Should You Try It?

How to evaluate Alt Med and other treatments before you try them

FDA Issues Alert and Recall of Supplement Reumofan Plus

 

Today we bring you an important news item from the FDA about a supplement that turns out to contain powerful drugs that could be harmful.

 

The FDA issued a warning and recall for Reumofan Plus, a supplement made in Mexico by a company called Riger Naturals. The product is sold in online, at flea markets and in some stores in the US as a remedy for arthritis, muscle pain, osteoporosis, bone cancer and other conditions.

 

Natural dietary supplements should not contain any drugs but the Mexican Ministry of Health found one lot of Reumofan Plus contained dexamethasone, a corticosteroid drug that, like other steroids, relieves inflammation, and suppresses the immune system.

 

The FDA labs analyzed Reumofan Plus and found it also contains diclofenac sodium, a prescription NSAID drug, and a prescription muscle relaxant drug called methocarbamol.  Diclofenac sodium, like other NSAIDS, can increase heart attack and stroke risk and cause digestive system problem, and methocarbamol can cause sedation, dizziness, low blood pressure, and impaired thinking.

 

“Consumers who are currently taking Reumofan Plus or who have recently stopped taking Reumofan Plus should immediately consult a health care professional,” the FDA said in a June 1, 2012, News Release about the recall. The news release includes a photo showing the label on the product bottle and box.

 

The FDA wants to hear from you and your doctor or other health care professional if you’ve used this supplement. Problems that have been reported to the FDA include liver injury, sudden worsening of blood sugar control, weigh gain, swelling, leg cramps, and kidney function problems. If you’ve had any of these or other "adverse events related to this supplement, report them here: MedWatch, the FDA’s  Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program.

 

For more information:

 

Read the Safety Alert here: FDA Safety Alert: Reumofan Plus Recall

Read what the FDA says about other arthritis supplements:  An FDA Guide to Dietary Supplements

 

 

© 2012, All Rights Reserved

How to Talk to Your Doctor About Alternative Medicine (Part Two) – Six Questions to Ask

Continuing yesterday’s topic, let’s take a closer look at how to talk to your doctor about alternative medicine.

First, let me preface this with a few thoughts about talking with medical professionals in general.

When I schedule a “get acquainted” or first-visit appointment with a new doctor, I ask for extra time to discuss the doctor’s views on practice. I bring a list of questions – sometimes two copies, one to hand to the doctor, one to keep and jot notes on as we discuss the questions – and treat that part of the appointment as a job interview in which I’m the hiring manager.

That may seem strange to some.  After all, it wasn’t long ago that doctors were perceived as nearly godlike figures to be respected, revered, and obeyed but never questioned. Today, as medical professionals and medical schools recognize the importance of cultivating a partnership between doctors and patients, attitudes on both sides have changed.

You may not know which signs and symptoms indicate which diseases, as the doctor does. You may not know which medications have been proven most effective for which conditions, as the doctor does. But nobody knows how you feel better than you do, and nobody knows what’s normal for you and your body better than you do. You’re the CEO of your health and welfare. Medical professionals advise, but when it comes to your health, you make the decisions.

You wouldn’t hire a plumber or electrician or heating contractor or automobile repair service without asking about qualifications, areas of expertise, and attitudes that could affect the job he or she could do. Why not approach that first doctor-patient partnership interview the same way?

 

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Ready?  Great. Now let’s look at SIX QUESTIONS to discuss with your doctor when you have The Talk. To help spur ideas, I’ll include samples of good answers that can lead to productive discussions with your doctor, and bad answers that lead to dead ends.

1. What is your opinion of alternative medicine?

Good answers:

* It depends on which treatment you’re talking about; some have proven successful in studies; others are useless or dangerous.

* I am open to treatments that are backed by scientific research.

* I haven’t given it much thought but am open to discussing it.

Bad answers:

* No.

* Alternative medicine is nothing more than a modern version of the old time snake oil scams.

* What’s that?

2. How knowledgeable would you say you are about alternative medicine?

Good answers:

* I have read several studies about it.

* I have attended a few conferences and presentations.

* I keep up with the latest research and reports on it.

Bad answers:

* Zero. I know next to nothing about it and am not interested.

* I’ve heard of it.

* I know someone who believes in that stuff who is a total nutcase.

3. Have you ever recommended an alternative medicine treatment?

Good answers:

* Often.

* A few times, when it seemed appropriate.

* It has not come up yet but I would if it seemed right for a patient and the patient wanted to try it.

Bad answers:

* Never.

* Anybody who wants that woo-woo-world medicine should go to a witch doctor, not me.

* Why do that when we have drugs and surgery?

 

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4. Will you look into a treatment if I want to try it?

Good answers:

* Yes.

* Yes, if you tell me why you want to try it and what credible information you have about it.

* Probably. If I think it has some merit, yes, but if I know it doesn’t work or is fake, I will tell you that and won’t waste time researching further.

Bad answers:

* No.

* I have better things to do with my time.

* I wouldn’t know where to look.

 

5. What if I you recommend a prescription and I prefer to use a supplement, or you recommend a conventional treatment that I refuse in favor of an alternative treatment?

Good answers:

* As long as your health was not in danger and you keep me posted and come in for regular checks, I would go along with that.

* I would tell you what I think and recommend but it’s your body and your decision.

* If it is safe and it works for you, it’s fine with me.

Bad answers:

* I expect my patients to follow my recommendations or go elsewhere.

* I would tell you to take the prescription, period.

* I will mark your chart “patient is non-compliant.”

6. Would you write a referral if I needed one to have an alternative medicine treatment?

Good answers:

* Yes.

* If I know anyone to refer you to, I would.

* It may not always be possible but I would if it is possible.

Bad answers:

* No.

* I only make medical referrals.

* I don’t know any quacks and would not send my patient to one if I did.

Bottom Line:  These questions and variations have worked well for me. Fortunately, most of the doctors I’ve talked to have been very pragmatic about alternative medicine. And being open-minded and willing to discuss the topic is a good start. 

I don’t expect them to know all the answers – whether we’re talking alternative medicine or conventional medicine – but as long as they’re willing to discuss options and research what they don’t know, I think we will be able to work together as partners to find the treatment that works best for this patient.

Comments are very welcome… let us know if you would use different questions or add new ones to this list.

© 2012, All rights reserved

 

(Images courtesy of Microsoft Office Clip Art)

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Talk to Your Doctor about Alternative Medicine (and why you should) – Part One

 

Have you ever talked to your doctor or primary care provider about alternative medicine?

Do you know what your doctor thinks about alternative medicine in general, and specific remedies in particular?

Have you ever discussed the supplements you’ve decided to take or asked your doctor what supplements he or she recommends?

Do you know if your physician would recommend that you try massage therapy or take a Tai Chi class or send you to an acupuncturist? 

If you asked for a referral for massage therapy, Tai Chi, acupuncture, or another AltMed practice, would your doctor okay it? 

Don’t know?  Now is the time to find out, and the best way to do that is to ask simple, direct, and straightforward questions.

 

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  “Just Ask.”  All you have to do is just do it, right?

And yet, somehow the prospect of actually taking this step – actually asking your doctor what he or she thinks about AltMed – turns many people into stammering excuse-generators who justify inaction with comments such as:

Sure, I’d like to but he’ll be mad at me

I wouldn’t dare – he’ll think I’m stupid… or, worse, crazy…

She’ll say only quacks go in for woo-woo world stuff…

If I did that, she’d never take me seriously again… 

He wouldn’t know anything about that, I’m sure, so why bother?

 … And a gazillion or two other I-can’t-because reasons for avoiding the issue.

 

If that’s you, here’s a News Flash:  You may be pleasantly surprised to discover your doctor is more open-minded than you thought and DOES have a working knowledge of alternative practices such as acupuncture, vitamins, herbs, meditation, chiropractic, and recent research findings about their safety and effectiveness. Having The Talk could lead to you getting better and more well-rounded care.

Many of the tools and resources doctors use do include information about herbal therapies, vitamins and minerals, and other AltMed treatments. Devices such as smartphones, instant Internet access laptops and tablet computers, and other communication tools help keep doctors up to speed on topics they might otherwise miss, including AltMed topics.

 

There’s a good chance your doctor will be in the open-to-the-idea camp. After all, acceptance of alternative medicine practices is growing rapidly as research provides more and more evidence of effectiveness for many AltMed treatments.

 

But, suppose your worst fear comes true. Suppose your doctor does get mad. Suppose she does say anyone interested in alternative medicine is stupid or bonkers? Suppose he dismisses all alternative medicine as snake-oil and quackery? Suppose she simply doesn’t know a thing about it. Suppose…well, fill in the blank with whatever negative reaction is behind your hesitation to ask.

If that really is how your doctor would react, you have to ask yourself if you really want this person to be taking care of your health. Is this the type of person you really want to be your doctor? 

If he or she is unwilling to discuss alternative medicine with you, how can you discuss other sensitive issues that need to be discussed? 

 

Do you really want to put your health in the hands of someone who can’t or won’t take your questions and concerns seriously enough to discuss them with you in a fair, frank, adult manner?

Can you put your trust in a doctor who doesn’t know as much as you do about the type of care you’d like to receive?

You can easily guess what my answer would be, but what is your answer?

Tomorrow we’ll talk about what questions to ask (when you have “The Talk”). 

Questions, anyone? Comments?

© 2012, All rights reserved

Supplement Problems: Calcium

(Original article posted May 25, 2011; updated information added on May 26, 2011.)

Yesterday we told you about the concerns that have recently been raised about vitamin E supplements. Today we take a look at the latest on calcium.

 

A new study published in the June 2012 issue of the journal Heart reported that taking high amounts of calcium supplements may increase risk of heart attack and stroke.

Previous research showed calcium was beneficial, especially post-menopausal women and others who are at risk of osteoporosis. Calcium supplements were also to help lower the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, heart attack, and stroke. No wonder many people say their physicians advised them to take a calcium supplement every day, and others decided on their own that taking calcium would be a good idea.

But now the new study raises serious questions about calcium. 

German researchers analyzed data collected over an 11-year period from 23,980 people aged 35 to 64 who did not have cardiovascular disease when they joined the study between 1994 and 1998.

Participants were asked to take a self-administered “food frequency” test that asked about their consumption of 148 foods over the preceding 12 months. They were also asked about supplement use during a baseline interview and then in periodic follow-up questionnaires.  Analysis of that data told the researchers how much calcium the participants were consuming and in which form (dietary calcium in foods and beverages or calcium supplements such as tablets and chewables).

Next they looked at the cardiovascular disease in the participants. Information obtained by surveying participants and survivors of those who had died was verified through medical and death records. After compensating for other confounding factors that could skew the results, they concluded that dietary calcium did not have a significant impact on heart health risks but calcium supplements actually increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Why the difference? Calcium in food is consumed in smaller amounts scattered over the course of the day, which means that the calcium in food is absorbed more slowly, a press release about the research explains. Supplements, on the other hand, deliver a bigger dose of calcium all at once and that causes “calcium levels in the blood to soar above normal range.” The researchers think that spike of calcium or “flooding effect” is the key that explains why supplements can be harmful when dietary calcium is not.

The bottom line, the study authors say, is that calcium supplements should be used with caution and patients should be discouraged from taking calcium supplements.

Others who have read the study disagree, according to a report by NutraIngredients-USA. They point out the importance of calcium, especially for elderly people who are at risk of falls and fractures caused by weak bones. And, they note, this single study is not proof that calcium supplements do cause heart attacks, nor does it provide a strong enough reason to disregard the good things calcium can do. Until additional research confirms this study’s findings, it’s way too early to conclude that the possible harm calcium might cause outweighs the benefits studies have shown it provides.

If you’re not sure what to do — and heaven knows, the back-and-forth can be very confusing — ask your doctor to read this study, if he or she hasn’t already done so, and tell you what’s good or bad about it and what he or she recommends for you. Does your doctor think you should continue taking calcium supplements as you have done up to now or does he or she think you should stop taking the supplements?  And if you do stop taking them, ask about food sources of calcium. Which foods does the doctor recommend, in what amounts, and how often should they be consumed?  Be sure to ask about other calcium sources too, such as antacid tablets that contain calcium (like Tums®).

If you don’t have a health care professional to help you with this question, read ConsumerLabs.com’s Review of Calcium Supplements. Cautions and factors to consider if you are concerned are listed toward the end of the review. Or ask knowledgeable staff or nutritionists at your local health store.

Want to read the full text of the Heart article will find it in the June 2012 issue? See:  Calcium and cardiovascular disease. Associations of dietary calcium intake and calcium supplementation with myocardial infarction and stroke risk and overall cardiovascular mortality in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study (EPIC-Heidelberg), Heart 98:920-925 doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2011-301345

© 2012, All rights reserved

 

Supplement Problems: Vitamin E

 

 

Just when you think you know what supplements you should be taking, research throws a monkey wrench  into the works.

 

Vitamin E is probably best known as an antioxidant supplement that helps to prevent harm that can be caused by free radicals, and helps protect against viral and bacterial infection by boosting immune system strength. It also helps prevent blood clots.

 

Many studies exploring the use of Vitamin E found benefits, including that it helps reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, helps repair the plasma membrane that protects cells in body, helps protect the brain after a stroke, may reduce risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) when taken long-term. 

 

Most said it was safer to get vitamin E from foods than from taking supplements. There was some concern when  evidence suggested that taking long-term, high doses of vitamin E caused a slight uptick in the risk of death from all causes but, as MayoClinic.com reported, “human research is conflicting,” and their advice said, “Caution is warranted.”

 

Some research in 2002 reported that taking vitamin E with selenium, a mineral, could prevent prostate cancer in men. But in October 2011, further analysis showed the opposite. Instead of reducing risk of prostate cancer, vitamin E increased it. Compared to men who took a placebo, those who took 400 IU of vitamin E each day for seven years had a 17 percent increase in prostate cancer. (Taking E with selenium wasn’t beneficial either.)  “Based on these results and the results of large cardiovascular studies using vitamin E,” study co-chair and Cleveland Clinic physician Eric Klein, MD, said in a National Institutes of Health / National Cancer Institute news release, “the supplements have shown no benefit and some very real risks.”

 

The study, Vitamin E and the Risk of Prostate Cancer, was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on October 12, 2011, and may be read online at no charge.  (JAMA. 2011;306(14):1549-1556. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.14370)

 

© 2012, All rights reserved

A Look at Change: Growing Blogs, Medicine, and Alternative Medicine

 

Prompted by the “If I started blogging today, I would…” question that is the May 23 Theme Day topic for bloggers who are participating in the WordCount 2012 Blogathon, today’s topic is a look at change.

 

It is always worthwhile to take time to reassess what’s working and what’s not working, whether the focus is a blog, as it is with today’s theme, or other aspects of work and life, such as adjusting expenditures as goals and income change our personal finance profiles or changing our daily habits as we reassess things we can, should, or might do to maintain and improve our health.

For me, the short answer to the blogging theme question, what I would do if I started blogging today, is keep learning, growing, thinking, acquiring new information, modifying, and evolving.

People who have followed this blog for a while may have noticed new pages have been added while a few old ones went away. Categories have changed a bit as a few new ones were added, a few old ones deleted, and a few expanded or condensed to provide a better framework and organization for the topics covered here. The blog’s overall “voice” has become more casual. And there have been a few other tweaks.

But to me, these are all part of the natural reevaluation and growth process.

And don’t we all do that, whether it’s a conscious effort or just part of living?

After all, nothing is static in life. Things change in our world. Our bodies change. Our attitudes and goals and thoughts change. We discover that things we once though were absolute fact may not be so absolute after all. Some things we “knew” or believed may turn out to have been wrong. Heroes turn out to be flawed. Villains turn out to have redeeming qualities. New information comes along that changes our perceptions and alters what we knew — or thought we knew. Our needs, our desires, our interests, our hopes, our challenges, our goals change and evolve as we go through the stages of life.

That’s how the shift toward acceptance of alternative medicine happened for many of us. Once upon a time we thought conventional medicine could cure every ill, fix every problem, make any ailment “all better.” 

All it took was pill MP900398845[1]or, worst case, an operation and we’d be fine.

I’ve heard people say their doctors tried to tell them they should change their diet, exercise more, stop smoking, curb drinking, or do other things that would improve their health and the response they gave the doctor was a brusque, “Why go to all that trouble? Just give me a pill.”

 

It’s not hard to see why that attitude took hold and lasted so long, even among doctors. After all, didn’t the discovery of wonder drugs cure many once-deadly diseases? Didn’t surgery MP900313990[1] make it possible for cataract-covered eyes to see again and arthritis-crippled joints to walk normally? Didn’t vaccination erase the terror of smallpox and other diseases that once wiped out huge swaths of the population?

Why bother with time-consuming and boring ancient ways when easy-to-use quick-fix new tools worked so well?

In fact, the new tools still work well – for some things. An integrative medicine doctor told me in a telephone interview recently that he still thinks conventional medicine the best choice for acute problems such as a cut, a burn, a broken leg, an infection, but for chronic problems, alternative medicine’s holistic approach offers better results and will save health care dollars, a factor that has taken on even greater importance now as health care costs continue to soar higher and higher.

The fact that the field of integrative medicine exists is a hopeful sign because it means medicine as a whole is recognizing that the conventional approach can’t cure everything so let’s put everything on the table and use whichever approach works best for the problem at hand.

And at the same time, researchers are getting the funding they need to conduct studies to find out whether alternative medicine treatments work, and how to use those treatments safely, for maximum benefit to the patient. The evidence those studies add to the body of medical literature will help in many ways. Insurance companies looking for the most cost-effective methods of treating health problems have already begun to make the shift by expanding their coverage to include evidence-based alternative therapies.

That’s why questions like the one posed for this Theme Day are useful…because assessing and reassessing can spur improvement, whether it’s for a blog like this one, or our whole system of health care.

© 2012, all rights reserved.

(Images courtesy of Microsoft Office)

Drink to Your Health (Part 2): BLACK TEA

In an upcoming segment of the Drink to Your Health series, we’ll take a look at the many health benefits of green tea but first, let’s take a look at what black tea can do.

 

As the name suggests, black teas have a darker color and heavier or richer flavor that’s more appealing in the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other Western countries. According to The Tea Association of the USA, Americans drink more than 3 billion gallons of tea, about 80 percent of which is black tea.

 

It’s a great drink for the nutrition conscious and weight watchers because tea has no sugar (for all practical purposes, it contains zero calories), no fat, no sodium, and no carbonation. It’s a soothing yet refreshing drink whether it is served hot or cold and it can be enjoyed plain or with milk, lemon, sugar, honey or other flavorings.

 

New research published in the May 2012 edition of the journal Preventive Medicine reported the findings of a small (just 87 people ranging in age from 25 to 60) clinical trial to see how black tea affected heart health. People who drank just three cups a day of black tea for 12 weeks had 18.4 percent lower blood sugar (fasting glucose levels) and 36 percent lower triglycerides.  Their ratio of bad (LDL) to good (HDL) cholesterol improved.

 

And there are many more studies that showed how black tea helps health.

Here’s a small sample:

  • 44 percent reduction in heart attack (myocardial infarction) risk in people who drank one or more cups of tea each day, according to a 1999 Harvard study.

 

  • 42 percent lower risk of skin cancer in people who drank iced black tea with citrus peel, according to a 2001 study published in BioMed Central’s journal BMC Dermatology.

 

  • 11 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) in people who drank five cups of black tea each day while they also followed a moderately low fat diet, according to a 2003 US Department of Agriculture study.

 

  • Significantly lower risk of the most common type of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, people who drank hot black tea, a 2000 study reported in the journal Cancer Epidemiology , Biomarkers & Prevention. 

 

  • Other research shows black tea aids diabetes management, helps reduce allergic response, helps curb weight gain (in animal studies), reduces risk of stroke and heart disease, combats prostate, colorectal, lung, and other types of cancer, and helps other health issues as well.

 

On top of all that, black tea eases stress. So, whether you prefer it iced or hot, plain or sweetened, enjoy a health-helping “cuppa” daily or oftener.

 

 

 

© 2012, all rights reserved

What Makes an Alternative Medicine Source Credible (or Not)?

 

The wonderful thing about having access to information on the Internet is that everything you want to know or could ever want to know is “out there” somewhere. It may be easy or hard to find, depending on how obscure it is and how well you use search tools, but odds are the answer is there, somewhere.

 

And the not-so-wonderful thing about it is that everything is out there, whether it’s valid or false, useful or frivolous, sincere or scam. Sometimes it’s easy to brush off the baloney, weed out the wacko, and spot the scams. But not always.

 

That’s why it’s important to think about what signs to look for before you believe (or buy) what you find online.  Conventional health and medicine websites may display the HON (short for Health On the Net) Code  symbol, which tells you the site has gone through a fairly stringent vetting process and passed. I can’t recall seeing the HON Code on an AltMed site but if I found it on one, I’d consider that site trustworthy.

 

But even without such a clear cue, other signs can tip the balance toward or away from credibility. Here are a few of my “red flags.”

  • Too much hype. Enthusiasm is fine but when an email or post or website that raves too enthusiastically about how wonderful a supplement or treatment or product, it casts a big shadow of doubt. If the item – whatever it may be – is really THAT fantastic, why do you have to push it so fervently? Can’t it stand on its own merits?  If facts and evidence show it really does what the hype claims, that goes a lot further to convince me than shouting and touting it with slick sales spiels.

 

  • Selling. It’s disappointing to discover an otherwise promising report about a supplement, product or device, book or treatment is really just fancy packaging for a sales pitch. If the person or group that created that report weren’t selling the item, would they still praise it so highly? 

 

  • Secrets “they” don’t want you to know. If this really is true, how did this report manage to sneak past the mysterious “They” who don’t want us to know about it?  And how did the author of this article or email or web page get past “them” to discover this “secret” information? To me, that “secret” tag means “be skeptical.”

 

What are your red flags? What tells you that you can trust what you’re reading? Please share your comments and we’ll revisit this topic in the future.

 

 

© 2012, all rights reserved

Dr. Andrew Weil’s “Spontaneous Happiness” works for Jackie Dishner

 

Today brings several firsts for AltMedForYou – our first guest post, first book review, and first exchange of posts between blogs. We begin with our guest’s great review of a book by a giant in the field of alternative medicine. I hope you’ll enjoy this review as much as I did and I encourage you to visit the writer’s blog often. (You’ll find my article about positive visualization posted there today.)

JackieDishner_2129Web

GUEST BLOGGER  Jackie Dishner, author of BACKROADS & BYWAYS OF ARIZONA, is a freelance writer who specializes in design, self-help and travel. She writes for consumer magazines, trade publications and websites. She blogs at BIKE WITH JACKIE, where she posts inspirational messages and discusses her BIKE philosophy and its mind-body connection, which can lead you to spontaneous happiness, a topic Dr. Andrew Weil recently wrote about in his latest book. Jackie has the review for you here.

Spontaneous Happiness

By Andrew Weil, MD

282 pp. Little, Brown and Company, $27.99

 

If you think being a happy person means you have to smile 24/7, you can relax. In Spontaneous Happiness, Dr. Andrew Weil, one of the founders of integrative medicine and a professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson dissolves that fallacy.

 

Spontaneous happiness, he says is more about finding that middle ground, that sense of contentment, serenity, comfort, balance and resilience. You won’t have all of this all the time, and you don’t have to. Are you relieved?

 

You should be. In his book about happiness, the New York Times bestselling author – he’s written 12 books that deal with some form of integrative medicine – shares his theory about how you can achieve this emotional well-being.

   SpontaneousHappiness_book

Starting with his thoughts about why people are so depressed – Do you realize 1 in 10 of us here in the U.S., including our children, take one or more antidepressant drugs and that the World Health Organization predicts that by 2030 more people worldwide will be affected by depression than any other health condition? – Dr. Weil’s book goes on to offer solutions for your unhappiness. His prerogative would be that you make a few lifestyle changes, as opposed to filling another prescription. Yet, he doesn’t fully discount medication for those with extreme mental health issues, such as bi-polar disorder.

 

 

But he doesn’t hold back, either, when it comes to suggesting a depression epidemic is taking place that might have in fact been manufactured. Pharmaceutical companies, the big insurers, and corporate healthcare prosper and have huge incentive to keep the epidemic growing. More than 164 million antidepressant prescriptions were written in 2008, worth $9.6 billion in U.S. sales, he writes.

 

Dr. Weil cites various research and includes interviews with other integrative or alternative medicine practitioners. One, a Native American healer, says something as simple as gathering a circle of friends for support and prayer can do wonders for all dimensions of the human experience: physical, mental, social and spiritual.  

 

Among the many informative points, Dr. Weil addresses how physical disease can be tied to your emotions, the critical importance of physical activity, the importance of touch, and he also mentions visualization, breathe work, and his concern that technology is socially isolating us from each other.

 

The part I like best about this book is the “8-week Program for Optimal Well-Being” he walks you through at the end. After explaining the various types of alternative therapies you can do to connect with your own sense of contentment, serenity, comfort, balance and resilience, he gives you a plan to see it through. The program requires you to answer a lot of questions each week about your general health and lifestyle, followed by some very specific tasks to take care of your body, mind and spirit. His point is to get you to connect with where you really are in life right now so you can get where you really want to be.

 

Clearly, spontaneous happiness doesn’t happen overnight.

 

                                                       *   *   *

© 2012 by Jackie Dishner, all rights reserved.

Omega 3 for Alzheimer’s

 

As we’ve been reporting on the pros and cons of taking omega 3 fatty acid (fish oil) supplements, scientists have published yet another study about a promising application for omega 3s.

 

The new study, just published in the medical journal Neurology, suggests that omega 3 fatty acids in food may help delay or, better still, prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other memory problems.

 

How did they come up with that?

 

First researchers gathered diet data from 1,219 study participants, all aged 65 or older, none of whom had Alzheimer’s disease at the start of the study.

 

Then they collected blood samples from each participant and tested each to see how much beta amyloid they contained. While that’s not a totally accurate reflection of how much beta amyloid is in the brain, given that it’s much easier to measure blood levels than brain levels, at least this gives an indication of how much beta amyloid may be in a person’s system.

 

Beta amyloid, also called amyloid beta, is considered the “hallmark” of Alzheimers. In the brain, this protein is thought to be a key player in the development of Alzheimer’s disease because of its involvement in the formation of plaques (picture scabs or patches) and tangles in the brain that interfere with normal brain function.

 

This can be pretty confusing. If you’d like to see a good, clear, and short explanation of what beta amyloid plaques and tangles are and what they look like, one useful source is the American Health Assistance Foundation’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research page. (Or type “beta amyloid plaques” into a Google search engine and select IMAGES from the top command menu.)

 

As we learn more about how diet affects conditions like Alzheimer’s, we’re finding that certain diets seem to delay the condition — and may even prevent it.

 

For this study, the researchers were interested in ten nutrients, one of which was omega 3s. The report that people whose diets were highest in omega 3s had 20- to 30 percent lower levels of beta amyloid than those whose diets provided only the average amount of omega 3s. The key difference was just one extra gram (1,000 mg) of omega 3s above average intake level.

 

As we’ve previously reported, fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines are the best food sources of omega 3s (because they contain the highest amounts of that nutrient) but vegetarians who don’t eat fish can still get omega 3s from nuts and seeds, though in smaller quantities than fish provide. To see how much you get with various types of foods, look at Colorado State University Extension’s fact sheet on Omega 3 Fatty Acids.

 

Now the next step will be – you guessed it – more research. We need to find out if the same thing works for spinal fluid and brain levels of beta amyloid – does a diet rich in omega 3s also reduce beta amyloid in spinal fluid and in the brain?

 

To read the study, see Nutrient intake and plasma β-amyloid.

 

© 2012, all rights reserved