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Is Strep Linked to Scary Kids’ Behavior Disorder?

When Garrett Pohlman was diagnosed with strep throat in 2007, his illness didn’t respond to antibiotics. Then the strange behaviors began.

Diana Pohlman says her son, who was 7 years old at the time, had been easygoing up to that point. But he developed severe obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms overnight. He became paranoid – worrying about things like radiation from the TV and light switches. He had tics and anorexia and started having frequent episodes of rage.

“He was not anyone I recognized. He was a completely different child,” she says. “It was a nightmare. At first I thought maybe he had been molested. Then I thought he had a brain tumor.

“He became so delusional he would climb on the roof thinking it was the front door. He would jump in front of cars and out of moving cars, and he had self-harm fantasies. He was afraid to leave the house. We had to pick him up and wrap him in a sheet to get him out of the house. At the age of 7,” Pohlman says.

 

He was not anyone I recognized.
He was a completely different child.
Diana Pohlman

The search for answers was long and expensive. After many months, the family found their way to a psychiatrist who knew about a disorder called pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections, or PANDAS, a condition she says several specialists didn’t know about. That led to medical treatment that included long-term antibiotics, having his tonsils and adenoids removed, and eventually two rounds of immunoglobulin, or IVIG treatments.

Recovery was slow, but after 2 years, by the age of 9, Pohlman says the severe symptoms stopped. For another 2 years, he had what she calls mild and manageable symptoms that eventually dissipated.

But rather than move on from PANDAS, the boy’s mother decided she needed to help other parents trying to figure out these mysterious symptoms. She founded the nonprofit PANDAS Network in 2009 to raise awareness, support families, and push for more research to better understand how to diagnose and treat the condition.

“When I realized doctors didn’t understand it, I thought I better not quit working on this because how will anyone else ever get help,” Pohlman explains. “It is abysmal. It has been shocking how misinformed doctors are about the term ‘PANDAS.’ ”

Little is known about how or why the syndrome happens, and not all doctors believe there is a connection. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recognize a link between strep and the syndrome.

“You will not find consensus from pediatric infectious disease doctors that PANDAS even exists, much less what to do about it and how to manage the patients,” says Meg Fisher, MD, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Unterberg Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, NJ. “We still haven’t had the definitive article or study or demonstration to really get some solid clinical evidence behind this. My problem is, even if you believe in the syndrome, it’s totally unclear what you should do to help those patients. All of the information is anecdotal.”

What Is PANDAS/PANS?

Susan E. Swedo, MD, at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), first identified PANDAS in the 1990s after she reported on a link between the fast onset of OCD and group A streptococcus, more commonly known as strep.

You will not find consensus from pediatric infectious disease doctors that PANDAS even exists, much less what to do about it and how to manage the patients.
Meg Fisher, MD, Unterberg Children’s Hospital, Monmouth Medical Center

PANDAS happens when strep triggers a misdirected immune response that causes inflammation in a child’s brain. Pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome, or PANS, is a larger umbrella term that has to do with cases with a trigger other than strep, including infections like walking pneumonia or the flu.

Both disorders appear in childhood, typically between the ages of 3 and 12. While blood tests may help identify infections, there are no lab tests or other indicators for PANDAS or PANS.

Doctors diagnose the syndrome when children suddenly get severe OCD or eat a lot less food, along with at least two of the following symptoms: anxiety, depression, irritability or aggression, behavioral regression, ADD- or ADHD-like symptoms affecting schoolwork, sensory or motor problems, troubled sleep, and frequent urination.

The PANDAS Network says in some cases, the emotional symptoms can weaken children and make them homebound. Other children are OK at school but fall apart at home. The NIMH describes the start of symptoms as “dramatic,” happening “overnight and out of the blue.”

“The consensus of scientists and clinicians is that it needs to be sudden and severe,” says Margo Thienemann, MD, co-director of the PANS program at Stanford University Medical Center in California. “Sudden can be overnight. Some people can say exactly what time it started or that it happened over a couple of days. But they all say this isn’t their child anymore. Even if they don’t believe someone can be possessed, it feels that way. What happened? Why are they doing these things? Why can’t they stop?”

Swedo estimates that it impacts about 1% of elementary school-aged children and is likely under-diagnosed. The PANDAS Network estimates 1 in 200 children have it. Thienemann says her program at Stanford has seen more than 250 patients since it started in 2012. But she says that since their staff is small, they have to narrow down who gets in. One year, they turned away 1,000 patients because they couldn’t handle any more.

Thienemann says this is why they have helped write guidelines to allow health care providers to identify and treat these children. “It takes a multidisciplinary team to manage. A psychiatrist, pediatrician, or rheumatologist can’t do it alone. You need all these different vantage points to diagnose and coordinate care,” she says.

There are now PANS centers in California and Arizona, and some doctors around the country treat the disorder.

The NIMH says research suggests IVIG can ease symptoms and may be used in severe PANDAS cases, but it warns it has many side effects — including nausea, vomiting, headaches, and dizziness — and there is a chance of infection with this sort of procedure. Parents say it is also expensive and often not covered by insurance.

Some families say they also see improvement when they have their children’s tonsils and adenoids removed, although no studies show that works.

streptococcus pneumonia bacteria

Controversy

Not all in the medical community agree that strep or other infections can trigger these kinds of behaviors. There is also much debate about whether treatments are effective.

While the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recognize a link between strep and PANDAS, a March 2017 article in AAP News, sent to the group’s 66,000 pediatrician members, discusses the disorders and the controversy around them. While it’s not the group’s official policy, the article says pediatricians should consider PANS anytime a child “has an abrupt behavior change with obsessive thoughts,” and it points them to material that shows them how to diagnose it.

Fisher says it’s complicated for pediatricians, since there is no evidence that taking out tonsils and adenoids is helpful or that antibiotics work. She says many pediatricians worry that young patients will become resistant to antibiotics if you prescribe them long-term, and many have concerns about IVIG side effects.

“I understand the parents’ frustration, because finding a physician for these patients is very difficult. There are a lot of doctors who are, quote unquote, PANDAS specialists, but there is nothing that is evidence-based about what they are doing,” she says. “Our goal is first do no harm, and it is hard to know how best to help these patients. It is a very frustrating thing. I wish someone would come up with some solutions.”

Thienemann says most parents who find their way to her program are frantic because they can’t get help anywhere else. “Part of that desperation is nobody would listen to them. People say my pediatrician won’t do anything, and my child is trying to jump out of moving cars or a window. They can’t get out of the house, can’t sleep, are urinating on themselves, and have severe separation anxiety,” she says.

 

There is something medically wrong. There isn’t a finger to be pointed. There are questions to be asked and answered.
Ali Claypoole

Parents say it is obvious something isn’t right.

“I thought she had schizophrenia or severe mental illness,” says Kelly, a mother in Maryland who asked that we not use her last name to protect the privacy of her 7-year-old daughter, Maggie, who has PANDAS. “It was rapid-onset OCD, and then we were spending our entire life trying to keep her from jumping out of cars, hurting herself, biting us, and losing her mind.”

“There is something medically wrong. There isn’t a finger to be pointed. There are questions to be asked and answered,” adds Ali Claypoole, whose son, now 9 years old, first showed PANDAS symptoms at the age of 6. “Our world is turned upside down, and from where I am, it’s almost like parents are more informed than the doctors. I find the civilian community is much more understanding, interested, and willing to learn about this than the medical community. It makes me mad.”

Going Forward

More research is now being done.

In a 2017 large-scale study of key parts of the PANDAS theory, researchers looked at 17 years of data out of Denmark and found that young patients with a positive strep test had higher chances of having of mental disorders, especially OCD and tic disorders, compared with those without a positive strep test. Non-strep throat infections also carried a higher chance of these types of mental disorders in children, although it was less – perhaps pointing to the chance that other infections can trigger the symptoms.

It is really the brain inflammation  
that is central to this disease.
Dritan Agalliu, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center

In 2016,  Dritan Agalliu, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, published a study showing that immune cells produced in the nose after multiple strep infections appear to be the culprit for the disease. These cells enter the brain via the nerves that are responsible for the sense of smell, and they damage the blood vessels and synapses in the brain.

Agalliu says this research helped explain a crucial step in the disease: how antibodies that the body makes to attack strep or other infections cross the blood/brain barrier in these children and attack parts of their brain by mistake; similar to what happens in other autoimmune diseases of the brain, like multiple sclerosis.

The NIHM recently awarded Agalliu nearly $2 million to keep studying the disorder. He says it should be called post-streptococcal basal ganglia encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. He’s also doing research funded by a private donor, looking at genetic chances of having the disorders to understand why a small number of children who get multiple strep infections are prone to get the disease.

“It is really the brain inflammation that is central to this disease. If we think about PANDAS/PANS this way, it will relieve a lot of controversy and make therapies more acceptable for patients,” Agalliu says. “I am hoping with our next publication, we can alleviate any potential question that this is an autoimmune disease.”

There’s also increasing interest in looking at PANDAS as a type of Sydenham chorea, defined by abnormal movements, OCD, mood swings, and other emotional symptoms that follow strep infection.

The NIMH now has a group for PANDAS and PANS. The PANDAS Network is working to make information about the disorders part of continuing medical education for pediatricians, and a working group has created handouts to educate school personnel nationwide to help children with these disorders get back to their classrooms.

So will children outgrow PANDAS? Like most other things associated with this disorder, there is no consensus.

Doctors who focus on the disorders say when patients can get to them, improvement is possible. “If we get people as early as possible, maybe even at the onset of illness, I think we do a good job of being able to tamp down inflammation and help them a lot and maybe get them all the way better,” Thienemann says. “If someone has been dealing with it for 10 years, I think they may develop ongoing autoimmune problems and there may be damage to their brain. Recovery might not be as complete, but I think we can still help them.”

Three years after he first showed symptoms, Claypoole’s son had a full remission at the age of 9 after IVIG treatments. But after a few months, he got strep again and the PANDAS symptoms returned, but they were less severe. Kelly’s daughter Maggie has seen her symptoms subside for a while, only to return. Her doctors prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatories after each new episode. She takes both medications daily for months on end. She has also had two rounds of IVIG. “Every time we do an intervention, the baseline gets better, but it doesn’t end the problem. She is not symptom-free,” Kelly says.

Pohlman says her son, now 17, is a straight-A student who plays football and the cello and is applying to college. He is symptom-free.

“Once I understood that Garrett’s brain was on fire from an infectious illness, I barely could believe his body would have the capacity for a full recovery,” she says. “Could he have the normal life I had expected for my child? So I look at him now in amazement.”

 

By Jennifer Clopton       Nov. 10, 2017     WebMD Article Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on November 10, 2017

Sources
Ali Claypoole, Maryland.
Kelly, Maryland. (Requested not using last name)
Dritan Agalliu, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center, New York City.
Meg Fisher, MD, Unterberg Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center, Long Branch, NJ.
Diana Pohlman, executive director, PANDAS Network, Stanford, CA.
Patricia Rice Doran, EdD, associate professor, Department of Special Education, Towson University, Maryland.
Margo Thienemann, MD, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA.
AAP News: “PANDAS/PANS treatments, awareness evolve, but some experts skeptical.”
American Academy of Pediatrics Red Book: “Group A Streptococcal Infections.”
National Institute of Mental Health: “PANDAS, Questions and Answers.”
National Institute of Mental Health: “Guidelines published for treating PANS/PANDAS.”
PANDASNetwork.org: “What is PANS?” “What is PANDAS?” Symptoms,” “Statistics,” “Our Mission.”
K. Chang, Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, Feb. 1, 2015.
R. Kurlan, Pediatrics, June 2008.
S Orlovska, JAMA Psychiatry, July 1, 2017.
K.A. Williams, Brain Research, August 18, 2015.
T Dileepan, The Journal of Clinical Investigation, January 4, 2016.

source: WebMD 
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Just Say No: When It Makes Sense Not to Take Your Medicine

By Alexandra Sifferlin    Oct. 16, 2013
  
It sounds like something a quack would support, but it’s true. There’s growing evidence that lifestyle changes such as eating a healthier diet and exercising more may be enough to prevent and even treat conditions ranging from diabetes to cancer.

The latest comes from a review of studies, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, that analyzed the effects of a combination of behaviors that reduced the rate of Type 2 diabetes among those at high risk of developing the disease. Making over their diets and boosting their amount of daily exercise, as well as quitting smoking and managing their stress were enough to help the participants, all of whom had high blood-sugar levels that precede diabetes, lower their glucose and avoid getting diagnosed with the disease.

And it’s not the first study to hint at the power of the pharmaceutical-free approach. A study published this month in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention reported that brisk walking cut postmenopausal women’s breast-cancer risk by 14% compared with those who didn’t walk. Women who exercised more vigorously enjoyed a 25% drop in risk of developing the disease. Another report in the journal Lancet Oncology found that a plant-based diet, stress management and other lifestyle changes contributed to longer-lived cells among men with prostate cancer. Those results echoed previous work that documented that the same lifestyle-based changes contributed to fewer recurrent tumors among men who had been treated for prostate cancer.

Taken together, the data has more doctors putting away their prescription pads when they see certain patients. The pill-free route isn’t for everyone, however, so it’s important for physicians and patients to understand when it’s appropriate and when it isn’t.

It makes sense, for example, that prescription medications shouldn’t be a first-line treatment for people who are on the verge of developing a condition but can still prevent it — like the participants in the latest diabetes study. Preventing disease is always preferable to treating it, since once symptoms develop, they can cause more complications and additional health issues that require even more drug-based therapies to control. And diabetes is a good example of a disease that can be avoided, with weight management, proper diet and exercise, as the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program, a multicenter trial involving 3,234 people with prediabetes, proved in 2002. In that study, those who changed their diet and exercise habits lost more weight and had a lower rate of developing diabetes than those who took the glucose-controlling medication metformin.

With America’s growing obesity epidemic showing no signs of turning around, understanding how to prevent weight-related chronic disease, such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, is even more critical, especially among children, says Dr. David Katz. Katz is the director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and author of the new book Disease Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well. “If you think about the issues that prevail today, they are related to eating too much of all the wrong foods, getting far too little physical activity, toxins we’ve invented like tobacco, inadequate sleep and strained social bonds,” he says.

Treating these ailments with prescription medications can address the symptoms but does nothing to change the forces that drive these diseases. And in some cases, the drugs may cause even more problems, in the form of side effects.


So why aren’t the simpler strategies — exercise and diet changes — as entrenched as the prescription medications? Katz blames muddled messaging. “Unfortunately there has been a lot of bad advice. It has come from people trying to sell products, as well as sound bites and media spin.”

And even good advice, from doctors and public-health officials with good intentions, is often oversimplified to the point where it’s no longer helpful. “Take the ‘just cut fat’ recommendation. What the scientists actually meant was eat more naturally low-fat foods like vegetables. And, frankly, if we had done that, the advice would have been fine. But we didn’t do that, instead we ate low-fat cookies got fatter and sicker,” says Katz. “Essentially what we have done with each attempt to dumb this down is create an opportunity to spin out a whole new set of products that exploit the message.”

And until recently, there hasn’t been much attention paid to what may be driving unhealthy eating — like stress. In the study of men who lowered their risk of recurrent prostate tumors, stress management was part of the lifestyle-based regimen that helped them to keep cancer at bay. Finding a way to address and relieve stress can be an important part of preventing many chronic diseases, says Dr. Dean Ornish, director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who led that study.

According to Dr. Jordan Metzl, a sports-medicine physician at New York City’s Hospital for Special Surgery and author of the upcoming book The Exercise Cure, exercise could be one effective way of coping with stress. And it doesn’t hurt that physical activity also controls symptoms related to heart disease and other metabolic and psychological conditions.

“In my office, I see people from the medical community who are athletic. I see running psychiatrists, running neurologists, running oncologists, cardiologists,” says Metzl. “So I started asking the doctors, What role does exercise play in your treatment of headaches, your treatment of asthma, your treatment of cancer? I found that everyone uses exercise in the care of their patients for both prevention and treatment.”

Granted, Metzl’s patient population may be biased since the doctors he sees already believe in the benefits of physical activity, but he believes more physicians are starting to prescribe exercise as the research to support its benefits continues to grow. “There are studies on exercise and cancer prevention, fatigue, and new neuron formation in the hippocampus,” he says. “There is a nugget for every part of the body from erectile dysfunction, to cancer, to dementia. People are comfortable with the benefits of exercise for obesity or heart disease, but if you look at dementia or anxiety and the data on the role of exercise as prevention and even treatment, it’s amazing how much there is. I think we are seeing a movement toward connecting the dots.”

Doing so will require more than a few enlightened doctors and some scientific data, however. The U.S. health care system is designed to react to disease and treat it once symptoms set in — the reimbursement structure is founded on doctors diagnosing problems and treating them, for example, most often with medications. “The focus of our system is embedded in disease treatment. People make a lot of money off the way it was built, so we give lip service to prevention. But exercise is free.”

At Lincoln Medical Center and Harlem Hospital in New York City, doctors are starting to focus more on prevention by making diet changes a priority for patients — before they find themselves diagnosed with a disease like diabetes or heart trouble. The hospitals have launched the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription, a four-month pilot program, which allows patients with prescriptions — written by their doctors — to get coupons for fresh produce at farmers’ markets and the city’s green carts.

It’s not that prescription medicines aren’t doing their job, or that they don’t have a place in modern medicine. They do, and they are effective in containing disease once they emerge. But if it’s possible to avoid disease altogether, and if patients can do it without expensive medications that can cause complications, why wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t you?

Alexandra Sifferlin

source: Time


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For Your Health: Organic versus Non-Organic

  • Organic Index 11.20.13             Organic Consumers Association, November 20, 2013 
For related articles and more information, please visit OCA’s  All About Organics page , our  Myth of Natural page and our  Genetic Engineering page . 

Consumer demand for healthy, sustainably grown food has grown the organic market from just $1 billion in 1990 to nearly $30 billion today. Increasingly, consumers are saying “No” to foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), “No” to highly processed junk foods, and “No” to foods that come from factory farms.

Health tops the list of concerns about GMOs, junk foods and food from factory farms. But consumers aren’t just rejecting these foods because of their potential to cause health problems. They’re consciously choosing organic for its nutritional superiority

The health safety benefits of organic foods are well known. For the most part, organic farming prohibits the use of toxic pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, nanoparticles, climate-destabilizing chemical fertilizers like toxic sewage sludge or coal waste, and genetically engineered ingredients. 

But recent studies reveal that organic foods, especially raw or non-processed, are also substantially more nutritious. They contain higher levels of beta carotenevitamins C, Dand E, health-promoting polyphenols, cancer-fighting antioxidants,flavonoids that help ward off heart disease, essential fatty acids, essential minerals, and significantly lower levels of saturated fats.


A Nutritional Comparison: Organic Versus Non-Organic

Organically grown apples, potatoes, pears, wheat, and sweet corn have drastically higher nutritional content than their conventionally grown counterparts, including:

63: Percent more calcium.
78: Percent more chromium. 
73: Percent more iron. 
118: Percent more magnesium. 
178: Percent more molybdenum. 
91: Percent more phosphorus. 
125: Percent more potassium. 
60: Percent more zinc.
Between 20 and 40: Additional percentage of nutrients found in organic wheat, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, onions and lettuce compared with their conventional counterparts. 
40: Additional percentage of antioxidants contained in organic fruit and vegetables compared with non-organic. 
30: Percentage increase in levels of flavonoids contained in organic vegetables compared with conventionally grown produce.
25: Average percentage organic foods are more nutritious in terms of vitamins and minerals than products derived from industrial agriculture. 
55: Additional percentage of vitamin C contained in organic tomatoes at the stage of commercial maturity, compared with conventional tomatoes. 
79 and 97: Percentage increase in levels of quercetin and kaempferol, both flavonoids, in organic tomatoes compared with conventional tomatoes. A10-year study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry compared organic tomatoes with standard produce and found that organic tomatoes had almost double the quantity of antioxidants.
139:
 Additional percentage of phenolic content (associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular and degenerative diseases, and some forms of cancer) contained in organic tomatoes at the stage of commercial maturity, compared with conventional tomatoes. 
57: Additional percentage of lycopene (considered a potential agent for prevention of some types of cancers, particularly prostate cancer) contained in organic ketchup with conventional national brands. 
50: Percentage increase in levels of antioxidants in organic ketchup compared with conventional major national brands. 
30: Average percentage increase in levels of resveratrol (antioxidant linked to reduce risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and heart disease) found in organic red grapes compared with conventionally grown red grapes.
49: Average percentage of whole food ingredients contained in organic breads, versus 24 percent in “natural” bread and only 12 percent in conventional bread. Preservative/Additive ingredients made up 27 percent of conventional bread ingredients versus only 10 percent and 7 percent in “natural” and organic bread, respectively. 
40: Percentage increase in levels of some nutrients (including vitamin C, zinc and iron) found in organic produce compared with conventional produce. 
58: Percentage increase of polyphenols (antioxidants that help prevent cardiovascular disease) in organically grown berries and corn compared with conventionally grown berries and corn.
52: Percentage increase in levels of vitamin C in organically grown berries and corn compared with conventionally grown berries and corn. 
8.5: Percentage increase in total antioxidant activity in organic strawberries compared with conventional berries, including 9.7% more ascorbic acid, and 10.5% more total phenolics.
10 Times: The amount of eriocitrin (an antioxidant) contained in a glass of organic lemonade compared with a glass of its conventional counterpart. 
3 times: The amount the flavonoid eriocitrin contained in organic lime juice compared with conventional lime juice.

Sources:
State of Science Review: Elevating Antioxidant Levels in …
EU-funded Quality Low Input Food Project Indicates Signif…
Fruit and Soil Quality of Organic and Conventional Strawb…
The Impact of Organic Farming on Quality of Tomatoes Is A…
Ten-Year Comparison of the Influence of Organic and Conve…
A Metabolomic Approach Differentiates between Conventiona…
State of Science Review: Nutritional Superiority of Organ…
Organic Farming, Food Quality and Human Health, The Soil …
State of Science Review: New Evidence Confirms the Nutrit…
A Comparison of Carotenoid Content and Total Antioxidant …  
Organic Foods Contain Higher Levels of Certain Nutrients,…
Grains: An In-Depth Study, The Organic Center 
Organic Fruit and Vegetables Really Are Better for Your H…
Organic Food is More Nutritious than Conventional Food, J…
First Step: Organic Food and a Healthier Future, The Orga…

J.A. Yanez et al., “Pharmacokinetics of Selected Chiral Flavonoids: Hesperetin, Naringenin, and Eriodictyol in Rats and their Content in Fruit Juices,” Biopharmaceutics Drug Disposition, Vol. 29, pp. 63-82, September 2007

Compiled by Zack Kaldveer, assistant media director for the Organic Consumers Association.


source: www.organicconsumers.org


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Eat More Mediterranean Foods Now: Your Later Self Will Thank You

By Alexandra Sifferlin    Nov. 04, 2013
      
Sticking with a Mediterranean diet throughout most of your life may pay off with a disease-free old age, according to researchers in Boston.

Replacing red meats with bean-based protein, and saturated fats with olive oil are are familiar ways to avoid chronic diseases such as heart problems and diabetes. And studies have linked the Mediterranean diet to longer life.

But how good is the quality of those extra years? To find out, scientists at Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital reviewed dietary data gathered from surveys involving 10,670 women in their late 50s and early 60s. After answering questions about what they ate, the women agreed to provide the researchers with their health records and  answered questions about their diets fifteen years later. Overall, the women who ate more plant-based foods, whole grains, fish, healthy fats like olive oil, drank moderate amounts alcohol, and ate very little red and processed meats, were healthier than those who didn’t follow a Mediterranean diet. The healthiest women, who were able to avoid 11 chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, or Parkinson’s, had consistently stuck with a Mediterranean diet throughout most of 15 year study period. They also showed no impairment in cognitive function or any of the physical disabilities that afflicted some of their counterparts who hadn’t followed a Mediterranean diet.


In fact, as the scientists reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the women who consumed more vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and lean meats like fish, during their middle age were about 40% more likely to live past age 70 without chronic disease or physical and cognitive impairment.

Understanding how to help more elderly achieve such disease-free aging is increasingly important as the population continues to age, thanks to improvements in medical care and better understanding of aging risk factors. Olive oil and nuts can increase levels of healthy HDL cholesterol, which protect the heart from damaging atherosclerosis, and fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants, like flavonoids, that reduce the inflammation that can age cells. There may be no Fountain of Youth, but there is a way to make aging less debilitating and less taxing on the body, since living well may become as important as living longer.

source: Time


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Scientists Officially Link Processed Foods To Autoimmune Disease

by APRIL McCARTHY    March 7, 2013

The modern diet of processed foods, takeaways and microwave meals could be to blame for a sharp increase in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, including alopecia, asthma and eczema.

A team of scientists from Yale University in the U.S and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, in Germany, say junk food diets could be partly to blame.

‘This study is the first to indicate that excess refined and processed salt may be one of the environmental factors driving the increased incidence of autoimmune diseases,’ they said.

Junk foods at fast food restaurants as well as processed foods at grocery retailers represent the largest sources of sodium intake from refined salts.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal sent out an international team of researchers to compare the salt content of 2,124 items from fast food establishments such as Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Subway. They found that the average salt content varied between companies and between the same products sold in different countries. 

U.S. fast foods are often more than twice as salt-laden as those of other countries. While government-led public health campaigns and legislation efforts have reduced refined salt levels in many countries, the U.S. government has been reluctant to press the issue. That’s left fast-food companies free to go salt crazy, says Norm Campbell, M.D., one of the study authors and a blood-pressure specialist at the University of Calgary.

Many low-fat foods rely on salt–and lots of it–for their flavor. One packet of KFC’s Marzetti Light Italian Dressing might only have 15 calories and 0.5 grams fat, but it also has 510 mg sodium–about 1.5 times as much as one Original Recipe chicken drumstick. (Feel like you’re having too much of a good thing? You probably are.

Bread is the No. 1 source of refined salt consumption in the American diet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just one 6-inch Roasted Garlic loaf from Subway–just the bread, no meat, no cheeses, no nothing–has 1,260 mg sodium, about as much as 14 strips of bacon.

How Refined Salt Causes Autoimmune Disease

The team from Yale University studied the role of T helper cells in the body. These activate and ‘help’ other cells to fight dangerous pathogens such as bacteria or viruses and battle infections.

Previous research suggests that a subset of these cells – known as Th17 cells – also play an important role in the development of autoimmune diseases. 

In the latest study, scientists discovered that exposing these cells in a lab to a table salt solution made them act more ‘aggressively.’

They found that mice fed a diet high in refined salts saw a dramatic increase in the number of Th17 cells in their nervous systems that promoted inflammation.

They were also more likely to develop a severe form of a disease associated with multiple sclerosis in humans.

The scientists then conducted a closer examination of these effects at a molecular level.

Laboratory tests revealed that salt exposure increased the levels of cytokines released by Th17 cells 10 times more than usual. Cytokines are proteins used to pass messages between cells.

Study co-author Ralf Linker, from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, said: ‘These findings are an important contribution to the understanding of multiple sclerosis and may offer new targets for a better treatment of the disease, for which at present there is no cure.’

It develops when the immune system mistakes the myelin that surrounds the nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord for a foreign body. 

It strips the myelin off the nerves fibres, which disrupts messages passed between the brain and body causing problems with speech, vision and balance.

Another of the study’s authors, Professor David Hafler, from Yale University, said that nature had clearly not intended for the immune system to attack its host body, so he expected that an external factor was playing a part.

He said: ‘These are not diseases of bad genes alone or diseases caused by the environment, but diseases of a bad interaction between genes and the environment.

‘Humans were genetically selected for conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, where there was no salt. It’s one of the reasons that having a particular gene may make African Americans much more sensitive to salt.

‘Today, Western diets all have high salt content and that has led to increase in hypertension and perhaps autoimmune disease as well.’

The team next plan to study the role that Th17 cells play in autoimmune conditions that affect the skin.

‘It would be interesting to find out if patients with psoriasis can alleviate their symptoms by reducing their salt intake,’ they said.

‘However, the development of autoimmune diseases is a very complex process which depends on many genetic and environmental factors.’


Stick to Good Salts

Refined, processed and bleached salts are the problem. Salt is critical to our health and is the most readily available nonmetallic mineral in the world. Our bodies are not designed to processed refined sodium chloride since it has no nutritional value. However, when a salt is filled with dozens of minerals such as in rose-coloured crystals of Himalayan rock salt or the grey texture of Celtic salt, our bodies benefit tremendously for their incorporation into our diet.

“These mineral salts are identical to the elements of which our bodies have been built and were originally found in the primal ocean from where life originated,” argues Dr Barbara Hendel, researcher and co-author of Water & Salt, The Essence of Life. “We have salty tears and salty perspiration. The chemical and mineral composition of our blood and body fluids are similar to sea water. From the beginning of life, as unborn babies, we are encased in a sack of salty fluid.” 

“In water, salt dissolves into mineral ions,” explains Dr Hendel. “These conduct electrical nerve impulses that drive muscle movement and thought processes. Just the simple act of drinking a glass of water requires millions of instructions that come from mineral ions. They’re also needed to balance PH levels in the body.”

Mineral salts, she says, are healthy because they give your body the variety of mineral ions needed to balance its functions, remain healthy and heal. These healing properties have long been recognised in central Europe. At Wieliczka in Poland, a hospital has been carved in a salt mountain. Asthmatics and patients with lung disease and allergies find that breathing air in the saline underground chambers helps improve symptoms in 90 per cent of cases.

Dr Hendel believes too few minerals, rather than too much salt, may be to blame for health problems. It’s a view that is echoed by other academics such as David McCarron, of Oregon Health Sciences University in the US.

He says salt has always been part of the human diet, but what has changed is the mineral content of our food. Instead of eating food high in minerals, such as nuts, fruit and vegetables, people are filling themselves up with “mineral empty” processed food and fizzy drinks. 

Study Source:
This is the result of a study conducted by Dr. Markus Kleinewietfeld, Prof. David Hafler (both Yale University, New Haven and the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, and Harvard University, USA), PD Dr. Ralf Linker (Dept. of Neurology, University Hospital Erlangen), Professor Jens Titze (Vanderbilt University and Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat Erlangen-Nurnberg, FAU, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg) and Professor Dominik N. Muller (Experimental and Clinical Research Center, ECRC, a joint cooperation between the Max-Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine, MDC, Berlin, and the Charite — Universitatsmedizin Berlin and FAU) (Nature, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature11868)*. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks healthy tissue instead of fighting pathogens.

April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.


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Acid Alkaline Imbalance

    Over acidity, which can become a dangerous condition that weakens all body systems, is very common today. It gives rise to an internal environment conducive to disease, as opposed to a pH balanced environment which allows normal body function necessary for the body to resist disease. A healthy body maintains adequate alkaline reserves to meet emergency demands. When excess acids must be neutralized our alkaline reserves are depleted leaving the body in a weakened condition. A pH balanced diet, according to many experts, is a vital key to health maintenance.

    The concept of acid alkaline imbalance as the cause of disease is not new. In 1933 a New York doctor named William Howard Hay published a ground-breaking book, A New Health Era in which he maintains that all disease is caused by autotoxication (or “self-poisoning”) due to acid accumulation in the body:

        Now we depart from health in just the proportion to which we have allowed our alkalies to be dissipated by introduction of acid-forming food in too great amount… It may seem strange to say that all disease is the same thing, no matter what its myriad modes of expression, but it is verily so.—William Howard Hay, M.D.

    More recently, in his remarkable book Alkalize or Die (see recommended reading), Dr. Theodore A. Baroody says essentially the same thing:

        The countless names of illnesses do not really matter. What does matter is that they all come from the same root cause…too much tissue acid waste in the body!—Theodore A. Baroody, N.D., D.C., Ph.D. 


    Understanding pH
    pH (potential of hydrogen) is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. It is measured on a scale of 0 to 14—the lower the pH the more acidic the solution, the higher the pH the more alkaline (or base) the solution. When a solution is neither acid nor alkaline it has a pH of 7 which is neutral.

    Water is the most abundant compound in the human body, comprising 70% of the body. The body has an acid-alkaline (or acid-base) ratio called the pH which is a balance between positively charges ions (acid-forming) and negatively charged ions (alkaline-forming.) The body continually strives to balance pH. When this balance is compromised many problems can occur.

    It is important to understand that we are not talking about stomach acid or the pH of the stomach. We are talking about the pH of the body’s fluids and tissues which is an entirely different matter.

    Test Your Body’s Acidity or Alkalinity with pH Strips:

    It is recommended that you test your pH levels to determine if your body’s pH needs immediate attention. By using pH test strips, you can determine your pH factor quickly and easily in the privacy of your own home. If your urinary pH fluctuates between 6.0 to 6.5 in the morning and between 6.5 and 7.0 in the evening, your body is functioning within a healthy range. If your saliva stays between 6.5 and 7.5 all day, your body is functioning within a healthy range. The best time to test your pH is about one hour before a meal and two hours after a meal. Test your pH two days a week.

    Most people who suffer from unbalanced pH are acidic. This condition forces the body to borrow minerals—including calcium, sodium, potassium and magnesium—from vital organs and bones to buffer (neutralize) the acid and safely remove it from the body. Because of this strain, the body can suffer severe and prolonged damage due to high acidity—a condition that may go undetected for years.

    Mild acidosis can cause such problems as:

        Cardiovascular damage, including the constriction of blood vessels and the reduction of oxygen.
        Weight gain, obesity and diabetes.
        Bladder and kidney conditions, including kidney stones.
        Immune deficiency.
        Acceleration of free radical damage, possibly contributing to cancerous mutations.
        Hormone concerns.
        Premature aging.
        Osteoporosis; weak, brittle bones, hip fractures and bone spurs.
        Joint pain, aching muscles and lactic acid buildup.
        Low energy and chronic fatigue.
        Slow digestion and elimination.
        Yeast/fungal overgrowth.

        pH and Bone Loss:
          A recent seven-year study conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, on 9,000 women showed that those who have chronic acidosis are at greater risk for bone loss than those who have normal pH levels. The scientists who carried out this experiment believe that many of the hip fractures prevalent among middle-aged women are connected to high acidity caused by a diet rich in animal foods and low in vegetables. This is because the body borrows calcium from the bones in order to balance pH. — American Journal of Clinical Nutrition


    Urine pH

    Urine testing may indicate how well your body is excreting acids and assimilating minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. These minerals function as “buffers.” Buffers are substances that help maintain and balance the body against the introduction of too much acidity or too much alkalinity. Even with the proper amounts of buffers, acid or alkaline levels can become extreme. When the body ingests or produces too many of these acids or alkalis, it must excrete the excess. The urine is the perfect way for the body to remove any excess acids or alkaline substances that cannot be buffered. If the average urine pH is below 6.5 the body’s buffering system is overwhelmed, a state of “autotoxication” exists, and attention should be given to lowering acid levels.

    Saliva pH

    The results of saliva testing may indicate the activity of digestive enzymes in the body. These enzymes are primarily manufactured by the stomach, liver and pancreas. While the saliva also utilizes buffers just like the urine, it relies on this process to a much lesser degree. If the saliva pH is too low (below 6.5), the body may be producing too many acids or may be overwhelmed by acids because it has lost the ability to adequately remove them through the urine. If the saliva pH is too high (over 6.8), the body may suffer greatly, e.g. excess gas, constipation and production of yeast, mold and fungus. Some people will have acidic pH readings from both urine and saliva—this is referred to as “double acid.”

    Restoring pH Balance in the Body

    Your body is able to assimilate minerals and nutrients properly only when its pH is balanced. It is therefore possible for you to be taking healthy nutrients and yet be unable to absorb or use them. If you are not getting the results you expected from your nutritional or herbal program, look for an acid alkaline imbalance. Even the right herbal program may not work if your body’s pH is out of balance.

    Change Your pH Balance from Acidic to Alkaline

    By far the most common imbalance seen in our society is over acidity. If your urine and/or saliva test below 6.5 pH start with steps 1 through 5 below and continue adding steps until desired results are achieved. Be sure to monitor your progress with easy-to-use pH test strips:
    pH Balance Supplements for Overly-Acidic

        Enzymes are essential: Take 1-2 capsules of either Food Enzymes or Proactazyme Plus with every meal. For even better and quicker results, also take 1-2 capsules of High Potency Protease and Nature’s Noni between meals on an empty stomach.
        Easily absorbable magnesium is needed: Take 2 Magnesium Complex with each meal which provides highly absorbable magnesium to help build necessary buffers. Magnesium is often lost in urine as a consequence of too much acid in the body.
        Alkaline minerals are essential: Take 1 ounce of either Ionic Minerals or Mineral Chi Tonic once daily.
        Alkalize with Green Food: Take 1 teaspoon of Liquid Chlorophyll in water up to eight times daily.
        Absorbable Calcium: If your urine is 5.8-7.2, take Calcium Plus Vitamin D and Magnesium (the amino acid chelated form, not the carbonate form) daily to support your bones. If pH is 5.0-6.5, use Sea Calcium (pH 10.)
        If your pH is still too acidic, add the following:
        Vitamin D3 helps hold calcium in the body. Taking NSP’s Vitamin D3 and Omega 3 will help the body buffer acids. Take 1-2 of each daily.
        Cleanse as needed: Take a psyllium hulls supplement such as Psyllium Hulls Combination or Psyllium Hulls Capsules at bedtime to maintain regular bowel movements. Use CleanStart or Chinese Tiao He Cleanse twice a year for liver, bowel and kidney detoxification.
        Strengthen urinary and lymphatic systems’ ability to excrete acids: Take Kidney Drainage and Lymphatic Drainage daily in water.

        Quality is Critical: I recommend only Nature’s Sunshine Products. NSP has formulated premium-quality products for 40 years. Our experience has been that substituting lesser quality products will compromise pH balancing results!

        The food chart below briefly summarizes this information for some of the more common foods. A healthy diet should consist of 80% alkaline-forming foods and 20% acid-forming foods.

    What Causes Me to be Acidic?
    The reason acidosis is more common in our society is mostly due to the typical American diet, which is far too high in acid-producing animal products like meat, eggs and dairy, and far too low in alkaline-producing foods like fresh vegetables. Additionally, we eat acid-producing processed foods like white flour and sugar and drink acid-producing beverages like coffee and soft drinks. We use too many drugs, which are acid-forming; and we use artificial chemical sweetners like NutraSweet, Equal, or aspartame, which are extremely acid-forming. One of the best things we can do to correct an overly-acid body is to clean up the diet and lifestyle. Refer to the recommended reading for specific help with diet and lifestyle.

    pH Balance Supplements for Overly-Alkaline
    Alkalinity is relatively rare, but if your urine and/or saliva consistently test above 7.0 pH, start with steps 1, 2 and 3 below and continue adding steps until the desired results are achieved. Be sure to monitor your progress with easy-to-use pH test strips. You will notice that some of these steps are the same as those recommended above for an overly acidic condition. This is because these steps have a buffering effect, or in other words they are balancing, tending to bring the pH back toward normal no matter which direction it has gone:

        Enzymes are essential: Take 1-2 capsules of Food Enzymes or Proactazyme Plus with every meal. Also take 1-2 capsules of High Potency Protease and Nature’s Noni between meals on an empty stomach.
        Support urinary and lymphatic systems’ ability to excrete toxins: Take Kidney Drainage and Lymphatic Drainage in water according to directions. Then use Lymphomax and Urinary Maintenance to maintain.
        Correct calcium is needed: Use NSP’s Liquid Calcium.
        Vitamin C: Use Timed-Release Vitamin C. Use 3,000 mg or more, to maximum bowel tolerance. (If diarrhea occurs, reduce intake.)
        Flax Seed Oil: Use 1 capsules of Flax Seed Oil 3 times a day or 2 tablespoons of Liquid Flax Seed Oil daily.
        Cleanse as needed: Take a psyllium hulls supplement such as Psyllium Hulls Combination or Psyllium Hulls Capsules at bedtime to maintain regular bowel movements. Use CleanStart or Chinese Tiao He Cleanse twice a year for liver, bowel and kidney detoxification.

pH Balance Chart


Note that a food’s acid or alkaline-forming tendency in the body has nothing to do with the actual pH of the food itself. For example, lemons are very acidic, however the end-products they produce after digestion and assimilation are very alkaline so lemons are alkaline-forming in the body. Likewise, meat will test alkaline before digestion but it leaves very acidic residue in the body so, like nearly all animal products, meat is very acid-forming.


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Preventive health care for unhealthy could save billions

‘Focus on illness treatment has made illness and disease a growth industry,’ says study author

The Canadian Press    Jun 19, 2013 

Billions of dollars could be saved in Canada’s health-care system with the introduction of preventive programs that focus on those individuals in poor health, says a study by the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary.

“Canadian medicare with its focus on illness treatment has made illness and disease a growth industry,” lead author Herb Emery told reporters Wednesday.

“It’s one of the fastest growing parts of our public system…. Where we see retraction in education and other areas, we’re seeing continual five per cent growth per year in treating illness and we can’t keep up with demand.”

The report evaluates the costs and benefits of an alternative approach by examining the preventive health-care program run by Pure North S’Energy Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that pays for and provides personalized, preventative health-care services.

It includes lifestyle counselling, dietary supplements and dental services for Albertans from groups of people who tend to be in poor health.

The report found the annual health-care bill for a Canadian in poor health is more than $10,000 higher than for someone in good health.

The Pure North program achieved positive health outcomes at a cost of $2,300 per participant — far less than treating people once they become sick.


Health care costs unstable

“People in poor health tend to use more health care,” Emery said. “The minority of the population, 20 per cent, is generating 80 per cent of the costs and these are generally people who are in poor health.”

Individuals who are healthy tend to stay in good health, and those in poor health tend to stay that way, said Emery.

“What we’re really talking about is chronic conditions … diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. If we can intervene sooner, we can change lifestyles, we can change health. We can potentially restore the fiscal sustainability of the health care.”

Emery said about 250,000 Albertans describe themselves as being in poor health. If even 45 per cent of that number showed an improvement, it would cut the number of their days in hospital by 25 per cent. He said that would save the system $500 million a year.

Emery said if that was expanded across Canada, the savings would be “in the billions.”

“I think the interest in making people healthier and avoiding chronic diseases is Canada-wide. Everyone agrees that if you can figure out how, it has a higher return for the medicare system. The piece that is missing out there is how do you make people healthier?”