Book Reviews

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome M.E. - Symptoms Diagnosis Management, by Dr Rosamund Vallings

Published by Calico Publishing, September 2012, RRP: $40.00. Reviewer Graham Beattie, from Beattie's Book Blog

“This is simply the best book available on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME. Dr Vallings informs and educates readers on every aspect of this often misunderstood illness. Everyone who has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME should read this book – it will help them cope, and will improve their life.” Dr Ken Jolly, Medical Advisor, ANZMES

Dr Rosamund Vallings has been working with patients suffering with CFS/ME for more than 40 years, having first encountered it in the UK when she was a junior doctor. She has since made it her life’s work and is not only a pioneer in the field but an internationally recognised expert. Her book is a distillation of her vast experience as a doctor diagnosing and treating the condition and is the only up-to-the-minute, comprehensive overview of the diagnosis, treatment and management of CFS/ME. Significantly, it also includes the latest diagnostic guidelines for CFS/ME, which have just been published (June 2012).

Vallings’ book is an invaluable resource for CFS/ME patients, their family, friends and colleagues, and health professionals. Vallings takes the reader on a journey from diagnosis to the impact of CFS/ME on the body, and how best to manage and live with the illness, including: stress and pain management, taking exercise, optimising sleep and nutrition, medication and alternative therapies, and coping with depression. Her wisdom and experience offer comfort and hope, and her insights make a significant contribution to the on-going conversation around CFS/ME.

Your Life In Your Hands, by Jane Plant.

Pub:Virgin Publishers, U.K., 2000. Reviewer:Jacqueline Steincamp.

What do you do when an allergist or natural therapist tells you that you have sensitivities to dairy products - or gluten? In the case of the latter, you will probably agree, because you are aware your digestive system has been complaining for some time. But if it is dairy products, you may disagree with the diagnosis, and take no notice. After all, what does it really mean for you? Probably not much at all.

And that might be a very great mistake, a mistake that could cost you your life. For although the effects of A1 milk are creeping into our consciousness, the background role that dairy products have in some cancers, especial breast and prostate, is virtually unknown. And, of course, we've always thought there is little or nothing that can be done to prevent this dread illness. Our major medical efforts are directed toward detecting and treating, rather than preventing, them. And prevention means looking at underlying causes and individual susceptibilities.

Professor Jane Plant CBE, one of Britain's most eminent scientists, contracted breast cancer in 1987. She had five recurrences and double mastectomies, but by 1993 the cancer had spread to her lymph system. When orthodox medicine gave up and she was told that she only had three months to live, she used her extensive scientific training and her knowledge of other cultures to find a way to survive. In her research, she was startled to find that in China (and other Asian countries) breast cancer affects far fewer women than in Western countries. Plant considered that there could be a dietary trigger for the illness. As she continued her scientific investigations, she became convinced that there was a causal link between consumption of dairy products and breast cancer.

Jane Plant finally defeated her breast cancer, in part because she used her training and knowledge as a natural scientist to understand it-- and then overcome it. Combining the diet her research had revealed with traditional medical treatment, she was able to triumph over her own disease and to pass on what she had discovered to help other women successfully fight their breast cancer.

First she shared that knowledge with friends, relatives, and colleagues at London University. She found that those who followed her advice, survived and had generally improved health. Some did not follow her advice entirely. "I went back to having some yoghurt - it's meant to be so good for you", said one dying friend.

Then Prof. Plant wrote a book about it. "Your Life In Your Hands" presents a compelling body of evidence strongly suggesting that consumption of dairy products may cause breast (and prostate) cancer. It demonstrates the specific changes that women can make in their day-to-day lives to help prevent and treat breast cancer. With a clear statement of the scientific principles behind her arguments, Professor Plant includes detailed suggestions for ways to alter the diet by eliminating or reducing consumption of many suspected cancer-causing agents, especially dairy products, and replacing them with healthful alternatives. She offers as well detailed menus and recipes to help make the transition and enjoy it.

This is not a new book, and because of the subject matter, is most likely to be read by those already in the grip of cancer specialists. It is a preventive, and even if you are not milk or gluten-sensitive, her arguments and research will give you much to think about. Above all, it tells you to listen to your body and to understand why it is crying for help.

The Metabolic Typing Diet, by William Wolcott and Trish Fahey.

Pub:Broadway Books, 2003. Reviewer:Peter Kearns, N.D.

Body typing of one sort or another has almost dominated complementary medicine for the past few years. Blood group types, fast and slow oxidisers, body shape typing, and the traditional delineations which are at the heart of Chinese traditional medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, represent a formidable obstacle course for the holistic practitioner to negotiate. Add to these the reality of `disease typing', mix in the mysteries of the nitric oxide, the reality of sub-optimal nutrition, and we have a very complex cocktail of variables which should see the average actuary applying for stress leave. This, however, is the reality of the day-to-day work of the clinician working at the sharp end of illness, both chronic and acute.

Visiting experts enlighten us to the imperative of the day, along with the appropriate nostrum to meet and match the imperative de jour. Yet something is not quite right here. Why do some patients do so well and others not?

Inherent in the "this treatment fixes that problem" paradigm is the belief that one size fits all. The total failure of medicine to stem the rising tide of our killer diseases, stands as testament that this is not so. "The Metabolic Typing Diet" offers a realistic blueprint to help many through the maze.

The old saying that "talk is cheap" cannot be said of this book or its authors. Their track record is very impressive, and has led thousands of people to significantly better health. Its authors are disciples of the truly amazing researcher and clinician William Kelley, whose work has devised nutritional solutions that have brought many people back from the brink of serious disease.

"The Metabolic Typing Diet" is going to be a life-changing work for some people. It puts its case that `one size does not fit all', and sets about proving it elegantly and eloquently. The framework for the rationale behind metabolic typing is constructed sequentially and logically by the authors, who then proceed to start elaborating on that framework with in-depth insights at a clinical level as to the practicalities of implementation.

In essence, there are three main types of body chemistry. The computation of your own body type is facilitated by a 65 question food response inventory. In-depth management programmes for each of the three major types are linked with useful advice and troubleshooting strategies, which make the task of compliance much easier than may first appear. The user-friendly nature of this book, and practical suggestions as to implementation, make it suitable for patients, students, and clinicians alike. The authors have produced a very impressive programme which, in the reviewer's opinion, is one of the most intelligently devised sets of protocols ever seen. Read this book. Once read, you will understand my enthusiasm.

From Fatigued to Fantastic, by Jacob Teitelbaum, MD.

Pub:Avery Books, 2001. Reviewer: Silke Simon.

The moment I saw this book title, I loved it and felt drawn to read it. When the book arrived, I felt a little daunted by the size of it - over 400 pages! Thankfully, Dr. Teitelbaum overcame ME/CFS himself, and knows how to write for a person with "brain fog". To my great surprise, I found myself keenly studying the chapters even after 8pm, whereas currently for brain stimulation, I've had to rely on chats on the phone, pleasure reading, or television.

Dr. Teitelbaum, a clinician and leading researcher in the field of ME/CFS, adopts an holistic approach to healing. The patient's problems are treated all at once. He recommends a treatment programme that includes various drugs, hormonal supplements, herbs, vitamin and mineral supplements, exercise, and psychotherapy.

He explains available treatments in simple language. He offers analyses and dosage recommendations, as well as providing checklists, an extensive bibliography, lists of products and services, and much more. His thorough approach and dedication to the cause are reflected in his giving consideration even to economic factors, such as his clients' purse. There is, for instance, a hierarchical list of remedies according to expense and priority for his reader. Highly technical medical research stands side by side with comments on the mind-body connection.

His positivity is infectious. He believes illness can become an ally, and talks of "turning CFS into a blessing". This approach gave him firsthand understanding of his illness, and a powerful incentive to learn how to overcome it. As a researcher, he discovered that most people with CFIDS/FMS are mega- type overachievers, with high sensitivity and intuitive abilities, who are intelligent and inquisitive, "some are even psychic".

Part of the problem, as he sees it, is that often his clients tried to be all things to all people, and in the process internalised judgements, views and expectations that were placed on them by others. He says that when we release these types of old programs, that's when the fun can begin.

This book is a great read, and because of its carefully researched detail, a totally comprehensive reference source. It is immensely empowering to all those who desire to take charge of their destiny, wish to have an input into their treatment, or to seek a collaborative relationship with their doctors.

Chronic Fatigue, by Dr Dan Rutherford, with foreword by Prof. Campbell Murdoch.

Pub:Hodder & Stoughton U.K., 2003. Reviewer: Jacqueline Steincamp.

This slim volume explains in simple terms how to recognise CFS, and clearly describes all aspects of professional care from the importance of listening to the patient to the principles of symptom control. It could be a valuable reference for GPs, and contains some useful advice for patients. While it covers many of the causes and various body systems affected, it does not mention dietary matters at all. There is no mention of food intolerances, including gluten sensitivity, nor metabolic problems - both of these do seem to be a predominant problem with many people who have CFS/ME. The foreword by Campbell Murdoch is sympathetic to the patients, and enthusiastic about the importance of educating doctors. The price of $24.99 for 94 pages may be off-putting to some, but on the whole there is good sensible stuff there.

The No-Grain Diet: Conquer Carbohydrate Addiction and Stay Slim For Life, by Dr Joseph Mercola with Alison Rose Levy.

Pub:Dutton, The Penguin Group, 2003. Reviewer: Janet Holm.

If you are struggling with a weight problem then this book is for you. But the author warns you that, for successful weight loss, you must harness all three levels of yourself: body, mind and emotions. Negative emotions or memories can prompt taste buds to crave fattening grains and sugars, and to eat them addictively. So it's not just what you eat, but why.

On the metabolic level, your digestion tells your body to store the excess of grains and sugars as fats, while your mind tells you that you are an overweight person, and there's nothing you can do about it. After more than 30 years of diets with less fat and more carbohydrates, 2/3 of Americans are now overweight or obese, a condition which is a most important factor in cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It now seems that fats aren't to blame for weight gain, it's carrots, corn grains and pasta that must be avoided. Fruit juices and most sweeteners are also guilty parties. We don't eat healthy grains anyway, with their fibre and nutrients removed, and we fare much better on a diet of wild meats, fruits and vegetables - NOT cereal grains. Our complex carbohydrates should come from non-starchy vegetables, greens and fruits.

The biochemistry of weight gain is simple, but seldom explained. If you eat a lot of cakes, biscuits, pasta, pizzas and sweets, these carbohydrates stimulate insulin production. The body has a limited capacity to store carbohydrates, so converts them into fat. High insulin levels also suppress glucagon and the human growth hormone which promotes the burning of fat and sugar, and build muscle mass. High insulin levels also cause hunger, so away you go again.

Too much cereal, lack of exercise and not enough sleep are the three top risk factors for weight gain. There is NO LINK, Mercola insists, between fat intake and heart disease. We all need fat to utilise essential fatty acids, protect the arteries, use calcium, stimulate the immune system and add structural stability to cell and intestinal walls.

If you are more than nine kilos overweight, or are a grain addict, then this diet is for you. There are three phases to the plan. The Start-Up for 3 days; the Stabilise for 50+ days; and the Sustain for life. Three food plans go with these phases. They all include meat,dairy products, eggs, legumes, many vegetables, nuts, some fruits, coconut, olive and flaxseed oils, condiments and spices. In all 3 plans, 6 meals a day are mandatory, so that one is never hungry for the wrong food.

After three days of total grain elimination, Dr Mercola claims that most physical cravings stop. But the difficult part can be in controlling these cravings, as addictions are wired into biological circuitry, and rewiring must take place. This is where the Emotional Freedom Technique comes in. The EFT is a quick and simple system of stimulating ten specific acupuncture points on your body, which apparently will eliminate cravings. You tap them in succession, 5-7 times for each one during the length of a single breath. If you want to eliminate any craving, you need to work on the negative emotions and beliefs underlying it. So, as you tap, you say "even though I crave this, I deeply and completely accept myself".

Apparently this technique, used as occasion demands, usually works, and is a very praiseworthy attempt to reach the underlying causes of overweight. There is a large section containing tasty recipes and sound advice on the wise choice of foods and supplements. I feel however, that anyone with multiple food sensitivities and very limited food choices, could find this diet a little repetitious - even hazardous. The reviewer eats no grains and is all the better for it. Dr Mercola's no-grain system is well worth serious consideration.

The Alchemy of Illness, by Kat Duff.

Pub:Pantheon Books, 1993. Reviewer: Silke Simon.

The onset of my illness occurred one morning while at my work desk, when it dropped into my life like a meteor. This celestial messenger completely altered my life. It demanded that I surrender the satisfactions of all professional productivity, opportunities for promotions, and the usual social group activities, that I had come to identify with a successful, fulfilled, happy life.

While resting on my bed, berating my fate for its fury, I was gently coaxed into adopting another perspective on my situation. Kat Duff's book, The Alchemy of Illness, proved invaluable to this end. The themes in her book offer an invitation to embrace one's vulnerability and the humanness of one's circumstances.

Kat is a therapist who suffers from M.E./CFS. She learned to identify her illness as a much needed antidote to the chronic pressures and business of a society's demands, in which she had wholeheartedly partaken and from which she badly needed a break. She reports that while relieved from the pressures of socializing, or the need to please anyone or put on a face, she found the quiet space where she could think what she thought and feel what she felt.

Firstly, she gained the ability to stick to her own experiences and what her body knows and feels. She began to take notice whether a particular activity or person made her feel better or worse. And then she summoned the courage to act on what she noticed. She gave herself permission to "...say no to the things I do not want to do and yes to that which I must do for the survival of my body and soul...".

The longer she was sick, the more she came to realize that the bigger picture of her life was working towards resolution. In her view, a deep knowing operates through the agency of the body. Kat comments, "I would call it Soul, agreeing with the philosopher Morris Bernard who once said: 'Soul is another name for what the body does...'." She turned off her answer phone, and reduced her worldly activities to a radius of 40 kilometres from home. Most impressively, over the 2 years where she rarely left her bed, she wrote her book. Recording her observations on chronic fatigue and illness, she views sickness as a purifying experience intended to return us to our path of destiny and spirit.

Chronic Fatigue Unmasked 2000, by Gerald E. Poesnecker, ND, DC, with foreword by Harold E. Buttram, MD.

Pub: Humanitarian Publishing, 1999. Reviewer: Jacqueline Steincamp.

Today, understandings of the roots of M.E./CFS are coming thick and fast. The focus is now on what is making our bodies weak rather than what is menacing them from outside. Although outside menaces are not unimportant, the focus has to be on why some people are stricken and unable to recover.

Dr Poesnecker, a Pennsylvania chiropractor and naturopath, argues strongly that it is the cumulative effects of stress on the immune system that weaken the body's defences. He draws heavily on the work of the great Canadian physiologist, Hans Selye, who first outlined the theory of the biological reaction to stress. Dr Poesnecker has worked with over a thousand M.E./CFS patients over a period of about 40 years.

But understanding the downward process of the illness is one thing. He admits he does not have any quick and easy answers, because every person is different; and M.E. is probably the most difficult of all illnesses to cure. Over and over again he makes the point that patients must educate themselves in every possible way about their illness, and that they are ultimately responsible for the outcome.

Dr Poesnecker explains almost all of the underlying M.E/CFS problems in relation to underactivity of the adrenal glands. He takes some of the malignant mystery from the monster, and from this point of view, the book is very comforting. It helps to know WHY! He makes interesting observations about how some people develop unconscious techniques of stimulating adrenal function by creating arguments and dissension. The problem with this method of adrenal stimulation is the increasing degree of rage necessary to get the person going. This could be relevant to crime, violence, hyperactivity, etc.

Dr Poesnecker's attitude is one of great sympathy for those with ME/CFS, great frustration with the medical profession for so misunderstanding and mistreating them, and of real anger at the way in which so many trends in society are damaging to human life and happiness. Though the style is somewhat longwinded, the content is, to my mind, first class. I thoroughly recommend this book.

7-Day Detox Miracle, by Peter Bennett, ND, and Stephen Barrie, ND, with foreword by Jeffrey Bland, PhD.

Pub:Prima Health, 1999. Reviewer: Jacqueline Steincamp.

No -this is not just another detox book. With a new slant and very topical, it contains lots of stuff especially relevant to M.E./CFS, fibromyalgia, etc. While most valuable for practitioners, there is a lot of valuable new information that an informed layperson can understand.

Up-to-date indeed, and a nice balance between natural medicine and the use of the sorts of diagnostic tests we are only now hearing about. It focusses on malabsorbtion and the leaky gut, the liver, allergies, and intolerances. It is especially relevant to us now because it reinforces the Newcastle research, the Bioscreen tests and their individualised formulations - amino acids, essential fatty acids, organic acids, vitamins, minerals, trace elements.

There is much emphasis on a detoxifying diet, and supplements designed to boost the detoxifying processes as well as the body's immune defences and energy systems. Also the use of hydrotherapy to kick-start detoxification.

Respected orthomolecular physician Abram Hoffer says of it:"Physicians will lose their fear of the (detoxification) process after reading this book, for they will understand it better. They will be able to treat their patients who are following detox programs recommended by their naturopaths, more effectively. This is a valuable book. I know detoxification programs work, for I have witnessed this over the past thirty years."

Friendly Food: The Complete Guide to Avoiding Allergies, Additives, and Problem Chemicals, by Drs. A. R. Swain, R. H. Loblay, & V. L. Soutter of the Allergy Unit, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney.

Pub: Murdoch Books, 1991. Reviewer: Ruth Shaw.

This book, now in its fourth reprinting, opens with the most easily-understood exposition I have seen of the wide-ranging ill effects caused by foods in people sensitive to them. There are good sections on the differences between allergies and intolerances, why some foods are irritating and some not, the effects of chemicals (natural and added) and additives on our bodies.

It explains how individual thresholds of tolerance vary, a cause of frustration not always fully understood by dietitians and doctors. Intolerances, it appears, cause trouble by irritating nerve endings in different parts of the body. Symptoms, chronic or recurrent, result from chemicals building up in the system.

Allergies, on the other hand, seem to be caused more by antibodies to food proteins. They usually apply to a small number of foods, and show up mostly against a background of allergic disorders such as asthma. The authors emphasize that, in their opinion, allergy tests are no use in picking up food intolerances. There is here much good nutritional advice, with useful information about which foods supply which nutrients. There are also clearly set out charts showing the incidence of natural chemicals in various types of foods.

Then comes a good practical range of recipes, well organised under headings relating to meals, baking and snacks. A well-ordered index makes it easy to find what is required. There are a lot of positives, but there are negatives too. Many of the recipes contain foods, such as eggs, that I know are difficult for some M.E./CFS sufferers. Also, many brands of products that are mentioned are Australian, and equivalents would need to be found in New Zealand. These criticisms aside, this is a useful and well set-out book, made attractive with good use of colour in illustrations and decorations. The authors are part of a prestigious unit studying allergies, nutrition, and immune realted illnesses.

The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron, PhD.

Reviewer:Scott Hobson.

This is a book designed to help sensitive people thrive when their world seems overwhelming. It has useful ideas on coping with and understanding sensitivity, with issues on child sensitivity through to adulthood. Self- help exercises and assessment sheets are included to reinforce the topics introduced in each chapter, making the book more practical. There is even a chapter on the use of medicinal drugs like Prozac, and their influence on helping or hindering highly sensitive people.

Elaine Aron provides positive new ways of dealing with and approaching the problem of high sensitivity. It is also clear that she was writing from her own personal struggles and experiences. At times it lit the candle of hope, but there were also times when I thought she was being over-pedantic, and used long- winded descriptions for something quite simple. It was at times quite intense, and I found it best to read one chapter at a time. It provides another way of looking at heightened sensitivity and suggests some useful coping strategies and good ideas for M.E./CFS sufferers who are struggling with over-sensitivity. People who find social interaction difficult and distressing could gain from reading it. In conclusion, I think the book worth reading, but I wouldn't put it high on my list of priorities.