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Natural Support For Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a common skin disorder caused by an accumulation of skin cells that have replicated too rapidly. The rate at which skin cells divide in psoriasis is roughly 1,000 times greater than in normal skin; this is simply too fast for the cells to be shed, so they accumulate, resulting in the characteristic silvery scale.

The basic defect lies within the skin cells themselves. A delicate balance between two internal control compounds-cyclic AMP and cyclic GMP, controls the rate at which cells divide. Increases in cyclic GMP are associated with increased cell proliferation; conversely, increased levels of cyclic AMP are associated with enhanced cell maturation and decreased cell proliferation. Both decreased cAMP and increased cGMP have been measured in the skin of individuals with psoriasis. Rebalancing the cyclic AMP:GMP ratio is a prime therapeutic goal.

A number of factors appear to be responsible for psoriasis, including incomplete protein digestion, impaired liver function, alcohol consumption, and consumption of animal fats. A group of toxic amino acids known as polyamines have been shown to be increased in individuals with psoriasis. These compounds inhibit the formation of cyclic AMP and therefore contribute greatly to the excessive rate of cell proliferation.

Vitamin A and goldenseal have been found to inhibit the formation of polyamines and are therefore indicated in the treatment of psoriasis. However, the best way to prevent the excessive formation of polyamine is to make sure protein digestion is complete, which may involve the supplementation of hydrochloric acid and pancreatic enzymes with meals.

Correcting abnormal liver function is of great benefit in the treatment of psoriasis. Alcohol consumption is known to worsen psoriasis considerably and should be eliminated in individuals with psoriasis.

Silymarin, the flavonoid component of milk thistle, has been reported to be of value in the treatment of psoriasis as a result of its ability to improve liver function, inhibit inflammation, and reduce excessive cellular proliferation.

Zinc seems indicated due to its anti-inflammatory effects and the fact that there is an increased serum copper:zinc ratio (both high copper and low zinc) in psoriatic patients.

Dietary oils are extremely important in the management of psoriasis. Of particular benefit are the fish oils, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Several double-blind clinical studies have demonstrated that psoriasis patients supplementing the diet with EPA receive significant improvement.

Reference: Lancet, 1988; i, 378-80.

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Selenium Deficiency Increases Severity Of Flu Virus

The findings of a collaborative study by researchers at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill; Nestle Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland; and the Agricultural Research Services in Beltsville, MD indicate that a selenium deficiency can increase the virulence of a variety of viruses.

The researchers reported that those subjects with selenium-deficient diets developed significantly more lung pathology than those getting ample selenium. The selenium-deficient subjects had significantly more inflammation in their lungs, and the inflammation lasted much longer.

Selenium is a critical part of a major antioxidant enzyme that humans and animals produce to protect delicate cellular components against damage from oxygen free radicals. Good sources include Brazil nuts, lobster, eggs, garlic, Swiss chard, oysters, and whole grain products. Deficiencies can occur in areas where agricultural soils lack this vital element.

The researchers suspect that the influenza virus mutated to a more virulent form in the selenium-deficient subjects because they lack antioxidant protection from the selenium-containing enzyme-glutathione peroxidase.

In related studies, researchers have suggested that combined deficiencies of selenium and vitamin E might contribute to heart disease because these nutrients help maintain adequate levels of coenzyme Q in the heart muscle. If this cofactor is lacking, the production of energy in the heart and in other muscles may fall off to the extent that these tissues can no loner carry their workloads. It is noteworthy that the administration of selenium to farm animals significantly raised the levels of coenzyme Q in their hearts.

Reference: FASEB Journal, April 30, 2001.

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Black Cohosh Eases Women's Discomfort

In various cultures, the hormone-like plant substances called phytoestrogens have been used for years. Among the plants containing such phytoestrogens are red clover, black cohosh, and soy.

Black cohosh has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine as a remedy for headache and gingivitis, arthritic problems, as an antidote for snakebite, and a remedy for women's problems.

More recently, clinical studies have reported positive effects of standardized extracts of black cohosh on menopausal and postmenopausal complaints.

Black cohosh has been shown to have various phytoestrogenic properties producing a hormonal balancing effect in the female reproductive system.

Human studies have also reported estrogen-like effects of black cohosh. In a placebo-controlled study, 110 menopausal women were given a two-month regimen of two tablets of black cohosh daily. The active-treatment group exhibited suppression of luteinizing hormone, an estrogen associated with menopausal hot flashes.

Two additional components of black cohosh may decrease muscular spasm, potentially easing menstrual pain and cramps.

When taken with vitamins E, C, B6, B12, calcium, and magnesium, black cohosh may be useful during and after menopause.

Because of its uterine stimulating properties, black cohosh should not be used in pregnancy, and should be used with caution by persons taking hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives.

Reference: Womens Health 1998; 7(5):525-9.

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Huperzine A For Improved Brain Function

Alzheimer's, a progressive and devastating disease of the brain, causes symptoms ranging from the disruption of vision, nerve function impairment, lack of muscle coordination, impairment of hearing, speech, and gait, and a loss of thinking and memory. A few pharmaceuticals are available to treat Alzheimer's, but all have side effects ranging from moderate to severe. A natural substance known as huperzine A (HupA) has proven to be, in some studies, as effective or better than drugs-with no side effects.

Huperzine A is extracted from Huperzia serrata, a club moss. The herb has been traditionally used in China for thousands of years to treat fever and inflammation, and to stop excess bleeding. More recently, researchers have discovered that Huperzia serrata, has remarkable applications for Alzheimer's.

HupA is not only a treatment for Alzheimer's, but also a neuroprotective supplement which enhances general brain function. HupA has been used successfully in China on thousands of subjects to prevent neuron cell death caused by stroke, epilepsy, and other brain disorders besides Alzheimer's, and has demonstrated significant improvement in brain function.

An alkaloid in Huperzia serrata acts as a cholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor. There are other neurotransmitters, but ACh is the primary one. A cycle in the body produces ACh, and another cycle in the body breaks it down with the use of an enzyme -AChE.

In Alzheimer's patients, the ACh production decreases dramatically over time (not a normal process of aging, but a disease state). One of the characteristics of Alzheimer's is lower ACh production. HupA is an AChE inhibitor, so it prevents the production of AChE, the chemical that breaks down ACh.

The pharmaceutical Physostigmine used to treat Alzheimer's works in much the same way as AChE inhibitors. Recent studies have shown that HupA has been found to be more potent than Physostigmine and penetrates into the central nervous system as effectively or more effectively than prescription drugs. Also, unlike prescription drugs, it seems to protect the health of the brain, preventing damage and degeneration, and may promote neuron growth.

In human studies, 58% to 75% of patients treated with HupA showed improvement in memory, cognitive, and behavioral functions.

Reference: Journal of the American Medicine Association, 1997; 227:776.

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Lactobacillus Reduces Antibiotic Side Effects

A report in the medical journal Digestion claims that lactobacillus supplements quell side effects of antibiotics used for treating H. pylori. Side effects include nausea, bloating, diarrhea, taste disturbances, and loss of appetite.

In the study, 120 people infected with H. pylori were given antibiotics with or without Lactobacillus GG for one week. Then all participants were given both antibiotics and Lactobacillus GG during the week of antibiotic therapy and the week following cessation of drug treatment. People given antibiotics and the lactobacillus supplement experienced a 70% lower risk of bloating and 70% lower risk of diarrhea or taste disturbances, than those given just the antibiotics.

Lactobacillus probiotics are available in tablet and capsule form as well as in quality yogurt and other cultured milk products.

Reference: Digestion, 2001; vol. 63, 1.

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Studies Find Ginseng Builds Health

A recent study at the University of Toronto found that American ginseng root significantly reduced glucose levels in healthy non-diabetic individuals, which can improve resistance to diabetes and heart disease.

The results showed that ginseng had beneficial effects on the patients compared to the placebo.

In a separate study, researchers at the University of Milan, Italy, studied patients experiencing an acute attack of chronic bronchitis resulting from infection. All of the patients were given antibiotics for nine days, and half received a standardized ginseng root extract in addition.

The results of the study found that the ginseng helped reduce the bacterial counts in the bronchial system of patients. Those that had taken ginseng with the antibiotics were cleared of infection earlier than those taking just the antibiotics.

Used in China for over 5,000 years, ginseng was known to 9th-century Arab physicians. Marco Polo wrote of this prized wonder herb. When a delegation from the King of Siam visited Louis XIV, they presented him with a root of ginseng. From then on, ginseng was widely used by wealthy Europeans for exhaustion and stamina.

American ginseng is a yin tonic, and is taken in China for fevers, exhaustion, and to help coughs related to lung weakness.

Reference: Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2000; 19:738-44; and Clinical Drug Investigation, 2001; 21:41-5.

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Vitamin C for exercise 'Oomph'

Long before scurvy sets in, the body shows symptoms of a less-than-optimal intake of vitamin C. Mild vitamin C deficiency can be evidenced as general feelings of fatigue and an aversion to exercise. Arizona State University researchers set out to assess the effects of vitamin C intake on exercise performance.

The study involved young adults who were found to have poor levels of vitamin C. For three weeks, each took a placebo capsule daily. For the last two weeks of the study, the placebos were switched with capsules supplying 500 mg of vitamin C.

Not surprisingly, while taking the vitamin C supplements, levels of vitamin C shot up three-fold. In addition, the ability to sustain exercise at a moderate intensity also increased significantly during the weeks of taking vitamin C.

The researchers commented that "exercise intolerance experienced by some individuals may be related to inadequate vitamin C status, an important consideration since recent surveys indicated that the prevalence of vitamin C depletion among U.S. adults ranged from 15 to 30%."

Rich sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, parsley, and mustard greens. The acerola cherry, commonly called the Barbados cherry, grown in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Florida has the highest vitamin C content of any known food.

In a related release, Dr. Dean Ornish, a leading cardiologist who advocates a diet that can reverse heart disease and another that can help prevent the problem, advises taking daily vitamin supplements including vitamin C and vitamin E.

The Washington Post, in a major Health section article on Dr. Ornish's programs, noted that "unlike most best-selling diet authors, Ornish has amassed authoritative data to back up his claims."

Vitamin C supplement intake is recommended at the rate of one to two grams per day in the Ornish "prevention diet," designed to help those without heart disease to prevent the ailment through diet, exercise, and stress reduction.

Vitamin E supplements are recommended at a rate of 100 to 400 IUs per day. Other supplements Dr. Ornish has advised taking include a multivitamin-with iron for women, without iron for men and post-menopausal women; folate, or folic acid; selenium; and for men, fish oil, and for women, flaxseed oil.

Reference: Inter. J. Vit. Nutr. Res. 1999;69:41-4.

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A new study by Harvard researchers has established a link between a reduced risk of lung cancer and the intake of lycopene commonly found in tomatoes.

"Lycopene is an important carotenoid for protection against lung cancer, especially among current smokers," said Edward Giovannucci, M.D., Sc.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, and one of the study's lead researchers.

The findings that smokers may benefit from lycopene intake are the result of research on more than 124,000 men and women who participated in the study.

Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 2000.

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Written by: EcoMall

Disclaimer: These statements on this site have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and is for educational purposes only. For any serious illness or health related disorders please consult your physician.


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