Monday, June 29, 2009

Natural ways to relieve pain

Taking too much Tylenol, Excedrin or other acetaminophen pain reliever can damage your liver.
In fact, the FDA says it is the leading cause of liver failure in the U.S.
The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the safety record of the medication. The FDA may add a "black box" warning and lower the doses of some of the drugs.

Drug companies insist the medication is safe if taken at recommended levels but some people unintentionally double their dosage because they don't realize acetaminophen can also be found in cough medicine, fever reducers or other pain relievers.

What about natural pain relievers?

I talked to two Bay area integrative medical doctors to see what they recommend.

You can read my online interview with Dr. Carol Roberts/Wellness Works and Dr. Steven Masley/Masley Optiminal Health Center.

**You can also email your medical, nutrition or supplement question to

Dr. Carol Roberts:

What advice do you give your patients about taking acetaminophen for pain?
I tell them it's OK if they don't have a liver problem to take it occasionally.

What do you recommend your patients take for pain relief?

The question is, are they having pain much of the time, or only occasionally? The treatment of a muscle sprain is different than that for fibromyalgia, a more chronic condition.

I recommend fish oil (or flax for my vegetarian friends), 2 capsules every four hours for pain relief. If they have chronic pain, as with arthritis, they must look for the underlying cause, which is often food allergies (dairy, eggs and wheat being the most common) or toxic metal accumulation which must be treated by a knowledgeable physician.

Many people have inflammation in the system which makes them more vulnerable to chronic pain. This can be caused by gum disease, chronic sinus infections, toxic accumulations or a deficiency of antioxidant foods.

Some people are deficient in endorphins (a natural form of morphine produced in the body). these people are often helped with a regimen of the amino acid DL-phenylalanine,(DLPA) 500mg taken 2-3 times a day. Don't take this if you have blood pressure problems.

Others are adrenal depleted from chronic stress, in which case an "adaptogenic" herb like licorice root, ashwaganda or ginseng would be helpful.

Are there certain foods you recommend that have an anti-inflammatory effect?

The full rainbow of fruits and veggies are full of antioxidants. Some of the best are blueberries, carrots, red grapes and wine, parsley, watercress, peppers and so on....Noni, gogi berries and mangosteen are antioxidant "superfoods" that can be purchased in the supermarket.

Any other suggestions to help people who would like to try more natural treatments for pain?

Stay away from caffeine, refined sugar, white flour and allergy foods. Drink lots of clean water, as dehydration causes pain in joints and spine. Detoxify yourself. Do stretching (yoga, Tai Chi) on a regular basis.. Find a good bodyworker (massage, Rolfing, Structural Integration).

Acupuncture is highly effective for chronic pain and has none of the side effects of drugs.

White willow is a natural form of aspirin but it has the same safety profile and can cause stomach problems.

Homeopathic ARNICA MONTANA is a great treatment for sprains, bruises and sore muscles. It will prevent the soreness after a heavy workout when taken right after. It will reduce the need for drugs even after surgery. Two or three tiny pellets under the tongue is usually enough, - may repeat if necessary if soreness happens. Extremely safe.

You've talked about the benefits of fish oil. How much should people take a day?

Fish oils can "thin" the blood. If you're on Coumadin or other blood thinners, or if you're about to have surgery, go easy on the fish oil..

Anything else you'd like to add?

What ever else you do, make a strong effort to correct the habits that you have control over. Work with a qualified health care person who can help you get to the underlying cause of your pain, and don't take pain-killers any more than absolutely necessary!

Dr. Steven Masley:

What do you recommend your patients take for pain relief?



Are there certain foods you recommend that have an anti-inflammatory effect?


Any other suggestions to help people who would like to try more natural treatments for pain?


You've talked about the benefits of fish oil. How much should people take a day?

Any concerns?

EVERYONE SHOULD GET AT LEAST 1 GRAM DAILY (3 SERVINGS OF COLD WATER, SMALL MOUTH FISH PER WEEK. Taking more than 2 grams daily does have a slight bleeding risk.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Safest Sunscreens

**If you want to read about the top 5 sunscreens, I put the information at the bottom of the page.

If you want to hear why this melanoma survivor (me) rarely wears sunscreen, read on.

The other day my friend asked me what kind of sunscreen do I use.

You might think I dip myself in sunscreen every morning, but it's actually the opposite.

I was diagnosed with melanoma in my 20's so I am always cautious when I'm outside and I try not to put a lot of chemicals on my skin.

A few years ago, a professor told me many suncreens use chemicals to create a barrier between your skin and the sun. Your body asbsorbs those chemicals. Researchers are taking a closer to look to see how those chemicals impact the body.

I posted an earlier story about how the CDC, Centers for Disease Control also studied sunscreen ingredients found in the bloodstream.

While the jury is out, I prefer to wear sun protective clothing.

I actually bought a few cover-ups and had them tailored so you can't tell they're sun protective jackets. I wear them over my swimsuit and I usually hang out in the shade. My husband & I love to go boating so I had to find a way to make this work!

I do wear a non-chemical, mineral powder sunscreen on my face.

It has a great brush applicator so I can keep it in my purse. You can also find similar brands at Sephora.

Some of the companies that sell sun protective clothing include:

SPFstore (great cotton t-shirts)

Coolibar (affordable)

Ayana (stylish)

But what about your kids?

My good friend, former TV producer and mom of two, Eve, researched this for us.

She says this non-chemical sunscreen (California Baby) is good for wiggly faces and the same company makes a good one for the rest of them.

(They also happen to be listed as 2 of the top 10 best sunscreens. Beware, a few years ago I bought the number rated sunscreen but it turned me into a greasy, Casper the ghost! There is a fine balance here. It has to work and you can't scare your friends!)

Eve tries her best to keep their sun protective clothes and hats on their little bodies (but you know how that goes!)

Kids clothes:


Cabana Life (Target)

Now to your sunscreens:

The sunscreen screening site, put together by the Environmental Working Group (consumer advocacy group), gives detailed information about all the products and rates them based on chemical exposure and effectiveness.

The group took a closer look at about 900 sunscreens.

Only 14% out of 891 tested met their criteria for safe & effective.

Read about it here.

Search to see how your favorite sunscreen faired here.

Check out EWG's top 5 sunscreens:

1. Soleo/Atlantis Resort Organic chemical free sunscreen SPF 30+

2. Soleo/Wyland Sunscreen Organic chemical free sunscreen SPF 30+

3. Soleo Organics Sunscreen Organic chemical free sunscreen SPF 30+

4. Keys Soap Solar Rx Cosmetic Moisturizing Sunblock, SPF 30

5.California Baby Sunblock Stick Everyday/year-Round, SPF 30+

According to EWG, SPF numbers on sunscreen packages only cover UVB, the type of ray most responsible for burns.

**EWG is expected to release new sunscreen recommendations for 2009.

UVA is far less responsible for burning, but still can raise skin cancer risk, and only one sunscreen in five has effective UVA protection, Houlihan pointed out. There is no number that quantifies UVA protection, which depends on several factors. There are ingredients that protect well against UVA, but sunlight can break them down and make them ineffective if they're not formulated well.

Also, when sunscreen ingredients break down, they can penetrate the skin and trigger allergies. The ingredients are actually designed to break down; that's part of the function of absorbing energy and keeping it out of the skin. But some break down more quickly and easily than others.

The two ingredients recommended most include zinc and titanium, which don't break down in sunlight as others do, and offer longer lasting protection as a result. They also work by reflecting sunlight, rather than absorbing it.

You should look for both SPF numbers and zinc and titanium when buying suncreens.High SPF protects best against UVB. Zinc and titanium offer maximum UVA protection. Several ingredients are far less desirable although, depending on how they're blended and what else the products contain, they're not automatically undesirable. They are avobenzone, oxybenzone and padimate O, a relative of PABA, which has come into disrepute in recent years.

You can read more about how a skin cancer exam save my life by clicking here. I'd love to hear what type of sun protection works best for you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Plastic water bottle leaches chemical

Goodbye plastic water bottles...hello stainless steel or glass!

I've been writing stories about a controversial chemical, BPA, found in hard, plastic re-fillable water bottles, baby bottles and even the lining of cans for several years now.

Numerous animal & human studies show Bisphenol A (BPA) has been linked to reproductive problems (mimics estrogen), increase heart disease and diabetes risk.

But this new Harvard study motivated me to finally buy a $20 dollar, 40 ounce stainless steel water bottle. (I bought mine at Whole Foods...but I've seen them at Target & Walgreens--just make sure the inside is stainless steel)

The new study from Harvard School of Public Health is the first to show that Bisphenol A found in those popular, hard plastic re-fillable bottles and baby bottles leaches into the food or drink in the container even when NOT heated.

You can read Harvard study here:

Check your plastic containers. Many plastic bottles have a number on the bottom. Avoid #7 which most likely contains BPA. According to the non-profit, consumer advocacy group, Environmental Working Group, safer choices include #1, #2, & #4.
Or do what I did... invest in a stainless steel water bottle and buy simple clear glasses to use at home.

Here's an article I wrote about how to cutdown on your BPA exposure.