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How Poor Gut Health Fuels Inflammation and Fatigue

Posted By Administration, Thursday, June 25, 2009
Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014

Recently I was speaking with a group of physicians at a meeting for the North Carolina Integrative Medicine Society.  At one point, one of my colleagues listed the 25 most commonly reported problems that had been seen at the Carolina Center for Integrative Medicine over the past decade. Two conditions topping the list were fatigue and digestive problems such as diarrhea, malabsorption, and leaky gut—a condition whereby the intestinal tissues become damaged (often through a combination of poor diet and stress), allowing toxins to trickle into the bloodstream and compromise one’s health. 

It turns out that a leaky gut can be closely linked to the top medical complaint of all time, fatigue.  How these two are related, as explained in a report published in the 29 December 2008 issue of Neuro Endocrinology Letters, is that leaky gut sets the stage for whole-body inflammation and oxidative stress (an excess of toxic free radicals), and this in turn promotes fatigue.  Chronic, low-level inflammation is also what underlies fibromyalgia and other medically unexplained conditions.  It also plays a key role in the genesis of cancer, heart disease, and many other common disorders. 

In this recent study—designed to confirm findings from a 2007 study of the same issue—Martine Maes and his colleagues at the Clinical Research Center for Mental Health in Belgium, measured blood levels of certain antibodies against LPS, a toxin linked with “bad bugs” or disease-causing microbes in the intestines.  The researchers measured levels of LPS antibodies before and after receiving a combination of supplements that help control inflammation and oxidative stress—namely glutamine, N-acetyl cysteine and zinc—in conjunction with a “leaky gut diet” (gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free) over the course of 10 to 14 months. The diet and supplement regimen resulted in a significant reduction in the LPS antibody levels, and this in turn was associated with a reduction in chronic fatigue. 

The results support the view that leaky gut, along with the systemic inflammation it generates, may be key factors in the chronic fatigue syndrome.  By patching up the leaky gut—something that can be accomplished with glutamine and other supplements—and reducing the oxidative and inflammatory stress, one can have a major impact on this condition. 

Why is this such a significant study?  Millions of Americans have an overgrowth of "bad bugs" in the gut, which in turn contributes to the leaky gut and low-level chronic inflammation described above.  These types of problems have been a major focus of my medical practice since I opened the doors at the Carolina Center 15 years ago.  Based on our records, we estimate that at least 75% of patients who come here are suffering from varying degrees of this problem—an imbalance in intestinal bacteria, which very often perpetuates leaky gut and fatigue.

A Success Story:  Jenny Rawlings


I’ve just explained how, by adhering to a diet and supplement plan that helps heal the gut, you can often recover a high level of energy and vitality.  Let me now share a story of one of my patients who was able to benefit from this approach. 

Jenny Rawlings is a 45-year-old woman who first came to see me two years ago for chronic fatigue and an achy bodily condition known as fibromyalgia.  Prior to her first visit at the Carolina Center, she had gone to numerous physicians for help.  After two years of declining health, none of the eight specialists she had seen could tell her what was wrong with her.  “I couldn't sleep, I was in constant pain, my limbs would go numb periodically,” Jenny recalls.  She was also suffering from stroke-like episodes. “When I couldn't say what was in my brain or the words would come out all jumbled. I knew I had Fibromyalgia, but I believed there was something else wrong as well.” 

I explained to Jenny that Fibromyalgia was a chronic, whole-body inflammatory condition that often coincided with gut-based problems such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and chronic intestinal infections.  When I evaluated her at the Carolina Center, I found that she had an extremely severe yeast infection, leaky gut, low hormone levels (including thyroid hormone and progesterone), deficits in certain vitamins and minerals, and very high levels of heavy metals.  All of those factors had combined to give Jenny a severly compromised immune system, making her vulnerable to a host of microbes. 

“My body couldn't fight off anything,” Jenny says.  “The testing that was performed by Dr. Pittman gave me a much clearer indication of what was wrong with me.  Those tests, which were blood and urine tests, were very simple, and yet the problems they identified seemed profoundly important.  It frustrated me no end that none of the eight doctors I'd seen previously asked for such a comprehensive panel.” 

Jenny then received several courses of intravenous vitamins to quickly build up her nutritional reserves and help reboot her immune system.  She also started a regimen of anti-fungal treatments, thyroid medication and progesterone, and she adjusted her pain and sleeping medications.  The recommended supplements included probiotics, Krebs magnesium, and vitamins B, C, D, and E.  I recommended that she try to follow a gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free diet to starve the yeast in her body.  She also started a colon cleanse and began colon hydrotherapy, because her colon had become a source of tremendous toxicity.  After her yeast infection was under control, she underwent chelation therapy to remove the heavy metals.  Lastly, she worked with a personal trainer to build strength and help compensate for her Fibromyalgia. 

Jenny says she started feeling better immediately after receiving the intravenous vitamins, and then noticed a huge shift in her energy and well-being within a month of starting treatment.  Nevertheless, it wasn’t all fun and game.  The yeast die-off reaction from the anti-fungal medications was severe, causing her to feel disoriented for a short period of time.  “Once that was behind me, and once I was completely on the special diet, I immediately began feeling much better,” she recalls. “My brain fog started to clear up and some of my energy returned.  I lost fifteen pounds that I had gained from adverse reactions to Lyrica.  It was like I had entered into a totally new body, a new experience of life.” 

Jenny improved steadily over the course of nine months.  Today her fibromyalgia episodes are less frequent and much shorter in duration.  The yeast infection is gone, and her immune system is greatly improved.  This winter, everyone else in Jenny’s family has had severe colds and flus, and yet she never came down with a single ailment, even though she was taking care of her family members.  “The old me would have been sick for months,” she says, smiling. 

Jenny’s recovery was by no means a "quick fix”.  It took a tremendous amount of commitment on her part, along with plenty of support from the Carolina Center’s dedicated staff.  But she says all the work has paid off in many more ways than one, and she is deeply grateful for this new lease on life.  “Last year, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to work again,” she says.  “This year, I’m starting my own business. I’m not only better but much more educated about my health, my body, and what it takes to be healthy and strong in today’s world.” 

To reach Dr. Pittman, or to obtain more information on his integrative approach to digestive health, contact the Carolina Center for Integrative Medicine in Raleigh, NC at 919-571-4391, or visit the website at

Tags:  fatigue  gut health  inflammation 

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Alternatives to Statin Drugs to Lower Cholesterol

Posted By Administration, Thursday, June 25, 2009
Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014

Safe Alternative to Statin Medications

Gina Nick, ND, PhD

CNN just repDr_ginaorted on a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, supporting previous research that red yeast rice extract paired with a healthy lifestyle is a safe and effective alternative to popular statin medication therapy (e.g. Crestor,Lipitor and Zocor), particularly in patients who suffer from muscle pain as a result of taking this class of cholesterol lowering drugs.  Red yeast rice contains a naturally occurring lovastatin called monacolin K, however it is only one of a plethora of compounds found within this natural medicine, that work in harmony to lower the production of cholesterol in the liver.  As with most natural medicines, you cannot isolate a single compound and attain the full spectrum of healing that is part and parcel to administering natural substances in their whole, unadulterated form.  There is a whole that is greater then the sum of its parts. 

In any case, it is nice to see research being published, albeit not perfect (the study was small and of short duration), to support what licensed Naturopathic Medical Doctors see clinically in their practice everyday.  The study author Dr. David Becker MD cautions against running out to buy a red yeast rice extract at your local health food store.  He advises working with a doctor if you are trying to lower your cholesterol and are seeking an alternative to statin medications. There are effective natural therapies for lowering cholesterol, and licensed Naturopathic Medical Doctors are trained to customize their treatment protocols to the individual patient for safe and optimal results.

In health,

-Dr. G

Tags:  cholesterol  statin 

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Low Dose Naltrexone

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014

By Ronald Hoffman, MD

DrRHoffman Twenty-five years ago, when I was first entering practice, the AIDS epidemic was beginning to rage. We had no weapons to combat the ravaging virus. Anti-retroviral drugs had not been invented yet. We tried herbs, intravenous vitamins, ozone therapy . . . they helped some, but patients continued to sicken and die.

Around that time, an innovative New York MD named Dr. Bernard Bihari proposed an ingenious treatment: Low-dose naltrexone (LDN). He was instantly celebrated by New York's gay community as an innovator, and AIDS patients flocked to LDN.

By the 90's, powerful drugs supplanted "guerilla tactics" like LDN as first-line therapy for AIDS, and LDN was virtually forgotten. But lately, LDN has been making a comeback.

In 2007, I wrote an article with pharmacist Skip Lenz about the potential for LDN to treat multiple sclerosis.

"Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN) and MS" appeared in Action Online, a publication of the United Spinal Association.

What is LDN? LDN is a very low-dose version of a drug used to break dependency in heroin addicts. Dr. Bihari discovered that, when used in small amounts, naltrexone blocks the natural "high" obtained via the body's own endorphins--"feel-good" neuro-chemicals produced by healthy persons. Endorphins reinforce the body's response to pain, injury, exercise, and stress. They positively impact immunity and facilitate healing.

The key to LDN's beneficial effects is its short duration of action. Taken at bedtime, it wears off quickly, and the body rebounds by producing an endorphin "surge". The resulting endorphin "rush" makes patients feel better, and facilitates recovery.

A new book, A Review of The Promise of Low Dose Naltrexone Therapy by Elaine A. Moore and Samantha Wilkinson, provides a detailed scientific explanation of LDN's mode of action, and reviews its benefits in a wide gamut of conditions:

  • Chronic fatigue syndromes
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Cancer
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Psoriasis

LDN is neither an immune-enhancer, nor an immune-suppressive. Rather, it regulates immunity via a homeostatic mechanism. Hence, its efficacy in a wide range of conditions calling for optimization of immune response.

My experience with LDN has been very positive, especially in patients with MS and Crohn's Disease.

In one young patient with Crohn's Disease, diet and supplements had yielded only partial resolution. The patient was sick, tired and constantly underweight. After LDN, he got well rapidly, gained strength and weight, his diarrhea abated, and now he attends college with high honors and participates in rigorous ROTC physical training.

Another fatigued MS patient noted virtually instantaneous improvement with LDN. Her sleep improved dramatically, spasticity was eliminated, and she experienced a surge of energy and well-being.

One limitation to the use of LDN is that it appears to be neutralized by high doses of steroid medications, chemo, and powerful new immunosuppressive drugs.

Is LDN a "renegade" alternative treatment? Far from it. Clinical trials are under way for a broad range of conditions, and interest is now spreading within the conventional medical community. But because LDN is cheap, and not subject to patent protection, drug companies are not interested in sponsoring the kind of huge trials and expensive marketing lavished on new designer drugs.


Tags:  naltrexone 

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New Enzyme Complex Isolated from Earthworms is Potent Fibrinolytic

Posted By Administration, Friday, April 10, 2009
Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014

Lumbrokinase Has Anti-Platelet, Anti-Thrombotic Activity

By Edwin Cooper, Ph.D., Sc.D., Distinguished Professor, Laboratory of Comparative Immunology at UCLA, Editor-in-Chief of eCAM, an Oxford University Press journal

When the rains surge through southern California, a confetti of earthworms is washed out of the soil. I lift the worms onto grass so they can find their way home--these creatures whose potent medicinal properties I have spent forty years studying.

The earthworm's antioxidant, immune-boosting, and clot-dissolving “medicine chest” is as powerful as that of any plant and even many pharmaceuticals. Earthworms have managed to survive for millions of years despite the constant threat of extinction by microbial pathogens. If we can begin to understand their remarkable capacities, we might design similar strategies to assist our own survival.

I have often wondered if earthworms are the creatures who first demonstrated a functional dichotomy in evolution: they evolved to be able to clean up the battlefield after having killed foreign invaders. They have cells that, much to my wondering eyes, look very much like human natural killer cells and neutrophils when examined with cytofluorimetric analysis and microscopy. I may sound a little eccentric when I tell you that my excitement over my beloved creatures is immense--I believe they hold healing treasures for us all.

In research I did in Modena in the late 1990's, I discovered that earthworm leukocytes can recognize human cancer cells as foreign and then kill them. Electron microscopy showed the astonishing “cinematography” of earthworm cells becoming incredibly active, throwing out “pseudopodia”, and literally tearing apart cancer cell membranes from a human cell cancer line named K562. In fact, in all the time I've studied earthworms, I've never once been able to induce cancer in them. I could irritate them only to the point that they formed inflammatory lesions.

As Charles Darwin once wrote, “It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world.”

Earthworms: Ancient Medicine, New Science

The last ten years have been a busy time for scientists exploring the medicinal treasures of earthworms. Laboratory, animal and clinical human studies have isolated enzymes and compounds that have proven to be potent fibrinolytics.

In healthy human volunteers, an enzyme complex isolated from earthworms increased levels of tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) and consequently, fibrinolytic activity--without harmful side effects. In a study in 2000 the complex was found to be beneficial for ischemic stroke, without increasing the risk of excessive bleeding as other anticoagulants can. Using spectrofluorimeter and flow cytometry, a third study found that this complex has both anti-platelet activity (by reducing calcium release), anti-thrombotic activity (by reducing intercellular adhesion molecule-1) and anti-apoptotic activity (by inhibiting a specific pathway). All these activities, the researchers conclude, were “remarkably regulated.”

Earthworms have a long history in folk medicine--as far back as the 1300's. In ancient Burma and Laos, smallpox victims bathed in water where earthworms had been soaked. Worms were boiled in water with salt and onions and the broth given to women with postpartum weakness or difficulty nursing. In Iran dried earthworms were prescribed to help treat jaundice, and American Cherokee Indians used earthworm poultices to draw out thorns. According to the most famous ancient Chinese materia medica, earthworms could treat hemiplegia (a condition where half of the body is paralysed), fever, and blood clots.

Worms produce unique and potent molecules. One of my first research papers proved that earthworms have an immune system powerful enough to destroy other earthworm allografts, xenografts, but never autografts (an autograft is your own body's graft; allograft is a graft of foreign material from your own species; and a xenograft is a graft from another species, such as a pig heart valve into a human). Earthworms can kill bacteria and lyse foreign cells; their body fluid contains leukocytes that are as varied as those of many vertebrates. This is in spite of the fact that, unlike us, earthworms have no adaptive immune system, and do not form antibodies.

Earthworms happily crawl and munch their way through garbage teeming with bacteria and fungi, and not only fight off infection but alter that garbage so that their nitrogen and mineral-rich castings transform it into fertile, oxygen-rich soil. And, as practically every curious child knows, you can slice some earthworms and they will regenerate.

In the last ten years a number of the earthworm's clot-dissolving, lytic and immune-boosting compounds have been isolated and tested in laboratory and clinical studies. In particular, research has focused on clot-dissolving molecules. Fibrinolytic enzymes have been purified and studied from several species of earthworm, including Lumbricus rubellas and Eisenia fetida, and been found to be both potent and safe. This is very good news, since according to a 2008 conference report from the American Society of Hematology, thromboembolism impacts over one million Americans a year and is responsible for more deaths annually than breast cancer, HIV and motor vehicle crashes combined!

The Key to Lumbrokinase: Active Only in the Presence of Fibrin

Lumbrokinase (LK) is a group of six, novel proteolytic enzymes derived from the earthworm Lumbricus rubellas. In a 1992 study, a crude extract of the worm was shown to have a potent thrombolytic effect. The heat-stable, purified enzymes were first isolated in 1992 by Japanese researchers. The enzymes have potent fibrin-dissolving properties (fibrin is a protein deposited to create a mesh around a wound), decrease fibrinogen (a protein produced by the liver that is involved in the clotting cascade), lower blood viscosity and markedly reduce platelet aggregation.

Recent research suggests that LK may be effective in the treatment and prevention of ischemic heart disease, as well as myocardial infarction, thrombosis of the central vein of the retina, embolism of peripheral veins, and pulmonary embolisms.

One key, remarkable property of lumbrokinase is that, unlike the medications streptokinase and urokinase, it is only active in the presence of fibrin. Though it dissolves fibrinogen and fibrin very specifically, it hardly hydrolyzes other important blood proteins such as plasminogen or albumin. It has the profound advantage of not causing hemorrhage due to excessive fibrinolysis. In fact, its plasminogen activator is remarkably similar to the plasminogen activator in the tissues of other species. Toxicological experiments have found no negative effects of LK on nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory and blood systems of rats, rabbits and dogs. Long-term animal experiments show no damage to liver or kidney function, no negative influence on embryonic development, and no mutagenic effects in embryonic rats. LK has no negative effects on blood levels of glucose and lipids. And a 2001 study tested one of the six enzymes of LK to determine whether LK does indeed pass into the blood from the intestines while maintaining its biological activity. This research found that approximately 10% of the full-size enzyme could pass through the intestinal epithelium intact and into the blood. This is not surprising; research from The Hebrew University has shown that many peptides can pass intact and biologically active through the intestinal lumen into the blood.

In a laboratory experiment in 1994 from Seoul National University, lumbrokinase (the six enzymes) was extracted from the earthworm. LK was then immobilized onto a polyurethane surface to investigate its antithrombotic activity. Platelets adhered to the surface and then drastically decreased in number, suggesting that LK digested the fibrinogen and inhibited the ability of platelets to stick to the surface. Similar results were found with an experiment on a rabbit shunt in the laboratory; occlusion time was monitored and it was found that on shunts without LK, occlusion time was 32 and 42 minutes, respectively, but those with LK-immobilized polyurethane had an occlusion time of 140 minutes--as much as four times longer.

Such studies show the potential of immobilized-LK surfaces for eventual use in tissue transplantation. In one remarkable 1999 study, Lumbrokinase was tested on LK-immobilized polyurethane valves which were then fitted to total artificial hearts in three healthy lambs. In the control lamb, the valves were untreated; in the second lamb, only valves on the right were treated, and in the third lamb, only valves on the left were treated. Implants were left in for up to three days. In the control lamb, thrombi were observed in the inlet parts of the valves. In the other two lambs, thrombi formed only on untreated control valves. Similarly, fibrinolytic activity was observed only in treated valves, and the proteolytic activity of the treated valves was three times higher than that of untreated valves.

A Potent Clot-Dissolver

Animal studies have demonstrated that LK is a potent clot-dissolver. A study in rabbits looked at LK's ability to dissolve an embolism in the pulmonary artery. The embolism was radioactively tagged, and blood radioactivity was tested 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, three hours, and five hours after LK had been administered. Radioactivity increased markedly at three and five hours, indicating that LK had begun to dissolve the embolism and disperse it into the bloodstream. In another study rectal administration of LK reduced the size of a thrombus in the inferior vena cava in rats. And in yet another 1998 study, freeze dried Lumbricus rubellas was given to rats orally, and then plasmin activity in the blood was measured. At half a gram of LK per kilogram of weight a day, the activity doubled; at one gram, it quintupled. These results suggest that earthworm powder alone is valuable for thrombotic conditions. Finally, grafts treated with LK and inserted into the inferior vena cava of rabbits were compared to those not treated with LK, at five hours, 1, 2 and 4 weeks after implantation of the graft. Non-treated grafts were totally occluded with thrombus only five hours after implantation. LK treated graft were clear one week later, and those treated with a special covalent bonding method were clear four weeks later. Researchers concluded LK has potential antithrombotic effects in vascular prosthesis.

Lumbrokinase may help protect against myocardial ischemia and heart attack. A 2006 study in rats from Harbin Medical University in China induced heart attack in rats by permanently clamping shut the left anterior descending coronary artery. Lumbrokinase decreased the size of the infarct in a dose-dependent manner.

Human Studies Demonstrate Potency and Efficacy

Clinical trials in humans have been equally impressive. Research has found LK safe and effective as a thrombolytic in human volunteers. A hundred and twenty milligrams of freeze-dried earthworm powder was given orally to seven healthy volunteers aged 28-52 years old, three times a day for seventeen days. Blood was withdrawn before the trial to establish a baseline, and then at days 1, 2, 3, 8 , 11 and 17. Fibrin degradation products, tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) levels and activity were measured in the blood. The t-PA levels gradually increased through the entire experiment. Fibrinolytic activity also increased.

In an even more significant study from Shanghai Medical University in 2000, LK was used in patients who had suffered a stroke. Fifty-one stroke victims were randomly divided into a treatment group (31) and a control group (20). The Chinese stroke score was used to evaluate the effect of LK. Several measures of blood viscosity were used--prothrombin time, fibrinogen content, tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) activity, D-dimer level, and more. In the treatment group, t=PA activity and D-dimer level increased, while fibrinogen decreased significantly. Plasmingogen activator inhibitor activity and prothrombin time were unchanged. Lumbrokinase inhibits the coagulation pathway and activates fibrinolysis by increasing t-PA activity. This suggests that LK is not only beneficial for ischemic stroke, but that it may not increase the risk of excessive bleeding as anticoagulants can.

This stroke study is backed up by a 2008 study from Harbin Medical University in China. Researchers wondered how LK might have an anti-ischemic action in the brain. Using spectrofluorimeter and flow cytometry, they found that LK has both anti-platelet activity (by reducing calcium release), anti-thrombotic activity (by reducing intercellular adhesion molecule-1) and anti-apoptotic activity (by inhibiting a specific pathway). All these activities, the researchers conclude, were “remarkably regulated by LK.”

Future Directions: A New Antimicrobial?

Do earthworms hold other treasures for us? We know that plasmin has been implicated in wound healing, pathogen invasion, cancer invasion and metastasis. Might earthworms like Lumbricus rubellus also have antimicrobial and anti-cancer potential?

Preliminary research is intriguing. Lumbricin I is an antimicrobial peptide that has been isolated from Lumbricus rubellus. It exhibits antimicrobial activity against both Gram negative and Gram positive bacteria as well as fungi, yet without hemolytic activity against human blood cells. Lumbricin I is rich in proline and actually shares characteristics with peptides found in insects and fruit flies.

What about cancer? Earthworms are able to lyse and destroy foreign cells. As I mentioned at the beginning of this research review, I have been unable to provoke my earthworms into getting cancer. When earthworms are examined by electron microscopy their fabulous complexity is revealed. Researchers from Japan, Korea, China and Croatia have been studying how earthworm peptides may inhibit the growth of spontaneous tumors since the 1990's. One “killer” glycolipoprotein extract called G-90 retards tumor growth in mice. Lombricine, from Lumbricus terrestris, was purified by Japanese researchers in 1991, and was shown to inhibit mammary tumors in mice. Daily subcutaneous injections markedly slowed the growth of tumors. Lombricine given orally as part of the diet also slowed the growth of tumors, though to a lesser degree than injection.

In addition, LK may help degrade and lyse fibrin clots from the venous blood of patients with malignant tumors. We know that cancer patients are at greater risk of clotting disorders, especially during treatment. According to research, malignant tumors secretes molecules that inhibit plasminogen activators and protect tumors. Might earthworm-derived enzymes like LK combat a tumor's protective mechanisms, and render it more vulnerable to treatment and to the innate immune system?

The Future of Earthworms as Medicine

We now know that earthworm enzymes and peptides may provide us with novel, potent and safe approaches to the treatment of thrombosis. Since thrombosis remains the main cause of death in America despite available drugs, the potential of LK is enormous. I think back to my boyhood, when I refused to fish, so I would not have to inadvertently kill earthworms by using them as lure. But I never knew that my commitment to developmental biology and comparative immunology would lead me to study these simple, profound creatures.

References available at:

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BAT Fat Keeps You Thin

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 9, 2009
Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014

By Ronald Hoffman, MD

It's a fat that bats have, but in med school we were taught adult humans lacked it. It's Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT). Found in many mammals, especially rodents, BAT is what keeps them warm because of its accelerated fat-burning capabilities. Unlike the more prevalent yellow blobby ("white") fat that predominates in obesity, it has a rapid metabolic rate.

Babies are known to have brown fat as a means of cold-adaptation because they can't shiver (most warm-blooded animals don't either). But in breakthrough research, the New England Journal of Medicine announced this week that adult humans have it, too.

How does brown fat rev the body's metabolic machinery? The answer is complex, but offers some insights into thyroid physiology. The main source of thyroid hormone, or T4, must be converted to T3 within the mitochondria inside cells to set the rate of metabolism and fat-burning. In brown fat, the T4 to T3 conversion is in overdrive, resulting in thermogenesis, or fat-burning.

This is why complementary docs often favor thyroid replacement with T4/T3 combinations instead of straight T4, as is found in Synthroid. Dosing with pre-formed T3 simulates the conversion that occurs in brown fat. But too much T3 can result in jitteriness and heart arrhythmias.

Overweight rodents are in luck these days. Scientists have developed a slew of prospective weight loss drugs that are dramatically effective in mice and rats. But because rodents have brown fat and humans were said not to have it, the experimental drugs disappoint in humans.

Now research shows that brown fat does not entirely disappear in adulthood. Small amounts of it are present in healthy, trim individuals. In overweight folks with hallmarks of metabolic slow-down like high cholesterol and Syndrome X, it has virtually disappeared.

So what are the practical implications? Are there ways we can enhance brown fat?

Remarkably, the New England Journal researchers have found a partial answer: Just CHILL!

In a series of experiments, they exposed healthy adults to cold temperatures. We're not even talking the Polar Bear Club here. Sitting around in light clothing for a couple of hours at temperatures around 60, or immersing feet in cold (not ice) water produced a detectable increase in brown fat, and it happened within just days!

Now, I'm thinking to myself, am I aspiring to rodent-hood? I make a point of turning off the radiators in winter, opening windows, and dialing down the thermostat to 60 or 62. I challenge myself to frigid runs in twenty-degree temperatures throughout winter. While I don't go so far as to take cold showers, I regularly swim in Shinnecock Bay after water temperatures top 60 around Memorial Day. Maybe I'm stoking my metabolism and building brown fat stores while saving the planet and reducing my carbon footprint!

It may be that one way that modern civilization conspires to make us fat is by shielding us from the evolutionary anvil of cold which honed the metabolisms of our ancestors for millennia. We sit in toasty homes, commute to work in cozy cars with seat warmers, and if we work out, we do so in heated gyms or tepid swimming pools.

Another take-home from the New England Journal research: Certain drugs rev brown fat, especially amphetamines. But their addictive properties and side effects make their use undesirable. According to the articles, natural ephedra works well, too, but it's been banned, despite a track record of mostly safe use among responsible users. EGCG from green tea may also hit brown fat receptors, and it's still available.

Unfortunately, there are drugs that shrink brown fat, thus slowing metabolism. The sad fact is that they are routinely prescribed to tens of millions of Americans. They are the beta-blockers, dished liberally for heart disease and hypertension, and the benzodiazepines, medicine's main remedies for anxiety. Common examples include Inderal, Lopressor, Toprol, Zebeta, Tenormin, and Valium, Ativan, Xanax, Halcion, and Klonipin.

So, for now, barring any major breakthroughs on the fat-drug front, embrace the cold, and try to stay healthy enough to eschew medications that are metabolic downers.

Tags:  weight 

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Oprah Devotes a Show to Bioidentical Hormones - BHRT

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014


On January 15, celebrity talk show host Oprah devoted an entire show to Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy BHRT. The program, entitled "The Great Debate: Should You Replace Your Hormones?" addressed the topics of BHRT as well as other anti-aging regimens.  Women interested in locating a BHRT Doctor or a physician who specializes in hormone replacement, women's health or anti-again can use the ACAM Physician+Link to do so at

ACAM offers courses in the field of natural hormone replacement to physicians and provides a searchable database of integrative medicine providers.

Join the BHRT discussion at:;jsessionid=ac1106eb30d975a33b65035847ac9cc8c980a1283501.e3qNc3aRbx4Ne3uLb3uRbN8Kci0

Tags:  BHRT  bioidentical Hormones 

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Vitamin D Deficiency and Tooth Decay

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014

By Gina Nick, NMD

Here is yet another reason to consider getting tested for, and supplementing with Vitamin D3…I am re-printing a report released by the Orthomolecular Medical Society that discusses the connection between how much vitamin D3 you have in your body, and tooth decay, Alzheimer’s disease, respiratory infections, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other ailments.  This is one of many essential nutrients that the body needs to function properly.   And it happens to be an inexpensive therapy that helps to prevent and  treat some of the most expensive diseases of our time like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Vitamin D3 works synergistically with vitamin K and calcium to increase bone mineral density in women with osteoporosis. Some whole food sources include organic egg yolks, raw, organic butter (preferably from goat rather then cow), and cod liver oil.

-Dr. G

Vitamin Deficiency Underlies Tooth Decay
Malnutrition Causes Much More than Dental Disease

Cavities and gum diseases are not often regarded as serious diseases, yet they are epidemic throughout our society, from the youngest of children to the oldest of senior citizens. Research more than suggests that the same good nutrition that prevents cavities and gum diseases may also prevent other illnesses.

Dental caries and gum pathology are frequently associated with serious chronic health problems. Multiple independent studies published after 1990 document this. Cavities are associated with poor mental health [1-4]. Elderly individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease had an average of 7.8 teeth with fillings vs. an average of only 2.7 fillings for elderly individuals without dementia [1]. It is likely that the toxic heavy metal mercury, which makes up half of every amalgam filling, is a contributing factor.

A recent authoritative review showed a clear association between cavities and heart diseases [5]. More importantly, this same study showed that people with poor oral health, on average, lead shorter lives. The association between cavities and diabetes is also a subject of active, ongoing research [6-8]. Connections between heart disease, diabetes, and dental decay have been suspected for decades. Many of the scientists who called attention to this have proposed that diets high in sugar and refined carbohydrates were the common cause of these diseases [9-15].

Dental diseases, mental diseases, heart disease, infectious respiratory diseases, and heart disease are all at least partially caused by common failures in metabolism. Such failures are inevitable when there is a deficiency of essential nutrients, particularly vitamins D, C, and niacin.

There is especially strong evidence for a relationship between vitamin D deficiency and cavities. Dozens of studies were conducted in the 1930’s and 1940’s [16-27]. More than 90% of the studies concluded that supplementing children with vitamin D prevents cavities. Particularly impressive was a study published in 1941 demonstrated the preventative affect of “massive” doses of vitamin D [28]. And yet no subsequent studies in the scientific literature suggested a need to follow up and repeat this work.

Vitamin D deficiency is linked to respiratory infections, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other ailments [29]. The evidence for vitamin C was reviewed by Linus Pauling [15], and the evidence for niacin was reviewed by Abram Hoffer [30].

Obtaining vitamins in sufficient doses to help prevent dental disease is safe and easily accomplished. Between 5,000 and 15,000 IU of vitamin D may be obtained from modest exposure to sunshine in the middle of the day. Recommending that people regularly use the capacity of their skin to make vitamin D is common sense. Certainly 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day of vitamin D in supplemental form is safe. 2,000 milligrams per day of vitamin C, and hundreds of milligrams per day of niacin, help prevent tooth and mouth troubles. Sick individuals, and those who are prone to cavities, will typically benefit by starting with higher doses of vitamin D, vitamin C, and niacin under the supervision of an orthomolecular physician.

We believe that individuals taking these nutrients, along with good dental care, will have dramatically fewer cavities and gum operations than individuals just getting good dental care. This idea is easily tested, and the time has come to do so.


[1] B Ellefsen; P Holm-Pedersen; D E Morse; M. Schroll; B. Andersen; G. Waldemar. Caries Prevalence in Older Persons with and without Dementia. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Volume 56, Number 1, January 2008, 59-67(9).
[2] J M Chalmers, K D Carter, A J Spencer. Caries incidence and increments in community-living older adults with and without dementia. Australian Research Center for Population Oral Health, Dental School, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide 5005, Australia. Gerodontology Volume 19 Issue 2, 80 - 94.
[3] Friedlander, A.H.; Mahler, M.E. Major depressive disorder psychopathology, medical management and dental implications. Graduate Medical Education, Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (14), Los Angeles, CA, USA. Journal of the American Dental Association (2001), 132(5), 629-638.
[4] Stewart, R.; et. al. Oral Health and Cognitive Function in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), Psychosomatic Medicine 70:936-941 (2008).
[5] Meurman, J.H.; Sanz, M.;Janket, S. Oral infection and vascular disease. Institute of Dentistry, University of Helsinki, Finland. Vascular Disease Prevention (2007), 4(4), 260-267.
[6] Touger-Decker R, Sirois D A, Vernillo A T. Diabetes mellitus: Nutrition and oral health relationships. Department of Primary Care, School of Health-Related Professions, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, NJ, USA. Editor(s): Touger-Decker, Riva. Nutrition and Oral Medicine (2005), 185-204.
[7] Diaz-Romero, R.; Casanova-Roman, R.; Beltran-Zuniga, M; Belmont-Padilla, J.; Mendez, J.; Avila-Rosas, H.. Oral Infections and Glycemic Control in Pregnant Type 2 Diabetics. Instituto Nacional de Perinatologia, Mexico City, Mex. Archives of Medical Research (2005), 36(1), 42-48.
[8] Twetman, S.; Johansson, I.; Birkhed, D.; Nederfors, T. Caries incidence in young type 1 diabetes mellitus patients in relation to metabolic control and caries-associated risk factors. Caries Research (2002), 36(1), 31-35.
[9] Bommer, S. Diseases of civilization and nutrition. Ernaehrungsforschung (1963), 7 598-612.
[10] Miler-Sosnkowska, M. Role of dietary carbohydrates in relation to their metabolism. Inst. Zywienia Czlowieka, Akad. Roln., Warsaw, Pol. Postepy Higieny i Medycyny Doswiadczalnej (1975), 29(4), 537-55.
[11] Cremer, H.D.; Eyer, H. Carbohydrates. Inst. Ernaehrungswiss. I, Univ. Giessen, Giessen, Fed. Rep. Ger. Ernaehrungs-Umschau (1975), 22(10), 291-3.
[12] Newberne, P.M.. Nutrition: summary of evidence. Sweeteners: Issues, uncertainties. Acad. Forum, 4th (1975), 76-85, 252-3.
[13] Heraud, G. Sucrose and nutritional pathology. Sucrerie Francaise (1979), 120(24), 21-6.
[14] Nuttall, F.Q.; Gannon, M.C.. Sucrose and disease. Diabetes Care (1981), 4(2), 305-10.
[15] Pauling, L. “How to Live Longer and Feel Better.” W.H. Freeman and Company, 1986. Revised 2006, Oregon State University Press.
[16] Tisdall, F.F. The effect of nutrition on the primary teeth. Child Development (1937) 8(1), 102-4.
[17] McBeath, E.C. Nutrition and diet in relation to preventive dentistry. NY J. Dentistry (1938) 8; 17-21.
[17] McBeath, E.C.; Zucker, T.F. Role of vitamin D in the control of dental caries in children. Journal of Nutrition (1938) 15; 547-64.
[19] East, B. R. Nutrition and dental caries. American Journal of Public Health 1938. 28; 72-6.
[20] Mellanby, M. The role of nutrition as a factor in resistance to dental caries. British Dental Journal (1937), 62; 241-52.
[21] His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London. The influence of diet on caries in children’s teeth. Report of the Committee for the Investigation of Dental Disease (1936).
[22] McBeath, F.C. Vitamin D studies, 1933-1934. American Journal of Public Health (1934), 24 1028-30.
[23] Anderson, P. G.; Williams, C. H. M.; Halderson, H.; Summerfeldt, C.; Agnew, R. Influence of vitamin D in the prevention of dental caries. Journal of the American Dental Association (1934) 21; 1349-66.
[24] Day, C. D.; Sedwick, H. J. Fat-soluble vitamins and dental caries in children. Journal of Nutrition (1934) 8; 309-28.
[25] Agnew, M. C.; Agnew, R. G.; Tisdall, F. F. The production and prevention of dental caries. Journal of the American Dental Association, JADA (1933) 20; 193-212.
[26] Bennett, N. G.; et al. The influence of diet on caries in children’s teeth. Special Report Series - Medical Research Council, UK (1931) No. 159, 19.
[27] Mellanby, M.; Pattison, C. L. The influence of a cereal-free diet rich in vitamin D and calcium on dental caries in children. British Medical Journal (1932) I 507-10.
[28] Brodsky, R. H.; Schick, B.; Vollmer, H.. Prevention of dental caries by massive doses of vitamin D. American Journal of Diseases of Children (1941) 62; 1183-7.
[30] Hoffer A, Saul AW. Orthomolecular Medicine for Everyone. Laguna Beach, California, Basic Health Pub, 2008.

Tags:  dentistry  vitamin D 

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Vitamin D Therapy Halts Cancer Growth and Supports Immune Function

Posted By Administration, Sunday, January 27, 2008
Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014

Gina Nick, PhD, NMD

An excellent summary of the research supporting the use of Vitamin D3 therapyas a treatment for specific cancers and for compromised immune function was recently released by the Orthomolecular Medicine Society. I am including the report in full below.  Take note of the historical use of this simple, inexpensive nutrient and of the recent research also supporting its use.  Sometimes the simple treatments are the most profound. I test the blood for Vitamin D3 levels and almost always find low levels associated with cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome.  In general I recommend 3,000 IU of Vitamin D3 per day to support optimal immune function. Exposure to sunshine every day is one of the best ways to keep your vitamin D levels in a healthyrange however, practicing in Laguna Beach, CAwhere there are more sunny days than not, I still find that the majority of my patients are deficient in this nutrient/hormone, even those that are outside for at least 30 minutes per day.

In health,

-Dr. G

Vitamin D Stops Cancer; Cuts Risk In Half American Cancer Society Drags its Feet

(OMNS, October 2, 2008) A new study of 3,299 persons has shown that those with higher levels of vitamin D cut their risk of dying from cancer in half. (1) Another recent study shows that ample intake of vitamin D, about 2,000 IU per day, can cut breast cancer incidence by half. (2) Still more research found that inadequate Vitamin D is “associated with high incidence rates of colorectal cancer” and specifically urges that “prompt public health action is needed to increase intake of Vitamin D-3 to 1000 IU/day.” (3)

Vitamin D’s anticancer properties are so evident, and so important, that the Canadian Cancer Society now recommends supplementation with 1,000 IU of Vitamin D per day for all adults in winter, and year-round for persons at risk. (4)

The American Cancer Society, however, is dragging its feet, still maintaining that “More research is needed to define the best levels of intake and blood levels of vitamin D for cancer risk reduction.” (5)

What is taking them so long?

Researchers in 2006 noted that “The evidence suggests that efforts to improve vitamin D status, for example by vitamin D supplementation, could reduce cancer incidence and mortality at low cost, with few or no adverse effects.” (6)

If you search the US National Institutes of Health’s Medline online database for “cancer vitamin D,” you will find over five thousand papers. . . some dating back nearly 60 years.

It’s true: physician reports on vitamin D stopping cancer have been ignored for decades. In 1951, T. Desmonts reported that vitamin D treatment was effective against Hodgkin’s disease (a cancer of the lymphatic system). (7) That same year, 57 years ago, massive doses of vitamin D were also observed to improve epithelioma. ( 8) In 1955, skin cancer was again reported as cured with vitamin D treatment. (9) In 1963, there was a promising investigation done on vitamin D and breast cancer. (10) Then, in 1964, vitamin D was found to be effective against lymph nodal reticulosarcoma, a non-Hodgkin’s lymphatic cancer. (11)

The American Cancer Society has been obsessed with finding a drug cure for cancer. Pharmaceutical researchers are not looking for a vitamin cure. And when one is presented, as independent investigators and physicians have continuously been doing since 1951, it is ignored.

No longer. Michael Holick, MD, Boston University Professor of Medicine, has come right out and said it: “We can reduce cancer risk by 30 to 50% by increasing vitamin D. We gave mice colon cancer, and followed them for 20 days. Tumor growth was markedly reduced simply by having vitamin D in the diet. There was a 40% reduction in tumor size. And, casual sun exposure actually decreases your risk of melanoma. Everyone needs 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 each day.” (12)

What about safety? Yes, it is possible to get too much vitamin D, but it is not easy. “One man took one million IU of vitamin D per day, orally, for six months, “says Dr Holick. “Of course, he had the symptoms of severe vitamin D intoxication. His treatment was hydration (lots of water), and no more vitamin D or sunshine for a while. He’s perfectly happy and healthy. This was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.(13) I have no experience of anyone dying from vitamin exposure. In thirty years, I’ve never seen it.”

There are, of course, some reasonable cautions with its use. Persons with hyperparathyroidism, lymphoma, lupus erythematosus, tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, kidney disease, or those taking digitalis, calcium channel-blockers, or thiazide diuretics, should have physician supervision before and while taking extra vitamin D. And when employing large doses of vitamin D, periodic testing is advisable.

But 1,000 IU per day of vitamin D is simple and safe. Some authorities recommend much more. (14, 15) The American Cancer Society recommends less.

What a shame.


(1) Pilz S, Dobnig H, Winklhofer-Roob B et al. Low serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D predict fatal cancer in patients referred to coronary angiography. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 May;17(5):1228-33. Epub 2008 May 7.

(2) Garland CF, Gorham ED, Mohr SB et al. Vitamin D and prevention of breast cancer: pooled analysis. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol, 2007. Mar;103(3-5):708-11.

(3) Gorham ED, Garland CF, Garland FC, Grant WB, Mohr SB, Lipkin M, Newmark HL, Giovannucci E, Wei M, Holick MF. Vitamin D and prevention of colorectal cancer. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2005 Oct;97(1-2):179-94.


(5) Aug 29, 2008.

(6) Garland CF, Garland FC, Gorham ED, Lipkin M, Newmark H, Mohr SB, Holick MF. The role of vitamin D in cancer prevention. Am J Public Health. 2006 Feb;96(2):252-61.

(7) Desmonts T, Duclos M, Dalmau. [Favorable effect of vitamin D on the evolution of a case of Hodgkin's disease.] Sang. 1951;22(1):74-5. And: DESMONTS T. [Favorable action of vitamin D in leukemic erythroderma and Hodgkin's disease.] Pathol Gen. 1951 Mar;51(326):161-4. Also: VACCARI R. [Vitamin D2 and experimental carcinogenesis.] Boll Soc Ital Biol Sper. 1952 Aug-Oct;28(8-10):1567-9.

( 8) Sainz de Aja Ea. [Case of an epithelioma in a patient treated with massive doses of vitamin D.] Actas Dermosifiliogr. 1951 Nov;43(2):169-70.

(9) Linser P. [Spontaneous cure of skin carcinoma by vitamin D treatment.] Dermatol Wochenschr. 1955;132(40):1072-3. German.

(10) Gordan GS, Schachter D. Vitamin D activity of normal and neoplastic human breast tissue. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1963 Jul;113:760-1.

(11) Desmonts T, Blin J. [Action of Vitamin D3 on the course of a lymph nodal reticulosarcoma.] Rev Pathol Gen Physiol Clin. 1964 Mar;64:137. French.

(12) Andrew W. Saul Interviews Michael F. Holick, MD, PhD.

(13) Koutkia P, Chen TC, Holick MF. Vitamin D intoxication associated with an over-the-counter supplement. N Engl J Med. 2001 Jul 5;345(1):66-7.

(14) Vitamin D Boosts Health, Cuts Cancer Risk in Half. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, October 3, 2007.

(15) Doctors Say, Raise the RDAs Now. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, October 30, 2007.

For more information:

Saul AW. Vitamin D: Deficiency, diversity and dosage. J Orthomolecular Med, 2003. Vol 18, No 3 and 4, p 194-204.

Online access to free archive of nutritionalmedicine journal papers:

A free, non-commercial vitamin D newsletter is available from John Cannell, M.D., and the Vitamin D Council:

Sunlight, Nutrition And Health Research Center:


Nutritional Medicine is Orthomolecular Medicine

Orthomolecular medicine uses safe, effective nutritional therapy to fight illness. For more information:

The peer-reviewed OrthomolecularMedicine News Service is a non-profit and non-commercial informational resource.

Editorial Review Board:

Damien Downing, M.D.
Harold D. Foster, Ph.D.
Steve Hickey, Ph.D.
Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D.
James A. Jackson, PhD
Bo H. Jonsson, MD, Ph.D
Thomas Levy, M.D., J.D.
Erik Paterson, M.D.
Gert E. Shuitemaker, Ph.D.

Andrew W. Saul, Ph.D., Editor and contact person.

© Dr Gina Nic


Tags:  cancer  immune function  vitamin D 

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Forget Ginkgo? Does the MEdia Suffer from Cognitive Impairment? Or is it Selective Amnesia?

Posted By Administration, Sunday, January 6, 2008
Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014


Guest Blogger: Ronald Hoffman, MD

A recent flurry of headlines greeted yet another “failure” of a popular supplement, ginkgo biloba.

In a study of around 3,000 men and women over the age of 75 (average age 83), ginkgo failed to slow the progression to cognitive impairment.  At the start of the study, which lasted 6 years, most of the subjects had normal memories, with just over 400 suffering from “mild cognitive impairment.”  The papers screamed:  Ginkgo of no value in Alzheimer’s.  The implication:  stick to “effective” drugs.

Problem is, that’s not what the study showed.

First off, NO drug has been shown equal to the task of preventing memory deterioration in


subjects, so no drug is superior to ginkgo in this regard.  Drugs approved for treatment of Alzheimers like Aricept and Namenda work only transiently, for a few months at best, in staving off symptoms of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s Disease. 

This has been a source of controversy in


, where the National Health Service has (rightly) denied coverage of Aricept for mild memory loss—imagine the hit to the socialized medicine health care budget if every Brit with a “senior moment” would clamor for the drug!  Outraged patient advocacy groups haven demanded the government rescind the ban.

Selective amnesia?  Numerous studies substantiate the benefits of ginkgo, a powerful circulatory enhancer and antioxidant in ESTABLISHED dementia.  Proving it does not halt the progression toward Alzheimer’s is not the same thing.

Personally, I prefer Huperzine for cognitive support.  The ancient Chinese remedy, a derivative of club moss, works like medications by enhancing brain levels of acetylcholine. 

Other supplements proven to forestall cognitive decline include:

  • Vitamins B 12 and B6, and Folic Acid
  • Omega 3 fish oil (especially DHA)
  • Pycnogenol
  • Blueberry
  • Curcumin
  • CoEnzyme Q 10
  • Acetyl-l-carnitine
  • Vitamins C and E
  • Phosphatidylserine (PS), glycerophosphatidylcholine (GPC) and phosphatidylcholine (PC)
  • CDP-Choline



Tags:  amnesia  cognitice impairment  ginkgo 

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