December 22, 2014

299 Statins, Muscle Pain & Vit. D [22 December 2014]

A commonly reported side effect of statin (cholesterol-lowering) drug therapy is musculoskeletal pain, called statin-induced myalgia (SIM), affecting 10-20% of patients. Another side effect is the blockage of the metabolic pathway that produces coenzyme Q10, necessary for the production of energy in the form of ATP in the mitochondria of our cells. It is generally believed that this reduction in Q10 is responsible for the muscle pain and fatigue experienced by many statin users. And indeed, taking coenzyme Q10 does reduce or eliminate the pain in most people.

Muscle pain is also a symptom of vitamin D deficiency. So it’s not too surprising to learn that studies have found a correlation with vitamin D status and muscle pain in people using statins. Two studies in 2014 examined this relationship.

The first, published in the journal PLOS ONE in March, followed 5,526 adults for 7 years and measured the vitamin D status when they began statin drug therapy. The risk of developing muscle pain was strongly correlated with vitamin D status; 21% higher for those with the lowest levels compared to the highest. The D level at which the greatest change occurred was 15 ng/ml (37.5 nmol/L). Note that this is about half the minimum vitamin D level recommended by some for optimum health – see my post #295 last month. Significantly, some of the participants with low D levels did not experience muscle pain until starting statin therapy, suggesting that it is the SIM that the D prevented, not general muscle pain.

The more recent study, published in the journal Atherosclerosis in December, compared the rate of pain reported in 1,057 statin users and 4,850 non-statin users, for which vitamin D blood levels were available. The researchers found the risk of developing muscle pain was 90% higher (nearly double) for those with D levels below 15 ng/ml. Interestingly there was no significant difference in pain reported between the statin users and non-users for those with D levels higher than 15 ng/ml.

More research is being done but I wouldn’t wait. If I was taking a statin drug, in addition to supplementing with Q10, I would make sure my D levels were adequate.

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.

December 15, 2014

298 Omega-7 Update [15 Dec 2014]

Last April I introduced you to Omega-7, the fourth essential fatty acid. At that time there had been no good human studies on it. That has now changed with a 2013 study by a research center in Puerto Rico.

The study, published in August 2014 in the J. Clinical Lipidology, is the first human randomized controlled trial of palmitoleic acid (Omega-7). The researchers selected 60 adult men and women with dyslipidemia (unhealthy blood levels of fats) and divided them into two groups. The experimental group received 220 mg of Omega-7; the control group a placebo capsule of MCT (medium chain triglycerides). Before and after 30 days the participants’ blood levels were tested for lipids and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP, a marker for inflammation).

After the 30 day trial the group taking Omega 7 had significant improvements compared to the controls. Triglycerides were reduced 15%; LDL (the “bad cholesterol”) was reduced 8%; and HDL (the “good cholesterol”) had increased 5%. But the greatest change was in the hsCRP levels which were reduced 44%.

Side effects were rare in this study. Two or three participants in the Omega-7 group experienced gastrointestinal distress and one had a headache during the study period. No adverse effects were noted in the control group.

This is an important study in the research on Omega-7. Previous animal studies and human epidemiological studies found associations between higher blood levels of Omega-7 and improved blood lipid levels, but did not show cause and effect. This study showed that supplementing with Omega 7 will improve blood lipids and reduce inflammation. Other previous studies suggested that Omega-7 could reduce fatty liver and also improve insulin sensitivity (low insulin sensitivity is a risk factor for the development of diabetes). Further research is needed to verify these results.

Omega-7 is abundant in only a few foods: seabuckthorn berries, macadamia nuts and some cold water fish like anchovies and wild salmon. It is available as a supplement from seabuckthorn berry oil and purified fish oil.

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

December 8, 2014

297 Mental Health Revolution [8 Dec 2014]

The discovery of the first anti-depressant in the 1950s ushered in a revolution in mental health. This and the families of anti-depressant, anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic drugs that followed not only provided results not possible before but did much to remove the stigma of mental illness. They showed that mental illness is a chemical imbalance, not a character flaw, and not the fault of the person experiencing it.

Unfortunately, recent research is finding that while these drugs have good short term results, the long term can be a different story. Dr. Julia Rucklidge, a clinical psychologist in New Zealand, expanded on this topic in a recent TEDx Talk. She reported huge rates of increases over the past few years in ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder and other psychiatric illnesses in New Zealand and internationally, and then discussed the long term shortcomings of conventional treatments.

Rucklidge has spent the last ten years researching the effects of micro-nutrition on mental health. She and other researchers around the world, have found that the broad spectrum high dose supplement she works with consistently provides superior, often dramatic, results in the short term, without the long term side effects of conventional treatments, for many different conditions including: stress, anxiety, addictions, depression, ADHD, OCD, autism, and Bipolar Disorder. Links to these studies can be found on the TrueHope website. She explains that eating well is essential for mental health but for some people it is not sufficient to turn around a serious mental condition. She also cautioned that the number of nutrients (36) and the dosage used by the researchers are far higher than you would find in a regular multivitamin.

I first wrote about this program in January 2010 "A Discovery of Truehope". Listen to an interview with Truehope founder Anthony Stephan talking about the program and how it came to be.

Rucklidge sums it up this way:
“Poor nutrition is a significant and modifiable risk factor for the development of mental illness… Optimizing nutrition is a safe and viable way to avoid, treat or lessen mental illness.”

I think it’s time for the next revolution in mental 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.

December 1, 2014

296 Going Grain–Free [1 Dec 2014]

Have you considered going on a gluten-free diet or the more comprehensive grain-free diet? Should you consider it?

Dana James in her November 12, 2014, article in MindBodyGreen “So, Should You Eat Gluten or Not?” argues that practically everyone should avoid gluten. After describing how gluten has changed in some modern grains; how it causes gut permeability which is aggravated by stress; how gluten leads to food cravings; and knocks gut bacteria “out-of-whack”, James lists who, in her opinion, should and who should not eat gluten. Her “no” list is so comprehensive and her “yes” list is so strict that no one I know would qualify.

Here is my list for who should consider trying a gluten or grain free diet:
• diagnosed with Celiac or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS)
• crave carbs, especially breads & baking (eg doughnuts!)
• digestive problems – gas, bloating, abdominal pain
• joint pain, numbness in extremities
• want to lose or at least stop gaining weight
• feel depressed or experience “fuzzy brain”.

Notice I said “try”. I recommend going grain-free for a month and see what happens. You might be surprised, as was Carrie Vitt when her family went grain-free (MindBodyGreen November 18, 2014, “10 Things I didn’t Expect When Our Family Went Grain-Free”): the cravings left in only 3 days; appetites were reduced and they could go longer between meals; cooking and even baking was easier; no one complained and even the kids loved it; her mind was more alert with no low blood sugar crashes; she lost unwanted pounds; and most importantly her autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s) went into full remission.

So don’t go grain-free just because it’s trendy. Give it a try if you wish, and then after a month or so decide if you have noticed enough positive changes that you want to make it a permanent part of your lifestyle. If not then you can continue to make whole grains part of your healthy diet.

I previously wrote on this topic in April 2012 (Wheat - Beyond Gluten); October 2013 (Grain and Our Brain); and September 2014 (Maybe It's Not Gluten).

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

November 24, 2014

295 Vitamin D – How Much? [24 Nov 2014]

How much vitamin D should we be taking? We have a good idea what blood levels are optimum for health. Dr William Grant of the Vitamin D Council states that 75 nmol/L is “the minimum [vitamin D] concentration associated with optimal health”. The Vitamin D Society, a Canadian non-profit organization, recommends Canadians maintain levels between 100 and 150. But what supplementation do we need to achieve this? Pure North S’Energy Foundation of Calgary carried out a study, published this month, to answer just that.

Over 17,000 healthy adult volunteers of varying BMI (Body Mass Index) were supplemented with different levels of vitamin D for a year, and had their serum D levels measured before and after. On average, 5,000 IU daily achieved a level of about 100 nmol/L; 10,000 about 140; and 20,000 about 150. Note the diminishing returns on increased dosage. Results varied considerably according to the person’s BMI. People of normal weight required about 2,500 IU to reach 100 nmol/L and 10,000 to reach 150. Overweight people required 3,000 and 14,000 respectively; obese people 12,000 and somewhere over 20,000; while underweight people needed only 2,000 and 8,000.

Remember, these figures are for healthy people; people with MS or fighting cancer would want to achieve a higher blood level and would likely need to take a higher dosage to achieve it. A Rosetown woman with MS told me that she was taking 50,000 units for a prolonged period just to keep her vitamin D level in the low end of normal.

Keep in mind that these are all averages and individual results vary considerably so it is important to check your baseline vitamin D levels before beginning (or increasing) supplementation and to have your blood levels monitored regularly.

No adverse side effects were observed in this study, despite supplementation at more than 20,000 IU per day. No cases were reported of hypercalcemia, a concern of critics of high dose D supplementation. This is consistent with other studies which showed no adverse effects with supplementation of up to 50,000 IU.

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

November 17, 2014

294 Curcumin – Nature's Painkiller [17 Nov 2014]

Curcumin is a natural phenol found in turmeric root which gives this Indian spice, used in curry dishes, its bright yellow color. Curcumin is used in herbal medicine primarily to relieve pain and inflammation. In India’s traditional Ayurvedic medicine, curcumin has a long history in the treatment of asthma, allergies, sinusitis, liver disorders, rheumatism and wound healing. Curcumin is now being scientifically explored for several other potential purposes – besides its anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin has demonstrated antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, cardioprotective and antiarthritic benefits.

Like most non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), curcumin inhibits the COX2 enzyme responsible for inflammation and pain in the body; but it does so more completely and more safely than NSAIDs. The problem with curcumin though is that it is very poorly absorbed. One method used to enhance absorption is the addition of piperine, an extract of black pepper. Another method, used in Europe, attaches the curcumin extract to a phospholipid and adds turmeric essential oils to create a special extract called BCM-95. BCM-95 is up to 10X better absorbed than regular curcumin, and is significantly better than the combination with piperine.

Curcumin is very safe, even at high doses. One possible caution is that it may suppress iron metabolism so anyone using curcumin long term should monitor his blood iron levels. Interactions with other medications are rare with BCM-95.

The BCM-95 extract is available in Canada in two formulas. A full strength 750 mg capsule of BCM-95 is effective for all types of inflammation and also offers long term pain relief. The other formula has 450mg of BCM-95 plus 100mg of Boswellia serrata extract (better known as Frankincense) – another herb with proven joint-pain relieving properties – and is more effective for immediate pain relief. Customers who have used these formulas tell me they are amazed at how quickly they have experienced relief from pain and swelling.

See for more information.

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

November 10, 2014

293 Chew Your Food [10 Nov 2014]

Remember your mother telling you to chew your food? She was right, but probably didn’t know all the reasons for doing so.

We learned in school about amylase – the enzyme in our saliva that starts the digestion of starch. Chew an unsalted cracker for a few minutes and it will start to taste sweet as the starch breaks down into sugars (salt masks the sweet taste so it’s harder to notice with salted crackers).

Thoroughly chewing your vegetables mechanically breaks down the cell walls making the nutrients inside available for your digestive processes to work on. So you get more nutrients from the same amount of food.

Another reason is to convert nitrates from vegetables to nitrites which are in turn converted in the body to nitric oxide (NO) which works to dilate arteries and lower blood pressure. The conversion to nitrites in the mouth occurs when a certain bacteria which lives on our tongue and in our saliva is mixed with the nitrates in our plant food. Frequent use of antibacterial mouthwash, by the way, interferes with this process, lowering arterial NO levels and raising blood pressure. (See my recent columns #281 on August 18 and #288 October 6 for more on the importance of our microbiome, and #180 & 181 on Nitric Oxide in September 2012.)

Chewing raw cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) mixes two compounds – glucoraphanin and an enzyme myrosinase – to form sulforaphane, a powerful antioxidant with anticancer and antimicrobial properties. I wrote about the health benefits of eating raw broccoli in #184 (24 Sept 2012); this is another benefit.

Juicing your vegetables or making smoothies mimics the action of chewing, but does it much more thoroughly. It’s still important to chew your juice to mix in the saliva. Someone once advised “Chew your drinks (to mix in saliva) and drink your foods (by chewing them until they are liquid)”.

Source: Why You Should Chew Your Food Well (And Stop Using Mouthwash) by Dr. Joel Kahn,, 29 October 2014.

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

November 3, 2014

292 The Blue Dot Tour [3 Nov 2014]

My brother and I went to hear Dr. David Suzuki last month when he was in Saskatoon with his Blue Dot Tour. The tour is named for the appearance of planet Earth from space – a pale blue dot in the vast cosmos. Seeing the Earth from this perspective has made us realize that this planet is our only home and that all living things on it – people, animals and plants – are in a sense our family.

We live in one of the most beautiful countries on Earth with abundant fresh water, natural spaces and wildlife. But we are falling behind in protecting these resources, which make up a large part of our identity as Canadians. Much more than that, the environment is what sustains our very life – the air we breathe, water we drink and food we eat. To ensure a healthier and more secure future, we must balance environmental protection and economic development.

Suzuki claims that more than 20,000 Canadians die prematurely every year due to environmental pollution. More than 110 countries recognize their citizens’ right to live in a healthy environment, but not Canada. One of the goals of the Blue Dot Tour is to work towards including this right – to fresh air, clean water and healthy food – in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Some of my relatives have no respect for Suzuki and consider him a hypocrite because he travels by jet and owns a large home. But he is not opposed to resource development or wealth, just development at the expense of air, water, and soil quality. To me the hypocrites are the industry leaders who lobby for the right to pollute the air, water and food, but still expect to breathe clean air, drink pure water and eat wholesome food. If environmentalists shouldn’t drive a car, then owners of polluting industries shouldn’t eat, drink or breathe!

Visit for more information on this tour and join the movement. I did and you can too.

P.S. I’m pleased that Ascenta Health, my distributer of NutraSea fish oil supplements, is a major sponsor of the Blue Dot Tour.

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 27, 2014

291 Massage and Blood Pressure [27 Oct 2014]

Most people are aware of the benefits of massage therapy for soft tissue pain and stress management. Massage can also provide cardiovascular benefits, particularly for the management of mild hypertension. High blood pressure is a significant risk factor in cardiovascular disease and is known as the “Silent Killer”.

A study published in 2000 by J. Bodywork & Movement Therapies compared the effects of massage therapy and progressive muscle relaxation on blood pressure. Massage was more effective at lowering blood pressure, especially diastolic. Both groups reported less anxiety but only the massage group experienced reduced depression.

A 2013 randomized control trial compared whole body Swedish massage with resting, one hour weekly for 4 weeks, on Malaysian women with hypertension. Both massage and resting improved blood pressure and heart rate, but the massage reduced it more (but the difference was not statistically significant), and for a longer time – up to 4 weeks (which was significant).

Another 2013 clinical trial compared neck & shoulder massage (10-15 minutes 3 times a week for 10 sessions) and rest in 50 pre-hypertensive women in Iran. Massage reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure significantly more than just rest, and the effects lasted at least 3 days after the treatment.

These studies (and others) suggest that massage therapy could be a useful tool in managing mild hypertension and pre-hypertension, however some cautions are in order [Massage Therapy – an Approach to Treatments, Fiona Rattray, 1994]. When working with clients with severe hypertension a massage therapist will use certain techniques and avoid others. The goal is to increase peripheral circulation (hands and feet) while avoiding movement of blood towards the trunk. The use of heat and painful techniques are contraindicated. Ideally the client’s blood pressure should be measured before and after the treatment to monitor its effects.

If your doctor is concerned about your blood pressure, ask her/him about massage therapy as a possible management tool. Here is Dr Brent Bauer of the Mayo Clinic speaking about the benefits of massage.

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 20, 2014

290 Low-Calorie Balanced Diet [20 Oct 2014]

You still hear health professionals promoting a “low-calorie balanced diet” as the best method for weight loss. A healthy balanced diet, where you get the right amounts of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids) is perfect for maintaining your weight. But a low-calorie balanced diet – eating the same foods but less of them – is not only ineffective for weight loss but can be detrimental to your health – and to your objective of losing fat – for several reasons.

First, reducing all three macronutrients by about the same amount will make you protein deficient. As a result you will burn muscle mass as well as fat to make up for the reduction in calories. But proteins are not just found in muscle – bone, skin, organs, enzymes and hormones are all made of protein.

Reducing all foods by the same amount will still provide enough carbs to keep your insulin levels up. And as I have explained many times in these articles, high insulin levels lock in the fat stores, making them unavailable for burning, so any weight you lose will be mostly muscle.

Furthermore, the inability to burn fat for fuel creates a shortfall in calories available to the body to carry out its normal functions, making you feel tired, weak, and hungry. In response, your body will lower your metabolic rate (go into starvation mode) so it can live on the lower caloric supply. Unfortunately this lower metabolism continues after you go off the restricted diet. Now when you return to your normal diet you are getting more calories than your body can use, so guess what happens? The end result of being on a low-calorie balanced diet: muscle lost, a little fat lost, and you gain fat faster than ever. And the failure of the diet will be blamed on your lack of will-power. Sound familiar?

The safest and most effective diet for losing fat weight is a protein-sparing ketogenic diet which conserves muscle while it burns fat. This contains adequate protein (the same amount as in your maintenance balanced diet) and essential fats and oils, and the minimum requirement of carbs (which isn’t very much). Ideally your weight and lean mass should be monitored by a coach trained in the program.

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 14, 2014

289 Bone Broth [14 Oct 2014]

Wait - don’t throw out your Thanksgiving turkey carcass! You can use it to make an easy, inexpensive and nutritious food called bone broth.

Bone broth is a very healthful addition to our diet for many reasons. Bone broth:
• is very easily digested
• is a good source of minerals, especially calcium, magnesium & phosphorus
• is a good source of amino acids, particularly arginine and glycine
• contains collagen, gelatin, glucosamine & chondroitin which reduce joint pain and inflammation
• promotes healthy bones, skin, hair and nails
• calms the stomach and is healing for the digestive tract
• helps heal leaky gut and reduce food allergies
• is a staple of the GAPS diet (see my columns #147, 172-175)
• boosts the immune system

Bone broth is made by simmering bones and vegetables to make a broth or soup stock. You can use bones from beef, poultry and even fish. Place about 2 lbs. of bones per gallon of water in a crock pot or stock pot. Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar (white vinegar will do) to pull the minerals out of the bones. Add vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, parsley, etc. (since you discard the vegetables after cooking, use the peels, ends and any scrap that isn’t moldy). Bring to a boil and skim off the foamy scum every 20 minutes for 2 hours. Simmer for 24 hours for poultry, 48 hours for beef and 8 hours for fish. For extra flavor add herbs & spices like parsley and garlic for the last half hour. Cool and strain and store broth in the fridge or freezer.

You can now use the broth to make soups, stews, gravy & sauces, and for cooking rice, millet or quinoa. Or simply heat and drink a cupful every day like tea. There is a good reason Grandma fed us chicken soup when we were sick.

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 6, 2014

288 Our Gut Garden [6 Oct 2014]

This week I will continue featuring a lecture by gastroenterologist Dr. Robynne Chutkan about our microbiome – particularly the bacteria which live in our digestive tract, which she calls our “gut garden”.

The discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928 ushered in the age of antibiotics. Infectious diseases that were often fatal before then could now be quickly and easily cured. Now, nearly 100 years later, we are threatened with losing much of that advantage through over-use of antibiotics. One estimate claimed 20 to 50% of antibiotic use was inappropriate for the condition being treated. The proliferation of antibiotic-resistant “super bugs” is a growing concern among medical researchers. A lesser-known danger is the damage to our microbiome, particularly the gut bacteria, causing an unhealthy change called dysbiosis.

Dysbiosis is being linked to many different health problems: inflammatory bowel disease like colitis and Crohn’s; diabetes and obesity; auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, MS and fibromyalgia; and even neurological conditions like schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. The microbiome also plays an important role in our immune system.

Babies born by C-section (27% in Canada) miss out on their first “inoculation” of beneficial bacteria from the birth canal. The benefits of vaginal birth last well beyond infancy in improved health and immunity – lower rates of asthma, allergy and other inflammation. Multiple rounds of antibiotics routinely given to children add to the problem.

Chutkan poses the question “What should we be feeding our gut garden in order to optimize our microbiome to keep us healthy?” And answers it with a quote by Michael Pollan: “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” She also advocates judicious use of drugs – not just antibiotics but other drugs like steroids, hormones and NSAIDs which also contribute to dysbiosis. And she warns against our obsession with sanitation – we shouldn’t be afraid of a little dirt! In short “Live dirty, eat clean!”

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

September 29, 2014

287 Diet & Our Microbiome [29 Sept 2014]

A lecture by gastroenterologist Dr. Robynne Chutkan on described the inter-relationship between what we eat and our gut flora. I have previously written about antibiotic overuse and its unintended impact on our microbiome [#281 18 August 2014].

Our microbiome – the bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa that live in or on the human body – is composed of some 10,000 species totaling 10 trillion cells (10 times more than our body cells). We are finally realizing that the majority of these species are not only beneficial but essential for our health. Besides keeping pathogens (disease causing microbes) in check, they aid in the digestion of, and processing of nutrients from, our food.

Chutkan refers to several recent studies which clearly show how our diet affects our microbiome.

A 2009 study from Australia discovered that plant fiber is converted by bacteria in the gut to short chain fatty acids which are known to alleviate colitis and may explain how changes in diet improves symptoms of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases.

A 2010 study by Dr Paolo Lionetti compared the fecal microbes of children from Florence Italy eating a typical sugar & fat-laden western diet with those of children from a rural East African village with a mostly plant-based fiber-rich diet. The African children had bacteria that promoted leanness and the production of anti-inflammatory short chain fatty acids, while the Italian kids had more species associated with diarrhea, allergies and obesity.

A 2013 Harvard study found that bacteria in the gut changed quickly, beginning the first day, when the subjects were switched from an animal-based to a plant-based diet (and vice-versa). Not only do the species of bacteria change but different genes were switched on or off, all of which affect our health.

Chutkan then describes how our microbiome also affects our diet. From the same food, gut bacteria in obese mice extract fewer nutrients but more calories than the bacteria in lean mice. This explains why, even on a healthy diet, people who are overweight can gain more weight and still be deficient in certain nutrients. Life just isn’t fair!

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

September 22, 2014

286 Maybe it’s not Gluten [22 Sept 2014]

We all know someone with gluten sensitivity (or have it ourselves) but it wasn’t that long ago that this condition was rare or at least not well recognized. Why the sudden increase? Aicacia Young, a registered dietitian writing for the MindBodyGreen e-newsletter asks if gluten is really the culprit and proposes two possible alternatives.

It is known that people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) improve on a gluten free diet. A double-blind crossover study in 2013 tested 37 adults with NCGS to determine if gluten was in fact the culprit. The participants were placed on three different diets: low gluten, high gluten, or whey (as a control). The diets didn’t make a significant difference in their digestive symptoms and fatigue – they were about the same with all three. Interestingly though, when they were put on a special diet in preparation for the study, all 37 improved significantly. This special diet is low in fermentable, oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols called FODMAPS. A low FODMAPS diet eliminates: dairy, wheat, apples, pears, watermelon, garlic, onions, legumes, avocados, honey and sugar alcohols. Young suggests that while gluten-free diets, which eliminate wheat, will reduce some of the symptoms of NCGS, temporarily going on a low FODMAPS diet could do even more.

The other possible cause of symptoms attributed to gluten is the herbicide glyphosate. I have previously discussed [#265 April 28, 2014] how glyphosate accumulates in our food crops and appears in human tissue in North America where it wreaks havoc with our gut flora. The resulting dysbiosis leads to intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut) which is linked to inflammation and food allergies. Even though “Roundup-ready” wheat has not been approved for production, glyphosate is used on some wheat fields as a desiccant so wheat can still have traces. Other crops sprayed with glyphosate would be canola, soybeans, corn and sugar beets. Shopping organic for these foods or avoiding them altogether (and replenishing your gut biome with probiotics) should reduce symptoms caused by glyphosate.

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

September 15, 2014

285 Breakfast – the Most Important Meal? [15 Sept 2014]

Some natural health advocates are promoting skipping breakfast as a way to improve your health. Dr. Joseph Mercola in a recent article claims several benefits of what he calls intermittent fasting of which skipping breakfast can be a part: more efficient fat burning; normalizing insulin, leptin & ghrelin sensitivity; lowering triglyceride levels; and increasing growth hormone (HGH) production.

The medical staff of the company that developed the weight loss program I use in my clinic strongly disagree. During the weight loss phases of the program breakfast is essential and mandatory. During the lifetime maintenance phase, they have found that skipping breakfast can cause people to regain weight faster. By this time the dieter has eliminated insulin resistance and “reset” the pancreas to produce the appropriate amount of insulin for whatever meal has been eaten.

A healthy breakfast includes all three macronutrient groups – protein, healthy fats & oils, and a healthy carb. Three healthy between-meal snacks are also encouraged. The theory is that as long as the meals are regular the calories will be burned for energy but if one is missed the body goes into “famine mode” and the next meal will be stored as fat instead.

A recent study with school children in the UK discovered another important benefit of breakfast – a reduced risk of developing diabetes. Over 4,000 ethnically-diverse 9 to 10 year old children from 200 schools in England participated in the study. About 74% reported eating breakfast daily; 6% rarely, and the rest either most or some days. The infrequent breakfast eaters had higher fasting insulin levels and higher insulin resistance, both risk markers for Type 2 Diabetes. Those who ate a high fiber breakfast had even lower insulin resistance than those eating a breakfast of more simple carbs. The correlation of diabetes risk factors and eating breakfast remained after allowances for socioeconomic status, physical activity, and amount of body fat.

Perhaps if your typical breakfast is high in simple carbs like a Danish pastry, pancakes & syrup, or toast & jam, with sugared coffee or orange juice, you would be better off without it. However I believe that a more substantial breakfast of oatmeal or whole grain cereal, eggs & ham or bacon, cheese or yogurt and an orange or bowl of berries is a great way to start the day and maintain your weight.

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

September 8, 2014

284 Low-Fat or Low-Carb?

The debate between low-fat and low-carb diets continues, but low-carb keeps coming out on top. A study published just last week in the Annals of Internal Medicine adds more “weight” (if you’ll pardon the pun) to the low-carb side.

The randomized trial, funded by the National Institutes of Health, divided 148 men and women, with no history of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease or diabetes, into two groups. The low carb group ate less than 40g of carbs per day of carbohydrates; the low fat group had less than 30% of their total calories from fat. Sixty participants in the low-fat group and 59 in the low-carb group completed the 12 month study. Measurements were taken at 3, 6 and 12 months.

After one year the low carb group, on average compared with the low fat group:
• lost 3.5 kg (nearly 8 lbs) more weight
• lost 1.5% more fat mass and gained 1.7% more lean mass
• had a lower ratio of total to HDL cholesterol (this is good)
• had a lower triglyceride level,
• had a greater increase HDL cholesterol (this is also good)
• had a decrease in C-reactive protein levels (a marker for inflammation)
• and, had a significantly lower risk score for coronary heart disease.

A similar trial published in Ann Intern Med in 2004 compared a low-carb ketogenic diet with a low-fat low-cholesterol reduced-calorie diet. The low-carb group lost twice as much weight, had a greater decrease in triglyceride levels, and greater increases in HDL levels. Significantly, only 50% of the weight lost by the low-fat low-calorie group was fat meaning that some muscle mass was burned. In the low-carb group 65% of the weight loss was fat suggesting that little muscle was lost. A weight loss with 75% fat loss is ideal with no muscle loss (the 25% non-fat loss is water and connective tissue associated with the fat cells). This trial however only lasted 24 weeks so the current study is much more significant.

These results should come as no surprise to anyone following the research on low carb diets. As I have explained in previous columns (#35, #65, #82), insulin is the key that prevents your body from burning fat, causing it to be stored in fat cells instead. An enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL) is required to store fat, and insulin is necessary to switch LPL on. The carbs in a meal stimulate the production of insulin ensuring that the fat in that meal will be stored rather than burned. A high insulin level is also a factor in dyslipidemia (unhealthy cholesterol levels) (#83) and inflammation (#85).

After years of eating a high carb diet we can develop a condition called insulin resistance in which our insulin levels remain high no matter what we eat. This is a perfect situation for gaining fat weight, even on a calorie-reduced diet! A temporary ketogenic diet quickly clears insulin resistance and lowers the insulin levels to the point where body fat can begin to be burned.

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

September 1, 2014

283 EFAs & Learning Disabilities [1 Sept 2014]

A previous column (#194 Dec 2012) discussed the importance of essential fatty acids (EFAs), and DHA in particular, in brain development during pregnancy and the first 5 years. An earlier column (#28 Sept 2009) discussed EFAs as one of many nutrients important in treating children (and adults) with ADHD.

Efalex ® is an EFA formula containing evening primrose oil and tuna oil which provides 12 mg GLA and 60mg DHA (and several other EFAs). In the following eight studies, children with ADHD or other learning disabilities who took 8 capsules of this formula (or equivalent DHA) daily, compared with placebo, had:

• significant reductions in hyperactivity, improvement in attention and conduct, and reduction in oppositional defiance disorder, all in addition to improvements from standard medications (The Purdue Study, 2003)

• significant reduction in ADHD related symptoms including anxiousness/shyness, hyperactivity and reading problems in children with learning difficulties (The Beechlawn Study, 2002)

• significantly greater improvements in reading speed (70%), visual-motor speed (hand-eye coordination) (81%) and social interaction, in children with difficulties in reading and concentration or a diagnosis of ADHD (The Borlange Study, 2002)

• significantly better progress in reading in dyslexic children, especially for those who also had ADHD or visual symptoms when reading (The Royal Berkshire Hospital, 2002)

• improved motor skills (manual dexterity) and balance, and improved ability to throw and catch a ball, in children with dyspraxia (The Dyspraxia Study, 2000)

• significant improvements in reading speed (60%) and motor perceptual speed (23%) in children with dyslexia (The Falsterbo Study)

• significant reduction in number and severity of incidents and need for restraints, and significant improvements in nearly all Conner’s rating scales (a measure of ADHD), in boys aged 8-16 with severe behavior and emotional problems (The Cotswold Community Study)

• significant improvement of concentration, eye contact, language development and motor skills in children with autism.(The Autistic Open Pilot Study, 2008)

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

August 25, 2014

282 Iodized Salt [25 August 2014)

In my article on iodine a few years ago [#125 1 Aug 2011] I hinted that iodized table salt may be inadequate as an iodine source. Lynne Farrow, author of “The Iodine Crisis: What You Don’t Know About Iodine Can Wreck Your Life” (2013) explains why in an essay titled “Debunking ‘Iodized’ Salt”. Farrow gives three reasons why iodized salt is an inadequate source of iodine.

1) Iodine, as potassium iodide, is not stable in salt and sublimates (vaporizes) after opening, especially with high humidity. After about a month, half of the iodine is gone. Who knows how much is left after a few years.

2) Even if the salt is consumed fresh from the factory, only about 10% is absorbed. The sodium in salt competes with iodine for absorption, making salt a questionable food to fortify with iodine.

3) While the iodide form in iodized salt is used by the thyroid and may prevent goiter, it’s not the only form your body needs. Women particularly require the iodine (I2) form for breast and ovarian health.

The amount of iodine in salt is insufficient for several additional reasons. For starters, only about 20% of the salt consumed in North America is iodized. Salt added to processed foods is not iodized. Neither are sea salts or other gourmet salts.

The Canadian RDA of 150mcg for adults is the minimum to prevent goiter in most people. Like the amount of vitamin C needed to prevent scurvy, this amount is much lower than what our bodies need for optimum health. Pregnant women and growing children need sufficient iodine for brain growth. Much higher amounts are required to prevent fibrocystic breast disease and breast cancer.

Many nutritionists are now recommending a minimum of 12.5 mg total of iodide and iodine. They also recommend avoiding sources of the other halogens – bromide (found in commercial flour and baked goods), fluoride and chlorine – which compete with iodine contributing to a deficiency.

August 18, 2014

281 Disappearing Microbiota [18 August 2014]

I have written several columns on the many problems associated with dysbiosis (an unhealthy balance of bacteria in the digestive tract) and the benefits of probiotics.
• The obvious problems include digestive disorders like gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea [03].
• Upper respiratory infections like thrush, “strep throat”, sinus and ear infections can be prevented by introducing a particular strain of S. salivarius to the mouth [72].
• Infection by a bacterium H. pylori causes stomach ulcers [221].
• Dysbiosis can cause Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS) like colitis and Crohn’s which can lead to leaky gut syndrome and food allergies.
• Our immune system [78, 173] is affected by dysbiosis, causing autoimmune conditions like eczema, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
• The work of Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride [147, 172] links unhealthy gut bacteria to neurological and psychiatric disorders ranging from ADHD and autism to schizophrenia.
• Dysbiosis can even prevent weight loss.

Now microbiologist Martin Blaser takes this even further in his 2014 book Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics is Fueling Our Modern Plagues. Modern scientific study of the human microbiome – the thousands of species of bacteria that coexist in or on our bodies – is revealing how critical it is for our health. Blaser writes
“The microbes that constitute your microbiome … play a critical role in your immunity as well as your ability to combat disease. In short, it is your microbiome that keeps you healthy.”
He then makes a convincing case that loss of many of these species is responsible for the recent worldwide proliferation of the “modern plagues” of obesity, childhood diabetes, asthma, hay fever, food allergies, esophageal reflux, certain cancers, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, autism, eczema, and others.

Blaser believes that the loss of diversity within the human microbiome is an even more serious problem than the antibiotic-resistant super bugs. He calls the problem the “disappearing microbiota” and warns of a coming “antibiotic winter” if the problem isn’t addressed.

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

August 11, 2014

280 Collagen – Healthy Skin, Hair, Nails & Bone [11 August 2014]

The key to healthy skin, hair, nails and bone is collagen. Collagen is a strong flexible protein that acts as the main structural component of connective tissue. We need a lot of it to maintain optimum health: it makes up 70% of our skin and 30% of our bones. But collagen production slows as we age, beginning at age 21.

Collagen and another protein, elastin, give skin its elasticity and a firm smooth appearance. As we age and produce less collagen and elastin, the skin thins and develops wrinkles, giving us our “mature” look.

Our hair and nails are made of another protein called keratin. Keratin production also slows as we age so our hair grows thinner and weaker and our nails become brittle.

As you know, bones are made of calcium and some other minerals, and bone mineral density is a measure of its strength. But it is collagen strands within the bone that the minerals are bound to. As we age there is less collagen and the bones become thinner and less flexible no matter how much calcium we consume.

What can we do to increase collagen? When we eat collagen-containing foods and supplements they are broken down in digestion into the required amino acids but don’t guarantee that they will be used to produce collagen. Fortunately a particular silica compound called choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid (ch-OSA) has been found to stimulate our body’s production of collagen.

Clinical studies have shown that ch-OSA supplements will:
- increase skin collagen and elastin, improving elasticity and reducing wrinkles
- increase hair thickness and body
- increase nail strength and break-resistance
- increase healthy joint cartilage
- increase bone mineral density, strength and flexibility

The compound ch-OSA is available in Canada as BioSil in both liquid and capsule form.

I wrote about the health and beauty benefits of Silica in April 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.

August 4, 2014

279 Organic - There is a Difference! [4 August 2014]

Two years ago in October 2012 (#185) I wrote about a review by Stanford University which concluded that “The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods”.

Last month a meta-analysis of 343 peer-reviewed publications – described as the largest study of its kind – was published in the British Journal of Nutrition. The authors found “statistically significant and meaningful differences in composition between organic and non-organic crops/crop-based foods.” More specifically they found that conventional compared to organic crops had:
• substantially lower levels of antioxidant compounds
• pesticide residues 3-4 times more likely with levels 10 – 100 times higher
• nearly double the concentration of Cadmium
• some nutrients (minerals and vitamins) were significantly lower, most about the same, and protein was generally higher

Antioxidants including phenolic acids, flavanones, stilbenes, flavones, flavonols and anthocyanins were 18 to 69% higher in the organic crops. Antioxidants are linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke), neurodegenerative diseases (eg Alzheimer’s and MS), and some cancers.

Cadmium is a heavy metal which displaces zinc in the body and is highly toxic at very low levels. According to the authors, a doubling of cadmium intake from food could put some people over safe intake levels.

Charles Benbrook, the sole American co-author wrote:
“This study is telling a powerful story of how organic plant-based foods are nutritionally superior and deliver bona fide health benefits”.
Why the change from the earlier study? Project leader Carlo Leifert explains: “We benefited from a much larger and higher quality set of studies than our colleagues who carried out earlier reviews.” The team found the quality and reliability of comparison studies had greatly improved in recent years, leading to the discovery of significant nutritional and food safety differences not detected in earlier studies.

Sources and Resources
BJN abstract
Washington State University News - with list of resources links
Mercola review
The Salt blog post

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 28, 2014

278 Could Probiotics Make You Sick? [28 July 2014]

Probiotics are beneficial micro-organisms taken as a supplement for healthy digestion and many other health benefits, especially following a course of antibiotics (see my posts #78, 172, 173 & 243). But in rare situations probiotics can cause an illness called D-lactate acidosis.

Lactic acid (lactate) is produced by lactobacillus and other types of bacteria in our intestines. There are two forms of lactic acid: L-lactate and D-lactate. Certain bacteria in probiotics like L. acidophilus produce more D-lactate than others. Some people – especially those who have bowel disease or had bowel surgery (short bowel syndrome) – have an impaired ability to metabolize the D-lactate form, resulting in lactic acidosis. D-lactose intolerance is associated with carbohydrate intolerance and leaky gut syndrome.

D-lactate acidosis can also be caused by antibiotics. L Acidophilus is relatively resistant to common antibiotics so may proliferate post treatment.

D-lactic acidosis affects the central nervous system causing symptoms including:
• Weakness and fatigue
• Inability to concentrate
• Agitation, irritability, hostility
• Headache, teeth grinding, involuntary eye movement
• Slurred speech
• Impaired motor coordination, gait disturbance
• Nausea, vomiting & diarrhea

There is a lab test for blood levels of lactic acid to aid in diagnosing this condition. Ironically one treatment is antibiotics. A low carbohydrate diet also helps. Probiotics without L. acidophilus may be helpful if tolerated.

My purpose in sharing this information is not to scare anyone from using probiotics. They are beneficial for almost everyone and essential for many. But should you experience a severe reaction after taking a probiotic, don’t just assume it’s a temporary “die off” reaction from toxins released by dying harmful bacteria. You could be one of the very rare “lucky” people with impaired D-lactate metabolism that require a low carb diet and a special L. acidophilus-free probiotic.

July 21, 2014

277 Raising HDL [21 July 2014]

A customer recently asked me what he could do to raise his low HDL “good cholesterol” levels. HDL stands for High Density Lipoprotein and is not a type of cholesterol, but a carrier of it. A low ratio of HDL / Total Cholesterol of less than 10 is a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease (over 24 is ideal).

I have previously written about the role of insulin levels in optimizing cholesterol production [#83 October 2010]. A ketogenic diet will quickly bring high cholesterol levels back to normal, and a diet low in simple carbs (sugar and refined grains) will help to keep it there.

Here are some other ways you can increase your HDL:
• Aerobic exercise – at least 30 minutes 5 days a week
• Strength training exercise – even building lower body muscle helps
• Quit smoking
• Maintain optimum weight – obesity increases LDL and reduces HDL
• Drink red wine with meals – 1 glass daily for women, 2 for men
• Increase omega 3 with fish and fish oil supplements
• Avoid trans fatty acids – in hard margarine and some processed foods
• Use coconut oil for cooking and olive or avocado oil for salads
• Add soluble fiber to your diet – see last week’s article
• Niacin (vitamin B3) has been shown to increase HDL
• Calcium supplement – 1g daily raised HDL 7%
• Increase anthocyanins found in red and purple foods like plums, grapes, purple cabbage, eggplant, cranberries and raspberries
• Add raw nuts for their essential fatty acids – 2 oz a day
• Dark chocolate – 2.5 oz daily increased HDL 11-14%

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.

July 14, 2014

276 Fiber – Are You Getting Enough? [14 July 2014]

I last wrote about fiber in Nov 2011 (#140) and thought it was time for a reminder. Fiber helps regulate bowel movements, keeps our blood sugar levels in balance, and helps us achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stools, preventing constipation. It also helps remove toxins from the colon and improves the pH, lowering the risk of colon cancer. Sources of insoluble fiber are wheat bran, flaxseed, whole grains, root vegetable skins, beans and popcorn.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel. It slows emptying of the stomach, normalizing blood sugar levels. It also binds with fatty acids causing them to be expelled in the stool, resulting in less stored fat and improved cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber also binds with and helps removes toxins. Sources include psyllium hulls, chia seed, oat bran, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

We need both types of fiber. Dr Gifford-Jones’ test for sufficient fiber is if your stool floats and is soft like toothpaste. If it's hard and sinks, you aren’t getting enough! Most of us get far less than the recommended 35 grams a day. Since adding a psyllium-flax blend to my breakfast routine I have two large easy BMs a day. But fiber does far more than give us big soft poops. Studies link dietary fiber to reduced risks of: heart disease, respiratory illness, diabetes, high blood pressure, colon and some other cancers, and death from all causes.

As part of a weight control program, fiber plays several roles. High fiber foods have a low energy-density allowing you to eat more food with fewer calories. Fiber makes you feel full reducing your appetite. Finally, by controlling blood sugar, it reduces carbohydrate cravings, lowers insulin resistance, and promotes burning of calories rather than storage as fat.

To improve your health, prevent disease, increase your energy and maintain a healthy weight, simply add more fiber to your diet.

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 7, 2014

275 Safe Tanning [7 July 2014]

We are at peak sunlight season right now (the days are actually getting shorter but let’s not think about that just yet) so it’s time to review safe tanning procedures. The sun is high enough for the beneficial UVB rays to penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere at this latitude from about 12:00 to 2:00 in May and August, and from 11:00 to 3:00 in June and July. Both UVA and UVB will cause sunburn – and potentially melanoma – but only UVB can synthesize vitamin D.

As I have written before, the safest way to use sunlight to make vitamin D is to expose as much skin as possible for a short period of time (10-20 minutes) in early afternoon on a sunny day. To avoid sunburn, stop exposure before the skin turns light pink. As you tan throughout the summer, the length of exposure can gradually increase. The rest of the time you should cover up with clothing or a safe natural sunscreen. This includes mid-morning, mid to late afternoon, on cloudy days, and through glass (like a car window) – all times when we can sunburn but cannot synthesize vitamin D.

Check your sunscreen label carefully. Many block UVB radiation only. The two safest and most effective ingredients for blocking the more harmful UVA are zinc oxide and titanium oxide.

Don’t let the scare of skin cancer keep you completely out of the sun. Regular low intensity (for a short time period) sun exposure does not increase the risk of melanoma and actually lowers your risk of all cancers. Outdoor workers like farmers and fishermen have a lower rate of melanoma than indoor workers like office clerks, and melanoma often occurs on areas of skin not exposed to sunlight. Melanoma patients with higher levels of vitamin D have a higher survival rate. And as I have frequently written, there are many, many other benefits of vitamin D. A meta-analysis published April 2014 in Am. J. Public Health found that deaths from all causes was 1.9 times (nearly twice) as high for people with the lowest vitamin D blood levels compared with those with the highest levels.

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

June 30, 2014

274 Natural Bug Repellent [30 June 2014]

With all the rain we have had this spring when it finally warms up the mosquitoes will be out in hordes. Since the coming of West Nile Virus they are no longer just a nuisance but a very real health hazard. Ditto for ticks and Lyme Disease. DEET is still the most effective repellent for both mosquitoes and ticks. Watkins insect repellent has a good reputation because it has the highest DEET content allowed by Health Canada.

There are also many natural options. Most natural repellents use one or more essential oils like citronella or peppermint. Two unusual ones that I carry are a repellent you wear (a wrist band impregnated with peppermint oil) and one you eat (a supplement called Mozi-Q). You can also make up your own with essential oils using Witch Hazel as a base.

Here is a recipe I found:
• 15 drops citronella
• 15 drops lemongrass
• 15 drops geranium (for tick protection)
• 10 drops lavender (optional)
• 10 drops tea tree oil (optional)
• 10 drops peppermint (optional)
• 10 drops cedarwood (optional)
• 355 ml Witch Hazel

Mix in glass jar and pour into spray bottle. Apply to exposed skin and rub in. Do not spray on face – apply to hand and rub on face carefully avoiding the eyes. Repeat application every 30 minutes to 2 hours as required. Health Canada recommends DEET and citronella repellents not be used on infants and toddlers.

Peppermint oil also makes an effective rodent deterrent. Put 15-20 drops on a cotton ball and place in areas out of reach of pets and children. You can also mix the oil with water and spray it along baseboards etc. Refresh regularly as the peppermint odor fades. It works well and smells better than mothballs.

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.

June 23, 2014

273 The Luxury of Organics? [23 June 2014]

I recently came across a commentary by Stuart Smyth, a research scientist at U of S, titled “Can world afford luxury of organics?” It was published in October 2013 on the Ag-West Bio blog site ( and reprinted in the November 28, 2013, Western Producer.

Smyth quoted a meta-analysis that concluded that organic yields are 34% lower than for conventional [chemical] farming. He then argued that with the world population expected to increase by 2 billion over the next 20 years, “the time has come to question the merits of continuing with an agricultural system that is critically inefficient” and that “organically produced food is a luxury that is only affordable to the upper-and-middle-income classes…”

If we accept Smyth’s implied premise that agricultural land should be used to maximize food production for a growing world, I wondered what other land uses – both within and outside of agriculture – should also be questioned. Here is my list:
• land used to grow tobacco (an easy target)
• grain grown for beer & liquor (perhaps not so popular)
• corn grown for high-fructose corn syrup (a cause of obesity)
• sugar beets for sucrose (much worse than just empty calories)
• wheat milled into white flour (devoid of nutrients)
• potatoes grown for fries (reduced if not negative food value)
• growing of any food that is over-processed before consumption
• land used for urban sprawl and wider highways

If we question whether we can afford organic farming, which at least tries to produce more healthful food products, we must also question these other practices which take land out of food production or reduce the value of food grown on it. I believe there is room for organic food production for those willing to pay the premium. I also believe that not all the social costs for conventional farming are included in the grocery bill.

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.

June 16, 2014

272 The Case for Multi Vitamins [16 June 2014]

The need for multi vitamins has never been greater. Despite the December 2013 Annals of Internal Medicine editorial admonishing us to “stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements”, there are plenty of studies showing a multitude of benefits. And there are many reasons why we can’t depend on our diet to get all our nutrient requirements.

First I need to emphasize that food supplements are meant to supplement a good diet, not replace it (that’s why they aren’t called food replacements). Having said that, despite our best intentions we often fall short of an ideal diet. Health Canada recommends 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily but Statistics Canada found in 2006 less than half of Canadians ate even five servings.

A Harvard study (JAMA 2002) concluded: “most people do not consume an optimal amount of all vitamins by diet alone. Pending strong evidence of effectiveness from randomized trials, it appears prudent for all adults to take vitamin supplements.” While the evidence isn’t as strong as we’d like (due to reasons discussed in #250 & #251) there are many studies showing that supplementation protects against heart disease, mental decline, immune imbalances, diabetes and osteoporosis. See #252 for a short list of such studies.

Finally, here are some reasons why we may need more nutrients than we can obtain from our food:
• vegetables and grains grown on nutrient-depleted soil
• animals raised in confinement and fed nutrient-deficient food
• varieties bred for shelf life at the expense of nutrient content (#201)
• processing of food that removes or destroys nutrients
• greater environmental toxic exposure requiring greater need for antioxidant vitamins
• prescription drugs causing nutritional deficiencies (#29)

Source: lecture by Nelson Narciso (May 30, 2014) and his website

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

June 9, 2014

271 My Supplement List [9 June 2014]

I am sometimes asked what I take for supplements and thought that would make a good topic for this week’s column. Here is the list of what I am currently taking on a daily basis – an even dozen supplements:
• Multi for Men 50+ to cover all the bases
• Vitamin C 2,000 mg – can’t put enough in a multi
• Vitamin D 5,000 IU in winter; 2,000 in summer
• Vitamin E – mixed tocopherols 730mg & mixed tocotrienols 100mg
• Calcium Magnesium 1,000 mg calcium + 500mg magnesium for bone and heart health
• Magnesium – additional 600 mg, to balance the calcium and to help me sleep
• Vitamin K2 200mcg – directs the calcium into the bones not my arteries or joints
• Fish oil for omega 3 EFAs provides 750 mg EPA and 500 mg DHA
• Prostate formula – lets me sleep through the night
• Eye health antioxidant formula – to protect against deteriorating vision
• Digestive enzyme – to ensure optimum nutrient assimilation from food
• Probiotic – to maintain a healthy gut flora

With the exception of Vitamin D, all of these are taken in divided doses between breakfast and supper for better absorption and more even assimilation. I frequently alternate brands to get a variety of nutrients.

In addition to the supplements, I also add a psyllium husk & flax fiber blend, hemp hearts, and chia seeds to my breakfast cereal. I sometimes snack on protein bars between meals.

There are many other supplements that I have taken or use occasionally as needed, such as: coenzyme Q-10 which is important for heart health and declines as we age; a green drink to provide trace minerals and phytonutrients; oil of oregano when fighting a cold; or a detox cleanse. And sometimes I forget to take my supplements so maybe I need ginkgo or phosphatidyl serine for my memory!

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

June 2, 2014

270 Atherosclerosis & Vitamin C [2 June 2014]

Among his many accomplishments, Linus Pauling developed a theory and treatment for atherosclerosis – the formation of artery plaque.

Pauling believed that cardiovascular disease begins with a vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C makes up an integral part of cell walls, including blood vessels, and a deficiency weakens the walls making them more susceptible to damage. Damaged vessel walls are repaired with deposits of plaque which can build up and eventually impair blood flow to the heart.

Plaque is composed of many substances including fibrinogen, cholesterol, lipoproteins and other fatty molecules. A specific lipoprotein, LPa, acts as the glue to hold the plaque to the artery walls. Receptor sites for the amino acids lysine and proline on the LPa molecules account for its stickiness.

Pauling’s treatment was high doses of vitamin C (he preferred ascorbic acid over ascorbates) and the amino acids lysine and proline. Vitamin C increases the strength of the blood vessel walls, preventing further damage, and also prevents lipid peroxidation and LDL oxidation which contribute to atherosclerosis. The two amino acids fill the LPa’s receptor sites making them less sticky and also help vitamin C with collagen production, necessary for strong blood vessel walls. This protocol not only prevented atherosclerosis from getting worse but after about a year on the program began to reverse it as the amino acids broke up the plaque and the vitamin C repaired the damaged artery walls.

Pauling’s therapeutic protocol used very high doses: 10-18 g daily of ascorbic acid (to bowel tolerance), 5-6 g of lysine and 2 g of proline. Dr. Gifford-Jones’ formula (Medi-C Plus), based on Pauling’s protocol, uses 2-4 g vitamin C and 1.3-2.6 g lysine. This may still seem like a high dosage but it’s not really. I have previously written about vitamin C (#33 Vitamin C & Immunity) – how most animals except humans and apes are able to produce their own C and do so in much higher quantities than we can supplement. A 1993 study from the Research Institute at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children showed that the daily requirement for lysine – from diet & supplements – is 37 mg per kg body weight (at 90kg I would need 3364 mg or 3.4g lysine).

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

May 26, 2014

269 The Implications of Epigenetics [26 May 2014]

The modern science of Epigenetics began with a few litters of skinny brown mice at Dukes University in 2003. What made these baby mice surprising was their lineage – their parents, grandparents and generations before them, were bred to have a gene that made them fat and yellow. The only difference was these mothers had been given what was essentially a prenatal vitamin, which left the gene intact while somehow turning it off. By the way the brown mice were not only slimmer but had lower rates of diabetes and cancer than their yellow ancestors. Similarly pregnant mice supplemented with choline had babies that developed super memories and as adults broke all the maze records.

External triggers suppress a gene by a process called methylation. A methyl marker on a gene turns it off, partially or completely. An environmental trigger either adds or removes a methyl marker, thus affecting the expression of that gene. Epigenetic triggers could be a vitamin, a toxin, a nutrient deficiency or even an emotional experience. They can come from your mother, grandmother or father, and can occur before conception, in utero, shortly after birth or throughout adulthood. And methyl markers may be passed down to future generations.

Babies born in Holland after the “Hunger Winter” famine of 1944-45 had low birth weights and, as adults, were at higher risk of obesity, coronary disease and certain cancers. A generation later their babies also had low birth weights. A British study found that men who started smoking before puberty had sons (but not daughters) with a higher risk of obesity. Grooming by mother rats affects their babies’ brain development, causing them to grow up calmer and more confident than babies ignored by their mothers. Identical twins experience different triggers throughout their life that alter their risk for diseases such as cancer, allowing one to develop cancer while the other does not.

What are the implications of epigenetics? The importance of prenatal nutrition and maternal nurturing are obvious. More important is the epiphany that we need not be slaves to our genes. Just because our parents and grandparents suffered from obesity, diabetes or cancer doesn’t mean we have to. We can – and I would argue should – do something about it. Improving our nutrition, reducing stress, getting sufficient exercise and rest could free us from much of our genetic destiny.

Source: Survival of the Sickest – the surprising connections between disease and longevity by Dr Sharon Moalem, 2007

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

May 19, 2014

268 What is the Paleo Diet? [19 May 2014]

You have probably been hearing a lot about a so-called paleo diet. What is it and what can we learn from it?

Paleo is a Latin prefix meaning “old” or “ancient”. In this case it is short for Paleolithic, or “Old Stone Age”, a period in human history prior to agriculture. The paleo diet is a modern attempt to recreate the diet of our pre-agricultural ancestors.

The paleo diet movement started in the 1970s with a book called “The Stone Age Diet” by Walter L. Voegtlin, who argued that humans are primarily carnivorous with an ideal diet of mostly protein and fats and little carbohydrates. The diet has been adapted and promoted by many since, and is now more popular than ever. Advantages touted by the promoters include having more energy, getting & staying slim, and living longer. The diet is said to reduce the risk of degenerative diseases including obesity, depression, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer, and often reverse the symptoms in people already suffering from these conditions.

So what foods are allowed in the paleo diet?
• lean proteins like grass-fed beef, bison, free range chicken
• fish & seafood
• nearly all fruits and vegetables
• nuts and seeds in moderation
• healthy fats like avocados, fish oil, olive oil

Foods to be avoided:
• grains, legumes, starchy vegetables
• dairy & alcohol
• processed foods & sugar

If you think you would like to try the paleo diet, there are several books and many websites for more information.

Many people who do a 30 day trial decide to stay with it because of how great they are feeling. There are many different versions and you can choose how strictly you wish to follow it. Let me know how you do.

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

May 12, 2014

267 Lactose Intolerance – a new treatment [12 May 2014]

About 70% of the world’s human population loses the ability, as adults, to produce lactase, the enzyme which breaks down lactose (milk sugar). In cultures such as ours where dairy is a part of the normal diet, this creates a problem. Typical symptoms observed within an hour or two of consuming milk sugar include abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, nausea and diarrhea. There are two strategies to deal with lactose intolerance – dietary avoidance and lactase supplements.

Now there is a third option. Just this year a new product has been approved in Canada for the treatment of lactose intolerance. Sulmedol®, a special form of sulfur, actually restores the ability to digest lactose by reactivating lactase production in the intestine. It was accidentally discovered in 2003 by Dr Airudin Khan at the U. of Western Ontario, London, who was studying homocysteine levels. Sulmedol® works in two ways: by reactivating the genes that control lactase production, and by increasing the production of the amino acid L-Cysteine, an essential component of the lactase enzyme.

The treatment requires taking 2 capsules daily, while avoiding all sources of lactose, for 4 to 12 weeks. Lactose intolerance is tested at 4 weeks and every 2 weeks after that until symptoms have disappeared. The program is continued for another 4 weeks and then stopped. You should then be able to consume dairy symptom-free. Some people may need to repeat the treatment in a few years. The treatment is not effective for true dairy allergies involving the immune system.

In a clinical trial, 90% of 41 adults tested had their lactose tolerance restored after 12 weeks (some sooner). Most remained tolerant for a median of 76 weeks without further treatment. Side effects were minimal – three people experienced some bloating and flatulence during the treatment phase.

Sulfur is the third most abundant mineral in the body, after calcium and phosphorus. Other expected benefits from taking the sulfur supplement would be lowered homocysteine levels (implicated in heart disease, osteoporosis and brain dysfunction) and increased glutathione, arguably the most important antioxidant in our cells. Healthy skin hair and nails all require sulfur containing amino acids.

Source: and lecture by Marva Ward, CNP.

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

May 5, 2014

266 The Retracted GMO Study [5 May 2014]

Back in December of 2012 I reported on a French animal study published that September in Food and Chemical Toxicology that showed significantly increased kidney and liver toxicity, including large tumor growth, in rats fed genetically engineered (GE) corn. Then in November 2013 this study was retracted by the editor.

While I’m sure proponents of GE crops viewed this as a vindication of the safety of their technology, anti-GE lobbyists like J. Mercola and J. Wright saw it as the capitulation of science to pressure from big business. Just what was wrong with the study that merited its retraction?

In response to a large number of letters to the editor questioning the validity of the findings, the Editor-in-Chief reviewed the study examining all aspects of the peer review process and even requested the raw data from the authors (which was supplied). He found no evidence whatsoever of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data but did have concerns about the small number of animals (200) and the strain of rats used (tumor-susceptible), both of which had been noted in the original peer review process. He concluded that “the results presented while not incorrect are inconclusive” and on that basis decided to retract the paper.

The authors later published, in the same journal, a detailed response to all the criticisms received. They noted that 75% of the first week’s letters critical to their mammalian toxicology study came from plant biologists (not animal toxicologists) and Monsanto employees. The strain of rats used was the same as in the only previous study done on one of the corn varieties (which used 400 rats but lasted only 90 days). They reiterated that their work remains “the most detailed study involving the life-long consumption of an agricultural GMO… and the first long term detailed research on mammals exposed to a highly diluted pesticide in its total formulation”.

It seems to me that this study, representing the longest (lifespan) GMO study to date, is worthy of publication, even if its results are inconclusive. I have seen many studies that are inconclusive and call for bigger or better studies. I am sure, though, that the industry will not be in any hurry to repeat this one.

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

April 28, 2014

265 Glyphosate – more toxic than DDT? [28 April 2014]

I just listened to an interview with Dr. Don Huber, a professor emeritus of plant pathology at Purdue University. Huber’s five decades of agriculture research on soil-borne plant pathogens (disease-causing micro-organisms) has made him very concerned about the increasing use of glyphosate (Roundup®) pesticide.

Glyphosate is more than a herbicide – it was first patented as a mineral chelating agent and also as a powerful antibiotic. By taking certain minerals – calcium, magnesium, iron and manganese – out of the plant’s biochemical pathways, glyphosate makes it more susceptible to disease organisms, and it is the disease that actually kills the weeds.

As an antibiotic glyphosate also kills the beneficial soil bacteria (by disrupting certain amino acid pathways) that keep the disease organisms in check, so their populations explode. [I’d like to hear from farmers if they have found that regular crops are more susceptible to diseases on land that has been previously sprayed with glyphosate.]

Glyphosate has now been shown to accumulate in the edible parts of food crops and has been measured in blood, urine and breast milk of North Americans. It has been shown to lower the nutrient mineral content of food from crops sprayed with glyphosate. But more significant is its effect on our gut flora. As with the soil, glyphosate from our food preferentially destroys beneficial bacteria in our gut, causing many different health problems.

Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff in a paper published in April 2013 in the journal Entropy explain the physiological effects of glyphosate and link it to many modern chronic diseases. They explain that, as the industry claims, glyphosate’s acute toxicity is minimal, but its long-term chronic toxicity is a different story. Glyphosate toxicity has been documented for kidney cells at 10 ppm, liver at 1ppm, and the endocrine hormone system at 0.1 ppm, all of which are many times lower than toxicity levels of DDT. [Tobacco is another substance with low acute, but significant chronic, toxicity.]

So maybe glyphosate is more toxic than DDT!

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

April 21, 2014

264 Omega-7 a beneficial fatty acid [21 April 2014]

Omega-7 is a family of mono-unsaturated fatty acids of which palmitoleic acid is the most common. I first wrote about this nutrient two years ago in an article on Seabuckthorn.

Recent research (mostly animal studies so far) has found this oil to have many benefits:
• promotes burning of body fat for energy
• improves blood lipid levels (cholesterol)
• prevents atherosclerotic plaque by keeping artery walls smooth and non-sticky
• reduces C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation
• increases insulin sensitivity thus helping to prevent metabolic syndrome
• protects insulin-secreting pancreatic beta cells
• beneficial for the mucous membranes of the digestive, urinary and reproductive systems
• promotes growth of healthy skin, hair and nails
• supports wound healing

Omega 7 is abundant in only a few foods: Seabuckthorn berries, macadamia nuts, and some cold water fish like anchovies and wild salmon. It is available in supplement form as Seabuckthorn berry oil and in so-called “Purified Omega-7” oil made from fish.

Michael Roizen, MD promotes supplementation with the “purified omega-7” which is free of palmitic acid. This is important, he claims, because palmitic acid, found in Seabuckthorn oil, increases inflammation. The Seabuckthorn promoters counter that this is just a marketing ploy and that palmitic acid, especially in small amounts along with other fatty acids, is actually beneficial. And they remind us that Seabuckthorn is still the richest known source of omega-7.

Other scientists like Irena King, PhD of the U. of New Mexico advises caution in the use of any omega-7 supplement: “I think we’re way too early for supplements of omega-7—way too early. The studies haven’t figured it out yet.” Instead she suggests simply including macadamia nuts in your diet.

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

April 14, 2014

263 Coffee – our favorite herbal beverage [14 April 2014]

More good news for coffee lovers.

The Singapore Chinese Health Study, published this month in the journal Hepatology found that those who drank 2 or more cups of coffee had 66% lower risk of dying from non-viral cirrhosis of the liver. Alcohol, not surprisingly, had a “strong dose-dependent positive association between amount of alcohol and risk of cirrhosis mortality” which simply means the more you drink the more likely you are to die from cirrhosis. Drinking black or green tea, fruit juices, or soft drinks neither increased nor decreased the cirrhosis mortality rate.

This adds to a growing list of benefits of coffee consumption. A 2013 study from Japan found that 5 oz of coffee increased blood circulation by opening blood vessels and reducing inflammation, reducing risk of heart attack and stroke.
Other research has found that drinking coffee:
• protects against Parkinson’s Disease
• reduces risk or delays onset of Alzheimer’s Disease
• lowers risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes
• lowers risk of liver and prostate cancers
• offers a slight protection against heart failure
• improves cognitive function (lets you think better).

For some of these benefits like the protection from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, it’s the caffeine that does the trick. For others it’s the high levels of antioxidants found in coffee – decaf seems to work as well as regular.

Like most things, moderation is key. Most of the benefits reported occurred with 1 or 2 cups of coffee a day (although it took 4 cups to protect against prostate cancer in one study). Drinking 5 or more cups, however, could do more harm than good, causing problems such as anxiety, high blood pressure and heart palpitations.

We shouldn’t be too surprised by this good news—after all coffee is our nation’s favorite herbal beverage.

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

April 7, 2014

262 Massage Therapy for Neck Pain [7 April 2014]

There have been few good scientific studies of massage therapy but that is changing. A recent study published in the Annals of Family Medicine is a good example.

Karen Sherman at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle looked at the effectiveness of massage therapy for neck pain. A previous study had found that benefits of massage were evident after 4 weeks. This time Sherman wanted to determine the optimum length and frequency of massage treatments.

228 adults, age 20 to 64, were randomly assigned to six treatment groups: 30 minutes 2 or 3 times weekly, 60 minutes 1, 2 or 3 times weekly, and an untreated control group. Neck pain was assessed a week after the 4 week treatment period. The researchers determined that those getting one hour of massage three times a week experienced the greatest benefit. Compared to the control group, Sherman reported “people getting massage three times a week were almost five times as likely to have a clinically meaningful improvement in function and over twice as likely to report a clinically meaningful decrease in pain.”

The author cautioned about applying this study to other age groups – since the youngest person in the study group was 20 and the oldest 64, she couldn’t say if younger or older people would respond in the same way. And Sherman didn’t say anything about other types of soft tissue pain (back, arm, leg, foot, etc.) but in my experience massage is equally effective for treating these – it just wasn’t addressed in this study.

So what can we learn from this study? If you are suffering from neck pain, give massage therapy a try. There are 5 or 6 massage therapists in Rosetown (last count) ready and willing to help you. Get at least two hour-long treatments a week. And don’t quit too soon.

My neck is sore from typing this article – I think I need a massage!

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