December 21, 2015

350 Magtein - Magnesium for the Brain [21 Dec 2015]

In March, April & May of 2013 I wrote three columns on magnesium and its many important roles in human health. The May column was about magnesium bisglycinate, a new non-laxative form of this mineral. This week I’m writing about another new form of magnesium and its amazing benefits for mental health.

Magnesium plays essential roles in brain function and in the repair of injured brain tissue. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to confusion, fatigue, irritability, poor memory, and reduced ability to learn.

The problem is that most forms of magnesium do not readily cross the blood-brain barrier and are therefore ineffective in raising magnesium levels in the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). The only exception is magnesium L-threonate which was recently developed by MIT researchers. An animal study showed that Magtein (the patented brand name of magnesium L-threonate) outperformed all other forms of magnesium in raising CSF levels; in fact it was the only form to significantly raise magnesium levels.

Along with the increase in CSF magnesium levels, animal studies have shown Magtein to improve long and short term memory and to enhance learning abilities. Both young and older animals improved spatial working memory on maze tests.

A decline with age in synaptic connections in the hippocampus part of the brain is correlated with impaired memory and Alzheimer’s disease. In animal studies Magtein supplementation increased the synaptic density in the hippocampus.

Magtein supplementation significantly reduced Beta amyloid plaques, associated with Alzheimer’s disease, in Transgenic Alzheimer’s (TA) mice. Even older end-stage TA mice showed reduced plaque and significant improvement in memory tests, providing hope for Magtein as a treatment for advanced Alzheimer’s.

Human clinical trials are under development to see how well Magtein works in people. Meanwhile Magtein has been available in the US for several years and has just been approved for sale in Canada. People using Magtein report noticing changes in anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Some of the benefits reported are: improved memory, restored ability to think and focus, brain fog cleared, improved mood, better quality sleep with vivid dreams, less need for afternoon naps, and increased energy. An 81-year-old summed it up this way “It is a marvelous feeling to have my mind back again!”

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 14, 2015

349 Three Vitamin D Studies [14 Dec 2015]

The Vitamin D Council recently reported on three important studies on Vitamin D published in 2015.

Alzheimer’s: An 8 year study of 382 elderly participants was published in JAMA in September. It found that low D levels in older adults was associated with accelerated declines in cognitive ability of up to three times faster.

Autism: A meta-analysis of 11 studies from the Netherlands was published in October in Eur. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry. The researchers reported that 8 of the 11 studies found lower D levels in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ADS) than other children. The report reviewed the many ways that vitamin D is involved in brain development and function, and showed that low D levels causes brain malfunctions similar to those occurring with autism. The researchers concluded that lower vitamin D levels might be a risk factor for ASD.

A case study of a 32 month old boy with ASD and vitamin D deficiency published in January 2015 in Pediatrics reported that his “core symptoms of autism improved significantly after vitamin D supplementation”. So it appears that vitamin D may also play an important role in the treatment of ASD.

Breast cancer survival
: A four-year study looked at women diagnosed with breast cancer and found that higher D levels significantly increased their survival time. A previous study from 2011 by the same researcher found that vitamin D levels of 125 nmol/L (50 ng/ml in the USA), which required supplementation of 4,000 IU per day to achieve, nearly doubled survival times. An earlier study by Lappe et al, 2007, in Am J Clin Nutr found a 77% reduction in risk of all cancers for the group taking 1100 IU D3 and 1500 mg calcium.

While the best way to increase our vitamin D is from safe sun exposure, that doesn’t work in Canada from September to April leaving supplementation as our only option. Dr. Cannell of the Vitamin D Council recommends supplementing with 5,000 IU daily (which is what I take) to maintain natural levels of 100-125 nmol/L. Even this is considered conservative by some. Dr. Joseph Mercola, who has studied vitamin D extensively, considers anything below 125 to be deficient and recommends 125-175 for optimum health and up to 250 for fighting cancer or heart disease. To achieve these levels, however, requires much higher supplementation – due to the law of diminishing returns – so is impractical for most of us. Winter supplementation of vitamin D of 4,000-5,000 IU seems optimal.

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 7, 2015

348 Radon Testing [7 Dec 2015]

My house is being tested for radon. Radon is a radioactive gas that is produced by the breakdown of uranium in the ground. It can seep into your home through cracks in the basement walls or floor and become concentrated at low levels (think basement floor). Because radon is odorless and colorless, it is not detectable except by instruments.

It is important to know your radon level because it is a significant health hazard. Next to smoking, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US and Canada. An estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths per year in Canada are caused by radon. The combination of smoking and radon is most deadly. A non-smoker exposed to high levels of radon over a lifetime has about a 1 in 20 chance of developing lung cancer; for a smoker that increases to 1 in 3. So if you have smokers living in your home, it is even more important to have it tested.

Radon and its breakdown elements emit alpha particle radiation which, unlike gamma radiation, cannot penetrate very far into tissue. It’s only when you inhale the radioactive elements that the radiation can damage the lungs and cause lung cancer.

Radon can vary greatly between houses, even next door. So knowing your neighbor’s house is ok does not mean that yours is. The only way to find out is to have it tested. There have been high test results found in Rosetown and surrounding areas. In Canada radon is measured in becquerels / cubic meter (Bq/m3). Over 200 is considered dangerous.

The best time to test is in the winter when there is less air exchange and the levels are highest. There are several different home test kits you can buy. Health Canada recommends a 90 day test which can be ordered from for $55. Saskatchewan Health uses a 30 day test kit available from the Saskatchewan Disease Control Laboratory (SDCL) at 1-866-450-0000 for $42. I’m using the Saskatchewan Health test. I’ll let you know my results sometime in January.

If you find your home has a high level of radon you should have a certified radon mitigation professional install an air pump to pull the air from the basement floor outside. All new homes are now built with the piping in place – only a pump needs to be installed.

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 30, 2015

347 Light Therapy & Depression [30 Nov 2015]

I wrote about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) back in December 2009 and discussed exposure to full spectrum light as one of the effective treatments. A recent Canadian study suggests that this light therapy might also be effective for non-seasonal major depressive disorder (MDD). Previous studies on light therapy for MDD were poorly designed and inconclusive.

A study published this month in JAMA Psychiatry randomly divided 122 people from clinics in Vancouver and Toronto with moderate to severe non-seasonal depressive disorder into four groups: light therapy and fluoxetine hydrochloride (an antidepressant pill); light therapy and placebo pill; fluoxetine and placebo device (inactive ion generator); and both placebos. The light therapy consisted of a 30 minute exposure to a strong (10,000 lux) fluorescent light box every morning.

After 8 weeks improvement was observed in about 75% of the patients receiving the light therapy with the antidepressant; about 50% of those receiving the light therapy alone; about 29% for the antidepressant alone; and 33% for the placebos. The study concluded that “Light treatment, whether in monotherapy or in combination with fluoxetine, is efficacious and well tolerated in the treatment of nonseasonal MDD.” Surprisingly the antidepressant alone appears less effective than placebo, but this study was too small to draw any conclusions on this observation. An earlier study showed that fluoxetine and light had similar benefits in patients with SAD.

The researchers speculated that light therapy may resynchronize circadian rhythms that have become disturbed in MDD or rebalance neurotransmitter function. Sunlight triggers the pineal gland to produce more serotonin and less melatonin. Low serotonin is associated with depression and carbohydrate cravings; high melatonin with sleepiness and loss of concentration.

Michael Terman, PhD, professor of psychiatry, Columbia University, commented on the study:
“…the dramatic …result …[means that] 10,000 lux light therapy upon awakening or, by implication, a walk outdoors if the sun is up – now can be recommended to patients with recurrent depression, many of whom will respond without recourse to drugs.”
So if you are suffering from depression, talk to your doctor about adding light therapy to your treatment. Caution – people with certain eye conditions or with bipolar disorder should not use the light therapy.

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 23, 2015

346 Obesity & Cancer [23 Nov 2015]

Obesity is a growing problem worldwide. Recent data show that 69% of US adults are overweight and half of these are obese. Being overweight causes, or is linked to, increases in many different adverse health markers – blood pressure, blood glucose and insulin levels, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and inflammation. Obesity increases the risk or worsens the outcomes of several chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The impact of obesity on cancer is significant – it has just overtaken smoking as the top preventable cause of cancer death in the US. About 20% of cancer deaths in that country can be attributed to obesity. The ten types of cancers linked to obesity are: esophagus, postmenopausal breast, liver, kidney, gallbladder, pancreas, colon, prostate, ovary and uterus. Obesity not only increases the risk of developing these cancers but also increases the rate of progression, increases the rate of metastasis, lowers the response to treatment, and reduces survival rates.

The relationship between obesity and cancer is complex with many possible causes for the link. Since I last wrote on this topic (#199 January 2013) based on a 2005 article in Cancer Prevention, researchers have learned more about these factors.

High insulin levels promote cancer growth by interacting with tumor cells’ insulin and IGF-1 receptors. Adipocytes near a tumor are more active in obese people, secreting various cancer-promoting hormones and chemical signals called cytokines.

Inflammation is another process that plays a role in the obesity-cancer link. Obesity increases levels of the COX-2 enzyme which promotes production of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) which increases inflammation (described in my article #85 October 2010). PGE2 is known to promote progression of breast cancer and the conversion of androgens to (cancer-promoting) estrogens.

Animal studies have found that reducing fat weight isn’t as important as reducing the obesity markers associated with higher cancer risks, particularly insulin, cytokines and IGF-1. So while losing excess fat is still a desirable goal, how you lose it may be more important. A ketogenic diet that normalizes insulin levels (which is at the root of most if not all of the other markers) would be ideal.

Source: "Breaking the Obesity-Cancer Link" by S.D. Hursting et al, The Scientist, 2015

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 16, 2015

345 Smoke Point Smokescreen [16 Nov 2015]

This week I want to expand on a point made in #330 “Healthy Cooking Oils” back in August. It was that in choosing a cooking oil, smoke point is not the only factor to consider, and indeed is not the most important one. Looking at only smoke point obscures (with a “smoke screen”?) the harm caused by heating many “cooking” oils at temperatures as low as 160C, well before they reach their smoke point.

The more important factor is oxidative stability which is a measure of the oil’s resistance to oxidation. As unsaturated fats are heated and exposed to light and oxygen the double bonds are destroyed creating peroxides. The peroxides further react to form aldehydes which can be toxic or carcinogenic, and can bond with glucose to form Advanced Glycolated Endproducts (AGEs). AGEs have been linked to leaky gut syndrome, atherosclerosis, and heart disease. Oxidative stability is determined by measuring the amount of aldehydes produced over time as an oil is heated. Generally the higher the % of polyunsaturates in an oil, the lower the oxidative stability; oils of 20% or higher polyunsaturates are too unstable for frying.

Based on their low oxidative stability, the following oils should never be used in frying (% polyunstaturated):
• Hemp seed oil (80)
• Safflower oil (76)
• Grapeseed oil (69)
• Flaxseed oil (68)
• Sunflower Seed oil (60)
• Corn Oil (48)
• Cotton Seed oil (42)
• Sesame Seed oil (40)
• Canola oil (21)
• Peanut oil (20)

The two oils with the highest oxidative stability (and smoke points) are coconut and red palm olein. This makes them the safest, healthiest and all round best oils for cooking. Choose brands that are organic, fair-trade, and ethically produced.

Just looking at smoke point alone, as in a recent Globe & Mail article by Leslie Beck, the following (unhealthy, unstable) oils were recommended for frying: safflower, grapeseed, sunflower, corn, sesame, canola and peanut. Smoke point can be a smoke screen!

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 9, 2015

344 Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals [9 Nov 2015]

Last week I mentioned a group of chemicals called endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) which mimic our hormones causing many different health problems. They are chemically similar and have some but not all of the physiological properties of our real hormones.

Here is how the Environmental Working Group (EWG) describes them:
“There is no end to the tricks that endocrine disruptors can play on our bodies: increasing production of certain hormones; decreasing production of others; imitating hormones; turning one hormone into another; interfering with hormone signaling; telling cells to die prematurely; competing with essential nutrients; binding to essential hormones; accumulating in organs that produce hormones.”
The EWG lists the 12 worst endocrine disruptors, the conditions they have been linked to, and how to avoid them, in a booklet called “Dirty Dozen”:
• Bisphenol-A (BPA) – mimics estrogen, linked to breast cancer, early puberty & other reproductive problems, and heart disease
• Dioxin – persistent, linked to lower sperm quality, carcinogenic
• Atrazine – breast & prostate cancer, delayed puberty
• Phthalates – male reproductive birth defects, testicular cell death
• Perchlorate – competes with iodine causing thyroid dysfunction
• Fire retardants – polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), imitate thyroid hormones, very persistent (found in polar bears and breast milk)
• Lead – deadly toxic, lowers sex hormones, reduces resistance to stress
• Mercury –interferes with women’s cycle, concentrates in fetal brain
• Arsenic – small amounts cause skin, bladder and lung cancer; trace amount interferes with sugar regulating hormones
• Perflourinated chemicals (PFCs) – affects thyroid and sex hormones
• Organophosphate pesticides – affects brain development, thyroid, fertility
• Glycol ethers (brake fluid, solvents) – shrinks testicles, fetal defects

“Dirty Dozen” is downloadable from their website For a more detailed technical discussion see the Endocrine Society’s EDC Statement.

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 2, 2015

343 Reducing Chemical Exposure [2 Nov 2015]

Last week I wrote about the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) report on the threat to human health from exposure to chemicals. One group of chemicals, called endocrine-disrupting chemicals, messes up our hormones causing all kinds of health problems. The best-known of these are BPA & BPS, phthalates, certain pesticides, and the anti-bacterial triclosan. I’ll write more on these next week.

Toxic chemicals are everywhere in our modern world – we can’t completely avoid them. Severely sensitive individuals must go to extreme lengths just to survive, but there are many simple things the rest of us can do to reduce our exposure and improve our health.

• Choose locally grown organically raised whole foods whenever possible
• Reduce processed and packaged foods
• Use ceramic or glass cookware rather than aluminum or non-stick
• Store food and beverages in glass rather than plastic
• Filter tap water for both drinking and bathing
• Use organic shampoo, toothpaste, deodorants and cosmetics
• Replace flame-retardant furniture, carpets, drapes, etc.
• Replace stain-resistant clothing and furniture
• Choose fragrance-free products when available
• Replace vinyl shower curtain with fabric or glass doors
• Use natural household cleaning products, or better yet make your own
• Use natural rather than chemical pesticides in your yard and garden
• Women – use organic cotton pads and tampons or a menstrual cup
• Read labels and choose BPA free plastic and canned goods
• Avoid handling thermal receipts which contain BPA (yikes! I handle dozens every day. If you see me wearing gloves at my desk you’ll know why)
• Check the Environmental Working Group website for the safest consumer products []. There is a wealth of up-to-date information on this site.

Making a few changes at a time will reduce your risk from toxic chemicals. If you are pregnant or have young children in your home, it’s even more critical.

Sources: 13 Oct 2015 Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals
Endocrine Society Statement on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

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 26, 2015

342 Toxic Chemicals and Reproductive Health [26 Oct 2015]

The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) released a report October 1, 2015, on the threat to human health posed by exposure to chemicals. Reproductive health professionals witness first-hand the increasing numbers of health problems facing their patients due to exposure to chemicals. Here are a few quotes from the report:

• Exposure to toxic environmental chemicals during pregnancy and breastfeeding is ubiquitous and is a threat to healthy human reproduction. …even small exposures to toxic chemicals during pregnancy can trigger adverse health consequences.

• Miscarriage and still birth, impaired fetal growth, congenital malformations, impaired or reduced neurodevelopment and cognitive function, and an increase in cancer, attention problems, ADHD behaviors, and hyperactivity are among the list of poor health outcomes linked to chemicals such as pesticides, air pollutants, plastics, solvents and more…

• In the US alone more than 30,000 pounds of chemicals per person are manufactured or imported and yet the vast majority of these chemicals have not been tested.

• …international trade agreements weaken controls and regulations designed to protect communities from toxic chemicals.

• Exposure to toxic environmental chemicals is linked to millions of deaths and costs billions of dollars every year.

• The cost of childhood diseases related to environmental toxins and pollutants in air, food, water, soil, and in homes and neighborhoods was calculated to be $76.6 billion in 2008 in the United States.

• We are drowning our world in untested and unsafe chemicals and the price we are paying in terms of our reproductive health is of serious concern.

The FIGO report was authored by a group of physicians and scientists from the U.S., U.K., and Canada. Read the press release and full report at Next week – tips on how to reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals.

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 19, 2015

341 Vitamin D for Breastfeeding [19 Oct 2015]

Human breastmilk is known to be extremely low in vitamin D, so supplementation of 400 IU vitamin D is recommended for exclusively breastfed babies in Canada and the USA. But is this an inherent flaw in mother’s milk or an inadequate dietary recommendation of the vitamin for the mother? A randomized controlled trial recently published in the prestigious journal Pediatrics set out to answer that question.

The study started with 334 mother-infant pairs who were exclusively breastfeeding. In Group 1 both mother and infant were given 400 IU of vitamin D; in Groups 2 and 3 the mother was given 2,400 or 6,400 IU respectively and the infants none. Blood levels were tested at baseline, 4 months and 7 months. Interestingly the 2,400 IU group was stopped by the ethics committee after 4 months because too many of the infants were still D deficient. At the end of the study the infants from Group 3 had D levels equal to those in Group 1 who were supplemented with 400 IU.

The study concludes:
“Maternal vitamin D supplementation with 6400 IU/day safely supplies breast milk with adequate vitamin D to satisfy her nursing infant’s requirement and offers an alternate strategy to direct infant supplementation.”
Maternal supplementation has the added benefit of ensuring the mother has adequate D levels too.

I previously wrote about vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy [#160], referring to a study that found that its highest dosage (4,000 IU) was still insufficient to prevent the baby from being born with a D deficiency. I earlier wrote [#117] about cases of infantile rickets misdiagnosed as child abuse where babies with broken bones are taken into custody and the parents charged with abuse.

This study shows that the Canadian RDA for vitamin D at 600 IU for both pregnancy and lactation is an order of magnitude (10X) too small. The upper limit is set at 4,000 IU, and warns of possible adverse effects beyond that. Is there really evidence for this concern? In the Discussion section of this study the authors state:
“...during the past decade [in] several studies…involving several thousand patients… not a single adverse event has been attributed to vitamin D supplementation at the doses ranging from 2000 to 6400 IU/day".
Government organizations like Health Canada have been slowly raising the recommended levels of vitamin D as evidence mounts. This well-designed study should nudge this movement along another notch.

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 12, 2015

340 NISA – A Different Kind of Massage [12 Oct 2015]

I just came back from a four day training workshop learning the massage technique called NISA (Neuromuscular Integration and Structural Alignment).

NISA works on the fascia – the layers of connective tissue under the skin and around each muscle. One of the functions of fascia is to allow glide between different muscles, allowing them to function independently. Fascia is often more responsible than tight muscles in causing pain, limited mobility and postural imbalance.

Here is how the course description puts it:
“The NISA process releases fascial adhesions; it stretches, frees, & clears the tissue. The softened layers of fascia, having regained their flexibility and elasticity, permit improved structural alignment and body mechanics. It provides long-lasting changes to chronic postural habits, and most clients feel increased range of motion and less restriction after one or two treatments.”
Fascial massage is different from Swedish or other forms of massage. Most massage techniques are aimed at releasing tight muscle and are ineffective in treating problems in the fascia. The NISA technique uses less lubricant so instead of gliding over the skin we move the skin to address the underlying fascia.

Fascial massage can be incorporated into regular massage treatments on small problem areas but are more effective when applied to large areas. This is due to the interconnectedness of fascia. For example, shoulder pain could be caused by a restriction in the fascia of the opposite hip. A series of 12 one-hour treatments is required to thoroughly treat the entire body but one or two one-hour treatments on the affected area will still accomplish much.

We also learned new techniques of assessment for body structure and balance – to identify where work is needed and to monitor improvements with treatment.

After four days of being worked on from head to toe (during exchanges with the other massage therapists taking the workshop) I feel looser, lighter, and taller (not sure if that’s a good thing?). I stand and sit straighter. My left knee doesn’t bug me when riding my bicycle. And my lower back doesn’t bother me as much as it had been.

Now I’d like to share what I’ve learned to help your body feel and function better than you believed it ever could.

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

October 5, 2015

339 Vitamin B12 – the Cobalamins [5 Oct 2015]

B12 is the most structurally complex of the vitamins and the only one which contains a trace mineral – cobalt – which gives it its scientific name cobalamin. That’s the reason cattle are given cobalt, usually in the form of blue salt blocks, so their gut bacteria can synthesize B12 for them. Human gut bacteria may produce some B12 but rarely enough. Thus we need to obtain B12 from our diet.

In order to be absorbed in the small intestine, B12 from our food requires a special enzyme, called “intrinsic factor”, which is produced in the stomach. Some people do not produce enough intrinsic factor, resulting in a B12 deficiency called pernicious anemia. This is overcome with a special sublingual form that is absorbed directly in your mouth, bypassing the digestive tract.

There are three forms of B12 found in supplements.

• Cyanocobalamin is the cheapest form so the most common in multi vitamins. It contains a toxic cyanide group which the body must dispose of after converting it to methylcobalamin. It is safe at normal doses but is not recommended for high dose supplementation.

Methylcobalamin is the biologically active form which protects nerve cells from degenerative damage in neurological disorders such as MS, Alzheimer’s and glaucoma. It is better absorbed and retained than cyanocobalamin and is non-toxic so is safe even at high doses. A quick test for the quality of a multivitamin or B complex is to check the form of B12 in it!

• Hydroxocobalamin is a special form that is well absorbed and is easily converted to the active forms. It is sometimes used in cases of cyanide poisoning to help detoxify and excrete cyanide – by IV for acute toxicity and by supplementation for chronic low-level toxicity. Cyanocobalamin is first converted into hydroxocobalamin and then into either of the active forms – methylcobalamin or adenosylcobalamin. Adenosylcobalamin is readily stored (in the liver) and is the form used in mitochondria for energy production.

B12 plays many roles in our metabolism some of which involve the TCA cycle of energy production in our mitochondria which I wrote about in January 2015 (#302). In March of 2014 (#257) I wrote about B12 deficiency symptoms and the importance of supplementation for brain 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.

September 28, 2015

338 Learning from the Paleo Diet [28 Sept 2015]

My topic last week was “Debunking the paleo diet” based on a Ted Talks lecture by archaeologist Christina Warinner. She concluded her lecture with three things we can learn from what we do know of our ancestors’ diets. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

1. There is no one correct diet for humans; diversity is the key ingredient. Never before has such a variety of foods from around the world been available year-round as in North American supermarkets. Yet most of our processed foods contain three species – wheat, corn & soy. Take advantage of the available diversity and try different fruits, vegetables and grains.

2. Ideally food should be eaten fresh, ripe, and in season. This is when foods have the highest nutrient content. Preservation methods extend the usefulness of foods but come with a price – salting adds excess sodium; drying, freezing, and canning deplete some nutrients; smoking and chemical preservatives have poorly understood effects on our health. They all work by inhibiting bacterial growth which can have undesirable effects on our beneficial gut bacteria.

3. Whole foods, with all the fiber and other nutrients intact, are best. Warinner illustrated this concept by showing that in a 34 oz. soda we can gulp down the sugar equivalent to 8 feet of sugar cane. We have not yet adapted to this sudden change in diet, resulting in the modern epidemics of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Processed foods in which real food is broken into constituent parts and recombined to look and taste good, rarely improves its nutritional value. One nutrient that is usually lost is fiber which is important for regulating bowel function, feeding our good gut flora, and slowing absorption of sugar.

I don’t think the Paleo Diet proponents are all Luddites as Warinner implies, eschewing modern food technology for a misplaced ideology. We can take the best of both worlds – enjoy a variety of modern cultivars and embrace technology that maximizes nutrient content. Eat more protein, including red meat. Avoid most processed foods. Reduce carbs, especially modern grains and sugars. Eat plenty of fresh raw vegetables and fruit. Include healthy fats from fish, nuts, seeds and fruit (olives and avocados). Limit dairy and alcohol. In moderation the Paleo Diet is just plain healthy eating.

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 21, 2015

337 Debunking the Paleo Diet [21 Sept 2015]

Back in May 2014 I first wrote about the Paleo Diet fad and what we can learn from it. A recent Ted Talks video expands on that theme. Archaeologist Christina Warinner titled her 22 minute talk “Debunking the paleo diet”. Warinner looked at the modern paleo fad diets from the perspective of her study of the health and diet of ancient peoples using bone biochemistry and DNA.

To review, the modern Paleo Diets attempt to emulate what people ate before the development of agriculture. The diet is high in meat and vegetables with some fruits, nuts and oils, but no grains, legumes or dairy. But is this really what our Paleolithic ancestors ate? Not quite, Warinner argues. She first busts three myths about the Paleo Diet, then lists three things that we can learn from our ancestors’ diets.

1. Meat was not as large a part of the Paleolithic diet as believed. We have few adaptations to eating meat and many to plants (molars for grinding, longer intestinal tract, lack of vitamin C synthesis). And the one adaptation to animal husbandry many people have, especially in Africa and northern Europe, is tolerance to dairy.

2. Grains and legumes were a bigger part of the Paleolithic diet than believed. Mortar and pestles for grinding seeds date back 30,000 years; fossilized plaque from ancient human teeth show evidence of grains, legumes and tubers.

3. Modern foods – meat and vegetables – are much different than what our Paleolithic ancestors ate. Wild game was mostly small, lean and tough; and all the organs and marrow were consumed. Eggs were small, hard to find, and seasonal. Wild fruits and especially vegetables were unrecognizable from modern cultivars – tiny, tough, bitter tasting, many with toxic chemicals. And modern foods come from all over the world year-round; our ancestors were limited to locally and seasonally available food resources.

So, what can we learn from what we do know of our ancestors’ diets?

1. There is no one correct diet for humans; diversity is the key ingredient.
2. Ideally food should be eaten fresh, ripe, and in season.
3. Whole foods, with all the fiber and other nutrients intact, are best.

I may expand on these points in a future column.

In conclusion Warinner stated “We still have a lot to learn from our Paleolithic – and Neolithic – ancestors”.

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 14, 2015

336 Alzheimer’s & Vitamin D [14 Sept 2015]

A few weeks ago I listed nine things you could do to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Here is a tenth item to add to the list: keep your vitamin D levels up.

In honor of the 4th annual World Alzheimer’s Month this September the Vitamin D Council [] re-published the top five studies they had covered evaluating the link between vitamin D and Alzheimer’s. I will summarize them here:

1. A meta-analysis published last month in Nutrition Journal found people with vitamin D deficiency (level less than 50nmol/L) had a 21% greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
2. Researchers in Argentina found that vitamin D treatment slowed progression from mild to more severe stages of Alzheimer’s disease by about one year.
3. A 2014 Canadian study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that supplementation with vitamin D reduced amyloid-beta plaques in the brain and improved learning and memory in mice.
4. A 2013 systemic review of 31 studies found statistically significant lower outcomes in cognitive function tests, or a higher frequency of dementia, with lower vitamin D levels in 22 of the studies (no association was found in 9 of the studies).
5. Medical researchers from UCLA published a small pilot study in February 2013 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. They identified specific genes regulated by vitamin D and the omega-3 DHA that reduce inflammation and clear amyloid-beta plaques from the brain.

No one of these studies by itself proves that taking vitamin D supplements will reduce your risk of dementia, but together they provide a fairly strong indication. There are many other reasons to supplement with vitamin D, this is just one more (but an important one). Remember that at this latitude we are now past the season where we can synthesize vitamin D in our skin from sun exposure, even at noon.

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 7, 2015

335 The Shaklee Story [8 Sept 2015]

Forrest C. Shaklee was a pioneer in the natural health product industry. At his birth, in November 1894, Forrest was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The family moved from a coal mining community to rural Iowa to allow him to convalesce in clean fresh air. As a young boy Forrest spent much time outdoors observing nature. Here he began to develop his philosophy in the healing power of nature and the importance of exercise and good nutrition.

After graduation from Palmer Chiropractic College Shaklee began to incorporate nutrition in his practice. To help his patients Shaklee developed a supplement he called “Vitalized Minerals”, released in 1915 (100 years ago this July). It was one of the first, if not the first, food supplement manufactured in America.

In 1917 he opened a multi-disciplinary facility which included the new technology of X-rays. Due to radiation exposure Shaklee developed cancer in his shoulder and hip. He rejected his doctors’ advice for amputation, sold his clinic, and went about healing himself with nutrition and positive thinking.

After regaining his health Shaklee opened another clinic, more determined than ever to share his nutritional ideas with people. He focused his research on building good health rather than treating disease. He retired from active practice in 1943 to concentrate on writing, developing his philosophy on the influence of the mind on health and well-being.

In 1956, at the age of 63, he created Shaklee Corporation to manufacture and sell his health supplements to America. To market the products he chose multi-level-marketing, the first of many health product companies to adopt that model. That was a time when America was enthralled with modern food processing and didn’t believe supplements were necessary, so education was an essential part of marketing (still is!).

A few of the firsts for the Shaklee Corporation include: instant protein powder (1961), Basic-H organic cleaner (1960), and Basic L organic laundry detergent. Shaklee died in 1985 at age 91 but the company is still going strong and is still dedicated to researching cutting edge nutritional products. This year (1915) the Dr. Forrest C. Shaklee Innovation Center was opened, housing all their research and development team under one roof “for the next 100 years of scientific breakthroughs”.

A Fascinating History - Dr Forrest C. Shaklee
The Roots of Shaklee
A History of Innovation

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 31, 2015

334 Glymphatic System [31 August 2015]

Last week I listed adequate deep sleep as one of the ways we can reduce our risk of developing dementia. It deserves a closer look.

The brain comprises 2% of our body by weight but consumes 25% of our energy (no wonder thinking makes us tired!). The brain therefore creates a proportionately larger amount of waste products that need to be removed.

If you look at a chart of the lymphatic system, one of whose functions is the removal of waste products from our cells, you will notice that there are no lymphatic vessels in the brain. How then does the brain clear its waste?

New imaging methods allowed researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center to finally answer that question. They discovered that the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), which surrounds the brain and spinal cord, periodically flushes through the brain. The CSF follows along the blood vessels – in along the arteries and out along the veins – thanks to special brain cells called glial cells. This flushing, called the glymphatic system, removes the waste products from the spaces between the brain cells. Surprisingly the researchers discovered that this flushing activity occurs almost exclusively during sleep when the brain cells shrink by 60% and the interstitial spaces are larger. Furthermore this flushing activity appears to be most effective during deep sleep.

One of the waste products removed by this CSF flushing is a protein called amyloid beta which is normally produced in the brain. A buildup of this protein forming amyloid plaques is one of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease. It appears that lack of sleep could be an important factor in allowing amyloid beta to build up in the brain.

Besides increasing risk of developing dementia, sleep deprivation has more immediate effects – even one night of insufficient sleep can impair our ability to think clearly, solve problems, make good decisions, exercise self-control, cope with stress, and come up with the right words in conversation.

We know from our own experience that a good night’s sleep refreshes the mind (or at least that lack of sleep muddles it!). Clinical studies have linked poor sleep to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The newly-discovered glymphatic system could explain both, and give us another good reason to ensure we get enough quality sleep every night.

Mercola - Sleep & Alzheimer's
Ted Talks - Jeff Illiff, U of R researcher

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 24, 2015

333 Preventing Alzheimer’s [24 August 2015]

We often joke about developing dementia: You can hide your own Easter eggs or Bad news: “you have Alzheimer’s”; good news: “you can go home and forget about it”. There is a poem about aging with these lines:
I've got used to my arthritis, to dentures I'm resigned,
I can manage my bifocals, but oh how I miss my mind.
Seriously, most people would rather lose their vision, hearing or ability to walk than lose their mind. So what can we do to reduce our risk of developing dementia?

• Reduce sugar. High sugar consumption leads to insulin resistance including at the blood-brain barrier. This prevents insulin from reaching the brain and starves your brain cells of glucose. We can compensate with ketones from medium chain triglycerides such as from coconut oil, but prevention is better.
• Avoid diabetes. Diagnosis of diabetes doubles your risk of Alzheimer’s. Even mild elevation of blood sugar (100-110) significantly increases the risk.
• Consume enough good fats (including some saturated fat). A study from the Mayo Clinic found that a high carb diet was associated with an 89% increased risk for dementia while a high fat diet was associated with a 44% reduced risk.
• Keep your weight down. Obesity is an important risk factor.
• Exercise. Aerobic exercise has been found to reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer’s and also to improve brain function in those already diagnosed. Exercise reduces the amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer’s and improves memory.
• Don’t smoke and avoid excessive use of alcohol.
• Control blood pressure. High blood pressure is another risk factor for dementia.
• Get enough quality sleep. The brain’s waste removal system only works during deep sleep when the brain is flushed with cerebral spinal fluid which removes the amyloid plaques in brain tissue.
• Stay mentally and socially active. “Use it or lose it” applies to our brains as well as muscles & bones. Playing games like Scrabble, chess or bridge helps to keep the brain sharp and keeps you connected to people.

While none of these are guaranteed to prevent Alzheimer’s, following as many as you can should significantly increase your chances of keeping all your marbles to the end.

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 17, 2015

332 Children & Nature [17 August 2015]

We’re getting real summer weather this week, with highs around 30C – perfect for spending time at the lake. Many Canadians enjoy spending part of their summer holidays at the lake, either in the family cabin or camping. We find it relaxing to get away from the “rat race” and “back to nature”, and return to work or school feeling refreshed and invigorated.

What scientific evidence backs our belief that nature improves our mental and emotional health? Here are what some studies have found about the benefits of nature for both children and adults:

• The physical activity of 11-13 year old Canadian children increased with the amount of tree-filled space in their neighborhoods.
• Children in Maryland and Colorado who played in green schoolyards reported less stress and showed increased feeling of competence than those whose schools had no grass or trees.
A study in Illinois found a 20 minute walk in the park boosted the focus and attention of 17 children diagnosed with ADHD.
• Greater amount of greenness at home and especially at school increased cognitive improvements in schoolchildren in Barcelona, Spain.
• Children in nature-based playgrounds engage in more creative play and use their imaginations more to create their own games.
• Camping together improved family relationships for 86% of respondents in a survey of 60 American families.
Childhood experience with wild nature is positively associated with their appreciation of nature as adults.
• Japanese “forest bathing” (basking in a natural treed environment) lowers blood pressure and reduces stress hormones.
• A 2009 study from the Netherlands found that green space in people’s living environment significantly reduced anxiety disorder and depression.
• A 2012 study found walking in nature improved mood and short-term memory in 20 adults with major depression.

With the increasing time children (and adults) spend on their phones and playing video games (one estimate was that children play outside less than half the time their parents did), it would seem to be even more important for parents and teachers to provide opportunities for them to spend time in nature.

Sources for further reading:
Centre for Confidence and Well-Being
The Center for Parenting Education: Nature and children - a natural fit
MindBodyGreen 5 Really Good Reasons Why Kids Ned Time in Nature
MBG 10 Great Reasons to Get Outside More Often
MBG 7 Science Backed Reasons to get Your Kids Outside
MBG Why You Need to Try Japanese Forest Bathing
J. Mercola Green Spaces Make Kids Smarter

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 10, 2015

331 Traumatic Brain Injury [10 Aug 2015]

Brain trauma, including concussions, can lead to long term, often permanent, changes in mental and emotional health. Anything that can help the brain to heal more quickly and completely could significantly improve the outcome. I have previously written about two supplements that aid in brain healing and recently learned of two more.

Omega 3 EFAs, particularly DHA, are essential for brain development and healing. Supplementation with high doses of fish oil is likely responsible for two remarkable recoveries I wrote about in December 2012 [#194]. Several high DHA fish oil supplements are available in Canada.

More recently in February 2015 [#305] I wrote about PQQ, a cellular antioxidant that can increase mitochondrial production. This is very important in protecting brain and nerve tissue from oxidative damage by free radicals following a brain or spinal cord injury. PQQ has recently become available as a supplement in Canada.

Creatine, a popular sports supplement, is also used in the treatment of brain injury. Much of the damage to brain tissue occurs after the trauma due to free radical oxidative damage and lack of oxygen. Creatine supports mitochondrial ATP production, increasing energy available for healing and preventing further damage.

I have just learned about another nutrient that is showing promise for concussion and other brain injuries. Brains normally depend on glucose for energy. Unfortunately glucose metabolism is significantly impaired in the brain following an injury, starving it of energy and slowing the healing process. Ketones are the only known alternative to glucose for brain metabolism. I have previously shown how ketones can cross the blood-brain barrier and provide an alternative energy source for the brains of people suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s [#153 February 2012]. Ketones are now proving beneficial following a concussion or more serious brain injuries [; Prins, 2008; White & Vankatesh, 2011].

Ketones can be produced with a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet (under medical supervision), administered parentally by IV, or provided through certain ketone-producing foods. Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) found in coconut oil are converted in the liver to ketones. Adding MCT oil, or a special blend designed for the purpose, as soon as possible after an injury will provide needed energy for brain repair, and could reduce long term disabilities.

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 3, 2015

330 Healthy Cooking Oils [3 August 2015]

I know, grammatically it should be “healthful cooking oils”, that is oils that promote health when consumed, not oils that are feeling pretty good themselves. But “healthful” is such a mouthful that this is one grammatical error that I hope will become accepted in the English language. By the way, if you are interested in the history of the English language take a look at my other blog “The English Cowpath”.

Healthy cooking oil is a very controversial topic – every website has a different opinion – to which I can’t do justice in one article. There are four factors to consider in evaluating the health value of cooking oils: smoke point, oxidative stability, nutrient content, and omega 6 content.

1) Smoke point is the temperature at which the oil starts to smoke, producing toxic byproducts and an unpleasant taste (note: if the oil in your pan starts to smoke, discard it, clean the pan, and start over). Oils with high smoke points are needed for pan frying and deep frying, for example: avocado, camelina, and virgin olive. Coconut, extra virgin olive, and macadamia oils have moderately high smoke points and could be used for low temperature sautéing. Oils with a low smoke point like flaxseed should only be consumed raw as a salad oil or in a smoothie.

2) Oxidative stability is actually more important than smoke point for determining the healthfulness of cooking oils. Oils begin to combine with oxygen to form toxic compounds at temperatures well below the smoke point. Camelina, an otherwise very healthy oil with a high smoke point, scores low on this scale, as do all polyunsaturated oils. Highly saturated fats like coconut oil are more stable. One that shows great promise is red palm olein whose promoters claim has both a high smoke point and the highest oxidative stability of any cooking oil. Red palm olein also has a very high content of vitamin E (tocotrienols) and vitamin A (carotenes).

3) Nutrient content is not as big an issue for cooking oils, as you should be consuming the more nutritious oils raw.

4) The Omega 6 content is important if you are consuming a significant amount of fried foods. To achieve the ideal 4:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 oils, you must avoid oils with a very high 6:3 ratio like corn, safflower and grapeseed; use oils with moderately high ratios like avocado sparingly; and use raw oils high in Omega 3s like flax and camelina (or supplement with omega 3 fish oils).

What you need to know about eating oils, Samantha Sutherland, Feb. 2013, MBG
Making Sense of Healthy Cooking Oils & Fats, Irene Macri, Jan. 2014, Eat Drink Paleo - well researched, lists smoking points
What oil should you be cooking with? Joseph Mercola, Oct. 2003

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 27, 2015

329 Curcumin & Cancer [27 July 2015]

I first wrote about curcumin, an extract from the spice turmeric, last November [#294] where I discussed its anti-inflammatory effects as being helpful with rheumatoid arthritis pain. I hinted that it was being studied for other purposes including cancer – that is the topic that I wish to explore this week.

Dr. William LaValley practices what he calls “evidence-based molecularly-targeted anti-cancer treatment” in his clinics in Nova Scotia and Texas. This is a common practice in oncology but LaValley is unique in using some natural products in the treatments, including high dose 95% curcumin extract. He learned about curcumin and other botanical extracts from China and combines them with conventional pharmaceuticals in his treatments. Interestingly Dr. LaValley also uses a ketogenic diet in his cancer treatments as cancer cells are very glucose dependent.

LaValley was surprised to find that curcumin, because of the large number of pathways that it affects (more than 100), was effective on almost every type of cancer. Even better, curcumin selectively targets cancer cells, leaving healthy cells unaffected. He also found that curcumin works synergistically with some chemotherapy drugs, enhancing their ability to kill cancer cells.

Curcumin affects cancer in 5 ways:
• Inhibits transformation of normal cells to cancer cells
• Inhibits tumor formation
• Inhibits proliferation of tumor cells
• Inhibits angiogenesis (growth of blood vessels to feed the tumor)
• Promotes apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells

Dr. William LaValley is willing to consult with physicians who wish to incorporate curcumin or other natural therapeutic agents in the treatment of cancer patients. Keep in mind that despite the promising histological and animal studies, and LaValley’s extensive clinical experience, there have not yet been (to my knowledge) any controlled trials of curcumin in the treatment of human cancer.

Dr. Mercola - 2014/03/02 article on curcumin and Dr LaValley's work
Mercola interview with Dr. LaValley
Dr. LaValley CV

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 20, 2015

328 The Sunshine Vitamin [20 July 2015]

This is a compilation from several previous posts on Vitamin D. We’re getting some hot sunny days now so optimizing D synthesis while protecting from sunburn is important.

The best way to get vitamin D is from the sun. But for most of the year in Saskatchewan, unless you use a safe sunlamp or take a holiday in the tropics, supplementation is the only way to keep your D levels up.

The UVB rays necessary for vitamin D synthesis can only penetrate the atmosphere when the sun is at 50° or more above the horizon. For our latitude this occurs only from mid-April to mid-August. At the beginning and end of this period there is about a half hour “window” centered on 1:15 pm (which is the “sun-noon” for Rosetown’s longitude). For most of June the “window” extends from 11:00 am to 3:30 pm. On sunny days outside these time “windows”, and on cloudy days, you can still get a sunburn (and increase your risk of skin cancer) from UVA, but you can’t make any vitamin D.

How can we optimize our vitamin D while protecting ourselves from sunburn and possible skin cancer? Expose as much skin area as possible, without SPF sunscreen, for 10-15 minutes during the peak UVB window. Stop before the skin turns pink. As you tan throughout the summer the length of exposure can gradually increase. Don’t wash exposed skin with soap for 48 hours after exposure to allow the vitamin D to be absorbed (washing with plain water is fine).

Cover up with a hat and clothing or use sunblock the rest of the time. The two safest and effective ingredients for blocking the more harmful UVA rays are zinc oxide and titanium oxide which block both UVA & UVB radiation. Remember glass and clouds block UVB but not UVA so you can get a sunburn in your car or on a cloudy day but you can’t make vitamin D.

Regular low intensity sun exposure does not increase the risk of melanoma and actually lowers the risk of many other cancers. Studies have linked higher exposure to UVB with lower rates of 20 different cancers. Optimum vitamin D levels also appear to protect against sunburn – many people (myself included) find that since taking D supplements they don’t sunburn as easily.

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 13, 2015

327 Leptin Resistance [13 July 2015]

I have previously written several times about the role of insulin and insulin resistance in weight gain but there is another compound involved called leptin.

Leptin, sometimes called the “satiety hormone”, was discovered in 1994. It is secreted by fat cells and tells our brain that we have enough stored energy. It reduces our appetite and promotes the burning of fat for energy. Leptin resistance occurs when this message is blocked, resulting in food cravings, continued fat storage, and eventually obesity. Leptin resistance can also be a factor in female infertility.

Several factors contribute to leptin resistance:
• excess dietary sugar, especially fructose
• high insulin levels
• high triglyceride levels
• inflammation
• MSG (SHN #135)
• lack of sleep
• stress
• low calorie diets that are not ketogenic (your body thinks it’s starving)

So what can we do to reverse leptin resistance?
• greatly reduce simple carbs and processed foods
• eat adequate protein and healthful fats
• avoid between meal snacks to give your liver a rest
• exercise (but don’t overdo cardio)
• get at least 8 hours of restful sleep
• lower insulin levels (e.g. with a ketogenic diet)

Leptin resistance is recognized as a key risk factor for obesity (Zhou & Rui, 2013). Identifying the causes and taking steps to reverse it will make any weight loss program easier to follow and much more effective. The ketogenic diet we use in our Rosetown weight loss clinic doesn’t specifically address leptin resistance but does indirectly deal with the factors causing it, particularly insulin levels, triglycerides, inflammation and dietary sugar.

MindBodyGreen post by Barbara Komorek
Wellness Mama post
WebMD article
Dr. Mercola interview with Dr Richard Johnson
Dr. Richard J Johnson book "The Diet Switch"
Y. Zhou and L Rui technical article Front Med 2013 Jun: 7(2) 207-222

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 6, 2015

326 Fermenting Vegetables [6 July 2015]

As a young child I remember my mother making sauerkraut in a 5 gallon crock in a corner of the kitchen. She probably did so as a way to preserve cabbage for winter use, not realizing the health benefits from the bacteria used in the fermentation process.

I recently found a recipe online for fermenting not just cabbage but many other vegetables. And a special starter culture with bacterial species that produce vitamin K2 – an essential vitamin for preventing (and reversing!) both osteoporosis and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Why make and eat fermented vegetables? They’re loaded with probiotics – the good bacteria of which we are only now beginning to learn all the benefits. One small serving of fermented vegetables contains more good bacteria (about 10 trillion) than an entire bottle of high potency probiotics (and for a fraction of the price!). The vitamin K2 content (approx 500mcg per serving) is an added benefit. So one serving of this food can replace two expensive yet essential supplements.

There are four basic steps to producing your own fermented vegetables.
1. Select, clean, and shred the vegetables: cabbage, carrots, sweet potato, yellow beets, apple, bell pepper, parsley, cilantro, ginger root and garlic.
2. Juice celery to make the “brine” (salt is optional). Use 1 part juice to 10 parts vegetables. Stir in a small amount of the starter culture to the celery juice. Pour the brine/starter solution over the shredded vegetables and mix well.
3. Pack the mixture into glass jars (avoid plastic and metal containers) and tamp firmly to remove any air pockets. The brine should cover the vegetables. Top with a piece of cabbage leaf. Screw lid on loosely, allowing gases to escape.
4. Allow the jars to sit for 4 days to a week at room temperature. When ready, refrigerate but don’t freeze. It will keep for several months.

Introduce the vegetables gradually into your diet, working up to ¼ to ½ cup servings as your digestive system tolerates it. It has the feel and consistency of coleslaw and, I expect, should taste somewhat like sauerkraut.

I have ordered some of the K2 starter culture and we will try our hand at making fermented vegetables over the summer. I’ll let you know next fall how it turns out. Anyone care to join us on this adventure? A jar of starter culture goes a long way.

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 29, 2015

325 Got Gas? Get Enzymes! [29 June 2015]

My wife Donna asked me today if beans were a comfort food. I replied that they were for me, but not for anyone sitting beside me.

Intestinal gas or flatulence can be more than a social problem. Abdominal gas can cause uncomfortable bloating and can put pressure on the bladder and other organs. Excessive intestinal gas can also be a sign of a more serious health problem like food allergies, lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, or irritable bowel syndrome.

There are two main areas of gas formation. Upper intestinal gas is usually the result of swallowing too much air while eating or drinking. It results in belching, and can usually be remedied by eating more slowly and not chewing gum.

Lower intestinal gas is caused by eating foods containing indigestible fiber, sugar alcohols or polysaccharides, which are broken down by bacteria in the intestines:
• Beans and lentils contain polysaccharides
• Dairy foods containing the milk sugar lactose
• Cruciferous vegetables: cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, broccoli
• Eggplant, bell peppers, asparagus, onion & garlic
• Inulin fiber, often taken as a prebiotic to promote growth of good bacteria
• Fiber and starch in whole grains
• Sugar alcohols like sorbitol & maltitol
• Fructose & fiber in fruit like apples, pears, peaches, plums, mangos

To prevent abdominal gas you can avoid the foods that are causing it, but most of these are good nutritious foods. A better solution is to take digestive enzymes with your meals. Look for a plant enzyme formula with high amounts of cellulose for digesting fiber and Alpha-galactosidase for digesting polysaccharides. If dairy is a problem for you, find a formula that includes lactase. Plant sourced enzymes are not “habit-forming” meaning that taking them will not reduce your body’s own production of enzymes.

Probiotics may also help if the problem is caused by dysbiosis, for example following a treatment of antibiotics.

Nutrition Action: What Foods Cause Gas?
Mayo Clinic Website
International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
bloating & distension
controlling gas

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 22, 2015

324 Aloe Vera Uses & Safety [22 June 2015]

Aloe vera juice is a popular supplement available at most health food stores (including mine). People drink the juice for a variety of reasons: to improve digestion, relieve constipation, heal stomach and duodenal ulcers, improve diverticulitis, heartburn, IBS and Crohn’s, lower blood sugar, and many others. Aloe was used as a medicinal plant in ancient Egypt, China and India, and is a member of the lily family.

There are two parts of the aloe leaf that are used medicinally: the latex and the inner gel. The latex is a thin layer of yellow sap under the skin which contains aloin, an anthraquinone compound which has a strong laxative effect. Aloin is also believed to be the factor responsible for promoting intestinal tumors in a 2011 two-year rat study by the US National Toxicology Program which added unpurified whole leaf aloe extract to the animals' drinking water. Compounds in the latex are also believed to be hard on the kidneys. Aloe latex should not be taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

The inner gel is clear and jelly-like. It contains over 200 beneficial compounds including polysaccharides (chains of sugar molecules), antioxidants, enzymes, amino acids and vitamins.

There are three main types of ingestible aloe juice:

1. Whole leaf aloe juice contains elements from both the latex and the inner gel. Most are purified to filter out the aloin content to less than 1ppm. It has superior therapeutic effects but the strongest taste.

2. Inner fillet juice is made from the inner gel only. Juice that has been thickened with carrageenan is sometimes called “Aloe Gel”. This juice has a milder taste.

3. Aloe Distillate uses fractional distillation to remove all the unwanted elements while keeping most of the beneficial compounds. It tastes like spring water.

Two other aloe vera products are available in Canada:

• Topical gels for skin conditions to relieve dryness and promote healing of burns, sunburns, cold sores, and minor wounds. Generally considered safe.

• Laxative capsules containing aloe latex. Use with caution.

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 15, 2015

323 Statins & Vitamin K2 [15 June 2015]

Back in April 2012 I wrote about the effect of statin (cholesterol lowering) drugs on Co-enzyme Q10 and muscle pain [#159]. Later, in December 2014 [#299] I showed that vitamin D along with CoQ10 relieves statin-induced myalgia (SIM). In the conclusion I wrote “If I was taking a statin drug, in addition to supplementing with Q10, I would make sure my D levels were adequate”. New research indicates that statin users should add K2 to their list of supplements as well.

A recent discovery, discussed by Okuyama et al in the March 2015 Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, is that statin drugs inhibit the synthesis of vitamin K2. I have previously discussed [#149] how K2 is essential for directing the calcium from your diet and supplements into your bones instead of your joints and arteries. A 2009 study from Utrecht, Netherlands, had shown that a high intake of K2 reduced the risk of coronary heart disease. It now appears that, ironically, statins, by inhibiting K2 synthesis, could be promoting atherosclerosis, the very condition they are supposed to prevent. The same study (Okuyama et al, 2015) added that statins also inhibit the synthesis of glutathione peroxidase, the essential antioxidant I discussed in two columns in May. Another study published in June 2011 in JAMA concluded that high dose statin therapy increases risk of diabetes compared to moderate dose therapy.

How could it be possible for drugs with side effects like these to be so popular (taken by 1 in 4 Americans age 45 and over)? Are the benefits really worth the risks? An investigation into this question was published by Diamond & Ravnskov in the same March 2015 issue of Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology. They conclude:
“…although statins are effective at reducing cholesterol levels, they failed to substantially improve cardiovascular outcomes… Statin advocates have … [deceptively amplified] the trivial beneficial effects of statins [and] succeeded in minimizing the significance of the numerous adverse effects of statin treatment.”
Please follow the links below, and read these articles for yourself. Then discuss them with your physician and pharmacist. If you decide that statin therapy is still indicated, then consider supplementing with CoQ10, and vitamins D and K2.


Okuyama, H et al Expert Rev Clin Pharmacol 2015 Mar:8(2):189-99 Statins stimulate atherosclerosis and heart failure: pharmacological mechanisms [abstract]

Gast, GC et al Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 2009 Sep:19(7):504-10 A high menaquinone intake reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease [abstract]

Diamond DM, Ravnskov U. Expert Rev Clin Pharmacol 2015 Mar:8(2):201-10 How statistical deception created the appearance that statins are safe and effective in primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease.[abstract]

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 8, 2015

322 The Gut Microbiome Diet [8 June 2015]

Two weeks ago (#320) I discussed how our gut microbiome (the bacteria in our intestines) affects our brain health, specifically mood disorders like depression; diabetes and obesity; and neurological disorders like autism, ADHD, Parkinson’s, MS and Alzheimer’s. I ended by hinting that changing our diets can quickly change our gut microbiome and reduce the risk of these conditions.

How can we best do this?

1. First, avoid unnecessary antibiotics.

2. Restrict sugar, especially fructose, which promotes dysbiosis (growth of unhealthy bacteria).

3. Replace processed foods with whole raw foods wherever possible.

4. Add probiotic foods to your diet – fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, and kombucha tea. These must be unpasteurized and preferably home-grown. I’m looking for sources of starter cultures for these foods – can anyone help me out here?

5. Eat plenty of prebiotic foods which provide fiber for the good bacteria to thrive on. Whole, raw vegetables are best, as cooking destroys some of the fiber. Good sources are:
• Jicama, chicory root and Jerusalem artichoke contain inulin, an excellent prebiotic fiber
• dandelion greens, asparagus
• cooked yams, sweet potatoes, potato skins
• root veggies (may be cooked): carrots, turnips, parsnips
• raw onions, leeks, garlic
• cooked legumes: beans, peas, lentils, chick peas
• raw or cooked cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower
• avocado, apples, and bananas
• wheat bran, soaked or cooked whole wheat.

If you make a good effort to make some of these changes, you should notice an improvement in your digestive (and mental) health within a few weeks. Caution – some of these changes, like introducing more legumes and cabbage, need to be made gradually.

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 1, 2015

321 D-Mannose & Bladder Infections [1 June 2015]

Bladder infections are a common problem for many women (and a few men). In most cases the best treatment is not antibiotics but sugar. A specific type of sugar called D-mannose, to be precise.

Most bladder infections (85-90% by one estimate) are caused by the bacterium E. coli which has an attraction for the sugar D-mannose. This particular sugar, which is a stereo-isomer of glucose, naturally occurs on the lining of the bladder. The E. coli bacteria stick to this sugar and thus to the bladder, preventing it from being washed away with urine flow. The solution is to give the bacteria what it wants. Taking a spoonful of this sugar every 3-4 hours for a day or two floods the bladder with D-mannose which collects the E. coli and flushes them away.

In cases where the infection has reached the kidneys or is caused by a different species of bacteria, D-mannose will be ineffective and antibiotics will be required. Antibiotics of course have the undesirable side effect of killing off beneficial bacteria as well as the pathogens, which as I discussed last week are what keeps us healthy. Trying D-mannose first is not only safer and more effective for E. coli infections, but also saves the antibiotics for when they are really needed. D-mannose does not affect intestinal bacteria and is safe for diabetics.

D-mannnose is found in several fruits such as peaches, apples, blueberries and especially cranberries. It is believed that this is why cranberry juice has a long and successful history of use for bladder infections. In one study (Prodromos et al, 1968) 73% of 44 women and 16 men with a bladder infection obtained relief with 16 oz of cranberry juice daily. The problem with cranberry juice is that most brands have sugar added and even the unsweetened juices still have a high fructose content. Taking cranberry concentrate capsules avoids the sugar, but none of the brands I carry list their D-mannose content on the label so you don’t know how much you are getting. Cranberries (and cranberry extract capsules) have many other nutritional components including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, flavonoids, and polyphenolic compounds, so are beneficial for more than just bladder infections.

Mercola: The Cranberry Juice Myth...
Jonathan V. Wright:D-Mannose for Bladder and Kidney Infections

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.

May 25, 2015

320 Our Gut Microbiome & Our Brain [25 May 2015]

Last fall (#287 & #288) I discussed how our gut microbiome (the bacteria in our intestines) affect our health in many ways, and how it in turn is affected by our diet and lifestyle choices.

In his new 2015 book Brain Maker, the Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect your Brain – For Life, neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter expands on this idea with new research into the relationship between our microbiome and our brain health. The book discusses the gut microbiome’s effect on: inflammation; mood disorders like depression; diabetes and obesity; and neurological disorders like autism, ADHD, Parkinson’s, MS and Alzheimer’s.

These bacteria living in our digestive tract make up 99% of the DNA in our bodies, and affect our health in several ways:
• manufacture neurochemicals like dopamine and serotonin, and vitamins like B12;
• maintain the integrity of the gut lining preventing “leaky gut syndrome”; and
• control switches that can turn our own genes on or off.

Leaky gut and inflammation seems to be the keys to the common brain disorders mentioned above. Gut permeability can be measured by measuring levels of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) antibodies – higher blood levels indicate a leaky gut. Strong correlations have been found between LPS levels and many of these chronic disorders, including diabetes. Correlation of course doesn’t necessarily mean causation, but Dr. Perlmutter made some interesting observations after correcting gut flora with fecal transplants (see #243) in a few case studies: Carlos, a 43 year old man with MS who could barely walk with two canes, could now walk unaided; and Jason, a 10 year old boy with severe autism showed remarkable improvements.

While our own DNA has changed little in thousands of years, we can change the 99% of the DNA in our bodies that are found in the gut microbiome in a matter of days – and in so doing significantly reduce our risk for these neurological conditions – simply by changing our diets. More about this in a future article.

Sources: Dr. Perlmutter interview (1 hour)

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 18, 2015

319 Increasing Glutathione – Who Can Benefit? [18 May 2015]

Last week (#318) I showed you how to raise your glutathione levels. Which brings up the question of who would benefit from increasing glutathione.

In medicine we think of one drug for one disease, and are taught to be skeptical of “panaceas” that promise everything. But in natural healing many different nutrients must work together to improve one condition; and a single nutrient can improve many different conditions. Glutathione is a perfect example of the latter because its powerful antioxidant properties make it essential for health in every cell of the body.

You could benefit from increasing glutathione levels if you:
• want to look and feel younger – as we age our bodies produce less glutathione
• are an athlete – improves strength, endurance and reduces recovery time
• are a smoker, welder, mechanic, chemical farmer, consume alcohol, or are otherwise exposed to chemical toxins – protects your organs from damage
• use a cell phone or WIFI, are exposed to microwaves or ultraviolet radiation – protects cells from radiation damage
• have a chronic disease like asthma, Alzheimer’s, Lupus, Parkinson’s, arthritis, macular degeneration – all associated with low glutathione
• are fighting a viral infection such as a cold, hepatitis, herpes, bronchitis, pneumonia, even AIDS – strengthens the immune system to fight infections
• have impaired or diseased organs including heart, liver, kidneys, prostate, stomach, intestines, colon – all benefit from increased glutathione
• have atherosclerosis (risk for heart attack & stroke) – prevents lipid peroxidation and plaque formation
• are healing from trauma – promotes growth of healthy new tissue
• want to sleep better – promotes better more restful sleep
• are sick and tired of feeling sick and tired – supports mitochondria to produce more energy
• are healthy and want to stay that way – helps prevent all above conditions

Immunotec website
Nutraxis 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.

May 11, 2015

318 How to Raise Glutathione [11 May 2015]

I have previously written about glutathione (#304), explaining why it is the most important antioxidant in your body. A few weeks ago (#315) I promised to show you how to raise your glutathione levels.

To review: glutathione is composed of three amino acids – L-cysteine, L-glutamic acid and glycine, and the mineral selenium. Cysteine is a sulfur-containing amino acid. Simply taking glutathione supplements does not raise glutathione levels – it is broken down in digestion; we have to consume the precursors and let our bodies synthesize it where needed.

Of the three amino acids, cysteine is the hardest to get from our diet. Free cysteine, like glutathione, is broken down in digestion. Two special forms do survive the digestive process: N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) and bonded cysteine (also called cystine). NAC is available as a supplement and in higher doses as a prescription drug. It is commonly used in clinical situations but has some side effects and safety concerns, so is not recommended for general use or for children. Cystine is found in whey from raw cow’s milk, processed in a special way to avoid breaking the sulfur bonds. Regular whey supplements will not contain any cystine.

Other factors required to increase glutathione include:
Selenium – a co-factor for the enzyme glutathione peroxidase
• Vitamins B1 & B2 – help maintain glutathione in its active form
• Vitamins B6 & B12 – play a role in glutathione synthesis
• Folic acid – directs cysteine into production of glutathione rather than homocysteine (a risk factor for heart disease)
• Vitamin C – supports glutathione production and activity
• Vitamin D3 – increases glutathione production
• Vitamin E – protects and recharges glutathione
• Minerals magnesium and zinc – also essential for glutathione production
• Silymarin from the herb milk thistle – has been shown to increase glutathione

Source: Immune Health Solutions website. Be sure to scroll down and watch the Dr. Mark Hyman video clip.

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 4, 2015

317 Nutritional Psychiatry [4 May 2015]

Nutritional psychiatry (NP) is a branch of science that uses nutrients to treat psychiatric symptoms and mood and anxiety disorders. Bonnie Kaplan is a professor at the U. of Calgary and a researcher in nutritional psychiatry. A recent interview with Kaplan for the Economic Times was published online March 20, 2015, as “Nutritional psychiatry can be an effective treatment”.

In the interview, Kaplan made these six points:

1. NP is a new science, less than 15 years old. Kaplan is researching the use of a broad spectrum nutrient formula to treat psychiatric symptoms and mental disorders.

2. NP is effective because normal brain function requires micronutrients. Mental illness can result if any nutrients are in insufficient supply. In one case study a young boy with bipolar disorder who was regressing (getting worse) during six years of conventional treatment, was completely cured after 14 months with nutritional treatment.

3. Many psychiatrists are opposed to nutritional psychiatry. They are trained in drug therapy and are uninterested in normal brain metabolism. Government funding is difficult to obtain because of the lack of support by conventional medicine.

4. Pharmaceutical companies are not interested in NP because it is less profitable. In another case study, a young boy suffering from severe psychosis had been treated conventionally with no improvement, then successfully treated with nutritional therapy at less than 1% of the cost.

5. NP cannot always totally replace drugs; in some cases it complements drug therapy. Kaplan believes the ideal situation would be for nutrition to be the primary therapy and medication play a supportive role when needed.

6. NP is not just about supplementation but includes a diet of high quality nutritious food for its vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content.

To learn more about nutritional psychiatry and the broad spectrum nutrient formula visit or phone 888-878-3467.

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.

April 27, 2015

316 Stress & Anxiety [27 April 2015]

Stress is defined as the non-specific response to change, which often affects mental and physical health. Stress is unavoidable and some stress is in fact essential to life. Where it becomes a concern is when chronic stress keeps us in the “fight or flight” response 24/7.

Chronic stress is a factor in almost all disease – particularly physical conditions like muscle tension, pain, and fatigue, and mental or emotional conditions like depression, OCD, and anxiety. Natural health products have been formulated to manage the stress response before it causes mental or physical disease. These include ingredients like:
• Melissa (lemonbalm) – increases GABA in the brain
• Rhodiola – moderates neurotransmitter activity
• Ashwagandha – reduces the amount of cortisol needed for stress response
• L-theanine – promotes mood balance and relaxation, increases alpha brain waves
• Choline – precursor for many neurotransmitters
• Inositol – modulates serotonin activity in the brain
• 5-HTP – supports theanine in mood regulation

Anxiety is a mental health condition which is often a reaction to stress. The normal emotions of worry and fear take over our lives and lead to mental and physical symptoms. The first natural health product licensed by Health Canada specifically for anxiety includes:
• Passionflower – relieves feelings of anxiousness
• Ashwagandha – reduces stress and nervousness
• L-theanine – promotes relaxation, reduces tension & anxiety
• American ginseng – supports brain function and memory
• Holy basil – improves resistance to stress

Why let stress and anxiety take over your life when you can manage them safely and effectively with all-natural products.


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 20, 2015

315 Methylation [20 April 2015]

Methylation is an important biochemical process involved in most functions of your body. Methylation is the addition of a methyl group (CH3) to a molecule. In an article published on, nutrition consultant and member of the Institute of Functional Medicine Michelle Corey lists nine functions in which methylation is involved:
• Stress response
• Glutathione production & recycling
• Inflammation
• Neurotransmitters – brain function & mood
• Detoxification – breakdown & disposal of toxins
• Energy production
• Repair of free radical damage
• Immune response – fighting infections and controlling auto-immune diseases
• DNA repair and genetic expression

Impairment of methylation due to a shortage of methyl groups or the enzymes that facilitate the process leads to many different types of illnesses, as you can imagine from the above list. These include heart disease & stroke, some cancers, certain birth defects, inflammatory bowel disease, other inflammatory and auto-immune diseases, and neuropsychiatric conditions.

To help prevent these conditions, or reduce their symptoms, Corey lists some tips for improving methylation:
• Take a B vitamin complex, especially folate; all are methyl donors
• Methylfolate and methylcobalamin are methylated forms of B10 and B12 respectively
• Eat 2 cups daily of dark green leafy vegetables which contain folate
• Take probiotics to improve gut flora which produce and absorb B vitamins
• Reduce stress and toxic exposure (avoid alcohol, smoking, other chemicals)
• Increase glutathione production (see #304 Feb 2, 2015; more on this in a future 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.