cases can be treated on Thursdays.

However, he’s a busy man. So this news was really bittersweet when he revealed that:

That is the good news and the bad news is that I cannot treat more than ten patients every Thursday.”

Presumably he was busy meeting girls on a Monday, taking them for a drink on Tuesday, and making love on a Wednesday. Hopefully not Kadir-Buxton style. Still, it’s pretty impressive and I’m sure it’s 100% true, so if he’s happy to send through the papers detailing his method, I’ll happily run them past a world renowned Professor of Immunology I happen to know of, and if he can verify Jammeh’s claims, he can rightly stake his claim on a Nobel Prize. Which will be nice.

So, science 1, general public 0 right? So far yes. But scientists needn’t look so smug. What the general medical community know about nutrition and disease is pathetically small. The training that doctors receive in nutrition is completely inadequate – kindly referred to as ‘scanty’ in a report to Government by the Associate Parliamentary Food and Health Forum. This is partly a problem of economics (you can’t patent whole foods), methodology (unless you’re testing supplements, double blind trials in nutrition are difficult given most people can tell the difference between a kebab and a salad), and timeframe. Food has changed faster than solid, peer-reviewed science can keep up, and people looking for cures for their ills will wait days, sometimes weeks but rarely months to find alternatives. And so as a result nutrition has been mostly sidelined by the medical community, but most patients really do know better. But, this has the unfortunately side effect of giving rise to any old punter (I freely include myself here) to do their own heavy lifting and see if they can come up with any better theory than conventional medical wisdom.

Unfortunately, if you stray outside of conventional wisdom, you’re sat in the same room as those who believe that Princess Diana was murdered by giant lizard overlords – you know, the same ones who orchestrated the fake moon landings and 9/11. So, when I spoke to the doctor, I was expecting a little bit of cynicism.

Doctors orders

The GP didn’t have the actual scans in front of him (reading radiology scans is a specialist skill, GPs just get the report which said ‘multiple stones’) but he pointed out that:

-          Surgery will almost certainly be necessary eventually unless something pretty miraculous happens to dissolve them. Unfortunately, he’s right.

-          He’d not personally come across anyone whose stones had spontaneously disappeared. I’ve seen some peer-reviewed papers suggesting 1-3% rates.

We discussed how I felt 100% fine. He agreed it was surprising. We talked about connections between nutrients and gallstones. He warned how correlation isn’t causation. I agreed. We discussed multiple causes, why a vitamin supplement probably wouldn’t cut it, and what the options were. We spoke about getting a full vitamin/mineral blood profile, and while he couldn’t justify fronting it on the NHS he could see the logic and we agreed it couldn’t hurt.

To be honest, this is exactly what I’d hope for from the NHS. Although personally, I’d rather not pay to get a screening, you can’t go around paying patients to do their own n=1 experiments; before you know it, people would be drilling holes in their skulls to cure headaches. Oh wait, they already do.

All told, the GP was 100% reasonable. That’s not a headline is it? “NHS doctor does exactly what he should do” shock. But it’s true.

Mainly because I’ve spent aeons of time combing through Pubmed papers, I am going to go and get a profile done. I’m certain there isn’t one single nutrient that causes gallstones, but I am convinced something within nutrient uptake system, almost certainly related to gut flora and GI tract damage causes gallstones. And sure, genetics play a part as to whether/when you get it, I’m pretty certain Paleo has some but not all of the answers, and I’ll be damned if I’ve got this far not to find out what’s going on.

Back in a couple of weeks.

Comments (20) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I love your tenacity. Best of luck with this; I share your faith in food as medicine (and toxin), and I look forward to reading about your journey.

  2. I’m glad to hear you had a good experience with the GP. 100% reasonable is unfortunately not what a lot of people get in their dealings with doctors.

    I’m really looking forward to your further exploration of the gallstone mystery. It has the potential to help a lot of people.

  3. Mike,

    I just wanted to leave you a comment since I think I have found the root of my problem and it may not be my gallstones at all. Did you have a gastroscopy done when your gallstones were diagnosed? My doctor recommend one “just to rule out any stomach issues,” but he seemed so dang sure it was the gallstones that he had already set up a consult for a surgeon so I just skipped it. Then, I told the surgeon no surgery and waited. For almost four months nothing happened, no pain, no anything. Then a few days ago I started getting that sharp, gnawing pain in my upper abdomen again after eating. I had just started eating paleo about three weeks ago so I was like oh no all that fat has caused my gallstones to act up. Then I remembered how my doctor has recommend the gastroscopy to rule out other problems. I now wanted very badly for it to be something besides gallstones so I did a little research and decided to try Prilosec to see if it relieved the pain, which would prove it’s a stomach issue, not gallstones. At this point I had had almost constant burning pain for about 3 days which got worse every time I ate. Well, I started the Prilosec and within about a day the pain was totally gone and hasn’t returned. Of course, I know I definitely have gallstones, but I don’t think they were the cause of the pain that I had back in March. And, of course, what’s one of the things they tell you to not eat when you have gastritis? Fatty foods. Just another bit of proof that I’m now on the right track. I haven’t yet been in to see a doctor to confirm anything, but am feeling optimistic that I have finally arrived at the answer to my problem. Although I still have my gallstones, this would mean that I have never truly had an attack and might never have one if I keep up my new healthy way of eating. I am so glad at this point that I didn’t rush into surgery. Just thought I’d share my experiences.

    • Hi Nancy, we’re definitely getting warmer – and very similar. When I went to the docs with gallstones at the beginning of all this, they too did tests (though no gastroscopy) and discovered H pylori, and gave me Lanzoprazole plus something else to kill off H pylori. H plyori bacteria – increases stomach acid. Lanzoprazole and Polosec both reduce stomach acid. Now, by coincidence the other day, I found that D-Limonene (found in lemons and limes amongst others), has been shown to dissolve gallstones – unfortunately in vitro, but still:
      But crucially, it neutralises gastric acid, coincidentally, just like bromelain, found in pineapples which also anecdotally helps with gallstone attacks – and also neutralises gastric acid.
      Excessive gastric acid production is common in gallstone sufferers (http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0140673667911762)
      My thinking now is disrupted gut flora leads to gallstones. Nutrient uptake is but one symptom of that – an important one, but a symptom none the less. It wouldn’t surprise me if like H Pylori causing ulcers, one particular bacteria is framed for causing gallstones – but, here’s the thing. Once people get rid of h pylori, they often suffer from other ailments, which has led to speculation that overgrowth rather than presence of h pylori causes ulcers, as it lies ‘dormant’ in many people without causing problems. But it may not be simply dormant – it may have some symbiotic function in the gut microbiome, in some process as yet undiscovered.
      So, could it be that by taking Prilosec you killed off the overgrowth that caused gallstones? Possibly. I know I didn’t, but really glad you mentioned all this… seems like we’re definitely on the right path…

  4. Mike, are you still taking acid blockers? Those are linked to nutrient malabsorption. (I tried to leave you a comment about a week ago asking if you had hypochloridia, but had technical difficulties.) In particular, it may inhibit magnesium, calcium iron and zinc absorption.

    Prilosec doesn’t kill bacteria. Because it neutralizes stomach acid, it allows gut bacteria to grow in the stomach where it doesn’t belong.

    Nancy S., it sounds like you have an ulcer and/or H. pylori. Because acid blockers interfere with nutrient absorption and gut bacteria, they shouldn’t be taken long-term. If you have heartburn or acid reflux, you’ll need to control your carb intake. Do that, and fatty foods won’t bother you in that respect. It’s carbohydrates, not fatty foods, that create stomach gas and push up the contents of your stomach.

    Re: gastric hyposecrection would mean there is too little stomach acid, not too much. People tend to make less stomach acid with age (not that you’re that old), not more. In fact, I’ve it used to be fairly common for doctors to recommend acid pills to patients.

    Both lemon juice and pineapple juice are acid, not alkaline. Both also contain enzymes, which help with digestion.

    Considering the above, I would submit that it’s *lack* of stomach acid and poor digestion that’s leading to the gallstones.

    Getting off acid blockers can be miserable due to acid rebound; that is, your stomach creating lots of acid when you go off them. Again, limiting your carb intake will help greatly with this.

    For anyone interested, here are most posts on acid reflux:

    • Hi Lori, sorry about the comments thing – technical drama. So yes – in short, I was only on them for 4 weeks as part of H. pylori eradication, over 6 months ago but no longer. Anyway, you raise some interesting points.
      1) h. pylori decreases stomach acid. True, I’m not sure how I got that so about face
      2) lemons and limes and pineapples are alkaline forming in the stomach (in spite of being acidic in themselves) as far as I can tell – the only references for this I’ve got are diet woo sites mind you. the enzymes however as you say are crucial
      3) lack of stomach acid/poor digestion – definitely possible. Gallstone sufferers have longer transit time (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PII0140-6736(93)92479-D/abstract) rather unhelpfully they say this is why people may get gallstones. Whereas the next question is why is that happening?
      4) if the above is true, why low stomach acid/poor digestion? again, I’d come back down to gut flora / some as yet unidentified bacteria causing disruption.
      Given a paleo diet has made things materially worse (in spite of feeling better), its looking like either the gut flora never fully restored following antibiotics (given I don’t have an appendix, this is highly likely), and/or something in my diet was making it worse (undetectable food intolerance or antibiotics in meat?).
      I’ve read through your v. comprehensive posts of acid reflux Lori. I’ve no doubt there’s a connection.

  5. Not sure why your digestion may be off, but you might try betaine HCl pills (basically, hydrochloric acid) and/or digestive enzymes.

    It’s been a long time since I took chemistry, but I’m not sure how an acid plus another acid would result in an alkaline.

    • I’ll keep it in mind thanks once I see the results. I think the difference in foods is they’re alkaline forming in the stomach rather than in themselves. Meat’s alkaline, but acid forming for eg. Where’s a nutritionist when you need one to explain…

  6. From what I’ve read, the only pH effect of a so-called “alkalizing diet” is that is alkalyzes your pee. You don’t want your stomach contents alkalized–check out the middle picture and chart of this experiment. The antacids keep the egg whites from dissolving:


    Just from what I’ve read and from my own experience, snot and tears are slightly alkaline, your blood is strictly kept around 7.4 (slightly alkaline), proper stomach acid is 1-3 (extremely acid), and pee is variable. A properly working stomach makes around 500 mL of gastric juices strong enough to dissolve metal. I doubt that throwing some lemon juice or a salad in there would change the chemical properties much.

    Chris Masterjohn wrote an article regarding the overall pH of hunter-gatherer diets.–see link:


    Mike, best wishes to you. I hope you find a way to make your gallstones disappear.

  7. Hi Mike,

    I just read this on Dr. Eades blog (old post from 2005). It talks about gallstones and carbohydrates, and low-fat diets. Probably makes the gallbladder issue a bit more muddled, but I thought you might want to read it.


  8. Mike,

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. I stumbled on it the night I had my first gallbladder attack when looking for ways to ease the pain to stay out of the ER. I was wondering if you’ve ever given any thought to or read anything linking sugar to gallstone pain. I was in the process of trying to switch to a Nourishing Traditions (by Sally Fallon) way of eating (similar to Paleo I think but you can have some properly prepared grains) prior to my attack but as a major sugar addict I hadn’t totally given up sugar. My first attack came after a holiday weekend where I ate whatever I wanted including LOTs of sugar. After experiencing that horrible pain, I got serious about changing my diet and cut out sugar and refined carbs. I went a little over 2 months without pain. Last weekend while visiting with family, i ate whatever I wanted including lots of sugar and refined carbs. Sunday night I had my 2nd attack. I went to the Dr. this week to confirm that it is gallstones causing my problem. My dr. described my gallbladder as being “chopped full of stones”. I really don’t want my gallbladder removed so I’m curious if you are still pain free as long as you eat the Paleo way? I’ve never seen anything about a connection between sugar and gallstones but that seems to be the culprit for my pain. Maybe it’s just a coincidence. Any thoughts?

    • Hi Julia,
      Sugar and processed carbs – absolutely responsible for gallstones so you should cut them out irrespective. I can’t say it’s a cure (because it’s not cured anything), but I haven’t had an attack since.
      The thing to do is to make changes to your diet but be ultimately led by your doctor as it might be too far gone. The trouble is, removing the cause isn’t necessarily the cure but all I can say definitively is that it’s helped me

  9. There is another factor in gallstones you haven’t mentioned: oxalates. Oxalates are in kidney stones, gallstones, tonsil stones, and they can accumulate in bone, muscle (ala fibromyalgia), organs and endocrine glands, among other things. The “healthy” changes you made to your diet raised your oxalate level to the roof. Some bodies do not bind and excrete oxalates the way they should, so they build up. Celiacs and those with leaky guts are particularly susceptible. You can find some information on http://lowoxalate.info

  10. You might want to consider the oxalate status of your diet. Oxalates are involved in kidney stones, gallstones, tonsil stones, and lots of other conditions. Each person’s body has a different ability to remove oxalates from the body. Those with celiac disease or leaky gut usually are poor at removing oxalates, and they tend to build up in muscles, bone, organs, endocrine glands, etc. Your “healthy” diet is very high in oxalates: chocolate, spinach and similar greens, and nuts. Other big sources are dry beans and potatoes. You can find more information at http://lowoxalate.info

    My fibromyalgia has almost gone away since I’ve been eating a low oxalate diet and supplementing magnesium, B vitamins, and biotin. I was diagnosed with gallstones 25 years ago, after unwisely eating a low-fat high-starch diet. I haven’t done anything about them, and so far have not had any problem. Don’t know if they’re still there. I also did NOT avoid fats, since that would make the problem worse.

    • Hi Lynne, I did look into this a while back but I couldn’t find any convincing evidence between oxalates and gallstone formation. Even between kidney stones (from high oxalates as you obviously know), it wasn’t convincing that consumption and blood levels were directly connected, a bit like consuming cholesterol and blood cholesterol levels.
      Still, good to hear it’s worked for you.

  11. How great tosee a group of you/us tring to help ourselves . I am tring to avoid surgery and am pain free.
    MRI and scan this month so will keep you informed

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