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.

presentation by Marva Ward, CNP, Saskatoon, May 1,2017
Using Essential Oils Safely
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.