Can Soy Kill? Part 1
- Created on Sunday, 05 December 2010 20:51
So says Dr. Joseph Mercola, as he reissues, for the umpteenth time, the Weston Price Foundation diatribe against soy. Realize that they are advocates for eating a lot of animal foods: meats, fish, full-fat dairy (including butter, which they consider a premiere health food) and eggs. Even lard is great! They attack soy because soy is often used as a meat-substitute. But, soy is simply a bean, and whatever problems it has, it shares with other beans. Moreover, it shares them with other seed foods, including nuts, whole grains, and oil-seeds. So really, this is an attack on plant foods in general. But, what I would like to do, in a series of short articles to be posted here, is take their highly inflammatory charges against soy and dissect each one in the light of day. And when I'm through, then you can decide for yourself whether soy can kill and whether these people are worth listening to.
This entry will cover their first charge against soy: high levels of phytic acid. First, note that they often fail to mention the fact that many foods are high in phytic acid, that many have as much phytic acid as soy, and that some have significantly higher amounts than soy. Sesame seeds have about twice as much phytic acid as soy, but they're not bellyaching about sesame seeds. Brazil nuts have even more phytic acid than sesame seeds. Almonds have slightly more phytic acid than tofu, which is made from soy, but almonds have 50% more phytic acid than whole soy beans. Even flax seeds and pinto beans have more phytic acid than soy. So how fair is it to attack soy because of phytic acid?
Phytic acid is the primary form in which phosphorus is stored in seeds of all kinds. Undegraded phytic acid cannot release its phosphorus to the human body. Moreover, undegraded phytic acid tends to bind other minerals, including calcium, zinc, and iron. Note that it has been clearly established that the human intestine does produce some phytase enzyme to break down phytic acid. However, it's not much. Relatively speaking, we only produce 1/30 the phytase of a rat. But, you have to look at the big picture.
Under normal conditions, even under ideal conditions, we only absorb a small amount of the minerals in our food. For instance, it's estimated that we absorb about 20% of our calcium. We absorb about 16% of our zinc. And we absorb only about 10% of our iron, but even that gets us into trouble. The RDA for iron for men is 10 mgs daily. However, that assumes a man absorb only 10% which is 1 milligram/day. So, one milligram of iron is all a man has to replace each day- unless he's anemic to begin with. But, it's easy to absorb a lot more than that. In affluent countries, there are more people suffering from excess iron than from too little. Iron is an oxidant. It accelerates free radical formation, and hence aging. It is even considered a cancer promoter. Obviously, you need iron, but you want to avoid an excess. But, it's hard! And that's because it's difficult for the body to excrete iron. Unlike calcium, you don't urinate it out (unless you have urinary bleeding). You only excrete iron in your stool. But, the problem is that the body tends to recycle and reabsorb iron very efficiently, and often, not enough comes out in the stool. That's where phytic acid can help. There are people today taking phytic acid supplements to increase their excretion of iron, and they're doing it to treat or prevent heart disease and/or cancer. It's available on this website. Do a search for IP6. I'm not taking it, and I am not recommending it for general use either. I'm sure I am getting enough phytic acid from my food. But, I'm glad it's in my food.
Let's take me as an example. I include some soy tofu in my diet. As I mentioned previously, in the mornings, I like to make a smoothie with pomegranite juice, tofu, and some fruits, such as bananas, blueberries, persimmons- whatever I have around and feel like having. But, in addition, I eat Brazil nuts regularly because I like them and because I want to obtain their selenium. I also eat sesame seeds regularly as hummus and also as tahini. I also eat whole grains every day. I also eat nuts every day, including almonds which are high in phytic acid. I also eat other legumes, including pinto beans and black beans, which are high in phytic acid, higher than soy. So, how much phytic acid am I getting in total? I don't know, but it's got to be a lot.
So, how am I doing? Well, let's look at my blood work. My blood count is completely normal, and my serum iron last tested was at 112. The normal range for a man is considered to be 40 to 150. The median, therefore, would be 95. So, I am significantly above the median for iron, yet I take no iron supplements, I get no readily-absorbed heme-iron from meat, and I am dependent entirely on these high-phytate plant foods. Well, it's a good thing the phytate is in there because otherwise I could be in serious trouble. Remember, I only need to replace 1 milligram of iron a day. How much iron am I getting? I have seen analyses of the iron content of an unrefined plant-based diet such as mine, and it can be higher than 30 milligrams a day! Imagine if I were absorbing most or all of that iron? I'm 60, and I have been eating this way for decades. If I had been absorbing all that iron all that time, I might have had a heart attack in my 30s! I say thank God for phytic acid!
So, does that mean there is nothing to the clamor about the phytic acid in soy? Yes, that's what it means. Unless you are eating a ton of it, you have got absolutely nothing to worry about. It is a non- problem.
Next time, I'll tackle the next sky-is-falling charge against soy by the ever fear-mongering Weston Price Foundation and Dr. Mercola. So stay tuned!
FNB drops the ball on Vitamin D
- Created on Thursday, 02 December 2010 16:01
First, I want to acknowledge that for this piece I have lifted and paraphrased from a statement by Dr. John Cannell M.D., the head of the Vitamin D Council. So, it is he speaking not me, but I applaud what he is saying.
The Food and Nutrition Board, a division of the National Institute of Medicine, recently released its updated recommendations concerning Vitamin D. What a disappointment! Pregnant women are being advised to take only 600 IUs of Vitamin D daily. That is unbelivable. Professor Bruce Hollis, a leading Vitamin D researcher from the Medical University of South Carolina, has published papers showing that pregnant and lactating women need at least 5000 IUs/day of Vitamin D. 600 IUs is only 200 IUS than the 400 IUs recommended for tiny babies. Since the need for Vitamin D is very dependent on body size, how could a full-grown woman require little more Vitamin D than an 8 pound baby!
To keep these numbers in perspective, realize that a summer sunbath for 30 minutes delivers more than 10,000 IUs of Vitamin D.
As though it's living in the Dark Age, the FNB addressed only the role of Vitamin D in bone health, ignoring its vital role in heart health, brain health, breast health, prostate health, pancreatic health, muscle health, nerve health, eye health, immune health, colon health, liver health, mood health, skin health, and especially fetal health.
The FNB also reported that vitamin D toxicity might occur at an intake of 10,000 IU/day (250 micrograms/day), although they could produce no reproducible evidence that 10,000 IU/day has ever caused toxicity in humans and only one poorly conducted study indicating 20,000 IU/day may cause mild elevations in serum calcium, but not clinical toxicity.
Tens of millions of pregnant women and their breast-feeding infants are severely vitamin D deficient, resulting in a great increase in the medieval disease, rickets. The FNB report seems to reason that if so many pregnant women have low vitamin D blood levels then it must be OK because such low levels are so common. However, such circular logic simply represents the cave man existence (never exposed to the light of the sun) of most modern-day pregnant women.
Hence, if you want to optimize your vitamin D levels - not just optimize the bone effect - supplementing is crucial. But it is almost impossible to significantly raise your vitamin D levels when supplementing at only 600 IU/day (15 micrograms). Pregnant women taking 400 IU/day have the same blood levels as pregnant women not taking vitamin D; that is, 400 IU is a meaninglessly small dose for pregnant women. Even taking 2,000 IU/day of vitamin D will only increase the vitamin D levels of most pregnant women by about 10 points, depending mainly on their weight. Professor Bruce Hollis has shown that 2,000 IU/day does not raise vitamin D to healthy or natural levels in either pregnant or lactating women. Therefore supplementing with higher amounts - like 5000 IU/day - is crucial for those women who want their fetus to enjoy optimal vitamin D levels, and the future health benefits that go along with it.
For example, taking only two of the hundreds of recently published studies: Professor Urashima and colleagues in Japan, gave 1,200 IU/day of vitamin D3 for six months to Japanese 10-year-olds in a randomized controlled trial. They found vitamin D dramatically reduced the incidence of influenza A as well as the episodes of asthma attacks in the treated kids while the placebo group was not so fortunate. If Dr. Urashima had followed the newest FNB recommendations, it is unlikely that 400 IU/day treatment arm would have done much of anything and some of the treated young teenagers may have come to serious harm without the vitamin D. Likewise, a randomized controlled prevention trial of adults by Professor Joan Lappe and colleagues at Creighton University, which showed dramatic improvements in the health of internal organs, used more than twice the FNB's new adult recommendations.
Finally, the FNB committee consulted with 14 vitamin D experts and – after reading these 14 different reports – the FNB decided to suppress their reports. Many of these 14 consultants are either famous vitamin D researchers, like Professor Robert Heaney at Creighton or, as in the case of Professor Walter Willett at Harvard, the single best-known nutritionist in the world. So, the FNB will not tell us what Professors Heaney and Willett thought of their new report? Why not?
Today, the Vitamin D Council directed our attorney to file a federal Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the IOM's FNB for the release of these 14 reports.
Most of my friends, hundreds of patients, and thousands of readers of the Vitamin D Council newsletter (not to mention myself), have been taking 5,000 IU/day for up to eight years. Not only have they reported no significant side-effects, indeed, they have reported greatly improved health in multiple organ systems. My advice, especially for pregnant women: continue taking 5,000 IU/day until your 25(OH)D is between 50-80 ng/mL (the vitamin D blood levels obtained by humans who live and work in the sun and the mid-point of the current reference ranges at all American laboratories). Gestational vitamin D deficiency is not only associated with rickets, but a significantly increased risk of neonatal pneumonia, a doubled risk for preeclampsia, a tripled risk for gestational diabetes, and a quadrupled risk for primary cesarean section.
Today, the FNB has failed millions of pregnant women whose as yet unborn babies will pay the price.
Note from Dr. Cinque: I, too, take 5000 IUs of Vitamin D3 every day. And I have my 25 (OH) Vitamin D tested every year in April. Last time it was 45, which is still a little bit below the optimal range of 50 to 80. So how could a person taking a mere 600 IUs ever get close to optimal and especially when she is pregnant?
Get familiar with a very important blood test: HA1C
- Created on Monday, 29 November 2010 03:38
Recently, I was contacted by a 60 year old woman who wanted me to go over her blood work. Her fasting blood sugar was nice and low at 75. That's actually lower than mine, so I was a little envious. However, at the same time, she had marginally elevated HA1C.
HA1C measures the percentage of hemologbin that shows glycation damage. Glacation is a reaction between sugar moleculres and proteins in which the proteins get damaged. An example would be the proteins in the lens of the eye, which in their healthy state are completely translucent, but when they undergo glycation, they become opaque. Think of it like the change from raw egg white to cooked egg white, a process which is called "denaturing." Obviously, you can't see through cooked egg white, and it's the same for the ocular lens.
This woman's HA1C was 5.9% where normal is considered 5.7% or less. And, the fact is that some labs designate 5.9 as the top of the normal range, so really it was marginal. Nevertheless, it concerned her a lot, which is why she contacted me. I will point out that this woman is not the least bit overweight- if anything she is on the slim side. And she's feeling fine- there are no symptomatic issues.
The reason why HA1C is becoming recognized as a valuable tool is because it reflects the status of long-term glucose control. A simple glucose test only tells you what the blood sugar was at a single moment in time. But, blood glucose can fluctuate wildly. So, by looking at HA1C, you get an idea of how well glucose is being controlled over a period of several months.
It is probably true that HA1C is at least as predictive of future problems as any of the cholesterol tests and probably more predictive. And if I had to choose between being stuck with a high cholesterol or a high HA1C, I think I'd rather be stuck with high cholesterol. It would worry me more to have an elevated HA1C.
Now, what can you do about it? Well obviously, all of the factors that go into diabetes prevention apply, which means: eating a whole natural foods diet and emphasizing plant foods over animal foods, exercising regularly including aerobic and resistance exercise, maintaining a healthy lean to fat ratio (meaning retaining quite a lot of bodily muscle and not much bodily fat), and that's about it for the frontline defense. However, if you want to do more, you can consider taking anti-glycation supplements. Two of the best are Carnosine and Benfotiamine. Carnosine is a dipeptide, which means two amino acids holding hands, in this case alanine and histidine. It sounds simple, but Carnosine is as powerful an antiglycation agent as they come. Even the FDA realizes it because they have made Carnosine eyedrops a prescription treatment for cataracts. And Benfotiamine is the fat-soluble form of Vitamin B1 which has been used for decades in Europe to treat and prevent diabetes. It's commonly prescribed by doctors over there, and it's as safe to take as regular thiamine.
Those are the two anti-glycation supplements that I take. Another good one is P5P, which is an advanced form of Vitamin B6. I don't take it separately, but there is some P5P in the Extend Core multi that I take every day.
I am going to include the HA1C test in my annual blood work next April, and frankly, it will be for the first time. I never thought about doing it before because my blood sugar was always nice and low, so I figured, why bother? But now that I know that it's possible to have enviably low blood sugar while still having marginally high HA1C, I will start tracking it.
More amazing news about Pomegranate
- Created on Wednesday, 24 November 2010 18:49
Would you believe that pomegranate protects the kidneys of patients undergoing dialysis? I think that's amazing. In a small study out of Israel involving 101 dialysis patients, some got pomegranate juice 3X a week while the rest got a placebo drink. The patients receiving pomegranate juice showed marked reduction in inflammation and damage caused by free radicals. The doctors also observed significant improvement in cardiovascular risk factors among the patients getting pomegranate, which was important because many kidney patients die from cardiovascular events. Their conclusion was:
"Considering the expected epidemic of chronic kidney disease in the next decade, further clinical trials using pomegranate juice aimed at reducing the high cardiovascular morbidity of chronic kidney disease patients and their deterioration to end-stage renal disease should be conducted."
The study was presented during the American Society of Nephrology's Renal Week 2010 in New York City, the largest nephrology meeting in the world.
My first thought was that if pomegranate could do that much good for those who are in kidney failure, how much good could it do for a relatively healthy person?
I don't know about you but this time of year (autumn) I am consuming pomegranate juice every day. I make it in my Champion juicer. I realize that I could just eat the pomegranate seeds and pulp, but the seeds are rather gritty, which I don't like. So, I prefer to make juice. Sometimes, I just drink the juice by itself, but often I make a smoothie consisting of fresh pomegranate juice, organic tofu made from sprouted soybeans, and ripe bananas. Talk about a great smoothie! It is like a jolt of energy.
I hope you are making the most of this pomegranate season.
The New Salt Guidelines: How low can you go?
- Created on Monday, 22 November 2010 02:53
The USDA issued new salt guidelines in 2010 advising all Americans not to exceed 1500 mgs in their daily salt consumption. This was in sharp contrast to their previous advice which allowed most people to consume up to 2400 mgs daily. A lot of people, including some doctors, are screaming bloody murder about this, and the online community seems particuarly incensed about it. But, let me give you my take.
We know how much sodium the human body actually needs each day. It's about 500 mgs, and the body can actually get by on less by ratcheting up its sodium-conserving mechanisms. The body can squeak by on 250 mgs/daily if it has to. But, the body gets by with ease on 500 mgs/day with no strain at all. So, even 1500 mgs is 3x as much as required. However, the sodium-excreting mechanisms of the body are so efficient that most people can handle that much sodium load without a problem. But, I'll tell you, honestly, that there is no good reason to go higher than that. So in this case, I don't have a problem with the government's decree, and what I mean is that I think it's a good target to aim for.
In my life, I try to control my sodium intake, and I'm sure that on many days, I do consume less than 1500 mgs. However, I know that there are some days that I do go a bit higher, maybe as high as 2000 mgs. That is still below average because the average American consumes 3000 to 5000 mgs of sodium daily, and heavy salt users may go as high as 10,000 mgs or higher. But, I don't mind being reminded to keep trying to lower my salt intake because it's a worthy endeavor.
What's the harm from sodium? Well, obviously high blood pressure is an issue. It has not been a problem for me. My blood pressure has stayed low despite moderate salt intake. But if my pressure were to start rising, I would indeed lower my salt intake dramatically. But besides that, we know that excess sodium is bad for the bones. You know how salt corrodes the underside of cars and the surfaces of roads when they salt them in the winter? You might say it does the same thing to bones. Salt is an irritant, and it irritates the stomach. The high rate of stomach cancer in Japan is believed to be due to the high salt consumption. And salt may play a role in hardening of the arteries- not in the plaquing, which is soft, but in the hardening which comes later.
So, there are good reasons for all of us to limit our salt intake- even if we are lucky enough not to experience a rise in blood pressure from it.
Is sea salt better than standard table salt? I believe it is because it does contain other minerals. However, keep in mind that it's still 97% sodium chloride, and sodium chloride is sodium chloride whether it's mined from the sea or from the land. So, I'm all for sea salt, but let's not get over-enthused about it. Let's not mistakenly think that we can use it willy-nilly just because it's from the sea.
There is one important caveat: There are people with salt-wasting diseases, such as Addison's disease, where the adrenal glands fail to signal the kidneys to conserve sodium. These people lose copious amounts of sodium in their urine and hence have an unusually large daily requirement. But fortunately, Addison's disease is quite rare, and if you had it, you'd know about it by now.
Keep in mind that many people consume a lot of sodium without ever picking up a salt shaker. Cheese, bread, chips, canned foods, commercial soups, frozen dinners, and almost all restaurant dishes are loaded with salt. They add salt to everything. You don't think of cookies as being salty, but they are. Did you know that they add salt to ice cream? In my life, I avoid most of that stuff. I do eat whole grain bread which has about 100 mgs of sodium per slice. That's actually considered low by commercial standards. I eat canned beans, but I buy ones that are low in salt. Yet, they still have about half as much salt as the regular ones. The saltiest thing I eat is a frozen vegetarian dinner which has 700 mgs. It's the nights I eat that that my total daily consumption may exceed 1500 mgs.
So, I don't consider myself a purist about salt by any means. But, if I were having major health problems, I would immediately cut way back to less than 1000 mgs a day.
Anyway, the bottom line is that when you do the Math, you realize that it really does make sense to minimize your salt consumption. And I can tell you that just from writing this little article, I am feeling empowered and motivated to try harder to get my salt consumption down.
Retinol creams and skin cancer
- Created on Friday, 19 November 2010 00:14
A reader has asked my opinion about the use of retinol, which is Vitamin A, in skin creams, and whether it might cause cancer.
The use of retinol in skin creams has been around for quite a long time- at least 25 years. The prescription forms of it usually contain an analogue of Vitamin A, such as Retin-A, and the over the counter forms contain regular Vitamin A, retinol.
Whether it's the natural Vitamin A or an analogue, the benefit from using it comes from its mildly irritating effect, which causes the outer skin cells to shed. A comparison has been made to an onion. If you peel the outer, dry, crusty layers of an onion, you get to a layer that is smooth and soft and moist. And it certainly looks much younger.
As to whether the use of retinol might cause or increase the risk of skin cancer, it is, after all, an irritant, and chronic irritation is a factor in many cancers. Moreover, it increases sun sensitivity, and the sun is obviously a factor in skin cancer. That's the reason why the use of sunscreen is recommended to all those using Vitamin A creams.
But, you should also know that some dermatologists prescribe Retin-A as an ancillary treatment for some kinds of skin cancer. The same is true for pre-cancers such as actinic keratosis. And I mean they have the patient apply the Retin-A directly on the affected skin.
I feel that as long as the individual pays attention to the signs of excess irritation (such as redness, excessive shedding, peeling) and backs off when necessary, and so long as sunscreen is applied daily, that there should be no cause for concern. I think it's safe, and used properly and cautiously, it may actually reduce the risk of skin cancer.
However, I would not use a sunscreen that contained retinol. We're talking apples and oranges here. An anti-aging skin cream with retinol or one of its derivatives is one thing. A sunscreen is something else. They're two separate products, or at least they should be.
Again, used properly, I feel that retinol creams are safe, and I have no compunction to discourage their use.
Walnuts Lower Blood Pressure
- Created on Thursday, 18 November 2010 21:02
This is a good follow-up to the previous article which covered the use of diuretics to treat high blood pressure. I am opposed to that practice, and I am opposed to all the drugs that are used to treat high blood pressure, except in emergencies. Many of the anti-hypertensive drugs affect the kidneys in one way or another. But think about it: for most hypertensives, the disease exists in their arteries. It is the condition of their arteries that causes the elevated pressure. So, why treat the kidneys? Instead, why not take actions to make the arteries healthier? Isn't that the logical thing to do? Moderate hypertension should be treated with diet, lifestyle, and specific nutritional practices to improve arterial health. And there are so many safe and constructive ways that you can lower your blood pressure without causing havoc in your body.
One of the most healthful things you can do is to eat walnuts regularly, as I do. I eat walnuts almost daily and throughout the year.
A new study done at Pennsylvania State University found that adding 1.3 ounces of walnuts and 1 tablespoon of walnut oil to people's diets lowered their resting blood pressure significantly. However, it also produced a lower blood pressure response to stress- when the individuals were placed under stressful conditions.
Some of the participants were also given a vascular ultrasound test which measures arterial dilation. The walnut diet was found to significantly improve vascular function. They also found that the walnuts lowered C-reactive Protein or CRP, which is a cardinal sign of inflammation, which means that the walnuts were having an anti-inflammatory effect.
The trial lasted for 6 weeks, during which the control group was fed the standard American diet. The experimental group was fed the same diet except that some of the fat and protein were replaced with the walnuts and walnut oil, so that calorically, the diets were equal. However, it should be noted that there was no attempt to optimize the entire diet. The benefits accrued even though the subjects were still eating standard fare- except for the small portion of their diet comprised of the walnuts.
Of course, in real life, a person would be wise to eat walnuts and other raw nuts, and also to optimize their entire diet by eating a lot of fresh produce (fruits and vegetables), wholesome carbohydrates (such as whole grains and legumes) and minimizing or excluding all the bad foods.
My point is that if noticeable improvement occurred just from adding a small handful of walnuts to an otherwise mediocre diet, imagine if you really tried to eat healthfully in all respects. That's when the "power of your plate" can really turn your life around.
I'm not inclined to use walnut oil. Why bother? It's in the walnuts, so I say just eat them. I don't see any advantage in taking the oil separately. I think we should be quite restrained in our use of oils, period. And for what limited use I make of oil, I prefer to use extra virgin olive oil because I think it's superior, and I think it's far more practical.
Of course, walnuts is one of many fine nuts, and I don't doubt that it is one of the best. But in sizing up nuts, surely the almond has got to be near or at the top of the list. Nutritionally, almonds are in every sense a super-food. If I were limited to just 5 foods and no others- say for the rest of my life- I can assure you that raw almonds would definitely be one of my choices.
And when I say raw almonds, I do mean totally raw almonds, and they are increasingly difficult to find. You can't find them in stores. Those almonds have all been pasteurized. You can only buy raw almonds online. But, it's worth the trouble because almonds, like all nuts with the exception of chestnuts, should be eaten raw.
Frankly, at age 60, I have the blood pressure of a 20 year old, and I've been eating raw nuts daily for 40 years!
Diuretics: More Medical Mischief That Needs To Stop
- Created on Monday, 15 November 2010 05:13
Note: This article is an expanded form of a previous blog concerning diuretics. It was written for publication on another website. But, you should read it, even if you have read the earlier blog. I believe it offers valuable information on the proper management of various conditions for which diuretics are commonly, and erroneously, prescribed.
The greatest thing about the Internet is that it allows public debate of issues that would not otherwise be publically debated. For instance, although almost 10 years have passed since 9-1-1, the 911 truth movement is alive and well and growing, and it's all because of the Internet. The JFK truth movement too has benefted greatly from the Internet.
Likewise, the Internet has become a bastion for medical skepticism. Look what happened last year with the supposed swine flu pandemic. Tens of millions of Americans refused to get the swine flu shot. The majority of Americans didn't get it. Where did such skepticism come from? It came from the Internet. And it's not just the swine flu shot. The Internet puts all medical drugs on trial like never before. Do an online search, and you can find a torrent of information about the harms from statin drugs, NSAIDs, acid blockers, arthritis medicines, horse estrogen, and more. I dare say, if you are prescribed a drug, and you don't do an online search about it before taking it, something is wrong with you.
However, there is one class of prescription drugs that has largely escaped critical analysis on the Internet: diuretics. That is about to change. This article makes the case against diuretics and why you should think twice about taking them. And, diuretics are a very widely prescribed class of drugs. Diuretics are considered first-line treatment for high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, kidney failure, cirrhosis of the liver, and edema from just about any cause. You don't like the puffiness around your eyes in the morning? A doctor will give you a diuretic for that too.
We all know what diuretics do- increase the urinary output- but how do they do it? To grasp that, you have to understand how the kidneys work.
Kidney filtration starts with blood passing through a specialized cluster of high-pressure capillaries called a glomerulus. Because of the high pressure, water and disssolved substances are forced out of the capillaries into the capsule that surrounds the glomerulus, called Bowman's capsule. Then comes a long tubular system known as the renal tubule. There, the body reclaims some of the initial filtrate, including about two-thirds of the salt and water, and virtually all of the organic compounds, such as glucose and amino acids. The whole idea is to reclaim the good and leave behind the bad and to get the balance of everything just right. The whole filtering unit is called a nephron, and there are about a million nephrons in each kidney.
Diuretics work by sabotaging the reclamation process so that more of the initial glomerular filtrate reaches the bladder. So, more water comes out, and also more minerals, such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium. There are different kinds of diuretics. For instance, loop diuretics interfere with reabsorption at the ascending loop, whereas thiazide diuretics interfere at the distal convoluted tubule. There are other kinds of diuretics, but those two seem to be the most widely prescribed. Keep in mind that the function of the kidneys is a very delicate and intricate process. It's influenced by multiple hormones, some of which are produced by the kidneys, and some of which are produced elsewhere, such as the pituitary gland and the adrenals. It's influenced by the body's pH, because, among other things, your kidneys work to maintain the proper acid/base balance. It's a vast, complicated, finely-tuned, precision process, and again: it's very delicate. To go in there, as with a sledgehammer, and pharmacologically force changes on this delicate process is certain to cause havoc. You wouldn't try to adjust a wrist watch with a sledge hammer, but they might as well be doing that when they give people diuretics.
So, do diuretics make your kidneys work better? No, they make them work worse. The fluild output goes up but only because the whole discriminatory process has been seriously corrupted. The result is pharmacological dehydration. That's what you get when you take a diuretic. A diuretic adds a layer of pharmacological dehydration to whatever condition you started with. It doesn't address the causes of the original condition. It doesn't normalize anything. On the contrary, it adds another abnormality to the one that already exists. It certainly does not cure, fix, or correct anything. What it does do is camouflage the original condition. So, no matter what disease you started with, you now have two diseases, one naturally occurring, and the other drug-induced. The result of that morbid combination may kinda, sorta look like normal. But, the devil is in the details.
Hey, don't be fooled by appearances! If you, an LRC reader, are smart enough to see through fake economic recoveries, you ought to be able to see through fake medical recoveries. They're both as phony as a three dollar bill. (Or maybe I should say a five dollar bill.)
Just because your swelling goes down a little in response to the diuretic does not mean you are getting better. You, the poor patient, are being deceived by your misguided doctor. The "improvement" is just a trick, a charade, a medical shenanigan. Nobody gets their issues resolved by taking a diuretic. All it does is mask symptoms while putting an additional strain on the body. I suppose it wouldn't matter if it were harmless. But, it is not harmless. It starts a train of evils that reaches far and wide. For example, JAMA reported in 2002 that patients in kidney failure who were given diuretics to "help" their kidneys had a 68% higher death rate!
Being a bicyclist, I like to make an analogy to a bicycle wheel being "out of true." To get that perfect rotation back, a wobbly wheel is placed in a device, and then the spokes are adjusted- some tightened and some loosened until the wheel rotates evenly again. But, you can't go about it willy-nilly. If you don't know what you're doing, and you start cavalierly tightening and loosening spokes to correct a wobble, you can easily create a worse wobble elsewhere. You'd be surprised how easy it is to make a bad wheel worse when trying to fix it- if you don't know what you're doing. You can easily dig yourself in deeper. And that's exactly what happens when you take a diuretic; you're just digging yourself in deeper, making a bad situation worse. You're just complicating your condition and taking your whole biological system further "out of true." And you are setting yourself up for unending medical dependency. So, don't be lured by the prospect of a symptomatic improvement from taking a diuretic. It's not worth it. It will always prove to be meager and temporary. No real good comes from it. I assure you that diuretics never restored anyone to health. It's really just a trap- a deceptive medical trap. The list of potential side effects from diuretics is long: headaches, weakness, faintness, nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, muscle cramps, etc. etc., but, what concerns me most is the damage to the kidneys (which is irreversible) and the cardiac arrhythmias (which can cause sudden death).
So, what should you do instead of taking a diuretic? Let's take it one condition at a time.
Heart Failure: If your heart is failing, taking diuretics is not going to make it stronger. Fluid pools in the legs with left-sided heart failure. I say just live with it. Don't cover it up with diuretics. What you need is a total health program to rehabilitate your heart. That means getting the right food (ie, whole natural foods, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, while avoiding junk carbs and junk fats) the right exercise (being careful and diligent about it, respecting your limitations) shedding excess weight, tightly controlling sodium (ie, the amount you put in your mouth, not what your kidneys do with it), etc. Heart-supporting supplements such as Coenzyme Q10, Taurine , Acetyl-l-carnitine, high-dose Vitamin D3, and others should be considered. And of course, you should work with a doctor, but not one who is going to lace you with diuretics. Look, the fluid in your legs is there; you can live with it for a while. Just accept it. Use it as a way to monitor your progress. If you do many things right, the fluid buildup will slowly dissipate- without forcing measures. And as it starts going down- on its own accord- you'll know you are on the right track. What you want is a real recovery- not some medical fabrication.
High Blood Pressure: You could say that most people with high blood pressure have walking high blood pressure, meaning that there is no emergency, and they don't feel sick. It means they have time to apply natural methods and avoid the pharmaceutical route. Again, it starts with natural diet, exercise, weight control, habit control, de-stressing, de-caffeinating, etc. etc. And again, there are natural supplements worth considering, such as fish oil, resveratrol, CoQ10, policosonal, magnesium, and more. It's all very safe stuff. But, why take a diuretic? You don't have high blood pressure because your kidneys are impaired. You may have impaired kidneys because you have high blood pressure, but don't get the cart before the horse. And as I explained, you can't normalize your kidneys by taking diuretics. Even the seeming good that comes from taking a diuretic for high blood pressure isn't all that much. Why do you think they often combine diuretics with other anti-hypertensive drugs? It's because the results from taking a diuretic alone is often unsatisfactory and inadequate. I say forget about it. Adding a layer of pharmacological dehydration to your condition is not going to help you. And don't let them use fear to control you. OH, you're gong to have a heart attack or a stroke if you don't start taking the drugs right away! You may have had high blood pressure for years without knowing it. Millions of Americans have it right now and don't know it. And yes, some of them will go on to have heart attacks and strokes, but don't assume for a second that those who take diuretics and other prescriptions for hypertension become immune to heart attacks and strokes. That's part of the big lie. They're selling this stuff- just like flu vaccine.
There is one caveat regarding high blood pressure, and that concerns malignant hypertension. Malignant hypertension is a condition in which the blood pressure spikes so high and so fast, that it is truly a medical emergency. Symptoms are acute: extreme headache, visual disturbances, gait disturbances, cognitive disturbances- even speech impediments. I am not challenging emergency medical treatment of malignant hypertension. However, keep in mind that it comprises a very tiny percentage of cases of hypertension. The vast majority of patients fall into the walking hypertension category, for which natural alternative methods are far superior.
Venous insufficiency: This is where the venous valves which prevent backflow are defective causing the ankles and legs to swell, and there is also an unsightly appearance of the broken, damaged veins. If it were me, I would walk as much as possible, use the slant board every day, wear supportive legwear, raise the foot of my bed slightly, eat well (again, lots of fruits and vegetables), and I would take natural botannicals that have been shown to support vascular health, such as horse chestnut, butchers broom, and grape seed extract. But, I would not take diuretics, which can only mask the condition.
Ascites: This is where the abdomen swells because of liver disease. There are a lot of things you can do to aid an ailing liver, but taking diuretics is not one of them. On the contrary, diuretics strain the liver. Obviously, the lifestyle issues must be addressed, including eating habits, drinking habits, drugs habits, etc. And there are many supplements that can aid an ailing liver, including Silymarin from millk thistle, NAC, SAM-e, TMG, lipoic acid, and more. Obviously, a bloated abdomen can look alarming, but it's not usually painful. Just let it subside by itself (which it will) when you do everything else right. And again, as the swelling slowly subsides, you will know that you are on the right course. So, you can use it as a barometer of your progress. There is no good reason to mask it with diuretics.
This doesn't begin to cover all the conditions for which diuretics are used, but hopefully, you are getting the idea. Am I saying that there is no legitimate, beneficial use of diuretics? Let me put it this way: I can't think of a single condition for which I, Ralph Cinque, would be willing to take a diuretic. Not one. Whatever the problem might be, I would deal with it in other, more constructive ways.
In case I haven't made myself clear, I DON'T LIKE DIURETICS. They don't do any good. They just create the illusion of improvement. You can't force the kidneys to work better. It just isn't possible. It only invites trouble. Serious, major trouble.