Iodide – One Mineral Can Help A Myriad Of Conditions From Atherosclerosis To “COPD” to Zits

If you’ve read or heard anything at all about potassium iodide, it’s probably been in association with terrorist attacks or nuclear power plant disasters. Potassium iodide (usually taken in tablet form) is recommended by “public health” authorities to protect the thyroid gland against accumulation of radioactive iodine released by a “terrorist bomb” or by nuclear power plant “meltdown”. But in reality, potassium iodide is a very effective “home remedy” with literally dozens of uses.

Older readers may remember Mother putting “iodine” on cuts and scrapes. It kept infection away as well as any “modern” antibiotic ointment, with the added benefit of not inducing “bacterial resistance”. But what else is potassium iodide (usually abbreviated by it’s Latin initials “SSKI”) good for? Read on…and then make sure to read the separate section about keeping SSKI use safe.

Some years ago, a retired Indian physician told me about his use of SSKI during more than 30 years traveling from village to village in rural Africa. Most usually, the only drinking water available was from a local stream or river, muddy and contaminated. After removing sediment and debris by straining the dirty water through cheesecloth, he’d add several drops of SSKI, and wait two to three minutes. He and his team could then drink the water. In over 30 years, he never got an infection from contaminated water. The SSKI killed any micro-organisms present.

Fortunately, the water available to most of us when traveling is considerably cleaner. Despite this, when Holly (my wife) and I travel, we always carry a small bottle of SSKI, and put one or two drops into any water we’re not absolutely certain about. We’ve cut back considerably on airline travel this year because of the thoroughly un-American and extremely unpleasant “airport Gestapo” experience. But when we’re forced to travel by air, we drink a few ounces of water with 10 drops of SSKI, and prevent any “airline sinusitis” or other respiratory infection that so often follows several hours spent breathing re-cycled, germ laden air. (SSKI rapidly accumulates in any and all body secretions, including in the sinuses, where it inhibits or kills bacteria, viruses, and fungi before they can cause an infection.)

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Although Holly has never had the experience, occasionally another woman at one of the conferences we attend has developed a bladder infection when far away from home and her own physician. Holly gives her our “back-up” small bottle of SSKI with instructions to take 10 to 15 drops in water or juice every 3 to 4 hours (while awake) until the infection is gone.

[Although SSKI is close to 100% effective in the elimination of bladder infections, this is a “high dose”; make sure to read the section “Keeping SSKI safe”. If possible, it’s best to use the simple sugar D-mannose to eliminate bladder infections. D-mannose is effective over 90% of the time, and is very, very safe. For details, see D-mannose and Bladder Infection by Lane Lenard Ph.D. and me, available through the Tahoma Clinic Dispensary.]

When our children were teenagers, they always knew where to find the SSKI bottle. Whenever one of them “popped a zit”, she or he would rub SSKI into it every hour or two. The offending “zit” would be gone in 24-48 hours or less; an innumerable number of social events were rendered “zit-free” by this approach.

So far, I’ve been telling you about SSKI’s ability to “kill germs” in one place or another. We’ll return to this important “home remedy” use for SSKI, but let’s digress for now to other uses.

Many women develop “fibrocystic breast disease”. In the 1970s, I learned from pioneering trace element researcher Dr. John Myers that iodine (a close “relative” of SSKI) would eliminate even the most severe cases of fibrocystic breast disease. [For the full details of this treatment, see pages 169-174 of The Patient’s Book of Natural Healing by Alan Gaby M.D. and me.] In “medium” to “minor” cases, 6 to 8 drops of SSKI taken in a few ounces of water daily will frequently reduce fibrocystic breast disease to insignificance within three to six months. Please do not do this without monitoring your thyroid function…see “Keeping SSKI Safe” on page whatever.

One of our daughters and at least thirty other women I’ve worked with in nearly 30 years have helped ovarian cysts disappear within two to three months with the same quantity of SSKI. Again, make sure to monitor your thyroid function!
It’s very likely that SSKI helps eliminate fibrocystic breast disease and ovarian cysts at least partly through it’s interaction with estrogens….which brings us to another important use for SSKI (and other forms of iodine such as “Lugol’s solution” and “di-atomic iodine”). All of these forms of iodine help your body to metabolize estrone (a slightly carcinogenic human estrogen) and 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone (a much more dangerous metabolite of human estrogen) into estriol, an “anti-carcinogenic” or at worst “neutral” form of human estrogen. I’ve reviewed literally hundreds of hormone tests in over 26 years which have proven this point. This testing and treatment usually requires the help of a physician skilled and knowledgeable in nutritional and natural medicine, who can also help with monitoring thyroid function.

“Dupuytren’s contracture” and “Peyronie’s disease” are two “fibrotic” conditions that can be helped considerably by SSKI. In Dupuytren’s contracture, thickening (fibrosis) occurs along one of the tendons in the palm in the hand, pulling the related finger down towards the palm. As the problem progresses, the finger often can’t be straightened any more.

In Peyronie’s disease, a very similar thickening occurs along the shaft of the penis, making erections increasing “curved” and painful. In both cases, rubbing SSKI into the thickened tissue at least twice daily softens and lessens the fibrotic area over a period of several months, allowing for more normal function.

For these conditions, it’s additionally helpful to take para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) 2 grams, three times daily, and to rub a mixture of Vitamin E and DMSO into the thickened areas, also. However, if “caught early”, SSKI alone will often “do the job”. (It’s also advisable to have glucose-insulin tolerance test done, as there’s an unusually high incidence of “insulin resistance” in people with Dupuytren’s contracture or Peyronie’s disease.

“Keloids” are abnormally thick scars, sometimes as much as an inch thick, that can form after injury. Although anyone can get a keloid, they’re more common among blacks than other ethnic groups. Rubbing SSKI into a keloid at least twice daily will ultimately flatten them down to a “normal scar”, but it can take many months to a year for particularly bad ones. The treatment goes faster if SSKI is mixed “50-50″ with DMSO.

“Fistulas” are literally abnormal tunnels through tissues, “tunnels” prevented from healing by chronic infection. Two not-unusual types are “peri-anal fistulas” (a “tunnel” from outside the anus to the inside of the rectum) and “recto-vaginal” fistulas. Although these fistulas can be treated successfully by surgery, they can often be healed by frequent swabbing inside and out with an SSKI-soaked “Q-tip”. Patience is required: Complete healing often takes several months. The treatment appears to work better if the SSKI is mixed with DMSO, which enhances “penetrance”. My colleague Richard Kunin, M.D. of San Francisco, is a “world class” expert on the use of SSKI and other forms of iodine. He has found that hemorrhoids will sometimes disappear literally overnight, when SSKI (20 drops) mixed with flaxseed oil (1 ounce) is rubbed in them at bedtime. He’s also found that SSKI alone will do the same job, although it “really stings” when applied to a hemorrhoid by itself.


When I was a pre-med student at Harvard University, the famous chemistry professor Louis Feiser made a point of demonstrating to all the pre-medical students that iodine and iodide would make oils, fats, and waxes (cholesterol is actually a wax) more soluble in water. He urged us to remember this in our medical practices, as he was sure it wouldn’t be taught in medical school (he was right!). This known action of iodide likely explains why SSKI can be useful in the next two applications.

Over 30 years ago, two ophthalmologists observed that a combination tablet called “Iodo-niacin” (iodide 120 milligrams, niacin 15 milligrams) taken for several months could actually reverse atherosclerotic clogging of arteries. They proved this effect by taking pictures of clogged arteries in the backs of the eyes (“retinal photomicrographs”) before and after treatment. The published photographs showed a significant lessening of the cholesterol-laden artery clogging in the “after” pictures.

Amazingly enough, no follow-up study has ever been published (probably because niacin and iodide aren’t patentable). Despite this, the published pictures speak clearly for themselves. I recommend 4 to 6 drops of SSKI and niacin-containing B-complex daily (along with many other things) for anyone with significant cholesterol-related atherosclerotic clogging. Thyroid function must be monitored!

“Sebaceous cysts” are cysts which contain oily, fatty material. They usually appear rather suddenly on the face or in the groin or labia. Rubbing in SSKI mixed 50-50 with DMSO will almost always persuade these cysts to go away in a week or two; it appears that the iodide “dissolves” the fatty, oily material contained in the cysts, allowing your body to slowly re-absorb and dispose of it.

Although it’s not a common condition, from time to time someone will come to my office at Tahoma Clinic inquiring about alternatives to surgery for “parotid duct stone”. These are “stones” which can form in the saliva-carrying duct(s) from the major salivary glands (“parotid” glands, located at the “angle of the jaw”). 3 to 4 drops of SSKI taken in water daily will almost always dissolve parotid duct stones within four to eight months.

If you have chronic bronchitis and or emphysema (“COPD”, “COLD”) SSKI is an invaluable tool. SSKI “gets into” all body secretions, including often thick and hard to cough up bronchial secretions, which get infected very easily. SSKI takes care of both of these problems. It “loosens” secretions remarkably, making them much easier to “clear”, and it prevents micro-organisms from growing easily. With regular SSKI use, bronchial infection is a much less frequent happening. Depending on the severity of COPD, I recommend 3 to 6 drops of SSKI taken in water once daily. As COPD is usually a chronic condition, SSKI use will usually be indefinite, so make sure to monitor your thyroid function! (See the August 2002 Nutrition & Healing for a more complete discussion of natural COPD treatment.)

Now, back to other infections. For this group, using SSKI mixed “50-50″ with DMSO works better, as the DMSO enables SSKI to penetrate much more deeply into the tissues and kill germs.

Infected “hangnails” are perhaps the easiest to clear up this way, as are nagging bacterial infections around the edges of the toenails. Rub in the mixture several times daily, and the problem’s usually gone in a few days. Herpes simplex (“herpes”) ourbreaks can be “stopped cold” in the same way, but it often takes longer for the “sore” to heal itself over.

If you have persistent “swollen glands” in the throat or groin areas, see a doctor first! These can very rarely be signs of leukemia, lymphoma, or another cancer, especially in older people. But if all tests and studies are negative, and the doctor says “it’s just swollen glands”, rub in the SSKI with DMSO. In a large majority of cases, the “just swollen glands” will gradually fade away.

Fungus under the toenails (“onychomycosis”) is a difficult problem to treat. Even “conventional” anti-fungal drug treatment takes months to work, and (for safety) monthly liver function tests are necessary. SSKI and DMSO rubbed on, around, and under the affected toenails doesn’t work any faster, but it’s just as effective, and definitely safer. Make sure to wear old socks, because SSKI and other forms of iodine leave an orange-brown stain. (Other safe and effective alternatives include geranium oil, oregano oil, and tea tree oil. These and other anti-fungal oils also require “help” from DMSO to penetrate the toenail and soak the fungus underneath.)

SSKI can also help clear up vaginal infections. 20 to 30 drops in water, used in a small “douche” once daily for five to ten days will usually do the job. (There’s actually a prescription-only iodine preparation of available for vaginal infections, too.) However, iodine preparations of any sort for vaginal infections are often not popular because of the inevitable orange-brown stains they leave on clothing.

What about SSKI to help a “weak” thyroid (hypothyroidism)? Even though iodine and iodide are absolutely essential to thyroid hormone formation, in most “developed” countries, hypothyroid conditions are not usually due to an outright lack of iodine or iodide. Still, hypothyroidism is occasionally helped by 1 drop of SSKI daily. Make sure to work with your doctor on this one!

Lastly, there’s a gastronomic use for SSKI: reducing the gas we all get from eating beans! If you’re soaking beans before cooking them, add 1 or 2 drops of SSKI, and let them soak for an hour or more. (Pour offf that water before cooking, and add fresh water.) You’ll be surprised at the reduction in resulting intestinal gas! (For those who want a technical explanation: There’s a naturally occurring enzyme inhibitor in beans which interferes with starch digestion, producing gas. SSKI inactivates this enzyme inhibitor.)


In the past, SSKI and other forms of iodine and iodide were available only on prescription, or through chemical supply sources. Since the mid-1990s passage of the Federal DSHEA law, we’ve regained the basic American freedom to buy and sell natural substances (narcotics exempted) without prescription. You haven’t read or heard much about SSKI because (despite Federal Appeals Court decisions) FDA still maintains it’s First Amendment violating policy of complete suppression of truthful product use information on package labels or in advertisements….unless of course FDA is paid an enormous amount of money ($250 million minimum, according to Congressional testimony) for “approval”. Since SSKI can’t be patented…well, you know the rest.

SSKI can be obtained without prescription in some compounding pharmacies, some health food stores, through “on-line” sources, and at the Tahoma Clinic Dispensary (with which I am of course affiliated) in a convenient travel-size dropper bottle.


There are three “hazards” to using SSKI: staining, allergy, and a very small possibility of thyroid suppression with longer-term use of “too much”.

Staining can be a big nuisance, but it’s not a health hazard. When SSKI is applied to skin, it can impart a faint to moderate orange-brown color, which fades away once SSKI is no longer being applied. SSKI and other iodine stains in clothing can be semi-permanent or permanent, so don’t plan to wear anything “nice” in the vicinity of recently-applied SSKI.

Iodine allergy is a possibility, although in nearly 30 years of medical practice I’ve seen it only a few times. Usually, it causes a red, bumpy skin rash, which goes away after SSKI or other iodine is discontinued. Topical (applied to the skin surface) iodine allergy is almost never a serious emergency.

SSKI or iodine can very occasionally cause acne, which also goes away once the source of iodine is dicontinued.

The type of so-called “iodine allergy” that can interfere with breathing and occasionally sends us to the emergency room is usually not allergy to iodine or iodine molecules, but instead to much larger, possibly iodine-containing molecules found in lobster, crab, clams and other “shellfish”. These molecules are not present in SSKI or iodine. However, if there’s any suspicion at all of iodine allergy, it’s best not to swallow any without testing for allergy or sensitivity.

Too much iodine for too long can suppress thyroid function. Many of the uses described for SSKI in the accompanying article are short-term, from a few days or less to a week or two. If SSKI is then stopped, there’s almost no chance of significant thyroid suppression. However, if SSKI is to be used for two to three weeks or longer, and especially if it’s to be used continuously (for example, COPD or cholesterol-related atherosclerosis) monitoring thyroid function is very important. To find a physician near you who can help order and interpret thyroid function tests contact Meridian Valley Lab.

Fortunately, in my experience with over a thousand individuals, internal use of than nine drops of SSKI daily has or less has very rarely resulted in thyroid suppression. On those very few occasions, discontinuance has resulted in prompt recovery. So far, I’ve never seen thyroid suppression result from “topical” (skin surface) use of SSKI.

A final “safety” note: Dr. Kunin cautions (and I agree) that if you use SSKI or other iodine “long-term”, make sure your diet contains plenty of essential fatty acids (both omega-3 and omega-6) as well as the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine. If you eat animal protein daily, that’s usually sufficient as a source of these two amino acids, but if you’re vegetarian (or close) and using “long term” SSKI or other iodine, then take 300-500 milligrams of each daily.


Iodine is a basic element, as are calcium, zinc, oxygen and other elements. The word “iodine” usually refers to two iodine molecules chemically “stuck together” (I2), just as the word “oxygen” usually refers to two oxygen molecules “stuck together” (O2). Since iodine is more reactive, and therefore more likely to cause problems, iodine is usually used as “iodide”, a word which refers to one iodine molecule combined with another molecule such as potassium (KI) or sodium (NaI). In chemical terms, such molecules are called “salts”; the best known salt is sodium chloride (NaCl), a “salt” of chlorine (Cl2).

The “SS” in “SSKI” refers to “Saturated Solution Potassium Iodide”. Other medically useful forms of iodine include “Lugol’s solution”, invented by Dr. Lugol of Paris in the 1840s, which contains a mixture of types of iodine and iodide, and “di-atomic iodine”, which is another name for iodine, but usually prepared as a solid in a capsule instead of a liquid.

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D-Mannose for Bladder and Kidney Infections

D-Mannose for Bladder and Kidney Infections

A little girl’s parents are told she’ll likely need a kidney transplant since her chronic kidney infections aren’t yielding to antibiotics anymore…..

Another little girl with a genetic disorder has been on continuous antibiotics for nearly two years because of kidney and bladder infections….

An adult woman gets a bladder infection every time she has sex… And literally millions of women and girls (and a very few boys and men) each year have at least one episode of acute bladder infection (“cystitis”). Routine treatment of bladder and kidney infections involves antibiotics and antimicrobials. As the first three cases (described later) will illustrate, in over 90% of bladder and kidney infections, antibiotics are actually an inferior treatment choice. The treatment of choice for initial treatment of most urinary tract infections is D-mannose.

D-mannose is a naturally occurring simple sugar, closely related (in chemical terms, a “stereoisomer”) to glucose. Small amounts of D-mannose are metabolized by our bodies; more than small amounts are excreted promptly into the urine. But how can even large quantities of a simple natural sugar do anything at all to cure over 90% of all bladder and urinary tract infections?

The answer is found in the interaction between D-mannose and the bacterium found in over 90% of all bladder infections, Escherichia coli (“E. coli”). [No, that’s not the infamous E. coli mutant associated with unsanitary food processing that’s hospitalized and killed people. It’s the normal E. coli found as part of the “normal microflora” in every intestinal tract.] But even normal E. coli don’t belong in the bladder and urinary tract; in these areas it multiplies and becomes an undesirable infection.

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But why doesn’t the normal downflow of urine from the kidneys through the ureters into the bladder and thence beyond simply carry the E. coli right along with it? What allows the E. coli to “stick” to the inner walls of the bladder and even work their way upward (like “Spiderman”) in some cases reaching as far as the kidneys?

The “cell walls” of each E. coli are covered with tiny fingerlike projections. The very tips of these projections are an amino acid-sugar complex, a “glycoprotein” also called a “lectin”. E. coli “lectins” have the unfortunate (for us) capability of “sticking” the bacteria to the inside walls of our bladders and urinary tracts, so they can’t be rinsed out by urination.

Unfortunately for the E. coli, D-mannose “sticks” to E. coli lectins even better than E. coli lectins “stick” to human cells. When we take a large quantity of D-mannose, almost all of it spills into the urine through our kidneys, literally “coating” any E.coli present so they can no longer “stick” to the inside walls of the bladder and urinary tract. The E. coli are literally rinsed away with normal urination!

D-Mannose for Bladder and Kidney Infections

Why is “rinsing away” E. coli with D-mannose superior to killing them with antibiotics and anti-microbials? When an antibiotic is taken, it kills unwanted micro-organisms, but it also kills many “friendly” micro-organisms. Every woman is familiar with “yeast infections” that follow antibiotic use, as the “friendly bacteria” are killed off along with the “bad bacteria”, leaving the antibiotic-insensitive yeast to grow “out of control”. Long-term or often-repeated antibiotic use can lead to major disruptions in normal body microflora, and sometimes to major disruptions in health, especially immune system function. [It’s suspected that the “killer” E. coli of recent years are “mutants” caused by persistent antibiotic feeding to animals.]

By contrast, D-mannose doesn’t kill bacteria, “friendly” or “unfriendly”. D-mannose simply helps to relocate misplaced E.coli from inside of our urinary tracts to outside. (Since D-mannose is absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract, it doesn’t relocate the “friendly” E. coli normally present in the colon.) D-mannose treatment of E. coli bladder and urinary tract infections is ecologically sound treatment. (The very small amounts of D-mannose metabolized by our bodies and not excreted into the urine are harmless.) As an extra bonus, D-mannose tastes good!

Three Cases, Briefly

Our first case is relatively well-known in the Seattle-King County area as this child’s mother provided testimony about her case to the County Council when it was considering the establishment of a natural medicine clinic within the taxpayer-funded county public health system.

This mother brought her daughter to Tahoma Clinic in the 1980s. She also brought with her a very detailed set of notebooks in which she’d recorded descriptions of her daughter’s numerous hospitalizations and extensive tests for nearly continuous urinary tract infections. By actual count, her daughter (not yet five years old) had been seen by 72 different physicians, and had been on antibiotics the majority of her life. Mother and father had been told the doctors were “running out of effective antibiotics”, and that their daughter would likely need a kidney transplant during the next few years, as her kidneys were beginning to fail from the chronic infection. Extensive tests showed “normal kidneys, ureters, and bladder”, with no discoverable reason for all the infection.

Fortunately, Mom also had records of many urine cultures. They were always the same: E.coli. At the end of our consultation, I advised her to give her daughter ¼ to ½ teaspoon (approximately 1 to 2 ½ grams) of D-mannose powder stirred into water every three to four hours while awake. Despite being a bit dubious that a simple sugar prescribed by a natural medicine doctor (remember, this was the 1980s) would do anything, mother tried it. Within 48 hours, the infection was gone. Her daughter remained infection free for over two years until the D-mannose was temporarily forgotten; resumption cleared the infection once more. She’s had no urinary tract infection since, and has of course retained her own kidneys.

The County Council was impressed by the simple natural solution to a serious health problem. They were equally impressed with the difference in cost between D-mannose treatment (even long-term) and the cost of several hospitalizations, extensive testing, and nearly continuous antibiotics, as well as the potential cost of the predicted kidney transplant.

Our second case is that of a another little girl with galactosemia (a genetic disease) who when first seen in 1996 was on antibiotics because of chronic recurrent E. coli urinary tract infections. She’d been on antibiotics for most of the prior two years. As part of her overall treatment, I advised her parents to switch her from antibiotics to D-mannose (at the quantities noted above). The switch was made uneventfully; no further urinary tract infections occurred. When they last saw their daughter’s urologist in 1998, her parents were told to “check back in the year 2000″.

Our last case is that of a married woman who was avoiding sex because “I get a bladder infection every time”. Needless to say, this caused some degree of marital discord. As cultures had shown E. coli, she started taking ½ teaspoon of D-mannose one hour prior to and just after intercourse, and had no further infections.

There also have been many women who’ve been advised to take D-mannose ½ teaspoon every two to three hours to treat single episodes of bladder infection. Nearly every time, the treatment has been successful. However, since a small proportion of bladder infections are not caused by E. coli but by some other micro-organism, women are also advised to call back for a “regular” antibiotic prescription if their infections are not substantially better or completely gone in 24 hours.

Try D-Mannose First

D-mannose is very safe, even for long term use, although most women (or the very occasional man) with single episodes of bladder or urinary tract infection will only need it for a few days at most. Although D-mannose is a simple sugar, very little of it is metabolized. It doesn’t interfere with blood sugar regulation, even for diabetics. It creates no disruption or imbalance in normal body microflora. It’s safe even for pregnant women and very small children. In the less than 10% of cases where the infection is a bacteria other than E. coli, antibiotics can be started in plenty of time. (Many physicians will likely advise collecting a urine specimen for culture, if possible just before starting D-mannose, so that the bacteria can be identified as rapidly as possible in the few cases when D-mannose doesn’t work.)

Since D-mannose is naturally occurring, many of you may have guessed that cranberry juice (as well as pineapple juice) contain more D-mannose than most other foods. However, the amounts found in these juices are substantially less than in the ½ teaspoon (approximately 1 gram) adult dose, and are substantially less effective.

So Where’s the D-Mannose?

If D-mannose is so safe and effective, why isn’t it in your natural food store? Your editor has been frustrated by it’s absence also, particularly as he has spent several years trying to convince one or another supplement company to put D-mannose into wider distribution.

More to read: Iodide – One Mineral Can Help A Myriad Of Conditions From Atherosclerosis To “COPD” to Zits

Is the mainstream still cheating you out of the best health possible—with folic acid?!

Is the mainstream still cheating you out of the best health possible—with folic acid?!

Discover the stunning truth behind this essential “vitamin”—and the simple switch that’s much, much better for you

Do you remember a few years ago, when “mainstream” print and broadcast media were telling us that vitamin E was bad for our cardiovascular systems, and would increase our risk of heart attack? Turns out the whole thing was based on -you guessed it- researchers not copying Nature!

They weren’t using Nature’s own of vitamin E—a combination of alpha-, beta-, delta- and gamma-tocopherol, sometimes with alpha-, beta-, delta-, and gamma-tocotrienol—in the same percentages and combinations found in Nature. Instead, they had used alpha-tocopherol only in their research—and reported an increase in cardiovascular risk.

Fortunately, since then it has been pointed out that gamma-tocopherol is more important in protecting the heart than alpha-tocopherol. In fact, supplementing alpha-tocopherol alone depresses levels of gamma-tocopherol, so increased risk to the heart isn’t altogether surprising. What can we learn from this? It’s pretty obvious—using a natural substance in a way that goes against Nature’s perfect design can cause problems.

Given the news, responsible vitamin suppliers quickly replaced alpha-tocopherol-only forms of vitamin E with “mixed tocopherols,” combinations of alpha-, beta-, delta, and gamma-tocopherols.

In a similar turn of events, recently accumulating research has found that supplemental folic acid, incorrectly identified as a vitamin (it’s actually an oxidized vitamin) since its synthetic crystallization in the 1940s, may actually accelerate cognitive decline in some older individuals. It’s also being linked to increased risk of colon and rectal cancers, increased risk of childhood asthma born to folic-acid supplemented mothers, and accelerated growth of pre-existing cancers.

Is the mainstream still cheating you out of the best health possible—with folic acid?!

There’s enough research that Reader’s Digest magazine recently published an article warning readers about the dangers of too much folic acid. Unfortunately, the article showed that not only journalists, but even medical professionals still haven’t figured out that folic acid is not the same as the naturally occurring vitamin folate.

See Also: D-Mannose for Bladder and Kidney Infections

Six of one is NOT half a dozen of the other

According to the article, a university-affiliated medical doctor stated: “We’ve known for years that getting too little folate can promote cancer. Now it looks like getting too much folic acid could be harmful too.”

Like much of the medical mainstream, he used folic acid and folate as interchangeable terms.

But folic acid is not the same as folate!

Folic acid is a single type of molecule, crystallized in 1943 by a scientist working for the patent medicine company Lederle Laboratories, then a subsidiary of American Cyanamid Corporation. Folic acid is the fully oxidized form of naturally occurring folates, which are found in leafy and green vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, romaine, lettuce, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy. Other sources include corn, beets, tomatoes, dried or fresh beans and peas, fortified sunflower seeds and some fruits, including oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, banana, raspberries, and strawberries. Liver (only organic, of course) and brewer’s and baker’s yeasts are good sources of folate, too.

But—and this is important to understanding the difference between folic acid and the various naturally occuring folates—none of these vegetables, fruits, liver or yeast naturally contain even one molecule of folic acid.

How the mainstream convinced us we need folic acid, and not folate

So why is folic acid so firmly entrenched in the public and mainstream professional mind as a vitamin? For the same reasons that mainstream professionals, science writers (who should know better), and the majority of the public think that horse estrogen and human estrogen are the same thing. It’s a combination of a sloppy understanding of biochemistry and some clever patent-medicine-company-supported and -promoted psychology.

First, the biochemistry. (Stay with me, it’s relatively easy.) Folate was originally isolated from brewer’s yeast and spinach in the 1930s. Once isolated and exposed to air it becomes unstable and breaks down, and is generally no longer useful in nutrition. But a small amount of natural folate can be transformed by oxidation (a natural process) into folic acid, a much more stable form with a very long shelf life.

While human and animal cells cannot use the folic acid molecule itself in their normal metabolic processes, human cells (principally the liver) can transform folic acid back into many of its metabolically useful folate forms. That’s why folic acid—despite not being found in food—can do so much nutritional good, the best-known example being the prevention of birth defects including spina bifida, cleft lip, and cleft palate.

As we grow older, though, our bodies are increasingly slow at transforming folic acid into usefully metabolized folates. That’s probably why scientists are finding that folic acid (not folate) is associated with cognitive decline in the elderly. Some of these studies have shown significantly elevated levels of un-metabolized (and therefore not useful) folic acid building up in the bloodstreams of supplemented older individuals.

In addition to worsening folic acid metabolism with age, there are also a significant number (as high as 5 percent or more in some populations) of survivable human genetic defects of folate metabolism which make it more difficult or, in some circumstances, impossible for sufferers to make metabolic use of folic acid.

Now, the psychology. Imagine you’re the sales and marketing arm of a patent medicine company. Which would you rather produce and sell: A then-process-patentable substance (folic acid) or an un-patentable substance (folate)? A substance with a longer shelf life (folic acid), or a substance that breaks down very rapidly on exposure to heat, cold, or light—even from “just sitting there” (folate)? A substance that’s less expensive to manufacture and process (folic acid), or a more expensive substance (folate)? The answer is pretty obvious—from a marketing point of view, folic acid wins every time.

And in this case, by great good luck, folic acid does do some good. It can be re-metabolized into various metabolically useful forms in most people—particularly younger people. So of course folic acid is promoted as a vitamin—even though it’s not found naturally in food—and manufacturers happily encourage everyone to speak of it interchangeably with folate, just as the Wyeth company so successfully confused Premarin with human estrogen in the public mind.

As usual, the mainstream way does more harm than the natural way

So since the 1940s, when physicians wanted to give their patients supplemental folate, they were taught to start with folic acid under one or another brand name. Even I was taught that at the University of Michigan in the 1960s. Supplement companies have sold folic acid, too, as it appeared to do the job, and there were for years no reports of harm. In fact there was very little, if any, research into potential harm.

But now that there is enough evidence of potential harm from folic acid, it’s time for all of us who want the benefits to switch back to the forms of folate found in food, which our bodies can use more efficiently and effectively than folic acid. Of course, we should always start by eating as much folate-containing food as possible, and as fresh as possible, too.

Remember, naturally occurring folates break down quite rapidly with heat, cold, light, even when they’re still in the food. Because of this naturally rapid breakdown, even the most avid vegetable and fruit eaters often need folate supplementation. (For a simple way to find out if you’re among them, see “Overlooked blood test could be the key to your good health” below.) Fortunately, about a year or two ago, responsible supplement suppliers began to make individual folate (not folic acid) supplements available. Some suppliers have just started to include various forms of folate in multiple vitamins and other combinations.

So it’s time to make folic acid supplements a part of history, and use only forms of naturally occurring folate when we use supplements. A little bit of folic acid (100 to 200 micrograms, the amount found in many multiple vitamins at present) is not likely to be a problem, but more taken daily for years just might raise your long-term risk of colorectal cancer or cognitive decline. If higher amounts are unavoidable (for example, until all prenatal vitamins switch from folic acid to folate), taking additional folate will very likely offset the folic acid still found in the multiple. If you’re apprehensive, consult a physician skilled and knowledgeable in nutritional and natural medicine.

It’s very likely that within a relatively short time enough responsible supplement suppliers will switch from folic acid to folate in all their supplements, individual and combination, so you won’t need to read all the labels so closely to make sure you’re getting folate and not folic acid.

One last point you may be wondering about: Is there such a thing as “too much of a good thing” when it comes to naturally occurring folate supplementation?

Unless you have vitamin B12 deficiency or cancer, it’s very unlikely to be a problem. In the case of vitamin B12 deficiency, supplemented folate—even naturally occurring folate—can “cover up” some of the deficiency signs in blood tests. But preventing that is simple: Take extra vitamin B12 whenever you take extra folate! Some suppliers even combine the two, or put them with the rest of the B-complex vitamins.

But if you have cancer, it’s of course best to discuss folate (not folic acid) supplementation with a physician skilled and knowledgeable in nutritional and natural medicine. To find one in your area, contact the American College for Advancement in Medicine. JVW

Is the mainstream still cheating you out of the best health possible—with folic acid?!

Where to get it: Naturally occurring folate in supplements

At present, two types of folates that occur naturally in foods are available as over-the-counter supplements. One is folinic acid, usually sold over-the-counter as “calcium folinate.” Calcium folinate is also available by prescription as Leucovorin®, which, unfortunately, is considerably more expensive and also contains FD&C yellow #10 and FD&C blue # 1, neither of which improves clinical results.

The other over-the-counter naturally occurring folate presently available is 5-methyltetrahydrofolate. It’s more expensive than over-the-counter calcium folinate, but more likely to be effective for individuals with “hidden” genetic defects in folate metabolism.

There’s also at least one B-complex and one multiple vitamin-mineral combination containing calcium folinate and methylcobalamin (the more metabolically active form of B12) available over-the-counter. By the time this newsletter is printed, it’s very likely more than one of each of these will be available, too.

The availability of supplemental folates that occur naturally in foods has solved another problem I’d been observing in a minority of individuals since the 1970s. Although the large majority of people who tested poorly for individually optimal levels of folate on a test called the neutrophilic hypersegmentation index (see “Overlooked blood test could be the key to your good health” below) significantly improved their levels by taking folic acid supplements, a small but significant number had little to no improvement at all. For this group, all I could tell them was to eat as much folate-containing food as possible, and forget the folic acid supplements.

But since supplemental calcium folinate and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate have become available, nearly every patient with a previously abnormal neutrophilic hypersegmentation index has improved with their use.

Overlooked blood test could be the key to your good health

If you’re serious about good health and longevity, or if you have any chance at all of becoming pregnant, there’s an inexpensive but critically important blood test that’s too often overlooked. Although it’s simple, quick, and easy to do, many clinical laboratories don’t do it because there’s “no demand.”

It’s called the “neutrophilic hypersegmentation index.” It is a mouthful to say, but for decades it has been—and still is—the best test of your personal folate status. Not how your folate level compares with other peoples’, but how optimal your own level is.

To do that, the neutrophilic hypersegmentation index (NHI) determines what percentage of your neutrophils—a type of white blood cell—were supplied with an optimal amount of folate while they were growing and maturing. Of course, optimal is 100 percent. But before we get into how to boost your own score, it’s important to know some of the scientific background that explains why this test is so important.

When neutrophils are “born” and “incubate” in bone marrow, their chromosomes—DNA—arrange themselves into five segments. A final step in neutrophil DNA maturation is re-arrangement of those five segments into three. Normal folate metabolism is a key to this final step. Very shortly after the five-to-three segment DNA re-arrangement, the fully mature neutrophil is released from the bone marrow into the bloodstream, where it lives out its months-long life doing its job—one very important part of which is defending our bodies against germs.

But if there isn’t enough folate, the neutrophil’s DNA stays in five (instead of three) segments. When the neutrophil is needed, it’s released into the bloodstream anyway, where it’s called a hypersegmented (too many segments) neutrophil. Fortunately, a hypersegmented neutrophil can still fight germs as well as a “regular,” three-segmented neutrophil.

Planning a family? Why you MUST have this test

After a blood sample is drawn, a technician with a microscope can easily see and count the number of DNA segments in each neutrophil. The “hypersegmentation index” is the percentage of five-segment neutrophils counted in a total of one hundred neutrophils.

Neutrophils, other circulating blood cells, and the cells that line our gastrointestinal tracts are the most rapidly dividing cells in our bodies. So if there’s a shortage of any of the three key nutrients for keeping cell division normal—folate, vitamin B12, and/or zinc—these rapidly dividing cells are likely to show the effects first. So the “neutrophilic segmentation index” actually tells us whether the most rapidly dividing cells in our bodies have enough folate. If these cells do, then it’s very likely that every cell in our bodies has enough folate.

One of the saddest test reports I’ve had to share with anyone was an NHI of 47 percent reported for a woman who was already pregnant. As you may have expected, her baby was born with a birth defect.

Every woman who has any chance at all of becoming pregnant should have this test done! If it’s abnormal, and she’s planning on a pregnancy soon, she should take a series of folinic acid injections (see above “Where to get it: Naturally-occurring folate in supplements”. ) right away, preferably with the methylcobalamin form of vitamin B12, so there’s enough folate (and B12) immediately available for any newly conceived infant.

Why the rush? Well, the most common birth defect—neural tube defect—occurs on days 27–29 after conception, before many women are even certain that they are pregnant.

For the rest of us (as well as newly-folinic-acid-injected potential moms) an abnormal NHI means you need to take a closer look at your diet and make some necessary adjustments—most notably adding in more sources of folate, particularly green vegetables, beans, peas, brewer’s yeast, and (organic only!) liver. A folinic acid or methylfolate supplement is important, too, at least until the test normalizes.

A basic nutrient for cancer and heart disease protection

But pregnancy—or the possibility of pregnancy—isn’t the only time folate levels are important. Folate (along with vitamin B12 and zinc) are all critical to normal cell division and DNA repair, which means they’re all essential tools for cancer prevention. Adequate folate lowers the risk of a variety of cancers, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract, but also breast, pancreatic, cervix, and lung.

It’s almost certain further research will add other cancers to this list. However, for those who already have cancer in any form, it’s not yet clear whether or not supplemental folate may accelerate cancer growth as fully oxidized folic acid has been found to do in some studies.

Along with vitamins B6 and B12, folate helps keep levels of the natural human metabolite homocysteine low in our bodies. Considerable research shows that increasingly higher homocysteine levels are associated with increasingly higher levels of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis.

It’s true that in 2008, researchers reported that supplemental folic acid (not folate), B12, and B6 were effective at lowering homocysteine but were ineffective in reducing “major cardiovascular events” and deaths, but (once again) it’s very likely that this study used folic acid—which isn’t as easily metabolized in older individuals (rather than methylfolate)— along with less-than-optimally active forms of vitamin B12 and B6.

So, despite this (likely flawed) study, if your homocysteine levels are high, I still recommend eating more folate-containing vegetables, and, if necessary, taking enough supplemental methylfolate, methylcobalamin, and pyridoxal phosphate to keep your level low. If you do, your risk of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis will likely be lower, too.

Research indicates that other benefits of supplemental folate may include reduction of stroke risk and macular degeneration, and improvement in depression, as well as improvement in memory and mental agility in older individuals.

When enough is enough

I’ve been using this test as part of routine “good health” testing for nearly everyone for over 30 years, and rarely see a result of under 5 percent (which shows insufficient folate). So the goal is always to bring that level as close to 0 percent as possible.

But if you want to be really “engineering precise,” a level of 1 to 2 percent hypersegmented neutrophils—meaning that 98 to 99 percent of those white cells received enough folate—may be the best outcome to aim for. Why isn’t 0 percent even better? An engineer friend once explained it like this: “Once I get to 0 percent, there’s no -10 or –20 percent reading to tell me that it’s 10 or 20 percent more than I really need, so I’m going to keep mine very slightly under rather than go over.”

It’s a good point—and leads to the next question: Is there any danger of “overdose” with folate? Except when cancer is already present, it’s not very likely. I’ve never seen it happen in over 35 years of practice. But no one knows for certain. So keeping your NHI at a level of 1 to 2 percent ensures that your folate levels are optimal without “overdoing” it.

And increasing folate-containing foods in the diet and (in the majority) adding supplemental folate almost always brings the test to that optimal level.

The NHI is simple enough to be done by any laboratory with a microscope and a skilled technician, but many labs still don’t do it. Why? Well, it requires a smear of blood on a microscope slide and isn’t done by machine. However, blood specimens can also be sent to Meridian Valley Laboratory  in Washington state, where state law makes it possible for individuals to order their own lab tests.

Get your type 2 diabetes under control… without a single drug!

Get your type 2 diabetes under control… without a single drug!

Best known for its natural antibiotic activity, berberine deals a serious blow to common infectious organisms— organisms like “staph,” “strep,” Chlamydia, diphtheria, salmonella, cholera, diplococcus pneumoniae, pseudomonas, gonorrhea, candida, trichomonas, and many others. Berberine is a component (for the technically inclined, a “plant alkaloid”) of the commonly used herbs goldenseal and Oregon grape, and of several other less well-known botanicals. A 0.2 percent solution of berberine has been found effective against trachoma—in “third world” countries, a major infectious cause of visual impairment and blindness, as well as many other types of conjunctivitis.

It’s less well known that berberine has been found more effective than aspirin in relieving fever in experimental animals, and is able to stimulate some parts of the immune system. It’s also a stimulant for bile secretion.

And it’s not at all well known that research published in well-known, respected, “peer-reviewed” medical journals in 2008 found that berberine is just as effective— and of course much safer—than metformin, the formerly patent medicine most commonly now prescribed to help re-regulate blood sugar in type 2 diabetes!

Another cover-up? That won’t stop the truth

As this is 2010, where has this information been? I suspect that Nutrition & Healing readers know the answer… so let’s move on to review the research, and then what’s known about how berberine does this job.

Two studies were reported in one of the 2008 research reports.1 In the first study, 36 adults with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes mellitus were randomly assigned to treatment with berberine or metformin (500 milligrams of either, three times a day) in a three-month (13-week) trial.

At the end of three months, average fasting blood sugars in the berberine group dropped from 191 to 124 milligrams per deciliter, average post-prandial blood sugar (blood sugar after eating) dropped from 356 to 199 milligrams per deciliter, average hemoglobin A1c (a measurement of longer-term blood sugar control) dropped from 9.5 percent to 7.5 percent, and fasting triglycerides dropped from an average 99 to 78 milligrams per deciliter.

The researchers wrote, “Compared with metformin, berberine exhibited an identical effect in the regulation of glucose metabolism, such as HbA1c, FBG [fasting blood glucose], PBG [blood sugar after eating], fasting insulin and postprandial insulin [insulin level after eating]. In the regulation of lipid metabolism, berberine activity is better than metformin. By week 13, triglycerides and total cholesterol in the berberine group had decreased and were significantly lower than in the metformin group (P<0.05).”

See Also: Common Questions About Diabetes and Eye Surgery: Sydney Eye Clinic

Get your type 2 diabetes under control… without a single drug!

Insulin resistance dropped by 45 percent!

The second study in this same publication involved 48 adults already under treatment for type 2 diabetes with diet and one or more patent medications and/or insulin. Despite these various treatments, their type 2 diabetes was still poorly controlled. Diet and all medications had been the same in each individual for two months before berberine treatment was added, and remained unchanged for the three months of this second study.

After just 7 days, the added berberine (500 milligrams thrice daily) led to an average reduction in fasting blood sugar from 172 to 140 milligrams per deciliter, and average post-prandial blood sugar had declined from 266 to 210 milligrams per deciliter.

During the second week of added berberine, average fasting blood sugar dropped to 135 milligrams per deciliter, and postprandial glucose to 189 milligrams per deciliter. The researchers reported that these improvements were maintained for the rest of the three month study.

In addition, hemoglobin A1c decreased from 8.1 percent to 7.3 percent, fasting insulin decreased by 28 percent, insulin resistance was reduced by 45 percent, and total and low-density (LDL) cholesterol were both significantly reduced.

The researchers wrote that in their study of newly diagnosed diabetics who took berberine or placebo alone, “one of the patients suffered from severe gastrointestinal adverse events when berberine was used alone.”

By contrast, the researchers wrote about the poorly controlled diabetics who added berberine to their on-going patent medication treatment: “Incidence of gastrointestinal adverse events was 34.5 percent during the 13 weeks of berberine…combination therapy.”

These adverse events included diarrhea in 10 percent, constipation in 7 percent, flatulence in 19 percent, and abdominal pain in 3.4 percent. The side effects were observed only in the first four weeks in most patients. In 24 percent, berberine dosage was decreased from 500 to 300 milligrams thrice daily because of gastrointestinal adverse events, and all of these side effects disappeared within one week.

The researchers concluded, “In summary, berberine is a potent oral hypoglycemic [blood sugar lowering] agent with modest effect on lipid metabolism. It is safe and the cost of treatment by berberine is very low.”

Better blood sugar control …and a few pounds shed

In a second publication, other researchers described results achieved by 116 individuals with type 2 diabetes and cholesterol and triglyceride abnormalities who participated in a randomized, double-blind trial that compared 500 milligrams of berberine taken twice daily with placebo, also taken twice daily.2 In the berberine group, average fasting blood sugar decreased from 126 to 101 milligrams/deciliter.

Two hours after a standardized glucose challenge, blood sugars decreased from an average 216 to an average 160 milligrams per deciliter. Average hemoglobin A1c decreased from 7.5 percent to 6.6 percent, average triglycerides decreased from 221 to 141 millgrams per deciliter, average total cholesterol decreased from 205 to 168 milligrams per deciliter, and average LDL-cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) decreased from 125 to 97 milligrams per deciliter.

These researchers also reported “secondary outcomes.” Body weight decreased from an average 151 pounds to an average 146 pounds with berberine, a significantly greater fall (five pounds) than in the placebo group, who went from an average 158 pounds to an average 155 pounds, a loss of three pounds. A greater reduction of body mass index (BMI) was also found at three months in the berberine group than in the placebo group. Systolic blood pressure decreased from an average of 124 to 117 and diastolic blood pressure decreased from an average of 81 to 77 in those treated with berberine, exceeding the fall from 126 to 123 systolic and from 83 to 80 diastolic in those who took the placebo.

Side effects were few and mostly transient in the berberine group. Tests were done for kidney and liver function, as well as blood counts and electrolytes. Mild to moderate constipation occurred in five participants receiving berberine and one participant in the placebo group. Constipation “cleared up” in three of the five taking berberine and the one in the placebo group. The other two in the berberine group reduced their quantity of berberine by half to 250 milligrams twice daily, which relieved the constipation. Three measured liver enzymes (for the technically inclined AST, ALT, and GGT) all decreased to within the normal range.

How berberine does the job

So how does berberine improve blood sugar control? Much of the answer involves the effect of berberine on insulin and insulin regulation. Some of the rest is explained by berberine’s indirect effect on blood sugar regulation through its effect on little-known (to non-researchers) gastro-intestinal hormones termed “incretins.”

Berberine improves the action of insulin by activating an enzyme (for the technically inclined, AMP-activated protein kinase, or AMPK) which helps regulate the cellular uptake of glucose, the oxidation (“burning”) of fatty acids and the synthesis of glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4), the insulin-regulated glucose carrier found in fat and skeletal and cardiac muscle that is responsible for moving glucose from the bloodstream into cells.3-6 GLUT 4 is found only in muscle and fat cells, the major tissues in the body that respond to insulin.

Berberine increases the “expression” (number and activity) of insulin receptors.7,8 The increase in number and activity of course enables the same amount of insulin to be more effective than before. Another way of describing this activity of berberine is “decreasing insulin resistance.” Other researchers have reported that berberine inhibits an enzyme (for the technically inclined, protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B, or PTP1B) which in turn inhibits the insulin receptor.9 When the insulin receptor isn’t inhibited as much, it can of course function better, and the net result is that insulin can “work” better.

“Incretins” are hormones secreted by our stomachs and intestines that simultaneously increase the amount of insulin and inhibit the amount of glucagon (a pancreatic hormone which “opposes” insulin) released from the pancreatic islet cells after eating, even before blood sugar levels rise. (It’s like an “anticipatory” action so more insulin—and less glucagon— will be immediately available when the glucose starts to rise in the blood.) Incretins also slow the rate of absorption of nutrients into the blood stream by slowing stomach emptying; this may indirectly reduce food intake. Another way in which berberine regulates blood sugar is by increasing the secretion of one of the major incretins, glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1).10

However, the actions of GLP-1 and other incretins to increase insulin release, lower glucagon release, and help regulate blood sugar are normally rapidly negated by another enzyme called DDP-4 (for the technically inclined, dipeptidyl peptidase 4). Yet another aspect of the blood sugar regulating action of berberine is its ability to inhibit DDP-4.11 When DDP-4 is inhibited, GLP-1 and other gut-secreted incretins aren’t broken down as rapidly, so they can continue to stimulate insulin and inhibit glucagon release significantly longer.

Get your type 2 diabetes under control… without a single drug!

Thousands of years of use, and still largely ignored

Berberine is a major active component of the herb Coptis chinensis (Huang-lian), which—according to one research group—has been used in China to treat what is now identified as type 2 diabetes for literally thousands of years.

According to another research group, its blood sugar lowering effect was noticed when it was given to type 2 diabetic individuals to treat diarrhea. After the isolation of the berberine molecule itself, one of the first publications describing its use to lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetics was published in China in 1988.12 This and two subsequent research papers published in 200413 and 200514 found significant reductions in fasting and after-eating blood sugar control, and one also found significant reductions in cholesterol and triglycerides. Only one case of constipation (but no other adverse effects) was reported.

However, despite the safe and effective results reported, these studies suffered from the “defect” of not being placebo-controlled, and were (and are presently) only available in Chinese, so no one noticed them— with the possible exception of patent medicine companies working to make a patentable un-Natural molecule “analog” to berberine, and they won’t tell!

But the research studies you’ve already read about were “controlled,” and compared berberine directly with placebo or the number one established patent medication, metformin (Glucophage®, Glucophage XR®, Glumetza®, Fortamet®, Riomet®), or used berberine in addition to patent medication treatment—and all proved berberine to be clinically effective.

If you have type 2 diabetes and are using any patent medication, consider consulting a physician skilled and knowledgeable in natural and nutritional medicine and switching to berberine. Of course, there are many other natural techniques which can also be used to regulate and even normalize blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, including diet, exercise, vitamins, minerals, and other botanicals. It appears, however, that berberine can be a major tool, with fewer and less severe adverse effects than patent medications.

Are you a type 2 diabetic taking one of these medicines?

The Lancet, considered to be one of the world’s “top” medical journals, published an editorial titled “Individualized incretin-based treatment for type 2 diabetes” in the August 7, 2010 edition. The author wrote, “All GLP-1 receptor agonists [molecules which stimulate the receptor for the incretin hormone GLP-1, which helps regulate blood sugar] that are “approved” [quotation marks added] or in development for the treatment of type 2 diabetes cause nausea, vomiting, and sometimes diarrhea in a substantial proportion of patients.”

He continued by observing that GLP-1 can help regulate blood sugar without these effects—which should be rather obvious because our own internally secreted GLP-1 doesn’t cause any of these problems! But rather than recommend that natural GLP-1—or berberine, which stimulates GLP-1—be used instead of “approved” or “under development” patent medicines, he instead suggests that researchers look into why the patent medications cause these problems, as this would “pave the way to an even more impressive exploitation of the incretin-based treatment strategy.”

Exploitation is exactly the correct word to describe this point of view, which ignores completely the much safer and considerably less expensive molecules found in our bodies and in Nature, and continues to pursue the development, sale, and use of prohibitively expensive patent medicine substitutes with much greater incidence of so-called “side” effects—which are actually part of the real effects of these never-before-found-on-planet- Earth (extraterrestrial, space alien) molecules.

Lithium – The Misunderstood Mineral Part 1

Lithium – The Misunderstood Mineral Part 1

The biggest problem with lithium treatment is people’s perception of it. Since its most well known use is for bi-polar disorder, lithium sometimes encounters the same stigma as mental illness itself.

I’ve been taking a lithium supplement every day for several years. When I tell people about it, they sometimes get funny looks on their faces and start eyeing the corners of the room for straight jackets. These reactions don’t surprise me, since, as I said, lithium is usually associated with mental illness. But I’ve never suffered from a mental disorder (although certain mainstream medical doctors and possibly a federal agency or two might disagree). Treating manic-depressive (bi-polar) illness is lithium’s most widely known use–but it isn’t an anti-psychotic drug, as many people believe. In fact, lithium isn’t a drug at all. It’s actually a mineral-part of the same family of minerals that includes sodium and potassium.

You might remember reading several editions of Health e-Tips a few months ago that discussed various benefits of lithium. In addition to the benefits mentioned in the e-Tips, like controlling gout and relieving rashes caused by sebhorric dermatitis, lithium also has some great brain-boosting effects. In fact, I’ve reviewed both recent lithium research and the research spanning the past few decades, and I’m convinced that lithium is an anti-aging nutrient for human brains. And there are also some very strong reasons to believe that lithium therapy will slow the progression of serious degenerative mental problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, senile dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.

So there are obviously quite a few “pros” to using lithium, but you’re probably wondering about the “cons.” In the 1930s and ’40s, lithium chloride was sold in stores as a salt substitute. But (as frequently happens) some people used way too much and suffered toxic overdoses, so it fell out of common use. Fortunately, lithium toxicity is entirely preventable, and it’s also easily treatable if it ever does occur — but more about that later. Right now, let’s get into some of the specifics on just how you (and your brain) can benefit from lithium.

Taking (grey) matters into your own hands

Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s famous fictional detective, had an amusing quirk in his incessant concern for his “little grey cells.” I thought of Hercule several years ago when I saw the following headline in an issue of the Lancet: “Lithium-induced increase in human brain grey matter.”

That may not sound like an earth-shattering piece of news, but it actually was quite a major discovery. To that point, medical experts believed that once our brains matured, it was all downhill from then on. Decades of autopsies, x-rays, and, more recently, brain scans have repeatedly shown that brains shrink measurably with aging. But according to their report in the Lancet, Wayne State University (Detroit) researchers found that lithium has the ability to both protect and renew brain cells.1 Eight of 10 individuals who took lithium showed an average 3 percent increase in brain grey matter in just four weeks.

Lithium may help to generate entirely new cells too: Another group of researchers recently reported that lithium also enhances nerve cell DNA replication.2 DNA replication is a first step in the formation of a new cell of any type.

The Wayne State study used high-dose lithium, but I’m certainly not using that amount myself, nor do I recommend it. Prescription quantities of lithium just aren’t necessary for “everyday” brain cell protection and re-growth. Studies done years ago have shown that very low amounts of lithium can also measurably influence brain function for the better.

Lithium – The Misunderstood Mineral Part 1

Protect yourself from brain damage you didn’t even know you had

Aside from boosting brain mass, recent research also shows that lithium can help protect your brain from the “beating” it gets in the course of everyday life. Your brain cells are constantly at risk of damage from exposure to toxins of all sorts-even ones produced by your own body. Toxic molecules are formed naturally during the course of normal brain metabolism. Since these “normal” toxic molecules (sometimes called “excitotoxins”) are produced every day of your life, eventually they start to wear down or erode away brain mass.

Another well-known cause of brain cell injury is overactivated N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Lithium can inhibit this overactivity. And lithium also increases production of a major brain protective protein called “bcl-2″ in both human and animal brain cells.

So it appears that lithium can protect against normal brain erosion and shrinkage that would otherwise occur over the course of our lives. But lithium also protects the brain from other less “normal” problems too, like damage caused by prescription medications and strokes.

When a clot or other obstruction occurs in a blood vessel serving the brain, it causes a reduction of blood flow to that area. If it’s bad enough, the lack of blood flow will cause a stroke and death of brain cells. (This type of stroke is known as an ischemic stroke.) Research in experimental animals with deliberately induced ischemic strokes has shown that lithium reduces the areas of cell death.

In one of these studies, researchers blocked a brain artery in rats. Some were pre-treated with lithium for 16 days, the rest weren’t. The researchers reported that the lithium-treated rats experienced 56 percent less cell death and significantly fewer neurologic deficits than the control rats.

And sometimes medications designed to treat other problems end up having a negative impact on the brain. For example, anti-convulsant medications cause abnormal levels of brain cell death. But lithium significantly protects against this type of cell death-so much so that this effect has been called “robust” (a term scientists use to mean “It really works!”).

In fact, based on its general neuroprotective effect, researchers have recently suggested that “the use of lithium as a neurotrophic/neuroprotective agent should be considered in the long term treatment of mood disorders, irrespective of the ‘primary’ treatment modality being used for the condition.” Translation: Lithium should be used along with any patent medicine being used for depression, anxiety, or any other “mood-altering” reason, since it will protect brain cells against their unwanted toxic effects. The researchers didn’t say so, but I will: Any list of “mood altering substances” should include alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, “uppers,” “downers,” and-for those who do inhale-marijuana. Harmless as some of them might seem, these substances can cause brain damage with medium to long-term abuse.

Keeping your brain’s lines of communication open -and healthy

Scientists determine how healthy brain cells are by measuring levels of a molecule called N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA). A decrease in NAA is thought to reflect decreased nerve cell viability, decreased function, or even nerve cell loss. In a study of 19 research volunteers given four weeks of lithium, 14 experienced a significant increase in NAA, one had no change, and four had a small decrease.

Now, what about the interaction between those new, protected, healthy brain cells? Communication between brain cells and networks of brain cells is called “signaling.” And lithium is actually necessary for at least two signal-carrying pathways. Researchers have also reported that lithium may help to repair abnormally functioning signaling pathways in critical areas of the brain.

Lithium and Alzheimer’s: New hope for a “hopeless” situation

As you know, there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and there’s very little available for patients (and families) that can offer even partial relief from the turmoil it causes. So when new treatments are developed or discovered, it’s usually big news -a ray of hope for people stuck in a seemingly hopeless situation. One of these newly developed patent medications, called Memantine,(tm) was recently approved in Europe. Even though it’s not officially “approved” in this country (yet), thousands of people are already importing Memantine to the U.S. via various Internet sources. But why go through all the trouble (not to mention risk) of getting and using this new patent formula? Apparently, it “works” by protecting brain cells against damage caused by a major excitotoxin, glutamate. But protecting against glutamate-induced nerve cell damage is also one of the well-known actions of lithium. So if it’s true that this newly approved patent medication slows the progress of Alzheimer’s disease in this way, then lithium should slow Alzheimer’s disease progression, too. Of course, lithium treatment, which isn’t patentable and doesn’t have nearly the profit potential of patented Alzheimers medications, hasn’t made any headlines. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a promising option for patients struggling with Alzheimer’s disease.

There are many other research findings that also strongly suggest that lithium will protect against potential Alzheimer’s disease and slow the progression of existing cases. Researchers have reported that lithium inhibits beta-amyloid secretion, and also prevents damage caused by beta-amyloid protein once it’s been formed. Beta-amyloid peptide is a signature protein involved in Alzheimer’s disease: the more beta-amyloid protein, the worse the Alzheimer’s becomes.

Lithium – The Misunderstood Mineral Part 1

Overactivation of a brain cell protein called tau protein also contributes to neuronal degeneration in Alzheimer’s disease, as does the formation of neurofibrillary tangles Lithium inhibits both of these nerve-cell damaging problems.

And you’ve likely read that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease usually have excess aluminum accumulation in brain cells. While it’s not yet known whether this excess aluminum is a cause, an effect, or just coincidental, most health-conscious individuals take precautions to avoid ingesting aluminum. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to completely avoid all aluminum, since it’s naturally present in nearly all foods. But lithium can help protect your brain against aluminum by helping to “chelate” it so that it can be more easily removed from the body.

Although Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia aren’t technically the same, they do share many of the same degenerative features so there’s every reason to expect that lithium will help prevent or slow the progression of senile dementia too.

A younger, healthier brain with just one small dose a day

As I mentioned earlier, some of these studies used rather high doses of lithium. And in some instances, as in the case of manic depression, doses as high as 90 to 180 milligrams of elemental lithium from 900 to 1800 milligrams of lithium carbonate are necessary. Quantities of lithium in that range must be monitored closely to guard against overdose and toxicity.

But you really don’t need large amounts to improve your “every-day” brain function. Studies have repeatedly shown that substantially lower amounts of lithium can significantly improve brain function (as reflected in behavior).

The amounts of lithium I recommend for brain anti-aging range from 10 to 20 milligrams (from lithium aspartate or lithium orotate) daily. I’ve actually been recommending these amounts since the 1970s. At first I was exceptionally cautious and asked all of my patients taking lithium to have regular “lithium level” blood tests and thyroid function tests. After a year or so, I quit asking for the lithium level blood tests, since 100 percent of them came back very low. Another year after that, I stopped requesting routine thyroid function tests, too, only doing one when I was suspicious of a potential problem. In the 30 years since, I’ve rarely found one.

Protect your brain starting today–no prescription necessary

High-dose lithium is available only by prescription. But low-dose lithium (capsules or tablets containing 5 milligrams of lithium from lithium aspartate or lithium orotate) is available from a few natural food stores and compounding pharmacies.

If you’re interested in keeping your brain as young as possible for as long as possible, you should definitely consider lithium therapy. Review this information with your physician…but make sure he is skilled and knowledgeable in nutritional and natural medicine!

More to read: Nutritional Supplements for Optimum Health 2.0

Nutritional Supplements

Nutritional Supplements for Optimum Health 2.0

Following the work of Drs. Russell L. Blaylock, M.D. and Jonathan V. Wright, M.D., this is an update to my 2009 article on nutritional supplements. The doses of a number of them are different particularly with regard to Curcumin and Coenzyme Q 10, and the doses of calcium and strontium have been brought into better balance (less strontium than calcium). Three new nutraceuticals (unpatentable, nonprescription natural medicinal products) are added: R-lipoic acid; folic acid as 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolate); and propionyl-L-carnitine, combined with acetyl-L-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid, each in a higher dose.

There is growing evidence that nutritional supplements—vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acid nutrients, herbal and botanical products, and various other natural compounds like coenzyme Q10 and alpha lipoic acid—have specific health benefits, in addition to those provided by the right diet, daily exercise, reducing stress, and getting a good night’s sleep. Taken in the correct doses these nutraceuticals can help prevent cancer, heart disease, depression, neurodegenerative diseases, and prevent loss of hearing and loss of vision from macular degeneration and cataracts.

These are the supplements that I take, along with their doses and a brief explanation of each one’s benefits:

The Top Ten:

Vitamin D3 – 5,000 IU/day, 1 tablet (6 cents/day)

Called the “master key to optimum health,” vitamin D controls the expression of more than 1,000 genes throughout the body, notably in the immune system, in endothelial cells lining blood vessels, pancreatic beta cells, and brain neurons. Genes that vitamin D express prevent influenza and treat tuberculosis, strengthen muscles, prevent common cancers (and possibly suppress metastasizes), and prevent autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D also expresses genes that blunt the immune system-mediated inflammatory response that propagates atherosclerosis and congestive heart failure. For most people the dose needed to reach an optimal vitamin D blood level (25-hydroxyvitamin D) of 50 ng/ml is 5,000 IU/day, ten times the government’s recommended dietary allowance (RDA). People with cancer, chronic illness, and neurodegenerative diseases should take sufficient vitamin D to attain a level of 80 ng/ml (which requires 8,000-10,000 IU/day).

Nutritional Supplements

Iodine – 12.5 mg/day — two drops of 5% Lugol’s solution (5 cents/day) or one Iodoral tablet (26 cents/day)

Iodine taken in doses 100 times the RDA (100-150 micrograms/day) has important extrathyroidal benefits. These include its role as an antioxidant, in preventing and treating fibrocystic disease of the breast, and in preventing and treating cancer. In the right dose, iodine helps keep the immune system healthy, and it provides antiseptic mucosal defense in the mouth, stomach, and vagina. People who take iodine in milligram doses say that they feel healthier, have a sense of well being and increased energy.

Selenium – 200 mcg/day, as selenomethionine, 1 tablet (8 cents/day)

Bound to cysteine in place of sulfur and called the “21st amino acid,” selenocysteine is the active site in some 35 proteins. Glutathione peroxidase, which contains four selenium atoms, plays a major role in free radical defense. Plasma selenoprotein P protects endothelial cells against damage, and epithelial selenoprotein protects prostratic secretory cells from developing carcinoma. People deficient in selenium have an increased risk of cancer. Selenium prevents cancer through a variety of mechanisms, which include antioxidant protection, enhanced immune surveillance, suppression of angiogenesis, regulation of cell proliferation, enhancement of apoptosis (cell death), and inhibition of tumor cell invasion. See my article on selenium titled “The Moon Goddess’ Role in Human Health.”

Vitamin K2 – 90 mcg/day, as menaquinone-7, 1 tablet (22 cents/day)

Vitamin K comes in two basic forms, K1 and K2. K1 is a cofactor for blood coagulation. K2 activates osteocalcin, a protein secreted by osteoblasts that plays a role in bone mineralization and calcium ion hemostasis. Calcium deposits in the walls of blood vessels play an active role in the formation of atherosclerosis. K2 activates a protein called matrix Gla (carboxyglutamic acid) protein. It carboxylates the glutamate residues in matrix Gla protein, which enables it to bind and remove calcium from blood vessels and thus prevent the formation atherosclerotic calcific plaques. Vitamins D and K2 work together in this regard because vitamin D expresses the gene that makes matrix Gla protein. Menaquinone-7, the natural form of vitamin K2, is better than synthetic menaquinone-4, the more widely marketed form of vitamin K2.

Magnesium (Mg) – 900 mg/day, in 6 tablets of Magnesium Citramate (Thorne Research) (6 cents/day)

Magnesium ions are essential to the basic nucleic acid chemistry of life, and 80 percent of the enzymes in the body need Mg in order to function. Mg deficiency can affect every organ system in the body. In skeletal muscles, Mg deficiency causes twitches, cramps, back aches, neck pain, tension headaches. With the heart Mg deficiency can cause angina (from spasm of the coronary arteries), high blood pressure, and rhythm disturbances, including sudden death.

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) – 600 mg/day, in Jonathan Wright M.D.’s Propel, 8 tablets for men; 300mg/day, 4 tablets for women; along with Acetyl-L-carnitine and Propionyl-L-carnitine or 300 mg, as Thiocid (Thorne Research) (59 cents/day)

Sporting a sulfur-hydrogen (sulfhydryl) group and being soluble in both fat and water, ALA is one of the most powerful antioxidants in the body and a critical nutraceutical. In addition to its own work as an antioxidant, ALA restores the four other network antioxidants when oxidized (vitamin C, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, and glutathione) back to their functional, reduced antioxidant state. ALA aids glucose entry into cells, improves insulin sensitivity, and reduces the risk of diabetes. It protects brain cells by blocking excitotoxicity, chelates (removes) mercury from the body, and reduces the risk of atherosclerosis. ALA also plays an integral role in producing the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), feeding pyruvate from the glycolytic cycle into the Krebs cycle.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) – 400 mg/day, as Ubiquinol, 2 capsules ($1.26/day)

CoQ10 is a vitamin-like compound. The body synthesizes it, but in insufficient quantities, especially in people who take statins likeLipitor to lower cholesterol. It is a strong antioxidant and removes oxidized low-density lipoproteins (LDL), a leading culprit in atherosclerosis. CoQ10 also plays a critical role in mitochondrial energy production. It is a necessary ingredient in the electron transport chain that produces ATP through oxidative phosphorylation. A central event in chronic degenerative diseases is the loss of a cell’s ability to produce sufficient energy. The hearts in people with congestive heart failure, and the brains in those with Parkinson’s disease lack CoQ10 High doses of this supplement (800-1,200 mg/day) effectively treat these diseases. Even in these doses CoQ10 has no side effects or toxicity. Ubiquinol is the reduced, antioxidant form CoQ10.

L-Carnitine – 660 mg/day 2 capsules (48 cents/day)

Fats supply most of the fuel that heart muscle cells use, and this compound is needed for cells to metabolize fats. L-carnitine transports long chain fatty acids, which, by weight, have a double concentration of calories (compared with carbohydrates and proteins) into mitochondria, where they are converted into ATP. As is the case with CoQ10, people with congestive heart failure also have low levels of L-carnitine in their heart muscle cells.

Omega 3 fatty acids:

EPA eicosapentaenoic acid) – 850-1080 mg/day (in 2 tsp Quantum Cod Liver Oil)
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – 1,050 mg/day (in 2 tsp Quantum Cod Liver Oil) (70 cents/day)

These two essential, Omega-3 fatty acids promote cognitive and neurological health, and they prevent heart disease and cancer. DHA influences brain cell signaling, receptor expression and function, and neurotransmitters. It stimulates neurite outgrowth and synaptic development and repair (brain plasticity). EPA thins the blood. Both regulate the expression of many genes involving antioxidant capacity and oxidative stress response, others that control cell signaling and proliferation, and genes that produce chemicals which reduce inflammation and improve blood flow through the coronary arteries and other blood vessels.

I mix the two teaspoons of cod liver oil in two ounces of Limu Plus, which tastes good.

Resveratrol 100 mg/day as Longevinex ($1.61/day) or Resveratrol, with Trans-Pterostilbene – total 200 mg/day, 2 tablets, as PolyResveratrol-SR (Thorne Research) ($1.51/day)

This anti-aging agent, found in red grapes, extends the life span of yeast (by 70%), roundworms, fruit flies, and mammals (as seen in studies done with mice). Resveratrol controls the expression of more than 100 genes, including Sirtuin 1, the DNA-repair “survival” gene. Notably among its effects, resveratrol is a potent antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory agent (COX-inhibitor), liver detoxifier, brain plaque cleanser, and mineral chelator. It also normalizes blood sugar. (Trans-Pterostilbene is a naturally-occurring methylated metabolite of resveratrol, which is better absorbed and not as easily broken down in the liver. It has anti-aging effects similar to resveratrol.)

I obtain the requisite Omega 3 EPA and DHA by taking 2 teaspoons a day of high-vitamin Quantum cod liver oil (Blue Ice cod liver oil is equally good), which also has 23,000 IU of vitamin A and 2,500 IU of vitamin D3, so that my total daily dose of vitamin D3 is 7,5000 IU. (The vitamin D present renders this dose of oil-based vitamin A completely safe and non-toxic.) Both Quantum and Blue Ice cod liver oil also come in capsules for those who don’t like drinking the oil.

Instead of cod liver oil, other preparations of EPA and DHA in capsule form are suitable substitutes, one of which, DHA, I also take in capsule form (Thorne Research). In addition to these ten essential nutraceuticals one should also take a broad spectrum multivitamin-mineral supplement. But better yet, I take these:

Other Nutritional Supplements I Take Vitamins:

Fat-soluble vitamins (in addition to vitamins D and K above):

– 23,000 IU/day, oil-based, in Quantum Cod Liver Oil, 2 teaspoons

Vitamin A helps protect the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, throat, gastrointestinal tract, and lungs by promoting mucin secretion and microvilli formation. It is an essential nutrient for the eyes, skin, and immune system. The hormonally active form of vitamin A, 9-cis-retinoic acid, is essential for the full functioning of vitamin D (without it, activated vitamin D binds weakly to its receptors on DNA, resulting in a reduced effect on gene expression). Water-miscible, emulsified, and solid forms of retinol (vitamin A) supplements are ten times more toxic than oil-based preparations like that in cod liver and should be taken in a considerably lower dose. (Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78:1152-9.)

– 800 IU/day, in “Unique E,” which contains natural d-alpha tocopherol and a proprietary blend of d-gamma tocopherol, d-delta tocopherol and d-beta tocopherol, two capsules (46 cents/day)

Functioning as an antioxidant, vitamin E protects cell membranes by extinguishing various singlet oxygen and polyunsaturated fatty acid radicals. And like vitamins D and A, vitamin E also acts as a hormone in regulating gene expression. Natural d-alpha tocopherol works better than synthetic dl-alpha tocopherol, the most common form of vitamin E in multivitamin supplements. The natural form makes platelets less sticky, whereas platelets cannot absorb the synthetic kind. There are seven other forms of vitamin E—three tocopherols and four tocotrienols. Gamma tocopherol neutralizes free radicals that the alpha form cannot douse; and studies show that it, in particular, lowers the risk of prostate and colon cancer.

Water-soluble vitamins:

B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin, as niacinamide), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin) – each 50 mg/day, in “B Complex 50”, one capsule (8 cents/day)

Cells depend on these B vitamins for energy production and cell maintenance. Thiamine plays an essential metabolic role in carbohydrate and protein metabolism and in neural function. Riboflavin plays a key role in energy metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Niacinamide, the functional vitamin form of niacin, is a precursor for electron-carrying coenzymes involved in cellular respiration. It is also involved in DNA repair and the production of steroid hormones in the adrenal gland. Animal studies show that niacinamide protects against Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s disease, and it produces dramatic improvements in cognitive brain function after head injuries and stroke. Pantothenic acid is a cofactor necessary for forming coenzyme-A, a compound that plays pivotal role in the synthesis and oxidation of fatty acids, and the oxidation of pyruvate in the citric acid cycle (the process during aerobic respiration that generates biochemical energy). Biotin is necessary for cell growth, production of fatty acids, and metabolism of fats and amino acids; and it also plays a role in the citric acid cycle. During times of stress these critical water-soluble vitamins become quickly depleted.

B9 (folic acid) 400 mcg/day, in “B Complex 50”; and 1 mg/day as 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), one capsule, Thorne Research (25 cents/day)

Folic acid repairs DNA. Without folic acid, breaks in DNA, like that which occurs when a person is exposed to ionizing radiation, remain unrepaired. Along with vitamins B6 and B12, folic acid is a cofactor in the metabolism of methionine. When any one of these three vitamins is deficient, blood and tissue levels of homocysteine rise. Elevated homocysteine blood levels increase the risk of stroke, a heart attack, and peripheral vascular disease; and it is associated with a greater incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. 5-MTHF is the most biologically active form of folic acid and is worth taking in addition to the 400 mcg in the “B Complex 50.”

B12 (methylcobalamin) 1,000 mcg/day sublingual (13 cents/day)

Along with folic acid, cobalt-containing vitamin B12 is essential for the formation of the nervous system’s intricate patterns and plays a key role in brain function and in maintaining a healthy nervous system. This vitamin is required for synthesis of DNA during cell division and is especially important in tissues where cells divide rapidly, particularly the bone marrow, which produces red blood cells a 50-day half-life.

(buffered) – 3,000 mg/day (21 cents/day)

In addition to its role as an antioxidant, vitamin C is an essential cofactor for protein synthesis, particularly for collagen, the structural component of connective tissue (bone, teeth, cartilage, ligaments, skin, and blood vessels). Collagen makes up 25 percent of the proteins in the body. In its role as an electron donor, vitamin C transfers electrons to iron. Iron in enzymes that make collagen transfers its vitamin C-supplied electron to oxygen, thereby enabling it to combine with hydrogen as a hydroxyl (-OH) group. Hydroxyl groups attach to the amino acids in collagen, forming cross links that give this protein its tensile strength. Vitamin C dramatically increases iron absorption and should be taken on an empty stomach (along with strontium below), not with meals.

Minerals (along with magnesium in the top-ten supplement list):

Calcium – 562 mg/day, 1 tablets of 1,500 mg Coral Calcium (7 cents/day)

In its ionic form, calcium functions as a signal for cellular processes and is the major material used in mineralization of bones and teeth. Taking calcium as a nutritional supplement avoids ever having a deficiency of this element. It helps keep one’s bones strong and helps prevent colorectal cancer.

Potassium – 2.1 gm/day, from 4 capsules (5.4 gm) of potassium bicarbonate, taken on a empty stomach washed down with a full glass of water (33 cents/day)

The potassium content of the average American diet is quite low, 60-80 mEq (4.4 gm)/day, compared to our Paleolithic ancestors, who consumed 400 ± 125 mEq/day. Among its many benefits, potassium reduces blood pressure, increases muscle mass (by deceasing urinary nitrogen excretion), decreases bone loss (by reducing urinary calcium excretion), reduces the risk of stroke, reduces dietary acid load, and improves endothelial function.

Strontium – 340 mg/day, as strontium citrate, 1 capsule, taken alone on an empty stomach and not with other minerals, especially calcium, which impairs its absorption (18 cents/day)

On the recommendation of my physician, Dr. Jonathan Wright, I have started taking strontium to help keep my bones strong and prevent osteoporosis. Like calcium, its smaller cousin, strontium has two positive charges in its ionic form. Animal and human studies show that it increases bone density and the rate of bone formation and decreases the rate of bone resorption. In a randomized, placebo-controlled trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine, osteoporotic postmenopausal women taking 680 mg of strontium a day had fewer fractures. Strontium also reduces the incidence of dental cavities and has a cartilage-growth-promoting effect that could help people who suffer from arthritis. A review of the health benefits of strontium is here.

Zinc – 30 mg/day (13 cents/day)

Zinc is a constituent of more than 3,000 different proteins in the body. Like calcium, cells employ zinc to serve as a signal for cellular processes, notably in salivary glands, intestine, the immune system, and prostate gland. Zinc deficiency leads to poor night vision, a decrease in sense of taste and smell, reduced ability to fight infections, and poor wound healing.

The (Five) Network Antioxidants:

They are vitamin C, vitamin EAlpha Lipoic Acid, and Coenzyme Q10 above, and Glutathione (see The Antioxidant Miracle by Lester Packer and Carol Colman) NAcetyl-Cysteine (NAC) – 1,000 to 2,000 mg/day, 2-4 tablets, the essential ingredient for making Glutathione (48 to 96 cents/day)

The two major sulfur-containing compounds (thiols) in the five-fold antioxidant network are alpha lipoic acid and glutathione. Called the “master antioxidant,” glutathione regulates the actions of other antioxidants in the body, notably vitamins C and E and various bioflavonoids (water-soluble plant pigments). Glutathione also plays an important role in DNA and protein synthesis and repair, and the amount of glutathione in one’s cells predicts how long he or she will live. (It along with vitamin D protects against aluminum toxicity.) Glutathione is poorly absorbed and does not cross the blood-brain barrier. NAC, which is readily absorbable, provides the scarce sulfur-containing amino acid cysteine required for synthesis of glutathione. The two other amino acids in glutathione, glycine and glutamic acid, are widely abundant in food and cells).

Also Idebenone – 90 mg/day (61 cents/day)

On the recommendation of Dr. Russell Blaylock, I take this synthetic form of CoQ10 in addition to CoQ10 itself. Idebenone is more easily absorbed by the brain than is CoQ10. It protects neurons from free radical damage and other adverse excitotoxic effects.

Also R-Lipoic Acid – 400 mg/day, 2 capsules (88 cents/day)

This is the most active form of Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA), supplementing the 600 mg of ALA (see above) in Propel.

Two other Carnitines (80 cents or $1.60/day)

Acetyl-L-Carnitine –2,000 mg/day, in Jonathan Wright M.D.’s Propel, 8 tabs for men; 1,000 mg/day, 4 tabs, for women

Like idebenone with regard to CoQ10, this form of carnitine is better absorbed by the brain than L-carnitine. It increases cell energy, and the acetyl component is an important neurotransmitter. Acetyl-L-carnitine helps prevent and treat Alzheimer’s dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Parkinson’s disease.

Propionyl-L-Carnitine –2,000 mg/day, in Jonathan Wright M.D.’s Propel, 8 tabs for men; 1,000 mg/day, 4 tabs, for women

As per Dr. Wright, Propionyl-L-Carnitine, combined with Acetyl-L-Carnitine and Alpha Lipoic Acid, enhances libido and sexual function in both men and women.

Amino Acids

L-Carnosine – 2 gm/day, 6 capsules ($1.98/day)

A water-soluble antioxidant that protects cell membranes, regulates calcium metabolism in heart muscle cells, and has other important wound healing and anti-aging properties.

Arginine – 2,000 mg/day (2 capsules twice a day) as “Perfusia-SR” (97 cents/day)

Arginine fosters heart and blood vessel health. It improves production of nitric oxide by vascular smooth muscle cells, causing blood vessels to relax and have improved blood flow; and it decreases platelet adhesiveness, rendering them less sticky, which further enhances blood flow. This amino acid also bolsters the endocrine system, enhances immunocompetence, and hastens wound healing.

Nutritional Supplements

One Omega-6 Fatty Acid

Conjugated Linoleic Acid – 2,000 mg/day, 2 softgels (18 cents/day)

Vegetable oils—corn, cottonseed, canola, sunflower, safflower, and soybean oils—contain Omega-6 fatty acids. Although Omega-6 fatty acids, like their Omega-3 cousins, are essential, Americans consume far too many of them. The ideal ratio for Omega-6/Omega-3 fatty acid consumption is 1:1 up to 4:1. The average American, however, consumes Omega 6 fatty acids in a 50:1 ratio! In this amount, these polyunsaturated plant fats cause inflammation, which is the underlying cause of a number of chronic diseases, including atherosclerosis. They also cause cancer. But conjugated linoleic acid, in eggs and animal fat (not in vegetable oils), is the only Omega-6 fatty acid that is worth taking as a supplement. Conjugated linoleic acid reduces body fat and, among its anticancer benefits, suppresses breast and colon cancer.


Ginkgo Biloba – 240 mg/day, 2 (120 mg) tablets (10 cents/day)

Extracted from the 200 million-year-old maidenhair tree (the oldest living tree species on earth), ginkgo biloba thins the blood and decreases platelet adhesiveness, like aspirin, but without its side effects. It increases blood flow through the body, especially in the heart and brain. Ginko biloba improves mental functioning and memory in older people and may well exert a protective effect against developing Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s disease. I think one’s health is better served by taking 240mg of ginkgo biloba a day rather than aspirin. (A careful look at the evidence shows that the adverse effects of aspirin taken long-term outweigh its small potential benefit for prevention of heart disease and stroke.)

Pycnogenol – 200 mg/day, 2 (100 gm) capsules (58 cents/day)

Pycnogenol comes from the bark of the French maritime pine tree and is a blend of bioflavenoids that have health-enhancing effects. It increases nitric oxide in the walls of blood vessels, which is the mechanism for having an erection, and, along with arginine, has been called “a poor man’s Viagra,” without Viagra’s side effects. Pycnogenol is a powerful antioxidant that works well with ginkgo biloba and vitamin E. It reduces platelet clumping and blood-clot formation and protects against deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. It also protects against stroke and neurodegenerative diseases.

Silymarin (Silybin, milk thistle) – 1,000 mg/day, 1 tablet (58 cents/day)

Milk thistle comes from flowering plants whose leaves are mottled with splashes of white and contain a milky sap. For 2,000 years herbalists have used the seeds of milk thistle to protect the liver against toxins and to treat chronic liver disease. The active compound in milk thistle, silymarin, is a mixture of four closely related bioflavonoids. Silymarin lowers insulin resistance, slows the growth of cancer cells, and exhibits antiviral activity.

Aged Garlic Extract – 600 mg/day, 1 tablet (6 cents/day)

Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) is a concentrated form of organic garlic. It is odorless and richer in antioxidants than the fresh bulb. AGE helps prevent atherosclerosis, heighten immunity, and prevent and treat cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. It also has anti-aging effects in improving memory, learning, and endurance.

Lycopene – 10 mg/day, one capsule (5 cents/day)

This red carotenoid in tomatoes is an antioxidant that may slow skin aging and prevent certain types of cancer, particularly prostate cancer. It also arrests benign prostatic hypertrophy.
Mushroom Blend – “Garden of Life RM-10,” 2 capsules/day (39 cents/day)

For many years, folk and traditional Chinese medicine has used mushrooms and fungi to strengthen the immune system to fight infections and cancer, and to suppress the immune system when it becomes overactive and causes allergies and autoimmune disease. The RM-10 mushroom blend contains Cordyceps, Reishi, Shiitake, Tremella, and Maitake, among others. It functions like a vitamin pill for the immune system and contains a maintenance dose of beta glucan, which activates macrophages, the first line of defense in the innate immune system.

Vinpocetine – 20 mg/day, 2 capsules (21 cents/day)

Vinpocetine is an extract from the periwinkle plant that boosts cognition and improves memory. Vinpocetine’s neuroprotective action is derived from its ability to improve cerebral blood flow, through its ability to lower blood viscosity; enhance brain cell electrical conductivity: and protect against damage caused by excessive intra-cellular release of calcium and glutamate-induced excitotoxicity. Vinpocetine prevents cognitive deficits related to normal aging and has beneficial effects in people who have ischemic cerebrovascular disease.

Chlorella – 1000 mg/day, 1 tablet (7 cents/day)

Chlorella is a microscopic algae known for its ability to detoxify heavy metals—mercury, cadmium, lead—from the body. It stimulates the immune system and with its high chlorophyll content, counteracts bad breath (and foul smelling stools).

IP-6 (myo-inositol hexaphosphate) –1020 mg/day, two capsule (12 cents/day)

IP-6 stimulates cellular immunity and chelates iron, depriving bacteria and cancer cells of this element, which they need to grow. IP-6 also inhibits vascular calcification.

Curcumin – 1500 mg/day, 6 tablets as Meriva-SR ($1/day), plus 100 mg in PolyResveratrol

Curcumin is the orange-yellow curry spice that comes from turmeric root. It is an antioxidant and has antiproliferative and pro-apoptotic effects on cancer cells, especially melanoma. It suppresses inflammation by down regulating NFB activity and blocking eicosanoid synthesis of inflammatory leukotrienes, prostaglandins, and thromboxanes derived from arachidonic acid. Meriva-SR is curcumin complexed with phosphatidylcholine for superior bioavailability.

Quercitin – 500 mg/day, 2 capsules as Quercenase (Thorne Research) (66 cents/day)

Quercetin prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol in blood vessel walls, an inciting factor in atherosclerosis. This bioflavenoid, like curcumin, also inhibits inflammation, but in a different way, which makes it worthwhile taking them both together. It inhibits the delta-5-lipooxygenase enzyme, which initiates the production of inflammatory eicosanods. It also inhibits tumor initiation and growth.

Grapefruit seed extract – 125 mg/day (29 cents/day)

Grapefruit seed extract is said to possess anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties.

Horsetail (equisetium) – 440 mg/day (3 cents/day)

This herbal remedy is rich in silica and silcic acids, which help form collagen. Naturopathic physicians use horsetail as a supplement to prevent and treat osteoporsis.

Hesperidin – 250 mg/day (22 cents/day)

Hesperidin, found in lemons and oranges, improves the health of capillaries by reducing capillary permeability. It helps halt premature aging and degenerative diseases.

Saw Palmetto – 450 mg/day (4 cents/day)

For men, this extract of the fruit Serenoa repens has shown promise in preventing and treating benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Goldenseal – 470 mg/day (9 cents/day)

This herb has antibacterial and immune-enhancing properties and may also have cardiovascular benefits.

Stinging Nettle – 300 mg/day (3 cents/day)

This herb has a long tradition of use as an adjuvant treatment of arthritis. It contains compounds that reduce inflammatory cytokines.


Theralac – one tablet/three times a week, containing Lactobacillus acidophilus (5 billion CFU), L. paracasei (5 B CFU), L. rhamnosus (2 B); Bifidobacterium lactis (5 B), B. bifidum (3 B)—total of 20 billion colony forming units (64 cents/day)

Beneficial probiotic bacteria help us digest and absorb our food, keep the immune system functioning properly and play a role in generating vitamin B-12. They prevent food allergies, help repair the gut lining, suppress bad bacteria, and help metabolize hormones. Abnormal metabolism of estrogen can produce compounds that may cause breast cancer, and women with low numbers of probiotic organism in their colon have been found to be at a higher risk for breast cancer.

Fucoidan (in Limu Moui) and (Russian) Adaptogens

Limu Plus – 1 ounce/day ($1.20/day)

Fucoidan, in brown seaweed, is a complex carbohydrate (sulfated polysaccharide). Fucoidan enhances immunity and has other important health benefits. This compound causes cancer cells to self destruct—researchers have shown that fucoidan induces apoptosis in human lymphoma cell lines. Fucoidan stimulates the immune system’s natural killer cells, which destroy tumor cells and cells infected with viruses. It prevents white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels, which starts the process of atherosclerosis. Fucoidan also inhibits smooth muscle cell proliferation with neointimal hyperplasia, which causes arterial blockage after placement of stents in heart patients. In one animal study fucoidan prevented neointimal hyperplasia and in-stent restenosis of stents placed in the iliac arteries of rabbits.

Limu (the Hawaiian word for algae) Moui is a nice tasting extract of brown seaweed that contains fucoidan. Limu Plus is Limu Moui with ten adaptogens, which includes Rhodiola Rosea. Adaptogens are herbal products said to increase the body’s resistance to stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Herbalists claim that natural adaptogenic herbs, identified and researched by Russian scientists, are distinct from other substances in their ability to balance endocrine hormones and the immune system, helping the body to maintain optimal homeostasis.


Lithate (lithium aspartate) – 20 mg/day of elemental lithium (22 cents/day)

Lithium is an alkali metal in the same family as sodium and potassium. In low doses (much less than those used to treat depression), lithium has anti-aging effects. It protects brain cells from damage from excitotoxins like glutamate, inhibits beta-amlyloid secretion (a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease), and increases human brain grey matter, among other things. Lithium makes uric acid more soluble so it doesn’t crystallize into painful “needles” and cause gout. And it inhibits reproduction of viruses—herpes simplex, adenovirus (cold), and measles viruses.

Amygdalin (Laetrile, “vitamin B17”) – 100mg/day (23 cents/day)

Found in apricot pits, amygdalin prevents and can treat cancer by this method: An enzyme found in cancerous cells, glucuronidase, breaks amygdalin down into cyanide (and several other non-toxic components). The cyanide thus released kills aberrant, cancerous cells.


Melatonin – 6 mg/day, before bedtime (the dose for people over age 50) (41 cents/day)

In addition to synchronizing the body’s internal clock and inducing sound sleep, this hormone, produced in the pineal gland, enhances cognitive function and has a positive influence on mood and behavior. Melatonin also helps regulate insulin and kills cancer cells. In mouse studies, melatonin reverses 13 of the 25 genes that are altered with aging. (It also triggers puberty in adolescence.)

Six thousand people die each day in the U.S., most of them from preventable diseases. The two leading causes of death are coronary heart disease and cancer, which accounts for more than half of these daily deaths. (In contrast, each day 125 people in the U.S. die in automobile accidents and 60 are murdered.) Taking vitamin D, iodine, and selenium alone could well prevent 80 percent of the cancers that afflict Americans.

In order to achieve the maximum benefit from nutritional supplements, one also needs to eat right and do this: Avoid high fructose corn syrup that is used to sweeten many foods (baked goods and condiments) and beverages (soda pop), stay away from the excitotoxin monosodium glutamate (MSG) used to enhance the flavor of processed foods and in some Chinese and other restaurants, avoid the excitotoxin aspartame (in diet sodas), and avoid trans fats. Eat a lot of vegetables, avoid excess carbohydrate, and eschew low fat diets. Avoid, in particular, industrially processed, polyunsaturated vegetable oils, such as corn, safflower, soy, sunflower, cottonseed, and canola oils.

Instead, eat healthy fats, which include, in addition to omega-3 fatty acids, stable medium-chain saturated fats, such as coconut and palm oils, and long-chain saturated fats found in meat and dairy products. See “The Oiling of America” by Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, their book Eat Fat Lose Fat, Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, and Barry Grove’s Trick and Treat: how “healthy eating” is making us ill for interesting information on the health benefits of a low-carbohydrate, high-saturated-fat diet. See also my article on this subject posted on, “Health Benefits of a Low-Carbohydrate, High-Saturated-Fat Diet.”

More to read: Get your type 2 diabetes under control… without a single drug!

The Digestive Theory Of Aging Part 2

The Digestive Theory Of Aging Part 2

When organs get older, they usually don’t work as well as they did when they were younger. We don’t run as fast at age 47 as we did at 27; our vision and hearing are usually less acute in our 70s than in our 30s. Our skin is less elastic at 53 than at 23. Why should our stomachs be any different? Why should stomachs become more active with age, rather than less? As Mr. Spock would say, “That’s illogical!”

What do stomachs do? While digesting breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, the stomach makes an extremely powerful acid, hydrochloric acid. The stomach also makes pepsin, a protein-digesting enzyme, and a factor (originally termed “intrinsic factor”) that combines with vitamin B12 and is necessary for B12 absorption. The hydrochloric acid that healthy stomachs make is one million times stronger than the mild acidity of blood or saliva. A tough, stringy piece of meat becomes meat soup after digestion in the stomach. That’s normal!

After 30, 40 or more years of digesting or attempting to digest everything we put in our stomachs – not just food, which the stomach is designed to handle, but also refined sugar, caffeine, distilled alcohol, grease and oxidized oils, fluoride and chlorine from water, chemical flavorings and colorings, pesticides, herbicides – you get the idea, no? – why would anyone except an antacid salesman or the average gastroenterologist imagine that our stomachs would make more acid, more pepsin, and digest things more efficiently as we get older? Common sense says that after 30 or 40 years, the stomach slows down, just like the rest of us, and makes less acid, less pepsin, and digests things less efficiently.

We’ll pause here to point out that the “overacidity” theory of peptic ulcers has been rather thoroughly debunked. Thanks to Dr. Barry Marshall, we now know that “the helicobacter(s) (i.e., Helicobacter pylori bacteria) did it.” Let’s also note here that there is an extremely rare syndrome named after Drs. Zollinger and Ellison, which indeed features abundant hyperacidity at any age, but again, it’s extremely rare.

So when you get past 35, 40, 45, and start to develop indigestion, it’s highly likely that the indigestion is due to a weaker stomach, not a stronger one, a stomach making less acid, less pepsin. The very word “indigestion” implies lack of digestion, not overdigestion. Why in the world would we want to take “antacids” or “acid blockers,” when our stomachs are weak and not digesting adequately already?

The answer’s in two words: symptom relief. We know that if we have “heartburn,” unthinkingly attributed to “overacidity,” taking an “antacid” or “acid blocker” relieves symptoms. So why isn’t that the right thing to do?

Let’s try an analogy. If we get a headache, we take an aspirin. The headache disappears. Does that mean the headache was due to a lack of aspirin? Of course not! In the tradition of Western allopathic medicine, we’ve taken away only the symptoms. We’ve just covered up the problem; we haven’t discovered what the cause actually is.

Think for a moment: if you’ve ever seen a doctor about “heartburn” and indigestion (or know someone who has), did you actually have a test to determine that your stomach was making too much acid? Ninety-nine percent of the time, the answer is “no.” Perhaps an X-ray or even gastroscopy to check for an ulcer, but a test for over- or underacidity is rare.

Since 1976, I’ve checked literally thousands of individuals complaining of “heartburn” and indigestion for stomach acid production using a commercially available, extremely precise, research-verified procedure. Overacidity is almost never found, especially in those over age 35. The usual findings are underacidity (from “just a little under” to no acid at all) or normal acidity, in which case the indigestion symptoms are caused by something else. The majority have underacidity (as might be expected in a no-longer-young stomach) and I advise them to take capsules containing hydrochloric acid and pepsin with each meal. The supplemental hydrochloric acid and pepsin not only relieve the symptoms but actually improve digestion. (A good parallel is hormone replacement when our hormone levels drop, another common happening when we’re somewhat older.)

The Digestive Theory Of Aging Part 2

So why do we have a burning sensation, sometimes severe, along with indigestion, if our stomach acid is low? And why should underacidity symptoms be relieved by “antacids” or “acid blockers,” which presumably would worsen a condition of underacidity?

Would you believe that in 1997 there’s no research being done to answer this question? (If anyone out there has research grant funds available, I would be happy to determine the answer!) The most recent research I’ve been able to locate was done in 1887 or 1898. That’s right, 100 years ago. At that time a doctor trying to answer the same question put a tube into the stomachs of heartburn sufferers, sucked out the contents, and found very little or no hydrochloric acid, acetic acid, butyric acid. He pointed out that these small amounts of acid don’t digest anything, but, he guessed, they could cause pain. Of course, antacids would neutralize them.

This might explain why antacids relieve symptoms, but it still doesn’t explain why acid blockers, like Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid, Prilosec, and their clones, which can prevent hydrochloric acid secretion entirely, would do the same thing. I’ll admit that I don’t have a clue either (although that research grant would help).

I can say that in 24 years of nutritionally oriented practice, I’ve worked with thousands of individuals who’ve found the cause of their “heartburn” and indigestion to be low stomach acidity. In nearly all of these folks, symptoms have been relieved and digestion improved when they’ve taken supplemental hydrochloric acid and pepsin capsules, available in every natural food store. (Certainly it would be preferable that our stomach production of hydrochloric acid and pepsin be restored on its own, but a reliable way to do this hasn’t been found.)

And that takes us to the above-noted acid-blocking drugs on the market. By remarkable coincidence, shortly after their patents expired, they must have become much safer, since the requirement for a prescription disappeared. Multimillion dollar promotions to the public were launched to drive home the point that “heartburn” and indigestion are caused by too much acid, which can be “blocked” (with these products, of course) at minimal risk. (Oddly enough, the FDA has never required the companies advertising these products to document their claims that indigestion and “heartburn” are actually caused by overacidity.)

In case you missed last month’s column, let’s briefly review: without adequate hydrochloric acid to activate pepsin, protein can’t digest properly, and any of up to eight essential amino acids may become deficient. It’s been my clinical observation that calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, chromium, selenium, manganese, vanadium, molybdenum, cobalt, and many other “micro-trace” elements are not nearly as well absorbed by individuals taking “acid-blocking” drugs. A small amount of research shows that vitamin B12 absorption is decreased by Tagamet, and there’s every reason to expect the other “acid blockers” do the same. Folic acid doesn’t absorb well when stomach acid is low. When any one or any combination of these nutrients is reduced, enzyme systems, cells, tissues, and organs can’t repair themselves. In other words, the more we take Zantac, Pepcid, Tagamet, or even Tums or Rolaids, the more we accelerate our aging!

So, if you develop indigestion or “heartburn,” don’t be fooled by the myth of “acid indigestion.” Find out what the problem really is, and correct it. You’ll be helping to slow, not accelerate, the aging process.

More to read: Bioidentical Testosterone: The best male anti-aging tool the experts don’t want you to have

Macular Degeneration Testimonials

Macular Degeneration Testimonials

“I am delighted to provide a testimonial about…my experiences with you that I consider to be miracles. I had a dark spot in the center of my vision that was partially blocking my ability to see, and…read the road signs. I consulted with two eye doctors, and then two eye specialists, and after extensive testing they told me that I had macular degeneration and there wasn’t anything that could be done about it, with the probability that it would just be getting worse. I then consulted with you within weeks of this diagnosis, and I appreciated very much that you spent two hours with me in that initial visit investigating all the possible solutions.

Within a month after starting the IV treatments my eyes returned to normal and I no longer had the vision blockage….

When I went back to my eye doctor, after a best laser eye surgery he stated that there was mo trace left of the macular degeneration, and my vision that had previously been correctable to 20/50 was now 20/20. He stated that some things are unexplainable and he had not seen this happen before. I have not had any return of the macular degeneration.”
—– J Phillips

“…regarding the recent treatment for by blindness (macular degeneration), I am enclosing the following. While taking the intravenous injections, I noticed some improvement in each eye…by the 13th injection I noticed improvements in various areas. The map in my right eye was less dense and my left eye was improved. My peripheral vision was not only improved in my right eye, I had none before. In fact, my entire peripheral was improved. I could see higher and lower. Color was visible from both eyes and I could see red and black. They were brighter and clearer.”
——S Dodd

Macular Degeneration Testimonials

“….Knowing the cataracts could be surgically removed to improve my sight was not a big problem but the macular degeneration sounded like a sentence to blindness. I decided to take the IV treatments as I felt I had nothing to lose. By the ninth treatment, I felt that I could see better, objects were clearer and colors more brilliant. I found that when going from a dark room to a lighted one or walking into a dark room and turning on the light, my eyes adjusted to the light much more quickly than before. Television was easier as they were not as strong. As an added bonus, I noticed that my hearing had improved some, I had to turn the TV volume down several notches as the volume setting I had been using was generally too loud. I feel that the treatments have been very beneficial and worth the time and effort.”
—G Gray

Evelyn…A Tahoma Clinic Success Story
Overcoming macular degeneration with “…no drugs, no surgery…”
At Tahoma Clinic, approximately 70% of those treated for macular degeneration experience a significant improvement in their vision—and some even have their progressive loss of vision stopped altogether. From time to time, we receive a letter or an e-mail describing an individual’s improvement.

The following e-mail, detailing one of Tahoma Clinic’s success stories, was sent by the husband of a Tahoma Clinic patient to their friends, and we were kindly given permission to post it here for you.
Evelyn’s macular degeneration cleared up in two months. She sees perfectly with the exception of light color, numbers, or letters. Tahoma Clinic does not guarantee a cure for macular degeneration, but, as was the result with Evelyn, in many cases has success and even reverses it. The clinic suggests several natural pills to be taken every day to maintain her sight. But it is definitely worth it.
People from all over the world go to the clinic to get help for various problems. Jonathan Wright, M.D. has been doing this for 39 years using Natural Medicine. This is the key to Evelyn’s success, no drugs, no surgery. Wright travels worldwide to help doctors be informed of the amazing results for many problems he and his staff have achieved.

We recommend calling Tahoma Clinic. They are very nice people that care about each patient. They will be able to look up your condition and see if they have the research completed to help you. They will explain the options that can be taken to stop or reverse the problem. Believe it or not we were shocked to find out that many body problems initiate from the stomach.

More to read: HCG: Spinal Cord and Neuronal Regeneration

The Digestive Theory Of Aging Part 1

The Digestive Theory Of Aging Part 1

No matter how much “antiaging” therapy we do, we may only be able to slow aging down, not stop it. After all, we need to get on to our next lifetimes someday, so that future regression therapists can tell us where we’ve been, don’t we?

But as long as we’re here in this lifetime, why not take full advantage of it, stay healthy, “age gracefully,” and perhaps outlive Victor Herbert, David Kessler, and all the other folks who know everything there is to know about staying well with drugs, chemotherapy, and radiation?


In our antiaging efforts, we’ve been guided by the “free radical” theory of aging, which tells us that the accumulation of “oxidative damage” is responsible for much aging, particularly the premature kind. This theory advises us to take “antioxidants” to slow the aging process, much like putting antifreeze in our cars to keep their engines from bursting in the wintertime. (Of course, the whole idea of “antioxidants” has been an absolute boon to university and other establishment types, who can now do research and tell us to take our vitamins without actually calling them vitamins, thus avoiding sounding like Adele Davis, J.I. Rodale or one of those other “health food nuts.”)


Then there’s the “endocrine theory” of aging which American mainstream medicine has put to use in a rather perverse but patentable way by replacing failing human hormones with horse hormones (Premarin®) or other dangerous molecules never before found on this planet or in human bodies (e.g., Provera,® methyltestosterone). We can be somewhat thankful that pharmaceutical company ingenuity and drive for profit has recently produced an improvement on this approach with genetically engineered, recombinant and process-patentable human growth hormone (hGH), which not only shows some signs of being useful and not too harmful in the battle to slow aging but also maintains the usual and customary drug-company profit margins.


The proliferation of over-the-counter and even vending-machine versions of Zantac,® Pepcid,® and other patent-expired “acid-blockers” has prompted this brief note to remind us all of yet another theory of aging, the “digestive failure” theory.

It’s long been noted that grandpas and grandmas have considerably more indigestion than younger folks, but their indigestion generally has been ascribed to “being older.” Not much thought has been given to the possibility that the “being older” could (at least in part) be due to the indigestion!

Let’s give it a little thought. If we have bodies made up of some 60 or so essential nutrients (essential being defined as nutrients without which we sooner or later would drop dead), then how healthy are we going to be if even one of those essential nutrients isn’t getting through very well? Like engines running on a lean fuel mixture, our cells are going to misfire, sputter, and ultimately choke. And what if a dozen or more nutrients are in short supply? How are our bodies, particularly older bodies, going to keep themselves in good repair? Like older houses, older bodies require more parts and maintenance, not less. It just makes sense that, if we’re not digesting and assimilating properly, not supplying all the cells of our bodies with a full complement of essential nutrients, we’re going to age and fall apart more rapidly.

A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association tells us that “only” 10% of “healthy” older folks have inadequate levels of stomach acid production. (Apparently, that doesn’t include all those older folks gulping down over-the-counter and vending machine Zantacs and Pepcids, persuaded of their virtues by the barrage of newly-unleashed-by-FDA direct-to-the-public TV, radio, and print advertising.) Back in the 1930s, studies by the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins on several thousand older folks told us that by age 60 nearly half of us had functionally low stomach acid. After some 27 years of nutritionally oriented medical practice, I’m more inclined to agree with the researchers at Mayo and Hopkins, especially since I’m working mostly with folks who don’t consider themselves healthy. Moreover, this problem is not limited to older people.

The Digestive Theory Of Aging Part 1


Hydrochloric acid (HCl) supplements with and without pepsin were widely prescribed in the 1800s and the first half of this century. Using medical judgment and common sense, physicians reasoned that replacement of such a powerful digestive secretion was the only logical thing to do if the function of the stomach could not be revived on its own, as is often the case with increasing age. HCl and pepsin replacement therapy for “failed stomachs” is exactly parallel to hormone replacement therapy for “failed ovaries.” Unfortunately, poorly designed and widely misinterpreted research starting in the 1950s has convinced most medical practitioners of today that HCl and pepsin replacement therapy is not necessary. Encouraged by the legal drug industry, medical students are not taught that hypochlorhydria (inadequate stomach acid production) is treatable only with unpatentable natural replacement therapies. Instead, their education concentrates on hyperchlorhydria (excess stomach acid production) and its treatment with patentable “acid blocker” drugs and highly profitable over-the-counter antacids.

Although research in this area is entirely inadequate, it’s been my clinical observation that calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, chromium, selenium, manganese, vanadium, molybdenum, cobalt, and many other “micro-trace” elements are not nearly as well-absorbed in those with poor stomach acid as it is in those whose acid levels are normal. When we test plasma amino acid levels for those with poor stomach function, we frequently find lower than usual levels of one or more of the eight essential amino acids: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Often there are functional insufficiencies of folic acid and/or vitamin B12.

Count the number of essential nutrients named above: 21! Although no one with a poorly functioning stomach is deficient in all of them, and no two people have the exact pattern of insufficiencies, even if “only” 10% of “healthy” older adults have this problem, that’s a large number of folks who aren’t nourishing their cells very well. Of course they’re going to age prematurely!

And having “low stomach acid” or falling for those Zantac and Pepcid commercials isn’t the only way to impair our digestive processes. A lot of us don’t have sufficient pancreatic digestive enzymes. The pancreatic enzymes trypsin and chymotrypsin complete the digestion of protein started by the stomach’s enzyme pepsin. As its name implies, lipase digests fats and aids in the assimilation of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K, and the essential fatty acids. Pancreatic amylase is necessary for carbohydrate digestion. And remember all those important “anti-aging” phytonutrients, flavonoids, carotenoids, mucopolysaccharides, and so on? They don’t just leap out of our food into our bloodstreams, they must be digested out.

Many of us have inadequate bile flow (that’s the real bile, not the mental thing) due to impaired liver function or having our gallbladders carved out because the surgeon didn’t tell us that avoiding allergies will do the job just as well. Bile is another important digestive secretion, necessary to “emulsify” fats, oils, fat-soluble vitamins and other dietary components before they can be assimilated.

Then there’s allergy-induced malabsorption, lectin incompatibility, and that favorite medical category “idiopathic,” which means, “it’s happening (or not happening), but we don’t know why.”

And in a related matter: What about those germs so delicately termed “intestinal microflora?” These “normal” or “friendly” bacteria are responsible for some of the digestive processes, and play a vital role in production of a major proportion of the essential nutrients, vitamin K, folic acid, biotin and vitamin B12 that our bodies depend on. Since the early 1940s, the entire population of the United States (not to mention most of the rest of the world) has been so thoroughly dosed with antibiotics that our intestinal microflora in many cases isn’t even close to normal.


So while we’re slowing the aging process by swallowing our vitamins, minerals, and botanicals (oops, I meant antioxidants), and taking our replacement hormones (the natural or identical-to-natural versions, of course), let’s not forget to detect and correct any failures in our digestive and absorptive processes, or the digestive failure theory of aging may catch up with us while we’re preoccupied elsewhere and send us on to that next lifetime before we are really ready to be there!

More to read: The Digestive Theory Of Aging Part 2

Don’t Go Deaf, Blind or Lose Your Mind! by Jonathan V. Wright, MD

Don’t Go Deaf, Blind or Lose Your Mind! by Jonathan V. Wright, MD

“Eh? What’s that you say? Louder, please. No, don’t bother writing it down, can’t see very well, either! Oh, never mind…I probably won’t remember it, anyway!”

If you chuckled when you read that, it’s probably because it sounds familiar—whether it’s something you remember your parents or grandparents saying, or whether you’ve uttered similar things yourself. And while it sounds funny on the surface, the unfortunate truth underlying phrases like these is that varying degrees of failing hearing, vision, and mental function are still considered to be “normal” with advancing age.

But they need not be “normal” for you! You’ve read before in Nutrition & Healing about prevention and treatment of “age-related” hearing, vision, and cognitive function problems. This time, we’ll review them all in one place, while you—and I—can still remember to how to lower your chances of going deaf, blind, or losing your mind!

The hormone deficiency that could be destroying your hearing

Dennis Trune, Ph.D., of Oregon Health Sciences University, pioneered the research showing that the naturally occurring adrenal steroid hormone aldosterone can often reverse hearing loss in animals..

Based on Dr. Trune’s work, I’ve had aldosterone levels tested in many individuals with hearing loss (most of them “older”), and a significant number turned out to have low or “low normal” measurements. But after taking bio-identical aldosterone in “physiologic” quantities—amounts that would normally be present in adult human bodies—more than half of these individuals have regained a significant proportion of their “lost” hearing.

I’ve been surprised by two aspects of bio-identical aldosterone treatment for hearing loss. First, when it works, it works relatively rapidly, restoring a significant degree of hearing within the first two months. In fact, a few of the people I’ve worked with have literally heard improvement within just two to three weeks.

The other thing that surprised me about aldosterone therapy is that it’s capable of restoring a significant degree of hearing even years after the hearing loss initially occurred. So far, the longest interval I’ve witnessed was in an 87-year-old man who’d lost his hearing 13 years prior to regaining a significant degree of it using aldosterone.

None of the people I’ve worked with have had any adverse effects from aldosterone therapy, likely because the use of bio-identical, physiologic-dose aldosterone restores levels to those that would be found in the body anyway.

I’ve focused this treatment on individuals with hearing loss and low or low-normal aldosterone levels, but I do know of one individual—an M.D.—who decided to try this approach for his hearing loss even though his aldosterone levels were quite normal. His hearing did improve, but unless you too are an M.D., D.O., or N.D. who can prescribe bio-identical aldosterone and order lab tests for sodium and potassium (sodium and potassium regulation are two of aldosterone’s major responsibilities), please don’t take aldosterone, bio-identical or not, if your measured levels are perfectly normal! (For further details about the research behind this treatment and safety details, see Nutrition & Healing for May 2006.)

See also: Lithium – The Misunderstood Mineral

Don’t Go Deaf, Blind or Lose Your Mind! by Jonathan V. Wright, MD

Beat the top 3 causes of blindness—without patent medicines or surgery

Glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts are three very common causes of vision loss—if they’re left untreated, that is.

But many cases of these three sight-stealing conditions can be treated by natural means, often avoiding patent medicines and/or surgery entirely. Even better, it’s also possible to significantly reduce your risk of developing any of these problems in the first place.

The vision-robbing disease that’s actually a symptom in many cases

Let’s start with glaucoma. This condition occurs when the pressure inside the eyeball (intra-ocular pressure) rises. If the intra-ocular pressure rises high enough, it can cause blindness. Conventional treatment of glaucoma uses either patent medications (generally called miotics) or surgery to relieve the excess pressure.

But in 1937, Emanuel Josephson, M.D., an ophthalmologist in New York City, published a book titled Glaucoma and its Medical Treatment with Cortin. In it, Dr. Josephson reported many cases of individuals whose glaucoma and high intra-ocular pressure improved after treatment with a substance called cortin. Cortin was the 1930s name for entirely natural, injectable extracts from animal adrenal cortex—the part of the adrenal glands which make cortisol, cortisone, DHEA, aldosterone, and all other natural adrenal steroid molecules in natural balance with each other. (Later on, Cortin was renamed Adrenal Cortical Extract, or ACE.)

Some of the improvements Dr. Josephson related were quite dramatic, with the patients’ intra-ocular pressure dropping over 20 points to within the normal range. Dr. Josephson carefully explained that Cortin produced such impressive results because many cases of glaucoma don’t actually originate in the eye, but instead manifest in the eye as a symptom of weak adrenal glands. In other words, Dr. Josephson discovered that, in many cases, glaucoma is a symptom, not an “independent disease.”

Injections of Cortin (which was literally “hormone replacement therapy” for weak adrenal glands) would allow the eyes—which apparently depend on normal adrenal function—to normalize themselves in many cases. In fact, Cortin even helped alleviate high intra-ocular pressure in people who hadn’t responded to miotics or surgery.

At the time Dr. Josephson was using it in his patients, Cortin was sold by major patent medication companies, including Parke-Davis. While they couldn’t patent the extracts themselves (since they were 100 percent natural) patent medicine companies could patent—and make enormous profits from—the extraction process.

Unfortunately, though, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, patent medicine companies discovered ways to make totally unnatural but very powerful and patentable (and therefore much more profitable) versions of cortisone and cortisol. Even though these space-alien versions have an incredible list of adverse effects when used in human bodies—including diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cataracts, and stomach ulcers—the patent medicine industry was so successful in blurring the lines between them and bio-identical cortisone and cortisol (which never have these sorts of adverse effects when used in “physiologic” quantities) that they’ve become the go-to choice for most mainstream physicians. A more recent example of this type of “blurring the lines” is the inability of the FDA, conventional medicine, and patent medicine companies to distinguish between Premarin and other patentable pseudo-estrogens and bio-identical estrogens. And just like the current situation with bio-identical HRT, los Federales used this line-blurring to outlaw Cortin/ACE in the 1970s.

They claimed that it should be banned because, unlike the synthetic version, ACE was “unapproved,” and therefore potentially “dangerous”—even though it had been sold and in use for decades with no reported side effects. In an accompanying illogical leap of FDA “logic,” after terming ACE “dangerous,” they also stated it was “ineffective.”

But I personally witnessed its tremendous success in normalizing glaucoma. Several individuals had decreases in intra-ocular pressure from well above 20 (normal is under 20) to below 20 following a series of intravenous injections of ACE. (All intra-ocular pressure measurements were done by ophthalmologists, not me.) Many other physicians practicing natural medicine had seen similar results and we all protested to the FDA. Unfortunately, the public didn’t get involved, and side-effect-free ACE remains illegal today.

However, individuals with glaucoma can still improve and even normalize their intra-ocular pressure by using more general techniques to improve their adrenal function. The very best place to start is with your diet, eliminating all refined sugar and refined carbs and making sure to get adequate amounts of salt.

There are also a number of supplements that can help boost adrenal function, including the sodium ascorbate form of vitamin C, pantothenic acid, chromium, vitamins A and E, and ginseng. Another relatively subtle but powerful technique for strengthening weak adrenal glands is “cell therapy” using fetal animal adrenal cells with other related fetal endocrine cells. Next month, you’ll read a brief note about cell therapy, and much more can be found in the March 2005 issue of Nutrition & Healing. For even more information on strengthening weak adrenal glands, check your local library for the book Adrenal Fatigue by James Wilson, N.D., Ph.D.

As you’ve likely guessed, adrenal-strengthening treatment is most likely to be successful in treating glaucoma in people who have weak adrenal function. The 24-hour urine test for natural steroids and other hormones can help you and your physician make an “official” diagnosis, but symptoms of weak adrenal function include lower-than-average blood pressure (especially if the “top”—systolic—number is consistently below 110), dizzy spells when standing up rapidly, and being easily tired out. Being underweight for your particular height and difficulty gaining weight are also common with weak adrenal function, but are not always present.

If you have any or all of these symptoms, check with a physician skilled and knowledgeable in natural and nutritional medicine, as well as bio-identical hormone replacement.

If weak adrenals aren’t at the root of your glaucoma, there are still a few other nutritional and natural therapies that may be able to help reverse it. Eliminating any food allergies you might have is a good first step. Research has also shown that daily use of fish oil (I recommend 1 tablespoonful daily) and high quantities of vitamin C (10 to 35 grams daily, split into three to four doses) can help reduce high intra-ocular pressure. Thyroid hormone also lowers intra-ocular pressure in some cases.

And both magnesium (250 milligrams daily) and standardized extracts of ginkgo biloba (40 milligrams three times daily) have been found to improve visual field defects for individuals with glaucoma.

The macular degeneration treatment that starts in your stomach

Just as Dr. Josephson found that many cases of glaucoma don’t originate in the eye, but elsewhere in the body, in the 1980s I discovered that many—if not most—cases of “dry” macular degeneration are “symptoms” of digestive malfunction, specifically poor digestion and assimilation of nutrients. So if you’re starting to have vision problems, I encourage you to have your digestive function tested. If it’s not operating up to par, correcting it (naturally, of course) will go a long way in helping you get the most from the nutrients that have vision-improving potential.

The most useful of those nutrients are lutein and zeaxanthin, which are found in highest concentrations in spinach, collard greens, and other deep green leafy vegetables. Other important nutrients include zinc (found in oysters, fish and other animal protein), selenium (two to four Brazil nuts a day are an excellent source), riboflavin (which comes from brewer’s yeast, almonds, mushrooms, wheat bran, and dark green leafy vegetables), taurine (found in organ meats, fish, and other animal protein), and quercitin (good sources include onions, apples, kale, cherries, grapes, red cabbage, and green beans are all good sources). Bilberry and ginkgo are the best vision-supporting herbs.

I encourage anyone with macular degeneration to consider using Ocudyne II capsules (formulated by my colleague Alan R. Gaby M.D. and me), which contain all the nutrients noted above.

For much more information about preventing and treating macular degeneration, refer back to the February 2005 issue of Nutrition & Healing.

Clearing up cataracts, naturally

I wrote about an effective, well-researched cataract treatment three months ago (in the July 2008 issue), so I’ll refer you there for the complete discussion of N-acetylcarnosine eyedrops.

Another option for treating cataracts is a combination of Chinese botanicals called “Hachimi-jio-gan,” or Ba-wei-wan. This treatment has been used for centuries in China to treat cataracts, and even has a bit of clinical evidence to support it. In a human study of early cataracts conducted in Japan, Hachimi-jio-gan was associated with lessening of cataracts in 60 percent of the volunteers. In the USA, Hachimi-jio-gan is available as a (much easier to pronounce) formula called Clinical Nutrients for the Eyes, which is available from natural food stores, compounding pharmacies, and the Tahoma Clinic Dispensary.

Rounding out the natural treatment options for cataracts is a single, simple nutrient: vitamin A. Decades ago, an honest ophthalmologist with a sense of humor wrote a letter-to-the-Editor of a medical journal “complaining” that his income from cataract surgery had gone down by over 2/3 since he started recommending vitamin A to all his patients with any degree of cataract at all. I recommend 30,000 IU of vitamin A (not beta-carotene) for anyone who wants to prevent or treat cataracts. In fact, the only people who shouldn’t use this amount are very small children (who don’t get cataracts anyway) and pregnant women.

And while we’re on the topic of cataract prevention, one of the most important things you can do is to eliminate all sources of sugar and refined carbohydrates from your diet! Researchers have found that part of the cause of cataracts is the lens of the eye trying to “help” the body lower high blood sugar by “packing it away” within the lens, which gradually obscures the vision, which explains why individuals with type 2 diabetes have a much greater incidence of cataracts than people with normal blood sugar levels. So even though not eating sugar and refined carbohydrates is better for everyone’s health, it’s especially important for cataract prevention if you have diabetes—type 2 or type 1—in your family. Eliminating all sources of the milk sugar lactose (milk, ice cream, cottage cheese, and many soft cheeses) will reduce your risk of cataract, too.

Don’t Go Deaf, Blind or Lose Your Mind! by Jonathan V. Wright, MD

In addition to eliminating refined sugar and carbohydrates, you may also want to consider incorporating some cataract-preventing nutrients (other than just vitamin A) into your daily supplement regimen. Riboflavin, vitamin C, quercitin, zinc, and carotenoids have all been associated with cataract risk reduction. And one study found that people with higher serum vitamin E levels had 50 percent less risk of developing cataracts than people with lower levels. (When you’re supplementing with vitamin E, remember to use mixed tocopherols, not just alpha-tocopherol.)

As a side note, patent-medicine “cortisone” preparations that are prescribed to suppress symptoms of asthma, severe allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, and other more severe inflammatory conditions always increase cataract risk. So if you’re using prescription patent-medicine “cortisone,” check with a physician skilled and knowledgeable in nutritional and natural medicine for effective alternatives.

Your guide for beating cognitive decline (a.k.a “keeping your marbles”)

According to health authorities, Alzheimer’s disease is slated to become the next epidemic. In fact, current estimates state that nearly half of people over the age of 85 have Alzheimer’s, whether it’s obvious or not. There are non-Alzheimer’s forms of dementia, too, most notably “multi-infarct” dementia, which is thought to be caused by a series of small strokes, and mild cognitive decline, which likely has many causes that have yet to be identified.

The best way to combat any and all of these cognitive problems is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. You keep reading about it over and over again, but an excellent diet is truly the most important aspect of preventing most—if not all—health problems, including cognitive decline. In fact, more and more research is being reported linking blood sugar problems (such as diabetes) and potential blood sugar problems (such as metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance) with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. So here we go again: Eliminate the sugar and refined carbohydrates! Make sure to eat several non-starchy vegetables and a wide array of colorful vegetables every day, too. (You want a varied palette on your plate because each color signals a different and necessary-to-good-health group of nutrients.)

It’s also a good idea to “eat organic” as much as possible, since organically raised foods have significantly more minerals and vitamins than “commercially” grown varieties, not to mention a much lower risk of being contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, and miscellaneous non-food chemical additives.

When you can, I encourage you to even go beyond organic produce and also opt for organic, free-range meat and poultry as well. The essential fatty acid ratio in free-range protein is anti-inflammatory, while the essential fatty acid ratio found in grain-fed animal protein actually promotes inflammation, and inflammation is also being implicated more and more as raising the risk of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive malfunction.

Along these same lines, one of the best “brain foods” you can eat is fish. (Low-mercury fish, that is.) Not only are the omega-3 fatty acids in fish anti-inflammatory, but they’re also essential components of the membranes of every brain cell we have. And since our bodies can’t make them on their own, it’s critical to get enough omega-3s and other essential fatty acids from supplements (like cod liver oil) and foods (like free-range meat and fish).

Phospholipids are another key component of brain cells. While our bodies can make them, as with many other things (co-enzyme Q10 and glutathione are two prominent examples) our bodies make less and less with age. Eggs—specifically the yolks—are excellent sources of phospholipids, as is the lecithin found in soy. Supplemental lecithin—another good source of phospholipids—is available in any natural food store and is an excellent idea for anyone over 40.

Boost your brain—and your sex life

I can’t tell you how many men I’ve seen at the Tahoma Clinic who have the idea that testosterone is mostly for sexual function. I always let them know that its most important job is maintaining cognitive function. The sex part is important, no doubt, but who cares about sex if you can’t remember who you’re with or what you’re doing with her?

Unfortunately, thanks to this misunderstanding word hasn’t gotten around that—just like estrogen replacement for women—bio-identical testosterone replacement for men is extremely important for significantly reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline. Since we’ve covered this subject before (see the March 2004 and March 2006 issues of Nutrition & Healing ) I’ll just mention a few of the highlights:

• Higher serum estrogen levels in women in their 60s are directly correlated with lower incidence of Alzheimer’s in those same women decades later. (And the reverse is true too: Lower estrogens equal higher incidence of Alzheimer’s in later years.)
• The 15-year Princeton men’s study determined that men who had higher serum free testosterone in 1983 had less risk of Alzheimer’s disease in 1998. (Once again, the reverse was also true: Lower serum free testosterone corresponded with higher risk of Alzheimer’s.)
• Researchers observing neurons found substantially less accumulation of beta-amyloid, neurofibrillary tangle, tau protein, and other “neuronal garbage” associated with Alzheimer’s when those neurons were exposed to “physiologic quantities” of either estrogen or testosterone (depending on whether the neuron was from a woman or a man).
• In numerous controlled experiments, elderly men without Alzheimer’s disease do better on tests of cognitive function when given testosterone than men given placebo.
• Testosterone for men and estrogen (that’s real, bio-identical estrogen—not horse estrogen) for women is very protective for the entire cardiovascular system, including the blood supply to the brain. (Remember that cognitive decline due to repeated small strokes?)

The bottom line is, if you want to “keep your marbles” for as long as you live, consider bio-identical hormone replacement when it’s appropriate for you. Just make sure to be working with a physician who is skilled and knowledgeable in all aspects of this therapy. If you’re not sure if your doctor is, one way to find out is to ask the physician’s office whether they do routine monitoring of therapy with the 24-hour urine steroid determination. This test is the very best way to check not only the levels of the bio-identical hormones being replaced but also their metabolization (the natural transformation of the starting hormones into pro- and anti-carcinogenic metabolites). Blood and/or saliva testing just doesn’t cut it when it comes to bio-identical HRT. See Nutrition & Healing for December 2007 for a much more detailed discussion of safety monitoring for bio-identical hormone replacement (and, rest assured, if safety monitoring does indicate that there’s an imbalance in the “wrong” direction, it’s almost always correctable with nutrients or botanicals).

Small dose, big protection

I’ve written about lithium’s brain-protecting benefits before too (see Nutrition & Healing for August 2003 and April 2008), and this is getting a bit long (sorry about that) so I’ll be brief: No matter what neurotoxin your brain is exposed to, lithium protects against it.

Not only that, but lithium actually promotes the growth of new brain cells, even in individuals past age 50. So far, no other nutrient has been found to do that.

Yes, high-dose prescription lithium can be toxic, but low quantities like the ones used for boosting cognitive function and protecting brain cells (20 milligrams daily and under) are not associated with toxicity. In over 30 years, I’ve only encountered two or three individuals who reported a possible reaction to low-dose lithium: These people thought that it might have given them a slight tremor (which went away when the lithium was discontinued). But on the flip side of that same coin, I’ve also encountered dozens of individuals who reported improvement in benign tremors with the use of low dose lithium.

Even though risk of toxicity from low-dose lithium is very small, I always recommend you work with a physician skilled and knowledgeable in nutritional and natural medicine if you decide to supplement with lithium. And to be on the extra-cautious side, I always recommend using supplemental essential fatty acids when using even low-quantity lithium supplements. Essential fatty acids are the primary treatment for toxicity caused by high-dose prescription lithium, so using them in conjunction with low-dose treatment helps avoid that possibility altogether.

Spicing up your brain-boosting regimen

There are many, many more supplemental items that can help you maintain cognitive function, but we’re quickly running out of space, so I’ll just mention two more: curcumin and ginkgo.

Although no one is entirely sure how it works, the research on curcumin’s ability to protect against Alzheimer’s (as well as its many other beneficial effects) has been more than a little exciting. Areas of the world in which the spice turmeric (which has a high concentration of curcumin) is routinely used have very little—if any—Alzheimer’s compared with areas that don’t. Perhaps the best aspect of curcumin is that you don’t need to take yet another pill to get its brain-boosting benefits. Just use turmeric in your cooking, perhaps an average of 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoonful daily. (For those of us who just can’t stand the taste of turmeric, it is available in capsules, too. If you’re using it for long-term cognitive maintenance, consider taking two 200-milligram capsules a day.)

Ginkgo has been used for the brain for thousands of years, and (like lithium) has been found to be neuroprotective. Next month, we’ll have the latest information about ginkgo and cognitive function from Kerry Bone.

We all know that none of us will live forever, but there’s no reason not live as long as our “genetic programs” will allow, and keep all of our faculties while we’re here. If you can do all of the things outlined above (or at least come close), you’ll have a much better chance of living as long as your oldest known relative, getting to know your great-grandchildren, and hearing, seeing, enjoying, and remembering those years of life so much better!.

Measuring and monitoring your aldosterone if you have hearing loss.

Many labs use blood tests to measure aldosterone levels, but I definitely prefer measuring aldosterone as part of an over-all steroid analysis done from a 24-hour urine collection. This test measures all the aldosterone output in a 24-hour period; since aldosterone and other steroid hormones are secreted into the bloodstream in “pulses,” a blood test isn’t quite as accurate.

Also, the 24-hour urine collection measures the “hormone context” in which aldosterone is found, including measurements of cortisol, cortisone, and “downstream metabolites” of cortisol and cortisone. Putting these measurements together allows your physician to assess your adrenal strength and weakness.

The 24-hour urine test also measures pro-carcinogenic estrogens (estrone, estradiol, 16-alpha-hydroxyestrogens, 4-hydoxyestrogens) and anti-carcinogenic estrogens (estriol, 2-hydroxyestrogens, 2-methoxyestradiol, 2-methoxyestone), as well as progesterone, testosterone, and testosterone’s pro- and anti-carcinogenic metabolites DHT and androstanediol (“5-alpha” and “5-beta” forms of both). Thyroid hormones (“free T3” and “free T4”) and growth hormone (HGH) can be added to the test, too.

These measurements may seem unrelated, but all of these hormones interact with each other, so a physician skilled and knowledgeable in bio-identical hormone replacement can do a lot more for you if he or she has ALL of your hormonal information.