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Phthalates and their effect on human health

Phthalates are one of the most ubiquitous chemicals in our environment today. The effect of phthalates on human health has been the source of research for many years. What has surprised me over the years is the amount of denial from both the medical field and industry. In this blog post, I will link the reader to a number of studies on the effect of phthalates on human health. If you want to review the long list of studies on phthalates, you can click here.

Phthalates

The Phthalate Molecule

Part of the activity of phthalates is its depressing effect on testosterone. This may be why I’ve been approached by a number of universities asking why they are seeing young males between the ages of 18-25 having testosterone levels of 60-70 year old men. I thought it was likely due to exposure to phthalates and lo and behold, when a mid west university tested a number of boys, they indeed had high urinary phthalate levels.

The question that needs answering of course is, ‘where are they getting all of those phthalates?’ The answer that we came up with was a popular body spray that is marketed to young males which contains five  different forms of phthalates. The ads for the product tout how using it will attract women to the user but the problem is the males won’t know what to do when they get there.

Here are a few links to show the negative effect of phthalates.

There was a study published in my favorite journal, Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), that suggested a link between breast cancer and phthalates, in particular, diethyl phthalate, in 2010. You can read it here

In the September 2012 issue of, data gathered from NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), showed a link between urinary phthalate levels and diabetes in women. Click here to read the paper.

Allergy in adults has been linked to urinary phthalate levels in an October 2013 paper you can read by clicking here.

Phthalates effects on adults is considerable, but the issues it causes with children and developing fetuses is even more dramatic. In this study, published in October of 2011, phthalates were negatively implicated in mental and psychomotor development in infants, with the greatest impact on males.

May of 2014 was when a study showing a mothers exposure to phthalates linked to behavioral problems in young 6-10 year old boys.

Next time, I will link a few more studies implicating phthalates and other illness and negative health and behavioral outcomes.

Don’t forget to click on the library link above to see what books I’ve recommended.

 

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Electrolytes and Organ Function

The importance of electrolytes, especially their balance and multiple organ functions cannot be overstated.  So which organs are dependent on the balance of our electrolytes? All of them. Today we will go over one of them, the heart.

Some of you might remember the frog’s leg experiments from junior high school. In it, a frog’s leg, in water, would have either sodium (table salt – NaCl) sprinkled on it or potassium (KCl). When sodium is put in, the leg would contract and when potassium is added, the leg would relax. Now think about the actions of the heart muscle. It contracts and relaxes in order to pump blood around the body. The contraction is known as the systolic phase of blood pressure and the diastolic is the relaxing phase.

As I mentioned in the previous blog about electrolyte balance, the Western diet takes in more sodium than necessary but even more troubling is the low potassium intake. If this were just an occasional problem, the effect on blood pressure would be minimal. The problem is, this is a chronic problem that people face over decades. Too many people neglect to get the right balance of electrolytes.

According to an article entitled “Worldwide epidemic of hypertension” published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology in 2006, they write the following “The World Health Report 2002 identified hypertension, or high blood pressure, as the third ranked factor for disability-adjusted life years. Hypertension is one of the primary risk factors for heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death worldwide. Recent analyses have shown that as of the year 2000, there were 972 million people living with hypertension worldwide, and it is estimated that this number will escalate to more than 1.56 billion by the year 2025.”

Given this problem, what is the solution given our knowledge base? First off, we do need to reduce sodium intake. That is not a difficult thing to do if we’re willing to work on it. The number one method of reducing sodium is stop eating prepackaged, premade fast food. Most fast foods contain amounts of sodium that equal the daily recommended allowance of 2,400 milligrams. Cut that out and you go a long way in reducing systolic hypertension.

Second thing to do is to up your potassium intake. We should get about 4,700 milligrams but the typical Western diet only gets half. Increasing potassium intake means more fresh fruits and vegetables as well. Here is a list of the top ten foods with the highest levels of potassium per 100 grams.

White Beans

White beans are among the best foods that are rich in potassium.

White Beans, dark leafy greens, baked potatoes, dried apricots, baked acorn squash, yogurt (plain), fish like salmon, avocados, white mushrooms and bananas (maybe why the Minions are so relaxed).

Another way to increase potassium while not getting high amounts of sodium are the KTS Revive Electrolytes which have a 2-1 ratio of potassium over sodium.

Whatever you do when it comes to electrolytes, make sure that you follow the concept of balance.

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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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The Plague and Heavy Metals

Talking about the plague and heavy metals may seem like a kind of odd subject to talk about but bear with me, it will be worth it. Just this past weekend I was a speaker at the Weston A. Price Foundation’s (WAPF) annual international conference where I heard a talk from the controversial doctor, Andrew Wakefield. He was the guest of honor and he made a very impassioned speech but there was one comment he made where I had an “ah ha” moment.

As some of you might know, Dr. Wakefield is the British gastroenterologist who made the claim that autistic children had inflamed guts, more so than the average child, and that there seems to be a correlation with the MMR vaccine. He has been vilified by the media and his own professional organizations despite having solid evidence to back his position. His talk at WAPF was passionate and information. Then he made a comment about the plague and heavy metals in the Siberian steppe. This picked my interest despite him only briefly commenting on it.

So why would this three second snippet get my attention? Simple, what he said was that researchers found the plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis, in marmots on the Russian steppe but only those who foraged on heavy metal laced grasses died of the disease. All of these members of the rodent family had the bacterium but only those with higher levels of heavy metals died of the plague.

This got me to thinking, how many diseases are dormant in our bodies waiting for a trigger to turn them virulent? And I’m not just talking about viruses, bacterium like the plague or parasites like toxoplasma gondii, but chronic diseases like type II diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or cancer. We get a load of toxins building up, like heavy metals or petrochemicals and when a critical mass is reached, bang, a disease begins to ravage us. This phenomenon can explain a lot of sudden onset disorders which come out of the blue.

My take on this is to not only be on the constant outlook for toxic exposure but to make it a lifestyle choice to always look to detoxify yourself regularly. Whether you follow the protocols of Dr. Andrew Cutler for heavy metal detox or use glycine and other amino acids for petrochemical removal, just do it and do it all the time.

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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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