In my blog on proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) a couple of weeks ago, I discussed the dangers of these drugs that are commonly prescribed for treating GERD and indigestion. Patients often ask me if there are natural alternatives to PPIs.

I recommend complete digestive support that focuses on safely alleviating symptoms and restoring digestive tract health. The goals should be to:

  • Neutralize stomach acid to relieve heartburn, acid indigestion, bloating, GERD, and upset stomach.
  • Support digestion and normal gastrointestinal (GI) health and response.
  • Support normal GI immune and inflammatory response.
  • Support normal GI tract healing, provide support and protection to the mucosal lining, enhance GI permeability health, and address leaky gut syndrome and immune dis-regulation.
  • Provide optimal support for the epithelial lining of the GI tract, esophagus, throat and mouth.
  • Support nervous system/digestive system connection and assist the gut, nervous system, and brain network.
  • Support gum and oral tissue health.

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Inflammation is an essential part of our body’s immune defense. When we encounter pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, or parasites, our body responds with inflammation to fight the invaders and increase immune response. In these instances, inflammation is beneficial. But inflammation has a dark side—left unchecked, it can wreak havoc on cells, tissues, and organs. For example, it’s well established that chronic inflammation is a powerful force in the initiation, growth, and spread of cancer.

There are three essential points to consider: First, a chronic inflammatory state can, over time, initiate cancer development. Second, we still need to find the cause of the chronic state of inflammation—for example, pathogenic (chronic infection), life-style, stress, years of poor eating, or a combination of the above. And third, it is important to keep in mind that the cancer energy, as it gains in intelligence, manipulates our immune system, creating a cancer-favorable, pro-inflammatory micro-environment.

Research indicates that the systemic manifestations of inflammation can provide a valuable biomarker for prognosis and treatment stratification. Numerous studies indicate that a simple indicator of systemic inflammation—based on neutrophilia and/or lymphocytopenia—can provide prognostic information in a wide range of cancer types. In particular, the value of one index (the dNLR) derived from total white cell and neutrophil counts, is enabling large retrospective studies to be carried out.

Although not informative from a biological standpoint in distinguishing cause from effect, the results of these studies are likely to be of significance in how we approach cancer. In my practice, I always consider the role of inflammation in cancer and tailor protocols for patients accordingly. The following markers are among those I consider most important:

  • Tumor-associated neutrophils (TANs)
    Bio-Markers: CD11b+, CD66b+, CD63+

Tumor-associated neutrophils (TAN) play a major role in cancer biology. Neutrophils are the most abundant circulating leukocyte in humans, and are phenotypically plastic. Neutrophils, as a key component in inflammation, often play a crucial role in inflammation driven tumorigenesis. TAN can take an anti-tumorigenic (what we are calling an “N1-phenotype”) versus a pro-tumorigenic (“N2”) phenotype. The anti-tumor activities of N1 TANs include expression of more immuno-activating cytokines and chemokines, lower levels of arginase, and more capability of killing tumor cells. N2 neutrophils are pro-tumorigenic, and secrete T2 cytokines.


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Closely related to the culinary herb sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is a plant with a rich history of use as a healing herb. Because this venerable herb has so many applications, it has become one of my favorites. I often include holy basil in adaptogenic tonics, and also find it useful for specific conditions, ranging from support for cancer and cardiovascular disease to improving skin health.

Native to India, holy basil is also known as tulsi, which means “the incomparable one.” Considered as sacred in the Hindu faith, most traditional homes and temples in India have at least one tulsi plant, which is used in prayers to insure personal health, spiritual purity, and family well-being. In Ayurvedic medicine, tulsi is classified as a rasayana, an herb that nourishes a person’s growth to perfect health and enlightenment and promotes long life.


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Most of you know that I enjoy cooking—my intention is to create food that is not only delicious, but deeply nourishing. As an herbalist, I’m especially interested in the health benefits of common herbs and spices used in culinary traditions around the world. My Italian heritage means that basil, oregano, and rosemary play a prominent role in our kitchen, but our shelves are filled with a wide variety of spices and herbs. One of my favorites is turmeric, a deep golden yellow powder that is best known as an ingredient in East Indian curries. Throughout history, turmeric has been valued as a spice, food preservative, dye (giving Buddhist robes their familiar golden color), and most importantly, as a powerful plant medicine. A close relative of ginger, turmeric grows in southern India, China, and Indonesia.


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I recently conferred with a patient who had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory type of arthritis that affects the lining of the joints, causing painful swelling and potential joint destruction and deformity. The standard treatment for the disease is high dosages of pharmaceutical drugs, including anti-inflammatories, steroids, and immune suppressive drugs. The danger is that although these drugs suppress symptoms and may keep the disease somewhat under control, they do not address the underlying causes. And the side effects of these types of drugs can be significant, including serious liver damage, increased risk for infection, and heart disease.


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If you believe the findings of a recent highly publicized research report, you may be wondering if you should throw your fish oil supplements into the garbage. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (September 2012), researchers who evaluated data from 20 previous studies maintain that neither fish oil supplements nor a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids effectively reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In my estimation, this is a seriously flawed evaluation of research. I’ve collected an enormous amount of data that strongly suggest multiple benefits from the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, including protection from cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurological disease, and autoimmune disease, as well as for bone, skin, and lung health.


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