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Osteoporosis Can Be Prevented

Osteoporosis is defined as a condition in which bone mass or density falls more than 2.5 standard deviation points below the mean for young adults. With the advancing age of our population osteoporosis is becoming a very costly disease. Osteoporosis affects over 25 million North Americans and is the cause of 1.5 million fractures annually. It is estimated that 50% of women and 20% of men over the age of 65 will develop osteoporosis.

A recent study examining premenopausal women aged 45-49 revealed that higher dietary intake of zinc, magnesium, fiber, and potassium significantly increased lumbar spine bone mineral density. Identifying those at risk for the development of osteoporosis ensures better treatment outcomes and provides opportunity for prevention. Prevention is the best medicine, and it is suggested that optimal dietary calcium throughout life, along with exercise, can improve bone mineral density and thus reduce fracture risks later in life.

The most critical times for focusing on calcium supplementation are in the menopausal and postmenopausal years. The majority of bone loss is caused by the reduction in estrogen.

It is recommended that calcium be taken at bedtime so the mineral can then block nocturnal parathyroid hormone release and slow daytime bone resorption. This also reduces problems with competition for other nutrients for absorption.

In addition to calcium, other minerals and nutrients have demonstrated a role in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. Folic acid is a nutrient often deficient in our society because of oral contraceptive use, and a diet high in processed foods and low in vegetables and fruit. Folic acid is used as a cofactor in many metabolic processes in the body.

Vitamin K has been found to be deficient in older individuals and in those with osteoporotic fractures. Vitamin C may be of benefit in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis because of its role in promoting both formation and crosslinking of structural proteins found in bone.

Half of bodily magnesium stores are found in the bones. This mineral has been shown to reduce bone loss in several studies alone and in combination with other nutrients.

Osteoporosis is a complex disease that is afflicting growing numbers of individuals each year. Nutritional supplementation and proper diet can go a long way toward the prevention and perhaps assist in the treatment of this debilitating disease.

Reference: Packard, P.T., Heaney, R.P. Medical nutrition therapy for patients with osteoporosis. J Am Diet Assoc 97(4):414-7, 1997.

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Kava-More Than A Sedative

Kava, cultivated on many islands in the South Pacific, is used at traditional social gatherings as a relaxant, as well as at cultural and religious ceremonies as a means to achieve a higher level of consciousness.

The active compounds in the plant are collectively known as kavalactones. Kavalactones appear to produce a wealth of physiological effects in people who use kava.

In South Pacific societies where social use of kava is prevalent, users commonly experience mild euphoria characterized by elevated mood, lively speech, and an increased sense of sound. As a medicinal botanical, kava is reported to reduce anxiety, relax muscle tension, produce analgesic effects, act as a local anesthetic, and have a potential antibacterial benefit.

Kava also is said to be a diuretic, useful in the treatment of gout, bronchial congestion, and rheumatism.

Kava is gaining popularity as a sleep aid. Several European countries have approved kava for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness on the basis of extensive pharmacological data and positive results in clinical trials.

Research on kava has focused on how the herb reduces psychological stress and lessens muscle tension. A clinical trial published in Pharmacopsychiatry was conducted on 101 patients suffering from anxiety of non-psychotic origin in a 25-week randomized placebo-controlled double-blind trial of a kava extract. Researchers concluded that based on the Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAMA), there was significant improvement for kava users over the placebo. Researchers concluded that kava extract is an alternative to antidepressants in anxiety disorders.

Reference: Volz H, Kieser M. "Kava-kava Extract WS 1490 vs. Placebo in Anxiety Disorders-a Randomized Placebo-Controlled 25-Week Outpatient Trial." Pharmacopsychiatry. 20(1):1-5, 1997.

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An Action Plan For Fibromyalgia

The incidence of fibromyalgia is increasing. This condition primarily affects women, aged 25-55, with symptoms similar to chronic fatigue, plus tight, aching muscles tender to the touch. Noted alternative health practitioner, Julian Whitaker, M.D., offers a four-point plan for relieving the discomfort associated with fibromyalgia.

1. NUTRITION

Dr. Whitaker recommends a diet that is low in fat, and advises taking "copious" amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, in addition to getting regular exercise and consuming a generous amount of pure water daily.

2. MAGNESIUM & MALIC ACID

Magnesium helps move calcium into and out of cells and helps generate molecules essential for energy production. Dr. Whitaker cites a recent study by another physician working with 15 fibromyalgia patients aged 32-60. He gave them a daily dose of 1200-2400 mg of malic acid and 300-600 mg of magnesium. In 48 hours, patients felt a significant decrease in pain, and after 8 weeks their pain decreased by 67%.

3. PROPER SLEEP

Since many fibromyalgia patients have insomnia, Dr. Whitaker recommends melatonin or herbal extracts of St. John's wort, valerian, chamomile, kava, or hops to assure an adequate rest cycle.

4. DHEA

Dr. Whitaker suggests that women start at 25-50 mg daily depending on their initial levels, which can be determined by a laboratory test. Men could start at 50-100 mg daily, he adds, also depending on their tested levels.

Reference: "An Action Plan for Fibromyalgia," Dr. Julian Whitaker's Health & Healing 6:9, September 1996.

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Chromium: Support For Diabetes

According to research by Richard Anderson, Ph.D., of the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, MD, supplementation with chromium picolinate can help reduce or normalize blood sugar and other factors associated with adult-onset diabetes (diabetes Type II).

In Dr. Anderson's study, 180 people with Type II diabetes were divided into three groups. One group received a placebo, the second took 100 mcg of chromium picolinate twice daily, and the third group took 500 mcg twice daily. All subjects continued with previously prescribed medications. For those in the group taking 1000 mcg daily, the levels of blood sugar in between meals was reduced after two months as were levels of blood sugar two hours after eating. After four months on the supplement, those taking chromium picolinate at 1000 mcg daily had significantly reduced levels of cholesterol. This group also showed positive changes in the composition of blood hemoglobin.

Reference: Richard Anderson, Ph.D., "Beneficial Effect of Chromium for People with Type II Diabetes," Diabetes 45:Suppl 2, 1996.

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Intestinal Disorders And Cat's Claw

Cat's Claw, also known as una de gato or botanically as Unicaria tomentosa, has been the subject of several reports that detail its ability to help alleviate the symptoms of many-especially resistant-intestinal disorders. Two practitioners have witnessed the herb's dramatic ability to help patients suffering from Crohn's disease and other inflammatory bowel conditions. They are Brent W. Davis, D.C., a chiropractor in Van Nuys, CA, who has been using Cat's Claw in his practice since 1988, and Satya Ambrose, N.D., a licensed acupuncturist in Clackamas, OR, who has been recommending Cat's Claw to patients since 1994.

Davis reports using Cat's Claw to treat approximately 150 patients from 1988 until 1992. He says, "I have seen Uncaria tomentosa treat severe intestinal disorders that no other available products can touch, including the strong antifungal drug, undecylenic acid. Davis further suggests that Cat's Claw has applications in the treatment of a wide range of gastrointestinal disorders including Crohn's disease, ulcers, diverticulitis, recurring ileocecal valve problems, hemorrhoids, intestinal flora imbalance, parasites, and candidiasis.

Phillip N. Steinberg, a certified nutritional consultant (C.N.C.) has reported information about Cat's Claw in a newsletter. In two years of publishing Cat's Claw News he has received more than 25 testimonials from Crohn's disease sufferers, who report that Cat's Claw has alleviated many of their symptoms. However, there are no published clinical or scientific studies conducted with any of the available Cat's Claw products on patients with Crohn's disease or inflammatory bowel conditions.

Based on anecdotal evidence, it is time for the scientific community to take a serious look at this herb.

Reference: Davis, B. "A New World Class Herb for A.K. Practice," Phytotherapy Research Laboratories, Van Nuys, CA, Summer 1992.

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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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