Dr.Karol, MD

The doctor with alternative solutions


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Coffee: How much is too much? Is it even healthy?

The debate over health benefits of drinking coffee is seemingly never ending. As with most things in life, when it comes to how much is too much coffee there are a variety of factors to consider. Everybody metabolizes coffee and caffeine in different ways and at different rates. Thus, what is too much for one person may be just fine for another. Another factor to consider is the state of mind and body at any given time: Are you an anxiety-prone individual? If so, 5 cups of coffee in one day may be too much.  Are you super sleepy because of rainy weather? Then 3 cups may be just fine. Are you dehydrated and exhausted from a long trip? In that case, even one cup may be very unhealthy..

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Coffee comes with both desirable and undesirable affects. The good is that it contains flavonoids that are also found in fruits and vegetables. These are anti-oxidants that protect our body from damage caused by pollutants and bad diet. However, coffee is not the richest source of flavonoids to say the least. It’s a similar story with red wine. Yes it contains resveratrol that protects the heart but to get that effect you must drink 5 to 10 glasses of wine a day and by doing so you are causing way more damage due to alcohol. The actual caffeine content also plays a major role. When in low amounts it increases wakefulness, mental acuity, better mood etc. But in higher amounts it causes lack of long term memory retention, anxiety, and increased blood pressure. Caffeine is also a diuretic. This can also be good or bad. In general it’s not a good thing because it depletes your body of fluid (including electrolytes). But on the other hand if you have excessive fluid retention in your body (such as after a long exhausting trip (usually causing retention in your legs due to compromised kidney function) then it may actually relieve the work load on the heart due to the excessive fluid.

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Another thing about coffee is that it irritates the lining of the stomach. This may cause cramps, acidity, and a general unpleasant feeling in the stomach. There is great variation among individuals with respect to this phenomenon. Some people don’t suffer this at all, while others have to stay away from caffeine entirely.

This brings us back to the original question: How many cups is too many? Like mentioned before it all depends on the individual and the state of body and mind she or he is in at the moment. However, generally speaking, 4 cups each day or more is more than enough before we develop long term rise in blood pressure, which is an extremely undesirable effect. Increased blood pressure can cause damage to all organs of the body and most notoriously the heart, the kidneys and the brain.

fresh coffee groundsFinally, always remember fresh ground, organic coffee is much healthier than instant. Instant coffee is typically exposed to various chemicals to make it an “instant” option (however, there are healthy instant coffee alternatives. It’s also typically much more irritating to the stomach. The best options are fresh, high-quality whole beans, or freshly ground beans coming from the purest sources.

 

See you next time.

 

Dr. Karol

 


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The Best Supplements for Gout

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While in Montreal for a recent trade show, I came across a man suffering from gout. He’s a middle-aged well-built man who appears to be someone who spends a lot of time in the gym, not someone living with gout. But he limped when he walked and he was in pain. When I mentioned my work and interest in natural health he practically begged me to give him advice on how to deal with his pain. So I’m writing this article and sending him the link.

WHAT IS GOUT?
Gout is the build-up in joints of a substance called uric acid. Uric acid is formed as a by-product of purine breakdown. Purines are chemical molecules which make up the backbone of our genetic code, i.e., our DNA. As cells divide and old ones are replaced by new ones, the DNA of old cells is broken down to individual units before being used again to form new DNA. The by-product of this process is uric acid. Most people have no problem with uric acid, but some individuals, (due to genetic predisposition, diet or lifestyle), have a predisposition to having uric acid deposited in the joints. When this happens, the uric acid takes the form of sharply pointed needle-like structures (visible under a microscope). These needles cause excruciating, persistent pain and inflammation — described as the worst pain of all rheumatic conditions. For some unknown reason, this usually occurs in the big toe, but any joint can be affected. The worst thing about this condition, other than the excruciating pain and incapacity, is that the pain is continuous — even at night —and the flare-ups can last for weeks. If not properly treated or prevented, this condition can eventually cause permanent joint damage as well as serious kidney damage.

WHY DO WE GET IT?
What are the predisposing factors and how should one’s lifestyle be modified to decrease the chances of gout? Firstly, there is genetic predisposition. Some individuals are just more prone to develop gout. But just because you are predisposed, does not mean that you will get gout. This is because diet and lifestyle play a large role as well. The biggest gout triggers are: fatty red meats, organ meats (like liver), shellfish, herring, anchovies, sardines, mackerel, asparagus, mushrooms, all caffeinated beverages, high fructose corn syrup, sugary soft drinks, fruit juices (because of the high fructose content), sweets and alcohol (especially beer). With respect to alcohol and gout, wine is better than liquor and liquor is better than beer. But all three impact gout.

Other predisposing factors are heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, high cholesterol & high blood pressure, obesity and lack of exercise (especially cardiovascular exercise).

NATURAL TREATMENTS FOR GOUT
With respect to natural supplements and diet to prevent and treat gout, the most important are anti-inflammatory compounds, as the pain in gout is due to inflammation. Here are the best examples:

Fish oils high in EPA at a dose of 2000-3000 mg of EPA per day.

Flaxseed oil, added generously in its raw form to salads or in smoothies. You can also take it with a spoon.

Turmeric, Devil’s Claw and Boswelia: These are powerful natural anti-inflammatory gifts of nature. They decrease inflammation by affecting multiple points in the inflammatory cascade. Interestingly, these are the same agents used to treat arthritis and other types of pain.

Bromelain is a plant enzyme found most commonly in pineapples. When taken with food, it works like a digestive enzyme. When taken on an empty stomach, it is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.

Alfalfa apparently can dissolve the uric acid crystals responsible for gout. I recommend alfalfa sprouts, as sprouts are usually the richest in enzymes, nutrition and medicine.

Milk Thistle for liver support metabolizes the purines and uric acid efficiently as well protecting the liver from ongoing inflammation.

Antioxidants in the form of bioflavonoids reduce inflammation and oxidative damage. My favorite in this category is Bioflavia, which is organic grape skin powder.

Plant proteins, especially fermented ones like my favourite, Genuine Health, are important because most animal proteins (from meats, fish and shellfish) predispose to gout. Supplement with plant proteins so you don’t become protein deficient.

Water: Drink at least 3 liters of fluids (mostly water) per day. This is especially important during gout attacks. The water will help flush out the excess uric acid.

B Complex vitamins efficiently metabolize purines, uric acid, proteins and carbohydrates.

Finally, tart cherries, tart cherry juice and other berries, preferably organic and fresh, are said to work miraculously. The reason for this is their very high level of bioflavonoids and anthocyanins. Both are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties.

MAINSTREAM MEDICAL APPROACH
Your doctor will most likely first prescribe NSAIDs like Ibuprofen for the pain of gout. This brings only temporary partial relief and will not solve the underlying problem. NSAIDs also cause stomach ulcers, kidney damage (which is already taxed by the uric acid) and potentially intestinal and stomach bleeding. They also predispose to heart attacks and strokes. If NSAIDs are not enough, doctors recommend steroids (prednisone etc.). These are either injected into the excruciatingly painful and inflamed joint, or are taken orally. In either case, they are highly toxic. They cause hypertension, fluid retention in the body (causing swelling), mood swings (which can be quite serious), and obesity. Also, you cannot stop them abruptly when taken over longer periods of time because this can lead to shock. You must slowly taper your dose. Your doctor may also run some tests to determine if you are over-producing or under-secreting uric acid through your kidneys. For over-production, a drug called Allopurinol is prescribed. It does not work for flare-ups but is rather used to prevent attacks. The problem is that in some cases, it can cause potentially fatal inflammatory skin conditions (Stevens Johnson Syndrome, etc.). It can also cause serious kidney damage as well as inhibition of bone marrow, leading to problems with blood formation. With respect to under-secretion of uric acid, the commonly prescribed drug is Probenecid. It increases uric acid secretion in urine. It is also used for prevention and not for flare-ups. Its potential side effects are headaches, joint pain, swelling, nausea and vomiting. For flare-ups, in addition to NSAIDs, Colchicine is used. It can cause serious stomach upset, bone marrow depression as well as problems with sensory nerves. Although not all patients experience these side effects, many do. By taking them, you risk being one of them. Natural treatments are not only risk-free but the compounds listed above are powerful gifts of nature that benefit our overall health and well-being.

Take care and good luck preventing and treating your gout in a natural, healthy way.

— Dr. Karol M.D

 

 

 

 


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Radical Remedies: What is Detox?

From a medical point of view it is the neutralization and excretion of toxic substances from our bodies. Some of the most common sources of these toxic substances are heavy metals in food and water or industrial and/or combustion engine derived pollutants. We either inhale them, consume them in our food or drink, absorb them through our skin, or they are produced as by-products of our metabolism. They are either directly toxic to our cells or cause damage by stimulating the production of free radicals and inflammation. They not only cause cell damage but may also accelerate the aging process and contribute to the development of many unpleasant medical conditions.

The most important organ that detoxifies these substances is the liver, but the kidneys also play a very important role in concentrating these substances in the urine and excreting them out of the body. Other means of detox are by excretion through stool, bile and sweat.

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Organic Vs. Non-Organic Juicing

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In the context of cancer prevention and also for the general health, there are few things as good as juicing or blending green leafy vegetables.

Parsley, kale, and spinach are the best. Other nutrient and antioxidant packed veggies and fruits are celery, carrots, cabbage, cilantro and Granny Smith apples. When juicing parsley and kale you don’t get much juice, but the juice that you do get is so concentrated that it forms jelly like globules that are very deep green in color. Such juices are packed with antioxidants, detoxifying compounds, and compounds that help protect DNA and cells as a whole from any damage that may result in the initiation of cancer formation.

Blending such vegetables with, for example, a frozen berry mix or frozen organic blue berries, is another great way to form a cocktail with anti-cancer properties. The added benefit of blending is that you still keep the fibre which benefits the inner lining of the gastrointestinal tract as well as providing a softer consistency to stool. However, it will not concentrate all the great nutrients as well as juicing…..Read more….


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Radical Remedies: Natural Pain Management

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Pain management. It’s a very hot topic. The reason for this is straight forward. It is safe to say that every living person in this world has experienced pain at one time or another. It is also the predominant feature of most diseases, acute and chronic alike.

Pain is commonly elicited in regions of the body where there is inflammation. If the inflammation lasts a long time, it causes damage to the organ that is inflamed. This may lead to chronic, debilitating and painful illness.

The problem with common pain medications is that they rely heavily on blocking the perception of pain but not the underlying cause. Another problem with these medications is that most of them have serious side effects and can also be highly addictive as they fall in the category of narcotics.

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Detox With Cabbage

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It’s not a joke. Perhaps one of the most overlooked and ignored vegetables is cabbage. We only use it as sauerkraut, maybe a couple of time a year, or perhaps in some Eastern European dishes like cabbage rolls, again probably not too often.  But the truth is that this vegetable and especially its raw juice is one of the most potent detoxifying and cancer inhibiting cocktails found in nature.

We are nearing the end of March (thank God that spring is around the corner and you can feel it in the air) and thus the end of the detox/cleanse month theme. Therefore I could not resist including cabbage in my last blog of this theme.

First of all cabbage juice is packed with nutrients. It has a very high level of manganese, vitamin B6, folate, thiamin, vitamin A, potassium, tryptophan, magnesium, riboflavin, and calcium….Read more…..


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Milk Thistle for Detox and Liver Support

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When I studied medicine in Europe,  I noticed that it was standard hospital policy to have Milk Thistle extract in the gastroenterology department. It was used as treatment for patients with liver disease, especially liver failure in alcoholic patients. Why this medication is not used for the same purpose in North America is a mystery beyond comprehension.  There are so few things that can be used to support the liver, especially when this organ is in crisis, that every single herb with enough evidence should be utilized for this purpose to help patients improve their quality of life.

The liver is the primary organ (along with the kidneys and the intestines) involved in detoxifying toxic compounds, both acquired from the environment and the ones which are a by product of our metabolism. Without a functional liver life would be impossible. Most instances of liver failure are caused by what is called liver cirrhosis (which is basically the liver becoming hardened due to excessive production of connective tissue between liver cells), and most cases of liver cirrhosis are due to excessive alcohol consumption over a prolonged period of time. People vary greatly as to the extant that their liver is resistant to such insults, but as a general rule consuming the equivalent of one bottle of wine per day for 20 years will lead to cirrhosis in most individuals. Apparently this process once began is irreversible. However some Naturopaths dispute this. Needless to say this process can be substantially slowed town by proper supplementation and thus such supplementation can extend the life, as well as improve the quality of life of the individual substantially. Milk thistle, and especially its active compound called Silymarin can achieve this. Furthermore, this compound can protect the liver to help prevent the development of liver disease as well as help the liver in performing optimally especially with it’s detoxifying role….Read more…..