Salt: friend or foe?

Just recently, a long-time patient of mine brought me a copy of an article on salt and asked me to read it. The article, entitled “Health advice takes a pinch of salt” was from a publication named The Costco Connection that I had never heard of or seen before.

My patient told me that reading the article felt to him like listening to me talk, and he was sure that I would enjoy it as well. As it turns out I did. I found the article well-written and well-referenced, and it reminded me of a similar article I had read just a few months earlier in the New York Times.

The point of the article was that salt is widely believed among medical professionals and the public at large to cause high blood pressure, which then leads to heart attacks, stroke, and other cardiovascular ailments.

However, the link between salt consumption and high blood pressure has never been proved conclusively. The belief that there is such a link stems more from medical bias than scientific evidence. It is true that an observational study published in 1972 showed that among populations that used little added salt in their food high blood pressure was rare. One minor detail that was overlooked was that these same populations also did not eat sugar or processed food – two far more likely culprits in my opinion, than salt. Read More »

Repair the membrane, restore the body: innovative approaches to regaining optimal health and the science behind them

At one time cell membranes were believed to just be envelopes surrounding cells. However, it has been nearly forty years since the structure of the cell membrane was deciphered leading to the development of the Lipid Bi-Layer Fluid Mosaic Model. In this model cell membranes are no longer seen as merely envelopes, they become dynamic structures that play critical roles in the health and detoxification of cells, and the cells’ unique ability to work in concert – thus keeping us in good health.

Lipids – or fats – are the main component of cell membranes. Lipids in cell membranes are actually phospholipids – or a combination of fats and phosphorus – and not just fats. They don’t just sit idly by doing nothing; they contribute to every aspect of cellular energy, detoxification, and optimal function.

Healthy cell-membranes lead to healthy cells, a healthy body, plenty of energy, healthy aging, and so forth. Among other things, cell membranes incorporate hormone receptors that, if sound, will promote healthy hormone activity throughout the body.

Unfortunately the fats (or phospholipids) in cell membranes can be degraded leading to deterioration in cellular – and, overall – health and wellness.

A major reason why cell membranes become damaged is poor diet. When highly processed fats are a major component of an individual’s diet, they will be incorporated in cell membranes and cause their function to deteriorate. Excessive intake of sugars

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, refined carbohydrates and other processed foods will have the same negative effect.

The fats in cell membranes are very vulnerable to oxidation, so a lack of antioxidants in the diet is also a primary cause of damage to cell membranes.

Last but not least, environmental toxins like mercury and an almost endless list of chemicals present in our everyday lives can also harm cell membranes, and thus have far-reaching adverse effects on health.

The first symptom of cell membrane damage could be described as decreased energy levels or vitality, although other common symptoms include intestinal and digestive problems, chronic pain, and weakened immunity. Damaged cell membranes have also been linked with neurological disorders, autism, problems like depression or anxiety, ADHD and – ultimately – cancer, heart disease, mental decline, and more.

Forty years of research on cell membranes have significantly enhanced our understanding of their central role in health. Ultimately much of what is recommended today, like fish oil supplements, is aimed at improving cell membrane health whether we know it or not.

Meanwhile, forward thinking researchers and physicians developed the concept of Lipid Replacement Therapy (LRT) – a way to actually “change the oil” in the body. Damaged fats in cell membranes are replaced with healthy ones, gradually restoring health. Read More »

Must Read Gluten-Free Books

Contributed by Allison Medford-Plesko

Going gluten-free can be extremely overwhelming. Below is a list of books that are helpful, especially when beginning a gluten-free diet. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Going Against the Grain by Melissa Smith
This is the book Dr. Volpe recommends to all his patients who are switching to a gluten-free diet. It is easy to read and extremely informative.

Gluten Free on a Shoestring: 125 Easy Recipes for Eating Well on the Cheap by Nicole Hunn
Gluten-free food is pricey. This book gives great advice and tips for saving money.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gluten-Free Eating by Eve Adamson
This is a very extensive guide to being gluten-free. It has everything from a week’s worth of menus to a list of foods you can and cannot eat.

The Essential Gluten-Free Grocery Guide

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, 5th Edition (2012) by Triumph Dining
This guide makes shopping easier and a little less overwhelming.

The Essential Gluten Free Restaurant Guide, 5th Edition by Triumph Dining.
This is really good for traveling with kids. It lists restaurants with gluten-free menus by state and city.

Living Gluten Free for Dummies by Danna Korn
Everything is in this one book. It includes tips to help your child transition into the gluten-free lifestyle as well as many more helpful tools.

Cilantro: The Little Plant That Packs a Really Big Punch

contributed by Allison Plesko

 The many benefits of Cilantro include:

  • Helps eliminate from the body heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and aluminum from the body
  • Oils contain digestive enzymes assisting with digestion and nausea
  • Anti-Bacterial properties- contains Dodecenal which has been shown to fight salmonella
  • Anti-Inflammatory effects
  • Naturally contains iron, magnesium and dietary fiber
  • Immune boosting properties
  • Raises good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol
  • Assists with urinary tract infections
  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Contains phytonutrients and flavonoids such as Quercetin, which helps the body fight free radicals


Cilantro Pesto


Enough cilantro (not packed down) to fill blender

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 lemons or limes

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, juiced

2-5 cloves garlic, pressed

sea salt to taste

1/2-1 cup walnuts (or preferred nut or seed)

How to make it:

1. Put in blender and process until course.

2. You may have to stop it and push it down with a spatula.

3. Enjoy with gluten free crackers or chips.


Apple-Pear-Cilantro Smoothie


1 small, ripe, organic red apple of your choice

1 small, ripe, organic pear of your choice

2 large handfuls of organic cilantro leaves

1 large handful of organic mixed greens

1-2 teaspoon honey or agave nectar

2 cups pure water (can use coconut water)

1 tablespoon of protein powder- gluten free (Pro Zone Vanilla)

(Optional- honey or agave nectar to taste)

How to Make:

1. Wash and core pear and apple, leaving the peels on them.

2. Wash cilantro well and place all ingredients in a blender.

3. Add protein powder and ice if needed.

4. May add honey or agave to your preferred taste.

5. Blend, pour into a glass and enjoy.

TV Interview: Can foods help children with ADD, ADHD?

Dr. Volpe was interviewed concerning his work with children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and an improved diet. The interview was aired in Houston on the 10 pm news of the local NBC affiliate on January 20, 2012.

WATCH THE VIDEO: Can foods help children with ADD, ADHD?

Excerpts from the interview:

“Volpe is a chiropractor and nutritionist but over the years, solving health problems naturally became his passion. He doesn’t advise his patients on whether to medicate their children, he just looks at their diet and their health history to help. Volpe says some children are very sensitive to certain foods.

Volpe warns, “Children today have a very poor diet — a lot of sugar, a lot of processed foods, a lot of what we would call empty calories.”

He says don’t expect food to reproduce that laser like focus that Adderral

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, Ritalin or Concerta brings.

Volpe worries the drugs are just a band-aid — they never correct the problem, just the symptoms.”

New pathogen in GM crops found to affect animal health

Genetically modified (GM) crops now account for the majority of soybeans, corn, cotton and other major crops grown in the United States – see They are also a major component of U.S. food exports, our human diet, and often account for the entire feed of cattle, poultry and other farm animals.

GM plants are altered profoundly from the defining characteristics that differentiate a plant from an animal or bacteria in nature. For example, so-called “Roundup Ready” GM corn, soy and other crops carry a bacterial gene that makes them resistant to the powerful herbicide Roundup.

Without this extra gene, they would succumb to the application of Roundup at the same rate as weeds and other grasses. With the bacterial gene – given that Roundup does not kill bacteria – the GM plants survive unscathed. Does that make them plants or bacteria? And – more importantly – is it now conceivable that they could cause infections or other health effects that are typical of bacteria?

Read More »

Are treatments for heart disease the modern equivalent of radical mastectomy?

Cardiologist Caldwell Esselstyn, MD reminds us that it is not so long ago that the treatment of choice for breast cancer was radical mastectomy – a disfiguring surgical procedure that often caused lifelong pain and loss of function. This practice continued for decades in the face of evidence that far less invasive procedures were equally effective.

Likewise, bypass surgery, balloon angioplasty, and a host of drugs continue to be prescribed in spite of evidence that nutrition can cure even advanced forms of heart disease.

You can read about this in a recent article Dr. Esselstyn wrote for the American Journal of Cardiology – – and also in his excellent book entitled “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”.

This story began in 1985 when Dr. Esselstyn tried against all odds to save a group of terminal heart patients who had already been administered every type of surgery and drug known and were sent home with a prognosis of weeks, or at most months, to live.

Rather than accepting what seemed inevitable, Dr. Esselstyn had them follow a strict vegan diet. All improved. Many recovered, and the book even shows images of blocked arteries that cleared within a few years on his diet. Read More »

Gluten sensitivity and Celiac Disease: new understanding and testing options

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that causes certain characteristic changes in the lining of the small intestine. The trigger for Celiac Disease is a severe reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat and some other grains. Although there is a blood test for Celiac Disease, it is not always reliable and the standard for diagnosis is an intestinal biopsy to identify the changes that are typical of this illness.

Although Celiac Disease used to be considered rare, there is evidence that the incidence of this serious and sometimes life-threatening illness has been growing. A recent study that compared military records from 50 years ago to current ones concluded that over this time period the incidence of Celiac disease rose from one case in 700 people to one in just one hundred (Gastroenterology

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, 2009 July; 137(1): 88-93). The reasons for this explosion are not entirely clear but there is a probable link to changes in the composition and processing of food, as well as new environmental challenges to the immune system.

Aside from Celiac Disease, people can suffer from different types of sensitivity to gluten that are not associated with the same characteristic intestinal changes. Mainstream medicine does not recognize these other forms of sensitivity to gluten, but many doctors and nutritionists, myself included, strongly believe they exist and are common. Read More »

Gluten-free restaurants in Houston

Contributed by Allison Plesko

As we all know, going gluten-free can be overwhelming, especially with children. To make your life a little easier, listed below are some restaurants featuring gluten-free menus throughout Houston and the surrounding areas.

  • Jason’s Deli
  • Pei Wei
  • PF Chang’s
  • Outback Steakhouse
  • Olive Garden
  • Joe’s Crab Shack
  • Ruggles Green- Inner Loop area only
  • Pinks Pizza- Inner Loop area only

**Many of these restaurants have Dairy-Free options as well.

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Health brief: Diet and ADHD

Early studies of diet and ADHD were designed so poorly that they could not possibly have found a link. Unfortunately these studies lead pediatricians to say that there was conclusive evidence that ADHD had no association with diet, even though children with ADHD often ate very poor diets with little or no nutritional value. Often to the pediatrician the diet was fine as long as a child was growing.

At long last some new and well-designed studies on diet and ADHD have been coming out of Europe. They prove that when children diagnosed with ADHD are placed on so-called elimination diets their hyperactivity and focus problems resolve or improve greatly. Other associated symptoms, including oppositional behavior and irritability, also improve.

These special diets eliminate foods containing dairy, wheat, corn, sugar and other problem foods for sensitive children. They can be very difficult to implement but are designed to be followed for only short periods of time as a way to identify which foods trigger symptoms for each individual child. I have been working for similar diets for a decade or longer and it is nice to see that science is finally catching up. (Lancet 2011; 377: 494-503 and Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2009; 18:12-19).

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Is sugar really toxic?

The answer to this question seems obvious to me but unfortunately medical/nutritional science has paid little attention to the toxic nature of sugar and so far only looked at it as “empty calories”. The implication to most people is that if you eat too much sugar it can cause you to gain weight but otherwise it is really harmless.

The rationale for the empty calorie theory is that sugar contains no valuable nutrients

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, only calories which no one needs in our day and age. Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth. Sugar is a metabolic poison and this has nothing to do with calories. It disrupts hormones, adversely affects the brain, weakens immunity, and has many more negative effects on health. Read More »

Allison’s Gluten-Free favorites

Here are a few of my kids’ favorite foods that could possibly make a busy mom’s life and eating gluten free a little bit easier.  Enjoy!

  • Udi’s Gluten-Free Bread, Pizza Crust, and Hot Dog Buns
  • Pamela’s Ultimate Baking and Pancake Mix
  • Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta
  • Enjoy Life Cookies and On-the-Go Bars
  • Kind Fruit and Nut Bars
  • Lara Bar All Natural Energy Bars
  • Puffins Cereal- Multigrain or Honey Rice
  • GlutenFreeda’s Oatmeal
  • Glutino Gluten-Free Pretzels
  • Applegate Natural Gluten-Free Chicken Nuggets

These products can be found at Whole Foods or

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Could Nitric Oxide deficiency be the cause of your health challenges?

You may not yet have heard about nitric oxide (NO), but this is one tiny molecule the scientific community is excited about. There are new studies published about it every month and there is even a medical journal called Nitric Oxide dedicated entirely to covering research on this topic!

NO is tiny because it is made of just two elements: nitrate and oxygen bound together. Nevertheless it has very powerful effects. It was first identified in the human body in the 1970’s but its function in health was not yet clear at the time. By 1998 enough was known about its critical roles that the scientists who first discovered it were belatedly awarded a Nobel Prize.

NO is produced in the inner layer of the arteries called endothelial layer where it promotes relaxation of the artery wall, thus increasing blood flow and regulating blood pressure. It also acts as a powerful antioxidant and controls inflammation now known to be at the root of heart disease and many other health problems, including cancer and dementia. Read More »

Essential minerals: supercharge your (or your child’s) diet with homemade beef bone stock

When it comes to maintaining or regaining health, nothing plays as important a role as proper mineral balance in the body. Although we no longer hear much about it

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, leading experts in the field of nutritional medicine sounded the alarm as early as the 1930’s and 40’s: modern agricultural practices were depleting the soil, generating widespread mineral deficiencies and imbalances. This in turn left us vulnerable to weakened immunity, digestive and nervous system disorders, and more. When combined with the dramatic spread of environmental chemicals and other toxins over the past half century, the recipe for disaster is complete.

Those sounding the alarm were the likes of Henry Bieler, MD, and Max Gerson, MD. Dr. Bieler wrote the book “Food is Your Best Medicine.” He believed in drug-free medicine and was well-known at the time for being the personal physician to Greta Garbo and other stars. He was also known because his patients had a habit of living well into their nineties. Dr. Gerson authored “A Cancer Therapy.” He used food, vegetable juices, and little else to successfully treat diseases ranging from migraines to diabetes and even cancer.

Mineral supplements can help correct deficiency in some instances; however, many essential minerals are poorly absorbed from supplements. In addition, manmade supplements that are not properly balanced can aggravate any existing imbalance. The bottom line is that only natural unprocessed foods contain minerals in optimal ratios and, in fact, the body is ideally suited to absorb minerals from food rather than supplements.
Read More »

Do you have high cholesterol? High blood sugar? Gout? Weight gain around the waist? Inflammation? Try cherries!

Though this may seem hard to believe, if research now spanning several decades is accurate, natural cherries or cherry extract have all these benefits and more.

Gout sufferers who are tuned in to natural remedies have known for decades that drinking a bottle (or two) of cherry juice can put a stop even to a severe gout attack. The earliest published study on this that I was able to find is dated 1950 (Cherry diet control for gout and arthritis, Tex Rep Biol Med).

Recent studies show that compounds in cherries lower both uric acid (the direct cause of gout) and inflammatory markers in blood. In particular cherry consumption was shown to lower C-reactive protein (CRP), an indicator of inflammation in blood that is now considered a better predictor of cardiovascular disease than cholesterol levels (Kelley, J Nutr 2006).
Read More »

Government “discovers” that chemicals cause cancer and advises we eat organic

Since President Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971 we have had a presidential panel with the duty to report to sitting presidents on progress in this war. In the past all the reports focused on new research findings, drug development or new surgical procedures.

In May of this year a President Bush-appointed panel rocked to boat and chose for the first time to report on the role that environmental chemicals play in causing cancer.

In a letter to President Obama, the panel discussed the evidence that chemicals in the environment cause many cancers, and went on to state: “The Panel urges you most strongly to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our Nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.”
Among its recommendations, the panel stated that eating organic “is vitally important” for children who “are far more susceptible to damage from environmental carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting compounds than adults”. Pretty strong words if you ask me. Now I wonder if other government agencies, like the FDA, will continue to belittle the benefits of organic food or claim that chemicals are harmless…

Nutrition in pregnancy: a determining factor of health throughout life

It is no mystery to anyone today that pregnant women’s lifestyle and diet can affect the health of the baby to be. Research continues to show that maternal diet and possible deficiencies not only have a determining effect on the mental and physical health of babies and children, but also that of adults even late in life. This article will touch briefly on the major aspects of diet and supplementation during pregnancy but also provides interesting reading for anyone seeking to improve their health.

In fact scientists in this field now consider maternal nutrition to be a risk factor for cancer, diabetes and heart disease, regardless of when these might occur in life. Not only, but this risk factor is independent of other known factors like a person’s own diet, lifestyle and genetics. Lack of nutrients in pregnancy can turn on genes that would otherwise lie dormant and cause no harm, but that once activated become triggers for illness at any time in life.

In most cases, aside from being told to “eat well” and take a multivitamin, women are not informed of new research in this field or all the components of a healthy pregnancy that contribute to thriving babies who grow into healthy adults.

The three major dietary factors that were found to adversely affect the baby are insufficient protein, excessive sugar and starchy foods, and lack of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Protein is basically what the body is made of. It is the most essential building-block for the baby to be, but it is also as essential for the mother’s own health maintenance. Lack of protein in pregnancy can deplete the mother setting the stage, among other things, for post-partum depression.

The body has no way of storing protein, so it has to be consumed on a daily basis, and preferably several times a day. In the excellent book (now out of print) “Metabolic Toxemia of Late Pregnancy”, Thomas Brewer, MD showed how pre-eclampsia and eclampsia can be effectively prevented by making sure women eat enough protein during pregnancy.

According to the FDA a pregnant woman weighing 150 lbs needs 75 grams of protein a day. This is likely to be an underestimate because of a medical anti-protein bias that exists today and therefore it should be considered as a strict minimum. To give you an idea of how much food is involved, 2 large eggs contain a total of 12 grams of protein, lean meats or seafood around 7 grams per ounce, hard cheese 10 grams per ounce, and beans 7-10 grams per half cup cooked.
Read More »

Interested in healthy aging? Consider supplementing with Potassium Bicarbonate (K-Bicarb)

Over the years I have written often about how the modern diet and lifestyle cause our bodies to become increasingly acidic as we age, and how excessive acidity leads to or favors many of the health conditions associated with aging.

Although women are reminded constantly about taking calcium to stave off osteoporosis, they have to do extensive research to learn that when the body is acidic it draws calcium and other minerals out of bones, and no amount of milk or calcium supplements will reverse that trend. I wrote about this topic a few years ago and readers who are interested can find my article by going to my website and searching in Newsletters.

Many common symptoms that modern medicine struggles to address today, including fluid retention, fatigue, lack of restful sleep, muscle tension, and more, can result from excessive acidity.
Read More »

A Mother’s Story

This is not the type of email I receive every day, but when one arrives it is always touching and it gives me a very good feeling about what I do. When I received this one I immediately thought I would like to share it with my readers. I emailed the author asking if I could do so, after changing her daughter’s name. She answered that I could share it with anyone I wanted, and there was no need to change any names, anyway she already tells everyone she meets. For privacy concerns I still changed the name. Here is her email:

”I’ve been meaning to write you for a while, but never seem to find the time to sit down and write when it is on my mind. If you remember we started the gluten-free casein-free soy-free diet in October. If I remember correctly we were probably on the diet for 2-3 weeks when she came down with a terrible sinus infection. We had a follow-up with you in early November, and she had just gotten over her sinus infection. I had taken her to our regular pediatrician, who is quite open-minded, but basically painted the picture that he has seen her situation (gigantic tonsils) many times over the years, and that he bet he would be seeing a lot of us that winter. He explained how the crowding doesn’t allow the ears to drain, etc. and that while she would eventually outgrow it, how much intervention would we have to do in the meantime? It was clear to me (without him saying it) that he thought tonsillectomy was the right path. That until we did the surgery, we’d be in and out of his office with illness like a revolving door, especially during the winter. I left feeling discouraged, but we stuck with the diet and supplements.
Read More »

Cancer politics, early detection, and alternative treatment options

A few months ago I attended a conference where one of the speakers was Charlotte Gerson, daughter of the late Max Gerson, MD. Though Charlotte is now 85, you would never guess it by looking at her or listening to her speak. She walks erect, with no hesitation in her step and talks with the clarity and lucidity you would expect in a forty-year-old.

We could say that Charlotte is living proof that her father’s therapy works because she has been implementing it for decades.  Dr. Gerson’s story is well worth summarizing here.

When Max Gerson, as a young man, attended medical school in his native Germany, he suffered from debilitating migraine headaches. That was the turn of the century, before the development of the modern arsenal of drugs. Today he would be prescribed a drug or combination of drugs that might leave him feeling like a zombie, but would control the pain.
Read More »