The Phonocardiogram to Customize Your Nutrient Needs

VitaminsNutritional quality of food produced in our modern technocracy is sub-standard in many cases. We cannot get sufficient nutrition from the foods we eat; this is a strong factor in many of our illnesses. Correcting nutritional levels is fundamental to restoring and maintaining wellness. Laboratory test results provide Dr. Richards with nutritional profiles on each patient.

In light of the fact that cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death and illness in the US, I think finding a way to assess the heart's functional status at the earliest possible time is incredibly important. The phonocardiogram is a tool which will tell much more about a person's health than "just" the state of the heart.

Today, the alternative health care paradigm is shifting to wellness - providing what the body needs to perform optimally and reversing deficiencies before the onset of a symptom pattern which can be termed a "disease." Most of us want to stay well, rather than "get" well.

At the beginning of this century, diet was considered the single most important factor which influenced health, and the emphasis was on adjusting the nutritional intake to relieve symptoms the moment they appeared. Symptoms were considered an early- warning system of nutrient malnutrition - very perceptive, don't you agree!!

It was during this time that the heart was found to be a very useful and reliable indicator of the state of an individual's overall health. When challenged with nutrients, the heart reacts and adapts within seconds, clearly indicating whether a nutrient is "heart friendly," "heart aversive," or "heart neutral."

Responding to a need to develop tools which could accurately record and measure the heart cycle, Dr. Royal Lee, a dentist by education and an inventor by profession, designed and introduced in 1937 the first phonocardiogram - which he called the Endocardiograph. By providing a recording of the heart sounds, the Endocardiograph allowed documentation of the heart's responses - leading to accurate and detailed evaluation.

In 1987, the instrumentation was further refined by Drs. Goodheart and Schmidt, resulting in the modern phonocardiogram in use today - the Acoustic CardioGraph (ACG). The ACG records the sounds of the heart as the blood moves through the various chambers, valves and vessels. The graph signature reflects the opening and closing of the valves, the contraction and strength of the heart muscle and the efficiency of the movement of the blood supply - all in present time. To the experienced eye, it also reflects the organization of the heartbeat (which reflects the electrical conduction system) and the length of the resting cycle. It also documents arrhythmias and heart murmurs. Furthermore, adrenal function, the efficiency of the calcium ion exchange and the effect the liver may be having on the heart can all be determined.

This plethora of detail allows the doctor to evaluate functional physiology at a cellular level, using the hardest working organ in your body - your heart. Since the heart works constantly, it has the most urgent need for optimum nutrition. Nutrient changes which affect heart cells will, inevitably, be reflected elsewhere in the body, as well.

There are two questions which are commonly asked about the ACG. The first is: "Doctor, I've had an EKG and it was normal. Why do I need an ACG?' To answer, let me briefly contrast the EKG with an ACG. The EKG records the surface electrical impulse as it moves through the nerves of the heart tissue. The only thing it can reveal is whether or not there has been damage to the electrical conduction system. For example, after a heart attack, the heart muscle repairs itself by forming scar tissue in the area of the heart attack. Scar tissue does not conduct the electrical impulse; therefore, an EKG can tell if you have ever had a heart attack. You might say that an EKG reveals history, while an ACG reveals the present, and the future.

So, to answer your question: "Great! If your EKG is normal, you have had no damage to your heart. Now, we need to know whether there's a process at work that may cause damage in the future so that we can avert it."

The second question is: "I don't have a heart problem. Why do I need a phonocardiogram?" Actually, the answer is the same: "If we optimize the health of your heart, you may never suffer from heart trouble." This aside, ferreting out the details is very exciting! I have found that the phonocardiogram is the most valuable tool I have to customize your nutrient needs. A blood panel can give me a list of nutrients you apparently need - the nutrients which research has proven are effective for your particular condition. However, the ACG allows me to find out which of those nutrients you personally need to normalize cellular function.

When I did a pilot study, no one has actually needed to take every nutrient indicated by the blood work. In some cases, one or two out of three or more recommended by the blood profile actually corrected the heart cycle. In a few cases, we have had to alter the form of the nutrient - IntrinsiB 12 Folate, instead of sublingual Resin B 12, for example. In some people, the phonocardiogram turned up heretofore undiagnosed deficiencies.

The entire process has been tremendously exciting, because it is just further confirmation of what I teach and believe - we are all biochemically unique! Supplying each of us with our unique requirements can only result in healthier and happier lives.

[see Personal Supplement Programs]

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Do We Need Vitamins?

VitaminsHow many times have you wondered whether taking vitamins is doing you any good? Does anyone really need them, or is a "balanced' diet enough? And, have you ever wondered which vitamins are best? Or if it is possible to determine what you specifically need? Vitamin supplementation can be expensive, so buying the items that are right for you and that will give you the best results is very important.

To protect your health and pocketbook, there are some important facts to know in order to make good choices.

First of all, it is very difficult for most of us to get enough vitamins from our food supply today. Many of you are very health conscious and try to eat a quality diet - rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, with protein as an adjunct to the meal, limiting fats and sweets. Yet, even in health conscious individuals, the clinical tests I've been running show the need for additional nutrients.

The reasons are multi-factorial: Commercial agribusiness depletes the soil, and the commercial fertilizers they use increase only crop yield, not nutritional value. Take the example of tomatoes. Have you ever wondered why commercial tomatoes are so tasteless? It is because the majority are cultivated hydroponically using just the fertilizers that meet the basic requirements of plant growth; but they lack essential elements (mostly trace mineral). By contrast, cherry tomatoes can't be grown hydroponically, so they retain their full flavor.

The natural ripening process is also essential for optimum nutritional value. Yet, most fruits and vegetables are picked before maturity so that they can be handled more roughly. Once harvested, however, the story's not over.

The shipping, warehousing and distribution of food in America increases the delay in getting the food to you and your family. In almost every instance, the nutritional value of food begins to drop 24 hours after harvesting. This is particularly true for vitamin content.

So, in summary; yes, we all need vitamins - the right ones for us. Call the RFHC to obtain a personalized nutrition program.
[see Diagnostics/Bloodwork]

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Why Take Vitamins

VitaminsThere are people who hold very desirable positions of public trust in the field of nutrition, positions of grave responsibility, who give out misleading information about vitamins and nutrition in general. They tell the general public that the average grocery store contains all the nourishing foods necessary to maintain abundant health. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Perhaps you have run into the individual who scoffs at you for your belief in vitamin therapy. Just remember, there are scoffers in any field of endeavor and that his scoffing is merely an attempt to cover his ignorance pertaining to the nutritional requirements of the human body. It simply discloses his lack of understanding in this particular instance and therefore, you have the opportunity of expressing the virtue of compassion to a fellow creature who is not as enlightened as he will some day be.

So, keep in mind:
If our nation's soil was virgin - which it is not;
If our ancestors had been perfect - and they were not;
If you could teach people to eat to satisfy the body's needs and not their perverted appetites - which you cannot;
If we could raise our own food on healthy soil and eat it fresh - which we cannot;
If we could all own our own cow, goat or chickens and raise our own meat and poultry - which we cannot;
If foods were not harvested green and immature - but they are;
If storage did not produce deficiencies in vitamins - but it does;
If we lived in a stress-free world - but we don't;
If chemical fertilizers were not used in our soil - but they are;
If refinement, processing, enrichment and synthetic substitution were not a reality-but they are;
If the animals we eat were fed a perfect diet - which they are not;
If insecticides did not penetrate every cell of our food - but they do;
If the animals were not force-fed and hormone-fed to increase their weight and make an earlier market day -which they are;
If most of our grains were not refined into dried cereals - which they are;
If our white sugar possessed anything more nutritive than sand which it does not;
If our modern white flour was all used for wallpaper paste instead of bakery goods - which it is not;
If our foods were not overcooked - but they are;
If deep fry fats were not to be found in almost every restaurant but they are;
If man would live by the laws of nature - which he will not;
If man were not greedy - but he is;

Then you wouldn¹t need vitamins and minerals!
[see Diagnostics/Bloodwork]

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CoQ10 Drug Depletion

I have recently returned from the national symposium hosted by the Council on Family Practice, in Orlando, Florida. Some of the sessions were political, but several of the presentations were excellent.

In particular, I want to share with you some of the information from a presentation entitled, "Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletions." I found the information shocking, and I thought I was well-informed in this area.

The presentation was very detailed and dealt with a variety of classifications of the most commonly prescribed drugs and what nutrients they deplete. Dr. Pelton pointed out that in his research he found over 600 articles documenting how popular prescription drugs deplete necessary vitamins and minerals.

However, for the moment, I'd like to concentrate on just one critical nutrient: CoQ10. As you may be aware, enzyme CoQ10 is an essential element of the mitochondrial electron-chain reaction, whereby we utilize oxygen to "burn" our food, producing energy without destroying our cells. CoQ10 is absolutely essential to protect the mitochondria from irreversible damage by the oxygen. Yet, many of the most common drugs prescribed today cause massive depletion of CoQ10, and there is no good food source which contains it. We either have to make our own or take it! And, making CoQ10 is a complex process involving 17 different steps and requiring multiple vitamins and minerals as co-factors.

The following is a partial list of the prescription drugs that deplete CoQ10:

Blood Pressure Medications Hydralazine
Hydra-Zide, Diuril
Hygroton, Lopressor
Tenormin, Catpres

Cholesterol Lowering Drugs Statins

Anti-diabetic Drugs Sulfonylureas
Orinase, Micronase
Glucatrol, Diabinese

Psychotherapeutic Drugs Phenothiazines
Tricyclic antidepressants
Thorazine, Mellaril
Elavil, Limbitrol
Sinequan, Triavil
Haldol, Halperon

Of these, the cholesterol lowering drugs known as "statins" probably deplete CoQ10 most seriously. The drugs inhibit cholesterol synthesis in the liver. In that process, they also inhibit part of the enzyme pathway for CoQ10 synthesis.

You may be thinking, "Well, that's interesting. So what? How does it affect me?" I'm sure you'll see the relevance when you come to understand that the clinical picture of CoQ10 deficiency is heart failure: fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, retaining water, especially in the lower extremities, and, in extreme cases, water on the lungs and cardiac asthma.

The drugs are creating congestive heart failure (CHF)! In the 1950's and 1960's, there were several thousand cases of CHF diagnosed per year, and almost all of them were post-heart attack. Now, there are hundreds of thousands of cases diagnosed annually; and most of these people have never had a heart attack. And, you might notice that in the case of blood pressure medications, cholesterol lowering drugs and anti-diabetic drugs, heart disease is the very thing the treatments are designed to prevent and or at least that's the way they're marketed. Whatever happened to "First, do no harm"?

There's an interesting historical note to all of this. In the 1950's the therapeutic effects of CoQ10 were discovered by a research scientist working for Merck. He told them that CoQ10 was the best cardiovascular drug he had ever seen; however, they weren't interested in developing it and sold the patent to the Japanese. For the last 30 years, CoQ10 has been the number one cardiac drug in Japan. Meanwhile, here in America, we're still using physiologic poisons to treat heart disease.

If you're interested in reading more about the topic of how drugs deplete vitamins and minerals, Dr. Pelton has published a book "The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs." It's $14.95 and can be ordered through Vroman's bookstore in Pasadena. We will soon have a copy in our office lending library.


Vitamin E and Health

Vitamin E and Hearth Have you heard the latest? It's been on all the network shows (watch for my topic: How Controlled is the Media on Health Issues?). WebMD (a site set up specifically to counteract the availability of alternative health care information on the net) has come up with an article opining that Vitamin E is dangerous! That it may increase the risk of death and that no one should take more than 400 IU

There are several things wrong with this outrageous statement. The first, and most obvious, is that no references are given and no studies are cited. The conclusion was reached after a vaguely defined "statistical analysis". No effort was made to define the variables, nor was any rigor applied to the type of vitamin E in question. Yes, Virginia, there are differences in vitamin E!

The vast majority of vitamin E in America is d-alpha tocopherol (a synthetic), which is the raceme of vitamin E that has NO activity in the heart. You need gamma tocopherol for heart health. Almost everything on the market and certainly all vitamin E added to foods is d-alpha. That's because it's manufactured from soy by one of the largest companies in the world. You've seen their commercials -- ADM "Supermarket to the World." They claim it's "natural" because it comes from soy, but all other racemes have been stripped away.

The only vitamin E that's worse for you is dl-alpha tocopherol. The "dl" clearly indicates that the tocopherol was manufactured, and no one bothered to purify it and extract the biologically active form -- the "d". So, many people may be taking "dl" alpha tocopherol and the body cannot use or process the "l" form. Our bodies can only use dextro-rotary tocopherols. Everything else is junk. So, the "l", or levo-rotary forms, just gum up our enzymes. Who knows how many individuals in the "analysis" were taking junk vitamin E?

The other outrageous statement (and, I suspect, the true point of the article) is that vitamin E can "interfere" with the action of cholesterol-lowering drugs, which are characterized as "life saving." This really frosts me. These cholesterol-lowering agents are responsible for the epidemic of congestive heart failure we have in this country. They interfere with the synthesis of enzyme CoQ10 and lead inevitably to heart failure, because the heart can't function without it. And you can't get CoQ10 from food, you MUST manufacture it! But, we are being urged to avoid a natural and healthful substance and substitute poisonous chemicals in its stead. Does anyone smell a rat?

This study smacks of the one that came out recently saying that vitamin E had no effect on heart disease. Of course, the study was set up to fail, since it was done using d-alpha tocopherol; which, as everyone now knows has NO effect on the heart. And, this knowledge has been around for more than 20 years. So, set up a study using the wrong form of vitamin E and VOILA! The exact result you wanted. Which is now gospel, because, of course, an M.D. said it! Be good to your heart. Be sure you get checked for your true nutritional needs, and take the supplements that will keep you young, vital and away from medications. The less pharmaceuticals you take, the longer and healthier your life will be. Find out how to get a personalized program.


Sorting Out The Anit-Oxidant Controversy

You may have seen front page media coverage some years ago announcing that a Finnish study of male smokers had shown that anti-oxidants were of no benefit and may even increase the risk of lung cancer. This came as startling news to preventative medicine and holistic health practitioners.

A closer look at the study reveals appalling flaws. Here is a summary of the major ones.

1.The study population consisted of men whose average age was 57 and whose average daily consumption of cigarettes exceeded 20 per day for an average of over 37 years.

2. Lung cancer takes 8 to 20 years to develop. Some in the study had already developed lung cancer, yet the participants were administered only minimal doses of nutrients, rather than therapeutic doses of vitamin E, beta carotene, or both.

3. The participants received only 1/8th to 1/40th the dosage of vitamin E that was shown in earlier studies to be effective in lowering risk of lung cancer in smokers.

Only 1/10th the dosage of beta carotene recommended for treatment of lung cancer in long-term smokers was administered.

These facts alone might make you question the intent of the researchers. But, there is more. The fact that Finland was selected as the site for the test makes the study even more suspect. It is considered one of the least desirable countries in the world for cancer/nutrition studies for the following reasons, collectively coined "The Finland Factor":

o Finns have a very high rate of per capita alcohol consumption, and alcohol interferes with utilization of both vitamin E and beta carotene.

o The soil in Finland is essentially devoid of selenium. It is one of the few places in the world where this is true. Selenium is an essential co-nutrient in the action of vitamin E for cancer prevention. None of the participants were given selenium.

Interestingly enough, when read carefully, the research actually does affirm a link between dietary beta carotene and protection against lung cancer. Some of the participants who took a placebo actually had the highest levels of beta carotene in their blood, and they had the lowest incidence of lung cancer in the group.

Regardless of the intent of the researchers, we can safely say one thing to smokers: If you continue to smoke a pack or more a day for over 30 years, you cannot simply take a supplement for a few months to years and expect to prevent yourself from developing lung cancer. Give yourself a break; STOP NOW. It takes 5 years for your lungs to repair the damage smoking does. Tomorrow could be the first day of your road back to health.


Coral Calcium Alert

It has come to my attention that Coral Calcium can be very dangerous to people who are allergic to shrimp and shellfish. The product can contain traces of shrimp and at least one person has suffered anaphylactic shock after taking Coral Calcium.

Coral Calcium is nothing more than calcium carbonate (plus contami-nants), making it very hard to absorb. Save the coral reefs! Take calcium citrate and the most well-absorbed form of calcium!


One of the most common questions I am asked - and one of the most difficult to answer is "Doctor, what calcium should I take?" There is no easy and straightforward answer to that. I am, however, very glad that everyone is becoming more aware of the importance of calcium - particularly since it is so deficient in most American diets.

The daily requirement for calcium is 1200 to 2000 mg of calcium, if you are small to medium stature. However, most women in the United States get less than 600 mg of calcium daily. The exact dosage depends upon your personal body weight. You also need a minimum of 400 lU of vitamin D daily. Some people require much more if they have been deficient for a long time.

Good dietary sources of calcium include: beans, dark green leafy vegetables, meat stock made with marrow bones, and broccoli. The dark green leafy vegetables also contain small quantities of vitamin D3.

Because it is difficult to get adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D in the diet, I generally recommend calcium supplementation. However, there are some important facts you need to know about calcium metabolism to protect yourself from false and misleading advertising, some of it very dangerous.

First of all, the most important factor for absorption of calcium is an acid pH. Therefore, TumsTM and other antacid products which represent that they provide calcium are simply trying to capitalize on the current public preoccupation with the importance of calcium supplementation. Very little of that calcium can be absorbed when the stomach is alkalinized.

A worse outcome is the risk of developing "milk/alkali syndrome." Milk/alkali syndrome is the result of abusing antacids that contain large amounts of calcium. It was discovered 50 years ago, when the approved medical therapy for peptic ulcer included the ingestion of large amounts of milk or calcium carbonate and soluble alkali. The clinical features include: metabolic alkalosis, hypercalcemia and renal impairment. The symptoms can be quite variable, since there are varying degrees of toxicity. However, metabolic alkalosis can cause cardiac arrhythmias, muscular weakness and hyporeflexia. Severe hypercalcemia (>13 mg/dcl) can be life threatening. Many body systems are affected, including. (1) Central nervous system - impaired thought processes, loss of memory for recent events, emotional lability, depression, loss of smell, somnolence and even coma; (2) Neuromuscular - weakness, joint pain, severe itching, restless leg syndrome; (3) Gastrointestinal - loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, constipation; (4) Kidneys - frequent urination, increase in nighttime urination, and susceptibility to calcium-based kidney stones which can lead to kidney failure; and (5) Cardiovascular - hypertension.

Another factor to consider in your choice of calcium supplementation is the relative absorbability of the different chemical forms of calcium. Calcium citrate is probably the most absorbable; however, it has been demonstrated that calcium is absorbed better when different chemical forms of it are taken together. Therefore, I often recommend a chelated calcium (calcium gluconate) to be taken with calcium citrate.

Other forms of calcium - many of them cheaper than calcium citrate or chelates have serious drawbacks. Calcium carbonate: malabsorbed with those with poor digestion; antacid effect interferes with digestion and may cause milk alkali syndrome; causes intestinal gas; suppresses bone remodeling. Bone meal: may be contaminated with toxic heavy metals; the heating process substantially destroys many of the organic compounds, leading to reduced effectiveness. Oyster shell: calcium carbonate by another name. Chelates: Check carefully to see if they are chelated with soy protein, if you are soy sensitive. Calcium lactate: reactive for people who are milk sensitive, relatively low dose calcium. Dolomite: calcium carbonate mixed with magnesium oxide. This is a mineral which is mined; can be contaminated with heavy metals. The two compounds together are much less absorbable than calcium carbonate by itself. My clearest recollection of x-raying patients in clinic when I was an intern was seeing undissolved dolomite pills in the colon.

To monitor calcium absorption and utilization, a blood test is needed. Just putting calcium supplements in your mouth does not guarantee that the Calcium is being absorbed into your blood stream. Other factors that influence calcium absorption include vitamin D status, parathyroid function and thyroid function. All of those organs are assessed with our standard blood work-up, which includes: a blood chemistry panel, complete blood count, urinalysis and thyroid panel. In addition, we carefully monitor urinary pH, for two reasons, to avoid the formation of kidney stones and to maximize absorption of calcium. Optimum urinary pH for absorption is 6.4 to 6.8; however, calcium stones can be avoided by any pH under 6.8.

Last summer, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that supplementation with calcium and vitamin D will restore bone mass. To maximize your nutritional program, however, you should add weight-bearing exercise and 30 minutes of sunshine daily. The sun exposure should be before 10am or after 3pm. A walk is an excellent choice of activity.

I trust that these guidelines will help you make good choices in your personal life. If you are in good health, generalizations can safely be used; however, if you have any health problems, let me encourage you to make an appointment at the RFHC so that we can assess your unique biochemistry and design a program that will optimize your health.
[see Diagnostics/Bloodwork] <

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Blitz Against Supplementation

VitaminsEditors Note. Although this article is somewhat dated, the battle waged is ongoing.

Thank you all for your recent support in our legislative battle in California. WE WON!! Your right to choose the doctor and treatment of your choice was preserved. The Board was overwhelmed by your faxes and phone calls. In fact, they weren't able to use their fax machine for 3 days!! Thanks, again.

Have you been as interested as I have been in the recent media blizzard against supplementation? I can recommend the cover article in the latest Newsweek, April 25, 1994. It's one of the most balanced presentations I've read, but, still there is some bias present. I am amused by the notion that, because people choose to spend money on certain things, those items are immediately suspect. Since every article and newscast emphasizes and reemphasizes how much money is spent nationwide on supplementation, I suspect the agenda is about the money, not about health.

I just want to share my experience, education and reactions with you on this "hot' issue. First of all, the medical approach to nutritional "research' is totally catawampus. Medically, the idea is to isolate a "single" nutrient, test it on a large number of people, some taking the nutrient and some taking sugar pills. The problem with that approach, of course, is that there is no control to determine which ones need it. There is no testing for biochemical individuality or for nutritional need.

[see Diagnostics/Bloodwork]

Furthermore, no nutrient exists in a vacuum. Each substance interacts with every other substance in a complex of intricate, interwoven biochemical reactions. Our bodies truly are like symphonies! So, if one of the test subjects is deficient in a critical co-nutrient (in biochemistry, these are called coenzymes), the result will be inaccurate since the test nutrient couldn't work in that person.

I don't think we'll ever get the kind of data that the medical profession will regard as "definitive," simply because human biochemistry is so complex. At this point, none of the studies I have seen are well enough designed to account for all of the variables. The latest study which is getting all the publicity, was done on 29,000 Finnish men who were smokers. Smoking seriously depletes a wide range of nutrients, including B vitamins and vitamin C. Furthermore, the Finnish diet is markedly deficient in fresh foods and relies heavily on smoked fish! All of these are risk items in themselves. I like the remark in Newsweek on page 47, "Interpreted narrowly, the latest findings show only that particular vitamins, at particular doses, don't reduce the hazards of smoking among Finnish men." [see The Antioxidant Controversy - above]

Also, nutrient supplementation is not intended to be a substitute for a well-balanced diet. That's what "supplement" means; i.e., "added to." As those of you for whom I have prepared customized programs are well aware, everything is based upon an excellent diet. In most instances, I recommend " the Cave Man Diet." For specialized needs, I may use a therapeutic diet: however, the principles remain the same: a diet of unprocessed, whole foods, depending heavily on fresh fruits and vegetables, with meat as a supplement, is the healthiest way to eat. As it says in the Cave Man Diet, "avoid as much as possible those foods that have been refined or processed and that contain food additives and chemical pollutants. The less "doctored" the foods you choose, the less likely you'll need "doctoring" yourself. Five serving of fresh fruits and vegetables daily is the campaign started by the National Institute of Health to reduce the risk of cancer. That is an excellent beginning; however, if you'd like a copy of The Cave Man Diet (which has been refined over more than 40 years of practice - mine and other holistic doctors), just call the office and request one.

And remember, each of us is biochemically unique and our food sources are not always as nutrient-rich as they might be. For optimum prevention combine an excellent diet - like The Cave Man Diet - with a personalized nutrition program based on your biochemical profile. I'll be happy to prepare such a program for you.

[contact us for a copy of the Cave Man Diet]

[see Diagnostics/Bloodwork]



DHEA can be utilized sagely and has a myriad of benefits. In September 1997, 1 presented the lecture "DHEA - Breakthrough or Boondoggle?" This article will summarize a few of the highlights; however, if you want more details, please call the RFHC and order the tape of that lecture.

As you are probably aware, I tend to be very conservative when it comes to prescribing hormones. Almost all hormones in the body are part of a "loop," whereby their production is turned off and on. The challenge is always to heal without suppressing the body, A case in point- melatonin. At the RFHC, I have always recommended physiologic doses (1 to 3 mg), taken short-term (no longer than I week). Now, some long-term users of melatonin who were using high dosages are experiencing depression and short-term memory loss. This example summarizes, in a nutshell, why I was not willing to jump on the "DHEA Bandwagon" until more data had been accumulated. Now, the data is in. And, it is very positive!

DHEA has been shown to improve lean-body mass, decrease insulin resistance, improve libido and sexual function, improve memory and cognitive skills, alleviate depression, suppress tumor growth, increase aerobic capacity and improve lipid metabolism. In experimental animals, it has extended life spans up to 50% by enhancing cellular growth and repair.

However, there are some researchers who are warning that too much DHEA might have just the opposite effect. And, there's an enormous amount of health food store "hype" about 'wild yam extract' being the fountain of youth. Also, DHEA is not for everyone. Younger people, in particular, may not be candidates for DHEA supplementation. These are some of the reasons why a doctor's supervision is essential.

Fortunately, there is a way to take this extraordinary substance safely, while enjoying its myriad benefits.

First of all, it's important to take pure, biologically active DHEA. Your body cannot metabolize wild yam extract into anything! Conversion requires a bacterial fermentation process, which can be directed either into progesterone production or DHEA production. Purity and biological activity are the key. At the RFHC we use GinYam, a pellet of pure DHEA.

This is the second caveat. DHEA cannot be taken casually, with dosage based upon body weight. There are too many physiologic factors that influence the eventual fate of DHEA metabolically. Two women of the same age and weight can be given exactly the same dose and have entirely different blood serum levels of DHEA sulfate upon post-testing.

Fortunately, the serum test has now become affordable. We have located a source for the test that will cost approximately $47, including the draw fee. Saliva tests, although slightly less expensive, are very unreliable, primarily due to the variables of sample collection.

The goal of therapeutic supplementation is to bring your blood levels to your "peak" levels, which occur in the late 20's and early 30's. To monitor your blood levels, an initial test is needed, followed by a month's supplementation and a follow-up test. If you are at your "peak," I then recommend an annual review of your serum DHEA sulfate, when you have your annual nutritional blood draw.

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Recent reliable information has become available as nutrition companies have begun to investigate pycnogenol. Several companies are also producing proanthocyanidins (the active ingredients in pycnogenol) and competition has brought the cost down. So I have been researching pros and cons and want to share what I¹ve learned.

Proanthocyanidins are a class of bioflavonoids which are found in the red, blue and violet pigments In plants: grape skins, grape seeds, cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, red wine. red cabbage, red apple skins, strawberries, black cherries, and, of course, pine needles and pine bark. Their antioxidant activity is 50 times more powerful than vitamin E and 20 times more powerful than vitamin C. In addition, proanthocyanidins are water soluble and cross the blood/brain barrier, which make them much more bioavailable.

European research has demonstrated that proanthocyanidins are effective as nutritional support for capillary fragility (easy bruising), diabetic vascular disease, varicose veins, eye problems (including macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, hypersensitivity to light and poor night vision), immediate hypersensitivity reactions (like hay fever), and general internal and external inflammatory conditions (including arthritis, colitis and athletic injuries). In particular, proanthocyanidins bind strongly to the protein matrix which is the ground substance of collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin are responsible for giving connective tissue (including skin) its elasticity and strength. The ability of proanthocyanidins to cross the blood/brain barrier and enhance capillary strength in the brain, as well as the rest of the body, means that they are believed to be effective in preventing the development of senile dementia.

There is also a great deal of misinformation circulating about these substances. There is an almost mystical awe connected with the pine tree extract. The truth is that Prof. Masqueller did most of his research "for practical reasons" with grape pip extract, rather than the pine tree substance. Interestingly, the grape extract also has an 8 to 10 percent higher content of proanthocyanidin than does pine tree extract.

The Down Side
There is also a down side to these products. Because they are natural extracts, they do have allergenic potential. Dr. G. Douglas Anderson puts it this way: The problems ... [include] ... intolerance by a few chemically sensitive individuals.... Chemically hypersensitive and intolerant individuals will generally have a host of problems and can be quite difficult to manage. A second opinion with an environmental medical [sic] specialist should be considered." (Dynamic Chiropractic, May 22, 1995) I chuckled when I read this, since those words describe more than 50% of the people the RFHC serves. One of my major concerns (as a specialist in environmental illness) is that pycnogenol is strongly recommended for chronic fatigue and, yet, a critical component of chronic fatigue is allergies and chemical hypersensitivities. So, in prescribing proanthocyanidins there is a need to be cautious. For some sensitive individuals, pycnogenol may exacerbate the problems it is purported to relieve. The safest way to utilize this class of anti-oxidants (particularly if you suffer from chronic fatigue) is to have your allergies tested via the ELISA/ACT test offered by Serammune Laboratories.
[see Diagnostics/Allergy Testing] Then, compare the source to your own sensitivities.

At the RFHC we have been using quercetin (another bioflavonoid) to alleviate allergic reactions. To minimize allergic response to the bioflavonoid, I have chosen a quercetin source from an obscure South American plant, which has no commonly eaten relative in the US Therefore, it is much less allergenic for people with multiple sensitivities and is just as effective in dampening allergic reactions.

For those of you who are trying to decide whether or not to add pycnogenol to your nutritional program, my recommendations are as follows:

1. Make sure you have the appropriate diagnosis. Do you have chronic fatigue? Food allergies? Bowel toxicity? Rheumatoid arthritis? Diabetic neuropathy? Varicose veins? Collagen disorders?

Does this seem helpful? If so, see our information on Consultations.

2. How serious are your symptoms? How much improvement have you already achieved?

3. Are you allergic to pine or grapes? Be sure you know the source of whatever product you take. At the RFHC, we have a grape extract available.

4. Finally. within the last year or so, a new functional test has been developed to assess your oxidative stress status. The result tells us whether your blood fats are going rancid (in which case you would need more and stronger anti-oxidants) or whether your anti-oxidant status is good. Great Smokies Laboratory has worked closely with Dr. Jeffrey Bland to perfect this test, and is currently one of the few labs performing it.
[see Diagnostics/Specialized Lab Work]

If you suspect that proanthocyanidins may help you, give us a call at the RFHC and ask for an oxidative stress panel.


Safe Supplements and the Fear of Mad Cow Disease

Were you alarmed by the article regarding supplements in the Sunday LA Times on February 11th? The author attributed a slight dip in supplement sales to a lack of consumer confidence in their efficacy and worry about mad cow disease. I must admit that I was stunned. The danger of mad cow disease is so remote as to be miniscule. However, I can appreciate how scary the condition itself is. I'm sure it's enough to worry many.

Therefore, in this letter, I'd like to address the issue of supplement quality; and, in particular, sources for glandular extracts in the products carried at the RFHC.

First, with regard to quality, this is a real and serious issue. There are very few regulations on labeling in the nutritional supplement industry. There is always the danger that what you purchase may not contain what you think you are paying for. A good example is CoQ10. The CoQ10 we carry is the most biologically active available; and it gets results. I have a paper in my office detailing a study of seven brands of CoQ10 (including the Metagenics brand we carry). None of the products tested contained the amount of CoQ10 listed on the label, except the Metagenics product. Since CoQ10 is so unstable - it's sensitive to light, temperature and air; it also has to be combined with oil in order to be absorbed - it's not surprising that potencies were diminished in the commercial products tested. CoQ10 is also very expensive since the patent is owned by the Japanese. So, some companies pick up poor quality CoQ10 at a lesser price, and then sell it. It looks like a deal, but it has very little biological activity, if any. So, you are essentially wasting your money since you won't be getting the effect you expect. With CoQ10, that's particularly important, since you need it to protect your heart from heart failure. So, how can you, as the consumer, be certain of what you're buying? Your best insurance is purchasing supplements from a health professional who has tested the product for clinical efficacy, like we have at the RFHC.

There is also the issue of what supplements to take. There are literally thousands of products on the market. How do you know what you need? What's right for you? If you are taking products you don't need, you are wasting your funds, and you probably won't notice a dramatic improvement in your health. As you know, at the RFHC, we use blood tests to determine your biochemical individuality, and tailor a supplement program to your unique needs. That way, you maximize your results with the most targeted use of your supplement budget.

Finally, I'd like to address the issue of mad cow disease. The glandulars we use are all safe. Many of the companies use animal products from New Zealand (e.g.: Bezwecken & Professional Complementary Health Formulas). New Zealand has the strictest standards in the world around animal husbandry. All of the animals are raised organically, and the cleanliness of the island's stock is guaranteed by strict importation standards. Others of our suppliers (e.g.: Metagenics) use only the highest grade of certified animal products produced in the US. Nothing that is graded less than AAA is ever used. The United States imposed stringent requirements for feed lot cattle in 1997 (March, 2001 issue of Discover magazine) The stated purpose of the regulations was to prevent the spread of prion-borne diseases like mad cow disease. None of our suppliers use uncertified raw materials, specifically to protect the public from dumping of European meat by-products.

I can't address every supplement in the health food store; I can only vouch for the products we carry at the RFHC (we have almost 1,000 different items). The vast majority of the products at our office have demonstrated clinical efficacy through repeated use with patients, where the results have been confirmed by follow-up blood testing. And, I only deal with companies with the highest ethical standards. So, if you want to feel secure in your supplement needs, the RFHC is a reliable source of high quality, safe products.


Medical Study re Calcium and Osteoporosis Misleading

Are you as tired as I am of all these "scientific studies" designed to demonstrate that what you really need is drugs?

The latest in a long list of poorly designed -- or possibly, purposefully rigged -- studies is the latest, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, on February 16, 2006. The headline screams "Calcium, Vitamin D Won't Protect Older Women From Fracture." Let's analyze both the article on and the study that generated it.

The article is very biased. I believe the author reveals that bias by the way the article is structured. The lead sentence basically states that taking daily calcium and vitamin D do not provide significant health benefits.

Then, in the second paragraph, a positive finding is actually turned into a negative. It turns out that the calcium given to healthy postmenopausal women over the age of 50, even in the wrong form and at low dose (see more about this below), did increase hip bone density, ". . . but [they received] no significant reduction in their risk of hip fracture until . . . their. . . 60s." Hunh? "Nearly 50% of all hip fractures occur in adults older than 80 years. Hip fracture at a young age is not common and is usually the result of a major traumatic event or, rarely, is related to bone pathology." (emphasis added) This statement from a teaching article on Emergency Room medicine.

Furthermore, the greatest at risk group from osteoporosis is elderly white women, who experience hip fracture. Black women, black men and white men are not among the at risk population. Pub Med has more than 175 articles on this topic. Here is the link to just one which contains this statistic. .fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed& list_uids=8651229&dopt=Abstract However, the study did not control for race.

The third paragraph unequivocally states that vitamin D had no effect on the risk for colorectal cancer. Given the recent information concerning serum vitamin D and incidence of cancer, this statement is simply abysmally ignorant. The truth is, study participants took 400 IUs of vitamin D, the current RDA. However, data has shown that many people suffer from a subclinical vitamin D deficiency and that, as their serum vitamin D concentration rises, their risk of colorectal cancer, as well as reproductive cancers, such as ovarian and breast, declines. This study was published in England, but didn't make much of a splash in the US. (See my last blog on this topic: Dosages need to be in the 1,000 to 2,000 IUs per day range, which is the amount we use at the RFHC.

There are other problems with the study as well: the form of calcium used, the dosage given, a lack of screening of study participants for their actual risk for osteoporosis, and, lastly, the length of the study.

First, the form of the calcium: The study group took 1,000mgs of elemental calcium in the form of calcium carbonate. In other words, they were taking cement! Calcium carbonate is the most unabsorbable form of calcium you can consume. That's why it's so cheap. Do you remember the dolomite craze from the 70's and 80's? Dolomite is essentially rock that contains calcium carbonate and magnesium oxide. It was hyped as the answer to both your calcium and magnesium requirements. Only trouble was: It didn't work. You can't digest rock! Other calcium products that are essentially calcium carbonate include coral calcium and oyster shell calcium.

The dosage was also amazingly low and not adjusted for body weight. Body weight dosages of elemental calcium are as follows: 1,000 mg for a person under 120 pounds; 1,500 mg for a person 120 to 200 pounds; and 2,000 mg for people over 200 pounds. Given the increasing weight of the American population, I would venture that few of the study participants weighed less than 120 pounds. And, among the women who took the supplements, there was an average 12% reduction in their incidence of hip fracture, which increased to 21% in women over 60. It would be interesting to know which cohort experienced the reduction. The finding was not considered statistically significant, but it might have been if the researchers had controlled for body weight.

As you may be aware, at the RFHC, we use elemental calcium in the form of calcium citrate -- which is very absorbable -- adjusted for body weight. In Caucasian women (those most at risk for hip fracture) who are perimenopausal or postmenopausal, I add a product which contains bone matrix -- microcrystalline hydroxyapatite concentrate (MCHC). This provides all of the co-factors required to rebuild the bone structure into which the body deposits the elemental calcium. Osteoporosis is a degeneration of the bone matrix, as well as a calcium deficiency.

With regard to pre-screening for risk of osteoporosis, none was done. Why is this important? Remember, only about 15% of women over the age of 70 will experience a hip fracture. And, primarily Caucasian women are at risk for hip fracture from osteoporosis. Therefore, when you are doing a study with this many participants, any positive result can be washed away by the number of women who simply are not at risk. And, even under these unfavorable conditions, please remember that there was an average 12% reduction in the incidence of hip fracture in women in their 50s. It just wasn't "statistically significant" because the proper parameters were not applied to the analysis.

The length of the study is also an issue. It lasted seven years, which seems like a long time. But, please remember, both cancer and osteoporosis take 10 or even 20 years to develop. Therefore, the study really was short-term and inconclusive.

There is one more item of note in the article that I want to emphasize. It illustrates how important an understanding of physiology, rather than pharmacology, is to proper use of nutritional support. It was noted that some of the women taking calcium plus vitamin D experienced an increased risk of kidney stones. This is a direct function of urinary pH. Now, urinary pH is an intensely interesting and complicated topic. It has ramifications for everything from urinary tract infection, to degenerative diseases (i.e., cancer) -- to formation of kidney stones. At the RFHC, we routinely monitor urinary pH for anyone on calcium supplementation. The reason? To avoid kidney stones. Most Americans eat a diet heavy in grains and animal protein. That diet yields an acid urinary pH, and therefore, protects from kidney stones. However, if you eat a diet high in vegetables, with little protein and/or low in grains, you shift your urinary pH to the alkaline side. Voila! You are at risk for kidney stones. Therefore, being monitored while taking calcium supplements is extremely important.

Finally, I was unable to find out who funded this study, but I have my suspicions. All of the news reports (although not the article I read) concluded by recommending medication, instead of supplementation to reduce your risk. I find it offensive that such an ill-conceived and poorly executed "scientific study" is being used as an excuse to further medicate us, particularly in light of the severe side effects of the popular medications for osteoporosis. These side effects include erosion and perforation of the esophagus and internal bleeding. Some of the medications (Foxamax, e.g.) actually making the bones brittle -- which may actually increase the risk of fracture!

Once again, we are forced to read with a critical eye, to really understand the "rest of the story." So, take care of yourself, get your blood work done and obtain a customized nutritional program from the RFHC to optimize your overall health -- which includes reducing your osteoporosis risk!

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