December 18, 2017

451 CO2 & Plant Nutrients [18 Dec 2017]

Irakli Loladze, an American mathematician with an interest in biology, discovered a previously unsuspected effect of rising carbon dioxide levels. As atmospheric CO2 rises, plant growth and carbohydrate (mostly sugars) content increase, while the protein and mineral contents decrease.

It was well known that nutrient content of food crops had dropped significantly in the last 50 years – a USDA study published in 2004 showed changes in nutrient levels of 43 garden crops from 1950 to 1999. But these changes were attributed to breeding of new crop varieties for yield [and taste] rather than nutrient content.

Loladze demonstrated that in addition to crop breeding, rising CO2 levels also played a role in the observed nutrient losses. As CO2 levels rise, photosynthesis speeds up, increasing carbohydrate production at the expense of protein and nutrients like vitamins and minerals. In experiments with cereal grains and potatoes, increased CO2 resulted in reductions in protein, calcium, potassium, zinc and iron. These changes are predicted to put millions of people at risk of dietary deficiencies. There is also concern that the increased sugar content of plant foods will contribute to the rising epidemics of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

To eliminate the plant breeding factor, pollen samples from wild goldenrod plants dating back to before the industrial revolution were tested, and found to have declining protein content with rising CO2 levels.

Two large studies were published in 2014 which supported the theory of a rising carbohydrate to minerals ratio. Samuel Myers, a climate researcher at Harvard University, and his team published a study in Nature which showed that protein, iron and zinc dropped in key crops grown in Japan, Australia and the United States. On the same day Loladze published the results of 15 years of data on samples from 130 varieties of plants, showing that minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron were reduced, on average by 8%.

That 8% may not seem significant but it will grow as CO2 levels continue to climb through the rest of this century. It is just one more effect to consider along with all the other effects of climate change. Still, in my opinion, this nutrient loss is overshadowed by the deliberate reduction of nutrients in food processing in order to make our food tastier, more convenient, and cheaper.

Source: The great nutrient collapse, by Helena Bottemiller Evich, The Agenda,, 2017

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 11, 2017

450 PCOS [11 December 2017]

PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is a common cause of infertility in women. PCOS is a metabolic condition in which there is an excess of estrogen and androgens (male hormones) leading to a variety of symptoms: irregular or absent ovulation, a higher risk of miscarriage, hair loss (male pattern baldness), excess facial hair, acne, fatigue, and mood swings. Conditions frequently associated with PCOS include: insulin resistance, hyperinsulinism, diabetes, weight gain, and hypertension. PCOS is the most common hormone dysfunction of women of reproductive age, affecting an estimated 10% of women.

PCOS is believed to begin with a diet high in simple carbohydrates which leads to insulin resistance and hyperinsulinism. High levels of insulin activate the androgen receptors on the ovaries which causes an increase in male hormones. The male hormones prevent the mature egg follicle from releasing the egg during ovulation, causing infertility. Normally the follicle releases the egg and then attaches as a corpus luteum which triggers production of high amounts of progesterone as a normal part of the ovulatory cycle. When the egg is not released, the follicle attaches to the ovary as a “cyst”, and little if any progesterone is produced. The lack of progesterone leaves estrogen dominant which thickens the uterus and increases the risk of endometrial cancer.

The most important approach to treating PCOS is to deal with the insulin resistance, hyperinsulinism, and excess weight. With high insulin levels, a ketogenic diet is the easiest and safest way to shed the excess fat and eliminate insulin resistance. This should be followed by a healthy diet low in simple carbohydrates, sufficient exercise, stress reduction, and a detox program to support the liver and help it clear the excess hormones. Often this is enough to normalize hormones and restore fertility.

A nutrient that shows promise in treating PCOS is di-chiro-inositol or DCI (trade name ChirositolTM). Studies show that DCI normalizes insulin levels, reducing them when too high but doesn’t take them too low. It also elevates serotonin which reduces sugar cravings. According to the Lorna Vanderhaeghe website (which markets a ChirositolTM product, GlucoSmart), DCI “effectively reduces excess male hormones, reduces weight and appetite, and normalizes ovulation, thereby improving fertility” []. Note a 2011 review in Gynecol. Endrocrinol found the studies to date of insufficient quality for reliable conclusions regarding DCI as a treatment for PCOS.

John Lee MD Medical Letter July 1999, quoted in 2 Jan 2008

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

December 4, 2017

449 Medicinal Mushrooms [4 Dec 2017]

Medicinal mushrooms are commonly used in Japan (hence the Japanese names for many of them) but are underutilized in North America, mostly I think due to lack of awareness. Most of the research, including many human studies, have been done in China and Japan. I didn’t know much about them until I participated in a webinar on the topic by Dr. Philip Rouchotas.

The active ingredients in the mushrooms are various polysaccharides which are protected in the mushrooms by a chitin cell wall. Hot water or steam extraction works best to release the polysaccharides.

Coriolus, Reishi, Maitake, Shiitake and Chaga all have similar medicinal properties. Their most important role is assisting with advanced cancer treatment, taken along with chemotherapy and radiation. These mushrooms have been used in Japan for this purpose for over 30 years. Studies have shown that they:

• Stimulate activity of NK (Natural Killer) white blood cells to attack cancer cells
• Protect Neutrophils from destruction by chemo, allowing treatment to continue (if neutrophil count gets too low chemo treatment has to be stopped)
• Reduce side effects of chemo and radiation therapy including fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and insomnia
• Help maintain body weight during cancer treatment
• Increase length of remission and survival rates from cancer treatment

These five mushrooms also have anti-viral properties and have been shown in human trials to be effective with HIV, HPV and other viral, fungal and bacterial infections. They also help with conditions of severe fatigue like Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Cordyceps is another well studied mushroom, highly valued by the Chinese. An important use is in treating adrenal fatigue by balancing cortisol production. It improves symptoms of respiratory conditions including COPD. Cordyceps improves cardio-pulmonary function in elderly people, increasing their stamina.

Lion’s Mane is known as the “brain mushroom” because it stimulates nerve growth. It’s main use is with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and MS. Animal studies show that it increases growth of myelin making it a promising treatment for MS. Dr. Rouchotas considers it to be the most important supplement in treatment of brain injury such as concussion, along with fish oil, CoQ10 and Acetyl-L-Carnitine.

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 27, 2017

448 Fit and Fat? [27 Nov 2017]

Studies on the relative risks of weight and exercise have suggested that being fit is more important than not being fat. A recent study from Britain, however, shows that even healthy obese people should not become complacent about their weight.

The study examined the electronic health records of 3.5 million adults in England (making it the largest study of its kind) that were initially free of heart disease, and followed them from 1995 to 2015. The study classified the patients by BMI (a ratio of weight to height) and recorded three metabolic abnormalities – diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol). They were then followed and monitored for three cardiovascular diseases (CVD) – coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease (stroke), or peripheral vascular disease.

As expected, within each weight category, those with one or more metabolic abnormalities had a higher risk of heart disease. And, not too unexpectedly, for those with the same abnormalities, the obese had a higher risk of CVD than those with normal weight. This held true for those with no metabolic abnormalities – the obese had a 49% increased risk of coronary heart disease, an insignificant 7% increased risk of stroke, and 96% increased risk (nearly double) of heart failure. Even those in the moderate “overweight” class had a 30% higher risk of coronary heart disease.

An earlier (2013) review and meta-analysis found a similar pattern. Compared to the metabolically healthy normal weight group, the metabolically health obese group had a 24% higher risk of having a cardiovascular event. All weight groups that were metabolically unhealthy had much higher risks, from 265 to 312% higher.

What this means is that even with no signs of diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, being overweight puts you at a much higher risk of heart disease. But having diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol increases your risk much, much, more.

As I have explained previously [#082], high blood insulin levels not only promote weight gain (and make weight loss next to impossible) [#065] but can also lead to diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) [#084] and dyslipidemia (high cholesterol) [#083] – the three main risk factors for heart disease. The medically designed ketogenic diet we use at our weight loss clinic lowers insulin which makes losing weight much easier and at the same time normalizes blood sugar, blood pressure and lipids. We have had dieters who, after losing significant weight, were able to go off their blood pressure and diabetic meds.

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 20, 2017

447 Vitamin K2 Update [20 Nov 2017]

Back in 2012 I wrote a series of columns on vitamin K2 [#148-151] and in June 2015 [#323] showed that taking statin drugs inhibits the synthesis of K2 making supplementation even more critical. It’s time for a review and update.

Vitamins K1 and K2 are different nutrients with entirely different functions. K1 is found in leafy green vegetables and plays a role in blood clotting. K2 is found in fat products (including egg yolks and butter) from grass fed animals. K2 activates two different proteins: osteocalcin to attach to calcium and move it into our bones and teeth; and matrix Gla protein (MGP) to keep calcium out of our arteries, kidneys, heart, breasts and brain.

K2 works with calcium, magnesium and vitamin D to promote strong bones and teeth. Studies from Japan and the Netherlands found that K2 supplementation reduced bone fractures by 60-80% and actually reversed bone loss in people with osteoporosis.

Vitamins D and K2 are both needed for MGP which prevents calcium deposits on the lining of our arteries. A 2015 study showed that taking 180mcg of K2 prevented and even reversed hardening of the arteries. A previous 10 year study from the Netherlands found that increased consumption of K2 significantly lowered risk of cardiovascular disease and death from all causes.

Another role of K2 is in activating a protein that controls cell growth and helps protect us from some cancers. Research is also investigating potential roles of K2 in preventing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and MS.

K2 deficiency is very common in Canada as very little is found in our diets and only a small amount is synthesized by our gut bacteria. There is still no readily available lab test for K2 levels but researchers estimate that an “overwhelming majority” of adults in North America get only about 10% of the vitamin K2 needed to prevent osteoporosis and cardiovascular heart disease. We don’t need to wait – every adult should be supplementing with 100-200 mcg (I take 200 daily). And it’s non-toxic so we needn’t worry about taking too much – just too little. We certainly shouldn’t be taking calcium and vitamin D supplements without also supplementing K2. One caution – anyone taking a blood thinning drug like warfarin should talk to their doctor before starting K2 as the drug’s dosage will need to be adjusted.

There are two forms of K2 available in supplements: MK-4 and MK-7. MK-4 is the one found in animal fats but has a short biological half-life (the length of time it stays active in our bodies) so needs to be taken several times a day. MK-7 is only found in certain (awful-tasting) fermented foods so is best taken as a supplement. It has the advantage of a longer half-life so only needs to be taken once a day. Some of the better calcium-magnesium supplements have added vitamins D3 and K2.

Source: Mercola 13 Nov 2017 Vitamin K2 for Heart Bone 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.

November 13, 2017

446 Iron Deficiency [13 Nov 2017]

In September I wrote about iron toxicity [#439], how too much iron can damage your mitochondria and increase your risk of sudden cardiac death. This week I want to balance that with a reminder that worldwide, iron deficiency is a major problem. See my article #212 Iron – the Energy Mineral, April 2013.

The World Health Organization states that “Iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world. As well as affecting a large number of children and women in developing countries, it is the only nutrient deficiency which is also significantly prevalent in industrialized countries.”

People most affected by iron deficiency are growing children, pregnant women, and pre-menopausal women. Pregnancy especially requires iron as the mother’s blood volume increases nearly 50%. By the way, this extra blood volume also requires a lot of sodium, so this is not the time to restrict salt consumption. Children with ADD are commonly deficient in iron [see #443] as well as many other minerals and vitamins [see #172].

Besides being an essential component of hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying molecule found in red blood cells, iron is also essential in DNA synthesis and as a co-factor in a number of enzymes involved in oxidative phosphorylation.

Some symptoms of iron deficiency:
• General fatigue and weakness
• Shortness of breath
• Tachycardia (pounding heart)
• Chronic headaches
• Anxiety
• Pale skin
• Hair loss
• Heavy menstrual cycles

These are indications that you might have an iron deficiency. But remember the danger of excess iron – it is important to be tested to make sure there is an iron deficiency before supplementing. There are a variety of iron supplements available. Iron salts such as fumarate, sulfate and gluconate are poorly absorbed and may contribute to constipation. Iron bisglycinate is a better absorbed form. Heme iron, already in the form used in red blood cells, is the best absorbed. Herbal iron tonics are also very well absorbed and contain other useful nutrients.

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 6, 2017

445 Methylfolate [6 Nov 2017]

Folate is a B vitamin (B9) with many essential roles in our metabolism. It is found in leafy green vegetables, hence the name folate after “folium”, Latin for leaf. Folate is also synthesized by certain lactobacillus and bifidobacteria bacteria in our small intestine.

Most of us have heard that folate is essential in pregnancy to prevent the birth defect spina bifida, but it plays many other roles. Folate:
• is essential in cell division and synthesis of DNA and RNA
• helps make the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine
• prevents neural tube defects (including spina bifida) in pregnancy
• helps prevent anemia in pregnancy
• converts homocysteine to less-toxic methionine (homocysteine increases inflammation and risk of heart disease)
• maintains healthy T cell production and therefore resistance to infections
• improved symptoms of depression, bipolar and schizophrenia
• improves cognitive function and slows brain deterioration in Alzheimer’s and dementia

The natural form, folate, is metabolized in the small intestine to the active form methyltetrahydrofolate (MTHF). The synthetic form, folic acid, found in “fortified” foods and cheaper vitamin supplements, requires conversion in the liver before a final conversion to THF. The liver process requires an enzyme, MTHFR, of which many people have inherited an inactive form. These people are unable to utilize folic acid or even some of the natural forms found in food. If they supplement with folic acid toxic levels could build up in their livers, so they need to use the methyl form. Are you one of them? Genetic testing could tell you – but a trial with MTHF would be easier and cheaper.

The ubiquitous herbicide glyphosate preferentially kills the folate producing bacteria in our gut so now it’s even more essential to get folate from our diet and supplements.

Similar to methylcobalamin being the preferred form of vitamin B12 [see #339], the preferred form of B9 is methyltetrahydrofolate. I’ve noticed recently that more of the higher quality B complex and multi vitamins have these forms of B9 and B12. Look for them when you are buying vitamins for yourself and your family.

Sources for further reading

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 30, 2017

444 Pain & Inflammation Protocol [30 Oct 2017]

A webinar by Philip Rouchotas ND of Bolton Naturopathic Clinic in Ontario described his treatment protocol for pain and inflammation. He also explained in some detail the rationale and science behind each item. Most of his patients with pain and inflammation have an autoimmune disease where the body produces antibodies which attacks its own tissues. And a common factor in most autoimmune disease is a hyperpermeable intestinal wall, also known as a “leaky gut”.

Here is a summary of his protocol:
• Eliminate dietary proteins that promote leaky gut and the autoimmune response. Gluten and gliadins from grains and casein from dairy are the most common culprits. Human studies show significant improvements with elimination diets for many autoimmune diseases. Because of the inconvenience, Dr. Rouchotas doesn’t recommend everyone eliminate grains and dairy, but anyone with an autoimmune disease is advised to do a trial even with negative allergy tests. He describes it as “the single most effective intervention for autoimmune disease I know”.
• Vitamin D acts as an immunomodulator, reducing the autoimmune process by increasing production of regulatory T cells (Tregs), while at the same time improving the immune system’s ability to fight infections [see #363 March 2016]
• Probiotics help restore a healthy gut microbiome, reducing the production of lipopolysaccharides (LPS) which cross the leaky gut inducing an autoimmune reaction
• Fish oil (at least 2,000 mg/day of EPA+DHA) replaces some of the arachidonic acid in the (COX) and (LOX) pathways, reducing production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes. A meta-analysis found that fish oil reduced joint pain, morning stiffness, and need for NSAIDS.
• Curcumin and Boswellia are the only herbals known to block both the COX and LOX pathways, thus providing double anti-inflammatory protection (Tylenol blocks only COX)
• Egg shell membrane (500mg /day) is another natural anti-inflammatory which has shown significant improvement in joint pain and stiffness after 1 or 2 months
• Glucosamine [see #63 March 2011] and chondroitin (1500 and 1200 mg/day) help rebuild cartilage in osteoarthritic joints [see #63 May 2010]
• Enzymes like bromelain and serrapeptase [see #442] taken between meals reduce inflammation

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 23, 2017

443 ADHD Protocol [23 Oct 2017]

A webinar by Philip Rouchotas ND of Bolton Naturopathic Clinic in Ontario described his treatment protocol for children with ADD or ADHD. He also explained in some detail the rationale and science behind each item.

Here is a summary of his protocol:
• Reduce simple carbs, especially for breakfast. Replacing the typical “bowl of sugar” with some protein and good fats will prevent the mid-morning blood sugar spike and subsequent crash.
• Choose organic food as much as possible. Many studies link pesticides to many human diseases including ADD.
• Go gluten and dairy free. This will make a huge difference in many kids. Be strict with gluten free using a dedicated toaster and butter dish to avoid crumb contamination.
• Multivitamin or B complex with activated B’s (e.g. P5P B6; methylcobalamine B12; L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate). Some ADD kids may be unable to utilize regular B vitamins – in food or supplements – because of missing or inactivated enzymes.
• Vitamin D3, 400 iu for under 5 years of age, 1000 iu for 5 and up. There are no studies showing improvements in ADD with vitamin D supplementation, but many that show that deficiencies in these kids are very common.
• Fish oil with 2:1 EPA:DHA totalling 400-600 mg/day is very important. High EPA fish oil has been shown to improve mood, depression, and ADD symptoms with no adverse side effects. In some cases it works as well as or better than anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and drugs prescribed for ADHD, and is a much safer option.
• Kids with ADD are often deficient in one or more minerals. Supplement with magnesium bisglycinate or, if constipation is a problem, citrate, at 125-250mg/day.
• Test for iron and zinc deficiencies and supplement if indicated (10mg zinc and 11mg iron daily). Deficiencies in these two trace minerals are common with ADD but should not be supplemented without testing first.
• Assess for heavy metals and other toxins, especially lead. Although blood levels of 5 mcg/dL for lead is considered acceptable, studies have found as little as 1 mcg increased the risk of ADD. It appears that the “normal” level is 10X too high.

In addition, something as simple as using an exercise ball for a seat in school will make an improvement in ADHD behavior. The rocking motion calms hyper kids while the bounce keeps inattentive kids awake.

Rouchotas cautions parents not to expect immediate results with his program. But he tells parents if they start now, they will have a different child in 6 months.

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 16, 2017

442 Serrapeptase [16 Oct 2017]

Serrapeptase is a proteolytic enzyme used as a natural anti-inflammatory for a wide variety of conditions. Its full name serratiopeptidase reflects its origin in the bacterium Serratia found in the gut of silkworms.

Serrapeptase is commonly prescribed (as a drug) in Europe and Asia as a safer alternative to pain relievers and NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drug). Robert Redfern explains that serrapeptase works by clearing unhealthy inflammation and affects only dead tissue, and that unlike NSAIDs it has no gastrointestinal side effects (like ulcers, bleeding stomach, and much worse) and has no known interactions with any drug. He has found it safe in pregnancy, breastfeeding (it helps with engorged breasts), and with bleeding disorders. Canadian label requires a warning to check with your physician if pregnant, breastfeeding or taking warfarin.

Serrapeptase has been used for a wide variety of conditions:
• pain of any kind including back pain, osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, diabetic neuropathy, repetitive strain injury, carpal tunnel syndrome
• lung problems including bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, emphysema
• rhinitis, sinusitis, ear infections, laryngitis, hay fever
• varicose veins, peripheral vascular disease, blood clots, arterial plaque
fibromyalgia, cystitis, fibrocystic breast disease
• headaches and vascular migraines
• inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s
• pain and inflammation from trauma (e.g. sprains) and surgery

Despite the safe and amazingly successful use of serrapeptase over 50 years, there are few controlled studies published, so it is underutilized in North American medicine. I have two brands of serrapeptase with 60,000 and 120,000 SU strength.

For more information, download Redfern's free ebook "The Miracle Enzyme".

Note: this is an update from #217 Serrapeptase – the Anti-inflammatory Enzyme [May 20, 2013].

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

October 9, 2017

441 EPA not DHA [9 Oct 2017]

The two most important Omega-3 essential fatty acids for our health are Ecosapentanaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexanoic Acid (DHA). Both are found in fish oil supplements. As I alluded to in a column last month [#438 Nutrients for Mental Health] EPA is the critical one for mental health.

EPA has been found to be the more effective of the two for depression. A meta-analysis published in 2011 in J Clin Psychiatry found that supplements with an EPA:DHA ratio of 3:2 or higher with doses of 200 to 2,000 mg per day were effective in treating depression, and the higher the ratio, the more effective it was. A 2013 study in Eur Neuropsychopharmacol found that EPA but not DHA improved depression symptoms in adults already taking antidepressant drugs. Another study found that fish oil worked better than Prozac for depression, but both together worked better than either alone.

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is another condition where Omega-3’s show promise. An Australian study published in J Dev Behav Pediatr in 2007 found significant improvement in attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. A review and meta-analysis published in 2011 in J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry found a modest but significant reduction in ADHD symptoms with Omega-3 supplementation and concluded that because of its “benign side-effect profile” it “may be reasonable to use omega-3…to augment …pharmacologic interventions or for families who decline other psychopharmacologic options”. Another study [J Atten Disord 2009] found that after 6 months of Omega-3 supplementation, 47% of the children in the study had a reduction of ADHD symptoms to near normal. Of 12 studies on high EPA supplementation for ADD, 11 showed positive results. Of five studies using DHA, only one showed a positive result, and that showed improvement in only 7 of 16 possible markers.

Dr. Philip Rouchotas, ND, of Bolton Naturopathic Clinic in Ontario finds that 1,000 mg of omega-3 daily of a 2:1 ratio fish oil with works best for most conditions but mental health and mood disorders require a higher EPA:DHA ratio with 1,000 mg of EPA. He prefers capsules to liquid as the oil is better protected from oxidation. Rouchotas also finds that the ethyl ester form works as well as the triglyceride form, is less expensive, and allows much higher potency per capsule.

Most of the fish oil supplements in my store are slightly higher in EPA than DHA or at best 2:1. A new line I just brought in has a general purpose 2:1 ratio formula and a higher 10:1 ratio formula with 1,000 mg EPA for healthy mood balance.

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 2, 2017

440 Magnesium Supplements [2 Oct 2017]

Magnesium is a critical mineral that few of us get enough of in our diet so supplementation is required. I have written about it several times over the years: Magnesium – a Crucial Mineral [#209]; Magnesium – Getting Enough [#210]; Magnesium Bisglycinate [#216]; and Magnesium for the Brain [#350]. This week I will compare the different forms of magnesium supplements.

There are two problems with magnesium supplements. First, magnesium is difficult to absorb in our intestines. And the magnesium that isn’t absorbed causes loose bowel movements. Now that may be a good thing when we’re constipated, but we don’t want to go too far!

There are three main types of magnesium supplements: inorganic salts like oxide and carbonate; organic salts like citrate, lactate, gluconate and malate; and protein complexes like bisglycinate and threonate. Generally the organic salts are better absorbed than the inorganic salts, so you get more magnesium into your body and a lower laxative effect. Because much of the magnesium is absorbed by passive diffusion, the absorption rate depends on its solubility which means that a liquid (or powder dissolved in hot water) is better absorbed than a capsule.

Recent research has shown that magnesium citrate, taken as a powder, has as good or better absorption as bisglycinate. Magnesium threonate is also well absorbed and has the added advantage of crossing both the blood-brain barrier and the mitochondrial membrane, improving brain function and increasing cellular energy production.

To summarize:
• Oxide – least expensive, poorest absorbed, strongest laxative effect
• Citrate capsules – inexpensive, better absorbed, mild laxative effect
• Citrate powder – more expensive, well absorbed, mild laxative effect
• Bisglycinate – more expensive, well absorbed, little or no laxative effect
• Threonate (Magtein) – more expensive, well absorbed, no laxative effect, enters brain

I personally take one each of magnesium bisglycinate and threonate daily, at different meals, along with a calcium-magnesium (citrate & oxide).

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 25, 2017

439 Iron Toxicity [25 Sept 2017]

Do you know what your iron levels are? If not, you should. And not just because of anemia. While iron deficiency can be a problem – mostly for children and pregnant or menstruating women – excess iron is actually more common and much more dangerous.

High GGT, a test for free iron, is the “single measure most predictive of early mortality” by the life insurance industry. GGT (gamma-glutamyltransferase) is a liver enzyme that indicates free iron levels and predicts risk of sudden cardiac death. A more common test is serum ferratin which measures iron stores.

High iron levels increase your risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and rheumatoid arthritis (including gout). Some iron is necessary for energy production in the mitochondria [see #302 January 2015] but too much means trouble. Excess iron combines with hydrogen peroxide in the mitochondria to form hydroxyl free radicals which cause severe damage to the mitochondria. Mitochondrial dysfunction is the root of most chronic degenerative diseases.

According to Gerry Koenig, Director of the Iron Disorders Institute, the ideal range of serum ferratin for adult men and post-menopausal women is 30 – 60 ng/ml. The ideal GGT is less than 16U/L for men and less than 9U/L for women; levels above 25 (men) and 18 (women) significantly increase your risk for chronic disease. The medically accepted “normal” ranges for both tests are much too high for chronic disease prevention.

If you find your iron is too high, take steps to reduce it. Eat less red meat and take vitamin C and alcohol away from iron-rich foods (both of which increase iron absorption). Avoid iron supplements and choose iron-free multivitamins. Foods and supplements which increase glutathione [#318 May 2015] will lower GGT. Curcumin chelates iron and will prevent its absorption in the gut. A detox program could help pull iron out of stores and assist your liver to excrete it.

Regularly donating blood is an excellent way to manage iron stores. If for some reason you are unable to donate to Canadian Blood Services, talk to your doctor about other options. Perhaps the medieval doctors were on to something with their blood-letting and leeches (but most of the time did far more harm than good).

Source: Serum Ferratin and GGT - Two Potent Indicators You Need to Know,

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 18, 2017

438 Nutrients for Mental Health

One in five Canadian adults are on a prescription drug for a mental health problem. The most common – depression, anxiety and insomnia – frequently occur together. Nutritional supplements can greatly benefit people with these mental health issues. The protocol varies slightly depending on whether they are on a prescription or not.

For those already on a mental health prescription, the following have proven beneficial and completely safe:
• Fish oil with high EPA (e.g. 1000 EPA, 200 DHA)
• Vitamin D 2,000 IU (more if blood levels low)
• Good multi or B complex with bioactive form of B vitamins
• Melatonin (adjust to individual need)

For those not on prescription meds, use the same fish oil and vitamin D with these additional natural products:
• Melatonin or an herbal/nutrient sleep aid
• Anti-stress and mood elevating formulas that may include: bioactive B vitamins, choline, & inositol; amino acids L-theanine, L-tryptophan, PABA, 5-HTP, GABA, & SAMe; and botanicals like ashwagandha, valerian, passionflower, rhodiola & holy basil.

Be cautious with herbs if you are taking a prescription drug as they can affect the rate of drug processing by the liver and change the drug’s effective potency.

The ratio of EPA to DHA in fish oil is critical. For almost all situations, oils with higher EPA (at least 2:1) work better, especially for mood. Oils with higher DHA have been shown to worsen mood and aggression. This holds for children with ADD – the high EPA formulas help; the high DHA ones do not, and could worsen symptoms.

Omega 3 fish oil is often under-supplemented. At low doses (250-900 mg total EPA+DHA) it is has been shown to reduce the risk of sudden coronary death. But at higher doses (2,000-4,000 mg) it also reduces risk of non-fatal coronary events (angina); improves blood lipid values (triglycerides & cholesterol); and reduces pain and inflammation (arthritis, etc.). 1000-3000 mg of 2:1 EPA:DHA is ideal for neurodegenerative conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s & MS.

Source: "Mental Health" webinar by Philip Rouchotas MSc, ND, September 11, 2017, sponsored by New Roots Herbal

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 11, 2017

437 Astaxanthin Review [11 Sept 2017]

I first wrote about astaxanthin in May 2011 [#115] and mentioned it again as a supplement for supporting eye health in July 2013 [#224].

Then this morning Donna’s cousin Joe shared the link to a 2014 review of the benefits of astaxanthin in the MDPI journal Marine Drugs. He has been using astaxanthin as part of his recovery protocol from stage 4 prostate cancer. In Joe’s words “without this supplement I could not function…I would literally be bedridden without it.”

I have been taking it myself, along with several other vision support supplements, to prevent macular degeneration.

The review reported that astaxanthin:
• is a carotenoid from marine phytoplankton which gives salmon and flamingos their pink color;
• increases its absorption when taken with fish or krill oil;
• is a strong antioxidant and protects lipids and proteins (including DNA) in our cells from oxidative damage;
• increases the antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase;
• reduces inflammation in several systems of the body including stomach, lungs and eyes;
• prevents UV skin damage from sunlight;
• protects the pancreas and kidney cells from oxidative stress and improves insulin sensitivity in diabetics;
• is a “potential therapeutic agent against atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease” [link];
• through its antioxidant effect, shows promise in prevention and treatment of cancers;
• shows promise in animal studies of increasing antibody production;
• is safe with no side effects reported at up to 20mg per day for adults [I’m taking 8mg].

The authors conclude “Astaxanthin showed potential effects on various diseases including cancers, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, liver, neurodegenerative, and skin diseases.” They call for more research on the metabolic pathways of neutraceutical and pharmaceutical uses. But we don’t have to wait – we can start taking advantage of astaxanthin’s many health benefits today.

Further reading: Life Extension article on astaxanthin immune support

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 4, 2017

436 Natural Treatments for Sepsis [4 Sept 2017]

Sepsis is a potentially fatal inflammatory immune reaction to a bacterial infection in the blood. It can lead to multiple organ damage, failure, and ultimately death.

In developing countries sepsis is the leading cause of infant mortality, killing one million infants worldwide each year. Even in the USA, sepsis occurs in 1 million people annually, commonly acquired in a hospital, and mortality is close to 50%. Sepsis kills more Americans than breast cancer, colon cancer and AIDS combined. Fortunately two effective natural treatments have been recently discovered.

Feeding probiotics to healthy babies was found to dramatically reduce the risk of developing sepsis. A randomized controlled trial in rural India, where infant mortality from sepsis is common, was carried out with a strain of Lactobacillus plantarum. Cases of sepsis dropped from 9% to 5.4%, a 40% reduction. Other infections were reduced as well. The treatment worked so well the researchers stopped the study early so that all the infants could benefit. The treatment costs about $1.00 per baby.

In contrast to the $1 treatment, hospital treatments for sepsis cost Americans over $24 billion annually. But that could soon change. Dr Paul Marik of the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in East Virginia discovered an inexpensive and effective treatment for sepsis – intravenous vitamin C. In a clinical study the vitamin C, combined with a cortisone drug and thiamine (a B vitamin), reduced mortality from 40% to 8.5% (and the few that died did so of their original condition, not sepsis).

Malik’s hospital has already made this vitamin C protocol the standard treatment for sepsis and many hospitals are following. A large scale field trial is underway to validate the findings, opening the door for more widespread adoption of the treatment. Since there are no other effective treatments and no negative side effects from this inexpensive protocol, there is really no good reason not to.

It is my hope that the proven success of intravenous vitamin C for sepsis will encourage researchers to take another look at its use in treating other infectious diseases like influenza, encephalitis and polio, and certain cancers, where intravenous vitamin C has shown great promise but remains controversial.

Mercola newsletter: Probiotics Offer Powerful Protection Against Sepsis in Infants 28 Aug 2017
NPR Report: Probiotic Bacteria Could Protect Newborns from Deadly Infections 16 August 2017
Dr Paul Marik's study in CHEST June 2017
Dr Paul Marik lecture "CCR17 for Sepsis" (34 minutes) - fairly technical, aimed at medical scientist audience but contains useful info
NPR Report "Doctor Turns Up Possible Treatment for Deadly Sepsis" 23 March 2017

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 28, 2017

435 Activated Charcoal [28 August 2017]

Activated charcoal has a long history of medicinal use. Charcoal is almost pure carbon, resulting from the burning of wood, bone, coal or other organic material such as coconut shells in the absence of oxygen. Activated carbon has been treated to increase the surface area of the carbon, maximizing its absorption.

Carbon is commonly used in water filters to remove impurities and toxins including metals. Charcoal is also used internally as a supplement and externally as a poultice. There is an entire book on the topic “The Complete Handbook of Medicinal Charcoal and Its Applications” available from
Some of the uses of activated charcoal are:

• Taken as an emergency poison treatment [call the poison control centre before using as it does not work on all poisons]
• Taken in large doses between meals as a body cleanse and detox program
• Used in the treatment of Candida albicans infections to slow growth of intestinal yeast and to absorb the toxins released during the die-off stage (Herxheimer reaction)
• Used with chronic kidney disease to reduce the load of waste products to filter
• Quickly reduces acid indigestion by neutralizing stomach acid
• Counters food poisoning so is useful when travelling to prevent diarrhea
• Reduces flatulence by absorbing intestinal gas
• Charcoal is one of the ingredients in Colic Calm gripe water for babies
• Taken both internally and externally (in warm water soak) to relieve gout
• Used topically for spider & insect bites, severe acne, diabetic ulcers

Some cautions are necessary in taking activated charcoal. Take the charcoal two hours away from medications as it will reduce their efficacy. Do not use for long periods of time as it also reduces absorption of nutrients from your food and supplements. Drink extra water when using charcoal as it absorbs water from the intestines and can cause constipation.

I sell activated charcoal in capsule form and can get it in bulk powder. The powder is mixed in a glass of water – it looks awful but has no taste.

Source: "Is activated Charcoal Beneficial?" 10 July 2017

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 21, 2017

434 Collagen & Our Skin [21 August 2017]

I wrote about the benefits of collagen supplements back in February of this year [#406] for strong and healthy skin, bones, muscles, tendons, cartilage and ligaments. This week I want to concentrate on just one of these – skin health.

As we age the collagen matrix in the dermis of our skin becomes damaged, fragmented, and less dense. The result is dry, inelastic skin with … (gasp!) wrinkles! Introducing small collagen peptides in the blood stimulates the fibroblast cells to synthesize and reorganize new collagen fibers and to produce hyaluronic acid [see #015 June 2009]. This increases the density, strength and elasticity of the skin making it look and feel younger.

Two clinical studies done in 2008, in Tokyo Japan and in Lyon France, measured the effects of oral collagen supplementation on skin properties. Both studies used 10 grams daily of Peptan™, a hydrolyzed collagen made by Rousselot in France. The studies found that after 8 to 12 weeks Peptan™:
• increased skin hydration by 28%
• improved skin smoothness by reducing the number of micro-relief furrows by 26%
• prevented the formation of deep wrinkles, and
• improved skin suppleness 19%

Until recently the collagen I sold in my store was bovine (from cattle). I now have marine (fish source) collagen as well. Peptan™ marine collagen is made from the bones, scales and fins of North Atlantic tilapia. The peptides in Peptan™ are very small (9 times smaller than most on the market) and are therefore much more readily absorbed. Fortunately, marine collage has no fishy taste or odour.

Like bovine collagen, marine collagen is a Type 1 collagen which is essential for healthy skin, hair, nails, tendons and bones. Marine collagen has an amino acid profile that makes it especially beneficial for the skin while bovine collagen is slightly better for bones, tendons and cartilage.

So if you want smooth, firm younger-looking skin (and who doesn’t?), feed it fish collagen peptides!

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 14, 2017

433 The Low-Lectin Diet [14 August 2017]

After looking at last week’s list of all the things that lectins do to us you might suspect that everyone would benefit from a low lectin diet. And you would be right. But I don’t recommend a low-lectin diet for everyone for two reasons: 1) it eliminates many very nutritious foods, and 2) since lectins are in almost all plant foods and some animal foods it is very difficult to follow a low-lectin diet. But there are some people for whom it would be worth trying:

• Food allergies - if you have one or more severe food allergies, it could be the lectins that are the culprit
• Celiac disease or gluten intolerance – if you follow a gluten free diet but still have some symptoms, other lectins may be involved
• Auto-immune diseases – the potential benefits are huge for sufferers of these conditions so it is worth considering a low-lectin trial

There are three phases to a low-lectin diet:

1. Healing Phase: eat only foods from the low-lectin list until your symptoms clear. This may take a few weeks, months, or even a year.
2. Experimental Phase: add foods from the moderate list, a few at a time, eating in moderation those you can tolerate and eliminating any that cause symptoms to recur. Then see if you can tolerate the occasional high lectin food.
3. Maintenance Phase: Follow your customized diet for as long as you want to stay healthy and symptom free, reintroducing foods as your health improves.

Besides avoiding the high lectin foods completely, there are a few strategies we can all use to reduce the lectin content of foods.

• Peel and remove seeds of high lectin foods like tomatoes and peppers – lectins are concentrated in the skins, root hairs and seeds
• soak beans and legumes for 8 hours, changing water every 2 hours
• cook beans with a pressure cooker – the higher heat destroys more lectins
• sprout grains and seeds – sprouting reduces the lectins in the seed coat
• white rice is safer albeit not as nutritious as brown rice
• take a lectin-blocking supplement with each meal

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 7, 2017

432 What Lectins Do [7 August 2017]

Lectins are proteins in plants designed to protect them from being eaten. Gluten is the best known lectin, but there are hundreds of them found in most plants, including many that we humans use for food. Lectins are not broken down in digestion and only partially destroyed by cooking.

In #430 I explained how lectins cause leaky gut syndrome which leads to inflammation and auto-immune diseases. But that’s not all they do. Lectins also:

• bind to the epithelial cells in the lining of the gut and damage the microvilli where nutrient absorption occurs. This significantly interferes with the absorption of nutrients, especially protein, and can lead to loss of muscle mass.
• bind to the surface of beneficial bacteria in our gut, wiping them out while allowing pathogenic bacteria to proliferate
• interfere with the digestive enzymes in the gut preventing proper digestion of food
• bind to glycoproteins on the surface of cells throughout the body including joints, brain, liver, heart, kidneys; the immune system responds by attacking the organs and tissues affected leading to a variety of auto-immune diseases
• create hyper-sensitivity to foods leading to food allergies; people have found that after being on a low-lectin diet for a year or so their food allergies improve or disappear
• stimulate the release of histamine from mast cells causing an inflammatory response
• suppress the production of T and B lymphocytes reducing the immune system’s ability to protect us from foreign invaders
• cause blood cells to stick together destroying the blood cells and causing blood clots
• block the satiety hormone leptin, resulting in food cravings, over-eating, and obesity [see #327 Leptin Resistance]
• interfere with the body’s ability to regulate insulin and blood sugar levels.
• cause enlargement of the pancreas and atrophy of the thymus
• bind to neurons damaging the nervous system including eyesight
• interfere with the cell nucleus preventing normal reproduction of the cell and accelerating the aging process
• in summary, contribute to most of the chronic conditions that plague mankind!

Gregory Barton, Cure Your Autoimmune and Inflammatory Disease, 2010
Evelyn Carmichael, The Essential Handbook to Lectin, 2017

Next week: who would most benefit from a low lectin diet.

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

July 31, 2017

431 More on Lectins [31 July 2017]

The lectin theory of disease, while new to me, has been around for a few years now. I just bought two more e-books on the topic (Amazon’s “Buy with 1-Click” feature is too handy!) The first is Cure Your Autoimmune and Inflammatory Disease by Gregory Barton, July 2010, which, according to the author, was the only book on the subject at the time. Barton’s book has a more detailed scientific explanation of lectins than Steven Gundry’s The Plant Paradox.

Barton is an environmental and agricultural historian and devotes much of the book to the effect agriculture has had on human health. While recognizing that agriculture was responsible for the development of civilization – including the amazing advances of science – it is also responsible for much of our chronic modern diseases. And vested commercial interests plus our own reluctance to change – particularly when it comes to our food – prevent scientists from investigating dietary cures for disease and the rest of us from implementing them.

Optimistically Barton proposes that with the new knowledge of lectins we can still enjoy our modern lifestyle while avoiding the diseases of civilization. He developed the first low-lectin food list and then cured his own health problems which had started with a nagging backache and progressed from there. Here are the results in his own words: “Within a few weeks I cleared up entirely, 100%. The arthritis went away, the sore muscles disappeared. I began to gain muscle weight again, felt stronger, looked better, and had boundless energy… I was a new man…”

So, if lectins are in almost all our foods, how are any of us still healthy? Well we all have a certain tolerance for low to moderate amounts of lectins. And some of us appear to have a greater tolerance to lectins than others. If we discover foods that we are particularly intolerant (or even allergic) to, we try to avoid them. Too often however we fail to make the connection, keep eating the foods, and take antacid pills for our indigestion, pain relievers for our headaches, massage treatments for our muscle pain, and drugs or supplements for our many autoimmune diseases.

Next week I’ll discuss how lectins affect our health and who could most benefit from a low lectin diet.

By the way, this book is only $1.03 at for the Kindle edition. Even if you don’t have an e-book reader, you can still read it on your computer.

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 24, 2017

430 Lectins [24 July 2017]

Are you eating healthy foods and still can’t lose weight or have a few nagging little (or big) health problems? A recent book called “The Plant Paradox: the Hidden Dangers in Healthy Foods that Cause Disease and Weight Gain” by Steven R. Gundry, MD, might explain why.

The culprit, according to Gundry, is a group of proteins in plants called lectins. These lectins, of which glutens are the most well-known but not the worst, are the plants’ defense against being eaten. They are designed to attack the digestive tract of animals that eat them and make them sick so they will learn not to eat that plant again. The paradox in the title comes from the fact that lectins occur in many of the plant foods that we promote as being healthful for the nutrients they contain – vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and protein. Examples are legumes, nuts, grains, most fruits, nightshades, and squashes.

One of the effects of lectins is to create holes in the gut wall. The wall of our intestines is only one cell thick to facilitate nutrient absorption. These cells, called enterocytes, are bound together by “tight junctions”, separating the contents of the gut from the rest of the body. Lectins release a compound called zenulin which breaks the tight junction bonds, creating what is known as “leaky gut”. These holes allow the lectins, lipo-polysaccharides (tiny particles of bacteria) and partially digested proteins to enter the blood stream. This triggers a strong immune reaction which can lead to auto-immune disease as I have previously described.

Lectins also bind to a sugar called sialic acid in the gut, in joints, blood vessel walls, and between nerve endings, where they promote inflammation and disrupt cell communication (brain fog). Gundry believes that lectins are the root cause of almost all allergies, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and auto-immune diseases.

So what can we do to protect ourselves from lectins? First Gundry recommends removing all lectin containing foods for a month or more to give the gut a chance to heal (I have the list of foods to avoid and foods that are lectin-free). Then re-introduce the milder lectin foods one at a time. The lectins in beans and some other foods can be neutralized by cooking with a pressure cooker. The worst foods he recommends avoiding completely. Finally, Gundry formulated a lectin-blocking supplement to be taken with meals which binds the lectins before they can do damage.

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 17, 2017

429 Confirmation Bias [17 July 2017]

One of the sources for my column last week about saturated fat safety was an article by Gary Staube with the strange title “Vegetable oils, (Francis) Bacon, Bing Crosby, and the American Heart Association”. The article raised an issue I wanted to follow up on – bias in science.

Francis Bacon first articulated the problem of bias in 1620, nearly 400 years ago:
The human understanding, once it has adopted opinions…draws everything else to support and agree with them. And though it may meet a greater number and weight of contrary instances, it will, with great and harmful prejudice, ignore or condemn or exclude them by introducing some distinction, in order that the authority of those earlier assumptions may remain intact and unharmed.

The Bing Crosby connection is the lyrics to his hit song “Accentuate the positive, Eliminate the negative…” which is what we do when sifting information about an issue on which we have a position. It is what lawyers do when arguing for their client in court, but not what scientists should be doing in seeking the truth. And what, Staube argues, the American Heart Association did in selecting the studies to support their now outdated position on saturated fat and heart disease.

Elizabeth Kolbert in a February 2017 article in The New Yorker “Why facts don’t change our minds” describes modern psychological experiments which support what is called “confirmation bias”. We readily believe information that agrees with our thinking and disregard anything to the contrary, spotting weaknesses in our opponents’ arguments but not in our own. Furthermore even when we realize that what we thought is not true we are unable to effectively reverse our first impression.

A classic Peanuts cartoon strip illustrates this perfectly: Lucy and Linus see something on the sidewalk and Lucy says “Look a big yellow butterfly…they fly up from Brazil and they…” Linus interrupts to point out that it’s a potato chip not a butterfly. Lucy looks closer and then exclaims “So it is! I wonder how a potato chip got all the way up here from Brazil?”

Confirmation bias has polarized almost every issue in politics, religion, and health science (and many more). At least part of the solution is to recognize this bias – in ourselves as well as others – and critically examine both sides of issues.

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 10, 2017

428 Is Coconut Oil Dangerous? [10 July 2017]

Did you see the headlines last month warning about the dangers of coconut oil? “Coconut oil health claims not all they’re cracked up to be” (CBC News) or “Coconut Oil is Unhealthy according to the AHA” (Huffington Post). These news articles are referring to a June 15, 2017, article in the journal Circulation titled “Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory from the American Heart Association”.

The twelve authors of the Advisory recommend replacing saturated fats – including coconut oil which they specifically warn against – with polyunsaturated vegetable oils, and claim that doing so would lower LDL cholesterol and reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) by 30%. They based this on what they called “…the totality of the scientific evidence, satisfying rigorous criteria…”

Unfortunately their “rigorous criteria” was fatally biased and their conclusions decades out of date and at odds with modern science. In a rebuttal published in Cardio Brief Gary Taubes explains why:
• They cherry-picked the studies, eliminating most for various reasons, and selected four, all of which supported the saturated fat CVD hypothesis. The problem is these four all date from the 1960s and have more serious flaws than the ones they eliminated.
• Among the eliminated studies are the largest trials ever done on the issue: the Sydney Heart Study, the Minnesota Coronary Survey and the Women’s Health Initiative, and several independent meta-analyses, all of which refute the saturated fat hypothesis of heart disease [see my posts #244, #259 & #261].
• The control diet of the early studies contained significantly higher trans fatty acids and sugar than did the unsaturated group, both of which are known to cause CVD and could account for the reduction in heart disease.
• Coconut oil was not part of any of the studies used and is mentioned only because of its saturated fat, but much of coconut’s saturated fatty acids are beneficial MCTs.
• Polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids, which the study recommends, promotes inflammation which is known to increase heart disease and overall mortality.

So the authors’ conclusions and recommendations are not only unscientific and misleading, but dangerous. It’s almost as if the Canadian Cancer Society warned us about the dangers of exercise and told us to take up smoking instead.

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 3, 2017

427 Parasites – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly [3 July 2017]

Last week [#426] I introduced the idea that, like bacteria, some parasites could actually be beneficial to our health. This idea has been around since at least 1999 but this was the first I had heard of it.

Lest I give the impression that all parasites are beneficial, I hasten to add that most are bad news and the few beneficial ones are likely so only in low numbers. The species used in helminthic therapy mentioned last week are non-colonizing in humans, meaning they can’t take up residence and reproduce in our bodies.

Parasites vary in size from microscopic one-celled animals, called protozoa, to tapeworms which can grow to several meters in length. Malaria is the most deadly protozoan parasitic disease, killing about 1 million people worldwide each year. Other parasitic protozoa include Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Toxoplasma, and Trichomonas. Helminths include many species of tapeworms, roundworms and flukes. Other human parasites include microscopic worms, a tiny flea, and the larvae of certain flies.

The effects of parasites vary from mild discomfort, anemia and nutrient deficiencies, to blindness, organ failure and death. Not a very pretty picture!

I carry a few anti-parasitic products, typically containing extracts from wormwood (a variety of sage), clove buds, garlic, black walnut hulls, and a few others. With more serious parasitic infections see your medical doctor. There are two new anti-parasitic drugs: Avermectin, derived from a soil bacteria, that works on worms, and Artemisinin, derived from a species of sage, that treats malaria.

Like most problems, prevention is better than a cure. One good defense against parasites is to maintain a healthy gut biome as I have discussed over the last few months. Follow hygienic practices when handling raw meat. Thoroughly cook meat, especially pork and fish. Wash your hands after handling animals. Wash fruits and vegetables before eating. Avoid drinking untreated surface water. Be particularly vigilant when visiting tropical countries where parasites are more common.

But if you discover that your children have pinworms, don’t panic. Think, “Oh good, my kids have worms”. Then get rid of them (the worms not the kids).

Back to the title – a few parasites may be somewhat good, most are bad (some very bad), but in almost everyone’s eyes they are all ugly.

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 26, 2017

426 Helminthic Therapy [26 June 2017]

We have come to understand and accept that the vast majority of bacteria and some yeast [see #387] living in and on our bodies are either benign (harmless) or actually beneficial (helpful) to our health. Chapter 5, “Old Friends, New Treatment: Helminthic Therapy in Autism” by Judith Chinitz, in “Bugs, Bowels, and Behavior” extends the range of beneficial microorganisms to include parasitic worms. Now that’s a stretch!

These Pickles cartoons (#1, #2) illustrate most people's perceptions of worms.

Helminths is the name for parasitic worms including whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms and pinworms. Our immune systems developed during a time when exposure to parasites was much greater than in today’s developed countries with our modern hygiene. The theory is that these parasites are necessary for the proper development of our immune systems.

The theory was first published in 1999 by Dr. Joel Weinstock who reported successfully treating patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with eggs of a harmless parasitic worm, a whipworm that lives in pigs but not humans. Six patients with IBD were given the “helminth therapy”; five went into remission and the sixth improved dramatically.

Weinstock and other researchers have since discovered that when our immune system develops in the absence of helminths, the Type2 T helper cells (Th2) which normally control parasites instead begins to react to pollen and other allergens causing allergies, or begins to attack our own bodies causing auto-immune disease. The presence of helminths is also required for the normal development of the regulatory system which controls the Th1 and Th2 systems, preventing runaway inflammation.

As we have seen, inflammation is a significant part of the autism syndrome. To date no studies have been done on ASD with helminthic therapy but many desperate parents haven’t waited and persuaded their doctors to give it a try. Results have been very encouraging with reports of significantly improved gastrointestinal and behavioral symptoms.

This 2015 National Institutes of Health article gives a good overview of helminth therapy in the USA.

I won’t be too surprised if someday helminthic therapy will become an accepted treatment for inflammatory diseases, just like fecal transplants [#243] have for IBD.

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 19, 2017

425 Autism and Gut Bacteria [19 June 2017]

Of all neurological conditions, autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as the family of related conditions is now called, has the strongest (and best studied) association with the gut microbiome. I’m reading a book called “Bugs, Bowels, and Behavior”, which despite its cute title is a collection of 15 fairly technical medical articles by various researchers published in 2013.

The findings they report show a strong correlation to digestive and particularly gut bacterial problems. Many of the articles propose that gut dysbiosis (unbalanced intestinal bacterial populations) is the root cause of the neurological and immunological symptoms observed in ASD. They report that children (and adults) with ASD are more likely to have:
• Gastrointestinal dysfunction (70%) – the severity of GI symptoms correlates with the severity of ASD symptoms
• Increased intestinal permeability – allowing poorly digested protein to enter the bloodstream where it triggers allergies and auto-immune reactions
• Deficiencies in disaccharide enzymes, especially lactase, in the duodenum – meaning they are unable to properly digest milk sugar and other carbohydrates
• Elevated bowel populations of Clostridia bacteria – a nasty family that includes C. difficile and the pathogens that cause tetanus and botulism; Vancomycin, an antibiotic effective in controlling Clostridia, temporarily improves ASD symptoms
• Very low levels of the antioxidant glutathione and its amino acid precursor cysteine, believed due to high populations of Desulfovibrio bacteria in the gut, resulting in high levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in neurons (nerve cells) throughout the body and brain, and making the children highly susceptible to mercury toxicity
• High levels of TNF-a, a marker for inflammation, in the blood, cerebrospinal fluid and brain tissue; a drug that blocks TNF-a reversed ASD symptoms

Furthermore, regressive autism frequently occurs following several rounds of antibiotics. Improvements in ASD symptoms have been noted in some cases using probiotics and fecal transplants [see #243]. A diet that supports healthy intestinal bacteria [see #424] would be critical to maintaining such improvements.

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 12, 2017

424 Managing our Microbiome [12 June 2017]

Continuing the discussion of our gut microbiome, this week we’ll look at what we can do to improve it. Justin and Erica Sonnenburg devote a chapter of their 2015 book The Good Gut to this topic. They list 7 recommendations based on recent scientific research.

1. Get off to a good start. We start off sterile in our mother’s womb and get our first “inoculation” during the birth process (another reason to avoid unnecessary C-sections). Breast milk provides human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), the optimum food for the infant’s healthy bacteria – unmatched in formula and another reason why breast is best.

2. Avoid unnecessary antibiotics. I touched on this last week. The more antibiotics kids are on early in life, the sicker they will be the rest of their life. That said, sometimes they are a necessity. My throat infection turned out to be caused by an infected tooth. I’m now on round three of antibiotics – I’ll worry about my colon bacteria later.

3. Play in the dirt. Kids that live on a farm, or have pets, or play in the (pesticide-free) garden, have a more diverse gut flora and are healthier.

4. Feed your microbes. Eat a wide variety of high fiber fruits and vegetables like whole grains, legumes and tubers. If this is a big change in your diet, you may want to introduce them gradually to avoid flatulence.

5. Limit saturated fat. Pathogens which cause inflammation (the “bad guys”) thrive on saturated animal fats while the good guys prefer plant based mono-unsaturated fats like olive oil and avocados.

6. Consume beneficial microbes. Fermented dairy foods like yogurt and kefir are great provided they are unpasteurized and unsweetened. Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and some pickles are another source of beneficial microbes. Back in July 2015 [#326] I wrote about making your own fermented vegetables.

7. Use probiotic supplements. These contain large quantities of known beneficial varieties. We have a variety of probiotics in our store with strengths up to 100 billion. I’m using S. boulardii this week which is not affected by antibiotics [see #387, Sept 2016 ].

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 5, 2017

423 Pathogens and our Gut Flora [5 June 2017]

The last two weeks [#421, #422] we looked at how our gut microbiome affects our immune system and our brain, mood and memory. This week we’ll examine the interaction between pathogens and our gut flora.

Justin and Erica Sonnenburg devote a chapter of their 2015 book The Good Gut to gastroenteritis – the invasion of our gut by food borne pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms like Salmonella and C. diff.) causing inflammation of the gut and diarrhea. It’s a serious problem hospitalizing a million Americans each year.

Our gut’s reaction to pathogens is a good example of the brain-gut axis described last week. We aren’t conscious of the pathogens, but the autonomic nervous system is quickly informed and directs the digestive system to vomit the stomach contents out one end and hasten the exit of the intestinal contents out the other.

A healthy gut flora protects us from invading pathogens by out-competing them for space and food, and sometimes by producing chemicals that are toxic to them. Oral broad-spectrum antibiotics kill not only the targeted bacteria but also many of the beneficial species of gut flora, which makes us more susceptible to further infections. This is often not considered when an antibiotic prescription is made.

Last fall I developed a sore throat with tender lymph nodes in my neck. When several weeks of my usual cold remedies didn’t work I went to my doctor. He diagnosed a bacterial infection and wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic with no discussion of possible effects on my digestive system. I took the prescription for the required 7 or 8 days and it did clear the infection. When it recurred a few months later I went straight back for another prescription and was given a different antibiotic. This is standard practice to prevent pathogens from becoming resistant but it means that it killed off another group of beneficial species in my gut.

After the first round I didn’t notice any changes in my digestive system (which studies show is typical despite significant losses of numbers and diversity of the gut microbiome) but after the second I experienced cramping, gas and looser stools. I’m still working on reintroducing good bacteria. When my throat infection returned a third time, only a week or two after the second round of antibiotics, I treated it myself with topical application of essential oils and it was gone in 3 or 4 days.

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 29, 2017

422 The Brain-Gut Axis [29 May 2017]

Last week we looked at how our gut microbiome affects our immune system. This week we’ll discuss how it affects our brain, mood and memory. I last wrote about this topic two years ago [#320]. The network of neurons and chemical pathways connecting the digestive tract and the central nervous system is called the Brain-Gut Axis.

The brain uses this axis to monitor the digestive tract for hunger, stress, and the presence of pathogens; and to control aspects of it, including transit speed, production of mucous lining the colon, and the secretion of stomach acid, bile and pancreatic enzymes. But the signaling goes both ways – the condition of the digestive tract, including the bacteria living in it, also influences the brain.

Justin and Erica Sonnenburg in their 2015 book The Good Gut devote a chapter to this connection and share findings from some of their animal experiments. Lab mice specially raised to have a bacteria-free gut lacked the caution that helps wild mice avoid predators, and scored lower in memory tests than mice with normal gut microbes. Other experiments showed that transplanting gut bacteria from anxious mice to calm mice increased their anxiety (and vice versa) along with measurable changes in their brain biochemistry.

One way that the gut bacteria influence the nervous system is by the chemicals they produce which get absorbed into the bloodstream. Some of these chemicals have a beneficial effect like the short chain fatty acids mentioned last week. An estimated 90% of our serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, is produced in our gut with the help of certain bacteria. Other bacteria-produced chemicals are toxic and have undesirable effects. An example is EPS, which was found to be greatly elevated in mice with autistic-like behavior; the behavior improved when different bacteria were introduced which normalized the EPS levels.

Research holds the promise of modifying our microbiome in the treatment of not only inflammation related chronic diseases like MS and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), but also mood disorders like stress, anxiety, depression, and even neurological conditions like autism, ADHD, OCD, and schizophrenia. This is one field of research that I plan to keep an eye on. More next week.

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 22, 2017

421 Fiber and Auto-Immune Disease [22 May 2017]

We’ve always known that dietary fiber is important for regular bowel movements. In a few previous articles [#140 November 2011 and #276 July 2014] I wrote about the benefits of soluble and insoluble fiber to balance blood sugar and maintain a healthy weight. Now scientists have discovered a link between dietary fiber, our immune system, and auto-immune diseases. How does that work?

Rhonda Patrick, in December 2015, interviewed Drs. Justin & Erica Sonnenburg who run a lab at Stanford University looking at “the profound impact gut bacteria has on our entire body” (Justin). They found that dietary fiber is essential for a healthy microbiome, described as “an incredibly complex and dynamic ecosystem of microbes” (Erica). In this 40 minute interview (which I encourage you to watch for yourself) Drs. Sonnenburg describe the connections between gut bacteria and our body's immune system.

The average American eats 10-15 grams of fiber daily, short of the government recommended 30-35g, and far short of the 100-150g consumed by traditional hunter-gatherer populations (who have a much greater diversity in their gut microbiomes and a significantly lower incidence of auto-immune disease).

The microbes in the colon rely on complex carbohydrates (fiber) for food, metabolizing it into short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and other beneficial compounds. These SCFAs then feed the epithelial cells of the colon wall. SCFAs also increase the T regulatory cells which have an anti-inflammatory effect, calming the immune system. When fiber is lacking, the microbes attack the mucus lining of the colon and in turn are attacked by the immune cells in the intestinal wall, creating an inflammatory effect. Without adequate T regulatory cells, this can lead to auto-immune conditions like allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis and MS.

Many of these auto-immune diseases have previously been linked to gut microbiome disruptions – this provides a likely explanation. Taking this further, heart disease, metabolic disorders, some cancers, and even aging are all increased by inflammation so could also be reduced with a healthy gut microbiome.

So how to improve our gut microbiome? Feed them a variety of complex carbs from fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. The more types of fiber, the more diverse the bacterial populations they will support; fiber supplements often have only one or two sources. Use probiotic supplements and foods (like yogurt, sauerkraut and fermented vegetables) to help repopulate the gut following a round of antibiotics or whenever you suspect it needs a boost.

For more information on this topic, see the Sonnenburgs' book The Good Gut - Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood and Your Long-term Health or visit their Facebook page.

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 15, 2017

420 Two Preventable Risk Factors [15 May 2017]

Preliminary data from a study by the Cleveland Clinic and NYU School of Medicine showed that obesity has recently overtaken smoking as the top cause of preventable death in the USA (I expect Canadian data to be similar). This change is due to a 21% decrease in smoking and a 38% increase in obesity over the last decade.

The study found the preventable factors that caused the most loss of life-years were, in decreasing order: obesity, diabetes, tobacco use, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Obesity resulted in 47% more life-years lost than smoking. Glen Taksler, PhD MD, concluded “These preliminary results continue to highlight the importance of weight loss, diabetes management, and healthy eating.”

A previous study from Europe found another risk factor, also preventable, that is even more significant than obesity in predicting all-cause mortality (but wasn’t looked at in the Cleveland study). Exercise.

The study, out of Cambridge University, followed 334,000 men and women of around age 50 for a period of 12 years. Obese people were 3.7% more likely to die, but those who didn’t exercise, regardless of weight status, had a 7.3% higher risk of death, more than double that for the obese. Lack of exercise turned out to be the single deadliest risk factor in the study, which also measured smoking and alcohol consumption. The good news is that even 20 minutes a day of moderate exercise (about what I get on my paper route) will measurably reduce that risk. More, of course, is better.

The lesson from these two studies is that to live a longer and healthier life, lose that excess weight, and get moving.

At our weight loss clinic here we have a device called the Body Composition Analyzer (BCA) which measures your body fat, lean mass, and hydration, and estimates your risk category. Drop in for a free analysis. Should you decide to safely and easily lose 10 or more pounds of fat, we can help.

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 8, 2017

419 Using Essential Oils Safely [8 May 2017]

Essential oils are concentrated, volatile oils extracted from the flowers, leaves, roots or peels of plants. When used properly, essential oils can improve your health and well-being, but used improperly could cause harm.

Oils should be taken internally only under professional supervision. In Canada and the United States no essential oil is labeled for internal use. In France essential oils are used internally but only when prescribed by physicians with special training in aromatherapy, and then only a few drops for a very short time. Even with peppermint oil, one drop is equivalent to 25-30 tea bags which you wouldn’t drink all at once. Fortunately consumption is not necessary for full benefits of essential oils.

Inhalation is the most popular way to use essential oils. Use up to 6 drops in an ultrasonic diffuser, as more creates a heavy layer of oil on the water which inhibits diffusion. The essential oil components stay in the blood for several hours (half-life is 45 minutes) so a 20 minute exposure every few hours is sufficient.

Another popular method of using essential oils is topically, either massaged directly on the skin or added to a bath. Most oils should be diluted with a carrier oil for topical use – lavender is the only exception that can be used neat (full strength). Good oils for carrier include sweet almond, avocado, grapeseed, castor, jojoba, sesame, and fractionated coconut oil, each with different properties. Use no more than 6 drops of up to 3 essential oils mixed with the carrier oil in each application. Apply to the affected area or to the soles of the feet. Keep away from the eyes, ears and mucous membranes. Essential oils applied topically take 3 to 6 hours to clear the body – much longer if you are obese or in poor health – so don’t over apply. Use a 1% blend on children (6 drops with 30 ml of carrier oil).

In a bath, add the essential oils to bath salts first to disperse the oils throughout the water. Milder oils like clary sage and lavender are safer than cinnamon, oregano, thyme, bergamot and lemongrass which could irritate the skin.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking medications, check with a health professional before using aromatherapy as there are contraindications for some essential oils. Citrus oils, especially bergamot, increase skin photosensitivity and the risk of sunburn. Essential oils with a high menthol content like eucalyptus, peppermint, wintergreen (and more) should not be used with young children or cats as their livers are unable to process them. Store away from sunlight and heat and out of reach of children and pets.

presentation by Marva Ward, CNP, Saskatoon, May 1,2017
Using Essential Oils Safely
The Truth About Essential Oil Safety ebook by Lea Harris, $9.99 USD

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 1, 2017

418 Hemp Oil [1 May 2017]

With the pending legalization of marijuana in Canada, I thought this would be a good time to discuss hemp and cannabis oil. They are produced from different varieties of Cannabis sativa and made from different parts of the plant.

Cannabis oil contains one or both of two highly reactive compounds which have very different properties. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gives users a “high”. Cannabidiol (CBD) has certain medicinal properties but is not psychoactive. THC and CBDs are concentrated in the leaves and buds of varieties of Cannabis grown specifically for their content. Some companies promote CBD as being more effective and safer, but since neither is available in Canada without a prescription, I’m not going to get into that discussion.

Hemp oil is made from the seed of hemp varieties grown for low content of both THC and CBD. The product is inspected by Health Canada at several stages to ensure the THC is below the legal limit of 10 ppm. You cannot get high on hemp oil!

Unrefined hemp oil has a rich nutty flavor and a slightly green color and is known for its excellent essential fatty acid (EFA) content. EFAs make up over 80% of hemp oil with the ideal 3:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3. A typical profile is:
• 55% Linoleic Acid (Omega 6)
• 22% Alpha Linolenic Acid (Omega 3)
• 1-4% Gamma Linolenic Acid (Omega 6)

These fatty acids make hemp oil very nourishing for the skin. The oil can be massaged into the skin especially over dry skin or painful inflamed joints.

Hempseed oil is best consumed raw and should never be used for frying because of its low oxidative stability. Hemp oil can also have anti-coagulant properties so should be avoided by people using blood thinner medication. Hemp oil will go rancid quickly so should be kept in a dark container, refrigerated, and used quickly once opened.

Eating shelled hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, is a good way to get the benefits of hemp oil along with the excellent fiber and protein content of the seeds.

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 24, 2017

417 Toxic Foods [24 April 2017]

Let me start by explaining that this week’s article is not about “junk” foods full of refined carbs, trans fats and chemical additives. It’s not even about foods that are well-known allergens like dairy, wheat and corn. It likely includes the latter but could also include wholesome good foods like eggs, beef, lettuce, even vitamin supplements!

I’m reading a book by Keith Scott-Mumby called “Diet Wise” which explains how ordinary foods can be toxic to some people, causing a wide variety of symptoms or conditions. He explains why they appear to be hidden and how to unmask them.

Some of the conditions that Scott-Mumby reported clearing after eliminating his patients’ toxic foods include: migraines, eczema, skin rashes, colitis, arthritis, severe flatulence, antisocial behavioral problems, and mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Sometimes symptoms of hidden allergies can be unusual, even bizarre, like a feeling of “hot water running down inside my skin”.

These toxic foods are not easy to identify. They are usually common foods we consume frequently enough that they never clear our system. Often they are foods that we crave. The only way to identify them is to start with an elimination diet for a week or more, then introduce foods one at a time and record your reaction.

Several aspects of this theory prevent it from fitting into mainstream medicine. These food intolerances rarely show up on normal allergy tests. The same food can cause different symptoms in different people, and sometimes in the same person at different times. Conversely the same condition can be caused by different foods in different people. There is no established mechanism for the kinds of symptoms that are found.

Scott-Mumby believes that “eating what you shouldn’t does far more harm than not eating what you should”. In other words the most important step in improving your health is to unmask your personal toxic foods and avoid them.

Scott-Mumby defines optimum health as “a positive sense of well-being with plenty of energy available whenever needed”. “Absence of disease” is not good enough! He believes that everyone has some toxic food or foods that are preventing us from achieving this optimum health.

More on this topic in future articles. For more information from Scott-Mumby:
Diet Wise book
The Alternative Doctor - Prof Scott-Mumby official 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.