Skip to main content /transcript


Andrew Weil Discusses Alternative Medicine

Aired April 12, 2001 - 21:00   ET



SUZANNE SOMERS, BEING TREATED FOR BREAST CANCER: The treatment is called Iscador. Now, I just want to say that this is what I'm doing for me. I'm not telling anybody else to do this.


KING: Tonight, when Suzanne Somers gave us the scoop on her nontraditional battle with breast cancer, it raised a lot of questions. And we are looking for answers from alternative medicine expert and best-selling author, Dr. Andrew Weil M.D. This "doctor with a difference" is definitely in. He will take your calls. It is next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Dr. Andrew Weil is our guest for the hour tonight. It's always great to have him with us. He is an M.D. and a specialist in many fields of medicine. He is referred to in a recent article in TIME magazine titled, "A New Breed of Healers," and we will ask him whether he considers himself -- he is identified correctly in that area.

But a lot of talk these days deals with Suzanne Somers appearance on this show a couple nights ago, when she disclosed for the first time that she had breast cancer and was getting this special treatment for it. Let's watch a portion of that and then we'll begin our interview with Dr. Weil. Watch.


SOMERS: I gathered the doctors and I started hearing the common course of treatment. And as I'm hearing the common course of treatment I -- I don't want to lose my hair, but that was the least of my worries -- was losing my hair. But I -- I don't like what that drug does to people.

KING: Chemotherapy.

SOMERS: Chemotherapy. I have seen people under treatment, there is -- you know, I know it helps people, I know it helps.

KING: It works for breast cancer, right? I mean it's, it's...

SOMERS: It does, but I decided to find alternative things to do, and... KING: Knowing you, you would.

SOMERS: I would. And because I -- because I have done so much work in my books about hormones, and that hormonal balance is why people gain or lose weight, and, it was my belief that a balanced environment of hormones prevents disease. And so the first thing they said to me was, "We are taking you off all hormones." And I said, "No, I'm going to continue taking my hormones."


KING: As an aside, Suzanne returns to this program next week.

OK, Dr. Andrew Weil, best-selling author, renowned expert on alternative medicine, director of Integrated Medicine Program at the University of Arizona, and the founder of a new organization, the National Integrative Medicine Council.

Suzanne Somers saying she did undergo a lumpectomy and radiation. Opted not to have chemotherapy, as a compliment to other treatments she's taking injections of Iscador. Dr. Weil, what do you make of it?

DR. ANDREW WEIL, ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE EXPERT: Well, here is the problem. Our treatments for breast cancer are imperfect, and I think one day, sooner, I hope, rather than later, we will look on this era and not believe that we used these dangerous things, but at the moment it is best we've got.

The problem with lots of breast cancer is that the by the time a lump is detectable, it may have been there for a long time. Meaning that the chance that cells have broken away and gone elsewhere in body is high. The purpose of giving chemotherapy after the lumpectomy and radiation treatment is to try to take care of, to destroy, any cancer cells that might be elsewhere in the body, undetectable at the moment, but that might grow into detectable tumors later.

Iscador, this treatment that Suzanne Somers mentioned, is actually not a new treatment. It has been used for many years in Germany, and in Switzerland. It has been promoted by a tradition of medicine, little known in this country, called an there Anthroposophical medicine that derives from the philosophy of an early 20th century Christian mystic named Rudolph Steiner, who also founded the Waldorf schools.

This is an extract of European missile toe given by injection. The injections are painful. They produce an inflammatory reaction, and the idea is they stimulate immune activity. Now my understanding is, that in Germany no one represents Iscador as a cure for cancer. It is used as an adjunctive treatment to help stimulate the immune system and increase body defenses. So I would be nervous about relaying on that as a primary treatment for breast cancer.

KING: Would you use it as an allied treatment?

WEIL: I might. But since I don't have a lot of firsthand experience with Iscador and I'm not trained in Anthroposophical medicine, I'd be likely to use other things that I have better experience with. For example, I routinely suggest to patients undergoing chemotherapy that they take certain Chinese herbs. For instance a plant called Astragalus or mushrooms like Reishi mushroom, or Maitake mushroom, which are nontoxic, and I think help protect the bone marrow and also increase immune activity.

Suzanne mentioned that she was worried about losing her hair doing chemotherapy. There are actually some cases that I have, of patients, who did hypnosis or guided imagery, that is a mind-body therapy, while doing chemotherapy, and as a result of that were able to not lose their hair.

I don't think that's, you know, I don't think it's the end of world to lose your hair. It will grow back, but even that can be dealt with by some adjunctive measures.

KING: We're not saying here that Dr. Weil is against chemotherapy.

WEIL: Absolutely not. I hope that one day we will replace chemotherapy with treatments that are less destructive to normal body cells. And I think what we see on the horizon are treatments like gene therapy, immunotherapy, or this antiangiogenesis therapy, in which we can block the development of new blood vessels that feed cancer.

These hold the promise of being much less toxic treatments that I think may render chemotherapy obsolete, but at the moment, chemotherapy is the best that we've got for certain kinds of cancers. It works very well for rapidly growing cancers, for, for example, testicular cancer, for some leukemias and lymphomas. Chemotherapy, I think, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.

In breast cancer, unfortunately, this is right in the middle of an area of great medical uncertainty and these decisions are very difficult. I would lean toward doing the chemotherapy, and using other treatments to reduce its toxicity and increase general health.

KING: The thing that kills you in breast cancer is not in the breast, it is the spreading from the breast, is that correct?

WEIL: Yes. In fact, the general problem with cancer is that if we can find cancer in the body, and it is localized to one site that we can get at, and you can remove that cancer or kill it, that is the end of it. The problem is that once cancer leaves the site where it developed and establishes itself elsewhere in the body, the chance of a total cure diminishes greatly.

And what eventually kills you is that the body's whole energy economy is distorted and overwhelmed by the cancer. The body is weakened, it can't nourish itself, and it becomes susceptible to infection and other chronic conditions.

KING: In your field, where you are both a Harvard educated M.D. and a proponent of alternative medicine, in the field of cancer, do those fields clash?

WEIL: I think it is area where there's a lot of polarization. And I think it's made to order for the kind of integrative medicine that I advocate. I have a close working relationship with the new head of the Arizona Cancer Center at the university here. We have talked a lot about the need for this kind of medicine for patients.

Most patients coming to university medical centers with cancer probably are doing other kinds of medicine. Many of them not telling their oncologists because they are afraid they will be made fun of or told to stop it. In the alternative medical world a lot of practitioners tell patients that if you do chemotherapy or radiation, we can't help you, so you shouldn't do them.

So patients are left out in the cold. I think this -- there is a real need for doctors who are open-minded, who are trained, have feet in both worlds, and can help patients make the right decisions.

KING: We will take a break and come back. Lots of calls coming in. We'll get to lots of calls for Dr. Andrew Weil, our only guest tonight, on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. The highlights of interviews with Tiger Woods on Saturday. Don't go away.


SOMERS: I think because of the treatment that I have chosen for myself, against the will of my doctors, and that I really feel, I really feel that I'm licking this. And I have found another medicine from Europe that, when I started taking it, it was illegal here, but it's now just been legalized, but it is a homeopathic, but it is...

KING: Can you tell us the treatment you are taking?

SOMERS: The treatment is called Iscador. Now, I just want to say that this is what I'm doing for me. I'm not telling anybody else to do this.




SOMERS: It feels to me like the right thing to do; I have continued with my hormones, which they say not to do. I haven't taken the after care drugs that they prescribe in this country, because the main drug that most women are on in this country, I -- I, again I looked it up, I you know I'm research oriented, and, there is a 10 percent better chance that it won't reoccur with after drug, but there is a 40 percent chance that you will get coronary heart attack stroke and pulmonary embolism.


KING: Is she right, Dr. Weil? WEIL: You know, most every treatment that we use in medicine has an upside and an downside. That is certainly true of these estrogen blockers like tamoxifen, which are widely used in breast cancer; they're not benign drugs.

So, you have to do a risk benefit analysis. In my view, the benefits of using tamoxifen, especially with a hormone sensitive tumor, outweigh risks. Again, I lean toward doing that, and again, using other methods to reduce the side effects to reduce they toxicity.

KING: Is one of the problems, Dr. Weil, in all of this, we walk into a health food store, there appears to be a bottle of something that will cure or treat everything.

WEIL: I think people in this culture are looking for quick fixes. And they often want to take substances. And the problem with those products in the health food stores is that they are not regulated, there is often no assurance about the quality in them, there is no assurance about their efficacy, so I think it is a big problem.

People in this country are very confused when they walk into health food stores...

KING: You walk in, you are overweight, and there is a sign on a bottle that says fat reducing, amazing fat concept, take this while you are sleep, and you will lose weight. Come on!

WEIL: That is an old one! That has been going on for a long time. But, you know, I think it would be great if your physician could be the person who could advise you about all this, if you could go into a doctors office, and your doctor could help you guide you toward products that were reliable, could recommend herbs to use, in conjunction or in place of conventional drugs, who could tell you, what products were safe and what were not, the problem is that our physicians are not trained in this way.

They are not educated, nor are our pharmacists. So, there needs to be a great change in professional education, so that we have new generations of doctors, pharmacists, and nurses are able to meet consumer needs.

KING: Now, in obesity, and you have written about this extensively, what about low fat foods? And the sales of nutrasweet and sweet and low and low fat ice cream, nonfat yogurt?

WEIL: It is an interesting observation, that in the year since all of these low fat products, fat substitutes, sugar substitutes, low fat and nonfat foods have been increasingly on the market, Americans have gotten steadily fatter. So, something clearly is wrong with this picture, now you one...

KING: Is it the food's fault or is it -- do they eat sweet and low and put on a sundae? WEIL: I think it is that, or that you eat a whole bag of nonfat cookies in the belief they are noncaloric cookies or have negative calories that will melt weight off you. know, the basic equation is that it is calories in and energy out. And if you want to lose weight of you go other to either decrease calories or increase energy expended or preferably both.

I think that there are some people who do better on a lower fat diet, some people do better on a lower carbohydrate diet. I don't think there are magic solutions and I don't think it makes sense to leave one food group out, that is to try to avoid fat entirely, or avoid carbohydrate entirely.

KING: How, Doctor, do you know what vitamins to take?

WEIL: I think you have to seek out good sources of information. Ideally, if you are eating a varied balanced diet any fresh foods, you should be able to get most of your nutrients from foods. But, how many of us eat a perfect diet every day, and three times a day? I think it is useful to take some vitamins and minerals as supplements, not as substitutes for the foods that contain them, but as insurance against gaps in your diet.

I recommend a basic antioxidant formula, containing Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and mixed carotines, plus a B-Complex, especially to make sure you are getting enough folic acid, which tends to be deficient in the American diet, and can be preventive of many kinds of diseases.

In addition, I think women should be especially concerned about taking calcium in supplemental form and Vitamin D, to make sure that they absorb it.

KING: Do all of us need -- you have to have vitamins to live; right?

WEIL: Absolutely.

KING: So, if you don't get them in food, you've got to get them in supplements.

WEIL: Right. Because you will develop deficiency diseases if you don't get them. It's rare in America today, except people who eat very strangely or are in very impoverished.

But the question is, whether higher doses prevent deficiency states may have specific therapeutic or preventive properties. For example, Vitamin E, in doses say around 400, 800 international units a day, seems to have a significant anticancer heart protective effect. It would be very hard to get that amount of Vitamin E from food; you would have to eat about a pound or pound 1/2 of...

KING: Would you be more beneficial taking 4,000 grams?

WEIL: Probably not. Even though, we don't know toxicity from Vitamin E, it is probable that the optimal dosage windows -- I think another pitfall in America is that people think, that if a little is good for you, more must be better.

KING: Yes, well, you're talking to somebody who thinks that. We will be right back with Dr. Andrew Weil; we will talk more about obesity and lots of other things, including other facets of alternative medicine, vitamins, and we'll be taking your phone calls, too.

Don't go away.


KING: We will be going to your calls shortly; I will disperse questions as we go along. Dr. Andrew Weil, best selling author, renowned expert on alternative medicine. He's in Tucson, Arizona, which is in his home base.

And we are talking to him about many things. What about Mad Cow disease? If you were going to Europe, would you be worried?

WEIL: I certainly wouldn't eat beef. Beyond that...

KING: Would not eat beef in London or Paris?

WEIL: I would not eat beef in London. I was there in November and January, and, at all of the functions that I was at, there was aggressive serving of beef! And I didn't have any of it. I would advise people not to do that. I, you know, in this country, I don't advise people to not eat meat. But for all the concerns about meat, it is better to eat less of it.

And I think Mad Cow disease is a real threat; it's something that could break out here. I have stopped using products like blood meal and bone meal in my garden, because I think there is a small but significant risk of infection from inhaling dust.

I recommend that people don't take supplements containing animal glandular products, I think those are reasonable precautions today.

KING: Well, OK, we have received reports recently that people who sleep less are in trouble, that we should sleep more. It used to be said by some, you know, if you sleep four hours and that is all you need, that is all you need. What's your opinion on this new sleep study?

WEIL: My sense is that people vary tremendously in need for sleep. I think there are definitely people that need eight hours of sleep a night. There are other people like me who need seven. I have met a few people who get along fine with 4 or 5.

So, I think if that is your pattern, don't change it. If it's not broke, don't fix it. I think we're very different.

But I think it is also true that in this culture, many people are not getting enough sleep for various reasons, and not getting enough sleep of good quality. So, I think if you wake up feeling unrested, one thing to look at is why you may not be sleeping as restfully as you might.

KING: Doctor, do we know that stress is a factor in health? Or is it a guess?

WEIL: That is not a guess at all. I think that is an area of medical research that is extremely well grounded in fact. In fact, one of the very interesting areas of medical research is the effect -- the damaging effects of stress on brain function. The main stress hormone that we produce, called cortisol, is directly toxic to neurons in the brain, and over time, might be responsible for a decline of mental function and leaving brains susceptible to degenerative diseases. This is an extremely well-researched area, no questions about it.

KING: Osteoporosis, a growing problem, especially as the country ages, right?

WEIL: Definitely. It is the demineralization of bones that leaves them weak and susceptible to fractures. It happens earlier in women than in men, because high levels of sex hormones maintain mineral content of bones.

I think it's something that everyone should think about, and it's not something you think about just when you're getting into middle age or at menopause, or into older age. It's something you should be thinking about all your life, because patterns set in childhood and teenage years often determine the health of bones.

For example, if you are in the habit, as a young person, of drinking lots of sodas, that is a habit that can deplete the mineral content of bones. If you are a sedentary person, that's a strike against you, because weight-bearing exercise increases the health of bones.

It's not something remedied just by taking calcium supplements. It's really total lifestyle, involving diet, exercise, adequate exposure to sunlight for vitamin D, adequate intake of calcium -- all these things need be looked at bone health things everybody should be concerned about.

KING: Four million Americans now have Alzheimer's. That could jump, they say, to 14 million by 2050. Do you think that -- and they're also, now, they're doing studies where they predict it earlier in people, and find out ways to know you're going to get it. What's your thoughts on that disease?

WEIL: I'm not so sure I would want to know I was going to get it if there's no treatment for it. I don't know how useful that kind of information is. But I think there are strategies for reducing the chance of developing Alzheimer's disease.

One is through good nutrition. For example, you're heard me say this before on your show, that most Americans are not getting enough Omega-3 fatty acids. These are the fatty acids in fish, like salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel. Some in egg yolks of the new eggs, some in flack seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts. These -- one of these fatty acids is a necessary brain nutrient. If you have adequate intake of this throughout life, it may protect your brain.

Another strategy is using your brain. People with higher education are less likely to get Alzheimer's disease, probably because they have more connections in the brain, so that as the disease develops, the losses don't produce as much detriment. So in a way, you're protected by having redundant connections in the brain -- so using your brain.

You can do brain gymnastics, just as you work out your body, you can work out your brain.

KING: We'll take a break. We'll be back with Dr. Andrew Weil, We'll include your phone calls, starting, like, right now. Don't go away.


KING: Let's go to some calls for Dr. Andrew Weil, and disperse with some questions as well.

Pleasant Hill, California, hello.

CALLER: Hi. I have been battling colon cancer for the last four years. And in 1999, it went into my lymph node system, and my oncologist pretty much gave up on me, but did direct me to a preventive medicine in San Francisco. I detoxed my body. I started taking those shots -- the mistletoe shots, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) my immune system, and in three months, the cancer was gone.

My question to you is do you think -- when and if the U.S. government is going to get on the ball and start testing these things so they'll be more readily available to...

KING: So you used Iscador successfully?

CALLER: To this point, yes, I still use it.

KING: Dr. Weil, the FDA hasn't approved it.

WEIL: Well, first of all, that's a great story, and I'm always interested in stories like that. I think we should be aggressively collecting those kinds of patient cases, and sending other people to people like you for inspiration.

With regard to Iscador specifically, there is some research started on that now. You know, we now have at the National Institutes of Health, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, called NCCAM, Its budget is now around $90 million a year, which is just a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of NIH, but at least it's something.

There are real research studies now being done around the country. There are several center -- there is a center that's been funded for cancer research at Johns Hopkins University by NCCAM. So finally, there is beginning to be some effort to study these things systematically, and I would welcome more information in testing of Iscador.

KING: Leetonia, Ohio, hello.

CALLER: Yes, gentlemen. First, a thank you for the topic that you've got up for discussion. I am a third-stage cancer survivor. I was put on experimental medications. I beat all the odds. I have done pretty good for the past -- almost 15 years.

Now, I have been diagnosed with a congestive heart problem, and I tried doing the prescription drugs. They made me feel terrible! And I need to do this naturally once again, and there is no one to go to to get the information I need. And I need it, and I need it badly.

KING: Dr. Weil, where should she go?

WEIL: Well, you know, there are beginning to be some integrative cardiologists around. There are not many of them...

KING: Really.

WEIL: Yeah, and this is a field which is very open to it, because there actually is a lot out in the world of alternative medicine that's very relevant to cardiology.

KING: How would she find one?

WEIL: Well, not easy. I think ask, ask friends, you can -- you might try to going to my Web site,, and see if you find any information there. The University of Michigan medical center has an NCCAM-funded center for studies of alternative medicine in cardiology. That might be another referral source. And tell your own cardiologist that you want them to get up on this information.

KING: Dr. Dean Ornish might be helpful.

WEIL: Absolutely. This is his center in Sausalito, California, works with reversal of coronary heart disease.

KING: And Dr. Ornish and Dr. Weil were called in that story in "TIME" magazine, "doctors with a difference."

Back with more, after this.


KING: We're back with Dr. Andrew Weil. Before we get back to the phone calls, are you still saying, with the summer coming, stay out of the sun?

WEIL: I think we can be too extreme in that. There is no question that excessive sun exposure results in premature aging of the skin, is a major factor in skin cancer, especially malignant melanoma. But moderate amounts of sun, sensible exposure to sun makes you feel good, it produces vitamin D in the body.

So I would say moderation in sun exposure. KING: Teyport, New Jersey, for Dr. Andrew Weil. Hello.

CALLER: Hello.


CALLER: Yes. I've been fighting leukemia for the past two years. They've got me on treatment of interferon, or Intron A, 5 million units three times a week. Is there something you could recommend different than that, because I don't really notice that much difference in the way I feel?

WEIL: Well, without knowing more about you I would never change what your oncologist has recommended for you. But I would advise doing other things. And you know, for example...

KING: Like?

WEIL: I would use a mind body technique. Find a practitioner of interactive guided imagery or hypnotherapist to work with to see if you can access the mind-body connection to promote healing, to help your immune system. You might experiment with some of those mushrooms I mentioned earlier in the show: reishi, maitake. These are nontoxic mushrooms from China and Japan that help balance immune function and have -- and help the body resist cancer.

You know, those are simple things to try that I think won't interfere with the standard treatment.

KING: Doctor, there are studies that show how marijuana helps some people, especially in cataracts. Would you legalize it as a prescription drug?

WEIL: Absolutely. I think it is -- it makes no sense that we have cut ourselves off from a medicine that is so nontoxic and can be useful for certain conditions. It is not useful for all people. Some people don't like the effects of it. But for some people, it is very useful as an anti-nausea agent and people undergoing chemotherapy. It's especially useful to stimulate appetite in people with wasting syndromes: for instance, people with HIV infection.

It just doesn't make sense that we can't access it and use it medically, and I think the trend in our culture is going to be toward legislative or initiative mandating of a change in the way we do things now.

KING: Waterloo, Ontario for Dr. Weil.

CALLER: Yes. Can you tell me what you think about glucosamine for the treatment of arthritis, or what else would you recommend?

WEIL: Yes. This is used for osteoarthritis. The claim is that it actually helps rebuild cartilage. There is again an NIH/NCCAM- funded study of this going on.

My general impression, from working with lots of patients who use it, is that that it is useful. I think it is safe. I think it is moderately effective for some people. And my only concern is that I think there is enormous variation in the quality of the supplements that are sold. So you want to get some good information about which brands are likely to be effective.

KING: Because they're not controlled, are they? The FDA has no control.

WEIL: They are not. This not regulated by FDA. Most of these products are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, which has much laxer regulation.

KING: So you have to have faith in the company. If the company tells you, this is lysine...

WEIL: Exactly. Again...

KING: ... you have to have faith that it's lysine.

WEIL: Again, it would be very useful if your doctor or pharmacist could be your guide in this area of confusion and point you to products that they know are safe and effective.

KING: It's estimated that 50 percent of America uses alternative medicines, now taught in schools -- right? It's on -- insurance pays some, right?

WEIL: Absolutely. This is a clear trend, and again, I don't like being called a proponent of alternative medicine. I am a proponent of what I call integrative medicine, which is...

KING: Which is?

WEIL: Not only the sensible combining of all treatments, but really it has much a larger perspective. It's looking at people as whole persons, as minds, bodies and spirits. It's looking at all lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, that enter into disease. It's really trying to widen the scope of public health so it doesn't just have a narrow focus on water systems and epidemics, but really looks at how we can engage corporations in this country to be promoters of health and the food that they provide us, for example, in serving the kinds of food served in hospitals.

You know, all of this is within this wide scope of what I call integrative medicine.

KING: San Francisco for Dr. Andrew Weil.

CALLER: Yes, hello. I have hepatitis c...

WEIL: Yes.

CALLER: ... and I've gone through the interferon, and I was fine as long as I was taking the drug. The minute I finished my treatment I was back to square one, and they say they don't have anything else that I can do. WEIL: All right. That's a -- that is...

KING: So why not go back to interferon, doctor?

WEIL: Well, this is a common story, that the interferon works. It has significant side effects, but that in a number of people, when the treatment is stopped, the disease comes back.

I think there are some people...

KING: So why stop it?

WEIL: Well, you can't go on with this indefinitely. First of all, it's expensive, it's painful. It makes people feel terrible. It makes you feel like you've got a flu all the time, and it doesn't stop the disease at its root.

I've actually seen better success with patients using Chinese herbal therapy, combinations of Chinese herbs that appear to protect the health of the liver, so even though the infection is present, the inflammation and scarring that lead to liver damage are slowed down or stopped.

You'll find information about that on my Web site.

KING: You are not anti the pharmaceutical industry, are you? You agree that products like Lipitor do reduce cholesterol and that the pharmaceutical industry has made lots of strides.

WEIL: Absolutely. Absolutely, though I have to say I was very disappointed by a recent court decision that banned the production and distribution of a natural Lipitor-like agent called Cholestin, derived from a Chinese yeast. I think the FDA took this action or the courts took this action to protect the manufacturer of Lipitor more than to benefit the health of the public.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Dr. Andrew Weil and more of your phone calls on this edition -- oh, by the way, Ron Popeil is here tomorrow night. He's the guy who invents -- he invents everything from hairsprays to cover up bald spots to magic cookeries in the kitchen. Ron Popeil tomorrow night. Tiger Woods on Saturday. Don't go away.


KING: Dr. Weil, by the way, also writes a column for "Prevention" magazine. His previous books have included "Spontaneous Healing, "8 Weeks to Optimum Health," "Eating Well for Optimum Health," all are still available at book stores. Are you writing another book?

WEIL: I am just about -- just starting work on a cookbook that I'm doing with Rosie Daley, author of "In the Kitchen With Rosie." She was Oprah's chef, and this looks to be a fun collaboration. It's a book called "The Better Body Cookbook," and we are trying to design recipes that are easy to make, and fun, and healthful, and I enjoy working with her, she is a kick.

KING: West Palm Beach, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Hi. I have a problem with fibroid tumors. I am in my mid-40s. They have been recommended a hysterectomy for me. I read your book, I started with Blue Cohosh, and I wondering if there was anything else you can recommend.

I would -- I would not rely on Blue Cohosh, I would rely on regular exercise, I would reduce consumption of foods that may contain estrogenic hormones, which is most commercially produced meat, poultry, where hormones are given to animals as growth promoters...

KING: So, you are saying be a vegetarian?

WEIL: She can get organic chicken, and hormone-free beef, and other meat if she chooses to do that. It is more expensive but it's safer. I would use, again, a mind/body technique. I would eat soy foods, as well, and see if you can slow down the growth of the fibroids or shrink them, and wait until you approach menopause when your hormone levels will drop, and they will shrink on their own.

I would say hysterectomy is the last resort. So, try everything else first. And one caution: if you are having heavy bleeding at your periods because of the fibroids, get your iron levels checked, you may be anemic, and it might be worth taking supplemental iron.

KING: Staten Island, New York, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Dr. Weil. I read your book. When I was 30 years old, I came down with Crohn's disease, and I got very sick. The doctor put me on prednisone, and then he put me on Purinethal, which is 6 MP, and athycol (ph) -- they did not seem to help much. So, basically, I went off of everything, and I'm just trying not to have dairy and caffeine, but basically I still have flare-ups now and then.

WEIL: Yeah, I would do more than that. I wouldn't just rely on it going away by itself. You want to do treatment. I think conventional treatment...

KING: What is it she has?

WEIL: She has a type of inflammatory bowel disease related to ulcerative colitis. These are not uncommon conditions. I find them to be best-managed by traditional Chinese medicine, which is the whole package of acupuncture, herbal treatment, dietary adjustment, and I would combine that with some kind of relaxation method, and use the conventional pharmaceutical drugs only for short-term management of acute flare-ups, and I have seen very good responses to that.

KING: What do the Chinese know that the West doesn't?

WEIL: Well, the Chinese have a lot of techniques involving uses of foods for specific purposes. This is an area of medicine that we don't pay a lot of attention to, how you can use dietary adjustment to promote health. I have seen some people with very acute flare-ups of Crohn's disease and all sorts of colitis, put restricted diets of a rice gruel that's traditional in China that really calmed the inflammation down in the intestines.

So, that's just an example of nutritional medicine in action. Problem is, in our culture, doctors are simply not educated in nutrition, or not trained in how to use food as medicine.

KING: Is it true that in most medical schools for years, nutrition was like, three hours in four years?

WEIL: If that. And I think it is still pretty much the case. When it is taught, it's mostly buried in biochemistry that students forget immediately. I think this is, by the way, an urgent priority, is to get our physicians trained in practical nutrition. And along with that, I would say a major national public health priority, as I mentioned earlier, is to get decent foods served in hospitals and medical facilities in our country.

KING: One person I remember years ago in interview, saying that the hardest thing to change in United States is the medical curriculum.

WEIL: It is frozen, monolithic, top-heavy with information, but the good news is that medicine is in such trouble at the moment in this country, that there is -- there is an opening there.

I have been part of a group called the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine. We now have 11 members schools, including Duke, Harvard, the University of Minnesota, Massachusetts, Maryland, University of Arizona, Albert Einstein Yeshiva in New York, UC San Francisco, Stanford. These are significant medical schools -- Georgetown in Washington.

The deans and chancellors of these institutions are committed to working for change. And that change, I hope, will include nutritional education and other aspects of integrative medicine.

KING: Merced, California, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Dr. Weil, I have emphysema, and how you treat that with your alternative medicine?

WEIL: Emphysema, did you say?

KING: Yes. I hope you are not smoking.

CALLER: No, I'm not smoking, no.

WEIL: You know, this is a progressive disease, in which there is loss of elastic tissue in the lungs and loss of capacity to exchange oxygen. I don't know of any cures for emphysema. I think there are things you can do that can improve general health...

KING: Like?

WEIL: ... that may help you. One is to take a Chinese herb called cordyceps -- C O R D Y C E P S -- this is another mushroom that is very useful for strengthening lungs.

KING: Can you get that in health food stores?

WEIL: You can get that in health food scores. You can, again, look it up on my Web site or in my books, and another thing is to practice the simple breathing techniques that I teach, which you can find in my --in most of my books. These can help you deal with air hunger and panic about breathing, if you develop that. It can be very useful to you.

KING: What is your Web site again?

WEIL: It is -- D R W E I L.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Dr. Weil on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: We are back with Dr. Andrew Weil. Louisville, Kentucky, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Dr. Weil, I would like to ask you -- or I had breast surgery a year ago. And doctor immediately put me on tamoxifen and took me off of estrogen, and what I would like to know is I have seen natural estrogen advertised. Is there any natural estrogen that I can take? And then another thing that I want to ask you about is ellagic acid.

WEIL: OK. I would stay away from estrogen, because any estrogen, whether natural or synthetic, is going to increase proliferation of breast tissue and increase risk of accelerating cancer growth and malignant transformation, so I think your doctor is right to take you off estrogen and to keep you on an estrogen blocker.

Now, it may be -- you know, my personal belief is that eating whole soy foods in moderation can be helpful to you. They can supply some plant estrogens, which is where I think the benefits outweigh the risk, and that may moderate some of the symptoms you feel from lack of estrogen.

And ellagic acid is not a -- you know, this is an element that is found in some berries that has been represented as having anti-aging properties, I think you are much better off eating this in natural sources. So, I think berries are good foods. They are -- they have a low impact on blood sugar, they're high in fiber, they're high in anti-oxidant pigments, so I think it's good to eat berries, especially raspberries, rather than taking any isolated element from them.

KING: Two friends, Michael Milken and Rudy Giuliani and others afflicted with prostate cancer, eat soy products all the time, all day long.

WEIL: I have met Michael Milken, he looks quite healthy. And I think that the evidence, from Japan especially, is very compelling, because Japanese men get prostate cancer at much lower rates than American men, and when they do get it, it behaves much less aggressively.

I think their daily intake of soy is a major factor, but they are not taking soy supplements, they are eating whole natural soy foods in moderation.

KING: To Newbury Park, California, hello.

CALLER: Hello there. My question is regarding strep throat infections and if you ever heard of them causing hives?

WEIL: You know, it is not -- it is not uncommon for an infection at the start to present itself with hives, that anything that the disturbs the immune balance of the body in some people.

KING: This lady, Dr. Weil -- don't mean to interrupt -- this lady told our producers that her daughter has had hives for 8 weeks.

WEIL: Well, that is not usual. And, I think you want to find out why that is. Chronic hives can -- it is sometimes very difficult to pin down the cause. It can be something she is eating, it could be something she's in contact with.

KING: It could be a detergent; right?

WEIL: Absolutely. So, it is often hard to find that out, but I'll tell you one thing that I have used that can be helpful. There is a natural supplement called quercetin, q-u-e-r-c-e-t-i-n, that reduces allergic responsiveness; I think it's quite safe, it's derived from foods, you can find this in health food stores. She could take this for a few weeks and see if this moderates the hives. That is one thing I would try.

KING: Strep throat is very dangerous; is it not?

WEIL: There is a small, but significant risk that in some susceptible people a strep throat infection can produce auto immune reaction that can damage the heart or kidneys. And it is for that reason that doctors urge that strep throat be diagnosed, and treated, aggressively with penicillin.

KING: Back with our remaining moments with Dr. Andrew Weil; our hours go so fast, don't go away.


CALLER: Hi Dr. Weil. I was wondering, how do you think massage therapy relates in helping a body battling cancer, other disease?

WEIL: Well, I'm a great advocate of massage therapy, I have done some work for the American Massage Therapy Association, I often recommend that patients coming to Integrative Medicine Clinic at the University of Arizona get massage treatments. One question that has been raised with cancer, that is some massage therapists are afraid to worth on cancer patients because there is an idea out there that massage might spread the cancer.

I don't really think there is any basis for that. I think that the benefits of massage outweigh the risks, and I think that massage therapy can be extremely useful for cancer patients, especially when they are undergoing treatments that can make them feel uncomfortable or debilitated.

So, I think if you get the right kind of practitioner that can just be a terrific adjunctive therapy.

KING: The issue of "Time" that dealt with a new breed of healers, including you, said "the test for any medical treatment is whether it can be shown to be safe, effective, and appropriate. That is true of brain surgery as it is of guided imagery or therapeutic touch. That's why MDs who once scoffed at this, are reading books and medical journals to learn how to advise patients. Because the truest basic creed remains, first do no harm." Correct?

WEIL: I couldn't agree more.

KING: Georgia, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Dr. Weil; I walk four miles a day. Is that good exercise and is that enough exercise?

WEIL: Well, I think that is terrific. You know, I usually recommend people try to walk, 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week, if they can. If you can do some uphill walking, to get your heart rate up, that is great.

But I think if you do walking fast enough, enough of it, can satisfy all of your aerobic requirements, it carries the least risk of injury of any form of exercise. We can do it all our lives, our bodies are designed to walk. I think it's an ideal exercise; keep at it.

KING: How far are we away from living to 100?

WEIL: You know, I think the question is not so much, the number of...

KING: Living well to 100.

WEIL: Yeah, do you want to live to 100 or do you want to live to 100 and feel good? So, I think there is a lot we know about how life attention to lifestyle, to diet, to exercise, to stress reduction, to using supplements appropriately; how all of these things can increase the probability, we will arrive in our old age with everything working reasonably well, with feeling pretty good, with having adequate energy, with being able to enjoy life.

I think we are moving in that direction; we have got a lot of that information now, we just have to implement it.

KING: It's going to cause greater problems, isn't it? The more people living longer? WEIL: Yes, we are already seeing this in Japan, which is graying at a faster rate than we are. I mean, one of the problems is the enormous strain on the health insurance system. I think this is -- you know, as this begins to break down, it is another reason to look at the whole health care system and to look at the promise that integrative medicine holds for getting us out of the kind of hole that we are falling into economically with medicine.

KING: And are you -- we only have 20 seconds -- are you big for gene therapy?

WEIL: Absolutely. The question is, whether it is going to be affordable. But I think that this is a great promise on the horizon, of high-tech medicine.

KING: So, we will be able to change what might have been predestined?

WEIL: I think, eventually we will be able to do that, for good or ill.

KING: Dr. Andrew Weil, it's always great having you with us; thanks so much.

WEIL: Thank you.

KING: From Tucson, Arizona, Dr. Andrew Weil.

Speaking of changing your life, can gadgets change your life? They changed his. Prolific gadget inventor Ron Popeil will join us Friday night, and if you would like to submit questions to Ron, just log on to my Web site,

Stay tuned now for "CNN TONIGHT." Good night.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

Back to the top