Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: 2015 In Review

I posted just under 150 blogs this year. As I search the internet on various health issues, my blogs are beginning to show up. Imagine my surprise when I found my blog on Betafood had over 50,000 hits. So far it’s only the unusual topics that make it close to the top of any search list. After all, how many people have written about Betafood? The timely topics are still flying below the radar.

In reviewing the past year, my most common topic was the adverse effects of various drugs. More and more studies are being published about negative drug effects forcing physicians to reevaluate their drugs of choice. Reverse medical thinking, admitting that the drug or procedure that has been the standard of medical care for years is apparently not good medicine, is slow to gain momentum. Doctors are concerned that the general public will lose faith in medicine if they admit they were wrong. Faith is not the issue, it’s honesty and quality of care.

The second most common topic was nutritional supplementation. I often hear from physicians and patients alike that there is no credible research on nutritional supplements. Certainly, more research needs to be done, but there are tens of thousands of peer reviewed published studies available on PubMed on a host of nutritional supplements. About half of all new drugs developed by Big Pharm are still based on natural substances. However, you can not patent a natural substance. If you isolate and alter, creating something that is unique – then you can hoard that substance and have exclusive rights to its’ production and sales.

Third was dietary recommendations. I’ve written about Paleo, Mediterranean, Atkins, vegetarian and others. All have merit and all have limitations. The only diet that has been proven to extend life is reduced caloric intake. Here in the United States, we just eat too much – of everything. The rate of type II diabetes parallels our rate of obesity, with a ten-year time lag. Obesity rates hit 50% in 2000 and in 2010, just over 50% of the population was either diabetic or pre-diabetic. Of note, obesity rates have now leveled (not declined). If this trend continues the rate of diabetes in the U.S. should level off by 2025.

Number four was toxic changes to our environment. Pollution of the water, air, and soil continues to increase. Mercury contamination of deep water fish, like tuna, is increasing by 4% per year. Although sanitation standards in the U.S. are very high, I won’t drink the tap water, neither should you. There are over 800 BPs that are known estrogen disruptors that are still allowed to be used in the food industry. As much as we try as individuals to keep our bodies clean, the collective effort by the governments of the world are lagging way behind. I’ll keep up the effort, but I honestly think it’s too late. The planet will survive, but we won’t.

Coming in fifth was exercise. I wrote about running, swimming, cycling and evolving technology to monitor your efforts. I have become very attached to my Fit Bit, tracking all my exercise, including ADL (activities of daily living). The software does all the work and the feedback is extremely valuable. Personally, it has really helped me transition from intense exercise that was a factor in stimulating AF (atrial fibrillation) to a more moderate format that helps prevent AF.

The Bottom Line:
My first impression on review of my blogs for 2015 was that there was too much focus on the negative. However, I believe people must be aware of a problem, then create a solution. To that end, I hope that the information I provide helps you to work to improve your health and life.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Toxic Chemicals May Weaken Infants’ Response to TB Vaccine

This study focused on two common toxins: PCBs, an industrial chemical; and DDT, used in pesticides. These so-called “persistent” pollutants are not easily broken down and remain a health threat years after being banned.

PCBs were banned in the United States in 1979. DDT is banned in the United States, but is still used in some countries to control malaria-carrying mosquitoes, the study authors, from the University of Rochester in New York, said in a university news release.

The researchers analyzed blood samples and immune responses from 516 pairs of mothers and infants in an area of Slovakia heavily contaminated with environmental toxins. Each baby received the tuberculosis vaccine in their first four days of life, and their immune system (antibody) response to the vaccine was assessed six months later.

Harmful chemicals were detected in more than 99% of the blood samples. But the infants with the highest levels of PCBs and other chemicals had the lowest antibody response to the TB vaccine, the investigators found.

Those with the highest levels of PCBs had 37% fewer antibodies against TB than those with the lowest PCB levels. Exposure to DDT also was tied to reduced TB-antibody levels. And infants with exposure to both chemicals had the lowest levels of TB antibodies, the findings showed.

In addition, like many chemicals, PCBs and DDT cross the placenta and are passed from mother to child through breast-feeding, the authors said in the study published December 9 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Natural Medicine Cabinet

The average American medicine cabinet contains aspirin, Aleve, Advil, Tylenol, band aids, and all the left over prescriptions for the past 15 years. But what natural supplements should you keep on hand to treat those acute illnesses and injuries?

  • Colloidal silver is the most important supplement in my home medicine cabinet. At the first sign of a cold or flu, begin gargling and swallowing a mouthful every couple of hours. Colloidal silver has activity against all variety of infections – viral, bacterial, molds, and even parasites. There have been a couple of studies showing it to be effective in treating MRSA. It can be applied topically for ear or skin infections. Often it will relieve a sore throat immediately. However, don’t let your guard down. If you fail to continue treatment, the impending infection may roar back with a vengeance.
  • A Netti Pot – can be purchased at any drug store. They look like a teapot. You fill the pot with distilled water and Kosher salt, stick the spout in one side of your nose and tilt your head to the side, allowing the water to flow through your sinus cavities and out the other nares. You then repeat the process on the opposite side. I will admit that irrigating the sinuses is a little painful, but it is like magic for relieving sinus congestion. I like to use a little colloidal silver (10:1 water to silver) in place of the salt. Never use tap water as it may contain nematodes that can burrow from the sinus cavities into the brain and be potentially fatal. (And you still wonder why I don’t drink tap water)
  • Betafood – an organic beet supplement. It contains betalain pigments that create the rich red color. Betalain has two actions on the gallbladder. Taken over time, it gradually thins the bile. However, if chewed, the taste stimulates dilation of the bile duct within seconds. So keep this one on the shelf for heartburn, GERD, and acid reflux.
  • Andrographis Complex – This is an herbal product containing Andrographis, Echinacea, and Holy Basil. It is a very potent infection fighting combination. Take one tablet every two hours at the first sign of a cold or flu, then reduce to three per day for a few days once you feel better.
  • Antronex – This is a natural antihistamine. It contains yakriton, a liver fat extract that facilitates liver detoxification. Antronex is very effective for swelling from bug bites, hives or any allergic reaction. Take one per hour until the inflammation subsides. In children or even toddlers, reduce the dosage to two tablets per day. I recommend grinding up the tablet and putting it in apple juice for the little ones. Antronex can also be used to reduce mucous congestion after you have recovered from a cold. Again, take one per hour until you feel a dry “cotton mouth” sensation, then reduce the dosage. Once you have taken Antronex, the chemical pathways through the liver apparently become facilitated and just one or two tablets will have the effect that may take hours on the first round.
  • Arnica – This is a homeopathic remedy. It is extremely effective for acute injuries. In tablet form, look for the 30X dilution of Arnica Montana. Take 3-4 pills before and after any surgery. Many plastic surgeons use Arnica routinely to reduce swelling, bruising, and healing time. Don’t touch the pills but rather pour them into the cap and then directly into your mouth. This preserves the energy of the homeopathic preparation. You can also buy an ointment for topical application but don’t use it on open wounds.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids – of course, I take these daily but loading up with 4-6 pearls per day can reduce prostaglandin inflammation in place of Aleve or Advil without the side effects. It is the most common supplement I use for acute low back pain.
  • Boswellia – This is an Ayurvedic plant that reduces leukotrienes and cytokines. It is extremely effective for asthma but is also good for any inflammatory condition, including hangovers. Take 2 tablets twice per day with fat. The fat increases absorption into the lymphatic system by 500%. Again, with children, reduce the dose to one per day.

The Bottom Line:
I could go on, but these are the basics that I keep at home. Anytime you can avoid taking a drug, you spare your liver from the additional detoxification. We now know that any time anyone takes a baby aspirin; they suffer a small GI bleed. Please consider alternative natural supplementation for everyday health issues.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Primary Care Docs the Leading Prescribers of Narcotic Painkillers

Americans continue to be plagued by an epidemic of prescription narcotic painkiller abuse, and a new study finds primary care physicians (PCP) are by far the biggest prescribers of the drugs.

Researchers led by Dr. Jonathan Chen, of Stanford University, looked at data from 2013 Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage claims.  They focused on prescriptions for narcotic painkillers containing hydrocodone (like Vicodin), oxycodone (Oxycontin and Percocet), codeine and others in this class, known as opioids.

In sheer number of prescriptions written, the largest prescribers were PCPs.  Family practice doctors issued 15.3 million prescriptions, while internal medicine physicians issued 12.8 million, the researchers found.

The study also found nurse practitioners wrote 4.1 million prescriptions for narcotic painkillers while physician assistants ordered up 3.1 million.

Based on claims-per-prescriber, pain specialists led the way, followed by those in pain management, anesthesiology and physical medicine and rehabilitation, the researchers said.

There’s been a 10—fold increase in the abuse of narcotic painkillers in the United States over the past two decades, Chen noted in a Stanford news release.  Some experts have  suggested that small groups of high-volume prescribers and so-called “pill mills” are the main reasons for the narcotic painkiller overdose epidemic in the United States.

However, Chen’s team now believes that “high-volume prescribers are not alone responsible for the high national volume of opioid prescriptions,” and “efforts to curtain national opioid overprescribing must address a broad swath of prescribers to be effective.”

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Tale of Two Studies

I was fortunate enough to run across these two studies released on the same day this week.  So please compare and contrast:

Tuesday, December 15, 2015 National Institutes of Health - Less than half of Americans strongly believe that the flu shot will help them avoid the illness, and one-third don’t believe it will protect them at all, a new study finds.

The fact that The Harris Poll turned up so many full shot doubters is troubling, one expert said, because immunization does offer protection.

“Vaccination can provide as much as 60-70% guarantee of protection against the flu,” said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.  “Why shouldn’t everyone said as much protection as possible?”

However, the online survey of 2,225 adults, conducted in mid-October, found that 32% didn’t think flu vaccination would protect them, while only 43% “strongly believed” a flu shot offers help against the virus.

And nearly half of those surveyed - 42% - thought “people take the flu season too seriously.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2015 National Institutes of Health - More than half of U.S. hospitals  don’t require health care providers to get a seasonal flu shot, a new study finds.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

X-rays May Miss Hip Arthritis

X-rays don’t detect hip arthritis in many patients, resulting in delayed diagnosis and treatment, researchers report.

The researchers looked at information from almost 4,500 Americans taking part in two arthritis studies. In one study, only 16% of the patients with hip pain had X-ray evidence of osteoarthritis in the hip and only 21% of those with X-ray evidence of arthritis had hip pain.

“The majority of older subjects with high suspicion for clinical hip osteoarthritis did not have radiographic hip osteoarthritis, suggesting that many older persons with hip osteoarthritis might be missed if diagnosticians relied on hip radiographs to determine if hip pain was due to osteoarthritis,” said study corresponding author Dr. Chan Kim.

Kim is an instructor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

A missed or delayed diagnosis of hip arthritis can have serious consequences. Up to 10% of patients with hip arthritis don’t get enough exercise and are at increased risk for heart and lung disease, obesity, diabetes and falls, the researchers said.

“Given these findings, patients with suspected hip OA [osteoarthritis] should be treated regardless of X-ray confirmation,” Kim said in a university new release.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Endurance Athletes May Pay Physical Price

The endurance competition known as the Ultraman could lead to muscle damage associated with insulin resistance, a new study reveals.

Ultraman athletes may also experience higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and a drop in their testosterone levels. These negative health effects are temporary but call into question the long-term health of people who train for and compete in these races on a regular basis, researchers from Florida State University caution.

The three-day Ultraman includes an initial 6.2-mile open swim and a 90-mile bike ride. On day two, athletes complete a 172-mile bike ride and on the final day they run a double marathon, or 52.4 miles.
During the Ultraman competition last year in Florida, researchers assessed the health of 18 athletes, including four women.

“We’d analyze the competitors on the spot,” Michael Ormsbee, assistant professor of exercise science and sports nutrition at Florida State, said in a university news release. “We looked at everything we could to get a full picture of their health.”

The athletes were weighed every morning before they competed. They also gave urine and blood samples so researchers could monitor their blood sugar levels and other changes in their body.

The study, recently published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, found that, overall, the athletes lost body fat but they didn’t lose weight because they retained fluid.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The ‘Irrelevant’ Appendix

The appendix has been dubbed [as] a vestigial organ, thought to no longer perform a relevant purpose in the human body.

“Popular belief tells us the appendix is a liability,” Gabrielle Belz with Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute said in [the release] statement. “Its removal is one of the most common surgical procedures in Australia, with more than 70,000 operations each year. However, we may wish to rethink whether the appendix is irrelevant for our health.”

In the U.S. appendicitis will affect over 5% of the population, the National Institutes of Health stated.
Research by Belz and Eric Vivier with the Centre d’Immunologie de Marseille-Luminy in France found that the appendix might play a role in helping maintain one’s immune system with a good microbiome.

Their study, published in the journal Nature Immunology explained that a specific type of immune cell called innate lymphoid cells (ILCs), help “control the composition of the microbiota and gut immune responses.” These cells help protect against bacterial infections in people with weak immune systems, the researchers found.

And the appendix, Belz said, with protection from infection by ILCs might then “reseed ‘good’ bacteria within the microbiome – or community of bacteria – in the body.”

“A balanced microbiome is essential for recovery from bacterial threats to gut health, such as food poisoning,” she explained.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Homocysteine

Homocysteine is an amino acid, one of the building blocks for protein. However, homocysteine is not found in the diet. Rather it is manufactured in the body from another amino acid methionine.

Methionine is one of nine essential amino acids that cannot be synthesized in the body and must be in the diet. Methionine is found in most proteins – red meat, turkey, chicken, fish, soy, many cheeses, and yogurt.

When homocysteine is created it is an intermediate metabolite. Vitamin B6 then converts it to cysteine or vitamin B12 and folic acid convert it back to methionine. However, deficiencies of these vitamins or other co-factors can allow homocysteine to accumulate in the blood stream.

In normal metabolism, when damage occurs to an artery wall, a little C-reactive protein (CRP) is created. This stimulates the homocysteine to combine with LDL (low density lipoprotein) and creates a patch over the damaged area of the artery. If, over time, the plaque begins to come loose, the body sends calcium into the plaque to secure it to the artery wall.

In abnormal metabolism (pathology), any of these factors that elevate can allow this repair process to run wild creating atherosclerosis and heart disease. Unfortunately, the first factor discovered in this process was LDL cholesterol. So it was labeled as “bad” and statin drugs were developed to lower the LDL and total cholesterol.

The statin drugs actually do work (a little bit) but they do so because they lower the CRP, not because they lower the LDL cholesterol. In fact, the data never supported the claim that high cholesterol is associated with coronary artery disease. Over half of patients suffering their first heart attack have normal or even low cholesterol.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Protein in Aspirin May Reduce Alzheimer’s Disease Risk

Researchers have found that a key protein in aspirin may help pulverize an enzyme linked to neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases – suggesting that taking the common drug may help reduce American’s disease risk. In their research, published this week in the journal PLOS One, study authors at Johns Hopkins University and Boyce Thompson Institute discovered that salicylic acid, a byproduct of aspirin, binds to the enzyme GAPDH (Glyceraldehyde 3-Phosphate Dehydrogenase), preventing it from moving into a cell’s nucleus where it would cause cell death.

During oxidative stress, GAPHD is affected than enters the nucleus of neurons, where it affects protein turnover and leads to cell death, causing neurodegenerative loss. The anti-Parkinson’s drug Deprenyl [inhibits] GAPDH entry into the nucleus.

“The new study establishes that GAPDH is a target for salicylate drugs related to aspirin, and hence may be relevant to the therapeutic actions of such drugs,” co-author Solomon Synder, professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said in the release.

In the current study, scientists also observed that a natural derivative of salicylic acid from the Chinese medical herb licorice and a lab-synthesized derivative bind to GAPDH more effectively than salicylic acid.

My Take:
This study hit several news outlets on December 1st. On Facebook, many people were touting the benefits of taking aspirin. Unfortunately, the information from this study has been misconstrued.

Let’s start with some history – Bayer began making aspirin well over a 100 years ago, trying to mimic the apparent benefits of White Willow Bark. Salicylic acid (SA) is a major component of White Willow Bark, so Bayer took acetone (nail polish remover) and combined it with citric acid (from citrus fruits) to make acetyl salicylic acid.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Probiotics May Not Shield ‘Preemies’ From Serious Illness

Probiotics don’t protect very preterm infants from serious complications, such as a bowel condition called necrotizing enterocolitis, sepsis or death, according to a new study.

The findings challenge previous research that suggested potential benefits from probiotics, the British researchers said. Probiotics are good bacteria found in certain foods and supplements.

The study included more than 1,300 very preterm infants. The babies were given either the probiotic Bifidobacterium breve or a placebo. This probiotic was used because it was the only one previously reported to show any benefit when the study began, the study authors explained.

Sepsis (a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection) occurred in 11% of the probiotic group and 12% of the placebo group. Necrotizing enterocolitis occurred in 9% of the probiotic group and 10% of the placebo group. Death before hospital discharge occurred in 8% of the probiotic group and 9% of the placebo group.

The results of the study were published November 25 in The Lancet.

A previous study found probiotic reduced the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis in very preterm infants. But, the infants in that study had low overall complication rates. In addition, different strains of probiotics were included in the review, the authors of the new study explained.

“These two large trials suggest that, while probiotics are generally safe in the short term, they are not universally effective, and that different strains and combinations should be investigated separately,” Kate Costeloe, from Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, and colleagues said in a journal news release.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: NSAIDs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most commonly used OTC (over-the-counter) drugs in America. They differ in potency and duration of action. They also differ in their tendency to cause ulcers and bleeding based on their relative inhibition of COX-1 and COX-2.

Cyclooxygenase (COX) is an enzyme that is responsible for the formation of prostanoids. The three main groups of prostanoids – prostaglandins, prostacyclins, and thromboxanes – are each involved in the inflammatory response.

However, some of these chemical groups, especially the prostaglandins, produce anti-inflammatory compounds as well. The omega 3 fatty acids (like fish and flax seed oil) are used to make PG-3 (prostaglandin 3) which is anti-inflammatory and the omega 6 fatty acids (like evening primrose and black current seed oil) make the PG-1 series, also anti-inflammatory.

So while reducing inflammatory compounds that produce pain, NSAIDs also reduce the anti-inflammatory compounds that provide relief. These anti-inflammatory compounds also protect and maintain the lining of the GI tract, protect the liver, heart, and other tissues of the body.

Traditional NSAIDs are considered “nonselective” because they inhibit both COX-1 and Cox-2. It is the COX-1 inhibition that is associated with most of the side effects. Bleeding, ulcers, and perforation of the stomach or intestine can occur at any time without warning. Aspirin and Advil (ibuprofen) are the most common “nonselective” NSAIDs.

Celebrex (Aleve) was the first selective COX-2 inhibitor introduced in the late 1990s. Subsequent COX-2 inhibitors Vioxx and Bextra were removed from the market when it was discovered that COX-2 inhibitors are associated with an increased risk of heart attack. Two other COX-2 inhibitors Arcoxia and Prexige have so far been rejected by the FDA. Celebrex remains as the only COX-2 inhibitor available in the United States.