Tag Archives: allergies

Vitamin D – From Young to Old

More research on vitamin D comes out each week.  Below Dr. Court discusses some of the most recent and amazing research behind this wonderful vitamin.

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Probiotics for that colicky baby

Escherichia coli: Scanning electron micrograph...

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Below is a short article from the NY Times.  It summarizes some of the studies that have been done regarding probiotics (healthy bacteria) and colic in babies.  See my comments at the end.

NY Times Article

Colic is one of the most prevalent conditions of infancy: about 20 percent of all babies suffer the inconsolable bouts of crying that characterize it.

Yet no one really understands what makes a baby colicky. Scientists have investigated a number of causes — allergies, hormones in milk, even stress in the womb. But some now think it may stem from inflammation in the gut, perhaps a result of too many harmful bacteria and not enough beneficial ones.

A 2009 study, for example, found that colicky babies had gastrointestinal inflammation and traces of a bacterium in their guts that may have prompted it. Babies without colic had no inflammation and a greater diversity of beneficial bacteria.

So could higher levels of gut-friendly bacteria make a difference?

In a 2007 study, Italian researchers looked into this by examining 83 colicky babies who were breast-fed. Over 28 days, some of the infants were given simethicone, a medication that reduces gas; the others were given a supplement containing L. reuteri, one of the beneficial bacteria known as probiotics and often found in yogurt. At the end of the study, the babies who received the probiotic cried an average of 51 minutes a day, compared with about two and a half hours in the other group. A 2010 study had similar results.

Gut microbiota changes induced by the probiotic could be involved in the observed clinical improvement,” the researchers wrote. Still, experts say they would like to see more studies.

Dr. Court’s Comments

Our gastrointestinal system is extremely complex.  A huge part of that complexity is the trillions and trillions of microorganisms that exist in your gut in the form of bacteria.  It is the balance of these bacteria that determines, to a large extent, the health of your gut and therefore, you.

Babies are no different.  An imbalance of bacteria can lead to many problems including allergies, maldigestion and malabsorption and now possibly colic.

It is not a surprise that research points to gut inflammation as a source of colic.  It makes perfect sense.  I see many patients in my office who have gastrointestinal complaints.  Through stool testing we are often able to determine that there is significant inflammation present in their GI system.  This inflammation is often helped by using potent probiotics to restore the balance of good and bad bacteria.

Taking a probiotic is very simple.  They are available in pill or powder form.  Many companies even make infant formulas that are specifically designed to be gentle on developing systems.

So if you have a young child who just won’t stop crying, consider trying a probiotic.  It’s a safe and effective tool to reduce colic and give your baby some much needed relief.


Filed under Diet, Public Health

Quick! Get that kid some bacteria!

I recently came across an article that got my interest for a couple of reasons.  The article was about allergies and how many health practitioners are reporting an increase in the number of children they are seeing with allergies.  I agree.  In my office I see several children whose parent’s only complaint is their child’s allergies.  The second reason for my interest was one of the proposed reasons for this – an unhealthy balance of bacteria in the gut.

The number of kids with food allergies went up 18 percent from 1997 to 2007, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 3 million children younger than 18 had a food or digestive allergy in 2007, the CDC said.  These numbers are high and seem to be rising rapidly in rich, industrialized countries like the U.S. and Britain.  In fact, a recent study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that visits to the emergency room at Children’s Hospital Boston for allergic reactions more than doubled from 2001 to 2006.

In my practice I have always contended that the Western diet and lifestyle plays a major role in the development of allergies in our children.  Now a small Italian study seems to confirm what I have postulated.

My theory has always been that the combination of being overly clean and eating diets high in refined carbohydrates and other allergenic foods has caused a massive immune imbalance.  This imbalance leads to over activation of the entire immune system resulting in reactions that range from minor annoyances to life threatening.

A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences compared the gut bacteria from 15 children in Florence, Italy, with gut bacteria in 14 children in a rural African village in Burkina Faso. They found that the variety of flora in these two groups was substantially different.

The children in the African village live in a community that produces its own food. The study authors say this is closer to how humans ate 10,000 years ago. Their diet is mostly vegetarian. By contrast, the local diet of European children contains more sugar, animal fat and calorie-dense foods. The study authors posit that these factors result in less biodiversity in the organisms found inside the gut of European children.

Now, in my opinion, it has very little to do with the fact that this African culture eats very little meat and simply with the fact that they consume a more natural, raw diet.  This leads to a more favorable balance of bacteria in the gut because of exposure.

Why are these bacteria important?

The bacteria in our gut work symbiotically with our systems in order to help us survive.  It is a true symbiotic relationship in that neither one of us (the bacteria or the person) would survive without the other.  They are important because they help digest certain proteins, help up absorb certain vitamins and minerals and perhaps most importantly with regards to allergies, maintains gut wall integrity or permeability.

Gut wall integrity is crucially important in not only preventing allergies but maintaining the health of the entire immune system.  So what happens when the balance of good bacteria changes in the gut?  Good question.

As the balance begins to be altered, the permeability of the gut begins to increase. Our digestive systems are designed to absorb a lot of things, but these things must be fully digested and of the appropriate size to be absorbed.  When our system becomes overly permeable, proteins that are undigested or are partially digested may get absorbed into our blood stream.  This is problematic.

Proteins are simply chains of amino acids linked together.  A small chain of amino acids is called a peptide.  A larger chain of amino acids or several peptides linked together is called a protein.  When we consume a hamburger, for example, the proteins are large and may be thousands of amino acids long.  It is the job of our intestinal tract to break down each and every one of those proteins into its individual components or amino acids.  If this does not happen, then peptides are what remain.  This is not problematic unless you have high gut permeability or a leaky gut. This leaky gut, from abnormal bacterial balance, now absorbs these peptides into the blood stream.

Why are these peptides a problem?  Because your body doesn’t recognize them as useful.  Your body recognizes amino acids as helpful.  Amino acids are often referred to as building blocks because they are used for so many things in the body.  That is precisely the reason the digestive system is designed to break down proteins into these components.  Peptides are not recognized and therefore the body sees them as foreign invaders and generates an immune response, or allergy, to them.  For some people this response is minor (itchy eyes, runny nose, hives, etc.) and for others it is life threatening (anaphylaxis).

Gluten, the protein from wheat, rye, oats and barley and casein, the protein from milk are notorious for being broken down incompletely in the gut and causing allergic reactions.  They are the most common simply because they are two of the most commonly consumed foods in the world (wheat and milk products).

What can I do to help myself or my child?

There are many things you can do.  First and foremost eliminate any food that you know causes you an issue. Secondly, you may consider having an allergy test.  This is important because many people are allergic to things they aren’t aware of.  An allergy test should also include food sensitivities. These are reactions to foods that don’t necessarily generate a full immune response in your body but do initiate a response on a lower level.  These are important to know because reducing your total allergic load is critical for helping you overcome your major allergies.

Also, take a digestive enzyme that is high in protease.  A protease in an enzyme that breakdown protein.  If you take this with a meal it will help insure that all proteins are properly digested.

Last, but certainly not least, take a probiotic.  A probiotic will help restore the healthy balance of bacteria in your gut and help you maintain the integrity of you gut wall.  This will insure that the permeability is appropriate and you are not absorbing micronutrients that your immune system views as dangerous.

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Food Dyes Pose Serious Risk to Children and Adults

All of these foods contain artificial food dyes

Food dyes are an interesting subject.  Health groups have been calling for their removal from the market for years because of links to allergies, hyperactivity in children and cancer.  The food industry uses them for one sole purpose – to make food look more appealing.  That’s it.  We’re not even talking about flavor enhancers here (which have their own set of problems). Food dyes don’t make food taste better and have no nutritional value to them whatsoever.  They are nothing more than chemicals used to make us think our food is going to taste better.

Now the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is calling for the removal of several of these dyes.  They say the three most widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are contaminated with known carcinogens.  They also say that another dye, Red 3, has been known by the government for years to be a carcinogen yet it remains in our food supply.

Let’s take a look at some things that might open your eyes:

  • Every year about 15 million pounds of eight synthetic dyes end up in our food.
  • Per capita consumption of dyes has increased five-fold since 1955.
  • Children consume more dye per unit of body weight than adults and they are much more susceptible to their effects.
  • The FDA did not consider the risk to children when making their ‘acceptable level’ guidelines.
  • Most safety studies conducted on dyes were conducted or commissioned by food dye manufacturers.
  • Most of these studies lasted less than two years so long term affects could not be assessed.
  • The amount of artificial chemical allowed in any given dye is based on usage from 1990 and usage has increased by 50% since then.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is claiming that the FDA is not upholding the law for the following reasons:

  • Red 3 and Citrus Red 2 should be banned under the Delaney amendment, because they caused cancer in rats (some uses were banned in 1990), as should Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, which are tainted with cancer-causing contaminants.
  • Evidence suggests, though does not prove, that Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 40, and Yellow 6 cause cancer in animals. There certainly is not “convincing evidence” of safety.
  • Dyed foods should be considered adulterated under the law, because the dyes make a food “appear better or of greater value than it is”—typically by masking the absence of fruit, vegetable, or other more costly ingredient.

Click here for a summary of studies on food dyes

There are 9 dyes currently approved for use in the United States.  Many previous dyes have been banned because they have caused adverse affects in laboratory animals.  In fact, the British government had asked manufactures, as of last December 31st,  to completely phase out use of dyes and the European Union is requiring that every food containing dye come with warnings.  Below is a summary of each dye and its potential problems.  This list is from the CSPI.

  • Blue 1 was not found to be toxic in key rat and mouse studies, but an unpublished study suggested the possibility that Blue 1 caused kidney tumors in mice, and a preliminary in vitro study raised questions about possible effects on nerve cells. Blue 1 may not cause cancer, but confirmatory studies should be conducted. The dye can cause hypersensitivity reactions.
  • Blue 2 cannot be considered safe given the statistically significant incidence of tumors, particularly brain gliomas, in male rats. It should not be used in foods.
  • Citrus Red 2, which is permitted only for coloring the skins of oranges not used for processing, is toxic to rodents at modest levels and caused tumors of the urinary bladder and possibly other organs. The dye poses minimal human risk, because it is only used at minuscule levels and only on orange peels, but it still has no place in the food supply.
  • Green 3 caused significant increases in bladder and testes tumors in male rats. Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers it safe, this little-used dye must remain suspect until further testing is conducted.
  • Orange B is approved for use only in sausage casings, but has not been used for many years. Limited industry testing did not reveal any problems.
  • Red 3 was recognized in 1990 by the FDA as a thyroid carcinogen in animals and is banned in cosmetics and externally applied drugs. All uses of Red 3 lakes (combinations of dyes and salts that are insoluble and used in low-moisture foods) are also banned. However, the FDA still permits Red 3 in ingested drugs and foods, with about 200,000 pounds of the dye being used annually. The FDA needs to revoke that approval.
  • Red 40, the most-widely used dye, may accelerate the appearance of immune-system tumors in mice. The dye causes hypersensitivity (allergy-like) reactions in a small number of consumers and might trigger hyperactivity in children. Considering the safety questions and its non-essentiality, Red 40 should be excluded from foods unless and until new tests clearly demonstrate its safety.
  • Yellow 5 was not carcinogenic in rats, but was not adequately tested in mice. It may be contaminated with several cancer-causing chemicals. In addition, Yellow 5 causes sometimes-severe hypersensitivity reactions in a small number of people and might trigger hyperactivity and other behavioral effects in children. Posing some risks, while serving no nutritional or safety purpose, Yellow 5 should not be allowed in foods.
  • Yellow 6 caused adrenal tumors in animals, though that is disputed by industry and the FDA. It may be contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals and occasionally causes severe hypersensitivity reactions. Yellow 6 adds an unnecessary risk to the food supply.

I always encourage my patients to eat as naturally as possible and this is one of the main reasons.  These chemicals, basically derived from petroleum, are clearly not as safe as the food manufacturers would like you to think they are.  While not all of these dyes pose a serious threat, why risk it?  You can bet that if you buy a packaged food and it is brilliantly colored, it has one or more of these dyes in it.  That is also problematic as these dyes have been studied alone and not it combination with one another.  No one knows what the safety of these dyes are when consumed with other dyes.

Natural Alternatives

There are options for food coloring out there.  Many natural colors exist that work just as well as the synthetics and are known to be safe.  I’ve listed some below for your reference.

  • Caramel coloring made from caramelized sugar, used in cola products and also in cosmetics.
  • Annatto a reddish-orange dye made from the seed of the Achiote. (Some are allergic to this one.)
  • A green dye made from chlorella algae.
  • Cochineal a red dye derived from the cochineal insect, Dactylopius coccus.
  • Betanin extracted from beets.
  • Turmeric (curcuminoids)
  • Saffron (carotenoids)
  • Paprika
  • Elderberry juice
  • Pandan Pandanus amaryllifolius, a green food coloring
  • Butterfly pea Clitoria ternatea, a blue food dye

I see many children in my practice that struggle with attention and hyperactivity.  Those symptoms are often alleviated by removing all artificial sweeteners and dyes from the diets of these children.  In terms of overall health, stick on the edges of the grocery store.  Skip the middle aisle where all of the processed junk is kept.  That is what will contain the dyes you want to avoid.


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Toxins causing ‘grievous harm,’ cancer panel says

Widespread exposure to environmental toxins poses a serious threat to Americans, causing “grievous harm” that government agencies have not adequately addressed, according to a strongly worded report released today by the President’s Cancer Panel, a body of experts that reports directly to President Obama.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 6% of cancer deaths — nearly 34,000 a year — are caused by environmental pollutants.

That number could be much higher, the new report says. Although the report doesn’t give a figure, it says the government has “grossly underestimated” the problem because of a lack of research. Much of the suffering faced by people diagnosed with toxin-related cancer “could have been prevented through appropriate national action,” according to the 240-page report.

The report urges the Obama administration to act, even if the evidence linking cancer and chemicals isn’t definitive. Nearly 80,000 chemicals are used in the country today, many of which are unstudied and “largely unregulated,” the report says.

Children appear to be especially vulnerable, the report says.

The report was produced by cancer specialists LaSalle Lefall and Margaret Kripke, both of whom were appointed by President Bush and who heard from dozens of experts over the past two years. The panel’s third position is vacant.

Reaction to the report was mixed.

Jeanne Rizzo, president of the Breast Cancer Fund, an environmental advocacy group, said the report was “a watershed that could transform federal policy not just on cancer, but on chemicals.”

The American Cancer Society’s Michael Thun called the report “unbalanced” because he said it implied pollution is a major cause of cancer and dismissed prevention efforts. The report “restates hypotheses as if they were established facts,” Thun said in a statement. “It reflects one side of a scientific debate that has continued for almost 30 years.” Thun said he hopes the report won’t confuse Americans about the clearest ways to prevent cancer, such as through healthier living. The American Cancer Society says smoking alone causes far more deaths — more than 168,000 every year.

via Toxins causing ‘grievous harm,’ cancer panel says – USATODAY.com.

Dr. Court’s Comments

I think it’s great that this kind of information is finally starting to get out there.  I routinely recommend that my patients do a bio-detoxification for the reasons mentioned above.

Most of the chemicals that are in our lives have not been studied and no one knows the long term effects of these things.  For every chemical that may be harmless there are likely more that cause cancer.

And what about the chemicals that don’t cause cancer?  What about the chemicals that just affect physiology?  Some cause chronic pain, sensory perception issues, trouble breathing, head aches, joint pain, auto-immune disorders and the list goes on and on.

The fact that these chemicals are all around us makes them very dangerous.  You can’t get away from them.  They get into our soil, water and air.  You eat them, you drink them, and you breath them in.  Over time, some of these chemicals are dangerous and can cause cancer in susceptible individuals.  The problem is there is no way to tell who those susceptible people are.

Also, think about the list of people who don’t get cancer but are destined for a lifetime of suffering with some mystery condition that cannot be figured out because of some chemical exposure.  I routinely see patients who have these mystery conditions and I can almost always attribute it to some environmental exposure.

So the questions is, what can you do to protect yourself?  I always recommend that my patients do a bio-detoxification at least once per year.  Through that program you are able to cleanse you body of many built up toxins.  If you do this regularly, you have less of a chance of these chemicals adversely affecting you.

Secondly, eat a healthy diet.  These chemicals cause cancer by causing free radical damage that alters your DNA.  Free radicals are countered by a diet high in antioxidants.  A diet full of healthy protein, fruits, veggies and nuts will supply you with ample free radical scavenging antioxidants.

Thirdly, take supplements to boost your immunity and antioxidant capacity.  Things like vitamin D, vitamin C, curcumin, and green tea extract have known protective benefits.

Lastly, avoid using necessary chemicals in your life.  Here in the Northeast spring is in full bloom, but that also means the bugs and weeds are out too.  Instead of using the chemical weed and bug killers that are available, use a natural product.  I’ve used both natural weed and bug killer in the past two weeks and they worked great.  The ingredients were nothing more than peppermint, rosemary and thyme oil with a small amount of alcohol in it.

It’s no secret that we are surrounded by chemicals in our daily lives.  We start by getting up in the morning and driving to work in a car fueled by chemicals, printing our daily reports with chemicals and end our day by sitting down and watching our new fancy TVs that are filled with chemicals.  To assume they have no effect is naive.  They not only can cause cancer but also cause other long term health issues.  Do what you can to protect yourself and your family.

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More Terrible Advice Doled out from the ‘Experts’

My receptionist recently read a piece in our local newspaper and brought it to the office for me to see.  I was floored.  It was in ‘Annie’s Mailbox.’  This is an advice column syndicated in many newspapers throughout the country and can be found on the web.  It is a descendant of the Ann Landers’ column from years ago.  This is truly supposed to be an advice column.  I mean, people actually write them and ask for their advice!  I tend to take these columns with a large grain of salt because the people answering them are often not qualified to answer the questions being asked, nor are they qualified to sort through the research, should they do any, while gathering information to supposedly “inform” us.  Below is the text from that article in which a grandmother is concerned for her grandchildren because they eat very poorly.  I have highlighted some of more interesting points.

Dear Annie: My son and his wife have been married 12 years and have two beautiful daughters. But I am terribly concerned about their eating habits. This is doubly difficult, as my daughter-in-law is the boss in this family and thinks she knows everything. My son is no better. He never ate properly when he lived at home, even though we tried. I hoped he would marry someone with better common sense about food.

I have never said anything outright, but I have often subtly tried to let them know how I feel. They eat nothing but pasta. They cook fresh vegetables, but don’t insist that the kids eat them. At Christmas, the 6-year-old wasn’t allowed to have a second dinner roll because it wouldn’t leave room for dessert. The 2-year-old ate olives, pickles and some pie, but wouldn’t touch the ham, mashed potatoes with gravy, or carrot sticks.

Our little grandchildren are often sick and on antibiotics. I can’t count the number of times they have had viruses, colds and ear infections. I don’t even want to go to their home because it upsets me so. What can I do? — Worried Mother

Dear Mother: Believe it or not, your grandchildren are eating just fine. Having an extra roll or mashed potatoes with gravy is no healthier than pickles and olives and has no bearing on their colds and ear infections. A lot of adult eating disorders can be traced back to parents who turned the dinner table into a battlefield. Please trust your son and his wife to care appropriately for their children, and turn a blind eye to the food issues. You can’t win — and you could lose a great deal.

First of all, those children eat terribly if their grandmother is correct in saying all they eat is pasta and no vegetables.  That is the worst thing for humans to eat too much of.  It may not cause problems for young children who have fast metabolisms and need lots of energy to grow, but it sets up extremely poor habits for them as adults.  If they continue on that type of a diet they’ll be overweight and diabetic by the time they are in their forties.

My biggest problem with this article is the ‘advice’ that Annie gives them.  She tells this grandmother that her grandchildren are eating just fine and that what they eat has nothing to do with getting colds and ear infections!  Since when does what you eat have nothing to do with your immune system?  Maybe ‘Annie’ knows something I don’t know.  Well as it turns out ‘Annie’ is two women.  She is either Kathy Mitchell or Marcy Sugar (ironic, huh?).  Both write this column.  It is not spelled out which wrote the advice above but their backgrounds certainly don’t warrant that they should be giving anyone health advice.

Kathy Mitchell’s background is as a typist, secretary and office manager to Eppie Lederer, a.k.a Ann Landers.  Marcy Sugar started her work in the Ann Landers’ office by doing basic research and clerical tasks, then she moved into bookkeeping.  Clearly both of these women are more than qualified to give advice on what is healthy for children to eat, right?

The problem is that too many people take what they read in the newspaper as gospel and the advice that was given in this article is awful.  First of all, what you eat has everything to do with your immunity.  For example, pasta is filled with gluten.  Gluten is a very potent allergen in human beings.  Constantly bombarding a young digestive tract with gluten causes the immune system to focus on the wrong things.  It will focus on allergens rather than viruses and bacterial.  The grandmother states that her grandchildren are constantly getting sick.  If it isn’t the junky diets these kids are eating then what does ‘Annie’ attribute it to?  Are they just sick kids and there’s nothing that can be done about it?  Definitely not.

Secondly, diet is a huge part of immunity for another reason that ‘Annie’ overlooks.  If these children are not eating fruits and vegetables (as is stated in the article) they aren’t getting enough vitamins and minerals to fuel their immune systems.  Vitamin C and vitamin A are too very simple examples of nutrients that are essential for immune function.

Lastly, ‘Annie’ says this in her advice; “You can’t win – and you could lose a great deal.”  What kind of an attitude is that?  What is there to “win?”  This woman clearly wants her grandchildren (and her son and wife) to be healthier.  I understand that ‘Annie’ is saying it could cause a rift within the family and possibly ruin relationships.  But what about the fact that when people eat like this they have higher rates of cancer, diabetes and even death?  Is that not the biggest loss anyone can have?  Is ‘Annie’ suggesting just to give in and watch her family eat it’s way to an early grave?  It appears that way.

Advice columns like this have little merit and hopefully people see through them.  I fear, however, that judging by the popularity of these columns some people actually take them seriously and listen to the advice.  This advice column gives the completely wrong advice saying that those children eat just fine.  They eat the opposite of just fine.  They eat horrible diets and if they aren’t changed, those poor children are in for a lifetime of bad health.

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Antibiotics benefit farm animals, but at what cost?

Should we just say “no” to antibiotics for farm animals?

Your veterinarian hands you a bottle of antibiotics after treating your cat’s abscess. “Finish them all,” he urges. If you fail to comply, you’ll be contributing to the development of antibiotic resistance. In which case it won’t be your cat’s health alone that suffers, but potentially yours, too. All this because of a biological process in which bacteria mutate, deftly avoiding the mechanism by which antibiotics would see them exterminated.

Antibiotic resistance is an emerging threat that has accelerated in recent decades. The rise of the so-called “superbug” (think MRSA) has struck fear in the heart of anyone who would overprescribe, misuse or otherwise abuse antimicrobial drugs.

Physicians, veterinarians, patients and their families have all been put on notice: Overuse antibiotics at the public’s peril.

Still, that hasn’t stopped the animal agriculture industry from feeding hogs and chickens and cattle their daily dose of antimicrobial drugs. Aimed at promoting growth and preventing disease, the use of antibiotics in farm animals has been a boon to animal agriculture. Animals grow bigger, faster and healthier. They succumb to fewer diseases. They need less feed. For a farmer, the calculus is simple: Animals cost less when we spike their feed with drugs to prevent diseases.

If you eat most commercially produced meat, you’ve reaped the benefits, too. You spend less on your protein, and your food supply isn’t as likely to contain excesses of harmful bacteria. The public is well served by our modern methods, it would seem.

But at what cost?

That’s what the Obama administration has been pointedly asking over the past year in its quest to ban antibiotics from being used in healthy animals. These animals don’t need the drugs to treat their diseases. Feeding them a daily dose of drugs only accelerates the onset of a health care crisis the vast majority of the medical establishment agrees is looming.

Indeed, this issue has been decades in the making, meandering through public Senate subcommittee hearings and closed-door FDA sessions. Books have been written. Papers peer-reviewed and published. White papers authored. Commissions formed.

Much like climate change’s plodding progress toward more widespread acceptance, the science underlying modern industrial animal agriculture’s antimicrobial utilization methods has been increasingly questioned over the past few decades. Nonetheless, the findings have only recently gained purchase at the political level.

In large part, that’s thanks to the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming. Consider the following points for a taste of its findings:

1. Up to 70% of U.S. antibiotics go to animals raised on industrial farms that aren’t sick, to offset crowding and poor sanitation. The practice promotes the development of deadly strains of drug-resistant bacteria that can spread to humans.

2. Food-borne bacteria are more dangerous in their antibiotic-resistant forms, because they are harder to treat and may require multiple antibiotic treatments, longer hospital stays and other interventions before finally being eliminated.

3. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria cost the U.S. health care system an estimated $4 billion to $5 billion per year.

4. Each year, 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths are caused by food contaminated by dangerous pathogens and bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli, which are increasingly becoming antibiotic resistant.

… among other frightening results.

But the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), which traditionally supports animal agriculture, disagrees. Here’s an excerpt from its position statement (on the subject of Obama’s proposed ban on non-therapeutic antimicrobials in animal feed):

“This type of broad-based ban is contrary to the practice of veterinary medicine and is not risk-based. As legislation concerning the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture is considered by Congress, it is imperative that decisions be made based upon the science supporting the issue.”

Essentially, my profession’s leading organization says there’s little evidence to show that Point 1 has anything to do with Points 2 through 4. Correlation has been established, as it has for human misuse of antibiotics and the development of bacterial resistance. Causality has yet to be teased out —— something nearly impossible to achieve, whether for human misuse or animal overmedication. Yet it’s on this basis that we are asked to limit our enthusiasm for the obvious: Treat agricultural species like we treat ourselves and our pets. Give them antibiotics only when they’re sick.

Then we’re subjected to the most offensive argument offered by an animal-health-supporting body:

“The AVMA opposes this legislation because it would increase animal disease and death — an unfortunate and unintended consequence — without assurance of improving human health. As defined within the text of the legislation, elimination of “non-therapeutic” uses of antimicrobials would disallow disease prevention and potentially control uses.”

It’s true: The animal agriculture industry keeps infections at a manageable level by tamping them down with routine antibiotic use. If this kind of legislation is enacted, I have no doubt our agricultural animals that currently consume drugs daily will be less healthy in the short term. And, yes, that has implications for human health, animal welfare and the price you pay at the supermarket. (Check out the antibiotic-free meats if you care to compare.)

Nonetheless, I believe the Pew people have put their finger on the pulse of industrial animal agriculture and found it artificially strong. Like me, they see antibiotic use not only as a threat to human health, but as an animal welfare issue in and of itself.

After all, antibiotic use in animal agriculture makes sense primarily because of how we crowd and transport our creatures. Remove the antibiotics, and more animals will surely get sick in the short term. But long-term, that only means the industry will be forced to reform how it houses and ships its “widgets.”

Yes, long-term, I predict the trend toward voluntarily paying more at the supermarket (as some of us do now when we buy our antibiotic-free meats) will become mainstream as we’re forced to revert to meats raised in less intensive, drug-addled, hormone-laced environments — for the good of our public health.

Even if it does shrink the wallet somewhat, how bad can it be if it ultimately means Americans are persuaded to eat less of what we currently overeat?

via Antibiotics benefit farm animals (and people), but at what cost? – USATODAY.com.

Dr. Court’s Comments:

I always recommend that my patients eat as organic as possible.  This includes buying meats that are antibiotic free.  The meat industry in this country has become like every other large industry; it is dominated by large corporations who will stop at nothing to make more money.  This includes mistreating the animals and feeding them drugs and other chemicals so their when they are sold per pound they weigh more and collect more profit.

It is shameful, but it occurs everyday on farms and in slaughter houses around the country.  Let’s forget for a minute that what is done to these animals is not humane and consider the consequences on your health.

Do you want to consume the meat of an animal that has been injected with drugs and chemicals? Where do you think these chemicals go?  If you consume the meat, they go into you, that’s where.  While the antibiotics may reduce bacterial loads in meat it can create problems for you.  It can alter your gut flora causing you to absorb undigested proteins, fungus, parasites and other things that are not conducive with healthy living.

This is not just a question of animal welfare and treatment.  This is a major health problem in the US and changing it would change our meat supply for the better and result in healthier people across the country.

While free range, antibiotic, organic meat is more expensive, it is also much healthier for you.  Isn’t your health worth it?

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Take Our Quiz – 10 questions to find out what you know about the latest health news!

Take our quiz and let us know how many you were able to answer correctly.  If you don’t know the answer, search our blog for it!

1. Q: Discount brands of fish oil were recently found to contain what carcinogenic chemical?

2. Q: A recent study confirmed what treatment was beneficial for depression relief?

A. Massage
B. Chiropractic Adjustments
C. Acupuncture
D. Yoga

3. Q: What genetic disease was recently demonstrated to cause infertility in women?

A. Rheumatoid Arthritis
B. Celiac Disease
C. Cystic Fibrosis
D. Diabetes

4. Q: If you want to improve your brain function, what activity should you participate in?

5. Q: Drinking more than two sodas per week increases the risk of cancer of the…?

A. Pancreas
B. Colon
C. Breast
D. Skin

6. Q: Low levels of what neurotransmitter were found in babies who died of SIDS?

A. Dopamine
B. Glutamate
D. Serotonin

7. Q: Which nutrient was recently shown to be linked to Autism?

A. Vitamin C
B. Vitamin E
C. Vitamin D
D. Vitamin A

8. Q: A new field of study has showed that our genetic make up does not necessarily control our entire health picture.  What is the name of this field of study?

A. Genetics
B. Epigenetics
C. Hypogenetics
D. Engineered genetics

9. Q: Recent epidemiological studies show that the US currently ranks ____ in terms of obesity rates in the world.

A. 1st
B. 2nd
C. 3rd
D. 4th

10. Q: What type of diet is most favorable for reducing inflammation and losing weight?

A. Low fat
B. Low carb
C. Combo of low fat and low carb
D. Low protein

The answers to all of these questions are listed below.  You can find the articles from which they came here on our blog.  Search our tag cloud on our home page for the key words if you want!

ANSWERS: 1. PCBs, 2. C, 3. B, 4. Napping, 5. A, 6. D, 7. C, 8. B, 9. C, 10. B

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Learning to Read Labels

When I put patients on a diet, I routinely ask them to look at the labels when they’re buying various products.  It is not uncommon, however, that people aren’t very efficient readers of food labels.  You know, that small black and white box of letters and numbers on the sides of food containers?  The reason I ask patients to read these is because it contains valuable information on it.  I like people to look at the carbohydrate content because this will be most reflective of whether it is a healthy food or not.  Foods with high carbohydrate content and high amounts of sugar are obviously not healthful.  After several months of reading labels it becomes very natural and you can actually begin to guess what the contents of certain foods are without even looking at the label.

The problem though is that the current food labeling system can be quite confusing.  There are a lot of people that don’t know what a calorie is.  There are a lot of people that don’t know the difference between fat, carbohydrate and protein.  There are a lot of people that don’t know that all three have profoundly different affects in the body when consumed.  Learning these are of utmost importance for being able to understand the nutrition label.

What is a calorie?

The definition of a calorie is a unit of heat equal to the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree at one atmosphere pressure.  Not helpful?  Didn’t think so, but that’s the definition.  Basically a food’s caloric content is measured using this definition and chemical process.  When speaking of food calories we are actually talking about kilocalories because there are other caloric measurements.  The basis of caloric measurements is based on gram calories or 1/1000 of a kilocalorie.  If we used gram calories as the standard, food would contain hundred of thousands of “calories” and would difficult to calculate caloric content.  So, kilocalories are used to measure food and the term -kilo is dropped from the word to give us simply a calorie.  Calories are measured in a ‘calorimeter.’ A substance can be combusted (literally burned) in the presence of oxygen, to measure the amount of heat generated per gram. From such basic measurements, and by extrapolation to mixtures of different ingredients, the ‘calorie count’ can be applied as a measure of the energy derivable from a food source.

Basically, what you need to remember is that a calorie is energy.  We use the energy, or calories, from our food to survive.  They allow us to pump blood, breath, think, etc.  Without calories we cannot survive.

What is Fat, Protein and Carbohydrate?

These are considered the macronutrients and they contain different amounts of calories.  Protein and carbohydrates both contain 4 calories per gram.  Fat contains 9 calories per gram.  Basically what this means is that any amount of fat contains a little more than twice the energy that the same amount of protein and carbohydrates does.  


Protein is used to do a lot of things in the body.  It is used for cell signaling, cell structure, enzymes, neurotransmitters, muscle function and many other things.  It supplies a small amount of energy when needed.  It is very important.


Fats play a vital role in maintaining healthy skin and hair, insulating body organs against shock, maintaining body temperature, and promoting healthy cell function.  It is also a great energy source.  They are also important in that they must be present to absorb the fat soluble vitamins which are vitamin A, D, E and K.


Carbohydrates are the most common source of energy in living things.  Just because they are common, does not mean they are necessary for survival.  There is no such thing as an “essential” carbohydrate.  You can obtain all the energy you need from fats and proteins.  There are, however, essential proteins and fats.

So What’s Wrong with the Current Food Label?

The current food label is confusing and should be set up a little differently.  To see a great example of what it should look like click here and scroll to page 6.  This is from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  There are some things that I agree with on this “new” label and some I do not.

I agree that there needs to be clarification with regards to the amount of calorie in each serving.  People often see 350 calories listed and can’t figure out how much food they can have for their 350 calories.  On the new label clearly stating that there are 350 calories in one serving makes that a little easier.  Secondly, the larger typing on the whole label makes it a lot easier to read.  Thirdly, there are a lot of foods that claim they have whole grain content.  At the top of this new label, companies would be required to tell you how much is whole grain.  In this case, it’s a lowly 2%.  I think that is a great idea because the food industry is getting away with marketing their products a whole grain when it fact they contain very little of it.  I also like the red numbering and lettering letting you know that you should pay attention to what’s been highlighted.  Although I believe they should highlight the total carbohydrate content rather than just the added sugar, it’s a good start.  It’s lets people know they need to pay attention to these things because they are important.  I also like how the major and minor ingredients have been broken down so you can see clearly what this food is actually made up of.  Separating the ingredients by bullets and taking out all the capital letters is also very helpful.  I have many patients with allergies and the allergy information at the bottom would be a life saver for these people.  It’s a great idea to have it listed on every package.

People need to take their own health into their hands and not rely on others to do it for them, but this is a great step in the right direction.  Making the food labels easier to understand would probably help a lot of people manage their diets more effectively.

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Can What You Eat Cause Infertility?

Apparently, the answer is yes.  Recent research has shown that women who have celiac disease are much more likely to have trouble getting pregnant than women who are not gluten sensitive.

Celiac disease is a genetic disorder in which gluten, the main protein found in wheat, is not properly processed.  It causes an autoimmune reaction in the body leading to ulceration and inflammation in the gut.  Symptoms include diarrhea, gas, bloating and fatigue.  A person with celiac disease may be asymptomatic or may have very severe symptoms.  Although wheat is the main offender, gluten is also found in rye, barley and oats.

The reaction the body forms to gluten causes the lining of the small intestine to atrophy.  This problematic because this is the portion of the digestive tract that is most responsible for absorbing nutrients.  If you cannot absorb nutrients your body cannot thrive.

Women with untreated celiac disease are more likely to have problems getting pregnant.  They also will have higher incidences of miscarriage and premature births.  Believe it or not, men will also have issues with fertility if they have celiac disease.  There are also other problems associated with untreated celiac disease for women.  Dr. Sheila Crowe, a professor in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology in the department of medicine at the University of Virginia lists the following problems.

  • Later onset of menstruation
  • Earlier menopause
  • Secondary amenorrhea (a condition in which menses starts but then stops)

These menstrual problems cause a woman to ovulate less which results in a smaller chance of getting pregnant.  Men may also have trouble with fertility as mentioned above.

  • Abnormal sperm (reduced sperm count, altered shape, and reduced function)
  • Reduced testosterone levels

Dr. Crowe recommends that if you and your partner are having trouble getting pregnant, you should both be screened to see if celiac plays a role.  Remember, you may not have symptoms and still have celiac disease.  The test is a relatively simple blood test.  Be sure to continue to eat gluten throughout because if you go gluten free before the blood test it may not show up.  If the blood test comes back positive, a tissue biopsy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.  The pathologist will look at the cellular lining of the small intestine to confirm that there is in fact atrophy.

Treatment for celiac is relatively simple.  Avoid gluten.  This is becoming more and more common place and grocery store chains are starting to carry more foods that are gluten free.  A simple diet change is enough to solve this problem.

Low Carb is Still the Way to Go

A large portion of carbohydrate products are made from grain.  The most common grain used is wheat and wheat contains large amounts of gluten.  I am huge proponent of low carbohydrate diets for overall health.  While celiac disease might cause auto-immune reactions that disrupt fertility, obesity is also a known risk factor for infertility.  Women who are obese are 43% less likely to conceive a child than normal weight or even overweight people. If you think about this in terms of evolution it makes sense.  A woman who is obese is less likely to survive child birth because of the strain it puts on the body.  It is not unreasonable to assume that the lower rates of pregnancy in obese women is some sort of protective measure, evolutionarily speaking.

Research has shown that low carbohydrate diets are more effective for losing weight and improving measurable health outcomes over the traditional low fat diet.  See our old post. If you are having trouble conceiving a child and you are significantly overweight you should try losing weight and possibly think about getting tested for celiac disease.  These are efforts you should undertake before considering fertility treatments.

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