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Electrolytes – Balance is Key – Part 1

One of the most asked questions I am posed with is what supplement(s) would I want to take with me on a desert island and my answer always remains the same, electrolytes. There are others I would bring along depending on how many things I could take like Vitamin C, trace minerals and definitely B-Complex vitamins (wouldn’t want pellagra, beriberi or anemia). Electrolytes though would always be number one.

A better question would be, ‘If you were dropped into a western, developed country, which supplement would you most want to make sure you have available?’ My answer would definitely be electrolytes with a bullet. The balance between two components of electrolytes, sodium and potassium, are as messed up in the Western diet as could be imagined.

Before we go much further, we need to define what electrolytes are. The standard definition is ‘any fluid that conducts, or has the ability to conduct electricity.’ Distilled water does not conduct electricity so would not be considered an electrolyte. Most soft drinks like Cola’s can be called an electrolyte but they are very poor conductors. So what about those sports drinks that are mass marketed? They probably are but they have lots of things in them like sugar and food colorings that are not helpful and for many people, detrimental. Your best choice for good electrolytes contain a balance of salts without sugars, additives or colorings.

Going back to the question of electrolytes and the Western diet, why you might ask, do I feel so strongly about its need? According to research, the average human needs 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day and 2,300 milligrams of sodium. In the typical Western diet, we get about 3,400 milligrams of sodium, slightly above recommendations, but the real kicker is that we only get about 2,400 milligrams of potassium, almost half of what we should be getting.

Today’s health monitors tell us that we need to reduce sodium intake because of its implication in coronary heart disease and in particular, high blood pressure (hypertension). Problem is, most studies done to measure the benefits of sodium reduction come up way short. Frankly, they tell us that reducing sodium intake really doesn’t do anything beneficial unless the amounts ingested are far greater than the average person takes in. Medicine seems to be stumped which astonishes me as they are missing the other side of the equation, potassium deficiency.

The DASH study is supposedly the be all reason why reducing sodium works so well but when you look at the diet, it dramatically increased potassium and magnesium, two of the minerals most deficient in the Western diet. While sodium reduction was the focus, I propose that it was the improved diets (vegetables, legumes and fruits) that helped the most as well of increasing the minerals we needed.

Every food we eat contains potassium so our bodies do not store this essential mineral very well. We don’t need to. Sodium on the other hand, is found in far fewer foods so we have evolved to retain this mineral. For millenium, salt, which is known as sodium chloride or NaCl, was an expensive commodity and not available to everyone. Today, it is loaded into almost every processed food and is a cheap condiment. Because of the West’s reliance on fast food for its convenience and easy availability, we are getting all the sodium we need. Potassium? Not so much.

Fruits, legumes and vegetables are abundant in potassium but that is what we tend to leave out of our diets. And we don’t do this for a few days a week, we do this year in and year out. Continuing to be deficient in potassium should be one of the main concerns in today’s Western diet but unfortunately it isn’t.

Next time, I will continue showing how important electrolyte balance is and what systems within the human body are most affected by imbalances.

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Sleep to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

A Normal Brain and an Alzheimer's One

A Normal Brain and an Alzheimer’s One

Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating disorder, not just to the person with it but the entire family of the afflicted. There is some good news on how to possibly prevent it and a new understanding of how sleep can affect it may lead to new treatments. So how does sleep affect Alzheimer’s? Turns out that sleep may help flush out toxins from the brain.

A recent paper published in Science magazine (October 18, 2013) suggested that one of the reasons sleep is so important is that during sleep, the brain and spinal cord fluid flushes the space between brain cells. The toxins and waste material is then sent to the liver for processing. The study, done on mice revealed this operation of what is known as the glymphatic system. The leader of the study, Dr. Maiken Nedergaard of Rochester Medical Center in New York said, “it was almost like you opened a faucet” when explaining what the researchers saw.

While awake, glial cells expand which reduces the space between brain cells and they contract during sleep to allow the fluid to rush in. This swelling and contraction changes the space about 60% between sleep and being awake. Numerous compounds build up in the brain during waking hours including amyloid-beta which has been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. When you sleep, amyloid-beta decreases but no one understood what the mechanism was. It was thought that enzymes might have been the way amyloid-beta was decreased but now that may need to be reexamined.

Researchers like Dr. Randall Bateman at Washington University in St. Louis said, “I’d be a fool not to pay attention to this.” As was mentioned in an article in Science News (November 16, 2013), “Increasing the brain’s ability to rinse itself off may also prevent or combat Alzheimer’s and similar diseases…”

Whatever your preferred method of getting to sleep, it seems to be critical in preventing any number of neurological disorders as well as allowing you to achieve optimal health.

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Magnesium and Heart Disease

Magnesium rich foods

Foods Rich in Magnesium

Back in 1988, I did my first medical/health talk and I mentioned two things that helped prevent heart disease, vinegar and magnesium. Vinegar has been used for over 2,000 years to help lower systolic blood pressure. One teaspoon in eight ounces of water twice a day will do the trick. Magnesium though, has a much shorter history but is equally important in heart health.

According to a Harvard University study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, increasing your intake of magnesium may lower the risk of heart disease by as much as 30%. Their conclusion was “Circulating and dietary magnesium are inversely associated with CVD risk, which supports the need for clinical trials to evaluate the potential role of magnesium in the prevention of CVD and IHD.” The way the authors put it, they made a monumental discovery. Truth be known though, we’ve known about this for decades. Back in 1995 for instance, Altura and Altura published a paper on magnesium and cardiovascular disease.

A friend of mine, Dr. Mark Houston, a renowned cardiologist from Nashville, Tennessee, has told me often that he is big on magnesium.  Most doctors though believe that all you need is a healthy diet and you will get enough magnesium. Only problem is, it just isn’t true. In the typical Western diet, 68% of people don’t get the RDA of magnesium which is a pretty low dose to begin with. and research over the years proves it. Here is a paper that sums things up nicely.

But before you think magnesium is a one trick pony, think again. This essential mineral is involved in over 300 different enzyme pathways and has been shown to help blood sugar control, hormone production and regulation as well as in brain health.

When choosing a supplemental form of magnesium, avoid magnesium oxide. to get maximum absorption, use amino acid chelates like glycinate or citrate. Whatever form you choose, get at least 400 milligrams a day and if you can, go to 600. If you do, your heart will thank you later.

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Concussions – There is Hope

Tonight I watched a segment on 60 minutes that got me really pissed off. It was about our brave soldiers who have suffered concussions due to explosions in Iraq and Afghanistan and how it has damaged their brains. They went on about how great it was that someone had funded an institute to help test the men and women but in the end, there are no treatments for all the damage that was done. Bulls**t!!! There is lots that can and should be done.

When I worked with Robert Crayhon at Crayhon Research, we focused on nutrients that were beneficial to the brain. One of the amazing people I got to work with aside from Robert was Dr. Parris Kidd. He has shown in two books how a pair of nutrients, Glycerophosphcholine (GPC) and Phosphatidylcholine Serine (PS) have been helpful in brain issues. When you can help people post stroke to regain cognitive function, you might think that people might want to do some additional research on concussions. But, when your main thrust is to make money on patented drugs, nothing can be further from the truth.

GPC and PS along with ALCAR (acetyl-L-carnitine) have over 60 human studies on brain health. They are just the tip of the iceberg on using natural substances to help save the brain. Stroke victims, dementia patients and others have shown significant improvement when given these nutrients. I have seen the benefits first hand as I have suffered four major brain injuries in my life time (2 skull fractures and 2 concussions). The changes in cognitive function that I have seen have been dramatic and life changing.

We haven’t even talked about things like Longvida© which has been shown to help Alzheimer’s patients and Down’s Syndrome children improve. Concussions can be devastating but we have tools to help reverse the effects. Here is my protocol for helping those who’ve had a concussion:

  • 1200 milligrams of GPC daily
  • 200 milligrams of PS daily
  • 500 milligrams of ALCAR daily
  • 500 milligrams of Longvida©

Using this protocol, you can see incredible improvements in just 6 weeks time. I have no vested interest in any of these products but have seen them help people time after time. If you know of anyone struggling with mental issues, have them try this protocol for a few months and see the results.

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Brain Health – How to Improve Cognition

Brain health is one of the most important topics in health today due to our aging society. Not only do we want to stay healthy and vibrant as possible, we also want to stay as mentally sharp as possible. Today’s blog is focused on how to improve brain health for as long as you live.

Earlier today, I was on the weekly radio show I do each Monday (1-2 pm PST) on Sirius/XM radio with Frank Jordan (Healthy, Wealthy and Wise) when the question of brain health came up. Being in my mid-50’s, it is an issue I am quite interested in and have done a lot of research. I’ve done a number of lectures around the world on the subject, with my next ones being in Australia the next two weekends.

The first, and certainly most important thing to do is eat right and exercise. There are numerous studies showing that eating a well balanced diet and staying away from sugar laden foods and drinks is a way to keep your brain health at an optimal level. Exercise is another well documented way to keep your mind sharp. Just walking a few miles a day is enough to keep dementia at bay. But what if you want to reverse cognitive decline or better yet, keep your brain from going down hill? There are some simple, yet effective nutrients that are available from your health food store today.

The first nutrient I would recommend to improve brain health is GlyceroPhosphoCholine, or GPC for short. I was introduced to this powerful nutrient by Dr. Parris Kidd who I had the honor to work with in the past. In his book on GPC, he shares its many amazing uses for brain health. Study after human study has revealed how this nutrient found in the brain can help people slow down cognitive decline as well as invigorate your mind. From stroke victims to healthy young adults, GPC is a powerful nutrient that helps memory and mental sharpness. The important thing to remember is the dosage. Most supplements come in 300 milligram capsules but to get the documented results you need to take 1,200 milligrams per day, preferably in the morning.

Next up is acetyl-L-carnitine (also known as ALCAR) which has also had strong research into its ability to improve brain health. I was first turned on the this amazing amino acid like compound by the late clinical nutritionist Robert Crayhon. Numerous human studies have been done on this natural supplement that show how powerful it is in protecting brain health where it acts as a powerful antioxidant, protecting brain cells from deteriorating. My suggestion is to supplement with 500 milligrams to 1 gram daily for maximum benefits.

Other nutrients or supplements that can be brain invigorating include Phosphatidyl Serine (PS), vinpocetine, and of course, omega 3 fatty acids. With Omega 3’s, don’t forget what Dr. John Young talks about which is to take it with protein.  You can use his whey protein or something like Synerplex Amino Acids which I formulated. Whatever you try, eating well and exercising are crucial in keeping your brain health is at its optimal level.

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Dr. Catherine Willner, MD – Parkinson’s Disease

In this interview from May, 2004, Robert Crayhon talks to Dr. Catherine Willner about Parkinson’s Disease.  Thanks to Complementary Prescriptions for the use of this recording.

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NMU-2004+5-02-Catherine Willner – Parkinson’s Disease (2_2)
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Depression – A Serious Worldwide Issue

Depression is a silent epidemic striking millions of people worldwide. I know about this issue personally as I suffered from depression when I was in my twenties. It wasn’t until I met my mentor John Kitkoski that I found out why I was suffering from depression and what I needed to do to get over it.

What compounded my problem was my exercise induced anorexia which I have blogged about earlier. That and the nutrition worlds mindset that fat and protein were bad and complex carbohydrates were good. The days of carbohydrate loading was a disaster for many of us. What we know today is that our old concepts were way off track and was the fore bearer of an age of obesity, chronic disease and yes, depression.

The reason I decided to blog about the topic of depression should be obvious after the horrific mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. People all over the world were shocked and likely depressed because of the tragedy. Many will need counseling and many more will need much more help than you can imagine. That is why I want to talk about this and give some simple advice. Understand that my blog cannot answer all the issues surrounding depression, just a few basic tips. Also, depression is a major problem during the holidays especially if we are away from our loved ones.

First off, potassium is a critical electrolyte/mineral that needs constant replenishing to keep the nervous system and brain healthy. It is something that can be easily measured in a blood test, typically found in a standard chemistry screen. The typical reference range is 3.5 to 5.5 mEq/L but I get concerned with any reading below 4.0. Raising potassium levels with foods like avocados and bananas as well as potassium rich electrolytes are very helpful. But there is a caveat and that is you can overdose potassium and cause a heart arrhythmia if you don’t balance it with enough sodium and magnesium.

The second tip to remember is the use of amino acids and fatty acids in depression. When I was a runner back in the 1970’s and 80’s, protein and fat were bad and complex carbohydrates like whole wheat were good. The problem is, amino acids and fats are critical to keeping mood up and balanced. Amino acids have been used by functional doctors for years in treating depression. Tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin and tyrosine which is precursor to norepinephrine are key amino acids but not the only ones. A balance is necessary to achieve success.

As for fats, the brain is built with fats and keeping them out of your diet is a sure way to cause mental issues. Cholesterol, a fat that circulates within all of us has long been vilified as being somehow bad for you. Wrong. According to an editorial in Circulation magazine in September of 1999 that low cholesterol, under 160 (4.1 in countries other than the U.S)  increases the risk of depression, suicide, accidents and some forms of cancer. Now, I’m not advocating loading up on lard (which really isn’t bad for you), but getting a good amount of Omega 3, 6, 9 fatty acids from fish and meats is a good idea for optimal brain health.

Another tip concerning fats is how helpful Omega 3 fatty acids are in treating depression. I typically recommend 3-5 grams per day with 250 milligrams of l-carnitine for each gram of fish or flax oil.

Above all, in order to have the best outcome for people with depression is to maximize their nutritional intake by eating the cleanest foods (organic when possible) and to take supplements to fill in deficiencies and not to overcome bad habits.

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Amino Acids – We Need A Balance of Them

Amino acids are the building blocks of life. It is what also makes up proteins. Many plants that we eat contain amino acids but our main sources of complete proteins (containing all the essential amino acids) come from meat and fish along with eggs and some dairy. Each food has a different amino acid make up. Because of this, we need to eat a wide variety of foods so we can get a balance of the essential amino acids we need to maintain good health. Why this is so will become apparent as you read on.

Science has shown us that there are nine essential amino acids that we cannot make so we must get them from our diets. They are – Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan and Valine. Children though have a few more essential amino acids as their systems don’t make them efficiently yet. These are – Arginine, Cysteine, Taurine and Tyrosine. Having enough of each of these amino acids makes it possible to build other amino acids and more complex proteins like collagen.

Collagen is abundant in bones giving it flexibility. It is also found in skin, muscle, tendons, eyes, blood vessels, the gut and between your disks in your spine. All your hormones and neurotransmitters require proteins. For proper thyroid function you need tyrosine, your brain needs glutamic acid and GABA in proper balance, and the list goes on and on. Of course, your DNA and RNA, the genetic instructions that allow for life are made of specific amino acids. As you can see, you need amino acids to survive.

One of the most disturbing aspects of today’s Western diets is how few foods we tend to eat. The typical American for instance only eats about 8 to 10 foods. What does this have to do with amino acids? Plenty! The old adage that we are what we eat should be apparent here. If we eat just a few different foods we will be getting a narrow band of amino acids. Some will be more than we need and some we won’t get enough of. If we continue this way year in and year out, we won’t be able to make some hormones or neurotransmitters or we’ll make less of them than we need to stay healthy.

To top things off, the foods we eat today, are different than what we’ve been eating for millennium. Cattle, chickens and pigs eat grains that they never ate before and that changes their amino acid make up. Grass fed beef for instance has a very different amino acid makeup than what you would find in grain feed beef. I believe that many of the health issues we face today are because of the changes in the amino acid makeup of our foods.

So how do we reverse this trend? Supplementation with a balanced amino acid blend. There are a few ways to go. One would be a cold processed whey protein shake like the one Dr. John Young has. Or you can try the amino acid complex I developed called Synerplex. Synerplex uses a collagen based blend derived from chicken bone marrow. But neither can overcome a bad and narrow diet. You need to eat more naturally fed or organically grown foods to stay healthy.

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