Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Best Natural Skin Moisturizer

Annie Berthold-Bond is the author of an excellent book called Better Basics for the Home, which I recommend wholeheartedly to anyone interested in decreasing exposure to noxious household chemicals. She provides many "recipes" for making the basis for a nontoxic home. These recipes range anywhere from homemade facials to wood cleaners, whitewash to pesticides.

One of the best recipes in this book is for a skin moisturizer. Living in Denver certainly has its advantages, but one of the drawbacks is that skin that might seem healthy in more humid climates suddenly becomes dry, scaly, and just looks plain unhealthy. There are certainly plenty of moisturizers out there to help out the skin. But many of them contain chemicals that may not be so great for the skin - or for the body itself, since the skin tends to absorb whatever is placed on it.

For example, parabens are used as preservatives for many skin lotions, but they may interfere with testosterone production, as these studies conclude. Synthetic fragrances often contain multiple chemicals, including two that are on the EPA's hazardous waste list, and one that has even been banned by the FDA. (Companies get past this ban because of laws that do not require them to list the ingredients that make up a product's fragrance.) And a compound called benzophenone-3, widely used in skin care products and sunscreens, is absorbed into the skin and actually generates free radicals -a known cause of cancer.

Hence, the need for a great skin moisturizer that is not only effective, but nontoxic. And this one fits both criteria. In fact, it is the best skin moisturizer I have ever come across, bar none. And it's very inexpensive! Here's the recipe, courtesy of Better Basics for the Home:

1/2 cup aloe vera
1/8 cup vegetable glycerin

How simple is this? Just combine the two in a small glass container. If it seems too sticky, add more aloe vera. If it doesn't seem to moisturize enough, add more glycerin. It also works great to heal the skin after a sunburn. Berthold-Bond claims that after using it daily for four months, her age spots disappeared. If you have age spots, why not give it a try? It can't hurt, it just might help, and in any case, your skin stands to benefit tremendously from the added moisture.

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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey towad optimal health!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Honey for Wound Healing

It may come as a surprise that I would advocate something as simple and inexpensive as honey. But the health benefits of honey are astounding, particularly when it comes to healing the skin. Honey is a skin infection’s worst enemy, and healthy skin’s best friend. It is powerfully antibacterial and antifungal, yet moisturizing and soothing to wounds.

In 2005, just as I had ended chiropractic school and was ready to fly back to Denver, I sliced my hand on a sharp wicker basket, and the wound was terrible. I put bandages and some Neosporin on it, but it didn’t seem to heal all that quickly. A few days later, while at a naturopathic convention in Arizona, I recalled reading that honey was an exceptional wound healer, so I tried putting some on a bandage over my wound before bed. I was astounded at how much better my hand looked and felt when I woke up – it was probably 75% better overnight! Since then, I’ve seldom overlooked honey’s role in healing damaged or infected skin.

The antimicrobial effects of honey have been tested and proven many times. In the 1930s, a bacteriologist by the name of Dr. W.G. Sackett from Fort Collins, Colorado, wanted to prove that honey actually harbored disease, so he placed various bacteria on cultures of honey. The results shocked him. Bacteria that caused typhoid fever, dysentery, chronic pneumonia, peritonitis, pleuritis, and suppurating abscesses all were killed within a few days – and often within a few hours. Since then, studies done as recently as 2005 have shown that honey also inhibits the growth of E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans – three organisms that have been plaguing the general population (and health care facilities in particular) tremendously in recent years. It’s exciting to think that honey could potentially be used to treat Staphylococcus aureus infections that are resistant to powerful antibiotics such as methicillin and vancomycin.

Honey has been documented in medical journals as an effective treatment for diabetic and venous ulcers, even when all other measures (i.e., antibiotics) fail to bring them under control. A 2003 study found that a mixture of equal parts honey, beeswax, and olive oil is effective in reducing the itchiness, redness, and scaling associated with eczema and psoriasis. And a pilot study completed in 2005 reported that this same mixture is effective in reducing the bleeding, itching, and pain associated with hemorrhoids and anal fissures.

Of course, as a practitioner of natural medicine, I strongly advocate the use of honey in helping skin wounds and even conditions like eczema and psoriasis to heal. The advantages are numerous: It’s natural, safe, inexpensive, readily available, painless, soothing, and effective. And perhaps most importantly – especially from a public health perspective – it does not contribute to antibiotic-resistant organisms.

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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Video: Naturopathic Philosophy - First Do No Harm

My brother, who has a great sense of humor, gave me an excellent book for my birthday a few years ago. It was called Kill as Few Patients as Possible, by Oscar London. What a worthwhile goal! (Fortunately, most doctors, being intelligent, skilled, confident, and circumspect, manage to keep most of their patients alive.)

Here is a video on the basic tenets of naturopathic philosophy. The first principle is perhaps the most fundamental principle, not only for naturopathic medicine, but for health care of all sorts: first do no harm. Watch this video for an interesting spin on this principle you may not have considered before. And be well!


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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Sad Story of Zicam

Nationwide, the Zicam cold remedy nasal gel was ordered to be pulled off the shelves on Tuesday, June 16th. The charge was simply that using the nasal gel could lead to anosmia, or a permanent loss of smell. Indeed, 130 people had reported a loss of smell after using Zicam. As a rather randomly-chosen Dr. Charles Lee points out, anosmia goes much further than merely not being able to appreciate a rose or a home cooked meal. “People without the sense of smell may not be able to detect life dangerous situations, such as gas leaks or something burning in the house,” he says.

But why did the Zicam nasal gel cause anosmia? The answer is actually quite simple. Zinc is the culprit. In this case, it takes the form of zinc gluconate. Zinc has been known in the past to cause loss of smell when used intranasally. (One of my brilliant colleagues wrote about this very issue, first back in 2006, then again two years later.) Worse, studies using intranasal zinc gluconate to treat the common cold did not show an appreciable difference in the duration or severity of symptoms. They did show a risk of potentially irreversible anosmia.

Another issue: how did this product get placed on the shelves in the first place? Usually, it’s the Food and Drug Administration that dictates whether or not a drug is able to be put on the shelf. But Zicam got past this by stating that the active ingredient was homeopathic zinc gluconate. The FDA does not regulate homeopathic remedies, and so was not beholden to restrict the sale of Zicam. But in this case, the matter was all semantics. Specifically, the active ingredient was zincum gluconicum 1X. This is a homeopathic way of saying “a 10% solution of zinc gluconate.” Usually, homeopathic remedies are very dilute…dilute to the point where some of the most powerful remedies don’t have a single molecule of the original substance in them. (How and why these remedies work is an issue for another post.) But if not dilute enough, these remedies can exhibit properties of their original substance – precisely because they contain that substance. And a 10% solution of zinc gluconate certainly qualifies.

This is one of those instances where something that seems harmless or beneficial may end up being quite harmful. Many people are drawn to alternative medicine precisely because they feel it is less harmful than drugs – and in many instances they are right. But this is not always the case. Are herbs safe to use? Not if they’re herbs like foxglove (from which we get the highly regulated heart medication digitalis) or poison hemlock (which Socrates drank to commit government-ordered suicide). Similarly, are nutrients safe? Usually, yes, but as we now know, not if it’s zinc applied to the inside of the nose.

Another disturbing aspect of the Zicam issue is that blame is being wrongly placed on the whole practice of homeopathy. As I mentioned above, it was not the homeopathic quality of zinc that caused the cases of anosmia. It was the zinc itself. An article by the Associated Press about this issue misrepresents homeopathy as a whole. Dr. Jerry Avorn, an expert in pharmaceutical safety at Harvard dismisses homeopathy as having only alcohol as the active ingredient, saying “the therapeutic effect is no greater or lesser than a martini.” The article’s author also discovered that some homeopathic remedies are composed of more than 10% alcohol, when the American Academy of Pediatrics dictates no medicine contain more than 5% alcohol. All three entities might be surprised to know that a homeopathic dose usually consists of a pellet or two or a drop or two of the remedy in the mouth – hardly enough to give either adult or child an alcohol “buzz-on,” as Dr. Avorn claims.

It’s a sad issue. Zicam willfully deceived both the FDA and the public in an effort to get its product out to consumers wanting to treat their colds effectively. Thousands of consumers bought Zicam’s products, thinking that since it was homeopathic, natural, herbal, and/or non-pharmaceutical, it was safe. And as a result, scores of people have permanently lost one of their vital senses.

But what can we take from this? Some people might consider this evidence of the “snake oil” nature of alternative medicine. It isn’t. It’s evidence of greed taking precedence over the health of the public, and greed is not limited to alternative medicine. It may also be an indication that alternative medicine should be regulated more, although I have great doubts about the ability of the FDA to effectively regulate this profession. It is possible to view this as a societal need for qualified health care professionals who are thoroughly trained in the realm of natural medicine – and naturopathic doctors are precisely those health care professionals.

If you are prone to cold and the flu, it’s definitely a good idea to see if you can deal with issues from a natural perspective, with the help of a naturopathic doctor. Check my website out for more information about naturopathic medicine, and what it might be able to do for you. And be well.

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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Water bottles: plastic vs. glass

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As I mention in this video, it is prudent to stay away from plastic water bottles that leach out bisphenol A, or BPA. For those of you who are curious about which water bottles those are, they're the ones that seem virtually indestructible - the prototypical Nalgene water bottles. Ironically, Nalgene water bottles were originally marketed as water bottles that would not leach plastic byproducts. They once were seen as the environmentally sound brand. Oops.
So what is the big deal about BPA? Studies have linked it to a number of estrogen-sensitive conditions: obesity, breast cancer (even the CDC acknowledges this), premature onset of puberty in girls (the average age of menarche, or a woman’s first menstrual cycle, has dropped by at least one year, if not more, over the past 50 years or so), gynecomastia (development of breast tissue in males) and birth defects. BPA was actually used as a estrogen mimicker in lab tests during the 1930s before diethylstilbestrol (DES) replaced it as a stronger estrogen substitute. (Babies were exposed to DES when their mothers took it to prevent miscarriages. Unfortunately, we discovered that “DES daughters” experienced a greater risk of vaginal and cervical cancer, infertility, and pregnancy complications. It was subsequently taken off the market years ago. But I digress.)
Which plastics leach BPA? Apparently, the hard plastics (like Nalgene) that are imprinted with the number 7 inside the recycling symbol are the ones to avoid. According to this website, plastic #7 is a catch-all for “miscellaneous plastics.” This includes Tupperware. Often, plastic #7 is not recyclable.
There are a few arguments against studies showing the dangers of BPA. First, some studies have shown that BPA doesn’t really increase the risk of, say, cancer. These studies, though, don’t take into account the synergy that occurs when other compounds interact with BPA, and the combination can be particularly dangerous. (Also consider that adipose tissue, or fat, in itself tends to favor the production of estrogen. Being obese may also act synergistically with BPA. With obesity being rampant in society today, this issue becomes even more vital to address.) One could also argue that these studies have all been performed on rats and not humans. Unfortunately, humans are often more sensitive to toxins than rats, particularly when fetuses are exposed to them. BPA is no exception. (And who would willingly undergo a study that exposes them to a potentially carcinogenic substance?)

Stick with glass water bottles if you're looking for an environmentally sound alternative to plastic water bottles. If you want to get something more stylish and perhaps more resilient than glass, there are many companies that sell excellent metal water bottles. Like glass, these water bottles do not leach out harmful substances, and they are completely recyclable after being used. They just cost a bit more.
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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Video: How did I get into naturopathic medicine?

Part of my goal of being a naturopathic doctor is that I can help prevent stories like mine below. And my story is pretty far from tragic. But knowing now what I didn't know then, I could have made a huge difference in my health using the materials that, literally, have nurtured us for thousands of years. I could have done it without the use of drugs with unwanted side effects. I hope to make that difference in the lives of others. Maybe I could help you!

So here's a little video about my personal history, and how I ended up discovering naturopathic medicine. I hope you enjoy it. And, of course, if you're interested in any further information, check out my website at http://www.drscottisaacs.com/. Thanks, and be well!


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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Article commentary: Can These Foods Prevent Diabetes?

I was browsing MSN.com today and found an article by Prevention entitled "Can These Foods Prevent Diabetes?" I always look at these online articles with more than a pinch of skepticism, since some of the information in them can be misleading or downright wrong. Although there is some good information here, this article is not an exception. Let's evaluate the foods Prevention has chosen to be good for diabetes.

  1. Coffee. Yes, there is evidence that the caffeine in coffee can increase insulin receptor sensitivity, thus helping to decrease the risk of diabetes. But that's only part of the story. Caffeine also increases the amount of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is the body's main stress hormone, normally secreted during the "fight or flight" response during times of acute stress. But if cortisol is elevated chronically (say, with stressful jobs or when ingesting high amounts of caffeine), it can result in increased abdominal fat and increased blood glucose levels, neither of which are desirable if you're trying to avoid diabetes. Besides, not many people regularly drink coffee black, with no sugar or cream or flavored syrup. That mocha frap or caramel latte will really undermine any efforts to prevent diabetes.
  2. Vitamin D. I have no issues with this one. Vitamin D deficiency is endemic in our culture, and has been linked with a variety of chronic diseases, including diabetes. But even the highest food sources of vitamin D are insufficient to bring our body's stores of this hormone back to normal. (And yes, I did say hormone. Strictly speaking, vitamin D is not a vitamin.) Even if you take a daily vitamin D supplement including 5,000 or 10,000 IUs, it's possible that weeks or even months will go by before levels normalize, depending on the extent of the deficiency. The best way to get vitamin D back to normal is to get lots of sunshine exposure to as much skin as possible...much like our ancestors did. Just avoid excessive sun exposure leading to sunburns. In times when you cannot get sun exposure, taking high doses of vitamin D is recommended; 5,000 IU is a good daily dose, and overdosing is highly unlikely. (For more information, check out the Vitamin D Council's website.)
  3. Low-fat dairy foods. First off, what in the world is ice cream doing on a list of foods that can prevent diabetes - even if it's low-fat ice cream? Yipes! This sends a terrible message. But on to low-fat dairy foods of all sorts. The study referenced by this article may or may not be accurate; even the study's author admits that people who eat low-fat dairy foods tend to have healthier dietary habits in general. If calcium is the key nutrient here (and evidence thus far doesn't really show that this is the case), then dairy foods like cheese and yogurt are indeed the best sources for calcium. (Incidentally, there is evidence linking dairy intake among young children to type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune condition also known as insulin dependent diabetes.)
  4. Cinnamon. In many alternative health circles, cinnamon has been accepted as an effective blood sugar moderator, and it is now easy to find supplements for diabetes that include either powdered cinnamon or cinnamon extract. It may take a long time before cinnamon is accepted by mainstream medicine as an effective treatment for blood sugar control. But in the meantime, it certainly doesn't hurt to include cinnamon in more liberal amounts in your diet, either. Try pork chops with a cinnamon rub, or add cinnamon to your morning oatmeal.
  5. General dietary modifications. No problems here. I agree with this article's recommendations: Stop drinking sweetened drinks and substitute tea and water. Switch from refined grains to their unrefined brothers and sisters. Keep protein sources lean, and add more legumes to the diet. Eliminate trans fats. Increase intake of fish and nuts. And despite what the title of this part of the article says ("Eat for your genes"), these modifications are beneficial regardless of what your ancestry may be.
  6. Carrots. If the active components here are carotenoids, then why stop at carrots? Taste the rainbow of fruits, vegetables, and spices! The brighter and more vivid the food, the better off you will be. Carotenoids are especially high in yellow/orange foods (like carrots, sweet potatoes, mangoes, and apricots), red/pink foods (tomatoes, salmon, cayenne, and pink grapefruit), and green foods (spinach, kale, and collard greens). Since carotenoids are fat-soluble, it is a good idea to eat them in combination with a healthy oil (such as olive oil) or butter to optimize absorption.
  7. Fiber. The link between high fiber intake and decreased blood sugar surges is well-established - particularly for soluble fiber. It can slow the ability of the intestines to absorb sugars that are the result of normal digestion of carbohydrates. Shoot for 40 grams of fiber a day from foods like apples and oatmeal...with cinnamon!
  8. Seeds. The key nutrient here is magnesium. And much like vitamin D, magnesium deficiency is rampant in society today. There is actually stronger evidence that magnesium can help prevent diabetes more than chromium (often viewed as the classic nutrient to take when trying to moderate blood glucose). Sunflower seeds may be a good source, as the article points out, but leafy greens, cashews, almonds, most legumes, and even chocolate chips (in moderation!) contain more magnesium.
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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Beet Kvass

Last week, I had some extra beets lying around, and instead of throwing them in the compost bin, I decided to make beet kvass for the first time ever. Now, for those of you who are not inclined to eat beets because you grew up with those dastardly canned beets, I don’t blame you. I thought they were disgusting, too! But fresh or pickled beets are something else entirely. And so is beet kvass (it rhymes with "floss").

Beets are a nutritional powerhouse. Filled with B vitamins such as thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), and pyridoxine (B6), beets can aid the body’s ability to handle stress. Moreover, they provide minerals like iron, potassium, sodium, iodine, and manganese, and are also a great source of folic acid. The nutritional value of beets is so high that despite their high sugar content, I would still recommend beets to diabetics (in moderation). Beets are also a great liver and blood tonic, and are often recommended by naturopathic doctors both to support the liver and build up the blood.

Now: what in the world is kvass? Simply put, kvass is a sour, fermented drink that has been used in traditional Slavic/Russian/Ukrainian culture literally for centuries. It can also be added to stews or used in place of vinegar in salad dressing. Since beets are such an integral part of Slavic cuisine, it only makes sense that beets can be used to make kvass (though they are not required). I found that properly made beet kvass is quite salty and sour, but taken from the refrigerator, is delicious and quite refreshing. And soon after I drink it, I get an incredible feeling of being replenished and energized. Poking around the internet a bit, I found that many people have had the same experience.

I stumbled across a simple recipe for beet kvass in the excellent cookbook Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig. Making beet kvass is exceedingly simple but actually takes a few days because of the fermentation process. Here is the recipe (and commentary) for beet kvass, slightly edited but taken directly from Nourishing Traditions. Enjoy!

This refreshing drink is valuable for its medicinal qualities and as a digestive aid. Beets are loaded with nutrients. One glass morning and night is an excellent blood tonic, promotes regularity, aids digestion, alkalizes the blood, cleanses the liver and is a good treatment for kidney stones and other ailments. Beet kvass may also be used in place of vinegar in salad dressings and as an addition to soups.
  • 3 medium or 2 large organic beet roots, peeled and chopped up coarsely.
  • 1/4 cup whey (the liquid made from strained whole organic yogurt)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt (or 2 if you choose not to use whey)
  • filtered water
Place beet roots, whey and salt in a 2-quart glass container. Add filtered water to fill the container. Stir well and cover securely. Keep at room temperature for 2 days before transferring to refrigerator. Drink two to three 4 ounce cups of kvass a day.
When most of the kvass has been drunk, you may fill up the container with water and keep at room temperature another 2 days. The resulting brew will be slightly less strong than the first. After the second brew, discard the beets and start again. You may, however, reserve some of the liquid and use this as your inoculant instead of the whey.

Note: Do not use grated beet roots in the preparation of beet tonic. When grated, beets exude too much juice resulting in a too rapid fermentation that favors the production of alcohol rather than lactic acid.

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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Greetings!

Hello out there! My name is Scott Isaacs, and I am a naturopathic doctor and chiropractor practicing at the Chiropractic Wellness Center in Arvada, Colorado. I specialize in treating musculoskeletal conditions as well as digestive issues, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and mental and emotional issues.

Feel free to check out my website at http://www.drscottisaacs.com/. Also, I have a YouTube account where I will be posting videos. Check it out and subscribe if you'd like.

Thank you for visiting, and be well!

Dr. Scott