Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Integrative Medicine is Good Medicine

It was time for a yearly physical. I walked into the waiting room of my internist's office and checked in at the window. The receptionist politely asked me to have a seat. Anxious to get this over with, I turned and scanned the room for a seat. If it were an office with windows, I would normally opt for a seat with a view, but this one has four walls and my only interest is to make eye contact with the nurse that calls my name. It's not that I abhor going to see the doctor; it's just that usually it seems to be a waste of time. I don't mean to sound cynical and am in fact thankful for typical appointments with nothing to report. My symptoms or complaints tend to be related to Multiple Sclerosis, and for the most part they are a bit illusive. How do you evaluate fatigue? Fatigue for one person may be very different than another. Otherwise my test results are usually within normal range. The appointment usually ends with an obvious reminder, "Your symptoms are most likely related to MS."Today I sat down, picked up a magazine, and read half heartedly about the latest debacle in government. For what ever reason, waiting rooms are stocked with sports or news related magazines and the occasional home décor. A better choice would be to have subject matter that would lower one's blood pressure, not increase it. As I'm flipping through the pages, I am aware of how apathetic I've become towards the issues of the world. "Is my lack of interest a reflection of a disregard for social concerns or am I just saturated with constant negative reporting?" Suddenly, I am startled by a woman sitting to my right; she excuses herself and puts her magazine down, as she walks into the examining room. Silly, but I felt a bit of jubilation; she had left me a Better Homes and Garden to look through. I quickly returned the news magazine to the table and began flipping through BHG for an article that would take my mind off serious issues. One sounded intriguing; a discussion about the pros and cons of eclectic design. I wondered why I'm so drawn to an eclectic design. Undoubtedly the affinity I have for old world décor is a result of living with my grandparents in Portugal for a few years. My tendency is to recall these childhood memories with a palpable perfection. Traveling also influences the atmosphere of my home. It engages my emotions, bringing me closer to the local customs; making me feel alive. I enjoy learning first hand about different cultures and exposing my son to these cultures as well. Whether we choose to fly to Europe, take a train to Canada, drive over the border to Mexico or walk to our local home goods store, it is probable that we will encounter an item from another country, an item reflecting a particular tradition. That is why eclectic design is so appealing to me; it incorporates beautiful and at times meaningful items from many cultures around the world. These artifacts not only serve as reminders of my experiences abroad, but also represent the idea that our world is diverse and full of wonder. When I think about it, every aspect of my life is affected by an eclectic philosophy. I use what works for me and leave what doesn't.According to this article in BHG, there are a few guidelines to follow in order to achieve a successful eclectic design. Rule number one; it's essential to identify a common thread and continue it throughout the room. Rule number two; keep it organized and uncluttered; present your items with respect for the individual piece and its origins. Just as I was beginning to read rule number three, my name was called out. I quickly put the magazine down and followed the nurse down the hall and into the examining room. She asked me to remove my clothes and put a gown on. I could wrap myself three times in this one. I tied the strings, but it was pointless really, it fell off my shoulders and inevitably opened from behind. This didn't bother me; I was never very bashful in front of physicians. It felt like a business transaction in many ways. You go in, take care of business, and you leave; hopefully with a healthy evaluation.However, today was a little different. Fatigue comes and goes, but lately it had lingered longer than usual. Lately it had been affecting my ability to function at work and home. Usually I just assume it is MS related and muddle through it. But lately it's been bothering me more so. I decided to discuss my symptoms with the doctor and ask her to check other non-routine lab work. Maybe I had hypothyroidism or perhaps I was anemic. Both conditions could be easily treated. In essence I was hoping the doctor would find a benign condition or cause; identify it, treat it and resolve it. She agreed these conditions were plausible in lieu of all my symptoms. She agreed to do a full work-up, including thyroid tests and iron levels. I was to see her again once the results of the lab work came back.A week later I was back in the examining room. While I was waiting I remembered that article that I had read in the previous visit. It occurred to me that health care providers would benefit from an eclectic approach to medicine. Today I was hoping for something more. I had been experimenting with alternative health practitioners on my own from time to time, and I wondered if she was knowledgeable about alternative medicine. I decided to ask her how she felt about it, willing to take the risk of being ridiculed. I wanted my doctor to work with me and respect my beliefs. I wanted to take these visits and change them from a business transaction to a healing experience and felt that maybe it was up to me to open the door. . She entered the room with a pleasant smile on her face; explaining that the lab work was normal and although this was ultimately good news she could at the same time understand my frustration. She knew I was looking for the answer. Regrettably she had nothing else to offer. At that point I asked her how she felt about alternative approaches and if she had any personal knowledge of such therapies. To her credit she compassionately listened to me and proceeded to explain that she had no professional knowledge of alternative therapies, but that she could relay an experience one of her secretaries recently had. Apparently she had been experiencing sharp pain in her right arm for years. She went to several physicians including specialists. Her efforts led to no avail. She was so desperate that she decided to try an acupuncturist as a last resort. After a few sessions the pain resolved and the use of her arm was back to normal. Dr. Jones had to admit that based on her personal knowledge of the case, the outcome was phenomenal. Choosing her words carefully she acknowledged my belief in the benefits of certain alternative therapies but cautioned me as well. I saw the apprehension in her face. Alternative therapies were foreign to her and have often been admonished and ridiculed by western medicine. Traditional western medicine has no place for alternative therapies; it's not part of the construct.There is a level of comfort one enjoys, albeit illusory, in believing that science, especially the western medical model, is the only model we can truly trust. Anything outside of the parameters is unwelcome, considered dangerous, archaic, and pointless to investigate. For example, why would we use herbs if we have drugs? Isn't the use of whole herbs a symbol of an archaic medical system? Hasn't modern medicine developed drugs as a result of the less effective use of herbs? Haven't we transcended the need for herbal preparations altogether? Many western practitioners would answer yes to these questions. And if this is their premise, than it becomes clear as to why good solid research on the use of botanicals and other alternative therapies has lagged behind. If your perspective is one of transcending the ancient medical models, than there is no room for exploring what they have had to offer for millennia. Dr. Jones had at least allowed for the possibility that acupuncture may have helped in a very real observable way. In contrast, there have been other physician encounters where I had been admonished for using supplements such as; CoQ and Primrose oil. There is reason to take comfort; it is an easier way to practice medicine. It may not however be ultimately in the best interest of the patient. Doctors are taught to offer all potentially helpful options and to educate the patient with regards to the risks and benefits of such options. At the very least the health care provider should be aware in a general sense of alternative options and have connections with reputable alternative practitioners who are licensed and respected within their field of expertise.Being a patient who has a pharmacy background has been at times a struggle for me. On the on hand it has been helpful in guiding me through decisions with respect tom own health. On the other hand having a chronic disease like Multiple Sclerosis, I am painfully aware of conventional medicine's shortcomings. There are not many options available and the ones that I have tried have brought with them side effects that I wasn't willing to live with. Having no other option I turned to acupuncture in desperation. To my surprise it not only helped, the effect was significant. There were no side effects--only improvement.Professionally I was trained to disregard alternative therapies and to caution patients against them, but here I am with a personal experience that proves to me and me alone that there are effective alternatives that are being overlooked or ignored. As a pharmacist I walk a thin line. Morally I feel obligated to offer information to patients about alternative therapies when appropriate. At the same time I feel I hold back for fear of being reprimanded by the board of pharmacy or worse still by disgruntled physicians who may not appreciate my suggestions. First do no harm has at times become; first protect yourself legally; and that's unfortunate.We have been forced to practice defensive medicine. Our medical system, as technologically advanced as it is, is in disarray. Thousands of MRI's, CAT scans, X-rays, blood work are being performed every day; many needlessly. Prescriptions are being handed out like candy; at times just to pacify the patient. Unfortunately these patients soon realize just how expensive the piece of paper they hold in their hands really is.At the pharmacy I'm approached by patients all the time with various questions. In an attempt to more effectively provide them with helpful information, I usually ask brief questions about their conditions and if they had discussed their concerns with their physicians. Often time the answer is no. Excuses may range from, "I could see that he was busy, so I didn't want to bother him" or "We did discuss it, but I'm not sure I understand" or "I'm concerned about any side effects or drug interactions" or "Isn't there anything else I could take that's over the counter" or "This is too expensive, I can't afford it". In addition, many patients are seeing several doctors and often times each doctor is unaware of what the others are prescribing. In an attempt to save money the patient frequents several pharmacies in order to get the best price. All of this leads to a disorganized medical system which leaves the patient in a vulnerable position as well as their health care providers. If Dr. X isn't aware that Mrs. Smith is taking diazepam, he may write for another sedative, alprazolam. If her primary care physician prescribed the diazepam for muscle spasms and her psychiatrist prescribed alprazolam for anxiety, the patient may believe that these two drugs have nothing in common and it doesn't even occur to her to mention it to either doctor.Physicians will routinely ask if you are taking any other medication. Time and again I see that physicians are not aware of their patient's complete drug history and even less aware of what they take over the counter. It is our responsibility as pharmacists to bring this to the doctor's awareness, but we are hindered by not having access to the patient's complete medical history, which includes other pharmacies that they go to. In these cases it seems obvious that the person most capable of resolving these issues is the patient herself, by being forth coming with the information. I'm all for patient responsibility, but what do you do with an elderly population that has a difficult time remembering and understanding medical jargon?And what of individuals whose English is their second language and have difficulty understanding as well? By no means are these the only patients that we have to be concerned with. The population at large still sees the physician as a patriarchal figure, an expert when it comes to their health. They mistakenly assume that practitioners have an ongoing dialogue amongst one another in which they routinely partake in conversations regarding their patients.This naive understanding of the medical system, contributes to a patient's vulnerability and less than optimal medical care. I am a strong supporter of patient responsibility--to a certain extent. They are responsible for communicating openly with all their health care practitioners and asking questions, until they are satisfied that they understand all options regarding therapy they are receiving. However how is it possible for someone outside the medical field, to understand completely what is best for them? It seems that every nightly news show is full of contradictory research conclusions. Part of the problem is sensational headlines, whose only purpose it to captivate the audience's attention. Viewers are left with the misleading headline in their minds and aren't aware of the details in the research, which offers a more comprehensive analysis. Of course we are taking for granted that the study itself was well designed and accurate. Patients are bombarded with contradicting information on a regular basis. Even if they want to take an active role in their healing process, they are overwhelmed with questions that seem to have no end. To make matters worse, according to Dr. John Abramson of Harvard Medical School, many popular studies that have been done in the recent past have had significant flaws at best and outright fraudulent at worst. How are patients to know the difference if practitioners themselves have a hard time deciphering the good ones from the bad?What I once thought to be research that was done impeccably, with the highest scientific standards, published in trustworthy peer reviewed journals, is no longer true. I went to college in the eighties, a time in which I was made to believe that scientific research was almost sacred in nature. Scientists were seen as objective individuals who would above all else do everything within their power to avoid any bias toward a particular outcome. Dr. Abramson explains in his book Overdosed America that we are standing on shaky ground. Research that once was done by nonprofit organizations, such as universities and hospitals, is now being done by drug companies. Our regulatory agencies which once were forbidden to take money from drug companies are now being subsidies by them. The journals that once had my full confidence, are now receiving millions of dollars from drug companies in exchange for advertisements. Physician's prescribing habits are not only being monitored by insurance companies but also by drug companies and their sales people, in order to more efficiently target marketing. In addition, practicing physicians have routinely been recruited to participate in clinical studies. They were modestly reimbursed for their time if at all; now participating in clinical research means big dollars. Not only are the drug companies doing their own research, but they are hiring their own doctors to do the follow-up clinical studies. This does not mean that all results are unreliable, but one has to question the validity of studies financed through private companies. Where are the safeguards against bias?Practitioners that are hesitant to recommend or even tolerate the idea of alternative medicine should consider the issues that have arisen over the last few decades within our own medical system. Healthy skepticism is necessary when evaluating any therapy now more than ever before. Fortunately many physicians have the capacity and aptitude to thoroughly evaluate a study. Statistical analysis is now taught at most medical schools. Unfortunately, evaluating alternative therapies is a bit more complex, only because their knowledge base in these therapies is negligible. Most medical schools don't have these courses available.There are some medical school curriculums which offer courses on alternative and complimentary approaches. These are few and are most often offered as electives within the required curriculum. Some schools are on the cutting edge of training their physicians in a more comprehensive fashion. Often these opportunities are available to medical school graduates when they finish their standard training. These already established physicians chose to do a fellowship in integrative medicine. One such school is the University of Arizona Integrative Medicine Program. This program was founded by Dr. Andrew Weil a foremost expert in the field. In an attempt to educate the practitioner at large, the program also offers continuing education courses on various therapies in complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM). Educational institutions such as this one are at the forefront of a changing paradigm in medicine. They are doing much to dispel the negative stereotype that CAM approaches have received over the last forty years or so. They have taken a hard look at CAM therapies and identified those that are efficacious and beneficial.Although the number of clinical trials being conducted on CAM therapies are growing in number, there is an undercurrent of disapproval in order to show that most of these therapies are ineffective at best and harmful at worst. It is logical that given the number of therapies available to the consumer, some will be shown not to work and some may prove to be unsafe, but the amount of negative reports in the media suggest a negative bias. There was a news report a few years ago whose headline read "Study proves that St. John's Wort is no better than placebo". In that same study they also compared the efficacy of a popular antidepressant medication. What the media didn't convey was that this antidepressant, which was widely used, was shown to be less effective than placebo. What would it mean to the drug companies if an herb was found to be effective in mild depression? Millions of dollars would be lost.It is difficult to discern credible reporting from what amounts to be agenda driven advertisement. It is essential that we understand the obstacles that we are faced with and take it upon ourselves to unscrupulously assess the reliability and credibility of the report, whether it be conventional or alternative. We need the support and guidance of respected institutions to help us lead the way to a more holistic model of medicine. At the same time we need comprehensive resources to be easily accessible. Having these support systems in place would not only afford us the ability of providing quality care, but would simultaneously reduce our exposure to liability. According to the University of Arizona Program in Integrative Medicine (PIM), the legal issues that health care providers face when recommending or discussing complementary and alternative medicine modalities in their office are as follows: •Malpractice liability for inadequate informed consent •Licensure and credentialing •Scope of practice (the legally authorized practice boundaries for providers) •Professional discipline (discipline for professional misconduct) These concerns are valid and one can understand the hesitancy that many practitioners have. From their perspective they would be jumping in a fire hoping to avoid getting burned. In the midst of these obstacles there are seeds of hope. We as patients and as healthcare providers must not capitulate to this challenge. We must avoid complacency and strive for a healthcare environment that is open to new thought and offers more options. PIM offers suggestions and guidelines to follow which will help in traversing these murky waters. When a patient asks about alternative therapies the following should be considered: What is the curability rate with conventional care? Weigh quality of evidence, invasiveness, and toxicities of each therapy. Patient clearly understands the risks and benefits of each option and accepts those risks.It is also important to familiarize yourself with organizations that have been established, in order to demystify CAM therapies. The Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine (CAHCIM) is an organization responsible for performing rigorous studies on various medical therapies in order to create new models of clinical care, these models would integrate biomedicine, the complexity of human beings, the innate nature of healing, with the diversity of therapeutic systems from all over the world. It understands that the western medical model, although superb at treating many diseases and conditions, also has limitations. At the same time it acknowledges that for millennia there have been effective medical models from around the world. Some of the academic medical centers that are members of CAHCIM include: University of Arizona, Harvard, Georgetown, Duke, and Columbia University to name a few. The following is a list of resources that are also a good place to start: American Botanical Council American Herbal Pharmacopoeia Consumer Labs: Randomly test dietary supplements and release their finding to the public http://www.drweil.com/: Extensive website with information pertaining to both conventional and CAM treatments. FDA Food Manufacturing Practices (GMP): Sporadically monitors products off the shelf Independent Drug Information Service (iDiS) National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) National Institute of Health National Sanitation Foundation (NSF): Dietary supplement quality verification, they use GMP compliance standards Overdosed America, Dr. John Abramson Powerful Medicines, Dr. Jeffrey Avron The Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) The Compendium of Asian Patent Medicines University of Arizona Integrative Medicine Program United States Pharmacopoeia (USP): Dietary supplement quality verification they use GMP compliance standards World Health Organization Given the available resources and I'm sure there will be more to come, a practitioner who has a sincere interest in offering his patients more options, can feel more comfortable with the use of credible complimentary medicine. It saddens me to think how the western medical community has so often disparaged and looked upon other medical models with disdain and total disregard. We don't have all the answers, far from it. All medical traditions have blind spots, strengths and weaknesses. Western medicine would benefit from a visit to the therapist, there it would hopefully have a revelation, and it would realize that it is not omnipotent. Could it be projecting onto other medical models what it is afraid to accept of itself? We bare and share the same responsibility, which is to provide the best medical care available to our patients.

Saturday, June 2, 2012



Bachelor of Science in PharmacyCollege of Pharmacy
University of Rhode Island
September 1984-May 1989

Masters of Education in CounselingProvidence College
Providence, RI

Psychodynamic/Pastoral Psychotherapy Residency
Interfaith Counseling Center
Providence, RI
January-September 2002

Reiki Master TrainingRichard Curtin, PhD
Cambridge, Massachusetts
April and May 2003

Staff Pharmacist
Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center
Lebanon, NH
  • Drug information consultant for physicians and other healthcare professionals.
  • Poison center consultant for emergency room physicians and the general public.
  • Pharmacokinetic analysis of drug levels, drug and dose recommendations.
  •      Evaluation and review of adverse drug reaction reports submitted by physicians, nurses, pharmacists and the clinical review services department.
Interfaith Counseling Residency: Included Psychodynamic, Family Theory with a spiritual integration. Background in Cognitive-Behavior, Person-Centered, and Gestalt Therapy at Providence College and Salve Regina University.

Pharmacist for CVS pharmacy

Reiki training at Center for Change in Cambridge, Massachussetts


Certified Reiki Master

Registered Pharmacist

American Counseling Association

American Holistic Health Association

International Center for Reiki

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Exercise: The Miracle Gro of Our Neurological Landscape

How Does Exercise Improve Brain Function?

We all know that exercise is good for us. We know that it tones, builds muscle, increases strength and stamina. For many of us though, exercise is the medicine one swallows while holding our noses. Its drudgery, monotonous and we often don’t see the results we envision or expect. If physical attributes weren’t enough to get you to exercise routinely, if your desired results aren’t being realized, here’s some exciting information that just might inspire you to commit to exercising and it has nothing to do with transforming yourself into Adonis.

Allen Bowling, MD, PhD has been researching the relationship between exercise and neurological function. More and more research is now showing that it plays an important if not essential role in treating neurological conditions. We can grasp how exercise helps strengthen muscle which protects our bones, improving fatigue seems reasonable; intuitively these make sense, but what about depression and neurological conditions? How can exercise directly and positively affect the brain? Until recently I thought it was simply mind over matter. You get yourself up and get going and by doing so you get your mind going in a more positive thinking pattern. Although this cognitive approach to exercise is helpful there is a lot more going on here than we ever imagined. In fact, Dr. Bowling says that if exercise were a medication it would be the number one prescription he would write.

If you’re anything like me, you are not satisfied with what you should do. You ask why and soon to follow is how does it work? The following information is based on ground-breaking research and should be taken seriously by everyone, not just those with neurological conditions. You will see that it is beneficial for overall neurological health.

The Proof is in the Pudding or in This Case the Brain.

There are important proteins found in the brain and the spinal cord known as Nerve Growth Factors (NGF). There are multiple NGF’s that have been identified over the years. NGF was the first. Another commonly studied NGF is Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). NGF’s do exactly as their name implies, they stimulate nerve cells to grow. They’re the Miracle Gro of the neurological landscape. They have the following characteristics:

1) Nerve-regenerating Effects: BDNF significantly change the structure and function of the nervous system

2) Nerve Protecting Effects: Protect nerve cells from various types of injury

3) Anti-inflammatory Effect: Affect immune system in such a way that they decrease inflammation

Hardwired vs Plasticity

Hardwired, inflexible and undeviating view of brain function is outdated dogma. Our brain is capable of adapting quite well and efficiently. It was once believed to have specific areas which performed specific functions and although this is true, it is not written in stone as it was once thought. This process of adaptation is called plasticity.

MRI’s of some cadaver’s brains have been found to contain multiple plaques. Based on the location of these plaques one would expect that the individual in question would have had symptoms during their lifetime and in fact in many cases there is no correlation with MRI results post-mortem and clinical symptoms when the person was alive. We now know that it is possible for the brain to regain previously lost function through the process of plasticity. It is able to duplicate that lost ability, at times on the opposite side of the brain.

Exercise stimulates the production of various growth factors; it causes brain levels of growth factors to increase. Not only does it improve physical function, these studies show that it also improves non-physical function such as sensation or thinking processes. Thirty minutes of exercise was shown to increase the blood levels of BDNF.

I find when I understand the evidence; I can more easily commit myself to a challenge. I no longer walk aimlessly hoping for positive change but rather with a purpose and clear goal and expectation. Beyond faith, I now have the vision of a truly powerful healing experience. Every step I take I add a bit more miracle gro.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Remove Bisphenol A Plastics from Your Cupboards: Endocrine Disrupters with Serious Health Consequences

".............bisphenol A, a compound detected in the urine of 93% of Americans recently tested. An overwhelming majority of these studies show that the chemical is harmful----causing breast cancer, testicular cancer, diabetes, hyperactivity, obesity, low sperm counts, miscarriage and a host of other reproductive failures in laboratory animals."

Susanne Rust at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ( http://www.jsonline.com/ ) and staff researched 258 scientific studies from around the world concerning the safety of bisphenol A. It is used to make polycarbonate, the plastic most commonly used to make baby bottles and much more. It is ubiquitous in our environment and a serious threat to our health. The government of Canada has already banned the substance completely. This article is thorough and comprehensive. I would highly recommend that you read it if your looking for more information on what this is and where it is found.

In addition, I am including a link below to a handout that clearly lists harmful plastics and the various ways you can identify them. In the meantime a good rule of thumb would be to avoid plastic containers, NEVER heat food in plastic of any kind, including plastic wraps and be especially vigilant with your infants and young children. Some scientists are comparing this to the lead and asbestos crisis of this generation!


Friday, March 14, 2008

Pharmacogenomics: A Tailored Approach to Therapy

Pharmacogenomics is a new scientific discipline made possible by the genome project. The mapping of the human genome has opened up enormous possibility for the identification and treatment of disease. Pharmacogenomic research focuses on the relationship between genes and drugs. One such example is a look at drug side effects and adverse reactions. We are beginning to identify why some individuals experience side effects to some drugs while others respond favorably with no adverse reaction to the very same drug. Some side effects can be life threatening, in fact, adverse drug reactions are a major cause of hospitalizations.

Stevens-Johnson syndrome (toxic epidermal necrolysis) is a severe and potentially life threatening reaction. It is now known that individuals of Asian descent have a gene referred to as HLA-B 1502. HLA's are human leukocyte antigens, proteins on white blood cells, that are responsible for recognizing foreign invaders. Some HLA subtypes see a particular drug as harmful and start an immune reaction. In the case of HLA-B 1502 it perceives carbamazepine (a popular seizure medication) as a foreign invader. Five percent of individuals that test positive for this gene will develop Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. It is recommended that individuals of Asian descent be offered other alternatives until genetic testing is made available to all and becomes more affordable.

The following drugs have a higher rate of causing hypersensitivity reactions: allopurinol, sulfonamides, hydralazine and others. Their HLA substypes are also being identified. In addition, HIV guidelines also urge screening for HLA-B5701 before starting abacavir to avoid a hypersensitivity reaction.

This is an exciting area of research, one which promises a tailored approach to therapy, in this case drug therapy.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Milk Thistle: Liver Regenerator

Silymarin is the active constituent of the milk thistle seed. It consists of flavonolignans called: silibinin, silicrystin, and silidianin. Silibinin (also known as Silybin) makes up about 70% of Silymarin. Silymarin undergoes enterohepatic recirculation and has higher concentrations in liver cells. It is a potent inhibitor of tumor necrosis factor (TNF). TNF induces cytotoxicity, inflammation and apoptosis (cell death). These are effectively blocked by Silymarin. TNF is involved in the body's normal inflammation response. However, in certain diseases TNF is working overtime, causing cell death and damages healthy cells. This disregulation often occurs in diseases such as, Rheumatoid Arthritis. The way Silymarin works is unclear, it appears to work by facilitating cellular communication (intracellular signaling).

Silybin is an antioxidant, a free radical scavenger, and an inhibitor of lipid peroxidation. When an oxygen atom loses an electron, that electron floats around the body damaging tissues, cells or anything it comes in contact with. When an appliance, like a computer is plugged in and not grounded, and a power surge occurs, your computer is toast. Similarly, these electrons referred to as free radicals, damage cells and cause cell death.

In vitro, Silybin shows affinity for binding to P-glycoprotein. This protein is thought to be involved in the drug resistance of cancer cells. So by binding to this protein, which in essence protects cancer cells from being affected by drugs, it improves the efficacy of these drugs.
With respect to liver disease, Silymarin seems to cause an alteration of the outer hepatocyte (liver cell) cell membrane, preventing toxin penetration. It increases a protein called ribosomal protein synthesis, which stimulates liver regeneration and the formation of new hepatocytes. Silymarin might have antifibrotic, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulating effects that could also be beneficial in liver disease.

Silymarin might protect against kidney damage. In vitro, it has been shown to protect the kidney cells from nephrotoxic drugs such as, acetaminophen, cisplatin, and vincristin. Silybin and Silicristin also appear to have a regenerative effect on kidney cells, similar to that on hepatic cells. It also seems to decrease insulin resistance, which in turn reduces blood glucose and lipid levels in patients with diabetes. Some research suggests that oxidative stress can contribute to pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction (these cells are responsible for producing insulin), reduced insulin secretion and insulin resistance. Silymarin is thought to reduce this oxidative stress.

Since so many drugs are metabolized by the liver, it has been a concern that this metabolism might be affected by Silymarin. Although it does seem to be an inhibitor of some liver enzymes, this inhibition does not so far seem significant with respect to drug metabolism.
In review, Silymarin is effective for liver disease, diabetes, and dyspepsia (acid reflux/heartburn). Normal dose is ranges from 100mg to 200mg of Silymarin 2-3 times a day.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

In Charge of Morale: SAMe Improves Health and Mood)

Research is finding more and more a correlation with various health conditions, including heart disease, and depression. Low levels of SAMe may have something to do with these disease states. Perhaps it is the common thread. SAMe is a naturally occurring molecule distributed throughout all body tissues and fluids. The concentration of SAMe is highest in childhood, decreasing with age. It plays an essential role in more than one hundred chemical reactions (involving enzymatic transmethylation). It contributes to the synthesis, activation, and/or metabolism of hormones, neurotransmitters, nucleic acid, proteins, phospholipids, and some drugs.

SAMe is produced endogenously by adenosine triphosphate (ATP) activation of methionine that is synthesized in the body or obtained from metabolism of dietary protein (e.g. meat). SAMe synthesis is closely linked to Vitamin B12 and Folate (also known as folic acid) metabolism. Deficiency of these vitamins can decrease SAMe concentrations in the Central Nervous System (CNS).

Although it seems to have antidepressant properties, its actual mechanism of action is unknown. It is associated however, with an increase in serotonin turnover (facilitates higher levels of serotonin to be found and used outside the cell) and elevated dopamine and norepinephrine levels. These are three major neurotransmitters that are related to mood. By altering cellular membrane fluidity (improves traffic in and out of the cell), it facilitates signal transduction across membranes and consequently increases the efficiency of receptor effector coupling (the neurotransmitter finds a parking space). Neuroimaging studies indicate that SAMe affects the brain similarly to conventional antidepressants.

There appears to be hepatic SAMe deficiency in liver disease. Exogenously, it may act as an essential nutrient by restoring biochemical factors that are depleted in people with liver dysfunction. People with acute or chronic liver disease lose the ability to synthesize SAMe from methionine. This might be due to low activity of methionine adenosyl transferase (MAT), the enzyme that converts methionine to SAMe. As a result, this can lead to deficiencies in cysteine and choline, as well as depletion of glutathione, which plays a major role in liver detoxification and antioxidant reactions (gets rid of free radicals which harm cells and ultimately kills cells). This depletion in turn, exacerbates liver disease. SAMe also has a gastric cytoprotective effect (protects the cells of the stomach).

As was mentioned there are over one hundred chemical reactions in which SAMe is involved in; the following is one of the more important reactions and one that is well understood:

SAMe-------->Homocysteine---->---(remethylated,via folate and B12)---->Methionine

Methionine coverts back to-------->SAMe


Through transulfuration converts to-------->Glutathione

If these reactions are uninterrupted the result is the production of more SAMe and Glutathionine (antioxidant). However, if for example, an individual is deficient in Vitamin B12, Folate or Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine); SAMe will be converted to homocysteine and the reaction ends there. This outcome is unwelcome since high levels of homocyteine are associated with renal and cardiovascular disease. Recent studies show no significant increases however under normal circumstances, to the contrary, adequate levels of SAMe seems to promote the formation of glutathione by converting homocysteine. Low levels of SAMe have actually been correlated with coronary artery disease. Doses of 1200mg per day are used in people with liver disease.

SAMe taken orally has low bioavailability (isn’t absorbed well) because of first pass effect (liver metabolism). That is why higher doses are required and should be taken on an empty stomach. Levels peak 3 to 5 hours post ingestion. Although well tolerated, common side effects may be: flatulence, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, dry mouth, and headache. But these are rare and usually seen with higher doses. Clinical trials used a dose of 1600mg/day, but the normal range is between 400mg-1600mg/day in divided doses. People with fibromyalgia take 800mg/day. It is available intravenously, but seldom used, for depression.
Not recommended for bipolar disorder since it can at times exacerbate the mania part of this condition. It should not be used concomitantly with antidepressants. It could potentiate serotonergic effects and serotonin syndrome like effects. Avoid if you have Parkinson’s. It may reduce effectiveness of levodopa given for this disease. Also avoid taking dextromethorphan (cough syrups), meperidine and DO NOT USE with MAO inhibitors. The body must be clear of MAOs for at least 2 weeks. Also avoid tramadol.