Friday, September 23, 2011

New Drugs Cause Life-Threatening Infections

The FDA announced (9.7.11) a new warning for all tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) inhibitors to include a warning about the risk of “…serious and sometimes fatal infections from two bacterial pathogens Legionella and Listeria.

TNF-alpha blockers (e.g., Humira, Enbrel, and Remicade) are used to treat many autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriatic arthritis, and juvenile arthritis. How could these drugs predispose a patient to becoming ill with a life-threatening infection? This question is not a hard question to answer. One only needs to look at the mechanism of action of TNF-alpha drugs and realize that their use is bound to cause an increased risk of infection.

Patients do not become ill with an autoimmune disorder due to producing too much TNF-alpha. TNF-alpha is a molecule produced in the inflammatory cascade. Inflammation is associated with pain. For example, if you sprain your ankle, the ankle becomes swollen and red. The swelling and red color are both signs of inflammation. In the case of an ankle sprain, the inflammatory response recruits white blood cells and other healing cells to the area of injury in order to start the healing process. Without this inflammatory response, a sprained ankle would not be repaired.

In the case of an inflammatory autoimmune disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis, my clinical experience has shown that the inflammation of the joints is often the body’s response to an infectious agent. I discuss this concept in detail in my book, Overcoming Arthritis. Treating the infectious agent can eliminate the cause of the inflammation and allow the body to repair the damage. The worst thing you can do in this situation is to shut off the body’s inflammatory response with a drug like a TNF-alpha blocker. In the case of an underlying infection, blocking the production of TNF-alpha is bound to cause a dysfunction of the immune system. The end result is a lack of the immune system’s ability to fight or control an infection.

Yes, blocking TNF-alpha can treat the symptoms of arthritis, but keep in mind, these drugs do not treat the underlying cause of the illness. In fact their long-term use is bound to cause problems with the immune system including the development of potentially life-threatening infections.

What can you do if you have an inflammatory disorder? The first step is to ascertain the underlying cause(s) of the disorder. Eliminating inflammatory-provoking foods such as dairy and gluten can help. Furthermore, removing refined sugar is a must. Eating a healthy, whole-food based diet provides the body with nutrients that not only aid the immune system but provide the body with the raw materials needed to promote healing. Next, drinking adequate amounts of water helps the body overcome illness. Finally, correcting nutrient imbalances can further aid the body’s capability to overcome arthritis.

There is a time and a place to use drugs like Remicade and Humira as TNF-alpha drugs can provide symptomatic relief from painful conditions. However, their use should be limited to patients who have failed all other therapies and for those in dire need of relief from pain. Adopting a holistic approach, as outlined above, can minimize or many times eliminate the need for these drugs. TNF-alpha drugs should be used with utmost caution and for the shortest period of time possible.

Monday, September 5, 2011

It is getting harder and harder for all of us to maintain our optimal health. Why is obtaining and maintain optimal health becoming more difficult? The answer is simple; our exposure to toxic chemicals is continuing to increase. In our modern world, we are continually exposed to toxins at ever-increasing numbers. In fact I frequently diagnose my patients with toxicity issues which include having elevated amounts of mercury, aluminum, arsenic, bromine, and lead. A proper diagnosis and treatment plan can help the body eliminate toxic substances.

Even our clothing can contain toxic chemicals. In my book, Iodine Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It, I discuss the widespread problems with bromine toxicity. Bromine is a toxic halide that is used as a fire retardant in many consumer products such as clothing (and food). Bromine is the most common toxic item that I have identified in my patients. In my book, I discuss safe and effective ways to detoxify bromine including supplementing with iodine.

It is not just bromine that we need to be concerned with. Greenpeace reported that samples of clothing from 14 top clothing manufacturers were contaminated with chemicals known as nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE’s). NPE’s break down into nonylphenol which is considered a toxic, persistent organic pollutant. That means it is not easily broken down and it can last in the environment for a long period of time. NPE toxicity comes from its ability to mimic and bind to estrogen receptors in the body. These chemicals have been found to cause the feminization of male fish as well as to disrupt hormones in mammals (including humans).

Greenpeace purchased 78 branded clothing samples from 18 countries including China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines in order to complete their study. These clothes were manufactured by 14 different companies including Adidas, Uniqlo, Calvin Klein, H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, Lacoste, Converse, and Ralph Lauren. (On a side note, I am writing this blog sitting at my computer wearing a Ralph Lauren polo shirt.)

If our clothing contains toxic chemicals, what can you do? I believe the most important thing you can do is to ensure that your detoxification pathways are optimally functioning. How do you accomplish this? The first step to optimizing your detox pathways is to maintain adequate hydration. In other words, drink appropriate amounts of water. Water helps flush out toxins and optimal hydration helps lower the concentration of toxic items in the body. How much water should you drink? Take your weight in pounds, divide by two and the resulting number is the amount of water, in ounces, to ingest per day.

Next, ensure that your detoxification pathways have optimal levels of antioxidants and nutrients. This includes taking vitamins C and E. Both Vitamins C and E help neutralize many toxins as well as aid in the removal of toxins from the body. Alpha lipoic acid is another important nutrient that can not only neutralize toxins but also aids in their removal. I frequently prescribe 300mg/day of alpha lipoic acid to aid in the detoxification process.

Finally, I cannot emphasize the importance of periodically undergoing liver detoxification. One of the liver’s main responsibilities is to neutralize toxins so they can be eliminated in the urine or the stool. In our toxic world, the liver is often overworked and overstressed trying to keep up with the increasing toxic load we are exposed to.

My partners and I have designed a product—Total Liver Care or TLC— which stimulates both phases of liver detoxification. This product took us over 10 years to develop. TLC supplies the liver with the vital nutrients it needs in order to improve its detoxification capabilities. Because we are exposed to multiple toxins on a daily basis, periodically detoxifying the liver can help the liver eliminate many of the toxic chemicals such as those described above.

I generally recommend one scoop of TLC twice per day until the can is finished. Adding in alpha lipoic acid (300mg twice per day) enhances this process. These products can be found at my office website:

One last thought—there is no substitute for eating a healthy diet. Eating unrefined food supplies the body and the liver with the proper nutrients in order to optimize the detoxification pathways.