I came across this article on Mercola.com, one of my favorite natural health web sites. Once again another study that shows we need to have alternatives to dangerous medications, even if they OTC (over the counter).
Drugs commonly taken for a variety of common medical conditions negatively affect your brain, causing long term cognitive impairment. These drugs, called anticholinergics, block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter.
They include such common over-the-counter brands as Benadryl, Dramamine, Excedrin PM, Nytol, Sominex, Tylenol PM, and Unisom.
Other anticholinergic drugs, such as Paxil, Detrol, Demerol and Elavil are available only by prescription.
"Researchers ... conducted a six-year observational study, evaluating 1,652 Indianapolis area African-Americans over the age of 70 who had normal cognitive function when the study began ... '[T]aking one anticholinergic significantly increased an individual's risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and taking two of these drugs doubled this risk.'"
Sources: Physorg July 13, 2010 Neurology July 13, 2010; 75(2):152-9
Benefits of Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 (also known as pyridoxine) is another of the water-soluble B-complex vitamins, involved in a number of important functions, including the body's metabolic activity. It metabolizes sugars, fats and amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Another important function is its role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, and in the creation of DNA, heme (part of red blood cells) and the phospholipids that make up our cell membranes.
Without sufficient B6 we would not be able to process carbohydrates properly. B6 also helps our muscles produce energy! This can be especially important for athletes who require increased strength and endurance. Vitamin B6 also helps athletes as it repairs tissues. Another of the benefits of vitamin B6 is that it helps control excessive inflammation.
Because of its use in healthy brain and nerve function, it also helps to regulate mood. It plays a role in the production of hormones that protect against depression, and has been used to treat patients with Alzheimer's.
Vitamin B6 works in conjunction with folic acid and vitamin B12 to help keep homocysteine levels low. Elevated homocysteine is linked to a number of diseases, including heart disease, osteoporosis, and stroke. It has been successfully used in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome and premenstrual syndrome, and has been shown to help prevent attacks of asthma by lowering histamine levels in the blood.
The major dietary sources of B6 are meat, eggs, liver, fish, whole grains, legumes (peas and beans), potatoes, brewer's yeast, avocados and dairy foods. Because it is a water soluble vitamin it can not be stored in the fat cells, so it is important to get B6 on a regular basis. And as B6 is necessary in order to break down proteins, the more protein you eat, the more B6 you need.
Although a deficiency in vitamin B6 is not common, it can lead to anemia, feelings of numbness or pins-and-needles in hands and feet, a sore red tongue, and confusion, depression and irritability. This deficiency is most often found in alcoholics and those with chronic fatigue syndrome or women who use oral contraceptives.
It is recommended that adults get 1.6 mg per day of vitamin B6 for optimal functioning. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding require more, about 2 mg per day. Because it naturally occurs in a wide range of foods it's not likely you will need a supplement if you eat well. However, it may be useful if you suffer from one of the conditions noted above, for which a doctor can give you a recommended dosage.
What Is Sciatica?
To answer the question, 'what is sciatica' it is helpful to explain some of the relevant anatomical structures. The sciatic nerve is both the longest and the widest nerve in your body. It begins in the lower back as five separate nerves that extend from five different vertebrae - L4, L5, S1, S2, and S3. These nerves meet up to form one large bundle which runs through the buttocks and down the entire length of the leg. The sciatica nerve is responsible (directly or indirectly) for nearly all the sensation in your leg including the skin of the thigh and gluts.
Sciatica occurs when there is compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The pain is felt in the low back and leg, but the site of the pain isn't always the site of the underlying issue. Since the sciatica nerve is so long and travels around or through the large muscles of the buttocks, it takes an expert to determine if the pain is coming from disc compression, from muscle spasms or from something else. Again, sciatica is a symptom, not a diagnosis.
The B group of vitamins is probably the most commonly misunderstood of the vitamins, simply because the B vitamins are several distinct vitamins lumped together. Additionally, the fact that the vitamins in this group are known by both letter, number and name is confusing to many people. Here is a quick list of the B vitamins found in the Vitamin B complex group:
• B1 is also thiamin
• B2 is also riboflavin
• B3 is also niacin
• B5 is also pantothenic acid
• B6 is also pyridoxine
• B7 is also biotin
• B9 is also folic acid
• B12 is also cobalamin
You should note that there are four additional substances in the B complex group, though they are not known as vitamins. They are choline, lipoic acid, PABA and inositol. When you purchase B complex vitamins, these four will not be included. Furthermore, one or two of the recognized B vitamins may also be omitted. B5 and B7 are so widely available in food that most people get plenty of these vitamins even if they aren’t eating a healthy diet.
There are gaps in the numbers of the B vitamins because our understanding of them has evolved over time. Initially there was only a single B vitamin. Later it was recognized that what had been referred to as a single vitamin, actually had many components. These component parts where numbered 1,2,3,4, etc… Even later it was determine that some of these components (such as B4) did not meet the criteria of being a vitamin and they were dropped. That’s how we ended up with 8 B-vitamins with non-sequential numbers.
One thing that all the B vitamins share is that they are water soluble. Any excess vitamin B is not stored, but rather is excreted in the urine. That means that all the B vitamins need to be constantly replenished from our diets.
B vitamins are found in whole unprocessed foods including grains, meats and vegetables. In general, the more processed that food is, the lower the content of all the B vitamins. A daily multi-vitamin is a great way to ensure that you are getting all the B complex Vitamins your body needs on a daily basis.
One of the most commonly recognized uses of the B vitamins is an energy booster. Many popular energy drinks that claim a natural boost of energy without sugar or caffeine are high in B vitamin complex.
There are too many components in the Vitamin B complex to discuss the health benefits, deficiencies and Recommended Daily Allowance for the whole group in a single article. Look for future articles about each of these important nutrients.
If you have questions about your current nutrition and supplement plan, just ask. We are here to help!
B Vitamins MedlinePlus. (n.d.). Retrieved 8 10, 2011, from National Institutes of Health: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/bvitamins.html
Micronutrient Information Center. (n.d.). Retrieved 8 11, 2011, from Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins.html
Have you ever found yourself tuning out information about nutritional supplements because it all seems confusing and contradictory? If yes, you are not alone. One headline says 'get more X' the next headline says 'be careful about too much X' and another says 'X supplementation not necessary at all'. Headlines are meant to sell newspaper and magazines. They report on what's new not necessarily what is backed by the most evidence. And, the stories are often selected based on findings that are contrarian or against conventional wisdom. After all, who is going to buy a magazine with the headline, "No change in guidelines – eating more plant-based foods is still good for you."
Consumers really need a reliable source of evidence-based recommendations for nutritional supplements. Since these are not regulated by the FDA, there isn't a government run website that you can count on to be unbiased. There are several private companies, non-profits and even individuals that claim to offer comprehensive unbiased information on nutritional supplements, but who has the time to sift through all of these to figure out whose information is the best?
At the risk of offending a number of other great sources, this article is a plug for the Linus Pauling Micronutrient Information Center at Oregon State University at http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter. Chances are this is a source you've never heard of or looked at, but you should.
The website describes the Linus Pauling Institute as a “source for scientifically accurate information regarding the roles of vitamins, minerals, other nutrients, dietary phytochemicals and some foods in preventing disease and promoting health”. As you can see from the description, their mission extends beyond nutritional supplements to also include whole foods. This is critically important because sometimes nutrients are more potent together (as in a food) than they are separately.
When you visit the website, you'll have a chance to subscribe to the newsletter near the top of the page. Do it. This isn't another email newsletter but rather a printed, bound newsletter sent to your house containing all of the Institute's latest research.
The folks at OSU are doing excellent work to bring us all trustworthy, evidence based recommendations on the tens of thousands of nutrients in our foods. Take some time to look at their website, bookmark it and share it with others. If there are concepts or terms you don't understand, feel free to ask us during your next appointment or send us an email.
“Mercury toxicity should be evaluated in any patient with hypertension, coronary heart disease, cerebral vascular disease, cerebrovascular accident, or other vascular disease.” This was the conclusion of an August 2011 study that appeared in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension.
For those of you lucky enough to not know the term, hypertension is the medical name for high-blood pressure. About one out of every three adults in the United States has high blood pressure (National Center for Health Statistics, 2008) so the odds are that at least one of your parents or grandparents is affected. Or, perhaps it you that has high blood pressure? Either way, this is a study you’ll want to know about since it clearly connects how mercury toxicity (which can be tested for and reduced) can manifest itself as hypertension and other vascular diseases.
Most research studies you hear about on the evening news or popular science programs are full of data and statistics. These types of studies are typically trying to correlate two facts – such as people with higher mercury exposure have greater incidence of heart disease – and may go future to try to establish causation. However, statistical methods don’t ever really settle the causation question. For that we need biochemistry.
Biochemistry is all about understanding the d
ifferent pathways that nutrients (and toxins) travel in our bodies. This particular study looked at the many internal processes that mercury interferes with in order to establish a biochemical basis for the resulting symptoms - hypertension and coronary heart disease. Here’s what they found.
1. Inactivates many reactions that depend on sulfer-containing enzymes
2. Inactivates many sulfer-containing antioxidants
3. Substitutes itself for zinc, copper and other trace minerals in certain reactions
As a result:
1. Mitochondria – the energy powerhouses of the cell – malfunction
2. The body’s oxidative defenses are diminished increasing oxidative stress and inflammation
Which manifests in the body as:
1. Hypertension (high blood pressure)
2. Coronary heart disease
3. Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
4. Cardiac arrhythmias
6. Renal dysfunction, and
Even if you didn’t follow any of the preceding couple paragraphs, you can appreciate the need to ‘connect-the-dots’ between cellular-level processes and downstream diseases. This study connected the dots between high levels of mercury and the many downstream disease states listed. A brilliant piece of work!
So, what should you do if you have hypertension or other types of coronary heart disease? The study authors advise testing for acute or chronic mercury toxicity. Modern mercury toxicity tests are done using urine, blood, hair and toenail samples so they are minimally invasive and results come back fairly quickly.
Houston, M. (2011, August). Role of mercury toxicity in hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Journal of Clinical Hypertension, 13(8), 621-7.
National Center for Health Statistics. (2008). Retrieved August 12, 2011, from Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus08.pdf
Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup That Bad?
High fructose corn syrup is a popular ingredient in sodas, fruit flavored drinks and most processed foods. It has become a staple alternative to cane sugar in many foods and beverages, but is it safe? There has been much controversy and debate over the health effects from long-term usage of high-fructose corn syrup. So far, research has yielded mixed results about its adverse consequences.
High consumption of added sugar in any form can lead to numerous health problems, including weight gain, dental cavities, poor nutrition and increased risks of heart attacks. While the health concerns of excess sugar consumption may seem obvious, what about the specific case of high-fructose corn syrup? Should we go out of our way to exclude it from our diet, even in moderate consumption?
High-fructose corn syrup and cane sugar are not biochemically identical – cane sugar is a naturally occurring ingredient, whereas high-fructose corn syrup is an industrial product, and is processed differently by the body than naturally occurring sugar . Sometimes high-fructose corn syrup is produced from genetically modified corn .
A study at Princeton University  found that rats from two test groups, one that consumed high-fructose corn syrup and another standard table sugar, yielded different results in the rats’ obesity -- even with the same caloric intake. The group of rats that consumed high-fructose corn syrup experienced abnormal weight gain – particularly in the abdominal region – and also elevated triglyceride levels. Along with high quantities of HDL, otherwise known as bad cholesterol, high triglyceride levels can cause arterial blockage and may increase the risk of heart disease, hypertension and even strokes.
Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes . An increased risk of diabetes was observed from the metabolic profile in the study of rats that were given sugar-sweetened beverages, exhibiting impaired glucose and insulin homeostasis.
Long-term liver damage has been cited as a side effect to consuming high-fructose corn syrup . This is particularly risky to individuals who live a sedentary lifestyle. Excess consumption can also result in a fatty liver .
One indirect health concern pertaining to high-fructose corn syrup is the contamination of mercury . Mercury cell chlor-alkali products are used in the manufacturing of high-fructose corn syrup, which may leave a trace of the toxic heavy metal in its products, which can be up to 0.5micrograms/g of corn syrup. When you consider the average consumption of corn syrup as being around 50g per day, this could lead to a dangerous build up of the heavy metal in the body’s system.
 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/high-fructose-corn-syrup-dangers_b_861913.html Accessed September 2011
 http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/high-fructose-corn-syrup-dangers/ Accessed September 2011
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In light of the obesity epidemic of recent decades, it is clear our sugar intake has increased drastically, including our intake of artificial sweeteners. There are many who believe that artificial sweeteners are the solution to our obesity epidemic, but are they really a lesser evil?
Did you know that aspartame was initially developed as a medical treatment for stomach ulcers?  This means your tabletop sweetener or that can of diet coke you’ve just consumed was originally intended to be a prescription drug.
Aspartame and saccharine are the most common artificial sweeteners encountered on a daily basis, and they can usually be found in your breakfast cereal, diet sodas, tabletop sweeteners and more. While they may well be low in calories, what is the price you pay for the alternative? Medical studies have indicated a possible connection between aspartame and migraines , and headaches . Sucralose, an active compound in many commercial sweeteners on the market, has also recently been found to trigger migraines .
Depression can also manifest from the consumption of artificial sweeteners. Regular dosages of aspartame have been found to decrease serotonin levels, which is the main cause of depression in the brains of mice . Individuals suffering from mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder, are advised against the regular consumption of artificial sweeteners, since they are more sensitive to the adverse effects of aspartame .
There have been numerous studies and discussions about the carcinogenic properties of artificial sweeteners. Whether aspartame or saccharine causes cancer is the subject of much debate, with numerous studies yielding inconclusive results. One Argentinean study  cites aspartame usage as the main cause of urinary tract tumors. Others suggest the FDA re-evaluate their position on the safety of aspartame in light of recent studies on animals, linking cancer risks to artificial sweetener consumption .
Additional health risks may be caused by the consumption of artificial sweeteners. One possibility is that the long-term intake of aspartame may impair the liver’s antioxidant status and could lead to liver injury . Those suffering from fibromyalgia should also be cautious with their aspartame intake, since it may induce a curable but chronic pain .
Many switch over to artificial sweeteners for weight loss purposes. However it may be the sweeteners themselves that contribute to obesity. With the rise of the obesity epidemic correlating with the use of artificial sweeteners, studies have been conducted to ascertain whether there is a link. Some theories postulate that sweeteners such as aspartame induce hunger cravings, causing us eat more and therefore gain weight, but results thus far have been contradictory and inconclusive .
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Dr. Michael Weir