Posts Tagged ‘benign prostatic hyperplasia’

So maybe your gaining weight despite diet and exercise and you just can’t seem to lose it. The weight seems to center primarily in your abdomen. Perhaps you have high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure, uterine fibroids, BPH (Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy), fatigue, , PCOS, acne or even skin tags. Regardless of which condition(s) you may be experiencing they all have something in common…Insulin Resistance.

Normal Insulin Function:

When food is eaten the glucose and/or amino acids trigger the pancreas to secrete insulin. Insulin then binds to cells and like a key in a lock opens the pathway of the cell allowing glucose, amino acids, fats and various nutrients to enter. The cell in turn begins a process of converting these nutrients into fuel/energy. Once all these nutrients are cleared from the blood the pancreas stops producing insulin.

Insulin Resistance:

Cells are covered in insulin receptors. These insulin receptors either become resistant to insulin or begin to down regulate creating a condition known as Insulin Resistance. When insulin can no longer get glucose and nutrients into the cells glucose levels in the blood remain high and the pancreas then produces even more insulin to counter this effect. Now, not only is the blood stream saturated with high levels of glucose, but insulin levels are continuing to rise and nutrients are not able to nourish the cell.

Cells and Insulin Resistance:

The cells in the liver are the first cells to become resistant to insulin. The liver which normally stores glucose in the form of glycogen for energy isn’t sensing the presence of glucose and begins making more through a process known as gluconeogenesis. This newly formed glucose is now sent out into the blood stream adding to the already high levels of blood sugar. The liver also stops breaking down fatty acids and starts storing them in the liver which may lead to a condition known as Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Cells in the skin, lining of the arteries and some other cells never become insulin resistant. Most cancer cells do not become insulin resistant. However, immune system cells may become insulin resistant.

How do I know if I am Insulin Resistant?

– Elevated triglycerides (> 150) or depressed HDL cholesterol (< 40 male < 50 female) – Waist:hip ratio > or equal to 1 in a male, or waist > 40 inches

– Waist:hip ratio > or equal to 0.8 in a female, or waist > 35 inches

– Abnormal glucose tolerance // Fasting glucose > 100

Why people become Insulin Resistant:

 Genetics (accounts for 25% of cases)

 Diet high in simple carbohydrates with a lack of protein

 Lack of resistance exercise

 Lack of Essential Fatty Acids

 Too many trans fatty acids in the diet

 Lack of specific nutrients and trace elements

 Too much stress

 Lack of sleep

Some of the Effects of Insulin Resistance on the Body:

• Difficult time losing weight

• Increased risk of various cancers

• Obesity

• High Cholesterol

• Hypertension

• Thrombosis

• Atherosclerosis

• Osteoporosis

• Hypothyroid

and Increased risk of Diabetes

Difficult time losing weight and Obesity:

A number of different things happen when insulin levels are high. First, growth hormone is suppressed. Growth hormone promotes the growth of bones and soft tissues and helps to regulate fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism. The consequences of suppressed growth hormone are numerous but include impaired fat burning especially in the abdomen, reduced muscle mass and strength and high levels of LDL “Bad” cholesterol. For people with high insulin levels due to insulin resistance they find it very difficult to lose weight and build muscle even when they exercise.

Increased Risk of Cancer:

Most cancer cells do not become insulin resistant. So, in other words these cells are still receiving nutrients which feed their growth and allow them to produce energy. Another thing that occurs when insulin levels are high is that the liver secretes more IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor). IGF-1 is a protein hormone which closely resembles insulin in its structure. IGF-1 helps to regulate cell growth and development and has insulin like effects. The combination of high insulin and IGF-1 levels creates oxidation of cells and promotes the growth of certain cells. Cell damage and growth relates to cancer leaving someone much more prone to various tumors of the breast, prostate, endometrium and colon. Increased IGF-1 levels may also play a role in Uterine Fibroids, Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH), Acne, early menarche and numerous other conditions.

High Cholesterol/Triglycerides:

High levels of insulin in the blood also elevate triglyceride levels and lower HDL which is the “good” or protective cholesterol. This in turn puts someone at a much greater risk for a heart attack or stroke.


Normally, insulin acts as a vasodilator and reduces the rigidity of arteries. However, with Insulin Resistance high levels of insulin start to create vasoconstriction which may lead to high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. Insulin also causes the body to retain salt and water which can potentially increase the risk of developing hypertension.

Why am I always hungry?

White adipose tissue (WAT) is found primarily around the abdomen and is used for storing easily retrievable fat which will be used later for energy. Leptin is a hormone secreted by white adipose tissue which sends a signal to the hypothalamus in the brain indicating that fat cells are full and that it is time to start burning fat. As Leptin levels rise a signal is sent to the pancreas to stop secreting insulin. Leptin is secreted when insulin is binding to cells or when fat cells are full. However, when there are high levels of glucose and insulin in the bloodstream and excess fat around the abdomen there is a disruption in the Leptin signal and levels of Leptin begin to rise. In response to the high levels of Leptin the pancreas and hypothalamus go on the defense and reduce the number of Leptin receptors. This can cause a condition known as “Leptin resistance”. With the disruption of the Leptin signal the body still thinks it is hungry and the metabolism slows down fat burning. The pancreas continues to secrete insulin and the whole vicious cycle continues.

Another hormone called Ghrelin is secreted by cells in the stomach wall. Ghrelin sends a signal to stimulate the appetite when the stomach is empty. Growth hormone which helps to build lean muscle, burn fat and help to sensitize insulin resistant cells is also secreted in response to Ghrelin. However, high levels of insulin and glucose caused by insulin resistance once again disrupt the signal. The effect is that insulin levels continue to rise and Growth Hormone is blunted. Therefore, even when we have eaten we are still getting the signal that we are hungry, we are not building lean muscle or burning fat and the cells are exposed again to high levels of insulin.

Insulin Resistance and Thrombosis:

High levels of insulin in the blood have been shown to promote fibrinogen which increases clotting of blood and decrease PAI-1 which inhibits clot breakdown. These two factors greatly increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Insulin Resistance and Stress:

Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands in response to stress, exercise, lack of sleep, hunger, etc. When cortisol is released due to stress a reserve of energy in the form of glucose is secreted by the liver. This glucose then signals the pancreas to release insulin. If the stress becomes prolonged and this cycle continues it can eventually lead to Insulin resistance. Someone who is pre-diabetic has the potential to go into full blown diabetes when cortisol is present. This vicious cycle of high levels of insulin and cortisol can eventually lead to adrenal exhaustion.

The Thyroid and Insulin Resistance:

When blood levels of insulin are high thyroid hormones are less able to convert T-4 to T-3 hormones. Because thyroid hormones are not converting sufficiently a condition of hypothyroid or underactive thyroid may occur.

Insulin Resistance and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

There is an established link between PCOS and Insulin Resistance. About 50 – 70 % of women with PCOS have insulin resistance. (Diamanti-Kandarakis) When insulin resistance is a factor, high levels of insulin lead to increased levels of androgen hormones such as testosterone. As testosterone increases symptoms such as infrequent or irregular periods, increased body hair and acne can develop.

Insulin Resistance and Osteoporosis:

Insulin is important in helping to protect bones from breaking down and also helping to promote collagen formation. When bone cells become insulin resistant they no longer provide this protection which sets the stage for Osteoporosis.

Exercise and Insulin Resistance:

Exercise increases the production of growth hormone. Growth hormone helps to build lean muscle, burn fat and increase insulin sensitivity. Insulin suppresses Growth hormone. Growth hormones response to exercise lasts about 90 minutes. Therefore, it is much more beneficial to take (3) ten minute walks per day than one 30 minute walk. Trained muscle also has the ability to clear glucose more efficiently than untrained muscle. Also keep in mind than after exercising if you decide to rehydrate using sports drinks they actually blunt growth hormone and negate the beneficial effect of exercise.

Trained muscle also has the ability to clear glucose more rapidly than untrained muscle.

Overcoming Insulin Resistance:

The body is a marvelous machine and has numerous mechanisms to correct imbalances. However, the body has no response to insulin resistance and therefore cannot correct this imbalance without intervention. Lifestyle and dietary changes are a must for overcoming Insulin Resistance. If you are interested in establishing a program to overcome Insulin Resistance check with a Natural Health Practitioner who specializes in this condition.  Some things that you can do to increase insulin senstivity are:

  • Eat a breakfast high in protein
  • Avoid simple carbohydrates and focus on complex carbohydrates
  • Exercise (At least three 10 minute walks per day along with some type of resistance training)
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Avoid hydrogenated fats found in margarine and processed foods
  • Reduce stress (See Article on Tips to Reduce Stress)
  • Get good plenty of good fats (Olive and Coconut oil, fish oil, nuts)
  • Replenish nutrients (see below)

Those who are Type 1 or Type 2 Insulin dependent diabetics must work in conjunction with their health care provider.

Supplements and Herbs which may Increase Insulin Sensitivity:


• Chromium picolinate

• Cod Liver Oil for a dose of docosohexaenoic acid (DHA)

  • B-Complex, in the form of a multivitamin

• Magnesium

• Zinc


Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-gracium)

– This culinary herb which is often used in Mediterranean cooking also exhibits benefits for increasing insulin sensitivity. However, in order to be beneficial the dose would have to be 1 ounce per day. This dose would be extremely difficult to ingest in the course of one day.

Cinnamomum (Cinnamon)

– Cinnamon is thought to help lower blood sugar in the same manner as the pharmaceutical drug Metformin by suppressing the production of glucose from the liver. As little as 3 grams of cinnamon per day may be beneficial in lowering blood glucose levels by increasing insulin sensitivity at the cellular level.

Grifola spp. (Maitake mushroom)

– Research indicates that either a powder or water extract of Maitake mushroom may help to increase insulin sensitivity and therefore lower glucose and insulin levels.

Caffea aribica (Coffee)

– Coffee appears to contain constituents which increase insulin sensitivity.


Despite the fact that Diabetes has become an epidemic in this country we can now see that there is hope through dietary changes, lifestyle modifications, exercise and supplementation. Anyone with diabetes should consult their doctor before beginning any type of program that may affect blood sugar levels. The information given here is for educational purposes only and should not be used for the treatment or diagnosis of any disease.


Bergner, P. (2006), Insulin Resistance: Pathophysiology and natural therapeutics for the metabolic syndrome. North American Institute of Medical Herbalism, Inc. Boulder, Colorado. http://www.NAIMH.com

Insulin resistance and the polycystic ovary syndrome: mechanism and implications for pathogenesis. Endocr Rev. 1997 Dec;18(6):774-800. Dunaif A1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9408743

This article is based on a summary of a class given by Paul Bergner at the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism. The course title is Insulin Resistance: Pathophysiology and Natural Therapeutics. If you are interested in learning more about this class or others given by Paul Bergner visit his website at:


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Opuntia humifusa 3A couple of weekends ago I went on a pecan picking expedition in Live Oak Florida with some friends. Out in one of the fields amongst the cows and pecan trees I found quite a number of Opuntia spp. or Prickly Pear as they are commonly known.  Other common names include Devils Tongue, nopales and Indian Fig.  Despite their harsh and abravisive appearance I find something oddly beautiful about them.  I also love the fact that the Prickly Pear can be used both as food and as medicine.  It is so cool to me to just walk out on my property and gather wild food or medicine for my family.

Description:  Cactus with jointed pad and sharp spines.  Fruits are normally a puplish-red when the are ripe and the flowers a bright yellow.

Location:  Found in dry sandy soils from Mass. to Florida and Texas to Minn.

Properties:  Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, galactogogue and anti-viral

Historical Medicinal Uses:  Native americans would remove the spines from the pads and split them open and use the pulp as a poultice for wounds, abrasions, burns and fractures.  The peeled pads have been applied to the breast to encourage milk flow or applied to other areas for rheumatic pain.  The juice from the plant applied topically has been used historically to remove warts or taken internally for kidney stones.  Baked pads have been used for gout and  Native Americans once used a tea made from the pads for lung ailments.  Recently research has been conducted which showed that Opuntia may be beneficial in hypoglycemia, benign prostatic hyperplasia and a number of conditions affecting the urinary system.

Food Uses:  The plant is quiet nutritious and a good source of potassium, calcium, vitamin A and fiber.  The fruits can be used to make a tea which can be turned into jelly, a syrup or candy.  The pad can be cut up eaten raw in salads.  The seed from the plant can be ground up and used to make flour.  Sliced pads with the skin removed can be cut up like green beans and either steamed or sauteed.


Nopales on The Grill

Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the pads, they are ready for the grill. Cook each pad for approximately 10 to 12 minutes on each side. While grilling, brush each side of the cactus pad with olive oil or a flavored oil of your choice. Pepper or garlic-flavored oil are often used on grilled Nopales.

Scrambled Nopales

1 or 2 cactus pads

8 Eggs

1/4 lb. of cheese (your choice)

salt & pepper to taste

Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the pads, slice into bite-size pieces. Sauté the sliced pads in a small amount of butter for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl; add shredded cheese and the sautéed cactus pieces. Pour the egg mixture into a skillet and scramble. Serve warm with salt and pepper to taste.

Nopales Rellenos (Stuffed Cactus Pads)

12 tender cactus pads

3 cups of water

6 slices of Machego or Panela cheese

1/4 onion, thinly sliced lengthwise

1 clove of garlic

Salt to taste

1/2 cup of flour

4 eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups vegetable or olive oil

1 can of tomato sauce (12 ounces)

Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the ads, boil in 3 cups of water with the garlic, onion, and salt. Drain.

On each of 6 cactus pads place a slice of cheese and 3 to 4 pieces of onion. Top with another cactus pad, secure with wooden toothpicks and coat with flour.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then add the yolks and beat for 1 to 2 minutes more to create a batter.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, dip the stuffed cactus pads into the egg batter and fry until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Serve drenched with cooked tomato sauce.

Nopales Salsa

1 lb. cleaned cactus pads

1/2 lb. tomatillos

1 small white onion

2 garlic cloves

2 poblano peppers

1/2 tsp. of salt

2 tsp.of fresh lime juice

1/2 tsp.of cumin

2 Tbs. cilantro

Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the pads, grill for about 7 minutes on each side. Slice the grilled pads into strips. Place tomatillos, cubed onions and garlic in a baking dish, then cook in a 450-degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Roast poblanos on grill or under the broiler, then peel them and remove the seeds. Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until well chopped. A little water may be needed to moisten the salsa. Serve chilled with chips or use to season tacos, burritos or other Mexican dishes.

Nopales Salad

2.2 lbs. Nopales (cactus pads)

1 onion, halved

4 cups water

2 Tbs. salt

2 large tomatoes, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

4 green chiles – serrano or jalapeno – chopped

Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the pads, chop into bite-size pieces. Place the chopped Nopales into a pan with the 4 cups of water, halved onion and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes or until tender. Drain Nopales and combine with remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. This dish gets better if you let is sit a few hours in the refrigerator before serving. Serves 4 or more.

(Courtesy of Desert USA )


Prickly pear

3 c. vinegar

3 c. water

6 tbsp. salt


Garlic cloves (1 for each jar)

Jalapeno peppers (1 for each jar)

Cut needles off prickly pear, slice and pack into sterilized jars. Put one clove garlic, 1 jalapeno pepper and sprigs of dill into jar. Boil water, vinegar and salt until salt is dissolved. Fill jars with boiling brine to within 1/2″ of top. Put on cap and screw band firmly. Process in boiling water bath 10 minutes. Tastes best if let cure for at least 6 months.


Pick prickly pears with leather gloves on your hands. Take off spines. Rinse the fruit and place in kettle, adding enough water to cover. Boil until quite tender, squeeze through jelly bag or jelly press. To every 2 1/2 cups of juice add 1 (1 3/4 oz.) package powdered pectin and boil for a couple minutes. Then add 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 3 1/2 cups sugar. Stir often and boil hard for 5 minutes. Pour in jelly glass and seal with paraffin.

(Courtesy:  Cooks.com)



Steven Foster and James Duke, Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs

Richard Deuerling and Peggy S. Lantz, Florida’s Incredible Wild Edibles

Michael Wilson, Medicinal Plant Fact Sheet:  Opuntia: prickly pear cactus;  http://www.pollinator.org/Resources/Opuntia.draft.pdf

Weeds of Southern Turfgrasses;  University of Florida

University of Florida School of Forest Resources and Conservation:  Florida Forrest Plants:  http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/4h/Prickly_pear/pricpear.htm




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