Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Factoids from "Metabolic Cardiology" Article

Did you know that the heart consumes more energy per gram than any other organ? Did you know that it takes more energy to fill the heart up with blood than to contract and empty the heart chambers of blood? What about the fact that mitochondria are 25 times more dense in heart cells than in biceps muscle cells?

Where did these factoids about the heart come from? Dr. Stephen Sinatra's article, "Metabolic Cardiology: An Integrative Strategy in the Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure," in the May/June 2009 Alternative Therapies journal.

Sinatra covers the basics of cardiac energy metabolism, with a lot of talk about ATP (an energy transfer molecule), ADP and dephosphorylation pathways. He goes on to talk about energy starvation in failing hearts, with energy demand outstripping energy synthesis and heart failure being associated with "overstretched, thickened, and enlarged left ventricle" that "overtaxes the heart muscle with each contraction."

Sigh, I suffer through the charts and chemistry discussions, as I'm not precisely the target audience. My interest is often confined to the overview and summary of such articles, skimming the body for interesting concepts and facts about nutrition and prevention versus absorbing all the details of cellular chemistry and dysfunction.

Given the premise that congestive heart failure (CHF) is due to energy (ATP) deficits, Sinatra goes on to make the case for boosting cellular energy in the heart with three vital nutritional supplements: D-ribose, Coenzyme Q10, and L-Carnitine. He cites many research studies that have validated the use of these nutrients in reducing cardiac death as well as arrhythmia and angina. Sinatra ends his article with some imperatives:

"It is no longer enough that physicians focus on the fluid retention aspects of 'pump failure.' For instance, diuretic therapies target the kidneys indirectly to relieve the dequelae of CHF without addressing the root cause....Metabolic solutions, on the other hand, treat the heart muscle cells directly.'"

"Cardiologists must learn that the heart is all about ATP, and the bottom line in the treatment of any form of cardiovascular disease, especially CHF and cardiomyopathy, is restoration of the heart's energy reserve."

"D-ribose, L-carnitine, and CoQ10 act to promote cardiac energy metabolism...(and)...are recommended as adjunctive metabolic therapies in the treatment of heart failure and cardiomyopathy."

"An understanding of this metabolic support for the heart provides the 'missing link' that has been eluding cardiologists for decades. Metabolic cardiology offers hope for the future treatment of CHF, cardiomyopathy, and any other form of cardiovascular disease."

My dear friend, Dr. Hugo Rodier, loves to talk about all diseases being issues of "energy and information" at the cellular level.

Dr. Sinatra is singing from the same hymn book, identifying energy metabolism as a critical "missing link" in treating cardiovascular disease. You can buy the whole article if you want to share it with your cardiologist directly through Alternative Therapies. Just mention that you want "Metabolic Cardiology: An Integrative Strategy in the Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure" from the May/June 2009, Vol. 15, No. 3 journal.

While we don't sell D-ribose, we do provide highly affordable CoQ10 (50mg, 150mg) and L-Carnitine, all of which have been validated by an independent laboratory for potency.

Perhaps we should add D-ribose, but we won't know for sure until after our next member survey later this summer. If you don't subscribe to our newsletter, sign up to get notification of our upcoming survey, coupon for completing the survey, and other specials coming this summer.

Vinegar Promotes Less Fat Build Up

Apple cider vinegar has long been promoted as an aid to weight loss or prevention of weight gain. The ancient Egyptians have been credited with some of the earliest uses of apple cider vinegar for weight loss. Traditional concoctions have combined an ounce of vinegar with a teaspoon of honey in water before meals.

Given the widespread interest in weight loss and the many mis-marketed products in the weight loss category, I read the recent findings on ordinary vinegar as a natural fat fighter, published in the June 2009 issue of Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, with great interest.

A study I missed in 2005 reported that vinegar is an appetite suppressant that helps dieters reduce food cravings. For reference, the amount of vinegar used in the 2005 Lund University study was 2-3 tablespoons mixed with water as a before-meal drink.

The 2009 findings from Japan take research on vinegar and weight management a step further, identifying vinegar's impact at the genetic level. Vinegar's acetic acid suppressed body fat accumulation by about 10% in rats by genetically "increasing fatty oxidation and thermogenesis in the liver." Interestingly, high doses (a 1.5% solution) and low doses (a .3% solution) of vinegar created the same fat-busting results.

I used to think the vinegar for weight loss story was nothing more than an old wives tale, which handily promoted the infamous placebo response. Not that the placebo response is bad and especially when the agent of action comes without dreadful side effects or great cost.

Now it looks like there's a lot more to the vinegar-for-weight-loss story. Drink up. It costs next to nothing and the only side effect to worry about is balancing the acid with enough alkalizing elements (think: greens and minerals) in your diet!

Monday, June 29, 2009

High Vitamin D Correlated with Better Memory

Can the research get any more positive on the many roles of vitamin D in protecting health?

Immune system, heart, bone, muscular, and cellular health have all been found to improve with higher vitamin D levels, which seem to protect against everything from allergies and cancer to autoimmune diseases (MS, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.).

This year, an English study showed that men with high vitamin D levels performed better on memory and information processing tests. Vitamin D, it seems, is also good for the brain. Of 3,000 men, aged 40-79, those with highest levels of vitamin D performed the best and those with the lowest levels (35 nmol/litre or under) had the worst scores on mental agility.

Researchers are not sure about the mechanism, with theories ranging from vitamin D triggering protective hormonal activity in the brain to boosting antioxidants that detoxify the brain.

What's not up for debate is that seniors are often deficient in vitamin D. If you don't want wrinkles associated with sun exposure, then you'll want to look for vitamin D3, the more bioavailable form, in any supplements you may choose.

We offer an inexpensive Vitamin D3 (only $2.98 for 120 veg capsules/1000IU) that was most recently tested by an independent laboratory in February 2009 to ensure potency.

Wherever you get your vitamin D, you probably need a lot more than you realize though and the minimum of 400 IU is far too low to be optimally protective.

Personally, I try to take between 2,000-10,000 IU daily of vitamin D3 (little capsules, so easy to swallow), as I had much sun damage as a kid and prefer to stay out of the sun with my fair (Irish stock) skin.

Gonna be getting my bloodwork updated this summer and I will look forward to seeing how my vitamin D levels have changed since last year.

Meanwhile, with the sheer volume of positive information on vitamin D, I can just hear my father, now deceased, repeating one of his favorite sayings: "What next? Bringing dead people back to life?!" If only it could be so!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Eye Doctor Impressed - Interested in Iodine Drops

My eye doctor was impressed today. From dry eyes last year (and an opthamologist's prescription for a year's worth of antibiotics, which I opted to ditch) to the fateful tear evaporation test today was quite the journey.

Last year, my tears evaporated in about 2 seconds (no oils from my tear ducts to prevent them from evaporating too quickly). This year, it took over 10 seconds (which my doctor considered "normal"). I told him about the two drops of Lugol's iodine formula that I had been taking in a big glass of water each morning (recommended by my integrative pharmacist friend, Mike Ciell).

My optometrist was quite interested in the iodine, taking notes on where he could send his dry eye patients for Lugol's formula iodine. I told him they were available at my naturopath's office, around the corner from his office as well as on the Internet (my link above is to Lugol's packaged with a book on iodine by Dr. Brownstein available at Amazon.com).

Meanwhile, during the vision tests, my eye doctor noted that my minor astigmatism in distance vision had disappeared. Pretty cool!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mindfulness & Weight Loss Support Group

We published a news item detailing how meditation and mindfulness helped obese women lose weight over the long term. The program helped them change their cortisol levels (that would be the stress chemical that creates all sorts of metabolic mischief) and body fat distribution (less cortisol equals less abdominal body fat).

We decided to check for interest among our members for a "mindfulness for weight loss" support group. We quickly had enough folks interested to make the group a "go."

So, here's the scoop. I'll be leading the group in a series of calls, facilitating mindfulness exercises, assigning readings, encouraging the group to support each other, and, overall, working to cultivate greater integration of mind, body, and emotions in support of weight loss. No silver bullets, just a whole lot of practice within a supportive environment each week! :-)

For those of you who want more information on my background as an coach (certified both as an Integral Coach and a Somatic Leadership Coach), check out my bio on my coaching web site.

If you are interested in participating, drop me a line to get on the list. We'll give an update of this program in our newsletter as well.

Meanwhile, if you're wondering "why all the interest in weight loss" of late, the answer is quite simple. Our mission is not just to sell supplements but to support our community of members, and some of our members are suffering tremendously due to problems with their weight. Other members are the picture of health but their family members need help with weight loss to achieve better health.

We still don't believe in magic pills, and you'll never find Our Health Co-op hyping weight loss fads. However, we've heard the pleas for help so often that we continue to look for meaningful ways to help while staying true to scientifically-grounded approaches to long-term health.

Detecting Digestive Cancers with Improved DNA Stool Test

It's Digestive Disease Week 2009 in Chicago. The wires are rolling with news releases relating to disease diagnosis in all sorts of uncomely organs, including an improved DNA stool test that helps detect wide-ranging digestive tract cancers as well as colon cancer.

Tess and I were just looking at The Human Body Book (from a Body World exhibit) and we were almost unnaturally fascinated with pictures of intestinal villi, cross-sections of the pancreas, diagrams of "liver architecture," layers of the colon wall, and so forth. Once upon a time, both of us would have gladly passed over "news" about a stool test with an "eeew" sound and a pinched brow.

Hmm. That image just transported me back in time. I remember my great-grandmother, Mimi, asking me to slice a thick callus off one of her toes with a razor blade. I was about 13 or 14 years old. She saw my face scrunch up and a sound of revulsion start to emerge and quickly cut me off with a matter-of-fact tone of voice and words: "This is life--and you can't pull back from real life if you want to grow up."

Sheesh. I felt dressed down. I steadied my hand to ensure I didn't cut too deep. I'll never forget that moment in my favorite grandmother's room, overlooking her garden, which was always filled with camelias, fuschia, and bird of paradise flowers in Santa Monica, California.

But I digress. Back to my story of digestive health. The Mayo Clinic announced that they have an improved version of DNA stool testing that supports diagnosis of all sorts of digestive cancers. Here's the deal (excerpts from their press release):

The researchers studied 70 patients with cancers throughout the digestive tract. Besides colon cancer, the study looked at throat, esophagus, stomach, pancreatic, bile duct, gallbladder and small bowel cancers to determine if gene mutations could be detected in stool samples. Using a stool test approach developed at Mayo Clinic, researchers targeted DNA from cells that are shed continuously from the surface of these cancers. Also studied were 70 healthy patients. Stool tests were performed on cancer patients and healthy controls by technicians unaware of sample source. The stool DNA test was positive in nearly 70 percent of digestive cancers but remained negative for all healthy controls, thus demonstrating the approach’s feasibility.

Stool DNA testing detected cancers at each organ site, including 65 percent of esophageal cancers, 62 percent of pancreatic cancers, and 75 percent of bile duct and gallbladder cancers. In this series, 100 percent of both stomach and colorectal cancers were detected. Importantly, stool test results did not differ by cancer stage; early-stage cancers were just as likely to be detected as late-stage cancers.

"It’s very exciting to see this level of sensitivity for digestive cancer detection in our first look at this test application,” says Dr. Ahlquist, “Historically, we’ve approached cancer screening one organ at a time. Stool DNA testing could shift the strategy of cancer screening to multi-organ, whole-patient testing and could also open the door to early detection of cancers above the colon which are currently not screened. The potential impact of this evolution could be enormous.”

Shifting cancer screening to a more holistic approach that supports earlier detection of digestive diseases (and earlier interventions--whether with pharmaceuticals, nutritional regimes, or integrative protocols) is really quite good news.

If you are over 50, check out some of the Mayo videos (high-speed Internet helps) and also consider asking your physician about the new and improved DNA stool testing. It could save your life!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Inflammation in the Gut = DNA Damage that Affects Whole Body

Inflammation bad. Protection of the gut good.

If you read my blog regularly, follow Dr. Rodier's work, or subscribe to our newsletter, you've gotten the spiel many times before.

Now, pathology, toxicology, and oncology researchers are getting hip to this concept. UCLA researchers just published in Cancer Research their findings that "local intestinal inflammation induced DNA damage to lymphocytes of the peripheral blood circulating throughout the body. This means that chromosome damage was not limited to the intestine, but involved tissues of the body distant from the site of inflammation." Research confirmed that the severity of colitis in the mice being studied correlated to levels of chromosome damage in the blood.

Alas, I know a little more than the average person about intestinal issues, from first-hand experience as well as through family members with first-hand experience.

I found the quote by Dr. Jonathan Braun, professor and chairman of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UCLA and one of the study's authors compelling:

"Patients come to us with abdominal complaints and we can’t tell if they are inflammatory, obstructive or a bacterial overgrowth. At present, the only way to diagnose the patients is to do full endoscopic examinations, which are both invasive and expensive.” Braun went on to say that a "biomarker blood test could replace the invasive endoscopic exam and allow physicians to identify smoldering inflammatory disease before it becomes full blown."

Why was I so drawn to this piece of research today? I just had a scare of my own, with a couple of days in the hospital from late last Thursday through Saturday afternoon. No need to worry, I'm back at work and feisty as ever after a couple of days on IVs and no food to allow a bowel obstruction to release (phew, escaped surgery, thank heavens!).

Although I've talked a lot about my autoimmune/leaky gut diagnosis last year and my dad's intestinal issues, I don't think I've ever told my readers about a bad surgery I had at age 18 that has caused no end of havoc with extensive surgical adhesions (including a miscarriage and two ecotopic pregnancies--I've been told there's a bit of a spider web of adhesions in my belly).

Besides my personal interest in intestinal health, I always love to see research with a bent toward prevention, especially prevention of cancer.

Even if conventional docs will use the new testing to prescribe anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals, integrative docs will have a new diagnostic to convince their sometimes-reluctant patients to change their lifestyles, diets, and environmental exposures to reduce intestinal inflammation, post-haste! A lot more is at stake than annoying irritation of the bowel.