Monthly Archives: March 2016

Sex and Medicine

This information has been provided by Al Sears, MD and Doctor’s House Call. For more information or to sign up for a free subscription, visit


Health Alert 31

You may be taking a medication causing sexual dysfunction. Over 200 prescription drugs are known to cause sexual problems in both men and women. Common over-the-counter medications can also have side effects in the bedroom.

Many categories of prescription drugs can affect both sexual desire and sexual performance including:

  • Many blood pressure drugs
  • Almost all antidepressants
  • Some indigestion drugs
  • Most sedatives

Even ordinary drugstore antihistamines can cause this unwanted side effect.

Most patients I encounter aren’t aware that their medications are responsible for their loss of sexual desire, stamina or performance. They were never informed to look for this side effect and never suspected that their medications were the cause, once the side effect began.

Here is a list of some of the worst offenders.

  • Common Medications
  • That May Cause Impotence
  • Blood Pressure Norvasc
  • Vasotec
  • Lopressor
  • Antidepressant Zoloft
  • Prozac
  • Buspar
  • Antihistamine Dramamine
  • Benadryl
  • Digestion Zantac
  • Muscle Relaxant Norflex

If you are taking one of these drugs, your best bet of maintaining your sexual health is to find alternatives. But if you have to take them, there are natural remedies for the sexual problems they create.

* Herbal Libido Enhancers *

For centuries, people around the world have been improving their sexual health with herbs. Both men and women can use herbs to enhance libido naturally and safely.

If you are a man, the two best herbs to boost your libido and sexual capacity are:

  • Yohimbine
  • Muira Puama

Yohimbine is derived from the bark of an African tree. It has been used for years to restore sexual vigor and desire. Many studies have shown that yohimbine works. A German study examined 83 men with erectile dysfunction. The men took either yohimbine or a placebo for 8 weeks. 71% of the men who took yohimbine had an improvement in sexual function.1

I recommend 250 mg of yohimbine extract daily. It can easily be found in health food or vitamin stores.

Muira Puama is derived from the bark of a bush that grows in Brazil. Brazilian tribes use the extract as a cure for impotence. Researchers have given more attention to muira puama in recent years. One French study looked at muira puama’s effect on impotence. 262 impotent men were given muira puama for 2 weeks. Over half of the men reported an improvement in their erectile dysfunction. 2 I recommend 100 mg of muira puama extract daily. It can also be found in health food or nutrition stores.

If you are a woman, you can improve your sex life with:

  • Damiana
  • Ginkgo

Damiana leaves come from an aromatic shrub native to Mexico. For generations, the leaves have been made into a tea to increase sexual desire. Damiana is traditionally known as an energizer and aphrodisiac. You can now find it in supplement form.

Ginkgo has become popular for memory improvement in recent years. Ginkgo promotes circulation, improving blood flow to the brain. But, the brain is not the only body part that can benefit from an increase in blood flow. Gingkos aphrodisiac qualities may derive from improved blood flow to the genitals.

A recent study examined an herbal supplement containing both Damiana and Ginkgo. Women participants received either the supplement or a placebo. After one month, over 73% of the women receiving the herbal supplement experienced a marked improvement in their sexual satisfaction. 3

I recommend taking 400 mg of Damiana and 250 mg of Ginkgo. If your sex life is suffering from the side effects of drugs, talk to your doctor about stopping the drug. If you can’t, with a little help from Mother Nature, you may not need to suffer.

Al Sears, MD

1 Vogt H. et al., Double-blind placebo controlled safety and efficacy trial with yohimbine hydrocloride in the treatment of nonorganic erectile dysfunction. Int J Imot Rs 1997; 9: 155-161

2 Waynberg J. First International Congress on Ethnopharmacology, Strabourg, France June 5-9, 1990

3 Ito T. A double blind placebo-controlled study of a nutritional supplement for enhancement of female sexual function. J Sex Marital Ther 2001 Oct-Dec; 27(5): 541-549

Which Antioxidants Do I Take?

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Health Alert 36

Patients often ask me, “Doctor, which vitamins do you take?” This is what I tell them:

• I have taken a multivitamin every day for 30 years.

• Periodically, I have to change the formula that I take. The adjustments reflect changes in the science of nutrition and preventative medicine.

• The most important change in the last 10 years has been the addition of antioxidants.

Antioxidants are your body’s free radical fighters. Free radicals are fragments of oxygen, which are byproducts of normal metabolic processes. Free radicals destroy the cells in your body. Along with a multivitamin, I take the following antioxidants. They should become a part of your regimen too.

* Vitamin A *

Vitamin A is in a family of compounds called carotenoids. It is fat-soluble and very important for health maintenance. Vitamin A is best known for aiding in good eyesight. But this vitamin does much more. Here are some other attributes of Vitamin A:

• Prevents night blindness by preventing free radical damage in the eye.

• Acts as a powerful free radical scavenger in fat soluble tissues

• Lowers the risk of macular degeneration, which is the most common cause of blindness in the elderly.

• Decreases the risks of lung and breast cancer by supporting the immune system.

• Maximizes skin health by playing a key role in the integumentary system.

Vitamin A can be found naturally in meat, milk, eggs, liver, carrots, and spinach. I recommend taking 2,500 IU of Vitamin A per day.

* Vitamin E *

The term Vitamin E is actually a generic word for a group of eight compounds. These compounds include four types of tocopherols and 4 types of tocotrienols. Put simply, tocopherols and tocotrienols are specific types of Vitamin E. Vitamin E has been shown to:

• Fight free radicals that cause diseases of inflammation (such as rheumatoid arthritis)

• Lower risk of heart disease by increasing blood circulation

• Lower risk of cancers in the prostate, colon , and breast

The best way to get Vitamin E is as a mix of the four tocopherols and the four tocotrienols. It is important to note that too much of one tocopherol in the body can stop the absorption of the other tocopherols. So a good mix is to your greatest advantage. I recommend 400 IU of Vitamin E a day.

* Vitamin C *

Vitamin C was discovered over 70 years ago. Since then, it has gained a reputation as a preventative for colds. But it has more important tasks. Vitamin C is required for many of the body’s life-sustaining functions. Humans are among only a handful of animals that do not naturally produce Vitamin C. So we have to get Vitamin C from our diet. Here are some of Vitamin C’s important functions:

• Fights free radicals before they can do damage

• Maintains body structure by being an important ingredient in collagen (collagen’s integrity is dependent on Vitamin C)

• Helps the immune system by stimulating antibodies and other immune system cells

• Aids the nervous system by contributing to the production of amino acids that regulate the nervous system.

• Helps to break down histamines with are the inflammatory element of allergic reactions

Vitamin C is found in an array of foods including oranges, strawberries, broccoli, and bell peppers. For antioxidant amounts of Vitamin C, you’ll have to take additional amounts in supplement form. I recommend 500 mg twice a day. Take it with food to avoid an upset stomach.

* Alpha Lipoic Acid *

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) was discovered in 1951. It plays a vital part in the production of cellular energy. It has been dubbed the “Universal Antioxidant” because of its ability to fight free radicals in both the fatty and water areas of cells. Here are some other functions of ALA:

• Lowers the risk of atherosclerosis, lung disease, and neurological disorders by fighting the specific free radicals that contribute to these afflictions.

• Recycles and extends the life of other free radicals like Vitamin C, E, and CoQ10.

ALA is most commonly found in red meat. I recommend taking 100 mg of alpha lipoic acid every day.

* Coenzyme Q10 *

I have talked about Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) in past Health Alerts. CoQ10 is crucial in the creations of energy that cells use to exist. CoQ10 is produced naturally in the body. The body cannot survive without the presence of CoQ10. Coenzyme Q10 is has also been found to:

• Destroy free radicals in the cell membranes.

• Preventing arteriosclerosis by protecting against the accumulation of oxidized fat in blood vessels.

• Successfully treats heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

CoQ10 is found in fish and in the organ meats of animals. I recommend taking 30 mg of CoQ10 every day.

* Lutein *

Like Vitamin A, Lutein is a member of the carotenoid family. It is a one of several carotenoids that makes pigment in vegetables. It also contributes to pigment in your retina. Lutein is a crucial part of eye health. Lutein:

• Protects vision by neutralizing free radical in the lens and retina of the eye.

• Acts like sunglasses by shielding the eye from harmful sunlight.

• Lowers the risk of certain cancer and cardiovascular disease by stopping free radical damage that contributes to these diseases.

Lutein can be found in red grapes, egg yolks, squash, peas, and oranges. I recommend taking 20 mg of lutein every day.

* Lycopene *

Lycopene is also part of the carotenoid family. It is the pigment in many vegetables. And is most commonly found in tomatoes. Once absorbed, lycopene is widely distributed in the body. It is concentrated most in the liver, lungs, prostate, colon, and skin. Lycopene’s many functions include:

• Prevents coronary artery disease by stopping the oxidation of LDH (bad) cholesterol.

• Reduces the risk of prostate and pancreatic cancers by fighting free radical damage.

• Aids in preventing macular degeneration by neutralizing free radicals in the eye.

Lycopene is found in tomatoes, guava, peppers, watermelon, and pink grapefruit. I recommend taking 20 mg of lycopene a day for maximum health.

All of these antioxidants except for Vitamin C are oil soluble. All the oil soluble antioxidants should be taken in gel cap form. Try to find as many of them as you can together in a single supplement. Take them with a teaspoon of flaxseed oil or peanut butter for best absorption. Or taking them during a meal with fat will do the trick.

Al Sears MD

Why is the butterfly pea flower effective?

This information has been provided by Al Sears, MD and Doctor’s House Call. For more information or to sign up for a free subscription, visit


If you have been following my story, you know I love traveling. One reason is I love to explore.


Another reason?

I love to eat!

One of the great things about traveling the world is getting to sample the local cuisine. When I was living with the Guarani tribe in Peru, I drank beer made of yucca root that the native women spit into the ground and let ferment. I ate raw worms and grubs.

I’ve eaten the “Food of the Gods” in the Amazon. An incredible fruit called cupuaçu that tastes like a heavenly blend of chocolate and vanilla.

I’ve sampled so many unusual foods that it’s hard to surprise me. But that’s exactly what happened in Bali when I was served “blue rice” topped with coconut for dessert.


It was so bright and vivid I thought it had to be food coloring. And it was.

Sort of.

The brilliant blue color came from the butterfly pea plant. The flowers of the butterfly pea are the most spectacular of all the flowers in Bali. And that’s no small feat!


My friend Lelir, a “Balian” known as a local healer on the island of Bali, grows her favorite flower in her own garden.

But as I learned from my friends Westi and Lelir, the butterfly pea plant is beloved in Bali for much more than its beauty.

The Balinese call it “Bunga telang.” It comes from the Indonesian words meaning having clear vision. Traditional herbalists on Bali use the roots to cure eye ailments and the flowers to cure eye infections like conjunctivitis, or “pink eye.”


But that’s just the beginning. Bunga telang is a medicinal mainstay in Balinese culture. I was amazed when Lelir told me about all the different ways the Balinese use it. So I decided to do some research of my own.

And what I found only added to my amazement. I included the butterfly pea in my book Healing Herbs of Bali, but the truth is I could have written an entire book just on this one plant!

Click here for more natural remedy articles.

Why is the butterfly pea effective?

Butterfly pea is one of the few plants that has cyclotides in it. These are peptides that have antitumor properties and cause cancer cell death because they can penetrate the cancer cell membrane.

A recent study in China found butterfly pea to be very effective against certain lung cancer cell lines.1 Other studies have shown that a powder made from the ground-up leaves of the butterfly pea can enhance memory and brain power. 2


A team of researchers in India found that butterfly pea increases the levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.3 Acetylcholine is important for communication in your brain. And it’s one of the brain chemicals that decreases the most as you age.


How does the butterfly pea improve your thinking?

The less of it you have, the slower the messages will travel in your brain. They might even break down and stop traveling altogether.

Low acetylcholine levels can cause loss of memory and coordination as you get older. Butterfly pea improves your thinking and balance naturally because it reverses this process.

Effects of butterfly pea

Here are just a few of the other healing properties of the butterfly pea plant:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Anti-anxiety
  • Anti-asthmatic
  • Pain relieving

It’s like a full-stop natural drugstore in one gorgeous little plant.

Growing the butterfly pea

Butterfly pea can grow year-round in the warmer parts of the U.S., like where I live in South Florida. But because it’s such a fast grower, many people in colder climates plant it as an annual in the warm summer months. It makes a nice, quick covering for a lattice, trellis or chain-link fence.

If you grow butterfly pea in your garden, you can dry the flowers yourself and store them for future use. You can also order dried butterfly pea flowers online.

How to use butterfly pea flower

There are so many ways to get the healing power of the butterfly pea plant. You can add the petals to a salad or brew a beautiful blue tea. Here’s how I do it:


How to make butterfly pea flower tea

  1. Steep about a dozen butterfly pea flowers in hot water until the flowers turn pale. About 10 minutes. The water will turn a bright blue.
  2. Strain the liquid and discard the flowers.
  3. Add honey to taste.

It’s great served warm, but I like it best over ice.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

Al Sears, MD, CNS

1. Sen Z, Zhan X, Jing J, Yi Z, Wanqi Z. “Chemosensitizing activities of cyclotides from Clitoria ternatea in paclitaxel-resistant lung cancer cells.” Oncol Lett. 2013;5(2):641-644.
2. Jain N, Ohal C, Shroff S, Bhutada R, Somani R, Kasture V, Kasture S. “Clitoria ternatea and the CNS.” Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003;75(3):529-36.
3. Rai K, Murthy K, Karanth K, Nalini K, Rao M, Srinivasan K. “Clitoria ternatea root extract enhances acetylcholine content in rat hippocampus.” Fitoterapia. 2002;73(7-8):685-9.

Your Youthful Mind

This information has been provided by Al Sears, MD and Doctor’s House Call. For more information or to sign up for a free subscription, visit


Health Alert 39

Did you know that too much stress kills brain cells? Research is showing stress to be one of the leading causes of mental deterioration with aging.

For most people, effective anti-aging has to address living better as we age not necessarily living longer. We want to retain the independence and abilities of our youth. For the elders I talk to, loss of mental capacity is the most frightening symptom of aging.

Fortunately, the loss of mental faculties is not inevitable. The most important thing you must do to keep your brain healthy and your mind sharp is avoid excess stress.

* The Physiology of Stress *

Stress has serious physiological effects on the body. When you are stressed, your body produces a hormone called cortisol. In moderate amounts, cortisol is not very harmful. But cortisol is secreted excessively in response to chronic stress. In these larger amounts, cortisol is extremely toxic.

Cortisol actually kills and disables your brain cells. Over your life span, cortisol ruins your brains “biochemical integrity”. Chronic exposure to cortisol causes the mental haziness, forgetfulness, and confusion that is associated with aging.

In anti-aging, most hormonal manipulation involves supporting declining levels. Almost all hormone levels fall as you age. Cortisol is one of the very few exceptions. Cortisol actually rises as you grow older. To regain and keep a youthful mind, you must lower the cortisol levels in your body.

* Attaining Your Mental Clarity *

You can lower levels of cortisol in the body by reducing stress. Here are some simple, but effective ideas to lessen stress:

Use breathing techniques: Breathing techniques can help to calm your body. They aid in releasing stress. I often recommend breathing techniques to my patients. They are simple to do, and are very effective. Once you learn the techniques, you can do them anywhere.

Dr. Andrew Weil has some very good breathing tapes. You can learn more by visiting his website at

Let it out: Writing down problems or talking about them is also effective stress management. Write down your problem and how you feel about it. You will be surprised at the therapeutic effect.

Talking through your problems can also help. An understanding friend or a family member can make a good listener.

Do your favorite thing: Most people have one thing in life that they like to do most. It is the thing that relaxes you and lets you forget about your worries. Golfing, painting, gardening, visiting a special place, or having a picnic can release your mind of the stress of daily living. Set aside time for your favorite thing and do it more often.

Meditate: Meditation can be very simple. It is a time that you use to focus within yourself. Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Listen to your breathing and follow it. Or repeat a word or short phrase that means something. You can speak it or just think it in a rhythm that is comfortable. Clear your mind of worries, and focus on relaxing.

Take 10 or 15 minutes out of your day to do this. You can even meditate as you lie in bed at night. It will be time well spent.

Take care of yourself: Eat a healthy diet and make sure to exercise. Health Alerts 18 and 28 explained my approach to nutrition and exercise. Also remember to take your multivitamin and antioxidants as I described in Health Alert 37. A healthy body and mind go hand and hand.

With these techniques, you should be able to reduce your stress. This eliminates the number one age associated killer of brain cells. It will help you keep a sharp and focused mind at any age.

In a future Health Alert, we will discuss nutrition for the brain.

Al Sears MD

A Way to Save Money and Improve Your Health

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Health Alert 27

The markups on prescription drugs are appalling. A drug that costs you $5 a tablet may have ingredients worth less than one cent.

The reason – They are outrageously expensive to you because they are sold at an outrageous profit.

You will be shocked to find out how much your prescription drugs actually cost the manufacturer. Many of the drugs sold in the U.S. contain active ingredients that are produced in other countries at exceedingly low cost.

The same prescription drugs are available for much lower prices all over the globe. Most are manufactured in countries with higher laboratory standards than the U.S. But the FDA has made it very difficult for Americans to obtain these drugs.

Remember from Health Alert #10, The Fox Guarding You Hen House that much of the FDA’s budget for policing drug companies comes from the big drug companies themselves.

After you see the profit margin that pharmaceutical companies enjoy, you’ll understand why they are willing to pay for the FDA’s employees and pay for doctors’ perks for prescribing their drugs.

The mark-up for Prozac is 455,400 %. The manufacturer can’t possibly claim that they are still recouping development cost. The drug was already in widespread use when I worked in a psychiatric ward 16 years ago.

The popular anxiety medication Valium has active ingredients costing less than 2 cents for a month’s supply. It has been sold for several decades but still carries a mark-up of over 100,000%.

* Cheaper Alternatives Are Also Safer*

I have recommended that you find alternatives to your prescription drugs because of their danger of serious side effect. I have also said that drugs for chronic problems are not health enhancing and over the long run are a burden to your liver and kidneys. Very high costs at outrageously high profit margins are another reason.

If you are taking prescription drugs, ask your doctor about alternatives. Most of the natural alternatives have very little or no side effects. If your doctor won’t tell you about alternatives, it may be time to consult a new doctor.

If you have an acute problem, you may need the more powerful effect of a prescription drug for a short time. If you have a long-term problem, you can usually find natural alternatives for drugs.

For example, those five very expensive drugs with the outrageous mark-up in the above table? Here are some easy to find, safe and inexpensive alternatives that have worked well in my patients.

• Claritin is an antihistamine used to subdue allergy symptoms. Herbs make great alternatives. My favorite is nettle.

• Norvasc is a blood pressure medication. Here a nutritional approach is the best alternative. I use coenzyme Q10 as first line therapy. 50% of patients coming to see me already on blood pressure medications stop their drugs with nothing more than substituting Co Q10.

• Paxil and Prozac are similar antidepressants. The popular herb St. John’s wort works in a similar manner. But I have an even better solution. The nutrient SAMe has been shown to work as well as antidepressant drugs in 9 European studies.

• Prilosec is used for heartburn. If you have heartburn, you need to find out why. It usually has something to do with your eating habits. If you are drinking caffeine, stopping it may be all you have to do. I like the herb peppermint. You can use capsules but I prefer the tea or fresh leaves. You can place a wad of the leaves between your molars and chew it for a minute before swallowing. The calming effect on your stomach is almost immediate.

Al Sears MD

Source: Faloon, W. The FDA Versus the American Consumer Life Extension October 2002.

Why Should You Take Supplements?

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Health Alert 11

So you eat your vegetables, you don’t smoke or drink to excess. You avoid junk food and you exercise. So do you really need to take vitamins?

You’ve heard the arguments pro and con. You’re probably ready to throw your hands in the air and conclude that no one really knows. Before you do, look at some pearls collected by someone who has spent his life studying this issue in detail. I think you will find, as I do, the evidence is quite convincing.

? A USDA study done in 1992 concluded that only 4% of the 22,000 Americans studied were getting even the minimum recommended daily allowance (RDA) of their essential vitamins.

? A more recent US government survey found that out of the 21,000 people surveyed, none of them managed to eat the recommended daily allowances (RDA) of all the ten basic nutrients studied.

? On any given day, 91% of Americans do not consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, with 70% not consuming any vitamin C rich fruits, and 80% not consuming any carotene containing vegetables.

? Today, foods have much less nutritional value than in the past due to modern agricultural methods. You’d have to eat 60 servings of spinach to get the same amount of iron you would get from just one serving in 1948.

? In order to get the RDA for vitamin E today, you’d have to eat 25 cups of spinach a day.

? 65 % of American diets are deficient in zinc, which is important for proper immune system functioning.

? Americans often eat the same small number of foods every day, without much variety.

The bottom line is that unless you are a very rare exception, you’re probably not getting even the minimum requirement of all your important vitamins and minerals. And that’s just part of the story.

* Vitamins For Disease Treatment, Prevention, And To Keep You Young *

There is a growing mountain of evidence that vitamins can have other health benefits beyond preventing deficiency.

Nobel laureate Linus Pauling was right when he said, “recommended daily allowances only give levels of vitamins and minerals that will prevent death or serious illness from vitamin deficiency. To get real health benefits from vitamins, you need to get more than just the minimal recommended amounts.”

In 1997, the Western Journal of Medicine published a study that showed that $20 billion dollars in hospital charges could have potentially been prevented by taking proper amounts of vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin E, for instance, has been shown to be beneficial in treatment of coronary heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. These health benefits only come at antioxidant doses of at least 200 IU. Antioxidant doses of vitamin E are virtually impossible to get in the diet. You would have to eat 2 pounds of sunflower seeds every day.

In larger doses, niacin has been shown to be very effective in lowering cholesterol.

I have seen many cases of high blood pressure completely resolve with CoQ10 eliminating the need for medications.

* What You Should Do *

I have taken a multivitamin nearly every day for 30 years and you should too. You should choose a multivitamin that also has 100% of the required minerals. If you are beyond the age of 35, you should take doses larger than the RDA for antioxidants. It is possible to find all the required vitamins and minerals at antioxidant levels in a single supplement.

My antioxidant recommendations are: mixed carotenes 25,000 IU, vitamin C 1000 mg, vitamin E 400 IU, selenium 200 mcg and CoQ10 30 mg.

It will be easier on your gut if you take your multivitamin with a meal.

Store your multivitamin in the refrigerator. It will stay active longer and help remind you to take it regularly.

One further piece of advice – unless you have been diagnosed with iron deficiency, choose a multivitamin without iron. You don’t need additional iron and it can interfere with the absorption of other minerals, give you constipation and leave a foul taste in your mouth.

Al Sears, MD

Common Supplement Linked to Cancer

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Health Alert 12

There is recent evidence linking chondroitin sulfate – a popular arthritis supplement — and prostate cancer.

I’m writing today to clarify the issue.

The thinking for taking chondroitin for arthritis goes something like this. When you have arthritis your joints get inflamed. The inflammation damages the cartilage in your joints. When the cartilage (normally smooth) is roughed up by inflammation, friction is caused and pain ensues. Chondroitin is a basic building block of cartilage. So maybe taking it will help your body to repair the damaged cartilage.

This line of reasoning seems to make sense. But in medicine, we need more than a line of reasoning. It makes sense to start with a reasonable proposition. But then you need evidence. More on the evidence for chondroitin in arthritis later. But first, the problem with chondroitin.

* The Link *

The problem with chondroitin was articulated in the July 2002 issue of Health Science International. In an article titled “Natural Doesn’t Always Mean Harmless: Arthritis Supplement Could Lead to the Spread of Prostate Cancer” cancer specialist Charles E. Myers Jr. reports that (1) chondroitin is often found in prostatic tumors and that (2) when tissue levels of chondroitin are high the likelihood of prostate cancer spreading is greater.

One study in particular followed men who had their prostate glands removed due to cancer. The level of chondroitin sulfate was measured in the tissues around the prostate for 5 years. In the group with low chondroitin levels, the reoccurrence of cancer was low at 14%. What happened if the tissue chondroitin was high? The cancer returned in 47 % of those men. Cancer Research 1999 May 15; 59 (10): 2324-8)

Another study published in the Journal of Urology reported elevated levels of chondroitin in the tissues of not only prostate cancer but also in men with benign swelling of the prostate or BPH.

None of this proves that taking chondroitin sulfate supplements will give you cancer. It is however, suspicious.

* Safe Alternatives for Damaged Joints*

I have never been a proponent of chondroitin supplements because I have not been able to find substantial evidence that chondroitin is effective in eliminating arthritic symptoms. Since there are other safer and more effective alternatives to chondroitin, I recommend you do not take it.

Alternatives I DO recommend include glucosamine and MSM.

Glucosamine is a natural component of cartilage. I have read several studies that demonstrate its value in reducing symptoms of arthritis. Glucosamine is often paired with chondroitin in supplement form. But, there is no evidence that glucosamine with chondroitin works any better than glucosamine alone.

Patients at the Integrative Medical Clinic at the University of Arizona have reported success against arthritic pain by taking glucosamine — regardless of whether or not it was paired with chondroitin! (Dr. Andrew Weil’s Self Healing, August 1999)

Two recommendations:

(1) Take 500mg of glucosamine twice a day (with food, as a few of my patients have reported stomach upset if they took it on an empty stomach.)

(2) Take one gram (1000 mg) of MSM (methyl sulfonyl methane) daily – also with food.

MSM is a naturally occurring sulfur compound found in very small amounts in vegetables, fruits, fish and meats. Research indicates that sulfur is required to repair injured cartilage.

A double-blinded study at the UCLA School of Medicine found that arthritic patients who were given MSM for 6 weeks had an 82% reduction in pain. And further, in contrast to chondroitin, MSM seems to reduce the risks of some types of cancers in laboratory animals.

I have seen dramatic reductions in arthritic symptoms with MSM. In fact, it is our first choice at the wellness center.

Al Sears, MD

How Much Do You Need?

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Health Alert 15

You are faced with a dilemma every time you shop for an herb, vitamin or nutritional supplement. You find what you are looking for and there on the shelf sets bottle after bottle of different amounts of the same supplement. How much do you need?

I encountered this problem recently. Imagine what you would do if it happened to you. Let’s say you are on vacation in the mountains of Colorado and your friend begins to suffer from mild altitude sickness. You know the best solution for this is the herb gingko biloba. You want to give her a dose of 200mg with plenty of water every 4 to 6 hours until she fells better.

You call the hotel convenient store to ask if they had gingko. Yea they have it. How much? The clerk doesn’t know. You walk down to the lobby and find the supplement packaged as six capsules in a plastic pouch for $5.95. The amount of gingko per serving is 10 mg. A serving has two capsules.

So to give 200 mg, you would have to give 20 servings or 40 capsules. Four times a day would be 160 capsules or about $160 per day. Of course even if you are willing to pay that much you wouldn’t want or expect anyone to swallow that many.

The point is that even if you know the correct remedy and can find it on hand you can’t use it for the desired effect unless you also know and can find the correct dose. Even at a high altitude store, the remedy that was on hand to treat altitude sickness could not be used in doses needed to be effective.

Adding to the problem, the labels can be hard to read and the choices daunting.

Even worse, sometimes the label won’t tell you the amount contained but has something like “proprietary blend”

Today’s Health Alert will provide you with a few simple rules you may find helpful. They have helped my patients.

* What You Need to Know about Nutrients with Known Requirements*

• The FDA is responsible for setting labeling requirements for vitamins and dietary supplements.

• The FDA has changed their system of naming several times and has created some confusion. What used to be called recommended daily allowance (RDA) was changed to minimum daily allowance. Recently it has been changed again to simply daily value (DV).

• All supplements that have a known minimum requirement are required to list their amount as a percentage of that minimum. Here is a list of the daily values of common nutrients.


Vitamin A 5,000 IU

Vitamin B6 2.0 mg.

Vitamin C 6O mg.

Vitamin D 400 IU

Vitamin E 30 IU

Calcium 1000 mg.

Phosphorus 1000 mg.

Zinc 15 mg.

Niacin 20 mg.

Magnesium 400 mg.

You should use this Daily Value as a reference point. It tells you how much of a nutrient is necessary to prevent symptoms of deficiency. It is important to note, however, that some nutrients have additional roles beyond preventing deficiencies see Health Alert #11

* How to Handle Supplements without Established Requirements *

• Realize that amounts are still important.

• If a supplement has any active ingredient without the amount specified, don’t take it.

• Know the amount of a supplement you want to take before you enter the store. Unfortunately, you cannot rely on the sales clerk.

Al Sears, MD

Building Your Dream Body

This information has been provided by Al Sears, MD and Doctor’s House Call. For more information or to sign up for a free subscription, visit


Health Alert 18

Today is the first in a series of letters designed to teach you what I know about transforming your body into a healthier and more attractive shape.

You probably have a certain image of yourself you would like to attain. You would like to transform your physique. Perhaps it’s a masculine chest and arms, perhaps shapely hips. If you’re like most of my patients, you would like a trimmer waist. It’s what gives men that V-taper we associate with manly health and vitality. And it gives women the ultimate in sexy figures, that hourglass shape.

We all know we look better when we have a lean waist but don’t let anyone tell you that leanness is an issue of vanity. Quite to the contrary, it is probably the biggest single predictor of good health I can assess in my patients.

And that’s exactly what I do. We measure the leanness of all new patients. It’s non-invasive, fast and inexpensive. The information is very valuable. I really don’t understand why physicians don’t do it. But you can do it yourself.

All science starts with measurement. If we want to be scientific about changing your body, we have to accurately measure what we are striving to change.

* What You Should Measure *

There are several ways you can measure your leanness. The best is by measuring your body composition. The easiest way to do this is with skin calipers. You can get them at exercise equipment stores or you can order them online at ( They come with simple instruction manuals. They really are quite easy to use.

Another method is to measure your waist and hip girths. Simply wrap a tape measure around your waist at your navel and record the number in inches. Next measure the circumference around your hips at their widest point.

Another even easier way is to grab your skin between your finger and thumb just to the side of your navel and measure the thickness of the skin fold.

* What You Should Do with Your Measurement *

Now that you have your measurement, you need to know what it means. Here is a general overview for each technique.

Body composition for men should be 10-20 % fat and for women 15-25% fat.

Waist girth should be less than your hip girth for both men and women. Even better is a waist girth 1 inch or more smaller than hips for men and 3 inches or more for women.

Lastly, when you pinch your skin beside your navel it should measure less than 1 inch in both men and women.

If you passed the test for leanness, congratulations! If you didn’t, record the measurements with today’s date and commit to changing it. With the right tools, it may be easier than you think.

Next time, we will talk about the second step toward building your dream body.

Al Sears, MD