Archive for May, 2016

Ways we can protect some hard won freedoms


Memorial day rightfully honors those who died fighting for our free country. But, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” as Thomas Jefferson said in the 1800’s. That is still true today and we all have a role to play in preserving what they paid the ultimate price for. Even in the health world, if we assume someone else is looking out for us we might be in for an unpleasant surprise. That is because bit by bit our freedom to choose the type of healthcare we want can be nibbled away by legislation and regulation. The Food and Drug Administration has shown a clear bias in favor of pharmaceuticals and mainstream medicine over natural approaches. The pharmaceutical industry and medical trade associations lobby very hard to denigrate natural therapies such as supplements, homeopathy and herbs. They have an obvious vested interest in maintaining the status quo. (It is a perversion of the Golden Rule…he who has the gold makes the rules.) Here are some examples of current issues and easy steps that can make a difference:

Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Health Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). Shouldn’t we be able to use these accounts on whatever methods and materials we think will do the most good for our health? And there are lots of studies showing how much money can be saved on healthcare with prudent use of supplements. Tell your Senators and Representative to support legislation which would allow Americans to use their HAS and FSA dollars on dietary supplements. (Next we should ask to make supplements tax deductible—costs of medicine for disease are.) LEARN MORE & TAKE ACTION

Government subsidies for the needy. I think it is simply insane that benefits OF SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program which used to be called Food Stamps) can be used to pay for soda pop and candy but a hot rotisserie chicken or multivitamins. Hopefully, that will be addressed soon, but there is already a similar program that we can weigh in on. Tell your Senators and Representative to support legislation that directs the USDA to consider making multivitamins eligible for purchase under the WIC program (for Women, Infants and Children). LEARN MORE & TAKE ACTION

Military access to supplements. There is a move afoot to add regulations that will make supplements harder for military personnel to buy in government stores. Tell your Senators to vote NO on any dietary supplement specific amendments to the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. LEARN MORE & TAKE ACTION

The biggest problem may just be ignorance. The drug companies, the medical establishment and insurance companies can well afford to make sure that Congress knows their story and concerns. However, consumers, nutritionists, researchers and supplement makers do not have that kind of access to showcase the value of nutritional supplements. Senators and Representative can become better informed if they join the Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus. LEARN MORE & TAKE ACTION


In Massachusetts there is an assault on supplements. If you live in MA, tell your State Legislators to OPPOSE H.3471. LEARN MORE & TAKE ACTION

Puerto Rico aims to suppress supplements with regulation and fees. (It seems to be mainly a money grab.) If you live there, tell your representative that any legislation addressing Puerto Rico’s debt crisis MUST include language striking Administrative Order No. 346. LEARN MORE & TAKE ACTION

Best wishes for a safe, fun and meaningful Memorial Day.

Delicious options for lowering blood pressure

italian cheese

We all know that elevated blood pressure is a serious health risk. This week new research was presented to the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society of Hypertension in New York City (and surprisingly scientists discussed some delicious options for lowering blood pressure). One topic discussed is the growing agreement that blood pressure is safer in a range below 120 mmHg. That’s fine and dandy, but the big question is whether drugs are the best way to accomplish that goal. That is the question I also ask about high cholesterol. In my opinion it seems saner to eliminate the fundamental reasons for the increase in cholesterol rather than to use a pharmaceutical sledge hammer to force it down at all costs. Happily, sometimes remedies can taste good.

  • A randomized, cross-over, double-blind, placebo-controlled study fed subjects each day an ounce of Grana Padano, a hard Italian cheese on the order of Parmigiano. The study, which lasted two months, achieved a 7-8 mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure and a 5-7 mmHg drop in diastolic blood pressure—similar to what would be expected from a blood pressure drug! It is believed that the improvement is from peptides (short chains of amino acids) in the cheese that have strong angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitor activity.
  • Worried about the fat in cheese raising cholesterol? Apparently we needn’t be. Other researchers fed subjects 2.8 ounces per day of 27% fat Gouda-type The study finding: “In conclusion, cholesterol levels did not increase after high intake over 8 weeks’ intervention, and stratified analysis showed that participants with metabolic syndrome had reduced cholesterol at the end of the trial.” (I added the bold.)
  • Some studies show that dark chocolate improves blood pressure. Milk chocolate is not quite the same thing and I’m guessing that chocolate-flavored stuff might have the opposite effect. LINK
  • I can’t talk about blood pressure without mentioning aged garlic. People get very good results from Kyolic 109.

I have to wonder if part of the positive effect in these trials is related to our good intestinal bacteria. Maybe those little buggers that do so many important functions for us just happen to like cheese, chocolate and garlic. (By the way, I am serious.)

On the less fun side, while we’ve been told that moderate alcohol consumption in healthy persons may reduce blood pressure, a new study shows that it may raise blood pressure in those whose blood pressure is already high.


Why are women sicker than men?


Why are women sicker than men if they live longer…worldwide? That disparity is due in part to the fact that men more often have risky professions such as warriors, police officers, steel workers, stunt drivers or bank robbers. They also more frequently have dangerous hobbies. Females have also an edge because we didn’t smoke as much as men and that has reduced the risk of heart disease and cancer. (However, more guys than gals have quit smoking so that gap is narrowing.) There also appear to be genetic and hormonal reasons for women being more resistant to aging. I wouldn’t be surprised if scientists found that women live longer because if they are responsible for the household, they never really retire in the same sense that a business executive does. (A strong sense of purpose seems to be a positive longevity factor.)

Women not only live longer, but we also believe they are more health-conscious and often look after the health and nutrition of the whole family. According to the myth, we’re at home doing exercise videos, eating salad and daintily sipping our green tea. (In truth women are now more likely to be stressed from juggling a career and home life.) Per the corresponding myth, the male of the species is vegged out with his buddies in front of a big screen watching a game, washing down his hot wings and deep fried chips with a beer before lighting up a cigar. (Again just a stereotype.) Myths aside, women actually do pay more attention to health matters, yet still spend more of their lives being ill.

Shockingly, at least part of the blame for that increased illness may be simply that women are obedient and do what the “experts” tell us to—even when the advice is flat-out wrong. For example, more than men women bought into the folly of the fat-bashing food pyramid.  Females also make twice as many trips to the doctor. Some of those trips are because of pregnancy, but the ladies also get more general checkups and appointments for concerns that can lead to over-treatment syndrome. (I didn’t make up that term—it’s creeping into the medical literature as caring/thinking docs take a fresh look at the current state of medicine.) Women may often be over-medicated and worse yet, detoxify drugs more slowly. It is quite concerning that women in certain age groups are prescribed up to 40% more antibiotics than men.

In my book The Probiotic Cure, I discuss the dark side of antibiotics. Of course they can save lives, but in addition to creating vaginal yeast infections, increased use of antibiotics is linked to increased risk of breast cancer. Women suffer more headaches, joint pain, back pain, osteoporosis, allergy problems, skin issues, and digestive complaints than men. Females are also twice as likely to suffer depression. Depression can result from abusive relationships, but also from over treatment and certain medications. Which brings me back to antibiotics. All those symptoms I listed above can be linked to disturbed microbes in the intestinal tract. For one thing antibiotics kill good bacteria and foster the growth of yeasts that release poisons (mycotoxins) that are capable of producing all of those symptoms and more.

It may be no coincidence that women are 3 times as likely to be diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. There are over 100 autoimmune conditions where a person’s immune system begins attacking the body’s own tissues. You know these diseases by names such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and autoimmune thyroiditis. The party line is that autoimmune diseases have “no known cause” and “no known cure”. The symptomatic treatment typically offered is anti-inflammatory medication that has very scary side effects.

Along with many doctors of natural, integrative and/or complementary medicine and a growing body of science, I believe that women have more auto-immune problems because of issues in the digestive tract caused at least in part by antibiotics. The disruption in gut microbe balance by antibiotics can lead to a deterioration of the lining of the intestinal tract. At that point, not only is nutrient absorption reduced, but also unwanted substances can escape into the bloodstream. Our immune system can become confused by these substances and begin attacking healthy tissue. My book has much more on the prevention and relief of this condition, but you can see an illustration of “leaky gut” at this link.

When our good bacteria are killed off, we don’t simply suffer the effects of yeast overgrowth and leaky gut, we also miss out on the many crucial contributions our beneficial bacteria would ordinarily provide to our chemistry. These “critters” manufacture vitamins as well as support digestion, absorption, detoxification, hormone balance, immune function and up to 20,000 needed biochemical reactions that affect the brain, heart and every other system.

The Probiotic Cure contains a great deal of information about the overuse of antibiotics and how to protect ourselves. But, here is a really basic tip: do not take antibiotics for viral conditions like colds and flu because they are useless in those cases. (Rarely, patients in extremely fragile condition may be prescribed antibiotics to prevent a secondary infection.) If you must take an antibiotic, take probiotics starting immediately but at a different time of day. Then continue probiotics for at least 3 months afterward to help restore balance. Note: other medicines can also damage good bacteria.

Copyright Martie Whittekin 2010, 2014 and 2016

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