NorthStar Nutritionals Blog

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  1. Glorious grapes!

    The other day, reading through my ‘Inbox,’ I came across an e-mail about an all-natural grape seed treatment for leukemia. The gist of the article claimed that grape seeds could kill 76 percent of diseased cells overnight. Being the skeptic that I am, I thought this sounded way too good to be true.

    Where did these results come from, I wondered? It had to be a fluke, concocted by some backward scientist in Slovakia. How could an all-natural remedy really kill 76 percent of leukemia cells overnight?

    However, after checking into the research myself, I found that the study was conducted at the University of Kentucky. (No, it wasn’t Harvard, but a big university laboratory nevertheless.) I also found that the results got published in the highly-respected, peer-reviewed medical journal Clinical Cancer Research.

    Okay, these little grape seeds had my attention. Now what? How do they destroy leukemia cells so quickly?

    First, let’s back up. I probably should explain a little bit about leukemia so you can truly appreciate how promising this study could be in the years to come for any family touched by this brutal disease.

    It’s the goliath of cancer
    Leukemia is a vicious type of cancer that attacks the lifeline of your body: your blood. Normally, blood cells start out as stem cells made in the bone marrow. Then they mature into:

    • White blood cells (which help fight infection)
    • Red blood cells (deliver oxygen to vital organs and tissues in your body)
    • Platelets (help form blood clots when you get a cut or injury)

    In healthy individuals, blood cells have a life cycle. When this happens, the old cells get replaced by new, healthy cells that are made in the bone marrow. It’s this natural turnover that helps keep you free from disease.

    But in leukemia patients, this natural system has gone awry. The bone marrow begins to produce abnormal white blood cells that don’t die. Over time, the abnormal cells crowd out the healthy blood cells.

    As a result, diseased cells take over the blood stream. Leukemia patients can become prone to infection, grow tired easily, and become anemic.

    Plus, sometimes the treatment’s worse than the disease
    Treatment depends on the type of leukemia (there are four main types). Most mainstream routes involve some type of rigorous chemotherapy regimen, steroids, radiation, or even bone marrow transplants.

    The road is far from easy for a leukemia patient. That’s why a proven and effective non-toxic treatment like grape seed extract is such welcome news.

    What led scientists to test grape seeds?
    The majority of research into grape seed extract has focused on promoting heart health. But recent studies have shown that grape seeds also seem to protect you against cancer.

    Grape seeds contain loads of proanthocyanidin, an antioxidant thought to be 20 times more powerful than vitamin C. These antioxidants seem to neutralize roaming free radicals in your body that can cause cancer and disease.

    In recent lab tests, grape seed extract has been shown to work against cancers of the breast, lung, and prostate. As recently as 2006, a very promising study funded by the US National Cancer Institute showed that grape seed extract could control the spread of colon cancer in mice.

    Up until now, however, scientists dared not even dream that the natural extract could touch a disease as complex as leukemia.

    A quick end for abnormal cells
    In a new in vitro experiment (which means the work was conducted in test tubes with human cells, not animal cells), grape seed extract caused 76 percent of leukemia cells to literally ‘commit cell suicide.’

    And, this mass drop-off (a process known as apoptosis) occurred within 24 hours. Plus, unlike chemotherapy, which kills all replicating cells (even hair cells), the grape seed extract left healthy cells alone.

    Send those leukemia cells packing
    Researchers at the University of Kentucky discovered that grape seed extract activates JNK, a protein that regulates the apoptosis pathway. So the extract literally sends the leukemia cells packing, never to be seen again.

    According to the study’s lead author Xianglin Shi, PhD, Professor in the Graduate Center for Toxicology at the University of Kentucky: "These results could have implications for the incorporation of agents such as grape seed extract into prevention or treatment of hematological malignancies and possibly other cancers."

    While this treatment has only been proven in the lab, not on human patients, the results are extremely promising.

    Check out your local health food store
    Grape seed extract is actually pretty easy to come by. And it’s cheap too. For preventative measures, I would recommend 200 mg per day (under the care of a naturopath, of course).

    If you’ve got leukemia and would like to add grape seed extract to your regimen, check with your doctor or hematologist first. There hasn’t been a lot of research into how grape seed interacts with other drugs or supplements you may be taking. I’d use caution and probably stick pretty close to 200 mg a day. (As a side note: In a 12-month study, rats were given 100 mg of grape seed extract and they safely tolerated that dosage. It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume 200 mg is a safe dosage for humans.)

    Also, buyers beware that grape seed extract is sometimes shortened to "GSE.” But that acronym is also sometimes used as an acronym for grapefruit seed extract.

    As research into this promising, non-toxic leukemia treatment continues, I’ll be sure to keep you updated.

  2. The Secret about Flu Vaccines

    Well, if nothing else, at least the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) is predictable. Every year at about this time (going back to at least 2002 ), the AAP goes into marketing overdrive and puts out an report urging parents to get flu shots for themselves and their kids. And this year, like previous years, they’re recommending children as young as 6 months get the vaccine.

    Well, there goes my dream of a more sensible world in 2009!
    What a bunch of phooey.

    First off, the flu vaccine hardly ever targets the correct virus circulating in a given year. Even the CDC basically admits they’re shooting in the dark. That’s why you’re given three different strains of viruses. They’re hoping at least one of them will hit the mark.

    On the CDC’s web site it states: ‘How well the flu vaccine works depends on how well the match is between the influenza (flu) vaccine and the types of flu viruses that are circulating that year. Scientists try to predict what strains (types) of flu viruses are most likely to spread and cause illness each year to put into the vaccine.’

    Okay…but here’s the problem…

    The CDC’s ‘predictions’ hardly ever hit the mark.
    Case in point: last year’s flu vaccine was only 44% effective in preventing the flu. This is according to the CDC’s own numbers, folks!

    Why such bad results?

    Here’s a surprise: two of the vaccine‘s three components didn‘t match most of the flu viruses circulating.

    But many elderly people (those most at risk) and parents of young children got lulled into a false sense of security. As a result, millions of people who thought they were protected actually ended up getting very sick.

    In fact, last year, by mid-February, flu deaths peaked at 9.1% of all U.S. deaths. Annually, about 30,000 people die from the flu. And the flu vaccine hasn’t done much to cut into those numbers.

    In my book, the flu vaccine is a medical failure of tragic proportions. In fact, calling it a ‘vaccine’ at all is certainly irresponsible, if not criminal.

    Nevertheless, the scare-tactic marketing continues. And more people than ever have been ambushed into getting the annual flu shot.

    Last year a record 113 million doses were given out. That was up almost 10 million from the previous year. (Guess all that marketing is starting to pay off.)

    Plus, your local government is now starting to get in on the act.

    The state of New Jersey now mandates that children ages 6 months to 5 years old get a flu shot to enroll in preschool or day care.

    According to New Jersey state law, parents had until December 31, 2008 to get their kids ‘vaccinated’ against the flu or the kids couldn’t go to school or day care.

    What scares me most about this development isn’t the government gone berserk (I imagine that other states may actually follow suit), it’s that children are now required to get a risky vaccine they could do without.

    There is no question that routine vaccines cause serious problems in many children.

    But the flu vaccine is even scarier. Here’s why…

    Thimerosal is a mercury-containing preservative used in some vaccines since the 1930s. It’s known to break down into ethyl mercury in the body. Many experts believe this mechanism triggers autism in some children.

    One significant study published in 2003 in the Journal of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons examined the link between vaccines and autism. Results showed that kids who receive just three vaccines containing thimerosal were 27 times more likely to develop autism compared to children who get vaccines with no thimerosal.

    The CDC of course denies a connection between autism and thimerosal. But, in 2001 they went ahead and eliminated from most childhood vaccines as a ‘precautionary’ measure.

    A lot of docs like me are now waiting for children who received this wave of ‘thimerosal-free’ vaccines to mature. Hopefully, we’ll see a drop in the cases of autism.

    But here’s the problem. The flu vaccine still contains thimerosal.

    Besides the fact that the flu shot won’t do a lick of good at protecting your child against the flu, now you’ve got autism to worry about again. For parents, this is the biggest reason to avoid the vaccine.

    In my book, any pediatrician who doesn’t warn you about the thimerosal in the flu shot just doesn’t have your child’s best interest in mind. There is a thimerosal-free flu vaccine, but chances are your pediatrician won’t have it.

    My advice? Skip the flu vaccine all together.

    A strong immune system is all you need to fight off the flu virus. So, keep up the healthy eating habits (discussed in last week’s GTGH) in 2009.

    Plus, there are loads of research linking vitamin D deficiencies and a weakened immune system. Instead of the ‘flu shot-in-the-dark,’ try upping your intake of vitamin D to at least 2000 IU per day during the winter months. That should help boost your protection against anything Mother Nature throws at you!

  3. People are dying to avoid heart disease

    Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs have been on the market for well over a decade now and represent one of the biggest pharmaceutical money-makers in drug history. But for as many statin prescriptions as are written every year, you would think that heart disease would have slipped down a notch or two from it‘s No. 1 spot in the "top causes of death" list. Yet it hasn‘t budged. That‘s at least partially because, even though statins have proven beyond all shadow of any doubt that they can effectively lower cholesterol, they have yet to prove an ability to prevent strokes and heart attacks. In fact, roughly 50 percent of all heart attack patients have what are considered to be normal, healthy cholesterol levels. So, researchers are trying a different angle. Rather than more drugs to lower bad (LDL) cholesterol, they‘re developing new drugs to raise good (HDL) cholesterol. The good news is, a lot of them work! They‘re actually raising HDL cholesterol levels by as much as 61 percent in some cases! But they‘re also causing an incredible number of heart attacks, kidney problems and death. Pfizer had to pull the plug on an $800 million investment in an HDL-raising drug called torcetrapib for just that reason. Of course, what Merck, Pfizer, Roche and their respective brethren aren‘t telling you, is that good old fashioned niacin will do the trick for pennies a day and no prescription. Sure, some people experience a mildly uncomfortable "flushing" from niacin. But it‘s very temporary and tends to go away once the body has grown more accustomed to the increased niacin. It‘s a small price to pay when compared to the potential heart attacks, strokes, kidney failures or deaths that come with these "cutting edge" medications. Of course, if you‘re just not into pills, exercise is also a great HDL-booster. It comes with no harmful side-effects, and more often than not, exercise is free!  
  4. 75 Percent of Juvenile Diabetics Not Getting Enough Vitamin D

    A new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics caught my attention this week. It said more than 75 percent of children with type-1 diabetes aren’t getting enough vitamin D. While I’m glad those darn pediatricians (the doctors most likely to put their head in the sand and keep it there) are paying attention to how much vitamin D their patients get, their solution to the problem is mind-boggling! Lead author of the study, Britta Svoren, M.D., wrote ‘We need to make sure all youths in general are getting enough vitamin D in their diets.’ In their diets? Are you kidding me! Do you know how many glasses of milk a kid have to drink to get the equivalent of just 30 minutes spent in the sun? Way too much! As you’ll recall in my Guide to Good Health (10-23-08) from just a few months ago entitled ‘Pour Yourself a Tall Glass of Sunshine,’ I reminded everyone that the best source of vitamin D is sunshine. Just a half hour of sunshine daily without sunscreen will give you up to 20,000 IUs of vitamin D. This limited amount of time is also safe for children. So, if your child’s got type-I juvenile diabetes, make sure the little tyke gets some daily rays every day. Forget the milk. It’s full of hormones, hard to digest, and the cause of lots of allergies.
  5. Tis the season of antibiotics

    Happy 2009 everyone! The good news for ‘bah, humbugs’ like me is that the holidays are over. The bad news…it’s officially cold and flu season. So I figured I’d start out the year with a serious warning about antibiotics. New evidence links antibiotics to significant risk of liver failure. In fact, researchers at the University of Indiana found that just one course of antibiotics can cause serious damage to the liver, [including] hepatitis, and even death. So what should you do when…
    Your head starts to pound, your nose gets blocked up like Fort Knox, and coughing keeps you up at night?
    After a week of sleepless nights and groggy days, many of us head to the doctor and say ‘it’s been over a week…just give me an antibiotic.’ But if your doc’s got any sense, he’ll send you right back home to a cup of lemon tea and lots of rest. That’s because the common cold, the flu, and even most cases of bronchitis are caused by viruses, not bacteria. And an antibiotic won’t do a lick of good. Here’s one last word about viruses…
    Getting over a cold, bronchitis, or the flu can take up to two full weeks
    Give your body enough time to heal. Just because you’re going on day 10 and you’ve still got a cough, doesn’t mean you have an infection. If you’ve got a particularly nasty cold, reach for some extra vitamin C (at least 2,000 mg per day) and grapefruit seed extract. These have been proven to keep viruses and even some bacterial infections at bay.
    On the other hand, there may be times when you have no other choice but to treat an infection with an antibiotic. If this is the case, just be sure to proceed with caution.

    Antibiotics are non-selective in their elimination of bacteria in your digestive tract. That means…

    Yes, they kill the harmful bacteria causing your bladder infection, but they also kill the ‘friendly’ bacteria in your digestive tract as well. This puts you at risk for:
    • Cramping, indigestion, or abdominal pain
    • Diarrhea (caused by the lack of ‘good’ bacteria in your gut)
    • Increased vaginal yeast infections in women (caused by killing off the ‘Doderlein’s bacilli’ in the vagina that normally keep yeast in check)
    • Antibiotic tolerance (needing longer treatment courses with each infection)
    • Impaired digestion of nutrients
    • Suppressed immune system
    • Possible increased risk of breast cancer (University of Washington researchers linked high antibiotic use and breast cancer in a study of 10,000 women.)
    Plus, new evidence shows that taking an antibiotic puts you at serious risk of liver failure.
    Some of the most clear-cut risks to the liver involve patients taking Nydrazid or Laniazid to treat latent tuberculosis. Other common antibiotics used to treat urinary tract infections also seem especially apt to cause liver problems. Even Augmentin — commonly used to treat ear infections in children — we now know has been linked to liver damage.
    The next time you think about running to the doctor to get an antibiotic for bronchitis, remember this…
    Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine looked at 100 patients with drug-induced liver injury (DILI). This means that normally healthy people experienced liver damage simply by taking a drug. They discovered that antibiotics, by far, caused more DILI than any other type of drug (45 percent) with the exclusion of acetaminophen. Sure, DILI is a fairly rare condition. It accounts for only about 13 percent of all the cases of liver failure in the United States. But it’s the most deadly. While many causes of liver failure are reversible, if you experience DILI, it’s pretty much a death sentence. With that dire warning in mind, here are some warning signs to watch out for if you are currently taking or have recently taken an antibiotic and are concerned about liver failure:
    • Lack of appetite
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Unusual itching
    • Muscle or joint aches
    • Jaundice or yellowing of the eyes and skin (this is often one of the last symptoms)
    Sure, these symptoms sound kind of vague and could be attributed to lots of different ailments. But if you’ve recently been on an antibiotic, make sure to keep an eye out. If you notice any worsening of these symptoms over a period of hours or days, make sure to see your doctor right away. Now, don’t get me wrong…
    Antibiotics have saved more lives than any other type of drug. And if you have a proven infection, you’ve got to take one.
    If that’s the case, there are a few things you can do to help offset the havoc antibiotics will wreak in your gut. 1. I recommend taking a probiotic during antibiotic treatment and for a week following treatment (in fact, you should take them year round to help keep digestive tract healthy). I recommend L. acidophilus in a capsule or powder. You can even find these in Walmart nowadays. Get the strongest dosage possible (in the billions of units or CFSs). You’ll also want to make sure to take these supplements before meals and at bedtime. And don’t worry…you can’t overdose of probiotics. Any unused amounts are just flushed out of your system. 2. As a general rule, you’ll want to limit sugar and high-yeast foods like bread, beer, wine, and refined sugar products. This will help clear the infection and make you less prone to a recurrence. 3. Take a good look at the book The Yeast Connection Handbook, by William Crook, M.D. It’s an excellent resource for anyone prone to chronic infections. Here’s a link to his book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0757000606 As always, the best medicine is prevention. So take care to prevent infections with good health 365 days of the year. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2009!
  6. New approach to preventing and reversing skin cancer

    It is believed that a mutation in the p53 gene is the cause behind both sun-related skin damage and skin cancer. The p53 gene is called the “guardian of the genome” for its role in repairing DNA in cells, cell division, and the disposal of unhealthy cells. For this reason, researchers have been looking for a way to protect and restore the functioning and activity of p53...and it looks like they may have found it. Pharmaceutical researchers at Pfizer found a compound, called CP-31398, which appears to restore normal activity to mutated p53 proteins in cell cultures. Biochemistry researchers at University of Alabama, Birmingham, went on to test the compound on mice...with some rather remarkable results. The compound, suspended in a cream, was used on a batch of hairless mice that were then exposed to UV (ultra-violet) lights twice a week for 35 weeks. Those using the compound developed an average of seven tumors while the untreated mice grew an average of 16. What’s more, not only did the treated mice develop less than half the average number of tumors, the tumors that did grow tended to be about one sixth the size of the tumors seen in the untreated group. The compound also seemed to slow the growth of existing tumors. Safety and efficacy tests will need to be conducted before CP-31398 can be used on humans, but it shows significant promise for use in a cancer and skin-damage preventative in the not too distant future!
  7. The Problem with Placebo

    Whenever you hear ads for pharmaceuticals, there’s inevitably a disclaimer at the end pertaining to the incidence of side effects. And one of the last things you typically hear is, “…in studies these symptoms were mild and similar to placebo.” What they’re trying to impart is that there really aren’t any side effects to their new drug. And that any side-effects that were experienced over the course of the study couldn’t possibly have come from their drug since the placebo group experienced the same things. What they don’t tell you is that there are no standardized rules nor an accepted “recipe” for placebos. There’s no independent placebo-making company, no giant bucket of placebos and no placebo bank from which study researchers can withdraw from. More often than not, the placebos used in a study are produced by the pharmaceutical company conducting the study. And just as often, they contain trace amounts of the drug being tested. Why? So that when they run their prime time television commercials, they can say that side-effects of their drug were similar to those of the placebo.
  8. Mr. Scrooge remembers Christmas

    As I’m sitting here writing this week’s Guide to Good Health, I found myself starting to stew about all the bad news I’ve read lately… the FDA flunkies… the melamine-tainted infant formula… and now we hear about a major drug company that hired ghost writers to pen fake stories about Prempro and actually got them published in major medical journals! I was definitely starting to feel like Mr. Scrooge. Bah, Humbug.

    But then I remembered it’s the holidays.

    I tried to think about all the good there is in life to enjoy. I remembered my family’s healthy traditions, like my mom making delicious whole wheat stuffing every year during the holidays. And so, now that I’ve overcome my ‘Bah, Humbug’ moment, I figured it’s time to remind you of all the things you can do to have a healthy and happy 2009 :
    • Eat all the fresh fruits & veggies you want. Go for organic or unsprayed. And get lots of different colors.
    • Drink lots of water, including herbal teas (you can sweeten teas with 100 percent fruit juice or the herb stevia).
    • Eat fish weekly (strive for 3 times a week). Got to get those omega fatty acids that benefit everything from brain function to your skin.
    • Beef and chicken are okay too (always organic) to get your L-carnitine. (Remember, from the 11-6-08 Guide to Good Health, the amount of L-carnitine in your body is directly related to your energy level. It’s a key player in helping your body turn fat into energy.)
    • Go ahead and enjoy eggs for breakfast! But go for organic, free-range, of course. And keep the yolk intact while cooking as it retains more nutrients this way.
    • Breads that say 100 percent stone ground wheat (or other whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat, barley, oats) are all good sources of fiber. This will help clear out unwanted toxins from your system.
    • Pasta is fine (go for spinach, artichoke, or 100% whole wheat). Again, a diet high in fiber will help keep your system clear of any toxins or preservatives that may have snuck into your diet.
    • Extra virgin olive oil is great for cooking.
    • For a sweet treat, try frozen fruit juice popsicles. Make your own! Natural popcorn also makes a great snack.

    Now—on to the things you’ll want to avoid.

    I do have a little of Mr. Scrooge still in me, I guess. Here’s a quick list of the kinds of foods you’ll want to avoid in 2009:
    • Soy products (it’s hardly a ‘health’ food and can be especially bad for children)
    • Toss all the margarine products and go for the butter instead. Margarine and partially hydrogenated foods (such as baked goods, cookies, candy, chips, etc.) change into chemicals in the body. This contributes to the formation of free radicals.
    • Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine (this one’s obvious)
    • Fried foods or processed lunch meat (or any nitrate product) as these foods also allow more free radicals to roam in your body.
    • Artificial sweeteners (like aspartame and splenda) because no matter how much you dress them up, they’re still chemicals and don’t belong in your body.
    • Milk (it contains trace antibiotics. It’s tough to digest. And it’s linked to a whole slew of diseases). Rice, soy, almond, or oat milk are healthier alternatives if you can find them.
    • Canned foods (especially aluminum…it leaches into your food!)
    • Chlorinated water (Go for natural spring water instead.)
    As a general note, avoid mixing proteins with sugars, fruit or starches in the same meal. This is tough to do all the time. But it helps aid in your digestion and you’ll absorb more nutrients from your food. As a final note…

    I’m all for New Year’s Resolutions… but don’t go cold turkey

    It won’t work. Diet programs make their money by telling you it’s all or nothing. You’re either counting calories or you aren’t. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. Real change takes time. Trying to go cold turkey and give up your caffeine or sugar habit in one day will probably lead to failure. So, take your time. Give yourself a few weeks to implement these healthy changes. Even if you have the occasional slip, don’t give up. In just a few months, you’ll feel better and you’ll be far more likely to stick to the plan. Here’s to a healthy and happy 2009!
  9. Get more bang for your buck with a few key supplements

    Most of you are probably already taking a daily supplement. But in the New Year, make sure it’s a good one. Unfortunately, most store brands only contain the minimum U.S. RDA. As a result, these are pretty worthless. To find a high quality multi, look for one that has as many minerals as possible and gives you the option of no iron. Unless you are anemic, you don’t need the iron. It causes constipation and promotes free radicals. Remember, this is the foundation of your good health. Once you get a good multi capsule, then add in a 1,000 mg capsules of vitamin C twice a daily.

    You may also want to consider adding some digestive enzymes to your regimen.

    Most adults don’t make enough of these digestive aids. You’ll want to make sure the enzymes are full spectrum (containing proteolytic, lipolytic, and amylolytic fractions). Start with just one capsule taken immediately after meals. If you can handle this without any stomach upset, you might try increasing it to two capsules after meals. As a side note: always take your vitamins in capsule form and with food. Also, only introduce one new supplement every couple of days so if any bad reaction occurs, you know what caused it. Lastly, the best reference book to help you create a tailored supplement program is Prescription For Nutritional Healing by Balch & Balch.
  10. Sixth sense a reality?

    According to a report published in the British Journal of Psychology, the answer may very well be “yes!” Have you ever just known something? Had a gut feeling about a person or a place? You couldn’t quite put your finger on what it was…you just know you had a feeling, good or bad. Well, Professor Gerard Hodgkinson, of the Centre for Organisational Strategy, Learning and Change, at Leeds University Business School, says those gut feelings may be very accurate, very real and are not to be taken lightly. According to Hodgkinson and his research team, these gut feelings come from a collaboration of past experiences, external cues -- even on a subconscious level -- and very basic decision making skills. Hodgkinson also says that these kinds of snap decisions tend to occur most frequently when people are under time constraints, a lot of pressure or are in imminent danger. For example, he cites a Formula One racecar driver who hit the brakes while coming into a hairpin turn…for no apparent reason. As it turns out, there was a huge pile-up of cars waiting for him around that turn, and hitting the brakes probably saved his life. In a post-incident analysis, the driver was made to watch a video so that he could mentally “relive” the moment. As it turns out, although he didn’t realize it at the time, a crowd that would have ordinarily cheered him on, was actually transfixed on the pile-up waiting just around the corner. He picked up on that cue subconsciously and made the snap decision to hit the brakes. “Humans clearly need both conscious and non-conscious thought processes, but it’s likely neither is intrinsically better than the other,” says Hodgkinson. He plans to look deeper into the phenomenon with a focus on understanding how business executives, managers, etc. claim to “go with their gut” when it comes to making decisions on the fly. Meanwhile, the next time your gut sends you a message, don’t just chalk it up to a “funny feeling.” There just might be a pile-up waiting for you around the next corner.
  11. The Importance of a Healthy Gut

    As you know, your gut is filled with billions of "friendly" bacteria that are essential to healthy digestion. In fact, it‘s estimated that most people have more bacteria in their gut than they have cells in their body. In our modern society, if someone‘s gut flora were to die or get purged as a result of surgery or illnesses like cholera, it‘s pretty simple to repopulate that flora with certain foods, like yogurt, or from the germs you pick up from other people. But flash back a few thousand, or even a few hundred, years ago. Populations were far more sparse and widespread illness was far more common. That‘s where the long-assumed-superfluous appendix came into play. Surgeons and immunologists at Duke University believe the appendix‘s job was to provide a steady supply of healthy bacteria to the gut. Had your appendix removed? No worries. You‘re probably well-populated thanks to other folks sharing their germs with you. And you can get some of what you need from your diet. But if you want to be absolutely certain that your gut has all it needs, whether or not you still have your appendix, a good probiotic well help keep your digestive health running at the top of its game.
  12. Somebody Warn Sally Fields!

    Now in her 60s, Sally Fields still looks pretty darn good. I’m sure the big shots at Roche Laboratories thought so too when they picked her as their spokesperson for Boniva, the latest and greatest osteoporosis wonder drug. But after reading new research about Boniva, it makes me think good old Gidget doesn’t really have a clue about the drug she’s endorsing.
    Somebody Oughta Warn Gidget, because…
    New research shows that popular osteoporosis drugs like Fosamax and Boniva (they belong to a class of drugs called bisphosphonates) may actually weaken bones and slow their ability to heal. Isn’t this exactly what the darn drugs are supposed to prevent? I sure thought so, but doctors from New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center uncovered something quite different when they analyzed the cases of 70 women admitted to the hospital for thigh bone fractures. The doctors looked closely at their fracture patient cases. They noted that 20 women suffered serious stress fractures due to very little or even no trauma. This means they suffered a fracture from something as simple as bumping into a table. And guess what? Of these 20 women, 19 of them were taking Fosamax…the very drug that’s supposed to protect them from fractures! On average, these women had been taking Fosamax for almost 7 years. They thought they were safe from this kind of freak fracture. But they weren’t. Instead, the very drug that was supposed to protect them actually contributed to their injury. In addition… While the Cornell report only involved women taking Fosamax, researchers believe all bisphosphonate drugs could eventually cause problems for women. Other bisphosphonate drugs like Boniva are just as risky, they say. It’s just that they haven’t been on the market as long, so the effects haven’t had time to surface. In the Cornell report, researcher Dean G. Lorich didn’t mince words when he stated: “We believe long-term use of these drugs may suppress the ability of bones to heal in some patients. As a consequence, patients with routine stress fractures are unable to properly heal, and minor damage can worsen until a serious fracture occurs.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Fosamax and Boniva were two train wrecks waiting to happen… Most of us think of bones as static structures. But they’re not. They’re actually in constant flux: breaking down calcium, sending it into the blood, absorbing new calcium, and building new bone. But bisphosphonate drugs like Boniva and Fosamax block the activity of osteoclasts, which break down bones in order to transfer calcium into the blood. Drug makers figure if they could block the osteoclasts, the bones would retain more calcium. When a woman starts taking Boniva or Fosamax, the osteoclasts stop working. And, yes, bones never lose their calcium. But they never absorb the new calcium either. In fact, bone turnover completely stops and the whole natural cycle of regeneration grinds to a halt. So, after about seven years on the stuff, you get old, brittle bones. And a women who thinks she’s safe, breaks her thigh bone doing something as simple as bumping into a table. There’s no quickie, one tablet approach for preventing osteoporosis. But there are steps you can take that are non-toxic and won’t cause your bones to break! For anyone serious about preventing osteoporosis, calcium alone won‘t do it (and never did). You also need:
    • Magnesium (food sources include: green leafy vegetables, whole grains, bananas, apricots, meats, beans, and nuts), manganese, boron, silica, and strontium.
    • Vitamin D: It builds your bone density by helping your body absorb calcium. Strive for 30 minutes a day in the sun, without sunscreen, and you’ll get up to 20,000 IUs of vitamin D!
    • Digestive enzymes and betaine hydrochloride: These will help improve absorption of vital nutrients.
    • Avoid caffeine & alcohol: These rob your body of nutrients.
    • Exercise: Low estrogen combined with low exercise is an osteoporotic situation waiting to happen. Weight bearing exercises are best, three times a week. Bones are meant to bear weight. That’s why astronauts who spend a lot of time in zero gravity conditions actually lose bone mass.
    If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, try the hormonal approach. I treated my own mother with natural progesterone when she was diagnosed as ‘severely osteoporotic.’ You apply progesterone (also known as bioidentical progesterone) directly to the skin. My mother responded quickly to this treatment. With each bone density reading over a three year period, she just kept improving. The docs said the first scan must have been wrong because they never see this kind of improvement. The natural progesterone solution comes from the late John R. Lee, M.D.. He pioneered this effective non-drug treatment to osteoporosis. Here’s his web site to learn more: http://www.johnleemd.com/ If all else fails, check your testosterone. Yes, women need it too! For some women, blood testing can show low serum levels of testosterone (you can order a saliva test from John Lee’s web site). This could be the root cause of your osteoporosis. If you find you’re low in testosterone, look for bioidentical testosterone treatments. I think you’ll see improvements. As always, the body has all the tools it needs to heal itself. So be wary of any drug like Fosamax or Boniva that messes with your body’s natural healing process.
  13. The More Melamine the Merrier!

    In my Guide to Good Health on 12-4-08 I warned about the looming melamine crisis hitting the U.S. infant formula market. Here’s a quick follow-up: The World Health Organization has come to the rescue and set a new ‘safe’ standard level of melamine in foods. It’s considered safe at a level of .2 mg per kilogram of body weight. This means a 150-pound person can safely eat 13.6 mg of melamine a day without harm. That’s a ton of melamine. Just as a point of reference, the daily recommended allowance of vitamin B6 is just 1.1 mg per day! Imagine taking almost 13 times that in melamine a day…and that’s considered safe?

    Any guesses who’s doing cartwheels over this news?

    China, of course, where this whole mess started. Back in September, more than 50,000 babies got sick and four died from melamine poisoning. According to the newspaper China Daily, “The country‘s existing limits for melamine in baby milk food and other dairy products need not be changed going by the latest World Health Organization (WHO) guideline.” Whew. Thank goodness the WHO came to China’s rescue. Otherwise, who knows just how many cans of perfectly-safe melamine-tainted baby formula would have gone to waste. Just think about it.
  14. Tart and tangy virus killers!

    The cure to the common cold has eluded us for centuries, in part, because science has yet to find a substance, outside the human body, that does a proper job of destroying a virus. And since most strains of the common cold are viral, our bodies are tasked with the job of taking care of the job on its own. While we can only offer it soup, rest and something to quell the symptoms. But where science has failed, nature may have a solution. Researchers from St. Francis College, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and New York University found that plain old cranberry juice successfully wiped out three different viral strains. As you may already know, people have been using cranberry juice to promote urinary health for some time now. And with good reason. It packs a potent dose of vitamin C, a known immune system booster. Plus it‘s been shown to help prevent bacteria from adhering to the inner wall of the bladder. In fact, in 2004, France became the first country to approve a health claim for the cranberry. It states that cranberries can, "help reduce the adhesion of certain E. coli bacteria to the urinary tract walls." But getting back to the viral side of things. In studies, typical grocery store cranberry juice successfully protected against three different viruses using concentrations of as little as 20 percent (more dilute solutions were not as effective). Were any of these virus strains the culprit behind the common cold? Well, no. And since the viruses were exposed directly to the cranberry juice, animal studies will need to be conducted in order to see its "real life" effectiveness. But with cold season right around the corner...it might not be a bad idea to stock up on some cranberry.
  15. Beware of mammograms

    Back during my pathology residency, we examined cancerous breast tissue under the microscope. It was quite shocking to see, but many times I found a track of cancer cells extending out from the main tumor in a straight line. I came to find out this track of cancer cells was actually from a previous needle biopsy!

    Most surgeons would deny it ever happens, but…

    Biopsies can actually disturb a tumor on a molecular level, pulling cancer cells into healthy breast tissue. I always felt a mammogram could do the same thing. A mammogram creates such intense pressure to the breast tissue (not to mention the radiation showered on the breast), it’s possible that cancer cells could become dislodged. Well, a new study published in the Journal of American Medicine seems to raise the possibility that my mammogram theory is correct. Researchers in Norway studied more than 119,472 women (age 50 to 64) between 1996 and 2001 as part of a national breast screening program. These women were given a mammogram three times over a six year period. Another control group of women (109,784 of the same age range) were followed over another six year period. These women did not receive bi-annual mammograms. Instead, they received a single screening mammogram at the end of the six year period. Here’s where things got interesting. Believe it or not…

    Cancer rates were 22 percent higher among the women given regular mammograms!

    In fact, at every age, the group of women who received regular mammograms had a greater chance of having breast cancer. Did the mammogram itself actually increase the rate of breast cancer? Based on my experience in pathology, I believe this is a strong possibility. The other possibility here—and one promoted by the Norwegian team—is that some of the cancers detected by mammography would have spontaneously disappeared if they had not been discovered and treated. According to the authors of the report, this study raises the possibility that the natural course of some screen-detected invasive breast cancers is to spontaneously regress.’

    Spontaneously regress! How’s that for a proof positive the human body can and does naturally heal itself?

    The report went on to say, ‘Although many clinicians may be skeptical of the idea, the excess incidence associated with repeated mammography demands that spontaneous regression be considered carefully.’ That’s my favorite part of the report. The authors knew this data would be so shocking to regular old MDs…they even included it the report. Unfortunately, these skeptics are the ones who write orders everyday for their patients to get another mammogram. (Even though some data suggests every mammogram raises a woman’s breast cancer risk by 1%. Over a lifetime, annual mammograms could raise a woman’s risk by 30-40%!) On the bright side... I see it as a good sign that the study got published in JAMA. Maybe gynecologists over here will actually pay attention to the problems with mammograms. Maybe they’ll start believing again in the human body’s ability to heal itself. Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I think women shouldn’t get screened for breast cancer. There’s no doubt early detection boosts a woman’s survival rate.

    But there’s a much better, safer, and more accurate alternative out there.

    It’s called breast thermography. It’s a noninvasive test that uses infrared light to detect excess estrogen in the breast, the single greatest factor in the development of breast cancer (especially in young women under 50). If a woman‘s thermogram suggests a progesterone deficiency (estrogen dominance), she can look for ways to balance her hormones and prevent cancer from developing. In fact, because these tests measure hormone levels, they can actually help a woman stop cancer from ever developing. According to some data I’ve seen, thermograms warn a women of potential cancer up to 10 years before the typical mammogram, which can only identify actual cancer tumors that have reached a certain size.

    In my opinion, this is a much more valuable tool for women in preventing the disease before it takes hold.

    Additionally, according to some data I’ve seen, thermograms are 90% effective in identifying breast cancer cells. (Mammograms claim to be 80% effective in women over 50. But it drops to 60% in women under 50.)

    The problem is…there aren’t a lot of places in the U.S. that offer thermograms.

    Why’s that, you ask? Well, thermograms are cheap. And mammography is a billion dollar industry. Plus, what would we do with all the very expensive mammography equipment (not to mention all the highly trained techs)? And what about all the unnecessary biopsies that keep surgeons in business? In any case, make sure next time you or a loved one sees their gynecologist, you ask about thermography as an alternative for the run-of-the-mill mammogram. You may have to travel a bit to find a qualified doc who offers thermography. Here’s a link to find one in your area: http://www.breastthermography.com/find-a-center.htm If there’s not one in your area, make sure to put the pressure on your gynecologist to check it out.
  16. Preventing Breast Cancer with More Sleep

    A new Japanese study of 24,000 women found that lack of sleep can significantly increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Conversely, women who get the most z’s at night seem to actually lower their risk of breast cancer. This exciting study analyzed the sleeping habits of Japanese women over an 8-year period from 1995 to 2003.

    So—how much sleep does a woman need?

    Well, if you’re only getting 6 hours a night, that’s not enough. According to the data, women who slept 6 hours or less each night had a 62 percent increased risk of developing breast cancer. On the other hand, women who slept 9 or more hours (up to 12 hours) per night lowered their risk of getting breast cancer by a whopping 28%! That’s right. A woman seems to be able to cut her risk of breast cancer by more than a ¼ simply by getting more sleep! Isn’t that a small wonder? Well, it’s really no surprise to me, as during sleep your body gets the rest it needs to heal itself. In any case, go ahead and hit that snooze button as much as you like. It’s good for your health!
  17. Relax your way to better cholesterol levels

    You‘ve no-doubt heard the term, "stress is a killer." The reality is that stress, in and of itself, isn‘t the killer. But long-term exposure to stress and anxiety raises hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to potentially harmful levels. Elevated levels of these hormones, over time, can wreak havoc on your body. Causing weight gain, poor sleep, adrenal fatigue, among other less-than-desirable side-effects. So, learning to effectively manage stress and anxiety are key to keeping these hormones within normal ranges. And new research shows there are even more benefits to staying calm, cool and collected. A recent study looked at 700 men with an average age of 65. They were surveyed to gauge how well they managed stress and anxiety. They were then given blood tests to measure their cholesterol levels. As you know, lipid profiles are divided into three main categories: high-density lipoproteins (HDL, or good cholesterol), low-density lipoproteins (LDL, or bad cholesterol) and triglycerides (which are considered very low-density lipoproteins, VLDL or really bad cholesterol). It is believed that HDLs act as dense little bullets, helping to keep arteries clear of LDLs and VLDLs. And, as such, it‘s considered important to keep your HDL levels as high as possible while keeping your LDLs and VLDLs as low as possible. When researchers analyzed the results of the study, they found that those who had the best coping skills, tended to have the highest HDL levels. While those who showed the poorest ability to manage stress, had the lowest HDL levels. Much to their surprise, however, stress seemed to have no effect on LDL or VLDL levels. Given the comparatively small sample, more research will need to be done with respect to age, gender and ethnic differences.
  18. Acids in your drinks

    The acids in the beverages you drink are actually worse for your teeth than the sugar. And while most would assume that soda tops the list of tooth-rotting drinks -- there‘s that rumor about leaving a tooth in a glass of Coke overnight -- sport drinks are actually far worse. Sodas typically contain phosphoric and citric acids, which can damage the enamel on your teeth. But sport drinks have anywhere from three to 11 times the amount of acid found in soda. Other highly acidic drinks include orange juice (any citrus juices really), tea, coffee, wine and anything with a lot of added sugar. However, contrary to what would seem logical, you don‘t want to brush your teeth right after drinking an acidic beverage. Because the acids break down the enamel, brushing right after can actually do more harm than good. Instead, wait 20-30 minutes before brushing. It‘s a good idea, however, to drink a glass of water or chew some sugarless gum after drinking anything acidic. Water helps wash away the acids, while the gum helps activate saliva which not only helps neutralize the acids, but it helps regenerate the natural enamel on your teeth.
  19. Ban the hairspray when you are expecting

    We’ve talked quite a bit about the health risks associated with certain personal care products on the market. Now a new study makes it shockingly clear just how serious these problems can be. European researchers have linked a pregnant woman’s exposure to hairspray during her first trimester with a two to three-fold increase in having a son with hypospadias (one of the most common birth defects of the male genitalia, where the urinary opening is displaced to the underside of the penis). The study suggests that particularly stringent chemicals called phthalates contained in hairspray may throw a woman’s hormonal system out of wack and even affect reproductive development. So if you’re pregnant, avoid the hairspray. And to further protect your child, increase your intake of folic acid. Folic acid should not only protect any unborn child from spina bifida, it should also protect against hypospadias as well. In fact, taking folic acid during the first three months of pregnancy can reduce the risk of having a son with this condition by 36 percent. Just another reminder to keep your personal care products pure and simple, especially if you are pregnant or may become pregnant.
  20. Don't hire an electrician to fix a toilet

    According to a new study published in the respected Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 500 milligrams a day of vitamin C does not prevent heart disease. My reaction to the study: why did they hire an electrician to fix a toilet? This study was doomed to fail before it even began. In fact, I believe it was designed to fail. You see, most large, corporate funded medical research today (research that gets published in places like JAMA) doesn’t start with a hypothesis. It’s not like high school chemistry 101, where you form an ‘educated guess’ as to the outcome of your experiment and then conduct the experiment to see if your hypothesis was correct. On the contrary, today’s medical research usually begins with an outcome. Then researchers develop a study to support that conclusion. So, say a research scientist wants to disprove the fact that vitamins can support heart health. What do you do? Do you test any one of the top 5 nutrients known to help the heart? Of course not.

    Instead, you choose vitamin C. It’s a super vitamin for sure. But does it help the heart?

    Not so much. You see, it’s like hiring an electrician to do the work of a plumber. The electrician is a highly skilled worker, but he’s not equipped to fix toilets. Vitamin C is a very important nutrient. It supercharges your immune system, it fights free radicals, and it’s critical to preventing diseases like cancer. But it’s not meant to fight heart disease. It doesn’t even rank in the top-five known nutrients to help prevent heart disease. Now, guess what else these researchers had up their sleeves?

    Not only did they hire the electrician to fix the toilet. They didn’t even give him the right tools for the job.

    What do I mean by that? Well, participants in the study were prescribed 500 mg of vitamin C a day. In my opinion, this isn’t even enough vitamin C to fight off a cold, much less prevent heart disease. By prescribing such a ridiculously low dosage, they basically insured the vitamin’s defeat. You see, when you have tons of money at your disposal you want to make certain you get the desired result! So you pick the wrong vitamin for the job and you prescribe it at such a dusting of a dosage, it will be sure to fail. As a reminder, I urge even the healthiest of individuals get at the very minimum 2,000 mg (1,000 mg 2x daily) of vitamin C.

    So why did the researchers even pick vitamin C in the first place?

    The only thing I can figure is that they wanted to steer people away from believing that diet and good nutrition has any affect on heart health. And this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Today, heart disease is the #1 killer in the United States. By far, it accounts for more deaths than cancer, accidents, and homicides combined. So, would it surprise you to learn that 100 years ago heart disease barely existed? In fact, the first mention of a heart attack appeared in JAMA in 1908. Before that, doctors didn’t even write about it. Heart disease just wasn’t a common problem. So what has changed between then and now? The answer, of course, is our diet. We’ve got to clean it up by cutting out the refined carbs and sugar. Add more fruits and vegetables. Keep eating the lean meats (organic, of course) and fish. And if heart disease is a concern, here’s a successful primer for what you should be taking daily to help prevent problems:
    • L-Carnitine: 1,000 mg
    • Coenzyme Q10: 100 mg
    • Magnesium: 500 to 800 mg
    • Vitamin E: 400 to 800 IU (as mixed tocopherols)
    For more aggressive treatment, try adding the amino acid taurine to your regimen. It can be as effective as coenzyme Q10 for cardiac output, congestive heart failure, edema (swelling), and palpitations. Three grams per day may be necessary. It’s best taken between meals for optimal absorption. I’ll continue to write about real ways to combat heart disease, including my recommendations for readers at the highest risk for heart attack. Until then, keep taking your vitamin C and choose wisely when creating a regimen to prevent heart disease.