Nov
09
2013

Successful Diabetes Treatment Requires Patient’s Discipline

90% of all diabetes cases are due to type 2 diabetes, which is associated with being overweight or obese. The other 10% are due to type 1 diabetes, which is caused by an autoimmune disease within the pancreas destroying the insulin producing beta cells. Diabetes, type 1 often occurs in childhood (hence the name “juvenile diabetes”), while type 2 diabetes is a condition of the middle aged and older population. There is however an alarming trend: overweight or obese youngsters are also being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Here I am discussing type 2 diabetes.

Causes that trigger diabetes

There is not just one way to get diabetes; it usually is a multifactorial disease. Sure, genetics play a minor role. But you need to have epigenetic factors to trigger the genes to develop diabetes: eating too much sugar, eating wheat and wheat products, drinking soda drinks that contain sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Alcohol binges can also cause diabetes as can accumulation of excessive weight (a body mass index above 25.0). Even when there is no genetic risk in your family (your family tree has nobody that came down with diabetes and all your ancestors lived into their 90’s), you can still develop diabetes, if you are exposed to one or more of the risk factors mentioned.

What is the reason why diabetes occurs?

At a Keystone Symposium from Jan. 27 to Feb.1, 2013 in Keystone, Colorado (Ref.1) leading scientific researchers gathered to discuss exactly this question. There seem to be several mechanisms, all of which lead to diabetes. It has been known for some time that in type 2 diabetes insulin resistance develops that renders the cells incapable of absorbing blood sugar (glucose) from the blood into the cells. It is because of this insulin resistance that doctors can diagnose diabetes when blood sugar levels are high.

Successful Diabetes Treatment Requires Patient’s Discipline

Successful Diabetes Treatment Requires Patient’s Discipline

There are at least 5 mechanisms that are presently known that can cause insulin resistance (and thus diabetes) by itself or in combination. For a deeper understanding of diabetes it is crucial to be aware of these. Without knowing the enemy, you cannot fight it.

1. When a person eats too much sugar or fructose the liver converts this into excessive fat that is accumulated in the body’s cells. As a result insulin receptors are becoming inefficient in absorbing sugar from the blood, and blood sugar levels stay high. The pancreas reacts to this by making even more insulin, which after a few years will cause the pancreas to fail in producing insulin. At this point the patient requires insulin or else gets into a diabetic coma.

2. Chronic inflammation is another mechanism that has been shown to cause insulin resistance. Obesity, the metabolic syndrome and diabetes have a common inflammatory denominator that results in insulin resistance. With the aging process there is also deterioration of mitochondrial function (mitochondria are the mini batteries inside of every cell that are responsible for you having energy). This causes fat accumulation and also insulin resistance. Exercise and weight loss are effective in combatting insulin resistance. Fasting has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity.

3. The metabolism of visceral fat (the type of fat causing the apple appearance in obesity) is highly active and is associated with an increased risk for heart attacks and developing diabetes. The pear shaped woman runs less of a risk, as the fat around the hips is not metabolically active. On the other hand when these women enter into menopause, they also develop abdominal fat (apple-like fat distribution) with a high secretion of inflammatory substances causing insulin resistance, heart attacks and strokes.

4. Another mechanism of causing inflammation comes from invasion of organs with fat cells. The development of fat toxicity from these displaced fat cells can also cause insulin resistance. Heart cells have been shown to die from fat toxicity and in the pancreas the insulin-producing cells can be killed by fat toxicity as well causing diabetes or making existing diabetes worse.

5. Interestingly another line of research, namely researching binge drinking, has revealed that there is a short-term insulin resistance that lasts for several days until the alcohol has been properly metabolized. It is of concern that adolescents who are experimenting with binge drinking are very vulnerable to develop brain damage from this habit.

Consequences of insulin resistance

We know that insulin resistance is the cause for adult onset, type 2 diabetes. It is entirely preventable. But there are powerful influences on people’s lives that will allow one or more of these factors mentioned to cause diabetes. The most common cause is putting on excessive weight. The reason for this is that people like to eat fast foods, drink sugar-containing sodas, and feast on processed foods, bagels and cookies. The end result is a change of the metabolism with an increase in triglycerides from the liver, an increase in LDL cholesterol, particularly the very low-density lipoprotein sub fractions of cholesterol. It has been known for some time that this is the connection to the high, premature death rates from heart attacks in diabetics, in people with obesity and in people with the metabolic syndrome. Hardening of the arteries is accelerated by the deposition of foam cells in the walls of arteries. These are scavenger cells (macrophages) that have engulfed noxious fats. This leads to narrowed coronary arteries and also a general narrowing of arteries all over the body including the brain vessels. In diabetics hardening of the arteries is accelerated and leads to premature strokes, heart attacks and heart failure, kidney failure, blindness and amputations of limbs.

Important tests for borderline diabetics

I you have a fasting blood sugar that is above 100 mg/dL (5.5 mmol), but less than 126 mg/dL (7 mmol) you are considered to be prediabetic or “borderline diabetic”. In this case rather than waiting for disasters in terms of cardiovascular disease, take action and ask your doctor to do the following three tests.

a) Arrange for a glucose tolerance test where you are given 75 grams of glucose; then blood tests are taken at one, two and three hours after this challenge dose. These blood tests are checked for blood glucose levels and insulin levels and tell the doctor exactly what is going on in terms of your sugar metabolism. It shows the glucose clearance and also the insulin response from your pancreas.

b) Have a hemoglobin A1c test done: it shows how your blood sugars have been controlled over the last 2 to 3 months.

c) You also need a VAP (vertical auto profile) test, which tests your lipid profile. Both prediabetics and overtly diabetics have been shown to have lipid profile disorders. Apart from low values in sub fractions of HDL cholesterol this test will also measure the very-low density lipoproteins (VLDL), which has been shown to be responsible for heart attacks and strokes.

With these three tests your doctor can  tell you more accurately what treatment protocol you require to succeed in controlling or curing your pre diabetes or diabetes.

Conventional treatment of diabetes

The conventional treatment of diabetes is to send the patient to a dietician, to ask the patient to do regular exercises and to either start them on hypoglycemic drugs or on insulin injections. Unfortunately the dietician often will encourage the patient to eat “healthy multigrain bread”, which will stimulate your taste buds to eat more sugar, high fructose corn syrup and starchy foods making weight loss impossible. Often the treating physician is satisfied that a hemoglobin A1c of 7% or less is good enough for the diabetic. But non-diabetic people have a hemoglobin A1c of 4% and 5.6%. This should be your goal or you will suffer the consequences of uncontrolled diabetes.

This is what I would call the conventional, symptomatic treatment approach. This may be the approach for patients who are not willing to seriously change their lifestyles, but it is more powerful on the long-term to treat diabetes by treating the underlying causes.

Alternative treatment approach for diabetes

Based on the above discussion regarding the various causes of insulin resistance, it is important to analyze what would be the main contributory factors in your particular case of diabetes.

Here are some suggestions:

1. If you are on the typical North American diet, also known as Western diet, it would be important to face the fact that wheat, wheat products in processed foods and sugar including high fructose corn syrup are the main culprits in stimulating your appetite and making you a sugar and wheat addict. Ref. 2 describes this in detail and offers 150 recipes to overcome this addiction. For more information just follow this reference text. Essentially it is a wheat-free Mediterranean type diet without rice, pasta and bread. You will shed significant amounts of pounds within a short period of time and feel a lot more energetic (due to revitalization of your mitochondria). At the same time insulin resistance is disappearing, because the insulin receptors are fully functional again. The insulin production of the pancreas will go down to normal levels and fat from the visceral fat storage gets melted away resulting in less inflammatory substances circulating in your blood.

2. A regular exercise program in a gym with an aerobic component (30 minutes of treadmill for instance and 20 to 30 minutes of isometric machine exercises) will help you to lower the triglycerides, and increase the healthy HDL cholesterol. It will also improve insulin sensitivity and control inflammation in your body. The best is to exercise 7 days per week. Remember your body works for you 7/7 every week, but for those of you who need a little rest in between 5 days per week is still very good. You may have to adjust your medication and insulin dose downwards, ask your physician about that.

3. Cut out alcohol. This may sound radical to you, but studies show this to be true. I have not mentioned cutting out smoking (it is causing inflammation and insulin resistance), because this is an absolute must that is given. When it comes to alcohol, the famous 1 drink per day for cardio protective purposes may not show up statistically as a bad effect, but your body will nevertheless get the message and let you age somewhat faster than a person who stays sober all the time. Staying sober will allow your brain to think clearly and adhere to your overall lifestyle approach in treating diabetes. Cutting out alcohol protects your brain (including the hypothalamus), liver and pancreas and prevents the prolonged periods of insulin resistance mentioned above that last for days. By keeping your hypothalamus in good working order, your hormone balance will stay stable for as long as possible until you reach menopause (for women) or andropause (for men). When you reached this milestone, I suggest you engage in bioidentical hormone replacement, which I have reviewed here. Hormones are essential to keep you younger for longer.

4. It is useful to monitor your blood sugar with a home glucometer, as this will show you when your blood sugar normalizes. Stay in touch with your doctor at all times, as this will help you in your overall management of your diabetes. Also, you will want to discuss with your doctor that you should have a blood tests called “hemoglobin A1c” measured every three months to see how well your diabetes is controlled. It should be below 7% for sure, but better below 6%. Non-diabetic people have levels of 4% and 5.6%. You may not know that hemoglobin A1c is actually measuring the amount of advanced glycation end products (“AGE”) of red blood cells. These AGE substances essentially are firmly bound sugar/protein compounds that shut down the cell metabolism wherever they are formed. In my opinion it is best to aim at a hemoglobin A1c level of non-diabetic people (4% and 5.6%) to avoid the consequences of tissue damage of all vital organs, which is the reason why long-term diabetics have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years shorter than non-diabetic persons. Some diabetic patients may benefit from the oral hypoglycemic drug, metformin (brand name: Glucophage), which has anti-inflammatory properties and is used in patients with type 2 diabetes and a high fasting insulin level, but this is a decision requiring your physician’s input.

5. Supplements: There are some supplements that are useful to take as an adjunct, like chromium, which helps insulin to transport glucose into the cell; alpha-lipoic acid, an antioxidant, which is useful to prevent glycation (formation of a complex between sugar and protein, which prevents normal cell functioning); and coenzyme-Q10, which supports your heart (A4M recommends 400 mg per day, higher than Dr. Weil’s link). Other supplements of merit are curcumin, cinnamon, genistein and silymarin (standardized extract of milk thistle), which suppresses a pro inflammatory molecule, which in turn helps to fight insulin resistance (Ref. 1). Omega-3 fatty acid supplements are anti-inflammatory and will improve insulin resistance as well (dosage 1000mg or more per day). According to Ref. 3 vitamin D3 is useful as a supplement for diabetics, because it activates DNA, is involved in cellular repair and deficiency of it is known to lead to higher mortality rates in diabetics. Ref. 3 recommends between 1000 and 4000 IU of vitamin D3 daily and suggests doing blood tests to measure effective vitamin D3 levels (keep 25-OHD in the blood between 30 and 80 ng/mL).

6.Patients whose pancreas no longer produces insulin will need insulin injections, but instead of using long-acting insulin once per day the best results in getting blood sugar control is by injecting insulin three or more times per day using short acting insulin. It is important to always monitor the blood sugar lowering effect by glucometer readings; the injections are best given just before meals (recombinant human insulin is the preferred insulin to be used). Ask your physician or diabetic coach for more details.

Conclusion

Diabetes used to be a dreadful disease that caused premature heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney failure, and limb amputations. With aggressive management of diabetes as well as strict lifestyle intervention this has changed. A diabetic who treats the causes of the illness can have a normal life expectancy. In many cases the initial diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can disappear, when treatment was started early enough and insulin resistance could be stopped in its tracks. Without the patient’s full co-operation disciplining him/herself to follow through on all of these recommendations the caregiver will fail in controlling the patient’s diabetes. It is the patient who owns the problem; it is the patient who needs to make every possible effort and follow through on all of the details of dieting, exercising, blood sugar monitoring using a glucometer and taking the required supplements.

More information on diabetes: http://nethealthbook.com/hormones/diabetes/type-2-diabetes/

Reference

1. http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2013/oct2013_2013-Keystone-Diabetes-Symposium_01.htm

2. 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.

3. Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed. © 2012 Saunders. Integrative Therapy; Supplements.

Last edited Dec. 17, 2014

Sep
14
2013

Food Processing Can Be A Danger To Your Health

Food processing is found everywhere: in pizzas, hamburgers, ready to eat deep frozen dinners, and in the myriad of packages that you see in the center of the grocery store. There are aisles and aisles of ready-made food packages including potato and corn chips, power bars, low fat yoghurt, and on and on it goes.

So, what are the problems with these foods?

Here are the major players that you will find (sometimes not) on the food ingredient lists.

Hidden sugar

With the recommendation for the past few decades that we should use low fat yoghurt a whole industry has sprung up surrounding low fat products. If you study the labels you will see that this has been done at the expenses of adding hidden sugar content. Don’t go for the berry or other fruit yoghurt, because it is over processed, sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup. This is a fast track to becoming a diabetic. Stick to plain yoghurt with 2 to 3 % fat, which has only the original milk sugar in it, but no additives. Also, in the US you ought to avoid any milk and milk products containing bovine growth hormone, which is solely there for increasing the milk farmer’s profit, but will seriously undermine your health (it blocks your growth hormone receptors). Ref. 1 and 3 explain in detail how the metabolism is being changed through added sugar and an overdose of starchy foods, which is the reason for the pancreas over producing insulin. This in turn causes such varied diseases like heart attacks, diabetes, inflammatory conditions like arthritis, MS, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

Cut out cookies, excessively starchy foods like potatoes, bread, pasta and rice. Within half an hour of ingesting these your system will be overrun with sugar, the breakdown product of starchy food.

Added salt

Added salt is often used to preserve foods, to lengthen their shelf life and to stimulate your appetite. In restaurants it is added to stimulate your appetite for more liquids. As a result more beverages (alcoholic and nonalcoholic) will be ordered, which is where the profit margin is highest. High amounts of salt will not be beneficial to you, as it will raise your blood pressure and on the long-term will cause high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. When you buy organic food, there is no added salt in it, although you get sodium chloride that is contained in the vegetables and fruit. Add very little salt, if any; instead add  herbs and spices, which contain valuable trace minerals.

Food Processing Can Be A Danger To Your Health

Food Processing Can Be A Danger To Your Health

Hidden fat

Whenever you have a food that was deep fried such as potato chips, corn chips or French fries, there is the danger of exposing yourself to trans fats from polyunsaturated fatty acids. This is also true for deep fried chicken or any other ready to eat foods that have been prepared in the deep fryer.This type of oil is often reused after it is filtered and advanced glycosylation end products (AGE’s) are accumulated in it. This ages your cells including your skin much faster. AGE’s also worsen diabetes by causing more complications like heart attacks and kidney failure. For the same reason you should avoid burning meats on the BBQ or food that you cook on a stove.

Hamburgers also have a lot of hidden fat, sometimes as much as 50%. This fat enters your bloodstream and is eventually deposited as fat deposits in your arteries. After decades of eating too many hamburgers and sausages your coronary arteries clog and you require a stent or a bypass surgery. If you do not want to become a statistic prematurely, cut out sausages, hamburgers and other processed meats replacing them with lean turkey breast, organic chicken and lean pork,venison or grass fed lean cuts of beef or bison.

MSG and other food additives

Many foods have artificial sweeteners in them, which includes excitotoxins like MSG and aspartame. MSG is added to stimulate your appetite, but it has devastating effects on your brain cells on the long term. The name may be disguised as yeast extract, sodium caseinate, broth stock, malt extract, natural flavors and others. Soda drinks either have added sugar, in which case your insulin response makes you want to eat more calories in a day leading to obesity and to dementia. Aspartame, which is used by diet conscious people as a low calorie drink, causes insulin resistance making you gain weight. It also damages your brain. I recommend the plant extract stevia, which is a sweetener that does not have the deleterious effects of aspartame. Sucralose (Splenda) was developed through research on insecticides when a student found out that it tasted sweet. Although Big Pharma has succeeded to introduce sucralose into the diet of diabetics, it is a sweetener that in my opinion is not safe. First it kills ants: a few years ago I did an experiment where I took a package of Splenda from Starbucks and sprinkled it on Hawaiian ants. In the beginning they were reluctant to eat it, but after a few hours they came and took it in. One day later there were only shriveled up dead ants left in the area where Splenda had been sprinkled. I refuse to eat insecticide-laced soda! Second, when you read the link about the “sweet deception about Splenda” above you find that it has reduced the growth rate of rats, caused anemia in mice, enlarged the liver and the brain of rats, shrunk ovaries of rats and caused kidney damage with calcifications in rats. We have no official human data, although millions of Splenda doses have been consumed.  Nobody has done clinical safety studies in man.

One of the food additives you may not think much about is gliadin, which is used in baking to bind the ingredients together. It is derived from wheat, which is usually the Clearfield variety of wheat (a dwarf variety). Dr. William Davis (Ref.1) has examined the effects of wheat and wheat products on humans in detail. Suffice it to say that it is safest to avoid wheat and wheat products entirely; otherwise you could develop bowel disease like celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease; heart disease, obesity, autoimmune diseases, but also CNS disease like Parkinson’s disease, ataxia, and dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease).

Other health problems associated with marketing and so-called “best practices” of agroindustry

Milk and milk products are not as innocent as in the past when no marketing boards were around. Animals are no longer freely roaming on green pastures, but are kept in high-density facilities and have to be put on antibiotics to prevent infectious illnesses. So we are told. In reality farmers have found out that antibiotics and bovine growth hormone will both increase milk production. The profit principle has been applied and as a result the consumers of milk and milk products have a change of their bowel flora from the antibiotics, which can cause heart attacks. The bovine growth hormone from milk and milk products causes breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Superbugs have emerged as a danger from treating beef animals with antibiotics in feeding lots leading to resistant bacterial strains that can cause human disease like flesh eating disease etc. These superbugs imported from the grocery store and meat market are what can make us sick! Eating only organic meat and organic foods are one way that we can use to protect ourselves. Organic milk or goat milk are alternatives to regular (unhealthy) milk.

Toxins in our foods

Roundup is so rampantly present in agroindustry to protect crops from weeds that traces of it are present in most regular crops. Despite claims that Roundup would be safe for the consumer, newer research has shown that it is not. Genetically modified crops are routinely sprayed with Roundup, as they are resistant to this herbicide, so I recommend to stay away from these crops as well.

Your best protection is to buy organic foods.

Heavy metals can be another source of food toxicity. Red wine was found to contain heavy metals, which could undermine that heart healthy effect of a glass of red wine per day.

Mercury is toxic to the central nervous system. It comes from the effluent of gold mines, the smog from coal burning and volcanic activity, which finds its way into the ocean. Fish is the main source of exposure to humans as explained in this link.

Conclusion

We need to be vigilant about the food we eat. The more it has gone through food processing, the more ingredients get mixed in. We need to ask questions about how the food that we eat was raised. Were food additives mixed in? Are they harmless or bad for our health? Beware of sugar as this causes insulin levels to raise causing obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Watch the addition of salt, which causes high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Avoid polyunsaturated fats, cook with olive oil instead. It’s the Mediterranean way of preventing heart attacks. No butter, no margarine, because this fat ends up in your arteries. Avoid wheat and wheat products that are often mixed into foods. Cook your own food whenever possible. Eat lots of vegetables and salads. Watch the glycemic index and avoid high glycemic index foods. Sweeten with stevia, but avoid all other sweeteners. This way you avoid the insulin response discussed above.

The dietitians of the US have summarized the problems the American public faces in Ref. 2. Essentially we need to take back the responsibility for our own food preparation and become less dependent on manufactured foods. A good collection of wheat-free recipes can be found under Ref. 3.

References

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

2. The Profession of Dietetics at a Critical Juncture: A Report on the 2006 Environmental Scan for the American Dietetic Association; Journal of the American Dietetic Association – Volume 107, Issue 7 (July 2007)

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 Oct. 4, 2014

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Aug
31
2013

Peanut Allergies Are Deadly

In the US 1.5 million suffer from peanut allergies (Ref.1). People who have peanut allergies have to avoid peanuts and foods that contain even traces of peanuts lifelong. Here is a recent example of a 13-year old girl who died at a camp when she tried food contaminated with peanuts. Before we discuss peanut allergies in detail, we need to review first how the immune system is functioning.

How the immune system is primed to develop an allergy

Our immune system knows the difference between our own body components and substances that come from the outside. Scientists call this tolerance to our own surface proteins; and scientists call it an immune reaction that is mounting as a reaction to anything different from the surface antigens. There are different cells that make up the immune system. One of the main working cells of the immune system are the lymphocytes, with B cells originating from the bone marrow producing antibodies when an immune reaction occurs. Antibodies fit like a lock and key to the surface of an antigen, in this case the peanut protein. T helper cells are T lymphocytes (thymus derived lymphocytes) that help the B cells to recognize the difference between the own protein components and the outside components. There are also T killer cells, which get activated when parasites or viruses enter the body. With regard to peanut allergies it is the B cells and T helper cells that interact and the B cells produce a powerful, very specific IgE antibody directed against peanut protein. There are memory B cells, which continue to produce these specific anti-peanut protein antibodies and cause severe allergic reactions when future exposure to peanuts (even traces) occurs. So, the more often a person who is allergic to peanuts encounters even traces of peanuts, the immune system will get boosted and produce even more antibodies of the IgE type through reactivated B memory cells (Ref. 2). 98% of the population does not react to peanut exposure with allergies, but the other 2% who may have genetic susceptibility factors that predispose them to this often develop life-threatening reactions (an anaphylactic reaction).

What is an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts?

The most extreme form of allergies involving IgE antibodies can cause anaphylaxis. In the beginning stages of a peanut allergy there may only mild symptoms such as hives on the skin, itching and tingling around the mouth, a runny nose, a scratchy throat, wheezing, stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhea. However, with a more severe allergy an asthma attack can develop, blood pressure drops leading to fainting or shock and severe airway obstruction in the throat or lungs can cause suffocation.

I vividly remember an 11-year-old boy who was brought in by ambulance to the emergency room of the hospital where I was working as the on-call physician. He had a hard time talking as his throat was swelling up as part of his anaphylactic reaction, within minutes he passed out completely (shock). Fortunately an anesthetist was in the department and could intubate him very quickly. However, despite adrenaline treatment, oxygen  by artificial ventilation and high doses of corticosteroid drugs he did not wake up until 10 hours later. In retrospect it turned out that he had eaten some crackers of a familiar brand that he knew as being free of peanut flour. However, he had seen an ad that the same brand of crackers was available as cheese crackers and he tried one of these, which prompted his admission to the hospital. The parents read the ingredients later: the label on the cheese crackers noted in small print that the flour of the cheese crackers contained peanut flour! Always read labels, even if it is a familiar brand! Fortunately for this boy he did not have brain damage from the time of his unconsciousness. He has been extremely careful since and is reading labels and avoiding unknown food items.

Peanut Allergies Are Deadly

Peanut Allergies Are Deadly

Cross-reactions between peanuts and other allergens

Allergies can be made worse when a person has inhalant allergies from pollens of trees or grasses that can share protein components from protein found in foods. The latest findings are that there are cross allergies between Fenugreek and lupine, which are both legumes, as are peanuts, so there are common antigens present in their proteins. A mouse-testing model has shed more light on this. Fenugreek has been shown to control mild diabetes by improving insulin resistance, but it cannot be consumed by persons who are highly allergic to peanuts because of the cross allergy mentioned.

There are other possible cross allergies to legumes like lentils, soy and chickpeas.

Other factors that can cause allergies to get worse

In the past the RAST test was often used.  This is a blood test for common food allergies that can cause severe allergic reactions like egg, milk, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, crustacean shellfish and soy. However, since about 2010 this has been replaced by the more sensitive ImmunoCAP Specific IgE test. Children who have food allergies to egg, milk, wheat, nuts, peanuts and soy often outgrow these allergies when they age, in other words their immune system can develop tolerance to many of these foods. Not so with peanut allergies ! They tend to be very persistent.

The immune responses to food allergies are complicated as there are immediate type immune reactions and delayed type immune reactions. The immediate immune responses are investigated with the above mentioned ImmunoCAP Specific IgE test. The delayed immune responses can be measured using the ELISA test. Positive IgE antibody tests for peanut protein are a marker that the person affected likely has more other allergies and they should be investigated by a knowledgeable allergist in that regard (Ref. 2).

What complicates the allergy sufferers’ lives even more is the fact that new wheat varieties since the 1970’s, called Clearfield wheat have a much higher gliadin (gluten) and lectin content than the old wheat varieties. As a result of exposure to this new type of wheat gluten intolerance and leaky gut syndrome have increased substantially in the world population (Ref.3). In addition, genetically modified foods like soy, corn, sugar beets, canola and others have challenged the immune system of sensitive humans even more. We do know that some people can develop autoimmune diseases from GMO foods and modern wheat, and this may be the reason that a host of diseases that belong into this disease category (MS, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, ankylosing spondylitis etc.) are much more common now than in the past. The geneticists who developed GMO foods seemed to be unaware how sensitive the immune system is, which will detect a few different amino acid sequences in a protein mounting a strong immune response to it.

Treatment for peanut allergies

The key for sufferers from peanut allergies is to avoid exposure to it. Read labels and use common sense. If something is not labeled, do not be tempted to eat it. Peanut flour is often mixed into the dough of crackers, not being labeled properly or only in fine print. With peanuts the antibodies usually circulate in the blood life long as the B memory cells do not diminish and get reactivated very quickly on repeat exposure producing antibodies again. As exposure to peanuts can cause severe asthma or anaphylactic shock, it is important to carry an EpiPen with you and to know how to use it.

In Europe attempts have been made to develop an oral desensitization method for food allergies including peanut allergies, but it has not produced concrete results yet. Recently, however, research from Texas, USA showed that it is possible to desensitize patients with peanut allergy by oral desensitization. In Australia where food allergies are more prevalent than in the US, tolerance to peanut, nut and shellfish allergies is being pursued by oral immunotherapy. Another group in Australia has developed a vaccination method using peptides, which are a sequence of amino acids, but shorter than the full peanut protein. It appears that this is the future direction of  treatment for peanut and other IgE mediated allergies: a kind of vaccination treatment to induce competing antibodies, which will neutralize the allergic IgE antibodies.

Conclusion

Peanut allergies have become more troublesome as the food industry has mixed peanut flour into Thai sauces, drinks, cookies, crackers and such. The person allergic to peanuts must read food labels and eat as much single-ingredient natural food as possible. This goes against the tendency of food processors who produce foods with a long rat tale of ingredients. If you see a label “may contain nuts or peanuts”, stay away from this product, as it is safer. Always carry an EpiPen or Twinject with you, just in case you develop an anaphylactic reaction (you only have a few minutes to stop the allergic reaction with adrenaline). In the future vaccination with a peanut protein specific peptide vaccine as mentioned regarding the Australian research, will probably become the treatment of choice.

More information on status asthmaticus (an acute asthma attack): http://nethealthbook.com/lung-disease/asthma-introduction/asthma-treatment/

References

1. Adkinson: Middleton’s Allergy: Principles and Practice, 7th ed. Chapter: Food Allergy. © 2008 Mosby.

2. Mandell: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th ed.© 2009 Churchill Livingstone.

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

Jul
06
2013

The Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Foods

When your grandmother grew up there was very little convenience food, maybe ketchup and yes, there was processed cheese and coke. There were also bread and butter.

Now we go through a large grocery store and the center of the whole store is occupied by convenience food, row after row.

What is convenience food? It is pre-cooked or processed food that sits on a shelf waiting to be bought and consumed. You may be able to just eat it the way it is (power bars, fruit yoghurt snacks, ice cream, breakfast cereals etc.) or you just have to microwave it for a minute or two (ready made meals, pizzas). Even, if you make a fresh salad, you top it with a salad dressing that has been processed and may contain chemicals that are not necessarily healthy for you.

This blog is meant to make you think and get educated as a consumer. As a physician I am guided by what is healthy for you, but at the same time food needs to be interesting and taste good and be affordable.

As fat, carbohydrates and protein are the main food groups that we eat, I will deal with each of these categories first followed by vitamins and minerals, which we also need.

Fats and oils

Many convenience foods are full of saturated fatty acids, which contribute to the overall calorie count of the package and are one of the main reasons why we gain weight and deposit fat into our arteries in preparation for a heart attack or stroke down the road. As you may know the worst form of fat is hydrogenated fat, also known as “trans fat”.

It contains free radicals from the hydrogenation process, which damage your cells and interfere with normal body metabolism. Read labels and avoid any foods that have a long shelf life as this is due to hydrogenated fats and chemicals known as food preservatives.

This food group also contains sausages and other processed meat; I wrote a separate blog about this recently.

If you eat cheese, reduce your saturated fat intake by buying cheese with only 18% fat (such as Cantenaar cheese, Jarlsberg light, skim milk mozzarella and goat cheese). Avoid the rich 45% type cheeses. The best oil in your kitchen would be an organic cold pressed olive oil. It figures prominently in Mediterranean cooking.

The Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Foods

The Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Foods

Sugar, starch and other carbohydrates

A large portion of snacks from the mid section of the grocery store contains all forms of sugar: high fructose corn syrup, sugar, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup etc.  You may think that a harmless fruit juice would be healthy until you see from the ingredient list on the label that it contains 5 to 6 teaspoons of sugar per cup (250 ml) of juice.

Unfortunately our body is not equipped to process all the sugar that the food industry wants us to consume and we develop insulin resistance; the liver converts the excess sugars into fat and deposits it into our arteries and as fat deposits between our guts (visceral fat) and as subcutaneous fat in the thighs, around the hips and the waist. It is no secret that a lot of obesity is related to overconsumption of sugar containing convenience foods (snacks and sugar-laden drinks).

Often low calorie alternatives contain aspartame or sucralose (Splenda). Aspartame is an excitotoxin damaging your brain cells and sucralose was developed in the 1950’s as an insecticide. We do not want to replace disease-promoting sugar with toxins as sweeteners. Safe alternatives for sugar are xylitol, mannitol, and stevia.

What is sometimes overlooked is the fact that your body digests bread, starchy foods such as potatoes, and pasta, rice and flour products like pizza or cookies within 30 minutes into sugar that is as harmful to your pancreas as plain sugar or high fructose corn syrup. The body reacts with the same overproduction of insulin converting the excess sugar into fat and depositing it in your body as described above. Much of the obesity wave we see in the past 3 decades is due to baked goods like bagels, bread, pasta and pizza. It is much better to enjoy your stevia-sweetened coffee without any bakery pieces to go along with it.

Protein in meats, dairy products and sausages

You would think that a healthy cut of meat from the grocery store would be a good source of protein for you. You probably did not think that it could be contaminated with a superbug when you bought it. This is especially true for ground meats like hamburger meat. If you bought a portion of organic meat you can be more certain that you are buying a qualitatively superior product. I discussed this whole issue of superbugs in meat and meat products in this blog recently.

We need to be aware of the agroindustry, the feedlots and what they fed the animals. I only buy organic meat and organic dairy products as my source of protein. I avoid sausages altogether because of the food additives that they contain, which are cancer causing.

The problem with prepared meats like chicken nuggets and others is that they contain breading and food preservatives and they have been deep fried, which makes these items an unhealthy choice.

What are some of the problems with dairy products? Despite the allegations that bovine growth hormone would be harmless to your health, your body thinks otherwise. Your body has hormone receptors that are very specific and bovine growth hormone can block them so your own human growth hormone from the pituitary gland cannot function properly. This is why I would recommend only organic milk products. You may have heard that in many European countries bovine growth hormone is banned for that reason.

Next the fat content of dairy products needs to be monitored: go for low-fat milk, cheese and yoghurt. While we are talking about yoghurt, stay away from fruit yoghurts that have all kinds of sugar and food additives mixed in. Add fruit of your choice and stevia, if you need a sweet taste.

Vitamins and minerals

The more foods are processed, the less natural vitamins and minerals stay behind. Particularly vitamin C and the B complex group are affected, but also magnesium, which is an important co-factor to enzymatic reactions within our cells. Often processed foods contain too much salt with sodium displacing potassium from the cells resulting in a lack of energy and high blood pressure.

Your best prevention is to stick to as little processed food as possible and to eat organic. If you eat enough organic greens and vegetables, there is an ample supply of vitamins and minerals. Prepare your own soups as canned products are high in sodium; another unwanted additive is often sodium glutamate (MSG), which comes under many disguised names. It belongs to the group of excitotoxins like aspartame and is not welcomed by your brain cells.

Public Awareness

Lately there has been more of public interest and awareness to the detrimental effects of convenience foods. Alarming reports about the increase in the obesity rates, the rise in diabetes type 2 even in children have been in the media for some time. The publications are not only North American, but also European, as can bee seen in this link.

New legislation is being introduced in many states of the US regarding school snacks and vending machines in schools.

Not all food news is bad. Recently it was reported that fish oil could protect against the effects of junk food. Omega-3-fatty acids contained in fish oil are helping to rebalance the ratio between omega 3 and omega 6-fatty acids in food, which often is disbalanced towards an overabundance of omega-6 fatty aids in processed foods. Rebalancing the omega3/omega6 ratio in food helps to normalize the metabolism of the brain and prevents hardening of arteries.

What you can do to get healthy food

It starts when you buy food. Read labels and look for calories, sugar, fat and sodium content. You may be surprised how many stores carry organic foods now. The price may not be that much more. There is a useful app for your cell phone, Buycott, that you may want to download. This way you can scan items in the store and find out what ingredients are contained in a particular food item and which company produces it.

With meats it is particularly important to buy organic (because of superbugs and also because of the aspect that feed lot animals often receive antibiotics and hormones). Stick to organics also with vegetables and greens (xenoestrogens in non-organic greens that block hormone receptors). Milk products also need to be organic because of the bovine growth hormone facts mentioned above.

When you eat out, things become more difficult unless you find an organic food restaurant. You can always prepare your own salad for lunch with organic greens and a lean protein food, which you keep refrigerated until you are ready to consume it. On weekends a portable picnic in a park can be a great way to relax and socialize, especially in summer.

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

Last edited Nov. 6, 2014

Dec
11
2012

What a Wonderful World

Recently I traveled from Palm Springs to the Caribbean and back. There were connecting flights and there was waiting at various airports, so I had lots of time to watch people and to observe what was happening around me.  Louis Armstrong’s song (1967) “What a Wonderful World“ came to mind , and I thought that this would be a fitting title for this Blog. Earlier we had come from Canada escaping the winter. The deep blue sky of Southern California and the sight of palm trees (instead of pine trees) is something that makes our hearts beat faster. The desert is a special place. We had friends join us for a week and we had visited Joshua Tree Park with the grotesque looking rock formations. During the flight it was interesting to see the landscape, as we crossed the desert areas of Arizona and New Mexico, seeing what difference people make when large areas are irrigated and the desert transforms into lush, green areas. It is also very visible, where the desert has taken back the land that no longer is irrigated.

We came to Dallas Fort Worth and the sky was clear. We traveled on to Miami and the sky was showing signs of pollution, although it was a sunny day. After our take-off from Miami we saw the ocean. I have flown over that region many times before, but this time I detected oil slicks on the surface of the ocean of the Gulf of Mexico, leftovers from previous oil spills. So, the Armstrong song of a “wonderful world” came back to me in a different context. I looked at the landscape and what industries can do to it. Erroneously we had just seen several BP commercials while waiting for our plane at the airport where BP was congratulating itself for the role it plays in cleaning up the environment having spent several billion dollars. But there are still oil slicks…

What a Wonderful World

What a Wonderful World

I looked at the people around me in the plane. More than 35% of them were obese; many of their faces looked sagging and prematurely aged, particularly in women. Males, even middle aged ones looked like they were pregnant (abdominal fat) and often their hair was receding, thinning on top and quite a few were bald. All of the texts I had read about anti-aging medicine came back to me. Too bad that people were eating the wrong foods and obviously did nothing to counter their built-in aging clock from depleting hormones as we age. I looked at the menu of the airline (I won’t mention the name of the airline, but I can assure you that 10 different airlines would have almost the same menus), but there would only have been one chicken salad that I could have eaten. In the past I tried to order this and I was told that due to popular demand this item was sold out. Instead they wanted to offer me potato chips, cheese and crackers. My wife and I had anticipated this scenario and we had bought a chicken salad and water before we boarded the plane. We also had packed healthy organic energy bars and a trail mix consisting of nuts and raisins to use as snacks during the trip. While travelling we stuck to the same principal of cutting out starches, bread, rice, pasta and only eating fresh vegetables, salads and lean meat (chicken, grass fed beef, ribs, lean pork and veal), which we always do since the fall of 2001.  We also avoid all alcoholic beverages and sugar containing sodas. When we returned to Southern California we were delighted to see that our body compositions when measured with the body composition scales were identical to what they were before the trip.

I think we can all contribute to this wonderful world, if we participate in whatever we can do such as these steps.

  1. End wars because on the long-term they do not lead anywhere to solve conflicts (in my lifetime I am thinking about the Vietnam war, long-winded Ireland crisis, the Korean war and the German reunification at the end of the Cold War). Right now there is the Middle East conflict, which screams for a peaceful solution. As we are conscious about the devastation that is caused by wars, we have to start with ourselves. We have to resolve our own conflicts that may be present in our own lives. Tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness are the tools.
  2. Pollution needs to be addressed by the US and all of the world’s countries (including Canada where I live most of the time). This means that anti-pollution devices need to be installed in industrial plants and chimneys. Recycling needs to be done on a larger scale. China and India and other emerging market countries need to be taught how these new anti-pollution measures work. This is an ongoing project, but we need more co-operations between government, industry and countries all around the globe. Also we have to start with our own behavior: we can become more aware of reusing and recycling instead of creating more waste in our landfills.
  3. What can we do to make us part of this wonderful world? We need to become better caretakers of our bodies. Instead of looking at quantity we must look at quality in choosing  natural food wherever possible. Growing up in Germany after the Second World War in the 1960’s and early 1970’s made me witness that high consumption of fat, sugar and starchy foods (potatoes, pasta and bread) caused people to age prematurely and get heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, arthritis, obesity, diabetes and cancer. At that time the “Wirtschaftswunder” (translated into English it means “economic miracle”) had propelled Germany into a nation of  high consumers. During the war they had been poor and often went hungry, they were slim and heart attacks were at an all-time low. After the war they made up for times of deprivation and overindulged:  pretzels, buns, bread, butter, French fries, sweets, cakes, cookies, jams, chocolates, pralines-everything was consumed with gusto!  What happened to Germany in the 1960’s and 1970’s is happening again right now in front of our eyes with the obesity wave in the US, Canada and all the other civilized countries around the world. Food companies have been very successful with their advertizing through the media. Already kids get hooked to the wrong foods! Hyperinsulinism will ensure that we get hungry every two or three hours. Refined carbs and extra calories are turned into fatty acids by the liver and stored as fat. It shows that we have to resist the wrong food temptation and cut out all refined carbs. It is healthier to stick to salads and vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and spinach and eat a small piece of lean meat with it. Have probiotics as plain yoghurt (0% to 2% fat). If you need a sweetener, use a small amount of Stevia, which is a natural sweetener that leaves your body chemistry untouched. Have some fruit as a dessert like blueberries, cherries or strawberries. Eat an apple, the occasional grape. Drink lots of purified water or mineral water.
  4. Buy ORGANIC food whenever possible. Most of the vegetables and fruit have been treated with insecticides, which contain residuals in them. When these are ingested, they act like estrogenic substances causing breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. The safest in our society is to stick to organic foods. More expensive, but the best insurance against future disease. Question politicians whenever possible to make yourself heard. You want unadulterated food and water. And as I’m writing about water, have a water filter under the kitchen sink with a carbon filter or have reversed osmosis to get rid of chloride or fluoride from the city water. This is what you use to cook your food. You may want to take an iodine tablet once or twice a day to counteract the negative effects of chlorine from having a bath or shower (chlorine gets absorbed through the skin). Why? Because chlorine and fluoride can displace the iodine of the thyroid hormones and make you hypothyroid.
  5. Exercise every day. Nobody gets fit in their muscles from sitting in front of the TV for hours or from spending hours and hours of computer work. If you have to, counterbalance this with an exercise program of 1 hour per day. Walk 30 minutes on a treadmill and do 30 minutes of weights or use specific exercise machines in a gym to strengthen your upper and lower extremity muscles.
  6. Did I mention hormones? Yes, I did above when I mentioned depleting hormones as we age. It is known now for some time that each hormone of the body has its own peak in life and then it declines in production as we age. Or should I rather say, we age when these hormones decline? I like the latter way of wording it, because we can measure hormone levels and when one of the hormones is too low, we can replace it with a bio-identical hormone and the person’s energy comes back and whatever function was missing is restored. This is in essence what anti-aging medicine does. Many conservative physicians and clinics do not like to hear this. Big Pharma does not like to hear this, as I am talking about replacing hormones in the body with bio-identical hormones, not with patented cheap copies that are mass manufactured, sold at inflated prices, but are no fit to the hormone receptors in the body and therefore are dangerous. The artificial drugs cause heart attacks, strokes and cancer as the Women’s Health Initiative has shown in 2002.
  7. What should have been done with the people I watched on the plane? They should have been hormone tested by their physicians. Many of the overweight or obese patients would likely have had high fasting insulin levels. The extra fat does not just sit there; it is a hormone producing factory for inflammatory compounds and estrogen-like substances. This causes heart attacks and strokes in women. It causes prostate cancer and hair loss in males as well as impotence (“erectile dysfunction”). What I said under point 3, 4 and 5 would help these people that I met. When fat is lost through changes in the diet and when an exercise program is started, the body mass index slowly comes down as fat melts away. The estrogen production comes down, the inflammatory substances abate. The person feels more energetic and may even think straighter. One special test is a saliva hormone test that looks at 5 steroid hormones: DHEA-S (storage form of DHEA), testosterone, estradiol, progesterone and cortisol. Every man and every woman needs a certain balance between these hormones and this test should be done when there is a change in energy or appearance (hair loss) somewhere when we are 35 to 40 years. In women it is important that the progesterone level is 200 times fold higher than the estradiol level (progesterone/estradiol ratio) or she is at risk of developing breast cancer and other cancers (ovary, colon etc.). In a man it is important that his testosterone to estradiol ratio is higher than 20 to 1. This protects him from cancer of the prostate or other cancers. Whatever is missing can be prescribed by the physician or a knowledgeable naturopath who is familiar with the use of bio-identical hormone creams. This program can prevent diseases like osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer and arthritis. It also prevents disabilities.

So with a view towards a new year (2013) and with a sense of leaving 2012 behind, I am looking forward to the time when more people can see Louis Armstrong’s vision of a “Wonderful World”.

More information on:

1. Pollution: https://www.askdrray.com/protecting-yourself-from-environmental-toxins/

2. Obesity: https://www.askdrray.com/stop-obesity/

3. Processed food: https://www.askdrray.com/caution-processed-food-ahead/

Last updated Nov. 6, 2014

Nov
01
2004

The Mediterranean Diet Definitely Not A Fad

Giacomo Castelvetro has first described healthy eating Mediterranean style in 1614. As an exiled Italian living in England, he tried to convince the English to eat a wider variety of fruit and vegetables and to prepare them in the same way he had eaten them in Italy. His attempt was a failure, however the same book has since been translated into English and published in 1989. In the meantime The Seven Countries Study by Ancel Keys in the 1950’s showed that the population of Crete in Greece had very low rates of heart disease, of certain cancers and a very long life expectancy, despite generous consumption of fat in the form of olive oil.

Despite a wide variation between all the 15 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, there are common characteristics: an abundance of vegetables and fruit are consumed, along with nuts and legumes. Cereal products are largely whole grain. Olive oil is the principal fat source, and fish, seafoods and poultry are eaten in moderation. Red meat is consumed rarely. Cheese and yogurt may be eaten, depending on the region.

The first clinical evidence supporting the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet came from the Lyon Heart Study. Patients who had suffered a heart attack were either assigned the diet designed by the American Heart Association or a Mediterranean style diet. After a follow-up of 27 months, the group eating the Mediterranean diet had a reduction of heart attacks by 73 % and a decreased mortality by 70% compared to the other group.

The Mediterranean Diet Definitely Not A Fad

The Mediterranean Diet Definitely Not A Fad

When the various foods of the Mediterranean diet are analyzed, the reasons for the health benefits become very clear. The fats, which are consumed, are heart-healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil or fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish (tuna, salmon, trout, sardines) or from plant sources (walnuts and other tree nuts and flax seed).

As there is an emphasis on natural foods, the diet is extremely low in trans fatty acids (hydrogenated fats), which are known to increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. As more than 300g of vegetables per capita are consumed daily, the contents of antioxidants and other beneficial plant chemicals is much higher when compared to Western diets. There are many individual components of the Mediterranean diet that contribute to the reduction of disease and in particular of heart disease. It also is apparent, that it is not one single food or nutrient, but all the interactive effects of all the nutrients that are responsible for the health benefits.

The practical application does not mean deprivation and starvation, but a move away from processed fats (margarine), baked goods (donuts, muffins, pastries), and high saturated fat snacks and trans fats (chips, crackers, cookies, pies). Food choices move towards those of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil. Portions or servings have to be adequate to maintain a healthy weight.

Mediterranean food is not the heaping plate of pasta with an afterthought of vegetables nor the super-size fast food pizza with pepperoni and cheese, but foods that incorporate the fresh food rather than the fast food. It entails a shift from large portions of red meat to smaller portions of fish, a transition from highly processed foods to ample helpings of dark green vegetables with a dose of olive oil. Low amounts of alcohol, especially red wine can make a meal enjoyable, which means one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men. And after dinner go for a walk! What Castelvetro tried to teach us in his writings back in 1614 is still true today.

More info on Mediterranean diet: http://nethealthbook.com/news/mediterranean-diet-benefits-us-workers/

Reference: Patient Care Canada, September 2004, Vol.15, No.9

Last edited October 27, 2014