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Interview With Dr. Andrew Weil

Aired May 8, 2003 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: tonight, I think, Dr. Andrew Weil. Are you at risk from SARS? The mystery epidemic has killed nearly 500 people worldwide, and today the World Health Organization said it's even deadlier than first thought. The doctor's in to answer your phone calls. Dr. Andrew Weil for the hour next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's always a great pleasure to welcome him to this program, the "New York Times" best-selling author and renowned expert on alternate medicine. His official Web site is (ph). His 800 number for his self-help newsletter is 1-800-523-3296. And his most recent book is "The Healthy Kitchen: Recipes for a Better Body, Life and Spirit," co-written with Oprah Winfrey's former chef, Rosie Daley (ph).

Lots to talk about tonight. The doctor is in Okinawa. His next book will be on aging. And Okinawa has the highest rate of centenarians -- that's people a hundred years of age and older -- of anywhere on earth. We'll get to that in a while.

But first and foremost, SARS. What is SARS?

DR. ANDREW WEIL, AUTHOR, "THE HEALTHY KITCHEN": Well, this is a new disease, Larry. It's caused by a corona virus, a family of viruses that infect birds and mammals, including humans, and account for 30 percent of common colds. So we know these viruses very well, but this is a mutated form that has produced this new disease that first appeared in the southern province of China, Guangdong, last fall and then, because of Chinese cover-ups, was allowed to get to Hong Kong, a major international air traffic port. And this allowed the disease to spread around the world.

So sudden acute respiratory syndrome. It is transmitted probably like the common cold but produces a very severe compromise of breathing. And we're learning that it has a higher mortality rate than we thought. However, I think it's worth noting that the contagiousness of this disease is not very great. If it were really contagious, we would be seeing hundreds of thousands of cases now. So I think it's certainly right to be concerned about this, but this isn't the big epidemic that people have been afraid of.

KING: Are new viruses occurring all the time?

WEIL: They are occurring all the time, and I think there's a constant arms race between human immunity and viruses. You know, we work out new defenses against new forms of disease, and it keeps escalating. But it's also interesting that this area of southern China seems to be an incubator for new respiratory viruses, and I think that's for several reasons. One is that in their area, people live in very close proximity with chickens, ducks and pigs, which are reservoirs for these viruses. Often different strains of the virus can be in the body of an animal at the same time. This encourages mutation. It's very easy for these viruses to jump into humans.

In addition, there is very high consumption of wild animals in this region of China. I was in the capital city, Guangjo (ph), some years ago, and I remember visiting the market and was just horrified at the number of wild animals in cages awaiting eating. There was even a whole bear hanging in a cage that was being skinned and stripped of meat. And my Chinese guide said very proudly, We eat everything here with four legs except the table. So I think that habit, that cultural habit, combined with the way people live in association with animals in that part of the world generates these respiratory viruses.

KING: Is it true, Dr. Weil -- I was told this by a physician -- no virus has ever been cured? The virus either goes away, or they develop a vaccine, but no virus has ever been cured.

WEIL: It is true that we are much less powerful at treating viral infections than we are at treating bacterial infects, for which we had antibiotics. But recently, we have been able to develop some antiviral drugs. And these antiviral drugs, such as the ones being used for HIV/AIDS can hold viral infections in check and sometimes keep viruses down to a level to where the immune system can finish them off.

You remember, some time ago I was on your show with Naomi Judd, a good friend and patient of mine, who has been really cured of hepatitis C through a combination of antiviral drug therapy and alternative medicine. So it is sometimes possible to actually treat these conditions successfully.

KING: Back to SARS. You said it's not the epidemic we think it is. However, the World Health Organization said today that the latest data on SARS indicates it's much more deadly than first thought. And latest analysis includes data from Canada, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam. The health organization said SARS kills 15 percent of the people who get it. That's four times the original mortality rate.

WEIL: Yes. No, that's a high mortality rate. It's been estimated that the Spanish flu, the great 1918 epidemic that swept around the world and killed 20 million people, had a mortality rate of something like 1 percent. So this is many times that. So certainly, you don't want to get this disease. What I said is that the contagiousness of it does not seem to be that great. You have to get it mostly from direct contact with people who have it.

On the way over here, I had to go through Taipei, and I spent 12 hours in the Taipei airport, in the airport hotel, and the scene there was surreal. The airport was dead. Everyone was wearing masks. They took ear temperatures on everybody passing through the airport. All that you saw on television was concern about SARS. So I think it's right to be concerned about this. Here in Okinawa, which is close Taiwan, there is great concern about the disease here -- appearing here in Japan, and you know, a lot of precautions are being taken to prevent it from appearing.

KING: Now, the media, as we know, can overdo those things, as is our wont. What will happen when and if a case appears in the United States?

WEIL: Well, I think that we have to be vigilant for cases appearing. First of all, there have been cases already in the United States. But I think if we see people coming in from areas where the disease is prevalent, we have to take all measures to identify them and quarantine those people to restrict the contact that they have with others.

By the way, let me tell you what I did in going through Taipei. The two precautions that I took were I wore a mask the whole time, and I had alcohol swabs with me. And if I was touching objects in the airport, I made it -- was very careful to wash my hands with alcohol. I think that's probably the best precaution that you can take is to wash hands frequently, to use alcohol, if possible, especially if you're in contact with someone that has this disease.

I also took a mushroom extract that I use. It's a mixture of Asian mushrooms that have antiviral effects and protect immunity. And this is another area of great interest. "The Wall Street Journal" this morning carried a story about the use of traditional Chinese medicine in Hong Kong, which is showing some promise, and the Chinese medical authorities there are encouraging the use of this, along with standard medical procedures.

KING: More on SARS and other things in a minute with Dr. Andrew Weil, the author of "The Healthy Kitchen: Recipes for a Better Body, Life and Spirit." Dr. Weil's one of our favorite guests. And we'll be including your calls, as well. Don't go away.


KING: Dr. Andrew Weil is our guest, the author of "The Healthy Kitchen: Recipes for a Better Body, Life and Spirit." He's in Okinawa, Japan. We'll talk about why there in a minute.

According to the World Health Organization, SARS has infected 6,900 people and 500 have died. Estimates, as well, one third of the world population is infected with tuberculosis. It causes two million deaths every year. There are 42 million HIV-positive people in the world, 32 million new cases of measles every year, 3.5 million case of influenza a year. Are we over-panicking?

WEIL: I think what SARS is showing us is how vulnerable we are to the spread of new diseases as a result of how we live today. You know, if the Chinese had restricted this disease to Guangdong Province, we wouldn't see what we are seeing today. But by letting it get to Hong Kong, where there is so much international air traffic, we see how quickly a new disease can get around the world -- Toronto especially.

Now, probably, we're going to see this epidemic subside as summer some comes along because corona viruses are seasonal. They're most active in the winter. So the chances are that as summer approaches, this epidemic is going to subside, only to come back again in the fall, probably in October or November. And at that time, it might break out in many places around the world.

KING: How about...

WEIL: I hope by then -- yes, I hope we'll have a vaccine by then.

KING: How about then when it's winter in Australia and South America? Will they get it.

WEIL: We will have to see. If it's down there already, it might be active at that time. But as I say, I think what this is showing us is how vulnerable we would be if a new viral disease appeared that were really contagious. You know, the number of cases of SARS is quite low at the moment. If this were a highly contagious disease that could be spread by airborne particles very easily, we would be seeing hundreds of thousands of cases right now. So I think this is a warning to us about how vigilant we have to be.

KING: The symptoms are similar to flu or pneumonia -- a fever 100.4, dry cough, difficulty breathing, chills, aches, sometimes diarrhea. And symptoms can appear days apart. How do you know if you have it?

WEIL: Well, at the moment, the diagnosis is mostly made by symptoms and later by determining whether antibodies are present. What we need is a rapid test to identify whether people have the virus. I think we're close to that. I think in a matter of months, we might be able to take a throat swab from somebody that's suspected of having SARS, and by using genetic analysis, we can determine whether the virus is present or not. But we really need that kind of test.

KING: Are you optimistic about it?

WEIL: I think I'm optimistic in the sense that with real international cooperation, with reporting of cases and quarantine, I think we can probably confine this. And I think I'm optimistic in the sense that we'll probably have a vaccine within a year, I would say. We'll probably have a good diagnostic test sooner than that. So I think we're going to be able to contain this.

And in addition, there is promising research on a number of fronts. I mentioned Chinese herbal medicines. There are actually Chinese formulas for respiratory illness which show some antiviral activity. One of them contains a plant called Japanese honeysuckle that looks promising. There's a mushroom that grows in our country called the Gypsy mushroom, which is yielding a new antiviral drug. I think there is great promise of developing antiviral drugs from natural products. This is a largely unexplored area.

But as I said, it's going to be a constant arms race between the pathogens and our immune system. So whenever we get a leg up and increase our protection, the germs evolve new strategies for breaking through them.

KING: Maybe I missed it. You said an American -- was an American hit overseas? Because I don't remember anyone hit in the United States with it.

WEIL: There have been cases in the United States of SARS. These have been mostly quarantined, and they were people who came from Asia.

KING: So they came -- it hasn't been contracted by an American living in America and not in contact with an Asia.

WEIL: That's correct.

KING: Right? So there's the Asia influence.

WEIL: Absolutely.

KING: Was Toronto right in being upset with the media?

WEIL: Well, I think Toronto was very surprised to be declared off limits by the World Health Organization, and this had, obviously, great economic consequences for Toronto. On the other hand, I think it is very important to maintain a registry of where these cases are occurring. And there was a major outbreak in Toronto, so I think it was right to publicize that. I think, given the relatively low contagiousness of this disease, the danger to people traveling in and out of Toronto was probably not that great.

KING: We'll take a break and come back, and we'll discuss why he's on Okinawa. We'll discuss the late Dr. Robert Atkins, lots of other things. At the bottom of the hour, we'll go to your phone calls. Don't go away.


KING: Before I ask about Okinawa and longevity, last time you were on this program, Robert Atkins was still alive. Sadly, he left us. You said that you think low-fat advocacy have had their last day. Have they?

WEIL: I think that the low-fat -- extreme low-fat diets are an extreme, just as I think the Atkins diet is an extreme. I think both of these camps have a piece of the truth. There is too much fat in a lot of the food we eat, and it's too much of the wrong kind of fat. It's not just the amount, it's the kind. And in the same way, I think there's too much of the wrong kinds of carbohydrates in our diet. But the answer is not simply to cut way back on fat or to cut way back on carbohydrate, it's to build a sensible diet that's balanced, that includes the right amounts of the right kinds of fats and the right amounts of carbohydrates. So I think Dr. Atkins had a piece of the truth.

KING: People don't want to hear the word "a nice sensible diet," right? They want something radical.

WEIL: They do, but the fact is that it is possible to design a healthy diet that gives you all the pleasure you want. And you don't have to sacrifice pleasure in order to have healthy food, and that means you can have the right amounts of fat, olive oil, for example, nuts, salmon and oily fish. All these things are great. In the same way, you can have the right kinds of carbohydrates. You can have whole grains. You can have starchy roots, like sweet potatoes. You know, all these are good carbohydrate foods. So it doesn't mean giving -- it doesn't mean going on an extreme diet.

KING: As your book, "The Healthy Kitchen," points out. By the way, it's a terrific book -- "Recipes for a Better Body, Life and Spirit." So Atkins had his followers. You're in the middle, right?

WEIL: I'm in the middle, and I -- you know, the one person that I look to as a source of balanced information is Walter Willet (ph), who's the head of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. He's been a great advocate of the Mediterranean diet. And I think that's a very sensible way to eat.

This is a diet that uses olive oil as a principal fat, that is -- uses much more fish than other animal products, has relatively moderate amounts of dairy, in the form of yogurt and some fresh cheeses, good whole grain products, lots of fruits and vegetables, some wine, if you want wine in the diet, and relatively low on sweets.

So I think this is a middle-of-the-road diet that appeals to many people. It's not extreme, not crazy.

KING: What are you doing in Okinawa?

WEIL: Well, this is the third time I've been here. Okinawa is a very special place. It's a chain of islands that stretches from the southern tip of Japan almost to the coast of China. It was an independent kingdom until relatively recently. It has the -- some of the best health and longevity on the planet. As you mentioned, the highest concentration of people a hundred years or more. And there have been a lot of studies of why Okinawan people are so healthy and live so long.

Yesterday I was in a village called Ogimi (ph), which is north of the main city here, that's been famous for old people. I talked with several women. One was 96. One was 87. Both of them actively work in their fields, are very happy, active. And by the way, I brought my mother, who is 92 years old, over here along with me, so she could meet some of these people and be inspired.

I think there's a lot of factors that account for why Okinawa has good health. It's a very clean environment, very good air quality, water quality. I think in the outlying areas, away from the cities, the diet here is remarkable. It's traditionally very low in fat, but includes a great variety of vegetables, fruits, unusual healthy things. But there's also a wonderful community spirit here. And as people get old here, they're actively included in community affairs, and the very old people are sort of living treasures who are really valued by the community. I think this is a wonderful spirit.

KING: Is the... WEIL: I should also note, Larry, that -- no, I just wanted to say, Okinawan longevity is now declining, as well. And Okinawan men, who used to be -- have the longevity on the planet, have now slipped. And the reasons for this are the change in lifestyle, and you can just see it here in the capital city of Naha (ph). You see all of the usual American fast food restaurants. There's been a great increase in drinking and smoking as economic conditions have deteriorated here.

So I think there's also some lessons to be learned here about how, you know, if you have a good, healthy lifestyle and you live long, you have to work to protect that because if you don't, you know, it gets undermined.

KING: Also had one of the more horrific battles of World War II, the battle for Okinawa.

WEIL: Absolutely.

KING: The "New York Times" article -- people are overdoing vitamin intake. Seventy percent of the United States population takes dietary supplements. You have a brand of dietary supplements under the Weil name, which you send out to people all over the world. Are we taking too many vitamins?

WEIL: I think probably many people are taking too many of the wrong kind of vitamins. And I think that -- you know, I take a multivitamin myself, and anti-oxidants. I believe these are protective and helpful. But you need good information about exactly what doses to take, which ones to take. The article in "The New York Times" I didn't think really had any new information there. It warned about the toxicity of taking vitamin A, which is well known, and warned about taking too much of certain other vitamins and supplements. Again, I think this just emphasizes the need to get good information. I would suggest that people go...

KING: How do you know?

WEIL: ... to my Web site for that -- well, you have to find authorities that you can trust. I think there is still an attitude in the conventional, mainstream medical profession that vitamins are -- and minerals are not useful, except to prevent deficiency states. I think there is now a great deal of evidence that many of these vitamins have protective effects, that they can protect immunity, that they can protect us from cancer and cardiovascular disease. I think it's going to take some time for that new attitude to penetrate the medical profession.

WEIL: Brigham and Women's Hospital has done a study. They come up with a thought that tea -- tea -- may be very valuable for the immune system, fend off attacks of bacteria and other pathogens. True?

WEIL: I'm drinking my cold oolong tea here, and I do that for several reasons. I'm a great believer in tea. I think that the research on the health benefits of tea are really overwhelming in all sort of areas. It's reduction of cancer risk, of cardiovascular risk, increasing bone health. There's so much research. Even applying tea extract topically, as a way of protecting skin, reducing sun damage and cancer risk.

So I -- yes, I think tea is great, and I think it would be worth Americans getting to know better kinds of tea. You know, the attitude here has been that -- you know, when I grew up, it was that tea was something that you drank when you were sick or something that old people drank. And the kinds of tea that we mostly have used are very low quality. There are now some excellent brands of tea, kinds of tea that are available at tea shops, on the Internet. It's worth getting to know tea that tastes good, that really is delightful to drink and to prepare. And I think the health benefits are remarkable.

KING: And one other area I want to cover, then we're going to go to all your phone calls. Despite the movie "Anger Management," is it true that anger is a killer?

WEIL: I'm not so sure. There has actually been new research suggesting that anger may not be as bad for us as we've thought, and definitely, in some patients that I've worked with, I have seen that being able to mobilize and focus anger has actually allowed healing to happen. So I don't think it's that we want to make anger go away. I don't think we want it to get out of control, but there probably are worse mental states for us.

I think when anger is suppressed and directed within, depression, constant anxiety, I think all of these have weakening effects on our health. And when you look at designing a healthy lifestyle, I think it's very important to work in the mind-body area to reduce the negative effects of unhealthy emotions.

WEIL: We're going to take a break. When we come back, we'll take your questions for Dr. Weil. You can ask about SARS or anything in the health area. And his most recent book is "The Healthy Kitchen: Recipes for a Better Body, Life and Spirit," co-written with Oprah Winfrey's former chef, Rosie Daley.

Saturday night on LARRY KING WEEKEND, an exclusive hour you won't want to miss with Nick Nolte. We'll be right back.


KING: We're back with Dr. Andrew Weil author of "The Healthy Kitchen" and he's in Okinawa, Japan.

Before we get to the calls, CBS is reporting tonight that the government is pulling back now on smallpox inoculations. There apparently is some danger in them and some deaths from them.

And apparently, there's an investigation that the apparent blood clot that killed correspondent David Bloom in the Gulf region war in Ira, that is now being attributed possible to his smallpox vaccination that he died -- that he received several weeks before his death. What do you make of that?

WEIL: Well, we've always known that the smallpox vaccination carries risk and greater risk than some of the other immunizations that we use. I think immunizations in all of the medical procedures carry risk. So whenever we apply these, we need to do a risk benefit calculation. You know, are these risks justified?

In the current case, if the threat of bioterrorism from smallpox seems high, then that justifies the use of this vaccine even though it can cause death. I'm not convinced at the moment that the -- that risk is high enough to justify the risk that we're taking.

KING: On to the calls . Mesquite, Texas for Dr. Andrew Weil. Hello?

CALLER: Yes, sir. I was wondering with the SARS virus, having traveled, could it be possible to transport by flies or mosquitoes to people?

WEIL: Well, I think we do know that the virus is tougher than we thought. It's tougher than some other Coronaviruses. And one of the pieces of information they saw recently is apparently it can survive for up to 48 hours on plastic surfaces. So that means you could potentially get it from touching an object that an infected person had handled.

I think at the moment thought it looks as if the majority of transmission is direct person to person contact. So I would not worry about this being transmitted by flies or other insects.

KING: Toronto, Canada, for Dr. Andrew Weil. Hello?

CALLER: Hello. Can you hear me?

KING: Sure can. Go ahead.

CALLER: Great, OK, my...

KING: Go ahead.


KING: Ma'am, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) your question? OK. Battery's gone.

We go to Brooklyn, New York. Hello?

CALLER: Yes, hi, Larry. Hi, Dr. Weil. I'm a great fan of yours.

WEIL: Hi. Thanks.

CALLER: I have a question regarding the book you wrote "Eight Weeks to Optimum Health." You stressed greatly on herbal medication. I'm very interested in taking echinacea. If I start taking it how long can I take it for?

WEIL: You know, if I take echinacea I usually use it relatively short period. Usually three, four, five days. I would suggest not taking it more than 10 days or so in a row. I don't know...

KING: What is it for?

WEIL: This is, I think -- I use this to ward off colds. I sometimes will take this if I go on an air trip because I think you're at a higher risk of infection when you're in an airplane for a period of time. So I'll sometimes use it in that way.

KING: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for Dr. Weil. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Dr. Weil. I actually have a two-part question. I wanted to know if you're aware of any actual evidence regarding mass market antiperspirants and the aluminum, whether it truly does cause cancer or harmful effects?

And the second part of my question is are there any other alternatives besides -- I have tried the natural deodorants on the market without much luck.

WEIL: All right. First of all, I think there's a difference between deodorants and antiperspirants. And it's the antiperspirants that mostly contain aluminum.

Aluminum has no known use in the human body and there are concerns about it accumulating and having unhealthy effects. So I think in general avoiding intake of aluminum is probably a good thing. Although the major source there is not antiperspirants, it's antacids that contain aluminum that some people eat like candy. That's probably not a healthy thing to do.

But also I'm not so sure it's a good idea to stop perspiration. Perspiration is a natural function. It has its value. When you stop it, you can get irritation, you can get cysts that form in the hairy places on the body.

What you really want to do is to stop odor which is bacterial breakdown of perspiration. You can use accomplish that by using deodorants that don't antiperspirant function. You can even splash rubbing alcohol under the arms, for example.

And also in many case, body odor has to do with diet. If you cut down on animal foods in the diet and you eliminate coffee especially in many people that will greatly improve body odor.

KING: Coffee.

Palestine, Texas. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, Dr. Weil, I am a very healthy female and I have been diagnosed with something called neuralgia. It's severe, severe pain. And it's the kind that has to do with the herpes virus.

Could you tell me -- I live in a very small town, but I am going to Houston to neurologist in the summer. I teach school. I want to know if you could tell me anything about it and will I -- can you get over this? WEIL: Well, I assume if this is the kind of neuralgia that follows an outbreak of shingles, you know this can sometimes be very long-lasting in people.

I'll give you three suggestions that I would try. One is to try acupuncture if you can get to someone who does acupuncture, it can be very helpful.

Another is to get a topical cream which contains Capsaicin, which is the hot principle in red pepper, in chili peppers. There is over the counter products, one is called Zostrix, that you rub into the affected area. This is a very powerful, long-lasting local anesthetic and it's specifically for this kind of neuralgia associated with the herpes virus.

And the last suggestion is to try hypnosis, because even if there is pain arising in a nerve here you can change how you perceive that. And hypnosis is a very powerful technique of doing that. So if you can find a clinical hypnotherapist they can teach you how to live with this and not be bothered by it.

KING: How do you spell Zostrix?

WEIL: Z-O-S-T-R-I-X. Get it over the counter.

KING: OK, let's go to Grand Parry, Alberta, hello?

CALLER: Hello, Larry.


CALLER: This is a real honor, Dr. Weil. I'm so privileged to have this opportunity.

My question is if you have any information on -- I have an angiomyo-lipoma on my right kidney. I've had it for a long time. I'm wondering if there's anything that you know about it or anything that do to sort of get rid of it? Or is it just not ever going to bother me?

WEIL: This is a rare benign tumor. I think the chances are it's not going to bother you. So I think this is probably something you can live with unless it's causing symptoms or doctors have told you you need to do something about it.

KING: So if you doubt, don't worry.

Chattanooga, Tennessee, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Dr. Weil, my question is to do with hormone replacement. I'm 49, I've just recently had a hysterectomy. And my doctor sent me to a wellness pharmacy to a prescription for the testosterone pellets and the estradiol pellets to be implanted which I had never heard of before. And she said that when you have these implanted that you only have to -- it's only like every six months, three to six months depending upon the individual. So I was really interested in your opinion.

WEIL: Well hormone replacement is a big question. We talked about this when I was on your show the last time, Larry. And I think that while there are indications for taking hormone replacement, especially if someone has a hysterectomy before menopause, you want to be careful about the forms that you use and how long you do it.

I mean, you might -- one these implants might work very well for you. You don't have to be on these forever. So you might want to use these for a period of time until you get over the adjustment and maybe after a year, year and a half you'd want to phase off of hormone replacement of any kind.

KING: We'll be back with more of Dr. Andrew Weil, the author of "The Healthy Kitchen: Recipes for Better Body, Life and Spirit" right after this.


KING: Back to the calls for Dr. Weil. North Hamptonshire, England, hello.

CALLER: Good morning, Larry. Good morning, Dr. Weil.


CALLER: I would like to know...


CALLER: I would like to know how one can get a husband off transtermal crutches for severe pain. Is there anything else we can do other than have to rely on those?

WEIL: All right. I don't know what the source of pain is, but whatever you're dealing with chronic pain, one thing that you can do is to work on the mind/body aspect of it.

When I leave here, I'm going to be addressing 2,000 Japanese physicians who were members of the Japanese Society of Psychosomatic Medicine. They're having their annual conference here in Okinawa.

I think mind/body medicine is beginning to come into its own, but it's still very underutilized and I would say find a good clinical hypnotherapist who can work with your husband.

KING: Really?

WEIL: Hypnosis is an extremely powerful method of changing how the mind perceives pain and by doing that you can cut down on the dose of the medication. That's one thing.

Another, there are other technologies out there from acupuncture to manipulative medicine like chiropractic and osteopathic approaches that can be very helpful.

But I would my first -- the first thing I would try is a mind/body approach.

KING: Some one wanted to know -- do you have a cure for hives?

WEIL: Chronic hives are often really complicated because it's often very hard to find the cause. You can go through everything you're doing to your life and not find it. Hives can come just from stress alone. They can be triggered by exercise, by contacts with something in the environment.

I would try using a natural product called Quercetin. That's Q- u-e-r-c-e-t-i-n. It's available in health food stores. Follow dosages on labels. This reduces allergic responsiveness. I would give that a try.

KING: Long Beach, California, hello.

CALLER: Good evening. My question is about SARS and China.

I know the Chinese farmers use human feces has as a fertilizer and I also heard sewage in Hong Kong, they thought could spread it. Do you think there could be any connection between the fertilizer, human feces in China and the spread of SARS. Thank you.

KING: Thank you.

WEIL: I think that's actually much more of a factor in the transmission of Hepatitis B, which is a huge problem in China and in some other Asian countries.

With these respiratory viruses, I think the -- it's more likely that animal feces may have been involved in some of the spread between different species of animals and possible to humans. So I don't think that's a factor now in the spread of SARS.

KING: Charleston, West Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Dr. Weil?

WEIL: Yes.

CALLER: My question to you is my granddaughter had a rotovirus. Is that in the same category with the SARS and had we not had her in the hospital I believe she would have passed away because she was violently sick with diarrhea and throwed up for over seven hours.

WEIL: Right.

CALLER: Thank you.

WEIL: No, this is -- this is in a different family of viruses. It's not the corona viruses. The corona viruses cause, as I said -- cause a certain percentage of our common colds. They're well known. They're associated with respiratory syndromes. The rotoviruses are another family.

These are sometimes common, food-transmitted and they can be, as you said, rapidly serious in young children. So, it's another -- there's a lot of viruses out there.

KING: Bergen County, New Jersey, hello.

CALLER: Yes. Hi, Dr. Weil. I'm been diagnosed with a...


CALLER: ...rheumatoid arthritis, which is very painful...

WEIL: Yes.

CALLER: .... and they have me on chemotherapy and steroids and folic acid.

What I'd like to know is are there better alternatives such as vitamins on exercise or foods and can this be cured or managed?

WEIL: There's a tremendous -- it's -- it's -- yes, it's everything. It's vitamins and exercise and foods and mind/body approaches and herbal medicine.

You know ideally you want to work with a rheumatologist who can be there to manage your conventional medications and also with an integrative physician of the sort that I'm training at the University of Arizona to use the other kind of medicine as well.

If you look up rheumatoid arthritis on my Web site, or you check my newsletter. There was an 800 number given earlier for that. We've had a lot of articles and information about rheumatoid arthritis that will get you started.

But you want to have an antiinflammatory diet. You want to eat herbs like ginger and tumeric, which have anti-inflammatory effects, work with the mind/body approach and all of this may enable you to cut down on your doses of medication and maybe eliminate some of them, which will help you feel better.

KING: That Web site address is www.drweil -- one word -- .com. The 800 number is 800-523-3296.

Back with our remaining moments with Dr. Andrew Weil. Don't go away.


KING: With Dr. Andrew Weil. New Orleans, hello.

CALLER: Yes. Dr. Weil, I'd like to know more about Vitamin O. Have you -- have you heard about it?

KING: Vitamin O. What about it?

WEIL: I have -- I have heard about Vitamin O. I think it doesn't exist. Sometimes it's been reused to refer to oxygen and various products that are sold in the Internet or health food stores. I think this is an example, Larry, of a whole series of scams that are out there of trying to sell the public products for which there is no scientific evidence whatever. It again, points of the need of getting good information before you put out your money for products that are supposed to support health.

KING: Someone wants to know about is there a way of preventing kidney stones before it breaks off.

WEIL: Absolutely. You want to always make sure you drink a lot of water. Never get dehydrated. That's probably the single most important piece of information for people prone to kidney stones because some people are stone former, most of us, aren't. Those people, if you know that you're in that cat gore e always drink a lot of water. It is very helpful to reduce consumption of animal foods, to reduce consumption of caffeine in all forms, but I think the single most important advice is to drink plenty of water.

KING: Tampa, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry, my question for your guest is with children ages 2 to 6 being prescribed behavioral medication such as Ritalin at a 300 percent increase, what alternatives would you suggest for parents who don't want to medicate their children?

WEIL: Great question, I think there are a lot of alternatives out there. Everything from dietary change. I've seen really good results in people that have done some food sensitivity testing and eliminated categories of food like wheat, for example, which can make a huge difference. There are homeopathic medical treatments that have worked very well. There are various kinds of behavioral training, natural pathic physicians have methods. At our pediatric integrative clinic at the University of Arizona, we see many kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and we've experimented with various ways of treating them. One of the once we've had most success with is supplementing the diet with fish oil which are sources of omega three fatty acids that affect brain function. So I think there's a lot out there. If you get on the Internet you can find some good source of information about alternative treatments for these condition.

KING: Newark, Delaware, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Dr. Weil.


CALLER: I have a question about upper respiratory infection and viral infection. I had an upper respiratory infection in August and it left me without any sense of taste. I have haven't been able to taste in eight months. They did MRIs, CAT scans to look for tumors. They didn't find anything and I was referred to the University of Pennsylvania Taste and Smell Center. And they basically said that if I don't regain my sense of taste within a year, I probably never will and it's eight months now. The only thing I can distinguish between is sweet, sour, salty, bitter, but I get absolutely no flavors.

KING: Wow! WEIL: This is not uncommon. Yes, if you haven't been told this, I would take a zinc supplement, probably 60 milligrams of some form of zinc. In some people this helps recover the lost sense of smell. It might be worth trying acupuncture treatment is and think that time is on your side. That the chances are especially if you have some sense there that this will come back as you get farther away from the infection that triggered it.

KING: To Staten Island, New York. Hello.

CALLER: My husband has been diagnosed with ALS and I was wondering if you could recommend anything that could help him?

WEIL: This is Lou Gehrig's disease.

KING: Yes. A killer, isn't it, being honest.

WEIL: It's a killer and we have no treatments for it, but I think there are things in the works. And I tell you, my interest in mushrooms and products derived from mushrooms, there is a mushroom called lion's main. Hericeum, H-E-R-I-C-E-U-M. You can get extracts of this mushroom in health food stores. It's nontoxic. It stimulates the production of nerve growth factor. It's something that's worth trying. Also I think there are various forms of brain stimulations that are being experimented with in England. If you contact the ALS society and find out about the latest research going to, I think this is a disease that one day we'll have a break through for, but in the meantime I would try those things I mentioned.

KING: Some wanted to know about treatment for psoriasis.

WEIL: Well, a lot there. I would, first of all, again, supplement the diet with fish oils as well as with a product called black current oil or evening prim rose oil. These are the source of essential fatty acids that nourish the skin. This is another condition in which mind/body medicine looks very important. There have been some very good research studies using a technique called mindful and space stress reduction. Also the technique of journaling, just keeping a journal every day and writing something about your emotional state in correlations with symptoms that a mind/body approach can be helpful in reducing symptoms of psoriasis.

KING: We have run out of time.

Dr. Weil, you have eased a lot of people's pain as you always do. And you are saying temper your feeling about SARS. It's bad, but not a wild epidemic.

WEIL: It's probably going to subside in the summer. It will come back in the fall and winter. By that time I hope we'll have a vaccine and a diagnostic test. Keep your eye on it.

KING: Dr. Andrew Weil, "New York Times" best-selling author. In his most recent book the "Healthy Kitchen Recipes for a Better Body." His 800 number is 800-523-3296.

And I'll be back in a moment to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.


KING: Tomorrow some more issues dealing with the disturbing Peterson case will be the subject. Saturday night, Nick Nolte in an interview you will not want to miss on Larry King weekend, and Sunday night we'll repeat our interview with Lisa Marie Presley.


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