Saturday, December 22, 2007

Eat Dirt!


I was in the office of a naturopath yesterday and heard her recommend Terramin for rebuilding injured bone. I'm having some trouble locating a really good reference for this, but the rumor is that NASA funded a study back in the 1960s showing that Terramin (calcium montmorillonite) might help astronauts avoid bone loss in weightlessness, whereas calcium alone did not seem to help. I've located a reference to animal studies which seem to demonstrate the point.

I have no injured bones, but the absolute density of the bone in my femurs has declined from about 0.96 to about 0.89 grams per square cm in the three years from 2004 to 2007. Technically I'm in osteopenia, the stage before osteoporosis. Neither my oncologist nor my primary physician is particularly concerned about this decline, however, and neither wants to prescribe a bisphosphonate (e.g. Fosamax). Nevertheless I would like to halt the decline if possible. I have been taking 1200 mg of calcium in the form of calcium citrate fairly regularly during those years, so something different is required.

Thus I bought some Terramin. It's dirt that you can eat, from the desert of California. The claims are many: Body cleansing, trace minerals, bio-available calcium, on and on. There's plenty of hype here. I'm a skeptic, but in the spirit of doing all that I can, I'm actually eating a heaping teaspoon of dirt every day. Well, for the last two days, but I expect to continue this until the next bone density measurement, unless persuaded otherwise.

So far I have taken the dirt in juice. I put several ounces of pomegranite juice in an eight-ounce glass, mix in a heaping teaspoon of Terramin, then fill to the top with sparkling water. The dirt is a very fine powder which mixes well in water, but is nonetheless gritty in the teeth. I need to swish with water (beer is better) after taking this stuff, or eat something. It says take it on an empty stomach, but I can't imagine what difference that would make so I'll take it in whatever manner is least objectionable.

So that's the dirt from Lake Woebegone.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Treatable But Not Curable

NBC Nightly News broadcast a story about myeloma Wednesday, December 13, 2007. This MSNBC video shows that story, with some discussion by Dr Brian Durie of the International Myeloma Foundation, and goes on to describe myeloma and its treatment in more detail.Fighting multiple myeloma
Fighting multiple myeloma

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Low Dose Naltrexone for Headache

This post is not really about myeloma.

For thirty years or so I have had chronic headache. If I take nothing for it, I have a headache almost all of the time, often so severe that it destroys all enthusiasm for life. I have gone to neurologists, and been treated for sinus infection and on and on, with no result. Happily, though, the headache responds well to pain relievers. Over the years I mostly used acetaminophen and ibuprofen, then got excellent relief from Vioxx, which to my disappointment was soon taken off the market. Since then I have used naproxen sodium (Aleve) with good success. Taking two tablets per day, the maximum non-prescription dosage, the headaches are few and mild.

Then two months ago I threw "everything including the kitchen sink" at the myeloma. "Everything" included low-dose naltrexone (LDN). Naltrexone is an "opioid receptor antagonist," a generic prescription drug used to treat addiction. It blocks the effects of opioids. Taken in very small doses, though, naltrexone seems to tell the body that it is not producing enough endorphins, the body's own opioids. The body responds by producing more endorphins, which is thought to help normalize the immune system. My cancer markers did go down a little at the last test, so it may be working. We'll know more on January 3.

Low-Dose Naltrexone as compounded by my local pharmacist

Whether or not it's helping with the cancer, there is another significant benefit. Soon after I started on LDN, which is taken at bedtime, I noticed that I wouldn't get a headache in the night even if I forgot my nighttime dose of Aleve. So I stopped taking the nighttime dose, and now only take one dose per day, in the afternoon, with no more headache pain than before, maybe even less. This is very good news, because long-term use of Aleve can put several different body organs at risk. Cutting the dosage in half should reduce that risk considerably.

The "kitchen sink" treatment also included a change in diet, with elimination of gluten. It is possible that I have an atypical gluten intolerance, and that gluten causes my headaches, in which case the improvement would be attributable to diet rather than LDN. I discount that, however, because: (1) the gluten is entirely gone but the headaches are not; and (2) the LDN produces some other very identifiable effects, including a very sound sleep. Thus my body is clearly producing extra endorphins at night, and a natural side effect would be less pain. I know this from running, which also produces endorphins; I never have a headache while running.

The LDN website makes many claims about the benefits of LDN, but oddly, doesn't mention relief from chronic pain. Some questions & implications:
  • Can LDN help with other kinds of chronic pain? (For obvious reasons, it cannot be used in combination with narcotic pain relievers.)
  • Can LDN be used to treat depression exacerbated by chronic pain?
  • If I took LDN twice a day, could I eliminate Aleve altogether? I can easily test this possibility, but not right now because it might upset my myeloma treatment regimen.
  • Do you suppose that thirty years of pain relievers contributed to my myeloma?
  • What are the risks of long-term treatment with LDN? According to MedLinePlus an overdose can cause liver failure, but LDN is by definition an underdose.
I'm no more afraid of the long-term consequences of LDN than I am of Aleve. Even if, in the final analysis, it doesn't help treat the myeloma, I think I'll try to get a prescription to LDN for the headache.