Sunday, November 29, 2009

Elderberry juice and H1N1 flu

I posted some time ago about a potential influenza complication known as a cytokine storm. While this violent immunological over-reaction is known to occur with H5N1 or 'bird flu,' it has not proven to be a problem thus far with this current epidemic. In fact, the adults (I see few teens and no children) in my practice, while not enjoying their bouts of 2009 A(H1N1) flu, are finding the one week course more a matter of misery than serious disease.

I only just got my H1N1 shot last week--the Denver Public Health Dept. did not feel that internists were a high risk group! As I've been seeing cases of this flu for months, I started taking elderberry juice concentrate about a month ago. An article published in July of this year(1) used spectrometry to determine which elderberry molecules bound to the influenza particles thus inhibiting their ability to penetrate and infect host cells. Two compounds were identified that, in fairly low concentrations, stopped the little flu buggers dead in their tracks. In fact, their ability to inhibit H1N1 infections in lab conditions compared favorably to that of Tamiflu.

I ordered my elderberry concentrate from Per my favorite naturopath Dr. Jacob Schor, I take 1 tablespoonful in water each morning. I won't kid you, I don't love it, but it's palatable and better mixed with OJ.
1. Roschek, B. et al. Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro. Phytochemistry 2009 Jul;70(10):1255-61. Epub 2009 Aug 12.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Oil pulling testimonial

I've written before about oil pulling, an ayurvedic practice that involves swishing a mouthful of oil around in the mouth for 10-20 minutes first thing in the a.m. One web-site proclaims that "regular application of this treatment by reversing [this natural bodily intrusive element evinced by the microflora] so that wellness is the dominant state of the human body is likely to increase the average human lifespan to approximately 150 years, double the present life expectancy."

Well I don't know about that, I don't even get what this authority is talking about. A small study from India(1) concluded, however, that oil-pulling daily for 10 minutes caused a significant decrease in oral Streptococcus mutans (the bacteria that promotes tooth decay) within 1 week of starting the practice.

I recently visited my dental hygienist for a check-up and cleaning. I have practiced daily oil pulling with sesame oil for 5 of the 7 months since my last visit with her. The conclusion? Less stain despite daily coffee, no difference in plaque, very healthy gums, and--best-of-all for me--no sensitivity in the lower teeth to her merciless probing. She was so impressed by the sparkle of my front teeth (so shiny, per her, "they look like glass") that she plans to recommend the practice to others.
1. Asokan, S et al. Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: A randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. J Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry 2008. Vol 26, Issue 1, pgs 12-17.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hydrosal, Drysol, and hyperhidrosis

I can now wear tops TWICE and can wear regular shoes. DrySol, you're the best!
--Comment from satisfied user on

I had the mixed pleasure of dining at Red Robin recently. Always a pleasure to not cook dinner and not clean up afterwards, but the burger was just so-so. I was briefly alarmed to note as the host seated us that he had enormous sweat rings below his armpits, but then I realized that some misguided RR fashion designer had put darker panels of red material down the sides of the staff's red t-shirts.

Some people, of course, do suffer from axillary hyperhidrosis or excessively sweaty pits. And they suffer terribly, choosing clothing colors less likely to broadcast their problem, keeping their arms close to their bodies. Never raising their hands because they're sure it would be an embarrassing mistake.

Enter Drysol, one of medicine's best kept secrets. Part of the problem, my problem anyway, is the don't ask/don't tell mentality of hyperhidrosis. If I don't ask, patients mostly don't tell me that they suffer from sweaty pits, hair, hands, or feet. Last month, however, I had a patient ask for Drysol by name--he'd heard about it from his nephew. And now he says "It's changed my life."

Those are strong words indeed, praise I most often hear applied to antidepressants, anti-anxiety, and anti-acne medication. Drysol or aluminum chloride hexahydrate is strong stuff. It doesn't always work, and it stings like crazy if applied to wet or newly shaved skin, but when applied with care according to the directions, many hyperhidrotics lose their drip.

Hyperhidrosis is a disorder of sudomotor nerves or those nerves that hook up to and activate sweat glands in response to heat or emotion. While thermoregulation (keeping body temperature in a healthy range) is controlled by the hypothalamus deep and central in the brain, sweaty response to emotion is under the control of the anterior cingulate cortex behind the rational frontal brain and heavily connected to our fear-directing amygdala.

A new preparation of aluminum chloride hexahydrate has been released called Hydrasal which is in a salicyclic acid gel formulation rather than pure alcohol. Small studies recently released at the March meeting of the American Academy of Dermatologists show this product is better tolerated than the Drysol preparation and is also useful in patients who are undergoing Botox injections for hyperhidrosis with incomplete relief of excessive sweating.