March 12, 2018

462 Upstream [12 March 2018]

Now that Ryan Meili is the new Leader of the Opposition in Saskatchewan, let’s take another look at his 2018 book “A Healthy Society”. I briefly discussed the social determinants of health on which the book is based in my Feb 5 column [#457 Determinants of Health”].

To illustrate the idea of looking deeper for root causes of poor health, Meilli quotes the parable of the river:
A flailing, drowning child comes floating down toward you. Brave soul that you are, you dive in and rescue it. Before you can dry off and recover, another child appears, so you dive in again and bring her safely to shore. A curious crowd has gathered by now. Another child bobs into sight, and another, and another. People take turns fishing them out. Eventually, someone will ask the pertinent question: Who keeps chucking these kids into the water? And hopefully, someone will head upstream to find out.
The analogy to health care is clear. While we must continue to treat people with cancer, diabetes, and other chronic and infectious diseases, some resources must be allocated to learning and at least slowing their causes or we’ll never catch up. Educational campaigns asking people to stop smoking, reduce sugar, or exercise more aren’t enough. The root cause is much deeper.

In the natural health field we like to think we deal with the causes of disease rather than just treat the symptoms. We look at nutritional deficiencies; genetic differences (called polymorphisms) which may require increased intake or a special form of a nutrient; inadequate exercise; specific food allergies or sensitivities; excess intake of certain food groups; exposure to unhealthy chemicals in our food, water, air and home & beauty products; exposure to electromagnetic fields; unhealthy gut bacteria; and so on. But fixing most of these are beyond the budget (or time or expertise) of many Rosetown residents (and some are beyond mine).

As Meili argues in his book, the root cause of most disease is poverty. And until we muster the public will to tackle that, we will have to keep on fishing the kids out of the river as best we can.

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

March 5, 2018

461 Hemp Extract [5 March 2018]

When I wrote about hemp oil last May [#418 Hemp Oil] I was not aware of any hemp product with an appreciable amount of cannabinoids available without a prescription. I have now found one.

Cannabinoids are members of the terpene phytochemical family. Cannabidiol (CBD), mentioned in the May 2017 article, is only one of this family. Beta-caryophyllene is another one that is very beneficial for human health. These cannabinoids activate special CB2 receptor sites found in our brain, heart, endocrine glands, and many other organs. This benefits our health in many ways:

• Modulates inflammation
• Boosts immune function
• Improves circulation
• Supports the nervous system
• Relieves stress and anxiety
• Improves neurological function – repairs nerve damage
• Promotes detoxification

This brand is manufactured in the USA. The extract is made from the stalk of hemp plants grown specifically for this purpose (not as a byproduct of the textile industry). Their raw “supercritical CO2” extraction process is solvent-free and uses low temperatures to obtain the highest variety and quality of compounds from the hemp plant, including some 80 different cannabinoids and significant amounts of beta-caryophyllene.

The company makes several different formulas with their hemp extract. The pure hemp extract, in addition to the benefits listed above, has pain-relieving, calming, and cognitive–enhancing (helps you focus and think more clearly) properties. Another formula combines the hemp extract with a turmeric extract to lower inflammation and to support the nervous system, joints and muscles. A third formula is a sleep aid with added extracts of hops, blue chamomile, cinnamon and oregano, which promotes REM sleep. All three are available as drops or capsules.

I can’t wait to try these myself and will share my experience with you.

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

February 26, 2018

460 Risks of Early Weight Gain [26 Feb 2018]

As older adults, few of us weigh what we did as young adults. Gaining weight as we age is normal, at least in this society. But gaining even a moderate amount of weight, like 5 to 20 pounds, will increase our risk of chronic disease and lower our chances of healthy aging.

A large study published in JAMA last July looked at the effect of weight gain from early to middle adulthood on health outcomes in later life. The study used data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study to analyze 92,837 women and 25,303 men. The researchers compared the women’s weight at age 18 and the men’s at age 21 with their weight at age 55. They then observed their health outcomes for 15 to 18 years.

As expected, those that had gained the most weight by age 55 were at greatest risk of major chronic diseases. More surprising, perhaps, was that even a small weight gain significantly increased the risks. Women who gained 5 to 20 pounds had a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, severe arthritis, gallstones, and certain cancers occurring later in life. Men who gained that amount had a higher risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. The study authors concluded that their data “provide strong evidence that maintaining a healthy weight throughout early and middle adulthood is associated with overall health in those who survive to older ages”.

The other lesson here is that weight gain in early adulthood is significant even if no health problems arise during that time. Weight gain during early to middle adulthood will strongly affect how healthy our later years will be. Maintaining a healthy weight during our younger years will improve the odds for healthy aging. In other words we’re never too young to get back to – and maintain – a healthy weight.

It’s not always possible to get back to our weight at ages 18 or 21, but any amount of excess weight we lose will benefit. I was 185 pounds at our wedding in 1981 – I’ll never see that again. I just finished losing 30 pounds (with the ketogenic diet we use in our clinic) to get back down to 200. Knowing what I do now, I will make a greater effort to keep it off and maybe lose a bit more.

"Associations of Weight Gain from Early to Middle Adulthood with Major Health Outcomes Later in Life", JAMA, July 2017 full article; abstract
Bonnie Liebman, "Why small amounts of weight gain shouldn't go unchecked", Nutrition Action, Feb 19 2018

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

February 19, 2018

459 Chaga Tea [19 February 2018]

Chaga was mentioned as one of six popular medicinal mushrooms in my Dec 4 2017 column #449. It is the least attractive yet the most powerful of the medicinal mushrooms. It appears as a black growth on the trunk of birch trees in the northern forests of Canada, Alaska and Eurasia. Chaga has been used for healing by native peoples from these areas for centuries.

Scientific research from China, Japan, Korea & Russia, are now substantiating these health benefits (mostly cellular and animal studies so far; human trials to follow). Dr. Karl Maret summarizes the known benefits of chaga:

• Anti-bacterial
• anti-viral
• Anti-tumor
• Anti-inflammatory
• Anti-aging
• Blood sugar regulation
• Liver protection
• Immune system enhancer

Chaga is the highest known plant source of SOD (super oxide dismutase) a powerful antioxidant. Melanin, which gives the chaga its dark color, is a powerful antioxidant that not only protects DNA from radiation and oxidative damage, but also repairs it. The SOD and melanin in chaga protect the bone marrow (where our blood cells are made) from damage from radiation and chemotherapy during conventional cancer treatments.

Another compound in chaga is the polysaccharide beta-glucans which stimulates the immune system by increasing production and activity of macrophages and B-lymphocytes. Beta-glucans also play an important role in cell communication.

Chaga contains a tripeptide compound that slows platelet aggregation, so should not be used in people taking a “blood-thinning” drug. A triterpene called Inotodiol assists apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells. There are many more phytonutrients that have been discovered recently, and no doubt even more yet to be discovered.

Often the first benefit observed when drinking chaga tea is energy, stamina, and the motivation to do something with it. When Dr. Cass Ingram (author of “The Cure is in the Cupboard”) first tried chaga he woke up at 4:00 am looking for something to do and ended up cleaning out a closet that had been neglected for years. Like most people I suspect, I run out of energy long before running out of things to do, so chaga is something I need to try!

Chaga is available in raw chunks for brewing tea, in capsules, drops, and as a cream for repairing damage to skin, muscle and joints.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner. Find this article on my website for links to sources and further reading.

February 12, 2018

458 Vitamin D, Colds and Flu [12 Feb 2018]

This has been an unusually bad year for influenza and severe colds, collectively called upper respiratory infections or URIs. Many observational studies have found that low levels of vitamin D are associated with increased risk for URIs. But the few random controlled studies testing to see if supplementing with D could lower the risk had conflicting results.

A meta-analysis published in February 2017 in the British Medical Journal combined the data from 25 randomized controlled trials to look at the effect of vitamin D supplementation on incidence of acute respiratory tract infection. It concluded that vitamin D supplementation was safe and offered some protection against acute respiratory tract infections, but only with frequent dosing (daily or weekly – not monthly or longer).

A study in Toronto published in JAMA in 2017 compared 2000 IU and 400 IU vitamin D (daily as oral drops) in 700 children over one respiratory season. Infections averaged slightly more than 1 per child with no significant difference between the two groups. Incidence of influenza infections was reduced 50% in the high dose group but there were too few (10% of infections) to be conclusive.

Last month a recent study of infants from China reported that high dose vitamin D reduced the risk of URIs and also improved symptoms. A random controlled clinical trial published in January 2018 in Pediatr Infect Dis J studied 400 healthy infants between 3 and 12 months of age. Half were given 400 IU and half 1200 IU vitamin D daily as oral drops. The infants were monitored for symptoms of fever, cough and wheezing for four months.

Over the four months 121 cases of influenza A infection occurred – 78 in the low dose group and 43 in the high dose group. As well as having fewer occurrences, the duration of the symptoms (fever, coughing and wheezing) were all significantly shorter in the high dose group. The authors concluded “High-dose vitamin D (1200 IU) is suitable for the prevention of seasonal influenza as evidenced by rapid relief from symptoms, rapid decrease in viral loads, and disease recovery. In addition, high-dose vitamin D is probably safe for infants.”

The Vitamin D Council recommends vitamin D supplementation of 5,000-10,000 IU per day for adults and 1,000 – 2,000 for infants. Vitamin D supplementation is especially important during the winter season when URIs are most common and of course when we cannot obtain vitamin D from the sun.

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

February 5, 2018

457 Determinants of Health [5 February 2018]

I’m reading the 2018 edition of Dr. Ryan Meili’s book “A Healthy Society – How a Focus on Health Can Revive Canadian Democracy”. In the book he refers to the factors that most strongly determine our health, sometimes called the “social determinants of health”. A good reference for Canadians is “Social Determinants of Health – The Canadian Facts”, 2010, by J. Mikkonen and D. Raphael. This 63 page document is available free at It recognizes 14 factors, listed here in decreasing order of significance:
1. Income and income distribution
2. Education
3. Unemployment and job security
4. Employment and working conditions
5. Early childhood development
6. Food insecurity
7. Housing
8. Social exclusion
9. Social safety network
10. Health services
11. Aboriginal status
12. Gender
13. Race
14. Disability

Surprisingly, access to health care doesn’t come in near the top but at number 10. This is the area on which Canadian provincial governments spend about a third of their budget, more than the next two highest – education and social services –combined [see Saskatchewan's 2017 budget]. Meili makes the argument that health is really 100% of the budget because spending choices in all government departments affect our health, some even more so than Health Care.

Note that organic food and supplements do not appear in the list (although I like to think that they are some of the ways that higher income contributes to health).

The Canadian Facts document and Meili’s book help put our efforts to improve our health into a broader perspective. I think it should be required reading for all politicians –and everyone who votes for them.

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

January 29, 2018

456 Cognitive Dissonance [29 January 2018]

An article on the Vitamin D Council’s website inspired this column. It begins with two quotes. “All progress requires change; those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” (George Bernard Shaw) and “Science progresses one funeral at a time” (Max Planck).

Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort or psychological stress occurring when new information conflicts with long held beliefs. To relieve the tension people usually reject or ignore the new information in favor of the original belief.

The article’s author, founder and current medical director of the Vitamin D Council, John Cannell, is expressing his frustration at the lag time for medical discoveries to be put into the practice of saving lives. Specifically he mentions Vitamin D as a treatment for preeclampsia of pregnancy and autism. There are more than one hundred peer-reviewed published studies showing the effectiveness (and safety) of vitamin D for each of these two conditions (and many more) which are being ignored by the medical industry. Almost without exception these studies end with a call for more and larger studies before making any recommendations. This is especially true for pregnancy. But how much grant money and how many dead women are required? Are the 46,000 deaths from preeclampsia in 2015 not enough?

We know from many studies that optimum vitamin D levels in pregnant mothers reduce the risk of their baby developing autism. Why aren’t all pregnant women tested for vitamin D in their first trimester and supplemented when indicated to bring their levels up? There is no risk in doing so and a terrible risk in not.

Cannell blames the lag time on cognitive dissonance. Those in the medical industry responsible for developing and carrying out treatment protocols can’t fit the growing pile of new information on natural health products with what they have been taught to believe, so they ignore it. And all we can do is wait for their funerals.

The notion that natural health products are somehow “unscientific” makes it easier to ignore them. Why synthetic chemicals should be considered more scientific than vitamins and minerals is perplexing. The problem as I see it is not that they are “natural” but rather that they are not patentable. Without the profit from patent protection few corporations are willing to cover the cost of getting these products approved. I see a strong role here for governments and charities to fund the necessary research, since it is the people, and governments paying for health care, who will benefit from safer, more effective, and less expensive treatments.

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