Mayo Clinic Complementary and Alternative Medicine Conference


Syllabus photo

Last weekend I attended the Mayo Clinic Complementary and Alternative Medicine Conference. Along with about 29 other major medical centers that include Harvard, Yale, Duke, Cleveland Clinic and Georgetown, Mayo has a department dedicated to Integrative Medicine. A broad range of topics were presented at the conference including Integrative Medicine for Women’s Health, chronic pain, headaches and weight loss. There were sessions on acupuncture, Taiji, Qigong, and Laughter, as well as updates on nutritional supplements and hormone replacement . Although I would like to share all of the conference information with you, I have put just a few facts in the “We already kind of knew that but it’s nice to be reminded category and a “Really? category. The goal of the Mayo physicians was to present e research based information.

“We already kind of knew that” category:

1. Acupuncture has been shown to decrease dysmenorrhoea.

2. Tai Chi improves balance and decreases falls in the elderly.

3. Flaxseed and fish oil lower triglycerides.

4. Probiotics can positively impact gut health

5. The Mediterranean Diet (olive oil, whole grains, fruits and vegetables) can result in a 75% less chance of death over the first 5 years after a myocardial infarction.

 “Really?” category:

1. Metformin (a type II diabetes drug) “results in vitamin B12 deficiency in 30% of patients.” This was of interest to me because many of my infertility patients with PCOS symptoms have been put on metformin by their physicians.

2. 90% of women have inadequate intake of folate and vitamin E from food. This has important implications for women in their reproductive years, as it has been well established that folate and its cousin folic acid are key players in healthy formation of the spinal cord in babies.

3. 73% of women do not eat more than three servings of vegetables per day. Five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables (combined) is considered essential to obtain needed nutrients. My opinion is that women struggling with infertility or who are already pregnant need even more.

4. 55% of people do not tell their physicians what supplements they are taking.

5. Patients electing to have “food allergy testing” should know that most of the companies doing expensive testing look at the blood “Igg” response which is not definitive. Measuring “Ige” response is more accurate. Dr. Larry Bergstrom from the Mayo Clinic said people should simple eat a food, “and see how it makes them feel”.

6. In a study done with Topirimate vs. Yoga for migraines, more patients improved with Yoga. Their anxiety and depression scores improved more also.

7. Laughter makes our bodies relax and the effects can last up to 45 minutes.

Although these “take aways” seem to cover many different topics, the conference was indeed broad in scope. As always, I will be discussing more information from the conference with each of my patients, as indicated.

Berry Good News

photoA study published in the the American Heart Associations’s journal  Circulation, has revealed that women who consume at least three servings per week of blueberries or strawberries per week have a 30% reduced risk of a heart attack. While it is not new news that berries are good for us, it is good to hear it confirmed (especially at the cost of berries). I like this research for two reasons. One, the subjects were young women (in many studies the subjects were men) and two, the researchers “controlled” for variables such as weight, exercise, family history, blood pressure, caffeine and alcohol intake.

It is believed that the active ingredient in the berries is anthocyanin, the researchers caution that it is not possible to know for sure which of the many components of a blueberry is the one responsible for the good effects. It could be another component, or all of them. So eat whole foods, not dietary supplements !

Other good news: research has indicated that the nutrients in blueberries are fairly well preserved in the freezing process.

Click for the full story.



gatoradeMy patients have heard me say that it is OK to count all liquids when assessing whether they have reached a good intake for the day. HOWEVER, if they walk in with a brightly colored “Power Drink”, they will have points deducted and will  get a mini-lecture.

Drinks such as Powerade and some citrus drinks made by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group contain brominated vegetable oil, which is used to keep the fruit flavor evenly distributed in the drink.  Known as “BVO”, it is also used as a flame retardant, in upholstery fabric, and in children’s products. BVO builds up in our tissues and some human studies have linked high levels to neurological impairment, reduced fertility, thyroid changes, and early puberty.

Approximately 10,000 chemicals are used in prepared foods, and only about 3,000 of them have FDA approval. This is because there is a law allowing the FDA to allow use of a chemical based on data from a company’s own “expert”. Brominated vegetable oil is one of the chemicals that lacks adequate testing and is not approved by the FDA. Europe and Japan have banned it already banned its use. So be your own FDA (Fertility Drug Assessor !) and read the labels of your drinks. And since they also contain artificial coloring and often come in plastic bottles, you should pass on them anyway !

To Bean or not to Bean…..

I recently returned from Japan where I consumed a lot of soy, which made me think about how many of my patients have asked me about whether soy is good or bad for health. Some of my patients have heard or read that soy is “good” and so consume a lot of it.

The fact is, whether eating soy and soy products is good or bad for our health depends on which research studies you read. However there are some facts you can ponder.

Soy plants contain “phytoestrogens”, or plant based estrogens, which in theory can affect our bodies the way that our own endogenous estrogens, or synthetic estrogens can.

Some studies seemed to show that intake of soy could block the effect of our own estrogen by attaching to estrogen receptor cells in the breast, thereby reducing the growth of estrogen sensitive breast cancers. However a recent study in the Journal of Cancer Prevention Research casts doubt on this theory. Some studies have shown that menopausal hot flashes are reduced for some, but not all people taking soy supplements.  A POSSIBLE link between soy and increased cognitive impairment in older people has also been observed, but other research has come to the opposite conclusion.

So what is a person to do ? So much that I advise patients about always comes back to what I call the “Goldi Locks Principle”.  Not too much, not too little. Everything in moderation.

I always have new patients keep a food journal for a week. One of my patients who came for help with irregular periods recorded that she had soy milk on her cereal for breakfast every morning, followed by soy yogurt for a mid morning snack, and frequently ate soy cheese as an evening appetizer.  She liked cheese and thought soy would be better than dairy based cheese.

I would say this is probably too much to have everyday, especially since the above products may contain a lot of “processed soy” which contains large amounts of soy “isoflavones” that may be a culprit in some of the possible negative effects of soy.

There may be something about whole soy beans and fermented soy that is healthier for us than soy supplements or soy isoflavones. So unless your physician advises you to avoid all types of soy for a specific reason, you should enjoy edamame (whole soy beans), tofu (preferably pickled or fermented), tempeh (a form of fermented soy), and miso (fermented rice, barley, and soy combined).  Maybe just not three servings per day, seven days per week.