Counseling Sheet


Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Preventive Medicine

Breast Disease/Prostate

Coffee, tea, cola drinks, and chocolate contain chemical substances called methylxanthines, which are capable of increasing cell growth in the breast of susceptible women to cause fibrocystic breast disease. This very common disease results in about 90% of the operations on the breast.

Methylxanthines work by stimulating a certain chemical within the cell that controls growth activity. This cellular chemical is called cyclic AMP. It is normally broken down after it has sent a brief growth signal into the cell. However, caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine block the destroying enzyme, jam the cyclic AMP signal in its "on" position, causing the target cells to continue to grow.

The prostate gland in men is very similar to the cell composition of the breast, and appears to respond in the same way to the growth signal of cyclic AMP to cause benign prostatic hypertrophy. Physicians could expect that 65% of women with fibrocystic disease of the breast would have a complete regression of the cystic lumps in the breasts within two months of stopping the use of coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate.

Dr. John P. Minton, of Ohio State University in Columbus, has done the pioneer work in this area and points out that women with fibrocystic disease have four times the normal risk of breast cancer. Since breast cancer is a common, increasing, and very serious disease, it is well for physicians to give the general counsel to all women to stop using methylxanthines. Dr. Minton found more than five times as much cyclic AMP in malignant breast tissue as in healthy breasts, and three times as much in fibrocystic lumps. (Medical World News, March 19, 1979, pages 11, 12. Journal of the American Medical Association, March 23, 1979, p. 1221)


Consumption of cow's milk is a very common cause of constipation in people of all ages. A group of young women regained normal bowel habits by discontinuing the use of milk, and on adding milk back to the diet, constipation returned. In another study, elderly people using milk developed fecal impactions which were treated by discontinuing milk and adding fruit and vegetables to the diet. (Journal of the American Medical Association, October 28, 1974)


Eight moderately depressed patients began a running program three times a week under the supervision of a "running therapist." The sessions began with stretching exercises, followed by 30 to 45 minutes of walking and running, then finished off with more stretching exercises. Within three weeks, six of the eight patients recovered and remained so as long as the sessions continued. Another patient was well in the 16th week. She had never run, and hadn't begun walking until the sixth week. The eighth patient neither improved nor worsened during the program. The authors believe that many other forms of physical activity would produce the same results. (The Physician and Sportsmedicine, December 1978)

Diet/Crohn's Disease

Thirty patients recently diagnosed with Crohn's disease were compared to 30 healthy individuals matched for age, sex, marital status, and social class. A comparison of the diets of the two groups revealed that those who had developed Crohn's disease had consumed a diet containing substantially more refined sugar, considerably less raw fruit and vegetables, and slightly less fiber than healthy persons. The investigators concluded that a diet low in raw foods and high in refined sugar may contribute to the development of Crohn's disease. (British Medical Journal, 2762-764, September 29, 1979)


Dr. Norman Childers, of Rutger's University, says that people who are sensitive to the nightshade foods may react with painful joints or muscles, or even outright arthritis. He estimates that approximately 10% of the American population is sensitive to these foods which include white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, all kinds of peppers including cayenne, pimento, paprika, chili, and tobacco. Omitting these foods from the diet, along with all dairy products, may bring total or partial relief of symptoms. The person must be strict with the diet (absolutely no exposure to any of these foods) and it may require several months of total abstinence before the benefits of the diet become apparent. The person must become a "label reader," and, Dr. Childers cautions that "spices" and "spiced salt" may contain paprika. Some yogurts and baby foods may contain potato starch as thickeners. Some herb teas contain pepper, and some cheeses contain paprika. People participating in Dr. Childers' study report that the following items also produce symptoms: chocolate, vitamins A, C, and D supplements, cortisone or gold salts, cod liver oil, oranges or orange juice, tea, and perhaps coffee. The daily intake of asparagus, beets, spinach, or rhubarb may produce symptoms, but use of these foods every second or third day do not. (Arthritis/Rheumatism Newsletter, August 1979. Also, The Nightshades and Health, by Norman F. Childers and Gerard M. Russo, Horticultural Publications, Somerset Press, Somerville, New Jersey, 08876)

Urinary Tract/Bubble Bath

A number of cases of urinary frequency, urgency, and pain on urination have been reported in children using bubble bath. Within a week after stopping its use the symptoms disappeared. In at least one case the symptoms reappeared within 12 hours after bubble bath was resumed. (Journal of the American Medical Association 189:241, July 20, 1964; Obstetrics and Gynecology 6447-448, 1955)

Coffee/Pruritis Ani

Dr. William Friend of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, Washington, told the annual meeting of the California Academy of Family Physicians that coffee consumption is responsible for about 80% of cases of chronic, intense itching in the anal region. The patient should be instructed to totally abstain from coffee, and symptoms should disappear within two weeks. Tomatoes were listed as a cause, as were spices, chocolate, and beer. (Family Practice News 10(2):5, January 15, 1980)

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