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.

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.