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Posts Tagged ‘anti-aging’

In a previous article, I wrote about the importance of protein and how much one should consume on a daily basis. Now I’m going to be a bit more specific.

The most abundant protein in the body is collagen. Also, collagen makes up about ninety-percent of connective tissue. This is important for a number of reasons, not the least, musculoskeletal health. If “musculoskeletal health” seems vague, think: degenerative joint disease, degenerative (spinal) disc disease, disc herniations (or “slipped” discs), tendonitis/osis, osteoporosis, sprains and strains, etc.. Collagen essentially provides the tensile strength of tissues. If you don’t have enough collagen or your collagen is “weak” or poorly formed, you’ll be susceptible to injuries and all types of musculoskeletal disorders; among other problems that I’ll touch on briefly as well.

There are twenty-nine types of collagen throughout the human body. Collagen is a major component in many tissues, especially bone, cartilage (including intervertebral discs), tendons, ligaments, muscles, skin, blood vessels, lung tissue, and even the cornea of the eye. Now you can see how the integrity of your collagen is so vital to the functioning of your body. Remember, structure determines function, and collagen is a major part of your structure. So now let’s discuss how to make and maintain strong collagen.

First, you need (to digest and absorb) adequate amounts of protein in order to supply the raw materials. Remember, the building blocks of protein are amino acids. Any amino acids can be used in some areas on the collagen molecule, but the key ones are proline, lysine, and glycine. You shouldn’t have to be concerned with eating large quantities of food that contain these specific amino acids in high levels. Focus on getting an adequate amount of protein from a variety of sources and that should cover your bases. Although, vegetarians and vegans may want to seek out foods high in these amino acids to be sure. And, those with injuries and/or chronic musculoskeletal conditions may want to ensure higher than typical amounts of these amino acids.

Now I’ll discuss the synthesis of collagen. First, in order for your DNA to begin the process (I’ll keep it simple), you need zinc. There is an important zinc-dependent enzyme, DNA polymerase, that allows for the proper function of DNA. This is why zinc is an extremely important mineral in general. The proper function of DNA is an absolute necessity for every cell in your body; especially cell growth.

As mentioned above, the amino acids lysine and proline are necessary. These amino acids then need to be hydroxylated (which means adding an -OH group). For this reaction to occur, you need iron, vitamin C, and alpha-ketoglutarate. Focus on the iron, vitamin C, getting enough protein and you shouldn’t have to worry about the alpha-ketoglutarate (for the most part).

The next step in forming collagen is known as glycosylation (adding glucose basically). This requires available glucose (or galactose) along with vitamin A and manganese. Now don’t go out consuming pure glucose in order make sure this step happens. But do make sure you have good blood sugar metabolism in order to have it available for the cells to use. I have written several articles related to blood sugar. Click here to read my article on “what” to eat, and here to read about “how” to eat.

After glycosylation, pro-collagen is eventually formed which is/are basically chains that are linked with the help of sulfur. So sulfur is essential for collagen formation, but it does have other roles in the body as well. In supplement form, sulfur can be obtained from “MSM” (or methylsulfonylmethane). Additionally, there are “sulfur-amino acids” that can be taken as supplements or gotten from food. These amino acids are cysteine and methionine. Foods that are especially high in sulfur include kale, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, garlic and eggs.

Pro-collagen then requires transport outside of the cells which again requires vitamin A and zinc.

At this point pro-collagen is converted to collagen and then strengthened by cross-linking the fibers (or fibrils) with the help of copper-dependent enzymes. Please note that this enzyme can be inhibited by high levels of the amino acid homocysteine. If you’re not familiar with homocysteine, I have written about it in another article linked here. If homocysteine inhibits this enzyme, the strength of the collagen fibers may be compromised resulting in weak or dysfunctional collagen. This is extremely problematic and may thwart the whole effort. See my article linked above for the “antidotes” to homocysteine. It will “save” more than just your musculoskeletal health.

That essentially covers the formation of collagen. To recap, here is a list of the most important nutrients: protein (esp. the amino acids: proline, lysine, and glycine), zinc, vitamin C, iron, vitamin A, manganese, sulfur, and copper. Don’t forget healthy blood sugar metabolism. And you can also include the nutrients that are necessary to metabolize homocysteine.

Before I finish, I want to touch on another point. Collagen can form adhesions, so to speak. This is the result of excessive cross-linking of collagen. Essentially, when this happens, the fibers don’t glide along one another smoothly. Adhesions can result in decreased range of motion in a joint; and it can be caused by decreased range of motion (usually post-injury or post-surgery). Adhesions in other structures that require collagen (such as blood vessels) may affect their function as well. The key nutrients for preventing this excessive cross-linking (thus aiding in normal cross-linking) are bioflavanoids. In nature, bioflavanoids are found in the white, pithy part of citrus fruits under the rind. They’re also contained in most fruits and vegetables as well as green tea. So in addition to structural treatments designed to increase range of motion, bioflavanoids may be particularly helpful. These can be obtained from supplements as well as food.

I’ll give you an example of how helpful bioflavanoids can be, as well as collagen formation in general. A 42-year-old patient who had undergone a double-mastectomy was referred to me for herniated discs in her neck as well as shoulder and rib pain (in addition to hip and knee pain). I surmised that most of her symptoms were a result of scarring and adhesion formation from the surgery (in addition to a lack of regeneration or degeneration of collagen in her neck/discs, hip and knee). The reason I felt this was because she had never injured any of those areas and there was no history of “overuse” as in repetitive sports. The surgery can be considered an injury, but regardless, she didn’t recover well if pain and decreased range of motion persisted.

I treated her structurally to get her muscles, ligaments, joints, and even skin functioning optimally. In thinking about the nutritional component of her pain and realizing this concept of adhesion formation and collagen; I instructed her to take a bioflavanoid supplement containing dried fruits and vegetables; and she also began juicing fresh fruits and vegetables (even better!). I also had her take a specific mineral related to sulfur metabolism. After about one month of treatment she reported “I feel better”, “I finally feel good”. After about two months, she was doing great and reported a “75%” improvement in her neck, shoulder, and rib pain and was able to walk long distances without pain in her hip or knee. This is a significant improvement, especially after undergoing surgery, in addition to chemotherapy and radiation. I recently saw her after a three-to four-week hiatus and she reported that a fair amount of the pain and discomfort had come back. Sure enough, the holiday season and her busy schedule interfered with her juicing and taking the supplements which allowed the adhesions to reform and decrease her range of motion, while increasing her pain. It may be unfortunate that she’s currently relying on supplements to remain pain-free, but it sure beats pain medication. With more time and consistency, she should be fine on a well-rounded, whole-food diet.

In conclusion, the array of nutrients necessary for collagen formation and maintenance helps explain why a well-rounded diet is so important. And remember, collagen is important for more than your musculoskeltal health. It’s absolutely vital for your (cardio)vascular system. Oh right, and something as simple as anemia (iron or folic acid/B12 deficiency) and hypochlorhydia can (and most certainly will) affect your musculoskeletal and cardiovascular health. You see, it does all fit together if you can find the missing pieces.

Also, remember that skin is dependent on collagen (among other things), and without sufficient amounts, wrinkles will result. I wonder if those collagen injections people get could be used for more than just vanity. And when the visual effects wear off, does the body “steal” it from (say) the lips to put it where it’s more important for survival? I hope so.

Source: http://www.metabolics.com/

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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You may have already read my article titled “General guidelines for a healthy diet“. Often I’ll listen to patients tell me what foods they eat, and they are all great choices. They don’t eat sugar or starches (or perhaps very few starches), they avoid the most common food allergens and sensitivities, etc.. Early on in practice, I’d scratch my head and think: “Why does he/she still suffer from symptoms of dysglycemia?” (an inability to regulate blood sugar properly). Well there are several possible answers to that question. However, the most common reason is that it relates to “how” they eat as opposed to “what” they eat.

The bottom line is that you can eat all the healthiest foods and still wind up feeling terrible and creating problems if you don’t know “how” to eat. In fact, it’s quite simple to eat properly, and there are only two rules.

1) DO NOT SKIP BREAKFAST!!! I know this is quite ambiguous because many patients tell me they wake up at 6, 7, or 8am and then eat “breakfast” at 9, 10, or 11am. As you may know, the word breakfast refers to breaking a fast. That fast occurred overnight while you were presumably asleep. Technically eating at 9, 10, or 11am may be breaking the fast…so to be more specific I’ll say: eat within 1 hour of waking up!

The main reason for this is because you’ll most likely have low blood sugar when you wake up, which is natural and normal. Therefore, you need to eat fairly soon, again, within an hour of waking. This will help to maintain healthy blood sugar and energy levels, amongst many other things. If you don’t do this, there is a very good chance that your body will have difficulty regulating blood sugar throughout the entire rest of the day…only to start over again the next day. Please, eat something! Even if you’re not terribly hungry, have two bites of something. And of course, you shouldn’t ever be eating sugar first thing in the morning, unless of course there is a good reason like a special occasion.

An interesting study cited in Scientific American Mind reports the following: “Sugar may act like a drug in a different way: by inducing dependency under some circumstances. Princeton University psychologist Bartley Hoebel and his colleagues made rats sugar-dependent by depriving them of food for 12 hours a day and offering them a sucrose solution and chow for the next 12 hours. They repeated this schedule every day for one to four weeks. The cycle of fasting and intermittent sugar availability triggered strong demand: the rats gradually tripled their sucrose intake and learned to binge on the sugar as soon as they received access to it each day.”
Doesn’t this sound similar to many Americans; especially children eating sugary breakfast cereals and the like. Please note the similarity between “depriving them of food for 12 hours a day” and breaking an overnight fast! If you’d like to read the whole article – click on the 3rd result from this search; then type in “depriving” in the application your computer uses.

2) Eat about every 2-3 hours during the day!!! Again, it does not have to be an entire meal. Some protein and perhaps complex carbohydrates would be a good idea. The reason for this is to avoid “ups and downs” in blood sugar. By eating frequently, you won’t rely on your adrenal glands to bail you out of a blood sugar crisis. If your blood sugar gets too low (by not eating frequently) you can be sure you will eventually develop a rather unpleasant case of adrenal stress syndrome. How long that takes will vary individually. If you are not “running” on fuel from food, you’re probably running on stress hormones, which are literally breaking your body down.

From a blood sugar perspective, that’s about it. Otherwise, don’t drink liquids with meals as this will dilute your digestive enzymes and make the process less efficient. If you consume plenty of water between meals, you will not be thirsty when you eat. Give it a try. And of course, do not overeat.

Hope this helps and see you soon.

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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Recently I wrote two articles on the topic of (adrenal) stress. Please refer to those articles in order to gain a better understanding of how the adrenal glands and stress play a role in our health.

When I think of experts in the field of endocrinology (the study of the hormone-secreting endocrine glands), Janet Lang, DC comes to mind first. I wholeheartedly agree with her approach(es) to restoring proper endocrine/adrenal gland function in the body, and have applied them successfully with many patients. She has outlined 16 of some of the most important lifestyle factors that should be avoided and 16 “opposite” lifestyle behaviors to “do” in order to recover from adrenal fatigue.

AVOID
1 – Pushing yourself to exhaustion

2 – Sugar, caffeine, and junk food

3 – Being critical and harsh with yourself

4 – Skipping meals

5 – Eating carbohydrates by themselves

6 – Staying up late and catching your “second wind”

7 – Arising early if you don’t have to

8 – Food that you react to or are allergic to

9 – Drinking sodas, coffee, alcohol, juice

10 – Making someone else responsible for your health

11 – People who steal your energy

12 – Taking care of everyone and everything else

13 – Feeling guilty about caring for yourself

14 – Excessive seriousness

15 – “The grind”

16 – Aggressive exercise

DO
1 – Pace yourself

2 – Eat real, whole, fresh food

3 – Be compassionate and kind to yourself

4 – Eat every two hours

5 – Eat a combination of carbohydrate, fat, and protein

6 – Get to bed by 10:00-11:00pm

7 – Sleep until 7:00-8:00am when possible

8 – Eat balanced, nutritious food

9 – Drink water, herbal teas

10 – Become empowered and informed about your health

11 – Be with people concerned for your well-being and helpful in your recovery

12 – Take care of and nurture yourself

13 – Find an inner balance and sense of peace with taking care of yourself

14 – Find things that make you laugh

15 – Do things you enjoy

16 – Mild to moderate exercise

Dr. Lang’s approach has proven to be helpful (and often necessary) in allowing patients to overcome their health concerns and conditions time and time again. I thank her for her contributions, and you might too.

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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You’ve all probably heard the idea that stress causes health problems. Your doctor may have even told you that your health concern(s) exist solely because of stress. In my opinion — that’s pretty close to nonsense. It’s a great excuse though. Why? Stress doesn’t cause poor health. OK, I’ll be flexible with you. Severe, unrelenting physical (major accident, etc.), chemical (acute exposure to a massive dose of a toxin, etc.) or emotional ((un)expected death, etc.) stressors can actually “cause” health problems. I’m also willing to say that long-term unresolved stressors can also cause health problems. But then again, it’s not necessarily the stress that’s causing the problem if it’s that long-term (referring to behavioral patterns). There could be an emotional component to why the long-term stressor has not been resolved. Either way, those instances are fortunately not the norm. With that in mind, I find most of the time it’s not the stressor that is the problem, it’s how the body handles the stressor that makes all the difference. From a physiological perspective, stress is handled by the adrenal glands. Yes of course, many systems will be involved directly and indirectly, but a main area consider is really adrenal gland function. I’ll talk about the interactions in more focused articles.

Recently, I’ve written articles about how the adrenal glands can become “stressed” or “exhausted” and possibly malfunction. This will ultimately lead to a lack of vitality, to put it simply. Additionally, it will help make all of your existing problems (known or unknown) worse. Again, I do not feel that stress is the cause of health issues (expect where noted above). So in my opinion, stress is simply adding gas to the fire, it’s not the spark that started the fire. When we are stressed, our symptoms get worse and therefore it can easily seem like it is the cause of the problem.

Now let’s talk about responding to the stressors. As mentioned above, the stressor is usually not the problem, it’s how we act or react to the stressor that will determine its effect. So you see, when you have properly functioning, adaptive adrenal glands, you will be able to handle just about any (short-term) stressor. With strong adrenal glands, you’ll also be less bothered by things, and hence less stressed overall. The same stressors may exist, it’s just that you’ll wind up reacting (or acting) to them differently.

For example, if you are on your way to work and stuck in traffic, or on the train that’s stopped between stations; you can “choose” how to react. You can: a) get irritated and frustrated, or b) relax and realize there is nothing to do (except maybe decide how to avoid that situation in the future). I say “choose” because at some point, the adrenals can get so depleted that a person may often wind up simply reacting, without choosing or thinking. It becomes a reflexive reaction, as opposed to a thought out action. There is quite a difference between acting and reacting. The former being the most constructive. So as the stressors build up, you might have less of an ability to even “choose” another response.

One possible explanation for stress to exacerbate symptoms is that stress causes inflammation and immune system dysfunction (among many other problems). However, the adrenals (should) produce cortisol – a potent anti-inflammatory hormone. Think cortisone shots if cortisol sounds foreign. Now, if your adrenals are producing insufficient amounts of cortisol, for any number of reasons, you might not be able to quell that inflammation. The result, an exacerbation or your symptoms – not necessarily the cause.

You probably know what a lot of your stressors are already. However, I want to give you a detailed list of stressors, referenced from Janet Lang, DC, you may have not considered before. There is some overlap in the list.

1- lack of relaxation
2- devitalized food
3- unfulfilling employment (dead-end jobs)
4- dead-end relationships (romantic or not)
5- surgery
6- junk food
7- trans fats and rancid fats
8- financial stress
9- sedentary lifestyle
10- excessive exercise
11- death of a loved one
12- alcoholism
13- smoking
14- illicit drug use
15- prescription drug use
16- toxins
17- poor eating habits
18- marital stress
19- repeated traumas
20- workaholism
21- nutritional deficiencies
22- hormonal imbalances
23- oral contraceptives
24- stimulants
25- counterproductive attitudes and beliefs
26- conventional hormone replacement therapy
27- non-prescription drugs
28- psychological stress
29- persistent fears
30- emotional stress
31- lack of sleep
32- being in denial about feelings
33- acute or chronic infection
34- repeated stresses
35- persistent negative stressors
36- fun or enjoyment deprivation
37- allergies
38- caffeine
39- white sugar and white flour products
40- antacids
41- artificial sweeteners and colors
42- major life events – even if perceived consciously as “good” (e.g.: graduating high school, moving, etc.)

Remember, you can’t “fix” the adrenals if you don’t “fix” the blood sugar; and you can’t “fix” the blood sugar if you don’t “fix” the diet. With stronger adrenals you’ll be able to adapt better, and thus handle all types of stressors in a much better fashion.

Lastly, if you have a condition that continually acts up “from stress”; you should obviously do your best to avoid or adapt to the stressor – but don’t stop there! There’s probably a health problem in the making that will manifest as you age, unless you change your lifestyle appropriately. Stress management may be necessary, but not always sufficient.

[PS: But then again, it must be “stress” because: “all the tests came back normal”. Functional medicine and applied kinesiology practitioners have multiple ways of measuring stress (out- and in-office procedures) that can be very sensitive in finding a stress imbalance.]

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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“Added value” is in quotes because it is the title of an article written by Sarah Murray, and published in the “Health” magazine of yesterday’s (9/16/09) Financial Times newspaper. The subtitle is: “Public-private partnerships in food fortification are an efficient and sustainable way of improving the health of the world’s poorest”. I will speak about the health related topics. This article is intended to explain the value of nutritional supplements of human health.

Many people believe that supplements are not necessary and some go as far as saying that the body won’t utilize supplements for the intended purposes, basically saying they don’t work. I imagine these people would agree that supplements derived from whole foods (dried and ground into a tablet, capsule, or powder) will work. However, I’ll be referring to both natural supplements and those synthesized in a laboratory; which end up as the exact molecule (vitamin, mineral, or amino acid) contained in food; or even further, it’s activated form (i.e.: the form the body converts it into to make it usable at the cellular level). Let’s begin with some information contained in Murray’s article.

In 2007, health specialists evaluated students in Beijing, and concluded that their ability to learn was not hampered by mental factors, but in fact physical. “Many of the children had iron-related anemia and were deficient in vitamins A and B.” The children were then fed a diet fortified with these nutrients. As Murray states: “The impact was dramatic. There was a fall in the anemia rate from 13.7% to 2.5%, and vitamin B1 deficiency dropped from 24.8 to 4.5%, while vitamin B2 deficiency fell from 17.7% to 7.9%. As a result, the children’s attention rates increased considerably and their performance improved markedly.” The rest of the article speaks mainly about helping feed and nourish the world’s poorest, and the economics of it. This clearly illustrates that supplementing one’s diet (through fortification in this instance) can have a marked, measurable change on a person’s health and functioning. I do not recommend my patients eat fortified food however, because they are often highly refined and processed. And they may even require the body to use up extra nutrients (those that were provided by nature and removed by man) in order to be properly metabolized.

images-1I would also like to bring attention to a book written by Gary Null, Ph.D., titled “The Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Healing – The first comprehensive guide to scientific peer reviewed studies of natural supplements and their proven treatment values“. The inside cover reads: “Covering more than 1.3 million studies, Null looked at each of the primary nutrients found in both foods and herbs as well as in supplemental and higher therapeutic dosages”. Null’s book contains 857 pages of text, but then again the 1.3 million studies says it all. I don’t know the process which he went through to analyze these studies, however, I do know he is probably one of the brightest individuals in the world; and I believe he is a researcher and certainly knows the process well. Also, Appendix C contains “toxicity studies” – this section makes up 21 pages of the 857 pages of text (not including table of contents or index). PS: I bought mine when it was first released, there are now updated versions available (I have no financial connection with this product).

I have one quick word on therapeutic dosages and toxicity. If you are taking supplements at less than therapeutic dosages or less than recommended time, you may not see any change in your health or health condition. Therefore, it would not be “fair” to say that supplements don’t work, or that you don’t need that supplement. Additionally, if you are taking dosages that are above therapeutic ranges, you may potentially experience side effects. Obviously, therapeutic dosages will vary individually. Remember, too much of anything, including water, can actually actually kill a person. A quick note about myself. My doctor (and one of my mentors), Tim Francis, DC, DIBAK who practices in Las Vegas, NV once prescribed me 180 mg of zinc (in a single dose) for about 6 months before decreasing it. Studies vary tremendously on toxicity levels with some reporting as low as 75mg, some saying 500-1,000mg, and one reporting 10,ooomg or more in one single dose resulting in nausea, vomiting and diarrhea from zinc. The higher doses were reported from the highly reputable National Research Council. The information was obtained here. I only noticed beneficial effects and “watched” excessive levels of lead, mercury, and copper “pour” out of me (via lab tests). And, in case you were wondering; yes, I make it point to travel there at least once a year, consult with him throughout the year, and get treated structurally and emotionally by local doctors.

Here is some information prescription drugs. According to this reference (the article was first released in 2004): “Over 100,000 people are hospitalized each year with GI complications caused by NSAID use, and an estimated 16,500 patients die from NSAID induced GI bleeding. This is far more people than die of AIDS (13,500). In fact, such GI bleeding is the 14th leading cause of death in this country, according to the CDC”. Examples of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are ibuprofen and naproxen (of which one brand name is Aleve®). Let us not forget the complications with Vioxx® and the enormous experiment on the female population with hormone replacement therapy (and it’s devastating effects). There are many, many more examples of death from drugs I choose not to explore. They should be easy to find. One more thing about Null. He co-authored an amazing study with other medical doctors titled “Death by Medicine”. The study begins by saying; “These statistics contained in this report confirm that American medicine is the number one cause of death in the United States”. Additionally, it reports that outpatient adverse drug reactions total 199,000 deaths and $77 billion in cost per year.

Let’s forget about statistics, and go back to why I feel supplements are usually necessary. First, I do believe we should get our nutrients from whole, organically-grown foods. However, I feel it can be close to impossible to correct certain nutrient deficiencies through food alone; especially if you are already suffering from a health concern related to nutrient deficiencies. Also, your condition may not necessarily be “related” to a nutrient deficiency, but high levels of nutrients may be necessary to correct its problem. For example, excessive toxic metals in my case. That may be considered a toxic exposure and not a nutrient deficiency case, however, I can’t figure out how I would have gotten those metals out in that amount of time without supplementing (with high doses of zinc). And I also don’t consider more than 6 months of supplementation very quick. Could it have been done through diet, maybe. Do you realize how many oysters I would have had to eat on a daily basis to get that same amount of zinc. And I really don’t care for oysters. And I’m just like you; how much time are you really willing to wait before you feel better?

I’ll finish off with some simple examples of how nutrients get used up quickly during normal lifestyle activity.
1) The mineral molybdenum is required to detoxify aldehydes. You are exposed to aldehydes every time you smell perfume or cologne, and smell the wonderful fragrances when you walk down the detergent aisle in the grocery store. Here is a patient example for you: after not getting adequate results from treating a woman’s chronic neck pain structurally; I probed deeper into her lifestyle and asked her to avoid spraying perfume on her neck. And sure enough, she no longer noticed that neck pain. This example did not require supplementation; however, if she insisted to continue with perfume, that would have been the next step. I will continue to look deeper to find out if supplementing with molybdenum may help other aspects of her health; as I don’t really think she consumes enough through her diet. This could easily be considered “toxic exposure”, but if her molybdenum stores were optimal, and she was able to detox the aldehydes, would you still call it that?

2) Every time we smell diesel fumes from the trucks that go by, our anti-oxidant stores and depleted. By the way, they are depleted from many other environmental toxins we may not even be aware of. And, you may not have enough stores in the first place. Or they may be used up through the body’s natural and normal production of them to run biochemical cycles. Also, exercise increases free radical production.

3) The alcohol that might be enjoyed at celebrations requires a zinc-dependent enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase, to be metabolized properly. Don’t forget you may need that zinc to detox heavy metals; and definitely for the enzyme DNA polymerase (necessary for EVERY CELL in the body to grow properly).

There are plenty of more examples. Diet is primary, supplements are secondary. However, supplements are often necessary based on the conditions I see in my patients. If you don’t have a particular health concern, you may consider using supplements for prevention purposes. Here’s another article on wrote on my top 5 recommended supplements for overall health. And another article on why it may be necessary to supplement. Lastly, one great way to get your nutrients through food is by drinking organic green vegetable juices daily. Thanks for reading!

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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The word inflammation comes from the Latin word inflamatio, which translates into: “to set on fire”. It is a term that describes the biological response to an injury or protection from a microbe. Essentially, this “injury” can only come from about 5 things: 1) physical trauma (e.g.: ankle sprain, etc.); 2) allergic reactions; 3) infections; 4) chemical toxins (e.g.: toxic metals, environmental chemicals. etc.) and 5) ionizing and UV radiation (e.g.: x-ray, sunlight, etc.). The”hallmarks” of inflammation are a change to the micro-circulation and build-up of inflammatory cells in the damaged area. The five key signs of inflammation are pain, redness, edema (or swelling), heat, and loss of use. You may not have all five, but in the most extreme case they all exist. These five signs are generated by the biochemicals which respond to any sort of tissue damage.

The biochemicals released are designed to help heal the damage that has taken place. They help clean up the debris from the damaged cells, bring more blood to the area to restore new growth, and improve the drainage. There is much controversy over when to “artificially” (through ice, nutrients, or medication) reduce inflammation. However, it’s generally accepted that acute (24-72 hours) inflammation is necessary to begin the healing process. Inflammation (that is one or all of the five key signs) that persists for longer than this time (that is sub-acute or chronic) may indicate an inability to repair properly; appropriately coined a “cumulative repair deficit” by Dr. Stuart White. Therefore, intervention in the sub-acute or chronic stages is usually necessary and certainly desired by the patient.

Let’s now discuss some natural ways to deal with chronic inflammation, considering that it is normal to have inflammation in the acute (and sometimes sub-acute) time-frames. First and foremost, the source(s) of inflammation needs to be avoided. For example, exposure to food allergies/sensitivities, chemicals, toxic metals, radiation, etc.. Additionally, if the inflammation is the result of a structural impediment, you may need muscle and joint re-balancing done by a doctor. If the source is not avoided or addressed, you are simply “painting over the rust” and dealing with symptoms as opposed to the cause.

The main natural remedy to alleviate inflammation would be Omega-3 fatty acids. I’ve often used Omega-6 fatty acids also; particularly gamma linoleic acid or GLA (found in black currant seed, evening primrose oil, and borage oil) with great success in patients that have chronic musculoskeletal inflammation. Generally speaking though, most people have too many Omega-6 fats compared to 3’s in their diet; so Omega 3’s are generally recommended more often. Omega 3’s are best found in fish and krill oil. Flax oil does contain Omega 3’s, however, many biochemical steps need to occur before they are converted into to EPA (the anti-inflammatory substance). And very often, these steps can be disrupted through faulty sugar metabolism, alcohol, and trans-fats. As a result, it’s quite possible that you’ll never achieve the potential anti-inflammatory effects you are looking for. Fish and krill oil on the other hand need no conversion, as they actually contain EPA. I do not recommend that you eat fish unless you absolutely know it’s “clean”, click here to read why.

Other natural anti-inflammatory compounds include turmeric, resveratrol, ginger, quercetin, garlic, onion, boswellia, rosemary, vitamins C + E, and should also be considered. However, keep in mind that no one ever has an “herb-deficiency”. Therefore, make sure you’ve covered your nutritional bases first; that is essential Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins C +E at a minimum. There may be other natural anti-inflammatory compounds as well, but the ones I mentioned should be more than enough.

Additionally, don’t forget that you need certain nutrients to rebuild the damage that has occurred from the inflammation. For this, think about rebuilding collagen, the most abundant connective tissue in the body. Therefore make to sure you have a sufficient amount of protein and vitamin C (the most basic nutrients) to build collagen. Some other nutrients for collagen formation would include: zinc, manganese, iron, vitamin A, sulphur, copper, and perhaps others indirectly.

In conclusion, it’s usually not apparent when you have chronic inflammation. The 5 key signs more often accompany acute inflammation and often are not observed with chronic inflammation if you don’t have pain or some sort of loss of function. This is especially true when there is inflammation in the arteries, which can lead to hardening of the arteries and ultimately cardiovascular disease. I most commonly see chronic inflammation as a result of poor dietary choices, environmental chemicals (and metals), and sub-clinical infections. Inflammation was the topic of a front-page article in Time Magazine titled “Inflammation: The Secret Killer”. It mentions the links between chronic inflammation and heart attacks, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases. So make sure you are getting anti-inflammatory compounds on a daily basis, through diet and/or supplements.

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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These days cholesterol still gets all the attention when it comes to heart disease. In fact, I think way too much attention. There are other, often better predictors of heart disease than standard cholesterol tests. And these are routinely missed, even when the patient’s (and doctor’s) motive is to assess the potential risk of future cardiovascular events. I’ll talk about one very important one of those risk factors now. It is an amino acid called homocysteine.

Homocysteine was discovered by a man named Dr. Kilmer McCully. He is a Harvard Medical School graduate; and discovered this amino acid was responsible for arteriosclerosis (or hardening of the arteries) while researching a rare condition called homocysteinuria, forty years ago. He was researching two cases where an eight year-old child and and a two-month old child both had arteriosclerosis. Through further research he eventually made a connection between homocysteine and arteriosclerosis. Unfortunately though, when he first voiced this discovery, he was shunned by just about every medical professional. In 1976, the (“new”) chairman at Harvard said the “elders” at the school “felt” he had not proved his theory; and unless he could get grant money he would lose his position. They went as far putting his lab in the basement so he would have no contact with others, and then he decided to leave. For the next 27 months he could not find a single position in North America that would allow him to continue his research. McCully was later told that Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital did not want to be associated with his work, because it did not go along with the conventional wisdom that cholesterol and fats caused heart disease. You can read more about that story in an interview with McCully here. By the way, one main reason that he was discredited might be because one of the most common ways to treat excess homocysteine levels is through nutritional supplements.

Anyhow, homocysteine is naturally produced in the body through the necessary breakdown of the essential amino acid, methionine. However, just because it is naturally produced does not mean that it is benign. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded this: “An increased plasma total homocysteine level confers an independent risk of vascular disease similar to that of smoking or hyperlipidemia” (or high blood lipids/fats). There are many more studies in existence that speak of the risk of high homocysteine levels in relation to (cardio)vascular disease so I won’t bore you with repeating this information.

Homocysteine causes several problems. For instance, it can oxidize cholesterol (making it harmful to blood vessels), cause scarring inside the lining of blood vessels, and increase blood clotting. Essentially, high levels of homocysteine will ultimately damage cells and the walls of the blood vessels. As a result, cholesterol will get deposited in the arteries in an attempt to “patch” up the damage. That is why cholesterol can “cause” cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes. Also, this damage can lead to peripheral arterial disease, usually in the legs and feet, which in a worst case scenario can eventually result in the need for amputation like in diabetics. So does cholesterol really “cause” vascular problems? Well, that can be argued, but it is really the body’s attempt to heal. Hmmm, I guess cholesterol is not so bad to begin with. I will talk about that in another article. By the way, there are many causes of blood vessel damage.

High homocysteine levels have been implicated in coranary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, deep vein thrombosis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and more.

So what’s the solution? Some fancy well-marketed drug? No, B-vitamins of course! That’s right vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid (in addition to other biochemicals) will metabolize homocysteine properly and prevent high levels in the bloodstream. Folic acid and B12 will recycle homocysteine back into methionine and B6 will convert it down to cystathionine (and then hopefully down into cysteine and sulfate). So if these vitamins lower homocysteine levels, then a deficiency in them can cause high blood levels. McCully also reports other causes such as imbalances in thyroid and “female” hormones, in addition to kidney problems.

Please don’t get me wrong, many doctors are aware of homocysteine, but not enough in my opinion. I have seen blood tests from patients with known peripheral artery disease and cardiovascular complications without reporting their homocysteine levels. Also, some patients show me their blood tests with normal cholesterol levels (but no homocysteine); and report that their doctor has told them they don’t need to be concerned with heart disease. Also, look at a recent blood test of your own and (depending on the lab) you may find that they claim to determine your heart disease risk factor based on cholesterol levels alone.

One more thing, measuring homocysteine can also be used to find out if you have a deficiency in these B-vitamins. Again, there could be other causes, but it’s as simple as doing a follow-up test after supplementation for a few months.

PS: One common sign I have discovered in patients, which stems from high homocysteine (perhaps B-vitamin deficiency) is easy bruising. Bruising is basically damage to blood vessels. This is true even in those who “should” be bruising like some of the professional aerial acrobats (or intense athletes) I work with; but it’s also common in people who are not extremely active. The flip side to easy bruising would therefore also mean an inability to heal the vessels as well. And interestingly your body will not produce collagen (a main component of blood vessels and other structures) properly if your homocysteine levels are too high. But that concept, along with the other necessary nutrients to make proper collagen is for another discussion. Now don’t go trying to judge your homocysteine levels based on if you bruise easily or not; that’s just one observation I’ve made working with patients. It is worth asking your doctor to run this test – and remember those B-vitamins are necessary for a lot more functions than homocysteine metabolism.

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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