It worked again!

This was more of an annoyance than anything, but over Friday and Saturday, I started to get a head cold. No sore throat or aches but a stuffy nose and head, general fatigue. Once again, I started up with my favorite combo of beta glucan, Resist Immune and extra vitamin C. I normally take about 4-5 grams a day, so this time I was only adding a few extra grams. Today, Sunday, the head cold is virtually gone, energy is better. This happens consistently when I’ve used this combo and a few people I’ve tried this with have had similar success. I’d say it is worth a shot! Others also swear by Heath Concerns Cold Away (we are out just at the moment but should have more in in a couple of weeks.) What works for you?

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Top Ten Reasons to Support the New York Buyers’ Club

As we reach the finish of the New York Buyers’ Club fundraiser, we thought it was time to circulate the “Top Ten Reasons” to support NYBC–in case there are those of you out there who aren’t familiar with the unique contributions this nonprofit co-op and information exchange makes to the lives of people with HIV and/or Hepatitis C.

Learn more and make your donation at

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/empower-people-with-hiv-hep-c-to-thrive

TOP TEN REASONS TO SUPPORT THE NEW YORK BUYERS’ CLUB

1. ThiolNAC. NYBC is the only source for this formula combining two widely recommended and well-researched antioxidants, alpha lipoic acid and NAC (N-acetylcysteine). ThiolNAC is especially useful for people with HIV and those with liver disease. NYBC’s combination formula reduces both cost and pill count.

2. NYBC stocks a unique lineup of high quality, specially formulated multivitamins, including Added Protection and Ultra Preventive Beta from Douglas Labs, and the Super Immune Multivitamin and Opti-Energy Easy Swallow from SuperNutrition, Member pricing for these multis is very low—in fact, Douglas asked us to hide the Member price from the general public!

3. NYBC’s MAC Pack and Opti-MAC Pack provide a mix of antioxidants and micronutrients very similar to those in K-PAX®, but at half the price. (Included in many formularies, K-PAX®, is based on Dr. Jon Kaiser’s 2006 journal article that reported an increase in CD4 count for people with HIV taking the nutrient combination.)

4. NYBC stocks a wide selection of Traditional Chinese Medicine supplements, from suppliers like Health Concerns, Pacific Biologic, and Zhang. (NOTE: Zhang products are available only if you log into the NYBC website as a Member.)

5. PharmaNAC®. This effervescent, extremely stable form of NAC (N-acetylcysteine) supports respiratory and immune function. In particular, it holds promise for people with cystic fibrosis, according to recent clinical trials conducted at Stanford. NYBC has stocked an effervescent form of NAC since 2004, based on its well-supported usefulness for chronic conditions.

6. NYBC specializes in probiotics like Florastor® and Jarro-Dophilus EPS. Probiotics support gastrointestinal health, a foundation for general health. And, a recent review in the Journal of the American Medical Association found probiotics effective for preventing and treating antibiotic-related diarrhea, a common side effect.

7. NYBC monitors and presents to its Members the latest research on supplements to support cardiovascular health, including fish oil, CoQ10, plant sterols, and Vitamin D.

8. NYBC annual membership is a tremendous bargain at $5 (low-income, unemployed), $10 (middle-income), or $25 (higher income). Do you know of any other organization that offers annual memberships as low as $5, yet gives you such significant savings?

9. The NYBC Blog alphabetically indexes more than 400 informative posts, providing the latest research news about supplements in an easy-to-read online format.

10. Yes, you can talk to a live person at NYBC! Our Treatment Director, George Carter, has two decades of experience with supplement research, especially for people with HIV and/or liver disease. Reach him at our toll-free number 800-650-4983.

New study in Journal of the American Medical Association shows that a multivitamin + selenium slows progression of HIV

The Journal of the American Medical Association has published a new study showing that a multivitamin and selenium combination supplement significantly reduced immune decline and morbidity in people with HIV who were treatment naïve (=not on antiretroviral/ARV therapy). This was a two year study with individuals who had CD4 counts above the recommended threshold for beginning ARV treatment. Over the two-year period, the combination of a daily multivitamin plus the mineral selenium cut by about half the risk of reaching the point where ARV therapy would be recommended (CD4 count of 200-250).

This study shows the importance of daily multivitamin + selenium supplementation for HIV+ people who are recently infected and/or have relatively high CD4 counts. It also provides further confirmation of the value of multivitamin, multimineral supplement strategies like the one included in the NYBC MAC-Pack.

CATIE booklet on side effects

CATIE, the venerable and sharp Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange, has once again provided a terrific manual entitled A Practical Guide to HIV Drug Side Effects (link – http://www.catie.ca/en/practical-guides/hiv-drug-side-effects ).

The booklet, available as a pdf by clicking the link above, covers a wide array of topics. The language is clear and the layout is easy to follow. They provide information on mainstream medical and “alternative” or natural remedies to manage what can be debilitating side effects of HIV therapy.

Topics covered include the range found in the table of contents:

This Guide Is One Tool to Healthy Living
4 Dealing with Side Effects
8 My Health Map
10 Body Weight and Body Shape Changes
14 Diarrhea, Gas and bloating
17 Emotional wellness
21 Fatigue
24 Headaches
27 Menstrual changes
31 Mouth and throat problems
35 Muscle aches and pains
38 Nausea, vomiting and appetite loss
42 Nerve pain and numbness
44 Rash and other problems of the skin,
hair and nails
47 Sexual difficulties
49 Sleep problems
53 Less common side effects: lactic acidosis,
pancreatitis and abacavir hypersensitivity
55 Appendix: Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D
57 More Resources

Probiotics Conference Report

Below is a report on a recent conference on one of our favorite categories of supplement–PROBIOTICS.
We aren’t surprised that prestigious scientific organizations like the New York Academy of Sciences devote their resources to spreading the word about Probiotics. Over the last 100 years, these “friendly bacteria” have been the subject of an enormous amount of scientific study, confirming their crucial role in maintaining the human body’s immune system. And we also know that many NYBC members over the years have benefited from use of Probiotics such as the Jarrodophilus line from Jarrow, or Florastor (Saccharomyces boulardii). For a full list of these Probiotics, with indications for their use and dosing recommendations, see the NYBC catalog at PROBIOTICS AT NYBC

Report on
Probiotics, Prebiotics, and the Host Microbiome:
The Science of Translation
Wednesday, June 12, 2013 | 7:45 AM – 6:00 PM
/The New York Academy of Sciences
George M. Carter

This was a day-long series of discussions, with nearly 70 posters that brought together a variety of researchers, clinicians and, of course, pharma reps sniffing around for profits.  And all about the horrors of–BACTERIA! Of course, some bacteria cause disease…but most of them not only don’t, but we need them to live. And there are indeed a lot of them!

These good ones, when they are found in the diet or as a supplement, are known as probiotics, such as acidophilus or bifidobacteria. They are found, for example, in yogurt or other fermented foods. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are substances that help to facilitate the growth of those good bacteria, but are otherwise non-digestible. They include fiber (soluble or insoluble) and agents such as beta glucans, inulin and oligosaccharides.

There seemed to be a general feeling of anticipation as our knowledge grows about the microbes we share—and depend upon for our survival. Various populations of microbes live in distinct communities on and in our bodies. Each bacterium has its own set of DNA, just like each of our human cells (except cells like platelets and red blood cells). All of our human cell  DNA contributes about 25,000 genes. By contrast, if you add up all the “bugs” in and on our bodies, that figure runs into the MILLIONS of genes, recent estimates placing the number at about 8 million. And if you removed all the microbes from your body, aside from killing you, that entire amount of bacteria would weigh up to 3 pounds!

That collection of microbes and their genes and gene-products are known as the microbiome.  This is a complex system of various species of bacteria that interact with the host (us) and other bacteria. They tend to form ecologies at various sites so that the crew found in your nostrils may not be the same as that found in the gut, the vagina, or on the skin, for example. And the patterns of bugs that colonize us are different from person to person to some degree—and even change over the course of a lifetime.

These various types of bacteria are categorized by their taxonomy. Taxa refers to the genus, species and strain of the bacteria; for example, you may have heard of Lactobacillus acidophilus, often found in enriched yogurts. “Lactobacillus” is the genus name and “acidophilus” is the species. These also may be divided into further subtypes known as strains, so one strain is L. acidophilus L1, used to feed cattle to reduce the amount of bad bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7.

And these bacteria are necessary for our survival. They perform a huge number of functions, including producing some vitamins, training our immune systems, blocking bad bacteria from growing, and even altering our moods. They communicate within and between species of bacteria, as well as with our body. Some of them may cause trouble, including Helicobacter pylori (ulcers) and Clostridia difficile (colitis). How best to treat a dysbiosis (=microbial imbalance on or inside the body)  is evolving as we increase our understanding of the relationships and ecologies of these bacterial communities.

The alterations in the nature of these communities arise from the time we are born. If one is born by a Caesarean, one tends to get more of the microbes of the mother’s skin as opposed to the vaginal microbial system that the infant collects during a vaginal birth. Whether this has any longer term clinical impact remains unclear, though some evidence suggests that those born by Caesarean may be at higher risk of allergies or asthma. The microbiota tend to establish themselves as a more adult phenotype by the tender age of 2 or 3.  Some researchers are developing models that look at similarities in the patterns of the microbes such that people are divided into 2 or 3 enterotypes.Although this attempt at classification is still evolving, it may help us see how an individual’s response to or problems with host bacteria can be understood and managed.

Indeed, some of the sessions focused on new discoveries of particular bacteria that appear to be associated with protection from certain diseases, or may be implicated in causing disease. One group discussed their findings of a putative association of Akkermansia muciniphilia with the development of diabetes, while others focused on patterns of the microbiome that might underscore a potential for obesity. Many of the sessions were devoted to research in mice, which was moderately interesting from an academic perspective. Others looked at the inter-relationship between probiotics and brain function as well as “gut feelings” (the gut containing what some have dubbed a second brain’s worth of neuronal innervation).

This raised some  issues abouthow to study these agents in the context of a Food and Drug Administration that is at the least bureaucratically hostile to the study of dietary supplements and currently forbids them to be marketed as preventing, curing or mitigating diseases. Discussion was devoted to these challenges, but I think it failed to get to the heart of the matter, namely, that we need—VERY carefully[1]—to address how to create rulemaking with regard to Investigational New Drug requirements that does not require an absurd level of documentation of safety for products ALREADY on the market and in widespread use!

Other studies in humans can avoid the onerous process of acquiring an IND by using a primary endpoint (what the study seeks to establish) that is more in line with either the supplement’s use as a “medical food” (a very narrow definition), or that seeks to improve outcomes to structure or function of the body (the currently allowed dietary supplement claim).

The frightening prospect, to me, was the pharma reps sniffing around, no doubt seeing how they can “capitalize” on and/or patent products to extract huge profits. The notion of “public-private” partnerships in this arena gives me the horrors as it usually means taking away access except for the wealthy. We’re talking about products found in yogurt that have been used for millennia!

Still, the day also had a couple of remarkable and straightforward studies. The most exciting was the work of a group who helped women in various nations in Africa to produce their own probiotics and yogurt. This had the added advantage of creating an economic opportunity for the women, increasing respect from male householders as they brought in income while also improving health outcomes. This was augmented even more by the addition of a powder of the dried leaves of Moringa, a plant that grows like a weed from South America, throughout Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and which has a good array of micronutrient vitamins and minerals. Not in huge amounts, but fairly comprehensive.

A speaker from Scotland, Mr. Burns, also discussed the kind of “grassroots” organizing that they undertook in Scottish hospitals to translate research into the public health sphere. The point of this exhilarating talk was how to get from the bench to the bedside—in short, he was promoting a very comprehensive strategy for creating awareness among physicians and others, working with district leaders and hospital administrators. Their efforts got them, for example, to adhere more closely to checklists for surgeries and pneumonia management. By requiring and getting more attention to these matters, they were able to successfully, and dramatically, drop death rates. Some of these programs have run now for over 10 years, and involve getting physicians and others to prescribe probiotics or prebiotics and  actually use them in preventing C. diff. or better management of bacterial vaginosis,or management of HIV-related diarrhea!

It was a day packed with information and interesting people. I attended with Dr. Henry Sacks of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, with whom I have been working on a grant from the National Institutes of Health to undertake meta-analyses of various questions relating to the use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) approaches to managing HIV disease and ARV side effects. We are finishing up work on our first two questions, the use of a multivitamin/mineral among HIV+ people, and the management of peripheral neuropathy with Cannabis sativa. Our next question, which we are now beginning to work on, is the use of probiotics!

For more information, abstracts and so forth, please visit the NYAS website.

______

Footnote:
[1]  Any changes in IND rulemaking should be careful to avoid opening the floodgates to drug companies using such changes to weaken safety or oversight of new drugs, of course. Accelerated approval has been abused by the companies to push more drugs more rapidly onto the market that are NOT medically superior or addressing a desperate need as antiretroviral drugs were in the mid-90s.

Pomegranate juice and heart health

In the past decade, there have been a number of studies of the potential of pomegranate juice to support cardiovascular health and provide additional health benefits as well. Recently we reviewed a research report published in 2012 that looked at the cardiovascular and immune system benefits of pomegranate juice for hemodialysis patients. This was a randomized placebo controlled double-blind trial (a kind of research design that is likely to produce reliably objective findings). The patients were followed for one year as they used pomegranate juicee three times a week while continuing their dialysis treatments. The results:

Pomegranate juice intake resulted in a significantly lower incidence rate of the second hospitalization due to infections. Furthermore, 25% of the patients in the pomegranate juice group had improvement and only 5% progression in the atherosclerotic process, while more than 50% of patients in the placebo group showed progression and none showed any improvement.

And the conclusion:

Prolonged pomegranate juice intake improves nontraditional CV [cardiovascular] risk factors, attenuates the progression of the atherosclerotic process, strengthens the innate immunity, and thus reduces morbidity among HD [hemodialysis] patients.

Of course, this research involved a special group of patients, those on hemodialysis. But, as a well-designed study, it does, we think, provide a fairly strong endorsement of the health benefits of pomegranate juice.

For more on pomegranate juice, see the NYBC entry

http://nybcsecure.org/product_info.php?cPath=40&products_id=333

Note that NYBC also carries the Douglas supplement Cardio-Edge, which includes pomegranate:

http://nybcsecure.org/product_info.php?cPath=35&products_id=284

Reference: Shema-Didi, L et al. One year of pomegranate juice intake decreases oxidative stress, inflammation, and incidence of infections in hemodialysis patients: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Free Radic Biol Med. 2012 Jul 15;53(2):297-304. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2012.05.013. Epub 2012 May 17.

HIV and Aging: Living Long and Living Well

By 2015, more than 50% of the United States HIV population will be over 50. There are approximately 120,750 people now living with HIV/AIDS in NYC; 43% are over age 50, 75% are over age 40. Over 30% are co-infected with hepatitis.

What does the future hold for people with HIV and HIV/HCV as they get older?

These statistics and this question furnished the starting point for the New York Buyers’ Club March 28 event HIV and Aging: Living Long and Living Well, presented by Stephen Karpiak, PhD, of the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA).

Dr. Karpiak’s background uniquely positions him to paint the full picture behind the bare statistics, and to provide expert guidance through the complex healthcare challenges faced by the growing population of older people with HIV. After two decades as a researcher at Columbia University’s Medical School, Dr. Karpiak moved to Arizona, where he directed AIDS service organizations through the 1990s, including AIDS Project Arizona (which offered a supplements buyers’ club similar to NYBC’s). In 2002, back in NYC, he joined ACRIA as Assistant Director of Research, and was the lead investigator for the agency’s landmark 2006 study, Research on Older Adults with HIV. This report, the first in-depth look at the subject, surveyed 1,000 older HIV-positive New Yorkers on a host of issues, including health status, stigma, depression, social networks, spirituality, sexual behavior, and substance abuse.

Why are there more and more older people with HIV? The first and principal answer is very good news: HIV meds (HAART), introduced more than 20 years ago, have increased survival dramatically. Secondly, a smaller but still significant reason: older people are becoming infected with HIV, including through sexual transmission. (Older people do have sex, though sometimes healthcare providers don’t seem to acknowledge this reality.)

As Dr. Karpiak noted, HAART prevents the collapse of the immune system, and so it serves its main purpose, to preserve and extend life. And yet, as he reminded the audience, HIV infection initiates damaging inflammatory responses in the body that continue even when viral load is greatly suppressed. These inflammatory responses, together with side effects of the HIV meds, give rise to many health challenges as the years pass. In people with HIV on HAART, research over longer time periods has found higher than expected rates of cardiovascular disease, liver disease, kidney disease, bone loss (osteoporosis), some cancers, and neurological conditions like neuropathy.

That brings us to “multi-morbidity management”—a term we weren’t enthused about at first, since it sounded more like medical-speak than the plain talk our NYBC event had promised. But Dr. Karpiak gave us a simple definition: dealing with three or more chronic conditions at the same time (and HIV counts as one). He then made the case that this is a critical concept to grasp if older people with HIV are going to get optimal care. Multi-morbidity management, he explained, is a well-accepted healthcare concept in geriatric medicine, which recognizes that older people may have several conditions and will benefit from a holistic approach in order to best manage their health. Treating one condition at a time, without reference to other co-existing conditions, often doesn’t work, and sometimes leads to disastrously conflicting treatments.

And here’s where Dr. Karpiak warned about “polypharmacy”–another medical term worth knowing. “Polypharmacy” can be defined as using more than five drugs at a time. Frequently, it comes about when healthcare provider(s) add more and more pills to treat a number of conditions. But this approach can backfire, because, as a rule of thumb, for every medication added to a regimen, there’s a 10% increase in adverse reactions. That’s why adding more and more drugs to treat evolving conditions may be a poor approach to actually staying well.

In closing, Dr. Karpiak focused especially on a finding from ACRIA’s 2006 study: the most prevalent condition for older people with HIV, aside from HIV itself, was depression. Over two-thirds of those surveyed had moderate to severe depression. Yet while depression can have serious conse-quences–such as threatening adherence to HIV meds–it has remained greatly under-treated. It may seem an obvious truth, but as Dr. Karpiak underlined, psychosocial needs and how they’re met will play a big role in the health of people with HIV as they age. What social and community supports are available becomes a big medical question, and how healthcare providers and service organizations respond to it can make for longer, healthier lives for people with HIV.

And now we come back to NYBC’s contribution to the discussion on HIV and Aging. While NYBC doesn’t keep track of such information in a formal way, we do recognize that quite a few of our members have been using supplements since the days of our predecessor organization DAAIR–going back 20 years now. That’s a lot of accumulated knowledge about managing symptoms and side effects among people with HIV! To accompany the March 28 presentation, our Treatment Director George Carter drew up a pocket guide to complementary and alternative approaches: HIV and Aging – Managing and Navigating. Partly derived from his long experience, and partly drawn from a 2012 Canadian report, the guide ranges over those kinds of “co-morbidities” that Dr. Karpiak spoke of, including cardiovascular, liver, kidney, bone, and mental health conditions. Interventions or management strategies include supplements, but also diet and exercise recommendations, as well as psychosocial supports (counseling, support groups, meditation, and activism).

NYBC has also updated several info sheets from its website and blog, offering these as a way to address some of the most common healthcare issues facing people with HIV as they get older: cardiovascular topics; :digestive health; NYBC’s MAC-Pack (a close equivalent to K-PAX®); key antioxidants NAC and ALA and their potential to counter inflammatory responses; and supplement alternatives to anti-anxiety prescription drugs. These info sheets, together with the HIV and Aging – Managing and Navigating pocket guide, are available on the NYBC website and blog.

We hope that our HIV and Aging: Living Long and Living Well event has been useful to all. Special thanks to our audience on March 28, many of whom brought excellent questions to the session. Now let’s continue the conversation…

To your health,

New York Buyers’ Club

NYBC_March282013