Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil (or melaleuca oil) is an essential oil with a camphor like odor. It comes from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant, which is native to New South Wales, Australia. Tea tree oil has been purported to have many beneficial medical properties such as an antiseptic, including antibacterial, antifungal, and possibly antiviral action. This homeopathic treatment has been used for many years for a variety of medical conditions. Tea tree oil should always be used diluted, as skin reactions are common with pure tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is toxic when consumed orally, and therefore should never be added to food or drinks.

Tea tree oil has significant activity against bacterial infections such as Staphylococcus aureus ( MRSA); and when used at a 5-10% concentration, it is comparable with mupirocin (Bactroban) for treating this condition. Resistance, however, occurs at lower concentrations such as 0.5-1%. Tea tree oil also appears to be effective against mites such as scabies and lice. Just a few drops added to a small to medium sized bottle of baby shampoo has been shown to cure head lice. In the treatment of mild to moderate acne, a topical application of 5% tea tree oil has been shown have the same effect as 5% benzoyl peroxide. Shampooing with 5% tea tree oil has been shown to be an effective treatment for dandruff. Probably, the most common way tea tree oil is used is in a relaxing bath.

Tea tree oil is inexpensive and "seems" to be a magic cure all. A well funded 2004 study examined the ability of tea tree oil to kill bacteria and found that used as an adjunctive (additional) treatment for wounds involving difficult-to-treat bacterial infections such as MRSA was beneficial. Please remember that everything has limitations and risks. Pay careful attention to the reported side effects and take caution with whom may have access to it. Tea tree oil is considered toxic when swallowed and has been reported (after ingestion) to cause: drowsiness, confusion, hallucinations, coma,  weakness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Topical application may cause severe rashes (especially when used at full strength). It should always be kept away from pets and children.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disorder that primarily attacks the (synovial) joints. The wrists, fingers, knees and feet are the most commonly affected. The process produces inflammation, increased the growth of synovial cells (cells within the joints producing a thick lubricating fluid) and excess fluid in the joints. This leads to destruction of the cartilage causing stiffness and rigidity in the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can also produce inflammation in the lungs, heart tissue, the eyes as well as nodules under the skin. Although the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, RA is considered a systemic autoimmune disease (the body attacks itself). About 1% of the world's population is afflicted by rheumatoid arthritis and women are three times more affected than men. The onset of RA is most frequently between the ages of 40 and 50.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a long-term disease that can be a disabling and painful condition. It can lead to substantial loss of functioning and mobility if not adequately treated. The course and the severity of the illness can vary considerably. The disease usually begins slowly and progresses over a period of years. There is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis.

In 2010 the ACR / EULAR Rheumatoid Arthritis Classification Criteria were introduced. These new classification establish a point value between 0 and 10. Every patient with a point total of 6 or higher is unequivocally classified as an RA patient, provided he has synovitis (joint inflammation) in at least one joint and given that there is no other diagnosis better explaining the symptoms.
Four areas are covered in the diagnosis:
 1. joint involvement:; depending on the type and number of joints: up to 5 points
 2. serological parameters (positive blood work) up to 3 points, depending on titre level
 3. acute phase reactants: elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate ( ESR) or elevated 
 c-reactive protein (CRP) value duration of arthritis: 1 point for symptoms lasting
 six weeks or longer.

Symptoms of RA:
 Morning stiffness is common.
 Joints can even become warm, tender, and stiff when not used.
 Joint pain is often felt on both sides of the body.
 The fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, toes, jaw, and neck may be
 affected. Basically, just about any joint may be involved.
 The joints are often swollen, and feel warm and spongy to the touch.
 Over time, the affected joints lose their range of motion and may become deformed.

Diagnosis:
History and physical.
Blood testing for the presence of rheumatoid factor antibody (RF), sed rate (ESR)
and C-reactive protein (CRP). RF is most important. You may also want to consider testing for Lupus if you are female with a lupus anticoagulant (LA).
Genetic testing for the HLA-DR4 gene.

Treatment:
NSAIDs: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen sodium (Aleve). Stronger versions of NSAIDs are available by prescription.
Steroids: drugs such as prednisone and methylprednisolone (Medrol) reduce inflammation and pain and slow joint damage.
DMARDs disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs can slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and save the joints and other tissues from permanent damage. Common DMARDs include methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall), leflunomide (Arava), hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), sulfasalazine (Azulfidine) and minocycline (Dynacin, Minocin).
Immunosuppressants: act to tame your immune system, which is out of control in rheumatoid arthritis. Examples include azathioprine (Imuran, Azasan), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan).
TNF inhibitors: tumor necrosis factor is an inflammatory substance produced by your body. TNF inhibitors significantly help reduce the symptoms and progression of RA. Examples include etanercept (Enbrel), infliximab (Remicade) and adalimumab (Humira).
Pregnenolone: is a supplement used for the treatment of arthritis since the 1940's, when it was first discovered to be effective against joint swelling and inflammation. The dose used is much higher than as a daily supplement (up to 500mg/day)

Occupation therapy can help you find different ways to approach everyday tasks in order to take stress off your painful joints. And lastly, you may want to consider surgery (as a last resort) to repair damaged joints.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ever Heard of Diindolyl Methane (DIM)?

Diindolyl methane (DIM) is a dietary organic compound (phytonutrient) found in cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and similar green leaf vegetables. Plant enzymes produce DIM from precursors called glucosinolates. In short, DIM can help increase the metabolism of estrogen allowing it to be broken down into its beneficial or "good" estrogen metabolites.  Then you have a simultaneous reduction in the levels of ‘bad’ estrogen metabolites which are thought to be unhealthy. One important fact is that men convert testosterone to estrogen. This happens primarily with age and obesity.DIM helps to eliminate active estrogen from the male body by promoting its conversion into the "good" metabolites. These metabolites then increase the free testosterone levels by decreasing binding. Elevated estrogen and decreased testosterone levels are thought to promote prostate cancer. Together with a healthy diet and exercise, DIM may result in a healthier balance of testosterone to estrogen in men. 

DIM may be beneficial for both women and men; many women use it to improve symptoms such as PMS, uterine fibroids and fibrocystic breast symptoms (breast pain). The belief is that some women can have an "overload" of estrogen.  At the same time, they may have a deficiency of progesterone (the anti-estrogen) to counteract the amount of estrogen in the body. Therefore, both women and men who are suffering from estrogen dominance may benefit from taking an estrogen metabolizer such as DIM.

The purported health benefits of  DIM:
  promotes healthy testosterone levels
  promotes healthy estrogen metabolism
  relieves PMS symptoms
  improves breast pain
  promotes fat loss
  protects against "female" cancers
  supports healthy prostate tissue

Dim is inexpensive and is typically sold in 100 mg tablets with manufacturers recommending two to four pills daily. Side effects are uncommon, but some individuals have developed headaches, upset stomach and gas. Start by taking one or two tablets to see if you tolerate it well. As with everything in life, these supplements are only meant to augment a healthy lifestyle.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Adrenal Fatigue: Fact or Fiction?

Adrenal fatigue is described as a collection of signs and symptoms that occur when the adrenal glands are functioning below their necessary level. The main job of your adrenals are to enable your body to deal with stressful situations such as physical threats, injury, disease, chronic sleep deprivation or possibly work and relationship problems. Whether you want to run or stay ("fight or flight"), it is through the actions of adrenal hormones that your body is able to utilize the body's resources for survival. Adrenal fatigue is believed to be associated with intense or prolonged stress; but it can also occur during or after a serious disease or infection. The theory is that the adrenals were not originally designed  for fighting stressful situations on a daily basis and may possibly or eventually wear out, causing chronic fatigue and other symptoms. Patients with a diagnosis of adrenal fatigue are usually very tired in the morning and will often not feel fully awake until lunchtime or later. Individuals may look and act relatively normal, yet they live with a general sense of lethargy, unwellness, depression. and a myriad of other symptoms. The most common symptom is fatigue not relieved by sleep; therefore, they will often use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get up and keep themselves going during the day.

The adrenal glands allow your body to respond to all types of stress through hormones that regulate energy production, heart rate, your immune system, and basically all other physiological processes that enable you to deal with stress. Whether you have an emotional crisis such as a death or divorce, a physical situation such as trauma or surgery, or any type of a significant, repeated or constant stress in your life, your adrenals respond. If their response is inadequate, you may, theoretically, experience chronic adrenal fatigue. Common symptoms of adrenal fatigue are believed to include a lack of energy, a decreased ability to handle stressful situations, depression, a lack of focus, PMS (premenstrual syndrome), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), salt cravings, worsening menopausal symptoms, weakness or decreased libido.

Symptoms of adrenal fatigue: 
 Excessive fatigue.
 Increased weakness.
 Nervous or irritable.
 Decreased libido
 Worsening allergies..
 Worsening menopausal symptoms.
 You feel overwhelmed.
 You feel rundown.
 Irritable bowel.
 You have difficulty bouncing back from an illness.
 You crave salty foods.
 You crave sweet foods..
 You feel more awake and alert in the evening.

Diagnosis of adrenal fatigue:
The belief is that these individuals experience a chronic drop in their cortisol levels (the main stress hormone produced by the adrenal gland); and as a result, they generally feel fatigued until the afternoon. Those affected will then often begin to feel better; however, they are usually tired again by nighttime and ready for bed. When a suspicion of adrenal fatigue is believed, certain tests will often help the diagnosis. Although there no specific tests that will provide a true diagnosis of adrenal fatigue, there are tests that will give a hint of this condition. Most commonly, cortisol testing, or an ACTH stimulation test combined with thyroid testing and possibly testing for menopause is used to give clues of adrenal fatigue. An elevated plasma ACTH level in association with a low plasma cortisol level is considered diagnostic.

Treatment of adrenal fatigue:

The first and single most important thing to do is remove the stress if possible. The initial stress may have actually occurred years before (death of a loved one, illness or injury, divorce, ...) and may be difficult to isolate. The second thing is to try and change your response to the stressor. Next consider a healthy diet, exercise and helpful supplements called adaptogens. An adaptogen is a herbal product that is thought to increase resistance to stress, trauma, anxiety and fatigue. There are numerous adaptogens available and I cannot say which is better. I would simply suggest a knowledgeable and reliable supplier if you chose to try them. Other helpful products include magnesium, vitamin C and Phosphatidylserine (PS), an essential component in all our cells. Sometimes a short course of cortisol (Cortef) may be used to boost the adrenal system while the other therapies also begun. Lastly, be sure there are no other contributing factors such as thyroid problems, other hormone issues or other health issues (anemia, blood disorders, diabetes, hypertension, ...).




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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is an common endocrine disorder resulting from a deficiency of thyroid hormones. The most common cause of hypothyroidism in the US is autoimmune or "Hashimoto's thyroiditis", in which the body's immune system attacks it's own thyroid gland, damaging its cells. The most common cause world wide though is iodine deficiency. Approximately 10 million Americans have this common medical condition and women are much more likely; as many as 10% of women (1 in 10) may have some degree of hypothyroidism. Because thyroid hormone affects growth and development, inadequate levels have many consequences for the body. With low thyroid levels, you may notice things like you feel colder, you're more tired, forgetful, constipated or possibly depressed. Women may also notice changes in their menstrual cycles. Because the symptoms are so variable, you (women especially) should be screened for hypothyroidism with a very inexpensive blood test.

Subclinical hypothyroidism is a condition in which people have a normal amount of circulating thyroid hormone, but they have an increased thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level. This means that the pituitary gland is working extra hard to maintain a normal thyroid hormone level and that the thyroid gland requires extra stimulation by the pituitary to do so. The majority of these patients will eventually progress to obvious clinical hypothyroidism. Many physicians will choose to treat these patients, especially if they have a high cholesterol  level. A high cholesterol level will usually show improvement with thyroid hormone replacement.

The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck just below the larynx (voice box). It releases two main hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which primarily controls metabolism. The thyroid gland also controls the growth and function of many other systems in the body such as menstrual cycles, bowel function as well as hair and nail growth. The thyroid gland also produces calcitonin, which plays a role in calcium regulation. The thyroid gland is controlled by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) produced by the pituitary gland in the brain which is controlled by the hypothalamus (the "deep" brain).
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Causes of hypothyroidism:
 1. Autoimmune disease ("Hashimoto's" Autoimmine Thyroidititis) is where your body can mistake the thyroid gland for a foreign body, then attack and destroy it. This senario is far more common in women than men. Autoimmune thyroiditis can begin suddenly or it can develop over years.
 2. Surgical removal of the thyroid. Individuals with thyroid nodules, cancer, or Graves’ disease (autoimmune hyperthyroidism) will often need to have part or all of their thyroid removed, thereby causing a deficiency.
 3. Radiation of the thyroid. Some people with Graves’ disease, a nodular goiter (thyroid enlargement),
or thyroid cancer are treated with radioactive iodine (I-131) for the purpose of destroying their thyroid gland.  
 4. Congenital hypothyroidism is a where a baby is born without a thyroid, or with only a part of one.
 5. Thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland, often caused by a viral infection.
 6. Medications such as lithium, alpha interferon , and interleukin-2 can prevent the thyroid gland from being able to make the hormones normally. 
  7. Too little iodine, The thyroid gland must have iodine to function properly. This is the most common world wide cause.
  8. Damage to the pituitary gland. The pituitary is the “master gland” and it controls thyroid function.

Early symptoms of hypothyroidism:
 Increased sensitivity to cold
 Constipation
 Depression
 Fatigue
 Heavier menstrual periods
 Joint or muscle pain
 Dry skin
 Thinning of the hair or fingernails
 Weakness
 Weight gain

Late symptoms (if untreated):
 Hoarseness
 Puffy face, hands, and feet
 Slow speech
 Thickening of the skin (Myxedema)
 Thinning of eyebrows


Hypothyroidism Treatment: generally easy and inexpensive
 Levothyroxine (Levothroid, Synthroid), a synthetic thyroid hormone.
 Liothyronine (Cytomel), a synthetic form of a natural thyroid hormone.
 Armour thyroid is a natural preparation derived from porcine(pig) thyroid glands.
 Iodine supplementation if a deficiency is present.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Yoga

Yoga refers to traditional physical and mental disciplines that originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. Around 15 million Americans are currently using yoga techniques and are enjoying its health benefits. The main philosophy of yoga is simple: the mind, body and spirit are all connected and should be treated as such. Yoga involves stretching and holding specific poses called "asanas". This exercise releases the lactic acid that builds up in muscles causing stiffness, tension, pain, and other issues. In addition, yoga also increases the range of motion and flexibility. Yoga stretches not only your muscles but also the soft tissues of your body. That includes ligaments and tendons surrounding your muscles. You most likely will see benefits of yoga in a very short period of time, genersally in a month or so. The goals of yoga vary and range from improving health to achieving "Moksha" which is liberation from worldly suffering ("Samsara"). I see the true benefit as a great way to strengthen muscle, improve tone and increase flexibility in a relaxing way.

A newer trend is "hot yoga", which combines traditional yoga with heat. The theory behind hot yoga is that it helps the body to sweat out toxins while allowing the individual to safely come deeper into asanas (poses or stretches). The room temperature for a hot yoga class can range from 30˚ to 50˚ C (85˚ to 122˚ F). Humidity can range from 40% to 60%. Be very careful about hot yoga if you have any medical conditions; ask your physician if you have any questions or concerns.

 

Some Benefits of Yoga:

Strength
Muscle tone
Pain Prevention
Posture
Stress reduction
Decreased Stress
Decreased Anxiety
Improved Concentration
Improved Heart Health
Improved Mood
Decreased Chronic Pain
Improved Arthritis Symptoms

Consider the site http://www.yogasite.com/postures.html for basic yoga instruction.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Truth About Colonics

As a surgeon (gynecological), I have seen my fair share of patients bowels and can attest that they do not contain "pounds of fats" or other materials. One of the main theories behind colon cleansing is the belief that undigested meat and other foods cause a buildup in the colon. This buildup then theoretically produces toxins which enter the blood stream, poisoning the body. in reality, the wall of the colon will actually slough off and regenerate on a regular basis. Many individuals will use colonic irrigations to detoxify the body and hopefully lose weight. The health claims made by manufactures of colon cleansing products and colon irrigation practitioners are broad and far reaching. Their main goal seams to be to clear the colon of large quantities of stagnant, toxic waste encrusted on it's walls. Colon irrigations work like an enema, but they involve more water. While you lie on a table, a machine flushes water and other products through a tube inserted into your rectum. The practitioner may use a variety of water pressures and temperatures, and may or may not combine the water with enzymes, herbs, coffee, or probiotics. After the water is in the colon, the therapist will often massage your abdomen. Then the therapist removes the fluids and waste through another tube. In most cases, no quality research has been done to tell whether or not colon cleansing is beneficial.

People generally undergo colon irrigations believing they are treating symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, headaches, weight gain and poor energy levels.

There are healthier and safer ways to detoxify your body. You should consider eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water and getting regular exercise. Those things alone will prevent many of the problems that individuals seek out treatments such as colon cleansing. You may also consider doing a one or two day fresh juice and herbal tea fast to help eliminate any potential toxins that your body may accumulate. On a juice fast, you make juice from fresh fruits and vegetables and consume four to eight glasses a day with plenty of water. If you like, you may also add an herbal tea. Also, consider probiotics for gut health; probiotics are live microorganisms ( "good bacteria") that are similar to bacteria found in the gut. You should look for cultures with multiple strains, which more often begin with either "B" (such as bifidobacterium) or "L" (such as lactobacillus), and a culture count of around 15 billion. The "L" helps the small (little) bowel and the "B" helps colon (big bowel).

What you eat will have the greatest impact on colon health, lowering your risk of colon cancer and enhancing your overall health. Increasing fiber can help with a wide range of gastrointestinal problems including constipation, diverticular disease and colorectal cancer. The typical American consumes 10-15 grams of fiber a day, but you need closer to 30 grams. Add fiber from sources such as cereal, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and oatmeal. Avoiding tobacco and limiting red meat will also significantly reduce the risk of colon cancer. Be sure to get screened for colon cancer beginning at age 50, or earlier if your doctor advises.

The colon and body remains healthy by:
 Using bacteria in the colon to detoxify waste.
 The liver's ability to neutralize toxins.
 The colon's ability to shed it's lining every three days.
 Keeping toxins from reentering the blood stream due to it's protective membranes.

Complications of colonics:
 Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and cramps.
 Dizziness, a sign of dehydration.
 Potential interactions with certain medications.
 Rarely, bowel perforations.

You must avoid colon irrigations if you have:
 diverticulitis
 ulcerative colitis
 Crohn's disease
 severe hemorrhoids
 tumors in the rectum or colon
 heart or kidney disease

Friday, March 18, 2011

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition where the density of bone decreases, causing an increase in the fragility (weakness) of bone. In osteoporosis, the bone mineral density (BMD) is reduced, thus causing the bone to become porous and compressible (like a sponge). This disorder weakens the bone and often results in frequent fractures (or breaks) after a relatively minor traumatic event. The fracture can be either in the form of breaking, as in a hip fracture, or collapsing such as a compression fracture of the spine. The spine, hips, ribs and wrists are the most common areas of bone fractures due to osteoporosis. Osteopenia is a condition of bone that is somewhere between normal bone and osteoporosis. Normal bone is composed of a healthy amount of protein and minerals, especially calcium, which gives the hardness and strength.

Currently, it is estimated that over 200 million people worldwide suffer from this condition. In the US, around 10 million individuals have osteoporosis and 20 million more have osteopenia. Approximately 30% of all postmenopausal women in America have osteoporosis and at least 40% of these women will sustain one or more fractures in their lifetime. Osteoporosis itself has no specific symptoms and can be present for years before being diagnosed. Moreover, some osteoporotic fractures may escape detection for years if they do not cause symptoms. The increased risk of falling associated with age age related diseases such as impaired eyesight, balance disorders, Parkinson's disease and dementia leads to an even higher fracture risk.

The current recommendation in the United States is that all women 65 years and older should have a screening bone density (DXA) test. Additionally, postmenopausal women who have one or more risk factors, or have a history of a bone fracture, should have a bone mineral density test "sooner" than age 65 (that seems to include just about everyone who is menopausal). Repeat screening depends on risk factors and the results of previous screenings. I realize these recommendations are somewhat vague and my practice is to get a baseline screening in women within five years of menopause or estrogen deprivation.

Consider early screening for osteoporosis if you have:
 an estrogen deficiency (one year or greater)
 a long-term corticosteroid therapy (such as prednisone)
 a strong family history
 previously and easily broken a bone
 a history of heavy smoking
 a history of anorexia nervosa or bulimia
 a history of regular, heavy alcohol intake

Risk factors for osteoperosis (and osteopenia):
 advanced age
 female gender
 estrogen deficiency (women)
 testosterone deficiency (men)
 family history
 European or Asian ancestry
 small stature
 petite bone structure
 excess alcohol
 vitamin D deficiency
 tobacco smoking
 malnutrition
 inactivity
 increased parathyroid Hormone (PTH) production (parathyroid tumor)

Prevention of osteoperosis (and osteopenia):
 a diet high in calcium
 a diet high in vitamin D
 calcium and vit. D supplementation
 weight-bearing exercise
 stop smoking
 limit alcohol intake

Medications For Osteoporosis:
 Oral bisphosphonates: such as Alendronate (Fosamax), Risedronate (Actonel)
 and Ibandronate (Boniva)
 Zoledronic acid (Reclast): a once yearly injection
 Denosumab (Prolia): a twice a year injection
 Parathyroid hormone (Forteo) given as a daily injection
 Selective estrogens: Raloxifene (Evista)
 Estrogen therapy (women)
 Testosterone therapy (men)

Is Black Tea Better?

All teas from the Camellia plant are rich in polyphenols, a strong antioxidant which scavenges for free radicals to bind and detoxify them. Both green and black tea have about 10 times the polyphenols that are found in fruits and vegetables. Black tea is more oxidized than the green, white or oolong varieties meaning that it has a stronger taste and aroma. Black tea also contains more caffeine than the other types and is used for improving alertness, learning and memory. Although green tea has recently seen a revival due to its purported health benefits, black tea still accounts for over ninety percent of all tea sold in the West.

Black tea is used to prevent many of the same diseases as green tea including: heart disease, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart attacks and Parkinson's disease. Due to it's strength, black tea may be better at promoting weight loss. The question remains if tea will help prevent cancers including lung, ovarian and  breast.

A long-term study by the Netherlands National Institute of Public Health found a correlation between regular consumption of black tea and reduced risk of stroke. The study looked at 550 men over a 15 year period. Researchers concluded that the flavonoids in black tea had a significant reduction in the production of LDL cholesterol and men who drank four or more cups of black tea per day had a significantly lower risk of stroke. A separate study at Boston's School of Medicine supported these results. For four months, sixty-six men drank four cups of either black tea or a placebo daily. The study concluded that drinking black tea can help reverse the decreased flow in blood vessels which can contribute to stroke or heart attacks. Furthermore, improvement in the functioning of the blood vessels was visible within two hours of drinking just one cup of black tea. Finally, a study of over 3,000 adults in Saudi Arabia found that regular consumption of black tea can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by fifty percent.


From the Linus Pauling Institute:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Green Tea Is Good

Teas made from the Camellia Sinesis plant include varieties such as white, black, green and oolong. The difference though lies in the way they are processed to attain different levels of "polyphenol' antioxidants. The more polyphenols there are, the better the fat-burning and overall health benefits the tea has. Because of green tea's minimal processing, the "catechins" are therefore more highly concentrated. Catechins are more powerful than vitamin C or E in preventing damage to cells and appear to have significant disease-fighting properties. Some studies have found an association between consuming green tea and a reduced risk for several cancers including: skin, breast, lung, colon and bladder. Also, due to it's fat burning ability, green tea is considered an excellent weight loss therapy as drinking several cups daily will boost your metabolism 10-15 percent.

In green-tea drinking cultures, the usual amount consumed is generally three cups per day. The best way to get the catechins (antioxidants) and other flavonoids (also antioxidants) is to drink it freshly brewed. For the best effect, you should allow the tea to steep for several minutes. Decaffeinated, bottled and instant teas have less of these healthy compounds. Also be aware that tea can slow the absorption of iron, so adding lemon or milk will counteract this problem.

Green tea's antioxidants are also vasodilators which improve circulation and make them less vulnerable to clogging. Regular consumers of green (and black) tea have a reduced risk for heart disease. The antioxidants in green, black, and oolong teas can also help decrease LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and increase HDL (good cholesterol) levels. A Chinese study published recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed an approximately 50% reduction in hypertension (high blood pressure) risk compared to non-consumers of green or oolong tea. A few cups of green tea on a regular basis will positively affect your health. Don't necessarily consume it in an effort to cure any diseases, but as a complement the rest of your diet.

Benefits of green tea:
Super antioxidant
Boosts metabolism
Decreases LDLs (bad cholesterol)
Increases HDLs (good cholesterol)
Decreases blood pressure
Decrease atherosclerosis (clogging of the arteries)
Decreases risk of multiple cancers (?)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Strokes are on the rise (in young people)

I recently saw an eye opening article in our Sunday paper concerning stroke rates in the young (ie, less than 40 yo). A stroke occurs when a clot or narrowing of the arteries occludes the blood supply to the brain. The findings, reported this week at the American Stroke Association conference in Dallas, may be a sign that the rising rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure among teenagers and young adults are taking a toll. Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide. More people in their 30s and 40s are being diagnosed with stroke, even as stroke rates are dropping among older people. Analysts at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)  found that stroke hospitalizations among men and women 45 and older have declined by 25 percent or more between the years 1994 to 2007. At that same time, stroke rates rose 50 % among men aged 15 to 34 and more than 30 percent in children ages 5 to 14.

The authors in this study urged caution in interpreting the results. A number of factors could explain the rise in young people, including changes in the way hospitals track their data. Better awareness, more referrals of young patients to neurologists and improved diagnostic ability using technology could also be fueling the rise in younger age groups. Use of birth control pills and pregnancy also increase risks for women.

Risk factors for having a stroke:
 High blood pressure
 Cigarette smoking
 Diabetes mellitus
 Atrial fibrillation
 Other heart disease
 Sickle cell disease
 Birth control pill use
 High risk pregnancies
 High blood cholesterol
 Poor diet and obesity
 Physical inactivity
 Carotid artery disease
 Alcohol abuse
 Drug abuse

Please be aware of these risks as having a stroke at any age will have a profound effect on health and quality of life. Simple changes in your diet, activity levels and avoidance of tobacco will greatly decrease the risk of not only strokes, but also heart disease and diabetes.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dash Diet

The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a diet promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (a division of the NIH) to improve high blood pressure and overall health. This diet consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meats, fish, poultry, nuts and beans (basically the "Mediterranean Diet"). It is limited in sugar and sugary beverages, red meat, and saturated fats. The DASH diet helps to lower blood pressure by providing more healthy nutrients such as potassium (the "anti-sodium"), calcium, and magnesium, which all help to lower blood pressure. Equally important, this diet contains high amounts of anti-oxidants and nutrient rich foods. Basically, it is simply a healthy way of eating and is designed to meet the dietary preferences of the majority.

This diet reduced systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 6 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) by 3 mm Hg in individuals with normal blood pressure. Those with hypertension dropped by 11 and 6, respectively; very impressive results. The next step, the "DASH Sodium" diet, calls for reducing salt intake to 1,500 mg a day; which is what anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease should already do. The DASH diet also lowers cholesterol and will generally improve weight.

Tips to get you started on the DASH diet: (mostly from WebMD)
 Add a serving of vegetables at lunch and at dinner.
 Add a serving of fruit to your meals.
 Use only half the butter, margarine, or salad dressing.
 Use low-fat or fat-free condiments.
 When dinning out, always order salad dressing on the side. (my "two cents")
 Drink low-fat or skim dairy products three times a day.
 Limit meat to six ounces a day.
 Add more vegetables, rice, pasta, and dry beans to your diet.
 Instead of typical snacks (chips, etc.), try unsalted pretzels or plain popcorn or nuts.
 Try raw vegetables as another snack alternative.
 Read food labels carefully and choose products that are low in sodium.

Also from WebMD, are suggested serving amounts:
 Grains: 7-8 daily servings
 Vegetables: 4-5 daily servings
 Fruits: 4-5 daily servings
 Low-fat or fat-free dairy products: 2-3 daily servings
 Meat, poultry and fish: 2 or less daily servings
 Nuts, seeds, and dry beans: 4-5 servings per week
 Fats and oils: 2-3 daily servings
 Sweets: try to limit to less than 5 servings per week

Like everything else in life, this diet is about choices. Please choose wisely.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Vitamin Water

VitaminWater consists of distilled and filtered water; fructose (from corn syrup) as a sweetener; citric acid; electrolytes; natural flavors; and synthetic vitamins, including Vitamin C, B complex, and E. Other ingredients are added according to the flavor and intended purpose of the drink. If VitaminWater were accurately named, it would actually be called "Sugarwater". VitaminWater is really just a sugary drink product; a non-carbonated fruity cola disguised as a sports drink. Vitamin water contains 32 grams of sugar in a 20oz bottle which is equivalent to about 8 teaspoons of sugar. Regular Coca Cola contains 65 grams of sugar in a 20oz bottle which is equivalent to about 16 teaspoons of sugar.

A vitamin-fortified drink may sound like a great idea, but most Americans aren’t that vitamin deficient. In fact, vitamin E is the only vitamin Americans consume at less than half of the recommended daily allowance (RDA), but it’s found in only a third of VtaminWater drinks. Also, the vitamin content of the water becomes less efficient in contact with sugar as it is not absorbed well. A complaint was recently filed against VitaminWater at the Federal Trade Commission accusing the brand that it is falsely advertising the product to consumers who are not only mislead by the label and advertising but also endangered by the content of the VitaminWater. With this composition, VitaminWater becomes unhealthy as high quantities of sugar can lead to diabetes, heart diseases, obesity and possibly liver disease.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is defined as liver disease due to "metabolic syndrome" and is currently among the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the United States, being found in up to 30% of the general population. NAFLD is related to the over consumption of both the fructose and glucose thereby increasing blood triglyceride levels. Chronically elevated blood triglyceride levels are one of the main factors contributing to lipid (fat) accumulation in the liver and NAFLD. This condition is not reversible and will often have serious health consequences.

Please read the labels as the marketing can be very misleading. Most everyone loves colas and such, just consume them in a prudent fashion. Awareness and action are the keys to good health.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bipolar Disorder

After observing the news very recently (and most any other media outlet), I wanted to publish this post on a very serious and often scary disorder. Bipolar or manic-depressive disorder is a psychiatric condition or mood disorder defined by intermittent episodes of mania and depression (more frequently) or mixed episodes in which features of both mania and depression are present at the same time. Symptoms of bipolar disorder may be severe and are usually separated by periods of normal behavior. Extreme manic episodes can sometimes lead to such psychotic symptoms as delusions and hallucinations. The disorder has been subdivided into Bipolar I, Bipolar II (mostly depression) and Cyclothymia (less severe mood swings). The prevalence is around 1- 2% of the population. The onset generally occurs in the teens or young adulthood and most cases start before age 25. Episodes are often associated with distress, disruption of normal activities.

Bipolar disorder symptoms will often result in damaged relationships, poor job performance and occasionally suicide. In some cases, this disorder has been associated with creativity, positive achievements and very successful careers. Bipolar disorder can be treated effectively allowing those individuals to lead full and productive lives. This disorder is a long-term illness that must be carefully managed throughout a person's life. Bipolar disorder is not easy to spot when it begins and the symptoms may not be recognized as part of the larger problem. Some people suffer for years before they are properly diagnosed and treated.


People with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called "mood episodes." Extreme changes in energy, activity, sleep, and behavior go along with these episodes. It is possible for someone with this disorder to experience a long-lasting period of unstable moods rather than discrete episodes of depression or mania. The manic or depressive phase may last from days to months. Manic and depressive symptoms may also occur together or quickly one after the other in what is called a mixed state.

Symptoms of mania or a manic episode include:

Symptoms of depression or a depressive episode include:
Mood Changes
Feeling "high," jubilant or outgoing.
Feeling indestructible.
Extremely irritable, agitated, jumpy or wired.

Behavioral Changes
Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts ("flight of ideas"). 
Being easily distracted.
Lack of self-control.
Reckless behavior.
Binge eating, drinking, and/or drug use.
Increasing goal-directed activities.
Restlessness
Insomnia
Having an unrealistic belief in one's abilities.
Behaving impulsively and taking part in pleasurable,high-risk behavior.
Sexual promiscuity.

Mood Changes
Long periods of feeling worried or empty.
Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.
Decreased or absent libido.
Loss of self-esteem.
Persistent sadness.
Persistent thoughts of death.

Behavioral Changes
Feeling tired, lethargic.
Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions.
Being restless or irritable.
Withdrawal from friends.
Withdrawal from activities once enjoyed.
Overeating and weight gain. 
Contemplating or attempting suicide.
Excessive sleepiness.

 The major goals of treatment are to:
 Avoid cycling from one phase to another.
 Avoid the need for a hospitalization.
 Help the patient function between episodes.
 Prevent self-destructive behavior, including suicide.
 Reduce the severity and frequency of episodes.

Medical therapy:
Mood stabilizers are considered to be the first-line treatment; the most commonly used are:
 Carbamazepine (Tegretol)
 Lamotrigine (Lamictal)
 Lithium (Lithobid)
 Valproate (Depakene)

Other drugs used to treat bipolar disorder include:
Antipsychotic meds (Seroquel, Abilify, Zyprexa ect. ...)  and anti-anxiety meds (benzodiazepines, Valium or Xanax).
Antidepressant medications (SSRIs, MAOIs) can be added to mood-stabilizing meds.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be used to treat the manic or depressive phase of bipolar disorder that does not respond to medication. ECT is a treatment that uses an electrical current to cause a brief seizure of the central nervous system while the patient is under anesthesia (it is not as bad as it sounds). This treatment is only used in very severe cases in which patients are a major threat to themselves or others.

This illness is extremely challenging to treat. Patients will often be in denial; therefore, friends and family must be aware of the risks of neglecting to treat bipolar disorder. You may want to check out the movie Mr. Jones
(Richard Gere, Lena Olin, 1993) as it gives a pretty good insight into this disorder.