Natural Remedies and Anxiety-A Summary

The October 7th, 2010 edition of Nutrition Journal published a summary of studies investigating nutritional and herbal treatments of anxiety. 71% of the studies (15 of 21) showed that the nutritional and herbal interventions were indeed effective in the treatment of anxiety. Specific supplements tested which showed positive results included those containing extracts of passionflower, kava, combinations of L-lysine and L-arginine. Supplementation with magnesium showed promise, while St. John’s wort was not found to be effective as an anti-anxiety treatment. Another benefit with these therapies, as opposed to pharmaceutical interventions, is that minimal side-effects were reported.

If you’re suffering from anxiety or other mood disorders, it’s definitely worth pursuing “alternative” forms of treatment, as the risk of becoming dependent on anti-anxiety medications is very high. Clinically, I’ve found a number of these treatments, along with acupuncture and other modalities, to be just as effective or better than pharmacological interventions for anxiety.

Collards, Carrots, and Breast Cancer

Researchers looking at data from the ongoing Black Women’s Health Study found that eating carrots, collard greens, cabbage, and broccoli can reduce breast cancer risk, particularly an aggressive form common among African American women. Previous studies of the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and breast cancer in white women have led to conflicting results, and no prior research has investigated this link separately among African American women.

The ER-negative form of breast cancer, which is insensitive to the hormone estrogen, is more common in this population than among white women. It is more difficult to treat and more often fatal than estrogen-sensitive cancers.

Researchers found that women who ate at least two servings of vegetables a day had a 43 percent lower risk of ER-negative breast cancer compared with women who ate fewer than four servings of vegetables each week.

Further, they identified certain types of vegetables that appeared to reduce the risk of all types of breast cancer, including broccoli, collard greens, cabbage and carrots.

Women who ate three or more servings a week of carrots, for instance, had a 17 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer than women who ate carrots less than once a month.

Still, it is too early to determine if this is a true cause-and effect-relationship, they note. High vegetable consumption could mark a healthier lifestyle in general or some other unknown mechanism that accounts for the apparent protection. Vegetables’ cancer-staving power needs to be confirmed in further studies, the researchers write. However, it is clear that, in addition to potential protective effects against breast cancer, higher vegetable consumption can lead to many health benefits, including lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, it is recommended that all women, especially African Americans, try to increase their daily intake of vegetables to meet the established guidelines.

Artificial Sweeteners=Real Trouble

Most of my patients know that I’m not a fan of artificial sweeteners, but people often have      a hard time cutting them out of their diet. Hopefully this evidence (excerpted from   mercola.com) will be enough of a motivator!

Why Artificial Sweeteners Can be Detrimental to Your Waistline

The belief that eating artificially sweetened foods and drinking artificially sweetened beverages will help you to lose weight is a carefully orchestrated deception. So if you are still opting for sugar-free choices for this reason, you are being sorely misled.

For years now studies have shown that consuming artificial sweeteners breaks the connection between a sweet sensation and a high-calorie food, thereby changing your body’s ability to regulate intake naturally.

In one study by psychologists at Purdue University’s Ingestive Behavior Research Center, rats that ate yogurt sweetened with an artificial sweetener consumed more calories (and didn’t make up for it by cutting back later), gained more weight, and put on more body fat than rats that ate yogurt sweetened with sugar.

Other studies, too, have shown that eating artificial sweeteners might hinder your body’s ability to estimate calorie intake, thus boosting your inclination to overindulge. Your body and your brain simply do not have the same biological response to artificial sweeteners that they do to regular sugar, and this can pose some serious problems.

Your Brain Can Tell the Difference

You may have convinced yourself that your favorite artificial sweetener tastes the same as sugar, but rest assured your brain is not being fooled.

In one brain-scan study by neuroscientist Paul Smeets, volunteers were given two version of a beverage, one sweetened with sugar, the other with a blend of artificial sweeteners. The brain scans showed that the artificially sweetened beverage failed to activate an area of the brain called the caudate nucleus, which is an area associated with rewards.

A separate study by psychiatrist Guido Frank at the University of Colorado in Denver also looked into your brain’s response to sugar versus artificial sweeteners. Women given a taste of the two said they could not consciously determine a difference. However, a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of their brain responses showed differences indeed.

As in the previously mentioned study, the sugar activated the reward areas of your brain more strongly than the artificial sweetener, suggesting that the latter may not make you feel satisfied the way sugar would.

This is not an endorsement to indulge in sugar; rather it’s a major clue that your body is not being fooled by artificial sweeteners.

ADHD and Pesticides

More evidence has come about that links pesticide exposure with ADHD. The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, adds to evidence that organophosphatepesticides can affect the human brain. Researchers at the University of California Berkeley tested pregnant women for evidence that organophosphate pesticides had actually been absorbed by their bodies, and then followed their children as they grew. Women with more chemical traces of the pesticides in their urine while pregnant had children more likely to have symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, at age 5, the researchers found.

Organophosphates are designed to attack the nervous systems of bugs by affecting message-carrying chemicals called neurotransmitters including acetylcholine, which is important to human brain development.

The researchers tested Mexican-American women living in the Salinas Valley of California, an area of intensive agriculture. They looked for breakdown products or metabolites from pesticides in urine samples from the mothers during pregnancy and from their children as they grew. A tenfold increase in pesticide metabolites in the mother’s urine correlated to a 500 percent increase in the chances of ADHD symptoms by age 5, with the trend stronger in boys.

In May a different team found children with high levels of organophosphate traces in the urine were almost twice as likely to develop ADHD as those with undetectable levels.

There are about 40 organophosphate pesticides such as malathion registered in the United States. Studies have also linked exposure to Parkinson’s, an incurable brain disease.

From a naturopathic perspectives, there are tests that can be performed to evaluate levels of organophosphates. This is not only important for children with ADHD, but also patients with any underlying neurological disease, as well as cancer. If identified, treatment protocols to facilitate pesticide detoxification (using natural substances) can be utilized.

Green Tea and Metabolic Syndrome

Because metabolic syndrome is something I tend to see on a weekly basis, it’s always good to see new information on what can help to control and reverse this condition. The latest research points out the benefits of green tea in treating metabolic syndrome. It’s also well known that green tea contains weight-loss promoting properties, among many other beneficial compounds. 

Here is a summary of the research findings:

Reference: “Green tea minimally affects biomarkers of inflammation in obese subjects with metabolic syndrome,” Basu A, Lyons TJ, et al, Nutrition, 2010 Jun 1; [Epub ahead of print]. (Address: Nutritional Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA).
Summary: In a randomized, controlled study involving 35 obese subjects with metabolic syndrome, results indicate that green tea intake may exert cardioprotective benefits. The subjects were randomized to receive green tea (4 cups/d), green tea extract (2 capsules and 4 cups water/d), or no treatment (4 cups water/d) for 8 weeks. At intervention end, green tea (drink and capsule) intake was associated with significant reduction of plasma serum amyloid alpha, compared with control. Thus, the authors of this study conclude, “green tea significantly reduced plasma serum amyloid alpha, an independent cardiovascular disease risk factor, in obese subjects with metabolic syndrome.”

Weight Gain and Fatty Acids-Born Into Obesity?

For years, the naturopathic profession has emphasized the importance of balancing the ratio between omega 3 and omega 6 intake. The standard American diet is overloaded with omega 6 fatty acids, while being deficient in omega 3, which can lead to a chronic inflammatory state, increasing the risk of cancer and other serious diseases. Now, a new study in the Journal of Lipid Research has found that a high omega 6:omega 3 ratio may not only lead to insulin resistance in individuals, but may actually predispose their offspring to a life-long struggle with obesity.

In addition to high consumption of fast foods and refined carbohydrates, the high omega 6:omega 3 ratio in the American diet is largely due to the shift from grass-fed to grain-fed livestock. For meat eaters, this means seeking out sources of locally raised or grass-fed livestock, along with incorporating more wild game (bison, venison) into the diet. In general, a diet that is well-balanced with fruits, vegetables, fish, and healthy oils should insure a healthy balance of omega fats. Supplementation with fish oil and ground flax seeds is also recommended, to further bolster your omega 3 intake. 

Diabetes Increases Cancer Risk

Evidence is proving that diabetes may double the risk of pancreatic, liver, and endometrial cancer, while also significantly increasing the risk of colorectal, breast and bladder cancer. It’s still uncertain whether this is due to the disease itself, or the treatments that are being used for diabetes. However, it does strongly suggest that inflammation plays an underlying role, and how important it is to detect and treat diabetic changes as early as possible. Here is an article taken from Medscape that goes into more detail about this discovery:

June 16, 2010 — People with diabetes are at increased risk of certain cancers — but why?

Could it be that some diabetes treatments trigger or promote cancer? Or do the underlying causes of diabetes also underlie cancer?

These are the questions put before an expert panel from the American Diabetes Association and the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Their conclusion: We aren’t sure.

Even so, lifestyle changes that prevent or reverse diabetes will certainly cut cancer risk, says panel member Susan M. Gapstur, PhD, ACS vice president of epidemiology.

“The full biologic link between diabetes and cancer has not been completely defined,” Gapstur tells WebMD. “But first of all we should prevent diabetes. Then we can prevent some cancers. And for those who do have diabetes, it should be controlled as much as possible through a healthy lifestyle.”

Diabetes doubles the risk of liver, pancreas, and endometrial cancer. It increases the risk of colorectal, breast, and bladder cancer by 20% to 50%. But it cuts men’s risk of prostate cancer.

People with diabetes tend to have some known risk factors for cancer: older age,obesity, poor diet, and physical inactivity. And problems common in diabetes — too-high insulin levels, too-high blood sugar levels, and inflammation — increase cancer risk.

“No matter what science ultimately reveals … we already know what we need to do to lower risk for both cancer and diabetes,” Alice Bender, RD, of the American Institute for Cancer Research, says in a news release. “Eat a healthy, varied, predominantly plant-based diet, be physically active every day, and maintain ahealthy body weight.”

Do Diabetes Treatments Raise Cancer Risk?

There is evidence, but not definitive proof, that diabetes treatments affect cancer risk.

Metformin, the most commonly used diabetes drug, seems to lower cancer risk. But there’s also evidence from some studies — contradicted by others — that insulin, particularly long-acting insulin glargine (Lantus), may increase cancer risk.

Mo
reover, there are at least theoretical concerns that other relatively new diabetesdrugs may affect cancer risk. Unfortunately, the panel found too little data to form an opinion on this question.

Because there is no definitive link between diabetes treatment and cancer, the panel strongly advises people with diabetes — except those at extremely high risk of cancer — not to make treatment decisions based on fear of cancer.

“Clearly those being treated for diabetes need to be talking with their doctors about the importance of regular cancer screenings as recommended by the American Cancer Society,” Gapstur says.

The consensus panel’s report appears in the July/August issue of the ACS journalCA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

Leave That Acid Alone

As most of my patients know, I’m typically against the suppression of stomach acid, aside from a few rare circumstances. The myth that an overproduction of stomach acid is responsible for numerous digestive problems continues to be perpetuated, leading many patients to take some form of acid-blocking medication, often for life. Since Hydrocholoric Acid (HCl) is essential for nutrient absorption, mineral assimilation, and a host of other functions, I always try to discourage people from using acid-blockers. Now, recent evidence is proving that long-term use of these medications is leading to detrimental side-effects. For more information, visit the following link:

 http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/05/26/127132723/fda-warns-about-bone-risks-from-heartburn-drugs?sc=17&f=1001

Local Food

Here is a great article discussing the local food movement, and why the realities are proving to be a challenge, despite the desire for schools and other institutions to make the shift: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125905759&sc=17&f=1001

For local food resources in the New Haven/Shoreline region, visit www.ctnofa.org and www.cityseed.org.

Pollution Is In The Air

Not that we really needed a study to prove it, but here is an interesting summary of a study from the American Lung Association highlighting the severity of pollution in the US:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126366926&sc=17&f=1001