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Alzheimer's Disease and Aluminum

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Aluminum was once thought to be an inert metal, but its safety in our bodies is now being questioned.

Alzheimer's disease is a degenerative neurological disease that causes premature aging of the brain. Memory loss, early senility, and premature death are hallmark symptoms. Although there may be many causes, including genetics and a number of environmental factors, aluminum ingestion has been implicated. While no causal relationship has yet been proved, there is circumstantial evidence linking this metal with Alzheimer's disease.

alzheimer's disease

Neurotoxic behavior of aluminum is known to occur upon entry into the circulatory system, where it can migrate to the brain and inhibit some of the crucial functions of the blood brain barrier (BBB). A loss of function in the BBB can produce significant damage to the neurons in the central nervous system, as the barrier protecting the brain from other toxins found in the blood will no longer be capable of such action. Though the metal is known to be neurotoxic, effects are usually restricted to patients incapable of removing excess ions from the blood, such as those experiencing renal failure. Patients experiencing aluminum toxicity can exhibit symptoms such as impaired learning and reduced motor coordination. Additionally, systemic aluminum levels are known to increase with age, and have been shown to correlate with Alzheimer’s Disease, implicating it as a neurotoxic causative compound of the disease.

Aluminum became a suspect when researchers found traces of this metal in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients. Many studies since then have either not been able to confirm this finding or have had questionable results. Aluminum does turn up in higher amounts than normal in some autopsy studies of Alzheimer's disease patients, but not in all, and the aluminum found in some studies may have come from substances used in the laboratory to study brain tissue. Moreover, various studies have found that groups of people exposed to high levels of aluminum do not have an increased risk. On the whole, scientists can say only that it is still uncertain whether exposure to aluminum plays a role in Alzheimer's disease.

Millions of cases have been diagnosed in Canada and the United States, as well as countless others wrongly attributed to simple aging. Alzheimer's disease has certainly attracted the attention of the public. Dr. Donald McLachlan, Professor of physiology and medicine at the University of Toronto notes that we should all be eating about two micrograms of aluminum a day, but we average at least four times this amount. Many people inadvertently consume forty times the recommended levels. Highly acidic foods such as rhubarb or tomatoes, when stewed in aluminum pots will absorb some of the element. A slice of homemade cornbread tops the list with nine times the recommended daily dose, as does a gram of Crest gel toothpaste in the tube. Fresh mint Crest gel, in the metal tube, contains almost twenty times less aluminum than Crest Sparkling gel, in the metal tube. Aquafresh in the metal tube, bests the list with only .27 micrograms per gram.

Foods high in aluminum are American processed cheese, cake and icing from a mix, foods containing additives, foods packaged in aluminum, some antacids, lipstick, cosmetics,  antiperspirants, buffered aspirin, and even prune juice. A call to your local public health office will tell you about your local drinking water. A liter of Metropolitan Toronto tap-water contains 75 micrograms in winter and this increases to between 200 and 300 in summer.

The evidence that what you eat matters to your brain is growing fast. Many studies have recently reported that many of the same factors that contribute to poor heart health also increase one’s risk of cognitive decline or developing Alzheimer's disease. It is very important to eat in moderation and maintain a healthy body weight, as people who are obese double their risk of developing dementia according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Research has found that people who eat foods high in fat and sugar, as well as larger amounts of red and processed meats have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than people who ate more lean meats (fish and poultry) and more fruits and vegetables. Yet another study has shown that vitamin B-12 and folic acid deficiencies coupled with increased levels of homocysteine, a compound found in the blood that has been linked to increased risk of certain cardiovascular conditions, resulted in lower scores on cognitive tests. Taken as a whole, these and other studies support the notion that eating a balanced diet and eating in moderation throughout your life is just as important to long-term cognitive health as it is to heart health.

Studies have found also shown that aluminum absorbs better through the skin than orally. When using antiperspirants, one only applies very little aluminum to the skin. However, daily use results in chronic exposure to aluminum.

Here's an action tip:

To help reduce your chances of developing aluminum toxicity, take steps to avoid antacids and antiperspirants, which may contain aluminum. Until more is known about the effects of aluminum ingestion on our health, the safest thing to do is avoid foods wrapped in it, and read all food labels carefully, If the tap water in your area is suspect, then drink bottled water.

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Colonoscopy for Cancer of the Colon: Hind-sight is 20-20

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Colon Cancer Prevention

 Aging is supposed to be a reward, not a punishment.  However, there are days when that may not seem to be much consolation.  Just like with a car, we can ignore maintenance at first, but after it becomes an old classic, it needs a lot more maintenance.

One human example is our search for preventable diseases.  Colon cancer is certainly one of the classic examples. 

Our society is at a high risk of the disease, for a number of reasons.  Our aging population, or changing diet with less fiber and more sugars and additives, and our increased levels of stress all mitigate increased risks of this (and other) diseases.  Because cancer of the colon is so easy to prevent, and yet so deadly if allowed to grow undiagosed, prevention trumps heroic surgery as our first option.  While prevention incorporates the usual good lifestyle choices of diet, exercise, and stress management, here are some critical elements of detection:

1.       Fecal Occult Blood test: this is a simple test kit, available from your doctor or lab, which will show trace amounts of blood in the stool.  This might be from bleeding from the gums or swallowed blood from a nosebleed, or it could come from the stomach or any part of the intestines down to the rectum.  While blood is visible as red or black discoloration in the stools, this test is sensitive enough to detect blood hidden from the human eye.  Because it is inexpensive and non-invasive, this can be done to any age group.  We often order it for patients with low iron levels, or with known bowel diseases like chron’s or ulcerative colitis.


2.       Colonoscopy:  This is the definitive test, routinely suggested for all adults after the age of 50.  Earlier screening is suggested for those who have any of the risk factors mentioned above, including those who have positive Fecal Occult Blood tests.


                1. Minor surgery:  Nip it in the bud: the point of a direct (as opposed to a “virtual” one) colonoscopy is that it will not only show any polyps, but allows the doctor to snip, zap, or otherwise eradicate them before they turn into cancers.  A classic “two-fer”, this means the diagnosis is made, and the treatment is given all during the same procedure.  For patches of suspicious cells, a biopsy can be taken which will detect diseases within a few days of lab processing. 

2.    Major surgery: If the above is too late, and the cancer has progressed into and through the wall of the colon, then full abdominal surgery is usually indicated.  Often this ends with a segment of bowel removed, and a colectomy or removal of bowel being done.  The patient is left with a colostomy bag, which is often permanent.  In some cases, the cancer may have already spread beyond the colon and into the lymph nodes, meaning that systemic chemotherapy or radiation may then be needed.

Please consider option 1, no matter how you might rather postpone or ignore it.  Those who are in denial are likely going to end up with Option 2, and for some of those, even surgery may be too late to save their lives.  Once cancer has been established,  a third of all patients will die from it.  If detected early, the survival rate should be 100%.

There are plenty of “bad luck” reasons for us to die; please don’t let “bad management” add to your risks!  Ask your doctor for a referral, and make sure you check out your colon when you are due. 

For more info on colonoscopy:

For more articles on colon issues, check these articles on




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Stress and Type 2 Diabetes

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Are you under a lot of stress? Well, one of the health complications if that stress is not managed well is Type 2 diabetes (adult onset diabetes).

Type 2 diabetes is a disease where the body's cells stop using insulin properly (also referred to as insulin resistance). This form of diabetes may be controlled with medication but generally can not be cured. Long term complications of Type 2 diabetes are an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, heart disease, stroke, and various visual problems.

Stressful life events, such as broken relationships and important examinations, appear to predispose some people to Type 2 diabetes, with insulin-dependency. An image showing a woman using an insulin pump Epidemiologist Dr. Nicola Robinson, of the Diabetes unit at the Middlesex Hospital medical school in England interviewed a group of newly diagnosed diabetics who were dependent on insulin , and found over half had a stressful change in their lives in the last six months. In the previous thirty months, over three quarters of these patients had one or more such events, far more than experienced by the population at large or even by their own siblings.

While stress does not cause diseases by itself, it is known to predispose one to infections, ulcers, and heart disease. It is now apparent that one should include Type 2 diabetes on the list. Under stress, the body reacts by raising levels of blood sugar for fuel for the fight or flight response. To carry that sugar into the muscle cells to give us extra strength in a crisis, the pancreas pours out high quantities of insulin. In some individuals, especially when the challenge is severe or when support is lacking to handle a crisis, stress can definitely push the body towards true diabetes.

Once Type 2 diabetes begins, further unresolved stress will also push one towards renewed demands for insulin. The results of these findings confirm what many family doctors had known intuitively all along: the support of close family and friends can offer a great deal of therapeutic value.

Here's an action tip:
If you are under a lot of stress, make sure you ask your doctor for a test of your blood sugar. If you are already a diabetic, be prepared to increase your dosage of insulin when you are severely stressed, and remember to not bottle up your stresses inside. With the help of friends, family, and appropriate medical professionals, you can take a lot of the stress out of diabetes, and a lot of diabetes out of the stress.

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Tips For Health: Begin Jogging By Starting Slow

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Are you in a hurry to get fit? Well, before you start jogging, there are a few things under the category of 'tips for health' you should know.

Without question, jogging is the most popular form of exercise on the planet, because virtually everyone in reasonable health can do it, even if finances dictate that they must run barefoot.

An image depicting a jogger stretching

Of course, in the western world, barefoot is not preferable, except perhaps along a sandy beach. One of the nice features of jogging is that even professional grade equipment is still inexpensive, when compared to equipment for almost any other sport. To make it an even better bargain, there are no clubs to join, and no lessons to hire, you can do it whenever and wherever you wish.

However, there are some caveats that are very important before you transform yourself from couch potato into running star. First of all, take a look at yourself. If you are out of shape from at least three months of inactivity, if you have or are recovering from an illness, or if you are over forty years of age, you should start with a full physical examination from your doctor. In addition to ruling out such problems as metabolic disorders or blood pressure problems, your doctor can examine your joints and muscles to see if they are strong enough to sustain the forces of running. She can also give you valuable diet and nutrition information that can help improve your fitness while you exercise.

In some cases, a treadmill test is helpful, not only to check your ECG but to see how you run. If you are knock-kneed, bow-legged, flat footed, or have one leg longer than the other, then special shoe inserts may be needed to prevent injury. If you are obese, remember that each step you run carries a force of three to eight times your body weight, depending on terrain. So in other words, if you are over 25 pounds overweight, try another sport first, such as walking, cycling, or swimming until you get into better shape.

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What To Do About Being Stressed-Out and Overweight

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Obesity. Plumpness. Full figure. There are more euphemisms for this condition than any other medical problem. This is probably because it is not a medical problem at all. With the exception of a very few cases of true glandular dysfunction, such as with certain conditions of thyroid, liver, or adrenal disorder, being fat is an arithmetic problem.

An image of glass of red wine

When the numbers of calories in exceed the number of calories burned off, the body stores the difference. In other words, obesity is caused by eating too much, and/or exercising too little. On the very rare chance that your case may be caused by more than bad dietary arithmetic, a proper medical work-up can pick up most endocrine disorders, and, of course, the appropriate treatments can then be started.

In some cases, such as with thyroid replacement, or surgery on an overactive adrenal gland, the results can be dramatic. But for the vast majority of heavyweights, the problem is not related to luck, genetics, or metabolism. It usually all comes down to choice. That's right, choice. Most fat people choose to be fat, in spite of their protestations to the contrary. When their eyes are closed, they see themselves as fat people, when they talk about themselves, they refer to themselves as heavyweights, and when they buy clothes, they look in the "full figure" section. They may try a diet, out of guilt at being faced with an increasingly lean lifestyle portrayal in the media. But without choosing to see themselves as thin, the dieter feels ill at ease with their new weight, and soon bounces back up to even greater heights.

Often the obese kid themselves into believing that they really don't eat much, just because they see others eating more in public. But the food one sneaks without witnesses can do all the damage, even if one denies having eaten it. My old professor used to point out to her obese patients that "nobody ever came out of a prisoner of war camp fat". Indeed, in circumstances where the freedom of choice in one's diet is removed, such as with the post WWII rationing in England, obesity virtually disappeared from view (at least it made everyone suspicious of ration stamp forgeries if one showed up overweight). Indeed, during these periods, the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, back pains, sore knees and ankles, and a host of other obesity-related diseases all plummeted with the national weight. In the case of post-war British, the choice was made for them. But, for the rest of us, we still have that precious freedom. So, whether you consider yourself pleasingly plump, rotund, or "big boned", remember that you are ultimately the only one to blame, and the only one who can make the choice to correct the problem. It has always been thus. Ever since the days of Shakespeare, the choice facing every dieter as he or she sits down before another meal has always been the same: "tubby, or not tubby, that is the question".

Here's an action tip:
If you are overweight, by which I mean ten pounds over the weight at which you look your best in a bathing suit, remember to exercise your freedom of choice, as well as to exercise your muscles.

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Adding More Food Fiber To Your Diet May Reduce Your Blood Pressure

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It has long been believed that medical diseases can often be a result of our western diet. Well, it turns out that we now have an even better reason to eat fiber, not just for our bowels, but for our hearts.

An image of blood pressure being taken

We've long heard the expression "you are what you eat". Well, as we are gathering greater scientific knowledge, it turns out that this saying is truer than we imagined. A new study done in Sweden by Dr. Kieth Eliasson of Stockholm's Karolinska Hospital, recruited 63 mild hypertensives with a mean diastolic blood pressure of more than 99.6 mm of Hg. The normal level is about ten points lower, anything up to 90. For the next three months, each volunteer would receive a 7 gram dose of tablets, while their blood pressures were monitored.

One half of the group was given tablets containing mixed dietary food fiber, the other was given identical pills containing placebo. Because blood pressure normally changes with different moods and activities, researchers took several daily readings from each volunteer. Blood pressures were measured at rest, during mental stress (using the Stroop test), and during physical stress (using the cold pressor test). Readings were also taken to assess levels of cholesterol, insulin, glucose, and triglycerides in the blood.

The findings were consistent, and dramatic. The group taking food with fiber lowered their blood pressure, by an average of 5%, and also reduced their levels of cholesterol, glucose, insulin and triglycerides in the blood stream.

Here's an action tip:
The best route to health is not always through drugs, even though that has been our medical tradition. If you have high blood pressure, or for that matter even if you don't but want to help prevent it, try eating more food fiber in your diet. The next time you see your doctor for a blood pressure check, ask him or her for more dietary advice.

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Why Red Meat is OK to be Part of Your Diet

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Are you one of the many who have given up on red meat in your diet? Well, before we all leap to conclusions, let’s see what the beef really is.

An image of a red meat being grilledA generation ago, beef was considered the cornerstone of a good diet, and now it is being treated as if it were a headstone. Sales of the product have plummeted, largely in response to a public concern about the connection between cholesterol and heart disease.  But it should be remembered that a lot of what drives this public habit is based on hearsay, so we should at least set the record straight.

First of all, beef is not everyone's bread and butter. For those who are true vegetarians, and object on moral grounds to eating any animal products, a full and healthy diet can certainly be obtained. Mind you, to be truly consistent on this score, one should not wear leather shoes or belts for all the same reasons. But if you are shifting from beef to other forms of animal meats, there are a few facts that may surprise you. Beef is not as fatty as it used to be. Compared with thirty years ago, beef is now fifty per cent leaner and a fifth lower in cholesterol. A serving of inside round steak has as little fat and cholesterol as an equal serving of roast chicken without the skin, or as little fat as a half cup of regular cottage cheese.

Ounce for ounce, lean beef has the same amount of cholesterol as a serving of sole. So even though the switch away from beef is motivated by a desire to decrease cholesterol, the unwary who instead have fried chicken, or fried fish are actually getting more fat into their bodies instead of less.

Here's an action tip:

The object of today's healthy nutrition is to eat a balanced diet, higher in fiber, and lower in fat. For most people, the only concession they have made is to cut their red meat consumption in half, then treat themselves to fat laden granola bars or oat muffins. By all means, eat a healthy diet, as suggested by the Heart Association, but please consult your doctor or nutritionist for specific review of your food needs.

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Good News: Chocolate is Hotter than you Imagined

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As we watch obesity growing into our biggest health threat, we should note that the cure is not always tasteless.  One of the great myths that keep people eating bad foods is that good foods taste terrible.  Kitty litter mixed with bark chips, horrible tasting smoothies, and "rabbit foods" from the vegetable drawer.  Yeccch!  No wonder people persist with their paradigm of junk foods tasting "great", just as the advertisements (with thin models who obviously don't eat these products) promote.

Well here's some good news.  It turns out that chocolate can be very good for you.  In a recent study performed at the University of California, San Diego, Dr. B. A. Golomb reviewed over 1,000 patient records on the effects of statin medications, and published her findings in the Archives of Internal Medicine.  

It turns out that chocolate can be very good for you

The question asked was "how many times a week do you eat chocolate?".  Then they calculated the BMI (body mass index).  Much to their surprise, it turned out that regular chocolate intake was associated with a better BMI.  While this initially sounds counter-intuitive, it does make sense in light of what is now known about the antioxidant effects of dark chocolate.  The best is labelled as at least "70% cacao" on the label.  Milk chocolate is usually only about 50% cacao, leaving about half sugar.

Also note that a lot of candy has artificial colors, and other chemicals to preserve or enhance their appeal.  Real (dark) chocolate can be healthy if one avoids these additives.  Remember that even good things need moderation and portion control.  This study is not a license to omit the rest of a balanced diet just to hit the desert line.  And please remember the BMI is not the only index of health and obesity.  A better test is always done with a bathing suit, a full length mirror, and a bit of privacy.   Does that body look about right, or is there still some fat to lose?  You will see, you will know.   The raw numbers of weight can be very misleading.  Many elite athletes score much over the BMI "ideal" ratings, yet they are in amazingly good shape.

So as you consider fighting back against cholesterol (either in your blood levels, or on your body), remember that chocolate can do what no statins will: bring a smile to your face at dessert time!



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Diet Can Help Childhood Migraine Headaches and Epileptic Seizures

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Do you have children in your family who suffer from both migraine headaches and epileptic seizures? Well, there may be relief in putting them on a strict diet. 

An image of stressed childThere has been a great deal of debate between neurologists and homeopathic doctors on the role diet may play in migraine headaches and epilepsy. While traditionalists scoff at the idea of dieting as a preventative therapy, the homeopaths scoff at the idea of using any medications ever. As with most such controversies, both extremes are likely to be blind to new developments that don't fit their theories.

A new study is offering a great deal of hope to parents whose children have frequent, regular attacks of epilepsy and migraine headaches that do not respond to drug therapy. Experts in the departments of neurology, immunology, and dietetics at London's famous Hospital for Sick Children (Great Ormond Street) examined forty five kids with both conditions. As they reported in Journal of Pediatrics, they found that almost eighty percent improved on special diets. Over half the epileptic seizures stopped altogether, four had seizures only when they had chest infections, and the rest found they had seizures only half as often as before the diets. No matter what type of epilepsy the children had, they all improved.

The experts found a wide variety of 42 foods prompted symptoms, and half of these provoked epileptic seizures. Cow's milk seemed to be the most common food eaten before symptoms, although the food additive benzoic acid, pork, and eggs were involved in one case each. Brain waves were checked on the EEG, and found to improve when the children were on the allergy-free diet. Now it must be noted that these children were selected only because they had received no help from drugs, but the point is that others who do need drugs may well find that an allergen free diet could well reduce their doses.

In a world that changes constantly, it is always good to keep an open mind. If you suffer from epilepsy or migraine headaches, remember that it is possible that some of your foods may be triggering the episodes, so it is worth experimenting by excluding foods one at a time from your diet. But if you are already on medications, do not suddenly stop them without consulting your doctor.

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Herbal Remedies for Aches and Pains

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Lets face it, many people are over-medicated, either from over the counter products or from prescription drugs, and many of their complaints could have been better handled with grandmother's old fashioned herbal remedies. An image of useful herbs But that does not mean that drugs from factories are bad, while drugs from plants are safe.

Plants can produce very potent drugs, some of which are the raw materials for medicines such as digitalis, morphine, aspirin, and quinine. When taken in their raw form, it can be a tricky thing to get the dosages right.


Much has been written and claimed about herbs, but here are a few guidelines. The following herbs can be very helpful:

  • Aloe gel from the inner leaves of the aloe plant whose derivatives are natural herbal remedies for the pain of burns, including sunburns.
  • Chamomile tea can relieve indigestion, and act as a mild sedative.
  • Feverfew tea is said to help colds, flu, and migraine-headaches.
  • Gingerroot tea can counter motion sickness.
  • Peppermint and spearmint tea can help heartburn, indigestion, and cold symptoms.
  • Raspberry leaf tea can help alleviate diarrhea and menstrual cramps.

With all of these, as with most medicines, there can be individual allergic reactions. However, others are not herbal remedies at all, and are downright hostile. Calamus and coltsfoot and Sassafras contain suspected carcinogens. Ginseng and licorice, when taken in large amounts, can raise blood pressure, and in the case of licorice, cause fluid retention. Goldenseal and senna can both cause miscarriage and severe stomach pains, and can be fatal in large doses.

Here's an action tip:
Just because a herbal remedy is marketed as natural, organic, or herbal doesn't mean it is free from side effects. Check with your doctor to see if your herbal remedies are appropriate for you, especially if you are on prescription medications or are pregnant or breastfeeding, and don't give them to children.

Because herbal medicines can be so powerful, they deserve all the respect you would give prescription drugs.

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