Supplements to Watch Out For

Proper dietary supplementation is crucial for proper nutrition.  They are critical for providing important nutrients missing from our food supply, and can provide a natural way to help with medical issues.  However, because supplements are not regulated, it is important to be sure you are getting high-quality supplements, with benefits that have been proven through substantive research.  Some products touted as offering health benefits are useless, while others may actually be dangerous.

These are some of the most common supplements and ingredients to be careful of.

Aconite – Taken for joint pain and inflammation, it is described as unsafe and has been linked to low blood pressure, respiratory paralysis and death.

Bitter Orange – Taken for weight loss, allergies and congestion, it has been linked to heart problems, stroke and death.  Caffeine may increase these risks.

Colloidal Silver – Used for a number of skin conditions, colloidal silver used over a long period of time can cause a bluish pigmentation known as argyria.  It has also been linked to neurological problems.

Comfrey – Used for heavy menstruation, coughs and chest pain.  It has been linked with liver damage, and possibly cancer.

Kava – While shown to be somewhat effective for anxiety, kava use has also been linked to liver damage.

Before taking a new supplement, be sure to speak to a trusted health care provider.  Not all supplements are right for everyone, and some are wrong for everyone!

Proper dietary supplementation is crucial for proper nutrition. They are critical for providing important nutrients missing from our food supply, and can provide a natural way to help with medical issues. However, because supplements are not regulated, it is important to be sure you are getting high-quality supplements, with benefits that have been proven through substantive research. Some products touted as offering health benefits are useless, while others may actually be dangerous.

These are some of the most common supplements and ingredients to be careful of.

Aconite – Taken for joint pain and inflammation, it is described as unsafe and has been linked to low blood pressure, respiratory paralysis and death.

Bitter Orange – Taken for weight loss, allergies and congestion, it has been linked to heart problems, stroke and death. Caffeine may increase these risks.

Colloidal Silver – Used for a number of skin conditions, colloidal silver used over a long period of time can cause a bluish pigmentation known as argyria. It has also been linked to neurological problems.

Comfrey – Used for heavy menstruation, coughs and chest pain. It has been linked with liver damage, and possibly cancer.

Kava – While shown to be somewhat effective for anxiety, kava use has also been linked to liver damage.

Before taking a new supplement, be sure to speak to a trusted health care provider. Not all supplements are right for everyone, and some are wrong for everyone!

Biophosphonates Part IV: Other Dangers of Biophosphonates

In the past few posts, I’ve talked about the increasing evidence that long-term biophosphonate use may actually make bones more prone to fracture and decrease the rate at which bones heal.  But there are other potential problems with these drugs, and these dangers should be recognized.

Biophosphonates have caused local irritation to the upper gastrointestinal system in a number of users.  In its perscription instructions for Fosamax, its maker, Merck, warns of esophagitis, esophageal ulcers and esophageal erosions.  Some of these instances have been severe enough to require hospitalization.  Other recent reports have linked its use to esophageal cancer.

Jaw Death is another troubling, if rare, biophosphonate side effect.  This occurs when the jaw fails to heal after minor trauma like tooth extraction.  This leaves exposed bone vulnerable to severe bacterial infection, eventually causing necrosis of the bone.  This requires removal of bone tissue or even large portions of the jaw.

Finally, recent studies have shown that long term biophosphonate use may double the risk of developing serious atrial fibrillation, a form of heart arrhythmia.  Symptoms include palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, and light headedness.  It can lead to fluid collection in the lungs, congestive heart failure and blood clots.

Bisphosphonates Part III: Strong Bones or Hard Bones?

In my last post, I introduced some of the evidence for problems arising when long-term biophosphonate use leads to bone fractures.  These fractures usually occur in places where the bone should be very strong and resistant to breaking.

As discussed previously, it is important to remember that biophosphonates not only suppress bone resorption, where calcium is removed from the bone leaving hollow pits, but also osteoblastic bone building, where specialized cells enter those pits and fill them with new bone material.

The emerging concern is that this unnatural state of bone stasis does not actually make bones stronger, but merely makes them harder.  You can think of it as making your bones a little more like glass.  Glass is a very hard substance, but when subjected to intense pressure or stress, it lacks flexibility and tends to shatter dramatically.  This is not an ideal state for one’s bones.

The reason for this is that, under normal activity, bones develop microcracks.  These tiny fractures are a normal and healthy part of bone wear.  Under usual circumstances, osteblasts are activated, and the cracks in the bone are filled with new, stronger bone.  This actually keeps bones tough, strengthening them where they are weak.  When bone building no longer occurs, these microcracks remain unrepaired.  Over time, these cracks can widen and spread, causing increased bone weakness, even if the remaining bone material is still hard.  A study done at the University of Washington, Seattle, found that use of biophosphonates may be associated with a 20% reduction in bone toughness, or a bone’s ability to endure pressure without breaking.

Fractured bones aren’t the only danger associated with these drugs.  Next time, I’ll talk about some of the indirect problems associated with their long-term use.

Bisphosphonates Part II: The Effects of Suppressed Bone Growth

Last time, I talked a little about how bone resorption inhibiting drugs, called biophosphonates, work in the body.  Biophosphonates suppress bone resorption, keeping calcium in the bones.  But they also suppress osteoclastic bone building, which relies on resorption to trigger its effects.  This suppression of bone building may be the cause of further bone damage.

One study conducted by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center observed women taking Fosamax who suffered bone fractures while engaged in normal daily activities.  Their healing rates were monitored, and the results were troubling.  In most of the women, bone healing was heavily slowed, causing bones to take months or even years longer to heal than would be expected.  When drug treatment was discontinued, bone healing occurred satisfactorily.

Perhaps most importantly, researchers found that the bones in the women taking Fosamax showed a severe depression in new bone formation.  In some, this rate was 100-fold lower than would be expected in healthy postmenopausal women.

Other studies and case studies have suggested that the lack of bone growth caused by biophosphonates may encourage bone fractures.  These fractures are low-stress fractures, indicating that the bones have increased hardness but decreased toughness.  The most frequent location of these fractures is the upper femur, usually one of the strongest bones in the body.

In the next entry, I’ll discuss the difference between hard bones and strong bones, and why promoting hard bones might be very dangerous.

Bisphosphonates Part I: How Bisphosphonate Drugs Really Work

hip xrayThis is the first part of an important series of posts I’ll be making regarding bone density drugs like Fosamax and Boniva, collectively known as bisphosphonates.  As osteoporosis rates rise, use of these drugs increases, but long-terms studies are showing that they may do more harm than good.

The first step to recognizing the dangers of these products in the long term is understanding what they do.  Bisphosphonates are designed to mimic the effect of estrogen on the bones.  Estrogen prevents bone resorption, the process whereby bone calcium is broken down by osteoclasts and absorbed by the bloodstream, leaving tiny hollow pits in the bone.  These pits are then filled with osteoblasts, cells that fill in the pits with fresh, strong bone tissue.

The suppression of osteoclastic bone resorption is meant to strengthen bones by keeping the calcium in the bones and out of the blood stream.  However, there is a major potential problem with this regimen.  Osteoblasts remain inactive until osteoclastic activity occurs.  When osteoclastic activity is heavily suppressed, as it is with biphosphonate drugs, osteoblastic activity does not occur.  The body does not build new bone.

Next time, I’ll talk about the dangers of suppressing bone building, and what it could mean for long-term health.

Bisphosphonates Part I:

How Bisphosphonate Drugs Really Work

This is the first part of an important series of posts I’ll be making regarding bone density drugs like Fosamax and Boniva, collectively known as bisphosphonates. As osteoporosis rates rise, use of these drugs increases, but long-terms studies are showing that they may do more harm than good.

The first step to recognizing the dangers of these products in the long term is understanding what they do. Bisphosphonates are designed to mimic the effect of estrogen on the bones. Estrogen prevents bone resorption, the process whereby bone calcium is broken down by osteoclasts and absorbed by the bloodstream, leaving tiny hollow pits in the bone. These pits are then filled with osteoblasts, cells that fill in the pits with fresh, strong bone tissue.

The suppression of osteoclastic bone resorption is meant to strengthen bones by keeping the calcium in the bones and out of the blood stream. However, there is a major potential problem with this regimen. Osteoblasts remain inactive until osteoclastic activity occurs. When osteoclastic activity is heavily suppressed, as it is with biphosphonate drugs, osteoblastic activity does not occur. The body does not build new bone.

Next time, I’ll talk about the dangers of suppressing bone building, and what it could mean for long-term health.

Not Enough Sleep? You’ll Be Feeling It Tomorrow. And Next Week. And Next Year.

Getting a good night’s sleep is imperative for having a healthy, productive day.  But new research suggests that bad sleeping habits may impact health for much longer than the next day.

Scientists at the University of California Los Angeles tracked nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB), a mediator that play a major role in inflammation, in the blood of subjects after sleep.  According to the researchers, “In the morning after a night of sleep loss, mononuclear cell nuclear factor-kappa B activation was significantly greater compared with morning levels following uninterrupted baseline or recovery sleep.”  They concluded, “These results identify NF-kappaB activation as a molecular pathway by which sleep disturbance may influence leukocyte inflammatory gene expression and the risk of inflammation-related disease.”

While researchers have long noted that sleep deprivation correlates with inflammatory disease, this study shines new light on how that relationship occurs.  Previous research has linked inadequate sleep with diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease and even cancer.

I wish there were a way around it, but there just isn’t.  No matter how busy your life is, you must make time to get six full hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.  Your long-term health depends on it!

Study Suggests Viral Infections May Contribute to Onset of Gluten Intolerance

A recent study conducted by researchers at the Institute of Finland found new connections between genetic vulnerabilities to viruses and celiac disease.  The researchers studied genetic factors with links to gluten intolerance, and were surprised to find that viral defense genes showed correlation.  “Some of the genes we have identified are linked with human immune defense against viruses. This may indicate that virus infections may be connected in some way with the onset of gluten intolerance,” according to Academy Research Fellow Päivi Saavalainen.

Gluten intolerence is on the rise worldwide, and people should be aware of the dangers wheat and other gluten-containing grains may cause them.  While most people benefit from reducing gluten intake, it is vital for those with gluten intolerance.  For more information about what foods contain gluten, refer to the chart I posted last week.

Birds Need Antioxidants Too

birdI just read this fascinating story from the Discovery Channel, based on research from the University of Rhode Island, and thought it was both very cute, and a good lesson about the importance of antioxidants.  Researchers at the university discovered that insect-eating songbirds switch to eating berries just before migration.  Amazingly, the birds prefer berries that are highest in antioxidants, and will seek out these varieties of berries, ignoring other types that are otherwise just as nutritious.  The researchers concluded that high levels of antioxidants helped the birds survive the stress of migration and kept them from developing inflammation and other conditions that would make them unable to complete the arduous journey.  It seems we could learn a lot from birds!  Antioxidant consumption is just as important for us, and offers us the same benefits.

Get Out and Walk!

walking signWith the weather finally starting to warm up for us, I just wanted to remind everyone of the benefits of daily walking.  According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, the best way to combat abdominal fat is to engage in thirty to sixty minute of moderate-intensity exercise every day.  Walking fits this requirement perfectly, and is a great way to get fresh air, enjoy the outdoors and stay fit.

This time of year, I frequently hear my clients worry over the weight they’ve gained over the winter.  While it’s normal to gain a little weight over the winter, it’s also important to increase physical activity to counteract that effect.  Walking just twelve miles a week can help complete cut visceral fat accumulation, laying the foundation to losing those extra pounds.  And of course, there’s plenty of benefits in getting fresh air and sunlight, too, especially in keeping vitamin D levels up.  So make it a goal to find a new walking routine that you enjoy and can stick to.  It can make a lot of difference!

Gluten Free Grains

This table give the status of common grains and flours as applied to a gluten-free diet.  Grains marked “No” under Gluten Free Compatible are not gluten free and are not compatible with a gluten-free diet.  Grains marked “?” are questionable, and may vary depending on processing, or may be inadvisable for other reasons.

Grain Gluten Free Compatible? Information
Almond
Flour
Yes Sweet, edible nut ground into flour.
Amaranth Yes Leafy plant whose seeds are ground into flour.  Blood group B should avoid.
Arborio
Rice
Yes Short-grain white rice
Aromatic
Rice
Yes Brown or white rice with nutty aroma.
Arrowroot Yes Extracted starch used as a thickener.  Blends well with gluten-free
flours.  Interchangable with corn starch.
Artichoke Yes Flower head can be dried and ground into flour.  Blood group B should avoid.
Barley No May be part of hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP) or hydrolyzed vegetable
protein (HVP).
Basmati
Rice
Yes Very slender, long-grain rice.
Beans Yes Can be dried and ground into flour.  Many gluten-free varieties
available.
Black
and Red Rice
Yes Rare asian rice grains.
Brown
Rice
Yes Rice grains with olny hulls removed.  Can be ground into flour.
Buckwheat Yes Black seeded herb, can be used whole or ground into flour.
Bulgur No Cleaned and sifted wheat.
Chestnut Yes Smooth, edible nut.  Can be ground into flour, but does not bind well.
Chickpea
(Garbanzo)
Yes Legume seed, can be ground into flour.  Blood groups A, B and AB
should avoid.
Corn ? American Maize.  Gluten free, but inflammatory.  Best avoided.
Dal Yes Split peas or beans from India.  Blood groups B and O shpuld avoid.
Flaxseed Yes Nutty flavored seed.  Can be ground into meal.
Glutinous
Rice (Sticky Rice)
Yes Glutinous refers to sticky texture when cooked.  Gluten free.
Japonica
Rice
Yes Specialty rice variety.
Jasmine
Rice
Yes Variety of aromatic rice.
Job’s
Tears
Yes Grass seed, resembling large barley.
Kamut No Large wheat variety.
Kasha Yes Roasted buckwheat groats.
Kudzu Yes Roots yield a starch that can be used as thickener.
Lentils Yes Tiny lens-shaped seeds.
Millet Yes Grass seed, can be ground into flour
Modified
Tapioca Starch
Yes Tapioca modified to improve consistency.  Blood group B should avoid.
Oats ? Products must specifically say gluten-free.  May be contaminated
otherwise.
Potato
Flour
Yes Potatoes can be ground for flour.  Blood groups A and O should avoid.
Quinoa Yes Related to amaranth.  Seed can be used whole or ground into flour.
Red
Rice
Yes Rice variety grown in South Carolina.
Rice Yes Rice is gluten-free and non-allergenic.  Can be ground into flour.
Rye No Grain and flour used for baking and alcohol.
Short-Grain
Rice
Yes Rice with very short and thick grains.
Sorghum Yes Cereal grain used as flour or sweet syrup.
Spelt No Variety of wheat.
Sweet
Potato
Yes American vine cultivated for orange tuber.  Can be ground into flour.
Blood groups A and B should avoid.
Tapioca Yes Starchy plant used mainly as thickener.  Blood groups AB and B and
GenoType Gatherers should avoid.
Taro Yes Similar to tapioca.  Blood group B should avoid.
Triticale No Cross of wheat and rye.
Water
Chestnut
Yes Edible tube of water plant.  Can be ground into flour.
Wheat No All wheat products contain gluten.

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