December 11, 2017

450 PCOS [11 December 2017]

PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is a common cause of infertility in women. PCOS is a metabolic condition in which there is an excess of estrogen and androgens (male hormones) leading to a variety of symptoms: irregular or absent ovulation, a higher risk of miscarriage, hair loss (male pattern baldness), excess facial hair, acne, fatigue, and mood swings. Conditions frequently associated with PCOS include: insulin resistance, hyperinsulinism, diabetes, weight gain, and hypertension. PCOS is the most common hormone dysfunction of women of reproductive age, affecting an estimated 10% of women.

PCOS is believed to begin with a diet high in simple carbohydrates which leads to insulin resistance and hyperinsulinism. High levels of insulin activate the androgen receptors on the ovaries which causes an increase in male hormones. The male hormones prevent the mature egg follicle from releasing the egg during ovulation, causing infertility. Normally the follicle releases the egg and then attaches as a corpus luteum which triggers production of high amounts of progesterone as a normal part of the ovulatory cycle. When the egg is not released, the follicle attaches to the ovary as a “cyst”, and little if any progesterone is produced. The lack of progesterone leaves estrogen dominant which thickens the uterus and increases the risk of endometrial cancer.

The most important approach to treating PCOS is to deal with the insulin resistance, hyperinsulinism, and excess weight. With high insulin levels, a ketogenic diet is the easiest and safest way to shed the excess fat and eliminate insulin resistance. This should be followed by a healthy diet low in simple carbohydrates, sufficient exercise, stress reduction, and a detox program to support the liver and help it clear the excess hormones. Often this is enough to normalize hormones and restore fertility.

A nutrient that shows promise in treating PCOS is di-chiro-inositol or DCI (trade name ChirositolTM). Studies show that DCI normalizes insulin levels, reducing them when too high but doesn’t take them too low. It also elevates serotonin which reduces sugar cravings. According to the Lorna Vanderhaeghe website (which markets a ChirositolTM product, GlucoSmart), DCI “effectively reduces excess male hormones, reduces weight and appetite, and normalizes ovulation, thereby improving fertility” []. Note a 2011 review in Gynecol. Endrocrinol found the studies to date of insufficient quality for reliable conclusions regarding DCI as a treatment for PCOS.

John Lee MD Medical Letter July 1999, quoted in 2 Jan 2008

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

December 4, 2017

449 Medicinal Mushrooms [4 Dec 2017]

Medicinal mushrooms are commonly used in Japan (hence the Japanese names for many of them) but are underutilized in North America, mostly I think due to lack of awareness. Most of the research, including many human studies, have been done in China and Japan. I didn’t know much about them until I participated in a webinar on the topic by Dr. Philip Rouchotas.

The active ingredients in the mushrooms are various polysaccharides which are protected in the mushrooms by a chitin cell wall. Hot water or steam extraction works best to release the polysaccharides.

Coriolus, Reishi, Maitake, Shiitake and Chaga all have similar medicinal properties. Their most important role is assisting with advanced cancer treatment, taken along with chemotherapy and radiation. These mushrooms have been used in Japan for this purpose for over 30 years. Studies have shown that they:

• Stimulate activity of NK (Natural Killer) white blood cells to attack cancer cells
• Protect Neutrophils from destruction by chemo, allowing treatment to continue (if neutrophil count gets too low chemo treatment has be to stopped)
• Reduce side effects of chemo and radiation therapy including fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and insomnia
• Help maintain body weight during cancer treatment
• Increase length of remission and survival rates from cancer treatment

These five mushrooms also have anti-viral properties and have been shown in human trials to be effective with HIV, HPV and other viral, fungal and bacterial infections. They also help with conditions of severe fatigue like Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Cordyceps is another well studied mushroom, highly valued by the Chinese. An important use is in treating adrenal fatigue by balancing cortisol production. It improves symptoms of respiratory conditions including COPD. Cordyceps improves cardio-pulmonary function in elderly people, increasing their stamina.

Lion’s Mane is known as the “brain mushroom” because it stimulates nerve growth. It’s main use is with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and MS. Animal studies show that it increases growth of myelin making it a promising treatment for MS. Dr. Rouchotas considers it to be the most important supplement in treatment of brain injury such as concussion, along with fish oil, CoQ10 and Acetyl-L-Carnitine.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

November 27, 2017

448 Fit and Fat? [27 Nov 2017]

Studies on the relative risks of weight and exercise have suggested that being fit is more important than not being fat. A recent study from Britain, however, shows that even healthy obese people should not become complacent about their weight.

The study examined the electronic health records of 3.5 million adults in England (making it the largest study of its kind) that were initially free of heart disease, and followed them from 1995 to 2015. The study classified the patients by BMI (a ratio of weight to height) and recorded three metabolic abnormalities – diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol). They were then followed and monitored for three cardiovascular diseases (CVD) – coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease (stroke), or peripheral vascular disease.

As expected, within each weight category, those with one or more metabolic abnormalities had a higher risk of heart disease. And, not too unexpectedly, for those with the same abnormalities, the obese had a higher risk of CVD than those with normal weight. This held true for those with no metabolic abnormalities – the obese had a 49% increased risk of coronary heart disease, an insignificant 7% increased risk of stroke, and 96% increased risk (nearly double) of heart failure. Even those in the moderate “overweight” class had a 30% higher risk of coronary heart disease.

An earlier (2013) review and meta-analysis found a similar pattern. Compared to the metabolically healthy normal weight group, the metabolically health obese group had a 24% higher risk of having a cardiovascular event. All weight groups that were metabolically unhealthy had much higher risks, from 265 to 312% higher.

What this means is that even with no signs of diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, being overweight puts you at a much higher risk of heart disease. But having diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol increases your risk much, much, more.

As I have explained previously [#082], high blood insulin levels not only promote weight gain (and make weight loss next to impossible) [#065] but can also lead to diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) [#084] and dyslipidemia (high cholesterol) [#083] – the three main risk factors for heart disease. The medically designed ketogenic diet we use at our weight loss clinic lowers insulin which makes losing weight much easier and at the same time normalizes blood sugar, blood pressure and lipids. We have had dieters who, after losing significant weight, were able to go off their blood pressure and diabetic meds.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

November 20, 2017

447 Vitamin K2 Update [20 Nov 2017]

Back in 2012 I wrote a series of columns on vitamin K2 [#148-151] and in June 2015 [#323] showed that taking statin drugs inhibits the synthesis of K2 making supplementation even more critical. It’s time for a review and update.

Vitamins K1 and K2 are different nutrients with entirely different functions. K1 is found in leafy green vegetables and plays a role in blood clotting. K2 is found in fat products (including egg yolks and butter) from grass fed animals. K2 activates two different proteins: osteocalcin to attach to calcium and move it into our bones and teeth; and matrix Gla protein (MGP) to keep calcium out of our arteries, kidneys, heart, breasts and brain.

K2 works with calcium, magnesium and vitamin D to promote strong bones and teeth. Studies from Japan and the Netherlands found that K2 supplementation reduced bone fractures by 60-80% and actually reversed bone loss in people with osteoporosis.

Vitamins D and K2 are both needed for MGP which prevents calcium deposits on the lining of our arteries. A 2015 study showed that taking 180mcg of K2 prevented and even reversed hardening of the arteries. A previous 10 year study from the Netherlands found that increased consumption of K2 significantly lowered risk of cardiovascular disease and death from all causes.

Another role of K2 is in activating a protein that controls cell growth and helps protect us from some cancers. Research is also investigating potential roles of K2 in preventing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and MS.

K2 deficiency is very common in Canada as very little is found in our diets and only a small amount is synthesized by our gut bacteria. There is still no readily available lab test for K2 levels but researchers estimate that an “overwhelming majority” of adults in North America get only about 10% of the vitamin K2 needed to prevent osteoporosis and cardiovascular heart disease. We don’t need to wait – every adult should be supplementing with 100-200 mcg (I take 200 daily). And it’s non-toxic so we needn’t worry about taking too much – just too little. We certainly shouldn’t be taking calcium and vitamin D supplements without also supplementing K2. One caution – anyone taking a blood thinning drug like warfarin should talk to their doctor before starting K2 as the drug’s dosage will need to be adjusted.

There are two forms of K2 available in supplements: MK-4 and MK-7. MK-4 is the one found in animal fats but has a short biological half-life (the length of time it stays active in our bodies) so needs to be taken several times a day. MK-7 is only found in certain (awful-tasting) fermented foods so is best taken as a supplement. It has the advantage of a longer half-life so only needs to be taken once a day. Some of the better calcium-magnesium supplements have added vitamins D3 and K2.

Source: Mercola 13 Nov 2017 Vitamin K2 for Heart Bone Health

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

November 13, 2017

446 Iron Deficiency [13 Nov 2017]

In September I wrote about iron toxicity [#439], how too much iron can damage your mitochondria and increase your risk of sudden cardiac death. This week I want to balance that with a reminder that worldwide, iron deficiency is a major problem. See my article #212 Iron – the Energy Mineral, April 2013.

The World Health Organization states that “Iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world. As well as affecting a large number of children and women in developing countries, it is the only nutrient deficiency which is also significantly prevalent in industrialized countries.”

People most affected by iron deficiency are growing children, pregnant women, and pre-menopausal women. Pregnancy especially requires iron as the mother’s blood volume increases nearly 50%. By the way, this extra blood volume also requires a lot of sodium, so this is not the time to restrict salt consumption. Children with ADD are commonly deficient in iron [see #443] as well as many other minerals and vitamins [see #172].

Besides being an essential component of hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying molecule found in red blood cells, iron is also essential in DNA synthesis and as a co-factor in a number of enzymes involved in oxidative phosphorylation.

Some symptoms of iron deficiency:
• General fatigue and weakness
• Shortness of breath
• Tachycardia (pounding heart)
• Chronic headaches
• Anxiety
• Pale skin
• Hair loss
• Heavy menstrual cycles

These are indications that you might have an iron deficiency. But remember the danger of excess iron – it is important to be tested to make sure there is an iron deficiency before supplementing. There are a variety of iron supplements available. Iron salts such as fumarate, sulfate and gluconate are poorly absorbed and may contribute to constipation. Iron bisglycinate is a better absorbed form. Heme iron, already in the form used in red blood cells, is the best absorbed. Herbal iron tonics are also very well absorbed and contain other useful nutrients.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

November 6, 2017

445 Methylfolate [6 Nov 2017]

Folate is a B vitamin (B9) with many essential roles in our metabolism. It is found in leafy green vegetables, hence the name folate after “folium”, Latin for leaf. Folate is also synthesized by certain lactobacillus and bifidobacteria bacteria in our small intestine.

Most of us have heard that folate is essential in pregnancy to prevent the birth defect spina bifida, but it plays many other roles. Folate:
• is essential in cell division and synthesis of DNA and RNA
• helps make the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine
• prevents neural tube defects (including spina bifida) in pregnancy
• helps prevent anemia in pregnancy
• converts homocysteine to less-toxic methionine (homocysteine increases inflammation and risk of heart disease)
• maintains healthy T cell production and therefore resistance to infections
• improved symptoms of depression, bipolar and schizophrenia
• improves cognitive function and slows brain deterioration in Alzheimer’s and dementia

The natural form, folate, is metabolized in the small intestine to the active form methyltetrahydrofolate (MTHF). The synthetic form, folic acid, found in “fortified” foods and cheaper vitamin supplements, requires conversion in the liver before a final conversion to THF. The liver process requires an enzyme, MTHFR, of which many people have inherited an inactive form. These people are unable to utilize folic acid or even some of the natural forms found in food. If they supplement with folic acid toxic levels could build up in their livers, so they need to use the methyl form. Are you one of them? Genetic testing could tell you – but a trial with MTHF would be easier and cheaper.

The ubiquitous herbicide glyphosate preferentially kills the folate producing bacteria in our gut so now it’s even more essential to get folate from our diet and supplements.

Similar to methylcobalamin being the preferred form of vitamin B12 [see #339], the preferred form of B9 is methyltetrahydrofolate. I’ve noticed recently that more of the higher quality B complex and multi vitamins have these forms of B9 and B12. Look for them when you are buying vitamins for yourself and your family.

Sources for further reading

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

October 30, 2017

444 Pain & Inflammation Protocol [30 Oct 2017]

A webinar by Philip Rouchotas ND of Bolton Naturopathic Clinic in Ontario described his treatment protocol for pain and inflammation. He also explained in some detail the rationale and science behind each item. Most of his patients with pain and inflammation have an autoimmune disease where the body produces antibodies which attacks its own tissues. And a common factor in most autoimmune disease is a hyperpermeable intestinal wall, also known as a “leaky gut”.

Here is a summary of his protocol:
• Eliminate dietary proteins that promote leaky gut and the autoimmune response. Gluten and gliadins from grains and casein from dairy are the most common culprits. Human studies show significant improvements with elimination diets for many autoimmune diseases. Because of the inconvenience, Dr. Rouchotas doesn’t recommend everyone eliminate grains and dairy, but anyone with an autoimmune disease is advised to do a trial even with negative allergy tests. He describes it as “the single most effective intervention for autoimmune disease I know”.
• Vitamin D acts as an immunomodulator, reducing the autoimmune process by increasing production of regulatory T cells (Tregs), while at the same time improving the immune system’s ability to fight infections [see #363 March 2016]
• Probiotics help restore a healthy gut microbiome, reducing the production of lipopolysaccharides (LPS) which cross the leaky gut inducing an autoimmune reaction
• Fish oil (at least 2,000 mg/day of EPA+DHA) replaces some of the arachidonic acid in the (COX) and (LOX) pathways, reducing production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes. A meta-analysis found that fish oil reduced joint pain, morning stiffness, and need for NSAIDS.
• Curcumin and Boswellia are the only herbals known to block both the COX and LOX pathways, thus providing double anti-inflammatory protection (Tylenol blocks only COX)
• Egg shell membrane (500mg /day) is another natural anti-inflammatory which has shown significant improvement in joint pain and stiffness after 1 or 2 months
• Glucosamine [see #63 March 2011] and chondroitin (1500 and 1200 mg/day) help rebuild cartilage in osteoarthritic joints [see #63 May 2010]
• Enzymes like bromelain and serrapeptase [see #442] taken between meals reduce inflammation

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.