It’s rare to find someone who is entirely satisfied with how their brain functions. Some people have periodic or persistent episodes of “brain fog”. Others find themselves prone to distraction. Also, complaints about sluggish cognitive processing and memory recall are commonplace in my consulting work. Then, there are those who are relatively pleased with their mental acuity, but would be even happier to have an added edge. In all of these cases and more, certain supplements can make a difference above and beyond the basic measures that most people employ to stay healthy.
Question: I’ve read that an enzyme supplement called catalase helps reverse hair graying. I think this sounds too good to be true. But, I hope I’m wrong! What’s your opinion about these products?
Answer: For starters, let’s briefly review what causes the graying of hair and the potential role of catalase. The loss of melanin, a pigment which colors hair, is partially induced by a build up or overproduction of hydrogen peroxide in hair follicles. Catalase, an antioxidant enzyme produced by the body, helps convert hydrogen peroxide into two, non-bleaching substances – oxygen and water. This is the rationale for some of the supplements you’ve likely seen. However, it should be noted that there are other enzymes (MSR A and B) which also affect melanin production and tend to decline with age. For this reason, L’Oreal, the cosmetic giant, is currently developing a supposedly all-natural supplement which targets yet another hair graying mechanism – tyrosine-related protein TRP-2 production.
Many holistically-minded consumers have heard of and/or tried Maca – a root vegetable belonging to the mustard family which has been used medicinally for thousands of years in the Andean region of South America. In health food stores, you’ll frequently find it in supplements intended to support athletic performance, hormonal regulation and virility. In addition, Maca powder is sometimes featured in juices and smoothie concoctions for added nutrition and unspecified health benefits. In essence, Maca has taken on a similar reputation as ashwagandha or ginseng, as an adaptogen which promotes balance in various systems in the body. However, not all Maca products are created equal.
The number of scientific studies devoted to specific natural remedies and traditional foods is difficult to predict. For instance, it’s possible to have a few to several studies published in one year and then virtually nothing more for another decade. Certainly, this is partially due to economics. Big cash crops and patented products tend to receive more scientific attention because of funding and financial interests. On the other hand, more generic herbs and nutraceuticals often fall into the previously mentioned, erratic pattern of research. Pumpkin seed oil is an example of the latter.
In 1989, a review article in the World Health Forum defined the role of traditional health practices in modern day Morocco. The piece, authored by Dr. Jamal Bellakhdar, noted that, “Traditional medicine is still popular in Morocco since it is an important form of health care for many people”. He goes on say that, “Its positive aspects could be encouraged if it were officially recognized and given a place in the health system.” Now, some twenty-five years later, a slew of scientifically controlled studies have emerged which substantiate several of the historical remedies employed by Arab and Berber healers.
Mrs. Healthy Fellow and I are just back from a five-week trip to London and Marrakech. The next few blogs are inspired by our recent time away from home. First stop: London. Whenever we “cross the pond” to jolly ole England we make it a point to eat some great Indian food. And, that means a visit (or two or three) to Dishoom, a Bombay inspired cafe, and Quilon, a regal dining spot which features south western Indian fare. These two delicious destinations have transformed our concept of what authentic Indian food tastes like. An important part of our personal culinary enlightenment is a newly found appreciation for curry.
A reader asks: You’ve written a lot of blogs about nuts and how healthy you believe they are. I’m not convinced though, because you also frequently mention the importance of keeping an eye on one’s omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. My understanding is that most nuts are top heavy in omega-6 fatty acids and mostly devoid of omega-3s. These two recommendations seem to be at odds. Am I missing something? Bottom line, what’s your current stance on eating nuts and how it relates to the whole omega 6/3 ratio issue?
Imagine walking into a party populated by a large group of relative strangers. As you scan the crowd, you detect certain people who seem to be glaring at you, feigning indifference or whispering disapprovingly. You also notice several friendly folks who nod warmly, smile or wave. After processing this information, feelings begin to form. Those who are prone to anxiety, depression and a host of related psychological conditions tend to magnify the number and/or significance of the negative impressions they perceive. On the other hand, those who have a more upbeat disposition have a “protective bias” against such depressing, distressing thoughts and subsequent feelings. If you happen to fall into the more neurotic camp, Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM) may be invaluable to your sanity and well being. Given enough practice and time, CBM can assist you to see and experience the more positive side of life.
One of the ongoing controversies in the field of integrative medicine is the role of patented nutraceuticals. Conventional minerals and vitamins are sold by many different companies. Often times, there are distinctions in the dosages and forms of the nutrients, but apart from that, they are consistent from brand to brand. However, certain manufacturers develop products that are conceived and tested independently. They’re subsequently patented in order to protect the proprietary end result. The beneficial aspect of this process is that many of these nutraceuticals have been subjected to controlled studies that assess their efficacy and safety. The downside of patented supplements is the price tag, which is almost always significantly costlier than generic counterparts.
The word bitter has become synonymous with negative imagery. “That was a bitter pill to swallow.” “The night manager was bitter and spiteful about the way his supervisor treated him.” “In life you must accept the bitter along with the sweet.” The same is true of modern culinary trends. Recipes often call for the addition of sweet ingredients to temper the natural bitterness of popular foods – think hot cocoa, lattes and green leafy vegetables. But, what’s frequently lost in translation is that the bitter phytochemicals in common foods and herbs sometimes impart medicinal and/or therapeutic activity.
The so-called “common cold” usually comes and goes in an expected, generic manner. You’re congested for a few days, you sneeze and your throat aches for a week tops. In most cases, it’s not a big deal and requires little or no medical intervention. But, for some, a lingering cough can stick around long after the cold exits stage right. There are several reasons why this typically occurs including bacterial infections, chronic irritation of the airways and/or overuse of nasal decongestant sprays – more than three days.
“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year”, Ralph Waldo Emerson. This is a goal I aspire to, but often fall short of reaching. Sometimes I feel down despite the fact that there is so much for which to be grateful. And, judging by the accounts of many clients, colleagues and friends, I’m not alone. Fortunately, there is a growing body of research indicating that natural practices and remedies can help those of us who are inclined to disproportionately experience darker moods.
A few weeks ago, I was listening to Dr. Wayne Dyer’s popular podcast on Hayhouse Radio. For the most part, Dr. Dyer’s programs feature content relating to psychological and spiritual matters. However, from time to time, he shares insights into his personal health care journey. On this particular occasion he revealed that he was enthusiastic about a time honored, natural therapy which supposedly cleanses and detoxifies the liver – coffee enemas. This is by no means a new concept in the field of holistic healing. That said, it has remained quite popular throughout the past several decades much to the scorn of the conventional medical establishment.
When consulting with clients, I frequently suggest adopting a low carbohydrate or, at least, low glycemic diet. Based on my experience and research, this way of eating tends to improve a wide array of health conditions ranging from metabolic syndrome to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). However, the key to the success of any dietary change is consistency. And, in order for that to occur, a variety of appealing recipes needs to be on hand.
Recently, a client inquired about the use of DHEA supplements as a means of counteracting male aging. Before I address that specific question, here’s a brief primer on DHEA. Dehydroepidandrosterone (DHEA) is an adrenal hormone which is considered “a reliable endocrine marker of aging because in humans and nonhumnan primates its circulating concentrations are very high during young adulthood, and the concentrations then decline markedly during aging”. This is of consequence because circulating DHEA is documented as having anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, cardioprotective and immune enhancing activity. However, controlled studies evaluating the efficacy and safety of DHEA supplementation have demonstrated inconsistent and mixed results. This begs the question: Is there a good reason to attempt to manipulate the predictable decline in DHEA in aging men?
Arguably, the reputation of cocoa (Theobroma cacao) is at its high point in history, that is, at least from a health perspective. These days, it’s not uncommon to hear esteemed doctors and nutritionists recommend a daily serving of dark chocolate as part of a comprehensive, health promoting diet and lifestyle. And, because of this positive word of mouth, you can now find the largest selection of high quality, organic cocoa products in modern times. But, up until now, the health benefits attributed to dark chocolate consumption and/or supplementation have primarily focused on the inner workings of the body – i.e. cardiovascular health, cognitive function, diabetes and oxidative balance.