Botanical Nutrition

by Rob Seeman official blogger of the health food movement


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How does diet affect Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis? Up the Omega-3

The title of this blog entry is an obvious question for anyone seeking natural solutions to health challenges.  In natural medicine, we often take it is a base assumption that changing diet will have impact on health outcomes.  The way in which specific dietary changes will affect body systems, however, is not always clear particularly when there is pathology such as in autoimmune and chronic inflammatory conditions.hand_pain

 

One study done in Germany about 10 years looked at Mediterranean diet or extended fasting in patients with FM or RA and found no changes in intestinal microflora or secretory immunoglobulin A (a endogenous inflammatory compound).  This may not tell us all that we need to know about these pathologies and their relation to diet, but it gives us some food for thought.  Would anyone else like to see a followup study with natural anti-inflammatories or even probiotic supplementation?

One interesting Korean study found that EPA & DHA Omega-3s (fish oil) supplementation in Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferers helped them to lower their dosage of NSAIDS (Non-steroidal anti-inlammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen, etc.).  While this is far from a dietary ‘cure’ for RA, it could be of immense benefit because of the myriad health benefits of Omega-3, as well as the decreased load on the liver when NSAID dosage required is lowered.

Another study in the International journal Rheumatology found that a vegetarian diet along with fish oil supplementation could greatly reduce symptoms for RA sufferers. “A diet low in arachidonic acid ameliorates clinical signs of inflammation in patients with RA and augments the beneficial effect of fish oil supplementation” found the researchers.


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AHPA responds to NY Attorney General’s big box supplements slam

Walmart

On Monday, the NY Times reported that the New York Attorney General’s office had accused four major retailers (Walgreen’s Wal-Mart, Target and GNC) of having adulterated and useless (or potentially harmful) products on their shelves.  The paper of record reported that “The authorities said they had conducted tests on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart — and found that four out of five of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels. The tests showed that pills labeled medicinal herbs often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies.”

This could be attributed to what many in the natural products industry had already believed – that the products carried under the brand of big box retailers like Wal-Mart might be less than stellar quality.  The unfortunate reality might also be that this could have negative ramifications for other companies as well.

Today the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) responded publicly to the charges from the NY State Attorney’s office by saying “the New York State Attorney General used an inadequate and unproven analytical method to test herbal supplement products at the core of the State’s allegations that several retailers are selling adulterated and/or mislabeled herbal dietary supplements. The results of this analysis, therefore, cannot be considered valid. According to AHPA Chief Science Officer Maged Sharaf, Ph.D., the New York State Attorney General and the laboratory that conducted the analysis relied on an analytical technology that does not have the capacity to reach the degree of certainty represented by the State in its accusations.”

While this is clearly an evolving case, it underscores the need for consumers to support high quality natural products supplements that use the kind of rigors in keeping with GMP.  Read more about AHPA’s response here.


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CannaVest releases letter to stockholders addressing ‘Hustlers of Hemp’ smear article

CBD (cannabidiol) seems to be such a promising new dietary supplement, especially as a super-critically extracted compound from industrial hemp. The pioneering health food store brand Super Hemp CBD, made with Plus CBD Oil from CannaVest and exclusively distributed by the Food Movement Co. in Illinois, has been very well-received due to the purity and 0.00% THC content of the product.

So, the letter to stockholders and customers just released by CannaVest’s CEO Michael Mona, Jr. may seem somewhat surprising.  In the letter he officially responds to a recently-released smear article titled ‘Hustlers of Hemp’ by saying “Our industry as a whole is subject to numerous attacks, and typically we do not merit such attacks with a response. In this instance, where the quality and safety of our products is attacked, we owe it to our customers and stockholders to respond.” Read the full text of the letter here.

From my work on CBD with the Hemp Movement, I can tell you that Super Hemp CBD, made with Plus CBD Oil is substantiated by very reputable cutting edge testing methods.  This is why we can assure that the product is indeed solvent-free because of the superior super-critical extraction method. Project CBD claims to be a third-party project, but according to Mona’s letter evidence indicates that Project CBD is little more than a marketing ploy by competitive products; in particular some which are marketed through multi-level networking channels or ‘pyramid schemes’; and have be known to slander competitors with similar smear campaigns and dirty business tactics.

In the end, I personally feel that those of us taking the ‘higher road’ of making products which pass credible third-party standards have already risen to the top as the product which belongs in the hands of the discerning consumer or health food store.  In the short run, we give some attention to these attacks by responding.  Ultimately, customers deserve to know the truth and products like Super Hemp CBD with a product that is guaranteed to be safe and legal, as opposed to the ‘whole Cannabis only’ platform which Project CBD claims to represent.  Certainly in the interest of natural medicine, and particularly in states where medical marijuana is not an option, the non-psychoactive CBD seems to hold promise for many families and individuals.

hempmovement


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Philosophy is Alive and so is the Ocean (So Eat Seaweed)

Stephen Hawking has recently been quoted as saying “philosophy is dead” (or at least that little machine he speaks through did) and I couldn’t disagree with him more.  Philosophy is alive and well in natural medicine; in order to believe in vis Medicatrix naturae (Latin for “by the healing power of nature”) one must believe in the wisdom of nature.  We may need science to understand more about it; but when we can point to a long tradition of safe use that is a philosophical kind of data (more in the realm of say -ethnobotany) that we should not ignore.

Science seats itself on a lofty perch, the sometimes overly-haughty halls of academia.  While I love a good double-blind study as much as the human or herbalist – give me the good ole common sense parameters derived from hundreds, even thousands, of years of safe and effective use over a narrow study that can be spun and reinterpreted ad nauseum.

IrishMoss

One possible victim of that spinful extrapolation is a sea vegetable called Irish Moss, also called carageenan moss, which grows abundantly in the Atlantic ocean. Irish Moss (Chondrus crispus) is a type of red algae, used in traditional cultures as a food and a medicine.  It is also best known commercially as a source for carageenan (a polysaccharide fraction naturally occuring in the plant) to be extracted from.

Carageenan is used in industry as a plant-based alternative to gelatin, and as a thickener and stabilizer in processed food products.  Somewhat alarmingly, in animal studies a high dose of carageenan injected in vivo has been shown to cause severe inflammation.  This kind of animal study data on the carageenan polysaccharides is distrurbing, if not altogether damning.

Irish Moss on the other hand, is now being condemened – apparently based almost solely conjecture from scientists – because it contains carageenan.  This seems to me to be a leap of faith that defies both philosophy and science; and a big extrapolation that is contradicted by thousands of years of cultural use of Irish Moss.  It is what is commonly knows as discarding the baby along with the bath water.

In Ireland (not surprisingly) Irish Moss is mixed with whiskey and spices to make a type of pudding.  In Jamaica it is used medicinally as an aphrodisiac.  In Venezuela it is boiled in milk and used a home remedy for sore throat and chest congestion.

These traditional uses support the huge difference between Irish moss and carageenan.  It would be presumptuous to assume that a food with hundreds if not thousands of years of culinary and medicinal use is in fact dangerous and worth avoiding.  We need to learn how to properly weigh the information in modern scientific analysis, rather than being reactive to it.  Always put food first.


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Can Humic and Fulvic Acid benefit the immune system?

Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid are unique organic compounds found in nature which have shown promise in scientific research regarding the reduction of heavy metals in the environment, in animals, and more recent research suggests that they may also benefit the human immune system.Virus ENVC

Researcher Dr Richard Laub has published new and interesting approaches to examining these benefits through his work with the National Institutes of Health http://livingorganicearth.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/dr-richard-laub-discusses-humic-and-fulvic-acid-for-human-health/

In a product like Alkalize 55, or Whole Earth Minerals, the unique humic compounds are found along with 70+ trace minerals which may hold the key to hidden mysteries within the cells of the human body as well.  You can see why some of us are greatly interested in combing humic fulvate minerals with foods, based on the cutting edge research currently going on.

Consider this study entitled “Genetic diversity-independent neutralization of pandemic viruses (e.g. HIV), potentially pandemic (e.g. H5N1 strain of influenza) and carcinogenic (e.g. HBV and HCV) viruses and possible agents of bioterrorism (variola) by enveloped virus neutralizing compounds (EVNCs).” and published in the journal Vaccine, which explores combining fulvic acid with pomegranate as an “enveloped virus neutralizing compound”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=fulvic+acid+pomegranate

DISCLAIMER : These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not meant to imply that any product will prevent or treat disease.


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Antioxidants don’t work? Polyphenol hormesis at the gates of dawn

Americans love simple answers.  This fact breeds such rampant intellectual dishonesty, and audacious marketing follies, all because our greatest loyalty seems to be to our short attention span.

To my mind – there is nothing wrong with, in the words of Malcolm X “talking to everyone in a language they can easily understand.” However, the practice of oversimplification can lead lead us to dumb things down so much as to miss the point entirely.  Especially if the truth is, and it usually is, a nuanced and multi-dimensional intangible object subject to vastly different interpretations and perceptions.

27_stem_cell_neural

I spend a lot of time hanging out in health food stores, and one of the most interesting things in the world to me is to hear the interpretations of natural health science put forth in popular media and echoed back from consumers.  In some ways, it is like that old game ‘Telephone”. Almost regardless of whether or not what was said originally was accurate or meaningful, the end result often won’t be.

Earlier this year Scientific American ran an article with a headline on the cover about The Antioxidant Myth.  The article by Melinda Wenner Moyer dramatically purports to tell us that “the antioxidant theory of aging is dead.”  The article talks about the research Dr David Gems and others have done that turns some of science’s ideas about antioxidants on its ear, so to speak. That is to say, some of the research suggests (but certainly is not conclusive) that oxidative reactions (the cause of oxidative damage, and long thought to be a central cause of aging) may not actually be a central cause of aging.

The editors summarize ”

  • For decades researchers assumed that highly reactive molecules called free radicals caused aging by damaging cells and thus undermining the functioning of tissues and organs.
  • Recent experiments, however, show that increases in certain free radicals in mice and worms correlate with longer life span. Indeed, in some circumstances, free radicals seem to signal cellular repair networks.”

This to me is really interesting, but it is a BIG jump to make the extrapolation that third leap which they do “If these results are confirmed, they may suggest that taking antioxidants in the form of vitamins or other supplements can do more harm than good in otherwise healthy individuals.”

I wonder if they would go so far as to make the equation seem really ridiculous and imply that, because of the genetically-modified earthworms we shouldn’t eat healthy antioxidant foods? I mean, there is still a TON of other research out there showing the cell protective benefits of antioxidant vitamins, both as supplements and in their natural food form.  I personally tend to have a bias towards the food form, but this really isn’t the point. At stake here is the very operational assumption that would explain the benefits of antioxidants of any kind – or is it?

Perhaps the problem is we’re asking the wrong questions.  If we look at it from a common sense naturalist perspective which presumes that one of our greatest skills is the ability to adapt and evolve; we may come to a different conclusion entirely. Small amounts of oxidative stress may actually correlate with longevity, but this doesn’t negate the fact that oxidative damage within cells and tissues is a reality.

To me, the more cutting edge theory here is not that “antioxidants don’t work” but rather “we are really just beginning to understand how they work”.

Dr. V. Calabrese et al published a paper a few years ago which explained The Hormetic Role of Dietary Antixoidants in Free Radical-Related Diseases “Regular consumption of cruciferous vegetables or spices is associated with a reduced incidence of cancer and reduction of markers for neurodegenerative damage. Furthermore, greater health benefit may be obtained from raw as opposed to cooked vegetables. Nutritional interventions, by increasing dietary intake of fruits and vegetables, can retard and even reverse age-related declines in brain function and cognitive performance. The mechanisms through which such dietary supplementation may diminish free radical-related diseases is related to their ability to reduce the formation of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, along with the up-regulation of vitagenes, such as members of the heat shock protein (Hsp) family, heme oxygenase-1 and Hsp70.”

However the real clincher comes at the last “However, excessive nutritional supplementation (i.e., high doses) can have negative consequences through the generation of more reactive and harmful intermediates with pathological consequences.”

Sounds to me like a greater argument than ever for reopening the books on ‘whole herbs’ and ‘whole foods’ versus highly processed laboratory antioxidants. Do we want scientists to study whether highly purified isolates and extracts have beneficial effects, or how antioxidants behave in a complex food matrix? Not that these isolates may not have their place, but it may be something that in the future will be viewed as completely separate from nutrition. Perhaps we need to cultivate a ‘dietary theory on antioxidants’ which takes into account the inherent wisdom of nature and eating a true whole food diet.  Before we tell people to ‘put away their antioxidants’ we ought to take note of the immense benefit of food-like doses of these nutrients and the incredibly complex interactions to consider.  If you ask me, I’m not really opposed to aging anyways.  As long as I’m healthy while I’m aging, why not let nature take its course? Now how is that for turning a theory on its ear?