Studies and Progress Notes (Oct 2009)
* * SPIRITUAL AWARENESS AND WHOLISTIC HEALING * *
Spirituality is key to children's happiness
"A new study suggests spirituality, not religious practices, determine how happy children are.
To make children happier, we may need to encourage them to develop a strong sense of personal worth, according to Dr. Mark Holder from the University of British Columbia in Canada and his colleagues Dr. Ben Coleman and Judi Wallace. Their research shows that children who feel that their lives have meaning and value and who develop deep, quality relationships - both measures of spirituality - are happier. It would appear, however, that their religious practices have little effect on their happiness. These findings have been published in the online edition of Springer's Journal of Happiness Studies…"
ScienceDaily (Jan. 12, 2009)
Holder, Mark et al. Spirituality, religiousness, and happiness in children aged 8–12 years. Journal of Happiness Studies, 2008; DOI: 10.1007/s10902-008-9126-1 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10902-008-9126-1
IJHC – WHR Observations
This has been my own observation as well. One of the strongest promoters of happiness and wellbeing is a personal sense of being an integral part of the world outside ourselves. Religion can provide this awareness, but I have heard many complain that in their experiences, religion was a hollow, rote practice that did not provide much spiritual happiness – although it did help through having a congenial, supportive community. The immediacy of personal spiritual awareness deepens rapidly with as we continue to develop this connection with the transcendent in our lives.
It is lovely to see a journal devoted to happiness studies!
** FUTURE RESEARCH IN WHOLISTIC HEALING * *
The IJHC/WHR E-Zine features monthly suggestions for future research in healing.
READERS ARE INVITED TO SUBMIT SUGGESTIONS FOR TOPICS TO STUDY
If your topic is chosen, you ill receive free access to the IJHC for a month, including the current issue and all back issues.
Happiness is a factor that has yet to be studied in connection with interventions such as Therapeutic Touch, Healing Touch, Qigong, Reiki, prayer and other forms of spiritual healing. We have tended in CAM studies to follow the medical model of treating problems, rather than on developing positives in people's lives.
* * WHOLISTIC APPROACHES * *
Background Supportive–expressive group therapy has been reported to prolong survival among women with metastatic breast cancer. However, in recent studies, various psychosocial interventions have not prolonged survival.
Methods In a multicenter trial, we randomly assigned 235 women with metastatic breast cancer who were expected to survive at least three months in a 2:1 ratio to an intervention group that participated in weekly supportive–expressive group therapy (158 women) or to a control group that received no such intervention (77 women). All the women received educational materials and any medical or psychosocial care that was deemed necessary. The primary outcome was survival; psychosocial function was assessed by self-reported questionnaires.
Results Women assigned to supportive–expressive therapy had greater improvement in psychological symptoms and reported less pain (P=0.04) than women in the control group… Women who were more distressed benefited, whereas those who were less distressed did not. The psychological intervention did not prolong survival (median survival, 17.9 months in the intervention group and 17.6 months in the control group...
Conclusions Supportive–expressive group therapy improves mood and the perception of pain, particularly in women who are initially more distressed, though it does not prolong survival in women with metastatic breast cancer.
Source: Goodwin, Pamela J. et al., The Effect of Group Psychosocial Support on Survival in Metastatic Breast Cancer, New England J Medicine 2001, 345(24), 1719-1726 http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/345/24/1719
IJHC – WHR Observations
Wholistic healing focuses on putting more life into our days. Conventional medicine focuses on putting more days into our life – often without consideration of the quality of life during those days.
Psychological intervention prolongs life in women with breast cancer
Background: The question of whether stress poses a risk for cancer progression has been difficult to answer. A randomized clinical trial tested the hypothesis that cancer patients coping with their recent diagnosis but receiving a psychologic intervention would have improved survival compared with patients who were only assessed.
Methods: A total of 227 patients who were surgically treated for regional breast cancer participated. Before beginning adjuvant cancer therapies, patients were assessed with psychologic and behavioral measures and had a health evaluation... Patients were randomized to Psychologic Intervention plus assessment or Assessment only study arms. The intervention was psychologist led; conducted in small groups; and included strategies to reduce stress, improve mood, alter health behaviors, and maintain adherence to cancer treatment and care. Earlier articles demonstrated that, compared with the Assessment arm, the Intervention arm improved across all of the latter secondary outcomes. Immunity was also enhanced.
Results: After a median of 11 years of follow-up, disease recurrence was reported to occur in 62 of 212 (29%) women and death was reported for 54 of 227 (24%) women… As predicted, patients in the Intervention arm were found to have a reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence (P = .034) and death from breast cancer (P = .016) compared with patients in the Assessment only arm. Follow-up analyses also demonstrated that Intervention patients had a reduced risk of death from all causes (P = .028).
Conclusions: Psychologic interventions as delivered and studied here can improve survival. Cancer 2008. © 2008 American Cancer Society.
Source: Andersen, Barbara L et al., Psychologic intervention improves survival for breast cancer patients: A randomized clinical trial, Cancer 2008, 113(12), 3450-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19016270
IJHC – WHR Observations
The mind and emotions clearly influence the body. Addressing the person with the problem and helping with stress, depression and practical issues that can be confusing and stressful should be routine with all illnesses. This used to be the case with the old-time family doctor who made home visits and sat on the edge of your bed to chat. Hospital administrators, nurses, counselors and other therapists can provide this important aspect of wholistic healing, and not overlook it simply because doctors choose to focus almost exclusively on the body and ignore the person inhabiting that body.
* * COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES * *
Research on Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for depression
University of Pennsylvania Medical School research shows transcranial magnetic stimulation effective in treating major depression. Non-drug, non-invasive treatment helps patients who have tried other options without success.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and other study sites have found that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) – a non-invasive technique that excites neurons in the brain via magnetic pulses passed through the scalp – is a safe and effective, non-drug treatment with minimal side effects for patients with major depression who have tried other treatment options without benefit.
This study – the largest to-date studying TMS as a standalone treatment for major depression – appears in the December 2007 1st issue of Biological Psychiatry.
TMS… allows the patient to avoid bodily side effects of medications such as weight gain, sedation and/or sexual function.”
The study was conducted at 23 sites in the U.S., Australia, and Canada, and involved 301 medication-free patients with major depression who had not benefited from prior treatment. The patients were randomized to active or sham TMS for 4-6 weeks. Response and remission rates with active TMS were approximately twice those of sham. Additionally, there were no unexpected, serious side effects, and less than 5% of patients discontinued their TMS due to side effects. This is about three times better tolerated and safer than standard medications, which have about a 15% discontinuation rate due to side effects."
Article includes helpful references and Links. This is the best one:
Selected references and free abstracts from over 2000 published articles on TMS at www.sciencedirect.com
IJHC – WHR Observations
TMS has been used for at least four decades. It is a vastly under-utilized treatment for depression. I am grateful to John Stewart, MD for forwarding this article to me. Dr. Stewart is also an electrical engineer and produces a very effective TMS device. http://www.biophysica.com/tms.htm
Source: Shi, J. et al. Effectiveness and safety of herbal medicines in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: A systematic review, World J Gastroenterol 2008, 14(3): 454-462
Herbal medicines are helpful in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome
Methods: A computer-based as well as manual literature search was performed. We reviewed randomized controlled trials on the treatment of IBS with and without HM.
Results: A total of 22 studies with 25 HMs met the inclusion criteria. Four of these studies were of good quality, while the remaining 18 studies involving 17 Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) formulas were of poor quality. Eight of these reports using 9 HMs showed global improvement of IBS symptoms, 4 studies with 3 HMs were efficacious in diarrhea-predominant IBS, and 2 studies with 2 HMs showed improvement in constipation-predominant IBS. Out of a total of 1279 patients, 15 adverse events in 47 subjects were reported with HM. No serious adverse events or abnormal laboratory tests were observed. The incidence of the adverse events was low (2.97%; 95% CI: 2.04%-3.90%).
Conclusion: Herbal medicines have therapeutic benefit in IBS, and adverse events are seldom reported in literature. Nevertheless, herbal medicines should be used with caution. It is necessary to conduct rigorous, well-designed clinical trials to evaluate their effectiveness and safety in the treatment of IBS.
Source: Shi, J. et al. Effectiveness and safety of herbal medicines in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: A systematic review, World J Gastroenterol 2008, 14(3): 454-462 http://www.wjgnet.com/1007-9327/14/454.asp
IJHC – WHR Observations
With the large numbers of people killed annually by medications properly prescribed, herbal remedies should be a treatment of first choice for IBS and many other medical problems. While the authors' cautions are generically prudent, the overall evidence suggests that it is conventional medications that should be used with caution.
More CAM reviews at
* * TECHNOLOGY * *
Computer programs might be used to assess which endangered species are crucial to the environment
When users seek information from Google, the search engine relies on a proprietary algorithm called PageRank™ to determine the order of the sites that show up in search results. Now, two researchers say a similar algorithm can be used to determine which species are critical to the preservation of ecosystems, allowing scientists to focus conservation efforts on species that will most benefit the entire system.
The research, by Stefano Allesina with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Mercedes Pascual of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, was published in the journal PLoS Computational Biology.
Google's PageRank algorithm ranks Web pages in importance based on the number of other Web sites that link to them. Allesina and Pascual have taken this approach into the wild and determined that PageRank could be adapted to apply to the study of food webs—the complex networks describing who eats whom in an ecosystem. Basically, according to Allesina and Pascual, the species that the greatest number of other species rely on for food are the ones that are most essential to the health of an ecosystem. Or as the authors put it, "a species is important if important species rely on it for their survival."
This approach contrasts with other ways of looking at ecosystems, which use a "hub" approach to rank species based on the number of other species that are directly linked to it through the food web. According to the authors, this technique, which emphasizes the number of connections, does not take into account the position of a species in the food web and the cascading effects its removal would create. They say the extinction of one species could cause the elimination of another, which in turn would cause the loss of a third species. The "PageRank" way of looking at ecosystems makes the species that goes extinct first the most important because it would result in further extinctions down the line…
Source: Platt, John. Can Google's page-rank algorithm help save endangered species and ecosystems? Scientific American, Sep 3, 2009
IJHC – WHR Observations
I would advise extreme caution before accepting this suggestion. This ignores the computer programmers 'GIGO' (garbage in, garbage out) caution about relying on computerized assessments of any situation. It presumes that the ecologists really understand the complexities of any environment, which include enormous numbers of factors, many of which are totally unknown and beyond assessment.
Too often, humans have assumed they could manipulate such factors as the introduction of plants and animals into new environments, promising great benefits. They could not and did not foresee the consequences of their manipulations upon the environment until too late, when negative. Take, for instance, the foolish introduction of the mongoose into Australia with the intent that these animals would help control the rat population. It turns out that rats are nocturnal and sleep in places that are generally inaccessible to the mongoose, which is a daytime feeding animal. The mongoose, with no natural enemies, have multiplied happily – feeding particularly on bird eggs. The bird population of Australia is being devastated by these animals that were introduced by humans without full understanding of the consequences of this environmental manipulation.
* * ENVIRONMENT (HEALING OUR PLANET) * *
Water policies needing urgent prioritizing
Rising populations, improving lifestyles and changes to the global climate are all increasing the pressure on the planet's water resources, says conservation expert Brian Richter. In this week's Green Room, he explains why there is an urgent need for the world to embrace new ways in which it uses water.
While most governments have proven themselves incapable or unwilling to manage water sustainably, a group of non-governmental and professional water organisations is stepping up to lead the way
More than one billion people lack access to safe, clean drinking water and more than half of the hospital beds in the world are occupied by people afflicted with water-borne diseases.
More than 800 million are malnourished, primarily because there isn't enough water to grow their food.
Fish and other freshwater species are among the most imperiled on the planet, in large part because of the ways that we have polluted and exploited their habitats.
The theme of the World Water Week in Stockholm in August, 2009, was therefore quite fitting: Responding to Global Changes: Accessing Water for the Common Good.
What global changes, you might ask? Let us start with our global population, expected to rise from nearly seven billion to nine billion in just a few decades. That is why more than half the world's population will be living in areas of high water stress by 2030.
At the same time, in populous nations such as China and India, improvements in living standards and personal incomes are linked to greater consumption of clothing, meat, and water.
It takes 140 litres of water to produce one cup of coffee; 3,000 litres to make a hamburger; and 8,000 litres to create a pair of leather shoes. All of these processes require a vast amount of water to grow crops, feed cows, or produce leather.
On top of that, climate change will bring less rain to many regions, and cause it to evaporate more quickly almost everywhere.
Accordingly, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that "the proportion of the planet in extreme drought at any time will likely increase".
Over-extraction of water for farms and cities is already causing even large rivers such as the Yellow, the Ganges and the Rio Grande to repeatedly run completely dry. More than 80% of cities do not treat their waste water, a study suggests
Remarkably, we also continue to foul our preciously scarce water supplies with too much human waste. More than 200 million tonnes of it each year go directly into our rivers and lakes without treatment.
While most governments have proven themselves incapable or unwilling to manage water sustainably, a group of non-governmental and professional water organisations is stepping up to lead the way, as no such scheme yet exists for water.
At World Water Week, a group of leading business, social development and conservation organisations will gather as the "Alliance for Water Stewardship" to advance a new voluntary global water certification program that will recognize and reward responsible corporations, farming operations, cities, and other water users for their sustainable use of water resources…
IJHC – WHR Observations
Humanity seems incapable of adapting to rapidly worsening water shortages and other environmental threats that are going to become catastrophic very soon. Initiatives such as the new Alliance for Water Stewardship are desperately needed.
This also points out that our current governments are inadequate to meet the challenges of problems of many natural resources; to handle pollution; or to deal with global heating.
The responsibility is on each of us to find ways to make changes in resource management – at the very least through our voting for green programs and putting pressure on our elected officials to enact the necessary legislation and put these programs into effect.
MUST READS on environmental issues:
Brown, Lester R.Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, New York: WW Norton 2008. Best book on the interconnections between carbon emissions and all other ecological issues.
Hawken. Paul. Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw it Coming, NY: Viking/ Penguin 2007.
Outstanding discussion on how people around the world are being galvanized to action to deal with these problems.
Yale religion and ecology site – exceptional!
IJHC – WHR Observations
This is an outstanding resource on ecological consciousness. Newsletter, publications, projects and much more.
* * HUMAN ECOLOGY * *
Winners don't punish
A group of researchers led by Martin Nowak, a professor of biology and mathematics and director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard University tell us about their new article in Nature:
"We show that individuals who engage in costly punishment in a cooperation game do not benefit from their behavior. The study found that the use of punitive behavior correlates strongly with reduced individual payoff, and bestows no benefit on the group as a whole.
These results demonstrate that costly punishment is not an effective force for promoting cooperation. The unfortunate tendency of humans to engage in acts of spiteful punishment must have evolved for other reasons such as establishing dominance hierarchy and defending ownership, but not to promote cooperation. In cooperation games, costly punishment is a detrimental and self-destructive behavior.
Our finding has a very positive message: In an extremely competitive setting, the winners are those who resist the temptation to escalate conflicts, while the losers punish and perish.
IJHC – WHR Observations
It is fascinating to see scientific investigations demonstrating by implication that qualities of compassion and cooperation – the opposite of the focus of this study on spiteful competition – win out over spiteful punishment.