March 2003 Newsletter
Dear Friends and Patients:
I have always enjoyed reading history and traveling to historic sites, and one of my favorite places to visit is just down the road at the historic town of St. Augustine. Five centuries ago, on Easter, March 27, 1513, the Spanish explorer and treasure hunter Juan Ponce de Leon sighted land as he approached Florida, and claimed the land for Spain. He named the land “La Florida,” meaning Land of Flowers. During his expedition he found a prehistoric Indian spring of water that he thought was the Fountain of Youth. Through the years, the legend of the Fountain of Youth has appealed to people’s desire for health, vitality and living life to the fullest. While the Fountain of Youth is a myth, scientific advances have allowed us to improve the quality of our lives and health.
A Patient Success Story
Mrs. S. is a lovely, 53 y.o. lady who came to see me originally in 2001 for evaluation of fatigue. Physical exam and routine lab work, including a thyroid panel, were “normal.” A hair analysis revealed multiple low nutrient levels and an abnormal hair iodine level that was consistent with thyroid system dysfunction. Like many of my patients with thyroid system problems, she had symptoms of fatigue, weakness, dry skin, inability to lose weight, low body temperature and PMS. Her history was further complicated by having suffered a TIA related to Provera use, a synthetic hormone that can cause heart disease. She also had hypertension requiring the use of medication. Mrs. S. was placed on compounded natural estriol therapy that helped relieve some of her hormonal imbalance symptoms. She was also placed on specific supplements to support thyroid function and to correct her nutritional deficiencies. As Mrs. S.’s nutritional status improved, her fatigue also improved somewhat but didn’t go away completely. She was disappointed that she was unable to lose weight, in spite of maintaining a calorie restricted diet and exercise program.
An IGF-1 level (see next section for details) was then obtained and was found to be low. This indicated that her growth hormone function was deficient. She was started on Trans D Tropin, which is a natural product that is applied to the skin several times daily which improves a person’s own growth hormone production. I saw her one month later. She stated the results were “simply amazing!” For the first time in years her fatigue was totally gone and her body temperatures were normal at 98.6 degrees. Her insomnia was gone and she was sleeping well through the night. For the first time she began losing weight. Her clothes were two inches looser around the waistline.
What Is Human Growth Hormone?
How did normalizing Human Growth Hormone (HGH) help Mrs. S.? If any hormone in the human body is “the Fountain of Youth” it is growth hormone. HGH is the most abundant hormone produced by the pituitary gland, located in the center of the brain. HGH is a complex hormone made up of 191 amino acids. HGH levels peak in adolescence and stimulate our bodies to grow, but we continue to produce this hormone after adolescence in short bursts during deep sleep. Scientific research has shown that as we age, our body’s ability to produce and release HGH diminishes. Some experts now believe that the process of aging is actually the direct result of declining HGH levels.
HGH stimulates the production of IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor 1) from the liver. HGH does not stay in the blood stream for more than a brief period whereas IGF-1 stays much longer. IGF-1 contributes to the many functions HGH is involved with. Here are some of the functions HGH and IGF-1 have in the body:
• Aids growth and repair of all tissues.
• Improves energy levels and reduces chronic fatigue.
• Assists brain function for mental well being, improved memory and concentration, and reduced depression/anxiety.
• Increases bone strength and is essential in osteoporosis prevention.
• Positively affects hormonal levels, sexual function and improves libido/performance.
• Assists in maintaining or improving integrity of hair, nails, and skin.
• Reduces arthritic pain and increases flexibility.
• Decreases susceptibility to illness and improves immune function.
• Improves blood sugar balance and improves diabetic control.
• Improves cholesterol balance by lowering LDL and increasing HDL.
Why Does The Body Produce Less HGH As We Age?
It was originally believed that the pituitary gland just didn’t have the ability to produce large amounts of growth hormone as we got older. However we now know that aging pituitary glands are capable of producing the same amount of HGH that young pituitary glands do, if they are adequately stimulated. Another theory is that as we get older our Somatostatin levels increase, and this is a natural inhibitor to growth hormone. The real answer is that we just don’t know.
HGH Injections and Supplements
Just log onto the Internet and type in “Growth Hormone” in your search engine. There are hundreds of web sites that sell HGH products. “Look Younger! Lose Weight! Boost Your Energy! Increase Your Sex Drive!” And who wouldn’t want to have these things happen to them? Unfortunately, most products that claim to either contain HGH or increase HGH, do not work. First of all, HGH is a prescription drug, not a dietary supplement. It does not work orally and would break down in stomach acid before it got into the blood stream. So any company that claims it’s product contains HGH is either not being truthful, has a homeopathic amount of hormone to get around FDA regulations, or is circumventing the law. There are other products, called secretagogues, that claim they cause the body to produce more growth hormone. Most of these products have not been shown to truly increase HGH levels on a consistent basis or to work clinically.
Growth hormone can be replaced by injections of synthetically made growth hormone. This is a prescription drug that is very expensive – on the order of $1000 a month or more, depending upon the dose and frequency. I do not generally recommend this approach as any time you introduce a large amount of a foreign hormone into the body, you run the risk of side effects. It makes much more sense to let your body produce an adequate amount of it’s own hormone.
The only product that I am aware of that is highly effective is a physician developed product that has been tested using randomized, multi center, double blind, placebo controlled, cross-over studies. It is the Trans D Tropin that Mrs. S. was given. Trans D Tropin is available only by prescription or through a physician’s office. It is comprised of ingredients from non-animal sources, consisting primarily of certain amino acids and fatty acids. It is FDA registered. It is also unique in that it is the world’s first and only transdermal (goes through the skin) HGH releasing analog. Before it can be prescribed, a screening lab test for IGF-1 or Prolactin is required. It’s cost is approximately $180 for a month’s supply. For more information, contact us at the Center.
Hugs May Be Good Medicine
A recent study at the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina demonstrated cuddling may have a protective effect. One group of 100 spouses or long-term partners held hands viewing a 10 minute video, then hugged for 20 seconds. Another group of 85 rested quietly without their partners. Then all participants spoke for a few minutes about a recent event that made them angry or stressed. Blood pressures soared in the non-contact group, with the systolic reading jumping on average 24 points, more than double for the contact group. Heart rate increased 10 beats per minute for those without contact vs. 5 beats a minute for huggers.
Soy, a Controversial Food
At the Center I am frequently asked about soy and soy products, and many of my patients are surprised when I caution them there may be a down side to eating excessive soy products. We have all heard that soy is high in protein and low in saturated fat, unlike most meats or dairy products that contain higher amounts of saturated fat. For many people it seems to sit on the stomach a lot easier than other foods. In today’s supermarkets we can find everything from soy milk to tofu to soy burgers.
Unlike other legumes, soybeans are not safe to eat when fresh out of the ground. They are actually very toxic. In laboratory tests, soybeans have been shown to cause birth defects and even cancer in lab animals. Part of the problem is that manufacturers cannot remove all of the toxins out of soy. One of the toxins inhibits trypsin and slows the growth of rats in laboratory tests. We don’t really know if it also slows the growth of human children as well, but before you put soy milk on your child’s cereal you need to be aware that there are some concerns.
In feeding experiments, a soy-based diet requires additional vitamins, including E, K, D, B12 and it also creates deficiencies in certain minerals, including copper, zinc, calcium and magnesium by blocking the absorption of these nutrients in the intestinal tract. This is especially important information if you are a peri- or postmenopausal woman who eats a lot of soy to reduce hot flushes and sweats. You could be putting yourself at risk for osteoporosis or other serious nutritional deficiencies.
Soy, Breast Cancer and other Hormonal Effects
You may have also heard that eating soy can protect you from developing breast cancer. There is research that points in this direction. But there is also research that points in the opposite direction and shows an increased incidence of what is called epithelial hyperplasia, a pre-cancerous change. A chemical in soy was shown to cause breast cells to metastasize. Does this mean that soy causes some breast cancers? We don’t know for sure. But my personal feeling is that until the research comes in, a balanced diet without an emphasis on soy protein exclusively is a smarter approach to health.
What about isoflavones? Aren’t they beneficial? In 1991, Japanese researchers found that as little as 2 teaspoons of soy protein a day caused goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland) and hyperthyroidism in some patients. Isoflavones were thought to be the cause of this. The soy lobby suggests up to 100 grams daily of soy protein. This provides the estrogen equivalent of taking a birth control pill. So if you’re menopausal and are having hot flushes or other symptoms, you’re likely to reduce those symptoms by taking soy. Now if you are an infant taking soy formula, because of small body size, you’re getting the equivalent of five or six birth control pills a day. This could lead to learning disabilities, sexual development that is premature, and thyroid problems according to some experts. This is disturbing considering almost half of all babies that are bottle fed receive a soy formula.
Can Soy cause Alzheimer’s Disease?
A presentation at the 3rd International Soy Symposium in 1999 revealed a significant statistical relationship between eating two or more servings of tofu a week and accelerated brain aging. Persons who ate this amount of tofu in mid-life showed a greater degree of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease later in life. This was a thirty year study involving Japanese American’s living in Hawaii. Again, it was thought isoflavones were the offenders.
An article in the February 2003 Journal of Endocrinology stated that soy phytoestrogens (genisten) when given to mice, suppressed cell mediated immunity. Whether this would occur in humans is not known.
The final verdict may not come in for years as to whether soy is good or bad or somewhere in between. I’ve presented some down sides to eating excessive soy and we’ll continue to keep you up to date in our Newsletters or web site.
What’s New At The Center?
• DR. ERICKSON was recently asked to participate in a filmed interview by Gary Nole productions
on alternative therapies in the evaluation and treatment of children with ADD/ADHD. This production may air on PBS TV in the summer. We’ll keep you all posted.
• DR. ERICKSON WILL BE SPEAKING to Rotary of Gainesville on April 29th, 2003 at their noon luncheon meeting on an Introduction to Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. If you are a Rotary member, we look forward to seeing you there.
• VITAMIN ANALYSIS BY SPECTRACELL LABS has been improved. Using a state of the art technology that allows measuring of vitamin levels and some mineral levels within a person’s own white blood cells, a more accurate picture of a person’s nutritional status can be obtained. SpectraCell has now added additional tests to their panels, including CoEnzyme Q10 levels. Insurance may cover the cost of the tests. There is a $30 fee to cover the drawing of the blood and processing the live specimen, payable to the Center.
• ORGANIC GRASS FED BEEF Dr. Erickson has discovered a unique company that raises organic, grass fed beef that is high in omega-3 oil and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). You will not recognize this product when it comes as it is virtually fat-free. Log on to AmericanGrassFedBeef.com and tour the website. This company is out of Missouri and is owned by a veterinarian, Dr. Patricia Whisnant.
• MERCURY-FREE SEAFOOD Contact Randy Hartnell, President of Vital Choice Seafood. and tell him we sent you. His website is www.vitalchoice.com. He has certified mercury-free wild Alaskan salmon and halibut that can be shipped to your door on dry ice.