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Oct 20, 2011

Omega-3 Fats Associated With Reduced Rates of Colon Cancer

Regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is known to be associated with numerous health benefits.  A recent preliminary investigation has revealed that higher omega-3 intake may be associated with lower risk of colon cancer in some population groups.

In a study population of 1,500 white and 370 black participants, including some with and some without colon cancer, researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle (NIEHS) noted a particularly significant correlation between omega-3 fatty acid consumption and lowered risk of this cancer.  The protective effects of omega-3s were especially strong in those of European ancestry.  Over the period of 1 year, participants provided data on eating habits in the form of various questionnaires.  Colon cancer rates were reduced by nearly 40% in white participants consuming high levels of omega-3s, but the same effect was not observed in black participants.   

Being one of the first studies of its kind, more research is certainly needed to thoroughly understand the connection between omega-3 fats and protective benefits in various ethnic groups.  

Dr. Shana McQueen


Resveratrol: Breast Cancer Fighter

Red wine has long been associated with potential health benefits for those that enjoy it, along with a sense of satisfaction and tradition that can come with sipping just a little bit with dinner.  One of red wine’s most important constituents, resveratrol, has been getting a lot of press lately.  Resveratrol is a stilbenoid phenol found in grape skins, acting as a powerful antioxidant shown to improve longevity in multiple studies.  Recently, researchers from the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Calabria in Italy performed a study that provided evidence of resveratrol’s efficacy in fighting breast cancer.  The study was published in The FASEB Journal.  

The researchers exposed an experimental group of cancer cells to a resveratrol solution, while leaving the control group unexposed.  The experimental group showed substantial reduction in growth, while the control group showed no significant changes.  Upon further investigation, the experimental cells’ lack of growth was tied to a suppression of estrogenic receptors on the surface of the cells.

So what does this mean for individuals wanting to reduce their chances of breast cancer?  Gerald Weissmann, MD and Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, states that "These findings are exciting, but in no way does it mean that people should go out and start using red wine or resveratrol supplements as a treatment for breast cancer...What it does mean, however, is that scientists haven't finished distilling the secrets of good health that have been hidden in natural products such as red wine." 

Several studies have recommended a glass of red wine with meals at least several times a week, while others have concluded that as little as one glass of alcohol daily increases risk for breast cancer and other cancers.  For those wanting to avoid consumption of alcohol, a good quality resveratrol supplement may be something to consider as a preventive.  Due to the multifactorial nature of any health condition, including breast cancer, there is usually no single silver bullet to guarantee a desired outcome.  So whether or not you decide to include some form of resveratrol in your life, don’t forget that a comprehensive approach is always best when aiming to lower risk for breast cancer.  A healthy, fiber-rich diet, optimal vitamin D levels, regular exercise and stress management, and overall enjoyment in life are some of the foundational elements of wellness and disease prevention.    

Dr. Shana McQueen


More Research Supporting Link Between Diet and Mental Health

When it comes to mental health, there is stacking evidence that diet plays a significant role.  In a recent Australian study published online in PLoS One, researchers investigated the link between better diet and better mental health in adolescents.  

Mental health in young people is a topic that warrants serious attention since about 75% of lifetime psychiatric disorders typically emerge in the teenage or early adult years.  A recent national survey focusing on teens between the ages of 13 and 18 revealed that over 22% of them had experienced some clinically-significant problem related to mental health.        

Pursuing their interest in the relationship between diet and mental health in young people, researchers collected data in the form of a survey from more than 2,000 teens regarding nutrition, mental health, physical activity, and perception of both home and school environment.  At the beginning of the study, all participants were between the ages of 11 and 18 years.  Data was collected in 2005-2006 and repeated in 2007-2008.  Researchers assigned diet scores to participants based on the quality of their diet, where a healthy diet included one with 2 or more servings of fruit daily, 4 or more servings of vegetables daily, and avoidance of processed foods like chips, fried food, sweets, chocolate, and ice cream.  An unhealthy diet was defined as one high in processed foods.  Researchers correlated the assigned diet scores to the emotional functioning subscale of the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory, a tool used to assess children’s mental health.  

Results of this study show that over a 2-year period, the teens who were able to make improvements in their diet experienced parallel improvements in mental health.  Mental health status deteriorated in teens whose diets became of lower quality over time.  Dr. Felice Jacka, PhD and principal investigator for this particular study as well as several similar studies, points out that teenage depression may be prevented through nutritious diet.  “In this study we show that a good quality diet at baseline predicts better mental health at follow-up, even after adjustments for diet quality at follow-up, sociodemographic variables, exercise, and most importantly, mental health at baseline.”   

Dr. Shana McQueen 


Oct 11, 2011

Aspirin intake is Related to Macular Degeneration

A study in Ophthalmology suggests that seniors who take aspirin to prevent heart disease may be at a greater risk for macular degeneration. The study showed that seniors who took aspirin daily were twice as likely to get late stage macular degeneration. The study consisted of 4,700 people over the age of 65 of many different ethnic backgrounds including Norwegian, Estonian, British, French, Italian, Greek and Spanish seniors.  Out of 839 seniors who took aspirin daily 36 or 4.3 percent had an advanced form of wet macular degeneration. The dry form of macular degeneration is not connected to aspirin use.
A healthy alternative for heart health would be norwegian fish oil. 

Deborah A. Wiancek, N.D.

Can you increase Longevity & Vitality?

Is it possible to control your health, longevity and Vitality?  The answer is yes by looking at your telomeres. A telomere is the DNA at the end of a chromosome, which protects the chromosome from deterioration.  Studies suggest that telomeres are responsible for aging on the cellular level and set a limit on lifespan.  Telomeres protect cell chromosomes from fusing with each other or rearranging.  Telemere abnormalities can lead many age related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, many cancers including pancreatic, bone, prostate, bladder, lung, kidney, and head and neck and pulmonary and hepatic fibrosis are linked to shortened telomeres.
In 2009 researchers (Blackburn, Grieder & Seustak) received the Noble Prize in Physiology of Medicine for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telemeres.
A study published in the May 3, 2005 issue of the American Heart Association journal Circulation found that weight gain and increased insulin resistance were correlated with telomere shortening over time.  Type-two-diabetes is also associated with a shorter telomere length. Psychological stress is directly linked to telomere length the greater the stress the shorter the telomere length and the greater the risk for psychiatric disease.  Women with the highest amounts of stress had the shortest telomeres.  We can change the length of our telemeres and thus increase our life span.
In 2008, Dr. Dean Ornish of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and colleagues at the University of California at San Francisco conducted a study of 30 men with low-risk prostate cancer on the possible effects of lifestyle changes on telomeres. The findings of the study were published in The Lancet Oncology. The men were asked to make several lifestyle changes, including attending a three-day retreat; eating a diet low in refined sugars and rich in whole foods, fruits, and vegetables, with only 10 percent of calories derived from fat; and engaging in several other activities, such as moderate aerobic exercise, relaxation techniques and breathing exercises. Telomerase levels were measured at baseline, and again after three months, when researchers discovered that, in the 24 participants with sufficient data for analysis, telomerase in the blood had increased by 29 percent. The authors commented that "The implications of this study are not limited to men with prostate cancer. Comprehensive lifestyle changes may cause improvements in telomerase and telomeres that may be beneficial to the general population as well."
The larger the telemere length the longer we live.

Vitamin D Prevents Many Different Cancers

Are you getting enough Vitamin D from sun exposure?  Many of my patients are landscapers, ski instructors’ and construction workers.  These are individuals who get hours of sun exposure a day.  Yet, when we check their vitamin D levels they are low.  So why is vitamin D important?  Many studies are showing that vitamin D can prevent breast cancer, colon cancer, asthma, flu and even osteoporosis.  Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with other diseases such as rickets, osteomalacia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, infectious disease, hypertension and even heart disease.
In fact, it's a global problem, whether you're in Brazil, Australia, Mexico or United States we are all at risk of vitamin D deficiency.  Vitamin D deficiency is probably one of the most common medical problems, worldwide. Fifty eight percent of the women today with osteoporosis are deficient in vitamin D.
Studies also show that patients who are obese tend to be low in vitamin D.  The researchers examined the relationship between serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D and BMI in 740 cancer patients presenting at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America between January and June 2008. The study showed the heavier the person the greater risk for cancer and the greater risk for vitamin D deficiency. 
Another study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that vitamin D deficiency was found to be prevalent among cancer patients regardless of nutritional status, suggesting that screening for vitamin D deficiency and vitamin D repletion should be considered for all cancer patients. 
A study in the Journal of Oncology 2009 stated that low vitamin D levels were associated with poor outcomes in patients with breast cancer.  A Canadian study on vitamin D and breast cancer risk was published recently stating that vitamin D is safe and important strategy in lowering breast cancer risk. The study included about 6,500 women between the ages of 25 and 74. Approximately half the women were diagnosed with breast cancer and half were not. According to the study results, a vitamin D supplement intake greater than 400 IU/day compared with no vitamin D supplement intake, reduces the risk of breast cancer by about 25%. Other studies demonstrating that raising one's serum level of vitamin D can lower the risk of breast cancer and breast cancer recurrence.

Published in the January 30 Article in Press issue of the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the researchers examined 2 previous studies — the Harvard Nurses Health Study and the St. George's Hospital Study. They found that patients with the highest blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D had the lowest risk for breast cancer.  The investigators found that patients with serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D of approximately 52 ng/mL had a 50% lower risk for breast cancer than those with serum measuring less than 13 ng/mL.
A study in the British Medical Journal showed that high vitamin D levels are linked to a forty percent reduction in colon cancer.  A meta-analysis found that raising the serum level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D to 34 ng/mL would reduce the incidence rates of colorectal cancer by half.  There may be a two-thirds reduction in incidence of colorectal cancer  with serum levels of 46 ng/mL."
Another study showed that that you have a 50% less risk of having your first myocardial infarction if you are vitamin-D sufficient. Heart disease is the number one killer in men and woman today.  We may be able to cut that risk by simply getting patients vitamin D levels checked. 
And why should you get your vitamin D levels checked? Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin therefore it stays in your blood stream longer so you do not want to take too much because it can be toxic.  Therefore it is best to get your vitamin D levels check to be at the optimal range to prevent breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis etc.  This is an inexpensive way to prevent many health problems in the future.

Oct 3, 2011

The Lung Channel

With the start of the fall season, the energy within our body returns to the beginning of the flow- the Lung Channel.  Within the body are 12 meridians and 8 extraordinary vessels.  The vessels are rivers, broad and deep, carrying the living energy, or qi.  These vessels supply the 12 meridians, which then transport the qi to all the limbs and points on the body.  The flow of energy begins with the Lung channel, also known as the hand Greater Yin channel.  It runs from the upper chest near the shoulder to the tip of the thumb.  The Lung in Chinese medicine is responsible for many p rocesses in the body. 
In addition to respiration, the lung regulates the “Wei Qi” or protective qi shield that helps keep out toxins and pathogens.  Often during this time of year, if the Lung energy is weak, people experience more colds and flu.  It regulates the skin and hair, ensuring that the pores open and close at appropriate times, as well as controlling perspiration.  In concert with the Kidneys and Spleen, the Lung regulates the body fluids, ensuring the skin and hair is well supplied with natural moisture.

The nature of the Lung is Yin, or solid- Yin organs store energy, and the lung is no exception, storing and distributing the qi of the upper chest (known as “Zhong qi”) and controlling the voice.  In the system of the Five Transformations (known typically, if incorrectly as the “Five Elements”), the Lung has the nature of Metal- which mirrors the season of Autumn.  Condensing, sinking, and nurturing, in the same way that the energy of Autumn descends, condenses, and prepares the Earth for gentle sleep.  By understanding the nature of the Lung channel, we can see why there are certain maladies that typically present during the early fall- dry skin, allergies and colds, as well as cough and loss of voice.  If someone has a weak Lung, they will be more susceptible to these imbalances, but with acupuncture and herbs, the Lung can be strengthened and balanced. 
Some tips to keep the Lung and Lung channel healthy include deep breathing exercise- sink those shoulders and drop the breath to the dan tien (navel)!  Make sure you are drinking more water- if you are dehydrated, the lung cannot distribute moisture properly, and dry skin can result.  And make sure you are taking herbs to assist the Lung in keeping your Wei Qi shield strong (Jade Windscreen Powder, or Yi Ping Feng San is great for this time of year).  

Dustin Bergman, L.Ac

Fire and Water- Qigong Essentials

In the practice of Qigong, beginning practitioners spend a large quantity of their time thinking about Yin and Yang, but often times do not think about Fire and Water, or Kan and Li respectively.  Yin, the female, dark, and solid energy and Yang the male, bright and intangible are both important concepts, but Kan and Li (Fire and Water) are of equal or greater importance.

Fire (Kan) is the expansive motivating “hot” characteristic within the body.  While it is important to have a certain amount of Fire, too much can lead to problems.  One of these is called “Energy Dispersion,” and manifests later in life.  An example is a body builder, who builds up a large quantity of Fire over the course of developing large muscles.  As this person ages, the Fire will burn out the person’s body, leading to muscle atrophy, inflammation, joint pain, and ill health.

Water (Li) is the characteristic of cooling, condensing and stillness within the body.   Just as in nature, the quality of the Water is as important as the quantity.  If the practitioner’s mind is clouded with excess thoughts or emotions, the quality of their water will be murky or turbid.  If there is too much Fire in the body, the practitioner’s Water will be burned off too quickly.  Too much Water can lead to lethargy, heaviness, and poor memory.

The Qigong practitioner should make it their goal to balance Kan and Li- decreasing the amount of Fire, and improving the *quality* of their Water.  A good analogy is a pot on a stove, filled with water.  The water should be brought to a nice simmer, not so hot the water all boils off, but not cool enough that the fire goes out.   By practicing the proper Qigong breathing methods, the practitioner can regulate their Kan and Li, and take their experience to the next level.

Dustin Bergman, L.Ac

Exopathogenic Influences and Seasonal Illness

Chinese medicine has a very long and effective history of describing and treating various illnesses.  One of the most common maladies affecting humans is invasion by various pathogens.  In Chinese medicine, there are two types of pathogenic invasions, heat and cold.  All external pathogens require Wind (an energetic concept rather than literal windy weather) to penetrate the Wei Qi (our protective shield).  The saying in Chinese medicine goes “Wind is the tip of the spear that allows the pathogen to invade.”  Once inside the body’s shield, the exopathogen will take on the characteristics of either heat or cold.  

A wind heat pathogen will generally manifest as a sore throat with sharp pain, fever with no sweats, rasping cough, and body aches.  This is generally a “flu” presentation.  Treatment of Wind Heat is effected by prompt acupuncture treatment and the formula “Yin Qiao San.”

Wind cold will generally manifest as a dull sore throat with stuffy nose, post nasal drip, cough and sneeze with body aches.  There are also chills with no fever or sweating.  This is generally a “common cold” presentation, and treatment is effected with gentle diaphoresis (sweating), acupuncture, and the formula “Gui Zhi Tang” (Cinnamon Twig Decoction).

In the Fall season, especially August 8th to November 8th, the lung is very susceptible to Wind invasion.  To help prevent exopathogens from entering the body, it is wise to protect the back of the neck.  This point, known as the “Jade Pillow” is a common location for Wind to enter.  When going outside, use a scarf or hood to cover and protect this area.  You can strengthen your body’s own protective shield with the formula “Yu Ping Feng San” (Jade Windscreen Powder), taking 3 caps three times daily.  And finally, ensure your body is strong and healthy, nourish your body, don’t skip meals, and get enough vitamins and minerals.  We can help you stay healthy and free from Exopathogenic Influences with preventative acupuncture and naturopathic treatments here at Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic.  Call and schedule your appointment today!

Dustin Bergman, L.Ac