Rosacea: More Than Skin Deep

Rosacea: More Than Skin Deep

Photo by Brodie Vissers from Burst

By Ben Fuchs | PharmacistBen
Rosacea is a distressing and psychologically debilitating skin condition that affects an astounding 16 million or 5 percent of Americans. If you believe recent reports from the National Rosacea Society (NRS), the figures may be even worse. In a Harvard Medical School study, NRS researchers found a prevalence rate for rosacea of 16 percent in Caucasian women and an overall rosacea incidence of nearly 10 percent ina total population that also included Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, and Indians.

Rosacea, a Latin term that can be defined as “rose-colored”, shows up as redness on the cheeks and nasal area, although it sometimes involves oily skin, at which point it acquires the moniker “seborrhea”. In some especially unfortunate patients, blemishes and pustules can form and the skin around the nose can become thickened. Even more disturbing is rosacea that affects the eye, a condition that can result in ocular dryness, grittiness, and a burning sensation. Still, despite its appearance, rosacea is best thought of not as a skin or eye problem, but rather as a circulatory one. This should be obvious, as the dilated blood vessels that are the featured characteristic of the rosacea patient, are located, not on top of the skin, but rather in the blood vessels located in the deeper tissues below.

Still, dermatologists and estheticians, as well as their patients, address the surface of the skin as the main target of therapies to alleviate the distressing ruddiness of rosacea. If you go to a skin care professional to treat the condition, more than likely, you’re going to leave with a prescription or suggestion for a topical cream or lotion, most often an antibiotic and occasionally an anti-inflammatory steroid. Sometimes laser therapy is suggested and occasionally exfoliation and skin peels are used. Recently, a pharmaceutical company called Foamix announced, with great fanfare, the results of a study on a new product called FMX 103, that showed a “statistically significant” reduction in lesions and pustules of rosacea patients. FMX 103 is a patented foaming, retooled version of minocycline, an old-time antibiotic that has been used to treat various skin conditions for 50 years.

The problem with the use of topical treatments for rosacea is that they, like most medical interventions, do not deal with the causes of the condition. Because the disease involves internal biochemical breakdowns, not addressing these internal mechanisms that lead to the sur-face symptomology can have ramifications for the patient’s future health. Some non-dermatological health issues that can develop in the rosacea patient over time include allergies, respiratory diseases, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), diabetes, urogenital diseases, and female hormone imbalances.  Other recent studies have found increased risks of inflammatory bowel disease and brain cancer. Recently, according to an article published in the journal “The Dermatologist”, researchers announced that individuals with rosacea are at greater risk for dementia and Alzheimer disease.

Because rosacea involves blood vessel dilation, a red flag indicator for blood-borne toxicity, the first place to look for a cause is the digestive tract. Unless substances are injected or otherwise enter into the circulation through the skin (as in through wounds or burns), the intestine is always the likely port of entry into the blood, as one of its major roles of the intestine is to effectively facilitate the movement of substances into the circulation. Significantly, as all rosacea pates know, the flushing that is associated with the condition can be dramatically increased by the ingestion of certain substances, including tea, coffee, alcohol, dairy, legumes, grains, and spicy meals.

Thus the most important anti-rosacea strategy is to look for digestive allergies or intolerances and eliminate problem foods. Caloric restriction and fasting can reduce the burden on the intestine and may also be helpful. Use probiotics and fermented foods to restore intestinal bacterial flora (interestingly, the anti-biotics so often used to address rosacea can have negatively impact gut bacteria). Because rosacea can be linked to low stomach acid, use apple cider vinegar, betaine HCL and perhaps prescribed hydrochloric acid drops (available through compounding pharmacies) before meals. Beginning meals with bitter substances like radishes, arugula or dandelion greens can improve secretion of digestive juices.

Other ideas for the rosacea patient:

Avoid refined sugars and carbs, they exacerbate inflammation and can stimulate the production of skin oils.

Because emotional stress can cause inflammation and induce vasodilation, use relaxation strategies, massage, deep breathing techniques and hot baths can be especially useful.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), a procedure which utilizes a special chamber to drive high-pressure oxygen into the blood might help. Dr. Julian Whitaker, MD reported that one of his patients cleared up her rosacea after one HBOT session. According to a June 1972 article published in the British Journal of Dermatology, in 6 separate dermatological cases in which previous methods of therapy were unsatisfactory, HBOT treatment led to successful outcomes. Many hospitals have hyperbaric oxygen chambers that are available to the public and independent treatment centers can be found in most big cities.

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) supplements may be helpful. A March 1943 paper published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology found that 32 of 36 patients dealing with rosacea of the eye “had prompt healing of the corneal lesions -usually within four days.”. Try 100-200 mg of riboflavin daily taken with the entire B-complex.

Posted by publisher in Health

Our Immune System: Nature’s Perfect Machine

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

The human immune system is an amazing, complex, intricate biological framework of structures and processes that is exquisitely designed to protect the body from a wide variety of pathological agents. It is composed of countless cellular and subcellular mechanisms that gives it an intelligence and flexibility that is nothing short of miraculous. B cells and T cells, and Natural Killer cells (that’s really what they’re called!) and immunoglobulins all coordinated and synchronized and astoundingly effective, in most cases the immune system is all that stands between us and potential disaster caused by bacterial, viral and environmental invasion. Without an immune system you would be dead in hours.Immune SystemThat’s why, in the world of toxic pharmaceutical drugs, among the worst, are drugs that suppress the immune system. The medical community loves these drugs as many of the health challenges patients face today involve excessive immune activity, misdirected immune action or inflammation which can be regarded as the obvious manifestations of the immune system. Prednisone, and its derivatives, has long been a mainstay of treatment for immune based disease states. Many drugs for asthma and rheumatoid arthritis are likewise immune suppressants. And just last week, a study appeared in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases that suggested that the immunosuppressant anti-cancer drug Gleevec (imatinib) showed promise for treating the autoimmune disease of the connective tissue called scleroderma.

Folks, please understand: suppression of the immune system is serious business. It’s playing with biochemical fire. The immune system is nature’s way of protecting the body from assault and knocking it out in the name of good health is flat out bad medicine. The appropriate response to an overactive immune system is NOT to shut it down! The correct response is to try to figure out why it’s overactive. If your baby is crying and you put duct tape on his mouth, you may not hear him crying any more, but you aren’t taking very good care of your baby. Likewise, a hyperactive immune system that is showing up as scleroderma or lupus or rheumatoid arthritis can be shut down, but you aren’t doing your body (baby) any favors.

The typical entrée for pathological invader is the digestive tract and it logically follows that hyperimmunity is linked to digestion. If you are suffering through any immune challenge, addressing food allergies or otherwise problematic responses to foods is imperative. And, there are important nutritional supplements that can be important too. Probiotics like Youngevity’s Flora FX or the Biolumin Nightly Essence can be helpful. So can the Ultimate Enzymes. And, liquid supplements like the Beyond Tangy Tangerine can provide effective nutrition without burdening an already stressed out digestive system.

Yes, clearly there are times when immune suppression can be an effective stopgap pharmaceutical strategy, but stifling immunity is a dangerous road to hoe and those times are few and far between. Shutting down the immune system for symptomatic relief needs to be a temporary measure and a last resort. On the other hand, as the Greek physician Hippocrates reminded us 24 centuries ago: “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment …we would have found the safest way to health.” In other words, good nutrition is good medicine.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Incredible Immune System

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

By making a few simple changes and by applying some good old fashioned mind power, we can begin immediately to change our health for the better. And it doesn’t matter whether our health concern is weight loss, acne, high blood pressure or even cancer. Because of the body’s remarkable ability to heal itself, and make no mistake about, the body does indeed heal itself. For example, did you know that according to scientists at Texas Tech University and Cornell University, allergy sufferers are far less likely to contract cancer than everyone else? That’s because allergies activate the body’s healing and defense mechanisms which are collectively known as the immune system, and the activated immune system not only responds to allergies but also helps fight cancers too. When you get a cut, thousands and thousands of germs and viruses can get into your body, if you get splinter, now you’ve got a big invader in your body. Lymphatic System is part of Immune SystemNo problem! The immune system kicks in, destroys the germs and viruses, and walls off the splinter and seals the wound. If it happens to miss something which it does occasionally, no problem. The immune system kicks in with a second phase of activity and you may see some inflammation and pus which is nothing more than evidence of a functioning immune system. Every day we swallow and inhale many thousands of germs and viruses and toxins and pollutants and these too are destroyed by the immune system. In the unlikely event a germ or virus gets through, we catch a cold or the flu or some kind of infection and once again this is nothing more than evidence that the immune system is doing its job in a kind of phase two fashion. Most of the time it will eventually it takes care of the infection and we’ll get over our cold or flu or whatever.You see folks this defense mechanism we call the immune system is charged with healing the body from many of the assaults that we turn to doctors and drugs to treat. The immune system is responsible for fighting colds flues, infections, sinusitis, sore throats, bacteria, viruses even cancers. And my friends that is without needing doctors appointments, emergency room visits, insurance companies or anti-bionics. The immune system simply needs to be cultivated with good nutritional and health practices. If you’re one of those folks that seems to get sick every time there’s a “bug’ going around or if you’re paranoid about touching door handles or that neighbor or employee in the next cubicle with sneezy, runny nose or hacking cough, the bright side is you no longer have to be concerned. If it’s taking you two or three rounds of different more potent antibiotic to get rid of a cold that used to be gone after one round or if you’re even thinking about getting the flu vaccine, the bright side is you’re no longer going to need a shot OR antibiotics. If you’re kids are getting chronic ear infections, sore throats or stomach flu, the bright side is that can all be put behind you. Sure there is a time and a place for anti biotic medicine and heroic intervention and as a pharmacist I am well versed in the importance of emergency medicine or the miracles provided by anti biotic treatment. Antibiotics have saved countless millions of lives in last 80 years and if you have a nasty pneumonia or staph infection there’s no better way to treat it than with a couple weeks of penicillin or Cipro. The debate is not about the importance of antibiotics, it’s about our dependence on them. You see, the trick to wellness is to support the immune system so our bodies don’t reach the point where we need the anti-biotics. You see what I’m saying? Our immune system, when it’s strong and vital should be able to take care of most common bacteria and viruses.. so the trick here is to commit ourselves to lifestyle choices that support our bodies abilities to withstand these assaults. To support our immune systems with our choices and habits so that they are robust and vigorous and perform their divinely mandated role of defending our cells and tissues and organs. So they can defend us. But in order to make appropriate choices we first have to understand we we’re dealing with here. So lets talk a little bit about the immune system.The immune system simple put is the defense department of the body charged with protecting us from invaders from and from within. The immune system is everywhere in the body , it’s not localized to one part of the body or one organ system, but rather it is composed of billions of specialized cells that float around throughout the body especially in the skin, nostrils, lungs, digestive tract and the linings of our internal organs. Some cells float around as patrolling soldiers others stand guard in the linings of our blood vessels and organs. Mucous plays a critical role in the functioning of the immune system, by trapping and blocking the effects of dust, allergens, bacteria, viruses and other invaders. The skin is one of the most important components of the immune system and in a way you could even refer to the skin itself as an immune organ. Many so-called skin diseases like psoriasis, eczema, rashes and even many instances of acne are really nothing more than the activation of the skins immune response. And by immune response, I simply mean a defense response, sort of like those sirens that go off when a city is being attacked by enemy bombs.

One of the main routes or highways for immune cells to travel through is a vast network of vessels and nodes, totaling hundreds of miles. Collectively called the lymphatic system, most people are hardly aware of this critical transport system for the body’s defense department. The lymphatic circulation is similar to the blood circulation except instead of blood it carries a white substance called lymph. Lymph fluid bathe all the cells with nutrients and oxygen and sugars and then it is re-circulated throughout the lymph vessel system. The Lymphatic system also acts as a drainage system and cellular debris, bacteria, viruses and other invaders are all carried and drained away by lymph fluid. One problem with lymph circulation is unlike blood circulation which is pumped throughout the body by the action of the heart, the lymph has no pump. It depends on muscle motion for its flow. This is one reason why exercise is so important. If you’re overweight or sedentary you can end up with lymphatic congestion where the lymph fluid isn’t flowing like it should. This can lead to cells not getting the nutrients that they need or, even worse, lymphatic congestion can cause bacteria and viruses and other toxins to pool up. The combination of cells not being nourished and toxins building up can cause metabolic disorders, infections and accelerated aging. Get yourself a rebounder, a mini trampoline you can buy at an exercise equipment store or on-line. Its one of the best ways to make sure lymphatic fluid is moving around as it should. The up dand down jumping motion is ideal for moving lymph fluid around. Get some exercise, go to the gym. A brisk walk can help. You can even have lymphatic massage done, where a health professional, physically manipulates the lymphatic vessels to break up blockages. Drinking enough fluids can also help to dilute lymph, thereby improving circulation. As lymph fluid flow through the body it stops at many thousands of different, collecting points, called nodes, lymph nodes which are small bean shaped complexes that act to filter the lymph and kill the bad guys, the viruses and germs and poisons. Lymph nodes also trap cancers and produce white blood cells the main solders of the immune sytem. The white blood cells, technically called lymphocytes are divided into two main classes T and B cells are the true superstars of the bodies defense system. They travel around the blood, mostly in a resting state until they’re activated by the enemy at which point they pump up chemicals like anti-bodies (love that word!) that prepare the enemy for destruction. Can you begin to see how cool the human body is? These T and B cells are also produced in the bone marrow. B cells stay in the bone but T cells are passed on to the thymus a gland near the top of the lungs and behind the breastbone. Both T cells and b cells travel through the lymphatic system and the lymph nodes.

The main lymph nodes are in the armpits, the groin, under the jaw, behind the ears and both sides of the neck where your doctor will check for swelling if you’ve got a cold or some kind of infection. If you have some kind of infection or abscesses or even cancer you may end up with swollen or painful lymph nodes. Pressing on a lymph node and feeling swelling or pain or warmth or tenderness means something’s up, because usually you can’t tell where a lymph node is. A major concentration of lymphatic tissue is in the spleen, which makes houses white blood cells among other things.

The spleen also acts as a filter for foreign cells and other invaders. If you have you’re spleen removed you’re going to get sick more often unless you take extra care of your immune system.

A major component of the lymphatic system is the digestive tract. So called GALT, gut associated lymphatic tissue is located throughout the digestive system and in fact makes the intestine the largest mass of lymphatic tissue in the body. The tonsils and adenoids and the appendix as well as the intestines all contain lymphatic tissue that is associated with the digestive system.

The lymphatic system is so important for the immune system that it can pretty much be considered your immune circulatory sytem. Keeping your kidneys and bowels operating properly is critical for lymphatic health. And anything you can do to improve the elimination of waste from the body is going to play an important role in maintaining a healthy lymphatic system and immune system in general. One of the best things you can do to make sure that your lymph and immune system is operating optimally is get yourself on whey protein. First of all whey protein can have beneficial effects on the good bacteria that live in the colon. Good bacteria help process toxins and germs and they improve bowel function and stool formation. These can all reduce the amount of poisons in the lymph and may help improve lymphatic congestion. Whey protein also contains anti bodys that can support our own anti bodys again removing some of the work load on our immune system. Whey protein is a wonderful source of glutathione which is a powerful chemical that can detoxify poisons and support their elimination from the body. Whey protein is also a great source other wonderful molecules that kill germs and fight diseases. Lactoferrin, Lactoglobulins, Lactoperoxidases, Lysozymes, these are all tremendously important substances for supporting immune health and they are found in large amounts in whey protein. Interestingly, as important as these substances are, some people may have reactions to them, and these may account for some of the allergies some people have to whey protein. But, if you don’t have a problem with it, you are absolutely crazy if you’re not supplementing with stuff on a regular basis. In fact, whey protein shouldn’t be a supplement to your diet , it should actually be a component of your diet. It should probably be your main source of protein, as long as it doesn’t result in an allergic or digestive reaction. It’s cheap, it’s filling, it’s a great source of protein, and it’s incredibly important for supporting immune and digestive health.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health