Archive for May, 2015

Nutrient gaps cause symptoms

Maze Shows Problem Or Complexity

Too many (maybe most?) folks get quite lost trying to improve their health. Perhaps it is because they are looking in the wrong places and with the wrong tour guides. While modern American medicine is unmatched in the world for dealing with crisis care, it has an abysmal record with chronic disease. That failing comes in large part from the fact our system is based on a drug model that basically teaches “if you have a pain (or an out of norm test number) we have a pill”. Among the issues with that approach are that drugs typically suppress symptoms, but do not correct the root cause. Of course, pharmaceuticals can have serious side effects that we hear about if we listen carefully enough to the soothing voice-over that accompanies the happy images on television commercials. Another problem with the drug-based approach is that medications are generally designed and approved to only address a single problem. A person that has multiple issues will likely end up on multiple drugs…even when some of his or her symptoms are no more than the effects of previously prescribed meds!

Mainstream medical schools generally do not teach docs to look for underlying imbalances such as nutritional ones. For that line of investigation, the patient must either consult with a nutrition professional or educate themselves…or ideally, both. Nutrition expert (genius), Bill Sardi, received an inspiring email from a man who had taken action after reading one of Bill’s terrific well-researched articles. (Below I’ll provide a link to that piece.)

The main text of the email to Bill: ‘I want to thank you for changing my life. For years (since my early 30s–I am 43 now) I struggled with odd problems. Chronic sinusitis and chronic prostatitis. Heart palpitations. Lethargy. Irritability. Recently things got worse. Several years ago in the fall of 2009 my lipid profile was all normal. This year in the early winter of 2015 it took a turn for the worse. My good cholesterol was low. My triglycerides used to be great, but had doubled. My fasting blood sugar was slightly elevated. My bp was elevated slightly (127/78). Used to be well below that. Looking like metabolic syndrome. I was devastated, particularly since my father had Type I diabetes and died at 57 of a heart attack. My doctor was”t too concerned because this was all new and “we can’t trust one test,” but I wasn’t happy with that response.

I came across your article on zinc deficiency and started taking it (50 mg per day as zinc gluconate). Within just DAYS my oddly curved fingernails (not clubbed but weirdly curved with a huge Schamroth’s window) flattened out. My athlete’s foot that I had had for years went away. My sinuses cleared. My prostate no longer hurts. I can urinate like a champ. : ) I don’t know how to explain it, but my whole head just started to feel “clear.” I felt (and still feel) mentally sharp. Suddenly exercise was a joy, not a painful task. My heart palpitations are gone. I am excited to have my lipid profile redone soon because of the other observable changes I’ve noticed, including my bp which is now normal (118/78). Incidentally, I have a diagonal earlobe crease on my right ear, and the beginnings of one on my left. I wonder if this was caused by years of chronic inflammation caused by zinc deficiency. We’ll see how this goes. For now I just wanted to thank you. I feel like I have a new lease on life. You’re the man!!’

This links to the article that the writer had read about widespread zinc deficiency–LINK. Please understand that I’m not implying that everyone should go buy some zinc. For some people a similar story could be told about the effects of low magnesium or vitamin D or one of dozens of other nutrients. The point is that nutrient gaps cause symptoms which can be resolved by restoring balance. If you are low in a nutrient, the resulting problems could be diverse and therefore, when balance is restored, the improvements can be equally diverse and impressive. Those “experts” who claim that supplements don’t do anything have clearly not finished doing their homework.  

A recipe for Alzheimer’s disease?

head pan

Surely we all want to keep our brains intact because without them nothing else really matters. Sadly, it doesn’t appear promising that medical science will ever find a “cure” for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The drugs so far do not seem to make any meaningful improvement and some, like those aimed at removing plaque from the brain, can even hasten the patient’s demise. Our best hope lies in finding and avoiding its cause(s).

Is the reason for the dramatically increasing rates of this tragic malady really some big mystery? Or is it likely that it results from one or more things that we are now doing that are different from what our ancestors did? According to Stephanie Seneff, PhD who is a Senior Research Scientist at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), at least part of the AD increase stems from unintended consequences of actions that we unwittingly take supposedly to protect ourselves from other health problems. She contends that statin drugs, fructose use, sunscreen and flu shots are major ingredients in a virtual recipe for Alzheimer’s. With gratitude to Bill Sardi for calling this to my attention and admiration for Dr. Seneff’s work, I summarize here from an article that contains more of her technical details and citations:

  • Statin drugs. Dr. Seneff points to studies that show an association of low LDL cholesterol with increased incidence of AD people and that the lower the LDL, the worse the dementia. In other research those who had taken statins had over 2 ½ times the risk of Alzheimer’s compared to people who never took statins. One hallmark of AD is the inability of brain cells to use blood sugar normally. In fact, Alzheimer’s is being referred to as diabetes type 3. (A nickname also given to cancer.) Seneff believes that insufficient cholesterol in the brain contributes to AD because cholesterol in the cell membrane plays an important role in regulating blood sugar uptake. When sugar gets where it doesn’t belong, cell parts are basically caramelized (Glycation) and no longer can work. Given that a large portion of the healthy brain is composed of cholesterol, hers does not seem to be a wacky idea. She also explains in the article why our efforts to reduce cholesterol were misguided to begin with.
  • Fructose. Our intake of this sugar has greatly increased, mostly in the form of high-fructose corn syrup in soft drinks and processed foods. We have been led to believe that fructose is a “fruit sugar” and is healthier than table sugar. In fact, it is more damaging, especially in combination with statin drugs which inhibit our brain’s ability to deal with it.
  • Sunscreen. In an effort to reduce the risk of skin cancer, we avoid the sun and increasingly use of sunscreens. However, an unintended consequence has been the reduction of vitamin D levels and production of another substance (cholesterol sulfate) which both help protect brain cells against bacterial invasion and the resulting damage from immune response. Sunscreens can also contain aluminum which is suspect in AD.
  • Flu shots. These contain neurotoxins such as mercury and aluminum. The brilliant Dr. Blaylock explained in one of our radio interviews how vaccines overstimulate brain immune cells, leaving behind long term damage. (Check the immune section of our library for articles on natural approaches to colds and flu.)

Dr. Seneff didn’t have these two on her list but I think perhaps they should be:

  • Sleep drugs. We know that restful sleep is good for the brain, but the drugs used to put us out appear not to be. Both the over-the-counter medicines with PM in their names and those of the prescription class like Xanax lead to cognitive troubles and increased risk of dementia. (A natural melatonin supplement is a safe choice.)
  • Artificial sweeteners. In an effort to avoid sugar and its calories, people have turned to chemical sweeteners, especially in soft drinks. Unfortunately, it turns out that they might actually make us gain weight instead and increase the risk of diabetes. That should set off alarm bells since as noted above blood sugar issues are closely related to Alzheimer’s. Beyond that, research increasingly highlights ways that our good gut bacteria (probiotics) are important for brain health…artificial sweeteners damage probiotics.

A pinch of this and a dash of that continually over the years can start a process that is much harder to reverse than to avoid. It is not surprising that the diet, supplements and reduction of toxins that we discuss on the show for building general health also apply to protecting our brains…which hopefully are firmly attached to the body. There are many nutrients and botanicals that benefit brain health. Read about tumeric.

PMS Remedies

Vintage Women

Think PMS doesn’t concern you because you’re a guy or too old? Think again. Even if you don’t have a friend or relative that is bothered by it, some of the up to 150 symptoms of PMS affect 80% of American women who deal with PMS sometimes for decades. One or more of them may be why the lady at the DMV counter is crabby and takes such unflattering photos.

For some women Premenstrual Syndrome might stand for “pardon my sobbing”. For others the main complaint is cramping, headache or bloating. Then there is the short fuse. Here is some tongue-in-cheek advice for the husband of a PMS victim:
    Dangerous: “What’s for dinner?”
    Safer: “Can I help you with dinner?”
    Safest: “Where would you like to go for dinner?”

You’ll note that above I said “American women”. That is because the syndrome is not a factor in most of the rest of the world. It is also a rather new phenomenon. In a way, that is good news because it means PMS is caused by something that we are doing (such as too little nutrition and too many toxins) and therefore can stop doing. While time will solve PMS, uncorrected menstrual troubles can lead to a much rougher menopause. PMS can result from imbalances in a variety of systems such as an under-functioning thyroid, toxic liver, yeast overgrowth, allergies or stressed adrenal glands. A complete workup by an integrative or functional medicine doctor is the best course, but below are some ideas of PMS remedies that have varying degrees of science behind them.

Vitamins

  • Vitamin B6 helps many especially with bloating and skin issues. It is also improves the usefulness of the magnesium and l-tryptophan noted below. Regular doses of 50 to 100mg (including amounts in multi-vitamins, etc.) and temporary doses of even 200mg are worth a try. I recommend also taking a B complex at another time of day to make sure you keep the other B’s in balance. B5 (pantothenic acid) for example helps with adrenal stress which may be involved in PMS.
  • Vitamin D helps with virtually everything else, so why not PMS? Current recommendations are leaning in the direction of 7,000 IU per day for general health.
  • Vitamin E is usually taken for cardiovascular protection, but there is some evidence it helps with PMS. I recommend a complex like this one

Minerals – Minerals in general are often insufficient in sufferers. A recent study is just beginning to look at iron, potassium and zinc. Earlier studies focused on these minerals:

  • Magnesium…of course. This is especially useful for cramping, mood and anxiety.
  • Calcium. A couple of studies show relief with supplements of 1,000 mg a day. I generally recommend taking at least ½ as much magnesium as calcium.

Foods and components

  • Studies show that PMS sufferers are more likely to be consuming high amounts of refined carb foods and sugars. Dairy foods don’t seem to be helpful either.
  • Fish oil helps with the pain. Use Nordic Naturals and follow label instructions, but note that in one study, women who took 2 grams a day had more improvement than those who took one gram.
  • GLA from evening primrose oil or borage oil (3 to 4 grams per day) helps moderate inflammatory metabolites especially for meat eaters.

Amino Acids

  • L-Tryptophan is known to raise levels of the “happy hormone”, serotonin. The advice is to take 2 to 6 grams per day, but only during the second half of the monthly cycle. Take it away from meals. 5HTP may have a similar effect, and since probiotics make more serotonin than the brain does, why not try Dr. Ohhira’s?

Herbs

  • Vitex (also known as chastetree) is well-studied and widely-used and has a progesterone-like effect, reducing depression, cramps and breast tenderness. A typical dose of a concentrated herbal extract is roughly 20 mg a day.
  • French maritime pine bark extract (pycnogenol) lowered the need for pain medication. It is also good for menopause.
  • Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound. I have a booklet from the 193’’s talking about this patent medicine for “women’s complaints”. Originally in the form of a liquid tonic in the late 1800’s it probably brought relief in part because of the alcohol content. Then it became tablets, which much to my surprise are still available today.

Hormones

  • Progesterone cream. While estrogen and progesterone are both low right before the period, women who have heavy or extended periods usually still have an excess of estrogen in proportion to the progesterone. Progesterone was a big help for me, but studies don’t show that it is widely helpful. Just be sure to avoid the synthetic progesterone, Provera.
  • The adrenal glands make hormone that reduce pain. Nourish the glands with vitamin C and an adrenal herb combination.

Medicines

  • Homeopathics might be a natural answer for many. If it works as well as their other products I’ve tried, my choice would be PMS Relief by KingBio.
  • In 1993 when the psychiatric establishment came up with the official name “Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder” (PMDD) supposedly to make it easier to do research on the issue, the action angered feminists who took it to mean that doctors (still typically male at the time) thought the condition was all in their heads. Prozac and Zoloft are often prescribed, but I think it is smarter to fix the root cause of the problem.

Other

  • Probiotics are little factories producing thousands of substances that help in ways we are just beginning to understand. They reduce inflammation, help balance hormones and create neurotransmitters.
  • Far Infrared Sauna is a good way to remove the toxins we’ve accumulated without putting a strain on the kidneys. (Toxins like plasticizers really jack with our hormones.) This one is my choice.
  • Chiropractic can assure that there is not interference in the nerve supply to glands and organs due to a spinal misalignment.
  • Acupuncture is often helpful for symptoms that mystify mainstream medicine.

Can a woman try all of these remedies at once? Well, some of these are what I consider health minimums (like vitamin D, magnesium, probiotics and fish oil) that should be taken all the time anyway. Since the items on the above list all work in different ways, therefore those in a desperate hurry could do them all. Surely, there would be a big improvement, but it wouldn’t be clear which item(s) had helped the most. One would have to stop using them one at a time to figure that out. The gal who is currently doing nothing and wants to start cautiously should perhaps begin with B6, magnesium and probiotics.

 

The poster child of bad dietary choices

sodas

As you have probably heard, the World Health Organization and some U.S. government authorities recently recommended a change in the official dietary guidelines. They have backed off of making fats the villain (finally!) and are suggesting that folks cut back on sugar and refined flours (finally!). The studies have been piling up for decades, but changing the establishments’ minds is much slower than turning an aircraft carrier (with its anchor dropped). That is due in part to bureaucratic paralysis of analysis. But, change is also resisted by considerable vested financial interests and by those with a professional reputation at stake. (The guys with the old ideas just do not want to now be wrong.)

I’ve been preaching about the evils of sugar and its first cousin flour since the early 1980’s (shortly after I learned that those cute little maple sugar characters were not health food just because they were sold in a health food store). Sugar raises the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, liver disease and contributes to Alzheimer’s disease. Sugar hampers our immune system and to make matters worse, tumor cells use proportionately more sugar than normal cells. Therefore, high sugar levels offer a double-barreled way to increase cancer risk. On a happier note, reducing blood sugar can cause tumor cells to die.  Sugar bonds with proteins in our cells (glycation) which basically carmelizes them and acts to prematurely age them. Not enough to worry you yet? Click to read Dr. Nancy Appleton’s 143 ways that sugar ruins our health. (In proofing this document, my husband asked if there is anything good about sugar. It tastes good flavor and has helpful cooking properties, but it is not a nutritional necessity.)

Soft drinks are the poster child of bad dietary choices in part because they are the source of over 1/3 of America’s intake of added sugars. They also lack nutritional benefit and contain phosphoric acid that isn’t good for bones, teeth and our probiotics. Diabetes incidence increases with just one daily soda. High fructose corn syrup is used to sweeten most sodas. It is addictive and (like we need more of the poison) it is a source of mercury (from the processing). At a very basic level, fructose reduces the energy (ATP) inside cells, reduces the repair of genes and generates uric acid (the cause of gout).

Well then, can’t we just switch to diet soft drinks? Unfortunately, no. Pepsi will drop aspartame from some of its beverages this August due to consumer pressure. If they were replacing it with a natural sweetener, I might be a bit more impressed. However, the substitutes will be Splenda and Ace K (acesulfame potassium) which raise their own questions. Artificial sweeteners in general are linked to weight gain and other problems in part because they are hard on our crucial gut microbes—our life-saving probiotics. Also, as our radio guest Kenah Smith described, her tests showed that most of them (except erythritol) feed yeast. Yeast overgrowth can cause all manner of trouble. Please send a link to this post to anyone you know who drinks pop.

It is really hard to beat pure filtered water as our basic beverage and we should use it to make green tea and even coffee which do have health benefits.


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