October 17, 2016

391 Health Benefits of Spices [17 Oct 2016]

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 10, 2016

390 The B Vitamins [10 Oct 2016]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 3, 2016

389 Regulating Natural Health Products [3 Oct 2016]

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 26, 2016

388 Omega 3 Sources [26 Sept 2016]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 19, 2016

387 Boulardii – the Probiotic Yeast [19 Sept 2016]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 12, 2016

386 DIND Examples [19 Sept 2016]

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

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

ND Notes (2)2

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

September 6, 2016

385 Drug Induced Nutrient Depletion [6 Sept 2016]

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

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

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

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

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

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