July 29, 2013

227 Herbs for Healthy Veins [29 July 2013]

Varicose veins are blue, bulging, swollen veins typically occurring in the legs. Spider veins are smaller, either red or blue, and occur in patches of connected lines like a spider web. More than just a cosmetic problem, varicose veins can be painful and are a sign of impaired circulation. Hemorrhoids is a painful condition caused by varicose veins occurring at the rectum. Several herbs have been found effective in the treatment and prevention of varicose veins and hemorrhoids.

Horse Chestnut is a popular herbal remedy for these conditions. Seed extract from this tree reduces inflammation, improves venous wall tone, increases blood flow, and reduces capillary permeability. Precautions – avoid horse chestnut extract during pregnancy and breast-feeding; monitor blood sugar if diabetic; and avoid if taking lithium or blood-thinning drugs. The herb Butcher’s Broom and extracts of Pine Bark (pycnogenol) and grapeseed are also used for varicose veins and hemorrhoids.

Two bioflavonoids, hesperadin and diosmin, both from the white of citrus rinds, are proving effective for these conditions. These two extracts work together to:
• reduce swelling and inflammation
• strengthen blood vessel walls which reduces bruising
• improve venous tone and elasticity in Chronic Venous Insufficiency
• increase capillary circulation of blood
• speed healing of leg ulcers due to poor circulation (common in diabetes)
• improve lymphatic drainage
• and often take two to three months to achieve full beneficial effects.

Diosmin reduces stickiness of blood platelets so it is important to consult your physician if you are on blood thinning meds as they may need to be reduced. As a precaution, check with your health care practitioner before using while pregnant or breastfeeding.

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 22, 2013

226 Sugar in Milk [July 22, 2013]

Two Harvard medical doctors writing in the July 2013 JAMA Pediatrics question the evidence for recommending 3 cups of low-fat milk for children and adults. David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD and Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH noted that while dietary recommendations typically limit consumption of calorie-containing liquids, they encourage 3 cups daily of reduced-fat milk (2% or skim) which contains 12g of sugar per cup.

Two possible rationales for this recommendation – to reduce calories and to reduce saturated fats – are not supported by available evidence. The few studies comparing whole milk and reduced fat milk show equal or even greater weight gain in the low fat group. Ludwig and Willett suggest the lower satiety of low-fat milk causes an increase in consumption of other foods which often contain high-glycemic carbohydrates (i.e. the child is still hungry so eats another cookie).

And reducing saturated fat to prevent heart disease may or may not be effective – it depends on what it is replaced with. If replaced by unsaturated fats or low-glycemic carbs (whole grains and vegetables), the blood lipids (cholesterol levels) should improve. But if replaced by high-glycemic carbs (sugar and starch), cholesterol may not change but triglycerides will increase and so will the risk for a heart attack.

The authors then discuss sweetened chocolate milk. Adding 14g of sugar per serving to encourage children to drink more, undermines the nutritional advantage of the milk. And the added sugar is sucrose (glucose + fructose) which is harder on the liver than the natural milk sugar lactose (glucose + galactose).

Finally the authors question the requirement of milk as a calcium source. They argue that the USA RDA for calcium is probably higher than it needs to be, and certainly higher than in other countries like the UK. They also point out that countries which do not eat dairy have a lower bone fracture rate than those that do; and that a recent meta-analysis found that milk consumption does not protect against fractures in adults.

Although they don’t come out with a conclusion or recommendation, it appears that Ludwig and Willett would prefer 1 or 2 cups of whole milk rather than 3 of low-fat milk, and certainly than sweetened flavored milk.

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 15, 2013

225 Preventing Post-Menopausal Fractures

A wipe-out on my bicycle last week makes this topic timely. I didn’t break any bones but easily could have. A study from the U. of Buffalo published in June looked at the effectiveness of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and supplementation with calcium and vitamin D (CalD) in preventing fractures in post-menopausal women.

The study “Women’s Health Initiative clinical trials: interaction of calcium and vitamin D with hormone therapy” found that HT and CalD together reduced hip fractures by 50% over placebo, and that the combination was more effective than either alone. Curiously bone mineral density was unchanged in the lower fracture group. Personally I suspect that if a better form of calcium than carbonate was used, vitamin D3 was given at 4,000iu instead of 400iu, and vitamin K2 was added, the fracture rate would be much lower and a bone mineral density increase would be measurable, with or without the HRT.

Hormone Replacement Therapy has fallen out of favor since the publication in July 2002 of a study by the Women’s Health Initiative which linked it to increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. One year later breast cancer rates, which had been climbing steadily, dropped by 7% overall and by 12% in women over age 50. See Mercola's post on this topic for additional information.

Fortunately there is a safer alternative – bio-identical hormones. Because of patent laws, the hormones used in HRT are synthetic, similar but not exactly like the ones produced in our bodies. Bio-identical hormones are just that – the exact same molecules, so they work better without the side effects. Ideally all of the hormones should be measured and balanced – estrone, estradiol, estriol, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA – not just one or two. It takes all of your hormones, in balance, to keep you healthy. Periodic hormone testing is also important to ensure that your hormones stay in balance. For information on bio-identical hormone therapy, contact Cindy Johns at 306-463-4565.

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 8, 2013

224 Nutrients for Healthy Eyes [8 July 2013]

Most people would consider vision to be the most precious of their senses, so it makes sense to protect it. Certain nutrients prevent damage to the eyes and improve vision. A few of these nutrients can be obtained sufficiently in food; most only by supplementation.

Beta-carotene occurs as retinal in the photoreceptor cells; protects the cornea; improves night vision
Lutein, astaxanthin & zeaxanthin are fat-soluble antioxidants concentrated in the lens and macula; protect delicate photoreceptor cells from UV rays and free radicals; prevent cataracts and Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Astaxanthin is the most potent antioxidant for protecting the eyes; protects DHA oxidation in the eye; inhibits inflammation; reduces eyestrain fatigue from computer use; protects or treats AMD, Cataracts, Diplopia (double vision), Diabetic Retinopathy, and depth perception problems
Anthocyanins, water-soluble antioxidants found in dark berry pigments (bilberries, blackberries, blueberries), protect the eyes and improve vision
Cyanidin-3-glucoside (C3G) is the most important anthocyanin for the eyes; improves night vision, reduces eye fatigue from computers
Vitamin E: gamma tocopherol (GT) and alpha tocopherol (AT) work more effectively together, with GT the most important; protect eyes from free radicals and inflammation; help prevent cataracts and AMD
Benfotiamine is a special form of Thiamine (B1) for the eyes; helps prevent glaucoma, cataracts, AMD, Diabetic Retinopathy and eye inflammation
Zinc and Selenium are mineral antioxidants; methionine form best for safety and bioavailability for the eyes; selenium reduces risk of AMD, cataracts and glaucoma; zinc is concentrated in choroid layer of the retina which provides oxygen and nutrients to the photoreceptor cells
L-Taurine is a sulfur containing amino acid essential for healthy eyes; improves Diabetic Retinopathy; helps prevent AMD

Source: Vision Health Formulas - powerpoint by RoseMarie Pierce, B.Sc.Pharm. 2013

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, 2013

223 Restless Leg Syndrome [2 July 2013]

Most people, at least those who’ve never experienced it, think of restless leg syndrome (RLS) as more of a nuisance than a serious health problem. A recent study published in the Journal Neurology last month should change that thinking.

A prospective cohort study of 18,425 adult men in the USA found a 35% greater mortality over the 8 year study period for those who had RLS. When those with major chronic conditions – cancer, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, etc – were factored out, the increased rate of mortality jumped to 95% - nearly double the rate of death!

The study didn’t determine if the increased mortality in RLS was due to an underlying cause of RLS, co-occurring conditions, or to consequences of RLS.
There are many natural treatments for RLS to reduce or eliminate symptoms:
• increase magnesium and potassium foods or supplements
• increase iron foods or supplements – if your iron is low
• increase folic acid (B10) and B complex
• homeopathic remedies like Hylands “Restful Legs”
• herbs to increase circulation such as Ginkgo, Horse Chestnut and Butcher’s Broom
• massage and stretch the leg muscles
• alternate hot and cold baths or compresses
• hot bath with Epsom salts (rich in magnesium)
• avoid alcoholic and caffeinated (coffee, tea, cola) drinks in the evening
• stop smoking
• drink plenty of water

Successful treating of RLS may or may not reduce your risk of death, but it will improve your sleep. And that alone will make a world of difference to your health.

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