In This Issue
Stomach Ulcers are NOT Caused by Stress
Energy Boosters for the Holidays
The Importance of DHEA
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Stomach Ulcers are NOT Caused by Stress
Stomach ulcers affect 20 million Americans, and even greater numbers suffer from heartburn and other gastrointestinal symptoms. In addition to producing disabling stomach pain, ulcers may cause bleeding or perforation of the stomach wall. Ulcers are responsible for 6,000 deaths and more than 1 million hospitalizations in the US each year.
A revolutionary discovery by Barry J. Marshall and J. Robin Warren so changed our thinking about what causes ulcers that their research was rewarded the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine.
Contrary to popular belief, ulcers are not caused by stress or spicy foods, but rather by stomach infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. This bacterium is the culprit in nearly 80% of stomach ulcers and in more than 90% of ulcers in the duodenum, the first portion of the small intestine.
Most of the remaining ulcers are associated with the widespread use of pain relievers known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs.1 Cells in the stomach lining require chemicals known as prostaglandins to produce a thick coating of gelatinous, mucus.
This mucosal lining acts as a natural defense by keeping acid contained in digestive juices from burning the stomach wall and by preventing harmful bacteria from entering the bloodstream or lymphatic system. NSAIDs block the production of prostaglandins, thus relieving pain and inflammation but also leaving the stomach lining susceptible to ulceration and invasion by H. pylori.
In the Western world, up to half of all people harbor H. pylori in their stomachs, as do even more people in undeveloped countries.2 While infection with H. pylori often causes no symptoms, it can cause gastritis, or chronic inflammation of the lower stomach wall. This in turn results in increased acid production from the non-infected upper stomach, which creates favorable conditions for the erosion or ulceration of the mucosal lining in the stomach or duodenum. About 10-15% of individuals infected with H. pylori will eventually develop peptic ulcer disease.
When the upper region of the stomach is also infected with H. pylori, the resulting inflammation sets the stage for stomach cancer or a specific type of stomach lymphoma. Eradicating H. pylori is therefore important not only to avoid ulcers, but also to lower the risk of developing malignant tumors.3
Since the discovery of how H. pylori affects the stomach, conventional treatment for ulcers and H. pylori infection has focused on:
- antibiotics to eradicate the bacteria,
- medication to suppress acid production in the stomach,
- and an agent to protect the stomach's lining.1
H. pylori is frequently difficult to eradicate, however, even with long-term use of these medications. Further compounding the problem is that H. pylori often develops resistance to antibiotics, thus rendering treatment ineffective.4 As a result, alternative or complementary strategies to support stomach health are sorely needed.
- Danjani EZ, Klamut MJ. Novel therapeutic approaches to gastric and duodenal ulcers: an update. Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2000 Jul;9(7):1537-44
- Available at http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/hpylori/. Accessed September 21, 2006.
- Kusters JG, van Vliet AH, Kuipers EJ. Pathogenesis of Helicobacter pylori infection. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2006 Jul;19(3):449-90.
- Lin YT, Kwon YI, Labbe RG, Shetty K. Inhibition of Helicobacter pylori and associated urease by oregano and cranberry phytochemical synergies. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 Dec;71(12):8558-64
Energy Boosters for the Holidays
Jon Gordon, author of 'Energy Addict: 101 Physical, Mental and Spiritual Ways to Energize your Life' and the '10 Minute Energy Solution' says that three-quarters of the people he meets complain of tiredness during the day. He says that this epidemic of exhaustion is brought about by mental and physical stress, including too much caffeine and sugar as well as too little sleep and exercise.
These are the easy ways he suggests to feel more alert and energetic:
- Stop hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock in the morning.
Your brain goes through periods of light and heavy sleep. Falling back to sleep for just five more minutes can cut short a new sleep cycle, leaving you groggier when you do arise.
Better: Set your clock for when you really have to get up. Open your shades right away, and get as much light as possible-bright light wakes you up and invigorates you. Raise your heartbeat for at least five minutes in the morning by running in place or doing sit-ups, push-ups or jumping jacks.
- Eat a power breakfast.
It will energize you as you start the day. Gordon's favorite power breakfast: Mix low-fat plain yogurt and one-half cup of old-fashioned raw oatmeal when you first get up. He says that the yogurt will soften the oats while you shower and dress. Add a few chopped walnuts, one-half cup of pineapple or one-quarter cup of blueberries.
- Sit up straight.
Bad posture can decrease your oxygen intake, and slouching exhausts your neck, shoulders and upper-back muscles.
Correct posture for sitting: Your back should be aligned against the back of the chair, so that you can work without leaning forward. Your knees should be a bit higher than your hips. Keep both feet flat on the floor and your arms flexed at a 75- to 90-degree angle
- Replace coffee with green tea.
The rich taste of coffee and the mental alertness it imparts make coffee drinking a tough habit to break. But coffee raises stress hormones, and just a few cups a day creates an energy roller coaster that increases overall fatigue. He has found that people who have the most success giving up coffee switch to green tea. It contains one-third the amount of caffeine (20 mg to 25 mg per six-ounce cup), so you get an energy boost without feeling irritable or experiencing a slump later on. Bonus: Green tea is loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants.
If you have no intention of giving up your daily coffee, at least try cutting back to half regular/half decaf.
- Consume protein with meals.
It helps your body absorb sugar at a slower rate, so your energy levels don't fluctuate so much during the day. Examples: Fish, eggs, hummus, skinless poultry breast, lean red meat.
- Go for a 10-minute walk after lunch.
It raises your metabolism and prevents you from falling into the familiar, postmeal "coma." If it's inconvenient to go outside, try chair squats. How to do that: With a chair behind you, stand with y our feet positioned shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight and your chin up. Squat down, and push out your rear as if you were going to sit in the chair behind you. Just as your rear touches the chair, return to your starting position. Repeat 5 to 30 times�or until you feel your muscles have had enough.
- Take a short nap, no more than 25 minutes.
Longer than that and you move into a deeper phase of sleep, which, if interrupted, can leave you groggier than before your nap. The optimal time to take a nap is 8 hours after you wake up.
- Eat an energy snack, such as a banana or a handful of walnuts or almonds.
Select commercial energy drinks and energy bars carefully�they often work by introducing caffeine and/or sugar into your system.
- Try peppermint.
It boosts mood and motivation. Have a cup of peppermint tea, or dab peppermint oil that available at health-food stores, on your wrists.
We tend to hold our breath when we work intensely or are under stress�and this contributes to fatigue.
To practice energy-boosting breathing, Gordon says: "Stand up straight with your arms at your sides. Inhale for two seconds as you raise your arms slowly over your head with your palms open. Continue lifting your arms until they are directly over your head with fingertips touching. Exhale for three seconds as you bring your arms down. Repeat 10 times."
The Importance of DHEA
While pregnenolone is the grandmother of hormones-and the precursor of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) - DHEA is the mother, because it is a precursor for the estrogens and testosterone.
While low levels of DHEA are associated with aging, they also have been linked with various health problems, including but not limited to migraine, chronic inflammation, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, memory and concentration difficulties, osteoporosis, heart disease (in men), increased risk for some cancers, and complications of type II diabetes.
On the positive side, taking DHEA supplements to restore the hormone to youthful levels can help treat many of these same conditions.
One of the main functions of DHEA is to counteract the stress-damaging actions of cortisol. Maintaining an optimal DHEA-to-cortisol ratio is not only a critical key to anti-aging, but also important for achieving hormone balance and eliminating migraine.
Your body's production of DHEA can be reliably identified by measuring the amount of DHEA sulfate (DHEA-S) in a blood sample. The goal of DHEA supplementation is to restore levels to their youthful (age 20-29) range. For men, the optimal range is 500-640 ug/dL; for women, 250-380 ug/dL. The usual daily dose is 50-100 mg taken as an oral supplement.
Because DHEA is a precursor for the estrogens and testosterone, it can have some effect on increasing the levels of these hormones. That is why it is important for women to undergo periodic blood tests to have the levels of these hormones checked.
Did You Know?
- Supplementing with vitamin C helps to control blood pressure in elderly adults with high blood pressure that fails to respond to ordinary treatment (refractory hypertension), according to a new report from Japanese scientists.
For six months, two groups of patients received 600 mg of ascorbic acid per day. Patients in the elderly group (average age of 78) saw marked decreases in systolic blood pressure, while patients in the adult group (average age of 55) saw no effect from supplementation. Markers of oxidative stress, such as C-reactive protein, were also reduced in the elderly group.
- Running backward works the lungs more efficiently than running forward, Dean Karnazes, San Francisco-based ultramarathoner and author of "Ultra-Marathon Man" tells us that it burns more calories and lets bones absorb shock more effectively. Backward running also helps recovery from sprained ankles, pulled hamstrings and other leg and knee injuries, because it puts less impact on joints. Best: Start slowly, until you build confidence.
- Not getting enough sleep affects mental processes as much as not sleeping at all. A recent study by David F. Dinges, PhD, professor of psychology, department of psychiatry, and chief of the division of sleep and chronobiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia shows that the response times and memorization abilities of people who slept six hours or less a night for two weeks were no better than those of people who stayed awake for one to two days. Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
- Bronchitis can't be cured with antibiotics. Recent finding by Paul Little, MD, professor of primary care research, University of Southampton, Highfield, England, and author of a study of 640 bronchitis patients, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association shows that bronchitis sufferers who were otherwise healthy did not get better any faster by taking antibiotics. The possible reason is that most bronchitis infections are caused by viruses, which antibiotics don't fight. Best treatment is to drink lots of fluids, and take pain and fever relievers.
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In Good Health.
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