Tuesday, June 5, 2012

If you’re on the prescription drug Zoloft, it’s a good thing you’re not a fungus!  Scientists experimenting with the effects of the best-selling anti depressant have discovered that the well—known pharmaceutical has a major toxic effect on yeast cells.  It distorts their normally curved membranes and triggers the cell to start eating themselves.  According to pharmacologist Ethan Pearlstein of Princeton University, yeast doesn’t have any serotonin, so there’s no reason to expect any effect, let alone such a bizarre suicidal one.  According to Pearlstein, a molecule of Zoloft “…should be completely innocuous to a yeast cell, the way an antibiotic would be innocuous to a viral infection”.  What exactly the clinical implication are, of this self destructive response to Zoloft, for patients taking the drug, remains to be seen, but the unexpected findings has pharmacologists salivating at the prospect of new targets for the next generation of anti-depressants.   In the words of author Pearlstein: “Altogether, our work suggests that the serotonin-based theory might be an oversimplification and that the cause of depression is not a closed story.”  The question of whether or not this toxic effect on yeast can make Zoloft an effective anti-fungal agent has not yet been addressed, but it may be something that pharmaceutical companies will be looking into for future research.  In a paper published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, doctors describe the fungicidal effects of Zoloft on three patients being treated for depression with concomitant vaginal yeast infections.  Apparently all three patients experienced improvements in symptoms associated with their fungal infections while taking the anti-depressant medication.  The researchers concluded: “The potential offered by sertraline (Zoloft) against fungi is sufficiently great to merit further studies by investigators in the field of infectious diseases…To support potential systemic use, animal models and clinical trials are highly warranted.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mind Your Brain

There are two areas in the brain involved with experiencing.  The first is called the narrative circuit and involves judging whatever you are experiencing through the filter of your past experiences, perceptions and opinions.  It’s the part of your brain that’s activated when you are worrying, stressing and planning.  The narrative circuitry is verbal and chatty and it’s you can tell it’s been activated when you can’t enjoy your day in the sun on the beach because you can’t help thinking about your job or the IRS or your dysfunctional family.  If you’re washing the dishes and you haven’t noticed the feeling of the water on your hands or the smell of the dish soap as its molecules hit your nostrils you are probably dealing with an activated narrative circuit.  For the wannabe brain scientists out there the specific areas of the brain that are associated with the narrative circuit are called the “medial prefrontal cortex” and the “hippocampus”.  What’s most unfortunate about this narrative circuit, is that in addition to the way it obliviates the present moment is the fact that it is our default way of perceiving our experiences.  That means that that this way of perceiving is active for most of our waking life and requires very little to intentional effort to operate. In other words, unless we pay attention to our experiences and sensations willfully, we are doomed to missing the immediacy of our experiences, spending much precious time in our heads rather than in our lives.

The other way of perceiving events requires activation of a second brain area called the direct experience circuit.  If you are washing the dishes and you have an active narrative circuit you may not notice that you’re washing that delicate crystal glassware until you shatter it and cut your hand.  At that point you will immediately switch on your brain’s direct experience circuitry and that change will probably be punctuated by a scream or an “Oh shit!” response.  That’s because while the brain’s narrative circuit is activated by default, emergency conditions that require an immediate response activate the direct experience circuitry.  The area of the brain that activates direct circuitry is called the “insula”, which is involved with bodily sensations.  That’s why paying attention to your breathing or your body or any somatic qualities a great way to escape the constant narrative circuitry chatter.

The good news about the direct experience pathway, aside from its serene and non-verbal nature, is the fact that it is associated with the release of pleasure chemicals in the brain, specifically the neurotransmitter dopamine.  This surge in dopamine is so delicious that sometimes people can become addicted to it.  That’s why some intrepid folks crave real life-threatening experiences like sky diving or bungee jumping.  And that’s why some slightly less intrepid folks crave pretend life threatening experiences like horror movies and roller coaster rides. 

The trick to making the most out of the brains circuitry and biochemistry and life experiences as well, is to watch your brain and intentionally activate direct experience circuitry.  If you find yourself with an overactive narrative circuitry which can show up as worrying and stressing about potential future events or regretting or replaying past events you can willfully turn on the direct circuits in the brain by focusing on your body or your breathing.  Try picking a body part, like your hand or foot and placing all your attention on it.  Feel its subtle energy and shape.  Notice that for the few seconds that you’re focusing on it that the narrative chatter has quieted down and you can perceive a palpable sense of pleasure as the direct circuits have been activated. 

Something else that you can use to activate the direct experience circuit is mental silence.  Unlike the narrative center, which as the name implies, depends on labeling, judging and languaging skills, the direct circuit is activated by silence or as Martha Beck puts it in her very interesting book  Finding Your Way in a  Wild New World, "wordlessness” .  In fact according to Ms. Beck, adopting a wordless perspective not only stimulates neurology in the direct circuit, but feelings of bliss and rapture can be initiated as well.  When the neurologist Jill Bolte Taylor suffered a stroke in her narrative center and was neurologically forced into perceiving from her right side wordless brain she too described a sense of bliss and rapture.  She chronicles her story in her book My Stroke of Insight.  I find the story of her experience and recovery so inspiring that I have two copies of her book, one for home and one for the office. 

How we perceive our world,  is a direct result of how we mentally process the events of our lives.  Thus, understanding the brain and it's mental machinery is an important key to an effective and pleasant life journey.  With regular practice at paying attention to these two ways of experiencing you will gradually begin to know when your brain narrative’s circuitry is active and conversely, when the direct circuits have been switched on.  And from that point it will become easier and easier to initiate the pleasure chemistry of direct experience whenever you desire.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


OMG!  HMB, the latest disease acronym to hit the medical lexicon now has a pharmacological option for “treatment” (whatever that means!).  It stands for Heavy Menstrual Bleeding and it affects lots of woman, 10-20 percent of child bearing age, according to freemed.com, and the real number may be larger, as many cases go unreported.  Not to worry though, if you’re one of the millions of HMB sufferers, for the Pharmacology Fairy has come to your rescue.  Doctor’s have now received blessings from government regulators (or, if you prefer, pharmaceutical interest protectors) for dispensing Natazia, the first, FDA-approved, oral contraceptive, indicated for the “treatment” of HMB.  Never mind that the side effect profile for this hormone cocktail reads like a laundry list  of unpleasant stuff you don’t want to have happen to you, including: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ acne, weight gain, headaches, breast pain, nausea, vomiting and ironically enough, problem periods and  irregular menstrual cycles!

If you are one of the multitudes of mademoiselles dealing with HMB, (whose symptoms include migraines, lethargy and anemia,  in addition to heavy bleeding), and you don’t want to deal with drugs or the other unenlightened medical protocol used to treat this condition, a hysterectomy, which 60 per cent of patients will undergo,  your best nutritional bet is Essential Fatty Acids.  Use a a couple of tablespoonsful flax seed oil, which contains anti-inflammatory Omega 3’s and make sure you’re getting some nutritional Omega-6’s, such as hempseed oil or evening primrose oil which can be important for stabilizing and slowing down bleeding.   If you prefer capsules, use a good blend that contains a 2 or 3 to 1 ratio of omega-6's to Omega 3's.  GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid) is a derivative Omega-6 fatty acid with interesting anti-inflammatory properties and taking 100-200 mg a day is not a bad idea.  Make sure you’re getting fatty vitamins like A (20,000 IU a day) and E (400 IU a day) and probably K as well (maybe 200-300 mcg a day).  I’d be using K2, which is a little more body friendly than K1.   If you’re dealing with fat malabsorbtion, make sure your using digestive enzymes and everyone needs a good probiotic, but this is especially true if there are problems with fat digestion.  Take 80-100 billion units a day and look for multiple strains of bacteria.  That's alot of microbes, but the benefits for this supplement tend to be dose dependent, i.e. more is better. Bile salts and lecithin can help absorption of fats as well.  I’d also make sure I was getting 1000 to 2000 mg of vitamin C and 1 or 2 daily grams of magnesium (chelated is best) which can be helpful for all female health issues.

It’s VERY important to stay away from highly processed foods, trans fatty acids and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats.  Anything that induces digestive stress should be avoided too.   The systemic inflammation that can arise from hard to process foods can make matters far worse than would otherwise be. Also, too many refined carbs can wreak havoc with insulin and sugar chemistry which can exacerbate heavy bleeding issues.

Heavy Menstrual Bleeding is not an inevitable condition.  Despite the inference that the best a woman can hope for is drug intervention, like all other so-health challenges, HMB,  more often than not, involves nutritional deficiencies and digestive issues.  Correct these conditions and it's likely you won’t have to deal with HMB.  Or TPS (Toxic Pharmacological Syndrome) or UMP (Unhealthy Medical Protocol) either!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


The electrical nature of the human body has been explored by scientists and intrigued researchers who study this stuff, for almost 200 years.  And this week’s edition of New Scientist magazine has a great story on electrical fields and cardiovascular disease that is sure to add to the fascination.
 It turns out that something called “ferroelectricity” (the property non-ordinarily electrical  materials have to store energy), plays a significant role in heart health.  Even though ferroelectricity is a specific type of electrical energy, non-technical readers of this post can simply think of it as plain old household electricity (whatever that is!)
 This interesting electric phenomenon has been exploited by computer engineers for its information storing properties (as always electricity equals information),  And now its being explored as a way to manipulate the cholesterol adhering properties of artery walls.   It seems that cholesterol also has an electric nature and this may be one of the reasons it “sticks” to arteries.  And this is what has cardiovascular researchers so excited.  Scientists in Portugal are reporting in this month’s version of Advanced Functional Materials that amino acids in the aorta, the heart’s most important artery,  are also  potentially electric and it is believed that this may impact the of the formation of aortic cholesterol plaques.  Considering that plaque formation and hardening of the arteries are the leading cause of heart disease and death, these findings may lead to important advances in cardiovascular health.  In fact, some researchers believe that a future generation of cardiovascular drugs may work by changing the electric properties of the vessels of the heart, rendering them inhospitable to cholesterol “sticking”.  According to Jiangsu Li a scientist at the University of Washington, it’s possible that "drugs of the future could have a certain electric charge that could be transferred to an artery wall."
And what’s even more interesting is they may lead to the development of molecules, like the heart’s electrical amino acids, that can actually be used as information storage devices, in much the same way that electric memory chips store information in our home PCs.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have biological molecules like amino acids function as little information storage devices?  Or, could it be possible the divine force/evolution has already beaten us to the punch!

Top 3 Electrical Nutrients for the Heart
  1. Essential Fatty Acids 
  2. Vitamin C 
  3. Taurine

Interesting Bio-electrical Facts
  • pH is really a measurement of electrical energy.  An acid pH  (0-7) is an excess of electrical charge, while an alkaline pH (7-14) represents relatively reduced electrical energy.  
  • The heart generates an electrical field that can be measured up to 10 feet outside the human body.  That means that there is literally a huge interlocking electrical field surrounding our little blue planet that's composed  of smaller fields, emitted from 7 billion human hearts, merging into one big field of electrical energy!
  • Water conducts electricity.  Drinking water and maintaining tissue hydration helps keep the maintain a healthy bio electric field.  Dehydrated athletes's and regular people too can experience a rapid increase in energy and a sense of well being when hydration is restored.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Thrill of Krill

The more I learn about Krill Oil the more excited I get.  After being in the health care business for thirty much of it working directly with ingredients, I must admit to being somewhat jaded when it comes to new ingredients.  
The first I heard of a new type of Omega-3 type ingredient on the market my finely honed baloney detector signaled a red alert.  Not another EFA!   How could a new EFA even work, what could really be different?  Well as it turns out it is different, very different.  And in a very good way.  First of all a quick and concise digression on the basic nature of EFAs is in order.  To be technically proper there are two EFAs and only two.  One is called linoleic acid (LA) and is known as Omega-6 and the other is called alpha linolenic acid (ALA) is usually referred to as Omega-3.  One of the really neat things about LA and ALA is that they get turned into things, lots of things, including important substances for the brain and for the heart and ultimately they serve as raw materials for mega-powerful chemicals (called “eicosanoids”) that have a role to play in almost every single physical and biochemical reaction in the body.  Two of these derivative substances which are produced via alpha linolenic acid (Omega-3) are called DHA and EPA.  And they’re very, very important, although they are not essential.  Taking a nice daily dose of DHA and EPA is probably a good idea but certainly not in lieu of ALA, which is only found in a relatively few places, seeds like flax chia and hemp being the most well known sources. Now DHA and EPA, those are typically found in sea creatures.  Until Krill, the only place to get DHA and EPA in a concentrated form was through fish oil or cod liver oil.  (Interesting fact: snake oil contains high amounts of EPA and the old exaggerated claims that have it given it it’s pejorative idiomatic meaning probably derive from hyperbolic claims made for what is in actuality nothing more than a good nutritional supplement).  And, because of the inherent instability of these molecules, fish oil wasn’t stable of nutritional supplements.  There are lots of horror stories of fish oil and cod liver oil samples with elevated levels of free radicals  an indication of rancidity, an oil gone bad.   
Enter Krill OI.   As it turns out, these tiny crustaceans have figured out a way to maximize the biochemical properties of DHA and EPA.  It seems like they attach a little molecule called a phospholipid to the DHA/EPA complex and thereby render it somewhat water soluble.  And that makes the DHA and EPA from Krill Oil super effective.  It allows it to partition into both the fatty tissue of the body as well as the watery fluids.  This basically turns the EPA into a biochemical switch hitter.  Just like a baseball player that can hit both right handed and left handed, this DHA/EPA-phospholipid complex that nature has given the lowly Krill makes these important nutritional fats super-versatile.  It means that when you’re taking Krill Oil not only are you getting highly significant fatty acids with their own nutritional benefits; you’re also getting phospholipids which are important for the health and longevity of every single one of the 100 trillion cells in the body and are especially health of the nerve and brain cells and the digestive system.  
And there’s more too.  Krill oil contains high amounts of molecules called carotenoids (one called astaxanthin has been recently touted by the Mike Adams the Health Ranger for its skin protecting and anti-sunburn properties) derived from the copious amounts of algae that the tiny crustaceans devour.  These carotenoids not only add to the nutritional benefits of the Krill Oil by supporting skin health, the eyes and cardiac health are beneficiaries too.  And, the astaxanthin provides the Krill Oil with it’s most important property.  It acts to protect the inherently unstable fatty acids helping keep the EPA and DHA more stable for a longer period of time than fish-based oils.  Add to all these features the fact that Krill contains Vitamins E, A and D and you have yourself one amazing nutritional supplement.
The most striking health benefits of Krill Oil involve anti-inflammation.  Omega 3s in general have anti inflammatory properties, but it seems that all of the unusual biochemical compounds found in Krill give this stuff some extra powerful anti inflammatory effects.  A recent study published in Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that just a 300mg daily dose of Krill Oil  “significantly inhibits inflammation and reduces arthritic symptoms within a short treatment period of 7 and 14 days”.  It’s seems to be especially effective on arthritis pain  And, Krill Oil also has powerful affects on blood fats and sugar.  A number of studies have demonstrated effectiveness on raising HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and on reducing blood sugar levels.  And, most notably, it’s was shown in a study published in the August 2003 edition of Alternative Medicine review to be effective in reducing physical and emotional symptoms associated with PMS.
So, if you’re using fish oil capsule now, you might want to consider adding in or even replacing your dose entirely with Krill Oil.  The biochemistry is certainly compelling and the literature is there to support it.   The only company making Krill Oil is Neptune Technologies out of Canada, so any brand you get is going to be pretty much the same stuff.  Look for the cheapest but never at the expense of freshness. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Top 12 Tips and Tools for Easy Detoxification Part 2

While genetic tendencies (and epi-genetic factors) as well as stress and poor nutrition play an important role in illness, underlying almost all manifestations of poor health is toxicity. And I'm talking about both internal and external toxicity which are obviously related. Human beings have been saturating their outer and inner environments with poison since the dawn of history. These days, we actually enter the world as a toxic mess. Even newborn babies have been shown to have high levels of toxic pollutants. In 2005 Greenpeace published a report titled "Hazardous Chemicals in Umbilical Cord Blood" where they concluded that hazardous chemicals are a common occurrence in umbilical cord blood. Newborns tested out at a whopping average of 287 toxins, 180 of which were known carcinogens!
Toxic air can be filled with literally hundreds of deadly and carcinogenic compounds, (some like chemtrails intentionally depositied there for no "known" reason), not to mention radioactive waste from disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima. When human fat biopsies are performed styrene, dioxins, xylene and dichlorobenzene among other unsavory, unhealthy and potentially carcinogenic chemicals shows up in 100% of cases. There are deadly chemicals in water too, fluoride and chlorine may arguably provide benefits, but no one can discount their truly toxic nature. Water is also a source of other unpleasant drinking material including prescription drugs and industrial (and even human) waste. Pesticides are an especially serious problem. Measurable levels have been found in breast fluid from mother's milk around the world, including Eskimos living in the North Pole, thousands of miles from source of the nearest farm or fruit orchard. Internally there is no way to know exactly how much toxicity we're dealing with, but it's safe to say the average person's detox system is probably being overloaded. Food, stress, trauma, experiences in addition to interfacing (really integrating) with our toxic external environment can put quite a load on the body's ability to clean itself out and over time lots of nasty stuff can end up in various bodily fluids and tissues.
But it's important to recognize that indeed we have a detox system. In fact the human body is remarkably well equipped to handle alot of poison! But it needs certain substances to do its work. In a later post we'll talk about the liver and what's known as Phase 1 and Phase 2 detoxification, but for now let's just say there are some key nutrients we should all be using to keep the poisons our bodies have to deal with the more manageable level. Maybe we've done such a number on our planet that there's no way we can completely clean it up but let's not forget that the human being grew up in a world filled with natural poisons too. There are chemical processes built into the body to allow it to detoxify and purify itself, but by and large these processes require raw materials in the form of nutrients. Last post we listed Part One of the top 12 Detox supplements, focusing on treatment and non-nutritional approaches. Below is Part two of the Top 12 detox nutritional supplements (with apologies to fans of the B-complex, alpha-lipoic acid, probiotics and fiber, which while important for detox, did not make this list) for supporting the body's ability to detoxify in an unfortunately very toxic world.
1. MSM 500-1000mg daily, NAC 100-500mg daily. both contains sulfur which is a key player in biological detoxification. Sulfur attracts (chelates) havy metals and is an important component of the glutathione system, perhaps the most powerful detox system in all of biochemistry. Provide protection from lead and mercury poisoning. Sulfur even has anti-inflammatory properties. It's probably a good idea to use MSM (absorbable sulfur) and the sulfur amino acid cysteine in the form of NAC (so potent a detoxifier that it's part of the emergency room protocol for liver poisoning) on a daily basis.
2.Selenium 200-400mcg daily - important for activation of the glutathione, the major human biological detoxification molecule. Protects fats from oxidation and is specific for protection from heavy metals like mercury. Selenium is the most important trace mineral for anti-oxidant defense. Powerful anti-cancer protectant, important for cardiovascular and thyroid health too. This is one you can take too much of so keep your daily dose under 800mcg daily. For optimum effects take as selenomethionine. Garlic, onions and cruciferous vegetables are great food sources of this important mineral.
3.Vitamin E 400 iu daily - Important for keeping fats in cell membranes and organs from oxidation and heavy metal assault. Important fro recycling anti-oxidant detox substances like Vitamin C and glutathione. Works synergistically with selenium. Tocotrienol form more protective than tocopherol form.. Especially protective for smokers (lung) and alcoholics (liver). Improves detoxification of pharmaceuticals. May also decrese the effectiveness of medications (which is of course a consequence of their toxicity). This one is difficult to get from foods so supplementation is a must.
4.Glutamine 1-5 grams daily- essential for the production of glutathione, the body's major detoxification substance. Required for liver detoxification pathways and works synergistically with Vitamin C, E and selenium. Importance for digestive health also support detox functions. Most abundant amino acid in the body, relevant for health of all cells.
5.Vitamin C 1 to 10 grams daily - Spectacularly important nutrient for detoxification and immune system support. Works synergistically with Vitamin E, selenium and glutathione. Protects against cancer and heavy metal poisoning. Provides neutralizing protection from lead. May provide protection from chlorine. Sucrose (sugar) reduces its effectiveness. Especially effective against radiation. Improves elimination of toxins through bowel movements. Non-toxic in even very high doses.
6.Good Minerals- nutritional minerals protect against heavy metal poisoning by minerals with similar electromagnetic properties. Zinc protects against cadmium (smokers are especially at risk from cadmium in tobacco). Calcium, magnesium and zinc provide protection from aluminum. Iron, copper and zinc help may keep lead toxicity at bay. Iodine provides protection from bromine and fluorine and radioactive iodine (e.g. Fukushima). BTW, if you're interested in testing your nutritional status, ask for an RBC (red blood cell) test. The most accurate measurements for nutrient levels and heavy metal toxicity are done directly on cells NOT plasma, the watery/protein portion of blood.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Top 12 Tips and Tools for Easy Detoxification Part 1

One of the most popular subjects in the world of health and nutrition is detoxification. Perhaps it’s a manifestation of the recognition we all have of how much we've trashed the world we live in. The pollution of our planet is proceeding on an incomprehensible pace and as a society, we are fast approaching a tragedy of biblical proportions. Understanding how to keep the our body’s biochemical machinery pristine and protected is one of the most important lessons we can learn if we are going maximize our health, longevity and quality life and minimize our risk of disease and degeneration.

The bad news is, we’ve done such a toxic number on our environment, that it’s almost impossible to escape our poisonous legacy. The Bright Side is the human body has healing, regenerating and detoxification systems built into it. There's no need for fancy or expensive detox programs. In fact, in a healthy body there are 7 different systems that can purify fluids and tissue. Yet while the lungs, liver, colon, skin, kidneys, lymph and blood are are all automatically and spontaneously involved in moment to moment purification, for many us these systems can become overloaded. Besides avoiding (as much as is practical) exposure to poisons, there are numerous inexpensive and easy to use supplements and strategies to help improve and strengthen these built-in cleansing systems. Below you will find Part 1 of the top 12 tips and tools you can use to improve biological detoxification in a very toxic world. For more good health information, make sure to listen to The Bright Side (www.brightsideben.com), Monday thru Friday 8:00-9:00am PST on the Genesis Communication Network.

1. Exhaling - while most people are aware of the importance of oxygenation, it seems like far fewer understand how to exploit the the exhalation process. Carbon dioxide, lactic acid and other gaseous toxins are eliminated on the out-breath and simple deep breathing practices are cheap (free!) and effective ways to maximize the cleansing action of the respiratory system. This is especially important for smokers! And, of course, regular aerobic exercise is a great way to promote healthy exhalation detoxification. As a bonus benefit, the neurology associated with exhalation shows up as a relaxing affect on the heart.

2.Water - dilutes poisons and improves elimination through the kidneys and lungs. Eat water-rich foods (veggies especially) and drink lots of purified (distilled or reverse osmosis is best) water generously throughout the day.

3.Chlorophyll - Electromagnetically attracts toxins and allows them to pass harmlessly through the body. Eat lots of veggies and chlorella, spirulina and other seaweed products. Chlorophyll also acts as a source of magnesium, which plays an important role in biological detoxification.

4.Zeolite - electrically charged mineral structures with millions of micropores that effectively trap heavy metals. So effective for radiation contamination that the nuclear industry uses it to mop up toxic spills. May function as an anti-oxidant and can help support blood alkalinity too. Take 5 to 15 grams a day and look for premium micronized (vs. milled) form for best results.

5.Bentonite Clay- magnetically attracts toxins in a manner similar to zeolite. Especially effective for intestinal purification. Mops up colon toxins and parasites for rapid elimination. Use 1-2 tablespoonful in 16oz of water. Water absorbing properties can help improve diarrhea symptoms too.

6.Far Infra-red Saunas (FIS)-special saunas that emit energy which is directly absorbed by the body. Unlike regular saunas which heat the air or steam and then indirectly heat the body, FIS therapy has been shown to have dramatic effects on detoxification. In addition to maximizing the removal of toxins through sweat, Far Infra-red Saunas are also known to kill certain bacteria and parasites, detoxify cells by radiatory vibration and decrease the size of biological water clusters which can mobilize stored toxins and make them easier to excrete.