Category Archives: Alternative and Complementary Medicine

ARE COFFEE AND TEA HEALTHY?

Cup of coffee in a sea of coffee beans Cup green tea 2

HEALTHY CHOICES

If you are a confirmed coffee drinker like I am, it may be hard to convince you to buy a few green tea bags and join tea drinkers around the world. Below is an excerpt from our first volume of Lipstick Logic Health Series which will become an e-book available in February. As I am sure you know, heart disease in women is different in some aspects and can be more difficult to diagnose.

Volume One, Your Heart, covers the latest information on heart disease, interventions and lifestyle changes to improve health.

February is not only Valentines day, the first Friday, February 1st, is also the annual Go Red For Women Heart Association alert to educate yourself and live healthier and longer. If you would like to know when the book becomes available, please sign onto our website readership.

Coffee

Coffee is good for you, but like everything else you do, use moderation. Numerous studies show a reduction in Type II diabetes in those who drink either caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee. In one study of about 193,000 people, those who drank 6-7 cups a day were 35% less likely to develop Type II diabetes than those who drank less than two cups a day. Even drinking 4-6 cups per day lowers the risk.

Freshly brewed coffee contains antioxidants. Minerals including magnesium and chromium in coffee are involved in insulin function. Lowering risk for diabetes reduces the risks for both heart attack and stroke.

One would think the stimulant effect of coffee would be detrimental because caffeine can stimulate epinephrine and raise blood pressure. Studies show an actual reduction in heart rhythm disturbances.

Two studies showing favorable effects from coffee consumption are the long-term study on 83,700 nurses enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study which showed a 20% lower risk of stroke in those who drank 2 or more cups per day over non-coffee drinkers. In another study on 130,000 people who drank 1-3 cups per day, they were 20% less likely to be hospitalized for heart rhythm issues than nondrinkers.

In addition to the above benefits, there are clear links to decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s dementia in coffee drinkers.

The downside is the things you add to coffee. Plain black coffee has fewer than ten calories. Add a teaspoon of sugar and you have added 23 calories. Adding half and half or liquid non-dairy creamer increases the calorie content by 50. Check the calories of what you add and see if you want to spend daily calories that way or learn to drink it black. Some coffee specialty drinks contain as much as 500 calories, a meal in itself. Also, if you are having daily barista coffee drinks, these hidden calories can jeopardize weight control goals and are expensive. Second only to crude oil, coffee is big business.

If you look around, may find a “new” coffee drink to interest you-tea made from coffee plant leaves. This drink was popular for a while in the 1800s but didn’t catch on in England. A recent article in the Canberra Times reports an Annals of Botany publication stated “Coffea arabica leaves have higher levels of antioxidants, which is thought to be beneficial in combating heart disease, diabetes and even cancer, than tea or coffee.” Coffee plant leaf tea is currently available in some health food stores.Coffee beans and hands

Green Tea

Benefits of drinking green tea have been touted your years. Does this mean a confirmed coffee drinker should acquire a taste for tea? Maybe. It sounds bland, uninteresting and if it is calorie-free, how good can it be?

Green tea contains micronutrients called catchins. These are antioxidants which scavenge the free radicals we want gone. An animal study at McGill University in Montreal on one component of the catchins found it effective in treating prostate tumors. Human studies are hopeful. In the lab, the green tea substance inhibits cancer growth and kills abnormal cells. In a study involving 500 Japanese women with breast cancer, those who drank increased amounts of tea before and after surgery had lower cancer recurrence. Another cancer that may be suppressed is lung cancer. Twenty-two studies analyzed showed drinking two cups of green tea (not black) resulted in an 18% decreased in developing lung cancer. If you are already a tea drinker, but it isn’t green, give it a try.

Another healthy aspect of green tea and others from the Carnellia sinensis plant (Black and Oolong) is the content of bronchodilators. If you know someone with asthma, you’ll know what we mean. Theophylline and theobromine in tea both act on the lungs by relaxing tight airways allowing better airflow. Tea can help calm cough in mild lung conditions.

Some studies show green tea aids weight loss, reduces LDL cholesterol, lowers blood pressure and relaxes blood vessels improving heart health.

If all these positive aspects of tea haven’t convinced you to drink a couple of cups a day, maybe this will: Green tea suppresses bacteria in the mouth and GI tract and may not only combat tooth decay, it might help infectious diarrhea. Because of its medicinal effects, lotions, bath salts and even a prescripted green tea ointment clears warts!

I’ll drink to that!

Betty Kuffel, MD

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WHY ARE YOU TAKING PROBIOTICS??

Pill picture

Probiotics: “Not a Cure-All”

Probiotics are considered “good bacteria.” They are available in supplements and foods as a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Many ongoing studies are examining the usefulness of probiotics to determine if, in fact, there is any reason to consume them to treat certain ailments.

Believing they are making sound health choices Americans spend billions of dollars on CAM, when instead, they are often taking supplements without any proven value and may actually be harmful.

One day, we may all take probiotics for health, but at this time no evidence-based information from reputable studies show benefit to all consumers. Some milk products contain acidophilus, a “good bacteria” used in the production of yogurt. Dating back to 1907, studies by a Russian physiologist suggested some bacteria could be beneficial and prolong life. But on the Internet and in TV ads today, there are many unfounded recommendations being made. If you Google “Probiotics” – in .27 seconds, you will receive over 13 million results to read and try to sort through.

What should we believe?

A study performed at Baylor College of Medicine and MD Anderson Cancer Center has recently shown a particular bacterial strain, Lactobacillus reuteri, appears to decrease the growth of a form of human leukemia cancer cells. Another study at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Ohio State University examined Lactobacillus acidophilus, the bacterium used to make yogurt, and found it may improve the immune response, if used in conjunction with an immunization against rotavirus infection. An effective immunization against rotavirus could save the lives of infants and children worldwide who develop severe dehydration from the infectious diarrheal illness. Both groups of researchers made no recommendation for oral intake of probiotics to the general population and both recommended further study.

Spending on probiotic supplements tripled between 1994 and 2003. Purchases have continued to skyrocket, possibly because of the numerous ridiculous television ads that tell you nothing about probiotic action, but state probiotics are necessary for “colon health”. You will find claims such as: “restore your digestive balance” and “relieve irritable bowel syndrome in 4 days” but what, exactly, does that mean?

A number of reputable studies have evaluated the usefulness of probiotic supplements used in conjunction with a proven effective treatment for Clostridium Difficile (CD) colitis. This inflammatory intestinal problem, which can be life-threatening, may evolve after antibiotic treatment for infections and cause profuse watery diarrhea. The antibiotic destroys normal bacteria and allows the overgrowth of CD. The concept is probiotics would replace lost bacteria and balance the bacterial content in the bowel.

Study results showed no benefit from the addition of probiotics to treatment regimens. In some cases, life-threatening complications resulted from the probiotic, including blood infection and liver abscesses. Because of these serious problems, probiotics are not recommended, especially for immune suppressed people.

At this time, the only probiotic recommended in one study was an adjunct treatment for Clostridium Difficile using Saccharomyces boulardii, and only if the CD was a recurrent problem.

Probiotics are not recommended in children.

Beware of unusual ads encouraging you to take supplements of any kind. Research the details and discuss them with your doctor before taking them. Not only can they be a waste of money and not beneficial, but can be harmful. If you take supplements, seek evidence-based information about complementary and alternative therapies.

Americans spend billions of dollars on complementary and alternative medicine supplements. Many of us eat yogurt because it tastes good and is generally good for us, but the use of probiotic supplements daily has no proven benefit. Before you join the crowd and waste your money, evaluate your options by consulting valid sources for more information. Talk to your doctor before making your decision to take probiotics.

www.nccam.nih.gov/health/probiotics (The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)

www.naturalstandard.com

www.mayoclinic.com/health/probiotics

Betty Kuffel, MD