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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
The Center for Science in the Public Interest is claiming that the FDA is not upholding the law for the following reasons:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Court’s Comments
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.
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.
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?
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?