Letter from Dr. Janson
Flavonoids for Health
Natural Help for Menopause
Diet and Disease -- Recent Statistics and
In the Health News
By the Way
Welcome to the first edition of my new newsletter on health
and vitality. I plan to cover a variety of topics, including
vitamins and other dietary supplements, diet and general nutrition,
healthy cooking, the health benefits of exercise, the value
of relaxation techniques and how to do them, and general personal
growth issues. I also plan to cover environment and organic
food issues, as well as the politics of health care and the
food supply. The information will be based on science and
clinical experience, and my aim is to make this as practical
and useful to you as possible.
Over the past several years, I have introduced many new supplements
into my practice. I will be telling you about them in this
and in future issues of the newsletter. A number of them are
newly available flavonoids, carotenoids, or standardized herbs,
but there are also new uses for older supplements. I welcome
any comments on the newsletter, and any questions you may
have that you would like me to answer. If they are of general
interest I will do my best to include them in future issues
or post them on my website (www.drjanson.com).
Unfortunately, I will not have time, nor would it be appropriate,
to answer personal specific health questions or give medical
advice without the appropriate medical consultation.
Many of our vegetable sources of nutrition are rich in pigments
that are not only attractive but are also important sources
of health benefits. They help to prevent serious diseases
and the degenerative problems associated with oxidative free-radical
damage. Hundreds, if not thousands, of flavonoids occur in
plants that are common in ethnic diets around the world. Unfortunately,
Americans eat very few fruits and vegetables, so they miss
the many benefits of these substances. (The most common "vegetable"
that kids eat today isyou guessed it, french fries!
which is not really a vegetable at all, but a carrier for
highly processed and overcooked hydrogenated fats, while potatoes
themselves have virtually no fat.)
Even more exciting, the medical literature now supports the
view that supplements of flavonoids can be healing substances
that can substitute for drugs for many patients or reduce
the doses of medication that they need. Many of the flavonoids
have recently been included in the term "phytochemicals,"
which just means "plant chemicals." Flavonoids (often
called bioflavonoids) protect against cancer and heart disease
and they enhance the activity of vitamin C.
One good example is quercetin. It is a yellow-green flavonoid
found in red and yellow onions (but not in white onions),
although the amounts found in foods are relatively small compared
to therapeutic doses. In allergic reactions, histamine is
released from mast cells in the tissues. The membranes of
these cells are stabilized by quercetin, so their histamine
is not released as readily, thus reducing the allergic response.
(Interestingly, a synthetic flavonoid called "cromolyn
sodium" is used for allergies under the brand name Intal®).
Effective doses of quercetin range from 800-1200 mg daily,
far higher than the amount found in foods. This is important
because sometimes people may try supplements in too low a
dose, and then give up without getting results.
Another flavonoid group is derived from the seeds of
the herb milk thistle. It is called silymarin, and is really
a collection of several compounds. Silymarin protects the
liver from poisons, such as toxic mushrooms and environmental
chemicals, and inflammatory diseases, such as hepatitis. It
does this in several ways. It stabilizes the liver cell membrane
to prevent the entry of poisons into the cell. It also stimulates
liver cell regeneration, and it acts as an antioxidant.
Diabetics benefit from silymarin because it helps to control
blood sugar levels. As with other flavonoids, silymarin helps
to strengthen small blood vessels. The typical dose of silymarin
is 150-300 mg twice a day.
Many other flavonoids help different conditions. Originally
they were thought of as vitamin P because of their effect
to strengthen the blood vessel walls, and thus prevent excessive
"permeability" or leakiness. They are derived from
citrus fruits, buckwheat, and the most colorful fruits and
vegetables. Because many of them are not yet available as
supplements, it is important that you eat a diet that is rich
in fruits and vegetables (many relatives of the flavonoids
are also found in whole grains and beans, which you should
also include in your dietseveral recent studies in women
showed that a daily serving of whole grains reduced the risk
of cancer and heart disease, while refined grains and sugars
increased the risk).
One of the values of bioflavonoids is in reducing the incidence
of hot flashes in women going through menopause. Menopause
is the absence of the menstrual cycles for one year, although
the symptoms of menopause often occur before the periods are
completely finished and for some time thereafter. As the function
of the ovaries declines gradually, the entire time frame may
be from a few years before the end of the menstrual cycles
to some years afterwards. Menopause generally happens between
48-52 years old, but it may be as early as forty or as late
as the late fifties. It also happens when the ovaries are
removed surgically. This is most commonly done as part of
a total hysterectomy or when there is ovarian cancer.
The menopausal transition is normal, but symptoms may not
be. In other cultures with different dietary habits, women
may not have any symptoms at all. However, in Western cultures
symptoms are very common although some women make the transition
with relative ease. In addition to hot flashes and night sweats,
symptoms may include depression, mood swings, irritability,
and vaginal dryness.
One of the most important dietary choices you can make
to help with menopausal symptoms is to include more soy products
in your diet. This means more tofu, soy milk, tempeh, and
soy nuts. Soy foods are rich in isoflavones called genistein
and daidzein. These have mild estrogenic properties that help
with menopause (but not any of the side effects of estrogen
replacement therapy). They also appear to help with preventing
breast cancer because they block the effects of the stronger
estrogens that stimulate the breast tissue. I recommend organic
soy products to avoid the very common genetically engineered
soybeans (more about genetically modified crops in a later
I often recommend that women experiencing hot flashes add
a mixed bioflavonoid to their supplements, 1000 mg twice a
day, and take it with vitamin E (400-800 IU). A number of
other dietary supplements, including magnesium and natural
progesterone, help with common symptoms, .
Several herbs are also helpful with menopause-related symptoms.
I often recommend standardized extracts of one or more of
the following: black cohosh (40 mg twice a day), dong quai
(200 mg three times a day), and Vitex agnus-castus (400 mg
daily). Dong quai may cause some sun sensitivity, so it is
a good idea to wear sunscreen and protective clothing while
According to the USDA, Americans are eating more animal products
than they did 100 years ago. Meat consumption is up from 99
to 111 pounds, poultry from 11 to 64 pounds, and cheese from
4 to 28 pounds. High animal protein diets may lead to osteoporosis
and other serious risks (see page 4). Recent studies confirm
the value of vegetarian diets (high-fiber, high-complex carbohydrate)
in helping diabetics with sugar control, while whole grains
in the diet (rich in complex carbohydrates) provide protection
from heart disease and cancer.
In the last 30 years, cheese consumption jumped 17
pounds, and most of it is in prepared foods (such as pizza).
Women consumed more fat from salad dressing than from any
other food. In 1997, each American consumed a record average
154 pounds of sugar, amounting to 53 teaspoons of sugar every
day. In 1909, two-thirds of the sugar people consumed was
purchased as sugar, and thus in control of the person who
bought it. Today, less than a quarter is brought home as sugar.
Three quarters of the sugar that Americans eat is found in
processed foods. These include common items such as ketchup,
mayonnaise, crackers, canned soups, salad dressings, spaghetti
sauce, flavored yogurt (which you may have thought of as a
health food, but it's not!), canned vegetables, boxed cereals,
fruit drinks, and peanut butter.
If you want to be healthy, you have to make the right choices,
and that means that you must read labels carefully. Sugar
is hidden in many foods, so watch out for its other names,
such as sucrose, fructose, dextrose, and corn sweeteners.
One of the largest sources is soft drinksAmericans consume
an average of 53 gallons of sodas per year, including an average
of one cola beverage per day (whereas in China, which does
not have our diet-related health problems, the average is
one per year!).
We now have more evidence of the benefits of vitamin
E. Diabetics taking 1800 IU find that it improves both diabetic
retinopathy and kidney disease (Diabetes Care 1999;22:1245-1251).
Type I diabetics were given the vitamin for four months, and
then placebo for four months. The circulation and the blood
flow in the retina both returned to normal levels, and the
effects remained after the vitamin was discontinued. Their
kidney function also improved (both the kidneys and eyes are
rich in blood vessels).
A recent issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology
contained an interesting research article on diet. Just by
lowering your consumption of animal products, you lower your
risk of colon cancer. Animal products appear to increase cancer
production due to something in the foods themselves. In this
study, the group who consumed fewer animal products were surprisingly
not consuming more of the cancer fighting substances found
in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and yet their
rate of colon cancer was reduced.
It is still a good idea to eat your fresh, unprocessed vegetarian
foods to add the cancer protection of fiber, antioxidants,
folic acid, calcium and magnesium, but as this research shows,
avoiding animal products is also a good idea on its own.
I want to encourage you to choose organic foods whenever possible.
I'll be telling you more about this in future issues. In the
meantime you can contact two organizations to find out more:
the Organic Consumers Association at www.organicconsumers.org,
and the Campaign for Food Safety at www.purefood.org, or call
(218) 726-1443. I was recently on a talk radio show in Lake
Worth, Florida, concerning the dangers of food irradiation
and genetically engineered foods.
On October 9th I will be speaking in Philadelphia at the
100th anniversary of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic
Medicine. Mainstream medical education is coming around to
the use of natural substances and alternative medicine.
On October 23rd I will be speaking on nutrition and the heart
at the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore, where suppliers
meet the health food store staff members. Then I travel to
Reno, Nevada for the meeting of the American College for Advancement
in Medicine, where I speak on lifestyle and supplements to
several hundred physicians.
Click here to receive the Healthy Living newsletter free.
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