Friday, January 28, 2011

What Mercury Can Do

So here's the deal on your teeth... go to dentist, have cavity, drill it out, fill hole full of metal, "Hey thanks, my tooth is fixed.  By the way what was in that silvery stuff?"

"Oh nothing, just 50% mercury, some tin and nickel and other stuff."

Yep, that's right.  For over a 150 years teeth have been getting filled with mercury.  We're worried about 2 micrograms of mercury in seafood.  Many people have stopped eating tuna for this reason and the cans carry a warning to pregnant women.  Each mercury filling releases about 15 micrograms of mercury into your mouth a day. The American Dental Association continues to stonewall the lack of logic in using this practice.

I want to share some of the health problems generated by mercury and let them speak for themselves as to whether you want to continue letting your dentist put mercury in your head.  I'm going to share two lists of symptoms.  The first list is the OVERT symptoms of a medical crisis kind of toxicity from mercury.

  • Problems centered in brain, heart, lungs, and skin:
  • Peripheral neuropathy (numbness, tingling, burning in extremities)
  • Red nose, cheeks, face
  • Slow learning in children
  • Bleeding gums
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Loss of hair
  • Skin peeling and rashes
  • Increased salivation
These are the 2X4 bash across the head of, "Hey Silver-Toothed Dude, YOU have a serious problem."  These are the symptoms that the ADA says nobody is getting from amalgam fillings so they are safe.

Here is another list of symptoms.  These are gleaned from the homeopathic materia medica that show the subtler energetic powers of mercury and how it impacts health.
  • Instability on all levels
  • Internal hurriedness with slowness in acting
  • Fears and anxiety
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Inability to concentrate, battles confusion
  • Broad, flabby tongue with indents around the edges
  • Super sensitive to criticism
  • Forgetfulness
  • Sensitive to heat and cold
  • Ulcerative colitis, digestive problems
  • Easy perspiration
How much attention deficit disorder, and academic problems are part of the dental care to which we've been subjected?  How many of your problematic irritating health issues are reflected in these lists? If your mouth is full of fillings, could mercury be the problem?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How Much Is Enough?

I received a question asking if there is a hazard to taking too many vitamins. 

My shortest answer would be apart from damage to your pocketbook, there are no large health hazards to taking too many vitamins.  Unless advised by a health professional for a particular health problem there is no value to going overboard "megadosing" vitamins and minerals.  There are a couple vitamins with unique features that might comprise a health problem if they were to be overdosed.  One of these would be niacin.  It is one of the B-vitamins, and is commonly recommended or prescribed for managing high cholesterol.  The risk with it is in very large doses it can have a toxic effect on the liver.  If you get itchy all over, look a little more yellow in the whites of your eyes, hear voices, or experience serious hot flashes frequently you may be getting too much niacin.  Reducing or eliminating niacin will cause the symptoms to diminish or disappear.

A second toxic vitamin is Vitamin A.  Normal adults would have to take in excess of probably 25,000-30,000 units for a long time (more than a year)  to collect any negative hits health-wise. I'm referring to pure Vitamin A -- not Beta-carotene for which it is impossible to overdose.

Iron is a toxic mineral.  Men rarely need supplemental iron.  Menstruating women have a need for 15-20 mg of iron daily, particularly during and for a few days after periods.  Iron increases your free radical damage, so it's best to avoid it beyond true need for it.  Too much iron has been associated with increased colon cancer risks.  Excess iron could also cause you to get stuck in the scanners at the airport.  (LOL - I am joking.)

The very best source for nutritional supplementation comes from food.  Whacky idea! A wide variety of variously colored vegetables are the most nutrient dense foods on the planet.  The second best source is from supplements made from whole foods, (e.g. Juice Plus.)  Finally, the least useful source is a synthesized multi-vitamin tablet that you commonly find on the grocery store shelf.  The actual brand names will remain nameless as the companies would probably sue me for saying their products are trash and pretty worthless.

I have to say I am not very good at being consistent for long periods with the pill popper lifestyle.  The supplements I take with the most regularity include Juice Plus, a B-50 complex, a probiotic, and a revolving assortment of varied adrenal supplements (for aiding stress.)  If I'm getting sick, I'll take Vitamin C, Echinacea, Mitake/Shitake mushrooms, and Zinc.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Managing Depression

Pharmaceutical companies have done enough advertising to bring to everyone's attention that they have drugs available for managing depression, and if one doesn't work multiple numbers taken together can do the job.  I will not deny that there are some individual situations for which these mysteriously functioning pills are needed.  At the same time I would contend they're over-prescribed and over-used.

First off, it's important to distinguish between situational depression and clinical depression.  In American society we've been brainwashed into thinking if we have any problem in life it can be fixed with a drug.  We are a nation with a split personality in this regard.  As long as the drug is manufactured by a "reputable pharmaceutical company" and it's properly prescribed drugging your pain is to be admired.  If the drug is illegal, however, you do the hard time and your pain is nothing to be considered in the sentencing.  There ARE situations that make us sad.  Situations in which nobody in their right mind would not feel sad.  Job loss, death, relationship problems can all cause situational depression.  We are uncomfortable feeling depressed and sad and yet situations warrant those feelings and the best thing to do is embrace the feelings and allow time to heal the wounds.

IF the depression gets prolonged or deepens into dwelling on it, unable to push through and do daily activities of living, or diverts into suicidal thinking and planning a stronger more pro-active approach is needed.  I personally would resort to the psychotropic drugs only as a last resort.  There are a lot of means and methods to try before arriving at the last resort.

Here are just a few ways to use natural approaches to support emotional health.
  • Exercise -- Get extra oxygen to brain cells by walking briskly or jogging, or swimming -- any aerobic cardiovascular workout will do the trick.
  • Eliminate artificial sweeteners, sugar, and simple carbohydrates.  They destabilize blood sugar and blood sugar swings high and low make for increased inability to control emotions.
  • Increase protein in your diet.  It stimulates metabolism, and is a precursor for building strong cells.
  • Plan and work out a schedule that gets you out of the house and engages your mind.  Try to create opportunity for interaction with other human beings for a few hours EVERY day.  This prevents your brain from falling into a rut and provides other things to think about.
  • Work puzzles -- these are like exercise for brain cells.
  • Manage sleep.  Some people handle depression by sleeping more, some by sleeping less.  Work to find a middle ground.  Sleep in the darkest room possible and aim for 8-10 hours a night.
  • The following herbs have positive effects on emotions and mental function: St. John's Wort, Skullcap, Passion Flower, Chamomile, Gota Kola, and Gingko.
  • The following vitamins and minerals help: a B-vitamin complex, zinc, copper, Vitamin C and E.
  • These added natural supplements are also helpful: GABA, 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylcholine, lecithin.
See a healthcare provider, and in particular a naturopath, if you want help working out an anti-depression plan.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Vitamin D

There ARE times when being a naturopath causes a lot of mind games in my head.  Vitamin D has been ALL over the news lately.  It almost feels stupid to write a blog about something that is receiving so much attention and yet I believe Vitamin D is this important.

First of all, do this fun little activity with the people with which you live: take a globe and find the latitude line on which you live and follow it around the earth.  Compare the countries that are north or south of your latitude line.  If you are north of about 40 degrees you are in a northern latitude.  People in northern latitudes do no get sunlight - especially in winter.  More days are cloudy, and the days that aren't the sun isn't at a high enough angle and it's too cold for sunbathing anyway.  This means no Vitamin D is getting made by your body.  This is a problem.

Vitamin D regulates the protein expression for 1 out of 10 genes.  Cells that would go "rogue" by mutating or twisting their proteins and therein becoming cancerous are created.  Vitamin D facilitates and regulates immunity.  The immune system is the body agency that is in charge of taking out cancer cells.  So a Vitamin D deficiency leads to more cancer cells being potentially created, AND shorts out the agency that is eliminating cancer cells that are naturally produced in everyone.  Can the need for it be any plainer?

Everyone in my practice who I have tested have been deficient.  We are at 49 degrees latitude and well, Seattle has a little bit of a rain reputation for good reason.  You can ask your doctor to test you, but chances are really high you are low.

The best source of Vitamin D is sunlight, and it is the UV part of the spectrum in sunlight that is the key.  So, the second best source is tanning.  Last source is supplements.  I realize fully that this flies in the face of all the educational campaigns the American Cancer Society and dermatology and cosmetology groups have run over the past ten years to use your sunscreen.  If the body needs Vitamin D and it has been evolutionarily so important to life that the body has it's own way to make Vitamin D from UV exposure, does it not make logical sense that a) a deficiency of Vitamin D can be very detrimental, and b) skin cancer may not be the result of being in the sun?  I will be the first to say emphatically -- do NOT let yourself get sunburned!  Sunburn is cell damage.  Logically, enough repeated sunburning could lead to cancer.  But, you do not need sunburns to make Vitamin D!  Single BEST way to get Vitamin D is getting your skin exposed to sunlight or a tanning bed.  The more skin exposed the less time it takes.  Just be extremely careful to ramp up the amounts of time spent in the sun so the body's natural tanning response can build in the protection from burning.  If you can't get sunlight or tanning then take supplements.  I'm recommending 1,000 units of Vitamin D twice a day to my patients.  If you're chronically sick and run down, depressed in winter, or carry cancer genes then I'd go higher.

Friday, January 7, 2011


My grandnephew has been through a lot of testing and finally, after a long time, has been given a health label of autism.  Like most psychological/mental diagnoses, autism is a wide-ranging and varied disorder with a host of different possible but unproven causes.  Nobody knows what causes autism.  There are lots of causes, perhaps nearly as many as there are individuals with the label.

One of the extremely common contributing factors to autism is dietary related.  The following food items have been reported to exacerbate autism:
  • grains, particularly gluten-containing grains - wheat, barley, and oats.
  • food preservatives
  • food dyes
  • artificial sweeteners
  • sensitivity to particular foods on an individual basis
Food sensitivities are best tested through an elimination diet.  The ironic rule of thumb on what foods could be causing a sensitivity problem are those that are ingested the most.  Any foods eaten a lot, or foods for which there are cravings are suspect.  These need to be eliminated for a period of at least two weeks, a month is even better.  Over that period of abstaining, if there are offending foods in that list, autism symptoms, as well as other health issues (e.g. insomnia, snuffly noses) may improve gradually.  At the end of the period, foods can be added back into the diet one by one.  An offending food will almost immediately and dramatically cause a worsening of symptoms once again.

Brain and nerve function are significantly affected by nutrition.  Adequate B vitamins, calcium, and minerals like zinc, copper, magnesium, and selenium are all crucial to enzyme functions that control proper nerve firing.

Toxicity problems would be the third area of concern that I'll mention here.  Exposures to heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, mercury, and aluminum can all cause significant impairment of nerve and brain function.  Hair analysis is one less expensive, but fairly accurate way to evaluate how much of problem this may be.

We do not know what the mechanism for autism is.  We do not know causes or triggers.  But, we do know that many of these natural factors play at least some role in the body's overall general ability to function.  If incorporating them into lifestyle changes will alter the course of, or improve the symptoms of autism why would they not be tried?  Because, even IF they make no difference at all, I am confident they would improve ANYONE'S health. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Snip, Snip?

Don't blame me so much for this one, blame Seattle Magazine, they're the ones who got me thinking about this.  In their most recent issue they have an article about male circumcision.  Amazon has over 900 references to circumcision.  Given the rabidly strong opinions about it, it's sheer stupidity perhaps to open up the can of worms.  But, as I thought about how to approach this controversial topic I also realized there are some equally deep-seated similar issues with another common male surgery - vasectomies.

There has been marginal scientific evidence that circumcision makes a difference health-wise.  The small health advantages to being circumcised that have been reported are decreased incidence of: 1) urinary tract infections in infant/toddler males; 2) contracting HIV/AIDS, HPV, or other STD's; and 3) cancer of the penis.  The numbers are not dramatic however, so the practice of circumcision remains more a decision based on religion, culture, and personal preference than medical factors.  These are deeply personal arenas and best left between doctor and patient, not with insurance companies or state laws.  Advocates of the uncircumcised side of the debate feel so strongly about their position that they are lobbying legislatures to make circumcising infants a crime based on the claim that the practice is abusive.  Given that it is done under anesthesia and has been accepted and performed for thousands of years the claim seems spacious.

There seems to be a larger issue at play though if one adds vasectomy into the considerations.  What I have observed is that men have a lot of anxiety about having medical procedures performed on their reproductive system -- be it on themselves or on their sons.

There are decent medical/health reasons to have both of these surgical procedures performed, and the risks from them are minimal.  Each person/parent needs to make up their own mind, but fear of pain should not be one of the reasons.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cancer Prevention

"I am opposed to heart attacks and cancer like I am opposed to sin."  
--Mary Lasker, quoted in The Emperor of Maladies

I crossed over into 2011 engrossed in reading the above referenced book.  It is a sobering, comprehensive, thought-provoking, brilliantly written book.  It is easily one of the better non-fiction books I've ever read on any subject.  It is basically a history of cancer and cancer treatment, but deeper than that it invites one into reflection on the nature of health and the spiritual/emotional/physical battles that are happening daily across the board -- patient, doctor, researcher, fund raiser-organizer, congress person, parent. loved one, child.  One in four of us will experience cancer at some time in our lives.  There is still no cure.  The fact is, we have made better progress in defeating HIV/AIDS. 

I continue to believe that the best defense against cancer (and disease in general) is adopting a lifestyle that is a proactive offense in preventing the occurrence of illnesses.  To this end, here are ten suggestions to begin incorporating into your life in this new year.  If you are already doing them, do more of the same.

  1. Include more fiber -- 20-40 gm a day.
  2. Drink water -- 1/3 of your body weight in fluid ounces every day
  3. Eat more vegetables than fruit, but eat more of both than anything else.  Organic is best, but just do it.
  4. Exercise - don't lay down if you can sit, don't sit if you can stand, don't stand it you can walk.  EVERY day do something active.  Interval training is appearing to be far more effective than most other types of exercise.  This is doing short rapid bursts of intense exercise interspersed with slow-downs.  Pedometers that measure steps will keep you honest: 7,000 steps plus a day.
  5. Incorporate the following anti-cancer supplements/foods/spices into your daily routine: turmeric, green tea, fish oil, and Vitamin D, 
  6. Delete from your diet: SUGAR in every form, food dyes, food preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, and MSG.
  7. Sleep -- get enough for you to feel rested -- each person's need for it varies.  The majority need 6-8 hours.  Some need less, some more.  Sleep in the DARK - as dark as possible.
  8. Check in with and connect with your spirit in some way multiple times a day.
  9. Be positive and look at the half-FULL glass, don't dwell on the empty parts.  Help others do the same and if there are chronically "toxic" people in your life who can't or won't change their attitudes look for ways to minimize their presence in your life.
  10. Learn to say no to stress.  Most of the stress we have in our lives we have introduced ourselves.  If you are consciously stressed due to factors outside your control, then it is all the more important to be taking care of yourself and not agreeing to add more activity and more "velocity" to your already packed schedule or daily agenda.  Find down time and make it a priority to do the things that feed and nourish your peace and energy.  Rather nasty illnesses are stalking those who don't heed these words.
I hope your new year has gotten off to a good start and pray blessings on all who read these words!