Still The Ones! Bioidentical Hormones

Steven P. Timmons

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By Steven Timmons

James Ross Clemens was a cousin of Samuel Clemens, an author better known to most of us as Mark Twain. When James was seriously ill, a rumor began to circulate that Mark Twain had died. In 1897, correcting such false news would be a daunting task, but the great writer penned several letters to stop the rumor, one which read, “The report of my illness grew out of his illness, this report of my death was an exaggeration”.  This quote has been purloined and changed and attributed to many, but is usually quoted as “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

We have a similar situation in the medical community, where a series of incriminating studies have indicated that prescription hormone-like substances, which are not found in the body (until swallowed), may have caused harm, including an increase in breast cancer rates. Most informed physicians have stopped recommending these synthetic hormones to patients because of these findings.

However, since the use of these foreign molecules has for years been mislabeled as “hormone replacement therapy,” or HRT, these “synthetic hormones” have tainted the reputation of the real things: your own body’s actual hormones, often referred to as bioidentical hormones.

Contrary to the negative findings associated with synthetic hormone replacement therapy, studies in the last several years have found more and more evidence that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, BHRT, is beneficial. That’s right, “the rumors about the death of BIOIDENTICAL hormone replacement therapy have been greatly exaggerated!”

For instance, several studies in recent years have indicated that estriol, a bioidentical estrogen, can be used to treat vaginal dryness and atrophic vaginitis, even in breast cancer patients. One study on bioidentical hormones showed benefits to lipid profiles and bone density, another showed improvements to mental assessments and another showed improvements to a variety of parameters, including anxiety scores, depression scales and C-Reactive Protein levels, but the list of benefits goes on and on. A recent study out of the Multiple Sclerosis Program at UCLA demonstrated an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effect for estriol and testosterone in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). They even indicated hope for psoriasis and other auto-immune disorders.

It gets even better.  The benefits of bioidentical hormones are not limited to women. Several studies in men have documented that metabolic syndrome and diabetes are related to low testosterone levels, and can be treated by using transdermal testosterone.

Bioidentical hormones have been available by prescription from compounding pharmacies for decades, allowing them to be adjusted to a specific individual’s needs. Unfortunately, there are new laws originating in the U.S. House and Senate that attempt to limit the accessibility of compounded prescriptions…but that is a whole different kettle of fish.

So let us end with another piece of wisdom from the great Mark Twain, something he said in a speech at his 70th birthday party in 1905: “You can’t reach old age by another man’s road. My habits protect my life but they would assassinate you.”

Oh, Samuel, Samuel, would that you were alive today, and then might personal choice find its voice anew.

Healthy Horizon? Doping In The Tour de France

Steven P. Timmons

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By Steven Timmons

This year, an amazing spectacle began just off the coast of France, on the isle of Corsica, on June 29. If you happened to be on the roadside, you might have seen 22 teams of nine bicycle riders, dressed in colors that only a peacock might find routine, passing by at an extraordinary rate of speed. If you were the peacock, you might be astonished to notice that the high performance machines were nestled into each other so closely as to appear linked together, and were powered only by the blood, sweat, and leg-churned gears of the human riders.

During this race, these riders would bring their bodies to incredible limits of power output and oxygen use, and keep themselves in this exhausting state for up to 6 hours. The same thing would be repeated in wave upon wave of suffering over 21 stages accomplished in 23 days, and culminating with a few comparatively lazy circuits on the Champs-Elysées (a street in Paris).

In attempting to keep their bodies in condition during this race, each rider must eat the best balance of natural foods, fruits, and berries, along with row upon row of natural vitamin supplements, from amino acids such as creatine, glutamine, and carnitine, to minerals, B-Complex, and the list goes on and on. Actually, the supplement list is similar to what I might take in an attempt to prevent the aging process from overtaking me as I venture into my late fifties!

There is a difference however. The professional cyclist is not allowed to take all that is good for him, even if it is prescribed. He cannot use natural testosterone, human growth hormone, HCG, Erythropoietin, or even DHEA, or basically anything else that can increase his performance beyond basic nutritional supplements.  There are exceptions for certain drugs with a doctor’s approval, but in general, no diuretic or cardiovascular drug or stimulant of any kind except caffeine can be used. Prior to  2004, even caffeine was forbidden.

For a moment, let’s forget about cycling. Let’s say you were one of several rats, lured into a treadmill, running with a set of shock wires near your rear end (this “testing method” is used in some laboratories to this day). Let us say you know you will be shocked if you turn out to be one of the slow rats, but you will be rewarded with all kinds of goodies if you are the fastest of the rats. Well then, in that case, how likely would you be to take a forbidden substance that would help you to win? You wouldn’t? How likely would you be to take it if no one could find out, and it really wasn’t bad for you?

The real problem for you as the hypothetical rat, and for the professional cyclist riding in “Le Tour”, is in the testing. If there is no good test, then for all practical purposes, a rule will be ignored, because the pain of competitive bicycling is real. The testing agencies cannot catch up with each new method of doping, and have even had to resort to bullying riders into telling on each other. If you win the Tour, you are immediately an object of an investigation.

There is no other sport like this one. In the first 50 years of the Tour De France, no testing was done, and bicycling served as the perfect test laboratory for all kinds of drugs and methods for increasing endurance. The first year of any testing was in 1966, but testing was not very sophisticated until the end of the century, with various types of doping staying under the radar. During the 1970’s, steroids and amphetamines were used, until testing began to sweep up too many riders. During the 1990’s erythropoietin, a hormone used to increase the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood by stimulating the production of red blood cells, could not be tested for accurately. More recently, after a test for this was developed, athletes began switching to an erythropoietin receptor activator, avoiding detection for the same basic “dope”. These are just a couple of examples out of hundreds of methods for “illegal” doping.

Over the last 15 years, at least one of the top three finishers has eventually been implicated in doping, except in 2012.  Testing continues to lag behind the ingenuity of the riders and scientists, and every year we are promised a clean race.

There are even darker clouds on the health horizon for those who want a “clean” race. With the possibility of gene therapy, where spliced copies of genes are inserted into cells, there will be no way to tell if an athlete has been born with a specific advantage in metabolism, or if he has added some genetics in order to “even” the playing field with his more gifted competitors.

I enjoy watching the Tour De France every year, and I do not know the answer to the dilemma faced by professional cycling. The most important thing to me is that the riders remain healthy. Doping has reached the point where it may be in the rider’s best medical interest to dope, because many of the banned substances can be shown to be good for tissue repair and cardiovascular health.

What, as an outsider, can I say?  I salute the bicyclists, and like the peacock on the side of the road, I enjoy the spectacle. If there is any guilt involved in this whole affair, I think it should be shared by all of us: the anti-doping agencies, the bicyclists, all of the associated team personnel, the press AND the spectators. We all benefit from the spectacle. Maybe we all need to forgive one other. Rather than pointing fingers, perhaps we need to focus on the health of the riders.

Omega 3’s Are Swimming Your Way – Barramundi Style

Steven P. Timmons

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By Steven Timmons

Eating healthy is getting easier and easier.  People, including food producers, have become better informed and we see innovation coming from every corner of the grocery. The food producers are becoming scientists, and they study their areas of expertise with little regard to the restraints of decade-old ideas on nutrition. As long as we do not restrict their ability to innovate, they will be happy to provide foods for every lifestyle, and the next few decades will be full of dietary choices.

One of those choices has already caught my attention – it is the new fish on the block, the barramundi. Isn’t that a cool name? Known to many as the Asian Sea Bass, Giant Perch or to anglers in Australia as simply the “Barra,” this mild white fish is referred to in grocery stores as barramundi. The scientific name is Lates calcarifer, and the name barramundi is borrowed from the Aboriginal language of Queensland, Australia. The fish, which can grow up to five feet long and weigh over 90 pounds, is sought after by sport anglers because of its tendency to jump from the surface of the water as it fights fiercely on the line. It is a fresh and salt water fish, and is native to Southeast Asia, including all of the northern rivers and shores of Australia.

This is all very interesting, but none of this really matters to those of us who prize our fish based on dietary value. The most important dietary attributes of the barramundi are that the fish can be grown in a sustainable, highly ecological aquaculture system, and that it has a VERY high amount of Omega 3 fatty acids, sustaining a ratio of 1:1 with its Omega 6 fatty acid content. This is even better than the other common Omega 3 fish, the salmon, because salmon has a higher Omega 6 content in relation to its Omega 3’s (3:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3), and twice the calories of the barramundi per ounce of flesh.

Why does this matter?  The typical modern diet contains more Omega 6 fatty acids than Omega 3s in a ratio approaching 10:1. Contrast this to “the good old days” when pre-agricultural man ate a ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 that was close to 2:1. This pre-agricultural diet, followed by hunter-gatherers for thousands of generations, included eating wild animals and fish with much higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids than are found in grain-fed stock today.  The barramundi would have been a great dietary food even by the higher standards of the primitive diet.

In case you didn’t already know, Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic. Studies show that they may prevent or decrease the symptoms of a variety of diseases, including age-related macular degeneration of the eye, prostate cancer, asthma and even Alzheimer’s disease.

In the United States, a company called Australis has created an aquaculture farm for barramundi near the Connecticut River in Massachusetts. The operation is completely indoors, recycles 99 percent of its water, and creates only 15 pounds of solid waste per day. The farm reports that it produces up to two million pounds of barramundi each year with 1000mg of beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids and only 219 calories in an eight-ounce serving.

Perhaps it is time to take a “walkabout” on the less wild side, visit the local market and pick up some barramundi. Oh, what a worldly man will I be!

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sharks Bite Back At The Flu

Steven P. Timmons

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By Steven Timmons

In Scandinavia, Japan, Spain and China, shark liver oil has been used for centuries for a variety of conditions ranging from supporting general health to fighting illness and infections and treating enlarged lymph nodes.  Another observation began to pique the interest of modern scientists in the late 20th century: that almost all species of sharks were considered to be resistant to cancer and infectious diseases.  This generality was hard to dislodge.  In an attempt to debunk the claims for shark cartilage being a treatment for cancer, G.K. Ostrander published a review article in 2004 listing the cancers that had been found in sharks. This did not really prove that sharks have a cancer rate similar to other animals, but a further clinical trial by C.L. Loprinzini showed that shark cartilage did not likely represent a cure for cancer in humans.

Over the last century however, many scientists have been involved in research on something else – a special class of ether lipids called alkylglycerols (AKG).  Discovered by Japanese scientists in 1922, these substances were later found in our bodies; at higher levels in our bone marrow, liver, spleen, red blood cells and mother’s milk. In 1952, a Swedish doctor named Astrid Brohult found that an extract from bone marrow could help normalize the immune system of children being treated for leukemia with radiation. Her husband, Sven Brohult PhD, identified the active substance as AKG.  Later, the Brohults found a readily available source of AKG – the liver oil of the Greenland shark.

AKG have been shown to have anti-cancer effects in several studies, and have been shown to stimulate the immune system. The Brohults published studies in the 1970s showing that AKG from shark liver oil conferred a great degree of protection against radiation damage and increased the survival rate in women treated for cervical cancer.

At this point, you might be wondering why I named this article “Sharks bite back against the flu.” So without further ado, I bring you… A group of scientists from Glasgow, Scotland UK, led by T Iannitti, who performed a study published in 2011 that showed a decrease in the incidence of flu in a group of 51 people taking AKG during flu season. Over 80 percent did not get flu-like symptoms! On the other hand, only 33 percent of the 62 controls (not taking AKG) avoided the flu.

If you decide to take shark liver oil capsules during the flu season, or for any other reason, make sure you check the source carefully, and ensure the exact content of AKG. Some shark liver oils have been found to be contaminated with PCB and other toxins, so choose wisely, consult your healthcare professional and…never swim in the ocean after dark near a buoy… Get the picture?!

Don’t Look Into The Light…Bulb

Steven P. Timmons

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By Steven Timmons

Just when I thought I had my pesky light bulb problem solved, I hear someone on the radio mentioning that CFL light bulbs may be dangerous. Thanks a lot wise guy! Here I am, sitting in my chair, with all of my old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs already replaced with Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs),  you know, those cute little curly things, happily reading an old detective novel under my favorite lamp, my head maybe 20 inches away, and then… I am told that my head is in danger! Please, say it isn’t so!

Unfortunately it appears that it is so, and it even makes sense. First of all, CFL light bulbs excite mercury and argon vapor, which then emits ultraviolet light. This UV light then hits a phosphor coating on the inside of the light bulb, and the UV light is converted to the white light we see. Now, before we get to the dangerous part, let’s go over some pretty nice stats. The great thing about CFL light bulbs is that they only use about one-third to one-fifth of the energy of standard light bulbs, and they last about 10 times longer.  It is not surprising that most of us have switched over – even those of us who read old detective novels.

If you haven’t willingly changed yet, our government has already mandated some changes in light bulb manufacturing.  As it stands right now, we will still be allowed to purchase incandescent bulbs, but only if they meet certain stringent energy requirements; and stringent means higher-priced.

But there are still questions to be answered. As Shakespeare’s Romeo said, “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” Well, Romeo had a good question. There may be more to that light than meets the eye.

The first cry from scientists that raised real concerns about the new CFL bulbs came from Peter Braun at the Alab Laboratory in Germany. He claimed that CFL bulbs emitted poisonous gasses, including phenol, naphthalene and styrene. If the bulbs were broken, then mercury would also be released. In the meantime, the issue had become a political football. There was a battle pitting the “green” community, who saw CFLs as energy saving, against the “Tea Party- freedom” community, who resisted the new regulations. The concerns of scientists faded into the background, and the regulations were passed. Surprise, surprise.

Fast forward to now.   In December of 2012, a study was published by scientists from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, which tested for UV emission from CFL light bulbs and the effects of the light on human skin cells. They found that in all of the different brands of CFL light bulbs tested, UV light was leaking out, passing through cracks in the phosphor coating.  That’s right! Dangerous UV light was found to be leaking out of the cracks at a level strong enough to damage healthy human skin cells, at least if you were close to the bulb. There were no dangerous effects found when standard incandescent bulbs were tested.

So there you have it, and so do I.  Sorry, cute little curly bulbs, you are going on the shelf for now. I will just change my light bulbs more often, pay a few pennies more, and stick with the ancient ways. Sometimes the ancient path is the good path… On the other hand, they tell me that white LED lights don’t have a rap sheet as yet. Go figure. I’ll have to think about LEDs some other day.  Right now, it’s time to turn off the radio and get back to the detective novel. Ah… now that’s better!


Let The Buyer Beware: Cholesterol Poisons For Sale (Shhh!)

Steven P. Timmons

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By Steven P. Timmons – Wow, where can I buy some of these? Anything to poison that pesky little cholesterol! The darn stuff runs around the house (our bodies) doing all kinds of pesky things. Let’s see, if I can just get rid of cholesterol, wouldn’t that be a blessing? Would I even miss that little pest at all?

Actually…yes, you might. Cholesterol is used to make most of our beneficial hormones including Vitamin D, testosterone, estriol, estradiol, cortisone, and aldosterone. It is used in all of our membranes and is particularly concentrated in our myelin sheaths (the tubular covers that surround and protect our nerves). It is also used to make bile, which helps us digest fats and absorb fat soluble vitamins.

In fact, every cell requires cholesterol for normal function. Our body is constantly trying to make sure we have enough, and it produces cholesterol when there is not enough in the diet. Our medical community, on the other hand, is convinced that we should decrease the amount of cholesterol in the body, and is prescribing statins at an ever-increasing rate. The rationale for prescribing these drugs – drugs that poison the cholesterol producing system – is based on an attempt to decrease heart disease. At face value, this is a commendable idea.

Unfortunately, basic medical research keeps getting in the way of good intentions. Is it any surprise to us that study after study describes problems associated with statin use? It is now a well-accepted fact that statins activate a gene signal that causes muscle damage, with many patients reporting muscular and joint pain. One study states that “Physical exercise appears to increase the likelihood for the development of myopathy in patients taking statins.” Since exercise decreases your risk for many diseases, including heart disease, but taking statins along with exercise increases your risk for muscle damage, don’t we have a major dilemma on our hands that we should be talking about?

In the last year, several studies have revealed an increased risk of developing diabetes for those who are taking a statin. The most recently published study, in the January 2012 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, was done by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who reviewed data from the Women’s Health Initiative; this time from the perspective of statin use. The initial study reviewed 161,808 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 years. It was found that women in the study who used statins were 71 percent more likely to develop Diabetes Mellitus than those who did not use statins. Wow…let’s say it together. “Wow!” Can I also suggest that we say “hurrah”? Some of the medical community is paying attention to the problems that can be caused by statins.

So we need to make a decision. We have this pest called cholesterol, that may be harmful in some cases, but we know for a fact that most of the time it is just running around the house (the body), minding its own business, and doing good. Poisoning it is a dangerous proposition and we can’t leave the house while the fumes dissipate. Caveat emptor: Let the buyer beware. Think about it. Read about it. After all, it is your body and your cholesterol we are talking about.

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