"How much is your day worth?": Fighting the Flu

Above:  Vitamin C, PC, Echinacea, StJohnsWort, Eleuthero, OnGuard and hiding in back... elderberry tea (notice how dark it is!)

Let's be honest.  You are going to get the flu at some point.  Even the best research points to a 50% reduction in risk with the flu vaccine, which is not a 100% risk reduction.  Case in point, 2014-2015 when the flu variant drifted.  To understand more about antigenic drift and antigenic shift, read this.  What this means is that if you had 100 lives to live, each year your baseline risk of flu is about 10 out of 100.  With a flu vaccine you cut this to 5 out of 100.  It is also important to note that the flu vaccine takes several weeks to display protection. 

So to me the first idea is to accept that no matter what you do, there is always a risk of getting the flu.  The real question is, are there herbs, supplements, and practices that can enhance recover?  Remember influenza is accompanied with a significant amount of fatigue which can last 3-4 weeks to fully recover from.  3 to 4 week?  1/12 of a year?  Are you kidding me?  This is not acceptable to me.  One reason is that I value and appreciate every day that I have on this planet and prefer not to spend anymore days being in a lower energy state than is absolutely required.  The second is that as a Doctor, I want to be there for my patients and when I am sick I can't help them get strong and healthy.  Sick Doctors can't help sick people.  

So what's in my tool bag to fight of influenza and the related fatigue?  Before we get to the list, I want to acknowledge that there are many herbs, supplements etc. which can fight off influenza and the related fatigue associated with it.  What I don't like doing is giving the false illusion that I am doing EVERY SINGLE THING in the world and if you don't do every herb, supplement etc to fight the flu than you are not trying hard enough.  That's silly and not productive.  Therefore I like to keep my list concise and honest.  

Here's what I am using and here is a review article that hits on a few of the mechanisms

Liposomal vitamin C -  8- 16 grams per day

AlliMAX- 3 (180mg caps) 2x per day

MediHerb Echinacea - 1tsp 6x per day #notatypo 

MediHerb St. Johns Wort 1tsp TID

MediHerb Eleuthro- 1 tsp TID

OnGuard by Doterra 5 drops TID

Elderberry, green tea, or marsala chai

Low Carb, high fat, moderate protein diet.  

Sleep, Rest and non-stressful environment

Obviously there are other things I could be using like Chinese skullcap etc.  But this is what I am currently using.   

Free Meditation, Autogenics, and Self-regulation

Breathing, Movement/mobility, autogenics (AT), meditation, EFT, etc.  The list can go on and on and on for the different types of stress reducing practices that exist.  What's important to know is that different stress reduction modalities may work better for different people.  This idea was first put forth (to my knowledge) by Jonathan C. Smith.  

One modality that I love is a form of self-hypnosis called autogenics.  Autogenics was created by neurobiologist Johannes Heinrich Shultz in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  It is widely practiced in Europe, Russian, and Japan.  

Schultz identified two distinct sensations, heaviness and warmth, as sensations that patients reported post-hypnosis.  He argued that the participant, not the hypnotist, were inducing these changes and that through training they could be strengthened and achieved quicker.  

It's important to note that AT is about "self-control" and non-forced physiological changes in muscle tension and blood flow.  When implementing AT we are concentrating on sensations in our body, but we are not actively trying to change them, but rather passively ALLOWING change to naturally happen.  

Here you will find a 15 minute sensation of autogenics with my voice.  Please be responsible and judicious with your stress reducing practice.  Use common sense.  Do not listen to this while driving.  


Are high protein diets harmful to the kidneys?

To add to the mounting research on protein diets and kidney health, another study was performed.  For an introduction to the whole discussion, I recommend reading Chris Kresser's post on protein and kidney health and this post over at Precision Nutrition on protein diets in relation to those with diabetes and hypertension.  This most recent study by Jose Antonio's research group observed 14 males athletes for a year and had them do a randomized cross-over trial, where they would eat normal protein or high protein for 6 months and track blood markers such as cholesterol, kidney filtration rates, and more.  

Before we go on,  I think it's important to first understand what is a high protein diet.  The baseline level for most nutrition societies is 0.8 grams per kg of body-weight.  This study used between 2.5 and 3.3 grams of protein per kg of body-weight, which is 3-4x the baseline recommendation.  It's important to always be calculating protein in this manner as it is more accurate than saying "people ate 15-35% of calories from protein" because people have different body-weights.  It should also be noted that the amount of protein the athletes were eating in the normal phase would still be considered high by many people in the nutrition field.  

The participants tracked their food 3x per week using the MyFitnessPal App on their phones and most of the additional protein was supplied by whey protein powder.  Five blood test were sampled and analyzed pre/during/post the high protein intervention.  Body composition was taken using the oh-so-sexy BodPod.  Results showed no significant changes in kidney, liver, or blood markers nor did body composition change. 

Now this study is far from perfect and has many limitations: Sample size, gender, age, not controlling for training volume, self-reporting, etc. But to me, it adds more skepticism to the idea that protein is inherently damaging to our kidneys.  Do you want to know what damages your kidneys?  High blood pressure and diabetes!!!  Don't get those!  

Lead and ADHD

Let me be honest, we are exposed to more chemicals at sub-lethal doses than any generation in the history of the planet.  We are not receiving acute, high-level doses, like soldiers of World War I did with mustard gas, but this slow accumulation of metals, flame retardants and other chemicals is negatively effecting our health.  One reaction that I commonly see among my patients is to be afraid of the toxicity present in the environment.  I definitely am not a Doctor who believes that we should live in fear and be paralyzed in this world because everything is so "TOXIC".  What I do hope to achieve is to inspire people to take reasonable steps toward reducing their total body burden, as well as inspire those with the dream to take political action to create stricter regulations and laws for the use of these chemicals.  

Heavy metals are associated with a magnitude of diseases.  One disease that has risen quite dramatically in the past 20 years but appears to be stabilizing in its prevalence is ADHD.  ADHD displays a hyper-active type, an in-attentive type, and an impulsive type.   

Children are more susceptible to heavy metals as their ability to eliminate toxins is reduced.  This paper by huang et al. assessed blood lead levels in over 500 Mexican children.  The mean blood level for these children was 3.4 micrograms/deci-liter.  It's important to know that no blood level of lead is safe and any level of exposure can cause neurological symptoms like fatigue, sluggishness, learning delays, and more.  The research team showed that levels less than 5 micrograms/deci-Liter were positively associated with hyperactive and impulsive behaviors.    

This study was not an RCT and must be taken with a grain of salt.  Therefore we can't say that lead causes ADHD.  In reality it will be very hard to create such a study to prove this as it would be unethical to give lead to one group of children and no-lead to another and assess ADHD outcomes.  What we do have though is a tragedy that can provide us with insight.  The children of Flint, Michigan.   There are literally hundreds of stories to select from but the results all cluster around leads effects on the brain.

It's important to remember that lead is not meant to stay in the blood, but would be sequestered predominantly in the bones and other tissues to protect the body.  One thing that mobilizes lead from the body is sweat making exercise and sauna extremely effective solutions for reducing total body burden for the more chronic patient, however if a patient has much higher levels, specific treatment is indicated, including finding the exposure and stopping it.

If you have a loved one who you are concerned about regarding their neurological health, from ADHD to dementia, consider having them ask their doctor to check their blood lead levels as a simple heavy metal screen could be life-saving.  


Male Fertility, Sperm Strength and a Thought on Organic Food

For far too long woman have been blamed for 100% of infertility.  In reality we know that men can contribute up to 33% of infertility.  If you don't have healthy, strong swimmers, your ability to fertilize an egg will be less than optimal.  

So why do some men have less sperm counts than others, (quantity), and why do some men have more mobile well differentiated sperm (quality)?  Is the quantity and quality of sperm affected by lifestyle factors such as diet?  

Last week I came across a paper looking at a few of these questions.  This research team had a simple question.   Is consumption of fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residues associated with lower semen quality?

In this prospective cohort study, a group of 155 males provided about 2 sperm samples each.  When men provide sperm samples to the fertility clinic they are assessing the quantity and quality of the sperm samples.  

Unfortunately, this trial was not a Randomized Controlled trial where we provide food to one group that is high in pesticides and another that is low in pesticides.  That would actually be unethical to do.  (For more on unethical research see the Tuskegee Air Corp story.  Atrocious.)  Therefore we are left with incomplete data.  Men are filling out food surveys and questionnaires and we know that reporting is less than ideal.  

Regardless an association was found between high pesticide fruit and vegetable consumption and poor sperm quality.   Men who consumed the highest amount of pesticides had an almost 50% reduction in sperm count and 1/3 of their sperm cells were considered not properly shaped.  

These findings continue to add weight to the argument that organic food is about less pesticides, not necessarily higher nutrient contents.  If you know any couples that are struggling with fertility, please share this article and research paper with them.  We have a lot of issues in the world that need improving and we need healthy, strong, resilient people to solve them.   


Bitters For SIBO. Beyond Rifaximin

It's currently trendy to talk about the Gut-Brain Axis (GBA) when microbes interact with our food, and then modulate our neurotransmitters in the brain.  What is important to include in the  conversation is the idea that the Gut Brain Axis is a 2-way street.  

When you drink coffee (black coffee) the bitter compounds in coffee bind to bitter receptors in your tongue.  This activates you digestives system to start contracting (peristalsis) and enhances the secretion of digestive juices and enzymes.  This mechanism is designed for survival so that you vomit up something that would otherwise be poisonous to your body.

Low grade activation of these bitter receptors through ingestion of bitter foods and herbs are wonderful strategies to help tonify the digestive system and the enteric nervous system.  This is particularly important in my patients who have SIBO or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.  

IF you have IBS, please schedule an appointment.  There is a lot more to SIBO than just Rifaximin.