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What’s New! – A Healthy Living Newsletter

September, 2003
This month, 2 patients made suggestions for topics to review. The first is The Schwarzbein Principle, a book that promotes slowing the aging process through diet and hormones. The second is a review of sweeteners. That's right - the good, bad and ugly about both natural and artificial sweeteners.

Also included this month for those local to the Portland area are the Portland Community College classes on Natural Medicine that start October 1st at Tualatin High School.

And due to the great results from our uterine fibroid tea, we are adding a hot flash tea for sale for those in the U.S. and Canada.

The Schwarzbein Principle II: The Transition
Diana Schwarzbein, MD

Twenty plus years ago, Diana Schwarzbein ate a sugar-laden diet, felt weak, was sick most of the time and wondered how long a 17 year-old could stay alive feeling that bad. Ten years later, she graduated from medical school as an endocrinologist (hormone specialist). She then combined her earlier experiences, her gradual improvement with a nutritiously balanced diet with her recently-acquired medical knowledge of hormones and voila - she proclaims The Schwarzbein Principle. The Schwarzbein Principle explained just how imbalanced your hormones can get on the standard American Diet (SAD) and how a healthy diet can reverse this. It went so far as to say that if you ate well and maintained a healthy lifestyle, you could live to the 120 years our bodies are allegedly designed. The book did well, but a problem arose.

It seemed as if some of the people following the Schwarzbein Principle became a bit discouraged. Instead of feeling immediately better, some actually felt worse and some even gained weight. And for many, it was taking months to 2 years to balance out. Dr. Schwarzbein needed to explain this transition period of going from a crummy diet to a nutritious one. So she wrote The Schwarzbein Principle II: The Transition.

For those of you who haven't read The Schwarzbein Principle, I want to back up and give a brief review. According to the author, there are two types of aging: genetic (pretty much theoretical) and metabolic (actual). Essentially, genetic aging is how long a well-tuned body can last under optimal conditions. Schwarzbein and others profess this to be 120 years. These optimal conditions involve your metabolic aging, the aging that occurs in relation to daily nutrition and lifestyle habits. So, if you eat poorly, smoke, drink or have years of toxic exposure of drugs (prescription or otherwise) or chemicals, you've been shortening your metabolic aging. You won't make it to 120 and you may even find yourself a sickly 70 year-old.

In developed nations, there is an additional consideration. Modern medicine has lengthened the average lifespan, but hasn't done a whole lot to shorten the metabolic aging process. People are still getting the degenerative diseases and ending their lives on a host of prescription medicines. Schwarzbein wants to fix the ravages of metabolic aging that end in the degenerative diseases by slowing down the aging process. She does this with 5 basic steps:
1. Healthy nutrition, including supplementation with vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and amino and fatty acids, if needed.
2. Stress management, including getting enough sleep.
3. Tapering off toxic chemicals (coffee, alcohol, drugs, pesticides, etc) or avoiding them completely.
4. Cross-training exercises.
5. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), if needed. (And it seems as if just about all peri-menopausal and menopausal women need them.)

She makes some great points. For example, hypothyroidism and Lupus are often misdiagnosed because the physician fails to recognize the underlying lifestyle-based endocrine disorder. The patient ends up taking medicine and hormones for years when dietary changes would have resulted in improved health. A second very interesting point that I also often see in my office is that some forms of depression can be caused or exacerbated by malnutrition.

Schwarzbein also identifies birth control pills (BCP) as drugs that disrupt a woman's sex hormone balance. The problem with disrupting one hormone is that eventually that will lead to a disruption of other hormones. Hormones act in concert with each other - hence the serious long-term adverse effects of BCPs.

The Schwarzbein diet is based on determining whether your cortisol, insulin and/or adrenaline function is out-of-balance. Your endocrinologist helps you with this through lab tests, though Schwarzbein has some general guidelines that will sort of help you figure it out on your own. If I didn't have a medical background, I would have found that differentiation extremely confusing and overlapping. However, no one can argue with the nutritional value of the diet itself. Well, maybe Atkin proponents could. It consists of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, fish, legumes and meat - organic, of course. It eliminates refined flour, 90% of sugar, all processed foods, coffee, alcohol and pretty much all stimulants. It's a great diet that includes protein, a healthy fat, non-starchy vegetables and a carbohydrate at every meal. And she is even savvy enough to include a vegetarian version in her book.

My very few complaints are her support of ERT (estrogen replacement therapy). However, this is common for an endocrinologist. I've seen too many women rebalance their hormones through diet and herbs. They're able to experience a pleasant to almost pleasant peri-menopause and menopause, so I believe that ERT is unnecessary for most women. My other concern was her listing herbs and nutrients without the proper caveats. It seems imprudent to list herbs that are readily available to the reader without stating possible negative effects.

Other than that, I really liked this book. It's a fascinating account of an endocrinologist's view of health. I like the fact she deals with the transition of going from a poor diet to a healthy one. The diet is so good that even if you can't figure out just what your hormone imbalance is, the diet will still work and improve your health.

Dr. Schwarzbein has also written a cookbook and a vegetarian cookbook. You can learn more on her website at:

Sorting Out the Sugars
Dr. Suzanne C. Lawton

This month, one of my patients suggested that I tackle sugars and sugar substitutes. I looked at how sugar and sugar substitutes effect blood sugar and/or if they cause serious medical conditions unrelated to blood sugar.
What follows is a brief explanation of a very controversially topic.
Let's start off with the recognition that we need sugar to survive - it is the food that fuels our brains. What most people don't realize is that we can get this safely from complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, beans, and starchy vegetables like yams and corn. When we eat an excess of sugar in its processed or artificial form, it has the potential to lead to many problems, including impairing our ability to learn and may worsen neurological conditions. {UCLA Professor James Barnard found that refined sugars harm brains. (A high-fat, refined sugar diet reduces hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor, neuronal plasticity, and learning. )}.
Are artificial sweeteners any better? Not really. Artificial sweeteners come with their own set of problems.

Is there a "healthy" sweet? We'll answer that question, too.

Brown sugar - Nothing more than table sugar coated with molasses, read those 2 descriptions below to understand this PC hybrid that many people think is healthy.

Corn syrup -High-fructose corn syrup is found in plenty of items including cookies, gum, jams, jellies and baked goods. Made from corn starch, high-fructose corn syrup is a thick liquid that contains two basic sugar building blocks, fructose and glucose, in roughly equal amounts. Sucrose, most familiar to consumers as table sugar, is a larger sugar molecule that breaks down into glucose and fructose in the intestine during metabolism. All the warnings for glucose and fructose are appropriate for corn syrup.

Fructose - is a sugar that occurs naturally in fruit. It is slowest to be converted to sucrose in the blood. However, some studies suggest that for a minority of people, fructose can induce a depression like-state. {Scand J Gastroenterol. 2000 Oct;35(10):1048-52 Fructose- and sorbitol-reduced diet improves mood and gastrointestinal disturbances in fructose malabsorbers. Ledochowski M, Widner B, Bair H, Probst T, Fuchs D)} Fructose aids in fat production in the body more than any other type sugar.

Honey - Unfiltered honey contains vitamins and minerals so it doesn't deplete the body's supply of B-vitamins. It still affects blood sugar, but scientifically significantly less than sucrose. Like table sugar or sucrose, it is still harmful to the teeth. In two very small 2003 studies, participants' fasting blood sugar and liver enzymes decreased after eating honey.

Maple Syrup - This is a natural sugar. You should try to buy the organic form. Grade B (unfiltered), maple syrup retains most of its vitamins and minerals. Grade A is filtered and lighter in color. Maple Syrup consists of 65% sucrose, so it does have a direct effect on blood sugar.

Molasses - The byproduct of sugar cane or beet sugar processing, molasses contains many vitamins and minerals, so it doesn't deplete your own body's supply. Buy unsulphured molasses; the sulphured variety can be harmful in large amounts.

Sucrose - Refined sugar that has been processed so that it no longer contains the vitamins and minerals that naturally occur in sugar cane. The problem with refined sugar is that when it enters our bodies, it not only raises our blood sugar levels increasing our risk of heart disease (specifically high blood pressure), diabetes, obesity and cancer (small intestine, breast and colon - in epidemiological studies), but it also depletes the stores of vitamin B. The B vitamins are used in virtually every process that keeps our bodies functioning. B vitamins stabilize our nervous systems and provide our daily get-up-and-go. Secondarily, sucrose contributes to tooth decay. (Judith Halfrisch, of the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, MD, Health Problems Associated With Sugars. On July 27, 1999 the annual meeting of the Society for Nutrition Education, a nutrition science symposium examined sugar in the USA-Iowa state University)

In Spring of 2003, the World Health Organization recommended limiting intake of added sugars found in food and drink (primarily sucrose and fructose) to no more than 10 percent of daily calories, a step the WHO said could help stop the worldwide rise in obesity that is fueling the growth of such chronic diseases as type 2 diabetes.

Stevia - Stevia is a plant that is 200X sweeter than sugar, but doesn't have an immediate effect on blood sugar. There has been 2 animal studies in which there has been adverse effects on the kidneys. For this reason, it should be used in moderation, i.e. to sweeten tea, not to bake cookies.

Sucanat - Or Sugar Cane Naturally is unrefined cane sugar. Sucanat's chemical composition is 88% sucrose; 8% other sugars; 4% mineral salts; trace elements and ash. It won't deplete your body of vitamins and minerals that table sugar will, but it will still affect the blood sugar.

Aspartame - We have known about the negative effects of aspartame (Nutrasweet and Equal) for 25 years. In 1988, the Journal of Applied Nutrition published a list of major complaints based on a group of 551 participants. The highlights of the study showed that 45% of Nutrasweet consumers in this group developed headaches, 39% dizziness, 29% memory loss, 25% severe depression, 23% extreme irritability, 19% severe anxiety attacks and 25% decreased vision or other eye problems including blurring, flashes and tunnel vision. Other complaints included skin reactions, loss of diabetes control, severe joint pains and thinning of hair.

To be fair, aspartame was shown to be helpful in one study for osteoarthritis.

Saccharin - Saccharin has an interesting history. In 1977, some studies linked saccharin to bladder cancer in animals. There was strong enough evidence that the FDA stepped in. Congress passed an act in November 1977 allowing an 18-month moratorium on saccharin and stated that the product must contain a warning label stating that it had been linked to cancer in animals. During those 18 months, the National Cancer Institute and the FDA conducted studies to confirm or refute this accusation. The end result was that heavy use (e.g. saccharin diet drinks and saccharin sugar substitutes) may lead to cancer, but average use wouldn't. Heavy use was described as 2 or more 8 oz cans of diet drink OR 6 or more substitutes of sugar in a day (e.g. 3 cups of coffee with 2 packets each of saccharin).

Sucralose (or Splenda) - Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that is a sucrose derivative. Sucralose is unique in that intestinal bacteria can't break down more than 9 or 10% of it for absorption. The primary concern with sucralose is its potential to shrink the thymus (part of the immune system most active in children) and secondarily, to cause enlarged livers and kidneys. The biggest problem is that it's so new on the market, that we don't know its long-term effects. There are less than 20 studies on sucralose compared with thousands for aspartame. So, those who use it have inadvertently become the test subjects who may reveal its long-term toxicity. This product should be avoided by children because of its effect on the thymus gland.

Is there a safe way to eat sweets?

I regularly advise my patients to keep sweets for holidays. If they have a sweet tooth, eat a small amount of raisins, dates or prunes. However, this advice is pretty much ignored. So, Plan B is as follows. If you want something sweet, bake it yourself. Use a natural sugar such as SUCANAT, Maple syrup, honey, barley malt or rice syrup. If you are making cookies, use whole wheat pastry flour. Never use only white flour. Eat the dessert after a full meal that includes protein. Never eat sugar on an empty stomach. Eat ½ the size piece you want (e.g. 2 cookies instead of 4) and eat very slowly with a cup of tea or naturally decaffeinated coffee. Make a ritual out of it and savor the flavor. Then get up, protect your teeth and go brush them.

Copyright 2003 Dr. Suzanne C. Lawton, LLC


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Snail Mail: Dr. Suzanne C. Lawton
11825 SW Greenburg Road, Suite A2
Tigard, Oregon 97223