Another year has passed and we look eagerly toward a new year. New Year's resolutions abound and, once again, we refocus our attentions on doing a better job in our work, in our relationships, and with our lifestyles. And my own wish for you — your best health ever!
This quarter we look at:
Safe and permanent weight loss
Omega-3 fish oil as an alternative to NSAIDS for pain
A lucky draw
Cholesterol and heart disease
The effect of drugs on your love life
THE SLIM DOWN ON DIETING
Perhaps you gained a few extra kilos over the festive season? Or perhaps you did not lose as much weight as planned over the past year? So what diet will it be this year? The fact of the matter is this: no matter which diet one chooses to follow, it will fail 98% of the time. Every year, the dieters spend a shocking sum on products and services to lose weight. This includes buying low-calorie and low-fat foods, drinking artificially sweetened drinks, joining many commercial weight loss centres and buying their expensive packaged foods, visiting 'fat farms', using antidepressants or stimulants, and undergoing liposuction or gastric bypass – just to name a few.
Why don't diets work?
The reason diets don’t work, no matter which one you contemplate, stems from the fact that diets are a short-term solution to a long-term problem. “Going on a diet” implies that sometime in the future you will be going off that diet. If the diet relies on willpower you will generally not do very well. And when you fail it is not uncommon to put yourself down, have self-esteem plummeting and your weight rising. Diets are also doomed to fail if they eliminate, or dramatically limit, a major macronutrient like carbohydrates or fats. Such diets are out of balance, and, sooner or later, our bodies begin craving the nutrients they have been denied. So what is the answer to this obesity epidemic that will allow us not only to lose weight but to lose it permanently?
The most significant reason diets fail is because they do not address the major underlying cause of weight gain, which is insulin resistance. What most people call cravings or emotional eating is really a carbohydrate addiction and the result of spiking blood sugar by eating high glycemic carbohydrates. These are foods that spike our blood sugar faster than spooning sugar on to our tongues. High-glycemic carbohydrates include common foods such as bread, cereals, chips, crackers, pretzels, potatoes, rice cakes, white rice, sugar and white flour. Eating these foods rapidly raises and over stimulates the release of insulin. Insulin’s primary job is to transport blood sugar into the cell where it is utilized to create energy, or to be stored as fat or glycogen. This process drives the blood sugar level back down just as fast as it went up; however, it generally drops back into a low blood sugar range or hypoglycemic range resulting in uncontrollable hunger, usually craving another high-glycemic meal or snack. The vicious cycle starts all over again leading to overeating and over time our cells become insulin resistant and just cannot utilize all the calories from our meals and snacks. Therefore, many calories are diverted to the fat cells of the abdomen where they are stored as fat.
Reset your body
With insulin resistance you cannot lose weight permanently no matter what you do and the only hope is to reset your body by developing a permanent healthy lifestyle that improves your insulin sensitivity. This lifestyle would consist of a healthy diet that does not spike blood sugar: a diet combining good low-glyemic carbohydrates, good fat and good proteins. It would include a modest consistent exercise program and a good supplement program. Without ever going hungry one can lose weight permanently and at the same time improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels and experience increased focus and energy. If you need guidance then consult a nutritional therapist who can put you on this path to health and vitality. Remaining overweight is clearly not the path to feeling fit and fabulous. It’s a whole new year… a year brimming with possibilities of a better life for you and your loved ones. Grab it with both hands!
DEAL WITH PAIN THE NATURAL WAY
The use of NSAID (No steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) medications is a well-established effective therapy for both acute and chronic pain associated with inflammation. Needless to say, this multibillion dollar industry does not come without risks. Extreme complications, including gastric ulcers, bleeding, myocardial infarction, and even deaths, are associated with their use. It is also known that the COX 2 inhibitors, designed to alleviate the gastric side effects of COX 1 NSAIDS, are not only associated with an increased incidence of heart attacks and stroke but also have no significant improvement in the prevention of gastric ulcers. It has become imperative that health professionals look for safer alternatives to these NSAIDS. An alternative treatment with fewer side effects that also reduces the inflammatory response and thereby reduces pain is believed to be Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids found in fish oil. There is extensive documentation on the effects of high-dose fish oil on the reduction of joint pain from rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. A significant study was conducted at the University of Pittsburgh using fish oil supplements for pain relief. (Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for doscogenic pain, J C Maroon, J.W. Bost. Surgical Neurology 65 (2006) 326-331.) The researchers supplemented the diets of 125 people with non-surgical neck or back pain, who were taking NSAIDs. The volunteers were given daily supplements of 2400 milligrams omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil for two weeks and then 1200 mg per day thereafter. After the initial 2 weeks they were asked to stop their NSAIDS. After two weeks, the volunteers were asked to stop their NSAIDs and after one month a questionnaire was sent to the participants to ask about joint and spine pain, side effects and level of NSAID discontinuation. Fifty-nine per cent of the participants reported that they had stopped completely the NSAIDs medication, and 60 per cent said that their overall level of pain had improved since starting the omega-3 supplements. The positive preliminary results and the lack of side effects led the researchers to propose that as many as two-thirds of people currently taking NSAIDs could discontinue this use and benefit from omega-3 fatty acids to alleviate pain from inflammation. The results mirror other controlled studies that compared ibuprofen and Omega-3 EFAs demonstrating equivalent effect in reducing arthritic pain. In my practice I have confirmed these findings time and time again. Omega-3 EFAs from fish oil are a powerful all-natural anti-inflammatory with no side effects for doses up to 6g per day. For patients suffering chronic pain associated with inflammation I recommend the same doses as applied in the Pittsburgh study and many end up pain-free after 8 weeks. In general, if I were asked to pick just one supplement for optimal joint health, I would have to go with fish oil. However the importance of using high quality fish oil purified till it is devoid of contaminants cannot be over-emphasized. I will only recommend a fish oil that has been awarded a 5* rating by International Fish Oil Standards and proof of this needs to appear on the container as well as on the IFOS website. There are many dodgy fish oil supplements out there that do not come up to scratch and at high doses cannot be recommended.
Click here to find out what IFOS 5 Star Certification means.
Proof of the 5 * rating of the See Yourself Well and Life Support brands that I import from Canada can be viewed here.
Every month until June one lucky reader will win a 200 ml bottle of See Yourself Well Liquid Fish Oil valued at R160. Simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the words "Lucky Fish" in the subject line and your name will be placed in the draw which will take place on the last day of each month. You only need to enter once in order to be included in all monthly draws thereafter. Regretably this is available to South African readers only.
DOES CHOLESTEROL CAUSE HEART DISEASE?
The first thing that comes to mind when one hears about heart disease is almost always cholesterol. Cholesterol and heart disease has been almost synonymous for the last half-century. Cholesterol has been portrayed as the villain to our arteries and our hearts. A decade ago, the treatment of high cholesterol and hypertension was expected to eliminate coronary artery disease and heart attacks by the end of the 20th century. The pharmaceutical industry introduced the potent cholesterol lowering statin drugs (such as Zocor, Lipitor, and Crestor) and proclaimed them to be the cure-all for heart disease. Yet cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death globally. So the pharmaceutical industry and some of their friends in the medical community have decided that we have not lowered cholesterol levels enough. The latest recommendation given by a so-called panel of "experts" recommends that a person's cholesterol be reduced to a level so low they say it cannot be achieved by diet, exercise, or any known lifestyle modification and so most of us need statins. In spite of the significant and occasionally fatal side effects of these drugs, many physicians still convince their patients that taking more cholesterol reducing drugs is the answer to decreasing their risk of a heart attack or stroke.
For starters, there is overwhelming evidence that heart disease is NOT a disease of cholesterol. In fact, over half of the people who have a heart attack actually have normal cholesterol levels. Research has conclusively proven that the majority of heart disease is the result of inflammation in the fine lining of our arteries. There are a few causes of damage and inflammation in the arteries:
Although native cholesterol (the cholesterol that the body naturally produces) is not one of the causes, oxidized LDL cholesterol is. When LDL cholesterol is attacked by excessive free radicals it may become modified or “oxidized,” significantly changing its healthy characteristics. Oxidized LDL cholesterol is truly the “bad” cholesterol because it can irritate the fine lining of the artery and stimulate significant inflammation and resultant plaque. The solution here would be to keep your LDL cholesterol healthy by limiting the production of free radicals. Avoid high-fatty meals and high-glycemic meals as they do cause a tremendous release in excessive free radicals.
The fixation on cholesterol as a major cause of heart disease defies the last 15 years of science showing the damage that sugars such as glucose and fructose inflict on tissues, including the lining of arteries, causing chronic inflammation and resultant plaque. High-glycemic meals such as instant oatmeal, cereals, toast, white bread rolls are rapidly digested causing rapidly rising and falling blood sugar. This eventually leads to insulin resistance which results in metabolic syndrome, a constellation of problems that include high blood pressure, elevated triglyceride levels, elevated VLDL or very bad cholesterol, low HDL or good cholesterol, abdominal fat, elevated insulin levels and increased clotting. In the majority of patients who have it, the metabolic syndrome eventually leads to diabetes and/or heart disease. This happens because every one of the problems associated with metabolic syndrome increases the amount of inflammation in your arteries. Now it is easy to understand why 80% of our diabetics will eventually die from a cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke.
Then there is the new kid on the block, elevated Homocysteine Levels. Homocysteine is a by-product of natural protein metabolism. Normally, the body breaks homocysteine down into safe end products. The problem is that many people have a vitamin B deficiency (especially vitamin B12, B6, and folic acid) which leads to elevated levels of homocysteine. High homocysteine levels can irritate the fine lining of the arteries, causing damage and the inflammatory response. Levels higher than 7 mmol/l increase your risk for developing a heart attack or a stroke.
What to do
In light of the evidence proving that heart disease is caused by inflammation and not cholesterol, what is to be done about it? Well medicine will always aim to treat symptoms rather than causes so pharmaceutical companies will no doubt go back to the drawing board and develop drugs that treat the inflammation after it is already a problem. Already we're being told to stay on our cholesterol-lowering drugs because now they work by reducing inflammation and perhaps not even by reducing cholesterol. Aspirin reduces inflammation for a lot less money. So does vitamin E, and fish oil, and dietary changes without the dangers of drugs and they have many other benefits too. Antioxidants like vitamin E and C taken in supplementation have a protective quality that is capable of neutralizing excessive free radicals so that there is no damage to the arteries in the first place. Homocysteine levels can be lowered by simply taking supplements that contain good levels of vitamin B12, B6, and folic acid. If levels don’t come down satisfactorily, add anywhere from 1 to 6 grams daily of TMG but get your homocysteine level below 8.0 mmol/l at least. If you would like to know if damage and inflammation to your arteries has already occurred ask for the C-Reactive Protein test. Saying cholesterol causes heart attacks is like saying the brain causes Alzheimer’s. Should we have our brains removed to prevent Alzheimer’s?
ARE DRUGS AFFECTING YOUR LOVE LIFE?
In the name of world peace we need “a whole lotta lovin’ going on”. This means loving between spouses too. However if you or your partner is on one of the following medications you may have found that there is not much of this loving going on lately.
The following common thieves may be robbing you of a happy sex life: 1. Antidepressants Antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft, Prozac, and Paxil, impact brain circuits involved in lust, decreasing sexual desire and arousal and impairing one’s ability to achieve orgasm or delay climax. These drugs can also lead to ejaculatory disturbances and impotence in males. It is suspected that these drugs short-circuit your primitive brain systems as well, affecting one’s desire to mate and fall in love. This is because antidepressants may have a negative effect on dopamine, a brain chemical involved in lust and attraction. Sound familiar? 2. Oral Contraceptives
A 2006 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that women who take the pill have a significantly lower libido than those who don't. Oral contraceptives have been shown to drain your body of vitamin B6, B12, zinc, and blood magnesium levels. Inhibiting the production of hormones, like testosterone, the birth control pill has been found to sap a woman's libido and sexual pleasure. 3. Acid Blockers
If you're taking drugs to relieve heartburn or acid reflux, chances are you're shortchanging your body of zinc and iron. You need zinc in abundance for its power to help your body recover from wounds and injury and fight off infectious diseases. It's also one of the keys to prostate health, virility, and sexual performance. In fact, for men, the prostate gland is where most of the body's zinc is concentrated. 4. Statin Drugs
Lipitor, Zocor, Mevacor, and the like may do a great job of lower your LDL cholesterol levels; unfortunately, they do the same thing to your sex drive and mood. 5. Blood Pressure Drugs
These medications can also afflict their users with impotence, ejaculatory disturbances and decreased sex drive. For all of the above there are natural and harmless alternatives. Consult a practitioner trained in natural therapies.
That's all for now Folks! Have a great, fun-filled summer and please stay in touch. I enjoy receiving your emails and promise to reply to every one. Catch you later!