Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Doctor claims 3 ways to lower autism risk

More children in the United States than ever before are being diagnosed with some form of autism.

Take a look at the skyrocketing numbers from the Centers for Disease Control:

•2000: 1 out of every 150 kids had autism

•2006: 1 out of every 110 kids had the disorder

•2008 (most recent numbers): 1 out of every 88 kids has autism. It's even higher for boys, 1 out of 54

While experts continue to research and debate the cause, many frustrated families are left wondering what they can do to lower their risk.

A board-certified Tampa pediatrician has created an experimental prevention program that includes three ways to increase your chances of having a healthy baby.

"I think every mother is concerned about how their child is going to turn out," says newly pregnant mother Orel Zwiebel.

Some parents in the Tampa Bay area, like Orel, are taking a proactive approach. They're looking for ways to prevent autism BEFORE pregnancy.

Even with one healthy child, Orel took extra steps the second time around. She turned to Tampa pediatrician Dr. David Berger from Wholistic Pediatrics for suggestions. He admits this is a controversial area. Dr. Berger specializes in kids with autism and, over the past decade, developed a pre-pregnancy testing program to check for vitamin deficiencies and toxins.

10 News Anchor Heather Van Nest recently interviewed the doctor to find out if his methods are effective.

Heather Van Nest: Can you REALLY prevent autism?

Dr. Berger: So far, we have had a tremendous amount of success. In over 10 years and hundreds of children born into our practice, we know of no children who have gone on to develop autism, even in families who have had one child already.

Those high risk families already have a one-in-seven chance of having another child with autism.

Heather: So how did you come up with these suggestions?

Dr. Berger: It was really out of necessity. Families who had a child with autism, who started nutritional and toxin testing, we found these things in the child, so the family started asking, "Is it possible that the mom could have these types of findings?"

Heather: There are a lot of doctors out there who would say this is controversial. "How can he say autism can be prevented?" What do you say to them?

Dr. Berger: I would say yes, we need more research, but the experience we've had a lot of success with, the types of things that we're talking about are nutritional things that are well known and should be done to support pregnancy in the first place. However, it's not common for doctors to proactively check for these things ahead of time.

Here are three things Dr. Berger checks and corrects BEFORE pregnancy:


Including Iron, B-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D levels.

Dr. Berger says low levels of vitamin D in the mother have been linked to delayed language development and weaker immune systems.


Untreated Hypothyroidism is a known cause of developmental delays in children.


Including pesticides, lead, and mercury, which have been linked to learning disorders.

For moms like Orel, the early testing motivated her to make changes. "Mentally, it gives me peace of mind and physically my pregnancy is a lot easier. I don't feel drained or tired and I feel like I have good energy, and that's an important factor," she says.

Dr. Berger wrote an article that includes all of his nutritional and environmental strategies to lower the risk of autism in Autism Science Digest. Click here to read.

Many researchers suspect autism may have genetic and environmental triggers.

The Children's Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine created a research-based list of the "Top 10 Toxic Chemicals suspected of causing autism and other learning disabilities." Click here to read.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Does Protandim work?

Integrative physician Dr. Steven Masley reviewed studies on the company's website to help you decide if Protandim is worth it.

Could the orange colored pills in a little blue bottle turn back the hands of time? The makers of a natural supplement called Protandim say it is a cutting edge, scientific breakthrough in anti-aging.
A 10 News viewer asked us what's in it and if it's worth the roughly $50 a month price tag.
You may have heard about Protandim from your friends. It is sold through multi-level marketing which means the people who sell it may also try to recruit you to sell it too.
Donny Osmond told Dr. Phil it's the closest thing he's found to the fountain of youth.
"It's called Protandim and it works. I've been telling everybody. 'You feel differently?' I do," Osmond told Dr. Phil.
However, he did not mention on the show he is a paid spokesperson.
10 News viewer Helen Cimino told us she is also convinced it works after it helped the arthritis in her wrist.
Now she sells Protandim.
She told 10 News she truly believes it is a miracle pill because it worked for her.
"I can only tell people it works for me. I've only been on it for 5 months. Who knows from now on what else it will do," she said.
So what is in Protandim?
The company says 5 ingredients:
  • Turmeric extract (anti-inflammatory spice)
  • Green tea extract (energy, anti-cancer properties)
  • Milk thistle (liver detox)
  • Bacopa extract (memory issues)
  • Ashwagandha extract (anxiety/stress issues)
10 News asked integrative physician, nutritionist and author of 10 Years Younger, Dr. Steven Masley if it's worth the $50 a month pricetag. He had already researched the product for some of his patients who had been asked to invest in the company.
Dr. Masley told us he's not surprised Helen feels better. Two of his favorite ingredients are in Protandim: turmeric, or curcumin, and green tea.
Dr. Masley said the ingredients are safe and exciting, but he would like to know how much of each ingredient is in the product.
"I love green tea and curcumin, those are excellent agents for helping health, but they don't put the dose so I don't even know if they're at the appropriate dose or if they're in the right form that they would be absorbed."
He said the proprietary blend does not appear to contain enough of the ingredients to be effective.
The label lists 675 mg of all 5 ingredients combined. Dr. Masley said some of these ingredients, at much higher doses, have been shown to improve arthritis symptoms and brain and liver function.
Before he recommends it to his patients, Dr. Masley said he would also like to see more independent studies where no one is making a profit out of the outcome of the study.
(Scroll down to see the 4 questions Dr. Masley would need answered before he would recommend Protandim to his patients)
"I am concerned that this specific combination in Protandim has not been shown to result in any clinical improvement (more energy, less pain, better brain function). Most of the studies have been performed on lab animals and all the results I have seen, address non-clinical laboratory results that don't address human symptoms," said Dr. Masley.
Dr. Masley has been recommending his patients take the two main ingredients. He said high quality turmeric/curcumin and green tea cost much less than this combination supplement.
"You could buy green tea and drink it for $5 a month and you could buy a good quality curcumin product for $15-20 a month. Those would be the two key take homes. If you have other issues, cognitive decline, anxiety, sleep... then you might think about some of the other agents but I don't usually recommend them unless you have those conditions."
Keep in mind, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate vitamins and supplements. You have to trust the manufacturer to provide the correct amount of ingredients or go with a high quality brand that undergoes third party testing.
As for Helen, she told 10 News, Protandim is worth the investment.
"Anything I believe in, I go wholeheartedly."
Dr. Masley stresses you should always discuss any vitamin/supplement you are taking with your doctor. Inexpensive products may be contaminated with lead or other agents, so quality (third party tested) is important.
For additional information on how to find a high quality supplement, you can click here. 
The maker of Protandim says it is a proprietary blend. A company spokesperson adds that the synergy among the five ingredients makes them 18 times more potent together than individually. However, Dr. Masley says there are no comparative studies yet to support that claim.
Here are Dr. Masley's recommendations:
Curcumin (an extract of turmeric). Typical prevention dosage 500 mg daily.
Typical arthritis therapy dosage 500-1000 mg daily. This is a wonderful compound anyone with inflammation issues should consider taking. Actively studied for memory loss and cancer therapy.
Green tea extract (Camellia sinensis). Active agent dosage typically is 250-500 mg daily, which is also available in 4-8 cups of green tea daily.
Generally used for cardiovascular disease prevention, weight loss, and green tea for mental clarity. Most people should drink a few cups of green tea daily.
Milk thistle extract (silybum marianum). Dosage varies with extract concentration, typically 200-400 mg daily. Typically used for liver inflammation, liver disease, or to enhance detoxification.
Ashwagandha dosage varies with concentration, 250-500 mg daily. Used for insomnia, relaxation, and calming.
Bacopa monnieri  Dosage varies with concentration, 250-500 mg daily. Used for memory loss and to enhance concentration. More human studies needed.
The four things Dr. Masley would like to see that would compel him to recommend this product to his patients would be:
1. High Quality. I'd like to see a TGA logo on their product first, or a USP logo second, or at the minimum would be a GMP logo, certainly something much better than their website comment, "to the best of our knowledge we meet or exceed the Current Good Manufacturing Practices". That is not good enough.
Some of the company products that I recommend have had their laboratories evaluated by the FDA and meet or exceed the requirements to produce drugs.
2. How Much Ingredient Is In the Product? Let me know how much curcumin, milk thistle, etc is in the pill. Currently I'm being asked to trust this company based upon anecdotal results. My patients deserve better.
Proprietary often means we don't want you to know because there isn't enough product to make it work. Granted there could be some amazing synergy that occurs between these agents, but then they should have clinical outcome studies to prove their combination works.
3. Proven Clinical Outcomes. I'd like to see randomized clinical trial outcomes in humans in a peer reviewed medical journal that has been written by independent researchers that are not associated with the profits of this product that show outcomes that would be expected from these ingredients.
For example they should show: better brain function, improvements in liver inflammation, better blood pressure control, less joint pain from arthritis, decreased cancer rates or better cancer outcomes in humans. None of the studies I have seen on their website focus on clinical outcomes in humans, yet at proper dosages that I'm not convinced are in this product, the current ingredients have been shown to achieve these type of clinical improvements. When they call non-clinical laboratory test results clinical outcomes, either they are using excessive marketing or they are deceiving themselves.
4. Is it absorbed? Since they list magnesium stearate as an ingredient which is used to improve packaging but has been proven to decrease absorption, I would want to see curcumin and other ingredient blood levels after using this product to ensure it is being absorbed properly. Good supplement companies provide this type of data when absorption is questionable.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Natural therapy journey for cancer patient

Sherry Malin wanted to share her story of personal choice when it comes to cancer treatment. She said no to chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to pursure natural options.

One of the hardest decisions a cancer patient has to make is deciding which treatment is best.
Chemotherapy, radiation and surgery are considered standard treatments.
54 year-old, Sherry Malin, from Palm Harbor wanted to share her story with 10 News viewers to let others know some cancer patients are choosing not to follow conventional treatments.
She went against her doctor's wishes to try an alternative treatment in Mexico.
"I've always said I would not go for chemotherapy because I have seen too much of it."
A mammogram and biopsy in Tampa confirmed stage two breast cancer in her right breast last year. Sherry made the tough decision to go against her doctor's wishes to try what many conventional doctors consider to be controversial, nutrition based, experimental treatments offered at a hospital in Mexico.
She told 10 News Anchor Heather Van Nest it was not scary for her to go against what conventional doctors recommended because she saw too many people go through chemotherapy treatment. Her father, sister and brother all died before the age of 40. She also watched her husband's mother die.
Sherry decided she did not want to go through all of that and she says, if she didn't make it, she wanted to do it on her terms and be able to do what she could during that period of time.
She says cancer was a wake-up call to take better care of herself.
Her treatment plan includes taking dozens of vitamins each day, eating fresh foods and no longer sweating the small stuff.
"I learned to handle stress. Stress has a lot to do with it so nothing bothers me. You don't worry about things.Yes, so if things fall a part... oh well... life goes on I'm still alive."
Sherry found growing her own organic garden in her backyard and choosing to eat fresh foods everyday gave her some control back in her life.
Sherry shares her journey on her blog and says this is a personal decision. She says quality of life is most important to her.
The nutrition based therapy she had for 3 weeks in Mexico is not covered by insurance and her vitamins/supplements add to the monthly out-of-pocket costs.
Sherry follows up with her doctor here in Tampa. Dr. Peter Walton says he is amazed at how well she is doing considering she did not have surgery or chemotherapy. Her latest CT scan shows no cancer in her chest region.
However, because no long-term, double blind scientific studies confirm her treatment plan will work, doctors warn what works for one person, may not work for another.
Dr. Keith Block, is one of the country's leading integrative oncologists. He has not treated Sherry but he offers this advice for cancer patients who would like to try alternative therapies.
Nutrition is an important part of Dr. Block's treatment plans but he stressed, there is also a critical window when conventional treatments can cure early stage cancers.
Q.  What advice do you have for patients who have been advised to receive conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation but don't want to go that route?  
A.  As a general rule, for a patient with advanced disease who's already been through several treatment regimens that have failed them, it makes perfect sense to consider experimental therapies or "reasonable" alternative options. But this is not the case for a patient diagnosed with an earlier stage disease.  To an early stage cancer patient, I would recommend an integrative approach to treatment; that is, a regimen that combines the best conventional treatment options with research-based complementary therapies.  This allows a patient to take advantage of proven therapies without running the risk of missing the critical window when these treatments could be curative. On the other hand, I do believe it is appropriate to consider a wider variety of treatment options with a patient who is facing advanced disease. However, even here I encourage and insist that my patients continue to be carefully monitored utilizing conventional diagnostics. This is important so that they do not lose time by continuing to pursue any treatment that is either not working or has stopped working.   
Q.  How can patients evaluate whether alternative treatments are legitimate or not?
A. At best, you can only analyze what is known and available to make a determination as to whether to consider the treatment or not.With any treatment option, a patient - along with their family/friend/medical support team - should research what is known about that specific treatment. The first question should always be "how safe is the therapy I am considering?"  
A treatment does not need as much proof of effectiveness if the approach has little to no risk, side effects or toxicity. Nonetheless, a second question should be "is there meaningful scientific data that demonstrates that the treatment actually works?" An additional aspect of this question is, "what level of research was performed to determine the effectiveness of the treatment?"  Obviously, a higher the level of evidence (i.e. clinical based) would be more reassuring than lower level evidence (i.e. laboratory based). Since few alternative treatments have high level evidence to demonstrate efficacy, one should carefully examine the rationale of any treatment option before initiating care.
Lastly, one should also consider the cost and convenience of a treatment, particularly when neither insurance nor Medicare is likely to cover any aspect of it.
 Q. The patient we profiled went to Angeles Hospital in Mexico to learn more about nutrition, vitamins and experimental treatments. What do you think about that?
A. While there are dietary and nutraceutical regimens that can play a major role in battling malignant disease, experimental treatments like heating blood or injecting one's own stem cells need more careful analysis before I could comfortably encourage patients to pursue these. The reason is that such interventions can have serious adverse consequences. Personally, I would need to know of several successful cases with well confirmed supportive medical records and preferably some published research studies as well as a logical mechanism providing a solid scientific rationale as to why such treatment should work.
That said, I am not opposed to evaluating such treatments and believe we need better ways to assess alternative therapies in general. I also do not believe that successful treatments only come from mainstream research institutions.
Q. What advice would you give to cancer patients who want to try nutrition/natural treatments? 
A. Be sure you have a highly trained integrative oncology practitioner on board to help determine the optimal nutritional and natural therapies. Ideally, these should be tailored to the patient's clinical, biochemical, molecular needs, and matched to any cancer drugs that are being prescribed.
10 News

Natural therapy journey for cancer patient

Sherry Malin said no to chemotherapy, surgery and radiation to pursue a controversial, nutrition based, natural therapy. She wanted to share her story which her doctor now calls "amazing."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Homemade Birthday Cake

Maybe it's because this is my first and only baby...
I just couldn't get myself to order a pre-made birthday cake, loaded with synthetic coloring, corn syrup and probably genetically modified flour.

Yes, I realize my daughter will one day stuff her face with chips, sodas and cupcakes and there won't be much I can do about it! 

Right now I have a two year window where I can get her to eat just about anything! 
I am trying to give her a good foundation while she can't talk back or tell me she really wants hash browns for breakfast!

She has never even tasted canned/jarred baby food because making my own baby food is much easier than I thought! 
She eats everything... quinoa, avocados, mung beans, chicken, fresh rosemary, butternut squash... many times all mixed together!

For her first birthday, I had to make her cake. We didn't add any extra sugar/sweetener to the banana cake (make sure your bananas are almost black--they'll be extra sweet!) but I did give in to sugar-sweetened cream cheese frosting.

I made an extra small cake for us to try--and everyone ate it! It was a nice balance of not too sweet--the cream cheese frosting is killer!

I tried to add concentrated juices to color the frosting, but it added too much liquid.
Next time, I'll try India Tree natural food coloring.

Have you made your own healthy birthday cake? I'd love to share your recipe!

Kingsley’s First Birthday Smash Cake
2/3 c. banana, mashed
1/2 c. earth’s balance, softened
3 lg. eggs
3/4 c. water
2 c. unbleached, gluten-free Bob’s Red Mill flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
4 tsp. cinnamon
Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan. Beat together mashed banana and soft earth’s balance until creamy. Beat in water. In a separate bowl, beat eggs until very foamy. Beat into mixture. Blend in flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Beat until smooth. 
Spread batter evenly in pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean. Cool. Serves 8-10. 
Cream Cheese Frosting   
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (recommended: Neufchatel)
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla  
With an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, confectioners' sugar  until smooth and creamy. (BTW, India Tree makes natural food coloring)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

BPA found in canned children's food

This is just one of the many reasons why I soak beans overnight, slice fresh tomatoes and eat fresh pineapple instead of opening a can. I only cook with canned food in a pinch.

With a history of estrogen-receptive breast cancer in my family, I personally don't need additional exposure to Bisphenol A, a chemical known to mimic estrogen, especially when there are proven ways to lower exposure.

Consumer Reports found Bisphenol A or BPA in all canned foods and beverages tested back in 2009 which is why the group is calling for manufacturers to stop using BPA. Some countries, including Japan have already removed it. BPA is showing up in the majority of Americans, at rates higher than other populations studied.

Now, new tests of canned food marketed to children also found BPA lurking in the can liners.

It's used in the lining of most food or soda cans (you can sometimes see a white or clear plastic-like liner inside the can). The chemical leaches into food and beverages and has been linked to a variety of diseases including breast cancer.

The Breast Cancer Fund tested these 6 canned foods that are marketed to children:

• Annie's Homegrown Cheesy Ravioli

• Campbell's Disney Princess Cool Shapes, Shaped Pasta with Chicken in Chicken Broth

• Campbell's Spaghettios with Meatballs

• Campbell's Toy Story Fun Shapes, Shaped Pasta with Chicken in Chicken Broth

• Chef Boyardee Whole Grain Pasta, Mini ABC's & 123's with Meatballs

• Earth's Best Organic Elmo Noodlemania Soup

According to the non-profit group, every food sample tested positive for BPA. BCF says Campbell's Disney Princess and Toy Story soups had the highest amounts. Researchers are concerned because the levels found in these children's foods disrupt the body's delicate, developing hormonal systems.

You can lower kids' exposure to BPA by cutting down on canned and processed foods and eating more fresh foods.

Campbell Soup Company spokesman Anthony Sanzio told Web MD:

"BPA is used by the entire industry as a can lining to protect the food because it is approved for that use," says Sanzio. "We are talking about parts per billion here. These are very small, minute amounts that regulatory bodies have said don't pose a threat to human health."

"We are confident in what the science tells us, but that does not mean that we don't understand the concerns that consumers have expressed," says Sanzio.

Click here to see how to lower your child's exposure to BPA

Click here to read Washington Post article about how BPA lobbyists are trying to stop the chemical from being banned.

Get a fresh perspective on health: Heather's Natural Health

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Heather's 5 Day Fat Fighting Food Challenge

Are you ready to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle? 
Take our 5 Day Fat Fighting Meal Plan challenge to see how you feel cutting out processed foods, sodas and replacing them with real foods to fuel your body!
Dr. Christine Gerbstadt is a medical doctor and registered dietitian. 
Dr. Gerbstadt partnered with Heather to create this 5 day meal plan. It's designed to jumpstart your weight loss, fuel your body and help you get healthy!
The Fat Fighting Meal plan is for busy people who want quick and easy, real food meals.

Most meals are created for two people with leftovers for the next day. Feel free to make the recipes your own... add additional spices, herbs and garlic to give your food an extra kick! 
Each day has roughly 1500 calories. You can chose snacks from the approved snack list but they will add extra calories.
Swap out all soda (including diet!) all week for peach white or green tea. No artificial or chemical sweeteners allowed. You can also swap out meat for beans in many of the recipes.
Try to walk 20 to 30 minutes at least 3 days during your challenge.
It's as easy as 1, 2, 3:
1.) Print out your grocery list, Fat Fighting Meal Plan and recipes
2.) Cross off grocery items you already have
3.) Shop and post your calendar so you know what to eat
Day #1
Breakfast #1
Hard-boiled large egg
Greek yogurt with fresh fruit
1 slice whole grain toast with almond butter
Black coffee or tea
100 calorie snack
(Apple with almond butter)
100 calorie snack
Day #2
Breakfast #2
High fiber cereal & skim or almond milk
1 slice whole grain toast with almond butter
Fresh fruit
Black coffee or tea
100 calorie snack
Leftover chicken with sun-dried tomato/spinach/mushroom
1 slice whole grain bread
Fruit or vegetable
100 calorie snack
Day #3
Eat Breakfast #1 or Breakfast #2 any day
Both 400 calories and 20 grams of protein
#1 = 12 grams of fiber
#2 = 16 grams of fiber
100 calorie snack
Leftover turkey burger with Lentil Bean Salad on mixed greens or spinach
100 calorie snack
Day #4
Eat Breakfast #1 or Breakfast #2 any day
100 calorie snack
Leftover White Bean-Turkey Chilil
Fruit or vegetable
100 calorie snack
* Cook all beef but set aside unseasoned portion for spaghetti tomorrow
Day #5
Eat Breakfast #1 or Breakfast #2 any day
Egg can be hard-boiled or cook one egg with 1 egg white
100 calorie snack
Fruit or vegetable
100 calorie snack
Quinoa: Make a pot on day 1 for the week store in refrigerator. Use chicken broth instead ofto add flavor. Add garlic and spices
Beverages: Make a gallon of peach green or white tea for the week to replace soda. No chemical sweeteners allowed.
Fruit or vegetable: Snack on fresh fruit and use vegetables as side dishes.
Optional snacks: Choose from list of 100 snacks on 100 calorie snack list. Hard boil half a carton of eggs for breakfast/snack
Optional dessert: Fresh fruit, 100% fruit frozen fruit bar or 2 whole wheat fig newton cookies or half 70% chocolate bar.
*Real food fat fighting meal plan has roughly 1500 calories each day. Snack and dessert add extra calories. Portion sizes are for two people with leftovers for next day.