Monday, October 8, 2018

Perimenopause & the Adrenal Connection

Last weekend I attended a seminar on understanding the rise and fall of hormones during perimenopause presented by Annette Kutz Schippel, DC. She practices nutrition and chiropractic in Illinois, specializing in women’s issues and pediatrics.

This is the third seminar I have taken with her. Her style is casual and easy going but she has a wealth of knowledge. This class completes my continuing education requirements for 2018 as a diplomate in nutrition. I have the choice of attending a couple of classes each year or presenting a paper for publication. Although I enjoy the challenge of writing, especially when it has to meet the requirements of peer review, I never seem to find the time.

I’ve attended several seminars on women’s health issues, particularly on menopause. However, this is the first that focused on perimenopause and, no pun intended, it did really fill in a gap.

As women enter perimenopause, hormone levels begin to fluctuate outside the normal ovulation cycle. This transition typically begins 2-3 years prior to menopause, but can start as much as 8-10 years before true menopause. By definition, menopause officially begins after menstruation has ceased for a full year.

During this transition women often experience heavier than normal bleeding, irregularity of the cycle, insomnia, depression, mood swings, weight gain, menstrual migraines, decreased fertility, decreased libido, bladder problems, fatigue, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and more frequent illness.

Common treatment options are oral birth control, often prescribed to be taken continuously, progestin therapy, endometrial ablation surgery, bioidentical hormone treatment, partial or complete hysterectomy and/or increased use of anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications.

Stress plays a large role in the severity of symptoms and typically the more severe the symptoms of perimenopause, the more severe her symptoms will be during menopause. This is because the adrenal glands, your organs that respond to stress, now have the additional burden of trying to make up for declining hormone production from the ovaries.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Can some foods reduce estrogen in men?

Estrogen and testosterone are hormones that occur naturally in male and female bodies. Some research suggests that certain foods can influence the levels of these hormones.

A 2016 study reports that testosterone levels decline by 0.4-2.0% each year after the age of 30. In some men, this decline leads to depression, reduced libido, erectile dysfunction, and low energy. When a man has a low level of testosterone, a doctor may recommend testosterone injections.

Estrogen is [also] vital for men’s health. It supports the functioning of almost every area of the body, including the brain, heart, bones, muscles, and the immune system. However, if a man’s estrogen levels are too high, this can cause a number of health problems, including obesity and depression.

A handful of studies have suggested that specific foods can raise or lower estrogen levels. However, scant evidence suggests that these foods can address the health effects of high estrogen. Some research suggests that the naturally occurring estrogens in plants, for example, do not affect levels of the hormone in male bodies. The research that suggests certain foods may be able to diminish the level of estrogen is often low-quality or has involved animals rather than humans.

Soy-based products, including edamame and some meat substitutes, are especially rich in plant estrogens. These phytoestrogens are weaker than estrogens that the body produces. When plant estrogens enter the body’s cells, they push out the body’s own estrogens. In this way, consuming more phytoestrogens could lower a person’s estrogen level.

Cruciferous vegetables also contain high levels of phytoestrogens and isoflavones. Results of several studies suggest that isoflavones may prevent the body from converting testosterone to estrogen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Wisdom Wednesday: Does Glucosamine Work?


Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound that is chemically classified as an amino sugar. It serves as a building block for a variety of functional molecules in your body but is primarily recognized for developing and maintaining cartilage within your joints.

Some studies indicate that supplemental glucosamine may protect joint tissue by preventing the breakdown of cartilage. One small study in 41 cyclists found that supplementing with up to 3 grams of glucosamine daily reduce collagen degradation in the knees by 27% compared to 8% in the placebo group. Another small study found a significantly reduced ratio of collagen-breakdown to collagen-synthesis markers in articular joints of soccer players treated with 3 grams of glucosamine daily over a three-month period.

Multiple studies indicate that supplementing daily with glucosamine sulfate may offer effective, long-term treatment for osteoarthritis by providing a significant reduction in pain, maintenance of joint space and overall slowing of disease progression.

Some studies have revealed significantly reduced markers of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in mice treated with various forms of glucosamine. Conversely, one human study didn’t show any major changes in RA progression with the use of glucosamine. However, study participants reported significantly improved symptom management.

Monday, October 1, 2018

How cannabinoid drugs affect the experience of pain

A first-of-its-kind meta-analysis of existing research has reviewed the effects of cannabinoid drugs on the experience of pain.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that up to 50 million people in the United States have chronic pain. An increasing amount of people now turn to the medicinal benefits of cannabis for treating and alleviating pain. As a result, scientists are trying to keep up by studying the effects of cannabinoids on pain. So far, however, studies have produced mixed results. A recent study that spanned over 4 years found “no evidence” that cannabis alleviates chronic pain that is not associated with cancer.

New research puts forth an interesting explanation for why the current clinical evidence does not fully support the popularity of cannabis as a painkiller and people’s subjective accounts of its benefits. It may be that the “feel-good” factor in the use of cannabis and cannabinoid drugs makes pain “more tolerable” and “less unpleasant,” suggests the new study, and that the benefits of cannabinoid drugs may operate more on an affective level rather than a sensory one.

To help clarify the analgesic properties, Martin De vita, a doctoral researcher at Syracuse University and colleagues examined over 1,830 experimental studies on the effects of cannabinoids that were carried out over a 40-year period. The study was recently published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

The results revealed that cannabinoid drugs correlated with “modest increases in experimental pain threshold and tolerance,” and a reduction in the “perceived unpleasantness of painful stimuli.”

Friday, September 28, 2018

What are the best sources of omega-3?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a healthful and essential type of fat, and they offer many health benefits. Fatty fish is an excellent dietary source of omega-3. People can also meet the recommended omega-3 intake by eating plant-based foods, including omega-3 rich vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acid, which are called ALA, DHA, and EPA. Plant sources rich in ALA, while fish, seaweed, and algae provide DHA and EPA fatty acids.

The following types of fish are some of the best sources of these fatty acids. The serving sizes for each is 3 ounces:
  • Mackerel – 0.59 g of DHA and 0.43 g of EPA
  • Salmon – Farm 1.24 g of DHA & 0.59 EPA Wild 1.22 g of DHA & 0.35 g of EPA
  • Seabass – 0.47 g of DHA and 0.18 g of EPA
  • Oysters – 0.14 g of ALA, 0.23 g of DHA and 0.30 g of EPA
  • Sardines – 0.74 g of DHA and 0.45 g of EPA
  • Shrimp – 0.12 g of DHA and 0.12 g of EPA
  • Trout – 0.4 g of DHA and 0.40 g of EPA


Vegetarian and vegan sources of omega-3:
Seaweed and algae – seaweed, nori, spirulina, and chlorella are different forms of algae. They are important sources of omega-3 for vegetarians because they are one of the few plant groups that contain DHA and EPA
  • Chia seeds – 5.055 g of ALA per 1-oz serving
  • Hemp seeds – 2.605 g of ALA in every 3 tablespoons
  • Flaxseeds – 6.703 g of ALA per tablespoon
  • Walnuts – 3.346 g of ALA per cup
  • Edamame – a half-cup of frozen edamame beans contains 0.28 g of ALA
  • Kidney beans – 0.10 g of ALA per half-cup
  • Soybean oil – 0.923 g of ALA per tablespoon


Omega-3 supplementation:
  • Fish oil – the most common omega-3 supplement, offering the highest available dose. Fish oil supplements include both DHA and EPA.
  • Cod liver oil – rich in DHA, EPA, vitamin A and D
  • Krill oil – rich in DHA and EPA
  • Algae oil – for vegetarians, algae oils are an excellent source of omega-3s. However, they contain a lower dose than most fish oil supplements. Some brands include only DHA.
  • ALA supplements – Flaxseed, chia seed, and hemp seed supplements contain only the plant-based omega-3 ALA, which is not sufficient on its own.

My Take:
This is a fairly comprehensive list of sources rich in omega-3 fatty acids. As noted, they are essential as the human body cannot manufacture omega-3 fatty acids. However, we can convert ALA to both DHA and EPA, if our diet is clean enough. That is fortunate for vegans and vegetarians as DHA and EPA are the forms of omega-3 fatty acids most commonly used by the body.

Bottom Line:
The article doesn’t mention a recommended daily intake. I suggest a minimum of 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily with about 400 mg of DHA and EPA. You can easily meet that standard with a fresh serving of fish daily. Otherwise, I recommend a supplement daily.

Source: September 23. 2018 NIH

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Wisdom Wednesday: What does it mean if your ESR is high?


The ESR test measures the erythrocyte sedimentation rate, which is how quickly red blood cells settle at the bottom of a blood sample. Doctors cannot use the results of the test to diagnose specific disease because many different health conditions can cause the ESR to be high or low.

Doctors call the ESR test a nonspecific test, as it only confirms the presence or absence of inflammatory activity in the body. Doctors typically use other lab tests, clinical findings, and the person’s health history alongside ESR test results to make a diagnosis.

Inflammation usually occurs in the body as a result of underlying medical conditions, such as infection, cancer, or an autoimmune disease. Doctors also use the ESR to monitor conditions like RA, temporal arteritis, polymyalgia rheumatica and systemic vasculitis are responding to treatment.

A small amount of blood is drawn and transferred to a vertical test tube in which the red blood cells will slowly settle at the bottom. This will leave a clear, yellowish fluid at the top, the plasma. The result of the ESR test is the amount of plasma remaining at the top of the test tube after 1 hour.

Red blood cells settle at a faster rate in people with inflammatory conditions. Inflammation increases the number of proteins in the blood and causes red blood cells to clump together and settle more quickly.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Breast Milk Provides Food Allergy Protection

Replicating the nourishment found in mother’s milk has been a challenge, especially since science continues to reveal its complex composition. Previous research indicates breastfed children have a lower risk of certain medical conditions, such as wheezing, infections, asthma and obesity. Identifying specific components that influence immunity is key to identifying a potential for therapeutic interventions.

A recent study hypothesized that “sensitization resulting from the composition of complex sugars in breast milk [could possibly] prevent future food allergies,” and this hypothesis was verified in 1-year-old infants (N=421). Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are structurally complicated sugar molecules unique to breast milk. Classified as “the third most abundant solid component in human milk after lactose and fat,” they are indigestible, but play a key prebiotic role and help develop the infant’s gut microbiota.

This team found that the overall HMO composition appeared to play a role in food sensitization, however, “no individual HMO was as yet associated with food sensitization.”  Even though the composition of HMOs in breast milk varies depending on the lactation stage, gestational age, maternal health, ethnicity, geographic location and whether or not the mother is breastfeeding exclusively, a beneficial HMO profile was associated with a lower rate of food sensitization in children at one year.