Jul
29
2017

Some Drink Milk, Others Are Lactose Intolerant

Some drink milk, others are lactose intolerant; this is the fact about drinking milk.

For a long time the dairy marketing board advertised with the slogan: “Got milk?”. But dairy milk consumption has declined over the past decades.

Why this is has been reviewed in this article. I like to review the problem of lactose intolerance, milk as a source of calcium to prevent osteoporosis and offer alternatives to milk consumption.

Lactose intolerance

Milk cows have been around in Europe for about 6000 years. But not everybody can tolerate milk products. Most of the Europeans, North Americans and Australians have adjusted the digestive enzymes in their duodenum to produce enzymes, called lactase that digest milk sugar (lactose) into glucose and galactose. But up to 75% of the world population (Africa, South America, Asia) is lactase deficient; they cannot tolerate dairy products. They get abdominal cramping, intestinal gas, bloating, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting from drinking a glass of dairy milk. This link explains why goat milk is better than cow’s milk for those who cannot tolerate cow’s milk.

It is also interesting that many people who are lactase deficient can tolerate cheeses, yogurt and other fermented milk products as the fermenting bacteria have digested the lactose.

Other problems with dairy products

Problems with mass production of dairy items are the following:

  • Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) are responsible for the majority of milk products on grocery market shelves. This means that the animals are fed unnatural corn, which leads to deficiencies and omega-6 fatty acids in the milk products.
  • Antibiotics are given to prevent infections among the herds of animals.
  • Bovine growth hormone (bST, bovine somatotropin) is administered to stimulate more milk production. The antibiotics lead to superbugs in humans, the bST may be causing autoimmune diseases and breast cancer in humans. The healthiest milk is milk from grass-fed cows. It is high in omega-3 fatty acids. All of the milk products derived from this type of milk are also healthy.

Milk as a source of calcium

One key advertising slogan of the dairy industry used to be that milk would be such a good source of calcium, which would prevent osteoporosis. But milk also has a lot of animal protein in it, which acidifies blood. This means that the kidneys use calcium to neutralize acidic blood and excrete calcium. The net result is that there is more calcium leaving the body as some of the calcium from the bone is also used to keep the balance between acidity and alkalinity.

This 12 year long Harvard Nurses’ Health Study involving 77, 761 women between the ages of 34 to 59 showed that a higher consumption of milk did not protect against hip and wrist fractures.

The myth that full fat milk causes heart attacks and strokes

There is another myth floating around, namely that full fat milk would be bad for the heart because of increased saturated fatty acids. But an Australian study showed that full fat milk is healthier for you than milk with less fat.

After 14.4 years of follow-up the group that consumed the most milk compared to the lowest fat intake group had a 69% lower death rate from cardiovascular disease!

A 2016 study showed that consumption of plain yogurt was associated with better health outcomes on the long term. Be more concerned about the sugar content than the fat content of yogurt!

Prevention of osteoporosis

Too many years have been wasted to sell the false concept of increasing milk consumption (“Got milk?”) for increased calcium intake and possible osteoporosis prevention. It was sold like a mantra: Milk-calcium-osteoporosis prevention. Now we know the real truth behind the false advertising mantra: milk provides protein and calcium, but calcium is poorly absorbed and the acidified blood is alkalinized through calcium from milk and from the bone being excreted into the urine. The end result is a net loss of calcium from the bone, as it is more important to the body to keep the blood’s acid/base stable than to increase the calcium level in the bone. Sadly all the high consumers of milk from the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study ended up having fractures from osteoporotic bones.

Prevention of osteoporosis requires intake of vitamin D3, vitamin K2 and calcium (supplement or diet) as I have reviewed in this blog. In addition regular exercise is also very beneficial as is bioidentical sex-hormone replacement. It is interesting that a large clinical trial that I mentioned in this blog showed after 7 years that there were 35% to 38% less fractures of the hip than in the placebo group. Vitamin K2 is essential to keep calcium in the bones and to keep calcium out of the blood vessel walls. Vitamin D3 is important for calcium absorption through the gut wall and to deposit calcium into bone. Without all of these ingredients it is not possible to prevent osteoporosis.

Alternatives to milk consumption

  1. One obvious step is to replace cow’s milk by goat milk. As you can see from this link, there are many advantages to goat milk. What I find important is the fact that those with lactase deficiency often can tolerate goat milk while they would otherwise react to cow’s milk. There are also many goat milk products like cheese and yogurt, all of which are very healthy. They do not contain any antibiotics or bovine growth hormone (bST), which is only used in cows. Goat milk products are also an excellent source of protein.
  2. You can eat a more vegetable-based diet. A lot of vegetables and fruit have calcium and protein in them.
  3. You can consume almond milk instead of cow’s milk. The downside to know is the fact that almond milk is not a significant source of protein. It has the advantage of being slightly alkaline; this will ensure that the calcium absorbed in the gut will reach the bones as long as you also supplement with vitamin D3 and vitamin K2. The many “fake milk” products such as rice milk, coconut milk and hemp milk are also poor protein sources. The only product higher in protein is soymilk. But soy has its own problems: over 90 % of the crop in North America is genetically engineered, and soy is a known allergen. As of recent, another product based on pea protein is available, and the protein content is excellent, so it is worth looking for it (It is called “Ripple”).
Some Drink Milk, Others Are Lactose Intolerant

Some Drink Milk, Others Are Lactose Intolerant

Conclusion

Drinking milk as a source of protein and calcium has become an obsession a few decades back. In the meantime it turned out that drinking milk tips the acid-base balance in the direction of acidity. This causes osteoporosis, as the kidneys excrete all of the calcium from milk that is absorbed. On top of that even more calcium is taken out from bones to recalibrate the acid-base balance.

Up to 75% of the world population is lactose intolerant. They get sick from drinking cow’s milk. But they usually tolerate goat milk quite well. Considering the fact that antibiotics are used in cow milk production and recombinant bovine growth hormone as well, I have joined the crowd that prefers goat milk instead of cow’s milk. I take the supplements I mentioned for bone maintenance (vitamin D3 and K2) and I get lots of calcium also from vegetables and salads. I have no lactose intolerance, but that’s my take on milk.

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May
28
2016

Two Sides Of Medical Marijuana

The newest craze is to treat menstrual cramps with medical marihuana, but there are two sides of medical marijuana. What women with menstrual cramps may not know is that it is estrogen dominance that is the cause of their symptoms. As women get closer to menopause they ovulate less often, and there are anovulatory menstrual cycles. This leads to a relative loss of progesterone from the corpus luteum that will form less frequently in the small cavity where the cyst with the egg was. Nature designed women’s menstrual cycle with mostly estrogen production in the first half of the menstrual cycle and mostly progesterone production in the second half of her cycle.

Other causes of estrogen dominance

When a woman gains weight, estrogen can also be produced in the fatty tissue due to an enzyme called aromatase. Androgenic hormones, which are testosterone-like and produced in the adrenal glands, get metabolized into estrogen through aromatase. This upsets the balance between progesterone and estrogen. Normally that balance when measured with saliva hormone tests should be higher than 200 to 1. But when progesterone production from the ovaries is missing, or when estrogen production is in overdrive through aromatase, estrogen is dominant. The progesterone to estrogen ratio drops below 200 to 1. This is bad news as it has consequences. It can cause a number of symptoms: migraine headaches, painful menstrual periods, endometriosis, and fibrocystic disease of the breasts with breast pain; even cancer can develop in the cervix, the uterus and the ovaries. Estradiol, the main estrogen compound in women, stimulates cells to divide, when it is not balanced by progesterone. Progesterone does the opposite: it balances the effects of estrogen.

Two sides of medical marijuana: treating symptoms

Drug companies always look out for symptoms that they can treat with a patented drug. The link at the beginning of this blog pointed out that “there are some very sick patients in need” to justify treating them with marijuana. This may relieve their symptoms for as long as they take the chemical compound. But it does nothing for the hormone imbalance. With the next menstrual cycle the symptoms will recur, and the marijuana will be consumed intermittently for years to come. What is worse is that the women think that nothing bad can happen to them: they are just relieving their symptoms. But as pointed out, unbalanced estradiol can give them migraine headaches. It can cause painful menstrual periods with or without endometriosis. Breast pain can be caused from fibrocystic disease. The worst of all is that after decades of estrogen dominance cancer of the cervix, cancer of the uterus and cancer of the ovaries can be caused. This is when drug manufacturers have unwittingly victimized their customers.

Proper treatment of menstrual cramps

1) Premenopausal women: The proper treatment for estrogen dominance because of a lack of progesterone in premenstrual women is to replace the progesterone deficit by bioidentical progesterone cream. Naturopathic physicians and anti-aging physicians understand this and treat it this way. Many practicing physicians including specialists, however, use anti-inflammatories and pain medications to treat this. Replacing the missing progesterone is causal treatment. Treating pain is symptomatic treatment. Treating the cause treats the medical problem properly; symptomatic treatment treats the drug company to a profit at the expense of the patient’s health.

2) Women with obesity: As explained already, estrogen dominance can also be produced from estrogen conversion of androgenic adrenal gland hormones due to aromatase in fatty tissue. The key here is to concentrate on watching the diet and exercising regularly. Even 10 to 20 pounds of weight loss can have significant effects on lowering estrogen production. The treating naturopath or anti-aging physician should measure progesterone and estrogen levels in a saliva hormone test. The progesterone to estrogen ratio should be calculated. If progesterone is missing, this can be added by giving a bioidentical progesterone cream or by taking oral micronized progesterone capsules at bedtime. As mentioned above, this is a causal therapy, and will in time not only cure the painful periods, but will prevent all of the other negative conditions mentioned. And most of all, there are no negative side effects, because the body knows the bioidentical hormones.

Two sides of medical marijuana: side effects of marijuana

Marijuana has real side effects. j can cause high blood pressure, dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, hallucinations, depression and sexual problems. It is unsafe with pregnancy, as it has been shown to be associated with childhood leukemia. Marijuana can cause rapid heartbeats and increases the risk of having a heart attack. Regular use of marijuana is associated with lung cancer and emphysema. There is an association of marijuana use and seizures: in some patients it makes seizures worse, in others it makes them better. But marijuana is a central nervous system suppressant. So it is imperative that you stop marijuana two weeks before any surgical procedure, as the anesthetic and other medicines given during surgery will also depress the nervous system.

Why the difference between hormones and marijuana?

You may ask yourself why there would be such a difference in the side effect profile of hormones versus marijuana? Hormones are natural messenger molecules in the body. They are designed by our genes to communicate between our brain, the hormone glands, and cells in organs with certain hormone receptors. This design helps to ensure optimal balance of our metabolic processes.

In contrast, marijuana is affecting cannabinoid receptors in the brain. There are several subtypes that are defined at this point. But these were only detected because researchers were curious what marijuana was doing. This research is in flux. We do not know enough about the long term side effects of marijuana. We do know that marijuana has central nervous depressive effects, because it is binding to these receptors. This makes these receptors not available for the normal brain function. One of these effects may even be that it would block pain perception for a period of time. But nobody knows how safe this is in the long term.

Another possible effect, which makes it to the media a lot, is a possible anti-cancer effect. Before you get your hopes up, read this thorough review of all the cancer research with cannabinoids. I am afraid that at this point there is no clear evidence to support that cannabinoids help fight cancer persistently. There are occasional cures reported, but this is not a persistent pattern.

Safety of synthetic hormones versus bioidentical hormones

You may have heard of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) that was abruptly ended in 2002. They used synthetic estrogens (derived from horses) and synthetic progestins (bad copies of progesterone). There results were breast cancer, uterine cancer, heart attacks and strokes that developed in patients who took these synthetic hormones. Originally the investigators wanted to show that HRT (hormone replacement therapy) would prevent heart attacks and strokes. It was supposed to also show that osteoporosis would be diminished. But the opposite was true! The synthetic hormones blocked the natural receptors, so the woman’s own hormones could not reach their target cells. Had the investigators used bioidentical hormones, the natural receptors would have been stimulated, and all of the research objectives would have been reached. The WHI was a huge debacle, which showed that drug sponsored research can lead to disasters. The only problem now is that women are scared, as they do not understand what hormones do. The bioidentical hormones, when balanced properly, are harmless. Synthetic hormones from drug manufacturers are interfering with the body’s hormone receptors causing all kinds of serious side effects including cancer. Bioidentical hormones don’t do that.

Two Sides Of Medical Marijuana

Two Sides Of Medical Marijuana

Conclusion

Those who like to push the sale of marijuana will minimize the side effects of marijuana. They will also push testimonials of women who have been helped with regard to painful periods.

You will rarely hear about women who had their hormones analyzed and had been replaced with bioidentical hormones to normalize their estrogen dominance. The latter approach is a safe approach with no side effects, because you are using natural hormones that stimulate your body’s hormone receptors. Synthetic hormones or marijuana are foreign substances to the body, partially blocking cell receptors, which blocks normal cell function. But nobody knows exactly what these chemicals do other than produce a myriad of side effects. Are you really willing to put your health at risk? After reading this, the answer should be clear.

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May
07
2016

Sun Exposure Helps Many Symptoms

For the past few years it has become evident that sun exposure helps many symptoms. Patients with psoriasis have skin plaques on their skin. With sun exposure some of them disappear and the skin appearance improves. Patients with seasonal affective disorder have worsening of their depression over winter. Depression lifts with more sun exposure in the spring. Even a complicated disease like MS, which is more common in the northern latitudes, improves with sun exposure or a move to the southern states.

Osteoporosis: sun exposure has a positive effect

Osteoporosis was the subject of an April 2016 study from Argentina.

The researchers counted the amount of actinic keratosis lesions on the skin of subjects. This correlated well with lifetime sun exposure. Next the occurrence of hip fractures from osteoporosis was measured. The two were correlated. This case control study had 51 patients with hip fractures. Controls were 59 patients from the same hospital without hip fractures. The mean age was 80 years of age. 23.5% of patients with a history of hip fractures were observed to have actinic keratoses. In contrast 40.7 % of actinic keratoses were found in controls. The authors conclude that higher sun exposure is protective of hip fractures, but led to more actinic keratoses. They also stated that higher actinic keratoses rates, which are precancerous skin lesions are a risk for developing skin cancer. It is important to balance risk of osteoporosis from a lack of sun exposure with the risk of skin cancer from overexposure to the sun.

We know that higher doses of vitamin D3 in combination with vitamin K2 and calcium supplementation prevent osteoporosis. Reasonable daily doses are 5,000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day, 200 micrograms of vitamin K2 per day and 500mg of calcium daily.

Psoriasis: sun exposure helps many symptoms

Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition of the skin with plaques and a characteristic skin rash. This February 2016 study from Turkey showed significant differences between women with psoriasis versus controls. Bone density studies showed lower levels in psoriatic females than in female controls. Female psoriasis patients had lower vitamin D levels than female controls. Male psoriatic patients showed no difference from controls. Low levels of vitamin D3 may be triggers for osteoporosis to develop in female psoriasis patients. Inflammation may also be a contributory factor. The C-reactive protein (CRP) was elevated in female psoriasis patients.

Clinical observations have shown for years that the rash of psoriasis patients tends to improve during the summer.

Seasonal affective disorder: sun exposure lifts the mood

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has been known to respond to light therapy. Typically it peaks in the winter months and presents in mostly females who live far away from the equator. They improve when they travel to a sunny spot such as the subtropics or the southern states of North America during the winter months. But light therapy, vitamin D3, antidepressant therapy and counseling the mood swings of seasonal affective disorder will lessen.

In this 2014 study it was shown that depression in older people was not related to the darker months (between October and March). The summer depression rates in older people were identical to the winter depression rates.

In a group of 38 patients with SAD 14 patients were treated with white light visors, 15 with infrared visors and 9 served as a control (visors, no light). Both white light and infrared treated groups showed prevention of SAD while the control group developed SAD.

A 6-week trial was published March 2015. It involved 78 patients (51 Afro-Americans and 27 Caucasians). They all had SAD and were treated with 10,000-lux bright light for 60 min daily in the morning. Caucasians had a response rate of 75%. African-Americans had a response rate of only 46.3%. The investigators found that the symptomatic improvement and the rate of treatment response were the same in both groups. More education resources are needed to treat the Afro-American subgroup of patients. This can overcome the inconsistent application with the bright light.

In a study involving 185 female undergraduates of the Pacific Northwest, vitamin D blood levels were measured and a correlation of low vitamin D with depressive symptoms was found in SAD patients.

In a small study the hypothesis was tested that vitamin D3 in higher doses would be beneficial for SAD patients. Eight subjects were treated with 100,000 I.U. of vitamin D3, while seven subjects received phototherapy. All subjects had their vitamin D blood levels checked. Interestingly the vitamin D3 group improved on all depression scales. The phototherapy did not show improvement on the depression scale. The vitamin D level increased 74% in the vitamin D3 group and 36% in the phototherapy group.

All of these studies seem to indicate that SAD is more common in a younger population while in older people depression seems to be year-round. SAD does respond very well to 1-hour exposure of 10,000 lux of light in the morning.On a sunny day a walk in the sun for 1 hour would be equivalent to being exposed at home with a SAD light. High dose vitamin D3 supplementation makes sense as SAD depression was found to be associated with low vitamin D levels.

Multiple sclerosis: sun exposure makes a difference

Multiple sclerosis (MS) has been shown to be more common in northern latitudes of the northern hemisphere. It is thought that sun exposure leads to higher vitamin D3 production in the skin, which prevents MS. On the other hand, once MS is established it can be ameliorated by sun exposure or high doses of vitamin D3.

This 2015 Australian study showed the same findings with a large group of MS patients.

This 2015 study from Sweden indicates that there is a compelling connection of prevention of MS through sun exposure or the taking of supplements of vitamin D3. In view of this evidence the authors suggest that you should take vitamin D3 supplements for prevention of MS before trials confirm this further.

Sun protection needed to prevent skin cancer

We have been hearing the slogan “slip, slop and slap” for skin cancer prevention. Slip, slop and slap stands for: slip on a shirt; slop on the sunscreen and slap on a hat. This publication dated March 2016 questions whether the precautions have been too zealous.

On the other hand the statistics regarding higher precancerous actinic keratoses in patients without osteoporosis are alarming too. It seems better to use high doses of vitamin D3, which will prevent osteoporosis, depression (SAD), MS and also improve psoriasis. Sun protection has decreased skin cancer, but did not curtail melanoma rates because sunscreen lotion can be penetrated by infrared radiation. This means that you are best advised to stay out of the intense sun between 11AM and 3PM. Use vitamin D3 supplements in higher doses as this protects your skin. Research from England indicates that melanoma patients are usually the ones that are susceptible to melanoma genetically. They also have low vitamin D levels in the blood to a certain degree from skin cancer formation. The researchers recommend strongly that those at risk for melanoma need to be on higher vitamin D3 supplementations. When a patient is diagnosed with melanoma high doses of vitamin D3 should also be used.

Sun Exposure Helps Many Symptoms

Sun Exposure Helps Many Symptoms

Conclusion

It is not a myth: sun exposure helps many symptoms as explained above. Diverse body systems like osteoporotic bones, psoriatic skin and seasonal affective disorder respond to sun exposure. Sun exposure also prevents MS, a degenerative central nervous system disorder. The effects of vitamin D3 can explain some of this effect. It likely stems from sun exposure to the skin. But sunlight has hormonal effects. This occurs through the optic pathways and connections to the hypothalamus. We know that the sun helps combat many symptoms, but more research will be necessary, till we know exactly how it works.

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Aug
07
2015

Sugar As White Death

Sugar is causing disability and mortality to a much higher degree than most people are aware of: a recent study pointed out that worldwide 184,000 deaths per year are attributable to sugar-sweetened beverage consumption; among those there are 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 6,450 deaths from cancers. Those people who developed disabilities from strokes, heart attacks, osteoporosis and severe arthritis measured 8.5 million disability-adjusted life years throughout the world and were related to sugar-sweetened beverages. 4.5% of these were from diabetes that was related to sugar-sweetened beverages.

These statistics are only regarding sugar-sweetened beverages! This does not take into account mortality from sugar in processed foods, in cookies, cakes and candies. It also does not take into account starchy foods like pasta, bread, bagels, white rice etc. that are all digested by amylase in the mouth and in the gut to turn into sugar within half an hour of ingesting them.

In the following I like to give an overview of what sugar does to our system.

History of sugar production

The initial production of refined sugar was developed in India as this review of the history of sugar shows.

In Great Britain the consumption of sugar was 4 pounds per person per year in 1700; it rose to 18 pounds per year in 1800, to 36 pounds per year by 1850 and over 100 pounds per year by the twentieth century. Similar figures are true for the US and in all developed countries. In 1747 the German chemist Andreas Marggraf identified sucrose in beet root. Since then technology was developed to extract sugar from the beet root, which was cheaper to do than extracting it from sugar cane. Both methods are in use today. In addition high-fructose corn syrup has been developed in 1970 and it replaces sugar in many uses, for instance in soft drinks and in processed foods.

Overall we are exposed to sugar in all disguises, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, candies, sweetened yogurt that is sold as “healthy”, power bars that are sugar laden and many more.

Effect of sugar on our bodies

1. Diabetes

As already pointed out above the average sugar consumption has increased from 4 pounds per person in 1700 to above 100 pounds per person in our time. Our poor pancreas has to cope with this additional burden of sugar and if it can’t, we get diabetes. The CDC says that in 2008 there were 8 cases of new type 2 diabetes cases per 1000 people in the US. The CDC projects that in 2050 this number will likely increase to 15 new cases of type 2 diabetes per 1000 people.

This shows you that the capacity of the human pancreas is limited. There is a breaking point regarding our insulin production. The insulin production has a limit, because the insulin producing cells in the pancreas can only produce a limited amount of this sugar-clearing hormone. When this point is reached the person is said to have developed diabetes. Diabetes causes heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, blindness and circulation problems in the legs leading to amputations.

2. Cardiovascular disease

Diabetes is not the only problem that sugar causes. Our cardiovascular system is suffering because sugar makes the liver produce more LDL cholesterol that gets oxidized by sugar; the triglycerides are rising as well with continued sugar intake and with too much sugar intake there is excessive weight accumulation causing type 2 diabetes. This leads to more lipids in the arterial walls, called arteriosclerosis. The end results are heart attacks and strokes.

3. Cancer

It may not be obvious how sugar intake can lead to cancer. But sugar has been found to oxidize tissues and in the process produce dangerous free radicals. This causes chronic inflammation leading to mutations in the DNA of cells and weakening of the immune system. This will in time lead to cancer. Many cancer researchers have investigated this in detail in the last decades. I reviewed this in this blog, if you would like more information about it.

4. Brain atrophy and Alzheimer’s disease

Sugar overconsumption has been found to be one important factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, which is associated with the development of brain atrophy. Brain atrophy is just the mirror lesion in the brain that comes from hardening of the arteries. Brain atrophy develops when not enough nutrients and oxygen reach your brain cells. Part of the brain surface dies off and memory cells are lost. The end result is dementia or Alzheimer’s. Read more about this here.

5. Arthritis can come from sugar overconsumption

As I have summarized in this blog arthritis often is due to over consumption of processed foods including sugar products.

As I am explaining in this blog Dr. Hoffer has developed a simple supplementation for arthritis that will reverse the metabolic changes that are associated with arthritis. But you must switch to a Mediterranean diet without sugar and starchy foods, if you want to experience relief from your arthritis symptoms.

6. Low fat diet not helpful to reduce heart attack rates

As I pointed out before the low fat diet that was popular in the 1980’s until the early 2000’s did not help reducing heart attacks.

The low fat diet was laden with sugar, meaning that it was a low fat, high carb diet, and all of the problems I described above with weight gain, high LDL, high triglycerides and the development of diabetes caused more heart attacks and strokes. The real solution to preventing obesity and lowering heart attacks and strokes is to use a low carb/low to medium fat diet like the Mediterranean diet.

7. We need our muscles in older age

When we eat too many carbs from chocolate, candy, donuts and pasta there is not enough quality protein in our food to feed our muscles. If this is combined with a lack of exercise we are in double trouble of having flaccid muscles. This leads to falls and fractures, but is entirely preventable by eating a proper diet and exercising regularly.

8. ADHD can be fuelled by sugar

I have reviewed ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and mentioned that sugar and gluten sensitivity may be part of the problem. It is important to sort out nutritional factors by going through an elimination diet. Often our Western style diet (sugar and fat rich) is making things worse for the child with ADHD.

Apart from other measures avoiding sugar is very important for the ADHD patient.

9. Chronic inflammation

What causes chronic inflammation in the body and is responsible for both hardening of the arteries as well as arthritis? If you guessed sugar intake, you guessed right. I explained this in detail in this blog.

This concept is one of the biggest new things in the 21st century. The research goes back to the mid-nineties and culminated in the detection of an inflammatory marker, the C-reactive protein (CRP). The CRP level can now be used as a readily available blood test to detect inflammation in the body. Often this test will be positive in patients with arthritis, autoimmune diseases and cancer.

10. Obesity

Processed food contains wheat and sugar. The problem is that the high gliadin concentration in the Clearfield variety of wheat makes people addicted to food and sugar makes them gain weight. This is the cause of the obesity and diabetes wave. The remedy is to cut out all wheat and sugar as well as starchy foods. Switch to a Mediterranean diet without sugar and starchy foods.

11. Pimples and acne

Who would have thought that acne could come from a combination of sugar and milk products? Careful epidemiological studies have shown that in some regions of Africa, Brazil and Japan teenagers who eat the local food do not get acne, but when they switch to a Western style diet they come down with acne.

12. Tooth decay from too much sugar

Gum infections and severe tooth decay were found in the 1990’s to cause inflammation in the blood, which can be measured by using the C-reactive protein (CRP). Streptococcus viridans, a bacterium that populates gums and teeth can cause subacute endocarditis, a dangerous infectious disease of the heart valves, which can be responsible for sudden death in younger persons. There are other bacteria in the mouth that feed on sugar that we eat, particularly if we do not brush and floss our teeth regularly. This means there is double trouble: Sugar causes cavities and gum disease, but also causes heart attacks and heart valve infections.

Sugar As White Death

Sugar As White Death

Conclusion

When you consider how many organ systems are affected by sugar and starchy food consumption it is no wonder that people say that they feel better when they switch from the standard American diet to a Mediterranean type diet. We do not really want to buy a heart attack, a stroke, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease when we go to the grocery store. But this is what you get in time when you buy the starchy foods and sugar containing processed foods that are in the center part of the grocery store. When I go shopping I always eye the groceries of my neighbor before or after me. Sometimes it is scary to look at the content of some of the shopping wagons. There is bread, potato chips, pretzels, chocolate bars, cookies, and the whole lineup that is really rich in sugar. Healthy yoghurt mixed with sugar has become unhealthy, granola is loaded with honey or maple syrup, jams contain 50% sugar, and on and on it goes. It is sobering to see how illness and disability is for sale, one shopping at a time. The reassuring truth is that you have choices!

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

Jan
18
2014

The Super Powers Of Vitamin D

Originally, when vitamin D was found to be the missing ingredient in preventing rickets in growing children the recommended daily allowance (RDA) to prevent rickets was found to be 400 IU of vitamin D. The active metabolite has been identified as vitamin D3 for which the body has receptors on all vital organs (heart, brain, bones, kidneys, liver). In recent years new insights have been gained as it turns out that the RDA’s were set much too low for many diseases that can develop when vitamin D intake is too low, particularly in the aging population. Higher doses of vitamin D3 in the range of 800 to 1000 IU per day have been shown to prevent osteoporosis, falls and fractures in older adults and in nursing home populations. But the immune system of everybody is dependent on higher doses of vitamin D3. Recently (Dec. 12 to 15, 2013) I attended a lecture at the A4M conference in Las Vegas where Dr. Eisenstein reviewed the latest on vitamin D3. It is now known that 2/3 of the US population is deficient for vitamin D as measured by blood tests (less than 25 ng/ml).  The standard test is the 25-hydroxy-vitamin D level (abbreviated as 25(OH)D level). It is now known that you require at least a level of more than 40 to 60 ng/ml of 25(OH)D as measured in the US, which translates to more than 100 to 150 nmol/L measured in metric units in other countries, to prevent cancer.

The Super Powers Of Vitamin D

The Super Powers Of Vitamin D

Metabolism of vitamin D3

90% of the vitamin D3 that we need comes from exposure to sunlight, which transforms a cholesterol metabolite (7-dehydrocholesterol) into the vitamin D precursor (vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol). This is what we absorb from naturally occurring fish oil and oily fish, but otherwise this does not naturally occur in foodstuffs (Ref. 1). Dr. Eisenstein pointed out that it is well known that people living north of the 37th degree latitude lack vitamin D3 because of a lack of sun exposure, particularly in the winter season. People south of the 37th degree latitude have enough sun exposure, but wherever you live, it is advisable to have your vitamin D3 level measured (as 25(OH)D level). If you do not eat enough fish or fish oil, the levels likely are too low as is the case for 2/3 of the US population. Vitamin D3 supplements will have to be taken by those whose levels are too low. Vitamin D3 is further metabolized by the liver and then by the kidneys into the active vitamin D compound, called 1,25(OH)2D3 (which is called “calcitriol”). The main effect of calcitriol is to absorb calcium and phosphate from the intestine into the blood stream. Together with vitamin K2 as explained in a prior blog these minerals are then taken up by the bone to prevent osteoporosis or rickets in the growing child. What has not been known for a long time is that vitamin D3 is also necessary for normal cell metabolism by most of your body cells, but particularly by the vital organs like the brain, the heart, the kidneys, the liver, the immune system and the bone. However, doses of 5000 IU to 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 capsules per day are required for optimal vitamin D3 health. This will lead to levels of below 200 ng/ml of 25(OH)D levels, which have been proven to be safe. According to Dr. Eisenstein no toxicity has been found below 30,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day, but based on other authors a dose of 10,000IU should be adequate for most people. Strangely enough colored people also have to take vitamin D3 supplements as their the higher melanin pigment in the skin filters out UV light so effectively that their 25(OH)D level can be low. Always err on the cautious side and have your vitamin D3 blood level taken.

Vitamin D3 has a characteristic stereotactic configuration (cis-triene structure), which allows it to bind free radicals and function as an antioxidant (Ref.2).

What are some of the clinical effects of vitamin D3?

1. Vitamin D3 has diverse effects on organs systems as Dr. Eisenstein summarized: vitamin D3 lifts depression and has been found to be of particular value for drug resistant depression. Take 5000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day.

2. Muscle power increases with vitamin D3, particularly in those who work out regularly.

3. Many fertility clinics pay attention to vitamin D3 levels, as the higher the blood levels of vitamin D3 in a man, the faster this sperms move! And the more vitamin D3 she has on board, the better she ovulates. The end result is a higher pregnancy success rate when both partners take 5000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day

4. Also, if a woman takes vitamin D3 during her pregnancy, the first set of teeth in the offspring will have fewer cavities.

5. Brain development in autistic children is much improved with vitamin D3 in higher doses. This needs to be combined with detoxification methods and supervised by one of the DAN physicians.

6.Chronic pain typically improves when vitamin D3 deficiency, which almost always is present in patients with chronic pain, is treated with vitamin D3 supplementation.

7. To prevent flus and colds and other infectious diseases, take higher doses of vitamin D3. When you come down with a flu, it is safe to increase your daily vitamin D3 intake to 30,000 IU of vitamin D3 for a few days until your symptoms improve, then resume your maintenance dose of 5000 IU to 10,000 IU per day.  This year’s dominant flu is the type A, subtype H1N1 – also known as the swine flu. Children should get 50% of the dose regimen detailed for adults when they develop a flu (for children: 15,000IU for three to five days , with tapering to a maintenance dose of 2500 to 5000 IU until blood levels of 25(OH)D are available). Here is a website of Dr. Cannell where he discusses dosages as well.

8. Asthmatic patients do better with vitamin D3 supplements requiring less maintenance anti-asthmatic medicine to keep them balanced with regard to their airways.

9. Chronic low vitamin D3 levels cause brain damage including Alzheimer’s disease. In this context it is important to know that the enzymatic conversion in the liver and kidneys slow down as we age requiring higher doses in older patients. This may have been the reason for the confusion about relatively low doses of 400 IU of vitamin D3 preventing rickets in children versus the need of vitamin D3 in middle aged and older patients where much higher doses are required as already explained.

10. High blood pressure is linked to vitamin D3 deficiency and it is better manageable with medication when vitamin D3 levels are normalized.

11. Live longer with vitamin D3. How is this possible, you might ask: the answer has been found in the telomeres, the shoelace like structures at the end of the DNA strand of each cell. Vitamin D3 lengthens the telomeres and promotes telomere repair; this is associated with a longer life span. Centenarians have longer telomeres. You can measure telomere length, but it is a pricey test, which is not for everyone, contrary to supplementation with vitamin D3 that should be taken by everyone!

12. As already indicated, vitamin D3 strengthens the immune system, but it also modulates the inflammatory response from muscle damage, so athletes can perform better. Patients with multiple sclerosis will improve as it slows down the inflammatory process. But other inflammatory diseases like arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and even cancer will respond favorably to higher doses of vitamin D3 (20,000 to 30,000 IU of vitamin D3 in these cases). This is information that has not yet percolated into mainstream medicine, but will do so in the next few years (or decades?).

13. Higher percentages of cardiovascular disease are found in patients who have lower than 15 ng/ml  25-Hydroxy- vitamin D3 levels in their blood meaning that vitamin D3 supplementation prevents heart disease (Ref.3).

What are toxic vitamin D levels?

What is known about the safety of vitamin D3, particularly the higher vitamin D3 doses? First, it is wise to have your 25(OH)D blood levels taken from time to time. If any of these levels exceed 200 ng/ml it would be prudent to reduce the vitamin D dose or stop supplementation for a while. Otherwise it has been difficult to establish a toxic range.

This website claims that 40,000 IU of vitamin D3 or more would lead to toxic levels where the blood calcium levels would be increased, which can be measured as hypercalcemia. However, another study done in 2007 showed in MS patients that took 40,000 IU per day and that led to a blood level of 400 ng/ml of 25(OH)D did not lead to increased calcium levels and did not lead to hypercalciuria (too much calcium in the urine). So, all of the papers that either indicated to the public that it would be unsafe or unnecessary to take vitamin D3 seem to have other agendas than communicating the truth. Had it been true that calcium would be released from the bones or calcium were absorbed too much from the gut, this would have caused calcification of the bones, soft tissues, heart and kidneys. Also, kidney stones would have developed. However, a low calcium diet combined with corticosteroid drugs usually leads to a full recovery within a month. Interesting that all of the dire predictions regarding toxic vitamin D3 levels did not materialize. Here is another website discussing vitamin D3 dosing.

I talked to a participant of the conference (who has a fellowship degree of the A4M) about what is really known about vitamin D3 toxicity. He told me that there has been an unintentional overdose where a compounding pharmacy made a mistake, so that a patient accidentally received a dosage of 500,000 Units of vitamin D3 per day for a full three months, before the mistake was uncovered. The patient felt sluggish, but did not have any other symptoms. He was told to stop the vitamin D3 compound. He had an uneventful recovery with no detrimental effects. At this point no overdose of vitamin D3 has been established.

Conclusion

Vitamin D3 is a vital supplement that has been shown to prevent not only rickets in children, but also depression, MS, infections and even many cancers (Ref. 4). As usual there will be many critiques that doubt the validity of the above statements. But I have found that all of these effects described above were confirmed in several sources of various medical information. Keep in mind that negative rumours have a tendency to linger on for years.

More information on vitamin D3 for prevention of osteoporosis and hardening of arteries: http://www.askdrray.com/calcium-vitamin-d3-and-vitamin-k2-needed-for-bone-health/

Vitamin D3 deficiency can cause pancreatic cancer: http://nethealthbook.com/news/insufficient-vitamin-d3-linked-to-pancreatic-cancer/

References

1. McPherson: Henry’s Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods, 22nd ed.,  © 2011 Saunders

2. Rheumatic Diseases Clinics of North America – Volume 38, Issue 1 (February 2012) , © 2012 W. B. Saunders Company

3. Wang TJ, Pencina MJ, Booth SL, et al:  Vitamin D deficiency and risk of  cardiovascular disease.   Circulation 117. (4): 503-511.2008.

4. “Recognition and Management of Vitamin D Deficiency”: American Family Physician – Volume 80, Issue 8 (October 2009),  © 2009 American Academy of Family Physicians

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Dec
07
2013

Slow Down Aging And Prevent Disabilities

You have seen it many times before: a man or a woman retires at age 65; for a while you see them around at social functions; then they are not seen any more and they return in a wheel chair only to die prematurely. You ask yourself: what can I do better to avoid this death trap?

There are several aspects to this equation: first, we would like to slow down the aging process. Part of this is to retain our physical functioning. In the following I am discussing the ingredients that are necessary to achieve the goal of aging in dignity, but avoiding disability.

It starts with a healthy mind set

You need to be optimistic and have a mindset of believing in yourself that you can do it. With a negative attitude, you will manage to find something to complain about, no matter how perfect the day has been. Negative thinking is rampant, and depression tends to be higher in the older population. If you suffer from depression or you had negative events such as accidents or abuse in the past, it is important to do some house cleaning. Do not be hesitant seeking professional help and counseling from a health professional to help you build up your self-esteem.

Regular exercise is important

A regular exercise program helps you to get your day organized. If you think that you are too busy to find the time to exercise, you are sacrificing your wellness and in fact you sabotage your health. It’s time to rethink your lifestyle! The reason you need exercise is to set the automatic pilot on staying healthy and active. If you are accustomed to sitting down in front of the computer or television set for hours, your muscles do not get the exercise they need. Fast-forward several decades and you will be one of those who rely on walkers, wheel chairs and assisted living establishments. Without training your muscles you are more prone to falls and injuries. Your balance organ is not getting the impulses it needs on an ongoing basis to prevent you from falls later in life. People in their 80’s are often stable up to the point where they trip and fall. I have seen many patients like this arrive in an ambulance where I was doing my shift as the emergency physician in a community hospital. When I summarize the fate of all of the people in their 80’s who had falls and broke their hips over the years, 50% of them made it through the surgery and went back home (often with a walker or in a wheel chair) or ended up in a nursing home; the other 50% died from complications of the surgery, often from heart attacks during the surgery or from clots in their pelvic veins or in the leg veins that dislodged and turned into pulmonary emboli. A fracture and in particular a hip fracture in your 80’s is a serious, potentially deadly accident. So, you need strong muscles and joints and you need strong bones. All of this comes free to you from years of regular exercise in your 60’s and 70’s.

Slow Down Aging And Prevent Disabilities

Slow Down Aging And Prevent Disabilities

You guessed right: good nutrition is important!

Eat right and your body will function right. This is where a lot of people are sent on the wrong path due to clever advertising from the Agro Industry, Big Pharma, the American Dietetic Association and the United States Department Of Agriculture. So they preach that wheat and wheat products are good for you, but the lab tests show that it induces hyperinsulinemia and leads to diabetes. The genetic changes of wheat (“accomplished” through forced chemical hybridization in the 1970’s) are responsible for the metabolically very active wheat belly (accumulation of visceral fat) that Ref. 1 has described in detail. But others have researched this topic as well. Ref. 2 for instance confirms that gliadin, the glue in wheat, which allows dough to stick and makes it easy to create bread, bagels and pasta, is responsible for neurological issues like numbness of fingers and feet (peripheral neuropathy), balance problems and cognitive decline all the way to Alzheimer’s disease. If you continue to eat wheat and wheat products (all contained in conveniently packaged “processed” foods), you may very well find that your balance and muscle control will deteriorate by the time you are in your eighties. This condition is not new: one of the lecturers I listened to at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario in 1977 referred to those unfortunate individuals who were severely disabled as the “tea and toasters”. The tea in this case was probably the lesser evil, but the wheat induced malabsorption and malnutrition was a reality already in the mid and late 1970’s.

However, if you start eating organic foods to avoid the chemicals and estrogen-like xenoestrogens from pesticides, and you cut out sugar, high-density carbs and wheat products, you will no longer have problems with weight control and you will maintain your muscle, brain and nerve function. This is not what you learn from the regular agencies mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph, but Ref. 1 and 2 will fill you in on the details. Essentially, I follow a Mediterranean diet without sugar, starchy foods and wheat or wheat products. Ref. 2 stressed the importance of enough saturated and healthy fat (omega-3 fatty acid rich oils) in a balanced diet consisting of 20% protein and low carbs. No specific numbers were given regarding the %-age of fat. I would say that a limit of about 25 to 35% for fat would be reasonable except for the Inuit who are used to a fat content in their diet of 80%. The new thinking is that healthy fats are good for your brain and heart. Healthy fats are omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) derived from fish oil as they are very protective (anti-inflammatory) oils, so is olive oil and coconut oil. These latter two are anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fatty acids. Keep in mind that you want to change the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids (the ratio in this link is cited as omega-6 to omega-3) more in the direction of omega-3 fatty acids, so that the ratio will be between 1:1 and 1:3. Most Americans are exposed to ratios of 1:8 to 1:16 (too many omega-6 fatty acids in fast food and processed foods), which leads to inflammation of the arteries as well. Omega-6 fatty acids, found in safflower oil, sun flower oil, grape seed oil and canola oil are bad for you when not balanced by enough omega-3’s (flax seed oil and fish oil) as they lead to inflammation through the arachidonic acid system in the body. It may be a surprise to you that saturated fats are OK: animal fat like butter, lard, cream, ghee (clarified butter), and other animal fats provided they come from clean (not antibiotic or bovine growth hormone treated) animals. Buy organic and buy organic meats as well such as grass fed beef and bison, chicken and turkey.

Here is an example of what a day would look like nutritionally in terms of a breakfast, lunch and dinner (recipes by Christina Schilling):

Breakfast:  Great Greens Omelet

(2 servings)

1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil

3 chopped green onions

3 cups spinach leaves or a mix of greens: kale, spinach, Swiss chard

1 red pepper cut into strips

3 eggs and 3 egg whites

2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano

In non-stick pan sauté green onion, greens and pepper strips in oil, stir eggs and egg whites and pour over the vegetables, sprinkle with Parmigiano. Cook on medium heat, till the egg mixture has started to set. Turn over and briefly let cook. Remove from pan, divide into two portions and sprinkle with a bit of salt (optional). Serve with salsa and guacamole.

Lunch: Oriental Salad

(2 portions)

1 small Sui choy cabbage (Napa cabbage)

2 cups mung bean sprouts

1 small daikon radish, shredded to yield 1 cup

1 red pepper, cut into thin slices

3 green onions, chopped

1 medium sized carrot, cut into matchstick size pieces

1 can sliced water chestnuts, rinsed.

Dressing: 2 tablespoons sesame oil,

2 tablespoons rice vinegar,(light balsamic vinegar works too)

1-tablespoon tamari soy sauce

1 tablespoon Thai sweet chilli sauce

1-teaspoon fresh grated ginger

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Prepare all vegetables and put into salad bowl. Stir all dressing ingredients together and pour over vegetable mix. Stir gently, cover and refrigerate. This salad can be consumed immediately or kept refrigerted for a day. To complete the salad with a protein portion add your choice of 6 oz. cooked shrimp or the same quantity of cubed or sliced grilled chicken.

Dinner:  Florentine Chicken

(2 servings)

1 large boneless chicken breast

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil-alternatively use 1 teaspoon dried basil.

1 tablespoon grated Parmigiano

4 thin slices prosciutto

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tomatoes- cut into halves

3 chopped green onions

2 cups baby spinach leaves

pinch of salt

Spread chicken breast flat and top it with the basil, Parmigiano and prosciutto slices. Fold into half an hold the stuffed chicken breast together at the edges with a toothpick or two. Heat olive oil in frying pan, add onion and tomato slices and put the chicken breast on top. Put lid on the pan, and cook at medium heat till the chicken is cooked through. If you test with a fork, the juices will be clear. Remove vegetables and chicken from pan, put on serving plate and keep warm. Remove toothpicks from meat, and cut chicken breast into two portions. Put spinach into pan and let the leaves wilt at medium heat (cover with lid). Put spinach on the side of the chicken and tomatoes, and sprinkle with a bit of salt.

Dessert after dinner: Berry Sorbet

(2 servings)

2 cups of deep frozen berries (strawberries, blueberries or a berry mix, no sugar added)

¾ cup of organic yogourt or goat’s milk yogurt

a few drops of liquid stevia or small amount of powdered stevia-to taste.

Put into blender and process till smooth. You will have to open the blender jar to stir the contents in between. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream,  if desired.

What about the “slow down” of menopause and andropause?

It is a fact that as we age, our hormone glands do not produce as much hormones as when we were in our 20’s and 30’s. But if you find a health care provider who is interested in anti-aging medicine (there are about 26,000 physicians, chiropractors and naturopaths who are members in the A4M), your hormones can be measured accurately from saliva and blood tests. This will tell whether you are hypothyroid, deficient in sex hormones and whether you should be supplemented with the missing hormones in adequate doses through bio-identical hormones. For instance, women are often deficient in progesterone in menopause and men deficient in testosterone. Treatment needs persistence and patience, as it often takes months for the patient to feel better and up to 2 years, to find the exact balance for you where the hormones are re-balanced and your symptoms of tiredness, insomnia, hot flushes etc. disappear. All our body cells have hormone receptors that require stimulation for the cells to function normally. Your health professional needs to pay attention to this and not just treat your symptoms symptomatically. When your hormones are in balance and you take a few supplements, your bones will be strong (no osteoporosis), your brain will be clear, your hearing perfect, and your balance great. You will be much less likely in your eighties to fall and break a bone and your mind will be clear and sharp.

Stress management

As the baby boomers age, they need to be aware of the stress in their lives. You may have been accustomed to having lots of energy when you were in your child rearing years or in your active professional career. Often we do not even notice that there may be stress in our lives. But your adrenal glands know. This is really a subpart of what I said of hormones: they need to be in balance. But cortisol, which is produced in your adrenal glands, is different from the menopause/andropause hormones. Corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) from the hypothalamus and adrenocorticotrophin hormone (ACTH) from the pituitary gland are the rulers of the adrenal glands. And it is how you handle stress when you are in your 40’s, 50’s and 60’s which will determine whether you come down with adrenal fatigue, various degrees of adrenal insufficiency or not. Ref. 3 is a whole book that deals with this topic. Here I like to mention only that the best test to diagnose adrenal problems is a four-point saliva hormone test for cortisol. You connect the four points and get a curve where the cortisol level is expressed as a function of time. If this curve is below the lower normal range, which the laboratory provides for you, you need to be managed by a knowledgeable health care professional in order to build up the reserves of your adrenal glands. Yoga, meditation, deep prayer, self-hypnosis and enough regular sleep are all proven methods to overcome any stress related issues. Sometimes more effort is needed to rebuild the adrenals by specific herbs or porcine adrenal gland cortex extracts. Your health care provider can tell you more regarding this.

Useful supplements

1. On March 17, 2013 I wrote in a blog about prevention of osteoporosis the following summary:

“The best combination is 1000 mg (or 1200 mg as per National Osteoporosis Foundation recommendation) of calcium per day together with 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D3 (for cancer prevention you may want to take 4000 IU to 5000 IU of vitamin D3 per day instead monitored by a 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood level test through your physician) and 100 micrograms of vitamin K2 (also called MK-7). In the age group above 50 missing hormones such as bioidentical testosterone in men and bioidentical progesterone/estrogen combinations in women should be given as well. This works best, if you also watch your weight, cut down your alcohol consumption to a minimum (or better cut alcohol out altogether), exercise regularly (this builds up bone and muscle strength) and stick to a balanced diet resembling a Mediterranean or zone type diet (low-glycemic,  low fat, wheat free and no sugar).” I would add in view of Ref. 1 and 2 that “low fat” should now be replaced by “balanced fat diet”. With this I mean that nuts, almonds, olive oil, unsalted butter are allowed within reason. Lately there have been new insights that some cholesterol is needed for normal hormone production. What needs to be cut out are omega-6 fats and trans fats.

2. Omega-3-fatty acid supplements from molecularly distilled fish oil at a good dosage (3 to 6 capsules a day) will prevent chronic inflammation that often causes arthritis. Chicken cartilage (UC-II) from the health food store will desensitize your system in case you have rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. This will prevent crippling arthritic disease down the road.

3. Mitochondrial aging (the mitochondria are the energy packages in each body cell) is slowed down by the two supplements ubiquinol (=Co-Q-10, take 400 mg per day) and 20 mg of PQQ (=Pyrroloquinoline quinone). Co-Q-10 repairs DNA damage to your mitochondria and PQQ stimulates your healthy mitochondria to multiply. Between the two supplements you will have more energy.

4. Vitamin C 1000 to 2000 mg per day and a multivitamin supplement help to support the rest of your metabolism. Some may want to add PS (Phosphatylserine) 100 to 200 mg per day, which works together with vitamin D3 for Alzheimer’s prevention.

Conclusion

By now you noticed that nothing comes from ignoring the fact that we are aging. We need to pay attention to our body functions and think about what we can do to make us stronger. In the end we are our own caregivers. When we are in our eighties, we should still be active and our brains should function with a lot more experience than in our past. Our bones will be strong and our balance should prevent us from falling. I do not want to use assisted living and I do not like the confinement of a wheel chair. In the meantime I am going to carry on dancing.

More information on:

1. Fitness: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/fitness/

2. Nutrition: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/

3. Vitamins, minerals and supplements: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/vitamins-minerals-supplements/

References

1. William Davis, MD: “Wheat Belly. Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. HarperCollins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada, 2011.

2. David Perlmutter, MD: “Grain Brain. The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, And Sugar-Your Brain’s Silent Killers.” Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2013.

3. James L. Wilson, ND, DC, PhD: “Adrenal Fatigue, the 21sty Century Stress Syndrome – what is it and how you can recover”; Second printing 2002 by Smart Publications, Petaluma, Ca, USA

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Sep
28
2013

Sleepless Nights

Sleeping problems (insomnia) are very common. About 10% of the population suffers from chronic insomnia; 30% of the population suffers from occasional sleep problems. In a large outpatient population of a clinic consisting of 3500 patients who had at least one major clinical condition, 50% complained of insomnia, 16% had severe symptoms, 34% had mild symptoms (Ref.1). Insomnia is more common among women, and older people as well as in people with medical or psychiatric illnesses. Long-term studies have shown that the same insomnia problems persist throughout many years. It is not possible to offer a simple remedy for insomnia, because insomnia is a complex problem. Here I will discuss some of the causes of insomnia and also discuss some of the treatment options.

Symptoms of insomnia

The person who suffers from insomnia will usually state that they have problems falling asleep. Worries of the day suddenly circulate through their thoughts and they toss and turn nervously looking at the clock from time to time and getting more and more anxious that they cannot sleep. Others fall asleep OK, but in the middle of the night they wake up perhaps to visit the restroom, but then they cannot go back to sleep. Others wake up 2 hours before their normal alarm clock time and they feel their stomach rumbling making it impossible to fall back to sleep. Older people with chronic diseases and general poor health suffer more from insomnia. In this setting insomnia may be more related to the underlying disease rather than old age. Psychiatric disorders also are associated with more insomnia. Treat the underlying psychiatric illness, and the insomnia disappears.

Although insomnia is a sleep disturbance during the nighttime, people who are affected with this complain of daytime fatigue, of overstimulation, yet they catch themselves making frequent mistakes, and their inability to pay attention gets them involved in accidents and falls. Longitudinal studies have shown (Ref. 1) that people with chronic insomnia are more likely to develop psychiatric disease, such as major depression,  anxiety disorder and alcohol and substance abuse. Unfortunately these disorders can by themselves again cause insomnia, which reinforces chronic insomnia. Insomnia leads to poorer social and physical functioning, affects emotions, leads to a lack of vitality and physical endurance, contributes to worsening of pain and can affect general and mental health.

Research about insomnia

Much has been learnt from sleep studies using polysomnography monitoring during a full night’s sleep. These studies have been used mainly as a research tool. In such studies eye movements, brain wave activity, muscle activity, chest movements, airflow, heart beats, oxygen saturation and snoring (with a microphone) are all simultaneously recorded. This way restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, snoring, seizure disorders, deep depression etc. that can all lead to insomnia can be diagnosed and separated from insomnia. The stages of sleep (wakefulness, stage 1 to 3 sleep and the REM sleep stage) can also be readily measured using polysomnography (Ref.2). According to this reference the majority of insomnia cases do not need this complex procedure done.

Sleepless Nights

Sleepless Nights

Causes of insomnia

Traditionally insomnia cases are classified into primary insomnia and secondary insomnia. Secondary insomnia is caused by all of the factors discussed below. When they are dealt with, we are left with cases of primary insomnia.

The following medical conditions can cause insomnia: heart disease, pulmonary diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); gastrointestinal disease like liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, colitis, Crohn’s disease; chronic kidney disease; musculoskeletal disease like arthritis, fractures, osteoporosis; neurodegenerative disease like MS, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease; endocrine disease like diabetes, hyper- or hypothyroidism, adrenal gland fatigue and insufficiency; and chronic pain conditions. Also, psychiatric conditions like major depression, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders can cause insomnia.

This list in not complete, but it gives you an idea of how complex the topic of insomnia is.
The physician who is seeing a patient with insomnia needs to rule out any of these other causes of insomnia to be certain that the only condition that is left to treat in the patient is insomnia itself. The other diagnoses have to be dealt with separately or else treatment of insomnia will fail.

Ref. 1 points to a useful model of how to think about causation of insomnia: there are three points to consider, namely predisposing, precipitating, and perpetuating factors. Let’s briefly discuss some of these.

Predisposing factors

We are all different in our personal make-up. If you are well grounded, chances are you are not susceptible to insomnia. Anxious persons or persons who have been through a lot of negative experiences in life will have personality traits that make them more prone to insomnia. Lifestyle choices such as late nights out, drinking with the buddies in a bar (extreme circadian phase tendencies) will have an impact on whether or not you develop insomnia.

Precipitating factors

A situational crisis like a job change or the death of a loved one can initiate insomnia.  However, there could be a medical illness such as a heart attack, a stroke or the new diagnosis of a psychiatric illness that has become a precipitating factor. Sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome belong into this group as well as would the stimulating effect of coffee and caffeine containing drinks. Jet lag and nighttime shift work can also be precipitating factors.

Perpetuating factors

Daytime napping to make up for lost sleep the night before can undermine sleep initiation the following night, which can lead to a vicious cycle. Similarly, the use of bedtime alcoholic drinks leads to sleep disruption later that night and can become a perpetuating factor, if this habit is maintained. Even the psychological conditioning of being anxious about whether or not you will fall asleep easily or not the next night can become a perpetuating factor.

I will return to this classification and the factor model of causation of insomnia when we address treatment options.

Drugs that can cause insomnia

One major possible cause for insomnia  can be side effects from medications that patients are on (would belong to the ‘perpetuating factors’ among causes). Physicians call this “iatrogenic insomnia”. The antidepressants, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) like Prozac are particularly troublesome with regard to causing insomnia as a side effect. Other antidepressants like trazodone (Desyrel) are used in small doses to help patients with insomnia to fall asleep. Some asthmatics and people with autoimmune diseases may be on prednisone, a corticosteroid drug. This can cause insomnia, particularly in higher doses; so can decongestants you may use for allergies; beta-blockers used for heart disease and hypertension treatment; theophylline, an asthma medication and diuretics. Central nervous stimulants like caffeine or illicit drugs can also cause insomnia. Hormone disbalance in general and hyperthyroidism specifically as well as Cushing’s disease, where cortisol levels are high will cause insomnia.

Treatment of insomnia

So, how should the physician approach a patient with insomnia? First it has to be established whether there is secondary insomnia present due to one of the predisposing, precipitating or perpetuating factors. In other words, is there secondary insomnia due to other underlying illnesses? If so, these are being addressed first. Lifestyle choices (staying up late every night) would have to be changed; alcohol and drug abuse and overindulging in coffee or caffeine containing drinks needs to be dealt with. Cognitive therapy may be beneficial when mild depression or anxiety is a contributing factor to insomnia.

The remaining insomnia (also medically termed “primary insomnia”) is now being treated.

The following general points are useful to get into the sleeping mode (modified from Ref. 3):

  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 fill 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.
  2. Avoid caffeine drinks, alcohol, nicotine and recreational drugs. If you must smoke, don’t smoke later than 7PM.
  3. Get into a regular exercise program, either at home or at a gym.
  4. Avoid a heavy meal late at night. A light snack including some warm milk would be OK.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Drugs and supplements for insomnia

1. In the past benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), fluorazepam (Dalmane), temazepam (Restoril), triazolam (Halcion) and others were and still are used as sleeping pills. However, it was noted that there are significant side effects with this group of drugs. Notably, there is amnesia (memory loss), which can be quite distressing to people such as not remembering that someone phoned while under the influence of the drug, you promised certain things, but you cannot remember the following morning what it was. Another problem is the development of addiction to the drugs with worse insomnia when the drugs are discontinued. Many physicians have stopped prescribing benzodiazepines.

2. There are non-benzodiazepines drugs that are used as sleeping pills (hypnotics), such as Zaleplon (Sonata), Zolpidem (Ambien) and Eszopiclone (Lunesta).  They seem to be better tolerated.

3. Ramelteon, a melatonin agonist, is available by prescription in the US. It probably is the best-tolerated mild sleeping pill and works similar to melatonin, but is more expensive. Chances are that your physician likely would prescribe one of the non-benzodiazepines drugs or Ramelteon for you as they do not seem to be addicting.

4. However, there is an alternative: Many patients with insomnia tolerate a low dose of trazodone (Desyrel), which is an antidepressant with sleep restoring properties. A low dose of 25 to 50 mg at bedtime is usually enough for insomnia. This allows the patient to fall asleep within about 30 minutes of taking it, and sleep lasts through most of the night without a hangover in the morning. Many specialists who run sleep laboratories recommend trazodone when primary insomnia is diagnosed. However, this is still a drug with potential side effects as mentioned in the trazodone link, but 50 mg is only ¼ of the full dose, so the side effects will also be less or negligible.

5. I prefer the use of melatonin, which is the natural brain hormone designed to put us to sleep. Between 1 mg and 6 mg are sufficient for most people. We know from other literature that up to 20 mg of melatonin has been used in humans as an immune stimulant in patients with metastatic melanoma with no untoward side effects other than nightmares and some tiredness in the morning. A review from the Vanderbilt University, Holland found melatonin to be very safe as a sleeping aid. There are several melatonin receptors in the body of vertebrates (including humans), which are stimulated by melatonin.

6. Other natural methods are the use of L-Tryptophan at a dose of 500 mg at bedtime, which can be combined with melatonin. It is the amino acid contained in turkey meat, which makes you tired after a Thanksgiving meal. GABA is another supplement, which is the relaxing hormone of your brain, but with this supplement tolerance develops after about 4 to 5 days, so it is only suitable for very short term use. Herbal sleep aids are hops, valerian extract and passionflower extract. They are available in health food stores.

Conclusion

A lack of sleep (insomnia) is almost a given in our fast paced lives.

When it comes to treatment, all of the other causes of secondary insomnia need to be treated or else treatment attempts would fail. What is left is primary insomnia. This is treated as follows:

We need to review our sleeping habits, lifestyles and substance abuse. Remove what is detrimental to your sleep. Start with the least invasive treatment modalities such as self-hypnosis tapes, melatonin, L-Tryptophan or herbal extracts. Should this not quite do the trick, asks your doctor for advice. The non-benzodiazepines drugs or Ramelteon would be the next level up. It may be that an alternative such as low dose trazodone would be of help. Only, if all this fails would I recommend to go to the more potent sleeping pills (keep in mind the potential for addiction to them).

References

1. David N. Neubauer, MD (John Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD): Insomnia. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice – Volume 32, Issue 2 (June 2005)  © 2005, W. B. Saunders Company

2: Behrouz Jafari, MD and Vahid Mohsenin, MD (Yale Center for Sleep Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA): Polysomnography. Clinics in Chest Medicine – Volume 31, Issue 2 (June 2010), © 2010 W. B. Saunders Company

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

Last edited Sept. 28, 2014

Aug
10
2013

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement

In many previous blogs I have mentioned that bioidentical hormone replacement prolongs life. Here is a more detailed look at what such hormone replacement looks like for both women and men. Before I get into details I want to stress that I am talking about replacing what is missing and replacing only with natural hormones, not some artificial hormone derivative produced by a drug company. The reason this is immensely important is that hormone receptors in the body are distributed all over our vital organs including bones, blood vessels and the nervous system. If there is no lock and key fit (bio-identical hormone fitting the hormone receptor), there is trouble as the Women’s Health Initiative in 2002 has shown. Unfortunately they had used synthetic hormones for HRT that were not fitting the hormone receptors, and this caused many problems (heart attacks, strokes, osteoporosis, cancer).

Physiology of aging

As we age, we gradually produce fewer hormones in our hormone glands, but the various hormone glands deteriorate in their functions at different rates. Beyond the age of 30 we produce less melatonin and less growth hormone. As a result our sleep pattern may change, as melatonin is necessary for a deep sleep. The decreasing growth hormone production means that we are losing some of our muscle mass and accumulate more fat in the subcutaneous tissues. Our adrenal glands produce less DHEA at the age of 35 to 40, a hormone that is a precursor to our sex hormones in males and females. The gonads (testicles and ovaries) also produce fewer hormones, a process which already starts 5 years before menopause and about 5 years before andropause (the male menopause equivalent).

Typically a woman will get into menopause at the age of 45 to 55 at which time the periods stop and postmenopausal symptoms are interfering with her well-being.  Men get into andropause (the male equivalent of menopause) at the age of 55 to 65 at which time erectile dysfunction occurs and often the individual will become the “grumpy old man”.

Other hormones such as thyroid hormones are also affected by the slow down. Hypothyroidism is common in people above the age of 50.

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement

Baseline laboratory tests

In order to know what is going on, the physician or naturopath needs to order a number of tests to assess whether there is inflammation, how your key hormone levels are; the cardiovascular system markers should also be checked, the liver enzymes and vitamin D3 level. Inflammatory markers are fasting insulin levels and C-reactive protein (CRP). Fasting cholesterol and subfractions (HDL, LDL, VDLP, small LDL) and fasting triglycerides are also measured. Thyroid hormones (T3 and T4, TSH) are measured to rule out over or under function. Typically hypothyroidism is found, which would have to be rectified by taking Armour (a mix of T3 and T4 thyroid hormones).

At this point I need to explain that long time ago the research by Dr. Lee has shown that progesterone hormone levels are notoriously unreliable when blood tests are done. All of the other sex hormones, and cortisol are also not that reliable with blood tests. For this reason the saliva hormone tests have been invented that conveniently report a panel of 5 hormones from one saliva sample: DHEAS (which is the storage form of DHEA), estradiol (the major estrogen in a woman), progesterone, testosterone and cortisol. The saliva hormone tests correlate very well with the actual tissue hormone levels. You can order the saliva tests through Dr. Lee’s website. Another longstanding lab in the US is Dr. David Zava’s lab. In Canada the Rocky Mountain Analytical Lab can process your saliva tests.

Women’s hormone replacement

Let us assume that a woman is getting postmenopausal symptoms and bioidentical hormone replacement is being discussed. The physician will want to first rule out that insulin resistance is not present by ordering a fasting insulin level. If this is normal and the other baseline tests are normal as well except for missing estrogen and progesterone, the physician will usually start to replace progesterone first using a bioidentical hormone cream to be applied once or twice per day. If estrogen levels were also low, the next step in 4 weeks or so is to add Bi-Est, a bioidentical estrogen replacement cream. After 8 weeks of hormone replacement the saliva hormone test is repeated to see whether the estrogen and progesterone levels have come up and also, whether the ratio of progesterone to estrogen is at least 200 or more. Dr. Lee has extensively researched this and found that women with a ratio of less than 200 to 1 (progesterone/estrogen ratio) were more prone to breast cancer. He also stated in this link that there are 3 basic rules with regard to bioidentical hormone replacement:

1. only replace hormones, when they were measured to be low.

2. use only bioidentical hormones (never synthetic hormones) and

3. only replace with low doses of bioidentical hormones to bring hormone levels to physiological levels (body levels that were experienced to be normal before).

Many women who are not replaced in menopause have estrogen dominance meaning that the progesterone/estrogen ratio is less than 200:1, which puts these women at risk of developing breast cancer. Women who are overweight or obese also are estrogen dominant (from estrogen produced in excess through aromatase in the fatty tissue, explained further below), which makes them more prone to breast cancer, uterine cancer and colon cancer. Without bioidentical hormone replacement inflammatory processes take place in the joints (causing arthritis), in the nervous system (causing Alzheimer’s and dementia) and in the blood vessels (causing heart attacks and strokes). Rebalancing your hormones to a youthful state by paying attention to the hormone levels and the hormone ratios mentioned will remove the inflammatory reactions and reduce the risk for cancer.

Men’s hormone replacement

Males enter andropause 10 to 15 years later than women are entering menopause. Typically testosterone production slows down leading to hair loss, erectile dysfunction, loss of muscle mass, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s/dementia. Blood tests (bioavailable testosterone) or saliva tests are both reliable in determining a deficiency. Replacement with bioidentical hormone creams once per day is the preferred method of treatment. Overweight and obese men produce significant amounts of estrogen through an enzyme localized in fatty tissue, called aromatase.

Aromatase converts testosterone and other male type hormones, called androgens, into estrogen. Estrogen causes breast growth, weakens muscles, and leads to abdominal fat accumulation, heart disease and strokes.

Similar to women, where the progesterone/estrogen ratio is important, there is another ratio for men, called testosterone/estrogen ratio. This should be in the 20 to 40 range for a man to feel good and energetic. Unfortunately many men above the age of 55 have testosterone/estrogen ratios much smaller than 20. This makes them more prone to heart disease and prostate cancer (Ref.1).

However, a male also does need a small amount of estrogen and normal thyroid hormones as well as all of the other hormones for his “hormonal symphony” (mentioned in Ref. 2) to function at his best.

Safety of hormone replacement

There are still otherwise reputable websites that state that bioidentical hormones are not safer than standard synthetic hormones. This confuses the consumer and does not serve the public well. I much prefer the text of the Wikipedia, which is a more thorough review regarding safety of hormone replacement and explains what the issues are.

In the US there is a collective experience of about 25 years on thousands of patients, but there have not been any randomized studies, as Big Pharma that would have the money to finance such studies is not interested in proving that bioidentical drugs would be safer than their distorted synthetic hormone copies that will not fit the body’s hormone receptors. There are some noble exceptions as Big Pharma is producing bioidentical insulin and human growth hormone that had toxicity studies done and showed safety. In Europe bioidentical hormones have been used since the 1960’s, on a larger scale since the 1970’s. So the European experience of safety of bioidentical hormones is presently about 40 to 50 years.

The FDA is contributing to the confusion of the public as can be seen from this publication. One example where the FDA is confusing the consumer, is the progesterone product Prometrium, a bioidentical micronized progesterone capsule that can be taken by mouth. By law the manufacturer had to put a warning label on the package identical to progestin, which is the synthetic, non-bioidentical hormone having been shown to have severe side effects. As is explained in this last publication Prometrium should not have been required to have a warning label in it ; the paper explains what I have already stated above, namely that bioidentical hormones are the safest form of hormone replacement and administered in the right ratios will actually prevent cancer and prevent premature cardiovascular and joint deterioration. In other words, bioidentical hormone replacement can add many years of useful life when started early enough before permanent organ damage sets in from the aging process (which would be due to missing hormones).

Why bother about hormone replacement?

Nature has a plan of “knocking us off” to make room for the next generation. The only way that you can change nature’s plan of killing us prematurely through cardiovascular disease, arthritis, dementia and loss of your sexual life is by bioidentical hormone replacement. Of course you also need the other ingredients of known life prolongers such as healthy (preferably organic) foods, exercise and detoxification. Many women are scared to treat the hormone deficiencies that cause their menopausal symptoms because of the Women’s health Initiative results with synthetic hormones. Men who would benefit from testosterone are often anxious that they may get prostate cancer, when in reality it is the exact opposite: testosterone prevents prostate cancer (Ref.3).

Conclusion

I wrote this blog about bioidentical hormone replacement in order to clarify this often-misunderstood topic. Don’t get confused by the FDA, by highbrow medical websites (such as the likes I mentioned). Big Pharma has a powerful lobby that attempts to keep the medical profession in the belief that their products are better than those that nature has provided (I call it “defend your patent rights”). We are still in a flux state where anybody who tells the truth about hormones gets much criticism. In another few decades it will be an accepted fact and people will wonder why the Women’s Health Initiative was done without a control with bioidentical hormones. With bioidentical hormone replacement you can add about 20 years of youthful life without disabilities to the normal life expectancy. Exercise, detoxification and organic food with avoidance of wheat, starch and sugar can add another 5 to 10 years to your life. The baby boomers are lucky that they have this new tool to prolong life. I wonder whether they will put it to good use.

More information about bioidentical hormone replacement: http://nethealthbook.com/hormones/anti-aging-medicine-women-men/

References:

1. John R. Lee: “Hormone Balance for Men – What your Doctor May Not Tell You About Prostate Health and Natural Hormone Supplementation”, © 2003 by Hormones Etc.

2. Suzanne Somers: “Breakthrough” Eight Steps to Wellness– Life-altering Secrets from Today’s Cutting-edge Doctors”, Crown Publishers, 2008

3. Abraham Morgentaler, MD “Testosterone for Life – Recharge your vitality, sex drive, muscle mass and overall health”, McGraw-Hill, 2008

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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