Thursday, May 13, 2010

White Pine Bark

The study of medicinal herbs is a fascinating science. Recently, I've been reading about them and experimenting to see what symptoms certain kinds of herbs and other natural substances can cure. My latest discovery is white pine bark. I had this one recommended to me in a health food store once as a cure for allergies/intolerances.

According to many websites describing the health benefits of white pine bark, the bark (when boiled and drunk as tea) helps clear congestion from colds, increase circulation, improve concentration, and fight blood clots. When I read this, something struck me. Interestingly, all of the symptoms that this pine bark supposedly cures are primary symptoms of low adrenal function/low natural cortisol*. This led me to the obvious conclusion that, although I can't prove it, white pine bark increases the production of the adrenal glands.

Testimonial: I tried it. I boiled up the bark into tea and drank one cup before bed (bad idea by the way). I couldn't sleep. I had so much energy and mental stamina that I stayed up and read a book. My allergies were completely gone for the evening and into the night. I felt warm all over like blood was coursing to all of my limbs, and since I'm usually cold, it felt really good.

There are a couple of problems with the results of my experiment.

Similarities to Caffeine: For one, caffeine also produces similar short-lived relief of symptoms for many people, me included. You've heard the advice: don't drink caffeine if you get migraines or asthma attacks on a regular basis, BUT if you start to get a migraine or an asthma attack and you don't have medication or an inhaler with you, quick drink some coffee or a soda to stem the attack and then go seek medical help. Caffeine gives you energy because it taps into your natural adrenaline, cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine supplies. Caffeine stops working for people after a while if their bodies are unable to keep restocking the adrenal glands with hormones as fast as they tap into that stock with caffeine, making your body unable to prevent allergic reactions like migraines and asthma on its own. Ultimately, caffeine causes more problems than it fixes. I'm not sure yet if this is true for white pine bark.

Short-lived experiment: The other problem with my experiment is that the results are extremely short-lived. I have to drink a lot more bark tea to verify only my inconclusive results. It's possible that white pine bark helps to replenish the hormones in the adrenal glands in addition to tapping into them for immediate results. I'll find out and let you know.

For the short term, I'd like to encourage all those with allergies to try white pine bark if you eat something you're allergic or intolerant to. It might help decrease the severity of the reaction.

Tea: Place 1 tsp or so of the bark inside a cloth bag or a mesh tea paper and let steep in 8-10 ounces of hot water for 5-7 minutes. I've found that it is best if drunk with food.

*My favorite book on Adrenal dysfunction is Adrenal Fatigue by James L. Wilson.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

More about insulin resistence—natural remedies

Just a quick note to add to or reiterate what's already been said about insulin resistance. Recently, I've stumbled upon two natural helps for this problem—spearmint and carob. Both, if ingested regularly, can help the cells to take in insulin instead of resisting it. I've heard that about two cups of spearmint tea per day will start making a difference in three months, so it doesn't happen quickly. Regularly ingesting carob teas or using carob in baking instead of cocoa powder can also help over a couple of months time.

Low energy? Natural energy remedies

So, I've had some requests lately for natural energy remedies. There's a lot you can do to increase your energy naturally, and let me state this right off the bat, none of them have to do with caffeine. Let me tell you why. Caffeine is a quick fix and it loses its effectiveness if used daily. The way it works is to stimulate your adrenal glands to produce cortisol and adrenaline and other hormones that make you feel awake and alert. A one-time use of caffeine will force your adrenals to use up the reserves of adrenaline they have kept for a time of crisis, and once these reserves are used up, caffeine stops working as effectively because although it continues to stimulate the adrenal glands, the glands cannot respond. This means that you will have less energy in general no matter how much coffee you drink and, worse, you will not be able to respond to crises in your life as effectively because you've already used up your crisis reserve of adrenaline to make it through a bad day at work. Cutting down on regular intake of caffeine alone can give you more energy in the long run.
Another remedy for low energy, especially the extremes of chronic fatigue, is to take a combination of supplements designed to help your adrenals and the electron transport chain in your cells (which makes ATP) function more efficiently. This combination is magnesium, Fish oil (or anther omega-3), vitamin B complex (primarily vitamin B 6 though), iron, and coenzyme Q.
Coenzyme Q is a vitamin-like substance present in all mitochondria and plays an integral role in the production of ATP in the cells.
Iron has been linked to energy for decades, probably because it also plays a role in the cellular production of energy. Everytime you bleed (women), you should replace the lost iron either by eating red meat, spinich, or other iron-rich foods, or by taking an iron supplement. Men should be careful taking iron although some need it because they don't lose blood on a regular basis, which means iron can build up in their systems if they take too much. With iron, I'd recommend taking it for a week after menstration for women or one week out of the month for men. Another good way to take it for men is every couple of days until your energy starts going up and then stop. Probably ought to talk to your doctor about this one though.
Vitamin B-6 is a natural energy booster (it's in the Emergen-C Energy drinks if you're familiar with those). It works in conjunction with coenzyme Q and iron to raise your energy and make you feel more alert. B-complexes are even better though because the other B vitamins each have their own benefits related to energy and alertness. For example, vitamin B-12 increases neuroconnections in the brain, helping your ability to remember things and pay attention.
Fish oil is a natural anti-inflammatory, which means it works directly on the adrenal glands, helping them to produce the anti-inflamation steriod, cortisol. In working on the adrenal glands, fish oil helps to raise energy because the adrenals provide "energy" chemicals for the body.
Magnesium is a mineral that works directly on the cells also. It works in conjunction with calcium to control muscle-tightness and influence mental alertness. Calcium, which most Americans get a lot of in their diets, helps muscles and cells to fire while magnesium helps muscles to relax. You wouldn't think that magnesium would be the one to help up your energy, but it works by helping your adrenals to produce the right combination of adrenaline and cortisol. Most people rely on the adrenaline their adrenal glands are producing to get them through their day, which causes many of problems—muscle tension, hyperalertness leading to exhaustion and the constant need to recover. Magnesium brings everything into balance so that cortisol is the chemical giving you energy throughout the day and adrenaline is reserved only for crisis-situations. Make sure when you take magnesium that you are taking the right form for you. I've found that a lot of people with Chronic fatigue respond best to magnesium glycinate because it is so easily digestible. The most commonly ingested form is magnesium citrate, which also works very well for most.
I hope this post was helpful to people looking for energy remedies. This combination of supplements has helped me a lot.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Goiter Belt

Several people recently have asked me about the goiter belt—what it is and what causes it. A picture that shows the area the goiter belt covers can be found at The medical world has known about this belt for over 50 years, and they're attributed it to low iodine content in the soil. A lack of iodine in the diet causes low thyroid and goiter, which is simply swelling the thyroid gland.
The problem with this old hypothesis about the connection between iodine and goiter is that the US has required for years that all salt in the Great Lakes Region contain supplemental iodine, yet the incidences of low thyroid across the US have not dropped as significantly as expected. Hypothyroidism is still a prevalent problem across the entire US and not only in the goiter belt.
There must be some or many other factors contributing to this problem.
Researchers most recently blame two things for the hypothyroidism epidemic: chemicals/toxins in the water and soil and low content of other essential minerals like selenium in our soil.
Over the years, we've either released (through mining and other practices harmful to the earth) or disposed of harmful chemicals into our soil and water. Coal-mining produces dihydroxybenoic acids that lower thyroid function. Any water and soil in areas of the US near coal mines probably contains these toxins (Stephen E. Langer, Solved the Riddle of Illness).
The CDC has done studies showing that perchlorate, a toxin from (of all things) rocket fuel is showing up in the soil of California primarily in higher than safe concentrations. This toxin actually damages the thyroid. Fire-repellant/retardant causes thyroid problems in cats, and probably in humans as well although I haven't found a study to support it. In the end, it's really hard to diagnose what is causing the thyroid problems because it could be any number of chemicals from any number of sources. Sometimes, it's simply necessary to take medication to counteract the effects of these and other unknown toxins.
The second blaming factor for hypothyroidism in the US is the lack of other essential minerals and vitamins in our soil and our diets that make it impossible for our bodies to convert T4 into T3 and other usable forms of thyroid hormone. Dr. David Brownstein gives a short list of these in his book Overcoming Thyroid Disorders: some of the lacking minerals and vitamins are iodine, iron, selenium, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B12. As much as the FDA doesn't like the idea of people using vitamin supplements, in some regions of the country, it may be necessary to make up for soil depletion.
I wish there was an easy way to find out which vitamins and minerals your soil is lacking, but I don't think there is. It might be best just to supplement, but look up the problems associated with taking too much of any one of these vitamins/minerals and notice if you start having any of those symptoms. Remember, taking too much of any vitamin or mineral is as bad as not having enough. Too much iodine can actually cause thyroiditis.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Addendum (or adendumb in my case :)

My mother just informed me that Wilson's syndrom, although still accepted as a legitimate syndrome, is not very well respected in the medical community. The treatment, developed by E. Denis Wilson, is not apparently as effective as it seems it should have been. You have to be very careful taking T3 because it is so utterly usable. Too much has caused heart attacks, has sucked calcium out of bones and caused osteoporosis, and can cause shaking and panic attacks.
I, however, have been taking a low dose of T3 for several years now and have not had any of these problems (thankfully). Just be careful. I thought you should know that risks.

Wilson's Temperature Syndrome

This syndrome, yet again, stems from a malfunctioning thyroid gland, but it is different than hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's even though patients with Wilson's manifest many of the typical low thyroid symptoms. Patients with Wilson's Temperature Syndrome have low body temperatures, sometimes significantly lower than the normal 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (96 or low 97 degrees). The cause of this low body temperature is the body's inability to convert T4, which is produced directly by the thyroid gland, into T3, the usable form of the thyroid hormone. Thus, the thyroid gland is producing plenty and sometimes even too much T4, but the body is unable to use it.
These are the basics of Wilson's, but from here on, it gets more complicated and I'll do my best to explain. Unlike hypothyroidism where the thyroid is either genetically low or has been damaged, this syndrome can develop in anyone at any time of their life without longterm damage to the thyroid. People often develop Wilson's after a prolonged virus or other major stress to the immune system. Stresses to the immune system cause the body to go into overdrive, producing more of all the hormones including thyroid. In normal people (ha! normal) or rather, in people with optimally functioning endocrine systems, the body fights off the virus or deals with the stress and afterward, the hormone levels return to normal without any longterm problems. But in those with less than optimally functioning endocrinology, especially adrenal glands, the body can forget to turn down the hormone production after it has been stressed. These people's thyroid glands keep producing T4 and adrenal hormone as well as other hormones that help to convert T4 to T3, T2, and T2, and there is way too much of everything, especially T3. The brain recognizes that there is far too much T3 and it responds by stimulating the endocrine glands to make what's called reverse T3. This hormone looks to the body like usable T3 and it bonds to the receptor cites on the cells that T3 would normally occupy, but the problem is that reverse T3 is inactive, thus causing the body to develop the first stage of Wilson's syndrome, inadequate T3 in the cells. After a little while, the brain recognizes that the cells do not have enough usable T3, and it tries to fix the problem by pumping up the thyroid gland to produce more T4 which should be converted into T3 and begin replacing the reverse T3 in the cells. But by this point, the body is in a downward spiral because low thyroid and low body temperature decrease the production of the converting hormones like cortisone and the body can no longer effectively convert T4 into T3. Thus, the second stage of Wilson's develops because the cell cites remain blocked by reverse T3.
The symptoms of Wilson's manifest themselves at this point (low body temperature, slow metabolism, weight gain, depression, etc) and if not corrected, they will cause increased stress on the body and continue becoming worse. The most obvious symptom of Wilson's is allergies due to low body temp. Allergies begin to manifest themselves once the body has dropped to 98 degrees and they become steadily worse as the temp drops lower. The best way to discover a consistent low body temp is the same way women check to see if they are ovulating: take your body temp every morning as soon as you wake up, even before you get out of bed. This is called the basal body temperature test. Record the temp each morning, and in a week or two you should notice what your average body temp is, and if it's lower than 98 on a regular basis, you probably should start investigating Wilson's or one of the other thyroid diseases.
The best cure for this syndrome is to take T3 by itself which will raise the body temperature and stimulate the converting hormones to convert T4 to T3. The best thing about Wilson's is that is doesn't last forever, and usually synthetic T3 can be decreased and eventually stopped entirely. Important note: Most doctors will prescribe cytomel which is synthetic T3, but most patients with Wilson's respond much much better to a time release T3 that is only available at certain "alternative" pharmacies around the country (One is Bellmar Pharmacy in Denver, CO). This medication must be taken every 12 hours and is released slowly into the endocrine system, preventing the body from manufacturing more reverse T3 and starting the vicious cycle over again.
In addition to time release, most patients with Wilson's respond well to herbal treatment. I take Ashwagandha, Astragalus, Eleuthero, Fo-Ti (or Ho-Shou-Wu), Wild Yam, and Devil's Claw twice a day and have noticed a difference. Also, I would recommend a good multi-vitamin and fish oil and flax oil (the omega-3's) for everyone with endocrine problems of any kind.
As you may or may not remember, I mentioned (twice I think) the adrenal hormones as significant players in the Wilson's syndrome cycle. I'll explain more about adrenal hormones in a later post once I find the book I want to quote, but for this post, people with Wilson's should note that cortisone and the other adrenal hormones contribute to the conversion from T4 to T3. Thus, Wilson's sufferers should also follow the treatment protocol for those with adrenal problems, the protocol that I promise I will explain next post.
Another important note: I mentioned earlier that the basal body temperature test can be a good indicator of Wilson's disease. It can also indicate any number of other related problems such as low adrenal or hypothyroidism. This is why doctors don't rely on temperature tests alone. It's still important to get a blood test, and if you suspect Wilson's, ask your doctor to test your reverse T3 or your usable T3 specifically. If the doctor simply tests your T4, T3, and TSH (the three typical blood tests in a normal thyroid test), your levels will come out normal even if your T3 is completely unusable and you have Wilson's.
Here's an interesting website that I found that might be helpful:

Friday, June 27, 2008

For people who suffer from insulin resistance

For those who don't know, a la Wikipedia: "Insulin resistance is the condition in which normal amounts of insulin are inadequate to produce a normal insulin response from fat, muscle and liver cells." So basically the body over compensates and produces WAY too much insulin and since insulin is a hormone, too much of it affects the production of other hormones.

The most common way of treating insulin resistance, per information given me by my nurse practicioner, is threefold: diet (eat foods high in protein and fiber/low in fat and sugar), exercise (who doesn't need more exercise?) and a medication called Metformin or Glucophage. The medication makes the insulin receptors more sensitive, thus reducing the need for an excess amount of insulin in the bloodstream. Unfortunately the drug has some uncomfortable side effects including nausea and abdominal cramping. I have thus been looking for some natural cures and stumbled across this interesting coffee alternative: Teecino herbal coffee.

According to the FAQ on the website: "Another factor that may explain why people experience an energy lift from Teeccino is the pinitol that is naturally present in carob pods. Pinitol has been shown to act like insulin by making cells receptive to taking in glycogen, the energy component in the blood. The natural pinitol in carob may help people who are insulin resistant by increasing the ability of their muscles to use glycogen." Interesting, no?

Now for the experiment: I will try this "herbal coffee" and see how I feel over a period of weeks and/or months. This isn't a very scientific way of doing things, but the worst that could come out of it is that I get to drink a great coffee alternative every day. I will update again as soon as the "experiment" begins.