An Ounce Of Prevention Is Worth A Pound Of Cure!

Archive for January, 2012

Reduce Risk of Stroke By Eating Vegetables​, Fruits, and Grains

fruits and veggiesReduce Risk of Stroke By Eating Vegetables​, Fruits, and Grains

In a study reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, Swedish women who ate an antioxidant-rich diet had fewer strokes regardless of whether they had a previous history of cardiovascular disease.


“Eating antioxidant-rich foods may reduce your risk of stroke by inhibiting oxidative stress and inflammation,” said researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. “This means people should eat more foods such as fruits and vegetables that contribute to total antioxidant capacity.”


Oxidative stress is defined as an imbalance between the production of cell-damaging free radicals and the body’s ability to neutralize them; Ultimately, it leads to inflammation, blood vessel damage and stiffening.


Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, carotenoids and flavonoids can inhibit oxidative stress and inflammation by scavenging the free radicals. Antioxidants, especially flavonoids, may also help improve endothelial function and reduce blood clotting, blood pressure and inflammation.


“In this study, we took into account all the antioxidants present in the diet, including thousands of compounds, in doses obtained from a usual diet,” the researchers explained.


The research team collected dietary data through a food-frequency questionnaire. They used a standard database to determine participants’ total antioxidant capacity (TAC), which measures the free radical reducing capacity of all antioxidants in the diet and considers synergistic effects between substances.


Researchers categorized the women according to their Total Antioxidant Capacity levels: five (5) groups without a history of cardiovascular disease and four (4) with previous cardiovascular disease.


For women with no history of cardiovascular disease who had the highest TAC, fruits and vegetables contributed about 50 percent of TAC.

Other contributors were whole grains (18 percent), tea (16 percent) and chocolate (5 percent).


The study found:

Higher TAC was related to lower stroke rates in women without cardiovascular disease.


Women without cardiovascular disease with the highest levels of dietary TAC had a statistically significant 17 percent lower risk of total stroke compared to those in the lowest quintile.


Women with history of cardiovascular disease in the highest three quartiles of dietary TAC had a statistically significant 46 percent to 57 percent lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke compared with those in the lowest quartile.

“Women with a high antioxidant intake may be more health conscious and have the sort of healthy behaviors that may have influenced our results,” the researchers cautioned… “However, the observed inverse association between dietary TAC and stroke persisted after adjustments for potential confounders related to healthy behavior such as smoking, physical activity and education.”


For the study, researchers used the Swedish Mammography Cohort to identify 31,035 heart disease-free women and 5,680 women with a history of heart disease in two counties. The women were 49-83 years old.


Researchers tracked the cardiovascular disease-free women an average 11.5 years and the women with cardiovascular disease 9.6 years, from September 1997 through the date of first stroke, death or Dec. 31, 2009, whichever came first.


Researchers identified 1,322 strokes among cardiovascular disease-free women and 1,007 strokes among women with a history of cardiovascular disease from the Swedish Hospital Discharge Registry.


“To the best of our knowledge, no study has assessed the relation between dietary TAC and stroke risk in participants with a previous history of cardiovascular disease,” they said. “Further studies are needed to assess the link between dietary TAC and stroke risk in men and in people in other countries, but we think our results are applicable.”


The Swedish Research Council for Infrastructure and the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research funded the study.


Story Source:  American Heart Association.


Journal Reference: STROKE: “Total Antioxidant Capacity of Diet and Risk of Stroke: A Population-Based Prospective Cohort of Women”



This article is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact your doctor or healthcare professional for medical and nutritional consultation.

What are Enzymes?, Part 2

Enzymes are involved in many important body processes, including digestion, energy production and more. This newsletter is part 2 in a two-part series detailing the different ways these substances support health, and how taking them in supplement form might help you.

Enzymes and Immunity There is a growing body of scientific evidence showing that metabolic enzymes can provide nutritional support for many areas of health, including immunity. Metabolic enzyme supplements are increasingly used; however it must be noted that limitations exist on the information that can be discussed regarding the potential benefits of dietary supplements.

There are a host of immune disturbances where the body’s own defense mechanisms may attack body tissues (autoimmunity). In these circumstances, immune reactions occur in a manner that can lead to an abnormal inflammatory response, potentially affecting body tissues. It is believed that some enzymes can influence the chemical consequences of immune reactions, but this is not an easy area of nutritional self-management. It is always best to discuss the use of enzyme supplementation with knowledgeable healthcare givers.

Enzymes Combinations A review of literature on the health benefits of enzymes has led me to develop combination enzyme supplements. These dietary supplements contain a combination of enzyme preparations including bromelain, chymotrypsin, pancreatin, papain, trypsin, amylase, lipase and elastase, together with bioflavanoids, including rutin from biologically active sources.

I believe that enzyme combinations have many advantages over single enzymes because of a broader range of action, under different conditions, on many different tissues. This is the concept of synergy when applied to combined digestive and metabolic enzyme supplements. This approach may make systemic or metabolic enzymes more effective in their ability to impact body structures and functions in a favorable manner. Systemic enzyme supplements have been used with apparent safety for many years, both in the practice of medicine and in freely available dietary supplements.

Safety Issues with Metabolic Enzymes There are no significant side effects to be expected with oral enzyme supplements, used at recommended dosages, in individuals who are not known to be allergic to the components of the enzyme supplements. There is good scientific agreement that enzyme preparations obtained from suitable sources are quite safe. Enzyme supplements are not to be used during pregnancy, and their use in children must be supervised by a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

Any signs of allergic reaction should result in immediate discontinuation of enzyme supplements, and any individual with a bleeding tendency from any cause, including drugs or diseases, should avoid metabolic enzyme supplements unless prescribed by a physician for a specific, valid reason. Enzymes should not be administered by enema, in topical applications or by injection without prescription and supervision by a medical practitioner.

Keynote Summary: Enzymes There are several combination enzyme products that claim health benefits, and some of these products are accompanied by illegal treatment claims. Enzyme deficiencies have been variably associated with many disorders including: hardening of the arteries, increased blood clotting tendencies, high blood pressure, low blood sugar, obesity, fatigue, leaky guts, constipation, bad breath, allergies and skin problems, to name a few. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that enzyme supplementation can prevent or treat any of these diseases, in any consistent manner.

Manufacturers of bulk enzymes from various natural sources recommend enzymes as nutritional support for many conditions including indigestion, sugar intolerance in the diet, fatigue and general nutritional support, but evidence of the benefit of enzymes in several of these instances may not be complete in scientific literature.

Conclusion The science of metabolic enzyme supplementation is emerging, and their potential benefits cannot be ignored. While most commonly used to support healthy inflammatory response, metabolic enzyme supplements may also provide nutritional support for cardiovascular health, and more. When considering supplementation, be sure to discuss the possibilities with your healthcare provider.

Be Healthy! Dr. Stephen Holt, M.D.

What are Enzymes?

Enzymesare naturally occurring chemicals that accelerate or facilitate chemical

Major digestive enzymes

Image via Wikipedia

reactions in the body. Enzymes, sometimes called catalysts, are a fundamental component of the chemistry of life.

There are two broad groups of enzymes that need to be defined. The first group is known collectively as digestive enzymes, substances that are secreted by the gastrointestinal tract and responsible for the digestion of food. The second group is referred to as systemic, or metabolic, enzymes. The words systemic and metabolic imply that these enzymes support body chemistry and that they drive body functions and support body structures.

Functions of Enzymes Enzymes act in a manner that causes many different changes in body structures and functions. Examples of the vital role of enzymes include growth and repair of tissues, chemical alteration of drugs or chemicals in the body, regulation of hormone secretion and the balanced transmission of nervous impulses in the brain.

Enzymes must be present to break down nutrients into simple forms that support the structure of the body. The function of enzymes themselves is often dependent upon the presence of vitamins and minerals or other nutritional co-factors.

Enzyme Harmony There are several thousand metabolic enzymes in your body that work in harmony to run chemical reactions in all body tissues. One group of metabolic enzymes exerts an antioxidant action, helping to remove free radicals or potentially damaging substances such as hydrogen peroxide. Free radicals are a common by-product of oxidative reactions, which can damage tissues in many ways.

These enzyme antioxidants are manufactured by the body and examples include superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase and peroxidase. These three enzymes are very important in the body’s ability to detoxify and defend itself against oxidative damage. A simple example of oxidative damage to the body is muscle pain that occurs after heavy exercise. Muscular activity generates free radicals, and that is why antioxidants are used increasingly by aerobic fitness enthusiasts and “weekend warriors” in the gym.

Metabolic Enzymes Metabolic or systemic enzyme support has been reported in medical literature as useful for many areas of health, including supporting cellular health, healthy inflammatory response in the body and more. Conventional medicine, however, has tended to reject the value of metabolic supplementation.

A major problem in acceptance of supplemental enzymes by modern science is the question of whether or not metabolic enzymes are adequately absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. Some well-conducted studies show that many types of enzymes are absorbed, including combination enzyme preparations containing bromelain, chymotrypsin, pancreatin, papain and trypsin, even though their absorption is incomplete. Dietary supplements have been produced containing very important enzymes that are found in the human body, such as SOD, catalase and peroxidase, but these enzymes may not be efficiently absorbed, or they are unstable in their regular chemical forms.

Enzyme support is not simple because many factors alter the activity of enzymes, especially when taken as dietary supplements. These factors include the amount of material present that an enzyme can act on, acidity or alkalinity of the body, body temperature and the presence of other nutritional factors (co-factors) that are required to make enzymes function effectively, such as essential vitamins and minerals.

It seems obvious that many enzymes are destroyed by stomach acid when taken as dietary supplements (e.g. lipase). This can be overcome to some extent by increasing the amount of enzymes administered in oral supplements; and in some cases by applying special coatings (enteric coating) to enzyme capsules.

There is a wealth of literature on the use of metabolic enzymes, but enzymes from different sources, manufactured using different methods, have variable biological activity. Quality enzyme supplements are tested to ensure activity levels of the enzymes used.

Potential Use of Nutritional Support with Metabolic Enzymes The most common and effective use of several metabolic enzymes is to support healthy inflammatory response in the body. Reports of the successful use of metabolic enzymes in the nutritional support of cardiovascular health are also of major interest. It has been suggested that several metabolic enzymes may contribute to healthy blood consistency. However, any attempts to address blood health must be performed with the informed judgment and supervision of a medical practitioner.

Be Healthy! Dr. Stephen Holt, M.D.

Gluten & Celiac Disease

Glutenis composed of a group of proteins that are found in many different types

of grains (wheat, barley, triticale, kamut, rye and spelt). Gluten can also be present in oats, often as a contaminant from mixed grain processing, and is often used as a “thickening agent” in processed foods, a filler in pills or supplements and it is even present in some cosmetics. The prevalence of “hidden” gluten in food and processed items can present a challenge to those who must avoid it.

Cause and Effect Celiac diseaseis characterized by an inflammatory response

Biopsy of small bowel showing coeliac disease ...

Image via Wikipedia

in the lining of the small intestine caused by the exposure to ingested gluten. The mucosal damage affects the finger- like projections (villi) of the small intestine. This damage to the small intestine interferes with the transport of food and nutrients through the small intestine, which can lead to poor absorption and malnutrition.

Gluten is partially digested by an individual with celiac disease, resulting in a protein called gliadin. The alpha-gliadin fraction of gluten appears to be the substance that triggers the damage to the villi of the small intestine. There is a genetic tendency to gluten sensitivity which occurs most often in individuals of Northern European Origin (especially Celtic people, Scots and Irish). Although it’s an inflammatory condition, celiac disease may be associated with autoimmune disorders (attack against the body’s own tissues by the immune system). Thus, in some individuals, celiac disease can go hand in hand with Type I diabetes, thyroid gland hyperactivity or insufficiency, systemic lupus erthematosis (SLE) and rheumatoid disease.

The Clinical Picture – Problems & Symptoms In its full blown state, celiac disease causes diarrhea, foul-smelling stool, gas, bloating and abdominal pain. That said, many cases of celiac disease are quite silent or result in vague digestive upset with variable nutrient deficiencies such as: anemia, folic acid, vitamin B12 deficiency and inadequate calcium absorption.

The list of potential effects from celiac disease is very long (and often subtle). Celiac disease can cause failure to thrive in children (growth stunting), psychological problems (depression, anxiety, irritability), muscle cramping, loss of energy, peripheral neuropathy, tooth decay and skin rashes (including Dermatitis herpetiformis, which causes intensely itchy lesions). In recent times scientists have started to link gluten sensitivity with other disorders, especially behavioral problems in children (autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD).

For many reasons, celiac disease may be missed entirely or mistaken for other gastrointestinal or general medical problems. For example, damage to the small bowel makes the individual lactose intolerant. Some individuals who think they have simple lactose intolerance may actually have underlying celiac disease.

Diagnosis and Treatment Diagnosis may be apparent with the use of special antibody testing on blood samples, but the most accurate test involves a biopsy the small bowel, with close examination of the tissue for lost or damaged villi. The lesions in celiac disease can be “patchy,” and diagnosis is sometimes clouded. The most accurate test involves multiple small bowel biopsies.

The effective treatment of celiac disease is clear. The meticulous avoidance of gluten in the diet results in healing of the small bowel lesions (to a variable degree, over time). There is no cure for celiac disease, so this dietary exclusion of gluten must be a lifelong commitment. Reintroduction of gluten into the diet of an individual with celiac disease causes relapse of symptoms.

Long-Term Implications Many studies show people who do not treat their celiac disease face an increased risk for lymphoma (especially Non-Hodgkin types), adenocarcinoma of the small intestine and neurological disorders. Young women with celiac disease who are not effectively treated have a higher risk of spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) and an increased risk of birth defects, including neural tube problems such as spina bifida, often related to folic acid deficiency.

The occurrence of gluten sensitivity is a major public health concern. On average, about one in 3,000 people in the US may be diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, but it has been proposed that its prevalence may be as high as about one in 130. For many years, celiac disease was a forgotten diagnosis, but modern research underscores the importance of gluten-free living for those affected by this disease.

Be Healthy! Dr. Stephen Holt, M.D.

Period Pain and Low Pain Threshold

There are generally two types of pain associated with “dysmenorrhea” (difficult or painful periods). These are referred to as primary dysmenorrhea and secondary dysmenorrhea. The word “secondary” means symptoms are a consequence of an underlying disease such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, fibroids, etc. Primary dysmenorrhea refers to symptoms that occur during menstruation without obvious associated disease states.

The causes of period painin primary dysmenorrhea remain somewhat clouded. However, recent research by University of Oxford researchers has shed new light on knowledge of the characteristics and potential significance of period pain (Dr. K. Vincent and colleagues).The research involved investigation of pain thresholds of otherwise healthy women, with or without period pain.

The causes of period pain in primary dysmenorrhea remain somewhat clouded. However, recent research by University of Oxford researchers has shed new light on knowledge of the characteristics and potential significance of period pain (Dr. K. Vincent and colleagues).The research involved investigation of pain thresholds of otherwise healthy women, with or without period pain.

In experiments, a heated plate was applied to skin to induce pain. Those who suffered from period pain experienced more pain and discomfort from lesser degrees of thermal (heat) application, compared to women who did not have period pain. In other words, women without period pain were more robust in terms of their lack of pain perception than those with period pain. Moreover, women with period pain were more sensitive to pain induction and had a lower pain threshold.

What do these findings mean? It was suggested that women with period pain have more “pain problems,” in general. Therefore, the management of period pain may reduce overall debility from “body pain.” I believe these studies demonstrate the power of “body-mind” functions.

Primary dysmenorrhea is often treated by pain killers (analgesics, e.g. ibuprofen) or low-dose contraceptive pills. However, addressing mind-body issues with behavioral interventions, such as the induction of relaxation responses, biofeedback training or positive visualization (modified hypnosis) seem to be an obvious, simple, gentle and natural approach to period pain and general pain management.

While studies on period pain seem to be revealing, the phenomena they probe are not new or novel issues in medicine. There have been studies on other conditions linked to mind-body functions. Perhaps the most common is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects as many as 25 million Americans and is more common in women than men.

With IBS, abdominal pain can be associated with altered bowel habits and other distressing symptoms. This classic mind-body (gut-mind) disorder has been shown to be related to an enhanced sensitivity to pain. Modified hypnosis, relaxation and behavioral treatments have been reported to be more effective than standard medical treatments for pain or colic in IBS.

The medical world is moving toward a better understanding of the harmonious functions of the body, especially mind-body connections. Disturbances of function (functional diseases) are primary targets for many alternative medical interventions (e.g. relaxation responses, yoga, music therapy, etc.). These approaches are emerging with an evidence base in the practice of Integrative Medicine.

Herbs and natural substances, such as black cohosh or soy isoflavones-which are used in traditional herbal medicine to address female-specific issues-may also offer benefits. Herbs are not actual pain killers (analgesics), but they may exert indirect benefits on period pain and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Observations of pain control have also been noted with curcuminoids, derived from curcumin (turmeric).

There are many reasons to seek alternative strategies to manage chronic pain, and I raise these issues to make my readers aware of information that is often overlooked in practices of prescription or over-the-counter use of pain-killing medication. Many drugs are merely band-aids for pain, and a holistic approach is required.

This knowledge underscores the importance of the recent observations of difference in pain appreciation or pain thresholds that differ greatly among different people. Pain is part of the lack of harmony of body functions.

Be Healthy! Dr. Stephen Holt, M.D.

Eating Green Vegetables Improves Your Immune Defenses

New Research Conducted By Immunologists Demonstrates How Eating Green green veggiesVegetables Improves Immune Function.

Be Sure To Include Cruciferous Vegetable-Derived Phyto-Nutrients As Part Of Your Healthy Diet

FACT: Eating Green Vegetables Boosts Your Immune Defenses.

Nutrition researchers have found another good reason to eat green vegetables (from bok choy to broccoli, kale, spinach, etc.); they are the source of a chemical signal that is important to a fully functioning immune system.  The vegetables ensure that immune cells in the gut and the skin known as intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs) function properly.

“It is still surprising ” said researchers from The Babraham Institute in Cambridge. “we expected cells at the surface would play some role in the interaction with the outside world, but such a clear cut interaction with the diet was unexpected. After feeding otherwise healthy lab subjects a vegetable-poor diet for two to three weeks, we were amazed to see 70 to 80 percent of these protective cells disappeared.”

Those protective IELs exist as a network beneath the barrier of epithelial cells covering inner and outer body surfaces, where they are important as a first line of defense and in wound repair. The research team now finds that the numbers of IELs depend on levels of a cell-surface protein called the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), which can be regulated by dietary ingredients found primarily in cruciferous vegetables.

Subjects lacking this receptor lose control over the microbes living on the intestinal surface, both in terms of their numbers and composition.

Earlier studies suggested that breakdown of cruciferous vegetables can yield a compound that can be converted into a molecule that triggers AhRs. The new study finds that subjects fed a synthetic diet lacking this key compound experience a significant reduction in AhR activity and lose IELs. With reduced numbers of these key immune cells, they showed lower levels of antimicrobial proteins, heightened immune activation and greater susceptibility to injury. When the researchers intentionally damaged the intestinal surface in subjects that didn’t have normal AhR activity, the subjects were not as quick to repair that damage.

The immunologists involved in the research hope the findings will generate more interest in the medical community, noting that some of the basic characteristics observed in the subjects are consistent with those seen in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

They conclude  “it’s already a good idea to eat your greens.” Still, the results offer a molecular basis for the importance of cruciferous vegetable-derived phyto-nutrients as part of a healthy diet.

Story Source: Cell Press

Journal Reference: Exogenous Stimuli Maintain Intraepithelial Lymphocytes via Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor

Activation. Cell, 13 October 2011 Cell Press (2011, October 13). “Eating green veggies improves immune defenses”


This article is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact your doctor or healthcare professional for medical and nutritional consultation.


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