Q: I went to see my urologist for difficulty in urinating. He examined my prostate, which was enlarged, and my PSA was borderline high at 4.0. Is there anything I can take instead of a prescription medication?
R: Prostate disease is very common. More than 200,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007, and more than 45.000 will die from it. Prostate cancer has touched the lives of high profile people, such as Arnold Palmer, Bob Dole, and Frank Zappa.
You have a blood marker for prostate disease, the PSA that is borderline high. I am confident that if the PSA continues to rise, your doctor will want to have a prostate biopsy. Many supplements and herbs have been used to decrease the size of the prostate gland. I have personally used Saw Palmetto since there are studies to validate its use. The active ingredients of this plant come from the berries of the American dwarf palm (Serenoa repens). Other herbs used with success are Pygium africum and pumpkin. A nutriceutical, lycopene, present in foods such as tomatoes and watermelon has also been used. Try to find a product that contains most of these supplements and herbs.
Q: Are there any vitamins to help with an over active thyroid?
R: Unfortunately, no. This condition is called hyperthyroidism. Most cases require conventional medication and treatment. However, there are foods you can try, such as tofu and other soy products and cruciferous vegetables. These include cabbage, broccoli, kale and brussell sprouts. Some studies have demonstrated that these foods will suppress thyroid function. In addition, flax seed oil in high doses may inhibit an over active thyroid. If you are experiencing palpitations from an over active thyroid, the herb motherwort has been used to slow the heart rate down from this hyperthyroid overactive state.
Q: I am a 45-year-old male diagnosed with high blood pressure. Both of my parents have high blood pressure. My brother in addition to the high blood pressure also has diabetes. I was given two prescriptions to start immediately. I will take the medications. However, are there natural remedies that can help?
R: High blood pressure (hypertension) increases the risk for coronary artery disease, strokes, heart attacks, congestive heart failure, and kidney failure.
It also causes the arteries to become scarred, hardened, and less elastic. Untreated high blood pressure affects all organ systems and can shorten one’s life expectancy by 10 – 20 years. One in four Americans suffer from high blood pressure-so you are not alone. Using medication to reach your adequate blood pressure goal is essential. However, lifestyle modification is the first treatment. Contributing factors include smoking, alcohol consumption, sedentary lifestyle, and stress. Dietary changes are essential. A person with high blood pressure should begin a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and fiber and lower in sodium and fat. Many vitamins and herbs have been used to treat high blood pressure. Some include magnesium orotate, amino acids, such as taurine and carnitine and coenzyme Hawthorne herb has been used but since herbs are drugs, there can be an interaction between conventional medications and herbs. Please consult an integrative physician before starting any herb.
Q: I am a 54-year-old post-menopausal female. My doctor has recommended that I take estrogens. I am scared to take a prescription estrogen. I have read about natural hormonal replacement treatment. How do I find out about this?
R: In the recent years, pharmacists have compounded natural hormonal replacement therapy from yams. Suzanne Somers has brought this practice to the forefront, yet I have been using natural hormonal cream for the last 12 years. A blood or saliva test is done to determine the specific estrogens—estrone, estradiol and striol as well as progesterone and testosterone.
Based on the measurements of these hormones, a cream or capsule is compounded. Every cream or capsule is individualized to the patient’s levels. I prefer using cream because it is better absorbed. Of course, a careful history is taken to ensure that no mother, sister, aunt, or grandmother had breast or ovarian cancer at a young age. I also require an up-to-date mammogram and Pap smear before starting therapy. Six weeks from starting therapy, hormonal measurements are taken again.
Q: I am 35-year-old who gets sinusitis every year at the same time. I am prescribed numerous antibiotics. I have told the doctor I have allergies. I had allergies as a child and was given weekly shots. What is the best way to diagnose allergies?
R: The common visit to the doctor is for the common cold. Symptoms of fatigue, muscle aches, cough, and fever can be viral or bacterial in origin. These symptoms can also be aggravated by allergies – environmental or food. The best way to test for allergies is using blood. The method I employ is a combination of blood testing, IgG (delayed hypersensitivity) to foods with skin testing IgE (immediate hypersensitivity) for food. The most common food allergens are wheat, dairy, eggs, gluten, soy, and peanuts. Food allergies have been linked to osteopenia, anxiety, depression, bloating, and bowel changes. Once allergies are identified, these foods must be eliminated from the diet. We live in a society where eliminating these foods may not be possible. Therefore, our practice utilizes specific immunotherapy in the form of sublingual drops to desensitize the body from these allergies.
As far as antibiotics are concerned, we live in a society where “bacteria” are becoming resistant to our newer antibiotics. I try to use antibiotics sparingly and only when absolutely indicated. The plant kingdom is full of herbal antibiotics. Some of these are aloe, ginger, garlic, grape seed extract and wildflower honey.
Q: I am a non-insulin dependent diabetic. I have been on and off oral prescription drugs for my diabetic condition. Despite dieting, I am still 25 pounds overweight. I want to take the drugs, but are there herbal remedies or vitamins that could help my diabetic condition?
R: This question itself could complete a novel! We have two epidemics in the United States, diabetes and obesity. Both lead to cardiovascular disease. The first step is to make lifestyle changes such as modifying the diet by eating fewer refined carbohydrates and start exercising. There sometimes is a need for medication, such as glucophage (metformin) for the patient who has insulin resistance. However, many supplements, minerals, and herbs can help with blood sugar stabilization. These are chromium, vanadium, and alpha lipoic acid. The herbs include rosemary, gymnema silvestre, and fennel. The use of cinnamon has recently been studied. The herb hoodia has been used, but research on this herb is still under investigation.
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Patrick Fratellone, MD is the Executive Medical Director of Fratellone Medical Associates, LLP in New York City, New York. Before going into private practice, he was the Chief of Medicine and Director of Cardiology of the former Atkins Center for Com...