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On The Crime of Heresy Against the Vaccine Religion

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To question public vaccine policy is to commit the crime of heresy against the vaccine religion, as illustrated by how any dissent is met by its defenders.

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There is something wrong when you are not allowed to question public vaccine policy without automatically being labeled as “anti-science”, a believer in “pseudoscience”, or even a “conspiracy theorist”. The subject of vaccines is a serious one, and deserves to be taken seriously. Concerned parents are asking legitimate questions, and they deserve serious answers rather than dismissals. The public discussion about vaccines is essentially non-existent. Instead, the message we are told is that there is nothing to discuss.

The mainstream media, for its part, has utterly failed to properly inform the public about the subject of vaccines, and rather than engaging in respectful debate, there is a tendency to try to bully people into silence and compliance. In this endeavor, the mainstream media has useful partners in the blogosphere.

As someone who is openly critical of vaccine policy, I expect to be attacked and have such labels mindlessly flung at me. So I wasn’t surprised to discover that one of the more notorious apologists for public vaccine policy, an anonymous blogger who goes by the moniker “Skeptical Raptor“, set his sights on me recently for an article I wrote in response to a Washington Post op-ed by Dr. Daniel Summers. Dr. Summers took the usual dogmatic approach to the subject, insisting there is nothing to debate, just get your damned shots. The purpose of my rejoinder to his op-ed was to illustrate why this insistence is wrong. There is a discussion to be had about vaccines, and it’s past time we started having it.

Raptor’s response to that article of mine provides me with the opportunity to reiterate that same point, as well as to illuminate the kinds of tactics employed by those who try to intimidate into silence anyone who dares to question public vaccine policy — rather than seriously addressing the legitimate concerns being raised.

Naturally, Raptor’s post about my article is filled with such mindless attacks as:

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  • “Jeremy R. Hammond … attacked Dr. Summers with … tropes, myths, and conspiracy theories.”
  • “Hammond uses pseudoscience….”
  • “Hammond’s criticisms of Dr. Simmons [consist of] tropes, myths, conspiracy theories, cherry picking and, need I mention this, outright misinformation.”
  • “But if you want to believe the ramblings of a right wing science denier, go right ahead.”

It’s instructive, given such vitriolic rhetoric, that Raptor fails to point to even a single error in fact or logic in anything I wrote in my rejoinder to Dr. Summers. (Which might explain why Raptor didn’t link to my article so readers could check to see for themselves what I’d actually written, as opposed to his misportrayal.)

On Doctors’ Confirmation Bias

In my article, I quoted Dr. Summers saying that if vaccines can cause autism, then pediatricians like him must either be “too incompetent to discern the relationship between the two” or “too monstrous to care”.

I observed that this gives us a useful insight into why doctors might easily succumb to confirmation bias, accepting of science that confirms their belief that they are competent and good while dismissing any evidence contradicting that belief. After all, how many doctors would be honest enough to admit that they are either incompetent or evil?

So how does Raptor respond to this observation? He writes:

First of all, Hammond does not quite understand confirmation bias. In fact, most of us who support vaccines use the scientific method – the evidence leads us to a conclusion. Hammond uses pseudoscience – establish a conclusion, like vaccines cause autism, and ignore all evidence that does not support his beliefs…. Frankly, Hammond is projecting the problems with his own arguments onto Dr. Simmons.

In other words, Raptor is saying that I’m the one guilty of confirmation bias, and that I don’t understand what confirmation bias is. So what is confirmation bias? Here’s how Raptor defines it:

[C]onfirmation bias is simply the tendency for individuals to favor information or data that support their beliefs. It is also the tendency for people to only seek out information that supports their a priori, or pre-existing, conclusions, and subsequently ignores evidence that might refute that pre-existing conclusion.

I’m perfectly content to use that definition to reiterate the point I made in my response to Summers: that doctors will tend to have a confirmation bias because it would be difficult for them to accept that something they did to a child with the intention of helping that child might have ended up harming that child.

Note that Raptor does not actually address this point. He simply asserts that I don’t understand confirmation bias without bothering to demonstrate in what way I don’t understand it and meaninglessly declares that doctors “use the scientific method” — as though having a medical degree meant that a person couldn’t possibly have such a psychological conflict.

Compare this with Dr. Joseph Mercola of the leading health information website Mercola.com, a physician who once vaccinated his patients and had to overcome this very inner conflict himself; Dr. Mercola in a recent article on his website quoted my observation about this natural tendency toward confirmation bias among doctors, then added:

As a doctor, I can empathize with this psychological conundrum. It’s a terrible feeling to realize that, at some point in your life, you didn’t have the knowledge you should have had and you led your patients the wrong way.

In conclusion, Raptor, rather than actually addressing my valid point, resorts to obfuscation.

As for his charge that I’m guilty of confirmation bias, here Raptor is simply resorting to strawman argumentation, attributing to me logic that I did not use in my response to Summers’ op-ed. His protest against what I did say in my article on the subject of vaccines and autism is instructive.

The Autism Question

In my article, I criticized Dr. Summers for repeating the trope that the hypothesis that vaccines can cause autism has been “thoroughly debunked”. I pointed out that the government has in fact acknowledged that vaccines can cause brain damage in genetically susceptible individuals, and that this brain damage can lead to developmental regression, i.e., autism. I quoted then Director of the CDC Julie Gerberding in 2008 admitting:

Now, we all know that vaccines can occasionally cause fevers in kids. So if a child was immunized, got a fever, had other complications from the vaccines. And if you’re predisposed with a mitochondrial disorder, it can certainly set off some damage. Some of the symptoms can be symptoms that have characteristics of autism.

Then I commented: “So seems to me there’s some room for debate there. (Gerberding, incidentally, left her government job to become head of Merck’s vaccine division.)”

So how does Raptor respond to this point? Raptor simply asserts that “there are hundreds of studies that have debunked Hammond’s belief.”

But what “belief” of mine is Raptor referring to, exactly? Are there hundreds of studies that have “debunked” that the head of the CDC acknowledged vaccines can cause brain damage leading to developmental regression? Or does Raptor mean hundreds of studies have “debunked” what Gerberding said?

Is this former CDC director and president of Merck’s vaccine division into “pseudoscience”?

We see once again all Raptor is doing is attempting to obfuscate the point. Raptor continues this effort by writing:

Next, Hammond claims that the “government has actually acknowledged that vaccines can cause brain damage, and that this vaccine-caused brain damage can result in developmental regression in genetically susceptible individuals.”

The “Next” here is puzzling, since this point about the head of the CDC acknowledging vaccines can cause brain damage was the one and only point I made in response to Dr. Summer’s repetition of the usual dogmatic mantra about any association having been “debunked”.

Setting that aside, note how Raptor uses the verb “claims” — as though it wasn’t a fact that the CDC director acknowledged that vaccines can cause brain damage leading to developmental regression. This verb choice is puzzling, given how Raptor then proceeds to share the statement of Gerberding’s that I quoted.

So how does Raptor address my point about that acknowledgment from the CDC director? Raptor writes:

Sure, that’s an admission that vaccines can cause brain damage – in a child with an extremely rare disorder.

Note that Raptor acknowledges that vaccines can cause brain damage in genetically susceptible individuals.

Raptor nevertheless continues:

Hammond, in the purest sense of pseudoscience, grasps onto a very rare adverse effect, and uses it to “prove” vaccines cause autism. It most certainly does not.

Now, this is also quite a puzzling argument, given the actual context of the quote from Gerberding.

See, when she spoke those words, the CDC director was referring to the case of Hannah Poling, who developmentally regressed and was diagnosed with autism after receiving five vaccines at once at 19 months of age.

The Poling Case and Genetic Susceptibility

One of the legitimate concerns parents have about vaccines is how the government constantly reassures them that vaccines are safe and effective while granting legal immunity to the vaccine manufacturers, which was upheld by the Supreme Court on the grounds that injuries from vaccines are “unavoidable”. Under the 1986 law granting this legal immunity, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) was set up to shift the cost burden from vaccine injuries away from the pharmaceutical industry and onto the taxpayers.

Naturally, parents are confused by this, and it certainly raises some legitimate questions.

The Poling family is among those who have been awarded compensation under the VICP. In the case of Hannah Poling, the government acknowledged that:

The facts of this case meet the statutory criteria for demonstrating that the vaccinations CHILD received on July 19, 2000, significantly aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder, which predisposed her to deficits in cellular energy metabolism, and manifested as a regressive encephalopathy with features of autism spectrum disorder.

Now given the context of Gerberding’s admission, note what Raptor is effectively arguing: the fact that vaccines can cause brain damage resulting in autism doesn’t prove that vaccines can cause autism!

One could also argue that the fact you ran over a nail with your bicycle doesn’t prove that the nail caused your flat tire — technically, it was the hole in the tire that did it.

Scientific American has commented on the Poling case by saying that “Theoretically, that makes sense” (that the vaccines triggered the cascade of events resulting in her autism). In Hannah’s case, her mitochondria, the “power plants of the cell”, were “already underperforming, so when she developed a fever from her vaccine, the increased energy requirements likely pushed them past their thresholds”, triggering her autism symptoms.

Evidently, Scientific American is into “pseudoscience”, too.

Another propagator of “pseudoscience” was Bernadine Healy, M.D., former director of the National Institutes of Health and president and CEO of the American Red Cross. Before her death, she had come to challenge the official dogma, writing that as a trigger of autism, “vaccines carry a ring of both historical and biological plausibility”.

But what about all those studies Raptor mentions that supposedly have proven there is no possible causal association between vaccines and autism?

As Healy also said in an interview, “I think that the public health officials have been too quick to dismiss the hypothesis as irrational.”

When her interviewer pointed out that public health officials had been saying that “there’s enough evidence and they know its not causal”, Healy’s response was, “I think you can’t say that. You can’t say that.”

Healy then offered another explanation for how confirmation bias can become institutionalized:

There is a completely expressed concern that they don’t want to pursue a hypothesis because that hypothesis could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people.

Healy also noted the lack of studies into — and lack of interest in studying — the possibility of some individuals having a genetic susceptibility to vaccine injury:

If you turn your back on the notion that there is a susceptible group… what can I say?

Hannah Poling’s father, Jon Poling, who happens to be a neurologist, has made the same observation about both the institutional confirmation bias and the lack of studies examining the question of whether vaccines can cause autism in genetically susceptible children:

With regard to the science of Autism, I have no argument with the assertion that a single case does not prove causation of a generalized autism-vaccine link. What the case does illustrate though is a more subtle point that many physicians cannot or do not want to comprehend (ostensibly because vaccines are too important to even question). Autism is a heterogeneous disorder defined by behavioral criteria and having multiple causes. Epidemiological studies which have not found a link between autism and aspects of vaccination do not consider the concept of autism subgroups. Indeed, in a heterogeneous disorder like Autism, subgroups may indeed be ‘vaccine-injured’ but the effect is diluted out in the larger population (improperly powered study due to inability to calculate effect size with unknown susceptible subpopulation). I think former NIH Director, Dr. Bernadine Healey explained it best in that population epidemiology studies are not “granular” enough to rule-out a susceptible subgroup.

Then there’s Dr. Frank DeStefano, who has acknowledged that “it’s a possibility” that vaccines could trigger autism in genetically susceptible individuals.

Evidently, this CDC Director of Immunization Safety, who has coauthored several of the CDC’s studies finding no link between vaccines and autism, is into “pseudoscience”, as well.

The trouble is, DeStefano added, “It’s hard to predict who those children might be”, and trying to determine what underling conditions put children at risk of vaccine injury is “very difficult to do”.

Acknowledging the lack of studies in this area, he added that, “if we ever get to that point, then that kind of research might be fruitful.”

And here’s the CDC’s website, current as of this writing, on the lack of such studies: “More research is needed to determine if there are rare cases where underlying mitochondrial disorders are triggered by anything related to vaccines.”

When I contacted the industry-funded American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently to request them to provide studies that considered the existence of genetically susceptible subpopulations to support their claim that any association between vaccines and autism had been “disproven”, the AAP provided me with a list of studies. Not one of the studies provided by the AAP considered the possibility of a genetically susceptible subpopulation.

I pointed this out to the AAP, and I also pointed out that it isn’t logically possible to say — as they had in their press release — that a hypothesis has been “disproven” when it hasn’t even been studied. I therefore then once more asked whether they could produce any studies that considered the existence of genetically susceptible individuals. The AAP’s response was that they had already provided all that they were going to provide.

When I asked whether the authors of the press release would like to comment, I was told by the AAP representative that she was going to hang up on me, which she promptly did.

Now, for good measure, let’s turn to the medical literature on this question and look at a couple of papers written by individuals who can by no means be labelled “anti-vaxxers” to see what they have to say about the hypothesis that vaccines can cause autism in children who are genetically susceptible to vaccine injury.

Dr. Paul Offit and ‘Poor Reasoning’

In a September 2008 paper in the journal Paediatrics & Child Health, Asif Doja argues against a causal relationship between vaccines and autism, yet acknowledges that “Mitochondrial disorders represent a rare cause of autism” — as well as the possibility that vaccines could cause fevers that in turn could cause encephalopathy (brain damage) and regression in individuals with mitochondrial dysfunction.

Doja is careful to emphasize that it is the fever that causes the encephalopathy, “not the vaccine itself”. (It was the hole in the tire that caused it to go flat, not the nail, remember.)

Doja also argues that “it is unlikely that those with mitochondrial disease simply require a vaccine ‘trigger’ to set off the disease process because most patients with mitochondrial disease do not have an onset of symptoms associated with vaccination.”

But this argument is a logical fallacy. It’s a non sequitur; the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise. It may be true that most patients with mitochondrial disease do not have an onset of symptoms associated with vaccination, but it does not follow that it is therefore “unlikely” that vaccines could be the necessary “trigger” in some children.

The title of Doja’s article, “Genetics and the myth of vaccine encephalopathy”, is a curious one, given how, despite his fallacious conclusion that it’s “unlikely”, Doja ultimately acknowledges the possibility that “fever associated with the vaccine” could provoke “the initial seizure” ultimately resulting in brain damage in genetically susceptible individuals.

Doja also cites another article, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, by Dr. Paul Offit. So let’s look at that one, as well.

Paul Offit is someone whose credentials as a defender of public vaccine policy are impeccable.

He was sitting on an advisory board for the vaccine manufacturer Merck at the time he wrote that article.

Offit is also a former member of the CDC’s vaccine advisory committee, a body that helps determine public vaccine policy. As a member of that committee, Offit advocated that the CDC recommend use of the rotavirus vaccine. He later profited handsomely from the sale of a patent for a rotavirus vaccine.

Offit has made insane claims and is unafraid to brazenly lie knowing that, given the current climate surrounding the vaccine issue, his colleagues in the medical establishment will not hold him accountable for it. For instance, he is famous for once claiming that children could safely handle 10,000 vaccines at once. Another time, he declared that “Aluminum is considered to be an essential metal with quantities fluctuating naturally during normal cellular activity. It is found in all tissues and is also believed to play an important role in the development of a healthy fetus.”

Offit is the director of the so-called “Vaccine Education Center” at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he also holds the Maurice R. Hilleman Chair in Vaccinology, created in honor of the former senior vice president of Merck, which provided a $1.5 million endowment to “accelerate the pace of vaccine research”.

Offit also happens to be the mainstream media’s go-to guy when a comment is needed on anything related to vaccine safety. When you read an article in the mainstream media about vaccines, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find a quote from Offit in it (which says a lot about mainstream journalism). He’s been appropriately dubbed by Philadelphia magazine as “Mr. Vaccine”.

In the New England Journal of Medicine, Offit describes what happened to Hannah Poling:

When she was 19 months old, Hannah, the daughter of Jon and Terry Poling, received five vaccines — diphtheria–tetanus–acellular pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), measles–mumps–rubella (MMR), varicella, and inactivated polio. At the time, Hannah was interactive, playful, and communicative. Two days later, she was lethargic, irritable, and febrile. Ten days after vaccination, she developed a rash consistent with vaccine-induced varicella.

Months later, with delays in neurologic and psychological development, Hannah was diagnosed with encephalopathy caused by a mitochondrial enzyme deficit. Hannah’s signs included problems with language, communication, and behavior — all features of autism spectrum disorder….

For years, federal health agencies and professional organizations had reassured the public that vaccines didn’t cause autism. Now, with DHHS making this concession in a federal claims court, the government appeared to be saying exactly the opposite.

Offit goes on to argue that the government’s decision was “poorly reasoned”.

His first argument is that, while “it is clear that natural infections can exacerbate symptoms of encephalopathy in patients with mitochondrial enzyme deficiencies, no clear evidence exists that vaccines cause similar exacerbations.”

Compare this denial of Offit’s to Doja’s acknowledgment in his Paediatrics & Child Health article that “indeed febrile seizures have been shown to occur at an increased rate after vaccination”.

Seizures are a recognized symptom of encephalopathy.

In fact, Offit himself just two paragraphs later acknowledges that “experts testifying on behalf of the Polings could reasonably argue that development of fever and a varicella-vaccine rash after the administration of nine vaccines was enough to stress a child with mitochondrial enzyme deficiency” (emphasis added).

Offit’s second argument is that due to technological advancements, the combined schedule of fourteen vaccines children received in 2008 (the time of his writing) exposed children to fewer “immunologic components” than just the one smallpox vaccine from a century ago, “which contained about 200 structural and nonstructural viral proteins”.

This argument, however, overlooks, among other things, that the immunologic components of the target antigen (i.e, the virus or bacteria the vaccine is designed to prevent the disease of) are not the only antigens contained in vaccines.

The smallpox vaccine did not contain aluminum or mercury, for example, both known neurotoxins contained in CDC-recommended vaccines today. (Aluminum is used as an adjuvant in some vaccines to cause a stronger immune response than the target antigen would alone, and influenza vaccines that come in multi-dose vials still contain the preservative Thimerosal, which is 50 percent ethylmercury by weight. Other vaccines may contain “trace amounts” of mercury from the manufacturing process.)

As another example, vaccines can also contain contaminants, such as retroviruses. This is not theoretical; numerous vaccines have been found to be contaminated with other viruses or viral fragments. Polio vaccines used in the late 1950s and early 1960s, for example, were contaminated with a monkey virus (simian virus 40, or SV40) that’s been associated with an increased risk of some cancers.

In fact, the vaccine Offit himself helped develop, Merck’s Rotateq, was found to be contaminated with pig virus DNA. GlaxoSmithKline’s rotavirus vaccine, Rotarix, was suspended from the market in 2010 because it was found to be contaminated with a pig virus.

Offit’s third argument is that “Hannah had other immunologic challenges that were not related to vaccines”; namely fevers and ear infections. “Children typically have four to six febrile illnesses each year during their first few years of life; vaccines are a minuscule contributor to this antigenic challenge.”

Offit’s logic here rests essentially on the same fallacy as Doja’s: it does not follow from the fact that most fevers in children are not caused by vaccinations that therefore it can’t be that, in some cases, vaccines are the trigger that sets off the cascade of events leading to developmental regression.

Offit further argues that Hannah’s autism was caused by her mitochondrial disorder, not the vaccines she received.

This is like arguing that celiac disease is caused by a patient’s HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 genes, not by gluten consumption. Just as having the genetic predisposition “is necessary for disease development but is not sufficient for [celiac] disease development” (Genomic Medicine), so it is that having a mitochondrial disorder does not necessarily mean that the child will develop autism; one or more environmental triggers are also required.

Amidst his protests against the conclusion that the vaccines Hannah received caused her autism, Offit nevertheless acknowledges the “theoretical risk” of “exacerbations” from vaccines in children with mitochondrial disorders andthe absence of “data that clearly exonerates vaccines” in this respect.

As Hannah’s father, Jon Poling, and three co-authors wrote in a case study published in the Journal of Child Neurology,

It is unclear whether mitochondrial dysfunction results from a primary genetic abnormality, atypical development of essential metabolic pathways, or secondary inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation by other factors. If such dysfunction is present at the time of infections and immunizations in young children, the added oxidative stresses from immune activation on cellular energy metabolism are likely to be especially critical for the central nervous system, which is highly dependent on mitochondrial function. Young children who have dysfunctional cellular energy metabolism therefore might be more prone to undergo autistic regression between 18 and 30 months of age if they also have infections or immunizations at the same time.

Now recall Raptor’s admission “that vaccines can cause brain damage – in a child with an extremely rare disorder”. In other words, despite his best efforts to obfuscate my point, Raptor tacitly acknowledges that what I wrote is true.

On ‘the cancer-preventing HPV vaccine’

Another statement I quoted from Dr. Summers’ Washington Post op-ed was:

Despite ample evidence of its safety and efficacy, many parents choose not to give their children the vaccination against the carcinogenic human papillomavirus, leaving their sons and daughters at increased risk of several different cancers.

In response, I wrote:

Can Dr. Summers point to any studies in the medical literature that have shown that the HPV vaccine reduces the risk of developing cervical cancer (or anal or mouth/throat cancers in men)? When the FDA approved its use allowing the vaccine manufacturers to advertise it on the grounds that it can prevent cancer, had this been proven in clinical trials?

The answer to both questions is “No”. Dr. Summers’ assertion is an assumption, not a demonstrated fact. Room for debate on that one, too, then.

Raptor writes that here I am “relying upon all of the tenets of pseudoscience and science denialism” to “trash Gardasil” (Merck’s HPV vaccine).

Raptor then declares that he “can point to several” studies in the medical literature that have shown that the HPV vaccine reduces the risk of cervical cancer. In an attempt to support this claim, Raptor then provides five links. Turning to Raptor’s very first source cited, we find a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Does this study show that the HPV vaccine reduces the risk of cervical cancer, as Raptor claims?

No, it does not.

The FDA and ‘Surrogate Endpoints’

On the contrary, Raptor’s source confirms what I wrote originally: the FDA approved Gardasil for licensure on the grounds it could prevent cancer despite no clinical studies having demonstrated the truth of this claim. As Raptor’s source observes (emphasis added):

Both vaccines have been shown to be highly effective against HPV16/18–associated cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grades 2 and 3 (CIN2/3) and adenocarcinoma in situ, endpoints accepted in trials for vaccine efficacy against cervical cancer.

That is to say, the FDA used what is called a “surrogate endpoint”, defined as “a biomarker that is intended to substitute for a clinical endpoint”.

As Thomas Fleming explains in the journal Health Affairs (full text here; bold emphasis added),

Establishing that an experimental drug can provide quality-of-life or survival benefit in a newly diagnosed patient with prostate or breast cancer, or that a vaccine can reduce the spread of HIV, or that a device can reduce risk of serious illness or death from cardiovascular disease could require trials that are large, long term, and financially costly.

In many instances, sponsors have proposed alternative endpoints (that is, “surrogates”) for these clinical endpoints, to reduce the duration and size of the trials….

Unfortunately, demonstrating treatment effects on these biological “surrogate” endpoints, while clearly establishing biological activity, may not provide reliable evidence about effects of the intervention in clinical efficacy measures.

Fleming provides the remarkable example of the drugs encainide and flecainide. Since these drugs were shown to be “very effective in suppressing” ventricular arrhythmias, which are “a known risk factor for sudden cardiac death”, the medical establishment assumed that patients who took these drugs would have a lower risk of that outcome.

Fleming continues (emphasis added):

In fact, they were so persuaded that between a quarter-million and a half-million patients each year in the United States alone were receiving these drugs for this purpose. Many were so confident that the drugs provided important therapeutic benefits that they thought it would not be ethical to withhold these drugs from patients in the control group of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) designed to reliably evaluate their effects on overall mortality. (Similar arguments are made today by advocates for continued widespread use of antibiotics in children with acute otitis media, even though we lack scientific evidence to establish that antibiotics meaningfully decrease complications or reduce the time to resolution of symptoms.)

Fortunately, a controlled trial of encainide and flecainide was conducted. The Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial provided results that astounded cardiologists. These two anti-arrhythmia agents, while suppressing arrhytmias effecively, not only did not provide an improvement in survival, but actually tripled the death rate. Encainide and flecainide may have produced some benefit though [sic, “through”] suppression of arrhythmias, yet they also had unintended and previously unrecognized mechanisms that ultimately led to an adverse effect on overall survival, mechanisms that would not have been detected if there had not been a trial to directly assess the effects on the clinical-efficacy endpoint of overall survival.

This raises an important point I overlooked when writing my rejoinder to Dr. Summers’ Washington Post op-ed: just as important as the question of whether the HPV vaccine actually reduces the risk of cervical cancer is the question of whether the vaccine reduces mortality.

After all, if the vaccine, say, reduces the risk of cervical cancer while increasing the risk of death due to some other cause, then, obviously, it does not follow from the fact that it reduces the risk of cervical cancer that therefore it is a good idea to get the vaccine.

Also, while Fleming cites the example of pediatricians routinely resorting to antibiotics for ear infections, he might just as well have cited the argument given by the medical establishment and public policy defenders for why it would be unethical to do a study comparing autism rates (or other health outcomes, for that matter, such as autoimmune disease) for children vaccinated according to the CDC’s schedule with children who remained completely unvaccinated.

No such study has been done because to withhold the vaccines from children, the argument goes, would be unethical since it would deprive children of the vaccines’ benefits.

Just as those who believed that encainide and flecainide must be effective at lowering mortality based on a surrogate endpoint, so does this argument against doing vaccinated versus unvaccinated studies beg the question. It assumes in the premise the very proposition to be proven (the petitio principii fallacy) — namely, that vaccines given according to the CDC’s schedule are safe and effective.

The DTP Vaccine and Mortality

A stark example of this fallacy is found in the case of the DTP vaccine (which has been replaced in the US with the acellular pertussis vaccine, DTaP, but is still widely used elsewhere around the globe). Since receipt of the vaccine has been shown to reduce the incidence of diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, the assumption has been that therefore mass vaccination with DTP will reduce mortality.

In fact, however, what studies show is that the DTP vaccine increases mortality.

The most recent of these, a study published in February of this year in the journal EBioMedicine, stated researchers’ findings bluntly (emphasis added):

DTP was associated with 5-fold higher mortality than being unvaccinated [with DTP]. No prospective study has shown beneficial survival effects of DTP. Unfortunately, DTP is the most widely used vaccine, and the proportion who receives DTP3 is used globally as an indicator of the performance of national vaccination programs.

It should be of concern that the effect of routine vaccinations on all-cause mortality was not tested in randomized trials. All currently available evidence suggests that DTP vaccine may kill more children from other causes than it saves from diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis. Though a vaccine protects children against the target disease it may simultaneously increase susceptibility to unrelated infection.

To return to Raptor’s claim that the Journal of the National Cancer Institute study showed that the HPV vaccine prevents cancer, recall that it in fact confirmed what I had written about the FDA, which relied on a surrogate endpoint in its licensure of Gardasil.

Furthermore, this study in fact confirms what I wrote about why Dr. Summers would be unable to point to any such studies: because none exist.

As Raptor’s own source states, “it may be many years before the effect on HPV vaccination on the incidence of cervical cancer can be assessed.”

Hence we can see that Raptor’s claim that this study showed that the HPV vaccine reduced the incidence of cervical cancer is a bald-faced lie.

It would be superfluous to examine the remainder of the Raptor’s links.

On the Measles Vaccine

“I’m rapidly becoming impatient with Hammond’s arguments”, Raptor informs readers as we come to the next matter I raised in my rejoinder to Dr. Summers: the measles vaccine.

Summers had pointed out that one rare complication of measles is encephalitis, or brain inflammation, and then asked why any parent would risk their child becoming brain damaged by measles “when there’s a safe way of of protecting their children” (referring, of course, to the measles vaccine).

I pointed out that Summers’ statement wrongly implied that encephalitis is not a possible adverse effect of vaccination. I cited a couple of studies in the medical literature that have indicated that encephalitis is a rare outcome of measles vaccination, and I also pointed out that it’s included on the list of possible adverse events on the product insert for Merck’s MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine.

Raptor’s response to my observation is to assert that I’m guilty of creating “a false dichotomy – either a vaccine is 100% safe or it’s unsafe”.

It’s Raptor, however, who is here guilty of the fallacy of strawman argumentation. Of course, I neither said nor suggested any such ridiculous thing. I merely observed — accurately — that Dr. Summers was characterizing the vaccine as though it was 100% safe.

Next, Raptor asserts that I think “that package inserts are some sort of infallible document” — another ludicrous strawman. Raptor notes that “a package insert is never evidence of correlation or causality”. That is true, and of course I hadn’t suggested otherwise. I simply observed the fact that encephalitis is listed under the section listing possible adverse events on Merck’s product insert.

So we can see how the very act of stating a fact in a context of questioning public vaccine policy automatically renders the person stating the fact a believer in “pseudoscience”. It’s through such tactics that defenders of public policy attempt to stifle any form of dissent.

Raptor’s next point is a valid one: assuming the three cases of encephalitis reported for every three million doses of MMR given were actually caused by the vaccine, “the risk of encephalitis from measles is still substantially higher than the vaccine”. That is true.

It’s also true that adverse reactions to vaccines are for numerous reasons widely underreported in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which was also established under the 1986 law granting vaccine manufacturers legal immunity (The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act).

But both of these facts are beside the point I was making, which is that it is dishonest to characterize vaccination as though it was a medical intervention that entails no risk of any serious harm.

Raptor rightly frames it as a question of weighing benefits versus risks. But this just bolsters my whole point, which is that the public ought to be properly informed of what those risks are rather than told they don’t exist.

In Raptor’s calculation, the benefits of the measles vaccine far outweighs any risks. But that’s a decision that every parent should make for every child with every vaccine. And there are countless other variables to consider to be able to make an informed choice that the public just isn’t being informed about.

For example, parents aren’t being informed that, just as studies show that the DTP vaccine has “non-specific effects” (that is, consequences that are unintended or unexpected) resulting in increased mortality, so have studies long found that natural infection with measles has non-specific effects that are beneficial. Natural infection with the measles virus not only confers lifelong immunity against measles, but also seems to be an important childhood disease that primes the immune system to help protect against other diseases, as well.

Benefits of Getting Measles

“In the 1970s,” as Science Daily notes, “measles infections were observed to cause regression of pre-existing cancer tumors in children.” This observation has led Mayo Clinic to experiment with using measles virus to treat brain cancer.

A study published in The Lancet in 1985 found a negative history of measles to be associated with an increased risk of developing “immunocreactive diseases, sebaceious skin diseases, degenerative diseases of bone and cartilage, and certain tumours.”

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology the same year found that infection with measles is associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease, suggesting “a truly protective effect of measles”.

More recently, a study published in the International Journal of Cancer in 2013 found “a protective role of childhood infectious diseases” — namely measles — “on the risk of CLL [chronic lymphoid leukaemia] in adults”.

A study published in the journal Atherosclerosis in 2015 found that “Measles and mumps, especially in case of both infections, were associated with lower risks of mortality from atherosclerotic CVD [cardiovascular disease].”

Dr. Summers naturally fails to disclose this kind of information in his op-ed so parents could do a proper cost-benefit analysis to determine whether vaccination is right for them.

One begins to see why studies have shown that parents who are choosing not to vaccinate their children, far from being unintelligent or “anti-science”, tend to be well-educated and affluent.

It’s the parents who choose not to put blind faith in an observably corrupt medical establishment that, rather than address their legitimate concerns, has shunned and ridiculed anyone who dares to question public policy, including parents of vaccine-injured children.

It’s the parents who understand how bias can become institutionalized. (No “conspiracy theory” is required to explain how the medical establishment could be wrong, though when it comes to “tobacco science”, there is certainly an element of willfulness. Older generations may recall how advertisements for cigarettes used to feature doctors’ endorsements, and it is not as though there wasn’t an abundance of other examples where the medical establishment has gotten it wrong.)

It’s the parents who are doing their own research, including by doing something most doctors and journalists can’t seem to be bothered with: digging into the medical literature (which can be searched at PubMed.gov) to see for themselves what science actually has to say about vaccines.

Measles and Mortality

Raptor emphasizes that “measles can be a serious illness requiring hospitalization”.

That is true. It is also true that the mortality rate from measles had already plummeted prior to the introduction of the vaccine. This can be seen in the CDC data presented in the below graph (note that the vaccine was licensed in 1963, after the last year shown on this graph).

Measles mortality

In fact, as an article in the journal Pediatrics notes, “nearly 90% of the decline in infectious disease mortality among US children occurred before 1940, when few antibiotics or vaccines were available.”

Moreover, the risk factors for complications from measles, unlike the risks from the vaccine, are quite well understood — such as malnourishment and, most specifically, vitamin A deficiency.

This brings us to the next objection of Raptor’s to my reply to Summers’s op-ed. Summers had written:

Preventing measles isn’t a matter of avoiding some minor ailment. The disease killed over 100,000 people in 2015.

I replied:

Summers notes the the deaths of over 100,000 people in 2015 as a result of measles infection as though the mortality rate in the US, absent mass vaccination, would be no different than in third-world countries in Africa.

Raptor asserts that I’m “just plain wrong” here; “Dr. Simmons [sic] wasn’t trying to imply that 100,000 children would die in the USA, he’s speaking worldwide.”

But that was precisely my point. Dr. Summers was citing a statistic suggesting a mortality rate that would apply to other countries, but not to the US — a fact which Raptor here tacitly acknowledges.

Raptor claims Summers “wasn’t trying to imply” that the mortality rate of measles would be the same in the US as it would be in developing countries. One might wonder how Raptor can read Summers’ mind, but it makes no difference because it isn’t a question of intent. Whether intentionally or not, Summers did in fact imply just that.

In fact, it was in this very same paragraph that Summers noted that there is a risk of brain damage from measles and asked, “Why on earth would parents opt for that risk when there’s a safe way of protecting their children?”

Summers was, of course, directing his question specifically toward American parents when he wrote that.

Raptor’s next comment is, “Of course, Hammond’s point sounds vaguely offensive that somehow only Africans will die of measles, and not privileged white Americans. Sigh.”

So now, in addition to it being “anti-science” to point out the acknowledged fact that the mortality rate in the US would not be the same as in developing countries, it is also “offensive” to point out that Americans enjoy a higher standard of living.

Sigh.

Unintended Population Effects of Mass Vaccination

Among other factors that aren’t taken into consideration in the risk-benefit analysis underlying public policy are unintended effects at the population level. For example, one effect of mass vaccination for measles is that in the event of an outbreak today, the risk burden has shifted away from children in whom it is a generally mild disease onto those for whom it poses a greater risk of complications: infants.

This is because in the pre-vaccine era, most women experienced measles infection as a child and developed a robust cell-mediated immunity. Frequent reexposure to the virus also kept antibody levels high. Since antibodies are passed from mother to baby via breastmilk, breastfeeding provided a strong passive immunity to infants, who do not yet have a developed immune system to be able to handle the infection on their own.

Now, however, thanks to mass vaccination, mothers aren’t as well able to confer immunity to their infants via breastmilk. This is because the immunity conferred by the vaccine isn’t as robust as that conferred by natural infection and wanes more quickly over time, and by reducing the circulation of the virus, the natural boosting of antibody titers from frequent reexposure no longer occurs.

Thus, because mothers in the era of mass vaccination aren’t as well able to pass protective antibodies on to their infants via breastmilk, in the event of an outbreak, infants are at a higher risk.

Conclusion

Raptor closes by describing my response to Summers’ op-ed as consisting of “tropes, myths, conspiracy theories, cherry picking and, need I mention this, outright misinformation.”

It is fitting that Raptor should close with such words because, in the end, having failed to identify even a single error in fact or logic in anything I wrote, such empty rhetoric is all Raptor has got. Rather than reasonably addressing my points, Raptor resorts to misrepresentation, strawman argumentation, obfuscation, and ad hominem attacks.

I am perfectly content to let intelligent readers decide for themselves, therefore, who is more “anti-science”.

Such efforts to bully and intimidate people into conformity will ultimately fail, but there’s a lesson in it: to dare to question public vaccine policy is a sin for which one must be rebuked.

It is to commit the crime of heresy against the vaccine religion.

The heretics, however, will not be intimidated.

We will not be silenced.


Jeremy R. Hammond is an award-winning independent journalist, author, publisher and editor of Foreign Policy Journal, and father. Subscribe to stay updated with his work on vaccines and get his free report “5 Horrifying Facts about the FDA Vaccine Approval Process.” 

We received permission to published it from The World Mercury Project.

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Awareness

If Your DNA Information Is Being Sold, Shouldn’t You Make The Profit?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Companies like 23andMe, Ancestry.com and others are collecting your DNA data and can sell the data to third party companies. Timicoin is a blockchain based ecosystem that allows you to monetize your health data.

  • Reflect On:

    Shouldn't you have the option to sell your own data? Is your DNA data safe with some of these companies? The blockchain is helping to create further security and consumer-based monetization of personal data.

Amidst the rise in popularity of companies who take samples of our DNA in order to provide us with information about our ancestry and health risks, there are growing concerns that are not immediately apparent to the average consumer. While most are just happy to be getting exotic information about where they came from and what they should be watching out for health-wise, all for little more than a few hundred dollars, not many consumers are seeing this as a threat to their privacy, and more specifically, as a threat to their control over the most essential information about their unique personal identity–their DNA sequences.

“The key thing about your genetic data … it is uniquely yours. It identifies you, so if you are going to entrust it to a company, you should try to understand what the consequences are,” said Jennifer King, director of consumer privacy at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, whose research on the issue and interviews with individuals shows a lack of consumer knowledge.

Company Disclaimers

Of course, companies who deal in such services will do all they can to convince consumers that their data is safe and secure. But as this CNBC article notes,

Companies in this space, including 23andMeVeritas Genetics and Ancestry, have a good reason to protect your DNA — their business future depends on maintaining the trust of consumers. But there are thorny issues related to genetic privacy that still today don’t have easy answers or iron-clad legislative protections. And regulators aren’t convinced they are doing right by consumers. A recent Fast Company report indicates that 23andMe and Ancestry are being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission over their policies for handling personal info and genetic data and how they share that info with third parties.

All of these companies say they have clear policies that they will not share your DNA with any third-party unless you explicitly consent to it:

23andMe provides consumers the choice of opting into research conducted on behalf of academic, nonprofit and industry organizations. They also offer an option to consent separately to specific disease studies in which their DNA is used in conjunction with for-profit drug companies, such as the Parkinson’s disease research conducted with Genentech and the lupus and IBD research conducted with Pfizer.

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Abuse Of Private Data

Hearing about research conducted on behalf of ‘academic, nonprofit and industry organizations’ reminds me of the article I wrote on Cambridge Analytica’s fraudulent effort to characterize themselves as an academic organization while mining people’s private Facebook information to target them with ads for the 2016 U. S. Presidential Election. Facebook knowingly sold the information to Cambridge Analytica demonstrating that, when it comes to big companies and corporations, the only thing we know for sure is that money and profit will eventually trump respect for the privacy of people’s information.

If there is money to be made by selling our personal information, corporations will do whatever they can to skirt around privacy agreements. They may even flat-out change their policy and inform us in a pages-long letter that they know no one reads and will simply click the ‘accept’ button. In the current environment, it is wise to be extremely cautious when deciding to consent to having one company share our information, especially our genetic information, with third parties.

Think about it. As technology evolves, surely there will be ways our DNA codes could be used in the future that we would not agree with. But once we have given our consent to the use of this most private information, we can no longer guarantee what happens with it. Wouldn’t it be great if WE had control over our genetic information, encrypted and only accessible by us, to use and share in a manner of OUR choosing?

If we so choose, we may even be able to profit from it. Did you know that health information is a commodity that is already collected and sold via third-party companies? Selling health data around the world is already a multi-billion dollar industry, much like how your data collected from Facebook is. But how do we get back control of our DNA information, which could be our most valuable resource about who we are?

Think outside the box. Think blockchain. Think Timicoin.

Timicoin

Timicoin is a platform bringing together a crypto token and the blockchain and is pioneering the tokenization of health information, including your DNA sequencing and other genetic information, through a decentralized blockchain ecosystem. They promise to allow users to monetize their own data, have access to their health information whenever they need it and verify that it is accurate.

The Timicoin platform is built on their own custom blockchain and it’s already fully functioning. This means that in a short time, you will be able to begin using Timicoin’s blockchain to monetize your health data. For more information, please refer to this earlier CE article. You can also read Timicoin’s White Paper here.

Shift In Business Paradigm

Analysts believe that Healthcare information on the blockchain will grow aggressively in the coming years given the global need for ease of sharing healthcare information. Secure storage of our DNA information is only one part of Timicoin’s larger endeavor to make your healthcare information available globally and instantaneously as needed, but only with your personal consent.

It represents a new business paradigm, whereby information is centralized in terms of permitted access but decentralized in terms of who has the power over the information. No longer will masses of valuable personal information be owned and controlled by large corporations, but rather will be owned and controlled by each individual, not only giving the individual the ability to monetize their personal information themselves, but also securing the validity of that information through personal verification and safeguarding against fraud. Supporting blockchain technologies is supporting individual empowerment in our society, a move that undoubtedly scares the power structure at top levels of our current corporatocracy.

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Awareness

The Damaging Effects Of 5G Wireless On Your Health

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Wireless radiation is a huge health problem that continues to be ignored and another opportunity for us to gaze into the past of similar occurrences and learn from our mistakes. Take tobacco for example, at one time in history you were considered a fool and ‘crazy’ for speaking up against the big tobacco companies and letting people know that cigarettes compromise our health. Today, science has spoken, and it has spoken for a long time, despite what the corporations put out into the public and the “science” they used to approve these things in the first place.

There doesn’t seem to be much more of a difference between communication companies that sell and manufacture wireless products and services, which, according to hundreds of scientists and countless amounts of publications, are urging authorities to pay closer attention to what wireless radiation is doing to human health.

This is one of the multiple examples where corporate control rules and dictates government policy, policies that favour big corporations at the behest of planet Earth and the rest of the human population. But it’s more so apparent in North America.

European Restrictions

In Europe, multiple countries have restrictions on WiFi and have pointed out some disturbing things. France passed a law in 2015 banning WiFi from all nursery schools, the law states that WiFi must be turned off in all elementary schools when it’s not in use. W wired connection if possible, is preferred. Advertisements directing cell phone use towards young children are banned.

An example from Namibia states quite clearly that current so-called “safety” standards don’t protect citizens from long-term health effects, and that the guidelines governing their use do not guarantee adequate protection against the effects of long-term exposure.

Other countries include Belgium, Spain, Israel, Australia, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, India, Finland, Cyprus and more.

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Why are they saying no to WiFi? See for yourself:

You can access hundreds of these scientific papers and read more here, just click on the science section and under each heading, there are links directly to the research. If you click on the drop-down tab, a list of scientific references as documentation appears. 


Related CE Article with more information:

Why Multiple Countries Have Banned Wifi & Cell Phones Around Schools, Young Children & Fetuses


Yes, we are making progress, and awareness is being created and steps are being taken, but the corporate take over of North America and almost the entire planet is simply brushing our health under the table, because, unfortunately, they have the power to do so.

At the same time, we are the ones using this technology. It’s becoming so useful, and so easy to just rely on the corporation like we do with everything else. How ironic is it that we raise money and advocate for cancer, yet support the very things that are contributing to it, on grande scales?

Millions of children and adults in schools around the world spend significant amounts of time around wireless devices and Wi-Fi. Many schools are introducing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies and installing industrial wireless routers for tablets. However, wireless devices expose students and staff to microwave radiation that can impede learning and overall health. Studies have shown that microwave radiation can damage reproductive systems, impact the immune system, alter brain functioning, and may increase cancer risk. Tablets have up to 5 antennae that are constantly emitting short intense bursts of radiation even when not connected to the Internet. Wireless devices in classrooms thus result in multiple sources of wireless radiation exposure. – Environmental Health Trust

The 5G Health Concerns

So, what about 5G? Science already indicates that the current wireless technologies of 2G, 3G and 4G – in use today with our cell phones, computers, and wearable tech. – creates radio frequency exposure which poses a serious health risk to humans, animals and the environment. 5G is the term used to describe the next-generation of mobile networks beyond the 4G LTE mobile networks used today. 5G is intended to be the technology that allows the “Internet of Things” (IOT) to exist and connects all internet connected devices together.

Scientists have been studying the health effects of 5G and wireless radiation and are deeply concerned with their findings and are calling for a stop to the rollout of 5G,  as well as a halt to the proposed increase in radio frequency radiation exposure to the public.

Thanks to all of the efforts by various researchers, scientists and more, the world is waking up to this information and it’s actually starting to become talked about within the mainstream. It always seems like such a long process from the point where something is known, to actually mass consensus and action steps being created.

A CBS news report recently emphasized:

The wireless industry is in a race to roll out 5G service. The network is supposed to be up to 100 times faster than current data speeds, but it requires cellphone tower equipment to be closer to users than before. Wireless companies in the U.S. say they’ll have to install about 300,000 new antennas – roughly equal to the total number of cell towers built over the past three decades. That’s causing outrage and alarm in some neighbourhoods, as antennas go up around homes.

5G requires the installation of new equipment across the U.S. Every wireless company is working to build its own 5G network. This is worse than cell phone use, and yet, according to government health authorities, “a limited number of studies have shown some evidence of statistical association of cell phone use and brain tumour risks… but most studies have found no association.”

Waiting for high levels of scientific and clinical proof before taking action to prevent well-known risks can lead to very high health and economic costs, as was the case with asbestos, leaded petrol and tobacco.
Dr. Martin Blank, Ph.D., from the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics at Columbia University, has joined a group of scientists from around the world who are making an international appeal to the United Nations regarding the dangers associated with the use of electromagnetic emitting devices like cell phones and Wi-Fi. He and hundreds of other scientists around the world are currently petitioning the UN, and have been for quite some time, regarding the dangers associated with these devices.

“Putting it bluntly they are damaging the living cells in our bodies and killing many of us prematurely” (source)

Melissa Arnoldi, who leads AT&T’s efforts, said “if it’s not already in your neighbourhood, it’s coming.” This is quite concerning, she told CBS news that “5G uses high-frequency waves that support faster speeds but don’t travel as far as current wireless frequencies. So instead of relying on large cellphone towers spread far apart, they need “small cell” sites that are much closer together.”

Sometimes I wonder, how is this even allowed to happen? Who are the people which control what type of information with regards to our health gets emphasized, and what doesn’t?

This new 5G equipment is currently being installed in a neighbourhood near you.

I’ll leave you with this TED talk by a Silicon-valley engineer turned technology health advocate, Jeromy Johnson.


Related CE Article:

FCC Intimidates Press & Evades Questioning About Wireless & Cancer at 5G Rollout 


 Solutions Exist

You can use a wired connection, which is very fast and in most cases faster than a wireless connection. Minimize your cell phone use, and perhaps look into some devices that may be used to block the biological effects this stuff is, does, and can have on us.

FactSheets:What Parents Need to Know About Wireless Radiation,

American Academy of Pediatrics Recommendation Protect The Ones You Love Card  English,Spanish

BabySafe Project: “Reduce Your Wireless Exposure”English BrochureSpanish Brochure

New Jersey Education Association Minimize health risks from electronic devices”Article,PDF of Recommendations

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Awareness

This Super Simple Breathing Technique Can Help Alleviate Anxiety & Depression

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Small study finds breathing technique can help treat major depressive disorder and anxiety.

  • Reflect On:

    The answers to our challenges are much simpler than we thought, we have everything we need inside of us. Great alternative to prescription anti-depressant medication, or other substances.

The breath is one of the most underrated and under-utilized methods of healing. Breathing comes naturally to us, we do it without thinking, which is why it is not something we generally think of as a way to connect deeply with ourselves, calm our anxieties or even reach higher levels of consciousness. Something as simple as breathing can help those who suffer from severe mental conditions and those who have survived global disasters.

There are many forms of breathwork, there is the well-known Holotropic Breathing, made popular by the Iceman himself, Wim Hof. There is another technique known as transformational breathwork and the featured practice of breathing that will be featured in this article, resonant breathing or Coherent Breathing, which is a trademarked term.

This specific style of breathwork came from years of studying the ancient breathing practices of indigenous people all over the world including those from African, Hawaiian, and Native American traditions.

Assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College, Patricia Gerbarg, studies the technique with her husband, Richard Brown, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. “We wanted to identify a short program that could be given quickly to people, that they would have immediate relief within five or ten minutes, and that over time would produce long-term changes,” Gerbarg told Vice.

The Study

A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary medicine in 2017 led by researchers from Boston University asked 30 people with major depression to practice the breathing technique regularly as well as Iyengar yoga. After 3 months, results from a standard depression inventory test showed how the depressive symptoms had significantly declined.

Even though the study size was very small, it is comforting to know that something as simple as breath alone could help to alleviate symptoms of severe depression. No pills needed. This technique is especially powerful because it can be practiced anytime, anywhere. The process involved taking regular breaths in and out of the nose, at a pace of 5 breaths per minute, each breath in and out taking around 6 seconds. When starting out, it is recommended that this be practiced with the eyes closed, but once you get it under control you can easily do it with your eyes open, meaning while you’re driving, while in a meeting, anytime during the day that you may find yourself feeling anxious, stressed or down. Gerbarg says, “It’s totally private. Nobody knows you’re doing it.”

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The breath should be calm and gentle because the goal is to balance the sympathetic — fight or flight with the parasympathetic — rest and digest areas of the nervous system. Interestingly, when the couple first began looking into the power of the breath, the first thought was that this must send extra oxygen to the brain that we may have otherwise been lacking. However, they knew that there must be more to this to explain the profound effects they had been seeing in those who practiced the breathing technique. Not to mention, some types of breathwork actually decreases the amount of oxygen going to the brain.

Why Does This Work?

Gerbarg and Brown believe that the reason this technique works is thanks to the vagal nerves, those connecting the brain to the body and what tell the organs when to beat, digest, breathe and all other functions, have been found in recent years to send even more messages in the opposite direction from the body to the brain. “These ascending messages strongly influence stress response, emotion and neurohormonal regulatory networks,” stated in a book written by the couple, Yoga Therapy: Theory and Practice.

According to Gerbarg, “Respiration is the only autonomic function we can voluntarily control,” it’s easy to see how changing the breathing pattern can shift the messages received by the brain.

The calm and even breaths send messages of safety, according to Gerbarg, this can reduce anxious or depressive thoughts and makes way for more loving and connected emotions to be felt. Adverse reactions are generally rare, but those with asthma or other breathing conditions should only try this practice under the guidance of a trained professional.

We really do have everything we need inside of us. Our human bodies are magnificent, and if something as simple as breathing can help alleviate symptoms of depression, then we should certainly be studying this more. If you are skeptical about this information and feel it’s too good to be true, give it a shot next time you find yourself feeling down or anxious and see if it helps!

Much Love

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