Ben Fuchs

Ben Fuchs is a nutritional pharmacist from Colorado. He specializes in using nutritional supplements when other healthcare practitioners use toxic pharmaceutical drugs. He is the founder and formulator of Truth Treatment Systems for skin care, host of The Bright Side syndicated radio show, a member of Youngevity's Scientific Advisory Board, health expert and frequent guest on Coast to Coast am with George Noory. "The human body is a healing and regenerating system, designed divinely to heal & renew itself on a moment to moment basis." "Take charge of your biochemistry through foods and supplements, rather than allow toxic prescription drugs to take charge of you." ~Ben Fuchs
Ben Fuchs is a nutritional pharmacist from Colorado. He specializes in using nutritional supplements when other healthcare practitioners use toxic pharmaceutical drugs. He is the founder and formulator of Truth Treatment Systems for skin care, host of The Bright Side syndicated radio show, a member of Youngevity's Scientific Advisory Board, health expert and frequent guest on Coast to Coast am with George Noory. "The human body is a healing and regenerating system, designed divinely to heal & renew itself on a moment to moment basis." "Take charge of your biochemistry through foods and supplements, rather than allow toxic prescription drugs to take charge of you." ~Ben Fuchs

Your Skin and it’s Inherent Healing and Renewing Capacity

By Ben Fuchs | PharmacistBen

Your Skin and it's Inherent Healing and Renewing Capacity

(PharmacistBen) Everyone wants great skin. We are bombarded daily by advertisements and marketing proclamations that claim to deliver it. The skin care industry is a 10 billion dollar business made up mostly of products containing oils and waxes, solvents, emulsifiers and chemical ingredients that allow for the creation of cosmetic commodities that modify the superficial appearance of the skin, without actually creating real changes.

Yet skin is naturally dynamic and normally regenerates itself on daily, weekly and monthly basis. It is the quintessential renewing organ and this assures a constant supply of youthful, healthy tissue. Within 4-8 weeks old skin cells have been completely replaced. This ultimately means that, with the right products and techniques, the characteristics of less than healthy skin can be transformed and your skin’s naturally beautiful, radiant and healthy appearance can be restored.

To best leverage your skin’s inherent healing and renewing capacity, we need to understand how the skin is constructed. While to the naked eye it appears like a covering that protects the inside of the body, in reality it is a complex organ that is structured in multiple sheets that can be generally classified into two major strata. The upper is referred to as the epidermis, which makes up about 10% or so of the skin, and underneath that, the remaining 90% is called the dermis. The surface of the epidermis is made up of a protective coating called the stratum corneum.

All organs of the body are composed of cells as well as the stuff that cells secrete. The skin is no different. The predominant cell type in the dermis is called the fibr-o-blast, which is responsible for producing tightening and elastic fibers, like collagen and elastin, as well as a water-trapping spongy material that gives the skin its dense and robust appearance. The cellular star of the epidermis is the keratin-o-cyte, which is the source of moisture factors, protective defensive chemicals, and a hard protein called keratin that acts as an impermeable barrier makeing up much of the ultra-thin stratum corneum protective surface. The suffix “-cyte” is derived from the Greek word for container. Scientists use this designation to refer to various types of cells. Thus a “keratin-o-cyte” is quite literally a “keratin making cell”.

Keratin is one of the natural world’s most ubiquitous proteins. In addition to being found in human hair, it comprises a large concentration of the structural components of feathers, hooves, horns and antlers. In humans, it makes up the surface of hair strands as well as finger and toenails. Via its deposition on the skin surface, it’s also responsible for much of the mechanical barrier effects of the body’s largest organ.

Keratin-o-cytes, which are generally referred to as “skin cells”, are born in the bottom layer of the skin and they gradually rise to the top, becoming more and more filled with keratin. By the time a skin cell has made it from the bottom layer to the surface, it is no longer alive but is essentially a cell remnant or a shell almost completely packed with keratin to the point where it is actually a little more than a hardened little speck of protein. At this point, it is no longer called a keratin-o-cyte. It is now known as a corneo-cyte which means “hardened cell”. The coalescence of corne-o-cytes on the cutaneous surface comprises the stratum corneum layer, the technical name for the very tippy top of the skin which is directly exposed to the environment. Stratum corneum is Latin for “hardened layer” and it gets its name from the corne-o-cytes (hard cell) that compose it.

This transformation of keratin-o-cyte into corne-o-cyte is a complicated affair. Defects in this process (known as “differentiation”) are responsible for many skin issues including acne, eczema and psoriasis. These health challenges are generally referred to as differentiation diseases because, while morphing into a corne-o-cyte, the keratin-o-cyte takes on different shapes. The movement of cells from the lower layer of the skin to the upper layer is tightly regulated. If there are any defects in the structure or chemistry of skin cells (i.e. keratin-o-cyte) this process can go awry and disease can result.

For example, if skin chemistry is somehow not proceeding correctly (usually subsequent to inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, and lack of oxygen as well as toxicity) cells may produce way too much keratin, and the end result can be little hard bumps called milea or keratosis. This type of biochemical dysfunction is also associated with acne lesions and pimples. Because all illness is cell illness, all disease is cell disease and all physical dysfunction is cell dysfunction, if you think you are dealing with milea or zits or any other skin issue, in reality you have a skin cell (keratin-o-cyte) issue.

Skin cells, like all cells, make chemicals. The production of these chemicals is dependent on fats and fatty vitamins, none of which are more important than Vitamin A, which I call Vitamin A-nabolic (anabolic = building) because it is so fundamental for the construction of biological structures, i.e. cells. While most vitamins are helpers, supporting the work of other biochemicals, Vitamin A is no mere assistant. It represents nothing less than a molecular “on- switch” for activating chemical synthesis in keratin-o-cytes, and this makes it the quintessential skin health nutrient. When it comes to addressing bumpy skin or milea, or any other skin health issue, making sure you’re getting enough Vitamin A from foods and supplementation is very important

Vitamin A deficiencies can be approached from two angles. The first angle involves the intake side of things, which means supplementing. A daily 10-20,000 i.u. dose is a good place to start. If your keratosis is really bad you may want to take 30,000 i.u. for a couple of days. Because Vitamin A and the sunshine nutrient Vitamin D act as partners, you want to be using both; make sure you’re getting some sun exposure or, if that’s not possible, supplement with Vitamin D3 (maybe 5000 IU). Keep in mind the kind of Vitamin D that our skin cells make in response to the sun is more effective than food or supplemental Vitamin D.

There’s a second approach to take when it comes to milea and the little bumps and that is to use topical Vitamin A. The best form is retinoic acid, which requires a doctor’s prescription. Retinoic acid comes in various strengths of which 0.1% is the strongest, and that’s what I’d be using for treating skin on the body. For little bumps on the more delicate skin, like on the face or underneath the eyes, or if you simply can’t handle a 0.1% strength, try one of the other strengths of retinoic acid, either a 0.05% or 0.025% strength. You can also use a gentler and more accessible Vitamin A substance called retinol which can be just as helpful and doesn’t require a prescription. However, because retinol is not as potent as retinoic acid, you’re going to need a 2.0 to 5.0 % concentration for best skin smoothing effects.

Exfoliation can also help reduce the formation of milea bumps. You can use a loofa pad or even a washcloth to unclog pores and eliminate bumps, or you can use alpha or beta hydroxy acids. Look for cleansers and toners that contain ingredients like lactic acid, glycolic acid or salicylic acid. Don’t overuse, lest the skin becomes irritated. For most folks, applying these types of products 2-4 times a week is enough to change the quality and texture of the skin and permanently eliminate milea. Applying retinol or retinoic acid after exfoliation can create a synergistic effect that can produce more significant results than you’ll get from using the two ingredients separately.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health, Skin Care

Eczema Has Been a Recognized Skin Disease for Millennia

By Ben Fuchs | PharmacistBen

Eczema Has Been a Recognized Skin Disease for Millennia

Eczema or Dermatitis of the hand. Image credit: James Heilman, MD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL ], via Wikimedia

(PharmacistBen) One of the most interesting aspects of the cells that make up the surface of the skin is their multi-functionality. While mostly known for their protective barrier properties, the living beings colloquially known as “skin cells” (and more technically as “keratinocytes” in honor of their most prolific extrusion, the fingernail like protein called keratin) are much more than a cellular shield. “Skin cells” are biochemical dynamos, each one producing, secreting and becoming ultimately a wide range of very functional chemicals.

“Skin cells” make vitamin D, they produce prodigious quantities of skin fats (lipids), and they are also the source of many hormone chemicals. Some, like cortisol, are involved in obvious skin functions like protection. Others, like the nervous system’s serotonin and dopamine, make the skin a type of brain appendage. Not to forget pheromones, which are involved in less obvious skin functions, like signaling, sexual attraction and fertility.

One of the less apparent roles of keratinocytes (“skin cells”) involves the production of inflammatory chemicals known as prostaglandins and cytokines. Although these chemicals are supposed help keep local invaders sequestered, they also can be produced and activated in a less specific way by systemic immune responses to foods or other ingested substances. When this occurs, regulation and control of skin cell production and development can be impaired. They can cause cells to grow in a messed up, chaotic, out-of-control fashion. This is at least partially the genesis of many skin health issues, including acne and psoriasis.

One of the more troubling inflammatory skin health issues is eczema, an itchy, unpleasant condition that affects tens of millions of people worldwide. Here in the USA, a substantial proportion of the population suffers from the uncomfortable and sometimes unattractive symptoms of eczema. According to the American Eczema Association, one out of ten (nearly 32 million people) have the disease, which is characterized by defects in the development of the skin surface barrier. It’s most notably caused by the inflammation associated with the secretion of defensive prostaglandins and cytokines, stimulated by perceived threats, whether introduced to the skin internally from the food toxicity and digestive difficulties via the blood or occasionally by topical contact.

Although eczema has been a recognized skin disease for millennia, (ancient Egyptian recommendations recorded on papyrus suggest honey salves as a treatment), the medical model remains so mystified by how to address it, that most modern treatments available today (typically steroid creams) haven’t substantially changed in decades.

The inflammatory aspect of eczema makes it a classic type defensive skin disease. Inflammation is the calling card of the immune system, and eczematous skin is a sign that the body is protecting itself. This protective response is what we call inflammation, and it affects how skin cells grow and ultimately how surface barrier is formed. The end result is the raw, rashy symptomology of eczema.

While the dermatologist strategy for dealing with this distress and discomfort involves suppression of the defenses with steroid creams and ointments, at best this can only give temporary and symptomatic relief. The most effective, intelligent and non-medical way to address eczema is to eliminate the stimulus of the defensive response by first asking the logical question: what is the offending agent? Food and digestion are almost always involved, and yes, gluten is a possible suspect. But there’s no way of knowing what you are reacting to without linking skin flare-ups and digestive symptoms (like gas, constipation or heartburn) to specific foods.

Nutritional supplements can be helpful too. Essential fatty acids, fatty vitamins, especially A, (20, 000 iu daily), D (5000 iu daily), lots of sunshine exposure are important. While minerals like zinc picolinate (50mg daily) and selenium Monomethionine or chelate (400 mcg daily) can be helpful too. I hope that helps. Also, it’s important to keep in mind: It’s not just what you “take”, it’s also what you absorb. Digestive distress and malabsorbtion (especially fat mal-absorption) often accompany eczema as well as other skin conditions.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Skin Care

Good News If You Love Butter and Cheese

By Ben Fuchs | PharmacistBen

Good News If You Love Butter and Cheese

Butter at the Borough Market in London. Image credit: Charles Haynes [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia

(PharmacistBen) If you love butter and cheese you’re gonna love this: Last week a study was published in the respected British Medical Journal showing evidence that 60 years of government and medical convention linking cardiovascular disease to fat consumption was based on bad science.

The article scientifically corroborated last years’ Time Magazine cover story on the failures of the so-called “Lipid Hypothesis” (lipid is the scientific designation for fat) , which incorrectly blamed excessive consumption of dairy products, meat and other fatty foods for heart attacks. The article entitled “Eat Butter” admitted that after years or proclaiming fats as villains, as it turns out, they may have been mistaken.Now in fairness, Time Magazine and representatives of the medical model can be forgiven for their ignorance. Fats are confusing. There’s good fats, bad fats, shorts fat, long fats saturated fats and unsaturated fats and because of their tremendous diversity and functionality, no aspect of nutrition or diet is harder to understand than the chemistry of lipids.

Dietary and nutritional fats are called triglycerides. They’re composed of building blocks called “fatty acids” which come in three sizes large, medium and small. While they all three play an important role in keeping the body healthy the effects of the short fats or as they are more technically called, short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), is particularly significant, if unrecognized. These little molecular fatty structures play an especially huge role in the health of the intestine and via this link they have can affect the whole body.

SCFAs are made in the large intestine by fiber munching bacteria which secrete the fatty molecules as a byproduct. SCFAs can also be ingested via the diet. From the intestine these tiny lipids readily enter into the blood circulation and travel throughout the body eventually entering into the brain.

An increase in SCFA concentration in the blood is one of the main signals for appetite suppression. In essence SCFAs biochemically curb the appetite and in essence represent a type fat that helps you drop pounds. Eat butter, lose weight! While it may seem like fat is fat and all just sits around on our thighs or hips and does nothing, from a biology perspective fats are quite active as messenger molecules telling the body and brain what’s happening in the digestive system. They are signaling molecules and once this is understood it becomes clear why the outdated dietician and medical advice to avoid all fat is bad science and bad health advice.

Short fats can have brain health benefits too, especially when comes to calming things down. This fact explains the important link between the intestine and the brain, the so-called gut-brain axis, and its relationship to the development of schizophrenia, autism and mental health issues in general. Via this SCFA mechanism, the somewhat counter-intuitive notion (after all the intestine is located about as far away from the brain as you can get!) that what we eat affects how we think can be explained.

All SCFAs have a calming effect but the most significant as far as relaxation benefits are concerned is called butyric acid,the chemical that gives butter is characteristic qualities and taste. The bacteria that produce butyric acid kick into high gear when food is scarce and many researchers believe this is the mechanism behind the health benefits associate with fasting.

And butyric acid derivatives induced by caloric restriction may have a mitigating effect on pain and inflammation. That’s what’s scientists from Yale School of Medicine concluded in an article that was published in the journal “Nature Medicine”. Even more significantly, the researchers found that these benefits may extend to health challenges like atherosclerosis, diabetes and dementias that are typically not associated with inflammatory pain.

All of this means that upregulating butyric acid and increasing its levels in the blood can be one of the most important and effective of all dietary health strategies. Enjoying butter and cheese, nature’s richest sources of butyric acid is a good idea. And, because butyric acid is produced by a reaction between fiber and microbes that live in the large intestine you want to make sure you’ve got enough good bacteria and you’re ingesting generous amounts of veggies, mushrooms and fruits. Get yourself on a good probiotic supplement, look for multiple strains of bacteria and use a daily dose of 10-50 billion units and make sure you’re eating lots of fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso soup and fresh, non-pasteurized kefir and yogurt

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Old Man’s Disease is More Prevalent Than Anyone Suspects

By Ben Fuchs | PharmacistBen

“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore…”
-Andre Gide

Old Man’s Disease

Image credit: Ahmet Demirel [Public domain]

(PharmacistBen) I love my dad. He gave us kids everything he could: love, money, attention, and most of all he was always there for us when the chips were down. When I was young, I thought my dad knew everything. Unfortunately, as I got older I realized my dad only thought he knew everything. I used to call this condition of all-knowingness “Old Man’s Disease” (OMD) which I defined as the mental condition that causes us to believe that we know everything. Sufferers of Old Man’s Disease know how all things were, are, and will be. And the victims of this affliction can’t be told anything that will change their minds. Like most OMD patients, my dad knew about health and politics and history and how to handle anything household. In fact, when confronted with a conundrum or a challenge, I don’t think I ever heard him say “I don’t know.”

And don’t think you have to be a man or even be old to have OMD. Old Man’s Disease is more prevalent than anyone suspects. How often do you say “I don’t know”? If you’re like most of us, not a lot. I sure don’t. Of course if you asked me to do some incredibly difficult math problem or you were to pepper me with Jeopardy style trivia questions, I would have to plead ignorance more often than not. But as far as the decisions and dilemmas that most of us deal with on day to day basis, we typically don’t plead ignorance. There’s not much in our daily lives we “feel” like we don’t know.

And this ubiquitous illusory sense of all-knowingness may not be our faults. According to Nobel-prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman writing in his book “Thinking Fast and Slow,” this know-it-all tendency is part of our genetic heritage and is a feature of what he calls System One, a part of our awareness that evolved to deal with potential survival threats represented by the unknown. Kahneman says System One operates on a survival imperative, reacting first and asking questions later. This part of our built-in decision-making apparatus is fast-acting, automatic, intuitive, and non-rational. When we see a photograph of a snarling lion or a cop having a bad day, it’s the part of us that knows that it’s looking at the appearance of anger and it arrives at its conclusion instantaneously, without deliberation or rationalization. And what’s worse, it never questions its assessments. It simply “knows.”

The problem with our sense of certainty and knowingness is that it has a tendency to close us off from new ideas and concepts. There’s a type of tyranny to knowledge. How many wars have been fought and how many people have died because someone ”knew” what was good and right and moral. In our personal lives, “knowing” closes us off from exploration and originality. Knowing is the antithesis of curiosity. And worst of all, knowing can shackle possibilities and potentials, for when we “know” how and what something is and we “know” how and what something is not we will be less likely to look for possibility. On the other hand, when we open ourselves up to “I don’t know” through acknowledging our ignorance and diving into the mysterious un-known, we can experience an entirely different universe and a brand new reality. The boredom and ennui that inextricably linked to our tired old way of doing and being will give way to thrillingness and excitement, a freshness that is the chief feature of the nascent and new.

The hallmark of human consciousness is our capability for creativity and innovation. It’s what is called genius and is marked by the ability to come up with original solutions and conclusions. But to access that genius we need to be able to step outside our familiar cognitive frameworks and resist the urge to fill in the blanks of unknowing with our preconceived notions and antiquated answers. We need to respect the unknown and the mystery and by extension what could and might be. Perhaps D.H Lawrence expressed it best in his 1922 book “The Fantasia of the Unconscious” when he wrote: “The supreme lesson of human consciousness is to learn how not to know.”

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Perspective

The Importance of Prostaglandins, or “Worker Bees”

By Ben Fuchs | PharmacistBen

The Importance of Prostaglandins, or "Worker Bees"

Worker Bees. Image credit: Todd Huffman from Phoenix, AZ (Lattice) [CC BY 2.0]

(PharmacistBen) There are 3 main types of hormones that can be distinguished by the speed of their activity, that is, how fast they accomplish their effects. The slowest acting ones, called endocrine hormones travel through the blood starting in structures called glands and accomplish their effects when they reach specific cells. Others called exocrine hormones don’t require a blood highway; rather they are squirted via specialized ducts directly into body cavities like the abdomen or through the skin. The digestive system is especially dependent upon these types of hormones as are the so-called pheromones, chemicals of sexual attraction that are secreted cutaneously into the external environment.

The third hormone category is composed of ultra-fast acting substances called autocrine or paracrine hormones, a term that refers to the fact that, while other hormones that travel through the body or external to it, these substances work in the immediate vicinity of the cells that make them. This allows reactions to happen instantaneously without requiring the brain or the nervous system to be involved. One of the most important of these types of hormones is a class of fatty substances called prostaglandins. It’s hard to really appreciate how unbelievably important these things are.

Prostaglandins and other similar compounds with similar ultra-fast acting functionality (“leukotrienes,” “thromboxanes,” and “nitric oxide,” for example) are the worker bees of the body which is and has to be highly responsive to the environment. Hormones, in general, can be considered to be the mediating element between our environment and our biochemistry; something happens in the environment and a biochemical change is imitated via the activity which functions as a middle man between sights, sounds, and other environmental signals and the body. Prostaglandins and similar substances function in this fashion but much more quickly than other hormones. They’re automatic in the sense that they are a cell response to an environmental change that can occur without the involvement of the brain or glands. This allows them to work super-fast. You see something or think a thought or have an injury and instantly prostaglandins are affected, and a response is initiated. Instantly! And it’s this biochemical instantaneity that gives the body its amazing rapid responsiveness.

In fact, even though many folks haven’t really heard of prostaglandins and less know much about these fatty substances that are essentially an activated form of essential fatty acids, they can be considered among the most powerful and important, if not THE MOST powerful and important molecules in the body and perhaps in all of biology. Even though prostaglandins were initially discovered in the 1930’s, it really wasn’t until the late 20th century that the extreme importance of these molecules was really understood. In fact, even up until 1982, prostaglandin chemistry was so mysterious that that year, the Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to a three European physicians for their work in elucidating the diverse and important roles prostaglandins play in the body.

These days, even though prostaglandins are still somewhat unappreciated, drug companies have become quite fond of their money-making potential. Remember, these things are powerful, and blocking them (and sometimes mimicking them) is big bux for the pharmaco medical model. Prostaglandin chemistry is the target for numerous over-the-counter and prescription drugs, most notably anti-inflammatories including aspirin and Motrin and Naprosyn or Aleve, which all work by suppressing or inhibiting the effects of prostaglandins. The most recent prostaglandin drugs are called COX 2 inhibitors, and these work by blocking an enzyme called COX 2 which has the effect of shutting down prostaglandin synthesis. This is a classic example of the utter stupidity and biochemical ignorance of the pharmaco medical model of health. Given the extremily importand nature of prostaglandins, who could ever think blocking their production is an intelligent and therapeutically valid strategy? The reason prostaglandin-blocking medications are the leading cause of drug toxicity and one of the leading causes of drug-induced deaths is because we’re not supposed to me be monkeying around with this stupendously important biochemical family!

Interestingly, while the pharmaco medical model perceives blocking the formation of prostaglandins as somehow beneficial, shutting down inflammation or muscle contractions to reduce cramping, as it turns out, prostaglandin deficiencies are potentially major health issues. A lot of degenerative diseases are associated with prostaglandin deficiencies and when you understand how important the hormone chemicals are, the side effects associated with prostaglandin-blocking drugs are hardly surprising. Think about it: prostaglandins regulate, control, mediate, and are involved with almost every single biochemical reaction in the body. How is it possible NOT to have side effects and toxicity from prostaglandin-blocking drugs? Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and aspirin are especially recognized for their toxicity to the kidneys and digestive tract and these reactions can be directly attributed to their prostaglandin suppressant activates. Some of you may remember a couple pf years ago Vioxx and Bextra, two COX 2 inhibitor drugs that reduced the production of prostaglandins, had to be taken off the market because of their unfortunate predisposition to causing heart disease. Again the question must be asked: given the wide ranging effect of prostaglandins in the body, given their effects on every single biochemical process, how is it possible that these kinds of drugs CANNOT cause side effects and toxicity? These days, the only COX 2 inhibitor that’s available is Celebrex, and while it apparently doesn’t have the same toxic profile as the other Cox 2 inhibitors that were discontinued, anytime you monkey around with prostaglandin production, you’re asking for trouble.

One of the most significant aspects of prostaglandins is the fact that we can be deficient. In fact, prostaglandin deficiency may be a common denominator in many if not most chronic degenerative and inflammatory disease INCLUDING auto-immunity. Prostaglandin deficiencies may be much more common than anyone recognizes and when we consider the key relationship between essential fatty acids, fat metabolism and fat absorption (or fat MAL absorption) and the production of prostaglandins, this should surprise no one. This is also why improving fat absorption is a key health strategy for reversing almost all chronic degenerative diseases. And it’s why supplementation with essential fatty acids is so important no matter what kind of degenerative health challenges we’re trying to address.

Pretty much all essential nutrients have some relationship to prostaglandin production or activity, and understanding how these things work is critical if we are going to be able to harness and leverage healthy chemistry and mitigate the disease process. The most important point or at least one of the most important points about prostaglandins is the fact that they are forms of essential fatty acids. Basically, we ingest essential fatty acids through foods or supplements, and they get converted into prostaglandins as needed. Prostaglandin deficiency is very common and associated with a lot of if not all degenerative diseases. You can’t take prostaglandins to “up” your prostaglandin levels, but you can use essential fatty acids in foods or supplementally which will ultimately allow you to MAKE more prostaglandins and eliminate deficiency states.

There’s a very interesting essential fat derivative called GLA, which can be thought of as an activated form of omega -6 fats, and which itself is activated to ultimately form prostaglandins. This makes GLA a very helpful supplement for a lot of health issues, especially ones that involve the skin. Borage oil is nature’s best source of GLA and contains around 25 percent or so of the important substance, which is pretty amazing, considering the stuff is so rare. Other good sources of GLA include evening primrose oil and black current oil, but neither has the GLA concentration of the oil that comes from the seeds of the Borage plant which is also known as “starflower”. Hempseed oil has a little GLA and so does barley. Spirulina contains some GLA also, and a little GLA can be made by the body. There’s also a GMO form of safflower oil that has been tweaked genetically and produces super high contents of GLA. Up to 40 percent of GMO safflower oil can be GLA, but of course then you’ll be dealing with genetic modifications that may not be in your long-term health interest. Recently super-high GLA safflower oil has been created via genetic modification which according to the company that developed it, Arcadia Biosciences, is up to 65 percent GLA which is pretty astounding. The primary market for this kind of super high GLA content oil is in the nutritional supplement market and you can expect to see more and more GLA nutritional capsules available that feature this high-tech “creation”. There’s lots of upside to GLA, especially when it comes to skin health, but because inflammation plays such an important role in the disease process and because GLA is such an effective anti-inflammatory, pretty much all health conditions can benefit by GLA supplementation.

The whole nature of anti-inflammation and inflammation, because of its importance and relevance to health and disease is worth spending a couple moments on.

Basically prostaglandins mediate all inflammatory process and also provide a balance to inflammation. The body is constantly balancing opposing biochemical processes. Excitation and Inhibition of brain cells contraction and relaxation of muscles and dilation and constriction of blood vessels are all examples of antagonistic processes that occur in the body and that must be controlled and balanced to keep us healthy. You can add inflammation and anti-inflammation to this list as examples of balancing actions that occur in the body.

The prostaglandin control of this balance is, as you might expect, mediated by opposing types of prostaglandins. There are pro inflammatory prostaglandins and there are anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. The prostaglandins involved with inflammation are derived from Omega-6 EFAs (with the notable exception of GLA, which is anti-inflammatory) and the ones associated with anti-inflammation are associated with Omega-3s. This is why you’ll hear nutritionists and dieticians associate too much inflammation with excess ingestion of Omega -6 containing oils. Omega-3 containing oils are much harder to find in nature and certainly they are much harder to obtain from the standard American diet, which feature vegetable oils derived from Omega-6 grains. It’s generally understood that we should be getting somewhere around 2 or 3 or maybe 4 parts Omega 6 EFAs for every 1 part omega -3 to maintain an optimum relationship between inflammation and anti-inflammation. EFAs are unusual among essential nutrients in the sense that their complexity makes it difficult to assess individual requirements. In other words, no one really knows how much we need of each, how much we need in total, and what the exact proportion of Omega 6s to omega 3’s is appropriate. In day to day real life, lots of factors influence need. If we’re growing or healing or exercising and building muscle, we need more. If we’re not getting enough anti-oxidant, on the other hand, we should probably be using lower daily doses as these fats are unstable and easily destroyed by oxidation. Sometimes EFAs can be displaced by saturated and/or processed fats, so our EFA needs are increased if we’re eating a lot of trans-, hydrogenated or otherwise processed fats. Some disease states, particularly diabetes, can influence how well Omega 6 can get converted into GLA so that prostaglandins can be made. In other words diabetics may not make this conversion effectively leading to GLA deficiency. This makes essential fatty acids especially important for diabetics or even pre-diabetics (which covers most of us).

What is clear is the fact that the Standard American diet, however, is way overloaded with Omega-6 consisting of LA rich oils like soy and safflower and corn. Now, that does not necessarily mean that we’re getting the actual EFAs. Remember, these oils are heavily processed and heated and no one really knows how much Omega 6 we’re getting at the end of the day. In any case, EFA deficiency is probably a much more significant health issue than anyone can guess.. Even something as seemingly trivial and benign as, ambient humidity can have a significant impact on skin biochemistry and that means prostaglandins, which are an early mediator of between the environment and the body and especially the skin. In addition to ambient humidity, the skin is also sensate to temperature, sun, toxicity, and NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCY!

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health