March 28, 2011

107 Bones & pH [28 March 2011]

Last week we looked at the four things which research has proven to increase bone formation: MCHC calcium, strontium, Milk Basic Protein, and exercise. This week I want to discuss how our bodies’ pH (acidity) affects our bones.

Most people are too acidic as a result of a diet high in animal protein and grains, and low in fruits and vegetables. Chronic stress adds to the acid load.

The pH of the blood must be kept within a narrow range to maintain life. If our diet is acid producing, our bodies pull calcium and other minerals from the bones to act as buffers and neutralize the acid. It does this by both increasing the breakdown of bone and inhibiting the building of bone. A simple home test for saliva and urine pH will indicate if acidity is a concern for you.

So how can we alkalize ourselves to preserve our bones? Avoid excess animal protein (ironically including calcium-rich cheeses) but don’t eliminate them since protein is necessary for bone growth as well as many other functions. Reduce all grain products – bread, cereal, rice, pasta and baking. Oatmeal is one of the highest acid producing grains but is beneficial for other reasons. Balance the protein and grains you do eat by increasing fruits and vegetables. Fats and sugar are pH neutral. If diet doesn’t bring your pH back in line, there are alkalizing supplements available that can help. See my column # 26 from August 24, 2009 for more on pH.

To keep your bones strong and healthy, get adequate calcium and its cofactors from diet and supplements, and take Vitamin D. Keep your pH in balance by eating more fruits and vegetables and less animal protein and grains. And exercise regularly, particularly weight-bearing exercise.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

March 21, 2011

106 Bone Builders [21 March 2011]

There are only four things which research has proven to increase bone formation. The list contains a few surprises – yes calcium is one of them but only one particular form of calcium. Vitamin D, while necessary for calcium metabolism, is not on the list. And neither are any of the antiresorptive drugs now commonly prescribed for osteoporosis.

1. Ossein microcrystalline hydroxyapatite complex (MCHC) is the only calcium proven to halt and reverse bone loss. Other forms of calcium (including synthetic calcium hydroxyapatite), and vitamin D will slow the loss but not stop it. MCHC is a crystalline mineral complex found in bone and contains other essential components in addition to calcium.

2. Strontium is a trace mineral that recent research has shown to be a key to bone growth. In addition to making up a small but significant part of bone structure, it has been found that strontium stimulates the production of bone cells while inhibiting bone resorption. And because it’s a natural nutrient not a foreign molecule, there are no unwanted side effects. Note: strontium must be taken at different times than calcium so cannot be combined in one formula.

3. A specific protein discovered by scientists in Japan called Milk Basic Protein (MBP) has been found to increase bone growth. Studies show that MBP promotes bone formation and suppresses bone resorption. MBP also supports the production of collagen, the first step in new bone growth.

4. While the first three may be hard to find and “a bit pricey” (my euphemism for expensive) the fourth item is free – physical exercise. Jogging on icy streets, however, is not a recommended activity for the prevention of broken bones!

So if you want to rebuild bone, you need to add these four items into your program.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

March 12, 2011

105 Natural Sleep Aids [14 March 2011]

Last week we looked at some of the heath problems caused by inadequate sleep. This week we’ll explore some natural means to improve sleep:
• Establish a routine: go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends! Be consistent with naps.
• Avoid stressful activities (TV, video games, homework, discussing your “relationship” with your spouse) for an hour before bed.
• Listen to relaxing music or read a relaxing enjoyable book (not a horror murder mystery!). Try journaling your thoughts to help you unwind.
• Keep your bedroom completely dark – remove night lights, cover clock/radio dials, use light-tight window blinds. Wear an eye mask if necessary. The pineal gland produces melatonin and serotonin only in the dark.
• Avoid coffee and alcohol in the evening.
• Empty your bladder just before bed and don’t drink any fluid for several hours before bedtime to minimize getting up in the night.
• Eat a high protein snack with a small piece of fruit prior to bedtime.
• Exercise in the morning or early afternoon; a gentle relaxing activity in the evening may help you relax.
• Get a massage as often as possible – my clients often comment that they sleep better after a massage treatment.
• Apply essential oils such as lavender, chamomile, citrus, Jasmine or Sandalwood to your face (avoid the eyes), soles of the feet, or your pillow.
• Drink a cup of chamomile tea or a herbal blend designed as a sleep aid.
• There are many effective herbal and nutritional sleep aid supplements.
• Melatonin is an effective sleep aid – use the lowest strength that works for you.
• If stress is keeping you awake, nutritional formulas to help you deal with excess cortisol should help.

Sources: “Snooze it or lose it!” by Irene Seiberling, The Star Phoenix, March 8, 2011 B6; www.mercola.com

Wishing you all a good night’s sleep!

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

104 Importance of Sleep [7 March 2011]

Last week we looked at sleep as important for the production of the hormone leptin which suppresses appetite and promotes burning rather than storage of fat. Weight gain is only one of many heath problems caused by inadequate sleep. Here are a few more:
• Fatigue, inability to concentrate, and irritability
• Higher risk of cardiovascular disease
• Increased risk of high blood pressure
• Weakened immune system – more susceptible to colds and flu
• More rapid tumor growth – sleep is critical if you are fighting cancer
• Digestive problems like stomach ulcers and constipation
• Depression and other mood disorders
• Increased cortisol production which can lead to memory loss and insulin resistance
• Lower production of melatonin which, besides regulating sleep, is an important antioxidant
• Reduced production of Growth Hormone (by the pituitary gland during sleep) which causes more rapid aging. You not only feel older – you are older!

The Canadian Sleep Society reports 1 out of 3 Canadian adults have some problem sleeping, and for 1 out of 10 it is serious enough to affect their health. Loss of sleep is cumulative and cannot be made up by sleeping in on the weekend; it’s important to get adequate sleep every night. For growing children and teens, sleep is even more important. Next week we’ll look at some natural ways to promote healthy sleep.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

103 Sleep, Leptin & Weight [28 February 2011]

You would think that staying awake longer would cause you to lose weight – and it may if the reason you are awake is stress that has excess adrenaline and cortisol coursing through your veins – but research has found the opposite to be true. People who sleep less than 6 hours a night are more likely to gain weight than those who get 7 or 8 hours. Why is this? And no, it's not the extra hour or two of snacking! One explanation involves the hormone leptin.

Researchers found that sleep reduces ghrelin (a hormone that increases appetite) and increases leptin (the hormone that suppresses appetite and increases burning rather than storing of fat). The short sleepers were hungrier and snacked more, and preferred high-carb snacks. Lack of sleep also increases the risk of insulin resistance (which I have written about in several previous columns), Type II Diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Leptin is released from fat cells when fat is stored in them. A diet high in sugars and other simple carbohydrates results in a large amount of leptin being released, in an attempt to curb your appetite. At some point your body becomes resistant to leptin (similar to insulin resistance) and the leptin signals telling you to stop eating are ignored (like a stuck thermostat). You stay hungry and keep piling on the fat. When tested, almost all overweight people had ample leptin levels, but it wasn’t doing its job because of leptin resistance. Leptin resistance is now known to be a factor in many health problems besides obesity: heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, inflammation and aging. And leptin is the most likely suspect for regaining fat after losing weight on a conventional diet (the yo-yo effect).

The role of leptin in weight management, and how to control it with diet, is explained in detail in Dr. Ron Rosedale and Carol Colman’s 2004 book “The Rosedale Diet”. The key is a diet high in good fats with the right amount of high quality protein and healthy carbohydrates. And don’t forget your 8 hours of sleep!

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

102 Heart Health #2 [22 February 2011]

Last week we looked at some ways to improve our heart health: eating more fruits and vegetables, managing our blood lipids & insulin levels, avoiding excess weight, and managing stress.

Here are a few more ideas to keep our hearts in good health.
• Exercise – I mentioned exercise last week as a way to improve blood lipids, but its benefits go far beyond that. Most studies show that inactive people are generally twice as likely to develop heart disease as active people.
• Vitamin D – a study of women over age 65 found a 31% reduction in heart disease for those taking vitamin D. One possible mechanism for this is that vitamin D reduces insulin resistance.
• Vitamin E – two 2002 studies in the New Engl J Med showed reductions in heart disease with vitamin E supplementation (of at least 100 IU per day for 2 or more years) of 41% for women and 37% for men
• Magnesium – many studies have shown that low magnesium levels increase the risk of death from heart disease.
• Homocysteine – high blood levels of this amino acid is an indication for high risk of heart disease, possibly by promoting blood clots. Homocysteine levels are reduced by the vitamins folic acid, B6 and B12.
• Lutein – best known for its role in preventing age related vision loss, has also been found to prevent hardening of the arteries.
• Nattokinase – an enzyme derived from fermenting soybeans, has proven to be more effective than aspirin in dissolving blood clots and “thinning the blood” and has great potential for prevention of heart disease.
• L-Arginine – an amino acid required for your blood vessel lining to produce nitric oxide which improves blood flow and reduces blood pressure.
• Fructose – lowers your ability to produce nitric oxide, another reason to avoid sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

101 Heart Health [14 February 2011]

Happy Valentine’s Day! This holiday is traditionally associated with affairs of the heart, so let’s look at ways to improve our heart health. Sudden death is often the first sign of heart disease - so don’t wait until you know you have a problem. Heart disease is easy to prevent but you have to be proactive.

One of the simplest ways is to increase our servings of fruits and vegetables. A recent study published in the European Heart Journal showed a 22% decrease in deaths from heart disease for people who consumed 8 servings a day compared with those who ate only 3. This was a large study, following 313,000 people for 8 years.

Manage your blood lipids. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, the lipid ratios are a more accurate risk factor than total cholesterol. HDL / TC x 100% should be more than 10% (ideally more than 24%) and TG / TC x 100% should be less than 2%. Exercising and taking omega 3 EFAs will help here.

Insulin resistance which can lead to Type II Diabetes is actually a more significant risk factor of heart disease than cholesterol. Control your insulin levels by reducing refined carbs.

If you are overweight, lose the extra fat. The best way I know is using the Ideal Protein Diet. But since heart disease is a contraindication for the diet, you have to do this before the heart condition develops. This diet is also an excellent way to control blood lipids, blood pressure and insulin levels.

What else can you do? Manage stress levels. Keep a positive outlook and stay happy. OK – these last items may not be so easy.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

100 Vitamin D: a Panacea? [7 February 2011]

Although the days are getting noticeably longer, we still have a few months of winter yet before we can get our Vitamin D outdoors from sunlight. Vitamin D has been linked to so many different types of health conditions, it sounds like a panacea.

Here are some of the conditions that have been linked to vitamin D deficiency: autism & pre-eclampsia (2 good reasons to ensure adequate D during pregnancy), rickets, osteoporosis, cancer (see column #42, 14 December 2009), certain skin conditions (psoriasis, eczema), periodontal disease, muscle pain, hearing loss, age-related macular degeneration, infertility, asthma, cystic fibrosis, migraines, auto-immune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s, MS), Type 1 Diabetes, age-related DNA damage, obesity, impaired immune system (colds, flu, TB), hypertension, insomnia, and certain neurological conditions (depression, Schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s). And likely more yet to be discovered.

How can one vitamin do all this? Well first of all, it’s not really a vitamin, it’s a neuro-hormone. And it works by regulating (turning on or off) a large number of genes – so far 2,000 out of our body’s 30,000 genes are known to be regulated by Vitamin D. No wonder it can affect so many different areas in our health! Just think of all the different things that wouldn’t work in our homes if the electrical power went off – lights, fridge, stove, stereo, computer, furnace, air conditioner, and (if you live on a farm) the water and sewer pumps. So there are many, many reasons to make sure our vitamin D levels are adequate year around.

I can’t believe this is my 100th column already. I still have lots of ideas for topics so won’t run out for a while yet. I’m building a new website [rosetownnaturalhealth.com] and plan to include past and future columns from the Eagle in a searchable form. I’ll let you know when it’s ready. [The columns are posted up to date as of March 14 - Stan]

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

099 Give up Frying [31 January 2011]

Have you quit smoking (or never smoked)? If so, good for you! Here’s a suggestion that could prove just as beneficial to your health – give up fried food.

My last column discussed the relative dangers of EFA deficiency and mercury toxicity – that relying on fish alone for Omega 3 EFAs may do more harm than good. Here’s a similar story involving fish. A study published in December 2010 in the journal Neurology [neurology.org] looked at differences in diet in the 8 states in the southeastern USA that make up the “Stroke Belt”. The one difference that stood out was that while the South’n folk ate the same amount of fish (2 servings per week) they were much more likely to deep fry it. This cooking method, the authors concluded, would destroy the Omega 3 EFAs nullifying the health benefit of the fish.

There are at least three other problems with deep frying food besides destroying EFAs:
1. the creation of Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs). When polyunsaturated vegetable oils (including canola, corn and sunflower) are heated to high temperatures, these AGE toxins are created that can alter the structure of enzymes and other proteins in our bodies.
2. a carcinogen called acrylamide is created when foods, particularly carbohydrates, are cooked at high temperatures. Common sources include the breading on fried fish and of course French fried potatoes (think of them as square coffin nails).
3. hydrogenated oils often used for deep frying contain high amounts of trans fatty acids which we know are definitely bad for our health.

Already quit smoking? Great – now quit frying! Your addiction to fried food may be just as strong, but the benefits of quitting could be just as significant.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

098 Fish & Mercury [24 January 2011]

The Environmental Health News of January 3, 2011 reports: "The beneficial effects of eating fish during pregnancy on a baby's brain development are relatively well accepted. However, some fish can contain high levels of mercury ... Government agency advisories suggest women of childbearing years eat fish with low mercury levels as well as limit consumption of fish that contain high levels." [environmentalhealthnews.org]

When a nutrient is shown to be beneficial, we are usually advised to obtain it from food rather than a supplement. Omega 3 looks like an important exception. While adequate Omega 3 is essential for pregnant women and young children, it is even more important to avoid mercury exposure.

Mercury is a well known neurotoxin which affects the development and functioning of the brain and nervous system, especially fetal and infant systems. Mercury is concentrated in fetal blood – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found umbilical cord blood levels to be 1.7 times that of the mother’s. Mercury pollution has spread across the oceans and freshwater bodies so finding uncontaminated fish is getting more difficult. The cleanest sources are fish from northern and Antarctic waters. Since mercury is concentrated going up the food chain, smaller fish such as sardines and anchovies are safer than large predator fish such as tuna.

Fish oil supplements made from small cold water fish species are mercury free. Krill, which is even lower on the food chain, is another safe source of Omega 3s. Reputable companies like Ascenta, Norwegian Gold, and others, test and certify every batch for mercury and other contaminants. With careful selection, and in moderation, fish can still be part of a healthy diet – just don’t depend on it for your essential fatty acids, especially during childbearing years.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

097 Vegan Diet – Not for Everyone [17 January 2011]

Vegetarianism was and still is being touted as a healthy lifestyle. Are the reported benefits supported by scientific studies? And is vegetarianism good for everyone? The strongest supporter of a diet devoid of animal protein is T. Colin Campbell whose 2006 book “The China Study” is based on a very large epidemiologic study of diet and health in China. Campbell concluded that dietary animal protein is responsible for many health problems including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and particularly cancer.

Other scientists and physicians are not convinced. Reviews by Anthony Colpo, Chris Masterjohn, Michael Eades, and Denise Minger take a critical look at “The China Study”. First, it’s not really a study; it’s a discussion of observations and statistical analyses of correlations between diet and health, not a controlled study testing them. A closer look at the data in the book reveals, for example, that plant protein is more strongly correlated to cancer than is animal protein, and that animal fat is actually linked to reduced cancer mortality. Campbell failed to report that in his rat studies in India, the low protein animals died much earlier (of other causes), while the high protein animals lived longer, eventually developing cancer. These reviews point out many other flaws in the book’s conclusions.

Two nutritional physicians, Dr. Joseph Mercola and Dr. Michael Eades, found that many of their patients’ health suffered, rather than improved, on a vegetarian diet. Dr. Mercola developed a Nutritional Typing system which divides people into three groups according to their need for protein vs. vegetables. He argues that about one third of the population will do well on a vegetarian diet while another third will do poorly. So, if you belong to the “vegetable” group you may thrive on a vegan diet, but don’t impose your diet on others who may belong to the “meat” group!

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

096 Essential Fatty Acids [10 January 2011]

There are three types of essential fatty acids (EFAs) called Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9 according to the number of carbon atoms in their molecular chain. The longer 6 and 9 chain EFAs are found in nuts, vegetable oils and other foods, and can be obtained in adequate amounts from the diet. Omega-3, the most important EFA group, is often deficient in our diets and must be supplemented.

There are two main sources of Omega-3 – vegetable and marine. The richest vegetable source of Omega-3 is flax oil. Unfortunately the Omega-3 in flax oil, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is an inactive form which requires conversion in the body to the active forms eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). Research shows that only a small percentage of ALA is converted into the active forms. A better source of Omega-3s is fish oil which contains DHA and EPA. Coldwater ocean fishes such as sardines, anchovies and salmon; squid; and krill, a small shrimp-like crustacean, are the best sources.

EPA is important for heart and blood vessel health and for regulation of inflammation. It is converted in our bodies to eicosanoids (discussed in my October 18, 2010 column) which reduce pain and inflammation in conditions such as arthritis or IBS. EPA is also important for regulation of mood and has been found beneficial in the treatment of depression and anxiety.

DHA, sometimes called the “Brain EFA”, forms an essential component of the central nervous system and the eye. A deficiency of DHA can result in poor development of brain and eyes, memory problems, learning disorders such as ADHD, and vision problems such as glaucoma. DHA also plays a role in cardiovascular health. DHA is especially important during pregnancy and breastfeeding when the infant brain is developing.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

095 Internal Cleansing [3 January 2011]

The beginning of a new year is a good time to renew our health through a detoxing cleanse. We wash the outside of our bodies daily, but how often do we cleanse the inside? The buildup of toxins within our cells and organs which occurs from exposures to toxic chemicals in our daily life can slowly rob us of our health.

Our bodies have 7 channels of elimination for toxins:
• Lymphatic System – moves waste products from the cells to the blood
• Blood – carries nutrients to and waste products away from the cells
• Liver – converts toxins into forms which can be safely eliminated
• Colon – eliminates waste from our food and from the liver
• Kidneys – filter and eliminate water soluble waste
• Lungs – expel toxins through our breath
• Skin – our largest organ, eliminates waste through perspiration

These channels of elimination can become clogged or overworked and need help to restore them to full function. Natural cleanses are available which use herbs and nutrients that nourish, support and stimulate these organs. There are additional cleanses for eliminating yeast and parasitic infections and toxic metals. Another is vascular cleansing – previously discussed in 28 June 2010 column – which helps remove arterial plaque (this is the cleanse I plan to do next).

Benefits from cleansing can include:
• Reduced fatigue, increased energy, improved mood
• Improved digestion and assimilation of nutrients, reduced allergies
• Healthier skin, reduced headaches, reduced joint and muscle pain
• Improved overall health and vitality

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

094 Lecithin and Phosphatidylcholine [20 December 2010]

Lecithin is a nutrient first isolated from egg yoke in 1850. Other food sources are soy, liver, fish, brewer’s yeast, grains and legumes. In the late 1950s lecithin was found to effectively lower cholesterol and prevent or reverse atherosclerosis. It works as an emulsifier, breaking down fats and cholesterol into tiny particles during the digestion process to make them less “sticky”.

Lecithin is composed of several phospholipids (a fatty acid–phosphate compound) of which phosphatidylcholine (PC) is the most important. PC is an essential component of cellular membranes and is synthesized in every cell of the body. The synthesis of PC and the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (AC) requires an adequate level of choline in the blood and PC is the best and safest dietary source of choline. Food sources such as egg yolks and soy do not contain enough and would require large amounts of these foods in the diet. Researchers at MIT recently found PC to be more effective at raising serum choline levels than the previously used choline chloride. Lecithin may contain as little as 10-20% PC so would require a much higher dosage than a concentrated PC supplement.

PC is an important nutrient for liver support. Decades of clinical trials show that PC protects the liver from damage from viruses, alcoholism, pharmaceuticals and other toxins. Even more significant are the effects of PC on the nervous system. Bipolar disorder is associated with low levels of choline in the brain and may benefit from PC supplementation (but large doses can exacerbate unipolar depression). Acetylcholine (synthesized from PC) is a very important neurotransmitter in both the peripheral and central nervous systems. AC deficiencies are associated with several neurological disorders including tardive dyskinesia, Huntington’s chorea, myasthenia gravis, and Alzheimer’s disease. While studies of PC supplementation on humans are limited, one study on mice bred for dementia, showed that acetylcholine levels and memory improved when given PC.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

093 MCT Oil [13 December 2010]

All saturated fats are not equal. Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) are not as harmful in your diet as Long Chain Triglycerides (LCT) and in fact have some significant health promoting properties. LCTs are made of Long Chain Fatty Acids (LCFA) which are hard to digest and generally end up stored in your fat cells or clogging your arteries. MCTs are made of medium length fatty acids (MCFA) and are processed in our bodies quite differently. Because of their shorter length, MCTs are more water soluble, more easily digested, and are quickly burned as energy instead of stored as fat. Some examples of MCFAs are: lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid.

Lauric acid is converted in our bodies into monolaurin which our immune system uses to fight viruses such as herpes, influenza and HIV, and various pathogenic bacteria including Helicobacter pylori which causes stomach ulcers.

MCT Oil can even help you lose weight. Adding the healthier MCT fat to your diet reduces your appetite and specifically fat cravings which may lead to eating too much of the wrong kinds of fat. And, not only are MCFAs not stored as fat but they promote thermogenesis and actually increase the burning of stored body fat. Athletes use MCT supplements along with certain carbs before a workout to provide energy and endurance.

MCTs in your diet improve cholesterol levels and reduce atherosclerosis. MCTs are particularly beneficial for diabetics if used to replace the inflammation promoting Omega 6 oils like sunflower and canola. MCTs have been shown to lower glucose levels, increase insulin secretion, improve insulin sensitivity and raise glucose tolerance.

MCTs are abundant in coconut oil and butter. Pure MCT oil is now available, distilled from coconut oil. MCT oil can be taken in capsule form or by the spoonful, or used in salad dressings, in smoothies or in other foods, but should not be used for frying.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

092 The Vitamin D Solution [6 December 2010]

Here in Saskatchewan we are well into the season of low sunlight, so it’s time to take another look at vitamin D. The following is from a review of a book published earlier this year:

What do obesity, heart disease, depression, diabetes, and fibromyalgia have in common? The answer is vitamin D deficiency. More than 200 million Americans lack this essential vitamin and as a result suffer from a host of daily annoyances, chronic conditions, and even life-threatening illnesses. In the landmark book THE VITAMIN D SOLUTION: A 3-Step Strategy to Cure Our Most Common Health Problem (Penguin/Hudson Street Press; April 1, 2010) Dr. Michael F. Holick identifies the causes of vitamin D deficiency, outlines why it is essential to our health, and provides a 3-step program to attain optimal levels of Vitamin D in our bodies.

The leading vitamin D expert worldwide, Dr. Holick has studied Vitamin D for more than 30 years. Through his research, we now know that every body cell has a receptor for vitamin D and it goes much further beyond bone health. Increasing levels of vitamin D can treat, prevent, and even reverse a remarkable number of daily ailments, from high blood pressure to back pain; lessen the symptoms of chronic conditions such as diabetes and arthritis; and actually prevent infectious diseases, including H1N1 and cancer. Dr. Holick also credits vitamin D with improving infertility, weight control, memory and mood.

Although vitamin D is called the "Sunshine Vitamin" it is not actually a vitamin but a hormone – unique because it is made in the skin as a result of exposure to sunlight. It is also possible to receive vitamin D from certain foods like fortified milk or mushrooms – the only item in the produce aisle to contain vitamin D. Dr. Holick also recommends supplements to ensure people have optimal levels of this crucial vitamin.


Watch for more on vitamin D in future columns.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

091 Non-Stick Pan Safety [29 November 2010]

We all use non-stick pans (Teflon©, Silverstone©, etc) because of their easy cleaning, plus the fact that they require less oil. The non-stick chemical, polytetrafluoroethylene, is also used in stain-repellant carpet and clothing (eg Scotchgard© and StainMaster©). We’ve also heard of some health concerns about their use. Just how serious are they?

There are two different concerns with non-stick pans. The first is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) used in the production of the pan coatings. Studies have shown that lab animals exposed to high levels of this chemical suffer reproductive problems and develop liver, testicular, mammary and pancreatic cancers. Workers in the factories and people living nearby have been found to have higher than average levels of PFOA. Manufacturers like DuPont claim that no PFOA remains in the finished product, but how then can we explain trace amounts in over 95% of Americans. They insist there is no adverse health effects of PFOA on humans because the levels in most people are far below that of the lab animals tested. But the levels of some factory workers come too close for comfort. And no human testing for long term exposure has been done, so we really don’t know.

The other concern (and the more significant one for us) is the gases and particles given off during use of non-stick pans. At high temperatures (over 500F) fumes can cause temporary flu-like symptoms including headache, chills, fever and coughing. Even at normal cooking temperatures there are many reports of pet birds in the house dropping dead when no fumes are detectable by humans (remember the coal mine canaries?). Birds’ respiratory systems are more sensitive than ours, but it makes you wonder about long term affects of low exposures.

We use non-stick pans in our home, but at low temperatures only – no higher than #4 on the element dial. When a pan gets scratched or accidentally overheated, I confiscate it for sorting nuts and bolts in the garage. And we don’t have a pet bird.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

090 A Story of ALA [22 November 2010]

Last week I wrote about Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA), a powerful antioxidant with many health benefits. This week I want to tell you the story of how Dr. Burt Berkson, a medical doctor and research scientist, first encountered ALA.

Dr Berkson, as a young resident in a teaching hospital in Cleveland Ohio, was approached by the chief of medicine who said he was “upset” that Berkson had not had any deaths on his service. To remedy the situation, the chief sent him two people who had eaten poisonous mushrooms and were dying of acute liver disease. He was told that a transplant was unavailable and nothing else could save them. Dr Berkson, who had a PhD in microbiology in addition to his medical training, contacted the National Institutes of Health and asked if they knew of anything that might regenerate a liver. Dr. Fred Bartter, head of NIH Internal Medicine, suggested alpha lipoic acid which he had found to reverse diabetic neuropathy and promote organ regeneration. He sent some to Dr Berkson who injected it into the patients by IV. In only 2 weeks both had fully regenerated their livers and were still alive, now in their 80s, 30 years later. Dr Berkson was impressed but his medical chief was not. Berkson was reprimanded for not following orders and using an unapproved drug (and for embarrassing the hospital staff who had told the patients’ families that they would die).

Instead of excitement for the discovery of a possible cure for an incurable condition, Berkson was branded a medical outlaw. There was absolutely no interest in the procedure within the American medical community. Instead, he and Dr Bartter were invited to speak at the prestigious Max Planck Institute in Germany and later, in Europe, published a paper on the recovery of 74 out of 79 patients with terminal liver disease treated with ALA. Dr. Berkson has since published many papers and 4 books including The Alpha Lipoic Acid Breakthrough. He operates a busy integrative medicine practice in Las Cruces, New Mexico and is a professor of applied biology at New Mexico State University.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

089 Alpha Lipoic Acid [15 November 2010]

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a powerful antioxidant unique in that it is both fat and water soluble. ALA was first studied in the 1950s at the University of Texas for its role in glucose metabolism. Without ALA glucose cannot enter the mitochondria of the cells where it can be burned to produce energy. For this reason it has often been promoted as an aid in weight loss, Type 2 diabetes, and in muscle building. ALA is not a vitamin because our bodies produce it in our cells, but in decreasing amounts as we age (one reason children have more energy than adults).

Further research in the 1980s uncovered many more benefits of this compound. It was discovered that ALA has the ability to:
• fight infection and reduce inflammation
• chelate metal toxins including mercury, arsenic, copper and lead
• fight cancer
• protect nerve & brain cells from aging-related degeneration
• reverse peripheral neuropathy from diabetes and other causes
• stimulate stem cell growth
• regenerate the liver and other organs

As an antioxidant, in addition to being a powerful free radical fighter, ALA:
• increases levels of glutathione, our most important cellular antioxidant
• regenerates Vitamin C, Vitamin E and other antioxidants, extending their functional life
• protects cells from radiation damage (ALA was used to reverse liver damage in Chernobyl victims).

ALA is absorbed well from food and dietary supplements. It comes in two forms: R-ALA is the naturally occurring and biologically active form, up to 12X more effective than the mirror image S-ALA which makes up 50% of cheaper ALA formulas.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

088 Reflexology [8 November 2010]

Ingham Method of Reflexology is a natural, non-invasive healing art that is based on the principle that there are reflex points in the hands, feet and ears corresponding to every part, organ and gland of the body. The physical image of the body is mapped onto the feet in logical, anatomical pattern; the toes represent the head, the ball of the foot to the heel corresponds to the internal organs and the heel of the foot corresponds to the pelvic region of our body. Through systematic pressure and stimulation of these reflexes, the body is assisted to return to natural functioning.

Reflexology reduces stress automatically during a session, causing chemical changes to occur at the cellular level throughout the body. It relieves tension, improves circulation, opens the flow in blocked nerves and helps promote the natural healing of the body. Using the feet the whole body is treated rather than a specific condition.

Reflexology helps to balance the physical, mental and emotional aspects of your whole body. If an organ or gland is underactive or overactive, it can help return it to a normal level. This gentle therapy encourages the body to heal itself at its own pace, often counteracting a lifetime of misuse.

Thai Foot Reflexology is a delightful treatment for the lower legs and feet that originated in Thailand about 2000 years ago. It incorporates elements of Japanese shiatsu, Chinese reflexology, Chinese tuina and Ayurvedic yoga, and utilizes stretching, massage, thumb-walking and a special wooden stick to stimulate the reflex points. Thai foot reflexology seeks to restore balance to the body/mind through the reflexes of the feet and lower legs that are linked to the body’s 72,000 energy meridians (sen).

Benefits of Thai reflexology are improved circulation as well as lymphatic drainage, a natural detoxification, boost for the immune system, improved flexibility, better sleep, relief from stress, and improved mood and mental clarity. Thai foot reflexology and Thai massage are considered energy-work rather than bodywork – a session will free up blocked energy within the body’s sen lines to produce a deep and unique feeling of balance, relaxation and well-being.

This week’s column is by Elaine Ogenchuk, a Certified Reflexologist who practices in Rosetown and Outlook. This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

087 Introducing Body Talk [1 November 2010]

BodyTalk is an astonishingly simple and effective holistic therapy that allows the body's energy systems to be re-synchronized so they can operate as nature intended. Each system, cell, and atom is in constant communication with each other at all times. Through exposure to the stresses of day-to-day life, however, these lines of communication can become compromised or disconnected, which then leads to a decline in physical, emotional and/or mental well-being. Reconnecting these lines of communication enables the body's internal mechanisms to function at optimal levels, thus repairing and preventing disease while rapidly accelerating the healing process. In this way, BodyTalk stimulates the body's innate ability to balance and heal itself on all levels. BodyTalk's major assets are its simplicity, safety and the speed of its results.

One of the core philosophies of the BodyTalk System is that all disease found in the body is reflected in the brain at some level. One of the main goals of BodyTalk is to balance communication between the two halves of the brain, as well as within all levels of brain function. Improving this communication can quickly and easily address many common issues, as well as improve brain function and memory overall. BodyTalk sessions are done with the client fully clothed and usually last between 30 and 45 minutes. The client’s bodymind knows just how many changes and corrections it is ready to initiate in any given session, and will therefore indicate when the session is complete.

BodyTalk has been effective in alleviating any type of pain or illness ranging from digestive disorders, fatigue, high blood pressure and heart rate, hormone and endocrine imbalances, infertility issues, migraines and all manner of immune system disorders, as well as sports injuries and emotional disorders. Because BodyTalk’s unique system allows the body’s own healing abilities to effect change, clients see long-lasting, ongoing improvements in health rather than short-term symptomatic relief.

This week’s column was written by Carol Peterson, a Rosetown BodyTalk practitioner. She can be contacted at 882-4459 for more information.

086 Anne’s Story [25 October 2010]

Please bear with me for one more column on the Ideal Protein Diet. This is the story of Anne Livingston. You may remember her as the Anne of Green Gables Framing Gallery in Biggar. In her words…

How many diets have I tried? Many! I have to admit I would lose weight on every one of these diets. Every time I lost up to 30 lbs and every time I gained all the weight back and more! When I married in 1975 I weighed 110 lbs, Two weeks before discovering Ideal Protein, I topped the scale at 200! I suffered from chronic pain for over 20 years, and each day I consumed Tylenol, Ibuprofen, high blood pressure pills, cholesterol pills and antidepressants. I was in pain – mentally and physically. I craved sugars, fats and alcohol. In 1995 I was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and by the year 2000 arthritis had become an extreme issue. I had trouble getting up in the morning and movement was a “big issue”. I had become “a mess” and was extremely unhappy.

It took courage to start another new diet, but this one made total sense to me! I decided to “act” and start on not only a weight loss journey but also a journey to improve my health! I have now lost 40 lbs (yes – I broke the “30 lb curse”)! I no longer take the prescription medications and seldom have to use pain killers. My severe heartburn (acid reflux) cleared up after two weeks on the program. I finally feel like I have seen the end of the weight-loss and weight-gain yo-yo. I feel confident that I will reach my weight loss goal of losing 70lbs and keep it off! The program has given me the tools to ensure that the weight will not return during vacations, other events, and throughout my “life”. The Ideal protein weight loss program has given me a gift – the gift of self confidence and self preservation! In short I feel wonderful.


Anne was so impressed with the Ideal Protein program that she decided to open a clinic in Biggar. The “Annie Things Possible Weight Loss Clinic” is located in Angie’s Hair Salon at 219 Main Street. Anne can be reached at 948-7274 and 948-3696.

085 Eicosanoids and Inflammation [18 October 2010]

This week I will discuss another problem associated with Syndrome X – inflammation. People with insulin resistance frequently suffer pain and inflammation which may manifest as a variety of “itis” conditions like arthritis, colitis, asthma or psoriasis.

Eicosanoids are hormone like compounds, synthesized in our body from Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids (EFAs). There are 4 families of eicosanoids – prostaglandins, prostacyclins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes. These can be classed into Series One and Series Two (also known as COX-1 and COX-2). Series One Eicosanoids are anti-inflammatory – they reduce pain and inflammation, dilate blood vessels, enhance the immune system, dilate airways and prevent platelet aggregation. Series Two Eicosanoids are pro-inflammatory – increasing pain and inflammation, constricting blood vessels (increasing blood pressure), suppressing the immune system, constricting airways (think asthma) and promoting platelet aggregation (blood clotting). To be healthy we need both in balance but you can see that too much Series Two would be undesirable.

Series One are mostly synthesized from Omega 3 EFAs and Series Two from Omega 6s. Since a typical diet tends to be much higher in Omega 6s ( about 20:1), increasing Omega 3s by eating more fish or taking fish oil supplements will help balance the eicosanoid production. Secondly, the presence of excess insulin stimulates the conversion of the fatty acids to Series Two Eicosanoids; while glucagon (the hormone that balances insulin) encourages the conversion to Series One. Maintaining insulin levels at normal low levels is a safe and effective way to balance the eicosanoids and control inflammation.

The most effective way I know to safely lower insulin levels and reduce insulin resistance is with the Ideal Protein diet. Many people on this diet have experienced reduction of inflammation without the need for drugs. Another nice “side-effect” of a diet which helps you burn unwanted fat safely and easily.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

084 Insulin and Blood Pressure [11 October 2010]

As discussed two weeks ago, one of the symptoms of Syndrome X is hypertension (high blood pressure). This week I will explore the connection between blood pressure and insulin. People with insulin resistance, where sufficient insulin is produced but is unable to move glucose out of the blood into muscles, frequently develop hypertension.

High insulin levels stimulate the kidneys to retain sodium (and therefore fluid) and to excrete potassium, both factors known to increase blood pressure.

Insulin also increases movement of magnesium out of the blood and into the cells, lowering serum magnesium levels. Magnesium dilates smooth muscle (think artery walls), so lower levels will result in constriction of arteries, increasing blood pressure. Magnesium is also necessary for proper insulin receptor function so, as magnesium levels decline, insulin resistance increases even more.

Another way that insulin increases blood pressure is by stimulating the release of a hormone called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). This causes increased growth of smooth muscle cells of the arteries making them narrower and less elastic. VEGF is also implicated in angiogenesis – the growth of new blood vessels to feed tumors. And unfortunately the class of drugs called insulin receptor sensitizers used to correct the underlying problem of insulin resistance increases the stimulation of VEGF.

The most effective way I know to safely lower insulin levels and reduce insulin resistance is with the Ideal Protein diet. Most people on this diet experience rapid improvement in blood pressure without the need for drugs. That’s a nice “side-effect” of a diet which helps you burn unwanted fat safely and easily.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

083 Insulin and Cholesterol [4 October 2010]

As discussed last week, one of the symptoms of Syndrome X is hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol). This week I will explore the connection between cholesterol and insulin. Insulin resistance, where sufficient insulin is produced but is unable to move glucose out of the blood into muscles, results in ever increasing levels of both insulin and glucose.

Cholesterol is essential for life. It is the basis for the synthesis of: the sex hormones, Vitamin D, scar tissue in wound healing, the myelin sheath of nerves, and all cell membranes. Excess cholesterol in the blood is a concern because it can stick to the lining of the arteries, leading to heart disease. Dietary sources of cholesterol contribute to less than 20% of blood levels; the remaining 80% is synthesized in the liver and other tissues. Thus controlling production is more effective than diet in cholesterol management.

In the bloodstream, LDL (low density lipoproteins) transport cholesterol and triglycerides to the cells; HDL (high density lipoproteins) carry excess cholesterol back to the liver for elimination. Thus the LDL/HDL ratio is of more clinical significance than total cholesterol.

A high insulin level stimulates the storage of triglycerides as fat. At the same time it also stimulates the production of cholesterol by increasing the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase (the same enzyme blocked by statin drugs). With normal low levels of insulin the triglycerides are burned for fuel in the mitochondria of the cells instead of being stored, and instead of producing more cholesterol the cell will pull it out of the bloodstream.

Most people on a diet which manages insulin levels at a normal low level experience lower total cholesterol and improved LDL/HDL ratios without the need for cholesterol drugs. That’s a nice “side-effect” of a diet which helps you burn unwanted fat safely and easily.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

082 Syndrome X [27 September 2010]

Also known as Metabolic Syndrome, Syndrome X is a generalized disorder with four defining symptoms: hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), hypertension (high blood pressure) and central obesity (a big gut!).

The common factor in these four symptoms is insulin resistance caused by a diet high in simple carbohydrates. With insulin resistance, sufficient or even excess insulin is produced by the pancreas but it is unable to move the glucose into the muscle cells. This leaves high glucose blood levels which triggers the pancreas to produce even more insulin in an attempt to lower the blood sugar. And it is the high insulin levels remaining in the blood which leads to the other symptoms.

Excess insulin in the blood, called hyperinsulinism (HI), stimulates the kidneys to retain sodium and excrete potassium and magnesium, and increases growth of smooth muscle cells, all of which contribute to hypertension. HI, through many different biochemical pathways, stimulates the production of triglycerides, excess cholesterol and LDL (the “bad” lipoprotein), while limiting production of HDL (the “good” lipoprotein). Other “symptoms” of HI include coronary artery disease (heart attacks and strokes), inflammation (arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc.), and acid reflux (“heartburn”). In future columns I will explore each of these in more detail. Source: “The relationship between insulin and glucagon in the pathogenesis of Syndrome X” by Michael P. Ciell, R.Ph.

It makes sense that health problems caused by diet are best treated with diet. Correct the underlying cause (hyperinsulinism) and the symptoms (hyperglycemia, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and obesity) should clear up with no undesirable side effects. The safest way I know to accomplish this is with a ketogenic diet designed to preserve muscle mass.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

081 Pre and Post Surgery [20 September 2010]

I have an elective surgery scheduled for next month so wondered how I could naturally prepare my body for surgery and speed recovery afterwards.
• A week prior to surgery discontinue any herbs that may increase bleeding such as white willow bark, yarrow, dong quai, ginseng, turmeric, cayenne, gotu kola, green tea, ginger and garlic. (Chamomile is thought to be a concern here but has no anticoagulant effects so is safe.) Melatonin, St. John’s Wort, yohimbe and licorice may increase the effects of the anesthetic so should be discontinued.
• Milk thistle is great for assisting the liver to detox from the anesthesia drugs and can be taken up to a day before and for several months after.
• A short detox cleanse is great to do in the month prior to surgery. Drink plenty of water to flush the released toxins and hydrate the body.
• To prevent infections boost the immune system prior to surgery with vitamin C, and echinacea. Take a good probiotic to build up the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.
• Apply vitamin E oil to the area of surgery for a few days before.
• Vitamin C with bioflavonoids, gotu kola and grape seed extract help repair connective tissue. An iron tonic will help replace any lost blood.
• The amino acid glutamine has been shown to safely speed post-surgery healing. An amino acid complex could be taken with it to provide all the essential AAs.
• These supplements should all be discussed with your doctor prior to surgery.

I am reminded of a limerick my Uncle Vince May (formerly of Fiske) used to quote:
There once was a man with a hernia
Who said to the doctor “Goldernia –
When fixing my middle,
Please do not fiddle
With matters that do not concernia.”


This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

080 Low-Carb vs. Low-Fat Diets [13 September 2010]

Despite their popularity, low carbohydrate diets continue to be denounced as dangerous and criticized for a lack of supporting research. Two studies this decade compared low carb and low fat diets with some surprising results.

A 2004 study followed 120 obese participants, randomly assigned to either a low carb or low fat diet, for 24 weeks. The low fat group were restricted in fat, dietary cholesterol and calories; the low carb group were limited to <20g carbs /day, allowed unlimited animal fat and protein, allowed 2 cups of salads and 1 cup of low carb vegetables, and given certain nutritional supplements. Both groups were given exercise recommendations. At 24 weeks the low carb group had lost an average of 12.9% of body weight and 9.4kg of fat compared with the low fat group loss of 6.7% and 4.8 kg. The low carb group had greater reductions in triglycerides and greater increase in HDL (“good cholesterol”). LDL (“bad cholesterol”) was not significantly different.

The March 2010 study compared similar diets over a 2 year period and more health factors were monitored. The longer period provided quite different results. At 3 and 6 months the low fat group had a greater reduction in LDL and the low carb group had a greater drop in triglycerides, but there was no difference in either at 12 and 24 months. HDL was significantly higher in the low carb group throughout the study. Blood pressure, glucose and insulin all improved in the low carb group only. There was no significant difference in weight loss between the two groups, and no difference in bone mineral density or body composition.

While inconclusive as to which approach is superior from the point of weight loss, to me the significance of these studies is that the predicted health threats of a low carb (and high fat/protein) diet did not materialize. In fact cardiovascular risk factors appear somewhat superior for the low carb diet. And for reasons explained in previous columns, those who have experienced a low carb diet know how easy and painless it can be to lose weight.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

079 Synthetic Food Dyes [7 September 2010]

Did you know that food manufacturers in Canada do not have to list synthetic food colorings in the ingredient list? They are only required to list the word “colours”. They don’t even have to specify whether the dyes are natural or synthetic. The synthetic dyes are made from petroleum and are brighter, more stable and cheaper than natural colorings like turmeric, blueberry juice and beta carotene, so are preferred by the food industry.

There are lingering questions about safety for most of the 10 synthetic dyes approved for food by Health Canada. Erythrosine (Red 3) was banned in the United States for topical drugs and cosmetics because it caused thyroid cancer in animals, but is still legal for food in both the USA and Canada. Allura red (Red 40) increased tumours in one mouse study but not in another [so do a third test and break the tie!]. Tartrazine (Yellow 5) can cause severe reactions including hives in sensitive people and has been shown to damage DNA. Amaranth (Red 2) was banned in the United States 30 years ago because it caused cancer in rats [so feed it to rats, not people!]. There are also health concerns about the other synthetic colors – Brilliant Blue, Citrus Red No. 2, Fast Green, Indigotine, Ponceau SX and Sunset Yellow.

Several large recent studies in Britain in 2004 and 2007 finally settled the debate over child behaviour and synthetic dyes. In response the British government asked the food industry to stop using the 6 dyes studied; and the European parliament now requires a warning on the label of foods containing one or more. Three of these 6 are still in Canadian food, unlabeled.

Health Canada is considering requiring specific names of the dyes used on labels. That’s a step in the right direction, but why do we need them at all? They add nothing to the nutritional value of the foods and are only used to make poor food look good. Write your MP and the Federal Health minister with your concerns. And meanwhile, read the labels and if the ingredient list includes “colours” assume it’s not safe for human consumption.

For more information see www.cspi.info/fooddyes.

078 Probiotic Update [30 August 2010]

I learned more about probiotics at a recent supplier-sponsored seminar. Probiotics are supplements of beneficial bacteria for the intestinal tract with many benefits to our health.

Here is some of the new information I picked up:
• human-sourced strains of bacteria work best in humans (makes sense) and colonizing strains work better than transient strains
• beneficial bacteria don’t just out-compete pathogenic bacteria, they actively suppress their growth or even kill them
• an unhealthy balance of bacteria in the gut, called dysbiosis, is caused by poor diet esp. sugar, alcohol, chlorinated water, contraceptives and antibiotics
• digestion symptoms of dysbiosis: flatulence, bloating, constipation/diarrhea, IBS (colitis and Crohn’s), leaky gut syndrome & food allergies
• other symptoms include: fatigue esp. after eating, hypoglycemia, poor complexion, inability to lose weight, rheumatoid arthritis, colon cancer
• infants born vaginally (vs. C-section) have better bacterial colonies and fewer health problems like eczema & asthma; probiotics used by mothers during pregnancy and breastfeeding and by infants significantly reduce atopic eczema
• probiotics help with lactose intolerance (bacteria produced enzymes break down the milk sugars)
• nutrient synthesis and absorption are improved with probiotics
• surprisingly, studies are now showing that probiotics help with weight loss
• probiotics should be taken during antibiotic treatment (at different time of day), you don’t need to wait until after
• advantages of probiotic supplements over foods: specific doses, species and strains; guaranteed potency; portable
• supplements called “prebiotics” support the beneficial bacteria and help them form strong colonies
• probiotics are best taken with meals (food dilutes the acidic stomach content) and twice a day in divided doses

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

077 Are Your Cells Thirsty? [23 August 2010]

A newborn is 75% water by weight; a young adult less than 60%; and seniors even lower. The reason isn’t that we need less water as we age but that our thirst sensation weakens so we drink less. A dry mouth is the last sign of dehydration, so we can’t depend on our thirst to indicate our need for water. In his 1992 book (3rd edn. 2008) “Your Body’s Many Cries for Water” F. Batmanghelidj, MD makes the argument that many of our diseases are at least partly the result of what he calls “unintentional chronic dehydration”. See www.watercure.com

Here are but a few of our bodies’ many cries for water:
• morning sickness in early pregnancy – sign of thirst
• chronic pain – dehydration increases intensity of pain signals
• peptic ulcers, gastritis and “heartburn” – are relieved quickly with water
• rheumatoid arthritis pain – dehydrated joints are painful
• back and neck pain – vertebral discs require hydration
• headaches including migraines – may be caused by dehydration
• stress and depression – hydration increases ability to cope with stress
• chronic fatigue – often responds well to hydration
• high blood pressure – sodium retention is a reaction to dehydration
• high cholesterol – is a result of dehydration
• asthma and allergies – dehydration activates histamine
• memory loss – dehydrated brain cells can’t function normally
• overweight – dehydration contributes to both fat gain and water retention
• wrinkles & aging skin – well hydrated skin looks and feels healthy

It appears that there isn’t much that being dehydrated can’t make worse or that drinking more water could improve. Perhaps the glass of water we use to take our pills, whether prescription or supplements, is doing us more good than the pills!? Puts a new meaning to the phrase “drink to your health”!

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

076 Vitamin K [17 August 2010]

There are 3 forms of Vitamin K. K1 is found in fresh raw green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli and parsley and certain fruits like avocado and kiwi. K1 is best known for its role in blood coagulation (K stands for “koagulation”, named by the Danish scientist who discovered it in 1929). K2, found in fermented foods like curd cheeses and especially in a fermented soy called natto, has many additional health benefits. K3 is a synthetic form that is best avoided.

Possibly the most significant role of K2 is in the building of healthy bones. It is necessary for the osteoblasts – the cells that build new bone – to produce the protein osteocalcin which holds the calcium in place. At the same time K2 has been shown to inhibit the breakdown of bone by osteoclast cells. Together these actions promote strong healthy bones and help prevent osteoporosis. Several studies have shown that vitamins K2 and D3 work synergistically to increase bone formation and bone mineral density.

K2 also improves heart and vascular health by increasing strength and elasticity of blood vessel walls, preventing their calcification (“hardening of the arteries”). K2 also promotes healthier and younger looking skin, improves memory, helps maintain normal blood sugar levels, protects from certain liver cancers, prevents platelet aggregation (blood clots), and acts as an antioxidant.

This vitamin is often overlooked because most health authorities assume vitamin K deficiencies are rare, but there is currently no lab test available for levels in bone and blood vessels. Deficiencies are likely with: a diet low in raw green vegetables; low bile or pancreatic enzyme production; bowel disease that impairs absorption; and unhealthy bowel flora. Recent studies are finding much benefit from supplementation. Note: because vitamin K prevents blood clots, if you are already on a blood thinning medication consult your physician or pharmacist before adding K to your health program.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

March 9, 2011

075 Omega 3s & Depression [10 August 2010]

Continuing the topic of depression, this week I will focus on the role of omega 3 essential fatty acids. First a correction – of the two Omega 3s it is EPA that is most significant in treating depression, not DHA as stated last week. In fact a study published in 2003 in the Am J. Psychiatry found no benefit to depression with DHA alone.

The largest controlled study to date on the effects of fish oil on depression was published in June of this year in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry by researchers from McGill U. (Montreal), U. Laval (Quebec City), and Queen’s U. (Kingston). 432 subjects were given 1050 mg of EPA and 150 DHA or a placebo for 8 weeks. For uni-polar depression unaccompanied by anxiety disorder, improvement in depression symptoms was comparable with conventional treatment (without the side effects like sexual dysfunction). There was no improvement, however, in those with anxiety disorder (which supports my argument last week that depression is a complex condition with many factors that need to be addressed).

A previous study in the U.K (Arch. Gen. Psychiatry, 2002) suggests that 1,000 mg of EPA is sufficient. Subjects with depression were given 1g, 2g and 4g of EPA for 12 weeks. The best results occurred in the 1g group with about 75% of the subjects reporting significant improvements in depressive symptoms including anxiety, sleep, libido and suicidal thoughts. Significantly all of the subjects in this study had persistent depression which had not responded to antidepressant drugs.

This large study only confirms the positive results from many previous smaller clinical trials. Long term studies of fish oil supplementation for cardiovascular health have proven their safety. People suffering from depression should ask their physician about adding an Omega 3 supplement to their program.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

074 Depression [3 August 2010]

Depression is a debilitating condition that is very widespread in North America. A group of anti-depressant drugs called SSRIs are some of the most popularly prescribed medications in the United States and Canada. Recent research, however, is questioning both their safety and effectiveness.

A recent (2008) meta-analysis looked at over 50 clinical trials and concluded that the difference in improvement between anti-depressants and a placebo was not clinically significant, with the possible exception of the most severely depressed. And each of these drugs comes with a long list of serious side effects including (to name a few) insomnia, weight gain, fatigue, gastro-intestinal bleeding, Parkinson’s, and an increase in violent or suicidal behavior.

Fortunately there are safer and more effective natural solutions. The following factors need to be addressed with depression:

• Adrenal, thyroid and pituitary glands need to be supported and restored to normal function;
• Omega 3 EFAs from fish oil (especially DHA) are essential for rebuilding the nerve cell membranes so neurotransmitters can function effectively;
• Multi vitamin and mineral supplementation to reverse possible vitamin and trace mineral deficiencies;
• L-tryptophan and St. John’s Wort are safe and effective temporary measures to increase serotonin levels while the glands are being restored;
• Daily exercise is a simple way to boost serotonin levels.

People suffering from depression experience hopelessness and despair. I’m pleased to tell them there is hope, and that with a little effort the sun can shine once again in their life.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

073 Diet Report Week 4 [26 July 2010]

I had toast for breakfast this morning (July 21). That wasn’t all – I also had 2 eggs, yogurt and an apple – but for me the toast was the most significant item on the menu. I haven’t had a slice of bread for a month and I used to average 2 per meal.

After 4 weeks on the Ideal Protein diet Phase 1 and 2, I have reached my goal, losing 22 lbs and 20 inches. Phase 3 is the critical part where carbs are carefully reintroduced. I am now allowed 2 slices of whole wheat bread or a half bowl of unsweetened whole grain cereal, along with a fruit, a dairy and, of course, a protein food.

During the 2 week transition Phase 3 carbs are eaten once a day only, at breakfast. This phase is unique to the Ideal Protein program and is responsible for the lasting effect of the diet. Phase 3 accomplishes 3 objectives:
• provides a transition from weight loss to weight maintenance protocol, which allows the metabolism to catch up and promotes calorie burning rather than fat storage;
• restarts the pancreas and “trains” it to produce the appropriate amount of insulin in response to consumed carbohydrates, keeping blood sugar levels even;
• prevents the cells from reverting to insulin resistance, the problem behind Metabolic Syndrome with its corresponding symptoms of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low HDL (“good cholesterol”), and high triglycerides.

My weight is now at 196, 4 lbs below my revised goal of 200. During this week and next I expect to gain the 4 lbs back as my glycogen reserves are replenished. Then I start on Phase 4, the maintenance diet, which will keep me at my new “slender” 200 lb size.

Here’s a peek at what Phase 4 looks like:
• Breakfast: protein, carb, fat, fruit
• Lunch: protein, vegetables, fat, no carbs
• Supper: protein, vegetables, complex carbs, fruit, no fats
• Bedtime snack: protein

Fats consumed should be good quality: e.g. butter, coconut oil, olive or grapeseed oil, almond butter. Separating fats (lunch) and carbs (supper) prevents fat storage, but it will take some getting used to – no sandwiches for lunch or butter on my dinner rolls! 

“Planned cheats” is an interesting concept. Special events and holidays can be accommodated at any phase of the program with a week preparation and a week follow-up. I’m going to try that out at our family reunion this Saturday. In Phase 4 a planned cheat day once a week is mandatory, to be followed by a no-carb Phase 1 day to prevent fat storage.

And gaining 10 pounds over the course of a year is no big deal. Just go back on Phase 1 for two weeks following the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays and burn it off, resetting your pancreas in the process. This really is “your last diet”!

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

072 Oral Probiotics [19 July 2010]

We all know the importance of maintaining beneficial bacteria in our intestines, but I recently learned that probiotics, as they are called, is just as important for our mouths.

Our mouths are home to billions of bacteria, both good and bad. Many infections – throat, nasal and sinus, middle ear, bronchial and lung – originate in the mouth. Strep throat can lead to the more serious rheumatic and scarlet fevers. So the mouth is an important first line of defense in preventing these infections.

As a child, Microbiologist Professor John Tagg of New Zealand developed rheumatic fever as a complication of a severe Streptococcus pyogenes strep throat infection. He was put on a lifetime program of penicillin which caused him many undesired side effects. As a microbiologist, Tagg devoted his entire research career to find a safe and effective remedy for this virulent pathogen.

In one study Tagg found that children who seemed immune to upper respiratory infections had a healthy oral population of a particular species of bacteria called Streptococcus salivarius; while children that were prone to such infections did not. Testing revealed that this species occurs naturally in only 5% of the population. Further research led to the discovery of a particularly beneficial strain of S. salivarius called K12. K12 bacteria not only crowd out disease causing bacteria, including S. pyogenes, but produce a protein called BLIS which actively destroys it.

Maintaining a healthy population of K12 in your mouth will help protect you from:
• infection by Streptococcus pyogenes (Strep throat)
• oral candida infection (thrush)
• upper respiratory and sinus infections
• otitis media (middle ear infections causing earache)
• halitosis (bad breath)

This new K12 strain is now available in a chewing gum form. Chewing action helps distribute the K12 and promotes colonization throughout the mouth. The best time to use it is just before bedtime, after brushing your teeth. Initially use for a week then for 3-4 days every few weeks. Since antibiotics and oral antiseptics (including natural ones like oil of oregano or tea tree oil) affect all bacteria in the mouth, it is important to reintroduce the K12 after their use. It is also important following dental work.

K12 is beneficial for all ages from children to adults, and is even recommended for new moms so they can transmit the culture to their newborns with their kisses! For more information see www. culturedcare .com.

Who knew that preventing disease could be as easy (or fun) as chewing a piece of gum!

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

071 Vitamin D Recommendations [12 July 2010]

Evidence is mounting that vitamin D in significantly higher levels than is currently recommended could greatly benefit our health. A 2007 analysis of vitamin D studies found that people with higher D levels are as much as 50% less likely to develop colorectal cancer. Another 2007 study showed that women taking 1,100 IU of vitamin D with a calcium supplement reduced their cancer risk by 60%. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, MS, type 1 diabetes, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, and even early death. The growing number of studies and clinical trials such as these, and new understanding of vitamin D physiology, make a strong case for increasing the current vitamin D recommendations.

Despite this growing evidence, government regulatory bodies are refusing to increase vitamin D recommendations from the 1950’s levels, adequate for preventing rickets. Health Canada (2006) has set the AI (Adequate Intake) levels for vitamin D at 200 IU for ages 0-50, 400 for 51-70 and 600 for 71 and up. A 2008 WHO report on vitamin D concluded that there is insufficient evidence to change the current recommendations. How can this be?

The problem isn’t with the number of studies but the type. Studies to date have been epidemiological (looking for patterns in populations) or small clinical trials, which provide evidence but not proof. What government agencies are waiting for are large randomized controlled trials. The problem is such trials are unlikely to occur in our lifetime, if ever. They would involve thousands of people over at least 10 years and cost millions. Drug companies have no reason to make that kind of investment for an inexpensive non-patentable vitamin. And governments, so far, are unwilling to.

For the full article “Why governments are selling Vitamin D short” see www.ft.com and search for “vitamin D”.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

070 Ideal Protein Diet report [5 July 2010]

Well I have finished my first week on the diet. Results? I lost a whopping 11.4 lbs and 10.5 inches (total from many different measurements). I gained a notch on my belt. And I feel fine.

The first week is supposed to be the hardest but I found the program easy to follow. With the Starter Pack I got to try many of the Ideal Protein foods and discovered which ones I like best. Yes, I had my moments of hunger and weakness but survived with hardly any cheating.

I am enjoying the 5 oz steak (or similar lean meat) that is required as part of the supper meal. While 5 oz is about half of what I would normally eat, it is substantial and by cutting it up in very small pieces I’ve learned to prolong the enjoyment. I already like salads so that wasn’t a problem and I’ve ordered some compatible salad dressings to improve the taste.

The program predicts an average weight loss of 4-7 lbs for men and 3-5 for women. The first week is often higher because of loss of excess fluid. High insulin levels in the blood tend to cause the body to retain sodium and therefore water. Insulin also increases excretion of potassium and magnesium. Controlling insulin allows the electrolyte balance to normalize and less fluid is retained. This also explains why high blood pressure improves quickly (within a few weeks) on the diet.

Another benefit of the diet is normalization of blood lipids (cholesterol & triglycerides). Again high insulin is a factor in increasing production of cholesterol. After 4-6 weeks on the program the blood lipids improve significantly. More good news – the blood pressure and blood lipid improvements continue after the program is completed.

So I can’t expect to continue at 11 lbs a week. However another two weeks should bring me to my goal of 195. By the time you read this I should be almost there. Who knows, I may even decide to push for 190.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

069 Vascular Cleansing [28 June 2010]

Atherosclerosis is the formation of plaque on artery walls which slows or blocks blood flow. Plaque occurs as a response to inflammation of the artery wall and is composed of white blood cells, LDL (protein attached to cholesterol and triglycerides) and in advanced cases calcium. Arterial plaque can lead to many different health problems caused by reducing blood flow to different organs and tissues.

No doubt you are familiar with the conventional treatments – cholesterol drugs, aspirin therapy, angioplasty, and bypass surgery. Today I want to share with you about two safe and effective alternatives.

Chelation Therapy involves the intravenous (IV) infusion of EDTA in a medical clinic. It was discovered in the 1950’s when people undergoing chelation therapy for heavy metals found their angina pain significantly reduced. Further investigation revealed that the chelation was also removing arterial plaque. You can find further information at www. arteryhealthinstitute.com. Be sure to see the section on research.

EDTA can also be taken in supplement form, called “Oral Chelation”. This term is sometimes used to refer to nutritional supplements developed for the same purpose. Some are special multi vitamin mineral formulas, others a combination of garlic, cayenne and other herbs. I prefer the more general term “vascular cleansing” for these nutritional formulas. These supplements can be just as effective in reversing arterial plaque and are more convenient and less expensive.

Many people who have undergone artery cleansing – either IV or oral – have experienced the following improvements:
• able to exercise more (walk or run farther) without angina pain
• high blood pressure reduced
• clearer thinking and improved memory
• no more cold hands and feet
• reduced heaviness, tingling and numbness in hands and feet
• eliminate leg pain with exercise
• reduce ankle swelling
• eliminate need for limb amputation due to peripheral artery disease
• improvement in erectile dysfunction
• reduced risk of strokes and heart attacks

Whether you have only a few of these problems or are on a waiting list for surgery, why not investigate these alternatives? You could be very glad you did.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

068 Cell Phone Safety & Brain Tumors [21 June 2010]

Does the use of cell phones increase the risk of brain cancer? The report of a $30 million study designed to answer that question was published last month in The International Journal of Epidemiology. The report, called Interphone, was based on a series of international studies coordinated by the WHO examining a large number of people exposed to radiation from cell phone use between 1999 and 2004.

On the surface the results appear reassuring. The US FDA’s summary concluded “The study reported little or no risk of brain tumors for most long-term users.”

Cell phones (and cordless phones) emit non-ionizing radiation in radio wave frequencies, believed too weak to break chemical bonds or cause DNA damage. For this reason links between cell phone use and brain tumors have been dismissed by many groups including the American Cancer Society and the US FDA.

Other scientists remain concerned. Earlier studies supporting a link were considered inconclusive because of the short study periods and small numbers of people studied. The large Interphone study was planned to overcome these limitations. So what did it find?

Possibly the most significant finding was a 40% increase in glioma, a type of brain tumor, in participants with the highest level of cell phone use. Tumors were most frequent on the phone side of the head and in the temporal lobe which is closest to the ear. The report did not consider the data conclusive but did call for further investigation.

Critics of the study’s report believe the risk is underestimated and pointed out serious flaws in the study:
• Children and young adults were not studied and are more vulnerable to radiation because their brains are still growing
• People who had died or were very ill from their brain tumor were excluded
• Cordless phone users (exposed to similar radiation) were included in the control group
• Only a few types of brain cancers were included in the study
• Heavy use was defined as 2 hours a month – many people now use their phones 2 hours a day!
• Cancer risk from radiation is cumulative and often delayed 10 to 30 years so even a slight increase now is significant

For a more detailed critique of the Interphone report see
http://electromagnetichealth.org/electromagnetic-health-blog/
and click on “Risk of Brain Cancer…”.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

067 Processed Meat [14 June 2010]

Many health problems have long been associated with eating red meat (beef, lamb and pork, but not fish and poultry) and many health authorities recommend reducing consumption of red meats. A recent study suggests that for at least two of these it’s not the meat so much as the processing.

A recent meta-analysis study at the Harvard School of Public Health looked at the connection between the consumption of processed vs. unprocessed red meats and the risk of heart disease and diabetes. They found that on average, after adjusting for lifestyle factors, people who eat 1 serving a day of processed meats (bacon, sausage, hot dogs, salami etc.) had a 42% higher risk of heart attacks and a 19% higher risk of diabetes. People who ate only unprocessed red meats had no change in risk.

Two possible culprits in the processed meats are the high sodium content and the nitrate preservatives. The amount of saturated fat and cholesterol was similar for both types of meat.

Other health problems associated with red meat consumption include high blood pressure and cancer. While this study did not look at these conditions, other research has shown an association with processed meat. High sodium intake is a well established risk factor in high blood pressure.

Cooking meat at high temperatures such as grilling on the BBQ creates carcinogens in the meat and that processed meats are worse. So if you must barbecue, choose whole meats (steak rather than smokies), don’t over cook it, and carefully trim off and discard any black parts.

But however it is cooked, the American Institute for Cancer Research emphasizes on their website that “…the evidence is now overwhelming that red meat - especially processed red meats like hot dogs is a cause of colorectal cancer.” For example a 2005 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, following 1500 patients who had a colonoscopy to remove precancerous polyps, found that those who consumed diets higher in processed meats had a higher rate of recurrence. An analysis by the World Cancer Research Fund found that eating 1 sausage or 3 pieces of bacon a day raised the risk of bowel cancer by 20%. Red meat also raised the risk but by a much smaller amount and a limit of 500g a week was recommended.

My recommendation? Eat red meat in moderation, and buy it unprocessed as steaks, roasts or even lean ground. Cook it at low temperatures – it will take longer but be well worth the wait. Processed meats should be avoided or used as a rare treat.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

066 Your Last Diet [7 June 2010]

Last week I promised more information on the Ideal Protein diet.

The Ideal Protein Diet is not another fad diet. Since it was developed over 20 years ago for French athletes, it has been successfully used by over 6 million clients around the world. The method consists of a four phase protocol; weight loss in the first two phases followed by transitional and maintenance phases. The program has a beginning and an end.

The diet is supervised by a trained health professional, called a Coach, who screens potential clients for suitability and monitors their health and weight loss progress throughout the program. The diet is safe and beneficial for people with diabetes, hypoglycemia, high blood pressure, and many other conditions. (Type I Diabetics, teenagers, and some other people will use a modified diet called the Alternative Plan which does not keep the body in a ketogenic state.) The diet is not recommended for children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and people with certain medical conditions.

The key to burning body fat while maintaining (or increasing) muscle mass is the high quality protein foods that are an essential part of the protocol. The protein contains a balance of all 8 essential amino acids for maximum assimilation. A wide variety of protein foods are available so people with food allergies can be accommodated.

The Ideal Protein diet succeeds where most other diets fail because it controls high blood insulin levels, resulting in safe effective fat loss. Muscle mass is preserved and the acid/alkaline balance is maintained. Ketosis, the metabolic state in which body fat is burned for energy, is perfectly normal and healthy (not to be confused with the serious condition of ketoacidosis).

Another advantage (at least to me!) is that strenuous exercise not only is not required but is strongly discouraged while on the protocol. During the first 3 weeks, until enough enzymes develop to burn body fat more efficiently, even moderate exercise will create a demand for more calories than you are consuming from both your diet and stored fat, and may result in loss of muscle mass. After the first 3 weeks reasonable exercise is permitted and during maintenance is encouraged.

But the best news about this diet is that it will show you how to keep the weight off. After reaching your weight loss goal, the method re-educates your pancreas to produce the right amount of insulin needed. Sticking to your newly formed good eating habits will enable you to stay at your desired weight for life. Thus the Ideal Protein Diet could be “Your Last Diet” – the last one you ever need to be on for the rest of your (slender) life!

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

065 Obesity and Insulin [31 May 2010]

Last week I wrote about how carbohydrates - and particularly insulin levels - shorten our life. This week’s column will focus on how they expand our waistline.

Obesity is a serious health issue that affects nearly 30% of people in North America. The World Health Organization (WHO) website states: Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with more than 1 billion adults overweight - at least 300 million of them clinically obese - and is a major contributor to the global burden of chronic disease and disability. Obesity and overweight pose a major risk for chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, and certain forms of cancer. The key causes are increased consumption of energy-dense foods high in saturated fats and sugars, and reduced physical activity.

We know what to do about the sedentary lifestyle – get off our backsides and exercise. I’ve previously written about the importance of exercise; today I want to focus on diet.

Dr. Tran Tien Chanh, a French medical doctor with degrees in nutrition, sports medicine and biology, has focused his research on nutrition and the treatment of obesity. He believes the underlying cause of most weight issues in a modern society is insulin dysfunction. A diet high in saturated fats, sugars and starches raises blood levels of insulin. Insulin also functions to transport triglycerides from the blood into fat cells. The presence of high insulin levels locks in the fat making it unavailable to be burned for energy. The high levels also cause a rebound effect where any lost weight is rapidly regained when we go off our diet.

So as long as our insulin levels remain high, trying to lose weight by exercise and dieting is frustrating to say the least. We are always hungry, craving forbidden foods, and yet still can’t lose that stubborn fat. Even if we are successful in losing weight, we are in danger of losing muscle mass along with the fat, something few of us can afford to do. No wonder to most people “diet” is a 4 letter word!

But there is good news. Based on his research in France, Dr. Tran Tien developed a weight loss program that deals with each of these problems. After the first few days the cravings disappear. Muscle and bone are preserved. Insulin levels are controlled making stored fat available for energy. Weight loss averages 3-4 pounds per week for women and 4-7 pounds for men. And best of all, the pancreas is reset so the pounds stay off. More on this program next week.

This program was developed in France 25 years ago and brought to Canada in 2002. I have been approached to make it available to the Rosetown area. What do you say? Anyone interested?

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

064 Longevity and Carbohydrates [24 May 2010]

Want to live longer and healthier? Eat less. That’s the basic premise of the Caloric Restricted (CR) diet theory. Restricting calories, while maintaining adequate nutrient intake, has been known since the 1930’s to significantly increase the lifespan of mice. Subsequent studies have shown the theory applies to fish, dogs and many other species including primates.

Human studies have not been carried out long enough yet to be conclusive but evidence so far supports the CR theory applying to us. In addition to longer life, a CR diet lowers blood sugar, triglycerides, insulin and leptin blood levels, all of which have been found to be lower in centenarians. (Makes sense – how many fat people do you know over 100?)

Important: CR does not refer to severe calorie restriction such as in anorexia nervosa or other forms of starvation which result in severe malnutrition. Also exercise, which is another factor in health and longevity, requires adequate calorie and amino acid intake.

Several theories attempt to explain how CR increases lifespan. The most promising is that it controls blood insulin levels. High insulin levels are associated with many age-related degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, obesity and diabetes. A 2003 study with mice [www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12543978?dopt=Abstract] found that a reduction of fat mass without caloric restriction increased longevity, likely due to lower insulin levels.

Another recent study [www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2831640/] also supports the insulin theory. Thirty one patients were put on a high fat, adequate protein, low carbohydrate diet and monitored for several age-related blood factors: fasting glucose, insulin, leptin, T3 thyroid hormone, and lipids. All factors were found to improve with the low carb diet. (So it appears that Atkins was onto something.)

How can we control insulin levels? Simple! By limiting simple carbohydrates – sugars and starches. Eating sweets and starchy carbs like bread and potatoes increases insulin levels; eating high fiber vegetables like broccoli lowers them. So it’s not so much eating fewer calories, but eating different calories that’s important. And healthy protein and fat foods can be tasty too!

I know what you are thinking: “If I can’t have my doughnut/bread/potatoes etc, what’s the point of living longer?” Well, let me promise two things: once you get off carbs, you’ll feel so good you won’t want to go back; and in no time nuts and raw veggies will start to taste great. Finally (but no promises this time) some day you just might be dancing at your 100th birthday party!

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

063 Combining Remedies [17 May 2010]

When looking at several different remedies for a health problem, we are faced with the question of choosing one or more. There is rarely a problem with interaction between natural health products, but will taking more than one provide a significant benefit?

Glucosamine is a natural remedy shown to help with osteoarthritis (OA); Omega 3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) help both OA and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). They work in different ways – glucosamine by providing the raw material to build new cartilage, and Omega 3s by reducing inflammation – so it would make sense that taking the two together would provide more benefit than either alone.

That was the conclusion of a recent study
which looked at the combined effects of glucosamine sulfate and omega 3 EFAs (EPA and DHA from fish oil) on pain and stiffness in patients with osteoarthritis. Group A was given both and was compared to Group B which had glucosamine alone. The same number of both groups reported at least a 20% improvement, but significantly more from Group A reported an 80% improvement or better. This shows that there can be benefits from taking different remedies at the same time.

A popular form of natural product is the complex whose formulas contain many different ingredients, each with some evidence of helping a particular condition. Be aware that some complex formulas may not contain an effective dose of some ingredients. Choose a complex from a reputable brand that has a sufficient dose of all ingredients, or take the desired ingredients separately.

Beneficial diet and lifestyle changes will make any natural health program work better. Continuing with RA, in addition to Omega 3s some suggestions would be:
• maintain serum vitamin D levels at 55-60ng/ml
• take a hyaluronic acid supplementation
• eat unprocessed high quality food
• eliminate sugar and most grains
• avoid heavy coffee consumption
• exercise regularly

I still recommend customers try one product at a time to see if it is helping. Then if there is still room for improvement, they can add other items, again one at a time.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

062 Muscle Energy Technique [10 May 2010]

I recently took a course in Muscle Energy Technique (MET) for the upper thoracic and cervical spine (upper back and neck). A year ago I had taken the course for the lower back from the same instructor – Judy Smith of Nanaimo, BC.

MET is a system of techniques for releasing restrictions or dysfunctions in the spine. When we bend forward or backwards, the vertebrae should move freely within their normal range of motion. Each spinal joint has 6 sets of small deep intrinsic muscles which flex, extend, side-bend right or left, and rotate right or left. When one or more of these muscles are hypertonic (a technical term for “too tight”) the joint becomes “stuck” on that side.

A vertebral dysfunction can cause decreased movement, bending or twisting of the spine, reduced circulation, neurological effects such as nausea, tinnitus or headaches, and of course pain. Untreated these dysfunctions can remain in our body for years.

Because these intrinsic muscles are quite small and very deep in on the vertebrae, they can’t be accessed directly by massage. Instead we use the MET techniques to release them and reset their normal length, tone, and sensitivity to stimulus.

MET works by placing the body in the precise position to engage the affected muscle, gently contracting the muscle against resistance, then gently stretching it to its new length. MET does not use high velocity joint manipulation and is entirely pain free. It can even be done through clothing.

In a typical MET session, the therapist will check the entire spine from the sacrum to the top of the neck, testing each joint for mobility in both flexion (forward bending) and extension (backward bending). Any dysfunction discovered is released before moving on.

I am finding MET to be an effective tool in my massage practice for treating back and neck pain. I’d like to find out what it can do for you.

061 A1 & A2 Milk [3 May 2010]

I recently learned something interesting about milk. Keith Woodford in his 2007 book “Devil in the Milk: illness, health and the politics of A1 and A2 milk” explains the two types of cow milk based on the form of a protein called beta-casein. A single mutation in a European cow thousands of years ago resulted in a change to this protein which affects the milk we drink today.

Milk from African and Asian cattle breeds and some older European breeds such as Jersey and Guernsey contain A2 beta-casein. Newer European breeds including the Holstein produce milk containing A1 beta-casein. (Goats and sheep, by the way, produce A2 milk.) So what difference does this make?

The beta-casein in A1 milk releases, in digestion, a smaller protein called beta-casomorphin-7 (BCM-7) which is the “devil in the milk”. In his forward to Woodford’s book, Thomas Cowan MD writes that BCM-7 “…is the exact culprit in the myriad of symptoms [that he has observed in his patients who had problems with milk] …including joint and muscle pains, fatigue, digestive disturbances, and headaches”.

Woodford writes that BCM-7 selectively binds to the epithelial cells in mucus membranes and stimulates mucus secretion. (This may explain the persistent though often disputed belief that cow milk is “mucus forming”.) BCM-7 is also implicated in more serious health problems including: type 1 diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and neurological conditions such as autism and schizophrenia.

Woodford argues persuasively that much improvement in population health could be achieved by switching dairy production to A2 breeds. This process is quietly underway in New Zealand, where most of the research on A1-A2 milk has been done over the past decade, and A2 milk is widely available in Australia. There has been no such movement in the USA and Canada, and to date no acknowledgement of the problem. Dairy farmers can begin their own conversion by breeding with A2 semen. Meanwhile, if you are a farmer, you could buy yourself a Jersey cow and begin producing your own A2 milk. Raw milk is healthier for you anyway, but that’s a topic for a future column.

To read excerpts from Woodford’s book go to www.amazon.com and search for “devil in the milk”. For more technical reports see www.betacasein.net which references more than 80 published studies on BCM-7 and its effects on health.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.