Natural Healing Herbs and Healing Secrets newsletter 2018
Get a free Natural Herbs and Healing Newsletter by email once a month.
Click the link below and place your email address.
PhysicianFormulas.com has dozens of high quality supplements where you can also find Diet Rx, Eyesight Rx, Joint Power Rx, Mind Power Rx and Passion Rx.
Last year's Natural Healing Secrets newsletter 2017.
Reports from readers:
I have been following Dr. Sahelian’s newsletter and commentaries for a very long time and even submitted a question a few years back. What you provide through you site and newsletter is not only brilliant, it is help for millions of people – you are reaching out and affecting the lives of so many who would be lost without your advice and I deeply appreciate it, as I know countless others do as well. Many people – me included – have not been able to get proper care or answers from our own physicians. I have never had a physician who give any credit or credence to herbs and supplements. While you cannot provide direct medical advice, the thousands of questions you answer are just what we all need.
I enjoy your info and even-handed treatment of medical issues.
I like the website written by Dr. Ray Sahelian. He is one of the few honest people in the supplement industry.
Natural Healing Secrets
Vol. 15, Issue 7 -- July 2018
Loss of vision with aging is a major concern to many
seniors. Is there anything that can be done to reduce the risk of such
vision loss? A review of studies published in the past few years reveals
that diet plays a role in the onset and progression of AMD. Age-related
macular degeneration leads to the blurring of the sharp, central vision
important for such activities as reading and driving. The macula is the
part of the eye that helps us see fine detail. The findings,
published in the July 2018 issue of Clinical & Experimental
Ophthalmology, indicate that a Mediterranean diet, and an Oriental diet,
are associated with a decreased risk of AMD compared to a typical
A Mediterranean diet has a higher amount of legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, olive oil, and moderate consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt), moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of non-fish meat products. An Oriental diet has a high intake of vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fruits, and seafood. In contrast, a Western diet has a higher intake of red meat, processed meat, high-fat dairy products, fried potatoes, refined grains and eggs. The investigators propose that a high consumption of vegetables and fatty fish containing omega-3 fatty acids is of benefit to those with AMD. High glycemic index diets (often due to high sugar intake) and alcohol consumption of greater than two drinks a day lead to an increased risk for AMD. For more information, see www.raysahelian.com/maculardegeneration.html.
Cancer herbs and chemotherapy
Q. Thank you for your holistic approach to health and medicine. Can one integrate anti-cancer herbs with cancer medications? Could these herbs -- such as graviola, mangosteen, mushroom extracts, etc. -- enhance the immune system while taking cancer chemotherapy drugs? I am a 56 year old woman diagnosed with breast cancer. I am surprised since I have led a healthy life. I wonder sometimes what I did wrong.
A. This is a good question but an extremely complex issue since there are multiple forms of cancers -- in different stages of growth and metastasis -- and there are numerous chemo drugs that are prescribed (in different dosages and different mechanisms of action), and countless herbs that have anti-cancer potential. Little research has been published regarding their interactions and whether they would help or harm when combined. Therefore it is nearly impossible to make any definitive statements. Making it even more difficult to predict is each person's individual and unique response along with the influence of weight, smoking, alcohol use, diet, exercise, sleep habits, etc. For the time being, if someone is being treated with chemotherapy, I would suggest not taking any herbs during this period, but perhaps several weeks after the chemotherapy is completed.
Cancer prevention or treatment with herbal medicines is an area that has a lot of potential for exploration. In the meantime, see www.raysahelian.com/cancer.html and I will update this page as I come across more information.
There's some new evidence that we can reduce our risk of cancer by not going to bed at least 2 or 3 hours after dinner. Going to bed on a full stomach can increase blood sugar levels and inflammation.
No one should feel guilty if diagnosed with cancer. No matter how well we eat or how healthy our lifestyle, there are factors outside of our control that can cause cancers to occur, including genetics and unavoidable or unpredictable environmental factors.
GABA and 5-HTP combined for better sleep
In a preliminary study on rodents, a combination of GABA -- the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in our central nervous system -- taken together with 5-HTP (an amino acid that converts in the brain to serotonin) improved sleep quantity and quality. The researchers say, "Combined GABA / 5-HTP may be effective in patients with insomnia by providing sufficient sleep." In my experience, I have not found GABA to be as effective as 5-HTP for sleep induction, but I have yet to try the combination. See http://www.raysahelian.com/sleep.html for more information.
Best way to use Passion Rx
Q. I have read on your website, and others, what seems to be different ways to use Passion Rx. Can you please tell me the ideal way to use this herbal aphrodisiac combination to maximize the best results possible.
A. A good approach is to take a full capsule with a glass of water as soon as you wake up. Wait at least 20 minutes before having breakfast. Repeat this the next morning. Most people start noticing a benefit (higher sexual drive, sensation, and improved blood flow and engorgement) by the evening of the second day or the third day. Take a break the third day and resume again the fourth day. After this you can judge for yourself how often you need it based on your response. If you are sensitive to herbs, open the capsule by pulling on each side and empty half in a couple of ounces of water and close the capsule for use the next day. Some people respond to half the amount just as well as a full capsule. I suggest not taking other supplements that have stimulating properties -- or minimize caffeine intake -- the days that you take Passion Rx. To enhance your sexual response even more, consider eating fresh garlic, onions, and ginger. Eating cold water fish or taking fish oil capsules could help some people achieve better results.
You hit the bulls eye dead center when you advised "Do not buy dosages more than 10 mg per pill." I did as you advised and bought the 10 mg... then I stupidly thought I'd increase the benefits I was experiencing by doubling the dosage to 20 mg. BIG mistake. My appetite vanished. Then I could only sleep 3 hours per night and started have serious depersonalization episodes. I ceased taking DHEA and not going to resume your advised dosage until I fully return to normal.
A. Many companies sell pills that are 25 mg, 50 mg, or even 100 mg. These can be dangerous. Recently I found out through a posting on Facebook that an acquaintance of mine, whom I had not seen for several years, has an aggressive form of prostate cancer. He is 65 years old. I remember chatting with him years ago and he had asked me about DHEA. At the time he mentioned to me that he was taking 25 mg a day for a long time. I am not sure if the excessive use of this hormone had anything to do with the aggressive nature of the prostate cancer he is dealing with, but it is a possibility.
Natural Healing Secrets
Vol. 15, Issue 6 -- June 2018
A comprehensive review -- published in the journal
Advances in Nutrition -- looked into the role of food and diet on blood
pressure. The 12 food groups studied included whole grains, refined
grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, eggs, dairy, fish, red meat,
processed meat, and sugar-sweetened beverages. The conclusion of the
researchers was that those who consumed a higher amount of whole grains,
fruits, nuts, eggs, and dairy had a lower blood pressure level. Those
who had a higher intake of red meat, processed meat, and sugar-sweetened
beverages had a higher risk of hypertension. Although this review did
not find a clear association between vegetable and fish intake on BP,
other studies have shown that a higher intake of these two food groups
do lower blood pressure. For a full list of foods and supplements that
lower BP, please see
www.raysahelian.com/highbloodpressure.html. Hopefully a change in
diet, along with exercise and weight loss, can reduce the need for BP
meds which have multiple short and long term side effects.
Recently beets have been getting a lot of good press. Beets have NO3 (inorganic nitrate) which dilates blood vessels. If you have high blood pressure, try to drink a few ounces of beetroot juice two or three times a week.
Eating fruit versus drinking the juice
Is there any harm in drinking fruit juices rather than eating the whole fruit? Fruits contain fiber which slows down the breakdown and absorption of fructose thus reducing the spike in blood sugar levels that occur with juice intake, especially when more than 3 or 4 ounces are quickly consumed. Although 100% fruit juice may contain as much sugar as some regular sugared soft drinks, it provides important vitamins, nutrients and beneficial plant chemicals (especially when freshly made as opposed to that found in cans and bottles). My review of the current research leads me to conclude that there is no definitive harm to consuming reasonable amounts of fruit juices in healthy children and adults, aside from the increased risk of tooth decay and small amounts of weight gain. The same cannot be said about those who are prone to high blood sugar or have diabetes. I would, in these cases, suggest eating the whole fruit.
Mucuna pruriens for Parkinson's disease
I like mucuna herb. When I take it I notice better mood, slightly more energy, feeling more alert, and mild sexual arousal. This herb also has a good amount of l-dopa, a chemical used by the body to make dopamine which is crucial in those with Parkinson's disease. A study recently published in the journal Parkinsonism and Related Disorders found that half of those with advanced PD who took mucuna pruriens daily for 16 weeks had a similar beneficial response to levodopa / carbidopa, a common medication combination used for this condition. See www.raysahelian.com/mucunapruriens.html.
Q. Is maca powder safe for young 71 yr old active woman? Does it balance hormones?
A. The safety of an herb used as a supplement depends largely on the amount used, just as one could say about the safety of drinking wine or an alcoholic beverage. In older individuals it is a good idea to begin with low amounts since seniors are more prone to the side effects of medications and supplements since their ability to metabolize and eliminate substances is not as good as in the young.
Maca is often used to increase energy, sexuality, and some women take it with the hope that it will help "balance" their levels of estrogen, progesterone, and other hormones. "Balancing hormones" is a claim made by some promoters of dietary supplements, but this term is unclear, vague and does not have much practical meaning. There are many different hormones in the body whose levels constantly fluctuate all day and night, and no single herb or combination can "balance" them all to achieve ideal health. Maca herb does not have intrinsic intelligence to know which hormones to influence appropriately in any person's body. Furthermore, different dosages and extracts, along with the time of day used, will have different influences. See http://www.raysahelian.com/maca.html
Melatonin for sleep
Q. I've been taking melatonin for 3 weeks and it helps me a lot. Is it safe to take it every night? I'm 27 years old. Does it have a bad side effects in the long run?
A. I prefer taking it no more that 2 or 3 times a week and at a dose of less than 2 mg. Sometimes taking a smaller amount, such as 0.5 mg, or even 0.3 mg, several hours before bed, on an empty stomach, works better than taking a higher amount, such as 3 mg, an hour or two before bed. However, each person is different and it may take trial and error to figure out the best dosage and timing. It would also be helpful to take a full week off every month or two. Melatonin works better taken on an empty stomach. Many people make the mistake of taking it after a meal, or taking it a half hour before bed expecting it to work similar to prescription sleep meds. A smaller amount, 2 to 4 hours before bed, on an empty stomach, works much better. There are reports of melatonin being an excellent antioxidant and perhaps having anti-cancer benefits. However, tolerance can develop if used frequently which is one of the reasons I suggest not using it nightly. Also, not enough long term studies are available to determine possible side effects if taken nightly several years in a row.
Prostate Power Rx testimonial
A few weeks ago I came across an article on the internet about your product Prostate Power Rx. In it a man said that even though he was over 70 his smegma production resumed (having lost the ability to produce it) after taking the product for a couple of weeks. The same thing has happened to me. I had turned 80 a couple of weeks ago and now after taking one capsule a day for 3 weeks my uncircumcised penis once again started producing a nice amount of smegma. My production had pretty much stopped. Now, in the morning, if I retract the skin and encircle the exposed head with my palm and fingers a thin film of this secretion is transferred to my hand and it has that "fragrance." It is mild but unmistakable. I actually find it a bit exhilarating. It makes me feel younger that my body, my reproductive parts in particular, are better functioning again.
Natural Healing Secrets
Vol. 15, Issue 5 -- May 2018
Screening for prostate cancer is controversial. A blood test called PSA measures elevated levels of a protein in the blood that identifies prostate cancer but can also reflect less serious prostate issues such as a simple enlargement. The latest data indicates PSA blood tests may slightly reduce the chances of dying from the disease though screening can also lead to needless treatment that could have untoward effects. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises men, aged 55 to 70, to discuss with their physician and consider the potential benefits and harms before testing. The ideal candidates for screening are those with a family history of prostate cancer, especially if a father or brother developed the disease before age 70. Elevated PSA levels don’t always signal cancer but they require a prostate gland biopsy to confirm, which carries the risk of infection. If the biopsy shows cancer, treatment, which includes radiation and surgery, sometimes leads to incontinence and impotence. Men aged 70 and up are not advised to be screened since the risks outweigh the benefits. Even if prostate cancer is found, men over 70 are more likely to die from other causes since the growth of prostate cancer is often quite slow, and can take years or decades.
My dad's story -- testing is not always the best option
My dad died a few years ago... He had been getting regular PSA tests and at age 83 it was found that his PSA levels were rising. The doctors did a biopsy and found a tiny cluster of cancer cells in his prostate gland, not enough to require treatment. He was advised to be monitored by regular testing every 3 to 6 months. This went on for a period of several years. Throughout this period he became more and more anxious and agitated, calling me frequently to share his worries about his cancer. My mom also noticed a shift in his mood... it seemed a little bit of his joie de vivre had diminished. And, suddenly, one day, while at home, he collapsed and died -- a result of a heart problem unrelated to the cancer. Our whole family was sad that the quality of his life in his last few remaining years was disrupted due his lingering worries about his potential prostate cancer. If he had never had the PSA test, he would have enjoyed his last few years much, much more.
My point is not that no one should get a PSA test, I just wanted to point out that not all testing leads to a better health outcome in all people.
For more information on natural ways to reduce the risk for prostate cancer, see www.raysahelian.com/prostatecancer.html
A plant aphrodisiac for women
Although natural aphrodisiac herbs are promoted mostly for men, they do work in women, too. Many of the hormones and chemicals involved in the human sexual response are similar in both sexes. In a new study published in the journal Gynecological Endocrinology, 40 premenopausal women reporting diminished libido received 750 mg of Tribulus terrestris daily for 4 months and were compared to a group receiving placebo pills. Patients treated with the plant aphrodisiac experienced improvement in desire, sexual arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and satisfaction. Women receiving T. terrestris had increased levels of free and bioavailable testosterone. The researchers state, "T. terrestris might be a safe alternative for the treatment of premenopausal women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder as it was effective in reducing the symptoms, probably due to an increase in the serum levels of free and bioavailable testosterone." For more info, see www.raysahelian.com/tribulus.html
My comments: Although testosterone increase may be one way that this plant works as a sexual enhancer, it has contains many substances that act in multiple ways in enhancing sexuality. Men can improve their sexual pleasure and performance with many prescription medications, but hardly any are available for women. It is reassuring to know that a woman can enhance their desire and satisfaction using natural herbs.
Food based vitamin formulas
Q. Is there any truth that food-based vitamins and minerals are more bioavailable than synthetic or 'natural' supplements? I have been taking some supplements from Grown By Nature. They are food-based antioxidant formulas utilizing low quantities of nutrients. Can you steer me in the right direction?
A. Whole-food supplements have a combination of concentrated, dehydrated whole foods, often with added vitamins and minerals (some of the added vitamins are made synthetically). These products are often more expensive. The choice of using a food-based vitamin complex versus other forms depends on the contents of the formula. For instance, a B vitamin can be produced synthetically and thus is the exact chemical molecule as a "food based" B vitamin. Vitamin C, produced synthetically, is the same as that found in citrus fruits. However, taking the example of vitamin C, if the "food based" formula with vitamin C also includes bioflavonoids (perhaps from rose hips), then this would be preferable to just getting the benefits from synthetic vitamin C alone.
It is not possible to give a simple answer. Much depends on the dosages of the vitamins in the formula, which are included and which are not, and in what amounts. Sometimes even a "food based" formula could be unhealthy if the proportions of the B vitamins are not proper (too much of some, too little of others). In order to make a more definitive evaluation, one has to look at the labels and to see what the products contain and in what dosages. Sometimes the amounts of vitamins and minerals in a food-based product may be too low to be effective. On the other hand, some multivitamin products have too high a dose of certain vitamins. Products that are B50 or B100 have multiple times the amounts of the B vitamins required for optimal health.
Keep in mind, also, that many food-based formulas have added vitamins that are made synthetically since there is not enough of the vitamin in the dehydrated food to amount to any significant amount.
The bottom line is that the decision to choose one product over the other should be based on reading the label and evaluating each of the ingredients to determine whether the formula is appropriate for your individual needs.
St. John's wort proper dosage
I totally agree with Dr Sahelian's advice of only taking 300mg of St John's wort once a day instead of the recommended 300 mg three times a day. Any more than that and I have major insomnia.
A. St. John's wort works well as a natural antidepressant, but too much of it can cause shallow sleep which negates the mood improving benefits. When researchers embark on a study, if they do not prescribe the proper dosage of a supplement, the results could be misleading. For instance, if researchers want to test the effectiveness of St. John's wort for depression, and they use too high a dosage (300 mg three times a day for several weeks), and the study subjects end up having trouble sleeping and hence experience declining motivation, tiredness, and low mood, the scientists might conclude that this herb is not effective as a treatment for depression. Then the media will report that this herb failed as an anti-depressant, not realizing that if the researchers had used 300 mg once a day, or perhaps twice daily, the study results might have been much more positive.
Natural Healing Secrets
Vol. 15, Issue 4 -- April 2018
Alcohol -- Does drinking wine, beer, liquor, and other
spirits help you live longer? Many studies in the past have found that
one or two drinks a day (a moderate amount) provides more health
benefits than harm (hence the French Paradox). In the newest study
published in Lancet, a British medical journal, researchers evaluated
information from 600,000 people in multiple countries regarding their
drinking habits dating back several decades. Those who drank moderately or
heavily had higher
rates of stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Any amount more than
five drinks a week raised the risk for premature death. A drink is defined as
4 ounces of wine, 12 ounces
of beer, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits.
It is frustrating when research studies find conflicting results. What should we make of this? For the time being I personally think it is acceptable to have a drink a day (some people may tolerate more with no negative consequences). However, it is becoming clearer that more than one drink a day (and especially more than 2 drinks a day) can be harmful.
Timing of the drink makes a difference, too. If you drink right before bed, then any benefits of the alcohol are reversed by potential sleep disturbances. It is best to have your glass of wine a few hours before bed rather than an hour or two before. Alcohol can make you feel drowsy and sleepy, at least initially, but it also contributes to poor sleep quality later (waking up, tossing and turning, and increased body temperature). The body likes to be cool while sleeping. The amount you can drink without harm is also dependent on your body weight, age, and overall health.
Tongkat ali for sexual enhancement, a review by a
Tongkat ali is a tree that grows in South-East Asia. The root has been known to be a potent sexual enhancer and many locals drink it in the form of tea or coffee. Scientists often dismiss the native understanding of herbs accumulated over centuries and millennia, but more of them are starting to recognize the benefits of plants for human health. In a review of published studies regarding the aphrodisiac benefits of this plant, a medical journal concludes, "The majority of articles included were randomized placebo-controlled trials, multiple cohort studies, or pilot trials. All these studies demonstrated considerable effects of tongkat ali on male sexual health disorders. There is convincing evidence for the prominence of this plant in improving male sexual health."
Tongkat ali is also effective in women. A capsule of 200 mg in the morning or 25 mg of an extract called LJ100 is effective (after several days) in enhancing sexual pleasure, libido, and function in men and women. See www.raysahelian.com/tongkat_ali.html for details on the benefits and side effects.
5-HTP, a natural antidepressant, toxicity
Q. I use 5-HTP for balancing my mood and it works really well. I take 50 mg a half hour before dinner. I think I sleep better, too. Are you aware of any serious side effects if used for a long time, or any toxicity?
A. 5-HTP works as a supplement to treat mild depression, insomnia, excess stress, and perhaps to reduce impulsive behavior. I am aware of one instance, thus far, of a toxic, serious, adverse effect. 5-HTP has been sold over the counter since 1995 and no incidents of toxicity have been mentioned in medical journals that I know of. However, in February 2018 I met an emergency room doctor who works in Los Angeles and he told me about a patient he had recently treated in the ER.
Case report: A male in his late 30s bought 5-htp from Bulk Supplements company. It was in bulk, powder form and the label suggested 50 to 200 mg daily. However, 1/16 of a teaspoon contained 182 mg of 5-HTP. Apparently the patient took, by mistake, about a teaspoon of it (the exact amount is not clear) which could have been a dose of 1000 to 3000 mg. He was brought to the ER by his wife after he went delusional, and was found to have nausea, diarrhea, hallucinations, and loss of memory. It took 4 days in the hospital before he returned back to normal.
My comments: I am disturbed that this potent substance is sold in powder form in such a way that it would be easy for such an overdose to occur. Some natural products are best sold in a fixed capsule amount in order to avoid such an occurrence. As to long term use of 50 mg, I think this should be safe. But, to be even safer, it would be preferable to take a day or two off a week and a full week off every 4 to 6 weeks. See www.raysahelian.com/5-htp.html for more information.
DHEA for women after menopause
Q. Could DHEA -- available without a prescription -- substitute for estrogen replacement therapy? If DHEA converts to estrogen, should post-menopausal women with a uterus take it without progesterone, given the link of unopposed estrogen to cancer? Thank you for all the valuable information you provide!
A. This is a complicated issue. Few studies have been published regarding the role of DHEA in postmenopausal women and as a potential replacement for estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone. When administered to postmenopausal women, DHEA is mostly transformed to androgens (testosterone, androstenedione) and less so to estrogens. In premenopausal women, the production rate of DHEA is approximately 6–8 mg/day and this drops off after menopause. However, since DHEA exhibits weak effects on estrogen receptors, it may not be as effective for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms as estrogen treatment. However, it may be more effective in terms of the benefits that androgens provide, for instance increased libido and bone mineral density improvement.
For the time being, if a postmenopausal woman finds that she does benefit from DHEA supplementation as a substitute for estrogen, the dose should be kept to a minimum (less than 10 mg, preferably less than 5 mg) and I don't believe it is necessary to take progesterone (until studies are published that show otherwise). It is also a good idea to take breaks from use since hormone therapy -- whether with estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, DHEA, or pregnenolone -- has many potential side effects. When no longer needed, DHEA treatment should stop. There are many DHEA products on the market sold as 25 mg or 50 mg dosages and I strongly discourage anyone from taking these massive amounts. Some women may even benefit from a combination of low dose estrogen and low dose DHEA. For more information on the benefits and side effects of DHEA, see www.raysahelian.com/dhea.html
Prune juice and diabetes, constipation
Q. Does the natural sugar contained in prune juice contribute to a rise in blood sugar and possibly not be advised for someone who is diabetic?
A. It depends on the quantity consumed. If it is less than two ounces at one serving, it would not. But if more than 3 or 4 ounces are consumed at a time, it could raise blood sugar levels. Some of my patients find relief from constipation by drinking about 2 or 3 ounces of prune juice in the evening followed by a glass or two of water first thing upon awakening. Although fruit juices (apple, orange, grapefruit, etc.) are considered healthy drinks -- and they are especially freshly squeezed -- more than 4 to 6 ounces at a time can raise blood sugar levels even in healthy individuals who do not have diabetes. See natural ways to prevent or treat elevated blood sugar issues or full blown diabetes, www.raysahelian.com/diabetes.html
Natural Healing Secrets
Vol. 15, Issue 3 -- March 2018
I recently attended a healthy products trade show -- Natural Products Expo West -- held annually at the Anaheim Convention Center, CA. This trade show attracts more than 70,000 individuals in the industry and has 3000 exhibits. As I walked around I noticed two products that were being heavily promoted this year: Probiotics and Collagen. I took the opportunity to stop by many booths and talk with some experts on these supplements and to gage their opinions on the current research, benefits, and risks. Some of the questions I asked had to do with the timing of ingestion of probiotic pills: Before, with, or after dinner. You will be surprised at the responses. I will review probiotics in this newsletter and talk about collagen supplements in a future issue.
Probiotics -- what are they?
Probiotics are living bacteria that, when administered in adequate amounts, provide a health benefit. They are found in fermented foods and sold as dietary supplements. Although people are concerned about bacteria and other germs in terms of causing infections, certain microorganisms help our bodies function better. Large numbers of microorganisms live on and in our bodies, outnumbering human cells by 10 to 1. Many of the microorganisms in probiotic products are the same as, or similar to, microorganisms that naturally live in our bodies.
Potential benefits -- much of this research is still
early, but promising
Here are some of the potential benefits of probiotics when consumed in foods or ingested as supplements:
Brain and nervous system influence -- Evidence is accumulating that there
are interactions among the gastrointestinal tract, the enteric nervous system,
and the central nervous system.
Cancer -- The influence of gut bacteria on cancers of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract -- including esophagus, stomach, colon, liver, and pancreas -- is being investigated.
Diarrhea -- Probiotics are recommended for the prevention of
Digestion -- These bacteria help the digestive processes in the intestines. Although they are found in the stomach and small intestine, their highest concentration is in the large intestine. Friendly bacteria that are present in our intestines help digest food, destroy disease-causing germs, and produce short chain fatty acids, vitamins, and other nutrients.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a result of chronic inflammation aggravated by, in some small part, by not having proper amounts or ratios of beneficial microbes in the intestines. IBD includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
Irritable bowel syndrome -- some patients could benefit from supplementation.
Immune system -- Probiotics could help reduce the risk of certain infections in the GI system, and perhaps other areas of the body including the respiratory system and vagina. Probiotics play a protective role by directly competing with intestinal pathogens through the release of antibacterial substances such as bacteriocins or metabolites such as acetic acid and lactic acid.
For more information see www.raysahelian.com/probiotics.html
With or without food
At the show I stopped by multiple booths selling probiotics and spoke with the person most knowledgeable about these products. I asked a simple question: What is the optimal time to ingest these probiotic pills... with or without food? I got several different answers. Some suggested on an empty stomach, others said with a meal, and still others said it did not matter. What is the right answer? Surprisingly little research has been published on this topic.
Before probiotics consumed from food or supplements can be
effective, they have to get a foothold in the small and large intestines. To reach the
large intestine, the bacteria have to survive the highly acidic environment of
the stomach. When the stomach is empty, it is quite acidic and could kill most
of the beneficial bacteria in the supplements. The pH of the stomach increases after food intake
which makes it less likely to kill the bacteria. But, the introduction of food
to the stomach elicits the digestive process and digestive enzymes that may
damage the friendly bacteria. As you can see the answer regarding the best time
to take these probiotics is not simple.
The best option -- for the time being and until more studies are published on this topic -- is to consume the pills with a small meal, thus reducing their exposure to harsh stomach acid. The bacteria can escape from the stomach and make their way into the small and large intestines.
I can find very little research comparing the benefits of taking probiotics with or without meals, or at different times of day. So, for the time being, the small meal option is my choice. Store your probiotic products in the refrigerator to help them last longer.
Fermented foods loaded with good microorganisms
Foods and drinks that have lots of good bacteria include kefir, kimchi (a fermented, Korean side dish) kombucha, miso, natto, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, tempeh, and yoghurt.
Q. Does what we eat influence rheumatoid arthritis?
A. I believe it does. I found a new review article on this topic in a rheumatology journal that summarizes one researcher's perspective.
Dr. Humeira Badsha, from the Medical Center, Beach Park Plaza, Dubai, UAE, says, "Some of benefits of a vegan diet as a treatment for RA may be explained by antioxidant constituents, lactobacilli and fiber, and by potential changes in intestinal flora. Similarly, a Mediterranean diet shows anti-inflammatory effects due to protective properties of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamins, but also by influencing the gut flora. Gluten-free and elemental diets have been associated with some benefits though the existing evidence is limited. Long-term intake of fish and other sources of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are protective. The benefits of fasting, anti-oxidant supplementation, flavanoids, and probiotics in RA are not clear. Vitamin D has been shown to influence autoimmunity and may decrease RA disease activity. For more info see www.raysahelian.com/rheumatoidarthritis.html.
Natural Healing Secrets
Vol. 15, Issue 2 -- February 2018
Tea - After decades of using tea bags, I recently
started just adding hot water to powdered herbs. My experimentation
began with cardamom powder that I bought from the spice section of my
local health food store. I placed about an eight of a teaspoon in a
glass and sweetened it with a few drops of stevia liquid. It was
delicious. Then I tried coriander powder -- and I liked it, too.
My newest combination is a small amount of cardamom, coriander. nutmeg,
cinnamon, and a tiny amount of clove powder. Rather than the no-calorie
stevia liquid, you can sweeten it with agave syrup, maple syrup or a
sweetener of your choice. Each 3 ounce bottle of the powdered herb I buy
can last me several weeks. I really enjoy this combination.
You could make your own recipe by adding other spices to it such as a little bit of turmeric, cayenne powder, allspice, ginger, paprika, or chili pepper. I sometimes add flax seeds or chia seeds for fiber. Another advantage to this combination is that I don't feel wired as I do when I drink coffee or black / green tea. The herbs I have mentioned do not seem to have a significant amount of caffeine or other stimulant substances (drinking this combination does not seem to bother my sleep). And they pack a whole lot of powerful antioxidants and beneficial substances that provide a wide range of health benefits.
I end up consuming the remnants of the herbs at the bottom of the glass whereas when tea is consumed from a bag many of the beneficial substances still present in the herb are discarded.
Age related vision loss -- diet has an influence
There are many causes for age-related visual decline, including glaucoma (high pressure in the eye that damages the optic nerve) and cataracts (clouding of the lens). Another common cause is macular degeneration which affects the macula, the part of the retina that allows you to see the sharpest detail. To investigate the associations between intakes of carotenoids and MD, tens of thousands of subjects were followed for more than 2 decades in the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. All participants were aged 50 years or older and, at the start, were free of diagnosed MD, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Plasma carotenoid scores were computed directly from food intake, assessed by repeated food frequency questionnaires. The results indicated that higher intake of lutein and zeaxanthin was associated with a reduced risk of macular degeneration. See www.raysahelian.com/maculardegeneration.html. There are many good dietary sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, see www.raysahelian.com/lutein.html.
Chrysin for benign prostate enlargement
Chrysin is a natural flavonoid compound extracted from many plants, honey and bee propolis. A study evaluated its role in protecting against testosterone-induced prostate enlargement in rats. Testosterone treatment depleted glutathione, suppressed superoxide dismutase and catalase activities, and elevated lipid peroxidation. Chrysin helped reduce testosterone-induced oxidative stress and prevented the increase in binding activity of several substances that induce prostate growth. The investigators state, "These data show the protective role of chrysin against experimentally-induced benign prostatic hypertrophy. This is attributed - at least partly - to its antioxidant, antiproliferative and proapoptotic properties." See www.raysahelian.com/chrysin.html.
Parkinson's disease and mucuna herb
Q. I've been diagnosed with early stage Parkinson's disease. Over the past few months, in consultation with my neurologist and nutritionist, I have gradually built up to taking 5 pills per day of your mucuna pruriens 15% L-Dopa product which contains 30 mg L-Dopa per pill. As of today, your formula works for me, coupled with diet and exercise.
A. Not everyone with PD benefits from mucuna herbal treatment, but some do and this is encouraging. See www.raysahelian.com/mucunapruriens.html.
Antidepressant induced sexual dysfunction
Q. I am on Lexapro, a prescription antidepressant, and have noticed that even though my mood is better, my libido and erection abilities have been struggling. Are there natural supplements that counteract this?
A. Lexapro is a medication similar to Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil. It belongs to a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications improve mood by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain. A high amount of serotonin in brain tissue has an inhibitory effect on sexual function leading to a decrease in libido and the ability to maintain an erection. Although there are herbal remedies that improve sexual function, it is challenging to address this situation through natural aphrodisiacs since herb / medication interactions are possible if they are both taken the same day. You could review with your doctor whether natural antidepressants can replace the prescription antidepressant you are currently on. For instance SAM-e (100 mg a day, higher amounts cause side effects), St. John's wort, and mucuna pruriens are natural pills which improve mood yet do not inhibit sexuality. Another option, if your doctor approves, is to skip the meds 2 or 3 days a week while substituting Passion Rx or another aphrodisiac product during those days.
There are prescription meds that do not cause sexual side effects, for instance Wellbutrin, and your doctor may consider switching you to it if he or she is not keen on trying natural antidepressants or skipping days. See www.raysahelian.com/libido.html for natural ways to improve sexual desire and function through herbs, foods, and lifestyle changes. There is a review of natural ways to improve mood at www.raysahelian.com/depression.html.
Which supplements to take and when
Q. First, let me say how impressed I am that there's someone like you doing such a deep analysis of supplements. Over the past 12 years I have discovered natural ways to handle diabetes, clogged arteries and other related problems. I have researched alternatives when told I needed to have a stent implanted or bypass surgery, and have seen my cholesterol, blood sugar, and related factors all register as normal. I have relied on the advice of a local D.O. and the information in Dr. Robert Atkins' book "Dr. Atkins Vita-Nutrient Solution" to regain and keep my health. Recently, I decided to review my daily regimen (of about a hundred pills) and remembered your website and its amazing research work. Also, Dr. Atkins' book came out in 1998, and that was indeed a long time ago! I found quite a variance between what Atkins recommended for certain supplements on a daily basis and what you recommend, as well as variances in frequency of dosage, such as maybe 3 times a week (your suggestion for some supplements) versus daily dosages. How should I go about deciding just how much to adjust my regimen in view of some of the very large differences I'm finding?
A. Supplementation with vitamins, herbs, and other dietary supplements is still an art rather than a science and different doctors have different opinions. There are no easy answers and it is up to each individual to review the opinions of various doctors, read articles online, or books, do some experimenting on themselves, and make up their own minds. I can provide some general recommendations that you may wish to review. For basic supplements to take on a regular basis, see www.raysahelian.com/diet.html, and for supplements geared to longevity, see www.raysahelian.com/longevity.html. You may also wish to review this page that discusses the reasons why it is not possible to provide guidelines that apply to everyone, see www.raysahelian.com/contactus.html (the heading that starts with "Doctor, which supplements should I take?"
Natural Healing Secrets
Vol. 15, Issue 1 -- January 2018
About two months ago the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology released new guidelines recommending more aggressive blood pressure treatment. They lowered the threshold at which treatment should begin. They now consider blood pressure of 130/80 or above to be elevated. In the past patients were not considered to have hypertension unless their systolic pressure was above 140. They claim that even elderly and frail patients benefit from having high blood pressure treated. With the previous guidelines, about a third of American adults were considered to have hypertension. With the newer ones, almost half are considered to be hypertensive.
Rather than suggesting medications, they initially recommend lifestyle changes including more exercise, eating more vegetables, fruits and whole grains... and reducing salt intake, body weight, and alcohol intake. However, this change in recommendations also means more patients will eventually be prescribed drugs for hypertension... which could lead to many more people having short term and long term side effects from them.
It is true that high blood pressure for many years does harm to blood vessels and can lead to organ damage such as kidney and heart failure. In the long run it raises the risks for heart attacks and stroke. But, the question I am still not sure of is: Would taking years and decades of medications (in those who have mildly elevated BP) eventually cause more harm than good? Many times a person's blood pressure reading could be higher in the doctors office as opposed to home where the environment is more relaxing. Blood pressure is often measured while sitting. When we stand and walk around it could be lower. Are we about to overmedicate many more people than necessary? In a way I feel similar to that of statin drugs used to lower cholesterol levels. Are doctors treating more people with these harmful cholesterol-lowering medications than necessary? Is there a push from the pharmaceutical industry to influence these guidelines?
Many drugs are used to treat high blood pressure. They include diuretics, beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors, which influence blood pressure from different directions. I am not aware of studies that show that taking for several decades in those who have a BP of 130/80 would increase or decrease lifespan.
Natural herbs, diet, and supplements for lowering
In my opinion it is a wise choice to try all forms of natural therapies before resorting to potentially harmful medications. I have listed quite a number of options for you to try and I hope you find lifestyles changes, exercise, yoga, meditation, dance, walks in nature, and other methods to lower your risk. Please see www.raysahelian.com/hypertension.html
An herb for Parkinson's disease
Although current meds used to treat Parkinson's disease are of benefit, it is good to know that an herb can be of help, too. In a recent study published in the journal Neurology, investigators tested the effectiveness and safety of a single-dose intake of mucuna pruriens powder. Eighteen patients with advanced Parkinson's disease received standard medications and were compared to those who received the herbal preparation. The researchers conclude, "Single-dose mucuna intake met all efficacy and safety outcome measures in comparison to dispersible levodopa/benserazide."
Comments: We need many more studies to determine the best amounts of mucuna herb to use, the ideal extract potency, the frequency of use, and how it can be combined with Parkinson's meds or reduce the amount of medication taken. But, at this time, this herb looks to be a promising addition to Parkinson's disease treatment. See www.raysahelian.com/mucunapruriens.html
Emails from readers
Vitamin D potential side effects
Q. According to my blood work my vitamin D3 level was considered deficient (11 ng/ml). My doctor prescribed me 50,000 IU once a week for 8 weeks. After taking the high dosage she instructed me to follow up with taking 2,000 IU daily. I've been feeling horrible. I'm tired, have a restless sleeping pattern, dealing with muscle spams and bone pain, my joints pop when I move, brain fog, dehydration, dry eyes, blurred vision, bouts of anxiety and depression (which I've never had before). Ever since then I've stopped taking the vitamin. I'm currently at 38 ng/ml. I was a healthy 38 year old woman until I started taking the high dosage of vitamin D.
A. I don't understand why some doctors prescribe these massive amounts. A few people may need up to 3,000 units a day. Many do well taking between 400 and 2,000 units daily and even less if exposed to daily sun. You may find this Reuters Health article from a few months ago interesting:
Nearly one in five U.S. adults are taking supplemental vitamin D, and a growing number are taking excessively high doses linked to an increased risk of fractures, falls, kidney stones and certain cancers. The recommended daily intake of vitamin D for most adults is 600 IU (international units), or 800 IU after age 70. Researchers examined survey data collected for 39,243 adults from 1999 to 2014. The proportion of people taking more than 1,000 IU daily surged from just 0.3 percent in the first survey in 1999 to 18 percent in the last survey in 2014. “Vitamin D is essential for bone metabolism, as it helps the body absorb calcium and maintain appropriate concentrations of calcium and phosphate in the blood,” said senior study author Pamela Lutsey, a public health researcher at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “Excessive intake of vitamin D can, however, be harmful, as it can cause overabsorption of calcium. Excess blood calcium can, in turn, lead to detrimental deposition of calcium in soft tissues, such as the heart and kidneys.”
Garlic and BP testimonial
Q. I am currently taking 1 clove of garlic daily morning as soon as I wake up on an empty stomach as a home remedy to reduce hypertension. Before starting this treatment, my average BP measured at home used to be about 155/111 mmHg. After taking 1 clove of garlic daily on an empty stomach since last 2 weeks my BP now seems to be around 135/99 which seems to be a reasonably good improvement. I also have hypothyroidism diagnosed 3 years ago, and am taking a daily dose of 150mg Thyroxin tabs in the morning on an empty stomach, but with 20 mins gap from taking the garlic clove.
A. I am not sure if one clove is enough to reduce BP, but if it is working for you that's great. The evidence does seem to support that garlic reduces BP.