Monday, September 22, 2014

Dump the Artificial Sweetners

Increasingly, it is being found that the microbial world present in each of our digestive tracts has some impressive powers to reach out and change our overall health.  Discoveries in the past year have shown that our gut microbial colonies manipulate our food cravings and change our serotonin production and brain chemistry.  Now it's been discovered that the effect of artificial sweeteners on those colonies alter our glucose metabolism.  This creates more insulin resistance, more weight gain, and spurs the drift toward diabetes, even with zero calories.(1)

History of Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners have been around since the Roman Empire.  The first substitute for sugar was lead acetate, also known as "sugar of lead."  Lead poisoning was obviously a problem.  It was associated with the deaths of Pope Clement II and Mozart among many others, so it was banned very early on.  In the mid-19th century saccharin was developed.  Since then, five other artificial sweeteners have appeared on the market, including aspartame (Nutrasweet) and sucralose (Splenda.) Each of these substitutes have endured strong opinions about their negative effects on health.  Saccharin, for example, was banned for a few years starting in 1977 out of a concern it caused bladder cancer.  It was subsequently put back on the market (cyclomate removed near the same time, however, remains banned.)  Aspartame has been accused of causing migraine headaches and altered brain function.  Many airline pilots refuse to drink diet sodas before flying because it has created drowsiness.  This new study is the first to document that all the sweeteners can alter blood sugar regulation via the microflora of the digestive tract.

I've been against artificial sweeteners for all nineteen years I've been a naturopath.  It is an extremely rare occurrence that ingesting a synthetic substance improves your overall health.  The human body is a complicated work of nature and eons of adaption.  It is always ludicrous to think that a superficial solution is going to change human physiology as we know it.  One simplistic solution cooked up for losing weight was to substitute sweeteners with zero calories for sugar (sucrose) that has about 16 calories per teaspoon.  On that single score it made some sense.  However, no scientist can predict how a synthetic substance will be broken down in the body, what toxins might be created by the chemical process a liver will put it through.  No scientist can predict what the body, and in the light of this present study - what the body's microflora, will do with the synthetic substance.  The bottom line is this: you're better off with real sugar from real plants (sugar cane or sugar beets), that is, if you MUST feed your sweet tooth.  The massively more healthy answer is extract your sweet tooth altogether and partake of nothing sweet.  You honestly won't die, and you will most likely extend your life by a few healthy years. 

Nature words for your health,
Dr. Mark 

(1)  Weizmann Institute of Science. "Certain gut bacteria may induce metabolic changes following exposure to artificial sweeteners." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 September 2014.         

Friday, September 19, 2014

This Is What Your Brain Does On An Anti-depressant

I'm not really sure whether this is good news or bad news.

A Bit of History:
 Around 1980 the first serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) medication came on the market and very quickly after that pharmaceutical companies around the world popped in with five others.   They were each developed following a theoretical concept that serotonin affected the connectivity of the brain cell synapses.  Was there any proof that a connectivity issue with the brain synapses caused depression or anxiety?  No.  Is there any proof of that even today?  No.   Nearly 35 years have passed and SSRI's are one of the most heavily prescribed and studied medications in the world.  We still haven't got an answer to how they work, or if this theory on which they are based has any legitimacy.  Millions of people have used these "wonder drugs" and hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, hate the side effects and question which is worse to endure the depression or the medication(s).  Even worse, the psychiatric profession, in general, seems to subscribe to the belief that there is no going back and once someone begins a prescription psychotropic drug that the patient must remain on it forever. 

A New Study: SSRI's Work Quickly
A study reported this week in Cell Press reveals that a SINGLE dose of a serotonin re-uptake inhibitor medication alters the entire connectivity structure of the brain.  It alters the whole brain, not just certain places.   Previously, it was believed it took weeks to make these changes and they only happened in localized places.  It now has been shown that it takes place in hours. (1)

 Is it good news that these medications will work that fast?  It might be if there was a direct link between connectivity and anxiety/depression.  Given the speed with which these medications alter the brain, one would think that taking one when you felt a little anxious or blue would be like an aspirin, and fix you right up.  But, I think it is safe to say that these medications don't work that fast, leading us once again to question just how DO they work?  The only thing that seems to work quickly is in the side effect department.  More disturbing is what does it mean to have your brain reconnected by a drug in hours time?  What does it mean to a young, teenager's brain to be altered when it still hasn't developed completely? There is small doubt that giving psychotropic drugs to teenagers for garden variety, run-of-the-mill dramas and difficulties in life is not appropriate.  It's not much more appropriate for adults.  We are awash in advertising and a brain-washed social attitude that we don't need to feel anything we don't want, and we get nervous around people who are anything but upbeat and on-their-game.  Don't get me wrong!  There are serious mental disorders that need pharmaceutical intervention.  The trouble is that only a small fraction of the millions of prescriptions being written are for these severe situations.  Most of the prescriptions are being written as "feel good" pills to shore up lives that are ungrounded, hectic, and too fast paced (literally crazy) to cope.  Rather than altering the "connectivity of the human brain," how about altering the crazy society and/or how you engage with it?

NatureWords for Your Health   
Dr. Mark

(1) Cell Press. "Single dose of antidepressant changes the brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 September 2014. .