NorthStar Nutritionals Blog

Join the conversation and stay up to date on all your natural health news. Plus, discover solutions to everything from arthritis to blood sugar.

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Get all your future Ivy Leaguers on multivitamins!

    Kids taking multivitamins get a cognitive boost on tests. That’s according to a new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. This good news comes from researchers in England and Australia who studied the effects of taking a multivitamin on school children for 12 weeks. Scientists measured the children’s cognitive abilities three times during the study: once before supplementation began; another time several hours after taking the vitamin; and, one last time, after 12 weeks of daily supplementation. Any guesses on how well the kids responded? They did great. In fact…

    The kids showed an immediate and quantifiable boost in attention by taking vitamins.

    Not only did the kids perform better on cognitive and attention tests… they performed better right away. That’s right. The researchers noticed an immediate improvement in the children’s performance just three hours after the first dose on the first day. With such clear cut, positive proof that vitamins boost kids’ performance, we should make daily vitamins part of the school lunch program. Forget about mandatory milk. Give every child his or her multivitamin at lunch time (for maximum absorption, of course). In any case, make sure all the kids you know are getting their multis every day. It might just give them a mental edge.
  7. Preventing Alzheimers Disease with B3

    Alzheimer’s disease is becoming a modern day epidemic. Today, it affects roughly 26 million people worldwide. But by the year 2050, this number is expected to quadruple! What has changed in the human experience over the last hundred years to make a ‘new’ disease like Alzheimer’s spiral out of control? Is it faulty genes? Is it evolution? Is it bad Karma? There’s no simple answer, but drug makers have certainly tried their best to create a miracle drug that will cure this baffling disease. Unfortunately, the three major drugs on the market today don’t offer much hope to families with loved ones suffering through ‘the long goodbye.’ Thankfully, you don’t have to wait for some miracle drug that will probably never appear. I’m convinced, now more than ever, that…

    Alzheimer’s disease is directly related to our modern diet.

    While some genetic predisposition cannot be ignored, there are things you can do to counteract the effects of the modern diet and prevent this epidemic from ever crossing your doorstep. Here are a few proactive steps you can take right now to protect yourself:

    STEP #1: CUT OUT THE ALUMINUM

    In several studies since the 1980s, scientists have found a link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. It seems that aluminum builds up in our system over time and can contribute to the formation of plagues and tangles in the brain, two of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. In my opinion, you should avoid any kind of product containing aluminum. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Aluminum is found in cooking utensils, antiperspirants, snack bags, baking powder, buffered aspirin, antacids, toothpaste, tap water, and—of course—soda cans. If a senior is already showing signs of Alzheimer’s, I would recommend getting a hair test. If the results come back high in aluminum, one detox remedy worth trying is homeopathic Ipecac. Take it at 6x the normal strength. For the rest of us, stay away from aluminum personal care and consumable products. Avoid using antiperspirants. Check the ingredients in your toothpaste. And ban the soda cans from your house!

    STEP #2: TAKE YOUR VITAMINS, ESPECIALLY VITAMIN B

    Besides following a super-smart diet (rich in fruits and vegetables; low in refined sugar and flour; no processed foods or additives; organic meats only), adequate vitamin intake can give you added protection against Alzheimer’s disease. Start by choosing a high quality multivitamin. You also may want to consider adding a vitamin B complex to your regimen. In most cases, 25 mg of vitamin B is enough. (The B complex includes 8 different water-soluble vitamins that must get replenished daily.) But if you’re really concerned about Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests it may be essential to up your intake of B3.

    Common vitamin B3 prevents memory loss in mice with Alzheimer’s

    B3 is a powerful vitamin. In my experience, I’ve seen great success in treating arthritis with B3. Plus, a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, showed that vitamin B3 supplements boosted the cognitive function of mice with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at the University of California at Irvine added nicotinamide (a form of vitamin B3) to the drinking water given to mice with Alzheimer‘s disease. They discovered that B3 lowered levels of a harmful protein that leads to the development of tangles, one of two brain lesions associated with Alzheimer‘s disease. The vitamin also helped to keep neurons alive that carry information to the brain. In Alzheimer’s patients, these neurons typically die and the patient experiences cognitive decline. Scientists tested the rodents’ short-term and long-term memory over time using mazes and object-recognition tasks. Following the B3 treatments, the Alzheimer‘s mice performed as well as normal mice on these tests. Untreated Alzheimer‘s mice experienced memory loss.

    Interestingly (though not surprisingly to us nutritionists), normal mice not afflicted with Alzheimer’s got a mental boost from the B3.

    According to Professor Frank LaFerla, a scientist for the study: "…Not only is it good for Alzheimer‘s disease, but if normal people take it, some aspects of their memory might improve." Dr. LaFerla is right on target. But, once again—like most lab scientists—he’s a little late coming to the party. Nutritionists have been talking about the B3-memory link for literally decades. Pioneering nutritionists Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D., talked about vitamin B’s role in preventing Alzheimer’s in the 1950s! Imagine if we as a culture had started taking his advice back then! If you are going to add B3 to your regimen—and you should—be sure to consult first with your doctor for proper dosages. Too much of certain forms of B-3 can cause nausea and vomiting in sensitive individuals.

    STEP 3: DRINK MORE WATER

    In addition to upping B3, Dr. Hoffer taught us that drinking more water is a vital step in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. It will help your body naturally flush away any unwanted aluminum and other toxins. But all water isn’t created equal. Always strive to drink filtered water only. If you install a water purifier to filter your drinking water, make sure it’s the highest quality possible. The best filters should remove nearly all the aluminum and fluoride. If you must drink bottled water, look for natural spring water with the most milligrams (mg) of magnesium in it. This will indicate the water comes from a deep source in the ground. I obviously don’t work for a water company, but I’ve found that Evian™ Spring Water is the purest. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most expensive. Drinking plenty of water is sure to help flush toxins from any senior’s system, but it’s probably not enough. That leads me to STEP 4.

    STEP 4: DETOXIFY WITH VITAMIN C

    One simple way to start cleansing your system is to take more vitamin C. We all need more of it, and this is a gentle solution for seniors at risk for Alzheimer’s. Immediately start taking 1,000 mg of vitamin C (in capsule form) at least two times a day. This will help your body flush out toxins and repair any cell damage that’s already occurred.

    So why isn’t vitamin B, water, and a healthy diet prescribed for people with or at risk for Alzheimer’s?

    One clear reason is the lack of knowledge. Most folks I talk to don’t really know the facts about how to prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s with good nutrition. Instead, they’re duped into buying the garbage that Big Pharma puts out there. If it’s on TV or in a magazine with a big glossy ad and the FDA approves the drug, it’s got to work, right? Wrong. The top three Alzheimer’s drugs on the market haven’t been proven to slow the progression of this disease one iota. Not one iota! In fact, one independent study in the UK showed that patients taking the drug Aricept had virtually the same timeline for decline as patients taking a placebo (43% taking Aricept ended up in an institution after 3 years, versus 44% taking the placebo). I still scratch my head as to why doctors continue to prescribe those drugs. The better option is to prevent the disease altogether and take your health into your own hands. As a final note, there’s a new human clinical trial underway studying the effect of B3 for Alzheimer’s patients at UC Irvine. If you or a family member is interested in learning more, call Beatriz Yanez at 949-824-5733 or visit http://www.uci.edu/uci/features/feature_nicotinamide_081104.php.
  8. L-carnitine: The Case for Red Meat

    You may assume because I’m known as the ‘nutrition physician’ that I’m against red meat. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. Red meat (lean, organic, and antibiotic-free) can actually benefit your health. Here’s why… Red meat contains the highest concentrations of a vital nutrient called L-carnitine. It’s got about 94 mg of L-carnitine in every serving. By comparison, secondary sources like cheese and milk only contain about 3 mg per serving.

    Why is L-carnitine important?

    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. According to the late Dr. Brian Liebovitz, a good friend and L-carnitine pioneer, L-carnitine is literally the ‘energy nutrient.’ Most people have the ability to produce their own carnitine. (That’s why it’s not technically called a vitamin.) But—in order to produce it, your body has to have adequate levels of 6 other nutrients: lysine, methionine, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and iron. If you’re lacking in any one of those areas, guess what? You’re probably not producing enough L-carnitine either.

    What happens without enough L-carnitine?

    Without this vital nutrient, you can feel lethargic and even gain weight. (Many vegetarians unknowingly are L-carnitine deficient.) You’re also at greater risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, liver disorders, and kidney diseases. Chances are, your immune system’s compromised as well. The good news is…

    A new study out last week proves that L-carnitine can help prevent and even reverse the slowing of your metabolism due to the aging process.

    As we get older, we are all prone to a sluggish metabolism. But what scientists in France have shown is that by getting adequate levels of L-carnitine, this process can be halted, or even reversed! Imagine yourself at age 65 having the metabolism of a 35-year-old. It’s possible! And here’s proof… Scientists at the University of Dijon studied the muscles of young and old rats. Older rats had 34% lower L-carnitine levels than the younger rats. So—they fed the elderly rats a diet supplemented with L-carnitine (30 mg) for 12 weeks. This lead to a 55% improvement in the oxidative capacity in the muscles of the older rats. (This is a key indicator in how well an animal’s metabolism is working.) Plus, while no dietary changes were made, the rats experienced a decrease in abdominal fat. In other words, because their muscles were working harder (55% harder), the rats turned the fat into energy instead of keeping it in the form of belly fat. (As a side note: oxidative muscle capacity also directly relates to how well your body responds to insulin. So diabetics may want to look closely at keeping up adequate L-carnitine levels.)

    Well, that’s great news, but what can L-carnitine do for humans?

    The truth is, L-carnitine is critically important to humans, especially as we get older. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the effect of L-carnitine on 66 subjects over 100 years of age. During this study, the patients were either given a placebo or a daily dose of L-carnitine for six months. Compared to the placebo group, the L-carnitine group experienced across the board improvements, including:
    • Greater reductions in fat mass
    • Increased total muscle mass
    • Reduced fatigue (as measured after a 6 minute walking test)
    • Improved cognitive performance
    • Less mental fatigue

    Now—I’m not saying to start eating hamburgers every night of the week.

    Instead, I recommend trying to get 2-3 servings a week of lean, organic, antibiotic-free meat. Even the chain grocery stores have started carrying this type of high quality red meat. Laura’s organic beef is one brand I found at my grocery store. On the other hand, if you feel better without red meat in your diet, you can always supplement L-carnitine. (As another side note: your body doesn’t need acetyl-l-carnitine. That’s a patented, for-profit supplement you can do without!) Men usually require more L-carnitine than women, due to their larger body mass. I usually recommend 500-1000 mg for women and 1000-2000 mg for men.

    Science catches up to good nutrition

    As I mentioned earlier, my friend Dr. Liebovitz was the pioneer advocate of L-carnitine… he was just about the only PhD I knew writing about it 15 years ago. And it’s great to see that the laboratory scientists are actually starting to catch on. It is often the case that so-called laboratory science is behind the curve in ‘proving’ concepts that we nutritionists have been preaching for years! So the next time you’re out, don’t second guess picking up a nice lean cut of meat (organic and steroid-free, of course!). And tell your neighbors, your nutritionist said it’s good for you!
  9. Vitamin C Helps Prevent Bone Loss in Men

    We all know that vitamin C is perhaps the world’s greatest multi-tasker. It defends us against a slew of proven enemies: from the common cold, to cancer (intravenously), to heart disease. Now there’s new evidence that vitamin C can even help prevent loss of bone mass in men. Over a four-year period, researchers at Tufts University studied the bone density of men and women 75 years and older who take anywhere from no vitamin C to 520 milligrams daily. They found that men with the highest levels of vitamin C maintained their bone density. While men with lowest levels of vitamin C experienced bone density loss. (Interestingly, high vitamin C intake seemed to provide some protection for women, but it wasn’t ‘statistically significant.’ Maybe more research here is needed.)

    The RDA of vitamin C is laughable (and surely negligent) at 90 mg per day for men and 75 mg for women.

    In my opinion, everyone over the age of 10 should get at least 1,000 mg of vitamin C twice a day. Natural sources include: citrus fruits, broccoli - red peppers, brussel sprouts, parsley, and strawberries. Very few ‘multi’ vitamins contain enough of it, however. Your best bet is to find 1,000 mg capsules and take one twice a day at a minimum. Don’t take them all at once. And stay away from any so-called ‘time release’ capsules. Vitamin C only stays in your system for a few hours, so ‘time release’ is really a waste. (There are some rare exceptions, so check with your health provider to make sure this is a safe quantity for you.)
  10. Watch out for the Wolf in Sheeps Clothing

    As you well know, I believe in good nutrition and preventing disease. Nevertheless, I’m always on the lookout for good, hard-hitting developments in the world of mainstream medicine. So—with that in mind—I signed up to receive WebMD’s e-mails written especially for doctors. Last week, WebMD sent me an e-mail proclaiming: ‘Breast Cancer: The leading cause of cancer death in US women aged 40-59 years.’ And then under this headline, it read ‘Learn more about risk factors that influence the development of breast cancer, and effective assessment tools for breast cancer screening.’ Mind you, this is an e-mail sent only to doctors. So—what groundbreaking tool had WebMD (one of the most trusted companies on the web) uncovered for us docs?

    I clicked on the link, but guess what I found?

    A big, slick advertisement for the drug Evista by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. Talk about a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing!

    The e-mail looked like an urgent editorial update sent by WebMD. But it was nothing more than an ad for a drug that’s been around since 1997! Not only was this new ‘tool’ not groundbreaking, it’s also in my opinion one of the most dangerous drugs out there.

    Evista’s just about as bad as it gets.

    In a comprehensive study published originally in the New England Journal of Medicine, Evista was shown to help prevent breast cancer. But it also increases your risk of suffering a potentially fatal stroke by 49%!

    The drug’s packaging even contains a ‘black box’ warning of fatal strokes.

    So why would anyone take a drug that helps prevent breast cancer, but could cause a fatal stroke? It’s like throwing out the baby with the bath water!

    Yet 10 years later, Evista is still on the market and getting marketed to doctors as a new ‘tool’ in the fight against breast cancer.

    But it doesn’t end there…

    Here’s another wrinkle in the story of WebMD.

    I was curious if I could find any new evidence against Evista. So—I ran a quick Google search of ‘Evista Risks.’ The first article that popped up was titled ‘Evista Can Raise Stroke, Blood Clot Risk.’

    The article basically summarizes what we‘ve known from the beginning about this drug. Yes, it cuts your risk of developing breast cancer, but significantly inreases your risk of dying from a stroke. It also ups your chances of getting a potentially dangerous blood clot.

    And guess who wrote the article?

    Salynn Boyle for WebMD.

    Okay…so WebMD will tell you the truth if you look hard enough. But—how am I as a doctor (or you as a concerned reader!) ever to trust WebMD again? Do they just drop everything they know about a drug when their corporate sponsor offers up the big bucks?

    The good news is, there are alternatives to Evista if you’re really serious about preventing breast cancer. Start with good nutrition. A great book to get you going is: Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide by the Burton Goldberg Group. It’s a terrific resource.

    In the end, my advice is to stay clear of Evista. Always do your homework before taking any new drugs. And be careful who you trust concerning your health.

  11. Prevent Cancer Without Drugs Like Evista

    In fact, scientists in the UK have found a new way to prevent cancer by supercharging our foods with high levels of antioxidants. They’ve recently developed a ‘purple tomato’ that can ‘significantly’ extend the life span of rats that are prone to getting cancer. These so-called ‘cancer-prone’ rats were fed tomatoes that had been infused with a kind of super antioxidant called ‘anthocyanins.’ Anthocyanins appear in some foods, such as blueberries, but don’t naturally occur at such high levels in more commonly consumed fruits and vegetables. As a consequence, most people don’t benefit from the almighty cancer-fighters because they just don’t get enough of them in their diet. So, scientists in the UK tried injecting the super antioxidant into the common tomato. And voila—you’ve got rats that live longer and overcome a genetic tendency toward cancer. The next step, according to Cathie Martin, one of the lead UK researchers, is to begin “human studies with volunteers to see if we can promote health through dietary preventive medicine strategies.” In other words, they’re going to see if eating super charged tomatoes will help prevent this insidious disease in humans prone to cancer. Won’t it be great to see these powerful tomatoes at your next trip to the grocery store? They’re working on it! I’ll be sure to keep you posted as I hear more about preventing cancer with the purple tomato!
  12. New lasting hope for psoriasis sufferers

    In a new study out of Taiwan, a common plant extract has been shown to work wonders for more than 70% of psoriasis sufferers. Of the patients who completed the study, 25 out of 34 patients experienced a complete (or nearly complete) clearing of psoriasis plaques when treated with a soothing, all-natural topical ointment. Additionally, limited side effects were reported. Only 4 out of 34 patients experienced mild, short-term itching.

    This is huge news for patients who suffer from psoriasis, generally considered a chronic, incurable disease for more than 5.5 million Americans.

    >Psoriasis has long puzzled both conventional and alternative doctors around the world. While some nutritionists believe a high fat diet is to blame, others argue that fatty acid deficiencies trigger the disease. Still others argue think it’s caused by a build-up of toxins in the intestines. Standard medical options usually include the use of topical steroids to treat flare-ups. But long-term use of these lotions can lead to thinning of the skin. Some complementary treatments include acupressure, fatty acid supplements, and UV treatments. But few of these alternatives offer much long-term relief to psoriasis sufferers.

    That’s why this study, though small in scope, shows so much promise.

    The clinical study involved 42 patients in Taiwan who had suffered from psoriasis for at least two years. Patients were accepted into the study if they had serious chronic psoriasis that had not improved despite at least two different mainstream medical treatments. Once accepted into the study, patients applied a medicated ointment to a psoriasis plaque on one side of their body (usually on the arm, elbow, leg or knee) once a day for 12 weeks.

    An herbal extract called indigo naturalis was the ointment’s key ingredient.

    Indigo naturalis has been used for centuries in China and Taiwan to treat common infections and inflammatory diseases such as mumps, pharyngitis and eczema. (It’s generally used with caution as long-term systemic use has been linked to GI and liver problems. Side effects for topical use have not been thoroughly identified.) On the other side of their body, participants applied a placebo (or non-medicated ointment). Researchers then checked and photographed the patients‘ skin plaques at the beginning of the study and again after two, four, six, eight, 10 and 12 weeks. Here’s what they found:
    • Overall, the indigo naturalis ointment-treated lesions showed an 81 percent improvement.
    • The placebo-treated lesions showed a 26 percent improvement.
    • Of the 34 patients who completed the study, not one patient experienced a worsening of the areas treated with indigo naturalis.
    • While a few patients experienced a mild skin allergy, none experienced serious adverse effects. Four patients reported itching for a few days after beginning treatment.
    Most importantly…

    74% of participants experienced a complete or nearly complete remission of the psoriasis plaques on the side treated with indigo naturalis.

    This is a great start and the first new hope for psoriasis sufferers that I’ve seen in years. I’m hopeful that research will continue with a larger clinical trial that pays close attention to the possible long-term side effects. I’ll keep you posted if a new trial on U.S. soil ever materializes.

    Unfortunately, the indigo ointment isn’t available for purchase in the United States.

    However, based on a quick Google search, I believe some brave souls have begun to try making their own ointment. Here’s what they did:
    1. Purchased indigo naturalis as dry powder.
    2. Ground up a small sample into a fine powder.
    3. Combined a few grams, as the researchers did, with petroleum jelly, yellow wax (I assume you could use beeswax), and olive oil.
    4. Applied it once a day to an isolated patch of psoriasis for 12 weeks.
    I have also read of success using indigo naturalis in treating psoriasis of the scalp. Try mixing a couple of grams of fine powder with shampoo for relief of psoriasis of the scalp. Since this is such a new treatment for psoriasis, there’s not much anecdotal evidence available. If you decide to give it a try, please let me know how it works and if you experience any side effects.
  13. Pour yourself a tall glass of sunshine

    Looks like our country’s finest pediatricians are playing catch up, once again. A new report out this week from the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) states that kids should get 400 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D per day. And while you may not know how IUs are measured, what’s important to understand is that many kids (and most adults, for that matter) don’t get enough of this essential vitamin. We’ve been talking about upping our vitamin D intake for years in the Guide to Good Health. (Yes—the AAP is a little late coming to the party.) It’s one of the fundamentals of good health and protects us against a laundry list of problems as adults, such as osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and cancer. But—hey—at least the AAP is starting to get the picture. Better late than never, right? Well…not so fast.

    Here’s the danger with the AAP’s report…

    Most parents will just skim the headline about getting more vitamin D and go fill their kids’ sippy cups with vitamin D fortified milk from the grocery store. It’s healthy, right? Well, not exactly. The truth is—cow’s milk only contains 100 IUs of vitamin D per serving. Kids would have to drink four glasses of it to get enough vitamin D for the day. And that’s a whole lot of milk by anyone’s standards. Plus, the pasteurized, homogenized milk you find in the grocery store is hardly what I’d call healthy. It contains trace antibiotics. It’s tough to digest. And it’s linked to a whole slew of diseases. (If you want to read more about the downsides of drinking pasteurized milk, just click on http://hsionline.com/2003/03/24/antibiotics-in-milk).

    So if milk’s not the answer, what is?

    As an alternative to milk, the AAP wants kids to get their vitamin D through supplements. And that’s a good option, but not your only option. Here are 4 simple steps for all of us (not just kids) to get more vitamin D: Step 1: Spend more time in the sunshine! Hands down, the best way to get more vitamin D is to spend more time outside. Do your best to get 30 minutes a day in the sun. In just one 30 minute session, you can absorb up to 20,000 IUs of vitamin D! But here’s the real kicker…leave off the sunscreen! Just 30 minutes a day won’t raise your risk of skin cancer. Just avoid the scorching, mid-day summer sun. Step 2: Eat more fish! Most of us forget that fish, especially salmon, is super rich in vitamin D. In fact, just one serving of salmon contains 600 IUs of vitamin D. (That’s more than 6 times the amount found in vitamin D milk.) If you don’t like salmon, try tuna fish or cod liver oil capsules. They’re great alternatives. Step 3: Eat more eggs! That’s right. Eat more eggs. Each yolk contains 25 IUs of vitamin D. Just make sure you eat them hard boiled, soft-boiled, poached, or sunny-side-up because that will leave the yolk intact and you’ll get the most vitamin D that way. (Most of the bad press about eggs stems from a misunderstanding about cholesterol, but that’s another whole issue we’ll discuss at another time). In the case of children, just make sure an egg allergy doesn’t exist. Step 4: Choose a good multivitamin and use it wisely! Supplementing with vitamin D is a great start, but you shouldn’t stop there. The addition of a multivitamin to your regimen is essential to protecting your health. Here are some tips about picking a good multivitamin:
    • Avoid discount store brands. These bottles are actually more expensive, considering how few nutrients they contain.
    • Ignore multivitamins containing 100% of your ‘Recommended Daily Allowance’ or RDA. The RDA is a complete crock and you need much more than the RDA of most vitamins and minerals.
    • Here’s the easiest way to spot a good multivitamin. Scan the B vitamin column. If the supplement contains at least 25 mg or higher of vitamin B, the supplement is probably okay.
    • Take your vitamins with meals. This maximizes nutrient absorption.
    • Avoid hard pill forms. These are hard to digest. Capsules are more easily absorbed by your body.
    Vitamin D is a true nutritional powerhouse. Glad the AAP is starting to catch on. And you can be sure, in the days ahead that scientists will uncover even more reasons for us all to keep taking it. We’ll be sure to keep you updated as these new studies roll in.
  14. You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream!

    Yes, I nearly screamed when I read about the new pseudo-food ingredient you may find in your next tub of ice cream. It’s mysteriously called “PGMS” and supposedly will help prevent those frothy ice crystals from magically appearing on the top of your week-old Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Proudly introduced in the Journal of Food Science by Danisco, PGMS is actually already used extensively in processed foods, such as cake mixes. And guess what else? It’s a common ingredient in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. Whatever happened to good ole’ cream and sugar (as if that weren’t dangerous enough!)? My suggestion? Stay away from the Ben & Jerry’s, guys, and reach for a crisp, delicious apple from your local farmer’s market instead. They’re perfect this time of year…and you won’t find a speck of “PGMS” anywhere in the list of ingredients!
  15. Radiation linked to more breast cancer in young patients!

    Radiation therapy is given to women with breast cancer following surgery to kill any fugitive cancer cells. It’s generally considered a preventative measure, aimed at stopping a recurrence in the afflicted breast. But a new study out by Danish scientists shows that radiation may actually cause breast cancer in the opposite (or contralateral) breast in very young patients. Danish scientists looked at more than 7,000 breast cancer survivors given radiation following surgery. They found that:
    • Young women (younger than 35) who received radiation after surgery for breast cancer had a 78% greater risk of developing a new tumor in the opposite breast.
    • And the risk jumps even higher for women who have a strong family history (3 or more family members) of breast cancer.
    • Women younger than 45 who received radiation after surgery for breast cancer had a slight increased risk of developing (a 1.5-fold increased risk) cancer in the opposite breast.
    This should serve as an urgent warning for anyone stricken at a young age with breast cancer. Make sure you thoroughly question your doctor about the safety of radiation before signing on the dotted line! It just may save your life!
  16. Cannot even trust a glass of water

    When I was a kid, we used to drink water right from the garden hose…and think nothing of it. Today, it’s almost unthinkable to drink a glass of water from the tap in your very own kitchen. We have everything from Britas and Pur filters for your drinking water - to expensive reverse osmosis systems designed to filter every drop that comes into your house. But why? What are we so afraid of drinking? Where do I start… For a long time lead and other heavy metals were the big fears. And not that they’re any less of a danger today than they once were…we just don’t hear as much about them. The same goes for those pesky little microbes. One reason we may not hear about them is because most filters - even the inexpensive Brita filters - are able to remove most of these toxins before they get into our drinking glasses. More recently, it was discovered that prescription drugs – by way of the toilet – are finding their way into the drinking water. So while you may not be on any drugs currently - if your neighbor’s taking a drug…chances are you’re getting a little too. And at this point, we’re not sure if our household filters can remove these types of toxins. But the latest tap water news might be the most troubling yet - for two reasons. For one, health-savvy folks like you and I have already known about this for years. But secondly, because the U.S. government is now in agreement with us…which typically means it’s far worse than they’re letting on. It turns out, a government-sponsored report is showing that the “beneficial” fluoride, intentionally added to the drinking water of most U.S. communities, may be doing significantly more harm than good. The biggest threat noted in the report is to the thyroid gland. Flouride can disrupt the production of thyroid hormone – and by doing so could mean serious heart problems, elevated cholesterol, significant weight gain (or loss) and depression to name a few. For a healthy male, all it takes is about 3.5 mg of fluoride per day to illicit toxicity. Most fluoridated water supplies deliver about 1 mg per liter. That means, it takes less than a gallon of water to reach toxic levels of fluoride. And for people who’re iodine deficient, less than one milligram of fluoride a day could be toxic! But this report only covers the effects of fluoride on your thyroid gland! Other studies have shown correlations between fluoride consumption and bone cancer, weakened immune systems and the inhibition of melatonin production as well. Those of you who’re drinking well water are probably a fair shake safer already. But unfortunately for the rest of us, inexpensive filters like Pur and Brita state right on their packaging that they don’t filter out “beneficial fluoride.” So what can be done about this? You can write to your congressman and other local municipality heads about halting the addition of fluoride to your water. But even with a strong enough outcry, it could be eons before anything is done about it. Which leaves portable distillers or reverse osmosis systems, or the hassle/expense of bottled spring water (my personal favorite). While it is a small price to pay for the future of your health...for some households, it’s simply not an option. Unfortunately, I’m at a loss for another solution. All we can do for now is hope this government-sponsored report turns into something other than waste-basket filler.
  17. Aspirin Could Lower PSA Scores

    A recent study, published in the journal, Cancer, reports that aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs may artificially lower a man’s PSA score. PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen - an enzyme long considered an important marker for presence of prostate cancer. And although, more recent research has brought the significance of PSA scores into question, the fact remains than men who regularly use anti-inflammatory drugs saw average PSA scores that were 10 percent lower than those who didn’t use the drugs. At this time, researchers aren’t sure if the drugs are just lowering PSA levels or if they have a legitimate impact on prostate cancer risk. Additional studies are planned.
  18. Do not worry - the FDA is on it

    When I think about a powerful, dedicated, hard-nosed entity designed to protect and educate U.S. citizens on all things health related, Slim Good-body comes to mind long before the FDA. But they’re working on that… In the last year or so, the FDA has been under constant fire from doctors, patients, special interest groups, politicians and everyone in between. For a while it seemed like every week another FDA-approved drug was in the spotlight for doing more harm than good. In fact, just this week, a report slid out under the radar that the rheumatoid arthritis drugs, Enbrel, Remicade, Humira and Cimzia, may cause deadly fungal infections. (But don’t worry, the FDA is on this too…stronger warnings on the packaging will save the day.) In all these cases, the one source everyone was looking to for answers—the one source that should have had all the answers—seemed to be the most in the dark. In fact, an exasperated FDA openly admitted that they are not able to adequately perform their duties. But again, they’re working on that. In an effort to come clean and be completely up front with a fed-up and worried health-conscious pubic, the FDA has started posting a quarterly list of drugs that are currently under investigation. They’ve aptly titled it, Potential Signals of Serious Risks/New Safety Information Identified by the Adverse Event. They started with a list of 20 drugs last Friday and announced it proudly like a kid who’s finally managed to tie his own shoes. It’s a great idea, but of little worth to the people who’re already taking these drugs. It’s simply a list of drugs in one column with a semi-cryptic “why this drug is on here” list in the other. With descriptions (or as the FDA calls them “Potential Signals of Serious Risk”) ranging from “adverse events due to name confusion” and “dosing confusion” to cancer and something called “purple glove syndrome” – it’s hard to see how this is helpful. So, what do you do if you’re taking one of these medications? That’s a good question…and the FDA’s quarterly report doesn’t even attempt to answer it. However, the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Dr. Janet Woodcock, says, “My message to patients is this: don’t stop taking your medicine. If your doctor has prescribed a drug that appears on this list, you should continue taking it unless your doctor advises you differently.” What she’s saying, in essence, is that the FDA doesn’t want to be held responsible for the potential risks of using a drug. She’d rather see your doctor held responsible. And where does your doctor learn about these drugs? Well, most of the information comes from greedy, self-serving drug reps or…the FDA, who just learned how to tie their own shoes…sort of. In their defense this is certainly a positive step. And the FDA head of safety communication, Dr. Paul Seligman, admits, “…there is some work and refinement that needs to be done.” But in the mean time, the FDA seems just as bumbling, inconsistent and inadequate as they ever were.
  19. Marinade Away Your Risk of Cancer

    You may be able to marinade away your risk of cancer! As you may already know, cooking meat at high temperatures increases the presence of certain compounds (called HCAs) that are thought to increase risk of stomach, colon, pancreatic and breast cancers. However, when researchers at Kansas State University marinated 3.3 ounces of beef for about an hour, in either a Caribbean, herbed or Southwest marinade (all of which had a least two spices in the mint family), they saw a drop in the presence of HCAs by 88, 72 and 57 percent respectively. So not only are marinades a tasty addition to the meat, but a potential health saver as well!
  20. An apple a day keeps the doctor away - but orange juice cures cancer

    At least that’s what researchers at the National Institutes of Health are reporting. To be fair, the treatment requires way more than a few glasses of orange juice. In actuality, it requires massive doses of intravenous vitamin C. Just how promising is the treatment? Well, Dr. Scott Greenberg of the Magaziner Center for Wellness in Cherry Hill, NJ has treated several patients successfully. For example, one of Greenberg’s patients was diagnosed with lung cancer that had spread to his brain, and yet another had breast cancer that could be seen protruding from her chest. Both were told their situations were grim. However, after several months both patients responded well to the vitamin C treatment, and today both are doing well and appear to be cancer free. In fact, the breast cancer patient is past the critical five-year mark—typically considered a full remission. While some researchers believe the treatment works by killing the cancer cells outright, others believe it is vitamin C’s powerful antioxidant protection at work. Both theories are right, to a degree. You see, just like chemotherapy, vitamin C produces hydrogen peroxide in the body—the same stuff you’ve been using to kill germs on cuts and abrasions all your life. Hydrogen peroxide has a powerful oxidizing effect inside the body. And while oxidation (often referred to as free radical damage) is largely considered a bad thing, the flood of oxygen that results from the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide within the body actually destroys cancer cells—leaving healthy cells unharmed while super-charging the immune system. However, unlike chemotherapy, side-effects are essentially non-existent. And, although the vitamin C treatment is not currently covered by insurance, the price of each treatment is only $125. Compare that to chemo and radiation therapies which can easily reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Dr. Greenberg says that the therapy can be used in conjunction with more traditional therapies. But, just as is the case with chemo and radiation, the treatment doesn’t work for everyone. But it’s certainly worth the effort for patients battling with cancer.