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Conditions

Kidney Stones

A kidney stone is a small stone shaped buildup or concretion that forms within the kidney as a result of a calcium or other buildups within the urinary tract, ureter, or other area within the bodies digestive system. The concretions are also known as calculi, which is a crystal aggregation. There are a few different types of kidney stones and vary according to what mineral is primarily found in the buildup.

Alternative Names for Kidney Stones

Nephrolithiasis is the name given to the condition of having kidney stones. Ureterolithiasis is the physician’s term for having a calcium buildup in the tube that connects the bladder and the kidneys. This tube is called the ureter. Urolithiasis is the term for the condition of having a calcium buildup in the urinary tract, including within the kidneys or in the urinary bladder.
Kidney Stone Symptoms
The condition of having kidney stones in other animals, such as cats and dogs, is often called bladder stones and is similar to urolithiasis.

Symptoms That Accompany Kidney Stones

The most common symptom associated with kidney stones is a severe pain in the groin area that can extend into the body and across the lower back. This pain may be continuous or come and go in spurts. This pain will typically increase in degree and become more defined with time. Other symptoms associated with kidney stones include:

  1. Nausea and vomiting as the result of the intestine becoming infected.
  2. Small amounts of pus in the urine.
  3. Reduced amount of urine which is caused by the kidney stone obstructing the urinary tract.
  4. Hydronephrosis is the dilation of the renal pelvis and can often accompany kidney stones.
  5. A burning sensation while urinating. This symptom can also be the cause of many other urinary disorders such as a urinary tract infection.
  6. Small traces of blood can be found in the urine of a person who has kidney stones.

If the kidney stones are small enough, the person may not feel any of these symptoms and can pass the kidney stone through the urinary tract without even noticing any pain. Other symptoms may also be present that are not directly caused by kidney stones but can be the result of an infection or other problem. These symptoms can include a high fever, diarrhea, trouble sleeping, and severe headaches.

Causes of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones and calcium crystals within the kidney can be caused by some condition such as renal acidosis, medullary sponge kidney, or Dent’s disease. If a person is known to have one of these disorders or a similar one, they may be subjected to recurring kidney stones. The most common form of kidney stones is a buildup that consists of calcium oxalate crystals and is caused by excessive calcium intakes or an inability of the kidneys to digest this calcium.

Some activities may cause kidney stones, besides a health disorder. These activities might include not drinking enough water or a sudden change in diet. When your body does not get enough water, the kidneys are less able to pass salts, minerals, and other substances through the urine. This will cause a buildup that eventually forms kidney stones.

Uric acid is another cause of many kidney stones. Uric acid is a chemical that is produced from purine and is the final oxidation product of purine metabolism. This acid is typically excreted in the urine, but if it is unable to be released may cause a buildup that will eventually form a kidney stone. This form of kidney stones is more common in mammals other than humans.

It is common to have kidney stones occur in members of the same family for several generations. Tests are still being performed to determine how kidney stones may be part of a persons genetics.

Risk Factors for Kidney Stones

Family history plays one of the largest roles in determining whether or not a person may contract kidney stones. If someone in your family has a strong history of kidney stones, you are more likely to develop the problem, also. If a person has had kidney stones in the past, they are more likely to get them again at some point in the future.

Adults are much more likely to have kidney stones than children. Also, adults over the age of 40 are at the greatest risk of having kidney stones. Men are much more likely to have kidney stone problems then women, and race is not known to play a factor in kidney stone development.

A person who becomes dehydrated on a regular basis or has a history of dehydration is at a high risk of developing kidney stones. This is due to the important role that water plays in the digestive system and organs such as kidneys. People who have a high BMI (Body Mass Index) or are generally obese and overweight are linked to having an increased risk of kidney stones.

A person who has been diagnosed with one of several digestive diseases or has recently had a surgery that is related to the digestive system may develop kidney stones. Some of the digestive diseases that may be related to kidney stones include inflammatory bowel disease and chronic diarrhea. Surgeries such as gastric bypass surgery may cause kidney stones.

How to Prevent Kidney Stones

The best way to prevent the presence of kidney stones is to eat a healthy diet and to be involved in regular exercise. A good diet to avoid kidney stones should not be excessively high in protein, sodium, or sugar. The diet should also follow a few of the following tips:

  1. A diet high in fiber will help to have a healthy digestive system with properly functioning kidneys. Oats, beans, wheat, cabbage, and carrots are all examples of foods that are rich in fiber.
  2. Do not eat meat excessively, especially beef and pork.
  3. Get the recommended amounts of calcium. Try to get your calcium intake from dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.
  4. Avoid dark green vegetables, nuts, chocolates, and other foods that are known to be high in oxalate. Vegetables are healthy, but do not eat them excessively.
  5. Cut back on salt intake. Salt buildup is one of the most common ways in which kidney stones begin to form.

Another recommendation given by scientists and physicians is to drink more fluids. The more fluids you drink the clearer your urine becomes. If you notice clear urine, it is a sign that your kidneys are functioning properly. Most physicians recommend 8 to 10 glasses of water every day. If your body is not used to this much water then you should not immediately begin drinking 8 to 10 glasses per day, begin by increasing your water intake by 1 or 2 glasses per day until you can handle adequate amounts of water. If you notice that urine is a dark yellow color then this might be a sign of not enough water entering the kidneys.

Tests and Diagnosis Considerations when Dealing with Kidney Stones

Urine and blood tests are the most common methods of diagnosing kidney stones. Doctors will look for blood, calcium, and high amounts of protein in the urine, which can denote the presence of an obstruction or irritation within the urinary tract. X-ray and radiological imaging techniques are also used to diagnose kidney stones. Because calcium is very dense, they can be detected by most hospital X-ray machines. The X-ray will show a buildup within the kidney, ureters, and bladder.

A physician may also perform an Intravenous Pyelogram, or IVP. This test requires that a special dye be injected into the patient’s bloodstream just passed the kidneys. An image can be taken following the injection of the dye which will reveal any buildup locations.

Computed tomography, or CT scans can be used to detect the presence of a kidney stone. This is a method that is used only in extreme cases and not when other methods can be used because of the relatively high cost associated with CT scans. Another drawback of using CT scans is that the patient is exposed to small amounts of radiation.

Ultrasound imaging is another useful tool when diagnosing kidney stones. Ultrasounds can detect the presence of a swollen kidney, which suggests that there is some type of obstruction in the bloodstream just past the kidney. Many hospitals and physicians will use ultrasound techniques first when diagnosing kidney stones because it is relatively inexpensive and poses no severe risks.

Treatment Options

Herbal and Home Remedies to Treat Kidney Stones

Kidney beans have long been regarded as one of the most effective home remedies for kidney problems. A common mixture is to boil the inside pods of the beans in water for six hours and then straining the liquid and allowing it to be cooled. Patients should drink this mixture every two hours for 1 to 2 days.
Kidney Stone Treatment
Basil and celery are vegetables that are helpful in fighting against kidney stones and other kidney related problems. Apples, grapes, pomegranates, and watermelon are fruits that have essential vitamins and minerals used to keep your kidneys healthy.

Scientists have shown that vitamin B6 and pyridoxine are effective treatments of kidney stones. Physicians recommend doses of roughly 100 milligrams of vitamin B6 and other forms of vitamin B be taken to cure kidney ailments.

Pharmaceutical Treatments for Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are generally known to pass through the body’s digestive system within 48 to 72 hours on their own, though often cause excruciating pain. Because kidney stones can pass through the body without help, most medications prescribed to patients are pain killers.

Narcotics can be prescribed to help reduce pain if over-the-counter medicines do not allow for pain relief.

Scientists have been able to create several medications that can speed up the process of passing a kidney stone. The most common form of prescription medication is what is known as a “calcium channel blocker”, typically nifedipine. Nifedipine is known by product names such as Adalat, Procardia, and Nifediac.

Alpha-blockers are also used in treatment of kidney stones. A common alpha-blocker is the prescription drug Flomax.

A non-invasive procedure called lithotripsy is often used to break up larger kidney stones. Lithotripsy involves the use of shock waves to break large kidney stones into smaller pieces that can be more easily passed through the urinary tract and urinary system.

Surgical Treatments for Kidney Stones

Several surgical techniques can be used to treat kidney stones, but are typically only used in the case of extremely large buildups accompanied by intolerable pain. The operation is often avoided because of the costs of performing any type of surgery. Kidney stone surgery allows the surgeon to enter the urinary tract through a small incision in the skin and remove the crystalline buildup and kidney stones. An instrument that is called an ureteroscope is allowed to enter the ureter through the urethra and bladder.

Risks associated with this type of operation are small compared to other types of surgeries, because it is not extremely invasive. However, as with any surgery there is always the risk of complications due to heavy bleeding or a poor reaction to anesthesia.

Herbs

Dandelion Health Benefits

The dandelion herb has been used for centuries to promote good health. It is full of vitamins, minerals, and other natural chemicals the body can use to overcome illness. Not only does it have medical uses, but it also has popular culinary uses.

What Is The Dandelion Herb?

Taraxacum officinal, meaning “the official remedy for disorders”, is a perennial herb with a long, brown taproot. The leaves are jagged and pointy. They grow close to the ground and outward from a central point. They are a dark green on the edges and a lighter green towards the center. The stems are light green to a dark reddish purple.

The flowers are a bright yellow on the outside to a dark orange in the center. When the flowers are mature, they turn into a white puffball of seeds that scatter everywhere when the wind blows. The scattered seeds sprout into new plants. Every part of the dandelion exudes a milky substance when it is damaged. The name Dandelion comes from the French word for Lion’s Tooth, Dent de Lion, because the leaves are jagged like teeth. Other names for Dandelion are:

    Benefits of the Dandelion

  • Blow Ball,
  • Cankerwort
  • Puffball
  • Pu-kung-ying
  • Telltime
  • White Endive
  • Wild Endive
  • Swine’s Snout
  • Pu Gong Ying
  • Dent de Lion
  • Priest’s Crown.

Where Does It Come From?

The dandelion herb is thought to have originated in Europe and Asia, but it can now be found throughout the northern hemisphere, including the United States. Most people consider the dandelion a weed, especially when it takes over their front lawn! However, it is also grown and cultivated for medical and edible uses. When used for medicine, the dandelion can be taken in powdered or liquid form.

There are several ways to make a liquid dandelion extract. To make a tea, steep the dandelion in water. A tincture can be made by adding either alcohol or glycerin to the tea. If alcohol is used, the tincture is preserved for up to three years and it is absorbed more easily than if glycerin is used. However, glycerin tastes better.

To make the powder, they use a low temperature distillation process that removes the active ingredients from the raw herb. The liquid is then condensed and dried to make a fine powder, which is put in gelatin capsules.

The History and Origin of the Dandelion

The first recorded use of dandelion for medicinal purposes is from the Arabians around 900 AD; however, it is believed the Chinese were using dandelions long before that. Dandelion is believed to be one of the original bitter herbs used for Passover in the Bible. There are records of the Welsh using it in the 13th century.

The pilgrims brought it to North America. In 1620, when the Mayflower arrived, there were no dandelions in America. By 1671, they were growing abundantly all over what is now the United States.

How the Dandelion is Used Today

Today, the dandelion has both medical and culinary uses. Dandelion greens are one of the most nutritious greens available. One cup of raw greens has:

  • 112% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A
  • 535% RDA of vitamin K
  • 32% RDA of vitamin C
  • 103 mg of calcium
  • 1.7 mg of iron
  • 218 mg of potassium.

Additional Uses

They are also a good source of beta carotene, lutein, vitamin H, which has been proven to help weight loss, and over two dozen other nutrients. Dandelion greens add color and texture to salads, stir-fry, and soups. The greens are the leaves. It is best to harvest them in early spring, well before the last frost is expected. They need to be gathered before the flowers bloom or they will be bitter. The best time is when the leaves have just emerged.

The root is also used for culinary purposes. It can be added to soups or ground up and roasted to make a drink similar to coffee without the negative side effects. The root of the dandelion is full of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients, including inulin, which is helpful in controlling diabetes.

Drinking dandelion coffee helps stimulate the digestive system. It is best to harvest the roots in early spring or late fall when most of the nutrients are stored there. The flowers are used for making dandelion wine and dandelion fritters. They are good for the antioxidant luteolin, which is found in them.

Benefits of the Dandelion Herb

Dandelion herb has been associated with improving liver function and liver diseases such as hepatitis and jaundice. It is a strong diuretic that does not deplete potassium in the body. It has been shown to improve both constipation and diarrhea. It purifies the blood, cleanses the digestive system, removes heavy metals from body tissues, and can help dissolve kidney stones. It has been shown to help weight loss, cure acne, lower high blood pressure, cure anemia, lower serum cholesterol levels, reduce acid indigestion and gas, improve some cancers, and help control diabetes all with no negative side effects. The dandelion herb is full of so many vitamins, minerals and micronutrients that alone might be the reason it is so beneficial in so many different areas.

  • The sodium in dandelions is thought to reduce the inflammation of the liver.
  • Vitamin A helps fight cancers in the mouth and the lungs.
  • Potassium, along with magnesium, has been shown to help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke.
  • Dandelions are full of both potassium and magnesium.
  • The fiber in dandelions lowers cholesterol, is beneficial to diabetes, and fights cancer and heart disease.
  • Calcium has been shown to build strong bones and reduce high blood pressure.
  • B vitamins lower the effects of stress.
  • Romanian lab mice lost 30% of their body weight in 30 days by taking a dandelion extract with their food.

Helpful Chemicals

Along with all the vitamins and minerals in the dandelion, there are also numerous chemicals that are important in many bodily functions.

Inulin is converted into fructose as it is digested. Fructose does not use insulin, which results in a slower rise in blood sugar making it ideal for those with diabetes or hypoglycemia.

  • Tof-CFr is similar to lentinan, which has been proven to fight cancer cells in Japanese lab mice.
  • Pectin helps diarrhea; it removes heavy metals, and lowers cholesterol especially if it is combined with vitamin C. The dandelion herb has both.
  • Coumestrol mimics estrogen. It stimulates milk production and balances hormones.
  • Apigenin and luteolin are diuretics, antioxidants, and antispasmodics. They have liver protecting properties and strengthen the heart and blood vessels. They are antibacterial and estrogen mimics.
  • Gallic Acid helps diarrhea and is antibacterial.
  • Linoleic and linolenic acid are fatty acids the body needs to produce prostaglandins that regulate blood pressure, suppress inflammation, regulate the menstrual cycle, and prevent platelet aggregation.
  • Choline has been shown to improve memory.
  • The dandelion herb has many sesquiterpene compounds that are thought to give it its bitter taste. These compounds promote good digestion, liver, spleen, and gall bladder function. They are also antifungal.
  • Triterpenes are helpful for liver and bile stimulation.
  • Taraxasterol is good for the liver and gall bladder. It also balances hormones.

Purchasing Options

Dandelion is sold as capsules, tea leaves, powder, or tincture. Capsules are easy to take and have little taste. Teas can be enjoyable and relaxing, while tinctures are absorbed quickly. They are all good choices depending on preferences. Dandelion leaves average about $1 to $2 an ounce whether they are cut up or a powder and the capsules average about $8 for 60 capsules. Dandelion root is about the same for the powder, but the capsules are considerably cheaper, about $2 to $4 for 100 capsules. Moreover, the tincture can be found between $4 and $5 an ounce.

To make dandelion coffee, the roots have to be roasted which will double the cost. Some good brands to try are Now, Yogi, Traditional Medicines, and Starwest Botanicals. A local health food store would be a good place to buy dandelion. If the internet is used, shop around because different sites frequently have sales. One good site to try is www.takeherb.com.

How Much to Take?

  • The recommended dose for dandelion leaf tea is 1-2 teaspoons steeped in hot water 3 times a day.
  • For dandelion root tea, the recommended dose is ½ -2 teaspoons steeped in hot water 3 times a day.
  • Whether the capsules are the leaf or the root, the recommended dose is 500 mg 3 times a day.
  • The recommended dose for both the leaf tincture and the root tincture is 100-150 drops 3 times a day.

Precautions

While there are no negative side effects from taking the dandelion herb, some people have been known to have allergic reactions to it, including a rash or mouth sores. If you are allergic to yarrow, iodine, ragweed, marigold, chrysanthemums, chamomile, or daisies, you should avoid taking dandelion. Dandelion might cause stomach acid or heartburn in some people. If you have gallbladder problems or gallstones, you should consult a doctor before taking dandelion. Dandelion is a diuretic and may cause your body to expel any drugs you are taking faster than normal. Consult a doctor if you are taking Lithium, quinoline antibiotics, and antacids like Pepcid, Zantac, and Taganet.

Antioxidants

Reduce Uric Acid

About Uric Acid

Uric acid is another substance that is created naturally by our body as it goes through the process of eliminating purine from the body. Purine is a substance that is naturally occurring in many food products with high concentrations in meat products. In another mystery of nature and biology it has been shown that too much uric acid can cause problems for the body while also showing some beneficial characteristics. How does this conflict work itself out and how is it possible to maintain a balance between overly high levels of uric acid and amounts that are too low to maintain essential benefits?

This article will provide a brief history of Uric Acid including a look at where it comes from, what foods contain the building blocks for uric acid, and popular uses. I will also show how it is used today and then I will examine some claims and myths about uric acid to discover the truth regarding this often misunderstood compound.

Where Does Uric Acid Come From?

As mentioned earlier, uric acid does not occur naturally but is a by-product of a natural process. Uric acid is produced when the kidneys process purines. Purines are a natural element found in almost all food types. The reason for this ubiquity is that purines are really an essential element for life as they are a part of the chemical structure of all plants and animals. There is a small sub-set of foods that contain a high concentration of purines. These include organ meats like kidneys, livers or fish such as mackerel and herring. When these foods are ingested, the purines are then broken down. The end result of this process is uric acid.

It seems like almost all of our natural processes have a downside, however, and it is not any different with uric acid production. Too much uric acid production can be taxing on the kidneys. The human kidneys is a master balancer as it ensures the right balance between uric acid that is needed for different bodily processes and left over uric acid that needs to dealt with. When too much uric acid is taken in, the kidneys process what is needed and then use the excess uric acid to form crystals. These crystals are then deposited into natural storage areas in our bodies.

Gout.

Gout

Unfortunately for humans, these storage areas are in various joints like elbows and knees, or far off appendages like toes. When too many of these crystals build up in these areas they can cause inflammation of the joints which can cause unbearable pain and swelling.

These are the unmistakable symptoms of gout. Gout has been with us for centuries. We have read about many a king who suffered from gout as a result of his unlimited appetite. King Henry is a historical sovereign who comes to mind immediately. It is due to the history of gout that we often think of it as a dead ailment. That is far from true. The same processes that created gout in the past are still around today causing suffering for new generations of humans.

Gout Myths

Gout from Uric Acid

That leads us to examine our first claim about uric acid; that uric acid and purine consumption will ultimately lead to gout. The statement is only half true. It is an excess consumption of purines that lead to an overabundance of uric acid and ultimately, gout. Uric acid, as it turns out, is an important element for humans to have around. Uric acid is actually an anti-oxidant that is responsible for maintaining the health of our blood vessel linings.

As a consequence, it is vitally important to maintain a moderate level of uric acid in our bloodstream. So, we can lay to rest the myth that all uric acid is damaging. Like all things natural, there needs to be a balance in order to maintain health and a complete lack of uric acid would actually lead to major problems.

Another claim around uric acid and purines is that all meat products are responsible for the same level of uric acid production. Recent research has turned this assumption on its head. When it comes to purines, not all foods are equal. Research is beginning to show that purines from meat products and fish will lead to gout more quickly than purines from vegetables. Vegetable consumption, surprisingly, actually neither increases nor decreases gout risk, while purines obtained from dairy products may decrease gout risk. So it may be important to include more dairy products in our diet to maintain our daily average of 600mgs of uric acid a day.

Decreasing Uric Acid Production

The problem that many run into when forced to decrease their uric acid production is that the foods with the highest concentrations of purines are some of the healthiest foods available. Chief among foods with high purine content is liver. Liver is also considered to be a vital, healthy food. Many people need to continue to eat some of these foods for other health reasons not related to their issues with uric acid and purines. A simple solution is to continue to eat healthy foods such as salmon, liver and asparagus. It may be wise to cut back on the portions.

Dietary Considerations

Another possible solution would be to boil some of these foods rather than frying or sautéing them. This leads us to the exploration of another claim regarding uric acid and purines.

Boiling Food

This claim states that cooking foods high in purine content actually increases the chance that excess uric acid production will occur. Recent examinations of this claim show that the way these foods are cooked is extremely important.

For instance, when boiling some of the high purine content foods, some of the purines become separated and end up in the water.

If the water is discarded, then the purine content of the food is actually decreased.

This leads to the conclusion that those people on a purine restricted diet due to high uric acid levels may not have to eat the majority of their foods raw.

They can actually cook some of their favorite foods and still decrease their uric acid levels.

Alcohol and Uric Acid

There has also been a claim throughout history that increased alcohol intake also leads to an overabundance of uric acid in the body and eventually, gout.

Again if we go back to our history lesson we often recall that many of the historic gout sufferers had a propensity for drinking copious amounts of red wine.

This claim is in fact true. Research has shown that alcohol does reduce the body’s water content. Water is needed to process purines into uric acid and to flush excess uric acid from the body. If this does not happen, then more uric acid crystals may be formed which again is a leading cause for a serious case of extremely painful gout.

Kidney Stones

Another side effect of increased uric acid in the blood is kidney stones. Kidney stones develop from inefficient kidneys. Kidneys that are busy processing very high levels of purines tend to lose their efficiency. This is obviously another important reason for monitoring purine and uric acid levels in the body.

Weight Loss

People that are severely overweight also usually have higher levels of uric acid than the general population. Researchers are not completely sure why this is the case but repeated studies have shown that people who reduce their weight also tend to increase the body’s efficiency in processing purines. Obviously, losing weight can help the body improve purine processing but if excess weight is dropped too rapidly, there can actually be a short-term spike in uric acid levels.

The reason for this is quite simple due to the fact that the body loses muscle during periods of extreme hunger. This is a reason that fasting or extreme dieting is not a good idea for lowering purine and uric acid levels. It is a much better idea to go on a stable diet that focuses on food with lower purine levels while drinking plenty of water.

Soft Drinks and Uric Acid

Now it’s time for a quick word about soft drinks and their link to increased uric acid levels. It turns out that alcoholic beverages are not the only liquid villain when it comes to high uric acid levels and gout. People who drink just two soft drinks a day have an 85% greater chance of developing a case of gout than those who do not. This is due to the high levels of fructose in soft drinks.

The kidneys have a tough time processing large amounts of the fructose found in soft drinks. This naturally leads to questions about other sugary foods such as candy or syrups. It would be wise to avoid those food choices as well. Candy is high in fructose and should be avoided as well.

Ways to Avoid Issues

That covers most of the claims regarding uric acid. There are some things that can help reduce the potential for developing gout that can be used in conjunction with drinking plenty of water and following a diet with lower levels of purine.

Exercise

First and most important is regular exercise. It seems like exercise is indeed the magic elixir for maladies and it helps with high uric acid levels as well. It may be the fact that exercise is related to lower levels of uric acid through weight reduction alone but it has been shown to be helpful.

Fruit & Vegetable Supplements

It also appears that celery and celery extracts can have a positive impact on uric acid levels. Celery can now be taken in a capsule form. Celery extract is perfectly legal and is available through a number of online herb shops. It looks like most sites are selling doses that run from 50 to 100mgs and the price ranges from $6 to $20 a bottle and most bottles contain anywhere from 50 to 100 capsules.

As with any drug, herb or extract, do your homework and check with your doctor to ensure that there will not be any dangerous conflicts with prescriptions you are currently taking and that there will not be any side effects that could also detract from the effectiveness of some of your prescriptions.

Eating Cherries

Finally, there is some late breaking research that shows that cherries might also contain elements that are effective in battling increased uric acid levels. The cherries have to be tart and they work by dissolving some of the uric acid crystals that build up in the joints.

Water

It also bears repeating that water is an essential ingredient for processing purines. The kidneys, and every other organ, for that matter need water to function. Drinking 8 glasses of water a day should dramatically reduce uric acid levels in the body in a short period of time.

Keeping a Healthy Uric Acid Level

That wraps up this brief look at purines and uric acid. In summary, it is important to note that purines and uric acid are not necessarily bad things. Purines are found in just about every conceivable food and are an essential element of life. The production of uric acid is a completely normal process and we humans need uric acid to improve the condition of our blood vessels.

Like everything else in nature and in life, there has to be a balance. The body does react negatively when uric acid levels get too high by storing the excess in joints and appendages. It is important to remember that when this happens, balance can be restored by switching to a low purine level diet and increasing the intake of water to help the kidneys process purines effectively.

Conditions

Scurvy

What Is Scurvy?

Dating back to ancient Egypt, scurvy represents an abnormal condition of ascorbic acid or Vitamin C deficiency in the diet. The earliest records of the symptoms associated with scurvy are the contribution of Egyptian scribes, dating back to 1550 BC. Scurvy ravaged its victims of ocean exploration during the Renaissance Era of the 16th through the 18th centuries indiscriminately.

In the course of the year 1746, a British naval surgeon named James Lind proved that citrus fruits including oranges and lemons had strong properties to treat and prevent scurvy. As a result of Dr. Lind’s efforts, the relative frequency of developing scurvy otherwise called Vitamin C deficiency, ascorbic acid deficiency syndrome, Vitamin C deficiency disease, and Barlow’s disease, among the British naval men diminished. Lemon juice provisions became the standard on board routine sea expeditions.Scurvy Symptoms

Throughout the 19th century, people suffered a myriad of tribulations and significant events. They experienced the Great Potato Famine, the American Civil War, the Crimean War in Europe, and the California Gold Rush. By no longer being a maritime voyager’s disease, scurvy evolved into a disease affecting countless people on terra firma.

Scurvy & Rickets

Accredited for the earliest description of infantile scurvy, Francis Glisson discovered a link between rickets and scurvy relating to infants in 1650. Subsequent to his narrative regarding this relationship, it took 200 years more before any further reports of these findings made it to mainstream authorities.

Infantile Scurvy

By the end of the 19th century, infantile scurvy received acknowledgment in Great Britain and the United states due to the increased incidence of the disease. The conclusion was that the ingestion of pasteurized milk and foods that contain insufficient quantities of Vitamin C caused the manifestation of scurvy.

Axel Holst, a Norwegian university professor and a pediatrician named Dr. Theodor Frølich evoked the induction and treated scurvy in guinea pigs with the use of through adjustment relating to their diet. The employment of an animal model used to promote and cure scurvy equated to an outstanding advancement. The progress made with the use of guinea pigs led the way to integration of using human subjects for experimentation.

At a point in 1914, a pediatrician names Alfred Hess who practiced at Hebrew Asylum in New York, noted a growing number of cases of scurvy amidst the babies at the institution. The institution of the milk pasteurization along with omitting orange juice from the nutritional components of the infants’ diet was the underlying basis for the rise of infantile scurvy.

Early Treatment Findings

Dr. Hess was able to undo the absence of vitamin C in the infants by adding orange juice, non pasteurized milk or potatoes to their diet. This improvement in their uptake reversed the effects of scurvy. Dr. Hess demonstrated that the loss of vitamin C was the result of the pasteurization. Hence, his recommendation for the prevention and treatment of infantile scurvy was to supply citrus fruit or vegetable juice to the diet of the infants that received heated formula exclusively. Leading to the elimination of infantile scurvy in the United States, this added measure prevented the infants from the impact of scurvy.

The daily consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables or the protective approach of supplementing the diet with added Vitamin C represents a significant way to prevent ascorbic acid insufficiency. Unfortunately, the human body misses the element needed to produce ascorbic acid. The body needs fruits and vegetable to satisfy Vitamin C requirements needed for wellness. Unfortunately, scurvy makes up a remarkable vitamin deficiency syndrome that regards adults and children who have prolonged Vitamin C shortcoming in their diet.

Pathophysiology

Whether caused by disease or the following result from a syndrome, the study of the shifts in the involuntary physical and biochemical dynamic processes have a pivotal role. They provide the understanding of basic causes of disorders in the body. Pathophysiology is the subdivision of medicine, which addresses the disruptions of body functions due to illness or the foreshadowing symptoms.

The principle function of Vitamin C comprises the biosynthesis of collagen needed for the fortification of skin, bone, and connective tissues throughout the body. A Vitamin C deficient effects the body organs’ collagen-containing tissue namely the skin, cartilage, bones, capillaries, and the calcium-containing part of the teeth called dentine. There are numerous reasons why the observation of infant growth rate is vital.

Pathological Variants

Pathological variants affect the production of tissue and functionality of the body. Irrespective externally or internally, the loss of blood from a ruptured blood vessel personifies a distinguishable feature of scurvy, and it causes serious complications when the hemorrhage takes place in an organ. Another indicant of scurvy is abnormal collagen formation. It contributes to poor dentine synthesis, bleeding gums, and the loss of teeth inevitably. A frequent site of dermal bleeding is the hair follicle. In relation to infantile scurvy, bone inclusion is a distinctive characteristic.

The occurrence of body changes happens at the juncture of the central section of the long bone in between the growth expanses at each end. Bone-forming cells also called osteoblasts are unsuccessful in the attempt to form the bone tissue that becomes hard bone, as a result, the endochondral bone development stops. Calcification of growth cartilage situated at the juncture of the long bones persists, contributing to the growth plate becoming more compact.

As a rule, the dispersal of growth cartilage byway of the capillary vessels does not take place. Because of the process of undergoing resorption, the bone becomes weak, and tiny cracks of the bone spicules develop between the diaphysis and hardened cartilage. Because of the fractures, the dense fibrous membrane covering the surface of bones called the periosteum become lax, consequent to a subperiosteal bleed at the endings of the long bones. Standardized guidelines practiced in the assessment of fractures pertaining to infants and adolescent children are in place. The attached segment of the periosteal to the growth plate is sturdy.

Scurvy in the United States

In the United States, the incidence of scurvy is unique because of the incorporation of Vitamin C incorporated in foods more and more. This western standard makes the risk of developing scurvy seem to be a matter of the past. Scurvy represents a nondiscriminatory condition that does not recognize gender or race. Today, individuals that are the most vulnerable to developing scurvy in the USA are, however, the elderly, psychiatric patients, drug abusers, alcoholics, finicky eaters, the homeless, and persons suffering from acid ingestion. Additionally, dialysis-dependent individuals and babies who do not receive sufficient Vitamin C in their diet may fall victim to scurvy.

Among the various physical damage accompanying, the ill-use of alcohol in the midst of some elderly-adult drinkers is water-soluble vitamin deficiency. The primary reason is the consumption foods lacking Vitamin C supplied in fresh fruits and vegetables. Children who are subject to limited food due to health-related issues, cultural, or monetary justifications have a high probability of developing Vitamin C insufficiency leading to scurvy. It is remarkable for infants up to a year old to acquire scurvy because of nutritional information and resources available to parents.

International Occurrences of Scurvy

With regard to a few provinces scattered throughout Asia, there have been an increase in the outbreak of scurvy. In 2002, scores of people in an unlikely part of Afghanistan died subsequent to what seemed to be a direct occurrence of a disease associated with poor nutrition. Between 2004 and 2008, over 60 children in England received hospitalization due to scurvy. Late 2007, the estimation rose to 94 cases of scurvy, which indicates a substantial upsurge of more than 50% within a 3-year span.

A case study in Thailand reassessed 28 instances of scurvy in infants and children with an age range from 10 months to 9-and-half-years. The average child was 29 months old, and the children remained hospitalized for a little over 7 years from 1995 to 2002. The determinant was that constant uptake of ultra-pasteurized milk and insufficient consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits were the key factor that induced scurvy. Unless there is a real turn around regarding this issue, scurvy could once again be the scourge of populations in epidemic proportions in these middle-eastern regions.

Occurrence of Scurvy and Mortality

Scurvy has unfavorable impacts on the neonatal brain’s correct maturation. Based on the potential damage from Vitamin C deficiency, the latest research-laboratory studies indicate that the newborn child’s brain is vulnerable to impairment from scurvy. In relation to infants and adults, there is evidence that supports the connections between scurvy and unexpected death resulting from heart failure, as well.
Scurvy Symptoms
The occurrence secondary to prolonged exposure to scurvy causes deep tissue hemorrhaging, which is a frequent complication that raises the fatality rate in young children and mature adults. Subperiosteal bleeding causes extreme pain and physical flaws in bone and other connected anatomical structures. Dependent on the location of the bleed, for example, in the brain, the hemorrhage raises the fatality rate substantially.

Clinical Symptomatology

Non specific indications of scurvy consist of the following:

  • Poor appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever
  • Frequent and/or excessive bowel movements
  • Labored breathing

Identifiable symptoms include the following:

  • Muscular paralysis with pain and soreness of the lower extremities
  • Swelling across the long bones
  • Bleeding from broken blood vessels into encompassing tissue

Physical Indicators

Resulting from pseudoparesis, the infant appears irritable during handling and diaper changes. The child exhibits severe, palpable sensitivity over the thighs with excruciating pain. For solace, the infant simulates the frog-leg position, maintaining hips and knee joints slightly bent and externally spread out.

Gum-line hemorrhage takes place only if teeth eruption is apparent. Typically, bleeding gums involve the tissue around the teeth located in front of the mouth, in the superior and inferior jaws. The gums feel sponge-like and reveal a blue to purplish hue.

Hemorrhaging

Subperiosteal hemorrhage represents a typical determinant concerning infantile scurvy. The lower points of the thighbone and shinbone are the most impacted placements, and the area is painful to the touch in the acute phase.

Petechial hemorrhage of the skin and mucous membranes can occur. When the capillaries close to the superficial part of the body rupture, this state arises. Blood in the urine or stool is not distinguished. Eye proptosis is an indicator of an orbital bleed, which is a predication of scurvy. This condition results in an ensnarement and shift of the eye from the back of the lids of the eyeballs.

Problems With Ribs

A beading or protuberance of the ribs at the costochondral junction is a widely seen in individuals with scurvy. The occurrence is at the joining of the ribs and sternum located where the developing portion of the ribs to cartilage attaches. The scorbutic rosary is distinguishable because of its angular-like development. The profusion of growth of the cartilage induces the ribs and cartilage to compress and the overgrowth produces an abnormal formation of the rib cage.

Vitamin A Deficiency

Typically, adult scurvy induces Vitamin A deficiency, which is responsible for a skin thickening disorder called hyperkeratosis. It also produces an autoimmune disease called sicca syndrome or Sjögren’s syndrome are typical observations in adult scurvy; however, it is unusual in infantile scurvy. Connective tissue diseases, comprising lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, and polymyositis are autoimmune disorders. They contribute to dry eyes and mouth.

Additional Warning Signs

Slow-to-heal wounds, insufficient production of red blood cells, and mild fever represent signals that warrant testing for scurvy.

Although a rarity, there has been a case involving an infant that experienced non-scarring alopecia, spread throughout the scalp and features through radiographic imaging that indicate scurvy.

Laboratory Analyses

Infantile scurvy is not diagnosed with lab test easily. In order to ascertain the presence of scurvy in an infant, verification of radiological images and clinical research substantiating a Vitamin C deficiency is appropriate to establish a diagnose of infantile scurvy.

Blood Serum Ascorbic Acid Levels

  • Serum ascorbic acid levels more exceptional than 0.6 mg/dL eliminates the appearance of scurvy.
  • Ascorbic acid levels of more than 0.2 mg/dL are nutritionally sufficient.
  • A blood serum level of 0.10-0.19 mg/dL establishes a low level notably.
  • Serum levels that present lower than 0.10 mg/dL is a remarkable deficient.

Alternative Blood Testing

A more accurate measurement of ascorbic acid concentration is the white blood cell serum level. It provides a precise way to determine Vitamin C insufficiency.

  • A WBC serum level of zero suggests possible scurvy.
  • Levels of 0-7 mg/dL assume a substantial point of deficit.
  • Blood serum levels of 8-15 mg/dL are remarkable to a degree
  • Levels greater than 15 mg/dL are an excellent indicant of nutritional sufficiency.

Dietary Guidelines

A diet sufficient in Vitamin C inhibits the progress of scurvy. The dietary essentials of Vitamin C capable of the prevention of scurvy change at different stages of the aging process of the individual. The following dietary recommendations for the daily allowance consist of the following:

  • Infants – 30-40 mg
  • Children and young adults 40-45 mg
  • Mature adults 60 mg
  • Pregnant women – 70 mg
  • Lactating mothers – 95 mg

Food sources abundant in Vitamin C include the following:

  • Citrus fruits, such as grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, and limes
  • Black currant
  • Green tomatoes
  • Kiwi
  • Acerola cherry
  • Litchi
  • Berries
  • Guava
  • Cantaloupe
  • Sweet red pepper
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Peas
  • Lettuce
  • Cassava
  • Cauliflower
  • Potatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Melon
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes

Medication

Vitamin C Supplementation

The chemical composition of ascorbic acid derives from plants. Most animals produce ascorbic acid from glucose. Humans cannot synthesize this nutrient, and it cannot be stored in the body, so Vitamin C must be ingested daily. The best sources of Vitamin C are fresh vegetables and fruits. Ascorbic acid is essential to meet the needs of proper body function. Vitamin C provides antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals that induce cell damage.

Antitoxins neutralize a wide array of toxic substances that accumulate in the body. It strengthens the immune system ability to fight infection. Vitamin C enhances collagen formation, which is necessary for wound healing. It fortifies capillary and arterial walls to prevent rupture and ecchymosis. Ascorbic acid facilitates the integration of non-heme iron that comes from eggs, dairy products, and plant-based foods. Clinically, Vitamin C supplements are necessary to guard against and treat a state of deficiency.

Ascorbic acid Supplementation

Ascorbic acid, Vitamin C, Cecon, Cebid, Ce-Vi-Sol, Dull-C, and Vita-C are oral supplements that administer effective reversal of infantile and adult scurvy.

Adult Dosing

100-200 mg orally every 6 hours for 1 week

Pediatric

25 mg orally every 6 hours for 1 week

Interactions

The consumption of Vitamin C supplementation in large doses impedes the metabolic process and absorptivity of Vitamin B-12 in the body.

Contraindications

Large doses hasten hemolysis in individuals with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase insufficiency. Mass dosages exacerbated acid loading in conditions, such as gout, cirrhosis, renal tubular acidosis, and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria.

Pregnancy Precautions

In humans, fetal risk factors are not supported in research studies; however, some hazardous indications display in animal studies.

Cautionary Information

Vitamin C abuse stimulates diarrhea and renal stones. Prolonged uptake of ascorbic acid impedes synthesis, and it causes metabolic resistance biochemically.

There have been reports of scurvy in regards to infants born to mothers who ingested as high as 400 mg/dL of Vitamin C during their gestation period. The manifestation of low-serum ascorbic acid levels exhibited in healthy adults who took large doses of Vitamin C for extended periods.

Prognosis

Scurvy features a highly agreeable prognosis, as long as it is diagnostically identified and treated promptly.

Vitamins

Dehydroascorbic Acid

Dehydroascorbic acid is an organic compound that occurs when ascorbic acid is oxidized. Oxidization is a process by which compounds are chemically changed after being exposed to air. In the case of dehydroascorbic acid, two hydrogen atoms are removed from the ascorbic acid compound when air is present. The new compound is dehydrogenized and is given the name dehydroscorbic acid, or DHA. Dehydroascorbic acid is a crucially significant compound to human health and development, and while it may not have significant vitamin properties itself, it is transported throughout the body and then converted back to ascorbic acid (through a process called reduction), which is another name for Vitamin C.

Ascorbic Acid (The Reduced Form)

When dehydroascorbic acid is chemically changed through reduction, a process which adds back the two hydrogen atoms previously removed, ascorbic acid is reformed. Ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C, is a fundamental vitamin compound found in all animal life forms. Vitamin C is intrinsic in the prevention of many diseases and illnesses.

The very name, in fact, reflects this purpose. Ascorbic acid comes from the Latin words “a” and “scorbus.” The translation of these words means “without scurvy.” Scurvy’s role as a devastating illness caused by deficient amounts of Vitamin C, especially in travel by ship, was described as early as 400 B.C. and was present even into World War I.

Function

Ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C, is an essential vitamin that acts as an antioxidant in living creatures. The term antioxidant is given to molecules that are chemically able to prevent their own oxidation or the oxidation of molecules in their proximity. Oxidation is most clearly observed in common processes such as the rusting of a nail left outdoors or an apple turning brown when left on the counter.

The cells of the apple are oxidized by the surrounding air and are destroyed, thus turning the apple brown. Notice, however, that if an apple is covered in lemon or lime juice, the rate of browning is significantly slowed. This illustrates the antioxidation effects of ascorbic acid. While oxidation is a natural event in chemical life, excessive oxidation can produce an abundance of free radicals, chemicals that can begin dangerous chain reactions in cellular structures.

Animals & Humans

In humans, one of few living organisms not capable of producing ascorbic acid internally, a deficiency in Vitamin C may cause excessive oxidation, creating deadly levels of free radicals which will damage or destroy living cells. Animals cannot survive without ascorbic acid. Vitamin C also plays a significant role in enzyme production reactions, acting as a catalyst for at least eight of these reactions.

In animals, Vitamin C’s presence is critical in the formation process of collagen. The development of scurvy is inevitable if these collagen compounds are not efficiently formed. Collagen is needed for tasks such as the healing of wounds and blood clotting. Without Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, these natural life processes could not occur.

Deficiency

Deficient levels of ascorbic acid in the human body are always deadly. There are a variety of ways this deficiency can reveal itself. The most obvious, as mentioned before, is scurvy. In addition to the adverse effects of scurvy, other health risks can occur with a diet that is low in Vitamin C. Lifetime smokers whose diet does not include sufficient levels of ascorbic acid are at a greater risk for various forms of lung cancer.
Vitamin C and Absorbic Acid
In men, healthy levels of Vitamin C have been shown to correlate negatively with the presence of cancer cells: the more consistently high levels of Vitamin C, the lower the cancer risk. Low Vitamin C has also been shown to make one more susceptible to cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, and ischaemic heart disease. Additionally, Vitamin C combined with other antioxidant compounds drastically reduces the duration of wound healing.

The Oxidized Form (Dehydrogenization)

While dehydroascorbic acid does not have any vitamin-like properties itself, it, too, is a crucial compound that is directly related to Vitamin C production and absorption. Contrary to popularly held beliefs, Vitamin C is not transported from the blood directly to the human brain. Although the highest concentrations of Vitamin C are found in the brain, ascorbic acid cannot enter the brain through the bloodstream.

Dehydroascorbic acid is absorbed readily into the blood and dispersed throughout the human body, including large deposits into the human brain. This DHA is readily reduced, two hydrogen atoms are added to the compound, and ascorbic acid is formed. The transport of dehydroascorbic acid is much more efficient for the human body than transporting Vitamin C. Vitamin C is not as easily absorbed and requires more energy to mobilize. The body’s obsession with energy efficiency makes the transport of dehydroascorbic acid an acceptable alternative.

Location In The Body

Dehydroascorbic acid is transferred through human blood and concentrated around the mitochondria. A mitochondrion is an organelle responsible for the production of cellular energy throughout the entire body. These organelles are the “power houses” of the human body, supplying cells with the necessary energy required for normal function. The mitochondria are also gathering places for collections of cell-destroying free radicals.

To prevent the free radicals from critically damaging the power-supplying mitochondria, dehydroascorbic acid is pulled from the bloodstream into the mitochondria using glucose transporters. The dehydroascorbic acid is then reduced into ascorbic acid, which protects the membrane of the mitochondria from the damaging free radicals. Without the transport of dehydroascorbic acid into the body’s organelles, mitochondria would be destroyed and rendered useless.

Intake of Dehydrascorbic Acid

Every living creature requires ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C, for survival. Most living organisms are able to make ascorbic acid within their own bodies. Reptiles and some birds are able to produce ascorbic acid in a chemical process that occurs within their kidneys. Most mammals produce the compound within their livers. Primates (including humans), however, are not equipped with this natural Vitamin C production process.

The presence of ascorbic acid in their bloodstream is derived from the diet of these animals. A diet that is rich in Vitamin C is required for healthy living. There is some debate regarding the advised daily intake of ascorbic acid. Most health organizations, however, agree that the average adult should consume between 50 and 100 milligrams of Vitamin C daily.

There is a greater consensus regarding the upper bounds of Vitamin C consumption. Adults should not consume more than two thousand milligrams of the Vitamin daily. Doing so may result in the onset of diarrhea, the body’s natural attempt to flush the unused acid out of its system.

Foods

While supplements can be consumed to ensure the proper intake of Vitamin C, there are many common foods that contain sufficient levels of ascorbic acid to promote general health. Plants and animals that efficiently produce their own levels of Vitamin C are the best sources of ascorbic acid. Of course, citrus fruits contain high levels of ascorbic acid; surprisingly, however, there are several vegetables whose Vitamin C content greatly surpasses that of most fruits.

Red bell peppers, parsley, brussels sprouts and broccoli have some of the highest natural ascorbic acid concentrations among edible plants. If vegetables are the bane of a particular picky eater’s existence and a fruit is preferred, the best fruit for ascorbic acid intake is the kiwi. The kiwifruit has one of the highest concentrations of Vitamin C when compared to other fruits.

Vitamin C can also be ingested through animal products. In mammals, the Vitamin C production occurs within the liver. Therefore, eating calf, beef, pork or lamb livers can be an excellent source of Vitamin C. Other animal sources of ascorbic acid include fish roe (eggs), chicken livers, lamb brains, and animal milk. For infants, the best source of ascorbic acid is human breast milk. This nutrient-rich liquid provides the most adequate concentration of ascorbic acid.

Dehydroascorbic Acid

Most Vitamin C supplements are listed as only containing ascorbic acid. This is generally not a problem, as the oxidation and reduction of this compound enables it to quickly change forms, becoming dehydroascorbic acid for easy transport and returning to ascorbic acid for mitochondrial protection. However, there have been studies which suggest that ingesting dehydroascorbic acid specifically can speed up the beneficial health effects of this vitamin because DHA is able to be quickly transported to the brain and mitochondria via glucose transporters.

Ascorbic acid cannot be transported in this way. Additionally, it has been suggested that dehydroascorbic acid can be useful following strokes or other neurological disorders. Dehydroascorbic acid can directly enter the brain from the blood, unlike ascorbic acid, and so can deliver healing antioxidant properties to the damaged brain cells, preventing further adverse affects or even death.

Risks

While dehydroascorbic acid is, in fact, a decomposition product of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), it poses no intrinisic health hazards and offers positive vitamin activity as it can be transformed easily into ascorbic acid by reduction. There are, however, some small risks associated with consuming too much Vitamin C in a daily diet. Adults who regularly consume more than two thousand milligrams of Vitamin C may experience diarrhea and, in some cases, headaches, nausea or dizziness.

There are a few rare disorders caused by or influenced by high levels of Vitamin C. Because ascorbic acid assists the human body in iron absorption, there is a slight risk for iron poisoning in humans with iron absorption and processing abnormalities. It is widely considered an urban legend that Vitamin C in excess can cause kidney stones. After extensive research, the correlation has been determined to be coincidental. Some physicians advise careful monitoring of ascorbic acid intake during the first trimester of a pregnancy.

It is possible that excessive amounts of Vitamin C may prevent the placenta from successfully attaching to the uterine wall. These findings have not been verified, and pregnant women should consult their physician for proper dietary recommendations. Generally, the risk of overdosing on Vitamin C is very low. To avoid any risk whatsoever, adults should simply consume Vitamin C-rich foods or supplements to ensure that they are getting between 50 and 100 milligrams daily, a healthy amount.

Sources

http://www.whfoods.com
http://www.food.gov.uk
http://www.fda.gov
http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/vitamin-c-000339.htm

Vitamins

D Vitamins

Vitamin D: How the Body is Affected by its Promotion and Deficiency

Vitamin D is an extraordinarily important vitamin which promotes the overall health of the body. Produced naturally in the human skin or in plant life through the exposure to sunlight, vitamin D, found in various forms in life, is necessary to regulate normal levels of calcium metabolism, which promotes the health of bones and blood and the possible prevention of various diseases.

The metabolism of vitamin D in the body is a complex process that begins with the photochemical process caused by the exposure of ultraviolet B rays in the sunlight on the epidermis of the skin, through the ingestion of foods that are a natural source of or are fortified with vitamin D, and through the ingestion of vitamin D supplements.
Glass of Milk
While there is still a great deal of ongoing research into how Vitamin D affects and prevents deficiencies, one thing is certain is that Vitamin D deficiency can be serious and life-threatening. It can not only affected the way the body functions and grows, but can quite possibly affect an individual’s mental and psychological well-being.

What Is It?

Vitamin D is a class of fat soluble vitamins that are made of secosteroids. Secosteroids are found naturally in the skin of vertebrates, including humans, and in plant life. They are divided into five forms of calciferols

  • Vitamin D1 (a molecular compound of ergocalciferol and lumisterol)
  • Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol)
  • Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol, which is produced by 7-dehydrocholesterol in the skin)
  • Vitamin D4 (22-dihydroergocalciferol)
  • Vitamin D5 (sitocalciferol, produced by 7-dehydrositosterol)

The two significant forms of calciferols are Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3, once activated by sunlight, will target at least 2000 genes found in the body, making up at least 10% of the human genome.

Sources and Discoveries

Vitamin D2 is synthesized mainly in plants, fungi, and invertebrates through the exposure of UVB light. There are some questions as to how Vitamin D2 functions in nonvertebrates. Vitamin D3 is synthesized in human skin after it has been exposed to UVB light. The process of synthesizing Vitamin D into fat-soluble vitamins first began in 1923, when scientists such as Alfred Fabian Hess, was able to irradiate 7-dehyrdocholesterol to produce the fat-soluble vitamin.

Later, Adolf Windaus of the University of Gottingen in Germany discovered a connection between the constitution of sterols and vitamins. His work won him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1928. During the 1930s, the chemical structure of Vitamin D3 was established.

Chemical Structure

The chemical structure of Vitamin D is composed of secosteroids, a form of steroids in which one bond of the ring is broken. Both Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3 differ in their chemical compositions. For instance, Vitamin D2, unlike Vitamin D3, has a double bond between carbons 22 and 23, as well as a methyl group of carbon 24 in its side chain. It is also found mainly in invertebrates, fungi, and plants, and responds to UV radiation.

Ergosterol absorbs UV radiation to protect the DNA, RNA, and protein and might possibly act as a protective mechanism for organisms. Choleciferol, or Vitamin D3, becomes synthesized when the chemical compound 7-dehyrdocholesterol is exposed to UVB light. This metabolism occurs in the skin of vertebrates. Humans and other vertebrates produce large quantities of choleciferol in the skin, so therefore the vast quantity of vitamin D metabolism occurs through exposure to the sun.

Activation and Function

Vitamin D generally maintains normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood and helps absorb calcium for bone strength. The process vitamin D undergoes after it has been synthesized by UVB light is complex and varied. Generally, vitamin D is inactive until it is metabolized biologically within the system.

This occurs either through the digestion of its food source or its supplemental form or when it is exposed in the epidermis of the skin through sunlight. Once activated, vitamin D circulates in the bloodstream and enters the liver. There, it is hydroxylated or synthesized into a prohormone called calcidiol (25-hydroxyvitamin D). This conversion is made possible through the circulation process within the bloodstream, thus making it more active in the kidneys as vitamin D or in the immune system as a monocyte-macrophages.

Increased exposure to sun or dietary intake also increases the 25-hydroxyvitamin D serum which is composed of calcidiol. The calcidiol is then converted into calcitriol. Once this synthesized process takes place, the calcitriol behaves like a cytokine, operating as a defensive mechanism against localized, invasive microbials. When the synthesized calcitriol reaches the kidneys, it circulates as a hormone and is transported to certain organs with vitamin D-binding protein binders, which in turn regulates calcium and a concentration of phosphate in the bloodstream. The vitamin d-binding protein (VDBP), which is a protein found in the plasma, binds itself to the calcitriol, acting as a transportational agent through the body.

Calcitriol

Calcitriol also binds to a vitamin D receptor (VDR), a nuclei of target cells found in such organs as the brain, heart, skin, gonads, prostate, and breast. The vitamin d receptor belongs to a nuclear receptor superfamily of steroid/thyroid hormone receptors. These receptors perform any number of duties such as the promotion of healthy bone mineralization and the prevention of hypercalcemic tenany.

When the vitamin D receptor is activated in the intestines, bone, kidney, and parathyroid gland cells, it maintains levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood and promotes bone strength. Vitamin D receptors help proliferate and differentiate cells to prevent the growth and proliferation of cancer. Vitamin D receptors are concentrated in white blood cells, including monocytes and activated T and B cells, as well.

Sun Effect

The sun is the most important factor in the metabolism of vitamin D in human and plant life. The photochemical process begins with the exposure of UVB light, but the length of exposure to sunlight is extremely significant. For instance, 10 to 20 minutes of exposure to the summer sun can produce in the skin at least 10,000 IU. This is 50 times more than the 200 IU the United States government recommends on a daily basis. Some researchers suggest that adequate exposure to UV radiation to synthesize vitamin D should occur twice a week for approximately 5 to 30 minutes between 10 AM to 3 PM, when the sun is at its peak of UV radiation intensity.

Yet factors such as season, geographic latitude, time of day, weather, smog, melanin content, and sunscreen use can all affect whether vitamin D will be properly synthesized in the skin due to UV radiation. For instance, during the winter months between November and February, some areas aligned along the northern border of California to Boston, lack the UV radiation intensity to generate vitamin D synthesis in the epidermis of the skin. In other northern latitudinal areas, this decrease in intensity can stretch up to 6 months.

Areas below latitudes of 34 degrees, found generally in the United States in an alignment between Los Angeles and Columbia, South Carolina, have conditions that allow for adequate vitamin D metabolism throughout the entire calendar year.

Other Weather Factors

Weather factors and indirect exposure to the sun can greatly affect the photochemical synthesis of vitamin D. Overcast skies can decrease UV radiation by 50%, while shade or shadowy cover from the sun can decrease it by 60%. Sunlight filtered through windows does not create the photochemical process to synthesize vitamin D in the skin.

However sun exposure is primarily the means in which vitamin D is synthesized in the skin and provide and maintain health benefits in humans. For instance, ten minutes of sun exposure is sufficient enough to prevent most deficiencies such as rickets or osteomalacia. In order to make up the daily recommendation of sun light exposure, one will have to ingest 50 glasses of milk or digest 10 tablets of multivitamins a day to maintain comparable levels of vitamin D in the system, neither of which is feasible.

A combination of sun exposure, diet, and dietary supplements are recommended to reach the full benefits of vitamin D in the body.

Health and Deficiencies

Vitamin D plays a tremendous role in maintaining health and the possible prevention of certain diseases. Vitamin D deficiencies have been known to cause pathogens for at least 17 types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune disease, diabetes, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects and periodontal disease.

The lack of sun exposure might also explain outbreaks of influenza during the winter season. Researchers are continuously discovering the potential benefits of vitamin D sufficiency in preventing or treating any one of these diseases.

Rickets

Vitamin D deficiency or a severely limited exposure to the sun can also lead to such deficiencies as rickets in infants and children. Rickets is primarily the failure of bones to mineralize. Its effects are most prominent in rapidly growing bones, which explains why infants and children are the most vulnerable to contracting the deficiency, since their bones are constantly growing at a fast rate.

While rickets does not slow down the expansion rates of bone growth, it does cause the bowing of bones in arms and legs and the disfigurement of the rib cage. In the most severe cases of rickets, infants and children suffer from seizures caused by hypercalcemia.

Osteomalacia

Vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia in adults. Osteomalacia is a condtion that causes the weakening or softening of bones. While bones in adults stop growing, they do continue a process called remodeling, which maintains bone strength.

Osteomalacia causes a progressive loss of bone minerals which can lead to bone pain and the weakening and softening of bones.

Weakness and Pain in the Muscles

A lack of exposure to sunlight and a vitamin D deficiency can lead to weakness and pain in the muscles. This condition is often prevalent in the elderly. In a randomized controlled study, scientists discovered that elderly women who were placed on a three month regimen that included vitamin D supplements at 800 IU per day along with 1,200mg per day of calcium saw an increase in muscle strength and a 50% decreased risk of falling.

Cancer

The lack of differentiation or specialization and the rapid growth define the characteristic behavior of cancer cells. Epidemiological studies have suggested that vitamin D can aid the growth and differentiation of these cells, though a cautionary note should be added that such studies can’t adequately prove an association between the two. What is known is that vitamin D plays some vital role in preventing at least 17 different forms of cancer.
Asparagus
This is largely because vitamin D receptors are present in malignant tumors, usually prevalent in breast, lung, skin (melanoma), colon and bone cancers. Biologically, once certain forms of vitamin D, such as 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D and its analogs are activated, it has the possibility to stimulate cell differentiation that are both cancerous and noncancerous in some cell cultures.

The limitation of sun exposure as it applies to geography might also play a role in who is considered to have a high factor risk in contracting cancer. In a 2006 study, using data collected on over 4 million cancer patients spread throughout 13 different countries, scientists have uncovered the possibility that individuals living in countries with a low exposure to the sun are most likely to have high risk factors.

Mental Health

Though the research in how vitamin D affects mental health is still ongoing, there have been some studies which suggest a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and depression and other mental health afflictions. Geographical factors regarding low sun exposure might also play a role in mental health risks.

Aging and Mortality

Researchers, using data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, have uncovered a link between vitamin D and mortality. Following a group of 13,331 Americans over the age of 20 over a 6 year period, the study was able to correlate possible links between vitamin D deficiency and mortality rates through cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Vitamin D might play a role in preventing premature aging as well.

This is occurs through the preventative nature of vitamin D in the inflammation of leukocyte telomeres, a gene that marks aging, and through the lengthening of the gene which can slow down aging.

High Risk Factors

People with a high risk for these deficiencies generally tend to be found among the elderly, who have a reduced capability to generate vitamin D through naturalized forms of sunlight exposure. They are also more likely to stay indoors and use sunscreen, which blocks the metabolism of vitamin D.

The obese, infants who are primarily breastfed (mother’s milk only has 25 IU of Vitamin D3 per liter, which is an insufficient amount for infants according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends 400 IU of vitamin D per day); those who have a severely limited exposure to sunlight; and victims of malabsorption syndromes such as cystic fibrosis, and inflammatory bowel diseases such as Chrohn’s Disease are all likely to fall within the risk factors of individuals who suffer from vitamin D deficiency.

Skin Color

Skin color can play a role in vitamin D deficiency as well. Individuals with dark skin are less capable of metabolizing vitamin D through exposure to UVB light. Those who live further away from the equator are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. In a U.S. study, researchers have determined that African American women are 42% more likely to develop vitamin D deficiency, as opposed to white women who only have a 4% risk factor.

Body Coverage

Vitamin D deficiency is also documented among women who cover all areas of their skin due to religious or cultural practices, which conforms to a study performed on Arab and Danish Muslim women in Denmark who have shown a higher propensity toward muscle pain and weakness, two symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. Sunscreen can block the metabolism of vitamin D in the skin as well. Sunscreens with a SPF factor of 8 greatly decreases vitamin D by 95%.

Nutritional Value

Vitamin D is produced naturally by sunlight, with different forms (Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3) found in plant life and the skin of vertebrates, including humans. Vitamin D, though, can also be found in food, though this source is rather limited.

Foods that have a natural source of Vitamin D can include fatty fishes (catfish; cooked salmon, mackerel, and eel; sardines cooked in oil and drained; and tuna that has been canned in oil); whole eggs, particularly the yolks, cooked beef liver, 1 Tbs of fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil; and mushrooms, which make up the only vegetable containing vitamin D.

In certain countries such as the United States, other foods are fortified with Vitamin D3. These include milk, yogurt, margarine or oil spreads, breakfast cereals, pastries, and breads.

Dosage

The general dosage of vitamin D varies between children and adults. For adults, the Adequate Intake (AI) recommendation of vitamin D for adults is 50 IU to 1,000 IU. This differs depending on age. Adults under 50 are generally recommended to take 50mg of vitamin D a day. Adults between the ages of 50 and 70 are recommended to take 10mg daily, while adults over the age of 70 are recommended to take 15mg a day.
Vitamin D Supplements
There are differing opinions on exactly how much Vitamin D adults should take daily based on how much sun a person is exposed to during the day. Some opinions suggest that the AI recommendations might be inadequate for such exceptions. Not all doses, though, are effective for all conditions, such as rickets or osteomalacia. Generally, in such cases, it is recommended that a person takes 400 IU to 800 IU per day, while an oral dose of vitamin D might be necessary to combat and prevent osteoporosis.

Children’s Dosage

It is recommended that children older than 1 year should not exceed 50mg of vitamin D a day, while children 1 year and younger are recommended to take 25mg a day.

Other Forms of Intake

While the more popular form of vitamin D supplements are found in softgels, capsules, and tablets, they can also be taken in liquid form.

Warnings and Side Effects

There are various side effects and warnings associated with vitamin D. Overdosage is possible. The Adequate Intake limit of dosage is set at 2,000 IU. Anything higher is extremely toxic. Anything within the Adequate Intake levels though are tolerable for ingestion. Excessive amounts of vitamin D can cause hypercalcemia, or excessive bone loss. Hypercalcemia can also cause kidney stones and the hardening of the heart and kidneys if left untreated. Some vitamin D analogues have been known to cause some daytime drowsiness.

Some allergens are also caused by Vitamin D, so it is important to know beforehand if one is allergic to vitamin D. Excessive amounts of orally ingested vitamin D in infants can cause health risks as well in the form of high blood calcium levels (hypercalcemia), which can lead to major bone loss. Individuals with a high risk for hyperparathyroidism, kidney disease, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, histoplasmosis, and chronic hypercalcemia are steered away from taking vitamin D, as this might lead to serious and possibly life threatening health problems.

Pregnant mothers are recommended to take the same daily dosage of vitamin D as nonpregnant women. It is recommended that infants who are exclusively breastfed take vitamin D supplements after the age of 2 months to make up for the insufficient amount of the vitamin found in breast milk.

Interactions with other Medications

Vitamin D supplements can be inhibited or enhanced through the interaction of other drugs. Drugs that increase the metabolism of vitamin D and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels include:

  • phenytoin (Dilantin)
  • fosphenytoin (Cerebyx); phenobarbital (Luminal)
  • carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • rifampin (Rimactane).

Drugs and other agents that decrease absorption of vitamin D in the intestines and should be avoided when taking the supplement include:

  • Cholestyramine (Questran)
  • Colestipal (colestid)
  • Orlistat (Xenical)
  • Mineral oil
  • Olestra

Otherwise healthy men who take ketoconazole with vitamin D will experience a decrease in seum levels of 1,25-hydroxyvitamin D. The drug also blocks the 25-hydroxyvitamin D3-1-hydroxylase enzyme.

Sources

  • http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminD/
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_D
  • http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vitamin-d/ns_patient-vitamind
  • http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/
  • http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind.asp
Vitamins

Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic acid is a water soluble antioxidant. Ascorbic acid is also referred to as vitamin C. The sugar acid, ascorbic acid, is white or pale yellow. The antioxidant is available in powder form or crystal form.

Scurvy occurs in people from a lack of vitamin C. Vitamin C, the antioxidant, acts as an agent against free radical formation in the body. Free radical build up contributes to the aging process, as well as, cancer, arthritis and heart disease. Smokers are at particularly great risk for vitamin C deficiency because smoke depletes the amount of vitamin C in the body.

Individuals suffering from vitamin C deficiency may develop dry or splitting hair, rough, scaly skin, gingivitis, and nosebleeds. Other individuals may suffer from slow healing wounds, bruises, and prolonged infections. People with severe deficiencies will develop scurvy.
Ascorbic Acid Vitamin C
Other conditions may develop as a result of vitamin C deficiencies, such as high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, atherosclerosis, gallbladder disease, and others. Vitamin C deficiencies may lead to plaque buildup in the blood vessels. Excessive build up may lead to stroke or heart attack. Experts suspect that increasing levels of vitamin C will prevent the risk of developing these conditions. However, the evidence relating to these matters are inconclusive. Experts have also suspected that vitamin C deficiencies could lead to depression and other problems.

History and Origin of Usage

The name ascorbic acid originates from the word “scorbutus,” which means “scurvy” and “a,” which means “no.” The word means literally “no scurvy.” Walter Haworth discovered the ascorbic acid structure in 1937. At that time, ascorbic acid was referred to as hexuronic acid. He also won the Nobel Prize for the discovery. Later, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi was awarded a prize in Medicine for his findings related to the functionality of L-ascorbic acid.

Linus Pauling and Dr. Willis later discovered that vitamin C levels for a long term period may cause atherosclerosis. Linus Pauling is a Noble Prize winning scientist who made these assertions.

In Canada, certain health conditions have shown improvement as a result of vitamin C intake. In 2004, males consumed, on average, 133 mg of vitamin C per day and females consumed 120 mg of vitamin C per day. Each gender had higher than the recommended daily allowance. Incidences of scurvy were also reduced in this area.

Sources of Ascorbic Acid

The essential nutrient, vitamin C, is present primarily in fruits and vegetables. Experts over time have noticed that vitamin C is sensitive to certain elements. Particularly, light, air, and heat are the most commonly cited sensitivities. Individuals who seek to gain their recommended daily allowance of vitamin C through foods should eat the fruits or vegetables raw or cooked al dente. Stir fry and other forms of preparation will preserve the nutrients and vitamin C content in the foods.

Common foods containing vitamin C are as follows:
Finding Ascorbic Acid

  • Oranges
  • Kiwi
  • Green Leafy Vegetables
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Tangerines
  • Grapefruits
  • Pears
  • Bananas
  • Melons
  • Strawberries
  • Papayas
  • Mangos
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Kiwis
  • Pineapples
  • Raspberries
  • Cranberries
  • Cantaloupes
  • Rose Hips
  • Acerola
  • Cherries
  • Asparagus
  • Green Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Green Peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Potatoes
  • Squash
  • Peas
  • Turnip Greens
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Parsley
  • Garlic
  • Watercress
  • Small amounts of ascorbic acid are present in fish and milk

How Ascorbic Acid is Used

Since vitamin C is water soluble, it must be replenished daily through food sources or a vitamin supplement. Ascorbic acid is responsible for producing a protein in the body called collagen. Collagen helps to maintain healthy teeth, gums, bones, blood vessels, skin, cartilage, and vertebrae. Ascorbic acid aids the body in the healing of wounds, cuts, and abrasions. The liquid form of vitamin C may be applied directly to the skin or ingested internally to aid with the healing process.

The popular antioxidant also assists in regulating cholesterol, heart disease and high blood pressure. Ascorbic acid assists with these diseases by enlarging the blood vessels when consumed. Vitamin C assists the body with warding off infections. Additionally, vitamin C, similar to most antioxidants, fights free radicals associated with pollutants, such as tobacco smoke, smog and other known carcinogens.

Many diseases may develop from a vitamin C deficiency. Some of the diseases or ailments are listed below:

  • Anemia
  • Scurvy
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Cataracts
  • Deterioration of eyes, kidneys, and nerves associated with diabetes
  • Experts speculate that vitamin C decreases the symptoms associated with the common cold
  • Aids in the absorption of iron
  • May prevent the absorption of lead in the blood

Forms of Ascorbic Acid

Vitamin C or ascorbic acid comes in a variety of forms. The popular antioxidant can be purchased in tablets, powder, capsules, and chewable vitamins. Other forms consist of a liquid and effervescent liquid form. The doses range from 25 to 1500 mg. Some individuals suffer from upset stomach after consuming ascorbic acid. For those individuals, an esterified form of ascorbic acid is produced. This form of vitamin C contains a buffer that alleviates the symptoms associated with heart burn.

What Ascorbic Acid is Proven to Do

Ascorbic acid has been speculated to perform several functions in the body. Some of the popular functions are listed below:

  • Prevents gingivitis and promotes healthy gums and teeth
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Helps alleviates symptoms of uveitis, which is the inflammation of the eye. Vitamin C improves vision in these sufferers.
  • Treats eczema, asthma, hay fever or other conditions related to allergies.
  • Improves the healing time of wounds and burns
  • Alleviates pain associated with sunburn or erythma or skin redness
  • Regulates the blood sugar levels of diabetes sufferers
  • Decreases the effects of dry mouth often associated with antidepressant medications

More specifically ascorbic acid plays the role in preventing the following diseases or ailments from developing in the body. The roles ascorbic acid plays in the body are listed in detail below:

Heart Disease

Experts suggest that since vitamin C is an antioxidant, it can lower the risk for heart disease. Since ascorbic acid is speculated to widen arteries and prevent the hardening of arteries or plaque buildup. Some studies show that vitamin C can prevent low density lipoprotein (LDL) or the bad cholesterol in the body. Many individuals who are at risk for strokes, heart disease, or peripheral artery disease should consider taking vitamin C on a regular basis to avoid the untimely events related to these diseases.

The evidence is inconclusive that vitamin C is effective, but individuals who have consumed vitamin C on a regular basis seem to not have difficulty with these particular issues. Consult with a physician prior to consuming vitamin C on a regular basis to determine an appropriate regimen for your diet.

High Blood Pressure

Experts, who have conducted studies of large groups of people, indicate that people who consume foods with high levels of vitamin C have a lower risk of high blood pressure than people who do not include vitamin C in their diets. Physicians recommend that individuals consume foods that are rich in antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables carry a considerable portion of antioxidants and are a great source of vitamin C.

Common Cold

Many individuals speculate that vitamin C can cure a common cold. However, individuals who take vitamin C supplements seem to reduce the duration of the cold symptoms by approximately 1 day. Experts have studied individuals, who exercise in extreme environments, such as the Arctic. Skiers, marathon runners, and soldiers did seem to have fewer symptoms associated with a cold than their counterparts who did not consume vitamin C.

Cancer

Experts have shown that vitamin C may reduce the occurrence of cancer in individuals. The popular antioxidant is associated with reducing incidences or skin cancer, cervical cancer and breast cancer. Foods rich in antioxidants and vitamin C seem to have the greatest effects of protecting against cancerous diseases. Vitamin C supplements appeared to have less of an effect. More studies need to be conducted to prove this finding conclusively.

Once a patient becomes diagnosed with cancer, there is no evidence that indicates vitamin C will reduce the spread of cancer within the body. Some antioxidants, such as ascorbic acid, may interfere with chemotherapy medications. More research should be conducted to determine the benefits of ascorbic acid in cancer therapy. Consult with your physician to determine if vitamin C will enhance or inhibit cancer therapy treatments.

Osteoarthritis

Cartilage within the body consists of collagen along with other essential components. Vitamin C is necessary for collagen production. Sufferers of osteoarthritis, experience pain due to the destruction of cartilage. Free radicals are speculated in causing the destruction of cartilage. Vitamin C fights free radicals in the body and attempts to keep them from destroying cartilage and cause other diseases associated with vitamin C deficiencies.

Individuals who adopt diets that are rich in vitamin C are more likely to avoid arthritis related symptoms. However, experts will not state conclusively that vitamin C supplements will prevent or treat individuals diagnosed with osteoarthritis.

Those who are taking anti-inflammatory drugs that are non-steroidal may experience lower levels of vitamin C due to the body’s uptake of more vitamin C as a result of the drug. These individuals may want to consider taking a higher dosage of vitamin C through a vitamin supplement.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that affects the eyes and eventually results in blindness in elderly over the age of 55. Vitamin C when taken in conjunction with zinc, vitamin E and beta-carotene seems to protect the eyes against the development of these types of diseases.

The people who benefit most from this regimen are people with advanced stages of macular degeneration. The effectiveness of this particular regimen in prevention of macular degeneration and less advanced stages of macular degeneration is unknown. More studies are being conducted to determine the efficacy of this particular treatment.
Vitamin C

Pre-eclampsia

Pregnant women who are at risk for pre-eclampsia should consider a regimen of vitamin C, along with vitamin E. Women who suffer from pre-eclampsia often have high blood pressure and an excessive amount of protein in the urine. This ailment often leads to pre-term births. Some studies disagree about the role of vitamin C in the prevention of pre-eclampsia.

Asthma

Individuals who possess low levels of vitamin C are more likely to develop asthma. Some studies also show a lower incidence of asthma related to exercise. Studies are conflicting regarding this development. Further research must be conducted to prove the efficacy of this treatment in asthma.

Typical Dosage and Usage Requirements

Individuals are recommended to take vitamin C supplements 2 to 3 times per day with meals. Some experts may even suggest between 250 and 500 mg twice per day for any benefit. To avoid unpleasant reactions associated with vitamin C, individuals are to take no more than 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily.

Dosage amounts vary depending upon the age group and the lifestyle habits of the individual. Below the recommended daily allowances are listed for each group of individuals. In order to avoid related problems, individuals should consume the recommended dosage.

  • From birth to 1 year: 30 to 35 mg
  • Babies 1 to 3 years: 40 mg
  • Children 4 to 10 years: 45 mg
  • Pregnant Women: 75 to 90 mg
  • Breastfeeding Women: 75 to 90 mg
  • Smoking Individuals: 100 mg
  • Allergy or Stress Sufferers: 200 mg
  • Diabetics: 200 mg
  • Elderly People: 200 mg
  • Other Adults: 60 mg

Regional Legal Status

Currently, there are no known countries that prohibit the use of vitamin C. The antioxidant is safe and is necessary for a healthy body.

Potential Side Effects

Individuals who consume a considerable amount more of vitamin C than the recommended daily allowance are at risk for nausea, skin irritation, diarrhea, copper depletion in the body, and may experience burning while urinating. Experts have also found that patients may develop kidney stones. Individuals who are also experiencing excessive levels of iron may need to monitor their intake of ascorbic acid.

  • Excessive amounts of vitamin C have been associated with the development of genotoxins. Genotoxins are speculated to prompt genetic mutations. These genetic mutations may lead to the development of cancer.
  • Ascorbic acid may interact with some prescription drugs. Consult with a physician or pharmacist prior to taking the drugs to determine if there is a potential for an adverse side effects. Individuals taking vitamin C supplements are advised to take them with plenty of water because of the diuretic affect of the antioxidant.
  • Individuals who may have an allergic reaction to corn may want to seek an alternative source of vitamin C.
  • Many of the commercial supplements of vitamin C are made from corn. Experts may advise Sago Palm or other sources of vitamin C.
  • Experts have also found that vitamin C may also increase the amount of iron absorbed by food. Therefore, people with hemochromatosis, which is characterized by excessive iron accumulation in the body, should not take vitamin C supplements.
  • Individuals who consume more than 2,000 mg of vitamin C daily may experience diarrhea, gas or upset stomach. Lower the dosage if you experience these symptoms.
  • Consult a physician before taking vitamin C, if you have kidney problems.
  • Pregnant mothers who consume more than 6,000 mg of vitamin C daily may develop scurvy when the vitamin C levels stabilize after birth. Before beginning a regimen, consult with your physician.
  • People who smoke should consider increasing their levels of vitamin C to fight the free radicals produced by the carcinogens in cigarettes.

Potential Drug Interferences

Aspirin and NSAIDs

Aspirin is known to lower levels of vitamin C in the body. This phenomenon occurs because the vitamin is expelled with urine from the body. Vitamin C may also raise levels of aspirin in the blood because ascorbic acid encourages both aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) drugs to remain in the system longer. Experts indicate that vitamin C may also play a role in protecting the stomach from becoming nauseous or upset. Consult with a physician before starting a vitamin C regimen if you take aspirin on a daily basis.

Acetaminophen

Individuals who consume high doses of vitamin C may experience high levels of acetaminophen in the blood. Vitamin C inhibits acetaminophen from exiting the system through urine.

Antacids containing Aluminum

Experts have indicated that vitamin C may increase the amount of aluminum the body absorbs from antacids, such as Maalox. This may increase any side effects that may be associated with the drug.

Barbiturates

Experts have found that barbituarates may have a negative effect on vitamin C.

Chemotherapy Drugs

Many antioxidants may interfere with chemotherapy. Vitamin C may help the efficacy of chemotherapy according to some oncologists. Consult with your oncologist prior to chemotherapy to determine if a vitamin C regimen is recommended for your particular treatment.

Nitrate Medications

Nitrate medications, such as nitroglycerin, isosorbide, and isosorbide dinitrate, if taken in conjunction with vitamin C may become ineffective in the body. Vitamin C increases the body’s ability to develop a tolerance against these medications. Always consult with a physician prior to consuming vitamin C along with nitrates.

Oral Contraceptives

Vitamin C may increase estrogen levels in individuals taking oral contraceptives and even, hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The levels seem to increase more in those individuals who had a deficit in vitamin C prior to taking oral contraceptives. Vitamin C effects may also increase if a person begins to take oral estrogens.

Protease Inhibitors

Individuals taking indinavir or Crixivan for HIV or AIDS may notice decreased levels of the medication in the blood after the consumption of vitamin C. Consult with a physician prior to combining a vitamin C regimen with indinavir or Crixivan.

Tetracycline

Individuals taking tetracycline, an antibiotic, may notice increased levels of the medication when taken with vitamin C. Other antibiotics, such as minocycline and doxycycline may also be affected. Consult with a physician prior to beginning a vitamin C regimen.

Warfarin or Coumadin

Warfarin is a blood thinning medication that rarely has interactions with vitamin C. Experts have studied the effects of vitamin C up to 1,000 mg per day. This dosage of vitamin C caused little or no effect on the warfarin medication. As with any medication, consult with a physician prior to beginning a regimen as a safety precaution.

Where to Purchase Ascorbic Acid

Vitamin C can be purchased at any health store, pharmacist, or online health store. Most of the stores will carry the capsules and caplets. The powder and liquid are most often found at stores that specialize in health, such as GNC. Consumers may want to research online before going to a store to purchase the product to determine if the form of ascorbic acid that the consumer desires is in stock.

Some of the more popular stores include the following:

The Cost of Ascorbic Acid

The cost of ascorbic acid ranges depending upon the form that it is purchased. The supplement forms of ascorbic acid will vary in price depending upon the amount of product purchased, the form, the weight of the capsule or pill, and the store in which the item is purchased. Many times online stores will have discounts such as 20 to 50 percent off or Buy One, Get One. Search online to find these types of deals.

Some of the more common costs for vitamin C products include the following:

  • 100 caplets of 500 mg: $4
  • 60 caplets of 1000 mg: $7
  • 200 caplets of 1500 mg: $32
  • 90 chewable caplets of 500 mg: $8
  • Liquid Vitamin C (1 oz.): $10
  • Powder Vitamin C ( 16 oz.): $27

Vitamin C may also be combined with Rose Hips or Quercetin in order to give the consumer the added benefit of another herb or mineral.

Resources

WebMd.Com
EverydayHealth.Com
National Health Institute

Conditions

Gallbladder Disorders

The gallbladder is tucked up underneath the liver on the right side of the body. Its main function is to store bile – historically called “gall” – which is produced by the liver and carried to the common hepatic duct and the gallbladder through a series of tubules or ducts (bile ducts) embedded in the liver tissue. Normally 3-5 inches long, an inch wide and shaped like a tiny eggplant, the gallbladder can store about 1/4 cup of bile.

A tube called the cystic duct connects the gallbladder to the larger common hepatic duct to form the common bile duct. Not all bile goes to the gallbladder; some of it flows directly from the liver to the common hepatic duct to the common bile duct. The bile that goes to the gallbladder becomes concentrated by removal of fluids. When a meal is eaten, hormonal signals cause the gallbladder to contract and eject its bile.

Discomfort in Gallbladder

Just before it connects with the duodenum or the first section of the small intestine, the pancreatic duct joins with common bile duct. A ring of muscle called the Sphincter of Oddi regulates passage of both bile and pancreatic juices into the small intestine. There the bile mixes with food that has come from the stomach and helps to emulsify and digest fats.

Gallbladder Disorders

Gallstones

Conditions that interfere with the flow of bile are the common sources of gallbladder disorders. Chief among these are the occurrence of gallstones (choleliths). Gallstones can be like sand grains or as large as a walnut. There are two main types of gallstones, pigment gallstones, made mostly of bilirubin, which is the breakdown product of red blood cells, and calcium salts and cholesterol gallstones.

Cholesterol gallstones are commonest and are yellowish or greenish in color. Pigment gallstones are dark-colored, either brown ones found in the bile duct or black ones found in the gallbladder. The liver synthesizes about one-quarter of the body’s daily cholesterol requirement, and it is fed into the bile along with other liver products. The liver oxidizes some cholesterol into bile salts, also called bile acids.

Gallstones cause problems when they become large or numerous enough to block bile flow within the liver, the gallbladder or the ducts between the gallbladder and small intestine. People often have gallstones but do not have symptoms (silent gallstones), in which case they are not of medical concern. The presence of gallstones in the gallbladder is called cholelithiasis; if they occur in bile ducts the condition is called choledocholithiasis. Gallstones can also block the pancreatic duct, leading to pancreatitis.

Symptoms

The symptoms of gallstone blockage, usually referred to as a gallstone attack or biliary colic, are pain in the upper right, sometimes central, abdominal region, nausea, vomiting, referred pain between the shoulder blades or below the right shoulder blade. Abdominal pain can be severe and is due to the swelling of the gallbladder and/or ducts as bile builds up due to the blockage or the passage of stones through a duct.

Presence of gas and burping can also occur. Consuming a lot of food at one sitting can trigger an attack. Often attacks occur during the night. Gallstones can move about, and symptoms often abate as they reposition themselves or are excreted and allow a renewed flow of bile.

Symptoms of more advanced gallstones, where the blockage remains in place for longer periods of time or if infection sets in, are chills and fever, jaundice or a yellow tinge to skin and eyes, pain that doesn’t go away, and light-colored stools. It is the presence of bile that gives stools the characteristic brown color. When such symptoms occur, medical help should be sought immediately.

Causes

Gallstone formation is thought to be influenced by inherited factors, by conditions that affect how often and how well the gallbladder empties, and bile imbalances such as excess cholesterol or bilirubin or lower levels of bile salts. For instance, elevated levels of estrogens encourage the liver to increase the amount of cholesterol in bile.

This higher amount of cholesterol in bile, plus possible imbalance in bile salts, which are necessary to keep the cholesterol in a liquid state, makes gallstone formation more likely. Progesterones reduce the movement of the gallbladder so that it doesn’t empty as often or as completely, allowing bile to concentrate further and crystals of cholesterol or precipitates of bilirubin and bile salts to form.

These clump together and harden to form gallstones. If there are narrow places or constrictions along any of the ducts between the gallbladder and the duodenum, blockages can more readily lodge in those areas.

People who have decreased gut motility and hence decreased gallbladder activity due to such causes as being bedridden, limited food intake, or nutrition by IV are also susceptible to gallbladder disorders. These people are likely to produce not gallstones but “sludge” or pseudoliths – small particles of cholesterol, calcium and bile salts which can also produce blockages.

Risk Factors

Risk is elevated in the following categories:

  • women
  • overweight people.
  • people over 40 years old.
  • women who have borne multiple children.
  • those who have a history of gallstones in their family.
  • women who have higher estrogen levels due to pregnancy or medications containing estrogen.
  • those who eat foods low in fiber, high in cholesterol and saturated fats.
  • people who come from certain ethnic backgrounds: Caucasian, Hispanic, Native American.
  • those who take cholesterol-lowering drugs.
  • people consuming no-fat or very low-fat diets.
  • those who have decreased gallbladder motility due to illness, disease, paralysis, decreased oral intake of food.
  • people who have rapid weight loss such as that associated with bariatric surgery or extreme diets.
  • people with diabetes.
  • those with excess bilirubin in bile due to blood disorders like chronic hemolytic anemia.

Prevention Tips

Estrogen and progestin. Since being female is a risk factor, female hormones estrogen and progestin are implicated in the eventual expression of symptomatic gallbladder disease. The increase of estrogen after pregnancy can be lessened when a woman breast-feeds her child, since milk production keeps her estrogen level low. Considerations should also be given to the amounts of estrogen in birth control formulations and in hormone replacement therapy given around the onset of menopause. The length of use is also important. Hormone replacement therapy has been shown to signficantly increase the number of gallbladder surgeries done.

Maintaining a healthy body weight. Being overweight increases the risk of getting gallbladder disease. In addition, fat tissue produces estrogen, which is a risk factor for developing gallbladder disorders.

Pain in Gallbladder

Dietary considerations. Eating regular meals of moderate size and foods high in fiber content helps intestinal tract and gallbladder motility, reducing the likelihood of infrequent or partial gallbladder emptying. Reduced intake of foods high in trans-fatty acids and saturated fats is recommended. Conversely, not having enough fat in the diet can also predispose toward gallbladder disease.

Fat in food is the stimulus to produce the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK), which triggers the contraction of the gallbladder to expel its contents. In the absence of fat in foods, gallbladder activity is lessened and gallstones have more of an opportunity to form.

Testing and Diagnosing

When symptoms suggest gallstone disease, detecting their presence or absence is necessary. There are other serious conditions such as appendicitis, ulcers, hiatal hernia, pancreatitis, heart attack, hepatitis which give mid- or right-abdomen pain, and these need to be considered and ruled out since the presence of gallstones alone doesn’t necessarily cause symptoms.

Laboratory studies. These are usually most helpful in diagnosing other conditions that may give abdominal pain. They are not as useful in diagnosis of gallbladder disease except if an infection (cholecystitis) is present. Even then, elevated white blood cell counts are not present in one-third of patients. Some blood tests may indicate the possible location of the problem – if transaminase is high, the liver; if bilirubin and alkalkine phosphatase are high, the common bile duct could be obstructed.

Imaging Techniques

Ultrasound

Gallstones larger than 2 mm can be imaged by ultrasound (sonogram). Noninvasive, with no radiation risk or exposure to contrast dyes, and less expensive than most other options, ultrasound is the diagnostic tool of choice. Images can also reveal if the gallbladder wall has thickened or if the gallbladder is enlarged, both further signs of gallbladder disease.

Classic x-rays

X-rays are used in conjunction with dye tablets swallowed by the patient in doing an oral cholecystogram or OCG. The dye improves the visibility of stones when the gallbladder is x-rayed. Another test, the percutaneous transhepatic colangiogram, uses x-rays in conjunction with an injected contrast dye to image the progress of dye through the biliary system on a fluoroscope.

CT scans (Computerized tomography)

This serves as a secondary tool following sonograms to further image areas of interest. CT scans are used to find stones within the liver’s system of ducts and to delineate the possibility of persistent infections.

Scintigraphy is helpful in imaging blockage of bile ducts within the liver or of the cystic duct. This technique is part of nuclear medicine, where aharmless radioactive isoptope is administered intravenously and its eventual location in the body is mapped by a device which detects radioactivity.

ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography)

This outpatient procedure is used to view the inside of the duodenum where the common bile duct enters. It helps evaluate any blockages as well as conditions of the sphincter and ducts. After sedation, a thin tube is put from the mouth into the stomach and then into the small intestine. There is a light and an imaging device – either fiberoptic or video chip – at the end of the tube. Small tools can also be used to take tissue samples and perform other tasks.

Treatment Options

Surgical removal of the gallbladder or cholecystectomy. When gallstones are found present and symptoms occur and recur, treatment of choice is removal of the gallbladder. The biliary system is still able to function without the gallbladder. Bile flows directly from the liver to the small intestine.

Removal can be done laparoscopically or by traditional open surgery involving a 4-7 inch abdominal incision. In laparoscopic sugery, 3-4 small incisions are made at designated points on the abdomen.

Surgical tools and a small lighted camera with are inserted through these. The camera permits the physician to view the abdominal cavity and allows gallbladder removal with minimal destruction to tissues. The patient can usually go home in a day or two and is back to normal routines in about three weeks.

Traditional surgery is needed if complications arise that contraindicate laparoscopic procedures. There is a longer hospital stay and a longer recovery period. Some patients continue to feel gallstone symptoms after the gallbladder is removed (postcholecystectomy syndrome, PCS). It is unknown why this occurs. Complications occur in less than 2% of cases for both types of surgeries; these include damage to bile ducts, bleeding, blood clots, pneumonia, infection.

A possible consequence of cholecystectomy is chronic diarrhea in some patients. Causes are not known, but the laxative effect of the steady stream of bile into the intestine may be responsible. Also, without the bolus of concentrated bile from the gallbladder when eating high-fat foods, fat digestion may not be as effective. Medications can help with these conditions.

Lithotripsy (ESWL or Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy)

This is the use of shock waves (soundwaves) to break up gallstones. The smaller pieces can then be eliminated. It is used when gallstones are small or when surgery is not indicated. Abdominal pain can occur after this treatment is given.

Medical Treatments

The drugs ursodeoxycholic acid, chenodiol, methyl tert-butyl ether and monoctanoin can be administered to dissolve cholesterol gallstones. They are made from bile salts and take prolonged treatment to be effective, months to years. Ursodeoxycholic acid (Actigall) and chenodiol (Chenix) are taken orally. Actigall is expensive. The latter two drugs are given directly into the bile duct or gallbladder. None of these medications prevent formation of new gallstones once treatment is stopped. They are used primarily in patients who cannot receive surgery.

Alternative Therapies

Acupuncture has been used to treat the pain of attacks and stimulate the flow of bile. Herbal remedies include Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum), Turmeric (Curcuma longa), Globe Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) and green tea. Castor oil packs have been applied to the abdomen to alleviate swelling. Homeopathic remedies include Colocynthis, Chelidonium, and Lycopodium.

Another practice, which is not widely accepted medically, is using gallbladder cleanse, also referred to as liver cleanse or gallbladder flush. It consists of drinking a mixture of olive oil, fruit juice – usually lemon, lime or grapefruit – and sometimes herbs or epsom salt. This preparation supposedly loosens gallstones and helps to expel them in stools.

Inflamed Gallbladder (Cholecystitis)

The leading cause of inflammation is gallstones causing a blockage. When the bile can’t move, inflammatory enzymes are released by the mucus cells lining the gallbladder. The mucus cells become damaged and produce fluid in addition to the trapped bile, resulting in more swelling. Bacteria flourish in such a setting and infection can set in.

Sometimes inflammation occurs when there are no gallstones (acalculous cholecystitis). Causes are stagnant bile, bacterial infections, or reduction in blood flow to the gallbladder. Risk factors include shock, severe trauma or illness, long-term fasting, or a reduced immune system.

Diagnosis and tests are as for gallstones with the addition of antibiotics for infection and pain medications. Treatment is removal of the gallbladder. If infection is present that should be addressed first. Surgery is best performed during earlier stages of inflammation before thickening and toughening of gallbladder walls and scarring and narrowing of ducts (sclerosing cholangitis) can happen. Infection can also spread to the pancreas through the pancreatic duct.

Ongoing untreated choleocystitis can lead to organ damage and malfunction. Gallbladders can become gangrenous or even perforated, allowing the bile to leak to the peritoneal cavity. Death can result.

Gallbladder Cancer

This rare cancer is usually detected when testing for something else. Often there are no symptoms, but the following have been reported: jaundice, abdominal pain similar to that for gallstones, weight loss, diminished appetite, fever and itching.

Women get gallbladder cancer more often than men, and incidence increases with age. If some other gallbladder diseases have been present such as gallstones, cholecystitis, choledochal cysts – which is a bile duct abnormality present at birth – and a condition known as porcelain gallbladder, the person is more at risk.

Diagnosis involves the imaging tests already discussed under gallstones plus the use of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to determine the spread and location of the cancer. Exploratory surgery is also used for this. Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. For cancers contained in the gallbladder (Stage I), cholecystectomy is effective. If the cancer has spread to the adjacent liver (Stage II), it can still be treated surgically. If it has spread to other nearby organs (Stage III) or throughout the body (Stage IV), treatment options are radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Porcelain Gallbladder (Calcifying cholecystitis)

This uncommon condition is associated with damage from gallstones and recurrent infections. Calcium becomes deposited in the muscles and mucosa of the gallbladder. The walls appear bluish and are brittle. There are no symptoms and most cases of porcelain gallbladder are found when conducting imaging tests for other conditions. Because of the high incidence of gallbladder cancer when porcelain gallbladder is present, gallbladder removal is advised whenever this condition is found. The best way to image it is through CT scans.

Herbs

Fennel

What is Fennel?

Fennel, scientific name foeniculum vulgare, is a plant found growing in many gardens in the United States due to its usefulness in the culinary arts as well as its medicinal properties. The plant species is indigenous to the Mediterranean shores but seems to grow wild in numerous areas of the world now. Most commonly it can be found on river banks and near the sea coast.

The Romans and Greeks were extensive users of fennel. As a result, they can also be found in many places where these groups of people historically made their homes. Fennel is an extremely useful plant for cooking and making home-grown medicines as well as being extremely aromatic and smelling quite sweet.

History of Fennel

Fennel Plant
This herb has quite a lively history within Roman and Greek mythology and has been used throughout the ages for a large variety of purposes by these groups of people. The Ancient Greek people called the fennel plant “marathon”. Most people are familiar with the story of how Prometheus stole fire from the Gods and gave it as a gift to mankind.

According to Greek mythology, it was the stalk of a fennel plant that he used to steal the fire from the Gods! A giant fennel plant was said to have spawned the Greek god Dionysus’ Bacchanalian wands and his followers. Such a colorful history befits this small herb; it would seem that it has had as many uses throughout mythology as it still does today!

Appearance of Fennel Herb

Fennel is a herb that is remarkably resilient. It is perennial, meaning that it has a life-cycle which lasts two years or longer and will generally be hardy enough to survive throughout the spring and summer, die in winter, and then revive itself again when the growing season returns. However, those growing fennel, in their gardens, should note that, in climates outside of its normal zone, the plant will probably need more care and have a shorter life span. The plant grows freely throughout the U.S. and the warmer areas of Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia, though it is considered to be an invasive weed by some Americans and most Australians.

In general, fennel plants can be up to 2.5 meters tall and have hollow stems. The plant produces exceptionally thin leaves that are 35-40 cm in length. Fennel plants produce yellow flowers that are remarkably small in size and grow together in groups of 20-50 flowers to create flower heads. The fruits of a fennel plant are grooved in texture and decidedly small; in fact, they are usually mistaken for seeds and are commonly referred to as seeds in many recipes.

Variations of Fennel

There are three main variations of fennel plants. The first is the Florence fennel. Florence fennel plants were cultivated in such a way that they would have larger leaf bases, which would give way to a bulb. A common fennel plant is intensely aromatic and smells sweet, and this quality is enhanced in the Florence fennel. Cooking is the main purpose for which the Florence fennel was cultivated as the bulbs are used as vegetables.

Many recipes call for cooked Florence fennel bulbs. Sometimes, they are even chopped up and used raw for dishes, such as Mediterranean salads or as seasoning in soups and sauces. Often Florence fennel bulbs are mistaken for a close cousin, anise, as they have a remarkably similar flavor and appearance. Many readers will be familiar with the alcoholic beverage called Absinthe. Florence fennel was one of three main ingredients in this alcoholic beverage which started out as a Swiss medicine and quickly gained popularity as a fun alcoholic drink within France.

Today, Florence fennel is mostly used in cooking Mediterranean and Italian dishes. It is crunchy and slightly sweet. In addition to this, Florence fennel contains much fiber. When it is eaten with other foods that produce indigestion, it can help soften the effects. Florence fennel contains large amounts of phytonutrients and antioxidants including rutin, quercitin, and anethole. In addition to this, the plant contains much Vitamin C, an extraordinarily powerful vitamin that is essential to proper immune system function.

A bronze-leaved version of the fennel plant is available. It looks much the same as a normal fennel plant would but has bronze leaves that are considered to be quite attractive in gardens. Many gardeners in the UK use bronze-leaved fennel for decoration within their home gardens.

The giant fennel plant discussed above in the mythology section is the third and final variation of fennel. It is much larger than a regular fennel plant and is part of another species entirely (the Ferula species) of which there are 170 members. Plants within the ferula species are commonly used for the same purposes as the foeniculum (normal fennel) plants are. They produce a gooey resin that is used for cooking and medicinal purposes. The spice asafoetida or hing is made from a ferula species plant.

Culinary Uses & Health Effects

Fennel is a tremendously popular culinary herb. The reason for this is that nearly every part of the plant can be used for some culinary purpose. It has a truly distinct and unique herbal taste. The leaves of the fennel plant can be used to brew teas that taste delicious and are said to help suppress the appetite. There is a long-standing tradition thought to be put in place by the Romans and Greeks. The tradition to sip one cup of fennel tea prior to eating dinner, in order to be sure that overeating would not be a problem. Many users of fennel tea claim that this actually works quite well and can be a vital aid in weight loss and appetite control.

The flowers of the fennel plant carry the unique flavor of the plant and can be used for a variety of recipes. Most often, they are sprinkled into salads, soups, or sauces to give them a unique flavor. Fennel stalks are hollow and crisp and can be eaten just like celery sticks or chopped up to be used as flavoring for cooked foods. In all reality, the uses of the fennel plant are only limited to the chef’s culinary imagination.

Medicinal Uses & Health Effects

Fennel has a solid place in many medicinal gardens throughout the world because the plant has such a wide variety of uses. Fennel plants contain large amounts of anethole, which is an aromatic natural compound found in many essential oils. Spain is the top producer of fennel grown for harvesting anethole for use in essential oils, but in all reality fennel is a particularly common plant that can be bought from many places and in many forms.

Fennel herb is carminative by nature, which simply means that it works to prevent the creation of gases. For this reason, it is a well-respected digestive health remedy used in many concoctions created to help those with regular intestinal ailments. It is a common ingredient in gripe water, which is given to infants to help ease problems with flatulence. Fennel tea is known to suppress appetite. It also acts as an intestinal relaxant, to ease bloating in adults. Laxatives commonly have fennel in them to help soften the side-effects of the purging.

Fennel oil is used in the making of eye washes due to its cleansing and soothing properties. The people of India believe that fennel contains the ability to improve eyesight materially and often ingest raw or slightly sweetened fennel seeds to gain this benefit. The Ancient Romans held fennel in high regard as a “herb of sight” as well, though fennel has not been proven to work for this specific purpose when ingested in such ways as the Indians ingest it.

Studies done on animals with glaucoma (a disease where damage is done to the optic nerve of the eye) have shown that fennel can help treat this disease. It has been proven that it can help prevent clouded eyesight when used in the eye-wash form.

Pregnant Women and New Mothers

Many people believe and will attest to it as a fact that fennel is useful to pregnant women and new mothers. Fennel does contain phytoestrogens. But, it has never been scientifically proven that it helps in any way. Nonetheless, there are several anecdotes throughout history that state it is highly effective in increasing the amount of milk supplied by mothers who nurse their children. Other stories say that fennel can be given to breastfeeding mothers. This is done to help ease breast swelling, commonly associated with nursing and breast-feeding.

Fennel fruits/seeds have an extremely sweet taste and are commonly used as breath fresheners. The seeds can be eaten as part of a meal or used to create a fennel tea, which is then gargled. It helps freshen the breath. Instructions for making fennel tea are given below.

Other Uses

There are many other stories throughout history and even still today of fennel being used for a myriad of things. None of these things has been scientifically proven. Many myths state that fennel can be used by women who are menopausal to relieve their symptoms. Fennel is said to be useful for quieting hiccups and soothing coughs as well as fighting colic in babies. Less-grounded claims say that it can even be used for the breaking up of kidney stones or reversal of liver damage caused by alcohol.
Fennel Uses
More medicinal effects include the prevention of nausea or gout as well as being helpful as a diuretic to increase the occurrence of urination. Fennel is often used in drugs that help with the treatment of hypertension (or high blood pressure) and is said to be able to be used to expel worms from the human digestive tract. Some even claim that when used with conventional treatments, fennel can be ingested and is effective in helping to treat prostate and colon cancers. The reason for this is that the fiber in fennel helps absorb carcinogenic toxins in the colon. It is highly recommended that a doctor be consulted in advance, about the use of fennel in the treatment these cancers.

Those who advocate the use of fennel around the home say that fleas find fennel to be quite disgusting by nature and will not live in places where fennel does. Thus, it can be sprinkled around pet beds and homes where pets reside to help prevent fleas from staking a foothold within the house. Fennel is a popular herb for gardeners who grow herbs for food preparation and medicinal purposes, but is also popular with those who grow butterfly gardens. The herb is said to be like a “siren’s call” to the beautiful swallowtail butterfly and attracts colorful butterflies of all sorts with is a sweet smell and bright yellow color.

Side Effects of Fennel Products

When used as a culinary enhancement product, fennel leaves, stalks, and seeds have no side effects. There are no document cases of fennel interacting with other drugs to enhance or suppress their effects. The extract essential oil should not be used by pregnant women as it has in some cases induced seizures and hallucinations. Fennel taken in excessive amounts can be disruptive to the body’s nervous system. If home medicines are to be made, it would be wise to consult with a physician or health practitioner before administering any treatments.

Homemade Fennel Products

It is relatively easy to create entirely home made fennel products. Fennel can be grown in a personal garden or bought from a rather large number of places (this will be discussed in-depth later). It does not matter where the fennel comes from as long as it is fresh.

Many of the medicinal uses of fennel such as eye washing call for fennel water. In this case, essential oil with fennel extracts will be needed. Simply mix one pint of water with eight drops of fennel oil to create fennel water. Fennel water can be ingested (up to 8 tsp. per day) or used for things such as flea-guarding homes. Fennel oil itself can be mixed in with other massage oils or used on its own and is said to produce a warming sensation and a delightful aroma to add to the soothing properties of massages.

Fennel Tea

Fennel tea is the easiest of the fennel products to make at home. The seeds or the actual leaves of the plant can be used to make the tea which suppresses appetite and soothes coughs. It has even been said that it can help clear up mucus in the lungs. If using fresh leaves, the necessary amount is 3 tablespoons of fennel per one cup of water. For seeds, only half of this amount is needed, so 1 1/2 tablespoons of fennel seeds per one cup of water. This will make a strong infusion of fennel tea; individuals should feel free to experiment with adding more or less fennel to create tea to their liking.

To make the tea, individuals should first boil the water, separately. Then they should put the herbs or crushed seeds at the bottom of a pot and pour the boiling water over them. The mixture should then be covered and allowed to soak for five minutes, though this time is not exact and it could take more or less time to infuse the water with the right strength for individual purposes. When satisfied with the strength of the tea, simply use a strainer to drain the herbs out of tea and enjoy!

In addition to these products, it is possible to make a paste by using a mallet to pound down fennel stems and/or leaves. This paste can then be either shaped into home made caplets which can be reserved for later use or used in paste form. By creating pastes and caplets in this way, individuals can choose the concentration of fennel in their products. However, they should clearly adhere to the earlier warnings that taking too much fennel can result in the nervous system disruptions and consult a doctor before making medicines from home.

Other Fennel Products & Forms

Many people lead busy lives and do not have time to make their own fennel products, or they would prefer to obtain them from stores in order to minimize the risk that they will use too much or too little fennel, causing their products to either be ineffective or harmful. These people are in luck! Fennel is mass-produced in many countries such as Mexico, Morocco, Syria, and India for use in creating fennel products or for resale as a raw herb.

Fennel herb products are available in a variety of forms including capsules, caplets, tea bags, seeds, and extract oils. It can also be purchased in its raw plant form or as Florence fennel bulbs from supermarkets. Conventional grocery stores are less likely to have raw fennel in plant or bulb form, which is more easily found at organic food stores and markets as a specialty herb/food. Fennel bulbs should be free of bruises or brown spots with stalks that are firm and crisp and leaves that are fresh and not wilted. The leaves and stems can be refrigerated and will last for several days when stored like this; the bulb can last for weeks. Much like any other vegetable or herb, once the leaves begin to wilt the fennel should be thrown out.

Cost Information

The full line-up of fennel products (aside from culinary use fennel) can be found in many nutrition or health stores such as GNC or from online retailers including Amazon.com and smaller health shops. Fennel capsules can be purchased for about $5.50 per 100 pills that are to be taken three times daily at maximum, preferably with meals. The two most common brands of pre-made fennel tea bags are Heather’s and Alvita. Alvita sells both caffeine-free and regular fennel tea bags which cost $3.50-$5.00 per 24 count package. Heather’s sells the teas by the bags or in canisters and charges up to $19 per canister of 45 tea bags.

One pound of organic fennel seeds costs anywhere from $5-$10, and fennel essential oils go for about $8 per ounce. Fennel seed extract is more expensive at about $10 per ounce. Because fennel is a seasonal herb that is grown during the spring and summer, it is highly likely to find it cheaper during these times of the year. Those wishing to save money on fennel products can stock up on them when they are at their cheapest during the summer months and use them throughout the year. However, these individuals are cautioned to check the shelf lives of their various fennel products as some last only a few months and some will last for over a year. For example, fennel tea bags can lose some of their scent and flavor if allowed to sit on the shelf and age for a few months.

Legality of Fennel Growing & Usage

Though it is considered to be a pesky weed in some places, there are currently no countries throughout the world where the growing and usage of fennel is illegal.

Caution When Picking Fennel

Fennel itself is a remarkably safe herb to use. However, poison hemlock looks much like fennel when growing wild in nature and is toxic when ingested. Like fennel, hemlock grows near water and can be up to 2 meters tall. It creates tiny white flowers in flower heads much like the fennel plant does except that fennel flowers are yellow. When picking fennel in the wild, be sure to test the plants to be sure that they truly are fennel.

The best way to do this is to crush a few leaves and smell them. If they smell like anise or licorice, they are safe. If they smell musty or mousey, they are highly likely hemlock leaves. They should immediately be discarded. This test should not be done with bare hands as hemlock contains coniine, a toxin that the skin can absorb. Contact with the eyes and mouth should also be avoided until the individual thoroughly washes his/her hands.

Conditions

Menopause

In our culture, menopause can best be defined as the cessation of menstrual periods and fertility in an adult female. Often called the change of life, the word, menopause, actually means just that—the end of monthly cycles.

However, this very simple definition of a natural body process requires a good deal more explanation to thoroughly understand what is actually happening in a woman’s body.

Menopause.

Menopause Causes

When menopause occurs, the ovaries cease to produce eggs, which previously could result in pregnancy if fertilized. This happens because the body is producing lower levels of estrogen and other hormones that control female characteristics, such as breast development, menstrual cycles, body hair, etc. Hormone loss can be responsible for any number of uncomfortable or debilitating problems, relating to many different parts of the body.

Alternative Names

Most women experience their last period sometime between the ages of 40 and 60, with the average age being about 5l years. Menopause is said to specifically occur when a woman has been free of menstruation for a period of 12 months. Until that time, she is considered to be in perimenopause, a time span of up to 10 years in which menstrual irregularities and menopausal symptoms may occur.

A woman can also enter into surgical menopause at any age, if the ovaries are removed as part of a hysterectomy. When only the uterus is surgically removed, and the ovaries are left intact, estrogen and other hormones continue to be produced until natural menopause occurs in mid-life. Chemotherapy, as well as some auto-immune diseases, can also lead to surgical menopause.

Test and Diagnosis Considerations

Diagnosing menopause is relatively easy to do, and identifying specific stages and symptoms is usually not a problem either. Generally, doctors use medical history and symptoms to diagnose the onset of menopause. A blood test to measure the follicular hormone and estrogen levels in the blood can be done, but it is not a definite indicator of menopause. Obviously, doctors will do other tests to rule out certain illnesses if symptoms are severe. For example, neurological tests might be called for if memory lapses seem extreme.

It would seem that such a natural body process would be a somewhat painless and easy transition for most women. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Studies show that up to 85% of menopausal women experience hot flashes, one of the most common, though certainly not the most serious of symptoms. True, some can sail through the period with minimal problems, but some experience these symptoms for the rest of their lives.

Menopause Symptoms

Menopause Symptoms.

These symptoms can be many and varied, and sometimes it might seem that almost anything can be blamed on menopause. The important issue here is that menopause is a function of the endocrine system, and thus, the entire body is affected, not just a woman’s reproductive parts. Let’s look at a list of probable and common symptoms, and the areas of the body that are involved:

Reproductive Problems

  • Decrease in sexual appetite
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Breast tenderness

Mental Problems

  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Bouts of forgetfulness
  • Fuzziness
  • Anxiety

General Aches and Pains

  • Headaches
  • Hair loss
  • Joint pain
  • Digestive troubles
  • Urinary tract problems
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations
  • Osteoporosis

Of course, one might argue that some symptoms would gradually lead to the surfacing of others. For example, if one is prone to sleep loss, then irritability and loss of concentration might result. Any or all of these symptoms could lead to depression, and so on. However, when one considers that menopause is supposed to be a natural body process, it does seem rather overwhelming that all these unpleasant side effects can and do occur!

Risk Factors

Since all women who live into their middle years and beyond will experience menopause, it is in their best interests to be informed about the various remedies for these symptoms. Basically, the remedies fall into four categories: Healthy Living, Home and Herbal Remedies, Further Alternative Treatments, and Drugs and Pharmaceuticals. The first three categories are the most preferred by the medical community, as the fourth one renders the highest risks and costs. Let’s examine each category and look at specific treatments for some of the symptoms.

Healthy Living & Prevention Tips

This category carries the lowest risk, and would be beneficial to anyone, including the menopausal woman. Obviously, there is nothing anyone can do to prevent menopause from occurring, but adopting a healthy lifestyle can do a lot to ease the transition into this new era.

  • A low-fat, high-fiber diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables will help maintain balance and help your body to resist those extra 10-15 pounds that often appear during menopause. Drinking lots of water will also help with dryness issues and keep you hydrated.
  • Specific foods that help to promote estrogen production are soy, beets, carrots, alfalfa, apples, cabbage and papaya. Eating these foods within a well-balanced diet can help with hot flashes and night sweats.
  • Exercise is key to a healthy routine. Walking, jogging, swimming or jumping rope are all simple exercises that cost little, if anything. Yoga and meditation are also excellent, and can help with depression and sleeplessness.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine as much as possible. If you smoke, stop.
  • Make sure that you are getting adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals in your diet, and/or supplements that you take. Vitamins B, C, D and E are especially important for good bone, skin, eye and brain health. Calcium is your best weapon against osteoporosis.
  • Try to consistently get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. This will ensure your overall well-being and help with memory problems, irritability and depression.
  • Pamper yourself a bit. Treat yourself to a day at the spa, a manicure or a new hairstyle. Shopping can also be very therapeutic and mood-elevating.
  • Seek out some new activities or interests. Get together with an old friend, or plan a party. Join a book club, or get involved with church activities—do something new and different, and you won’t have time to be depressed!

Treatment Options – Home and Herbal Remedies

When we look at this category, it seems easiest to divide the remedies into three groups: those that help with general aches and pains, those that help alleviate sexual dysfunction, and those that aid in dealing with memory problems and depression. The herbal remedies fall into two categories: non-estrogenic and phytoestrogens. Non-estrogenic herbs do not produce estrogen, but provide a supportive climate for hormonal glands so that they produce more estrogen. The phytoestrogens, like Black Cohosh, actually do produce estrogens.

Remedies for general aches and pains

By far, the most common complaint among menopausal women is hot flashes and/or night sweats. The drop in estrogen directly affects the hypothalamus, that area of the brain that controls body temperature. Blood vessels then dilate to try to control the heat, and profuse sweating and red, flushed skin are not unusual. Many women report wanting to tear off their clothes to relieve the discomfort. These remedies have been found to be somewhat effective, and not quite as drastic:

  • 20-60 mg. of Black CohoshMenopause Symptoms
  • Licorice powder
  • Soy (Soy nuts, tofu, tempeh, soy milk, etc.)
  • 3-4 gr of Chinese angelica tea (Dong quai)
  • Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C (broccoli, melons, berries, apricots, etc.)
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Wear cotton clothing to bed
  • Dress in layers
  • Use air conditioning in summer
  • Determine what triggers hot flashes and try to avoid (for example: alcohol, caffeine, etc.)
  • Drink a bottle of beer (The hops contain phytoestrogens)

Another common complaint during menopause involves sleep disorders, which generally translates into a lack of sleep. It is estimated that almost 60% of menopausal women experience insomnia at some point. Some of this may be due to the aforementioned hot flashes and night sweats, in which case some of the remedies for those things might help with the sleep issues. Apparently the fluctuations in hormone levels are what cause the sleeplessness—kind of like a ragtime band where one instrument hits a wrong note causing the entire band to be thrown off course.

Here are some remedies that can be effective when dealing with insomnia:

  • Try to keep as normal a sleep routine as possible. Rise and go to bed at the same time every day.
  • Keep the bedroom cool and dark.
  • Use your bed for sleeping, not watching television or playing video games.
  • Exercise as often as possible. Yoga is particularly effective in helping you to relax.
  • Avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine later in the day.
  • Eat a low-fat diet, and avoid foods that are high in carbohydrates late in the day.
  • Drink warm milk or chamomile tea before going to bed.
  • Dress in “cool” night clothes.

If things don’t improve, see your doctor or a sleep disorder specialist.

Osteoporosis

Menopause Heath Concerns
Osteoporosis is a serious disease that involves loss of bone mass. Because the bones are weakened, they become brittle and fractures may easily occur, sometimes affecting life style and life expectancy. Menopausal women are at increased risk for osteoporosis because they have stopped producing large amounts of estrogen, which protects the body from bone loss.

Preventive measures, or remedies to offset osteoporosis, should begin well before the onset of menopause. Taking 600 mg. of calcium with vitamin D twice a day, should probably begin when a woman enters her 40’s. Other remedies would include:

  • Exercising regularly. Weight-bearing exercise is particularly beneficial.
  • Not smoking, or stopping if you do.
  • Eating a balanced diet, rich in calcium and green, leafy vegetables.
  • Drinking alcohol not at all or in moderation.

Remedies for Sexual Dysfunction

One of the most debilitating effects of a lack of estrogen can be vaginal dryness. This can create a great deal of physical discomfort for a woman in a sexual relationship, as well as damage her self esteem. Hormonal changes can affect the walls of the vagina and the glands that provide lubrication, thus making intercourse a painful experience. Many strides have been made in this area, and the remedies listed below may be helpful:

Several gels on the market can alleviate dryness. Some of the brands are Astroglide, Koromex and K-Y Jelly. Surgical gels are also a good choice as they help prevent bacterial infection.

Gyne-Moistrin and Replens are creams that actually plump, or provide moisture to the vaginal cells, thus relieving dryness. They can be used both internally and externally to provide more comfort during intercourse.

  • Prescription hormonal creams and pills will be discussed in the Drug and Pharmaceutical category.
  • Vitamins A and E are important in maintaining vaginal health.
  • Vitamin E can also help with breast tenderness.
  • A Calendula douche can be helpful in treating vaginal dryness.
  • The urinary tract and vaginal muscles can be strengthened with pelvic floor exercises.
  • Dong Quai and Black Cohosh can help to achieve hormonal balance, thus alleviating dryness.
  • Take time to communicate your needs to your partner and be willing to experiment with new ideas in your sexual practices.

Remedies for Depression and Memory Problems

There is little question that all of us experience stress in our daily lives, but when hormones fluctuate during menopause, it can seem overwhelming. It’s no wonder that some women may experience moments of forgetfulness and have difficulty concentrating. Today’s menopausal woman is often a member of the sandwich generation. This refers to raising your own children while taking care of aging parents. Sometimes this occurs in a subsequent fashion, sometimes at the exact same time, but whenever it happens, it certainly adds stress to your life. In addition to all the normal responsibilities that most women shoulder—taking care of family, housekeeping, cooking, working at a job outside the home, financial worries, etc., it is no wonder that many women become depressed when menopause comes along.

There is no magic formula to fix these problems, but here are some remedies that may help:

1. Reach out to others and compare experiences . Join a support group through your church or community, or ask your doctor to recommend one. Studies have shown that support groups can be uplifting and helpful in solving problems or stress-related issues. A support group may also keep you informed about the latest research in specific problem areas. Also, a good online website is Redhotmamas.com.

2. Talk, informally, to other women going through menopause. It helps to not feel alone, and you might stumble on some new ideas that will benefit you. If possible, speak to a woman who is older than you, who has been dealing with menopause for several years.

3. Eat a well-balanced diet, exercise, and try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

4. Certain herbs and minerals can be helpful in improving memory and achieving emotional balance. Vitamins A and B complex and the mineral, Selenium, fall into this category. St. John’s Wort, ginkgo biloba, garden sage and dandelion root also claim to help with depression. Common spices such as garlic, cayenne pepper and ginger seem to have phytoestrogenic properties.

5. Music and dance have proven to be powerful anti-depressants, especially when coupled with aerobic exercise.

6. Exposure to 10-15 minutes of sunlight every day provides emotional and physical benefits.

7. Of course, if you have tried some of these remedies and not had some measure of success, see your doctor. Depression is a serious disease, and should never be taken lightly. Your doctor can determine whether anti-depressant drugs may help, and/or he may refer you to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other specialist.

Further Alternative Treatments (Supportive Remedies)

Some experts would argue that the following remedies for menopausal discomforts would fit better into the Home and Herbal category, or maybe not in any category at all! However, these practices have been found to be helpful in many instances in reference to pain and supporting emotional well-being. They include:

  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Biofeedback
  • Hypnosis
  • Aromatherapy

The three categories that we have explored thus far—Healthy Living, Home and Herbal Remedies and Further Alternative Treatments, have almost no, or very little risk, and are relatively inexpensive. The final category, Drugs and Pharmaceuticals, will involve higher risks and greater costs.

Drug and Pharmaceutical Remedies

The most well-known treatment in this final categoy is HRT, or Hormone Replacement Therapy. This provides relief for almost all menopausal symptoms from hot flashes to depression and beyond. Generally speaking, women who have no uterus would be treated with estrogen, and women who still have a uterus would receive estrogen and progestins in a pill or patch form. This was pretty much the Utopia of menopause remedies, but unfortunately, it is now rarely used.

In 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative of the National Institutes of Health completed a study that found that incidences of breast cancer, strokes and heart attacks increased in women that underwent this treatment. Secondary side effects included blood clots, urinary incentinence and gallstones. At this point, the Journal of the American Medical Association recommended that HRT be used for as little time as possible, if at all, in treating menopausal symptoms.

However, Estrogen creams and tablets like Estrace and Vagi-fem are often used to help relieve vaginal dryness and make intercourse more comfortable. Estring is a type of flexible ring that inserts into the vagina to dispense estrogen into the vaginal canal. These medications provide a low dose of estrogen, but it should be noted that some of it is absorbed systemically into other body cells.

Brand Name Drugs

There are now several drugs on the market that are used to treat osteoporosis. Some brand names are Fosamax and Boniva. These drugs are bisphosphonates, which help prevent the breakdown of bones, and thus help to strengthen them. Often they are taken along with calcium and vitamin D. Some side effects include diarrhea, joint pain, weakness and gastric upsets. Injections of these drugs are available for women with esophageal problems.

Menopausal symptoms can be treated with a variety of prescription drugs, some which may seem surprising, given the symptom. For example, Clonidine is usually used to treat high blood pressure, but has been found to be helpful in alleviating hot flashes. Some anti-depressants such as paroxetine and sertraline also make this claim, as does Gabapentin, an anti-seizure drug. And of course, there are many anti-depressants that can be prescribed for mood swings, anxiety and depression.

These drug and phamaceutical treatments carry a higher risk, and generally, come at a higher cost, than the remedies in the first 3 categories. Overall, the medical community seems to feel that a combination of remedies from these categories, using those with the highest risk sparingly, is the best approach to alleviating menopausal discomfort. Research continues in hopes of providing the means to a more comfortable menopausal experience for today’s woman.