Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) is one of the most distressing health challenges a woman can face. Not because it’ll kill her, but from a superficial and cosmetic standpoint it’s can make her not want to leave the house! In fact, the set of symptoms associated with PCOS can be among the most uncomfortable and distressing, non-life threatening, health issues a woman will ever have to confront. Some of the unpleasantries a PCOS sufferer may have to address include heavy and crampy periods, anxiety, insomnia and weight gain. What’s worse, it’s not unusual for victims of PCOS to have to deal with fast growing facial or body hair.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic Ovary as seen on Sonography – By Je Hyuk Lee, via Wikimedia Commons

The polycystic part of the term PCOS refers to the fact that patients will be producing excessive growths (known as “cysts”) in their ovaries. These are said to be “polycystic” ovaries. Usually this is a result of blood sugar problems and most PCOS patients have an underlying pre-diabetic condition that they need to work on. Pre-diabetes is associated with excessive secretion of insulin which initiates changes in cell growth and division that can ultimately show up as lots of (“poly-”) cysts. Because ovarian tissue/cysts produce male and female hormones, poly cysts means lots of both gender’s hormones.

So, with an ovary that is “cystic”, you’ll have lots of female hormones being made and lots of male hormones being made, and that’s where the idea of syndrome (multiple symptoms) kicks in. Excessive production of female hormones leads to bad periods (sometimes no periods), bloating, weight gain, obesity, moodiness, lethargy and sluggishness. The excessive production of male hormones can result in oily skin, acne sometimes on the chest and back, and perhaps thinning head hair and excessive hair growth on the body and face; not a pleasant set of symptoms.
One of the hidden connections to polycystic ovaries involves the thyroid, which regulates all bodily processes including those of the reproductive system. Hypothyroidism affects millions of Americans, and interestingly, most of them are women. There is a hypothyroid link to every single health issue you could name including heart disease, cancer, skin diseases, anxiety and depression, and digestive illnesses of all kind. And nothing will throw off reproductive health faster than a whacked out thyroid. Thyroid dysfunction is a well-known cause of infertility, menstrual irregularities, PMS and infertility as well as PCOS.

PCOS needs to be treated first and foremost as a diabetic problem. Stabilizing blood sugar by avoiding processed flour, refined carbohydrates, sweets and desserts, and using sugar metabolizing nutrients like the B-vitamins, chromium, vanadium and zinc can help. Also, many PCOS patients have underlying gastro-intestinal problems, so you’re going to want to look here too. PCOS patients should focus especially on fat malabsorbtion issues, gall bladder and liver health as well as the health of the intestine. They should make sure they’re getting a daily dose of fatty vitamins especially Vitamins E and A. One or two teaspoonsful of lecithin granules taken with fatty meals can support fat metabolism, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to finish off all meals with a little apple cider vinegar which can stimulate the secretion of fat digestive enzymes from the pancreas. Probiotics can helpful as can supplemental bile salts and digestive enzymes. Supplemental iodine and selenium are important for healthy thyroid functioning, which may in turn improve the symptoms of PCOS. Pregnenolone tablets can help balance excess estrogen and some woman can get relief by using a progesterone cream, which you can get over the counter (OK) or from a compounding pharmacist (better).

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Rest and Digest

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

While you probably know that you have a nervous system that controls the flow of the electrical energy in the body. As it turns out, you actually have two nervous systems!

One, which has been called the “fight or flight” system, is technically known as the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and it directs energy into the activities that keep us alive in emergency and life-threatening situations. The second, called the parasympathetic system (PNS) is involved with more long-term activities. The PNS is sometimes called the “the rest and digest” system and the more time we spend in this parasympathetic realm, the longer we will be alive and healthy. Or to put it another way, the less time we spend in fight or flight mode the longer we will be alive and healthy.

Rest and DigestMany of the signs of illness and disease reflect chronic SNS activation and overload. Heart health issues especially high blood pressure and blood clotting are classics signs of fight or flight. Same goes for immune system suppression and frequent colds and flues. Cold sores and other skin problems may indicate that the sympathetic nervous system has been kicking in. Constipation, cramping and digestive problems often mean the body is in survival mode. For women dealing with menopause, hot flashes, night sweats, jitteriness, and anxiety are also signs that the body’s SNS emergency system has been activated.

In fact, almost any degenerative disease can follow long-term activation of the sympathetic nervous system. And it should come as no surprise that most us spend a large amount of time in fight or flight mode. Anything we can do to maintain ourselves in rest and digest, relaxation mode is in our long term health interest. This is especially true if we’re dealing with a major crisis like cancer or heart disease.

For the most part activating the rest and digest nervous system is simple. Simply reading a book or watching television can initiate PNS activity. Petting a dog or cat, getting a massage, or soaking in a hot bath are wonderful ways to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. . In addition to mental and emotional relaxation strategies, a good nutritional supplement program is one of the best ways to reduce the body’s sympathetic stress. High calorie, processed foods are particularly burdensome, so laying off the burgers, shakes and fries is important. Committing to spending 60 seconds a day practicing deep breathing techniques can be particularly helpful in turning on the “rest and digest” nervous system.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health


By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Back in the 1990’s SAM-e was popular as an antidepressant and energizer, and although its effectiveness may have been overstated, the fact remains that SAM-e can be a very important nutritional supplement for a lot of mental health issues; anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression. And SAM-e, which was first discovered in the 1950’s, is involved in the production of the stress management hormone serotonin, and the pleasure and reward brain chemical dopamine.

SAM-eSAM-e, a derivative of the amino acid methionine, is a vital bio-chemical that’s involved in the healthy functioning of the brain and the nervous system. SAM-e is also required for helping keep the insulation of nerves resilient and intact. This insulation which is called myelin is required for keeping the conduction of electrical energy flowing smoothly. Movement disorders, neuropathies, paralysis, impaired vision, numbness, muscle weakness, difficulties with speech or with hearing even incontinence and weak bladder control can all be examples of health issues that can be associated with myelin defects. SAM-e is made in the body, so it’s not really technically “essential”, but rather it is said to be “conditionally essential”. That basically means you don’t absolutely have to be ingesting it on a regular basis, but doing so might not be a bad idea!

However, just because you have been making sure you’re eating lots of methionine doesn’t mean you’ll be making enough SAM-e. SAM-e is an activated version of methionine. That means that not only is the intake of plain old methionine required, but because activation requires nutrition and cellular energy, so is adequate nourishment and a healthy biochemistry. If the biochemical milieu in the body is disturbed in any way, activation of SAM-e may not occur. That’s why the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) has called SAM-e a “supernutrient”. In other words it’s no mere nutrient, it’s an activated nutrient. And, according to a 2002 article in the AJCN, supernutrients like SAM-e, while not themselves essential (the body can make them), they… “…must be provided to meet the normal cellular requirements when its endogenous synthesis from a nutritional precursor becomes inefficient”. In other words, according to the fine scientists at the AJCN, if your body can’t make enough, you might want to consider supplementing!

SAM-e may also relieve the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. It has been shown to increase the productivity of cartilage making cells and also to upregulate the squishy, gummy protein-sugar complexes called “proteo-glycans” that have a protective and shock absorbing benefits for joints. Proteoglycans conduct electrical energy and trap water and can make cartridge more effective. Proteoglycans can also keep the skin thick and robust and stimulate the production of skin-firming collagen. That makes it helpful for keeping the visage youthful and wrinkle-free. And because SAM-e upregulates proteoglycan synthesis, in addition to helping keep skin smooth, makes it beneficial for the skeletal system and the circulatory system too; both of which depend on the gel like protein-sugars for healthy functioning.

SAM-e’s fat metabolizing functions make it a very liver-friendly supplement. The liver is the main fat processing organ in the body, and when it’s working too hard or health is compromised it tends accumulate fat. This buildup of fat in known as “Fatty Liver Disease” and it’s a serious health issue that affects one out of three Americans. Alcoholics are at even higher risk for fatty liver disease as are patients on multiple prescription drugs. And because a great deal of SAM-e production takes place in the liver, SAM-e deficiency can be both the cause and an effect of an unhealthy and/or fatty liver.

The best way to make sure you’re getting the benefits of SAM-e is to supplement. You can take 400-800mg a day. It’s a little pricy. A month supply will cost you around 40-60 dollars, depending on how much you take. But you’re not going to get SAM-e from food. So, if your health is compromised in any way you might not be making enough of it, and adding a 200mg tablet or two to a daily supplement program might not be a bad idea.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Lecithin is Protective

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Lecithin, a key component and “bio-product” made in all cells is also is an active ingredient in “bile”, the body’s soap or detergent. Bile is an under-appreciated substance that’s charged with the role of dissolving fatty substances from foods, loosening them, if you will, so that the rest of the body can have access to them. Because bile is important for mineral absorption from the intestine, lecithin plays a role in helping the body obtain valuable elements like calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Conveniently, lecithin is readily available as a dietary supplement and it’s really inexpensive. An average dose (it’s organic and GMO free) will cost you less than 10 cents. So a couple of capsules or a teaspoon of the stuff taken once (or twice) a day can be a cheap way to support health and wellness.

LecithinBecause cholesterol is dissolved by bile, lecithin is protective against the formation of gall-stones which can result from poorly dissolved or crystallized cholesterol. Under ordinary and healthy circumstances, cholesterol stays dissolved in bile. However if our cells are making too much cholesterol, it can precipitate out in crystals and form little rocks or stones (gall stones) which can clog up the tiny tubes in the gall bladder. If this sounds familiar, the last thing you want to do is what half a million people do every year and that’s remove your gall bladder. You can keep stones from forming by making sure the bile detergent system is operating as it should and that may mean supporting it with supplemental and/or dietary lecithin.
Lecithin plays a special role in supporting the health of the brain and the nervous system. It’s an essential component of nerve cells and its electrical properties facilitate the movement of nerve impulses. This makes it valuable for helping prevent movement disorders and dementias. For kids, a little lecithin taken on a daily basis can improve learning and perhaps help reduce the symptoms of attention deficit disorder.

Lecithin can be a good source of essential fatty acids. A 1200 mg capsule of soy lecithin can contain over half (696mg) Omega-6s and more importantly it may contribute 82mg of ordinarily-hard-to-obtain Omega-3 fatty acids. There are other important nutrients in lecithin too. It’s a good source of phosphorus, a vital component of bones and teeth and a major chemical cog in the cellular energy production process. It has inositol which has a relaxing and calming effect on the brain and may be partially responsible for lecithin’s beneficial effects on focus and attention. Diabetics can benefit from lecithin too; it’s packed with the B-vitamin like substance choline, which is important for sugar control. That’s a lot of great stuff for one natural, non-toxic, food-based nutrient!

If you have history of gall stone formation, or if you want to improve brain health and mental functioning, or if you’re looking for a good source of essential fats and nutrients, you’d be wise to make sure you’re using lecithin, especially with fatty meals. Because lecithin is found throughout nature, there are lots of foods you can use to give yourself a lecithin bump. There’s not a lot in processed foods but you can get lecithin in organ meats, seeds and butter. Eggs are nature’s richest source and yet another reason why enjoying eggs on a daily basis can be an important and delicious health strategy. Aside from the aforementioned food sources, you can get lecithin as a liquid or in capsules. It’s also available as a powder that you can blend into a protein drink. Its tastes great and it’ll give your smoothie a nice creamy texture too.

Make your own healthy “PAM” by dissolving organic non-GMO lecithin in some macadamia nut oil. You’ll get the non-stick effects and lots of nutritional value too!

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Alpha Lipoic Acid

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

I’m not sure why, but you don’t hear a lot about alpha lipoic acid. This is kind of strange considering it may the most potent and clinically sanctioned of all non-essential nutritional supplements.

Alpha Lipoic AcidAlpha lipoic acid or ALA is an anti-oxidant, a type of cellular rust protector with an interesting twist. Most anti-oxidants are either fatty or watery, that is to say they are either water soluble or fat soluble. Some like Vitamin E and Vitamin A, which are fatty (lipids is the more technical term or lipophilic for fat loving) can protect fatty parts of the body, most especially cell membranes. Others like Vitamin C and the B-complex can protect the inside parts of a cell which is watery. But alpha lipoic acid is unique in the world of anti-oxidants in the sense that it can protect both. This makes it very valuable, in fact it is one of the most valuable of all anti-oxidants and it really should be a part of any nutritional supplement program.

In a study that was published in the journal Toxicology in 2002, it was shown that alpha lipoic acid increases the concentrations of the body’s ‘master’ detoxifier and cancer fighter, glutathione, both inside AND outside cells. ALA can help cells regenerate glutathione after it’s been used up. According to the Linus Pauling Institute (LPI), which is a great resource for all issues involving nutritional supplementation, several studies have shown that feeding rats alpha lipoic acid restored several markers of age related glutathione depletion, especially in heart cells.

And, alpha lipoic acid has its own detoxification supporting properties,and is especially important for helping to clear heavy metals, especially mercury. Dr. Sherry Rogers talks about using alpha lipoic acid with Vitamin C and glutathione as a detox cocktail in her book “Detoxify or Die”

One of the most exciting applications of alpha lipoic acid involves using it intravenously, and in her book “Honest Medicine”, Julia Shopick talks about using IV ALA for liver regeneration. Intravenous alpha lipoic acid has been used successfully to treat pancreatic cancer as well, and on the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website there’s an article that discusses the use of IV alpha lipoic acid to treat peripheral neuropathy, a painful nerve condition that affects millions of Americans, most notably long-term diabetics.

Alpha Lipoic acid is readily available as 500mg capsules. Try taking one or two a day. If you’re dealing with blood sugar problems, take a third dose. If you’re looking to get ALA in foods, the best sources are going to be green leafy veggies and beef, organ meats and brewer’s yeast, but according to the LPI, consumption of alpha-lipoic acid from food does not have a significant effect on the free lipoic acid in the blood, while using free lipoic acid in supplements results in significant increases. And, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the alpha-lipoic acid in food is chemically locked up and less available to enter the blood plasma. On the other hand, the free form ALA that you obtain from supplements is not bound and easily enters the blood, from which point it is distributed throughout the body.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health


By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Keratin, the hard protein that gives hooves and horn and feathers and scales and claws their tough, solid quality is a critical component of human skin as well. In fact, the surface of human is in effect coated with a super-thin layer of the resilient and protective substance.

KeratinThe 22 square foot organ called the skin is composed of layers and skin cells are born in the bottom layer and they gradually rise to the top. Skin cells are technically called keratin-o-cytes which is the Latin term for “cells that make keratin”.
Skin cells or keratinocytes are born in the bottom layer of the skin and they gradually rise to the top becoming more and more filled with keratin. As they’re rising to the top they’re shriveling up too. Interestingly as the keratinocyte journeys upwards it produces a complex mixture of non-keratin amino acids called the Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) that act as a water attractant to help maintain skin moisture. By the time a skin cell has made it from the bottom layer to the top layer it is shrunken and filled with keratin and NMF to the point where it is not much more than a little speck of the hard protein and water trapping amino acids.

Sometimes skin cells will make way too much keratin. They’ll basically overproduce the stuff and you can little hard bumps called milea or keratosis, which is medical talk for excessive production of keratin. Excessive keratin can also clog pores and cause pimples to form.

If you have tiny little bumps on the skin, milea or keratosis, or your dealing with troublesome acne, one of the most functional ways to deal with the problem is to use topical vitamin A, especially retinoic acid (brand name Retin-A) or retinol. Even application of the mildest form of Vitamin A, retinyl palmitate can be helpful. Taking a couple 10,000 iu capsules a day is probably good idea too. You can apply apple cider vinegar or a 10 percent solution of glycolic acid directly on the skin, too. Correcting fat malabsorbtion problems with supplemental digestive enzymes, probiotics, lecithin and bile salts can help clear skin up, too.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Intermittent Fasting

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

One of the healthiest lifestyle strategies is easy and won’t cost you anything. In fact you’ll probably end up making money in the long run. I’m talking about intermittent fasting (IF), a healthy idea that has been practiced for thousands of years. Intermittent fasting turns on genes that stimulate growth, repair, and anti-aging, especially in combination with exercise. If done correctly it can help keep the body in fat burning mode. And, it’s got important effects on stimulating motivation , drive, and brain power. After all, when someone is young and ambitious we often say that they are…. ”hungry”.

Intermittent FastingIn a famous experiment in the 1940’s, scientists from the University of Chicago showed that they could increase the lifespans of animals by up to 20 percent simply by denying them food every 3rd day. And in a review by that published in 2007 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from U C Berkeley found that alternate day fasting could save lives by decreasing risks for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, the three leading causes of death in the United States. Moreover, they found that it is important for the nervous system and the brain, improving cognitive function and providing protection from Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease, too.

And there’s an important insulin connection to the benefits of fasting. Insulin is a type of “master” hormone, in the sense that it upregulates many different cell activities; and it affects every single cell. The prime stimulus for insulin secretion is food. When we eat any carbs or protein, cells get drenched in insulin. And, in addition to feeding cells, insulin tells cells to divide and grow. Insulin turns on cellular activates. Biochemists call that up-regulation. While that’s important, it’s helpful only in the right context. If we’re not lifting weights and we’re not building muscle, exercising, etc., if we live the typical American sedentary lifestyle, this up regulation is not necessarily a good thing. Elevated blood fats, hypertension, skin problems like acne, psoriasis, cysts, growths and endometriosis are all possibilities if cells are stuck in overdrive from too much exposure to insulin.

Even worse, if we’re constantly eating and insulin is constantly being secreted, eventually cells become immune to insulin’s effects on cell nourishment and feeding. Unfortunately, you’ll still have enough insulin around to stimulate cell growth and division, and upregulate activates. Except now cells will be upregulated in a state of starvation that’s VERY, VERY BAD!! This unfortunate insulin issue is behind every single chronic degenerative disease you can name. Doctors call the various breakdowns in the body that are associated with dysfunctional messed up insulin Metabolic Syndrome, which means basically everything or anything can go wrong. High blood pressure, elevated blood fats and cholesterol, heart disease, cognitive breakdown, etc., eye diseases, and osteoporosis are all examples of Metabolic Syndrome symptoms that can be traced back to elevated insulin secretion.

Of course using nutrients to potentize insulin is always a good idea. Vitamins like niacin, thiamine, Vitamin A, and minerals like chromium, vanadium, and zinc can be helpful. And, you want to make sure you’re getting some regular exercise, too. But there is no quicker way to get insulin back in line and to improve longevity, increase muscle growth and generally slow down the aging process, than to reduce caloric intake and make it habit to fast once or twice a month.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Destroying Cancer Cells

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Cancer is a sign of a body, tissues and cells that have been abused for decades. And, because cancer cells are OUR very own cells (dysfunctional, delinquent, and perverted as they may be), anything that “kills” cancer cells is in essence suicide medicine that ultimately kills the very body it is supposedly healing! That’s why chemotherapy is such a miserable experience and is rarely effective. The idea of using supplements to address what is essentially a trashed out biological system (I don’t mean to be mean or graphic, but think putrid, fetid, stinky landfill) is naive and simplistic, and like trying to eliminate the horrific smell of a sewage dump with a stick of incense. And herbal formulas like Hoxsey, Essiac and Cantron (which bills itself as an “amazing bio-electrical wellness formulation”) etc., while generally non-toxic, are not much more effective.

Destroying Cancer CellsHealthy cells become cancer cells as a survival mechanism in response to long-term deprivation of oxygen and energizing nutrients which leads to an inability to produce energy AND eliminate toxins. The net result is a starved, suffocated, and toxic cell and ultimately multiple cells, then tissues and organs. The hallmark signs of a cell gone cancerous, i.e. rapid chaotic growth/division and the greedy utilization of sugar and nutrients, represent a cell’s desperate attempt to survive under conditions of toxicity, nutrient deficiency and oxygen deprivation.

Because this process takes many years to develop, reversal while certainly possible (according to medical researcher Anthony Campbell over 20 research articles on spontaneous remissions are available on Medline), for the most part effectively addressing the scourge of cancer requires converting the body’s biochemical environs to a state that is non-conducive to carcinogenesis. Thus, hawking herbs and supplements or dispensing medical poison to “cure” the condition by (supposedly) destroying cancer cells is ignorant at best and exploitative and predatory at worst. Not that there aren’t charlatans and hucksters everywhere who will be glad to exploit the sick, scared, desperate, innocent, and gullible by selling “magic” cancer-“killing” formulas. As always Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware)!

On the other hand, using supplements (especially intravenously), food/diet, oxygenation, and other health strategies are important for providing the body with what it needs to maintain its health, vigor, immunity and defense systems. This includes the use of vitamin C, glutathione-building NAC and glutamine, organic cold-processed whey protein, fermented foods, probiotics, and essential fats. Also, The Mighty 90 essential nutrients, fasting, CRON (Calorie Restriction Optimum Nutrition) Diet, laying off sugar and processed supermarket and restaurant foods are also advisable.

Bottom line: if you are dealing with cancer or any other degenerative state, rather than thinking of killing or curing, consider supplementing and making lifestyle choices (including spiritual, mental and emotional techniques) and doing what it takes to create a healthy body and biochemical environment in a manner that is no different than addressing the needs of a well body that is not confronted with a disease condition.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

The Brain is an Electrical Generator

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

The brain is an electrical generator, endlessly producing and emitting streams of energy. And no mere random, chaotic emanations of energy are these. Rather, they are more akin to the organized flow of water on the surface of the ocean. Scientists actually refer to these movements as waves, and measure their motion and patterns on a device called an EEG (electroencephalogram).

The brain is an electrical generatorLike all waves, the ones produced by the brain ebb and flow. Electrical bursts “fire” and then cease “firing”, essentially blinking on and off. The amount of times a burst of brain electricity and its subsequent cessation, turn on and off in every second is called a “cycle” and measured as “cycles-per-second” (CPS). The number of cycles-per-second is referred to as the “frequency”. One that fires and stops firing, or cycles once a second, is said to have a frequency of one. If flow and ebb occurs twice a second the frequency would be 2, three flows and ebbs, or “cycles-per-second” would have a frequency of 3, and so on.

The energy emitted by the brain ebbs and flows at various frequencies throughout the day and ranges from a slumberous 1 CPS to a frenzied 100 CPS. Researchers divide this range into five categories, each associated with its own characteristic subjective qualities.
The fastest brain waves are called Gamma waves. These bursts of energy are occurring at an intense rate of up to 100 times a second. No one knows for sure what gamma waves are related to, although speculation centers on information processing functions including attention, cognition, and memory. Some researchers believe gamma waves may be involved in unifying all the different parts of our perceived reality. At the other end of the spectrum are the so-called Delta waves which ebb and flow at much more leisurely 3 or 4 cycles per second and can even drop down to 1 cycle per second. No surprise then that Delta waves are generated mostly in deep sleep. Between these extremes are the three most accessible frequencies Beta waves (12-16 CPS), Alpha waves (8-12 CPS), and Theta waves (4-8 CPS).

Beta waves represent the energy associated with concentration and problem solving. The brain will go into a predominant beta state when it is addressing survival requirements. Focusing intently on the sounds, sights and other aspects of your experience activates beta energy. But there’s also a dark side to beta. Freak outs, anger, hostility, and fear are all triggered by, AND in turn trigger further, beta brain wave energy.
The next two brain wave frequencies are by far the most interesting. These two brain wave states are associated with the subjective experiences associated with healing, and also love, relaxation, ecstasy and bliss. These are our “chill-out” brain waves and understanding how to activate these energies can be a very important strategy for mitigating excessive beta (and gamma) energies which can burn out the physical body if not effectively balanced.

Alpha waves are associated with relaxation. We are more open to suggestion in this state. Hypnotists love the alpha! So do advertisers and marketers (Hmmm…). In the alpha state we are so relaxed we basically don’t care to filter our experiences intently as when we are in beta state. This makes us suggestible. Television video has an ability to induce alpha waves. In fact that’s why we like TV so much. Human beings love the alpha state.
In addition to suggestibility, the alpha state is associated with learning. A scientist names Jose Silva discovered that if people could access the alpha state at will they could learn much more effectively. He created a study series called “The Silva Method” which you can purchase off the internet.

Learning to activate alpha on your own is easy. You can do it by simply by focusing on an alpha rhythm (8-12 cycles per second) using a metronome, or you can just pace your breathing. Listening closely to any of the body’s rhythms or focusing on a body part works too. In fact, focusing internally can instantly initiate alpha firing. Visualization can do it too. Looking at objects with the peripheral vision may also have an alpha induction effect.
The most intriguing brain energy is emitted in the theta state. It tends to follow the alpha state, and you’ll know your brain is firing theta frequencies when you’re experiencing the bizarre and confusing imagery that shows up as you’re falling asleep and into that midway point between waking and dreaming. This condition is technically is called “hypnogogia” and it can also occur when we awaken slowly out of the dream state. In theta, brain effects like relaxation and creativity are enhanced, and there is generally no awareness of the physical body, although there may be a sensing of it as an energy “field”. Self-healing is maximized in this state, and like alpha, it’s also an ideal brain state for self-programming and self-hypnosis. Like alpha, theta brain waves and the related state can be achieved via various means.

There is an important relationship between the breath and brain states. Not all the various brain states are linked to breathing patterns, but by using breath, and controlling its rate (breaths per minute), various states can be initiated and accessed. Psychedelic drugs like LSD, mescaline and psilocybin are well known inducers of theta. The nutritional supplement GABA which is used to treat insomnia may help access the theta state. Some research indicates that nicotine may have a theta induction effect. There are also audio CDs available that can stimulate the brain to produce theta pulsations via a turning-fork (resonance) effect and induce the corresponding characteristic theta hypnogogic state.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Benefits of Melatonin

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Did you know melatonin is as much a digestive hormone as it is a brain hormone? Everyone knows you can take melatonin to help you sleep, but it’s actually involved in much more than brain health. In addition to being an important digestive hormone, melatonin is involved in supporting the body’s defense system. It has anti-inflammatory properties, it can help lower blood pressure, stabilize blood sugar, and it’s been used medically for anti-fibrosis properties. And that’s not all. Savvy practioners have used it to treat tinnitus and fibromyalgia as well. It can help build bone. And it’s a powerful anti-aging molecule that helps prevent cancer too. That’s a lot of benefits for a non-toxic supplement that will cost you less 2 cents a dose!

Circadian RhythmLevels of melatonin and the alertness hormone serotonin cycle back and forth, with dark of night and light of day. Serotonin, the hormone which promotes vigilance and awareness of the environment, is secreted in response to the sun as perceived by the pineal gland, while the production of it’s hormonal partner melatonin, predominates at night. This back and forth dance of hormones with day-night cycles is part of what biologists call a circadian (daily) rhythm.

The book “Lights Out” makes the important point that the prevalence of 21st century 24/7 lighting has had a disastrous effect on the melatonin-serotonin manufacturing rhythms which depend on day-night circadian cycle. According to the author T.S Wiley, because of its relationship to eating behavior, one of the effects of the excessive amount of light induced serotonin production is food craving, especially for carbohydrates. How much of a contribution this modern day circadian chaos contributes to the obesity epidemic is hard to say, but at least according to Wiley it’s not insubstantial.

If you want to make sure you’re getting enough melatonin, it’s probably a good idea to take some supplementally at bedtime, 5-7 nights a week. It’ll help you fall and stay asleep and it’ll give you some pretty intense dreams too. Take at least 3mg doses and you could probably take 5 or 6mg. Melatonin is cleared out of the body quickly and it’s pretty much benign stuff. I like the sublingual kind that dissolves under tongue. They get right into the blood through microscopic sublingual capillaries and go to work really fast. I feel drowsy within minutes. There’s also melatonin found in foods. Rice corn mustard seed peanuts and walnuts all contain substantial amounts of melatonin. Tart cherries have especially high concentrations of melatonin. Just a couple or three can get you nearly 1.5mg of the important, multi-beneficial hormone.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Low Levels of Albumin

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Albumin, which is derived from the Greek word for white (as in albino or even album, which was originally a book with a bunch of white pages), is a multi-functional, Swiss army knife type protein with a chemical structure that allows it to perform many different biological roles. It’s primarily produced in the liver and measuring its levels is one of the ways physicians determine hepatic health. Deficiencies can be indicative of cirrhosis or liver disease. Albumin’s most well-recognized function involves its ability to act as water trapping or water attracting “sponge” in the blood. Albumin has an ability to pull water. It is technically called osmosis, but you can just think of a sponge. Dip a sponge in water and the water get sucked up automatically, that’s called osmosis and that’s exactly how albumin works in the blood. Sponges are made of long chain sugars that trap water and while albumin is more like a magnet than a trap, the water pulling or absorbing effect is the same.

Low Levels of AlbuminOne of the most obvious consequences of an albumin deficiency is swelling and edema. That’s because without albumin trapping fluid it tends to leak out of the blood and into the tissues. Albumin can also be thought of as a fluid expander for the blood; without it blood can become thick and sludgy and more prone to clot. Albumin levels can drop significantly in the case of burns or blood loss. This loss of albumin can be serious and if it’s severe it can even be life threatening, and doctors will inject a pharmaceutical version of albumin into the blood as a replacement.

In addition to liver disease, low levels of albumin can be associated with malnutrition, digestive issues that impair protein absorption. Protein deficiency in the diet can cause low levels of albumin, and protein malabsorbtion can too. If you have intestinal disease or low stomach acid or deficiencies in digestive enzymes, all of these can compromise albumin levels. And low levels of albumin are not only an indicator of liver disease, they can be an indicator of all disease and a shortened life, as well.

One of the main reasons for the link between disease and low levels of albumin involves general protein synthesis. When the body is making enough protein it’s growing, and repairing, and healing, and anti-aging, and basically loving life. The production of albumin can be a measurement of overall protein synthesis. If you’re not making albumin you could likely be dealing with something doctor’s called Protein Energy Wasting (PEW) as in: all the stuff (e.g. albumin) that is supposed to be getting made from protein isn’t getting made. Protein is leaving your body instead of being used. PEW in essence means you’re falling apart; you’re degenerating instead of regenerating. The body is designed to heal and regenerate; if you’re degenerating and not healing, impaired protein synthesis and/or PEW, is probably involved.

And there’s more. Albumin has lots of little molecular pockets that can function as an ideal scavenger of oxygen and neutralizer of toxins. This makes albumin protective against circulatory disease too. As it’s floating around in the blood it’s protecting blood vessels from the “rusting” (oxidation) effects of oxygen and from the toxicity of blood poisons that can enter the circulatory system from the digestive tract and from gut bacteria.

Albumin acts like a shuttle for steroid hormones like testosterone and estrogen. These steroid substances essentially hitch a ride on albumin, hanging out in its structural pockets as it’s circulating through the blood until they approach a target tissue and cell, at which point the hitchhiking hormone molecule jumps off and does its thing. If you’re not making enough albumin, or you’re losing it, hormone delivery can be impaired and you’re going to have a problem. And while you can apply Androgel or take bio identical hormones, you’re potentially doing more harm than good. For example women with low albumin levels who use pharmaceutical versions of estrogen may be at a higher risk for heart disease and atherosclerosis and according to many researchers HRT shouldn’t be used at all in women who have low albumin issues. Low albumin levels are associated with lower male hormone activity in men, especially in men over 60. If your doctor is suggesting some kind of drug for Low-T, you may want to have your albumin checked first, especially if you have a history of digestive health issues, malabsorbtion, or fatty liver disease, or other possible albumin-depleting health issues.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Pre-biotics, Inulin and FOS

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

If you’re a label reader, you’ve probably run across the terms inulin and oligofructose (also known as fructooligosaccharides or FOS) on various processed food ingredient decks including those on soups, yogurt, cereals and breads, snack and energy bars, cookie, cakes. Although naturally found in various plants and veggies like onions, and grains and bananas, asparagus and Jerusalem artichoke, and chicory root, inulin and oligofructose are also industrially prized by the for their ability to provide a non-caloric sweetening benefit and are most often found in the standard American diet in the form of processed food additives. And, in addition to their inclusion in processed foods, these ingredients can be found as stand-alone products marketed as diabetic friendly sweeteners with names like Fruta-Fit, Frutalose or simply Inulin/FOS.

Pre-biotics, Inulin and FOSTechnically inulins and FOS are “fructans” which are long molecular chains of the fruit sugar known as fructose. By linking many fructose molecules together, the characteristic sweetness of the fruit sugar is dampened and its spiking effects on blood sugar are mitigated. From a chemical structure standpoint the only difference between inulin and FOS involves their sizes (lengths) with FOS molecules, basically being little inulin chunks or short chains of fructose that are formed by the breakdown of the parent inulin element.

Besides providing a mild amount of sweetness or enhancing the sweetening properties of other sugar substitutes, the most notable and interesting properties of these products is their ability to beneficially affect digestive health. Technically called pre-biotics, inulin and FOS are mostly (90% or so) indigestible by humans. This indigestibility allows Inulin/FOS to pass through the intestine intact where it can then act as a substrate for pro-biotics, i.e. “good bacteria” in the gut, supporting their growth and proliferation. In essence, prebiotics, like inulin/FOS function as food for flora. This makes these polysaccharide substances effective ingredients for improving various digestive conditions including diarrhea, constipation, and gas and bloating. Also, because the beneficial bacteria that feed on Inulin/FOS produce substances like short chain fatty acids which can beneficially affect the entire body in addition to supporting digestive wellness, overall human health can be improved as well. This makes these ingredients multi-functional and supports various label claims that can make manufactured foods seem more appealing and ultimately create greater sales and profits for processors.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Obesity is a Disease?

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Well, its official, obesity is a disease. So declared doctor delegates at the American Medical Association’s annual meeting this past June. Americans are the second fattest people in the world (second only to Mexico, and only by 1 percent, according to Scripps Media Inc.). And according to Dr. Patrice Harris, a member of the association’s board, considering corpulence as a doctor issue is good thing. “Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans, in the words of Dr. Harris.

Obesity is a Disease?

From left to right, as labeled in the original image, the “healthy” man has a 33 inch (84 cm) waist, the “overweight” man a 45 inch (114 cm) waist, and the “obese” man a 60 inch (152cm) waist.From left to right, as labeled in the original image, the “healthy” man has a 33 inch (84 cm) waist, the “overweight” man a 45 inch (114 cm) waist, and the “obese” man a 60 inch (152cm) waist. By Victovoi, via Wikimedia Commons

How exactly these changes will show up remains to be seen. AMA doctors say reclassifying it as a disease will reduce the stigma that can result from the silly idea that obesity is simply the result of too much food and too little exercise. Apparently, our medical saviors feel that their patients do not have control over their weight and physiology.

And it’s not like modern medicine has a great or even good track record when it comes to dealing with the diseases that are already on its plate. Americans spend more money on doctor care than any other country in the world. And for all those dollars spent, we are statistically worse off than any other in nearly every single marker of health, including disease incidence, infant mortality, and longevity. And now the geniuses of the American Medical Association want us to trust them to deal with another “growing” health crisis?
Could it be that after medicalizing obesity we’ll see even more high tech medical options than bariatric surgeries and gastric banding? Or will we have even more potent anti-obesity medications?

Interestingly, two anti-fat pharmaceuticals were released the same month as the American Medical Association’s decree. The first, Qsymia is combination of a couple of poisons (drugs). One, called phentermine is an amphetamine like stimulant that has been available for over 40 years and was the second agent of the famous weight loss combo therapy known as “Fen-phen”. Phentermine use is associated with a whole host of adverse reactions including: fainting, dizziness, inability to exercise and insomnia. The other is a seizure medicine called topiramate, which boasts its own unpleasant side effect profile including: skin rashes, digestive difficulties, uneven heartbeat, muscle coordination issues and problems breathing. Nonetheless, if you want to drop a few pounds and don’t mind taking anti-convulsants and speed to do it, Qsymia is the choice for you! The second, Belviq works by activating one of the body’s stress management hormones, serotonin. In a fashion similar to (although not the same as) Prozac and other SSRI drugs, Belviq works by essentially potentizing the action of this important neurotransmitter; appetite is suppressed, satiety induced and vigilance and alertness promoted. Belviq essentially puts the body on an emergency status which has the effect of reducing hunger and the desire to eat. Unfortunately, as with all prescription medications, adverse reactions are possible, including: low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), mental problems, slow heartbeat, headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, dry mouth, and constipation.

One of the more insidious results of the doctor’s decision to label obesity as an illness is the fact that now 100 million Americans will be considered diseased. And that of course means medical treatment and overtreatment. Essentially the AMA has now made one third of all American’s wards of the medical model. And that’s a lot of new customers!

Obesity is no more of an illness than meth-rotting teeth and gums are dental disease or self-injurious cutting is a skin disease. It is, for the most part, (with some exceptions) a consequence of lifestyle choices and behaviors that are none of the medical model’s or your doctor’s businesses. Even though physicians would love nothing more than to have another billable, reimbursable product (and that’s what so-called diseases are), medicalizing obesity is a classic case of the camel sticking his nose under our tents. And make no mistake about it. If the camel is the medical model, you can rest assured, it’s being ridden by a government bureaucrat.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Survival Genes Called Sirtuins

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

The latest darlings in the world of biochemistry are family of genes called sirtuins, represented most commonly one that goes by the name Sirt2.

Survival Genes Called SirtuinsThe sirtuins compose an important part of a basic and ancient genetic stress response system, they are part of a section of DNA that codes and creates proteins, and ultimately chemicals, that for millennia have contributed to our ancient ancestor’s abilities to survive famine, wild animals, and other threats on the great grasslands of Paleolithic Africa. Scientists say that the sirtuins are highly “conserved”, which means that the same set of genes are found in a wide range of life forms with a broad spectrum of evolutionary sophistication, from primitive yeasts to highly developed human cells.

The sirtuins can best be thought of as survival genes. The end result of sirtuin activation involves a vastly unader-apprecitated facility for dealing with stress. Sirtuin activation produces anti-cancer substances, anti-inflammatory and immune boosting chemicals, and supports cell energy and overall metabolism. Sirtuin induced synthesis of proteins makes a cell stronger, healthier and more reliant and long-lived.
Despite the tremendous importance of sirtuin stimulated health, the relevant link between stress and wellness remains a secret. Why? Because we hate stress! And, we’ll do anything to avoid it. We have created the biggest and most intrusive and oppressive nanny state in the history of mankind simply because we want security and can’t bear to deal with stress of uncertainty. For the same reason, 21st century mankind is mired in addiction to food, drugs, and diversion. The lesson of the sirtuins is that, ironically, the ability to handle stress requires us to undergo stress. Animals that face regular episodes of hunger or starvation develop more efficient energy extraction mechanisms for leveraging whatever caloric intake they can manage to get. In the vegetable kingdom sirtuins in plants that only get watered occasionally stimulate the development of stronger moisture trapping roots.

Over past decade, the Sirt family of genes have been increasingly exploited for health and beauty; recently they have caught the attention of the trade journal “Cosmetic and Toiletries” which made the registration of new sirtuin activating ingredients one of their monthly patent picks. Studies show Sirt induced proteins can protect skin cells from aging and amplify their production of chemicals that up-regulate sun protective chemistry.

Ingredients like resveratrol, a nutritional supplement and skin care ingredient that can be extracted from grape skins, has been shown to have powerful sirtuin stimulating benefits. And a molecule called quercetin, which is found in fruits and vegetable, has been shown to have beneficial effects on sirtuin activation. Ditto for branch chain amino acids, which are prized by athletes for their muscle building effects, and which may also have a beneficial stimulating effect on sirtuin 2 activation.

One of the best ways to take advantage of sirtuin benefits is fasting or caloric restriction (CR). A 2010 study published in the journal “Cell” firmly identified the Sirt genes as being responsible for the many of the health benefits associates with CR. A second paper, this one from from MIT Department of Biology, reported that “Sirt 2 is required for lifespan extension by CR”. And in a third article this one published in the journal “Nature”, earlier this year, the authors determined that Sirt stimulating compounds like resveratrol have health and longevity benefits for a cell that are indistinguishable from those achieved by reducing calories.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Glycation of Sugars

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

One of the most important and under-recognized causes of accelerated aging is a chemical process called “glycation” (also known as “glycosylation”). Best thought of as a reaction between sugar and protein (and sometimes fat). Glycation can be thought of as a type of caramelization, a candy making technique that creates a characteristic confectionary quality that candy cooks have exploited for centuries. During the caramelization process, sugar is heated to high temperatures until it turns brown. And it’s not just candy that caramelizes, or glycates. The same phenomenon occurs when bread is toasted, or onions or potatoes are grilled. French toasted bread, fried onions and French fried potatoes, also are among culinary delights that are carmelized.

Glycation of sugarsIn the body, caramelization/glycation of sugars can occur in conjunction with proteins, and as with caramelization of foods this can manifest itself as browning and subsequent degradation of various structures. Smaller systems are especially likely to be damaged; most especially tiny blood vessels and capillaries. Glycation is a leading cause of blindness and kidney diseases. Both structures are packed with thousands of miles of microscopic circulatory vessels. The net effect of this kind of damage can result in pockets of oxygen deprived, nutritionally starved, and toxin drenched tissue. Not good!

Even worse, there an important relationship between glycation and oxidation, which is thought to play an important part in accelerated aging. As it turns out, glycated proteins can be a source of free radicals that are responsible for the oxidation, which can be thought of as a type of “biological rusting”. In an article published in the journal “Glycobiology”, researchers claimed that glycated proteins produce 50 times more free radicals than non-glycated proteins. According to the article, free radicals amplify the production of inflammatory peptides and the net result is not only rapid aging of organs and tissues, but also many health challenges including diabetes, neuro-degeneration, and kidney failure.

The best way to protect yourself from glycation is to keep your blood sugar concentration as low as possible. There should only be around one (1) teaspoonful of sugar floating around in the blood at any given moment. It’s not uncommon for blood sugar concentration to double after a carbohydrate-laden meal. Reducing your intake of refined carbs (flour, fruit juice, cereals, dessert, etc.) should be a priority, making sure you’re taking in lots of water, especially after drinking a soda pop or indulging a sweet or a starchy bread-filled meal. Supplements can also be beneficial. The B-complex stands out in importance, especially Vitamins B1 and B3. Use a B-100 or something like Youngevity’s Beyond Tangy Tangerine. Vitamin C is important too, 1000mg maybe. Minerals like Magnesium Glycinate, Zinc , Selenium, Chromium, and Vanadium are known to help the body process sugar. Arginine and Taurine are two amino acids that improve sugar metabolism and the B-vitamin-like substance choline can be helpful, too.

*Did you know that the sugar beet and sugar cane are excellent sources of many of the nutrients that the body needs to process carbs?*

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Melanin is Really Important Stuff!

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Poor Mr. Melanin. These days the latest skin care products feature skin whitening agents to shut down the production of the tanning biochemical. And of course standard medical dogma discourages sun exposure, effectively suppressing melanin synthesis. And those that go out in the sun are encouraged to wear sun protection, even further reducing melanin activity. All of which is too bad because as it turns out melanin is really important stuff!

Melanin is Really Important Stuff!

Albinism occurs when melanocytes produce little or no melanin. This albino girl is from Papua New Guinea.. By Muntuwandi, from Wikimedia Commons

In fact melanin, the biochemical most people recognize as a good tan, may be the most under-appreciated AND most fascinating molecules in the body. Melanin, the most ubiquitous and basic pigment in all of biology is the stuff that darkens your skin when you lay out, play golf, take a walk or do whatever you do to catch some rays. And while lots folks love a nice tan, how many of us can say that we understand just what exactly it is that gives the skin that much-desired golden hue.

What we call a tan is a manifestation of a chemical reaction that occurs between sunlight and melanin, the skin pigment that is found in all living things from fungi to fauna to human beings. And a pigment is nothing more than a molecule that absorbs waves of energy, the waves of energy called “light”. Waves of energy vary by their length and these various waves appear to us as colors. Red for example, has the longest wavelength. The wave we see as green is intermediate in length and Violet the shortest wavelength color visible to the human eye.

Pigments don’t absorb just any light. The typical pigment is selective about the kind of light it will absorb; other types are just not acceptable. Rejected light can be observed as the color of the pigment. A green colored pigment, for example, absorbs every part of the light spectrum BUT green which is rejected and thus observable. Likewise when we see red or blue, or any other color, what we are seeing is the light radiation that has been rejected, eliminated, spit out.

Melanin is a pigment too and like other pigments it absorbs specific types of light; i.e. wavelengths. However unlike other pigments, the light melanin absorbs is an invisible form known as ultraviolet radiation (UvR). As would be expected from a molecule that absorbs invisible light, the light melanin emits or rejects is anti-invisible light! It’s black. Instead of emitting colors as do other pigments melanin gets hot. In fact a melanin molecule can generate enough heat to enhance and amplify chemical reactions, acting in essence like a metabolism stimulating battery.

But melanin is more than a light absorbing pigment. Melanin is one of the most important organizing molecules in the body. It’s light absorbing properties ultimately allow it to structure the chaotic quantum waves of energy that comprise our environment into the tangible physical world we know as real. Melanin is known as a biological transducer which means it can convert energy forms into other energy forms. For example melanin can change sound energy into light energy and light energy back into sound. That’s why the erstwhile tanning molecule is found in great abundance in both the non-tanning eye and inner ear.

There are three main types of melanin. The first two, phaeomelanin (red-brown in color and most abundant in fairer folks) and eumelanin (brown black and found in the in those with darker complexions) are skin and hair pigments. The third type of melanin is found in great abundance in the brain. There it’s called neuromelanin, and it appears to act as a biological semi-conductor structuring, channeling. and organizing electrical energy. Neuromelanin is a powerful free radical scavenger and brain protective anti-oxidant

If you’re interested in boosting melanin production, think tyrosine. This essential amino acid is not made in the body and to keep you’re levels adequate you’ve got to make sure you’re getting in the diet. Good sources of tyrosine include seaweed, spirulina soy, eggs cheese, quinoa, avocados and pumpkin seeds. You can also use tyrosine supplements. A 500 mg a day dose will not only get you enough of the amino for building melanin, it’ll probably give you a little buzz too. That’s because in addition to being an important component of melanin it’s also a fundamental building block of important biochemical energizers including dopamine, norepinephrine, adrenalin, and thyroid hormone.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Lupus is a Disease of the Immune System

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Lupus is a non-tissue specific (it can show up in many parts of the body) autoimmune disease with broad based symptoms, the most common of which is a butterfly shaped pattern of redness that appears on the face. At one time physicians used to believe it was caused by a bite from a wolf (lupus is the Latin word for “wolf). Today doctors and other medical geniuses will tell you that there is no known cause, but I’m only a simple little pharmacist so I’m going to tell you that there is. Lupus is a disease of the immune system. It represents a characteristic immune system malfunction called autoimmunity, which simply means the body’s defensive chemistry turns on itself (auto = “self”). According to the Lupus Foundation website the symptoms of lupus “mysteriously” show up. They claim that they are “devoted to solving the mystery of lupus”. Oh really? Well, perhaps they should listen to The Bright Side where we talk about the real causes of lupus and other autoimmune diseases, which is quite obviously a jacked up and malfunctioning immune system. The only mystery is what exactly is it that is causing this hyperactive and misguided immune initiation.

Lupus is a Disease of the Immune System

Drawing of the typical “butterfly rash” found in lupus. By National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Ok, good question. What is it that causes a confused defensive response? That is, a defensive response that instead of focusing its wrath on an enemy instead turns its considerable biochemical firepower on the organism that it’s supposed to be defending. Well, in order to answer that question we have to understand where in the organism the immune system is located.
The vast majority of the immune system, anywhere from 70 to 80 percent, is located in a specialized tissue of the digestive tract. It’s technically called “Gastro Intestinal Lymphoid Tissue”, or GALT, and it’s responsible for initiating all immune responses to troublesome foods that pass through the digestive tube called the intestine. The most significant GALT response involves increasing the permeability of the digestive lining thereby allowing immune cells, which live in the blood, to have access to said troublesome food.

Unfortunately this permeability of the digestive lining is a two way street. In addition to allowing immune system cells to enter into the intestine from the blood, it unfortunately also permits food particles to enter into the blood from the intestine. Big problem!

Once food particles enter into the blood, a second defensive response is then initiated within the blood. And now we really have problems! The immune system is intelligent; it learns and “remembers”. Foods have a chemical constituency and the immune cells learn to respond to and can “remember” the specific chemical constituency of a food particle. Once the offending food structure is “remembered”, the immune system will become activated by ANY similar chemical structure. In other words, it will attack any substances with that same or a similar chemical constituency. Because chemical constituencies are consistent throughout nature and biology, there are many organs and systems in the body that “look” like foods that the immune system has learned to react to. The immune system will then react to those tissues too. If, for example, the immune system learns to react to a chemical structure in hamburger particles that have entered in to the blood AND those hamburger chemical structures are similar to patterns of chemicals in the skin, the immune cells can (cross-) react to the skin, in addition to hamburger. Thus will be born an autoimmune disease of the skin perhaps psoriasis or vitiligo or scleroderma. If you’re eating soy and a defensive response is triggered, the immune system can learn to respond that troublesome legume’s chemical makeup. Soy’s chemical structure may resemble the structure of the thyroid, which can then become a victim of the immune activity that was supposed to be defending the body from soy. That’s called autoimmune disease of the thyroid, or Hashimoto’s Disease, which is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. If you eat bread or pasta and a wheat particle get into the blood, the immune system can learn to react to the chemical makeup of the wheat particle. Wheat particles may resemble the chemical structure of the intestine, and voila, autoimmune disease of the intestinal lining which is known as Celiac Disease. Sometimes learned immune reactions to food can affect connective tissue which provides structural support for everything in the body. If this occurs the disease is given the term “lupus”, which is essentially an autoimmune disease that can affect anything, including the joints, kidneys, lungs, blood and heart. In other words lupus can be a big autoimmunity mess!

If you’ve been diagnosed with lupus (or any other auto immune disease) there are NO curative medications. But that’s not a problem because immune system issues need not be medical issues. By definition, an immune health condition is a defensive (immune) response to an offending agent. An immune (and autoimmune) disease means we’re doing something that is activating the immune system. Best bet is to figure out what the heck we’re doing to activate the immune system and then STOP DOING IT! Clue: it usually involves food. Eliminate foods that cause any digestive distress. Using nutrition to build up the digestive tract is also important. Probiotics are always helpful. Glutamine powder can help rebuild the digestive lining, and polysaccharides from aloe, noni and ocean vegetation can have a wonderful soothing and supporting effect for digestive tissue. And strengthening the immune system with Vitamins E, C, and A; and minerals like selenium and zinc is a good idea for any autoimmune or immune health condition.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Saturated Fat Myth

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

For decades medical model mythology has maintained that the heart and saturated fat are mortal enemies. Ever since Dr. Ancel Keys concluded that the lower incidences of heart disease in Japan, Finland, and some of the European countries was related to their lower intake of saturated fat (and cholesterol), Americans and health care professionals have had a love hate relationship with lipids. Although as a country we still consume large amounts fatty foods, and the vast majority of us find it impossible not to indulge, it’s next to impossible to find a doctor or dietician who doesn’t demand we don’t. Saturated fat is best thought of as “hard fat”, saturation being a chemical term that can best be perceived as hardness. Butter, lard, and cheese are all examples of foods that contain lots of saturated fats, while most liquid oils contain large amounts of unsaturated ones.

Saturated Fat

Coconuts sundried in Kozhikode, Kerala for making copra, which is used for making coconut oil. By Dan Iserman , via Wikimedia Commons

For almost 60 years health dogma has held that when we eat saturated fat, the firmness of our feta somehow becomes hardness in heart and blood vessels, resulting in the sticky fatty plaques that are linked cardiac pathology. This is despite the fact that pre-1900s statistics show that even though our great-grandparents ate much more saturated fat than do we, their 21st century descendents, heart disease of all kinds was far less prevalent, affecting around 8 percent of the population. By 1921 it was the leading cause of death, and it has remained so to this day, despite billions of dollars spent on diagnostics devices and lots of drugs.

Over the last 100 years or so Americans intake of saturated fatty foods has dropped dramatically. At the turn of the 20th century, for example, butter consumption fell from over 18 pounds per person per year to around 10 pounds or so by 1950. Today Americans eat only around 5 pounds of butter a year. On the other hand as the consumption of liquid fats, which in addition to being unsaturated are also highly processed, has risen, so have the rates of heart disease. The more unsaturated fat Americans ingest the sicker we become, not the other way around! Now whether or not there is direct causal link between heart disease and liquid oils has never been shown definitively, but certainly the demonization of saturated fats and their supposed connection to cardiac disease is at the very least unsubstantiated.

Whats more, there’s some evidence that eating saturated fat may actually be good for us. It’s much more stable than unsaturated (and especially poly-unsaturated) oils which break down and form heart-disease promoting free radicals really easily, especially when heated. And, Dr. Keys’ own data showed that countries with the highest per capita consumption of saturated fat actually had the lowest rates of heart disease.

Coconut Oil is my favorite saturated fat. It loaded with Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), a special kind of saturated fat that’s especially filling and energizing. MCT’s are preferentially burnt, which makes them ideal for folks dealing with pancreatic, liver or fat malabsorbtion issues. For those with impaired gall bladder functioning or who’ve had this important structure removed, coconut oil MCTs can be an important source of fatty nutrition. Butter is great saturated fat too. It’s got iodine, selenium and Vitamin K to boot. Put it on steamed asparagus or broccoli. Add some Celtic sea salt and spices…yum!!

*Did you know dark chocolate is 43 percent saturated fat?*

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Late last week the FDA approved a new drug to treat Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH). The medication, called macitentan (Opsumit, Actelion) is the second drug approved this month to treat the debilitating disease. Earlier, the regulatory body approved a medication called riociguat (Adempas).

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

Micrograph showing a plexiform lesion of the lung, as seen in irreversible pulmonary hypertension. Image contributed by Bulent Celasun, MD, via Wikimedia Commons.

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension is a condition that affects the blood circulation in the pulmonary system, which is medical term referring to respiratory mechanics and the lungs. Although no one knows exactly how many people have PAH, according to the American Thoracic Society (ATS), it may affect as many as hundreds of thousands of Americans. It can best be thought of as high blood pressure of the lung arteries and can lead to all kinds of unpleasant bodily symptoms including bluish lips, hands or feet, dizziness, fatigue and lethargy, shortness of breath, fainting and swelling in the lower extremities. PAH has no surgical cure, progresses rapidly and is marked by progressive degeneration and breakdown of the blood vessels that travel from the heart to the lungs. In a normal healthy body, blood is carried from the heart, then to the lungs, where it picks up oxygen, which is then in turn delivered back to the heart and then to the rest of the organs and tissues of the body. Under conditions of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension however, pulmonary arterial constriction, i.e. a tightening of the blood vessels in the lungs, restricts flow resulting in a sluggish circulation to the heart as well as a decrease in the amount of blood and oxygen that is ultimately delivered to the rest of the body. In addition, long term hypertension in the pulmonary arteries can lead to vascular changes including thickening of vessel walls, inflammation and the formation of plaques, all of which can further impair circulation and blood flow. Most significantly as the condition progresses, the heart, which is forced to work harder and faster to compensate for the vascular changes, becomes weakened. This can result in heart failure which is the most common cause of death in cases of PAH.

PAH can be associated with various other disease states including connective tissue disease, hypothyroidism, liver disease and heart disease, HIV infection and stimulant drug intake. However the vast majority of cases, according to ATS literature are said to be idiopathic, meaning they are associated with no known cause.

Although there is no medical cure for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, drug treatments have traditionally focused on vasodilators, which open up the blood vessels. However these kinds of drugs can create potential problems via lowering blood pressure in the rest of the body and ultimately decreasing the flow of blood to the lungs. Although the recently approved drugs, macitentan and riociguat, operate via novel mechanisms they are still vasodilators and can result in the same kind of problems as the more conventional PAH medications.

As with other circulatory health challenges there are many nutritional and dietary strategies that may help improve PAH. According to researchers writing in the European Respiratory Journal in April 2013, there is an increased prevalence of insulin resistance in PAH patients. Thus, restoring insulin sensitivity by reducing the intake of sugars and refined carbs may have a beneficial effect. Additionally there are nutritional supplements that can be used that improve insulin response. Niacin, thiamin, chromium and vanadium can all increase insulin sensitivity. So can the mineral magnesium, which can the potentize effects of insulin, and can provide lung and circulatory benefits. Magnesium has also been used as a medical treatment for PAH in newborns. In a 2004 study of 12 newborn babies with pulmonary hypertension published in the Journal of Tropical Pediatrics, magnesium was found to be “a safe and effective pulmonary vasodilator”, which is medical talk for “a safe substance for opening up blood vessels in the lungs”.

Finally, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, while not specifically associated with treating pulmonary arterial hypertension, there are several nutritional supplements that can be used to improve heart health function in general. These include carnitine (500mg, three times a day), CoQ10 (200-600mg a day), Vitamin E (400 IU a day), potassium (20mg and day) and taurine (1000mg twice a day).

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

The Cuddle Chemical Oxytocin

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

I love simple health tips. Drinking water, practicing caloric restriction, using Celtic Sea Salt, and regular deep breathing are all simple, inexpensive and easy to use strategies for improving health and well-being. And now it turns out, simple eye contact can up-regulate brain biochemicals that are associated with improved health care. While most of us intuitively understand looking someone in the eye can have beneficial effects most people don’t realize the biochemical logic behind the benefits associated with eye contact.


By Edgar181, via Wikimedia Commons

It all comes down to the cuddle chemical oxytocin, or as Dr. Paul Zak calls it in his book of the same title “The Moral Molecule”. Sometimes referred to as the “Biochemical of Love”, oxytocin is best known as a labor induction substance; the word oxytocin literally means “sharp (sudden) delivery”. Women who are undergoing a painful childbirth will be given an intravenous oxytocin drip designed to speed up the labor process, but oxytocin does so much more than improving uterine contractions and dampening a difficult delivery.

Oxytocin is associated with many, of what can be called, virtuous behaviors including generosity, trust, gregariousness, and bonding. Signs of oxytocin deficiency are similar to the symptoms of schizophrenia including poor impulse control, anger management issues and social anxiety disorders. And, there’s an interesting relationship between oxytocin and autism. In a 1998 study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry autistic children were found to have lower levels of oxytocin then their non-autistic counterparts. In another study, this one from the journal Neurophsychopharmacology published in 2003 patients showed a decrease in autistic type repetitive behaviors when oxytocin was administered intravenously.

New mom’s oxytocin levels rise when they see their newborns as does the oxytocin levels in the baby’s themselves. Adequate oxytocin levels are associated with an appropriate maternal recognition of a newborn’s unique odor. Breast feeding and baby’s mouthing of the nipples also stimulates maternal oxytocin. Oxytocin is important for stimulating maternal behaviors; it causes mom to be more caring, eager to please, more sensitive to other’s feelings, and to recognize
non-verbal cues more readily.

Oxytocin has anti-depressant properties. Brain oxytocin levels go up when we’re touched when we watch sad movies or when we’re feeling compassionate or empathetic. It’s involved in memory and learning, it stabilizes cortisol levels and it can stimulate the growth and maturation of heart cells. Some researchers believe that the feelings of love and empathy associated with the drug MDMA also known as “ecstasy” is at least partially mediated by the action of oxytocin.
Oxytocin activates cells of the parasympathetic “relaxation” nervous system, and symptoms of anxiety and nervous tension diminish. It has anti-stress benefits and can improve blood flow too. Oxytocin stimulates blood flow to the brain and to the uterus and not surprisingly it’s circulatory effects are responsible for
the cheeks rosy glow associated with sex and orgasms.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health