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What’s New! – A Healthy Living Newsletter

March, 2002

My patients frequently ask my opinion about new health books on the market. And there's certainly no shortage of experts peddling their advice! While many of these books are excellent, others are written by people who don't have a clinical background in the subject. Simply put - they're inaccurate.

The people writing the books either don't regularly use the medicines they write about or they're presenting theories as if they are facts. Others can be valuable tools for improving the quality of your life.

If you find this newsletter useful, please forward it to a friend!

The Glucose Revolution
The Authoritative Guide to THE GLYCEMIC INDEX
Jennie Brand-Miller Ph.D., Thomas Wolever, MD, Ph.D., Stephen Colagiuri, MD and Kaye Foster-Powell, MS


In the late 1970s, a group of researchers led by Professor of Nutrition, David Jenkins, discovered a specific way to determine the immediate effect of various foods on blood sugar. Their results were incredibly important - and virtually ignored. The message just didn't get out to the average person on the street. Twenty years later, The Glucose Revolution set out to rectify that situation.

Which effects your blood sugar more - a pretzel or a chocolate candy bar? If you guessed the pretzel, then you were correct. But what does blood sugar have to do with anything? Blood sugar balance is critical for both disease prevention and control. The obvious example is diabetes. Diabetes is a disease in which the body can no longer balance blood sugar. And when that happens, it leaves the person vulnerable to heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, obesity and vascular disease that for some lead to limb amputation. But blood sugar balance is also of crucial important in weight loss, heart disease, hypoglycemia, athletic performance and overall health.

The Glycemic index is based on measuring the effects of 50 grams of carbohydrates in different forms (pasta, beans, white bread, etc.) on blood sugar. The blood sugar is measured every 15 minutes the first hour, then every 30 minutes for the next 2 hours. The glycemic index standard is glucose with 50 mg of glucose equaling a measurement of 100. The higher the number, the more the food is adversely affecting your blood sugar. If you think it's obvious, consider the following. One cup of Corn Flakes ranks 84, Rice Chex ranks 89; while a bowl of old-fashioned oatmeal comes in at 49 with a bowl of Special K close behind at 54. A French baguette measures out at 95, a slice of dark rye at 86, a slice of white bread at 70, a slice of whole wheat at 69, a slice of sourdough bread at 52 and a slice of 100% stoneground whole wheat at 53. One of the worst foods for healthy blood sugars is one, which people think is healthy, and eat all the time - boiled and baked potato. Depending on the variety, these foods range in the 80s and 90s on the glycemic index. If you think this means you have to give up some of your favorite foods, The Glucose Revolution has a solution. The goal is to balance your glycemic index contents of a meal. Let me give you some examples.

Let's say you were sitting down to a dinner of a large baked potato, 4 ounces of roast beef, a salad and a piece of cake for dessert. Here's how you would adjust it. Substitute pasta for the potato, decrease the roast beef to 2 ounces, add a cup of lentil and vegetable soup, serve a vinaigrette salad dressing and eat a small piece of cake right after dinner. Pasta, lentils, vegetables and vinegar (lemon, too) all have a positive effect on balancing blood sugar. You need to eat the cake right away so that it's hitting the blood stream shortly after the pasta, lentils, vegetables and vinegar have stabilized the blood sugar.


Natural Medicine First Aid Remedies
Self-care treatments for 100+ common conditions
Stephanie Marohn

Here's a helpful book for those just starting to figure out how to use natural medicine. It's simplistically written but with mostly solid information from various natural medicine practitioners. It's the kind of book that helps those who want to do something when the illness starts at 9pm on a Sunday evening, or for those who want to avoid side-effects of conventional over-the-counter medicines, or for those who just don't want to add potentially harmful chemical medicines to their bodies.

Marohn is a health journalist and it shows. The book dabbles here and there with various natural medicine modalities like herbs, homeopathy, nutrition, and then it throws in crystals. Frankly, I don't know if crystals work or not. I didn't study them during my four-year pre-med. program and I sure didn't study them in my 4 year-postgraduate naturopathic medical program. They may be great, I just think they are a fringe practice that still lacks the scientific research the other modalities have.

If you get this book, read the short introduction. Marohn explains where and when you shouldn't use natural medicine and when to seek a natural medicine doctor (naturopathic, herbalist, homeopath, or doctor of Chinese medicine) "You may want to consider consulting a practitioner of one or more of the therapies covered in this book. While these therapies can be quite effective when used for first aid, this is kindergarten activity compared to what they are capable of. As one practitioner I interviewed put it, 'Asking a homeopath for first aid remedies is like asking a physicist to do a division problem for you.' " And while that might be a slight exaggeration, it is not far off the mark.

A shortcoming of the book is that Marohn doesn't include cautions with the various first aid remedies. For example, while tea tree oil is great for acne, in some people with sensitive skin, it can burn their skin. Motherwort, a wonderful herb for many things, should be avoided by those with hypothyroidism. These are important caveats that should have been included.

Another omission is an explanation of the scope and education of the various types of natural medicine practitioners. There is a significant difference between 8 years of education in an educational institute and a mail-order degree.

Every household needs one of these kinds of books. Natural Medicine First Aid Remedies will help you get started learning about the tremendous potential of natural medicine.

Surviving Male Menopause
A Guide for Women and Men
By Jed Diamond

When I saw this title in the new book section of the library, I felt drawn to read it. You see, at a lunch earlier that week, I was sitting with a group of women discussing whether male menopause is possible.

The general consensus was yes. However, the majority of the American medical community disagrees - and fairly derisively. Undaunted, therapist author, Jed Diamond, not only presents a convincing argument, he also refers the reader to 20 years of scientific research involving 2000 participants on male menopause, some of which was presented by Dr. Malcolm Carruthers in the 1998 World Symposium on the Aging Male in Sweden. So, why haven't we heard of it? Diamond suggests that male menopause or andropause is medically where menopause was 40 years ago, when the medical community thought it was a woman's hysterical response to growing older. But we will hear of andropause - because the pharmaceutical companies stand to make a lot of money.

Let's start with the signs and symptoms presented in Surviving Male Menopause. The hormonal signs are a drop in testosterone, DHEA (a precursor hormone that can convert into testosterone), melatonin and changes in thyroid function. Physically, there is increased fatigue, short-term memory loss, persistent weight gain, loss of muscle, and loss of bone density. Occasional night sweats and hot flashes can also be present in up to 50% of men going through andropause. (These are not as intense or frequent as women's hot flashes.) Psychologically, there is increased irritability, anger, indecisiveness, self-deprecation, insecurity and depression. There is a yearning for intimacy with a paradoxical fear of getting close. Sexually, a man at this age will most likely see a lowering of sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, and fear of sexual loss.

Diamond shares testimony after testimony from his clients sharing their stories of andropause. Usually affecting men in their mid-forties and lasting between 5 and 15 years, andropause can cause major personality changes in the space of months to a few years. "It's like a switch being flipped." Frequently, the man will withdraw from a previously close-knit family. "I want to be free…fantasizing about ways of escaping, not realizing that the real change must occur inside." Men become increasingly sensitive, vulnerable as well as angry, depressed and irritable. Often, the tension centers on sex with the decrease in testosterone. "At first, I blamed it on my wife. I tried to get her to be sexier and experiment more, but now I'm afraid it might be me and it scares me to death."

If this is a medical and psychological condition, what treatments does Diamond recommend? It depends on which symptoms are the strongest. First, of course, the hormones need to be checked. The androderm patch is a hormonal treatment already available. If the man is clinically depressed, then an anti-depressant might be appropriate. Another option, Viagra, is appropriate if the predominant symptom is erectile dysfuntion. With a 60-80% success rate and potential side-effects of headaches, flushing, cardiac arrythmias, and digestive problems, Viagra is not a panacea. I was extremely surprised and excited when I read the following passage which Diamond quoted from an unnamed author. "Male menopause must be approached today with a different attitude, one that is self-valuing, rather than self-deprecating. Making the effort to change eating, smoking, sleeping and exercise habits, or taking the time to experiment with hormonal replacement or homeopathic practices to help rebalance the body around its new hormonal state…. It is an issue of physical and mental health."

Surviving Male Menopause is a sequel to Diamond's earlier book Male Menopause. They are both definitely worth reading. The trouble is finding a physician to help treat andropause. Also, think carefully before starting on the hormonal or drug route. After 40 years, women are starting to rebel against the pressure of taking potentially cancer-causing hormones. Instead, they are finding natural ways to treat menopause safely and effectively. We don't know the long-term effects of testosterone. It may or may not be the appropriate choice. If you are still in doubt whether it exists, don't take my word for it, look up Carruthers and read his work. In the meantime, go to the library or book store and find these books. I'd be interested to hear your opinions.

Herb tip

Recently, the herb Kava Kava, also known as Piper methysticum, has been in the news as a possible cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer. As a physician who routinely prescribes this herb, I was concerned enough to investigate. I figured that if Kava caused liver cancer, then the incidences of liver cancer in Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, Sandwich Islands and the South Sea Islands (the area of the world in which Kava is drunk like coffee) should be elevated. I reviewed the medical literature and discovered that this isn't the case. Liver cancer rates in one study were 2.9 (males) and 1.5 (females) per 100,000 people. Two other studies, one done in 1991 and the other in 2000, showed stomach, breast and cervical cancers are the primary forms. ["Cancer incidence in French Polynesia 1985-1995"Tropical Medical International Health 2000 Oct;5(10):722-31, "Cancer Incidence in Western Samoa" International Journal of Epidemiology 1991 Sep;20(3):634-41, "Hepatocellular carcinoma and liver pathology in Tonga" New Zealand Journal 1981 Jan14;93(675):5-8]

These figures suggest that there must be some other factor(s) at work in these Kava products that are allegedly causing liver cirrhosis and cancer. We do know that in some who overuse the herb, can develop a scaley yellowish skin eruption call Kava dermopathy.

The herb is taken in its whole form in the South Pacific. However, it is a common practice in both Europe and the United States to isolate one or two components and make a drug-like herb out of it. Perhaps, in an adultered form, it can cause liver problems. Or perhaps, like L-tryptophan in the late 80's, there was a bad batch.

Kava is an effective anti-anxiety herb that doesn't affect your mental function. There is no prescription counterpart that works as safely or as well.

Health Tip

Last month, several of my patients called and thanked me for the tips on how to treat a cold or flu in the December and January newsletters. One very graciously, added to my suggestions with some great commonsensical ones of her own.
1) Replace the hand towels in your bathroom and kitchen with disposable
paper towels (just for the duration of the illness)
2) Change your pillowcases daily if you can
3) Wash things that are getting cuddled with (i.e. soft toys blankets)
4) If possible, open the house up and air it out.
5) Replace toothbrushes.

We've moved our offices

To all the local readers, our office is now located at 11825 SW Greenburg Rd., Ste A2, Tigard, Or. 97223. The phone number will remain the same.

Copyright 2002 Dr. Suzanne C. Lawton, LLC


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Dr. Suzanne C. Lawton
11825 SW Greenburg Road, Suite A2
Tigard, OR 97223