Fashion seeks well-being today. Everyone wants to eat better and treat themselves better. Hence the passion for alternative medicine. Some doctors are even sounding a real alarm call for better nutrition and healthier farming. In this special file the media-friendly professor Charles Sultan, Professor of Paediatric Endocrinology at Montpellier, condemns the impact of pesticides on children’s health on the basis of a recent study published in a scientific journal on 1 June.
Long live CAM !
MEDICINE/ Homeopathy, herbal medicine, acupuncture, manual therapy etc. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is acclaimed by supporters of natural solutions. Their goal is to regulate energy, get rid of stress and relieve pain without using drugs.
You look bad! It’s springtime. You should take some black radish artichoke to detoxify your liver.” “Scrape your tongue when you wake up, do an Ayurvedic cure, and you’ll feel better!” In Monaco the repetition of these innocuous little phrases between the cheese course and dessert shows that attitudes have changed. Today the goal is simple. Eat better, treat yourself better and be in harmony with your mind and body. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is in vogue. It is called alternative, parallel, traditional or unconventional medicine. All of these qualifying terms denote therapeutic practices that differ from allopathic medicine and all-round drugs. Among the 400 CAM listed by the World Health Organization (WHO), we can distinguish between methods based on natural products (herbal medicine, aromatherapy), techniques centred on manipulation (osteopathy, chiropractic care), mind and body therapies (hypnosis, meditation, relaxation therapy etc.) or complete systems based on theories (acupuncture, homeopathy etc.) All have met with huge success, however. According to a Commissariat Général à la Stratégie et à la Prospective (CGSP) report published in October 2012, 70% of people living in the EU have used a complementary therapy at least once in their life and 25% do so every year. That goes to show!
Word of mouth
Although no statistics can be found in Monaco on the popularity of these disciplines, the Monegasques seem to be particularly fond of alternative medicine. In Beausoleil, etiopathy specialist Rémy Snyadi knows all about this. Two thirds of his patients live or work in Monaco. And he had to give up his work in Mandelieu to absorb the great demand in Beausoleil. “My impression is that people are more open to alternative medicine in Monaco than in France. They pay more attention to their well-being. And it’s not just a matter of personal wealth,” says the 32 year old practitioner who moved to Beausoleil once he had completed his training in etiopathy and his degree in medicine, anatomy and neurovascular imaging. “Success is mainly due to the efficacy of the treatment. From 2 to 5 sessions are enough for a result. And now the mutual funds reimburse some of the sessions as they have seen that it’s more cost-effective than drugs,” he adds. Rémy Snyadi found his way when he discovered this manual therapy technique when aged 20. After falling from a 3 metre high slide as a toddler, he suffered from neck pain throughout his youth. “Until the day my father had me see an etiopathy specialist. Then the effect was immediate. Even though I had felt pain for 17 years,” he said. Now it is he who relieves migraines, ENT or digestive disorders, recurrent colitis etc. “Many patients come here as they think they have tried everything and nothing works. More than the manipulation, it’s our way of listening to them and reasoning to trace the cause of their pathology that they appreciate.” As etiopathy is a young discipline – it was created by Christian Trédaniel in 1963 – word of mouth is essential. “Results are a must, as etiopathy is still little-known today,” says the young practitioner.
Some doctors have also taken the plunge by combining allopathic and Chinese medicine. Danièle Macchi-Massobrio is one of them. In Monaco this gynaecologist – who is also specialised in dietetics and nutrition – decided to capsulate know-how to understand her patients as a whole. After starting with Bach Flowers (flower elixirs made from thirty-eight flower essences) 15 years ago, the gynaecologist carried out ethnobotanical and homeopathic work before studying Chinese medicine for 4 years. This doctor even has knowledge of numerology. “Our emotional reactions differ according to our date of birth. Medicine is the art of health and well-being. In Hippocrates’ time, doctors were also astronomers and chemists,” she recalls. This specialist aims to treat the crux, not just the symptoms. With multi-millennial Chinese medicine, she learned how to make energy circulate using the ‘extraordinary vessels’, work on breathing and relieve some poorly treated diseases such as fibromyalgia. “Energy is the basis of everything. It is Xi for the Chinese, prana for the Ayurvedics, baraka for the Soufis, yesod for the Kabbalists, and Ki for the Japanese. Today I make a re-attunement energy protocol available to my patients to ensure the optimisation of their therapeutic care,” whispers the gynaecologist, who is completing a book summarising her research (in Chinese medicine, micro-nutrition etc.)
Plants are popular
Among the disciplines in vogue in Monaco, one is clearly herbal medicine. There is certainly more than one pharmacy in the Principality that offers active ingredients from plants. But the Estoril pharmacy in Larvotto has made them a speciality. Alexandre Troubaiewitch was trained in herbal medicine and scientific aromatherapy at the Lyon faculty of medicine in 2012. He recently moved to Paris to skill up on the nervous system, as well as on stress management and sleep disorders. “In pharmacy we put forward many chemical molecules to treat people. But chemistry does not allow us to solve everything. Chemistry is ineffective for killing a virus or stimulating the immune system. For example, there is a dearth for detoxing the liver or revitalising the immune system,” analyses this pharmacist who has seen a change in attitudes. “In the past, doctors considered it cat’s pee. Now there is a real mainstream trend. We have trained doctors, surgeons and anaesthetists.”
While the foundations of herbal medicine date back to ancient Egypt and the Ebers Papyrus, a 20metre long 110 page roll dating back 3500 years, today it is a science in itself. “There is a real encyclopaedia, every plant has its chemical composition and their different actions on the central nervous system are known. For example, turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory, digestive, anti-cancer and anti-Alzheimer properties; St. John’s Wort for its antidepressant qualities (studies have compared its effects to chemical antidepressants); mucuna for Parkinson’s disease; and immortelle for its anti-bruise and anti-wrinkle properties. For sleep, valerian is a magic plant, like eschscholzia,” lists Alexandre Troubaiewitch. And he adds, “A patient came in with appalling liver test results. A little milk thistle and turmeric to detoxify his liver, then at his latest tests the transaminases were down.” But take care, pharmacists, the effectiveness of plant active ingredients depends on the dosage – they should not be under-dosed – and the extraction method (distillation, infusion or maceration). And the success is visible, including – given the Larvotto district – in wealthy foreign customers. “Many businessmen, Russians especially, ask us for advice,” explains the pharmacist, who allows less affluent populations to benefit from his experience. Among the products supplied for charity, he donates essential oil based first-aid kits to the Enfants du Monde association. “Tea tree, for example, is a very well tolerated disinfectant that prevents skin infections.”
Now at CHPG
So it is no coincidence that aromatherapy is now used at Princess Grace Hospital (CHPG). Dr. Robino, head of the urology department, had included it there. As chairman of the governing committee, he validated protocols with aromatherapy for those doctors who wanted to get started. “My view is very pragmatic – aromatherapy provides comfort and serenity during dialysis sessions. It is a real bonus.”
And it is not the only CAM to be tested at CHPG. Hypnosis training has been validated for 3 years, “Hypnosis can be used by anaesthetists to manage acute pain or as part of palliative care,” says Christophe Robino. This is logical at a time when ‘alternative medicine’ or ‘complementary medicine’ is invading French public hospitals, in many cases on pressure from patients. Thus in 2012, Assistance publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP) signed an agreement with the Chinese Ministry of Health to develop bilateral clinical research protocols and train doctors in China.
_BY MILENA RADOMAN
Plants seduce Monegasque laboratoires
“I established Forte Pharma laboratories in 1999 to respond to strong motivation and awareness. As a young doctor I had the fortune to be invited to Boston Massachusetts Hospital in a research and nutrition department that focused its clinical studies processes on the influence of micronutrients and the overall balance of the brain and the body. When I returned to France, I wanted to educate the general public,” explains Yann Rougier, the founder of Forte Pharma. It was in Monaco that the founder member of the NPH Foundation (Nutrition, Prevention and Health) in Monaco, also a consultant to several sports teams such as Arsenal Stadium and AS Monaco, was to create this laboratory which is developing almost 50 products, including dietary supplements and herbal medicines.
Nicolas Frassanito was also seduced by herbal medicine 25 years ago. The businessman believes he “learned many things from herbalists. Nature has everything.” The head of the Monegasque business Phytoquant, whose herbalist developed an original method for extracting active ingredients from plants, notes the passion for herbal products. “Studies of the dietary supplements market estimate 15% growth for 2016-2017. Even with the crisis, people want to feel well. This success comes from the pitfall of some drugs but also from the fact that many remedies have been delisted.” _M.R.
“It’s a health scandal”
Winner of the world prize for paediatric endocrinology in 2011, Professor Charles Sultan has condemned the health effects of pesticides for years. The leader of the INSERM CHU team of Montpellier, which is to release a new study on 1 June, is now demanding an outright ban on chemicals which contaminate humans by means of air, water and food. In the name of survival of the species.
How did your work on the impact of pesticides on health start?
The story started in 1998. In 1999, the “Pope” of endocrine disruptors, Niels E. Skakkebaek (1), launched a European project on “environment, health and children”. He asked me to represent France as we had longstanding experience in sexual undifferentiation abnormalities and genital malformations in male infants. We were in charge of analysing the connection between malformations in newborn males and their parents’occupation and home. We studied 1500 newborn boys. Our study published in Human Reproduction established that a child living in a polluted environment is 4 – 5 times more likely to develop a genital birth defect!
What type of malformation?
There are two types of malformation. The first is the micropenis; when the penis is of a length less than the international literature standard (i.e. 2.5 cm at birth and 6 to 8 cm for an adult when flaccid). The second is hypospadias. In concrete terms, as the penis is malformed, the boy is forced to urinate through the base, not the end. He is therefore forced to urinate sitting, like a girl, which can create psychological issues. But genital malformation is only the tip of the iceberg.
What do you mean?
The testicle ‘injury’is deeper and will show itself in adulthood. An attacked foetal testicle is a testicle likely to develop cancer at age 20! Endocrine disruptors have introduced a new concept in medicine. They have shown that we can have an adult pathology whose origin lies in the foetus.
How did this concept come into being?
The combination of 4 elements headed the construction of endocrine disruptors. The first of these is the demasculinization of all wildlife players. Fish are demasculinized and become hermaphrodites in waters containing pesticides. Frogs are demasculinized when they drink polluted stream water. They are also endangered. There are even reports of Florida alligators unable to reproduce as they drank water from orange groves full of pesticides; pesticides 10 to 20 times more concentrated than zoo alligators were dosed! It has even been observed that male quails that drank from rivers sat on eggs. The most exaggerated example is the Alaskan polar bear. By drinking water from the icecap, they absorb the American Mid-West pesticides pushed by currents that are spreading over Alaska. Or they eat polluted fish.
What other parameter played a role in your observation?
There was the DES effect. We realised that ‘DES sons’, whose mothers had used this drug, had an abnormally high proportion of micropenis, cryptorchidism (absence of testes from the scrotum) and hypospadias (non-closure of the penis). This means that a xeno-oestrogen (a synthetic oestrogen), such as a pesticide, is able to induce genital malformations! All the studies published in the last 15 years have shown that a high number of pesticides have anti-androgenic action. Experimental data thus show that males are demasculinized and females hyperfeminized.
On what scale?
Epidemiological data show that demasculinization conditions have increased across the whole population in recent years. The prevalence of hypospadias has doubled in 30 years. Moreover, France is the world’s biggest pesticide user in relation to its agrarian surface area, with 80 000 tonnes per year! At the Grenelle Environment Round Table a promise was made to halve the use of pesticides. Contrary to what was announced, sales of pesticides rose 11% last year. We are unquestionably in a catastrophic situation.
In concrete terms, what effects do pesticides have on humans?
They take the place of oestrogen and cause the effect of oestrogen: they make breasts grow, enlarge the uterus, make fat tissue grow. Some of these substances will block the action of androgens: they block sexual differentiation in the male foetus. But that is not all – all my concern about the future originates from the fact that they reduce immune defences. And some of them are carcinogenic. Not to mention that they can have transgenerational transmission. What proves to us that pesticides will not have an effect on several generations? It is a health scandal in perspective. We must alert the population.
Your latest studies were published on 1 June. What do they show?
Back in 2004, we announced in a ‘Libération’interview that many young girls aged 7 or 8 were coming to our hospital units with early puberty. No-one believed us at the time. Today we are witnessing a real epidemic. In our units, in 20 years we have moved from 15 cases of early puberty a year to 150 cases a year.
What health problems does early puberty cause?
These cases of going into early puberty cause many problems. Health problems, obviously: a girl with early puberty will have a greater risk of obesity, cardiovascular disorders and insulin resistance. In addition, there are psychological risks: we know about the hormonal upheaval of puberty. When it occurs too early or too quickly, problems in these girls extend to disgust with their body (body dysmorphic disorder). And that is accompanied by psychiatric problems: teenagers will take drugs, have unbridled sexual behaviour, run the risk of getting pregnant while in primary school. Moving into early puberty paves the way to violence and delinquency. With an undeniable social impact: due to the hypersexualization of society, there are now push-up bras and thongs for 6 year old girls! It is alarming. It goes well beyond the ‘Mini-Miss’phenomenon. Fashion has seized the move into early puberty.
And what about boys?
For 4 years we worked on hypospadias (Editor’s Note: non-closure of the penis). The study focuses on the university hospitals of Montpellier, Nimes, Marseille and Nice. Our results, published by the European Urology journal ‘Platinum’(and with an impact factor of 12.6) are worrying. We show that the prevalence of hypospadias continues to increase. There is a link between prevalence and risk zones (exposed to pesticides). We see risk factors over 10, never seen in epidemiological studies!
You had already stated that some professions (farmers) and areas were more exposed. So is it more dangerous to live in the countryside than the city in the end?
Various factors come into play. The father’s and mother’s occupations and the home location are important but so is interior contamination! There is household contamination with the use of detergents, creams, deodorants, dyes etc.
On the other hand, what worries us is that according to the mapping of pesticide use in France that a journalist managed to obtain, the highest use is in the South of France. It is believed to be 7 times higher than in other regions of France, due to intensive farming!
According to you, what should we do to prevent these harmful effects on health?
With MP Gérard Bapt, we created the Montpellier appeal, in which we called for a reduction in the use of pesticides. Now I would like their revocation. These products are dangerous for the survival of the species. Humans are endangered. It is a real health scandal that we are witnessing.
And if the authorities do nothing?
Gérard Bapt is filing a bill to do away with neonicotinoids, the pesticides that kill bees. After a flop in the Senate, he is going to fight in the National Assembly. We need pressure groups higher than industrial lobbies that make billions of euro.
_Interview by Milena Radoman
Greenpeace demands a ban
According to a NGO’s report, the use of pesticides in industrial agriculture affects farmers’Health.
On 12 May, Greenpeace International released a report compiling 150 scientific studies and calling on the French government and the European Union to phase out pesticides. “The amount of incriminating evidence is overwhelming. We need to stop closing our eyes: the use of pesticides in industrial agriculture affects farmers’health (and their families’health),” the NGO denounces. The victims of toxic substances are listed as pregnant women and young children. “Their growing bodies cannot metabolise some substances in the way adults can.” The studies also show clear links between regular exposure to pesticides and the development of many cancers (prostate and lung cancer in particular), as well as neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. “Due to their gene pool, it appears that some people are more sensitive than others to the toxic impact of pesticides, which can be transgenerational. Some studies show that even if future generations are not directly exposed to pesticides, they could still suffer the consequences because their grandparents were exposed to them!”
HEALTH/ “We must eat to live and not live to eat,” said Socrates. For oncologist Henri Joyeux a good diet is also the primary medicine. In his book Changez d’alimentation (1), the Montpellier medicine faculty professor gives key tips on eating better.
How does obesity increase the risk of diabetes, cancer and autoimmune diseases? Why is veganism a major nutritional error? How is fresh fruit the top anti-cancer and anti-aging food? In his book Changez d’alimentation – a bookstore bestseller – oncologist Henri Joyeux answers all these questions with the logic that food is the primary medicine. It’s simple – according to him, “nutritional prevention could prevent 100,000 cancer cases a year in France.” Rule number one: if you need to get rid of the scourge of obesity, do not follow a diet. “Diet X or Y is never right,” he often explains in interviews. “It doesn’t work. It’s expensive and you quickly regain the weight you lost in record time.” According to Professor Joyeux, we need to promote a healthy diet and eat better and well. “One cancer in two is connected to bad eating habits,” the medicine faculty professor states in his book.
So changing our eating habits starts by choosing lower calorie foods. “As soon as possible, we need to remove from our current diet or cut down on foods containing high glycemic index sugars, which are found in refined sugars, white bread, pizza and pasta, and of course in all pastries, cakes and chocolate bars or appetite suppressants. We should replace them with fresh seasonal fruit along with small amounts of dried fruit,” he explains in Changez d’alimentation.
Another piece of advice: “We need to switch from gluten to crispbread, buckwheat bread, quinoa, chestnuts or figs.” And be careful with red meat, “A good chop once a week,” he reminds us over and over again. While a glass of red wine at the end of every meal is tolerated or even recommended by the doctor, avoid hard liquor: 4% of breast cancers are alcohol-related (especially social drinking of hard liquor, whisky, gin, Pernod Ricard or vodka).
Exclude cow’s milk
Cow’s milk dairy products are also to be excluded from our diet (yoghourt, ice cream and cream desserts, cheese, milk drinks). “No more than one dairy product a day!” Keep to only one small portion of goat’s cheese or ewe’s cheese. Because according to Professor Joyeux, while breast milk is perfect for baby’s and mother’s health, “cow’s milk dairy products are not designed for humans.” According to the physician, they contain too much calcium and cell and tissue growth factors that increase the risk of many disabling disorders (ENT conditions in infants, digestive tract inflammation, rheumatism, nervous disorders such as depression etc).
The secret of the Mediterranean diet
So what can we eat? We can opt for the Mediterranean diet and its olive oil that is ideal for health and particularly for preventing osteoporosis (it binds calcium to the bones). With one golden rule: “Eating five portions of fruit or vegetables a day is a minimum. These products give you water, sugars, vitamins, minerals, trace elements and fibre, and have a satiating effect thus stopping you from eating an excess of other things,” the Professor reminds us.
On animal protein, Henri Joyeux recommends eating good fish and seafood (2 to 4 times a week), organic home-farmed poultry and organic eggs fairly often. “Oily fish once a week reduces the risk of cancer of the kidneys. Eating foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids could reduce the risk of prostate cancer in genetically predisposed people”. But be careful with farmed salmon – in 2004 the American journal ‘Science’ reported the presence of poisonous chemicals (e.g. dioxin) in higher amounts in farmed salmon than in salmon fished at sea.
Another food to favour: what bees make, in addition to honey, which “is excellent for our health”. Namely pollen and royal jelly (“In ancient China it guaranteed longevity and sexual vigour”). Obviously Henri Joyeux recommends eating organic food, especially in the PACA region that is proportionately the top region in France for organic farming, which accounted for 13% of the agrarian surface area in 2012. “Approved local organic food is a guarantee of the nutritional quality of food that retains all its organoleptic properties (taste and smell).” Because it is never too late to start. “But we need to start soon,” the oncologist stresses.
_BY MILENA RADOMAN
(1) Changez d’alimentation, Editions du Rocher, 463 pages, 24 euro.