Nutrition hotline

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Dr. Shari Lieberman Answers your Questions

Nutritional support for hypothyroidism
Q From J. M., Royal Oak, Mich.: What can I take for hypothyroidism? I would like to try something natural before I must resort to the prescribed medication.

A It is always amazing to me that, for simple hypothyroidism or goiter, an iodine supplement is not tried by physicians before resorting to medication. A simple iodine deficiency can easily manifest as hypothyroidism or goiter. Other nutrients critical to optimal thyroid function include zinc, selenium, and the amino acid, tyrosine. Iodine is in its highest concentration in the thyroid gland; specifically, iodine is a necessary constituent of thyroid hormones, which are used to regulate physical and mental growth, the functioning of the nervous system and muscles, circulatory activity, and the metabolism of all nutrients. Many supplement manufacturers make comprehensive nutritional support formulas for supporting thyroid function. If this didn't work, then it would be justified to try medication. We learned about hypothyroidism and goiter as a result of an iodine deficiency in nutrition 101!

Psyllium and other fibers for improved digestive health
Q From K.L, Manchester, Conn.: When I use psyllium, I get very gassy. When I use wheat bran, I don't. I also have better bowel movements with wheat bran. Any ideas why?

A Psyllium, oat bran, and guar gum are examples of watersoluble fibers, meaning they will actually mix with liquid and expand in your body. Whenever you use these types of fibers, it is imperative that you drink lots of fluids. If you don't, they may actually do the opposite and make you constipated and gassy. The fiber found in wheat bran is most insoluble, so it adds the bulk, without absorbing fluids. For some people, it works better than the more soluble fibers. The best thing to do is to try different types and see which one works best for you. I personally prefer the fiber supplements (available as capsules or powder) that mix several types of fiber together, so you get a balance.

Natural alternatives for easing sarcoidosis
Q From B.B., Bayside, N.Y.: I suffer from sarcoidosis in my lungs and do not want to take the drug prednisone. Is there anything "nutritional" I can try?

A Although I have not seen any specific research on nutrition and sarcoidosis (described as a chronic disease of unknown cause that is characterized by the formation of nodules in the lymph nodes, lungs, bones, and skin), I have seen excellent results using fish oil supplements (EPA/DHA), These supplements can actually work like natural cortisone, or prednisone, in decreasing inflammation. There are reports of using fish oil successfully with other autoimmune disorders. I would also recommend high-dose antioxidant supplementation, including all the major antioxidants: beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, and selenium. I have seen excellent results with coenzyme Q10 at higher doses, as well. I would also investigate the possibility of any food or environmental allergy (or sensitivity), which, in some individuals, may also be a culprit. l would work with a healthcare practitioner who specializes in allergies to see if there is any association. The most common foods that may be reactive include dairy and gluten (found in wheat, rye, oats, and barley).

Boswellia's benefits for ulcerative colitis
Q From R.A., Anaheim, Calif,: I recently read something about Boswellia and its benefits for ulcerative colitis. However, I don't remember the dose and how long to take it. Please help.

A In a clinical study with patients suffering from ulcerative coliris (grades II and III) (Eur J Med Res 2:37-43, 1997), standard drug treatment with sulfasalazine was compared to treatment with Boswellia serrata, from the Boswellia tree native to India. The tree yields a gum resin, known as salai guggul, as well as other active compounds, boswellic acids, which contribute to the botanical's anti-inflammatory action. In the study, patients were given 350 mg of capsules of Boswellia three times daily for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks, 82 percent of patients taking Boswellia and 75 percent of patients taking the drug went into remission. This study demonstrated that the drug and Boswellia treatment appeared to be equally effective, but the latter certainly has fewer or no side effects. Healthcare practitioners using Boswellia in their practice keep patients on it for long periods of time, and may taper the dose down if remission is maintained for one year.

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By Dr. Shari Lieberman

Shari Lieberman holds a Ph.D. in clinical nutrition and exercise physiology. She is a certified nutrition specialist (C.N.S.) and serves on the board of the American Preventive Medical Association. Write her in care of Better Nutrition. She cannot answer questions by direct mail or telephone. Nutrition Hotline is intended for educational purposes only. If you have a medical problem, consult your physician.

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