Archives for October 2015


There Is Help For Hair Loss

One area where aging shows is the head! Often people who are aging are experiencing hair loss. Some individuals have a genetic trait that makes them vulnerable to early hair loss, while others are keeping their hair until a ripe old age. With regard to hair pigment it is similar: some people keep their own hair color well into their 40’s or 50’s, but later the grey hair shows. Loss of hair color is about loss of hair pigment. One or more genes regulate whether or not we lose the hair pigment early or not. While there is not much we can do about our hair pigment other than coloring our hair every 3-4 weeks, there is something we can do about hair loss on our scalp.

Male and female hair loss is medically known as “androgenetic alopecia”. It occurs in individuals who are genetically exposed. Interestingly baldness is rare in Chinese, Japanese and in Native American populations. Baldness more commonly affects men of Caucasian descent.

Onset of hair loss

In people who are prone to hair loss baldness typically starts in the temporal areas.

The genetic factors that lead to baldness can be inherited either from father or mother’s side. They are polygenic, meaning that there is not only one cause of hair loss. Gene frequency is most commonly associated with Caucasians. In Africans the frequency is lower and lower still in American Indians, Asians, and the Inuits.

Types of hair loss

The Norwood scale is used as classification of hair loss in men. In women hair loss is classified using the Ludwig and Savin scale. This helps to record the findings of a hair examination and is useful for research purposes as well.

Hormonal factors regarding male pattern baldness

There are several hormonal factors that are involved in the development of male pattern baldness. 5-alpha reductase converts testosterone (T) to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is more powerful than testosterone, causes shortening of the hair cycle and miniaturization of hair in the balding areas. After several years those who have genetically predisposed androgen receptors in balding areas come down with baldness. There are two isoenzymes of 5-alpha reductase, type 1 and type 2. Individuals born without type 2  5-alpha reductase do not develop androgenic baldness.

Another factor for baldness can be an enzyme, aromatase, located in the fatty tissue that converts testosterone into estrogenic hormones. A lack of testosterone can lead to baldness by this mechanism. Many men in their 50’s and 60’s who are overweight or obese are balding because of this mechanism. The other mechanism, as explained above is via DHT in genetically susceptible men. This process starts to occur mostly in individuals who are in their forties.

Treatment of hair loss

1. Mild cases of hair loss may respond to topical treatment with minoxidil that can be used on the scalp as liquid or hair foam. Systemic treatment in men is possible with finasteride (Propecia) or Dutasteride (Avodart). It helps to block the hormonal pathways regarding 5-alpha reductase and DHT that leads to baldness. In aging men in their 50’s and 60’s it may be that testosterone levels are low. Blood tests can test for this: the total testosterone level should be above 500 ng/dL. If it is less, testosterone replacement by bioidentical testosterone cream or by injection should be considered and usually works quite well with respect to regrowth of scalp and body hair.

2. Moderately severe hair loss can be treated with PRP (platelet rich plasma). With this treatment modality about 30% of hair loss can get cured. There have to be enough hair-rejuvenating stem cells around the bald skin to stimulate hair growth. However, when baldness has set in for some time in an area of the scalp with previous hair growth, there comes a point where the hair follicles die off and even stimulation with PRP will not help. When extracellular matrix (called “A cell”) is used in combination with PRP the success rate for hair growth in a bald area jumps up to 70 to 80%. The A cell material recruits stem cells from the blood that create hair follicles in the bald skin starting hair growth again.

3. Severe hair loss that does not respond to A cell and PRP treatment, but requires more invasive treatment: usually there are no hair follicles left in the bald skin. So, what can one do in such cases?

Many years ago dermatologists found that dense hair found in the back of the head (nuchal area) can be transplanted to a bald skin area and will grow very well there. In the beginning of doing hair transplants little discs were transplanted and this looked at times like checkered hair growth in the previously bald area. Newer research showed that miniaturized transplants with perhaps three hair follicles harvested under the microscope from the dense area and transplanted into the bald area give a smooth, natural looking appearance. These types of hair transplants are called “follicular unit hair transplants”. Nowadays hair transplant physicians will only do this type of hair transplant procedure because of the superior cosmetic result.

There Is Help For Hair Loss

There Is Help For Hair Loss


Baldness is no longer a stigma in today’s society, particularly with males. So many men just shave off whatever hair they still have and live with baldness. However, other men and women want something done about the bald scalp; they can do so in various stages, first treat topically with minoxidil, then by trying PRP or PRP with the A cell treatment. Finally follicular unit hair transplants can restore a full head of hair where there was baldness before. Women are also very interested in follicular unit hair transplants when crown baldness develops. This elegant method gets rid of this annoying crown baldness, and women who had it done seem to be very happy with the results.

More info on hair restoration:

More info on hair loss:


Ref. 1: Hair disorders, from: “Lookingbill and Marks’ Principles of Dermatology” Fifth Edition: James G. Marks MD and Jeffrey J. Miller MD, Copyright © 2013, Elsevier Inc.


Best Anti-Aging Products

Every day there is some news about a vitamin or supplement that is supposed to be good for you. But the ordinary person does not really know what will have an effect on anti-aging and what will not.

In the following I will review the key vitamins and supplements that have published anti-aging effects. With this I mean that there has been a consensus of anti-aging experts that several studies have shown a positive clinical effect of vitamins and supplements. Not all claims in the media are proven.

Vitamins and supplements needed for heart attack and stroke prevention

  • Vitamin K2 has emerged in several studies as an important vitamin that removes calcium from the vascular compartment and transports it into the bones where it is stored. Osteoporosis prevention is closely linked to heart attack and stroke prevention, which in my opinion is not widely known. Another study from 2013 was using a much larger patient base of 36,282 postmenopausal women of the Women’s Health initiative in the US who were followed up for 7 years. Initially there was some confusion as to how compliant the patients were in taking the required 1000 mg of calcium carbonate and 400 IU of vitamin D3. The supplement compliant group when compared 7 years into the trial had 35% to 38% less fractures of the hip than the placebo group. This supplementation did not cause kidney stones in the study group, as is often cited by some physicians as the reason why they do not want to recommend supplementing with vitamin D3 and calcium. In other words all of these kidney stone concerns you have so often read in the media are not true.
  • The second vitamin needed is vitamin D3 in doses of 4000 IU to 5000 IU per day. This helps to absorb calcium in the gut, but also helps to transport it into the bones away from the arteries. Apart from these vitamins and supplements regular exercise is needed to condition heart and lungs. The overall effect is that osteoporosis, heart attacks and strokes are prevented. Keep in mind that sugar needs to be avoided as well to prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
  • PQQ and Co-Q-10 are also needed for heart attack and stroke prevention (see below). These two supplements strengthen the mitochondria, the tiny power packages within the heart muscle cells and the brain cells. The better the support, the more resilient the heart and the brain are to the changes with aging. The heart and the brain are particularly rich in mitochondria.
  • Vitamin D3, alpha-lipoic acid and resveratrol are also needed for prevention of heart attacks and strokes, because of the anti-inflammatory action (see below).
  • Magnesium and green leaf tea extract have been proven to be beneficial in terms of preventing heart attacks
  • Hawthorn is an herb that has been found useful for prevention of heart disease and treatment of mild heart failure (in Germany known as “Crataegutt”).

Mitochondrial function needs to be improved

If we want to have energy when we age, we need to take care of our mitochondria. This is where the biochemical processes take place that produce energy for us.

As I have summarized in this blog, there are several steps and supplements that will help us preserve mitochondria:

  • Mitochondrial aging is slowed down by ubiquinol (=Co-Q-10). Co-Q-10 repairs DNA damage to your mitochondria.
  • Another supplement, PQQ (=Pyrroloquinoline quinone) stimulates your healthy mitochondria to multiply. Between the two supplements you will have more energy as optimal mitochondrial function is ensured.
  • There are simple lifestyle changes you can make: eat less calories as this will stimulate the genes, which in turn stimulates your cell metabolism including the mitochondria.
  • Resveratrol, the supplement from red grape skin can also stimulate your mitochondria metabolism. Exercise more and regularly as this will also stimulate your mitochondria to multiply similar to the effects of PQQ.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid is an anti-oxidant that counters the slow-down of mitochondrial metabolism.

Anti-inflammatory vitamins and supplements

Since the mid 1990’s it is known by the medical profession that inflammation plays an important role in the development of heart attacks, strokes, inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes mellitus, arthritis (both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis), multiple sclerosis, just to name a few. Here is a list of vitamins and supplements that counter inflammation:

  • Vitamin D3: Vitamin D3 is an anti-inflammatory helping to prevent heart disease and cancer.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid: This anti-inflammatory is both water and oil soluble. It is an antioxidant protecting from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and may reduce the size of a stroke.
  • Bioflavonoids: Bioflavonoids are found in fruit and vegetables. One of the most potent ones is resveratrol. Resveratrol prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which prevents heart attacks. It also prevents Alzheimer’s disease and helps prevent insulin resistance.
  • Garlic: This herb has anti-inflammatory effects, stimulates the immune system and lowers blood pressure moderately. It is used as an adjunct in treating high blood pressure, prevents heart disease and various cancers. It helps to reduce inflammation with osteoarthritis.
  • Ginger root extract: Ginger root is an anti-inflammatory, but also has anti-nausea effects and is useful for seasickness, morning sickness and side-effects from chemotherapy. Arthritis is also helped by it.
  • Ginseng: Ginseng is a popular herbal medicine; it has anti-inflammatory effects and improves immune function. Often people take it during the cold and flu season.
  • Green tea extract: Green tea extract is anti-inflammatory and has anti-oxidant effects. It is used for cancer prevention, stomach upsets, and diarrhea. It also helps in patients with Crohn’s disease and helps prevent heart disease.
  • Melatonin: Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the pineal gland. It is a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. It also helps you to sleep. In higher doses it is used as anti-cancer medicine as it stimulates the immune system.
  • Rutin: Rutin is a bioflavonoid that is used to strengthen blood vessels, helps in stroke prevention and helps with osteoarthritis.
  • Selenium: Selenium is a trace element and an important anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. It stimulates the immune system, helps in prevention of cancer, and converts T4 thyroid hormone into the more active T3 thyroid hormone.
  • Cod liver oil (omega-3) and krill oil are both omega-3 fatty acids. Krill oil contains more DHA, while fish oil derived omega-3 fatty acids contains more omega-3. Both krill oil and fish oil are needed as supplements to prevent arthritis, strokes, heart attacks, osteoporosis, diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s and inflammation.
  • Coenzyme Q10 has antioxidant properties, but also anti-inflammatory properties and helps to prevent cancer and heart disease.
  • Flax seed: Ground flax seed has anti-inflammatory omega-3 in it, cancer-protective lignans, blood pressure lowering properties and mild blood thinning activity. Flax seed has a rather tough shell. With a cheap coffee grinder you can easily grind your flax seed. In a few seconds it is ground. It is important to wipe out the grinder after use with a damp cloth to prevent future rancidity of leftover ground flax seed.

Methylation defects and vitamin supplementation

Some people are born with enzymatic defects in the methylation pathways. They are more prone to diverse diseases like autism, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, adrenal dysfunction, addiction, cancer, allergies, immune weakness, diabetes etc.

Here is a list of the methylation pathway vitamins and trace elements important for those who are born into families where mental illness or diabetes is frequent, as they are the ones who often have methylation defects, many of which can be corrected (Ref.1).

  • Vitamin B2/riboflavin: Riboflavin is used for neonatal jaundice as part of phototherapy. Some adult patients experience relief from migraines.
  • Vitamin B6/pyridoxine: Pyridoxal phosphate is a co-factor of many enzymatic reactions in amino acid, glucose and lipid metabolism.
  • Vitamin B12/methylcobalamin: Vitamin B12 is essential for your nerve function, bone marrow function (or severe anemia follows). It gives you energy and keeps you normal, but it is not a cure all. Sometimes in older patients absorption is a problem, but B12 injections every couple of months can easily overcome this.
  • Folate (from food or folic acid): Research about neural tube defects (spina bifida) in the baby of a folate deficient mother led to the discovery of folic acid. Heavy smokers and drinkers can get folate deficient. Folate is needed in DNA synthesis.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions within the body. It helps with asthma, bone health, muscle pain and prevents heart attacks. It also cures psychiatric disease like anxiety and agitation. Magnesium is a co-factor for many enzymes reactions.
  • Zinc: Because zinc is an essential trace element, it is involved in many organ systems and zinc is used for many health problems. People may have heard that zinc is an important supplement in male infertility and erectile dysfunction. But it is also needed as a supplement in diabetes, high blood pressure, psoriasis, macular degeneration and night blindness. Zinc is a natural opponent of copper meaning that when zinc is low, copper levels in the blood are often high. This constellation can cause insomnia.

What makes a vitamin or supplement an anti-aging product?

If a vitamin or supplement fits into one of these following classes, it helps slow down aging and thus would be considered an anti-aging product:

  1. Antioxidants (fight oxidant stress): a typical representative would be vitamin C, which prevents oxidative damage of our DNA. Others are B vitamins (B1, B3, B6, B12 and folate), acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, bioflavonoid, garlic, ginger root extract, Gingko biloba, ginseng, green tea extract, L-glutathione, magnesium, manganese, melatonin, N-acetyl cysteine, potassium, rutin, selenium, vitamin E, and coenzyme Q10. We have discussed them above.
  2. Anti-inflammatory action (fighting inflammation): vitamin D3 comes to mind, which suppresses inflammation in nerves (MS) or in blood vessels preventing heart disease. Others are alpha-lipoic acid, bioflavonoid, garlic, ginger root extract, ginseng, green tea extract, melatonin, rutin, selenium, cod liver oil (omega-3), coenzyme Q10, and ground flax seed.
  3. Preserving mitochondrial function: B-vitamins and coenzyme Q10 are examples that do this. Mitochondria are important to provide energy in the body. Others are acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, ginger root extract, ginseng and selenium.
  4. There are vitamins and supplements that will prevent insulin resistance. This is pretty important as diabetes, where insulin resistance is present will shorten life expectancy. Ginseng, green tea extract, magnesium are examples of supplements that prolong life through countering insulin resistance. Others that do this are B vitamins (B1, B3, B6, B12 and folate), vitamin D, alpha-lipoic acid, beta-carotene, chromium picolinate, garlic, ginger root extract, manganese, potassium, and selenium.
  5. Other supplements are prolonging life by providing membrane integrity: beta-carotene, garlic and selenium belong into this group. Others are ginger root extract, ginseng, cod liver oil (omega-3), and ground flax seed.
  6. Partial methylation defects can be cured with B vitamins explained earlier and this has been shown to help improve some mental disorders significantly, improve life quality, prevent suicides and prolong life.

Many vitamins and supplements have not only an action in one of those categories, but in two or more (Ref. 2).  B1, B3, B6, B12 and folate belong into category 1, 3, 4 and 6, so there is a huge overlap and this is what anti-aging physicians consider an advantage. Often conventional physicians shake their heads and say that the overlapping actions would prove that they are worthless. However, as time went on conventional physicians have started to adopt more and more the anti-aging concept, because science is proving in large trials from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, from various Chinese universities, from American universities like Loyola University and Harvard Medical School, Salk Institute and others that the overlapping concept is valid.

Because of the overlapping effect of vitamins and supplements you may not need to take all of these listed here as long as you have a good overlap. I have listed dosages of vitamins and supplements in this link (scroll half-way down to the table entitled: Vitamins and supplements, your basic “life insurance”).

Best Anti-Aging Products

Best Anti-Aging Products


Although the topic seems to be complex, the basic idea is simple. We need to get away from processed food and return to eating whole foods, preferably organic foods. A good diet is the Mediterranean diet with an emphasis on vegetables, fruit and lean meat. Cook with coconut oil, but also use olive oil in salads. With this basic approach most of the vitamins and supplements I mentioned above are included. If you want to get more sophisticated, you may want to add some of the key vitamins and supplements I mentioned. It is also useful to use lab tests to establish, whether there are vitamin deficiencies, and it is equally important that vitamin levels-such as vitamin D3- are not too high and not too low. Supplementation without verifying the need for it or exceeding the dosage needed is not contributing to health (Ref.3). Many of the issues discussed in this blog are covered in more depth in my anti-aging book (Ref.4).



Ref.1: William J. Walsh, PhD: “Nutrient Power. Heal your biochemistry and heal your brain”. Skyhorse Publishing, 2014.

Ref.2: Life Extension: Disease Prevention and Treatment, Fifth edition. 130 Evidence-Based Protocols to Combat the Diseases of Aging. © 2013

Ref. 3: Ronald Klatz, MD, DO and Robert Goldman, MD, PhD, DO, FAASP, Executive Editors: “Encyclopedia of Clinical Anti-Aging Medicine & Regenerative Biomedical Technologies”. American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, Chicago, IL, USA, 2012.

Ref. 4: Dr. Schilling’s book, March 2014,“A Survivor’s Guide To Successful Aging: With recipes for 1 week provided by Christina Schilling

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Depression Needs Treatment

Depression is common: 10% of all men and 20% of all women have a period of depression in their lives. In people with medical illnesses depression is more common: 20% to 40% (Ref.1).

The peak age for depression is usually the age of 25 to 44. There are special groups where depression is also common. In adolescents 5% are affected with depression and 13% of women tend to get depressed after delivery, a condition called postpartum depression.

In any age group with depression there is a risk of suicide, but with adolescents this is particularly true.

About 10% to 15% of people with general medical illness are developing depression, such as patients with Parkinson’s disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiac disease, HIV infection, end-stage renal failure and cancer.

Causes of depression

Officially it is not known what causes depression. That is what medical textbooks say. However, other books like Datis Kharrazian’s book “Why isn’t my brain working?” offers several scenarios that can cause depression and he has examples of cases that were cured of depression (Ref.2). He points out that deficiencies in two major brain transmitters can cause depression: serotonin and dopamine.

  1. Serotonin is produced in the midbrain from the amino acid tryptophan in two biochemical steps. These biochemical conversions require iron, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, niacin, folic acid and magnesium as co-factors. But you also need the “large neutral amino acid transporter” (LNAA) to transport tryptophan through the blood/brain barrier into the brain.
  2. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is produced in the frontal lobes of the brain. It is also necessary for learning. Dopamine is synthetized by the brain from tyrosine, which has to be manufactured in the liver from the amino acid phenylalanine. You need to have a healthy liver to produce tyrosine, which needs to be transported through the blood/brain barrier into the brain; similar to tryptophan this requires the “large neutral amino acid transporter” (LNAA). People with hepatitis, fatty liver, insulin resistance or diabetes may have problems with the LNAA transporter, which can cause dopamine deficiency (Ref.2). But as mentioned earlier they may also have low serotonin because tryptophan was not transported into the brain. This will happen with sugar overconsumption, as insulin resistance develops and affects the LNAA transporter resulting in both low serotonin and dopamine (Ref.2).
  3. Since the 1990’s it is known that inflammation is also a possible factor in the causation of neurological disease including depression. Ref. 2 points out that gut issues can become brain issues as inflammatory substances can leak trough a leaky gut into the blood stream and trough a leaky blood/brain barrier into the brain. Hypothyroidism can activate brain inflammation and lead to an imbalance of the neurotransmitters. Gluten sensitivity is also an important cause of depression through the inflammatory connection, but few physicians recognize the full impact of this.

Tests for depression

There are no laboratory tests that would define depression. However, every patient should be checked for hypothyroidism, a common cause of depression. If hypothyroidism is found, this can easily be treated by thyroid hormone replacement.

Otherwise the diagnosis of depression is made based on mental status examination, history and review of symptoms. A good start is to ask: “In the past 2 weeks how little interest or pleasure in doing things have you had?” and “Have you been feeling down, depressed, or hopeless in the past 2 weeks?” (Ref.3).

There are detailed psychometric questionnaires available such as the Beck Depression Inventory that can assist the physician to establish the diagnosis.

Myths of depression

One of the myths regarding depression is that it would be contagious. A study on 2000 high school students showed that depression was not infective. The contrary was true: human interaction with friends who had a “healthy mood” improved depression. By the same token, when you constantly compare yourself with your Facebook friends, and you are not in the best mood, your mood may worsen and you could become depressed.

Treatment of depression

Despite advances in the treatment of depression the response rate with antidepressant therapy is limited to 60% to 70%. According to Ref.4 inadequate dosing and misdiagnoses account for the fact that 30% to 40% of treated people with depression have treatment failures. Typically the first antidepressant involves a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), but newer trials have shown that the older monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) have a higher success rate when treating depression initially (Ref.4).

A good antidepressant for mild to moderate depression is St. John’s wort, which is recommended by Ref. 5 as having less side-effects as other antidepressants.

In treatment resistant depression the psychiatrist often employs other combinations of antidepressants. In addition cognitive/behavioral therapy is added, which makes the overall treatment more successful. It goes without saying that complicated cases of depression belong into the hands of an experienced psychiatrist.


Unfortunately there is still a stigma attached to have a mental disease like depression and people are in deep denial. Friends who do not understand depression may inadvertently say things that make the symptoms of the depressed person more severe and distance themselves at a time when they would need support from friends. The end result is loneliness, feelings of being misunderstood and having suicidal thoughts. Often it is men who will resist seeking treatment for depression, women are better in getting treatment started.

This is where a psychiatrist needs to intervene. If this does not happen, people start attempting suicide and finally commit suicide. In the US committed suicides have a gender ratio of male to female of 3:1 to 10:1. These situations become very difficult. The family needs to step in and talk to the patient. It is best to accompany the patient to the hospital for an assessment. Going to the hospital may be done privately or by ambulance. Don’t be shy to call 911 for an ambulance. Better to be cautious than have a major crisis that ends in completed suicide.

Alternative depression treatments

There are alternative treatments for depression.

1. Magnetic therapy for depression: This therapy is also called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and was approved for Canada and in 2008 by the FDA.

But it is not as powerful according to Ref. 3 as unitemporal electroconvulsive therapy.

2. Bifrontal electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): Electroconvulsive therapy with two pedals applied to the front of the skull appears to have the best results in terms of treating depression.

3. Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) are powerful anti-inflammatory agents, which will take care of the inflammatory component of depression. Both fish oil and krill oil in combination give the optimal response as outlined here.

4. Vitamin D3 is also anti-inflammatory and will contribute to an improvement with existing depression, but it also helps prevent the development of depression when taken in regularly as a supplement.

5. Light box therapy: The observation of seasonal affective disorder (SADS) can develop as a result of lack of light. This has led to the discovery that light boxes are helpful for treating depression and also for prevention of depression due to seasonal affective disorder.

A light box should be used for 30 minutes every morning during the fall and winter months. The box should emit at least 10,000 lux. Improvement can occur within 2 to 4 days of starting light therapy, but often it takes up to 4 weeks to reach its full benefit.

6. It is known for a long time that alcohol is a depressant; it can actually cause depression and in persons with bipolar disease it can trigger a flare-up of that disorder as well.

7. Finally it matters what you eat: sugar and too much starchy foods (high glycemic index carbs) lead to insulin overproduction and insulin resistance. This causes inflammation, and this will cause depression. As mentioned earlier it also lowers the two key brain transmitters, dopamine and serotonin.

The solution is an anti-inflammatory diet, the Mediterranean diet without sugar and high glycemic index carbs; only low glycemic index carbs are allowed. This will normalize insulin production and eliminates inflammation.

8. Vitamin supplements: Folate and vitamin B12: Up to 1/3 of depressed people have folate deficiency. Supplementation with 400 mcg to 1 mg of folic acid is recommended. Vitamin B12 should also be taken to not mask a B12 deficiency (Ref.5). Folate and vitamin B12 are methyl donors for several brain neuropeptides.

9. Electro acupuncture has been shown in many studies to be effective in ameliorating the symptoms of depression and seems to work through the release of neurotransmitters in the brain (Ref.6).

10. Exercise on a regular basis helps to equalize the mood and seems to exert a slight anti-depressant effect on the person who engages in regular physical activity.

Depression Needs Treatment

Depression Needs Treatment


I have attempted to show the complexity of depression and what is known about its causes and treatment. Very likely there are several causes for depression and further research will hopefully bring more clarity to this. Treatment modalities, both conventional and unconventional have been developed over the years by trial and error. The physician and patient need to use common sense: if a treatment is working, stick to it and use it. If it does not work, move on and try something else. More difficult cases should be referred to a psychiatrist who has the most experience with difficult to treat cases. Do not neglect life-style factors and alternative depression treatments as they can often help to stabilize depression significantly. We all must be vigilant about suicide risks in depressed patients and act by calling 911, if necessary to intervene.

More info on depression:


1. Depression, Major: Fred F. Ferri M.D., F.A.C.P., Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2016, by Elsevier, Inc.

2. Dr. Datis Kharrazian: “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?” © 2013, Elephant Press, Carlsbad, CA 92011

3. Goldman-Cecil Medicine “Major depressive disorder” 2016, by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier Inc.

4. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry, Second Edition: Theodore A. Stern MD, Maurizio Fava MD, Timothy E. Wilens MD and Jerrold F. Rosenbaum MD © 2016, Elsevier Inc.

5. Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed. © 2012 Saunders.

6. George A. Ulett, M.D., Ph.D. and SongPing Han, B.M., Ph.D.: “The Biology of Acupuncture”, copyright 2002, Warren H. Green Inc., Saint Louis, Missouri, 63132 USA

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Tissue Repair With Extra Cellular Matrix

You are about to learn about futuristic medicine that is already happening now. On September 5, 2015 I watched an interesting documentary on Discovery Channel while working out on the treadmill in the gym. This gave me the idea that this would be good material for a blog. After a little research on the Internet I found the full extra cellular matrix story, which you can read about below.

An amputated finger grows back

Lee Spievak, a man who loves flying model aircraft got his right middle finger chopped off at the end from a rotating model airplane propeller. His surgeon felt that there was nothing much that could be done. But his brother who works in regenerative medicine knew about a powder made from pig’s bladder tissue, which Dr Stephen Badylak from the University of Pittsburgh, had pioneered. His brother arranged for a sample of powder, extra cellular matrix (ECM) to be sent to Lee Spievak who sprinkled some on the open wound (the stump). Within two applications he started to see that new tissue was forming, within 4 weeks it sealed up the wound and he had grown a new finger, the same length as before. Within 4 months his nail, skin, his feeling and even his fingerprint were back to normal.

This story happened in Cincinnati in 2005. In this news story it is explained why the ECM powder worked so well: it prevented the wound from closing and it stimulated the body to heal.

A large thigh muscle defect grows back

Marine Sergeant Ron Strang was severely wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan where a large part of his left quadriceps muscle (left thigh) was ripped off. After several surgeries the surgeons decided that Ron was a good candidate for part of a trial that is ongoing involving about 80 Veterans with similar injuries. Dr. Steven Badylak from the University of Pittsburgh suggested with the next surgery to put extra cellular matrix from pig bladder into the remaining quadriceps muscle to see whether it would regrow part of it. The surgery followed by physical exercise was so successful that Sergeant Strang is now able to run and do all the activities he wants. There is still a scar, but compared to the initial injury where a big chunk of muscle was missing, the remaining scar is insignificant.

Dr. Badylak explains in the video of the link that the sheet of extracellular matrix that was inserted immediately recruits the patient’s own stem cells, which makes new muscle cells, new nerve tissue, new skin, whatever is needed to heal what’s missing in the injured area.

Dog gut growing into a dog aorta

Dr. Badylak from the University of Pittsburgh had a veterinary medicine degree before he studied medicine and became a surgeon. From the beginning he was interested in regenerative medicine.

After he saw the success with Lee Spievak’s finger regeneration, he thought that there must be a way to regenerate other tissues. He started doing experiments on dogs where he removed part the arch of the aorta and replaced it with a piece of gut from the same dog to see whether the dog would survive and whether the gut would be strong enough to withstand the pressure from the outflowing blood in the aorta. He figured that the tubular structure of the gut would be a better template than the synthetic aorta pieces that are still used by thoracic surgeons. To his surprise the first dog (his own dog named Rocky) survived and did well. He accumulated data on a total of 15 dogs. All of them survived and did well. He could not understand what had happened, so he reexamined one of these dogs where he got histological samples and analyzed them under the microscope to see what was going on. He expected the typical findings of the gut transplant, but instead he found a new aorta with all of the histological findings of aortic tissue. The piece of gut had been transformed into aortic tissue!

Next Dr. Badylak repeated the surgical procedure, but this time he inserted a piece of gut from a cat, removed the lining of it (called mucosa) and the muscle layer, (called the muscularis), so there was only the extra cellular matrix left, a thin tubular structure of ECM. When he was done, he was wondering whether the catgut ECM would be rejected, because it came from another species and normally with whole organ transplants one can expect rejection of the foreign tissue. None of that happened. The experiment went flawlessly: the transplant survived like all the others and again the ECM had turned into dog aorta that was integrated without any scar formation! None of this fitted any conventional medicine model; it was the blueprint for the regenerative medicine model.

Dr. Badylak recognized that this was a huge step forward, and he would need easy access to ECM material. He got it from the pig slaughterhouses dotting the Indiana countryside surrounding Purdue. There would never be a shortage of tissue for preparing the scaffolding of the ECM for various applications.

By now the surgeon had proven that the gut or ECM transplant was switching off an inflammatory reaction, which suppressed scar formation, and simultaneously promoted regeneration. But the missing puzzle still was how the aortic tissue was generated.

Dr. Badylak tested whether the procedure would work for large veins, smaller arteries, Achilles tendons, all in dogs and using pig’s ECM. The answer was it worked all beautifully with no scarring and perfect healing results. Control dogs who did not get the ECM, but were only operated on and then repaired conventionally in their Achilles tendon were developing a limp from scar tissue. This is what often happens in humans as well with conventional surgery. But none of the dogs that had 3 cm cuts and then were treated with pig’s ECT developed a limp or scarring. They healed perfectly.

In 1992 DePuy licensed Badylak’s ECM-derived “biologic scaffolds” for all orthopedic applications. DePuy is a big company that makes supplies for hip and knee replacements and much more. This was an ideal support for Dr. Badylak’s work.

In 1999 the FDA approved pig’s bladder ECM for human applications. This included the use of pig’s ECM for shoulder rotator cuff tears in patients, for abdominal hernias, for esophageal reflux damage, and even to induce the regrowth of the outer lining of the brain following brain surgery.

He could now continue his research and find out what the missing puzzle was: how did the body use the pig’s ECM and repair tissues?

Stem cell recruitment by ECM

Dr. Badylak was visiting a colleague of his in Los Angeles, Dr. John Itamur who had previously repaired a rotator cuff tear on a patient 8 weeks earlier using porcine ECM. The same patient had an unrelated shoulder injury for which he required surgery just adjacent to the previously repaired rotator cuff. The surgeon decided to take a small biopsy to see how the healing tissue looked. This was when Dr. Badylak came for a visit. The microscope showed a surprise: the scaffolding had disappeared as expected. But there were a lot of new cells there, which did not look like inflammatory cells, muscle cells or nerve cells; they were stem cells. Dr. Badylak read several papers that told him that ECM breaks down into so-called crypteins, which are peptides that have powerful stem cell recruiting properties.

In 2003 he started groundbreaking experiments in mice that proved this theory to be correct: he X-rayed a group of mice to kill all of their bone marrow stem cells. Then he injected stem cells tagged with a fluorescent marker to repopulate the bone marrow with these tagged stem cells from the same strain of mice. Now he removed a piece from the Achilles tendon and repaired the defect with pig ECM. Stem cells tagged with a fluorescent marker were flooding the Achilles tendon repair area. Even months after the Achilles tendon repair with ECM the new Achilles tendon was still filled with some of these tagged cells showing that some of them had matured into regenerated tissue.

Here is a 3 ½ minute video that shows the principal of wound healing using pig ECM when used in orthopedic surgery (repair of a rectus muscle tear).

You may wonder how Rocky, the initial dog did who had an aortic segment replaced by a piece of gut. Rocky lived for another 8 years and was healthy until the very end.

Tissue Repair With Extra Cellular Matrix

Tissue Repair With Extra Cellular Matrix


You saw how the observation of a healing finger turned into experiments on dogs where aortic defects and Achilles tendon defects could be healed without scarring. You learnt how pig’s or cat’s ECM were used as scaffolds that get absorbed, but they do recruit stem cells from the host’s body that subsequently do the healing. The exciting news about ECM is that it promotes healing and recruiting of stem cells, but at the same time it is suppressing inflammation and scar formation.

We already hear that ECM is used in hernia repairs, rotator cuff repairs for shoulder injuries, and also in hair transplants, where Acell material is mixed in to improve the transplant success.

It is being used in lower esophagus surgery in cancer cases and with reflux esophagitis.

What will ECM be used for next? We do not know everything, but it is a promising step into the future of regenerative medicine!

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What Stress Does

We all are stressed out at times. Some people are stressed all the time and this is called chronic stress.

Acute stress

Let’s say you were involved in a minor rear-ender accident. It is annoying, but at least you were not injured. But you have to deal with the insurance company, get the repair done and maybe get a car rental during the time of repair. Yes, you may have a few days where you feel that your hands are shaky and your heart pounds, or your sleep may not be restful. But when everything is done things are back to normal. This is an example of acute stress with a shorter running time. It has a limited severity, is an inconvenience, but it does not really affect your body on the long-term.

Chronic stress

Let’s assume the car accident was more severe and you received a personal injury with a broken leg. You end up in hospital and the orthopedic surgeon fixes the fracture with a surgical plate. The leg has to be in a cast for several weeks, and you have to use crutches. Every day you feel reminded of the car accident, because it is awkward to walk with crutches. After weeks you notice that you have gained weight. Your doctor is also worried about you because your blood pressure showed higher readings. You do not sleep as well, waking up frequently and having nightmares about another fictitious accident. On top of that you came down with the flu. What happened here? The stress reaction released cortisol, which weakened your immune system and may be responsible for you catching the flu. On the long-term cortisol can also contribute to high blood pressure, but so can alcohol consumption. You may have increased your alcohol intake in the evening to relax more, but with the chronic stress and the cortisol increase this can cause high blood pressure. The weight gain that you noticed has to do with the fact that you cannot work out any more because of your healing leg fracture and you having to use crutches. Inadvertently you may also eat a bit more rich food; a lot of people do that as food can be used as comfort food. And why do you sleep less well? Chronic cortisol elevation leads to lower melatonin levels, as these two hormones are natural opponents. A high melatonin level leads to a low cortisol level and vice versa. With relaxation methods you can lower cortisol and the melatonin level increases normalizing your sleep. Chronically elevated cortisol can also lead to weight gain as sugar is converted into fatty acids that are stored as subcutaneous fat. Muscles can melt down when cortisol is high giving the appearance of spindly arms and legs.

Causes of chronic stress

Holmes and Rahe tested a stress scale in 1970, which has become the standard ever since. You get a certain amount of points for a stressful event, e.g. 100 for the death of a spouse; 45 point for retirement; 23 for trouble with the boss etc. Add up all of the points that are affect you right now; if the total score is less than 150 points there is only a minor risk of getting medical problems from the chronic stress; for 150 to 299 points the risk of illness is moderate and for 300 and more points you are at a significant risk for illness.

There is physical illness and mental illness that chronic stress can cause. Physical illness can be high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries. The long-term risks from this are possible heart attacks and strokes. But chronic adrenalin and noradrenalin elevation associated with chronic stress can burn part of your brain cells in the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex. This can lead to memory loss, spatial memory loss and aggression. Mental illness caused by chronic stress can be anxiety, depression, social isolation, panic attacks and panic disorder. Psychosomatic symptoms can include headaches, back pain, abdominal pain and difficulties concentrating.

Job stress and cancer

Perhaps one of the best examples of job stress and cancer is a study where the amount of breast cancer was correlated to the amount of stress. I discussed this in another blog. Briefly, women with a less responsibility had the lowest rate of breast cancer, but they too had some stress as there was a higher breast cancer risk after 15 years on the job versus only 5 years on the job. The same study showed that women with high responsibility had the highest breast cancer rates. A hormone disbalance can explain this based on high cortisol levels associated with chronic stress. If cortisol is high, the cortisol binding globulin (CBG) increases; this in turn also binds more circulating progesterone, as progesterone attaches to CBG. CBG is a transport protein for both cortisol and progesterone. The end result is that estrogenic compounds get the upper hand, a condition called estrogen dominance. I have explained under the above link that this was the real reason for the increase in breast cancer in the stressed women. Similar mechanisms are causing other cancers to occur more frequently with chronic stress.

Chronic stress and cardiovascular disease

High stress jobs were found to cause a 2.2 to 2.4-fold increase of strokes and heart attacks due to cardiovascular disease when compared to low stress jobs. This was based on a British Medical Journal study in October 2002. As I discussed above under a brief description of chronic stress cardiovascular disease is often what develops as part of chronic stress. People who are under chronic stress feel that they do not have enough time to prepare good, healthy food at home. They tend to eat out more often. Even well educated people just swallow a quick hamburger and other processed foods. This increases the bad fats like trans fats and omega-6 fatty acids in their system causing inflammation of the blood vessels as explained in this blog. The LDL cholesterol and triglycerides get elevated, sugar from sugary snacks oxidizes the LDL cholesterol and your coronary arteries and brain arteries get clogged up. This sets anybody on the downward pathway, and it is now only a matter of time when the chronically stressed person will develop a heart attack or stroke.

Chronic stress extremes: PTSD and burnout in soldiers

Dr. Thierry Hertoghe gave a lecture during the 22nd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas (Dec.10 to 14, 2014). The title was: “Burnout: A multiple hormone deficiency syndrome”. Burnout is the extreme of chronic stress. He said that burnout is a common condition where several hormones are affected, with the cortisol axis being the main one, but other hormone glands being stressed as well. As a result endocrine glands age prematurely. Symptoms are fatigue, exhaustion, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, depression and aggressiveness. The underlying hormone abnormalities are a lack of cortisol, thyroid deficiency, growth hormone deficiency, testosterone and estrogen deficiency and oxytocin deficiency. Burnout is common in teachers and there is a questionnaire that has been developed for teachers (teacher’s burnout scale) to monitor them whether they are heading this way. Soldiers who return from combative situations often suffer from burnout or from PTSD. Their burnout severity can be monitored using the teacher’s burnout scale already mentioned. In suspected cases laboratory tests that measure hormone levels give concrete answers about hormone deficiencies. Treatment protocols were discussed in detail. Multiple bioidentical hormone replacements are necessary, possibly for prolonged periods, if not life long. In addition supportive counseling sessions from a counselor or psychiatrist will help to tone down increased brain activity and help regain the internal balance. Why is this important? It is important, because hormones are necessary on a cellular level and regulate the energy metabolism of every cell in the body. Also, by recognizing what is going on and helping the affected individuals, a lot of pain and suffering can be prevented.

Accelerated aging from telomere shortening

Chronic stress has been shown to cause telomere shortening. So does a lack of sleep (insomnia), smoking and alcohol overconsumption, all conditions that can be associated with chronic stress. What can we do about this? Learn what shortens telomeres and ultimately your life. Cut out what you can and take supplements that lengthen your telomeres.

Positive thinking combats stress

Negative thoughts are draining you of energy. You want to stay optimistic within what’s reasonable. Be thankful for all the good things in your life. Minimize what’s negative, but think about positive solutions to get rid of energy draining parts in your days. Do this persistently until it becomes part of your life and you will have extra energy that you didn’t waste in negative thinking or by getting caught up in needless anxiety. Worrying does not get us anywhere, but it depletes our energy.

Self-hypnosis is a simple way to allow your whole body to relax. However, the various forms of yoga will do the same thing for you. Meditation is another way of finding peace and tranquility. Prayer is know to help people in sickness and in health. All of these methods will re-energize you. They calm your brain, help you to cope with stress and rebalance your hormones at the same time.

Building social ties and mutually supportive relationships will also build you up. It makes you feel that you belong, you have your place in society, you help others, and they support you.

We need some stress to get us going, but we do not need “distress”. Dr. Hans Selye, the father of the general adaptation syndrome due to stress, gave a lecture about this topic in Hamilton, Ont. in 1977, which I attended. I vividly remember how he projected a picture of his skeleton showing bilateral hip replacements. He said that chronic stress could lead to arthritis. He had developed end stage arthritis in his hips requiring total hip replacements on both sides. He wanted to illustrate that stress leads to physical consequences; it may be a heart attack in one person, a stroke in another, arthritis in a third. Constant overdrive has physical consequences.

What Stress Does

What Stress Does


Stress can be deadly, particularly if it lingers on and becomes chronic. But we can reorganize our lives to minimize stress. Some people may decide to seek a less stressful occupation. Others may elect to stay at that job, but develop hobbies and get involved in relaxation methods to combat job stress. The key is to start thinking about what stress you may be under and then develop a plan to counter it so you can allow yourself to rebalance your life.

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