January 30th, 2015

Stroke Recovery

The right nutrients and herbs can help repair damage and improve quality of life2275900255_044bdfcfb7_z

Strokes are the leading cause of adult disability in the United States and the third leading cause of death. A stroke can be the result of a lack of blood flow caused by a blood clot or a hemorrhage. Without oxygen, brain cells become damaged or die so the affected area of the brain becomes unable to function. Risk factors for stroke include: high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, and atrial fibrillation (heart abnormality). High blood pressure is by far the biggest risk factor for stroke.


Aiding Stroke Recovery

The results of stroke can affect patients physically, mentally, and/or emotionally, and vary widely. Disability corresponds to areas of the brain that have been damaged. For most stroke patients, recovery involves a combination of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology, andit’s important to take advantage of all of these services.

Medical care is often focused on preventing another stroke and most often utilizes anti-coagulant therapy with warfarin (Coumadin) or anti-platelet therapy with aspirin, ticlopidine (Ticlid) , or clopidogrel (Plavix). These drugs are designed to prevent blood clots from forming and lodging in the brain, which could produce another stroke. These drugs are not, of course, used in cases where the stroke was caused by a hemorrhage.

Precautions with Coumadin

Coumadin works by blocking the action of vitamin K. Since green leafy vegetables and green tea contain high levels of vitamin K, you should avoid these foods while taking Coumadin, or at least don’t increase your consumption of them. Physicians monitor the effects of Coumadin using a test known as the International Normalized Ratio (INR) and will adjust the dosage up or down as needed. In addition to foods that are high in vitamin K, other natural substances that may interact with Coumadin include:

  • Coenzyme Q10 and St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), which may reduce Coumadin’s efficacy.
  • Proteolytic enzymes, such as nattokinase and bromelain, and several herbs, including Panax ginseng, devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), and dong quai (Angelica sinensis), can increase Coumadin’s effects. It’s likely that you can continue using these products, but don’t change the dosage from what your body is accustomed to. INR values must be monitored appropriately.
  • Garlic (Allium sativum) and ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) may reduce the ability of platelets to stick together, increasing the likelihood of bleeding. Generally, people on Coumadin should avoid high dosages of these products (more than the equivalent of one clove of garlic per day or 240 mg daily of ginkgo extract).
  • Iron, magnesium, and zinc may bind with Coumadin, decreasing its absorption and activity. Take Coumadin and products that contain iron, magnesium, or zinc at least two hours apart.
  • To reduce the likelihood of bleeding and easy bruising with Coumadin, try 150—300 mg of either grape seed or pine bark extract daily.

Natural Recovery

From a natural perspective, Ginkgo biloba extract is key to stroke recovery. It increases blood flow to the brain, boosts energy within nerve cells, and favorably affects blood thickness. The recommended dosage is 240—320 mg daily (less if you take Coumadin).

Several supplements can help prevent blood clots, including omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, flavonoids, grape seed and pine bark extracts, and garlic. Fish oil (up to 3,000 mg per day EPA + DHA) and flavonoid-rich extracts appear to be able to be used safely in combination with aspirin and other platelet inhibitors. However, using multiple natural antiplatelet agents at the same time may increase bleeding tendencies when combined with antiplatelet drugs (including Plavix and Ticlid).

Two forms of choline have shown promise in aiding stroke recovery: citicoline (CDP-choline) and glycerophosphocholine (GPC). In one six-month trial that followed 2,044 stroke patients, GPC was found to significantly help the recovery more than 95 percent of participants—without side effects. Choose one of the following: citicoline: 1,000—2,000 mg daily or GPC 600—1,200 mg daily. There are no known interactions between citicoline or GPC and Coumadin or anti-platelet drugs.

Lastly, there’s nattokinase, a protein-digesting enzyme that has potent “clot busting” properties. It has shown significant potential in improving stroke recovery. Typical dosage is 100—200 mg daily. Nattokinase should be used with caution for those taking Coumadin or antiplatelet drugs.

 

January 29th, 2015

Save Your Joints

Hyaluronic acid may hold the key to reversing arthritis

Osteoarthritis-vs.-Rheumatoid-Arthritis

Several years ago, ABC News’ Connie Chung reported on a Japanese village called Yuzuri Hara that has a reputation for extraordinary longevity. Not only do many inhabitants of the village live well into their 90s, but they also appear much younger due to their wrinkle-free skin, and they rarely suffer from common conditions associated with aging.

Local doctors attributed the villagers’ health and youthfulness to their diet. Unlike other regions of Japan that grow rice, Yuzuri Hara’s hilly terrain is better suited to harvesting various root vegetables now known to be rich in hyaluronic acid (HA). This compound plays a huge role in human health, and by upping their intake of HA, these villagers experienced first-hand the positive effects.

What Is HA and What Can It Do?

Hyaluronic acid is a sticky, mucopolysaccharide that our bodies naturally manufacture. It is a component of the ground substance or “intracellular cement” that holds our tissues together. It also provides structural support to our skin, joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Although HA can be found naturally in most every cell in the body, it is particularly concentrated in the skin tissue. In fact, almost 50 percent of the body’s HA is found in skin, both in the visible top layers and the deeper levels. As we age, our natural levels of HA decline—typically 80 percent between the ages of 40 and 70. HA loss in the skin leads to wrinkles, decreased elasticity, and dryness. Fortunately, supplementing with HA (45—200 mg daily) has been shown to increase HA levels and help counteract these effects by supporting the body’s manufacture of collagen.

HA Improves Joint Health

The loss of HA within joints appears to be a major contributor to osteoarthritis (OA), which is characterized by the degeneration of cartilage. Along with glucosamine sulfate and collagen,
HA is a critical component of healthy cartilage. The drop in the body’s HA content around/after age 40 may be the leading cause of cartilage degeneration in many people.

Injecting HA into joints of people with OA (a treatment known as viscosupplementation) has been shown to have beneficial effects on pain, joint function, and other symptoms. But injections may not be necessary—taking HA supplements may also be a viable method of increasing your body’s HA stores and improving OA symptoms.

Three double-blind, placebo-controlled studies provide evidence for using HA supplements. In the first study, 20 OA patients were given either an HA supplement (80 mg) or a placebo daily for eight weeks. Pain scores significantly improved in the HA group compared to the placebo group. In the second study, 60 patients with OA were randomized to receive either 200 mg of HA, 100 mg of HA, or a placebo daily for eight weeks. Subjects who had the most severe pain saw significant reductions in their pain and total symptom scores with 200 mg of HA, but not 100 mg of the supplement.

In the latest study, conducted at JR Tokyo General Hospital, OA sufferers between the ages of 40 and 70 who consumed 200 mg per day of Hyabest (a highly purified form of hyaluronic acid) showed improvements in symptoms over a 12-month period.

Fighting Back

Research has shown that the body is constantly attempting to repair itself and this repair is entirely possible if the necessary building blocks are available. If you have OA, focus on therapies and supplements that help decrease the rate of damage and enhance cartilage matrix repair and regeneration. In this goal, natural agents such as HA can be extremely valuable.

January 28th, 2015

Get a Grip on Anxiety

imgres

If you think prescription medications are the only option for anxiety and panic attacks, you’ll be happy to know about these very effective natural solutions

If you’ve never experienced anxiety or panic attacks, it’s hard to imagine just how uncomfortable they can be. More than 20 million Americans suffer from anxiety—medically defined as ”an unpleasant emotional state ranging from mild unease to intense fear.” While fear is a rational response to danger, anxiety usually lacks a clear or realistic cause. Severe anxiety will often produce panic attacks—intense feelings of fear. These attacks are most often associated with agoraphobia, an intense fear of being alone or being in public places.

The Cause Most Doctors Ignore

Both psychological stress and biochemical factors—such as caffeine and drug use—can trigger anxiety and panic attacks. Elevated levels of lactic acid in the blood is also one of the most significant biochemical factors. When the body lacks oxygen, lactate is the final product in the breakdown of blood sugar. In fact, injecting anxiety sufferers with lactate can produce severe panic attacks. In normal individuals, however, nothing happens. So it appears that individuals with anxiety may be sensitive to lactate. It stands to reason, then, that reducing lactate levels should be a priority, yet most physicians ignore this goal.

Reducing Lactate Levels

There are six nutritional factors that may be responsible for elevated lactate levels in individuals with anxiety:

  1. Alcohol
  2. Caffeine
  3. Sugar
  4. Deficiency of the B vitamins niacin, vitamin B6, and thiamin (B1)
  5. Deficiency of calcium and/or magnesium
  6. Food allergies

Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and food allergens goes a long way toward relieving symptoms in people with anxiety. In fact, just eliminating coffee can, in some cases, relieve symptoms completely. In one study of four men and two women with generalized anxiety who drank 1.5—3.5 cups of coffee per day, avoiding caffeine for one week brought about significant symptom relief. The degree of improvement was so noticeable that all patients volunteered to continue abstaining from caffeine after the study.

Magnesium: The Calming Mineral

Magnesium is essential in more than 300 biochemical reactions of the human body, and a deficiency has been reported to lead to symptoms of anxiety, depression, irritability, fear, insomnia, confusion, and memory loss.

In one double-blind study, 264 people diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder were given either a placebo or 300 mg of magnesium. The magnesium group had a statistically significant reduction in symptoms. For best results, use a highly absorbable form of magnesium, such as magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate.

Omega-3 Fats

Anxiety also appears to be linked to low levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies using omega-3-rich fish oils to treat anxiety have shown impressive results. In one trial, fish oil was shown to decrease anger and anxiety in substance abusers. In another, 2.5 grams daily of omega-3 fats produced a 20 percent reduction in anxiety symptoms.

Flaxseed oil, a vegetarian source of omega-3 fats, has also been shown to help ease anxiety. In one study, three out of four patients with a history of agoraphobia improved within two to three months of taking flaxseed (2—6 Tbs. daily, in divided doses).

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)

GABA is a neurotransmitter found throughout the central nervous system. Low levels or decreased GABA function in the brain is associated with anxiety, depression, insomnia, and epilepsy. In fact, many popular anti-anxiety drugs interact primarily with GABA receptors.

Significant antistress effects have been shown in clinical studies with PharmaGABA, a proprietary form of GABA. Patients given PharmaGABA reported feeling relaxed and experienced changes in brain wave patterns consistent with a state of relaxation. The typical dosage used in studies is 100—200 mg up to three times daily.

Ashwagandha

In clinical trials, Sensoril, a proprietary extract of the herb ashwagandha, has been shown to produce considerable anti-stress effects. In one double-blind human study, chronically stressed subjects taking Sensoril had significant reductions in anxiety along with positive changes in blood chemistry, adrenal hormone levels, energy levels, and feelings of wellness. A typical dosage is 125—250 mg daily.