August 29, 2011

129 Salt in Balance [29 August 2011]

I wrote about the health benefits of reducing salt in my July 27 2009 column #022. It now appears that reducing sodium is only half the equation – increasing potassium is just as important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) studied more than 12,000 adults for 15 years and found that those with the highest sodium and lowest potassium intakes had the highest risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Those with the lowest risk had the lowest ratio of sodium to potassium intake, nearly equal amounts of each. Source: Archives of Internal Medicine July 11 discussed in a Los Angeles Times article by Jill Adams.

Sodium, of course, is an essential nutrient – we can’t live without it – and the emphasis on cutting salt is leading to more cases of sodium deficiency. This condition, called hyponatraemia, is more common in the elderly and is often misdiagnosed. A Rosetown octogenarian friend began having strange symptoms a few years ago and was diagnosed with hyponatraemia. His doctor prescribed potato chips (I can think of healthier sources of salt), and he quickly recovered.

Dr. David McCarron, a nutritionist and professor at U of California, recently wrote in the Financial Post that the recommendation to restrict salt for heart health is based solely on opinion – there is no reliable evidence supporting it. First, he writes, “…only a minority of individuals’ blood pressure is sensitive to salt.” Secondly, three different trials testing low-sodium diets on people with kidney and heart disease showed higher risk of hospitalizations, cardiovascular events, and death in the low-sodium group. McCarron called for large-scale controlled trials to test the current policy of sodium restriction for safety and effectiveness.

Meanwhile, what to do? Don’t overdo salt but don’t eliminate it completely either (if you still eat a lot of processed foods, you needn’t worry about a deficiency!). And make sure you are getting enough potassium – balance is the key to health.

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

August 22, 2011

128 Cell Phone Safety [22 August 2011]

I’ve written about this before [columns #004 March 23, 2009 & #068 June 21, 2010] but two recently published studies show why there is still some uncertainty about cell phone safety. It is not surprising that the study which reported no conflict of interest found serious cause for concern while the one funded by the telecommunications industry (along with other conflicts of interest) was more reassuring. 

The first study “Long-Term Exposure to Microwave Radiation Provokes Cancer Growth…Exp Oncol 2011 begins “In this review we discuss alarming epidemiological and experimental data on possible carcinogenic effects of long term exposure to low intensity microwave radiation…” and calls for “urgent reevaluation… of safety limits for non-ionizing radiation…” 

The second study “Mobile Phones, Brain Tumours and the Interphone Study: Where Are We NowNational Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, 2011, concludes: “Although there remains some uncertainty, the trend in the accumulating evidence is increasingly against the hypothesis that mobile phone use can cause brain tumours in adults.”

Not true says Dr. Magda Havas, Associate Professor of Environmental & Resource Studies at Trent University, who reviewed these studies in her website []. She found that the NIEHS study ignored “inconvenient” evidence and misinterpreted other data. For example the Interphone Study referred to does in fact show an increase in ipsilateral gliomas (brain tumours on the phone side of the head) after 10 years of exposure. The NIEHS study also dismisses childhood studies for being shorter than 15 years, ignoring a study which showed that those who started using a cell phone before the age of 20 increased their risk of brain tumours 5 fold well before 15 years. 

You can reduce your risk by minimizing the use of your cell phone (see my March 2009 column for tips) and by installing an electromagnetic shield on your phones. I recently found a source of inexpensive cell phone radiation shields []. 

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

August 15, 2011

127 Toxic Mold [15 August 2011]

After this wet spring and summer, there could be mold growing in your home. Mold thrives in cool, moist dark areas like our basements. Mold is never good news and some, like black mold, is downright toxic. Spores and chemicals produced by mold can result in severe health problems like headaches, allergies and respiratory disease in people with compromised immune systems. To eliminate mold in your house, first block the moisture source and dry the affected area. Moldy material like wallboard may have to be removed. Get advice from an experienced professional or visit a reputable website like the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp [].

Something I have learned about that you may not find on these websites is the Thieves© blend of essential oils which has been shown to be very effective in cleaning mold. Dan Burke, a construction business owner had so much mold on his boat he thought it would be a total loss. He bought and applied 8 different cleaners – including bleach – plus some Thieves© blend from his mother-in-law. To his surprise, Thieves© removed the mold most completely and it lasted the longest []. Edward Close, a mold consultant with 30 years experience, discovered that Thieves© worked much better for eliminating mold spores than the strongest hospital disinfectant available [].

Experience has shown that for best results, first diffuse Thieves© for 24-48 hours to remove spores from the room. Then clean visible mold with Thieves© Household Cleaner wearing a mask, goggles and rubber gloves. Thieves© is powerful, long-lasting, safe to use (it’s included in my toothpaste) and even smells nice. The name comes from robbers entering homes where people were dead and dying during the Black Plague in Europe who used the herbs in the Thieves© formula to protect themselves from the disease.

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

August 8, 2011

126 Thyroid Health [8 August 2011]

Following up on last week’s column on iodine, let’s look at other factors affecting thyroid health. The main function of the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in your throat, is regulation of metabolism – controlling the growth and rate of function of many systems of the body. It is often called the “thermostat of the body”. The thyroid is itself controlled by the pituitary and hypothalamus glands, and influenced by the adrenals, so problems in these will also affect thyroid health and function.

The thyroid produces two main hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The liver converts the T4 to the active form T3. An imbalance occurs if too much (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism) of these hormones are produced. The conventional treatment for hypothyroidism is to prescribe levothyroxine sodium (Synthroid) in response to a TSH lab analysis (which measures T4 levels). There are two problems with this approach. First, the TSH test misses any problems in the conversion to T3 (adding a “Free T4 and Free T3 Test” improves diagnosis), and often ignores subclinical cases (where a sluggish thyroid is causing problems but falls within the “normal” range with no obvious symptoms). Secondly the synthetic drug is not identical with thyroxine; it doesn’t work as well, has more side effects, and (according to may even make the condition worse by competing with your own thyroxine for receptor sites. (This is another example of the patent laws undermining our health – there is a financial disincentive to produce a bioidentical thyroxine, which would be more effective and much safer!)

Other factors affecting thyroid health include:

  • Adrenal fatigue – chronic stress elevates cortisol levels which lowers thyroid hormone production (just when you actually need more!)
  • Gluten, soy and other food allergies cause antibodies to attack the thyroid
  • Deficiencies in iodine or the amino acid tyrosine may limit thyroid function
  • The thyroid is particularly susceptible to chemical toxins including bromine, chlorine, fluorine (fluoride), PFOA, perchlorate, and triclosan
  • Conversion of T4 to the active form T3 requires adequate selenium, Omega 3 EFAs and zinc

There are 69 signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism listed on Here are a few of the most common:

  • fatigue, lethargy and brain fog; 
  • weight gain; 
  • hair loss; 
  • dry skin, eyes and mucous membranes; 
  • feeling unusually cold; 
  • excessive muscle tension and trigger points. 

One home test is to measure basal body temperature using a special thermometer – temperatures below 36.5 C (97.6 F) may indicate low thyroid function.

Some ideas for naturally improving thyroid function:

  • Eat a nutritious diet with as much raw organic vegetables as possible
  • Eat iodine rich kelp or supplement with iodine
  • Eat fish regularly or supplement with Omega 3 EFA
  • Optimize your vitamin D levels with sunlight and supplementation
  • Take a multi vitamin-mineral with zinc and selenium
  • Avoid soy and any foods to which you are sensitive
  • Minimize exposure to toxins – avoid fluoride; use stainless steel cookware; filter drinking, cooking and bathing water; use an air purifier in your home
  • Detoxify your body with chlorella or a herbal detox program; use a sauna
  • Manage stress to avoid excess adrenaline and cortisol
  • Exercise

Sources: and A more technical source of information on current thyroid research is

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

August 1, 2011

125 Iodine [1 August 2011]

Iodine is an essential trace mineral that has many functions besides its main role as a component of the thyroid hormones. Iodine is essential for proper brain development in infants and young children; deficiencies during pregnancy can result in severe intellectual disabilities, and may play a role in some ADHD cases. Iodine deficiency results in an enlarged thyroid gland, commonly called a goiter, but iodine is essential for the function of all the glands and hormones in the body, not just the thyroid. Iodine deficiency has been linked to breast cancer and possibly to ovarian and prostate cancers. It has been used to prevent and treat ovarian cysts and fibrocystic breast disease.

Iodized table salt is our main food source, and may be inadequate. We all are (or should be) reducing our salt intake, so are getting less iodine as well as sodium. Sea salt is low in iodine, and even iodized salt may not contain as much as we thought – a University of Texas study found half of 90 salt samples analyzed didn’t meet the FDA’s recommended level of iodine. Kelp is the richest natural food source of iodine, but is rarely on the menu in this country. That leaves supplementation to ensure that we are getting enough. Iodine is available as kelp tablets or capsules, and as a liquid supplement.

And how much iodine is enough? The Canadian RDA is 150 mcg (0.15 mg) for adults, less for children. Japanese who are among the healthiest people in the world (with low rates of breast, uterine and ovarian cancers) consume an average of 13.8 mg (nearly 100 times the Canadian RDA). Several studies have shown that to prevent and control fibrocystic breast disease, a minimum of 5 mg per 50kg (110 lb) body weight is required. David Brownstein, author of the book “Iodine – Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It”, found 96% of 4,000 Americans tested to be deficient in iodine. Maybe they were following the Canadian RDA?

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