Dec
21
2013

Buying Into High Carb, Low Fat Myth Makes You Sick

If you are like most people, you probably still think that “healthy grains” like wheat are good for you and are “essential for a well balanced diet”. Ever since Kellogg’s introduced cereal for breakfast and the bagel was invented as a mid morning snack, which has captured the tastes of millions, the Agro Industry and the food industry have lobbied to have “healthy grains” in the food pyramid or on your plate. The very thought of “the daily bread” is deeply ingrained in our culture.

Other agencies like the Heart Foundation, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly “American Dietetic Association“) and the American Medical Association have reiterated this statement over and over until both the public and physicians accepted this as the truth. However, the scientific data does not support this point of view!  It has been a myth!

We are gradually learning that there has been a big misinformation campaign going on as far back as 1984 (and before) when a consensus panel came up with revised normal values for cholesterol and we as the medical profession were told (myself included) to treat high cholesterol levels much earlier and more aggressively than in the past with statins.

Big Pharma is still pushing for this. Now that I am retired for more than three years I can freely write about what is really going on. The truth has already leaked out, but it is not yet common knowledge.

I like to review the switch from the old school of thought that a high carb/low fat diet would be healthy to the new school of thought that a low carb/high healthy fat diet is healthy. Before you panic, sit back, relax and read what I am saying.

Buying into High Carb, Low Fat Myth Makes You Sick

Buying Into High Carb, Low Fat Myth Makes You Sick

A brief history of the high carb/low fat diet recommendation

It was the Framingham Study, which is an ongoing study since 1948 where a large group of people was followed for decades to sort out what causes heart attacks and strokes and how one could develop a program of prevention. This objective at the beginning of the study was very noble and promising. However, as time went on the results from the Framingham Study that were published intermittently appeared to be more and more confusing.

First there was the lipid theory that was based on the observation that high lipids (called triglycerides) and high cholesterol in the blood would cause heart attacks and strokes. It was assumed that it must have been the fats in the diet that would have caused this. Based on this thinking the lipid theory of arteriosclerosis was formulated, a theory trying to explain how heart attacks were caused.

If this theory were true, a lowering of the blood lipids and cholesterol should have lowered the rates of heart attacks and strokes. Many large trials were done and the statins were developed to lower cholesterol. In a recent blog I have explained that this has not lowered the mortality rates from heart attacks and strokes, but instead of admitting that the researchers made a mistake, many are still doggedly holding on to the dogma of the lipid theory. The truth is that the lipid theory has not been proven to be true; the recommendation of a high carb/low fat diet has also not worked out to save lives by preventing heart attacks and strokes. In fact the opposite is true: older people with high cholesterol live longer and have less Alzheimer’s disease than those with lower cholesterol levels in the blood as Ref. 1 has explained in detail. Dr. Perlmutter mentioned a study from the Netherlands (Ref. 1, page78) involving 724 individuals who on average were 89-year old that were followed for 10 years. Those with high cholesterol lived longer than those with low cholesterol, exactly the opposite of what the lipid theory predicted! Specifically, for each 39% increase in cholesterol there was a 15% decrease in risk of mortality. Think about it: the brain and the heart have LDL receptors on their cell surfaces for a reason. The reason is that both vital organs burn fat and need cholesterol to build up the membranes of the brain and heart cells.

Despite this compelling evidence Big Pharma is in denial and you will still find the lipid theory of arteriosclerosis heavily mentioned on the Internet as the only “valid” explanation for how heart attacks and strokes would be caused.

Inflammation as the alternative explanation of arteriosclerosis

Since the mid 1990’s the first reports surfaced to explain that about 50% of patients with normal cholesterol levels still develop heart attacks. In these patients the C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker, was very high indicating that an inflammatory process likely caused their illness.

Subsequently further research was able to show that the LDL cholesterol, when oxidized by sugar was responsible for clogged arteries in these patients. It also became apparent that diabetics have a much higher risk to develop heart attacks than patients with normal blood sugars. This led to the conclusion by several different research teams that the lipid theory was wrong and needed to be abandoned.

Instead a new theory has developed that explains that heart attacks and strokes develop in patients where free radicals have damaged LDL cholesterol. This oxidizes LDL cholesterol and leads to hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis). Sugar from increased carbohydrate intake has a lot to do with this: it leads to glycation of protein causing glycation end products (abbreviated as AGE’s).

This is an appropriate name as it really is the cause of premature aging, of developing wrinkles, of getting premature hardening of arteries and having a 50-fold risk of free radical formation. This in turn will lead to more tissue aging. LDL used to be thought of as the “bad cholesterol” (I myself have used that term in the past). LDL is now known to be the friendly and important transport form of cholesterol, which is sent from the liver to the brain and heart cells that need it for their metabolism. If LDL is oxidized, however, it becomes useless and the heart and brain cannot absorb cholesterol for membrane synthesis via the LDL receptors. The end result is that vital organs like the heart and the brain do not get enough oxygen and nutrients, which leads to heart attacks and strokes. The free radicals that are released from oxidized LDL cholesterol and that circulate in the blood cause an inflammatory response in the lining of the arteries all over the body, which you know as hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis).

This may sound complicated, but all you need to remember is that sugar and starch consumption lead to accelerated hardening of arteries in your body, which causes heart attacks and strokes.

Reassessment of what a heart healthy, brain friendly diet is

The above-mentioned research findings require a complete re-thinking of what a healthy diet would be. The villain turned out to NOT be saturated fat (meat, eggs, butter and avocado), but rather TRANS fat (margarine, hydrogenated polyunsaturated fatty acids) and I agree with the FDA that this should be abolished.  Trans fat is full of free radicals oxidizing LDL cholesterol, which we just learnt is causing hardening of arteries. It is sugar and starches that turned out to be the main villain. Omega-6 fatty acids, found in safflower oil, sun flower oil, grape seed oil and canola oil are bad for you also as they lead to inflammation through the arachidonic acid system in the body. Conversely flaxseed oil, omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) derived from fish oil are very protective (anti-inflammatory) oils, as 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 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.

The new “heart and brain healthy diet” consists of no refined carbohydrates (sugar and starch), but about 45% complex carbohydrates (organic vegetables like broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, peppers, onions, garlic, peppers, Swiss chard, zucchini, asparagus etc.), 20 % protein and 35% saturated and other fats like omega-3 (1:3 mix with omega-6) fatty acids and monounsaturated fats (like olive oil or coconut oil).

According to Ref.1 you can even eat butter, lard and other animal fats provided they come from clean (not antibiotic or bovine growth hormone treated) animals. Dr. Perlmutter (Ref.1) points out that even extreme diets like the Inuit diet with 80% saturated fat and 20% protein leads to longevity with healthy arteries. The patients who died in the many trials including the Framingham Study did so, because of free radicals from sugar, starch and wheat. Wheat contains the addictive gliadin molecule (part of gluten), which makes people eat more sweets and starchy foods. The liver turns the extra calories into visceral fat deposits that in turn cause the release of cytokines like tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) and COX-2 enzymes.

This causes inflammation, heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

Contrary to what Big Pharma wants you to know cholesterol is an anti-inflammatory, LDL is a cholesterol transporter (provided it is not oxidized) and HDL is protective of hardening of the arteries as long as the “ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol” is less than 3.4 for males and 3.3 for females. This is the cholesterol risk ratio used by cardiologists to determine the risk of coronary artery disease. The average risk of this ratio for Americans is 5.0 for males and 4.4 for females. The ideal ratio to strive for is the “1/2 average risk” ratio of 3.4 for males and 3.3 for women (Ref.2).

Paradigm shift in causation of heart attacks and strokes, but also of cancer, and neurological diseases

As pointed out in Ref. 1 there has been a paradigm shift in our thinking about what causes inflammation and what causes all of the major diseases including premature aging. Many physicians are not up to date in this new thinking although it has been in the medical literature since about 1995. In my colleagues’ defense I like to say that they are busy people and they do not always have the time to do their continuing education. However, it is imperative that the public learns about this paradigm shift as it affects literally everyone. In my YouTube video on the home page of www.nethealthbook.com I have talked about this new thinking in the summer of 2012. Now we are learning that there is an anti-inflammatory, cholesterol containing, fat rich diet without refined carbs, but containing ample complex carbs, which is a modified zone diet or a modified Mediterranean diet that will prevent all these diseases. At the same time it is a weight loss diet as cholesterol and fat in your diet stops the liver from producing lipids and triglycerides and helps you to lose weight. Critics will say that it sounds too good to be true, but I agree with Dr. Perlmutter and Dr. Davis, both of whom have provided ample evidence that it is true. Try some of their recipes. Just read Ref. 1 and 2, where recipes are listed in the back part of their books. Or try the recipes I listed for one day in this blog. I am publishing a book entitled “A Survivor’s Guide To Successful Aging” through Amazon.com, which will come out later in early 2014 where you can find recipes for 1 week in the last chapter.

Conclusion

There has been a paradigm shift in the thinking of how hardening of the arteries is caused. Now it is known that an inflammatory process causes it. It is an overindulgence in sugar, starch and wheat products that causes the liver to produce lipids, cholesterol and leads to the “wheat belly” and the “grain brain”. All of this causes cytokines to bring about an inflammatory reaction that affects the lining of arteries causing heart attacks, strokes, but also Parkinson’s disease, MS, autism, asthma, arthritis, epilepsy, Lou Gehrig disease and Alzheimer’s disease (Ref.1). The inflammation does not stop there. If you keep up the high carb/low fat diet, it will lead to various cancers (Ref. 1 and 3). The solution is a diet high in healthy fats (I would call it a low carb/medium high healthy fat diet) as outlined above consisting of 30 to 35% healthy fat, 20% of protein and 45 to 50% of complex carbs, but none of the refined carbs. I have followed such a diet since 2001. I am enjoying that I can now eat  a reasonable amount of healthy fats, which I was not aware of being allowed before I read Ref. 1 and 3, but I continue with the antioxidant vitamins and anti-inflammatory supplements to prevent LDL oxidization. I hope that many of you can benefit from prevention so you can enjoy a healthy life without being a victim of illness or disability.

More information on:

1. arteriosclerosis: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/atherosclerosis-the-missing-link-between-strokes-and-heart-attacks/

2. paradigm shift regarding hardening of the arteries: My book “A Survivor’s Guide To Successful Aging: With recipes for 1 week provided by Christina Schilling” explains the content of this blog in much more detail.

References

1. 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.

2. Life Extension: Disease Prevention and Treatment, Fifth edition. 130 Evidence-Based Protocols to Combat the Diseases of Aging. © 2013

3. William Davis, MD: “Wheat Belly Cookbook. 150 Recipes to Help You Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. HarperCollins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada, 2012.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Nov
30
2013

Statins Can Hurt The Consumer

Lovastatin (Mevacor, from Merck) was the first statin drug approved by the FDA in 1987 as a cholesterol-lowering drug in the US. It made history in helping high-risk heart attack patients reduce their cholesterol levels and has helped safe many lives. But with the detection around 2002 that heart disease is an inflammatory disease, and that measuring the C-reactive protein with a blood test was a better than measuring cholesterol levels in predicting who would be at risk for developing a heart attack, the landscape has changed. Lifestyle changes have also been shown to be very effective in reducing cholesterol, C-reactive protein and triglyceride levels. In fact, lifestyle changes will reduce the risk for heart attacks and strokes. The newest flurry of activity with calls for putting more people on statins makes me suspicious that there could be a misrepresentation of the facts.

In this blog I am analyzing the literature to get to the bottom of the facts on reducing risk for heart attacks and strokes. I also come to my own conclusion.

Facts about cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is part of the cell walls and plays a vital role in our metabolism. Liver cell membranes, for instance contain about 30% cholesterol. However, most of the cholesterol in our body comes from metabolism, 20 to 25% from the liver, the rest in the gut, adrenal glands and the reproductive organs, and also from the brain (the myelin sheaths contain a lot of cholesterol). 50% of the body’s cholesterol is recycled through bile salts and reabsorption of cholesterol in the gut (called the enterohepatic pathway).

Cholesterol is vital for cell function, for insulation of nerve fibers (myelin sheaths) and for synthesis of our steroid hormones (sex hormones and vitamin D3, which  is now considered to be a hormone). The medical establishment took most of the information regarding heart attack and stroke prevention from the ongoing Framingham study. This clearly pointed to the importance of lowering the LDL cholesterol fraction (the “bad” cholesterol) and maintaining or increasing the HDL fraction (the “good” cholesterol). When it was realized that concentrating only on lowering cholesterol missed 50% of all heart attacks that researchers refocused and found the missing link, namely inflammation. Inflammation is at the cause of heart attacks and strokes, high cholesterol and lipids were only secondary phenomena. Ref. 2 points out that a comprehensive approach to treating a patient with high cholesterol should involve a combination of treatments aimed at the underlying risk factors for heart disease or stroke in a particular patient. This involves sophisticated blood tests where a metabolic derangement can be pinpointed. It should include measuring cholesterol fractions, lipids, the C-reactive protein, hormone levels and more.

Statins Can Hurt The Consumer

Statins Can Hurt The Consumer

How the traditional thinking about cholesterol has changed

The Framingham study has provided the basis for the drug industry to produce statins until about 2002 when our thinking about cholesterol being the culprit for causing heart attacks has forever changed. Subsequently further research showed that other factors like inflammation of the blood vessels, the metabolic syndrome associated with obesity and lack of exercise were also to blame for causing heart attacks and strokes. Recently more details have come to light, which point to multiple causes like the consumption of too much sugar, too much trans fats, too much salt and eating too much over processed convenience food.  We end up gaining weight, develop the metabolic syndrome and inflammation of arteries (including the coronary arteries of the heart and the brain vessels). It is the lack of nitric oxide in the lining of the arteries, which combined with inflammatory substances from visceral fat are responsible for hardening of the arteries as the ultimate consequence of faulty nutrition and lack of exercise. We also know that oxidized LDL, particularly the very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), will release free radicals and damage the arterial walls. CoQ-10 is a supplement, which is known to counteract this. One important test that had developed out of the Framingham study is the “ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol”, which is used by cardiologists to determine the risk of coronary artery disease. The average risk of this ratio for Americans is 5.0 for males and 4.4 for females. The ideal ratio to strive for is  the “1/2 average risk” ratio of 3.4 for males and 3.3 for women (Ref.2). A fit, slim person who eats a low carb, normal fat diet (modified Mediterranean diet) will often have a ratio of only 3.0, well below the 1/2 average risk. The moment you introduce grains in your diet (cereals, bread, pasta) your liver will convert carbs into LDL cholesterol, while HDL cholesterol will drop resulting in a high risk ratio of above 5.0 (often 7 or 8 or more). The LDL will get oxidized and is deposited into your arteries setting you up for coming down with a heart attack or stroke down the road.

How do statins work?

The statins are a group of drugs that inhibit an enzyme, called the hydroxymethylglutaryl–Coenzyme A (HMG-CoA), which leads to a lowering of cholesterol, specifically a fraction known as the LDL cholesterol. The success story of lovastatin (Mevacor) led to a flurry of new HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (cholesterol lowering drugs) such as fluvastatin (Lescol), pravastatin (Pravachol), simvastatin (Zocor), atorvastatin (Lipitor), and rosuvastatin (Crestor) in the late 1980’s and the 1990’s. Collectively it is now a 26 billion industry in annual sales.

Later investigations showed that there were other mechanisms by which statins helped, namely they were found to decrease the inflammatory reaction, which can be measured by lowering of the C-reactive protein. However, there are significant side effects in about 1 to 3% of people who take this medication, particularly an inflammation of liver cells (evident from elevation of liver enzymes) and a myopathy, which is a painful muscle condition (Ref. 1). This latter fact, which can occur in as many as 33% of the population at large (particularly the exercise minded) has limited the use of statins in competitive athletes where myopathies can occur in as many as 75% of athletes treated with statins (Ref.2). The reason for that is that the muscles of athletes cannot keep up with the demands put on them when they are kept in check by the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. On the other hand statins have prevented heart attacks and deaths from heart attacks and strokes in about 25% to 35% of patients treated with them as many clinical trials have shown (Ref.1), but simple supplements that have no side effects can do the same or do even better (see below).

The lack of cholesterol synthesis by the body’s cells when statins are given, leads to an expression of more LDL receptors on the cell surfaces. LDL binds to these receptors and enters the cells, which removes the circulating high risk LDL fraction of cholesterol from the blood thus causing a drop in LDL cholesterol. All of the side effects of statins (pull down to side effects in this link) can be explained as a result of the slow-down of organ functions (brain, muscles, gut, adrenal glands, etc.) as cholesterol synthesis is reduced.

New information from the Framingham Heart Study

So far everything I said made sense. But when I came across Ref. 4 I noticed that there was a bombshell of new information from another follow-up study of the Framingham Heart Study (Ref. 5) that did not fit in with the latest marketing drive of the statin manufacturers. In this study from 2005 Boston researchers had studied the outcomes of 789 men and 1105 women over a period of 16 to 18 years with respect to cognitive function. Participants were divided into total cholesterol groups that showed levels that were desirable (less than 200), borderline (200 to 239) or high (above 240). The astounding results were that higher cognitive functioning as documented in multiple cognitive tests in these three groups showed the best performance in the group with the highest cholesterol and the worst cognitive test outcomes in the lowest cholesterol group, quite opposite of what was expected.

Another important piece of research (April 2013) comes from Spain where doctors followed a group of 7447 patients with a high cardiovascular risk who were put on a Mediterranean diet with olive oil, a Mediterranean diet with nuts or a regular diet. The end point was death from heart attack or stroke. After 4.8 years the study had to be interrupted as the Mediterranean groups showed a significant survival advantage over the group on a regular diet.

Ref. 4 cited literature evidence that statins cause a 48% increased risk in postmenopausal women who take statins to develop diabetes. It also cites compelling evidence that diabetes patients are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease within 15 years and are 1.75 times more likely to develop any kind of dementia in the same time period.

Dr. Seneff from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT explains in great detail that statins effectively reduce cholesterol synthesis in the liver, which in turn starves the brain of one of its main nutrients explaining why patient develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia as a result of statin treatment.

So, the lessons to be learnt from these clinical trials are that you want to offer your brain enough cholesterol and healthy fat to have a normal metabolism. Fortunately, what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain. Conversely avoid statins, if you can and try alternatives first. Ref. 4 explains that for years the experts had the wrong theory that low fat/high carb was what would be good for your heart and brain, but the opposite is true: what is good for your heart and brain is a high healthy fats/low refined carb diet.

Make sure that with your blood tests that fasting insulin is low (no insulin resistance), that the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol is less than 3.4 (low risk for heart attacks or strokes) and that the hemoglobin A1C level is low (4.8 to 5.6%, ideally less than 4.5%), which means you are not diabetic.

How alternative treatment can save you from heart attacks

Lifestyle treatment through dietary intervention, moderate exercise, and weight loss has been somewhat neglected by mainstream medicine, but is now recognized in regular textbooks of medicine as first-line treatment (Ref. 3). Most patients can lower LDL cholesterol by 10 to 15% through a change in diet. High-risk patients with established heart disease (narrowing of coronary arteries) require a drop of 30 to 60% of LDL cholesterol; this high-risk patient group may need an addition of a statin. In patients with metabolic syndrome or diabetes high triglycerides are often present and will respond to decreased intake of simple sugars, alcohol, and calories (Ref.3). Total calorie intake should be adjusted according to what the weight is when weighed every day with the goal of reducing the weight when overweight or obese, but maintaining the weight when it is in the normal body mass index range (BMI of 20 to 25). The total fat intake should be around 25%-35% of the total calorie intake. Specifically, saturated fat needs to be less than 7% of total calories, polyunsaturated fat up to 10% of total calories and monounsaturated fat up to 20% of total calories. Healthy fats according to Ref. 4 are extra-virgin olive oil, organic butter, almond milk, avocados, olives, nuts, nut butters and cheese ( except for blue cheeses). Other healthy fats are sesame oil, coconut oil, and the oils found in seeds like flaxseed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds. Note that trans-fats (such as in margarine and baked goods) are a “no-no” as it causes free radicals in your body, which would accelerate the hardening of your arteries. Complex carbohydrates from vegetables and fruit are the main source of total calories providing 50%-60% of the total calories. Fiber intake needs to be 20-30 grams per day. Protein intake should be about 15% of total calories. Fat should provide 25% to 35% of the total calories per day. Cholesterol intake should be less than 200 mg per day. You may want to consider the use of plant sterols (2 grams per day) to enhance LDL cholesterol lowering. Physical activity from moderate exercise should expend at least 200 kcal per day (better 300 kcal).

Which supplements prevent heart attacks and strokes?

There are several nutrients that have been shown to be powerful preventers of heart attacks and strokes. I will review them briefly here (based on Ref. 2):

1. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): The cells lining the arteries are only working well when their mitochondria are working properly producing chemical energy in form of ATP. CoQ10 is an important component of the mitochondrial metabolism; it is also the only fat soluble antioxidant that gets absorbed into the LDL particles where it protects these from oxidation. Statins suppress CoQ10 synthesis, so patients on statins need to take CoQ10 supplements daily to counteract this. However, anybody who is healthy now should take CoQ10 as a daily supplement for prevention. I take 400 mg per day.

2. Vitamin E (tocopherols): this fat soluble vitamin is an antioxidant and has been praised in the past as being heart supportive, was subsequently bad-mouthed by some conservative physicians, but lately has been resurrected. It turns out that there are 8 different types of tocopherols, with the alpha tocopherol being the most known, but gamma tocopherol is the one you want to make sure you are also getting with your balanced vitamin E supplement every day as this is the one that is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Simply ask staff at your health food store for a vitamin E supplement with gamma tocopherol in it. Take 400 IU per day (of the mix).

3. Curcumin: This is a powerful heart and brain protector combining three different mechanisms in one; it is reducing oxidative stress, is an anti-inflammatory and counters the process that threatens to destroy the lining of the arteries. One study on healthy volunteers showed a reduction of 33% in lipid oxidation, a 12% reduction of total cholesterol and an increase of 29% of the protective HDL cholesterol when 500 mg of curcumin was taken only for 7 days (Ref.2). This is the daily dose I would recommend for prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

4. Polyphenols: Flavonoids are the largest group among the polyphenols contained in such common foods as vegetables, fruits, tea, coffee, chocolate and wine.  Over 130 studies have been done on humans showing improvement of the lining of the arteries (endothelial functioning) and lowering of blood pressure. Polyphenol consumption has been associated with a lower risk of mortality from heart attacks. Eat a Mediterranean type diet or a DASH diet and you will automatically get enough polyphenols with your food. However, resveratrol, the powerful red wine polyphenol warrants a separate daily supplementation as it prevents LDL oxidation in humans (Ref.2). Take about 250 mg of it daily.

5. Niacin/nicotinic acid: This supplement comes as “flush-free niacin” and also as extended release niacin; it can raise the beneficial HDL cholesterol by 30 to 35% when higher doses of 2.25 grams per day are used. In a metaanalysis of 7 studies it has been shown to significantly reduce heart attacks and transient ischemic attacks (precursor syndrome before developing a stroke). Niacin can change the small particle LDL into a large particle size LDL, which is less dangerous. Niacin has also been shown to reduce oxidation of LDL, which stops the atherosclerotic process. For a healthy person 500 mg per day of flush-free niacin is adequate.

6. Fish oil (omega-3-fatty acids): Because heart attacks are due to an inflammatory process and high LDL cholesterol is thought to be only a secondary phenomenon, it is very important to have this additional tool of an important anti-inflammatory supplement. In the past it was still safe to eat fish fairly frequently per week. But with mercury, radioactive iodine from Japan’s leaking reactor and carcinogenic PBC’s all congregating in the ocean waters, it is no longer safe to consume fish in large quantities. The remedy to this situation is molecularly distilled (or pharmaceutically pure) EPA/DHA supplements. EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid or omega-3 fatty acid. DHA is the acronym for docosahexaenoic acid. Fish oil supplements at a dosage of 3.35 grams per day of EPA plus DHA were shown to reduce triglycerides by up to 40%, equally to Lipitor or even more effective, but without the statin side effects. The amount of the dangerous small dense LDL is also being reduced with fish oil. Fish oil supplements have reduced the mortality from heart attacks and strokes and led to a higher survival from non-fatal heart attacks. At the same time these preventative fish oil doses will also treat and prevent arthritis.

7. Other useful supplements: Soluble fiber from psyllium, pectin, beta-glucans and others have been shown in clinical trials to reduce LDL cholesterol by binding bile salts in the gut (interrupting the enterohepatic pathway). Plant sterols (usually sold as sterol esters) are recognized by the FDA as reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, if taken in high enough amounts (2.4 grams of sterol esters per day). There are other useful supplements like artichoke extract, pomegranate, soy protein, Indian gooseberry (amla), garlic and pantethine (vitamin B5) that have been proven to be of benefit in terms of prevention of heart attacks and strokes. It would be too lengthy to get into more details here.

Conclusion

Recently there was a review in a medical journal that demonstrated that clinical guidelines (in this case for clinical guidelines for lowering cholesterol) erred 40% of the times when measured against scientific tests as this link explains. When it comes to saving lives by preventing heart attacks and strokes, what is needed is a multifactorial approach that treats the multifactorial causes of cardiovascular disease. Just pushing for treating more people with statins as Big Pharma is attempting to do is not addressing the fact that cholesterol is needed for our metabolism and the synthesis of our hormones. It is much superior to use a combination of different approaches that overlap and thus potentiate each other in their effects excluding statins first. Exercise creates more nitric oxide production by the lining of the arteries, which opens up arteries and prevents spasms. A proper diet with as many of the proven vitamins and other support factors will control inflammation and oxidation of LDL cholesterol particles as explained. This will prevent heart attacks and strokes as has been shown in many clinical trials. Only patients who come from families with genetically high cholesterol or high triglycerides and those patients who had heart attacks and strokes should be exposed to statins as they are at a higher risk of developing a heart attack or stroke. They need all of the help they can get in addition to the lifestyle factors mentioned. Most other patients and the public at large will do quite well without statins (no side effects of diabetes, Alzheimer’s and muscle pains). And, yes, a diet high in healthy fats, but low in refined carbs is what your brain and heart need (the opposite of what you have thought, see Ref. 4).

More information about side-effects of statins (acute pancreatitis): https://www.askdrray.com/pancreatitis-can-occur-with-statin-use/

Lower cholesterol with Mediterranean diet: http://nethealthbook.com/news/mediterranean-diet-benefits-us-workers/

 

References

1. Bonow: Braunwald’s Heart Disease – A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 9th ed. © 2011 Saunders.

2. Life Extension: Disease Prevention and Treatment, Fifth edition. 130 Evidence-Based Protocols to Combat the Diseases of Aging. © 2013

3. Melmed: Williams Textbook of Endocrinology, 12th ed. © 2011 Saunders.

4. 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.

5. http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/content/67/1/24.full.pdf

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Nov
23
2013

Stop Obesity

Introduction

Being obese is not just a problem that is known as “middle age spread’. It has become an alarming condition that affects all age groups, children, adolescents and adults; it has escalated into a health problem that affects a large percentage of the US population. Statistics are hard to ignore: in 2012 one third of adults in the US were overweight. Another third was obese. That means that  two thirds of the population exceeded the upper limit of a normal body weight (a body mass index of less than 25.0). Other countries in the Western world share in the record of being the fattest nations: they are Mexico, New Zealand, Chile, Australia, Canada, The United Kingdom, Ireland and Finland. Not every country with high living standards has high obesity rates. Japan and Korea by comparison have obesity rates of 3 to 4%.

Health consequences

The diseases resulting from obesity as a direct consequence include high blood pressure, cardio-vascular problems (heart attacks and strokes), and type II diabetes. This results in health expenses spiraling upwards. The excessive weight creates additional problems. Not only the heart and blood vessels face an overload, but the joints are also bearing the brunt in the form of joint diseases like arthritis or back pain. These conditions are not fatal, but they account for less productivity at the work place and they create disabilities. In the public sector obesity presents more problems: how can an obese individual be accommodated in a standard airline seat? How can nursing personnel in a hospital manage to lift or transfer a very heavy patient without a mechanical lift?

Obesity can be compared to a snowball that is on a downhill run and if it is not stopped in time, will turn into a deadly avalanche.

Stop Obesity

Stop Obesity

Causes of obesity

In the last few years it has become clearer how obesity was created. It originated from the perfect storm that a number of practices of the food industry brought about:

1. Processed food has become more prominent in the super market, laden with salt (creating high blood pressure) and sugar (causing diabetes).

2. Wheat and wheat products are contained in a lot of processed foods, and if they are not in it directly, food manufacturers add MSG (mono sodium glutamate) to stimulate your taste buds. This leads to food addictions encouraging you to eat bigger portions and to eat more sweet, calorie-laden foods.

3. Wheat has undergone forced hybridization in the 1970’s changing the genetic make-up of wheat significantly. The result is much more gliadin, the gooey substance that stimulates your opiate receptors and makes you addicted to food and sweets (Ref. 1).

4. Sugar and high fructose corn syrup are a huge problem for our bodies: sugar consumption in any form leads to overproduction of insulin, insulin resistance and diabetes. 10 to 15 years of life can be lost from premature death due to sugar overconsumption. The causes are accelerated hardening of the arteries with premature heart attacks, strokes and kidney damage. Alcohol in its many disguises is also a problem. The body metabolizes it similar to sugar, excess calories from alcoholic drinks are stored as fat.

5. The oils that are now used to produce baked goods are the cheaper omega-6-fatty acid containing oils derived from safflower, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed and canola. The result is a disbalance of the omega-3/omega-6 ratio in our diet, which causes inflammation in our bodies. This in turn causes heart attacks, strokes, arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and Alzheimer’s disease (Ref. 2).

6. In the US there are problems with bovine growth hormone in milk and milk products unless you buy organic milk and milk products. This too causes your fat to accumulate as it blocks your own growth hormone receptors. Antibiotic residuals in beef from feedlots also contribute to obesity in humans.

7. Add to this the fact that we have become more sessile, driving cars, watching games rather than playing games, watching TV and sitting in front of the computer for hours on end. All this burns up less calories than if you work out in a gym.

Knowing the enemy helps us to fight the causes of obesity. Here is my recipe to counter what the agro industry has been doing to us.

What can be done to stop obesity?

1. The biggest factor is to cut out genetically modified wheat that is now the only source of wheat around the world. When you cut out all wheat and wheat products from your diet, you will lose 400 calories every day. Ref. 1 describes this in detail and provides 150 recipes of tasty foods. Dr. Davis allows you a fair amount of monounsaturated fatty acids, which makes dieting a lot easier and you will find that once you have lost the necessary pounds, you will keep your weight down easily. How come I know? Because I have done this myself since 2001. Why does it work? Because gliadin from wheat is an addictive protein that stimulates your opiate receptors in the brain and makes you want to eat more wheat and wheat products, which means taking in more and more calories (Ref.1). It also stimulates your taste buds to eat more sugar and starchy foods. So you need to cut out wheat.

2. Next you need to look at the glycemic index of your foods. Low and medium glycemic foods are OK to eat, but not the high glycemic index foods. It is clear from this link that white bread, pasta, rice, low-fiber cereals and baked goods are not desirable, because they are high glycemic on the index. On the other hand fruit, vegetables and legumes are desirable food choices, as they are low glycemic index foods. Legumes are higher in their carbohydrate content, and a helping of ca. ½ a cup should not be exceeded. Fruit that are high in fruit sugar (grapes, pineapple, mangoes, papayas, bananas) should be consumed in moderation. Fruit juices present an overload of sugar; just remember that it takes several apples to make one serving of apple juice! The same goes for alcoholic drinks. It likely is responsible for much of the obesity wave.

3. Perhaps the most important step is to look at the food that goes into your mouth, eliminate all MSG (monosodium glutamate) and then switch to organic food. I remember that 1/3 of the items on the kitchen shelf and in the fridge had to be thrown out when my wife and I first learnt about this in 2001. We studied the food labels of every food item that was in our kitchen. We added the switch to organic food in the last three years, after hearing about it from Suzanne Somers’ books and at several A4M anti-aging conferences in Las Vegas. Take the time to prepare most of your food that you eat yourself at home from natural, organic  ingredients. This way you can avoid sugar and extra salt, which would be present in processed foods.

4. Watch oils and fat when you cook: extra virgin, cold pressed organic olive oil is your best friend when it comes to cooking Mediterranean type food. Lately there is a trend of cooking with coconut oil, but I think this is a marketing hype (if you decide on coconut oil, make sure it is virgin and fresh pressed, not processed).  Ref. 2 explains that it is important to avoid all polyunsaturated oils as they turn rancid and lead to free radicals in your blood and in your fatty organs like the brain. In order to reintroduce the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fats, it is useful to take 3 capsules or more (up to 6 or 7 per day in persons with arthritis) of a strong, molecularly distilled EPA/DHA  supplement daily that will restore your prostaglandins. This ensures that no inflammatory reactions take place in your tissues preventing heart attacks, strokes, arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Fish has been and still is highly recommended as a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which is also anti-inflammatory. But, unfortunately it is contaminated with various amounts of mercury wherever you are in the world, so I find it difficult to recommend it as healthy unless you are willing to undergo chelation therapy on an ongoing intermittent basis to remove heavy metals and this method may not be perfect either. Fish like sardines or wild salmon are the better choices. Tuna, swordfish or shark should never be consumed as their toxic load is dangerously high.

5. Finally, a word about reintroducing exercise. As kids we were more active. You may have played games as a youth. What our bodies need at all times is movement, walking, dancing, in short some form of activity every day. The easiest is to work out in a gym for 1 hour every day (30 minutes of aerobics like a treadmill or elliptical for 30 minutes and isometric exercises like working with machines or weights). Add on top of this whatever you can. This stimulates your metabolism, your blood circulation and rebalances your hormones.

Conclusion

Obesity is a national concern and a concern that affects nations internationally. Bear in mind that the food processors and the associated industry is not on a mission to increase the well being of the consumer, but is driven by the motivation to increase profits. In the past bad dietary advice added more injury to this situation, when the science behind diets was not yet developed. But now we know that a low fat high carb diet does not work; instead a balanced fat, low glycemic index diet as in a Mediterranean diet is what is beneficial. The large amounts of sugar that are currently added and consumed in many processed foods have no place in sensible human nutrition. The senseless overfeeding with grain has also presented its results: it has fattened up North America and other nations. We need quality fats (olive oil, omega-3-fatty acids and nuts). Organic food whenever possible is important in order to avoid poisoning ourselves with pesticides, antibiotic residues or bovine growth hormone. Add regular exercise to this and your recipe for treating and preventing obesity is complete.

More about metabolic syndrome (the metabolic changes associated with obesity): http://nethealthbook.com/hormones/metabolic-syndrome/

 

References

1. William Davis, MD: “Wheat Belly Cookbook. 150 Recipes to Help You Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. HarperCollins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada, 2012.

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.

 

Last edited March 4, 2015

Nov
16
2013

You Can Fight Back Against Arthritis

Osteoarthritis affects about 4 to 5% of the population with women outnumbering men by 2 to 1. The age of onset typically is less than 50 years, but becomes more evident and more disabling beyond the age of 50. About 40 to 60% of osteoarthritis is genetically linked as twin studies in women have shown (Ref.1).

Synonyms for osteoarthritis are degenerative joint disease, osteoarthrosis and arthrosis.

Till recently arthritis was accepted as something that was inevitable: people were getting old, were getting stiff and sore, and had to “take it easy” as a result when they got older. Things are not as uncomplicated, as arthritis affects about 53 million Americans, and it has become the leading cause of disability in the US.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It is not a disease of “old age” but can affect people of every age group. The body reacts to components in joint tissue, and this immune reaction to collagen will produce inflammation, pain and ultimately disability.

So far osteoarthritis was believed to be the result of wear and tear affecting the aging population, but more recently it has been discovered that osteoarthritis is also accompanied by the same inflammatory immune factors that are involved in rheumatoid arthritis.

When the body attacks collagen, which is needed to keep the joints moving smoothly, microscopic particles of it wander into the blood stream. There they are perceived as foreign molecules, and the immune system produces inflammatory substances (cytokines). These are sending out an army of “killer T-cells” to combat the collagen, which is perceived as a foreign matter. They are bombarding the exposed cartilage with toxic substances. This means a chaotic combination of oxidative stress and more inflammation. Over time the cartilage that was meant to protect the joint in its function to move freely is eroded and destroyed. For the person suffering of this disordered reaction, it means that the joint is not only creaking but causing pain, which is made even worse by weight bearing (walking, standing). Any person suffering of osteoarthritis will complain that he or she feels stiff and sore especially after a period of inactivity.

Commercials for anti-inflammatory medication are plentiful, and many sufferers resort to the pain relief that is promised. The warnings are mentioned right after the commercial or on the medication package, if the patient reads the fine print. Most anti-inflammatory medications are causing irritation of the stomach, and the kidneys get damaged (nephropathy)with prolonged use from these pills despite the promises in commercials of a happy, active and pain free life.

You Can Fight Back Against Arthritis

Causes of arthritis

There are many varied causes that can all contribute to developing arthritis.

It is important to take a critical look at lifestyle choices. Excessive body weight puts an additional burden on the joints in the body. Increased body fat is not just sitting at the abdomen as an inert potbelly. Abdominal fat is a highly active metabolic organ that releases inflammatory substances into the blood stream, which distributes them throughout the body. It is known to damage blood vessels. Inflammation will damage the joints as well. The statistics show that 33.8 % of obese women have arthritis. The percentage for obese men shows that 25.2 % suffer of arthritis.

Smoking leads to circulatory problems, and lack of oxygenation in the body’s tissues. It is a mistake to believe that damage is done only to the lungs or the heart. The joints will be affected as well.

Mechanical stress with inadequate self-repair is one cause; misalignment of bones such as knock-knee (genu valgum) and bowleggedness (genu varum) will lead to premature osteoarthritis of the knees as can loss of muscle strength. Exercise without injury does not contribute the risk for developing osteoarthritis; it is actually part of the rehabilitation plan.

According to Ref. 2 there are other causative factors, such as increased age, female sex, race (black women have a twofold increase of arthritis over Caucasian women), estrogen deficiency, nutritional factors, genetics, metabolic and endocrine disorders, joint trauma, joint deformity, occupational factors and sports participation (accumulation of mini injuries).

One of the newer findings is that osteoarthritis is actually an inflammatory condition where numerous destructive processes occur within the affected joints leading to a breakdown of cartilage and supportive synovial fluid factors (proteoglycans). These findings lead to the possibility of new therapeutic approaches discussed below.

Diagnosis of osteoarthritis

According to Ref. 1 there are no blood tests and analysis of synovial fluid is non-diagnostic. Diagnosis of osteoarthritis is made by history, X-rays of the affected joints and clinical findings. There are joint tenderness and swelling of the affected joints. Heberden’s nodes (swelling of the distal interphalangeal joints or DIP joints) and Bouchard’s nodes (swelling of the proximal interphalangeal joints or PIP joints) are present. There can be a decreased range of motion and a grating sound of two ends of bones rubbing together (called “crepitus”).  X-rays show typical osteoarthritis details with a narrowing of the joint space of the affected joint, subchondral sclerosis (increased bone formation around the joint) and new bone formation at the joint margins, called “osteophytes”).

Integrative therapy of arthritis

Ref. 2 points out that integrative treatment of arthritis is aimed at reducing joint pain, increasing joint function and reducing further joint deterioration. Some measures are symptomatic only, others are disease modifying.

Nutrition

Dietary habits can promote good health or have disastrous consequences. The news has been out for some time that the typical North American diet with a high load of omega-6 fatty acids will stoke the fires of inflammation in the body and lead to arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Soybean oil, cottonseed oil and safflower oil contain the cheaper omega-6 oils that are widely used in food processing and bakery products. Refined carbohydrates contribute to unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels and wreak havoc in their own way paving the downward slope to insulin resistance, metabolic derailment, and diabetes. Take a hard look at your shopping wagon. Stay away from processed foods, shop the periphery of the supermarket, and choose organic meats, vegetables and fruit. Use heart healthy fat in the form of virgin olive oil. A Mediterranean type diet will be a good choice. Just bear in mind, that a heap of pasta like Fettuccine Alfredo does not constitute what a healthy Mediterranean diet is all about. An anti-inflammatory diet such as a Mediterranean diet also includes deep-water fish as a source of omega-3 fatty acids or molecularly distilled omega-3 capsules (you need 7 to 8 high potency, molecularly distilled fish oil, 1000mg per capsule) every day.

This approach has shown beneficial effects in beginning stages of osteoarthritis.

It is important to cut out sugar and starchy foods to reduce insulin resistance, which would otherwise maintain the inflammatory chronic condition causing arthritis and cardiovascular disease. For the same reason cutting out wheat and wheat products has been shown to be beneficial in reducing inflammation. Such an anti-arthritis diet prevents heart attacks and strokes at the same time.

Weight loss

Ref. 2 points out that one study showed that weight reduction of only 10% had a 28% improvement in joint function. When this is combined with an exercise program the improvements are even more striking.

Exercise

Exercise consists of aerobic training, resistance training and muscle strengthening. When patients with osteoarthritis were observed throughout controlled exercise programs, flexibility and range of motion of the affected joints were improving. A minimum of three days per week of exercise was required to show improvements, but the best effects were observed when patients exercised most of the days. Joints become less swollen, show improved circulation and less pain. Before an exercise program is done, those with increased cardiovascular risk should first undergo an exercise stress test to measure their cardiovascular reserve and establish that it is safe to start a program. Secondly, an acutely inflamed or swollen joint should first be treated before an exercise program is started. Lack of exercise will promote more disability. While a person with arthritis may be unable to run a brisk race due to joint discomfort, he or she will find water exercises and swimming much more manageable. Group programs for people with arthritis are available and you may enjoy the supportive company.

Heat and cold therapy

Ref. 2 points out that three weekly 30 minute sessions of microwave diathermy for 4 weeks showed a significant reduction of joint swelling in knee osteoarthritis with improved joint function and reduced pain. On the other hand cold packs for aching muscles after strenuous exercises can decrease muscle spasm and increase the pain threshold. Range of motion increased with cold application and joint swelling was reduced. Patients who have cold sensitivity (such as Raynaud disease) need to refrain from the latter treatment modality.

Acupuncture and electro acupuncture

These treatments were found by Ref.2 to be useful as an adjunct to anti-inflammatory medication with NSAIDS (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs); the advantage was that the dosage of NSAIDS could be reduced, which reduced the potential serious side effects of gastric bleeds and kidney damage. Note that people with pacemakers or CNS stimulators cannot use electro acupuncture.

Intraarticular steroid injections

When only a few joints are affected by osteoarthritis (or rheumatoid arthritis), a physician can inject a corticosteroid into the joint. However, there are limitations, as each joint should not be injected more than 3 to 4 times per year. Otherwise there can be damage to the joint cartilage, which would make the arthritis worse. However, I have seen surprisingly good results for a long period of time, which allowed the patients to exercise and stabilize the joints that way.

Complementary treatments

A number of supplements and herbs are effective in reducing inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are the precursors for anti-inflammatory prostaglandins in the body, which helps both patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. As indicated under nutrition above, higher doses are required for this effect and for safety (avoiding toxicity from mercury and PBC’s) molecularly distilled omega-3 fatty acid supplements should only be used (yes, they are more expensive).

Curcumin, the active ingredient of the spice turmeric, has been used in India and Asia for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties for centuries. It helps not only arthritis, but also helps also against the illnesses that are often associated with it (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune conditions). Ref. 2 points out that curcumin neutralizes inflammatory agents circulating in the blood of patients with arthritis.

Standardized ginger extract was shown to reduce pain significantly in patients with knee osteoarthritis.

Other common supplements for building up cartilage in the joint are glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin, both available at the health food store. They stimulate glycosaminoglycan formation, which in turn builds up hyaline cartilage, the enamel-like coating of the bone within the joint.

An oral desensitization to treat arthritis

Can joint health be helped in other ways? New answers have emerged. In the past, people who were suffering with colds or flus were consuming a steaming bowl of chicken soup. It should be mentioned that colds and flus are also an inflammatory reaction that occurs within the body.

While a lot of health professionals dismissed this home remedy as old-fashioned and useless, a team of scientist from the University of Nebraska decided to research the matter a bit closer. They discovered that it was not the vegetables, but a component in the chicken broth that showed anti-inflammatory activity. The chicken derived type II collagen functions to regulate the immune system, so it stops attacking proteins normally found in healthy joint cartilage. Results of a pilot study have shown remarkable results. A dose of 40 mg per day of un-denatured type II collagen (UC-II) showed a significant reduction in pain and swelling from arthritis. It also yielded good results in terms of relief from joint pain and stiffness due to exercise.

Animal studies on dogs and horses were also conducted demonstrating that both animal groups that frequently suffer from arthritis got significant relief. Human clinical trials with UC-II showed similar effectiveness.

A group of patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis were treated with the supplement for 90 days. 33% experienced a reduction in their osteoarthritis. The pain was reduced by 40%. Those patients who received the standard treatment without any supplement had 15.4% less pain. Joint function was improved by 20% in the group taking the supplement, while only 6% of improvement was seen in the patient group receiving standard care.

Healthy patients were also assessed who did not suffer of arthritis, but received the supplement to evaluate how they would fare with exercise-induced knee pain. They were treated with a daily dose of 40 mg of UC-II. After day 90 and 120 the group that was treated with the supplement could exercise for significantly longer periods before experiencing joint pain. They also recovered faster after joint pain. The placebo group who swallowed “fake pills” did not show these changes. When knee joint flexibility was examined, the supplement group had significant increases in their knee mobility, but no luck for the placebo group!

Numerous toxicological essays have evaluated the supplement. There is no oral toxicity. No mutations in bacterial genomes have been observed, which is a standard screen to ensure that a substance is non-carcinogenic.

The UC-II supplement works through a mechanism, where the immune system is desensitized by ways of oral administration. It reverses T-cell attacks on exposed cartilage. If our joints are healthy and intact, we normally do not react to our own cartilage. But the protective barrier between blood and cartilage diminishes as we age. Early treatment with UC-II may help induce immune tolerance even in healthy individuals and protect them from reactions of the immune system to their own cartilage.

Conclusion

The supplementation with UC-II offers a different approach to modify joint inflammation of arthritis. Standard treatment at this point consists mainly of symptomatic treatment. Side effects to the drugs can be serious, if they are used on a long-term basis. Few are tolerable to modify the course of the disease.

With the UC-II supplement the root of the disease (autoimmune disease) is being addressed, and relief can be achieved within a few weeks of starting it. With life style changes that were mentioned before and this supplement it is possible to fight back against arthritis!

More information on arthritis: http://nethealthbook.com/arthritis/

References

1. “Osteoarthritis. Basic information”. Ferri: Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2014, 1st ed., © 2013 Mosby

2.  Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed., 2012 Saunders

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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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

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Sep
07
2013

Preserve Your Muscles And Joints

Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers, constantly on the go. They did not have to think too much about their muscle and joint health, they simply moved them. In our society this has changed a lot. At work we spend hours sitting at a desk, and then we use computers and watch television at home. Instead of walking to the neighborhood store, we use our car.

Here I will review what we can do to keep our joints and muscles in top shape until a ripe old age.

Brief intro regarding the anatomy of joints and muscles

Our joints are designed to give us full mobility. But the joints cannot do it alone. The muscles are designed to allow the joints to move in a full range. Without exercise the muscles will shrivel up (medical term “atrophy”) within only 2 to 3 weeks. So without regular exercise your joints won’t do you any good. Besides the joint capsules need regular stretching in full range exercises to produce the lubricating fluid (synovial fluid) that nourishes the joint surfaces and the menisci of the knees. Think of muscles and joints as being a functional unit designed to move you about.

Our joints have aerodynamic designs to do the most optimal job for our body. For instance the knees have more of a hinge design that includes menisci for shock absorption while the shoulders and hips have more of a ball and socket type construction.

Wear and tear with aging

It is usually thought that injuries and aging wear down the joints. But there are other factors such as the wide spread use of statins that can contribute to muscles weakness. Ironically statins are taken to protect the heart, but side effects can interfere with the ability to exercise your heart because of aching muscles and joints.

With optimal nutrition and avoidance of wheat and wheat products to prevent autoimmune arthritis (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, dermatomyositis) your joints can stay young for much longer (explained further below). But your joints and muscles need to move through a full range of motion regularly to keep the blood circulation and nutrition of their tissues in top shape.

What causes joint deterioration?

Aging, weight gain, diabetes, smoking and lack of exercise all are known to cause a worsening of arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, but also rheumatoid arthritis. The wrong diet with lots of sugar and starch and trans fats (hamburgers, pasta, sugar soda drinks) causes hyperinsulinemia (insulin overproduction, like in type 2 diabetes) and is almost guaranteed to make you sick with arthritis, obesity and diabetes.

There is also evidence that wheat causes inflammation and arthritis by stimulating your pancreas to produce too much insulin. This has been proven for dogs and for humans. A good diet book to follow is Dr. William Davis “Wheat Belly Cookbook” (Ref. 1) with 150 recipes. If you are overweight, these recipes will also help you to lose some weight effortlessly.

A caution to marathon runners: the constant pounding of prolonged jogging can cause osteoarthritis of hips and knees decades down the road. You may want to switch to different exercises before this happens.

Preserve Your Muscles And Joints

Preserve Your Muscles And Joints

What helps joints?

Molecularly distilled omega-3 fatty acid helps to prevent inflammation of your joints. Vitamin D3 will help your bones to be strong to support the tendons and ligaments. Chicken cartilage can build up joint cartilage within a few weeks! So, if you feel pain in your joints use 3 capsules of omega-3 (the strong, molecularly distilled ones) twice per day. This will help your joint inflammation within 3 to 4 weeks. If this alone is not enough add chicken cartilage from the health food store, which will help to build up the hyaline cartilage within your joints. For those who are questioning the effect of chicken cartilage, here is a 1993 chicken cartilage Harvard study proving it.

Below are more general steps that will help your joints, ligaments and muscles.

Maintaining health of joints and muscles

a)    It starts with good nutrition.

Hamburgers and deep fried French fries will not do the trick. Muscles require protein from meat, fish, poultry and dairy products. If you are a vegetarian you need to become knowledgeable on what essential amino acids are and what combination of vegetables will give you the amino acid composition to build up a full protein.

Joints need ingredients from cartilage, which you find in chicken cartilage (available in health food stores as fikzol (type II cartilage). I you prefer, chicken soup would also give you the ingredients to build up cartilage, but it would require a lot of regular chicken soup consumption to achieve this.

Sugar and starchy foods, which are broken down within half an hour after a meal into sugar in your blood, cause an insulin response from your pancreas. This in turn can cause inflammation in your joints and tendons. It is interesting to note that type 2 diabetes and arthritis are associated. A ketogenic, low sugar/starch diet will prevent arthritis and diabetes as it reduces the insulin level in the blood, which in turn turns off inflammation in the joints.

b)   Supplements:

Omega-3 fatty acids will help control any inflammation including the inflammation from arthritis (you need 3 capsules of the concentrated, molecularly distilled fish oil twice per day to achieve this).  DMSO gel, available in health food stores in the US, can also be used to rub onto inflamed joints. It will penetrate tissues rapidly, is nontoxic and helps control inflammation along with the omega-3 fatty acids. Regular anti-inflammatory pain relievers (NSAIDs) are harsh on your kidneys and can irritate the gastric lining causing bleeding gastric erosions, so definitely not recommendable.

Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, or a combination of both is available in the health food store and has been shown to help with osteoarthritis. I contributes to building up hyaline cartilage.

c)   Watch your weight:

It has been shown that the rate of degenerative arthritis (=osteoarthritis) in obese people is much higher when compared to slim people.

d)   Exercise:

You need to move your joints, ligaments and muscles every day to maintain their strength and range of motion. A daily workout at home or in a gym is best. I recommend 30 minutes of a treadmill or equivalent (jogging, Stairmaster etc.) as aerobic exercises. Then you need 30 minutes of isometric exercises like a circuit on exercise machines in the gym or dumbbells and expanders (resistance bands) at home. I consider this as the basic fitness routine every day.

Ballroom dancing and Latin dancing or Zumba is also a good combination exercise, which I would recommend on top of the basic exercise. Dancing helps to maintain your balance as well, which is something the older population tends to lose. In addition dancing stimulates your brain cells and makes you less vulnerable to develop dementia in old age.

Other aerobic exercises that can be recommended are walking (brisk walk) and/or intermittent jogging. Swimming has the advantage particularly for arthritis sufferers that you are floating. It allows you to exercise your leg and arm muscles, even if you have some arthritis pains.

e)  Pain relief: What could you do for pain relief? I do not like NSAIDs as this will damage your kidneys on the long-term and cause gastric erosions that can bleed massively. Electro acupuncture is very useful for muscle and joint pains and has no side effects. Physiotherapy treatments are useful to recondition your muscles and build up the range of motion of your joints. Chiropractic treatments for back and neck pain will also help. Instead of narcotics, why not try low dose Naltrexone (LDN). It has been shown to help with the pain of fibromyalgia.

Conclusion

In this brief review I have attempted to show you that your body is not on a one-way street in the direction of disability and death. There is a lot we can actively do to prevent this from happening prematurely. Just eat right, supplement (if you have symptoms), exercise and be active. Soon you will no longer be aware of your previously achy joints or muscles, as the pain tends to melt away when you are reconditioned.

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

References:

1. William Davis, MD: “Wheat Belly Cookbook. 150 Recipes to Help You Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. HarperCollins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada, 2012.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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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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Aug
03
2013

Treating Symptoms Not Effective, Find And Eradicate Causes

When you see a physician about a health problem, he or she general listens to your symptoms, examines you, comes to a diagnosis and then treats the symptoms. Medicine has been evolving since, anti-aging medicine has become more prominent and comprehensive medical practitioners have started to treat differently. The changing approach is best explained with some examples below. This is important as many general practitioners continue to treat symptoms and neglect to search for causes. Big Pharma is trying to keep the medical system in the “status quo” (the way it is), because they make big money by having general practitioners try out different ineffective medications (this way the profits keep on coming in.) One example is the cholesterol story. Only 50% of heart attacks are caused by high cholesterol, but physicians keep on prescribing statins whenever high cholesterol is found to prevent a heart attack. But the finding of high cholesterol could be caused by hypothyroidism (when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone). Diet can also play  a role, if the patient eats too many helpings of fatty meats and drinks alcohol regularly. Just prescribing statins to lower cholesterol is not the answer, treating the cause is!

I am going to describe 5 examples where usually symptoms are being treated instead of the causes. If you are in a hurry, just read example 3 below (gastritis and duodenal ulcer). After that you can skip forward and read the conclusion, where I will summarize what I think we should learn from this.

Treating Symptoms Not Effective, Find And Eradicate Causes

Treating Symptoms Not Effective, Find And Eradicate Causes

1)  Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease where autoantibodies attack the joint surfaces. It is a multifaceted disease and typically requires a rheumatologist to get involved in the treatment. The standard treatment for RA is summarized in this link. Before engaging in these toxic treatments, it is very worthwhile to study this link and see, if any of your food components may have triggered your arthritis. Various agents in the food can contribute to the development of autoantibodies, such as wheat, soy, MSG, even salicylates. An elimination diet approach could pinpoint if there is any food component that may be the cause of your RA.

Dr.Lichten, in treating many RA cases has found (Ref.1, p. 85 and 86) that many patients had hormonal deficiencies, particularly a lack of DHEA when blood tests were done for this. DHEA is known to treat immune deficiencies and T cell responses were observed to raise 10-fold after DHEA supplementation; IGF-1 levels (an indirect measure of human growth hormone) increased and muscle mass improved when exercised as well along with DHEA replacement. RA patients responded well to relatively low doses of DHEA (25 mg daily for women and 50 mg daily for males). When other hormone tests are done to look for deficiencies, Dr. Lichten found sometimes thyroid deficiencies requiring hormone supplementation. Similarly when saliva tests are done to look for sex hormone deficiencies, there may be progesterone and/or estrogen deficiency in women and testosterone deficiency in males that needs to be replaced with bioidentical hormones. In RA patients there may be adrenal gland deficiency setting in, which can be diagnosed by a four-point saliva cortisol hormone test. Only these cases of true hormone deficiency will benefit from small doses of cortisol (the original bioidentical human hormone) given four times per day.

Here is a summary of the usual recommendations for home remedies for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Using electro acupuncture can be very useful for controlling chronic pain, but you still need to work out the cause for your particular case of RA.

2) High Blood Pressure

Most cases of high blood pressure (hypertension) are simply there without a particular cause. It used to be called “essential hypertension”, a fancy name meaning “essentially, we do not know the cause”. The doctor will start treatment with drugs to bring high blood pressure down. Before that the doctor is supposed to ask you to make a good effort to change your life style (cutting out additional salt, exercising, weight loss), but this is often glossed over and drugs are used right away. Drugs for hypertension are not harmless; here are some of the side effects.

The medical textbooks are not very clear on what causes high blood pressure. With renal causes (narrowing of a renal artery) a stent can be placed, the cause is treated and the blood pressure normalizes. As indicated, essential hypertension is the name for the majority of other cases of high blood pressure where officially no cause is known. Patients are usually put on life-long antihypertensive medications, often several drugs in combination, to bring the blood pressure down to 120 over 80.

Despite the notion that we do no know the cause of high blood pressure, we do know that a number of factors can contribute to developing high blood pressure: too much salt in the diet, too much nicotine from smoking and too much alcohol consumption.

A lack of nitrates from green vegetables can cause high blood pressure as well. Nitrates are necessary for the body to produce nitric oxide, a powerful messenger that dilates blood vessels lowering blood pressure. It is produced every second by the lining inside the walls of your arteries. Greens and vegetables, particularly beets, provide nitrates for nitric oxide production.

Nitric oxide, along with omega-3-fatty acid and prostaglandins are important in relaxing the arterial walls, thus lowering high blood pressure.

We also know that in diabetes and obesity high blood pressure is very common, because inflammatory substances circulate in the blood, which interfere with the normal production of the blood pressure lowering nitric oxide.

Treating high blood pressure with the conventional drugs will mask the real underlying causes.

The DASH diet has helped a lot of people to get their blood pressure under control. However, the limiting point in that diet is the amount of grains that are allowed. In my opinion, wheat and grains, starches and sugar are all empty calories and only stimulate your appetite because of the high leptin and gliadin content from wheat and wheat products. According to the cardiologist, Dr. William Davis, cutting these out will cure not only many cases of hypertension, but also diabetes and obesity. Many physicians have criticized him, but in my opinion his work is on solid researched ground. If a patient honestly gives lifestyle changes a try, many side effects and deaths from antihypertensive drugs could be avoided.

3) Gastritis and duodenal ulcer

You see your doctor, because lately you regurgitate acidy stomach contents. You may be diagnosed with gastritis and get a prescription for an acid suppressive drug. But before you take proton pump inhibitors (PPI) study the side effects here.

The interesting part is that many chronic gastritis cases are associated with a bacterium called H. pylori. Unfortunately it is now known that cimetidine, ranitidine and particularly PPI’s are treating the acid problem (the symptomatic treatment of acid suppression seems to work), but on the longer term they encourage H. pylori to grow more, particularly in the stomach. The bacterium undermines the lining of the stomach and the duodenum and interferes with the production of the protective mucous production, which is meant to protect you from gastritis and ulcers. Dr. Murray explains that the cause of gastritis, gastric ulcer and duodenal ulcer is the breakdown of the mucosal barrier (Ref. 3, p.73-75). So the symptomatic treatment of the H. pylori infection with triple therapy (2 antibiotics and a PPI) may be the medical treatment commonly accepted as the norm, but it does not cure H. pylori in many cases. Some patients develop diarrhea from a Clostridium difficile super infection as a result of the antibiotics from the triple therapy requiring even more expensive antibiotics for that condition. This only happened, because the patients’ symptoms were treated instead of the cause. The cause of gastritis and duodenal ulcers is a weakening of the lining in the stomach and the duodenum resulting in a breakdown of the mucous barrier. In some people dietary habits play a role, like too much cereal and wheat consumption with too little alkaline vegetables in the meals to neutralize the acid formation (see Ref. 2 for more details). However, when a simple licorice compound (DGL, which stands for deglycyrrhizinated licorice) is given, the symptoms from gastritis, acid reflux, and ulcers in the stomach or duodenum disappear. DGL supports the lining of the stomach and duodenum and reestablishes the defense against the acidy milieu. Not only that, but after a few weeks of DGL treatment all of the findings on endoscopy such as inflammation and ulcerations disappeared. Dr. Murray states that he has not encountered a case of gastritis or ulcer that would not have responded. It appears that the cause of gastritis and ulcers in the stomach and duodenum is not from too much acid, not from H. pylori infection, which appears to just be a concomitant infection, but actually is due to a breakdown of the barrier in the lining of the stomach and duodenum, which responds to DGL. The other interesting thing is that you can buy DGL in the health food store; the dosage is two to three chewable tablets on an empty stomach three times per day. According to Ref. 3 it needs to be taken 8 to 16 weeks, after which there is a full therapeutic response. Pepto-Bismol is another coating substance that is available over the counter and works well for minor stomach upsets.

4) Chronic back pains and insomnia

Many people see their chiropractor for chronic recurrent back pains and their physician for insomnia to get sleeping pills. It all depends what the underlying causes are of back pains and insomnia.

If there is a misalignment in the spine, a chiropractor doing manipulation would be a reasonable approach and the back pain symptoms often disappear. However, thyroid deficiency or adrenal gland insufficiency or adrenal gland fatigue may be the cause of back pains and muscle cramps. Unless the underlying cause is treated (in the case of hypothyroidism treatment with thyroid hormones), the back pains will stay. In fibromyalgia where muscle pains are all over the body, the standard treatment with antidepressants and pain pills just will not do it on the long-term. These patients require a detailed work-up with analysis of the hormonal status. Often they are suffering from a lack of thyroid hormones, a lack of sex hormones (in women a lack of estrogen and progesterone, in men a lack of DHEA and/or testosterone). But they may also have weak adrenal glands and a lack of growth hormone. An anti-aging physician (A4M) can order the appropriate tests and treat the underlying causes.

Fibromyalgia patients often have insomnia (sleep disorders). Dr. Lichten (Ref.4) recommends GABA in small doses (125mg to 250 mg) at bedtime along with 500 mg of L-tryptophan. He also recommends 4000 IU – 5000 IU of vitamin D3 (as often insomnia patients are deficient in vitamin D3) as well as 500 mg to 1000 mg of magnesium. If this alone is not sufficient, melatonin, 1 mg to 3 mg at bedtime will be beneficial. Dr. Lichten cautions that GABA leads to tolerance quickly, so it should only be taken 5 days out of 7 to allow the body’s receptors to recover. This alternative approach to treating insomnia will prevent many patients from getting addicted to sleeping pills (hypnotics).

5) Asthma symptoms

Not every case of asthma needs steroid inhalers and salbutamol or other bronchodilator inhalers as treatment. This link shows that low thyroid can also cause asthmatic symptoms of wheezing and shortness of breath. It is important to listen to the patient’s symptoms, but the treatment will only be successful when the cause is treated. Dr. David Derry described in this link how many of his severe asthma patients had iodine deficiency and low thyroid hormones and no longer had to see him when iodine treatment and desiccated thyroid hormone replacement was given as treatment. This goes against what the standard recommendation for asthma treatment is, but it seems to get patients unhooked from dependence on steroid inhalers.

Steroid dependency from anti-asthmatic inhalers can suppress the adrenal glands and lead to adrenal gland insufficiency.

The adrenal glands are vital for coping with stress as the more stress you are under, the more your pituitary gland produces ACTH hormone, which in turn stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. However, a significant percentage of patients with asthma that been on corticosteroid inhalers for a long time, experience a suppression of the pituitary gland and the adrenal glands cannot produce the required stress hormones; in other words, adrenal fatigue or adrenal insufficiency can set in.

This is an example where during the treatment of asthma symptoms were controlled with corticosteroid inhalers, but the stress hormone circuit was undermined to the point where the patient experienced another disease (called a “iatrogenic disease”, a disease from the side-effects of drugs). Treatment of adrenal fatigue is described in this link.

Conclusion

Medicine can become quite complex as these examples show. Many times physicians tell their patients that the cause of their symptoms is not known. However, this is not always true, but conventional medicine continues to hold onto the old dogmas. With the third example above (gastritis and duodenal ulcer), until the mid 1980’s the original theory in medicine was that too much acid production would be the cause of these conditions and treatment concentrated on suppressing acid production. Then the new theory came up that H. pylori, a bacterium would be the cause of chronic inflammation, which together with too much acid would cause the condition. That is why physicians now treat it with the triple therapy, a good deal for Big Pharma, but a bad deal for many patients. They still do not get cured, but develop a worsening of their conditions as H. pylori growth proliferates, particularly from the PPI’s, which undermines the lining of the whole stomach. As pointed out above DGL, a simple licorice compound, which is available in health food stores, can strengthen the lining of the stomach and duodenum, which at the same time gets rid of the H. pylori problem without any other drugs.

The problem with conventional medicine is that in many cases physicians still treat symptoms instead of treating known causes. Big Pharma supports this, as it is expedient for them to protect their multi billion-dollar industry. Patients need to demand that the causes of their diseases are being treated rather than the symptoms.

References

1. Dr. Edward M. Lichten: Textbook of bio-identical hormones. ©2007 Foundation for Anti-Aging Research, Birmingham, Michigan, USA

2. William Davis, MD: “Wheat belly. Lose the wheat, lose the weight, and find your path back to health.” HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2011.

3. Michael T. Murray, ND: “What the drug companies won’t tell you and your doctor doesn’t know”. Atria Books, New York, 2009.

4. Dr. Edward M. Lichten: Textbook of bio-identical hormones. ©2007 Foundation for Anti-Aging Research, Birmingham, Michigan, USA

Last edited Aug. 3, 2013

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Jun
29
2013

Aging And Lack Of Hormones Matter, Not Evolution

Recently a story went through the media regarding the findings of a research group from McMaster University, Hamilton/Ont. that described that as men were dating younger women evolution took fertility away from aging women. It sounds to me that this research, which included computer modelling  was mainly driven by sociological observations. Some older males may seek out female partners that have the same age as their daughters, which seems to be considered “socially acceptable”. Contrary to that successful relationships of older females with younger partners are often met with less tolerance! It seems that medical facts like hormonal changes that are behind behaviors have not been taken into account. The following blog is meant to give you a background of hormonal changes for both sexes as we age and what can be done today to reset the clock for males and females alike to an age between 30 and 35, which creates a “level playing field”. It is a 101 on bio-identical hormone replacement.

Depleting hormones due to aging

Both men and women experience a slow decrease in hormone production beyond the age of 30, but the depletion occurs somewhat faster in women than in men. As a result women get menopause at the age of 45 to 55 (cessation of periods and postmenopausal symptoms) and men get into andropause (the male equivalent of menopause) at the age of 55 to 65. The main symptom of andropause is erectile dysfunction. These are acceptable simple physiological facts that have been known to endocrinologists since the 1950’s to 1960’s. Common sense would suggest that replacing missing hormones with bioidentical hormones should bring the body chemistry back to normal. However, this is not what conventional medicine has done. Instead, Big Pharma got wind of how powerful hormones were, and they developed hormone-like substances that could be patented and produced on a large scale. What they did not disclose initially was the fact that non-bioidentical hormones with side-chains and chlorine or fluoride atoms in the molecules would cause heart attacks, strokes and blood clots. An example of this is Premarin, an estrogen concoction that is derived from pregnant mares and Provera, a “progesterone-unlike” synthetic product, both of which were used for HRT (“hormone replacement therapy”).

Aging And Lack Of Hormones Matter, Not Evolution

Aging And Lack Of Hormones Matter, Not Evolution

Results of the Women’s Health Initiative (using synthetic hormones)

As there were conflicting reports about the benefit of hormone replacement after menopause in the medical literature, the National Institutes of Health funded a large study (the Women’s Health Initiative) to clarify what was going on with regard to side effects and effects of HRT. Unfortunately, synthetic non-bioidentical hormone products were used in these studies (Premarin and Provera) instead of bioidentical estrogen and progesterone. The results of the Women’s Health Initiative were devastating. In 2002 doctors  were warned that Premarin and Provera used as HRT would cause increased heart attack rates and breasts cancer, which led to premature death. Overall the placebo group did better than the experimental group and this is why the trial was prematurely stopped.  As a result of the wide publicity regarding the negative results of the Women’s Health Initiative postmenopausal women either do not see their physician for hormone replacement or are advised by conventional doctors that only small amounts of Premarin could be used for not more than 5 years for fear of causing breast cancer. Medico-legal considerations are at play and the whole issue of HRT after menopause has been politicized.

Facts about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT)

The key with menopause or andropause is to accurately determine what the hormone levels are, which requires saliva hormone tests, not blood tests. The results are compared to what is normal for a 30 to 35 year-old person and missing hormones are replaced with bio-identical hormones as originally suggested by Dr. John Lee some time ago. Briefly, he mentioned 3 fundamental rules in bioidentical hormone replacement: first, only replace those hormones that are missing; secondly, use bioidentical hormones instead of synthetic hormones and thirdly, use the smaller doses that are enough to replace the normal hormone levels that the body had around your mid thirties, don’t over treat. He also stated that lifestyle issues like poor diets, excessive alcohol intake, stress and insulin resistance (from obesity) needed to be addressed. His recommendations are still valid today, as hormone facts have not changed.

So, the physician or naturopath needs to use common sense and replace what is missing with bio-identical hormones (not with synthetic hormone-like drugs that make the patient sick). If this is done properly, a normal sex life persists in both males and females and both age at a much slower pace without the development of heart attacks, strokes or osteoporosis. When hormones are rebalanced and a proper diet and regular exercise are also adhered to, diseases like diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, heart attacks, strokes, arthritis or high blood pressure do not develop. In other words disabilities are prevented and you are able to enjoy an active life in vibrant health.

More info on bioidentical hormone replacement

Eventually all of us, male or female succumb to the hormone deficiencies that are associated with aging. As long as the hormones are still produced, males will have a normal sex drive, but 10 or 20 years beyond the point where their partners entered menopause erectile dysfunction will eventually set in. Just taking Viagra is no substitute for the missing testosterone and other hormones. Without paying attention to hormone restoration the biological clock is ticking and we will get the diseases mentioned above that lead to premature death. On the other hand with male hormone restoration (bioidentical testosterone) the body chemistry and physiological functions return to how they were in his 30’s. The same is true for female hormone restoration (using estriol/estradiol and progesterone).

The irony is that back in the 1960’s and 1970’s in Europe bioidentical hormone replacement was already suggested and practiced by a small number of physicians with amazing success. One of these doctors is Dr. Hertoghe, an endocrinologist in Belgium. They were able to show then that women could regain their sexual desire and their vitality with bioidentical hormone replacement (BHRT). For some reason (could it be greed?) Big Pharma and various government agencies were able to get the upper hand and suppress this knowledge all with the notion that factory produced hormones would be of a “higher quality” than bioidentical hormone creams from compounding pharmacies. Fortunately these lies have been exposed in numerous publications and the information is now more easily accessible through the use of the Internet. But Big Pharma still tries to intimidate and twist the truth! Here is a recently published prospective study over 3 years involving 300 women from Texas (Women’s Wellness Center, Tyler, Texas, USA) that showed anti-inflammatory effects and anti-anxiety effects with bioidentical hormone replacement. It also showed that no biochemical changes took place that would have caused changes in fibrinogen levels affecting clotting, inflammation to cause heart attacks or other indications to cause cancer. This confirms what Moskowitz had stated in 2006 about the safety of bioidentical hormones.

The irony is that for male hormone replacement with testosterone a lot of the hormone preparations produced by Big Pharma are actually bioidentical testosterone products. It is with women’s hormones that Big Pharma made substantial chemical modifications so that the final products did not fit the estrogen and progesterone receptors, causing heart attacks, blood clots and breast cancer.

Both women and men should get a saliva hormone panel test measuring DHEA-S (storage form of DHEA), estradiol, testosterone, progesterone and cortisol from one sample test tube when they become hormone deficient. Typically a woman should get tested first around the age of 35 to 40, a man around the age of 45 to 55. The treating physician or naturopath can then decide, whether bioidentical hormone replacement is necessary. If so, only what is missing is replaced with bioidentical hormone creams from a compounding pharmacy to the point where the hormone levels would have been around the age of 30 to 35 according to the principles by Dr. Lee. For A4M physicians this is a routine that is familiar. Your regular physician will likely feel uncomfortable, but many naturopaths will feel very comfortable doing this.

Discussion of the evolutional study of McMaster University

Although it may sound intriguing to rationalize that older men like to date and marry younger women, in my medical opinion these researchers got it wrong. As hormone weaknesses manifest themselves perhaps 10 years later in men than in women (in some men even 20 years later), older men may find themselves without a sex partner in their own age group, if women of their age do not use bioidentical hormone replacement. The McMaster team should have done their research including a control group with men and women who used bioidentical hormone replacement. They likely would have noticed that the sex drive of older women on bioidentical hormone replacement would still be the same as that of younger women in their 30’s. Also, the “aging clock” would have slowed down in these women, which in turn would probably have resulted in a different behavior pattern among the older males.

References

1. Why choose bioidentical hormones: http://www.empowher.com/menopause/content/bioidentical-hormones-vs-synthetic-hormones-what-s-difference

2. Anti-Aging Medicine for Women and Men: http://www.nethealthbook.com/articles/antiagingforwomenandmen.php

3. Menopause: http://www.nethealthbook.com/articles/menopause.php

4. Andropause: http://www.nethealthbook.com/articles/malemenopauseandropause.php

5. 2009 Postgraduate Medicine article on the bioidentical hormone debate: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19179815

Last edited June 29, 2013

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May
05
2013

Get Rid Of Toxins Safely

You often hear that chelation could be done effectively using home remedies. Is that true?

The standard chelation detoxification

I like to mention in the beginning that the proven way to reduce heavy metals in the blood (typically mercury and lead) is by intravenous chelating agents such as EDTA. However, the lowering of calcium levels as a severe side effect limits the application of it. There are also blood-thinning side effects to consider. EDTA is a chemically synthesized compound, not a natural substance. Conversely, vitamin C and Glutathione are both antioxidant substances that the body knows; they are non-toxic and can be used more easily intravenously to remove heavy metals like lead and mercury with fewer side effects than EDTA. Although I think that EDTA has a place in the hands of those who are knowledgeable about the side effects, the vitamin C/Glutathione combination is probably a more physiological detoxification method as glutathione is synthesized by the liver to detoxify our bodies. Intravenous chelation is expensive, requires access to a vein and may not be a suitable way for many people to detoxify. There are natural ways to detox for those who cannot afford chelation or cannot chelate for other health reasons.  The major detoxification organs are: the liver, the kidneys, the gut, the lungs and the skin.

What about oral methods to detoxify?

Several methods of cleansing are fasting, the major cleanse or the raw food cleanse. I would not advise to do strict fasting without fluid intake as it takes fluid intake to be able to dissolve any released toxins into urine, feces, invisible fluid from exhaled air and nasal discharge. Next there is the “master cleanse” with lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper as indicated in the link above. Some people like trendy procedures that are written up in a magazine or in a self-help book. I do not like it, as it reminds me too much of a cookbook approach.

I feel differently about a raw food cleanse as I will explain. First, I like to point out that raw food is not easily digested as your gut absorbs only about 30 to 40% of the nutrients. The cell walls of the vegetables you use are the barrier towards absorption. This is much different, if you put the raw fruit and vegetables into a blender with a high power motor. (There are several brands like the BlendTec or the Vitamix.) The powerful blending process breaks up the cell walls and releases the content of the plant cells including their enzymes and nutrients, so that 80% of the nutrients are absorbed in your gut.

Get Rid Of Toxins Safely

Get Rid Of Toxins Safely

If you use organic ingredients (they do not contain toxins, artificial fertilizer residues etc.) you cannot go wrong! Use spinach, kale, banana, mango, greens, lemon juice, and for fat add some nuts like walnuts, Macadamia nuts, almonds (provided you are not allergic to them). With the help of a powerful blender all this will turn into a liquid drink that actually tastes OK. For protein supplementation I would also add some protein supplement like vegan protein from the health food store, whey protein or egg white protein (good to rotate these protein supplements). This mix is a complete nutritional program as it contains complex carbohydrates from fruit and vegetables, fat from nuts, protein from the protein supplement and fiber (from the whole vegetables and fruit). You will not get hunger pangs as with a fast or the master cleanse. Use the signs of your body as guidance. If you feel energized after 5 days, stop then and return to your normal food intake (zone type diet, a Mediterranean diet or South Beach diet as explained below). Some people have the will power to do 7 to 10 days of the liquid diet described. Good for them, at least they do not starve themselves as the calories and total nutrient content are there while they detoxify. What are the agents that lead to the detoxification process? It is the enzymes released from the fruit and vegetables, the lack of toxins as you only consume organic ingredients , the extra vitamin C from the food and the glutathione contributed from your liver that are working together.

Are there supplements that can help you to detoxify?

Chlorella powder, which you can buy in health food stores, is one of the few supplements that can detoxify your body from heavy metals. As Dr. Mercola describes that in Japan chlorella powder is one of the most popular supplements to detoxify. It is difficult to get a complete, non-biased picture about chlorella. I did an extensive research in MD Consult about the scientific evidence for detoxification by chlorella in humans. Unfortunately the search results came back only for experiments with mice and rats, but there were no human detox results. Perhaps the Wikipedia description about the history of algae and chlorella as a possible food supplement sheds some light on the difficulties getting real hard data on chlorella detoxification. In rats that were deliberately poisoned with cadmium (a heavy toxic metal) no convincing detoxification with chlorella could be detected when cadmium poisoning was stopped. However, the article goes on to say that chlorella did prevent absorption of cadmium from the intestines to a certain extent (in rats).

Liver detoxification and colonic detoxification

Dr. Max Gerson invented coffee enemas many years ago when he treated end stage cancer patients with natural methods. He found that when he detoxified them with raw juices, many cancer patients died from the toxic breakdown products of dying tumor cells. So he was in dire need of a procedure that would remove the toxic tumor substances efficiently.  This is when coffee enemas were used. As the link above describes, coffee given through the colon as an enema (we would perhaps call it “coffee colonics” today) stimulates the liver and the bile flow thus detoxifying the blood effectively of toxic materials. In addition the secretory capability of the large surface of the colon wall also helps the detoxification process. Juicing in combination with coffee enemas improved Dr. Gerson’s end stage cancer cure rates dramatically. Subsequently, Dr. Kelley developed his nutritional-metabolic therapy for end stage cancer patients where he added large amounts of pancreatic enzymes in addition to coffee enemas. Dr. Denis Burkitt is credited for recognizing the importance of fiber in the diet. He noticed that there was a striking difference between the colon cancer rates in England versus the rates in Africa. He analyzed food habits and came to the conclusion that back home there was not enough fiber consumed. A large study done by the Harvard Medical School showed that it was not so much the fiber that helped to prevent colon cancer. Further large scale studies were done and it was shown that a diet high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains was what was responsible for a reduction in colon cancer rates. This type of diet will also help detoxify your system from carcinogenic substances in general and from other toxins as the soluble fiber inside the gut will attach to it and go down the toilet instead of being reabsorbed in the colon into your system causing cancer.

Skin detoxification

The skin is the largest body organ with a lot of skin surface where skin pores can help detoxify under the right circumstances. This can be achieved with infrared saunas, with exercise that leads to production of sweat and by soaking in Epsom salt baths. Traditionally this has been done for centuries in the European spas, originally described by Sebastian Kneipp. The medical establishment in Europe (France, England, Germany, Austria), unlike American physicians, embraced the concept of natural therapies under the term “balneology”, at least for a number of decades. But  overuse by patients (abusing the system), badmouthing the relatively weak effect of detoxifying by Big Pharma and lack of funds from the health insurance companies put a damper on his movement. Part of this approach was the use of skin detoxification with healing baths (using Epsom salt and other salts) and physical exercise to the point of sweating. In addition “Waechselbaeder” according to Sebastian Kneipp (alternating hot and cold baths) were also used to stimulate the circulation and the immune system. The major component of Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, which can be absorbed through the skin to a certain degree. So, some of the healing effect of Epsom salt baths may have come from an indirect balancing of low blood magnesium and the normalization of many metabolic processes that require magnesium as co-factors. Here is another, more vernacular description of Epsom salt use. Some of the assumptions such as improvement of diabetes, improvement of digestive absorption or relief from migraine headaches may be a combination of exaggeration and placebo effect rather than reality.

Kidney detoxification

The kidneys along with the liver are the major, natural detoxification organs of the body. However, they need enough fluids to dissolve water-soluble toxins and eliminate them from the body through the urine. Clean water should be consumed intermittently during the day (reverse osmosis water in glass bottles or BPA free bottled water). Because alcohol is a cell poison damaging the vital organs like the brain, heart, liver and kidneys it is best to minimize any alcohol intake to the absolute minimum (best to avoid alcohol altogether). The main filtration devices in the kidneys are the glomeruli, little packages of convoluted capillaries, which filter the blood several times per day. High salt intake, too much sugar and too much starch interfere with normal function of the glomeruli. Insulin resistance as is the case with metabolic syndrome and diabetes (often associated with obesity) will damage the filtration devices of the kidneys and cause toxin accumulation. To prevent damage of the kidney capillaries you need a healthy, basic diet like the Zone diet, South Beach diet or the Mediterranean diet as mentioned in this link.

This will keep fat deposits out of your arteries and the capillaries of the glomeruli of your kidneys, so the filtration process continues to work until a ripe old age. Your doctor can order tests (creatinine clearance) to assess whether the filtration capacity of your kidneys is normal.

Many toxins are fat-soluble and are stored in the fatty tissues. When you lose weight, you will need to drink more fluids to get rid of the water-soluble toxins through the kidneys and use coffee enemas to rid yourself of fat-soluble toxins (through bile and bowel movements).

There are a lot of websites that want to sell you herbs that should cleanse your system. They have a marginal effect, but I would stress that you want to adopt one of the diets mentioned above first to start with a healthy baseline. Such herbs as Buchu (Agathosma Betulina), Burdock, Echinacea and Yellow Dock Root (Rumex Crispus) are supposed to help the kidneys to detoxify. I am not certain whether there is medical proof for this.

Conclusion

Detoxification starts with adopting healthy food and lifestyle habits first. A low carb, low fat type diet as indicated (zone diet, a Mediterranean diet or South Beach diet) will be the footing from which the other detoxification methods will work. Some of the toxins will leave you when you work out and sweat. More will leave you when you enjoy an Epsom salt bath. This will give you some extra magnesium, which in turn will help to detoxify your system through several biochemical reactions where magnesium is a co-factor. Colonics or enemas will help remove toxins through your colon and they are more effective when coffee enemas are used (stimulation of your liver through the splanchnic nerves).

Infrared saunas can help to mobilize toxins and detoxify them through your skin. Take ample amounts of fluids as this will help remove some toxins through the kidneys and the urinary system. If major heavy metal poisoning were detected, the traditional intravenous chelation treatments described at the beginning of this blog would be more recommendable. A naturopathic physician or A4M physician (anti-aging physician) could advice you what is best in your case. Overall the thought is that by removing toxins the mitochondria in our cells, particularly in the brain, heart, liver, and kidneys can work more effectively giving you more energy and preventing the major diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes), diabetes, arthritis and loss of cognitive function (Alzheimer’s disease and dementia).

More information about:

1. Chelation therapy: https://www.askdrray.com/tact-study-proves-effectiveness-of-chelation/

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

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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