Holistic Health Journal

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Vitamin DA new study out of Scandinavia has affirmed the importance of maintaining high vitamin D levels for healthy bones. Researchers from Sweden, after observing more than 1,000 elderly women over a 10-year evaluation period, learned that those who maintained consistent blood levels of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) above 50 nanomoles per liter (nmol/l) had nearly half the risk of suffering a bone fracture or osteoporosis compared to those with less than 50 nmol/l of 25OHD.

Science Daily reports that 1,044 Swedish women, all aged 75, were evaluated at baseline for vitamin D and asked to return in five years for a follow-up. A total of 715 women followed these instructions, upon which the researchers placed them into three vitamin D categories: low (75). Data on fracture and osteoporosis rates among all the women were gathered and compiled over the course of 10 years.

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At the conclusion of the study period, the team observed that the incidence of hip fractures was significantly lower among the women who were considered to be vitamin D sufficient, or who maintained 25OHD levels at 50 nmol/l or higher throughout at least the first five years following baseline. The average percentage of women in this category as well as the high category to suffer a FRAX fracture was found to be about 28 percent.

Conversely, the women in the low-25OHD category fared much worse in terms of bone health, shouldering a more than 45 percent fracture rate. This is nearly twice the fracture risk observed among women in the intermediate- and high-25OHD groups, illustrating what appears to be a causal relationship between vitamin Dlevels and bone health.

“This study concludes that in the population sample of elderly women, vitamin D insufficiency sustained over 5-years was associated with increased 10-year risk of osteoporotic fracture,” stated Professor Kristina Akesson from Lund University’s Clinical and Molecular Osteoporosis Research Unit, one of the study’s lead authors.

“This is part of a body of research which increasingly suggests that falls and fracture risk in the elderly could be lower by having higher vitamin D levels.”

Vitamin D supplementation a simple, inexpensive way to protect against disease

Prof. Akesson is also the chair of the International Osteoporosis Foundation’s “Capture the Fracture” campaign, which is advocating for more widespread awareness of the importance of vitamin D in preventing bone fractures. If more people simply supplemented with inexpensive vitamin D3 when natural sunlight exposure is not an option, they could significantly lower their risk of developing bone conditions.

“The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) global recommendations for vitamin D advise daily intakes of 800 to 1000 IU/day [international units] in seniors for fracture and falls prevention,” adds Prof. Akesson. “And if the on-going research shows that vitamin D levels are increased it may be a relatively simple and low-cost public health measure that could have significant positive effects on the incidence of osteoporotic fractures with aging.”

To learn more about the health benefits of vitamin D, be sure to check out the Vitamin D Council:

http://www.vitamindcouncil.org.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.sciencedaily.com

http://www.vitamindcouncil.org

http://www.osteofound.org

Vitamin E“Vitamin E” is an umbrella term for a group of eight fat-soluble compounds that are found in a wide variety of whole foods. These compounds, of which alpha-Tocopherol is the most biologically active, have a large number of functions in the body. This article takes a closer look at those functions and provides information on how much of the vitamin our bodies need daily.

Antioxidant properties

Like vitamins A and C, vitamin E is an important antioxidant whose primary role in the body is to scavenge free radicals. Free radicals (which are produced by air and water pollution, cigarette smoke, radiation and the consumption of processed foods) are rogue atoms or atomic groups that have lost at least one electron, forcing them to steal electrons from neighboring molecules in the hope of stabilizing themselves. Unsurprisingly, this causes havoc in the body. In fact, unchecked free radical activity is a leading cause of accelerated aging as well as degenerative diseases like cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and cataracts. Since vitamin E can neutralize these free radicals, it can help prevent these serious diseases while ensuring that our skin remains smooth and radiant (this is why vitamin E is added to so many skin care products).

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Boosts the cardiovascular system

Vitamin E plays large number of roles in our cardiovascular systems. Firstly, it aids red blood cell formation, ensuring that our tissues receive enough oxygen (which, in turn, guards us from anemia). Secondly, it thins the blood by widening our blood vessels, preventing our platelets from clumping together and creating clots. Thirdly, it prevents “bad” LDL cholesterol from being oxidized, which prevents clogged arteries. For these reasons, high levels of vitamin E in the body have been linked to reductions in non-fatal heart attacks and strokes in subjects. Vitamin E is also shown to reduce complications relating to diabetes.

Maintains cell function

Like most other vitamins, especially the B vitamins, vitamin E helps maintain cell function. For example, vitamin E can aid cell differentiation — a process of turning generic cells into the specific types of cells our bodies need, resulting in improved cell communication. Of course, proper cell communication is essential if we want our bodies to maintain proper immune function, heal damaged tissues and perform countless other tasks correctly. Additionally, vitamin E is associated with gene regulation, meaning it helps moderate the performance and production of certain enzymes, proteins and hormones in our bodies.

How much vitamin E do we need?

According to official sources, the recommended daily intake of vitamin E is 15 milligrams (22.4 international units) for men and women above the age of 14. The highest safe levels of vitamin E for adults is 1,500 international units per day for natural (i.e. food-based) forms of vitamin E, and 1,000 international units per day for synthetic forms of vitamin E. Exceeding these levels might result in excessive bleeding stemming from the vitamin’s anticoagulant effects.

Vitamin E deficiencies are not something most of us need to worry about since a large number of foods contain it. That said, especially good sources of the vitamin include wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, safflower oil, hazelnuts, peanuts, spinach and broccoli.

Sources for this article include:

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/skin/vitaminE/

http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-QuickFacts/

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002406.htm

nailsandhealth

Fingernails and disease don’t go together in most minds… but they should. Your fingernails can give you valuable health warnings and signal the presence of serious disease.

Take a good long look at your nails. Hold a hand level with your nose about a foot out from your face and scrutinize each one.

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Look at the curves, dips, ridges, and grooves. Check out how thick or thin they are and if your nails are chipped or broken. Make a note of the color of the nail itself, the skin under it, and the skin around the nail.

Check your memory – have your nails always looked like this? Changes to your fingernails and disease onset are linked, so note any new developments. With this fresh view, compare what you see with this list of eight potential fingernail health warnings.

 1. Discolored nails

A healthy fingernail should be pink with a touch of pinkish white (moons) near the base. If your nails are a dull color or streaked with other colors, you may have a serious hidden health problem.

  • Green nails are a sign of bacterial infection
  • Red streaks in your nail bed are a warning of a heart valve infection
  • Blueish nails signal low oxygen levels in your blood
  • Dull nails mean a vitamin deficiency
  • White nails may signal liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • Dark stripes at the top (Terry’s nails) are associated with aging and congestive heart failure

Scrub those nails clean and really look at your nail color! Given the “rainbow” of potential health challenges, you want to be sure you see what your fingers are saying.

2. Thick nails

Thick nails are not natural. You want your nails to be strong, but if they resemble talons or claws more than traditional nails watch out!

  • Thickened nails that are otherwise normal can signal lung disease
  • Thick and rough-textured nails can signal a fungal infection
  • Thick and separated nails may mean thyroid disease or psoriasis
  • Unusual thickness may also be a symptom of a circulation problem

Thickening nails are a change that should tune you in to other health symptoms you may be ignoring. Also watch out for allergic reactions to new medications which can show up as suddenly thick nails!

3. Split nails

Split nails aren’t just occasionally chipped or shut in doors. Instead, these nails seem to flake away in layers. Don’t blame frequent handwashing or nail polish for everything, especially since:

  • Split nails result from folic acid, Vitamin C, and protein deficiencies
  • Split nails combined with a pitted nail bed (base) can signal psoriasis, which begins in nails 10% of the time according to WebMD
  • Split nails may result from chronic malnutrition

Watch what you eat and check the psoriasis connection to fight back and pay more attention to your health overall.

4.Concave (Spoon) nails

Spoon fingernails signal a number of internal issues. To be considered full spoons, nails will be soft and curve up, forming a dip that is often big enough to hold water. Spoon nails signal: 

  • Iron deficiency (usually from anemia)
  • Hemachromatosis, a liver disorder where your body absorbs too much iron
  • Heart disease
  • Hypothyroidism

Your fingernail and health challenges go hand in hand – for many people, clearing up their health issue results in their spoon nails returning back to normal.

5. Pitted nails

Small dips or holes in your nails can be a result of banging up your hands – or they could be a sign that you need to look more closely at your health. Nail pitting can signal:

  • Psoriasis
  • Connective tissue disorder
  • Alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss
  • Zinc deficiency (when the pit seems to form a line across the middle of your nail)

Watch your hand to separate natural dents and dings from real, lasting pits. The first will clear up quickly, but pits linked to disease linger.

6. Ridges

Nails should have smooth surfaces with almost imperceptible lines. Obvious ridge lines are a signal that something is up with your body. Some of the most common conditions associated with heavy ridge lines are:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Inflammatory arthritis
  • Lupus (for red lines at the base of your nails)

Don’t just buff away your ridges – hear their warning!

7. Dry, brittle nails

You don’t need lotion or cuticle oil. If your nails are dry and brittle, you should check your hormone levels and bacterial health.

  • Thyroid disease leads to brittle, dry fingernails that crack and split easily
  • Fungus can make nails dry or even crumbly, affecting 12% of all Americans according to the American Academy of Dermatology

Both thyroid and fungal issues take time to treat, so you won’t see a difference in the look of your fingernails for a full growth cycle.

8. Clubbed nails

If you have plump skin that seems to swell around the nail, or if your nails seem to have puffed around your fingers, they are said to be “clubbed”. Clubbed nails can mean:

  • Lung disease, especially if you already have trouble breathing
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Liver disease
  • AIDS

Your fingernails won’t be the only signs of these diseases, but they can provide confirmation or motivation to seek medical care.

Don’t ignore your hands or the health warnings they send. Fingernails and disease are more closely related than you think – check your nails often to protect your health!

References

Trimarchi, M. Top 5 Things Your Nails Say About Your Health. Discovery Health.

Mayo Clinic. Slide Show: 7 Fingernail Problems Not to Ignore. 2011 Dec 8.

Rauh, S. Healthy Fingernails: Clues About Your Health. WebMD.

Danoff, R. Can Fingernails Indicate a Health Problem? MSN Health.

Wikipedia. Nail Disease.

 

AnxiousLessAnxiousLess is specifically formulated to help you quickly and effectively deal with situational anxiety brought on be stress-inducing every day events, like traffic problems, cranky kids, extra pressure at work — and especially on those hectic days when the answer is all the above.

New AnxiousLess is a blend of 5 different ingredients that provide the fast, effective relief you need to calmly face each day, and its complications, with renewed confidence.

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Benefits of AnxiousLess include:

  • Helps quickly ease anxiousness without drowsiness 
  • Promotes a feeling of confidence and security
  • Improves your mood while helping to reduce fatigue 
  • Offers safe, non-habit forming relief

How It Works:

This fast-acting, non-drowsy formula helps relieve the nervousness, worry and tension associated with daily living. Featuring Sceletium tortuosum—a time-honored South African herb—and key nutrients that replenish your body’s stress-coping reserves, AnxiousLess targets feelings of anxiousness from multiple pathways. Designed to quickly calm your mind, this proprietary blend of natural ingredients helps boost your mood and reduce fatigue.

KEY INGREDIENTS:

anxiousless

Zembrin® (Sceletium tortuosumextract)—harvested in South Africa and used by locals for centuries, this herb supports the nervous system as it facilitates feelings of calm and supports a positive mood. This standardized patented extract represents the full, unaltered phytochemical profile of the plant.

L-Theanine—this unique amino acid increases the brain’s alpha wave activity, which seems to reduce occasional anxiety and encourage feelings of relaxation and calm without drowsiness. Studies have associated taking L-Theanine with improvements in both mental alertness and stress response.

Thiamin—Deficiency of this important nutrient has been associated with decreased levels of GABA, a key Central Nervous System metabolite tied to many mood and anxiety disorders.

Magnesium—Studies have shown that a diet deficient in magnesium can lead to increased anxiety and depression.

Zinc—Supplementation with zinc has been shown to be significantly effective in reducing levels of both anger and depression.

So, the next time life gives you lemons, alleviate the stress the natural way, with fast-acting AnxiousLess. Because one of those days is one too many. Also, check out the video, which goes deeper into the blend that’s in AnxiousLess:

Milk ThistleMilk thistle is most well-known and widely-studied for its benefits on liver health. However, milk thistle also has numerous other proven health benefits not many know about.

Milk thistle boosts overall liver function and health, protecting the liver from damaging toxins, detoxifying it, regenerating its cells, and giving it a glutathione boost.

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Research has also shown milk thistle helps with various liver conditions, including cirrhosis, poisoning, hepatitis (viral or alcoholic, B or C), sluggish liver, liver congestion, fatty liver, jaundice, and other liver issues related to drug use and alcoholism.

Boosting the liver results in other benefits

Milk thistle’s positive effects on liver health have a direct impact on a number of bodily functions and health conditions.

  • It helps those attempting to recover from substance addiction, including drugs and alcohol.
  • By boosting the liver’s ability to deal with environmental triggers, milk thistle can help those suffering from chronic allergies, especially multiple-chemical sensitivity. 
  • Milk thistle increases bile production by the liver, which then helps the body to remove via bowel movements the testosterone by-products that cause acne. Further, by boosting liver function, milk thistle helps to remove harmful toxins in the blood which can cause skin flare-ups. Along the same vein, this makes milk thistle also helpful for other skin conditions like chronic rashes, eczema and psoriasis.
  • Increased bile production helps to relieve constipation.
  • The additional bile helps to protect the intestinal lining, which then aids in alleviating Crohn’s disease symptoms.
  • Milk thistle also helps to relieve intestinal inflammation, and it has been used for inflammatory bowel disorders.
  • By protecting the liver, milk thistle protects the body against the potential harmful effects of long-term prescription medication use and harmful toxins in the workplace.
  • This herb has been successfully used against deathcap mushroom poisoning.
  • Traditionally, naturopathic physicians and herbalists have used milk thistle to help deal with hemorrhoids and varicose veins. A clogged or sluggish liver does not process blood very well, and that tends to cause blood to back up in the leg veins and rectum. Thus, with a healthier liver, these conditions can be improved.
  • A cleaner and better functioning liver is better able to process and deal with various hormones in the body, promoting better hormonal balance.
  • This makes milk thistle helpful for premenstrual syndrome and prostate enlargement.
  • Some healing modalities, eg. Traditional Chinese Medicine and French folk medicine, see the liver as closely tied to emotional well being. This makes sense because the liver metabolizes neurotransmitters and hormones and thus has great influence on the overall biochemistry of the human body. A toxic or unhealthy liver can cause emotional discomfort, frustration, anger and even depression. By detoxifying and improving the health of the liver, milk thistle can thus help with emotional issues.

Other benefits

Silymarin in milk thistle is a potent antioxidant, while milk thistle can also increase the levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione, other strong antioxidants. Other health benefits of milk thistle include helping to:

  • stabilize blood cholesterol levels, reducing total cholesterol levels and helping to convert LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol.
  • stabilize blood sugar levels; used to help with type 2 diabetes.
  • improve appetite and digestion, including fat digestion.
  • improve gallbladder disorders, including dealing with gallstones.
  • boost immunity.
  • alleviate some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including heartburn and constipation; increased glutathione levels also help slow the disease’s progress.
  • improve adrenal disorders.
  • prevent altitude sickness.
  • prevent and/or fight against certain types of cancer.
  • slow atherosclerosis development by preventing plaque formation on artery walls.

Sources for this article include:

Stengler, Mark, ND. The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies Medical Doctors Don’t Know. New York, NY: Prentice Hall Press, 2010. Print.

Balch, Phyllis A., CNC. Prescription for Herbal Healing: An Easy-to-Use A-to-Z Reference to Hundreds of Common Disorders and Their Herbal Remedies. New York, NY: Avery, 2002. Print.

Bratman, Steve, Dr. Complementary & Alternative Health: The Scientific Verdict on What Really Works. London, UK: Collins, 2007. Print.

Gaby, Alan R., MD. The Natural Pharmacy: Complete A-Z Reference to Natural Treatments for Common Health Conditions. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 2006. Print.

Murray, Michael, ND. The Pill Book Guide to Natural Medicines: Vitamins, Minerals, Nutritional Supplements, Herbs, And Other Natural Products. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2002. Print.

 

 

Hawthorn BerriesThe hawthorn plant comes from the Northern hemisphere, more precisely from Europe, North America and certain parts of Asia. The tree produces berries that are filled with important flavonoids known to be vital antioxidants that are capable of effectively removing damaging free radicals. The hawthorn berries certainly help to maintain healthy cardiovascular functions by protecting veins and arteries while contributing to better blood circulation.

Doctors have apparently started taking advantage of their amazing health benefits all the way back in the first century. In America, the early 1800s is when hawthorn berries were introduced in order to treat circulatory and respiratory problems. They can certainly have a strong impact when faced with cardiovascular conditions such as an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, chest pains and arteriosclerosis.

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Hawthorn’s ability to improve blood flow was demonstrated in a study that involved sixty individuals suffering from angina. For a period of three weeks, some of these people were only given a placebo while the others took a daily 180 mg dose of hawthorn berry leaf extract. By the end of the three weeks, the extract group was capable of exercising for much longer periods of time without reporting any chest pains. A very noticeable increase in overall blood flow was thought to be the main reason for this positive outcome.

Hawthorn extracts can treat chronic heart failure

The New York Heart Association reported several trials that came up with compelling results proving hawthorn extracts can control and improve all symptoms related to chronic heart failure. Data was analyzed and gathered from more than 850 individuals involved in the studies. Scientists revealed that the hawthorn extracts not only outperformed the placebo factor, but they were directly responsible for major improvements such as an increased tolerance to exercises and generally speaking less shortness of breath or fatigue.

Back in 2002, a few dozen participants suffering from mild hypertension got involved in a 10- eek study in order to evaluate hawthorn’s ability to control its symptoms. Besides placebos, hawthorn and magnesium supplements were given to the selected individuals. Although it may be hard to assess if hawthorn had a much bigger impact than magnesium, it was evident that the extracts played a vital role in drastically diminishing diastolic blood pressure and anxiety in comparison with placebo extracts.

In another study, 1200 mg hawthorn extracts were administered daily to type 2 diabetes patients for a period of 16 weeks. Final results convincingly showed that blood pressure was lowered in the hawthorn group rather than the placebo one.

Past tests did show conclusive evidence that regularly taking up to 900 mg daily doses of hawthorn extracts can be as effective as taking low doses of a prescriptive heart medication such as Captopril.

Vitamin D3Supplementation with vitamin D might decrease the severity and slow the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study conducted by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Bayer HealthCare, and published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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MS is a degenerative central nervous system disorder, believed to result from malfunction of the immune system. There is no cure for the disease, which can lead to problems with everything from muscle strength and control to balance, vision and even cognitive function. Approximately 2.5 million people worldwide suffer from MS.

Previous studies have linked the risk of developing autoimmune disorders generally and MS specifically with low levels of vitamin D. In addition, studies of long-term MS patients have shown a correlation between lower vitamin D levels and more severe disease symptoms. Such studies have been unable to determine, however, whether low vitamin D levels cause more severe disease symptoms, or vice versa.

A miracle treatment?

For the new study, researchers examined data from 465 MS patients who had enrolled in the BENEFIT (Betaseron in Newly Emerging Multiple Sclerosis for Initial Treatment) trial between 2002 and 2003, and who lived in Canada, Israel or one of 18 European countries.

The BENEFIT trial was designed to examine how the effectiveness of interferon beta-1b treatment for MS changed depending on when the drug was administered, but researchers also collected data on vitamin D levels at the beginning of the study and every two years thereafter.

The researchers found that, over the course of five years, early-stage MS patients with adequate vitamin D levels at the time of diagnosis had a 57 percent lower rate of new brain lesions, a 57 percent lower relapse rate and a 25 percent lower annual increase in lesion volume than patients with lower vitamin D levels. Such patients also had significantly less brain volume loss, a major predictor of disability.

The findings suggest that vitamin D actively protects the brain from the symptoms and progression of MS, and that it also makes the particular drug studied even more effective.

“The benefits of vitamin D appeared to be additive to those of interferon beta-1b, a drug that is very effective in reducing MS activity,” lead author Alberto Ascherio said. “The findings of our study indicate that identifying and correcting vitamin D insufficiency should become part of the standard of care for newly diagnosed MS patients.”

Mounting evidence

The study is only the latest to strengthen the links between vitamin D and improved MS outcomes. For example, a 2012 study found that that, among people with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), “always” wearing sunscreen was associated with a 1.8 times higher disability rate than “sometimes” or “never” wearing sunscreen. Lifetime sun sensitivity (defined as an inability to spend more than 30 minutes in the sun without burning) was also associated with a 1.8 times higher disability rates, while spending at least as much time in the sun each day as the average non-MS patient was associated with a 30 percent lower disability rate.

Another study, published in Acta Neurologica Scandinavica in 2013, found that increased exposure to sunlight decreased rates of depression and fatigue among MS patients.

Vitamin D deficiency remains widespread, particularly in regions farther from the equator. However, your body can make all the vitamin D you need from a short amount of unprotected sun exposure to the face and hands each day — just 15 to 30 minutes for light-skinned people, and more for those with darker skin.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu

Saw PalmettoSaw palmetto is the perfect example of an herb that has been pigeonholed in people’s minds by scientific research. Most people think of these berries from a small palm tree as remedies for the prostate—and they are—but they are also much more than this.

Native to North America, saw palmetto was used for indigestion, respiratory infections, snake bites, insect bites, skin ulcers by the indigenous people of Florida, and other areas where it grows. It was even used for food; a nutritious flour was made from the ground berries. It was also considered a valuable remedy to counteract some of the effects of aging, including wasting (weight loss), lung weakness and urinary problems.

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Settlers first considered this palm a nuisance plant and cleared it from the land. However, they noticed that their animals would lean over the fences to get at the black fruit. Then they noticed that these animals were healthier than the ones who did not eat the berries. This prompted farmers to gather the plant and feed it to their animals, and then eat it themselves.

Nicknamed “the plant catheter,” the herb is given to strengthen the bladder. Infusions have been used as a diuretic to improve urine flow and to treat both irritable bladders and enlarged prostate glands. Herbalists often prescribe saw palmetto for reduced or absent sex drive, impotence and frigidity, too.

Saw Palmetto and BPH For at least 150 years, both European and American physicians considered saw palmetto a valuable remedy for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Medical doctors used the berries as a urogenital tonic for both men and women. It was dropped from the US National Formulary in 1950, as conventional physicians were not convinced of its effectiveness. (It was reinstated in 1998). Its popularity continued in Europe and regained its status as a valuable remedy in the 1960s. At that time, French researchers discovered that by concentrating the oils of saw palmetto berry, they could maximize the herb’s effectiveness. They also isolated specific compounds and found that these compounds have demonstrable effects on the prostate gland.

BPH-wikipediaToday, saw palmetto is an accepted medical treatment for BPH in New Zealand, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain and other European countries. It is also increasing in popularity in the United States. BPH affects the quality of life for a quarter of men over the age of 40 and 90% of men in their 80s. Symptoms include difficulty starting urination, weak urinary stream, frequent urination, dribbling after urination, and waking up several times at night to urinate. (BPH is not a form of prostate cancer, that is a different problem).

Even today, the exact cause of BPH is unknown, as is saw palmetto’s complete mechanism of action. As with all medicinal plants, the benefits are due to a combination of compounds working together, not just a single “active” ingredient. Research and experience suggest that saw palmetto has antispasmodic activity, affects hormonal activity and has anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties.

Saw palmetto appears to have a balancing effect on male sex hormones. It not only helps BPH, it also helps to preserve male potency, while tonifying and revitalizing the organs of the urogenital system. It appears that urinary symptoms due to mild to moderate prostate enlargement respond more readily to saw palmetto than symptoms due to severe enlargement.

Action of Saw Palmetto on the Prostate

Research and clinical studies suggest that extracts of saw palmetto help reduce BPH and prostatitis by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is five times more potent than testosterone and is believed to be responsible for prostate enlargement. It appears to overstimulate growth of prostate tissue. By inhibiting the conversion of testosterone to DHT, saw palmetto inhibits this growth of prostate tissue.

Another mechanism is that the herb has an anti-estrogenic action in prostate tissue. Apparently, it inhibits both androgen and estrogen receptor activity which, again, prevents over stimulation of prostate tissue. It is interesting to note that the prostate and uterus are embryologically analogous tissue and that as men age, testosterone levels drop and estrogen levels rise.

A number of double blind studies comparing saw palmetto and the drug Proscar, found both to be equally effective at shrinking the prostate. Proscar lowered PSA levels (prostate-specific antigen), whereas saw palmetto leaves PSA levels unchanged. Cancer raises PSA levels, and lab tests that measure PSA are used to screen for prostate cancer. Lower PSA measurements may have the unintended effect of masking prostate cancer. Saw palmetto won’t do this. Other side effects of Proscar include decreased sexual function. Saw palmetto causes no significant side effects, improves sexual function, but still improves urinary flow rate and reduces other symptoms of BPH.

Saw palmetto is also good for prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) and prostate infection. It is anti-inflammatory and in cases of prostate infection, stimulates urination, causing the infectious microorganisms to be flushed out.

Saw palmetto is fat-soluble, so it is best taken with meals. Regular use over 4 to 6 weeks can help decrease frequency of urination, especially during the night, by reducing inflammation of the bladder and by allowing the bladder to empty more completely. Before self-treating with saw palmetto, be sure to get a proper medical evaluation to rule out prostate cancer. Saw palmetto is going to be of little help if the problem is prostate cancer.

Saw palmetto can be even more effective when combined with other herbs for the prostate. It is an ingredient in Men’s Formula (for prostatitis and BPH), DHEA-M (a blend for enhancing men’s testosterone levels), X-A (for impotence, erectile dysfunction and loss of sexual desire in men or women), Men’s X-Action (another blend for impotence, erectile dysfunction and loss of desire more specifically targeted to men).

Other Uses for Saw Palmetto

saw-palmetto-SFHowever, as we have indicated, saw palmetto is more than just a prostate remedy. When it was introduced into Western medical practice, it was used for many other purposes. Saw palmetto is a digestive tonic. It enhances digestion and assimilation of nutrients. It is an excellent food for elderly men and women who are losing weight and having trouble digesting their food. This makes a great remedy for wasting diseases, debility and failure to thrive.

There is some evidence that saw palmetto can enhance breast size in women which makes it a popular ingredient in herbal formulas for increasing the bust line in women, such as Breast Enhance. The problem is that it does this by enhancing overall metabolism and can result in modest overall weight gain, not just increase in breast size.

Saw palmetto was also traditionally used as a remedy for the lungs. It relieves irritation of the mucus membranes and has been used for pertussis, laryngitis, coughs, tuberculosis, bronchitis and asthma. It is also an immune system tonic making it beneficial for people who catch colds easily.

Because saw palmetto is a non-irritating diuretic, it is also useful for inflammatory conditions of the urinary passages. Combined with other herbs, it can be helpful for painful, burning urination, urinary tract infections and interstitial cystitis. It is best used in combination with other remedies for these conditions.

Because it reduces excess androgens in women, saw palmetto can be useful for polycystic ovaries and ovarian pain in women. It can reduce the pelvic congestion that causes menstrual pain in some women, too.

Saw palmetto has been used as a food, so it is a very safe herb for long term use. However, because of its potential hormonal effects, pregnant women should avoid saw palmetto. Breast-feeding women should also avoid saw palmetto as it inhibits prolactin and may interfere with nursing.

Selected References

Saw Palmetto by Ray Sahelian
Saw palmetto
 by EBSCO CAM Publishing
Prostate
 by J.C. Carraro, et al.
Herbal Supplements and Therapy
 by Merrily A. Kuhn and David Winston
The Comprehensive Guide to Nature’s Sunshine Products
 by Tree of Light
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
 by Andrew Chevallier

PS II As men grow older there is an increasing tendency for the prostate gland to enlarge, causing difficulties with urination. Benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) affects 25-50% of men over the age of 40. Ninety-percent of men over 80 have this problem. (Be sure to have a medical doctor check your condition to rule out prostate cancer.)

PS II is an herbal formula developed by herbalist Stan Malstrom to combat enlargement of the prostate gland and improve urinary flow in men as they get older. It contains plants with phytoestrogens (weak estrogenic compounds in plants), that bind to receptor sites and block dihydrotestosterone, a form of testosterone that encourages enlargement of the prostate. The blend also contains herbs that combat urinary tract infections, swelling of the prostate due to inflammation, and enhance circulation to the genitourinary organs.

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The following herbs contribute their benefits to this blend:

Black Cohosh

Found in eastern North America, black cohosh is commonly thought of as a female remedy, but it can also be helpful for men. It is both anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic, so it may help to reduce prostate swelling and ease the flow of urine.

Golden Seal

Golden seal has antimicrobial activity and can combat a wide variety of infections such as staph, strep, E. coli bacteria and giardia. This perennial root, native to the moist woods and meadows of eastern North America, soothes irritated urinary passages and helps fight urinary tract infections. It’s action on UTIs is mild, however.

Licorice Root

Besides being an adrenal tonic that promotes and prolongs the life of cortisol (an anti-inflammatory hormone), licorice root contains phytoestrogens. It also helps to balance blood sugar levels and sooth irritated tissues.

Capsicum

Commonly known as cayenne or red pepper, capsicum is added to this combination for two reasons. First, it is an effective anti-inflammatory and second, it acts as a catalyst to enhance the effectiveness of other herbs in the formula.

Kelp

This common seaweed is a significant source of iodine and is a beneficial remedy for strengthening the thyroid gland. Thyroid hormones are very important for reproductive health, as they combust the fats that are used to produce androgens and estrogens. Kelp is also rich in trace minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and sulfur.

Ginger

This spice is an excellent remedy for digestive disturbances. It stimulates circulation in the lower pelvic area, relieving congestion and stagnation.

Gotu Kola

Highly recommended in Ayurvedic medicine as a tonic for longevity, mental alertness, memory and to slow the effects of aging, gotu kola is both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. It has a diuretic action and is also useful for treating diseases of the skin.

Dong Quai

Another herb typically thought of as a female remedy, dong quai is helpful for improving blood flow in the pelvic region to relieve congestion and stagnation. It is a valuable herb for anemia and has a nourishing effect on the blood.

Suggested Use

For improving urinary flow, combating urinary tract infections and reducing prostate enlargement and swelling, take 3 PS II capsules with meals three times daily.

Selected References

The Comprehensive Guide to Nature’s Sunshine Products by Tree of Light Publishing
Natural Herbology by Mark Pedersen 
The Little Herb Encyclopedia by Jack Ritchason

Men's FormulaStudies indicate that men’s testosterone levels are falling and male reproductive health is in serious trouble. Thirty to fifty percent of American men have some type of erectile dysfunction. Sperm count in the average male is half what it was 70 years ago. Estimates indicate that 25-50% of men over the age of 40 are affected with benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), with 90% of men over the age of 80 showing signs of prostate enlargement. One quarter of all men are affected severely enough to require medical attention, often involving surgery. About 32% of those undergoing surgery have complications such as incontinence, impotence, or enlargement of the breast tissue due to hormone imbalance.

More

To spot prostate trouble in its earliest stages, watch for prostate gland enlargement, which may diminish urinary force and increase frequency of urination (especially bothersome at night). This condition is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Because this condition can be a sign of a more serious problem, prostate cancer, see a health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.

Men’s Formula is a blend that can be helpful for BPH and for enhancing male reproductive health in general. It can reduce swelling and enlargement of the prostate and improve urination. It may also have some protective effects against prostate cancer, but will not treat this condition. It relies on the following ingredients to produce these effects:

Pygeum Bark Extract (Prunus africana)

An extract from a South African evergreen tree known commercially in Europe as Tadenan, pygeum bark is used for reducing symptoms of BPH. Pygeum contains plant sterols and triterpenoids that help diminish swelling in the prostate.  In addition, pygeum encourages the production of certain prostaglandins that fight inflammation.  Pygeum is also used for prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland). It may help improve fertility, aid erectile dysfunction, and improve kidney function as well.

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) berries

Clinical research has shown that saw palmetto helps to lower levels of dihydrotestosterone, a form of testosterone that encourages enlargement of the prostate. Saw palmetto has been used both as a preventive and corrective agent for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a noncancerous swelling of the prostate that affects a large percentage of men over 40. It is also effective for bladder problems and urinary tract infections. Saw palmetto is also anti-inflammatory and may be helpful for orchitis.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) root

Stinging nettle is used for various urinary problems and helps to stop bleeding, while improving the circulatory system and urinary functions. It has also been used to treat kidney stones. Constituents in the root improve urinary output and inhibit the growth of prostate tissue in BPH. Like saw palmetto, stinging nettle root inhibits the formation of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone that encourages prostate enlargement.

Gotu kola (Hydrocotyle asiatica)

Highly recommended in Ayurvedic medicine as a tonic for longevity, mental alertness, memory and slowing the effects of aging, gotu kola is both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. It has a diuretic action and is also useful for treating diseases of the skin.

Pumpkin Seeds (Cucurbita pepo)

Pumpkin seeds are a natural source of zinc, a mineral very important to male reproductive and prostate function. They are also rich in essential fatty acids that can reduce inflammation. They can be helpful for relieving BPH and kidney and bladder problems.

Zinc

This well-known mineral is essential for proper immune system functioning, and helps inhibit the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, thereby reducing BPH. Zinc is lost with every ejaculation, making it an important trace mineral for male health.

Lycopene

A powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes that may help prevent prostate cancer. Research has shown that men who ate at least 10 servings of tomatoes per week have a 41% decrease in prostate cancer.

Suggested Use

For severe problems use 6 capsules per day; 3 with breakfast and 3 with dinner. For maintenance and prevention, take 2 capsules per day with a meal. Taking Equolibrium™ with Men’s Formula will enhance its effectiveness.

Selected References

CRC Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants by L. D. Kapoorn
Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism edited by Malcolm Stuart.
Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs edited by Claire Kowalchik and William H. Hylton.
The Comprehensive Guide to Nature’s Sunshine Products by Tree of Light Publishing

EquolibriumEquilibrium™ is a supplement containing equol, which may have beneficial effects for men with prostate problems and menopausal symptoms in women. Equol is produced from daidzein, an isoflavane pictured on the right, by bacteria in the intestines. Some people produce it naturally when eating foods from the legume family that contain daidzein. The richest sources are soy beans, fava beans and kudzu. Smaller quantities are also found in peas, other beans and red clover (also in the legume family). There are also small amounts in grains, nuts, coffee, tea and currants.

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Twenty-one strains of intestinal bacteria have been identified that can transform daidzein to equol or an intermediate compound. Only about 25-30 percent of people in Western countries appear to be able to make this conversion as opposed to 50-60 percent of people from Asian countries like Japan, Korea and China.

Consuming xylitol appears to enhance the conversion because it encourages the growth of bacteria that convert daidzein to equol. [See: Xylitol affects the intestinal microbiota and metabolism of daidzein in adult male mice.] Consuming seaweeds also appears to enhance conversion, which may explain the higher rates of conversion among Asians. [See: Dietary seaweed modifies estrogen and phytoestrogen metabolism in healthy postmenopausal women.]

Equol comes in two forms, which are mirror images of each other S-equol and R-equol. Only the S-form is produced in the human body.  S-equol is of interest to researchers because it is a phyotoestrogen and appears to have beneficial effects on the human body.

Equol and Prostate Health

BPH-wikipediaOne of the potential benefits of equol is its ability to bind to DHT (dihydrotestosterone). This metabolite of testosterone stimulates prostate growth. As men age DHT can cause the prostate to enlarge, a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Located underneath the bladder, as the prostate grows in size it impedes urination. An estimated 50% of the male population have BPH by age 50 and 75% of men have it by age 80.

Symptoms of BPH can include frequent urination, an urgency to urinate, dribbling, frequent nighttime urination, urinary stream hesitancy (needing to wait for urination to start), intermittency (the urine stream stops and starts) and straining to void urine. This difficulty with urination can increase the risk of urinary tract infections and the formation of bladder stones. It can also cause distention (stretching) of the bladder, which can weaken the bladder muscle.

Most drugs for BPH work by blocking the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT. Unfortunately, this enzyme is also involved in numerous other body processes, so side effects are numerous. Equol has the ability to help BPH by binding to DHT, blocking its ability to stimulate prostate growth. It also binds to certain types of estrogen receptors that further blocks the adverse effects of androgens without interfering with normal testosterone metabolism.

Besides helping with BPH, equol may also have benefits in reducing prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate). It may also reduce the risk of prostate cancer (malignant neoplasms or carcinoma of the prostate). 

Equol and Cancer

DaidzeinCancers of the breast, prostate and uterus are often estrogen-dependent, meaning estrogen stimulates their growth.  Certain phyotoestrogen compounds in plants, including the flavones from soy and the lignans from flaxseed appear to bind to estrogen receptors and reduce the estrogen-stimulating effects. Equol may have this benefit.  One study suggested that equol may prevent breast cancer cells from proliferating, which could be helpful in inhibiting the spread of breast cancer.

It may also be helpful for other types of cancer, too. [See: Emerging research on equol and cancer.] One study showed that it induced apoptosis (programmed cell death) in hepatic cancer cells.  [See: Equol induces apoptosis in human hepatocellular carcinoma SMMC-7721 cells through the intrinsic pathway and the endoplasmic reticulum stress pathway.]

The results of studies linking isoflavones like equol with reduced risk of cancer are somewhat mixed.  Some studies suggest that under the right conditions, soy isoflavones can stimulate estrogen-dependent cancers. Three recent studies using animal models of breast cancer found that S-equol did not stimulate the growth of breast tumors, however.

Soy isoflavones do appear to have a mild thyroid inhibiting effect, but Asian women who eat soy also tend to eat a lot of iodine-rich seaweeds. Since iodine can also be helpful in treating breast cancer and it increases the conversion of daidzein into equol, the consumption of seaweeds and soy together may be a critical factor in reduced risk of breast cancer among Asian women.

Equol and Menopause

Equol may have some benefits for menopausal women. Two placebo controlled clinical trials giving equol as a supplement to non-equol producing Japanese women showed modest improvement in menopausal symptoms. [See: New equol supplement for relieving menopausal symptoms: randomized, placebo-controlled trial of Japanese women.] A non-placebo controlled trial on American women showed similar results. There was a reduction in hot flashes, joint pains and muscle stiffness. There was also an improvement in mood. So Equol isn’t just for men. It could be taken with Flash-Ease to possibly potentize its effects for women who are having problems with hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.

Other Potential Benefits

Equol has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and vasorelaxant properties, suggesting it may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It may increase nitric oxide production, which dilates arteries. This means it could be helpful in some cases of high blood pressure or erectile dysfunction.

There is also some research suggesting that equol may help with the hyperinsulinemia associated with metabolic syndrome.  It appears to help cells metabolize glucose. [See: Antihyperglycemic effect of equol, a daidzein derivative, in cultured L6 myocytes and ob/ob mice.]  One study showed that pregnant women had fewer indicators of metabolic syndrome (cardiometabolic risk) with higher levels of equol. [See: Urinary isoflavone concentrations are inversely associated with cardiometabolic risk markers in pregnant U.S. Women.]

There is also interest in using S-equol for improving the appearance of aging skin. This is not a well-tested hypothesis, however. It may also have a role in reducing the risk of osteoporosis, but the research here is also unclear.

Supplementing with Equol

Taking 8-15 milligrams of S-equol daily corresponds to the amount of equol produced by consuming 6-11 grams of soy daily in equol producers. Each capsule of Equilibrium™ contains 6 mg. of equol, so two capsules will provide 12 milligrams daily. The half-life of equol is 7-8 hours, which means that the body secretes half of it within that time period, so it’s best to take one capsule in the morning and one in the evening, as this well keep the blood levels of equol fairly stable.

Although some benefits of equol may be noticed within a few days, it usually takes 4-6 weeks of supplementation to begin to see a difference. Best results are obtained after 3-6 months supplementation. Research shows that equol is well-tolerated, so taking it consistently for many years should not be a problem.

Additional References

In addition to the studies cited above, here are some general sources for more information on equol.

Equol for Prostate and Urinary Health: A general reference to the potential benefits of equol for men.

Genistein and daidzein should be avoided for breast cancer: This is a good summary of research concerning isoflavones, including equol, on cancer.  Although it concludes women with breast cancer should not take genistein or daidzein supplements, there are some favorable studies for equol.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S-equol: Although Wikipedia isn’t considered the most reliable source of information, this article appears to be well-written and cites many studies on S-equol.

Bentonite Clay - An Energy Boosting Detox & Healer [infographic]

Drink some Bentonite Clay to: 

  • Absorb toxins from the body
  • Absorb worms and parasites
  • Aid weight loss
  • Aid digestion
  • Absorb heavy metals
  • Remove toxic waste from bowels
  • Provide essential vitamins and minerals
  • Help with diabetes
  • Boost the immune system