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.

Sources
Nutrition Action: What Foods Cause Gas?
Mayo Clinic Website
MedicineNet
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.

Sources:

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.

Sources:
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.