Archive for the ‘Ask Marilyn – Star Questions’ Category

Ask Marilyn – Star Question: I am concerned about the red spots that have been appearing all over my body. What are they and can I cure them?

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Q: I have re-subscribed to your magazine and have just received my copy, which I have found very, very interesting as usual. When I came to your Ask Marilyn section I thought that I’d contact you to see if you could answer this question, which has been concerning me for a while.

I am 63 and have been getting many, many moles appearing on my skin, but I am most concerned about the many red spots that are also appearing all over my body. Some are not very big, just like pin head size, and others are about a quarter of an inch wide; some are flat to the skin, but most are slightly raised and hard. All of them are bright red. I have been monitoring them and they do not go away. I am most conscious about the ones on my neck and chest, although I can disguise these a little with make up. Is there anything that I can do to get rid of them? My diet is very good and I always buy organic foods where possible and only use natural soaps and body lotions that do not contain any nasties, and I drink mainly green tea. 


Obviously the moles are an age related problem, but what are these hard red spots and can I cure them?



A: With any moles or unusual spots appearing on the skin it is always important to have them seen by your doctor who may refer you to a dermatologist for a check up.


It is likely, however, that the red spots are something called cherry angiomas, which are broken blood capillaries that are visible on the skin. They are more common as we get older because the skin isn’t as strong because it has lost collagen and the capillaries can become more fragile. These cherry angiomas can bleed if injured because the blood vessels are so close to the surface.


Medically there is no known cause for cherry angiomas and no real research into the problem because they are usually harmless. They can be treated by using Intense Pulsed Light or lasers. 


Nutritionally my approach would be to work on strengthening the capillaries and improving the manufacture of collagen. There’s a class of antioxidants (called flavonoids, of which more than 4,000 have been characterized) and two of them are especially important for you. These are the bioflavonoids and the proanthocyanidins.


The bioflavonoids are closely associated with vitamin C and are found in citrus fruits.  They are excellent at strengthening capillaries and also help to preserve collagen, which can so easily be damaged by free radicals. Proanthocyanidins are the flavonoids which give the deep colour to many berries such as blackberries, blueberries, raspberries etc.  They are excellent ‘free radical scavengers’ so, like bioflavonoids, they help to slow down the ageing process and also help to preserve the integrity of capillaries. They also strengthen the collagen matrix and stop the destruction of collagen, which is not only important for our skin but also for our bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis. 


So make sure you eat a good amount of fruits, especially berries, and take a supplement of vitamin C containing bioflavonoids (500mg twice a day). You can also get the proanthocyanidins as freeze dried berries in a concentrated form (see the Resources Page). But do make sure you see your doctor to get the all clear on both the moles and the cherry angiomas.

Ask Marilyn – Star Question: I keep getting headaches and migraines, do you have any nutritional suggestions that might help?

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Q: I keep getting headaches and sometimes they can be a migraine attack where I feel nauseous and have to avoid light, what can I do nutritionally to help myself? 

A: One of the most important nutritional recommendations for preventing headaches is to make sure that blood sugar is kept in balance. This means eating little and often (no longer than three hours without eating) and avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates which cause the blood sugar to fluctuate. Stimulants containing caffeine, like tea and coffee, should be avoided as withdrawal of caffeine will often give headaches and continuing the caffeine will add to the roller coaster of blood sugar swings. Avoid getting dehydrated as this can cause headaches, so it is important to make sure that you’re drinking at least eight glasses of water or herb teas each day.   


For anybody who suffers from headaches and migraines, you need to find out if there are any triggers – by knowing them you can take more control. Make a note of what occurred on the day of the headache/migraine. Write down what you ate, what time you ate and what you drank. Were you feeling stressed, overworked or just tired? The aim is to find a pattern or trigger.


Certain foods contain substances, such as tyramine, phenylethylamine and histamine, that trigger headaches and migraines. These foods can include cheese, citrus fruit, red wine, chocolate and coffee. There will be a time lag between eating the food and suffering an attack, which is why it is not always easy to spot which foods could be causing a problem. The time lag is due to the fact that the problem arises when the food reaches the liver and should be broken down by enzymes. For instance, red wine can be a problem as it contains high levels of chemicals known as phenols. Usually an enzyme destroys these chemicals but migraine sufferers seem to have low levels of this enzyme, and the red wine seems to inhibit the enzyme even further. Without these enzymes substances called ‘vasodilating amines’ are released, which expand the blood vessels of the brain. Some foods contain a number of substances that can cause a problem. Both alcohol and chocolate contain phenylethylamine, for example, and cheese contains tyramine. The same foods can also contain histamine or histamine-releasing compounds. For instance, red wine contains 20 to 200 times more histamine than white wine.


There are also some useful nutrients you can add in. Magnesium is a muscle relaxant and a deficiency can cause blood vessels to go into spasms, so ensuring good levels of magnesium is important for prevention. Taking magnesium daily has been shown to help not only the intensity but also the duration of menstrual migraines. Also add in Omega 3 fats in supplement form as they will help to control inflammation and pain. One study showed that migraine sufferers experienced a significant reduction in both the frequency and intensity of the attack by taking Omega 3 fatty acids every day.



Ask Marilyn – Star Question: How can I lower cholesterol without resorting to statins?

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Q: What would you suggest for helping to lower cholesterol before resorting to statins?


A: Last month we looked at the difference between cholesterol and fat – and that is important because we know that only about 20% of cholesterol comes from your diet and your liver produces the other 80%. Your body needs cholesterol and so does your brain because it helps to release neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) like serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter. As with anything in Nature you don’t want too much cholesterol, but it is also just as bad to have too little. Ideally your total cholesterol should be lower than 5 and a value between 4 – 5 is ideal. Statins can take cholesterol levels to as low as 3 and it is thought that a level lower than 4 can increase the risk of depression and even suicide. 


So what can you do to help yourself? You are aiming to do three things: 


  • Firstly, to alter the type of cholesterol you produce, so you are increasing HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol). You do this by increasing exercise, reducing stress and introducing foods containing garlic, soya and Omega 3 essential fatty acids – such as oily fish and linseeds (flaxseeds). 
  • Secondly, to remove excess cholesterol from your body. Do this by increasing the amount of soluble fibre (found in oats, beans, fruits and vegetables), which binds to the cholesterol and stops it being re-absorbed.
  • Thirdly, to remove foods that may interfere with the production of cholesterol – e.g. alcohol, caffeine and added sugar. Alcohol because it stresses the liver, which is where cholesterol is produced. Caffeine and added sugar because they are stimulants that encourage the over production of stress hormones, which are made from cholesterol.  So the more stress hormones your body has to produce, the more cholesterol it has to produce because the stress hormones are made from cholesterol.

To make the process faster, as well as addressing what you eat and drink, add in a few supplements over three months and then get your cholesterol checked again. Add in garlic (preferably Aged Garlic), Omega 3 fish oils, plant sterols (e.g. Lestrin) and granules of lecithin (which help to lower cholesterol and raise HDL, good cholesterol). If you need help getting these supplements then go to the Resources Page.