Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Gift

The Gift

A very wise friend of mine recently told me that out of his darkest times in his life came his biggest triumphs. I am writing to tell you about our own journey of this last year and a half. Some of the people who know the hard road we have been on are thinking right now that I have completely lost my mind by calling this story a gift. Perhaps. Just keep reading, it gets better. I promise.

In the spring of 2010 we were just a normal family, looking forward to the end of school and summer vacation. My son, Nick, would be graduating from middle school and moving on to high school. Middle school had not been such a great experience for Nick but he was looking forward to getting a fresh start at Monarch High School. Our summer plans included our annual trip to Michigan to play in the beautiful lakes and to see many of my high school classmates that I had reconnected with on Facebook. We were having our 30 year high school reunion and I was looking forward to it believe it or not. I had everything planned, hotels booked months in advance and friends I planned on visiting. As the saying goes, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. Clearly God had other plans for us that summer.

In the song, “Closer to Love” by Matt Kearney there is a line that states “We are all one phone call from our knees.” No offense to Matt, but I always hated that line because sadly, I know that is true. I never wanted to get that call. Unfortunately we did on July 26, 2010. Children’s Hospital in Denver called to tell us that our 14 year old son, Nick, had been diagnosed with a very rare autoimmune disorder that affects the myelin sheath covering the optic nerve and currently there is no cure. Needless to say our world was turned upside down. (I have posted our story on http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/nickplutt). How will this affect Nick? What did this mean to our family? Sadly because this disease is so rare (his chance of getting this was one in 5 million), there was not much known about it and very limited answers were given to us. We would have to find out the answers for ourselves.

We found that the University of California in San Francisco was one of two pediatric centers that actually treat this disease. We immediately made an appointment to visit them to get a second opinion, learn all we could about what was going on with Nick and what our treatment options were. We did get some answers although it was like pulling teeth.  We certainly were not given any hope. We would have to put Nick on immune suppressants to keep his immune system under control. Unfortunately Nick had a second attack before we could get him on medication. As a result, he has lost the sight in his left eye.  As a family, we rounded up the wagons and hunkered down. We just couldn’t talk about it. It was just too painful. We had many caring friends with offers of help. We didn’t even know what to ask for. We were just devastated.

Over the next few months, we started to hear more and more about people and especially kids coming down with an autoimmune disease. Dan and I spent months and months researching autoimmune disease, its causes, effects and impact on people and our economy. There are currently over 50 million people in the United States alone that have been affected by autoimmune diseases. Some are simply annoying, some are life changing and some are life threatening. All these little pieces were slowly coming together like a giant 10,000 piece jig saw puzzle. As we continued our research, God has put people in our path to help us. We learned that gluten and food allergies along with toxins in our food supply are suspected to play a huge role in autoimmune disease. Genetics only play a small role, about 30%. For more information, I highly recommend the book “The Autoimmune Epidemic” by Donna Jackson Nakazawa.

We found a nutritionist to help us get the family on a gluten free diet and help us to eliminate the bad stuff. Dan and I however, refuse to give up wine or chocolate. J We found out after over 20 years of being virtually fat free, that some forms of saturated fat is good for you! Shoot! We could have had butter! We also found out that Kaity has gluten intolerance and that could be the reason for her tummy aches and short stature (along with the Mikkelson genes). Luckily we found this information now while we can still do something about it from a proactive rather than reactive position. God again put us in touch with a wonderful M.D. to help us to understand the supplement and alternative medicine side of health care to help us heal. I was so incensed by some of the things I was learning particularly about food additives and vaccines, that I started a blog to tell others. http://planetplutto.blogspot.com. Now I have to admit, I have been slacking on that lately but if you are on Facebook, I am reposting the stuff I am finding out on an almost annoying regular basis. It is because I love you, my dear friends, that I do this.

Also with the love and support of my friends, especially my cohort, Gigi, we started a Food Sensitivity Support Group at our Church. We are reaching out to people to lend support, information, share recipes and the best of all, samples!

I found an acupuncturist to help us quiet down Nick’s nervous system. When Nick decided needles were not for him, God put me in touch with a renowned accupressurist, and her daughter, who is amazing in her own right and now one of my dearest friends. It is amazing to watch the difference in Nick after his treatments.

We were referred to a counselor to help us deal with the overwhelming feelings we were having about Nick’s situation and to help him deal with his depression. Since then, he has worked on resolving issues that have haunted him since elementary school. He has returned to his goofy, humorous, sweet self. Instead of being indifferent or hostile towards his sister, he now is somewhat protective and when those two get to horsing around, it is like music to my ears. I had prayed for that for so long. God does listen.

One Doctor I called about getting some help with Nick’s eye referred me to Boulder Vision Therapy to help him adapt to monocular vision but also to see if we could enhance any vision he might have in his left eye. Then she called me back to make sure I made an appointment with BVT! What doctor do you know that does that? He has regained a small amount of sight in his left eye which enables him to see some 3D. I believe in my heart, some day, some way, he will regain the sight in that eye. We are still looking into other options including stem cell therapy which is very promising. We are kind of waiting for them to work the bugs out first. We also found out that Kaity had a convergence excess which was the cause of her difficulties with reading despite being such a very intelligent little girl. She is doing very well with Vision Therapy herself and will catch up with her classmates in no time. This was no coincidence.

We are in touch with the University of Texas, University of Colorado and the Accelerated Cure Project which has researchers around the world working on this. We are keeping close tabs on the new and exciting research that they are pursuing. The word cure is being used a lot in their communications.

I could go on and on, but the point is by God’s love and grace, we are doing so much better these days. We have a lot of hope and a lot of gratitude for all of the wonderful people he has put in our lives to help us. We hope to help others that have been put in our path. We are also very grateful for all of our dear friends and all of your prayers. Believe me, we feel them. Thank you so much for keeping us close in your hearts!

On behalf of the entire Plutt Family, we wish you all a very Merry and Blessed Christmas. Best of health and happiness in the New Year to you and your family.

Annette, Dan, Nick & Kaity

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

HFCS: Hype Worthy?

I want to apologize for taking so long to get this very important information out to you. We have been battling the crud here at the Plutt’s Viral Villa and are finally on the mend. The other obstacle is how to present this material in an unbiased, informative manner without it being as boring as Bio Chemistry 101. I will do my best!
With all the negative press surrounding High Fructose Corn Syrup and companies taking advantage of this to market the use of cane sugar or Agave Nectar as healthier alternatives, a closer look at the concerns around sweeteners in general is in order. The primary issue surrounding HFCS is that Fructose, itself, has no nutritional value and produces many detrimental effects on our bodies. I will summarize what Dr Robert H. Lustig, M.D. a UCSF Endocrinologist has to say on this subject in this fascinating video next (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM). But for starters, let’s look at a comparison of some commonly used sweeteners and their fructose/glucose content.
                                                                 Percent Fructose                  Percent Glucose
                High Fructose Corn Syrup                   55                                            45
                Cane or Table Sugar                            50                                            50
                Honey( Avg)                                        52                                            41
                Agave Nectar                                      70+                                         <25
Source: The Paleo diet, http://www.fitnessspotlight.com/2008/4/18/what-sweetener-should-you-choose-sugar-honey-agave-nectar/
To understand the issues with Fructose , you have to understand the differences between the types of sugars and their effect on the body. All sugars are not created equal. According to Dr. Mercola, M.D. Glucose is the basic fuel for living organisms, from bacteria to humans, and is the primary energy source for your brain. It is a product of photosynthesis and is found in rice, corn and other grains, and bread and pasta.
Once you take in glucose from a meal -- like, say, from two slices of bread -- 80 percent of it is used by all of the organs of your body -- every single cell. The remaining 20 percent goes to your liver to be metabolized and stored.
The following is what happens to that 20 percent, once it reaches your liver:
·         Whatever glucose your body doesn’t need immediately gets converted into glycogen for storage in the liver. Glycogen is your body’s non-toxic short-term energy storage package, where it can be easily converted to energy when you need it. Your liver has no limit to how much glycogen it can store without detrimental effects. (That is what athletes take advantage of when they “carbo-load.”)
·         Insulin is released by your pancreas in response to the rise in blood glucose (i.e., blood sugar), which helps the glucose get into your cells. Without insulin, your cells would not be able to process the glucose and therefore would have no energy for movement, growth, repair, or other functions. Insulin is key to unlocking the door of the cell to allow the glucose to be transferred from the bloodstream into the cell.
·         When you consume 120 calories of glucose, less than one calorie contributes to adverse metabolic outcomes.
This is all very normal, and it’s how you were designed to operate.” While your body requires glucose to run properly, you should get glucose through your healthy diet and not from consuming additional sugars!
On the other hand with Fructose, 100 percent goes directly to the liver, overloading it and causing the following adverse reactions:
·          Phosphate depletion in the liver
·          Formation of excess uric acid that blocks the body’s use of nitric oxide, the natural blood pressure regulator, leading to hypertension. Excess level of uric acid can cause gout.
·          Fructose stimulates the production of triglycerides and causes a marked increase of small density LDL cholesterol and the accumulation of fat.
·          Fructose causes insulin resistance which signals the pancreas to pump out more insulin in response to the high concentration of sugar in the bloodstream. This can progress to Type II Diabetes.
·          Fructose interferes with the satiety signals in the brain telling you to stop eating, promoting cycles of overeating.
·          Fructose is metabolized the same as ethanol and can cause fatty liver disease.

·          When you consume 120 calories of fructose, 40 calories contribute to adverse metabolic outcomes.
Sucrose commonly known as table sugar is a 50:50 combination of glucose and fructose and is found naturally in sugar cane, sugar beets, sugar maple sap, dates and honey. Click here for a table of Fruits and sugars to find out which sugars you are consuming. http://www.thepaleodiet.com/nutritional_tools/fruits_table.html.
High Fructose Corn syrup is typically a combination of 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Wait a minute? Isn’t that just about the same as table sugar? Honestly, yes and no. While the ratio of glucose to fructose would make it appear to be similar, HFCS has some additional issues associated with it.
First of all, because of the federal corn subsidies started with the Nixon administration, corn sugar is much cheaper than regular sugar. Consequently, manufacturers use it everything! Seriously, just look at the ingredient list of your favorite foods and you are likely to find “Corn Sugar” or HFCS in it. Sometimes in things you would not expect! Canned soups, Children’s Tylenol, Cough Syrup, bread etc.
Second, High Fructose Corn Syrup is made from genetically modified corn. GMO crops have not been proven safe for human consumption and many countries including most of Europe, Australia, and Canada have banned GMO crops. There are a number of suspected health issues from eating GMO foods which include immune disorders, food allergies and even cancer. I will cover this subject more in depth in a future blog. In the meantime you can learn more by going to http://www.i-sis.org.uk/TheCaseforAGM-FreeSustainableWorld.php , www.responsibletechnology.org and watch the video “Future of Food” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNezTsrCY0Q.
As bad publicity has followed HFCS, many manufacturers have deftly switched to “Pure Cane” sugar or have marketed their products as having no HFCS. While that may be a step in the right direction, please be careful, they still have virtually as much Fructose and they may be made with GMO sugar beets!  Wouldn’t some Truth in labeling laws be handy right now?
Go to http://truthinlabelingcoalition.org  for more information.
The bottom line here is, we as a nation are eating way too much sugar of any variety. We need to curb our collective sweet tooth, limit our sugar consumption and be more aware of what we are putting into our bodies. While sugar may be sweet and makes things taste good, it is not so sweet on our bodies and causes inflammation which results in a cascade of serious health problems including insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver, heart disease and cancer. We cannot rely on the FDA or food manufacturers to protect us. We have to demand to know what is in our food and take the responsibility for making smart choices for ourselves, our families and for our country. If we continue to keep our heads in the sand, the cost of health care will spiral out of control and will cripple us for generations to come. It will also devastate families as they deal with the ramifications of illness caused by poor diet and corporate greed.
Next blog: Hidden sugars: glycemic load and the low fat farce.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bigger is Better!!

Cholesterol: Bigger is Better

One of the advantages to having a doctor that is about your same age is that they are worried about the same types of health issues that you are.  For example, after Dan took a heart scan and started working on preventing heart disease, his primary care doctor started off with the standard prescription of statins. He also put him on Co-enzyme Q10 to counter the statin depletion of this enzyme that is critical to your heart health.  Many of Dan’s friends that have seen cardiologists are also on statins but are not on CoQ10, go figure.  Then he had Dan take a Berkley Heart Lab blood test (http://www.bhlinc.com/clin_test.php) and measured his vitamin D.Low vitamin D levels have been shown to correlate to significantly higher risk of heart disease.  The Berkley is a comprehensive test that measures the particle size distribution of your LDL and HDL along with arterial inflammation as well as a number of gene typing tests.  Particle size is critical because, while most of the generic info is focused on just getting your LDL down, more recent research is showing that the real killers in heart disease are the small dense LDL particles (http://www.bhlinc.com/clin_test_ldls3gge.php). This risk is compounded when your HDL particles are also small. So, when it comes to cholesterol, Bigger is definitely better. A standard lipid profile doesn’t distinguish between small LDL and the larger benign LDL particles. It also doesn’t distinguish between the really big HDL, the heart healthy type, and the smaller HDL particles.  Statins only tend to reduce the overall number of LDL particles but don’t change their distribution. They also don’t do much to improve your HDL profile.  On the other hand, nicotinic acid otherwise known as niacin and sold as Niaspan (prescription) or Slo-Niacin (non-prescription) will not only reduce LDL, increase HDL but also move both the LDL and HDL particle size distribution to the big side. While nicotinic acid helps all aspects of the lipid profile, it is not without its side effects, so it is important to consult your doctor before starting on this supplement. While this was surprising enough, one of the most interesting gene tests that Dan took was the Apo E. This test measures how diet will affect your cholesterol profile.  While a low fat diet helps reduce overall LDL in all gene types it only reduces these deadly small dense particles in 25% of the population.  Shockingly, it actually increases these small dense particles in the other 75% of people (check out the chart on page 9 in this white paper –http://www.bhlinc.com/pdf/ApoE%20White%20Paper.pdf). Additionally, while alcohol consumption, in moderation, can improve the lipid profile for 75% of the population it makes it worse for 25% of the population, here again, depending on your gene type. For years, both Dan and I were eating a diet that was close to what the American Heart Association would recommend. This included 6-8 servings of grains and not much meat, very low fat, getting enough veggies was an issue, (who can eat two heads of cauliflower a day?).  Dan’s cholesterol profile was pretty good for not being on drugs, yet it was heavily biased to the small size. When looking at his gene type he would fall into the 75% that would see an increase in small dense particles when on a low fat diet. Who knew that whole wheat bread we ate was so bad?  We are now working on a diet that increases protein and veggies while reducing the amount of grain and potatoes. All of the grains, rice and potatoes, yes even the whole grain type, tend to have a relatively high glycemic index.  These foods will increases triglycerides in your system and in turn triglycerides tend to create those deadly small dense LDL particles in 75% of the population. As a double whammy on high glycemic foods, a recently published study demonstrated that eating a meal such as corn flakes with milk very quickly produces arterial stress in otherwise normal, healthy adults, potentially leading to the inflammation at the root of cardiovascular disease (see this link http://www.israel21c.org/health/heart-disease-israel-carb-foods).  While the recommended low fat diet, including lots of whole grains, may be great for 25 percent of the population it could be killing the other 75 percent. The bottom line is that when it comes to controlling heart disease – One Size does NOT fit all. If you or a loved one are serious about improving your heart health-have your particle distribution tested (there are several tests for this including Berkley, VAP and NMR lipoprofile) and know your gene type!   
I urge you to talk to your doctor or holistic practitioner before making any changes to your current medications.  Your Doctor may be able to suggest the appropriate dosage of niacin for your particular situation and be able to monitor your progress as well as watch for any possible side effects.

Friday, January 28, 2011

We interrupt the regularly scheduled blog to bring you this very special information!

The other day I was at the Pharmaca Pharmacy in South Boulder waiting for a prescription for a new thyroid medication (that is a whole different blog...). As I was standing there, I noticed several pamphlets, one was regarding the use of statins. “Did you know that statins deplete your Coenzyme Q10, an enzyme vital to your heart health? ”Are you taking steroids? Did you know that steroids deplete the following vitamins and minerals?”  Folic Acid, Calcium, Zinc and Magnesium. (See the charts below for common medications, vitamins depleted and possible side effects from depletion.)  I came back a couple of days later and spent 2 hours going through the Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook, 2nd Edition; Ross Pelton, RPh, Ph.D., CCN  looking up all of the medications my mom is on. It really shed a new light on some of the symptoms she is experiencing!
 Drug Induced Nutrient Depletion Guide
Types of Medication
Common Examples
Amoxicillin, Erythromycin, etc.
Bifidobacteria bifidum, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Biotin, Inositol*, Potassium, Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, K
Blood Pressure Lowering Medications
Diuretics: furosemide (lasix)
Vitamins B1, B6, C, Magnesium,Calcium, Potassium, Zinc, Sodium
Thiazides: HCT, Amiloride
Magnesium, Potassium, Coenzyme Q10, Sodium, Zinc, Phosphorus*
Beta Blocker: Atenolol, Propranolol
Coenzyme Q10
Cholesterol Lowering Medications
Statins: Zocor, Lipitor, Crestor
Coenzyme Q10 and indirectly Vitamin D
Fenofibrate: Tricor
Coenzyme Q10, Vitamin E
Bile Acid Sequestrant: Colestid, Questran
Vitamins A, D, E, K, Beta Carotene, B-12, Folate, Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus*
Diabetes Medications
Glucophage (Metformin)
Vitamin B-12, Folic Acid
Glucotrol, Glyburide
Pain/Anti-Inflammatory Medications
Vitamin C, Potassium, Folic acid, Iron
NSAIDS: Motrin, Naprosyn, Lodine, Ibuprofen, Advil
Folic acid
Steroids: Hydrocortisone
Vitamin C, D, Folic acid, Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Potassium, Selenium
Heartburn or Reflux Medications
Prilosec, Prevacid, Aciphex, Nexium, Protonix
Vitamin B-12, Protein
Zantac, Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet
Vitamin D, B-12, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Protein
Hormone Replacement Medications
Oral Contraceptives:
Ortho Tri-Cyclen
Vitamins B2, B3, B6, B-12, C, Folic Acid, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium
Hormone Replacement Therapy: Premarin
Magnesium, Vitamin B6, Zinc

Along with this, I found the corresponding Depleted Nutrients and signs to watch for:
B1 (Thiamin) Depression, memory loss, weight loss, fatigue, numbness, muscle weakness, edema, mental confusion, indigestion, heart palpitations, neuritis and irritability.
B2 (Riboflavin) Dermatitis, Cheilosis (cracks in the corners of the mouth), fatigue, swollen tongue, vision loss, itching and tearing of the eyes.
B3 (Niacin) Skin lesions, anxiety, insomnia, depression, aggression, swelling, diarrhea, weakness, “brain fog,” balding
B5 (Pantothenic Acid) Fatigue, numbness, grey hair
B6 (Pyridoxine) Depression, fatigue, dermatitis, anemia, glucose intolerance, sleep disturbances, neuritis, elevated homocysteine, nausea
B7 (Biotin) Hair loss, loss of hair color, depression, dermatitis, lesions of the nose and mouth, anorexia, nausea, numbness and tingling, muscle pain, cardiac irregularities
B9 (Folate, Folic Acid) Anemia, fatigue, cervical dysplasia, diarrhea, gingivitis, depression, irritability, insomnia, elevated homocysteine, headache, hair loss, birth defects
B12 (Cobalamin) Anemia fatigue, neuropathy, tongue and mouth irregularities, depression, confusion, memory loss, easy bruising, dermatitis, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting
Vitamin C Capillary fragility, depressed immune system, hemorrhage, muscle weakness, easy bruising, bleeding gums, poor wound healing, anemia, poor appetite, swollen joints
Calcium Weakened bones and fractures, muscle cramps, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, tooth decay, back and leg pains, insomnia, rickets, osteoporosis
Magnesium Muscle cramps, high blood pressure, weakness, insomnia, G. I. disorders, kidney stones, osteoporosis, nervousness, restlessness, fear, anxiety, confusion, depression, fatigue
Potassium Fatigue, irregular heartbeat, irritability, confusion, poor reflexes, edema, constipation, dizziness, muscle weakness, thirst
Iron Anemia, weakness, fatigue, skin pallor, headache, hair loss, labored breathing, spooning of fingernails, brittle nails, suppressed immune system
Zinc Poor wound healing, decreased immunity, loss of taste and smell, balding, skin disorders, sexual dysfunction, menstrual problems, joint pain, nystagmus, depression, photophobia
Selenium Destructive changes to the heart and pancreas, muscle soreness, RBC fragility, weakened immune system, increased rates of various cancers
CoQ10 Congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, angina, mitral valve prolapse, stroke, cardiac arrhythmias, cardiac myopathy, lack of energy, gingivitis, depressed immune system
Carnitine Elevated in blood lipids, abnormal liver function, muscle weakness, reduce energy, and in pair glucose control
Vitamin A Reduced night vision, dry bumpy skin, loss of appetite, loss of hair luster, brittle nails, joint pain
Vitamin D Tooth decay, spinal curvature, muscle weakness, increased fractures, gradual hearing loss, muscle weakness, autoimmunity, multiple sclerosis
Vitamin K Easy bleeding, bruising, skeletal disorders such as rickets, osteoporosis, osteomalacia
Vitamin E Dry skin, dull hair, RBC fragility, bruising, PMS, fibrocystic breasts, hot flashes, eczema, psoriasis, cataracts, BPH, poor wound healing, muscle weakness, sterility
Protein Impaired wound healing, swelling in hands and feet or abdomen, decreased muscle mass, lethargy and fatigue
Bifidobacteria bifidum Gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, bad breath, chronic vaginal yeast infections
Lactobacillus Acidophilus Gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, bad breath, chronic vaginal yeast infections
Glutathione Decreased hepatic detoxification, decreased immunity, suppression of macrophage activity, increased free radical damage, hair loss
*Phosphorus Deficiency rarely occurs in humans, important for bones and teeth, phospholipids, cellular energy, enzymes, buffer, protein synthesis
*Inositol Deficiency has not been identified in humans, important for phospholipids, nerve tissue, psychological health
Source: Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook, 2nd Edition; Ross Pelton, RPh, Ph.D., CCN. ©2009 The Wellness Prescription

I was absolutely floored! Think about the implications here. What if Doctors used testing for vitamin and mineral deficiencies as a routine part of patient care instead of writing a prescription for pharmaceuticals to treat symptoms? What if we were able to identify the causes of patient symptoms before they became chronic health issues and require more invasive and expensive treatments? Think about how much money that would save patients and the nation in total health care costs? Think about people having a better quality of life because they feel good? I am not saying all pharmaceuticals are bad, it is because of the drug industry that my mother is still with us after experiencing acute pancreatitis 27 years ago. It is also the reason she came down with pancreatitis in the first place. All drugs have intended consequences that have helped save lives and “unintended” consequences that have destroyed families. I believe it is your right and your responsibility to direct your own health care. As consumers we need to know what we are taking and why? What are the side effects of these drugs? Do research on this yourself or ask a pharmacist. Do not expect your Doctor to provide you with all of your answers, there are just too many drugs out there for them to know all of the possible side effects. What other options are available? Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. I had a friend that went to 6 different cancer centers to get the best treatment for her Dad. If you are not comfortable with the risks associated with your medication, get another opinion. Sadly, there is still a huge disconnect between the science/industry driven western medicine side of the world and a more holistic eastern medicine side. Until we integrate the best of both worlds, the United States will continue to lag behind most of Europe, Australia, Japan and even Costa Rica in the World Health Organization’s ranking of health care systems. (The US currently stands at 37th in the world) http://www.photius.com/rankings/healthranks.html I believe we are starting to see some changes in attitudes most recently with all of the news about the benefits of vitamin D3 but it is going to be a long, slow road to get where we need to be. Do you really want to wait for the AMA? In the meantime, it will be up to us as consumers to demand more integrated health care. Jump in the driver’s seat and take charge of your family’s health!