September 18, 2017

438 Nutrients for Mental Health


One in five Canadian adults are on a prescription drug for a mental health problem. The most common – depression, anxiety and insomnia – frequently occur together. Nutritional supplements can greatly benefit people with these mental health issues. The protocol varies slightly depending on whether they are on a prescription or not.

For those already on a mental health prescription, the following have proven beneficial and completely safe:
• Fish oil with high EPA (e.g. 1000 EPA, 200 DHA)
• Vitamin D 2,000 IU (more if blood levels low)
• Good multi or B complex with bioactive form of B vitamins
• Melatonin (adjust to individual need)

For those not on prescription meds, use the same fish oil and vitamin D with these additional natural products:
• Melatonin or an herbal/nutrient sleep aid
• Anti-stress and mood elevating formulas that may include: bioactive B vitamins, choline, & inositol; amino acids L-theanine, L-tryptophan, PABA, 5-HTP, GABA, & SAMe; and botanicals like ashwagandha, valerian, passionflower, rhodiola & holy basil.

Be cautious with herbs if you are taking a prescription drug as they can affect the rate of drug processing by the liver and change the drug’s effective potency.

The ratio of EPA to DHA in fish oil is critical. For almost all situations, oils with higher EPA (at least 2:1) work better, especially for mood. Oils with higher DHA have been shown to worsen mood and aggression. This holds for children with ADD – the high EPA formulas help; the high DHA ones do not, and could worsen symptoms.

Omega 3 fish oil is often under-supplemented. At low doses (250-900 mg total EPA+DHA) it is has been shown to reduce the risk of sudden coronary death. But at higher doses (2,000-4,000 mg) it also reduces risk of non-fatal coronary events (angina); improves blood lipid values (triglycerides & cholesterol); and reduces pain and inflammation (arthritis, etc.). 1000-3000 mg of 2:1 EPA:DHA is ideal for neurodegenerative conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s & MS.

Source: "Mental Health" webinar by Philip Rouchotas MSc, ND, September 11, 2017, sponsored by New Roots Herbal

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 11, 2017

437 Astaxanthin Review [11 Sept 2017]


I first wrote about astaxanthin in May 2011 [#115] and mentioned it again as a supplement for supporting eye health in July 2013 [#224].

Then this morning Donna’s cousin Joe shared the link to a 2014 review of the benefits of astaxanthin in the MDPI journal Marine Drugs. He has been using astaxanthin as part of his recovery protocol from stage 4 prostate cancer. In Joe’s words “without this supplement I could not function…I would literally be bedridden without it.”

I have been taking it myself, along with several other vision support supplements, to prevent macular degeneration.

The review reported that astaxanthin:
• is a carotenoid from marine phytoplankton which gives salmon and flamingos their pink color;
• increases its absorption when taken with fish or krill oil;
• is a strong antioxidant and protects lipids and proteins (including DNA) in our cells from oxidative damage;
• increases the antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase;
• reduces inflammation in several systems of the body including stomach, lungs and eyes;
• prevents UV skin damage from sunlight;
• protects the pancreas and kidney cells from oxidative stress and improves insulin sensitivity in diabetics;
• is a “potential therapeutic agent against atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease” [link];
• through its antioxidant effect, shows promise in prevention and treatment of cancers;
• shows promise in animal studies of increasing antibody production;
• is safe with no side effects reported at up to 20mg per day for adults [I’m taking 8mg].

The authors conclude “Astaxanthin showed potential effects on various diseases including cancers, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, liver, neurodegenerative, and skin diseases.” They call for more research on the metabolic pathways of neutraceutical and pharmaceutical uses. But we don’t have to wait – we can start taking advantage of astaxanthin’s many health benefits today.

Further reading: Life Extension article on astaxanthin immune support

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 4, 2017

436 Natural Treatments for Sepsis [4 Sept 2017]


Sepsis is a potentially fatal inflammatory immune reaction to a bacterial infection in the blood. It can lead to multiple organ damage, failure, and ultimately death.

In developing countries sepsis is the leading cause of infant mortality, killing one million infants worldwide each year. Even in the USA, sepsis occurs in 1 million people annually, commonly acquired in a hospital, and mortality is close to 50%. Sepsis kills more Americans than breast cancer, colon cancer and AIDS combined. Fortunately two effective natural treatments have been recently discovered.

Feeding probiotics to healthy babies was found to dramatically reduce the risk of developing sepsis. A randomized controlled trial in rural India, where infant mortality from sepsis is common, was carried out with a strain of Lactobacillus plantarum. Cases of sepsis dropped from 9% to 5.4%, a 40% reduction. Other infections were reduced as well. The treatment worked so well the researchers stopped the study early so that all the infants could benefit. The treatment costs about $1.00 per baby.

In contrast to the $1 treatment, hospital treatments for sepsis cost Americans over $24 billion annually. But that could soon change. Dr Paul Marik of the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in East Virginia discovered an inexpensive and effective treatment for sepsis – intravenous vitamin C. In a clinical study the vitamin C, combined with a cortisone drug and thiamine (a B vitamin), reduced mortality from 40% to 8.5% (and the few that died did so of their original condition, not sepsis).

Malik’s hospital has already made this vitamin C protocol the standard treatment for sepsis and many hospitals are following. A large scale field trial is underway to validate the findings, opening the door for more widespread adoption of the treatment. Since there are no other effective treatments and no negative side effects from this inexpensive protocol, there is really no good reason not to.

It is my hope that the proven success of intravenous vitamin C for sepsis will encourage researchers to take another look at its use in treating other infectious diseases like influenza, encephalitis and polio, and certain cancers, where intravenous vitamin C has shown great promise but remains controversial.

Sources
Mercola newsletter: Probiotics Offer Powerful Protection Against Sepsis in Infants 28 Aug 2017
NPR Report: Probiotic Bacteria Could Protect Newborns from Deadly Infections 16 August 2017
Dr Paul Marik's study in CHEST June 2017
Dr Paul Marik lecture "CCR17 for Sepsis" (34 minutes) - fairly technical, aimed at medical scientist audience but contains useful info
NPR Report "Doctor Turns Up Possible Treatment for Deadly Sepsis" 23 March 2017

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 28, 2017

435 Activated Charcoal [28 August 2017]


Activated charcoal has a long history of medicinal use. Charcoal is almost pure carbon, resulting from the burning of wood, bone, coal or other organic material such as coconut shells in the absence of oxygen. Activated carbon has been treated to increase the surface area of the carbon, maximizing its absorption.

Carbon is commonly used in water filters to remove impurities and toxins including metals. Charcoal is also used internally as a supplement and externally as a poultice. There is an entire book on the topic “The Complete Handbook of Medicinal Charcoal and Its Applications” available from charcoalremedies.com.
Some of the uses of activated charcoal are:

• Taken as an emergency poison treatment [call the poison control centre before using as it does not work on all poisons]
• Taken in large doses between meals as a body cleanse and detox program
• Used in the treatment of Candida albicans infections to slow growth of intestinal yeast and to absorb the toxins released during the die-off stage (Herxheimer reaction)
• Used with chronic kidney disease to reduce the load of waste products to filter
• Quickly reduces acid indigestion by neutralizing stomach acid
• Counters food poisoning so is useful when travelling to prevent diarrhea
• Reduces flatulence by absorbing intestinal gas
• Charcoal is one of the ingredients in Colic Calm gripe water for babies
• Taken both internally and externally (in warm water soak) to relieve gout
• Used topically for spider & insect bites, severe acne, diabetic ulcers

Some cautions are necessary in taking activated charcoal. Take the charcoal two hours away from medications as it will reduce their efficacy. Do not use for long periods of time as it also reduces absorption of nutrients from your food and supplements. Drink extra water when using charcoal as it absorbs water from the intestines and can cause constipation.

I sell activated charcoal in capsule form and can get it in bulk powder. The powder is mixed in a glass of water – it looks awful but has no taste.

Source: Mercola.com "Is activated Charcoal Beneficial?" 10 July 2017

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 21, 2017

434 Collagen & Our Skin [21 August 2017]


I wrote about the benefits of collagen supplements back in February of this year [#406] for strong and healthy skin, bones, muscles, tendons, cartilage and ligaments. This week I want to concentrate on just one of these – skin health.

As we age the collagen matrix in the dermis of our skin becomes damaged, fragmented, and less dense. The result is dry, inelastic skin with … (gasp!) wrinkles! Introducing small collagen peptides in the blood stimulates the fibroblast cells to synthesize and reorganize new collagen fibers and to produce hyaluronic acid [see #015 June 2009]. This increases the density, strength and elasticity of the skin making it look and feel younger.

Two clinical studies done in 2008, in Tokyo Japan and in Lyon France, measured the effects of oral collagen supplementation on skin properties. Both studies used 10 grams daily of Peptan™, a hydrolyzed collagen made by Rousselot in France. The studies found that after 8 to 12 weeks Peptan™:
• increased skin hydration by 28%
• improved skin smoothness by reducing the number of micro-relief furrows by 26%
• prevented the formation of deep wrinkles, and
• improved skin suppleness 19%

Until recently the collagen I sold in my store was bovine (from cattle). I now have marine (fish source) collagen as well. Peptan™ marine collagen is made from the bones, scales and fins of North Atlantic tilapia. The peptides in Peptan™ are very small (9 times smaller than most on the market) and are therefore much more readily absorbed. Fortunately, marine collage has no fishy taste or odour.

Like bovine collagen, marine collagen is a Type 1 collagen which is essential for healthy skin, hair, nails, tendons and bones. Marine collagen has an amino acid profile that makes it especially beneficial for the skin while bovine collagen is slightly better for bones, tendons and cartilage.

So if you want smooth, firm younger-looking skin (and who doesn’t?), feed it fish collagen peptides!

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 14, 2017

433 The Low-Lectin Diet [14 August 2017]


After looking at last week’s list of all the things that lectins do to us you might suspect that everyone would benefit from a low lectin diet. And you would be right. But I don’t recommend a low-lectin diet for everyone for two reasons: 1) it eliminates many very nutritious foods, and 2) since lectins are in almost all plant foods and some animal foods it is very difficult to follow a low-lectin diet. But there are some people for whom it would be worth trying:

• Food allergies - if you have one or more severe food allergies, it could be the lectins that are the culprit
• Celiac disease or gluten intolerance – if you follow a gluten free diet but still have some symptoms, other lectins may be involved
• Auto-immune diseases – the potential benefits are huge for sufferers of these conditions so it is worth considering a low-lectin trial

There are three phases to a low-lectin diet:

1. Healing Phase: eat only foods from the low-lectin list until your symptoms clear. This may take a few weeks, months, or even a year.
2. Experimental Phase: add foods from the moderate list, a few at a time, eating in moderation those you can tolerate and eliminating any that cause symptoms to recur. Then see if you can tolerate the occasional high lectin food.
3. Maintenance Phase: Follow your customized diet for as long as you want to stay healthy and symptom free, reintroducing foods as your health improves.

Besides avoiding the high lectin foods completely, there are a few strategies we can all use to reduce the lectin content of foods.

• Peel and remove seeds of high lectin foods like tomatoes and peppers – lectins are concentrated in the skins, root hairs and seeds
• soak beans and legumes for 8 hours, changing water every 2 hours
• cook beans with a pressure cooker – the higher heat destroys more lectins
• sprout grains and seeds – sprouting reduces the lectins in the seed coat
• white rice is safer albeit not as nutritious as brown rice
• take a lectin-blocking supplement with each meal

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 7, 2017

432 What Lectins Do [7 August 2017]

Lectins are proteins in plants designed to protect them from being eaten. Gluten is the best known lectin, but there are hundreds of them found in most plants, including many that we humans use for food. Lectins are not broken down in digestion and only partially destroyed by cooking.

In #430 I explained how lectins cause leaky gut syndrome which leads to inflammation and auto-immune diseases. But that’s not all they do. Lectins also:

• bind to the epithelial cells in the lining of the gut and damage the microvilli where nutrient absorption occurs. This significantly interferes with the absorption of nutrients, especially protein, and can lead to loss of muscle mass.
• bind to the surface of beneficial bacteria in our gut, wiping them out while allowing pathogenic bacteria to proliferate
• interfere with the digestive enzymes in the gut preventing proper digestion of food
• bind to glycoproteins on the surface of cells throughout the body including joints, brain, liver, heart, kidneys; the immune system responds by attacking the organs and tissues affected leading to a variety of auto-immune diseases
• create hyper-sensitivity to foods leading to food allergies; people have found that after being on a low-lectin diet for a year or so their food allergies improve or disappear
• stimulate the release of histamine from mast cells causing an inflammatory response
• suppress the production of T and B lymphocytes reducing the immune system’s ability to protect us from foreign invaders
• cause blood cells to stick together destroying the blood cells and causing blood clots
• block the satiety hormone leptin, resulting in food cravings, over-eating, and obesity [see #327 Leptin Resistance]
• interfere with the body’s ability to regulate insulin and blood sugar levels.
• cause enlargement of the pancreas and atrophy of the thymus
• bind to neurons damaging the nervous system including eyesight
• interfere with the cell nucleus preventing normal reproduction of the cell and accelerating the aging process
• in summary, contribute to most of the chronic conditions that plague mankind!

Sources:
Gregory Barton, Cure Your Autoimmune and Inflammatory Disease, 2010
Evelyn Carmichael, The Essential Handbook to Lectin, 2017

Next week: who would most benefit from a low lectin diet.

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 31, 2017

431 More on Lectins [31 July 2017]


The lectin theory of disease, while new to me, has been around for a few years now. I just bought two more e-books on the topic (Amazon’s “Buy with 1-Click” feature is too handy!) The first is Cure Your Autoimmune and Inflammatory Disease by Gregory Barton, July 2010, which, according to the author, was the only book on the subject at the time. Barton’s book has a more detailed scientific explanation of lectins than Steven Gundry’s The Plant Paradox.

Barton is an environmental and agricultural historian and devotes much of the book to the effect agriculture has had on human health. While recognizing that agriculture was responsible for the development of civilization – including the amazing advances of science – it is also responsible for much of our chronic modern diseases. And vested commercial interests plus our own reluctance to change – particularly when it comes to our food – prevent scientists from investigating dietary cures for disease and the rest of us from implementing them.

Optimistically Barton proposes that with the new knowledge of lectins we can still enjoy our modern lifestyle while avoiding the diseases of civilization. He developed the first low-lectin food list and then cured his own health problems which had started with a nagging backache and progressed from there. Here are the results in his own words: “Within a few weeks I cleared up entirely, 100%. The arthritis went away, the sore muscles disappeared. I began to gain muscle weight again, felt stronger, looked better, and had boundless energy… I was a new man…”

So, if lectins are in almost all our foods, how are any of us still healthy? Well we all have a certain tolerance for low to moderate amounts of lectins. And some of us appear to have a greater tolerance to lectins than others. If we discover foods that we are particularly intolerant (or even allergic) to, we try to avoid them. Too often however we fail to make the connection, keep eating the foods, and take antacid pills for our indigestion, pain relievers for our headaches, massage treatments for our muscle pain, and drugs or supplements for our many autoimmune diseases.

Next week I’ll discuss how lectins affect our health and who could most benefit from a low lectin diet.

By the way, this book is only $1.03 at Amazon.ca for the Kindle edition. Even if you don’t have an e-book reader, you can still read it on your computer.

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 24, 2017

430 Lectins [24 July 2017]


Are you eating healthy foods and still can’t lose weight or have a few nagging little (or big) health problems? A recent book called “The Plant Paradox: the Hidden Dangers in Healthy Foods that Cause Disease and Weight Gain” by Steven R. Gundry, MD, might explain why.

The culprit, according to Gundry, is a group of proteins in plants called lectins. These lectins, of which glutens are the most well-known but not the worst, are the plants’ defense against being eaten. They are designed to attack the digestive tract of animals that eat them and make them sick so they will learn not to eat that plant again. The paradox in the title comes from the fact that lectins occur in many of the plant foods that we promote as being healthful for the nutrients they contain – vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and protein. Examples are legumes, nuts, grains, most fruits, nightshades, and squashes.

One of the effects of lectins is to create holes in the gut wall. The wall of our intestines is only one cell thick to facilitate nutrient absorption. These cells, called enterocytes, are bound together by “tight junctions”, separating the contents of the gut from the rest of the body. Lectins release a compound called zenulin which breaks the tight junction bonds, creating what is known as “leaky gut”. These holes allow the lectins, lipo-polysaccharides (tiny particles of bacteria) and partially digested proteins to enter the blood stream. This triggers a strong immune reaction which can lead to auto-immune disease as I have previously described.

Lectins also bind to a sugar called sialic acid in the gut, in joints, blood vessel walls, and between nerve endings, where they promote inflammation and disrupt cell communication (brain fog). Gundry believes that lectins are the root cause of almost all allergies, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and auto-immune diseases.

So what can we do to protect ourselves from lectins? First Gundry recommends removing all lectin containing foods for a month or more to give the gut a chance to heal (I have the list of foods to avoid and foods that are lectin-free). Then re-introduce the milder lectin foods one at a time. The lectins in beans and some other foods can be neutralized by cooking with a pressure cooker. The worst foods he recommends avoiding completely. Finally, Gundry formulated a lectin-blocking supplement to be taken with meals which binds the lectins before they can do damage.

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 17, 2017

429 Confirmation Bias [17 July 2017]


One of the sources for my column last week about saturated fat safety was an article by Gary Staube with the strange title “Vegetable oils, (Francis) Bacon, Bing Crosby, and the American Heart Association”. The article raised an issue I wanted to follow up on – bias in science.

Francis Bacon first articulated the problem of bias in 1620, nearly 400 years ago:
The human understanding, once it has adopted opinions…draws everything else to support and agree with them. And though it may meet a greater number and weight of contrary instances, it will, with great and harmful prejudice, ignore or condemn or exclude them by introducing some distinction, in order that the authority of those earlier assumptions may remain intact and unharmed.

The Bing Crosby connection is the lyrics to his hit song “Accentuate the positive, Eliminate the negative…” which is what we do when sifting information about an issue on which we have a position. It is what lawyers do when arguing for their client in court, but not what scientists should be doing in seeking the truth. And what, Staube argues, the American Heart Association did in selecting the studies to support their now outdated position on saturated fat and heart disease.

Elizabeth Kolbert in a February 2017 article in The New Yorker “Why facts don’t change our minds” describes modern psychological experiments which support what is called “confirmation bias”. We readily believe information that agrees with our thinking and disregard anything to the contrary, spotting weaknesses in our opponents’ arguments but not in our own. Furthermore even when we realize that what we thought is not true we are unable to effectively reverse our first impression.

A classic Peanuts cartoon strip illustrates this perfectly: Lucy and Linus see something on the sidewalk and Lucy says “Look a big yellow butterfly…they fly up from Brazil and they…” Linus interrupts to point out that it’s a potato chip not a butterfly. Lucy looks closer and then exclaims “So it is! I wonder how a potato chip got all the way up here from Brazil?”

Confirmation bias has polarized almost every issue in politics, religion, and health science (and many more). At least part of the solution is to recognize this bias – in ourselves as well as others – and critically examine both sides of issues.

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 10, 2017

428 Is Coconut Oil Dangerous? [10 July 2017]


Did you see the headlines last month warning about the dangers of coconut oil? “Coconut oil health claims not all they’re cracked up to be” (CBC News) or “Coconut Oil is Unhealthy according to the AHA” (Huffington Post). These news articles are referring to a June 15, 2017, article in the journal Circulation titled “Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory from the American Heart Association”.

The twelve authors of the Advisory recommend replacing saturated fats – including coconut oil which they specifically warn against – with polyunsaturated vegetable oils, and claim that doing so would lower LDL cholesterol and reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) by 30%. They based this on what they called “…the totality of the scientific evidence, satisfying rigorous criteria…”

Unfortunately their “rigorous criteria” was fatally biased and their conclusions decades out of date and at odds with modern science. In a rebuttal published in Cardio Brief Gary Taubes explains why:
• They cherry-picked the studies, eliminating most for various reasons, and selected four, all of which supported the saturated fat CVD hypothesis. The problem is these four all date from the 1960s and have more serious flaws than the ones they eliminated.
• Among the eliminated studies are the largest trials ever done on the issue: the Sydney Heart Study, the Minnesota Coronary Survey and the Women’s Health Initiative, and several independent meta-analyses, all of which refute the saturated fat hypothesis of heart disease [see my posts #244, #259 & #261].
• The control diet of the early studies contained significantly higher trans fatty acids and sugar than did the unsaturated group, both of which are known to cause CVD and could account for the reduction in heart disease.
• Coconut oil was not part of any of the studies used and is mentioned only because of its saturated fat, but much of coconut’s saturated fatty acids are beneficial MCTs.
• Polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids, which the study recommends, promotes inflammation which is known to increase heart disease and overall mortality.

So the authors’ conclusions and recommendations are not only unscientific and misleading, but dangerous. It’s almost as if the Canadian Cancer Society warned us about the dangers of exercise and told us to take up smoking instead.

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 3, 2017

427 Parasites – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly [3 July 2017]


Last week [#426] I introduced the idea that, like bacteria, some parasites could actually be beneficial to our health. This idea has been around since at least 1999 but this was the first I had heard of it.

Lest I give the impression that all parasites are beneficial, I hasten to add that most are bad news and the few beneficial ones are likely so only in low numbers. The species used in helminthic therapy mentioned last week are non-colonizing in humans, meaning they can’t take up residence and reproduce in our bodies.

Parasites vary in size from microscopic one-celled animals, called protozoa, to tapeworms which can grow to several meters in length. Malaria is the most deadly protozoan parasitic disease, killing about 1 million people worldwide each year. Other parasitic protozoa include Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Toxoplasma, and Trichomonas. Helminths include many species of tapeworms, roundworms and flukes. Other human parasites include microscopic worms, a tiny flea, and the larvae of certain flies.

The effects of parasites vary from mild discomfort, anemia and nutrient deficiencies, to blindness, organ failure and death. Not a very pretty picture!

I carry a few anti-parasitic products, typically containing extracts from wormwood (a variety of sage), clove buds, garlic, black walnut hulls, and a few others. With more serious parasitic infections see your medical doctor. There are two new anti-parasitic drugs: Avermectin, derived from a soil bacteria, that works on worms, and Artemisinin, derived from a species of sage, that treats malaria.

Like most problems, prevention is better than a cure. One good defense against parasites is to maintain a healthy gut biome as I have discussed over the last few months. Follow hygienic practices when handling raw meat. Thoroughly cook meat, especially pork and fish. Wash your hands after handling animals. Wash fruits and vegetables before eating. Avoid drinking untreated surface water. Be particularly vigilant when visiting tropical countries where parasites are more common.

But if you discover that your children have pinworms, don’t panic. Think, “Oh good, my kids have worms”. Then get rid of them (the worms not the kids).

Back to the title – a few parasites may be somewhat good, most are bad (some very bad), but in almost everyone’s eyes they are all ugly.

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 26, 2017

426 Helminthic Therapy [26 June 2017]


We have come to understand and accept that the vast majority of bacteria and some yeast [see #387] living in and on our bodies are either benign (harmless) or actually beneficial (helpful) to our health. Chapter 5, “Old Friends, New Treatment: Helminthic Therapy in Autism” by Judith Chinitz, in “Bugs, Bowels, and Behavior” extends the range of beneficial microorganisms to include parasitic worms. Now that’s a stretch!

These Pickles cartoons (#1, #2) illustrate most people's perceptions of worms.

Helminths is the name for parasitic worms including whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms and pinworms. Our immune systems developed during a time when exposure to parasites was much greater than in today’s developed countries with our modern hygiene. The theory is that these parasites are necessary for the proper development of our immune systems.

The theory was first published in 1999 by Dr. Joel Weinstock who reported successfully treating patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with eggs of a harmless parasitic worm, a whipworm that lives in pigs but not humans. Six patients with IBD were given the “helminth therapy”; five went into remission and the sixth improved dramatically.

Weinstock and other researchers have since discovered that when our immune system develops in the absence of helminths, the Type2 T helper cells (Th2) which normally control parasites instead begins to react to pollen and other allergens causing allergies, or begins to attack our own bodies causing auto-immune disease. The presence of helminths is also required for the normal development of the regulatory system which controls the Th1 and Th2 systems, preventing runaway inflammation.

As we have seen, inflammation is a significant part of the autism syndrome. To date no studies have been done on ASD with helminthic therapy but many desperate parents haven’t waited and persuaded their doctors to give it a try. Results have been very encouraging with reports of significantly improved gastrointestinal and behavioral symptoms.

This 2015 National Institutes of Health article gives a good overview of helminth therapy in the USA.

I won’t be too surprised if someday helminthic therapy will become an accepted treatment for inflammatory diseases, just like fecal transplants [#243] have for IBD.

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 19, 2017

425 Autism and Gut Bacteria [19 June 2017]


Of all neurological conditions, autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as the family of related conditions is now called, has the strongest (and best studied) association with the gut microbiome. I’m reading a book called “Bugs, Bowels, and Behavior”, which despite its cute title is a collection of 15 fairly technical medical articles by various researchers published in 2013.

The findings they report show a strong correlation to digestive and particularly gut bacterial problems. Many of the articles propose that gut dysbiosis (unbalanced intestinal bacterial populations) is the root cause of the neurological and immunological symptoms observed in ASD. They report that children (and adults) with ASD are more likely to have:
• Gastrointestinal dysfunction (70%) – the severity of GI symptoms correlates with the severity of ASD symptoms
• Increased intestinal permeability – allowing poorly digested protein to enter the bloodstream where it triggers allergies and auto-immune reactions
• Deficiencies in disaccharide enzymes, especially lactase, in the duodenum – meaning they are unable to properly digest milk sugar and other carbohydrates
• Elevated bowel populations of Clostridia bacteria – a nasty family that includes C. difficile and the pathogens that cause tetanus and botulism; Vancomycin, an antibiotic effective in controlling Clostridia, temporarily improves ASD symptoms
• Very low levels of the antioxidant glutathione and its amino acid precursor cysteine, believed due to high populations of Desulfovibrio bacteria in the gut, resulting in high levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in neurons (nerve cells) throughout the body and brain, and making the children highly susceptible to mercury toxicity
• High levels of TNF-a, a marker for inflammation, in the blood, cerebrospinal fluid and brain tissue; a drug that blocks TNF-a reversed ASD symptoms

Furthermore, regressive autism frequently occurs following several rounds of antibiotics. Improvements in ASD symptoms have been noted in some cases using probiotics and fecal transplants [see #243]. A diet that supports healthy intestinal bacteria [see #424] would be critical to maintaining such improvements.

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 12, 2017

424 Managing our Microbiome [12 June 2017]


Continuing the discussion of our gut microbiome, this week we’ll look at what we can do to improve it. Justin and Erica Sonnenburg devote a chapter of their 2015 book The Good Gut to this topic. They list 7 recommendations based on recent scientific research.

1. Get off to a good start. We start off sterile in our mother’s womb and get our first “inoculation” during the birth process (another reason to avoid unnecessary C-sections). Breast milk provides human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), the optimum food for the infant’s healthy bacteria – unmatched in formula and another reason why breast is best.

2. Avoid unnecessary antibiotics. I touched on this last week. The more antibiotics kids are on early in life, the sicker they will be the rest of their life. That said, sometimes they are a necessity. My throat infection turned out to be caused by an infected tooth. I’m now on round three of antibiotics – I’ll worry about my colon bacteria later.

3. Play in the dirt. Kids that live on a farm, or have pets, or play in the (pesticide-free) garden, have a more diverse gut flora and are healthier.

4. Feed your microbes. Eat a wide variety of high fiber fruits and vegetables like whole grains, legumes and tubers. If this is a big change in your diet, you may want to introduce them gradually to avoid flatulence.

5. Limit saturated fat. Pathogens which cause inflammation (the “bad guys”) thrive on saturated animal fats while the good guys prefer plant based mono-unsaturated fats like olive oil and avocados.

6. Consume beneficial microbes. Fermented dairy foods like yogurt and kefir are great provided they are unpasteurized and unsweetened. Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and some pickles are another source of beneficial microbes. Back in July 2015 [#326] I wrote about making your own fermented vegetables.

7. Use probiotic supplements. These contain large quantities of known beneficial varieties. We have a variety of probiotics in our store with strengths up to 100 billion. I’m using S. boulardii this week which is not affected by antibiotics [see #387, Sept 2016 ].

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 5, 2017

423 Pathogens and our Gut Flora [5 June 2017]


The last two weeks [#421, #422] we looked at how our gut microbiome affects our immune system and our brain, mood and memory. This week we’ll examine the interaction between pathogens and our gut flora.

Justin and Erica Sonnenburg devote a chapter of their 2015 book The Good Gut to gastroenteritis – the invasion of our gut by food borne pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms like Salmonella and C. diff.) causing inflammation of the gut and diarrhea. It’s a serious problem hospitalizing a million Americans each year.

Our gut’s reaction to pathogens is a good example of the brain-gut axis described last week. We aren’t conscious of the pathogens, but the autonomic nervous system is quickly informed and directs the digestive system to vomit the stomach contents out one end and hasten the exit of the intestinal contents out the other.

A healthy gut flora protects us from invading pathogens by out-competing them for space and food, and sometimes by producing chemicals that are toxic to them. Oral broad-spectrum antibiotics kill not only the targeted bacteria but also many of the beneficial species of gut flora, which makes us more susceptible to further infections. This is often not considered when an antibiotic prescription is made.

Last fall I developed a sore throat with tender lymph nodes in my neck. When several weeks of my usual cold remedies didn’t work I went to my doctor. He diagnosed a bacterial infection and wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic with no discussion of possible effects on my digestive system. I took the prescription for the required 7 or 8 days and it did clear the infection. When it recurred a few months later I went straight back for another prescription and was given a different antibiotic. This is standard practice to prevent pathogens from becoming resistant but it means that it killed off another group of beneficial species in my gut.

After the first round I didn’t notice any changes in my digestive system (which studies show is typical despite significant losses of numbers and diversity of the gut microbiome) but after the second I experienced cramping, gas and looser stools. I’m still working on reintroducing good bacteria. When my throat infection returned a third time, only a week or two after the second round of antibiotics, I treated it myself with topical application of essential oils and it was gone in 3 or 4 days.

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 29, 2017

422 The Brain-Gut Axis [29 May 2017]


Last week we looked at how our gut microbiome affects our immune system. This week we’ll discuss how it affects our brain, mood and memory. I last wrote about this topic two years ago [#320]. The network of neurons and chemical pathways connecting the digestive tract and the central nervous system is called the Brain-Gut Axis.

The brain uses this axis to monitor the digestive tract for hunger, stress, and the presence of pathogens; and to control aspects of it, including transit speed, production of mucous lining the colon, and the secretion of stomach acid, bile and pancreatic enzymes. But the signaling goes both ways – the condition of the digestive tract, including the bacteria living in it, also influences the brain.

Justin and Erica Sonnenburg in their 2015 book The Good Gut devote a chapter to this connection and share findings from some of their animal experiments. Lab mice specially raised to have a bacteria-free gut lacked the caution that helps wild mice avoid predators, and scored lower in memory tests than mice with normal gut microbes. Other experiments showed that transplanting gut bacteria from anxious mice to calm mice increased their anxiety (and vice versa) along with measurable changes in their brain biochemistry.

One way that the gut bacteria influence the nervous system is by the chemicals they produce which get absorbed into the bloodstream. Some of these chemicals have a beneficial effect like the short chain fatty acids mentioned last week. An estimated 90% of our serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, is produced in our gut with the help of certain bacteria. Other bacteria-produced chemicals are toxic and have undesirable effects. An example is EPS, which was found to be greatly elevated in mice with autistic-like behavior; the behavior improved when different bacteria were introduced which normalized the EPS levels.

Research holds the promise of modifying our microbiome in the treatment of not only inflammation related chronic diseases like MS and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), but also mood disorders like stress, anxiety, depression, and even neurological conditions like autism, ADHD, OCD, and schizophrenia. This is one field of research that I plan to keep an eye on. More 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.

May 22, 2017

421 Fiber and Auto-Immune Disease [22 May 2017]


We’ve always known that dietary fiber is important for regular bowel movements. In a few previous articles [#140 November 2011 and #276 July 2014] I wrote about the benefits of soluble and insoluble fiber to balance blood sugar and maintain a healthy weight. Now scientists have discovered a link between dietary fiber, our immune system, and auto-immune diseases. How does that work?

Rhonda Patrick, in December 2015, interviewed Drs. Justin & Erica Sonnenburg who run a lab at Stanford University looking at “the profound impact gut bacteria has on our entire body” (Justin). They found that dietary fiber is essential for a healthy microbiome, described as “an incredibly complex and dynamic ecosystem of microbes” (Erica). In this 40 minute interview (which I encourage you to watch for yourself) Drs. Sonnenburg describe the connections between gut bacteria and our body's immune system.

The average American eats 10-15 grams of fiber daily, short of the government recommended 30-35g, and far short of the 100-150g consumed by traditional hunter-gatherer populations (who have a much greater diversity in their gut microbiomes and a significantly lower incidence of auto-immune disease).

The microbes in the colon rely on complex carbohydrates (fiber) for food, metabolizing it into short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and other beneficial compounds. These SCFAs then feed the epithelial cells of the colon wall. SCFAs also increase the T regulatory cells which have an anti-inflammatory effect, calming the immune system. When fiber is lacking, the microbes attack the mucus lining of the colon and in turn are attacked by the immune cells in the intestinal wall, creating an inflammatory effect. Without adequate T regulatory cells, this can lead to auto-immune conditions like allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis and MS.

Many of these auto-immune diseases have previously been linked to gut microbiome disruptions – this provides a likely explanation. Taking this further, heart disease, metabolic disorders, some cancers, and even aging are all increased by inflammation so could also be reduced with a healthy gut microbiome.

So how to improve our gut microbiome? Feed them a variety of complex carbs from fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. The more types of fiber, the more diverse the bacterial populations they will support; fiber supplements often have only one or two sources. Use probiotic supplements and foods (like yogurt, sauerkraut and fermented vegetables) to help repopulate the gut following a round of antibiotics or whenever you suspect it needs a boost.

For more information on this topic, see the Sonnenburgs' book The Good Gut - Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood and Your Long-term Health or visit their Facebook page.

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 15, 2017

420 Two Preventable Risk Factors [15 May 2017]


Preliminary data from a study by the Cleveland Clinic and NYU School of Medicine showed that obesity has recently overtaken smoking as the top cause of preventable death in the USA (I expect Canadian data to be similar). This change is due to a 21% decrease in smoking and a 38% increase in obesity over the last decade.

The study found the preventable factors that caused the most loss of life-years were, in decreasing order: obesity, diabetes, tobacco use, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Obesity resulted in 47% more life-years lost than smoking. Glen Taksler, PhD MD, concluded “These preliminary results continue to highlight the importance of weight loss, diabetes management, and healthy eating.”

A previous study from Europe found another risk factor, also preventable, that is even more significant than obesity in predicting all-cause mortality (but wasn’t looked at in the Cleveland study). Exercise.

The study, out of Cambridge University, followed 334,000 men and women of around age 50 for a period of 12 years. Obese people were 3.7% more likely to die, but those who didn’t exercise, regardless of weight status, had a 7.3% higher risk of death, more than double that for the obese. Lack of exercise turned out to be the single deadliest risk factor in the study, which also measured smoking and alcohol consumption. The good news is that even 20 minutes a day of moderate exercise (about what I get on my paper route) will measurably reduce that risk. More, of course, is better.

The lesson from these two studies is that to live a longer and healthier life, lose that excess weight, and get moving.

At our weight loss clinic here we have a device called the Body Composition Analyzer (BCA) which measures your body fat, lean mass, and hydration, and estimates your risk category. Drop in for a free analysis. Should you decide to safely and easily lose 10 or more pounds of fat, we can help.

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 8, 2017

419 Using Essential Oils Safely [8 May 2017]


Essential oils are concentrated, volatile oils extracted from the flowers, leaves, roots or peels of plants. When used properly, essential oils can improve your health and well-being, but used improperly could cause harm.

Oils should be taken internally only under professional supervision. In Canada and the United States no essential oil is labeled for internal use. In France essential oils are used internally but only when prescribed by physicians with special training in aromatherapy, and then only a few drops for a very short time. Even with peppermint oil, one drop is equivalent to 25-30 tea bags which you wouldn’t drink all at once. Fortunately consumption is not necessary for full benefits of essential oils.

Inhalation is the most popular way to use essential oils. Use up to 6 drops in an ultrasonic diffuser, as more creates a heavy layer of oil on the water which inhibits diffusion. The essential oil components stay in the blood for several hours (half-life is 45 minutes) so a 20 minute exposure every few hours is sufficient.

Another popular method of using essential oils is topically, either massaged directly on the skin or added to a bath. Most oils should be diluted with a carrier oil for topical use – lavender is the only exception that can be used neat (full strength). Good oils for carrier include sweet almond, avocado, grapeseed, castor, jojoba, sesame, and fractionated coconut oil, each with different properties. Use no more than 6 drops of up to 3 essential oils mixed with the carrier oil in each application. Apply to the affected area or to the soles of the feet. Keep away from the eyes, ears and mucous membranes. Essential oils applied topically take 3 to 6 hours to clear the body – much longer if you are obese or in poor health – so don’t over apply. Use a 1% blend on children (6 drops with 30 ml of carrier oil).

In a bath, add the essential oils to bath salts first to disperse the oils throughout the water. Milder oils like clary sage and lavender are safer than cinnamon, oregano, thyme, bergamot and lemongrass which could irritate the skin.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking medications, check with a health professional before using aromatherapy as there are contraindications for some essential oils. Citrus oils, especially bergamot, increase skin photosensitivity and the risk of sunburn. Essential oils with a high menthol content like eucalyptus, peppermint, wintergreen (and more) should not be used with young children or cats as their livers are unable to process them. Store away from sunlight and heat and out of reach of children and pets.

Sources:
presentation by Marva Ward, CNP, Saskatoon, May 1,2017
Using Essential Oils Safely www.usingeossafely.com
The Truth About Essential Oil Safety ebook by Lea Harris, $9.99 USD

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 1, 2017

418 Hemp Oil [1 May 2017]


With the pending legalization of marijuana in Canada, I thought this would be a good time to discuss hemp and cannabis oil. They are produced from different varieties of Cannabis sativa and made from different parts of the plant.

Cannabis oil contains one or both of two highly reactive compounds which have very different properties. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gives users a “high”. Cannabidiol (CBD) has certain medicinal properties but is not psychoactive. THC and CBDs are concentrated in the leaves and buds of varieties of Cannabis grown specifically for their content. Some companies promote CBD as being more effective and safer, but since neither is available in Canada without a prescription, I’m not going to get into that discussion.

Hemp oil is made from the seed of hemp varieties grown for low content of both THC and CBD. The product is inspected by Health Canada at several stages to ensure the THC is below the legal limit of 10 ppm. You cannot get high on hemp oil!

Unrefined hemp oil has a rich nutty flavor and a slightly green color and is known for its excellent essential fatty acid (EFA) content. EFAs make up over 80% of hemp oil with the ideal 3:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3. A typical profile is:
• 55% Linoleic Acid (Omega 6)
• 22% Alpha Linolenic Acid (Omega 3)
• 1-4% Gamma Linolenic Acid (Omega 6)

These fatty acids make hemp oil very nourishing for the skin. The oil can be massaged into the skin especially over dry skin or painful inflamed joints.

Hempseed oil is best consumed raw and should never be used for frying because of its low oxidative stability. Hemp oil can also have anti-coagulant properties so should be avoided by people using blood thinner medication. Hemp oil will go rancid quickly so should be kept in a dark container, refrigerated, and used quickly once opened.

Eating shelled hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, is a good way to get the benefits of hemp oil along with the excellent fiber and protein content of the seeds.

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 24, 2017

417 Toxic Foods [24 April 2017]


Let me start by explaining that this week’s article is not about “junk” foods full of refined carbs, trans fats and chemical additives. It’s not even about foods that are well-known allergens like dairy, wheat and corn. It likely includes the latter but could also include wholesome good foods like eggs, beef, lettuce, even vitamin supplements!

I’m reading a book by Keith Scott-Mumby called “Diet Wise” which explains how ordinary foods can be toxic to some people, causing a wide variety of symptoms or conditions. He explains why they appear to be hidden and how to unmask them.

Some of the conditions that Scott-Mumby reported clearing after eliminating his patients’ toxic foods include: migraines, eczema, skin rashes, colitis, arthritis, severe flatulence, antisocial behavioral problems, and mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Sometimes symptoms of hidden allergies can be unusual, even bizarre, like a feeling of “hot water running down inside my skin”.

These toxic foods are not easy to identify. They are usually common foods we consume frequently enough that they never clear our system. Often they are foods that we crave. The only way to identify them is to start with an elimination diet for a week or more, then introduce foods one at a time and record your reaction.

Several aspects of this theory prevent it from fitting into mainstream medicine. These food intolerances rarely show up on normal allergy tests. The same food can cause different symptoms in different people, and sometimes in the same person at different times. Conversely the same condition can be caused by different foods in different people. There is no established mechanism for the kinds of symptoms that are found.

Scott-Mumby believes that “eating what you shouldn’t does far more harm than not eating what you should”. In other words the most important step in improving your health is to unmask your personal toxic foods and avoid them.

Scott-Mumby defines optimum health as “a positive sense of well-being with plenty of energy available whenever needed”. “Absence of disease” is not good enough! He believes that everyone has some toxic food or foods that are preventing us from achieving this optimum health.

More on this topic in future articles. For more information from Scott-Mumby:
Diet Wise book
The Alternative Doctor - Prof Scott-Mumby official website.

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 17, 2017

416 Vitamin D & Cancer [17 April 2017


A randomized clinical trial of 2,300 postmenopausal women in Nebraska looked at the effects of vitamin D supplementation on all types of cancer. The test group received 2,000 IU of D3 and 1,500 mg calcium while the control group was given placebos. After four years 109 of the women had developed cancer, 3.9% in the treatment group; 5.6% in the control group. While this amounts to a 30% decrease in the vitamin D group, the small numbers made the finding not statistically significant.

A similar study by the same researchers published in 2007 found a 77% decrease in cancer incidence in the vitamin D group (statistically significant that time!). [see #367]. Other studies have found similar results [#254].

It was interesting to see how different online journals reported this current study. Medical News Today headline reads “Clinical trial finds that vitamin D, calcium, have no effect on cancer risk”. Predictably Mercola’s headline reads “Higher Vitamin D Levels Lower Cancer Risk”. A more honest headline appeared in Science Daily which simply posed the question “Does Vitamin D decrease risk of cancer?

What do the authors themselves say about the study? The principal author Joan Lappe, a professor of medicine at Creighton University, Omaha, said “This study suggests that higher levels of [vitamin] D in the blood are associated with lower cancer risk. These results contribute to a growing body of scientific findings…that vitamin D is a critical tool in fighting cancer.”

There are some limitations to the study that need to be discussed. The participants in both Nebraska studies were menopausal women so the findings can’t be extrapolated to men or to younger women. Also most of the participants were Caucasian so results for people with darker skin may be different. Also some adverse effects were noted in the treatment group that may be related to the vitamin D and calcium supplementation: 16 of the treatment group vs 10 of the control group developed kidney stones, and 6 vs 2 developed high serum calcium levels.

And, as always, the authors conclude with a call for more research: “The results of this study lend credence to a call for more attention to the importance of vitamin D in human health and specifically in preventing cancer”.

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 10, 2017

415 Diet & Depression [10 April 2017]


Depression is a significant health and economic problem in Canada, costing an estimated $32 billion to the economy each year and causing untold suffering for the 3.5 million Canadians who will experience it at least once during their lifetime. Traditional treatment currently includes psychotherapy and psychiatric medication, with limited success. Recent research is starting to find that diet and lifestyle factors are also important, something I have been saying for years (#74 August 2010; #297 Dec 2014).

In my article #300 Medicate or Nutrate (January 2015) I quote Dr. Julia Rucklidge who proposed that lifestyle factors (healthy eating, exercise & supplements) should be the first priority in treating mental illness, followed by psychological and medication treatments only when necessary.

A random controlled trial by Deakin University’s Food and Mood Centre (in Geelong, Australia) was the first to test the effect of improving the diet on clinical depression. Participants were randomly assigned to either receive social support or assistance to improve the quality of their diets. Dietary improvements included increasing vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, fish, lean meats, olive oil and nuts, while reducing refined cereals, fried food, processed meats and sugary drinks and desserts. The dietary group showed a much greater reduction in their depressive symptoms over three months than the social support group. Furthermore, those who followed the dietary program more closely improved the most.

The lead author Professor Felice Jacka, president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research, said this study offers an important new strategy for the treatment of depression and suggests adding clinical dieticians to mental health care teams. Professor Jacka added “It also supports the previous extensive research from human population studies and animal research suggesting that diet is a key determinant of mental and brain health”.

If significant improvements in depression symptoms can be seen with just three months of basic dietary improvements, just think how much more could be accomplished with the addition of adequate supplementation of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and amino acids, along with optimum exercise and sunlight!

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 3, 2017

414 Inflammation and Evening Meals [3 April 2017]


Dr. Mercola has been promoting what he calls “intermittent fasting” for a few years now. He claims that eating only between noon and 6 pm will lower triglyceride levels, improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, increase fat burning and help you lose or maintain weight. Is there any evidence for these claims?

A recent study used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2009-10) to look for links between frequency and timing of eating, and health. Specifically they looked for C-reactive protein (CRP), a biomarker of systemic inflammation; and HOMA-IR, a method of assessing insulin resistance. Regarding eating habits, the researchers looked at a) proportion of daily calories consumed after 5pm; b) number of meals or snacks per day; and c) the length of nighttime fasting.

The biggest correlation found was between % of calories consumed after 5 pm and the level of CRP. Each 10% increase in evening calories was associated with a 3% increase in CRP. A longer fasting period was associated with an 8% CRP reduction but only for those women with less than 30% of calories consumed after 5pm (meaning that a heavy supper counters the benefits of longer fasting). None of the eating variables were significantly correlated with insulin resistance although other studies have shown that more frequent (smaller) meals, and eating your highest calorie meal at breakfast rather than dinner (supper), improve insulin levels.

Why are CRP and insulin levels significant? Because inflammation is linked to many chronic diseases including many types of cancer, heart disease, arthritis (and all other “itises”). Higher insulin levels, as I have written about previously several times over the years, also is linked to not only diabetes but also cancers, arthritis, and many other chronic conditions.

So eating the same foods and total calories per day, just at different times, can lower our risk of inflammation and therefore many different chronic diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. I know I eat my largest meal in the evening, usually between 7 and 8 pm, then work/play at the computer for a few hours before going to bed. It will be a challenge to change my habits but likely worth the effort. I’ll let you know how I do.

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 27, 2017

413 Kidney Stones [27 March 2017]


Kidney stones is a painful condition when crystals, usually calcium oxalate but also uric acid and other types, form in the kidneys. Small stones pass through without problems but larger ones can lodge in the urinary tract and block the flow of urine causing severe pain.

About 1 in 10 Canadians experience kidney stones at some time. Men are much more likely than women to develop kidney stones.

There is much you can do to prevent the formation of kidney stones:
• Drink 2-3 litres of water throughout the day to keep urine pale yellow
• Avoid soda pop as the phosphoric acid promotes stone formation
• Limit consumption of sugar, especially fructose
• Limit protein to 1g / 2 lbs lean body weight
• Limit red meat which lowers your citrate level
• Avoid or limit high oxalate content foods: beets, rhubarb, spinach, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes
• Avoid excess sodium
• Take extra magnesium, at least 1:1 with calcium
• Eat calcium-rich foods but go easy on calcium supplements – calcium in foods binds oxalates in the intestine preventing their absorption
• Maintain a healthy weight – obesity is a risk factor for kidney stones
• Exercise reduces risk of kidney stones

Stones that are too large to pass comfortably on their own require medical attention. Sound waves can be used to break up larger stones or surgery may be required. Potassium citrate is sometimes given to alkalize the urine and dissolve calcium oxalate stones but has some unpleasant side effects. Recent research using hydroxycitrate, an extract from the tamarind fruit (Garcinia cambogia) is showing promise of being a more effective and safer alternative.

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 20, 2017

412 Beauty from Within [20 March 2017]


Cosmetics is a multi-billion dollar industry, supported by people trying to beautify their skin from the outside. But if your body doesn’t have the nutrients it needs to maintain and repair the cells, you are at best wasting your money. At worst, the toxic chemicals in many cosmetics can actually age your skin faster.

Your skin, hair and nails need the following nutrients (available in a single supplement) to support your natural beauty:
Collagen is the main structural component of the skin and determines its firmness and tone. Peptan hydrolyzed collagen increases collagen and hyaluronic acid in the skin
MSM provides sulfur needed for all connective tissue. It reduces wrinkles, moles, brown spots & scar tissue; heals cracked skin; and speeds growth of hair and nails
• L-Cysteine is important for repair of skin, hair and nails and for cell detoxification
• B vitamins – Biotin (B7), Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid (B5), B6, and B12 all play essential roles in the growth and repair of skin, hair and nails
• Vitamin C is essential for collagen production and connective tissue health
• Vitamin E works with vitamin C to protect the skin from UV radiation damage
• Minerals zinc, selenium, and silicon are essential for protecting and repairing cellular damage
Hyaluronic acid, an essential component of connective tissue, increases hydration, tone and elasticity of the skin therefore reducing wrinkles

A healthy diet and lifestyle are also essential for inner beauty:
• diet with plenty of vegetables, fruit, nuts
• plenty of fresh clean water
• avoid smoking, excess alcohol consumption
• ensure adequate sleep and exercise
• optimum sun exposure (avoid burns)
• avoid chemical exposure from home and “beauty” products

True health and beauty comes from within. You can not only look but feel younger!

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.

March 13, 2017

411 Butter vs Vegetable Oil [13 March 2017]


A re-evaluation of data from an old study has thrown new light on the butter vs vegetable oil controversy. For decades now the advice to replace saturated animal fats (which includes butter) with vegetable oils has gone unchallenged. The theory was that saturated fats increased cholesterol and cholesterol increased risk of heart disease. A few suspected that the science behind this advice was lacking, but their protests were largely ignored.

The study, called the Minnesota Coronary Experiment, was carried out between 1968 and 1973 [way back when I was in high school] on 2,350 residents of psychiatric hospitals and a nursing home. The residents were randomly divided into two groups: a low saturated high linoleic acid (mostly corn oil) “intervention group” and a high saturated fat “control group” (butter, margarine and lard).

The data was re-evaluated by a team from the U of N Carolina School of Medicine. They discovered that while the unsaturated diet significantly lowered cholesterol, it did not lower the risk of death in the under 65 year olds and actually increased risk of death in the 65 and older group. While specifically avoiding any suggestion that butter might actually be good for you, the researchers concluded that their “findings add to growing evidence that incomplete publication has contributed to overestimation of benefits, and underestimation of potential risks, of replacing saturated fat with vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid”. They also ran a meta-analysis of five random controlled trials comparing a diet with saturated fats versus vegetable oils and found no difference in deaths from heart disease or any cause.

This reminds me of the Sydney Diet Heart Study from 1966-73 which was re-evaluated in 2013 and also found that replacing saturated fats with linoleic acid increased the rates of death from heart disease and from all causes.

I have written several columns on this topic: The Cholesterol Theory of Heart Disease [#238 Oct 2011]; Cholesterol & Saturated Fat [#244 Nov 2013] and Saturated Fats Found Not Guilty [#259 March 2014]. I refer to other studies that show that cholesterol is not the villain in heart disease; that it is not the addition of linoleic acid or the reduction of saturated fats, but the increase in Omega 3s that lowers risk of heart disease; and that reducing refined carbs is far more important than changing fats.

Sources:
British Medical Journal article
Pub Med review
Science Daily Report
Nutrition & Healing newsletter

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 6, 2017

410 Apple Cider Vinegar – Hype & Science [6 March 2017]


This morning as I was searching for a topic for this week’s column I found two emails in my inbox relating to apple cider vinegar (ACV). One, from the Institute for Natural Healing (INH), linked to an article which describes apple cider vinegar as “no doubt the most beneficial natural health tonic ever known to man”.

The other was the Nutrition Action newsletter published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) which said the only thing “special” about apple cider vinegar is “good marketing”.

First, the hype. The INH article claims that.apple cider vinegar: promotes weight loss; kills cancer cells; alkalizes the body; balances blood sugar; supports the heart and other organs; builds strong bones and teeth; improves digestion; eases nausea; cures heartburn; relieves nerve and joint pain; flushes out toxins; and boosts immunity.

The INH article also said that research is starting to validate the “mounds of anecdotal evidence that ACV is … effective”. But does it? According to Nutrition Action, the studies, what few there are, don’t hold up to the claims. It concedes that there is some evidence that ACV could help lower blood sugar in prediabetes. But in the Japanese study quoted by INH on weight loss, obese adults lost only four pounds in three months taking ACV. There are no ACV studies on cancer.

So what conclusions can we draw from these opposing views? First don’t believe everything you read, especially on the internet. Someone trying to sell you something is unlikely to provide a balanced view of the research. Second, just because there are no studies doesn’t mean that something doesn’t work, just that it hasn’t been proven yet (but still should not be used in advertising!).

Apple cider vinegar was one of the first “health foods” and was popular back in the 1960s along with wheat germ, alfalfa tablets and brewer’s yeast. I suspect that the greatest benefit from ACV comes from the bacterial culture in “the mother”, the cloudy mass at the bottom of the bottle. We learn more every year about the importance of healthy gut flora. Will ACV live up to all the claims? Probably not. But it shouldn’t hurt you (just rinse your mouth with water after drinking to protect your tooth enamel). Try it if you want; if you feel better, great; if not then quit.

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 27, 2017

409 Choline – an essential nutrient [27 Feb 2017]


Choline is an essential vitamin-like nutrient. Our bodies can synthesize small amounts of choline but we must get most from our diet. It was discovered in 1862 but was only recognized as an essential nutrient in 1998. I have previously written about lecithin [#94 Dec 2010], phosphatidylcholine [#247 Dec 2013], and phosphatidylserine [#248 Dec 2013].

Choline serves many functions in the body:
• Essential for synthesis of cell membranes and DNA
• Plays role in cell communication
• Transports triglycerides out of the liver
• Along with folate is essential for fetal development of the brain and nervous system
• Essential for children’s growth and development
• Precursor to neurotransmitter acetylcholine, necessary for nerve and muscle function
• Assists in reduction of homocysteine which is associated with heart disease
• Component of lecithin, phosphatidylcholine, and betaine

A deficiency of choline can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; muscle damage and pain; neural tube birth defects; brain dysfunctions like learning disabilities, memory loss, and inability to focus or concentrate; lack of energy or fatigue; and increased homocysteine levels (and therefore increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and bone fractures).

The American Institute of Medicine set “adequate daily intake values” for choline at: 425 mg for women, 550 for men, 450-550 for pregnancy, 550 for breastfeeding, and 230 for children. Genetic factors may cause some people to require more. Up to 3,500 mg daily is considered safe.

Food sources include beef liver (470mg per 5oz serving), egg yolks (150mg in 1 large egg), fish, shellfish, beef (especially grass-fed), turkey, chicken breast, dairy products, goat milk, beans and peas (including peanuts), Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach. Soy and sunflower lecithin are also good sources. Choline is available as a supplement, often with inositol, another vitamin-like nutrient. Choline is often included in B complex and multivitamin formulas.

A 2015 study in the USA found 90% of participants had inadequate intakes of choline. Are you getting enough?

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 20, 2017

408 Nutrients for Diabetic Neuropathy [21 Feb 2017]


Tingling, numbness or pain in the hands and feet are symptoms that affect 60-70% of people with diabetes. This condition is called diabetic neuropathy and is caused by excess sugar in the blood and cells.

Sugar molecules combine with protein and fat in our cells in a process called glycation. This is the same process that occurs when you toast bread or caramelize onions. The resulting sugar-protein compounds are called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGES). These AGES attack the myelin sheath that surrounds nerves and the nerves themselves, and also trigger an inflammatory response. The result is numbness, tingling and pain. The peripheral nerves in our hands and feet are the longest and thinnest so are the most affected.

There is much you can do to prevent and even reverse diabetic neuropathy naturally. The most important thing is to control blood sugar levels; avoiding refined carbs. Other helpful lifestyle choices are to keep blood pressure under control, stay active, manage stress, and don’t smoke. Supplements that have shown promise include:

• Benfotiamine, the fat soluble form of B1, has been shown to reduce the production of AGES, improve nerve function and peripheral sensation, and reduce nerve pain
• Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is an antioxidant that inhibits glycation by converting more glucose into energy (which most of us could use!), improves blood flow to nerve cells, and reverses nerve dysfunction caused by high sugar levels (see #89 Nov 2010)
• Acetyl L-Carnitine, an amino acid, improves nerve function relieves diabetic pain and promotes nerve regeneration (see #239 Oct 2013)
• Methylcobalamine, the active form of vitamin B12, helps rebuild the myelin sheath and peripheral nerves and protect them from further damage (see #339 Oct 2015)
• Vitamin B6 promotes the synthesis of neurotransmitters necessary for healthy nerve function
• Omega 3 (fish oil) and GLA (evening primrose oil) are anti-inflammatory and reduce numbness, tingling and pain (see #388 Sept 2016)
• Capsaicin cream applied topically may temporarily relieve pain

Be patient - it often takes several weeks to see improvements as the nerves heal.

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 13, 2017

407 Tom Brady and his Guru [13 Feb 2017]


Did you see last Sunday’s Super Bowl game? I’m not a sports fan by any stretch but a news item about winning quarterback Tom Brady’s masseur-trainer caught my eye.

Tom Brady, at 39, played one of the best ever NFL football games and walked off the field feeling great. In his own words “I never hurt. My arm never hurts, and my body never hurts. I know how to take care of it…”

It wasn’t always that way. Brady had two knee surgeries and a serious infection in 2008. His shoulder hurt too. Brady confesses “When I was 25, I was hurting all the time, and I could never have imagined playing this long” [17 seasons].

Then he met Alex Guerrero and hired him as his personal masseur and trainer. Besides regular massage treatments Guerrero advised Brady on which exercises to do and which to avoid, with emphasis on keeping the muscles strong and pliant. Then there’s diet and supplements. Brady avoids “inflammatory foods” including dairy, white sugar and white flour. He satisfies his craving for sweets with foods like avocado ice cream. He also practices meditation and yoga.

A little background on Alex Guerrero is in order here. In 2003 he was investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for unsubstantiated health claims for his product Supreme Greens and for calling himself “Dr. Alejandro Guerrero”. The study he used to market the product turned out to be a sham, and he was not, and is not, a doctor of any kind. He was investigated again in 2011 for promoting a new product, NeuroSafe, as an aid to recovery from concussion. I make no excuses for this – if you make health claims for a product, you need the science to back them up. I don’t know what’s in NeuroSafe – it could have helpful ingredients (see my article #331 Traumatic Brain Injury, Aug 2015) – but again you need the research to prove it.

Other trainers and the NFL medical staff consider Guerrero a quack and aren’t pleased with Brady’s decision to ignore their advice. But I believe that if he hadn’t made the changes he did, he would have been retired years ago with injuries that would still be causing him pain today. And you can’t argue with Sunday’s results.

Whatever our age and game in life, good nutrition, proper exercise and regular massage treatments should go a long way to keeping us pain free for life.

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 6, 2017

406 Collagen Supplements [6 Feb 2017]


In August 2014 [#280] I wrote about collagen and the silica supplement sh-OSA (BioSil) that stimulates our body’s production of this important protein. A few months later in October 2014 [#289] I discussed the benefits of bone broth, one of which is to promote collagen production. This week I want to revisit the topic and discuss collagen supplements.

Collagen is important for our health for many reasons:
• It is the most abundant protein in the body making up 25% of our body weight (yes, that’s one quarter!)
• It is an essential component of bone, skin, muscle, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and the lining of the digestive tract
• It provides the “glue” for bone minerals, keeping bones strong & resilient
• It is essential for repairing broken bones or soft tissue injuries
• It keeps skin elastic, smooth and wrinkle free

Taking collagen supplements provides the amino acids you need to produce collagen in your body. It also provides these amino acids for other vital functions that, if in short supply, our bodies will steal from the collagen in our joints and bones. Thus collagen supplements can prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

In summary, you should take a collagen supplement to:
• prevent or reverse osteoporosis
• prevent or reduce joint pain or stiffness
• promote healing of broken bones or injuries
• increase performance and reduce joint pain in athletes
• heal the digestive tract and prevent leaky gut syndrome
• have supple and younger looking skin

Collagen supplements come in powder, liquid and capsule form. The best type is called hydrolyzed collagen, meaning that the large collagen molecules are broken down into smaller more easily digested pieces called peptides.

Hyaluronic acid [#15 June 2009] and vitamin C are also required for collagen production. Both are available as supplements. Anthocyanins, flavonoids found in dark fruit and berries, assist collagen in forming strong connective tissue.

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.

January 30, 2017

405 Testosterone & DHT [30 January 2017]


An article in this morning’s National Post (January 24) prompted this topic. It reported on a University of Toronto study that found male pattern baldness was twice as accurate in predicting risk of prostate cancer than the latest DNA test. A previous study from Australia found a link between prostate cancer and vertex balding (at the top of the head) but not frontal balding (receding hairline).

The link between baldness and prostate health is not new – we’ve suspected for years that bald men are more likely to have prostate problems. The link is the male hormone testosterone (T) or, rather, the more active form dihydrotestosterone (DHT). An enzyme called 5 alpha reductase converts T to DHT. DHT is essential for male development in the fetal stage and at puberty, and plays a few roles in adults, but excess DHT causes problems. Both male pattern baldness and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or enlarged prostate, are strongly linked to high DHT levels.

Back in 1941 two researchers Charles Huggins and Clarence Hodges discovered that testosterone “activated” prostate cancer and concluded that reducing testosterone would treat it. Decades of prostate cancer treatments have been based on this idea, called the “androgen hypothesis”.

That theory is only recently being questioned. Research by Dr. Abraham Morgentaler at Harvard Medical School found the opposite to be true – that the lower the testosterone levels, the higher the risk of prostate cancer. His results make more sense – testosterone levels peak at age 20 and decline with age while prostate cancer risk increases with age. A literature search found no evidence to support the androgen hypothesis over the past 75 years. Morgentaler explains: “The persistence of the androgen hypothesis despite strong contradictory evidence teaches us how difficult it is to abandon ideas learned during our training, even in this age of evidence-based medicine.”

While the effect on cancer is uncertain, both male pattern baldness and enlarged prostate can be improved by blocking the conversion of testosterone to DHT. Several natural products are known to safely block the 5 alpha reductase enzyme responsible: saw palmetto, Pygeum bark, stinging nettle root, beta sitosterol, pumpkin seed oil and green tea. Several of these are often combined in “prostate formulas” which are available in health food stores. I wrote about these and other natural products for BPH in #158 (March 2012).

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.

January 23, 2017

404 Vitamin D News [23 Jan 2017]


The days are slowly getting longer but we are still months away from even beginning to get any vitamin D from sunlight which will start mid-April. This week I will share several news items about this critical vitamin.

A large multi-ethnic cohort study published in Molecular Psychiatry found that maternal vitamin D deficiency (less than 25 nmol/L) during pregnancy was associated with a 3.8 times higher rate of autism-related traits in the children at 6 years of age. Other studies have shown vitamin D deficiency to nearly double the risk of premature birth.

An animal study published in Frontiers in Physiology suggests that vitamin D could play a role in preventing Metabolic Syndrome by modulating gut microbiota. Previous studies have shown an association between D deficiency and obesity, insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), all part of Metabolic Syndrome. Mice fed a high fat, low D diet developed unhealthy gut flora, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, NAFLD, and elevated levels of inflammatory markers compared to the high fat, adequate D diet group.

In a randomized clinical trial, relapse rates for Crohn’s Disease patients were 33% for those receiving 10,000 IU vitamin D and 69% for those taking 1,000 IU. This strongly suggests that Crohn’s sufferers do better with higher D levels.

In a randomized controlled trial published in the journal Medicine, 120 adults with fatigue and vitamin deficiency (less than 50 nmol/L) received either a single dose of 100,000 IU vitamin D or placebo. The vitamin D group reported more significant improvement of fatigue than the placebo group.

Finally, William Grant of the Vitamin D Council calculated the benefits of raising the vitamin D levels of all Canadians to at least 100nmol/L. Levels currently vary with age and season but average 61 nmol/L with 92% (summer) and 96% (winter) below the target level. Based on published studies, Grant estimated reductions in incidences of cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, MS, respiratory infections and musculoskeletal disorders. He then calculated a reduction in annual premature deaths of 23,000 and a saving of $12 billion per year. New evidence of stronger effects of D on the risk of Alzheimer’s and clinical depression would push these numbers even higher. What are we waiting for??

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