The Superfood For Prostate Patients

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

Can ginger really help men with prostate cancer? It certainly is a time-honored remedy for other, less serious problems — including occasional indigestion, muscle soreness, nausea and even arthritis pain. But if ginger can help men manage, or even someday cure, this dangerous cancer, well, that puts it on another level entirely. Since prostate cancer — and the question of whether or not it should even be treated in many men — is generating such controversy these days, I’m really happy to be able to tell you about a therapy that is totally natural and, according to recent research, scientifically sound.


There’s no doubt that ginger is a nutritional powerhouse — previous research has shown that many of the phytochemicals that make up ginger are packed with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiproliferative powers. Some have been shown, individually, to reduce the risk of developing cancer, and others have been shown to slow tumor growth if cancer occurs. Researchers at Georgia State University in Atlanta thought it would be interesting to see what effect whole ginger extract might have on prostate cancer, specifically, because other studies have shown that a high intake of fruits and vegetables (which also are high in phytochemicals) help prevent prostate cancer.

After implanting human prostate cancer in mice, investigators fed half of them whole ginger extract (the human equivalent of about 3.5 ounces of fresh ginger) every day for eight weeks, while the other half, the control group, was fed no ginger. Researchers found…

  • In the mice that were fed ginger, there was an inhibition (or slowing) of tumor growth by an average of 56%, compared with no inhibition of tumor growth in the control group that received no ginger.
  • Among the ginger-fed mice, there were no toxic effects in healthy tissue such as the gut or bone marrow. This is a promising finding, because if these were humans with prostate cancer and they were given a typical treatment of chemotherapy, there would be a high likelihood of toxic side effects, such as neuropathy, nausea, hair loss, mouth sores, diarrhea and permanent infertility.

These findings appeared in the August 18, 2011 issue of British Journal of Nutrition.


I thought it was really interesting that this super food actually slowed tumor growth, so I called Geovanni Espinosa, ND, director of clinical trials at the Integrative Urology Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City and a highly regarded expert in natural treatment for prostate cancer, to hear what he had to say about this research.

One finding that Dr. Espinosa pointed to was that ginger showed zero signs of toxicity in the study. He noted that ginger is not 100% risk-free — for example, in rare cases, high amounts of ginger might worsen a bleeding disorder, reduce blood sugar too much if you’re diabetic and interfere with blood pressure drugs and certain heart medications, such as digoxin and digitoxin. So the possible side effects of treatment with ginger need to be studied in humans. But Dr. Espinosa believes that the Georgia State study provides sufficient information to encourage most prostate cancer patients to include ginger in their diets — so talk to your doctor. And, because some of the individual components in ginger are anti-inflammatory, he believes that ginger (like fruits and vegetables) may even help prevent prostate cancer as well — even though that topic wasn’t tackled in this particular study. In fact, since inflammation lies at the bottom of so many diseases besides prostate cancer, Dr. Espinosa told me that virtually everyone — male and female — can benefit from consuming ginger.

It’s easy to include the pungent root in your daily diet — you can grate it or slice it to mix with vegetables, rice, salad dressings and smoothies. Ginger tea (made from the root) is delicious, as are some ginger-infused beverages from natural-food manufacturers — just don’t fall into the trap of thinking ginger ale is a healthy choice, since it has so much sugar!


Geovanni Espinosa, ND, director, Integrative Urology Center, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City.

The Spice That Could Keep Alzheimer’s Away

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

When I saw a recent study saying that a common kitchen spice may help sweep something called cellular metal toxicity from the brain — specifically excessive amounts of iron and copper, which have been linked to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s — it made me want to spice up my life.

I’m talking about curcumin, a phytochemical that is found in the spice turmeric. This intriguing study comes from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston — it was published in Journal of Biological Chemistry. We’ve been learning for years that this phytochemical can prevent and treat many diseases, such as certain cancers, but this is the first study to suggest that curcumin is also beneficial to the brain.


Lead study author Muralidhar Hegde, PhD, and senior author Sankar Mitra, PhD, noted that our bodies naturally contain trace amounts of certain metals, including copper and iron. In small amounts, these metals are not only harmless but essential for good health. But some people’s brain cells — for reasons that scientists don’t yet completely understand — start accumulating large amounts of copper or iron, which can wreak havoc.

If you have a large amount of iron and copper in your brain cells, the extra “free” metals overwhelm the proteins that are supposed to store them and start causing two major problems. First, they initiate chemical reactions that lead to DNA damage. And then, to make matters worse, Dr. Hegde and colleagues found, they also interfere with DNA repair enzymes that attempt to fix the damage. Since too much unrepaired DNA damage can lead to neurodegenerative disorders, that’s one scary situation.


But it’s not all doom and gloom. The researchers tested several chemicals called metal chelators and natural dietary and/or plant components in petri dishes to see if any of the substances would help keep iron and copper stored so they wouldn’t interfere with the DNA repair enzymes. All the substances tested worked to some extent, but there was one that worked better than all the rest — curcumin. “Curcumin appeared to stop the metals from blocking the DNA repair by more than 90% to 95% — so it essentially reversed the damage to the genetic material,” said Dr. Hegde.

A natural remedy that may help stave off Alzheimer’s disease is exciting to think about — but, said Dr. Hegde, it’s important to keep the nature of this particular finding in context. Animal testing is in order to confirm that curcumin is an effective treatment and to know exactly how much curcumin belongs in the ideal dose, then researchers can move on to human studies.

In the meantime, since what we are talking about is just a common spice, what can’t hurt — and might greatly help — is to consume greater quantities of curcumin in foods like Indian and Asian dishes.


Muralidhar Hegde, PhD, research scientist, and Sankar Mitra, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas

The Snoring Treatment That Your Doctor May Not Mention

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

If you’ve ever had to poke your spouse in the ribs in the middle of the night to get him/her to stop snoring, then you know how maddening this noisy habit can be — and how cumbersome many of the common treatments are (such as mouthpieces and special pillows). So I was delighted to learn about an easy (and fun!) solution — sing your snoring away.

My father actually stumbled across an anti-snoring singing program online and said it worked wonders for him. So I called the woman behind it — Alise Ojay, a singing instructor and choir director at the University of Exeter in the UK — to find out more about how busting out a tune might reduce (or even eliminate) snoring.


First, Ojay reminded me why snoring makes the noise that it does — it occurs when airflow through your respiratory structures is partially blocked either by solid structures such as large tonsils or by any loose tissues, such as the walls of the throat and the soft palate (where the back of your throat meets the roof of your mouth). Any restriction makes your breath more turbulent, so if the soft palate has flopped back across the airway it can vibrate like a flag in the wind. The vibrations are what produce the loud, buzz sawlike sounds.

Then Ojay told me a story. Some years ago, a friend of hers who was in his 40s complained to her about his snoring problem, which was making it hard for him to develop a long-term relationship. He demonstrated the snoring noise that he made, and it struck Ojay that it sounded like his soft palate was lax. Good muscle control over the soft palate is vital for singers so they can choose to make either a bright clear sound (when the soft palate is raised) or a duller nasal sound (when the soft palate is dropped) and any sound quality in between. She thought to herself, “You can use singing to tone the soft palate so it will be more taut and less likely to vibrate in sleep.” Thus her do-it-yourself CD program, Singing for Snorers, was born. She sells the program on her Web site — three CDs and a 48-page instruction booklet — for 42 English pounds, which is roughly $70 for US customers.


Singing for Snorers leads users through a vigorous workout for snoring-related respiratory structures — the soft palate, the arch at the back of the mouth, the tongue and nasal passages. When you repeat certain sounds, Ojay explained, the exercises isolate and work different airway muscles, just like you would target certain muscle groups at the gym to increase strength and fitness. For example, to tone the soft palate: Make the “ung-gah” sound. As you sing “ung,” your soft palate comes down to touch the back of your tongue… as you follow with “gah,” it lifts back up. It’s important to sing these phrases and not just say them out loud, said Ojay, because when you sing, you use more energy and strength, so your muscles work harder — in other words, the more power you can bring to these exercises, the better.

Ojay noted that you don’t have to be a good singer to get the full benefit of her program — because it doesn’t matter how good you sound while you do it but only that you work the right muscles. If you decide to try the program, expect to sing along with the singer and instrumental background music on the CDs for 12 minutes a day for the first month and 18 minutes a day during the second and third months. The exercises require a good amount of energy and are “enlivening,” according to Ojay — so it’s best to perform them during the day when you have plenty of energy to do them right (and so they don’t rev you up too much before bedtime). She adds that users vary tremendously in how quickly they see results. Most see changes by the second month, but when her own partner tried her treatment, his snoring continued to the third week of the third month… and then he suddenly stopped for good. More than 3,000 people have bought Ojay’s CDs and she advises users to maintain their tone once the program is finished by doing a “maintenance program,” which consists of singing through at least a few exercises a few times a week.


To see what a doctor who deals with sleep-related problems thought of this novel type of treatment, I called William Kohler, MD, medical director of the Florida Sleep Institute in Spring Hill and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Anything that strengthens, and in turn stabilizes, the throat can help stop snoring, said Dr. Kohler. In fact, he told me about a study that demonstrated that playing the didgeridoo — an Australian wind instrument — strengthened airways and reduced snoring in people with sleep apnea (a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts). So Dr. Kohler believes that singing may have a similar effect — though research needs to be done on the topic to confirm that. If more studies confirm the positive results — and if more doctors become aware that singing may help — Dr. Kohler thinks that more doctors may begin recommending singing as a treatment option.

At the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in England, researchers are working on just such a study. In the past few years, they have conducted a clinical trial of Ojay’s exercises in both chronic snorers and people with mild-to-moderate sleep apnea, and she expects the results to be published next year. In the meantime, if you snore, you might want to consider singing exercises as a more comfortable and enjoyable alternative to traditional snoring treatments. For more information about Ojay’s program, visit

Caution: If snoring is severe (disrupts your sleep or your partner’s sleep and/or leads to difficulty functioning the next day due to intense fatigue), consult a physician. In some cases, snoring is a sign of a serious underlying sleep disorder. You can find a sleep specialist in your area at the Web site of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (

William Kohler, MD, medical director, Florida Sleep Institute, Spring Hill. Dr. Kohler is a spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (

Alise Ojay, singing instructor, choir director at the University of Exeter, UK, and a singer and composer. Ojay is the creator of the Singing for Snorers program (