July 30, 2012

176 Nutrition in the News [30 July 2012]

When it comes to nutritional advice, don’t believe everything you read in the mainstream news. News reporters are seldom knowledgeable enough about nutrition to report results accurately (and have been known to jump to conclusions not intended by the studies’ authors) and reporters are certainly not competent enough to spot and question flaws in the studies. Also while medical experts are often interviewed to add caution to studies which show nutrient supplementation in a positive light, rarely are nutritional experts interviewed in a negative story. Here are two recent news stories that demonstrate these biases.

In December 2011 a study was published in JAMA that showed that vitamin E increases the risk of prostate cancer. A CBC report on the study quoted the chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society (who was not involved in the study) advising men to avoid high doses of vitamin E, but then extended his warning to all vitamins: “…excessive use of vitamins has not been proven to be beneficial and may be the opposite”. A representative of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (a supplement manufacturers’ association) was generously given the last word, reassuring the readers of the benefits of vitamin E as an essential nutrient and suggested that many Americans don’t get enough. But even he missed the biggest flaw in the study, pointed out in a critique by Health Sciences Institute, that the vitamin E used in the study was the poorly utilized synthetic dl-alpha tocopherol acetate form instead of the natural d-alpha tocopherol form. Had they used natural vitamin E, I believe the results would have been much different. The only conclusion that can be made from this study is that synthetic vitamin E should be avoided.

Then in June 2012 the United States Preventive Services Task Force published a statement that low doses of calcium (1000mg) and vitamin D (400iu) do not prevent fractures in healthy postmenopausal women and are better avoided. The result is, I’m sure, quite accurate but the recommendation to avoid them is misguided at best. I’ll explain more about the flaws in this study in next week’s column.

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

July 23, 2012

175 The GAPS Diet [23 July 2012]

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, in her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, offers hope of a natural treatment for a wide variety of disorders including autism, asthma, allergies, ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, and severe digestive disorders. If you think you or a family member might benefit from this program I recommend you get a copy of the book. You can see an outline of the program at www.gapsdiet.com, which I will further simplify here so you can get an idea of what all is involved.

There are three components to the program: diet, supplementation and detoxification. The GAPS diet is based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet promoted by Elaine Gottschall in her book Breaking the Vicious Cycle – Intestinal Health Through Diet. Grains, dairy and processed foods are eliminated; certain meats, vegetables and fruit allowed. There is an Introduction Diet recommended to start with before going on the full GAPS diet.

Supplements include, of course, a therapeutic strength probiotic. Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kefir are also used to help re-establish healthy bacteria in the gut. For essential fatty acids use a good seed or nut oil and a high-EPA fish oil. Digestive enzymes and Betaine HCl are used to aid digestion. Vitamin A as cod liver oil is recommended. Specific nutrients that are determined to be deficient may be supplemented but other supplements are discouraged.

Eliminating toxin sources is the first and most important step towards detoxification by avoiding chemicals in food, household and cosmetic products. Juicing is recommended to help the body detoxify by providing concentrated nutrients in an easily absorbed form.

This may sound quite formidable but the book explains it well and makes it easier with tips and recipes. Certified practitioners who could assist you with the program are listed on the website – there are 3 in Alberta. Keep in mind that this program is temporary and becomes less strict as the digestive and immune systems improve, although some elements may have to be continued for life.

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

July 16, 2012

174 The Vaccine-Autism Controversy [16 July 2012]

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride devotes a chapter of her book “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” to the vaccine-autism controversy. I’ve been avoiding this topic for some time, but I like her balanced approach.

Autism is one of the neurological conditions (including allergies, asthma, eczema, ADD, ADHD, etc.) common in children with a compromised immune system. A child’s reaction to a vaccination depends on his or her immune health: with a healthy immune system the reaction should be normal; with a seriously compromised system it could trigger one of these conditions; with a moderately compromised system it could further weaken their immune system setting them up for some other trigger to “break the camel’s back”. On the other hand Dr. Campbell-McBride reports seeing many severely immune compromised children, who have not been vaccinated, develop one or more of these conditions. This range of reactions, I believe, explains why the connection between vaccination and autism remains controversial.

Dr. Campbell-McBride does not advocate abandoning vaccinations altogether – she recognizes that they have saved millions of children’s lives – but believes that with more and more children born with compromised immune systems, the ideal of vaccinating everyone could now be doing more harm than good. Instead she proposes a comprehensive immunological screening program – through a questionnaire and testing – to discover which children have compromised immune systems and are therefore at greater risk of severe reactions. Those most at risk* should not be vaccinated. Those with healthy parents and no particular health problems but showing some immune system abnormalities should wait until the tests improve. Only healthy infants with healthy parents and who show normal immune development should proceed with vaccinations. Even then Dr Campbell-McBride recommends single vaccines only, spaced 6 weeks apart, to reduce adverse effects.

See Dr. Campbell-McBride's website www.gapsdiet.com for more details. In the Resources tab to access articles on autism and vaccines.

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

* Dr. Campbell-McBride recommends no vaccinations for infants:
• with eczema, asthma, digestive problems or any other disorder which would indicate compromised gut flora and immunity;
• born to a mother with fibromyalgia, digestive problems, asthma, eczema, severe allergies, autoimmune disorders or neurological problems;
• or having older siblings with autism, severe eczema, asthma, allergies, ADHD, epilepsy or insulin dependant diabetes.
At a later age these children can be retested and, when they show no immune deficiencies, can be vaccinated using single vaccines spaced 6 weeks apart.

July 9, 2012

173 Gut Flora and our Immune System [9 July 2012]

Last week we looked at the benefits of gut flora. In this column I’ll concentrate on the effects of gut flora on our immune system. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, in “Gut and Psychology Syndrome – Natural Treatment for Autism, ADHD, Dyspraxia, Depression and Schizophrenia”, explains how the immune systems of people with GAPS Syndrome (discussed last column) are out of balance, often attacking their own bodies including the brain and nervous system.

Beneficial bacteria coat the epithelial surface of the small intestine and stimulate production of lymphocytes which in turn produce immunoglobulins, especially IgA, and other immune system regulators such as cytokines and interferons. These are our body’s first line of defense against pathological microorganisms. Beneficial bacteria also enable neutrophils and macrophages to function better. Their job is to destroy and gobble up viruses, bacteria and toxins.

The health of our gut flora affects the immune system of the entire body, not just that in the digestive tract. When the first line of defense in the lining of the gut fails, pathogens and toxins enter the bloodstream and our second line of defense is activated. This includes several different interleukins and IgE, the antibody involved in allergic reactions. These are not as effective at fighting pathogens, often allowing chronic viral infections to persist. If these antibodies become overactive they can lead to allergic and auto-immune conditions including asthma, eczema, chronic fatigue syndrome and neurological conditions like ADHD and autism.

Two additional effects of gut flora on the immune system are malnutrition and auto-intoxication. The nutrient deficiencies caused by a lack of beneficial bacteria (discussed last week) affect the immune system along with every other system of the body. And the unchecked growth of pathogens produces toxins like ethanol and acetaldehyde which depresses the immune system and attacks the nervous system.

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

July 2, 2012

172 Benefits of a Healthy Gut Flora [3 July 2012]

I wrote about GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) in January 2012 (Column #147). Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a Russian trained neurologist practicing in the UK, discovered that all of her young patients with allergic, neurological, and psychiatric disorders – asthma, eczema, autism, ADD/ADHD, dyspraxia, and dyslexia – also had digestive problems. These children tended to be fussy eaters, complained of abdominal discomfort and had abnormal stools. When the digestive disorders were treated with a special diet, probiotics, and detoxification, the allergy and neurological conditions improved dramatically or disappeared altogether.

What is the connection between our gut and neurological health? A large part of the answer has to do with our intestinal flora – the bacteria, fungi and viruses that live in our gut. A healthy population of good bacteria has many health benefits:
• protects us from pathological microorganisms which can cause disease
• absorbs and neutralizes toxins including heavy metals
• absorbs many carcinogens and suppresses development of cancer
• protects the gut wall from pathogens which cause inflammation (IBD)
• digests cellulose (fiber) and lactose (milk sugar)
• synthesizes vitamins K2, B1, B2, B6 and B12
• prevents toxins, microbes and partially digested proteins from entering the blood stream where they can trigger allergies and other health problems
• controls certain iron-loving bacteria which cause anemia (iron supplements only make these bacteria stronger)
• nourishes the endothelial cells of the gut wall which in turn digest and absorb nutrients from our food to nourish the rest of our body.

Dr McBride sums it up: “A well-functioning gut with healthy gut flora holds the roots of our health.” Her GAPS patients were commonly deficient in magnesium, zinc, selenium copper, calcium, manganese, sulfur, phosphorus, iron, potassium, sodium, and vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, C, A, D, folic acid, pantothenic acid, omega 3, 6 & 9 efas, taurine, glutathione, and others. Small wonder they also suffered from neurological and other conditions.

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