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.