Posts Tagged ‘health consultant’

How to know if Statin drugs are right for you. What you should know about Statin (Cholesterol) drugs before filling the prescription

July 14, 2009

Statin drugs are among the most commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals in this country and include:  Lipitor (atorvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin), Crestor (rosuvastatin) and Lescol (fluvastatin).

According to medical studies, pharmaceutical studies, medical literature and manufacturer’s promotional materials, Statin drugs lower cholesterol, thereby decreasing plaque buildup in the arteries and decreasing heart attacks.  Recently, a number of studies actually question the validity of some of these claims.

Statin drugs work by inhibiting the action of an enzyme in the liver (HMGCo-A reductase), which reduces the ability of the liver to make cholesterol, thus decreasing the cholesterol in the blood.  Some researchers suggest this also leads to a decrease in the size of plaques in the arteries as well as a decrease in inflammation in the arteries, which leads to the plaque deposits.  However, only small scale studies have been done to look at these effects and the results are ambiguous.  Many studies, do however show, that people with normal cholesterol levels can have heart disease and plaque in the arteries, and people with high cholesterol  can have little plaque in the arteries.  So, what is the contributing factor?  Is it cholesterol?  Most recent research indicates that inflammation is the biggest factor in heart attack, heart disease and plaque formation.  Many physicians are now looking at a protein known to indicate generalized inflammation, known as C-reactive protein, or CRP.

This leads to the question: Do I really need a statin drug and what are the benefits of taking one?  The benefits include a lowering of “bad” cholesterol, lowering of blood triglyerides and, sometimes, a slight elevation of “good” cholesterol.  Is this important?  It depends on your body, lifestyle and medical conditions.  It is important to look at more than just one indicator of health.  Additional factors, such as inflammation, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, etc. also play an important role in heart health.

What are the downsides to taking a statin?  Statin drugs change how the liver functions by inhibiting the action of a key enzyme in the liver, and, recent studies indicate, also in the brain.  Depending on which studies are reviewed, side effects from this inhibition can affect anywhere from 10 percent to 60 percent of those taking a statin drug.  And, unlike many medications, the side effects may not show up immediately.  Some people easily take the drug for two or three years before side effects show up; others experience side effects almost immediately. Some of the side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Gas
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Abnormal liver enzyme function
  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Peripheral neuropathy–numbness, tingling and pain in extremities and feet
  • Cognitive changes, such as memory changes, inability to concentrate and difficulty remembering words
  • Decreased production of Co-enzyme Q 10 (Ubiquinone), an antioxidant necessary for heart muscle health
  • Decreased production of Squalene, an antioxidant necessary for breast health and cancer inhibition

There are some things you can do to support your health before you decide to take a statin drug.

  1. Break a sweat.  Aerobic exercise promotes heart muscle strengthening and efficiency, increases the production of “good” cholesterol and decreases the inflammatory response, lowering the CRP levels.
  2. Lose belly fat:  Belly fat is correlated with high CRP levels. Belly fat is the easiest fat to lose through exercise and healthy diet.
  3. Quit smoking:  Smoking any type of tobacco substance increases the inflammatory response.
  4. Take a Niacin supplement: Niacin has a beneficial action of relaxing arterial walls, promoting efficient muscle contraction of the heart and decreasing inflammation while supporting liver function, raising “good” cholesterol levels (up to 35%) and lowering “bad”.  Some practitioners support taking regular Niacin, which can have a profoundly uncomfortable flushing effect, while others find taking a non-flushing Niacin to be just as effective.  The recommendation is 500 mg twice a day.
  5. Take Omega 3 Fish Oil: A powerful antioxidant that decreases inflammation, it is also effective at lowering blood triglycerides.  The American Heart Association suggests a minimum dose of 1000 mg twice each day and a maximum dose of 2000 mg twice each day.
  6. Red Yeast Rice (Monascus purpureus): Often sold as a natural cholesterol lowering supplement, is a yeast grown on rice and used as a dietary staple in many Asian countries.
    red yeast rice

    red yeast rice

    It is an HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor and is the precursor for the statin drug, lovastatin (Mevacor).  It should be taken with caution, as it can produce similar side effects to the prescription statin drugs.

  7. Plant Sterols: Plant sterol esters have been found to be effective at reducing LDL cholesterol, if taken in doses of at least 1.3 gm per day.

If you are already taking a statin drug, or you and your physician feel it is important that you begin taking one, there are some things you can do to offset the potential side effects.

  1. Supplement with Co-enzyme Q10.  The recommended dose is 100-180 mg each day.
  2. Add 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil to your diet each day.  Olive oil is high in Squalene, an antioxidant often decreased with statin drugs.
  3. Limit the amount of simple sugars in your diet and focus on complex starches.  Simple sugars can increase the body’s inflammatory responses.
  4. Take a Niacin supplement.  Niacin can enhance the effect of some of the statin drugs, which may allow you to take a lower dose.
  5. Avoid eating grapefruit or grapefruit products, which can interfere with appropriate absorption of the drug.

Statins have become one of the most prevalent drugs in our culture.  While statins have been proven effective at lowering “bad” cholesterol, that benefit comes with a price.  Before beginning a statin drug, work with your doctor or health care consultant to evaluate your diet and lifestyle and give yourself three to six months to make changes.  Drugs are not a substitute for proper diet, exercise and lifestyle and they come with a hefty price in cost and side effects.  If diet, exercise and lifestyle aren’t enough, statin drugs may be the best answer.  Only you and your doctor can make those decisions. If you choose to use statins, remember that supporting yourself while taking stains is crucial to maintaining your health.

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Could sunscreen be making us sick? Vitamin D: Not just for bone health

July 9, 2009

While long recognized as necessary for bone health and strength, Vitamin D is known to aid in the absorption of calcium from the intestine, maintaining adequate calcium and phosphate levels in the blood, supporting regrowth of bone and preventing a form of tetany caused by too little calcium in the blood.  Recent research indicates that Vitamin D also provides protection from osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), some types of cancers (such as colon, breast  and prostate), inflammation and some autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis.  Vitamin D deficiency may be a major factor in depression, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, periodontal disease, osteoarthritis, heart disease, stroke and reduced immune function.  Recent studies indicate that Vitamin D deficiency is becoming more common in our population, especially in adults, who often do not drink milk or eat cereal and who spend little time in the sun.

Vitamin D, which is actually a steroidal hormone, is found naturally in some dietary sources, including fish, beef liver, egg yolks, some cheese, and cod liver oil. In the United States, Vitamin D is usually added to certain foods, such as milk, cereals and some types of yogurt, margarine and orange juice.  The best source, however, is exposure to the sun’s UV radiation, especially UVB rays. Vitamin D actually refers to two different chemicals, Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol)) and Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).  Vitamin D3 has the most profound and long lasting effect for human health.

When Vitamin D was first discovered in the early 20th century, it was found to be a key factor in the development of Rickets, a childhood disease of weak bone development.  At that time, a recommendation of about 200 IU per day was determined as optimal for proper bone development.  That has been the FDA’s recommendation since that time. With the advent of new research linking Vitamin D to many other functions and diseases, newer recommendations are being determined to promote healthy functioning.  It is reported that the new minimum recommendation will be 1000 IU per day.   While many foods are fortified with Vitamin D, the best source of Vitamin D for human beings is exposure to the sun.  How much exposure is still being debated.  But, it is known that many things are preventing humans from producing enough Vitamin D,  including:

  • Amount of sunscreen used and SPF level
  • cloud cover
  • shade vs direct sun exposure
  • smog
  • amount of pigment in skin
  • time of day of sun exposure
  • season and latitude
  • Glass (UVB radiation does not penetrate glass)
  • Some medications, such as Corticosteroids (such as Prednisone), weight loss drugs (including Xenical and Alli) and cholesterol lowering drugs (such as Questran, LoCholest and Prevalite)

According to the Vitamin D Council, a nonprofit organization promoting research and education about Vitamin D, it is important to determine if your Vitamin D levels are sufficient to promote health and healing.  The only way to determine your level is to have your blood level of one form of Vitamin D, 25(OH)D or Cholecalciferol, checked.  This test can be ordered by your physician and blood drawn in a lab.  You can also order a home test that uses a heel or finger stick and discuss the results with your physician or health consultant.  Based on the results, you can then determine if you need additional supplementation of Vitamin D.

While Vitamin D has long been known as The Sunshine Vitamin, it is only in recent years that it’s true function in the body has been discovered.  Taking charge of your health by knowing your Vitamin D levels and supporting your body with proper amounts is key to maintaining your good health.

Could a simple intestinal organism be making you sick?

July 6, 2009

What is “Candida” and how do I know if I have it?

Disruption of healthy ratios of bacteria and fungus in the intestine, often known as Candida by the alternative health community, is attributed to a wide variety of symptoms, including fatigue, bloating, muscle pain, allergies and weight gain.  Understanding what Candida is and how it affects the body can allow for changes, often easy and simple, that significantly improve health.

Candida Albicans, and other strains of Candida, are yeast fungus micro-organisms that commonly live in the intestinal tract of every human. Candida Albicans lives happily in a community of yeast fungus, bacteria and other organisms. Over time, these organisms have created a balanced community that help support our digestion. The normal ratio of bacteria to yeast is about 10:1. However, it is possible to upset this balance, leading the organism community to become ineffective in maintaining health bowel function.

Disruption of healthy ratios of bacteria and fungus can be caused by a variety of factors. When the ratio is disturbed, any of the organisms could multiply to a large community, preventing other organisms from multiplying and doing their intended jobs. The most commonly recognized “overgrowth” is usually Candida Albicans. Many alternative health practitioners focus on Candida Albicans overgrowth as a cause of many diseases and conditions, and have created the term “Candida” to mean an overgrowth of Candida Albicans.

For alternative health practitioners, Candida signifies an overgrowth of Candida Albicans within the digestive system and also has spread to other organs and parts of the body. While traditional physicians recognize the inappropriate growth of Candida Albicans in certain conditions, such as Thrush, vaginal infections and sometimes systemic infections for immune compromised individuals, most traditional physicians do not support the belief that Candida Albicans overgrowth in the intestine can lead to the myriad symptoms attributed to the condition.

What are the symptoms attributed to Candida?
The symptoms can vary from person to person, but usually include digestive symptoms such as:

  • bloating
  • gas
  • intestinal discomfort
  • diarrhea or constipation or both
  • food intolerance, such as fermented foods

Other symptoms can show up as:

  • water retention
  • itching and rashes
  • depression
  • mental fog, inability to concentrate and poor memory
  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • weight gain

What can cause Candida and how do I know if I have it?
Candida is caused by anything that disrupts the intestinal environment and disrupts the ratio of organisms.  Some common causes include:

  • Use of antibiotics
  • Antibiotic treated foods
  • Diets high in sugars
  • Acid internal environment
  • Steroids
  • Hormones
  • Chemotherapy
  • high intake of alcohol
  • Immune deficiency syndromes
  • parasite infestation
  • Lifestyle factors

To determine your potential for Candida, download a free candida questionnaire.
While some medical tests are available to determine Candida overgrowth, usually the diagnosis is made based on history and questionnaires. There is a saliva test available that can help determine if Candida is present in inappropriate amounts. You can easily obtain the saliva test that can be done in your home that tests for D-Arabinitol, a byproduct of Candida overgrowth. It can also be helpful to rule out other parasites that can mimic the symptoms of Candida. This can be accomplished with a series of stool, saliva and, sometimes, blood tests, which are easily obtained when recommended by your health care provider.

If I know I have Candida, what do I do?
Candida Albicans overgrowth can be a serious problem and, when diagnosed by a traditional physician, often results in very powerful medications, such as Nisoril or Diflucan, being prescribed. Completing the Candida questionnaire and taking it to your physician can allow for beginning a discussion about your symptoms and problems.  However, most physicians will not prescribe  medications unless the overgrowth is a significant, observable health problem. And, of course, these medications create their own problems.
Alternative health providers offer many options to manage and treat Candida and the treatments vary from practitioner to practitioner and are often determined by the individual and their contributing factors. Treatments can include:

  • Probiotics
  • Intestinal flora, such as active yeast cultures
  • Colon cleanses
  • Colonics
  • Herbal products
  • Homeopathic products
  • Diet changes
  • Food restrictions
  • Changes to the living/working environment
  • Dehumidifiers
  • Air purifiers
  • Acupuncture

With all of these choices, it can be challenging to know which one is best. It is important to identify the causes leading up to the Candida overgrowth and the symptoms that are manifesting before choosing a treatment options. Talk with your health care provider or Holistic Health Consultant to work out the best treatment option for you. Each person is unique and no one solution works for everyone.