Several Shitake Mushroom Benefits

What are the health benefits of shitake mushrooms?

Should you try to eat more?

What if I don’t like to eat mushrooms?

 

Shitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) are native to East Asia and are the second most popular mushroom consumed today. Shitakes have been a staple in Asian cuisine for centuries. These mushrooms have a meaty texture and are an excellent addition to salads and soups. 

They also provide a great meat substitute.

Shitakes are tan to dark brown and typically grow on decaying hardwood trees in warm, moist climates. Japan produces about 83% of the shitake mushrooms available worldwide, and 60% of all shitakes are dried before consumption.1

These mushrooms not only provide many vitamins but also are thought to possess other medicinal properties. This post will explore some of the many benefits of this delicious mushroom.

Shitake Mushroom Nutritional Facts

Before exploring the medicinal benefits of the shitake mushroom, lets take a look at the nutritional value of this mushroom.2

The information below represents the nutritional value of one cup (145 g) of shitake mushrooms:

  • Calories 81.2 kcal
  • Protein 2.26 g
  • Fat 0.319 g
  • Carbohydrate 20.9 g
  • Fiber 3.04 g
  • Sugars 5.57 g

These mushrooms also contain many vitamins and minerals.

Medicinal Qualities of Shitake Mushrooms

Natural products, or nutraceuticals, are very important in developing and discovering new pharmaceuticals used in the treatment of chronic diseases such as cancer.3

Polysaccharides present in mushrooms are thought to have antitumor and immune system activation properties.4

Shitake mushrooms contain polysaccharides, lipids, sterols, and terpenoids, which may effectively treat various tumors and infections.5

Antioxidant Effects of Shitake Mushrooms

As we age, our bodies are less efficient at preventing the damage caused by oxidative stress.6

Nutraceuticals, such as shitake mushrooms, can be used to help reduce the oxidation caused by free radical species.7

One study published in 2013 found aqueous extracts of L. edodes demonstrated catalase-like activity leading to the conclusion that shitake mushroom extracts may be a potential source of antioxidants.8

This is important because oxidative stress is known to contribute to over 200 diseases.

Antiviral and Antibacterial Activity of Shitake Mushrooms

With all that is happening in the world today regarding COVID-19, it isn’t surprising to learn that many people are searching for antiviral nutraceuticals. Shitake mushroom extract has been shown to inhibit viral replication in poliovirus and bovine herpesvirus in a concentration-dependent manner.9

These mushrooms have antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.10

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Mushrooms contain Beta-glucans, which are polysaccharides that stimulate the immune system. This leads to the ability to help fight bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungus. These molecules are necessary for the mushroom’s survival.

Shitake Mushrooms Contain Vitamin D

Did you know that mushrooms are the only natural plants that contain vitamin D?

It is well-known that this vitamin is crucial for healthy bones and teeth.

The concentration of vitamin D found in mushrooms is dependent on their exposure to Ultraviolet light and how they are grown.

A study performed on mice found that those fed UV-enhanced shitake mushrooms had a higher bone density than a group provided a low-calcium, low-vitamin-D diet.12

Shitake Mushrooms May Help Fight Some Types of Cancer

A cohort study of 36,499 Japanese men found an inverse relationship between mushroom consumption and prostate cancer incidence.13

One polysaccharide, lentinan, assists in fighting tumors as a result of immune system activation.14

 

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Shitake mushroom extract has also been shown to decrease the proliferation of leukemia cells significantly.16

Mycologists strongly believe that the compounds found in mushrooms can suppress many forms of cancers at several stages.

Many plant and fungal species have been used as food and medicine in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. These products have shown the ability to promote good health and may even prevent or treat many diseases.


Mushrooms are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that can positively affect our bodies. Mushroom supplements have recently gained popularity in the United States for people who desire mushrooms’ health benefits but do not enjoy them as a food source. These supplements also allow one to consume mushrooms in a concentrated form.

As with most nutraceuticals, more clinical studies are needed to determine the many uses for mushrooms, such as shitakes.
The benefits of consuming these appear to outweigh any risks.

As always, if you have any questions regarding this post or any other, please send me an email. I attempt to answer all emails I receive.

Have a great week, and stay safe out there.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Krill Oil vs Fish Oil: What is the Difference?

Are krill oil and fish oil the same?

Which one should you take?

What are the benefits of these supplements?

I receive a lot of questions regarding the differences between krill oil and fish oil.  I decided to answer this question and explore the benefits of these supplements.  Let’s start with the basics.

The traditional fish oil supplements are derived from fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies, tuna, herring, sardines, and mackerel.  Fish oil is one of the most popular dietary supplements consumed world-wide.

Krill oil comes from Antarctic krill, which are tiny crustaceans.  Krill is consumed by other sea animals such as penguins, whales, seals, and birds.

Krill Oil and Fish Oil Both Contain Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for proper brain and nerve function.  They are an essential component of the membrane that surrounds each of our cells.  Omega-3’s are known as essential fatty acids because they must be obtained from food sources as our bodies cannot produce them.1

 Krill oil and fish oil both contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  These are omega-3 fatty acids that have the ability to improve brain health and heart health.   The difference is how fatty acids are stored.  It appears that krill oil stores omega-3’s as phospholipids, whereas fish oil stores them as fatty acids.

This may be an important factor in how our body utilizes them.  There have been some small studies comparing Fish oil and krill oil.  One study published in 2015 found a higher plasma concentration of EPA and DHA in subjects receiving krill oil compared to those who ingested fish oil supplements.2

Omega-3 supplements have the following benefits:

  • Decreasing high triglyceride levels – When your triglyceride levels are too high, the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease increases.
  • Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis – Some evidence suggests Omega-3 fatty acids may help with the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. One study published in 2017 concluded that “higher intake of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids during the year preceding disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs may be associated with better treatment results in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis.”3

Krill Oil Contains Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is a carotenoid pigment that has many health benefits of its own. This substance gives krill oil its reddish color and is not found in most fish oil supplements.

Astaxanthin acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and may promote cardiac health.4

Krill Oil May Be More Effective in Treating Hyperlipidemia

A multi-center randomized, controlled study found krill oil to be significantly more effective than fish oil in reducing glucose, triglyceride, and LDL levels.5 

Krill oil was also able to significantly lower total cholesterol and increase HDL levels in this study.  

Other Sources of Omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids naturally occur in some foods and are artificially added to others.  Some examples include:6

  • Fish and seafood (especially salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, and tuna).
  • Plant oils (flaxseed, soybean, and canola).
  • Nuts and seeds (Chia seeds, walnuts, flaxseed).
  • Fortified foods (some eggs, yogurt, milk, juice, and soy beverages).

Other sources include cod liver oil and algal oil.  Algal oil is derived from algae and is a great choice for vegans and vegetarians.

Is Fish Oil Easier to Obtain?

Fish oil supplements can be found in most grocery stores.  Krill oil is becoming more popular, and with the ability to order supplements over the internet, it is certainly not difficult to obtain.  Fish oil may be cheaper than krill oil, but our omega-3 and krill oil supplements are similarly priced. 

Side Effects of Krill Oil and Fish Oil

The side effects of krill oil and fish oil are similar and very mild.  These include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach and heartburn
  • Bad breath
  • Fishy smelling sweat
  • Acne and oily skin
  • Nausea
  • Flatulence
  • Fishy burps

Drug Interactions

Both fish oil supplements and krill oil can interact with the following drugs:7

  • Anticoagulants and Antiplatelet drugs – Bleeding risk may increase.
  • Antidiabetic drugs – Hypoglycemia risk may increase.
  • Orlistat – May decrease the absorption of krill oil or fish oil.

Should You Take Krill Oil or Fish Oil?

Although the evidence isn’t substantial, I prefer krill oil.  My reason for this is that it may be more bioavailable and has the additional benefit of containing an antioxidant.  Krill oil is not hard to find, and it doesn’t cost that much more to obtain.  Krill oil also doesn’t have the fish odor associated with fish oil supplements. 

It is crucial to ingest essential fatty acids for the proper functioning of the body.  These molecules are important for our cell membranes and  proper brain and nerve function.  Always remember that getting these fatty acids from your diet is a better choice than taking supplements.  The healthiest way to live is to eat a well-balanced diet utilizing mostly whole foods, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, and get an adequate amount of sleep.

If you don’t believe you are getting enough essential fatty acids, then take a supplement.  I prefer krill oil for the reasons stated above, but fish oil is also a good choice.  Be sure to talk to your physician or pharmacist if you are allergic to shellfish before taking krill oil.  If you use blood-thinning medications, always check with your physician or pharmacist prior to taking any supplement. 

I am always happy to answer questions regarding drugs or supplements.  Send me an email, and don’t forget to sign up for our monthly newsletter below.  You will receive company news and coupon codes for savings on all of our products.

Have a great week, and be happy and healthy.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Some Great Bacopa Benefits

What are the benefits of this herb?

Are there side effects?

What can Bacopa do for you?

Bacopa monnieri is a plant that grows in tropical, moist environments in India, Africa, Australia, Europe, and North and South America. This herb has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine that originated in India and is one of the oldest medical systems in the world. 

Bacopa is best known for its use as a neural tonic and memory enhancer.  It has been used for centuries by the Hindus in rituals involving new-born babies in the belief that it will open gateways to knowledge.  This herb is also thought to have been used by ancient Vedic scholars to memorize extensive hymns and scriptures.

Besides its use as a nootropic, Bacopa has shown promise in attenuating dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy.1

Cognitive Enhancement With Bacopa

Enhancing cognitive function often comes with unwanted side effects.  These can be psychological or the result of toxicity.2

 

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5

Bacopa contains saponins, which are nootropic phytochemicals that produce only minimal adverse effects when consumed in standard dosages.  These chemicals:

  • Possess Antioxidant activity.6
  • May protect the liver.7
  • Possess neuroprotective activity.8

 

I have a particular interest in cognition because I work on a senior psychiatric unit where a large number of patients have some form of dementia. 

Bacopa helps repair damaged neurons, restores synaptic activity, assists with neuronal synthesis, and improves brain function. 

The primary molecular mechanism is achieved by promoting neuronal communication.  This is accomplished by increasing the growth of nerve endings called dendrites.9

 

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Bacopa has been shown to improve delayed recall memory and Stroop task reaction times.12

Antioxidant Effects of Bacopa

The detrimental effects of free radical cell damage are well known.  This damage is linked to many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.13

The human body has both enzymatic and non-enzymatic free radical scavenger mechanisms to help cells fight oxidative stress. 

Superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and glutathione reductase are the first line of defense.  The non-enzyme scavengers are vitamin A,C, and E, coenzyme Q10, glutathione, and selenium. 

When an imbalance occurs, as shown in the figure below, free radical damage can lead to aging and cognitive decline.14

Figure 1.15

Bacopa contains powerful antioxidants.16

An extract of Bacopa monnieri was shown to increase the activity of SOD, CAT, and glutathione peroxidase in the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and striatum of rats.17

This antioxidant effect has been shown to reverse memory impairment produced in rats using colchicine by attenuating oxidative damage.  This study suggests there may be potential in using Bacopa in the treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia in the future.18

Bacopa and ADHD

A study published in 2014 found a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract significantly reduced all ADHD symptom scores except those relating to social problems.19

Here are the results obtained from this study:

  • Symptom scores for restlessness decreased in 93% of children.
  • Improvement in self-control occurred in 89% of children.
  • ADHD symptoms were reduced in 85% of children.
  • Learning problems were reduced in 78% of children.
  • Impulsivity was reduced in 67% of children.
  • Psychiatric problems were reduced in 52% of children.

The study concluded that B. monnierei was effective in relieving the symptoms of ADHD and was well tolerated.

Other Medical Uses of Bacopa

There are many other possible medical uses of Bacopa.  Some of these include:

  • Anxiety
  • Epilepsy
  • Depression
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Analgesic
  • Anti-microbial
  • H-Pylori and ulcers
  • Stimulation of the immune system
  • Adaptogenic
  • Anti-neoplastic

More studies need to be conducted in order to discover the many benefits of this herb.

Side Effects of Bacopa

Adverse effects reported in clinical trials include:20

  • Increased stool frequency (30%)
  • Nausea (18%)
  • Abdominal cramps (16%)

Less common effects include:21

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  • Bloating
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Flatulence
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Palpitations
  • Vivid dreams

Protandim NRF2 Synergizer

Bacopa monnieri is a fantastic substance capable of many positive medicinal effects.  As with other nootropics, when stacked with other nootropic agents, synergy is possible.  The right herbs combined in the correct ratios can lead to excellent results. 

LifeVantage has developed the ProtandimTM series to improve the health of its customers around the world.  I am proud to be involved with this company.  I believe these products are the best available today, and I take them daily.

Bacopa monnieri has been used in ancient medicine for thousands of years. 

It is a popular addition to nootropic stacks and is one of the five ingredients present in ProtandimTM  NRF-2 Synergizer. 

I take all three ProtandimTM Products daily, along with AXIOTM Energy.  I was so impressed with these products that I signed up as a distributor.  I wanted to be able to offer these cutting-edge products to my Sunshine Nutraceutical’s customers.

It is critical to realize that these herbal supplements can be much more effective when combined with other substances in the proper ratios.  The ProtandimTM series is able to activate the body’s natural pathways in order to achieve superior results.

Click on the banner below to read more about these innovative products.

Finally, if you are the entrepreneurial type and want to build a lucrative business for you and your family, send me an email.  I can help you get started. 

This is one of the most positive life decisions I have made.  A chance to build a business where you learn personal growth skills while helping others become healthy is fulfilling.

If you have any questions about this post or any medication or natural supplement, please feel free to reach out.  I attempt to answer every email I receive. 

Have a great week! 

Be happy and healthy, and stay safe!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Kratom Euphoria and Other Properties

Kratom is derived from an evergreen tree in the coffee family that is native to Southeast Asia. 

This tree’s leaves are often chewed and used as a stimulant for workers in the tree’s native country. 

They may also be brewed into a tea and used as a sedative and analgesic.1

 

The different effects of Kratom depend on the dose ingested. The low doses obtained from chewing on the leaves cause stimulation, including increased alertness, talkativeness, and physical energy. At higher doses, obtained from drinking Kratom tea, sedation occurs.2

 

Although Kratom is prohibited in Malaysia due to the Poisons Act of 1952, it is still widely used because it grows natively, and teas are readily available locally.3

Kratom Survey 2016

Kratom has gained popularity in the United States in recent years. An anonymous online survey conducted in October of 2016 attempted to answer several questions regarding its use. The survey was sent to 10,000 current Kratom users, and 8049 replied. Here are some of the findings.4

Most Kratom users are 31-50 years old.

They use Kratom for the following reasons:

  • Treatment of pain (68%)
  • Emotional or mental conditions (66%)
  • Treatment of withdrawal symptoms associated with prescription opiate use.

Most side effects involve nausea or constipation.

Mechanism of Action

The active chemicals present in Kratom are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. These alkaloids are thought to work on opioid receptors as partial agonists.5

 

These actions are too complex to discuss here, but it appears that these compounds can provide opiate effects with less respiratory depression.6

 

Opiates are the main medications used to treat severe pain. Opiates also cause many adverse effects, such as respiratory depression, constipation, drowsiness, and dizziness.

 

The alkaloids found in Kratom may prove to be very beneficial as pain medications because respiratory depression is dangerous, and can cause death in opiate overdose.

Kratom Euphoria

The primary purpose of this post is to describe the euphoric effects of Kratom. Knowing that the alkaloids in this plant interact with opiate receptors, it is not surprising that euphoria can occur. The effects of Kratom can vary between individuals, but some of the euphoric effects I could locate include.

 

 The kratom user’s guide. Sage Wisdom Web site. http://www.sagewisdom.org/kratomguide.html. Accessed August 27, 2020.

  • A general feeling of comfortable pleasure.
  • Less sensitive to physical and emotional pain.
  • May experience pleasant daydreams.
  • Increased appreciation of music.

It should be noted that the above experiences were described by those who had Kratom products for sale. I have no personal experience with this substance, so I am unable to confirm such effects.

Side Effects of Kratom

Kratom can cause several adverse effects. When used in doses up to 5 grams, Kratom may cause:7

  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Increased urination
  • Dizziness

At higher doses, 8 grams or more, one may experience:8

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Constipation
  • Sedation
  • Fluctuations in blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth

There have also been case reports of other serious side effects of Kratom. One of the most concerning is liver damage. One case report involved a 25-year-old man who ingested between one to six teaspoons of Kratom powder daily for two weeks. This patient developed intense abdominal pain, brown urine, itching, and profound jaundice.9

There have been reports of withdrawal symptoms occurring after the habitual use of Kratom.10

Kratom has also been implicated in at least 91 drug-related deaths.11

 

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It is important to note that multiple drug exposures were present in most of these cases.

Kratom Drug Interactions

CNS Depressants – Combining Kratom with other CNS depressants may lead to fatal respiratory depression. Fatalities have been reported in patients who have ingested Kratom along with the mu-receptor agonist O-desmethyltramadol.14

 

Drugs that are metabolized by cytochrome P450 enzymes – Many medications are metabolized in the liver through the cytochrome P450 enzyme system. Kratom has been shown to inhibit this process.15

 

  The combination of Kratom with C-450 substrates may increase blood levels and lead to toxic effects. There are too many affected medications to list here, but they can be found at the TRC natural medicines databaseTM.

16

 

Modafanil (ProvigilTM) – When Kratom is ingested along with modafinil, the risk of seizures may increase.17

 

Quetiapine (SeroquelTM) – The combination of Kratom and quetiapine may lead to increased quetiapine plasma levels. This is also due to C-P450 enzyme inhibition. A 27-year-old male was found deceased due to this combination.18

 

Kratom has been used in Southeast Asia for hundreds of years.19

 

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It has gained popularity here in the USA and is widely available in smoke shops and through the internet.  

 

I believe that Kratom’s alkaloids may lead to alternative medications to treat pain in the future. The fact that these substances can treat pain and cause less respiratory depression is promising.  

 

After researching Kratom, I cannot recommend its use. 

Although it may be beneficial for those suffering from opiate withdrawal, the adverse effects can be severe. 

 

It also seems to be another substance used to “get high.” Using substances to achieve a euphoric effect is never a good idea.  

 

Another issue with Kratom is that it is often mixed with other mind-altering substances or medications. This can lead to toxic blood levels. There are several case reports involving Kratom, causing death and liver damage when combined with other substances.

 

If you have any questions regarding Kratom or any other medication or natural product, please contact me. I hope you all have a great week and please stay safe out there!

 

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Some Remarkable Over The Counter Antivirals

The threat of COVID-19 has prompted a lot of questions regarding over the counter antiviral remedies. I thought I would discuss a few herbs that are thought to possess activity against viruses in general. We do not have specific information regarding COVID-19 because it is too new.  

Presently, the only known weapons we have against the spread of COVID-19 are handwashing, social distancing, and wearing masks. 

Until a vaccine is available, our options are limited. I take dietary supplements for several reasons. Some of these may help decrease my risk of contracting this virus. 

I believe benefit far outweighs the risk in this situation.

I have written about many of these herbs in the past. For more information, click the highlighted link to visit the corresponding blog post.

Green Tea

Green tea (Camelia sinensis) consumption can have significant positive effects on human health.1

Green tea contains catechins, which are polyphenolic compounds. These substances, especially epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), have shown broad antiviral effects.2

Green tea extract has the potential to cause liver toxicity. Products that contain the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) verification stamp must be labeled with the following:

Due to the potential risk for hepatotoxicity with green tea extracts, products that carry the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) verification stamp must include the following text on the label: “Do not take on an empty stomach. Take with food. Do not use if you have a liver problem and discontinue use and consult a healthcare practitioner if you develop symptoms of liver trouble, such as abdominal pain, dark urine, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)”3

Ascorbic Acid ( Vitamin C)

Studies have shown that patients with acute infections have low circulating ascorbic acid levels.4

 

5

We also know that vitamin C modulates interferons and cytokines in patients with viral infections.6

Ascorbic acid has also been shown to reduce neuralgia pain associated with the herpes virus.7

There have also been instances where influenza A patients with life-threatening respiratory failure have rapidly improved after receiving ascorbic acid and thiamine.8

Elderberry

Elderberry is a dark purple berry that grows on the European elder tree. There is evidence that elderberry fruit extract taken four times daily can reduce the symptoms and duration of influenza infection if started within 48 hours of symptoms. This extract can reduce the duration of symptoms by 56% on average.9

Another study found that lozenges containing elderberries taken four times daily within 24 hours of influenza onset improved flu-like symptoms compared with placebo 10

Zinc

Zinc is the second most abundant trace element in the human body. This element is essential for growth, development, DNA synthesis, and RNA transcription.11

A review article published in 2019 concluded that zinc can stimulate the body’s viral response.12

In vitro studies have also shown zinc may possess antiviral effects. This paper also stated that zinc treatment at therapeutic doses can drastically improve the clearance of acute and chronic viral infections.13

We know that Zinc lozenges can decrease the duration of the common cold by up to 40%.14

Quercetin

Quercetin is a common flavonoid found in many Chinese herbs and fruits, vegetables, and red wine.  

Quercetin has been shown to possess anti-influenza activity. This is likely due to its ability to inhibit the entry of the virus into the cell.15

This substance has also exhibited the ability to inhibit virus replication in the initial stages of influenza infections.16

Echinacea

Echinacea is the name given to some flowering plants in the daisy family. This plant has been used for centuries by Native Americans to treat many illnesses. 

Currently, Echinacea is used primarily as an herbal remedy in the treatment of the common cold and flu.

 Echinacea extracts have shown antiviral activity against several different viruses.17

 

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There are also studies claiming Echinacea is an efficacious immunomodulator. There is still insufficient evidence available to make therapeutic recommendations for specific disease states.20

We all want to protect ourselves from infection. 

It is much easier to prevent an illness than to treat it. There are some simple steps we can take to stay healthy.

  • Eat whole foods.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Avoid bad habits.
  • Get enough sleep.

I also believe herbal products can help us stay healthy. One of the biggest causes of sickness is oxidative stress. Our cells are bombarded with free radicals daily. 

Just breathing the air can introduce toxins into the body.  

In addition to my products, I take ProtandimTM Tri-Synergizer daily. This not only helps protect my cells from free radical damage but also makes me feel better and improves my energy level. I strongly recommend giving this supplement a try.

With COVID-19 comes uncertainty and fear. Besides staying as healthy as possible, we should also wash our hands often, wear masks when near others, and practice social distancing. Although the products mentioned in this post are not proven to treat, prevent, or cure COVID-19, some have good evidence against other viruses. I think the benefits of taking them far outweigh the risks.

Nutraceuticals have been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Large, randomized-controlled studies are not always available to support these agents due to prohibitive costs. This does not mean they are ineffective. It usually means there is not enough profit to be made from them to justify the high costs of the studies.

If you have any questions regarding this post or about medications or nutraceuticals, please send me a message. I would also like to invite you to join our email list to receive our monthly newsletter. Our newsletter will keep you up to date on new products, our influencers, and sales.

Until next week, stay happy, healthy, and safe!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

6 Surprising Health Benefits of Yerba Mate

What are the benefits of Yerba Mate?

Are there any side effects?

Yerba mate is derived from the leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis tree. This is a broadleaf evergreen tree that can reach up to 50 feet in height. This tree is native to Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and parts of Paraguay. The leaves are known as “herb” or “yerba” in Spanish.  

The leaves are commercially harvested and contain caffeine, theobromine, and other useful compounds. 

An infusion, or mate, is prepared by steeping the dry leaves and twigs of the tree. This is where the name Yerba mate originates.

This product is consumed by over 1 million people worldwide.1

Yerba mate has become a popular ingredient in teas and energy drinks here in the United States. 

Health Benefits of Yerba Mate

There are many possible health benefits of yerba mate. I have recently started to enjoy this myself. It is just one of the many new herbal products I have added to my diet. 

Here is what I have learned about this tea.

Antioxidant Properties

There are several compounds contained in yerba mate that can act as free radical scavengers. A study published in Mutagenesis in July of 2008, concluded that mate tea might protect against DNA damage and improve DNA repair.2

It is well known that oxidative stress contributes to many disease processes.   

 

 

Diabetes

Yerba mate has been shown to improve serum glucose levels and decrease fat accumulation in diabetic rats.3 

Other rodent studies have shown long-term supplementation with Yerba mate may also improve hepatic steatosis, insulin resistance, and dyslipidemia.4

Heart Disease

The antioxidant compounds present in YM may lower the risk of heart disease. Yerba mate has demonstrated the ability to decrease the size of atherosclerotic lesions in animal models.5

Atherosclerosis or “hardening of the arteries” results in restrictive blood flow caused by a buildup of fats, cholesterol, and other substances. These buildups, or “plaques,” can also dislodge, forming a blood clot that may lead to a stroke or pulmonary embolus.  

Yerba Mate as a Weight Loss Supplement

Obesity leads to increased morbidity and mortality. The accumulation of visceral fat predisposes people to diseases such as atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes.6

Mice fed a high-fat diet are excellent models to study obesity.7

Yerba mate has been shown to have positive effects on weight loss. Mice models have demonstrated that mate affects food intake, increases energy expenditures, and leads to a higher basal metabolism.8

This study showed mice fed a high-fat diet (HFD) that received Yerba mate had decreased food and water intake. 

Although the body weight in the HFD group increased, the weight gain in the Yerba mate treated group was significantly less than that of the HFD group who didn’t receive the mate.

It should also be noted that Yerba mate appears to have fewer adverse side effects than other natural weight loss supplements.9

Studies using different human groups have found positive effects of satiety and metabolism.10

Antibacterial Activity

An article published in 2018 found that the aqueous extracts of the stems and leaves of Ilex paraguariensis possess significant antibacterial activity. I found it fascinating because bacterial strains resistant to the antibiotics we typically use were not immune to the Yerba mate.11

This finding could lead to more effective antibiotics in the future. Bacterial resistance is a significant problem in healthcare today, so newer antibiotics with less resistance could save many lives.

Yerba Mate as a Performance Enhancer

A study performed on well-trained cyclists found Yerba mate increased fat oxidation at low-exercise intensities and improved performance in short time trials.12

Another study found YM ingestion reduced carbohydrate reliance during exercise and augmented fatty acid oxidation. 

This was true over a wide range of exercise intensities.13

The investigators concluded that the acute ingestion of YM before exercise increased fat metabolism during light and moderate exercise. No adverse effects on maximal performance were noted.

Adverse Effects of Yerba Mate

All medicinal products have precautions, warnings, and side effects associated with them. I generally use the natural medicines database by trc to research the adverse effects of the various nutraceuticals I study.

Yerba mate may increase the risk of various cancers when used in high doses or over a long period.

The other adverse effects are primarily the result of caffeine. Some of these effects include:

  • Hypertension
  • Tachycardia
  • Chest pain
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Gastric irritation
  • Osteoporosis
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Depressed mood

 

 

I have recently started to enjoy Yerba mate. I only drink this occasionally but wanted to research its benefits. I was surprised to find it had promising antibacterial properties. It may also decrease plaque buildup in blood vessels reducing heart attack risk.

Athletes may benefit from its effect on fatty acid oxidation, improving athletic performance, and we all may benefit from its weight loss effects.

Diabetic patients may benefit from its effect on blood glucose levels but must be careful as many YM products contain added sugar.

According to the natural medicines database, this “tea” received a rating of “possibly safe” when used orally and appropriately over a short period.

As with anything, moderation is key. Consuming large doses of YM or long term exposure may increase cancer risk. To be honest, I believe it would be difficult to consume these quantities.

Most of the other adverse effects come from the caffeine content. If you have difficulty with coffee, this may not be the drink for you.

I have not experienced any side effects from Yerba mate. I enjoy the taste and find it very refreshing.

If you have any questions regarding this blog post, or anything related to medications or natural products, please send me an email. I am happy to get an answer for you,

Until next week, be happy, be healthy, and stay safe!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Oxidative Stress Reduction Using an Nrf2 Activator Supplement

Oxidative stress is something that we all are exposed to on a daily basis.

  • What causes oxidative stress?
  • Why should I care?
  • How can I help reduce oxidative stress?

Oxidative stress happens when free radical species, also known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) and anti-oxidants, become out of balance within the cells of our body. The ROS’s contain an uneven number of electrons that cause them to react with other molecules. This may lead to chemical reactions leading to oxidation.

We are constantly bombarded with free-radical sources in our environment. Some we can eliminate, but others are part of everyday life. Here are some examples:

  • Ozone
  • Pollution
  • Radiation
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Some pesticides and cleaning agents
  • A poor diet

Remember the last time you cut up an apple. If you leave the apple segments on the cutting board, they will turn brown. This is an example of oxidation. If you soak the apple slices in lemon-lime soda for 10-15 minutes, they will remain their original color. 

Why is this?  

Carbonated drinks contain citric acid, which is an anti-oxidant. Anti-oxidants inhibit oxidative reactions.

What does this have to do with our health? 

Too many free radicals start to cause damage to DNA, proteins, and fatty tissues within the body. This damage is believed to be responsible, in varying degrees, for the onset and progression of many diseases. See the diagram below.

The Nrf2 Pathway

Nrf2 (nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2) is a key modulator of the primary defense mechanism of mammalian cells. 

The primary function of Nrf2 is to activate the anti-oxidant response. This, in turn, fights the harmful effects caused by oxidative stress.1

It is beyond the scope of this article to explain this complex pathway. I have included a diagram obtained from “Frontiers in Pharmacology” for illustrative purposes.

Figure 1. Schematic representation of Nrf2 signaling in homeostasis and a deregulated environment. (A) Oxidative molecules (e.g., ROS and RNS) produced by cellular respiration or neurotransmission activate the protective anti-oxidant pathway by dissociation of the Nrf2/KEAP1 complex. When dissociated from the cytosolic protein KEAP1, Nrf2 translocates to the cell nucleus, triggering the expression of several homeostatic genes with the ARE sequence in their promoters, including GPx, SOD, HO-1, GST, and CAT. When inactivated, Nrf2 is sequestered by KEAP1 and targeted for ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. (B) Altered homeostasis promotes excessive ROS/RNS production that can activate glial cells (astrocytes and microglia) that release proinflammatory and danger molecules patterns, which disrupts neuronal communication and the nature of glial activities. Green arrows represent activation and truncated red lines, inhibition (abbreviations: ACh, acetylcoline; DA, dopamine; CAT, catalase; Glu, glutamate; GPx, Glutathione Peroxidase; GST, glutathione S-transferase; HO-1, heme oxigenase 1; RNS, reactive nitrogen species; ROS, reactive oxygen species; SOD, superoxide dismutase; Ub, ubiquitin; ATP, adenosine triphosphate).2

Anti-Oxidants from Food Consumption

It is well known that many foods contain varying levels of anti-oxidants. Many studies have found blueberries contain the highest amount of anti-oxidants of all fruits and vegetables.3

Other foods that are high in anti-oxidants include:

  • Strawberries
  • Artichokes
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Goji Berries
  • Kale
  • Raspberries
  • Spinach
  • Beets
  • Beans
  • Red Cabbage
  • Pecans

 

Eating these foods on a regular basis can help protect your body from free radical damage. As stated in previous posts, I recommend eating whole foods whenever possible and avoid fast food and processed foods that contain unhealthy chemicals. Unfortunately, these foods do not provide enough anti-oxidants to keep up with the free radical onslaught experienced by our bodies as we age.  

Activating the Nrf2 Pathway

It is not surprising that several companies have attempted to create a product capable of activating the Nrf-2 pathway. 

The product ProtandimTM, by LifeVantageTM, has been extensively studied. This product has been shown to provide a synergistic interaction with the Nrf2 pathway. Each ingredient of ProtandimTM has anti-oxidant properties, but when combined, the effect is much more pronounced.4

Think of ProtandimTM as a nutritional product capable of activating your body to be more efficient at neutralizing free radicals. 

Our body becomes less able to fight oxidative stress as we age. This product has the following benefits.

  • Reduces oxidative stress by an average of 40% in thirty days.
  • Helps to regulate survival genes.
  • Produces enzymes capable of neutralizing more than one million free radicals.
  • Supports the body’s natural ability to repair and rejuvenate its own cells.
  • Helps the body detoxify genes.

ProtandimTM stimulates proteins, causing our bodies to produce protective anti-oxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), heme oxygenase (HO), and glutathione peroxidase and catalase.

Although many studies have been conducted using ProtandimTM, this product is classified as a nutritional supplement and not a drug.  Therefore, ProtandimTM has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

I have been interested in bio-hacking for many years.

The research I have done regarding anti-oxidants has helped determine which products will be offered by Sunshine Nutraceuticals. I have always been open to offering products made by other companies as long as they are safe to consume.

When I learned about ProtandimTM and read the studies, I felt the need to educate as many people as possible. I joined LifeVantageTM as a distributor and only wish I would have learned about this product earlier.

I believe this is a medical breakthrough that many have never heard of. 

Sunshine Nutraceuticals has been an incredible journey that has improved my health and knowledge. We never know what tomorrow will bring. My hope is that you will learn as much as you can about ways to improve your health and happiness.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me. If you would like to join LifeVantageTM as a distributor, I can help with that as well. Simply send me an email.

 

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Alternatives to ADHD Meds – Dietary Supplements

Are you looking for alternatives to traditional stimulant medications to treat your child’s ADHD?

Is there a more natural way to treat ADHD?

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopment disorder that is associated with the following symptoms. There are two broad groups.

Inattention that negatively impacts social, occupational, and or academic functioning.

Symptoms in this category include:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Distractibility
  • Inability to listen
  • Frequently loses items
  • Trouble organizing
  • Difficulty in maintaining attention
  • Not able to follow instructions or finish tasks
  • Avoids activities that require attention
  • Fails to focus on details or makes careless mistakes on schoolwork

Hyperactivity and impulsivity

symptoms include:

  • Excessive talking
  • Impulsive (doesn’t wait turn and blurts out answers)
  • Runs and climbs when not appropriate to do so
  • Cannot remain seated
  • Fidgets or squirms in seat
  • Constantly on the go
  • Unable to engage in quiet activities

ADHD was estimated to affect 9.4% of children in the US, according to a national parent survey in 2016. 

Of these children, 77% were receiving treatment. This treatment was as follows:

  • 30% treated with medication alone.
  • 15% received only behavioral treatment.
  • 32% received both medication and behavioral treatment.

NSCH 2016: Redesigned as an online and mail survey, estimate includes children 2-17 years of age. 1

Is there a reasonable alternative to stimulants for these children?

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs)

Omega-3 fatty acids must be obtained through our diet. The following foods are high in this substance:

  • Fish (salmon, trout, sardines, halibut, herring, albacore tuna)
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Canola oil

Other foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids are:

  • Clams
  • Shrimp
  • Catfish
  • Cod
  • Spinach

The Western diet consists of a higher quantity of omega-6 fatty acids. Foods that contain omega-6 are poultry, eggs, cereals, nuts, whole-grain bread, and durum wheat.  

Why is this important in ADHD?

One meta-analysis that contained ten trials, including 699 children with ADHD found that PUFA supplementation produced a small but significant improvement compared to a placebo group.2

A significant relationship was also shown between the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) dose within the omega-3 supplements, and the efficacy obtained.3

The mechanism of action of the omega-3 in the treatment of ADHD is likely due to its effect on serotonin and dopamine neurotransmission.4

There have been other systemic reviews that have raised questions about the use of omega-3 supplementation in the treatment of ADHD.5

 

6

The methods in these reviews were different, which may have led to altered results.

I believe an omega-3 supplement is worth a try. The possible benefits seem to outweigh the risks involved.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone produced by our bodies to regulate circadian rhythm. Adults and children have used melatonin as a sleep aid. 

As a pharmacist, it is the first-line medication for sleep that I recommend. Melatonin has very few side effects and is non-addictive.  

We know that sleep problems are common in children with ADHD. We also know that a lack of sleep can cause symptoms such as hyperarousal, disinhibition, and executive function problems that mimic ADHD symptoms.

The two studies I located showed melatonin was effective for sleep but had no effect on ADHD symptoms.

7

 

8

Iron

A meta-analysis published in 2012 found that children and adolescents with ADHD had lower serum ferritin levels than healthy controls.

9

A small randomized, placebo-controlled study showed children with ADHD, and low serum ferritin levels demonstrated significant improvement when receiving ferrous sulfate (80 mg/day) compared to placebo.

10

More studies with a larger sample size are needed before iron can be recommended as a standard treatment of ADHD.

Pycnogenol

Pycnogenol is an extract obtained from the bark of the French maritime pine. Pycnogenol was the subject of the very first post I made to this blog. You can read this post by clicking here!  

Case reports have shown Pycnogenol can improve ADHD symptoms either alone or in combination with psychostimulants.  

A four week randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 61 children found Pycnogenol significantly improved ADHD symptoms according to the Child Attention Problems (CAP) teacher rating scale.

11

A significant improvement was not found using Connor’s Parent and Teacher Ratings, but trends were similar to CAP.

This study also found lower catecholamine levels in the urine of the pycnogenol subjects suggesting a possible effect on catecholamine formation or metabolism.

More studies are needed to determine the safety and efficacy of Pycnogenol in the treatment of ADHD.

Parents are often reluctant to put their children on medications to treat ADHD. At times, this leads to the use of nutritional supplements that are ineffective in the treatment of this disorder.While researching this topic, I discovered supplements such as St. John’s Wort, carnitine, and Gingko Biloba either were ineffective or had minimal evidence to support their use in the treatment of ADHD.

These substances may also produce unwanted side effects.

Zinc can be useful when a deficiency exists, but this is rare in the United States. There have been studies in Israel, Turkey, and Poland demonstrating lower zinc levels in children diagnosed with ADHD. 

Correcting this deficiency of zinc can improve ADHD symptoms.

Magnesium supplementation has been tried, but no randomized, placebo-controlled trials are available to support its use.

Iron supplementation has shown to be effective in one small study. 

Pycnogenol has also shown positive results although more studies are needed to confirm its benefits in the treatment of ADHD.

The most robust evidence available at this time is for omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in the treatment of ADHD and melatonin for sleep-onset insomnia.

The Omega-3 fatty acids are still not as effective as traditional ADHD medications, but they may be beneficial in those with mild symptoms. 

Melatonin is always my first recommendation for patients of all ages for insomnia.

Please feel free to send me an email if you have any questions regarding this post or any other subject regarding medications, diet, fitness, or happiness.  

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Have a great week, and please stay safe out there!

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

4 Remarkable Beetroot Medicinal Uses

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Beets have recently gained popularity for their medicinal uses.  Red beetroot (Beta vulgaris rubra) is a source of nitrate and also contains betalain pigments.  Beetroot ingestion causes an increase in nitric oxide availability and  may lead to a natural treatment for hypertension as well as an improvement in endothelial functioning.  The betalain pigments possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and chemo-preventive activity in vitro and in vivo.1

These properties may lead to beetroot’s usefulness in the treatment of diseases occurring due to oxidative stress, inflammation, decreased cognition and altered endothelial function.

Beetroot Capsules for High Blood Pressure

Hypertension is either the primary cause or contributes to more than 1,000 deaths in the United States daily according to the CDC.  High blood pressure increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart failure and is also a risk factor for kidney disease.

 

Beetroot is a good source of dietary nitrate which is converted to nitrite and nitric oxide in the body.  Nitric oxide is known to relax and dilate blood vessels which leads to lower blood pressures. 

 

A systemic review and meta-analysis was conducted in 2017 to investigate the efficacy of beetroot juice supplementation on decreasing blood pressure in human subjects.  The results of this analysis is summarized in Table 1.

1To assess statistical heterogeneity, the I2 statistic and Cochran’s Q statistic were used according to specific categories (low = 25%, moderate = 50%, and high = 75%) and significance level (P < 0.10), respectively. *, P for WMD; **, P for Q value. DBP, diastolic blood pressure; SBP, systolic blood pressure; WMD, weighted mean difference.
2Blackcurrant juice (n = 10), low-calorie juice (n = 5), and control diet for NO3 (n = 1).

This study concluded that the hypotensive properties of beetroot are a potentially safe and effective nutritional approach to manage hypertension.  They recommend further clinical studies with larger sample sizes and longer duration to confirm clinical usefulness. 2

Antioxidant Effects of Beetroot

If you have been a reader of my blog, you know how important antioxidant activity is.  Oxidative stress can lead to functional impairment of the cells.  If this occurs over a long period of time, diseases such as cancer may result.  One estimate suggests oxidative stress plays a role in over 200 clinical conditions.3 

Reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS) are molecules capable of oxidation.  These are continuously generated during cellular metabolism.  When aberrant cell metabolism, UV radiation, xenobiotics or increased inflammation lead to more RONS than the cells antioxidant defenses can combat, an imbalance results.  This leads to the condition referred to as oxidative stress.4 

Beetroot is very rich in antioxidant compounds.  The betalain pigments have been shown to protect cellular components from oxidative stress in several studies.5

 

6

 

7

Beetroot also contains many highly bioactive phenolics, including rutin, epicatechin and caffeic acid that are also known to be potent antioxidants.8

 

9

 

10 

Beetroot as an Anti-Inflammatory

Inflammation is one of the defense systems used by our body.  It causes the release of substances that expand blood vessels increasing blood flow to injured areas helping to speed the healing process.  If inflammation persists for an extended period of time, cell dysfunction may occur.11 

Chronic inflammation has been associated with many clinical disorders including heart disease, cancer, obesity and liver disease.12

 

13

 

14 

We have treated inflammation with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) since the 1970’s.15

Like any medication, these agents have side effects especially when used over long time periods.  NSAIDs can cause kidney damage and bleeding issues.  They also interact with several other medication classes.  Furthermore, NSAIDs have been shown to be ineffective for many inflammatory related conditions.16

The focus has been changed from NSAIDs to natural food sources as a potential alternative to combat chronic inflammation.17 

Betalains and beetroot extracts are potent anti-inflammatory agents.  A study by Reddy et al in 2005 found that betanin inhibited cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme activity by 97%.  This effect is comparable to the anti-inflammatory drugs Ibuprofen, Vioxxtm and Celebrextm.  This was the first study to show betanin’s strong anti-inflammatory properties.18  

In 2010, Pietrzkowski et al, found beetroot capsules alleviated inflammation and pain in osteoarthritic patients.19

Beetroot and Cognitive Function

It is well known that cognitive function decreases with age.  This is believed to be due, in part, to a reduction in cerebral blood flow.20

21

22 

This reduction in cerebral blood flow has been implicated in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.23

24 

It would seem reasonable to conclude that beetroot could improve cerebral blood flow by increasing the availability of nitrous oxide.  We also know that a lower concentration of nitrous oxide can impair cerebral energy metabolism and neuronal activity. This may lead to neurodegeneration and cognitive deficits over time.25

26

27 

A study published in 2013 found improvements in systemic and cerebral vascular hemodynamics after ingestion of beetroot juice.  The investigators came to the following conclusion.

The hemodynamic improvements associated with the beetroot juice treatment appear to be consistent with counteracting some of the pathophysiologic cerebral vascular features of hypertension, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases associated with brain hypoperfusion and cognitive deficits.28

 

Beetroot Capsules Dosage

I recommend taking two capsules of Sunshine Nutraceutical’s Beetroot Powder Caps (1300mg) once daily.  Our product is all-natural, non-GMO and 100% organic.  This supplement is vegan and made in the United States.

After researching the benefits of beetroot, I decided to add it to our product line.  I work on a unit that cares for dementia patients so I am always interested in novel treatments for this disease.  Beetroot is high in antioxidants and is a great source of nitrates which are converted to nitrous oxide in the body.  I discussed four medicinal uses of this super food in this post but other possible uses also exist.  The increase in nitrous oxide and blood flow could be helpful in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.  The antioxidant properties may also prove to be beneficial in the treatment of some types of cancers in the future.  Finally, beetroot may be useful in improving exercise tolerance in athletes.  More studies will surely be done in the future regarding the many uses of beetroot. 

Thank you for reading this post.  As always, please contact us with any questions or comments.  Have a great week and be happy and safe.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Turmeric, Diet, and Boswellia for Arthritis

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

I decided to write a post on arthritis because this is a condition I live with every day. Some days are better than others. I have done plenty of research on arthritis with the hope of improving my quality of life and I will share with you what I have learned about medications, foods, and natural supplements. I hope you never have to deal with this on a personal level but if you do, perhaps what I have learned over the last few years will help relieve some of your pain.  

              This figure represents alterations that occur in the joints during the onset of Oseteoarthritis1

Overview

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common joint disorder in the United States.2

 

It is also known as degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis. This most often occurs in the joints of the hands, knees and hips. Osteoarthritis affects 32.5 million adults in the United States.3

 

OA is characterized by joint stiffness, swelling, pain and loss of mobility resulting from the breakdown of articular cartilage and synovial inflammation.

 

Here are a few facts about OA:

 

88% of OA patients are 45 or older and 43% are 65 or older. 62% are women and 78% are non-Hispanic Caucasians.4

 

OA patients experience more pain and have more activity limitations than other people in their age group. They are also more prone to fatigue and disability.5

 

One-third of those with arthritis over the age of 45 suffer from anxiety or depression. 

Approximately one million knee and hip replacement surgeries are completed each year due to OA.6

 

By 2040, approximately 11.4% of all adults will have some activity limitations as a result of arthritis.7

 

Risk Factors

                    8

Medications

Like most other ailments, osteoarthritis is initially treated by modifying risk factors. Losing weight, eating healthier foods and exercise are all excellent strategies. It may also help to optimize your workspace, especially if you sit for long periods of time. When these fail, medications may be necessary to relieve pain and inflammation. Most of the medications listed should only be used when symptoms are present since none of these agents have been shown to modify disease progression.

 

Topical NSAIDs – This class is the starting point, especially when few joints are affected. These work well in arthritis occurring in the hands and knees. They have similar efficacy to oral NSAIDs and have a better safety profile.9

 

The drug most utilized in this class is diclofenac gel (Voltarentm.) This medication is only available by prescription.

 

Oral NSAIDs – The next step is to utilize oral NSAIDs. Medications in this class include ibuprofen (Motrintm), naproxen (Alevetm), piroxicam (Feldenetm), and others. 

Caution must be exercised as these agents can cause GI bleeding, kidney disease and cardiovascular complications.  COX-2 inhibitors, such as celecoxib (Celebrextm) may also be used.

 

Duloxetine (Cymbaltatm) – This is an antidepressant medication known as an SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor.)  These drugs increase the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine available in the brain. My physiatrist (pain specialist) informed me that 90% of his patients responded to duloxetine. It works very well for both nociceptive and neuropathic pain.

 

Glucocorticoid (Steroid) intra-articular injections – Steroid injections are sometimes utilized for OA of the knee. These have a short duration of action (approximately four weeks) and may have adverse effects on the hyaline cartilage.10

 

 

Opiates – Due to the recent changes in opiate use guidelines, these drugs should generally not be used for arthritis. Opiates have many side effects, including increased risk of falls, sedation, nausea and dizziness. They are also habit-forming and may cause hyperalgesia leading to an increased sensitivity to pain. 

Effect of Vitamins and Diet

Arthritis is associated with inflammation, so foods known to decrease inflammation should help relieve pain due to this disease. My recommendation is to stick with the Mediterranean diet as much as possible. This diet has the most evidence to support various health-related benefits.  

 

Many of the foods that help with inflammation are part of the Mediterranean diet. Some examples of these include broccoli, tomatoes, whole grains, nuts, blueberries, avocados and many others. You can learn more about this diet by reading my post at the link below.

 Mediterranean vs Ornish Diet

 

Nightshades – Some people with arthritis believe eating plants from the nightshade family worsen arthritis pain. Nightshades contain solanine, which is a neurotoxin at high doses. Some examples of nightshade foods include white potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes and bell peppers. There is no scientific evidence to support the notion that eating plants from this family makes arthritis symptoms worse. If, however, you notice a negative change when eating these foods, you should avoid them. 

Natural Supplements

Turmeric – The only two nutritional supplements recommended by UpToDatetm at the current time are curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, and Boswellia serrata.  Curcumin has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years for arthritis, respiratory infections, GI problems and even cancer treatment.   

A review of the efficacy of curcumin in the treatment of osteoarthritis was published in The Journal of Evidenced-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine in 2017. The conclusion was that curcumin-containing products demonstrated statistically significant improvements in osteoarthritis compared to placebo in four out of five studies.11

12

13

14

Boswellia serrata – A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study of 30 patients with osteoarthritis was published in 2003. The investigators found a statistically significant improvement in knee pain, knee flexion and increased walking distance in patients receiving Boswellia extract compared with placebo. Swelling in the knee joints was also improved. There were no changes that could be seen on x-rays. The Boswellia extract was well tolerated, with the exception of minor GI symptoms. 15

Vitamin K2 – There is some evidence suggesting vitamin K may be important in preventing arthritis. A longitudinal study compared patients with vitamin K deficiency to those who had adequate levels. The vitamin K deficient group had a 56% higher risk of developing knee osteoarthritis than the control group. 16

Vitamin K2 supplementation may also reduce inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis by lowering CRP levels.17

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is frequently used to treat both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in Ayurvedic medicine.  Several anti-inflammatory pathways may be affected by withanolides, the active ingredients in ashwagandha.18

Arthritis and the Weather

We have all known people who believe they can predict the weather based on their arthritis pain. Scientists have been searching for a link between the weather and arthritis pain for years. Unfortunately, no definitive results have been obtained.

 

Colder weather may cause people to be less active and this may lead to stiffer joints. Lower barometric pressure may cause the nerve endings in joints where cartilage is worn away due to arthritis to be more sensitive, resulting in increased pain.

 

Finally, these changes in barometric pressure could cause expansion and contraction of scar tissue, muscles, and tendons leading to increased pain in these areas. Even though there hasn’t been any scientific proof, my arthritis pain is worse during the winter months. As long as I don’t try to lift heavy items, or cause increased strain on my back, I have very little pain during the summer months.

Arthritis is a painful disease affecting millions of people in the United States alone. It is a common cause of disability and has been linked to anxiety and depression. This condition not only causes pain but can limit physical activity as well. I have experience with this disease myself. 

 

I suffered for years before finally visiting a pain specialist.  Presently, my pain is under control most of the time as I have learned several things over the years that have helped. I try to get up to walk around often, I sit in comfortable chairs, and when my pain flares up, I take a turmeric supplement. 

 

If the pain gets worse, I take naproxen but try to limit its use. I watch what I eat and have found that if I sleep too long the pain is worse. I have also learned some exercises that relieve the pain.  

 

My pain seems to be worse in the winter months which may lead to our family relocating to a warmer climate in the future. Although science has not found a direct link between the weather and arthritis pain, I can feel a difference based on the temperature. When it is cold, my pain is worse!

 

If you have any questions regarding this subject, I would be happy to answer them. Stay safe, stay healthy and follow your dreams!

 

 

 

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.