Feb
01
2014

Early Alcohol Use Will Result In Memory Loss Later In Life

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

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

Review of the effects of alcohol

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

Early Alcohol Use Will Result In Memory Loss Later In Life

Early Alcohol Use Will Result In Memory Loss Later In Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cardiology view of preventative alcohol

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

References:

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

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Aug
03
2013

Treating Symptoms Not Effective, Find And Eradicate Causes

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

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

Treating Symptoms Not Effective, Find And Eradicate Causes

Treating Symptoms Not Effective, Find And Eradicate Causes

1)  Rheumatoid arthritis

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

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

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

2) High Blood Pressure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) Gastritis and duodenal ulcer

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

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

4) Chronic back pains and insomnia

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

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

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

5) Asthma symptoms

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

Last edited Aug. 3, 2013

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