December 19, 2016

400 Ahhh, Nuts! [19 Dec 2016]


Nuts get a bad rap. When something goes wrong, we say “Aw, nuts!” with the same meaning as “Aw, rats!”. To show nuts the respect and admiration they deserve, we should instead use the expression “Ahhh, nuts!”.

I previoiusly wrote about the nutritional benefits of nuts in December 2009 (#043) and December 2013 (#245).

Last week natural health author Leslie Beck reported for the Globe and Mail on the results of a large study published this month in BMC Medicine. The study was a meta-analysis of 20 prospective cohort studies from the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia with a total of nearly 820,000 participants. The study looked at nut intake and mortality from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other causes.

What they found is that nuts are even more beneficial than previously known. People eating 20 grams or more of nuts reduced their risk of dying by:
• 29% for coronary heart disease
• 21% for cardiovascular disease
• 39% for diabetes
• 15% for cancer (tree nuts only)
• 52% for respiratory disease, and
• 22% for premature death of all causes.

The study found peanuts were as protective as tree nuts for heart disease and all-cause mortality but not for cancer. A significant reduction in risk of stroke was found with peanuts (37%) but not with tree nuts (11%). Looking at the results another way, the authors estimated that 4.4 million premature deaths annually could be attributed to eating less than 20 grams of nuts daily.

Including nuts in your diet is an easy way to improve your health, especially if you substitute them for less healthy snacks. They are expensive but fortunately we don’t need much – 20 grams or about a handful a day is enough to provide most of the protective benefits found in this study.

Pass the nuts please. Delicious! Ahhh, nuts!

It’s hard to believe that this is my 400th column in nearly 8 years of writing. I hope to continue for at least another 100. Donna and I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy healthy new year.

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 12, 2016

399 Cheap Food and Fair Trade [12 Dec 2016]


Last week I discussed examples of food fraud from the 2016 book “Sorting the Beef from the Bull – the Science of Food Fraud Forensics” by Richard Evershed and Nicola Temple. One of the factors leading to food fraud is the modern consumer’s unrealistic (the authors called it “delusional”) expectations of what food should cost.

The average American family spent 43% of their income on food in 1900 but a mere 13% in 2013. Most of this decrease in relative food cost can be attributed to the efficiency of conventional food systems (particularly for packaged processed foods). Consumer demand for the cheapest food puts pressure on the retailers, distributors, processors, and ultimately the producers to cut corners wherever possible, sometimes leading to food fraud. In the book’s Foreword, Prof. Chris Elliott of the U. Belfast reported “…a number of food-business operators have told me their biggest dilemma is to decide if they should cheat in the same way as their competitors, or go out of business.”

This effect of underpaying producers and other food-business workers is more serious in undeveloped (usually tropical or sub-tropical) countries where there are fewer options for work, no unions to negotiate for them, and no social safety nets to feed their families while unemployed. One answer to this problem is the fair trade movement.

Fair Trade can be simply defined as “trade in which fair prices are paid to producers in developing countries”. Production is free of forced labor, child labor, and unsafe working conditions. Crops are raised through sustainable methods. A floor price is established to protect small producers from market fluctuations. Small independent producers may join together to form co-operatives. To prevent fraudulent claims, fair trade certifiers ensure that standards are met and labeling is accurate. Foods commonly produced with free trade include: handicrafts, cotton, coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, coconut oil, bananas and flowers.

Learn more about fair trade at fairtrade.ca. And look for the fair trade symbol on items in your grocery store (if you don’t see any ask the manager). Yes these products will cost more. Yet it’s a small price to pay to share a little of the privilege we enjoy in this country with the workers that produce the food we eat.

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 5, 2016

398 Food Fraud [5 Dec 2016]


I am reading a book called “Sorting the Beef from the Bull – the Science of Food Fraud Forensics” by Richard Evershed and Nicola Temple (April 2016). The problem of food fraud is much larger than I imagined, costing the food industry world-wide billions of dollars each year and sometimes having serious health, social and environmental effects. The sad truth is we don’t always know what we’re eating, and Canada and the natural health industry are not immune to fraud.

The book discusses various types of food fraud that have been documented, often well organized and on a large scale, and the efforts of scientists to uncover them. Here are some examples:
• Olive oil adulterated with commercial canola oil is blamed for 25,000 serious injuries and over 1,000 deaths in Spain (1981)
• Substitution of cheaper species of fish and shellfish
• Honey diluted with high fructose corn syrup or other cheaper sugars
• Manuka honey which sells at a high premium is often counterfeit
• Melamine added to infant formula in China (2008) resulted in 52,000 hospitalizations and 6 infant deaths (two of the men responsible were executed)
• Sick Irish horses slaughtered and mixed with ground beef in the UK (2013)
• Ground nuts added to spices in North America and Europe (2013)
Mucci Farms of Ontario from 2011-2013 relabelled Mexican bell peppers as “Product of Canada”

To combat this problem, government agencies test foods using sophisticated chemical analyses. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the U. of Guelph pioneered the use of DNA analysis to identify species. (Deep budget cuts to CFIA in recent years are undermining this process.)

To be fair, the retailers and even the distributors are often unaware of the adulterations. Processed foods contain dozens of ingredients from many countries and it would be impossible to have them all tested.

One way to reduce the risk of food fraud is to buy local unprocessed foods. Unfortunately “real foods” tend to be more expensive and require more work to prepare at home. But even if the ingredients on processed food labels are accurate, it is still best to avoid 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.

November 28, 2016

397 Vitamin D Deficiency Pandemic? [28 Nov 2016]


With the evidence piling up that the RDA for vitamin D is too low and the concern about the increasing deficiencies of the world’s population (a 2010 article in International J of Health Sciences estimated 1 billion people worldwide), it was inevitable that there would be some pushback. It came earlier this month in a paper published in the NEJM “Vitamin D Deficiency – Is There Really a Pandemic?”

This paper argues that vitamin D deficiencies are overestimated because they are based on the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of 600iu per day for ages 1-70 and 800iu for 70+ which correspond to a blood status of 20ng/ml (75 nmol/L in Canada). Instead (the authors argue) they should use the Estimated Average Intake (EAR) of 400iu and 600iu respectively, which brings half the population to 16 ng/ml, the minimum level to maintain adequate bone health.

A critique of this paper was published on the Vitamin D Council’s website November 18 by A. Tovey and Dr. J.J. Cannell. They made the following points:
• Even for bone health, the RDA is based on faulty statistics and is set too low
• Studies have shown that vitamin D provides many other benefits at much higher levels, so the RDA should be increased significantly
• A March 2013 paper in the Eur J Nutr concluded that vitamin D levels should be over 30 ng/ml to achieve the beneficial effect on chronic diseases.
• People living outdoors near the equator produce levels of 40-80 ng/ml which appears to be the optimum level for good health
• Blood levels of >40 ng/ml are associated with a 65% lower cancer risk
• A 2016 study found that raising blood levels of MS patients from 28 to 84 ng/ml by taking 10,000 iu per day resulted in significant improvements in quality of life scores
• Vitamin D supplementation of 6,400 iu/day safely supplied breast milk with adequate D for the nursing infant
• Raising D levels from 16 to 36 ng/ml improved depression in Swedish adolescents
• The latest data from the US shows that 70% of the population fails to meet even the very conservative 16 mg/ml.

So rather than being overestimated, the rates of vitamin D deficiencies are likely still highly underestimated. Do you know what your blood vitamin D level is?

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 21, 2016

396 Health Canada Myths & Facts [21 Nov 2016]


On October 3 (#389) I described the current system for regulating natural health products (NHPs) and mentioned that Health Canada is proposing a new system. The NHP industry has serious concerns about how this could impact the choice Canadian consumers now enjoy, and began a campaign to inform the public about the situation.

The consulting window with Health Canada is now closed so we are concentrating on contacting our MPs. I have personally met with Kelly Block about this issue, and still have postcards you can fill out to mail to her showing your concern.

In response to public concerns expressed during the brief consultation period, Health Canada has posted an information web page called “Myths and facts on proposed self-care product regulation”. I’m always suspicious of “myth-busters” – too often they just replace someone else’s myths with their own. The Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) shares my distrust and did some fact-checking of their own resulting in the paper “Setting the Record Straight on the Self-Care Proposal”.

Here are a few of the points made by CHFA in response to Health Canada’s assurances that these proposals are for your benefit:
• Low risk products may get to market faster but will no longer be allowed to carry therapeutic claims, reducing the information available to consumers.
• Medium and high risk products which have been used safely and effectively for years in Canada and around the world will likely require prohibitively expensive (for non-patentable products) research, resulting in their removal from store shelves.
• Low risk products will be restricted to “structure function” claims which only apply to nutrients (vitamins, minerals, efa’s and amino acids), and “therapeutic claims” will not be allowed. Herbals and homeopathics are not nutrients so cannot make any claims.
• The premise - that consumers are confused about the safety and effectiveness of self-care health products - on which the proposed new regulations are designed is based on a single small survey which has many fundamental flaws. The current system is based on years of consultation and negotiations and is working well.

I encourage you to read both documents – follow the links in this article in my website: go to rosetownnaturalhealth.com and click on the “Eagle Ad” link.

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 14, 2016

395 Macular Degeneration [14 Nov 2016]


I have written about this topic a few times over the years. In May 2009 [#010] I discussed age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. In July 2013 [#224] I listed 12 nutrients known to protect the eyes and improve vision. Then in May 2015 [#319] I added glutathione to that list. I am reprising this topic because last week I was diagnosed with early macular degeneration.

In the 2009 article I reported that the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) completed in 2001 found that a program of vitamin C (500mg), vitamin E (400iu), beta-carotene (25,000IU) and zinc (80mg) slowed the progression from intermediate to severe macular degeneration by 25%, but did not help those in the early stage of the disease. A second trial was then underway to test a lower level of zinc, eliminating beta-carotene, and adding lutein, zeaxanthin and omega 3s.

The second study, called AREDS-2, came out in May 2013. It found that omega-3, beta-carotene and extra zinc made no difference with macular degeneration (and beta-carotene increases the risk of lung cancer in smokers!), but adding lutein and zeaxanthin slowed the progression of AMD by a further 20% beyond that of the original formula. None of the supplements affected the progression rate of cataracts in this study.

The retina specialist that diagnosed my condition recommended two brands of eye supplements that follow the AREDS-2 formula – Vitalux and PreserVision. Two of the eye supplement formulas in my store have most of these ingredients, plus a lot more like blueberry & bilberry extracts, selenium, and certain B vitamins. I also have lutein, beta-carotene and another carotenoid antioxidant astaxanthin as separate supplements (note that beta-carotene should not be taken at the same time as lutein and zeaxanthin as they compete for absorption). A special high-absorption form of thiamin or B1 called Benfotiamine shows promise in protecting eye health and is also available as a separate supplement.

I’m already taking most of the nutrients on the list, but will now add Benfotiamine B1 and more lutein and zeaxanthin to the mix. I also plan to start using the special whey for increasing glutathione again. I’ll let you know the results of my follow-up examination next year.

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 7, 2016

394 Many Benefits of Sunlight [7 Nov 2016]


This week we will explore the many health benefits of sunlight. A rather ironic topic since we are entering the season of lowest sunlight here in Saskatchewan. Sunlight provides us with a broad spectrum of radiation in the 300 – 2,000 nm wavelength range, of which only 400 – 780 nm is visible. And most of that range is proving to be beneficial, if not essential, to our health.

The most well-known and studied benefit of sunlight is vitamin D synthesis in the skin from ultraviolet B (UVB) wavelengths. I have written many times [#179, 328] on how to optimize vitamin D synthesis while minimizing risk of skin cancer.

Another benefit is in preventing and treating depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder [#041] caused by the shorter days of winter can be effectively treated with special sun lamps. Other types of depression also respond to light therapy [#347]. Lamps designed for this light therapy usually lack the UVB necessary for vitamin D synthesis – the only vitamin D lamp I am aware of is the Sperti Sun Lamp at $650.

Sunlight regulates our circadian rhythms, helping us to stay alert during the day and sleep at night. Blue wavelength light in the evening is especially bad for keeping us awake. Wearing orange tinted sunglasses in the evening, even in the house, should help you sleep better.

Full spectrum fluorescent lighting has been found to reduce stress hormones, improve behavior problems, and calm hyperactivity in school children. Workplaces installing full spectrum lighting report improved employee morale, greater productivity, reduced errors and decreased absenteeism [#012].

Recent research has shed light (pardon the pun) on the benefits of near infrared (IRA) light on our health. This is the light that is just beyond red – we can’t see it and do not feel it as heat (the far infrared IRB and IRC do produce heat). Infrared A is not produced by non-thermal light sources (fluorescents and LCDs) and is filtered out by window glass, so the only sources are incandescent lights, fire and, of course the sun. IRA penetrates through clothing and skin, deep into the tissue where it activates an enzyme, cytochrome C oxidase, in the mitochondria which increases ATP energy production. And who couldn’t use more energy? Unfortunately most infrared saunas emit the far IR and lack the beneficial IRA.

There is no substitute for sunlight. All artificial light sources are lacking in some vital spectra that we need for optimal health, referred to as “biological darkness”. Those of you who can go south for the winter can continue to obtain these benefits; the rest of us are left behind in the biological dark.

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 31, 2016

393 Vitamin D-Day [31 Oct 2016]


This Wednesday, November 2, is international Vitamin D Day (see www.vitamindday.net). It was created to highlight the estimated one third of the world (over 1 billion people!) that is deficient in this essential vitamin. This incredibly high deficiency rate is caused by two factors – people living in northern countries and people living a mostly indoor lifestyle.

It wasn’t stated but I suspect the date was chosen to reflect the beginning of the season where most Americans can no longer obtain any vitamin D from the sun. In Saskatchewan the date should be September 2. By mid-August we’d have to spend a half hour naked at noon to absorb enough UVB rays to synthesize sufficient vitamin D, so from September on we are dependent on supplements or sunlamps.

Why is vitamin D so important? Its role in calcium metabolism – essential for strong bones – is well known. More recently, research has shown that D deficiency is a risk factor for many different diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and infectious diseases like influenza. Vitamin D deficiency also makes some diseases more severe including respiratory diseases, and autoimmune diseases like MS and lupus. And researchers are finding that vitamin D can play an important role in the treatment of certain diseases including MS, cystic fibrosis, asthma and many more.

So vitamin D is probably the most important supplement you can take, and it’s inexpensive – about $.30 a day for 5,000 IU (if 5,000 seems like a high number, it’s really only 0.125 mg).

Ideally you should have your blood levels monitored, as people vary considerably in their ability to absorb and utilize the vitamin. Optimum levels are 100-150 nmol/L with anything below 75 considered deficient. If you don’t know your D levels, a supplement range of 5-10,000 IU daily should keep most people close to optimum. Make sure your vitamin D is the more effective D3 form.

There are two other options for winter vitamin D: holidays and sunlamps. A fun way to get your winter vitamin D is to spend several months down south where the sun is high enough. Remember to expose maximum skin at midday, without sunscreen, for 10 to 15 minutes, then cover up before the skin turns pink. The use of sunlamps for vitamin D synthesis will have to wait for another column.

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 24, 2016

392 Brain Supplements [24 Oct 2016]


I have written many times about brain function and memory. In August 2015 I listed 10 diet and lifestyle changes to help prevent loss of brain function [#333 Preventing Alzheimer’s]. To complement that list, this week I will list 5 supplements that support mental health. It’s based on an article in this month’s Vitality Magazine by Amanda Burke, CNP, called “Brain Food – My Five Favourite Supplements for Mental and Emotional Health”.

Amanda writes:
Thanks to great research in the area of nutritional medicine it is now known that good brain nourishment can not only prevent many of the health related issues associated with mental decline…and stack the odds in their favour for prevention of age-related, inherited, and environmentally-induced mental decline, but they can potentially reverse the brain’s biological age and access abilities like never before.
Her five favourite brain supplements are:
High dose Probiotic – a healthy gut microbiome is essential for good mental health [see #320 Our Gut Microbiome & Our Brain] and a good therapeutic-dose probiotic helps restore a healthy population of beneficial gut bacteria
Serrapeptase – reduces inflammation and helps heal leaky gut syndrome which can affect brain function [see #217 Serrapeptase]
Curcumin – protects the brain by reducing inflammation and blocking plaque formation [see #384 Curcumin & Alzheimer’s]
Magnesium L-Threonate – the magnesium that crosses the blood-brain barrier for optimal brain function [see #350 Magtein – Magnesium for the Brain]
B-Complex – B vitamins are essential for brain function (memory and clear thinking) [see #157 Vitamin B12 & Your Brain and #390 The B Vitamins]; a high dose coenzyme formula is most effective along with herbs like ashwagandha, rhodiola [see #39 Rhodiola rosea], and ginseng to help manage stress

To Amanda’s list I would add Vitamin D [see #336 Alzheimer’s & Vitamin D], an Omega 3 with high DHA [see #194 Fish Oil & Your Brain], and perhaps phosphatidyl serine [#248 Phosphatidyl Serine]. In developed cases of Alzheimer’s coconut oil or the concentrated MCT oil provides an alternative energy source for the brain when it can no longer utilize glucose [see #153 Alzheimer’s and Coconut Oil].

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 17, 2016

391 Health Benefits of Spices [17 Oct 2016]


It should come as no surprise to learn that culinary spices and herbs have beneficial properties for our health. Spices are really just herbs that we use for their taste and aroma. And as the legend goes, there are no plants without some medicinal use (the wise old herbalist sends out her apprentice to find a plant with no beneficial use and when she returns without finding any is told that she passed the test).

Modern science has discovered thousands of chemical compounds in plants, many of which have known health benefits. Here are a few with some of their many uses:

Cinnamon lowers blood sugar by slowing digestion of carbs and by improving insulin resistance; reduces inflammation; lowers cholesterol and triglycerides
Sage improves brain function and memory, in people with Alzheimer’s and healthy people, by slowing the breakdown of acetylcholine
Peppermint relieves headaches when applied to the temples; reduces pain in IBS by relaxing the smooth muscles of the colon; reduces nausea when used in aromatherapy
Turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful antioxidant and strong anti-inflammatory; improves brain function; reduces risk of heart disease and cancer (see 3 previous columns)
Cayenne Pepper contains capsaicin which reduces appetite and increases fat burning; relieves stomach problems; improves blood circulation; topically for neuralgia
Ginger has strong anti-inflammatory properties; reduces nausea; helps with pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis
Fenugreek lowers blood sugar by improving the function of insulin; may increase testosterone levels (and therefore libido)
Rosemary suppresses allergy symptoms and reduces nasal congestion
Garlic is well known for its health benefits (see column #40); contains allicin which improves immunity, reduces cholesterol, and lowers blood pressure

The best way to benefit from the health properties of spices is to use them liberally every day in your food. Your food will taste better too! And the freshest spices will have the most potency for both flavor and health benefits (so toss the 20 year old spices you inherited from Grandma and buy fresh, preferably organic, spices).

Source: 10 Delicious Herbs and Spices With Powerful Health Benefits by Joe Leech, Dietitian

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 10, 2016

390 The B Vitamins [10 Oct 2016]


The B’s are a group of eight water soluble vitamins with many important roles in the body. In writing about the function of mitochondria in the cells (columns #301 & #302) I discussed the roles of several of the B vitamins.

We normally get most of our B vitamins from our diet with some, like biotin and folic acid, produced by bacteria in our gut. Being water soluble, some B vitamin content of food is lost in processing, and dysbiosis (unhealthy gut flora) can reduce vitamin production in the intestines.

B vitamins are available as supplements as singles or all together in what is known as a “B Complex”. In choosing a B complex look for the right amounts and the right forms. Standard B complex formulas will have the same amount of each vitamin, for example 50 mg of most and 50 mcg of a few. It’s highly unlikely that we need exactly the same amounts, by weight, of each vitamin. Better formulas will have what appears to be random amounts but which are based on a more scientifically determined ratio of our body’s needs.

The form of the vitamins is even more important. The B vitamins come in several forms and the most active is often more expensive to produce. Here are the B vitamins with the biologically active or preferred form in brackets:
• B1 Thiamine (benfotiamine)
• B2 Riboflavin (riboflavin-5-phosphate)
• B3 Niacin (inositol hexanicotinate)
• B5 Pantothenic Acid (calcium d-pantothenate)
• B6 Pyridoxine (pyridoxal-5’-phosphate or P5P)
• B7 Biotin
• B10 Folic Acid or Folate (calcium L-5-MTHF)
• B12 Cobalamin (methylcobalamin)

Though not classified as true B vitamins, a good complex will also include three other related coenzymes:
• PABA Para-aminobenzoic acid
• Choline
• Inositol

Keep this in mind when shopping for a B complex supplement.

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 3, 2016

389 Regulating Natural Health Products [3 Oct 2016]


Canada is a global leader in the regulation of natural health products (NHPs). The current system is based on 53 recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Health (SCOH) in 1998. The SCOH considered hundreds of submissions by consumer groups, Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and international regulators over 6 months of consultation. Based on this consultation process, an appropriate framework was developed for the regulation of natural health products.

The Natural Health Product Regulations came into effect in 2004 with the Natural Health Products Directorate, a branch of Health Canada, established to oversee the regulations. The NHPD is responsible for licensing natural health products, approving labels, reviewing evidence for health claims, licensing manufacturing sites, compiling reported adverse reactions, and ensuring that Good Manufacturing Practices are in place. When satisfied, the product is approved for sale and an NPN number is issued. All this information is archived in a public database on Health Canada’s website.

Over the next 9 years the NHPD reviewed submissions for 70,000 natural health products, finally getting caught up in 2013. Since then all natural health products are pre-approved before allowed on the Canadian market (over 109,000 to date). The level of evidence required for approval depends on the risk of the product and the claims being made. The natural health product industry worked with the NHPD spending much effort, time and money in the process. There were some products lost, others (like tryptophan) gained that were unavailable before.

The NHP regulation process is running smoothly. Consumers can shop in Canadian health food stores with confidence in the quality, safety and effectiveness of our natural health products. Now Health Canada wants to change the system.

Based on a small survey and only six weeks of consultation (currently underway) Health Canada wants to implement a completely different system where natural health products and drugs are regulated together based on risk assessment. While there may be some advantages to this system (whatever it will be) you can be sure that it will mean the loss of many safe, effective products and a sharp price increase on the rest, with no obvious benefit to the public. If this concerns you, write to your local M.P. Visit chfa.ca for more information.

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

September 26, 2016

388 Omega 3 Sources [26 Sept 2016]


Omega 3s are arguably the most important family of essential fatty acids (EFAs). They are the most studied EFA and play a number of important roles in our health.

There are three different Omega 3s in human physiology: ALA, EPA and DHA. While ALA (alpha linolenic acid) plays a small role in our bodies, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are much more important. I have previously written about the health benefits of Omega 3s for brain development (December 2012), brain healing (August 2015), depression (March 2011) and inflammation (March 2011).

Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) is a relatively short chain EFA with only 18 carbon atoms. It is found in certain nuts and seeds, particularly chia, flax, camelina and hempseed. ALA can be converted into one of the longer carbon chain forms, EPA or DHA, but the enzyme required for this conversion is not very efficient, generally converting less than 1% of the ALA. For this reason, EPA and DHA are best obtained from the diet.

By far the best source of the long chain Omega 3s is fish oil or krill oil (seal and whale blubber is another source but rarely found on supermarket shelves or in supplements for that matter). I previously wrote (June 2011) about the relative benefits of the triglyceride and ethyl ester forms of fish oil supplements.

Krill oil has several benefits over fish oil. The omega 3s from krill oil are in the phospholipid form which is the form used in our cell membranes. It is more readily absorbed so you need less (which is a good thing because it is slightly more expensive). Krill oil also contains astaxanthin, a valuable antioxidant that I discussed in a column in May 2011. And because it is lower in the food chain than fish, krill is much cleaner from toxic metals like mercury. Another excellent source is fish roe (eggs) which, like krill oil, is rich in phospholipid form Omega 3s.

Unless you eat a lot of the right kinds of fish, such as salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel, and keep your intake of Omega 6 vegetable oils to a minimum, you would likely benefit from an Omega 3 supplement.

Stop in and let us show you the different Omega 3 supplements we carry and help you decide which is best for you. We have fish oil, fish roe oil, and krill oil in liquid, capsules, and chewables for children.

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

September 19, 2016

387 Boulardii – the Probiotic Yeast [19 Sept 2016]


There is one probiotic that is not a beneficial bacteria – it’s a beneficial yeast. Saccharomyces boulardii is not related to the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans. Because it is a yeast and not a bacteria, boulardii has many special benefits.

First, it is not affected by antibiotics so can be used to maintain beneficial bowel flora while taking antibiotics (which affect only bacteria). It is however affected by antifungal drugs so should be taken a few hours away from such medications.

Boulardii has proven effective in preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea. It also helps control more serious acute or persistent diarrhea and diarrhea in children.
Boulardii has been shown helpful in the treatment, and especially prevention, of Traveler’s Diarrhea, which is caused by unfamiliar “bugs” in the water. Boulardii keeps fairly well at room temperature so makes the ideal travel probiotic. Start a week before you leave on a holiday and then take the bottle with you.

Boulardii is proving to be an important adjunct in treating Clostridium difficile (commonly known as C-diff), a common, highly contagious, and difficult to treat bacterial infection. Taking boulardii along with the antibiotic treatment significantly reduces the rate of recurrence of C. difficile infection. Boulardii produces an enzyme which breaks down C. difficile toxin A, stimulates antibody production against toxin A, and inhibits adhesion of C. diff to the intestinal walls.

Another difficult to treat infection that boulardii is proving helpful with is Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria recently found to cause peptic ulcers. Taken with the antibiotic treatment, boulardii increases the rate of recovery and also helps prevent diarrhea, a common side effect of the antibiotic treatment.

Caution – severe diarrhea is potentially serious and requires medical aid. Boulardii and other probiotics seem to work best in conjunction with the appropriate antibiotic treatment, but in mild cases may be effective on their own.

In summary, supplementing with Saccharomyces boulardii could help prevent and treat diarrhea caused by antibiotic treatment, and prove helpful along with antibiotics for serious infections like C. diff and H. pylori. Boulardii has also been used for a variety of bowel conditions involving dysbiosis like IBS, IBD, Crohn’s disease, and colitis.

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

September 12, 2016

386 DIND Examples [19 Sept 2016]


Last week I wrote about drug-induced nutrient depletion (DIND) but didn’t have room to list many examples. So this week I’ll look at some of the more common drug categories and the nutrients that they deplete:
• Antibiotics (Penicillin, erythromycin, azithromycin) – calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, biotin & K, beneficial gut bacteria
• ACE inhibitors – zinc, sodium
• Antacids – B12, folic acid, iron, zinc, D, magnesium
• Acetaminophen (Tylenol) – glutathione, B12
• Antidepressants, Tricyclics – CoQ10, B12,
• Antidepressants, SSRIs (Prozac, Paxil) – folic acid, melatonin
• Beta Blockers – CoQ10
• Birth Control Pills – folic acid, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, zinc, selenium
• Bronchodilators - potassium
• Calcium channel blockers - potassium
• Corticosteroids (Prednisone) – calcium, magnesium, folic acid, potassium, D, selenium, zinc
• Diuretics, Loop (furosemide) – calcium, magnesium, potassium, B1, B6, C, zinc
• Diuretics, Thiazide – magnesium, potassium, zinc
• Diuretics, Potassium Sparing – folic acid, coQ10, calcium, iron, zinc, C
• Estrogen hormone replacement – B6
• Metformin – B12, folic acid, magnesium, CoQ10
• NSAIDs – folic acid, iron, potassium, vitamin C
• Resins cholesterol drugs – beta-carotene, folic acid, A, D, E & K
• Statins – CoQ10, copper, selenium, zinc
• Thyroid hormone (Synthroid) – calcium

This isn’t a comprehensive list and may not have mentioned your particular prescription or OTC drugs. It’s still a good idea to talk to your doctor or pharmacist, refer to a book on the topic, or find a good reference site on the internet.

Sources:
ND Notes (2)2
drwhitaker.com

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

September 6, 2016

385 Drug Induced Nutrient Depletion [6 Sept 2016]


I first wrote about drug-induced nutrient depletion (DIND) seven years ago in September 2009 (#29). A recent article on the topic in ND Notes (2)2 reminded me of the importance of this topic. The article states that over a thousand commonly prescribed drugs, and many OTC drugs, can deplete us of essential nutrients.

It is estimated that DIND is responsible for up to 30% of drug side effects. Seniors are particularly at risk for DIND – they take more prescription drugs, metabolize the drugs more slowly, and have less efficient digestive systems to start with.

Drugs deplete nutrients in several different ways. Antibiotics change the microflora in the gut which can lower the production and assimilation of several vitamins like K and B12. Some medications block the production in our body of an essential nutrient, such as statins blocking coenzyme Q10. Some, like Ritalin, suppress appetite which reduces the consumption of food (and nutrients); others induce hypoglycemia which causes cravings for sugar. Diuretics increase the excretion of certain minerals like potassium, magnesium and zinc. Ant-acid drugs make the stomach too alkaline to properly digest protein and certain vitamins and minerals. Some weight-loss and cholesterol-lowering drugs bind to, and then excrete, fat in the digestive tract, taking fat soluble vitamins and folic acid with it.

Some DINDs are well known and a prescription often is accompanied with a balancing prescription, like diuretics and potassium. The depletion of CoQ10 with statins resulting in muscle pain is catching on and knowledgeable doctors will recommend supplementation with a prescription. Many others however are missed completely, and too often another drug is prescribed for the side effects of the first, compounding the problem.

There isn’t room here for a comprehensive list of DINDs. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist, get a book like the one by Pelton and LaValle I discussed in 2009, or find a good reference site on the internet. (One I found is by Dr. J. Whitaker).Then look up your drug(s) to see what nutrients you need to be replacing. Maybe those pesky side effects that make you want to flush the pills down the toilet can be easily remedied with appropriate supplementation, allowing you to remain compliant with your meds and, hopefully, healthier.

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

August 29, 2016

384 Curcumin & Alzheimer’s [29 Aug 2016]


I previously wrote about curcumin for its use in reducing pain and inflammation (#294 Nov. 2014) and as an adjunct in cancer treatment (#329 July 2015). I recently learned of its potential in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Curcumin is an extract of the spice turmeric which gives curry its yellow color. Chronic low-grade inflammation is increasingly recognized as playing a role in age-related diseases including arthritis, heart disease, dementia, some auto-immune diseases, and cancer. Curcumin is one of the strongest natural anti-inflammatories known, so it makes sense that it could be useful in preventing or treating these conditions. But is there any evidence for curcumin and Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s Disease is associated with an accumulation of beta-amyloid protein in the brain forming what’s called amyloid plaque. In column #334 (August 2015) I described how the newly discovered glymphatic system clears this plaque from our brain during sleep. A 2005 mouse study found that curcumin blocked the formation of amyloid plaque in the brain.

India is probably the world’s biggest consumer of curry (and therefore curcumin) and, it turns out, also has the lowest incidence of dementia. A 2006 study of 1,010 Asian adults aged 60-93 found that those who ate curry more often had significantly better scores on a Mini-Mental State Examination. A two-year study published in 2001 compared older adults in India and Pennsylvania and found the incidence rate per 1000 person-years for Alzheimer’s disease was 4.7 in the Indians compared to 17.5 for the Pennsylvania population.

In column #333 (August 2015) I listed 10 things you could do to reduce your risk of developing dementia: reduce sugar; avoid diabetes; eat enough good fats; keep your weight down; exercise; don’t smoke; avoid excessive alcohol; control blood pressure; get enough sleep, and stay mentally and socially active. Then in column #336 (Sept 2015) I added: optimize vitamin D levels. Now it looks like we can add another: take curcumin to control chronic 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. Find this article on my website for links to sources and further reading.

August 22, 2016

383 Blocking the Truth [22 Aug 2016]


I’m normally skeptical of claims of media bias by people who disagree with a published news item. Recently I came across a book that opened my eyes on the extent of corporate and government influence on mainstream news in the USA (and I’m sure in Canada too).

Sharyl Attkisson is a 30 year veteran investigative journalist (and with 5 Emmys, must be a good one!). She was the reporter who in 2009 exposed the CDC’s cover-up in the H1N1 Swine ‘Flu “epidemic”. She has exposed many other scandals and controversies under both Republican and Democratic US governments.

Her 2014 book “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington” tells the story of her growing frustration in getting her stories aired on CBS TV. She reports her own experiences and puts it in perspective of the larger picture of “the decline of investigative journalism and unbiased truth telling in America today”. CBS upper management began blocking publication of certain stories. Her telephone was tapped and computers infected with a spyware owned by the CIA and FBI. In frustration she finally left CBS after 20 years to work independently. The book “Stonewalled” is one result.

How does this relate to health? It’s not just government that influences media – corporate sponsors also have undue influence with their advertising dollars. Pharmaceuticals and biotech industries particularly have a long history of quashing unfavorable stories. Here are some of the issues that, according to Attkisson, mainstream media will no longer touch:
• Vaccination safety – this one is particularly taboo
• GMO & glyphosate safety – look what they did to Dr. Oz last year
• Side effects of pharmaceuticals – especially popular ones like statins

So don’t assume because you see or hear nothing on these issues on TV or in the daily newspaper that they are unquestionably safe. Rather it’s because no one is allowed to question them. We can no longer depend on mainstream media to provide unbiased reporting.

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

August 15, 2016

382 Supplement Safety [15 August 2016]


Over the past year there have been several major news reports in The United States and Canada questioning the regulation, safety and efficacy of health supplements. The first was CBC’s Marketplace which reported in November 2015 that certain fish oils, vitamin C, and protein shakes did not meet their label claims. However after retesting it was discovered that the original lab tests were incorrect and there were in fact no problems with the products.

In March 2013 the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report on adverse events from supplements. Since 2008 the FDA has required supplement manufacturers to report any adverse effects from their products. Between 2008 and 2011 there were 6,307 serious (e.g. requiring a hospital visit) adverse event reports (AERs) for supplements (average 1,577 a year). The same report estimated over half (68%) of Americans use supplements, so this is amazingly low from 157 million supplement users over 4 years (1/100,000 users). During the same period there were 1,736,437 AERs from pharmaceutical drugs, with fewer (only 48%) of Americans using them (average 434,100 per year or 1/253 users). In 2008 alone there were 26,517 AERs for vaccines and 526,527 AERs for approved pharmaceutical drugs.

The nature of the supplement AER’s were generally less serious than for drugs. 21% were for accidental ingestion by children (whose parents took them to the hospital as a safety precaution). Of the remaining AERs, 35% were from energy and weight loss products. Many of these contain caffeine which resulted in heart palpitations, prompting a visit to the hospital where they were examined and sent home. Deaths from supplements are very rare, less than one a year, in contrast with pharmaceuticals which kill over 100,000 Americans each year – more than from motor vehicle accidents!

While this data shows the overwhelming safety of supplements compared with drugs, I don’t want to leave the impression that supplements should be used carelessly. Balance is essential with many nutrients, especially vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Choose quality reputable brands, use only what you need, do your own research, and get advice from knowledgeable professionals.

Sources:
CBC MarketPlace documentary
GAO report
Health Impact News: GAO report critique
Mercola: Consumer Reports article critique

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

August 8, 2016

381 Protein Source – Plant or Animal? [8 Aug 2016]


An interesting study was published last week in JAMA Internal Medicine. The study examined data from two previous epidemiologic studies involving over 130,000 health professionals, average age 49, to see if source of protein – animal or plant – has an influence on health and longevity.

The study found that (after factoring out known risk factors) eating more animal protein (meat) was weakly associated with slightly higher mortality, particularly cardiovascular, while eating more plant protein was more strongly associated with a lower mortality.

Curiously these associations only occurred in people with at least one unhealthy lifestyle factor – smoking, heavy alcohol intake, overweight, or physically inactive. For those with a healthy lifestyle the source of protein did not affect mortality. The type of meat was also significant – replacing plant protein for processed meat had a greater reduction of mortality than replacing unprocessed red meat. And there was no association found with fish or poultry and mortality. Note that this is an observational study and does not necessarily show a causal relationship.

How to account for the lack of effect of protein source on the healthy lifestyle group? One possible explanation is that the healthy lifestyle people may have had more fibre and healthier plant foods in their diet, made healthier choices of animal protein (less processed meat, more poultry and fish), and cooked it in a healthier manner (not deep-fried or burned).

This study was limited to older adult health professionals and may not apply to other age or socio-economic groups. For example previous studies have shown that children and adolescents do better on animal protein from red meat (in moderation) as it provides significant and easily absorbed amounts of protein and micronutrients such as iron, zinc and Vitamin A which are crucial to growth and development, and may even help prevent chronic disease in adulthood.

In conclusion, it appears that increasing plant sourced protein may be especially helpful if you smoke, drink too much, are overweight or inactive, or if you have a chronic disease such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, or kidney disease.

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

August 1, 2016

380 Adrenal Fatigue [1 August 2016]


Following four weeks on thyroid health, I want to review another important endocrine gland – the adrenals. I wrote about adrenal fatigue in March 2015, #311 & #312. Adrenal fatigue is one of the possible causes for low thyroid function, as elevated cortisol (from stressed adrenals) inhibits the conversion of T4 to T3.

Suspect you have adrenal fatigue if you:
• run out of energy before lunch
• rely on caffeine to make it through the day
• crave sugar
• crash (brain fog, no energy) 2 hours after eating sugar
• are irritable or depressed
• have low libido (adrenals are making stress hormones instead of sex hormones).

Adrenal fatigue is a serious health issue. Chronically elevated stress hormones can cause brain inflammation which results in not only bad moods, but also worsening memory, earlier dementia, and increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

See my column #311 for the three stages of adrenal fatigue developed by Dr. Robin Berzin: 1) wired and tired; 2) stressed and tired; and 3) burned out.

In column #312 I list Dr. Berzin’s 9 step protocol to help her patients recover:
1. Eat plenty of colored vegetables, sufficient lean protein, and gluten free whole grains; avoid foods that cause inflammation and those you are sensitive to.
2. Go to bed before 11 pm to avoid a late night cortisol surge.
3. B vitamins, especially B5, B6 and B12 are essential for energy production.
4. Cool inflammation with vitamin C, curcumin and omega-3 supplements.
5. Other important nutrients include vitamin D, selenium, magnesium & zinc.
6. Drink plenty of pure water to rehydrate your cells.
7. Use adaptogenic herbs to support the adrenals like ashwagandha, and rhodiola.
8. Include relaxation (not naps) in your day and avoid high intensity workouts.
9. Reassess your definition of success to reduce stress levels in your life.

Following these 9 steps, Dr Berzin finds that most people with adrenal fatigue can recover without the need for hormone therapy.

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

July 25, 2016

379 Hyperthyroidism [25 July 2016]


For the last three weeks we discussed under-active thyroid problems; this week we’ll look at over-active thyroid. This is a potentially more serious problem than hypothyroidism but fortunately is less common. Signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism include: enlarged thyroid (goiter), bulging eyes, thick red skin on shins and feet, anxiety, heat sensitivity, excess sweating, hair loss, dry or itchy skin, rapid or irregular heartbeat, insomnia, and weight loss.

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ Disease (GD) which is an autoimmune disease that triggers increased production of thyroid hormones. In GD the immune system produces an antibody that mimics the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) from the pituitary gland, resulting in uncontrolled production of thyroid hormones.

The conventional treatment for GD is to control it with anti-thyroid medications, or more aggressively, to surgically remove the thyroid or destroy it with radioactive iodine. The latter options induce hypothyroidism requiring thyroid hormone replacement for life. In life threatening situations these approaches may be necessary but are not ideal and can have severe side effects. And of course they do nothing to resolve the auto-immune disorder that caused the GD in the first place.

The natural approach to GD deals first with the immune system. Diet and lifestyle modifications include stress reduction, improved sleep, moderate exercise, an anti-inflammatory diet, avoidance of environmental toxins, cleansing, and supplementation. Medications may be required temporarily to lower thyroid hormone levels while the immune system is healing. This is a complicated condition and should only be attempted under the supervision of a knowledgeable and experienced physician or natural healthcare practitioner.

Another factor to consider is testing and treatment for infections with H. pylori and Yersinia enterocolitica both of which have been associated with GD. Testing and support of the adrenal, pituitary, and other endocrine glands is also important.

Sources for information on natural treatments for GD: elaine-moore.com; gravesdiseasecure.com; naturalendocrinesolutions.com; draxe.com/graves-disease.

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

July 18, 2016

378 Natural Hypothyroid Treatments II [18 July 2016]


This week I will continue my discussion of natural treatments for hypothyroidism. I found a good source of information in an interview with Dr. Jonathan Wright, a practicing natural medicine physician, on mercola.com June 15, 2014.

First, Wright explains why hypothyroidism is so common in North America. One reason is the use of chlorinated and fluoridated water. Chlorine and fluorine are members of the halogen element family and interfere with the utilization of iodine. Bromine added to flour and packaging and in some pesticides is another toxic halogen source.

Another reason is inadequate iodine consumption. I have previously explained why iodized salt is a poor source [#282 August 2014]. The Canadian RDA of 150 mcg per day is barely sufficient to prevent goiters but falls far short of the 2 - 3 mg (2,000 - 3,000 mcg) intake of most Japanese. Wright prescribes iodine intakes of 3 mg per day for men and 6 for women and has shown that up to 14 is safe.

Wright uses symptoms and a physical exam plus the Free T3 (fT3) blood levels to diagnose hypothyroidism. TSH alone is a very poor test for several reasons. It’s the T4 that signals back to regulate TSH production (low TSH indicates normal T4 levels). So if something inhibits conversion of T4 to T3, the active form (fT3) could be low but T4 and TSH show normal. Another (rare) possibility is that the hypothalamus is not producing enough TRH (thyroid releasing hormone) to trigger the pituitary to produce TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). This would result in low TSH (considered normal) even though T4 and T3 could be low.

Another complication is high Reverse T3 (rT3) which is a mirror image of T3. rT3 blocks the T3 receptors but is not active, thereby creating functional hypothyroidism with normal levels of TSH, T4 and T3. Heavy metal toxicity (lead, cadmium, mercury) elevates rT3 production and chelation therapy usually clears it.

Wright uses whole thyroid supplements to treat hypothyroidism when iodine alone is not enough. Whole thyroid contains all 12 iodine containing compounds produced in the thyroid, rather than the conventional treatment of synthetic T4. An exception would be in cases of Hashimoto’s in which he uses T3 and T4 initially while treating the auto-immune component of the disease.

Next week: Hyperthyroidism – the overactive thyroid.

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

July 11, 2016

377 Natural Hypothyroid Treatments I [11 July 2016]


Last week I discussed Mark Starr’s book Hypothyroidism Type 2 about undiagnosed low thyroid function. This week I will discuss natural options for improving thyroid health.

There is a ton of information on the internet, much of it contradictory, with everyone sharing their opinion and what worked for them. There is a wide range of approaches to the condition. If you are aware of different options you can choose what you want to try; and if that doesn’t work try something else.

Many people have found that a desiccated whole thyroid supplement works better with fewer side effects than the synthetic T4 hormone usually prescribed. Armour, promoted in the book Stop the Thyroid Madness, is a Canadian brand available by prescription only. The disadvantage of hormones, natural or synthetic, is that you will likely need to take them for life.

At the other extreme, Lily from legitnutritionhawaii.com advises to avoid all external hormones, including “natural” hormones, and to encourage, with diet and lifestyle changes, your glands to heal and make your own hormones. She advocates a high carb, low protein, low fat, mostly raw, strictly vegan diet. She advises to avoid supplements, including iodine unless severely deficient, with the only exception being a good probiotic.

One reason for the wide range of protocols is that hypothyroidism can have many causes. The problem can be a simple nutrient deficiency (iodine, B12, selenium, etc.) which is an easy fix, or an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s which is much more complex.

The endocrine system is very complicated, with many glands and organs involved in thyroid function. The pituitary and hypothalamus glands together control thyroid hormone production. Elevated cortisol from stressed adrenal glands inhibit the conversion of T4 to T3. Melatonin, made in the pineal gland, is required for the production of thyroid hormones but in excess will inhibit production of T4. The conversion of T4 to T3 occurs in the liver. Your doctor should look at the health of all of these before deciding on treatment.

See my column #126 from August 2011 for an explanation of thyroid function and tips for improving thyroid health. More on this topic next week.

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

July 4, 2016

376 Type 2 Hypothyroidism [4 July 2016]


In his 2005 book Hypothyroidism Type 2, Mark Starr, MD, argues that there is an epidemic of people in America with undiagnosed hypothyroidism. He calls this condition Type 2 Hypothyroidism because, similar to Type 2 Diabetes in which insulin levels can be normal or even high, the problem is not with insufficient thyroid hormone levels in the blood. The problem is that something is preventing the hormones from getting inside the cells of the body where they are needed.

Because blood levels of the thyroid hormones – T4, T3 and TSH – can be normal, lab tests fail to diagnose the condition. Decades ago when hypothyroidism was diagnosed based on symptoms, basal body temperature, and a trial of desiccated thyroid pills, the success rate was much higher. Now it is frequently misdiagnosed and too often ignored.

Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
• fatigue, lethargy, brain fog
• weight gain
• thickened skin appearing “puffy” (myxedema)
• dry skin, eyes & mucous membranes
• dry brittle hair, hair loss
• inability to perspire with exercise
• feeling unusually cold
• chronic muscle pain, headaches
• menstrual irregularities
• frequent colds & other infections
• anxiety, depression

These symptoms gradually increase over the years if untreated. Starr also lists more serious conditions for which hypothyroidism, including Type 2, is a known risk factor: heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and dementia (including Alzheimer’s). Starr writes
“Proper recognition and treatment of hypothyroidism would prevent much of our illness and suffering. Millions of lives can be changed for the better and astronomical medical expenses spared…”
See my column #126 from August 2011 for an explanation of thyroid function and tips for improving thyroid health. More on effective thyroid treatments in a future column.

Sources:
Townsend Letter Dec 2008 Hypothyroidism Type 2
Breakthroughs in Health & Medicine June 2016 Hypothyroidism

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

June 27, 2016

375 Vitamin C & Cancer [27 June 2016]


While looking for a new topic for this week, I discovered that I have not yet written on vitamin C and cancer. Three decades after the publication of Linus Pauling’s 1979 book “Vitamin C and Cancer” medical research is finally taking a serious look at vitamin C as a possible cancer treatment.

A study published in November 2015 in the prestigious journal Science by a team of researchers including scientists from Harvard Medical School and Johns Hopkins Cancer Center, found that high doses of vitamin C impaired the growth of two specific colorectal cancers in cultured cells and in mice. Interestingly they discovered that the effect was not from vitamin C’s role as an antioxidant, as had always been assumed, but rather as an oxidant. Vitamin C enters cancer cells in its oxidized form called dehydroascorbic acid (DHA) (not to be confused with the omega 3 fatty acid DHA) via a glucose transporter called GLUT1 which cancer cells have in abundance. Once inside DHA is converted back to ascorbic acid by the cell’s antioxidants. If sufficient DHA (vitamin C) enters the cancer cell, the antioxidants are depleted and the cell dies from oxidative stress.

Other studies have confirmed that high dose intravenous vitamin C (IVC) is selectively cytotoxic to cancer cells, meaning that it kills the cancer cells but does not harm normal cells. A small human trial from the U. Kansas Medical Center published in 2014 combined IVC with conventional chemotherapy drugs in women with stage 3 or stage 4 ovarian cancer. Compared to the control group (chemo only), the vitamin C group had not only better results but reduced toxic side effects from the chemo.

The U. Kansas researchers described IVC’s safety profile as “outstanding”. One of them wrote:
“we now have a better understanding of vitamin C’s anti-cancer action, plus a clear safety profile…our data provide strong evidence to justify larger and robust clinical trials to definitively examine the benefit of adding vitamin C to conventional chemotherapy.”
Funding for such trials will have to come from government or foundation sources as pharmaceutical companies are not likely to spend that much on a therapy which cannot be patented.

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

June 20, 2016

374 Vitamin D & Heart Disease [20 June 2016]


I have previously written about vitamin D and cancer, MS, Alzheimer’s, fetal brain development, autism, preventing fractures, and preventing falls in elderly. Studies on vitamin D in preventing heart disease have been equivocal (inconclusive or conflicting) with some studies showing benefit and others not.

In January 2014 I wrote several columns on the importance of correct study methodologies for nutrients, which are different than for drugs for a number of reasons. In his blog Dr. Cannell of the Vitamin D Council has explained the failures to find benefit with many vitamin D studies as due to poor study design. In 2005 Cannell and colleagues published a list of guidelines for vitamin D studies in order to obtain meaningful results.

The guidelines included:
• use the D3 form with daily dose of 3,000 – 10,000 IU
• ensure that blood levels reach 40-65 ng/ml in the test group, and
• run the study for at least 5 – 9 months.
Additional guidelines mentioned in his blog post:
• use subjects that are D deficient for both test and placebo groups
• test blood levels before, during, and at the end of the study
• use objective measurements of improvement.

So what happens when researchers follow these guidelines? In a June 2016 blog post Dr Cannell reported on a study by the Leeds Institute in England, published March 24 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which followed their guidelines. What did they learn?

Chronic Heart Failure (CHF) is a common heart condition with a 50% five-year mortality rate. Approximately 90% of patients with CHF are vitamin D deficient. The randomized controlled study divided 223 subjects with CHF who were already on “optimal standard treatment” into a test group given 4,000 IU daily and a placebo group. The average vitamin D levels at the beginning was 10 ng/ml; the treatment group increased to an average of 46 ng/ml during the study. Small but significant improvements in cardiac function were measured in the test group for heart size and blood volume pumped by the left ventricle. The authors concluded:
“We have demonstrated that high-dose vitamin D3 supplementation is safe, well-tolerated, and associated with a clinically relevant improvement in cardiac function in CHF patients …”
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

June 13, 2016

373 Tendon Strain Therapy [13 June 2016]


I attended a three day massage workshop last weekend which I expect will change the way I work on soft tissue pain. The instructor, Bob Lidington, PhD (Physiology) of Saskatoon, has been using the Cyriax method of tendon strain and ligament sprain therapy for many years now with amazing results. He can’t keep up with the demand for this therapy and wants to retire sometime, so has agreed to his clients’ requests to educate more massage therapists about this method.

Tendons and ligaments are subject to sudden trauma by falls, sudden pulls, or heavy lifting. In the repair process, which can take up to a year, the collagen in the injured tendons and ligaments is replaced and built up with extra collagen resulting in a thickening of the tissue. The muscle attached to the injured tendon often develops a chronic contracture (muscle “knot”) causing chronic pain and reduced range of motion. Trigger points and headaches are other common effects of tendon strains.

Tension and pain from a lifetime accumulation of injuries become a permanent part of your life. Standard massage and other forms of treatments may provide temporary relief but as long as the sprain or strain is not resolved, the tension and pain keep coming back. Does that sound familiar to you?

With a quick assessment, the injury site can be located and treated. Result – the pain is gone, immediately and permanently. The treatment takes only a few minutes depending on the age and number of the injuries. The technique used is deep transverse (or cross fiber) friction at a precise location and at an appropriate depth. Treatment can be uncomfortable but is always within pain tolerance. Residual tenderness from the treatment may last a day or two. Tendon strain therapy does not require any lubricant (lotion or oils) and can be done through light clothing.

The workshop showed how to apply Tendon Strain Therapy to any part of the body that shows tendon strain or ligament sprain injury – neck, shoulders, arms, back, hips, legs and feet. If you suffer pain or restriction of movement in any of these areas as a result of an old (or recent) injury, tendon strain therapy might be the answer you’ve been looking for.

For a technical description of the technique see Cyriax's Friction Massage: a Review, 1982

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

June 6, 2016

372 Cleaning Product Ingredients [6 June 2016]


Manufacturers of cleaning products warn consumers of risks of acute exposure to their products with hazard signs like “corrosive” or “poison”. But they are not required to inform us about the health hazards of long term exposure to the ingredients in their products (davidsuzuki.org). They are not even required to list all the ingredients! When we use the products, we breathe in the fumes and absorb the chemicals through our skin. So it’s up to each of us to learn about these ingredients and their risks and to avoid them wherever possible.

Here are some of the ingredients we should try to avoid:
• Ammonia is often used in glass cleaners. It has very irritating fumes which can harm the respiratory tract.
• Chlorine bleach fumes are very irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract and produces a very poisonous gas when mixed with ammonia.
• Synthetic dyes add color but do nothing for the cleaning action. Dyes are possible carcinogens and may contain toxic metals.
• Synthetic fragrances, which include phthalates, can be irritants, trigger allergies, interfere with hormones, and are harmful to the environment. They abound in air fresheners but can be found in almost any cleaning product.
• Volatile Organic Compounds (solvents like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and formaldehyde) are toxic and increase cancer risk.
• Sulfuric Acid commonly found in toilet bowl cleaners is extremely corrosive
• Sulfates, including sodium laurel sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), are foaming agents found in shampoos and some cleaning products and are known irritants and suspected carcinogens.

Why store and use poisons in your home when there are safe natural products that work well and may cost less? Ask me about my new line of natural cleaning products for bathroom, kitchen & laundry using safe natural ingredients and scented with essential oils. They are super concentrated so can even save you money. And they are not tested on animals!

A good source for more information is davidsuzuki.org and healthyenvironmentforkids.ca.

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

May 30, 2016

371 Lyme Disease [30 May 2016]


Lyme disease is a serious illness caused by a spirochete bacterial infection (Borrelia burgdorferi) carried by the Black-Legged (Deer) tick. The most common tick in Saskatchewan is the American Dog (Wood) tick, but deer ticks do occur (less than 1%), especially in the south of the province, and with warmer winters will likely increase.

Cases of Lyme disease in Canada increased from 128 in 2009 to over 700 in 2015. The official Saskatchewan count for Lyme disease is 4 patients in the past 10 years. But because of the strict definition used in the province, the actual number of cases is much higher, and most of them believe they contracted the disease in the province.

Treatment by antibiotics at an early stage is usually effective but the disease is notoriously hard to diagnose and too many patients have gone misdiagnosed for years. The chronic stage can be debilitating and very hard to treat.

The classic sign of bullseye rash may occur in less than 10% of cases. In more than 50% of cases there may not be any rash. Initial symptoms are sore throat, headaches, congestion, pain and stiffness, all of which resemble a cold or “flu”.

The lab test used in Canada (for borrelia antibodies) is notorious for false negatives, especially in the first month. So even if your test is negative, you may still have Lyme disease. Tests in the US are more accurate but still not 100%.

Dr. Ted Cormode, a retired MD whose daughter had Lyme disease, argues that calling Lyme disease hard to diagnose is just an excuse for missed diagnoses. He believes that improved education of health care providers is required and that early diagnosis and treatment based on signs, symptoms and history (rather than depend on lab tests) will greatly improve outcomes for Lyme disease victims.

As always, the best treatment is prevention. When walking in tall grass or under trees, tuck in your pant legs and do a thorough examination of yourself, your children and pets when you come in. Remember even tiny ticks can transmit disease. Use an effective insect repellent with DEET, or essential oils known to deter ticks like rose geranium and cedarwood.

See the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation website canlyme.com for more information on symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

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

May 16, 2016

370 Fibromyalgia [16 May 2016]


Fibromyalgia (FM) is a poorly understood condition. In fact it wasn’t generally accepted as a “real” condition until 2002 when a brain imaging study provided objective evidence that pain was processed differently in the brain of those with FM. Fibromyalgia overlaps the fields of rheumatology, neurology, sleep disorders, and pain, so there is no one medical field dedicated to its research.

Dr. Ginevra Liptan is a medical doctor who developed Fibromyalgia as a medical student and specializes in its treatment. In a May 5 2016 article on MindBodyGreen.com she discusses fibromyalgia from the perspective of both physician and patient.

Fibromyalgia has three groups of symptoms – widespread muscle pain and stiffness, chronic fatigue, and brain fog. Liptan describes the development of FM this way:
A chronically activated stress response wreaks havoc by preventing deep sleep and keeping muscles tense, leading to pain and tenderness; impairing digestion and energy production; and throwing hormones out of balance…ultimately [causing] the pain sensing nerves to increase the volume of their signals.”
She adds “This deep sleep starvation contributes to the fatigue, muscle pain, and foggy thinking.”

In another MindBodyGreen.com post, Dr. Amy Myers gives 10 possible root causes for fibromyalgia.

There is still no cure for Fibromyalgia but the following will greatly reduce the symptoms:

• Restoring normal deep sleep is the first essential step [see #105, #350]
• Diet changes and supplements to reduce inflammation [see #217, #294, Amy Myers]
• Supplements to support mitochondrial energy production [see #302]
• Support adrenal and thyroid function if required
• A detox cleanse may prove beneficial
• Ensure Vitamin D levels are in the optimum range [see #295]
• Magnesium, especially the L-Threonate form, is important
• 5HTP and SAMe supplements reduce pain, fatigue and muscle stiffness
• Malic acid is a natural anti-inflammatory which is particularly helpful for FM
• Aerobic exercise has been shown to relieve pain and depression
• Massage therapy can reduce muscle pain, improve sleep and reduce stress

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

May 9, 2016

369 Sleep & Cancer [9 May 2016]


Lack of quality sleep has long been associated with higher risks of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Now a number of studies have linked poor sleep with increased risk of, or poorer outcomes with, cancer in both men and women.

• A study published in Am Acad of Sleep Med, May 2014, found that sleep efficiency, defined as the ratio of time asleep to time spent in bed, is predictive of survival time for women with advanced breast cancer. The mechanism is unclear but it likely involves the immune system or hormone stress response.

• A study from U. Washington published in Am Acad of Sleep Med, June 2015, found that short sleep and frequent snoring was associated with poorer breast cancer survival.

• A study from Iceland published in May 2013 found that insomnia – trouble falling asleep and staying asleep – doubled the risk of prostate cancer (researchers ruled out insomnia caused by enlarged prostates getting the men up in the night).

• Other studies have found higher risk of breast or prostate cancer among shift workers, whose sleep is regularly disrupted.

• A study published in Cancer, February 2011, found that getting less than 6 hours of sleep increased the risk of colorectal adenomas (a type of colon cancer) by almost 50%.

• A mouse study from Spain suggests a possible mechanism for poor sleep resulting in worse outcomes with cancer. Obstructive sleep apnea is known to cause intermittent hypoxia (low oxygen levels) which is known to promote the growth of blood vessels in tumors. This could also explain why exercise and not smoking, both of which increase oxygen levels, improve cancer outcomes (European Assoc. of Urology, March 2016).

All this should be a wake-up call for the importance of sleep! (sorry, just had to get that in). We carry a variety of natural sleep aids that are non-habit forming and help you wake up refreshed and ready to face the day. Have a good sleep, everyone!

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

May 2, 2016

368 Irritable Bowel Syndrome [2 May 2016]


April was IBS Awareness Month, a topic I have been neglecting for a while. Better late than never!

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder of the colon (large intestine). Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) such as Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease involves inflammation and is more serious (which I will discuss another time).

There are many possible causes of IBS. A GI tract infection (“food poisoning”) can trigger IBS. Severe stress can also trigger it or make it worse. Antibiotics can kill off the good gut bacteria allowing pathogens (including the yeast Candida albicans) to flourish.

There are several key components to dealing with IBS.
• Reduce stress.
• Temporarily avoid foods to which you may have a sensitivity – dairy, cereal grains, and caffeine.
• Chew your food thoroughly and take digestive enzymes.
• Reduce sugar, fatty foods and processed meats. Temporarily eliminate cruciferous vegetables and onions and garlic which are high in sulfur and could trigger IBS.
• Take a good multi-strain probiotic. Eat cultured vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi. Better yet make your own (see #326).
• Add fiber to improve elimination and feed the beneficial intestinal flora.
• Ensure you are drinking enough water.
• Give your gut a treat with soothing herbs like marshmallow root, slippery elm, fenugreek, skullcap, peppermint and fennel.
• Supplement with the amino acid L-Glutamine and the monosaccharide N-Acetyl-D-Glucosamine (NAG), both needed for healing the gut lining.

I have several formulas developed specifically for helping with IBS. A shelf-stable probiotic with L-glutamine is a convenient way to get both those nutrients. Another company has several supplement formulas for IBS – a combination of 26 herbs to soothe and support the colon; a formula with glutamine, NAG, and a few more herbs, to help the colon heal; and a line of high potency probiotics.

These tips and supplements should go far in relieving the symptoms of IBS and healing the gut.

Sources
Wikipedia IBS
Wikipedia NAG
Mayo Clinic IBS Definition
Naka ProPB7
Renew Life: IBS Tips
Renew Life IntestiNew
Renew Life Intestinal Bowel Support
Watson, Brenda ND, 2002, Renew Your Life – Improved Digestion and Detoxification

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

April 25, 2016

367 Vitamin D, Cancer & MS [25 April 2016]


Two recent vitamin D studies emphasize the importance of maintaining sufficient levels of this crucial vitamin.

In the most recent study, researchers combined the data from two previous studies – the Lappe cohort from Nebraska and the GrassrotsHealth cohort from San Diego – to examine the risk of cancer at different blood levels of vitamin D. They found that women with Vitamin D concentrations of 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L) or more had a 67% lower risk of all types of cancer than women with concentrations less than 20 ng/ml (50 nmol/L). As previously reported in these columns, 100 - 150 nmol/L is now considered by many vitamin D researchers to be the optimum level for health. Both these studies looked at white women over 55 years of age, so the results can’t be extrapolated to the general population.

A study published in December 2015 in Neurology compared the effects of standard dose (800 IU) and high dose (10,400 IU) vitamin D in 40 patients with relapsing/remitting MS. The researchers found that the high dose group had lower blood levels of interleukin-17 T cells, which play a role in MS pathogenesis, than did the low dose group. Each 5 ng/ml rise in blood vitamin D levels above 18 ng/ml corresponded with a 1% fall in the percentage of interleukin-17 T cells. There was no reduction in the interleukin-17 T cell percentage in the low dose group.

Although 10,000 IU seems a very high dose, it is the blood level that counts. Previous research has found that MS patients often require extremely high intake of D to maintain normal blood levels. It is critical for people with MS to monitor their blood levels and supplement accordingly. A Rosetown customer told me she has had to take 30,000 IU daily just to maintain her D level at the low end of normal.

Vitamin D likely also plays a significant role in the prevention of MS. A study from Finland published in JAMA Neurology on March 7 of this year found that children of mothers with severe vitamin D deficiency (less than 12 ng/ml) during early pregnancy are at 90% higher risk of later developing MS.

With the rising costs – both financial and in human suffering – of cancer and diseases like MS, we must move swiftly to implement public programs with safe and effective treatments like vitamin D. Every Canadian should be screened for D deficiency and encouraged to supplement (or sunbathe) to achieve optimum levels.

Sources
D & Cancer study PLOSOne
D & Cancer study review by Vitamin D Council
High dose D MS treatment Science Daily Review
High dose D MS treatment MDLinx Review
Maternal D & MS EurekAlert Review

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

April 18, 2016

366 A Novel Solution for Allergies [18 April 2016]


Of all the products in my store, the one with the strangest ingredient source has to be a formula I just got in for allergies. It’s made from quail eggs – from Japanese quail to be precise. Here’s the story.

A French doctor in the 1970’s noticed that farmers raising quail (and eating quail eggs) had fewer allergy symptoms than their neighbors. He started prescribing quail eggs to his allergy patients and their symptoms improved. Three human studies have since shown that certain glycoproteins from the eggs significantly reduce symptoms of allergies and is safe, non-drowsy and well tolerated. The quail egg extract worked for a variety of allergens including pollen, dust mites, mold, and pet dander. It also works quickly with results observed in as little as 15 minutes.

Allergens, like pollen grains or pet dander, contain chemicals called tryptases. When someone with a sensitized immune system comes in contact with an allergen, the tryptase activates mast cells to release histamine and other harmful chemicals, including inflammatory cytokines and also more tryptase! The histamines cause the allergy symptoms of allergic rhinitis like stuffy or runny nose; red itchy watery eyes; itchy mouth, throat and face; sneezing; and sore throat.

The quail egg glycoproteins work as a natural tryptase inhibitor, preventing the tryptase from binding with the mast cells before histamines (and the other nasty chemicals) can be released. This is preferable to most over-the-counter anti-histamine allergy drugs which block the activity of the histamines after they have been released.

There are other solutions for reducing air-born allergy symptoms. Avoid the allergens by staying away from fields with pollen and keeping windows closed. Use a dehumidifier to remove excess indoor humidity which encourages mold growth. As much as possible avoid cats and dogs or whatever animals you react to.

I have several other products to help with allergies. One contains seven herbal extracts and quercetin, and comes with a money back guarantee. Quercitin by itself is a natural anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory. Two others contain phytosterols, especially beta sitosterol. Phytosterols reduce basophils, the cells that release histamine, and an inflammation causing chemical, interleukin-6.

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