Sep
30
2017

Parkinson’s Disease May Be Stopped

Parkinson’s disease is common in the US; new research shows that the use of an old anti-depression medication can stopParkinson’s disease The use of nortriptyline, a 50-year old antidepressant has shown to normalize a nerve cell protein. In rats nortriptyline dissolved toxic alpha-synuclein clusters in brain cells. These toxic protein clusters seem to be happening in the brain of Parkinson’s disease patients also. It is the protein by the name of alpha-synuclein that research first found in rats to cause the toxic protein clusters in nerve cells of the substantia nigra, a part of the brain stem.

But nortriptyline was able to normalize the concentration of the protein. In preliminary studies in humans the investigators found that there was a significant improvement of Parkinson’s disease with the use of nortriptyline.

Placebo controlled trial with nortriptyline

Now a research team from Michigan State University in Grand Rapids conducted a larger clinical placebo-controlled trial. The lead researcher Collier of the study group found that Parkinson’s patients who received treatment for depression with the tricyclic agent nortriptyline needed less dopamine, the main drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease. This indicated to the researchers that nortriptyline was preserving brain cells that were still making their own dopamine. In rat experiments they could show that it was the dissolving of toxic alpha-synuclein proteins by nortriptyline that was the key to therapeutic success.

Lisa Lapidus, a co-worker on the Michigan State University research team summed up their research: “What we’ve essentially shown is that we are dealing with a drug that the FDA approved already 50 years ago. Patients tolerate the medication relatively well. This could be a much simpler approach to treating the disease itself, not just the symptoms.”

Parkinson’s disease may be stopped also by old diabetes drug

Thomas Foltynie found that the diabetes drug exenatide helps patients with Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Foltynie is a professor of neurology at the University College London and co-author of the study.

Exenatide is an injection drug. When preliminary studies showed that this drug was effective in helping Parkinson’s disease patients lose their problems with walking and balance, a formal study followed.

Professor Foltynie designed a study where 60 people with Parkinson’s disease either got injections of exenatide or placebo injections. Patient exams followed regarding their musculoskeletal system and balance at baseline and every 12 weeks. A score system of 132 points assessed their Parkinson’s disease. After 48 weeks those who had been taking exenatide had a gain of 1 point on that scale while the placebo group dropped 3 points. After 48 weeks the drug administration (exenatide) finished. But after another 12 weeks another scoring and assessment of the Parkinson’s disease symptoms took place. The experimental group on exenatide scored 3.5 points higher than the placebo group. This suggests that exenatide is helping to treat the cause of Parkinson’s disease, not just the symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease may also stop through the use of caffeine

Parkinson’s disease was in the news again because of another study that involved breaking up misfolded alpha-synuclein through caffeine.

Misfolded alpha synuclein forms clumps inside dopamine producing cells in the substantia nigra of the brain stem. Misfolded alpha synuclein acts like a toxin to the dopamine producing cells and eventually these cells die off. This is the brain region that is responsible for making muscle movements smooth and stabilizes balance. The cells that have misfolded alpha synuclein clumps in them also go under the name of “Lewy bodies”.

Dr. Jeremy Lee from the University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada) has isolated two compounds from coffee. They are called C8-6-I and C8-6-N. They can bind to alpha-synuclein and prevent clumping, which stops the toxic effects on dopamine producing nerve cells. Like with nortriptyline the caffeine effect is a curative approach to Parkinson’s disease.

 

Parkinson’s Disease May Be Stopped

Parkinson’s Disease May Be Stopped

Conclusion

There is a new therapeutic approach to Parkinson’s disease. Researchers have detected a protein called alpha-synuclein to cause toxic protein clusters in nerve cells of the substantia nigra, a part of the brain stem. When these cells die from the accumulation of these misfolded proteins, patients come down with Parkinson’s disease. But three different methods of treatment can improve Parkinson’s disease by dissolving the protein alpha-synuclein.

  1. Nortriptyline was able to normalize the concentration of the protein. In preliminary studies in humans the investigators found that there was a significant improvement of Parkinson’s disease with the use of nortriptyline.
  2. Exenatide, an injection drug for diabetes, has been described to help Parkinson’s patients get better.
  3. Caffeine can also dissolve misfolded alpha synuclein (two compounds from coffee called C8-6-I and C8-6-N). This helps patients with Parkinson’s disease to stabilize.

This is only the beginning of a new approach to Parkinson’s disease and an attempt to cure the disease by dissolving the underlying mechanism. So far the drugs that are in use for Parkinson’s disease are only attempting to stimulate dopamine producing nerve cells to produce more dopamine. But the underlying pathology of accumulating misfolded alpha-synuclein clumps is not yet in the treatment protocol. The new research is different, as it takes this into account in an attempt to prevent the condition.

Jul
15
2017

Getting Rid Of Sugar

Scientific papers describe how unhealthy added sugar is, so getting rid of sugar in your diet is the answer.

An article was published in CNN that describes a one-month sugar detox program.

Brooke Alpert, the co-author of the book “The Sugar Detox: Lose the Sugar, Lose the Weight — Look and Feel Great” describes the details of a sugar detox program.

 The first three days of sugar detox

You need to go cold turkey for three days to eliminate any sugar to break the addiction cycle. During this time you may experience anxiety, sugar craving and moodiness.

You must not consume any added sugars during the first 3 days, but also keep away from fruit. Avoid starchy vegetables. This includes corn, sweet potatoes, peas and butternut squash. You also need to avoid dairy, because of the milk sugar in it. In addition avoid grains and alcohol. “You’re basically eating protein, vegetables and healthy fats”, says Alpert. You would enjoy a breakfast with 3 eggs any style. Lunch contains 6 oz. of poultry, tofu or fish. Add a green salad. For dinner your helpings are bigger, but it would be similar to lunch, perhaps with added vegetables. Snacks can be 1 oz. of nuts or a few slices of bell peppers with hummus. Your beverages: unsweetened tea, black coffee or water.

Sweeteners are not allowed according to Alpert. Dr. Robert Lustig, professor of Pediatrics and member of the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco agrees. He said that artificial sweeteners cause you to store more fat. Dr. Lustig added: “You also end up overeating later on to compensate for the increased energy storage”.

Day four of sugar detox

On day 4 an apple is reintroduced. It will now taste a lot sweeter, because in the past the natural fruit sugar taste was suppressed by refined sugar. Full fat, unsweetened cheese and yogurt are also part of the diet. Alpert added: “Fat, fiber and protein slow the absorption of sugar, so taking out fat from dairy will make you absorb sugar faster.” Higher sugar content vegetables like carrots and snow peas and high-fiber crackers are introduced in the second half of the first week. Three glasses of red wine can also be added for those who like it.

Second week of sugar detox 

Add a serving of berries that are full of antioxidants. Also add an extra serving of dairy. More starchy vegetables like winter squash and yams can be added.

Third week of sugar detox

Barley, quinoa and oatmeal can now be added back. Grapes and clementines are now also allowable. Another glass of red wine can be added for those who like wine. One ounce of dark chocolate per day can also be added. “Week three should be quite livable,” Alpert said.

Week four of sugar detox

You now can have two starches per day, like bread and rice. In addition you can enjoy high-fiber crackers. You can have 5 glasses of red wine per week. You may want to eat a sandwich. Once you have completed 31 days no fruit is off-limits. You can allow yourself the occasional indulgences like an ice cream or a piece of cake at a birthday party. “Because the addictive behavior is gone, having ice cream once or twice will not send you back to square one. The whole purpose is to give people control and ownership and a place for these foods in our life,” Alpert said.

Weight loss with sugar detox

There can be a lot of weight loss with a sugar detox; depending on how much sugar the person was consuming before the detox started. Alpert recalled that of 80 subjects who tested the sugar detox people lost between 5 and 20 pounds within 31 days. Many people reported that their belly fat was going and the belts had to be tightened. There were other things participants noted: brighter eyes, fewer dark circles around the eyes, clearer skin, more energy and not as many mood swings.

Many people are not properly educated; they reduce fat intake, but add sugar and start gaining weight. By cutting out sugar and adding healthy fats in their diet, they now feel satisfied. The sugar craving has disappeared.

Side effects of sugar detox

You may feel grumpy and weak. This likely is due to low blood sugar and a piece of fruit will help you overcome this. In other cases it could be due to too little fluid intake and when you drink some water, this feeling will pass. Make sure you have supportive family and friends through the first three-day of sugar detox. “You need people around you to help you be successful,” Dr. Lustig said. “The whole family has to do it together.” Some irritability is expected due to sugar and caffeine withdrawal. This will pass and get better with every day. There are persons who should not go on this program: diabetics, people who take medicine to control blood sugar and extreme athletes. Pregnant women should also not follow a sugar detox program.

Why it is important to limit sugar intake

The American Heart Association (AHA) clearly spelled out what the limits are for added sugars:

For men: a daily dose of 9 teaspoons of sugar from all foods,

For women: a daily dose of 6 teaspoons of sugar from all foods.

When you start reading labels, which I started to do since 2001, you realize that it is very easy to exceed these daily limits. What does this do? It makes your pancreas produce more insulin than is good for you. You start switching your metabolism into the metabolic syndrome, you gain weight, and you get inflammation. This is what the AHA is concerned about. You start developing high blood pressure; get high LDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, and atheromatous plaques in your coronary and brain arteries. Eventually you come down with a heart attack or a stroke.

In the last 100 years sugar consumption per person has skyrocketed.

This has led to a disbalance of our diet and it is because of this that we are facing the obesity wave now. All I am saying is replace sugar with stevia extract, which to my knowledge does not have the undesirable side effects that other sweeteners do and eat a Mediterranean type diet, which we know is balanced.

Watch the maximum recommended sugar intake per day set by the American Heart Association and balance your meals, and you will do a lot better than on the Standard American diet. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to be anti-inflammatory.

Getting Rid Of Sugar

Getting Rid Of Sugar

Conclusion

We learnt about how a sugar detox can get you off sugar addiction. I also summarized why it is important to keep sugar consumption within limits set by the American Heart Association. Too much sugar can derange our metabolism, which is called metabolic syndrome. This can lead to diabetes. Eating a Mediterranean diet and keeping sugar intake low is the pathway to good health. It also keeps inflammation at bay.

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May
05
2017

New Treatments For Premenstrual Syndrome

Dr. Pamela W. Smith gave a talk about new treatments for premenstrual syndrome (PMS). She presented this talk on Dec. 11 at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. The original title was “New Treatment Modalities for PMS”.

Signs and symptoms of PMS

Dr. Smith discussed signs and symptoms of PMS first. She showed 9 slides where she listed all of the symptoms of PMS that commonly occur.

Symptoms are varied; they can mimic various psychological problems like anxiety, depression, panic attacks and more. But physical symptoms like abdominal bloating, acne, back aches, and asthmatic attacks are also common. There are a myriad of more symptoms of PMS: constipation, cramps, clumsiness, dizziness, drowsiness, decreased sex drive, facial swelling, forgetfulness, fatigue, headaches, a herpes-like outbreak, hot flashes, sensitivity to light and noise, insomnia, joint pains, mood swings, palpitations, restlessness, poor memory, sore throat, tearfulness, vomiting and weight gain.

What do we know about PMS?

  1. There is no definitive test that would help in the diagnosis of PMS. But we do know that there is a hormone dysfunction that leads to a monthly recurrence of symptoms during the two weeks prior to the woman’s menstruation. When her period begins or shortly after all of these symptoms disappear.
  2. PMS is very common; 70to 90% of women have a certain degree of PMS. In 20 to 40% of women symptoms are severe. Many researchers have shown that there is a problem in the feedback loop between the pituitary gland and the ovaries. This leads to a decrease of progesterone production in the ovaries. The result is an overabundance of estrogen, which is called estrogen dominance.
  3. But things can get complicated when other hormone changes occur. A woman may also turn hypothyroid. When she gets closer to menopause estrogen deficiency may also develop. Electrolyte disturbances can occur from high estrogen levels causing excessive aldosterone levels. This would lead to high sodium and low potassium blood levels. The end result may be an activation of the renin-angiotensin system, which could cause high blood pressure.
  4. Neurotransmitters are often disbalanced. When serotonin is low in the brain, depression can develop. Noradrenalin deficiency leads to a lack of focus, energy and memory.
  5. Hypoglycemia is also common among women with PMS. This may be due to cravings for sweets and consumption of starchy foods. Women who crave sweets may also consume caffeine excessively. But caffeine increases prostaglandin production in the body. This leads to breast tenderness, abdominal cramping, arthritis and back pains.
  6. A partial hysterectomy can cause PMS in a woman who never before had symptoms of PMS. The current school of thought is that blood supply to the ovaries after a hysterectomy has decreased, and this could be the reason for the onset of PMS.
  7. The birth control pill can bring on PMS due to the progestin component in it.
  8. Tubal ligations can also be a cause: 37% of women who had tubal ligations develop PMS. The reason is a change in hormone production. In these women estrogen is produced to a higher degree than progesterone is.
  9. Pregnancies, miscarriages and abortions can also bring on PMS.

Lab tests for women with PMS

Although there is no single test that would be able to diagnoses PMS, a variety of abnormal tests are often abnormal in association with PMS. Frequently there is deficiency for vitamin A, B6, E, magnesium, potassium, zinc and trace minerals. Calcium can be too high or too low, but blood tests will reveal that.

Four PMS types

Dr. Smith said that PMS has been divided into 4 subcategories depending on the main symptoms.

  • PMS A: Anxiety
  • PMS C: Carbohydrate craving
  • PMS D: Depression
  • PMS H: Hyperhydration

PMS A is associated with estrogen excess and progesterone deficiency. There is a diminished stress response in the hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenals axis. Symptoms are mainly anxiety, irritability, insomnia and emotional lability.

PMS C is associated with sugar craving, hypoglycemia, headaches, heart palpitations and spontaneous sweating.

PMS D is leading to increased neurotransmitter degradation. Symptoms consist of depression, crying, despair, feeling hopeless, fatigue, low libido, apathy and insomnia.

PMS H is caused by increased aldosterone activity triggered by estrogen surplus in the late luteal phase. Symptoms are weight gain, swelling of hands and feet, a feeling of bloating, breast tenderness or engorged breasts. Women will find that their clothes simply fit tighter.

Migraine headaches in PMS

Some women with PMS are plagued by migraine headaches. It may have started in puberty or after taking birth control pills for contraception. Sometimes the onset is after a pregnancy, miscarriage or abortion. When PMS develops and a woman has migraines, they usually occur around the same time in her menstrual cycle. With pregnancy the migraines disappear in the last trimester when progesterone hormone production from the placenta is the highest.

Hormonally related headaches can occur for 4 main reasons.

  1. When estrogen and progesterone are on the rise around the time of ovulation
  2. When a woman has hypoglycemia (due to hyperinsulinemia)
  3. When estrogen levels are changing
  4. When there is estrogen dominance

Treatment for PMS

Dr. Smith explained in detail the various treatment modalities for PMS. Treatment has to be personalized according to what type of PMS the doctor thinks that the patient is suffering of.

Dietary factors

In the beginning it is important to pay attention to the diet. Studies have shown that PMS patients tend to eat too many carbs and too much refined sugar compared to patients without PMS. PMS patients also eat too many dairy products and too much sodium. In addition PMS patients are deficient in iron, manganese and zinc. A good start is a Mediterranean diet, which is at the same time anti-inflammatory.

The recommendations is to eat 6 small meals a day. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. They are antagonists to the B complex vitamins. By avoiding sugar, you also avoid fluid accumulation and magnesium deficiency. A low fat, high-complex carb diet helps reduce breast tenderness. Reducing fat and increasing fiber in the diet decreases estrogen levels in the blood. These steps help PMS symptoms.

Nutritional supplements

Magnesium, vitamin B6, A, D3, E, L-tryptophan, calcium, zinc, fish oil (EPA/DHA) and evening primrose oil are the main supplements recommended for PMS patients. Your healthcare provider can advise you what you should take and what dosage.

Exercise

Regular exercise has very beneficial effects on reducing many symptoms of PMS. Even as little as 8 weeks of exercise -as was done in this study- had a significant effect. Exercise elevates endorphin levels, improves blood sugar stability, decreases norepinephrine and epinephrine in the brain and helps to decrease estrogen levels. This will control blood sugar levels, reduce anxiety, reduce estrogen-related symptoms and increase satisfaction.

Thyroid medication

Many women with PMS have borderline hypothyroidism or are overtly hypothyroid. In these cases the patient should receive small amounts of thyroid hormones.

Progesterone

Progesterone is the one hormone that is found persistently lacking in most PMS patients. The best test for this is a saliva hormone test, because this reflects the tissue levels. Blood levels test too low and are useless. Bioidentical progesterone cream is applied transdermally (through the skin) from day 14 to 25 of each menstrual cycle. Micronized progesterone pills are also bioidentical and could be used instead of the cream.

Botanicals

There are a number of home remedies, which are heavily promoted on the Internet. They may, however, not be as effective as advertised.

  1. Black Cohosh is said to balance estrogen and is anti-spasmodic.
  2. Chasteberry decreases LH and prolactin. It raises progesterone, acts as a diuretic and binds opiate receptors. This reduces PMS related aches and pains.
  3. St. John’s Wort helps these symptoms: anxiety, depression, mood swings, feeling out of control and pain.
  4. Ginkgo biloba is a mild blood thinner. Women who are on blood thinners should not use it! It improves depressive symptoms and mood, has anti-inflammatory effects and helps with anxiety control.
  5. Saffron: In a clinical trial the Saffron group did significantly better in PMS symptom control than the placebo group.  Saffron is rich in magnesium, vitamin B6, iron and other nutrients that are missing in PMS patients, which explains the effectiveness of this botanical.
  6. Other botanicals: Other botanicals are Lavender, Motherwort, and Dandelion.

Candidiasis

Due to prolonged exposure to high sugar and refined carb intake many women with PMS suffer from candidiasis (chronic yeast infection). Anti-Candida programs help to eradicate Candida overgrowth, which often improves several PMS symptoms.

Mind/body therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps for depression and anxiety. Hypnotherapy, yoga and biofeedback therapy are also useful methods.

New Treatments For Premenstrual Syndrome

New Treatments For Premenstrual Syndrome

Conclusion

At the present time there is a better understanding of PMS than in the past. Progesterone deficiency and other hormone weaknesses seem to be at the center of this condition. But vitamin and mineral deficiencies also play a role. The healthcare provider should order some baseline blood tests and hormone tests for the patient, including a saliva progesterone level.

Treatment consists of a combination of steps taken simultaneously. The dietary approach comes first: a Mediterranean diet will be beneficial. Next add nutritional supplements. Regular exercise is essential. Finally bio-identical hormone replacement of the missing hormones is necessary.

If there is an underlying chronic candidiasis infection, it needs treatment. The choice of drug would be nystatin. Some botanicals may be helpful, as discussed. When anxiety and depression are important parts of the PMS symptoms, mind/body therapy (such as cognitive therapy etc.) may also be helpful.

The key with PMS treatment is to not give up, but to re-evaluate the condition, if the initial attempt does not bring full relief. By not giving up and using all modalities of treatment the patient will be able to get rid of the condition, eliminate the symptoms of PMS and achieve well being.

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Aug
20
2016

New FDA Food Guidelines

A recent news release describes 2016 new FDA food guidelines. In it double the amount of seafood (fish and shellfish) is recommended as well as a cut in saturated fat and in sugar. Coffee, which was labeled a culprit in the past is now recommended to a total of 400 mg of caffeine per day as it is heart protective. Cholesterol is no longer considered an enemy, but sugar, saturated fats and trans fats are.

Here is a breakdown of what each of these recommendations means.

New FDA food guidelines regarding increasing fish and shellfish

The anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids have finally entered the recommended diet plan of the FDA. This reflects the nutritional research over the last few decades that noticed a longer life expectancy for people who eat more seafood and less red meat.

The only problem with seafood can be its mercury contamination. The higher predator fish are in the food chain, the more contaminated fish meat is. This is the reason that tuna fish is not recommended as a food source, as it is very high in mercury. An exception is canned tuna as it has been washed and some of the mercury got lost in the food processing. Wild salmon, sardines and oysters are low in mercury and good sources of omega-3 oils.

New FDA food guidelines regarding reduction of saturated fat

It is now recommended that saturated fat should be reduced to 10% of the total daily caloric intake. This is not undisputed as some studies show that saturated fat may not be involved in the production of hardening of the arteries. Other studies have shown that breast cancer is more common when more saturated fat is consumed.

When the news came out in the 1980’s that saturated fats would be bad for arteries, there was a switch to polyunsaturated acids: safflower oil, canola oil, sunflower seed oil, corn oil and soybean oil or grapeseed oil.

However, the irony is that these vegetable oils were highly unstable and led to oxidation causing heart disease and cancer.

In contrast olive oil is a much more stable oil and has been associated with longer lives in the Mediterranean. Similarly, coconut oil is also more stable and is recommended for cooking as well.

New FDA food guidelines regarding protective effect of coffee

In the past few years many studies have shown the coffee consumption prolongs life. The FDA has now officially recognized these studies and recommends that consumption of up to 400 mg caffeine will help promote health. On the other hand the FDA also recommends that those who do not drink coffee, should not change their lifestyle just because of these recommendations.

New FDA food guidelines regarding sugar reduction

An entirely new recommendation of the FDA is that sugar should be reduced in anybody’s diet. The FDA explains that sugar is contained in too many processed foods, is added in drinks like coffee, fruit juices, food items like muffins and cakes.

In the past decades it has become clear that sugar much more so than fat is the culprit, when it comes to hardening of arteries. Sugar gets metabolized in the liver, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol are increased and this gets deposited into arteries and fatty tissue. In this context it makes sense that the FDA now recommends a reduction of sugar intake.

 New FDA food guidelines regarding cholesterol

In the past it was thought that cholesterol in meat would be the cause of high cholesterol in the blood. This was an oversimplification. We now know that only a small portion of the blood cholesterol comes from food sources, so that cholesterol from food sources is now no longer thought to be of importance with regard to risks for heart attacks and strokes. Instead it is sugar and too many starchy foods (Bread, pasta, pizza, muffins, cakes cookies) that get broken down into sugar, which accounts for high cholesterol by being metabolized in the liver into LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

New FDA Food Guidelines

New FDA Food Guidelines

Conclusion

The new food guide by the FDA has fundamentally changed the previous recommendations based on newer nutritional studies. Now fish and shellfish should be doubled compared to previous recommendations. Coffee is no longer the enemy, but your friend. Sugar and starch over consumption is to be avoided, as this can raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Eat more vegetables and fruit. These recommendations closely resemble a Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to prolong life in several studies. Abandon the American Standard diet with hamburgers, processed foods and sugary drinks. Pay attention to the FDA food recommendations!

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Feb
12
2016

Our Toxic Environment

Dr. Jill Carnahan gave a talk about environmental toxins at the 23rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 11-13, 2015) in Las Vegas. Her talk was entitled: “Diagnosis and Treatment of Environmental Toxicity”. It was very interesting, but it cannot be summarized here in depth with all of the details. It would take 10 pages or more to do this. Here I am summarizing the key points that she made, as they are not likely general knowledge. Dr. Jill is a functional medicine expert consultant and treats environmental and mold-related illnesses as well.

Toxins around us

The world we live in is full of toxins like industrial toxic chemicals, car exhausts, and housing materials (carpet, drywall, lumber, flooring). The list goes on with clothing bedding and furniture. More chemicals lurk in the bathroom: they can be found in toothpaste, hair shampoo, conditioners, and personal beauty products that we apply to our face and bodies. Cleaning products and laundry chemicals are also on the list.

Why is it important to be aware of that? Because toxic chemicals that enter our bodies through the skin, the gut and the lungs will accumulate over the years in fatty tissue, in breast tissue and breast milk. Over the long term they contribute to the development of cancer, autoimmune disease like Crohn’s disease or thyroiditis and many other chronic diseases, particularly neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Environmental history and tests

Dr. Jill (as Dr. Carnahan calls herself) explained in great detail how important it is to take a thorough environmental history, which includes exposure to occupational poisons, home environmental and nutritional exposures, not only for the present time, but also back several decades. One tool Dr. Jill uses consists of several websites that list environmental toxins by zip code. When the physician is informed of of the places where the patient has lived and worked, based on the zip codes a complete exposure picture emerges.

Symptoms are the indicator whether or not toxins may play a role: fatigue, sleep disturbances, memory problems, headaches and the presence of more serious conditions like autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.

In addition refined blood and urine tests are performed that check out toxic levels of common toxins.

There are exotoxins, coming from the outside: phthalates, parabens, heavy metals, solvents, organophosphates and pesticides to just name the more common ones. Toxic molds and heterocyclic amines are also exotoxins. These latter carcinogens (heterocyclic amines) are produced by overheating meat.

Then there are endotoxins, toxins that are produced inside the body: endotoxins in the form of toxic lipopolysaccharides from gram negative bacteria (causing toxic shock syndrome), yeast, chemical additives from food, stress and constant negative emotions leading to an overdose of glucocorticosteroids. All of this leads to the total toxic body burden.

Total toxic body burden

Here what leads to the total toxic body burden: Eating a Standard American Diet is one of the main reasons why people accumulate toxins. Add to that petrochemicals, residues, pesticides, and fertilizers, and exposure to heavy metals, like mercury and lead. Some medications like antifungals can also be toxins. Food allergies, environmental allergies and allergies to molds indicate that the body has accumulated toxins. There are also internal toxins from bacteria, fungi, viruses, and yeast that contribute to the total toxic burden. Hormonal and metabolic toxins that aren’t eliminated properly add to the problem, as do isolation, loneliness, anger, jealousy, and hostility. These negative emotions function like toxins on the immune system. Mental illness can contribute similarly in a negative manner, as the mind and the body work together.

When to expect environmental toxicity

A functional medicine expert like Dr. Jill will suspect environmental toxicity when one or more of the following symptoms are present:

Headaches, joint pain, muscle aches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, food cravings, gas/bloating, constipation, foul-smelling stools, diarrhea, postnasal drip, sinus congestion, canker sores, heartburn, insomnia, trouble losing weight, water retention, rashes, acne, skin problems, psoriasis, eczema, dark circles under the eyes, bad breath or premenstrual syndrome.

Diseases that are related to environmental toxicity

As already mentioned before Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease are among the neurological diseases that have been identified to be linked to environmental toxicity. Some forms of dementia and MS also belong to these. In the very young child autism has been identified as filtering out those who are particularly sensitive to environmental toxicity. Attention deficit disorder also belongs here.

Among adult patients heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are red flags for possible underlying environmental toxicity. Food allergies, depression, anxiety and insomnia can also be indicators of environmental toxicity. Arthritis, menstrual disorders, autoimmune disease and any form of cancer are also flags for environmental toxicity.

Dr. Jill explained that the doctor who specializes in environmental issues would take a detailed history paying attention to chemicals the patient may have ingested or be in contact with. It also includes a dental history, including whether or not the patient has silver amalgam fillings or had them removed without subsequent chelation therapy.

She even showed several slides of known associations with specific toxins for the diseases just indicated. These are subsequently identified as closely as possible by doing toxicity tests.

Markers of reserves

There are several marker substances that get used up when the body starts detoxifying some of the environmental toxins.

  1. Glutathione levels in the blood can be measured and can serve as an indicator as to whether or not the body has been challenged by toxins. Glutathione is synthesized by the liver and is a powerful antioxidant and toxin remover. A low glutathione levels is associated with many chronic illnesses.
  2. A low total antioxidant capacity is an indicator that toxic metal exposure, infection, inflammation, xenobiotic exposures or environmental toxicity in general may be present. There are two metabolic pathways that are important for detoxification to occur: the methylation pathway and the trans-sulfuration pathway. It would be too technical to go into this further, but treatment concentrates on re-establishing these metabolic pathways.
  1. Co-Q-10 (=ubiquinone) can be measured in the plasma and is also a marker of reserve. It can also be given as a supplement at 400 mg per day, which will strengthen mitochondrial function. The mitochondria are the energy packages of each cell.

Organic acids

There are organic acids that are toxic. One of them is methyl-tert-butyl ether (MTBE), which is an additive used to increase octane ratings in gasoline. It has been found in ground water from leaks of gas from tanks in filling stations. Inhalation at the gas station can cause dizziness, headaches and mental confusion. In animals it has caused gastrointestinal irritation, liver and kidney damage. Another organic acid, styrene, is widely distributed in rubber, insulation, plastic, fiberglass, food containers and carpet backing. The US-EPA has labeled it as “potential human carcinogen”. Special tests, which the environmental doctor can order can measure the levels of these organic acids in the body.

Epigenetics

Autistic children have taught doctors a lot about epigenetics. After initial 2 or 3 years of normal functioning autistic children suddenly have a variety of severe symptoms like balancing problems, lack of social skills, problems concentrating, tiptoeing etc. What happened is that one or more of the enzymes involved in the methylation pathway are no longer working properly because of epigenetic effects, events that cause their DNA to have a different gene expression. However, with detoxification and nutritional rehabilitation it is possible to turn this around, as the underlying cause is not a fixed genetic defect, but rather an epigenetic malfunctioning. You fix the methylation pathway, and full function returns.

Other research has shown that a similar methylation defect occurs in PTSD and in schizophrenia. Orthomolecular physicians have developed treatment programs for schizophrenics that often work (but not in all cases).

Dr. Jill stated that with genetic disease there is a multitude of characteristic symptoms, which is due to abnormal methylation pathways that is often combined with a severe oxidative overload, caused by environmental insults. Most cancer and chronic diseases are epigenetic in nature, not caused by genetic causes. Dr. Jill explained that the molecular switches of the epigenetic switch that turns a gene on or off have been unmasked: Acetyl groups promote gene expression, while methyl groups inhibit gene expression. As long as there is a balance in the methyl/acetyl ratio, the patient is healthy; the moment environmental toxins disturb the balance and an epigenetic switch occurs, the patient is heading towards disease. What genes are switched on or off determines what disease will develop.

More toxins: alkylphenols, organochlorines and volatile solvents

Alkylphenols: Bisphenol (BPA) is contained in food and beverage containers, water bottles and plastic dinnerware. Many countries have outlawed BPA in baby bottles.

Triclosan is contained in deodorants, toothpaste and shaving creams.

Organochlorines: Many of these substances have been banned because they are persistent poisons. Because of this they are still in the environment today, particularly in non-organic produce. DDT was used agriculturally as an insecticide until 1972, but is still found now in meat, poultry, dairy products and fish. Hexachlorobenzene was used as a pesticide until 1965 and as fungicide in cereal grains. Mirex was used as a pesticide for fire ants until 1978.

When you buy non-organic butter, farmed Atlantic salmon, non-organic cheese and non-organic fatty meats (lamb, ground beef) they contain various pesticides.

Dr. Jill’s advice: don’t buy that, but buy organic food!

Sauna therapy and colonic irrigations will remove much of the chlorinated pesticides. Chlorophyll and all chlorophyll containing foods will also help in eliminating persistent organic pollutants. This could be a good reason to consume the occasional homemade green smoothie with leafy organic ingredients like spinach or kale!

Volatile solvents: Benzene (gasoline), styrene, toluene, xylenes are all solvents contained in car exhaust fumes and styrene in Styrofoam. Don’t microwave food contained in Styrofoam, as it releases the toxic styrene into the food. Avoid breathing the fumes of gasoline, glues and solvents; use non-toxic cleaners. Vitamin C, selenium and glycine help to detoxify volatile toxins.

After discussing mold and mold toxicity as well as glyphosate toxicity from GMO crops in detail, which would be too long to discuss here, Dr. Jill presented a quick

Clean diet 101”:

  1. Buy organic food. It should be sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO food.
  2. Buy only whole and un-processed foods, a variety of leafy greens and other chlorophyll-rich foods. Add to this a variety of colorful fruits and veggies, but avoid the dirty dozens; buy them organic.
  3. Limit processing of your food.
  4. Get local or homegrown food; avoid refined oils and trans fats.
  5. Limit alcohol and caffeine.
  6. Avoid food allergens; avoid the most toxic foods.
  7. Avoid farmed Atlantic salmon, high mercury fish like tuna, orange roughy, Chilean sea bass, shark and swordfish. Here is a detailed guide to low mercury fish. Stick to “very low” and “low mercury fish”.
  8. Avoid non-organic eggs & dairy. Avoid the dirty dozen fruits/veggies mentioned under point above.
Our Toxic Environment

Our Toxic Environment

Conclusion

Here is a quick whirlwind tour through toxins in our environment. The most important step I suggest you take is to review the toxins in your bathroom and around the house. The next important step is to buy and eat the right foods that are toxin free. If you follow Dr. Jill’s “clean diet 101” as described above, you will avoid exposure to toxic substances. Your healthy food intake becomes your maintenance treatment to detoxify at the same time. Only more seriously affected people need to see an expert like Dr. Jill. People with mercury or other heavy metal poisoning may need a series of intravenous chelation treatments as mentioned in this link. The entire process requires a lot of attention and vigilance. Ask questions about products and read labels. It is worth the effort, as this means preventing health problems in the future.

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Mar
07
2015

Drink Your Coffee, But…

I have blogged about coffee drinking several times in the past. Coffee consumption and health benefits have become a news item again because of yet another study. The recent media reports are based on a South Korean study that involved 25,138 men and women with a mean age of 41.3 years.

Here I like to concentrate on aspects regarding coffee consumption that are often lost in the media when studies regarding coffee consumption are discussed. I will break it down into points and then conclude at the end with my recommendations.

1. Calcification of coronary arteries and osteoporosis

The South Korean study published online on March 2, 2015 showed that with up to 4 cups of coffee there was a direct linear relationship between consumption of coffee and prevention of heart attacks. Coronary artery calcium (CAC) deposits were measured by a CAT scan as they are known to be a good measure for a future risk of heart attacks. Less than 1 cup of coffee per day resulted in a 23% reduction of CAC in the coronary arteries compared to controls without coffee consumption. 1 to 2 cups of coffee reduced CAC’s (meaning the risk of heart attack rates) by 34%, while 3 to 4 cups prevented CAC’s and thus heart attacks by 41%. The fun stops at 5 cups of coffee per day as only 19% of CAC’s (heart attacks) were saved. Clearly there is something in coffee that shows detrimental effects, if the dosage is too high.

In the past there was a question as to whether coffee consumption would lead to osteoporosis in women. However, a study showed that there was no correlation between coffee consumption and osteoporosis.

Other studies have clarified this and found that vitamin D3 and K2 are important to remove calcium from the arterial wall and transport calcium into the bone and deposit it there. Vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 seem to override all the other nutrients when it comes to osteoporosis prevention. The other factor in older women is hormone deficiency as they age necessitating bioidentical hormone replacement in addition to vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 to prevent osteoporosis.

2. Whether or not you put sugar into your coffee

is an important question. This is routinely done in Germany where I grew up. The addition of sugar changes the entire game plan, as it is sugar that oxidizes LDL cholesterol, which is directly deposited under the arterial walls. This is the root cause of hardening of the arteries. Coffee alone is beneficial; coffee with sugar is not. I use a tiny amount of KAL Stevia (which does not have the bitter aftertaste) instead of sugar to sweeten my coffee. This sweetens it to the equivalent taste of sugar, but without the detrimental oxidizing effect of sugar. Somebody like me who was conditioned to eat sugar from childhood on in Germany has been left with a “sweet tooth”; so I need to have this tiny bit of stevia as a crutch. Purists may disagree with me. Keep in mind that the Korean study was done without sugar.

3. What’s the difference between real and decaffeinated coffee?

The recent study showed that you need to drink the real thing (caffeinated coffee), if you want to reduce your risk to get the dreaded pigmented skin cancer, melanoma. Decaffeinated coffee did not have this melanoma protective effect. This points to the fact that there are several substances in real coffee and decaffeinated coffee that have different effects. Ref. 2 shows that there was a clear reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in people who drank either coffee, decaffeinated coffee or tea. Unfortunately many studies do not distinguish clearly between caffeinated coffee and decaf coffee.

4. Micronutrient components of coffee

As this link shows there are many micronutrient components in coffee such as caffeine, diterpenes, chlorogenic acids, and melanoidins. There is about 100 mg of caffeine contained in a tall (240 ml) Starbucks cup of coffee. This will stimulate the nervous system and your adrenal glands getting that energy rush.

Diterpenes consisting mainly of cafestol and kahweol are substances that have been found to increase the LDL cholesterol. The fact that we are dealing with a concoction of mostly beneficial, but also some less beneficial micronutrients in coffee is responsible for the lower beneficial effect of 5 cups of coffee mentioned in the South Korean study. Filtered coffee seems to largely remove these undesirable substances.

This link explains more details about the micronutrients in coffee.

5. Clinical conditions that are partially prevented by coffee consumption

The last link mentioned a study where a large group of people were followed and monitored for Parkinson’s disease. Those who had consumed only 1 cup of coffee per day were compared to controls without coffee consumption. This one cup of coffee per day prevented Parkinson’s disease by 40 to 60%. Similarly, in a study that investigated prevention of type 2 diabetes 4 to 6 cups of coffee per day prevented 28% of type 2 diabetes. In postmenopausal women decaf coffee was also significantly effective in reducing the risk to develop diabetes.

The Linus Pauling Institute link summarized that there were several studies that showed that colorectal cancer could be partially prevented by consuming real coffee (4 or more cups), which lowered the risk by 24% compared to non-coffee drinkers. Another study noticed that 1 to 2 cups per day of decaf coffee reduced the risk for colorectal cancer by 48%.

Cirrhosis of the liver, often due to excessive alcohol use can be prevented by 40% when at least 2 cups of coffee were consumed. More astounding than that is that the risk of death from liver cancer can be reduced by 50% when at least 1 cup of coffee was consumed compared to those who never consumed coffee.

However, liver and colon cancer are not the only ones that can be prevented to a large extent by drinking coffee. Breast cancer, prostate cancer, endometrial cancer, uterine cancer, oral cancer, brain cancer and lung cancer can also be significantly prevented by a regular cup of coffee. As there is a risk of increasing miscarriages in pregnant women, it is best not to consume coffee during pregnancy or at the most limit it to one cup per day. Also, nursing mothers should avoid coffee (even decaffeinated coffee) as caffeine gets transmitted into mother’s milk.

People with high blood pressure may be better off to not drink coffee or to drink decaf coffee, because caffeine has been shown to elevate blood pressure substantially.

6. What are the risks of drinking coffee?

Seeing that coffee is an effective drug-like compound with many benefits, it is worthwhile asking the question: what are the side effects of coffee consumption? There are people who are very sensitive to caffeine. They get over stimulated and experience heart palpitations, a lack of sleep and anxiety. They should refrain from coffee. They may even be over sensitive to decaffeinated coffee that still contains about 3% of caffeine. People with rheumatoid arthritis have been shown to deteriorate with coffee consumption, making this another subgroup of people who should stay away from coffee.

7. What is the process of decaffeinating coffee?

Essentially there are 4 processes of decaffeination that have been developed over time. As this link shows, all of the decaffeination processes are done with the green coffee beans. There are two solvent-based processes and two non-solvent based processes. The latter two are the healthiest: the Swiss water process and the carbon dioxide process. The problems with the older solvent-based processes are the chemicals used to extract the caffeine. They can be harmful to the body.

Organic decaffeinated coffees are manufactured with the environment-friendly Swiss water process.

Drink Your Coffee, But…

Drink Your Coffee, But…

Conclusion

There are some people who simply are too sensitive to caffeine. They should refrain from drinking coffee. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should either severely reduce coffee consumption to one cup per day or refrain from coffee altogether. Those with high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis patients better refrain from drinking coffee as well. The majority of us will benefit from coffee consumption, if this is your taste. You may prefer green tea or Oolong tea instead. As I explained above there is compelling evidence in the literature that many cancers, heart attacks, strokes and diabetes can be partially prevented by regular coffee consumption. Decaffeinated coffee can prevent type 2 diabetes to some extent and colorectal cancer as well. The majority of evidence shows that coffee drinking is healthy. So, go ahead and enjoy!

References:

Ref. 1: Ding, Ming; Bhupathiraju, Shilpa N; Satija, Ambika; van Dam, Rob M; Hu, Frank B. “Long-term coffee consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies.” Circulation – February 11, 2014; 129 (6); 643-59.

Ref. 2: Huxley R, Lee CM, Barzi F, Timmermeister L, Czernichow S, Perkovic V, Grobbee DE, Batty D, Woodward M. “Coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and tea consumption in relation to incident type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review with meta-analysis.” Arch. Intern. Med. – December 14, 2009; 169 (22); 2053-63