August 22, 2016

383 Blocking the Truth [22 Aug 2016]


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

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

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

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

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

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

August 15, 2016

382 Supplement Safety [15 August 2016]


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

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

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

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

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

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

August 8, 2016

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 1, 2016

380 Adrenal Fatigue [1 August 2016]


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 25, 2016

379 Hyperthyroidism [25 July 2016]


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 18, 2016

378 Natural Hypothyroid Treatments II [18 July 2016]


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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week: Hyperthyroidism – the overactive thyroid.

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

July 11, 2016

377 Natural Hypothyroid Treatments I [11 July 2016]


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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