Non – Toxic Therapies for Cancer Patients

Hyperbaric Oxygen & Intravenous Vitamin C

 

By Alexander Thermos, DO, DC

 

Oasis of Hope Cancer Support Clinic

 

Irvine, California

 

Cancerous tumors, due to their fast metabolism, exist best in a “Low Oxygen” environment (therefore operating in an anaerobic capacity). Internally the cells because of the Anaerobic Metabolism also create a more “acidic” environment. It is this Low Oxygen / Acidic Environment that cancerous tumors operate best – as their internal chemistry has adapted and functions well in this situation. It is also this internal “acidic” environment which can be affected by diet in trying to render the internal cellular environment as well as the external cellular environment a more “alkaline” nature – and thereby hampering the individual cellular mechanics.

When we expose tumors to a surplus of oxygen, their internal environment / enzyme systems don’t function as well. The internal environment becomes less “acidic” (i.e. relatively more “alkaline), and the tumor cell retains significantly more oxygen. This “surplus” of oxygen functions to “gum-up” the internal chemistry of the Tumor Cell, and metabolic processes slow down as well as become less efficient. This, in effect can function to “slow down” the growth and “stun” the Tumor. This allows us to take advantage of the “stunned” tumor, as its defense mechanisms are also inhibited.

Hypoxia is also a partial mechanism, as created by the tumor, to drive migration of the tumor cells. An elegant example of this is the specific Brain Tumor GLIOBLASTOMA MULTIFORME. As the tumor grows, it rapidly outgrows its blood supply – thereby causing the Tumor to initiate migration to a more Oxygen – rich environment. Although the tumor exists best in a state of Low Oxygen tension, it still requires Oxygen (in small amounts) for its metabolic processes. While the tumor grows so fast that its “core” becomes “Oxygen Deprived” – and the cells die – creating a vacuole, the peripheral aspects of the tumor begin to migrate to a more Oxygen – rich environment to survive. In essence, migration of the Tumor to a more Oxygen sufficient environment.

We can also view Tumor Metastasis in the same way. Rapidly growing Tumors – despite stimulating Angiogenesis by secreting VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor), still cannot supply enough Oxygen (although requiring only small amounts) to the Tumor periphery, and therefore Inter – Cellular Binding Proteins become less of a priority to the main body of the Tumor. “Satellites” of Tumor Cells break away from the main Tumor, and migrate to distance until the surface proteins (Galectins) initiate adhesion in a viable vascular bed that would provide Oxygen and Nutrients to the “Satellite” Tumor. Once established, these “Satellites” begin functioning in the same manner as the initial “mother-ship” Tumor- and we then have completed Metastasis and viability of the new “daughter” Tumor. The more rapidly growing the Tumor is, the more rapidly its Oxygen requirements can be “outgrown” – and can be considered aggressive and its intent to become widely Metastatic.

In this instance, by “stunning” the Tumor – we can in essence help mitigate the circumstances of Metastasis, and therefore help control the aggressive nature of the Tumor, as well as its ability to invade both nearby and distant body sites.

Chemotherapy is dominantly by nature an Oxidative process. By exposing rapidly growing cells to Rx Chemotherapy, we are in essence damaging the cells to the point of destruction, or in other situations – enough to initiate apoptosis. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is an Oxidative process in itself, and can initiate ‘damage’ to the rapidly growing Tumor Cells. This then renders them more vulnerable to the effects of either Rx Chemotherapy, or Radiation Therapy – both of which are strong oxidative processes. In essence, the Tumor is weakened by the Oxidative effects of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, and therefore is more readily killed / or pushed toward apoptosis when more toxic processes (Chemotherapy / Radiation) are added to the regimen.

The flooding of the body with 25x the amount of Oxygen that it normally would be able to carry (as in Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy – the Oxygen is not only saturating the Red Cell Hemoglobin, but also dissolved within the Plasma), allows the plasma itself to become an Oxidative assault on the Tumor. This then allows for the accumulation of large amounts of interstitial / inter-cellular Hydrogen Peroxide (H202). Hydrogen Peroxide, un-regulated, is virtually toxic to all cells. However, non-cancerous cells have a generous amount of an available enzyme known as ‘Catalase’, which can render the highly reactive H202 molecule non-toxic. The situation for Tumor / Cancer Cells is quite different, as they are well known for their inability to generate sufficient ‘Catalase’ – as all Tumors can either generate only a limited supply or virtually none at all ( Tumor-specific property). The beauty of this is that by exposing the Tumor to Hyperbaric Oxygen, the H202 generated has an Oxidative effect on Tumor cells – and virtually no adverse effect on healthy cells due to their ability to generate ‘Catalase’.

It is a well-known fact that Tumor uptake of glucose is exponentially greater than that of other cells, which explains the Tumor surface having up to 25x the number of Insulin Receptors. Tumor cells love to gobble up glucose, and indiscriminately do so more rapidly than normal cells in the body. We take advantage of this fact when we are doing a PET – Scan, as the Tumor gobbles up the Radioactively Tagged** Glucose molecule faster than other cells in the body. It is because of this that we can then view the ‘concentrations’ of radioactivity on the PET – Scan as being ‘active’ Tumor.

When looking at the Ascorbic Acid / Vitamin C molecule, it bears a striking resemblance to a Glucose molecule. Close enough that when taken at a quick glance, it can be mistaken for Glucose. Tumors, because of their greedy nature, can inadvertently consume Ascorbic Acid / Vitamin C when consuming Glucose, and therefore concentrate it greatly within the cell. “Hoarding” of all of this Vitamin C (when administered intravenously) causes great concentrations within the cell – which curiously enough as a byproduct of the Metabolism of the Vitamin C – causes an increase in production of Hydrogen Peroxide (H202). While this is exported outside of the Tumor cell once it begins to accumulate, the accumulation of H202 both within the Cell and at the Extracellular level causes significant Oxidation of the Tumor Cell. Again, causing damage to make the cell ‘non-viable’, and / or becoming an initiating factor for apoptosis.

When combining the two therapies together – Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Intravenous Vitamin C – we have created a Non-Toxic therapy that is particularly effective at ‘Stunning’ the Tumor, is Tumoricidal, and can help initiate Apoptosis. Additionally, when combined with other Oxidative Therapies (Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy), this Non-Toxic approach provides significant adjunctive benefit for the more traditionally accepted therapies. In essence, this is a ‘Win – Win’ for the patient.

There are only a few situations where IV Vitamin C cannot be utilized – one being where the patient is allergic to the substrate the Vitamin C is generated from (Corn, Beet, and Sago-Palm etc.) This is of course determined from the patient’s medical history, and if found to be allergic to one form (corn), another form being used is generally of no problem (Beet, Sago-Palm etc.)

Additionally, there is an enzyme which must be tested for in the blood to be present in adequate amounts. Patients are regularly screened for a Glucose-6-Phosphate-Dehydrogenase deficiency (G-6-PD). Should there be an inadequate production of the enzyme present; the patient would be at risk for a massive hemolytic (Red Cell Destruction) reaction. In cases such as this, IV Vitamin C cannot be considered as a viable therapy.

 

 

 

 

WHAT IS HYPERBARIC OXYGEN THERAPY (HBOT)?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a method of administering pure oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure to a patient in order to improve or correct conditions.  By providing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber we are able to deliver 10-15 times more oxygen then if delivered at sea level or at normal atmospheric levels.  Some of the effects this has are to promote the growth of new blood vessels, decrease swelling and inflammation, deactivate toxins, increase the body’s ability to fight infections, clear out toxins and metabolic waste products, and improve the rate of healing.  HBOT should be used to complement conventional therapies and treatments.

 

  • HBOT is very cost-effective
  • HBOT is safe

 

  • HBOT is non-invasive
  • HBOT works well with other therapies

 Historical Link to Diving

Initially, HBOT was developed as a treatment for diving disorders involving bubbles of gas in the tissues, such as decompression sickness and gas embolism.  The chamber cures decompression sickness and gas embolism by increasing pressure, reducing the size of the gas bubbles and improving the transport of blood to downstream tissues.  The high concentrations of oxygen in the tissues are beneficial in keeping oxygen-starved tissues alive, and have the effect of purging the nitrogen from the bubble, making it smaller until it consists only of oxygen which is then re-absorbed into the body.  After elimination of bubbles, the pressure is gradually reduced back into atmospheric levels.

For years, conventional medicine thought of HBOT only as a treatment for decompression sickness, however, the use of HBOT is becoming increasingly common in general practice as more doctors become acquainted with new applications.  Doctors now realize that HBOT has other uses, including the treatment of non-healing wounds, Carbon Monoxide poisoning, various infections, damage caused by radiation treatments, near- drowning, near-hanging, brain and nerve disorders, cardiovascular disorders; and some digestive system disorders.  Unfortunately, in the US there are currently 13 approved indications for HBOT that hospitals will treat.

While most programs limit their hyperbaric treatment protocols to only those 13 indications that are reimbursed by federally funded programs, the Center for New Medicine’s treatment protocols encompass all indications that have proven beneficial effects.   There are approximately 66 applications that have been noted to receive benefit from HBOT, including:

Stroke – There are 1.7 million stroke survivors in this country: survivors who often suffer devastating consequences such as paralysis, a life in a wheelchair, impairments in speech and thought.  They could tremendously benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy.  Since the early 1970’s, scientific journals have reported over 1,000 cases demonstrating a 40-100% rate of improvement for stroke patients treated with HBOT.

Traumatic Brain Injury – According to the CDC, each year an estimated 80,000 Americans survive a hospitalization for traumatic brain injury (TBI) but are discharged with TBI-related disabilities.  An estimated 5.3 million Americans are living today with a TBI-related disability.  After brain trauma from an accident, brain cells die or become dormant from lack of oxygen.  It is thought that many of these cells can be revived through hyperbaric oxygen therapy.  The enormous amount of data supporting HBOT as a viable treatment for brain injury has prompted the passage of legislation in Texas that allows for HBOT for acquired brain injury to be paid for by Medicare and insurance.

Bell’s Palsy - Bell’s palsy is a common affliction characterized by the fairly sudden onset of weakness of one side of the face.   Typically, patients are offered steroids early in the course of their illness in hopes of reducing swelling of the nerve involved in facial movement.   Exciting new research demonstrates that hyperbaric oxygen therapy is significantly more effective than steroids in the treatment of Bell’s palsy – both shortening the length of illness as well as increasing the likelihood of full recovery.

Cerebral Palsy – The term “cerebral palsy” describes children who experience brain trauma at birth.  HBOT can treat the underlying problem in children with cerebral palsy – the damaged brain.  The main differences between HBOT and traditional therapies for CP are the rapid gains over time and the impact on cognitive skills, which, in general, are not improved by PT, OT, and speech therapies.

Autism – There are numerous reports of HBOT reducing aggression and improving communication in Autistic patients.

Multiple Sclerosis – A debilitating nervous system disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) results in localized patches of inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, which may eventually scar.  There have been hundreds of treatments for MS.  In fact, there has never been any disease in which so many treatments have been tried.  Unfortunately, some of these treatments produce disastrous results.  Of all the treatments ever administered, hyperbaric oxygen is the safest, most effective, and most cost-effective.  Currently there are 12,000 MS patients being treated at 110 Hyperbaric centers in the United Kingdom. 

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Fibromyalgia –  Approximately 40 HBOT treatments followed by weekly treatments as needed seems to resolve CFS symptoms in a majority of patients, and eventually may  resolve them completely.

Wound Healing – For the past 30 years, hundreds of studies have been published testifying to the remarkable healing of wounds with hyperbaric oxygen therapy.  Diabetic ulcers, burns, fractures and skin grafts, bone damage from radiation exposure, or simply healing from plastic surgery or sports injuries: hyperbaric oxygen works in all these cases.  Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a wonderful tool in a comprehensive wound-healing program.

Diabetes – Some 14-24% of diabetic patients with ischemic lower-extremity ulcers will require an amputation.  Despite much effort toward the prevention of amputation in the past decade, the incidence of lower-extremity amputation in such patients continues to rise.  A study conducted in the UK found that hyperbaric oxygen therapy enhanced the healing potential of ischemic, non-healing, diabetic leg ulcers and may be used as a valuable adjunct to conventional therapy when reconstructive surgery is not possible.

Sports Injuries - HBOT can significantly increase the rate of recovery for sports related injuries such as sprains and torn muscles. 

Cosmetic and Periodontal Surgery – HBOT treatments administered pre- and post- surgery can reduce healing times up to 50%. 

Meniere’s Disease – Patients diagnosed with Meniere’s disease typically suffer from recurrent attacks of disabling vertigo with progressive hearing loss.   Until recently, therapeutic options were limited to either aggressive surgical or medical approaches.

Recent research confirms usefulness of HBOT in Meniere’s disease.   HBOT-treated patients experienced significant improvement in attacks of vertigo as well as hearing.   These improvements continued when these patients were re-evaluated two years after the hyperbaric oxygen treatment program.

Lyme Disease – New and exciting research showing the efficacy of HBOT now offers hope to patients crippled by chronic Lyme disease.   Dr.  William Fife at Texas A&M University has published extensive research demonstrating profound improvements in chronic Lyme disease patients treated with HBOT.   These improvements include pain reduction, return of clarity of mentation, reduction of depression, and frequently the ability to discontinue antibiotics.

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – Although uncommon, reflex sympathetic dystrophy can be a crippling disease characterized by swelling and severe pain of an extremity, at times following what would otherwise have been trivial trauma.   Treatment options including injection techniques and medication have met with only limited success.   Having demonstrated its usefulness in clinical studies, HBOT offers an effective treatment option.

HBOT Possible Side Effects

As with any treatment, side effects are possible.   However, with HBOT they are minimal.   The most common is barotrauma to the ears and sinuses caused by pressure changes.

Patients are taught autoinflationary techniques to promote adequate clearing of the ears during treatment.   Decongestants may be helpful.   This problem is temporary and resolves when HBOT treatment is completed.

If the patient has ear pain or is unable to clear his or her ears, the insertion of myringotomy tubes may be necessary before the treatment continues.   Here at Center for New Medicine, we also use ear docs to massage the area of Eustachian tubes, which aids in equalization utilizing sonic vibration, as well as ear planes, which decrease ear discomfort by means of a pressure regulating device, allowing the ears to equalize in a safe and normal fashion.

Other side effects are more rare:

 

  • Oxygen toxicity can cause CNS and pulmonary effects.   Seizures occur rarely during treatment and are self-limiting.   
    • Seizures will cease when the patient is removed from breathing pure oxygen.
    • Factors such as history of seizures, high temperature, and low blood sugar are taken into account before treatment begins.
    • Pulmonary oxygen toxicity may occur in patients who require supplemental oxygen between treatments.   This is very rarely seen with the limited number of treatments currently used.
  • Some patients may suffer claustrophobia.   This is managed by maintaining communication, use of relaxation techniques and mild sedation if necessary.
  • Rarely, patients develop temporary changes in eyesight; these are minor and occur only in those individuals who have large numbers of treatments.   Vision usually returns to normal within eight weeks following the end of treatments.
  • Patients with cataracts may experience accelerated maturation of the cataract, but the treatments do not cause cataract formation.

 Contraindications

The only absolute contraindication to HBOT is an untreated tension pneumothorax (an accumulation of air or gas in the pleural cavity of the lungs).

Anyone with the following conditions may not be a suitable candidate for HBOT:

 

  1. Asthma – Small airway hyper-reactivity may result in air trapping and pulmonary barotrauma on ascent.  A decision to treat such patients should not be undertaken lightly, particularly in light of evidence that the administration of some bronchodilators may increase the incidence of cerebral arterial gas embolism through pulmonary vasodilation. 
  2. Congenital spherocytosis – Such patients have fragile red cells and treatment may result in massive haemolysis
  3. Cisplatinum – There is some evidence that this drug retards wound healing when combined with HBOT.
  4. Disulphiram (Antabuse) – There is evidence to suggest that this drug blocks the production of suproxide dismutase and this may severely affect the body’s defenses against oxygen free radicals.  Experimental evidence suggests that a single exposure to HBOT is safe but that subsequent treatments may be unwise.
  5. Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) – This chemotherapeutic agent becomes increasingly toxic under pressure and animal studies suggest at least a one week break between last dose and first treatment in the chamber.
  6. Emphysema with CO2 retention – Caution should be exercised in giving high pressures + concentrations of oxygen to patients who may be existing on the hypoxic drive to ventilation.  Such patients may become apnoeic in the chamber and require IPPV.  In addition, gas trapping and subsequent lung rupture are associated with bullous disease.
  7. High Fevers – High fevers (>38.5degC) tend to lower the seizure threshold due to O2 toxicity and may result in delaying of relatively routine therapy.  If patients are to be treated then attempt should be made to lower their core temperature with antipyretics and physical measures
  8. History of middle ear surgery or disorders – These patients may be unable to clear their ears, or risk further injury with vigorous attempts to do so.  An ENT consult for possible placement of grommets is usually wise
  9. History of seizures – HBOT may lower the seizure threshold and some workers advocate increasing the baseline medication for such patients
  10. Optic Neuritis – There have been reports in patients with a history of optic neuritis of failing sight and even blindness after HBOT.  This complaint would seem to be extremely rare but of tragic consequence.
  11. Pneumothorax – A pocket of trapped gas in the pleura will decrease in volume on compression and re-expand on surfacing during a cycle of HBOT.  During oxygen breathing at depth nitrogen will be absorbed from the space and replaced with oxygen.  These fluxes of gases and absolute changes in volume may result in further lung damage and or arterial gas embolization.  If there is a communication between lung and pneumothorax with a tension component, then a potentially dangerous situation exists as the patient is brought to the surface.  As Boyle’s Law predicts, a 1.8 litre pneumothorax at 20 msw is potentially a 6 litre pneumothorax at sea level – certainly a life threatening situation.  For this reason it is mandatory to place a chest tube to relieve a pneumothorax before contemplating HBOT.  Particular care must be taken with patients who give a history of chest trauma or thoracic surgery. 
  12. Pregnancy – The fears that either retrolental fibroplasia or closure of the ductuc arteriosus may result in the fetus whose mother undergoes HBOT appear to be groundless from considerable Russian experience.  However, HHI continues to exercise caution in limiting treatment of pregnant women to emergency situations.
  13. Upper Respiratory Tract Infections – These are relative contra-indications due to the difficulty such patients may have in clearing their ears and sinuses.  Elective treatment may be best postponed for a few days in such cases. 
  14. Viral Infections – Many workers in the past have expressed concern that viral infections may be considerably worsened after HBOT.  There have been no studies to give convincing evidence of this and no reported activation of herpetic lesions associated with HBOT.
  15. Previous thoracic surgery.
  16. Dental – All dental work, root canals and fillings must be complete; otherwise dental baro-trauma is a possibility.   No temporary dental caps or unfinished root canals.

 NOTE:  Nicotine and HBOT

Nicotine causes vasoconstriction, or narrowing of the blood vessels.   This reduces blood flow to the tissues, and interferes with the growth of new blood vessels.   These are two problems that we are trying to counteract with HBOT, and nicotine works against the therapy.   Therefore, it is STRONGLY recommended that you stop all nicotine before starting HBOT.   If you continue to use nicotine, you will not receive the full benefit of HBOT.   Your treatment may take longer, or might not work at all.

 

 

 

 

59 Reasons Why Sugar Ruins Your Health

  1. Sugar can suppress the immune system
  2. Sugar upsets the minerals in the body.
  3. Sugar causes hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating and crankiness in children.
  4. Sugar produces a significant rise in triglycerides.
  5. Sugar contributes to the reduction in defense against bacterial infection.
  6. Sugar can cause kidney damage.
  7. Sugar reduces high-density lipoproteins.
  8. Sugar leads to chromium deficiency.
  9. Sugar leads to cancer of the breasts, ovaries, intestines, prostrate and rectum.
  10. Sugar increases fasting levels of glucose and insulin.
  11. Sugar causes copper deficiency.
  12. Sugar interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium.
  13. Sugar weakens eyesight.
  14. Sugar raises the level of neurotransmitters called serotonln.
  15. Sugar can cause hypoglycemia.
  16. Sugar can produce an acidic stomach.
  17. Sugar can raise adrenalin levels in children
  18. Sugar malabsorption is frequent in patients with functional bowel disease.
  19. Sugar can cause aging.
  20. Sugar can lead to alcoholism.
  21. Sugar can cause tooth decay.
  22. Sugar contributes to obesity.
  23. High intake of sugar increases the risk of Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis.
  24. Sugar can cause changes frequently found in persons with gastric or duodenal ulcers.
  25. Sugar can cause arthritis.
  26. Sugar can cause asthma.
  27. Sugar can cause Candida albicans (yeast infections).
  28. Sugar can cause gallstones.
  29. Sugar can cause heart disease.
  30. Sugar can cause appendicitis.
  31. Sugar can cause multiple sclerosis.
  32. Sugar can cause hemorrhoids.
  33. Sugar can cause varicose veins.
  34. Sugar can cause elevated glucose and insulin responses in oral contraceptive users.
  35. Sugar can lead to periodontal disease.
  36. Sugar can contribute to osteoporosis.
  37. Sugar contributes to saliva acidity.
  38. Sugar can cause a decrease in insulin sensitivity.
  39. Sugar leads to decreased glucose tolerance.
  40. Sugar can decrease growth hormone.
  41. Sugar can increase cholesterol.
  42. Sugar can increase the systolic blood pressure.
  43. Sugar can cause drowsiness and decrease activity in children.
  44. Sugar can cause migraine headaches.
  45. Sugar can interfere with the absorption of protein.
  46. Sugar causes food allergies.
  47. Sugar can contribute to diabetes.
  48. Sugar can cause toxemia during pregnancy.
  49. Sugar can contribute to eczema in children.
  50. Sugar can cause cardiovascular disease.
  51. Sugar can impair the structure of DMA.
  52. Sugar can change the structure of protein.
  53. Sugar can make our skin age by changing the structure of collagen.
  54. Sugar can cause cataracts.
  55. Sugar can cause emphysema.
  56. Sugar can cause atherosclerosis.
  57. Sugar can promote an elevation of low density proteins (LDL)
  58. Sugar can cause free radicals in the blood stream.
  59. Sugar can cause hunger pains and overeating.

 

 

 

 

 

Contributed by: Nancy Appleton, Ph.D.

 

The Statin Alternative By Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

High cholesterol, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, affects nearly 26% of all adults and an additional 100 million Americans are considered borderline high.  Considering these statistics, it’s entirely possible that you or a loved one is living with this potentially dangerous health problem.  In 2001 Americans filled over 57 million prescriptions for the cholesterol-lowering drug, Lipitor, making it one of the highest prescribed pharmaceuticals in history.  But is this medication necessary to lower high cholesterol or are you needlessly subjecting yourself to the drugs’ potentially debilitating, and sometimes even life-threatening, side effects?  It’s true that statin medications do lower cholesterol levels, but there is a much healthier proven option: healthy eating habits and exercise! 

Cholesterol is a wax-like substance found in both your bloodstream and every cell in your body.  Proper levels of cholesterol are vital to your health as it’s necessary for producing cell membranes and several important hormones including the male and female sex hormones and the adrenal hormones.  Too much cholesterol however, can cause cardiovascular disease and result in heart attack or stroke.

Cholesterol is produced by the liver but also comes from animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, butter, cheese and whole milk.  As a matter of fact, the liver creates all of the cholesterol that the body requires and any cholesterol derived from food is considered excess. 

Cholesterol, like other fats, doesn’t dissolve in your bloodstream and needs to be transported to and from cells by special carriers called lipoproteins.  There are two types of lipoproteins: low density lipoproteins (LDL) and high density lipoproteins (HDL).  LDL is known as the “bad” cholesterol because it builds up in the bloodstream, clogging arteries and increasing risk for heart attack and stroke.  HDL, on the other hand, is considered the “good” cholesterol because it mops up the LDL cholesterol and transports it to the liver to be excreted from the body.  For this reason, it is important to have low levels of LDL and high levels of HDL.  An LDL score of 100 mg/dL or less is considered optimal, while anything higher is cause for concern.  An HDL score of 40 or higher is desirable since lower levels are linked to higher incidence of cardiovascular disease.  Total blood cholesterol is the most common measurement of cholesterol and the number that you normally receive as your test result.  A total blood cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL or lower is ideal.  A higher total blood cholesterol level indicates an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease.

Adults with high cholesterol are often offered statin medications as a first line of defense in lowering both their cholesterol level and their risk of heart attack and stroke.  Statin drugs work by blocking the production of cholesterol in the liver, thereby lowering the levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream.  Unfortunately, blocking the production of cholesterol interferes with the production of hormones and vitamin D, which can result in a loss of sex drive, feelings of fatigue and poor bone density.  Additionally, common side effects of statin medications include memory loss, muscle soreness and deterioration, upset stomach, gas, bloating and abdominal pain.

A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adding foods like tofu, almonds, fibers, plant sterols and soy products into your daily eating plan can lower total cholesterol more effectively than statin medications.  The most effective cholesterol lowering fibers can be found in oat bran, barley, flax seed, apples, citrus fruits, lentils and beans.  Plant sterols can be found in small amounts in foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits and vegetable oils and to a larger degree in spreads such as Smart Balance and Benecol.  Combining a dietary intake of these foods along with lowering your intake of saturated fats is the most effective way to lower your total cholesterol.  Additionally, stay away from partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated fats (such as margarine and shortening), which are sources of trans fatty acids known to increase LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and lower HDL (“good” cholesterol). 

Research has also shown that taking a daily essential fatty acid supplement (such as flax seed oil or fish oil) can help to lower cholesterol and protect the heart.  The fatty acid not only decreases the rate at which the liver produces LDL cholesterol but it also has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body, decreases the growth of plaque in the arteries and aids in thinning the blood.

If your HDL cholesterol level is low you can help increase it by losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking and being physically active for at least 30 to 60 minutes a day on most or all days of the week.  Researchers have also found that supplementing with niacin (vitamin B3) is highly effective at increasing HDL levels while lowering LDL levels and preventing atherosclerosis.

Make an appointment today to have your cholesterol levels checked.  HDL levels of 40 mg/dL or lower, LDL levels of 130 mg/dL or higher or a total blood cholesterol level higher than 200 mg/dL all indicate an elevated risk for heart disease.  Should you have high cholesterol, discuss with your doctor your options and only consider statins as a last resort.  Dietary changes and exercise can prove to be more effective than medication and can have a positive and lasting impact on your overall health, without the negative side effects!

Quick! Find the Tick!Recognizing Lyme Disease By Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

 

Since Lyme disease was first recognized in Connecticut in 1975, ticks infected with the bacterium that causes Lyme disease have been found in 95% of the states in the US, including California.   Often difficult to diagnose, Lyme disease can have long lasting and debilitating affects if not treated immediately.  Recognizing the risk factors and early symptoms can mean the difference between a full recovery and a lifetime of health problems.  While new treatment options are available for those suffering from the effects of Lyme disease, prudent awareness should be your first plan of attack.

Lyme disease generally occurs when a person is bitten by a tick infected with the spiral shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi.  Ticks carrying the bacteria tend to be found in grassy areas inhabited by deer.  Scientists believe that an infected tick must be attached to its host for 48 hours in order for the host to become infected with the bacteria.  The sooner that a tick is discovered and removed, the lower the odds that an infection will occur.  However, if you suspect you’ve been bitten by a tick you should contact your health care provider immediately.

Lyme bacterium is a clever organism that is difficult to detect, diagnose, and treat. Symptoms of Lyme disease do not always present themselves in the same manner and can vary greatly from person to person.  Additionally, there is no concrete test to accurately determine if someone is infected with Lyme disease.  The most typical symptom of Lyme disease is a bulls-eye shaped rash that may occur at the site of the tick bite.  The rash, called Erythema Migrans (EM) tends to begin as a small red dot and then can expand outward over a matter of days or weeks.  The rash can eventually spread to different parts of the body and is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as headache, fever, stiff neck, muscle aches and fatigue.  Such symptoms are often believed to be the flu, yet unlike the flu, these symptoms can come and go or persist.  Unfortunately, not all people who are bitten by an infected tick will have the EM rash or, if they do, they may fail to notice it.

As mentioned, the rash along with flu-like symptoms may never present themselves even if you have been bitten by an infected tick.  Over several months or even years, if the tick bite has not been treated, more serious health problems can occur, such as arthritis, migrating body pains, heart problems and neurological problems, including meningitis, temporary paralysis of facial muscles, poor muscle movement, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, depression, and changes in sleeping habits.  Chronic stress or an underlying thyroid problem can further exacerbate the symptoms of Lyme disease.  Since these long-term symptoms tend to mimic other autoimmune system disorders, properly diagnosing the illness can be difficult.

If you’ve been bitten by a tick, there are two tests that your health care provider may order to determine if you have Lyme disease.  One test looks for the presence of the bacteria in your body while the other looks for the presence of antibodies produced to fight off the bacteria.  Neither of these tests are 100% accurate and a negative result does not mean that you are free of Lyme disease.  For this reason, your health care provider will need to consider many factors, including your medical history, in order to determine the best course of action.

A treatment plan for Lyme disease usually includes antibiotics, but due to its uniqueness many other modalities may also be needed, especially if the disease wasn’t detected early on.  They include herbs, supplements, adjusting pH levels, changing of diet, hyperbaric oxygen treatment, acupuncture, physical therapy, and detoxification therapy.  For example, a patient with arthritis symptoms might benefit from a combination of Essential Fatty Acid supplements to reduce inflammation in the joints along with acupuncture and physical therapy to relieve the pain.  Another patient may find relief by reducing or eliminating sugar along with properly balancing the body’s pH levels, which can slow the spread of the bacteria and may also reduce the severity of symptoms.

If you suspect that you’ve been bitten by a tick, contact your health care provider immediately, even if you aren’t displaying any symptoms or if your symptoms appear to go away.  Treating Lyme disease from the onset can dramatically improve your chances of a full recovery and can lower the possibility of debilitating health problems down the road.

 

4 Reasons Why You Can’t Lose Weight By Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

 
Have you been struggling with your weight, despite your best efforts or intentions? There are several factors involved in weight gain, and the very reason why you put on the pounds in the first place could be the thing that is preventing you from losing weight today. Here are the top four reasons why your battle with weight might be getting the best of you.

1. Insufficient Exercise and Poor Eating Habits

You cannot lose weight by cutting calories alone. Adequate exercise and healthy eating habits go hand in hand when it comes to weight loss. Most Americans simply don’t get enough exercise to burn up the amount of calories that they consume on a daily basis. A steady stream of calories without a means to burn them equals weight gain, plain and simple.

A healthy individual looking to maintain his or her weight needs an average of 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day: A brisk walk, playing with your kids in the park, washing the car by hand. If you’re looking to lose weight, 60 minutes of cardio a day is recommended until you reach your target weight, when you can then go down to 30 minutes a day.

When deciding on a program to get healthy and lose weight, begin by closely examining the foods that you are eating. Keep a diary of what, when and how much you are eating. Looking at nutrition labels will tell you what’s in your meal and allow you to track your caloric intake as well as the fats, sugars, vitamins and minerals that you are consuming. After a week, evaluate your list, identify the problem areas and make adjustments accordingly.

A healthy eating program should be high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in saturated fats, sugar and salt. Determine what your daily caloric intake should be and don’t exceed it. If you are worried about feeling hungry, prepare fruity snacks to nibble on throughout the day. They are high in fiber, naturally sweet and will keep you feeling full.

Individuals who have major health concerns, such as cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, diabetes or osteoporosis should work with a nutritionist to develop a healthy eating plan. If you are otherwise healthy but utterly confused by nutrition in general, a nutritionist might be just what you need to get on the proper track.

2. Syndrome X

Syndrome X is a metabolic disorder that affects one out of ever four Americans and can lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes if left untreated. Syndrome X is chiefly characterized by insulin resistance. When food is consumed by a healthy individual, the body releases insulin to escort glucose into the cells where it can be burned efficiently. When insulin resistance is present, the cells fail to recognize the glucose and deny it entry. The glucose, without a destination, is left to build up in the bloodstream. The liver detects that the cells are not getting enough glucose and pumps more out to remedy the situation, further clogging the bloodstream with sugar. Eventually all of this glucose makes its way to the liver where it is converted to fat and stored throughout the body.

While weight gain due to insulin resistance is not necessarily caused by overeating, insulin resistance is caused by obesity, lack of exercise and diets high in carbohydrates. If you suspect that you might be insulin resistant, see your doctor for a simple test. Early detection could not only be the key to your weight loss, but also important in avoiding cardiovascular disease and diabetes in the future.

3. Stress

Are you plagued by stress on a daily basis? Even little stressors have the ability to add unwanted pounds to your body, thanks to a physiological response called “fight or flight”. Back in the days of our ancestral hunters and gathers, fight or flight was necessary for survival. When facing down an angry bear, the body would increase its production of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol to provide the hunter extra energy to battle his prey. After the immediate danger was over, the body would stop producing adrenaline but would continue to pump out cortisol. The cortisol served to stimulate insulin release and maintain the blood sugar levels resulting in an intense hunger. All of this was necessary for our ancient ancestor’s survival, however today we rarely have the need for such drastic responses.

While the type of stressors that we face in our everyday lives hardly compare to facing down a grizzly bear, our body’s response is exactly the same. Every time your workload becomes too much to handle or your children drive you off of the deep end, your body responds as if it was in mortal peril. Experiencing stressful events on a daily basis means that your adrenal glands could be pumping out the calming hormone cortisol on a regular basis.

After a stressful event subsides, the first thing that many of us do is reach for comfort food. This makes sense since the cortisol pumping through your body is effectively telling you to eat. The problem is, going back to its ancient roots, the fight or flight response was intended for physical threats in which massive amounts of energy were expended in order to survive. That intense hunger was supposed to trigger the hunter to replenish his body after the fight was over. Today’s stressors however, rarely involve physical activity. This means that the food you consume in response to a stressful event is not necessary. Your body experienced no event for which it needs to be replenished. The calories that you are consuming are not needed.

The simplest way to overcome this type of “overeating” is to find a way to manage your stress more effectively. When you feel it coming on, go for a walk or engage in some other type of exercise. Since your body is expecting a physical response, give it what it wants in a healthy way. You will find that your sanity can be restored quickly by exercising. If you find that managing your stress on your own seems overwhelming, make an appointment with a trained therapist to discuss stress management tools that can be tailored to your specific needs.

4. Hypothyroidism

Still don’t know why you aren’t losing weight? Ask your doctor to test your thyroid. The thyroid gland, located at the base of your skull, regulates your body’s metabolism. If thyroid hormone levels decrease, everything in your body slows down, a condition called hypothyroidism. As a result, your cells need less energy (calories). While you may feel like you’re eating normal, or even less than normal, portions of food your body will no longer need that much energy to keep going. All of the “extra” calories that you are consuming become stored as fat resulting in weight gain. A simple test can be performed to detect the levels of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) in your blood stream. Hypothyroidism can be treated by your doctor safely and effectively by supplementing with thyroid hormones.

Obesity is a very complex medical problem in our society and achieving an ideal weight requires a multifaceted approach. These are just four of the many reasons that you might be having difficulty shedding unhealthy pounds. Once you have decided to address this issue, I recommend working with a health care professional who understands the complexities of being overweight and is compassionate to your individual situation and success. Losing weight is not an easy task. If it was, we would all be thin.

 

The Diabetes Wake-Up Call By Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

 

Diabetes has become so common in our society that during my last trip to the grocery store I saw two separate magazines dedicated to healthy diabetic living and at least a handful of nutrition bars aimed at regulating glucose levels in the insulin resistant.  This was all while I was in line waiting to check out.  The fact that there are entire aisles of food and supplements dedicated entirely to those living with diabetes is a testament to the overall poor health of our country.  For this reason alone it should come as no surprise that approximately one in four Americans has pre-diabetes, a condition that can develop into type 2 diabetes within 10 years if left untreated.  If you aren’t currently at risk, odds are that someone you love is and that’s bad news.  But there is a silver lining to the pre-diabetes cloud: A recent major national study has proven that with a few lifestyle changes, pre-diabetes can be reversed and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be reduced by up to 58%.  Pre-diabetes should serve as a wake-up call and not an inevitable sentence of Life With Diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic health problem stemming from elevated blood sugar (glucose) levels.  Glucose is a simple sugar that our bodies derive from the foods that we eat.  The body’s metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats leads directly to the production of glucose, which enters the bloodstream after a meal and is the necessary nutrient to provide energy to every cell in the body.  When too much glucose is present in the bloodstream, diabetes results.

Glucose levels become elevated when the glucose is unable to enter the cells in the bloodstream.  Imagine that your bloodstream is a highway and each cell in the bloodstream is a car.  Cars need gasoline (glucose) in order to run, and these cars within your bloodstream require a key to unlock the gas cap before the tank can be filled.  In your body, this key is insulin.  Without insulin the glucose cannot get into the cells and it is left to float freely through the bloodstream.  Just as a car without gasoline will eventually fail to run, your body will begin to suffer without glucose.

In the case of type 2 diabetes, it’s as if someone has changed the locks on the gas cap.  The cells fail to recognize the insulin and deny entrance to the glucose.  That’s what we call insulin resistance.  

There are two different tests that can be used to determine if a person has diabetes.  Each test measures the patient’s blood glucose levels after a period of fasting and then determines if the patient is in the normal, pre-diabetic or diabetic range.  A normal test result indicates that the body is processing glucose properly, where as a diabetic test result indicates that the body is resisting insulin and too much glucose is present in the bloodstream.  A pre-diabetes test score falls short of the lower threshold for diabetes yet still indicates an elevated presence of glucose in the bloodstream.  Being diagnosed with pre-diabetes is a powerful wakeup call that should not be ignored.

Type 2 diabetes can eventually lead to serious health complications and it is estimated that 2 out of 3 people with diabetes will die from heart disease or stroke.  Research has shown that the type of long-term damage that typically occurs in those with diabetes can actually begin during pre-diabetes.  The elevated blood glucose levels associated with pre-diabetes can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease by 50% over those who have normal blood glucose levels.

Fortunately, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February of 2002 has provided hope for those living with pre-diabetes.  The Diabetes Prevention Program Study showed that just 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity, coupled with a 5-10% reduction in body weight, produced a 58% reduction in diabetes for those already diagnosed with pre-diabetes.   The researchers believe that weight loss reduces the risk of diabetes by improving the ability of the body to use insulin and process glucose.

When it comes to physical activity the American Diabetes Association recommends that people with pre-diabetes or diabetes should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes most days.  Physical activity can consist of walking, gardening, doing yard work, swimming or cleaning the house.  According to the ADA, beneficial physical activity can be, “anything that increases your heart rate and causes you to break a sweat.”  Don’t worry, however, if 30 minutes seem overwhelming at first.  Breaking up activities into 3 10-minute intervals a day is a great way to achieve the desired 30 minutes.

Healthy eating is an important component to any weight loss plan and often times can seem overwhelming.  Keep in mind that there is no one perfect food so it is important to eat a wide variety of foods including vegetables, whole grains, fruits, non-fat dairy products, beans and lean meats, poultry and fish.  The key is to regulate portion sizes while lowering your fat and caloric intake.

I highly recommend consulting with your doctor as well as a nutritionist before making any major lifestyle changes.  Your overall health should be factored into any exercise and healthy eating plan to prevent the possibility of causing more harm than good.  Additionally, allowing a certified nutritionist to guide you through the often confusing world of healthy eating will not only provide you with valued support but can also boost your chances of success.

A diagnosis of pre-diabetes is an opportunity to take your health into your own hands and make changes for the better.  By incorporating physical activities and healthy eating into your life you are not only taking steps to avoid diabetes but you are improving your overall health and reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease as well.  If you or someone you know is one of the 25% with pre-diabetes, seize this opportunity to make a detour on the road to diabetes!

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