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Women’s Health Alternatives

January 27, 2009 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Today I have two news items for the ladies (and all the men who love them). First I want to take on a condition that severely affects the quality of life for many women. After that, I’m going to provide new information about how women can help avoid an all too common killer.

The Pain Relieving Tan

Back in the 80′s, tanning beds were the hip way to stay bronzed all year round. It was no longer necessary to travel to the beach or lay out by the pool to sunbathe. Even in the middle of winter in Alaska or Minnesota, you too could have that orangish glow that told everyone that you were part of the tanning bed club. But like all trends, the tanning bed craze slacked off in time.

Unfortunately, not all trends recede over the years. One negative trend that is becoming more and more common is a mind/body syndrome called fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia (FM) is complex condition that can cause pain in the joints, muscles and nerves. It is also often associated with fatigue and psychological states such as anxiety, depression, insomnia and poor concentration.

When women first began reporting FM symptoms, they did so without knowing what to call it. They described how badly they felt and their doctors often dismissed their complaints or diagnosed them with some other condition (often times a psychological disorder). Today, it is estimated that fibromyalgia affects nearly 2% of the population at large. And so, naturally, there are now prescription medications that are used to manage FM. But as with most medications, side effects and/or a lack a efficacy are often reasons to seek alternative treatments.

A recent study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Therapies, examined the role of UV light exposure on a group of women with fibromyalgia. The reason they decided to conduct this test is because prior research suggested that low levels of vitamin D (which is produced by the skin through sunlight exposure) may play a role in the development of FM and the associated psychological symptoms.

Vitamin D

To test this hypothesis, 19 women with fibromyalgia periodically laid in either a UV tanning bed or a non-UV tanning bed. The researchers tested the volunteers’ levels of pain and their mood by using scientific tests and questionnaires. Here’s a summary of the results of the 8 week study:

  • Within the first 2 weeks of UV tanning, the volunteers experienced a decrease in their pain scores.
  • There was also a marked improvement in relaxation and general well-being in the group that was exposed to UV light.
  • The benefits of UV exposure appeared to be short lived however. 4 weeks after the treatment ended, the researchers found no differences in symptoms between those treated with UV and those treated with non-UV tanning beds.

My interpretation of this data is that UV light (and perhaps sun exposure and vitamin D supplementation) may be useful in reducing fibromyalgia symptoms. But, you need to keep on providing a source of UV radiation for the positive effects to continue.

Green tea leavesBrewing Away Breast Cancer

Breast cancer accounts for more than 10% of all the cancers diagnosed each year. Modern medicine has come up with many methods to treat this dreaded condition. But, they haven’t yet come up with reliable ways of preventing it. And as you can imagine, prevention is a much better way to go then treatment.

If prevention is the key, perhaps we should pay close attention to new evidence emerging from China. This month’s issue of the Journal of Nutrition reports that regular green tea consumption may reduce the risk of breast cancer by about 12 percent. It’s also interesting to note that the ladies who drank tea for the greatest number of years and in the strongest concentrations appeared to derive the most powerful protection.

Another similar study will be published in March of 2009 in the International Journal of Cancer. In that study, a protective effect was found in pre and post-menopausal women who regularly consumed green tea and mushrooms (either dry or fresh mushrooms). A combination of both green tea and mushrooms appeared to offer an even greater protective effect than consuming either one by itself.

In my opinion, this kind of data is invaluable. It provides us with additional clues about what we may be able to do to keep ourselves well. And that should be the primary goal – keeping ourselves well. Fighting a disease or trying to reverse a condition is much more difficult and costly than trying to avoid it in the first place. But taking the necessary steps to try and maintain wellness often requires more effort and a proactive attitude. Is it worth it? I think so. But, that’s a determination that we all have to make.

Be well!

JP

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9 Comments & Updates to “Women’s Health Alternatives”

  1. G Paul Fanton Says:

    JP,
    It appears to me that the research of the multiple beneficial effects of continued therapeutical dosages of vitamin D should be an interesting objective for trial including the effect in pain improvement in fybromyalgia. Perhaps the relative safety of therapeutical dosages of vitamin D would permit continuous treatment sustaining permanent benefits. In contrast it would not be prudent continued UV radiation exposure.
    Is this wishful thinking or it may already be in the works?

    Thank you for insight.
    Paul

  2. JP Says:

    Hello, Paul.

    I just checked to see if there were any active studies (or any studies currently recruiting patients) with regard to fibromyalgia and vitamin D.

    http://clinicaltrials.gov/

    I didn’t find any. That’s not to say that there aren’t any in the works. I just didn’t find any. But, I can assure you that I’ll keep a close eye out for any incoming information on this subject matter.

    In the meantime, if I had fibromyalgia, I would certainly have my vitamin D levels tested. If they were less than optimal, I would seriously consider supplementing with adequate amounts of vitamin D.

    Be well!

    JP

  3. Mia B. Says:

    Just wondering, JP, what you thought/know about the efficacity of Green Tea in pill form [for those whom green tea consumption is not always practical/handy on a daily basis]; could significant benefits be also derived? (is there prehaps a certain quantity/grade, etc.?)
    Let me know when you get the time!
    Thanks much!
    Mia B.

  4. JP Says:

    Hello, Mia.

    I do believe that green tea extracts are beneficial. In fact, some of the published research on green tea has utilized concentrated green tea extracts.

    I personally use a green tea extract in a pill form (as well as drinking white tea). What I try to look for is an extract that is tested for purity (with regard to heavy metals, in particular) and that contains a high amount of catechins and a minimum of 100 mg of EGCg (Epigallocatechin Gallate) per capsule.

    EGCg and catechins are thought to be some of the most healthful components of green tea. One estimate I read says that 200 mg of EGCg, in an extract, would equal about 2-3 cups of brewed green tea (in terms of antioxidant content).

    The other cool thing about green tea extracts/pills is that they’re often decaffeinated – in case you happen to be sensitive to caffeine.

    I hope this helps.

    Be well!

    JP

  5. jaki kay Says:

    i was just diagnosed with very low levels of vitamin d. my doc gave me a script of 1.25 mg. 1 tablet a week for 4 weeks. i have an identical twin who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. so now i am freaking that maybe i will get it. i had a bone scan about 3 years ago and was told my scan was perfect. i started drinking green tea and am now thinking about taking supplements also.so i guess my? is what is the best brand and how many mg. should i take daily. i have also read that low levels of d could be a sympton of m.s. any answers here. thanks and peace, jaki

  6. JP Says:

    Jaki,

    By supplements, do you mean supplemental green tea? Vitamin D? Others?

    Here are a few links about the MS/Vitamin D link:

    http://www.healthyfellow.com/534/belly-fat-depression-and-multiple-sclerosis-questions/

    http://www.healthyfellow.com/463/preventive-medicine/

    Be well!

    JP

  7. JP Says:

    Update: Hydrotherapy also benefits patients living with fibromyalgia …

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25786047

    Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2015 Mar-Apr;33 Suppl 88(1):73-81. Epub 2015 Mar 18.

    Effects of a hydrotherapy programme on symbolic and complexity dynamics of heart rate variability and aerobic capacity in fibromyalgia patients.

    OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the effects of a hydrotherapy programme on aerobic capacity and linear and non-linear dynamics of heart rate variability (HRV) in women with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS).

    METHODS: 20 women with FMS and 20 healthy controls (HC) took part in the study. The FMS group was evaluated at baseline and after a 16-week hydrotherapy programme. All participants underwent cardiopulmonary exercise testing on a cycle ergometer and RR intervals recording in supine and standing positions. The HRV was analysed by linear and non-linear methods. The current level of pain, the tender points, the pressure pain threshold and the impact of FMS on quality of life were assessed.

    RESULTS: The FMS patients presented higher cardiac sympathetic modulation, lower vagal modulation and lower complexity of HRV in supine position than the HC. Only the HC decreased the complexity indices of HRV during orthostatic stimulus. After a 16-week hydrotherapy programme, the FMS patients increased aerobic capacity, decreased cardiac sympathetic modulation and increased vagal modulation and complexity dynamics of HRV in supine. The FMS patients also improved their cardiac autonomic adjustments to the orthostatic stimulus. Associations between improvements in non-linear dynamics of HRV and improvements in pain and in the impact of FMS on quality of life were found.

    CONCLUSIONS: A 16-week hydrotherapy programme proved to be effective in ameliorating symptoms, aerobic functional capacity and cardiac autonomic control in FMS patients. Improvements in the non-linear dynamics of HRV were related to improvements in pain and in the impact of FMS on quality of life.

    Be well!

    JP

  8. JP Says:

    Update 05/06/15:

    https://www.thieme-connect.com/DOI/DOI?10.1055/s-0035-1548835

    Horm Metab Res. 2015 May 4.

    Effects of High-Dose Vitamin D Supplementation on Metabolic Status and Pregnancy Outcomes in Pregnant Women at Risk for Pre-Eclampsia.

    This study was designed to assess the beneficial effects of high-dose (cholecalciferol) vitamin D supplementation on metabolic profiles and pregnancy outcomes among pregnant women at risk for pre-eclampsia. This randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial was performed among 60 pregnant women at risk for pre-eclampsia according to abnormal uterine artery Doppler waveform. Subjects were randomly divided into 2 groups to receive 50 000 IU vitamin D supplements (n=30) or receive placebo (n=30) every 2 weeks from 20 to 32 weeks of gestation. Fasting blood samples were taken at baseline study and 12 weeks after the intervention to quantify relevant variables. Newborn’s anthropometric measurements were determined. Pregnant women who received cholecalciferol supplements had significantly increased serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations (+17.92±2.28 vs. +0.27±3.19 ng/ml, p<0.001) compared with the placebo. The administration of cholecalciferol supplements, compared with the placebo, resulted in significant differences in serum insulin concentrations (+1.08±6.80 vs. +9.57±10.32 μIU/ml, p<0.001), homeostasis model of assessment-insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) (+0.19±1.47 vs. +2.10±2.67, p<0.001), homeostatic model assessment-beta cell function (HOMA-B) (+5.82±29.58 vs. +39.81±38.00, p<0.001) and quantitative insulin sensitivity check index (QUICKI) score (-0.009±0.03 vs. -0.04±0.03, p=0.004). Furthermore, cholecalciferol-supplemented pregnant women had increased HDL-cholesterol concentrations (+2.67 ± 8.83 vs. -3.23±7.76 mg/dl, p=0.008) compared with the placebo. Finally, cholecalciferol supplementation led to a significant rise in plasma total antioxidant capacity (TAC) concentrations (+79.00±136.69 vs. -66.91±176.02 mmol/l, p=0.001) compared with the placebo. Totally, the administration of cholecalciferol supplements among pregnant women at risk for pre-eclampsia for 12 weeks had favorable effects on insulin metabolism parameters, serum HDL-cholesterol, and plasma TAC concentrations.

    Be well!

    JP

  9. JP Says:

    Update 06/06/15:

    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0127012

    PLoS One. 2015 May 26;10(5):e0127012.

    Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can diminish fibromyalgia syndrome – prospective clinical trial.

    BACKGROUND: Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a persistent and debilitating disorder estimated to impair the quality of life of 2-4% of the population, with 9:1 female-to-male incidence ratio. FMS is an important representative example of central nervous system sensitization and is associated with abnormal brain activity. Key symptoms include chronic widespread pain, allodynia and diffuse tenderness, along with fatigue and sleep disturbance. The syndrome is still elusive and refractory. The goal of this study was to evaluate the effect of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) on symptoms and brain activity in FMS.

    METHODS AND FINDINGS: A prospective, active control, crossover clinical trial. Patients were randomly assigned to treated and crossover groups: The treated group patients were evaluated at baseline and after HBOT. Patients in the crossover-control group were evaluated three times: baseline, after a control period of no treatment, and after HBOT. Evaluations consisted of physical examination, including tender point count and pain threshold, extensive evaluation of quality of life, and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging for evaluation of brain activity. The HBOT protocol comprised 40 sessions, 5 days/week, 90 minutes, 100% oxygen at 2ATA. Sixty female patients were included, aged 21-67 years and diagnosed with FMS at least 2 years earlier. HBOT in both groups led to significant amelioration of all FMS symptoms, with significant improvement in life quality. Analysis of SPECT imaging revealed rectification of the abnormal brain activity: decrease of the hyperactivity mainly in the posterior region and elevation of the reduced activity mainly in frontal areas. No improvement in any of the parameters was observed following the control period.

    CONCLUSIONS: The study provides evidence that HBOT can improve the symptoms and life quality of FMS patients. Moreover, it shows that HBOT can induce neuroplasticity and significantly rectify abnormal brain activity in pain related areas of FMS patients.

    Be well!

    JP

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