Periodical Nutrition Hotline

Dr. Shari Lieberman Answers your Questions
Cascara sagrada's effects as a laxative

Q From R.M., Dayton, Ohio: Is it true that cascara sagrada is a non-habit forming laxative?

A Yes. Not only is it non-habit forming, but it is very mild and non-irritating. Also, it does not lose its potency with repeated use and helps to restore the natural balance of the colon. Its action, from compounds in the bark of the plant, is limited to the large intestines, and does not cause the gripping or cramping that other laxatives may.
Finding a local alternative practitioner

Q From B.G., Maple Heights, Ohio: How on earth do I find an alternative practitioner in my area? I live in Ohio and I don't know where to get a listing. Any suggestions?

A There are several organizations that list practitioners by state and type of practice. If you call the American Preventive Medical Association at 1-800-230-2762, they can, for a small fee, send you a booklet that has this information.
Ginkgo and other nutrients for a sharp memory

Q From H.T., Brooklyn, New York: I've been taking one Ginkgo biloba capsule each day and it has only helped my memory a little. I am 82 years old and want to be as sharp as possible. Any other suggestions?

A In human clinical trials, the therapeutic dose of Ginkgo biloba ranges from 120-240 mg per day of an extract standardized to 24 percent ginkgo flavones. It is possible that you may need to increase your dose. Phosphatidylserine (PS) has also been shown to be effective for enhancing brain functions, such as memory and recall. The therapeutic dose of PS is 100-300 mg per day. Also helpful are phosphatidylcholine (PC), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) oil/capsules, and vitamin B-12. Try to find a combination of as many of these as possible to economize. Also, while we are often reminded to exercise our bodies, it is important to keep our minds active, too, with reading, crosswords, chess, etc.
Is acne one side effect of too much DHEA?

Q From C.M., St. Charles, Ill.: I read that if you get acne from DHEA, you should stop it for a few days and then resume taking it. I am really concerned that I will get acne again. I am a woman and I don't know if I'm doing the right thing. Any suggestions?

A Since DHEA is the precursor to estrogen and testosterone, getting acne usually suggests it is being converted mostly to testosterone. I would strongly suggest that you have your hormone levels measured: serum and free testosterone, estradiol, estrone, estriol, DHEA, and DHEAS. This will give some insight into whether you actually need DHEA, and if it is being converted appropriately. The problem with DHEA is that we cannot really control to which hormone it is being converted. The blood test's results, and a discussion with your health-care practitioner, will provide you with more information. Also, you may want to decrease your dose based on the results of your blood test. You might also want to try pregnenelone, but I would still suggest having your blood hormone levels monitored by your health-care provider, first.
Pyruvate for weight loss

Q From D.K., Watertown, Conn.: Does pyruvate really work for weight loss?

A Studies have shown that 6 g of pyruvate per day appears to help support weight loss in men and women. Over a six-week period, participants in a double-blind study lost approximately 12 pounds after using pyruvate in combination with a moderate exercise regimen (three days per week) and a 2,000-calorie per day diet. Best of all, it was shown to be completely safe as part of a weight-management plan, which included a whole-foods diet (rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) and regular exercise.
What is androstenedione and what does it do?

Q From L.B., Fort Worth, Texas: Is androstenedione the precusor to testosterone? As a 65-year-old man, I'd like to try it. Any thoughts?

A To clarify, androstenedione is the precursor to DHEA, which, in turn, is the precursor to estrogen and testosterone. Once again, it is impossible to predict exactly which hormone will be produced when you take it. I would recommend (as in the previous question involving DHEA) that you have your hormone levels measured: serum and free testosterone, estradiol, estrone, estriol, DHEA, and DHEAS. This will give some insight into whether you actually need DHEA, and, after taking androstenedione, to see exactly how your body is converting it. Also, remember that androstenedione and DHEA are hormones and should be used cautiously and with professional supervision.

PHOTO (COLOR): Shari Lieberman

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By 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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