One of the hottest trends today is the Paleo diet. My first thought is a vision of so many bearded young men and their women, with wild veggies in one hand, crowded around to get a charred piece of meat from the latest Mastodon kill.
More to the point, the Paleo diet represents a 180 degree shift from the food world of junk foods, pesticides, colorings, and additives that complicates knowing which of these things is accumulating to the point of messing up your health and the way that you feel. It is also a dramatic shift from the high grain vege diets that a few people seem to be able to thrive on. Most of all, it eliminates sugar of various sorts that is consumed in epidemic excess in our society.
As a holistic doctor, I have some strong opinions about this diet and what effects it might have on the skin. What I like about the Paleo diet is that it gets away from many of the foods that aggravate environmental illness and overgrowth of yeast in the body. Eliminating sugar, refined carbs, bread, wine and beer and processed foods is the core of the diet I recommend for my patients. A
diet high in vegetables, with meat or fish for protein works well for those who have sensitivity to lectins in grains and beans, and reactions dairy products that they have eaten nearly every day of their life.
In my next post, I'll share where I think Paleo misses the mark.
Do you have dandruff? One of the central factors in causing dandruff, or Seborrheic dermatitis, is an organism that lives in the skin of most people. That organism is a yeast that changes back and forth into a fungus. Interesting, huh? It used to be called Pityrosporum, but it is now is known as Malassezia species.
Here's my summation of the medical literature: it is your immune system’s reaction to Malassezia, which causes the inflammation, redness, and scaling that is characteristic of dandruff. Inflammation seems to depend on the presence, quantity, and type of exposure to other similar yeast and fungi entering the body, and other factors that affect the immune system.
The presence of related yeast and fungi is important because they may play some role in changing the body’s immune response to Malassezia in our skin, thus causing dandruff or other inflammatory skin conditions.
So the exposures that increase our allergic reactivity to the Malsasezia in our skin may, and thus our dandruff, may be quite varied and completely unexpected. Diet, seafood, travel, and underwater adventures, may someday be linked to worsening or improvement of dandruff. Future holistic skincare treatments could include monitoring and changing these factors.
Drugs known as “Biologics” were developed because they block the effects of the agents in the body that trigger the inflammation in psoriasis. The problem is that certain people depend on that blocked path to control dangerous infections or cancers. It’s kind of like locking up the only police who look after people whose last names begin with P. Most people have no severe consequences. But for those whose names begin with P…
According to Dr. Maoshing Ni, author of “Secrets of Longevity,” a study shows that the side effects of pharmaceuticals kill 140,000 people in the US and cost the country over $136 billion each year—in fact, the side effects of prescribed drugs are thenation’s fifth leading cause of death. The same study found that herb-related deaths amounted to fewer than 50 per year, according to 10 years of statistics and research. In light of this information, natural skin care and natural treatment of skin conditions starts to look better and better.
Pomegranates are back on the shelves, and hopefully, back in our hearts! I have just spotted Pomegranates on the shelves of my local produce stores at rock bottom prices, meaning they are in season nearby. They contain valuable anti-oxidants that are well known to protect the heart.
What’s news is that they also have been shown to have protective effects on the skin. Dr. Hassan Mukhtar, who I met over 10 years ago when he presented his findings on the anti-oxidant protective effects of green tea extract, EGCG,recently published studies on the protective effects of pomegranate extract against Ultraviolet (UV) radiation damage. His group’s studies, published in 2005 showed that pomegranate extract inhibited UV damage in cultured human skin cells by inhibiting the changes in two molecular pathways associated with cancer (known as NF-kappaB and MAPK).
More recent studies showed that feeding Pomegranate extract to mice protected against a wide variety of biological markers related to UV light induced development of cancer. This information is important because it substantiates the mechanism by which pomegranate protects against skin cancer induced by UV light. Some of those mechanisms of UV damage also contribute to aging of the skin. So data is emerging suggesting that food derived anti-oxidants such as pomegranate may protect against both skin aging and cancer.
You can pick up pomegranates at your local produce store and enjoy them as a snack or desert. I eat them with an old dark sweat shirt or apron on, and not my favorite light colored clothing, as the red juice from the seeds has a tendency to squirt and stain when you cut them open. It may take you a few tries to get used to the slightly tart taste.
The seeds are the size of corn kernels, and have hard seeds inside. The white pulp around them is slightly bitter, but is also loaded with anti-oxidants, so I eat some of that along with the delicious red juice in the seeds. I make sure that the seeds have the rich purple color, and toss away those that have turned brown, in some sections of the fruit.
Pomegranates have been revered for thousands of years in the Middle East. If you travel to those lands, you will notice the familiar round shape with a wide, protruding stem in paintings and jewelry. Perhaps they were revered because of benefits seen in those who ate them over generations. It’s exciting to know studies simply confirm that you now can protect both your skin and your heart by enjoying this tasty fruit.
Some of the best features of natural, unprocessed remedies made from plants is that they are often less toxic and less expensive than pharmaceuticals. However, as an integrative physician and holistic dermatologist, I believe in using the medicine that is best for each individual patient at each individual time.
Some of the best medicines that exist and are being developed are naturally occurring remedies which are strengthened through pharmaceutical concentration. For example, a friend of mine developed a highly concentrated form of blue-green algae in the form of a pill which may be beneficial for fighting virile strains of the flu.
An exciting development from researchers at New Delhi Jamia Hamdard University in India: they have successfully used cucurmin–extracted from turmeric and turned into nano form–to control and cure cirrhosis of liver in animal model experiment. The experiment has been shown to reverse severe damage to the liver. Human trials are starting and researchers hope for major breakthroughs.
The university studies and develops traditional methods of treatment and medicines, “We have all come across references to turmeric’s healing powers in history and mythology. So, we decided to check its efficacy. It was found that when used in large doses, turmeric wasn’t particularly useful. But broken into nano particles, it worked wonders. It even reversed cirrhosis which is incurable,” said S. Ahmad, vice-chancellor of Jamia Hamdard.
Curcumin extract is an antioxidant that helps revive dying cells. As a repairing agent, it can regenerate cells that have begun to break. The experiments on animals have proved that it has no toxic effect. “The trouble with traditional medicines is that not enough studies have been done to prove their efficacy. Neither do we know how their utility could be enhanced. We are trying to fill in the blanks. In this case, the result has been fascinating and we are confident that the human trials will be successful as well,” added Ahmad.
I am excited that this and other experiments like it could pave the way for treating diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s!
Recent front page articles have appeared in the popular press, loaded with quotes from authorities, downgrading the importance of using multivitamins and other supplements for children, and people in general. One, “The ABC’s of Missing Vitamins,” on vitamins for children, was the lead article on the front page of the Personal Journal section of the May 4, 2010 Wall Street Journal.
I agree with the statements in the article that vitamins are no substitute for a healthy diet, and that healthy foods have a spectrum of nutrients that may be missed in isolated supplements.
Unfortunately, however, the authors and authorities seem to have either forgotten or do not know that our food has changed over the last several decades, and no longer contains the same nutrients it had before. For example the article stated the need for supplementing with Omega-3 fish oils has “often been overhyped”. By importing foods from warm weather climate, and hydrogenating oils, we have systematically reduced the amount of omega -3 fatty acids in our diet and in our bodies.
Cold water fish used to contain omega-3 oils because they ate the omega-3 rich krill found in cold ocean waters. By feeding farmed fish grain instead, we have reduced the levels of these anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids in what used to be the best sources of this vital nutrient.
As a result, measurements of the ratios of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in people today have dropped dramatically. Could it be that parents feeding their children fish oil are more up on the practical science involved than the author of these articles?
An article came out in the New York Times recently titled The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food,by Michael Moss. The article is about a book that discusses the systematic addiction to unhealthy “foods” in the past couple of decades.
An interesting part of this is that this technology was originally created for a good purpose; in order to get our troops to eat the food that they were given. Food that had to survive in war zones. Non-perishable food. The same technology, however, has since been applied to testing and developing snack foods for the express purpose of addicting people to these foods.
Junk foods contain elevated amounts of high-temperature heated fats and oils, salt, sugar, and other chemicals that we now know are really bad for our health. It’s most interesting that food industry has, starting with a good purpose, evolved to producing foods that are generally harmful for the population.
Even more interesting is the fact that these companies are operating not only according to the law, but are obligated legally to produce the maximum income for their wealthy shareholders, but with very little legal responsibility to the actual people eating the food, which is marketed especially to children and to people of lower socio-economic status. So, we have created a completely legal monster in society that satisfies our deepest food cravings and also our financial cravings.
Unfortunately, the effects of these foods are leading our entire nation to poor house because we can no longer afford the cost of so much diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other junk food-related illness. Not to mention skin diseases like acne. Because of this, we’ve created an amazingly “free” society, which has essentially set itself up to self-desctruct.
No longer simply a physical disease, this is also a social and cultural disease, and the solution lies in us educating one another as well as finding pleasure in foods that make us feel great and not just taste good for a few moments.
What if this same technology were applied to make healthy foods more appealing?
Back when I started my dermatology training, there were still a number of older dermatologists who had trained before the era of widespread use of antibiotics, who told their acne patients to stop drinking milk to improve their acne condition.
That advice became unpopular for about 30 years, with the easy use of tetracycline to calm acne and avoid the issue.
But during the past decade, a study on nurses and then two subsequent studies on their sons and daughters (published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 2005-8,) demonstrated a definite association between drinking milk, and especially skim milk, and acne occurrence.
The fact that skim milk had a greater association suggested that it was not the fats, but possibly the hormones in milk, which were causing the problem. Milk contains hormones like progesterone, because 80% of the cows producing milk have recently been pregnant.
But milk also possesses a number of androgen-related hormones that go on to influence the sebaceous gland unit to form an acne lesion. Dr. William Danby, who was involved with these studies and lectured on this subject at the recent American Academy of Dermatology meeting, pointed out that the androgens in cows’ milk cause acne, but are different than human androgens.
As a result, the production of the body’s own androgens are not turned off by their presence, as in a normal feedback loop situation. That would be like having another heater in your house not wired to the regular thermostat, and wondering why it was getting so hot. So cow’s milk androgens turn up the male hormone activity that is driving the acne. I will discuss other ways milk may aggravate acne in future blog.
Do your own dairy experiment by cutting it out of your diet completely and see if it has any effect…
I am pleased to announce that I have been appointed as a member of the Advisory Board of the American Botanical Council, a leader in providing objective information on the various uses of herbs in both healing the body and in commerce I will act as an expert advisor on herbs and the skin.
Herbs are very helpful for a variety of skin issues. Many of the herbs I have been using for years are just now appearing in products on the exhibit floor of the American Academy of Dermatology national meeting. For example, licorice and curcumin are being incorporated into anti-inflammatory herbal preparations. Green tea extract and red wine resveratrol are being used as part of the antioxidant mix in anti-aging products applied to the skin.
I look forward to sharing more with you in the future on natural and herbal skin care.
The American Botanical Council (ABC) announces the addition of several new members to its Advisory Board. These esteemed individuals — with diverse academic backgrounds ranging from analytical chemistry, oncology, and pharmacognosy to environmental science, aromatherapy, and Traditional Chinese Medicine — are committed to promoting healthier living through herbal and plant-based medicine. Advisory Board members volunteer their time to peer review articles that appear in HerbalGram, HerbalEGram, HerbClips, and various ABC publications. Additionally, HerbalGram editors seek feedback and advice from Advisory Board members on issues such as research questions, article ideas, ABC policies, book reviews, and much more.
The new Advisory Board members include an oncologist, a cardiologist, an endocrinologist, a dermatologist, a nurse/aromatherapist, a nutritionist, a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine, a mycologist, a geneticist, two pharmacognosists, two family practice physicians, two natural product chemists, and two environmentalists.
“We are deeply grateful to include these experts on the ABC Advisory Board,” said ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal. “For many of these individuals, receiving official ABC Advisory Board status simply formalizes an already established, long-term relationship in which many of these friends and colleagues have been contributing their time and expertise to ABC and many of its publications as expert peer reviewers. The wide spectrum of scientific and clinical expertise held by these individuals as a group reflects the increasing complexity and sophistication of the modern herbal movement and of ABC’s vital nonprofit educational mission.”
It is the beginning of the New Year, so I want to wish the best to all of you and to our world.
I would like to share some very exciting news with you. I was invited to go to India to be a featured speaker for an International Symposium on Integrative and Holistic Dermatology. To my knowledge, this was the first Symposium on Holistic and Integrative Dermatology sponsored by an academic Dermatology department, ever on the planet. On December 4, I gave three lectures on various aspects of holistic dermatology, and participated in a panel wrapping up the session at the Dermatology Department of Kasturba Medical College in Manipal University in Manipal, located in South West India. It was quite an experience to be honored by having the opportunity to teach about the approach to treating skin disease, and to do so to eager listeners halfway around the world. I have already heard from Dr. Shenoi, the head of the department, that what I presented was well received, and has given rise to new ways to treat difficult cases at the hospital there. In addition, my listeners were awakened to the neglected aspect of nutrition in Dermatology.
My knowledge was also enhanced by hearing the two other speakers, one of whom I had met when she was just entering this field of study.
I had a chance in Manipal to see the Ayurvedic department and the Yoga department at the medical center, which represents an integration of traditional care with conventional medical care that is rare in India as it is throughout the world. We spent a morning at a naturopathic hospital, which focused on diet and physical modalities for healing. Cleansing diet, simplicity, spirituality, and beauty of the surroundings, and yoga, were mainstays of the healing program there beyond the diet and other cleansing processes.
One of the other Integrative Dermatology speakers, Dr. S. I. Narahari, was having anopening of his new clinic for Applied Dermatology, and invited me to participate in the dedication and speak at his 5th annual National symposium. The physicians from all over India, honored mentor dermatologist Dr. Terrence Ryan from England,the press, and many people from the local government were present. More than 15 patients with elephantiasis were presented to a group of over 25 dermatologists and other physicians. Between presentations, I was asked by Dr. Narahari and a government minister to help design studies on nutrition and skin disease as, it relates to rural India. I am excited about being able to help those who might otherwise not receive care, and about extending studies in nutritional dermatology that can have a more widespread benefit.
To recover from jet lag on arriving in India, I spent the first 4 days in an Ayurvedic Spa, where I experienced the famous medicinal oil massages and hot herbal applications. We were treated to a visit to the associated third-generation manufacturing plant, which used age-old processes to manufacture Ayurvedic remedies. It has taken time for me to recover from the travels during flu season, so I finally writing to you now.
What has been most amazing to me are the similarities between several thousand-year old Ayurvedic concepts and what I am now doing, incorporating what is now being called functional medicine into my practice of dermatology. This will be thesubject of some of my letters and blogs in the future.