Mailbag: Your Health Questions, Answered

|January 3, 2020

To start off the new year, I’d like to take some time out of our regularly scheduled programming to address some reader health questions that came into the mailbag at the end of 2019.

But before digging in, I’d just like to remind people to keep them coming.

Even though I won’t be able to respond to every question (and I can’t offer personal medical advice), I’ll address as many of them as I can in future columns.

Without further ado, let’s start with a question on a lot of people’s minds about cannabis…

I understand that cannabis can relieve arthritis pain all over the body. But it has to be a certain kind of cannabis taken in a certain way. Can you explain? Thanks. – Reader J.K.

To be sure, navigating the ocean of information on cannabis out there these days can be overwhelming. But I’ll try my best to keep it simple.

There are a lot of medications and treatment plans out there to treat the debilitating effects of arthritis. But more and more people are looking for more natural pain relief options…

That’s where cannabidiol (CBD) oil comes in.

CBD is one of dozens of chemical cannabinoids found in cannabis. And CBD oil is developed using this specific compound.

Here’s how it works…

CBD affects the body’s endocannabinoid system, of which there are two receptors: CB1 and CB2.

CBD targets our CB2 receptors, which are responsible for immunomodulation – meaning they alter the immune system to respond the right way.

By targeting these receptors, CBD helps the body to create more of its own naturally occurring cannabinoids.

And those cannabinoids have a positive effect on how the body targets and deals with pain and inflammation responses.1, 2

As for how to take CBD, you’ve got options…

When taken orally as a liquid (with a dropper), CBD gets metabolized (and much of it destroyed) in the gut or liver before it can be circulated throughout the body.3 But this is still a perfectly acceptable way to get the benefits of CBD because it doesn’t take much to get the endocannabinoid system rearing and ready to go.

There are also nasal sprays that have a much higher bioavailability. But these aren’t as readily available and can be slightly irritating to the nasal cavity.

Lastly, there are topical creams and lotions. The major benefit of a topical application is the ability to target specific problem areas causing pain. And there’s plenty of science to back up this method as well.

Research published in the European Journal of Pain concluded that topical CBD application has “therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviors and inflammation without evident side effects.”4

So when it comes to arthritis relief, CBD is your go-to. And whether taken orally or topically, you should reap the benefits.

Timing It Right

We also received a few questions about getting the most out of your meals by syncing when you eat to your naturally occurring circadian rhythm.

Enjoyed your article regarding using the circadian rhythm to plan eating. However, you did not mention any “lunch.” Are you saying that only two meals should be eaten? Reader J.H.

On the contrary, three (or even four if that’s your fancy) sensible meals are perfectly acceptable to properly sync with your circadian rhythm.

I skipped over lunch because the key takeaway of a circadian diet is that you keep an eye on when you start eating for the day (breaking your fast) and when you stop eating for the day.

What happens in the middle of a properly synced eating schedule is completely up to you.

But that doesn’t mean you can go hog wild and eat as much as you want either…

While a well-timed eating habit can do wonders for our metabolism, it only goes so far. And regular overindulgence will quickly outweigh the benefits of a circadian diet.

Are You Nuts?

And lastly, we were asked for more information on foods that have an impact on testosterone levels (as we wrote about in this piece).

What about pistachio nuts? Good, bad, neutral? – Reader C.H.

Well, if you spend enough time looking online, you’ll find that pistachios have high levels of phytosterols

And even though there’s almost no evidence to support it, the internet is rife with folks making unverified claims that these compete with endogenous cholesterol, which lowers the production of testosterone.

The reality is there’s no evidence to date that phytosterols have any impact on human testosterone production.5

So pistachios are a net neutral in terms of testosterone levels.

But there are plenty of other good reasons to grab a handful of pistachios every day.

Diets with a steady intake of pistachios have been linked to lower systolic blood pressure.6

There’s also reason to believe that pistachios can improve the symptoms of erectile dysfunction.7

They’re also known to lower the load placed on the heart during stressful times because they lower vascular constriction.8

And they’re loaded with nutrients, low in calories and good for a healthy gut.9

My only suggestion would be to eat raw, unshelled pistachios.

The roasting process can reduce nutrients and decrease the levels of beneficial fatty acids and amino acids.

Happy new year to all of our readers… and please keep the questions coming. You can send an email to