October 28, 2013

240 Grain and our Brain [28 October 2013]

A recently published book, “Grain Brain – the Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers” by David Perlmutter, MD argues that “…to a large extent numerous neurological conditions often reflect the mistake of consuming too many carbs and not enough healthy fats”. Perlmutter argues that a diet closer to what our ancestors ate (75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs) would be healthier for our brains than our modern diet of 20%, 20% & 60% respectively. In addition to simple carbohydrates like glucose, he particularly singles out wheat as the main culprit. His healthy brain diet does allow some alternate grains like quinoa, amaranth, millet, brown rice and oats. Watch an interview with Dr Perlmutter here.

In the book Perlmutter lays out the research and evidence to support his theory, backed by years of experience as a practicing neurologist in Florida. Hidden sensitivity to gluten and other components of grains goes beyond celiac disease and affects many, possibly all, of us to some extent. Gluten causes the gut membrane to become permeable to partially digested proteins which then enter the blood and cause inflammation. Similarly gluten disrupts the blood-brain barrier leading to brain inflammation which can develop into serious neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. All carbs raise blood sugar, even the complex carbs in whole grains, and elevated blood sugar damages the brain and increases risk of dementia. Patients started noticing clearer thinking and improved memory after only two weeks following Dr Perlmutter’s program.

Perlmutter’s theory agrees with that of Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride who treats neurological disorders with what she calls the GAPS diet: eliminating grains, dairy & processed foods; reestablishing healthy flora in the GI tract, and elimination of toxins. I wrote about her work and diet in columns 147, 172, 173, 175.

Reaction from nutritionists was swift to support whole grains as part of a healthy diet. Cynthia Harriman, a director of the Whole Grains Council, refutes Perlmutter: “Grain Brain is a misleading and sensationalist title for a book that distorts current science and contributes, sadly, to public confusion about what constitutes a healthy diet”. Personally, I (Stan) think that Grain Brain is a valuable contribution to the literature on diet and mental health and, while I still eat whole wheat bread, we have been enjoying more quinoa, millet and rice lately.

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

October 21, 2013

239 New Hope for Neuropathy [21 October 2013]

Neuropathy is a painful condition caused by damage to the nerves. Symptoms include: numbness and tingling; inability to feel temperature; and intense, often crippling, pain.

Neuropathy can be caused by traumatic injury to the peripheral nerves or spinal cord; diabetes; chemotherapy; stroke; certain auto-immune diseases like Multiple Sclerosis; and some viruses including HIV. Neuropathy often responds poorly to normal analgesics so antidepressants, steroids, and opioid drugs are often used to manage the pain. Unfortunately with chronic use, these often develop significant unwanted side effects.

But there is hope. Researchers testing an amino acid, acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC), are finding that it effectively relieves the pain of neuropathy but even more importantly, it also assists with repair of the damaged nerves and reverses numbness. People with neuropathy were able to feel their arms and feet again within a year of starting ALC. And all this without long-term side effects.

Acetyl-L-carnitine has also been used, with varying success, for a variety of neurological conditions including Alzheimer’s, memory loss, depression, alcoholism, and Down syndrome. It is also touted as an aid to weight loss and men’s sexual function, but there is little evidence to support these uses.

ALC is a non-essential amino acid, meaning that your liver can synthesize it from another amino acid (lysine). But as we age and our health deteriorates our ability to create ALC diminishes.

ALC is mostly found in meat, especially lamb. ALC is available as a supplement in Canada without prescription. ALC is a special, more bioavailable, form of L-carnitine and appears to work better for this purpose. Alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin C and a B complex, taken along with ALC, may improve its effectiveness.

Caution: medical supervision is strongly recommended for anyone considering taking ALC who is taking blood thinning medication, certain cancer or HIV medications, or has a severe mood disorder (eg Bipolar Depression).

This Amino Acid Reverses Nerve Damage Institute for Natural Healing, October 2013
L-Acetylcarnitine: A Proposed Therapeutic Agent for Painful Peripheral Neuropathies Current Neuropharmacology, July 2006
Acetyl-L-carnitine (levacecarnine) in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy. A long-term, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.
Acetyl-L-carnitine improves pain, nerve regeneration, and vibratory perception in patients with chronic diabetic neuropathy: an analysis of two randomized placebo-controlled trials. Diabetes Care, Jan 2005
The Therapeutic Effects of Acetyl-L-Carnitine on Peripheral Neuropathy: A Review of the Literature. Natural Medicine Journal 8/1/2010

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner. See this article on my website for links to sources and further reading.

October 14, 2013

238 Skin Cancer Lowers Risk of Death! [15 Oct 2013]

Exposure to the sun has both negative and positive effects on our health. While sunlight produces beneficial vitamin D in our skin, too much sun can lead to skin cancer. What is the relative risk versus benefit of sun exposure? A recent study from Denmark provided a surprising answer.

For this study researchers examined the entire population of Denmark ages 40 to 90 – 4.4 million people – for 25 years. Now that’s a large study! They looked for correlations between non-melanoma skin cancer, melanoma, heart attacks, hip fractures and death from all causes. As might be expected, they found that those diagnosed with skin cancers had a significantly lower rate of hip fractures. This makes sense because of the role vitamin D plays in calcium metabolism. Heart attacks were also significantly lower in the skin cancer groups, which can be explained by vitamin D’s known role in preventing heart disease.

Most significantly, incidence of death from all causes was a whopping 48% lower for those diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer (common but rarely fatal), and – what really surprised me – was still 11% lower for the melanoma group (rare but with higher mortality). As one reviewer in the Vitamin D Council blog put it “…here we have a study that shows that…even among individuals who have had skin cancer, increased levels of UV exposure are related to better health.”

Note that this study did not determine the cause of the results. I think we can safely assume, based on previous research, that the best explanation for the improved health outcomes in the skin cancer groups is that they had higher vitamin D levels. Outdoor exercise may also be a factor.

Fortunately we can minimize the risk of skin cancer and still reap the benefits of vitamin D. I have previously written about safe sun exposure for maximizing vitamin D production during the summer months. Since that season won’t return until next May, supplementation remains as the only option through the winter.

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

October 7, 2013

237 Bioidentical Hormone Safety [7 Oct 2013]

Back in July (#225 “Preventing Post-Menopausal Fractures”) I mentioned the benefits of bioidentical hormone replacement. This week I want to explore the safety of bioidentical hormones, as the recent publicity over hormone replacement therapy side effects may cause some women – and their physicians – to avoid it.

A review of the medical literature on the subject by Dr. Kent Holtorf MD was published in June 2007 in the Townsend Letter. In it Dr. Holtorf explains that natural bioidentical hormones are very different from the synthetic hormones (made from horse urine or synthesized in a lab) and do not have their serious side effects.

While the 2002 WHI study found that synthetic hormones, particularly the synthetic progesterone MPA, increased the risk of heart attack and stroke, natural estrogen and progesterone have the opposite effect of actually reducing the risk of these cardiovascular diseases. Long term use of both estrogen and synthetic progesterone increase the risk of breast cancer. Natural hormones, particularly estriol and progesterone, lower the risk of breast cancer.

Holtorf also comments from his own professional experience that women on the natural hormones feel great and are more satisfied than women on synthetic hormones. Jeffrey Dach, MD explains the importance of balancing hormone levels on his website. He claims that age-related hormone imbalance is at least partially responsible for most of the degenerative diseases of aging: osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, cognitive dysfunction (Alzheimer’s), loss of libido, and depression.

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 more information on bioidentical hormones, 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.