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30/Oct/2019

“Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food”; a famous quote from the Classical Grecian physician Hippocrates. Lions Mane mushrooms are a perfect embodiment of this philosophy; as delicious as it is therapeutic. 

Lions mane (Hericium Erinaceus) is a white clumpy mushroom with long dangling spines that tends to grow in late summer/early fall on hardwoods.

I was first introduced to Lion’s Mane a few years ago when I had a few patients tell me they were using an extract of the mushroom to help with memory. Supplements that enhance brain activity, AKA Nootropics, have always tweaked my interest as one of my areas of clinical focus is in neurology. At first I thought that maybe this is the newest “superfood fad” but once I began to investigate the research on this mushroom my opinion quickly changed.

It was clear that Lions Mane had some legitimate therapeutic value in inflammation, the immune system, psychiatric conditions, cognitive enhancement, diabetes, heart disease, bowel disease and cancer.

Lions Mane Mushroom
Preparing Lions Mane Mushroom in my kitchen

Inflammation and Depression

A 2012 study demonstrated that Lions Mane mushroom contains several compounds that have moderate to high levels of antioxidant capacity. This translates into an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. A 2015 study demonstrated that participants who consumed Lions Mane had less depressive symptoms and improvements in blo-markers of depression which was attributed to it’s anti-inflammatory effects.  Another study demonstrated that Lions Mane can enhance immune function possibly by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. 

Immune 

Not only does Lions Mane help boost immune function by reducing oxidative stress, it also seems to benefit intestinal immune function. A study on mice revealed that some of the proteins in the mushroom help encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. 

Naturopathic Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis

Memory

Cognitive enhancement is the main reason that I see people taking this mushroom. It is possible that it does have some cognitive enhancement properties but all the research so far has been done on animals. One such study found that mice given a lion’s mane supplement had better object recognition and recognition memory. Other research suggests that Lions Mane may have the potential to prevent or treat conditions of cognitive decline like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Heart Health

Heart Health

Research on rats has demonstrated that Lions Mane may have cholesterol lowering effects and blood pressure lowering effects. Compounds in Lions Mane may help in the production of Nitric Oxide, which helps keep blood vessels relaxed. 

Cancer

The antioxidant properties of Lions Mane may contribute to some anti-cancer effects seen in rat and in vitro studies. One in vitro study indicated that Lions Mane has activity against human leukemia cells. Another study showed that in mice, Lions Mane has activity against Liver, Colon and Gastric cancer cells. 

Diabetes

After 4 weeks of Lions Mane supplementation, rats with diabetes had lower blood sugar levels than those who did not receive the mushroom.  Diabetes can often result in life altering nerve damage. A 2015 study showed that diabetic rats given an extract of Lions Mane had reduced nerve pain and improved antioxidant activity after 6 weeks. 

Intestinal Health

Digestive Health

I previously discussed how Lions mane can have anti-inflammatory effect of the digestive tract, as well as benefitting the growth of “good” intestinal bacteria. Another study demonstrated that Lions Mane has some interesting antimicrobial effects. Notably, Lions Mane seems to inhibit the growth of H-pylori, a bacteria responsible for close to 80% of stomach ulcers.

Nerve Repair

One of the most fascinating health benefits of Lions Mane came out of a rat study. Rats with nerve damage who were given daily extracts of Lions mane had quicker nerve cell regeneration than those who did not. 

Culinary 

Up until a few weeks ago I thought Lions Mane was an exotic mushroom that was only used therapeutically as a supplement.  Recently, I found myself in a local Farmers Market and low and behold a mushroom farmer was selling fresh Lions Mane; I was amazed! I asked the farmer “how do I prepare this”? He told me to cut the mushroom in ½ inch slices and in a hot pan with butter, sear both sides. So, I bought some and followed his advice, and discovered that Lions Mane is absolutely delicious! It is now one of my favorite cooking mushrooms and I have since heard from many foodies and chefs that it is one of their favorites too. So let food be thy medicine everyone, and cook up some Lions Mane this fall!

Citations


Leonard, Jayne. “What are the benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms?.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 22 Oct. 2018. Web.
30 Oct. 2019. <https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323400.php>


Leonard, J. (2018, October 22). “What are the benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms?.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323400.php.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom, <i>Hericium erinaceus</i> (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. Suppresses H<sub>2</sub>O<sub>2</sub>-Induced Oxidative Damage and LPS-Induced Inflammation in HT22 Hippocampal Neurons and BV2 Microglia.
Kushairi N, Phan CW, Sabaratnam V, David P, Naidu M.
Antioxidants (Basel). 2019 Aug 1;8(8). pii: E261. doi: 10.3390/antiox8080261.
PMID: 31374912 [PubMed] Free Article
Thirteen-Week Oral Toxicity Evaluation of Erinacine AEnriched Lion’s Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Agaricomycetes), Mycelia in Sprague-Dawley Rats.
Lee LY, Li IC, Chen WP, Tsai YT, Chen CC, Tung KC.
Int J Med Mushrooms. 2019;21(4):401-411. doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.2019030320.
PMID: 31002635 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
In Vitro and In Vivo Inhibition of Helicobacter pylori by Ethanolic Extracts of Lion’s Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Agaricomycetes).
Wang G, Zhang X, Maier SE, Zhang L, Maier RJ.
Int J Med Mushrooms. 2019;21(1):1-11. doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.2018029487.
PMID: 30806251 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
Dietary Supplementation of Lion’s Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Agaricomycetes), and Spatial Memory in Wild-Type Mice.
Rossi P, Cesaroni V, Brandalise F, Occhinegro A, Ratto D, Perrucci F, Lanaia V, Girometta C, Orrù G, Savino E.
Int J Med Mushrooms. 2018;20(5):485-494. doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.2018026241.
PMID: 29953363 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
A Polysaccharide Isolated from Mycelia of the Lion’s Mane Medicinal Mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Agaricomycetes) Induced Apoptosis in Precancerous Human Gastric Cells.
Wang M, Zhang Y, Xiao X, Xu D, Gao Y, Gao Q.
Int J Med Mushrooms. 2017;19(12):1053-1060. doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.2017024975.
PMID: 29431066 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ethanol Extract of Lion’s Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Agaricomycetes), in Mice with Ulcerative Colitis.
Qin M, Geng Y, Lu Z, Xu H, Shi JS, Xu X, Xu ZH.
Int J Med Mushrooms. 2016;18(3):227-34. doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.v18.i3.50.
PMID: 27481156 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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12/Sep/2017

Intermittent fasting is a different way of thinking about eating.

I’m suggesting that the majority of people have been eating too much and too often. I’m suggesting that breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. By following a few simple guidelines my readers can  loose weight, feel great and be healthier than ever before. The guidelines are:

 

  1. “6 to 8 and feel great”
  2. “Eat what you need”
  3. “Respect your food, respect yourself”

 

6 to 8 and feel great

Everyday eat within a 6 to 8 hour time frame. If you eat breakfast at 7:00am then your last meal of the day should not be later than 3:00pm. If you eat lunch at 12:00pm then your next and last meal should be no later than 8:00pm. In the first scenario you are basically skipping dinner and in the second scenario you are skipping breakfast. Water, tea, and even coffee are allowed outside of the 6-8 hour allotted time frame as long as there is no added calories, i.e. sugar, milk and or cream. There is also no snacking outside of your 6-8 hour window.

Now let me tell you why and how intermittent fasting works. Immediately after eating, a hormone in your body called insulin rises. Insulin tells your body to burn carbohydrates (sugar) for energy and to store whatever hasn’t been used in your liver and fat cells. This process continues for approximately 4 hours after eating. After 4 hours insulin drops and your body begins to dip into stored sugar and fat reserves for energy; or in other words that’s when you start burning fat.

It’s common practice for most people to eat 3 times a day with snacks in between, this means that we almost never dip into our fat stores. Therefore you would have to do some intensive daily exercise or eat incredibly small portions to loose weight. By following the 6-8 rule; you can almost be certain that you will be burning fat for approximately 10-12 hours per day. The only thing keeping you from shedding excess pounds is by being excessive with portion size and calorie intake, which brings us to the next guideline “eat what you need”.

 

Eat what you need

This guideline basically translates to portion control. One advantage about using the 6-8 methodology is that you will start becoming more in tune with your body and more aware of hunger and satiety. It is a great feeling to eat when you are actually hungry rather than out of habit. When we experience hunger, food is digested better. Hunger causes your gastrointestinal tract to prepare for food, including ample amounts of stomach acid aiding in the proper breakdown and absorption of nutrients.

Pay close attention to the point at which you no longer feel hunger and you are adequately satiated. Do not overeat. Eat to a point that you feel satisfied but not heavy and bloated.  You may notice that portion sizes become smaller. Now, because we are eating only two meals per day, it is also important that when we eat, we eat nutritious food and a variety of foods. Which brings us to the next guideline.

Respect your food; respect yourself

This guideline is about what kind of food you eat and how you eat it. As mentioned in the previous section, since we are essentially eating only twice per day, we want to be putting high quality foods into our body. Fresh, local and organic foods are what you want to focus on. The great thing about this diet is that it there are no restrictions on foods, it’s more about quality. Try to have meals that have a good quality protein, and complex carbohydrates such as veggies and whole-grains.

While making healthy choices is very important, it is also just as important not to stress over your food. Do your best to cook healthy while acknowledging that sometimes you will find yourself eating out, ordering fast food, and having desserts. Don’t beat yourself up about the choices you make, love whatever it is your eating, own it and do your best to eat healthy most of the time. Love your food and love yourself.

 

Final Thoughts

The guidelines I have purposed, although expressed in an original way, are not new concepts. Eating within a 6-8 hour window is also known as intermittent fasting; a lifestyle and medical intervention that shown to have a multitude of health benefits including lowering blood pressure, staving off cardiovascular disease and improving longevity. Presenting these ideas in away that is easy to incorporate into a daily routine can help to improve the lives of many people. I encourage you to try it out, give it a few weeks and let me know how you feel.

Fitness trainer Mike O’Donnell (2 meal mike) does a great job of further explaining intermittent fasting and how to easily incorporate it into your daily routine. I encourage you to visit his site http://www.theiflife.com


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02/Mar/2016

There are few fruits more enticing than the jewel-like arils (seed casings) of pomegranate. Adding to the allure of pomegranate are its incredibly versatile culinary applications and its amazingly powerful medicinal properties.

The fruit we know as Pomegranate comes from the deciduous shrub Punica Granatrum. The Pomegranate is native to Iran, The Himalayas and Northern India. An ancient fruit mentioned as early as Iron-Age Greek Mythology; pomegranate is now cultivated in many warm and dry climates around the world. In the northern hemisphere the fruit is typically in season from September to February. There are many culinary uses for pomegranate. The sweet and sour juice has long been a popular drink in Persian and Indian cuisine and has recently become familiar to consumers in Canada and the United States. The cocktail mixer, Grenadine, is a syrup made from sweetened and thickened pomegranate juice. Pomegranate can also be used to create delicious sauces. For instance, in the traditional Iranian recipe, Fesenjan, a thick sauce is made from pomegranate juice and ground walnuts. Pomegranate arils are also great to eat on their own. After opening up the pomegranate, try separating the arils from the pulp in a bowl of water. The pulp will float while the arils sink to the bottom of the bowl.

Pomegranate is an important traditional remedy in many ancient systems of medicine. In Ayurvedic medicine the rind of the fruit is used against diarrhea, dysentery and intestinal parasites. It is now known that the rind contains ellagitannins that are anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory and astringent (helping to stop diarrhea). The medicinal applications of pomegranate that ancient medical systems have known about for centuries through empirical evidence is now being validated through scientific investigation.

Recently a multitude of studies has surfaced outlining pomegranates therapeutic application in areas such as: cancer therapy, cosmetics, rheumatology and cardiology. The following is a summary of some of the most recent research on pomegranates application in these medical topics.

In 2009 the journal “Nutrition and Cancer” published a review on cancer chemoprevention by pomegranate. In the review the authors outline recent research showing that pomegranate polyphenol extracts selectively inhibit the growth of breast, colon and lung cancer cells in culture. The review also demonstrated that in pre-clinical animal studies, oral consumption of pomegranate extract inhibited the growth of lung, skin, colon and prostate tumors. As far as human trials go, an initial phase 2 clinical trial of pomegranate juice consumption in patients with prostate cancer reported significant prolongation of prostate specific antigen (PSA) doubling time. This means that the pathological growth and disruption of normal functioning prostate tissue was likely decreased. PSA doubling time can be a useful tool in the screening and monitoring of prostate pathology in men, but has to be interpreted in the correct context and by a trained health care professional.

An excellent article was recently published on the topic of PSA in the November 2010 issue of Naturopathic Doctors News and Review (ndnr). Research would suggest that pomegranate has potential application in the field of natural cosmetics. A study in the “International Journal of Dermatology” demonstrated that a polyphenol extract of the rind fruit and seed of pomegranate protected skin cells against UV-B radiation induced skin damage and increased the synthesis of collagen. Collagen is a connective tissue closely related to cartilage; the shock absorbing cushion found in joints. Interestingly, a recent study in the journal of “Arthritis Research and Therapy”demonstrated that pomegranate extract has the ability to inhibit chemical messengers involved in the breakdown of cartilage, as well as decreasing inflammation often seen in osteoarthritic joints.

Since ancient times, Pomegranate has been known as a tonic for the cardiovascular system. I often prescribe a glass of pomegranate juice per day as adjunctive treatment for high blood pressure. The rich red color of pomegranate juice suggests that it is high in polyphenol rich antioxidants. There is great concern in patients at risk for cardiovascular disease for the development of atheroscelrotic plaques. In summary, atheroscleortic plaques develop when lipoprotein (fat transporting protein) becomes oxidized by free radicals and are subsequently attacked by the immune system. The combination of oxidized lipoproteins and immune cells create pimple-like outgrowths in the artery wall, blocking blood flow. LDL-cholesterol (often referred to as bad cholesterol) is not bad in of itself, it is the action of free radical damage on LDL-cholesterol that makes for trouble. Antioxidant-like molecules produced by the body such as PON1 and PON2 protect against atherosclerotic development. A study in the England journal “Biofactors” demonstrated that the polyphenols in pomegranate juice increase the production of PON1 and PON2 therefore helping to decrease the risk of forming atherosclerotic plaques. These studies suggest that molecules called polyphenols found in pomegranate juice, rind and seed have multiple benefits on health. It is our luck that pomegranate arils and juice are delicious and can be easily incorporated into the diet. Unfortunately it is impossible to know exactly how rich the polyphenol content is in the pomegranate or pomegranate juice you buy. However, a good rule of thumb to ensure that you get a good dose of polyphenols is to pick fresh, brightly colored, organic if possible; pomegranates. When buying juice, make sure that it is 100% pure pomegranate juice. A great website on how to pick and prepare pomegranate is www.pomegranatefruit.org


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17/Aug/2015

The tomato is one of the most commonly cultivated and consumed foods in North America. The tomato is a member of the nightshade family, including potato and eggplant. Some individuals may have an allergy or sensitivity to this family of foods, which is something that can be tested for through your Naturopathic Doctor or allergist.

There are many varieties of tomatoes, including Beefsteak, Plum, Cherry and Heirloom. No matter what variety, all tomatoes contain a multitude of beneficial vitamins, minerals and molecular compounds. One such compound is lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid found in tomatoes, carrots, watermelons and papayas, and gives these fruits their red-orange colour. This pigment acts as a powerful antioxidant, protecting the fruit from free-radical damage [free radicals are electron hungry ions that cause damage to other molecules by stealing their electrons]. Free radicals are formed in multiple ways including stress and prolonged sun exposure. Lycopene has a similar effect in our bodies as it does in the fruit, helping to quench free radicals in our blood and tissues. Some studies have found lycopene to be 100 times more potent than vitamin E as an antioxidant. Interestingly, one study found that eating tomatoes consistently for 10-12 weeks before sun exposure, provided individuals with increased protection against sunburn.

Besides lycopene, tomatoes contain a multitude of other beneficial compounds. Tomato skins contain a compound called naringenin chalcone, which has anti-allergy properties, helping to stabilize histamine releasing cells. A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial (RCT) done on 33 individuals with seasonal allergies used tomato extract (from tomato peels and seeds) or placebo for 8 weeks in order to determine if tomato extract can alleviate some of the symptoms of seasonal allergies. The study found that sneezing, runny nose and blocked nose were all decreased in the tomato extract group while the placebo group had no significant change. Furthermore quality of life was reported to be increased in the group that took tomato extract.

Tomatoes have also been shown to be very beneficial for preventing cardiovascular disease. One of the ways tomatoes do this is by inhibiting blood clotting in individuals prone to inflammation. An RCT done in 2006 by the American Journal of Nutrition demonstrated that in blood samples given by healthy individuals 3 hours after consuming a tomato extract, platelet aggregation was significantly reduced. Furthermore in individuals with high levels of plasma homocysteine and C-reactive protein (laboratory markers of inflammation) inhibition of platelet aggregation was most pronounced. The authors concluded that tomato extract may have a role in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease by reducing platelet activation, which could contribute to a reduction in thrombotic events.

Tomatoes have a very important role to play in the treatment and prevention of several types of cancer. A clinical trial in 2002 investigated the effects of lycopene supplementation in individuals with prostate cancer. Twenty-six men with prostate cancer were randomly assigned to receive a tomato extract containing 30 mg of lycopene or nothing, 3 weeks before prostatectomy. After 3 weeks the prostatic tissue was evaluated. The results demonstrated that in the group taking the tomato extract, the tumours were smaller and less diffuse. Prostate specific antigen levels (a laboratory marker for prostate cancer) were lower in the intervention group compared to the control group.


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22/Jul/2015

Broccoli is a member of the mustard/cabbage family known as the Brassicacea. Members of this family contain a multitude of compounds that have been and are currently being studied for their health promoting and chronic disease mitigating properties. These compounds include: Diindolymethane (DIM), Sulforaphane, Isothiocyanates and Glucoraphanin. Aside from these specialized compounds, broccoli is also a good source of vitamin C, K, A and fibre.

When investigating nutritional therapy, the most relevant clinical trials are usually those done on a population of people whom are actually consuming significant quantities of the food in question.

A study done in 2008 investigating broccoli’s role in protection against prostate cancer followed a group of men who were either given 400g of broccoli or 400g of peas per week as a dietary addition for 12 months. Samples of prostatic tissue were analyzed before and after the intervention. The results indicated that the group receiving broccoli displayed significant beneficial effects with regard to signalling pathways involved in prostate cancer growth and generalized inflammation. The effects were especially significant in men possessing a gene involved in detoxification “GSTM1” which represents approximately 50% of the population. There were no significant changes in the pea group. Analysis revealed that Sulforaphane was responsible for many of the beneficial effects of broccoli consumption.

In 2003 an epidemiological study was done in Shanghai, China, which investigated the correlation between the development of breast cancer in women and consumption of Brassicacea. The participants levels of Brassicacea consumption were measured by urine output of Isothiocyanates, (compounds in Brassicacea vegetables which help induce phase 2 detoxification). Results indicated a significant reduction in breast cancer in women with high urine levels of Isothiocyanates, therefore a high level of Brassicacea consumption.

An interesting study done in 2001 examined the protective role of Brassicacea on heterocyclic aromatic amine (HAA) metabolism. HAA’s are compounds produced in grilled foods (those yummy charred lines and smoky flavours you get when BBQ’ing your favourite foods. Although tasty, HAA’s are associated with an increased risk of several types of cancer, especially colon cancer. By measuring urinary excretion of certain metabolites from HAA’s investigators were able to conclude that metabolism of HAA’s is enhanced after eating a diet rich in Brassicacea vegetables.

As testament to the power of broccoli and other Brassicacea in health promotion, chemotherapy agents (such as C-DIM’s) have been synthesized using the naturally occurring compounds in this group of vegetables.

It is important to note that prolonged heat exposure will damage the beneficial compounds in broccoli, especially Sulforaphane. Studies suggest that in order to preserve these disease fighting compounds, low heat (such as used in steaming) and short term heat exposure (less than 10 minutes) are key points to remember when preparing Broccoli. Naturally, you can eat it raw too.


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29/Nov/2013

Garlic (Allium Sativum) is an ancient therapeutic food that has been in use since the dawn of medicine. It is mentioned in the bible and has been used by all the great forefathers of modern medicine such as: Hippocrates, Galen and Dioscorides. Garlic is mentioned several times in the Ebers Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medical text written circa 1550 B.C. Garlic was used topically and internally to treat ailments of the respiratory tract, digestive tract and for infection. Men and women would consume large quantities of garlic to prevent illness and improve endurance. Garlic bulbs have even been found buried in the tombs of Egyptian royalty, such as King Tutankhamen. Garlic continues to be one of the most powerful remedies in the modern day alternative health care practitioner’s toolbox. Fortunately, it has worked so well for so many thousands of years that a significant amount of funding has gone into researching the particular constituents contained in Garlic that lend it its medicinal properties.

Research has shown that sulfuric compounds in garlic are effective at lowering blood pressure, lowering LDL cholesterol, exploding certain cancer cells, and killing some strains of harmful bacteria. The following is an overview of some of the most compelling research on Garlic as a medicinal supplement over the past few years.

In ancient times Garlic was viewed as a tonic of the respiratory and digestive tract, however; persuasive evidence based research demonstrates that it is also a tonic for the cardiovascular system. In 2010 a double-blinded randomized placebo-controlled trial was performed on 51 coronary heart disease patients to determine the effect of time-released garlic powder tablets on the risk of heart attack and sudden death. It was demonstrated that after 1 year on the garlic supplement, men had a 1.5-fold reduced risk for serious cardiovascular disease and women had a 1.3-fold reduction in risk. The reduced risk was extrapolated through the finding that men had on average a decrease in LDL-cholesterol by 32.9 mg/dl and women had a 27.3 mg/dl decrease on the garlic supplement.

Besides high LDL-cholesterol, another marker of risk for cardiovascular disease is hypertension. A Meta-analysis that looked at 1994 randomized placebo controlled trials using garlic preparations as intervention for hypertension found that garlic was significantly more effective than placebo. In hypertensive patients garlic preparations produced an average of an 8.4 mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure and a 7.3 mmHg drop in diastolic blood pressure. A research article published in 2007 demonstrated that the polysulfuric compounds in garlic are converted into hydrogen sulfide by red blood cells. In turn, hydrogen sulfide has the ability to relax blood vessels, therefore decreasing blood pressure.

Over the past decade there have been numerous studies looking into garlic as a potential anti-cancer medicinal food. Studies, which looked at the correlations between garlic consumption and incidence of cancer, haven’t been extremely convincing in either direction. Some correlations do exist, however, which has spawned further investigation into the anti-carcinogenic properties of Garlic. A 2009 study in the journal of Clinical Cancer Research demonstrated that one of the sulfuric compounds in garlic, diallyl trisulfide, may have a beneficial effect on prostate cancer cells. Just like some breast cancers are sensitive to estrogen, some prostate cancers are sensitive to androgens, like testosterone. Bicalutamide is a drug given to some patients with prostate cancer in order to block the effect of testosterone on cancer cells. The diallyl trisulfide found in garlic has a similar effect to this medication, causing a decrease in androgen receptor protein, leading to a decrease in prostate specific antigen levels (PSA).

One of the most fascinating articles that I came across was an article published in 2008 in the Journal of Biologics: targets and therapy. The study looked at the treatment of childhood Pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) with preparations of garlic extracts compared to common chemotherapeutic agents used in the treatment of this illness. One of the most concerning side effects in chemotherapy treatment, especially of leukemia, is a decrease in white blood cell count and therefore a susceptibility to infection. While both the chemotherapeutic drugs and the garlic extract caused a destruction of cancerous cells, only the garlic extract was reported to not have any detrimental effect on non-cancerous white blood cells. The authors also comment on the fact that garlic is known to be an effective (around 10% the effectiveness of the antibiotic vancomycin) antimicrobial agent against many hospital acquired infective organisms.

In light of the recent cholera outbreak in Haiti, I decided to include the following study published in 2009 in the journal of Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry. In this study garlic oil was studied for its diallyl sulfide content and its antimicrobial activity against V. cholerae. The in-vitro study found the oil to have bacteriocidal effect against all tested strains of V. cholerae. It was also demonstrated that the garlic oil had an inhibitory effect on the growth of V. cholerae in contaminated food. In my opinion, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention to add regular consumption of garlic to its cholerae prevention protocol in Haiti.

On a final note, I came a cross an article published in 2009 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that confirms the notion that fresh crushed garlic has a greater therapeutic benefit than processed garlic. This is due to a higher concentration of the sulfuric compounds that have been previously mentioned in fresh garlic. Like all food, garlic is potentially aggravating for some individuals and can cause allergic reaction in individuals with an allergy to the Alliaceae family. Be diligent when consuming garlic, especially when adding garlic to the diet of children. I have used garlic in numerous home remedies for cardiovascular health, and for upper respiratory and gastrointestinal infection. The most common complaint I get is the smell. Since the unpleasant odor of garlic is actually emitted from the inside out, it is very difficult to conceal. I have heard that consuming milk with garlic is the best way to cover it up. Cooking the garlic also helps but this greatly diminishes its therapeutic benefit. I now look at this odor as the odor of a healthy heart, and most likely, the distinguished odor of Egyptian royalty.


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29/Nov/2013

One of the key ingredients for a healthy heart is keeping cholesterol under control. Decreasing dietary cholesterol intake can reduce blood cholesterol levels; however, the magnitude of this effect is relatively small. It has been estimated that only 25% of the population will have significant increases in their cholesterol levels in response to increase in cholesterol in their diets. Cholesterol does have a role to play in cardiovascular health but what may be most important is how our cholesterol is handled rather than how much of it we consume. When exposed to oxygen, heat and other forms of processing, cholesterol becomes more of a risk factor for atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis, or plaque in the arteries, develops when damaged “oxidized” cholesterol comes into contact with the delicate lining of our blood vessels. Our immune system, in an attempt to fix the damaged cholesterol, sends out white blood cells. When these white blood cells come into contact with the damaged cholesterol they create abnormal frothy cells called “foam cells” which stick to the inside of the blood vessel and can eventually cause a plaque to form. In order for this cascade of events not to occur we must take care of our blood vessels by living a healthy lifestyle and we must avoid subjecting our body to unnecessary oxidized cholesterol.

Oxidation

Oxidation is a chemical reaction where a molecule will loose electrons in the presence of oxygen. A mixture of oxygen exposure and heat can cause this to occur. The “oxidized” molecule will now do anything to get those electrons back, including stealing them from healthy tissues. These oxidized molecules are sometimes referred to as “free radicals” and as the name suggests can wreak havoc on healthy cells.
The way we cook and store our food can prevent unnecessary oxidation of fats and cholesterol, therefore dramatically improving our cardiovascular health.

Cooking Temperature

Most chemical reactions require a catalyst in order to take place. Heat is often the catalyst in the chemical reactions that take place in food. Fats and cholesterol are very sensitive to heat and will become oxidized when exposed to high temperatures. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry looked at the oxidation of cholesterol under different cooking temperatures. Cholesterol was found to be relatively stable at a temperature of 100 degrees celsius for 24 hours. Temperatures in excess of 120 degrees celsius produced oxidized derivatives of cholesterol within one hour. Oxidation of cholesterol was at a maximum at temperatures in excess of 150 degrees celsius. These results demonstrate that the level of heat at which we cook our cholesterol containing foods (meats, fish, eggs, dairy etc..) will impact the potential for that food to be healthful or harmful.

Cooking Time

Perhaps one of the most interesting studies I came across on this subject was comparing the effect of different cooking methods on the fat quality and cholesterol oxidation of salmon. When comparing steaming to pan-frying it was found that steaming produced twice as many cholesterol oxidation products as did pan-frying. The authors conclude that this is likely due to longer cooking time during steaming, and therefore longer heat exposure. It seems that a delicate balance between time and temperature must be obtained for the healthiest results.

Cooking Method

Not only does the temperature and time affect the quality of the fats we cook, but there is evidence to suggest that the device used to cook may contribute as well. A study done in 2003 looked at the oxidation of cholesterol in microwave cooking and in pan-frying. The results indicated that in beef and chicken patties, microwave cooking produced 3 times as many cholesterol oxidation products as did pan-frying. As an aside, chicken patties had twice as many cholesterol oxidation products as did beef patties.

Food Processing

The processing of food which often includes high heat, high pressure, freeze drying, dehydration, irradiation and chemical additives contributes to the formation of toxic derivatives of cholesterols and fat. Studies have indicated that powdered dairy products, powdered egg products, and smoked meats are some examples of prepared foods that have high potential for toxic derivatives.

Food Storage

Factors which can contribute to cholesterol oxidation during storage are: light, air, temperature, pre-cooking and freeze-drying. As a general rule of thumb it is always best to prepare fresh unprocessed food daily. The following tips will help in the healthful storage of food items. Protect oils and fats (such as olive oil, vegetable oil, fish oil, butter, dairy, meat and fish) from light (use dark glass containers, store in dark environments), heat (store in cool environments), and oxygen (use airtight containers or vacuum sealing).

Conclusion

It is popular knowledge that dietary cholesterol intake has a role to play in cardiovascular health. The common belief is that, with regard to cholesterol, limiting intake is the primary method toward reducing cardiovascular disease risk; however, the amount of cholesterol may be just as important as the type of cholesterol when it comes to cardiovascular disease risk. Proper preparation and storage of oily foods is a disease prevention strategy that can have profoundly beneficial effects on health, and for the most part, is lacking in public awareness.


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29/Nov/2013

My response to two recently published studies using a multivitamin: “Oral High-Dose Multivitamins and Minerals After Myocardial Infarction: A Randomized Trial” and “Long-Term Multivitamin Supplementation and Cognitive Function in Men: A Randomized Trial”
By Shawn Meirovici N.D.

In the latest issue of “The Journal of Annals of Internal Medicine” two studies investigated the effect of taking a long-term multivitamin on cardiovascular health and cognitive function. The two studies demonstrated that there was no significant effect on either group as compared with placebo. There were no serious side effects and the author’s mention a few limitations in the studies such as: considerable non-adherence, withdrawal and incorrect dosage.

A multivitamin is a single supplement containing a collection of vitamins and minerals, at a dose reflective of the RDI or the “recommended daily intake”. The average individual eating a well-balanced diet will typically obtain the RDI of most vitamins and minerals from their diet. When an individual is unable to eat a healthy well-balanced diet or has an illness compromising the absorption of vitamins and minerals from the diet, they may benefit from a multivitamin. Not only does this concept make sense, it is also supported by many studies investigating multivitamin support on patient populations with know nutrient deficiencies (Effect of vitamin and trace-element supplementation on immune responses and infection in elderly subjecttR.K. Chandra, FRCPCCorresponding author contact information (Prof). )

It is not surprising that nothing statistically significant was observed in the two studies up for discussion. The two patient populations are: a group of individuals who have suffered a heart attack in the past, and a group of ageing, otherwise healthy, men. We do not know the specifics of their diet or if they have any significant nutrient deficiencies.
When not prescribed for a specific purpose a multivitamin acts as a “shotgun blast”, hoping to hit something significant but often missing the point and with limited power per hit. When it comes to supplements, patients will only benefit from specific nutrients, for specific concerns at a specific dosage. For instance: the one study investigating a group of individuals with a history of cardiovascular disease, may have benefitted from specific nutrients designed at lowering blood pressure, balancing blood sugar and improving vessel integrity.

The real controversy surrounding these recent publications is with the Media’s over-generalization of these findings. Here is a headline from CBC News “Vitamin pills ‘should be avoided,’ journal editors say”. The issue here is that the public is lead to believe that all vitamins are always bad, or a waste of money in every circumstance. The truth is that every individual is different in nutritional requirements, health history and healthcare needs. In medicine the adage “one size fits all” hardly ever is applicable. As a naturopathic doctor it is my job to investigate what my patients individual needs are and to give the appropriate medical advise, which often includes vitamins, but specific vitamins at specific dosages for specific concerns.

These studies demonstrate the need for healthcare practitioners, such as: Naturopathic Doctors, and Nutritionists, who are qualified to guide the average consumer as to what sort of supplement may be helpful and which supplements may very well be a waste of money.


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29/Nov/2013

Every time I cut into a beet root, I am still surprised by the vibrant red juice that seems to bleed out onto the chopping block. It is this undeniable similarity to blood that first made beet root and beet root juice a focus of interest in traditional medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) relies heavily on the use of foods and herbs to tonify organs and energy systems in the body.

In TCM, Blood and Qi are two extremely important substances working together to maintain the vitality of the human body. Blood is more “Yin” and Qi is more “Yang”. The symbol of the “Yinyang” teaches us that a perfect balance of Blood and Qi is required for optimum health. In this medical system illness often arises as a result of either Blood or Qi being deficient. A blood deficiency can arise in the heart and/or liver leading to symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, weakness, dizziness and fatigue. Interestingly these are often the same symptoms seen in individuals experiencing anemia (the “blood deficiency” of western medicine). In TCM the primary way to restore blood is through food and herbs. Beets root, perhaps due to the bloody appearance of its juice, is thought to be an excellent dietary restorer of blood. When assisted with the use of certain herbs and acupuncture points, the dietary inclusion of beets and other red pigmented fruits and vegetables is very effective in treating the TCM diagnosis of blood deficiency.

The closest connection between the TCM medicinal use of beets for blood deficiency and how this might work from a western “science based medicine” perspective is elucidated in a Hungarian 2007 research article. The article explains that biological testing of liver tissue after consumption of beet root reveals that beets are relatively rich in metal elements such as: aluminum, copper, iron, zinc and manganese. One type of anemia known as “microcytic anemia” is usually caused by iron deficiency. With beet being a relatively rich vegetable source of iron, one can hypothesize as to why this vegetable might be an effective therapy for a “blood deficiency” or anemia.

Recent scientific research has revealed many other interesting medicinal applications for beet root. Beets contain high levels of nitrates and pigment molecules that have been shown to be powerful antioxidants, cancer protective and ergogenic. In a 2009 study, male rats were treated either with 8ml/kg/day beet root juice or nothing at all for 28 days. Both groups of rats received an injection of the toxic chemicals nitrosodiethylamine and carbon tetracloride. The rats pretreated with beet root juice demonstrated less damage to fat cells in the liver, and a 3-fold increase in the activity of the antioxidant “superoxide dismutase”. The authors concluded that beet root juice may be helpful in counteracting some of the damaging effects of environmental toxins.

A large portion of the recent research on the medicinal properties of beets, has been done in Hungary. A Hungarian research article in 2010 looked at the effect of giving 20g prepared beet root per day for one month to 24 patients with hormone resistant metastatic prostate cancer, who are also receiving chemotherapy. The results indicated that there was a significant improvement in inflammatory markers, such as transmethylation, after consuming the beet root. Here, the authors conclude that moderate consumption of beets may favorably affect the life expectancy of patients with this type of prostate cancer.

Athletes are always searching for latest performance enhancing supplement. Ergogenic (performance enhancing) aids are usually taken to increase stamina, strength and recovery. One supplement known to increase stamina is sodium nitrate. Sodium nitrate has been shown to decrease the demand for oxygen by muscle cells during exercise leading to an increase in exercise duration. Beet root juice is a natural source of nitrates and therefore, there has been a handful of studies in the past few years looking into beet root juice as a potential natural alternative to sodium nitrate. In 2009 the journal of applied physiology conducted a placebo controlled, double blinded, crossover study on 8 men ages 19-38yr. The men either consumed 500ml/day of beet root juice or black currant cordial (juice) for six consecutive days and underwent a series of moderate and intense physical activity tests on the last three days. In those men consuming beet root juice, blood nitrite levels were significantly higher on days 4-6 and systolic blood pressure was reduced by approximately 10mmHg compared to placebo. During both moderate level and intense exercise, those men taking the beet root juice demonstrate a decrease in demand for oxygen and corresponding increase in time to exhaustion compared to placebo.

Beets are an amazing vegetable. Roasted, pickled, steamed or boiled; beets are a great way to add sweetness and colour into any meal. Like all the foods I discuss on this blog, beets are full of powerful medicinal properties. However, there are some things to watch out for when considering including beets into the diet. Beet root and leaves are relatively high in a substance known as oxalates. Oxalates are excreted from the body by the kidneys and into the urine. Those who have a personal history or family history of kidney stones should take caution when consuming beets in moderate to high quantities. Most kidney stones are formed out of calcium and oxalates and consistent consumption of beets can possibly contribute to the formation of a kidney stone. Boiling beets in water has been shown to remove greater than half the amount of oxalate content. Those who enjoy eating the leaves of beets (usually steamed or boiled) can consider that a 2009 study demonstrated that boiling the leaves in milk removes more oxalates than boiling in water.


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29/Nov/2013

Lentinula Edodes is a mushroom native to East Asia which is now cultivated worldwide for culinary and medicinal purposes. This mushroom is usually referred to as Shiitake, which is its Japanese common name based upon the “Shii” tree that the mushroom grows on.

Shiitake has been cultivated for over 1000 years. During the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644) Chinese physician, Wu Jue, wrote that the mushroom could be used medicinally as a remedy for: upper respiratory tract infections, poor circulation, liver pathologies, exhaustion, premature aging and as a Qi (life-force) tonic.

Shiitake has a nutty and earthy taste making it a common delicacy of the culinary world. Many chefs prefer to use sun-dried Shiitake, the drying process seeming to enhance the flavour. Interestingly, the effect of UV light on the mushroom converts ergosterol into vitamin D making the sun-dried variety a significant dietary source of this vitamin. Shiitake is often sauteed in Chinese cuisine, used to flavour soup in Japanese cuisine and steamed, simmered or fried in Thai cuisine.

From a Naturopathic perspective, Shiitake is a fascinating mushroom due to its application in health care, ability to be easily incorporated into the diet and excellent safety profile. Current research is discovering that certain extracts of this mushroom have immune system regulation properties, antibacterial and anti-viral properties, and blood clot inhibiting properties.

A study published by the Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology in 2009 discovered that polysaccharide extracts of Shiitake were shown to stimulate the function and activation of macrophages. Macrophages are white blood cells that are involved in the body’s initial response to infection (destroying pathogens and sending out chemical signals to the immune system to mount an attack on invading organisms).

In 2006 the Biological Pharmacology Bulletin published a study that examined the efficacy of a hot-water extract of Shiitake on protecting hepatocytes (liver cells) from the hepatotoxic agent D-galactosamine. The result was that 0.5 mg/ml of the Shiitake extract completely suppressed the cytotoxic (liver cell death inducing) effects of D-galactosamine. The study continued to examine the effect of injecting the Shiitake extract into rats treated with D-galactosamine. The result was less leakage of AST and ALT (both chemical markers of liver cell injury).

Lentinan, a common extraction of Shiitake used for medicinal purposes, was researched with regard to its immune regulatory applications in people with HIV. In 1998 the Journal of Medicine (AIDS Activities Division, San Francisco General Hospital) conducted a double blind placebo control trial on 98 patients with HIV. Patients were administered either 2, 5, or 10mg of Lentinan or placebo via I.V. once a week for eight weeks. Side effects of the I.V. administered Lentinan were generally mild when administered over a 30-minute period. The patients in the study receiving Lentinan demonstrated a trend toward increases in CD4 cells (these are the white blood cells that are targeted for destruction by HIV) and in some patients, increased neutrophil (the primary white blood cell involved in the acute response of the immune system to infection) activity.

Like all things we ingest, there is potential for allergic reaction to Shiitake. Be careful and observant when ingesting crude Shiitake or Shiitake extract for the first time.


dr_shawn

Patient focused integrative health care. Utilizing effective natural approaches designed to be used alone or to compliment conventional medical care.


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