Friday, May 29, 2015

Steroids No Better for Sciatica Pain Than Placebo

Sciatica affects about 1 in 10 people in their lifetime, researchers say. For this new study, 269 people with sciatica were randomly assigned to take an oral steroid (prednisone) or a placebo for 15 days. The participants were followed for up to a year.

“When we compared the prednisone to placebo, there was a modest improvement in function,” said study researcher Dr. Harley Goldberg, director of spine care services at Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center in California. People reported they could go about their daily activities somewhat better than before.

However, “when we compared the pain [between the two groups], there was actually no difference,” he said.

Usual treatments for herniated disk-related sciatica range from self-care, steroid pills and anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, or epidural steroid injections, Goldberg said. When all else fails, surgery is an option, he explained.

This new study found that after a year, the likelihood of spine surgery was no less for those who took prednisone than for those who took a placebo, the researchers reported in the May 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study, which ran from 2008 to 2013, included adults who had had the radiating leg and buttock pain for up to three months and said it affected their daily lives. All had a herniated disk, which triggers the pain, confirmed by an MRI.

Side effects, such as insomnia, increased appetite and nervousness, were twice as common at three weeks in the steroid group. Nearly half reported at least one side effect, compared to about one-quarter of the placebo group.

For anyone suffering from sciatica, Dr. Nick Shamie, chief of orthopedic spine surgery at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, said a specialist’s evaluation and guidance is crucial. “Have them guide you,” he said.

He cautioned against rushing to surgery, pointing to a 2006 study, also published in JAMA, that found sciatica patients were no better two years after surgery in terms of functioning and pain than those who did not have surgery.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Inositol

Inositol is a “vitamin like” substance that is found is nature and can be manufactured in laboratories. It was at one time considered a B vitamin. However, because the human body can make inositol from glucose, that vitamin status was revoked. Mice cannot make inositol and a deficiency in the diet causes mouse alopecia.

By comparison, vitamin D is also made in the human body just by exposure to sunlight. It is converted from cholesterol rather than glucose. It really is a hormone, not a vitamin. However, the nutrition board still considers vitamin D a vitamin. Even the world of vitamins is political.

Inositol is used to treat neuropathy, depression (especially bipolar disorder), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and multiple sclerosis (MS). MS patients are unable to synthesize inositol and the addition of inositol to the diet dramatically reduces MS symptoms.

The dosage of inositol can be quite high. For PCOS, 1200mg per day is a typical dose while 18 grams per day is often used in treating MS.

Inositol opens the blood brain barrier, allowing more nutrients to enter the nervous system. This often facilitates repair of neuropathy. Cocaine dealers often cut their coke with inositol. It enhances the effects and speed of the drug on the brain, while dramatically improving profits. Be aware if you purchase a large container of inositol at the health food store, the clerk is going to assume you are a drug dealer.

Monday, May 25, 2015

‘Thrifty’ Metabolism Might Sabotage Weight Loss Efforts

A new study confirms what many frustrated dieters already suspect: Your metabolism might make it tougher for you to lose weight than others.

“The results corroborate the idea that some people who are obese may have to work harder to lose weight due to metabolic differences,” said lead author Dr. Martin Reinhardt, a postdoctoral fellow at the Phoenix Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch of the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

“But biology is not destiny. Balanced diet and regular physical activity over a long period can be very effective for weight loss,” he added in an institute news release.

The small laboratory study included 12 obese men and women who underwent tests to assess their body’s energy use in response to a day of fasting. This was followed by six weeks of reduce calorie intake.

After accounting for factors such as age, sex and race, the researchers found that participants who lost the least amount of weight during the six weeks of reducing calorie intake were those whose metabolism decreased the most during fasting.

These people have what the researchers called a “thrifty” metabolism, as opposed to the “spendthrift” metabolism in participants who lost the most weight and whose metabolism decreased the least during fasting.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Vitamin Supplement Linked to Reduction in Skin Cancer Risk

A cheap and easily available vitamin supplement appears to reduce a person’s risk of skin cancer, new research contends.

A fomr of vitamin B3 called nicotinamide is linked to a reduction of non-melanoma skin cancers by 23% when taken twice daily, according to Australian researchers.

“It’s safe, it’s almost obscenely inexpensive, and it’s already widely commercially available,” said author Dr. Diona Damian, a professor of dermatology at the University of Sydney.

Nicotinamide costs less than $10 for a month’s supply and is available a pharmacies and health food stores, she said.
However, more study is needed before researchers can say whether everyone would benefit from the supplement. “It’s not something we’d recommend at this stage for the general population,” Damian said.

The study is slated for presentation May 30 at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Funding for this study was provided by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with about 5 million cases treated every year at a cost of about $4.8 billion, Damian said.

Ultraviolet rays from the sun cause most skin cancers by damaging the DNA of skin cells, Damian said.
The clinical trial involved nearly 400 high-risk patients who’d had a least two non-melanoma skin cancers during the previous five years. Their average age was 66 and two-thirds were men. Many also had chronic health conditions, such as arthritis, high blood pressure, or heart or lung disease, according to the researchers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Iodide (I)

Iodine (I2), present in food as iodide (I) and other nonelemental forms, was linked to the presence of goiter, an enlarged thyroid gland, during World War I. Men drafted from areas such as the Great Lakes region of the United States had a much higher rate of goiter than men from some other areas of the country. The soil in these areas is very low in iodide. During the 1920’s, researchers in Ohio found that goiter could be prevented in children by feeding them low doses of iodide for an extended period. Following the lead of the Swiss, American companies began adding iodide to table salt.

Early in the 1960’s, published research linked thyroid disease to overconsumption of iodine. The Wolff-Chaikoff studies (later proved to be fraudulent) corresponded with the push by Knoll Pharmaceuticals to corner the thyroid market with Synthroid. Synthroid, introduced in 1955 would go on to supply 90% of the thyroid medication worldwide by the 1990’s. Today it is still the third most commonly prescribed drug in the U.S.

It also is one of only a handful of drugs that was never approved by the FDA. After 46 years on the market, the FDA finally demanded that Abbott (who bought Knoll) to apply for FDA approval in 2001.

Following the Wolff research, iodine was subsequently removed from baked goods. Although it remains in iodized salt, physicians have been preaching reduced salt intake for years. Subsequently, the number of underactive thyroid cases in the U.S. skyrocketed.

Iodine supplementation began to find favor in the alternative health community during the 1990’s. Dr. Abraham and Dr. Brownstein have pioneered treatment regimens and published several research papers on the topic. Please visit and look for the tab “iodine research” to review their studies. Dr. Brownstein has written several books on the thyroid, including a New York Times best seller “Iodine: Why you need it. Why you can’t live without it”.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Insomniacs may Be More Sensitive to Pain

People with insomnia or poor sleep quality may be less tolerant of pain, new research suggests.

The more frequent and severe the insomnia, the greater the sensitivity to pain, the Norwegian study showed. Additionally, the researchers noted that people with insomnia who also suffer from chronic pain have an even lower threshold for physical discomfort.

The study, led by Borge Sivertsen, of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Bergen, involved more than 10,000 adults. The study participants all underwent a standard test of pain sensitivity by dunking their hands in a bath of cold water for 106 seconds.

The volunteers were also asked about their sleep quality. The researchers also took into account other factors that might affect pain tolerance, such as recurring pain, depression and anxiety.

They found that nearly one-third of participants were able to keep their hand in the cold water for the entire test.

Those with insomnia, however, were more likely to remove their hand from the water early. In fact 42% of people with insomnia pulled their hand out before the test ended, compared to 31% of those without this sleep disorder, the study published in the journal PAIN revealed.

People with more severe cases of insomnia had greater pain sensitivity, suggesting tolerance of pain drops along with sleep quality. People with insomnia and chronic pain were more than twice as likely to have reduced tolerance to pain, the research revealed.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Is It a Cold or an Allergy?

It can be difficult for parents to tell whether their child has a cold or hay fever, but there are ways to distinguish between the two, experts say.

“Runny, stuffy or itchy nose, sneezing, coughing, fatigue, and headaches can all be symptoms of both allergies and colds, but when parents pay close attention to minor details they will be able to tell the difference,” Dr. Michelle Lieri, a pediatric allergist at Cincinnati Childrens’s Hospital Medical Center, said in a hospital news release.

“Children who have springtime or fall allergies have much more itching of their noses; they often have fits of sneezing and usually rub their noses in an upward motion,” Lieri explained. “They also complain about an itchy, scratchy throat or itchy eyes, whereas with a cold, they don’t.”

Nasal discharge is usually clear if someone has allergies and yellowish if someone has a cold, she added.

If children have seasonal allergies, Lieri offers the following tips to help ease symptoms:
Keep home and car windows closed and change air conditioner filters every month.

Have children wash their face, hands and hair after they’ve been outside, they should change their clothes. The clothing should be washed to remove pollen and other allergens.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Coenzyme Q-10

Coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ-10) is a very popular supplement. Many people use CoQ-10 for heart conditions, chest pain, diabetes, breast cancer, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), Lyme disease and increasing exercise tolerance.

The chemistry of Co Q-10 is well understood. In the mitochondria of every cell, it facilitates electron transport. This is the process by which energy is transferred from the Krebs’s Citric Acid Cycle (glucose metabolism) to make ATP, the energy molecule of the body. Deficiencies of Co Q-10 impair electron transport severely limiting energy production for all body functions.

Your body produces 75% of the Co Q-10 it needs. The rest comes from the diet. Co Q-10 is found in small amounts in most animal foods. Co Q-10 is a fat and requires other fats in the diet for absorption. So a vegan vegetarian restricting their fat intake might develop a deficiency.

However, the overwhelming cause of Co Q-10 deficiency comes from using statin drugs to lower cholesterol. Drugs like Lipitor inhibit the synthesis of Co Q-10 in the same manner as they inhibit cholesterol synthesis. The symptoms of Co Q-10 deficiency are low energy, fatigue, leg weakness and leg pain. The cardiac myopathy (heart muscle damage) that occurs in 10% of patients taking statin drugs is thought to be a result of Co Q-10 deficiency.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Many Aging Boomers Face Chronic Illness, But Death Rate is Falling

A new study finds mixed results for the health of American’s aging “Baby Boom” generation, with nearly half of people ages 55 to 64 taking a prescription heart drug and about 1 in 5 dealing with diabetes.

However, the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also finds that the overall death rate in this age group has gone down over the past decade.

The new data comes from an annual report from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, looking at 2014 statistics on the health of all Americans.

That looming epidemic of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health woes doesn’t bode well for the financial health of the U.S. health care system, the report noted, since most Boomers will be covered by the government-run Medicare program within the next 10 years.

The bottom-line forecast, according to Dr. Ronald Tamler, who directs the Mount Sinai Clinical Diabetes Institute in New York City, is an aging population increasingly plagued by chronic illness. That means doctors “have our work in primary prevention cut out for us,” he said, “especially in the less affluent segment of the population.
Another doctor agreed.

“With a shift from treatment to prevention, where the key is lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise, we could essentially change these statistics,” said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Evidence Based Herbal Therapy

When consulting with a traditional physician about a common patient, the most common question is “What are your credentials?” I explain that I am board certified in nutrition and that my studies were at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine.

I think my answer surprises most physicians and they can’t use my lack of education to dismiss my nutritional therapies. A resistant doctor will then ask for the evidence based research to support my treatment. Even when I provide the research studies, a few physicians refuse to accept nutritional therapy as valid and strongly object to their patient taking any OTC supplements.

The most amusing aspect of this stance is that the chemistry of most prescription drugs is poorly understood and the mode of action is often just a theory.

Recently I spent some time on PubMed. PubMed is online resource for published medical research. It is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the source for a vast majority of my blogs. NIH sends me a daily E-mail that summarizes recent research. Of late, I have found the topics lacked interest or were repetitive. So I decided to visit the source – PubMed.

The problem with PubMed is the sheer volume of information. There are hundreds or even thousands of research articles published daily. I limited my search to complimentary medicine and then plugged in some of my favorite herbs. What follows is a very short list showing the herb, the number of peer review published papers and one study title for your review:
  • Gymnema – 143 papers “Anti-Obesity Effect of Gymnema sylvestre Extract on High Fat Diet-Induced Obesity in Wistor Rats”
  • Echinacea – 1016 papers “Echinacea Reduces the Risk of Recurrent Respiratory Tract Infections and Complications: A Met-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials”
  • Boswellia – 268 papers “A Randomized, Double Blind, Placebo Controlled, Crossover Study to Evaluate the Analgesic Activity of Boswellia serrata in Healthy Volunteers Using the Mechanical Pain Model” (This type of study is the “gold standard” in research demonstrating the efficacy of Boswellia by any standards)
  • Ginger – 1925 papers “A Novel Component from Citrus, Ginger and Mushrooom Family Exhibits Antitumor Activity on Human Meningioma Cells through Suppressing the Wat/Beta-catemin Signaling Pathway” (Virtually every herb I reviewed had favorable studies on cancer treatment)
  • Ashwaganda - 641 papers “Effects of Withania somnifera (Ashwaganda) Root Extract on Amelioration of Oxidative Stress and Autoantibodies Production in Collagen-induced Arthritic Rats”
  • Tribulus - 211 papers “Tribulus terrestis for Treatment of Sexual Dysfunction in Women: Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study”
  • Turmeric – 3179 papers “Curcumin Inhibits Apoptosis and Brain Edema Induced by Hypoxia-Hypercapnia Brain Damage in Rat Models”
  • St. John’s Wort -2343 papers “Hypericum performatum Reduces Paracetamol-Induced Hepatotoxicity and Lethality in Mice by Modulating Inflammation and Oxidative Stress”

The Bottom Line:
The next time someone tells you that herbal therapy is unscientific folklore, just refer them to this blog or PubMed. Of note is that a vast majority of these studies were conducted outside the U.S. as the rest of the world is advancing herbal therapy rather than scoffing at it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Gymnema

Gymnema sylvestre is an Ayurvedic herb known as the “sugar destroyer”. It has been in use for thousands of years, long before the term diabetes was given to advanced insulin resistance. The leaf of the plant is the only part used to produce the herb. The key constituents of Gymnema leaves include saponins as glycosides and acylated gymnemic acid.

Ayurvedic physicians traditionally would smell and taste the urine of their patients as a part of their clinical evaluation. When the serum glucose exceeds 180, the kidneys begin to dump the excess sugar into the urine. This results in a sickly sweet smell and taste to the urine. Gymnema was the herb that resolved that smell and taste, hence the name “sugar destroyer”.

Controlled studies involving patients with insulin-dependent diabetes have found that Gymnema extract reduced insulin requirements, fasting blood glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin, and glycosylated plasma protein levels compared to patients receiving insulin therapy alone. Cholesterol, triglycerides, free fatty acids, and serum amylase were also lowered. Some suggestion of enhancing endogenous insulin production, possibly by pancreatic regeneration, was demonstrated as well.

Clinically, I find Gymnema to be the most effective supplement for balancing blood sugar issues. I use it for hypoglycemia as well as type II diabetes. It will reduce all the lab values noted above and combined with an improved diet and exercise can reverse diabetes.

Personally, I use it to control my nocturnal hypoglycemia. In combination with Chaste tree, it has dramatically improved by sleep patterns.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Fecal Transplants Show Promise for Crohn’s Disease

Researchers found that a fecal transplant – stool samples taken from a healthy donor – seemed to send Crohn’s symptoms into remission in seven of nine children treated.

According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, up to 700,000 Americans have Crohn’s – a chronic inflammatory disease that causes abdominal cramps, diarrhea, constipation and rectal bleeding. It arises when the immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the digestive tract.

A number of drugs are available to treat Crohn’s, including drugs called biologics, which block certain immune system proteins.

But fecal transplants take a different approach, explained Dr. David Suskind, a gastroenterologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital who led the new study.

Instead of suppressing the immune system, he said, the transplants alter the environment that the immune system is reacting against the “microbiome,” which refers to the trillions of bacteria that dwell in the gut.

Like the name implies, a fecal transplant involves transferring stool from a donor into a Crohn’s patient’s digestive tract. The idea is to change the bacterial composition of the gut, and hopefully quiet the inflammation that causes symptoms.

Friday, May 1, 2015

High-Fructose Heart Risks

Only two weeks of modest consumption of high-fructose corn syrup causes cholesterol and triglyceride levels to rise, and the more consumed, the greater the increases.

Researchers divided 85 people chosen for their healthy lipid profiles into four groups. One group consumed drinks sweetened with 25% high-fructose corn syrup; the second with a 17.5% concentration; the third 10%; and the last drinks sweetened only with aspartame.

The results, in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, were consistent: The more corn syrup, the worse the lipid profile. While LDL (or “bad” cholesterol) in the aspartame group remained the same before and after the diet, the 10% group went to 102 from 95, the 17.5% to 102 from 93, and the 25% group to 107 from 91. Optimal LDL levels are under 100.

Other blood tests of cardiovascular risk – non-HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, uric acid and others – moved in the same negative directions.

“It was a surprise that adding as little as the equivalent of a half-can of soda at breakfast, lunch and dinner was enough to produce significant increases in risk for cardiovascular disease,” said the lead author, Kimber L. Stanhope, a research scientist at the University of California, Davis. “Our bodies respond to a relatively small increase in sugar, and that’s important information.”