Category Archives: hormonal balance

Natural Solutions to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a relatively common condition that can destroy a woman’s physical and emotional health. It is a hormonal disorder, but the hormonal imbalances are not limited to reproductive hormones. Current estimates are that five million women in the US have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). However, PCOS is not fully understood and is rarely tested for using the correct methods, so the numbers are potentially much higher. Another issue is that the symptoms of PCOS closely mimic several other conditions, so proper testing and diagnosis is essential to correctly addressing the correct condition.

PCOS Ribbon

PCOS Awareness Ribbon

The symptoms of PCOS vary from woman to woman, but are caused by an overproduction of male hormones. Symptoms of PCOS may include but are not limited to:

  • Weight gain
  • Facial hair or excess hair on the chest, back, stomach, fingers or toes
  • Deepening of the voice
  • Infertility
  • Menstrual irregularity
  • Insulin resistance
  • Frequent ovarian cysts
  • Acne and oily skin
  • Dandruff
  • Sleep apnea (periods where breathing stops for short periods while sleeping)
  • Pelvic pain
  • Skin tags (small “tags” of skin that are painless but can be embarrassing when they occur on the face or in large quantities) 
  • Dark patches of dry, tough skin 
  • Anxiety, depression, or wildly changing moods

Many of the symptoms of PCOS are the result of the fact the woman’s eggs never mature and she therefore does not ovulate. The lack of ovulation creates a deficiency in the hormone progesterone. That, combined with the fact that woman’s ovaries are producing excess male hormones and the woman has excess insulin in her blood stream create a waterfall of different negative symptoms.

Although no one is sure what causes PCOS, recent research suggests that insulin resistance is the cause of PCOS. Genetic predisposition, lack of exercise and exposure to excess androgens in the womb may also play a role, and two recent studies found a link between PCOS and exposure to the plastic Bisphenol A (BPA). The original belief was that PCOS caused insulin resistance, but research has confirmed that insulin resistance typically precedes PCOS and may ultimately cause it. Other symptoms of PCOS, such as weight gain, sleep apnea, acne, anxiety and depression, and skin tags are also associated with insulin resistance. (For more information on insulin resistance, please read Modern Epidemic: Metabolic Syndrome.) The simple fact is that excess insulin in the blood stream leads to lower levels of female hormones and higher levels of androgens, both of which are present in PCOS.

Unfortunately, many doctors are unfamiliar with PCOS and are unsure how to legitimately diagnose it. To correctly diagnose PCOS, the following tests should be run.

  • Fasting insulin level:  This test is essential, as it will reveal the degree of insulin resistance that exists. Unfortunately, very few doctors order it.
  • Hormone levels:  Both male and female.
  • Full thyroid panel: TSH, FT3, FT4 and TPO at a minimum. Thyroid disorders can mimic the symptoms of PCOS, so it is essential to ensure thyroid function is normal. If your doctor only ordered a TSH, find someone else, as it is impossible to gauge thyroid health solely using that test. (Please read How to be Your Own Thyroid Advocate for more information on correct thyroid testing.)
  • Ultrasound and/or pelvic exam to check ovaries for cysts and/or inflammation:  Please note that having ovarian cysts does NOT automatically mean you have PCOS. Many women have cystic ovaries at some point in their life. 

Perhaps equally important, the following question should be asked:

  • When did you stop taking birth control?  Many women have false PCOS as a result of stopping birth control. It can take over two years for hormones to regulate after taking birth control, and menstruation may be irregular during that entire phase.

Most doctors use the “Rotterdam criteria” to diagnose PCOS. That criteria stipulates that a diagnosis of PCOS must include high androgen levels, cystic ovaries and a lack of ovulation. Unfortunately, this diagnostic criteria ignores insulin resistance, which is an essential factor in addressing PCOS successfully.

Successfully addressing PCOS requires major changes in eating habits and lifestyle habits. Let me say right now that Metformin is NOT an acceptable “treatment” for PCOS. Metformin improves insulin resistance short term but does nothing to address the cause of insulin resistance, nor does it reverse the issue. To truly address PCOS, the body’s natural sensitivity to insulin must be restored via significant lifestyle and dietary changes. Metformin may be useful very short term while lifestyle changes are being implemented, but is neither effective nor advisable to use as the sole option for rebalancing insulin sensitivity.

After making the necessary dietary and lifestyle changes, hormonal balance may be further restored using a wide variety of techniques and/or supplements. Each of these must be carefully selected based on the woman’s individual needs.

The top three things to do to start the process of reversing PCOS include:

  • Following a low-glycemic eating plan and greatly reducing consumption of glycemic carbohydrates
  • Exercising daily
  • Eliminating all processed foods, chemical cleaners, plastic exposure, etc.

PCOS can be addressed and reversed, but the condition has so many varying factors that it is impossible to use a prescriptive approach. Each person’s case must be considered on an individual basis, with very careful choices made to best address the person’s symptoms and causative factors. I work with many women with PCOS and have helped many restore balance in body, mind and spirit. There is always hope.

References:

Polycystic Ovarian Fact Sheet, Womenshealth.gov

Mid-Missouri Reproductive Health and Surgery, PCOS and Insulin Resistance

Janssen OE. High prevalence of autoimmune thyroiditis in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. Eur J Endocrin 150(3): 363-369

Fernandez, M, N Bourguignon, V Lux-Lantos and C Libertun. 2010. Neonatal exposure to Bisphenol A and reproductive and endocrine alterations resembling the polycystic ovarian syndrome in adult rats. Environmental Health Perspectives http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.0901257.

Diamanti-Kandarakis E. P2-395. Presented at: The Endocrine Society 92nd Annual Meeting and Expo; June 19-22, 2010; San Diego.

How to Successfully Address Low Testosterone

The new glut of “Low T” commercials has my head spinning. “Low T” is the new fad diagnosis sweeping the country because
Happy Senior African American Couple on Beachso many pharmaceutical companies stand to make such a huge profit. It goes by many names: “Low T,” “Andropause” and “Male Menopause” are just a few names given to low testosterone levels in men.

An interesting side note is that “Low T” is considered a “disease” and testosterone creams for men are therefore covered by insurance, but hormonal imbalances in women are not considered a “disease” and are not covered. Let’s chat about that some other time.

Please note it is imperative to measure testosterone levels before boosting them. Low testosterone levels have many vague symptoms that can mimic many other physical challenges. NEVER take any supplement designed to boost testosterone levels without first using a saliva or blood hormone test to measure your testosterone levels. Adjusting hormone levels without knowing what specific deficiencies and excesses exist can have very negative results. Please do not try to adjust hormone levels on your own, and please thoroughly discuss your test levels with your physician.

Moving on … it is perfectly normal for testosterone levels to drop as men age. Thirty years ago, the natural drop was minor and did not produce the severe symptoms men are experiencing today. Symptoms of low testosterone levels may include:

  • Fatigue and lack of energy and motivation
  • Loss of libido
  • Erectile dysfunction, softer erections, less ejaculate, etc.
  • Hair loss
  • Inability to build muscle and/or a loss in muscle mass
  • Weight gain and an increase in body fat
  • Depression and other mood changes
  • Decreased facial hair, “man boobs,” shrunken testicles, etc.
  • Loss of height due to losses in bone mineral density

The main reasons testosterone levels are dropping to lower levels and men’s symptoms are stronger today than they were in years past include:

  • We are surrounded by xenoestrogens, or estrogen imitators, that negatively impact hormone balance in men by artificially elevating estrogen levels. These xenoestrogens exist in plastics, chemicals sprayed on crops, body products, and other common products.
  • Our food system is overloaded with soy and soy derivatives. Soy is a known phytoestrogen which elevates estrogen levels and therefore decreases testosterone levels in the body.
  • Obesity can cause the body to produce less testosterone.
  • Insulin resistance, which often precedes Type 2 diabetes, is known to play a role in lowered testosterone levels.
  • Meat and dairy raised in mainstream farming operations are raised with high levels of hormones that may impact the body’s normal hormonal balance.
  • Physical imbalances and illnesses such as pituitary disease may impact testosterone production. Many of these conditions are severe and require medical intervention.
  • Steroid use is known to decrease testosterone production.
  • Sedentary lifestyle habits also decrease the body’s natural production of testosterone.
  • Chronic inflammation can affect testosterone production by inflaming the cells responsible for producing testosterone. We live in a world where ingesting inflammatory substances such as food additives, alcohol, etc. is common and even encouraged.

For men dealing with low testosterone, here are a few approaches known to help:

  • Test to make sure your symptoms are caused by a testosterone deficiency and not by other physical illnesses. The symptoms of low testosterone can mimic many other illnesses. Make sure you’re addressing the correct cause of your symptoms.
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  • Clean up your diet. Eliminate all processed foods, all white flours and sugars, all soy, soda pop, hydrogenated oils, etc., etc.
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  • Insulin resistance is one known cause of reduced testosterone levels. Work with a trained professional to reduce and target carbohydrate consumption and improve insulin sensitivity.
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  • Exercise! Exercise is known to boost testosterone levels and to improve testosterone receptors. There’s just no getting around the fact we all need to exercise. Start slowly and work up very gradually. Try to combine small amounts of cardio or walking with weight lifting for best results.
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  • Switch to stainless steel drink containers instead of drinking bottled water. BPA – common in plastic water bottles – is a known xenoestrogen. Avoiding canned food is also a good way to avoid BPA.
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  • Clean up your body care by switching to all-natural soaps, shampoos, lotions, body washes, etc., to reduce your exposure to additional xenoestrogens.
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  • Sleep more. Men who get less than six hours of sleep per night tend to have reduced testosterone levels. This is in part because their body is tired and diverts its energy to tasks it considers more important than hormone production.
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  • Check for nutritional deficiencies. Deficiencies in Vitamin D, zinc, magnesium and other nutrients are all known to be causative factors of low testosterone.
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  • Check Candida levels and address any overgrowth. Candida tends to cause systemic inflammation that can cause the testicles to produce less testosterone.
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  • Switch to a non-inflammatory eating style. As mentioned above, inflammation can directly impact testosterone production by causing inflammation in the testicles. Reducing toxins is a first step to reducing inflammation. Identifying food allergies, eliminating night shade vegetables, avoiding processed foods and drinking adequate water may all help reduce systemic inflammation.
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  • Consider herbal alternatives. There are a number of herbal supplements known to boost testosterone production. I’m not going to discuss them here because some have severe side effects, I do not believe they are appropriate for everyone, and because I feel it is dangerous to take supplements that affect hormone levels without first checking to see if any hormonal imbalances exist.

There are times where physical injury, vasectomy, pituitary disorders, exposure to extreme toxins or other issues can cause testosterone levels to drop so low that medication is needed. I believe testosterone creams are often prescribed without doing adequate testing and without making the necessary lifestyle changes first. In extreme cases, testosterone pills and/or injections may be required to return levels to normal. When testosterone medications are used, it is important to test hormone levels frequently to ensure hormone levels are where they should be.

There are a number of side effects with the creams, so they must be used with caution to avoid exposing women and children to the hormones in the cream. Use caution and research heavily before agreeing to use them.

Most of all, don’t lose hope. Low testosterone levels can be improved naturally or via medication. Take the time to do adequate research and receive correct testing before choosing the program that is best for you.

Facts About Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Red Blood CellsIron-Deficiency Anemia is a very common health issue. Many women have been told at some point in their life they have Iron-Deficiency Anemia and that it is “chronic.” Unfortunately, the term “chronic” typically means the diagnosing doctor has chosen to not identify the cause of the condition. The doctor assumes the woman’s anemia is “normal” for her and therefore can only be controlled, not treated. I beg to differ.

Iron-Deficiency Anemia always has a cause or causes. It is never a “normal” state of being. Never. Let me clarify that I am speaking about Iron-Deficiency Anemia, the type of anemia that occurs when the body’s iron stores are below normal. Please note I am solely referring to Iron-Deficiency Anemia, not Sickle Cell Anemia, Thalassemia, Pernicious Anemia, Aplastic Anemia or any other form of anemia. Although the symptoms of the various types of anemia may be similar, they each have very distinct causes and cannot be addressed using the same approach. Please note that all references in this article are for adults, not children.

Common Symptoms

Iron-Deficiency Anemia results in a deficiency of red blood cells and diminishes the body’s ability to carry oxygen to the cells and carbon dioxide away from cells. The most common symptoms of Iron-Deficiency Anemia include:

  • Fatigue
  • Easy bruising
  • Headaches
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Elevated heart rate/heart palpitations/chest pain (Seek immediate medical attention for any form of chest pain)
  • Breathlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Swollen tongue/sore tongue/cracks in corners of mouth
  • Muscle pain
  • Pale skin
  • Depression and/or a lack of motivation
  • Brittle nails
  • Frequent infection/illness
  • Irritability/inability to concentrate
  • Bluish coloration to whites of eyes
  • Cravings for unusual items (chalk, clay, paper, etc.) or a strong desire to chew ice

Each of those symptoms could also be a sign of other health conditions, some more serious than others. Please consult a trained practitioner if you experience any of the symptoms listed above.

Possible Tests for Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Iron-Deficiency Anemia is typically identified via blood tests. When checking for Iron-Deficiency Anemia, the following tests should be run at a minimum. Please note that each lab has its own definition of what “normal” ranges are. The ranges provided below are general guidelines:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC):  An overview of blood composition.
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  • Hemoglobin:  A protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Normal range for men is between 13.5-17.5; for women 12.0-15.5. Please note that results which are within “normal” but are at the low end may still cause symptoms of Iron-Deficiency Anemia.
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  • Iron:  A measure of the iron in the blood stream. Normal ranges between 60-170 mcg/dL.
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  • Ferritin:  A protein that stores iron. Is a measure of the body’s iron stores. Although some labs state that levels as low as 10 are “normal,” most people do not begin to feel anything close to normal until their Ferritin levels are at least 40. Please note that levels as low as zero are not a definite indicator of cancer or other serious disease. Extremely low levels need to be researched in more detail to determine the cause, but are not necessarily an indicator of a terminal condition. I once had Ferritin levels of zero which my doctor erroneously assumed meant I had cancer. After having a bone marrow biopsy, the consulting hematologist looked at me and asked why on earth the doctor ordered a bone marrow biopsy instead of investigating the cause and type of anemia first. Good question!
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  • Vitamin B12:  Vitamin B12 is essential for iron to be absorbed. A deficiency can lead to Iron-Deficiency Anemia. Normal ranges vary between 200-900 pg/mL.
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  • Total iron-binding capacity (TIBC):  A measure of the number of proteins available for transporting iron. Normal ranges are typically between 240-450 mcg/dL.
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  • Transferrin Saturation:  A measure of how saturated with iron the proteins responsible for transporting iron are. Normal ranges are between 20-50%.

Potential Causes of Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Your doctor may order other tests if s/he wishes to identify the specific cause of the Iron-Deficiency Anemia. Potential causes of low iron levels and Iron-Deficiency Anemia may include:

Iron Deficiency Anemia Red Blood Cells

Red blood cells in a person with Iron-Deficiency Anemia

  • Lack of iron in the diet
  • Inability to absorb iron in the digestive tract
  • Unidentified bleeding (in oral cavity, lungs, stomach, digestive tract, etc.)
  • Other forms of anemia not yet tested for or identified
  • Pregnancy and lactation
  • Extremely heavy menstruation
  • Frequent blood donation
  • Excessive exercise (Iron-Deficiency Anemia is common in long-distance runners)
  • Celiac, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Crohn’s or other digestive disorders
  • H Pylori infection (stomach ulcer)
  • Use of a proton pump inhibitor such as Prilosec, Nexxium, etc.
  • Kidney disease
  • Gastric bypass surgery/colostomy
  • Thyroid imbalances or other hormonal imbalance
  • Enlarged spleen or splenic dysfunction
  • Lead poisoning

Further Testing to Identify the Cause of Chronic Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Consistent Iron-Deficiency Anemia can be caused by any of the factors discussed previously, but may also be an indicator of more severe health issues. I advise considering the following to identify the root cause of Iron-Deficiency Anemia:

  • Check antiparietal antibody levels to ensure Pernicious Anemia is not the cause of the anemia
  • Test for other forms of anemia if symptoms and blood work indicate a possibility
  • Test for digestive disorders
  • Test for vitamin and nutritional deficiencies and supplement as needed
  • Test for food allergies (the inflammation caused by food allergies can impair iron absorption)
  • Check for bleeding in the digestive tract and digestive disorders
  • Check for bleeding in the respiratory system
  • Test thyroid levels (with a complete thyroid panel including TSH, Free T3, Free T4, TPO and Reverse T3 at a minimum)
  • Test hormone levels and have a gynecological exam if extremely heavy menstruation is suspected as the cause
  • Test for pregnancy (if appropriate)

Reversing the Deficiency

Many factors may contribute to Iron-Deficiency Anemia, so work with your doctor to determine what approach should be taken to reverse the deficiency. The most common approaches used to reverse the deficiency include:

  • Identify and Address the Cause:  Although it is imperative to get iron levels up using supplements or other approaches, it is also essential to identify why the iron deficiency exists and address the cause. If the cause can be identified and eliminated or greatly alleviated, the body can more easily restore iron levels to normal levels. If testing reveals a more severe form of anemia exists, additional steps will be needed. I will share more about the other forms of anemia in future posts.
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  • Increase Iron Consumption:  Increasing the amount of iron eaten on a daily basis can be helpful, but may not be sufficient in cases of absorption and digestion challenges. Please be aware that the iron contained in plants is called “non-heme” iron. It is not as easily absorbed as the heme iron in animal products. The body must convert non-heme iron into heme iron before it can absorb it. The best way to assist the body in making converting non-heme iron into heme iron is to eat fruits or veggies high in Vitamin C with foods containing non-heme iron. (Eating foods high in Vitamin C will assist with the absorption of iron in animal products, too, but is especially important for vegetable sources of iron.) This is one reason why spinach salads often contain oranges. The food that is highest in iron content is liver. Other foods high in iron include red meat, chicken and turkey, quinoa, organ meats, raisins, dark leafy greens, egg yolks, prunes, molasses, beans and lentils, salmon, nuts and seeds, dark chocolate (at least 80%), broccoli and others. I am not a fan of “iron fortified” milk and cereals because the iron those foods contain is in a form that is very difficult to absorb.
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  • Use Iron Supplementation:  Iron pills or supplements should never be taken if testing has not proven you are deficient in iron. Excess iron in the bloodstream can have negative affects which are as bad or worse as an iron deficiency. Please also be aware the forms of iron most commonly sold in drug stores are difficult to absorb and often cause constipation. Ferrous sulfate is the most commonly sold form of iron, but is very poorly absorbed and often causes constipation. It is not a form I recommend. My preferred forms of supplemental iron include iron citrate, iron gluconate, iron bisglycinate and/or chelated iron. Iron is best absorbed when it is taken on an empty stomach. My favorite iron supplements are Hematinic Formula and Vitamin Code Raw Iron.
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  • Severe cases of Iron-Deficiency Anemia may require blood transfusions or intravenous iron. Those approaches are usually not needed unless other health issues are present.

In conclusion, I’d like to say that Iron-Deficiency Anemia can usually be quickly addressed and reversed. More difficult cases may require further testing and additional therapies, but quality of life can usually be restored fairly quickly.

Red Blood Cell Photograph courtesy of Wellcome Images
Anemia Blood Cell Photograph Courtesy of Alpha Images

 

 

Is a BRCA1 Gene Mutation Worthy of Physical Mutilation?

A famous actress, mother and philanthropist’s recent announcement that she had a double mastectomy as a preventive measure against breast cancer has everyone wondering what her true risks were and whether her decision was warranted or extreme. Please let me say I very much respect her decision and her desire to protect herself out of love for her children. Any decision related to cancer and other health matters is highly personal. There are no “right” or “wrong” decisions. I applaud her for taking control of her health and making the decision which was right for her. I also strongly encourage other women to do thorough research before making a similar decision.Woman performing a breast exam

Her decision was reportedly based on her family history of breast cancer (her mother died at age 57 after battling the disease for a decade) and the fact she was tested for and told she has a mutation in the BRCA1 gene.

What are BRCA1 and 2 Gene Mutations?

In their normal state, the BRCA1 and 2 genes help stop abnormal cell growth. They provide a natural form of protection against breast cancer. When these genes are mutated – typically by environmental toxins and other lifestyle factors, not solely heredity – they stop providing the protection they were designed to. If left unchecked, this may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. If is important to note that only 2% of breast cancers result from a BRCA1 or 2 gene mutation, and that less than 0.25% of the population has such mutations. While researching this article, I spoke with and read quotes from multiple MDs and surgeons who are frustrated that many women are getting elective double mastectomies who do not have the BRCA1 or 2 gene defect.

Why Preventive Mastectomies Often Fail

Unfortunately, the following factors may make the decision to have a preventive mastectomy an extreme measure offering little or no protection:

  • Only 2% of breast cancers involve BRCA1 or 2 genes; and approximately only 0.25% of the general population has the mutation.
  • Women who had preventive mastectomies often get breast cancer in spite of having little or no breast tissue. Tumors form where breast tissue was previously.
  • Women who have preventive mastectomies often believe they are “safe” and therefore fail to make simple lifestyle changes that greatly reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Genes are activated and inactivated by environmental and lifestyle factors. Having the gene may statistically increase the likelihood of cancer developing, but it is not guaranteed and the likelihood can be diminished.
  • One study found the risk primarily increased when women with a BRCA1 or 2 gene mutation had their breasts exposed to radiation – such as that from a mammogram. This is significant because women with known BRCA1 or 2 gene mutations are often advised to get a mammogram every three to six months. Although this recommendation is intended to help, the excess exposure to radiation can be very harmful.
  • An article published in 2011 in The Journal of the American Medical Association reported the link between the BRCA genes and breast cancer was grossly overstated. The study found that preventive surgery, at best, may only add 3-6 years of life. This low gain in life expectancy exists because preventive surgery does not provide 100% protection from breast cancer, offers no protection from other cancers, and provides no protection against other causes of death.

What Are Other Options?

The cancer industry in the US treats cancer as an “inevitable” disease that cannot be prevented instead of encouraging people to live in a way that reduces the likelihood of cancer developing. The following tips for preventing and reducing the likelihood of developing breast cancer are based on scientific data and research:

  • Cancer Prevention TipsHave thermograms done to check for breast abnormalities and tumors instead of mammograms. Thermograms are an alternative form of scan with significantly lower risks and radiation exposure. Thermograms are also known to provide higher levels of detection.
  • Eat your veggies. Several studies proved cruciferous vegetables contain a phytochemical which actually turns off mutated BRCA genes. This study found as little as one serving per day of cruciferous vegetables greatly reduced cancer risks. Indole-3-Carbinol (IC3) in broccoli has also been shown to reduce the activity of the BRCA genes.
  • Get out in the sun. Multiple studies have identified a connection between breast cancer and low Vitamin D levels. A study done in 2009 determined 30% of breast cancers could be prevented if men and women would maintain adequate Vitamin D levels. (On a side note, a more recent study which concluded Vitamin D was of no benefit cannot be trusted because the study used a flawed protocol. The study did not use a high enough dosage of Vitamin D to make any difference in health outcomes.) One cancer study estimated that as many as 600,000 cases of breast cancer each year could be prevented if adequate Vitamin D levels were maintained. Vitamin D plays a powerful role in genetic expression and is also known to cause the death of cancer cells. Its value in treating and preventing breast cancer should not be underestimated. (It has been proven beneficial in preventing over 16 different cancers. Are your levels adequate?)
  • Maintain normal weight and insulin levels. It is commonly recognized that obesity and insulin resistance (resulting in excess amounts of insulin in the bloodstream) are connected to breast cancer. Eating a diet low in high-glycemic carbohydrates can help with weight maintenance and may help improve insulin resistance. Regular exercise is also known to reduce the likelihood of developing cancer.
  • The American Institute of Cancer Research estimates that about 40% of breast cancer cases in the US – or approximately 70,000 cases per year – could be prevented using simple lifestyle changes such as making better food choices, exercising more, and choosing a diet high in natural foods. Some experts think these numbers are actually a low estimate and that significantly more cases of breast cancer could be prevented by improved lifestyle habits.
  • Consume adequate amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids and limit intake of Omega-6 fatty acids. Multiple studies have shown a connection between Omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies and breast cancer. These studies also found higher rates of breast cancer among women who had excess levels of Omega-6 fatty acids compared to their Omega-3 levels. Good food sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include wild salmon, chia seeds, walnuts, sardines, olive oil, hemp seeds and eggs. Taking an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement is also a valid option. I prefer Krill Oil due to its purity and because its fatty acid content provides other benefits.

As I stated previously, decisions related to health are very personal. I encourage you to do extensive research before making extreme choices.

References:

BRCA Genes In Breast Cancer Chemoprevention, Eliot Rosen, National Institutes of Health

High Penetrance Breast and/or Ovarian Cancer Susceptibility Genes, National Cancer Institute, 3/4/2013

BRCA1 and BRCA2 as molecular targets for phytochemicals, British Journal of Cancer

Research Interests, Donaldo Romangolo, Bio 5 Institute, University of Arizona

Comparison of Effect Sizes Associated With Biomarkers Reported in Highly Cited Individual Articles and in Subsequent Meta-analyses, John P. A. Ioannidis, MD, DSc; Journal of the American Medical Association, 2011;305(21):2200-2210. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.713

Vitamin D for cancer prevention: global perspective; Garland, C.F., et al. 2009

Vitamin D and prevention of breast cancer: pooled analysis; Garland, C.F., et al. 2007

Estrogen and Insulin Crosstalk: Breast Cancer Risk Implications. The Nurse Practitioner. 2003

Evaluation of the synergistic effect of insulin resistance and insulin-like growth factors on the risk of breast carcinoma. Cancer. 2004

Opposing effects of dietary n-3 and n-6 fatty acids on mammary carcinogenesis: The Singapore Chinese Health Study. USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, 2003

Regulation of tumor angiogenesis by dietary fatty acids and eicosanoids. Division of Nutrition and Endrocrinology, American Health Foundation. 2000

Graphics: All graphics in this post courtesy of Tips Times

Modern Epidemic: Metabolic Syndrome

“Metabolic Syndrome” refers to a group of symptoms that are increasing at an alarming rate in the U.S. and other developed countries. Metabolic Syndrome is often referred to as an “epidemic” because the number of people affected by it is increasing so rapidly. Why does this matter? Because Metabolic Syndrome is a set of conditions created by lifestyle and dietary habits. Metabolic Syndrome is Metabolic Syndrome: Apple with Stethoscope and Measuring Tapeknown to increase the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hormonal imbalances, depression, stroke and more.

Although experts disagree on the specific causes of Metabolic Syndrome, they all agree that obesity, a high carbohydrate diet, and a diet low in fruits and vegetables are contributing factors. Other factors which may increase your risk include heredity, hormonal imbalances, lack of exercise, smoking and possibly toxic exposure from food, air and water.

The problem with Metabolic Syndrome is that no single definition of what it is and no specified set of diagnostic criteria have been defined. Many practitioners in the mainstream medical community do not believe Metabolic Syndrome exists and do not believe early identification can help improve health outcomes. There is also controversy about whether the symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome truly represent a “syndrome” or are merely a group of related symptoms which each has its own risk factors. The concern is that we have created a “disease” which truly doesn’t exist.

The bottom line is that whether you group the symptoms together and label them or not, they each represent a very real risk to health and longevity. In my practice, I work with many people who have multiple symptoms associated with Metabolic Syndrome. Addressing the issues quickly restores health. It also often results in improved self esteem and a restored positive outlook. I find that people who address Metabolic Syndrome typically experience better overall health on a long term basis.

Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome

The most common symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome include:

  • Weight gain in the stomach and abdomen, often in spite of exercise and decreased food intake
  • Fatigue
  • Increased triglycerides and cholesterol
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Fasting blood glucose levels greater than 100 mg/dL
  • Acne
  • Higher than normal blood levels of insulin (Please see The Top 3 Blood Tests Everyone Should Request for more info)
  • Mild to moderate kidney damage resulting in excess protein in the urine
  • Increased systemic inflammation which may cause joint pain, water retention and other symptoms
  • Increased liver enzymes due to insufficient detoxification and/or a condition called “fatty liver”
  • Excess growth of Candida (yeast) in the body
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in women
  • Low Testosterone in men
  • Abnormal development in children
  • Mental and psychological issues, ranging from mild to extreme

If you have three or more of those symptoms, please schedule an appointment with your practitioner. Ask him or her to order blood work including a complete metabolic panel, complete blood count, insulin level, A1C and complete thyroid panel. (If your doctor is unsure how to interpret these tests related to Metabolic Syndrome risk factors, please feel free to contact me to schedule a half-hour blood work interpretation consultation.)

Reversing Metabolic Syndrome

The good news is that Metabolic Syndrome can often be reversed using simple lifestyle changes. Supplements may also be used in some cases. The purpose of the recommended changes is to improve insulin sensitivity and restore balance to the endocrine system. Potential changes may include:

  • Improving an exercise regimen and combining it with weight training
  • Decreasing the type and quantity of carbohydrates eaten on a daily basis
  • Increasing the amount of healthy fat consumed on a daily basis
  • Identifying and addressing mineral deficiencies
  • Improving digestion to ensure foods are adequately digested and absorbed
  • Other recommendations based on the person’s specific health needs

Reversing Metabolic Syndrome is very possible, but requires the direction of a qualified practitioner. If you suspect you have Metabolic Syndrome and would like to start the process of reversing it, please contact me to schedule a consultation. 

Photo courtesy of Keith Ramsey

Twenty Surprising Facts About Vitamin D

Vitamin DThe following facts about Vitamin D may surprise you:

  • Vitamin D is a hormone, not a vitamin. (This post refers to it as a “vitamin” because that is the common terminology used.)
  • Vitamin D is a powerful anti-inflammatory
  • 90-95% of Vitamin D is produced by the skin through sun exposure
  • The natural form of Vitamin D the skin produces is Vitamin D3 
  • The Vitamin D that is added to milk and other products is Vitamin D2, which is not well absorbed
  • Vitamin D is fat-soluble, meaning the body stores it 
  • Experts estimate that 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in Vitamin D
  • Vitamin D regulates more than 200 genes in the body
  • Grass fed beef contains Vitamin D3; mainstream beef does not
  • Vitamin D is a powerful immune booster
  • Studies proved 2000 IU/day is more effective than flu shots at preventing the flu
  • Vitamin D is known to protect against Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis, Multiple Sclerosis, and over 800 different cancers
  • It is very difficult to get adequate D3 through the diet
  • Ten to thirty minutes of unprotected sun exposure is the best way to boost levels
  • Pregnant women need twice as much Vitamin D as other people
  • Dark-skinned people typically do not produce Vitamin D well and are often deficient
  • The best test to check Vitamin D levels is the 25-hydroxy-vitamin D test
  • The 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D blood test is very inaccurate and may return false levels if D levels are low
  • The ideal range of D in the blood is 50-75 nmol/L. Higher and lower amounts may cause or worsen health challenges.
  • Deficiencies in Vitamin D have been connected to depression, inflammatory conditions, cancer, fatigue, digestive disorders, metabolic disorders, weight gain, headaches, bladder disorders, and much more

Do you take Vitamin D? I generally recommend starting with 2000-5000 IU of Vitamin D3 per day. Check your blood levels every three months, adjusting the dose as needed. The goal level of Vitamin D should be 50-75 nmol/L.

If you do not have a doctor, you can order a home test kit at: Vitamin D Home Test Kit

My passion is helping people improve their health by identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies and other causes of illness. I have helped thousands of people improve their health, reverse symptoms and reduce their need for medication. If you are ready to improve your health, please contact me to schedule a consultation.

Conquering the Roaring Lion of Food Temptations

A tempting box of chocolates

I recently realized there were still posts which did not import when I imported my content from my former blog site. Unfortunately, this post was one of them. It’s a late addition, but one I knew would benefit others. 

This blog was inspired by my clients, patients and friends who have changed lifestyle and eating habits and experienced cravings as a result. It’s also for everyone who battles cravings as part of daily life. (Anyone who has dealt with cravings knows it is indeed a BATTLE. This post is for you!)

Chances are you’re reading this because you’ve decided to change your eating habits. You may have chosen to change because you want to lose weight, improve your health, delay aging, or for many other reasons. Regardless of the desire that prompted you to change your eating style, you’re probably battling food temptations on a daily basis. In this post, I’m going to look at what causes cravings, how to identify their cause, and provide suggestions for strategies you can use to successfully combat and eliminate your cravings. Ready? Let’s go!!

Food cravings typically stem from four sources:

  1. Psychological and physical habits
  2. Detoxification
  3. Hormonal fluctuations
  4. Unaddressed emotional issues

Cravings that stem from ingrained habits can be tough to beat because of the sense of security that are often tied to them. For instance, if you are used to starting every day with a big bowl of “Captain Death” cereal and whole milk, switching to a bowl of fruit and nuts may take some getting used to. Your ingrained habit will cause your mind to attempt to force you to reach for that box of death and to not change the status quo. Your mind and body will associate your daily habit with security and stability. Changing the habit will require re-teaching your mind and body to embrace the healthy habit and reject the unhealthy old habit. Research has shown that a bad habit can typically be replaced with a good one in 21-40 days. Want to shorten that time frame? Don’t rely solely on yourself. Ask God for help, ask your friends and family to encourage you and hold you accountable, and – most importantly – avoid situations that expose you to foods you’ve chosen to avoid. When you decide to change your dietary habits, clean out your cabinets and refrigerator and donate all of the off-limit foods to a food pantry or give them to friends. If you live with others who are not making the same dietary changes you are, designate one specific shelf in the fridge and one specific set of shelves in cupboards and pantry as yours and yours alone. This way you only need to look one place for your “safe” foods and won’t have to be exposed to the unhealthy foods of those you live with. Ask your family to respect your decision and to help you. If you need to ask your spouse to please eat his Big Macs, Snickers bars and banana splits in another room … do it.

It is also very possible and probable that we have addictions to some foods. Identifying those addictions can be very helpful in combating cravings and temptations. One study found that rats who were addicted to sugar and cocaine chose sugar over cocaine every single time. Another study found that sugar stimulates the same regions in the brain as cocaine. These two studies provide strong proof that it is indeed possible to develop an addiction to sugar. Other foods that contain addictive chemicals include wheat. Diet Coke, high fructose corn syrup, most fast food options, white sugar, etc. If you realize you have a food addiction, it is imperative to completely avoid that food. Having even a tiny amount of the food will send your cravings through the roof and will also make resisting temptation very difficult.

Cravings sometimes come as your body cleanses itself of the unhealthy residues of former food habits. This is commonly known as “detoxification.” The good news is that detoxification is temporary and not everyone experiences it the same way. Your personal detoxification experience will be different from everyone else’s. More good news is that detoxification happens in different levels. Your body will detoxify itself of the most recent toxins you’ve eaten or absorbed first, and will then methodically detoxify itself of toxins from the past. More good news is that your detoxification process will be lesser if you’re only making minor dietary changes. After making huge dietary and lifestyle changes, some experts believe it can take up to two years before full detoxification occurs. Detoxification may generate a wide range of symptoms, including pimples and skin rashes, diarrhea, a runny nose, fatigue, achiness, low-grade fever, feeling chilled all the time, strange dreams, body odor and bad breath, a coating of the tongue, grumpiness and irritability, and more. To minimize detox symptoms, do any or all of the following:

  • Drink plenty of purified water. It is recommended that everyone drink half their weight in ounces of purified water on a daily basis. Many people find it wonderfully cleansing to start the day with a big glass of water with organic lemon juice in it. This is known to aid liver detoxification and to be very alkalizing.
  • Take a hot bath 2-3 nights per week with 2 cups Epsom salts and 2 cups organic apple cider vinegar in it. This is a “detox bath” that will pull toxins out through the skin and help you feel better in general. This bath is also known to help eliminate colds and flu if you take one every day at the very beginning of the illness. (For more info, read How to Create a Detoxification Bath Using Common Ingredients.)
  • Do everything you can to help your body cleanse your liver. Things to try include drinking 1 TBS of liquid chlorophyll in pure water morning and evening; sipping on pure water with organic lemon juice throughout the day except close to or during meals; taking 175mg Milk Thistle three times per day; using liver cleansing herbal teas; etc. It is not uncommon for liver enzymes to elevate a bit during a prolonged detox, so helping your body cleanse the liver will ultimately help you feel better.
  • Use enemas or colon hydrotherapy to cleanse the colon. These tactics cleanse the colon of toxins and can greatly diminish cravings. I don’t recommend using these methods on an ongoing basis, but using them during a detoxification phase may be helpful.

Moving on … Hormonal fluctuations can and will cause cravings and can make resisting temptation more difficult. For those who are making minor dietary changes, I would encourage you to limit or eliminate sugar, coffee, alcohol and other caffeinated beverages, all processed foods, etc. These foods can exacerbate hormonal issues. Eliminating those foods may make a huge difference in how you feel. Regular exercise can also help balance hormones.

Emotional eating is perhaps the toughest challenge to battle. Sometimes we experience cravings which we cannot explain. Those cravings are often the result of unmet or unaddressed emotional issues. These issues could include unforgiveness, feelings of abandonment, feeling unfulfilled, feeling unloved, etc., etc. Feelings of unforgiveness or bitterness can be especially damaging to our willpower. My encouragement to anyone who realizes that emotional issues are sabotaging their dietary changes is to journal, find a friend to share your intimate feelings with, and to seek professional counseling if needed. I also encourage you to prayerfully seek wisdom in identifying the specific emotional issues that cause you to overeat or to make poor food choices. Hypnosis is a scientific method that can effectively help you identify and eliminate food barriers. I highly recommend Paula Presnoples, CH of UR Path Hypnosis for anyone in the Indianapolis area.

Remember that emotional issues sometimes need to be addressed one layer at a time. Choosing to identify and address emotional issues is a huge step. Promise yourself you will do that, then pay attention to the things that trigger overeating or making poor food choices. Once you recognize the triggers, see if you can connect emotions to those triggers, and then seek spiritual guidance on how to work through the unaddressed issue. Some people find help from EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), counseling, prayer, support groups, journaling, etc. Commit to working through your unmet emotional issues and you will find that you receive crystal-clear insight as to what issues are clogging your ability to eat the way you want to.

Let’s move forward and discuss strategies for rising above temptation and cravings. Please know that cravings and temptations are a problem for me, too. I have found several thing successfully combat those cravings. First and foremost, I would recommend writing down your reasons for making the dietary changes. Set personal goals for making the changes you are making. When you are tempted to eat the wrong foods, remind yourself of your reasons for changing and ask yourself if going back to old habits is worth not meeting your goals or destroying goals you’ve already met. Chances are that piece of pizza or donut will not seem so appealing when compared to a life spent being overweight or ill. Anytime I am tempted to eat something I shouldn’t, I ask myself the following questions:

– Does this food add to or subtract from my health? You could rephrase this by asking, “Will this food help or hinder my weight loss goal?” or “Will this food keep me younger or accelerate aging?” Ask yourself a question that targets your goals for making the dietary changes you’ve chosen to make.

– Does this food glorify God? (Or whomever your personal Higher Power is.) I had to realize that what I eat directly reflects my understanding of who God is. Seek direction from your own Higher Power and ask yourself what the food choices you make say to others about your personal God.

Other factors that can help combat temptation include prayer and finding encouraging affirmations, verses, quotations, etc., that will inspire you to stick to your goals. Verses that help me include Romans 12:1-2, Galatians 5:22-23, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, etc. I also have a collection of quotes from health gurus that help immensely. Memorize or write your affirmations or quotations on cards and keep them with you so that you have ready access to them at all times. Posting them on the door of your refrigerator or cupboard may be especially helpful. Most importantly, ask others to pray for and encourage you!

Finding a “food buddy” is also an excellent way to combat food temptations. Find someone who is making similar dietary changes and agree to support each other by being available via telephone, email, text, etc. Having someone available that you can contact when you’re feeling tempted is a strong motivator. This technique is a primary component of the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Each person has a mentor, or sponsor, whom they can call any time of day if they are feeling tempted to have a drink. Since our food temptations may be caused by food addictions, this technique can be very helpful for anyone who wants to make dietary changes and better food choices. It’s also very encouraging to have someone available whom you can laugh with and who will celebrate your successes with you.

As I said earlier, the best thing to do to combat your cravings is to avoid the situations and foods that make you weak. Don’t purchase foods that make you fall.

Here’s my closing encouragement for dealing with food temptations: If you stray from your set goals, don’t beat yourself up and don’t use it as an excuse to stray even further. We’re all human and are all prone to weakness. Remember that there is always a way to avoid your temptation if you’re willing to let go of the temporary pleasure the temptation will bring. Sticking with drastic dietary changes is a challenge that may be difficult to maintain. You can do it! If you stray, remember that straying from your new diet provides fantastic opportunities to learn more about ourselves and to learn new ways to meet our goals. You are in my thoughts and prayers as you strive to change your life to pursue new levels of health, wellness and weight loss.

Confessions from Thyroid Hell

I guarantee you have been touched by Thyroid Hell at least once during your lifetime. If you do not personally have thyroid disease, you have definitely come in contact with someone who does. That encounter may have been quite pleasant, or may have been a nightmare. Either way, the quality of the encounter can be directly attributed to how well that person’s thyroid levels were balanced on that particular day. (Thyroid levels can fluctuate on a daily basis, which makes managing thyroid conditions that much more difficult.)

I thought I’d share an insider’s look at Thyroid Hell, mainly because I’ve spent a lot of time there. I invite those of you with thyroid imbalances to share your stories in the comments. Feel free to have fun with it and please don’t worry about offending us. Thyroid disease is no laughing matter, but the situations it creates are sometimes hilarious.

In the upcoming weeks, I will share more detailed information about thyroid disorders. I will also launch a wellness coaching program for thyroid patients that will provide detailed information about lifestyle changes, dietary changes and supplements that can be used to support the thyroid gland. This program will also contain very specific information on how to discuss thyroid issues with your doctor and on the tests you need to request. I do not want one more thyroid patient to needlessly suffer, and I recognize that education is the only way to prevent that.

The Thyroid Gland is a tiny gland that wraps around the esophagus. It sits just below the “Adam’s Apple.” In spite of its size, the thyroid gland is incredibly powerful. It secretes hormones that directly affect every body system. Every single one. An imbalance in thyroid hormone levels can affect brain chemistry, emotions, digestion, reproductive health, fluid balance in the tissues, kidney function, heart function, liver function, hair and nail growth, sexual function, emotional balance, energy levels, sleep patterns, weight, dexterity, muscle strength and stamina, cholesterol levels, anxiety, vision, internal temperature regulation, and more. As you can see, thyroid dysfunction affects body, mind and spirit in profound ways. Unfortunately, many MDs prescribe antidepressant meds to treat the symptoms instead of doing detailed blood work to find the cause of the problems.

The one item that is also affected but which was not included in the list is: RELATIONSHIPS. It is very difficult for thyroid patients to explain to family members and friends that they truly aren’t themselves. I frequently hear people with thyroid disorders express: “I hate myself and don’t know who this monster is living in my body, so I don’t know how any of my coworkers, family members or friends could stand me.” I’ve been that monster. Even though I was able to usually control my outbursts, the constant turmoil spinning through my brain and thought patterns was pure hell. Many people who are very positive, calm and chipper become Mr. Hyde when their thyroid levels become imbalanced. Those of us who have dealt with thyroid issues for many years instantly know it’s time to get blood work and check levels when the monster starts to rear her ugly head.

Unfortunately, people who have never before received a thyroid diagnosis often genuinely think they’re going crazy. It is extremely common for patients who are hospitalized due to suicide attempts to be diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. It is not uncommon for lab tests to reveal that people who successfully committed suicide had thyroid imbalances. I am very thankful that a growing number of MDs are choosing to specialize in both endocrinology and psychiatry. I personally believe the two cannot be completely separated.

In my own experience, I can say that I could easily deal with the physical afflictions of thyroid imbalance if the emotional effects were not so profound. I’ve heard other thyroid patients echo similar sentiments. Once you realize your thyroid levels are out of balance, you begin the process of changing medication dosages until the correct dosage is found. This can sometimes create a rollercoaster effect where the patient goes from being hypothyroid (having thyroid levels that are too low) to being hyperthyroid (having thyroid levels that are too high.) Unfortunately, there is a lot of overlap between the symptoms for hypo- and hyperthyroidism, which makes the entire process that much more fun.

For those of you who have friends, coworkers or family members with thyroid challenges, here’s a list of the emotional and behavioral changes you might observe when their thyroid levels become imbalanced:

  • Having extreme anxiety where none existed before
  • Reacting irrationally to minor issues
  • Responding to almost everything with anger
  • Displaying extreme levels of irritability (as in being annoyed by your breathing)
  • Overtweeting or excessive use of social media (I’m not making that up)
  • Suddenly having a total lack of self confidence and a complete disbelief their efforts will succeed
  • Becoming completely apathetic about projects or topics for which they have a passion
  • Dressing very differently because their clothes do not fit, their body image plummets, or they just don’t care
  • Suddenly becoming out-and-out mean, caustically sarcastic, hypercritical, etc.
  • Becoming very negative
  • Suddenly becoming a hermit who has no desire to leave the house or interact with others
  • A total slob may suddenly become obsessively tidy, or a neat freak may suddenly become a slob

That list could continue with many more points, but the bottom line is that thyroid imbalance changes people’s personalities, not just their physiology. The good news is that there are a wide variety of natural approaches that can support thyroid health. These approaches, used in combination with natural thyroid replacement hormones, can eliminate the hell and restore normalcy.

So what can you do to help a thyroid patient who’s in flux? Love them, obviously. In the midst of that, ask questions to ensure they are working with a professional to stabilize their hormone levels. I cannot stress this enough: Most thyroid patients are already experiencing a bit of self hate. Try not to be negative and judgmental about the changes in their life habits. They may need your assistance in maintaining the status quo, and they may need you to very gently hold them accountable, but they do not need your judgment. Threatening them with ending the relationship will not motivate them at all. Their hormonal imbalance is already affecting their self image, so losing a relationship may not matter to them (or they may expect it) when their levels are out of balance. I know that sounds extreme, but I hear it and see it on a daily basis.

The best advice I can offer is to ask the thyroid patient in your life how you can help them. Be specific. Ask if you can help with chores, if they need you to take them out to have fun, and let them know you love them and are there for them if they need to talk or need a soft shoulder to pound on. Your support will do more for them than anything else.

Ok … your turn. Have you experienced this? What else can we add to the list? I welcome in put from thyroid patients and from people who love them and who are on the receiving end of the angst.

Green Coffee Bean Extract and Raspberry Ketones: Truth or Hype?

Green Coffee Beans

I’ve recently received many questions about whether or not Green Coffee Extract and Raspberry Ketones actually work. These questions multiplied after a well-known MD with a nationally-syndicated television show promoted these supplements. I’ve also been receiving multiple spam email messages about both supplements. I confess the spam made me question the validity of these supplements, so I decided I needed to do more research. I also have to admit my research was difficult, as most of the sites containing “research” were also trying to sell one or both of the products. 

Update, May 8, 2013: I do not recommend using these supplements. Please do not contact me to ask if I think it’s a good idea for you to take them. I do not, regardless of your health issues. Thank you.

Please be aware there are no “magic bullets.” Weight gain or an inability to lose weight always has a cause. Eliminating the cause is key to finally losing weight. Please read my article, The Top 7 Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight, for more information on weight loss and on physiological issues that may prevent it.

If you are struggling with weight loss and need help or coaching, please contact me to schedule a consultation. I have literally helped hundreds of people lose many thousands of pounds. I use an approach that provides coaching and education in nutrition, fitness, metabolic balancing, and eliminating sabotaging thought patterns. I would love to help you reach your health goals. I will not let you fail. Please feel free to contact me at 317.489.0909 or via email. PLEASE NOTE I CANNOT ANSWER MEDICAL QUESTIONS VIA EMAIL. You must schedule a consultation to receive advice. 

Very few double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have been done on these supplements. The ones that were done were either very, very small (less than 20 participants) or were done on mice and not humans. The information that follows shares what I found when I researched both supplements. As always, this information is shared for informational purposes only and was not evaluated by the FDA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness. Please do not take any supplement without first discussing it with your physician and checking for prescription interactions.

Green Coffee Bean Extract

The only study I could find that researched the effectiveness of Green Coffee Bean Extract on weight loss was done by JA Vinson,BR Burnham, and MV Nagendran. This study did find the extract helped with weight loss, but was only conducted on 16 people and was conducted over a very short period of time. In my opinion, a study of 16 people does not qualify as a valid study, as the control group is simply too small to prove the effects would be the same in a larger group. Additionally, I could find zero information on how the “control” group was chosen, which again causes me to question the validity of the study. It is also important to note that the company who paid for the study is a company which manufactures and sells green coffee bean extract. (Please read my article, Simple Ways to Evaluate the Validity of a Research Study for more information on ways to know whether published conclusions are valid or not.)

Potential Positive Benefits of Green Coffee Bean Extract:

  • Green coffee bean extract is known to contain many anti-oxidants, which are known to boost health and protect cells from damage from toxins, aging, and free radicals. (That does not mean it helps with weight loss.)
  • Green coffee bean extract contains chlorogenic acid, a chemical which is thought to help balance blood sugar levels. (Insulin encourages the body to store fat instead of burning it, so reducing blood sugars and reducing the amount of insulin produced is a proven method of assisting weight loss. However, there is no evidence to prove this supplement works or that it effectively reduces insulin levels.)
  • Some studies have shown that green coffee bean extract may help suppress appetite and may have a positive effect on lowering blood pressure.

Potential Negative Effects of Green Coffee Bean Extract:

  • The frenzy surrounding green coffee bean extract has caused a multitude of supplements to be released which don’t actually contain green coffee bean extract, which contain harmful fillers or which contain a very low-quality extract. Use caution when purchasing green coffee bean extract and only purchase from highly reliable suppliers.
  • Some people respond negatively to the supplement. (Any supplement has the potential to create an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals.)
  • The supplement does not work for everyone. Physical and hormonal issues preventing weight loss may not be helped by this supplement.
  • The caffeine in green coffee bean extract may have a negative affect on some people.

My Conclusions About Green Coffee Bean Extract:

As with most products claiming to boost weight loss, green coffee bean extract is no magic bullet. There are many other methods of reducing insulin in the body, so taking this supplement may boost weight loss efforts a little bit, but won’t produce dramatic results for most people. My recommendation is to follow a low-glycemic eating plan and to use your head. On an interesting side note, roasted coffee also contains chlorogenic acid, so drinking a single, eight ounce cup of ORGANIC coffee may have the same effect as taking these supplements.

Raspberry Ketones

The only studies I could find that have been done on raspberry ketones were done on mice, and one was only done on mice who were being fed a high-fat diet. Raspberry ketones have been around for a very long time. The only “new” thing about them is that the marketing. Let’s be honest, the fact a supplement was recommended by a doctor on TV doesn’t mean it works, it just means it gets an insane amount of marketing attention. There is plenty of anecdotal “evidence” stating raspberry ketones assist with weight loss, but I could not find any scientific evidence that proved it.

Potential Positive Benefits of Raspberry Ketones:

  • There is some evidence that indicates raspberry ketones might alter the levels of a adinopectin, a hormone that is typically lower in obese people and which has been shown to be a factor in insulin resistance. (Insulin resistance is often a precursor to and major factor in Type 2 Diabetes. That does not mean this supplement helps with weight loss.)
  • Raspberry ketones may also stimulate the release of the hormone norepinephrine, an adrenal hormone which affects metabolism. (The problem is that it may negatively affect the adrenal glands and ultimately reduce one’s ability to lose weight.)
  • As with green coffee been extract, raspberry ketones do contain anti-oxidants which may have some health benefits, but no weight loss benefits.

Potential Negative Effects of Raspberry Ketones:

  • The supplements sold are artificial raspberry ketones created in a lab and are not the real thing
  • Norepinephrine can have a very negative effect on health. It can cause anxiety, raise body temperature, and raise blood pressure.
  • Stimulating the adrenal glands to release norepinephrine could cause adrenal fatigue, which would ultimately have a very negative effect on weight loss efforts.
  • All of the potential negative effects I cited for green coffee bean extract also apply to raspberry ketones.

My Conclusions About Raspberry Ketones:

Similar to the conclusions I drew about green coffee bean extract, I think the claims made about raspberry ketones are all hype. They may assist with weight loss in a very small way, but they are not extremely effective. The fact raspberry ketones affect adrenal hormones concerns me. Adrenal function directly affects weight gain and loss. Taking raspberry ketones has the potential to harm adrenal function, which would ultimately result in weight gain. I can’t honestly recommend taking this supplement. As with any supplement, if you choose to take it, please discuss it with your physician first. Please monitor blood pressure carefully. If elevated blood pressure occurs, or if you begin to notice anxiety or hot flashes after taking it, please discontinue use immediately.

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If you are struggling with weight loss and need help or coaching, please contact me to schedule a consultation. (Liability issues prevent me from answering questions or providing advice if you are not an established client.) I have literally helped hundreds of people lose many thousands of pounds. I use an approach that provides coaching and education in nutrition, fitness, metabolic balancing, and eliminating sabotaging thought patterns. I would love to help you reach your health goals. I will not let you fail. Please feel free to contact me at 317.489.0909 or via email

Update added October 24th: Yes, these products can be taken together, but I do not recommend their use. They both do basically the same thing, so taking them simultaneously will not necessarily boost your weight loss efforts. There are much easier ways to lose weight which are free.

References:

CalorieLab.com: Green Coffee Bean Extract – Weight Loss Miracle, or Waste of Time?

Los Angeles Times: Green Bean Study Shows Promise

Kimberly Snyder, The Truth About Raspberry Ketones

PubMed: Adiponectin

The Smart Way to Deal with Zits

Zits and acne used to be a malady of the teenage years. Unfortunately, more and more adults — male and female — now find themselves dealing with pimples on a daily basis. The truth is that the average age of patients who see dermatologists for acne ranges from 20-26 years, and the anti-zit business brings in over one billion dollars per year. Acne rates are much higher now than they were 20 years ago. There are specific reasons for the increase and there are very simple solutions. 

The first step in addressing zits is to figure out the cause. Zits don’t “just happen.” There is always a reason. The most common causes of acne include:

  • Hormonal imbalances: Most zits in the teenage years are caused by an excess of either testosterone or estrogen. The belief used to be that acne was only caused by excess testosterone, but more recent studies proved an excess of either hormone can cause acne. The fact our food system is now overloaded with foods containing growth hormones and other synthetic hormones has a lot to do with this, as does the excessive use of highly-estrogenic soy that is included in almost all processed foods. I’m often amazed that people who eliminate soy from their diet often report that their skin becomes clear as a result.
    .
    Women often get zits on their chin as a normal part of PMS. These zits are definitely caused by hormonal changes. Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome often frequently experience acne as a result of the hormone imbalances it creates. If you have consistent acne, it is wise to get a saliva hormone test to check the levels of your reproductive hormones and identify any imbalances. Frequent zits often disappear once hormonal imbalances are corrected.
  • Food allergies and sensitivities: I know personally that eating a food that I’m allergic to will cause a fairly large zit (or zits) to form within three days. The skin is a huge detoxification organ, so when we expose ourselves to foods our body considers toxic, the body may use the skin to eliminate some of those toxins. I know many people with food allergies who report their only symptom is that they get zits. They have little or no digestive disturbance, but know they’ve been exposed to an allergen when they develop a zit. Even a mild sensitivity to a food will increase inflammation in the body and decrease immunity, making it more difficult for the body to naturally resist the factors that cause a pimple to form.On a related side note, there is a lot of conflicting evidence both pro and con about dairy products causing acne. The American Academy of Dermatology has now done three studies that conclusively proved there IS a link between acne and dairy. My clinical experience is that 9 out of 10 people’s acne greatly diminishes or disappears when they eliminate dairy. My own daughter had horrible acne and refused to believe this point for years. When she finally tried eliminating dairy, her skin completely, totally cleared within a week and a half. She doesn’t have a dairy allergy that we’re aware of, but her skin made it very clear that dairy is not a good option for her. Why does dairy contribute to acne? Mainly because it is so hard to digest. Let’s face it, we’re not cows, so our bodies have a very difficult time digesting and absorbing milk intended to be drunk by baby cows. The result is that the body tries to eliminate the toxins in the milk through the skin. Unfortunately, mainstream milk and dairy products are loaded with growth hormones that negatively impact our own hormone balance, causing a the skin to produce excess acne-causing sebum. Dairy is also known to be one of the most inflammatory foods in our diet. Any food that increases inflammation will only worsen acne symptoms.
  • Comedogenic facial products (even some used to combat acne): Comedogenic is used to refer to products that are irritating and which block the skin’s pores, thereby causing acne. Mineral oil is one of the worst oils possible for the skin, yet it is used frequently because it’s cheap. (Mineral oil is a petroleum byproduct that is discarded during the production of fuel oils. Not a good choice to put on your skin, anyway.) Many of the most commonly used skincare ingredients are comedogenic, and many anti-acne products contain quite a few of these ingredients. Your best option is to use products from companies such as Aubrey Organics, Pangea Organics, Burt’s Bees and other chemical-free companies.
  • Prescription medications: A well-known side effect of steroids (both prescription and black market) is acne. Other prescription medications that may cause acne include anti-convulsant medications (such as Lithium), prescription iodides and bromides. (Supplemental iodine is not related to prescription iodides and is not known to cause acne.)
  • Reduced liver function: It is a well known fact that many skin problems originate in the liver. The primary function of the liver is to eliminate toxins. If its function is reduced, the body resorts to eliminating toxins through the skin. My favorite herb for improving liver function and reducing skin issues is Burdock Root. Burdock Root is known to cleanse the liver and to target the skin to assist with healing. Although Burdock Root works well, other supplements known to improve liver function often result in clearer skin. Milk Thistle is another one of my favorites.
  • Over-washing of the skin: Excess use of soaps and drying anti-acne cleansers can actually make acne worse by overdrying the skin and causing it to produce more and more sebum. (Most pimples are caused when the skin produces excess sebum. Sebum is intended to protect the skin, but it can harbor bacteria and can cause pimples when the skin produces more than is needed.)

In addition to the tips shared above, here are my top ways to eliminate and prevent zits:

  • Eat a healthy diet: (You knew that was coming.) Good skin happens from the inside out. Clear, healthy skin requires a healthy diet. Period. Eating a healthy diet loaded with vegetables and fruits, whole foods, and void of excess sugars, processed foods and refined grains boosts the immunity and has a very anti-inflammatory effect on tissues. If your immune system is working at 100%, your body will often be able to very naturally eliminate the bacteria that cause pimples and acne. Obviously, a healthy diet does not include hydrogenated oils, processed foods, or excessive carbohydrates and fats. As I stated above, many people find their acne disappears once they eliminate dairy from their diet. One of my favorite books on naturally eliminating acne is: The Acne Cure. It is worth reading if you suffer from acne!
  • Don’t squeeze: We’ve all done it … squeezed a zit because we believe it will go away faster if we do. That is, sadly, a myth. The problem with squeezing a zit is that it has the potential to push the bacteria deeper into the skin. The other problem squeezing creates is that it creates an open sore that is wide open to bacteria in the air and environment. Squeezing may also cause scarring, and nobody wants that. Your best bet is to use the topical remedies I mention below and to be very, very patient.
  • Use topical antibacterials: One of my favorite remedies to speed the healing of a pimple is Tea Tree Essential Oil. Tea Tree oil is one of the most antibacterial chemicals known, but it has the added benefit of being known to stimulate the skin to heal itself. It works well. I also find that a drop of CellFood morning and evening has an amazing effect. CellFood is a powerful oxygenator that can be used internally and externally. I use it straight when I have a zit, but I recommend blending one drop of CellFood with one drop of purified water. It is a powerful antibacterial that also stimulates the skin to heal itself.
  • Use Goldenseal and probiotics internally: Goldenseal is a natural herb with powerful antibacterial properties. I use it to help pimples go away faster. (Do not use more than 10 days in a row.) For more information on how amazing Goldenseal is, please read my blog post, The Wonders of Goldenseal. Using oral probiotics will also boost the body’s own immunity and help the body heal pimples faster.

How do you deal with zits? Please share your favorite remedies!

Dark Circles Under the Eyes: Causes and Solutions

Many people consider dark circles under the eyes to merely be a cosmetic problem that is easily concealed using makeup. The truth is that most cosmetic issues have a physiological cause. Dark circles are no different. There are many different potential causes for dark circles. Some are easy to address and correct; others take a longer effort. Dark circles can also be hereditary to some extent.If you have extremely dark circles under your eyes consistently, please see your practitioner. The information that follows will help you know which blood tests to request Dark Circles Under the Eyeand which body systems to discuss with your practitioner. Please note that the following information does not apply to anyone receiving chemotherapy or other extreme drug therapies, as these therapies themselves may cause dark circles under the eyes. As always, this information is shared for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or health condition.
Potential Causes of Dark Circles Under the Eyes
  • Lack of Sleep: Women who complain about dark circles often say they only sleep 4-5 hours per night. Deep sleep allows your skin to heal. Lack of sleep may interrupt this healing and cause skin to sag. Lack of sleep also makes us more pale, which makes the blood vessels under the skin more visible and makes the skin under the eyes look purple.
  • Anemia: An iron deficiency (aka: anemia) can definitely contribute to dark circles under the eyes. The truth is that many nutritional deficiencies can cause dark circles under the eyes. Eating a healthy diet is key to preventing and eliminating dark circles. for tips on how to improve absorption, please read my blog post, The Top Six Ways to Maximize Digestion.
  • Kidney Issues: Chinese medicine attributes dark circles under the eyes to any deficiency or challenge in kidney function. Although dark circles under the eyes can’t be used to diagnose kidney issues, I can say that dark circles under the eyes often accompany kidney issues.
     
    I can share a personal story related to this … when I started using electrodermal screening (EDS) in my practice, my husband volunteered to be a test subject. His kidneys tested poorly, so I recommended a kidney support supplement. Within a few months, the dark circles under his eyes began to disappear to the point that people commented on it. The transformation was amazing. The supplement I recommended and which tested very positively for him on the EDS unit was Premier Research Lab’s Kidney Complex. (Click the link to view it.) It’s one of my favorite combinations for kidney support.
  • Food Allergies & Other Allergies: More than one mom has seen that food allergies cause dark circles under the eyes. This effect is known as “allergy shiners” in food allergy circles. Seasonal and environmental allergies can also cause dark circles under the eyes. The basic effect is that the allergy causes congestion which creates increased blood flow to the nose. Because the skin under the eyes is somewhat thin, the increased blood flow creates the purple tint. The congestion caused by allergies can also cause enlarged blood vessels around the eyes and cause the dark tint. Many people with allergies sleep poorly and have adrenal fatigue, both of which can also contribute to dark circles under the eyes.
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  • Adrenal Fatigue: Dark circles under the eyes are a primary indicator of adrenal fatigue. The adrenal glands are tiny glands located on top of the kidneys  that produce a multitude of hormones. The adrenals are our “flight or fight” glands. Because we live under a world that creates constant excess stress, many of us have adrenal glands that have become fatigued. Dark circles under the eyes, fatigue, poor sleep, weight gain and many other symptoms may be indicators of adrenal fatigue. I intend to write much more about this syndrome in future posts. I apologize I can’t adequately address it in a single paragraph.
If you have dark circle under the eyes, try to get more rest, drink more water, eat a healthier diet, and know you’re not alone. Work with someone to identify the cause of your dark circles, and then take measures to reduce them.