Dec
07
2013

Slow Down Aging And Prevent Disabilities

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

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

It starts with a healthy mind set

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

Regular exercise is important

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

Slow Down Aging And Prevent Disabilities

Slow Down Aging And Prevent Disabilities

You guessed right: good nutrition is important!

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

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

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

Breakfast:  Great Greens Omelet

(2 servings)

1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil

3 chopped green onions

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

1 red pepper cut into strips

3 eggs and 3 egg whites

2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano

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

Lunch: Oriental Salad

(2 portions)

1 small Sui choy cabbage (Napa cabbage)

2 cups mung bean sprouts

1 small daikon radish, shredded to yield 1 cup

1 red pepper, cut into thin slices

3 green onions, chopped

1 medium sized carrot, cut into matchstick size pieces

1 can sliced water chestnuts, rinsed.

Dressing: 2 tablespoons sesame oil,

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

1-tablespoon tamari soy sauce

1 tablespoon Thai sweet chilli sauce

1-teaspoon fresh grated ginger

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

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

Dinner:  Florentine Chicken

(2 servings)

1 large boneless chicken breast

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

1 tablespoon grated Parmigiano

4 thin slices prosciutto

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tomatoes- cut into halves

3 chopped green onions

2 cups baby spinach leaves

pinch of salt

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

Dessert after dinner: Berry Sorbet

(2 servings)

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

¾ cup of organic yogourt or goat’s milk yogurt

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

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

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

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

Stress management

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

Useful supplements

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

More information on:

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Nov
09
2013

Successful Diabetes Treatment Requires Patient’s Discipline

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

Causes that trigger diabetes

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

What is the reason why diabetes occurs?

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

Successful Diabetes Treatment Requires Patient’s Discipline

Successful Diabetes Treatment Requires Patient’s Discipline

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consequences of insulin resistance

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

Important tests for borderline diabetics

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

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

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

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

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

Conventional treatment of diabetes

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

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

Alternative treatment approach for diabetes

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

Here are some suggestions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Reference

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

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

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

Last edited Dec. 17, 2014

Oct
26
2013

Being SAD in Fall (Seasonal Affective Disorders)

Any general practitioner knows that fall and winter are the time when patients come in with a variety of complaints like a lack of energy, problems sleeping, inability to cope with stress, but often there may be non-specific pains like muscle spasm in the back, the shoulders, or indigestion. These symptoms can all be part of seasonal affective disorders (SAD) like depression, the winter blues, often coupled with anxiety.

Emotional health does not fit easily into our health care model. The receptionist will warn the doctor that this is going to be a “difficult” patient. If the doctor has only time for a 5 or 10-minute visit, where only one or two problems can be dealt with, then this does not fit when a patient with SAD has a problem concentrating, falling asleep, and presents with a long list of other complaints. Even 20 minutes or 30 minutes may not be enough to deal with this patient adequately. It is easier to send the patient for tests and to prescribe an antidepressant and a sleeping pill and reschedule for a follow-up appointment. But this likely will result in normal blood tests and investigations, added health care costs, but no solution to the patient’s problem when he  or she simply states “doctor, I feel so sick”.

I thought it would be interesting to review how our emotions can get out of balance and review an integrative approach to SAD.

Definition of SAD

Seasonal depression (also called seasonal affective disorder) occurs during fall (autumn) and winter, but this alternates with no depressive episodes during spring and summer. A person defined to suffer from SAD would have suffered from two major depressive episodes during the past 2 years with no depressive episodes in the intervening seasons of spring and summer (Ref.1). Alternative names for SAD are winter depression and wintertime blues. Typically SAD lasts about 5 months.

Brain hormone disbalance

Around 2002 it was detected that in mice there was a second light sensitive pathway from ganglion cells in the retina that were responsible for circadian hormone rhythms. This was later confirmed to be true also in humans, where photosensitive retinal ganglion cells buried deep in the retina and containing the pigment melanopsin absorb blue light in the visible light spectrum. The electrical signals are sent along the retinohypothalamic tract, so that light from the retina regulates the hormone circadian rhythm (daily hormone fluctuations including the sleep/wake cycle) in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is one of the major hormone centers in the center of the brain. As this publication shows there are minor genetic sequence changes for the retinal photopigment, melanopsin in patients with SAD. This affects about 1 to 2% of the American population. Many more have probably partial defects in the function of this pigment.

Being SAD in Fall (Seasonal Affective Disorders)

Being SAD in Fall (Seasonal Affective Disorders)

Many hormones in our brain experience a circadian rhythm.

When the sun goes down, melatonin is produced making us sleepy. In the morning serotonin production goes up and stays up all day, which normally prevents depression. There are other hormones that cycle during the course of the day. Cortisol is highest in the morning and low in the evening and at night. Growth hormone and prolactin are highest during sleep.

There is a lack of serotonin in the brains of patients with SAD and depression.

Symptoms of SAD

A person affected by SAD or any other patient with ordinary depression will present with symptoms of lack of energy, with tearfulness, negative thought patterns, sleep disturbances, lack of appetite and weight loss and possible suicidal thoughts. On the other hand symptoms may be more atypical presenting with irritability and overindulging in food with weight gain. Some patients somaticize as already mentioned in the beginning of this review experiencing a multitude of functional symptoms without any demonstrable underlying disease. It is estimated that up to 30 to 40% of patients attending a general practitioner’s office have some form of depression and in the fall and winter season a large percentage of them are due to SAD.

Treatment approaches to SAD

There are several natural approaches to SAD. However, before deciding to go this route, a psychiatrist should assess the patient to determine the risk for suicide. When a patient is not suicidal, light therapy can be utilized.

1. Light therapy: According to Ref. 2 a light box from Sun Box or Northern Light Technologies should be used for 30 minutes every morning during the fall and winter months. The box should emit at least 10,000 lux. Improvement can occur within 2 to 4 days of starting light therapy, but often takes up to 4 weeks to reach its full benefit (Ref.2).

2. Exercise reduces the amount of depression. The more exercise is done the less depression remains. A regular gym workout, dancing, walking, aerobics and involvement in sports are all useful.

3. Folate and vitamin B12: Up to 1/3 of depressed people have folate deficiency. Supplementation with 400 mcg to 1 mg of folic acid is recommended. Vitamin B12 should also be taken to not mask a B12 deficiency (Ref.3). Folate and vitamin B12 are methyl donors for several brain neuropeptides.

4. Vitamin D3 supplementation: A large Dutch study showed that a high percentage of depressed patients above the age of 65 were deficient for vitamin D3. Supplementation with vitamin D3 is recommended. (Ref.3). Take 3000 to 4000 IU per day, particularly during the winter time.

5. St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) has been found useful for minor to moderate depression. It is superior in terms of having fewer side effects than standard antidepressant therapy (Ref.3).

6. Standard antidepressants (bupropion, fluoxetine, sertraline and paroxetine) are the treatment of choice by psychiatrists and treating physicians when a faster onset of the antidepressant effect is needed (Ref.3).

7. Electro acupuncture has been shown in many studies to be effective in ameliorating the symptoms of depression and seems to work through the release of neurotransmitters in the brain (Ref.4).

8. A balanced nutrition (Mediterranean type diet) including multiple vitamins and supplements (particularly the vitamin B group and omega-3 fatty acids) also stabilize a person’s mood (Ref.3). Pay particular attention to hidden sugar intake, as sugar consumption is responsible for a lot of depression found in the general population.

9. Restore sleep deprivation by adding melatonin 3 to 6 mg at bedtime. This helps also to restore the circadian hormone rhythm.

Conclusion

Seasonal affective disorder is triggered by a lack of light exposure in a sensitive subpopulation. An integrative approach as described can reduce the amount of antidepressants that would have been used in the past in treating this condition. This will reduce the amount of side effects. The use of a light box can reduce the symptoms of this type of depression within a few days. But the addition of electro acupuncture and St. John’s Wort may be all that is required for treatment of many SAD cases. Regular exercise and a balanced nutrition (with no sugar) and including vitamin supplements complete this treatment. If the depression gets worse, seek the advice of a psychiatrist and make sure your doctor has ordered thyroid tests and hormone tests to rule out other causes where depression is merely a secondary symptom.

More information on depression: http://nethealthbook.com/mental-illness-mental-disorders/mood-disorders/depression/

References

  1. Ferri: Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2014, 1st ed. © 2013 Mosby.
  2. Cleveland Clinic: Current Clinical Medicine, 2nd ed. © 2010 Saunders.
  3. Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed. © 2012 Saunders.
  4. George A. Ulett, M.D., Ph.D. and SongPing Han, B.M., Ph.D.: “The Biology of Acupuncture”, copyright 2002, Warren H. Green Inc., Saint Louis, Missouri, 63132 USA

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Oct
19
2013

Healthy Choices Start In Your Brain

You may have seen the CNN heading “Where is self-control in the brain?”  If we want to make any healthy choices in life including sound financial choices, we need a balanced brain that makes the right decisions for us.

Researchers at the Caltech in Pasadena, CA have examined this question in detail using functional MRI scans and found out that there are two loci on the frontal lobe of the brain that control your impulses: the “ventral medial prefrontal cortex” (red in this link) that processes your initial image (like seeing a delicious ice cream cone”) and the “dorsolateral prefrontal cortex”(green in this link), where you decide that this is not healthy for you because it has too much sugar in it. The Caltech researchers found a group of volunteers who were impulsive and made the wrong choice simply based on their taste buds without consideration for their health in general. An equally large group of volunteers was also found who had functional activity in the ventral medial prefrontal cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the latter of which modified the final decision into the healthy choice. The impulsive group made their decision to buy simply with the activation of only the ventral medial prefrontal cortex.

The researchers think that it is this kind of lack of balanced thinking that decides whether we are going to make the right or wrong health choices for ourselves. The sad part is that ultimately, the summation of bad health decisions during life can become the cause of developing dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is that many of the causes of dementia can be avoided, which means that the average person could prevent dementia. I will discuss this in detail here.

Causes of dementia

It is interesting to study patients with various forms of dementia as it is often in the frontal and temporal portions of the brain where brain cells are dying off resulting in impulsive buying, impulsive behavior and lack of recent memory. It is also important to recognize that a number of conditions or factors can cause dementia:

1. Genetic causes

Here is the

There are two types of frontotemporal lobe dementias, a tau-protein positive FTD and a ubiquitin-positive FTD, which has been shown to be due to a deficiency in progranulin. Both of these genetic defects are located on chromosome 17. In Alzheimer’s dementia, which occurs later in life there can be genetic defects at chromosomes 21, 14 or 19. Epigenetic factors like exercise, avoidance of alcohol, and taking omega-3 supplements can even partially prevent or postpone the onset of dementia from genetic causes.

Healthy Choices Start In Your Brain

Healthy Choices Start In Your Brain

2. Toxins like alcohol

Another example of how people can get dementia is through the effect that regular alcohol consumption has on our brains and bodies. This image of an MRI scan shows a normal brain for comparison on the left and  the MRI scan of the brain of a chronic alcoholic on the right.  When a chronic alcoholic has severe atrophy of the brain a psychiatric condition, called Korsakoff’s syndrome can occur. This psychotic condition as a result of the brain having been poisoned by regular alcohol intoxication. Essentially the toxic effect of high daily doses of alcohol have shrunk not only the surface of the brain, but also the deeper substance of the brain. The patient is psychotic, has loss of memory and is unable to care for him/herself.

3. Vascular damage to the brain

Strokes can cause vascular dementia that leads to Alzheimer’s disease-like memory loss. This link points out that diseases like hypertension, obesity, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, ischemic heart disease and dyslipidemia all predispose you to possibly get a stroke with subsequent dementia.

4. Traumatic head injuries

In boxers, football players and combat soldiers brain cells can get lost from repetitive head trauma leading to dementia (in this case it is called “dementia pugilistica”).

5. Infectious dementia

HIV in AIDS patients can affect the brain and cause an HIV-associated dementia. Bacterial meningitis and viral meningitis can kill brain cells and cause a form of dementia as well.

6. Immune disorders

We know that MS can go on to develop dementia as a late complication. In MS there are autoantibodies against myelin, the insulation material that surrounds nerve fibers. An important category of immune disorders is autoimmune disease that can cause dementia. The cardiologist, Dr. William Davis, has presented compelling evidence that wheat allergies can cause dementia, but if detected early and treated by a gluten free diet, this clears up the mind and stops further development of dementia (Ref.1 describes wheat allergies causing dementia; a wheat free diet is described in Ref.2).

7. Hormone deficiencies

A classical example is hypothyroidism, which in the past before thyroid medicine was available, often led to dementia. A simple blood test, TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) can detect whether or not you are hypothyroid. The A4M recommendation for a normal level is below 2 (not below 5 as often reported by official lab value reports).

8. Lack of vitamins

Thiamine (=vitamin B-1) is often missing in alcoholics. If you are missing vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 in your diet, this can predispose you to develop dementia as well. Aging people lose a factor from the gastric mucosa (the intrinsic factor) that is essential to absorb vitamin B-12 in the mall bowel, which predisposes them to develop pernicious anemia and dementia. A simple vitamin B-12 injection can prevent this from happening.

9. Too much sugar consumption

Sugar consumption has skyrocketed in the 1900’s and keeps on going up in the new millennium as well. Here is a review that discusses the possibility that Alzheimer’s can be triggered by overconsumption of sugar. The higher the blood sugar levels in diabetics, the higher the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. A study in Seattle has confirmed this. High insulin levels are found in type 2 diabetes; they are responsible for making brain cells stimulate the production of the gooey substance amyloid that causes Alzheimer’s disease. The authors of this study showed this to be true both in humans and in animal models.

10. Lifestyle issues like lack of exercise, excessive weight (obesity, being overweight) and poor diet (fast foods) play an enormous role in terms of causation of dementia in addition to the other factors mentioned. On the other hand organic foods Lack of toxins) and a Mediterranean type diet will preserve your brain cells.

Treatment of dementia

At present treatment of dementia is very limited, as we do not have a complete understanding of dementia at this point. The traditional treatment of dementia outlined here will only marginally delay further deterioration of dementia, but ultimately fail. In my opinion this is because the medical profession has been concentrating on fighting the symptoms of dementia rather than the cause.

Given the list of known causes above, I like to give you 6 recommendations that will help you to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in general.

  1. I would suggest that you cut sugar out of your diet and replace it with stevia. This also includes dates, grapes, bananas; also wheat and wheat products and starchy foods like pasta, potatoes, rice and bread (see Ref. 1 and 2 for details). The manufacturers of soda drinks, pies and cakes will not be happy about this recommendation, but it will please your brain cells. You will also be surprised how easy it is now to lose weight, which will please you (this also lowers your risk for heart attacks and strokes).
  2. Severely limit your alcohol consumption to less than 1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men per day (better still would be to stay sober) unless you want to become part of the hospital population mentioned in one of the links at the beginning of this blog.
  3. Have your hormones checked, particularly your thyroid hormones, but also estrogen and progesterone levels in women and testosterone in men. Our brain cells have hormone receptors for a reason. They need to be stimulated by our hormones, even in menopause or andropause. Replace the missing sex hormones with bioidentical hormone creams and missing thyroid hormones with thyroid tablets (Armour is the best mix of T3 and T4 thyroid hormones, not Synthroid).
  4. Prevent repetitive brain injuries before it is too late. Rethink whether you really need to box, street fight, play football, rugby or hockey.
  5. Use vitamins for prevention of dementia: The B complex vitamins like B-2, B-6, B-12 (by injection); vitamin D3 has recently been shown to be effective in slowing down Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin D3 is low in Alzheimer’s patients and vitamin D3 supplements will slow down this disease. Although vitamin C showed equivocal results, it does have some neuroprotective qualities and decreases β-amyloid production and acetyl cholinesterase activity. A Mediterranean-type diet (Ref.2) is also helpful in preventing dementia.
  6. Exercise daily. It will discipline you to stick to the other points mentioned above. It gives you some extra endorphins and will make you feel good about yourself.

Conclusion

Although we do not yet have a complete picture regarding Alzheimer’s disease and dementias, we do know enough to reduce our risk of getting them. When you cut out wheat and wheat products, autoimmune antibodies against your brain cells will not be produced, your opiate receptors in the brain will not be seduced to eat more and more sugar, starchy foods or high fructose corn syrup, so you will have no problem in cutting out high glycemic index foods (Ref.1). This will reduce insulin and reduce IGF-1 growth factors that would have made you vulnerable to produce the gooey amyloid substance that makes you lose your memory. The orbitofrontal part of your brain (particularly the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) will be reminding you what you read here: healthy lifestyle choices start in your brain.

References

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

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

Last edited Oct. 19, 2013

Oct
05
2013

Fighting Back Against The Flu

Every year there is concern about the upcoming flu season. Mostly the discussion centers on the composition of the latest flu bugs and what type of strains would be included in the latest vaccine recommended. The first flu case of the season has just been reported in a child. Here I am going to review what you can do to minimize your probability of getting the flu, or if you get it, how to minimize the severity of the illness.

The immune system

We know for some time that the antibody-mediated immune system is what helps overcome flus. The body’s immune system produces antibodies against the flu via T-helper cells that recognize the glycoprotein (hemagglutinin) of the flu virus and pass a signal on to B cells (bone marrow derived lymphocytes), which in turn are turned on to produce a lot of antibodies (Ref.1). These protect you from future flus of this type. If you have pre-existing antibodies that fit the bug in circulation you are OK ,and you will usually not get the disease.

The factors that protect you from the flu

However, there are many other factors that support your immune system. I will discuss the most important factors in more detail here.

1. We do know that vitamin D3 strengthens the immune system. I would recommend 1000 to 2000 IU per day in the wintertime, but up to 4000 IU or 5000 IU per day during an active epidemic would be reasonable. There is less flu when people are taking Vitamin D3 supplements.

Influenza A was reduced in school children supplemented with 1200IU of vitamin D3. This study recommended higher doses of 2000 to 7000 IU of vitamin D3 per day; but it also stated that as a precaution serum vitamin D levels should be monitored (technically it is serum 25-hydroxy-vitamin D levels that are measured) to avoid vitamin D toxicity. Normal levels are between 40-70 nanograms per ml. Toxic levels are above 100 nanograms per ml. Your family doctor can order a serum 25-hydroxy-vitamin D level for you.

2. Eating fruit and vegetables is important for maintaining a healthy immune system. In a randomized study from Belfast, UK elderly volunteers (82 of them, aged 65 to 85) were assigned to either eat 2 portions or 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day over 16 weeks. At 12 weeks into the trial both groups received a Pneumovax II vaccination, and the antibody response was measured at the end of the 16th week of the study.  There was a significant increase in antibody binding capacity to pneumococcal capsular polysaccharide in the 5 portion fruit and vegetable group compared to the 2 portion group that had no such increase. The authors concluded that there is a measurable improvement of the immune system when an older population increases their fruit and vegetable intake.

3. Avoid stress, because stress has been shown to weaken the immune system. This review shows that the immune system is weakened by the stress response via the elevated corticosteroid hormones (the stress hormone ACTH stimulates cortisol release from the adrenal glands). The stress of social isolation is also contributing to the weakening of the immune system in older people.

Fighting Back Against The Flu

Fighting Back Against The Flu

4. Exercise moderately and your immune system will get strengthened. Over exercising should be avoided as too much cortisol is released from your adrenal glands, which is toxic to lymphocytes thus weakening your immune system.

5.  Socializing is good for you as studies have shown that you live 2 ½ years longer. This study here is from Connecticut, but other studies confirmed this as well.

6. Make love. The endorphins that are released in the process stimulate the immune system.

7. Take probiotics, because they help your gut flora to stay normal. A normal gut flora promotes a stronger immune system as the Peyer’s patches (clumps of immune cells) in the gut wall are intimately linked to the immune system. In this way probiotics indirectly support your immune system.

8. Avoid smoking.  Smokers have more upper and lower respiratory tract infections than non-smokers. Here is information that explains this as well.

9. Get enough sleep. The circadian rhythm of your hormones ensures that your hormones function at their optimal level. Melatonin from the pineal gland is important in triggering the circadian rhythm, but melatonin itself supports the immune system as well. Your adrenal glands need resetting overnight so that cortisol is secreted according to your stress level, not too much and not too little. Overstimulation from performance sports, grief reactions, car accidents, injuries etc. lead to a surplus of cortisol and weakening of the immune system.

10. Take your flu shot (but without thimerosal) every year, but take it as a single shot (without thimerosal as a preservative). This CDC link explains that single shot flu vaccines are available without thimerosal. I recommend this type of flu vaccine. The central nervous system is extremely sensitive to nanograms of mercury, and it is for this reason that I would not buy into the argument of the CDC that one should not be concerned about safety of thimerosal. The newest for this flu season is the quadrivalent (or four-strain) flu vaccine, which is now available in pharmacies throughout the US.

11. Vitamins and supplements support your immune system, particularly vitamin D3. DHEA, which is available over the counter in the US stimulates antibody production when the flu vaccine is given, particularly in the elderly, in other words DHEA strengthens the immune system Vitamin C is known to support the immune system and is rapidly depleted in those who suffer from any viral infection. There are other nutrients that are useful to stimulate your immune system.

12. Consider herbs: Echinacea, Siberian ginseng, Asian and American ginseng, astragalus, garlic, and shiitake, reishi (also called “lingzhi mushroom”) and maitake mushrooms have all been shown to stimulate the immune system with negligible side effects.

13. Wash your hands, particularly when there is a flu going around. Door knobs for instance are known to keep live viruses for 2 to 8 hours, so washing your hands will reduce the amount of virus you are exposed to.

Conclusion

There is no single solution to prevent the flu, but we can all minimize our exposure to the virus and strengthen our immune system. Although it is wise to get a yearly flu shot to boost your immune system (without thimerosal as a preservative) just before the epidemics come around, this alone is not as good as combining the non-specific factors mentioned here with it. Particularly vitamin D3 (2000 IU to 4000 IU per day) and the old stand-by vitamin C (1000 mg to 2000 mg daily) will stimulate your immune system. Spice up your dinners with mushrooms that stimulate your immune system (maitake, shiitake, reishi mushrooms). Go to bed early enough to allow your circadian hormone rhythms to be reset overnight as you sleep. This will stimulate your immune system (from melatonin and DHEA of your adrenal glands).

More info on the Flu: http://nethealthbook.com/infectious-disease/respiratory-infections/flu/

References:

1. Long: Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 4th ed. Prevention. Vaccine. © 2012 Saunders

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Sep
21
2013

In Vitro Fertilization As A Last Resort To Get Pregnant

Since its invention in 1978 there have been 5 million babies born through in vitro fertilization (IVF). According to the World Health Organization there are about 120 to 160 million couples worldwide struggling with infertility problems.

Assisted reproduction technology (a fancy name for artificial insemination) has been helped a lot by the breakthrough discovery in the US with regard to ultrasound identification of mature follicles in the ovaries. The second technical breakthrough, another ultrasound method done trans-vaginally to recover eggs from the identified mature follicles, has also helped the IVF technology (Ref.1).

When all of the cases of infertility in the United States are broken down into what causes them, the following was found (Ref. 2):

20% of cases of infertility were caused by anovulation, about 35% were due to abnormal semen production in the male, 30% by pelvic disease (fibroids, tubal blockage, polycystic ovaries), and 15% of cases were unexplained.

Process of artificial insemination

There are a number of steps that have to be followed to be successful with IVF.

a) Hormonal stimulation of the ovaries: The first step in getting eggs from a woman who desires IFV is to stimulate her ovaries to produce several mature follicles. This is achieved with gonadotropins, which are hormones that lead to ovarian overstimulation. Over the years this has been fine tuned with gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogues given first (stimulating release of LH and FSH from the pituitary gland). Subsequently follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is given, which causes the ovaries to produce follicles that can be identified on a TV screen using ultrasound technology. When follicle maturity is established with the ultrasound method, human chorionic gonadotropin can be given to trigger ovulation. However, when this is done and combined with artificial insemination through depositing sperm via a catheter into the uterus, the pregnancy rates judged by today’s standards to be too low (in the order of 15 to 20% per cycle).

b) Harvesting of eggs:

Nowadays the 2 or 3 follicles that have been identified as mature by ultrasound are used for follicular aspiration. With transvaginal sonography and a long needle that comes out from the ultrasound probe, the specialist will be able to harvest the mature eggs from the follicular cysts.

c) In vitro fertilization methods:

There are basically two methods for fertilization. First the standard IVF method is simply to add sperm to the eggs in a Petri dish with growth medium. After spontaneous fertilization the eggs undergo cell division. Compared to this standard IVF the success rates have been found to be higher with a newer method, called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). In this case a single sperm is injected through a fine needle into the egg. On the 2nd or 3rd day of in vitro culture with either of these methods of fertilization the embryos consist of 6 to 8 cells. The embryos (typically one or two) are now introduced into the uterus of the mother by the specialist.

In Vitro Fertilization As A Last Resort To Get Pregnant

In Vitro Fertilization As A Last Resort To Get Pregnant

Success rates of in vitro fertilization (IVF)

Approximately 10% of all U.S. couples with women of the reproductive age are infertile, approximately more than 7 million women; the incidence of infertility steadily increases in women after the age of 30. Among fertile couples who have sex during the week before ovulation, about 20% achieve a pregnancy.  If regular unprotected sex does not lead to a pregnancy within one year, the couple is considered infertile (that is the medical definition of infertility). With infertile couples using intrauterine insemination there is a pregnancy success rate of about 8 to 9% per cycle. However, IVF has a success rate of 30% per cycle. The chance of a pregnancy after six cycles of IVF is 72% provided the woman is in close contact with the IVF specialist and follows all of the instructions carefully. If the woman does not adhere to the program (this includes some dropouts), the pregnancy rate for IVF is only 51% in 6 months (Ref.2).

In 2010 the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine went to Bob Edwards for his outstanding work on IVF. His work has improved the success rate for pregnancy of infertile couples significantly.

Costs of in vitro fertilization (IVF)

The conventional IVF cost is about 60,000$ to achieve a successful pregnancy; a newer, simplified IVF version costs only 265$, a method which has been developed for development countries. In the simplified version fertility drugs are given as generic tablets. The pregnancy rate for IVF is about 34% in this study from Belgium involving 100 infertile couples so far with the women being under the age of 36.

Gender selection and genetic abnormalities

Gender selection is highly controversial and is not being practiced. However, there are gender specific genetic abnormalities that can be identified in the 2 to 3 day old embryo after a few in vitro cell divisions. If DNA analysis shows an X-linked abnormality, this genetic abnormality would not be implanted into the womb. An embryo with a normal DNA test would be implanted instead (male or female). There are obvious ethical guidelines that have to be followed and these have been in place for a number of years.

The following overview of IVF contains a mini video showing a single sperm injection into an egg (the intracytoplasmic sperm injection method or ICSI). This is the latest in IVF technology, but also the most expensive option.

Complications with in vitro fertilization (IVF)

A review article in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in March of 2004 (Ref. 3) compared the complications and outcomes of single baby pregnancies (=singletons) that were either conceived normally (control group of 1.9 million spontaneous singletons) or conceived by IVF (12,283 IVF singletons pooled from 15 studies). Compared to normally conceived babies the group of IVF conceived babies had a perinatal mortality rate, which was 2.2-fold higher, the rate of preterm deliveries was 2.0-fold higher, low birth weight was 1.8-fold higher, a very low birth weight was 2.7-fold more common and the classification of “small for gestational age” based on birth weight was 1.6-fold higher. The medical researchers found a number of reasons for this: compared to normally conceived babies, the rate of IVF conceived babies had a higher rate of placenta previa, early preterm delivery, spontaneous preterm delivery, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and neonatal intensive care admissions were also significantly more common.

Other observations

If anovulatory cycles are the reason for infertility, clomiphene treatment can often restore regular menstrual cycles, but according to Ref. 2 there is an 8% risk for multiple gestations (twins, triplets) with a higher infant mortality rate.

For women with tubal obstruction IVF is better than attempting to do tubal reconstruction.

Women with unexplained infertility (no cause found despite thorough investigations) are treated by controlled ovarian stimulation as mentioned above and by inserting semen from the husband into the uterine cavity through a small plastic catheter (intrauterine insemination). With this combination pregnancy success rates of 10% per cycle can be achieved and this should be the first approach to cases of unexplained infertility (Ref.2)

Fibroids in the uterus are from estrogen dominance, so are polycystic ovaries. Replacement of missing progesterone with bioidentical progesterone cream will often shrink or melt the fibroids away, cure the ovaries of polycystic disease and restore fertility (this is not taught in medical schools and will not be told to most women attending fertility clinics). There are countless numbers of women attending fertility clinics needlessly; had they only checked their hormone status with saliva hormone tests and corrected the hormone imbalances with bioidentical hormones.

In vitro fertilization with or without ICSI has a pregnancy success rate of 50% per cycle for women less than 30 years of age. Above the age of 30 these numbers are lower and genetic abnormalities are higher necessitating the more expensive ICSI fertilization method. The pregnancy rate is also directly related to how many embryos are transferred into the womb. Usually 1 or 2 embryos are inserted. Twins are not uncommon with IVF.

Conclusion

In 35 years in vitro fertilization has developed into a sophisticated tool that helps women who previously were considered to be permanently infertile to conceive a normal pregnancy. Despite these technical advances we should not lose sight why infertility is such a problem today. Two main factors come to mind: sexually transmitted diseases can scar up the Fallopian tubes making it impossible for the sperm to reach their goal, the fertile egg. Men can also get scarring of their collecting ducts for the sperm (from epididymitis) from Chlamydia and other VD. Secondly, couples are settling into marriage much later in life, often well beyond their 30th birthday. Ideally a woman should have her first pregnancy between 20 and 25, when she is most fertile. If these things don’t fall into place, there is a cost to IVF and there are the associated risks discussed.

More information on infertility: http://nethealthbook.com/womens-health-gynecology-and-obstetrics/infertility-php/

References

1. Adam: Grainger & Allison’s Diagnostic Radiology, 5th ed. © 2008 Churchill Livingstone, CHAPTER 53 – Imaging in Obstetrics and Infertility.

2. Lentz: Comprehensive Gynecology, 6th ed. © 2012 Mosby: Treatment of the causes of infertility.

3. Review article in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in March of 2004 (March 2004, Volume 103, Issue 3: pages 551-563) examined the complication rates of IVF.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Aug
10
2013

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement

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

Physiology of aging

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

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

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

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement

Baseline laboratory tests

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

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

Women’s hormone replacement

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

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

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

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

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

Men’s hormone replacement

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

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

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

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

Safety of hormone replacement

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

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

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

Why bother about hormone replacement?

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

Conclusion

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

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

References:

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

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

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

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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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

Jun
08
2013

Breast Cancer Due To Stress

The medical profession is of the opinion that breast cancer is multi-factorial, where genetics, body weight, hormonal and other factors play a role in causing it (details see Ref. 1). The Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (United States) showed in May 2012 that girls from families of lower socioeconomic status have a higher risk of breast cancer later in life. The study also showed that girls from families with a higher socioeconomic status had a low risk of breast cancer later in life.

The same cohort of women was the subject of another study, which was just published in April of 2013. In this study the question was asked whether stress in career women could cause a higher rate of breast cancer. Using 1957–2011 data showed that 297 of the 3682 White non-Hispanic women of the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study developed breast cancer. Details of the study showed that the peak of the age for breast cancer to develop was around 55 to 65. Women working with the lowest job authority had the lowest rate of breast cancer. High job authority, being the “boss”, was associated with a 1.57-fold (range 1.12 – 2.18-fold) increase in breast cancer. There was also a striking difference between the lengths of job stress exposure, 5 years versus 15 years with both groups, high and low job authority. The lowest risk of breast cancer was for the low stress group of women who worked under these conditions only for 5 years, followed by the same group who had worked there for 15 years. Slightly above that latter group was the breast cancer risk for the 5-year employed high job authority. The highest group of breast cancer risk, rising above all other groups, was the group with high job authority, exposed to this for type of stressful situation for 15 years (see Fig. 1 of the above link). The researchers interpreted their data to say that the majority of the breast cancer risk in these groups of women was due to the stress hormone (cortisol). Minor contributions were thought to be due to the carcinogenic effect of estrogens.

Breast Cancer Due To Stress

Breast Cancer Due To Stress

 

Review of the literature regarding this study

Dr. Lee had been publishing about estrogen dominance for many years (Ref. 2 and 3). When women age, their ovaries do not produce as much progesterone during the luteal phase as in younger years and above the age of 30 to 35 anovulatory cycles are common. During anovulatory cycles ovulation (=release of an egg) does not occur and there is no formation of a corpus luteum that would produce progesterone for 2 weeks. The end result is that there is a lack of progesterone as a woman ages. This has been discussed in detail in Ref. 3. Dr. Lee called this disbalance of estrogen and progesterone “estrogen dominance”. This is one of the important causes of breast cancer as explained in Ref.2. This can be caused by aging, xenoestrogens from exposure to artificial fertilizers, insecticides and cosmetics, but also taking the birth control pill for prolonged periods of time. However, stress by itself can also produce a state of estrogen dominance. Dr. Lee explained (page 180 of Ref. 2) that the cortisol-binding globulin (CBG), which binds both cortisol and progesterone, is a storage form for both of these hormones. As a person is under chronic stress the CBG is increased binding both cortisol and progesterone. This means that less of these hormones are preliminarily available in their free form for body consumption as CBG binding is a storage form for these hormones. The free progesterone, which is the only biologically active progesterone portion, is lowered as a result of stress causing estrogen dominance. If estrogen is not opposed by progesterone, it is cancer causing for breast tissue and the uterine lining, which translates into being at risk for breast and uterine cancer. Only supplementation with bioidentical progesterone cream as described in Ref. 3 will rebalance the hormones (progesterone/estrogen balance) and reduce the cancer risk. The symptoms of estrogen dominance according to Ref. 4 (p. 29) are fatigue, weight gain, less ability to handle stress, headaches, mood swings, loss of sex drive, irregular periods, uterine fibroids, fibrocystic breasts, fluid retention (particularly around the ankles), irritability and depression.

Practical recommendations for women in stressful jobs

Above the age of 35 it is wise to have a saliva hormone test done, checking the levels of 5 hormones (cortisol, DHEAS, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone). This establishes the baseline values for these hormones. The relationship between the levels of these hormones determines whether they are balanced or not. For instance, if the ratio between progesterone and estrogen (divide the level of progesterone by the level of estrogen) is less than 1 in 200 the patient has estrogen dominance (see Ref. 5). You may need to get a naturopathic physician or an A4M physician who is knowledgeable in interpreting these results and treating the patient with bioidentical hormones. Some women may need to start bioidentical hormone replacement at this point if a hormone deficiency is noticed.

In order to counterbalance stress you need to schedule some time for yourself regularly where you can relax, do yoga exercises, meditation, and/or self-hypnosis. Make sure you get enough sleep. Avoid alcohol, if you can as it interferes with a restful sleep, or reduce alcohol to the absolute minimum. Alcohol causes decreased hormone production of both ovaries. It also weakens the adrenal glands contributing to hormone disbalance. Usually the first hormone to show a decline with stress and aging is progesterone. It has to be measured by the saliva test. Ref. 2 and 3 explain why: progesterone is fat-soluble and is transported through the blood in its free form through red blood cells. However, a progesterone blood test measures the serum progesterone level after the red blood cells have been spun down in the centrifuge, which leads to misleading results; only the saliva test gives reliable results in terms of bio-available progesterone levels. Many conservative physicians blindly insist on blood progesterone levels, which will lead to false results. This is why you need a naturopathic physician or A4M physician to help you with the proper interpretation of the test results.

If saliva progesterone levels are low, progesterone cream (bio-identical, as explained below) is applied daily in a concentration that will normalize the levels. Physicians who have been influenced by drug company representatives may suggest to use Provera (or another progestin, which are synthetic hormone substances) as a “supplement”, but this is known from the Women’s’ Health Initiative to cause breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

Do the proper monitoring tests with saliva testing and only substitute what is missing with bioidentical hormone creams. Otherwise a low fat, low refined carbohydrate diet, exercise and other good health habits as I have summarized in this link will be very beneficial to prevent stress as a cause of breast cancer. Ref. 6 is also a useful text written for the layperson explaining what to do when stress leads to adrenal fatigue.

References

  1. A review of the causes of breast cancer: http://www.nethealthbook.com/articles/causesofbreastcancer.php
  2. Dr. John R. Lee, David Zava, Ph.D. and Virginia Hopkins: “What your doctor may not tell you about breast cancer”. 2002 Hachette Book Group, New York,NY, USA.
  3. Dr. John R. Lee: “Natural Progesterone”.  2nd edition. Jon Carpenter Publishing, 1999 Charlbury, England.
  4. George Gillson, M.D., Ph.D.: “You’ve hit menopause. Now what? 3 simple steps to restoring hormone balance” 2nd edition, 2004, Rocky Mountain Analytical Corp., Calgary, AB, Canada.
  5.  John R. Lee, M.D. and Virginia Hopkins: “Dr. John Lee’s Hormone Balance Made Simple- The Essential How-to Guide to Symptoms, Dosage, Timing, and More”. Wellness Central Hachette Group USA, New York, NY 10017. Published 2006. Page 57 discusses saliva testing and states: “The healthy ratio of progesterone to estradiol is at least 200 to 1 and can go up to 1,000 to 1 in women using transdermal (delivered through the skin with cream, gels, oils) progesterone.”
  6. James L. Wilson, ND, DC, PhD: “Adrenal Fatigue, the 21sty Century Stress Syndrome – what is it and how you can recover”; Second printing 2002 by Smart Publications, Petaluma, Ca, USA

Last edited Nov. 6, 2014

May
11
2013

Changes Of Gut Bacteria Can Cause Heart Attacks

The recent news of gut bacteria possibly being involved in causing heart attacks (see details below) sounds pretty outrageous. In order to make this more understandable, we need to start backtracking how bacteria end up in our gut and what they are doing there.

Gut bacteria in our bowels at various stages in life

Even among infants there is a huge difference in the composition of the gut flora depending on whether the baby was vaginally delivered, born by Cesarean section or prematurely born and nursed in an intensive care unit for a prolonged period of time.

When we are grown up, it depends on where we live on our planet as to what type of gut flora we have. A 2011 study of the bacterial composition of stool samples in Europe versus Africa showed that the European microbiome in the colon was typical of the Bacteroides enterotype, whereas the African microbiome was dominated by the Prevotella enterotype. Other studies have shown that the type of diet we eat causes us to harbor different types of gut flora. A person eating a more vegetarian diet will have a Prevotella enterotype gut flora, while another person eating a Western style fat and protein dominated diet will have a Bacteroides enterotype gut flora. What is the gut flora doing? It lives within our gut for our mutual benefit. We provide the gut bacteria a comfortable home at body temperature where they grow best. They in turn ferment undigested foods, protect us from the growth of harmful bacteria, produce vitamins like vitamin K and biotin, and produce hormones that direct the body to store excess food as fat.

Changes Of Gut Bacteria Can Cause Heart Attacks

Changes Of Gut Bacteria Can Cause Heart Attacks

Cleveland Clinic’s gut flora research linked to heart attacks

In April 2013 reports that heart attacks may be related to the composition of your gut flora hit the popular press, articles like this. Two years earlier, in April of 2011, the same Cleveland research group under Dr. Stanley Hazen found that the gut flora composition has an impact on heart disease. They stated that a “byproduct called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) is produced when intestinal bacteria digest the nutrient phosphatidylcholine, commonly known as lecithin”. It was determined that the liver was responsible for producing TMAO out of absorbed materials from gut bacteria and that this was responsible for accelerating hardening of the arteries, which in turn caused deadly heart attacks and strokes.

As can be seen from this link the Cleveland research group is suggesting that TMAO could become a valuable screening tool when measured in patients’ blood to screen for their risk to develop a heart attack or stroke in the future. Furthermore, once these patients are identified, they can be sent to a dietitian and be put on a different diet that prevents heart attacks and strokes; also, the progress could again be monitored through repeat TMAO blood tests down the road.

Criticism of research from the Cleveland Clinic

Not every one has welcomed the study as clear-cut proof for a link between the gut flora and heart attacks, strokes and deaths. This link shows that it is questioned whether perhaps low antibiotic residues in red meat would explain the findings of the study. It rightly points out that there was no control for whether the more than 4000 patients were eating organic foods or a regular American diet. The comment goes on to say that the regular American diet contains residual antibiotics from milk, milk products, beef, chicken and turkey. These traces of antibiotics are powerful enough to have an effect on the gut flora, which likely is the reason for the differences between the vegetarian diet versus a Western style fat and protein dominated diet. It is entirely possible that grass fed beef would not lead to TMAO levels in the blood whereas regular beef or hamburger meat will raise the TMAO levels. The same could be true for egg consumption, which was also accused of raising TMAO levels. However, we do not know whether organic eggs that do not contain antibiotics would have done the same as regular eggs that contain traces of antibiotics.

Cancer caused by gut flora

This 2008 review article explains how lactobacillus and bifidobacteria (probiotics) prevent colon cancer, while bacteria of the Bacteroides and Clostridium variety increase the incidence of colon cancer and the growth rate of colonic tumors. So, the composition of your gut flora does not only matter with regard to prevention of heart attacks and strokes, but is also important in preventing colon cancer.

Change your gut flora to boost your health

Here is where the “rubber hits the road”. What I mean is that you can benefit from all of this research with regard to your health by paying attention to a few facts and possibly making a few changes as follows.

  1. I think that the argument of the bulletproofexec.com website holds true and we should all eat organic meats whenever possible. The Cleveland study has already shown that the gut flora in vegetarians stayed healthy even when they occasionally slipped and ate a regular steak.
  2. Take supplemental probiotics from the health food store. It will improve your gut flora within a day or two.
  3. Higher intake of fruit and vegetables make a measurable difference in the body decreasing the risk for heart attacks and strokes as this British research group has shown. Another research group from Italy has confirmed that an increased intake of fruit and vegetables mobilizes genetic switches that will stabilize the metabolism of the gut wall and prevent cancer of the colon.

So, the verdict for boosting your health is out: eat organic foods, use probiotics as supplements and eat more fruit and vegetables!

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

References

  1. http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v19/n5/full/nm.3145.html
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23614584

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014