Former South Side Doctor Pens Book; Local Free Clinic Opening

Oddly enough, for the last nine years Syracuse’s traditional South Side didn’t have in its midst a medical practice to help take care of its population’s growing health needs.

How did we allow this to happen?

At the beginning of her book, Dr. Jennifer Daniels offers us some glimpses to help answer this issue, which, according to accounts published at the time, unfolded with elements of a classic Greek drama: betrayal, deception, cover-up, collusion, pay-back, contempt, redemption.

And as these ingredients weren’t enough, they got mixed with concerns of contemporary society such as physician-patient confidentiality, micromanagement of health care by large public and private bureaucracies, and the role of special interest groups in heavy-handed state intervention.

Dr. Daniels’ views deserve some consideration since she was in the thick of it as the last physician to have practiced on the South Side up until the Rahma Free Health Clinic filled the gap with its grand opening Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010.

This period of trials and tribulations, which led to Dr. Daniels’ formal withdrawal from medical practice, had a silver lining as it allowed her to develop her spiritual dimension by founding the Church of Natural Living/Eden Community Fellowship, which first held services at 3100 S. Salina St. and then moved two blocks down the street, to 240 W. Newell St. The South Salina Street address now serves as the new Rahma Clinic.

This spirituality is more pronounced toward the end of the book, in which “yoga, meditation, prayer” are encouraged.

Dr. Daniels

Dr. Daniels first encountered Dr. Mitra Ray at a retreat for health buffs. Both hit it off and discovered that they shared a respectful admiration for Dr. T. Colin Campbell.

Dr. Ray had been a protegee of Dr. Campbell while at Cornell University whereas Dr. Daniels was inspired by his work to write a health column for a newspaper.

Dr. Campbell was the project director of the China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project, a 20-year study of nutrition and health. The findings of the study are presented in his book “The China Study.” In it, Dr. Campbell writes: “Average calorie intake, per kilogram of body weight, was 30 percent higher among the least active Chinese than among average Americans. Yet, body weight was 20 percent lower. How can it be that even the least active Chinese consume more calories yet have no overweight problems?” This could mean that a group in China eats more and exercises less than a group in America yet these Chinese are slimmer than the Americans, thereby throwing into question the conventional wisdom that body weight is directly correlated with the level of calorie consumption per se.

Dr. Ray

Having realized that they had a common background, Drs. Daniels and Ray then had a meeting of the minds in which they decided to organize a  “coalition of the willing” to launch an all-out war against the new Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: wrinkles, blemishes, graying and baldness. Hence, the book “Do you have the guts to be beautiful?” was conceived.

With the battle cry of “whole food, plant-based regimen,” the authors unleash the opening salvos of a “shock and awe” campaign. The targets are the “beauty industry” as well as the “medical establishment,” as this book puts it.

A popular perception is that the “beauty industry” hails supermodels with seductive full pouty lips as being goddesses of healthy beauty and love. In actuality, they are hoodwinking America if we take the authors’ connotations correctly. Indeed, the authors imply that the models’ thick pouty lips are a telltale sign that the hotties are in dire need of an enema. “Once colon is clean, excess fluid will leave the lips,” the authors gleefully proclaim. Now what remains to be seen is whether or not the cuties will take up the challenge posed by Drs. Daniels and Ray. The gauntlet has been thrown down; it’s up to the models to clean up their acts … and their colons.

Dr. Jennifer Daniels, a former South Side physician, practiced at this site located at at 3100 S. Salina St., which will again become a medical facility with the grand opening of the Rahma Free Health Clinic Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010.

Fortunately for us, mere mortals, the authors, in a veiled fashion, have blown the lid off this conspiracy of sorts.

In a similar vein, the book has quite a bit of more surprises in store for readers in the realms described in its subtitle: “Simple, natural practices for reversing wrinkles, blemishes, graying, and baldness, and feeling young again.”

The alternative-lifestyle devotees (affectionately called “health nuts” by the authors) seem to come in different flavors in the book. We have the plain-vanilla vegans and then we have the unidentified flavor of the organic food crowd.

Many ardent supporters of the organic food movement might be startled when told by the authors “in general, organic produce has 1/3 of the pesticides that regular produce has – so you still get some of those residues even when you eat organic.”

On the other hand, the run-of-the-mill vegans are chastised for deluding themselves by indulging in their beloved vegan pizzas, Portobello vegan spinach wraps and dried-fruit power bars, oblivious to the fact that by eating these cherished treats they are draining their organisms of “water, energy and the body’s resources (such as amino acids) needed to make … enzymes” as a consequence of their intake of dreadful processed “oil and other beauty-detracting ingredients” such as “concentrated sweets” and “white flour.”

“As it turns out, many people who are on raw, vegan diets experience incredible thinning of their hair,” the authors warn. Here the image of balding Hollywood actor Woody Harrelson, a poster boy for raw veganism, comes to mind. Is Woody eating some of the munchies criticized by Drs. Daniels and Ray?

As earlier suggested, what these two doctors advocate is a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) paradigm. There are disagreements among the health gurus as to what exactly this mantra means. This book cites John Robbins as a reference. Robbins, in his book “Healthy at 100,” pontificates that eating canola oil, fish oil capsules and wild fish is consistent with a WFPB diet. In doing so, he incurs in the wrath of competing gurus, for whom this is tantamount to anathema. In passing, Robbins also alienates the animal liberation types. The funny thing is that he laments the depletion of fish stocks in the world while at the same time encouraging the consumption of fish products.

Regarding Drs. Daniels and Ray, they don’t recommend any processed oils at all (not even the highly touted extra-virgin olive oil). Although the authors don’t elaborate on the mechanisms of action, these oils allegedly make a person’s hair fall out by shutting off electrical energy and oxygen to the hair follicle, according to other sources. These oils interfere with the set of metabolic reactions and processes known as cellular respiration.

A key component of the WFPB diet is the “green drink,” whose recipe is provided by the authors in the book. The “green drink” isn’t an Irish beer that revelers swill on St. Patrick’s Day. Instead, it’s a concoction containing essential fatty acids, minerals, fiber, etc.

The book grapples with the task of fleshing out complex theories, including esoteric ones, without losing the average reader along the way. Theories undergirding the text come from both hemispheres of the world. For example, the Western hemisphere contributes the theory of vicarious elimination while the Eastern hemisphere contributes the Chi Gong and Ayurvedic theories. Plus, we find the He Shou Wu/Fo Ti formulation. But don’t be scared by the exotic-sounding names. The “pop style” of writing, typical of many self-help books, employed by the authors keeps things plain.

These theories provide a backdrop for Dr. Daniels to display her uncanny ability to devise promising hypotheses. She turned both her home and her office into virtual labs by testing her speculations using her relatives and patients as guinea pigs. After tweaking her protocols through trial and error, she came up with a first level of proof: anecdotal evidence. The next logical step would be to conduct something approaching randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials to further validate Dr. Daniels’ recorded personal observations.

A pitfall of many “pop style” books is that in their quest for simplification they fall into oversimplification. Sometimes a nuanced analysis requires complicating the argument, instead of simplifying it. Complicating the argument will certainly elevate the discourse level.

Pesky skeptics might note that not every relevant contention made in the book is backed up by the 25 references listed at the end of it.

House on West Corning Street where Dr. Jennifer Daniels grew up.

In order to quench their thirst for deeper understanding, the doubters will need to go through the unorthodox route of doing some digging by themselves if they want to pry open what they might perceive as a black box of unaddressed concerns.

The claims put forth in this book are too numerous to be discussed one by one in the context of a journalistic review. For the sake of brevity, let’s narrow it down to age spots and baldness.

“Let’s focus on the fact that age spots are caused by deposits of waste under the epidermis,” the authors say, when “your liver is not filtering toxins or toxins are adhering to the walls of the bowel.” It’s not immediately apparent how their theory jibes with the mainstream theory that age spots are lesions where there is a localized concentration of the pigment melanin in the skin. And a paradoxical occurrence, according to the latter theory, is that melanin can decrease in the hair, producing graying, while at the time increasing in the skin, producing age spots.

Further along the text, the book asserts: “The next issue to consider with baldness is hormones. Dr. Daniels doesn’t subscribe to the theory that testosterone causes baldness. She believes that there are intermediate metabolites … that bind to the hair follicles and cause them to go dormant. Dr. Daniels believes that the source of these metabolites is in animal products and processed foods. In ‘The China Study,’ T. Colin Campbell found an association between animal protein in the diet and baldness in men.”

An examination of the contents of the “The China Study” wasn’t able to find any reference to human baldness in it and the only metabolite mentioned as such was 1,25 vitamin D. With regard to the testosterone theory of baldness, briefly stated, this theory says that baldness results when the body converts too much of the hormone testosterone to a more potent form, the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

A detailed look at the ramifications of the testosterone theory indicates to us that it might be actually complementary to the theory of baldness embraced by Dr. Daniels rather than contradictory.

For those interested in the technical stuff, meat and dairy products contain growth hormone (GH). Both GH and refined carbohydrates (e.g., white sugar, white flour and white rice) promote the synthesis of type 1 insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which in turn enhances the activity of the type II 5-alpha reductase (5-AR) enzyme. The upshot of this is that more testosterone is converted into DHT, culminating in hair loss. On top of this, dairy products already contain IGF-1.

Propecia (finasteride) and copycat pharmaceutical drugs inhibit 5-AR, thus they have just the opposite effect than meat, dairy products and refined carbs. A downside to finasteride is that serious adverse reactions from its use have been reported in the medical literature, including gynecomastia (excessive development of the male breast).
At times the book gets a little repetitive. We find, for instance, two somewhat long paragraphs that are almost identical (page 20 and page 30).

Two words of caution about the title. First off, it may present a double entendre as the authors argue that beauty stems from the guts but it also requires courage to achieve it by breaking with prevalent representations of it. Secondly, it may appear to be applicable only to women, not to men. What happens is that men “take on a macho attitude” toward their own beauty issues such as wrinkles, referring to them as “character lines,” the authors explain.

The important points that the book raises may serve as a basis for treating conditions such as skin cancer and dry skin associated to a virus.

This book is beckoning, tantalizing and intriguing as a robust array of tea leaves. Patrons of Beauchamp Library, on South Salina Street, might be interested in seeing it in the stacks.

— Book Review by Community Contributor Miguel Balbuena