I am 87 y.o. and at the end of my journey. I’ve been through so much, and today, I’m writing letters to special people. I wish to thank you for improving the quality of my life the past few years with your columns and books. There is so much to say… a simple thank you will have to suffice. I wish I could go back and make changes earlier on, but I can’t. I hope my daughter and the younger generations will listen to you. Happy New Year Suzy.
L.S., Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Answer: I’m honored to be among the “special” people in your life, thank you very much. I’ve chosen your letter to inspire others to reclaim their health. I still recall a letter that was written by an 85 y.o. man explaining how he’d live his life differently if he could. The letter is found in the late Leo Buscaglia’s book, Living, Loving and Learning. Here it is:
If I had my life to live over again, I’d try to make more mistakes next time. I wouldn’t try to be so perfect. I would relax more. I’d limber up… I know very few things that I would take so seriously, I’d be crazier. I’d be less hygienic… I’d climb more mountains, I’d swim more rivers, I’d watch more sunset… I’d eat more ice cream and fewer beans. I’d have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones.
You see I was one of those people who lived prophylactically and sensibly and sanely hour after hour and day after day… I’d try to have nothing but beautiful moments- moment by moment by moment.
I’ve been one of those people who never went anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat, and a parachute. If I had to do it all over again, I’d travel lighter next time. If I had to do it all over again, I’d start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I’d ride more merry-go-rounds, I’d watch more sunrises, and I’d play with more children, if I had my life to live over again. But you see, I don’t.”
You’ve said that stress causes higher levels of the hormone cortisol and that causes weight gain and disease. I have lost my home and dealing with the emotional fall out and the anguish of scaling down and moving. How can I control cortisol as I deal with this grief? My good health is all I have left. –M.L., Palm Beach, Florida
Answer: Sorry about your loss. Cortisol is produced by your adrenal glands and helps regulate the speed at which you turn food into fuel, and hence your blood sugar levels; it supports immune function and bone health. It’s not a bad guy unless it gets too high, or flat-lines after prolonged periods of stress.
Stress is by far the number one reason that cortisol levels become elevated. Excessive amounts cause you to hold weight in your mid-section (think belly fat). High cortisol means more infections and higher incidence of hypertension, osteoporosis (brittle bones), reflux, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and stroke. Stress can make you terribly sick by upping your cortisol hormone. Conventional medicine’s answer is usually a benzodiazepine-type of tranquilizer such as Xanax, Valium or Ativan which provides a quick fix.
Supplements help you with the stress response better because they don’t cause addiction, and they can lower cortisol unlike drugs. Reducing cortisol is good for your waist line. Even if you can’t eliminate stress, and have to go through it, you can still improve your body’s response to the stress. This is important. Make the word “adaptogen” your best friend because adaptogenic herbs are your best solution to stress. Four of my favorite are ashwagandha, ginseng, rhodiola and gotu kola.
Well-designed scientific studies have revealed undeniable stress-relieving qualities. You should not need all four, just pick one to try based on it’s other properties and potential side effects. Ask your doctor if it’s right for you before buying them at the health food store. Google these herbs to learn about them. It’s okay to switch them out every few months. Adaptogens often take a few weeks to begin working.
Ashwagandha improves endurance, provides instant calm, fights fatigue, reduces inflammation and enhances sex drive. Panax ginseng also enhances sex drive, while improving energy levels, mental focus and well-being. Rhodiola, which thrives in freezing cold Siberia, improves stamina, cognitive function, melancholy and ability to cope. Gotu kola herb offers a mild, relaxing sense of virtual euphoria. Take Gota kola when you need it to kick back and relax, the way you might enjoy a glass of wine. Speaking of alcohol, this may be an effective stress-reducer but it’s going to make a mess of your cortisol over time. I’d prefer you drink green tea, in most people that provides instant calm.
Treat yourself to massage. In 2005 University of Miami researchers reviewed some scientific studies and found that a single massage can reduce cortisol levels by an amazing 31 percent! Yoga is another way to find peace and calm. More meditation means less medication.
I’m determined to stick with my New Year’s resolution to lose weight by cutting calories. Any tips to help me? –F.P., Tulsa, Oklahoma
Answer: Medical studies have shown that caloric restriction is an effective way to lose weight. Caloric restriction increases the activity of PGC-1 alpha, a lovely gene in your body that improves fat burning ability, energy and thyroid function. One supplement that activates this gene is resveratrol and there are others which I discuss in my “Diabetes Without Drugs” book.
I prefer when people “edit” what they eat, rather than “diet” and by that I mean edit the oils you cook with, the spices you sprinkle, the snacks you munch on and so forth. But caloric restriction is equally important. Make sure they come primarily from fresh fruits and vegetables, grass-fed, hormone-free meats, and whole grains if you can handle the grains. Grains are a big topic because many grains have gluten, or they’ve been contaminated with fungus. Paleo diet lovers never eat grains. Regardless of your preference, my point is that excess calories come from processed and heavily refined foods so those are the ones to avoid.
Manufacturers play tricks with food labels to conceal calories. They know you’re not going to closely study food labels, especially because the print is so small to begin with. A quick scan of the calorie count could leave you consuming hundreds of extra calories without realizing it. My next examples are just the tip of a gigantic “fooled you” iceberg.
Look at soda. Admittedly, I don’t recommend drinking it if you are on a diet (even “diet” soda) but the label is a great example to enlighten you. Pick up a 16.9 ounce-bottle of Canada Dry ginger ale. It looks like one serving. (Gone are the days of the tiny soda bottles I remember when I was a kid.) Flip it over, and the calorie number on the label says 90. Not bad, right? Look again. It’s 90 calories PER serving and there are “About two.” What’s with the “about”? In actuality, it’s more like 210 calories in that bottle. Fooled you! I must applaud Coca Cola because at least they print “200 calories” in large letters on the front of the bottle offering clarity.
How about a chicken pot pie? Flip a 16.5 ounce Marie Callender’s frozen pot pie over, and you’ll see 570 calories on the label. When the cute little bubbling pie comes out of the oven, you’ll dig right in. But wait! You’ll have to cut that pie in half if you only want 570 calories, because that’s the amount per serving. Hmm, fooled you again!
To take advantage of caloric restriction benefits, stay away from refined foods and shop along the perimeter of the grocery store. Never venture into the interior aisles unless you want honey, maple syrup, coffee/tea, or nuts.
Did You Know?
Eating gold kiwifruit increases vitamin C, and reduces severity of the common cold.
Answer: My answer will set you back about $10 per month. If you have even a flea’s foot-sized interest in health matters, you’ve no doubt heard about the problems associated with too little vitamin D. A deficiency of this powerhouse vitamin has been implicated in just about everything from obesity, heart disease, cancer and international threats to world peace. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little. Today, let’s add yet another health problem to the list of maladies impaled on the lance of this nutritional white knight. Asthma.
I can’t give up sodas. I’ve been downing them daily since childhood, but I know they’re bad for me. Can you suggest a healthier drink that’s still sweet but has fewer calories? –R.L., Plantation, Florida
Answer: I posted recipes for natural healthy soda at my website, so today I’m going to tell you to try chai! In China, Russia and India, the word “chai” simply means “tea.” In America, not too long ago, some clever marketing folks decided to use the word for a special blend containing aromatic spices native to India, and now you can find chai drinks everywhere. Yay.
Even when you order “Masala” chai in cafes or Indian restaurants, you’re getting way less sugar than what you’d get in a soda, a couple of teaspoons versus nine or ten, which is typical for non-diet soda pop. If you learn to make your own chai at home, you can substitute stevia, agave or honey as your sweetener, and it’s still going to offer grand health benefits.
I’m a huge tea fanatic myself, and chai is one of my favorites along with matcha, tulsi and rooibos. Chai starts with black tea, a powerful antioxidant which has anti-cancer compounds in and of itself. The individual spices that make up chai are also medicinally active:
Cinnamon: Several recent studies confirm cinnamon’s ability to control blood sugar. It’s sold in oral supplement form just for that purpose. Cinnamon is warming and eases digestive upset as well as flatulence.
Ginger: Good for digestion, and especially helpful with nausea and morning sickness. Ginger, being a strong anti-inflammatory may help with arthritis, reduce cholesterol, protect against colds and lower blood pressure. Is chai sounding good to you yet?
Cloves: A great digestive aid, this spice also has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial action. In mice, it proved to be an aphrodisiac, woo hoo! And when clove oil is applied topically, it almost instantly relieves toothache pain.
Cardamom: This antioxidant spice contains anti-cancer compounds, and it has well-known aphrodisiac power. Good for urinary infections, clarity of mind, heartburn, bloating and bad breath.
There are thousands of chai recipes. Some include fennel which is good for menopausal problems and breaking fevers. Saffron, one of my favorite spices ever, is a powerful immune and mood booster. Anise helps with coughs and is a digestive aid, no surprise there. See the pattern? Chai contains healthy spices that help you digest meals, that’s why you should replace your after-dinner Frangelico with chai. Sam buys Bhakti Chai, and mixes this with frothed vanilla almond milk for a delicious chai latte that I crave when it’s snowing or right after a big dinner. And don’t think chai is just for the winter months. If you’ve never tried iced chai, or chai smoothies you’re in for a treat. No matter how you drink it, chai is still better for you than soda because it offers impressive health benefits, and being low in sugar, it’s easy on your waistline.
Directions: Gently boil all the ingredients together, until it is the texture you like. I prefer mine a bit chunky, but if you don’t, you can blend it smooth.
Place apples in 10 inch baking dish. Mix the wet ingredients and then the dry ingredients, separately. Then, combine the wet ingredients with the dry ones and spread this mixture over the the apples. It will be a little thick. Cover and bake at 350 for about 1 hour. When the apples are juicy and bubbling, remove the cover, and bake another 5 or 10 minutes longer until the top is crisp brown. This recipe could easily be made with peaches instead of apples.
A recently published Finnish study found that quaffing three to four cups of joe daily can cut one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 27 percent in men and 29 percent in women. Jolt yourself with seven to nine cups per day, (which I’m not advocating) and you’ll sleep with your eyes wide open. Seriously, 7 – 9 cups, and those percentages increase to 33 and 66 percent respectively!
Another study conducted by the University of Sydney in Australia found that a similar daily intake of tea resulted in a 20 percent reduction in the risk for developing diabetes. Now, percolate on this- a very recent Harvard study also found that consuming five cups a day slashed the risk for diabetes. The scientists found that certain compounds could reduce blood levels of a nasty inflammation substance (interleukin-6) by 60 percent. Just FYI, blood vessel inflammation plays some role in the development of coronary heart disease, so this is a very significant finding.
What can be done to relieve the discomfort of tinnitus? The crackling, buzzing, and popping in my friend’s ear drives her to distraction. She’s tried several commercially available products from the health food store, all without relief so far. What do you suggest? –L.J., Orlando, Florida
Answer: Buzzing, clanging, whooshing, musical tones, humming, ringing, even jack hammering… tinnitus can drive you absolutely bonkers. I can’t stand it even when my neighbor fires up his leaf blower, and that’s over in 20 minutes. You may recognize these celebrities who have confessed to bouts of tinnitus: Eric Clapton, David Letterman and Steve Martin.
The internal racket can be caused from exposure to sudden or chronic loud noises, free radical damage, age-related hearing loss, medication side effects, ear wax and a number of diseases. That’s just for starters. All I can do here is give you some more perspective about options. If your tinnitus doesn’t yield to simple remedies, see your doctor for an evaluation.
Look in your medicine cabinet. There’s a surprisingly long list of prescription and OTC drugs that have been tied to tinnitus: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), loop diuretics (like furosemide), and many antibiotics, anti-depressant drugs, and salicylates (like aspirin). Auditory-related side effects might develop all of a sudden, even if you’ve been taking the drug a long time. Discuss this possibility with your doctor and pharmacist. In cases of reversible tinnitus, sometimes switching medications brings relief.
Stress ramps up the noise! Consider biofeedback. Studies suggest that biofeedback training could help you find your internal ‘control knob’ and turn down the volume.
Deficiencies of specific nutrients can sometimes affect hearing health: Zinc, Coenzyme Q10, vitamins D and B12. Also, magnesium, a mineral in spinach and leafy greens has been shown repeatedly to support auditory mechanisms, improve hearing loss and ease tinnitus. As we speak, the Mayo Clinic is conducting a clinical trial to verify this. And an Israeli study long ago found that military personnel with tinnitus were often short on B12.
Asian folks seem to have good grip on this condition. Chinese medicine doctors use acupuncture and a variety of herbals to deal with tinnitus. These treatments vary considerably, but could be very effective. I keep up with Korean news because my 24-Hour Pharmacist book is published in this language. A recent study concluded that two compounds: Bojungikgitang and banhabaekchulchonmatang significantly improve tinnitus. American health food stores are going to screech and whine if you ask them to order that stuff, so don’t even bother. A few studies support the herbal gingko biloba, which may help by improving blood flow and scavenging free radical toxins. Other herbs worth looking into include black cohosh root and vinpocetine which improve blood flow and oxygen to the brain; goldenseal could help too, and also mullein herb which addresses inflammation. Become a fan on my facebook page and interact with me about health topics: Facebook.com/SuzyCohenRPh
Did You Know?
People with pale skin (who burn easily) appear to be more likely to be deficient in vitamin D.
Answer: I do recall saying that. It scares me that millions of women are taking unopposed estrogen medications (meaning, estrogen therapy without any natural progesterone to go with it). Excess estrogen has been linked to breast cancer and other hormonally-driven disorders.
I have plantar fasciitis causing terrible heel pain and my doctor says it will take a year to heal. Is there anything I can do to speed that up? –P.D., Sanibel, Florida
Answer: You have my sympathy because I’ve been dealing with plantar fasciitis myself for the past three months. It’s the price I paid for stomping too hard in Zumba class.
Plantar fasciitis is usually caused by a pulling of the long ligament, the plantar fascia, which runs along the bottom of your foot. It may hurt all the time, or just act up while walking and running. The inflammation announces itself as a dull or stabbing pain. When it flares up, it can feel like you’ve planted your heels on a sharp knife!
Typically, doctors recommend applying ice and taking oral anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or naproxen, or injections of corticosteroids. Getting off your feet certainly helps! You can get custom-made orthotics from your podiatrist (or other physician) which insert into your shoes and offer more support for your feet. I bought an inexpensive gel insert at my local pharmacy and that helped a little bit. You can learn some exercises to stretch out and relax the inflamed tissues in your feet.
So, there you have the typical treatment experience includes medications, stretching exercise, orthotics and ice packs. Wearing supportive shoes are important. While I don’t recommend this for everyone, I personally found that wearing high heels takes the pressure off my heel, and puts it on the ball of my foot. For a while, it was the only way I could find relief, but this does not work for most people, especially men, lol. The stretching, ice packs and yoga helped me, but my best relief might surprise you. It was acupuncture. Seriously! You would think heel pain was enough, but imagine needles going into the area! Well no joke, this did the trick for me.
And a study confirms what I already know. Scientists in Greece at the University of Athens published their findings last summer. They tested two groups of athletes with plantar fasciitis. Both groups received conventional treatments, but only one group received acupuncture. Those who got needled experienced significantly more relief after just a matter of weeks. The researchers concluded that “acupuncture should be considered as a major therapeutic instrument for the decrease of heel pain, combined with traditional medical approaches.”
The earlier you begin acupuncture, the better. You can locate an acupuncturist at www.acufinder.com or ask your doctor for a recommendation. If you have access to a chiropractor or physical therapist, ultrasound is beneficial. I also believe in herbs such as calendula, ginger, bromelain and turmeric as dietary supplements. You can massage the area with arnica cream too.
Did You Know?
Pregnant women in the US who want to know if they are carrying a baby with Down syndrome can now take a blood test called MaterniT21 rather than doing amniocentesis.
DRUGS THAT MIGHT CAUSE NIGHTMARES
Dear Readers The following medications can have an adverse reaction that causes bad dreams, and/or nightmares. One of the most popular classes of medications that did NOT make it to the list below is synthetic hormones, the type used for post-menopausal symptoms or for contraception (pills, patches, shots). There are dozens of medications in this class. Here are the rest of the medications, in alphabetical order by their generic name. I did not list the American brand names, because my readership is Internet-based, and there are just too many brand names used worldwide for me to list. You’ll need the generic (chemical) name of your drug in order to find it on this list. Thanks, Suzy
• Aliskiren; Amlodipine
• Aliskiren; Amlodipine; Hydrochlorothiazide, HCTZ
• Atenolol; Chlorthalidone
• Atropine; Hyoscyamine; Phenobarbital; Scopolamine
• Belladonna Alkaloids; Ergotamine; Phenobarbital
• Bendroflumethiazide; Nadolol
• Bisoprolol; Hydrochlorothiazide, HCTZ
• Carbidopa; Levodopa
• Carbidopa; Levodopa; Entacapone
• Chloral Hydrate
• Dronabinol, THC
• Efavirenz; Emtricitabine; Tenofovir
• Enalapril, Enalaprilat
• Hydrochlorothiazide, HCTZ; Methyldopa
• Hydrochlorothiazide, HCTZ; Metoprolol
• Hydrochlorothiazide, HCTZ; Propranolol
• Latanoprost; Timolol
• Sodium Oxybate
• Trovafloxacin, Alatrofloxacin
5 green apples, peeled and sliced (or chopped)
Put all the clean chopped apples in the bottom of your baking dish (I used a 10 X 10 inch glass one). Mix the dry ingredients (almond flour, granola, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg) and then mix the wet ingredients next. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ones and stir well. Spread this over the the apples. Cover the dish, bake at 350 for about 1 hour. When the apples are juicy and bubbling, remove the cover, and bake another 5 or 10 minutes longer until the top is brown/crisp.
Every fall, I worry about catching cough and cold. My Jewish grandmother used to come over and cook soup with bones in it. She insisted it would keep us healthy and made us suck the marrow out of the bones. Truthfully, we never got sick. What do you think of this idea? I don’t want to torture my own kids but she may have on to something. –B.E., Hartford, Connecticut
Answer: Anything that helps you avoid illness (and pricey antibiotics) is fine by me! Growing up, my mom made us kids do the same. I can still hear her ravenously sucking the marrow out of the bones, they never had a chance. Bone marrow soup contains red marrow, which provides immune system factors such as myeloid stem cells, which are precursors to red blood cells that bring oxygen to your organs. It also contains lymphoid stem cells, precursors to white blood cells and platelets. White blood cells fight germs and platelets help your blood clot properly.
If you’re still grossed out about cooking such a prehistoric soup, keep listening. Bone broth will provide your body with two important amino acids, glycine and proline. Glycine is needed to help our body form a powerful liver antioxidant called glutathione, which neutralize poisons. Proline has been researched extensively and supports heart health by blocking dangerous “lipoprotein a” from sticking to your arteries (think atherosclerosis). While the idea of bone broth might make you want to fast, the truth is, bone broth is great for a fasting or detoxification program because it supports both phase I and II detoxification and builds up collagen to support healthy bones, discs in your back, your skin, ligaments, cartilage and tendons. I think bone soup can support wound healing, and joint health all while soothing inflamed mucus membranes in the digestive tract. Perfect for IBS, leaky gut, Celiac and Crohn’s disease. Getting hungry yet?
Because I always try what I write about, I bought some bones tonight and made the soup. It tasted good. I flavored it with fresh garlic, celery, carrots, parsley and onions. I cooked it for 5 hours on low, although you could use a crock pot and let it simmer overnight.
Bone marrow soup provides minerals, especially calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Great, because these support bone, heart and muscle health… and they make your nails grow fast. When cooking the soup, add two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to help extract the minerals from the bone. To ramp up immune-boosting properties, buy fresh or dried astragalus root, a wonderful Chinese herb. Add one-quarter cup to your soup for the last 20 minutes, but don’t do this if you take methotrexate or cyclophosphamide drugs. Skim the astragalus and any fat/foam from the soup before consuming. I draw the line at bones, but if you are friskier, make your soup with oxtail or chicken feet.
Did You Know?
New research suggest that blood pressure drugs called “beta blockers” slow the spread of breast cancer.
Recently, I was watching the news and saw headlines that suggested taking vitamins could be dangerous for our health and I was alarmed. Truthfully, it just annoys me that snippets about this study get any media coverage at all. I don’t know one person, not one, who has been harmed by taking nutritional supplements! Since I scour the news -both print and television- I have seen firsthand the sensational headlines intended to invoke fear in our society, and drive more people into the arms of proven methods of healing, whatever those may be. You have to live under a rock to NOT be aware that certain people in positions of power are downing the entire supplement industry, one nutrient at a time with the primary goal to either ban certain nutrients or make them available only by prescription. Did you know that you can get a prescription form of the B vitamin “folic acid” as well as fish oil supplements right now?
The news that multivitamins, vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc and copper might hasten our death is just ridiculous, and I hope my article shows you how easily statistics can be manipulated. This was reported in October 2011, in The Archives of Internal Medicine, a journal I normally respect.
Do you really think vitamins and minerals are suddenly bad for you? By that token, you would have to believe that eating vegetables, fruits, and nuts are bad too, because they contain the same nutrients as those proposed to be deadly in this study! C’mon people! Should we all go on a lollipop diet? That’s right, I just want to suck lollipops all day, those must be safe because there are no studies to prove that they’re harmful. Yet.
When you hear bold headlines, it is important to consider what the strong points and the flaws of the study might be. Does something sound too good to be true? Or, can the numbers and percentages be skewed in a favorable direction by including (or excluding) a particular arm of the study trial. If you massage numbers enough, you will be able to conclude all sorts of interesting things. You’ll see that below in Point #1.
Your conclusion will be the same as mine if you think about this particular study, that is to say: It’s sad when Mother Nature is questioned, and vitamins are condemned based on weak and disconnected statistics, yet other therapies that literally include “myocardial infarction” as a side effect remain on the market. This scary fact doesn’t get any airtime. Now, I’ll go through some of the reasons I feel this study should be ignored. We can do this together, it’s easy, and you’ll be amazed.
Point #1: Numbers are a very fun thing to play with, you can skew them any way you want to, and draw different conclusions. If I take the same study, and massage the data by accounting for age and energy intake (ignoring the other numbers that account for disease, lifestyle and dietary habits) then the news about vitamins would have been good. It’s not that the results should be presented this way, or that, I’m just showing you that data can be presented in all sorts of ways, depending on what you want to prove. I found out from the Health Ranger Mike Adams website (Natural News) that the following POSITIVE associations with vitamins occurred:
• Vitamin B complex was associated with a 7% reduction in mortality
• Vitamin C was associated with a 4% reduction in mortality
• Vitamin D was associated with an 8% reduction in mortality
• Magnesium was associated with a 3% reduction in mortality
• Selenium was associated with a 3% reduction in mortality
• Zinc was associated with a 3% reduction in mortality
Point #2: The conclusions drawn, were not based upon an actual clinical trial that offered a double-blind, placebo controlled analysis. Not that nutrition research needs to always have a research clinical trial associated with it, but if you are going to draw conclusions about death rates, then certainly it’s reasonable to expect a trial! In this case, the conclusion regarding mortality was drawn from data that tracked 38,722 older women who said they took vitamins for 20 years. Key word “said.”
Point #3: The University of Minnesota researchers had women fill out questionnaires. The women “said” they took vitamins. That’s it! Should scientists draw sweeping conclusions about mortality based on questionnaires? Have you ever filled out a long questionnaire and fibbed a little, maybe you were in a hurry or thought what you wrote down would affect the way you were treated? Can you remember if you took a supplement 20 years ago, or for what period of time? I can’t remember what I took last month, no less 20 years ago when I was 26 years old. The death rate could be due to any number of factors, not necessarily because a vitamin was taken. Let’s talk more about that death rate now.
Point #4: Women who said they took supplements experienced, on average, a 2.4 percent increased risk of dying over the course of two decades, compared with women who didn’t take supplements, after the researchers adjusted for factors including the women’s age and calorie intake. Is 2.4 percent significant to you when you are dealing with this demographic? Here’s how they got that. Let’s use the example of a plain multivitamin. Of the 12,769 women who took a daily multivitamin (keep in mind, this is all based on a self-reporting system), 40.8 percent had died by the end of 2008, whereas 39.8 percent of the 10,161 women who had not taken a daily multivitamin had died. Wow! 40.8 % vs. 39.8 %. Seems like somebody is playing with numbers here. It’s really just a 1 percent difference, but it sounds scarier to skew the stats and tell people there was a “2.4 % increase.” Boo!
Point #5: What was the baseline health status of the women? Remember that the women who began the study were 62 years of age or older back in 1986 when the trial began. They were followed for about 20 years and during that time some of them may have had simmering health issues (like high blood glucose, cholesterol or undiagnosed kidney impairment) that they were unaware of. Further, what if these ladies failed to take vitamins in their youthful years, or took poor quality ones? Did they exercise in their youth or as adults? What was their cholesterol, insulin, Lp(a), body mass index, homocysteine levels and CRP levels? Did they have digestive problems? Who knows? Well-informed scientists would never assign sole blame to vitamins when the data is being extracting from seniors who almost always have multiple health concerns and take numerous prescription drugs. There’s no linear connection, do you see how ridiculous this all is?!
Point #6: Nutritional status was never objectively evaluated. How did they eat? Did they smoke? Were they exposed to pollution or UV radiation, two well-known causes for free-radical damage? What if they ate a poor diet? For all we know they were taking dietary supplements in between cheeseburgers and fries, rather than part of a healthy well-balanced diet. It’s irresponsible to blame vitamins for death when the women may have been ill to begin with, and may have been deficient in key nutrients.
Point #7: What was their medication profile like? This was the most obvious gap in the article as far as I’m concerned. I suspect there was a lot of drug mugging going on! These ladies could very well have been so nutritionally depleted that they died of some other reason? Studies show that a CoQ10 deficiency can be a contributing factor (if not lead to) congestive heart failure. Did you know that there are hundreds of medications that suppress CoQ10 in our body? What were their levels? What about magnesium? This is a mineral important for heart rhythm. It’s absolutely crucial and dozens of medications are drug muggers of this mineral. My point? Not one of the participants was ever given a Cardio-ION, Genova or SpectraCell blood test to determine baseline micronutrient status? Ever. Let’s focus on vitamin B6 deficiency right now. Over 150 drugs rob your body of that. Run low of B6 and you’re levels of toxic homocysteine will climb, raising risk for hypertension, heart attack and stroke! So how did these scientists sort out whether these elderly women were dreadfully deficient of a particular vitamin, or died from taking one? They didn’t. For more on drug nutrient depletion, read my book “Drug Muggers, Which Medications are Robbing Your Body of Essential Nutrients and How to Restore Them” (Rodale 2011) sold on Amazon and at book stores nationwide. You can also buy an exclusive hardcover edition of the same book from Rodale, CLICK HERE.
Point #8: This was not a clinical trial, with a placebo arm. This was what is called a “survey study” or an “observational study.” Any conclusions drawn from these types of studies are very limited, as you cannot determine cause and effect from these types of studies. It’s never good to draw conclusions from observations. For example, my observation is that some people who get admitted to a hospital pass away. Shall we therefore conclude that hospitalization contributes to a higher death rate?
Point #9: Vitamins and minerals are just supplements that fill a nutritional gap, and if you refer to point #1, you’ll see all the positive findings that were not provided to you. Your cells are hungry for nutrients; they make all your biochemical reactions go off without a hitch. I used to tell my kids that vitamins were just like a ‘salad in a pill’ providing you with some nutrients that come from good food. Now, with that said, I firmly believe that it’s best to get nutrients from eating living plant-based foods, and juicing every day. This is your best source of healthy nutrients, and enzymes. And use dietary supplements to fill those nutrient gaps, or to restore what medication may be depleting. There’s nothing wrong with that in my world.
But if you believe the recent hype, you might start to believe that the very nutrients extracted from foods and put into dietary supplements are bad too. From that you might also conclude that eating healthy foods would then be bad too! See how nonsensical this is. You would never conclude that because we know certain foods are good for us (organic fruits and vegetables, nuts etc) and certain foods are bad for us (trans fats, artificial ingredients and additives and refined processed foods).
Remember my friends, dietary supplements are regulated by the DSHEA Act of 1994, through the FDA. They are intended to SUPPORT adequate nutrition, not to prevent disease, and certainly not to prevent death. If you have concerns, it’s always best to ask your health care provider(s) and your local pharmacist what is right for you. Because vitamins do have an impact on the body, it’s ideal to customize your regimen based on your activities, age, gender, medication profile and dietary habits.
I’m concerned about diabetes, I’m overweight, and it runs in my family. My sister has your diabetes book and said you recommend Holy Basil, among other herbs and nutrients. Is that the same as regular basil and would you tell me more? –.A.L., Rockwall, Texas
Answer: I think Holy Basil a fabulous herb. This herb has been prized for centuries and is considered a sacred plant. It is related to other types of basil, but it’s not the same as the fresh basil you buy in American supermarkets (which is great too), or the dried spice form. Holy Basil acts as an “adaptogen” in the body, meaning it helps you adapt. It protects cells, improves endurance and helps you cope with stress by supporting adrenal and thyroid function.
Holy Basil is also called “Tulsi” in Ayurvedic medicine; both terms refer to the herb known in latin as Ocimum sanctum. Whatever you call it, it delivers!
Compounds in Holy Basil have been shown in clinical trials to nourish the pancreas, and specifically help generate healthy new beta cells. These beta cells are the body’s insulin-production factories, and insulin lowers blood sugar. See the connection? Holy Basil helps other cells in your body open up their receptor (their door) which welcomes insulin like a long lost friend. This is a beautiful thing, because it lightens the load on your liver and precious adrenal glands. You may notice fewer craving for sweets. Hey, getting your hand out of the cookie jar could mean faster weight loss!
Listen up if you have high cholesterol or triglycerides. Conventional medicine might call for statin drugs to reduce these markers. Studies suggest that Holy Basil can help reduce blood fats which, as you know, contribute to heart disease and remain a devastating complication of diabetes. Holy Basil happens to be a potent antioxidant, sweeping away damaged cells that could run amok. Tulsi happens to also have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. I hate fungus. I’m all about killing bad germs, and growing good ones (probiotics). With that in mind, consider Holy Basil this fall to reduce the risk of cough and cold.
I drink Holy Basil every day, in the form of tea (it’s called Tulsi Tea), and I keep the tea bags in my purse so at restaurants, I just ask for a cup of hot water and steep it at my table. Holy Basil is stronger when taken as an oral supplement. Organic India, New Chapter and Source Naturals all make commercial brands. As for safety, it’s been used for eons and has an impressive track record, but because it lowers blood sugar, I don’t want you to combine it with prescribed diabetes medication unless you closely monitor your blood sugar and remain supervised by your doctor so he can reduce medication dosage when necessary. You’ll find other simple recommendations to manage diabetes and weight in my new book Diabetes without Drugs, available at book stores nationwide and Amazon.
Answer: Muscle relaxant drugs offer temporary relief for a pulled muscle, sprain, strain, stiff neck or other muscle problem. I think medications are fine for a little while, but most of you reading will need to tease out the underlying cause of your own pain. Many of you suffer with muscle spasms and it may not dawn on you that you take a drug that depletes a nutrient from your body, which then causes chronic muscle spasms or cramps. For real.
Not knowing this could cause pain and frustration, and might force you to take muscle relaxant drugs forever! Hundreds of drugs can cause muscle aches and pains, including blood pressure drugs so please refer to my book, Drug Muggers. More specifically read the chapters on calcium, magnesium, CoQ10, vitamin D and vitamin B6. In my book, I’ve listed the medications that deplete these nutrients, and potentially harm your muscles, causing weakness, cramps and spasms. Also, see your physician and consider physical therapy, gentle chiropractic and massage.
I will now provide a list of popular herbs and medications that temporarily relieve the pain. All of them can mess with your head, meaning cause brain fog, drowsiness and dizziness. Please don’t take these and drive:
Baclofen (Lioresal), Rx- Used for muscle spasms; it improves levels of our natural GABA, which calms our nervous system. Often used in multiple sclerosis and amazingly, it could help reduce cravings for alcohol.
Cramp Bark, Herbal supplement- The name says it all; this herb may help reduce leg cramps, spasms and pain resulting from a stiff neck. Ladies, this could help reduce cramps at that time of the month. Sold in health food stores as tea, tincture and capsule. Careful, it can lower blood pressure.
Valerian, Herbal supplement- Often used for insomnia and anxiety, but it also relaxes muscles.
Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), Rx- This is related to antidepressants and can cause dry mouth, urinary retention, constipation and dizziness.
Carisoprodol (Soma), Rx- It blocks the transmission of signals in the brain and spinal cord. It makes you terribly sleepy so you don’t feel the pain! As a pharmacist, I have to tell you I’ve seen a lot of abuse with this drug.
Kava Kava and Passionflower, Herbal dietary supplements- Both of these support muscle health and cause relaxation. Take one or the other, sold at health food stores.
What are the best treatments for hemorrhoids, both the internal sort and the external? I ask because my wife and I suffer with these. Lucky us. –S. D., Gainesville, Florida
Answer: In the United States, approximately half of all people will suffer from hemorrhoids at some point in life, usually between the ages of 20 and 50. It’s not necessarily a problem of the elderly or constipated, it can happen to anyone, even people who are healthy, but happen to sit for very long periods of time. Hemorrhoids -whether internal or external- happen due to weak veins that swell because of pressure. If these weak veins occur on the legs, we refer to them as “varicose” veins. The blood pools, and causes veins to swell and engorge; this can be caused by many situations, among them obesity, pregnancy, lifting heavy objects or boxes, straining on the toilet, coughing, sneezing, standing or sitting for long periods of time. People who eat a high fiber diet and stay well hydrated are less likely to suffer with hemorrhoids, whereas people who eat processed foods will eventually feel it in the end.
Before I offer suggestions, I will first describe internal and external. The primary difference is pain. With internal hemorrhoids, there is no pain because the swollen veins are higher up in the rectum where there are no nerves. There maybe no symptoms at all, or you may have bleeding after a bowel movement. For some bleeding may be the first, and only sign of internal hemorrhoids. For others, you may have a thin stool, and the urge that you are not finished yet. External hemorrhoids hurt like crazy and if untreated it can thrombose, meaning it can turn purplish-blue and bleed. They can itch, burn and irritate the anus, and you can feel them easily. No matter the type, don’t sit excessively, or let your butt fall asleep on hard chairs!
Dear Readers: Recently, I asked my facebook fans to share their favorite folk remedies. These homegrown tips are not intended to take the place of your physician’s advice, nor does my printing them imply effectiveness. So don’t email me if you wind up smelling like lasagna or a speed stick! Here is a sampling of the submissions:
When you get bit from an insect, like a fire ant or mosquito, you just roll on plain deodorant. It works like a charm. Sandy G.
I have chronic sinus (and fungal) infections. I read an article about oregano so I boiled the spice in water, let it cool to room temperature and strained it into a spray bottle. It works great! Patricia A.
For RLS (Restless Legs Syndrome), I slip a bar or two of Ivory soap under my bed sheets, down low by my calves and ankles. I have no idea why it works, but it does. Ellen M.
I have a great way to relieve irritated skin, especially from when it is humid or sweat is just sitting on the skin. Make your own special body wash. Mix about 4 drops of 100 percent pure tea tree oil into some inexpensive body wash (or shampoo) and cleanse your skin. Keep on hand to relieve ant, flea or mosquito bites. Ginny G.
You can put duct tape on a wart to starve it of oxygen. Victoria W.
My wife has IBS and suffers quite a bit. We use one essential oil capsule of peppermint and it stops her cramping and soothes her stomach almost immediately. Dennis E.
YES YES YES to the peppermint oil. I had some bad IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) cramps throughout my peri-menopausal years and peppermint tea (or capsules) were the only things that could stop the painful cramps! Ellen M.
My husband had an infected big toe and he soaked it in a foot bath of warm water with epsom salt (about 1 cup) along with two or three drops of oregano oil. He did this three times daily for three days and the infection cleared. Sandy L.
I had a persistent rash on my skin, and I applied coconut oil (purchase this at your local health food store) and it worked for me. Susan C.
You might be able to replace narcotics such as Vicodin (hydrocodone) or Oxycontin (oxycodone sustained-release) with herbs such as Valerian Root and/or Kava Kava. Yes, I have done this! Bethany R.
When I get an upset stomach or mild heartburn, I eat some pure ginger, the candied sort that has some crystallized sugar on it. Candied ginger is sold at health food stores, not supermarkets. Dawn D.
For constipation, you can eat two cooked beets (boiled, roasted or marinated) and you should have a bowel movement that day. Suzy C.
My hiccups were annoying so I put good ol’ honey and a sprinkle of sugar on the back of my tongue and it stopped them immediately. Tracy L.
My husband and I would like to have a child soon. My sister’s little boy has autism, so I’m naturally concerned for my prenatal care and pregnancy. Is there any way to reduce my risk of having a child with autism? –C.J., Orlando, Florida
Answer: There is so much controversy regarding vaccinations that I’m not even going to entertain that here. Instead, I’ll tell you about a less debatable finding based on a brand new study, conducted at Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California Research Division in Oakland that found mothers of autistic children were twice as likely to have taken a an antidepressant in the year prior to their delivery. The risk appears even stronger if the antidepressant is taken during their first trimester.
The study published in July 2011, in the Archives of General Psychiatry, analyzed prenatal data for women who took antidepressants in the class of “selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors” known more commonly as SSRIs. These are the most prescribed mood enhancers in the entire world known generically as paroxetine, sertraline, citalopram, escitalopram and fluoxetine.
Researchers analyzed prenatal and maternal data from 1,805 children. Researchers stopped short of saying that antidepressants cause autism because that connection was not made. They simply reported that mothers of autistic children were more likely to have taken SSRI antidepressants, which begs the question: Should you wean off your antidepressants if you are planning to become pregnant?
It’s certainly worth a discussion with your doctor, outlining other treatment options for depression, both pharmaceutical and alternative. Knowing your options becomes incredibly important, especially since there is not a cure for autism so anything you can do to prevent it is helpful. SSRIs have uncomfortable side effects including brain fog, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, diarrhea, tremors, and suicidal thoughts in extreme cases.
My concerns aren’t about the medication, it’s that some physicians prescribe these drugs at the drop of a hat to women who have underlying hormonal or micronutrient deficiencies. If you’re planning to become pregnant, and you wish to discontinue your antidepressants talk to your doctor about how to wean off. Don’t suddenly stop taking an SSRI on your own, do it with medical supervision and approval, and most of all, do it slowly!
As often occurs with other journalists, the study is being reportedly inaccurately. They are saying that autism rates were increased in children whose mothers took SSRIs during the year before they got pregnant. The study suggests the problems were in women who took the medication in the year before delivery of their baby, that is, just before and during their pregnancy. Big difference. If you would like advice regarding natural alternatives, I’ll post those on my facebook FAN page, the link to that is on my website homepage. For information on autism, visit two great resources on the web: www.autismspeaks.org and www.defeatautismnow.net.
Did You Know?
Frankincense essential oil can help relieve nervous tension, anxiety and exhaustion.
My teenage daughter downs several diet sodas a day. She insists they’re a healthy, weight-loss alternative to regular sodas. Should I be concerned? –E.L., Phoenix, Arizona
Answer: In a word, YES. Several studies published this year suggest diet soda is not the healthiest beverage on the shelf. At the end of each of these individual studies researchers say something like, Hey, this research is not conclusive. This study doesn’t mean that everyone should stop drinking diet sodas… moderation is good… blah, blah, blah. But when you put all these studies together, in my opinion, the fizzy stuff falls flat.
Put down your soda pop for a second and take a closer look at some of this research:
Back in February 2010, doctors at the International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles reported on research showing that people who drink diet soda every day have a 61 percent increase in the likelihood of having a “cardiovascular event.” That research hardly made the news.
Another study looked at 3,000 nurses and found that drinking just two diets sodas a day was associated with a decrease in kidney function. Let me remind you, kidneys are responsible for filtering your body of poisonous toxins. You really want your kidneys in tip top shape to keep yourself “clean” which is why I always harp on you to drink fresh, filtered water.
Drinking “diet” soda begs the question, will it help with weight loss? A study reported in an online issue of Diabetes Care in January 2009 found that people who drink at least one diet soda a day experienced a 36 percent increased risk for developing metabolic syndrome, a disorder that includes the triple threat of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high glucose. Metabolic syndrome almost always includes the condition of obesity. So if you connect the dots, it doesn’t appear that weight loss is a benefit of drinking diet soda. The mechanism behind why people experienced a higher risk for metabolic syndrome wasn’t teased out, nor can we conclude a definitive cause and effect. I can tell you this though, if any natural herb or vitamin was linked to even an inkling of the stuff diet soda is associated with, it would be yanked off the shelves in hours!
If you love soda (diet or regular), make it a special treat, rather than your beverage of choice all day long. Or try one of my natural recipes for soda. You just combine some carbonated (seltzer) water with some grape juice (or root beer flavored stevia drops), and voila, you have a natural fizzy drink. You should also include healthy teas as part of your diet, like Tulsi, Rooibos and Green tea. Why not try juicing? Blend 3 carrots, 2 celery stalks, a slice of ginger, 2 apples and take a swig. It’s good and good for you!
Did You Know?
A new study finds luteolin (which is concentrated in celery) boosts brain power and memory.
My doctor is referring me to a psychologist because I’m having so many bad dreams. These are new for me, and while I believe that dreams are “telling” I can’t help but wonder if it’s something I’m taking. In the last 6 months, I’ve began taking three new prescriptions. Could my drugs have any bearing on my sleep or dream state? –T.H., Denver, Colorado
Answer: Yes, medications can definitely impact the way you sleep, and cause vivid dreaming, lucidness, and even nightmares. There are over 130 medications that can cause nightmares and I’ve posted the list at my website, and this is the link: http://dearpharmacist.com/?p=1702
because I don’t have the room to do so in this printed column. I’ll mention a few of those drugs shortly, but for the moment, let’s talk about nightmares. It’s normal to have them on occasion, but not all the time. I believe that dreams are a way for our unconscious mind to get our attention about a life situation, one that is particularly troubling. They are frightening and often contain emotional content or vivid details that stick with you throughout the day, if not forever. Nightmares are fairly common in children, but they are not usually associated with any underlying psychological problems. About 5 to 8 percent of the adult population, mostly women, have to deal with recurring nightmares. Just FYI, nightmares are considered one of the hallmark symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many war veterans and child abuse survivors can attest to this.
But as I said earlier, medications can trigger nightmares too. Below is a list of some of the most popular drugs or dietary supplements I can think of, that have the potential to affect dreaming. If you see your medication on the list, and nightmares have become troublesome for you, then speak to your doctor about lowering your dose a little bit, switching medication categories, or trying something natural.
Albuterol- a popular inhaler used for asthma or bronchospasm
Alprazolam and diazepam- these medications are used for relaxation or sleep
Amitriptyline and doxepin- two older antidepressants
Statins- a class of medications used to reduce cholesterol
Bisoprolol- a blood pressure drug
Carbidopa/levodopa- used in Parkinson’s disease
Cetirizine- an antihistamine
Citalopram and Escitalopram- two newer popular antidepressant
Fenfluramine- an appetite suppressant used for weight loss
HCTZ (Hydrochlorothiazide)- a popular diuretic used to reduce blood pressure
Levofloxacin- An antibiotic
Melatonin- a natural sleep aid, but excessive amounts can cause nightmares
Mugwort- a natural herb sometimes used to expand consciousness and dream states, as well as for digestive health
Propranolol- used for high blood pressure, migraines and heartbeat irregularities
Zanamivir- inhaled drug used for Influenza
Zolpidem- popular sleep medication
FOR THE COMPLETE LIST OF MEDICATIONS THAT HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO CAUSE BAD DREAMS OR NIGHTMARES PLEASE CLICK HERE
Did You Know?
Researchers just learned that when you get a sunburn, a pain-causing protein called CXCL5 goes way up. Taking an aspirin helps relieve sunburn pain.
DRUGS THAT MIGHT CAUSE NIGHTMARES
Dear Readers The following medications can have an adverse reaction that causes bad dreams, and/or nightmares. One of the most popular classes of medications that did NOT make it to the list below is synthetic hormones, the type used for post-menopausal symptoms or for contraception (pills, patches, shots). There are dozens of medications in this class. Here are the rest of the medications, in alphabetical order by their generic name. I did not list the American brand names, because my readership is Internet-based, and there are just too many brand names used worldwide for me to list. You’ll need the generic (chemical) name of your drug in order to find it on this list. Thanks, Suzy
• Aliskiren; Amlodipine
• Aliskiren; Amlodipine; Hydrochlorothiazide, HCTZ
• Atenolol; Chlorthalidone
• Atropine; Hyoscyamine; Phenobarbital; Scopolamine
• Belladonna Alkaloids; Ergotamine; Phenobarbital
• Bendroflumethiazide; Nadolol
• Bisoprolol; Hydrochlorothiazide, HCTZ
• Carbidopa; Levodopa
• Carbidopa; Levodopa; Entacapone
• Chloral Hydrate
• Dronabinol, THC
• Efavirenz; Emtricitabine; Tenofovir
• Enalapril, Enalaprilat
• Hydrochlorothiazide, HCTZ; Methyldopa
• Hydrochlorothiazide, HCTZ; Metoprolol
• Hydrochlorothiazide, HCTZ; Propranolol
• Latanoprost; Timolol
• Sodium Oxybate
• Trovafloxacin, Alatrofloxacin
It seems my kids spend the summer getting bumped and bruised. Can you recommend a natural remedy to treat all those boo boos? –P.E., Clackamus, Oregon
Answer: Yes, I have just the thing. Not too long ago, a friend of mine took a nasty spill while riding her bicycle. She shared the details of what happened with me, and today, I will share her story with you. My friend’s next-door neighbor asked politely how she was doing after the minor accident, and she confessed to her neighbor that everything hurt.
“I have just the thing,” the neighbor responded and dunked inside her house, emerging a moment later with a jar of calendula cream. Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is an herb that has been used safely all over the world for centuries, specifically for wound healing.
My friend decided to give her neighbor’s cream a try, since she trusted the source. She trusted her because the lady had raised five teenagers who played every sport from soccer to volleyball. If this stuff came with the soccer mom’s seal of approval, it had to be effective.
As my friend relayed her story to me, I became excited to write about it too, since there are no prescription drugs or salves that do all that Calendula can. My friend dabbed the cream on her bruises and scrapes, took a nap and woke up significantly better. Within days, she was as good as new.
This inspired me to research calendula. I wish I knew about it when my children were young. A few European studies have concluded calendula to help soothe wounds and improve healing. It has antifungal, antiviral, and even anti-tumor properties! I think calendula would be fantastic for cradle cap and diaper rashes, or any rash for that matter. You can use it on minor burns, sunburn, bedsores, eczema and poison ivy. A small study proved it can ease the pain of radiation-induced dermatitis. Calendula may improve acne too. Health food stores and online retailers sell calendula in cream, lotions, ointments or tinctures. You’ll see various brands and companies selling it, a few of which include Boiron, Weleda, California Baby and Hyland’s.
If you are creating a first-aid cabinet, I highly recommend you include Calendula. Put it next to your hydrocortisone and tea tree oil. Calendula is so safe you can literally eat the eat the beautiful yellow flowers from which the cream is made, so long as you’re not allergic to flowers in the daisy or marigold family. Calendula extract imparts a beautiful yellow color, so it’s used as a natural coloring agent in cuisines around the world. Lately, I’ve been buying the fresh (and edible version) of flowers from my natural grocer to garnish salads and soups. It makes for a delicious conversation piece at my dinner table.
Did You Know?
Folate found in green leafy veggies (and supplements) was just shown to reduce colon cancer risk.
Answer: If all you waited was 25 minutes, you’re lucky. Pharmacists’ works like crazy, always on their feet and often without bathroom breaks. Forget food! The law doesn’t allow pharmacists a lunch break in many states. That said, your pharmacist is more devoted to you than you can imagine. Here’s a look inside your pharmacy.
I have high blood pressure and heart disease. I’m worried that I’m not doing enough. Do you have any recommendations? –K.S., Denver, Colorado
Answer: Yes. a brand new study conducted at the University of Helsinki in Finland found positive benefits from something very cool, but tart. Lingonberries.
They’re popular in Scandinavia, but you probably haven’t ever tried them, unless you’re lucky enough to have a Swedish grandmother who made you pancakes with a side of lingonberry jam. These bright red arctic berries have been around for centuries, and people squeeze them into juice or jam; sometimes they’re cooked in stew but they’re not eaten raw, because their tartness will make you pucker like cranberries do.
Long ago, Native American Cree people, used the “cowberries” or “partridge berries” in their Canadian homeland, to treat symptoms of diabetes.
The Finnish study, just published in June 2011, reported that lingonberry juice can help protect the delicate endothelial lining of blood vessels in lab animals with high blood pressure. This is important because the force of blood under pressure continually slamming into the walls of blood vessels damages the lining of the vessels, making it easier for plaques to accumulate and contribute to a heart attack or stroke.
Researchers found that high levels of certain phytochemicals (most likely flavonols) in lingonberry juice normalized damage to blood vessel linings in the animals.
Does this mean that lingonberry juice will do the same thing for humans? Possibly. There’s every reason to take advantage of the health benefits of this juice, and others that are packed with antioxidant power. Antioxidants add a ‘protection plan’ to your body, against everything from the common cold to cancer. I wish I could say that about atenolol, metoprolol, nifedipine, lisinopril or any other drug used to reduce blood pressure. There are hundreds. They simply don’t have antioxidant capabilities; I see nothing wrong with combining medication with lingonberry, if your doctor approves.
The Finnish study did not show that lingonberry juice can actually lower blood pressure like medicine, but it might protect those precious blood vessels against the ravages of hypertension and inflammatory chemicals. I mention this only because the new study has been misrepresented online with numerous claims that lingonberry juice lowers blood pressure. Being a journalist myself, sloppy reporting like this drives me nuts. To be clear, if you try the juice and don’t see reductions in your blood pressure, don’t give up because you may lose out on the protection it confers to your arteries.
Canadian researchers are finding definite medicinal properties for the treatment of diabetes. Apparently, lingonberries causes a slight reduction in blood sugar. Other studies have confirmed the anti-microbial effect of berries. Lingonberry juice is kind of new to the US, and found in some natural health food grocers and IKEA stores. It’s readily available online as a juice concentrate.
Did You Know?
Chantix, the anti-smoking pill is now thought to be dangerous for those who already have cardiovascular disease.
I’ve been fighting low- to mid-level depression for years and at the same time trying to avoid becoming dependent on anti-depressant medication. I’ve tried St. John’s wort, and it didn’t help me. Can you recommend another alternative treatment? –D.C. Gainesville, Florida
Answer: Actually, yes. The herb rhodiola (Rodiolia rosea) has been safely used for centuries in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Scandinavia to help people deal with stress and bounce back from debilitating illness. Many herbs have come under the scrutiny of modern science, but researchers are definitely able to validate rhodiola’s traditional uses… and then some. Rhodiola can relieve stress, lift depression and improve attitude. NFL fans, take solace, rhodiola could help you deal with the lock-out!
Rhodiola is a plant that thrives in Siberia and withstands the harshest growing conditions on the planet, so it has to be tough. Remarkably, it can help you withstand ‘harsh’ conditions too, meaning stress! Natives in Siberia and other countries along the Arctic Circle have traditionally reached for rhodiola whenever faced with dauntingly stressful challenges, both physical or mental.
In a 2007 study published in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, researchers gave rhodiola extract to a group people with clinical depression -the kind that requires medical care and constant follow-up. Of the 89 study participants, only the groups which received rhodiola supplements (two different dosages) experienced “a significant anti-depressive effect” over a period of six weeks as compared to the group who were given dud pills. Physical symptoms related to depression improved, such as insomnia, emotional stability and feelings of self-esteem.
It’s just amazing that not one single study participant reported any negative side effects from taking the herb. Did you hear that? ZERO side effects! Mind you, all prescribed anti-depressants currently available come with a whole gamut of potentially devastating side effects, everything from sexual dysfunction to brain fog.
Rhodiola enhances levels of key brain chemicals such as norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. There is research to support it’s benefit on the heart, specifically certain cardiac arrhythmias. You can ask your cardiologist if he/she minds you trying this supplement.
Rhodiola appears to enhance performance of cosmonauts and athletes. And in a Moscow study, scientists gave rhodiola to military cadets who face mentally and physically demanding work, 24/7. The cadets receiving rhodiola performed better on a variety of tasks and experienced much less mental and physical fatigue than those who took the placebo. And get this, I found another study about students taking rhodiola before their exams! It’s a smart pill. The students all had slightly higher scores. Hmm… sounds to me like this could be a good herb to take right before a college-entry exam or a big job interview! Keep in mind, it may take a few weeks for optimal effects.
Did You Know?
Pomegranate juice helps your heart by keeping “nitric oxide” around longer, that’s a good thing.
Are there certain ways to shop and ensure that I buy high-quality supplements? –J.J. Boynton Beach, Florida
Answer: Yes. Here’s some advice that can help you make better selections:
Check for artificial colors- Dyes and Lakes are unnecessary additives to make supplements prettier but many are coal tar derived. Because there is no benefit obtained from artificial colors, I think they should be avoided. The U.S. FDA allows colors because they say they pose no risk when used properly, but I think that depends on who you ask. Some colors like tartrazine (a.k.a. FD&C Yellow 5 or E102) can trigger allergies in people; skin rashes, hives, migraines, nasal congestion, asthma, anxiety, depression or diarrhea. Some colors are are suspected in hyperactivity (ADHD) and DNA damage (think cancer). Colors are frequently used in medications to help distinguish tablets, but less frequently used in supplements. Do you want pretty or pure?
Check for allergy-causing ingredients- I think it’s nice when a maker takes special care to avoid the items that many are sensitive to. Try to avoid wheat, gluten, dairy, corn, soy and sugar. There are many additives, some natural ones too, that can trigger problems. Download a free brochure called “Food Additives” from www.FoodAdditives.org.
Check for USP certification- It stands for “United States Pharmacopeia.” When you’re shopping at your local pharmacy, picking supplements, you sometimes see the three initials, “USP,” printed smack dab on the label which means the product has been certified. By the way, the USP-National Formulary is kind of like a very thick cookbook of sorts that provides directions on manufacturing, disintegration, solubility and testing parameters. What I like about the USP certification process is that it’s a third-party verification program that is recognized as a sign of quality in over 130 countries. I think it’s nice when someone other than the makers is able to certify quality, purity and potency. Just FYI, many good products are USP certified, even though it’s not designated on the label. You can learn more at www.USP.org and in my book, Drug Muggers where I’ve offered you product lists and guidelines to find the highest quality vitamins and minerals based on my 22 years of experience.
Check for bizarre or unnecessary additives- Like high fructose corn syrup, carmine (red bug colorant), or shellac. The insidious thing here is that you can’t always tell what’s actually “added” because it’s done during manufacturing. For example, today on the FDA website, I learned that a big company has amended the food additive regulation to permit the use of hydrogen peroxide (!) in the manufacture of modified whey. If you love whey protein shakes, make sure it’s derived from organic cow’s milk that has never been injected with growth hormones!
Did You Know?
If you’re suffering with itchy watery eyes, conjunctivitis or seasonal eye allergies, try Zaditor eye drops. It used to be prescription, but it’s sold OTC now and it’s strong.
My teenage son’s dermatologist suggested Accutane (isotretinoin) for acne. I looked it up on the Internet and it scared me. Can you suggest some alternatives? –B.A., Orlando, Florida
Any teenager dealing with acne has my compassion. It’s such a difficult age, when they’re trying so desperately to be attractive to peers. You’re reservations regarding isotretinoin are spot on. The medication has potential risks including liver damage, depression, and suicidal ideation; lawyers advertise on TV in order to gain clients. Because it can increase risk of birth defects doctors won’t even prescribe it to young women who could get pregnant. Alternatively, antibiotics such as doxycycline, come with their own set of risks that can lead to long-term health issues such as digestive problems, leaky gut and Candida fungal overgrowth. If you take an antibiotic long-term, you definitely need a probiotic to replenish the healthy flora.
Fear not, I have a few suggestions that have every likelihood of success. My first suggestion is a skin clarifying system called TRIA that zaps the bacteria that cause acne. The heart of this three-step acne clearing system is a blue light that penetrates the skin surface and attacks the pathogens that cause acne. This kit did a terrific job on my son’s skin when he used it, and we could see results the first week. I recommend this product because it is non-medicated, in fact, the clarifying cleanser doesn’t even contain benzoyl peroxide which can be irritating to some individuals.
Now, more about this blue light. It causes a warming sensation on the skin. Blue light treatments are FDA-approved and some dermatologists use this technique in their offices. The TRIA product that I’m suggesting is over-the-counter, but is still professional strength. You can learn more at www.TriaBeauty.com.
Many dermatologists- at least the ones who are behind the times- still maintain that diet has nothing to do with acne breakouts. Nothing is further from the truth according to new medical studies. For more about what to eat to support beautiful, clear skin I strongly recommend picking up a copy of The Clear Skin Diet written by dermatologist Valorie Treloar, M.D., and naturopathic physician Alan C. Logan, N.D. (Cumberland House, 2007).
This book does a good job of outlining what to eat (and what to avoid) to promote clear skin and it offers recommendations for dietary supplements. You could easily implement Dr. Treloar suggestion to avoid dairy products; reason being the hormones used in dairy products adversely affect skin. According to Dr. Treloar, this step alone could go a long way to clear up troubled teenage skin. One more thing, teenage acne, has been tied to low zinc. Supplements of natural zinc lozenges are inexpensive and sold at health food stores nationwide. You might also try dabbing the spots with natural 100 percent Tea Tree Oil.
Did You Know?
A compound in green tea called L-theonine has just been shown to help you focus on your daily activities and stress less.
I take four different medications for blood pressure in the morning. The labels all say, “Take once daily.” Is that the best way to take them? I only ask because I bought a blood pressure monitor and I test myself, and my blood pressure is great all day and rises by nightfall.
–D.F., Hollywood, Florida
Answer: Timing medications is very important, because your body has its own biological clock. At night, melatonin seeps out of your brain to help you fall asleep. The body’s production of growth hormones, antioxidants and neurotransmitters is also ramped up at night. In the morning, your body clock releases cortisol and other ‘stress’ hormones which gently raise blood pressure as you wake up.
I think it’s sensible to take some of your blood pressure meds in the morning and some in the evening. I base my recommendation on research that found some people experience a rise in blood pressure while sleeping, rather than a dip. This dip in blood pressure gives your arteries a little vacation. In healthy people, blood pressure naturally dips about 10 to 20 percent while sleeping. You want to be a dipper because it reduces the overall risk of cardiovascular complications. But as I said, some people don’t dip at night; this phenomena affects at least 10 percent of hypertensive patients, but risk is greater if you have kidney failure to go with that hypertension.
Most people with high blood pressure take multiple meds. There are hundreds available. Among the most common are diuretics (which should always be taken in the morning), ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers or ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers). Now, if you take all of your blood pressure pills in the morning, the effects of some may wear off at about the same time, in the evening. This leaves you more susceptible to higher pressures while you sleep.
Making this one little change, that is, taking one or two of your blood pressure medications at bedtime might help you to experience that dip, which is especially crucial if you’re at high risk for heart attack or stroke. Italian researchers evaluated some people with hypertension and kidney disease. They asked participants to switch one of their drugs from a morning dose to a bedtime dose. In about 60 days, almost all of them (90 percent) experienced an average drop in blood pressure by 7 points, without experiencing any more side effects or spikes in their daytime blood pressure. Not only that, but kidney function improved significantly as well!
A common side effect with blood pressure drugs is orthostatic hypotension so get up very slowly from a sitting or resting position to avoid feeling faint or dizzy. Timing won’t alter your risk for this particular side effect so please be careful. Ask your physician or local pharmacist if spreading your medications apart is right for you.
Did You Know?
A newly identified compound in tangerines called nobiletin helps protect us from atherosclerosis, diabetes and obesity.
Is it safe for me to take calcium supplements? You said on facebook that they might increase heart problems. Why is that? –.N.R., Seattle, Washington
Answer: My post was based on the April 2011 research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that linked cardiovascular events (think heart attack or stroke) increased in older women who took calcium supplements.
Calcium is suggested for post-menopausal women in order to maintain or build bone strength. Recently, researchers looked at data from 16,718 women who were not taking calcium supplements at the start of the famous Women’s Health Initiative trial. They poured over the data and found that women who were already taking calcium and vitamin D supplements at the start of the trial did not have any greater risk of heart attack. In contrast, the women who began taking calcium and vitamin d supplements during the trial, had an increased risk of heart attack. The scientists suspect the trouble occurs because of the abrupt change in blood calcium levels, rather than total intake of calcium. That said, high blood levels of calcium have been linked to hardening of the arteries (calcification), which may partially explain their findings.
Data from 13 different trials (including 29,000 people), consistently points to increased risk of heart attack and stroke, uncannily associated with calcium supplements (with or without vitamin D). This is a hot topic, and some physicians feel strongly that calcium is the master mineral of bone health. I think we need a good study to determine what is going on. For sure, the calcium you get from food sources is highly bioavailable, and hasn’t been shown to cause calcification. The BMJ study refers to supplements and it begs the question, as to what kind of calcium supplements are to blame? Are certain forms better than others? This was not teased out.
For the time being, if you are at risk for cardiovascular complications, or stroke, my suggestion is that you avoid calcium supplements. Get your calcium from food because it is highly bio-available; food-derived calcium improves estrogen balance which protects bone mass. Eat lots of leafy greens, Swiss Chard, kale, kelp, spinach, lettuce and broccoli. Tahini’s good too. I’m not a huge fan of dairy, but this is certainly another option. Don’t forget the obvious, weight-bearing exercise, which will reduce your risk of osteoporosis. If you happen to take a bisphosphonate bone-building medication (Boniva, Actonel or Fosamax), it can reduce levels of calcium so your doctor may suggest this mineral for you, in order to restore levels to normal. Calcium is to be appreciated not feared, but take it only if you are deficient. Refer to my Drug Mugger book to see if you take a medicine that depletes it.
Did You Know?
People with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance are prone to developing osteoporosis because they have trouble absorbing calcium from food.
My cholesterol is high, and my doctor is giving me 3 months before putting me on a statin, which I don’t want to do. Can you offer a natural solution? –C.H., Gainesville, Florida
Answer: You can reduce your cholesterol with diet and exercise alone, did you know that? Most people don’t, they assume they need a pill every day because that is what is prescribed to them. When you’re not pumping iron, blend baby blend. Juicing fruits and vegetables will reduce cholesterol, detoxify the liver and suppress pain-causing chemicals. Try combining fresh carrots, pineapple, celery, parsley, ginger and green apples.
There are many dietary supplements to help you reduce cholesterol. Just promise me you won’t lower it so much that you feel sick, that seems to be an American trend. You need some cholesterol to feel good, and I don’t think that lowering it to the levels currently suggested will necessarily stave off a heart attack. Studies show that it’s not so much cholesterol, but other factors like high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, fibrinogen and homocysteine that play a bigger role in your cardiovascular risk. There are books on the subject, the most recent eye-popping book is Ignore the Awkward by Uffe Ravnskov.
Cholesterol is a powerful antioxidant and it just so happens to be the backbone molecule of some crucial hormones that make us happy and healthy, namely estrogen, testosterone, DHEA, progesterone and brain hormones too. This is why I don’t think lowering it is such a good idea.
Let me focus on red yeast rice, or RYR. This is a dietary supplement and a food as the name implies. Red yeast rice is the product of yeast (Monascus purpureus) and it is grown on rice. Basically, it’s a fungus that grows on rice, but it’s a staple in traditional Asian diets. It contains several compounds known to inhibit cholesterol. The most popular one is known by two different names, either “mevinolin” or “monacolin K” and this particular fungal compound reduces cholesterol by blocking the action of HMG-CoA reductase enzyme in your liver. Years ago, one drug company saw green when they learned about red yeast rice and created the very first billion-dollar blockbuster statin out of it called “Mevacor” sold generically as “lovastatin.” Other names for drugs that contain lovastatin include Advicor, Altoprev and Altocor. Today, we have other sister drugs in the statin class that are stand-alone statins, or combination drugs that contain statins as part of the formula. Some of these include atorvastatin (Lipitor, Caduet), simvastatin (Zocor, Simcor, Vytorin, Lipex), pravastatin (Pravachol), fluvastatin (Lescol), or rosuvastatin (Crestor) just to name a few. More than 200 million prescriptions were written for statins in 2008, and it’s unfathomable to me the amount of money consumers have spent on drugs, when Mother Nature makes her own statin! Obviously medications are stronger than RYR herb, and one advantage you might say is that they are more effective, and they are produced in a US FDA-approved lab under strict production protocols. All that is true.
Red yeast rice contains 14 naturally occurring compounds called monacolins, which block production of cholesterol in the liver. This means blood levels of cholesterol are correspondingly reduced. The FDA has approved the medications above to do the same thing.
The question for many of you is “Will the Red Yeast Rice work as well as my statin drug?” Although RYR is a weaker statin than it’s pharmaceutical cousins, there’s no debate for me. One 2009 study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that the combination of RYR and fish oils lowered cholesterol just as well as Zocor over a 12-week period. The study details were such that the participants received either 40 mg of Zocor, or the combination of fish oils (EPA total of 2,106 mg and DHA total of 1,680 mg) and RYR which contained 5.3 mg monacolin. After 12 weeks, LDL decreased significantly in both groups equally and impressively, the combination of fish oil/RYR group enjoyed a decrease in triglycerides by 29 percent whereas the statins did not lower triglycerides to any significant degree. Let me encapsulate this for you, the cheap dietary supplements outperformed the drug!
It gets better, a study led by two cardiologists, Dr. David Becker, MD and Ram Gordon, MD came up with some more interesting news about RYR. The randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial was published in the June 2009 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine and included 62 patients with high cholesterol. Half the group took 600 mg RYR twice daily for six months. The other half received placebo. After six months, LDL levels decreased on average by 35 mg/dL and total cholesterol went down as well, but only in the group receiving RYR. The placebo group did not see these benefits. Side effects common to statins such as muscle pain, cramps or liver enzyme elevations did not differ between the RYR and placebo groups. In other words, RYR did not cause statin-like problems as one might have expected since it behaves like a natural statin. Just to be clear, it may not have shown statin-like side effects in this one particular study, but that is still a real possibility, depending on the dose you take, and how long you take the RYR.
Red yeast rice is found in many over-the-counter natural cholesterol-lowering supplements worldwide, however there has been constant legal dispute as to whether red yeast rice is a drug or a dietary supplement. I’m not sure why the FDA is so confused, let me clear this up, since my hands are clean. The only drug involved is the one sold at pharmacies! Please. Red yeast rice has been used in China as far back as the Tang Dynasty in 800 A.D. It was used to treat all sorts of ailments, including problems with blood flow, spleen, stomach ailments and pain relief.
The problem as I see it, is getting a high-quality product! That’s tough to do because some products have a pretty label, but the tablets inside come up short. According to a study (http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/170/19/1722 published in the American Medical Associations’ Archives of Internal Medicine 2008, there is a lot of variability in the actual content of monacolins in Red Yeast Rice products. Not only that, but according to this particular study, several formulas were contaminated with “citrinin” a mycotoxin (fungal poison) that is poisonous to man, and damages the kidneys according to animal studies.
There are hundreds of products available from health food stores, pharmacies and online web stores. Picking the right product is crucial, as with any dietary supplement. I spent a lot of money buying these products, and testing and sharing them with my friends and family. And researching my sources. This takes time, and of course it’s impossible to name every single brand that is good but I have done my best to find out what I can so I could share it with you.
My Opinion about Red Yeast Rice Products
If I had to take Red Yeast Rice, the following products are the ones that I would feel safe taking. They contain the active ingredient and withOUT the contaminant of fungal citrinin as far as I can tell. Obviously, I am human and I’ve done the best I can to make this list useful to you but if you know of a product that you are 100% sure to be high-quality and free of contaminants, feel free to email me with the name.
If I needed to take red yeast rice, the following products are the ones that I would feel best taking. These products contain the active ingredient and, as far as I can tell, DON’T contain the fungal contaminant citrinin (a natural by-product of the fermentation process used to produce red yeast rice). Obviously I’m human and I’ve done the best I can to make this list useful, but if you know of a red yeast rice product you are 100% sure to be high-quality and free of contaminants, feel free to email me its name.
These are Red Yeast Rice products I have personally tried and recommend, and I’ll tell you the reasons WHY. By the way, I get no backing from these companies, and the products are listed in no particular order:
“Choleast” by Thorne Research- Choleast is made by a GREAT company that I have written about for many years. Thorne appeals to folks with chemical sensitivities and food allergies, so Thorne never uses artificial colors, preservatives, or magnesium stearate (in case you are sensitive to that filler). A big advantage with this product is that it happens to contain CoQ10 so you don’t have to buy it separately. The disadvantage with Choleast is that you have to ask your doctor to order Thorne products for you, or ask him for his Patient-Assisted ordering password, or you can find a compounding/holistic pharmacy or doctor’s office in your local area that sells it off their shelf. In other words, Choleast is not found in health food stores, it has to be purchased through a doctor because that’s how Thorne operates – they offer their supplements only through physicians or pharmacists, not to general retail public.
“Best Red Yeast Rice” by Doctor’s Best- The advantage of this brand is that it is found easily at most health food stores and it contains a good amount of monacolins, the actual ingredient in RYR that does the work for you. Also, you only need to take it once per day for the typical dosage, which helps with compliance. I would take it with supper.
“Red Yeast Rice” by NOW Foods- This multi-tasking product contains high-quality RYR, plus some CoQ10, and Alpha Lipoic Acid, a powerful liver-loving antioxidant. If that isn’t good enough, it also contains Milk Thistle, a liver-nourishing herb and detoxifier. This is an intelligent combination if you want to reduce cholesterol while also protecting your liver with one single supplement. This product is also relatively easy to find in health food stores.
“NSI Red Yeast Rice” by Nutraceutical Life Sciences- I like a lot of the NSI products and you probably know that if you’ve read my Drug Muggers book or syndicated columns archived at my website. NIS makes formulas that are unique, very affordable, and pure. They are made by the folks who founded Vitacost.com, one of my favorite places to shop online because they discount everything – and who doesn’t love a bargain! I’ve met the people who head up Vitacost and they are very genuine in their quest to produce high-quality products that won’t break your bank. They make another specialty product called “NSI Red Yeast Rice with CoQ10 and No-Flush Niacin, which could add more punch to you cholesterol-reducing efforts.
The following products are ones that I would personally avoid because, as far as I can tell, they might not contain the claimed amount of the natural active ingredient (monacolins), or they have been found to contain too high a level of the fungal contaminant citrinin, or both, so avoid these for the time being:
Red Yeast Rice imported from foreign countries- Manufacturing guidelines and cleanliness cannot always be assured, as with US labs that get FDA-inspected.
Red Yeast Rice by Swanson
Red Yeast Rice by Solaray
Red Yeast Rice by Nature’s Sunshine
Is Red Yeast Rice a Drug Mugger of any nutrients?
Since RYR is a natural statin, then yes, it is a drug mugger of Coenzyme Q10. This means you will need to take about 100 mg CoQ10 every day (or 50mg ubiquinol, the active version of CoQ10) along with the RYR in order to reduce risk of muscle cramps, fatigue and other statin-induced side effects related to CoQ10 depletion. If you want to read more about the drug mugging effects of medications (in general) refer to my book “Drug Muggers” or read this my article: How Drug Muggers Can Slowly Steal the Life Out of You.
RYR is not without side effects, after all, it may be plant-derived but it acts like a drug right? The compounds in RYR are chemically similar to HMG CoA reductase inhibitors (you call them “statins”) and so therefore RYR possesses a similar but weaker side effect profile to those of statin drugs. It’s not that common, but it’s possible that someone taking RYR (or statin drugs) could experience any of the following:
-Elevated hepatic enzymes
-Teratogenesis (birth defects)
-Myopathy (muscle pain)
To be clear, the statins are more likely to cause these types of problems, as compared to RYR, but the point is that RYR acts like a statin and I want you to the potentials are. More likely with RYR, one could experience gastrointestinal complaints such as a dyspepsia, nausea, diarrhea, constipation or flatulence. It’s best to take RYR with a little food and sometimes this mitigates the problem.
Before I end this article, I want to make one thing clear. I am not a doctor and I am not telling you to stop your statin, switch any type of medication or do anything different than what your doctor has ordered. That’s between you two. I’m only offering you information, for you to discuss with your team of health care practitioners, and decide what’s best. RYR is certainly an option that doctor’s should consider, especially in patients who are statin-intolerant, or who experience severe muscle cramps, or are at high-risk for rhabdomyolysis. Consumers may want to consider this too, as it has been shown in clinical trials to reduce cholesterol with fewer side effects than conventional drug therapy.
What Labs Do You Monitor While on Red Yeast Rice?
I would monitor the same exact ones that you do for statin drugs. Again, RYR is a natural statin, and while dangerous side effects are uncommon, I always want you to be on the safe side so monitor your cholesterol levels (which can be done with home test kits, or by your doctor) and also liver function. The reason is that your liver gets taxed when you take drugs that have to be metabolized by the liver. Think of it from the sense that your liver has to break down the drug (or herb) and so it gets taxed. Because statins and RYR work specifically along metabolic pathways in the liver cells, the organ is particularly sensitive to being overworked and taxed to the point of harm. Let’s talk about the “liver function test” for a moment because this is something your doctor has to do for you, using a blood draw from your arm. If you’ve ever taken a statin drug, this liver function test (LFT) has been performed on you. It’s important because the LFT is the test that will determine any kind of liver disease and it measures a few different parameters as part of its profile. So as part of the blood test, your LFT will measure a few things, among them:
Albumin- This is a protein that is made in the liver but floats around in the blood so it can be measured in the blood stream. When the liver is taxed, inflamed or ‘upset’ its ability to produce the albumin goes down. So low levels of albumin may be seen if your liver is taxed.
ALP (Alkaline phosphatase)- This enzyme will be high if you have liver or bone disease. ALP is just an enzyme that is found mainly in liver cells, next to bile ducts.
ALT (Alanine transaminase)- This is another enzyme that speeds up the breakdown of proteins in the body. When the liver is hurt or inflamed, ALT will go up.
AST (Aspartate aminotransferase)- Another enzyme in liver cells, that goes up if you have heart, muscle or liver damage.
Bilirubin- This chemical gives bile it’s yellowish/green color. When there is too much bile in the bloodstream, you can see it in the mirror because you will get jaundiced (that yellow-tint to the skin shows). Bilirubin or more specifically “conjugated’ bilirubin may be high for various intestinal disorders, and slight elevations are usually no big deal, but when it’s really high, it could mean liver injury (or other digestive disorders). This would be measured in the LFT test, or you can get a ‘bilirubin’ done all by itself.
Dosage of Red Yeast Rice
My motto has always been “Stay Low and Go Slow” meaning use the lowest effective dose. It’s better to use a dietary supplement in conjunction with exercise, healthy eating, juicing, and other supplements than to load up with big doses of the next best fad pill (drug or dietary supplement). So in this case, I suggest you start with a lower dose and see how you do. If you are going from a statin drug to RYR (and your doctor has approved you to stop the drug—because by all means I am not telling you to stop your drugs) then go with the dosage on the label or whatever he/she has indicated for you. Keep in mind, RYR is a natural, weaker statin-like herb, it’s not as strong as the drugs you’ve been taking. With that in mind, if you switch from a statin drug to RYR, you will need to do some additional work (as in exercise), this isn’t a magic pill like the drugs where it lowers your cholesterol in spite of what you eat.
For those of you who wish to take RYR, the typical dosage is about 2,000 – 2,400 mg total per day of red yeast rice. Remember, it’s the monacolins that do the work, and this is not always listed on the product.
What Else Can You Do to Lower Cholesterol?
Other amazing ways to keep cholesterol down (other than reducing cheeseburger intake) is to include some of the following natural supplements:
2. Policosanol- (several brands, some good ones are by Solgar, Swanson, NOW, GNC and NSI brand)
*3. Plant sterols- Just like the name says, this is from plants, it’s a natural type of cholesterol which prevents bad cholesterol molecules from being absorbed into your bloodstream. Studies say it can significantly lower LDL cholesterol. A good brand that is easy to find is CholestOff by Nature Made.
*4. Aged Garlic by Kyolic- which is an odorless supplement, but I recommend you eat it too
5. Guggul- a gummy resin from the guggul tree, how cool is that?! This herb can also lower fasting blood sugar, blood pressure, insulin levels and C-reactive protein. Doctor’s Best makes a brand called “Guggulow” which I found on Vitacost website and there are others.
*6. Probiotics- among the best is Dr. Ohhira’s and also take digestive enzymes “Digest Gold” by Enzymedica or KAL’s pancreatic enzymes.
*7. Cayenne Pepper- eat it in guacamole! The avocados give you glutathione, a powerful antioxidant and the dash of cayenne pepper improves blood flow and lowers cholesterol. You can also buy supplements.
*8. Niacin- there cannot be a discussion of cholesterol without mentioning this amazing B vitamin which can help improve blood flow (think Raynaud’s) and also lower cholesterol. It’s well known that niacin enhances the effects of statin drugs that’s why it can (and possibly should) be taken along with statins. But because it lowers cholesterol all by itself, maybe that’s all you need? One study found that niacin alone outperformed lovastatin because it also did wonderful things that the drug couldn’t do. This is all discussed in my Drug Mugger book. I have a whole chapter on the benefits of niacin in my Drug Mugger book sold at Amazon. In fact, niacin just so happens to be mugged by hundreds of drugs leaving you susceptible to rising levels of cholesterol.
There are hundreds of quality makers for niacin sold OTC, as well as a drug version called Slo-Niacin which is fine as well. Niacin as a non-flush formula and that’s fine to take too, but do not exceed recommended dosages on the label.
* These should be fine to take along with your statin cholesterol drug, and perhaps when the time is right, your physician will reduce or eliminate your medicine.
Did You Know?
A new April 2011 study by researchers at Florida State University has found that women who consume apples every day can lower their LDL cholesterol by up to 23 percent over 6 months.
The Best-Selling Drugs In America
According to data provider IMS Health, these are the top-selling medicines in the United States. Figures in billions of dollars.
4-Advair Diskus ®
Spiriva® Handihaler ®
I’m plagued by urinary tract infections (UTIs) and I hate the side effects of the Septra antibiotic that I take daily. I’ve heard that drinking cranberry juice cocktail can help. Should I try that? –B.K., New York City
Answer: Chronic UTIs are miserable. You’ve no sooner escorted one out the door, than a new infection rears its ugly itch. It’s hard to believe that something delicious can help prevent such a painfully persistent disease, but cranberries get the job done. Women – and it is mostly women- who experience the itching, burning and pain of recurrent UTIs are motivated to try just about anything to gain comfort and avoid sulfa antibiotics such as “Septra DS” or “Bactrim.”
Studies prove that UTI-causing bacteria adhere easily to the bladder and urinary tract of chronic sufferers. FYI, if you are prone, this could be a sign of diabetes. Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) actually helps prevent bacterial adhesion.
Researchers in Australia and Scotland recently reviewed the results of numerous scientific studies and gave cranberry a thumbs-up as a preventive treatment. I think they can help you, but you sill may need your antibiotic for a while longer. Please don’t destroy your gut with antibiotics. Protect yourself with a high-quality probiotic to replace the beneficial bacteria that gets killed off by your antibiotic. There are many. I personally take “Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotic” because it helps me grow my own “flora fingerprint,” rather than taking a gazillion organisms that may (or may not) be part of my personal gut microflora. We are all individuals when it comes to gut bugs. See last week’s column for more on that, posted at my website. Eat sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir to help restore probiotics with food.
I read a new study at NutraIngredients.com about cranberries that studied 60 women aged 18 to 40, over 90 days. The participants received either placebo, 500 to 1,000 mg of whole cranberry powder each day. When the urine was cultured, there was a 25 – 45 percent reduction in E. Coli bacteria after 10 days in the group that took cranberry, and this was maintained for weeks. The control group should no improvement.
I’m not fond of “cocktails” because they contain sugar which promotes infection. But drinking pure cranberry juice straight is a decidedly mouth-puckering experience. Try diluting it with sparkling water, or add 2 tablespoons of pure juice to your water bottle each day. I think supplements are ideal because they contain concentrated amounts of the healing compounds (proanthocyanidins) which offer other health benefits such as lowering cholesterol, controlling weight, reducing H. pylori infections (ulcers) and even preventing gum disease. “D-Mannose” is another cranberry-related supplement that is enormously helpful. Avoid perfumed soaps, stay hydrated, wipe from front to back and wear cotton undies. Drinking stinging nettle tea during infections is important. And finally, a medicine called phenazopyridine (brand names are AZO Standard and Cystex) are sold OTC at pharmacies nationwide; these immediately relieve pain.
Answer: The National Headache Foundation identifies twenty types of headaches, ranging from simple tension headaches to the dreaded migraine. What they have in common is that they all drive you nuts to one extent or another. But research suggests that nuts is good—or “are” good, in this case. It’s been discovered that almonds, for instance, contain salicin which, when consumed, forms salicylic acid, the primary by-product of aspirin metabolization. We all know what aspirin’s for- don’t we? This is why your dad feels better eating them.
Anecdotal evidence has some headache sufferers claiming that eating almonds daily has a cumulative effect. In other words, regular headaches might become less severe and/or disappear gradually with regular consumption of almonds. Over time, eating 10 to 15 almonds per day might give you relief from that jackhammer in your head.
Besides the natural pain pacifier they already contain, almonds are rich in magnesium, a mineral that helps to lessen nerve excitability and increase muscle relaxation. They provide even higher amounts of vitamin E, potassium, and manganese, and a little bit of copper, riboflavin, zinc and phosphorous. Even though a quarter cup of almonds contains 18 grams of fat, eleven of those are the heart-healthy monounsaturated kind. What’s more, emerging research suggests that eating almonds does not result in weight gain, and may even contribute to weight loss due to the nut’s tendency to cause a feeling of fullness after eating them. So next time you feel a headache coming on, go ahead and get a little nutty- with almonds.
Cool New Products for Your Health and Happiness
I visited the Natural Products Expo West trade show in California to find cool, new supplements, foods and cosmetics. Some of them are so new, you’ll have to ask your health food store to stock. These were may faves:
Irey Ice Cream by Pure Market Express: The booth exhibitors should have honestly called security to get rid of us, Sam and I just hung around, nashing on all their samples! Made from coconut water, this incredible snack offers guilt-free indulgence for people watching their weight. www.puremarketexpress.com
Ultimate Lash and Brow Serum by MyChelle: This natural lash builder creates thicker, fuller lashes within weeks. It combine apple fruit stem cells along with “myristoyl pentapeptide” which was shown to increase lash length/thickness over 70 percent after 6 weeks. www.mychelle.com
Gluten free Pizza by Simply Shari’s: My husband has searched for years, and this wins his approval. The flaky crust tastes like regular pizza and the sauce/toppings are delish. www.simplysharis.com If it’s a pizza wrap you crave, go to www.glutenfreeda.com.
Cinnamon Vanilla Personal Lubricant by Good Clean Love: This moisturizes sensitive areas, reduces vaginal dryness and it’s free of parabens, glycerin, silicon and petroleum. The company’s entire product line and motto is “Chemistry without chemicals” and they mean it. www.goodcleanlove.com
Nogii Bars: Created by The View’s Elizabeth Hasselback and her husband Tim, former NFL quarterback. Their family is gluten-free, and I sampled her “Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel Crisp.” Amazing, and free of HFCS, trans fats, hydrogenated oils. ” www.nogii.com
Danielle Crispy Fruit Chips: I could go broke buying these, they are crazy good and totally natural… like two ingredients, the fruit and a non-hydrogenated oil! No trans fats, gluten-free and exotic flavors like Honey Banana, Tangy Pineapple and Sweet Jackfruit. www.daniellechips.com
Hugo Naturals Fizzy Bath Bombs: Hugo’s products are super pure- no parabens, PEG’s, petroleum or artificial anything. The new, natural bath “bomb” dissolves in your tub releasing minerals and pure essential oils like lavender/chamomile for relaxation. Their styling gel tames frizz and makes your hair manageable/shiny. www.hugonaturals.com
PowderColors by Honey Bee Gardens: Gorgeous eyeshadow colors. Department store brands often contain cheap fillers, talc, FD&C dyes and parabens. Honey Bee’s is pure, made of colorful minerals and the subtle shimmer lights up your eyes all day. I like how it stays on my lid, not on my cheek. www.honeybeegardens.com
Baking Mixes by Lauralicious: If you have food sensitivities, make this your new baking line. The chocolate chip cookies are scrumptious, and her entire line -including pancake/waffle mix- is safe for people who avoid soy, eggs, wheat, gluten, peanuts and dairy. www.mrslauralicious.com
Chimes Ginger Chews: Ginger eases nausea, vertigo, morning sickness, stomach cramps and joint pain/inflammation. These candies have the texture of a gummy bear but they are made of ginger and flavored naturally. I like the tropical mango flavor. www.chimesgourmet.com
This article is the longer, extended version of my syndicated column
I have been experiencing what my cardiologist calls “benign” arrhythmias for 2 years. They come and go, and I am unable to link them to any activities, foods or medicines. We’ve tried digoxin and beta blockers, which didn’t work. He says he can fix them with ablation and a pacemaker or just leave them alone for now. Sometimes they make me lightheaded and I get frightened. Do you think I should do the procedure? –S.C., Boulder, Colorado
Answer: I feel a second opinion is in order, perhaps you need to see an “electrophysiologist” which is a a cardiologist who specializes in electrical disturbances of the heart, or a neurologist to see if these are related to your vagus nerve or some other aberrant nerve problem. I insist that you figure out WHY you have the arrhythmia. They may be “benign” in the sense that they haven’t caused cardiac arrest, but they’re not benign when it comes to quality of life.
The standard of care in America includes the two procedures he refers to, ablation which is sort of like ‘burning’ one of the nodes in your heart, and installation of a pacemaker which forces your heart to beat in rhythm. For sure, some people benefit from these procedures, but they do not improve mortality rates for everyone. Personally, I wish that testing RBC magnesium was routinely done before performing all the procedures. A deficiency of magnesium is a contributing factor in heart attack and it’s often given IV to resuscitate a person whose flat lined- that’s how important it is!
I just bang my head trying to figure out why it hasn’t become the “standard of care” to determine underlying cause of heart disease before all the invasive irreversible procedures like ablation, angioplasty, stenting and pacemakers! No doubt in my mind, these have procedures have a place and can save lives, but is it ever wrong to Check for simple imbalances of essential minerals, amino acids and so forth?
Let me tell you why I’m so passionate about this. Recently, I went to the cardiologist with a friend of mine who had been experiencing a similar arrhythmia as yours. He was offered the same procedure by his cardiologist. On my recommendation, he saw a functional medicine physician afterward, who ordered a blood test to evaluate his micronutrient status. Lo and behold, he was found to be deficient in taurine and magnesium.
Taurine is a natural amino acid, and magnesium is a mineral, both of these were purchased at the health food store along with an herbal supplement of hawthorn extract. His heart sank into a near-perfect rhythm within two weeks, after suffering for almost two years. Had he gone for the ablation procedure, he would have become pacemaker dependent and the underlying deficiencies would have gone undetected. In this particular case, it would have literally left him a ticking time bomb, pacemaker and all because the deficiencies would have gone uncorrected. The first cardiologist wanted to hear nothing of this discovery. Shame on him for not wanting to learn!
There are a number of reasons that one may experience arrhythmias such as nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, stress, candida albicans, infections and even medications. The condition of hyperthyroidism could cause it, as can dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. All of these factors come into play, and should be considered as possible causes before invasive procedures are done. Let me share more about some heart-healthy nutrients so you can discuss them with your cardiologist:
Aged Garlic Extract by Kyolic- A recent UCLA study found that this supplement slows and may even reverse atherosclerosis, even in people with moderate plaque build up. Aged garlic is a rock star when it comes to heart health, over 650 scientifically peer-reviewed papers on it. When you go to the health food store, you will see about a dozen different Aged Garlic products made by Kyolic. Kyolic is the only manufacturer of aged garlic, which is a much more effective (scientifically-backed) form of garlic than formulas which contain just “allicin” or “alliin” for example. These products only contain a standardized extract of one or two components of garlic and this does not do the job the way aged garlic does, the whole herb.
There are two products that I think are good when it comes to the heart specifically. The first one is called “Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract” which uses 100% organically grown garlic bulbs and they are aged using a unique extraction process to eliminate odor (what the company calls “sociable garlic” because it’s odorless. (http://www.kyolic.com/
Take 2 capsules twice daily with food. The other product is called “Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract Blood Pressure Health, Formula 109” and this is a blend of the same Aged Garlic plus nattokinase (a natural enzyme that thins the blood and could help prevent stroke/heart attack) as well as SunTheanine which is a brand of L-theanine (an extract of green tea) that slows down heart rate. You can take 2 capsules twice daily with food for this supplement too.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)- This antioxidant lives in the heart and generates a spark of ATP, or energy. It stabilizes your heart beat by maintaining sinus rhythm. It prevents and may reverse symptoms of congestive heart failure. Your heart can’t survive without CoQ10. You can now buy the active form of this nutrient as “ubiquinol.” Statins and blood pressure pills are drug muggers of this nutrient. You should refer to my Drug Mugger book to read the chapter on CoQ10 and see over 200 drugs which steal it. For pennies a day, you can put back what medication stole. (Link to Amazon: Drug Muggers There are hundreds of studies to support the benefit of CoQ10 on heart muscle function and it’s ability to improve heart failure symptoms
Dr. Peter Langsjoen, a pioneer in the field of cardiac research and CoQ10 found that 51% of patients were able to stop 1 to 3 antihypertensive medications after 4 and 1/2 months of starting CoQ10 therapy. The dosage of CoQ10 varies widely, and since there are few if any adverse events, it’s okay to play around with the dose. Give it a week or two before upping your dosage. It ranges from 50 mg – 200 mg daily (in divided doses so you could easily do 50 mg 4 times a day, or 100 mg twice daily, etc.) You could also take a lower dose if you get the more active body-ready form of “ubiquinol” and take about 100 mg daily.
L-carnitine- Works in tandem with CoQ10, this amino acid helps prevent premature ventricular contractions (PVCs). If you can find “Propionyl L-carnitine” this version targets the heart. Carnitine is a potential treatment for intermittent claudication. A large, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial used Propionyl L-carnitine in 271 heart failure patients, while placebo group (266 patients received an inactive supplement. Exercise tolerance was improved in the heart failure patients who received the carnitine. Dosage varies between 1,000 – 3,000 mg per day in divided dosages.
Taurine- The most abundant amino acid in the heart, it improves contractions, maintains potassium levels in the heart and dampens down the sympathetic nervous system. It is directly involved in heart rhythm and may help with PACs, PVCs, pauses and tachycardia. Aspartame is a drug mugger of this nutrient. Low taurine levels are observed in patients who have had a heart attack so it stands to reason that a deficiency could be contributory, at least to some degree. Taurine levels may drop to one-third normal levels after ischemia/necrosis. Taurine protects the heart by stabilizing membraines, reducing free radicals and this protects the starving heart from reperfusion-induced arrhythmias too. Docs in hospitals have used IV taurine to prevent arrhythmias caused by digitalis drug. Buy taurine at any health food store, take anywhere from 500 mg – 3,000 mg per day. Some studies suggest more is okay but with any good thing (especially if you combine with other heart-healthy supplements or medications) using the lowest effective dose is best.
Physicians and consumers who want a little more information about taurine can read about some case studies regarding the benefits of oral taurine with L-Arginine on arrhythmias and stabilization of the sinoatrial node” at this link: “Elimination of Cardiac Arrhythmias
Magnesium glycinate or “chelate”- If you have Afib, you are likely mag deficient! The use of magnesium is helpful because it lowers blood pressure, reducing risk of stroke, plus it functions in the electrical circuitry of the heart. It’s useful for people with angina and atherosclerosis. Conventional blood tests will be normal, don’t bother. It’s the intracellular level you want, so ask for a “RBC magnesium” level. It could take 6 months to normalize, shoot for 600 – 800 mg daily, and work your way up. If oral supplements bother you, apply Ancient Minerals Magnesium Oil to your skin. This is a topical form of magnesium and it goes right through the skin into your bloodstream bypassing the gut.
Arginine- You can’t talk about coronary artery disease without the mention of this amino acid, which works in tandem with taurine. Arginine widens the blood vessels, allowing for more blood flow throughout the body. Those two together could be of tremendous benefit for someone with cardiac arrhythmias. There is some information on the Internet about how one should NOT take arginine if they have had a heart attack, but I explain in my Diabetes Without Drugs book why this study is so incredibly flawed and why I believe it’s okay to use arginine to reduce risk of a second heart attack (of course with your cardiologists approval). This is thoroughly explained in my book. I hate how the media jumps on one study and scares people away from nutrients that might otherwise save (or extend their life), and certainly improve quality of life (reduce those painful, scary angina attacks). Follow label directions. Arginine is sold widely in the US, and available in pharmacies and health food stores nationwide. There is a long-acting form sold under the brand name Perfusia SR manufactured by Thorne Research.
Ribose- A naturally-occurring sugar that the body uses to make ATP, your energy molecule. Ribose improves blood flow and provides much-needed oxygen to the heart. Ischemia may cause the heart to lose up to 50% of energy. The problem is that even if blood flow and O2 levels are restored to normal, it takes a week to 10 days to rebuild cellular energy and to normalize cardiac function, so basically, your heart could be starving for days, even after the ischemia (stubborn angina) attack. When people with CAD (coronary artery disease) are given D-ribose, symptoms improve faster. Dr. Stephen Sinatra spearheads a lot of the work on ribose. Ribose can’t really be measured, so it’s not something you can evaluate in a person, even with micronutrient testing, but this doesn’t mean it can’t help you. It’s specifically good for people with fatigue (heart disease or not) because ribose is food for the mitochondria (which makes energy).
Patients with heart disease on drugs intended to increase the contractile strength of their heart are also good candidates for D-ribose. These drugs, known as inotropic agents, make the heart beat harder. This places considerable strain on the heart’s ability to supply enough energy to support the extra metabolic stress. Long-term treatment with these agents drains the energy reserve, essentially running the heart out of energy. Patients with heart failure, chronic coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathy should take D-ribose to offset the energy-draining effects of inotropic drugs such as digoxin. Research shows that supplementation reduces the energy drain without any negative impact on the activity of the drug. People who are weak, or constantly fatigued or short of breath could benefit, and naturally, this includes those with congestive heart failure. I buy the Jarrow brand, it’s a powder so I can gauge my dose better, and use it in smoothies. It tastes great. The dosage for this is 1 – 3 scoops per day.
Fish Oils- There are books on the subject! This is a no-brainer, helps reduce inflammatory compounds in the body, reduce triglycerides and regulate production of cholesterol. Essential fatty acids are not produced in the human body and they help to maintain healthy cell membrane function (meaning they let good nutrients into the cell and takes out waste), promote nervous system health, improve immunity and support hormonal function. Thankfully, nowadays most health experts (physicians) are fine with people who decide to take essential fatty acids such as fish oils. Dosage varies widely, from 500 mg – 5,000 mg daily, in divided doses and with food of course. I’ve been taking plant-based oils, Dr. Ohhira’s Essential Living Oils and enjoying the effects of this brand with more supple skin, perfect cholesterol ratios and awesome monthly cycles. The oils are cold-pressed and the makers use plants and seeds that are non-GMO (not genetically modified). It is a combination of sunflower, avocado, rice bran, flax, green tea oil, olive, perilla and borage oil; it makes the perfect vegan alternative to fish oils.
There are various tests available today, among the best, the Cardio/ION by Metametrix and the NutrEval by Genova Diagnostics. There is no excuse for a doctor to NOT order these tests for you, since they are returned with a complete interpretation and the labs are staffed with scientists and physicians to help your doctor learn and recommend specific nutrients for you. FYI, it costs your doctor nothing to order these tests and your insurance may even cover a portion. For more on that, refer to their respective websites above.
To submit your own question to Suzy Cohen, visit www.DearPharmacist.com
This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. The products listed above are for nutritional support only and are not intended to cure, prescribe, diagnose, or replace proper medical advice. Please check with your nutritionally aware doctor or cardiologist. If you are having a serious medical problem, please seek proper medical attention.
I could probably write a regular “I Told You So” column because new research keeps showing up that backs up advice that I’ve been giving for years. If you are among the 21 million people in this country who take a PPI (proton pump inhibitor) used for blocking acid in the stomach, then read on.
These medications are prescribed for treating ulcers, serious heart burn, and other digestive problems. The most popular medications in this class are called Nexium, Aciphex, Prevacid, Protonix, Zergerid and Prilosec. A few of these are sold over-the-counter, by their brand name, or as a store-brand generic. These drugs shut down acid production, 24/7 and they get the job done but at a price.
The FDA is now going to require warning labels on all of these drugs stating that they rob your body of magnesium (hypomagnesemia) and that it could lead to severe adverse effects. Finally! I’ve been sounding the warning for years about magnesium depletion from taking acid blockers, and dozens of other drugs! I actually wrote the book on ‘drug muggers!’ I’ll warn you again, these drugs deplete your body of other minerals, and B vitamins too! Thousands of drugs are mugging you of essential micronutrients, and this is what causes side effects!
Your heart needs magnesium to pump and to manufacture happy brain neurotransmitters. Your muscles need it in order to tense and relax. Magnesium helps make red blood cells and it sends messages along your nerves properly. It helps you form DNA, the genetic material that encodes who you are. It helps your immune system defend you from germs and it maintains bone integrity. If you take acid blockers (or antacids) for more than six months, bet your bottom dollar you’re clean out of minerals and B vitamins, not to mention your beneficial gut flora.
Does all this mean that you should stop taking your medicine? No, do whatever you and your doctor agree upon. I’m just saying you should “marry” your acid blocking medication with a powerful trace mineral supplement and B complex each day. Or, you could take spirulina tablets instead, which offer a more bioavailable version of all your B vitamins and minerals in one tablet. To help ensure good nutrient status, please eat (or juice) lots of green leafy vegetables.
Explore natural remedies for heartburn and reflux. I’ve archived some articles at my website HYPERLINK “http://www.SuzyCohen.com” www.SuzyCohen.com that will help you find nutrients such as DGL, triphala, betaine or glutamine which may help.
The topic of drug muggers is of major league importance. Your comfort, if not your life depends on you learning what nutrients are depleted by your medications, and it’s easy to correct. Check out my book Drug Muggers: Which Medications Are Robbing Your Body of Essential Nutrients—And Natural Ways to Restore Them. It’s your side effect solution.
Heart disease runs in my family so naturally, I’m worried. A friend told me that brushing your teeth can prevent heart disease. I was polite, but I don’t believe him. Can this be true? –K.M., Sanibel, Florida
Answer: You’re friend is right so how important is oral hygiene? In a word, very. In 2005 researchers at Columbia University Medical Center found that the bacteria that grow in your mouth (promoting the formation of plaque on your pearly whites and causing gum disease) are the exact same germs that contribute to plaque forming in your arteries to cause heart disease. Sounds to me like a darned good reason to brush and floss each day. If you avoid bacon because of cholesterol concerns, I actually found bacon-flavored dental floss on the Internet!
Earlier this year, researchers in London published a study that lends major support to the recommendation to keep the mouth clear of plaque. The researchers looked at results from the Scottish Health Survey, which collected health data from more than 11,000 men and women, a representative sampling of the general population of Scotland. Over a period of eight years the researchers recorded 555 cardiovascular “events,” 170 of which were fatal. When I say “events” I mean heart attacks, strokes and similar problems.
Now here’s where the study gets really interesting, from a tooth-brushing point of view. Even allowing for things like smoking, obesity, and poor diet, the London researchers found that those who reported that they seldom or never brushed their teeth were 70 percent more likely to experience a cardiovascular event than those who paid greater attention to dental care. Seventy percent!
It’s so easy to brush and floss your teeth, and it impacts the health of your most important muscle. Even people with dentures have to be vigilant about plaque formation, you are not immune. Everyone should visit a dental hygienist twice a year for a thorough exam and cleaning. I’m shy about x-rays, so I just opt for the cleaning when I go. A good dentist office will respect your wishes and not pressure you for x-rays each time.
Here’s another idea to make your mouth healthier and less of a host to plaque forming bacteria. Scrape your tongue! You can buy a tongue scraper at any pharmacy and all you have to do is use it after you brush your teeth. Draw the scraper gently down your tongue a few times, and rinse it after each scrape. That brownish white gunk that comes off your tongue? That’s mostly bacteria. Flushing that down the sink is much better than swallowing them. This is great for people with bad breath too. For under ten dollars you can get a new toothbrush, tongue scraper and floss, the pay-off is that you’re protecting your ticker while making yourself more kissable. What’s not to love?!
Did You Know?
A new study suggests that taking ibuprofen two or three times per week may cut your risk for Parkinson’s disease.
The loss of life and devastation in Japan is horrific, and the effects of the nuclear crisis will last many years. You may need to protect yourself so today I’m offering ways to help you because radiation poisoning is dangerous. It comes with heavy metal burdens, think strontium, cesium and uranium, not just the classic metals you know of like aluminum, mercury, lead and arsenic. Once absorbed, these metals permanently damage all your organs, especially the heart, brain, reproductive organs, nervous system and thyroid gland. Here are options to help pull metals out of the body and improve detoxification, in no particular order:
Zeolite- This is a clay that helps the body get rid of heavy metals, radiation, and other stored toxins that hide in the body. Many brands sold nationwide at health food stores.
Pectasol Chelation Complex by Econugenics- Capsules derived from citrus pectin and sodium alginate (from seaweed). This product gently removes heavy metals binding them, and other toxins from your intestines. After the Chernobyl disaster, pectin reduced radioactivity among children with elevated readings by more than fifty percent. Sold in some health food stores and online. www.econugenics.com
Spirulina Pacifica by Nutrex-Hawaii- A powerful antidote of sorts. This blue-green algae could reduce urine radioactivity levels by up to 50 percent in 20 days according to a 1993 report. The Institute of Radiation Medicine concluded “Use of spirulina decreases radioaction dose load received from food contaminated with Cesium-137 and Strontium-90.” Being a superfood, it also provides nourishment if you don’t have real food to eat. Hawaiian spirulina is sold at health food stores and online. www.nutrex-hawaii.com
Iodine- It’s most useful in the early stages of exposure. Oral supplements of iodine are clean out nationwide, but kelp is a source that may still be available. You can get your iodine from food sources, like nori (thin, dried seaweed sheets used in sushi), sea vegetables like arame, kelp and hijike. Eat sea weed (like wakame) and natural salts like Celtic, Himalayan and Alaea salt.
Detoxamin by World Health Products- These are suppositories that contain EDTA, a chelating agent that has been clinically proven to remove a broad range of toxic metals from the body. Adult and pediatric dosages available. Sold online or from a doctor’s office and more information at detoxamin.com. www.detoxamin.com
Beta Glucan- An extract from the amazing medicinal Maitake mushrooms, beta glucan has long been prized for its ability to protect and restore health after you’ve taken radiation or chemo. Sold by many brand names nationwide.
American Ginseng- It’s a stress buster, that contains ginsenosides and polysaccharide glycans. A study published in May 2010 suggests ginseng has radioprotective effects on human lymphocytes. It scavenges free radicals (toxins). Sold nationwide at health food stores by various companies.
NAC- This nutrient is N-acetylcysteine, and in the body it forms glutathione inside the cell, where you want it! Glutathione is a master antioxidant. Get NAC supplements or get this amino acid from protein shakes like whey, rice or hemp.
My wife made a resolution this year to eat healthy, but she loves candy and chocolate. Is there any compromise because I want to surprise her with something delicious without sabotaging her diet? –S.H., Dallas, Texas
Answer: Ah, Valentine’s Day, when women’s fancy turns to thoughts of… chocolate! And for that matter, men also shop for those scrumptious treats. After all, once a man splurges on a big, beautiful red box of chocolates, he often gets to sample the goodies. (The ones in the box too.)
I’ll bet you think I’m going to tell you not to indulge, or to eat carob “chocolates” instead. Nope! Fact is, I love chocolate. I will work for chocolate! And your body benefits from it. This is news to many, but chocolate is seriously good for you. It’s so good for you that (provided you limit yourself to a piece or two of the healthy sort) you could definitely consider it a guilt-free indulgence.
Chocolate is made from the beans of the cacao tree which contain hefty amounts of antioxidants that protect against heart disease and cancer. Studies show compounds in chocolate can boost good cholesterol, lower blood pressure and help prevent blood clots. Theobromine, found in chocolate improves blood flow to the heart.
In 2006, Harvard University researchers reviewed a number of scientific studies and found multiple health benefits of dark chocolate giving this yummy treat a big thumbs up. I’m betting their other four fingers were wrapped around a truffle.
Why did they concentrate their queries on dark chocolate? The rule is, the darker the chocolate, the higher the percent cacao it contains. Cacao is the antioxidant-rich powdery substance that results when cacao beans are dried. I always want you to choose bars that contain 65 – 85% cacao. Milk chocolate contains fewer, if any of these powerful antioxidants. And white chocolate? Forget about it, it doesn’t even rank!
Chocolate is a love drug. It increases psychoactive feel-good compounds, the very same ones that your brain makes when you fall in love, have an orgasm or use cannabis. Chocolate really does have good chemistry going for it. Oh la la! And if you get addicted, it’s perfectly legal. Why wait for Valentine’s when you could enjoy this every night?
Candy bars merely coated with chocolate and jam-packed with sugar, artificial flavors and partially hydrogenated oils are fake to me. Avoid or minimize truffles stuffed with maple, raspberry and vanilla “cream.” Those are usually sugar-laden caloric bombs.
If you want to do your honey a real favor on Valentine’s Day, forgo the fake chocolate and instead splurge on a small box or bar of high-quality dark chocolate. It’ll cost about the same, but it will say “I love you” in a sweeter way. Another healthy alternative is to buy an edible bouquet of strawberries or make your own edible arrangement of fresh fruits, and then fondue dark chocolate for dipping.
You’ve mentioned that cayenne pepper is very healing for the stomach and can prevent ulcers. How can that be? I thought chili pepper would burn a hole in your gut faster than you could say, “hot chili pepper.” Not so?
Answer: Not so. While capsaicin—the heat-causing compound found in varying degrees in all chilies—would most likely light up an existing ulcer, it’s nevertheless been shown to destroy the ulcer-causing H. pylori bacteria while also helping certain cells squirt out juices that buffer the gastrointestinal tract’s lining and prevent lesions from forming in the first place.
Pathogenic tummy bugs aren’t the only bad boys capsaicin likes to burn. In a recent study headed by Dr. Phillip Koeffler at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, it was discovered that capsaicin seduces prostate cancer cells into committing suicide—figuratively speaking, makes them blow their DNA brains out. More specifically, the research team found that in mice, prostate tumors treated with capsaicin wound up one-fifth the size of similar untreated tumors.
A Korean study showed that even the cells of the deadly skin cancer, melanoma, are likewise vulnerable to capsaicin’s deadly charms. So even though our little Ms. Capsaicin isn’t a very discriminating seductress, she’s apparently a really hot one! The pepper’s heat doesn’t come from the seeds, as is commonly assumed. It comes from the placenta, the white-colored strips lining the inside of the pod. The tiny sacs containing the hot stuff are produced there along with the seeds. These sacs (or vesicles) tend to burst easily, spewing their hell-raising elixir onto the totally innocent seeds. In the body, the heat-causing capsaicin numbs your sense of pain by blunting the effects of “Substance P,” a pain-causing chemical in the body.
Commercial capsaicin products are sold nationwide in patch form, gel, cream and roll-on. Even the powdered spice makes a great home remedy. I learned about it the hard way, after I cut my finger while chopping onions. I bled for hours! To stop bleeding, all you need is pure cayenne powder, look in your spice rack. Just sprinkle a tiny amount of it, onto a bandage or gauze and apply it to the bleeding cut. Bleeding should stop within a minute.
Also cool (or I guess I should say, hot) is that eating fresh peppers helps you lose weight. The non-exercise thermogenesis (heat production) caused by ingesting peppers can cause a moderately active 38 year-old man to burn up to 600 extra calories a day. That’s nearly twice the number of calories the same man would burn during an hour-long bout of lovemaking! So next time you’re looking to add a little spice to your life, make a date with a chili pepper.
Did You Know?
Laughing sparks weight loss. One to two hundred belly laughs a day is the equivalent of a high impact workout and burns off up to 500 calories.
We’re at the peak of the cold and flu season right now, and if you feel like you’re encircled by an army of hostile viruses, it’s because you are. I’ve been inundated with your emails about what you should do or take to prevent falling ill.
The single most important thing you can do to prevent colds and flu, believe it or not, is to wash your hands well and often. Now, those of us in the health care professions were taught to use hot, soapy water and scrub for at least 15 seconds. That’s what you should do. But how should you dry your hands?
Never, ever use the blow dryers found in restrooms. Through the years several scientific studies have shown that drying one’s hands with a blow dryer as opposed to paper towels actually increases the number of germs on your hands. I know the studies were all done by counting bacteria rather than viruses, and fungus, but germs all hang together. Misery loves company as they say.
Studies in the past have shown a four-fold increase in the number on people’s hands after using a blow dryer. Shocking! One recent study, done in London in 2009, found that people who used a blow dryer to dry their hands had two to three times as many bacteria on their hands as they did before washing them. Not only that, many of the bacteria were pathogenic—that is, they were the kind of bacteria that can cause disease.
The key problem is that the vents and bottoms of dryers in public bathrooms get contaminated with regular use. The dryers are kept in a warm, moist place—precisely the kind of environment that bacteria, fungus and viruses need to thrive. The dryers never get hot enough to kill the germs, just warm enough to help them multiply and thrive. In fact, the studies also found that the warm air from dryers actually helps disperse the pathogens all around the room. I’m boycotting public restrooms this week, between the toilets flushing germs all over the place, and the hand dryers blowing, I think I’ll just hold it in, LOL.
Based on the science, it’s actually better to leave the restroom with wet hands than use the blow dryer. Carry your own paper towels or just shake your hands off. And if I don’t already sound too neurotic, don’t touch the door handle on the way out. Remember, that’s touched by all the people who didn’t bother to wash their hands after changing a tampon, going #2 or whatever. I’m banishing the thoughts from my head immediately.
Keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your purse or pocket. Resist touching your nose and mouth. And power up your immune system. I have a brand new article on natural remedies for cold and flu that I’m releasing soon. To get it, sign up for my free newsletter at my website because it won’t be printing in the newspaper: www.SuzyCohen.com
Dear Pharmacist, I attended a lecture of yours, and you announced to the audience, “I want you all to eat an onion today to keep the doctor away.” You left the topic quickly and didn’t pick me during the question/answer period. I’m still wondering, why onions? Did you mean to say eat an apple a day? –J. W. Denver, Colorado
Answer: Apples are worth eating every day, but I did mean onions. We were on a tangent during that talk, and onions happen to lower the risk for stomach cancer, improve breathing, fight bacteria and improve cholesterol. Onions (and garlic) are rich in several sulfur compounds which offer protection against tumor growth, specifically in the stomach and intestines. Folks, that’s natural sulfur, which is completely different than sulfa-based drugs, which can spark allergies for some. Moreover, the sulfur compounds in this little pharmacological powerhouse might keep your blood nice and thin and halt the growth of dangerous pathogens including salmonella and E. Coli. Peel it and purify yourself!
In Georgia, where Vidalia onions are cultivated, the mortality rates from stomach cancer are about half the average for the United States. Also, the Chinese rank among the largest population of onion lovers, and guess what? Their risk of getting stomach cancer is 40 percent lower than it is for people who shy away from the bulbous beauties.
Onions are extremely rich in fructo-oligosaccharides -compounds which feed your friendly flora. Think bifidobacteria, a micro-organism thought to relieve inflammatory bowel conditions and boost immune function. In addition to breaking down certain cancer-causing compounds and reducing the body’s absorption of cholesterol, these particular friendly bugs also fight fungus. For all you social types, onions provide relief from gas and flatulence. Obviously, they could give you dragon breath, so pick your stink.
Onions are great for people with asthma, cough and colds or other breathing problems. Chewing a raw onion for two to three minutes can kill all the bacteria in your mouth!
And that’s not all the humble onion has to offer. Rich in flavonoids, it helps heart disease. So make onions a part of your daily diet. I’m good with any type of onion you like including shallots, leeks, scallions, chives, pearl, red, yellow, white, or Vidalia. Juice it, sauté it or eat it raw in salads—whatever you want! See, I’m not fussy. I want you to get well. Remember, onions with stronger flavors and aromas are better for you because they have higher amounts of sulfur compounds, which are the true healers in these perfect pungent veggies. They’re also the compounds that make you run from the kitchen with tears in your eyes.
Did You Know?
The very first bubble gum was invented in 1906 by Frank Henry Fleer who called it Blibber-Blubber. The recipe was later improved upon by Walter Diemer, who named the chewy delight “Double Bubble.”
Are you worried about your teen being on drugs? Do you think your spouse had a drink and lied to you? Are you trying to conceive a baby and curious to know when you’re ovulating? Testing for all of this is now possible at home. There are dozens of tests to choose from, search the Internet. Here are just a few home test kits that I found which do not require prescription. They are sold both online and at many pharmacies:
A1C Now Self Check (Bayer)- This test can measure your blood sugar average over two to three months. Do a fingerstick to get a sample of blood and results are provided within five minutes. www.a1cnow.com
Identigene DNA Paternity Check- Worried about whether or not the child in your home is yours? This information impacts your life. Get peace of mind (either way) with this test which requires a cheek swab for the sample. www.identigene.com
At Home Steroid Test- This test is great if you’re concerned that a loved one may be under the influence of steroids. This kit tests for the top 11 most abused steroids, and the results specify which steroids are present and in what concentrations. All it requires is a urine sample. Results provided in about 5 days. www.drugstore.com
Intelligender Gender Prediction Test- This at home test can predict the gender of your baby, as early as 10 weeks into the pregnancy. It requires a urine sample, and results are apparent within minutes. Reviews for this product are mixed; consider it more of a fun pre-sonogram activity rather than a medical result. www.intelligender.com
Fertile-Focus Ovulation Microscope- This helps to predicts when a woman is most fertile and therefore, the best chance of getting pregnant. It requires saliva. Also consider the OvaCue Fertility Monitor, one of the most advanced predictors available today. www.fairhavenhealth.com
SpermCheck Fertility- This test kit measures sperm count in males with fertility issues. Results provided within 30 minutes. In 7 minutes, the kit provides either a positive or negative result which correlates to normal or low sperm count. www.spermcheckfertility.com
Complete Cholesterol Test- This lab report includes total cholesterol, HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. The test requires a few drops of blood, which are then sent to a certified laboratory for analysis. Results mailed to you within 5 days. www.bloodtestathome.com
Thyroid Test (TSH)- This test measures your TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels so it can screen you to determine if you have an overactive or underactive thyroid problem. A fingerstick blood sample is required, sent to a laboratory, and results come back within a week. www.bloodtestathome.com
At Home Drug Test by Pharmatech- Remind your teen that you have his/her welfare in mind with a random test. The kit sold nationwide at pharmacies and measures most drugs (marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines) but not nicotine. It requires a urine sample.
Detoxification is a specific integrative health protocol that is traditionally and preferably practiced in the fall and spring seasons, as these are times that energetically correspond to the natural cycles of change in nature and detoxification within our bodies. It can also be done at other times of the year — if medically warranted. Although the fall season has ended and winter is officially here, I would nonetheless like to discuss some of the important details of this increasingly relevant topic with regard to integrative medicine. Having a deeper understanding of the detox process can help us prepare now for the completion of a successful cleanse during the appropriate season as it approaches.
Our bodies are very smart, working hard doing whatever it takes to function as smoothly as possible. With regard to the regular onslaught of pollutants in our environment, health robbing toxins and heavy metals eventually accumulate deep within our tissues and organs. We need them “out of the way” of daily metabolic cycles, and not circulating heavily in our blood stream. In a situation of tragic irony, our bodies can even create tumors in this way, as a “buffer” to survive the buildup of toxins. But what happens when we try to release the toxins all at once, with methods such as fasting, herbal formulas, and weight loss?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is what’s called the Detox Cycle, with two distinct phases, however, it is frequently overlooked. It depicts a more complex physical and energetic flow than often realized, and if we are not well prepared, there can be significant short and long-term side effects to detoxing. One of our major goals therefore, is to design an effective cleanse program without having to experience a “healing crisis”.
What is a Healing Crisis?
A “healing crisis” is caused by the dumping of toxins from the organs and tissues into the circulatory system, or a shift in the areas where the toxins are stored. While “healing crisis” is a valuable term, it is often used as an excuse for an aggravation that could have been prevented. To this end, there are different tools which can support a healthy, crises-free cleanse: sophisticated herbal formulas, trigger point injections, acupuncture, infrared saunas, and nutritional IVs, all of which now provide opportunities for cancer and chronically ill patients to detox with little or no side effects.
What I want to discuss in this article however, is the process of loosening toxins from the organs and tissues where they are stored. This is known as discharging, and it is phase one of the detox cycles. But where are the toxins going after they are discharged?
Phase One Detox: The Circulation “Stations”
When we look at what is happening in phase one detox, toxins are being dumped into the circulatory system from different tissues and organs, with the liver leading the process. Though more emphasized in the spring, the liver as a powerhouse of metabolic functions works hard to filter and recycle the blood, so it has enormous capacity to hold toxins, and excrete them. From the liver, blood flows to the right atrium of the heart (also where the lymph system empties), and with the contraction of the heart, into the lungs. Therefore, the first “station” in the detox cycle where toxins get stuck, is the lungs. Often times, the initial side effects presenting themselves in a detox program are excess phlegm, respiratory congestion and symptoms of common colds and cough.
When the lungs do their job and eliminate, the blood then goes to the left heart, which is station two in the detox cycle. In TCM, the heart and mind are closely connected, a relationship that correlates to emotional release, insight, dreams, insomnia – all of these are part of the heart stage.
After the heart, the blood circulates through the body. The third station is the digestive system, and if our digestive tract does not remove the toxins efficiently, they reabsorb back into the bloodstream. Symptoms in this stage of detox are constipation, bloating, and flatulence, among others. The body then tries for the joints, the fourth station of the detox cycle, and a common area where toxins get stored. As blood continues to circulate in the body, it reaches the kidneys, our filtration system, which are able to eliminate some of the burden through the urine. But toxins that are not excreted here, travel right back to the tissues and the liver.
What we have just described is one cycle of blood circulation. On one level, this can be a fast process, but on a larger level, the detox cycle can be quite slow. We can get stuck at each stage along the way, sometimes for months. Or we can get stuck for a long time at one stage, the lungs, for example, and experience chronic respiratory symptoms. Insomnia, which relates to the heart-mind connection, is another common issue with inappropriate detox, as discharged toxins and blockages (such as phlegm and inflammation) linger in the heart channel. In fact, when assigning detox to a patient with chronic health issues, it is valuable to see which symptoms may start after a detox program. It will help us to understand where the issues are coming from, and following this cycle, where are they progressing to.
Cleansing the blood: Prepare for a deeper Phase Two Detox
In the detox cycle, the distinctions between discharge (phase 1) and excretion (phase 2) are significant when planning a cleanse. Organs and tissues first discharge toxins into the circulatory system, which are eventually excreted by our sweat, breath, urine and bowel movements, as well as with emotional/psychological, and spiritual release. This component of emotional release is especially significant in the fall season, while the spring season emphasizes more physiological changes.
If the burden of discharged toxins into our circulation is manageable, and our excretion channels are supported to function efficiently, we can successfully cleanse with little or no side effects. One metaphor is that of the kitchen drawers. If we open one kitchen drawer and throw everything on the floor, we can clean it up easily. If we open all the drawers and throw everything onto the floor at once, we have a huge mess.
With any cleanse, it is important to move gently and gradually. So one of the most essential first steps is to have a system in place to begin cleansing the blood of circulating toxins, and continue this process throughout both detox phases. It is important to cleanse the blood without causing the organs to discharge too much all at once. There are several good nutritional adjuncts which can support this process, one of them being a high quality medicinal mushroom formula. Medicinal mushrooms can act like sponges, traveling to hard to reach areas of the body to mop up toxins and pathogens.
After the burden of toxins circulating in the blood stream is reduced with gentle blood cleansing supplements and a simplified cleansing diet, additional detox therapies and nutritional adjuncts can be incorporated. Specific functions of additional detox supplements are to help cleanse the blood, enhance the discharge and excretion phases by supporting detoxification within the organ systems, and protect organs and tissues from the stress of an increased burden of toxins and heavy metals. Additionally, supplements which support circulation and overall energy production are essential, as we cannot detoxify if we are depleted of vital energy.
Gently cleansing blood and tissues first will prevent the discomfort many people experience when trying to cleanse, or lose a lot of weight, too quickly. Instead of a “healing crisis”, we can create “healing spaces” — by clearing out toxins in the blood and tissues initially, we make room for the body’s natural process of cleansing and regeneration to occur, taking us into the deeper, more intense and more rewarding phase two of the cleanse. For now, just one question remains… How many layers — of toxins, obstructions, and even afflictive emotions – do you want to peel off?
For more information and tips on detoxification, visit my website at www.dreliaz.org
Here are the most interesting products that became available in the past year, 2010. I wish you all a very happy new year!
Dream Water, OTC: Try the “Snoozeberry” drink, it’s a delicious way to fall asleep because the blueberry-pomegranate drink contains all-natural sleep-inducing ingredients like GABA, melatonin and 5-HTP. Sold at pharmacies. www.drinkdreamwater.com
Axiron (testosterone), Rx: Testosterone isn’t new. This drug helps men who have low testosterone. Low T can cause low libido, erectile dysfunction, weight gain, loss of muscle mass and fatigue/depression. www.axiron.com
Halaven (eribulin), injection, Rx: Used for metastatic breast cancer. www.halaven.com
Smooth Sphere Lip Balm by “eos,” OTC: I wish I had thought of this myself. Such pretty little spherical containers with natural ingredients to moisten your kisser with irresistible flavors. These are junk-free meaning they do not contain parabens, phthalates or gluten. These contain vitamins, herbal extracts, zinc, shea butter and come in several flavors. I like the Summer Fruit. www.evolutionofsmooth.com
Beyaz and Safyral (estrogen/progestin and folate), Rx: These are two different birth control pills made by the same drug maker. The two pill packs use different ingredients for oral contraception but they share one cool thing in common. Both Beyaz and Safyral are fortified with a form of folic acid. This is Bayer’s attempt to restore what the drug mugger stole. If you’ve read my book “Drug Muggers” you know that estrogen-containing drugs are notorious for reducing folate levels which may raise your risk for heart disease. Bayer puts the lost nutrient (folate) into these birth control pills! Outstanding to see a drug company replenish what the drug mugger stole, and patent a product that minimizes side effects for you. www.beyaz.com and www.safyral.com
Ella (Ulipristal), Rx: Did the condom break? A new morning-after contraceptive pill that delays pregnancy for up to 5 days after intercourse. It’s similar to Plan B, which is available OTC for women over the age of 17 but it works for a longer time. Prescription only.
Ampyra (dalfampridine), Rx: This is a tablet that blocks potassium channels in the body, and it works to help people get up and start walking again if they have multiple sclerosis. www.ampyra.com
Cystex Liquid Cranberry Complex, OTC: You drink it, for urinary health. One tablespoon equals about 8 glasses of cranberry juice and it doesn’t have the sugar that cranberry juice cocktails do. The D-mannose from cranberries attacks E. coli, the most common UTI bug, along with bromelain (from pineapples) to reduce inflammation and vitamin C to maintain acidity. It’s gluten-free. www.cystex.com
Sorilux (calcipotriene), Rx: Apply the foam to your skin for psoriasis. It’s related to vitamin D.
Oravig (miconazole), Rx: It’s an anti-fungal lozenge that treats oral candida infections. The first and only one FDA approved lozenge for thrush. www.oravig.com
Did You Know?
I dread holiday meals. There’s so much great food, and it’s so hard to resist. Is there any good news in the midst of this orgy of over-indulgence? –A.F. Denver, Colorado
Answer: Yes, the spices of the holiday season are good for you, but rule number one is resist that urge to overeat! Instead, concentrate on really enjoying foods that are healthy for you and limit your sweet, high-calorie indulgences to just a few. I’m not going to tell you that you can’t have a piece of pumpkin pie. I’m not an ogre, after all. Have just one piece, though, not half a pie!
Let’s take a closer look at that pumpkin pie, because the squash-like vegetable boasts a treasure trove of nutrients, including beta-carotene, a powerful eye-loving nutrient. And cinnamon, the spice that makes the pie smell so wonderful, packs such a good-for-you punch that we could easily classify it as a healing herb. Let’s focus on cinnamon now.
Researchers have long known about it’s anti-microbial properties, but in recent years several scientific studies have shown that it can have a positive impact on blood sugar. Yep! That’s right. If you have either pre-diabetes or diabetes, cinnamon is so helpful that you should consider adding it to your diet more frequently (in pill form, not the pie!)
In a 2007 Swedish study, participants were given either plain rice pudding or rice pudding containing cinnamon. Researchers found that the blood sugar response in those receiving the cinnamon-laced pudding was lower and their “gastric emptying time” was delayed. So the pudding basically stayed with them longer and it did not spike their blood sugar. Delish! Quite a few studies show that cinnamon helps with blood sugar, actually. I just like this one because it really shows that including cinnamon with a sweet treat helps your body deal with it better.
Research has also shown that cinnamon reduces inflammation, eases digestion and protects your cells from free radical assault. Other savory benefits include it’s ability to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure.
Whether you take cinnamon as a supplement or not, do keep a shaker of this spice on hand in your kitchen and challenge yourself to find new ways to use it. Everyone knows it’s good on apple sauce, but it’s also perfect on sliced bananas, peaches, papaya and pears. Put it on top of hot cereal, a handful of walnuts, black currants, raisins or apricots.
Hot, mulled cider is a special holiday treat and easy to make. Pour a big bottle of apple cider into a pan with a few sticks of cinnamon (broken into 1 inch pieces) along with one-quarter teaspoon nutmeg and about five to eight whole cloves. Simmer the liquid gently for at least 5 minutes before straining it. Let the sipping begin. Yum!
May your Thanksgiving be filled with happiness, love and laughter.
Recently, when I had some dental work done, the dentist gave me a prescription for antibiotics. By the end of the week, my stomach really hurt. Could antibiotics cause that? –M.S. Sanibel, Florida
Answer: Pretty darned likely! Antibiotics do a great job of killing off just about all the bacteria in your body, including the beneficial ones. You may not be aware that your whole gut is full of bacteria that serve several important functions, including helping you to digest your food and to form important nutrients that your body needs, such as vitamin K and B12. There are more micro-organisms in your intestines than there are cells in your body.
Once the antibiotic sweeps your intestines clean of beneficial bacteria, any stray yeasts that happen to be living in your intestines suddenly have more room to grow and thrive. This can result in an uncomfortable yeast infection. If the yeast is Candida, you could be dealing with the unpleasant effects for years to come. That’s one reason I’m so opposed to unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions. The one for your dental work may have been necessary, but please, never ask your doctor for antibiotics to deal with a cold or flu, which are caused by viruses.
Antibiotics zap bacteria, not viruses. Well-meaning doctors cave sometimes and prescribe antibiotics to flu patients who hint for it. Antibiotics are hard on your body for a number of reasons, so unless you really need it, please don’t take it.
Which reminds me, if you do need it, then make sure you completely finish what’s in that bottle. Don’t stop taking the antibiotic as soon as you’re feeling better. There’s a reason. Antibiotics typically kill off the weaker germs first. If you stop too soon, the only survivors will be the tough guys… the ones who fight back with a fury. So you could wind up with a dangerous, antibiotic-resistant infection, and that spells trouble, possibly even hospitalization.
If antibiotics cause nausea, diarrhea or abdominal pain, you should let your doctor know. You may be given an alternative medication that your system tolerates better. Stop your antibiotic if you experience symptoms such as itching, hives, or breathing difficulties. These are signs of a dangerous allergic reaction.
People who take antibiotics should also take a dietary supplement called a “probiotic” in between doses of the antibiotic. Good brands contain multiple strains of beneficial bacteria that replace the ones that the antibiotic kills off. You can find over-the-counter probiotics at your health food store. Follow directions on the label and continue for several weeks afterwards if not indefinitely. Some of the more effective (and least allergenic) formulas include Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotic Plus, or Saccharomyces Boulardii, or New Chapter All-Flora.
Did You Know?
Asthmatics with insufficient vitamin D are 50 percent more likely to be hospitalized for an asthma attack.
I’m frequently confused by all the choices when I’m trying to select an over-the-counter (OTC) product from the drugstore. Is it OK to ask the pharmacist for help? I’ve tried at times, but they are always busy and I have to wait. –P.R. New York
Answer: Absolutely! Pharmacists are trained to be drug information specialists, so we can save you time, money and perhaps your life (I’m thinking about catching a deadly interaction). You should make your pharmacist your best friend. Show up with a mocha latte, you won’t wait as long.
Since I’ve been a pharmacist for 22 years, I know consumers have to wait to get attention but that’s because the pharmacist is backed up checking prescriptions for accuracy, on the phone discussing interactions or talking to a physician or nurse. Often, staff is slim. We have your best interest at heart, so please be patient. Here are the reasons we are worth the wait:
We can help you decide which over-the-counter medications help your symptoms. Pharmacists are not doctors, but for example, based upon your cough (wet or dry/hacking), we will help you choose an expectorant or a cough suppressant. We know what kind of bandage you need for your sores, which salve for your skin rash, which lice products are convenient, and which blood sugar gadgets are accurate.
We can field virtually any question you have about prescription drugs. We are like walking encyclopedias and if we don’t know the answer off the top of our head, we have 4 inch references to dig into. Go ahead, bring it on. We know that allergy meds cause dry mouth and blurry vision, iron supplements will make your poop greenish-black (sorry if you got a visual on that), and how certain pain-relievers cause constipation. We know that stimulant laxatives are addictive! Didn’t know that? Then it’s time to make your pharmacist your best friend. We -and our hard-working pharmacy technicians- are there to keep you safe.
We can find lower cost options for you, as well as OTC equivalent medications. We know which meds come in generic and which don’t… and when it’s best to stick with the brand.
We can help you stay compliant if you really need your medicine but it’s hard to stomach. For example, we might advise taking narcotic pain relievers with food to avoid nausea or sleep aids on an empty stomach because they work faster. Want to eat grapefruit, or dairy, but don’t know if it interacts? Pharmacists are your go-to guy for these questions.
Your regular pharmacist keeps a record of your drug profile on computer making it easy to screen for drug interactions. Our services are free and best of all, some pharmacies are open 24 hours a day, allowing the public access anytime. All you have to do is ask.
Did You Know?
Cooking with almond flour causes a lower blood sugar spike (if any) and can help stabilize blood sugar.
I crave saffron, and have loved this spice for many years but stopped buying it because it’s expensive. I know you are educated with herbs, can you tell me if there are any health benefits? –T.S. Ocala, Florida
Answer: Great question, I love saffron too! So precious and resilient is saffron that this centuries-old flower extract is even mentioned in the Bible. Harvested from a type of crocus (Crocus sativus L), the spice is actually the three tiny red stamens that must be plucked from the center of each flower by hand. It’s the most expensive spice you can buy.
Saffron imparts a distinctive taste and aroma along with a lovely yellow color to a variety of exotic dishes. I stir it into rice, soups and teas. As a pharmacist who pays attention to alternative remedies, I can’t help but note that any herb that’s been used for centuries likely has something going for it. Sure enough, researchers are starting to verify the amazing healing potential of saffron in clinical studies.
In Iran, for example, researchers have found that saffron lifted depression as well as fluoxetine (Prozac). For both the herb and the drug “the remission rate was 25 percent.” If you have mild or moderate depression why not give it a try? It won’t interact with medicine as far as I can tell, but do consult with your physician.
Saffron is a super strong antioxidant with ‘housekeeping’ benefits that clean you up from head to toe. Pay attention here because I’m going to summarize the research. Saffron has anti-cancer effects, for all sorts of tumors. It enhances male fertility. It helps relieve anxiety and tension. And ladies, it eases the discomforts of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). In Texas, researchers proved that saffron improves circulation to the retina so it’s a promising treatment for macular degeneration, a major cause of blindness. One clinical trial concluded “preliminary evidence of a possible therapeutic effect of saffron extract in the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.” It’s also an anti-spasmodic. Whew! Do you see why I think Saffron is one of the best kept health secrets?!
If you’d like to try a saffron supplement -and I’ve just begun taking one myself- make sure you buy from a reputable company, such as Exir. I have to warn you, pure authentic saffron is expensive, but worth it. Fake makers of it cut the saffron with other yellow-orange spices but Exir is 100 percent saffron, and they source from organic flowers. It’s not popular (yet) so you will need to ask your local health food store to order it, or just buy it online like I did at their website, www.epicuregarden.com.
Did You Know?
Pain-relieving medications should be taken with food in order to minimize stomach upset and nausea, a very common side effect.
1 Buy generic prescriptions. This could save up to $400 a month, depending on the drug. Generics are supposed to be manufactured to the same exact standards as brand name drugs, but they don’t rack up the same expensive research, development and advertising costs.
2 Ask your doctor for samples. It’s a free way to try your medication and see if it works before you make a large non-refundable investment at the pharmacy. Physicians are busy and often forget to offer samples, but if you ask, and they have one, you’ll get it. Don’t be shy.
5 Shop for price. I hardly ever suggesting leaving your regular pharmacy because they have your entire drug profile on the computer so you are safer when it comes to potential interactions. That said, some chains offer a 30-day supply for four dollars and a 90-day supply for ten dollars for maintenance medications and this saves money.
I get very anxious and nervous over the smallest things. I can’t help myself, so I take Xanax to calm down. Sometimes I have a few glasses of wine (not with the Xanax though). It’s one or the other. What do you think about the dietary supplement Kava for relaxation? –D.W. Long Island, New York
Answer: Xanax is one of the safer anti-anxiety medications on the market, and if it’s working for you, that’s great. I would not drink alcohol on the days that you take Xanax because that’s a very dangerous combination. I’m also against taking Kava if you’re currently taking any anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication, prescribed or OTC.
Kava comes from the South Sea Islands, where it has been used for centuries to induce relaxation and a sense of harmonious connection with the earth. Sensitive people might feel “intoxicated” . much the same way Americans feel after 2 Martinis. I had to laugh when I learned some states have Kava bars, where you can go in for a drink!
Now why would I recommend against taking Kava if you’re taking Xanax? Actually, I think you should avoid this herb if you’re taking any anti-anxiety, anti-depressant pharmaceutical or drink alcohol. We know that the active ingredients in Kava—called “kavalactones”—are helpful in relieving pain and these compounds have a profound action all over your body, not just your brain. Never combine your anti-anxiety meds or antidepressants with Kava because it can over-sedate you. There have been fatalities from people who misused this herb which -for the record- has been enjoyed for centuries. Literally millions of people have tried Kava, and it has a relatively good track record, but over the past decade there have been several reports of liver damage. While Kava is readily available in this country, it has been banned in others. I think the problems arise because people combine herbs with drugs or alcohol!
So what herb would I recommend if you’re also taking Xanax or some other medication to help you deal with anxiety or depression? Chamomile, either German or Roman.
Chamomile is a safe, gentle-acting herb that has been helping people for ages. It’s so safe you can even give it to children to help soothe a tummy ache. Its traditional use for relaxation has been validated by modern science. While you can take chamomile in capsules, I’m not sure why you’d want to. The tea has a sweet, flowery aroma and a pleasant, apple-like taste. It’s perfect to keep on hand for those occasions when you’re feeling anxious and simply want to unwind.
There are no known safety issues with chamomile, with one small exception, avoid chamomile if you’re allergic to anything else in the daisy family, such as ragweed.
Did You Know? Tell your physician about any herbal supplements that you take because herbs are just plant-derived medications and can interact with your prescribed medications.
What can do to protect myself from catching a cold this year? I have a job that requires me to work seven days a week. I can’t miss a day so I don’t want to get sick. Last year, I got the flu shot and will probably do so again, however, is there anything more that I can do right now to protect myself?
–N.W. Decatur, Illinois
Answer: Job one is to strengthen your immune system which protects you from pathogens which, by the way, are everywhere! There are ‘bugs’ on your skin and all over your body but they don’t infect you unless your immune system runs down. The better you take care of yourself before flu season hits, the less likely you’ll need antibiotics, cold medications or steroid injections. Best of all, the less likely you are to miss work!
Keep a light, healthy diet that is tilted in the direction of healthy foods, and free of refined sugar. Drink herbal tea. Drinking tea is very easy because you can buy commercially prepared teas at any health food store or online. Be careful though, some are just black tea flavored with herbs. You want the real deal, pure 100 percent herbal tea.
Instead of buying ready made tea, why not make your own? I actually feel like a mad scientist when I create my tea treats! I study the herbs that I like, and then go to the health food store to buy them in bulk. I choose herbs based on symptoms or health benefits. So for example, if you want vitamin C for it’s amazing antioxidant power, buy some rose hips. If you want to strengthen your immune system, get elderberry and astragalus and combine those together. Just boil some water and steep about 1 or teaspoon each per cup. It’s okay to add a little bit of raw honey, or unrefined agave nectar. If you get a bad cough, why not use marshmallow extract? Marshmallow -as in the herb- not the ooey gooey confection! Marshmallow soothes mucous membranes and can put a stop to a dry, hacking cough. For sore throats, choose slippery elm. You should combine herbs in intelligent ways to customize your tea and relieve the misery quicker. Herbal teas nourish your body and warm your soul.
Now, as much as I believe in your own ability to take care of yourself when you get a cold, I also think there comes a time when you need to see your doctor. See your doctor if you experience:
-Sharp pains in your chest
-Shortness of breath
-Coughing up blood or yellow/brown mucus
-Persistent chills or night sweats
-Persistent cough along with a fever
Use common sense and see your physician because you may need an antibiotic or a breathing inhaler. I’m a big advocate for self treatment, but sometimes, enough is enough!
Did You Know?
The FDA just approved Krystexxa, a prescription drug to treat gout. It’s given by injection every two weeks.
Answer: There are lots of choices for these ailments, and my favorite is lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). For centuries, it’s helped relieve the digestive woes of many folks feeling stressed-out. It’s a member of the mint family and the coolest thing about lemon balm is that one of it’s primary ingredients is citronella, an essential oil frequently used in mosquito-repellent candles. Lemon balm also contains anti-microbial tannins and eugenol which helps reduce muscle spasms. The scientific literature I’ve read shows that lemon balm herb can relax you, help you sleep, relieve pain and soothe stomach discomfort (gas, bloating and nausea).
I’ve felt sick for 10 years, and no one has helped me. I read on the Internet about Candida, and I have every symptom possible. I’ve eliminated sugar already, and after 2 months, I feel better. I just found your site and hope you can teach me more about this infection.
–N.H. San Francisco, California
Answer: Just amazing, 10 years and YOU had to find out what’s wrong with yourself on the Internet? Candida is a fungus and even though most physicians dismiss this organism as harmless, I don’t. It’s part of the normal flora in the gut, but it can be dangerous for some people. Eat the standard American garbage diet and you will destroy your intestinal microflora and then get yeast overgrowth.
Candida is a highly invasive micro-organism that can make you very sick. There are about 80 potential symptoms of systemic yeast overgrowth including: Athletes foot, yellowish-green toenail fungus, vaginal yeast infection, intolerance to perfume, iron-deficiency anemia, hypothyroidism, diarrhea/constipation, gas, cystitis, prostatitis, spots in front of eyes, joint pain, acne, headache, brain fog, memory loss, bad breath, heartburn, belching, allergies, mouth sores, hemorrhoids, painful intercourse, eczema, psoriasis, chronic fatigue, asthma, itchy/burning eyes, depression, gluten or dairy allergy, and inability to gain weight (or wasting) because the Candida is ‘eating’ everything you put into your system so you develop malabsorption. See how confusing this gets? Doctors may overlook or dismiss a systemic Candida infection in a person, and just begin prescribing medications for one illness after another. There are tests, treatments and dietary changes which I will share in future columns and facebook posts.
Candida is a fungus which can spread to your organs. The fungus grows like a plant does, spreading ‘roots’ which poke holes in your intestinal wall, then the fungus invades your sinuses, lungs, skin, reproductive organs, pancreas, liver and so forth. Some health experts believe that Candida fuels cancer growth. The problem is not so much the fungus itself, but more the toxic compounds it produces, about 75 toxic substances! One Candida by-product is a potent neurotoxin called acetaldehyde. That’s the same exact substance you make when you drink alcohol or get drunk. I believe wholeheartedly that this is why Candida sufferers experience so much brain fog or hangover feelings.
Candida is a mold so it thrives in heat and in humidity. This explains why many of you feel better in dry or cool climates. Another surefire way to kill Candida is to eliminate sugar and starches from your diet while taking anti-fungal supplements or teas. I’ll outline those in a future column. Certain medications or lifestyle choices can cause Candida overgrowth: Birth control pills, steroids, antibiotics, chemotherapy and many blood pressure pills, alcohol, and processed food.
Did you Know?
Studies suggest that eating 20 tart cherries a day (or drinking the juice equivalent) can provide more arthritis and gout relief than aspirin or ibuprofen.
I moved some furniture last weekend and my muscles are still sore. This happens every time I exert myself, even from walking around the block. My muscles aren’t as resilient as in years past. What can I do or take? –M.J. Decatur, Illinois
Answer: Regular muscle pain is fairly easy to remedy. If it were me, I’d take a hot bath with Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender essential oil. Lavender’s anti-inflammatory properties relieve fatigued muscles. I might also take ibuprofen, or natural Zyflamend by New Chapter whichever I could find first.
The pharmacist in me wants to share some OTC products that can help temporarily. Let’s talk about them and how they work:
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication: The three most popular options here are acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve). These reduce inflammation within an hour or two. I recommend you take these with food. Keep in mind, acetaminophen is harder on the liver, while ibuprofen and naproxen affect the stomach and intestines more so ask the pharmacist which is better for you. Natural anti-inflammatories won’t work as quickly; these include omega 3 fish oils, krill oil and bromelain (from pineapples).
Ben Gay Moist Heat Therapy Pads: These non-medicated, odorless pads are air-activated and they get nice and toasty on your skin, very similar to the moist heat of a shower. They help ease muscle/joint aches or pain associated with PMS, overexertion and strains for up to eight hours.
Icy Hot Medicated Patches: Menthol usually comes in cream form, but these patches contain menthol in a patch which causes a unique sensation on the skin for up to 8 hours.
Kink-Eaze: Formulated by a pain-specialist, David S. Klein M.D., this contains menthol and 10 times the amount of MSM found in other products. It could help improve flexibility, relieve muscle spasms, minor joint pain, achy muscles and knee pain because the MSM goes through right the skin. Available at www.stages-of-life.com
Capsaicin: It’s the active ingredient in chili pepper and you can buy it at pharmacies nationwide. I suggest the patches or roll-on for ease. These work fabulously with repeated applications.
Do you suffer with chronic muscle soreness? If so, look in your medicine cabinet. Statin cholesterol drugs and blood pressure pills are well-known culprits to cause muscle pain. The remedy for drug-induced myopathy of this sort is Coenzyme Q10, see my Drug Mugger book for more.
People who have mercury overload, or chronic fatigue syndrome have poor mitochondrial function and may benefit from apple extract called “malic acid.” This substance jumps right into your Krebs cycle to help your mitochondria. Long story short, with malic acid supplementation, you produce energy and relieve tenderness. I think it could help fibromyalgia, especially when combined with magnesium, whey (or hemp) protein, or creatine.
Did You Know?
Corticosteroids are drug muggers of calcium, you may need to supplement if you take these medications long-term.
I just became a pharmacist and started reading your syndicated column. Your emphasis is usually centered around the benefits of vitamins, minerals or alternative treatments, as compared to prescription medications. I take offense sometimes because I think you should recommend more of our gold standard pharmaceuticals which are FDA approved, unlike nutritional supplements. For example, I read your article about depression and you only discussed vitamins and minerals, and never mentioned prescribed antidepressants. –JK, Gainesville, Florida
Answer: The depression column is entitled “Natural Ways to Ease Depression and Reduce Anxiety” so of course it was not about drugs. It is posted at my website where it continues to be well-received.
I’ve been a pharmacist 22 years, and syndicated columnist for years, so my perspective is that our gold standards are sometimes rusty!
Listen carefully to me, because your customers’ lives depend on you being educated about natural remedies as well as pharmaceuticals. While you were in school, didn’t your professors make it clear that you can’t lift low levels of folic acid -a common cause for depression- with any of our so-called gold standards.
Didn’t anyone mention that you can’t fix a deficiency of vitamin C, B12 or thyroid hormone with those drugs? All that can cause depression.
Let me teach you something ‘outside the pill.’ Magnesium, vitamin C, B6, folic acid and 5-HTP can enhance mood by sparking production of feel-good hormones such as GABA, serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. When taken in natural, physiological dosages these nutrients are well-tolerated. Typical side effects: Gas, diarrhea or minor stomach upset.
Our gold standard antidepressants also have side effects. Depending on the drug, your age and medical history, their side effects include:
Agitation, anxiety, blurred vision, red or purple spots on the skin, breast enlargement, anorexia, abdominal cramps, gas, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, loose stools or constipation, unusual secretion of milk in women, yawning, trouble walking, dizziness, decreased sexual ability, low libido, impotence, inability to orgasm, abnormal bleeding, nose bleeds, inability to sit still, headaches, increased sweating, insomnia, feeling vertigo (you or your surroundings constantly move), muscle weakness, breast tenderness, unusual or sudden facial movements, strange involuntary postures, fever, flu-like syndrome, hot flushing of the skin, confusion, drowsiness, dry mouth, fatigue, seizures, hyponatremia, tremor, mania, heart palpitations, fast talking or feeling out of control, skin rash, hives, itching, and a dangerous condition called “Serotonin Syndrome” which may include such symptoms as serious blood pressure swings, fever, mood/behavior changes, diarrhea, racing heartbeat, shivering, shaking, racing heartbeat, overactive reflexes, sweating, intravascular coagulation, renal failure, seizures, respiratory failure or coma. There is also a black box warning regarding the higher incidence of suicide among children and adolescents who take these drugs. Despite all those risks, some people feel safer with our gold standard drugs because they are FDA approved!
Did You Know?
To avoid pharmacy errors, know the correct name of your drug and have your doctor spell it out for you, clearly and legibly.
D-Glucaric acid is a natural substance found in fruits and veggies. We make small amounts in the body during a process called “glucuronidation” which is how our body scrubs itself clean. Too bad we don’t make more. Calcium D-Glucarate or “glucarate” is the calcium salt of D-glucaric acid and this patented supplement helps our body keep toxins ‘packaged’ tightly so the bound up garbage can go through the digestive tract and get excreted.
Without enough glucarate, our neatly packaged poisons come unravelled and re-enter our circulation, like a thug breaking in twice! Some of you need physician’s approval for OTC supplements in which case explain that “America’s Pharmacist Suzy Cohen told you glucarate blocks the enzyme beta-glucuronidase and this supports glucuronic acid conjugation.” Glucarate is an affordable way to bolt the door from thugs. Consider it great insurance for a major detoxification pathway in the human body.
Glucarate has no known major side effects and is safely taken in combination with antioxidants, protein shakes or medications. Dosages vary from 500mg – 3,000mg total per day. Calcium D-glucarate may also help:
Bodybuilders: Glucarate improves physique by reducing total estrogen load; means it can lessen fluid retention and reverse gynecomastia (a.k.a. man boobs).
Cholesterol lowering: Preliminary results in humans show that glucarate can significantly reduce total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides.
Cancer prevention: Animal studies suggest glucarate not only reduces risk, but may prevent tumor growth in the skin, breast, liver, colon and lung. Women with estrogen-dependent tumors (and men with prostate cancer) should absolutely ask about taking glucarate since it can reduce total estrogen load and improve estrogen metabolite ratios.
Detoxification problems: People riddled with heavy metals/plasticizers and those with multiple chemical sensitivity, auto-immune disorders or fibromyalgia- the detoxifying effect of glucarate offers great housekeeping and by reducing total toxin burden. Glucarate helps us properly eliminate used up medications.
Did You Know?
Cooking with grape seed oil (rather than olive oil) allows you to use medium-high temperatures, without losing all the antioxidant benefits.
Naringenin is not an appetite suppressant, or a fat blocker so if you take those dietary supplements, it’s also fine to take this bioflavonoid supplement. It can be combined with protein supplements too, which are often recommended during weight loss.
Before you get too excited and buy supplements or fresh fruit at the grocery store, I need you to promise me that you’ll get both your physician and pharmacist’s approval (and it wouldn’t hurt to research yourself) to find out if grapefruit, or grapefruit-containing supplements are right for you.
Weight Gain and Unsuspected Gluten Sensitivity, Sub-Clinical Gluten Enteropathy
The ‘Classical Presentation’ is the Exception, not the Rule
by David S. Klein, M.D. FACA, FACPM
Introduction: Obesity is now endemic. More than a national disgrace, the fattening of America may well be one of our greatest threats to our national security. In North America, the general public spends huge sums of money in futile effort to lose weight, when simultaneously, we are wasting huge sums of money ignoring what may be the treatable cause of weight gain in a large percentage of the population. Gluten Enteropathy is a common cause of weight issues in populations that consume grain as a diet staple.
Celiac Disease (CD) is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with nutritional absorption, and it can result in unexplained weight gain. Sufferers of CD cannot tolerate gluten, a binding protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Most commonly, gluten is found in food products, but Gluten may also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, and cosmetic products. It’s best to avoid gluten altogether if you have sensitivity of any sort, but fortunately, there are digestive enzymes devoted to helping people digest gluten and therefore, suffer fewer consequences from ingestion. I have spent many years studying this subject and I have formulated a wonderful product to help you digest gluten. It’s called “Gluten Digest” and there is more about this incredible supplement later on.
Sensitivity to Gluten is very common. Affecting as many as 30% of the general population, sensitivity to gluten is a ‘spectrum disorder.’ That is, it varies from Subclinical-mild in severity to overwhelming-devastating. In its’ severest form, it is known as Celiac Sprue, Celiac Disease (CD), non-tropical Sprue, and less commonly as Gee-Herter Disease, Gee-Thaysen Disease or Heubner-Herter Disease.
Celiac disease is both a disease of malabsorption, and an immunological condition. There may be a familial or genetic predisposition to CD, and it may be triggered after trauma, surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, infection, or emotional stress.
Autoimmune in nature, CD sufferers will experience periods of time where symptoms are minimal, stable and flair. Triggers are usually dietary, as the protein family known generally as ‘Gluten’ will trigger complaints in most patients, that’s why avoidance, or minimizing absorption (through supplementation) helps control the misery. Equally confusing is that hormonal shifts, co-morbid disease states, infection and stress can trigger symptoms, as well.
Clinical Presentation: Misdiagnosed as ‘irritable bowel disease,’ CD is a life-long complaint. Rare is the patient that presents to the office complaining of the ‘classical presentation’ of dramatic weight loss, diarrhea and cramping precipitated by pizza, spaghetti and bread. More typically, patients present with peculiar, episodic cramping, bloating and weight gain. Self-diagnosed with ‘leaky gut,’ they often go through an embarrassing series of self-treatment protocols, GI detoxifications and fad diets. A minority of patients present with skin rash known as Dermatitis Herpetiformis, as the principal symptom.
Other Signs and Symptoms Include:
unexplained iron-deficiency anemia
fatigue, depression, anhedonia, anxiety
arthritic bone or joint pain
bone loss, osteopenia, or osteoporosis
tingling numbness in the extremities
seizures, depression, bipolar disorder
canker sores in the mouth
The most common complaints are dyspepsia, bloating and abdominal uneasiness.
Associated disorders include:
Autoimmune thyroid disease, e.g. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Grave’s Disease
Autoimmune liver disease
Autoimmune adrenal dysfunction; Addison’s Disease
Diagnosis: To most medical practitioners, blood work is the preferred approach to diagnosis, elimination diet is often the most practical way to infer diagnosis. Elimination of gluten from the diet for a 2 week period is often all that is necessary to infer diagnosis.
The ‘gold standard’ in confirming diagnosis is the endoscopic biopsy. When positive, diagnosis is firmly established. Unfortunately, biopsy for CD is fraught with false negatives.
Easiest of all is testing, serum anti-body determinations for IgG, IgA, IgE and tTG IgA and tTG IgE are useful, but the derived information is sometimes confusing. Best drawn early in the morning, these anti-body titers may demonstrate patterns that suggest gluten sensitivity or frank Celiac Disease.
Nutraceutical Treatment of Celiac Disease
The mainstay of treatment is as simple and as complicated as avoiding Gluten in the diet. This means avoidance of most processed foods, and nearly all grains.
Gluten is widely used as a binder in medicines, supplements and in many cosmetic products.
It takes a good bit of research to identify sources of Gluten in the ingestible environment, and it takes but a single slip to cause a patient to go into a gastrointestinal crisis.
1. CLA- Conjugated Linoleic Acid. When taken 1,000 mg two or three times daily, CLA will act as a topical anti-inflammatory for the GI tract. Taking a week or two, symptomatic relief can be dramatic
2. Castor Oil- This old standby is useful to settle an inflamed GI tract. Taken ½ Tsp to ½ Tbs in apple sauce, once daily, the irritable bowel symptoms often abate within a few days. It should be taken for several weeks, consistently, then periodically as symptoms dictate.
3. “Gluten Digest” Formula- This contains DPP IV (a gluten digestive enzyme)- One or two capsules taken immediately before meals will provide some protection from modest amounts of Gluten. Taking these digestive enzymes mitigates (but does not completely eliminate) the damage from dietary gluten, but social circumstances sometimes dictate the need for this intervention. Sometimes, well-meaning restaurants do not realize they are putting gluten in their dishes, such as using soy sauce, spelt flour or by cooking their grilled chicken on pans that share space with breaded chicken/meats. You get into gluten more often than you realize! Taking “Gluten Digest” supplements can be one of the most inexpensive ways to control the symptoms associated with accidental gluten ingestion.
Celiac Disease results in an unpredictable but inevitable malabsorption of essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, oils and essential fatty acids. Many nutritional deficiency syndromes are easily detectable through available nutritional test panels. Most practitioners are unfamiliar with these panels making specific intervention impossible. General supplementation should include:
Mineral chelate (organic mineral salts)
Essential Fatty Acids & Oils
Amino Acid/protein supplementation
Vitamin B Complex, Vitamin C, Vitamin E
Vitamin D-3 (dosage dictated by age and condition)
These supplements are sold in health food stores, and being a physician, I also offer some very high-quality formulas (www.suffernomore.com). I routinely combine the use of medications with supplements for all of my patients because I feel that addressing underlying vitamin/mineral imbalances is also important to getting well, and feeling healthy and vibrant.
My patients tell me they feel a difference in their health within days to weeks of taking high-quality, pure supplements. It’s important to consider the quality of your nutraceuticals, as well as the foods you eat. As we age, we become less and less efficient in absorbing nutrients from the foods we eat, and from dietary supplements through the gastrointestinal tract. With CD, this efficiency deteriorates even more dramatically. In short, it takes a great deal more than the ‘recommended daily allowance (RDA),’ to ensure adequate levels of these important and inexpensive nutrients.
NOTE WELL: The commonly available OTC multivitamin/mineral complexes are entirely inadequate.
Individuals with CD tend to have elevations in CRP, suggesting increased risk of cardio-vascular disease. Omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil) administration is an interesting, new intervention for the treatment and prevention of coronary artery disease (CAD). Certain omega-3 fatty acids have biochemical properties that promote atherosclerotic plaque stability and thereby decrease the incidence of cardiac ischemia and ischemic cardiac arrhythmias. An ever-increasing body of evidence supports the role for omega-3 fatty acids, i.e. fish oil, in through a role as anti-arrhythmic agents, through anti-thrombotic effect, and through atherosclerotic plaque stabilization, probably as a result of topical anti-inflammatory action.
Dosage requirement is between 2 and 3 grams per day, in divided doses. Generally, the preferred cardiac ratio of 3:2 EPA/DHA, but in inflammatory conditions such as CD, the EPA/DHA ratio does a bit better at 6:1.
Patient should begin with 1 mg per day, increase over a week or two to the desired daily dosage.
I have done my best to outline suggestions for you to better care for yourself, and of course, these are just “suggestions” so please ask your own physician what is appropriate for your individual needs.
David S. Klein, MD has practiced pain medicine for the past 27 years and is the author of over 50 published articles and textbook chapters and has lectured extensively. He is a member of the American Board of Anesthesiology, American Board of Pain Medicine, American Academy of Pain Management, American Board of Minimally Invasive Medicine & Surgery, and has Sub-Specialty Certification in Pain by the American Board of Anesthesiologists. Dr. Klein is presently the Medical Director of the Pain Center of Orlando, located at 225 W. SR 434, Suite #205, Longwood, Florida 32750.
Last week I wrote about “fountain of youth” hot spring waters which are super rich in minerals and sulfur compounds. These substances penetrate the skin and relieve muscle aches/spasms, arthritis and skin rashes. The warmth of the water increases circulation which helps detoxification and improves blood flow to the heart.
I realize some of you cannot travel so recreate the hot springs in your own bath like I do. Mineral bath salts like “dead sea” salts are sold at bath shops. I like the scented “Mineral Essence” salts available at SeaSalt.com and for a strong (bur relaxing) detoxification bath, I buy the “Mustard Bath Salts” from Sumbody.com.
Below you will find a list of natural, dietary supplements that detoxify you as if you were in a hot spring. Detoxification is just a “cleansing” of the cells (or gut) and that helps unstick pollutants. You clear toxins through a variety of processes including one called “methylation.” You can take any, or all of these but ask your doctor first:
MSM: This provides the body with sulfur, and sulfur is one of the key healing elements in hot springs. MSM stands for methyl sulfonyl methane and it’s found in fruits and veggies. Some clinical trials suggest that MSM relieves osteoarthritis pain by building up the squishy stuff between your joints. Sulfur-based compounds such as MSM are thought to detoxify the liver (by raising glutathione), improve allergies/asthma and clean out the gut. This is sold everywhere.
Taurine: This natural amino acid is sulfur based, and sulfur as you just learned is beneficial to the body. Taurine may help people with high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia, high cholesterol and GI problems. Taurine might help protect against macular degeneration.
Methionine: Another sulfur amino acid that helps you methylate, sold in health food stores. It helps build cell membranes, improve mood and joint pain. This goes on to form SAMe, another popular supplement.
B 12 and folic acid (or 5-MTHF): These B vitamins make it easier for your body to methylate and therefore, clear toxins. These Bs participate in a metabolic pathway pathway that protects us from breast and prostate cancer. Bs also protect the heart, blood vessels and nerves.
Magnesium: Hot springs contain a lot of minerals, including magnesium which goes right through the skin and eases muscle aches and pains. Magnesium is the basis for epsom salts actually, and is very soothing. Dietary supplements may improve mood, muscle pain and energy levels.
Silica: Some hot springs cast a gorgeous blue color, thanks to the high silica content.This trace mineral penetrates the skin and helps psoriasis, eczema and rashes. Silica supplements are a powerful bone builder and beauty tool because it helps form collagen. Think pretty hair, strong nails and supple skin. It may also help with varicose veins and hemorrhoids.
Did You Know?
Blood pressure medications need to be taken at the same time each day (or night) in order to maintain steady blood levels.