Sep
05
2015

Health Benefits Of Coconut Oil

Lately coconut oil has enjoyed a renaissance. A few years back it was still considered the saturated fat villain and was accused of causing heart attacks. The problem is that clinical trials could never proof that coconut oil would cause heart attacks or strokes; it actually showed the opposite: coconut oil prevented heart attacks! This is very interesting! This story is related to a powerful lobbying campaign of the soybean oil industry.

But perhaps more interesting is the fact that the medium chain fatty acids of coconut oil have a multitude of applications in the healthcare field so that your wrinkles and hair will benefit, your teeth will get less cavities and gum disease, you will have less infections, the immune system will be stronger and you will get less heart disease. But this is not all: coconut oil has been shown to specifically fight bacterial infections, viral infections, fungal infections and some parasitic infections. Anybody interested in 36 pounds of weight loss over 1 year? With coconut oil it is possible. There are definitely health benefits of coconut oil for you, hence the title of this blog.

In the following I will review this in more detail.

Properties of coconut oil

Coconut oil is derived from the white flesh of the coconut of the coconut palm tree. Cold-pressed coconut oil contains 92% saturated fats, 6%monounsaturated fats and 2% polyunsaturated fats. Olive oil in comparison contains 14% saturated fats, 77% monounsaturated fats and 9% polyunsaturated fats.

Tropical oils are coconut oil and palm kernel oil. These are the best sources of medium and short-chain fatty acids, which are fats ideal for cooking and frying food in a pan as both oils have a high smoking point. Coconut oil contains 64% of medium chain fatty aids (MCFA) while palm kernel oil has 58% of MCFA. Coconut oil is the one dietary oil that is least vulnerable to oxidation and formation of free radicals. This is the reason why it is safest for cooking or deep-frying. It has a melting point of 76 Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius). That means it is a white solid fat below that temperature and is a clear liquid oil above this temperature.

Coconut oil is composed of 48% lauric acid, 18% myristic acid, 7% capric acid and 0.5% caprylic acid. The coconut oil is a triglyceride, where three fatty acids are bound to a glycerol molecule. But when it gets in contact with our skin, the skin bacteria immediacy hydrolyze it into free fatty acids and glycerol. The same breakdown is happening in our mouth and gut by our own bacteria. The free fatty acids (FFA) are what give it the beneficial clinical effects. The FFA have antibacterial effects, antiviral effects, antifungal effects and antiparasitic effects. Specifically, lauric acid and monolaurin are the most anti-bacterial compounds of coconut oil. Coconut oil and palm kernel oil are the richest source of lauric acid; they contain almost 50% of lauric acid in their fats. In comparison, butter only contains 3% lauric acid.

Infections treated with coconut oil

Bacteria

Antibiotic resistant bacterial strains have become a serious problem in the past few years. Because of this it is important to know that the fatty acids derived from coconut oil have alternative antibiotic effects. Sinus infection can be treated by consuming coconut oil.

The CDC has reported that 75% of all cases of food poisoning are due to eating ground beef. This is due to resistant E.coli strains from beef that were fed antibiotics, so they would fatten up. The excuse of the Agro industry is that the farmers have to use antibiotics as the cattle in the crowded conditions of feedlots would otherwise get diseases. In 1993 seven hundred people got sick from eating contaminated Jack-in-the-Box hamburgers and at least 4 children died. Other common food poisoning bugs are salmonella strains. In 1994 a milk truck carrying milk that was contaminated with salmonella was shipped to an ice-cream factory in Minnesota. The contaminated ice cream was shipped to stores in several states and led to food poisoning of 224,000 people, the largest food poisoning outbreak in the US history. Giardia is another parasite that is common in India. Here is a study that showed how children with diarrhea due to giardia can be managed with coconut oil.

If you add all the cases of foodborne illnesses each year there are between 6.5 million to 81 million Americans who get sick and about 9,000 die as a result. One of the reasons of death from food poisoning is kidney disease and subsequent kidney failure; another common reason is blood poisoning.

So how does coconut oil fit into foodborne infections? When you eat 1 or two tablespoons of coconut oil three times with meals, the free fatty acids of coconut oil that are released in the gut get taken up into the blood stream and circulate in the body. If the free fatty acids encounter bacteria the medium chain fatty acids infiltrate the membrane of the bacterium and cause it to rupture. The same process happens in the gut to bacteria that do not belong there. Pathological E.coli, salmonella species and other pathological bacteria get eradicated in the same way I have just described. Other bacteria against which coconut oil is effective are H. pylori (the problem bug that causes gastric ulcers), Chlamydia pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Staphylococcus aureus (rodent study), Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Neisseria (the cause of gonorrhea) and many gram-positive bacteria (Ref.1, p. 75 and 76). I am afraid that most of these claims could not be verified by a PubMed search. PubMed had a reference regarding Salmonella and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in a mouse assay and both of these bacteria did not respond to coconut oil in various concentration.  However, Clostridium difficile, which is a problem bug with chronic diarrhea patients responded to coconut oil treatment.

Some women are plagued by frequent urinary infections. Coconut oil is a simple remedy that will treat these infections and when you eat coconut oil as a supplement or cook with it regularly you are having a good chance to eliminate them altogether.

When men get older they can be plagued by benign prostatic hypertrophy. This is a condition where the prostate is enlarged and squeezes the part of the urethra that travels through the prostate gland. The end result is that he has difficulties urinating. Urologists usually recommend a shaving off the prostatic tissue through a special cystoscopic procedure.

In a study on rats coconut oil was shown to decrease the prostatic weight as a result of treatment with coconut oil. In Ref.1 Dr. Fife stated that 1 to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil three times per day with meals would bring the swelling of the prostate gland down within only a few days and urination would be back to normal. However, I did a PubMed search for human data on benign prostatic hyperplasia and could not find a single literature quotation to confirm this.

Viruses

What about flu bugs? Dr. Fife cited a case of a woman who was just starting to come down with the flu (Ref.1). He recommended that she should take 2 to 3 tablespoons of coconut oil dissolved in lukewarm orange juice with every meal. On the first day her symptoms got worse as one often sees with seasonal infections. On the second day she expected to get worse again, but to her surprise the symptoms were starting to go away. By the end of the third day all of her symptoms had gone!

Other infectious agents that respond to coconut oil are: HIV, herpes-1 and 2, Cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus (the cause of mononucleosis), influenza virus (all strains), hepatitis C virus, Coxsackie B4 virus and others. A full list can be seen on p. 75 and 76 of Ref.1.

One of the chronic virus infections is hepatitis C. A person who has this condition is at a higher risk of developing liver cirrhosis and subsequently hepatocellular liver cancer. By using Coconut oil in the stage of chronic liver infections with hepatitis C virus the medium chain fatty acids do their trick of invading the outer membrane of the hepatitis C virus. The virus particles all rupture and release their genetic codes and cannot find another way of regenerating themselves. Within a few weeks and months the person can be completely hepatitis C free. Their energy comes back as the liver function returns to normal. From here the patient can rest assured that cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer won’t develop.

Fungal infections

This is not the end of the surprising effects of coconut oil. Yeast bugs and other fungal infections respond very well to coconut oil. Candida albicans, the cause of gut infections, chronic vaginal infections and opportunistic infections in AIDS patients gets eradicated very similarly to the flu patient described above.

Athletes foot is a fungal infection between the toes that can go on for years with frequent flare ups, but it can be eliminated in just a few days by topical application of coconut oil. If you take it internally as well, it gets secreted through your sweat glands and eradicates the yeast bugs that way.

Parasites

Giardia lamblia is the cause for a common gut infection that is picked up by outdoor enthusiast, when they drink contaminated water. Cryptosporidium is another one of these parasites that won’t make cows sick, but when we consume drinking water that has not been fully sanitized, we get abdominal cramps and diarrhea. AIDS patients get seriously ill from this. Coconut oil comes to the rescue: it will do the same as with all the other bugs: destroy the envelope of the bugs with its MCFA’s, which destroys them. There is no anti-parasitic drug resistance that would develop. Several tapeworms respond very well to coconut oil treatment. However, some parasites like F. hepatica did not respond to coconut oil.

With respect to the transmission of malaria it was found that 2% Neem oil in coconut oil is an effective anti malarial mosquito repellant for 12 hours.

Dr. Fife gave an example of the building of the Panama Canal. The contractors found that the local indigenous Indians were the most reliable workers and never got sick. Yellow fever and malaria were the two diseases that plagued imported workers. According to Dr. Fife investigators found out that the local Indians consumed coconut oil regularly, which kept them slim and infection free including free of malaria and of yellow fever (Ref. 1, p. 94). I am afraid that a PubMed check for pertinent references regarding suppression of malaria and yellow fever could NOT be found.

Dental decay and coconut oil

Due to its broad-spectrum antibiotic properties coconut oil kills the germs that cause dental decay and gum disease, called periodontitis. You will keep the dentist less busy with regular coconut oil intake and save yourself a lot of dental bills.

Less heart attacks with coconut oil

There is a connection between poor dental hygiene, which leads to chronic Chlamydia pneumoniae infection and heart disease. Regular coconut oil consumption reduces heart attack rates and mortality of heart disease. Although the long-chain fatty acids of saturated fat and trans fat (hydrogenated vegetable oils) have been shown to cause hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), this is NOT the case for medium-chain fatty acids from coconut oil. Research has shown that coconut oil is neutral with respect to blood cholesterol. Medium fatty acids are directly metabolized into energy by the liver, so they do not continue to circulate in the blood stream like other fats. In coconut consuming areas like Sri Lanka and Kerala, India very little heart disease was registered until the early 1980’s. Then only one of every 100,000 deaths was attributed to heart disease in Sri Lanka; and only 2.3 out of 1000 people in Kerala, India suffered from coronary artery disease in 1979. In contrast in the US about 333 out of 1000 Americans die of coronary heart disease every ear, that’s 1 in 3 people! Cardiovascular protection is further discussed here.

In this context it is interesting to read on this website that they believe coconut oil would cause heart attacks. Another study in Malaysian volunteers showed the opposite: no sign of changes in cholesterol, triglycerides or inflammatory markers. Many other studies have also shown that the medium chain fatty acids of coconut oil are neutral or beneficial in terms of cardiovascular disease.

Corn oil, safflower oil, grape seed oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, peanut oil and even olive oil are increasing the risk for blood clots, which in turn is a risk for developing heart attacks and strokes. They are also omega-6 fatty acids that lead to inflammation and indirectly cause heart attacks and strokes. On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acids and the medium chain fatty acids of coconut oil reduce the risk of clot formation. This means there are only three safe oils: omega-3 fatty acids, coconut oil and olive oil when used non-heated and in combination with either omega-3 or with coconut oil. When combined with one or two of the other oils the blood clotting property of olive oil is neutralized.

Several mechanisms investigated in a rat model showed cholesterol-lowering effects of coconut oil. But when it comes to human studies, it was shown in premenopausal Philippine women that lipid profiles were also beneficially influenced by coconut oil consumption.

Improving the looks of your skin and hair

Coconut oil is protecting the skin against damage, heals and gives it a healthy and youthful appearance. It has been observed in Polynesians who are exposed to a lot of sun that they are protected from sunburns by applying coconut oil, and their skin remains youthful looking into an older age without the development of precancerous or cancerous skin conditions. They are eating coconut oil and put it onto their skin as a lotion. Coconut oil helps for extremely dry skin. At the same time it prevents bacterial, viral and fungal infections.

In one study mild to moderate atopic dermatitis skin rashes improved significantly with virgin coconut oil. Many cosmetics contain coconut oil and you may wonder how safe this is. A safety study has been performed regarding coconut oil based cosmetics and you can rest assured that it was found to be very safe.

Even hair can be treated with coconut oil. Dr. Fife quotes a New York hair stylist Amanda George who said: “I massage two teaspoons of warm coconut oil into my hair before bed, then wash it out in the morning.” Her hair is luxuriant, soft and shimmering (Ref. 1, p.135).

Alzheimer’s disease

Coconut oil has an inhibitory effect in terms of the development of Alzheimer’s. It seems that the medium chain fatty acids prevent aggregation of amyloid-β peptide and thus stop the further development in the direction of Alzheimer’s; coconut oil also helps reduce elevated LDL, insulin resistance and hypertension, which are all risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.

Detoxing with coconut oil

When you first use coconut oil it can have a strong detoxification effect (medically termed “Herxheimer reaction”). It stimulates the immune system and helps the body to get rid of any stored toxins and germs. There can be a skin rash, sinus congestion, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and diarrhea. Not everybody experiences all of these symptoms, but one or the other. This can go on for a day or two, but sometimes it may take longer like several weeks. It may feel as if you are coming down with a flu, but this is not true: you are detoxifying and you will feel more energetic when this is behind you. Coconut oil is hypoallergenic, so it is very rare to have a true allergy to coconut oil. Most people do not experience the above described detoxification reaction.

Lose weight while eating coconut oil

Medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) from coconut oil have a different metabolism than long chain fatty acids (LCFA) like soybean oil, canola oil, safflower oil and others. Studies have shown that MCFA are burnt directly by the liver and lead to a higher body temperature production, called “thermogenic effect”. Various researchers found a two to threefold higher burning of calories in MCFA compared to LCFA. Over one year this translated into a weight loss of 36 pounds, if you replaced all of the LCFA fats in your diet with MCFA fats. Here is a clarification that coconut oil has medium chain fatty acids and is metabolized differently than animal fats. The weight loss happens like a “side effect” when you switch to cooking with coconut oil and supplementing with coconut oil. Here is a weight reduction study that was done in 20 healthy, obese Malay volunteers. They were all males.

Cancer

The role of coconut oil in cancer treatment is not yet investigated. Carbohydrate restriction is one way of starving tumor cells. It is conceivable that a ketogenic diet including coconut oil may be beneficial for cancer patients, but trials to this effect have not yet been done, which means we do not have the evidence for or against it. However, here is a study that showed that breast cancer patients had much less side-effects with chemotherapy when supplemented with coconut oil.

Health Benefits Of Coconut Oil

Health Benefits Of Coconut Oil

Conclusion

Coconut oil has experienced a renaissance in the last view years. It is now available in containers of various sizes as organic virgin coconut oil. Try a small container first and see how you react. In the beginning you may detox and feel like you have the flu for a few days. But later you will have more energy and you’ll gradually notice improvements of energy, of skin and hair. Your body will notice further improvements internally as the immune system functions better and you lose a few pounds. Your heart is pumping blood easier as there is less hardening of the arteries. Cook with coconut oil, as the smoking point for coconut oil is higher than olive oil, which means you are not eating oxidized or toxic oil. Use olive oil in your salad dressings. Throw away all the other oils, such as safflower oil, canola oil, sunflower seed oil, corn oil and soybean oil or grapeseed oil. These are largely omega-6 containing oils that cause heart attacks and strokes as they get oxidized and cause inflammation in the body through the arachidonic acid system.

Remember this: cook with coconut oil and use olive oil for salad dressings.

Read labels and make sure you are not buying the cheaper hydrogenated coconut oil with free radicals in it; opt for the cold pressed, virgin coconut oil, which is more expensive, but healthy.

In reviewing Dr. Fife’s “The Coconut Oil Miracle” I found that there are many experiential stories that may ultimately be true, if confirmed by trials or studies. I have attempted to find references, but could not fond them for all topics mentioned above; be cautious regarding these gaps. I recommend that you keep an open mind, but at the same time stay critical. I think the overall evidence supports that coconut oil is a valuable nutrient that has many positive effects.

 

References

Ref.1: Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D.: “The Coconut Oil Miracle”, 5th edition,2013, Penguin Books, NY 10014

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Jul
12
2014

Food Safety Crucial In Summer

Although food safety is always important, it is particularly important in summer.   With the tropical storm Arthur recently there were many power failures and much spoilt food due to non-functioning refrigerators had to be discarded.

When there are parties and food is outside in warmer temperatures it does not take long before salmonella or enteric bacteria multiply in mayonnaise which acts like a growth medium. Ref.1 points out that traveler’s diarrhea is common in development countries. Bugs such as Shigella, enterotoxigenic E. coli, Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella species and others are the most common bacteria. But the rotavirus subtypes and the parasites Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidium species and Cyclospora cayetanensis are also frequent offenders that make people sick, make them vomit or cause diarrhea.

How is food poisoning caused?

Causes of food poisoning vary from food to food and between developed countries to developing countries. Bacterial contamination of meats or poultry is particularly common and prompt refrigeration at 4 degrees Celsius or lower (38 F or lower) is important to prevent bacteria from multiplying. People with contaminated hands that handle food in the retail grocery business can introduce bacteria or noroviruses into the food chain. Cross contamination such as cutting meat on a cutting board and subsequently cutting lettuce for a salad that is uncooked is a common source of food poisoning. While the bacteria or viruses of the meat that was cut and subsequently cooked is now safe to eat, the salad with the bacteria or viruses is certainly causing food poisoning. As the link above shows, 75% of oysters harvested around the shelves in Great Britain are contaminated with norovirus. It is important therefore to boil the oysters well to inactivate the norovirus; half cooked or raw oysters are simply not acceptable.

Food Safety Crucial In Summer

Food Safety Crucial In Summer

Pay attention to food preparation:

  1. Before you prepare a meal, make sure that all of the ingredients that come from packages have an expiry date well beyond the date when you prepare the meal. Anything that is beyond the expiry date may have a larger number of bacteria or viruses in them that could transfer into the rest of the meal.
  2. Keep in mind that during the summer outside temperatures are well beyond room temperature and it does not take long for bacteria to multiply at higher temperatures. The danger zone is between 40°F (4°C) and 140°F (60°C) where bacterial growth can occur. On many occasions scientists have measured that bacterial growth can double every 20 minutes, so within only 1 or two hours food such as mayonnaise, milk or eggs are spoilt!
  3. Never leave barbecued meats lying around and only deep freeze them later. When you thaw them in preparation for another meal in the future, you are dealing with spoilt food that already has bacteria in it as they grew before you have frozen the spoilt meat. Spoilt meat remains spoilt meat, even when you have stored it in the freezer! Throw it out.

Interrupt the infectious chain:

The key in food preparation and cooking as well as in safe refrigeration storage is to interrupt the infectious chain. If you get meat from the store, cook it thoroughly so it is safe to eat. The cooking process will destroy bacteria.

Drink bottled or boiled water. Avoid ice cubes, as they may have been prepared with contaminated water.  Avoid eating raw food. Eat salad only after it was thoroughly washed with clean water. In development countries or areas of questionable water supply go without salad until you enter a country where general hygienic standards are observed. Peel fruit yourself; don’t eat fruit salads prepared by others. Generally speaking food should be eaten hot. Avoid raw and poorly cooked seafood; invariably this is a risk for exposing yourself to unknown bacteria or viruses.

Eating in a restaurant is not as safe as eating at someone’s home.

When you think about summer recreation, think about swimming pools; think also about recreational pools that may also be contaminated. If there is no appropriate chlorination equipment present, it is unsafe to use that pool.

Treatment of traveler’s diarrhea:

If you should get abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting you likely got traveler’s diarrhea. If you can, see a physician to confirm the diagnosis. In Mexico you often can go directly to the pharmacist and get antibacterial medication over the counter. Often a 3 day course of fluoroquinolones (e.g. Cipro), trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, azithromycin, or rifaximin is effective.

Whether the antibiotic is effective depends on the area where you travel, which also determines the resistance pattern. Further, it depends on what organisms are present in the contaminated food or environment and it depends on the patient’s age. For children below 16 the recommended antibiotic is azithromycin, for persons older than 16 ciprofloxacin (Cipro) is used (Ref.1).

Prevention of food poisoning:

We can do a lot to avoid food poisoning. First of all, we need to wash our hands after having used the washroom and before we handle food. Avoid cross contamination as already described. Wash your hands again when you are finished handling raw meat, particularly hamburger meat. Make sure that meat is cooked until it is completely through. You may want to use a food thermometer, which will assist you to know that the meat is thoroughly cooked; as this link shows pork is done at 140°F, but chicken and ground poultry should be cooked until the meat temperature reaches 165°F. Ground beef requires 160°F. As the link shows, it is safer to include a 3-minute rest time following the reaching of the target temperature to ensure that no more live bacteria or viruses are left in the cooked meat.

More information on food safety: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/food-safety/

Conclusion:

Have a safe summer and enjoy backyard BBQ’s following the simple rules mentioned before. Should you travel, make sure it is safe and you prevent traveler’s diarrhea. The principles of safe food handling and food preparation are simple and can be learnt by anyone. Make sure any unused food is refrigerated right after the meal, not more than two hours later. Otherwise old food should be discarded.

References:

1. Kliegman: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed.Copyright 2011, Saunders.

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014

Mar
01
2014

Smoking Remains A Health Hazard

Recently new statistics came out that show that 48.8 million people in the US (19% of the population) still smoke. 22 % of the population are male, 17% female. Smoking is responsible for 20% of all deaths in the US (1 in 5 deaths). It is interesting to note that in the older age group (above the age of 65) only 8% are smoking, but 22 % of the 25 to 44 year old group is smoking. Among the American population Native Americans have the highest percentage of smokers (32% are smokers). 10% of Americans of Asian descend smoke. Blacks, Whites and Hispanics are placed in between them and the American Indians. Finally, people who can least afford it (who are below the poverty level) have the highest percentage of smokers (29% smoke) while 18% of people above the poverty level smoke. Education seems to have a protective effects when it comes to smoking: of the least educated group of people 45% are smokers while only 5% with postgraduate education smoke.

Effects of cigarette smoke on the body

As this link shows the concoction of various ingredients in the smoke of cigarettes causes various parts of the body to react differently to these chemicals. Here is a rundown of diseases caused by smoking cigarettes.

1. Lung cancer: This is the most common cause of death in women who smoke, more common now than breast cancer. 90% of lung cancers in women are due to smoking. The same was true in males, but as a group they now smoke less than in the past.

2. Other cancers:  cervical cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, bladder, esophageal, stomach, laryngeal, oral, and throat cancers are all caused by smoking. Recently acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the bone marrow has been added to the list of smoking related cancers.

3. Abdominal aortic aneurysm: As cigarette smoke destroys elastic tissue, it is no wonder that the loss of support of the wall of the aortic artery leads to the development of large pouches, which eventually rupture with a high mortality rate due to massive blood loss.

4. Infections of lungs and gums: Smokers are prone to infections of the lungs (pneumonia) and of the gums (periodontitis).

5. Chronic lung diseases: emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma.

6. Cataracts: lack of perfusion of the lens leads to premature cataract formation.

7. Coronary heart disease: hardening of the coronary arteries, which leads to heart attacks, is very common in smokers.

8. Reproduction: reduced fertility in mothers, premature rupture of membranes with prematurely born babies; low birth weight; all this leads to higher infant mortality. Sudden infant death syndrome is found more frequently in children of smoking moms (Ref. 1).

9. Intermittent claudication: after decades of smoking the larger arteries in the legs are hardening and not enough oxygen reaches the muscles to walk causing intermittent pausing to recover from the muscle aches. If it is feasible a cardiovascular surgeon may be able to do a bypass surgery to rescue the legs, often though this is not feasible and the patients lower legs or an entire lower limb may have to be amputated.

10. Others: osteoporosis is more common in smokers; poor eye sight develops due to age-related macular degeneration that sets in earlier and due to tobacco amblyopia, a toxic effect from tobacco on the optic nerve; hypothyroidism is aggravated by smoking and menopause occurs earlier.

Smoking Remains A Health Hazard

Smoking Remains A Health Hazard

What happens in the lung tissue in smokers?

Ref. 1 gives a detailed rundown of the changes in the lung tissue as a result of exposure to cigarette smoke. The various components of cigarette smoke lead to an activation of special white blood cells, called monocytes that after stimulation turn into tissue macrophages. In addition neutrophils (regular white blood cells) also get stimulated. Between them they produce cytokines and chemokines and the neutrophils secrete elastase that digests elastic tissue in the lungs. Breakdown products of the elastic tissue serve as a powerful stimulus to the immune system to mount an autoimmune response. After some time of being exposed to cigarette smoke the immune system considers part of the lining of the lungs as foreign and cytotoxic lymphocytes attack the lining of the air sacs (alveoli). Lung specialists consider chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD or emphysema) to be an autoimmune disease (Ref.1).

The sad part is that when this condition has progressed far enough, even quitting smoking may be too late to stop the autoimmune disease by itself as the body has been sensitized and the immune system is convinced that the altered lung tissue should be attacked. Add to this that carcinogenic substances and toxins in cigarette smoke damage the DNA of all cells and the energy producing mitochondria, and the stage is set for the combination of chronic inflammation and the release of free radicals to cause all of the diseases mentioned above.

Quit smoking still important

It is extremely important to quit as soon as possible to avoid the full-fledged sensitization of the immune system against ones own lung tissue. Studies have shown that 36% of survivors of heart attacks will successfully quit, 21% of healthy men with a known risk of cardiovascular disease will quit when asked to do so and 8% of pregnant women will quit. When a physician examines a patient in the office and asks a smoker to quit smoking 2% of these smokers will respond and still not smoke 1 year after this doctor’s visit. This may not sound like much, but it is an encouraging effect. Perhaps the most important fact is what I mentioned in the beginning of this blog: the least educated group of people smoked the most (45%) while the most educated people smoked the least (5% of people with a postgraduate education). My hope is that the Internet and other educational media will contribute to education to convince people how important prevention is.

Pharmacological assistance to quit smoking

Nicotine replacement therapy can involve any of 2- and 4-mg nicotine polacrilex gum, transdermal nicotine patches, nicotine nasal spray, the nicotine inhaler or nicotine lozenges. Discuss with your doctor what may be best in your case. Typically one of these products is used for 3 to 6 months.

Bupropion is an antidepressant with a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor affinity. Bupropion is useful to help with the withdrawal from nicotine addiction, which occurs in depressed or non-depressed people. It strictly has to do with the stimulation of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor.  Typically the dose is 150 mg of a sustained released bupropion tablet per day for 7 days prior to stopping smoking, then at 300 mg (two 150-mg sustained-release doses) per day for the next 6 to 12 weeks. 44% quit at 7 weeks versus 19% of controls. A newer nicotine partial receptor stimulator, varenicline, has been compared to bupropion. It was slightly more effective in helping people to get off cigarettes. Varenicline is started at a dose of 0.5 mg per day for 3 days, then 0.5 mg twice daily for 4 days, followed by a maintenance dose of 1 mg twice daily. If nausea is a problem, lower doses can be used. Varenicline has been approved for a 3-month period with an option of a second 3-month period, if relapse occurs. Discuss with your doctor what is best for you.

According to Ref. 1 a combination therapy of bupropion and nicotine patch was more effective than either one alone.

Will power, hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy to quit smoking has been popular, but is not as effective as it is often claimed. Will power, measured by the “placebo” response is quite effective given the fact that nicotine is very addictive and yet 19% in the placebo group were able to quit on their own. According to Ref. 1 varenicline treatment for 12 weeks produced abstinence for 9 to 52 weeks and was compared to bupropion and placebo. The abstinence rates were 23%, 15%, and 10% for varenicline, bupropion, and placebo. This means that will power was still 2/3 as effective as bupropion and 43% as effective as varenicline. Don’t underestimate will power!

Conclusion

The best scenario is to never start smoking. The second best is to quit as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the third scenario of continuing to smoke is still very prevalent worldwide. I have seen the damage done first hand in practicing medicine, which motivated me to never smoke. But I am aware of the difficulties of quitting because of the highly addictive nature of cigarette smoking. Where is the support from governments on this? The problem is that the government benefits from taxation of cigarettes. Nevertheless it is laudable that there are government sites through the CDC to help you quit smoking.

At the end we are all responsible for our own health. If you are presently smoking, psych yourself up for the day that you will quit. Quitting means that you are deciding actively to live longer. Studies have shown that it takes often several attempts before you eventually quit successfully.More information on some of the topics mentioned:

1. Lung cancer and other cancers: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/overview/epidemiology-cancer-origin-reason-cancer/

2. Heart attack: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/heart-attack-myocardial-infarction-or-mi/

3. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: http://nethealthbook.com/lung-disease/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-copd/

Reference

1. Mason: Murray and Nadel’s Textbook of Respiratory Medicine, 5th ed.© 2010 Saunders

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Mar
01
2003

Garlic Component Effective Against Head Lice

The Jan. 21, 2003 edition of the Medical Post published an article about some Argentine research involving the active ingredient of garlic, allicin.

Dr. Juan Barboza and his collegues from the University of Cuyo in Mendoza started their research first with plant lice, as they had been approached by farmers to help them find a natural way to fight lice infestation of their crop .

Of the various chemical compounds in garlic it was the allicin compounds that were most effective in asphyxiating common pests, particularly plant lice. Subsequently they were experimenting with head lice formulations. Shortly after there was a severe outbreak of headlice infestation at the day care center of the university.

This was an opportunity for the researchers to test the efficiency of the new formulation of a mixture of allicin with a mint-scented cream. With only one application of this formulation there was a 96% reduction of the number of head lice within only 1 week!

Garlic Component Effective Against Head Lice

Garlic Component Effective Against Head Lice

Here is a link to other useful hints about head lice.

Last edited December 10, 2012

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