Archive for July, 2013

The Truth about Calcium, Dairy Foods and Strong Bones

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Calcium is a vital mineral needed for many purposes in the body. Without adequate calcium, our bones, nervous system, muscles and blood suffer.

The best place to derive our calcium is from plants, especially greens. Dairy foods provide calcium but also many unfavourable compounds, including IGF-1 or insulin-like growth factor 1. This is a growth hormone which accelerates cellular growth. It is the most powerful growth hormone in the human body. All animals have it.

However, there are two animals on earth, and only two, which have identical IGF-1: humans and cows. Both have IGF-1 with 70 amino acids in exactly the Read More...same sequence. The odds of this are astronomical.

When we drink milk or eat cheese we get an extra dose of bovine (cow) growth factor, over and above our own. This is NOT a good idea, as many research scientists have implicated the consumption of dairy foods (see attached) with the increase in cancer, particularly breast and prostate.

Professor Jane Plant’s book ‘Your Health in Your Hands’, and her other books ‘Osteoporosis’ and ‘Prostate Cancer’ received the following review:

Professor Plant, who was appointed CBE for her work in geochemistry, has been anti-dairy for ten years. Having endured five bouts of breast cancer between 1987 and 1993, and having researched why it is that, in China, where the diet contains almost no dairy produce, the incidence of breast cancer is one in 10,000, she devised a dairy-free diet-and-lifestyle programme that she believes saved her life and could help to save others. Her theory is that milk is a cocktail of growth factors – hormones that control cell division and can influence cancer growth. High levels of one type of growth factor, IGF-1, are thought to be a risk factor for breast and prostate cancer. The Dairy Council disputes this, pointing out that milk contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which has been shown to block the growth and spread of breast cancer cells, and to a survey in Norway in which women who drank milk were shown to be less at risk of breast cancer than those who did not. But Professor Plant is standing her ground. In the three years since her book, Your Life in Your Hands, was published, she has reviewed many other studies that have come to the almost identical conclusion – that growth factors in the diet are the problem with many types of cancers.

 The Times

 There are many other reasons to avoid or greatly restrict your intake of dairy foods, such as cholesterol, saturated fat, excess protein from the casein, lactose sensitivity, government-allowable levels of pus cells in the milk from infected udders, lack of fibre etc.

It is important to remember that calcium in your diet does NOT necessarily equate to calcium in your body or bones. This is because certain dietary and lifestyle habits LEACH calcium from our bodies into our urine, causing hypercalcuria. These include alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, high animal protein intake (including dairy), sugar, salt, many prescribed drugs, carbonated soft drinks and prolonged stress.

Many people today have a high intake of calcium, mainly from dairy and supplements, BUT, because they have these other calcium-leaching habits, have poor bone density and poor bone strength, leading to fractures and osteoporosis.

In addition, low vitamin D impedes the absorption of calcium in the intestines. We need to get regular adequate exposure to the beneficial rays of the sun. Blood tests show vitamin D status (25 Hydroxy-Vitamin D) and in some cases vitamin D3 supplementation may be appropriate. I sometimes recommend a short course of D3 (cholecalciferol) at an appropriate dose for a short time, while other nutritional and lifestyle factors are simultaneously addressed.

Keep in mind that vitamin D is fat soluble, and, unlike water- soluble vitamins like Vitamin C,  is stored in the body, so can be a problem if taken in excess.

It is also important to remember that eating ANY calcium-rich foods from ANY source (plants or dairy) does NOT make strong bones. This idea that the dairy industry and dieticians push to eat dairy and drink milk for strong bones is a complete fallacy. It shows a complete lack of understanding of basic physiology.

Certainly, the intake of calcium (and all the other nutritional factors) allows the body the needed materials to build bones and teeth, that is true.

But to build strong bones (and indeed strong teeth through chewing) requires exercise. When we exercise our muscles, we also exercise our bones.

Muscles and bones get strong together, and they get weak together!

Sarcopenia means thinning muscles and osteopenia means thinning bones. They are reversible, provided proper advice is put into practice. These are NOT diseases needing drugs, they are states of declining health caused by factors needing to be addressed.

The way to reverse this is NOT to take drugs like Fosomax but to eat more plant-based foods, adopt less calcium-draining nutritional and lifestyle habits AND to exercise.

Avoid Calcium Supplements

There have been many scientific studies over the past three years implicating calcium supplements with a number of health issues. These include calcification of organs and other soft tissues like arteries, particularly the coronary arteries, which increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Get your calcium from the plants, eliminate or drastically reduce the social poisons which leach calcium, get plenty of appropriate exercise and get some sun.

The human body has the remarkable capacity to self-heal. We cut ourselves, we heal. We get colds and flu, we recover. We break a bone, it knits back together. How good is that?

A Dieticians Perspective: Everyone should drink 8 glasses of water a day

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Myth: Everyone should drink 8 glasses of water a day.

Nicole Senior ( Glycemic Index Association Dietitian)

Fact: Most adults need around 2–2½ litres of fluid daily but not all this fluid needs to be water. Fluid needs vary greatly according to climatic conditions, physical activity, body size, diet and your health status.
Eight glasses of water a day is eight metric cups (or eight 8 ounce glasses), or 2 litres. Some experts say there is absolutely no scientific foundation for this oft given advice. This puzzled me because I thought there were principles and guidelines to calculate a person’s fluid Read More...requirements and they roughly equate to this 8-glass rule of thumb. Are these guidelines I’ve been using based on good scientific evidence? Before you throw your water bottle against the nearest brick wall, here’s more information to ‘fill out’ the story of how much water we should drink.

Everyone knows we can’t survive long without water. For the more morbid among you, survival time is around 1 week but can be as little as a few hours for a marathon runner experiencing catastrophic heatstroke. Water is essential for life and needed for temperature regulation, digestion, metabolism, absorption of nutrients and excretion of waste. About half the water needed each day goes to sweat and water vapour in our breath. Water accounts for 50–80% of our lean body mass; men have slightly more than women, and the proportion goes down as we age. Replacement of lost water is vital to maintain normal functioning.

The Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs) for Australia and New Zealand acknowledge it is difficult to experimentally derive Estimated Average Requirements (EAR) for water because of individual variation. Because of this, they established an Adequate Intake (AI) based on the median intake of the population. This is a roundabout way of saying they came up with a best guess: 2.1 lites (8 cups) for women and 2.6 litres (10 cups) for men, with clear caveats that people living in hot climates or very physically active need more. You can see how the 8-glass a day rule is starting to sound plausible.

However, what the 8-glass rule fails to recognise is you don’t have to drink all your fluid requirements. There is a lot of water already in food, especially fruits and vegetables as well as the obvious liquid and semi-solid foods like soups, yoghurt and custard. According to Australia’s last national nutrition survey, the intrinsic water in food contributed 700–800ml per day. Water is also a by-product of metabolism: around 250ml (1 metric cup) per day is produced this way. So more accurately, the 8-glass a day rule should be more like 4–6 glasses.

What about thirst? I’ve heard the human thirst mechanism is a poor indicator of our fluid needs and we should drink even though we aren’t thirsty, but is this true? A perusal of the scientific literature suggests this is only true in elite athletes because their fluid needs are higher, but for the rest of us, our thirst serves us well.

So, drink when you feel thirsty and don’t feel you have to gulp down 8 glasses of water a day.

Knowing this difference could change your life!

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

How often do I hear someone express surprise that so & so died of a heart attack or a stroke, because “he was just so fit”. Many people mistakenly use the words healthy & fit interchangeably, not realising there is a huge difference between the two.

Fitness is a term which describes a person’s ability to perform life’s functions with energy to spare. In everyday language, we describe as fit someone who regularly engages in exercise, either formally like resistance training, running, swimming, cycling etc or in their occupation which requires large amounts of daily energy expenditure.

Although there are specific parameters Read More...of fitness, such as cardio-respiratory, muscular strength, flexibility, recovery time etc, for the purposes of this article the term fit or fitness is used to describe someone who, through either formal exercise or occupation, maintain a good level of general fitness & is not overweight.

It is a common belief that if you engage in regular exercise, keep to your ideal weight & don’t smoke, then you are not only fit, but also healthy. This is a widespread & potentially deadly misconception.

In fact, it is possible that someone who is very fit & strong can be simultaneously very unhealthy. A recent case serves as an example:

John (not his real name) came to see me a few months ago. He engaged in many activities, including weights, running, bike riding & outrigging ( ocean water rowing) & had been very active all his life . At 53, John was regarded as very fit & healthy by his friends. He did not smoke, was lean & muscular, & had no previous medical issues, apart from a few exercise -induced injuries over the years. His heart rate was slow & his blood pressure normal.

Lately, though, he had been experiencing some dizziness, palpitations & fatigue of late & had even blacked out for a few seconds at work, which had prompted him to get a full medical investigation. To John’s absolute shock, the tests revealed he had atrial fibrillation & a 90% blockage in one of his main coronary ( ‘crown’) arteries. His cholesterol was also very high.

To say he was upset would be an under-statement. He was indignant. How could this be? He had taken pride in his youthful appearance. He was very fit & strong. He had no family history of heart problems. He had kept himself in great shape….externally.

I had known John for many years, as he would come to me for osteopathic treatment on his sports injuries. During these visits John made it clear he had no interest in nutrition or “ natural health” ideas, apart from exercise. So we never went there.

This “scare” had now motivated him. He came to seek my opinion on his situation, specifically his nutrition & diet, as he remembered my involvement in this area & was unhappy with the advice given by the dietitian, which was simply to eat “ a balanced diet”.

Johns diet was what we call the SAD- Standard Australian Diet: plenty of animal protein & dairy food every day, refined carbohydrates & sweets regularly ( “he burned it up”) & liberal quantities of caffeine & alcohol. He ate a little fruit but to his credit did eat plenty of vegetables.

I emphasised to John that his poor diet had to change, otherwise he would probably be in for a very hard landing with his health. What was the good of being the fittest corpse in the cemetery?

Such a diet wreaks havoc on the inside, even if the outside is being buffed by plenty of exercise. It is a common scenario.

James Fixx didn’t get the chance John did to wake up to the difference between fitness & health. In the late 70’s Fixx became a famous author when his book The Complete Book of Running became sports’ best seller. In it he stated that anyone who could run a marathon was immune to heart attacks. At the time Nathan Pritikin, of The Pritikin Diet fame, saw the danger in his book, & wrote an article called “Run & Die on The American Diet”, warning people not to believe such dangerous advice.

In 1982 James Fixx died of a severe heart attack whilst running, with the autopsy revealing up to 95% blockages in some coronary vessels. He was only 52. His diet was the typical SAD (Standard American Diet), basically the same as the Australian SAD. He could “run it off”, so he thought. He was wrong, &, tragically, his ignorance proved fatal.

You cannot, repeat cannot, exercise your way out of a bad diet.

Just because someone looks good (the container), doesn’t mean the insides are healthy (the contents). There is often a big discrepancy between the container & the contents.

To be optimally healthy, ALL the conditions of health must be provided, not just one.

You can be fit & unhealthy or you can be fit & healthy. The choice is yours.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Once called ‘spastic colon’, ‘colitis’ or ‘mucous colitis’, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common health disorder in the modern world. It affects 15 – 25% of females and 5 – 20% of males. More people suffer from IBS than from asthma, diabetes and depression combined. It is common in every westernised country.

The main feature of IBS is abdominal pain and discomfort. Plus, if any two of the following three symptoms/signs are present for three (not necessarily consecutive) out of 12 months, then IBS is diagnosed: 1) Abnormal form of the stool – from very loose to very hard, Read More...pellets, etc.; 2) Abnormal frequency of bowel movement – from constipation to urgent, frequent movements; 3) Relief of abdominal pain and discomfort by defecation.

The above are the guidelines outlined by the ‘Rome 3 Diagnostic Criteria’, so named because a group of gastrointestinal experts meet in Rome annually to discuss recent research on this issue.

Other common symptoms of IBS are: Excessive flatulence (wind), often relieving discomfort; Tenesmus (incomplete evacuation); Noisy tummy; Dizziness and light-headedness; Irritability; Backache, joint pain and stiffness; Anxiety and mild depression; Skin and eye issues.

The Psychiatric Department of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York found that 70 – 90% of patients reported anxiety and/or depression, plus: Excessive tiredness, fatigue and low energy; Poor libido; Poor sleep patterns.

IBS can be constipation-dominant, diarrhoea-dominant or a combination of both.

Up to 25% of sufferers are lactose intolerant (lactose is milk sugar), and up to 50% are fructose (fruit sugar) sensitive.

Patients with IBS have four times as much GERD (gastric reflux) and more genito-urinary symptoms, fibromyalgia, headaches, backaches and psychological problems.

Symptoms of IBS do not include ‘red flags’ such as blood loss, recurring fevers, weight loss or severe and persistent pain. These are serious signs requiring immediate medical investigation to exclude things like ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease and bowel cancer.

IBS is called a functional bowel problem in that, unlike the other inflammatory gut problems listed above, there is no structural damage to the bowel. Hence examinations and X-rays reveal nothing.

Many IBS sufferers also experience allergies and food/chemical sensitivities, and can, due to the misery experienced, understandably become ‘belly-centric’ (centred on their bellies). Sometimes a stressful event or an illness can trigger IBS, but more often it slowly becomes apparent over time. It is often, however, exacerbated by stress and being overtired.

The patient’s frustration is often worsened because the medical management of IBS is so poor. Evidence of this unsatisfactory management is easily found in many medical journals (1-4).

Reasons for IBS discomfort

In the presence of poorly digested food which has travelled to the upper part of the colon (large bowel), bacteria in the gut cause fermentation (gas) and increased osmosis (water). The combination of gas and water in the large bowel can create misery in the form of pain, cramps, bloating, altered stool form (pellets for example), altered frequency (diarrhoea and/or constipation), a feeling of tightness over the abdomen, and even low back stiffness.

Interestingly, there are between 400 and 1,000 different species of bacteria (microbiota) in the gut, weighing up to 2.5 kgs. Although gut bacteria (flora) are mostly beneficial, some are opportunistic, and when the diet is poorly balanced, the opportunistic bacteria multiply and secrete many toxins into the gut.

Gut hypersensitivity is very common. This is where people who are susceptible to IBS are known to have a lower pain/discomfort threshold in the digestive tract than those without IBS.

Further, certain mal-digested protein complexes can enter the bloodstream from the gut and travel to various parts of the body to further cause great mischief. The brain, the back and other joints, the bladder and other genitor-urinary organs and the skin are common target organs. This process has commonly been called “leaky gut”.

When the brain is the target organ, common symptoms are mood changes, anxiety, mild depression, memory loss and brain fog. In children, learning and behaviour can be adversely affected.

Until recently, these symptoms led some doctors to claim that IBS is psychological.

Greater understanding now reveals that IBS is not psychological, but bacteriological.

Overcoming IBS is possible, provided the person is open and willing to making some dietary and lifestyle changes. If there is a strong psychological component, meditation, CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) and EFT (tapping) are very helpful in combination with dietary modifications. DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS

Fodmap is an acronym for fermentable oligo-di-mono saccharides and polyols. These are short-chain carbohydrates which are poorly absorbed in the small intestine by many people, especially when eaten excessively. Most of these are very nutritious foods, but with IBS they may need to be limited or temporarily avoided.]

Fodmaps include: #  fructose (fruit sugar) found especially in honey, apples, mangoes, pears and watermelon; #  lactose (milk sugar) are found in dairy foods, particularly milk, yoghurt, custard and ice cream; #  polyols are found in apples, apricots, plums, prunes and in artificial sweeteners like sorbitol; #  fructans are found in wheat, barley, rye, beetroot, garlic, leeks and onions; #  galactose is found in legumes like dried beans, soy and lentils.

(For more detailed information on fodmap foods see Shepherd Works)

Staying clear of refined, processed and fried foods is important, as these disrupt the gut flora, creating what is known as dysbiosis.

The more serious the IBS symptoms, the more aggressive the dietary restrictions have to be, especially with fruit, gluten, sugar and dairy foods.

In my experience, having consulted literally thousands of people with gut problems over the past thirty years, the main dietary factors are dairy foods, the gluten found in wheat, rye and barley, and refined and processed carbohydrates (white flour, white sugar, etc) and excessive or inappropriate fruit consumption.

Oats contain no gluten but are sometimes cross-contaminated because of proximity in storage. For those suffering with IBS and who are sensitive to gluten (including coeliacs), it is recommended to seek out oats guaranteed to have been grown and stored separately from wheat, barley and rye.

People with IBS need not exclude all fruit (unless their symptoms are severe) but should be mindful not to overdo it. Choosing fruit that has an equal or greater ratio of glucose to fructose, such as bananas, is helpful. This is because the absorption of fructose is made easier when glucose is present. Indeed, the fructose is ‘piggy-backed’ on glucose across the gut wall for easier absorption.

Fructose sensitivity can be determined by a hydrogen breath test if necessary. A load of fructose is swallowed and then the breath is tested for hydrogen, which normally should be absent. The presence of hydrogen indicates intestinal fermentation.

It is best to eat fruit by itself, as eating it with protein or starch can create much digestive irritation due to fermentation (gas) and osmosis (water and bloating).

Foods like legumes and fruits are healthy foods, and provide tremendous nutritional benefits, but the IBS sufferer has to always keep in mind the total fodmap load of their diet, not simply individual foods. This is a key requirement.

In addition, many commonly prescribed drugs can precipitate or exacerbate IBS symptoms. The two most common  are anti-biotics and a class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s), which are acid suppressors for conditions like reflux and heartburn, nexium being one of the most commonly prescribed. These drugs disrupt the normal intestinal ecology, encouraging overgrowth of opportunistic gut flora, and particularly with PPI’s, a strain of bacteria called clostridium difficile (c. diff.). At the present time, PPI’s are prescribed far too easily and quickly. In my experience, I have never had a patient diagnosed with reflux who has needed to stay on PPI’s provided they comply with the dietary recommendations given.

TIPS TO  help with IBS recovery:

1)  Avoiding huge meals, too complicated meals or rushing meals; 2)  Avoiding drinking with meals and avoiding full-strength fruit juices (avoiding fruit juices or in mild cases diluting juices helps); 3)  Ceasing all intake of alcohol and caffeine; 4)  Not eating after 7pm; 5)  Avoiding intense exercise. This has been shown to impede absorption due to the release of inflammatory myokines. Moderate exercise is preferable; 6)  Avoiding prolonged or intense stress. 7)  Meditation practised daily is tremendously helpful in regulating the brain-bowel connection; 8)  Getting regular sleep and rest is very important, as is not soldiering on (pushing yourself) when very tired.

As miserable and debilitating as the symptoms of IBS can be, the person must remain optimistic. With the desire to recover and the willingness to learn and make changes, the person can make tremendous improvements.

For best results, it is advisable to seek out professional help, preferably naturopathic, because the fine-tuning needed in the dietary recommendations is unique to each individual. This fine-tuning is often the difference between success and failure.

IBS is reversible.

References: 1: The safety and tolerability of pharmacological agents for treatment of IBS- a European Perspective: Aliment Pharmacol Ther, 2006; 2: IBS: rationale and evidence of clinical efficacy- J Clin Gastroenterology, 2006; 3: Diet and IBS- Current Opinions in Gastroenterology, 2006; 4: Clinical Ramifications of Malabsorption of Fructose and Other Short-chain Carbohydrates- Practical Gastroenterology, Aug, 2007