Tag Archives: vitamin C

Did you need that buzz and burn just to feel well… before you got fibromyalgia?

Marcusby Holistic Osteopath, Marcus Webb

Over the years of working with fibromyalgia (FM) sufferers and writing about FM stress always bobs up as a key associated factor closely followed by the inevitable cause and effect argument that tends to ensue with no one really coming out any the wiser! Naturally, suffering from a disabling, medically unexplained and often untreatable condition brings inherent stresses of its own with it, but there is some compelling data suggesting that a pre-FM state of being may exist in many sufferers that is stress sensitive and may possibly form the basis of their system breakdown that ultimately leads on to the clinical picture we know as FM.

It is not uncommon for me to hear how a FM suffer is finding it so hard to get use to a reduced level of activity after being “so busy” or “driven” in work or sports. Many FM sufferers can recall how well they use to multi-task juggling work, family life and the gym without a second thought and how they needed that ‘burn’ at the gym to feel energised and on top of life and if they missed their routine fix of exercise how flat they felt, and this was before they developed FM. The interesting thing with all these stories if just how similar they are; active, driven often very successful individuals now living lives they could never imagine; lives of pain, fatigue, loss of motivation and in many cases social isolation. Naturally, depression and stress are more than likely to develop in such circumstances but what is even more intriguing is the idea that a pre-FM state existed that actually required all the stimuli of multi-tasking, the work-buzz and the physical burn of the gym just to keep that person feeling normal. The key tipping point is when it all stopped… that’s when the system crashed and burned.

Within the FM community, how many times do we hear the story of how well everything was going before that ‘virus’ hit and confined the person to bed for some time or that ‘injury’ took the person out of circulation for a good while as it healed. Alternatively, someone’s entire life and routine could be blown out of the water by a bereavement or redundancy at work. A virus, an injury, loss/bereavement, redundancy… there are all very common triggers for FM but are they actually to blame or were they simply the catalyst that broke the behaviours that simply kept the person going? Data to support this theory does exist and revolves around exercise-based research. We now know that within a group of healthy individuals who are exposed to regular exercise some develop widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue and mood disturbances (the same or very similar profile to that of FM) after a brief period of the exercise withdrawal while some don’t. Even more profound was the fact that the symptomatic individuals, who appeared to suffer so badly following the withdrawal of their exercise, also displayed other typical features of FM such as altered autonomic function, reduced immune (especially NK-cell) responsiveness and other bodily reactions typical of hypothalamic-pituitary axis (HPA) dysfunction. In essence, they appeared to develop all or many of the clinical features of FM!

The authors of the study suggested that, in some, there exists a pre-existing hypo-functioning stress system that requires regular stimulus just to remain normally stimulated. This mechanism follows the principles of what is known as ‘allostasis’, in which the body seeks to maintain balance, and may explain why so many FM sufferers report living very active, stimulating and to onlookers stressful lives prior to developing FM. It appears that while they were unknowingly self-medicating with stimulus from all angles they were doing so simply to feel normal; it was the only way they could kick their hypo-functioning stress systems into life. However, with this theory comes further questions such as why do some people have hypo-functioning stress system to start with? The possible answers to this part of the puzzle may lie in the long accepted association between early life stress and a dysfunctional stress regulating systems. It is known that early life stress is strongly linked to the development of FM with the pivotal trigger being an over or under active stress regulating system; it is known that early life stress can trigger one or the other. In the case of an under active stress regulating system, having a life full of stimulus and arousal not only distracts from us from dwelling on negative life events it also stimulates the body and maintains a normal level of being. Anything that interferes with this will tip the body into a negative spiral both emotionally and physically as the full effects of the underactive HPA system kicks in. With prolonged removal from life events and routines that enhance arousal a chronic state of low HPA activity becomes the normal and the clinical picture of chronic fatigue syndrome with FM (CFS/FM) becomes established.

While this will not offer a universal explanation to the development of CFS/FM it does put forward a provocative argument for many cases and should assist in managing stress or a system that needs a bit of stress to feel normal. May be this helps to explain why some CFS/FM sufferers do so well on natural agents such as TriAdren (a special blend of standardised adrenal supporting ingredients; ginseng liquorice root and vitamin C) while others feel such a benefit from agents designed to calm an over active HPA system such as Zen-Time with Lactium. In the case of the low functioning HPA system enhancement with graded exercise and carefully balanced adrenal stimulants such as those in TriAdren help to give the lift this subset of CFS/FM sufferers need while the central nervous system calming effects of the Lactium ingredient contained in the Zen-Time formula eases the agitation and stress related symptoms that typify an over active HPA system. Either way, managing CFS/FM is an ever evolving science and art but the basic science that underpins the simple act of withdrawing exercise and observing the effects on healthy individuals has open many new angles for further study.

Learn more about TriAdren at www.supersupps.com

Learn more about Zen-Time with Lactium (and take the FREE online stress test) at www.zen-time.co.uk

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Eat you way back to sport; how diet and nutrition can boost recovery from injury

It’s not easy to get accurate figures when it comes to sporting injuries since so many never get registered at hospitals or become incorporated into nationwide surveys. Most people simply manage their injuries at home and limp along until they get better. Interestingly, back in 2005 Barclays Bank (Barclays Spaces for Sports) commissioned a survey into the rate of sporting injuries in the UK and published some very interesting results; just under 30% of the UK experience a sports related injury every year. That translates to roughly 22 million cases per year, the majority of which are the direct result of over-exertion, lack of preparation and general clumsiness! Most people recover well from injury but some 25% of those injured were forced to quit their sport. By far the most common injuries were sustained in sort tissues such as ligaments and tendons with football injuries leading the pack.

While some 26% choose to leave their injury to nature to heal there are many ways encourage the recovery from injury that could reduce the risk of a problem becoming chronic or forcing early retirement from your chosen sport. All to often little is mentioned about the effects of food, diet and nutrition and its effects on the healing process. Keeping in mind the saying “we are what we eat” it would make sense to look at your when suffering from an injury because your food will, in essence, be the mother-load when it comes to supplying your body with the building blocks for healing and tissue regeneration. It’s amazing that Hippocrates noticed this and famously commented “feed the patient and they’ll get better” over 2000 years ago and its only now that we beginning to re-appreciate the effects of nutrition on healing all over again. In general, the healing time can be viewed as the expected amount of time for wound repair, following an injury or surgery. The disability time refers to the generally expected maximal amount of time within which a person should have regained pre-injury or pre-surgical ability and performance. As a rule of thumb, healing time is always longer than disability time.

From injury to recovery
If someone reaches their expected healing time but continues to complain of pain and disability the condition is said to shift into the chronic phase, a scenario that has many possible implications. To illustrate this with a common example; the healing time for a simple knee ligament injury is in the region of 3 months. Someone complaining of persistent pain and disability after this time is then considered to be suffering from a chronic injury that needs careful investigation in order to discover if there are any maintaining or aggravating issues. Nutritional and dietary factors are now thought to play a key role in healthy resolution of tissue repair following injury and there is special interest in key amino acids, vitamins and zinc. If all the right nutrients are in place injury healing should run like a seamless process and full function should be restored. However, deficiencies and poor diet can cause serious disruption to one or more of the 4 key points of the healing process. If this happens, a weak and ineffective repair will result nudging the problem ever closer to a chronic injury state. Nutritional research has now confirmed that each of the 4 stages (vascular reaction, inflammation, proliferation and remodeling) of the healing process requires specific vitamins, minerals and amino acids for a successful outcome, even from relatively trivial injuries

Healing; a 4-stage process
The initial phase following any sporting injury is characterized by the rapid constriction of blood vessels closely followed by a more prolonged phase of blood vessel dilation as the vessels open up and become leaky. This allows important healing components of the blood to exit the blood vessels and take up residence within the damaged tissue. You tend to notice this phase of the reaction since there will be swelling, heat and pain! Despite this rather unpleasant side effect is vital ti the healing process since it starts to clear away the damaged tissue. Because of the presence of white blood cells any invading bug are confronted and destroyed which prevents opportunistic infections complicating the injury. The second stage of the process is associated with some persistent warmth surrounding the damaged area. Heat is a typical sign of injury and represents the outward effects of inflammatory chemicals and increased blood supply. Its over these phases that the protein-based healing framework is laid down forming a vital scaffolding onto which new tissue will be built as the region is repaired. For this reason, this stage of the healing process is descriptively known as the proliferative phase. In most cases, basic tissue healing is up to 70% complete after four weeks, but the process of remodeling in more extensive injuries can continue for around two years.

Nutrients are the vital basic raw materials for healing
A quick look at the health section of your local supermarket or health store will reval just how many vitamin and mineral supplements there are, each with their own story to tell! When it comes to injury management there are a few that stand head and shoulders above others, these include vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, L-Arginine and L-Glutamine. Vitamin A is needed for the formation of strong and effective collagen fibres that prevent wounds from breaking down prematurely. This is especially evident in skin injuries. Along with its collagen strengthening function vitamin A is also necessary for an effective immune response that protects against nasty infections that sould seriously delay the healing process. Because of its potential to be toxic, retinol (true vitamin A) is not normally recommended as a supplement. To get round this, it’s non-toxic relative, known as beta carotene, is safe to use by those who have not had a history of smoking related lung cancer. This caveat to beta carotene use follows on from some research findings indicating that it may aggravate this form of lung cancer. In health the body can convert beta carotene into retinol as needed without the worry of toxicity. Foods that are colourful tend to owe their colours to the carotenoid group of compounds of which beta carotene is just one. Select from a variety of foods such as carrots, spinach, kale, apricots, papaya, mango and tomatoes. Vitamin C is another important nutrient needed for the production of strong collage. While scurvy (a gross deficiency state) is unlikely today, an optimal amount of vitamin C is still essential for the healthy resolution of an injury. Vitamin C is also needed for the normal functioning of many immune cells as well as for the strength of blood vessel walls. Collagen, the very glue that holds us together is dependant on adequate vitamin C levels, a lack of vitamin C is commonly associated with fragile and poorly healed injuries. Its interesting that we all tend to associate oranges with vitamin C but its sweet red peppers that actually boast the highest amounts. Other vitamin C foods include cooked broccoli. Contart to popular belief, cooking is known to release more readily available (bioavailable) vitamin C than eating food raw. Also consider eating more ‘greens’, sprouts and tomatoes to boost your vitamin C intake from foods. When we look to the trace element zinc it becomes apparent that a deficiency is known to result in a delayed or poorly healed injury. Zinc is needed to increase scar strength. The need for zinc is thought to be the highest from time of injury especially during the early inflammatory phase. Getting a good boost of zinc from your diet can present vegetarians with a dilemma; the highest amounts are found in oysters (around 77mg per serving), followed by beef, crab, pork and lobster! However baked beans (1.7mg per serving) and cashew nuts (1.6mg per serving) offer fair amounts when eaten on a regular basis. Zinc toxicity can be an issue with higher intakes. Keeping a supplement dose to around 15mg for a few months is a reasonable thing to do over a phase of injury when your zinc needs are higher than normal.

The need for proteins
Protein intake is vital to optimal wound healing, it’s an established fact in all manner of injuries. Out of the many available to the body two key amino acids (Arginine and Glutamine) appear to be essential for soft tissue regeneration and repair. Arginine has a surprising immune function in addition to stimulating the production of complex proteins needed essential for the formation of new body tissue where as glutamine is used by specialist healing cells known as fibroblasts as a primary energy source during the healing process. Fibroblasts are central to the balanced production of fibrous tissue scar tissue. Using supplements of these important amino acids has been shown to enhance repair and healing. Balancing the proteins in your diet is normally the best way to obtain a broad a broad spectrum of well absorbed amino acids with foods such as parsley, raw spinach, fish, meat and beans boasting a high glutamine content with chocolate (yes chocolate!), coconut, dairy products, meat, oats, nuts, raw cereals, peanuts, soybeans and walnuts serving as good sources of arginine. To be on the safe side, those suffering from viral infections or who are pregnant or lactating and those with schizophrenia should avoid taking over 30 mgs of arginine per day while those with liver or kidney diseases, Reye’s syndrome or other disorders resulting in the accumulation of ammonia in the blood need to avoid excessive glutamine intakes.

In managing your sporting injury it is important to remain realistic and understand that healing is a natural process but it can be enhanced with good diet, specific supplements when needed and the careful use of physical therapy and rest.

 

Product link: ST-Repair, nutrients to support tissue healing

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Eye health essentials; what you need to know about vitamins, minerals and antioxidants

Can what we eat really influence our eyes?

When was the last time you thought about your eyes? You have to admit it; you wake up and they just start working. There is no warming up period, no lag time between opening your eye-lids and receiving images and, unlike your telephone or internet connection, there are no problems with intermittent connections. You eyes just work, day in and day out. In fact you eyes can process around 36,000 bits of information per hour and contribute towards 85% of your total knowledge. Being composed of over two million working parts you eyes use around 65% of all the pathways within the brain. Eyed are truly miraculous structures yet we just expect them to work and never question their existence until something goes wrong. It is with this in mind may be its about time to consider the special nutritional requirements the eyes have. After all, we have discussed heart health in the past and the importance of nutrition and the brain. The eyes have their own specific needs and being aware of this could help offset some of the slow to develop degenerative conditions that afflict a growing number of people. Feeding your eyes may be one of the best dietary and lifestyle changes you could make to help protect such a vital pair of structures.

Eye essentials

It is a sad reality that in some of the poorest countries in the world a simple supplement of vitamin A could prevent the estimated 250 million cases of deficiency that I turn leads on to night blindness and more seriously a drying of the eyes called xerophthalmia. This type of dry eye is not just an irritating symptom it’s a sight threatening condition. In Africa, if you can’t see you will probably not survive very long! Vitamin A is one of those vitamins that acts as a bit of a double edges sword. Too much can cause toxic reactions that may, rather ironically, include dry eyes, along with other serious issues including headache, drowsiness, abdominal pains and vomiting to name a few. Luckily, this is a rare situation since supplements containing vitamin A tend to deliver it in the form of the non-toxic, water soluble form known as beta carotene. True vitamin A (retinol) is a fat soluble vitamin that over time can accumulate in the body to the point where toxicity symptoms may ensue. Beta carotene, on the other hand, is only converted into retinol within the body if the body is deficient in retinol. Unless there is an overt deficiency of vitamin A in its retinol form the water soluble version is always preferable for this reason if you are taking supplements. Simply check the label where you will probably see the vitamin A ingredient described as being in the beta carotene form. Excessive intake of beta carotene can occur especially if supplements containing it are taken at the same time as a regular serving of carrot juice because carrots are also high in beta carotene. Over time the skin can turn a yellow-orange colour, most noticeable on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. This situation is known as carotenemia and is not in itself hazardous but is a strong indication that you need to cut back on the carrots and beta carotene supplements! In general, it is recommended that people do not take vitamin A (retinol) for extended periods and that pregnant and lactating women avoid it altogether (it can sneak into the diet via fish liver oils and organ meat such as liver) because of the increased risk of damage to the foetus and breast fed newborn. Keeping you intake of water-soluble vitamin A foods up though. These include the bright coloured fruits such as papayas and oranges and the coloured vegetables like sweet peppers, squash and pumpkin. These foods not only deliver water soluble vitamin A but a complex array of other compounds that are being shown to be of great importance in the fight against nutritional related eye problems and offsetting degenerative eye disease. What needs to be remembered here is the fact that the need for vitamin A in African children is quite different from the requirements of vitamin A in the UK population so boosting the vitamin A (retinol form) intake is probably unnecessary and could be hazardous. On the other hand, maintaining vitamin A levels can be achieved by using beta carotene containing supplements if the diet is very low in the foods mentioned above. However, keep the intake to sensible levels to avoid carotenemia!

The antioxidant connection

There does not appear to be a week that passes without some news on the benefits of antioxidants, but what are they and why are they important in maintaining eye health? Antioxidants are naturally occurring compounds that help slow or prevent oxidative changes in the body and oxidative changes are associated with accelerated degenerative disease. We all live in an oxygen rich environment but this comes at a price. As we breathe our cells utilise the oxygen and produce by-products known as free radicals. These are a group of compounds that if left unchecked or are generated at an accelerated rate cause the oxidative damage we all read about. Antioxidants are the key to keeping this process in check since they neutralize and make safe the free radicals. So, the less free radicals there are buzzing around the less damaging oxidative changes occur and, in turn, the rate of tissue damage and degeneration takes place. Hence, diets high in antioxidants have been advocated for a range of degenerative problems ranging from heart disease and diabetes through to arthritis, cancer and eye problems such as macular degeneration. No one would be as bold as to suggest that such diets can reverse these situations but a change in diet and lifestyle can definitely benefit these problems and could slow their progression.

The key antioxidant nutrients are vitamin A (in the carotenoid form), vitamin E and C along with the mineral selenium.  All these important nutrients can be found in a balanced diet but you can top up a diet with a well formulated food supplement. This may be important in those with food intolerances or for those with specific eye related problems where a guaranteed daily intake of antioxidant nutrients would be desirable.

Key antioxidant foods

Vitamin A

Carrots, squashes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, kale, peaches, apricots and all bright coloured fruits and vegetables

Vitamin C

Citrus fruits such as oranges, limes, coloured berries such as blue berries, strawberries, sweet peppers, green leafy vegetables, broccoli

Vitamin E

Nuts, seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils

Selenium

Fish, shellfish, grains, eggs, chicken and garlic

The carotenoid connection

Within the group of antioxidant compounds the carotenoids appear to have specific influence on the health of the eye. One of these, known as lutein, has come to the attention of scientists and had been the centre of intense investigation when it as noted that in may help off set the effects of macular degeneration. Lutein is found in egg yolks and in the dark green leafy vegetables. It appears to act, like all antioxidants, as a free radical neutraliser but because it accumulates in the tissues that are exposed to the outside environment (the eyes and skin) it exerts this effect to great effect in these tissues over other antioxidants that are distributed to all body tissues. In regards to eye health lutein filters out the high energy blue wavelengths common to sunlight and artificial light. By doing this it is thought that lutein could reduce the damaging effects of these wavelengths on light exposed tissues such as the eye and skin. Getting enough lutein (research suggests around 6-10 mg per day) may be difficult from diet alone since you would need to eat a large bowl of fresh spinach every day to get around 6mg. This could be a case where a food supplement is a good idea. Another up and coming eye specific antioxidan is known as zeaxanthin. Again, it belongs to the carotenoid group of compounds.

Foods high in key carotenoids

High lutein foods

Yellow peppers, spinach, mango, bilberries, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, eggs

High zeaxanthin foods

Orange peppers, corn, lettuce (not iceberg), tangerines, spinach, broccoli, oranges and eggs

Pulling it all together

It is clear that good food promotes all aspects of health but certain foods do appear to be associated with specific eye related nutritional needs. A large trail (the Age Related Eye Disease Study trial, see for details) has confirmed the importance of the antioxidants vitamin A, C, E and the minerals selenium, zinc and copper in slowing the progression of age related macular degeneration so we know that boosting those foods high in these nutrients or taking a well formulated supplement is going to be a good idea. A number of smaller studies have also focused on nutrition with special reference to lutein and zeaxanthin. Both of these compounds have been associated with improved eye health.

When looking to the UK population, the Royal National Institute for the Blind comments that research has shown that many people do not get enough vitamins and minerals from their diet and suggest the use of food supplements. These must not be taken, however, as a substitute for a balanced diet!

When to consider a eye specific supplement

  • When intake of fresh fruit and vegetables are low
  • When the absorption of vitamins and minerals poor
  • When its hard to obtain and prepare fresh produce
  • When food intolerances prohibit eating key foods

Product link

Vision Essentials: balanced all-in-one eye specific nutrition

Useful Contacts

Royal National Institute for the Blind

Macular Disease Society

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Antioxidant supplements & artery health – the latest!

Just published… a key study looking at the effect of antioxidant supplementation with vitamin C, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10 and selenium on arterial health and  inflammation. As the research gathers pace, heart disease and the clogging of the arteries known as atherosclerosis is being view more as an inflammatory disease rather than a passive accumulation of fatty material within the walls of blood vessels.

This latest paper helps support the long held theory that antioxidants can help off set this process and protect the health of the cardiovascular system.

In this study, 70 people with two diagnosed cardiovascular risk factors (see the study for details) were recruited from a hypertension clinic. 35 people were given a 6 month course of capsules containing vitamin C (500 mg) vitamin E (200 iu), co- enzyme Q10 (60 mg) and selenium (100 mcg) while the other 35 were given a placebo. The summary conclusion is displayed below and the results and technicalities can be viewed by following the link at the end of this post.

Conclusions: Antioxidant supplementation significantly increased large and small artery elasticity in patients with multiple cardiovascular risk factors. This beneficial vascular effect was associated with an improvement in glucose and lipid metabolism as well as decrease in blood pressure.

The original paper is free to download from the open access journal by clicking here.

Shargorodsky M, Debbi O, Matas, Z, Zimlichman R. Effect of long term treatment with antioxidants (vitamin C, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10 and selenium) on arterial compliance, humoral factors and inflammatory markers in patients with multiple cardiovascular risk factors. Nutrition & Metabolism 2010, 7:55 doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-7-55

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Ask The Pharmacist; August posting

This is our August blog post. The first in our new monthly postings entitled “Ask The Pharmacist“. We invite you to voice common questions that our colleague, Holistic Clinical Pharmacist Dr. Cathy Rosenbaum, can respond to.

Please feel free to contribute and post a comment below or visit Dr Cathy’s blog by clicking here.

This months question:

  • Dietary Supplement Mania.  Should we worry about mega-dosing fat soluble vitamins or water soluble vitamins or all of them?  Why?
Dr Cathy’s reply:

Fat soluble antioxidant vitamins can accumulate in the body over time and cause unwanted side effects. For example, vitamin E in doses higher than 200 IU daily for more than two years can increase risk of stroke and other cardiovascular disease. Vitamin A intake higher than 1250 IU daily (supplement or juicing) increases risk of hip fracture in both men and women. Water soluble vitamins have their issues in high doses, too. Vitamin C may actually be pro-oxidative in doses higher than 500 mg – 1,000 mg daily. It can cause kidney stones, increased risk of bruising and bleeding as well. The body does not absorb more than 250 mg daily.

All three of these supplements are excellent antioxidants but it’s still better to eat colourful fruits and vegetables from the Mediterranean Diet than to supplement since there are literally thousands of antioxidants in nature from which to choose. The body craves variety.

Be sure you talk with your doctor or pharmacist about the best vitamin supplements for your individual health needs and goals.

Be healthy!

Dr. Cathy

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Eat well to heal well

Most of us never give a second thought to the healing process, we get an injury and it heals up; simple. What we neglect to appreciate is just how complex and well orchestrated the healing process actually is. If any step along the way is defective or interrupted the healing process can become delayed and problems can ensue.

When we damage any tissue in the body the natural process of wound healing jumps in and immediately starts to clear things up. The damaged tissues need to be replaced with new. This process demands the use of precious raw materials such as proteins, specific nutrients and energy in the form of calories to fuel the mechanisms of repair. Even following a small wound the natural reaction of the body is to stimulate the metabolism as part of a stress reaction. In this situation the term stress does not imply the anxiety reaction commonly associated with the phrase but refers to the biological and hormonal stress reaction that places specific demands (stress) on the body. This early phase of wound healing is technically known as the ‘catabolic phase’ because it is characterized by a breakdown of tissue. During this time water can be used at an increased rate along with an increased release of energy from food or stored body fat. In very undernourished individuals, with low body fat, muscle may be broken down for energy. This situation is not good because it starves the healing wound of much needed proteins (since they are being ‘burnt’ to provide energy) when they should be being utilized for the healing process. In such cases, delayed wound healing is the inevitable result.

Common problems that are associated with delayed wound healing

  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Liver disease
  • Smoking
  • Kidney disease
  • Poor circulation
  • Poor nutrition
  • Weak immune system
  • Inflammatory disease
  • Being over 65 years old

The importance of protein

Without a good protein supply wounds will not heal well at all. Reduced intake of protein will decrease the production of collagen; the ‘glue’ that literally holds us together. Most diets deliver adequate proteins but over phases of wound healing special attention should be given to high protein foods like grains, seeds, nuts, eggs, fish, meat and if you are not sensitive to it dairy foods.

L-Arginine is an important amino acid found in many protein foods. It’s a vital ingredient for the production of proteins structures needed for repair and a strong healed wound. Supplements containing L-Arginine have been shown to promote collagen production and accelerate the healthy healing of many kinds of soft tissue (skin, muscle, tendon) injuries. Another key amino acid needed for healing is L-Glutamine which is also needed for optimal collagen production. Using a supplement containing these saves the body from mobilizing them from muscle tissue and ensures a ready and adequate supply.

The importance of fats

Fats get a bad press but we do know that there are good and bad fats. All the cells in our body have a fat membrane that keeps the tissues flexible. Making sure that you get enough good fat in the diet can make a big difference to the healing process. There is no need to take excessive amounts of additional oils but 500-1000 mg of flax oil per day would be adequate. Taking too much omega-3 oil (eg. high strength fish oil) may actually reduce the strength of a healed wound.

The importance of carbohydrates

Energy is the currency needed to heal a wound. Carbohydrates in the form of whole grains, cereals, brown rice and potatoes deliver plenty of starch that is readily metabolized into energy for life and healing. However, diabetics need t take care not to radically change their carbohydrate intake without supervision.

How about vitamins and minerals

Balanced diets should deliver all the nutrients needed but some nutrients do appear more important to boost wound healing. It may come as no surprise that vitamin C demands increase. This vitamin is needed for collagen production and immune support. Poor healed wounds and wound infection is associated with low vitamin C levels or intake. The same can be said about vitamin A but this nutrient should only be taken in the form of beta carotene because of the potential for toxic side effects from pure vitamin A (retinol). Eating plenty of coloured fruits and vegetables will boost the dietary levels and a supplement may help as well. Of all the minerals available to the body a healing wound demands extra zinc and iron. Unless anaemic, the body has good stores of iron and supplements are not recommended because of the risk of iron overload (toxicity) or more commonly bowel upset. Supplementation with zinc on the other hand may offer some additional benefit. Slow to heal wounds have been shown to improve with the use of additional zinc and by increasing the intake of key zinc foods such as fish, eggs and shellfish. Eating more red meat, eggs, dried fruit and dark green vegetables can boost dietary iron.

In general wounds healing can be significantly improved by careful attention to diet and fluid intake; it may sound simple but it’s a vital step and makes all the difference between a well healed or poorly healed wound. The preparation ST-Repair will deliver the key additional nutrients L-Arginine, L-Glutamine, vitamin C, beta carotene and zinc in the form of a supplement that have all been associated with optimal healing. Whether you have a surgical wound that needs healing, a sports injury or other soft tissue strain never forget the importance of food and nutrients in the process of healthy tissue repair.

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Feeding your Brain

Food, Mood, the Brain and Beyond
“We used to think our future was in the stars. Now we know it’s in our genes”
James Watson Nobel laureate and co-discoverer of DNA

There is growing evidence that eating the correct diet may help prevent many disorders of the mind such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, dementia and autism but just how powerful is our diet compared to our genetic constitution? Viewed another way, maybe we should be considering the combined power of our genetic make up and diet since genes for certain disorders may only express themselves in special situations. For example, I think many psychiatrists agree that certain people have addictive personalities. In the presence of excess alcohol the gene expresses itself and the person becomes an alcoholic. What is interesting is the fact that most reformed alcoholics often turn to another addiction such as smoking or eating to fill the gap in their lives. Those who win through and turn their backs on destructive addictions may find themselves following strict religious or work-based pursuits. Just as humans can become addicted to alcohol so to can they become addicted to drugs. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests our genetics are at the root of these evils.

Studies of brains from alcohol addicts show that they have fewer dopamine receptors than non-alcoholics; maybe this was genetically determined. Genes have also been implicated in smokers. In one study of 283 smokers over one third had an unusual gene that was not present in non-smokers. The gene, named D-2, was also found to be responsible for the low number of dopamine receptors discovered in the brains of alcoholics. Now we can start to see a strong genetic link developing between the two addictive personalities. With one gene defect we can see two very different addictive behaviours and potential life style and health outcomes. Our addicts may be viewed as “medicating” themselves since both alcohol and smoking will elevate the dopamine levels (by blocking its re-uptake) and stimulate the pleasure centres deep within the brain. So to will certain foods such as carbohydrates since the release of another happy hormone, serotonin occurs.

When it comes to a discussion on diet and health the human brain must feel a bit left out. We are all aware that certain foods and vitamins feed our skin, a low animal fat diet is good for the heart, drinking plenty of water helps our kidneys and our bones benefit from extra calcium whilst the joints often feel better for a oiling up with a daily dose of cod liver oil. What about our brains – they have very special needs but how many of us give this amazing structure a second thought?

Compared to the lightweight brain our closest ancestors, the monkeys, which weigh about 105 grams the average human brain weighs in at a colossal 1350 grams. From a developmental point of view it is the first tissue to develop, at about 16 days after conception. Eating well is vital if you are trying to conceive since you may not be aware that you are pregnant by the time your babies brain has started to develop!

Even though the adult brain forms only 2% of our body weight it receives over 15% of the blood pumped from the heart and consumes well over 20% of the total body oxygen and glucose used each day. Such a high blood supply and fuel consumption shows how essential fresh supplies of brain food are for healthy brain function. However, don’t forget that the feeding of a healthy brain starts before birth!

It has been said that the seeds of good adult health are sown before conception, during pregnancy and during infancy. The seeds of health being the specific nutrients contained in our daily diet. It has been recently been discovered that certain oils (belonging to the fat family known as “omega-3’s”) are essential for the normal development of the brain and nervous system during pregnancy. This reliance on the omega-3 fats continues for the first couple of years of life. One specific member of this fat family known as docosahexaenoic acid or DHA for short, has the ability to stimulate the growth of the retina (the light sensitive inner part of the eye) and the brain itself. DHA can, therefore, be considered to be a specific brain nutrient. Apart from the brain DHA plays an important function in the correct functioning of the immune system.

The developing baby is reliant on it’s mother for an adequate DHA supply. Dietary intake accounts for the majority of DHA used by the baby and obtained through the placenta and later on in the breast milk. Many formula milk are very low in DHA. In fact the fat content of most formula feeds are based in commercially processed oils which contain high levels of potentially damaging fats known as “trans fatty acids”. It has been estimated that breast milk contains over 30% more DHA than formula feeds; breast is always best!

Just take a trip around any supermarket and you will be confronted with an enormous and ever-growing variety of low-fat or fat-free food products. These foods are being aimed at our obsession with low fat diets promoted by the media. With our ever growing knowledge about the importance of essential fatty acids it is questionable if this new style of eating is the healthy option it is made out to be. However, this is not an invitation to throw caution to the wind and pig out fatty foods. I would still advise moderation in animal (saturated) fats while increasing oily fish, and foods high in monounsaturated fats – the good fats!

The shift in modern eating habits is causing serious concerns regarding the growing followers of the low-fat culture. This diet trend is causing a drop in the essential fatty acid intake in the general population. Most worrying is the potential adverse effects this may have on mothers to be and their babies developing nervous system.

Recently, an item of news announced the fact that the brains of pregnant women shrank over the cause of their pregnancy. The study was carried out at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School. The scientists were investigating the causes of pregnancy related blood pressure problems when they stumbled across the unexpected finding showing that the brains of the women they were studying were shrinking. The investigating team discovered that the mothers were deficient in essential fatty acids that were needed by the developing babies brain and nervous system. Such was the demand that the stores contained in the mothers brain were mobilised into the general circulation for delivery to the developing baby. The adult brain is a rich reserve pool of these special fats. Happily, however, the brains returned to normal after 6 – 10 months but the fact remains that the reserve pool was tapped into demonstrating the absolute necessity for these fatty acids.

It is common knowledge that folic acid is essential for the healthy formation of the nervous system. Most pregnant mothers are now given tablets of 400 mcg folic acid to prevent spina bifida, but what about oil supplements?

Deficiencies of the omega 3 family can lead to learning difficulties because of their importance in the development of the nervous system but because learning and behavioural problems are only normally noticed some years after birth and are not life threatening, unlike spina bifida, it has not prompted much attention. There is a popular misconception that fats act as nothing more than storage systems for energy or as packing material. Only recently has it become acknowledged that fats have a very significant role in the metabolism and development of the body. There is a clear need for a greater understanding of the role of fatty acid metabolism in the maintenance of cell membrane health. There is evidence accumulating that any dietary programme aimed at helping an autistic child should involve a balance of both omega 3 and 6 fatty acids rather than gross overloading of one form . Evening Primrose Oil consists largely of Gamma Linolenic Acid, an Omega 6 acid. There are other, richer sources of Gamma Linolenic Acid, such as Borage (Star Flower) Oil but it is claimed that this is less well tolerated than the oil from Evening Primrose. Fish oils such as Cod liver oil have the added advantage of including supplementary Vitamin A, which is likely to be, is short supply in people with autism.

Flax seed oil is a rich source of Omega 3 acids. A daily dose of flaxseed oil will re-balance the situation. Taken at a dose of 1 – 2 grams a day it will provide all the necessary fatty acids needed for health. Flaxseed oil is a richer supply of omega 3’s than fish oil, almost twice as concentrated in fact. From the high content of linolenic acid contained in flax oil the body can make all the DHA it needs.

The adult brain is not a static structure. Our ideas about the brain have changed since the early days of neurology and its plasticity (the ability to change and adapt to different situations) has now been appreciated.

The chemical environment of the brain is all important. Even minor nutritional deficiencies can major implications on healthy brain function. It has been noted that symptoms of dementia can occur long before the levels of vitamin B12 and folic acid are shown to be low in blood tests. The findings of vitamin B12 deficiency is not uncommon in Alzheimer’s disease further supporting the importance for a good nutritional balance. Unfortunately by the time symptoms start to be noticed supplementation may come too late. A long term minor deficiency has been suggested to cause slow and irreversible changes in the nervous tissue that is unresponsive to corrective supplementation.

As with many nutritional substances there is a good deal of interaction between the food chemicals that enter the brain. Vitamin C, for example, plays an essential part in the healthy actions of another important brain food, the amino acid known as phenylalanine. Phenylalanine works to produce nerve transmitting substances (called neurotransmitters) which regulate the electrical activity of the brain.

Neurotransmitters are responsible for an elevated and positive mood, alertness and mental well being, a lack causes many brain disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.

As well as vitamin C the mineral zinc has a part to play in mental health. It has been noticed that many people suffering from irritability, nervousness and anxiety have higher than normal levels of copper circulating in their bodies. Copper and zinc have an interesting relationship in that a deficiency of zinc causes an excess of copper to accumulate. Supplementing your diet with zinc can help re-balance the situation but care must be taken to avoid taking too much zinc which will cause a copper deficiency! It is best to take professional advice before taking large doses of zinc but a 15mg daily dose is considered quite safe for general uses.

Zinc has been studied in great detail and a team at the University of Michigan has shown a significant relationship between high academic grades and high zinc levels. Zinc deficiency is prevalent in our society mainly because of poor soil quality, food processing and bad cooking techniques.
Just like a fire an epileptic fit starts with a single spark, but the spark in this case is an abnormal brain impulse. The neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyrate acid or GABA for short plays a key role in controlling brain impulses. GABA is the most prevalent transmitter substance in the brain and has many functions, the most important of which is a calming effect over the nervous system.

The brain of epileptics, hyperactive children, insomniacs, cerebral palsy sufferers, hypertensives, anxiety sufferers and those with learning problems, anti-social behaviour and mental retardation all benefit from elevating the GABA levels. GABA has no serious side effects even in doses of up to 40 grams (the normal dose ranges from 250 mcg – 1,000 mcg daily).

It is interesting to note that zinc again makes an appearance in the natural treatment of epilepsy. Zinc is needed for the production of GABA, along with another amino acid called glutamic acid. Numerous experiments have shown that a zinc deficient diet aggravates epilepsy and causes more frequent fits and seizures.

So far it can be seen that we need adequate zinc, glutamic acid and vitamin C for the correct balanced production of neurotransmitters but the list does not stop there. Vitamin B6 acts as a special co-factor and helps convert the glutamic acid into GABA. If this vitamin is low in the diet, despite of adequate amounts of zinc, vitamin C and glutamic acid, the reactions will not occur and GABA levels will fall.

The major structural fats found in the brain are called phospholipids. One particular phospholipid known as phosphatidylserine appears to be important in the control of mood and mood related problems. Normally this substance is produced naturally in the brain but in individuals who have deficiencies of vitamin B12, folic acid and other essential fatty acids the production of phosphatidylserine is dramatically reduced. Low levels are often found in the brains of elderly subjects but it’s concentration in younger people may be directly related to depressive mood states.

The primary use of phosphatidylserine in nutritional medicine is in the treatment of depression and impaired mental function in the elderly. Very good results have been obtained in a number of studies. Supplementing the diet with phosphatidylserine appears to improve neurotransmitter release (especially acetylcholine), memory and age related changes.

How phosphatidylserine aids in the treatment of depression is unknown. It does not affect serotonin levels like classic antidepressants nor does it interfere with other neurotransmitters. Phosphatidylserine does, however, improve the quality of brain cell membranes and helps control the levels of cortisol, a hormone released from the adrenal glands which has been found to be elevated in depressed subjects.

All in all, there is much evidence to suggest that the brain needs specific nutrients and it responds very well to corrective supplements. Feeding your brain well will make sure that it functions optimally and guarantees that long term deficiency symptoms do not occur. Such symptoms are so slow in developing that they are often written off as being age related changes for which nothing can be done. This is just not satisfactory when prevention is so easily achieved by a knowledge of what to feed your brain with.

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