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From: B. Harris)
Subject: Re: Alternative Medicine (was I need help)
Date: 28 Jun 1997

In <> (Steve Work) writes:

>John Ladasky (ladasky@leland.Stanford.EDU) wrote:
>> Hemochromatosis is a comparatively rare condition. You can be sure that
>> Medieval medicine was using bloodletting for something else. I believe
>> that the prevailing theory at the time was that "bad humours" needed to
>> be released from the body when someone was sick. A catch-all.
>> Definitely a harmful undertaking for more than 99% of patients.
>Not necessarily harmful, if only a small amount of blood was let out. If
>there wasn't enough blood loss to in itself cause harm (which probably
>was the case most of the time), the "treatment" essentially amounted to
>doing nothing. And in that day (the age of homeopathy), doing nothing
>was the best medicine there was.

    But bleeding DIDN'T let out a small amount of blood.  Often, people
were bled to the point of early shock, and the profound physiologic
effects which attend that.  Bleeding was a bit like giving an
amphetamine, and sometimes provoked impressive "rallys" from states of
lethargy and somnolence.  And, of course, it also worked sometimes for
"dropsy" (anasarca from congestive heart failure, often attended by
pulmonary edema and incipient respiratory failure).

                                  Steve Harris, M.D.

From: "Steve Harris" <>
Subject: Re: liver regeneration - Questions about Tom's post
Date: Mon, 6 Aug 2001 14:19:15 -0600

"watchman" <> wrote in message
> In MM <barbarian@the.gate> wrote:
> > I want to make sure I understand this correctly....  iron can
> > theoretically inhibit liver regeneration by inhibiting the production
> > of prostaglandins, which are necessary to stimulate liver
> > regeneration. Correct?

Yes, which makes having a "lilly-liver" better if you have to do a lot of
liver regeneration.

Now consider: suppose you have yellow fever and your liver is under severe
viral attack. The iron being released is causing a lot of damage, and is
just screwing things up. Would it help any to be bled acutely to mobilize
liver iron and get it out of the way?

Not long ago there was an article in Scientific American talking about an
18th century yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans, and saying that the major
treatment was blood letting, which "of-course" we known now could not have
done any good. I wrote to them and said that this was by no means obvious a
priori (few things in biology are), and actually hadn't been tested. I
suppose they thought it was one more crank letter, since they didn't print


From: "Steve Harris" <>
Subject: Re: liver regeneration - Questions about Tom's post
Date: Mon, 6 Aug 2001 20:41:02 -0600

"watchman" <> wrote in message

> Seeing that the 'normal' .. nongenetic iron loaded person .. is
> not THAT .. heavily iron overloaded .. you would 'think' that
> a regimen of iron removal would/could make a difference?

Because it might be even your normal non-heme and hematin iron stores (a
gram or two, most of which isn't in the liver) might make a difference. You
only have a few hundred mg of iron in your heme-enzymes. Liver's dark
because it's full of iron (as heme) containing enzymes, just like dark meat
(which has a lot of heme-containing mitochondria). Perhaps blood letting
could get at some of this iron in even normal liver, in pathological
conditions where the liver is breaking down and you want to get the iron out
of there before it can cause all those Fenton-type iron catalyzed free
radical reactions.

> Seeing that those with *genetic* iron overload are bloodlet two
> to three times a week.. for a year or more .. then in a person who is
> 'moderately' overloaded you would think could handle the same
> treatment regimen but for a SHORTER period of time?

People who are iron-overloaded into disease sometimes have body loads of
20-30 grams of iron or more. A pint of blood has something like 250 mg in
hemoglobin (as I remember, don't quote me, it's on the order of the same
concentration of vitamin C in OJ), so you can work out the number of blood
lettings necessary. It's a lot. Fifty to a hundred, often.

> And since the immune system actually uses this method (iron
> removal/sequestering=anemia of chronic disease).. you would
> think it would actually BE.. beneficial?

The immune system does this to fight bacteria, which need iron. I wouldn't
think it would make any difference in viral immunity.


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