What is Sjögren’s Syndrome?

29 Aug

Sjögren’s is a chronic autoimmune disease in which people’s white blood cells attack their moisture-producing glands. Today, as many as four million Americans are living with this disease.

Although the hallmark symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, Sjögren’s may also cause dysfunction of other organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system. Patients may also experience extreme fatigue and joint pain and have a higher risk of developing lymphoma.

With upwards of 4,000,000 Americans suffering from Sjögren’s, it is one of the most prevalent autoimmune disorders. Nine out of 10 patients are women.

About half of the time Sjögren’s occurs alone, and the other half it occurs in the presence of another autoimmune connective tissue disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma.

Sjögren’s is a systemic disease, affecting the entire body. Symptoms may remain steady, worsen, or, uncommonly, go into remission. While some people experience mild discomfort, others suffer debilitating symptoms that greatly impair their functioning. Early diagnosis and proper treatment are important — they may prevent serious complications and greatly improve a patient’s quality of life.

Since symptoms of Sjögren’s mimic other conditions and diseases, Sjögren’s can often be overlooked or misdiagnosed. On average, it takes nearly 4.7 years to receive a diagnosis of Sjögren’s. Patients need to remember to be pro-active in talking with their physicians and dentists about their symptoms and potential treatment options.

Since the disease was first identified in 1933 by Dr. Henrik Sjögren, it has been proven to affect virtually every racial and ethnic group. General awareness about Sjögren’s is still lacking and increased professional awareness is needed to help expedite new diagnoses and treatment options.

<iframesrc=”//player.vimeo.com/video/16671907″ width=”500″ height=”375″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreenmozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen>

Sjögren’s Syndrome: A Place To Begin from Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation on Vimeo.

As anyone with Sjögren’s knows, many things can exacerbate the discomfort of dryness, while there are other factors that can either soothe the dryness or advance a condition of moisture that can prevent it.

Here are things you can do on a day-to-day basis that can alleviate your symptoms and help you feel and look better.

The Dos:

  • Do Exercise
    Regular exercise unquestionably does all sorts of good things for us. The main medical benefit is perhaps the power to decrease inflammation, which it does through the release of endorphins. For that reason, exercise contributes to the health of the ocular surface. Regular exercise- at least 20 minutes of exercise that increases your heart rate 5x a week- is highly recommended for dry eye sufferers.
  • Do Take Showers
    A hot bath can be a relaxing indulgence, but the steam tends to rise away from you. It’s much better to be upright in a shower, with the steam coming at you constantly. Moreover, whether you intend it or not, water from the shower head or bouncing off your body, splatters into your eyes and literally cleans them out.
  • Do Catch some Zzzzzzs
    I cannot emphasize enough how important getting as much sleep as possible is  to mitigating the discomfort of dry eye. A deep sleep, replenishes the tear film and soothes the ocular surface.
  • Do Drink Water
    You should drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. That’s water- plain and simple- not sodas, sugary juices or artificially flavored drinks. Water is needed by all of the body’s organs- by the skin, the kidneys, the liver, the heart and the eyes as well.
  • Do Keep up with Friends & Family
    There is increasing evidence that social interaction is as good for us as exercise, a good night’s sleep or eating natural food. It is also a fact that the smile you wear while you’re happy with friends can actually reduce the exposure of the ocular surface.

The Don’ts:

  • Don’t get Stressed
    Stress can affect many other factors that have a direct impact on dry eye: sleep, your blink rate, and even what you eat. All of that leads to the kind of inflammation that can exacerbate a range of ailments, including a dry eye disorder. There are many different kinds of stress and there are many ways to manage it. Find the way that works for you, and learn as best you can to keep stress at a minimum.
  • Don’t work your eyes too long
    Perhaps the most important thing to avoid if you suffer from dry eye is a long stretch of consecutive visual tasking. Whether it’s working at a computer, watching television or reading- break up the time you spend doing it.
  • Don’t Smoke, Drink Alcohol or Caffeine
    Smoke, alcohol and caffeine all dehydrate the body, including the eyes. Be aware of what these activities are doing to your dry eye, and try to reduce the frequency or eliminate all three if you can.

Sjogren’s Foundation

Top Treatments for Sinus Infections

27 Aug

 

Top Treatments for Sinus Infections

Did you know that sinus infections are almost always caused by a virus? And regardless of the fact that studies show that antibiotics work no better than placebos for this condition, one in five antibiotics is still prescribed for sinusitis. In addition to being useless treatments for sinus infections, this over prescription of antibiotics is contributing to a host of other health problems, from nausea and yeast infections to deadly super-bugs.

But if drugs don’t work as treatments for sinus infections, what does? Let’s start with prevention.

Humming to Ward Off Sinus Infections

Are you one of those people who hums as you go about your day? In addition to filling the air with song, you may also be warding off sinus infections. Healthy sinuses rely on good ventilation and adequate levels of nitric oxide (NO), which is produced in the sinuses and airways and acts as an antimicrobial agent against bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Several studies have found that, compared to quiet exhalation, humming increases air flow through the nasal passages and produces a 15-fold increase in exhaled NO. As a result, humming on a regular basis may protect against and help relieve sinus infections.

It may sound crazy, but if you’re one of the 37 million Americans who suffers with headaches, pain, pressure, congestion, and other signs of sinus infections, therapeutic humming is certainly worth trying. (Low, sustained, frequent humming that creates vibration appears to be most effective.) Dr. Whitaker also recommend it for people with asthma, allergies, and other conditions that are marked by reduced respiratory NO levels.

SOS for Sinuses

But what if you already have a sinus infection? Enter my favorite supplement solution: Sinupret. This unique supplement is designed to treat inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis) and the bronchioles (bronchitis). It contains just five herbs—gentian root, primrose flowers, elder flowers, common sorrel herb, and shop vervain wort—but there’s something about this combo that really works.

First, Sinupret normalizes mucus secretion and viscosity. It thins the mucus that clogs up the sinuses and lungs and allows it to properly drain, which is why it’s so good at clearing up congestion, a common symptom of sinus infections. Conversely, because it promotes normal mucus flow, it also “turns down the faucet” for people with excessive sinus drainage.

Second, it has potent anti-inflammatory activity, so it reduces tissue swelling, thereby opening the nasal passageways and airways in the lungs and making breathing easier. This is an important mechanism, for many diseases of the airways, including asthma and allergies, are exacerbated by inflammation. Sinupret simply tones it down.

Finally, Sinupret has antiviral effects that inhibit the spread of flu- and cold-causing viruses. And it has immunomodulating effects, meaning it gives the immune system a boost. All in all, this makes for one powerful product. Look for Sinupret in health food stores or online and use as directed.

Saline: A Simple Solution for Sinus Infections

Another option to relieve sinusitis and a stuffy nose is to irrigate your nasal passages with saline solution. The most basic nasal irrigation involves a mixture of salt and lukewarm water (¼ teaspoon of salt per eight ounces of water), held in the cupped palm of your hand and “snorted” up into one nostril while blocking off the other. Just tip your head back slightly and allow the solution to flow through the nasal cavity, then out of the other nostril. This may also be done with a bulb syringe, neti pot (a small, teapot-like device), or a squeeze bottle made especially for this purpose. (A good brand available in drugstores is NeilMed.) Repeat a few times in both nostrils over the sink or in the shower, as it can get messy.

Boost Your Immune System With IV Nutrients

The above solutions for sinus infections are all well and good, but if you really want to give your immune system a boost, you should seriously consider intravenous (IV) nutrients.

When nutrients such as vitamin C are administered intravenously—directly into the bloodstream—they bypass the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, allowing for better absorption and greater potency. Unlike large doses of oral vitamin C, which can cause loose stools, IV vitamin C has no effect on the GI tract whatsoever, so it promotes much higher blood levels. To put this into perspective, 10 g of IV vitamin C raises serum levels of this nutrient 25 times higher than the same dose taken orally.

 

Now it’s your turn: What treatments for sinus infections have you tried?

 

Dr. Whitaker

Three Possible Causes of Hypothyroidism

25 Aug

 

Three Possible Causes of Hypothyroidism

Based on the research I’ve seen over the past decade, there are many reasons for the high rate of hypothyroidism that we now have in this country. Here I’d like to touch on three possible causes that lend themselves to natural resolution.

1. Iodine deficiency. A lack of iodine in the diet can have a significant impact on thyroid function. As Dr. Williams has discussed at length many times in the past, iodine is one of the essential components of thyroid hormones. Without sufficient iodine, the production of thyroid hormones is limited.

Iodine consumption has dropped dramatically in this country over the past 20 years. This drop is due in part to the depletion of our soils and in part to less iodized salt being used as an ingredient in our foods. (J Clin Endocrin and Metab 98;88:3401-3408) To find out if you have an iodine deficiency, you can take an at-home iodine deficiency test.

If you’re experiencing symptoms commonly associated with low thyroid function, you may have an iodine deficiency that is affecting your body’s ability to produce thyroid hormones.

Your doctor can order an iodine deficiency test, but a more economical option is to perform an at-home skin test (also sometimes called a “patch test”). The test is crude, but it provides a useful measure of your iodine status.

How to Do It

  1. Before bed, use tincture of iodine (the orange variety) to paint a 3-inch square patch on the inside of your forearm, the inside of a thigh, or your abdomen.
  2. The next morning, inspect the painted area. If all the color remains, then your iodine level is adequate. If all the color is gone, then you definitely have an iodine deficiency. Varying degrees of color loss correspond to your degree of iodine deficiency.

You can repeat the test in a month or so after supplementing with iodine to see how you’re doing.

A note of caution: I can’t stress firmly enough that the iodine tincture and iodine supplements are two very different things. You must not take the iodine tincture used for the test internally. It’s poisonous.

2. Selenium deficiency. A second factor contributing to hypothyroidism, and something I haven’t written as much about to date, is selenium deficiency. You might have heard how important this mineral is to your immune system, but chances are you haven’t heard how important it is for proper thyroid function. That’s unfortunate, because the effects of a selenium deficiency are very serious.

As with iodine, our soils have become deficient in the trace mineral selenium. In the last few years, researchers have found that certain selenium-containing enzymes (Iodothyronine 5′ deiodinase) are responsible for the conversion of thyroid hormone T3 to T4. The thyroid produces several hormones and must produce them in a somewhat balanced ratio. Without enough selenium, this balancing process is hindered. In simple terms, selenium-deficient diets can cause hypothyroidism. (Biol Trace Elem Res 96;51(1):31-41) (Clin Sci 95;89(6):637-42)

3. Estrogen-like compound pollution. Another factor contributing to high rates of hypothyroidism that has generally been overlooked by the medical community is the introduction of estrogen-like compounds into our environment. These compounds make their way into the body through respiration, ingestion of contaminated food, and skin contact. Once in the body, they block thyroid hormone production and contribute to hypothyroidism. Examples of these compounds include such environmental pollutants as PCBs, dioxins, and pesticides such as lindane or dieldrin.

Unfortunately, these pollutants can now be found in both our food and drinking water supplies. This is one of the primary reasons we are seeing problems such as hypothyroidism showing up in our children. It’s also why Dr. Williams advocates the use of a distiller for drinking water. Filters simply can’t remove all of these substances, and chlorine has no effect on them.

Dr. Williams

Benefits of Bergamont

23 Aug

Benefits of Bergamot

 

When it comes to natural therapies for cardiovascular health and metabolic syndrome, one of the latest and greatest treatments to date is bergamot.

What Is Bergamot?

If you’re a tea drinker, you’re no doubt familiar with Earl Grey. Its distinctive aroma and subtle flavor make it one of the most popular teas in the world. Earl Grey’s characteristic fragrance comes from bergamot (Citrus bergamia), a type of orange that grows in the Calabria region of southern Italy. The essential aromatic oil in bergamot peel is also used in perfumes and prized in aromatherapy for its ability to reduce anxiety.

But what really piqued my interest in this relatively rare citrus fruit was the compelling research on bergamot polyphenols. Polyphenols are natural compounds best known for their antioxidant effects. The benefits of red wine, tea, berries, cocoa, and other “super foods” are due in large part to their high content of polyphenols, which protect against cardiovascular disease, cancer, bone loss, diabetes, and other degenerative disorders.

It turns out that bergamot juice (as opposed to the peel used in Earl Grey tea) contains exceptionally large amounts of several unique polyphenols. And when that juice is extracted, concentrated, and standardized in tablet form, it dramatically lowers triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, raises protective HDL cholesterol, helps control blood sugar, and improves overall arterial function and cardiovascular health.

Bergamot Lowers Lipids…

Bergamot lowers LDL cholesterol almost as effectively as the wildly popular cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, but it also raises HDL cholesterol—something statins cannot do. This is important because unlike LDL, which builds up in the plaque deposited in diseased arteries, HDL escorts cholesterol out of the arteries to the liver. Therefore, a low HDL level is an independent risk factor for heart disease.

In a placebo-controlled clinical trial, Italian researchers gave either 500 mg or 1,000 mg of bergamot extract daily to study volunteers with high cholesterol levels. After one month, average LDL cholesterol in the two groups fell by 24 and 36 percent, respectively, HDL cholesterol increased by 22 and 40 percent, and triglycerides—another cardiovascular risk factor—declined by 30 and 39 percent. These are impressive results for any intervention, let alone a nutritional supplement.

…Without Depleting CoQ10 Stores

Cholesterol reduction of this magnitude is usually possible only by blocking HMG-CoA reductase, an enzyme involved in cholesterol production in the liver and in the synthesis of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a crucial antioxidant and an essential player in the generation of cellular energy. That’s how Lipitor, Zocor, and other statin drugs work—and why they have so many adverse effects. Yes, they lower cholesterol, but by reducing CoQ10 levels, they literally drain the body’s “batteries” and antioxidant reserves.

The FDA now requires manufacturers of statin drugs to warn patients that these medications are linked with type 2 diabetes, memory loss, confusion, and muscle weakness. But there’s more: Statins can also cause liver toxicity, fatigue, muscle soreness, exercise intolerance, heart failure, amnesia, and even death.

Two polyphenols abundant in bergamot, bruteridine and melitidine, also target this same pathway—but at a different level and in a gentler manner, so CoQ10 synthesis is not affected and statin-like side effects are avoided. Studies show no reduction in CoQ10 levels in animals that were given bergamot, and patients who had previously been on statin drugs but discontinued them due to muscle pain, fatigue, and/or liver problems tolerated bergamot very well.

Furthermore, bergamot has other mechanisms of action that contribute to its lipid-lowering effects. It reduces triglyceride accumulation in the liver, a problem common in obese people, and it binds cholesterol to bile acids, which increases its excretion in the intestinal tract.

Bergamot Helps Keep Your Arteries Healthy

Lipid levels are just one aspect of cardiovascular health. Bergamot polyphenols are also very potent antioxidants that protect against free radical damage in tissues throughout the body, including the all-important vascular endothelium.

The condition and function of the endothelium—the thin layer of cells lining the blood vessels—is perhaps the most important determinant of cardiovascular health, as it is intimately involved in vasoconstriction/dilation and thus blood pressure, inflammation, blood clotting, and the formation of new blood vessels. Polyphenol-rich bergamot extract has been demonstrated to suppress inflammation, inhibit plaque formation, and improve arterial responsiveness.

Bergamot Is an Effective Metabolic Syndrome Treatment

Bergamot is also a safe and effective metabolic syndrome treatment. It ameliorates multiple aspects of this condition that affects millions of people and is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. That’s because, in addition to its positive effects on cardiovascular risk factors, bergamot also initiates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK).

AMPK is a central regulator of energy and is thus involved in glucose and fatty acid metabolism. Turning on AMPK improves insulin sensitivity, promotes glucose uptake in cells, and suppresses the synthesis of glucose in the liver, thereby lowering blood sugar. It also stimulates the burning of free fatty acids and facilitates weight control.

In clinical trials, 500–1,000 mg of bergamot per day lowered blood sugar by about 22 percent, which is certainly on par with, if not superior to, diabetes drugs. Furthermore, some patients who have been taking this supplement report that it has also helped them lose weight.

How to Reap the Benefits of Bergamot

The suggested dose of bergamot is 500–1,000 mg of a standardized extract, taken once or twice a day 20–30 minutes before meals. For maximum benefits, take bergamot twice a day for 60–90 days, reevaluate your lipid levels, and adjust your dose accordingly. Bergamot is safe and well tolerated.

Now it’s your turn: Have you ever tried a bergamot extract?

Dr. whitaker

The Reciprocal Relationship Between Blood Sugar and Sleep

18 Aug

The Reciprocal Relationship Between Blood Sugar and Sleep

 

Most people are familiar with the connections between blood sugar–related health concerns such as diabetes, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome and obesity, heart disease, and vision problems.  But there is another link you should know about—especially if you have blood sugar or sleep problems—and that’s the interrelationship between blood sugar and sleep.

Inadequate Sleep Increases Risk of Diabetes

First of all, research has shown that inadequate sleep increases risk of diabetes. One study found that after sleeping only four hours a night for six nights in a row, study participants’ insulin and blood sugar levels resembled those seen in people in the early stages of diabetes. This is likely due to the fact that our bodies undergo a distinct rise and fall of blood sugar levels during specific stages of sleep. So not getting enough sleep overall, or enough of each stage of sleep, can disrupt this pattern. The good news is, the participants’ blood sugar levels returned to normal during a recovery period when they slept for 12 hours per night for six nights.

Several studies have also shown that the less people sleep, the more likely they are to be overweight, which is one of the top type 2 diabetes risk factors. Columbia University researchers surveyed more than 9,000 Americans aged 32–49 and found that those who slept for four hours or less each night were 73 percent more likely to be significantly overweight than those who regularly got seven to nine hours of shuteye. People who slept only five hours per night were 50 percent more likely to be overweight than their well-rested counterparts, and even those getting six hours of sleep—which is considered to be pretty normal these days—had a 23 percent greater risk.

There is solid evidence that sleep is a powerful regulator of appetite. During sleep, the body’s production of leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone, increases, and levels of grehlin, an appetite-stimulating hormone, decreases. Researchers at the University of Chicago examined 12 healthy young men after their sleep was restricted to four hours per night for two nights and found an 18 percent average decrease in leptin and a 28 percent average increase in grehlin. They also found that after two nights of restricted sleep, the men reported a 24 percent increase in appetite, craving starchy and high-fat foods rather than fruits, vegetables, or high-protein foods.

Other research has shown that there is a clear association between sleep apnea—a very common but often undiagnosed sleep disorder—and blood sugar problems.

The Other Side of the Coin: Blood Sugar Problems Cause Poor Sleep

But this is not the only connection between blood sugar and sleep. Unresolved blood sugar problems can also lead to poor sleep. This is likely because, as I mentioned earlier, fluctuations in blood sugar levels are an integral part of our body’s innate sleep cycle. So when blood sugar levels are elevated—as they are in people with diabetes and other blood sugar problems—they are also not within the range of what is considered to be “normal” during sleep.

If you already have diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or other blood sugar issues and find you aren’t sleeping well, this is yet another reason to get your blood sugar under control.

How to Address Blood Sugar and Sleep Issues

Understanding how blood sugar and sleep issues can be interrelated is the first step. But more important, if you are having difficulty sleeping or suspect (or know) your blood sugar could use some attention then you need to take additional steps to address the problem(s). Fortunately, there are several, safe effective therapies that can help.

I would start by making sure your blood sugar stays on an even keel. The best way to accomplish that is by losing weight, eating a low-glycemic diet that includes plenty of vegetables and legumes, engaging in exercise (even a 10-minute walk) most days of the week, and taking targeted supplements for extra blood sugar support.

With regard to sleep, if after addressing any possible blood sugar issues, you’re still having trouble getting a good night’s rest, there are a few things I recommend. First, make sure your sleep environment (too much light in your bedroom, room temperature, etc.) and actions in the hours just before bedtime aren’t contributing to the problem. There are also a few natural sleep aids you can try, including melatonin and valerian. And if you snore, I suggest you get tested for sleep apnea.

Now it’s your turn: What do you do to manage your blood sugar and sleep?

Dr. Whitaker

Preventing Falls While You Improve Your Memory

15 Aug

Preventing Falls While You Improve Your Memory

 

A primary cause of disability in this country is falls. I think you’ll agree, the statistics on falls are frightening, to say the least:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that each year, one-third of all adults aged 65 and older will fall.
  • Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among adults aged 65 and older.
  • Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults.
  • Falls are the most common cause of injuries and hospital admission for trauma among older adults.
  • Over 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falls.
  • Half of all older adults hospitalized for hip fractures can never return to their home or live independently after their injuries.

There are, of course, hundreds of reasons why someone might fall. The obvious ones include tripping over something, slippery floors, poor lighting, visual impairment, and unstable furniture. The solutions to preventing falls of this type are pretty straightforward. But just as important, if not more so, is addressing falls that are caused by problems with gait and balance.

Fall Prevention “Exercises”

Gait and balance issues need to be taken seriously in order to prevent falls, but such problems can often be addressed relatively simply—and enjoyably—through exercise. For instance, the slow movements of Tai Chi, a form of soft martial arts commonly practiced by the Chinese, improve balance, joint health, circulation, and the ability to relax. Classes are available for all ages and in most towns throughout this country.

Some of the best gait and balance exercises—and I hate to call them exercises because they are more like playing—can be found in a YouTube video.

The video is an active interview of Stephen Jepson, a Floridian in his early 70s. In a nutshell, he explains and demonstrates what he does to keep his body and mind in shape, which is basically playing from sunup to sundown every day. His play consists of juggling, bouncing and catching balls, balancing on various boards, skateboarding, jumping from one rock to another, and many other games he has created by using his imagination.

Play Benefits the Body AND Mind

In the video, Stephen attributes his keen sense of balance, exceptional agility, and amazing energy level to his daily active play—and he believes others can prevent devastating falls by doing the same. As a big added bonus, Stephen says memory is now astounding. He has been experiencing what researchers are just now uncovering. To stay younger, remain mentally sharp, and learn new skills more quickly, we need to mimic the activities of children.

In just the last few years, we’ve learned that poor physical fitness reduces the nerve connections to a shrinking area of the brain involved in learning and memory called the hippocampus.

Researchers at the University of Illinois have demonstrated that the brains of senior citizens who walked 40 minutes a day three times a week for a year showed remarkable changes. Instead of the hippocampus shrinking, as it typically does with age, brain scans found it had expanded, possibly because of an increase in new nerve connections. The changes in the individuals (aged 60 to 79) became noticeable after only six months. The connectivity in the brains of these senior citizens was equivalent to that of 30 year olds.

From other studies, it appears that we actually aid the aging process and the development of dementia when we perform the usual functions that society expects from us—“age-appropriate” behavior.

Activity, in general, improves brain connectivity, but physical activities typically associated with children, such as playing, actually activates proteins that tend to reverse the mental aspects of aging—benefiting both the body and mind.

Now It’s Your Turn: How do you play?

Dr. Williams
<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/aUf72dLf22c” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Two Essential Fatty Acids You Need To Know About

13 Aug

Two Essential Fatty Acids You Need To Know About

 

A  lot has been written about how important essential fatty acids are to optimal health and well-being, particularly the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). And while the overall understanding of these fatty acids is improving, many people still don’t recognize the difference between them or know the best dietary sources of each (especially important because the body can’t make these fats on its own).

The diet of our ancestors included a good balance of fats and oils from both animals and plants. Unfortunately, our society seems to have developed an unhealthy fear of meat over the past 50 years or so, and we no longer get the combination of essential fatty acids we need for complete health.

In biological terms, an “essential” compound is one that your body can’t make on its own and that you need to get from your diet. Using that definition, there are two truly essential fatty acids:

  • Omega-3 linolenic acid
  • Omega-6 linoleic acid

Your body uses enzymatic processes to turn linolenic acid and linoleic acid into other fatty acids. Two of those are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). In scientific circles, these have become known as essential fatty acids, or EFAs, so when I talk about EFAs in general, I’ll be referring to EPA and DHA.

Your body then uses the EFAs to manage myriad functions. For example, alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3, is converted into EPA, DHA, and subsequently eicosanoids that help prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of blood vessels).

How Do We Get EFAs?

The following are sources for EFAs:

  • Flax
  • Pumpkin
  • Black currant seed oils
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Hemp
  • Fish provides a direct source of the alpha-linolenic acid “conversion products” EPA and DHA, since fish have already manufactured these two omega-3s from their food. Make these foods part of your diet so you’re not deficient in omega-3s.
  • Omega-6 linoleic acid is easy to get, because linoleic acid occurs naturally in almost all nuts and seeds, as well as in vegetable oils—including safflower, sunflower, corn, and soy.

Eat Your EFAs in the Correct Ratio

For best health, omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids should be eaten in the same ratio that our ancestors consumed them: 4:1 omega-6s to omega-3s. The ratio common in today’s American diet, however, ranges anywhere from 20:1 to 25:1.

Although most physicians are oblivious to the fact, some very common and serious health problems can now be directly linked to the overwhelming shortage of omega-3 fatty acids in our diet. A short list of the problems includes:

If you don’t restore a healthy balance of EFAs in your diet, you face a greatly increased risk of suffering from one or more of these problems. Therefore, it’s important that you analyze the foods you eat for their oil type and content, and limit your use of processed foods. Also, increase your intake of foods rich in omega-3s to offset the omega-6s diets. Finally, consider adding fresh-ground flaxseed and an EFA supplement as additional means to improve the balance of EFAs in your diet.

Both EPA and DHA have been shown to support heart, brain, nerve, eye, and colon health. EPA specifically appears to play a significant anti-inflammatory role in the body. In short, EPA displaces pro-inflammatory omega-6 oils in cell membranes and blocks the production of inflammatory compounds. In addition to promoting a normal inflammatory response, higher intakes of EPA have been associated with a positive mood.

Some research suggests that DHA may be more crucial preterm and in our early years, when growth and connections are occurring in the retina and brain. And it’s possible that DHA levels remain more constant as we age, whereas EPA supplies need to be constantly replenished.

Marine oils are a primary source of both DHA and EPA, with squid and krill oil both being higher in DHA, while fish oil is a better source of EPA. Keep in mind, however, that although fish are a common source of omega-3s, fish don’t produce these essential fatty acids naturally. The EPA in fish actually comes from the marine algae on which the fish feed. This means that microalgae are also an excellent—and vegetarian—source of essential fatty acids, EPA in particular. In addition, your body can convert the fatty acid alpha linolenic acid found in flaxseed and flaxseed oil into EPA. Chia seed is also a great vegetarian source of health-promoting omega-3s.

What Are the Best Fish to Eat for Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

There’s a big difference in the omega-3 content of different varieties of fish. Fish caught in the wild, as opposed to those that are farmed, seem to have higher levels of the fatty acid.

Here’s a list of three fish groups, with their percentages of omega-3 oil content.

  • Group I: mackerel (1.8%), lake trout (1.6%), herring (1.5%), sardines (1.4%), albacore tuna (1.3%), salmon (1.1%)
  • Group II: halibut (0.6%), river trout (0.5%), catfish (0.4%)
  • Group III: cod (0.3%), snapper (0.2%), tuna packed in water (0.2%)

A four-ounce serving of fish from Group 1 two or three times a week will supply a beneficial dose of omega-3 fatty acids. It will take two or three 8-12 ounce servings a week of those in the second group. And the omega-3 levels of those that fall into the third group are almost too small to count.

Fortunately, some of the most beneficial fish are also the least expensive, i.e., mackerel and sardines. This is obviously because their high oil content gives them a more “fishy” taste, which a lot of people don’t like.

It is  also recommended to take two or three tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseed each day to complement your fish intake.

Dr. Williams

How to Treat Warts and Other Common Foot Problems

11 Aug

How to Get Rid of Warts and Other Common Foot Problems

 

No one wants to talk about it, but most want to know the answer: How do I get rid of warts and other common foot problems?

Here are a few of those suggestions:

  • Tape a potato peeling over the wart, leave it on for a few days, and the wart should disappear.
  • Soak a cotton ball or piece of gauze in hydrogen peroxide, secure it over the wart, and repeat every day for about a week or so until the wart is gone.
  • Dip a Q-Tip in tea tree oil and dab it on the wart two or three times a day for three days.
  • Kill the root of the wart with apple cider vinegar.
  • Apply rubbing alcohol to the wart four times a day until it disappears.

A Few More Solutions to Get Rid of Warts

What works for one person may not work for another, so I want to tell you about a few additional methods that may help get rid of warts.

Research suggests that salicylic acid is effective for approximately 75 percent of users over a period of a few months. You’ll find over-the-counter products that contain this ingredient in your drugstore, or you can make your own at home. Take a regular aspirin, which contains salicylic acid, crush it with a spoon, add a few drops of water to form a paste, apply to the wart, and cover with a bandage. (Be careful as it can irritate healthy skin.) Repeat twice a day until the wart disappears.

Believe it or not, good old duct tape may also do the trick. Simply secure a small piece of tape over the wart and leave it on for six days. (You can replace it with fresh tape as needed.) After the six days, take the tape off, soak the wart in water and file it down with a pumice stone or nail file. Then replace the duct tape for another six days and repeat the tape, soak, file cycle until the wart is gone.

My final recommendation to get rid of warts is an odd one, but many folks swear by it. Just rub the wart with the inside of a banana peel a few times a day. Results are usually noted in about a month.

Some warts are so stubborn that they won’t go away until they’re good and ready, regardless of what you do. If one of these doesn’t work, try another—and another, if necessary. And be patient. Almost all warts eventually disappear.

Answers for Other Common Foot Problems

Warts are among a handful of common foot problems out there. Others include toenail fungus, athlete’s foot, and corns. Let’s take a look at how to treat those as well.

Treating Toenail Fungus

One in seven Americans suffers with onychomycosis, a fungal infection characterized by thickened, yellowed toenails. My number one recommendation for treating toenail fungus is SSKI mixed with DMSO. SSKI (a saturated solution of potassium iodide) is a mineral compound with powerful antimicrobial activity. DMSO is a sulfur compound with the unique ability to penetrate most anything, including hard nails.

Mix them together and simply rub the mixture on and under the nail a few times each day. DMSO escorts SSKI into the nail, where SSKI mounts an antifungal attack. This treatment won’t make the disfigured part of the nail go away, and it doesn’t work for everyone all the time, but it may well arrest fungal growth and, over time, allow the nail to grow out normally.

Treating Athlete’s Foot

When it comes to treating athlete’s foot, keeping your feet clean and dry will discourage the growth of the fungus that causes this annoying infection, so change your socks during the day if you need to. Beyond that, powders and sprays like Lotrimin, which you can purchase in your drugstore, are pretty effective. A natural antifungal like tea tree oil may work as well.

Treatments for Corns

These areas of thick, dead skin—called corns on the toes and calluses on the soles—form a protective layer in places where your shoes rub. Beware of caustic products that dissolve corns, especially if you are diabetic, for they can also damage healthy skin. Instead, chip away at them gradually with a pumice stone or file after bathing.

You might also try this home remedy. At bedtime, soak your feet in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes, then place a piece of fresh pineapple peel (inside touching the corn) or a slice of lemon over the corn. Secure in place with first-aid tape. Remove in the morning, clean your feet, and repeat for several more nights as needed.

Now it’s your turn: How do you get rid of warts or treat other common foot problems?

Dr. Whitaker

Help For Gallstones

8 Aug

Help for Gallstones

 

As many as 10 to 15 percent of us harbor gallstones—hard, small objects that form in the gallbladder from cholesterol, bile salts, and calcium. Most people who have them experience no symptoms. However, when gallstones block the flow of bile, they can cause pain, sometimes excruciating, on the right side of the abdomen.

Gallbladder Surgery: Is it Necessary?

If your gallbladder attacks are frequent, you may require surgery. However, I think that gallbladder surgery is vastly overdone. Let me explain why.

Half a million Americans have their gallbladders removed every year—it is the most common elective surgery in this country. The number of gallbladder surgeries has doubled since the late 1980s with the advent of laparoscopic surgery, which requires only small “key-hole” incisions and a shorter recovery time. This is a surgical advance, but it also sets the stage for unnecessary surgeries, and many experts believe that only a fraction of the gallbladder surgeries performed are medically warranted.

Furthermore, many people continue to have symptoms even after surgery. If you do opt for gallbladder surgery, make sure you select a surgeon with a lot of experience. You’ll be less likely to sustain injury to the common bile duct, the most dangerous side effect of gallbladder surgery.

Natural Therapies for Gallstones

Fortunately, there are several natural therapies for gallstones. Obesity increases risk of gallstones. So if weight is an issue, try to lose some. If you have constipation, take steps to correct it, for that also raises risk. And if you happen to be on estrogen replacement therapy, you might consider substituting natural therapies, because estrogen is linked to heightened risk of gallbladder disease.

Dietary modifications are also helpful for preventing gallstones and gallbladder attacks. Eat less fat and sugar. An interesting study conducted in Saudi Arabia showed that the nation’s incidence of gallbladder disease has increased six-fold since Western foods were introduced into its citizen’s diets in the 1940s.

Food sensitivities may also instigate gallbladder attacks. The foods that cause the most problems—in order—are eggs, pork, onions, poultry, milk, coffee, citrus, corn, beans, and nuts, but any food could precipitate an attack. On the other hand, vegetables, fruits, and other high-fiber foods appear to prevent gallbladder attacks.

Helpful supplements include vitamin C (2,000 mg), which was shown in a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine to reduce risk of gallbladder disease. Enteric-coated peppermint oil (one 2-mL capsule 3 times a day) has been demonstrated to help dissolve gallstones. Lecithin or phosphatidylcholine (300 to several thousand mg) and the herbs milk thistle, dandelion root, and turmeric are also recommended because they increase the solubility of cholesterol in the bile.

What About a “Liver Flush” to Dissolve Gallstones?

Dr. Whitaker is often asked about the popular lemon juice and olive oil “liver flush,” which is supposed to dissolve gallstones. I know that some people swear this works, but until I’m convinced otherwise, Dr. Whitaker is passing along the advice of his  friend, astute researcher Michael Murray, ND.

Dr. Murray says that the “stones” people pass on this program aren’t gallstones at all but complexes formed in the gastrointestinal tract by the combination of these two ingredients plus minerals. While he doesn’t discount it as a means of liver detox, he does not recommend it for people with gallstones because drinking such a large amount of oil (a cup a day for several days) could actually increase the chances of blockage of the bile duct.

Now it’s your turn: Have you ever tried any of these natural therapies for gallstones?

Milk Thistle Protects Against Skin Cancer

6 Aug

Milk Thistle Protects Against Skin Cancer

 

If you’re looking for some natural protection against the sun and skin cancer, you’ll be happy to hear about some recent research results. At the University of Colorado Cancer Center, Dr. Rajesh Agarwal has shown that milk thistle extract (silibinin) can protect against UV-induced skin cancer.

About 95 percent of the sun’s radiation that reaches the Earth is made of UVA radiation. UVB radiation makes up most of the other 5 percent. Both of these forms of radiation can cause skin aging and mutations in skin cells that can later develop into skin cancer. Under ideal circumstances, the immune system either repairs the mutated cells or kills them so they don’t have the chance to progress to the cancerous stage.

In the study I mentioned, when skin cells were treated with the compound silibinin, the rate at which UVA-damaged cells died increased dramatically. The effect on normal cells was completely nontoxic, but when any of those cells became mutated, the silibinin treatment resulted in an increased release of free radicals that destroyed the damaged cell. (Photochem Photobiol 12;88(5):1135–1140)

In a related second study, researchers found that skin cells pretreated with silibinin were protected from any damage normally caused by UVB radiation. (Mol Carcinog. 2013 Jan 28. [Epub ahead of print])

Natural UV Protection in a Product You May Already Take

The researchers are starting tests of mouse models, and this will progress into human studies. But currently, it appears as if silibinin protects against skin cancer and skin photo aging from the sun in two ways. First, it protects skin cells from damage from UVB radiation, and second, it destroys precancerous skin cells that have been mutated from UVA radiation exposure.

I suspect that once the research is complete, we’ll see silibinin being used as a component in protective skin creams. There are no studies yet to know whether taking the extract orally would help repair sun-related skin aging or protect against skin cancer.

Where can you get silibinin? Milk thistle products, which have been used for thousands of years primarily to remedy for liver and gallbladder problems, are typically standardized to contain 70 to 80 percent silymarin—which is actually a group of flavonoids consisting of silibinin, silidianin, silicristin, and isosilybin. It is available dried in capsules or in a liquid extract or tincture. Milk thistle extract is very safe. Taking 1,500 mg or more per day might result in diarrhea, however. But, the dosage typically recommended is only three 100 mg capsules per day.

Milk thistle also has a number of other uses. It’s a strong detoxifier that can also be used to protect the liver from overdosing on acetaminophen (Tylenol) and poisoning from the death cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides). (Animal studies have shown that it completely counteracts the toxic effects of the mushroom if given within 10 minutes of ingestion and, if given within 24 hours of ingestion, it can significantly reduce the risk of liver failure and death.)

Now It’s Your Turn: What natural steps do you take to protect your skin from the sun?

Dr. Williams
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 425 other followers