Archive for May, 2012

May 30, 2012

Is An Imbalance Of Omega 3 to Omega 6 Fats Cause For Concern?

YES!  If unchecked, the imbalance between the two omega fats can wreak havoc on our health and pave the way for life-destroying illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other inflammatory diseases.

Why is it so important to strike a balance between the levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fats in our body? Studies showed that an out-of-balance diet that’s high in omega-6 fatty acids disrupts the balance of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory agents in the body, promoting chronic inflammation and elevating the risk of chronic health problem such as asthma, allergies, diabetes and arthritis.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids both utilize the same enzymes and transport systems in your body. When there are more omega-6 fats, greater amounts of inflammatory compounds will be created, and less enzymes will be available for omega-3 fats to create chemicals that are anti-inflammatory. What’s even more shocking is that high levels of omega-6 fatty acids can actually replace and reduce omega-3 fats.

In other words, omega-3 and omega-6 fats compete with one another in our body, and the presence of one greatly affects the behavior of the other. Although omega-6 fatty acids are essential for good health, researchers believe that when they cross a certain level,  they start to edge out omega-3 fats and diminish their benefits.

What does this mean to you? If your diet is low in omega-3 fats to begin with, and most of your foods are predominantly prepared with soybean, sunflower, safflower, corn or cottonseed oil, then you’re essentially fueling an inflammatory factory even though you may be eating so-called ‘healthy’ foods!

What are Omega-3 & Omega-6 Fats?

Ask just about anyone what Omega 3’s are and they will tell you “fish oil.” But omega-3 fats aren’t only found in fish, and they don’t consist of just one type of fatty acid. Omega-3 is actually a term referring to a family of polyunsaturated fatty acids. In this family, you will find a number of members but the most nutritionally notable ones are: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Omega 3 Fatty acids are known to support and protect:

  • Cardiovascular health
  • Joint health
  • Improve circulation
  • Fat loss
  • Memory and learning
  • Cognitive decline
  • Optimal brain function
  • Age related eye damage
  • Positive mood /behavior
  • Healthy pregnancy
  • Developing fetuses & infants

Likewise, omega-6 fatty acids also consist of a group of polyunsaturated fats. The ones of concern are: linoleic acid (LA) and arachidonic acid (AA).

The Omega-6 Fat Family

Linoleic acid (LA)–  LA is the parent in the omega-6 family. It is considered an essential fatty acid for the body which must be obtained through one’s diet. However, it’s more likely that you’ve an oversupply rather than a lack of linoleic acid due to the high levels of this fatty acid in vegetable oils.

Arachidonic acid (AA)– Arachidonic acid comes mainly from animal sources such as meat, egg and dairy products. It can also be derived from the linoleic acids in vegetable oils. In the body, this long-chain omega-6 fatty acid is found in abundance in the muscles and brain. It has a close structure to DHA so it will “plug in” to receptors and keep the DHA out.  As arachidonic acid is more readily converted to inflammatory compounds, excess levels of AA has been associated with increased inflammation & reduced anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids.

More Omega 6= more pro-inflammatory compounds, More Omega 3= more ANTI-inflammatory compounds
The trick is to achieve a balance of the two for optimal inflammatory response.

Ideally, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 should fall between 1:1 and 3:1, but currently, the ratio in a typical Western diet is at least 20:1. If you are currently at a 20:1 ratio of omega 6 to 3, please make a serious effort to increase your Omega 3 intake.

The imbalance of these “good” fats has occurred concurrent with technological advances that have made it possible to extract soybean oil, corn oil and sunflower oil inexpensively.  Most food manufacturers’ choice of fat is soybean oil as it is plentiful and inexpensive. It can be found in most prepackaged foods, margarine, baked goods, condiments and fast foods, and composes a substantial percentage of the calories consumed in this country. Herein lies the factor that causes the imbalance.

Scientists, researchers, and health professionals are concerned with this trend. Dr. Michael A. Schmidt, author of Brain-Building Nutrition, explains that the brain is composed of more than 60 percent fat. A balanced consumption of omega-6 and omega-3 fats is critical for proper brain function. These fats aid the nerve cells located in the brain in making connections (synapses) with other nerve cells that send information throughout the body to control important functions. Fatty acids are required in the formation of membranes that cover the nerves. He stresses, “A balance of essential fatty acids is critical. We don’t want to go overboard on any particular fatty acid.”

Through reviewing research of past studies, Schmidt concludes that 50 conditions of the brain show links to inadequate levels of fatty acids. Low levels of omega-3 fats have been associated with depression, aggression, hyperactivity, attention deficit, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and many other health issues. Studies are showing that Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), the omega-3 superstar for the brain, may have positive results in treating patients with these conditions.

BUY THE RIGHT FISH OIL!  If the thought of smelly fish or fishy burps makes you squirm, try Nordic Naturals Brand!  “Omega-3” will help you balance your Omega 3 to 6 ratios in no time, WITH NO NASTY AFTER  TASTE!

*These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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May 23, 2012

Is That Summer Glow Putting You at Risk?

It seems that we all got a great start to a healthy, summer glow with all of the beautiful weather we had in March. It also means that a lot of us didn’t really think about using any sunblock (all-natural, of course) being that is was so early in the season. While giving your body a heaping dose of vitamin D3 from the sun, which is encouraged, moderation is the key. Anywhere from 15-30 minutes of direct sunlight to exposed skin is recommended a few times a week. Cloudy days and pollution can block the UVB rays that produce Vitamin D, so use your best judgment.

There are two major forms of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Basal cell carcinoma is among the most common forms of cancer, with more than a half million new cases reported each year. Fortunately, it is a relatively benign disease with a very high cure rate. It develops on skin that is exposed to the ultraviolet (UV) light of the sun over a period of years. It can also develop after exposure to arsenic. Basal cell carcinoma is most common on the scalp, face, neck, hands, and forearms. It is most prevalent in fair-skinned people.

Besides basal cell carcinoma, the other most common type of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. Both are highly curable if treated early. However, recurrences are common, and if they are not treated properly, they can spread and damage the deeper layers of the skin and even the bone.

Melanoma occurs less frequently than basal cell carcinoma but is much more aggressive. Therefore, all suspicious growths should be brought to a doctor’s attention.Melanoma is increasing at an alarming rate. Ten years ago chances of developing malignant melanoma were 1 in 250; today estimates that an individual will have malignant melanoma are 1 in 70. In raw numbers, nearly 50,000 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States this year. And while melanoma accounts for just four percent of skin cancer cases, it causes 79 percent of skin cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.

When sunlight hits exposed skin, it causes free-radical damage to skin tissues, reduces elasticity and contributes to the formation of “age spots,” wrinkles, and increases the risk of developing skin cancer. In clinical trials, a number of antioxidants have been found to be capable of  neutralizing the oxidative stress caused by overexposure to sunlight. These antioxidants include:

Selenium– (as selenomethionine) Laboratory studies show that selenium reduces the spread of melanoma cells.

Polyphenols–  Polyphenols can block the action of enzymes that cancers need for growth and they can deactivate substances that promote the growth of cancers.

The polyphenol most strongly associated with cancer prevention is EGCG which is found most commonly in tea. Tea and coffee are very rich sources certain types of polyphenols. Choose caffeinated tea and coffee, as the decaffeination process may remove polyphenols along with the caffeine.
Drink red wine and beer instead of other alcoholic beverages. Hard liquor is distilled so essentially does not contain polyphenols.

Resveratrol is a compound found in red wine grape skins that is extremely high in polyphenols. Try taking the supplement in it’s in concentrated form so you won’t be seen constantly walking around town with a wine glass in your hand! (One to try: Resveratrol Forte’ from Enzymatic Therapy) . Foods such as blueberries, pomegranates, red grapes & cranberries are high in polyphenols. So are onions, turmeric, dark chocolate, and unfiltered olive oils.

Vitamins– Vitamin A (vegetable source cartotenoids) ,C,D & E all help prevent skin cancer, especially when take together.
Vitamin B-3, also known as niacin, is also essential for the formation and maintenance of healthy skin.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids-DHA, a main component of fish oil, is highly effective in inhibiting the growth of human melanoma cells.

From the list above, you can draw the conclusion that if you ate a super-clean, healthy diet loaded with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, you could drastically cut your risk of developing skin cancer. Most people don’t eat that well so supplements are needed to fill in the gaps.  Do yourself a favor and get started on the ones you need to stay protected right through the summer months.

What About Sunscreen?

If you look at the labels on most sunscreens, they contain some pretty nasty chemicals, such as dioxybenzone and oxybenzone. These are some of the most powerful free radical generators known to man!  If your sunscreen contains them, please switch to a natural formula that is safe and healthy for your skin. Jason, Alba, Dr. Mercola and Kiss My Face are all great companies that offer sunscreens in many different SPF’s and children’s formulas that work just as well as chemical-laden sunscreens.  If there is one thing none of us needs, it’s more toxic chemicals!

*These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

May 17, 2012

Digestive Enzymes and Benefits

Enzymes are energized protein molecules essential for the digestion of food, brain stimulation, tissue, cell and organ repairing and generating cellular energy. Even though they are a catalyst for many biochemical reactions they do not change or get consumed in the process. There are three types: metabolic, digestive and food.

Digestive

Digestive enzymes are secreted along the gastrointestinal tract and break down the food in the body so that the nutrients can be absorbed. Enzymes are present in the food you eat which is why there is great importance placed upon having plenty of raw foods in the diet. The enzymes in raw food help start the process of digestion which reduces the body’s need to secret digestive enzymes.

Food enzymes are destroyed when cooking at moderate or high temperatures. They are “turned off” at a dry-heat temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit and a wet-heat temperature of 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
If your body has to rely too much on its own digestive enzymes the result is more stress is placed on your system and organs leaving less time and energy for other jobs such as rebuilding and replacing damaged cells and tissue and keeping your immune system strong.
A diet that consists mainly of cooked food requires the pancreas to “work overtime” and the extra effort leaves it exhausted. If the pancreas is always having to produce enzymes that could come from food it will eventually cease to function properly. The late Dr. Edward Howell suggested that when a person eats an enzyme-poor diet consisting of lots of cooked food, the result is illness, lowered resistance to stress and a shortened life span.
Eating lots of raw foods and taking a high-quality enzyme supplement can help avoid depletion of the body’s own enzymes thereby reducing stress.

In the book, The Healing Power of Enzymes, Dr. DicQie Fuller talks about the importance of enzymes and says:
“Eighty percent of our body’s energy is expended by the digestive process. If you are run down, under stress, living in a very hot or very cold climate, pregnant or a frequent traveler, then enormous quantities of extra enzymes are required by your body. Because our entire system functions through enzymatic action, we must supplement our enzymes. Aging deprives us of our ability to produce necessary enzymes. The medical profession tells us that all disease is due to a lack or imbalance of enzymes. Our very lives are dependent upon them!”

Importance of Digestive Enzymes

There are approximately 45 essential nutrients that the body needs to carry out normal bodily functions. Essential means that the body cannot manufacture them and they must come from outside sources.
There are at least 13 kinds of vitamins and 20 kinds of minerals, in addition to fats, carbohydrates and water that are required for proper metabolic function. When food is consumed it gets broken down for absorption and transported by the blood stream.

Nutrients, including enzymes, work synergistically which means they cooperate with each other acting as catalysts. This promotes absorption and assimilation. The importance of digestive enzymes resides in the fact that the human body cannot absorb nutrients in food unless digestive enzymes break them down.

The body progressively loses its ability to produce enzymes with major drops occurring roughly every ten years of life. At the beginning it may not be that noticeable, however, later on you will discover that you cannot tolerate or enjoy certain foods like you did before. This may also be accompanied by a feeling of reduced stamina. Yes, you’re running low of enzymes.

How Do You Know if You Are Lacking Enzymes?

Heartburn, gas, constipation, bloating, allergies, ulcers, lack of energy and reduced functioning of the immune system may occur when there are not enough enzymes.

Digestive Enzymes Benefits

Digestive Enzymes can be beneficial for more things than most people think. They have been shown to benefit people with:

  • Acne
  • Rosacea
  • GERD, Indigestion
  • Candidiasis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Food allergies
  • Low Back Pain
  • Sinusitis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • and more…

*These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

May 9, 2012

Xenoestrogens

Stephanie Trenciansky, ND
Sperm counts down? Still not pregnant? Breast cancer on the rise? Chemical pollutants in our water and food may be the culprits.

It’s not a sci-fi scenario, nor a far-off reality. Manmade estrogen- mimicking chemicals in our environment, known as xenoestrogens, are reaching the forefront of scientific research. Their effects on health are not just a concern–they’re downright scary. Topics under investigation include infertility in both sexes, poor sexual development and testicular cancer in men, and endometriosis and breast cancer in women.

Hundreds of chemicals–found in pesticides, fuels, drugs and polycarbonate plastic baby bottles and food containers–either cause hormonal activity similar to estrogen, the human sex hormone, or alter the hormone’s effects. In fact, the vast majority of the 70,000 chemicals currently in use have never been tested for health risks. Yet they are in our soils as pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers. They are in our water because of rain erosion runoff from landfills and agricultural lands. They are in our food supply–in animals, fish and grains. On the upside, many researchers are investigating prevention-oriented strategies to limit exposure to these chemicals. There are also many ways that individuals can avoid the health hazards associated with xenoestrogens.

Declining Sperm Counts

Contrary to popular belief, natural estrogen plays important roles in both men and women. In males, estrogen imbalances influence the reproductive systems in myriad ways. Many scientists believe that estrogenic pollutants underlie some disturbing trends such as decreasing sperm count and function, decreasing testosterone production and testicular malformations. Since 1938, sperm counts of men in 21 countries have plunged by an average of 50 per cent, reported Danish endocrinologist Niels Skakkebaek in 1991. He also found that testicular cancer had tripled. A coincidence? Possibly, but Skakkebaek suspects that the culprit in both cases is from men’s exposure (as fetuses and newborns) to estrogen-like chemicals found in their mother’s blood and breastmilk.

Female Hormone Havoc

Evidence is accumulating that, even at very low concentrations and exposures, xenoestrogens can cause “hormone havoc” in women. And that’s beginning to worry toxicologists (who study the effects of poisonous substances on living organisms) and epidemiologists (specialists in epidemic diseases) because factors that increase women’s lifetime exposure to estrogen can cause health problems such as infertility, breast cancer and endometriosis (a condition in which the tissue of the uterine lining grows outside the uterus on ovaries, ligaments and pelvic organs).

Dr. Devra Lee Davis, a toxicologist, and researchers from five medical centres have reviewed studies and concluded that estrogenic pollutants in our environment are inducing or promoting mammary cancers in lab animals. Both endocrinologists (specialists in disorders of endocrine glands such as ovaries and testes) and reproductive biologists have suggested that long-term exposure to xenoestrogens might underlie the apparent breast cancer epidemic in women.

A study in 1993 showed that rhesus monkeys developed endometriosis after being fed food that contained dioxin, a xenoestrogen, over a four-year period. A fact worth noting is that 70 years ago, when the environment was free of estrogenic pollutants, there were only 21 reported cases of endometriosis versus the current 5.5 million in North America alone.

The Good News

Just as there is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, there is good estrogen and bad estrogen. As Dr. Davis puts it, “All estrogen is not equal.” Diet is a key step in regulating the good and bad estrogen ratio. Eating organically raised food and drinking purified spring water instead of tap water are steps to cut out xenoestrogen exposure. Many edible plant foods, such as soy beans and flax seeds, contain phytoestrogens, plantbased substances that are well documented to promote good estrogen in the body. Phytoestrogens are also known to combat cancer.

Over the past decade, endocrinologist Leon Bradlow of Cornell University in New York has worked to identify the two enzyme systems in the body that break down estrogen. One enzyme makes a bad estrogen, known as 16- hydroxyestrone, and the other makes a good estrogen, known as 2-hydroxyestrone. Bradlow has found that manipulation of these enzyme systems is possible. For instance, vigorous exercise increases good estrogen production and decreases bad estrogen production. He also has conclusive evidence that compounds in brassica foods (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts) called indole-3 carbinols stimulate the production of the good estrogens for cancer protection.

Research shows that undergoing detoxification protocols is another way of eliminating these toxins from the body. Naturopathic physicians are experts in detoxification and can guide you through an effective, health enhancing program. While research is still being conducted and scientists are working at high speed to understand the effects of the estrogen mimicking chemicals, it is up to the individual to take protective steps. Use these simple strategies and consider education your key to prevention.

Protective Supplements

• Vitamin C – 500 milligrams to 5 grams daily (If diarrhea occurs, cut back dosage.)
• Lipoic acid – 100 to 500 mg daily
• N-acetyl cysteine – 1,500 mg daily
• Herbs such as milk thistle, turmeric, dandelion, chelidonium and juniperus, which support the liver and kidneys

Worldwide Sperm Woes

In 2000, new research confirmed the results of the groundbreaking 1992 study that reported a large global decline in sperm count between 1938 and 1990 based on 61 reports from different countries around the world. Sperm densities in the United States have decreased by an average of 1.5 million sperm per millilitre of collected sample, or 1.5 per cent per year. In European countries, the decline was at about twice the rate, at 3.1 per cent per year. A 2000 study of 708 healthy Danish men aged 18 to 20 revealed extraordinarily low sperm counts. More than 40 per cent had sperm concentrations below 40 million sperm per millilitre. The median sperm concentration was 41 million per ml. Sperm count of normal, healthy young men is often above 100 million per ml. Recent data suggest that reproductive impairment appears when sperm counts drop beneath 40 million per ml. In 1997 a Finnish team found the percentage of men with normal, healthy sperm production dropped from 56 per cent in 1981 to 27 per cent in 1991. This change was accompanied by an 11 per cent decrease in the average weight of the men’s testes. A 1996 study of 577 Scottish men reported significant declines in sperm counts over a 20-year period. Men born in the 1970s produced 24 per cent fewer motile sperm than men born in the 1950s.

Combating Xenoestrogens

• Avoid plastic packaging. Food can absorb chemicals from plastic containers. Buy in bulk, and bring your own cloth bags. Use glass containers whenever possible.
• Avoid hormone-containing meat, dairy and poultry by purchasing organic, vegetarian or free-range options from your natural food store.
• Eat organic foods whenever possible. “Certified organic” is your best bet for contaminant-free eating.
• Drink natural spring water. See alive #238 for information on home water treatment options.
• Increase phytoestrogen foods such as soy, flax seeds, green vegetables, fruits and nuts.
• Increase your intake of indole-3 carbinols by munching on broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts.
• Detoxify your body

Detoxification Protocols

• Follow a two-day liquid fast followed by a five-day diet of only fruit, vegetables, rice and rice protein powder. An excellent referral book is The 7-Day Detox Miracle (Prima Publishing, 2001) by Peter Bennett, ND.
• Improve circulation and sweating via hydrotherapy, sauna and exercise.
• Avoid constipation by increasing water and fibre intake. Fresh fruits and vegetables provide the fibre and living enzymes needed for good digestion and elimination.
• Maximize liver function with specific foods such as celery, carrot, beets and parsley.
• Drink plenty of water to support the elimination of toxins through the kidneys. Reduce coffee, tea and cola drinks to help avoid dehydration.

Policing the Politics

Governments are slow to make changes in policing industries that continue to manufacture xenoestrogen chemicals. Why? Because they believe that many of the studies are still preliminary; as well, many of these chemicals have not been shown to be directly estrogenic. To date, there are no government regulations set up to evaluate new or existing chemicals’ abilities to mimic or affect reproductive hormones. What’s more, the industries involved protect themselves. Funding by the chemical industry supports litigators, medical journals and researchers to protect the interests of these industries. This was evident, for instance, when the New England Journal of Medicine published a study refuting the link between organochlorines (chemical pollutants containing chlorine) and breast cancer. The study was found to be heavily funded by the Institute of Toxicology and Chemical Manufacturers Association, and the journal was subsequently criticized for violation of its own conflict of interest guidelines.

Dr. Stephanie Trenciansky is a naturopathic physician in Langley, BC, specializing in women’s health. She uses nutrition, botanicals, homeopathy, acupuncture and intravenous therapies such as chelation and ozone.

Source: Alive #240, October 2002

*These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.