Thursday, March 6, 2014

New website and new blog

I will no longer be maintaining this blog. (I'm sure you guessed, seeing as how my last post was roughly three years ago.) You can find my new blog - along with my new website - at See you there, and be well.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Green Tea, Diabetes, and Metabolic Syndrome

Green tea is one of those beverages that just seems perfect for health. Hardly anything has been written bad about it, and more benefits are being discovered and confirmed every day. In particular, a compound in green tea called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (more easily remembered as EGCG) seems to be the main reason for green tea's benefits. A quick perusal through journal article abstracts on EGCG gives nearly 2200 articles - and that's just as of today. (A search for green tea gives over 4000 article references!)

Considering also that diabetes and its precursor, metabolic syndrome, are at epidemic levels in our country today, it is worth looking at EGCG and green tea to see if it has benefits for these people. The results are quite impressive. Just a few articles:
  • In September of 2008, the Journal of Medicinal Food released a study concerning EGCG. This study determined that EGCG significantly increased uptake of glucose by muscle cells - over 70% more than the control used in the study. This is great news for diabetics searching for additional ways to help increase control over their blood sugar. It's also great news for athletes who want to ensure their muscles are getting all the fuel they need. (The dose used was not given, unfortunately.)
  • A study from February of 2010 showed that when subjects with metabolic syndrome either drank 4 cups of green tea a day or took 2 grams of a green tea extract over 8 weeks, they decreased their weight significantly. The average weight loss was 5.5 pounds with the tea, and just over 4 pounds with the extract. Further, the subjects who drank green tea decreased their LDL levels (the form of cholesterol that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease).
  • Another study from September of 2008 demonstrated that when mice were simultaneously fed a high fat diet as well as EGCG gained less weight and had less insulin resistance, lower total blood cholesterol, and liver triglycerides than mice only fed a high fat diet.
The take-home message here: if you are diabetic or have metabolic syndrome, drinking green tea on a regular basis is in your best interest. Four cups a day is excellent, but sometimes not to everyone's taste. In a case like this, a more concentrated extract (called a solid extract) that retains all the properties of the original tea can be more easily consumed; only 1/2 teaspoon of this molasses-like sweet extract is equal to four cups a day.

If you are interested in controlling or preventing diabetes or cardiovascular disease with a comprehensive protocol that may include green tea solid extract - especially if drinking 4 cups of green tea a day seems a bit much - contact your nearest naturopathic doctor. And if I happen to be that nearest naturopathic doctor, of course I'd be happy to see you! Check out either of these two websites - you can schedule an appointment from there, or simply call 303-797-6656. And be well!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sesame Oil, Diabetes, and Cholesterol

Calling all diabetics and people who are flirting with diabetes! Cooking with sesame oil, it seems, can help lower triglycerides, blood glucose, and normalize blood cholesterol in your body. So says a study published in December of 2010 in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

In this study, diabetics used 35 grams of sesame oil a day for 60 days. (This equates to about 2 1/2 tablespoons of oil.) They either cooked with it or used it as a salad dressing. Here are the results after 60 days:
  • Total cholesterol decreased 20%.
  • Low-density lipoproteins (LDLs - the bad form of cholesterol) decreased 33%.
  • Triglycerides decreased 14%.
  • High-density lipoproteins (HDLs - the healthy form of cholesterol) increased 16%.
These results are cause for celebration. Diabetics have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than non-diabetics. If a food that can be easily integrated into a daily diet can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and angina, ideally, it should be.

It's good to note that the study also tested diabetics who were on a drug called glibenclamide (aka glyburide, a powerful drug used to reduce blood glucose). Some only took glibenclamide, while others took the drug in addition to sesame oil. The cardiac risk factors listed above were slightly normalized when subjects took the combination, except for LDLs, which were decreased 38% - a 5% advantage over sesame oil alone.

Here's another great example of letting your food be your medicine, just as Hippocrates suggested thousands of years ago. Integrate sesame oil into your daily diet. Add it to salads. Use it in stir-fries. And decrease your chances of cardiovascular issues easily, harmlessly, and tastefully!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stairs and Piano Keys

When I see patients and encourage them to engage in regular movement, I encourage them to do something they find fun. Go for a run in the park with your dog and throw a frisbee with her! Jump on a trampoline with your kids! Do a water aerobics class, and wear the brightest, fanciest-colored arm floaters you can find! Go run through a sprinkler!

Notice I said "movement," not "exercise." Too many people associate exercise with hitting the gym and doing a set routine of exercises, lifting weights, running on a treadmill, or taking the stairway to nowhere. And lots of people consider that a chore more than actual fun. If it isn't fun, we figure, why do it? It's not long before we stop out of boredom or losing sight of a goal.

In Sweden, some people took the idea of making "exercise" fun and, uh, ran with it. They made taking the stairs much more fun that it usually would be. Check out this video. And do something fun today!

(Disclaimer: I have no association with The Fun Theory or with Volkswagen.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ear Infections and Antibiotics

On November 16th, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study asserting that antibiotics only moderately increase the rate of cure of ear infections, while also significantly increasing the risk of side effects, including diarrhea and rashes. It found that 80 out of 100 children would recover in a few days without antibiotics, while 91 out of 100 would recover with antibiotics. The children in the study who did not take antibiotics relied on agents to reduce pain and fever during their ear infections.

The reasoning behind this is simple. Ear infections can be divided into three main types. Acute otitis media (AOM), or an acute infection of the middle ear, is the most common type of ear infection in children. Another type is acute otitis media with effusion, in which the area behind the eardrum fills with fluid.

And otitis externa is an infection of the outer ear, more commonly called "swimmer's ear," due to its prominence amongst swimmers. Of these, otitis externa is the only one caused mainly by bacteria. AOM may be caused by bacteria or viruses, while AOM with effusion is caused by viruses. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections.

This is an interesting conundrum. Parents who take their suffering children to the doctor do not particularly like to hear that their child does not need an antibiotic. They expect to walk out with something in their hand that will address the infection. The thing is, ear infections can often be successfully and naturally treated at home. Employing the following measures can contribute to quick resolution of an ear infection.
  • Use warming socks. This is perhaps the most important treatment for an ear infection. Make sure your child's feet are warm by either having your child take a warm bath or shower, or just a simple foot bath. (If your child has a fever, you probably can skip this step.) Wring out a pair of cotton socks in cold water until they are just damp. Put them on your child's feet, then put a pair of wool socks on top of them. Immediately have your child go to bed or take a nap. This will increase lymphatic flow away from the ear and drain it quickly. It will also stimulate a fever. And your child will sleep deeply and comfortably. (If you're a parent, you know just how blessed this can be!)
  • Fast. Remember when doctors used to say "don't take anything by mouth, except for liquids"? This is it. There are a few exceptions to this rule, like chicken broth or miso soup (my personal favorite). Otherwise, when someone has a fever, usually their appetite is suppressed. The body needs all the energy it can to fight that infection, and since digestion takes 60% of a body's energy, this makes sense.
  • Drink. Water is, of course, highly recommended here. But often, people with fevers are also dehydrated and sweating out precious electrolytes. As stated above, chicken soup and miso soup are excellent choices to help with replenishing electrolytes.
  • Rest. Again, an ailing person's body is trying to fight an infection, so the more a person can rest, the better off they will be. (This does not include lying down and watching stimulating TV shows!)
  • Gentle movement. If your child can move around a bit (i.e., walk), this may help move blood around and help him or her to feel better. But this is only to your child's tolerance; do not force them to move if they don't want to.
  • Avoid medicines that reduce fevers. Considering that I recommend using warming socks that stimulate a fever, this should make sense. Bacteria and viruses often are destroyed in temperatures above 102 degrees. If you can maintain a high fever, your body will be able to mount a more effective response. Taking anti-inflammatories blunt your body's immune response and may prolong ear infections. Read more information here on why fevers are good, when and how to lower a fever safely and naturally, and when to go to a hospital if a fever goes too high.
  • Consider vitamin D. There is often a high correlation between an inadequate immune system and low levels of vitamin D. The easiest way to increase one's vitamin D, of course, is to sunbathe regularly, exposing plenty of skin to the sun. But at this time of year, it's often too cold to do this, and vitamin D supplementation comes in handy. For children, the guideline is 1,000 IUs per 25 pounds of body weight.
Some people swear by other remedies like garlic oil or hydrogen peroxide placed in the ear. But these are NOT recommended if there is a perforated eardrum.

If your child is prone to repeated ear infections, this may be a reason to see a naturopathic doctor in your area. Naturopathic doctors can address not only the reason why your child suffers ear infections regularly, but can also recommend measures to support your child's health in general. And the healthier your child can be today, the healthier they will be in the future.

Best wishes for a season free of ear infections. But if your child does end up getting an ear infection, you now have powerful tools to treat it effectively!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Apple Cider Vinegar for Diabetes and Heart Disease

One of the biggest "cure-alls" in the realm of natural medicine is apple cider vinegar. It frequently makes its way into lay publications. Unfortunately, touting apple cider vinegar as a cure-all is problematic. First and foremost, it is not a cure-all. Second, saddling natural medicine with so-called panaceas makes natural medicine look like the realm of snake oil, and brings its reputation down.

But the effects of apple cider vinegar on cardiac risk factors and diabetes have been studied. And the results have been quite impressive.

One study has shown that cardiac risk factors improve with apple cider vinegar supplementation. According to this study, normal rats who took apple cider vinegar with meals showed a significant decrease in LDLs (the "lethal" form of cholesterol), and a significant increase in HDLs (the "healthy" form of cholesterol). Rats with diabetes had a decreased HgbA1c (basically, the average of blood glucose over the past 3 months), decreased triglycerides, and increased HDLs. This is a promising study, but a human study should be done to see if this trend applies to humans also.

A second study shows that apple cider vinegar can improve insulin sensitivity for persons with type 2 diabetes, or even those with insulin resistance (a precursor to type 2 diabetes). And a third study demonstrates that in type 1 diabetics, blood sugar spikes after eating (aka postprandial hyperglycemia) are lessened when vinegar is taken before meals. What does this mean? If you are diabetic or at risk of developing diabetes, I strongly recommend that you take apple cider vinegar regularly.

Here's the "recipe": take a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in 4-8 oz of water, shortly before meals. You can also take it after meals if you experience indigestion. If it tastes too sour, you can add a teaspoon of raw honey to the mix, making it taste like apple cider. Some people believe that this is the ideal way to take it. It is not recommended to take it undiluted, as it may dissolve tooth enamel.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The healing power of...broccoli?

Absolutely. Bad news for people like George Bush the Elder, who, during his tenure leading this nation, asserted: “I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli.” Despite the fact that for much of his life (and throughout his presidency) he regularly got high scores on health and fitness from his family physician, Bush missed out on some amazing health benefits.

So here's a few articles about the greatness of broccoli. If you have osteoarthritis, ulcers, cancer, or are at risk for any of these, it would be good for you to sit up and pay attention. And what about isolating the components like sulforaphane, di-indolylmethane, and selenium? Here's why it's better to get your nutrition from food than from supplements:

"It's probably a combination of ingredients in the plant that is responsible (for health benefits). When you try to extract them out to make a pill, it usually doesn't work." So says a randomly-named Steven Zeisel from the University of North Carolina. Dunno who he is, but the quote rings true.

Tip: either eat broccoli raw or only lightly steam it for 3-4 minutes. Cooking longer than that destroys the sulforaphane, hugely responsible for broccoli's anticancer effects.

UPDATE: Here's a great picture of a friend's son enjoying his broccoli. Seeing enthusiasm for vegetables among kids like this is cause for celebration!