What follows are diet, lifestyle, and supplement suggestions for 61 common health problems. This information is a synthesis derived from several databases and is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, nor is it intended as a prescription or medical advice. Rather, the intention is to share knowledge and information from published research and the experience of numerous health care professionals working in the fields of natural medicine and integrative medicine. In addition, the natural products listed are not intended to be complete or fully systematic, nor does inclusion here imply any endorsement or recommendation by the Photoimmune Discoveries, BV . The Photoimmune Discoveries, BV, makes no warranties, express or implied, about the value or utility for any purpose of the information and resources contained herein. Please click on each link below to learn about the specific condition.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a degenerative brain disorder that results in a progressive decline in memory, clarity, and overall mental functioning. It is estimated that 36 million people worldwide may be living with this most common form of dementia, and this number is projected to increase to 65.7 million by 2030 and 115.4 million by 2050. Alzheimer’s disease is thought to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including excessive exposure to metals (e.g., aluminum and mercury), pesticides, and air pollution. The disease process begins probably 25 to 30 years before symptoms become obvious, and thus scientists are exploring ways to detect the early brain changes that can lead to early intervention. Anti-dementia medications are expensive and only serve as stopgap measures. When we consider the devastating emotional and financial toll exacted by Alzheimer’s, and that billions of people will be vulnerable to this disorder in the coming years (80% of people over age 85 will develop some form of dementia), there is little question that prevention is by far the best medicine for this devastating brain disorder.
- Diet & Lifestyle. There is increasing evidence that a plant-based diet and regular exercise could help prevent AD. Various dietary factors may play a role in promoting the disorder, such as excessive saturated fat and alcohol, and a lack of antioxidants. Thus, eating a vegetable- and fruit-rich diet, along with moderate amounts of red wine, could help avert the disease. In a recent review of the scientific evidence, a Mediterranean diet (rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, olive oil and fish) was associated with slower cognitive decline, reduced risk of AD, reduced risk of progression from mild cognitive impairment to AD, and decreased all-causes mortality in AD patients, as reported in the August 2011 issue of Current Alzheimer Research.
- Supplements. Research suggests that supplementation with selenium, omega-3s (fish oil or algae oil), acetyl-L-carnitine, vitamin E, and curcumin (from turmeric) could help ward off AD. Since curcumin, cilantro and chlorella are known to bind to heavy metals (some of which have been linked with AD), their routine use may help protect against the onset of this brain disorder. The most recent study indicates that B-complex vitamins, together with Shilajit (a mineral oil used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine), could play a role in preventing AD, as reported in the 3 November 2012 Archives of Medical Research. In addition, research at the Centre for Specialised Nutrition in Wageningen, The Netherlands, found that nutrient deficiencies in the elderly, including omega-3 fatty acids, B-vitamins, and antioxidants, may fuel the degenerative processes that result in Alzheimer’s , as reported in the 2010 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Angina (Chest Pain)
Your heart constantly pumps blood throughout the body, but it also needs a constant supply of blood in order to maintain its own high-level functioning. Blood passes through the coronary arteries within the heart to the heart muscles. Through the process of atherosclerosis, cholesterol-rich patches accumulate inside the lining of these large arteries, causing them to narrow over time. The narrowing effect restricts blood flow into the heart, resulting in an oxygen deficit and, consequently, chest pain. If you suffer from angina, you run a substantial risk of heart attack. Also, angina occurs in nearly one out of every five patients one year after a heart attack. It is strongly linked with several factors, including chronic depression and habitual smoking. Globally, it appears that women suffer more from angina than men, even though men have higher rates of heart attack.
- Diet & Lifestyle. Angina is a serious condition requiring medical attention in order to reduce the risk of having a heart attack. A high-fiber, plant-based diet and moderate exercise could help improve cardiovascular health, which in turn would help prevent or limit angina. The typical recommendation is to eat plenty of vegetables (notably leafy greens as well as onions and garlic), fruits, whole grains (avoid sugar and white flour products), and legumes, as all of these would help to lower the cholesterol level. It’s also important to avoid saturated fats (e.g., from butter, cheese, fatty meats and fried foods) and trans fats (from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils), as both can give rise to high cholesterol levels. Smoking should be avoided, while alcohol should be consumed in limited amounts. Though a vegetable-based diet will not immediately quell angina, it can promote overall cardiovascular health and survival after a heart attack, as reported in the 1 June 2008 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.
- Supplements. Naturopathic physicians and herbalists have recommended herbs such as Bilberry, Hawthorn, and Ginger to improve heart health and lessen the risk of angina. In addition, supplementation with magnesium, niacin, folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, L-carnitine, propionyl-l-carnitine, coenzyme Q10, L-arginine, and lecithin could be helpful. These supplement strategies may reinforce the benefits of a low-fat, plant-based diet and active lifestyle for people suffering from angina. Propionyl-l-carnitine has recently been demonstrated to exert a protective effect against stable angina, as reported in the May 2011 issue of Nutrition Reviews. Most of the original research on this form of carnitine comes from studies conducted at the Cardiovascular Research Foundation in Rotterdam (The Netherlands).
Worry, uneasiness, tension, nervousness, restlessness, apprehension, fear amidst uncertainty—all these states of mind we tend to associate with anxiety. A simple definition would be that anxiety is the body’s response to fear, and this response can affect everything from sleep and concentration to memory and male potency. When the fear response is generated out of proportion to the actual risk, it becomes what the medical profession calls an anxiety disorder. On the physical level, anxiety can show up as a racing heartbeat, muscle tension, trembling, and perspiration. Chronic anxiety is often linked with clinical depression, and psychiatric medications are often given for both conditions at the same time.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Diet and lifestyle changes can help you better cope with anxiety. In terms of diet, a good starting point is to eat high-quality protein at breakfast, and to follow through with more whole grains, fruits or other sources of complex carbohydrates later in the day. Those foods can indirectly help promote your brain’s production of serotonin, which has a calming and focusing effect. On the other hand, avoid refined carbohydrates or sugary foods and drinks. Be sure to drink water throughout the day, since mild dehydration can alter your mood. Limit alcohol and caffeine, as both can contribute to surges in stress hormones. Caffeine can leave you feeling nervous and jittery, and ultimately sleep deprived. As always, eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits (especially blueberries, strawberries, goji berries, acacia berries, and other berries) and don’t overeat. Almonds, walnuts and chocolate are also good for combating stress—raw chocolate is rich in magnesium, an essential mineral that gets depleted by stress and that can help improve your mood and energy level.
- Supplements. Supplements that can help mitigate anxiety include various B vitamins (B12, B6, and B5, or pantothenic acid), magnesium, L-Theanine Eleuthero, ashwagandha, rhodiola, valerian, kava kava, gingko, scutellaria, passionflower, lemon balm, chamomile, bupleurum and 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), a precursor to serotonin production. Some “anti-stress” supplements provide various combinations of these natural compounds. Along with a wealth of anecdotal reports, several human clinical trials provide favorable evidence of antidepressant effects for a number of these herbal agents, as reported in the December 2011 issue of European Neuropsychopharmacology.
Cardiac or heart arrhythmia (also dysrhythmia) refers to an irregular heart rhythm, or to a heartbeat that’s either too fast or too slow. This occurs when the electrical impulses in your heart—those impulses that normally coordinate your heartbeats—are not working properly. Nevertheless, heart arrhythmias are often harmless. Symptoms may include a feeling of fluttering in the chest, or a racing heart. On the other hand, some heart arrhythmias may bring about bothersome or even life-threatening signs and symptoms. For example, your heart may not pump enough blood to the body, and the lack of blood flow can damage the heart, brain, and other organs. With proper medical treatment, you can often control or eliminate irregular heartbeats; however, more natural methods can also play a role.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Heart arrhythmia is often exacerbated by a weak or damaged heart, which is why some physicians suggest adopting a heart-healthy combination of the Mediterranean-type diet and regular exercise. Disturbances in the heart’s electrical activity may be related to mineral imbalances, such as a lack of magnesium and potassium. These minerals are provided by a diet high in land and sea vegetables.
- Supplements. Some research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, Hawthorn, and coenzyme Q10 could also help reduce the tendency toward arrhythmias. As always, one should ideally be under the supervision of a physician who has studied the use of these natural products.
Asthma is a disease that entails blockage or constriction of the breathing passages (bronchioles or bronchial tubes). These passages become narrow and their lining swells; thus less air is transported in and out of the lungs. Because the cells that line the airways produce more mucus, the breathing passages are highly sensitive to various “triggers” such as air pollutants, dusts, pollens, or food allergens. Asthmatic attacks, which take the form of wheezing and breathlessness (i.e., not getting enough air), can occur any time you’re exposed to one of these triggers. These attacks can vary greatly in severity and frequency from person to the next. According to WHO estimates, some 235 million people suffer from asthma around the world.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Dietary changes such as avoiding sugar and dairy products, as well as wheat or gluten-containing products, can be helpful in reducing asthmatic tendencies. One study found that following a Mediterranean-style diet early in life protects against the development of asthma and atopy in children, as reported in the September 2009 issue of Public Health Nutrition. Moderate exercise and stress management could also prove helpful.
- Supplements. Supplementing with magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folic acid, bromelain, cordyceps, curcumin, grape seed extract, and omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil or algae oil) may be helpful. However, these supplements are unlikely to have a significant impact unless the diet and stress issues are also addressed. There is some evidence that taking whey protein can also help curb asthmatic tendencies, as reported in the May 2011 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition.
Atherosclerosis, a leading cause of death worldwide, is the fundamental process that results in heart disease. In this process, deposits of fatty material—known as atheromas or atherosclerotic plaques—cause a thickening or hardening of the arteries, resulting in reduced blood flow. The condition is fueled by frequent or repeated injury to the arterial walls, often caused by high blood pressure, inflammation, tobacco smoke, diabetes and high levels of cholesterol in the blood. Complications of atherosclerosis can be grave, including both stroke and heart attack. Maintaining good control of blood pressure, weight and diabetes is also critical, as each of those conditions can further fuel atherosclerosis.
- Diet and Lifestyle. To prevent the artery-clogging process, it’s best to exercise regularly, maintain a plant-based diet, and avoid tobacco smoke and alcohol. The best advice is to eat plenty of whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits, along with occasional fish and other lean meats. Avoid saturated and trans fats, found in foods containing partially hydrogenated oils, and choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats instead. The Mediterranean dietary pattern has been shown to reduce atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular problems, as reported in the 6 March 2012 issue of Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases.
- Supplements. Among the supplements thought to be helpful in averting atherosclerosis are vitamin C, vitamin E (in the form of mixed tocopherols), tocotrienols, CoQ10, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, shitake mushroom, green tea extract (standardized to EGCG), red yeast rice, policosanol, guggul, and niacin. In addition, various B vitamins (B12, B6, and folic acid) may help lower homocysteine, which is associated with atherosclerosis; but whether these other B vitamins are helpful for reversing atherosclerosis remains unknown.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that may affect at least one in twenty children around the world. The hallmark signs are lack of attention and hyperactive, impulsive behaviors, and many kids with this disorder also suffer from low self-esteem and poor performance in school. ADHD-related behaviors are typically spotted before age seven and often persist into adulthood.
- Diet and Lifestyle. There is increasing evidence that children with ADHD show a substantial reduction in symptoms when they follow a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetable-rich diet or a diet that avoids all food additives, including artificial flavorings, colorings, etc. Some children seem to respond well to avoidance of just one or two of these factors, while others need to avoid all four. A “healthy diet” for children with ADHD would contain plenty of fiber, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids, as reported in the February 2012 issue of Pediatrics.
- Supplements. Supplements that have shown some promise in curbing ADHD include vitamin B-complex, zinc, iron, pycnogenol, omega-3 fatty acids, L-theanine, 5-HTP and various free-form amino acid mixtures that can help promote neurotransmitter production. A controlled clinical trial found that vitamin and mineral supplementation led to significant improvements for children with ADHD across a range of verbal and cognitive abilities, as reported in the December 2011 Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism Spectrum Disorder and autism are both general terms for a group of neurodevelopmental or brain disorders. For simplicity’s sake, we will refer here to ASD, which manifests as impaired thinking, poor communication, and a limited ability to interact socially. In most cases, ASD is initially diagnosed in early childhood. There is some evidence that children with ASD are born with a reduced capacity to neutralize and eliminate toxins, many of which are brain toxins that may be driving the neurobehavioral problems. These children seem to respond well to a nutritional regimen that bolsters the body’s natural detoxification systems. Many nutrients are deficient in these children because of malabsorption and metabolic problems; therefore, proper nutritional testing for these deficiencies can help guide the supplement regimen, making it more specific and less of a “kitchen sink” approach.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Diet and lifestyle changes can make a major healing difference for many children with ASD, especially if the dietary guidelines are followed 100 percent. Many of these children benefit from a gluten-free, dairy-free diet because they also have an intestinal problem known as “leaky gut”. This means that the intestines are too permeable, allowing too many of the larger food proteins (notably gluten from wheat, and casein from cow’s milk products) to enter the bloodstream, triggering the behavioral problems seen in ASD, as reported in the October 2010 Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition.
- Supplements. Supplements may help address specific deficiencies or may support detoxification processes. N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), whey protein, and pycnogenol, all of which have been shown to enhance production of glutathione, the body’s core antioxidant and detoxification system. Additional support may come from vitamin B-complex, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., from fish oil and algae oil). Curcumin, from turmeric, can bind to heavy metals and help kill off the intestinal infections that are extremely common in these children with ASD.
Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH)
Elderly men tend to be all too familiar with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), an enlargement of the prostate gland that frequently happens after men reach middle age. The process involves an abnormal increase in the number of prostate cells (hyperplasia), resulting in the formation of nodules that compress the urethral canal and ultimately limit the normal flow of urine. Men with BPH may experience slow urination, urinary retention, frequent urination, painful urination, and increased risk of urinary tract infections. Many men with this condition also show higher levels of prostate specific antigen, or PSA—which often leads needless anxiety around the possibility of having prostate cancer.
- Diet and Lifestyle. A plant-based diet and regular, vigorous exercise can be very helpful in preventing and even reversing BPH. Daily aerobic exercise can reduce all of the BPH-related risk factors, particularly when combined with a low-fat, high-fiber diet consisting of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, as reported in the December 2009 issue of The Physician and Sportsmedicine.
- Supplements. Supplements be helpful for reducing BPH symptoms. The most effective herbal supplements for this condition appear to be saw palmetto, pygeum, green tea and nettle. In addition, some men also benefit from the addition of zinc and beta-sitosterol, which may be combined with the herbs.
Bronchitis, inflammation of the bronchial tubes (small airways in the lungs), is a common respiratory illness that restricts the airways and leaves you feeling breathless. This condition can affect young and old people alike, and it’s a significant cause of death in elderly people around the world. Some individuals develop chronic bronchitis brought on by recurring illnesses (e.g., viral or bacterial infections) or smoking; others manifest acute bronchitis following a cold, flu, or allergic reactions. In chronic bronchitis, the individual coughs up mucus throughout the day for several months each year.
- Diet and Lifestyle. There are no clear dietary guidelines for people with bronchitis. However, many herbalists recommend drinking herbal teas such as ginger, mullein or peppermint. Also, low serum vitamin D levels (resulting from a lack of sunshine) have been linked with bronchitis, as reported in the 8 September 2011 British Journal of Nutrition. Thus, getting out in the sun could be helpful for preventing bronchitis or perhaps even for slowing the progression of the disease.
- Supplements. For people with bronchitis, naturopathic physicians have often recommended the supplemental use of vitamins A, C, D, and E, as well as N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), beta-carotene, Echinacea, selenium and zinc. These supplements may give your body the support it needs to help you recover more rapidly from bronchitis, though more research is needed to determine which combinations could be ideal for this condition.
On a global scale, cataract is the leading cause of reversible blindness and visual impairment. As we get older, the lens of the eye (or its capsule) can become increasingly opaque or cloudy, resulting in partially or severely impaired vision. Initially, as the cataract is forming, the power of the lens may be increased, causing near-sightedness (myopia). Also, the gradual yellowing and clouding of the lens may reduce the perception of blue colors. These areas of cloudiness—the cataracts—typically progress slowly to cause vision loss. The good news is that cataracts can be surgically removed; vision can then be corrected by using an implant. Although cataracts usually afflict both eyes, one eye is almost always affected sooner than the other. Recent studies suggest that mercury and possibly other forms of pollution may accelerate the development of cataracts.
- Diet and Lifestyle. It is thought that free radicals associated with the aging process can damage proteins in the lens; an antioxidant-rich, plant-based diet could provide a protective benefit. Several recent studies have shown that antioxidant-rich diets can help ward off cataracts and slow their progression. In the Blue Mountains Eye Study, a high antioxidant diet was linked with a 49% reduction in the incidence of cataracts, as reported in the June 2008 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. A report in the May 2011 issue of the same journal found that, whereas meat eaters had the highest risk of cataracts, the risk was significantly lower in lacto-vegetarians and lowest of all in vegans (who eat no animal products).
- Supplements. Along with an antioxidant-rich diet (plenty of vegetables and fruits), various supplements may impede the formation of cataracts. Supplements that can help prevent cataracts include riboflavin (vitamin B2), bioflavonoids, carotenoids, anthocyanidins, alpha-lipoic acid, selenium, and vitamins C and E. Supplementing with lutein and zeaxanthin can also decrease the development of cataracts, as reported in the August 2010 issue of Current Medical Research and Opinion.
Cervical dysplasia is a precancerous condition typically discovered by a routine Pap test or “Pap smear”. The condition involves the presence of abnormal cells on the lining of the cervix (the opening between the uterus and the vagina). Although cervical dysplasia can affect women of any age, it is more likely to affect women under age 30 and usually causes no symptom. Most cases have been linked with the presence of Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV. In most women, the immune system readily eliminates HPV. In some, however, the infection persists and eventually causes cervical dysplasia.
For women with cervical dysplasia, the prognosis is excellent as long as they receive the proper follow-up and treatment. However, if women go undiagnosed or don’t receive appropriate care, they are at risk of developing cervical cancer years later. There is also some evidence that diet and nutrition can play a key role in helping to reverse cervical dysplasia, especially in its earliest stages.
- Diet and Lifestyle. A plant-based diet high in fiber and folic acid can be helpful in preventing or possibly even reversing cervical dysplasia. A recent study found that women with a low fruit-and-vegetable intake were nearly four times more likely to be diagnosed with high-grade cervical dysplasia (which is a higher risk form, i.e., more likely to develop into cervical cancer) than women with the healthiest dietary pattern, as reported in the March 2012 issue of Cancer Prevention Research. However, smoking can to some extent cancel out the protective effect of a healthy, plant-based diet.
- Supplements. Supplementation with beta-carotene and vitamins C and E may protect your cervix from developing dysplasia; on the other hand, the combination of diindolylmethane (DIM), vitamin E, magnesium, folic acid, and vitamin B6 may be more effective in reversing the condition. Higher doses of folic acid may be needed, at least temporarily, in women with a history of smoking. Some physicians also advocate the use of progesterone cream to oppose the estrogen effects that have been linked with cervical dysplasia.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating condition characterized by at least six consecutive months of profound mental and physical exhaustion. World Health Organization recognizes CFS as a medical illness and also refers to it as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. Many cases manifest as unexplained, persistent fatigue that seems unrelated to any physical or mental exertion. Rest does not substantially relieve the fatigue, and this results in a significant drop in one’s usual activity levels.
Though people with CFS tend to be visibly tired most of the time, some may have occasional surges of energy and activity with feelings of extreme exhaustion and malaise immediately afterward. CFS sufferers may also experience poor memory, brain fog (or difficulty concentrating), moodiness, sexual problems, weight gain, non-refreshing sleep, muscle pain, painful joints, headaches, sore throat, tender lymph nodes (in the neck and armpit), and more frequent colds and flus.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Food allergies have been suspected to play a role in many cases of CFS, and specific food sensitivities are best identified using an “elimination diet” approach. This means that common food allergens or “triggers” are avoided, such as gluten and dairy. Very often people will show an improvement in symptoms after three to four weeks of strict avoidance. When the foods are reintroduced, CFS symptoms may return. In general an antioxidant-rich diet (high in fruits and vegetables) would be advisable, and a clinical study showed that consuming dark chocolate reduced a range of CFS symptoms, as reported in the 22 November 2010 issue of Nutrition Journal.
- Supplements. Various supplements may help reverse CFS and favorably impact energy levels, including the following: vitamin B12, vitamin B-complex, Lactobacillus (and other probiotics), DHEA, NADH, magnesium malate, D-ribose, Coenzyme Q10, acetyl L-carnitine, L-carnitine, alpha lipoic acid, N-acetylcysteine, oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs), ginkgo biloba, and bilberry. High-dose intravenous vitamin C together with DHEA has been effective against CFS, according to studies conducted in Japan.
Common Cold (Rhinitis)
Everyone is familiar with the common cold, one of the most taken-for-granted ailments of our time. This condition is linked with the cold virus, or rhinovirus, and symptoms often start with a burning feeling in the nose or throat. This is followed by sneezing, a runny nose, perhaps a mild cough, and then just feeling unwell or off kilter. The majority of colds last for a just a few days, with congestion lasting up to a week afterward. Two other options worth trying are olive leaf and astragalus—both potentially effective against the common cold.
- Diet and Lifestyle. For the common cold, it is advisable to consume less food in general, but to drink plenty of liquids in the form of herbal teas, vegetable-based soups, and chicken soup (an old folk remedy). A dairy-free, sugar-free, vegetable-rich diet can also be helpful because such a diet will support a healthier immune system.
- Supplements. Naturopathic doctors frequently recommend supplementation with vitamin C, zinc, elderberry, garlic, and echinacea. These supplements can work well in many cases, especially if combined with the dietary measures suggested above. Although Echinacea and other immune-stimulating herbs do not prevent the common cold, they can help reduce the frequency and duration of colds.
Congestive heart failure
The person with congestive heart failure (CHF) suffers from a severely weakened heart due to the fact that the heart cannot pump blood efficiently. With the blood flow from the heart becoming increasingly sluggish, the blood returning to the heart backs up, resulting in a chronic state of “congestion” and a progressive weakening of the heart and entire body. In CHF, fluid often accumulates in the lungs, causing shortness of breath; fluid also may pool in the ankles, causing them to swell up. Individuals who are prone to CHF may have previously suffered from heart attacks, hypertension, chronic lung disease, and long-term drug or alcohol abuse.
- Diet and Lifestyle. A whole-foods, plant-based, low-salt diet is needed to help strengthen the heart’s pumping action, expand blood vessels, increase blood flow, and eliminate excess fluid from the body. Regular walking and movement are also needed, though activity is often severely restricted once CHF has set in.
- Supplements. Supplements that may be helpful in cases of CHF include the following: vitamins C and E, B-complex, magnesium, coenzyme Q10, hawthorn, carnitine, taurine, and ginkgo biloba. Many CHF sufferers show low levels of thiamin, or vitamin B1, due to the thiamin-depleting effects of a diuretic drug called Lasix (furosemide); this drug is often used to remove excess fluid from the body. In some cases, taking extra thiamin, in addition to a B-complex supplement, may enhance the heart’s pumping power.
Constipation refers to a lack of regular bowel movements or a tendency to have sluggish movements. Many people become so habituated to the abnormal bowel pattern that they do not realize they have a serious health problem. Although opinions vary as to how many bowel movements are needed for good health, having a movement once a day is the bare minimum, and two to three times a day is probably optimal. A long-standing pattern of constipation can set the stage for intestinal candidiasis, brain fog (inability to focus or concentrate), intestinal polyps, and even colorectal cancer.
- Diet and Lifestyle. . To establish a good bowel movement pattern, consume a high-fiber, plant-based diet that avoids processed foods, drink plenty of water, and get regular exercise. Fresh fruits and vegetables are very helpful in keeping the bowels regular.
- Supplements. It is helpful to consider supplementation with magnesium citrate (or magnesium oxide), vitamin C, fiber blends, and herbal bowel toners and laxatives (though the habitual use of herbal laxatives can lead to dependence). Magnesium is extremely important for keeping the bowels moving regularly, and Cascara sagrada is among the herbs most often added to herbal formulas for eliminating constipation.
Crohn’s disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease, is a painful, chronic inflammation of the lower part of the small intestine (illeum), though the colon and other parts of the GI tract as well. Among the main symptoms are abdominal pain, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), weight loss, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. People suffering from Crohn’s may also tend to have arthritic pain, poor concentration, and skin rashes. Most cases begin before age 40, and it is equal in both sexes, with strong familial tendencies.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Many cases of Crohn’s involve an abnormal immune response in the large intestine that may be linked to food sensitivities or intolerances, such as gluten intolerance or cow’s milk allergies. Candida yeast overgrowth is common in Crohn’s disease, often fueled by a diet high in sugar or refined carbohydrates (white flour products). The best diet is based on plenty of vegetables, whole grains, berries and legumes, with regular but small amounts of animal protein from eggs, fish and poultry. Simple meals are best: Avoid eating too many types of foods at one time. Goat yogurt also may be helpful.
- Supplements. Crohn’s disease patients are prone to various micronutrient deficiencies, including vitamins A, D, and K, as well as zinc and selenium. Supplements that may be helpful include vitamins A, B12, C, E, folate, fish oil, arginine, quercetin, magnesium, glutamine, zinc picolinate, glycyrrhiza, and liquid chlorophyll. Lactobacillus- and Bifidum-rich probiotics may help reverse this condition.
Mental illnesses including depression and anxiety disorders are common and under-treated in many countries around the world, with the highest rates being found in the United States and other developed countries. According to the U.S. Institute of Functional Medicine, depression is projected to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide by 2020. People who experience chronic depression tend to experience frequent sadness, gloom, lethargy, pessimism and despair. Depression can be classified as mild, moderate or severe, and many cases are also accompanied by anxiety. Another variant of depression is manic-depressive disorder (or bipolar disorder), which is marked by major mood swings, as well as abnormally elevated energy levels and mental activity.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Inflammation of the digestive tract is a component of depression that may also explain the effectiveness of certain dietary changes, such as avoidance of sugar, high-fat foods, and food-sensitivity reactions (e.g., intolerances to wheat and dairy products); the use of probiotic-rich foods (e.g., pickles, yogurt and miso) can also be helpful. Additional support may come from eating plenty of fruit and dark green vegetables, foods high in folic acid. High-selenium foods such as Brazil nuts and seafoods can also be helpful in countering depression. Also, because vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression, it is recommended that people get adequate sun exposure.
- Supplements. Research suggests it may be helpful to consider supplementation with folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, vanadium, and DHEA. Several herbs, including St. John’s Wort, rhodiola, ginseng and ashwagandha, have also been helpful in elevating mood and warding off depression. Many individuals with depression have deficiencies of omega-3’s, folic acid and vitamin B12; major improvements in mood and energy level can result supplementing with these factors. Finally, consider vitamin D supplementation if sunlight is scarce depending on season and location. In some cases, supplementation with L-tryptophan can be helpful because of its ability to boost serotonin production.
Diabetes, technically known as diabetes mellitus, has been increasing in its global prevalence and now affects about one in every ten adults worldwide, according to a 2011 report in the British medical journal, Lancet. The disease is characterized by an inability to control or regulate the levels of glucose (blood sugar) in the body, resulting in hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar levels. The body’s ability to regulate glucose levels is a complex process involving a range of different hormones, notably insulin, which is produced in the pancreas. Insulin helps deliver glucose to the cells of your body. In diabetes, your body either does not produce enough insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or does not properly respond to insulin at the cellular level (Type 2 diabetes). In either case, the resulting hyperglycemia can eventually lead to various complications, such as peripheral neuropathy (damaged nerves in the feet and hands), kidney failure, impaired vision (retinopathy, which may eventually result in blindness), infections and heart attack. In many developed countries, diabetes is a leading cause of death and a major factor in accelerated aging as well.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Diet and lifestyle changes can play a pivotal role in blood sugar control and thus in the ability to prevent diabetes as well as reducing its severity and duration. There are different schools of thought as to the ideal diet for diabetes. Some advocate a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, while others favor a diet high in complex carbohydrates and fiber, and low in fat. The best approach may be to use some combination of these two—a high-fiber, low-sugar, moderate-fat and moderate-protein diet, with ample amounts of legumes, vegetables, and lean meats. Finally, regular exercise offers enormous benefit to individuals with diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity, lowering blood sugar levels, reducing body fat and improving cardiovascular function, as reported in the February 2011 International Journal of Clinical Practice.
- Supplements. People with diabetes may benefit by supplementing with various minerals (notably chromium, magnesium, vanadium and zinc) and alpha lipoic acid, an antioxidant that supports healthy metabolism and glycemic control. In addition, two herbal supplements— bitter melon (Momordica charantia) and Gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre)—are purported to support better pancreatic functioning and good blood sugar control. This combination of glucose-controlling herbs and nutrients can sometimes be found in a single supplement at local health food stores.
Though most people think of diarrhea as a gastrointestinal nuisance, it represents a common cause of death in developing countries and the second most common cause of infant deaths worldwide. People with diarrhea have frequent loose or liquid bowel movements, sometimes leading to serious dehydration. The dehydration results in part from the fact that there is reduced absorption of fluid from the intestine, as well as rapid passage of stool through the intestine. The most common cause of diarrhea is an infection—either with bacteria, parasites, fungi, or viruses. A viral infection of the stomach and the small intestine (technically termed viral gastroenteritis) is the most common cause of acute diarrhea worldwide. In addition, diarrhea can be triggered by food poisoning, drugs, fat malabsorption (in ability to break down fat in the intestines), and food sensitivities.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Naturopathic doctors often recommend various dietary changes to help relieve diarrhea. These include eating a bland diet with more white rice or basmati rice, and steamed vegetables. It may also be prudent to avoid wheat, dairy products, apples, pears, peaches, prunes, corn, oats, potatoes, processed bran, beans, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. If you avoid these foods and the diarrhea disappears, then gradually re-introduce one at a time to see if one or more foods triggers another bout of diarrhea. Regular walking, cycling and other forms of exercise can also be helpful in reducing the tendency to develop loose stools.
- Supplements. Depending on the cause of the diarrhea, supplementing with different combinations of wormwood, olive leaf, turmeric, berberine, grapefruit seed, cloves, cayenne, charcoal, and probiotics can be helpful in many cases of diarrhea. For example, turmeric and grapefruit seed are more effective for diarrhea steming from fungal infections, while olive leaf and wormwood work better for cases involving parasite infections. Note: Diarrhea can often be exacerbated by vitamin C and magnesium, so be careful to avoid those if you’re suffering from the condition.
Down syndrome is a chromosomal disorder that has been traced to the presence of all or part of an extra 21st chromosome. Children with this disorder have mild to moderate disabilities, the most obvious of which is impaired cognitive ability. The IQ of young adults with Down syndrome tends to be in the range of 50-70, compared to children without the condition with an IQ of 100. Although a large proportion of individuals with Down syndrome show severe intellectual disability, many of these individuals will graduate from high school and are able to do paid work or even participate in university education. However, children with Down syndrome may not age emotionally like other children, and they also show stunted physical growth and a distinctive set of facial characteristics. Individuals with Down syndrome are more prone to congenital heart defects, cancer, thyroid disorders, infertility, eye disorders, hearing problems, and gastrointestinal diseases such as celiac disease and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- Diet and Lifestyle. Individuals with Down syndrome tend to have a slower metabolism than people without the disorder, and thus they can benefit from a more moderate caloric intake (eating less fat and carbohydrates, and more protein in particular). Thus, a diet high in vegetables, fruits, fish and poultry would be beneficial. In addition, some animal studies suggest that the mother’s consumption of nuts, egg yolks, liver, and certain vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower) during pregnancy and nursing could provide major cognitive and emotional benefits to individuals with Down syndrome.
- Supplements. Preliminary evidence indicates that the mother’s supplementation with choline during pregnancy and nursing could help reduce the severity of Down syndrome symptoms throughout life. In addition, it may be helpful to consider providing a multivitamin that contains zinc, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-lipoic acid, L-cysteine, folic acid, and coenzyme Q10. However, it is still too early for medical scientists to draw any conclusions as to the potential therapeutic efficacy of these supplements.
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for menstrual cramps or pain related to menstruation. This can manifest as pelvic pain and cramping associated with the woman’s menstrual cycle. In teenagers, this condition generally shows up as sharp, painful spasms around the start of the period. In older women, the aches and spasms may last more than a day or two into the period, often accompanied by heavy bleeding and irregular menses. In the even of heavy bleeding (sometimes twice the normal level), a woman can lose significant amounts of iron through blood loss. This can lead to iron deficiency anemia, the most obvious signs of which are fatigue and weakness. Over the centuries, many folk remedies have been proposed for the relief of menstrual pain.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Dark green vegetables, sea vegetables, and other foods high in magnesium may help reduce the severity and duration of dysmenorrhea. If the period is heavy, then additional iron-containing foods may be helpful, including as lean red meat, liver, seafood, dried fruit, nuts, beans, broccoli, spinach, whole grains and iron-fortified cereals. In the week leading up to one’s menstrual period as well as during the period itself, stay away from sugar and sugary foods, high-salt content foods (e.g., chips, French fries, pizza and other fried foods), and caffeine-containing beverages like tea and coffee.
- Supplements. Flaxseed oil, magnesium, vitamin B6, black cohosh, wild yam, German chamomile, and a Chinese herb called Dong Quai root are often used in the treatment of dysmenorrhea. It is probably optimal to start taking the supplements about four to five days prior to the anticipated onset of the menstrual cramps, and then continue with them through the period.
Worldwide, about one in every ten children will develop eczema. This irritating condition manifests as itchy patches of red skin and is also referred to as atopic dermatitis. Scratching can make the rash considerably worse and eventually will result in thickened, brownish areas on the skin. The symptoms of eczema typically show up within the first few months of life, and almost always before a child turns five. When children are genetically predisposed to eczema, environmental factors such as pollens, mold, dust and excessive heat can increase the risk. About half of all children who get eczema will also later develop either asthma or hay fever, or both. While eczema rates have decreased in some countries, the global incidence of childhood eczema appears to be increasing, according to a recent study of eczema rates in 90 countries.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Naturopathic medical experts contend that many cases of eczema can be greatly relieved or even eliminated by adopting a plant-based diet that emphasizes fresh, locally growth vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains as the foundation. In addition, many individuals with eczema have food allergies, so eating a wholesome diet that avoids the allergic “trigger” foods may help reduce inflammation and allergic reactions (dairy products are a common yet often hidden culprit). Other key lifestyle tips include drinking pure water, breathing clean air and engaging in regular physical activity such as walking, jogging and cycling.
- Supplements. Among the supplements that seem most effective against eczema are selenium, vitamin C, carotenoids, probiotics (Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus), Stinging Nettle, and gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA, which comes from borage oil and evening primrose oil. The mother’s use of a probiotic during pregnancy can significantly lower the risk of eczema in her offspring, as reported in the 16 October 2012 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Endometriosis may not sound like a common disorder, but it is thought to affect over one hundred million women worldwide. As many as one in ten women in their reproductive years and one third to one half of all women with infertility problems have been diagnosed with endometriosis. This condition involves an abnormal growth of cells of the endometrium, the mucous membrane that normally only lines the uterus. In the case of endometriosis, however, the abnormal endometrial cells can spread beyond the uterus, often to the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, pelvic organs, colon, bladder, and sides of the pelvic cavity. When this tissue bleeds during the menstrual cycle, the blood generated can become trapped and may trigger painful inflammation, as well as impacting fertility and reducing quality of life. In addition to severe menstrual pain and excessive menstrual bleeding, endometriosis may result in chronic pelvic pain, ovulation pain, painful intercourse, and cyclical bowel or bladder pain syndromes as well. Excess estrogen levels in the body are thought to be one of the main contributing factors to this condition.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Dietary suggestions for reducing the severity of endometriosis include avoiding white flour products (including pasta, bread, pastries and other baked goods), white rice, cream sauces, cakes, sweets and other sugary foods. Though research support is limited, most nutritionists would recommend adhering to a plant-based diet comprised mainly of fresh fruits and vegetables. Findings from a large prospective study suggest that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., from) and low in trans fats may be helpful in preventing this condition, as reported in the June 2010 issue of Human Reproduction. Therefore, eating more walnuts, flaxseed, and coldwater fatty fish could be helpful.
- Supplements. Supplements that could help reduce the severity and frequency of endometriosis symptoms include nattokinase, vitamin B6, magnesium, vitex, yarrow, soy genistein, curcumin, red clover, black cohosh, and evening primrose oil.
Fibromylagia is a painful, energy-stealing syndrome than typically entails pain in muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons throughout the body. It is quite common for people who suffer from this disorder to also suffer from abdominal pain, sleep disorders, migraines, dizziness, cognitive problems, stiff joints and muscles, mood swings, and chronic anxiety. These other other “spin-off” conditions can often distract physicians from the more fundamental problem that is fibromyalgia. Women are affected ten times more often than men.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Naturopathic physicians often focus on digestive health in fibromyalgia sufferers and recommend eating a whole-foods-based diet consisting mainly of fish, vegetables, nuts, legumes and fruits. The U.S. National Fibromyalgia Association states that certain foods can make some fibromyalgia symptoms worse and recommends avoiding full-fat cheese, bacon, French fries and eggplant. Avoiding food additives, gluten, cow’s milk protein, and caffeine may also be helpful, based on anecdotal reports. Getting a good daily dose of mid-day summer sun, in order to your boost vitamin D status, is also recommended.
- Supplements. Supplements that may be beneficial in cases of fibromyalgia include curcumin, boswellia, bromelain, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), high-potency probiotics (e.g., Lactobacillus), Devil’s claw, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, vitamin D, 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), wild yam, and vitamin B12, as well as topical use of capsaicin cream.
A fracture refers to a break or crack in a bone, such as a broken leg, arm or wrist. Some fractures entail a partial break across the bone; others involve bone breaks in two or more places. A transverse fracture occurs at right angles to the bone, while a spiral fracture involves a breaking force that twists the bone apart. In the case of a comminuted fracture, the bone is broken, splintered or crushed into a number of pieces. Whereas children and young adults can often heal very quickly after a fracture, older individuals are more vulnerable and generally have a harder time recovering from broken bones.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Diet and lifestyle changes can help promote a faster healing process after a bone fracture. In particular, consuming a diet that contains plenty of high-quality protein and calcium can be useful. Dairy products such as yogurt and whole milk can speed up bone repair (especially in children); in addition, eating an abundance of dark leafy green vegetables will provide additional calcium. Avoid processed or refined “junk” foods.
- Supplements. Supplements that can help rebuild the bone include the following: calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, boron, silica, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin B-complex, and vitamin K. People who have low salivary DHEA levels can benefit from temporary low-dose DHEA, as this natural product can help increase bone density.
Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)
This condition is commonly referred to as “reflux” or “heartburn”, even though the heart is not involved. The primary focus of the problem is the esophagus, the tube leading from your stomach to your mouth. In GERD, the stomach’s acidic contents—either food or liquid, or usually both—leak back up into the esophagus. This can result in various levels of discomfort, from an occasional mild burning after overeating to severe pain and even regurgitation of the stomach’s contents into the mouth or airways. The risk factors for reflux include obesity, alcohol, smoking, scleroderma, pregnancy and hiatal hernia. (Note: Hiatal hernia is a condition in which part of the stomach moves above the diaphragm. GERD was once linked almost exclusively to hiatal hernias; however, many cases of GERD do not show hiatal hernia upon x-ray examination.)
- Diet and Lifestyle. Avoid foods that burn, such as high-fat foods, spicy dishes, tomatoes and tomato products, citrus fruits, garlic, onions, milk, carbonated drinks, coffee (including decaf), tea, chocolate, mints, and alcohol. Some people also benefit from a gluten-free, low-starch, moderate-protein diet, such as one that includes regular meats, legumes and vegetables, but very few grains or grain products. Also, it is important to chew your food well and emphasize small meals—a large meal remains in the stomach for several hours, thus increasing the chances of GERD. Other suggestions are as follows: (1) stay upright or maintain postures that reduce the risk for reflux for at least three hours after eating (e.g., don’t bend over or strain to lift heavy objects); (2) avoid eating within three hours of bedtime; (3) wear loose-fitting clothes; (4) don’t smoke; and (5) wait at least two hours after a meal before engaging in vigorous exercise, giving your stomach time to empty. Finally, there is now good evidence that chewing sugar-free gum after the meal will reduce GERD tendencies, as reported in the November 2005 Journal of Dental Research.
- Supplements. Various supplements may be helpful after the acute phase of GERD has passed. These include betaine hydrochloride, digestive enzymes, aloe vera, vitamin B12, manganese, lecithin granules, and pantothenic acid.
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums in your mouth. This is usually caused by a buildup of plaque, which is a soft, sticky film comprised mainly of bacteria. (Most people harbor about 15 different species of bacteria in the mouth.) After three days, the plaque will harden into tartar, which can’t be removed by brushing or flossing. Excessive plaque buildup can cause the gums to become inflamed, swollen and prone to bleed easily. Tooth decay can also result, which explains why gingivitis can be a prelude to periodontal disease. The warning signs of periodontal disease include bad breath, a bad taste in the mouth, bleeding gums, swollen gums, tender gums, loose teeth, sensitive teeth, pain when chewing, and pus around the teeth and gums. In addition, brown hard deposits called calculus may form on the surface of teeth. There now appears to be a close relationship between the fatty acids involved in periodontitis and those pose a risk for cardiovascular disease, as reported in the xxx.
- Diet and Lifestyle. The best defense against gingivitis is brushing and flossing after meals, as well as regular visits to a dental hygienist. Good dietary habits are also important for overall oral health and to prevent gingivitis. This means emphasizing whole foods like fruits and vegetables, and not overindulging in sugars, sweets, desserts, or refined carbohydrates such as pastries and other white flour products. Use Stevia as your preferred sweetener. Natural extracts of avocado oil, manuka oil, propolis oil, and myrrh oil, have also been effective as part of a mouthwash strategy for countering gingivitis, as documented by the LoB5 Foundation for Research in Paris, France.
- Supplements. The following supplements may help prevent or mitigate gingivitis: folic acid, coenzyme Q10, green tea, grapefruit seed extract, pycnogenol, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin E, aloe vera extract, and a rinse with either Lactobacillus or Hydrogen peroxide (which may be rotated for greater effectiveness). A number of these nutraceuticals were found to help reduce gingivitis and periodontal tendencies, as reported in the May 2011 Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness throughout the world, currently affecting about 65 million people and expected to affect close to 80 million people by 2020. Most individuals with glaucoma are unaware of the visual defect because the central vision (for reading and recognizing people) is only noticeably altered when glaucoma has advanced to a late stage. However, even when central vision is sufficient, glaucoma may affect the vision needed for driving, reading and other daily functions. This eye disorder results from increased fluid pressure within the eye, either due to a malformation or inadequate drainage of the aqueous humor, the fluid within the eye. Other contributing factors may include an excessive amount of oxidative stress (overabundance of free radicals and lack of antioxidants) and impaired blood flow to and from the eyes. In many cases, early detection and prompt treatment will preserve eyesight in people diagnosed with glaucoma.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Diet and lifestyle changes (no smoking or alcohol) may play a sustantial role in preventing glaucoma, though little is understood at this time. A study in Rotterdam (Holland) found that those individuals with a low intake of vitamins A and B1, and possibly excessive magnesium, may be at greater risk of developing glaucoma, as reported in the May 2012 European Journal of Epidemiology.
- Supplements. Supplements that may help prevent or stop the progression of glaucoma include high-quality fish oil, gingko biloba, carnitine, resveratrol, zinc, selenium, lutein, zeaxanthin, rutin, magnesium, and vitamin B-complex, as well as vitamins A, E, C, B1 and B3. Researchers at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, recently declared that cod liver oil, with its combination of vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids, should be beneficial for the treatment of glaucoma, as reported in the 18 December 2011 issue of the International Journal of Opthalmology.
Gout is an intensely painful form of arthritis (known as arthritis nodosa), with symptoms similar to those of rheumatoid arthritis. The pain arises from crystals of monosodium uric acid. This acid is a waste product that forms when the body breaks down purines, substances naturally found in the body and in certain foods. The glass-like crystals in gout are deposited in and around the joints and tendons, making them red, swollen, and stiff. In some cases, the crystals cause massive inflammation in the peripheral joints, especially in the lower limbs. Symptoms tend to develop in the big toe but may also affect the ankles, heels, knees, elbows, wrists, and fingers. Men tend to be more affected more often than women. Recent studies suggest that the incidence and prevalence of gout are rising, probably due to changing patterns of risk factors and because the at-risk populations are expanding as people continue to live longer than they did in recent centuries.
- Diet and Lifestyle. An anti-gout diet is low in purines and consists mainly of vegetables, fruits, and vegetarian protein sources (nuts, seeds and legumes). This diet also avoids alcohol, animal fats, red meat, poultry, dairy products, sugar, sweets, white flour products, fried foods, junk foods, or caffeine. Purine-containing foods should be avoided; these include organ meats, beer, yeasted bread, shellfish and certain other saltwater fish, in particular, anchovies, sardines, herring, or mackerel. By combining appropriate medication (usually either corticosteroids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) with a low purine diet, there is a much greater likelihood of minimizing the irritating symptoms of gout, as reported in the May 2011 issue of Postgraduate Medicine.
- Supplements. Supplements that may help alleviate gout include curcumin (with biopiperine, or as a phytosome), boswellia, bromelain, quercetin, vitamin B12, folic acid, vitamin E (as mixed tocopherols), and high-dose vitamin C.
Hayfever (Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis)
Hayfever, technically known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, involves an allergy to pollens from trees, weeds, and grasses. When someone is sensitive to pollen (or any classic allergen), his or her immune system treats the irritant as a foreign invader and generates antibodies to it. Those antibodies induce immune cells to release inflammatory compounds (notably histamine), which in turn cause allergic symptoms, such as sneezing, itching and tearing eyes, a runny nose, and often an itching sensation in and around the nose. The tissues become swollen, red, hot, itchy and irritable. Hayfever symptoms usually arise before age 30 and then tend to diminish with age. Allergies to dust, mold and pet dander can also trigger hayfever symptoms and may amplify the pollen reactions. A recent study spanning six European countries found that one in four people living in the UK are hay fever sufferers, twice the level of two decades ago. Whereas Italy the lowest rate at 17%, Belgium had the highest rate, with nearly 30% of the population affected. Paradoxically, pollen counts have declined steadily since the early 1960s, due to an overall decline in the acreage of grasslands. Approximately 400 million worldwide are thought to have hayfever.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Diet and lifestyle factors may increase the likelihood of hayfever symptoms. Many naturopathic physicians advocate a diet that is either low or devoid of dairy products and sugar or refined carbohydrates; however, there is little published research to address this particular opinion. A recent study found that a predominantly meat-based diet was associated with a greater risk of both hayfever and asthma, as reported in the 12 October 2012 issue of the Nutrition Journal.
- Supplements. Supplements that may help protect against hayfever include quercetin, grapeseed extract, zinc, L-tyrosine (in combination with vitamin B6 and niacinamide), and vitamins A, B5, B-Complex, C, and E.
Headache (including Migraine)
Headaches are extremely common throughout the world. The global prevalence of current headache disorder among adults is 47%. There are two general categories of headache: non-vascular and vascular. The non-vascular form is typically related to muscular tension and can stem from stress, whiplash, sleeping on a large pillow (causing flexion of the neck), and postural strain (e.g., craning one’s head forward while reading or using a computer). The vascular type of headache includes migraines, hypertension headaches, and cluster headaches. People who suffer from migraines tend to have recurring attacks triggered by many factors: food allergies, light, hormonal changes (in women, including puberty, menopause, and premenstrual syndrome), anxiety, stressful experiences, or a lack of food or sleep. However, exposure to a trigger does not always result in a headache, nor does avoiding the triggers completely prevent headaches. Because each person’s responsiveness to these triggers is unique, appropriate testing can be very helpful.
- Diet and Lifestyle. In addition to psychological stress, toxic factors, alcohol, allergies and infections can also promote or exacerbate many headaches. Avoiding foods that trigger allergic reactions can be very helpful as well. A recent study found that dietary restrictions based on IgG allergy testing—avoiding those foods indicated as likely triggers by the testing—was an effective strategy for reducing the frequency of migraine attacks, as reported in the July 2010 issue of Cephalalgia.
- Supplements. Migraines and other vascular headaches may respond well to supplementation with magnesium taurate (as well as glycinate and other forms of magnesium), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), quercetin, hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), and omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil or algae oil.
Hearing loss affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide by weakening or cutting off their auditory connection to the world. The British MRC Institute of Hearing Research estimates that the total number of people suffering from significant hearing loss (of more than 25 decibels, or units of audio loudness) will exceed 700 million worldwide by 2015 and 900 million by 2025. Between 30% and 46% of older adults are affected in Europe and North America. Some cases of hearing loss are linked to having been exposed to loud sounds or loud music, while other cases may stem from a build-up of toxic factors such as heavy metals. Circulatory and neurological problems contribute in some way to most if not all cases of hearing loss.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Diet and lifestyle changes can help improve hearing. Specifically, people who have higher dietary intakes of omega-3’s and who consume fish on a regular basis have less hearing loss than people who consume more fatty meats. Diets that are high in vitamin E and vitamin A also reduce the risk of developing age-related hearing loss, as reported in the 2011 Journal of Nutrition.
- Supplements. Supplements that could help prevent or mitigate hearing loss include curcumin, selenium, L-carnitine, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), vitamins A, B3, B-Complex, C and E. Research demonstrating the effectiveness of CoQ10, L-carnitine, and vitamins B-complex, C and E in reducing various types of hearing loss was reported in the April and May 2012 issues of Acta Oto-Laryngologica.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can result in progressive liver damage, often leading to cirrhosis, hepatic failure and ultimately death. Among the main symptoms of hepatitis are extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, fever, nausea, and vomiting. In many cases, people with hepatitis have either very few or no symptoms; however, this often leads jaundice, anorexia (poor appetite) and malaise. The acute form of hepatitis lasts less than six months; the chronic form persists longer. Most cases of hepatitis may be traced to a group of viruses known as the hepatitis viruses; other causes include toxins (notably alcohol, certain medications, some industrial organic solvents and plants), other infections and autoimmune diseases. The ultimate effect of these biological insults is cellular damage or the death of liver cells. There are three basic types—hepatitis A, B, and C. Each year, according to the WHO, there are an estimated 1.4 million new cases of hepatitis A infection, 2 billion cases of hepatitis B, and 150 million cases of hepatitis C.
- Diet and Lifestyle. The optimal diet for people with hepatitis is a vegan diet, with complete avoidance of animal products, including all meats and dairy products. White flour products, junk foods, processed foods, sugar and sugary foods, artificial sweeteners, and partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats) should also be avoided, according to the website, Hepatitis-Central.com.
- Supplements. Naturopathic physicians frequently recommend he consumption of barley greens, spirulina, chlorella, wheat grass juice, and whey protein to help strengthen the liver. Supplementation with N-acetylcysteine, pycnogenol, alpha lipoic acid, milk thistle (or silymarin), licorice extract, and buffered vitamin C may also be recommended.
In the 5th century BC, the famous Greek historian Herodotus used the word herpes to describe fever blisters. Herpes comes from the Greek word meaning “to creep”. Herpes simplex is a chronic, recurrent viral infection that usually manifests as lesions on the skin or mucous membranes. However, the herpes simplex virus, which comes in two forms (HSV 1 and HSV 2), may adversely affect several systems, causing a range of problems, from minor “cold sores” to frequently fatal encephalitis. Herpes simplex encephalitis is a significant problem for people with weakened immune systems, including those with HIV and those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatment. However, in order for transmission to take place, the virus must first gain access to the body through injured skin or through the mucosal lining of the mouth or genital area. The herpes episodes or “attacks” can be triggered by sunlight, fevers, infections, physical stress, emotional stress, trauma to the skin, sexual stimulation, and high-arginine foods. A suppressed immune system can also provide fertile ground for herpes infections.
- Diet and Lifestyle. The diet and lifestyle changes that may help prevent herpes simplex infections include following an antioxidant-rich, plant-based diet, as this type of diet is most likely to promote a healthy immune system. Animal studies suggest lack of good nutrition results in greater susceptibility to the herpes simplex virus, as reported in the April 2002 issue of the International Journal of Experimental Pathology.
- Supplements. Supplements that have been effective in preventing and mitigating the herpes infection include lysine, vitamins C and E, zinc, selenium, quercetin, pantothenic acid (B5), niacinamide, and vitamin B12. Xxx, as reported in the 15 June 2009 issue of Free Radical Biology and Medicine.
Herpes zoster (shingles)
Shingles is the colloquial term for herpes zoster, an acute infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This infection results in severe pain, itching, redness, numbness, and the development of a rash. (As an aside, this condition is a late manifestation of the same virus that produces chicken pox; indeed, this only occurs in people who previously had chicken pox.) Reactivation of the virus may either have no discernible cause or may occur following immune suppression, stress, surgery or other kinds of trauma. Herpes zoster can seriously detract from one’s quality of life and may also be the result of a immune system that deteriorates as people age. Shingles is most common among people over age 50 but can also occur in younger people. At this time, the reactivation of varicella zoster virus (chronic herpes zoster) is thought to occur in one in five people worldwide.
- Diet and Lifestyle. An antioxidant-rich, plant-based diet may be optimal for preventing herpes simplex infections, due to its immune-enhancing effects. Recent research suggests that a cocktail of nutrients such as those found in fruit and vegetables may act together to maintain immune health and prevent zoster, as reported in the April 2006 International Journal of Epidemiology.
- Supplements. Supplements that may help prevent or mitigate herpes zoster infections include selenium, pantothenic acid (B5), vitamin B12, quercetin, and vitamins C, E and A. In some cases, low-dose DHEA may also be helpfu. Topical creams that contain licorice (Glycyrrhiza), and capsaicin (Zostrix).
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a disease of weakened or compromised immunity that can stem from an infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This condition is characterized by a progressive and often rapid deterioration of the immune system, leaving the individual vulnerable to opportunistic infections and to a cancer known as Kaposi’s sarcoma. The antiretroviral drugs used to treat AIDS can greatly impede and postpone the progression of this deadly viral infection; however, there is currently no cure. As of 2010, there were approximately 34 million people living with HIV/AIDS around the world.
- Diet and Lifestyle. A healthy, whole-foods-based diet can promote healthy immunity, which in turn can help reduce the chances of HIV infection turning into full-flown AIDS. Conversely, malnutrition or lack of good-quality nutrition can lead to various nutritional deficiencies, which can contribute to immune-system decline and increased risk of death among those already infected with HIV, as reported in the December 2011 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
- Supplements. A growing body evidence indicates that supplementing with N-acetylcysteine (NAC), selenium, zinc, alpha lipoic acid, beta-carotene, and high-dose vitamins C) may boost a person’s ability to control HIV infection as well as protect them from many of the side effects of antiretroviral drugs. Research by Jon Kaiser, MD, in San Francisco has suggested that this supplement regimen can also lead to stronger immunity and an improved prognosis over the long term.
Hypercholesterolemia refers to the presence of high levels of cholesterol in the blood, and for many years this has been associated with heart disease. However, we now know that the linchpin of this process is an increased amount of inflammation throughout the body. Excessive cholesterol levels are usually defined as greater than 200 mg/dl; however, many doctors are now citing 180 mg/dl as the maximum of the reference range. These higher blood levels of cholesterol also have been linked with a higher risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Among the key culprits in hypercholesterolemia is a low-fiber diet that also contains large amounts of saturated fats, fried foods, trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils), meat, sugar, coffee, and alcohol. By avoiding these food factors, and emphasizing a leaner, healthier cuisine, it is possible to reduce cardiovascular conditions linked with high cholesterol levels. Research has linked the Mediterranean diet with level cholesterol levels and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, as reported in the February 2010 issue of Maturitas.
- Supplements. Supplements that help curb or lower cholesterol levels include green tea, quercetin, shitake mushroom, garlic, zinc, niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (B5), omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), calcium, chromium, selenium, zinc, artichoke leaf, bromelain folic acid, photosterols (plant sterols like beta-sitosterol), policosanol, guggul, and vitamins B6, B12, C and E. A number of these natural agents have been shown to lower cholesterol levels, as reported in the 8 October 2008 Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.
Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure, the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries (blood vessels). Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), and there are two fundamental types of measures: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Systolic, the top number in a blood pressure reading, refers to the pressure generated when your heart is beating; diastolic, the bottom number, is the pressure inside blood vessels when the heart is momentarily resting. General hypertension means that there’s either a consistently high systolic reading (above 140 m/Hg) or a consistently high diastolic reading (above 90 mm/Hg), or both. The average, “healthy” blood pressure reading is around 120 over 80 (written as 120/80 mmHg); an unhealthy reading would be 140 over 100 or 140 over 90. You can also have borderline hypertension, whereby the diastolic blood pressure is between 80 and 89, or the systolic blood pressure is between 120 and 139 on multiple readings. These borderline readings mean that you’re predisposed to high blood pressure. Among the risk factors for hypertension are family history, race (blacks being at greater risk), hyperlipidemia, high salt intake (as well as salt sensitivity), smoking, obesity, kidney problems, chronic stress, environment (family size, crowding, and occupation), and a meat-based diet lacking in fruits and vegetables.
- Diet and Lifestyle. It’s important to avoid those dietary and lifestyle habits that have been linked with the development of hypertension, i.e., avoid smoking, eliminate excess body weight, and maintaining a diet high in fruits and vegetables. A high fruit-and-vegetable diet may help maintain healthy blood pressure levels in people with type 2 diabetes, as reported in the 14 July 2012 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition.
- Supplements. Supplements that help reduce or mitigate hypertension include calcium citrate, potassium, magnesium, coenzyme Q10, hawthorn berry extract, ashwagandha, acai berry extract, ginger, garlic, omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil, EPA, DHA), folic acid, and vitamins A, B-complex, B3, C, and D. Both lead and cadmium may promote the development of hypertension, so chelation may be helpful if these metals are elevated. An animal study conducted at the University of Groningen, Haren (The Netherlands), found that omega-3s were effective in preventing hypertension, as reported in the 24 October 2003 issue of Brain Research.
Hypothyroidism (Thyroid Deficiency, Low Thyroid Function)
The thyroid gland, located at the base of the neck, secretes hormones that control the body’s metabolic rate in two basic ways: (1) by stimulating tissue responses in the body to produce proteins, and (2) by increasing cellular oxygenation and metabolism. When the gland synthesizes low amounts of thyroid hormone, the condition known as hypothyroidism arises. This condition is extremely common and tends to develop slowly and gradually. It is not uncommon for people to have borderline or subclinical hypothyroidism, meaning that they have symptoms of a low-thyroid function and respond well to thyroid support strategies, even though their thyroid measurements all appear to be in the “normal” range. Hypothyroidism affects women far more often than men and can be hereditary. Many cases are due to the inflammatory condition known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. These days, hypothyroidism is often treated with the pharmaceutical drug, levothyroxine.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Iodine is a key constituent of thyroid hormones, and a deficiency of this trace element can result in various problems depending on the degree of deficiency and at what stage of life the deficiency occurs. Vegan diets, or diets deficient in iodine, can lead to hypothyroidism in mothers and their nursing infants, as reported in the January 2003 Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism. In addition to iodine deficiency, dietary goitrogens (e.g., cabbages), toxic chemicals, antithyroid drugs, radioiodine, and of course thyroidectomy (surgical removal of the thyroid) can all lead to hypothyroidism.
- Supplements. Supplements that may help slow or reverse borderline hypothyroidism include L-tyrosine, selenium, zinc, iodine, copper, ashwagandha, and vitamins B6, B12, B-complex, C and E. Glandular thyroid products (e.g., Armour Thyroid, Nathroid, and Westhroid) may also be useful. In addition, at least one in every three hypothyroid patients may have a B12 deficiency, and nearly 60% show symptomatic improvement after B12 injections, as reported in the May 2008 Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association. B12 injections in those who were deficient in the vitamin resulted in symptomatic improvement in nearly 60% of treated patients; 40% showed significant improvement after injections despite their B12 levels being in the normal range.
Over 80 million adults worldwide are classified as infertile. According to Family Planning International, about one in every ten couples globally are or have been infertile. In many industrialized countries, infertility affects one in every five couples. Declining fertility rates in these countries are strongly influenced by having fewer babies in later life, due to late marriage and postponed childbearing. However, so-called primary infertility also plays a role. This may be defined as a couple’s inability to conceive after one year of regular intercourse while not using any contraceptives or birth control. Failure to ovulate accounts for about one third of infertility cases; other known contributors are cervical disease processes and pelvic factors such as tubal disease and endometriosis.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Although the extent to which diet and lifestyle affect infertility is unknown, research suggests that a “fertility diet plan” may consist of a combination of vegetable proteins (and less animal protein), low-glycemic carbohydrate sources (e.g., legumes and some grains), olive oil and other good-quailty fats, as reported in the November 2007 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and in the January 2009 European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Other research suggests that drinking less milk in adulthood will result in better ovarian function and lower the risk of ovarian infertility.
- Supplements. Supplements that have a favorable impact on female fertility include a high-quality multi-mineral/vitamin supplement (high in antioxidant nutrients), vitamin B6, kelp, iron, and adrenal support formulas in cases of adrenal insufficiency (e.g., a combination of eleuthero, pantothenic acid, and vitamins C and E). Consuming more iron from plants and supplements may lower the risk of ovarian infertility, as reported in the November 2006 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
In about 40% of instances in which a couple is unable to conceive, it is the man who is infertile, and this is generally due to the inability of the man’s sperm to fertilize the egg of his sexual partner. Many cases stem from low spermatozoa production in the testes, perhaps as a result of exposure to environmental chemicals, radiation, drugs, heavy metals, or other pollutants. Other factors affecting male fertility include hidden infections, hormonal problems, varicocele, undescended testis/testes, and an obstruction of the seminal tract. Problems with the passage of sperm into the vagina also may play a role.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Eating a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fats may be more conducive to male fertility. A recent study found that whereas a high intake of saturated fats (e.g., from butter, cheese, and fatty meats) was associated with a low sperm count, a higher intake of omega-3 fats (e.g., from fatty coldwater fish) was positively related to healthier sperm quality, as reported in the May 2012 issue of Human Reproduction.
- Supplements. Supplements that may help men suffering from infertility include L-arginine, L-carnitine, zinc, magnesium, omega-3s (notably DHA), coenzyme Q10, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), and vitamins C and E (as mixed tocopherols). Research suggests that deficiencies of selenium and glutathione (needed for detoxification and antioxidant power) may contribute to low sperm quality and male infertility, as reported in the March 2012 issue of BMC Urology.
Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus, of which there are many types. For children and adults, influenza tends to be a moderately severe condition. Most will get over the flu within a few days to a week, but for some individuals—notably the very young and very old, or those with asthma and other lung diseases—influenza can be dangerous and even life-threatening. In 2009, a new type of influenza was traced to the H1N1 virus, which spreads from human to human and has now been linked with a worldwide disease. Symptoms of H1N1 influenza include fever, tremor, itchy nose, cough, chest pain, body pain, headache, tiredness, diarrhea, and vomiting. Chronic lung disease, immune suppression, and pregnancy are all considered risk factors for severe H1N1 influenza. Most sufferers are either below two years or above 65 years of age, and have an underlying disease or are being hospitalized.
- Diet and Lifestyle. It is likely that an antioxidant-rich, plant-based diet and active lifestyle changes can increase one’s resistance or immunity toward the viruses associated with influenza.
- Supplements. Supplements that may help ward off the flu, or perhaps reduce its duration and severity, include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, garlic, ginger, echinacea, astragalus, shitake, maitake, zinc, selenium, and vitamins A and C.
Insomnia, or sleeplessness, is a common disorder that afflicts millions of people worldwide. Though the disorder affects all age groups, its prevalence tends to increase with age, and women are affected more often than men. We need sleep for maintaining strong immunity, hormonal balances, and overall health and vitality. There are many different flavors of insomnia. Whereas some indiiduals have difficulty falling asleep, others tend to wake on a frequent basis or have difficulty falling back to sleep afterward. Still others wake too early in the morning or are having restless and unsatisfying sleep overall, such that they do not feel refreshed upon waking. Most people have experienced the inability to get a good night’s sleep at one time or another in their lives—especially during more challenging or stressful times. Depression and anxiety can promote insomnia, and aging itself may tend to adversely affect sleep quality.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Numerous lifestyle and environmental factors may play a role in insomnia, including stress, alcohol, caffeine, medications, toxins, pain (or discomfort), computer use, watching TV late at night, electromagnetic fields (e.g., sleeping close to an active electrical outlet), intestinal yeast overgrowth, indigestion, overeating, and eating shortly before bed.
- Supplements. Supplements that may help reduce tendencies toward insomnia include melatonin, L-Tryptophan, 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), magnesium, calcium, B-complex (taken earlier in the day), niacinamide, kava kava, valerian, passionflower, lemon balm, and ashwagandha.
Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is a degenerative disease of the brain and spinal cord that entails a breakdown of the myelin sheath. Myelin is a fatty substance that surrounds and insulates nerve fibers and facilitates the conduction of nerve impulse transmissions. Degeneration of the myelin causes scarring and hardening (sclerosis) of nerve fibers, primarily in the spinal cord, brain stem, and optic nerves. This results in a slowing of nerve impulses, causing weakness, numbness, pain, vision loss, and problems with movement and coordination. Women are two to three times more likely than men to develop MS; most cases begin between the ages of 20 and 40. Among the theoretical causes of MS are viral infections, autoimmunity, and enzyme imbalances. MS is thought to affect about 2.5 million people worldwide. The prevalence is highest in Northern Europe and the northern United States, with more than 30 cases per 100,000 people.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Some research indicates that a low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids (from fatty coldwater fish and algae), lack of sun exposure (the main source of vitamin D), and habitual consumption of dairy products may play a role in the genesis of MS. Some individuals may also benefit from avoiding wheat and other gluten-containing foods, as reported in the 18 September 2012 issue of Medicina Clinica.
- Supplements. Supplements that may slow the progression of MS include high-dose vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E (as mixed tocopherols), vitamin B5, turmeric (or curcumin), red pepper, black pepper, borage oil, and high-quality fish oil or algae oil. MS patients with a history of low sun exposure and poor vitamin D intake during the winter months should consider taking vitamin D supplements to boost vitamin status, as reported in 1 August 2012 Journal of Neurology.
Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
Heart attacks, technically known as myocardial infarction, are a major killer in industrialized countries and affect older people to a much greater extent than the young. Each year, according to the WHO, some 17 million people die of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases. The “attack” refers to the painful nature of this medical event. Heart attack is essentially the end product of coronary artery disease resulting from atherosclerosis, or clogging of the arteries. When the blood supply to a part of the heart is interrupted, the heart cells die due to lack of oxygen. This may eventually cause damage or death (infarction) of the myocardium, or heart muscle tissue. Obviously, a heart attack is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention, usually in the form of a speedy visit to the emergency room followed by hospitalization. However, there are ways to help prevent heart attacks from occurring, or from re-occurring.
- Diet and Lifestyle. A low-fat, plant-based diet and physically active lifestyle can address the most common cause of heart attack—that is, coronary artery disease resulting from atherosclerosis, or clogging of the arteries. Coronary heart patients who adhere to a prudent diet (low fat, whole foods, plant based), exercise, stress management, and social support are less likely to have heart attacks and more likely to stay healthy over the long term, as reported in the 2 February 2006 issue of Scientific World Journal.
- Supplements. Supplements that may help curb the artery-clogging process and strengthen the heart include hawthorn, coenzyme Q10, niacin, bromelain, L-carnitine vitamin E (as mixed tocopherols), tocotrienols, vitamin C, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, shitake mushroom, green tea extract (standardized to EGCG), Red Yeast Rice, guggul, and policosanol.
At this time, there are an estimated 502 million obese adults worldwide. Obesity is usually defined as being extremely overweight—specifically, weighing more than 20% (for men) or 25% (for women) over one’s ideal weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, cancer and premature death. Although dozens of dieting and exercise regimens have been recommended for obese people, there may be a benefit to using nutritional and herbal supplements to assist with metabolic changes.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Diet and lifestyle changes can help people lose weight, but there is surprisingly little conclusive evidence that diet and exercise alone can reverse obesity. However, there is a strong consensus among scientists that a high-protein diet, together with carbohydrate and fat restriction, can result in substantial weight loss, as reported in the August 2012 British Journal of Nutrition.
- Supplements. A number of supplements may help speed up healthy weight loss (improved body composition) include green tea, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), yohimbine, vitamin C, L-tryptophan, L-glutamine, L-tyrosine, L-carnitine, coenzyme Q10, B-complex, and N-acetylated glucosamines (NAGS).
If you experience achiness and creakiness (or crackling sounds) in your joints, you may have a common form of arthritis called osteoarthritis. This degenerative joint disorder entails a gradual loss of cartilage, which normally protects the ends of joints by acting as a gel-like shock absorber. With the loss of cartilage in the joint, bone begins to rub against bone, resulting in inflammation, pain, deformity, and limited joint motion. The early development of osteoarthritis is so subtle that it is taken for granted, with the first sign typically being joint stiffness in the morning. As the condition progresses, the involved joints become more painful with every movement, with local tenderness and soft tissue swelling. The weight-bearing joints such as the hips, spine, and knees are the joints most often affected by these degenerative changes; however, the hands, too, can be affected as well. The pain worsens as a result of prolonged activity and is temporarily relieved by rest. X-ray examination reveals a narrowing of the joint space—the area between the bones taken up by cartilage. Aging itself is a fundamental cause of osteoarthritis, because the ability to restore and manufacture normal cartilage structures declines with age. However, this process is accelerated by other factors such as physical trauma (e.g., knee or hip surgery, or fractures along joint surfaces), the presence of abnormal cartilage, and inherited abnormalities in joint structure or function. In addition, previous inflammatory disease of joint (rheumatoid arthritis, gout, etc.).
- Diet and Lifestyle. Diet and lifestyle changes can greatly slow the development of osteoarthritis, and perhaps prevent it altogether. normal body weight. First, it is important to lose excess body weight in order to minimize stress on the weight-bearing joints. Second, a diet high in and vegetables, berries, and cherries is important because these foods contain natural plant compounds that can reduce or prevent cellular damage, including damage to the joints. Sulfur-containing foods, such as garlic, onions, cabbages and Brussels sprouts, and broccoli are also helpful, because they increase inflammatory control. Finally, plant substances such as ginger, turmeric, green tea and resveratrol have anti-inflammatory properties that confer additional protection against chronic inflammation, as reported in the November 2012 Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
- Supplements. Supplements that may be helpful in curbing the progression of osteoarthritis include glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin, glycosaminoglycans (green lipped muscle extract), S-Adenosyl-L-methionine, MSM, calcium, boron, magnesium, niacinamide, selenium, fish oil, and vitamins B5, B6, C, and E.
Osteoporosis (and Osteopenia)
Osteoporosis is a metabolic bone disorder that afflicts millions of people worldwide. This is considered a silent disease, because bone loss itself is gradual, painless, and symptom-free in the early stages. The bone is a living tissue that is in a constant state of breakdown and renewal. As individuals grow older, bone formation slows down and, once the peak bone mass has been achieved, bone mass remains stable. However, by their mid-30s, most people begin to gradually lose bone mass and bone strength as the balance between bone renewal and breakdown shifts, and more bone is lost than can be replaced. Mild bone loss is known as osteopenia. The bone thinning process becomes more rapid after one reaches middle age. With an overall decrease in bone mass, the individual becomes more vulnerable to various types of fractures—notably crush fractures of the vertebrae, upper thigh bone (femur), wrist bones, and hipbones. Postmenopausal white women are at greater risk due to their lower production of estrogen, which is needed to maintain healthy bones. Among the other risk factors are malabsorption of intestinal calcium, low muscle mass, and failure to maximize bone mass during young adult life.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Factors thought to be involved in the genesis of osteoporosis include high-protein and high-phosphorous diets; lack of weight-bearing exercise; history of smoking cigarettes; overuse of heparin and other medications that cause calcium losses; and vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sunlight exposure.
- Supplements. To help prevent or impede osteoporosis, it may be very helpful to consider supplementation with the following: calcium citrate, vitamin D3, boron, magnesium, potassium, folic acid, zinc, copper, manganese, silica, DHEA (low doses, based on DHEA-sulfate testing), and vitamin A, vitamin B6 (and other B vitamins), and vitamins C and K. A review in the December 2009 issue of Current Osteoporosis Reports suggests that these supplements may enhance the benefits of bone health-promoting diet and lifestyle.
At this time, an estimated 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease or Parkinsonism. This chronic progressive disorder of the central nervous system typically affects the middle-aged and elderly. The disease is characterized by characterized by tremors, muscle rigidity, and a slowing of physical movement. In addition, cognitive and language problems can result. In more extreme cases, there can even be a complete loss of physical movement. The primary symptoms are linked with damage to a part of the brain that produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger between nerves) that sends information to the parts of the brain that control movement and coordination. Because the individual with Parkinson’s has less dopamine being produced in the brain, messages from the brain informing the body how and when to move are being delivered more slowly, and this leads to an inability to initiate and execute movements in a normal way. Men are more likely to develop this condition than women, and exposure to pesticides, herbicides and other environmental pollutants is thought to play a major role in the genesis of this disorder.
- Diet and Lifestyle. It is thought that a diet rich in antioxidants may help reduce the likelihood of Parkinson’s disease. A series of studies completed at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, suggest a protective effect from diets high in vitamin B6, unsaturated fatty acids, and antioxidants (from fruits and vegetables), as reported in the 25 July 2006 and 28 June 2005 issues of Neurology.
- Supplements. Among the supplements that are thought to reduce the development and progression of Parkinson’s disease are selenium, essential fatty acids, magnesium, octacosanol, L-tryptophan (if receiving levodopa), L-tyrosine, L-methionine, curcumin, and vitamins B6, B12, C, and E (as mixed tocopherols).
Prostatitis means inflammation of the prostate gland. Approximately 15% of adult men worldwide suffer from prostatitis at some point in their lives. It is the most frequently diagnosed illness in men under 50, and a risk factor for both BPH and prostate cancer. As with all forms of inflammation, prostatitis can arise from the body’s response to an infection. Most cases result from an acute or chronic infection involving either chlamydiae, mycoplasma, neisseria gonorrhea, or gram-negative enteric bacteria. However, prostatitis also occurs in the absence of infection. Regardless of the cause, an inflamed prostate can lead to fever and chills, painful and frequent urination, increased urge to urinate, and painful and premature ejaculation. If the condition is left untreated, these symptoms become chronic and recurrent. Chronic prostatitis is more likely to occur in men with a history of cigarette smoking, high-calorie diet, constipation (and sluggish digestion), and sexual relationships with more than one partner.
- Diet and Lifestyle. In terms of diet, it is advisable to eat less fat (from fatty red meat and dairy products), fewer refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour products, etc.), and more fruits and vegetables. Anti-inflammatory benefits may be provided by omega-3 fatty acids from algae as well as from salmon and other fatty cold-water fish. Eating more soy, garlic, walnuts, cranberries, and pomegranate seeds could also be helpful. The beneficial effects of cranberries on various symptoms of prostatitis were reported in the October 2010 British Journal of Nutrition.
- Supplements. To help slow or block the development of prostatitis, you may consider supplementation with some combination of the following: saw palmetto, garlic, quercetin, pomegranate extract, cranberry extract, curcumin, boswellia, lycopene, selenium, zinc, fish oil, algae oil, bee pollen, evening primrose oil, magnesium, and vitamins E, B6 and B-complex. Quercetin has various properties that make it a useful option for treating prostatitis, as reported in the August 2011 issue of Urology Clinics of North America.
Psoriasis is an irritating skin condition characterized by red patches of skin, often accompanied by flaky, white or silvery scales that show up most often on the elbows, knees, and trunk. Patches of psoriasis can either manifest in a few small areas or cover large areas of the body. About two percent of the world’s population is affected by psoriasis, and the condition is more common in northern climates than in warmer, sunnier climates. Though most cases are not painful, some cases are very painful, especially with the form known as psoriatic arthritis, which entails painful and swollen joints. Although the cause of psoriasis is unknown, the risk increases with a positive family history or having a relative with this disorder. Potential contributors to psoriasis include emotional distress, obesity, smoking, alcohol abuse, cold or dry air, skin injuries (including sunburn), and bacterial infections such as strep. All of these factors could possibly trigger the condition or at least cause flare-ups. Severe psoriasis is also associated with an increased propensity for developing cardiovascular disease.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Avoiding alcohol and tobacco smoke, and taking steps to lose excess body weight, could help lower your chances of developing psoriasis or could even improve symptoms of psoriasis. It is likely that an anti-inflammatory diet (avoiding sugar, refined carbohydrates, fatty animal products, corn oil and other omega-6 fatty acid sources) could help slow or halt the development of psoriasis as well. One study showed that moderate weight loss using a low-calorie diet made obese patients with chronic psoriasis far more responsive to their medication (low-dose cyclosporine), as reported in the November 2008 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
- Supplements. Supplements potentially helpful in the prevention and treatment of psoriasis include the following: curcumin, boswellia, quercetin, zinc, selenium, magnesium, silica, garlic, fish oil, algae oil, flaxseed oil, borage oil, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D and E.
About 1 percent of the world’s population is thought to have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), a painful inflammatory joint disease that usually begins in the hands and then spreads to other joints. Almost three quarters of women with RA suffer pain daily. Though the fingers are usually the first target of this condition, the pain often spreads to the wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, hips, knees, ankles, and toes. RA can lead to the destruction of the bone and cartilage, resulting in a number of deformities. The disorder typically begins gradually with fatigue, poor appetite, widespread muscle aches, and prolonged morning stiffness. The internal organs eventually may be affected as well. Women are three times more likely than men to get RA, which is most often diagnosed between the ages of 35 and 50.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Naturopathic physicians have recommended the use of dairy-free and gluten-free diets for RA, with variable reports of clinical success. In addition, the frequency and severity of RA sympoms may be reduced by consuming plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, as well as omega-3-rich foods such as salmon, algae and walnuts. Research published out of Stockholm, Sweden, suggests that a vegan diet free of gluten improves the signs and symptoms of RA, as reported in the October 2011 issue of Rheumatology.
- Supplements. Supplements that could help avert or slow the progression of RA include high-quality fish oil, curcumin, boswellia, quercetin, bromelain, borage oil, sea cucumber, tryptophan, copper salicylate, selenium, manganese, zinc, and vitamins B5, C, E, and K. A study published in the February 2005 issue of Nutrition found that fish oil supplementation was more effective in alleviating RA symptoms when olive oil was consumed at the same time.
Sinusitis (Chronic Sinusitis)
Every year, millions of people of all ages suffer from sinusitis, or inflammation of the sinuses. Chronic sinusitis is among the more prevalent chronic illnesses in western countries, occurring most often during the winter months and sometimes lasting for years if not treated properly. This condition is usually due to a viral respiratory infection, although bacterial and fungal infections also can be involved. In addition, non-infectious factors can create inflammation and swelling (edema) of the nasal tissues, including allergy (sensitivity to cigarette smoke, air pollution, dust mites or mold spores), cystic fibrosis, gastroesophageal reflux, or regular exposure to environmental pollutants. The inflammatory process involves the paranasal sinuses and persists for three months or longer. Symptoms include postnasal drip, nasal stuffiness, facial fullness, and malaise. Chronic sinusitis is almost always accompanied by bacterial overgrowth, resulting in an influx of immune cells to fight the infection—and yet more bothersome inflammation. Many individuals with chronic sinusitis continue to experience symptoms even after taking antibiotics for an extended period.
- Diet and Lifestyle. In principle, an anti-inflammatory diet high in berries, cherries, grapes, nuts, seeds and coldwater fatty fish (e.g., salmon or trout) could be helpful in the prevention of sinusitis. Sugar and refined carbohydrates and “bad fats”(e.g., trans fats and omega-6-rich vegetable oils) should be avoided. However, published scientific research is lacking.
- Supplements. Supplements that could help prevent or mitigate this condition include bromelain, N-acetylcysteine, quercetin, undecylenic acid, Urtica dioica, buffered vitamin C, , curcumin (with biopiperine or as phytosome), zinc, selenium, and vitamins A, B5, B6, and B-Complex. The combination of N-acetylcysteine, quercetin, bromelain, undecylenic acid, and Urtica dioica seems especially promising, as reported in the September 2006 issue of Alternative Medicine Reviews.
The skin is the largest organ in the body and even has its own immune system, as well as numerous specialized enzymes and hormones. As people grow older, the skin undergoes various changes—notably wrinkles and sagging skin—both of which are hallmarks of aging. These changes can be acclerated by factors such as pollution, poor nutrition, and excessive sun exposure. For example, if you compare areas of your body that have received regular sun exposure to those areas protected from sunlight, you may notice that the sun-exposed areas have less suppleness and elasticity. People with darker or more heavily pigmented skin are less vulnerable to aging skin changes than blue-eyed, fair-skinned people. With aging, the number of pigment-containing cells (melanocytes) decreases; however, the remaining melanocytes increase in size. This is why aging skin tends to appear thinner, paler, and translucent. In addition, large pigmented spots—often called age spots—may appear in sun-exposed areas. The skin’s strength and elasticity decreases over time due to changes in the connective tissue. This is more common in people who have had frequent sun exposure over the couse of their lifetime, and accounts for the leathery, weather-beaten appearance of farmers, construction workers, and others who spend much time outdoors. Finally, aging skin undergoes repair and regeneration more gradually than younger skin.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Your diet and lifestyle can have a dramatic impact on skin health and vitality. Eat plenty of berries, grapes, cherries, and omega-3 fatty acids (from algae and fatty coldwater fish). Limit your intake of sugar, desserts and white flour products, as such high-glycemic foods ultimately create a binding process between glucose, proteins and DNA. Over time this process, known as glycation, alters the shape and functioning of collagen proteins in the skin and causes premature aging. Also take steps to protect yourself from excessive sun exposure, such as with a sunscreen and protective clothing and hats. Pollution, smoking and many chemicals can adversely affect the skin. Drink pure water throughout the day.
- Supplements. Supplements that may bolster skin vitality include green tea, grapeseed extract, resveratrol, fish oil, algae oil, flaxseed oil, DHEA, vitamin C, B-complex, mixed tocopherols (vitamin E), and selenium.
A stroke can be a truly shocking event because it takes place in a matter of minutes, and yet the symptoms are devastating and often life-altering. This occurs when there is a sudden interruption of blood flow and oxygen to areas in the brain. Strokes often lead to paralysis, numbness, weakness (often on just one side of the body), speech problems, confusion, dizziness, and loss of vision. Globally, some 15 million people suffer a stroke each year, resulting in about 5 million permanent disabilities and 5 million deaths (approximately 650,000 of which take place in Europe). Three out of every four strokes occur in people over the age of 65, and older people with high blood pressure are at the greatest risk. Although the incidence of stroke is declining in developed countries (mainly due to efforts to lower blood pressure and reduce smoking), the overall rate of stroke continues to be high due to the aging of the population. The symptoms of a stroke may be somewhat transient, and may even disappear completely. However, they can also worsen over the course of several hours, cause long-term or permanent brain damage, or even result in death.
- Diet and Lifestyle. Smoking, alcohol, high-fat diets (especially saturated fat), obesity, and high blood pressure are major risk factors for stroke. According to the August 2012 issue of Nutrition Reviews, numerous studies have shown that eating more vegetables, fruits (notably berries, grapes and cherries), and soy has a powerful protective effect against stroke. Also, replacing red meat with poultry, fish, nuts, and other dietary sources of protein can further lower your risk, as reported in the March 2012 issue of Stroke.
- Supplements. It is known that deficiencies in folic acid (folate), vitamin B6, or vitamin B12 may lead to high homocysteine levels, a risk factor for stroke. Supplements that may help prevent stroke include magnesium, potassium, resveratrol, grape seed extract, pomegranate extract, fish oil, algae oil, flaxseed oil, borage oil, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and B-complex.
Tuberculosis, or TB, is a common infectious disease, second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious agent—in this case a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In 2011, nearly nine million people fell ill with TB, and well over a million people died from the infection. TB is also a leading killer of people living with HIV (the virus linked with AIDS), and the vast majority of TB-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. The bacterium may spread through the air, becoming concentrated in enclosed spaces, where it is then inhaled or transmitted between humans through coughing, sneezing or spitting. Classic symptoms of TB include fever, night sweats, weight loss, and a chronic cough with blood-tinged sputum. Many people coexist with the TB bacterium for years or even decades before showing any symptoms. It is likely that the TB bacterium becomes activated when the immune system becomes depressed.
- Diet and Lifestyle. An immune-enhancing diet is low in fat and high in antioxidants from fruits and vegetables. Getting adequate sunshine may also be helpful, in order to establish optimal vitamin D status. A recent study of HIV-infected adults in sub-Saharan Africa found that vitamin D deficiency (serum level below 20 ng/mL) was linked with a significantly greater risk of TB, as reported in the 3 December 2012 Journal of Infectious Disease.
- Supplements. Supplements that may bolster immunity against TB include zinc, selenium, magnesium, melatonin, various mushrooms (shitake, maitake, reishi), echinacea, astragalus, inositol hexaphosphate (IP6), and vitamins A, B6, C, B-complex, and vitamin D. A study in Tanzania found that children with TB who took a daily multivitamin for two months showed an improvement in their blood parameters, as reported in the 31 October 2011 issue of Nutrition Journal.
Ulcerative colitis. According to a report in the January 2012 issue of Gastroenterology, the incidence and prevalence of ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the colon, is steadily increasing around the world. This condition occurs most often in people between the ages of 15 and 35, and whites and Jews are considered to be at greater risk. Among the first symptoms of this condition are bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain. The bloody diarrhea may be traced to bleeding in the rectal area, as well as to ulcers and inflammation of the inner lining of the colon—hence the name, ulcerative colitis. A number of factors may fuel the development of this Irritable Bowel Disorder, including infections, food sensitivities, emotional distress, and immune system abnormalities that lead to excessive inflammation in the colon.
Diet and Lifestyle. It is important to rule out possible food sensitivities such as gluten intolerance or allergies to cow’s milk protein or other foods. This is where an “elimination diet” strategy would be used—eliminating the likely “trigger” foods for several weeks, then gradually re-introducing one food at a time to identify those that are promoting the symptoms. In addition, consuming too many vegetable oils may exacerbate the condition, as reported in April 2000 American Journal of Gastroenterology.
Supplements. Supplements that can help halt or slow the progression of ulcerative colitis include probiotics (Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium), arginine, glutamine, butyric acid, licorice, chlorella, fish oil, liquid chlorophyll, N-acetylated glucosamines, quercetin, selenium, magnesium, zinc picolinate, beta-carotene, and vitamins A, B12, C, and E. Iron supplementation is often necessary due to the loss of blood that occurs with this condition. In particular, enteric-coated fish oil may be of benefit in patients with ulcerative colitics, as reported in the 21 December 2005 World Journal of Gastroenterology.
Urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are infections that begin in one’s urinary system. Although any part of the urinary tract can be involved—the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra—most UTIs occur in the bladder and urethra. In the great majority of cases, the bacteria originate in the colon and pass into the bladder, resulting in a bladder infection. However, other organisms such as herpes simplex virus, candida yeast, and various parasites, worms and protozoa may be implicated as well. These painful and annoying infections take place more often in women than in men. Older men are more pone to upper UTIs due to their inability to fully empty their bladders as a result of an enlarged prostate (urine cannot remain sterile if it remains in the bladder for an extended period). UTIs are also a common cause of fever in young children worldwide. Regardless of age, antibiotics are the standard choice of medical treatment, though cranberry products and probiotics have been tried as well, with varying degrees of success.
Diet and Lifestyle. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods, which tend to further irritate the bladder. Also avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates, consume plenty of antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits, eat unsweetened yogurt, and limit fat from animal products and vegetable oils (except for olive oil). Drink plenty of pure water daily (8 to 10 glasses). Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothing, and take showers instead of baths. Also wash before and after sexual activity, and ask your partner to follow suit. Women who use a diaphragm are encouraged to carefully wash and dry it after each use. Lastly, after having a bowel movement, always wipe from front to back (important for women more than men).
Supplements. Supplements that may play a role in preventing or possibly relieving UTI’s include cranberry extract, probiotics, garlic, Oregon grape, barberry, echinacea, astragalus, shitake, maitake, magnesium, potassium, calcium citrate, zinc, selenium, and vitamins A and C. It appears that both cranberry products and probiotics (Lactobacillus) may be very helpful against recurrent UTIs in young and middle-aged women, as reported in the 2009 issue of Drugs and in the May 2011 Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Uterine fibroids are benign growths of the uterus that occur more frequently after women reach age 35. In most cases, the fibroids will grow for long periods without creating any symptoms, and many cases remain without symptoms. However, a substantial number also later result in bloating, menstrual bleeding, sharp pelvic pain, painful menstruation, painful sexual intercourse, and inreased frequency of urination as well as heightened urgency to urinate. Once these symptoms arise, it is likely that the fibroid has become fairly large in size. The growth of these fibroids accelerates during pregnancy and with estrogen therap, but they tend to regress or disappear after menopause. Uterine fibroids can cause multiple bleeding and pain symptoms that might, in turn, have an adverse impact on a woman’s sexual, social and work life.
Diet and Lifestyle. Uterine fibroids have been associated with increased beef and ham consumption, whereas high intake of green vegetables seems to confer a protective benefit, as reported in the September 1999 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Also, a higher alcohol intake is linked with a higher prevalence of uterine fibroids, as reported in the May 2009 British Journal of Nutrition.
Supplements. Many anecdotal reports claim that the use of two enzymes, nattokinase, and serrapeptase, may help eliminate or prevent uterine fibroids. Whereas nattokinase may help degrade the fibrin within the fibroid tumor, serrapeptase is a proteolytic systemic enzyme that may dissolve the growth of fibrous tissues within cysts. In addition, the herb called vitex (chasteberry) slows the growth of fibroids and could even help dissolve them by normalizing hormonal imbalances.
Yeast overgrowth (Candida, Candidiasis)
Candida albicans is a type of fungus or yeast that lives naturally, at relatively low levels, in the intestines. If the intestinal bacteria that keep Candida in check are depleted, or the immune system becomes weakened, the yeast may enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. It can spread to the vagina, urinary tract, skin, fingernails, toenails, mouth, and organs—contributing to a host of health problems. Candida produces toxins that can adversely affect the brain and promote brain fog as well as fatigue. Many women may first recognize they have a yeast infection (vaginal candidiasis) when they have itching or irritation in the area of the vagina, along with other telltale signs such as sugar cravings and skin rashes.
Diet and Lifestyle. A key dietary step is to eliminate sugar, refined carbohydrates and dairy from the diet. In addition to adopting a sugar-free, dairy-free diet, focus on healthy lean protein souces such as fish and poutry, as well as eating plenty of high-fiber vegetables such as fresh garlic, onions, kale, collards, bok choy and cabbages. Many people benefit by going for several weeks on a very low starch diet—even avoiding brown rice and other whole grain products. Thus, a stone age or Paleolithic diet makes the most sense. It appears that Candida colonization of the GI tract results in increased allergic sensitivity to various food proteins (antigens), as reported in the July 2006 issue of Gut.
Supplements. Naturopathic doctors recommend using herbal formulas that consist mainly of berberine-containing herbs (e.g., barberry, goldenseal, and Oregon grape) as well as turmeric (curcumin), pau d’arco, grapefruit seed extract, citricidal extract, calcium undecylenate, neem leaf, olive leaf, orange peel, peppermint, oregano, uva ursi, magnesium, caprylate, cinnamon bark and clove bud. A potent probiotic can help support intestinal flora, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae (a beneficial species of yeast) may be used to displace the “bad” Candida yeast. In the context of the anti-yeast diet described above, this combination of probiotics and herbal antimicrobials can be a very effective way to curb Candida and to reverse its overgrowth.