Apr
16
2016

Sleeping Habits

When you are a child or a youngster sleeping habits are rarely a problem. But as people age, they tend to have problems falling asleep and sleeping through the night. Older people may also have certain hormone deficiencies, which can contribute to a change in sleeping habits.

Some basics regarding sleeping habits

There are a couple of facts that everybody should know about sleep, so you work with nature, not against it.

  1. The way our bodies are hardwired, we need 7 to 8 hours of sleep and we need to fall asleep between 10PM and 11PM.
  2. The reason for the relative rigid sleeping schedule time wise is the diurnal hormone rhythm. This is also known as the circadian clock that is dictated by the light of the sun (24 hour cycle). Light going into our eyes in the morning inactivates melatonin. But in the evening the pineal gland releases melatonin after sunset. This is what keeps the internal clock on time. We all know how we derail when we fly east or west. There are differences. I find that I am more affected when I fly west than east. The readjustment for me often takes one or two weeks for a 9-hour time zone difference.
  3. Melatonin is gradually produced less as we age. The highest melatonin production occurs around 10 years of age. From then on melatonin production declines. This likely is the reason why older people more often have insomnia problems.
  4. There is interplay between melatonin and cortisol. These two hormones complement each other. When you sleep melatonin governs and resets the hormones to be ready in the morning. This involves an early testosterone peak for the male and cortisol, which has to be ready the moment you wake up. It is cortisol coming from the adrenal glands that rules during the day and is giving us energy. Thyroid hormones also give you energy during the day. As I will explain below, human growth hormone is an energy-giving hormone as well that also clears your mind.
  5. What is not as much known is that human growth hormone (GH) provides energy for us. Growth hormone is released as a spurt between midnight and 3 AM, when you’re deep asleep. The purpose of that is to get you ready with regard to energy for the next day. If you drink alcohol after 5PM the afternoon before, you will miss most of that GH spurt during the night and have a hangover (lack of energy the following day).  At the 23 rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine on Dec. 13, 2015 in Las Vegas the endocrinologist, Dr. Thierry Hertoghe from Belgium gave a talk about GH and said that even one drink during the evening before you go to sleep will cancel 75% of the GH spurt causing a lack of energy the following day. When you have alcoholic drinks evening after evening as many people do, you interfere with your deepest sleep, creating a fitful sleep and you can develop GH deficiency, which can be measured with blood and urine tests. GH deficiency leads to premature signs of aging, such as wrinkles, musculoskeletal problems, muscle weakness and dementia. Many people in their 80’s look “old”. In fact they may be growth hormone deficient and could be treated with human GH, if GH deficiency were confirmed by tests. Part of the aged appearance is reversible in cases of growth hormone deficiency by treating with daily GH injections.
  6. As we age, we produce less melatonin and less growth hormone. All of these hormone levels can be determined. If they are low, they should be replaced with small amounts of whatever hormone is missing.
  7. There are other hormones that are important for energy: cortisol from the adrenal glands, thyroid hormones and DHEA from the adrenal glands. When people get older there is a problem with melatonin production and an evening dose of melatonin supplement of 3mg is advisable. People beyond the age of menopause (females) and andropause (males) need bioidentical sex hormone replacement. Once they have sufficient hormone levels, they will also have more energy. It is advisable to get all of these hormones tested using a saliva hormone test. Growth hormone is a bit more difficult to assess, but IGF-1 levels give a first indication what your growth hormone levels are doing. The newest test is a 24-hour urine collection or an overnight urine sample looking for growth hormone metabolites. If levels are found to be low, daily replacement of growth hormone using a pen similar to insulin injections in diabetics can be given, using pure human growth hormone. You would need to seek the advice of a knowledgeable naturopath.

What does insomnia do to you?

From a psychological point of view performance is slower, there is a slower reaction time and there is a risk of developing anxiety or depression. The immune system gets weakened, high blood pressure can develop and there is a risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It is common to gain weight becoming overweight or obese. Even your telomeres, the caps of chromosomes in every cell get shortened from too much stress and too little sleep. Shortened telomeres mean a shortened life span.

How to improve sleeping habits

Set your alarm clock for 8 hours later when you go to sleep. Make sure your bedroom is dark, but wake up to the alarm clock after 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Don’t sleep longer than 8 hours per night. Your internal diurnal hormone rhythm will thank you for regulating your sleep/wake rhythm by giving you the energy you want. I enjoy mine.

Sleeping habits include problems falling asleep or sleeping through

Falling asleep: As we mostly have a lack of melatonin, the first step is to take 3mg to 5mg of melatonin at bedtime. But it should be taken during the window of opportunity fitting into the diurnal hormone rhythm as mentioned above: between 10PM and 11PM. It takes 20 to 30 minutes for melatonin to take effect. If you do not fall asleep within that time frame, you are likely thinking too much. If that were the case, I would recommend taking 1 or 2 capsules of valerian (500 mg strength) from the health food store. This combined with melatonin should help in more than 80%-90% of insomnia cases.

Not sleeping through: Some of you, particularly if you are elderly, may wake up at 3 or 4 AM and have a hard time falling asleep again. At that time it would be safe to take another 3mg of melatonin and if this does not work within 20 minutes add another 500mg valerian capsule.

If you continue to have insomnia problems, see your physician. You may need sleep studies done or you may have problems with your thyroid gland (hypo- or hyperthyroidism), which needs to be checked. Other medical problems including depression have to be checked out as well. Melatonin and valerian are safe. Other sleeping pills have multiple side effects including memory problems.

Part of good sleeping habits is to provide a quiet, comfortable bedroom

The following points are good checklist for a comfortable sleep environment (Ref.1).

  • Ensure your bedroom is dark, soundproof, and comfortable with the room temperature being not too warm, and you develop a “sleep hygiene”. This means you get to sleep around the same time each night, have some down time 1 hour or so before going to bed and get up after your average time of sleep (for most people between 7 to 9 hours). Do not sleep in, but use an alarm clock to help you get into your sleep routine.
  • Avoid caffeine drinks, alcohol, nicotine and recreational drugs. If you must smoke, don’t smoke later than 7PM.
  • Get into a regular exercise program, either at home or at a gym.
  • Avoid a heavy meal late at night. A light snack including some warm milk would be OK.
  • Do not use your bedroom as an office, reading place or media center. This would condition you to be awake.  Reserve your bedroom use only for intimacy and sleeping.
  • If you wake up at night and you are wide awake, leave the bedroom and sit in the living room doing something until you feel tired and then return to bed.
  • A self-hypnosis recording is a useful adjunct to a sleep routine. Listen to it when you go to bed to give you something to focus on (low volume) and you will find it easier to stop thinking.
Sleeping Habits

Sleeping Habits

Conclusion

We need to be aware how important a proper hormone balance is when it comes to a healthy sleep pattern. Thyroid hormones and sex hormones are easy to measure. Bioidentical hormone replacement is needed, if one of the hormones is low. GH needs to be checked by an IGF-1 level and/or metabolites of GH in a 24-hour urine sample as explained above. Melatonin deficiency in older age is replaced the way I summarized above. With these measures sleeping habits improve, and you will get your 7 to 8 hours of restoring sleep. Forget the notion of the past that older people would not need as much sleep. Especially for an aging individual it is important to have a good night’s sleep in order to feel well and energized every day.

References

Ref.1: Jean Gray, editor: “Therapeutic choices”, 5th edition, Chapter 8 by Jonathan A.E. Fleming, MB, FRCPC: Insomnia, © 2008, Canadian Pharmacists Association.

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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Sep
03
2014

Probiotics Important For Your Health

Growing up in Germany after the Second World War I remember that every so often newspaper headings showed an older person in the nineties when the average life expectancy was in the late 60’s. The reporter asked, “What did you do to turn that old?” The answer was that the person always ate a lot of yogurt.

This did not sink into mainstream medicine at that time and people did not really believe this statement. How could eating yogurt make a person live longer?

Fast forward to 2014. You read about probiotics in magazines, on the Internet, get exposed to it in TV commercials.

In the Wikipedia it is accepted that yogurt can help seniors who have a lower bifidus bacteria population in their colon to rebalance their gut flora, which will prevent colon cancer. It also describes that yeast infections in women can be helped by yogurt.

In the meantime probiotics have been developed and concentrations like 20 to 80 billion bacteria per capsule with a mix of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species are available in the health food store for prevention.

The medical profession has studied the effects of higher potency probiotics and came to the conclusion that probiotics have indeed effects on the body far beyond the gut.

Here are a few highlights.

Probiotics Important For Your Health

Probiotics Important For Your Health

Bowel disease improves

In cases of bacterial or viral diarrhea the frequency of bowel movements and the intensity of bowel cramps gets helped within a few days, and recovery from the diarrhea is much faster with probiotic than without. Patient with irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis are helped with probiotics. Both constipation and diarrhea in otherwise healthy people are helped as well.

Immune system booster

The small bowel has been known for a long time to have clusters of immune cells within the bowel wall. Together they are a formidable immune organ in the gut, which connects to the blood and the rest of the immune system throughout the body (lymph glands, spleen, bone marrow). Specifically it has been proven in humans that macrophages, natural killer (NK) cells and cytotoxic T-lymphocytes, which are the working horses of the immune system, are all stimulated by probiotics.

Less respiratory infections

School children who were given 1 capsule of probiotics twice per day for 3 months and flu symptoms and absenteeism were observed due to colds and flus. When they did get a viral infection, the illness had a shorter course, resulting in much less school absenteeism over the course of the trial when compared to a placebo group. It seems that a healthy gut flora stimulates the immune system to work at its best.

Cancer prevention

To a certain degree cancer can be prevented by probiotics and other nutritional factors. Breast cancer is one of the cancers where probiotics have been shown to be effective in reducing disease.

Apparently the probiotic bacteria bind to the cancer causing factors (carcinogens) that some of the bad gut bacteria produce. Probiotics also suppress other bacteria that convert pro-carcinogens into carcinogens. This is not all: the probiotics also interfere with enzymes involved in the production of carcinogens in the gut, which stimulates the gut immune cells to produce cytokines that are needed in the battle against early cancer. Probiotics play a role in multiple processes that help the body to fight cancer, not only in the gut, but also in the rest of the body!

Helps diabetes get better

How can gut bacteria help diabetes, which is an endocrinological disease? Both human and animal studies have shown that insulin resistance is improved by probiotics. In a 6-week study both blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1C values (that measure long-term control of diabetes) dropped significantly by eating 300 grams of yoghurt per day when compared to a control group who did not.

Obesity

Probiotics given to mothers at least one month prior to birth and at least up to 6 months after birth prevented excessive weight gain in both the mothers and their children. A lot of the inflammatory substances associated with obesity are suppressed by probiotics.

Probiotics reduce cardiovascular risk

Several studies have shown that probiotics lower LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and inflammatory markers in the blood stream resulting in lower risk for hardening of the arteries.

One should not look at probiotics as a single factor for prevention of heart attacks and strokes, but combine probiotics with exercise and a low refined carbohydrate diet. High sugar and starch diets lead to absorption of sugar in the stomach and small intestine. This results in a lack of nutrients to support the gut flora. When probiotics are combined with vegetables and lettuce there is the proper mix of fiber, minerals and other nutrients to sustain balanced bacteria in the bowels for preventing heart attacks and strokes and keeping inflammatory markers down. I have blogged about this before and stated that the combination of organic food (to avoid antibiotic residues in our diet), fruit and vegetables combined with probiotics will protect you from heart attacks and strokes.

Conclusion

Maybe the newspaper articles in Germany after the Second World War were right that something in yogurt (Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species) can make you live longer. The explanation seems simple: add probiotics to your diet and you will have a better immune system, get less respiratory infections, prevent heart attacks and strokes and prevent obesity and cancer. All of this in combination will lead to healthier lives, and more people will live to tell about it.

Last edited Sept. 3, 2014

Jul
02
2014

Focus On Health Rather Than Disease

Not too long ago I came across a blog that summarized the “18 Biggest Problems with Modern Medicine”. Although this is a useful list, it occurred to me that these problems could be compressed into about 9 underlying themes. Below I am describing the same type of problems regarding modern medicine in a somewhat abbreviated fashion.

Points 1 to 4 below cover points 1 to 9 of the “18 Biggest Problems with Modern Medicine”:

1. The patient is seen as a complicated machine with parts that could break down. When there is a breakdown of the machinery, symptoms develop, which are quickly fixed with a patented medicine, but without really addressing the underlying problem. 

This type of approach soothes pain, but changes nothing for a chronic illness like MS. Nobody has all the answers to this complicated illness, but we know that it is an autoimmune disease. So it makes sense to avoid foods that could make the patient worse. This is exactly what Dr. Terry Wahls is describing in her YouTube video.

Also, vitamins and supplements for multiple sclerosis that support the immune system would be useful. Vitamin D3 in high doses, but monitoring blood levels by doing 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood tests from time to time would also be useful.

2. A holistic approach to building up health rather than fixing a clinical problem, which belongs to a disease, is not part of modern medicine.

In the past a stomach acid problem was treated with H-2 receptor antagonists like cimetidine or ranitidine. The newer proton pump inhibitors, like omeprazole were added and were supposed to be better in suppressing the acid formation. But they did nothing to cure the ulcer or gastritis problem. The problem often was that chronic stress allowed a bacterium, H.pylori to multiply in the stomach wall causing stomach acid and a burning sensation. This did respond to the antacid medications for a period of time, but came back when the medication was stopped. A simple over the counter licorice compound, called DGL or a simple mastic gum from the health food store can cure the helicobacter infection and cure your peptic ulcer disease without the need for the expensive patented H-2 receptor antagonists or proton pump inhibitors.

Focus On Health Rather Than Disease

Focus On Health Rather Than Disease

3. Everybody with the same disease is treated with the same medical treatment schedule, often agreed on by consensus expert panels. The body’s self-healing capacity or the placebo effect, which is an expression of the same natural healing response, is ignored.

Here is a study that was done on patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) on placebo pills. Placebo pills were 24% more effective than the control group who took no pills in controlling symptoms of IBS. Why not utilize this in conventional medicine?

4. The disease is treated, not the patient; numbers from lab tests count, not clinical signs of the physical examination. What used to be called the “art of medicine” has been abandoned.

The art of medicine is important to establish a rapport with the patient, but also to pick up silent features during the examination that may otherwise be overlooked.

Points 10 to 18 of the“18 Biggest Problems with Modern Medicine” are covered by points 5 to 9 below:

5. Diet, lifestyle, hormone changes (due to chronic stress and older age) are all ignored. If there are the hormone changes of menopause or andropause, only synthetic hormones are given and only for a limited time not exceeding 5 years. Bioidentical hormone replacement invokes butterfly feelings in the physician’s stomach and must therefore be rejected. It’s almost a knee-jerk response. The reason for that is the fear that bioidentical hormones would have the same devastating side effects as the synthetic hormones. However, this is a fallacy, as a young person with fully functioning natural hormones will not come down with nefarious side effects of strokes, heart attacks or cancer.

This link to Dr. Lee’s website explains why bioidentical hormones fit the hormone receptors better than the synthetic concoctions.

6. The thought that the body may have been exposed to toxins (like heavy metals, xenoestrogens etc.) from the environment that are taken up and stored in the body like a sponge and should be detoxified from time to time is foreign thinking to modern medicine except for a small group of dedicated physicians and naturopaths who offer various forms of chelation therapy.

The TART trial has shown that there was a 18% reduction of heart attack rate in the group that received 40 chelation therapy treatments. Chelation therapy can easily be combined with traditional treatment methods, but mostly his option is ignored.

7. Similarly the idea that supplements and vitamins would be essential to support the body in the fight against free radicals that form inside the body every day is not something every doctor will feel comfortable in recommending.

In Ref. 1 (chapter 8) I have cited evidence from a clinical trial that multivitamins elongate telomeres by 5.1% and add 9.8 years of productive life in those who take multivitamins over a long period of time versus those who do not.

8. In the health care industry we are still working in a hierarchical system where the doctor is on top and the patient is on a lower level and dependent. In the future medical system the doctor and the patient are equal partners who try to solve a health problem as a team.

The doctor may have more experience in diagnosing, prescribing and monitoring health problems, but the patient is the one who owns the problem and is encouraged to comply with the prescribed treatment and to report back to the doctor, if there are new symptoms that may lead the doctor to new insights resulting in improving the treatment plan.

9. Big Pharma influences doctors to prescribe their patented medicinesNew drugs and old drugs are sold like the latest invention against the dreaded disease XYZ (you can fill in whatever the diagnosis is). But none of these drugs is effective against a hormone disbalance, stress, a lack of sleep, lack of exercise or malnutrition. The patient’s co-operation is needed to work on these issues.

I have explained in Ref.1 that the metabolic syndrome, which is responsible for much of our modern diseases (diabetes, heart attacks, arthritis, strokes, cancers, Alzheimer’s disease) can be overcome by a combination of steps: paying attention to our food intake, cutting out sugar and high glycemic starchy foods and excessive fats. Regular exercise will help you to build up and maintain muscle mass and at the same time to melt in excessive fat. Yoga, self-hypnosis, meditation and prayer can remedy stress. Bioidentical hormones can replace any hormone deficiencies. Detoxification, vitamins and supplements complete this program, which allows you to successfully age without disabilities. All these steps taken together allow your body to recover and find a new balance where drugs are rarely needed.

Conclusion:

The reason Medicare is so expensive is that life style issues are not often addressed. By only treating symptoms the underlying causes of an illness are not removed. This means that the illness will not be cured. Take for instance heart attacks. If you want to go down the road from angina to heart attack to bypass surgery or stents, you will soon run out of options. The next level of curative medicine approach is a heart transplant after heart attack number 4 or 5. Comprehensive medicine would approach this differently by paying attention to what you eat and motivate you to cut out starchy foods, wheat, and sugar. This would address obesity, which is a problem in many Western countries. You would engage in regular physical exercise. Stress would be overcome in yoga classes or self-hypnosis sessions. Bioidentical hormones would replace your missing hormones based on saliva hormone tests or blood test samples. The heart muscle that has a lot of testosterone receptors would respond to this. As mentioned above a series of chelation treatments to remove heavy metals could also be offered in this combined, comprehensive heart attack prevention program with a reduction of 18% of heart attacks. This all is available now, but regrettably few people make use of it.

References:

1. Dr. Ray Schilling: “A Survivor’s Guide to Successful Aging“, Amazon.com, 2014

Last edited July 3, 2014

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Jun
11
2014

Multiple Myeloma Cured With Measles Vaccine

Mayo Clinic physicians were desperate when two patients with end stage multiple myeloma, a vicious bone tumor, did not respond to chemotherapy; so they tried something unconventional: high doses of the measles vaccine in an attempt to stimulate the immune system.

Canadian researchers had reported in 2011 that oncolytic viruses created by genetically modifying smallpox vaccine viruses would enter tumor cells of patients, but not damage normal cells. A high percentage of the end stage patients responded with tumor regression. Now the Mayo Clinic clinicians used high doses of a modified measles vaccine to attack the multiple myeloma cells of two end stage patients and it worked on at least one patient who is cancer free after a recheck of the bone marrow 6 months later. The other patient experienced a significant remission, something not heard of in an incurable end-stage condition. Here is the story as reported recently in the press. This research is a new beginning for cancer researchers as in the past the general thinking was that something as bad as cancer must be fought with something strong and toxic to get rid of the cancer cells. The emphasis was on “fighting the cancer cell”.

Now the emphasis is to stimulate the immune system, which will fight the cancer much better. As a past cancer researcher I would say that it is about time to take this new approach as the old approach of attacking the cancer cell like an enemy with radiation and chemotherapy did not work well. The new thinking is: why not stimulate the immune system to such an extend that it becomes newly activated, but to such a degree that there is no chance for the cancer cells to fight back. I searched the recent literature on PubMed regarding this topic and came across several other interesting human clinical trials. They are all smaller, but very encouraging. Here is a brief summary of what I found:

Multiple Myeloma Cured With Measles Vaccine

Multiple Myeloma Cured With Measles Vaccine

1. Prostate cancer vaccines: In this article a review of the use of various vaccines with dendritic cells, viruses, or DNA are described directed against the prostate-specific antigen on the surface of prostate cancer cells. 

2. Pancreatic cancer: This cancer is very difficult to detect in the early stages and as a result the outlook for chemotherapy or radiotherapy is extremely poor. Several approaches have been tried to use as an alternative. Immunotherapy is an option and the Mayo clinic researchers have already announced that the measles vaccine approach will likely be applicable to pancreatic cancer treatment as well in the near future. However, other clinical trials are on the way to use other vaccination procedures.

3. Cervical cancer: The HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine is targeting patients exposed to the high-risk HPV16 strain most often causing cervical cancer. However, researchers have noticed that in some cases a phenomenon called the “HPV immune escape” has allowed in some vaccinated women to still develop cervical cancer. So, a group of researchers are investigating how the vaccine could be improved by finding out how the immune system is being tricked in these cases by the HPV virus to bypass the antibodies of the vaccine.

4. Brain tumors (glioblastoma multiforme): This deadly brain tumor has a survival rate of only 15 months with conventional combination therapy. However, new anti-tumor vaccines are being tested in clinical trials, which already have shown much less toxicity than conventional therapies and they have longer survival times.

5. Melanoma treated with special vaccine: In the early 1970’s the anti tuberculosis vaccine BCG was used to find that about 25% of patients had long-term survival advantages with this adjuvant treatment. Recently several smaller clinical trials involving end stage melanoma patients utilizing various vaccines showed encouraging results with tumor regressions. Melanoma is a particularly vicious pigmented skin tumor. And yet, when messenger RNA (mRNA) was combined with dendritic cells and made into a vaccine, the antigen presenting T-cells that previously did not react against the melanoma tumor suddenly became very active destroying the tumors. This line of immune treatment is very promising and clinical trials continue to go on.

6. Another multiple myeloma treatment approach: Apart from the measles vaccine approach mentioned at the beginning of this blog, there is another approach that is being pursued at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center where immune cells of patients with multiple myeloma are being modified in tissue culture to be more aggressive against a CS1 marker that is expressed on the surface of 95% of multiple myeloma cells in patients with this deadly cancer.  The modified T cells are grown in culture and are re-injected into the patients. In mice this research team found that 100% of animals treated with these CS1 activated T lymphocytes were alive at 44 days after treatment was started versus only 29% and 17% of two control groups. A phase I clinical trial on patients is being started soon.

Conclusion:

The encouraging news is that several of the clinical trials on humans seem to be showing breakthroughs with better survivals than in the past. In addition it is also encouraging to see that these new treatment modalities are non-toxic treatments, which compare very favorably with traditional chemotherapy and radiotherapy methods. Also, there is some recognition among cancer researchers that although mice or other animal species may be a good first screening method, the ultimate goal is to treat human patients. This means that cancer researchers need to concentrate on human cell lines and work with cancer patients. It will be interesting to see the outcome all of these trials and new approaches; hopefully we will see better survival rates for these patients in the near future.

More information on multiple myeloma: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/bone-cancer/multiple-myeloma/

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014

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Apr
30
2014

Overuse Of Supplements Can Create Health Risks

The Dietary Supplement Health And Education Act of 1994 made it easier for people to acquire supplements and vitamins from health food stores. But since then there has been a proliferation of various products that are sold as supplements and not as drugs. It may give you the impression that all supplements are harmless, but this is not so. There are some supplements like vitamin A where you need to watch that you are not inadvertently overdosing, as toxicity is a problem; calcium supplements are also potentially toxic, if overdone. And amino acid supplements (protein supplements) can lead to an overdose of brain hormones. Here is a sample of some of the supplements that I would want you to watch.

1.Vitamin A toxicity:

Vitamin A is essential for normal night vision, for red blood cell production in the bone marrow and for the immune system. Here is a brief review about its metabolism. But while small amounts are beneficial for the body, high doses are toxic. In the 19th century the Arctic explorer Elisha Kane reported that consumption of polar bear liver caused severe headaches, drowsiness, irritability and vomiting within a few hours of ingesting it.

It is now known to be due to “pseudotumor cerebri”, a condition that mimics a brain tumor, but is caused by an acute overdose of vitamin A contained in liver (Ref. 1).

In the US where people eat enough meat, fish and dairy products, there is no overt vitamin A deficiency. Read this link to avoid overdosing with vitamin A in multiple supplements.

Overuse Of Supplements Can Create Health Risks

Overuse Of Supplements Can Create Health Risks

2. Vitamin C:

Vitamin C is an important antioxidant vitamin and is needed as a co-factor for many metabolic reactions. It is participating in the production of collagen and connective tissues, helps with fatty acid transport and is necessary for the synthesis of neurotransmitters in the brain (Ref.2). The lack of vitamin C is known as scurvy; symptoms include bleeding gums from fragile capillaries, delay in wound healing and impaired bone metabolism. Although in the earlier research it was hoped that vitamin C would prevent colds and cure cancer, more recent reevaluations found that it does not prevent you from getting colds, but it accelerates the recovery from colds by cutting down the recovery time by as much as 25 to 30% and it also does have some cancer protective effects (Ref.2). Higher doses seem to be more beneficial, but 1500 mg per day seems to now be the consensus of a reasonable upper dose limit per day.

What about kidney stones? Several studies in the past have warned about vitamin C being broken down in some people into calcium oxalate kidney stones. Here is a brief review of the literature with regard to kidney stone formation. A study regarding the DASH diet, which is used for people with high blood pressure, showed that the incidence of kidney stones is almost half for both men and women compared to controls on a normal North American diet.

There has been a concern among the medical community that vitamin C as a supplement would increase kidney stones (oxalate stones). However a 2014 study showed that when both vitamin C and vitamin E are taken as supplements, the kidney stone formation goes down.

Many inhabitants of industrialized countries including the population in the US and other countries are magnesium deficient and this can be a major factor for forming calcium oxalate stones. But it has been known for decades that those who develop kidney stones excrete more oxalates in their urine (so-called “oxalate excreters”). Here is a 1996 study that measured this in detail.

If you are taking in a lot of green smoothies from green leaf vegetables (spinach, kale, Swiss chard) that are high in water-soluble vitamins, you may not require any vitamin C supplements. In other words, think about what else you do and eat and add it up, so you do not exceed a total of 1500 mg to 2000 mg of vitamin C per day.

If you are taking in a lot of green smoothies from green leaf vegetables (spinach, kale, Swiss chard) that are high in water-soluble vitamins, you may not require any vitamin C supplements. In other words, think about what else you do and eat and add it up, so you do not exceed a total of 1500 mg of vitamin C per day.

3. Calcium supplements:

Calcium is a key mineral in the body, important not only for healthy bone structure, but also to balance the electrolytes within the blood, in the extra cellular fluid space and within our cells. If calcium is low, the brain is more prone to seizures and the heart can produce dangerously irregular heart beats. We definitely need a balance of calcium! Because calcium is so central to our wellbeing, several factors work together to keep our calcium levels stable: the kidneys, the thyroid, the parathyroid glands, the adrenal glands, the bone as a reservoir of calcium, the gastrointestinal tract for absorption and a good, balanced nutrition. The chapter on “Vitamins and Minerals” of Ref.3 points out that 4000 mg of calcium per day definitely causes toxicity (hypercalcemia and milk-alkali syndrome).

Absorption is dose dependent meaning that only 500mg of calcium carbonate is absorbed at a time. Vitamin D3 deficiency leads to reduced calcium absorption. But with high doses of vitamin D3, which is now often recommended, more calcium is absorbed, so it is important not to take too many calcium supplements. They can also interfere with iron and zinc absorption and when more than 2600 mg of calcium is taken magnesium absorption is inhibited as well. Calcium can interfere with thyroid hormone supplements (take 4 hours apart) and may reduce the effect of calcium channel blockers, drugs used for angina or high blood pressure.  There is a balance between calcium stored in bone (99% of total body calcium) and the circulating portion of 1% of calcium in the blood. The parathyroid hormone and calcitonin are also involved in this balance. Hypercalcemia is the condition when calcium is too high. Common causes are the improper use of diuretics (thiazide diuretics), overuse of calcium carbonate supplementation (often for osteoporosis) and overuse of vitamin D3, which increases the absorption of calcium (Ref.3). See your family doctor for blood tests and advice what to do in your case.

4. High protein diets and protein (amino acid) supplements:

Many protein supplements are available through health food stores and vitamin stores. The advertisers often state that our food would be substandard and these supplements would help “to regain strength”.  Athletes hope to get stronger muscles from amino acid supplements because they are the building block for protein that builds up muscles. Fact is that no supplements are needed when you eat balanced meals containing meat and fish and you exercise regularly. The protein in your food will be broken down into amino acids and your body metabolizes this into your own protein. Here is a website that reviews the subject of supplementation with amino acids.

It is clear from this that this is a rather complex problem. Vegetarians may require these supplements to replace protein for the missing meat intake. But the rest of us have to guard ourselves against overdosing with too much meat, amino acids supplements or protein supplements.

High protein diets (Atkins diet and others) have been glorified as being helpful for weight loss. But the long-term effect of such diets lead to chronic kidney damage in those with diabetes and high blood pressure as evidenced by protein leakage in the urine (called ”microalbuminuria”, Ref.4).

According to this reference the average protein requirement is 0.6 g of protein/kg body weight/day. This text comments that this would be compatible with the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation for protein intake. For a person weighing 140 lbs. this translates into about 50 grams of protein per day. Here is a website that explains the upper limit of meat intake with the example of an 8-ounce portion of top sirloin steak.

Protein supplements have become very popular, but you need to be careful when you supplement with this that you do not get an overdose of amino acids. Amino acid profiling has been useful for physicians and naturopaths to examine deficiencies in children or adults checking for essential amino acids in the blood.  However, in the industrialized countries such as the US, Canada and others the larger concern is now the overuse of meat in our food (e.g. Atkins-like diets) and protein supplements. The same amino acid screening tests will find several of the ingredients (amino acids) in these protein supplements to be too high. In this case it is imperative to stop the protein supplements to prevent amino acid toxicity.

This study warns that not enough is known how performance-enhancing supplements affect the metabolism of the body. There are discussions that perhaps upper limits for amino acid supplements need to be established:

5. Creatine supplementation:

Other supplements of concern are creatine supplementation in the sports-minded and in athletes who want to build up muscle mass. Creatine is synthesized by the liver form amino acids derived from fish and meat that is broken down into the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine. So, there is no shortage, but athletes and sports minded people want to push the envelope and take in additional creatine that helps their energy metabolism (ATP production) in the muscles to increase their performance (Ref. 5) Creatine is vital for the brain, the heart, the kidneys and the eyes (retina). It is a buffer for lactic acid during anaerobic exercise. Some of the side effects are muscle cramps, diarrhea, fluid retention and kidney failure when exposed to high heat and dehydration. There are no long-term studies of the use of creatine supplements, yet some athletes are taking them long-term.

Conclusion:

We are tempted by various merchants and infomercials to take in more and more vitamins and supplements including protein and amino acid supplements. But when you eat well-balanced meals, preferably organic food, you already have enough protein, nutrients, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin A contained in food. So you may be inadvertently putting a strain on your kidneys that have to eliminate whatever it is that is too much for your body to take. Your liver may also be quietly working overtime as well. Your brain gets overactive by the surplus of amino acids that are utilized by the brain to make brain hormones. Your system can only take so much; at one point a surplus of supplements will make you sick! So, be vigilant and think about what your regular food intake already provides. Do you really need that supplement or do you already get enough from your food intake? Are you falling for some marketing scheme? Remember, you are the steward of your own health!

References:

1.Shannon: Chapter 69: The Vitamins. Haddad and Winchester’s Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose, 4th ed.© 2007 Saunders

2. Mandell: “Water-Soluble Vitamins”. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th ed. © 2009 Churchill Livingstone

3. Rakel: Chapter “Disturbances in Calcium and Phosphate” and chapter entitled “Vitamins and Minerals”. Textbook of Family Medicine, 8th ed. © 2011 Saunders

4. “High Dietary Protein Intake” in “Taal: Brenner and Rector’s The Kidney”, 9th ed. © 2011 Saunders

5. DeLee: DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine, 3rd ed. © 2009 Saunders

Last edited April 30, 2014

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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

Feb
15
2014

Melatonin More Than A Sleeping Aid

Melatonin has been available to the public in the US since 1992. It is usually used as a sleeping aid or for jet lag related sleeping problems. However, in the last decade much more data about melatonin has come out that has proven that melatonin is a major hormone. The pineal gland contains another brain hormone, serotonin, which is converted into melatonin within that gland. Melatonin is a key hormone that regulates the sleep/wake cycle. It works in concert with cortisol, which has the highest level in the morning while melatonin has its highest level in the evening and during the night. Melatonin also regulates the menstrual cycle and determines when women get into menopause.

Lately new information has come to the forefront showing that there are connections to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke size and recovery from strokes. Even traumatic brain injury can be minimized when enough melatonin is present. In addition melatonin is an important anti-oxidant.

Finally, there is evidence that melatonin helps to determine how well we age.

In the following I like to review some of the evidence for all of these claims.

1. Melatonin as a hormone

Melatonin levels were found to be very low in breast cancer and prostate cancer patients. It has been determined that the immune cells have melatonin hormone receptors and need melatonin for stimulation. Because of the immune stimulatory effect of melatonin, it is often given as a cancer adjuvant treatment to other cancer treating modalities. Ref. 1 describes that melatonin regulates the female hormones (LH, FSH), which then determine when a woman has her menstrual period and also when she eventually enters menopause. The pineal gland is the master gland for the diurnal hormone rhythms.

Melatonin More Than A Sleeping Aid

Melatonin More Than A Sleeping Aid

2. Melatonin levels decline with age

Melatonin levels in both men and women decline as we age. This figure shows that the highest melatonin levels are reached by the age of 10; by the age of 40 only 15% of the youthful levels remain while by the age of 55 only 5% or less of the original youthful levels are left. This explains why older people are more prone to infections (missing immune stimulation) and why the sleep pattern in older people is changed (shorter periods of sleep, less restful sleep). Ref. 1 points out that with insulin resistance (from diabetes or due to excessive sugar and starch consumption) cortisol levels are chronically elevated, which in turn inhibits melatonin production.

3. Melatonin protects from neurodegenerative diseases

A newer application of melatonin is as a preventative in the neurological field, particularly in the area of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and the prevention of strokes. With respect to Alzheimer’s disease studies have shown that patients with Alzheimer’s have much lower melatonin blood levels when compared to age matched normal controls. In ischemic stroke patients it was found that stroke patients had much lower melatonin levels when compared to normal age-matched controls. Other studies have shown that pineal gland calcification was associated with low melatonin levels and a high risk for ischemic stroke. This risk was even higher when the patients had high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol/triglycerides. When a stroke has occurred, it is important that the free radicals are removed as quickly as possible, which is where the antioxidant properties of melatonin fit into a rehabilitative program. The presence of melatonin enhances brain plasticity. However instead of using melatonin after a stroke, it is much better to use melatonin regularly before a possible stroke, as this gives a better chance reducing the size of the stroke. This in turn will lead to a faster and more complete recovery after a stroke.

Another important disease of the elderly is Parkinson’s disease. Melatonin helps to prevent oxidative damage to the dopamine producing cells in the basal ganglia thus preventing Parkinson’s disease. As with Alzheimer’s disease, there is a correlation of low melatonin levels and this neurodegenerative disease, which goes beyond the age-related reduction of melatonin levels. In experimental Parkinson’s disease models in mice melatonin was highly effective in preventing deterioration of Parkinson’s disease.

4. Melatonin may extend life

The combination of being a free radical scavenger, an immunostimulant and an integral key hormone allow melatonin to have beneficial effects in the aging process. When melatonin supplements are given, the stimulation of the immune system can cut down infection rates in the elderly, prevent and mitigate degenerative diseases of the brain (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s), re-establish sleep/waking rhythms and help reduce arthritis.

Conclusion

Melatonin is a widely used sleep aid. As it is practically absent in people beyond the age of 55, it makes sense to supplement with melatonin in that patient group. However, there are side effects particularly in people on blood thinners as coumadin competes with melatonin in getting eliminated through the cytochrome P450 liver enzyme system. This will result in longer bleeding times in patients on blood thinners who also take melatonin supplements. It is important that patients discuss this with their doctors. However, given all of the benefits described above, for the vast majority of the baby boomers melatonin supplementation would be very beneficial. Doses as a sleep aid vary between 1mg and 5mg at bedtime for most people. Cancer patients require higher doses (10 to 20 mg per day).

More information on melatonin, which is at the center of the circadian hormone rhythm as the key hormone switching from day to night and welcoming the day by switching its secretion from the pineal gland off in the morning: http://www.askdrray.com/how-to-cope-with-time-switches/

Reference

1. Datis Kharrazian: “Why isn’t my brain working?” Copyright 2013, Elephant Press, Carlsbad, CA, USA (pages 306-310).

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Feb
08
2014

Sugar As A Cause Of Cancer

It has been known for a long time that cancer cells can survive without the ordinary aerobic pathways of energy production. They can get energy from a metabolic pathway, which bypasses normal cell metabolism (aerobic glycolysis). But many attempts of designing a cancer therapy to exploit this difference have so far been unsuccessful.

This Mayo Clinic website even explains that it would be a myth that cancer would grow better with sugar. The following pieces of research question this myth.

Sugar makes cancer grow faster (activates oncogenes) in fruit flies

In this study from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City fruit flies were used as an animal model. You may ask, why fruit flies; we are not fruit flies, we are humans! As incredible as it sounds, on a cellular level our cell metabolism and the cell metabolism of fruit flies is identical. But the generation time of fruit flies is much shorter and results can be seen in days and weeks. To achieve the same in human trials would take months and years. Also, researchers could breed a strain of fruit flies that was susceptible to develop tumors. When they were fed sugar, the fruit flies developed insulin resistance within a short time. This model was chosen by the researchers as it is known for some time that in humans insulin resistance from diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic diseases leads to a higher risk of developing breast cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer and pancreatic cancer. The researchers wanted to sort out what the metabolic advantage of the cancer cells was under these conditions.

The researchers found that the sugar in the diet activated silent cancer causing genes (called “oncogenes)” in the fruit flies that in turn helped to promote insulin resistance and the development of tumors. Because of the insulin resistance sugar could not enter into the normal body cells, but the tumor was using up all of the sugar allowing the tumor cells to multiply at a rapid rate. The end result was that the sugar from the diet fed the cancer cells directly making them grow faster. Interestingly, when these flies that had developed tumors on a high sugar diet were switched to a high protein/low sugar diet, the tumors stopped growing and were contained.

In this fruit fly example the researchers were subsequently able to block cancer cell growth by special cancer suppressing drugs (acarbose, pyrvinium and an experimental drug AD81), which were given in combination. 90% of the flies given the triple-drug treatment survived to adulthood while control flies not treated with this regimen all died of their tumors.

Although this model was only done in fruit flies and one could question whether or not this was relevant to what is happening in human cancer patients, the following piece of research puts this fear to rest.

Sugar As A Cause Of Cancer

Sugar As A Cause Of Cancer

Human breast cancer cell study in vitro

In January 2014 the American Society for Clinical Investigation published a collaborative study between the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California, CA and the Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan, which used human breast cells in tissue culture showing that sugar could cause breast cancer.

The original papers of this US/Japanese research team are quite technical and I do not expect you to understand this link where it is published. I posted it for those who want in depth information. The researchers used a simple tissue culture model where they could observe tumor growth in cell cultures under the microscope using a gel where the breast tissue samples were placed side by side with normal breast cells that served as controls. The cell cultures of both normal cells and malignant cells were obtained from the same reduction mammoplasty tissue samples. This way the cell cultures mimicked a situation as close to the reality of what is going on in a woman’s body when breast cancer develops.

The normal breast epithelial cells were seen in culture to get organized as a roundish cell formation (an acinus formation) while the cancer cells were growing as irregular cell clumps. This visual effect was reproducible and is depicted in the paper. With high sugar concentrations in the growth medium breast cancer cells multiplied at a faster rate, not so the normal cells. But some normal cells underwent a transformation into abnormal and cancerous cell types. On the other hand, when sugar concentrations were severely restricted, morphological changes took place where cancer cells slowed down their growth or stagnated while some of them even changed into the normal cell formation (acinus formation). Using various known oncogene stabilizers the investigators could show that the same effect was noted as with the low sugar concentration in the growth medium.

The investigators tested whether other cell lines of breast cancer would show similar results as to the effects of sugar feeding or restriction. They were able to show that high sugar feeding activated cancer cells, no matter where the cancer cell lines originated. The authors discussed that metformin, which is known to control the metabolism in diabetic patients and lowers blood sugar levels, has also been shown to calm down growth of cancer (due to stopping oncogene stimulation), which improves the survival rates of many different cancer types in diabetic patients; it also reduces the risk of developing cancer in those who are taking metformin.

Other investigators have shown in mouse experiments that an impressive lowering of cancer rates could be achieved with low carb diets.

Human evidence for cancer causation and cancer prevention

Several clinical studies seem to indicate that there is a higher cancer rate in diabetics where insulin resistance can lead to activation of cancer producing genes (called oncogenes) and cause various cancers. In this link colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer are discussed in relationship to diabetes and insulin resistance. High glycemic foods (sugar, starchy foods) were associated with breast cancer, colorectal cancer and endometrial cancer. The majority of trials showed this association although not all. The more obese patients were, the more pronounced the insulin resistance was and the more the relationship to these cancers became apparent. A diet that is high in starchy foods like potatoes, rice and bread is causing pancreatic cancer as was shown by researchers at the Dana-Faber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health. High glycemic diets have shown to cause colorectal cancer, diabetes and being overweight. The Standard North American Diet (SAD) is a pathway to many chronic illnesses due its high load in refined carbohydrates. Ironically the abbreviation for it is “SAD”, which in my opinion reflects adequately its sad influence on health and well being. We know now that sugar and starchy foods lead to insulin overproduction, which in turn causes the metabolic syndrome (also known as “insulin resistance”). This causes the immune system to weaken and fat to be deposited as visceral fat in the stomach area. Visceral fat is metabolically very active as it secretes cytokines like tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha), COX-2 enzymes and others. Insulin and growth factors from the visceral fat gang up together with the elevated blood sugar, which activates tumor-producing genes (oncogenes) to cause cancer.

While cancer rates are higher in patients with insulin resistance, they were lower in patients who did have normal insulin levels. It is important to concentrate your efforts on normalizing weight, which will normalize insulin sensibility and avoid the development of cancer. Sugar avoidance and avoidance of cereals and starchy foods will help you achieve this goal.

Conclusion

Although the idea that sugar could cause cancer has been around since 1924 (Dr. Warburg), it has taken up to now to be proven in animals and humans.

The purpose of this blog was to show how there is a connection between the consumption of sugar and starchy foods and various cancers in man. Animal experiments are useful in suggesting these connections, but many clinical trials including the Women’s Health Initiative have shown that these findings are also true in humans. It is insulin resistance due to sugar and starch overconsumption that is causing cancer.

We are now in a position to know why people who consume a low carb diet, develop less cancer than people who consume a high carb diet. I have followed such a low carb diet (also known as low-glycemic index food diet) since 2001 and find it easy to follow. However, I do not dispute that it takes some discipline to change the old way of eating to the new one. The benefits are definitely worth it: you are feeling well now and you are staying well as you age.

More information about hyperinsulinism that can cause breast cancer: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/breast-cancer/causes-breast-cancer/

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Feb
01
2014

Early Alcohol Use Will Result In Memory Loss Later In Life

Researchers found that heavy alcohol use in males during midlife paves the way to memory loss from dementia later in life.

I thought that this would be a good topic to review the effect of alcohol in general. Alcohol is a known cell poison, yet cardiologists keep on referring to the beneficial effects of that 1 glass of wine per day that will prolong your life. I will attempt to explain these diverse effects, where small amounts are supposed to be good for you while high amounts can be very damaging.

Review of the effects of alcohol

50% of the world population drinks alcohol, 10% to 20% have chronic alcoholism (Ref.1).  Just recently a Guardian news study was released showing that an astounding 25% of Russian men die before reaching the age of 55, compared to only 7% of men in the United kingdom and less than 1% of men in the US. The study looked at the effects of consuming large amounts of vodka.  There are about 10 million chronic alcoholics in the US. Chronic alcohol consumption leads to 100,000 deaths every year in the US. More than 50% of these deaths are from traffic accidents, the rest from medical problems caused by alcohol (Ref.1). Most of the alcohol gets detoxified through the liver cells and is metabolized into acetaldehyde. This involves the cytochrome P-450 system. That means that when a person also takes narcotics, sedatives or psychoactive drugs that are also metabolized through this liver enzyme system drugs and alcohol are taking much longer to be metabolized. This can lead to lethal overdoses that we hear about on TV all the time, hence the warning that you must not mix alcohol with drugs.

Early Alcohol Use Will Result In Memory Loss Later In Life

Early Alcohol Use Will Result In Memory Loss Later In Life

Alcohol is a cell and nerve poison. The most vulnerable organs in the body are the liver, brain, heart, pancreas, bone marrow and stomach. So, here are a number of conditions caused by drinking alcohol:

a)    Anemia: When a person drinks heavily and regularly anemia shows up in a blood test. Alcohol has a toxic effect on the bone marrow, which interferes with the production of red blood cells. But certain vitamins required by the bone marrow to manufacture red blood cells are often also missing in the diet of an alcoholic, which contributes to anemia as well.

b)    Cirrhosis of the liver develops in 10% to 20% of heavy drinkers. With cirrhosis part of the liver cells get replaced by fibrotic tissue and in advanced cases this can lead to a hepatic coma and death. Others are developing alcoholic hepatitis. This is an inflammation of the liver with fever and jaundice where the skin and eyeballs turn yellow. It is associated with severe abdominal pain.

c)    Gastritis: Alcoholic gastritis is common, but often undetected. The affected individual may just have stomach pains for a few days, or vomit food and/or blood in addition. With continued use of alcohol it may turn chronic. Alcoholic gastritis can turn into gastric ulcers with massive bleeding that often lead to death.

d)    Pancreatitis: The pancreas is a particularly vulnerable glandular tissue, which gets damaged by regular alcohol intake and with chronic alcohol intake gets partially replaced by fibrotic tissue causing the feared and painful chronic pancreatitis. This is a condition with vomiting and severe abdominal pains that can be unrelenting.

e)    High blood pressure, seizures, dementia, depression, heart irregularities and nerve damage:

You may ask yourself how all of these conditions would be reasonably under one heading. The heading for this is “nerve damage”. Let me explain: The sympathetic nerve is very sensitive to alcohol toxicity and when the sympathetic nerve fibers are damaged, you will develop high blood pressure. You see your physician, get blood pressure medication, but the pressure is difficult to control, if you continue to drink alcoholic beverages. It does not make sense to just add blood pressure pills and hope that this will cure your problem. Seizures are due to direct nerve damage in the more sensitive parts of the brain, which will cause these areas to produce extra electrical activities, which we call seizures. Again, just treating with anti-seizure medications is not the solution. Avoidance of alcohol is the other part of the treatment schedule. Dementia from heavy alcohol use is due to direct nerve atrophy in the brain. Our brain shrinks normally 1.9% to 2.8% per decade, depending on which research papers you read. But in the presence of heavy drinking the frontal lobe of the brain is particularly vulnerable to brain shrinkage.

As this publication shows, mild and moderate drinkers did not suffer more frontal lobe shrinkage than abstainers, but heavy drinkers had a 1.8-fold higher risk of frontal lobe shrinkage on average when compared to abstainers. It was calculated that alcohol had contributed 11.3% to that frontal lobe shrinkage.

The rest of the toxic effect on the nerve tissue explains why depression would develop. The frontal brain contains most of the serotonin producing nerve cells. When serotonin-producing nerve fibers get damaged, the body does not produce enough serotonin to prevent depression from setting in; GABA producing cells often also get damaged, which causes anxiety. It’s not good enough to just prescribe anxiolytic drugs to which the patient will get addicted. The whole person needs to be treated, and abstinence from alcohol has to be part of the program.

Heart irregularities (atrial fibrillation, ventricular fibrillation) can be life-threatening complications due to the toxic effect of alcohol on the nerve fibers within the heart muscle. Emergency physicians are aware of the connection of these conditions to alcohol consumption. Some people’s hearts are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol than others. The most common cause of temporary atrial fibrillation is excessive alcohol intake (holiday heart) according to Ref. 2.

Finally there is the effect of alcohol on nerves in the body. This explains that heavy alcohol consumers can come down with painful pins-and-needles sensations in their hands and feet or with numbness or loss of muscle strength. When the parasympathetic nervous system is affected embarrassing incontinence or constipation can result. Erectile dysfunction in men is also very common. Viagra and continuing to drink is not the solution.

f)      Gout: This painful formation of uric acid crystals in joints can be precipitated in sensitive individuals by consuming alcohol in combination with eating large helpings of beef. There may be a history of gout in the family. Treatment for this is to refrain from alcohol and avoid foods that are leading to uric acid production when ingested.

g)    Cancer: When the body detoxifies alcohol in the liver, the breakdown product is acetaldehyde, which is a known cancer producing substance. A whole array of cancers are known, which come from heavy, chronic alcohol consumption: cancers in the mouth, larynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver and colorectal cancer have all been linked to excessive alcohol intake.

h)    Cardiovascular disease: heart attacks and strokes can be caused particularly by binging; it is thought that binging makes platelets from the blood more sticky so they clump together and cause blood clots, which in turn leads to heart attacks and strokes.

i)      Infections: Alcohol weakens the immune system, which is another effect on the bone marrow similar to causing anemia, except that this is the toxic effect on the white blood cells and lymphocytes. Heavy alcohol consumers are more prone to pneumonia, to HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, and tuberculosis.

Cardiology view of preventative alcohol

Despite all of these hair raising toxic effects cardiologists have painted the rosy picture that 1 glass of wine for women and 2 glasses of wine for men per day will prevent heart disease. What is the true story here?

Ref.2 points out that there are about 100 prospective studies that confirm that there is an inverse relationship between mild to moderate alcohol consumption and “heart attack, ischemic stroke, peripheral vascular disease, sudden cardiac death, and death from all cardiovascular causes”. It describes further that the reduction of risk in these various studies was persistent and consisted of a 20% to 45% risk reduction. Using blood tests investigators have found that this is because of an increase of HDL cholesterol, reducing blood clotting, making platelets less sticky and reducing inflammation as evidenced by a reduction of the C-reactive protein. Further research has pinpointed that it is the phenols and resveratrol that are contained in alcoholic beverages that are responsible for the beneficial effects. The bad news is that three glasses of wine or more do the opposite, so does binge drinking. Unless you are extremely disciplined and never increase your allowed limit (1 drink for women, 2 drinks for men) you will CAUSE heart disease rather than PREVENT it (Ref.2). Some people have a family history of breast cancer or colon cancer and they should avoid alcohol altogether; also people coming from alcoholic families should avoid alcohol.

Conclusion

Where does this leave us with regard to prevention of heart attacks, strokes and hardening of the arteries in the legs (peripheral vascular disease)? If you are disciplined and stick to the limits, you could prevent 20% to 45% of cardiovascular risk. The brain study mentioned in the beginning of the blog would also confirm that there was no difference between dementia or brain shrinkage when mild to moderate drinkers were compared to abstainers over 10 years. What is not told by the wine industry is that the same effects that prevent cardiovascular disease in mild to moderate drinkers can also be achieved by natural means: exercising regularly will raise your protective HDL cholesterol; taking ginkgo biloba, flax seed and omega-3 fatty acids thins your blood and the platelets are getting less sticky; omega-3 reduces inflammation and resveratrol elongates telomeres making you live longer. At the A4M conference in Las Vegas in December 2011 there were three speakers who pointed out that even small amounts of alcohol will poison mitochondria of your cells and interfere with normal hormone action. This was enough to make me join those who abstain alcohol completely. One thing has not yet been investigated in long-term studies, namely how small effects of alcohol may affect the body over several decades and over an entire lifetime. Despite all the promises of interest groups that red wine is a trendy drink for those interested in heart health, the fundamental long-term studies are missing. What does a guy do with a healthy heart and a brain that is not functioning too well? I just do not want to be the guinea pig in that worldwide study.

More information on alcoholism: http://nethealthbook.com/drug-addiction/alcoholism/

References:

  1. Kumar: Robbins and Cotran: Pathologic Basis of Disease, Professional Edition, 8th ed. © 2009 Saunders
  2. Bonow: Braunwald’s Heart Disease – A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 9th ed. © 2011 Saunders

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014