Saturday, June 28, 2008

Managing Inflammation Naturally, Part 2

Inflammation is critical for the healing of wounds, fighting infections, and responding to toxic exposures. But like a double-edged sword, inflammation is also a biochemical response that can become too much of a good thing. Unfortunately, if certain substances in our bodies become unbalanced, the inflammation switch can be flipped "on" at the wrong time or get stuck in overdrive even though it is no longer needed.

When inflammation occurs, it can be seen externally as swelling or a rash. But a more dangerous kind is that which can occur internally. If it persists and becomes chronic, it can cause damage to organs or organ systems. Diseases in which inflammation plays a role are heart disease (see my last post), stroke, Alzheimer’s, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, cancers, arthritis, gingivitis and other “itis” disorders.

The Diet: A Primary Driving Force of Inflammation
Since the prevalence of these conditions can be correlated with and related to our increased diets of nutrient-depleted, calorie-rich convenient foods, it is possible to end the inflammation process with a change in diet. Saturated and trans-fats, refined sugars, processed meats, and artificial sweeteners all shift the balance of chemicals in our bodies toward inflammation by driving inflammatory chemicals like arachadonic acid. Inflammation increases oxidation; oxidation leads to degeneration; degeneration leads to more inflammation; and so goes the vicious cycle.

The Conventional Approach
The conventional therapy for inflammation – pharmaceuticals - has been a tragic failure. The FDA stated that as many as 50,000 people died as a direct result of taking Vioxx, and the 16th leading cause of death in the U.S. are the side effects of non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen.1 Thankfully, there are natural alternatives that fight inflammation without dangerous side effects.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
One group of dietary nutrients enjoying much publicity as it pertains to inflammation and other health benefits are the omega fatty acids. Don’t be confused by the wording here. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory because they displace arachadonic acid and other inflammatory chemicals, while omega-6 acids can actually drive inflammation. Proper balance is the key. We already get too many omega-6 fatty acids in the diet, but dangerously low levels of omega-3s. Dietary sources of omega-6 fatty acids would be meat, eggs, dairy, and certain vegetable oils such as the ones found in corn, safflower, and sunflower. Foods rich in omega-3’s include oily fish such as herring, sardines, tuna, mackerel and salmon (preferably wild); oils made from these fish; hemp, flax, pumpkin seeds, soy, canola oil, and walnuts and their oils. Also, non-starchy vegetables such as dark leafy salad greens, spinach, kale, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and onions also have small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

A healthy ratio of these two fatty acids would be 1:1, or at most 5:1 in favor the omega-6s. However, the ratio in the typical American diet is more than 20:1 in favor of the omega-6 fats. This unfavorable ratio shifts the body toward a chronic inflammatory state which can set the stage for many chronic conditions.

Scientists were first alerted to the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in the 1970s when Danish researchers discovered that Greenland Eskimos suffered almost no heart disease, cancer, or arthritis in spite of eating diets very high in animal protein and fat. Most of the foods they were eating, it was later discovered, was rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and two omega-3 fatty acids in particular - Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

While altering the diet is paramount, we can also achieve more therapeutic levels of omega-3 fatty acids by supplementing with purified fish oil. Some research suggests taking as much as 4 grams per day of fish oil for cardiovascular disease, and 8 grams for neurological diseases. It is nearly impossible to get that much omega-3 fatty acids from the diet alone, so supplementing becomes necessary as a way to manage these types of problems.

The benefits of fish oil supplementation enjoy one of the broadest and largest bodies of evidence of any therapeutic substance, pharmaceutical or natural. In fact, fish oil supplementation has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks by up to 90%2 (see graph below), and increase IQ scores by up to 13%3.

The Problem of Contamination
The FDA has stated that a 132-pound woman eating two cans of albacore tuna per week would exceed safe dose ranges of mercury by 3 times! Unfortunately, one of God’s most healthful foods for human consumption has been contaminated by various toxins and heavy metals. For this reason, eating fatty fish must be limited, and this emphasizes the importance of supplementing with fish oil capsules.

However, fish oil supplementation does not necessarily solve the problem, as fish oil supplements can be MORE toxic than eating fish if manufacturers do not take the necessary steps to remove all the contaminants through an ultra-purification molecular distillation process, and then by following that process up by paying a laboratory to perform a third-party analysis verifying that the oils are contaminant free.

The Journey of a Thousand Miles
It has been said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. The first step in beginning a life free of inflammation and vitality-sapping degeneration begins with lifestyle. The importance of exercising, eating healthfully, and losing weight cannot be overstated. And in the context of eating right, since even the healthiest Western diets are so deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, supplementing with high quality fish oil must be considered part of the first step.

Stay tuned for part 3 of my series on inflammation, where I discuss powerful targeted interventions for chronic inflammation.


1. Wolfe M M, Lichtestein D R, and Singh G. Gastrointestinal Toxicity of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs. New England Journal of Medicine 1999;(24):188-89.

2. Lawrence J. Whalley, Helen C. Fox, Klaes W. Wable, John M. Starr, Iae J. Deary. Cognitive Aging, Childhood Intelligence, and the Use of Food Supplements: Possible Involvement of n-3 Fatty Acids. Am J Clin Nutr 2004; 50:1650-7

3. Adapted from Siscovich et al. JAMA 1995;274: 1363-1367

Monday, June 23, 2008

Inflammation Worse for Heart Than Cholesterol

Worse than cholesterol?

That might be difficult to believe, but the top health concern of millions of Americans is about to be trumped by what medical researchers say is an even bigger trigger of heart attacks.

The condition is low-grade inflammation, which may originate in a variety of unlikely places throughout the body, including excess fat. New federal recommendations are being written that will urge doctors to test middle-aged and older Americans for it. The discovery of its surprising ill effects is causing a top-to-bottom re-thinking of the origins and prevention of heart trouble.

Conventional doctors call it a revolutionary departure from viewing the world's top killer as largely a plumbing problem blamed on cholesterol-clogged arteries, which is the standard theoryin modern cardiology.

"The implications of this are enormous," says Dr. Paul Ridker of Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. "It means we have an entire other way of treating, targeting and preventing heart disease that was essentially missed because of our focus solely on cholesterol."

In the past few years the evidence has become overwhelming that inflammation hidden deep in the body is a common trigger of heart attacks, even when plaquing in the arteries is minimal. Inflammation can be measured with a generic $10 test that looks for high levels of a chemical called C-reactive protein (CRP), one of many that increase during inflammation.

While measuring cholesterol is still an important consideration, it is noteworthy that half of all heart attack victims have levels that are normal or even low. Clearly, something big has been missing from the equation, and that something appears to be inflammation.

Ridker estimates that between 25 million and 35 million seemingly healthy middle-aged Americans have normal cholesterol but above-average inflammation, putting them at unusual risk of heart attacks and strokes. A series of landmark studies by his team beginning in 1997 suggest that inflammation is a better predictor of heart attacks than cholesterol. They found those with high levels of CRP have double the risk of people with elevated cholesterol. High amounts of CRP also predict increased risk of heart attacks and strokes years before they occur, even when cholesterol levels are low.

Having both inflammation and high cholesterol together is especially ominous, resulting in a NINE-FOLD increase in risk.

Nearly everyone who reaches middle age has at least some degree of fatty buildup, known as plaque, in the arteries. The new evidence suggests it becomes threatening if weakened by inflammation, which makes it squishy and fragile. Even a small lump of plaque can burst, prompting the formation of a clot that in turn chokes off blood flow and causes a heart attack or stroke.

Many people with no outward signs of anything wrong have high levels of internal inflammation. It is exactly the same sort that causes swelling, heat, and redness during infections or allergic rashes.

Researchers believe the internal inflammation has many possible sources. Often, the plaque itself becomes inflamed as immune cells invade the area in a defense response. But inflammation that arises elsewhere apparently can be just as bad, because it bombards the plaque with damaging chemicals.

For example, fat cells churn out these inflammatory mediators, which is one of many reasons why being overweight is so bad for the heart. Fat cells, or adipocytes, are now being referred to as “endocrine organs” by researchers because of their ability to “talk” to the rest of body through inflammatory mediators, and the language they speak is one of alarm. Being overweight sets off an ongoing state of alarm throughout the body through the production of inflammatory chemicals, and they in turn can cause muscle tissue breakdown and a catabolic snowball process that leads to more inflammation, more production of fat cells, and an accelerated rate of aging and degeneration through increased oxidation.

Other possible triggers of CRP include high blood pressure, smoking and lingering low-level infections such as chronic gum disease.

Although many chemicals increase during inflammation, CRP is particularly easy to measure. Many doctors believe that CRP should measured in everyone over age 40, just like cholesterol, regardless of their other risk factors like cholesterol or high blood pressure.

"It begins to look like a standard risk factor that one would evaluate at least once in middle age in most people," says Dr. Wayne Alexander of Emory University. "This is a very important concept for the general public to be aware of and to think about for their own health."

"We believe the niche for C-reactive protein - and it is a large niche - is the healthy population who want to do what they can to lower their risk of cardiovascular disease," says Dr. Richard Cannon of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Screening is important because inflammation can be readily lowered in several ways. One of the most powerful is losing weight. Exercise also helps, as does moderating alcohol intake, giving up smoking and lowering one’s blood pressure. Thus, doctors are likely to urge these habits for people with high CRP readings who until now would have seemed to be at no special risk of heart problems.

"In the last decade, people talked about their cholesterol levels," Dr. Cannon says. "In the next decade, the cocktail chatter will be, 'What's your C-reactive protein?' Everyone will need to know that."


Stay tuned for my next post on powerful interventions that fight inflammation naturally.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Is Coffee a Health Food? Well, Sort Of.

A number of research studies are confirming that certain phytochemicals in the coffee bean, known as chlororgenic acids, may provide some profound health benefits. Accumulating evidence suggests that certain dietary polyphenols have biological effects in the small intestine which beneficially alter the pattern of glucose uptake.

A 2006 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition demonstrated that derivatives of chlorogenic acid inhibit glucose-6-phosphase translocase. This enzyme system plays a major role in the homeostatic regulation of blood sugar. It is responsible for the formation of endogenous glucose originating from gluconeogenesis and glycogenolysis. Gl-6-P translocase inhibitors like chlorogenic acid from the coffee bean “may be useful for the reduction of inappropriately high rates of hepatic glucose output often found in non-insulin-dependent diabetes,” stated the authors of the study.

This is consistent with earlier studies showing that chlorogenic acids in coffee modulate glucose uptake and gastrointestinal hormone and insulin secretion in humans. [Arch Biochem Biophys. 1997 Mar 15;339(2):315-22. J Med Chem. 1997 Jan 17;40(2):137-45.]

As a result of this positive research, some are hailing coffee as a health food. However, there is more to consider.

The studies used derivatives of the coffee bean, not the entire coffee bean, and not drinkable coffee. While there appear to be definite health benefits from the isolated phytochemicals in the coffee bean, research has also suggested that the caffeine in coffee can leach minerals like calcium, disrupt the microbial balance in the gut, and contribute to hypertension.

Two cups of brewed coffee contain approximately 300 mg of caffeine. Each 300 mg of caffeine leaches 15 mg of calcium from the human body. Some researchers have suggested that 40 mg of calcium loss per day creates 10-15 percent bone loss per decade. This means that between the ages of 30 and 60, coffee drinking alone could equal a minimum of at least 30 percent bone loss.

But there is hope for coffee lovers.

If one chooses to continue enjoying their coffee in moderation, as I do, the subsequent mineral and healthy gut bacteria loss can easily be replaced with supplements. Calcium and mineral-rich formulas in the chelate forms are great choices. Likewise, identity-certified probiotics like the NCFM strain of lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the many choices to replace gut flora.

As far as supporting blood sugar goes, one should not presume that drinking coffee is supportive since the studies used the phytochemical derivatives and not drinkable coffee. However, supplements can solve this dilemma as well. Using chlorogenic acid in supplement form appears to be very supportive in a blood sugar regulating program, perhaps most especially if added to other supportive nutrients. A new blood-sugar regulating medical food features the same supportive nutrients for blood sugar and insulin control that the original formula has, but with the added addition of chlorogenic acid, beta glucans, reduced iso-alpha acids (RIAA) from hops, and acacia. Read a compelling case study on this medical food.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Cell Phone Radiation Causes Measurable Brain Cell Changes in Minutes

I try very hard not to be an alarmist, but the recent findings regarding cell phone use are too important to ignore.

A Finnish study conducted by researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and published in the Biochemical Journal in 2007 suggests that as little as 10 minutes of cell phone use can initiate changes in brain cells linked to cell division and cancer.

Advocates of cell-phone safety have previously maintained that the phones cannot cause brain damage because the microwave radiation that they emit is at a level too low to heat the body's cells. But in the Finnish study, changes in biological processes began at an energy level even lower than that used by a typical phone, even without heating occurring.

"Safety guidelines assume [that] health effects from mobiles can only occur when significant heating of body tissue occurs. [But] this study shows biological changes in response to low-level mobile phone radiation -- something that could potentially have implications for health," explained Graham Philips of the British nonprofit Powerwatch.

Researchers exposed both human and rat cells to low-level radiation at a frequency of 875 megahertz, a frequency similar to that used by most cellular phones. However, the intensity of the radiation was far lower than that used by most phones. Even so, within 10 minutes the scientists observed changes within the brain cells. A biochemical switch regulating cell division was switched on in the presence of the radiation – a switch that has been linked to a variety of cancers.

There was no direct evidence of inducement of cancer in the study. However, the researchers point out that the changes occurring at the low radiation level were non-thermal in nature, which was previously said to be impossible. Hence, the study challenges the entire basis on which cell phones' presumption of safety has been based.

"The significance lies in showing cells do react to cell-phone radiation in a non-thermal way," said co-author Rony Seger. "We used radiation power levels that were around one tenth of those produced by a normal mobile. The changes we observed were clearly not caused by heating."

"This helps explain why mobile phone radiation has been linked to increases in cancer tumors," consumer health advocate Mike Adams said. "Until now, skeptics have said the radiation wasn't intense enough to cause cells to overheat, but now we're learning there can be significant cellular changes taking place at far lower levels of exposure."

Furthermore, another Finnish study published online in the same year in the International Journal of Cancer suggests that using a cell phone regularly – even a modern one – raises the risk of developing a brain tumor. The study, done by a collection of researchers from many universities and led by Anna Lahkola of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland, found firm corollary evidence that using a cell phone causes the risk of getting a brain tumor called a glioma to rise by 40 to 270 percent on the side of the head preferred for using the phone.

An Overview
• The study compared 1,521 cell phone users who developed a glioma to 3,301 control participants without tumors.
• For people who have used a modern cell phone for more than 2000 hours in their lifetime, the risk of getting a brain tumor rose by 270 percent.
• The study is considered the second that firmly correlates mobile phone usage with an increased risk of developing certain brain tumors.
• The risk was highest among people under the age of 20.
• Older-style analog cell phones already have been shown as a source of brain tumors, but the risk is still there even with the development of digital cellular phones.
• According to a scientist associated with the web site, the study results should not make readers assume that ten years of cell phone use will correlate to an immediate tumor, but that tumors could show up later on.

Mobile phone manufacturers have tried to suppress the dangers of cell phones by funding their own distorted research that concludes the phones are without risk. But the new third-party research shows that all people, but children and teens especially, should be warned against using mobile phones due to the increased risk of brain tumors.

Of course, none of this means that every cell phone user will get a brain tumor, just as not every smoker will develop lung cancer. But the risks of cell phone usage appear to be just as real as the risks associated with smoking.

Protecting One’s Self
In today’s culture using a cell phone may be a necessary evil due to one’s career. Therefore, the importance of doing what we can to protect ourselves from cell phone radiation cannot be overstated.

Recall that in my last post I cited research demonstrating that antioxidants are protective against radiation. Taking aggressive amounts of antioxidants as a protective measure against cell phone radiation would therefore be an important first step. Consider the use of a broad-spectrum multiple antioxidant complex, and perhaps something providing aggressive amounts of a few key detoxification substances like N-Acetylcysteine and grape seed extract.

Additionally, there are devices that have been shown to attenuate cell phone radiation that attach directly to the phone. The Aulterra Neutralizer has some impressive research to support its effectiveness in attenuating cell phone radiation.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Study Shows Antioxidants Protective Against Radiation

This past April a certain “study” was being circulated attempting to show that antioxidants were bad for your health! (Click here to read about the fraudulent design of this study.) The report, of course, ignored the hundreds of studies showing therapeutic benefit with antioxidants. 

For example, the April 2008 edition of Radiation Research featured an article showing antioxidants to be important against irradiation.   The purpose of this study was to determine whether a supplemental antioxidant blend of vitamin C, vitamin E succinate, alpha-lipoic acid, L-selenomethionine, and N-acetylcysteine could improve the survival of mice after total body irradiation. 

Results of the study indicate that the antioxidants given prior to or after a potentially lethal dose of X rays increased the 30-day survival rate of the mice. Pre-treatment of animals with antioxidants resulted in significantly higher total white blood cell and neutrophil counts in peripheral blood. Antioxidants were also effective in preventing peripheral lymphopenia (reduction in the number of lymphocytes circulating in the blood) after low-dose radiation. The antioxidant supplementation was also associated with increased bone marrow cell counts after irradiation, and with increased Bcl2 and decreased Bax, caspase9 and TGF-beta1 mRNA expression in the bone marrow after irradiation. Maintenance of the antioxidant diet was associated with improved recovery of the bone marrow after sub-lethal or potentially lethal irradiation. 

The researchers concluded that when taken together, oral supplementation with antioxidants appears to be an effective approach for radioprotection of hematopoietic (blood forming) cells and improvement of animal survival. Modulation of apoptosis is implicated as a mechanism for the radioprotection of the hematopoietic system by antioxidants.

In order to provide a powerful visual demonstration of the power of antioxidants, Dr. Kim Gerbers shared with me a demonstration she uses that I duplicated and would like to share here.

Dr. Kim will take her favorite Metagenics antioxidant product and place the tablets in water and let them dissolve alongside a slice of apple. Then she also takes another slice from the same apple and leaves it out to be exposed to the oxygen free radicals. By the end of 24 hours, the apple left to itself has browned considerably due to oxidation, but the one soaked in the antioxidant water is just as fresh-looking as when it was first cut.

I did the same thing at home the other day with apple and banana slices, and when I told my wife what I was doing, she said that lemon juice and pineapple juice do the same thing, and that’s why you use them in fruits salads in order to keep the bananas and apples from turning brown. Lo and behold, lemon juice and pineapple juice are packed with antioxidants.

Below are the pictures of my own version of Dr. Gerbers’ experiment. An easy product to use here would be Ceralin Forte, since the product is in capsule form and the contents can be dumped easily.  But any antioxidant formula such as PhytoMulti, Inflavanoid, etc, would work, since the Metagenics tablets will disintegrate thoroughly throughout the water. 

Note that I also immersed a third set of the apple and banana slices in plain RO water just to see if somehow the water itself is protective against the oxygen free radicals. It did make some difference, but the same browning effect still occurred to a slightly lesser degree, while the antioxidant set experienced no browning at all. Look at the difference!

Sample 1: Fruit soaked in plain RO water after 26 hours

Sample 2: Fruit exposed to open air after 26 hours

Sample 3: Fruit soaked in water and Ceralin Forte after 26 hours

So what does this mean for us?

We are exposed to oxygen free radicals every day, every minute of the day. Just breathing is exposing you to significant amounts of free radicals. And our exposure has gotten much worse compared to our ancestors because of the immense amount of foreign chemicals in our environment and in our food and water supply. Free radicals are slowly laying waste to our skin, our organs, our muscles and bone, and our overall health, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Free radicals are why people get old and feeble and eventually die. All of us are part of the ultimate statistic: 10 out of 10 die!

While stopping this process is impossible, we can at least slow the process down by fighting free radicals with antioxidants. And we may even be able to subvert chronic and degenerative illness altogether until that day it is our time to leave this earth, as with the Nobel Prize winning scientist and vitamin C guru, Dr. Linus Pauling, who lived well into his nineties and was remarkably active and mentally sharp until his surprising and seemingly untimely death...untimely only because he seemed so healthy when he died. Dr. Pauling, by the way, routinely took up to 10 grams per day of vitamin C. So it appears that the more antioxidants the better.

So eat your fruits and vegetables, and take lots of supplemental antioxidants to combat the unprecedented amount of free radicals with which mankind is now being exposed.