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I know that many men like to get out fishing at this time of year – I prefer lounging around reading, punctuated by the occasional stroll. Most physicians are steadily keeping abreast of the medical literature; I do my share, but I have to admit that I have more enjoyment in reading fiction. And not a minor part of that perusing includes 19th-century novels, plays, and operas. When Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote the Scarlet Letter, he probably was not seeking to be known as the author of the first major American book featuring a sex offender protagonist. Hester Prynne's dastardly offense, as you recall, was engaging in adultery for which she was ordered to walk about the town with the letter A signage displayed over her chest. Of course, Hester's act has long been recognized as not only not sexually offensive, but approved of by men and women, assuming sex is consensual. But in her day, Hester was deeply stigmatized for the audacity of her act and her lack of morality and recognized depravity. In a sense, her scarlet letter was the sign that her neighbors recognized immediately and daily that she was a tainted woman, not to be trusted, and shunned in all dealings.
Hawthorne's novel is a work of fiction, but we have a modern-day version of the Scarlet Letter – it is the sex offender registry. Every state in the US maintains a list of predators who have been guilty of rape, childhood sexual predation, filming child pornography, and other sexual crimes. One understands the need for such a list when individuals who are unrepentant for their sexual misdeeds live freely in society; one would like to know if a sexual predator is living next door. But what if the individual on the registry is a juvenile or a young adult whose only crime was pulling down the pants of a classmate at age 10? Yes, pulling down a classmate's pants is a crime, a sexual crime, sufficient to be deemed a punishable offense by the courts, and a listing on the sexual offender registry. What if a few preteen kids are home alone and they want to do show and tell with their bodies – I'll let you look at mine, if you let me look at yours. It turns out that this is a sexual offense, especially if there is a young teen and a preteen. And if the sexual offense is prosecuted, guess what: there is a listing on the sex offender registry. It may seem moronic for the first two cases to be prosecuted and placed on a registry. How about two 17-year-olds who go to the prom, drink too much, and at a hotel later engage in sex? Yes, a parent can complain, about underage sex, despite it being consensual, and the male teenager will be charged with statutory rape. (Shouldn't the female teenager face the same offense?) It's a criminal act and, if successfully prosecuted, yields a listing as a sex offender. Mind you, all of the above are considered as sexually depraved as the 43-year-old pervert getting teenagers to film porn or the 48-year-old psychopath violently raping women. They're all considered sexual crimes. Once convicted or obliged to plea-bargain guilt for a lesser sentence, each is considered a sex offender, listed on a sex offender registry, and treated by the police and public exactly the same – as deviants deserving contempt, avoidance, and distrust, not to be hired, not to be allowed near schools, not even to be permitted to visit their own children. Yep, the preteens who groped each other while playing show-and-tell are hardened sex offenders who need to be listed!
Why am I carrying on so about this; after all, what do sexual offenders have to do with integrative medicine? Much like Hawthorne's Hester, someone who is registered lives the life of a "leper." Being stigmatized means no work, getting ugly looks walking into the store, time wasted figuring out how and where one can travel, families being targeted by vigilantes; basically, a life of hell. The psychological toll is relentless; individuals withdraw, become depressed, and have suicidal thoughts. And not a few have committed suicide. The preteen and teenage "sexual offenders" who are listed live lives of a pariah. Their stories are amply illustrated in an article by Sarah Stillman in the March 14 New Yorker.3 One woman, whose sexual show-and-tell at age 10 with younger siblings led to a conviction for intercourse with a child (that never occurred), was removed from her home, placed in juvenile detention, and given "sexual rehabilitation." She eventually completed her judicially ordered program and returned to living with a foster family and performed outstandingly in high school. She entered college and continued to excel in her studies until one day her photo, name, and address appeared on a Michigan sex offender site. Vigilante students told her to get out of the dorm. She fled and lived hidden but still managed to complete her degree. However, when she finished her master's and sought work, the sex offender registry followed her. Despite attempts to get herself off the list, the judge refused. For a few years she lived peacefully outside the US, but when she returned, after Michigan did remove her name from the registry; her name continued to appear as an offender on other sites on the Web. These sites would not remove her listing. The woman is now married and has children. She is trying to give her children a normal life despite her ongoing dealings with the lingering effects from being trapped by a scarlet letter.
Efforts are under way throughout the US to modify state regulations, prohibiting the listing of juveniles on sex offender registries unless the youth has engaged in felonious acts. However, such efforts have been limited to very few states to date.
Prof. Marco Ruggiero and the Brain Microbiome
In this issue, medical journalist Jacques Fernandez de Santos interviews Prof. Marco Ruggiero for the second time in the Townsend Letter; the first interview in July 2012 concerned the controversy of HIV causation of AIDS.4 Ruggiero discusses the important role that the microbiome of the gastrointestinal tract plays in brain functioning. In fact, he labels the gut microbiome the "third brain," following the role of the GI tract's acting as a secondary brain. But Ruggiero points out that our gut microbiome is composed of a vast population of microorganism species, some of which are defined during stool examinations, but the majority remain undiagnosed. He estimates that the gut biome population, nonhuman organisms living symbiotically or parasitically within the body, outnumbers the human cell population by 10:1. Much more concerning is that the genetic information contained with the microbiome DNA outnumbers the human cell DNA by 100:1. Given the overwhelming amount of alien DNA functioning within the gut, Ruggiero conjectures that the human brain is clearly being directed at least to a certain degree by the gut microbiome. Further, since all organisms seek to maximize their survival at the expense of their environment, Ruggiero suggests that our brain function, indeed our cognitive functioning, and more crudely our eating preferences, may be directed by the gut microbiome for their partialities. What should set the readership off balance is that Ruggiero makes the case that our brain itself has its own microbiome, totally oblivious to the blood–brain barrier.
What, if anything, can support our immune system that is terribly outnumbered by numbers and the metabolic functioning of the two microbiome populations? Ruggiero's work has focused on GcMAF (Gc protein-derived macrophage activating factor), an immune modulator that acts to stimulate immune system functioning when under attack while inhibiting immune cell activity when the danger is abated. Ideally, this would mean that it would enhance white blood cell activity during the course of an acute infection or when faced with tumor cell growth, while it would dampen such activity if autoimmune dysfunction was ongoing. GcMAF has had a sensationalized reputation over the past decade as a panacea for cancer, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic degenerative diseases. Due to the disdain that the FDA has had for clinics promising cures using GcMAF, it has been difficult to import. However, Ruggiero thinks that we should reconsider GcMAF, as continuing research supports its impressive immune modulating activities with essentially no adverse effects.
Stephen Levine PhD
Our cover features Stephen Levine, PhD, well recognized in the supplement industry as the founder of Allergy Research Group in California. Stephen and I share similar paths with our participation in orthomolecular medicine and vitamin therapies. Stephen began Allergy Research with a handful of supplement products that he distributed from the trunk of his car in 1980; at that time I was getting my feet wet learning about chelation and nutritional medicine at a clinic run by Leo Bolles, MD, with a tiny lab implementing some crude functional lab tests by a biochemistry professor, Jeff Bland, PhD. In 1985, after the Townsend Letter had just began its transition from a newsletter to a small magazine, Stephen Levine published his seminal work, "Antioxidant Adaptation: Its Role in Free Radical Pathology," coauthored with Parris Kidd, PhD. In those early days of Townsend Letter publication, Stephen and I met frequently at chelation and environmental medicine meetings, where he would be speaker and company president/booth representative. Allergy Research has been an advertiser in the Townsend Letter for more than 30 years!
Stephen has retired from direct activities with Allergy Research, but he remains very interested in clinical research and publication. In this month's interview by Bob Frost, Stephen shares his own treatment favorites and what he takes daily to bolster and maintain his health.
Jonathan Collin, MD
1. Elizabeth E. Holistic doctor death series: Over 50 dead on 1 year anniversary, but what's being done? Health Nut. March 12, 2016.
2. Eskapa R. The Cure for Alcoholism: the Medically Proven Way to Eliminate Alcohol Addiction. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books; 2008.
3. Stillman S. The list. New Yorker. March 14, 2016:50–63.
4. De Santos JF. Interview of Prof. Marco Ruggiero on the controversy of HIV causation of AIDS. Townsend Lett. July 2012.
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