Dr. Ray Schilling

Dr. Ray Schilling born in Tübingen, Germany and Graduated from Eberhard-Karls-University Medical School, Tuebingen in 1971. Once Post-doctoral cancer research position holder at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto, is now a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M).

Jul
07
2018

Asthma In Adults

On April 6, 2018 CNN published an article about asthma in adults. It was called “Developing Severe Asthma in Adulthood”.

Asthma in adults occurs with a frequency of about 2.3 per 1000 people per year. This publication also noted that women suffer from this condition more often than men. For both sexes the occurrence of asthma in adults peaks at 35 years of age.

Symptoms of asthma

The triggering factors for asthma can be infections, allergies, or the condition can come on spontaneously. Coughing is one of the main symptoms. You may be breathless when walking stairs. You may feel weak or tired when exercising. After exercise you may be wheezing or coughing. If you measure your breathing capacity with a peak flow meter, the values are lower than normal. Cold air or irritants like cigarette smoke may trigger coughing or wheezing. In industrial workers the trigger for asthma can be noxious fumes.

Diagnosis of asthma

Spirometry

Your doctor likely will order a test, called spirometry. You are breathing into a tube with a connection to a spirometer. A technician will instruct you to breathe out to the max (maximal exhalation). Next you will have to breathe in as quickly as you can. These breathing activities translate into a breathing curve on the read-out of the spirometer. With asthma there is a certain degree of restriction of airflow due to spasms in the smaller bronchial tubes, called bronchioles. This will be obvious from the breathing pattern of the spirometry read-out.

Methacholine challenge test

When the spirometry test is normal or near normal, a Methacholine challenge test can be another diagnostic tool. If this produces an asthma attack, it is clear that the person does indeed have asthma.

Measuring nitric oxide in your breath

Our bodies normally produce nitric oxide, and a small amount of it appears in your breath. But if there is a large amount of it present in your breath, it indicates chronic inflammation in your airways, which can be one of the causes of asthma.

Other tests to rule out other related diseases

Your doctor may want to order sinus x-rays to rule out sinusitis or a chest X-ray to rule out pneumonia. If he suspects allergies a referral to an allergist sill be next. The specialist will do skin prick tests to see what you are reacting to.

Differential diagnosis of asthma and other diseases

When the physician is thinking about an asthma diagnosis, it will be necessary to exclude other diseases first. It is important to exclude a bronchial or lung infection as well as the presence of emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Clots in the pulmonary vasculature (pulmonary emboli) have to be ruled out. When there is a history of gastroesophageal reflux, tests should exclude that there is aspirated gastric contents into the lung. Another condition that could bring on wheezing is chronic congestive heart failure, where the heart fails to pump enough blood, and shortness of breath is a consequence. Tests are available to exclude all of these conditions.

Treatment of asthma in adults

Anti-inflammatory medication

As all patients with asthma have inflammation in the airways, it is important to use corticosteroid inhalers that will control this. These inhalers will control the swelling and mucous production in the lining of the bronchial tubes. With the daily use of these inhalers the airflow improves, the airways become less sensitive and the patient experiences fewer asthma episodes.

Bronchodilators

Bronchodilators are inhalers that will relax the muscle bands around the bronchial tubes. This allows the patient to breather easier. The mucous flows more freely and can be coughed up easier. There are short-acting and long-acting forms of bronchodilators. Your physician will instruct you which one to use.

Asthma In Adults

Asthma In Adults

Conclusion

Adult onset asthma is separate from asthma of childhood. Often the triggers are allergies or irritants, including industrial irritants. With a proper diagnosis and treatment adult asthmatics have a normal life expectancy. It is important to control the inflammation of the airways with anti-inflammatory corticosteroid inhalers. For acute asthma attacks a bronchodilator must be used right away to ensure normal airflow is restored. The patient learns how to modify the asthma therapy. As a result there are very few occasions where the patient would need treatment in a hospital. Most patients can treat an asthma attack quickly and they respond very well to the treatment. As a result adult asthmatics can lead active lives and have no physical limitations.

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Jun
30
2018

Dangers That Can Lurk In Beach Sand

A recent article has pointed out that there are 5 dangers that can lurk in beach sand. There are invisible bacteria that can pose a problem. But there are also parasites, fungi and parasitic roundworms. Here is a review of these common dangers.

Dangers that can lurk in beach sand: hookworms

In February 2018 a Canadian couple from Windsor/Ont. came back from a beach holiday in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. They brought with them parasites in their feet from walking barefoot on infested beaches in the Caribbean. This parasite is known to lay larvae into the sand that can survive there for several days. When beach goers walk barefoot the condition is right for the larvae to attach to the bare feet and puncture the skin. The full-grown hookworm can then develop and produce the symptoms described in the link (rash, itching, pain). The larvae of it are called “larvae migrans”, or in plain English the disease has the name “creeping eruption“. The best medicine for this condition is the anti-parasitic medication Ivermectin, the “wonder drug” from Japan. Originally developed in Japan, Ivermectin is available in the US, but not in Canada.

Dangers that can lurk in beach sand: Gut bacteria

A California study found that several gut bacteria were present in California beaches. Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Aeromonas, and Vibrio parahaemolyticus, human viruses (adenovirus, enterovirus, norovirus, and hepatitis A virus), amoeba, and protozoa were all cultured from beach sand. However, it is difficult to prove that any one of these pathogens would have caused any gastrointestinal upset. Just picking up one of these bugs on your skin does not mean you will come down with that particular infection. It makes sense though to wash your hands or take a shower after your beach walk. But the study noticed that there was a difference in the infection rate. There were those who only had casual contact with beach sand. Others were digging into sand or buried themselves in sand. The latter group was more likely to come down with gastrointestinal infections shortly after their beach outing.

Dangers that can lurk in beach sand: superbug MRSA

According to the California study cited above there were 2.7% of beach sand samples on California’s beaches that contained MRSA bugs. These are the cause of flesh-eating disease. MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. When there is a cut in the skin, this antibiotic resistant bug can pose a big problem. On the other hand, it is not known whether the mere existence of MRSA on the skin actually poses a danger. Researchers do not know at the present time whether or not this will cause flesh-eating disease. But they recommend that after a beach visit it is a good idea to take a shower, as this will cleanse the skin to a large extent of any pathogenic bacteria and viruses.

Dangers that can lurk in beach sand: fungi

The types of fungi that can hide in the beach sand belong to the group of dermatophytes. Common fungal skin infections are caused by the dermatophytes, Trichophyton rubrum, which is a very common dermatophyte, is the culprit that causes nail fungus, ringworm; jog itch and athlete’s foot. Other fungi around beaches are Aspergillus and Candida that affect mostly people with a weak immune system. Aspergillus may be responsible for lung infections and Candida for yeast infections.

Dangers that can lurk in beach sand: roundworms

Roundworms become a problem on beaches where dogs are allowed. The main problem is Toxocara canis, a parasitic roundworm. The roundworm normally lives in the gut of dogs. But dog feces from roundworm-infested dogs contain lots of eggs, which can get into soil along with the dog feces. People can inadvertently swallow contaminated sand. An Australian study found roundworm-infested samples among 266 random beach samples. They found that there were not as many positive samples when there were only adult dogs allowed on beaches. In contrast, they found a lot more positive roundworm samples in beaches were puppies were allowed.

Dangers That Can Lurk In Beach Sand

Dangers That Can Lurk In Beach Sand

Conclusion

We associate pristine beaches with nature, health and relaxation. Knowing of these scientific studies we would do well to not let our guards down. Think about the ocean water: is it safe or could it be the cause of contamination of the beach sand? Then think about the beach itself. Is it a busy beach with lots of people that may contribute to contamination of the beach sand? Are dogs allowed or not? There may be dogs that defecate and deposit eggs of roundworms. Or there may be larvae from the creeping eruption, a parasitic disease. Other dangers can lurk in the sand: methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that is an antibiotic resistant bacterium that can cause flesh-eating disease. Other bacteria may be buried in the sand that can cause various gastrointestinal upsets.

Being more careful around beaches

Having these thoughts in mind may help you to be more careful about the beach and shower off after you leave the beach. It is also not a bad idea to wear sandals on the beach to prevent direct contact of your skin with the beach sand. It is also obvious that the beach towel on which you lay on the sand is no longer “clean”. Wash it after your beach outing, or choose the option to relax on a cot. Wherever you travel this summer, have a safe journey!

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Jun
23
2018

Low-Dose Laser Activated Stem Cell Therapy

Low-dose laser activated stem cell therapy is a treatment solution for those with degenerative joint disease. Degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis typically affects the major joints like the knees or the hips. Low-dose laser can activate stem cells. In doing so this therapy can also offer a solution for those with chronic back pain due to degenerative changes in the discs or facet joints.

Osteoarthritis in the spine

Last year my family doctor diagnosed osteoarthritic changes in the discs and facet joints of my lower back. I visited Dr. Weber in Germany and he treated me with low-dose laser activated stem cell therapy in November 2017. A prior blog explained the details of this treatment.

New symptoms of back pain in the thoracic spine

During the spring and summer of 2018 I noted that there was some residual back pain in my dorsal spine (also known as thoracic spine). This was just above the previously treated back pain, which had been fine since November 2017. My family doctor arranged for an MRI scan of the thoracic spine confirming moderately severe degenerative changes in the discs and facet joints of the lower thoracic spine. This was not really a surprise because of a family history of these kinds of degenerative problems on my mother’s side. I thought that I should go back to Dr. Weber in Germany. He had given me relief from my back pain in the lumbar spine with low-dose laser activated stem cell therapy.

Additional left knee pain

I also had developed pain in my left knee, which got worse from kneeling or walking on uneven ground. There was definitive grinding in my left knee when my physician palpated the knee joint while moving the lower leg. My right knee did not have any pain, and there was no grinding in it.

First day of my treatment in May 2018

I will not explain in detail the process of the treatments. You can read about it in my prior blog.

However, I will describe the overall treatment schedule.

1. General assessment by Dr. Weber

Before any treatment Dr. Weber went over the history of my thoracic spine pain and the pain in my left knee. He projected the result of the MRI scan of my thoracic spine onto a large TV screen. I could see the degenerative changes of many discs and facet joints on both sides in the lower 6 levels of my thoracic spine.

2. Liposuction to remove fat as a mesenchymal cell source

The treatment started with anesthetizing the area where the physician intended to harvest fat from my right lower buttock area. Next the fat went into a cell separator to separate stem cells and fat. The fat is not necessary for the procedure, only the stem cells.

3. Venipuncture to harvest blood for PRP

Blood was drawn from one of my arm veins for preparing PRP (platelet rich plasma). This fraction of the blood is necessary to activate the stem cells from either fat cells or bone marrow.

4. Left knee and lower thoracic spine injections

Dr. Weber used an intraarticular needle to inject a mixture of the fat derived (mesenchymal) stem cells and PRP. After the injection into my left knee, the physician removed the syringe but left the needle in place.

Through the needle the doctor inserted very fine sterile glass fibers for intraarticular laser treatment. This consisted of five laser colors using low-dose laser beams. The colors were yellow, blue, green, infrared and red. The significance of the various colors and how deep they penetrate into tissues was discussed under this blog.

Stem cell therapy of lower thoracic spine

Stem cell therapy of lower thoracic spine

Thoracic spine injection

Next Dr. Weber determined first the depth of the lower thoracic spine. An ultrasound machine showed him that he could not exceed 18 mm in length when injecting needles into my back. This would ensure that he did not puncture my lungs. Dr. Weber explained to me that some people had a 2- or 4-inch subcutaneous fat layer. Dr. Weber used 12 interstitial injection needles to inject 6 levels of my lower thoracic spine (6 on each side). This step is depicted in the image on the left, where my wife took a photo of the low-dose laser treatment after the insertion of the 12 interstitial needles . This was stimulating the injected mesenchymal stem cells.

At the end of the first day I received an infrared light treatment over my thoracic spine for 20 minutes, followed by a treatment in a light therapy bed for 20 minutes. These latter treatments were necessary in addition to the laser treatments to stimulate the stem cell activity further.

Second day of my treatment in May 2018

The second day was only a half-day treatment. Dr. Weber had kept half of the fat-derived stem cells and of the PRP preparation in the fridge overnight.

Another injection of a mixture of fat-derived mesenchymal stem cells and PRP into my left knee followed, as well as an injection along the lower thoracic spine. Essentially, this was a repetition of the treatments of the previous day for both my left knee and the lower thoracic spine. Dr. Weber explained that there is merit in doing it this way. He said it would increase the success rate of the low-dose laser activated stem cell therapy.

The reasons behind low-dose laser activated stem cell therapy

A group of dentists have shown that mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow, dental pulp, periodontal ligament or adipose tissue showed stimulation by low-dose laser therapy.

Detailed research from Japan has shown that low-dose laser therapy releases various growth factors from mesenchymal stem cells, from osteoblast cells and other cells including skin cells. This can promote wound healing and helps stem cells to build up cartilage in joints.

Bone marrow stem cell stimulation

The stimulation of bone marrow by low dose laser therapy also releases bone marrow derived stem cells into the blood. This way these stem cells can contribute to the healing process in joints. Dr. Weber used this method to stimulate release of bone marrow-derived stem cells into my system. He punctured my pelvic bone with an interstitial needle. Subsequently he introduced glass fibers through the interstitial needle into the bone marrow space. Five colors of laser, namely yellow, blue, green, infrared and red were used to stimulate the stem cells of my bone marrow. Dr. Weber explained that low-dose laser activated bone marrow stem cells can easily leave the bone marrow and travel via the circulatory system. This is how they reach the area where they are needed.

History of stem cell therapy

Dr. Michael Weber published a book entitled “Medical low-level-laser therapy, foundations and clinical applications”, 2nd edition, June 2015. On page 541 he explains the beginning of stem cell research by Dr. James Till and Dr. Ernest McCulloch in Toronto/Ont in 1961. He explained further how activation of mesenchymal stem cells by low-dose laser light improved cell viability and cell growth. Barboza et al. also researched these topics.

How do I feel about low-dose laser activated stem cell therapy?

Within only 1 ½ weeks I noticed that my thoracic spine pain disappeared. My left knee pain disappeared within 2 weeks. I am aware that there is a consolidation phase of possibly 3 to 6 months which is necessary to build up the full amount of cartilage. But it is the relief of pain that I was hoping for. Rather than treating my osteoarthritis with pain pills and wait until a total knee replacement, I have now a second chance to regain full mobility without pain. Now I feel more confident about aging without the “usual aches and pains” and staying free from disease.

Low-Dose Laser Activated Stem Cell Therapy

Low-Dose Laser Activated Stem Cell Therapy

Conclusion

I described how Dr. Weber treated my mid back and left knee with mesenchymal stem cells. These were activated by platelet rich plasma (PRP) and low-dose laser therapy. Stem cells from fatty tissue are called mesenchymal stem cells. They are useful for building up lost hyaline cartilage, the coating of bone in joints. With degenerative arthritis, also called osteoarthritis, this layer is getting thinner, sometimes to the point where bone rubs on bone. But stem cell treatment with mesenchymal stem cells can rebuild hyaline cartilage. This is part of regenerative medicine where the body’s own stem cells can help to cure disease.

My family has a strong history of osteoarthritis. But fortunately I seem to respond to regenerative medicine using low-dose laser activated stem cell therapy.

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Jun
16
2018

Writing A Medical Book

In my 40’s when I was practicing medicine, I was dreaming about writing a medical book. This was in the mid 1980’s and I was busy seeing 30 to 40 patients a day. I would never have found the time to write a medical book at that time. I thought, perhaps I could show how patients could stay younger for longer by adopting the right life style in order to stay well. Fast forward 3 decades, and the medical book writing began. But instead of one book the project turned into 4 books. There were too many topics to cover to fit them all in one book.

Prior to writing a medical book

First of all, in 2002 I published a large website. Its structure is like a book on the Internet: Net Health Book . It contains descriptions of the major diseases, mental and physical, and their current treatment modalities. I still maintain this work. Furthermore, I started another website in 2003, a weekly blog, called “Ask Dr. Ray” . This is a compilation of interesting research. Some medical research papers can get too scientific. For this reason I translated it into easier language. The topics tend to be anti-aging topics. This blog comes out Saturdays.

Retirement hobby

When I retired in 2010 I revamped my websites. In the process the web developer suggested I should add to Net Health Book a blog (nethealthbook.com/news) where I review current health news that I find interesting. This is a weekly blog, which I publish on Wednesdays. All of this is still going on, and it gave me lots of opportunities to write and publish on a smaller scale. In addition, I finally started publishing books.

A Survivor’s Guide To Successful Aging

My first book came out with Amazon in 2014. I had joined the A4M (American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine) in the early 2000’s. The lectures at their conferences were very open-minded and pointed out details of what one could do to delay aging and avoid premature deaths. My own experience with changing our diet in 2001, starting bioidentical hormone replacement and changing my lifestyle became topics that were part of this book. I dedicated this book “to those who are willing to work on prevention in order to achieve a longer life without disabilities”. This is still the basis of prolonging your life.

Lifestyles can be deleterious

I start out in this book describing the obesity wave and how this changes the metabolism (metabolic syndrome). I used statistics from the Framingham Heart Study to show the detrimental effects of various lifestyles on mortality. Subsequent chapters deal with food, exercise, stress and missing hormones as life-shortening factors. There is a separate chapter on vitamins and supplements. They as a group can create 5.1% longer telomeres, which translated into 9.8 years of longer life expectancy (see also a study by Dr. Xu  in the book). Subsequently it describes how a change of your lifestyle can have a positive impact. Changing your eating habits and exercise activity will make a tremendous positive difference on the long term.

Successful Aging in the Kitchen

The book ends with an appendix, written by my wife: “Successful Aging in the Kitchen”. You are presented with recipes for 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 7 dinners. In addition she has provided 7 healthy desserts for you. Bon Appétit!

Healing Gone Wrong, Healing Done Right

In another book, which got appeared in 2016 I gave a few examples of how famous people were failed by medicine. It started already in the past: Ludwig van Beethoven’s physicians did harm instead of healing their patient. However, this is happening now as well: physicians mismanaged the health care of Elvis Presley, Churchill, Michael Jackson and JF Kennedy. The physicians treated symptoms, but they never properly attended to the causes of the ailments of their patients. The end result was premature death in all of them. Churchill who had good genetics made it to age 90, but during his last 15 years he suffered of severe disabilities.

Treatment of symptoms will fail, treatment of causes succeed

These examples of famous people’s health problems resemble to what happens to today’s patients in various office settings. Their symptoms are mostly being treated, but their causes often not. Simply treating symptoms will not work on the long term. It did not work in the past, and it does not work now.

Other chapters in this book

Other chapters in this book deal with preventing disease, keeping a healthy brain and keeping a healthy heart. Next I discuss why food matters, followed by the health of limbs and joints. Subsequently I am discussing how to keep toxins out. The next chapter deals with how to reduce the impact of cancer. It is always important to diagnose cancer as early as possible as removal by surgery has the highest success rate at an early cancer stage. The next chapter is entitled: “Stable hormones key to health”. If any of your hormones are missing (particularly around the age of menopause and/or andropause) it is time for nature identical hormone replacement. The next chapter gives you general thoughts on anti-aging. This is followed by “supplements yes, but do not overdo it”.

Alternative treatment for ADHD

A final chapter gives you an example of an alternative treatment for ADHD, where the idea of not just treating symptomatically, but treating causes is included. References and an index are also provided for the book.

Prostate Cancer Unmasked

Furthermore, I did not intend to write this book. But in early 2016 my PSA (prostate specific antigen) level jumped from 3 to 8.6. For years it had been in the 1.5 areas, then slowly increased to 3. But 8.6 was too high for comfort! I had an MRI scan done, which showed one lesion in my left prostate, which was suspicious for prostate cancer. I was referred to a urologist at the Vancouver Prostate Centre, one of the top clinics in Canada. But I had already researched the literature and came across research by Dr. Gary Onik from Ft. Lauderdale who warned me about the pitfalls of “standard therapy”.

The conservative urologist in Vancouver

The urologist in Vancouver told me that without a positive biopsy he cannot accept that the shadow on my MRI scan would be prostate cancer. And the only way they do a prostate biopsy was by random trans-rectal biopsies. He also wanted to include me in a random clinical trial where they would compare active intervention with active surveillance. I politely declined the trans-rectal prostate biopsy and the inclusion into a trial.

Assessment by Dr. Onik

I booked a flight to see Dr. Onik in Ft. Lauderdale. His method is well researched and orchestrated.

Initial assessment

He assesses you with a rectal ultrasound and he sees the prostate on a TV screen. He said right away that I had three separate lesions, one in the left as shown on the MRI scan and two in the right lobe, which was missed by the MRI scan. False negative lesions are common on MRI scans, which can become a source of cancer recurrence.

3-dimensional prostate biopsy

The following day he booked me for a 3-dimensional prostate biopsy via the perineal approach. The perineum is easy to sterilize, so there is no risk of septicemia. A metal grid with holes for biopsy needles was used to get 96 biopsies of my enlarged prostate. For a normal size prostate, Dr. Onik said about 60 biopsy needles are normal. You don’t feel anything, because you are asleep.

Cryoablation prostate surgery

Next was the cryoablation surgery of the 3 prostate cancer lesions. This happened one month after the biopsy. I was seen at the hospital in Ft. Lauderdale. The same grid from the biopsy was used to relocate exactly where the cancer lesions were. The pathologist had confirmed them as Gleason 6 and 7 prostate cancers. This was treated with Argon sounds and frozen twice. I felt nothing, because I was under a general anesthetic. But Dr. Onik told me that everything went very well. Some cancer was too close to the neurovascular bundle, so he used the NanoKnife, an invention where nano-size holes get blasted into cancer cells, but it leaves normal tissue intact.

I needed to do self-catheterization for about one month to empty my bladder, as there was a lot of swelling from the prostate hypertrophy and the surgery. But eventually my normal water works returned.

Follow-up blood work

My follow-up PSA blood work 3 months after the surgery was down to 1.0. Prior to the surgery the Oncoblot test was positive for prostate cancer. A repeat Oncoblot test 3 months after the surgery was now negative for prostate cancer. I realize that not every physician accepts this new cancer-screening test, but I felt a lot better to know that all the cancer markers were now gone.

9 cancer treatments reviewed

In my book I described a total of 9 prostate cancer treatments and their 10-year survival statistics. None of the other treatment methods were as good as Dr. Onik’s statistics. I believe it is linked to the precision of the 3-dimensional biopsy and the surgery being done through the same grid. If you do not perform the surgery this way, you miss cancer lesions and this becomes the source of failure 10 years down the road. My book details all these alternative treatments. It also has a section on lifestyle modifying factors. I needed to write this book as a service to any man who suddenly is faced with a possible diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Unmasking prostate cancer

Like me he needs to unmask the cancer. Is it really there? How far advanced is it? Which way to safely biopsy it (definitely NOT through the rectum for fear of blood poisoning=septicemia)? What is the best method to remove it? I came to the conclusion that Dr. Onik’s method was best for me. But with the information in this book you can decide what is best for you.

Medical Questions Answered

Finally I wrote my 4th book. From more than 4400 medical questions that I have answered on the site Quora.com I selected the most popular questions for this book. The editorial board of Quora said that I own the publishing rights for my answers. The questions were rephrased without changing the meaning. I selected more than 120 questions under 44 different headings.

Here are some of the areas that are covered: Acne, the best home remedies. Aging: can it be reversed? What is the limit for a human? Alcohol: how does it affect your body? Alzheimer’s disease: which foods promote brain health? Arthritis: what can you do about osteoarthritis? Back pain: what can I do about it? Cancer: why can cancer still not be cured? There are as well 15 other answers about cancer. Depression: will my depression ever go away? Diabetes: will a 600-calorie diet help diabetes control?

Further topics discussed

Diet: I want to get rid of sugar in my diet. How can I do this long-term? Other answers about diet are included. Exercise: How useful is cardiovascular exercise? Gut disease: Is “gluten free” food healthy? Heart disease: What can I do to clean out my arteries and reduce my risk for heart disease? Hormones: Is estrogen present in the male body? Life Expectancy: What is the theoretical life expectancy of humans? Lifestyle Habits: Can good habits change your life completely? Pain: Pain relief for a headache or other pain: Aleve, Advil or Tylenol? Pregnancy: Best age for a successful pregnancy? Prostate Cancer: How dangerous is prostate cancer? Does it kill you? Schizophrenia: What complementary approach may help a patient with schizophrenia? Sleep: What happens when you go to bed late every night? And many other answers under this topic.

And the book finishes with these topics

Sugar: will I be OK living without sugar? Vaccinations: Is there a connection between vaccinations and autism? Vitamins and supplements: Are taking vitamins and supplements healthy or are they harmful? Weight loss: I am working out every day, but I am not loosing weight. What should I do? There are many more answers under this topic. Younger for longer: What are three things I can do every day to stay younger for longer?

These are only a few selections of all of the topics dealt with in this book.

Writing A Medical Book

Writing A Medical Book

Conclusion

I have reviewed briefly why I published the books mentioned above. My prostate cancer book developed out of the necessity that I had to deal with my newly diagnosed prostate cancer in 2016. I felt that the review process I went through would be good for those men who have to face a similar situation. The anti-aging book comes from my interest in anti-aging medicine. “Healing Gone Wrong, Healing Done Right” developed from the observation that physicians in the past and often even now tend to only treat symptoms. But if a cause can be found, this should be treated, as this often leads to a permanent cure.

Treating symptoms only will not improve the patient’s condition

Treating symptoms only will not improve the patient’s condition. “Medical Questions Answered” is a collection of medical topics where I answered various medical questions. It was a way for me to cover a vast array of medical topics. Some of the topics are dealt with in depth (acne for instance); others are very short. I have also two medical blogs that come out on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I hope that some of that medical information will be useful to you.

Jun
09
2018

What Makes Chips Addictive?

When you emptied an entire bag of potato chips, you may ask yourself: what makes chips addictive? Scientists talk about hedonic hyperphagia or hedonic hunger. In plain English, it is the pleasure of eating, even when you are not hungry. There are certain foods that seduce you to overeat, and one of these are chips. Chocolate or candy can be other high-hedonic rating foods.

Erlangen experiments

A group of researchers from the Erlangen University in Germany set out to get to the bottom of this addiction eating. 17 healthy subjects with a body mass index of between 19 and 27 were recruited for eating experiments. They got either high calorie chips or low calorie zucchini. The chips created a marked stimulation on a functional MRI scan where the nucleus accumbens was lighting up. When they consumed zucchini no such stimulation could be documented. The researchers had done similar experiments with the same foods on rats. They too had functional MRI scans and the tests showed similar stimulation after the test animals consumed chips, but not after zucchini.

Nucleus accumbens, the addiction center for food

Professor Andreas Hess and his team in Erlangen say that the nucleus accumbens is the addiction center for food. They also did experiments with fat to carbohydrate composition to find the most addictive mixture. There is a certain fat to carbohydrate ratio that triggers food addiction. What surprised the Erlangen researchers was that both in rats and humans the optimal addiction potential was identical.

  • They found that rats preferred 35% of fat and 45% of carbohydrates in their chips. With humans there is the other factor: on top of the fat/carb mixture we like to taste some salt and spices, because this also will stimulate our appetite. The food industry has figured this out long time ago. This knowledge from tasting experiments is built into processed food.
  • The Erlangen researchers  also found that in obese people the nucleus accumbens was lighting up more intensely the higher the BMI was. That means that obese people are more food-addicted!

Triggering the nucleus accumbens

  • Professor Hess postulates that the 35% fat to 45% carb mix in potato chips is ideal for the body. It can mobilize quick energy from carbs, but also have storable energy from fat at the same time. It is this mix, which stimulates the addiction center in the nucleus accumbens.
  • In a study from Bethesda, Maryland researchers found an overlap between food addiction and drug addiction.  The common pathways in both is the release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. This dopamine release makes us feel good, and as a result, we want to experience it again.
  • In this study patients with bulimia nervosa were examined. They found that   overconsumption of sugar-laden foods had very similar effects as drugs in drug-addicted patients. It is the release of dopamine, glutamate and the opioid system that are involved in both. The nucleus accumbens is also receiving stimulation in both situations.

What can be done about food addiction?

This publication noted that people who are food addicted eat higher amounts of fat and carbohydrates. With this mix the feel-good nucleus accumbens produces most dopamine, which is the driving force behind the addiction.

  • If you cut out sugar, you find it easier to control your eating portions. But you also must cut out processed food, as this is where a lot of hidden sugar is coming from.
  • Cut down on your fat consumption. Even if you reduce it from 35% to 10% or 15%, this is a huge step forward. It reduces your calorie intake significantly, but also reduces the stimulation of your appetite center.
  • Eat lots of vegetables, salads and some fruit. Be careful with some fruit like grapes, bananas, mangos, papayas and dates. They are all higher in sugars. If you cannot entirely avoid those, use portion control, so you are not overeating on them.

Portion control

Besides changing the food quality, you can reduce the portions of food you are eating. Instead of mindlessly emptying a whole bag of chips, you could get a small bowl and fill part of the bag of chips into it. Remove the bag into a cupboard that is difficult to reach. If you are sitting and watching TV, you could eat one chip at a time, but only during commercial breaks. This way your chip eating becomes more conscious and more controlled, and you set a limit. In time you may find that you can replace the chips with a lower calorie food like slices of apples, celery sticks or carrot sticks.

What Makes Chips Addictive?

What Makes Chips Addictive?

Conclusion

Researchers found that chips were addictive in rats and in humans. Functional MRI scans of brains in rats and humans showed that potato chip eating stimulated the nucleus accumbens. It was lighting up in both species when the test subjects consumed potato chips. Surprisingly, it did not matter, whether these were test animals or humans! A review of several research papers showed a similarity between food addiction and drug addiction. It is dopamine and other brain transmitters that stimulate the nucleus accumbens, which is the addiction center. One of the keys, professor Hess from Erlangen University in Germany found, is the fat/carb mix. When the potato chips contained 35% fat and 45% carbs, this stimulated the nucleus accumbens.

Changing your eating habits

Knowing all of this helps us to be able to change our eating habits. To avoid the pitfalls of food addiction, cut out sugar and starchy foods, and remove processed foods from your diet. Also reduce some of the fat to 10% or 15% fat in your total diet. Eat lots of vegetables and fruit low in sugar. In addition you should also consider with portion control to avoid mindless munching. Before you know it you can shed the pounds that you may have accumulated before. You will be able to reduce your BMI to 21 to 23. Many people have done it before you.

Jun
02
2018

Combatting Aging using Artificial Intelligence

I found an article dealing with combatting aging using artificial intelligence. It comes from the April 2018 edition of the Life Extension Magazine.  Both of those concepts sound intriguing: “combatting aging”. It would be nice, if this would be a possibility! And “artificial intelligence” (A.I.) sounds mysterious. LifeExtension researchers have partnered up with an A.I. group, called Insilico Medicine.

Why did Life Extension engage in this project? Many people have side effects with the drug metformin, which is an old diabetes drug. It turns out that metformin stimulates anti-aging genes that help to elongate telomeres and also activate genes that prolong lives otherwise. The thought was to find out how exactly metformin protects against age-related disorders. Once researchers located the genes, they may be able to find herbs that can do the same as drugs with less side effects. Often herbs are safer than drugs.

Background regarding metformin

The FDA accepted metformin (trade name Glucophage) as the first-line therapy for type 2 diabetics, particularly if they are overweight or obese.

Side effects include gastrointestinal irritation with vomiting, cramps, diarrhea and flatulence. Even though this drug is not new, research does not fully understand all metabolic effects of metformin.

Promise of metformin as an anti-aging drug

A trial in Great Britain found that metformin has an interesting anti-aging effect. Diabetics on metformin lived longer than a control group of patients without diabetes who were not on metformin. The diabetics lived 15% longer than the controls. Further experiments with human cells and animal experiments showed that metformin is able to stimulate the mitochondria without producing as many free radicals. Free radicals cause inflammation that leads to heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer’s and cancer. The suggestion is that all of these diseases will be suppressed when the patient is on metformin.

Mimicking the effects of metformin with three herbs

The co-operative research between the Life Extension researchers and Insilico Medicine researchers concentrated on finding data that would replace the beneficial effects of metformin with three herbs stimulating the same life-prolonging targets in human cells. This is not a small task. The following three herbs in combination cover more than 78% of the actions of metformin.

Withaferin A (found in Ashwagandha)

Weight loss

Withaferin A is a component of the life-prolonging herb ashwagandha. This herb is in use in Ayurvedic medicine because of its ant-inflammatory action; it is also anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-obesity and has appetite-regulating activities. An important observation by researchers was that within 21 days of exposing obese mice to withaferin A they lost 23% of their weight. Other mice on the same diet received control solutions and did not lose weight.

Effect on neurodegenerative disease

There is a neurodegenerative condition, called Lou Gehrig disease (=amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). A group of mice that were the subjects of genetic modification to develop Lou Gehrig disease received withaferin A in their food. Compared to controls without withaferin A they had a 39% reduction of damaged proteins in their spinal cords. They also had 60% less loss of motor nerve cells. These are the nerve cells that pass on the electrical signals between the brain, the spinal cord and into the muscles. The life span of these animals that received withaferin A was 5.4% longer than control animals.

Ginsenoside (found in Ginseng)

The structure of ginsenoside is steroid-like. As the name already suggests, it is present in ginseng. The Insilico Medicine team noticed that it affects many of the same age-decelerating pathways like metformin. Ginsenoside prevents damage to the DNA and prevents loss of mitochondria, particularly in the brain and heart. In cancer cases ginsenoside also suppresses cancer stem cells, which slows down cancer growth. All in all ginsenoside reduces inflammatory changes; it also fights neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

Gamma linolenic acid (present in borage seed oil)

Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is a fatty acid. The source of it is the evening primrose plant, black currant oil or borage. The Insilico Medicine researchers found that many pathways that metformin triggers are also responding to GLA. GLA can reduce inflammation, help with adaptation to stress can modulate metabolism and participates in regulation of gene expression. GLA is also part of energy sensing in diabetes and obesity. It also can slow down cancer development.

Discussion

One has to be cognizant of the fact that LifeExtension is in the business of selling herbal supplements. It would be in the company’s interest to find an herbal combination that mimics what Metformin does. They say they have found it; so we are told in the April 2018 article of the LifeExtension magazine. But a 78% overlap of actions when the herbs were compared to metformin is not a 100% overlap.

Conflict of interest

There seems to be a conflict of interest between doing basic research on anti-aging and marketing an anti-aging product. I like to see confirmation of these findings by other independent researchers. I am not too keen to spend $1.40 every day for the rest of my life in the hopes that this herbal concoction would slow down aging. Also to state that this mix of three herbs would do the same as Metformin is a large leap of faith. At this point I am not even ready to swallow metformin just because of one trial in England that showed a beneficial anti-aging effect.

Combatting Aging using Artificial Intelligence

Combatting Aging using Artificial Intelligence

Conclusion

The old dream of finding a pill for anti-aging is alive and well. If you believe this research you are likely to buy this pill and keep on taking it for the rest of your life. But I am not so certain that either swallowing metformin or swallowing this herbal concoction will do what the researchers were hoping for. They have done some basic research with mice and rats. But they tested each of the herbs  separately, and the researchers have then mixed the herbs and claim, that this mix will do what each single herb in isolation has done. We do not know anything about the interaction between these herbs. We do not know whether there will be the same anti-aging results with the mix. All these claims are yet subject to more testing.

Proposed clinical trial

I like to see a human trial where the anti-aging pill of Life Extension is given once per day for several years (let’s say 5 years). After that anti-inflammatory indicators, telomere length and toxicity should be tested in each subject that is part of the study. If trials like this were successful in humans, I would consider buying this new supplement, but not any earlier!

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May
27
2018

Benefits Of Eating Nuts

You hear from time to time that there are benefits of eating nuts. But you don’t often see more details about it. I came across an article entitled “Nut lovers rejoice: Your favorite snack protects your heart”. It stressed that nuts prevent heart attacks. I will review some of this information here, but also touch on other aspects.

What nuts contain

Nuts contain fiber, unsaturated fatty acids, protein, vitamin E, folate and many minerals (zinc, potassium, magnesium). These ingredients have their own positive effects on your metabolism. For instance the fiber will lower cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood, which are risk factors for heart attacks. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. Here is a review that shows why eating nuts makes a difference for your health. Despite all of the good that nuts do, you need to keep an eye at the overall quantity of nuts you eat. Nuts can contain up to 80% as oil, even though they are good oils. But the extra calories associated with the oil can make you gain some weight. When you add nuts to your diet you need to subtract some of the lesser quality saturated fats, so that your overall calorie balance does not change.

How do we know that nuts are healthy?

A British study from 2016 did a meta-analysis of people who ate nuts versus people who did not include nuts in their diet. 10 studies showed that eating nuts reduced mortality from all causes by 19%. In 5 studies where cardiovascular mortality was measured, a reduction of 27% was noticeable. Congestive heart disease in 3 studies showed a reduction by 34% when the patients consumed nuts. Stroke mortality was 17% less, as 3 studies showed. This is just an example of a few studies that show how effective supplementation of your diet by a few nuts here and there can be on the general mortality. It especially applies to mortality which is due to heart disease and strokes. Other effects of nut consumption are the reduction of atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure and abdominal aneurysm (each by 15 to 20%).

Allergic reactions to nuts

A small percentage of people are allergic to various nuts. Nuts can cause a severe asthma attack, if the person has been sensitized to them in the past. They can cause angioneurotic edema in a small portion of people who may have inherited this condition. Tree nut allergies can cause anaphylaxis as is explained in this link.

The right dosage of nuts

This Australian website says that 30 grams of nuts, which is a handful of them would be the right dose per day. This is about 1 ounce per day. By including a variety of nuts your nutritional content will equal out. Some nuts have more calcium (almonds); others have more plant sterols (pistachios) or more fiber (pecans).

How bias can get introduced into medical literature

The Karolinska institute in Sweden analyzed the lifestyle and behavior pattern of nut lovers. Nut lovers were also into other healthy lifestyles: they smoked less than non-nut lovers. Nut lovers were leaner, physically more active and drank less alcohol.

They also ate more fruit and vegetables. Nut-lovers’ blood pressure was lower than the blood pressure of non-nut lovers. And people who consumed nuts on average had better education. Some of these lifestyle patterns can also protect the heart and contribute to less strokes. The researcher must be vigilant to control for the other lifestyle patterns except for the difference in the nut consumption when looking for the effect of nut consumption. If this is not done, there could be confounding, which introduces a bias into the final results.

Combine nut supplements and adopt a healthy lifestyle

This said, you know now about the results of good research. It is best to not be concerned about biases any more. For the average consumer it is important to apply what we know: use nuts regularly (about 30 grams per day, which is a handful). But it would not be a bad idea to adopt some of the other healthy lifestyles that nut eaters tend to have. In other words, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, cut out sugar, drink less alcohol and eat fruit and vegetables regularly. This way you will amplify the health promoting effect of the nut supplements.

Benefits Of Eating Nuts

Benefits Of Eating Nuts

Conclusion

We learnt that nut consumption is healthy. Only a small number of people who are allergic to nuts have to avoid them. The majority of people benefit from incorporating a small amount of nuts into their diet. Research has shown that it lowers mortality in general, lowers cardiovascular mortality and mortality from congestive heart disease. Eating nuts also reduced stroke mortality and lowers the risk of atrial fibrillation. When research is done, confounding factors like healthy lifestyles have to be controlled. But when an individual wants to reduce health risks, it does not harm to use healthy lifestyle factors along with nuts to reduce any risk. It will amplify the healthy effects of eating nuts.

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May
19
2018

What lowers LDL cholesterol?

Many times we hear terms like LDL and HDL cholesterol , but what lowers LDL cholesterol? We have to go back to a time when the ongoing Framingham Heart Study wanted to find out what caused a heart attack or a stroke. In the 1960’s scientists found out that cigarette smoking increased heart attack risk and also blood cholesterol. Then in the 1980’s the news came out that HDL (high density lipoproteins) reduced the risk of heart disease. Eventually several research institutions agreed that LDL (low density lipoproteins) was the culprit for causing plaque deposits in arteries. This caused heart attacks and strokes. LDL is often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol.

Clarification of HDL and LDL cholesterol

Recently a review article asked the question: “What is the difference between HDL and LDL cholesterol?”

Below I will review what LDL and HDL cholesterol do in our system. I will also mention normal values for blood tests. This will help you to understand your own blood test results. Then I will review what you can do to lower LDL cholesterol and to increase HDL cholesterol.

The function of LDL and HDL cholesterol

Total cholesterol in the blood contains LDL cholesterol, small dense LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. The small dense LDL cholesterol is more dangerous than LDL cholesterol. It infiltrates the lining of the arterial walls aggressively. A normal LDL level is less than 100 mg/dL. When triglycerides, another form of lipid is high in the blood, LDL cholesterol forms a lot more small dense LDL cholesterol. This is the case in diabetics or in obese people. It is the reason why they are very vulnerable to develop heart attacks and strokes. The optimal range for triglycerides is less than 80 mg/dL.

HDL cholesterol is protective from hardening of the arteries and protects you from heart attacks or strokes. HDL dissolves LDL cholesterol, brings it to the liver, and the liver excretes it into bile. You want to have more than 60 mg/dL of HDL cholesterol in your blood.

Cholesterol math

The total cholesterol conventionally is calculated like this:

LDL cholesterol + HDL cholesterol + (triglyceride/5) = Total cholesterol

You see that the small dense LDL is not part of it here, but high triglyceride levels would increase the total cholesterol value as the inclusion of 20% of triglycerides in this equation compensates for this.

There is also a ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol that is important. This ratio should be below 3.4 for both women and men. This is also known as the ½ average risk for a heart attack or stroke. If your value is equal to that or below, you are in a very low risk category to get a heart attack or stroke.

Now I will deal with the question: what lowers LDL cholesterol?

What lowers LDL cholesterol?

Now we need to review what can be done to lower an LDL cholesterol which is too high. Don’t tell me that you want to take one of the statin drugs. These drugs have serious side effects and are only indicated for the most serious cases of high cholesterol values.

Most common measures to reduce LDL cholesterol

  • Cut out red meat

    First of all, cutting out red meat (like beef, pork and sausages) to an absolute minimum, for instance once per week or less is important. The reason is that these meats have more cholesterol in them and also more saturated fats than any other foods. Compare that to poultry, fish and vegetables like beans, which are healthy food sources.

  • Eliminate trans fats

    Furthermore, we need to eliminate trans fats as they are causing heart attacks. There is an important difference between ruminant trans fats and artificial trans fats. Ruminant trans fats have been part of the human diet for millennia like milk fat and fat from cows that are on pasture or lamb. Milk products for instance contain fat with 2-5% natural trans fats. 3-9 % of the fat in beef and lamb consists of natural trans fats. Studies have shown that the body is able to handle these natural trans fats, and heart attacks are not more frequent in people eating moderate amounts of these products including butter from cows that graze on pasture.

  • Artificial trans fats

    Quite the opposite is true for artificial trans fats in margarine that comes from vegetable oil. Avoid bakery items like sweet pieces or muffins and other products that contain hydrogenated oils. Read labels! Use olive oil or coconut oil, but avoid vegetable oils like corn oil, safflower oil or grape seed oil to get away from trans fats and unstable oils that turn rancid. Rancid oils contain free radicals that oxidize LDL cholesterol and attack the lining of your arteries through small dense LDL cholesterol.

  • Cut out sugar and starchy foods

    Another important item is to cut out sugar and starchy foods because these will raise your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which also leads to hardening of your arteries. Starchy foods are broken down by pancreatic juices into sugar, which enters your blood stream, causing an outpouring of insulin from the pancreas. When the short-term storage of sugar as glycogen is exhausted in muscle and liver tissue, the liver has to process any surplus of sugar that is still there. The end results are triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Unfortunately the protective HDL cholesterol does not reach higher levels, when the LDL cholesterol is increased. A persistent diet of high-refined carbs will increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes. It follows from this that we are all better off cutting out sugar and starchy foods from our food intake as it will reduce LDL cholesterol and small dense LDL cholesterol.

  • Increase your soluble fiber intake

    Increase your soluble fiber intake by eating vegetables, oats and oat bran, lentils, fruits and beans. Why does this decrease LDL cholesterol? The liver tries to eliminate too much cholesterol by binding it to bile salts and excreting it into your small bowel. But the last part of the small bowel reabsorbs some of these bile salts, and from there they return to the liver. This is called the enterohepatic pathway of bile salts. Soluble fiber intake binds those bile salts and prevents re-absorption in the enterohepatic pathway, eliminating cholesterol safely in stool. Clinical trials have also shown that soluble fiber from psyllium, pectin, beta-glucans and others reduce LDL cholesterol by binding bile salts in the gut (interrupting the enterohepatic pathway).

  • Plant sterols and fiber supplements

    Plant sterols (usually sold as sterol esters) are recognized by the FDA as reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, if taken in high enough amounts (2.4 grams of sterol esters per day). There are other useful supplements like artichoke extract, pomegranate, soy protein, Indian gooseberry (Amla), garlic and pantethine (vitamin B5) that are beneficial in terms of prevention of heart attacks and strokes. It would be too lengthy to get into more details here.

  • Take a whey protein supplement

    There are two major milk proteins, whey and casein. Only whey protein binds to total and LDL cholesterol, lowering both. It is available in health food stores. Follow the package insert of the whey product for dosing.

  • Increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake

    Omega-3 fats naturally present in fish oils and nuts. They increase the amount of circulating HDL cholesterol, which binds the bad LDL cholesterol. Go ahead and eat salmon, herring and mackerel as well as walnuts, ground flaxseeds and almonds. You can also take molecularly distilled (or pharmaceutically pure) EPA/DHA supplements. This pure form of fish oil is free of mercury and other heavy metals. EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid or omega-3 fatty acid. DHA is the acronym for docosahexaenoic acid, an important supplement for the brain. Tests have shown that fish oil supplements at a dosage of 3.35 grams per day of EPA plus DHA reduce triglycerides by up to 40%, equally to Lipitor, but without the statin side effects. The end result: your total cholesterol/HDL ratio decreases, as does the risk for heart attacks and strokes. Here is a review of other oils in your diet.

Measures that will increase HDL cholesterol 

  • Eat foods with anthocyanin

    In a 24-week study with diabetic people HDL levels rose by 19% when food was eaten that was rich in anthocyanin. This consisted of eggplant, purple corn, red cabbage, blueberries and blackberries. The advantage of raising the HDL cholesterol level is that the total cholesterol to HDL ratio decreases, which lowers the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

  • Exercising regularly

    Exercising will increase your HDL cholesterol, which again decreases the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol. This number should be between 1 and 3.5, the lower, the better.

  • Take a supplement called Ubiquinol, or Co-Q-10

    Adults above the age of 60 need 400 mg once daily, younger people need between 200 mg and 300 mg daily. Co-Q-10 prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which would aggressively attack the arterial walls causing hardening of the arteries. What causes oxidation of cholesterol? The answer is clear: fried foods like french fries or deep fried chicken will lead to oxidation; other culprits are margarine, commercially baked goods and cigarette smoking.

  • Calcium and vitamin D3

    Recently a study on postmenopausal and overweight or obese women found that supplements of calcium combined with vitamin D3 lowered cholesterol.

  • Polyphenols

    Flavonoids are the largest group among the polyphenols in such common foods as vegetables, fruits, tea, coffee, chocolate and wine. Over 130 studies on humans have shown improvement of the lining of the arteries (endothelial functioning) and lowering of blood pressure. Polyphenol consumption has a connection to a lower risk of mortality from heart attacks. Eat a Mediterranean type diet or a DASH diet, and you will automatically get enough polyphenols with your food. However, resveratrol, the powerful red wine polyphenol, warrants a separate daily supplementation as it prevents LDL oxidation in humans (Ref.1). Take about 250 mg of resveratrol daily.

  • Niacin/ nicotinic acid

    This supplement comes as “flush-free niacin” and also as extended release niacin. It can raise the beneficial HDL cholesterol by 30 to 35% when patients take higher doses of 2.25 grams per day. In a metaanalysis of 7 studies researchers found a significant reduction of heart attacks and transient ischemic attacks. These are precursor syndromes before developing a stroke. Niacin can change the small particle LDL into a large particle size LDL, which is less dangerous. Niacin also reduces oxidation of LDL, which stops the atherosclerotic process. For a healthy person 500 mg per day of flush-free niacin is adequate.

  • Curcumin

    This is a powerful heart and brain protector combining three different mechanisms in one. It is reducing oxidative stress. But it is  also an anti-inflammatory. In addition it counters the process that threatens to destroy the lining of the arteries. One study on healthy volunteers showed reduction of 33% in lipid oxidation, a 12% reduction of total cholesterol and an increase of 29% of the protective HDL cholesterol when patients took 500 mg of curcumin for only 7 days (Ref.1). This is the daily dose I would recommend for prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

  • Vitamin E (tocopherols)

    This fat-soluble vitamin is an antioxidant and in the past health practitioners knew about its use as being heart supportive. Strangely enough some conservative physicians bad-mouthed this vitamin. In the meantime health practitioners have returned to using the vitamin. It turns out that there are 8 different types of tocopherols, with the alpha tocopherol being the best-known, but you also want to be sure that you are getting gamma tocopherol with your balanced vitamin E supplement every day. It remains the one that is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Simply ask staff at your health food store for a vitamin E supplement with gamma tocopherol in it. Take 400 IU per day (of the mix).

What lowers LDL cholesterol?

What lowers LDL cholesterol?

Conclusion

Over the years cardiovascular researchers have accumulated knowledge about supplements that will reduce LDL cholesterol or increase HDL cholesterol. It has practical value: you can look at your own lab results and choose what fits your situation best. You should always make these decisions together with your health care provider. None of the methods reviewed here have any serious side effects. On the other hand statins, as I have reviewed in the link provided, do have significant side effects. Keep in mind that cholesterol is a normal body component that our body needs to make human cell walls. But we do not need to smoke (stopping it lowers LDL cholesterol). We need regular exercise (increases HDL cholesterol). Keep your cholesterol and triglyceride values within the normal ranges that I listed and as a result you will do well in terms of preventing heart attacks and strokes!

May
12
2018

Sex Stimulates Your Brain

Sex usually causes positive feelings, but how is it that sex stimulates your brain? Recently this publication reviewed exactly what is going on. The reason both sexes seem to seek out sex is the fact that it is sex that stimulates the brain a certain way, which is pleasing to both partners. Due to the stimulation the brain will release hormones that make us feel good. Following sex there is post-coital afterglow for a period of time, which I have addressed under this link before. Here I am reviewing what physical stimulation of the brain takes place during sex. Next I will touch on the hormonal changes that happen during and after sex.

Diagnostic tests that show that sex stimulates your brain

Researchers performed  2005 positron emission tomography (PET scan) studies  during sex at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. They studied males males while they were having sex. The question was what part of the brain would be receiving stimulation. Another question was, what part of the brain was resting during intercourse? They found that the right hemisphere and particularly one area, the right posterior insula received stimulation, when the penis was stimulated. This area allows the man to feel relaxed and it reduces pain perception. The secondary somatosensory cortex also showed stimulation on PET scans. The stimulation of the secondary somatosensory cortex is what carries him to the height of his arousal during intercourse. The hypothalamus, which also received stimulatioh with the initiation of sex, was very quiet during the active part of lovemaking. The thalamus and right amygdala were also quiet during that phase on PET scans.

More on feelings and losing oneself during the height of sex

The same group from the Netherlands did a 2003 study using PET scans to find out what happens during his ejaculation. Male subjects had sexual stimulation (penile stimulation) by their female partners. At the time of his ejaculation the PET scan showed increased brain activity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the cerebellum. The frontal brain was remarkably quiet. Other authors point out that there are profound hormone releases during lovemaking. The release of neurotransmitters like noradrenaline, oxytocin and prolactin is taking place during orgasm. Other hormones like dopamine, opioids and serotonin join the hormonal symphony of lovemaking. This leads to detachedness at the height of the orgasm, to emotional closeness and pair bonding toward the end of lovemaking. The authors of the 2003 Netherlands study concluded:

“Our results correspond with reports of cerebellar activation during heroin rush, sexual arousal, listening to pleasurable music, and monetary reward.”

Female orgasm and brain studies showing that sex stimulates your brain

It is only fair that research also studied females, similarly to the male studies. Functional MRI scans were part of a 2017 study from Newark, NJ.

It showed a much broader stimulation of brains in females than in males. Female orgasm includes stimulation of the prefrontal cortex, the orbitofrontal cortex, the insula, the cingulate gyrus, and the cerebellum. These areas take part in the processing of emotions and of pain. There is also some metabolic processing and decision-making. With the male ejaculation study discussed above we had seen that there was no activity in the frontal brain of the male. At this stage of his sexual arousal there is no place for decision-making for the man. Women, however, are still able to think while having an orgasm. Other studies have shown that the rhythmic sexual stimulation during sex can get women into an altered state of consciousness that feels like a trance.

Hormonal activity during and after sex documenting that sex stimulates your brain

We learned already about the profound hormone releases during the height of his ejaculation and her orgasm (noradrenaline, oxytocin and prolactin). But other hormones were also part of it: dopamine, opioids and serotonin. There are two hormones that are particularly important: endorphins and oxytocin. Endorphins are part of the natural endorphins that the brain makes. They help us to feel good and they minimize pain. Their production takes place in the hypothalamus, one of the main hormone producing glands of the brain. The hypothalamus also produces the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which releases ACTH in the pituitary gland. This and cortisol are the stress hormones that make us tense. With the release of endorphins during sex, the stress reaction becomes less. More sex means less stress.

Oxytocin, the cuddling hormone

Oxytocin from the posterior pituitary gland is the cuddling hormone. It is part of the symphony of hormones that show a release during sex. Oxytocin makes you feel close to your partner, but also very relaxed. It may be responsible for the afterglow that I mentioned  in the beginning of my review that can last for up to 2 days after sex.

When sex is painful

Sex can be a bad experience, particularly for women. Many women have experienced sexual abuse in the past, and when they grow up to mature women, the past bad memories often linger on. This is called postcoital dysphoria (PCD). A 2011 Australian/US study has studied this. 32.9% of the students of that study reported ever having experienced this. There were also cases of childhood sexual abuse that were more severe. The authors also found that sexual dysfunction was worse when co-existing anxiety or depression disorders were present.

Better sleep after sex

Prolactin, another brain hormone is released during sex as well. It is responsible for calming the frontal cortex down. This leads to better sleep, but in older men it also causes better cognitive functioning. Prolactin, released during sex is thought to improve memory and to improve cognitive impairment.

In women testosterone and oxytocin are released during sex. This can improve libido (testosterone) and makes you feel like cuddling.

Sex Stimulates Your Brain

Sex Stimulates Your Brain

Conclusion

Sex leads to a battery of hormones that the brain releases after ejaculation and/or orgasm. Both partners experience their own detachedness, which is due to a trance-like mental state where the partners experience each other intensely. The cuddling hormone oxytocin encourages bonding and contributes to a feeling of an intense closeness to each other. Endorphins release stress and amplify the emotional high. Brain studies on copulating couples have shown different stimulation patterns of parts of the brain in women and in men.

Differences in how men and women are wired

Men cannot think at the height of lovemaking because their frontal brain is completely blocked. Women, however, are able to continue to experience all emotions and are able to think at the same time. Having said that, women can easily enter into a trance from the repetitive movements of lovemaking. Whatever it is that we experience during and after sex, it is due to the relationship we have with each other, the past experience, the present experience and the hormone symphony that occurs during all of this. Enjoy what’s going on!

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May
05
2018

The Benefits Of Drinking Green Tea

Chances are you heard about the benefits of drinking green tea to reduce heart disease. But the polyphenols of green tea also prevent cancer, depression and cognitive decline.

Green tea lowers cardiovascular mortality

A study in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy consisted of 807 men and women aged 65 years and older. They had urine tests for metabolites of green tea in the beginning of the study. The study went on for 12 years. 274 participants died, which was 34% of the total study group. Tests measured the total urinary polyphenol (TUP) concentration in both groups, the survivors and the participants who died. Those participants whose TUP was in the highest tertile of the TUP values had the lowest all-cause mortality. And those participants whose TUP was in the lowest tertile had the highest all-cause mortality. 

High blood pressure and stroke

A Taiwanese study from 2004 examined the blood pressure of 1507 subjects. There were 711 men and 796 women with a recent diagnosis of  high blood pressure. The investigators looked at tea consumption (green tea and oolong tea) and blood pressure reduction. They found that those who drank 120 to 599 mL/day of green tea or oolong tea decreased their blood pressure by 46%. Those who drank more than 600 mL/day of green tea or oolong tea lowered their blood pressure by 65%.

Another meta-study involving 194,965 people and 4378 strokes found that there was a reduction of strokes with increasing tea consumption. Those who drank 3 or 4 cups of green tea or black tea per day were the experimental group. Researchers compared them  to the control group that drank less than one cup of tea per day. The experimental group had a 21% lower risk of getting a stroke than the control group.

Cancer prevention more with black tea than with green tea

A meta-analysis of 18 studies from China showed that green tea and black tea consumption was beneficial for prevention of cardiovascular disease and for cancer prevention. The highest consumption of green tea reduced cardiovascular mortality by 33%. The highest black tea consumption lowered mortality by 12%. Cancer mortality turned out to be different. Green tea did not produce a reduction in mortality, but black tea lowered it by 21%.

Another study, this one from Shanghai, China, points out that there are 15 polyphenols in green tea that likely work on different target areas of the body. They target 200 different genes in humans affecting diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, muscular disease and inflammation.

Other cancers like prostate and breast cancer benefit from green tea

This study shows evidence that habitual green tea drinkers do prevent prostate cancer and breast cancer to a certain extent.

Another study investigates the effect of tea on health. One of the studies from the same authors have shown that the oxidative damage to cells from cigarette smoking can come out in a urine test. Those smokers who drank 4 cups of tea per day had a 31% decrease in their urinary biomarkers to indicate DNA damage. As DNA damage is often the first step in cancer development, these findings are important to note.

Cognitive effects of green tea consumption in dementia patients

A 2017 review of dietary supplements to improve cognitive impairment pointed out several supplements that will improve cognition. Green tea is one of them, but omega-3 fatty acids (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are also useful supplements to restore neuronal functioning.

A 2017 study from Basel, Switzerland found that green tea improved memory, reduced anxiety and activated the working memory, which could be made visible on functional MRI scans. These researchers also pointed out that green tea has this effect as a whole, you cannot attribute it to a single constituent. Separate tests of  caffeine or L-Theanine  showed that the beneficial effect was smaller than when green tea as a whole was tested.

2016 study on severe Alzheimer’s patients

This 2016 Iranian study looked at 30 patients with severe Alzheimer’s disease. A baseline assessment was first, and 2 months after taking 4 green tea pills daily another assessment followed. A blood test measured the oxidative stress before and after, so was the antioxidant level from the green tea. The oxidative stress test showed an improvement during the study. The antioxidant level in the blood was higher than before the start of the study. The cognitive function test improved only slightly.

A 2018 study from Singapore looked at the effect of drinking tea (black tea or green tea) regarding symptoms of anxiety or depression. In a group of 614 subjects who were elderly individuals, aged 60 years and above; 59% consumed tea for longer than 15 years. These tea-drinking people were significantly less depressed and significantly less anxious when they underwent psychological tests, compared to non-tea drinkers.

Depression and green tea consumption

There is a 2018 study from South Korea that looked at the link of beverages from 15 studies with depression. 347,691 participants were part  of  these 15 studies, and 20,572 cases of depression developed. Comparing a high consumption of tea or coffee to low consumption, the following statistics were the result: coffee consumption reduced depression by 27%, green tea consumption by 29%.

The Benefits Of Drinking Green Tea

The Benefits Of Drinking Green Tea

Conclusion

Bioflavonoids are powerful antioxidants. But there are many more substances in green tea and coffee that are all beneficial for our health. One of the studies mentioned identified 15 polyphenols in green tea. But another study said that trying to identify one of the components as more active than the others would be a waste of time. They measured some of the factors by themselves and found that the overall effect was much smaller than green tea as a whole.

Other research has shown that the components of green tea activate several genes. This includes anti-inflammatory effects, prevention of heart attacks and strokes, lowering of blood pressure, anti-cancer effects, improvements of cognitive function, as well as improvement of depression and anxiety. As you can see the effect of green tea is diversified. Don’t hesitate to consume another cup of tea!

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