• Gut Health
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    • Heart Health

      The stats tell it all: The number one cause of death in the United States is heart disease. That’s right, more than any other disease – even cancer (a close second) – heart disease is the most likely to kill you. The United States is currently facing a “diabesity” epidemic, or a substantial increase in the prevalence of metabolic syndrome leading to diabetes and obesity, all serious risk factors for heart disease.

      According to the American Heart Association, every 34 seconds someone in the US dies of a heart attack. By the time you finish reading this paragraph, another person will have lost their life. Sadly, many people do not even know they have heart disease until they experience a heart attack. These facts alone make Heart Health a critical topic to understand.

  • Skin Health
    • Skin Health

      The gut-skin connection is very significant. Inflammatory processes present in the gut may manifest on the skin. Toxins are expelled with sweat, and can cause the skin to react. Like the inside of the digestive tract, the skin is covered in microbes which can be neutral, protective or pathogenic. Skin reaction may reflect what is going on inside the body. Therefore treating skin conditions only from the outside will often be ineffective and lead to other chronic issues.

  • Brain Health
    • Brain Health

      The gut-brain connection occurs in two directions—from the brain to the gut, and from the gut to the brain. When a person has a “gut feeling,” or an emotional upset causes a stomachache or loss of appetite, they experience examples of the first, most familiar direction. When the gut is out of balance, inflammation results leading to a condition commonly known as leaky gut. A leaky gut will allow undigested food particles and toxins to enter into the bloodstream. Some may cross into the brain, setting the stage for diseases like Alzheimers and dementia. Recognizing the underlying contributing factors that created the gut imbalance in the first place is the first step to achieving optimal brain function .

  • Diet & Health
    • Diet & Health

      Healthy pH levels, whether in the colon or systemic, are found when you eat a high-fiber diet, high in vegetables and fruits, healthy proteins, and healthy fats. Complement this with foods and supplements high in beneficial bacteria, omega-3 fatty acids, and digestive enzymes, and you will be supporting optimal health (which begins in the digestive system).

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PPIs, Nutrient Absorption, and Bone Fracture

Filed in General | Posted by lsmith on 02/29/2012


In my last blog, I talked about the new FDA warning on the use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and increased risk of developing Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea. This week, I’d like to talk about other negative effects of long-term use of acid-suppressing medications—poor nutrient absorption and bone fracture.

Stomach acid, is necessary for the absorption of certain key nutrients. Without enough stomach acid to stimulate pancreatic digestive enzymes to cleave vitamin B12 from the proteins to which B12 is attached, B12 will not be able to bind to intrinsic factor (made by stomach) and be  effectively absorbed in the terminal ileum.  Stomach acid  has also been found to promote calcium and non-heme iron absorption by increasing their solubility. Further, the use of acid-suppressing medications—either PPIs, H2 receptor agonists, or both—has been associated with reduced absorption of vitamin B12, calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc.1,2,3

In fact, in 2011 the FDA published a safety announcement informing the public that low magnesium levels might result from long-term use of PPIs.4 It was estimated that in one-quarter of patients with low magnesium levels resultant from PPI use, magnesium supplementation was not sufficient for improving magnesium levels, and PPI use had to be discontinued. Low magnesium levels can result in chronic constipation, muscle spasm, irregular heartbeat, and even seizures and psychosis.

Concern about long-term use of PPIs has been increasing as studies have found an increased risk in bone fracture in people taking the medications long term. In May 2010 the FDA issued a safety announcement warning patients that PPI use lasting over one year was associated with possible increased risk of fractures of the hip, wrist, and spine.5

A recent study in postmenopausal women found that those women who take PPIs regularly and who also smoke are at increased risk of hip fracture.6 The risk increases with longer duration of PPI use, and it disappears once PPI use is stopped for at least two years.

The fact that acid-suppressing medication halts the production of stomach acid, and that stomach acid is necessary for the absorption of crucial nutrients necessary to bone health, especially calcium, explains how bone fracture may occur. Even the label of over-the-counter PPI drugs suggests use of no more than 14 days, three times a year. I am sure many people are taking these drugs longer than 14 days. Many people rely on them daily.

Instead of treating the symptom of heartburn by suppressing stomach acid, consider diet and lifestyle changes that may ease your symptoms by addressing the cause rather than simply masking symptoms with potentially dangerous medications.

References

  1. T. Ito and R.T. Jensen, “Association of long-term proton pump inhibitor therapy with bone fractures and effects on absorption of calcium, vitamin B12, iron, and magnesium.” Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2010 Dec;12(6):448-57.
  2. A.O. Ozutemiz, et al., “Effect of omeprazole on plasma zinc levels after oral zinc administration.” Indian J Gastroenterol. 2002 Nov-Dec;21(6):216-8.
  3. G.C. Sturniolo, et al., “Inhibition of gastric acid secretion reduces zinc absorption in man.” J Am Coll Nutr. 1991 Aug;10(4):372-5.
  4. www.fda.gov/drugs/drugsafety/ucm245011.htm
  5. http://www.fda.gov/drugs/drugsafety/postmarketdrugsafetyinformationforpatientsandproviders/ucm213206.htm
  6. H. Khalili, et al., “Use of proton pump inhibitors and risk of hip fracture in relation to dietary and lifestyle factors: a prospective cohort study.” BMJ. 2012 Jan 30;344:e372.

 

Fungicides in Orange Juice

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/27/2012


Renew You Challenge

Let’s start this week off right!

 

Here is your newest weekly challenge (I mean opportunity!) to help set you off on the right foot and in the right direction for bringing health to your week. You could even add it to your calendar. Join us! 

You may have heard about the recent discovery of a fungicide, carbendazim, in imported orange juice from Brazil. The fungicide is no longer approved for use on orange crops in the U.S., but its use is widespread in other parts of the world, and even on other crops in the U.S. (like grains, nuts, and some fruits).

Preliminary tests by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have found levels of the fungicide in orange juice low enough to not raise safety concerns. But if this fungicide is no longer approved for use on citrus in the U.S., it’s probably for a good reason.

The amount of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and who-knows-what-icides in conventionally grown food is currently the subject of a mass science experiment—on all of us! Because of the many different chemicals, and the complexity of their interactions and difficulty of studying the harmful effects of these toxins on humans, we are placed in a unique position, historically. We know these chemicals are harmful, yet they are everywhere.

If you drink orange juice, consider buying organic. It’s the best way to reduce the amount of chemicals you consume. The more we support organic foods, the more available they will become.

Bedwetting in Children May Be Due to Constipation

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/24/2012


 

A very interesting report published recently in the journal Urology advises doctors to consider constipation as an underlying cause of bedwetting. The researchers reported that of 30 children and adolescents seeking treatment for bedwetting, all had a large amount of stool in their rectums even though most were experiencing normal bowel movements.

Because most people think of constipation as infrequent bowel movements and/or hard stools, it doesn’t come to mind that regular bowel elimination might still be considered constipation. “The kind of constipation associated with bedwetting occurs when children put off going to the bathroom. This causes stool to back up and their bowels to never be fully emptied,” states lead author Steve Hodges, M.D.

Abdominal X-rays were used to identify the excess stool, with ultrasound being another option for detection. The children were treated with MiraLax, which is polyethylene glycol, a synthetic osmotic laxative. Osmotic laxatives have the effect of retaining water in the colon, which softens the stool. Magnesium hydroxide and magnesium oxide are two natural forms of osmotic laxative.

For children who are experiencing severe bedwetting and who face surgery or medications, constipation should be ruled out first. The researchers cautioned, “Any medical therapy for bedwetting should be overseen by a physician.”

The findings of this study should be enlightening for many parents, and relieving for many children facing bedwetting. If you or someone you know is currently looking for a solution to bedwetting, be sure to rule out constipation by talking with a doctor about these new findings.

Celiac Disease—Stressed and Depressed

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/22/2012


 

According to a recent study published in the journal Chronic Illness, women with celiac disease are more likely to report stress, depression and disordered eating, even if they are following a gluten-free diet.

The researchers found that women adhering to a gluten-free diet did experience greater vitality, lower stress, decreased depressive symptoms, and greater overall emotional health than those women not following the diet, but even so, they still experienced more stress, depression, and body dissatisfaction when compared to the general population.

I can see how people with celiac disease not following a gluten-free diet could have these issues. Gluten is a digestive tract’s nightmare in people with celiac disease (and most people, really), which would be enough to depress anyone. But I can also see how people adhering to the diet can struggle with stress, depression, and body image issues.

Eating gluten-free, even in today’s world of readily available gluten-free fare, is a big adjustment, even when you have been eating gluten-free for years. Food becomes a central focus, rather than an afterthought. Everyday meal planning is required to be sure you have access to the right foods. Shopping at multiple grocery stores becomes the norm. Eating gluten-free creates a whole new way of life. This has the possibility of becoming stressful—and even alienating, depending on the company you keep.

But eating gluten-free—especially in those with celiac, but even in those who are gluten sensitive—is also a ticket to freedom for many people. Freedom from constant digestive issues with seemingly no solution, freedom from wondering, “What the heck is wrong with me?” and freedom from a downward health spiral that itself can cause more stress, dis-ease, and depression.

If you have celiac and you tend to get down about it, take a moment to think about what a gluten-free diet has given you, rather than what it has taken away. Sometimes a shift in perspective is all you need.

BPA Contamination Widespread

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/20/2012


Renew You Challenge

Let’s start this week off right!

 

Here is your newest weekly challenge (I mean opportunity!) to help set you off on the right foot and in the right direction for bringing health to your week. You could even add it to your calendar. Join us! 

The chemical bisphenol A (BPA) is an estrogen-like compound found in plastic products, epoxy lining of canned foods, and recently also found on thermal receipts and paper money. It doesn’t stop there—a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology has found that BPA is present in an array of other paper products, including toilet paper, paper towels, newspapers, and business cards.

The BPA levels found were much lower than those found in thermal paper receipts, so the BPA is thought to be due to the presence of recycled thermal paper. Ninety-four percent of the thermal receipts tested were found to contain BPA. Receipts from Japan, however, do not contain BPA due to the 2001 BPA phase-out in that country. The study even found BPA in receipts claiming to be BPA-free. Now that’s concerning.

I have blogged on the dangers of BPA before, a few times. This ubiquitous chemical is found in hundreds of products, and is also found in most people. It looks like thermal paper and plastic products are the biggest sources, and now these sources are spreading the contamination further.

This week, take stock of your plastic food containers. Where you can, switch to glass containers. At the least, try to switch to BPA-free plastic (though the reliability of those claims is questioned). Opt for fresh foods over canned. This is one toxin that needs to be minimized.

Cesarean Delivery Ups Risk of Asthma

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/17/2012


 

Children born by cesarean section are more likely to develop asthma by age three, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. This study builds upon previous findings that cesarean delivery increases the risk of wheezing, asthma, and eczema, a related allergic disease common in childhood. Although allergic diseases tend to run in families, in this study children born of non-allergic mothers were even more likely to develop asthma.

One reason scientists think cesarean delivery may put infants and children at higher risk of allergic diseases is the difference in gut bacteria colonization in these children. During vaginal birth, the infant is colonized by bacteria from the mother. Infants born by cesarean birth are colonized with different bacteria, more like the bacteria found in the environments they were birthed in, like hospitals. This difference may set the stage for immune imbalance that leads to allergic diseases.

The study found that in both planned and unplanned cesarean births, the risk of asthma was similar. Folks, I know this is a sensitive topic. I am certainly not saying cesarean births are wrong—I know that they can be lifesaving. Some women go through pregnancy without a doubt in their mind that they will have a natural birth, only to end up having an emergency C-section. Sometimes this is unavoidable. We do what we can to raise healthy children, right? Not everything is up to us.

But many times C-section is opted for out of convenience. In these cases, it might be a good idea to consider to benefits of vaginal birth. That first inoculation of gut bacteria is very important to the underdeveloped immune system of the newborn. If you have the choice, give some good consideration to this. I don’t want to come off sounding preachy on this topic, which I know can strike a nerve in some people, but it’s a topic close to my heart—after all, it’s all about the gut. At least give it some thought.

Acid-suppressing Medications and Bacterial Infections

Filed in General | Posted by lsmith on 02/15/2012


Last week the FDA issued a warning about the use of acid-suppressing medications known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and the risk of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD), a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection.1 The FDA states that in patients who develop diarrhea that does not improve, a diagnosis of CDAD should be considered.

Clostridum difficile (C. diff) is a bacterium that causes symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon (colitis). It is common in hospital patients and in people taking antibiotics. C. difficile infections have become more frequent, more severe, and more resistant to treatment in recent years.

A recent study linking PPI use to CDAD found that of 23 patients who died from C. diff infection, 19 of them had taken acid-suppressing medications (PPIs or H2-antagonists) during the 90 days prior to their hospitalization.2

PPIs are used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers, and inflammation of the esophagus when taken in prescription form, and treat heartburn in the less potent over-the-counter form. PPIs are the third-highest selling class of drugs in the United States.3

Proton pump inhibitors reduce the production of stomach acid, which has the effect of reducing symptoms of the upper GI conditions mentioned above. Stomach acid is a potent inhibitor of bacteria, however, so when stomach acid is reduced, pathogens are more likely to survive and enter the intestines where they can proliferate and cause infection.

Overuse of PPIs may be fueling the CDAD epidemic according to researchers from Derriford Hospital in the U.K., who report that vegetative C. diff is killed by stomach acid, but survives the stomach pH induced by PPIs.4 The researchers recommend restricting the use of PPIs when treating CDAD, an infection that has a tendency to recur.

CDAD is not the only bacterial infection caused by PPIs. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition in which bacteria overpopulate the small intestine, and may come from the upper or lower intestinal tract. SIBO has been detected in half of people taking PPIs.5 The stronger acid blockers also increased the risk of SIBO: PPIs (Prilosec) had a 53 percent incidence and H2 blockers (cimetidine) had a 17 percent incidence.6

We have a basic acronym equation here: PPIs = CDAD + SIBO. Perhaps the FDA should add SIBO to its warning of harmful effects of PPIs. Or, why not add the many other conditions associated with PPI use, including:

Osteoporosis-related bone fractures7,8

Community- and hospital-acquired pneumonia9

Esophageal candidiasis10

Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis11

Upper GI tract permeability (“leaky esophagus”)12

I personally think it should be considered poor medical judgment at the very least, for doctors to prescribe PPIs without also putting people on pre- and probiotics, in the same way they do for people taking antibiotics. If the right bacteria are populating the gut, you may have enough protection against the harmful effects of low stomach acid. When are today’s medical doctors going to understand that stomach acid and probiotics are natural antibiotics of the body?

Stay tuned to my next blog (in two weeks) on the detrimental effects of PPIs on nutrient absorption and bone health. In the meantime, read more blogs from Brenda on the topic here, here, here, and here.

References

  1. www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm290838.htm
  2. www.consumerreports.org/health/resources/pdf/best-buy-drugs/PPIsUpdate-FINAL.pdf
  3. R.H. Morrison, et al., “Risk factors associated with complications and mortality in patients with Clostridium difficile infection.” Clin Infect Dis. 2011 Dec;53(12):1173-8.
  4. L. Lombardo, et al., “Increased incidence of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth during proton pump inhibitor therapy.” Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010 Jun;8(6):504-8.
  5. R. Cunningham and S. Dial, “Is over-use of proton pump inhibitors fuelling the current epidemic of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhoea?” J Hosp Infect. 2008 Sep;70(1):1-6.
  6. W.D. Chey and B. Spiegel, “Proton pump inhibitors, irritable bowel syndrome, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: coincidence or Newton’s third law revisited?” Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010 Jun;8(6):480-2.
  7. E. Laura, et al., “Proton pump inhibitors and osteoporosis-related fractures.” CMAJ. 2009 March 17; 180(6): 643–644.
  8. H. Khalili, et al., “Use of proton pump inhibitors and risk of hip fracture in relation to dietary and lifestyle factors: a prospective cohort study.” BMJ. 2012 Jan 30;344:e372.
  9. S.E. Gulmez, et al., “Use of proton pump inhibitors and the risk of community-acquired pneumonia: a population-based case-control study.” Arch Intern Med. 2007 May 14;167(9):950-5.
  10. A. Chocarro Martinez, et al., “Risk factors for esophageal candidiasis.” Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2000 Feb;19(2):96-100.
  11. S. Vakevainen, et al., “Hypochlorhydria induced by a proton pump inhibitor leads to intragastric microbial production of acetaldehyde from ethanol.” Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2000 Nov;14(11):1511-8.
  12. J.M. Mullin, et al., “Esomeprazole induces upper gastrointestinal tract transmucosal permeability increase.” Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2008 Dec 1;28(11-12):1317-25.

Air Quality Index

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/13/2012


Renew You Challenge

Let’s start this week off right!

 

Here is your newest weekly challenge (I mean opportunity!) to help set you off on the right foot and in the right direction for bringing health to your week. You could even add it to your calendar. Join us! 

Air pollution is the collective term for the contamination of air by an array of chemicals and particles. Air pollution is associated with many health conditions, including lung disease, heart disease, and cancer. To monitor levels of air pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the Air Quality Index, a daily assessment of air quality in over 1,000 locations nationwide.

You may have heard the Air Quality Index reported when checking the weather on television, in the newspaper, or on the internet. If not, you can access it here anytime. People with certain conditions, especially lung disease, need to pay especially close attention to the AQI, according to the EPA. I think everyone should pay attention to it.

Car exhaust is a major contributor to local air pollution levels, so if you can avoid walking next to busy roads during rush hour, please do. And if you drive in rush hour traffic, consider a HEPA filter for your car. This week, check your local Air Quality Index, and think about when you are most exposed to air pollution. If you can make any changes to lessen the exposure, it’s worth it.

For more information on the report, click here.

Panel Recommends Lower Lead Limits

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/10/2012


 

Early in January of this year a U.S. advisory panel—the Advisory Committee for Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention—submitted a report to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) with a recommendation to lower the threshold for lead toxicity in children.

Currently, the standard limit for lead poisoning is 10 µg/dL (micrograms per deciliter) of blood. The panel is recommending this limit be lowered to 5 µg/dL. The recommendation comes 20 years after the last recommended lowering. “It’s long overdue. This is science that’s been out there,” stated Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning.

If the CDC adopts the recommended new standard, up to one million more children would be diagnosed with lead poisoning, up from the current 250,000. This astonishes me! Basically, there are ¾ of a million children out there right now who have lead poisoning that is not even recognized as such by conventional medical standards. This is maddening.

Rosen goes on to say, “It’s about time for CDC to move from its definition of childhood lead poisoning of 10 [micrograms per deciliter of blood] to 5. Ten was established 20 years ago and there are at least 20 articles which demonstrate unequivocally that there are adverse effects of lead on IQ and intellectual and cognitive development at blood levels between 5 and 9.”

The most common source of lead exposure is from lead paint and lead pipes in homes built before 1978. Dust and paint chips from old paint, as well as water from lead pipes, can contribute a significant amount of lead.

If you or someone you know (especially children) have been tested for lead and fall between 5 and 10 µ/dL, please don’t consider this as a safe lead level. If you haven’t been tested, and you live in a home built before 1978, get tested. For the full report, click here.

EPA Finally Regulates Air Pollution’s Biggest Offenders

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/08/2012


 

Good news (finally!) from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Late December the EPA announced a rule that will force coal- and oil-fired power plants to control mercury and other toxic pollutant emissions for the first time ever. It is about darn time!

However, they have until 2016 to do it, with possible extensions for certain plants. Lobbyists for the industry pushed for even longer extensions and weaker regulations, and although the EPA did offer some flexibility, after 20 years of zero regulation, the time has come to reduce these harmful toxins. By 2016 mercury pollution from burning coal will be reduced by 90 percent, acid gases by 88 percent, and sulfur dioxide by 41 percent.

This is good news for everyone. Air pollution is one of those toxin sources that are difficult to control on an individual level. Sure, you can move to the cleanest city in the country, but that doesn’t mean you won’t still be exposed to some air pollution. Even in 2016, we will still be exposed to air pollution from other countries, highlighting the importance of this issue on a global level, but this is certainly a step in the right direction. I like spreading good news when I can.