The NorthStar blog on arthritis covers the latest breakthroughs on arthritis and arthritis pain relief, including the best options for natural pain relief from chronic arthritis and joint pain.

  1. [Danger!] New class of RA meds contains HIDDEN risks

    Be careful whenever they call a drug a “game-changer.”

    Because in most cases, they’re NOT talking about “changing the game” for YOU, the patient.


    It’s changing the game for their bank accounts!

    In medicine, “new” means “expensive”…

    And you can’t make those big-dollar sales if the drug’s TRUE risks ever become public.

    So, to keep that gravy train a-rolling… they do their best to COVER THEM UP.

    Case in point: The “game-changer” meds called biologics.

    These drugs given to patients with rheumatoid arthritis… psoriasis… and ankylosing spondylitis can run up to $60,000 a year.

    And that’s almost certainly why it’s taken YEARS to expose the risks uncovered by a new study – one that definitely puts a DAMPER on these meds, even if they do “work.”

    So, allow me to step in with a reality check. Better still, let me share ANOTHER way to handle conditions such as rheumatoid.

    The TRUE toll of biologics

    Imagine a restaurant where 43% of the diners suddenly RUSH to the toilet.

    The health department would shut ’em down – and rightfully so!

    Yet here we are, looking at a class of meds that can deliver a HORRIBLE side effect to as many as 43% of the patients who take it…

    Leaving them struggling with the emotional drain of depression and anxiety.

    The study finds 24% of rheumatoid patients on biologics ends up on an antidepressant, with 43% going onto an anti-anxiety med.

    For psoriasis, those numbers are 19% and 36%, respectively… along with 16% and 30% of patients with ankylosing spondylitis.

    Now, there are a few really WEIRD things about this study.

    But lemme hone in on just two of them.

    First of all, the raw numbers show that the patients with RA taking these meds had the HIGHEST rate of antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety meds after starting on a biologic.

    Yet once the researchers did “statistical” adjustments, they had the lowest – so low, the scientists claim the biologic drugs might even PREVENT depression and anxiety.

    Suuuuuuurrrre. And after statistical magic like that, I’m Brad Pitt.

    Second, the researchers ALSO claim maybe these patients were depressed FIRST. But their own study shows these folks DIDN’T start the antidepressants/anti-anxiety drugs until AFTER they started on the biologics.

    Ya gotta be KIDDING me!

    They’re stretching so far with this one… they’re practically doing yoga.

    Now, I get why everyone’s so nervous over this… looking for adjustments… making excuses… turning the other way.

    There’s A LOT riding on this ENTIRE CLASS of medication. Just look at the price tag.

    These drugs cost a TON to create… and you can bet the industry is EAGER to make that money back as fast as possible.

    Reports of mood-altering side effects won’t exactly help them close the sale.

    The sad reality is… there’s no PERFECT cure for these conditions. I wish there were!

    But you DO have options beyond these meds.

    The simplest is vitamin B6, which can slash the IL-6 inflammation that marks conditions such as RA.

    It’s safe enough to try on your own… an’ it’ll work even better if you add a few hundred milligrams of magnesium into the mix.

    There’s also another option that you’ll need a doctor for -- but trust me, it’s worth the effort.

    It’s called low-dose naltrexone and as I shared with you last year, it’s successfully treated dozens of conditions including autoimmune disorders such as RA.

    The “catch” is that the low doses are VERY low… so low that they don’t even make it commercially, which means you’ll likely need it custom-made by a compounding pharmacist.

    Don’t worry, it’s not expensive… just NOT something you can get at the corner drugstore.

    A naturopathic or integrative physician can get you pointed in the right direction.

    In Your Corner,

    Dr. Allan Spreen

  2. The HIDDEN cause of RA… and the immune-boosting key to REVERSING it

    Rheumatoid arthritis? At MY age????

    Hate to break it to ya, but… yep.

    You can get rheumatoid arthritis at just about any age, with the latest numbers showing that the average age of diagnosis is on the rise.

    It’s jumped by an average of nearly FIVE YEARS, so most people almost hit Social Security age before they’re even diagnosed

    But new research reveals a key reason WHY more older folks are getting RA.

    More importantly, it also shines a light on something else.

    It shows why a “forbidden” treatment… one doctors will warn can’t possibly help… can truly work wonders for you or anyone you love battling this debilitating form of arthritis.

    Get REAL relief… from THIS

    Unlike osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear on the joints, rheumatoid is triggered by an immune system malfunction.

    It can no longer effectively sort friend from foe, and so it turns on parts of your own body…

    Especially the joints.

    Docs have struggled to figure out why.

    Most believe it’s a flukey thing that “just happens” to some people.

    But a new study shows it’s not a fluke -- at least in some cases.

    It’s a MED!

    One class of drugs in particular can increase the risk of RA by 40% after a single course… and 66% if you’ve taken them twice or more.

    And that risk can linger for YEARS after you take the meds.

    It’s antibiotics.

    The drugs kill bacteria. That’s their job.

    But they don’t just kill BAD bugs.

    They also wipe out many of the good ones – including the bacteria essential to immune function.

    This link also explains something else. And it’s something that’s driven the mainstream absolutely batty…

    Lots of people with rheumatoid get REAL relief from probiotic supplements.

    Tell that to a mainstream doc… especially a rheumatologist… you’ll get an earful.

    “Nononono! That can’t POSSIBLY do a thing for your rheumatoid!”

    I’m sure there’s more than a little job security fear in that denial.

    If a bowl of probiotic-rich yogurt could ease your RA better than meds… you sure as heck don’t need to keep a rheumatologist on the payroll.

    So, here’s the deal…

    First, don’t instinctively reject all antibiotics. Just make sure you take them ONLY when the doctor is absolutely sure you actually NEED them.

    Sometimes, they’re the best – or even only – way to knock out nasty infections. Others, well, not so much. He’s just taking a guess.

    You won’t know which… unless you ask.

    Second, take a probiotic during and after to help undo the damage of the drug and restore the good germs so your immune system doesn’t skip a beat.

    And third, if you already have RA, try probiotics yourself and see if you can’t blow your rheumatologist’s mind.

    It’s not a CURE for rheumatoid, mind you -- so he shouldn’t worry too much about his job.

    But many people report that probiotics help.

    For more relief, consider vitamin B6 – which can cut levels of the inflammation marker IL-6 involved in RA – and increase your intake of soluble fiber.

    This fiber – found in beans, dark greens, zucchini, celery, nuts, etc – gets converted into the short-chain fatty acids that help to activate GPR43, a molecule that helps keep immune function under control.

    And last month, I shared the latest on low-dose naltrexone, which a growing number of docs are using to successfully treat autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid.

    Unlike probiotics or B6, you can’t try this one on your own – so ask a naturopathic doc about it.

    In Your Corner,

    Dr. Allan Spreen


  3. Steroid shots for knee pain? Not after you read this!

    If I ever offered a patient a natural, non-FDA-approved treatment proven to hurt instead of help… The authorities would have me tarred, feathered, and chased right outta town. And rightfully so! Of course, I’d never do that. But mainstream docs get away with something just like that ALL THE STINKIN’ TIME! If you have arthritis, there’s a good chance it’s...
  4. Coca-Cola Life introduced as soda sales plummet

    It’s working! We've got Big Soda -- including new Coca-Cola Life -- on the run, and without a single Nanny State law in sight. All it took was ordinary people like you and me speaking with our wallets. In the last nine years soda sales in the U.S. have plummeted. And that slide has sped up. Last year alone sales dropped 3 percent, more than double the drop from the year before—and for good reason. Continue reading →
  5. Vitamin D builds immunities

    If you had been watching me wade through my daily stack of research reading the other day, you’d have spotted me do one heck of a double take. Wondering what the line that caught my eye was? “Our data suggest vitamin D may be involved in maintaining the health of the immune system as well as the skeletal system.”  This remarkable “confession” was spoken by Dr. Mary Ward, one of the author’s on a new study on D that’s been accepted for publication in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Now, there’s no denying the importance of vitamin D. There’s even a stack of research proving the critical role it plays in our health from fighting off respiratory infections to keeping you out of a nursing home… if you know where to look for it, of course. (Hint, it’s not in the mainstream media, but you can start with a search in the NorthStar Blog’s archives.)

    Be sure to get your D!

    But it’s still quite rare to see such a straightforward conclusion about the significance a vitamin plays in keeping us healthy, from such a mainstream, source. In this case, Irish researchers completed an observational study on 957 adults who were at least 60 years old. They found that those volunteers who were vitamin D deficient had significantly higher biomarkers for inflammation. And that’s important, because these biomarkers are linked to heart disease and other inflammatory conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. So what does this all mean to you and me? I’ll let Dr. Ward explain, “The results indicate immune function may be compromised in older individuals with vitamin D deficiency.” In other words, be sure to get your D! To raise your vitamin D levels, I recommend spending more time outside. But since many of us can’t—or don’t—get all the D we need from sunshine alone I also generally recommend taking up to 5000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. A blood test can help you, and your doc, figure out what’s right for you.
  6. “Break-proofing” your hips against hip fractures

    She broke her hip, ended up in a nursing home, and never came out again. It’s a devastating story we’ve all heard before. But once you reach a certain age, it can quickly go from a sad tale to a frightening one. Because when you enter your golden years you start to fear that it could one day be your own story. Let’s face it; there are few things as frightening as the prospect of losing your independence. And while I don’t want to scare you even more, I must admit that the fear is justified. In the US alone, over 300,000 of us a year will fall victim to that bane of graceful aging, a hip fracture. But “break-proofing” your bones is probably much easier than you think. And while there aren’t, of course, any guarantees that you’ll never suffer from a painful and debilitating hip fracture, a few common supplements could go a long way towards making it highly unlikely. Now if I were to ask you what vitamins you should take for bone health, I bet you would respond with “calcium.” And you would be absolutely right. There’s no question that bone-friendly calcium should be in your “break-proofing” kit. But there are a couple of other nutrients that are essential for bone-health that you might not be aware of. To give your bones everything they need, you should make sure you’re getting enough of these four key nutrients…
    1. Calcium
    2. Vitamin D
    3. Vitamin K
    4. Magnesium
    Raising your levels of these nutrients by choosing the right foods is an excellent first step. Then, rounding them out with supplements can complete the picture. You can up your calcium intake by eating more canned sardines and salmon, both of which have soft calcium rich bones. And dairy products are another good choice. Fish is also a great food to turn to when you want to raise you vitamin D levels. Both the flesh and oil of fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and swordfish are naturally rich in D. Egg yolks, and beef will also provide some D. And don’t forget to spend a little time out in the sunshine every day for another natural boost of this vital vitamin. Vitamin K is often overlooked when it comes to bone health, but it’s an important player in keeping your bones healthy.  K can be found in leafy greens like kale and spinach, broccoli, asparagus, avocados, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, olive oil, meat, egg yolk, yogurt and green tea. We already knew that the final nutrient in that “break-proofing” kit of yours, magnesium, was a bone-health hero. But a new study out of Norway drives the point home. Norway has MORE than their fair share of hip fractures every year, and researchers wanted to know why. It turns out that the water in certain regions of Norway is super low in magnesium, and in those areas hip fractures tend to sky-rocket. To raise your own magnesium levels, eat more pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, sesame seeds, black beans, quinoa, cashews, and sunflower seeds.
  7. Flexanol’s multi action formula is tops for joint comfort

    It never fails. When the holidays get close, my inner kid suddenly emerges. It seems no matter how many years I manage to put under my belt, I still can’t help getting excited about the holidays like… well, like a kid at Christmas. And with visions of turkeys and Christmas trees dancing through my head, the only thing that could keep me from dancing right along with them are what I like to call uncomfortable “winter joints.” The fact is, very few of us are getting everything we need to keep our joints feeling smooth and comfortable. And as the temperatures drop, and the mad dash through the holidays starts, feeling stiff after an evening of merry-making is a very real possibility. But you can beat “winter joints,” sidestepping them altogether by giving your joints the soothing support they need. The Flexanol formula, combining the best joint-supporting breakthroughs of the last three decades, was essentially thirty years in the making. Because hey, let’s face it, you just don’t rush perfection! From joint-lubricating chondroitin to a triple shot of targeted joint-friendly vitamins, Flexanol supports your joints from all angles. Don’t face the holidays and “winter joints” unprepared.
  8. 4 Pain Problems and 12 Pain Relief Solutions

    Senior couple on cycle ride In talking with customers who are looking for pain relief solutions, it seems that most types of pain fall into one of 4 categories --  fibromyalgia, joint pain, migraines, and sore muscles. And because these are the issues you care about, they are the issues we care about. You gave us 4 painful concerns, so we came up with 3 pain relief solutions for each one!

    How Can I Get Fibromyalgia Relief?

    So little is understood about fibromyalgia, it’s hard to know exactly why something helps the pain. Still, many patients say these steps can help with pain relief…
    1. Light exercise keeps the body moving, and often eases the pain. Some slow walking, swimming, even a few stretches or gentle yoga have been reported to help.
    2. Lack of sleep due to pain can make you hurt worse – which keeps you up at night. Break the cycle with a melatonin supplement, and get a good night’s sleep.
    3. Sometimes, the pain requires a prescription. Find a doctor who will listen to you and respect you and your body.

    What Makes Joints Stop Hurting?

    Whether it’s arthritis, or just getting older, joint pain can be restrictive. Even if we feel up to moving, our bodies won’t always let us. Not only can it be painful, it can be disheartening. Here are some pain relief solutions that may help…
    1. Studies have shown topical pain relievers can be effective against joint pain, especially those with capsaicin or cayenne listed as an active ingredient.
    2. Glucosamine has been shown to ease joint pain, especially in cases not directly involving arthritis. Many people find it works best in conjunction with chondroitin.
    3. The ancient art of acupuncture is frequently used as an alternative, or complementary, medicine when dealing with joint pain. While many mainstream doctors are still skeptical, practitioners swear by its effects.

    How Can I Make A Migraine Go Away?

    Anyone who has ever had a migraine knows just how debilitating it can be. When one hits, all you want is for it to be over.
    1. Oral pain relievers seem to be the best pain relief solution for severe headaches. Most sufferers look for an over-the-counter drug that includes caffeine as an ingredient.
    2. Some people have found relief without medicine at all. If you can’t take medicine, or don’t have access to it, try a cold compress over your eyes and/or at the hairline on the back of your neck. For the most effective pain relief, stay away from light and loud noises, too.
    3. For some, only a prescription strength medication is strong enough to address their pain. In this case, speak with your doctor. Many medications can even prevent the onset of a migraine.

    What Can I Do For Sore Muscles?

    Sometimes, it’s a temporary situation. Sometimes, it’s a chronic condition. Either way, our muscles are not supposed to feel like this!
    1. This is another time when a topical pain reliever can be a helpful pain relief solution. Some products use capsaicin; some use menthol. Some products even offer both!
    2. It’s also a time when an oral pain reliever might work. Many over the counter medications, including ibuprofen and naproxen, claim to target sore muscles.
    3. Therapeutic massage can offer relief and relaxation, all in about an hour. Be sure to find a licensed massage therapist for the best results.
    Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that any of these pain relief solutions will work on your specific pain. And be sure to talk to you doctor or health care provider before starting a new treatment, especially for a chronic condition. But don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. There are ways to relieve or manage your pain. And we’re right here with you, every step of the way.
  9. Stress raises the risk of falling in older men

    Gentlemen, if life has been handing you lemons lately and your stress level has gone into overdrive, grab onto something quickly and hang on tight. A new study published in journal Age and Ageing, has found that your risk of falling may have just skyrocketed. According to researchers, if you’re an older guy who has been dealing with a stressful life event… like the death of a loved one or serious financial troubles, for example… your risk of falling within the year following the event could shoot up by as much as 41 percent! Even worse, the study involving 5,994 men over the age of 65 found that there was a two-fold increase in the risk of multiple falls during that same year. Ouch! It’s likely that a combination of strong emotions clouding your attention, the release of stress hormones, and inflammation all play a role in the sudden rise in risk of falling. When stress hits following your regular routines, including saying no to comfort foods and sticking to your healthy diet, can help keep you on track. Be sure to keep your vitamin D levels topped off (visit the NorthStar blog to learn why vitamin D is so critical for maintaining your health) and add in some natural-stress busting vitamin C while you’re at it. And don’t forget, exercise is one of the best stress reducers there is. Perhaps try some low-impact tai-chi which has been shown to be good for both your body and mind and can help you avoid those falls by building muscles and improving your balance.
  10. Avoid aching painful joints with the “broccoli cure”

    A certain felt-covered frog once quipped, “It’s not easy being green.”  And I’m sure if broccoli could speak it would agree. Sadly, this healthy veggie seldom gets the respect it really deserves. All too often it’s the butt of jokes about kids feeding it to the dog under the table. And I probably don’t need to remind you what our 41st President had to say about the stuff. But the truth is, broccoli is a superfood in every sense of the word. And if the king of cruciferous vegetables isn’t a regular on your dinner plate, than you’re missing out on the “broccoli cure”. Hidden inside those green stalks is a whole lot of healing power, starting with the potential to ward off cancer. Research has shown that broccoli extract can kill breast cancer cells. In fact, women who regularly eat this cruciferous vegetable have a 62 percent lower risk of dying from breast cancer and a 35 percent reduced risk of it ever coming back, according to one study. In a University of Oregon study it was prostate cancer that was the target. Broccoli extract not only killed the prostate cancer cells it managed to do it safely, leaving the nearby healthy cells intact. (You know… pretty much the opposite of what chemo does.) I shared all the details on that prostate study on the NorthStar blog—including Big Pharma’s intense interest in the results. Click here to get the whole scoop.

    Reverse arthritis with the “broccoli cure”?

    It’s a natural phytochemical called sulforaphane that appears to be responsible for the broccoli cure’s cancer-fighting abilities as well as its anti-inflammatory properties. This plant-based chemical, known as an isothiocyanate, is also at the heart of an exciting new broccoli-based discovery. Researchers from the University of East Anglia say that munching on sulforaphane-loaded broccoli could be the key to heading off agonizing joint pain. A lab study shows that the phytochemical literally slows down the destruction of joint cartilage that’s seen with the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis. Mice fed a sulforaphane-rich diet were practically ready to get up and do the tango. They had significantly less of the painful cartilage damage that you’d expect to see with osteoarthritis. And similar exciting results were seen with human and cow cartilage cells. The sulforaphane blocked the enzymes that lead to the wearing away of the cartilage in arthritic joints, heading off the molecule that leads to inflammation, according to the findings published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

    Get the “broccoli cure” now

    Now that the researchers have proven that the “broccoli cure” works in the lab and in animals, they hope to prove that it has the same effect on human joints as well. They are conducting a trial on osteoarthritis patients who will be having knee replacement surgery. But there’s really no reason to wait around for those results. Broccoli is chock full of important nutrients and there’s no time like the present to bump up the amount of this delicious and nutritious veggie in your diet. We already know those good-for-you green stalks fight inflammation, could help keep cancer in its place and may even help tame the tummy-troubling symptoms of Crohn’s disease. (To learn more about the Crohn’s and broccoli connection visit the NorthStar blog. Despite what Crohn’s sufferers are often told, this “forbidden” food is beneficial!) Just make sure your cooking your broccoli the right way. A light steaming… just three to four minutes… is all it takes. If you end up with a limp mushy side dish it’s a sure sign you’ve overcooked it, and killed the enzymes that release that all-important sulforaphane in the process.
  11. Night shift work increasing your risk for diabetes

    Working the "diabetes" shift

    Approximately 15 million of us are doing it. And now scientists say working the night shift could be putting you at risk for diabetes. We've long suspected a link between shift work and a laundry list of illnesses including depression, heart disease, and diabetes. And for good reason, messing with your circadian rhythms is nothing to take lightly. But the new study, published in an online supplement of the journal Sleep, has confirmed a direct connection between whacky blood sugar and working at night, increasing your risk for diabetes. And we’re not talking small differences here either... in fact, the numbers are quite shocking. Most shocking of all was how quickly glucose intolerance shows up. After just one night shift peak blood glucose levels were 16 percent higher, according to researchers. Not only that, when compared to the day shift group the night shift workers had insulin levels that ran 40 to 50 percent higher after meals. And of course, chronic glucose intolerance can lead to full-blown type 2 diabetes. I realize you may be stuck working the night shift with little choice in the matter, but if you're ever given the choice, grab the day shift instead. And if you can't get out of burning the midnight oil, be a stickler about getting the sleep you need after your shift. Blackout shades and kicking the TV out of the bedroom can help with that. To further lower your risk for diabetes, skip the diet sodas (Shocked? Read why here), snack on walnuts, and take a probiotic. And don't forget, chromium, biotin, cinnamon, vitamin D3, magnesium, Gymnema sylvestre, and berberine are all great natural choices for supporting healthy blood sugars.
  12. The link between knee arthritis and soda

    Is there a link between your knee arthritis and soda?

    I'm convinced that whoever writes the public statements for the American Beverage Association (ABA) should start a second career as a stand-up comedian. Sure the humor is unintentional, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't have them rolling in the aisles. A study of the link between knee arthritis and soda presented at the American College of Rheumatology's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. earlier this month had the American Beverage Association (ABA) taking their comedic stylings out for another spin. I'll tell you what the ABA had to say in just a moment. But first, let me tell you about that study. Bing Lu, MD, DrPh from Harvard Medical School and his team analyzed the records of 2,149 volunteers with knee osteoarthritis who had participated in a large arthritis study. Volunteers completed a detailed questionnaire on their diet including how many sugar-packed soft drinks they were gulping down every week. For four years the progress of their disease was tracked by measuring the growing spaces between their knee joints...the greater the space the less shock absorbing cartilage there is, and the worse the condition is. Each volunteer had their Body Mass Index (BMI) measured as well.

    Soda linked to osteoarthritis in the knee

    In the men, a troubling link between the most severe cases of knee arthritis and soda soon emerged. (Interestingly, the same link didn't show up for the women.) The researchers suspected that the link they were seeing was connected to excess weight. After all, if you're tossing back a bunch of sodas every week you're also swallowing a lot of extra calories. To find out if the link between knee arthritis and soda was really there, Lu and his team carefully adjusted for BMI and other risk factors including obesity. Then, to truly rule out if it was added pounds causing the extra knee damage, they divided the men into an obese and non-obese group. Much to the researcher's surprise, the link stubbornly remained. In fact, the worse knee damage showed up ONLY in the non-obese men! And we're not talking about a small effect here. It turns out that the men who drank five or more soft drinks a week had DOUBLE the loss of cartilage as the men who didn't drink any sodas. Researchers aren't certain why soda may have this effect. The leading theory is that some of the ingredients in soda... including phosphoric acid, the chemicals used in the artificial colors or sweeteners, and even caffeine...could play a role by affecting the bone's ability to absorb calcium. More research has to be done since, as I always remind you, a link doesn't prove a cause. And this study of knee arthritis and soda still has to go through the normal peer review process before it gets published. But the findings remain pretty shocking.

    Sidestepping the real soft drink story

    Naturally, the American Beverage Association weighed in. In a statement the ABA said, "The authors' 'novel findings' -- as they call them -- suggest only a possible association of soft drink consumption with osteoarthritis in knees..." Nice bit of maneuvering there ABA. Since it's just a "possible association" you don't even have to deny it and you're still in the clear. That bit of verbal gymnastics might already have caused you to chuckle, but wait, there's even more slight-of-word to come. Get ready to yuk it up. The ABA statement continues, "...this presentation fails to establish that drinking soft drinks causes any negative health outcomes or even that they are linked to negative health outcomes." Ha, good one ABA! Yes, welcome to the hilarious new world of the American Beverage Association where gulping down sugary sodas doesn't cause any "negative outcomes." After all, no one can prove that they're bad for you, right? Wrong. It turns out that robbing your bones of cartilage isn't the only potential problem with sugary sodas. In fact, soft drinks have already been linked with heart disease, hypertension, and stroke. The acids in sodas can wear away tooth enamel. And the cans themselves are lined with endocrine-disrupting BPA. Heck, a couple of months ago I even told you about the apparent (mouse) "bone-dissolving"power of Mountain Dew. Not to mention how all those extra sugary calories you're dumping down your throat are liable to have you packing on the pounds, and potentially raising your risk for diabetes while you're at it. The obvious thing to do here is to go cold turkey on the sodas. Regardless if you're a man or a woman nothing good can come from drinking them. Try switching to antioxidant–rich green tea instead. Just add a dash of all-natural stevia if you still need to satisfy a sweet tooth.
  13. Omega-3 battles illness by reducing systemic inflammation

    Hidden cause of illness reversed with simple nutrient

    It's a good thing gone wrong. Inflammation, you see, starts out with its "heart" in the right place, but can end badly with systemic inflammation Much like the pain that makes you pull your hand away from the hot stove, or the fever that raises your body's temperature just enough to make it an unfriendly place for a bug to live, inflammation has an important and underappreciated job to do as well. When you're injured or get an infection your body sends special immune system cells to take care of the problem. The cells surround and overwhelm the infection or get rid of any debris left behind by the injury. The inflammation you see is a sign that your body is doing its job. But there's a more sinister side to inflammation. This normally helpful process has a dark side called "systemic" inflammation. And instead of the redness, swelling, and pain that you expect to see, systemic inflammation changes the rules. It's internal, and what docs like me like to call "low grade," (yup, just like the lighter version of a fever that also can be easily missed) and chronic. The problem with this kind of inflammation is that it's virtually invisible. But just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's not there or having an effect. In fact, experts are now starting to link this hidden inflammation with a number of major diseases. And the potentially deadly list includes heart disease, Alzheimer's, arthritis, cancer, and type-2 diabetes. And if you're carrying around some extra weight the news gets even worse. Systemic inflammation goes hand in hand with excess body fat. So just being overweight may make you susceptible to it and could be raising your risks of a number of major diseases.

    Reverse hidden systemic inflammation

    But new research from Ohio State University has found that if you're both overweight and middle aged just having enough of one simple nutrient in your diet could help you cut your inflammation numbers without even trying. (Hint... your likely not getting enough of it.) According to the study, published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, volunteers took supplements for four months. They got either 2.5 grams of active omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, 1.25 grams of the omega-3s, or two teaspoons of a mix of oils representing what a typical American's eats. Now, if you'll recall, earlier I told you that systemic inflammation is almost invisible. Well the way we find it is to look for certain proteins in the blood that are telltale signs of its presence. And it's those proteins the researchers at Ohio State were looking for. It turns out that those volunteers who got the omega-3s had one of those proteins drop by an average of more than 10 percent! And they also saw a modest, but measurable, decrease in a second one of the inflammation markers to boot. But the volunteers who got the supplement of mixed oils didn't fair so well. In fact, they saw jumps in their inflammation marking proteins... a staggering 36 percent in the one and 12 percent in the other.

    Omega-3s may beat disease

    Lowering hidden inflammation is important for your health. And it may even slash your risk for heart disease, Alzheimer's, arthritis, cancer and diabetes. So adding more omega 3's to your diet seems like a no-brainer. (Hm, or perhaps knowing what we know already about omega 3's and brain health--and its ability to ward off depression and Alzheimer's--maybe I should call it a yes-brainer instead?) And the good news is that it's super easy to add more omega 3's to your diet. Sardines, salmon, halibut, chia seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts are all excellent... not to mention delicious... sources of omega-3.
  14. PFOA chemical linked to cancer and arthritis

    Is your cookware giving you cancer? Six years. That's how long it's been since I first started warning you about dangerous PFOA chemical hiding in our food and water supply that could be making you sick. This chemical—a favorite of food and product manufacturers—can mess with your metabolism and disturb your immune system. High levels of it in your blood, increases your risk of high cholesterol, thyroid disease, and fertility problems. And even more frightening, it's been linked with both arthritis and cancer. Heck, even the government admits that it causes cancer... in animals. (To admit that it does in people too means they'd have to come up with some stiffer regulations that their powerful lobbyist buddies in Washington would definitely not like.) I'm talking about C-8P or perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA for short). The chemical that manufacturers like DuPont line non-stick pans with can also contain the PFOA chemical, and it can be found in grease resistant food packaging. It's in your favorite frying pan (and if that pan is at all scratched, every piece of food you cook in it), in that stain-resistant fabric on your sofa, in the glass of water you drink with dinner every night, the shampoo you wash your hair with, and even inside your favorite snack food bag... microwave popcorn. In fact, any grease-repellant food packaging you come across probably has PFOA in it.

    Creepy chemical linked to health problems

    Back in 2006, I reported in the Guide to Good Health that a panel of experts had presented the EPA with evidence that PFOAs are "likely human carcinogens." And the government responded by... yes, you guessed it... doing next to nothing. Last year, researchers at the University of West Virginia reported that the creepy chemical might be to blame for those stiff and aching arthritic hands you wake up to every morning. Yes, PFOA may very well be contributing to your painful arthritis. And I'll give you just one guess what the government's response to this new shocking revelation was. Yup, again, nothing of note. No warning labels, no tough legislation, not even a really strong warning for those dumping these dangerous chemicals into the environment, and our bodies. Oh, eventually, in 2009, the EPA did create an "action plan" for addressing these chemicals. What does that mean exactly? Well, in the EPA's own words it apparently means that the, "EPA intends to consider initiating rulemaking..." Yes, that's right, they will "consider initiating." Way to go and take a real stand on this issue EPA.

    Exposure to PFOA may cause cancer

    Now, according to Food Production Daily, an independent group of public health scientists has concluded that there's a "probable link" between the PFOA chemical and cancer. Specifically, the scientists say, the chemical is likely linked to both kidney and testicular cancers. The scientists began looking into the PFOA problem after the community around Dupont's Washington Works plant in West Virginia filed a class action suit against the company. Until just a few years ago Dupont had been releasing PFOA into the air and water stretching all the way back to the 1950's. After looking at the data on people who have lived in six water districts close to the plant, the researchers said that it's more likely than not that exposure to the chemical is linked to the two cancers. So EPA it's your move. What are you going to do about it? I know, you'll likely consider initiating something, right?

    Reduce your risks

    The fact is this chemical has been shown time and time again to pose health dangers to both animals and humans. And although DuPont, along with seven other companies, has voluntarily agreed to phase out use of the chemical by 2015, it's too little too late. The people in the West Virginia community surrounding the DuPont plant have been suffering the consequences of this exposure for years. And it's likely the rest of us have been too. In fact, studies show that an astounding 95 percent of us have PFOA chemicals in our blood stream as well. And cleaning this mess up is not so easy. PFOA is what is known as a "persistent contaminant" which simply means it's tough to get rid of. It hangs out in the environment and in your body for a long time. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to at least reduce your exposure. Avoid cooking in non-stick pans, opt for non-stain resistant fabrics on your furniture and carpets, avoid fast food and other foods that commonly come in grease-resistant packaging, check your shampoo and cosmetic labels and toss any that list "fluoro" or "perfluoro" in the ingredients, and start filtering your water with a trustworthy water filter. And, of course, keep your immune system in tip-top shape by eating right and taking high-quality supplements, to maintain optimal health.
  15. Could your knee replacement end with a venous thromboembolism?

    If you're over 50 and experiencing some joint problems the chances are quite good that your doctor will one day soon sit you down and propose knee replacement surgery, which comes with a serious risk of a venous thromboembolism. More on that later. In fact... Between 1971 and 2003 knee replacements skyrocketed by 400%. That amounts to 638,000 replacement surgeries in 2003 alone. The surgeries are being performed on younger patients, which is helping to drive those numbers up, and one recent Finnish study is even estimating an additional 673% increase in the surgeries, in that country at least, by 2030. Now a new report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is finally starting to raise some red warning flags about an unanticipated side effect.

    A killer blood clot could be in your future

    According to the new research it turns out that about one in 100 people who have knee replacement surgery will experience a potentially deadly blood clot called a venous thromboembolism before they leave the hospital. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but that means that at least 6,380 people got a new knee and a blood clot to go right along with it in 2003 alone. Yes, I'd call that quite a red flag. But wait, it gets worse. While the researchers from the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland who gathered the blood clot data do freely admit that the one in 100 figure might not be a true reflection of the problem, they also appear to completely miss one critically important point. Notice that I said "before they leave the hospital." The 47 studies that the Swiss team analyzed and based their estimates on only recorded blood clots that occurred during hospitalization. Since clots can occur long after fact, up to six weeks later with knee surgery...that means that they're likely missing out on a whole heck of a lot of clots.

    Pain-relief options may save you from surgery

    Let's face it, one in 100 is already a frighteningly large number. (I shudder to think just how big the real number is.) But when you consider that there are often no warning signs and that clots can break off and head for the's easy to see what a disaster- waiting-to-happen all of those hundreds of thousands of surgeries a year actually represent. Now if you're already suffering from osteoarthritis I certainly don't have to tell you that the pain can be excruciating at times. And it's that very same pain that can cause you to leap...or perhaps I should say hobble...towards the chance for a surgery that could relieve it. But it's precisely this tendency to leap before looking when we're in pain that could be dangerous and, in this case, even deadly. It's important that you fully understand your risks as well as your options before you agree to go under the knife. And, perhaps not so coincidentally, the majority of these "try these first" options are the same steps you'd be given to prepare yourself for a knee replacement surgery.
    • Drop the extra pounds: For obvious reasons reducing the load on your knee joints can help ease the pain. And it's even entirely possible that just this one step could keep you off the operating table.
    • Quit smoking: Smoking affects blood flow patterns, impairs circulation, delays healing, raises your risk for blood clots, and can inhibit your recovery from surgery should you decide to have one. Plus studies show smokers perceive pain more acutely than non-smokers.
    • Keep moving: I know, exercise is the very last thing you feel like doing when you're in pain. But the truth is gentle movement of the painful joint will help you stay mobile, will provide endorphin-driven pain relief, and, if you do elect to have surgery, will help speed your recovery. Try walking or, my favorite, swimming.
    • Try supplements: Omega-3 fatty acids, like those in fish oil, have been found to be an effective anti-inflammatory (just be sure to zap any free radicals with some additional vitamin E), while ginger, curcumin, and passion fruit extract have all shown pain-relieving promise. And arthritis pain has been shown in some cases to respond to a course of B3 or B6 (check with a naturopath for a personalized plan).
    Keep in mind that knee replacement surgery with its potentially deadly side effects, like a venous thromboembolism, should never be a first- or even a second-choice option. In fact, it should only be seen as a last resort. Why not find a naturopath who can help you with a personalized pain management plan before you opt for the knife? To find a doctor in your area who is skilled in natural medicine visit the American College for the Advancement in Medicine website at or contact them by calling 949-309-3520 or 1-800-532-3688.
  16. Two secrets to build stronger bones without Prolia side effects

    Last year I told you about a risky new osteoporosis drug called Prolia. The company that makes Prolia, Amgen pharmaceuticals, says the drug is much safer than older bone drugs on the market, such as Boniva, with Prolia side effects being less dangerous than the side effects of Boniva. These older drugs work by interrupting the cycle of bone turnover. Sure -- they stop you from losing bone, so your bone density tests initially look great. But the drugs also stop you from growing new bone. So over time, your bones could become brittle and you become more prone to fractures. In fact, women who take high doses of these older bone drugs (called bisphosphonates) could run an increased risk of developing atypical hip fractures. They could also run an increased risk of getting osteonecrosis (or bone death of the jaw) and it has even been linked to esophageal cancer. Amgen deliberately tried to stand apart from bisphosphonates in its marketing materials. Instead of hiring a celebrity like Sally Field, Amgen talked about "women like you" in its marketing. The company says Prolia is different. But women aren't buying it...literally. Sales out of the gate for Prolia, which debuted in 2010, were sluggish. But Amgen just hit pay dirt. They figured out a new way to increase their market share: sell it to cancer patients!

    Amgen turns tragedy into sales payday

    You see, chemotherapy wreaks havoc on your entire body. In fact, certain kinds of chemotherapy used to treat prostate cancer and breast cancer can disrupt hormonal function. This puts already sick patients at risk for bone fractures. To combat the loss of bone during chemotherapy, Amgen suggested that oncologists try using Prolia on cancer patients. And in September, Amgen actually became the first drug approved to prevent bone loss in prostate and breast cancer patients. This sweeping approval substantially increases the market share for Prolia. Experts estimate sales for the drug (given by injection) will now reach more than $1 billion. But -- no matter how happy the women appear in the TV ads -- I still have concerns about Prolia side effects. The active ingredient in Prolia -- called denosumab -- blocks a protein that activates osteoclasts. Osteoclasts serve an important role in the body. They destroy bone. Sure, destroying bone may not sound like a good thing, but in this case it is. The key is the type of bone. Healthy bones are in constant flux. Your body breaks down old bone and sends it into your bloodstream. Then you absorb new calcium out of your blood stream to build new bone. But Prolia -- just like the old bisphosphonates -- interrupts this natural cycle. It blocks bone from breaking down. So technically, you never lose bone density. But it also appears to block the building of new bone. And that could make for brittle bones. And brittle bones fracture easily. Is it any surprise, then, that the FDA has already warned physicians to be on the lookout for increased fractures in women taking Prolia (not to mention the small jaw decay problem the FDA has also warned us about)! Now, here's the good news I promised you... A new study of post-menopausal women found that you can definitely increase your bone mass without taking harmful drugs! In fact, two natural secrets may even work better than drugs!

    Build stronger bones without drugs

    For this new study, researcher recruited 79 sedentary post-menopausal women. They divided the women into four groups. The first group of women walked or jogged three times a week. The second group of women took 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids each day. The third group exercised and took the omega-3s. And the fourth group -- the control group -- did nothing differently. They didn't exercise or take any new supplements. After 24 weeks, the researchers gave bone density tests to all the women. The women who exercised and took omega-3s had a clear advantage! In fact, after just 24 weeks, these women increased BMD in their lower spine up 15 percent. Plus, they increased the density of their femurs (thigh bone) by 19 percent! These are HUGE gains. In fact, Amgen published the latest round of research on Prolia and possible Prolia side effects in March of this year (2011). According to this data, women treated with Prolia for five continuous years (five YEARS!) improved bone density on average by 13.7 in the spine and by just seven percent in the hip. So you tell me... Would you rather take a drug for five years and risk jaw bone death...or would you rather exercise three times a week and take your omega-3s? The answer's pretty darn clear to me. It's quite easy to get 1,000 mg of omega-3s in fish oil tablets. Just make sure to add a natural vitamin E capsule along with your fish oil. The natural vitamin E will help zap any free radicals generated by the fish oil.
  17. Skip potential Prolia side effects

    I’ve warned before about buying into the hype about new drugs. Sure -- they sound so promising, but we know too little about their long-term problems. Well, remember this little tidbit when you come across a new drug like Prolia, Prolia side effects have not yet been tested in the long-term. A new study just hit the news wire that showed post-menopausal women who take Prolia for up to eight years increase their bone mineral density. <--more--> No doubt, Amgen Inc, the makers of this drug, will make the most out of this new study. They want you to take Prolia. It's a great, safe alternative to other osteoporosis drugs like Boniva and Fosamax, they'll say. These older drugs -- known as bisphosphonates -- have come under recent attack for causing unusual fractures, jaw decay, and even cancer, which could mean potential Prolia side effects could be similar. But don't buy Amgen's ploy. Newer doesn't = better. And if you think bisphosphonates are bad. Just think about how little we really know about a newer drug like Prolia and possible Prolia side effects!
  18. Study tests turmeric for inflammation relief

    A few weeks back, I told you about a spice used in cooking that might help prevent cancer and Alzheimer's disease. It seems to work by fighting off inflammation throughout the body. Plus, now a new study testing turmeric for inflammation shows this spice may even target inflammation in your joints. Curcumin is the ingredient in turmeric that gives the spice its bright yellow color. Researchers applied the extract to human tendon cells taken from patients with tendonitis. Tendonitis is a form of inflammation that commonly strikes tendons in your wrist, hands, shoulders, elbows, knees, and hips. But when researchers applied the curcumin extract to tendon cells, inflammation decreased showing that turmeric for inflammation may be effective. According to the published report, "These results demonstrate, for the first time, a potential role for curcumin in treating tendon inflammation." Of course, more studies are needed. But in the meantime, if you've got tendonitis, add curry and turmeric to your cooking.
  19. Shocking hidden cause of arthritis revealed

    You probably think suffering from arthritis is just an inevitable part of getting older. But it turns out, there’s a lot more to it. In fact, new evidence shows there may be a hidden cause of arthritis. Researchers from the University of West Virginia made a shocking discovery this month that may help explain why you wake up each morning with pain and swelling in your hands – a hidden cause of arthritis. And it’s got very little to do with your age. Instead, it may depend on how you cook your breakfast... where you sit and watch TV... what kind of snacks you eat... what kind of water you drink... and even what kind of shampoo you use! One common culprit ties all these activities together. And to make matters worse, the U.S. government has known about this cause of arthritis for years, but for a different reason: it causes cancer and birth defects in lab animals.

    The common chemical that could literally kill you

    Of course, the trouble-maker I’m talking about is a man-made chemical called PFOA (also known as C8). I’ve warned you about it before. In 2006, a panel of experts presented evidence to the EPA that PFOA are “likely human carcinogens.” The government stopped short of adopting the new classification. Although, it does admit PFOA causes cancer in animals. The government also concedes that high levels of PFOA in your blood increases your risk for high cholesterol, thyroid disease, and fertility problems. The scary part is that PFOA can be found everywhere. Food manufacturers like to use it to line microwavable popcorn bags. You also find it in stain-resistant fabrics, food wrap, and carpeting. It’s also used to make non-stick cookware. It has even made its way into your drinking water. Studies show that an incredible 95 percent of Americans have PFOA in their blood. And this is where the University of West Virginia arthritis research comes into play. About 10 years ago, the EPA discovered that the public drinking water in and around Washington, West Virginia became contaminated with PFOA. You see, DuPont built a manufacturing plant in the town. Over many years, the plant released PFOA into the air. Eventually, the PFOA hit the town’s (and surrounding towns’) water supply. Eventually, the people started to connect the dots. They stopped drinking the water. DuPont had to provide bottled water to residents until they could get the public water cleaned up. But this is a lot tougher than it sounds. You see, PFOA is a “persistent” contaminant. This means, it lingers in the environment and your body. And it is very hard to remove. In fact, DuPont is still dealing with the mess.

    Researchers make connection to arthritis

    After the DuPont mess, scientists started to take blood samples of the West Virginia residents. They wanted to monitor the residents’ PFOA levels and their overall health. And 10 years later, a group of scientists from U of WV made the surprising connection – PFOA is also a hidden cause of arthritis. In fact, they found that men and women with the highest PFOA levels in their blood are up to 40 percent more likely to develop arthritis than people with low PFOA. Now, you may not live in Washington, West Virginia, but even low levels of PFOA in your blood  could be a potential cause of arthritis. Research suggests that PFOA disturbs your immune system and metabolism. It also appears to increase inflammation in the body. This is why — researchers believe — men and women with high PFOA seem more prone to arthritis. Plus... Recently, scientists think most of our PFOA exposure comes from flurotelomer alcohols. These alcohols break down into PFOA in the body. Plus, you probably handle them on a daily basis. They’re in many everyday items, such as your shampoo and household paper products.

    What you can do right now

    Even though PFOA is everywhere, there is still a lot you can do you protect you and your family from this toxin.
    1. Remove all non-stick cookware from your home. Cook with stainless steel instead.
    2. When you purchase carpet or furniture, do not apply stain-resistant treatments. These products contain PFOA or chemicals that break down into PFOA.
    3. Avoid buying stain-resistant and water-resistant clothing. Manufacturers may coat these products with chemicals that break down into PFOA.
    4. Minimize packaged foods and “fast food” in your diet. The food industry often wrap these items with paper coated with PFCs (PFOA belong to the PFC family of toxins).
    5. Avoid buying cosmetics or shampoo that contain “fluoro” or “perfluoro” on the ingredient list. These also contain PFCs.
    6. Install a high-quality filter on your water faucet.
  20. Even the FDA wouldn’t approve this as a gout drug

    There‘s a limited gout drug arsenal available. So the drug company Novartis AG saw an opening and went for it. Last month, the company hoped to gain FDA approval for their gout drug called Ilaris. But their gamble didn‘t work. The FDA denied approval. (Shocking, I know.) Ilaris is a serious drug already approved to treat a group of rare inflammatory disorders. Novartis hoped to open it up as a gout drug as well. It appears to decrease gout pain by blocking a protein linked to inflammation. But this gout drug‘s side effects are more dangerous than gout itself! Taking this gout drug for gout pain would be kinda like lopping off your big toe. get rid of the pain in your toe, but what the‘re also now missing a toe! In the company‘s study, almost 70 percent of patients had some mild to moderate side effects, including high blood pressure. In addition, 18 of the patients had skin, respiratory and other infections. Six of the volunteers in the study died. Plus, only 43 of the patients even had three or more injections of Ilaris. Okaaay. And Novartis wants to give this gout drug to the millions of men and women with gout in America? Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed. According to Dr. David Felson, a panel member and professor at the Boston University School of Medicine, "I found the safety issues to be overwhelmingly concerning. We‘re giving therapies that in some cases may be life-threatening for a disease that is not. Forty-three patients with recurrent treatment is too small a number for us to be confident that this would be safe for people over time." Interestingly, Dr. Felson hails from BU School of Medicine. This is where they conducted the research on vitamin C, cherries, and gout. No doubt, this played a role in Dr. Felson‘s decision.

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