Sep
13
2014

What To Watch Out For In Restaurant Foods

Recently I saw a flyer of a fast food chain restaurant entitled “Food Fact”. Interestingly you get the contents of a list of bakery items, warm breakfast items, burgers, sandwiches and wraps for lunch as well as yogurt parfaits and fruit cups.

I have to commend the restaurant chain to attempt to educate their customers by itemizing each item.  They have listed the serving size broken down into calories, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sugar, protein, dietary fiber, vitamin C, A, calcium and iron.

Based on my dietary habits I need to check this list.

No trans fat

Years ago I have given up on trans fats because trans fat contain free radicals that accelerate hardening of the arteritis. Granted , the percentage is low, but 20% come from natural meats and 80% from processed foods. It is the 80% from processed foods that I avoid. Here is another review that explain trans fats in more detail. This eliminates the baked sweet pieces like croissants, cookies, raisin bran muffins, oat fudge bars and even spinach feta wraps.

What To Watch Out For In Restaurant Foods

What To Watch Out For In Restaurant Foods

Total fat

Now we come to total fat. The content list shows me that calories in total and fat content in total are closely related. But you reach the peak when you swallowed a sausage, egg and cheddar breakfast sandwich. This alone accounts for 500 calories. This is also high in cholesterol and high in sodium, so not really on my list of desirable foods.

Sodium content

I am now getting concerned about my blood pressure as I follow the sodium content. Who would have thought that a spinach feta wrap has more than 800mg of sodium? And ham and a Swiss Panini have more than 1500 mg of sodium? Literally 50% of the food list would not be on my menu, if I want to limit my sodium intake to 400mg or less per helping. Especially the sandwiches are out!

Hidden sugar

So, now I am looking at a yoghurt for a light snack,  but suddenly the sugar column has sprung up from 1-2 mg of sugar content in simple sandwiches to 37 to 55 mg of sugar for honey creek yoghurt parfait to strawberry blueberry parfait. It is not the yoghurt, it’s not the fruit, it is extra sugar, honey or high-fructose corn syrup mixed in here. This is definitely not what I am going to choose.

Refined carbs

Although the carbs by weight do not appear too high on the list, it is the total of sugar and carbs and the fat that has been added, which add up very quickly to hefty calorie sums in all of the foods. I am shaking my head and I absolutely cannot find anything that is healthy and would merit being eaten by me.

Missing greens

I am missing vegetables and salads.  The only thing I see that I can eat is their classic oatmeal, which has 160 calories with a nut medley topping. I may add a decaf-coffee sweetened with my own stevia that I brought along and some cream (because that’s how I still like it having been raised in Germany).

Homemade food

Then I rush to the health food store and to the grocery store and load up on organic foods, meat, lettuce, broccoli, peppers, spinach, organic olive oil and balsamic vinegar. And, yes, a tub of plain goat yoghurt. Organic walnut halves are also on the list (quite expensive, I must say).

I suddenly realize that now I have all of the ingredients to never enter a restaurant again. I can prepare my own food and I can do it the way I want it, not how the food industry wants me to eat it.

If I ate the food industry’s way, the salt content would send my blood pressure through the roof and I would get hardening of the arteries within the shortest time (from refined sugar, starchy foods and trans fats).

I find the taste of home cooked meals superb. All of the flavors are there. Of course, I do not mind spending the extra money on the organic food, because the tastes are the way my grandmother’s food used to taste. I rarely add salt and my blood pressure is 105/65, so something must be going right.

I am thinking what would happen, if more people would do what I do: avoid restaurants, especially fast food places, pack your own lunch box with an organic salad and enjoy dinner at home. It can be simple, tasty, healthy, and economical. Nobody needs to be an accomplished chef to do that. Would there be pressure on the food industry to open up organic restaurants and offer alternatives to those who want to enjoy healthy, tasty foods ?  Or are the fast food places here to stay forever and ever?

Conclusion

I thought I go with you today to one of those fast food places that actually list their food content. Listing it does not really help when the whole list consists almost exclusively of foods that are having serious drawbacks, be it in the addition of too much sodium, fats, sugar or refined carbohydrates.

You do not want to get accelerated hardening of your arteries from too much fat, trans fat, sugar and starchy foods. You don’t want to get high blood pressure from too much salt day after day. You may want to rethink that processed foods are really lacking the nutrition that your body needs to function well and healthy. A lot of them are best to be thrown out. You need fresh, organic vegetables and lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard etc. Maybe you want a vegetable omelet for breakfast with egg white, spinach, peppers and Swiss chard? Take charge of your own life. Look after your own affairs. This includes what you do in your kitchen and what foods you consume.

More information on:

1. High blood pressure: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/

2. Cardiovascular disease: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014

May
21
2014

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

A new report from the CDC (Center of Disease Control) in the US has revealed that up to 40% of premature deaths could be prevented by simple lifestyle changes. As this link shows every year about 900,000 premature deaths occur in the US, which are due to 5 major diseases that in the opinion of the CDC can be prevented by 20 to 40%. Here are the diseases that kill: cancer, heart disease, COPD/emphysema, stroke and accidents/injuries. These conditions were responsible for 63% of all deaths in the US in 2010.

Let’s discuss each of these conditions and how one could lower the risk of dying from them.

1. Cancer:

The Framingham Heart Study has shown that smoking and cancer are closely related. Smokers who quit can significantly reduce their risk of getting cancer. We also know that exercise and prophylactic supplements like fish oil and vitamin D3 have cancer preventative effects.

Antioxidant supplementation that included beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E daily or on alternate days for 1 to 12 years, along with selenium supplementation reduced the incidence of cancer of the esophagus, colon, pancreas, stomach or the liver. Insulin resistance due to sugar and starch overconsumption is causing cancer, particularly breast cancer, colorectal cancer and endometrial cancer. I have discussed this in a recent blog.

Pollution has been linked to increased lung cancer risks as discussed here.

2. Heart disease:

Heart disease can be caused by several factors in combination. Lifestyle issues are important: Smokers need to quit smoking as the Framingham Heart Study has shown more than fifty years ago that smoking causes heart attacks. Obesity and diabetes also contribute significantly to the risk of heart disease. Often these are connected to faulty nutrition, which is another lifestyle issue that comes to mind when too much sugar and starchy foods are taken in; your liver will convert these into fatty acids, triglycerides and elevated, oxidized LDL cholesterol, which gets deposited under the lining of the arteries. A lack of exercise adds to this problem as a lack of exercise lowers the protective HDL cholesterol and fat is deposited under the lining of the arteries. Start exercising and your protective HDL cholesterol will rise, your total cholesterol to HDL ratio will lower to healthier levels and your risk for hardening of the arteries and for getting a heart attack will fall. If you have diabetes, it is important that you manage your blood sugars well; this means that if you inject insulin, you want the blood sugar tests to be within the normal range and the hemoglobin A1C values to be below 5.5%. Poorly controlled diabetes is an important cause of heart attacks and strokes. High blood pressure is also an important cause of developing heart attacks and strokes. It is important to control your blood pressure by taking blood pressure lowering pills and also by exercising regularly. Exercise seems to send a signal to relax the blood vessels thus lowering the blood pressure, which in turn prevents heart attacks.

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

 

3. COPD/emphysema:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema is mostly caused by chronic exposure to cigarette smoke from smoking. The earlier you can quit, the better your chances that your breathing will not be the limiting factor when you age. But it is also important to avoid exposure to other noxious gases, such as from welding and from exposure to pollution. This may involve a decision to move to a less polluted area. Or it might involve a job retraining. Those who are suffering from COPD can be helped to a certain extent by a portable oxygen tank with nasal prongs.

4. Stroke:

As mentioned before, quitting smoking, controlling high blood pressure and controlling blood sugar, if you suffer from diabetes have been shown to stabilize your blood vessels including the ones that supply your brain. The key is to prevent hardening of the arteries by a healthy lifestyle. Exercising and keeping your weight under a body mass index of 25.0 have been shown to be effective stroke prevention. Healthy nutrition as indicated above under “heart disease” is equally important for stroke prevention. Go green (eat more vegetables, consume more green smoothies), cut down grains, sugar and starchy foods and you will live longer without strokes and heart attacks. Remember, what’s good for your heart is good for your brain!

5. Unintentional accidents/injuries:

Wearing helmets when bicycling, wearing seat belts when driving in a car, avoiding risky behaviors are all measures that save lives. One factor stands out in all of this: if you drink too much, you run the risk of being involved in unintentional accidents or injuries. People may not like to hear this, but your brain lacks the natural inhibitory impulses when you are under the influence of alcohol, so you become more daring and you may not pay attention for the split second that could have prevented an injury or accident. People react very differently to alcohol. Some people feel inebriated after only ½ a glass of wine or beer whereas others can drink more before they make mistakes. The best is to be sober when you drive, ski, use power tools or walk in traffic. Even climbing ladders requires a clear mind!

Conclusion:

As the CDC said 20 to 40% of premature deaths (deaths that occurred before the age of 80) could have been prevented, if the above-mentioned recommendations were followed. Let me rephrase this: 180,000 to 360,000 premature deaths every year in the US before the age of 80 could have been prevented! Curative medicine cannot help with these statistics as a heart attack or stroke has happened when it has struck you. Cancer and end stage lung disease are similar conditions that you are suddenly faced with when they occur and unintentional accidents just seem to happen. This is where the importance of prevention can be seen, because these little baby steps every day are adding up to something formidable, a force to be reckoned with. Be part of the solution, think prevention!

More information on:

1. Cancer mortality: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/overview/cancer-mortality-rate/

2. Higher vitamin D3 intake lowers mortality from heart attacks, strokes, cancer, fractures due to osteoporosis: http://nethealthbook.com/news/higher-vitamin-d-levels-associated-lower-risk-mortality/

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014

Apr
12
2014

Lead Still Poisoning Us

We are living in an environment that puts emphasis on quality control, and companies around us take pride in their high quality products, supervised by the FDA. This is how it ideally should be. But is it really? Unfortunately not!

I read the headlines about lipsticks on April 4, 2014 and could not believe it!

When it comes to skin care or cosmetic products, things start to get scary.  Skin is not a barrier, but it is an organ of our body. From skin cream and ointment applications in medicine it is known that pharmaceutical compounds can be applied to the skin, and this way the body can readily absorb active substances.

When it comes to cosmetics, the skin areas to which cosmetics are applied have softer skin, for example the mouth. The vulnerable skin of the lips can readily absorb any chemical substance, and this is where health concerns get even more serious.

In 2010 as the above link shows the FDA determined that all of the “400 lipsticks tested had traces of lead in them, ranging from 0.9 to 3.06 ppm. Another study from California noted that there were other toxic metals in lip sticks and lip glosses containing chromium, cadmium, manganese, aluminum in addition to lead. Even to the unconcerned this sounds like a precarious cocktail of noxious substances! On June 1, 2013 I wrote a blog about toxins in the bathroom. I mentioned the dirty dozen of chemicals that repeatedly are found in cosmetics. With this new information of traces of lead still being in cosmetics, more so than previously reported, women need to be more careful about the choice of lipsticks that they are using.

1.History of lipsticks:

This overview explains that the long-lasting lipstick was only invented around the 1950’s (“Sticks on you, not on him” was the slogan).

Traces of lead were often recorded, but not really thought to be that dangerous. The thinking of the FDA at that time was that children needed to be protected from lead in house paints, but nobody mentioned that lead was part of the red pigment and therefore had to be part of a lipstick. The FDA did know this, but the concentration was supposed to be so small and absorption was thought to be negligible, so considered to be safe for an adult.

Lead Still Poisoning Us

Lead Still Poisoning Us

2. Evidence of considerable absorption of lead:

We know from several studies summarized in this link that various components of cosmetics including lipsticks and lip-glosses get absorbed through the skin. Lead is no exception to this. A 2011 study showed in children in Africa that lead-containing cosmetics for tribal ceremonies in children had higher lead concentrations in their blood than children who did not use these cosmetics.

When doing a PubMed review on the subject I came across a very interesting study: In India there is a practice that parents apply kajal (also called kohl or surma cosmetic) around their eyes, on old traditional practice. Unfortunately this is a lead-containing cosmetic, which is absorbed into the blood and can cause lead poisoning. According to this ancient belief this application of cosmetics around the eyes would keep their eyes cool and clean and is supposed to improve vision, strengthen the eyes and prevent eye diseases. None of these belief are compatible with Western medicine (although a lot of the Ayurveda medicine is valid).

In another 2010 study done in the mountainous Aseer region in the Southwest of Saudi Arabia here there is pristine air quality, 176 pregnant patients with a single baby were followed to see whether there was an effect with regard to lead poisoning in the offspring. Two groups of women were identified, those with lead levels of more than 200 mcg/L in the blood and another group with less than 200 mcg/L. The researchers noted that there was no difference with regard to prematurity, size of the baby or premature rupture of membranes (premature birth).

The conclusion of this study was that there was significant absorption of lead from 100% lead sulfide eye cosmetic “kohl” only on those who used it. To my surprise nobody mentioned anything about the lead levels in the children, which is an example of compartmentalization of science. Common sense would dictate that these children who were at higher risk from mothers with over 200 mcg/L should have received chelation treatments to remove lead (we do this in Western medicine!).

3. Different lip sticks and lip glosses analyzed in Europe and in the US:

A European study showed that 31% of lipsticks and 4% of lip glosses tested positive for lead. All of them had less than 0.88 mg/kg of lead (less than 1 mg/kg). Pink lipstick or lip gloss (0.81 and 0.38mg/kg) tested lower than purple lipstick or lip gloss (0.88 and 0.37mg/kg) and red (0.58 and 0.25mg/kg), but purple tested the highest! I did not know that until now when I researched this.  On average the tests show that the gloss has half the concentration of the lipstick.

Don’t be fooled by the difference in recommended safe levels in Canada (10 mg/kg) and Germany (20 mg/kg). Germany has a very powerful chemical industry with lobbyists that likely lead to this higher “safe” level. In Canada it is the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada. No country got it right so far:  A zero tolerance (meaning a blood level of 0 mg/kg in babies and adults alike) is the only solution for humans. A little bit over a long time can lead to chronic chronic lead poisoning.

One other interesting tidbit for those who need to apply something to their lips:

The more expensive lipsticks had much less lead in it than the cheaper varieties (don’t buy the dollar store brands).

Contrast this to an FDA initiated study between 2009 and 2012, published in 2012 that showed that the average lipstick concentration in 400 lipsticks tested  was 1.11 mg/kg, but the highest concentration was 7.19 mg/kg and 13 of them tested 3.06 mg/kg. Here is another review that shows more details (ppm equals mg/kg, so you can compare directly with the figures above. As stated before, in my opinion and that of toxicologists around the world who are the real experts in this a “0 mg/kg” level (no lead in the body) should be the acceptable norm!

Only organic lipsticks and lip-glosses are recommended, if you must wear any of such products. Here is a helpful blog that tells you more positive news (lead and chemical free products).

4. What are the effects of chronic low lead exposure?

Adult lead toxicity is not as common as in the past. Painters in the decades leading up to the 1970’s when laws became more stringent were the ones mostly affected (Ref.1). Keep in mind that more than 30 million tons of lead was released into the air in the US before the lead ban finally remedied this in the 1970’s.  This phasing out was completed in 1995. The mean blood lead levels of Americans declined by 35% since. The EPA is monitoring lead levels in public water systems.

Lead is a nerve poison. It leads to fatigue, insomnia, irritability, lethargy, headaches, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, and tremor. It can also affect the nerves of the extremities, more so in the arms than the legs, which was significant in the past century among painters using lead paints. (“Upper extremity paresis” found in painters). Chronic lead poisoning targets the kidneys and the bone marrow. In the kidneys leakage of the filtration units, called glomeruli, leads to loss of microglobulins that can be measured in the urine among other tests. Above a level of 30 mcg/dL (this is the same as above 300 mcg/L) electrophysiological studies reveal often the ulnar nerve conduction is disturbed, which is the cause for the arm weakness in painters. The bone marrow toxicity can be seen in stippling of red blood cells and anemia develops subsequently. High blood pressure and fertility issues are also common (low sperm count in men, higher rate of spontaneous abortions and stillbirths in women). The gums around the teeth show lead lines (blue discoloration).  I will not get into lead toxicity in children, as this is a big topic of its own. Needless to say symptoms are much worse as any pediatrician can tell you. It goes without saying that should you notice any of these symptoms, see your doctor and have appropriate tests done.

5. Treatment and prevention:

As we do not see acute lead poisoning as much as in the past, except sadly to say still in development countries and highly industrialized areas with lead emissions into the air, I like to emphasize the importance of prevention here.

a)    If you absolutely must have make-up and/or lip sticks or lip gloss, at least go for the expensive, organic products. You owe it to yourself. However, having said that keep in mind that anything you put on your skin anywhere is absorbed to a certain percentage. So, why mess with your body’s metabolism? I really question this. For your skin you can use a product called “Youth serum” from LifeExtension, where only a few drops will suffice to cover your face and neck with a thin film. Within a few seconds this is absorbed into the skin and it will stimulate your skin to grow where wrinkles are, so the wrinkles flatten out in time.

b)    Keep in mind that skin appearance is hormone dependent, males need testosterone as they age and women need bioidentical progesterone. The first link under point 2 above claims that progesterone would be cancer producing. This is not true: it is progestin, a synthetic copy of progesterone that does this. So, bioidentical progesterone in cosmetics would be cancer preventing in women (men should stay away from a woman who has applied this for at least two hours as skin transfer will block testosterone production). Worse still: if a manufacturer uses progestin (the synthetic version), the traces of it over a long period of time will act like xenoestrogens, which can cause breast cancer in the woman who uses such a product and through transfer can cause prostate cancer in a man.

c)    If you insist on using chemicals on your skin, you may want to consider seeing a naturopathic physician who does intravenous chelation. Lab tests are available to assess the levels of heavy metals and toxins in your body. If the levels are creeping up, chelation treatments from time to time may be needed in people with measured elevations of lead levels in blood tests and/or urinary lead level elevations.  Discuss this with your doctor.  Removal of any accumulated mercury, lead, and cadmium or other heavy metals will be an option. I have summarized detoxification methods elsewhere.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, I think that it has to be carefully considered, how much use of lipstick application is necessary. Next the choice of a high quality product is of utmost importance. Taking all the factors together, its constant use cannot be recommended, especially since there is not only lead present, which is a known health hazard. Beside lead there are many other chemicals that get absorbed and their effects have not been adequately tested by the agencies.

More information on vitamins and detoxification: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/vitamins-minerals-supplements/

References:

1. Shannon: Haddad and Winchester’s Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose, 4th ed. Chapter 73, “Lead” by Michael W. Shannon, MD, MPH © 2007, Saunders

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Mar
08
2014

Protecting Yourself From Environmental Toxins

Environmental toxins are toxins that may be in your drinking water, in what you eat, in the air you breathe, or they enter your body through your skin when you swim in contaminated water or walk on a sandy, wet beach.

In the following blog I will address some of these issues and how we can defend ourselves against toxins.

The youngest and most vulnerable

Toxins are particularly bad for infants and premature babies.

The reasons for this are the following ones: their kidney function (tubular secretion) is only 20% to 30% of that of an adult; the cytochrome P-450 enzyme system in the liver, one of the toxin eliminators is slowed down to only 25% to 50% of the adult activity and glucuronidation in the liver, another detoxification process, reaches adult levels only at the age of 3 years. The kidneys and the liver are limiting the removal of toxins by way of urine and bile in the newborn. Stomach acidity in a premature has a pH of 4.7, in a full-term newborn 2.3–3.6 and in an adult 1.4–2.0. This is important to note as a lack of stomach acid increases susceptibility of newborns and infants to gastrointestinal infections and cause diarrhea. Percutaneous absorption in newborns is much higher than in adults, which makes them very susceptible to absorbing toxins through the skin (Ref.1).

Diabetes from environmental toxins

Environmental toxins can cause insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is used to make polycarbonate and epoxy resins and is found primarily in food and beverage containers. The world population has been exposed to this since 1957 and as a result 90% of US residents have detectable levels of BPA in their urine. Ref.2 explains that the higher the urine concentration of BPA, the higher the risk is for developing diabetes.

Persistent organic pollutants are another source of concern: pesticides and herbicides, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, hexachlorobenzene, and hexachlorocyclohexane have all been found in humans. Several investigators have shown that virtually all of the risk in obese patients to develop diabetes comes from the fat-soluble persistent organic pollutants (Ref.2).

Inorganic arsenic is another pollutant that is found in soil and rock naturally and finds its way into the drinking water. About 8% of the public water system of the US exceeds 10 mcg/L for drinking water, which has been set as the safe limit for drinking water by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s standard. Anything above those levels is considered toxic.Ref.2 describes that people who ingest inorganic arsenic will excrete it in the urine; the highest group with arsenic in their urine had a risk of 3.58-fold to develop diabetes when compared to the lowest group. Curiously enough organic arsenic that is found in fish and shellfish is excreted in the urine unchanged and does not cause diabetes. Overall this indicates to me that nobody should consume or cook with contaminated water that contains inorganic arsenic. Reverse osmosis filters will protect you from this risk.

Protecting Yourself From Environmental Toxins

Protecting Yourself From Environmental Toxins

Other toxins around the house

Volatile organic compounds are often contained in carpets, but also in laser and inkjet printers. They are part of everyone’s life as this link shows. Varied symptoms like irritation of eyes, nose or throat, breathing problems, headaches, loss of coordination, damage to the liver, kidneys and the brain have been reported after exposure to volatile organic compounds. Long-term exposure can even cause cancer in animals and has been suspected to cause cancer in humans as well.

Air fresheners and cleaning solutions that contain ethylene-based glycol ethers and terpenes have been the subject of a study that examined concentrations in the air and interaction with ozone that can also be released by some cleaners. As this link shows the investigators concluded that with exposure to high enough concentrations and long enough exposures to these fumes lung cancer can be caused in cleaning personnel. They recommended to use cleaning solutions only in diluted form and to air out the premises well after cleaning. Another component of many air fresheners and cleaning chemicals is paradichlorobenzene, the same chemical that is contained in mothballs.

There have been problems with flame retardants: polybrominated diphenyl ethers, which are cancer producing; they have been outlawed in the US since 2004, but older mattresses, upholstery, television, computer casings and circuit boards may still contain them.

Lead and mercury poisoning, and radioactive pollutants

Manufacturers were not allowed to use lead in paints anymore since 1978. Paint from buildings older than that still may contain lead. There have been serious lead poisonings in children who were gnawing on items painted with lead containing paint. Lead causes problems with your central nervous system, brain, blood cells and kidneys. Just last year a news story about lead found in fashion jewelry surfaced warning about cheap fashion jewelry from China. Lead form these items can be absorbed through the skin and cause lead poisoning. Because of the apparent lack of regulations in China it is my recommendation not to buy anything that goes into your mouth or on your skin, if it has been grown or produced in China.

Mercury from tuna and other predator fish: It is sad that the oceans are polluted to the point where it has become unsafe to eat predator fish as there is an accumulation of mercury through the food chain.

How did things develop this way? Back 100 years and more ago gold panning and the purification process of gold caused mercury to enter into rivers and allow mercury to end up in the oceans where it has since accumulated; it just sits there as it has nowhere to go.

Coal burning (yes, there is mercury in coal) has also contributed to this by smoke being emitted from smoke stacks containing mercury vapors, which ended up returning to earth as polluted rain and drained through the river system into the oceans.

It is monomethylmercury that accumulates in the tissue of humans. It affects many organs, such as the brain, kidneys, lungs, and skin. It causes various symptoms like red cheeks, fingers, and toes; there can be bleeding from the mouth and ears; it can cause rapid heartbeats, high blood pressure, intense sweating, loss of hair, teeth, and nails. It also can cause blindness, loss of hearing, impaired memory, and lack of coordination, disturbed speech and birth defects. You may think all mercury comes from the outside. However, silver amalgam fillings in your teeth could also be the source of mercury poisoning. It is a good idea to replace amalgam/mercury fillings with ceramic fillings.

There are many forms of other marine pollution as this link shows.

One particular concerning aspect is pollution with radioactive materials as the Fukushima disaster in Japan has shown. Following the catastrophe on March 11, 2011 there have been several leaks of radioactive material into the ocean, which are described here. Dr. John Apsley II pointed out that with the explosions in Fukushima there were also several releases of radioactive pollution into the stratosphere. This pollution has subsequently traveled around the globe and has come down as radioactive rain. He has made it his ambition to help people minimize radiation exposure from nuclear accidents such as Fukushima.

Protecting yourself from toxins

Having said that pollution and toxins are problems that we are living with, how can we protect ourselves from all of that?

1. Avoid as many unsafe chemicals around you as you can. This includes checking ingredients in hair care and body care products, toothpaste, hair dyes, cosmetics, mouthwashes and underarm deodorants.  I have written a blog about toxins in the bathroom and what you should watch for.

2. I would recommend you switch from a standard food to organic food. It has become unsafe to eat non-organic meats, leafy vegetables, vegetables and fruit. There are too many residues of herbicides and pesticides contained also in meat, not only in vegetables and fruit. Washing will not remove these substances, even though some merchants may tell you otherwise. Buyer beware!

3. Detoxification methods are available and I have reviewed them in this blog. Briefly, to remove lead and mercury a formal intravenous chelation protocol should be followed.  Depending on how many heavy metal toxins you have on board, you may need only a few treatments or else up to 20. Here is a more conservative website stating that it would be safe to have silver amalgam fillings. I think that gold and ceramic fillings are much safer.

4. Genetically modified food is another danger as I have summarized in this blog. This is another reason why I like to stick to organic food. There is evidence that GMO food causes autoimmune diseases, infertility and chronic inflammation that can eventually lead to cancer. It may take decades to prove this, but I am not willing to be a human guinea pig.

5. I have mentioned in a prior blog that we live in a toxic world. You need to carefully look at your home and remove toxins. You need to assess your drinking water. A water analysis can tell you how good the water in your home is and whether there are concerns about inorganic arsenic. Usually places that sell filter systems can advise you in that regard. Your drinking water should either be bottled pure water or else reverse osmosis water that can be part of a filter system in your house.

6.Vitamins and supplements have been shown to support your cell integrity and have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that protect you from toxins. I discussed this in detail in my NetHealthBook under nutrition. For instance vitamin D3 in doses of 5000 IU or more and CoQ-10 are powerful anti-inflammatories and CoQ-10 is also an antioxidant and preserves mitochondrial function. High fish oil supplements (3 to 6 Grams per day) have anti-inflammatory effects and protect your cell membrane integrity. With these overlapping qualities of vitamins and supplements your body will be in a much stronger position to defend itself against the negative effects of toxins. When you take multivitamins, this translates into telomere lengthening of 5.1% (or converted into a survival advantage of 9.8 years when it is accumulated over a life time). Ref. 4 explains this in more detail.

7. Exposure to radioactive substances is a scary thought, but this is becoming more and more a reality, at least for those who live close to disaster areas such as the Fukushima site in Japan or the Chernobyl site in the Ukraine. But according to Dr. Apsley II low dose radiation that we have already received in the US and in Canada following the Fukushima disaster is equally disastrous (Ref.3). Many of the vitamins and supplements I have mentioned are also cell and mitochondria protective and will help with DNA repair following radiation damage, but you must avoid sugar and other refined carbs and starches to reduce the oxidative effect on cells and on LDL cholesterol to prevent premature aging and cell death. Ref. 3 contains a lot more detail about this and explains what specific supplements can be taken to detoxify your system from specific radioactive elements that function as free radicals. There are specific antidotes for radioactive iodine-129 and iodine-131, radioactive cesium-137 and others.

Conclusion

Many people shrug their shoulders when they hear that pollution has an effect on their lives. They feel that they are powerless and cannot do anything about this. The truth is far from this! Above I mentioned seven points that you can follow to counter toxins. On top of that you can get politically active and urge your government representative to create a nuclear free zone in your area. Ref. 3 contains compelling evidence why this is so important not only for us now, but for future generations and the future of mankind. We need to hold those who provide us with food and beverages accountable for the quality of these. Shrugging it off is not good enough. Get involved. Buy organic food. Avoid the section in the grocery store where sugar and high carb foods are sold. It’s good for your own health, but it will collectively change the mentality of the grocery store owners who will notice that they are stuck with the comfort foods that sold well in the past. This new trend will result in cheaper prices for healthy foods and more availability of organic food.

References

1. Shannon: Haddad and Winchester’s Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose, 4th ed. © 2007 Saunders. Chapter 18:“Toxicologic Issues in the Neonate”.

2. Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed. © 2012 Saunders. Chapter 31: “Insulin Resistance and the Metabolic Syndrome”.

3. Dr. John W. Apsley II : “Fukushima Meltdown & Modern Radiation: Protecting Ourselves and Our Future Generations” © 2011. Temet Nosce Publications, Sammamish, WA 98075

4. Xu, Qun, Parks, C.G., DeRoo, L.A., Cawthon, R.M., Sandler, D.P. and Chen, H. Multivitamin use and telomere length in women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 89 (April 2009):1857-63. Full text (PDF): http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/6/1857.full?sid=9aab0e13-b4d2-42ad-b44c-15cffc6771c3

Last edited March 8, 2014

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Feb
15
2014

Melatonin More Than A Sleeping Aid

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

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

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

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

1. Melatonin as a hormone

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

Melatonin More Than A Sleeping Aid

Melatonin More Than A Sleeping Aid

2. Melatonin levels decline with age

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

3. Melatonin protects from neurodegenerative diseases

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

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

4. Melatonin may extend life

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

Conclusion

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

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

Reference

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

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Feb
01
2014

Early Alcohol Use Will Result In Memory Loss Later In Life

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

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

Review of the effects of alcohol

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

Early Alcohol Use Will Result In Memory Loss Later In Life

Early Alcohol Use Will Result In Memory Loss Later In Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cardiology view of preventative alcohol

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

References:

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

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Dec
28
2013

Airplane Food And Airport Food, A Personal Travel Experience

Travelling for pleasure is usually something we eagerly anticipate: it can associate with a long wished for vacation, meeting family and friends, enjoying a different environment, in short: there is a bit of adventure attached to it.

Getting something to eat while you are in transit, however, can be a different story. Let me share a recent experience that my wife and I had on a transcontinental flight.

We had to get up shortly after 4 AM, and knowing that we would be in transit till later that evening we decided to prepare an early breakfast. As we usually do, we packed some plastic bags with travel snacks and stashed them away into our back packs: walnuts, almonds, apples, some cheese, some hard boiled eggs and a chocolate bar (70 % cocoa) for an indulgent dessert. It felt a bit unusual to sit down to a vegetable omelet, enjoy some berries and nuts and fix a cup of Americano at 5 in the morning, but we got over the early hour and enjoyed our breakfast. It was a good start to cope with a three-hour time switch that awaited us at the end of the trip.

After checking in at the airport we were greeted with the pleasant news, that our seat arrangement had been upgraded: we would travel first class, as they could not accommodate us in economy. To complete the sense of unexpected luxury, a full breakfast would be included. We did not expect any gourmet fare, but it was welcome news. After some time the flight attendants started to serve the meal. The choices were a cereal bowl or a scrambled egg skillet southwestern style for breakfast. My readers know already that I do not hold the breakfast cereal in high esteem. Cereal has the undesirable effect of sending blood sugar levels to unhealthy highs and as a result causing insulin spikes, so it is not a prudent choice in the first place. We asked for the scrambled eggs, cautiously enquiring: ‘What is in it?”

Airplane Food And Airport Food, A Personal Travel Experience

Airplane Food And Airport Food, A Personal Travel Experience

We were informed that it would be scrambled eggs with some black beans, green and red peppers, ham, onion and some cheese. It sounded really good, and we felt like a glutton having eaten a substantial breakfast at home and now getting some more! It turned out to be a bit different. The meal arrived. It was a flat skillet dish, which consisted of a thick layer of potato cubes held together by a yellow substance, which could not really be described as scrambled eggs. About half a dozen cubes of peppers were identifiable along with a few black beans. I started mining for onions and ham and tried to dig out the egg. It was virtually impossible! The amount of egg that I could retrieve was not more than 1 level tablespoon, and there were a few tiny specks of ham. My wife had the same experience. Needless to say, the skillets were almost full of potatoes, when we sent them back. The flight attendant came through one more time and offered a basket of croissants and buns to complete the breakfast, which we politely refused. As you see, we did not have any need to feel guilty about ingesting a second breakfast onboard, as this meal was simply unsuitable for anybody who was seeking balance in nutrition. To make it short: it is almost exclusively overfeeding the consumer with a load of dense carbohydrates (potatoes, croissants and buns), neglects a sensible amount of protein, and omits any healthy fat source. Out of sheer curiosity I flicked through the pages of an in-flight magazine that listed the foods that could be purchased on board for lunch. The results were not inspiring. There was an assortment of snack foods: potato chips, pretzels, super-size chocolate chip cookies, a candy bar that I had met before on TV and beef jerky. The meal selection featured three types of sandwiches: ham and cheese, brie and turkey breast, and a “loaded” super Italian affair with salami, which looked like a guarantee to a case of indigestion. The cheese plate was sold out and the fresh fruit plate was gone too. Sorry, no luck! As a matter of fact we were lucky and so were all the other passengers who came prepared with a stash of travel foods. When we got hungry towards noon we dug out our travel snacks, drank some water and were quite satisfied.

On our return trip, we traveled economy class (no upgrade to first class food or first class seats this time). It was another lengthy trip coast to coast, and as there were two lengthy layovers, the day was even longer. We arrived at one international airport at the East coast by lunchtime. This time we decided to get a meal at one of the numerous eating establishments. After all, just recently news articles had praised airport restaurants having embraced many healthy food choices. So this would not be airplane food but REAL food! We had some time to walk around and explore, and it turned out, that we certainly needed it! We salivated at the sight of a choice of mahi-mahi with a mixed salad at one café. Cautiously we wondered whether this would be grilled fish. No, we were told, this would be breaded and deep-fried! And it would not be offered in any other way. Too bad, this was not really what we wanted! An Asian food outlet offered a buffet-style assortment of food. It did look very good, and we loved the chicken and vegetable choice or the beef and broccoli with mushroom dish. It did look fresh and appetizing. Often Asian foods can contain MSG. We wanted to make sure that this substance would not be in the food at this place. Sorry, we were told, all the meats and vegetables did contain MSG! Monosodium glutamate is not a harmless flavor enhancer. It belongs into the group of excitotoxins. The substance can destroy brain cells. It also has the potential to give you a nasty headache, especially if larger quantities are used. We were looking for food minus a headache, so we walked away once again and looked for more. An Italian bistro offered the usual suspects: piles of pasta and pizza! And there was a bakery with towering-high tortes, cinnamon buns, and muffins. It was overfeeding of the already carbo-holic individual and under nourishing the traveller. Sad!

After this expedition through the terminal we did finally find a meal that would sustain us until the evening. It was a pre-packaged Thai salad. It was certainly nothing fancy, but it contained a large amount of lettuce and other salad vegetables, offered a small but appropriate amount of cooked shredded real chicken, not some processed salty fake meat, and a small container of salad dressing on the side. It was enough to feel pleasantly full without feeling stuffed and good enough to keep us going till the evening.

Yes, we really wanted a touch of luxury for dessert! We thought of the duty free shop and envisioned a square or two of sinfully dark chocolate. Actually, this is not sinful at all! Have a piece of chocolate with over 70 % cocoa content or even 85%. It is not bitter, but an explosion of flavor on your taste buds, and it happens to be a source of anti-oxidants and bioflavonoids. It lowers high blood pressure and gobbles up free radicals, and as a result it can protect you from heart disease. One word of caution: use moderate amounts! Two or three squares only, not more, please!

And there was chocolate at the duty-free shop, lots of it! There were praline selections in large varieties, and there were Lindt and Ghirardelli chocolate bars, two well-known brands! We rejoiced…but too early! There were six packs featuring extra-creamy, sea-salt, caramel, chocolate and chili. As we studied the labels it was very obvious, that this was not at all what we were looking for! One bar in six was of excellent quality with a high cocoa percentage. The rest was a “gourmet mix”, all of them with low cocoa percentage and high sugar content, which really means it was useless. Were we willing to waste our money on half a dozen chocolate bars of which just one single bar was the merchandise we wanted? The answer was no! And of course, the package could only be sold this way; sorry, no choice! After leaving the duty free store with all its high-class brands behind, we found a humble news and magazine outlet. It had nice, entertaining reads to shorten the next leg of our journey. And-what a surprise! There was a stack of chocolates by an unknown European manufacturer with an 85 % cocoa content. Lucky us! An interesting magazine and dessert too! Bon voyage!

Conclusion

We do not think that we are the only health conscious persons on the planet. We hope that someone in charge in any airport or in an airline catering company smells a business opportunity. We are not demanding. We just prefer healthy foods and it would be great to find a meal choice with whole foods such as greens, vegetables, wild salmon, organic chicken, or grass-fed antibiotic-free beef. There is no need for anything elaborate. It’s really back to the basics! Even a mixed salad with a healthy protein portion would fit in very well. It is time that not just a few high class chefs around the world take notice of the new changes of a healthy diet that I summarized in this blog recently: “Buying Into High Carb, Low Fat Myth Makes You Sick”. In case you want to read more, I am in the process of publishing a book, which also contains 7 days of healthy menus at the end of it. It will be published early in 2014 through Amazon.com and is entitled: “A Survivor’s Guide To Successful Aging” (addendum Nov.7, 2014: It has been published March 31, 2014).

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Aug
03
2013

Treat Causes, not Symptoms

Introduction

In this article I describe that physicians should treat causes, not symptoms. When you see a physician about a health problem, he or she generally listens to your symptoms and examines you. This leads to a diagnosis and the treatment of your symptoms. Medicine has been evolving since, anti-aging medicine has become more prominent and comprehensive medical practitioners have started to treat differently. Some examples below best explain the new approach. This is important as many general practitioners continue to treat symptoms and neglect to search for causes.

Big Pharma and the status quo

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. High cholesterol only causes 50% of heart attacks, but physicians continue to prescribe statins whenever they detect high cholesterol levels to prevent a heart attack. But high cholesterol could be a cause from 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 clinical examples where physicians usually treat symptoms 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 order detailsed tests and formulate 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.

Hormonal deficiencies in RA patients

Dr.Lichten treated many RA cases and found (Ref.1, p. 85 and 86) that many patients had hormonal deficiencies. He points out in particular that these patients often lack DHEA. 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.

Sex hormone deficiencies often present in RA patients

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.

Medical textbooks unclear about causes of high blood pressure

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.

Factors that contribute to high blood pressure

Despite the notion that we do not 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 and omega-3 fatty acids

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

The DASH diet has helped a lot of people to get their blood pressure under control. However, the critical point in that diet is the limitation of the amounts of grains. 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 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, cimetidine, ranitidine and particularly PPI’s treat the acid problem (the symptomatic treatment of acid suppression). But on the longer term the triple therapy encourages H. pylori to grow more, particularly in the stomach. H. pylori undermines the lining of the stomach and the duodenum. This interferes with the protective mucous production, which protects you from gastritis and ulcers.

Breakdown of the mucosal barrier

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). The symptomatic treatment of the H. pylori infection with triple therapy (2 antibiotics and a PPI) is the conventional medical treatment, but in many cases it does not cure H. pylori. 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 physician treated the patients’ symptoms 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.

Too much wheat consumption can be a cause

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 re-establishes 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.

DGL restores the stomach lining

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 the patient has to take DGL 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, adrenal gland insufficiency or adrenal gland fatigue may also be the cause of back pains and muscle cramps. Unless the physician treats the  underlying cause (in the case of hypothyroidism treatment with thyroid hormones), the back pains stay.

Muscle pain in fibromyalgia patients

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.

Insomnia in fibromyalgia patients

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 the patient should take GABA only 5 days out of 7 to allow the body’s receptors to recover. This alternative approach to treat insomnia prevents addiction to sleeping pills (hypnotics).

5) Asthma symptoms

Not every case of asthma needs steroid inhalers and salbutamol or other bronchodilator inhalers as treatment. Low thyroid hormone levels 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.

Corticosteroid inhalers in asthma treatment can suppress the stress response

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 corticosteroid inhalers control asthma symptoms, but they undermine the stress hormone circuit to the point where the patient experiences 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 they do not know the cause of their symptoms. 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.

DGL, a simple licorice compound can strengthen the lining of the stomach

Patients still do not experience a cure, 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 should ask their physicians to treat the causes of their diseases 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

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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

Apr
21
2013

On World Health Day 2013 the Focus is on Hypertension

Introduction

This article is about this: on World Health Day 2013 the focus is on hypertension. In the US high blood pressure causes 348,000 American deaths per year, in the world its death toll amounted to 9.4 million every year. This is unfortunate as high blood pressure is an illness, which can both be effectively treated and prevented. Uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension) causes heart attacks and strokes, can cause kidney failure, heart failure and blindness. You control blood pressure with lifestyle changes and/or medication,  and these risks go away.

The age standardized death rate  (Ref. 1) for both sexes in the US for heart disease is 80.5 per 100,000 and for strokes 25.4. In Canada these rates are 66.2 and 22.9. For  Germany the rates are 75.0 and 31.2, in Italy 51.7 and 34.9 and for Japan 31.2 and 36.7. The death rates from cardiovascular disease per 100,000 people in the same countries is as follows: in the US 172.2, in Canada 130.7, in Germany 200.2, in Italy 153.5 and in Japan 107.1.

There are obviously significant differences in these countries, which I will discuss further below.

Topic of high blood pressure

World Health Day was celebrated on 7 April 2013 to commemorate the founding of the WHO in 1948. In 2013 the topic of high blood pressure made the World Health Organization edit a PDF publication of 155 pages. It is entitled “Global Atlas on cardiovascular disease prevention and control” (Ref.1, be patient, loads slowly). In it prevention and treatment for high blood pressure are discussed in detail. This text points out that there has been a remarkable decline in death rates from heart attacks and strokes (collectively called “cardiovascular disease”) between 1981 and 2000 in the United Kingdom.

Decline in death rates from heart attacks and strokes

A thorough analysis of this showed that 58% of this decline was due to risk factor reduction in the whole population. This included reduction of smoking and heavy alcohol consumption, reduced salt intake, combatting physical inactivity and reduction of saturated fat intake. The other 42% of the decline in cardiovascular disease is due to treatment by a physician. So, it is clear from this that the majority of mortality prevention comes from the patient, less than 50% comes from the treating physician. However, it is important that physicians will educate their patients to cut out risk factors themselves in order to prevent hypertension.

World Health Day 2013, Focus on Hypertension

World Health Day 2013, Focus on Hypertension

Risk factors for high blood pressure

On World Health Day 2013 the focus is on hypertension. In the past it was thought that most cases of high blood pressure would be due to “essential hypertension”, a term saying “we don’t know what causes high blood pressure”. Many physicians still use this term. Physicians thought that only a small amount of cases were due to “secondary” hypertension with an apparent cause (e.g. kidney disease, hormonal imbalance, pregnancy). But in the meantime research by Harvard University and other research institutions has shown that there are a number of specific causes that contribute to high blood pressure, either alone or in combination.

Common causes of high blood pressure

Here are the commonly known causes: too much salt in our diet; we tend to not eat enough vegetables and salads; we like to sit in cars, in front of the TV or in front of the computer (physical inactivity). Many people still smoke, although tobacco is known to cause high blood pressure and lung cancer. Too much alcohol is known to cause hypertension as well. So the following steps will prevent high blood pressure:

  1. consuming less salt
  2. eating a balanced diet (preferably the DASH diet)
  3. engaging in regular physical activity
  4. avoiding tobacco use
  5. avoiding harmful use of alcohol (more than 2 oz. or 60 Grams per day)

Diabetes worsens the risk for heart attacks and strokes

Physicians know that diabetes worsens the risk for heart attacks and strokes and increases the risk of high blood pressure as well. So, some hidden risk factors for high blood pressure related to diabetes are as follows: a high fasting blood sugar; obesity; food with too much fat, too much sugar and too many starches (not enough complex carbohydrates).

What can we do to reduce death rates from high blood pressure?

As Canada is one of the countries where the death rate from strokes and heart attacks is lower than in the US or Germany, I like to point out some of the reasons for this. I practiced medicine in Canada for many years. The “Canadian Hypertension Education Program” have been guidelines for practicing physicians to follow providing effective screening and treatment of high blood pressure. Cardiologists at various continuing education conferences have promoted this.

High blood pressure recalls at my medical office

At my office I had a hypertension recall program where my staff called every patient with high blood pressure into the office every 3 months. We would review the home-measured blood pressure readings from the patient (recorded in a little booklet). I also took the blood pressure of the patient and so did my staff on the patient’s arrival. We reviewed the blood pressure medication and reviewed the possible side effects. I explained to the patient what to do, if the blood pressure was higher than normal (possible adjustments of the medication at home). I also encouraged my patients with regard to the life style issues (the 5 points mentioned above). Over the years the number of patients who developed heart attacks or strokes declined, as one would expect.

Literature review in the medical journal Canadian Family Physician

A recent review in the Canadian Family Physician mentions that there is room for improvement regarding the Canadian statistics. As mentioned above Italy and Japan are doing better with regard to mortality from heart attacks and strokes compared to Canada. We have a health care system in Canada that is available to every Canadian resident and funded by provincial taxes. In this system patients do not have to pay for office visits (although they pay for it indirectly through taxes). For the patient with high blood pressure, it means that there is a system in place, which helps prevent cardiovascular disease and treats high blood pressure effectively. In my opinion the home recording of self-measured blood pressure readings at least once per day with a home blood measure monitor is vital to encourage the patient to be engaged with regard to his/her blood pressure problem.

Newer findings about high blood pressure

For years physicians did not know where high blood pressure came from. In the last few years research has shown that nitric oxide plays an important role in preventing high blood pressure. The lining of your arteries produce nitric oxide (by the so-called “endothelial cells”). This is the natural artery relaxer.

Foods that produce nitric oxide in the body are spinach, kale, red beet, cabbage varieties and other vegetable greens. These foods, which are also contained in the DASH diet, and regular exercise will stimulate the lining of your arteries to produce nitric oxide, which prevents high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.

Treating high blood pressure with medication

If these measures and recommendations to prevent high blood pressure do not help, it is time to treat it. It is important that the patient who needs high blood pressure treatment with medication, takes the medicine regularly. This has the name”compliance”. By keeping the blood pressure reading below 120/80 you prevent your risk of getting a heart attack, a stroke, heart failure or blindness from broken retinal vessels. If the patient develops any side effect from the medication, it is important to see the physician about this right away. It may be that the medication has to be adjusted or altered.

Nitric oxide

Nitric oxide can be taken as a supplement (Neo40), which allows the endothelial lining to be regenerated as indicated in this interview with the inventor, Dr. Nathan Bryan from the University of Texas Health Center in Houston.

The older we are, the more likely it is that our blood pressure will be high. As this link shows, 2 out of 3 people above the age of 60 in the US have systolic hypertension (the upper value of the blood pressure is elevated). As we age, it appears that the lining of the arteries do no longer produce the required amount of NO (nitric oxide). NO is necessary to prevent high blood pressure and prevent hardening of the arteries.

Adopt the Mediterranean diet 

So, it would be wise to adopt the Mediterranean diet. This includes lots of vegetables, spinach, kale, bok choy, Swiss chard and others to boost your NO production. You still measure your blood pressure regularly. If you do not have a home blood pressure monitor, go to a pharmacy that allows you to check your blood pressure for free. If it is above 120 over 80 seek the advice of a health professional. You can find more information in Ref. 1.

In essence, what World Health Day 2013 asks us to do is to pay attention to your blood pressure and make sure it is normal.

More on high blood pressure: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/

References

Ref. 1)  http://www.nethealthbook.com/articles/cardiovasculardisease_hypertension.php

Last edited Nov. 6, 2014