January 22, 2015

Curcumin Update Part 2: What's The Best Buy?

Curcumin is the most studied of any botanical compound and its beneficial effects have been established by nearly 5,000 peer-reviewed studies.  Most of these studies have involved mice and petri dishes. While the scientific evidence from these trials establish that curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties that promotes health, the compound is not absorbed well by our bodies. Most curcumin in food and supplements stays in the gastrointestinal track and any portion that's absorbed is metabolized quickly.

Increasingly, however, clinical trials involving humans are demonstrating that enhanced versions of curcumin can cross the blood/brain barrier and achieve the beneficial effects demonstrated in the in-vitro and animal studies. As a result, many curcumin supplements are being marketed with claims of greatly enhanced efficacy.  But it's difficult for the consumer to figure out which product is best.

Nearly three years ago, I wrote about one version -- curcumin BCM-95  -- that was endorsed by a well-respected authority. BCM-95 continues to be used in many curcumin products.

Bioperine, a supplement extracted from the fruit of black pepper, also is being used to enhance the bio-availability of curcumin. It has been suggested that the reason peasants in India have the lowest rate of Alzheimer's in the world is that they mix black pepper and turmeric/curcumin as spices in their curry diets.

But how to decide which curcumin product is best?

ConsumerLab's Rating  of Curcumin Products
When I want reliable information on a supplement and the versions of it being marketed, the first place I turn is https://www.consumerlab.com/.  ConsumerLab does independent testing  of  over 1,000 herbs, vitamins and supplements.

January 21, 2015

Curcumin Update Part 1: Latest Findings -- Wow!

Curcumin -- the active ingredient in the spice tumeric -- continues to amaze me with the steady flow of  well-designed studies attesting to its efficacy in treating many diseases and illnesses. Put "curcumin" in the search box at the right and you'll see the many reports I've posted.

For the past few years, I've used a "Google alert" to send me links to any news about curcumin and I periodically summarize these findings. My most recent report was dated November 6 of last year and now here  we are again with a new batch of positive findings.

The one big problem with curcumin is its bioavailabily, i.e. the degree and/or rate at which a substance is absorbed into our systems. Curcumin by itself is not readily absorbed. But, g iven the ever growing number of positive reports on curcumin's potential, a confusing array of products are being marketed to enhance curcumin's bioavailability. We'll take a look at this in Part 2 tomorrow.

Curcumin and Alzheimer’s: A new study  has revealed that curcumin may hold the key to treat Alzheimer’s disease. The study inidicated that a close chemical analog of curcumin has properties that may make it useful as a treatment for the brain disease . I’ll talk more about this study in part two since it primarily involves a new way of delivering curcumin.

January 20, 2015

Pope Francis Lists 15 Diseases of the Curia -- I Can Say "Mea Culpa" To Many of Them -- How About You?

As a "lapsed Catholic," I'm surprised that I'm posting this, But, like many others, I've found that Pope Francis often presents important and thought-provoking challenges for all of us regardless of our faith or lack thereof, He does this again in his second Christmas speech to the Roman Curia, the central governing body through which the Pontiff conducts the business of the Catholic Church.

In his speech, he invited the members of the Curia to examine their conscience and to confess  their sins with respect to 15 diseases which he identifies as present within the Vatican where he has been living for 21 months.

But he also noted that these diseases don't just afflict the Curia but "are naturally a danger to every Christian and every curia, congregation, parish and ecclesiastic movement." I would add that the diseases afflict non-Christians and organizations in general.

He mentions vainglory and feeling essential, as well as "spiritual Alzheimer's" and hoarding money and power. The Pope also spoke of closed circles and wordly profit, as well as the "terrorism of gossip."

That last one -- "the terrorism of gossip" -- was an example of how in reading his description of the 15 diseases, I thought of both my own "sins" and those of BNA, the curia where I worked for 40 years and of how my sins fed into the organization's sins of "the terrorism of gossip."

The Vatican Insider printed this report on the speech:
The Pope said that 'it would be good to think of the Roman Curia as a small model of the Church, that is as a "body" which earnestly attempts to be more alive, healthier, more harmonious and more united in itslef and in Christ every day". The Curia, like the Church, cannot live 'without having a vital, personal, authentic and solid relationship with Christ'. And a member of the Curia who does not draw from that every day will become a mere bureaucrat. He adds that ' we will talk about the list of diseases which, following the Fathers of the desert, will aid us in preparing for confession'.

The disease of feeling 'immortal' or 'essential'
'A curia that does not practice self-criticism, does not keep up to date, does not try to better itself, is an infirm Body'. The Pope mentions that a visit to cemeteries could help us see the names of many who 'maybe thought they were immortal, exempt and essential!'. It is the disease of those who 'turn into masters and feel superior to everyone rather than in the service of all people. It often comes from the pathology of power, the "Messiah complex" and narcissism'.

The disease of excessive activity
It is the disease of those who, like Martha in the Gospel, 'lose themselves in their work, inevitably neglecting "what is better"; sitting at Jesus' feet'. The Pope recalls that Jesus 'called his disciples to "rest a little", because neglecting necessary rest brings anxiety and stress'.

The diseases of mental and spiritual 'petrification'
It is the disease of those who 'lose their internal peace, their vivacity and audacity, to hide under papers and become "procedural machines" instead of men of God', unable to 'weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice!'.

The disease of overplanning
'When the apostle plans everything in detail' and believes that, through this, 'things progress effectively, thus becoming an accountant. Good planning is necessary but without falling into the temptation of wanting to enclose or steer the freedom of the Holy Spirit... it is always easier and more convenient to fall back on static and unchanged positions'.

The disease of bad coordination
It is the disease of members who 'lose the community among them, and the Body loses its harmonious functionality' becoming 'an orchestra producing undisciplined noise because its members do not cooperate and do not live communally and have team spirit'.

The disease of spiritual Alzheimer's
That is a 'progressive decline of spiritual faculties' which 'causes severe disadvantages to people', making them live in a 'state of absolute dependence on their, often imagined, views'. We can see this in those who have 'lost their memory' of their encounter with the Lord, in those who depend on their 'passions, whims and obsessions'.

The disease of rivalry and vainglory
'When the appearance, the colour of  the vestments and the honours become the first objectives of life... It is the disease that leads us to become false men and women, living a false "mysticism" and false "quietism"'.

The disease of existential schizophrenia
It is the disease of those who live 'a double life, a result of the hypocrisy typical of mediocre people and of advancing spiritual emptiness, which degrees or academic titles cannot fill'. It often strikes us that some 'abandon the pastoral service and limit their activities to bureaucracy, losing touch with reality and real people. They thus create their own parallel world, where they set aside all that the others harshly teach' and live a 'hidden' and often 'dissolute' life.

The disease of gossip and chatter
'It takes hold of a person making them "sowers of discord" (like Satan), and, in many cases, "cold-blooded murderers" of the reputation of their colleagues and brothers. It is the disease of cowards, who do not have the courage to speak upfront and so talk behind one's back... Watch out against the terrorism of gossip!'.

The disease of deifying the leaders
It is the disease of those who 'court their superiors', becoming victims of 'careerism and opportunism' and 'live their vocation thinking only of what they must gain and not of what they must give'. It might also affects the superiors 'when they court some of their collaborators in order to gain their submission, loyalty and psychological dependence, but the final result is real complicity'.

The disease of indifference to others
'When each one thinks only of themselves and loses the truthfulness and warmth of human relationships. When the more experienced ones do not offer their knowledge to the service of less experienced colleagues. When, because of jealousy or cunning, we rejoice in seeing others fall, rather than lift them up and encourage them'.

The disease of the funeral face
It is the disease of people who are 'scowling and unfriendly and think that, in order to be serious, they must show a melancholic and strict face and treat others - especially those, whom they think are inferior - with rigidity, harshness and arrogance'. In reality, adds the Pope, 'theatrical strictness and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity about themselves. The apostle must strive to be a polite, serene, enthusiastic and joyful person...'. Francis invites people to be full of humour and self-irony; 'How beneficial a healthy dose of humour can be!'

The disease of hoarding
'When the apostle seeks to fill an existential void in his heart by hoarding material possessions, not because of necessity, but only to feel secure'.

The disease of closed circles
When belonging to a clique becomes more important than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, than belonging to Christ himself. Even this disease starts from good intentions, but in time it enslaves all its members becoming "a cancer"'.

The disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism
'When the apostle turns his service into power, and his power into a commodity to gain worldly profits, or even more powers. It is the disease of those people who relentlessly seek to increase their powers. To achieve that, they may defame, slander and discredit others, even on newspapers and magazines. Naturally, that is in order to show off and exhibit their superiority to others'. A disease that 'badly hurts the Body because it leads people to justify the use of any means in order to fulfill their aim, often in the name of transparency and justice!'

Francis ended by recalling that he had once read that 'priests are like airplanes, they make the headlines only when they fall, but there are many who fly. Many criticise, and few pray for them'. He said this statement was 'very true, because it highlights the importance and the delicacy of our priestly ministry, and how much a single priest who 'falls' may hurt the whole body of the Church'.

January 17, 2015

This Just In: Help for Seniors with Their Customer Service Nightmares

I can't recall when I last posted on a Saturday, but this news was so important I wanted to share it immediately:


January 16, 2015

My 5-HTP / Levodopa Marriage Survives Very Turbulent Times

That's Me Without 5-HTP
Today's post brings the final installment in my five-part series on the happy start to 2015.

It's all about the over-the counter supplement 5-HTP... a fitting way to wrap up. I started this blog over five years ago, certain I had discovered the cure for the most common non-motor side effects of Parkinson's. I was the new Dr. Oz!

A brief primer: With Parkinson's disease (PD), brain cells that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine die off. The gold standard treatment for the disease is levodopa, a synthetic substance that is converted in the brain to dopamine. Levodopa typically is combined with carbidoba to minimize nausea and help move the levodopa into the brain before the body metabolizes it. 

Dopamine regulates movement (also behavior and emotion). Serotonin, another neurotransmitter, helps regulate mood, appetite, sleep, and memory. It, too, is affected by Parkinson's, but this interplay has been largely neglected in research and treatment until recently.

Just as levodopa helps boost dopamine, 5-HTP boosts serotonin levels in the brain.

Serotonin, 5-HTP, and Me
When I was belatedly diagnosed with Parkinson's in the fall of 2009, I knew next to nothing about dopamine, serotonin, or neurotransmitters in general.