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Cancer and Heart Health Risks Associated with Alcohol Consumption

Cancer and Heart Health Risks Associated with Alcohol Consumption

Many of us have heard that moderate drinking is actually beneficial to our health. Stories in the media like these from ABC News, Reuters, and CBS News all claim a lower risk of heart failure or a better chance of surviving a heart attack for those who drink in moderation.

Is drinking in moderation really healthy though? Does drinking increase heart health? Even if it is heart healthy, what about other health effects like cancer risks with alcohol consumption? These are the questions you should be asking yourself before you pick up that beverage at night or during a night on the town.

 

Alcohol and Atrial Fibrillation Risk

The heart healthy aspect of moderate drinking actually came under fire in a 2016 article in the Journal of the American Heart Association. In this article, the more alcohol an individual drank the higher their risk of developing atrial fibrillation, a common heart arrhythmia.

Drinking 10 gm (slightly less than one drink) per day increased the risk of new-onset atrial fibrillation by 5%. Atrial fibrillation puts people at risk for blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. Any reduced risk of heart failure or increased chance of surviving a heart attack previously reported in studies may not be worth the risk for some people. You have to decide this for yourself.

 

Alcohol and Cancer Risk

Alcohol has long been noted to increase the risk of several types of cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research recognizes this and recommends not to drink alcohol at all to prevent cancer.

I’ve found several studies linking alcohol to various cancers, including liver, breast, prostate, esophageal, and stomach just to name a few. For a more extensive look at this please visit my page on alcohol consumption.

 

Plant-Based Pharmacist – Alcohol Consumption

 

Summary

In the end, we all need to make the decision we feel is best for our lifestyle. Some people may choose to drink daily, others once a week, and still other people may choose to abstain completely from alcohol.

What’s important is that you are aware of the facts surrounding health and alcohol consumption so you can make an informed decision on your future and your health going forward.

Wish you all my best in your journey towards optimal health!

Dustin Rudolph, PharmD, BCPS

www.PlantBasedPharmacist.com

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Common Heartburn Pills Increase Risk of Stroke

The Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) have recently been found to increase the risk of stroke in patients. These commonly used heartburn medications include Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium, Protonix, and Aciphex. Some of these medications are available over the counter without a prescription. This makes this latest warning all the more important for healthcare consumers to be aware of.

The increased risk of stroke comes from a Danish study looking at nearly 245,000 patients over a six-year follow-up. Overall, there was a 21% increased risk of stroke. There were even higher rates in those taking higher doses of these medications. At the highest dose, Prevacid showed a 30% increased risk of stroke, while Protonix showed a 94% increased risk. There was no increased risk of stroke in another commonly used class of heartburn medications known as H2 blockers (Pepcid, Zantac, Tagamet).

This is just another one of the long list of side effects coming to surface for the PPIs. These medications are also known to potentially increase the risk of developing pneumonia, clostridium difficile infections (diarrhea), osteoporosis, magnesium deficiency, B12 deficiency, interstitial nephritis (kidney inflammation), and low white blood cell counts. These side effects are more likely to occur with long-term use of these medications.

While PPIs may improve the symptoms of heartburn, one should weigh the risk of these side effects before using them and talk to their doctor if necessary about this.

A much safer alternative to any heartburn medication is to adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet while making some key lifestyle changes as well. These approaches target the cause of the problem, whereas the medications used to treat this condition only target the symptoms.

To learn more about diet and lifestyle approaches to treat heartburn, and for success rates of the PPIs and H2 blockers, read my article Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) – Overview and Treatment Options.

All my best,

Dustin Rudolph, PharmD, BCPS

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Breast Cancer – The Facts on Screening and Treatment Options

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the CDC, in 2013 a little over 230,000 individuals were diagnosed with breast cancer and over 40,000 people died from breast cancer. 

Breast cancer is serious business. It scares the living daylights out of the women and men affected by it. That’s why it’s important to understand what goes into this disease so you can make an informed decision when facing it. 

  

Mammogram Screenings to Detect Breast Cancer 

Many women will undergo annual mammogram screenings in preventative efforts for breast cancer. This is what women are taught from an early age. Get a mammogram, prevent breast cancer. However, it is important to understand that mammograms do not prevent breast cancer. They only detect it. So, early detection is truly what is being sought after with this approach. Early detection typically results in early treatment, which may or may not be successful. 

What are the statistics when it comes to mammograms and lives saved due to early breast cancer detection? For every 2,000 women screened for breast cancer throughout 10 years, one will avoid dying of breast cancer due to early detection. 

Women may also be harmed from routine annual mammograms due to false positive tests and the resultant unnecessary treatment. Remember, there are always side effects with any form of medical treatment, especially when it comes to chemotherapy. 

So how many women are harmed due to getting mammograms? For this information and more on breast cancer please read my article, The Business of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (And How to Prevent Breast Cancer in the First Place). 

  

Preventing and Treating Breast Cancer - Diet vs Drugs 

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer you will naturally be looking for treatment options. These come in many varieties – chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, diet, alternative therapy, etc. 

It’s important to research as much information as possible when assessing your treatment options. After all, this is a matter of life and death. There are no right or wrong answers to this. Ultimately, you have to live with the decisions you make and the benefits and risks that come along with them. 

While I think it a wise decision for every cancer patient to adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet as part of their treatment plan, we currently have no hard data on using this approach in terms of success rates with breast cancer. But it certainly isn’t going to make anything worse so make sure you eat your veggies. 

Chemotherapy is often a common form of treatment for breast cancer. The most common chemotherapy agents have approximately a 3%-8% success rate over 5 to 10 years. 

To learn more details about these treatment forms in relation to breast cancer please read my article, Preventing and Treating Breast and Prostate Cancer – Food vs. Medicine. 

May your journey to prevent and/or treat breast cancer be a successful one. Remember, the more informed you are the better decisions you can make. 

  

Dustin Rudolph, PharmD, BCPS 
www.PlantBasedPharmacist.com 

 

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HDL “Good” Cholesterol Explained

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HDL “Good” Cholesterol Explained

On many occasions, I’ve heard family, friends, and strangers alike who have expressed concerns over their low HDL cholesterol levels. They’re worried something is wrong with them, and they want to do something about it. This often involves taking a pill to increase their HDL level.

I thought it would be helpful to explain what HDL cholesterol is, how it works, and how well the approach of taking a pill to correct low HDL levels has worked so far.

 

What is HDL Cholesterol?

High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are a form of cholesterol referred to as “good” cholesterol. That’s because HDL cholesterol is associated with lowering our risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

This lower risk of CVD was first discovered back in the 1950s, but really came to light in 1977 when the famous Framingham Heart Study showed a correlation between low HDL levels and higher rates of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular deaths. [1]

 

What Does HDL Cholesterol Do in the Body?

HDL cholesterol carries out many functions in the body. It is far more complex than most people think. Scientists haven’t even unearthed the whole story yet, but below are some of the things we’ve learned about the role of HDL in the human body: [1]

Primary role of HDL – To transport excess cholesterol from the blood back to the liver to be disposed of from the body (via bile fluid) through the feces.

Secondary roles of HDL

  • Potential anti-inflammatory properties on the cardiovascular system
  • Antioxidant effects within the cardiovascular system
  • Prevention of atherosclerotic plaques
  • Stabilization of already formed atherosclerotic plaques (this prevents plaque ruptures and blood clots which can cause strokes and heart attacks)

The primary role of HDL transporting excess cholesterol back to the liver for disposal can be thought of with a simple analogy. If you’ve ever visited Bourbon Street in New Orleans then you know after each night of partying there is a ton of trash left on the streets and sidewalks. Somebody has to clean this trash up. That somebody is the garbage men and their trucks that come by in the morning to make things look nice again. HDL works in the same manner as these garbage men and their trucks. They “clean up” the extra cholesterol in our blood supply that doesn’t need to be there. This excess cholesterol is what puts us at risk for heart attacks and strokes.

 

Using Medication to Raise HDL Levels and Their Success Rates

If low HDL levels are associated with higher rates of cardiovascular disease like the Framingham Heart Study showed us, then it would make sense to raise HDL levels. That’s what we try to do in conventional medicine using medications and supplements. Does this work though?

We can certainly raise HDL levels using pills. We’ve proven that. Three of the most common drugs used to do this are statins, fibrates (fenofibrate, gemfibrozil), and niacin. Statins raise HDL levels by approximately 5-10%, fibrates by 10-15%, and niacin by 25%. [1]

Despite these increases in HDL levels with drug therapy, we still do not see a reduction in cardiovascular death rates. [1,2] This is unfortunate because the main reason any patient would want to take these medications is to not die from the disease they’re taking the medication for. I call this dying with better numbers.

In addition, with any medication there are always side effects to consider. Statins carry the risk of muscle-related side effects. Niacin can cause flushing causing some people to discontinue it. Fibrates can cause gastrointestinal side effects (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.) and can also increase muscle-related adverse effects when taken together with statins.

 

Conclusion

While we have uncovered an association between low HDL levels and higher rates of cardiovascular disease, there is still much to understand about this complex relationship. Raising HDL levels with drugs has not yet benefited patients in terms of reducing cardiovascular death rates like we’d hoped for.

Instead of providing more “garbage men and garbage trucks” to clean up the excess cholesterol in our blood supply, maybe a better idea would be not to put it there in the first place. This can be accomplished by adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet and staying away from a meat- and dairy-heavy Standard American Diet. There simply is no harm in eating vegetables and only good things come to those who do.

 

Dustin Rudolph, PharmD, BCPS
www.PlantBasedPharmacist.com

 

References:
1 Ali KM, Wonnerth A, Huber K, Wojta J. Cardiovascular disease risk reduction by raising HDL cholesterol – current therapies and future opportunities. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2012;167(6):1177-1194.
2 Kühnast S, Fiocco M, van der Hoorn JW, et al. Innovative pharmaceutical interventions in cardiovascular disease: Focusing on the contribution of non-HDL-C/LDL-C-lowering versus HDL-C-raising: A systematic review and meta-analysis of relevant preclinical studies and clinical trials. Eur J Pharmacol. 2015 Sep 15;763(Pt A):48-63.

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How do I know when I will no longer need meds for high cholesterol and blood pressure?

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How do I know when I will no longer need meds for high cholesterol and blood pressure?

Q:  Dr. Rudolph, 

I am 68 and about 30 pounds overweight. I have been on atenolol & lipitor for several years. I do not drink alcohol, and three weeks ago I started a vegan diet. I am finally losing weight!

How do I know when I will no longer need meds for high cholesterol and blood pressure? How do I know when to reduce meds? 

Brian in Indiana


A:  Dear Brian,

Way to go on the positive diet and lifestyle changes! You're headed in the right direction.

You will definitely need to work with your doctor when discontinuing your medications, especially atenolol. It is vital that you do not discontinue atenolol on your own. There is a black box warning from the FDA about this. Quitting atenolol abruptly can cause more cardiac problems. Please see my article below on hypertension.

http://www.pursueahealthyyou.com/2015/05/hypertension-overview-and-treatment.html

You should also at the very least get your doctor's permission to get off lipitor when the time is right. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. has a goal to get his patient's total cholesterol level below 150 if possible. He has published the most successful reversal studies with coronary heart disease to date using a plant-based diet.

Here is some more information on statins and heart health.

http://www.pursueahealthyyou.com/2014/02/heart-health-statins-vs-diet.html

http://www.pursueahealthyyou.com/2013/11/2013-ahaacc-cardiovascular-risk.html

I hope this helps!

All my best,

Dustin Rudolph, PharmD, BCPS

The Plant-Based Pharmacist
http://www.PlantBasedPharmacist.com

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A Tale of Two Studies

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A Tale of Two Studies

A Tale of Two Studies

Everyday I seem to run across people who have a particular view of a certain health topic related to diet and nutrition. I find it amazing what people believe in. From having a certain blood type dictating what you can eat to requiring a specific amount of an exotic oil each day to maintain “health” to eating different groups of foods in a particular order, everyone seems to have their own theory as to how these things produce health and longevity.

Are these things really true though? Will swallowing two tablespoons of coconut oil daily or eating a meat-heavy diet if you have type O blood really produce better heart health, reverse diabetes, or prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

I never ridicule or doubt anyone’s beliefs when it comes to these topics because everyone usually has a reason for believing what they believe. Instead, I ask them questions to try to understand why they believe what they believe. It’s amazing what I hear for their answers. Rarely does it involve a discussion of specific scientific studies. It’s almost always due to something like this – “I saw this video on Facebook where this person was talking about ____” or “My friend told me ever since she started consuming coconut oil everyday she feels better and her mind is clearer.”

While I don’t doubt that some of these things may be true, I would never want to base my health decisions on this so-called hearsay without solid scientific proof to back it up, which brings me to today’s topic – a tale of two studies.

 

Difference Between Two Major Types of Scientific Studies

The important factor in deciding whether a health claim made by someone is true or not true comes down to the scientific data. A good student of health will want to see studies to back up any specific health claim. An excellent student of health will understand what these studies mean when they read them.

Without getting too technical or in depth there are two major types of studies that help us understand whether or not something has an effect on our health. These include interventional studies (experimental) and observational studies (epidemiological).

Interventional studies are clinical studies in which study investigators employ a specific intervention (i.e. medication, procedure, diet, etc.) on a group of participants to see what kind of outcome it produces. These studies are very detailed and involve specifying exactly what intervention is to be done, and how it is to be done, to individuals participating in the study before the study begins. It also requires investigators to specify what outcomes they will be testing for and their methods of testing for these specified outcomes before beginning the study. Doing all these things helps to control different types of variables which could affect study outcomes. Interventional studies help us understand the cause and effect of a specific intervention on a specific outcome. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s study using a whole foods, plant-based diet to halt and reverse heart disease is an example of an interventional study.

Observational studies are epidemiological studies. These studies do not involve a study investigator directly acting upon a study participant. Instead, there is an observation of the natural relationships between factors and outcomes. Observational studies help us establish a potential correlation between two items but do not prove direct cause and effect between them. An example of an observational study would be the famous Framingham Heart Study where researchers observed a select group of individuals over a certain amount of time to see how various lifestyle factors affected their risk of getting cardiovascular disease.

Observational studies are a great way to establish more interest in an area of study where an interventional study can then be used to measure direct cause and effect between two items. The Framingham Heart Study helped us understand that healthy eating was correlated with improved heart health, but Dr. Esselstyn’s study showed us exactly how a specific diet (whole foods, plant-based diet) could be used to treat and reverse a specific disease (i.e. heart disease).

 

Don’t Fall for Information Hype Regarding Diet and Health

Whenever someone tells you about a new exciting diet or miracle food don’t be too quick to jump on the bandwagon. Always do your due diligence to see if what they are saying is really true or not.

Maybe having a certain blood type does require a specific diet to be healthy, but is this based on observational data or a well-designed interventional study? Is drinking coconut oil daily something that leads to improved health outcomes for everyone based on controlled, interventional studies or did just one person experience better health based on their own observations? And what were the health outcomes in these situations¾less heart disease or no heart disease; better blood sugar control or a complete reversal of type 2 diabetes; less arthritic pain or the complete disappearance of rheumatoid arthritis confirmed by lab tests?

These are the types of questions you should ask yourself before implementing any type of change in dietary advice from other people (including your doctor or other healthcare professional). Remember, good students of health ask for proof of things they hear. Excellent students of health understand what this proof means and how to put it into context when it comes to the big picture.

Dustin Rudolph, PharmD
www.PlantBasedPharmacist.com

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The Facts About Cholesterol-Lowering Medications

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The Facts About Cholesterol-Lowering Medications

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer worldwide. High cholesterol is a leading cause contributing to this.

The number of adults with elevated LDL “bad” cholesterol in the U.S. was 37.8% in 2010. It is obvious we have a significant proportion of our population at risk of a preventable chronic disease in the United States because of this.

Our answer to this problem usually comes in the form of a pill, most notably the statin drugs. How well do statins work, and are they worth taking in the first place? These are the questions many patients are asking themselves. The answer involves sorting out the facts from hearsay. In order to do this you need to know what the benefits and risks are from taking statin medications. This is what follows below.

 

Benefits of Taking Statins

Benefits of taking statin drugs involve preventing cardiovascular events and premature death. This data can be found by looking at the results of systemic reviews on http://www.TheNNT.com. They are as follows:

For those with no prior heart disease, less than 1% were helped by avoiding death or a heart attack or stroke.

For those with prior heart disease, between 0.8%-2.6% were helped by avoiding premature death, a heart attack, or a stroke.

 

Risks of Taking Statins

All drugs come with side effects, and the statins are no exception. TheNNT also covers a few of the more common potential risks in their reviews. The most notable of these is muscle weakness/damage/pain in patients. According to TheNNT, 10% of patients suffer from this adverse effect while taking statin medications.

Statins have many other adverse effects as well. This is discussed at length in this scientific review article by two vascular surgeons. These other adverse effects include an increase risk of diabetes, cataracts, erectile dysfunction, neurodegenerative disorders in the elderly, and even some forms of cancer. It is important to look into this before deciding to take a statin medication if you choose to do so.

 

Alternative to Statin Drugs

Statin drugs and other cholesterol-lowering medications are often the only option given to patients needing to lower their cholesterol levels. They are not the only option though. Everyone should be made aware of a much more effective and safer form of treatment in the form of a whole foods, plant-based diet and lifestyle. This approach has been proven to work in most every patient who uses it, and all without the side effects of the statin drugs listed above. You can read more about adopting this diet and lifestyle approach here.

It’s important that you understand your decisions when it comes to improving your health and treating disease. There is no right or wrong answer or decision. There are just different choices when facing any medical condition. What’s important is you know the facts behind your choices when you make your decisions. This way you’ll have no regrets going forward and can live life to the best of your ability.

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Tackling High Blood Pressure With Diet Instead of Medication

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Tackling High Blood Pressure With Diet Instead of Medication

Six to seven out of every ten people in America have a blood pressure problem. Three of these people have high blood pressure (i.e. hypertension), while another three to four people have a condition known as pre-hypertension. [1-3]

High blood pressure is serious business. It’s a condition known to cause many problems, some of which can be severe and irreversible. Hypertension can weaken artery walls, make the heart work harder over time leading to heart failure, and can even cause strokes. The latter is of greatest concern because stroke can lead to permanent disability or even death. Needless to say, if you have high blood pressure, you need to take this as a giant red flag showing up in your life insisting that you do something about it.

While we Americans are quick to reach for a pill to fix all of our healthcare problems (including hypertension), the best way to beat high blood pressure is at its core—our diet! That’s correct. High blood pressure is a dietary disease, not a genetic disease, and it’s best dealt with by changing our grocery list.

In fact, the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology even stated this back in 2003 in their article on preventing hypertension, “Hypertension, like most cardiovascular conditions, is a nutritional-hygienic disease. The seeds of hypertension are rooted in physical inactivity, obesity, high caloric intake, and excessive dietary sodium intake as well as alcohol consumption. Genetic susceptibility to hypertension remains ill-defined.” [4]

By focusing on our diet we can effectively treat, and even reverse, cases of high blood pressure. Some very accomplished physicians have done just that. The works of John McDougall, MD and Alan Goldhamer, DC have already shown that a dietary approach is best for eradicating high blood pressure. Both physicians used a wholes foods, plant-based diet devoid of meat, dairy, eggs, and oil to accomplish this. These doctors used nature’s best medicine in the form of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains) to reverse high blood pressure in their patients. And they did this without any additional side effects.

So, if you have high blood pressure, and you’re looking to tackle this disease without prescription medications, then a change in diet just may be your ticket to making this happen. You have nothing to lose by taking this approach, other than a few extra pounds you’ve probably already been looking to lose anyway. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to take the plunge and adopt the best that nature has to offer—a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle. Your body will thank you in the end.

To learn more about hypertension, including a detailed synopsis on studies looking at both dietary and conventional medicine’s approach to this condition, read my article titled, Hypertension – Overview and Treatment Options.

 

Dustin Rudolph, PharmD
www.PlantBasedPharmacist.com

 

References:
1 Nwankwo T, Yoon SS, Burt V, Gu Q. Hypertension among adults in the United States: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survery, 2011-2012. NCHS Data Brief. 2013 Oct;(133):1-8.
2 Qureshi AI, Suri MFK, Kirmani JF, Divani AA. Prevalence and trends of prehypertension and hypertension in United States: National Health and Nutrition Examination Surverys 1976 to 2000. Med Sci Monit. 2005;11(9):CR403-409.
3 Gupta AK, McGlone M, Greenway FL, Johnson WD. Prehypertension in disease-free adults: a marker for adverse cariometabolic risk profile. Hypertens Res. 2010 Sep;33(9):905-10.
4 Flack JM, Peters R, Shafi T, et al. Prevention of hypertension and its complications: theoretical basis and guidelines for treatment. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2003 Jul;14(7 Suppl 2):S92-8.

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I am having a hard time falling asleep

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I am having a hard time falling asleep

QUESTION:
 
Dear Dr. Rudolph,

I am having a hard time falling asleep.  I have to take Clozapine, and I am wondering if there is something natural I could take instead.

I really appreciate you and your work.

Sincerely, 

Heather
 

 

ANSWER:
Hi Heather,

I'm happy I could help in some small way.

In regards to your follow up questions, it is not wise for any individual to stop taking clozapine on their own. This MUST be done with the help of a qualified physician. Many of the psychotropic medications may cause withdrawal symptoms and/or a re-occurrence or relapse of the treated medical condition so it is imperative you work with a physician on this.

Unfortunately, there are no OTC or herbals that I can recommend for sleep while taking clozapine due to the many interactions clozapine has with both medications and supplements.

I do have a page on sleep on my website that you may find some lifestyle tips to help with this - http://www.plantbasedpharmacist.com/lifestyle/sleep/

Please don't give up hope in regards to living with a mental illness. There are people and approaches to helping individuals with mental illness regain some sense of normalcy back. I have two physicians I usually refer people to when looking for answers to mental illness. You can find their information below:

Walter Jacobson, MD - https://walterjacobsonmd.com

Neil Nedley, MD - http://nedleyhealthsolutions.com/ or http://depressionthewayout.com

I hope you find this information of some assistance.

All my best,
Dustin Rudolph, PharmD

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Treating Acid Reflux With Diet Instead of Pills

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Treating Acid Reflux With Diet Instead of Pills

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) affects 1 out of every 4 persons in America. Many people refer to this condition simply as acid reflux or heartburn. Many people are also quick to reach for the nearest antacid medication in order to solve their acid reflux problems; but there’s a much more effective way to deal with this common medical condition.

While antacids and acid-blocking medication may help in calming the symptoms of GERD, they don't target the root cause of the disease. Changing your diet can do this though. The food you choose to eat each day is the single greatest factor in determining whether you’ll suffer from acid reflux, and how long you’ll suffer if you already have it.

High-fat processed foods (i.e. fried foods, pastries, donuts, etc.) cause heartburn problems. In fact, high-fat foods are the biggest culprit in the long list of food items that can cause acid reflux. Spicy foods, sour foods, and coffee are also a problem with many individuals when it comes to acid reflux. Animal foods like meat and dairy are also high in fat and can perpetuate GERD.

Switching to a whole foods, plant-based diet naturally low in fat helps avoid common food culprits in the development of GERD. By adopting a plant-based diet, you naturally avoid many of the food items that can cause acid reflux in favor of healthier fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grain products. Essentially, you are targeting the root cause of the disease. Another benefit to this approach is avoiding all the possible side effects from the various medications used to treat GERD.

To learn more about acid reflux, including different treatment strategies of food versus medicine, see my article – Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease – Overview and Treatment Options.

I wish you all the best in your quest to rid yourself of heartburn. May your stomach never be on fire again!

Dustin Rudolph, PharmD
www.PlantBasedPharmacist.com

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A New Line of Diabetes Pills, Same Old Results

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A New Line of Diabetes Pills, Same Old Results

A new line of diabetic drugs has arrived. You’ve probably seen them in commercials during the 60-second slots between nightly newscast segments. They’re called sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors and include Farxiga, Invokana, and Jardiance.

So how do these new arrivals work?

SGLT2 inhibitors work by increasing the amount of glucose excreted in the urine. This is unnatural for humans because glucose is not supposed to be in the urine at all. In spite of this, glucose does spill over into the urine of diabetics. It’s part of the disease process. SGLT2 inhibitors also enhance this part of the disease process. The thought is, by getting rid of more glucose through the urine there will be less in the bloodstream, which would ultimately lower blood sugar levels and be good for diabetes.

This line of thinking is correct. Blood sugar levels do go down with these drugs. However, the reason why a type 2 diabetic’s blood sugar is high in the first place is not due to the fact that not enough glucose is being dumped into the urine. The reason is because of an excessive amount of fat in the body (specifically in muscle cells), which causes insulin resistance to occur in the first place. SGLT2 inhibitors do not target this extra fat in the body. Only diet can do this. This is why this new class of diabetic drugs is considered to be lifelong therapy for type 2 diabetics.

As with all drugs there are side effects with SGLT2 inhibitors. The most noteworthy side effect of these medications is an increased incidence of urinary tract and yeast infections in both men and women. Bacteria and fungus love warm, wet, and sugar-filled environments to live in and prosper. These drugs make this environment possible as they increase the amount of glucose in the urinary tract. This is definitely something to consider if you are going to use these medications.

Better yet, you could adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet and reverse type 2 diabetes without medications. If you’re on diabetic medications there is a good chance you could reduce or eliminate their need by adopting this diet and lifestyle. To learn more about this, and for an in depth look at the root cause of type 2 diabetes, read my article – Type 2 Diabetes–The Cause and the Cure.

 

Wishing you the very best in your quest to defeat type 2 diabetes!

 

Dustin Rudolph, PharmD
www.PlantBasedPharmacist.com

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Food and Exercise – The Prescription of Choice for Osteoporosis

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Food and Exercise – The Prescription of Choice for Osteoporosis

A recent U.S. News & World Health Report stated 1 in 4 U.S. senior women aged 65 or older have a condition known as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is the weakening of the bones, a condition that can increase one’s risk of bone fractures.

Growing Up With Dairy

Many of us have grown up drinking milk, eating cheese, and enjoying yogurt. We’re told at a young age that dairy products produce strong, healthy bones. From the milk mustaches donned by celebrities to the “happy cow” ads, it leaves no doubt in the minds of many Americans that dairy is key to avoiding brittle bones.

So why do 25% of elderly American women have osteoporosis?

Simply put, the dairy industry has purposely misled millions of Americans and others in Western cultures that dairy is good for your bones. Milk and other dairy products do not produce strong, healthy bones. They do just the opposite. They increase your risk of osteoporosis and brittle bones. This is what independent studies not paid for and published by the dairy industry state anyway.[1-4] Once again corporate profits are put before individual human health interests.

Treating Osteoporosis with Prescription Medications

In the United States, we are quick to resort to prescription medications to treat our health problems. Osteoporosis is no stranger to this approach.

One of the most common classes of medications used to treat osteoporosis is the bisphosphonate class. These drugs (Fosamax, Boniva, Reclast, Actonel, etc.) work by reducing the breakdown of bone. Hence, the reason for them improving bone mineral density scores.

However, bisphosphonates do not increase the building of new bone tissue. This can be a problem because our bones rely on the process of breaking down old worn out bone and replacing it with newly formed, healthy bone to keep our bodies strong and robust.

The bisphosphonates actually do a poor job of reducing bone fracture risk. Looking at the data, postmenopausal women who’ve never had a prior fracture before receive no benefit from using these medications. That’s right, a 0% success rate in preventing fractures. The story is only slightly better in postmenopausal women who have had a prior fracture, or who have a low bone mineral density score. The bisphosphonates reduce the risk of hip fracture by 1% and vertebral fracture by 5% after taking them for a period of three years in these women.

I think it’s also important to point out that bisphosphonates can increase the risk of stress fractures in patients using them.[5] They can also cause severe gastrointestinal distress, even having the potential to cause ulcers in some patients taking them. So, if you’re going to use these drugs be aware of both the benefits and risks before doing so, and have a conversation with your doctor or pharmacist prior to taking them.

Plant-Based Foods and Exercise for Osteoporosis

Preventing and treating osteoporosis should start with the basics—eating the right foods and exercising. An alkaline-based diet (i.e. whole foods, plant-based diet) and weight-bearing exercises can do wonders in helping to avoiding osteoporosis.[3,6] 

Plant proteins are protective against osteoporosis. Animal proteins are not, and accomplish just the opposite. By filling your plate full of fruits, vegetables, and legumes you’re doing your bones a favor in giving them the nutrients they need to perform at their best without compromising their integrity. There’s no need to worry about getting enough calcium on a plant-based diet. Dark leafy greens, green vegetables, and a variety of beans help you meet your daily requirements of calcium. You can read more about this in my article, The Calcium Myth – More is Not Better.

Exercise is also key to improving bone health. In fact, I would put this front and center in your game plan to improve your bone mineral density scores. Of course, first check with your physician to make sure you are cleared to start an exercise program. When you get the all clear then start one right away before you put it on the backburner.

Weight-bearing exercise (i.e. resistance training), in particular, is the best for improving bone mineral density scores. It helps you strengthen and tone your muscles to properly support your skeletal structure. By doing this, you can avoid falls, one of the biggest reasons for broken bones in the first place.

Resistance training includes lifting weights, performing lunges, doing pushups, and using resistance bands. Incorporate these exercises into your routine at least three days a week.

By getting back to the basics you should not only see your bone and skeletal health improve, but also your overall health as well.

Best of luck to you!
Dustin Rudolph, PharmD
www.PlantBasedPharmacist.com

References:
1 Feskanich D, Willett WC, Colditz GA. Calcium, vitamin D, milk consumption, and hip fractures: a prospective study among postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77:504–511.
2 Fujita T, Fukase M. Comparison of osteoporosis and calcium intake between Japan and the United States. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1992 Jun;200(2):149-52.
3 Frassetto LA, et al. Worldwide incidence of hip fracture in elderly women: relation to consumption of animal and vegetable foods. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2000 Oct; 55(10):M585-92.
4 Abelow B, et al. Cross-cultural association between dietary animal protein and hip fracture: a hypothesis. Calcific Tissue Int. 1992; 50:14-8.
5 Schilcher J, Koeppen V, Aspenberg P, Michaëlsson K. Risk of atypical femoral fracture during and after bisphosphonate use: Full report of a nationwide study. Acta Orthopaedica. 2015;86(1):100-107.
6 Shanb AA, Youssef EF. The impact of adding weight-bearing exercise versus nonweight bearing programs to the medical treatment of elderly patients with osteoporosis. J Family Community Med. 2014 Sep;21(3):176-81.

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Fish Oil Reviews - The Evidence Behind Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements

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Fish Oil Reviews - The Evidence Behind Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements

Like many individuals, my day starts with an eagerly awaited trip to the kitchen after a quick hop in the shower. By this time, the alarm clock haze has finally worn off long enough to realize the neurotic taste buds in my mouth are going crazy. They need their morning bowl of cinnamon oatmeal with mixed berries or else!

In the past, I'd always follow breakfast with a handful of vitamins and some fish oil supplements before heading out the door. I was off to fill prescriptions and make the world a healthier place! As a pharmacist, I dispense pills and educate others on all the benefits they have to offer, including a few over-the-counter supplements. Fish oil is one of these supplements. In school I learned that pills equal health. Pharmacists dispense pills. Therefore, pharmacists dispense health.

Since I am the expert on pills, I deem it my responsibility to keep up with the scientific literature behind all of these pills as best I can. After all, medicine is a constantly changing environment and if you snooze you lose (and so do your patients). Today I present you with the evidence behind fish oil supplements, known widely for benefiting cardiovascular health and many other chronic diseases, or so they say.

To do this I scoured numerous scientific studies in highly respected medical journals like the New England Journal of Medicine and The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). I also turned to The Cochrane Reviews. The Cochrane Reviews—if you're unfamiliar with them—provide the most comprehensive, credible, and impartial analysis on the available scientific evidence in health and medicine. They do this by upholding very strict commercial sponsorship policies, which prohibit contributions from pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Here's what I found.

To continue reading, please click here

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Can I do this naturally?

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Can I do this naturally?

Question:

I'm baffled as to which supplements to take.  I have a whole bunch that I recently purchased, including a multi-vitamin.

I'm trying to decide which of the health issues to attack naturally. Since May, I have been eating so much better and taking a multi, and then got diagnosed with Diverticulitis. So there goes my healthy nuts and popcorn!!

I'm 45 and have been diagnosed with Diabetes, Hypertension, High Cholesterol, Diverticulitis, Severe Sleep Apnea.

Answer:

Hello,
I applaud your desire and motivation to regain your health with diet and lifestyle.
You may find a few of my articles helpful on the various medical conditions you are trying to tackle. 
Click here to read about DiverticulitisDiabetes, and Hypertension
Also, it would be a good idea to find a Plant-Based Physician near you to work with. You can search for one using the following links:
 
http://www.vegdocs.com
http://www.plantbaseddoctors.org
 
I hope this information helps.
 
Sincerely,
Dustin Rudolph, PharmD

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Why did my triglycerides go up?

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Why did my triglycerides go up?

Question:

I am a type 2 diabetic for the past 15 yrs I switched to a plant based/no nuts/ no oil diet for the past 4 months ( have been a vegetarian all my life ). My recent blood work shows an improvement in everything except triglycerides which has gone up from 158 to 194 and my HDL went down to 38 from 44 in 4 mths. Why did the triglycerides go up and what can I do to improve the HDL and reduce the triglycerides??

Answer:

Excellent questions!
 
For those adopting a low-fat, whole foods, plant-based diet whose triglycerides rise the likely culprit is fructose and other simple forms of sugar. Most notably, fruit juices, smoothies, and dried fruit have these forms of sugars. Some people are sensitive to regular whole fruit in this way too, but it is not as big of a culprit as the others. Please see this article by John McDougall, MD for a more in-depth explanation - https://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2003nl/030100putamingelevatedtriglycerides.htm.
 
As for HDL going down, this is not uncommon for those adopting a plant-based diet with no animal foods or oils. Please see this article by Dean Ornish, MD for an explanation on HDL - http://ornishspectrum.com/zine/can-get-ldl-cholesterol-lower-ratio-hdl-cholesterol-51/.
 
Hope that helps.
Dustin Rudolph, PharmD
www.PlantBasedPharmacist.com

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... From a Pharmacist

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... From a Pharmacist

According to the most recent IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics report, total healthcare system spending on medicines in the United States in 2011 reached $320,000,000,000. That’s correct—$320 billion.

When the most recent population census of the United States was taken in 2010, 308 million people called the United States home.

With some simple math, you can see that our drug expenditures in America work out to be a little over $1,000 per year per person. That’s for every man, woman, and child walking around in the U.S. This a lot of money and a lot of drugs!

What are we getting for all of this? Are we significantly improving our lives or is the money spent on medications a complete waste?

As a pharmacist, I can’t help but wonder about these questions myself. I also can’t help but wonder if my services are helping or hurting the bigger picture in our society. Does all this money spent on medication really make that much of a difference?

Living Longer, But Not Necessarily Better

To answer this, I searched long and far for information on life expectancy and quality of life in individuals in the United States. What I found was pretty interesting to say the least. We’re definitely living longer in the U.S., due to all of the technological advances in medicine in our country, but we’re not necessarily living better. This was highlighted in the excerpt below:

Life expectancy at the turn of the 20th century in the United States was 49.24 years. Americans now live an average of 77.2 years, and those who are now 65 years old can expect to live an additional 18.1 years … The rise in life expectancy over the past century has been linear, with no indication of an imminent decline in the rate of increase. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect the average life span in the United States to reach or exceed 100 years in the 21st century. However, because the average age at chronic disease onset has not risen to the same extent as life expectancy, a typical American currently aged 75 years can look forward to only 4 more years of active health followed by greater than 7 years of disability. If the age of chronic disease onset does not increase commensurate to the added years of life still to come, a growing number of centenarians will spend the last 2 decades of their lives living with the serious and debilitating consequences of chronic disease.
— Dwyer J., ACNJ, Feb 2006:83:4155-4205

That doesn't sound like fun at all to me. The thought of living longer merely to exist in a constant state of sickness and misery makes me want to turn back the clock a bit to the earlier days of the 20th century. At least then we could die in a state of relatively good health, albeit at a much younger age.

Good Health Comes in Colorful Packages

There is good news in all of this. You have far more control over your long-term health than you might think. It all comes down to the choices you make along the way.

I know this because I’ve seen both sides of the story. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a pharmacist. I’ve been practicing pharmacy for over thirteen years now. In this time, I’ve seen thousands of patients come through my care, all trying to make their way back to ‘healthy,’ whatever ‘healthy’ is considered in our country. And they all have one thing in common—the more medications they’re on, the sicker and more miserable they are, without fail. I wish I could say differently, but, unfortunately, I can’t.

Don’t get me wrong; there have been times where the medications I’ve dispensed have literally saved lives. I work in a hospital, a breeding ground for medical crises as they happen in real time. Life-saving medication is part of my job. The team of doctors, nurses, and myself would be hard pressed to stop a life-threatening stroke without powerful clot-busting drugs. Thank goodness for them!

But aside from these rare occasions it rings true that the more medications a person is on the more problems they have, and the worse they feel. True health starts with what’s on the end of your fork, knife, and spoon, not what’s staring you down at the end of your prescription vial. I’ve seen this side of things too. I’ve had the privilege of learning how optimal nutrition transforms lives of the chronically ill. Food can literally be life changing if properly implemented into someone’s diet/lifestyle.

I was fortunate enough to learn about this role of diet and health during the last six years of my career. I wish I would’ve known about it earlier in my career. I would’ve been telling people all about the incredible healing properties of nature’s rainbow skittles—fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains—if I had.

A whole foods, plant-based diet can work wonders for those facing serious, chronic medical conditions. After reading The China Study in 2009, I couldn’t get enough of these powerful, new medical tools in my medicine chest—Plants! They can work wonders.

Since 2009, I’ve helped many people reverse chronic, debilitating diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, lupus, prostate cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and more. And the best part—there are no side effects or costly follow up doctor’s office visits to succumb to. It’s just about getting back to the basics. Eat plants, not drugs. Get off the sofa and move your body. Pharmacist’s orders!

So take it from me—the druggist—if you want to get healthy and avoid two decades of “debilitating consequences of chronic disease” like the AJCN article stated above then try eating your medicine instead of standing in line at the pharmacy to receive your medicine. Your body, and those closest to you, will thank you for many years to come.

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