Dec 3, 2013 / 5:00 am
Traditionally, vitamin K was only really known for its role with blood clotting. However, vitamin K has gained a fair bit of attention in the last few years as new information has shed light on the many of its previously unknown functions in the body. Most of this new attention has focused around its importance with bone health. In this week’s article we will examine the roles that vitamin K plays with creating and maintaining healthy bone structure.
What is vitamin K?
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that was discovered in the 1930’s by Danish biochemist Henrik Dam. In his research, he discovered that vitamin K was required to prevent bleeding hemorrhages. Later research eventually showed that there are actually two forms of vitamin K, vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. Vitamin K1 is more associated with blood clotting while vitamin K2 is more associated with bone health and calcium distribution.
Vitamin K2 and Bones
Vitamin K2 from food or supplement helps to increase bone strength and prevent bone degredation by a few different mechanisms. First of all, vitamin K2 stimulates the activation of osteocalcin, a hormone that promotes bone building and remodelling. Secondly, vitamin K2 promotes proper estrogen metabolism, which helps prevent post-menopausal bone thinning. Finally, vitamin K2 stimulates matrix gla protein (MGP), which redirects calcium from soft tissues towards the bones to increase bone strength.
Vitamin K2 and Calcium
Vitamin K2 works with calcium so the body uses calcium appropriately in the bones, dental tissue, and other areas of the body. Recent research has shown that high calcium consumption or supplementation may lead to health consequences like calcifications in the soft tissues of the body. This has lead some health care professionals to recommend avoiding calcium supplementation. However, vitamin K2 may be the missing ingredient for many people taking calcium supplements. By activating osteocalcin vitamin K2 encourages calcium to be directed into the bones and teeth. By activating matrix gla protein (MGP), vitamin K helps escort calcium out of the arteries, veins, and other soft tissues.
Sources of Vitamin K2
Vitamin K2 can be obtained in relatively healthy amounts from a diet that focuses on vitamin K2-rich foods. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is relatively deficient in vitamin K2-rich foods and is one of the reasons so many people are deficient in vitamin K2. The best sources of vitamin K2 are dark green leafy vegetables, free-range eggs, grass fed beef, butter/ghee from grass-fed cows, and natto. It is very important to note that the vitamin K2 in grass fed chickens, beef, and other animals is due to their grass-fed diet. The amount of vitamin K2 available in grass-fed animal products is directly related to the animal’s consumption of chlorophyll-rich green foods. Conventional grain-fed animal products are not a rich source of vitamin K2.
If you have questions about vitamin K2, bone health, or would like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Barlow contact his office at 250-448-5610 or visit his website at www.drbrentbarlownd.com
Nov 26, 2013 / 5:00 am
Cortisol is a hormone that is absolutely crucial for life. Without it we would not be able to survive. However, when we live in chronic strain, worry, and stress the adrenal glands produce relatively high amounts of cortisol. The problem with cortisol is that our bodies are not meant to be exposed to these relatively high amounts for long periods of time. However, many people who have stress as an obstacle to cure are experiencing the negative effects of cortisol.
- High cortisol decreases immunity. Cortisol is a corticosteroid and like prednisone, cortisone, and beclomethasone, it inhibits the actions of white blood cells. Initially, this usually leads to increased susceptibility to infections. Eventually, this may actually lead to long stretches of time without colds because the immune system is so weakened.
- High cortisol increases abdominal fat deposition. For reasons still unknown, high levels of cortisol induce the body to lay down adipose tissue in the abdomen and upper back/neck. In fact, for those people affected it is next to impossible to lose abdominal fat without addressing stress.
- High cortisol breaks down muscle, bone, and connective tissue. Cortisol is a gluconeogenic hormone. Gluconeogenesis is a process that creates sugar from existing tissue. Cortisol promotes the breakdown of muscle, bone, and connective tissue in order to increase blood sugar for the brain.
- High cortisol inhibits thyroid hormone activation. The thyroid gland makes 2 major hormones; thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyroine (T3). It predominantly makes T4, which is actually an in-active hormone. T4 is carried in the bloodstream and eventually hits a receptor on or in a cell and becomes activate to T3. High cortisol inhibits this conversion and thus creates a form of hypothyroid.
Cortisol is a hormone that fluctuates during the course of the day with the circadian rhythm of the body. However, stress can greatly affect the way cortisol is produced and secreted and result in significant changes from the optimal circadian rhythm. Upon rising each morning cortisol levels are about at their highest. In fact, relatively high cortisol levels are one of the things that wakes us up in the morning. As the day goes on cortisol levels should gradually decline until they hit a trough around 8-10 PM. They will stay low during deep sleep and gradually begin to increase around 4-6 AM until you awake.
Stress significantly impacts the production and secretion of cortisol during the day and night. Chronic stress not only elevates cortisol levels during the stressor but may also lead to cortisol spikes during the evening and overnight. High cortisol in the evening is one of the major reasons for insomnia, frequent waking, and night sweats.
Natural treatments to restore healthy cortisol levels are crucial for anyone suffering from the effects of elevated cortisol. Stress management techniques are extremely important and may include deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. Adaptogenic herbs, B complex vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, glandular extracts, and homeopathic remedies support the adrenal glands and help restore the circadian rhythm. Consult your naturopathic physician for a specific plan to evaluate and address your cortisol levels.
Nov 19, 2013 / 5:00 am
Intravenous nutrient infusions have been used for several decades by naturopathic physicians and many medical doctors practicing complementary and alternative medicine. Intravenous therapy can play a very important role in the treatment of many medical conditions including digestive disorders, hormonal imbalances, detoxification deficiencies, chronic pain, immune system disorders, neurological diseases, and mental/emotional conditions. There are a wide variety of intravenous cocktails that can be employed to treat a wide variety of medical conditions. As a naturopathic physician, I am excited about the use of intravenous therapies for five reasons:
First, nutrients administered intravenously bypass malfunctioning areas of the GI tract. When the digestive system is damaged, oral supplements may pass right through the body, but with intravenous administration, nutrients are directly absorbed into the bloodstream.
Second, nutrients administered intravenously go directly to all the cells of the body. Once the nutrients enter the bloodstream they become ubiquitous in the system within 10-30 seconds. This means that all the cells in the body, including inflamed or damaged intestinal cells, receive the nutrients.
Another feature of intravenous nutrient therapy is that it avoids first-pass metabolism in the liver. Nutrients administered intravenously are not immediately processed by the liver. They go directly to most cells in the body before entering the liver. This means that the purity of the nutrients delivered intravenously is higher.
A fourth benefit of intravenous administration is that it allows a physician to utilize doses of nutrients that typically cannot be administered or tolerated orally. For example, both vitamin C and magnesium induce diarrhea at relatively low oral doses. When they are administered intravenously the dose can be much higher, which results in a better therapeutic effect.
Finally, a large number of nutrients, including many vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and homeopathic remedies can be administered intravenously.
Intravenous therapies make up an important part of my naturopathic practice, because I continue to see the effect of these five benefits in the recovery of my patients.
Nov 5, 2013 / 5:00 am
The most important nutritional supplement we can all take is a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement. I do not believe it is generally possible to obtain optimal intakes of the essential vitamins and minerals from dietary sources alone. Vitamins degrade during transport, while sitting on the shelves, and through the cooking process. Minerals come from the soil and most soil in North America is deficient in the essential trace minerals. How to select a good quality multi is a topic for another day but make sure you take a supplement that has optimal daily intakes (ODI) of the vitamins and minerals as opposed to the recommended daily allowance (RDA) levels. Ensure it contains no binders or fillers, and comes in a liquid, powder, or capsule form for optimal digestion and absorption.
As important as it is to take a multi there are a few crucial vitamins and minerals that generally require extra supplementation for optimal immune function. We will now take a closer look at the vitamins and minerals most of us require in higher amounts than our multivitamins and minerals can provide.
Vitamin D has gained a great deal of attention as an essential nutrient for the immune system. Most of the research indicates that vitamin D functions more like a hormone than a vitamin. It appears to play a crucial role in the communication process of white blood cells and thus enhances immunity. Most people living in Canada have deficient or suboptimal serum levels of active vitamin D. Ensure your multi contains at least 1000 IUs of vitamin D and have your blood levels tested by your physician. If you are like the majority and have low levels of vitamin D see a doctor who can recommend a supplemental dose sufficient enough to restore optimal levels but not high enough to cause toxicity.
Vitamin C has been known for a long time as an immune enhancing nutrient. One often overlooked reason vitamin C enhances immunity is due to its role in connective tissue integrity. Vitamin C along with the amino acids proline and lysine is required for the body to manufacture connective tissue. Healthy connective tissue enhances the overall immune system by creating stronger and tighter boundaries in the body. This helps to keep viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens from getting into the body or passing to different compartments or organs. This reduces the chances of acquiring an infection or spreading an infection throughout the body.
B complex vitamins are crucial for the production of cellular energy. The immune system requires a great deal of energy and the cells of the immune system utilize B vitamins to create the ATP required to fight off infections. The higher your stress levels, activity levels, and exercise levels the more B vitamins you will require to produce the energy you need each day. A good quality B complex supplement helps to provide the extra B vitamins your body needs to produce cellular energy and thus enhances immunity.
Magnesium is an extremely important mineral that is often overshadowed by calcium. Many supplements, especially bone health supplements contain relatively high levels of calcium but inadequate levels of magnesium. ATP and energy production rely on magnesium as a cofactor in their production. Inadequate magnesium intake contributes to fatigue and decreases immunity. Magnesium also dilates and relaxes the skeletal muscles of the body and the smooth muscles of the vascular system. This enhances blood flow throughout the body and thus the distribution of white blood cells through the bloodstream.
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