Category Archives: Featured Articles

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 27th, 2015

Blood Sugar Blues?

Glucose level blood test

Too many type 2 diabetics are taking drugs when simple diet and lifestyle changes may be just as effective

The statistics on the growing epidemic of type 2 diabetes are staggering—it is now estimated that one-half of all American adults will develop the disease by 2020. Currently, one out of every five United States federal health care dollars is spent treating people with diabetes. The average yearly health care costs for a person without diabetes is $2,560; for a person with diabetes, that figure soars to $11,744. Much of that increase is related to the costs of drugs.

Conflict of Interest?

Recently, the journal Diabetes Care published the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) Standards of Medical Care for type 2 diabetes, which are quite disturbing for their over-reliance on the pharmaceutical management of diabetes while all-but-ignoring nutritional support. The problem is that pharmaceutical interventions don’t impact the progression of type 2 diabetes, and in many cases, they can accelerate the disease process. Yet this approach is the only one offered by conventional medicine, perhaps for dubious reasons.

In an article published in the September/October 2012 issue of the Annals of Family Medicine, researchers from Michigan State University recommended that doctors with financial conflicts be excluded from developing medical guidelines for diabetics, regardless of disclosure. They also suggested that physicians should be discouraged from meeting with drug company representatives. After analyzing how physicians treated patients with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure in 44 primary care centers, the authors described “a common scenario: patients began medications after having moderately elevated test results (often at levels considered normal just a few years ago), developed additional symptoms, were found to have values falling outside reference ranges on other tests, and were prescribed more drugs. They were expected to continue these medications permanently: their target laboratory levels could be achieved only through continued use of these drugs.”

The consultations the researchers observed “focused heavily on” medications with little or no discussion of other treatment paths, including diet and exercise. The authors also noted that clinicians are exposed to heavy marketing efforts by pharmaceutical companies, and that this may be contributing to the emphasis on prescriptions. Of the 53 clinicians willing to discuss pharmaceutical marketing, 38 (72 percent) reported having regular contacts with pharmaceutical representatives.

The patient interviews were also enlightening, as almost 70 percent said they had experienced significant symptoms of adverse drug reactions from diabetes or hypertension medications, a much higher percentage than is expressed by the drug companies.

The Real Type 2 Diabetes Cure

The key issue being ignored by the ADA is that diabetes drugs are only biochemical Band-Aids. One fundamental truth is rarely explained to the patient: type 2 diabetes, in almost every case, is caused by poor diet and lifestyle choices. Findings from the U.S. government’s Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey clearly support this statement: of individuals with type 2 diabetes, 69 percent did not exercise at all or did not engage in regular exercise; 62 percent ate fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day; and 82 percent were either overweight or obese.

Among patients with pre-diabetes, a minimum of 150 minutes per week of physical activity was associated with a 58 percent–reduced risk of developing diabetes. In the same study (known as The Diabetes Prevention Program), the drug metformin was found to reduce diabetes risk by only 31 percent.

Although lifestyle changes are important, diet alone can be effective in treating and reversing type 2 diabetes. The most scientifically proven approach is a diet low in refined carbohydrates. Not only does such a regimen lower blood glucose levels, but it also helps with conditions such as high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension.

Supplements for Diabetes

Here are key supplements to consider adding to your daily regimen if you have type 2 diabetes or want to prevent it:

  • PGX (2.5–5 grams at meals) is one of the centerpiece supplements for treating type 2 diabetes. PGX is a highly purified fiber that lowers the glycemic index of foods and helps promote satiety.
  • A high-potency multivitamin and mineral formula is a must and should provide 200–400 mcg of chromium, a trace mineral that plays a key role in the proper utilization of insulin.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid (400–600 mg) not only helps improve insulin action, but also helps prevent and reverse diabetic nerve disease.
  • Flavonoid-rich extracts such as bilberry, grape seed, or pine bark are extremely important in protecting against the long-term complications of diabetes.
  • Onions and garlic have demonstrated blood-sugar-lowering action in several studies and help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Mulberry extract, cinnamon extract, or extracts of Gymnema sylvestre have all been shown to produce results in improving blood sugar control.

 

 

Dr. Michael Murray
1/27/15