Hyaluronic Acid benefits

1 Oct

Hyaluronic Acid Benefits: Healthy Joints, Skin, and More

Joint pain and stiffness, and sagging, wrinkled skin are common complaints as we get older. But what if I told you there is a natural compound that could provide substantial benefits for both of these seemingly unrelated problems? Well, there is: hyaluronic acid.

What Is Hyaluronic Acid?

Hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan, a very long chain of disaccharides (sugars) present in all connective tissues that is responsible for retaining moisture. As we age, levels of hyaluronic acid fall—some say by as much as 50 percent. Genetics, smoking, and magnesium and zinc deficiencies appear to accelerate this loss, but it happens to all of us to some degree. The result? Aching joints and sagging skin.

That’s why supplementing with hyaluronic acid can help promote healthy joints and skin. Let’s take a closer look at these benefits of hyaluronic acid.

Hyaluronic Acid Benefits: Promote Healthy Joints

One of the most researched benefits of hyaluronic acid is its ability to alleviate aching joints. Its effectiveness in this area isn’t surprising since hyaluronic acid is especially concentrated in the knees, hips, and other moving joints. It is a major component of both cartilage and the synovial fluid that bathes these joints, binding to water to create a thick, gelatinous substance that lubricates and protects the cartilage.

Together, synovial fluid and cartilage act as shock absorbers that can withstand a tremendous amount of wear and tear. However, in joints afflicted by arthritis, hyaluronic acid levels are extremely low, causing the synovial fluid to become less viscous and the cartilage less cushiony.

For years, orthopedists have injected hyaluronic acid directly into the synovial spaces of arthritic joints for relief of pain and inflammation. This “lube job” is a pretty helpful treatment, but regardless of its effectiveness, many people shy away from injections.

Supplements to the Rescue

Fortunately, research suggests that when hyaluronic acid is taken orally, it increases the body’s natural production of this protective substance, making it an excellent, noninvasive therapy for arthritis. In an in-house, placebo-controlled study of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, those taking 80 mg of hyaluronic acid daily for two months had a 33 percent average improvement in pain scores compared to a 6 percent improvement in the placebo group.

In another study, participants with osteoarthritis of the knee who took 200 mg of hyaluronic acid daily for a year and participated in a muscle strengthening exercise program reported significant improvements in pain, stiffness, and activities of daily living compared to the placebo group, who also performed the same exercises.

How Does Hyaluronic Acid Compare to Other Supplements for Joint Health?

So where does hyaluronic acid fit in with glucosamine and other supplements for joint health? Truth is, they work on a similar principle. They all, to varying degrees, activate the genes that turn on the production of hyaluronic acid. Another supplement I recommend for supporting joint health—natural eggshell membrane—also contains naturally occurring amounts of hyaluronic acid.

The bottom line: I’m not saying you should give up glucosamine or other supplements for joint health. But, if you’d like extra support for your joints, I suggest giving hyaluronic acid a try.

Hyaluronic Acid Benefits: Save Your Skin

In addition to playing a vital role in joint health, another one of the benefits of hyaluronic acid is its effectiveness at maintaining healthy, youthful skin. The reason is because hyaluronic acid is an essential component of the skin. Thanks to its ability to promote collagen production and retain hundreds of times its weight in water, hyaluronic acid keeps the skin plumped up and hydrated.

Estrogen is another molecular signal for hyaluronic acid production, which explains why young women have such beautiful skin, why sagging and wrinkling come on somewhat abruptly after menopause, and why hyaluronic acid is a godsend for aging skin. Not surprisingly, plastic surgeons have capitalized on this discovery.

Injections of hyaluronic acid such as Restylane are used for a variety of cosmetic procedures, from lip and cheek enhancements to wrinkle reduction. Hyaluronic acid is also a popular ingredient in a number of moisturizers and other topical skin treatments and shows promise in wound healing and burn treatment, reducing scarring and speeding healing.

Because oral hyaluronic acid supplements rev up the natural production of hyaluronic acid, they are simply another ticket to more youthful skin.

Hyaluronic Acid Benefits: Fountain of Youth?

A while ago ABC ran a special about the residents of Yuzurihara, Japan. They reported that the World Health Organization, after surveying the residents of nearly 1,000 villages and towns throughout the world, determined that Yuzurihara, which is about two hours from Tokyo, was the “village of long life.” More than 10 percent of its residents were over 85. Most of them looked far younger than their years, were in excellent health, and engaged in farming and other activities well into their 80s.

Their longevity was attributed, at least in part, to their consumption of vegetables rich in hyaluronic acid. Though I don’t believe in magic bullets when it comes to anti-aging, given these varied benefits of hyaluronic acid and its important role in the health of the skin and joints, it certainly can’t hurt to give it a try.

Recommendations for Oral Hyaluronic Acid

There is some controversy over hyaluronic acid supplements. Hyaluronic acid is a very large molecule—too large, some argue, to be absorbed. Nevertheless, it breaks down in the stomach and enough of it gets in to signal the production of more hyaluronic acid, which is the ultimate goal.

The suggested oral dose of hyaluronic acid is 100–200 mg per day. Be patient; it may take two or three weeks to notice effects.

Now it’s your turn: Have you ever taken supplemental hyaluronic acid?

Additional Treatments for Autoimmune Diseases

29 Sep

Real Treatments for Autoimmune Diseases

Rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS), psoriasis, Crohn’s, and scores of other disorders fall into the general category of “autoimmune diseases.” These progressive disorders, which affect nearly 24 million people in this country, cause significant pain and disability.

Problem is, treating autoimmune disorders seems to baffle most conventional doctors. Sure, they’ll give patients prescriptions for powerful steroids, immunosuppressive drugs, and pain meds, but are these effective treatments for autoimmune diseases? Hardly.

How The Whitaker Wellness Clinic Treats Lupus, MS, and Other Autoimmune Conditions

At Whitaker Wellness, their approach to treating autoimmune disorders isn’t to attack an already compromised immune system. Instead, they bolster patients’ health with a solid nutritional supplement program, diet changes, and targeted therapies based on individual needs.

For instance, they treat rheumatoid arthritis with low-dose antibiotics, a simple yet often-overlooked therapy. Their patients with MS respond beautifully to low-dose naltrexone (LDN) and hyperbaric oxygen. And they offer a host of other non-drug therapies for treating autoimmune disorders, from high-dose vitamin D, probiotics, and natural anti-inflammatories such as fish oil and curcumin, to pain-relieving and regenerative modalities like microcurrent treatment.

Don’t Just Take My Word for It

How do you know these treatments for autoimmune disorders really work? Results speak for themselves.

Multiple Sclerosis: “I have multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and migraines. When I first arrived at the clinic, I had little energy and could barely walk. I could not raise my arms above my head, and numbness and burning in my hands limited their use. After four days of hyperbaric oxygen treatments, I was able to walk better, and by the second week I could put on my own make-up and hold a glass with one hand. Your genuine concern for my well-being is very comforting and encouraging.” — Denice W., California

Lupus: “I have had health problems most of my life, but it wasn’t until I was 25 and the mother of two boys that I was diagnosed with lupus. Although I was on a crazy regimen of chemo drugs and narcotic painkillers, I often had to walk with a cane. A dear friend of mine, who is an alumni of your clinic, kept telling me I needed to get out there ASAP. Earlier this year, I made the choice to take charge of my life, so I kissed my young family goodbye and spent 14 days at Whitaker Wellness. I have had tremendous results. My pain is gone, my head is clear, I am drug free—and no cane! I have been truly healed.” — Heather M., Texas

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Katherine Poehlmann developed rheumatoid arthritis after an ankle injury sustained in a fall. Concerned about the adverse effects of her increasingly heavy drug load, Katherine—a researcher by profession—searched for options and started following a protocol for low-dose antibiotics. Within eight months, she was in complete remission. She wrote an excellent book about her experiences and this therapy: The Infection Connection, available at amazon.com.

Multiple Sclerosis: Howard’s treatment course after he was diagnosed with MS at age 38 included steroids, interferon, narcotics for pain, and other medications. He was also hospitalized several times, had temporary vision loss, and sometimes required a wheelchair. Twenty years later, he learned about LDN. It changed his life. He feels fantastic, no longer uses a cane, and says, “If I didn’t know I had MS, I wouldn’t believe it.”

Say Adios to Autoimmune Disorders

 

Now it’s your turn: Have you tried any of these treatments for autoimmune disorders?

The Mutliple Benefits of Caroteniods

26 Sep

The Multiple Benefits of Carotenoids

 

Vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates: Most people are familiar with these classes of nutrients since they are essential to our survival. But there are other types of nutrients that research has shown are just as important for promoting and maintaining optimal health and well-being—including carotenoids.

What Are Carotenoids?

Before I tell you about the many benefits of carotenoids, it is helpful to know what they are and where they come from. Carotenoids are the phytochemicals that make plants colorful and are responsible for the burst of color in fall foliage. They shield plants from sun-induced free radical damage. Considering plants spend their entire lives in the sun, these carotenoids, along with other antioxidants, provide powerful protection.

Brightly colored fruits and vegetables such as squash, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, and tomatoes contain carotenoids. And just as carotenoids protect plants, they protect you. The most abundant carotenoids in human tissues are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene.

The first three can be converted in the body to vitamin A, and the entire carotenoid family provides multiple benefits for overall health. Eating carotenoid-rich foods or taking supplemental carotenoids increases the levels of these healthful phytochemicals in your blood and tissue, protecting you against many degenerative conditions, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, cataracts, macular degeneration, arthritis, and skin damage. Let’s take a closer look at some of the research that supports these varied benefits of carotenoids.

Benefits of Carotenoids: Reduced Risk of Cancer

Years ago, it was reported that eating pizza reduced risk of prostate cancer. The reason is certainly not the cheese or pepperoni—it’s the tomato sauce. Tomatoes and watermelon contain the carotenoid lycopene, and eating 10 servings of these products weekly has been demonstrated to cut the risk of prostate cancer almost in half. Other research from Harvard University Medical School found that supplementing with beta-carotene reduces the risk of prostate cancer by 36 percent.

Increased intakes of carotenoid-rich foods are also associated with decreased rates of cancers of the ovary, mouth and pharynx, lung, digestive tract, endometrium, and breast.

Benefits of Carotenoids: Protection for Your Skin

Research has also shown that taking 30 mg per day of beta-carotene before and during sun exposure, in combination with sunscreen, is more effective in protecting the skin from sun damage than sunscreen alone. In one study, the group of participants that used both had less sunburn than the group using sunscreen alone. This protection most likely results from “light reflection,” as beta-carotene increases pigmentation in the skin, which slows the absorption of UV radiation.

Benefits of Carotenoids: A Shield for Your Eyes

Speaking of UV radiation, your eyes are subject to a constant onslaught. Fortunately, and as you may already know, the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are particularly abundant in eye tissue, and these carotenoids absorb some of the more dangerous light frequencies.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined the relationship between intakes of green, leafy vegetables (some of the best food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin) and macular degeneration and found that individuals with the highest consumption of these vegetables had a 43 percent lower incidence of macular degeneration than those with the lowest intake levels.

Carotenoids may also offer protection for your eyes by increasing the thickness of the macula. In another study, researchers gave 30 mg of lutein to two patients for 140 days, and found that their macular density increased by 21 percent and 39 percent.

Benefits of Carotenoids: Arthritis Prevention

Trial results published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people with the lowest intakes of beta-cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin were twice as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of inflammatory arthritis as those with the highest intakes. The best sources of beta-cryptoxanthin are peppers, pumpkins, winter squash, tangerines, persimmons, and papayas. Zeaxanthin-rich foods include leafy green vegetables, egg yolks, corn, nectarines, oranges, papaya, and squash.

Reap the Benefits of Carotenoids

To ensure you reap all of these benefits of carotenoids, eat a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables and make sure the nutritional supplements you take contain not only beta-carotene but the whole carotenoid clan (often listed as “mixed carotenoids” on supplement labels).

Now it’s your turn: Are you familiar with any other benefits of carotenoids?

Tips For Muscle and Joint Pain with Sjogren’s

24 Sep

 

Joint and muscle pain in Sjogren’s syndrome may result from a variety of causes including inflammation, fibromyalgia, age-related osteoarthritis, vitamin D deficiency, hypothyroidism etc.

Work with your rheumatologist to identify the specific cause(s) of your pain and find the best treatment regimen for you. Maintain a positive attitude and be an active partner in the management of your pain.
The tips below will also help:

  • Become knowledgeable about your medications
  • Get a good night’s sleep
    • Maintain a regular sleep schedule.
    • Set aside an hour before bedtime for relaxation. Listen to soothing music.
  • Consider taking a warm bath before going to bed
    • Make your bedroom as quiet and comfortable as possible.
    • Avoid caffeine and alcohol late in the day.
    • Avoid long naps during the day.
  • Exercise regularly with the goals of improving your overall fitness and keeping your joints moving, the muscles around your joints strong and your bones strong and healthy
    • A physical therapist, occupational therapist, or your health-care provider can prescribe an exercise regimen appropriate for your joint or muscle problem.
    • Start with a few exercises and slowly add more.
    • Make your exercise program enjoyable. Do it with your spouse or a friend. Include recreational activities, such as dancing, walking and miniature golf.
    • Try different forms of exercise, such as Tai chi, yoga and water aerobics.
  • Balance rest and activity
    • Pace yourself during the day, alternating heavy and light activities and taking short breaks to rest.
  • Control your weight
  • Protect your joints and muscles
    • Use proper methods for bending, lifting, and reaching.
    • Use assisting devices, such as jar openers, reach extenders and kitchen and garden tools with large rubber grips that put less stress on affected joints.
  • Use various therapeutic modalities that can relieve joint and muscle pain
    • Use heat (heating pads, warm shower or bath, paraffin wax) to relax your muscles and relieve joint stiffness.
    • Use cold packs to numb sore joints and muscles and reduce inflammation and swelling of a joint
    • Consider massage therapy.
    • Practice relaxation techniques, such as guided imagery, prayer and self-hypnosis.
  • All of these suggestions are what most doctors tell us but they do work on all autoimmune diseases.
  • sjogrens.org

Top Ten Tips For Combating Gastroesophageal Reflux

22 Sep

My GERD and running

 

While the exact reasons are unknown, many patients with Sjögren’s suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This can cause a wide variety of symptoms that can be mistaken for other conditions. Symptoms may include persistent heartburn and/or regurgitation of acid, stomach pain, hoarseness or voice change, throat pain, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, sensation of having a lump in the throat, frequent throat clearing and chronic cough (especially at night time or upon awakening).

Tips for combating gastroesophageal reflux in the throat:

1. Avoid lying flat during sleep. Elevate the head of your bed using blocks or by placing a styrofoam wedge under the mattress. Do not rely on pillows as these may only raise the head but not the esophagus.

2. Don’t gorge yourself at mealtime. Eat smaller more frequent meals and one large meal.

3. Avoid bedtime snacks and eat meals at least three-four hours before lying down.

4. Lose any excess weight.

5. Avoid spicy, acidic or fatty foods including citrus fruits or juices, tomato-based products, peppermint, chocolate, and alcohol.

6. Limit your intake of caffeine including coffee, tea and colas.

7. Stop smoking.

8. Don’t exercise within one-two hours after eating.

9. Promote saliva flow by chewing gum, sucking on lozenges or taking prescription medications
such as pilocarpine (Salagen®) and cevimeline (Evoxac®). This can help neutralize stomach acid and reduce symptoms.

10. Consult your doctor if you have heartburn or take antacids more than three times per week. A variety of OTC and prescription medications can help but should only be taken with medical supervision.

Soo Kim Abboud, MD

A Daily soda Ups Diabetes

19 Sep

A Daily Soda Ups Diabetes Risk

 

If you’re like many people in this country, you might think limiting yourself to one soda a day can’t be that harmful. But based on a recently released study, downing a daily soda boosts your diabetes risk.

This huge study, which involved more than 28,000 people in Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, found that drinking just one 12-ounce sugar-sweetened soft drink a day increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 22 percent. (Diabetologia, doi:10.1007/s00125-013-2899-8) A similar North American study in 2010 showed that consuming a daily soda increased the risk of developing diabetes by 25 percent. (Diabetes Care 10;33:2477–2483)

Fake Sugar Just as Bad

And just in case it crossed your mind, artificially sweetened soft drinks come with their own list of serious health side effects including headaches, memory loss, and an increased risk of developing cancerous tumors. Artificial sweeteners have also been shown to increase cravings for sweets, which can lead to a higher consumption of sugary and refined carbohydrate foods. Clearly, substituting artificially sweetened drinks for sugar-sweetened ones isn’t the answer. Drinking water is.

One of the biggest hidden threats to our health is the consumption of all forms of sugar. In addition to its detrimental effects on the body’s proper pH balance, a major problem stemming from sugar consumption has to do with a chemical process called glycation.

In simplest terms, glycation refers to the combination of a sugar and a protein molecule. Most everyone has seen the effects of glycation in the kitchen. During baking, sugar combines with certain amino acids in grain proteins. This chemical reaction causes bread and pastries to turn brown. The same reaction also occurs when meats are glazed and coffee is roasted.

Cut Back on Sugar

I’m not talking about just the white granules we all keep out on the counter, either. Sugars of all types are being added to processed foods. In general, the easiest way to cut back on refined sugars is to read food labels and make sure any form of sugar is not one of the first four or five ingredients on the label. Look specifically for:

  • Sucrose
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Maltose
  • Lactose
  • High-fructose corn syrup

If you do buy processed foods, choose those with at least a few grams of fiber. This will help slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream.

Reducing your diabetes risk by dropping the daily soft drink seems like a no-brainer to me. I hope it is for you and your loved ones, too.

Now It’s Your Turn: How often do you drink soda?

Dr. Williams

 

Preventing Sudden Cardiac Death

17 Sep

Preventing Sudden Cardiac Death

 

It’s no secret that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. But did you know that most of these fatalities occur without warning in individuals who are seemingly healthy? Sudden cardiac death kills approximately 325,000 Americans every year and claims more lives than automobile accidents, Alzheimer’s, AIDS, diabetes, and breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer combined! That’s why it’s important to know what measures are effective at preventing sudden cardiac death.

What Is Sudden Cardiac Death?

Sudden cardiac deaths are not massive heart attacks as they are often described. Rather, they are severe, abrupt, and usually fatal rhythm disturbances that interrupt the heartbeat. The heart goes into ventricular fibrillation and cannot pump blood. If it is not defibrillated with an electrical charge or thump on the chest, the brain quickly succumbs from lack of oxygen and death occurs within three to four minutes.

Automated external defibrillators (AEDs), which you see in airports, schools, and other public places, are medical devices for preventing sudden cardiac death and are designed for emergency use by inexperienced laypeople. To me, they’re simply a reminder that sudden cardiac death is a rhythm disturbance and that you need to protect yourself. Fortunately, preventing sudden cardiac death is possible with two safe and inexpensive nutritional supplements.

Preventing Sudden Cardiac Death With Magnesium…

It’s well known that cardiovascular deaths, including sudden cardiac deaths, occur far less frequently in areas that have hard water, which contains lots of minerals, compared to areas with soft water, which is relatively mineral free. British researchers took a close look at this data and narrowed the protective effects to one specific mineral: magnesium.

Magnesium is a viable option for preventing sudden cardiac death because it plays key roles in several aspects of cardiovascular health, and deficiencies are linked to an increased risk of hypertension, heart attack, heart failure, and death. Subpar levels also promote electrical instability in the heart and are associated with a variety of rhythm disturbances, including ventricular arrhythmia and sudden cardiac arrest.

Harvard researchers published a study in which they followed more than 88,000 women who were initially free of heart disease for an average of 26 years. They compared the magnesium intake and blood levels of the women who died of sudden cardiac arrest with those of a control group and found that a high blood level of this mineral reduced risk of sudden cardiac death by 41 percent. Other large studies have found similar associations with men, showing that low magnesium status is an important predictor of sudden cardiac death and that increasing intake reduces risk.

Unfortunately, nearly half of all Americans and two-thirds of teens and people over age 70 don’t even get the RDA of 300–400 mg of magnesium. With paltry numbers like these, it’s no wonder sudden cardiac death kills so many. That’s why Dr. Whitaker believes that everyone, regardless of health status, should take supplemental magnesium.

Dr. Whitaker recommends taking 500–1,000 mg per day. If you have an absorption problem, diabetes, or take diuretics or tetracycline antibiotics—all of which may reduce magnesium status—Dr. Whitaker suggests you increase your magnesium dose to 1,500 mg. (Be aware that high doses may cause loose stools; this can be eliminated by reducing your dose.)

…And Fish Oil

Omega-3 fats also have broad cardiovascular benefits. Studies published as early as 1980 demonstrate that the Inuit people in Greenland and other populations that eat a lot of omega-3–rich fish have a lower incidence of death from heart disease. We now know that this is due in large part to the effects of these essential fatty acids on the heart’s electrical activity—they stabilize cardiac rhythm and reduce risk of life-threatening ventricular arrhythmia.

The protective effects of supplemental fish oil against sudden cardiac death have been demonstrated in numerous clinical trials involving both patients with a recent history of heart attack and healthy people. Its importance is underscored in a paper by Harvard professor Dariush Mozaffarian: “Because more than one-half of all CHD [coronary heart disease] deaths and two-thirds of SCD [sudden cardiac deaths] occur among individuals without recognized heart disease, modest consumption of fish or fish oil…should be among the first-line treatments for prevention….”

Dr. Whitaker recommends taking a minimum of 2–4 g of high-quality fish oil per day. People with heart disease and other cardiovascular concerns should take 4–8 g daily.

Additional Measures for Preventing Sudden Cardiac Death

If you’re at very high risk of sudden cardiac death, your cardiologist may recommend an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). Do your homework before consenting. A 2011 review of the records of 11,107 patients who received ICDs suggests that nearly a quarter of them were inappropriately implanted. Like all expensive cardiovascular procedures, such as bypass and angioplasty, a primary motive on the physician’s part may well be money. In any case, if you do opt for an ICD, you should still be taking supplemental magnesium and fish oil. It’s far better to prevent arrhythmias, instead of waiting for your ICD to kick in.

Although sudden cardiac death may appear to be a random event that could happen to anyone at any time, as you can see that is not the case. Take these suggestions to heart, do what you can to protect yourself, and enjoy better health and a longer life.

Now it’s your turn: Are you are taking any of these measures for preventing sudden cardiac death?

The Guarantee of Vitamin D

15 Sep

The Guarantee of Vitamin D

 

Numerous studies and the epidemiological trends over recent years support the theory that people need significantly more vitamin D than has been commonly accepted. A University of Toronto study involving 796 women between the ages of 18 and 35 showed that the generally recommended amounts of vitamin D for women are too low to offer any benefit. According to Reinhold Vieth and his colleagues, any amount of daily vitamin D intake under 800 IU wasn’t enough to prevent a vitamin D deficiency.

Despite this information and more, the US Food and Nutrition board for osteoporosis-related matters still recommends only 400 IU per day for women under the age of 50.

The evidence for increased Vitamin D continues to grow, but, for some reason, it also continues to be ignored. You already know the important role it plays in building and maintaining a strong immune system, and vitamin D levels also are linked to more than just proper bone growth and strength. Some of the most common health ailments today can be directly linked to inadequate vitamin D levels.

Heart Disease and Diabetes

Heart disease continues to reign as the number-one killer in this country. Although dozens of factors are involved in developing heart disease, excess sugar consumption and the inability to regulate blood sugar levels properly are undoubtedly two of the major contributing factors. Studies have now shown that low vitamin D levels decrease insulin levels and increase insulin resistance, both of which are associated with diabetes and subsequent cardiovascular problems.

I’ve also reported how the incidence of diabetes in children has been skyrocketing over the last couple of decades. Lower vitamin D levels have now been found to be one of the contributing factors.

Cancer

Numerous studies have found a direct association between low vitamin D levels and cancers of the breast, prostate, colon, and the skin.

Arthritis

Studies have now shown that a lower-than-optimal level of vitamin D contributes to degenerative arthritis (the “wear and tear” form of arthritis) in the hip and the knee.

Since you know adequate levels of vitamin D are also essential for proper immune system response, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that vitamin D deficiencies are also associated with such diseases as rheumatoid arthritis and even multiple sclerosis.

Depression

Sunlight exposure is a necessary requirement for vitamin D production in the body, and is also necessary for proper mood health. However, with the fear of skin cancer and wrinkling, tanning or even getting sun exposure has become taboo. The result is that depression is becoming more and more commonplace.

The problem is that, even under normal circumstances, it would be difficult for many people to get enough sun exposure to avoid depression in most of the Northern and Northeastern US cities. Only during a few summer months are there enough UV-B rays reaching those areas to allow for proper vitamin D production. (The three main forms of UV, or ultraviolet, radiation from the sun are UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. UV-B rays are the ones we need to produce vitamin D naturally, but they are also the ones that can produce sunburn and tanning.)

Even when UV-B rays are adequate, most people now either slather on the sunscreen or avoid the sun altogether. Any sunscreen with a protective factor of 8 or more will block almost all of the UV-B rays from reaching the skin.

The ironic thing about all of this is that the incidence of skin cancer has more to do with consuming the wrong fats (too many omega-6 fatty acids and not enough omega-3s) than it does with exposure to the sun. Until the general public understands this fact, skin cancer problems will continue to increase, which will in turn cause even more fear of sunlight exposure and more depression. This whole situation has gotten way out of control. Because of the fats we’re now eating and our fear of sunlight, it’s becoming necessary to supplement our diets with vitamin D. But in the natural scheme of things, our bodies can manufacture enough vitamin D when given regular exposure to sunlight.

Obesity

Decreased vitamin D levels result in less production and secretion of the hormone leptin. Leptin is one of the primary hormones involved in fat storage and weight loss. Millions of dollars are now being spent on trying to duplicate these effects by artificially increasing levels of leptin in the body or turning it into a weight-loss drug. The simple answer, of course, is to ensure you’re producing and/or receiving adequate amounts of vitamin D.

On a very interesting, related note, researchers appear to have found a connection between bulimic dieting behavior, binge-eating, and light. Individuals with these characteristics apparently prefer to eat in dim or more subdued light compared to individuals without such problems.

Obviously, this information is still being researched and analyzed, but, based on what we know about vitamin D and leptin levels, it certainly may be more than just a simple coincidence. If you’re concerned about losing weight or have the above problems, there would certainly be no harm in opening the shades and turning up the lights at mealtime. The connection between light, our body’s biological clock (or circadian rhythm), and our health is one that has always been a big interest of mine. Our relationship with light may seem primitive, but it is one of our most basic connections to our environment. Vitamin D is only one of the links in this connection. The essential fatty acids (EFAs) from fish oils, flax, and other grains, along with our ability to assimilate EFAs from our diet, provide another link.

You Don’t Need the Government’s Permission to Increase Your Vitamin D

When you look at the increasing incidence of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, et cetera, it becomes obvious that most government agencies and health organizations are far too slow in changing or modifying their recommendations. I think much of the problem stems from bureaucracy and, oftentimes, politics.

For example, there’s now a huge market for drugs to treat osteoporosis, and I seriously doubt that anyone developing or selling these drugs would really want the problem to be solved through diet. Even though osteoporosis and associated hip fractures have become a major problem in this country, the regulating authorities continue to recommend a daily dose of 400 IU of vitamin D. They are way behind the times. Just don’t let your supplement be behind the times. Make sure you’re getting 2,000 to 5,000 IU a day. Don’t get worried about that much causing an overdose. Although various foods do contain vitamin D, unless you’re taking something like cod-liver oil, you won’t be getting much vitamin D. Milk is fortified with 10 micrograms per quart, which works out to about 400 IU per quart or 100 IU per each eight-ounce glass.

Make a point to get outside regularly and enjoy the sunshine, without the sunscreen. There’s no need to overdo it and get sunburned. Once your skin turns red, vitamin D production will stop anyway. Twenty minutes a day is all someone with fair skin needs to get enough vitamin D during the summertime. If your skin is darker, you’ll need more sunlight exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D. And always keep in mind that, in addition to helping produce vitamin D, sunlight exposure can help regulate your biological clock, fight depression, and possibly even help you to control your appetite and lose weight. As time goes on, we’ll undoubtedly learn dozens more reasons why people weren’t made to live underground, in a cave, or in a dark house or office.

Dr. Williams.

The Benefits of Zinc: Essential for Optimal Health

12 Sep

The Benefits of Zinc: Essential for Optimal Health

 

Although it’s not as widely discussed as other vitamins and minerals, zinc is essential for health and well-being. Adequate levels of this trace mineral are necessary for optimal immune function, vision, prostate health, and skin health. Other benefits of zinc include its roles in wound healing, learning and memory, and proper functioning of many hormones, including thymus hormones, insulin, growth hormone, and sex hormones.

Unfortunately, marginal zinc deficiencies are quite common, and are reflected by an increased susceptibility to infection, poor wound healing, decreased sense of taste or smell, and skin problems such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Pregnancy and lactation also increase the need for zinc, as do certain medications, alcohol use, vegetarian diets, and a high intake of calcium and fiber.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the varied benefits of zinc.

Benefits of Zinc: Optimal Immune Function

Vitamin C is usually the first supplement people reach for when they want to boost their immune health. However, you may want to think zinc. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, people ages 55–87 who took 45 mg of zinc daily for a year had significantly fewer infections and markedly lower levels of oxidative stress than participants who took a placebo.

Zinc is also protective against cancer. Women who supplemented with zinc for a decade or more had half the risk of developing breast cancer as women who did not take supplements. This may be due in part to zinc’s unique ability to ameliorate the carcinogenic effects of cadmium, a heavy metal found in cigarette smoke, shellfish, and grains.

Zinc for the Common Cold

Speaking of optimal immune function, some studies have found that zinc can reduce a cold’s length and severity, while others have declared it to be ineffective. Fortunately, two recent meta-analyses help confirm that treating the common cold is among the many benefits of zinc.

Finnish researchers analyzed all of the placebo-controlled trials examining the effects of zinc supplements on colds and found that in the trials using daily doses of 75 mg or more, the duration of symptoms was reduced by an average of 42 percent.

Likewise, a Cochrane review of 15 trials found that cold duration and severity were reduced if zinc was taken within the first 24 hours of symptom onset. What’s more, the same review found that daily, 10–15 mg doses of zinc taken for five months or longer actually helped prevent colds in children.

At the first sign of a cold, I suggest you start taking 75 mg of zinc daily. You can get this amount through a combination of a daily multivitamin and other targeted supplements that contain zinc. And if you’re susceptible to colds, take extra zinc (adults 30 mg, children 10–15 mg daily) before the season begins.

Zinc for Wound Healing

One of the lesser known benefits of zinc is its ability to heal wounds. Zinc interacts with platelets in blood clotting and aids protein synthesis and cell growth. Plus, it tends to accumulate around wounds, where cell division takes place more vigorously, particularly during the initial week of wound healing. Studies have shown that high doses of zinc speed healing following trauma, including surgery, burns, and wounds.

Zinc and Sense of Smell

Anosmia, the inability to detect odors, can be caused by a deficiency of zinc. Infections are known to deplete the body’s stores of this mineral, which may explain why our sense of smell is sometimes impaired after a cold or flu. Note that zinc nasal sprays are not recommended; though they have been shown to reduce cold severity, the spray formulations have also been linked with anosmia.

How to Reap the Benefits of Zinc

The best food source of zinc, by far, is oysters. Other good sources are pumpkin seeds, ginger root, nuts, and whole grains. For general health, I suggest that everyone take a minimum of 30 mg of zinc daily, balanced with 2 mg of copper. Even at high doses, zinc is safe, as illustrated in another large clinical trial involving daily doses of 80 mg. Compared to the participants who took no zinc, those who supplemented with 80 mg per day had a 27 percent reduction in total mortality.

Now it’s your turn: Have you heard of any of these health benefits of zinc before?

Five Tips for Safe and Effective Exercise

10 Sep

 

Five Tips for Safe and Effective Exercise

You’re probably familiar with most of the benefits of regular exercise, and in the past, I’ve shared some suggestions on how to stick with an exercise program. Now I want to share some tips to help ensure you engage in safe and effective exercise, so you get the most out of your workouts.

Exercise Tip #1: Warm-up Your Muscles With Dynamic Stretching

Most people think that warm-up exercises involve stretching the various muscles and holding each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. That’s what we learned in gym class, and it’s what we’ve been doing ever since. But scientific research reveals that this kind of static stretching actually makes the muscles weaker, an effect that can last up to 30 minutes and increase risk of injury.

The new trend is dynamic stretching, which uses movement to warm up the muscles, dilate the blood vessels, increase range of motion, and get the body ready for safe and effective exercise. Dynamic stretches may include walking lunges, arm circles, and high leg kicks, as well as sports-specific movements.

Static stretching after a workout, as practiced in yoga or simply done periodically during the day to relieve muscle tightness, is beneficial. However, pre-workout warm-ups are not recommended.

Exercise Tip #2: Correct Vitamin D Deficiencies

We’ve known for years that vitamin D deficiencies are linked with muscle weakness, easy fatiguing, heaviness in the legs, and increased risk of falls in older people. More recent research suggests that this vitamin affects strength, balance, and exercise capacity across all age groups. In fact, several professional sports teams are now testing their players and supplementing those who have low vitamin D blood levels. Robust levels of vitamin D have also been shown to improve muscle recovery after intense exercise.

Exercise Tip #3: Don’t Discount Diet’s Role in Safe and Effective Exercise

Even if you are exercising to burn fat and lose weight, it is important to conserve and build muscle, too, and this requires protein. So make sure you get adequate amounts of high-quality protein in your diet.

Exercise Tip #4: Supplement With Antioxidants

For safe and effective exercise, you need to ensure your body has enough antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, to counteract the free radicals that are produced during physical activity. The best way to do this is by taking a quality daily multivitamin and supplementing with individual nutrients, if necessary.

Exercise Tip #5: Support Your Joints

A common misconception is that safe and effective exercise is difficult for people with joint problems. The truth is that exercise is actually beneficial for all joints—even “unhealthy” ones. If your joints could use some extra support, I suggest taking supplements for joint health that will also help make being active easier.

Now it’s your turn: Do you have an exercise tip that you’d like to share?

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