Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dark Chocolate: No, really, its okay… go ahead!


I used to engage in occasional experimentations, back in the day, some of which might be considered compromising by some.  But as my body was a tad more youthful, I could withstand occasional molecular imbalances for the sake of hopeful progress into dimensions unknown. Though many a stone was not left unturned, what remains is the only addiction I’ve ever known…one that turns out to be something that I can not only live with quite well, but one that is preferable to all others…and that is dark…oh so deliriously dark chocolate. And with the least sugar content the better, my personal choice is unprocessed died-in-the-wool pure organic chocolate nibs, as touted by one of my heroes, David Wolff.

Chocolate in its purest form contains a superlatively high amount of flavenoids: members of the antioxidant family known as polyphenols. Polyphenols perform the heroic task of helping our bodies fight against free radicals that show up in environmental toxins such as chemicals, pollution, radiation, automotive exhaust, and cigarette smoke. Free radicals are purported to cause premature aging as well as many degenerative diseases because as they float around looking for a match for their unpaired electrons they will almost always attach themselves to the bad guy (does this sound familiar?), causing damage to the life-giving properties within our cells.

Besides fighting free radicals, flavenoids also diminish the stickiness that can show up in blood platelets, which helps to lower high blood pressure, meaning that they can also reduce the possibility of myocardial infarction and stroke. Flavenoids also help prevent oxidation in the cells resulting from the effects of bad cholesterol, or LDL, while also increasing levels of good cholesterol, or HDL.

The essence of chocolate, the cocoa bean, contains over 400 chemicals, including the essential amino acids tryptophan, phenylalanine, and tyrosine. These amino acids assist the body in building protein as well as operating as neurotransmitters sending messages to and fro nerve cells in the brain. One of these messages, as we chocolate lovers have long noticed, is that of pleasure caused by that exquisite endorphin rush after biting into a succulent handful of chocolate nibs or a seductive bar of organic dark chocolate. 

Dark chocolate requires less processing than its frivolous cousins, milk and white chocolate. This means that the inherent flavenoid content is more or less intact, depending on the method of production. The higher the cocoa content in the chocolate, the more potent the healthful elements.  So my friends, go ahead… march right down to your local chocolate supplier and get your deserved measure of bliss.  Enjoy and be healthy.


Please note that as with everything in life, moderation is key…

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pomegranates: Heaven and Health


Anyone familiar with Greek myth knows the story of Persephone and the underworld where she was tricked by the god Hades into staying with him for several months out of the year. Though it was the pomegranate seeds he gave her to eat that bound her to this dark contract, pomegranates are anything but a forbidding fruit. Today they are considered a super food because of their ability to affect overall health in a considerably powerful way. 

Antioxidants Supreme
Pomegranate seeds contain antioxidants that are beneficial to the molecular structure of our bodies. Polyphenols, ellagic acid, gallic acid and punicalagin are some of the components that combat free radicals as well as other invasive toxins. With their additional gift of vitamins B1 2 3 5 6 and 9, vitamin C, potassium, iron, folic acid, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin, these glistening fruity jewels made for some powerful medicine.

The Briefest of Histories
The Ancients truly knew what they were doing when they incorporated pomegranates into their diet, more than 3000 years ago. Starting with the Persians, they were subsequently used as a flavoring, a refreshing food, and a medicinal throughout the Middle East, India, Southern Europe, and eventually elsewhere in the world. Growing in dry terrain, the pomegranate can withstand drought while still bringing us the gift of its juicy, tart, nutritious seeds.

Pomegranate’s Gifts
According to the scientific advisor to the natural pomegranate juice product, POM, Dr. Risa Shulman, visiting professor at the University of California, these are some of the gifts given to us by the pomegranate:

  • Raising good cholesterol and lowering bad cholesterol
  • Thinning the blood to allow greater flow to the heart
  • Improving the memory by delivering more oxygen to the brain
  • Reducing plaque in the arteries by eliminating fatty deposits to lower the possibility of stroke and heart attack. This also decreases arthrosclerosis or hardening of the arteries
  • Preventing damage to cartilage through its action as an enzyme inhibitor
  • Fighting various types of cancer
  • Improving skin tone.

Further Scientific Corroboration
Coronary Disease:
There have been many scientific claims regarding pomegranates. An article in the American Journal of the College of Cardiologists reports an increase in oxygen flow to the heart and advises drinking 8 ounces of pomegranate juice a day for patients with chronic coronary disease. 

Prostate Cancer:
Dr. Christopher Amling, who has been involved in prostate cancer patients reports that those drinking 8 ounces of pomegranate juice daily were able to stop chemo or hormone therapy due to the juice’s positive impact on PSA levels.

Lung Cancer:
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Cancer Chemoprevention Program reported in the journal, Cancer Research, that pomegranate juice shows promise in slowing down and ultimately preventing the proliferation of lung cancer. 

Estrogen Levels and Breast Cancer:
Dr. Ephraim Lansky of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Israel has stated that pomegranates may have the ability to replace the estrogen lacking in postmenopausal women. Further studies in this hospital have revealed that pomegranate seed oil helps to trigger the destruction of breast cancer cells while avoiding healthy cells.  This means pomegranates may also potentially help prevent breast cancer cells from forming. 

Alzheimer’s Disease:
In a study at Loma Linda University in California where mice with Alzheimer’s disease were given a daily dose of pomegranate juice, they were eventually able to perform complex mental tasks as destructive amyloid plaque accumulated in the brain began to diminish.

Erectile Dysfunction:
An article in the Journal of Urology claims that studies on animals suffering erectile dysfunction were successfully treated with pomegranate juice over a period of time, concluding that the overwhelmingly high anti-oxidant content in pomegranates helps to reduce oxidative stress that often contributes to this condition.

Taking Your Daily Dose
Just the simple sensual pleasure of opening up the fresh fruit and popping those juicy red seeds in your mouth (or someone else’s) is the best way to get your daily dose of heaven and health.  You can also put the seeds in a blender with other fruits and a dash of honey for extra sweetness. There are a plethora of dessert recipes using pomegranates, as well as tangy sauces to put over chicken or meat.  And if you swing towards cocktails, why not add a splash of pomegranate juice to your martini?  Delish….

Of course, fresh pomegranates are the best way to reap the benefits of the fruit, but you can also buy already bottled juice, concentrate, oil, capsules, or tablets from your local health food store.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Can Diet Affect Vision? by guest blogger, optometrist Tim Harwood



We have all heard the saying ‘we are what we eat,’ but we may not think of the health of our eyes when we consider this. Everyone knows a diet high in fruit and vegetables is good for our general health, but have you considered what they can do for our eyes?

Our Eyes, Our Bodies 
Our eyes, as part of our bodies, are also affected by diet and lifestyle. People with diets that are high in fat and sugar are more likely to develop eye problems, just as the body will be affected negatively.  In the same way that blood vessels can become narrower on the way to the heart (heart attack) and brain (stroke), so the blood vessels in our eyes can also become blocked. This can lead to a permanent loss of vision, which cannot be treated. Keeping our blood pressure and cholesterol balanced is just as important to the eyes as it is to the rest of the body. 
Diet and the Eyes 
There are certain types of foods that are specifically beneficial to the health and optimal function of our eyes. These are foods that contain the anti-oxidants Lutein and Zeaxanthin, anti–oxidants that play a role in slowing down the progression of two of the most common eye diseases that affect us as we get older: cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). Cataracts are less of a concern as they can be removed both easily and safely with a simple operation. Macular degeneration, however, is currently untreatable and leads to a slow and potentially dramatic loss of central vision. The macula is part of the retina at the back of our eyes and is responsible for the very central part of our vision. As macular degeneration progresses, tasks such as reading and recognising faces become increasingly difficult.
To ensure we get the maximum amount of Lutein and Zeaxanthin in our diets there are certain foods that are high in these anti-oxidants that we can include in our daily recipes: broccoli, spinach, green cabbage, kale, green leafed vegetables, mangos, and oranges. By ensuring a good supply of these fruit and vegetables, our eyes will get the very best chance at staying healthier for a long time to come.


Tim Harwood is an Optometrist with over 8 years in practice with a specialist interest in both laser eye surgery and contact lenses. He has worked both in the UK and Australia for both multiple and independent opticians.  






 



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Keeping Blood Sugar Levels Balanced with Cinnamon


More than a long time ago the ancient Greeks used cinnamon to treat a host of illnesses, including indigestion and nausea. The Egyptians were known to add it to their embalming formulae, recognizing the spice’s power as a preservative. Later on, during the Middle Ages, cinnamon was mixed with cloves and water to help reduce symptoms of Bubonic plague. Traditional Indian medicine has used cinnamon in Aruyvedic treatment to heal a myriad of problems such as urinary tract and yeast infections.  Today in current medicinal circles, cinnamon is recognized for its ability to balance glucose levels when insulin secretion is high.

The Cinnamon Tree
Native to Sri Lanka, Southern India, the West Indies, Zanzibar, Madagascar, Egypt, and Brazil, cinnamon is an evergreen tree that sports flowers along with berries containing a single seed. But it is the bark of the cinnamon tree that holds the medicinal secrets. Once the bark is removed from the tree, an inner portion is then stripped away and made into rolls or ground into the powder we find in supermarkets and health food stores.
  
Maintaining Glucose Levels with Cinnamon
The body controls blood sugar levels via the pancreas, which secretes a hormone that transports glucose to each cell. A healthy pancreas releases the right amount of this hormone in order to deliver the insulin properly. Our body’s cells are designed with receptors that respond to the insulin. If these receptors become resistant, it causes the pancreas to secrete more insulin in order to get enough glucose to the cells, which then increases the level of blood glucose.  When this happens, the system becomes imbalanced, whereby a pre-diabetic condition can occur.  If left untreated, this can then lead to diabetes.

Diabetes is one of the most serious diseases worldwide. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is an essential way to avoid this lethal illness. Keeping glucose levels regulated  often becomes more difficult as we age due to the potential breakdown in the body’s ability to metabolize glucose.

In a study on cinnamon’s ability to control blood sugar levels conducted at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, researchers discovered that the spice contains compounds that help to increase glucose metabolism  “twenty-fold.” These compounds are known as procyanidins, which function along with the phytochemicals epicatechin, phenol, and tannin.  Acting similarly to insulin, they help the body regulate glucose levels, reducing symptoms of hyperglycemia, which occurs when blood sugar levels rise. Cinnamon also contains MHCP, or methylhydroxychalcone polymer, another compound that assists with glycogen synthesis.

According to the leading doctor in the study, Dr. Richard A. Anderson, a mere half teaspoon of cinnamon each day can help the body maintain appropriate blood sugar levels while also balancing triglycerides and cholesterol, with no side effects.

Other Studies on Cinnamon and Blood Sugar
In another study conducted by postdoctoral fellow, Alam Khan, 60 diabetic volunteers were divided in half. One half was given daily doses of cinnamon and the other half was given a placebo. The experiment was conducted for 40 days, resulting in the group taking the cinnamon displaying a distinctly healthy change in their glucose levels. Once this diabetic group stopped taking cinnamon however, the levels rose to their former position.

Cinnamon and Blood Pressure
When blood pressure increases due to an over stimulated nervous system, the body secretes both noradrenalin and insulin, which in turn stimulate glucose production. As blood sugar levels rise in the bloodstream, metabolic imbalances can easily occur. In a study done at Georgetown University, hypersensitive rats were tested with cinnamon to see if the spice would lower their systolic blood pressure by helping regulate insulin function.  Sure enough, it did.

Other Benefits of Cinnamon
Cinnamon contains several important minerals, such as iron, calcium, and manganese, in addition to fiber. It is considered an anti-oxidant, and also has anti-fungal and anti-clotting properties along with its ability to lower triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Hard to imagine that such a fragrant and delicious spice can be so potent, but so it is!

True Cinnamon and Cassia
True cinnamon is rather ragged around the edges, as opposed to its sister, cassia, which comes in more distinct and tidy rolls.  True cinnamon originates in  Sri Lanka and is usually light brown in color and quite dry.   

Cassia generally comes from China and other Southeastern Asian countries. It  has a stronger flavor than true cinnamon and is darker in color.  It also has a larger amount of coumarin than true cinnamon, which is a phytochemical that helps to thin the blood.  In the end, deciding between the two is a matter of taste. But do note that labels do not always differentiate between the two, so make sure you look at the shape and color so you know what you are getting.  Most commercial “cinnamon” sold in the United States is actually cassia, or a combination of cassia and cinnamon.


Including Cinnamon in the Diet
Cinnamon is best used when it is fresh. If you are used to buying it ground, make sure that its smell is notable. Sticks of cinnamon can be ground for the best flavor, but even the sticks can become stale if they sit on the shelf for too long. Make sure you store your cinnamon or cassia in a cool, dry cupboard to keep it fresh for as long as possible. 

There are many recipes that feature cinnamon, from curries to hot chocolate and more.  I put cinnamon on my cereal or toast and almost always add some to my curry mixes as well as my blender drinks.  Tasty and healthy, all in one!

Word to the wise:  If you are taking anti-clotting medicine, consult with your health care provider before using cinnamon regularly in your diet.





Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Ecstasy of Feeling Well: A Healing Diet to Bring You Back from the Edge!


Over the years I’m managed to ease myself into an eating strategy that gives a huge boost to my immune system, provides me with enormous reserves of energy, and a foolproof way to keep my body in an ideal alkaline state.  Do I go off the path?  Absolutely!  I’m a fan of breaking the rules, and break them I do… but I suffer for it in the end!  But knowing I have my healing diet to bring me back from the edge, to balance out the seduction and satisfaction of my cravings, to calm the beast inside. This basic formula is a way to get my system back on track before the next onset of hedonistic bliss!  I must say, however, that this approach to eating has become much more of a constant than anything else, as there is no greater ecstasy than feeling well and up for everything because body, soul, and mind are aligned and in top form. 

This being said, here is an example of what I have in my cupboards at all times:

·      Goji berries (extremely high anti-oxidant fruit)
·      Flax seeds (balances all internal systems, roughage, anti-cancer, and more)
·      Bee pollen (complete vitamin content, especially B complex)
·      Organic coconut flakes or powder (fortifying system)
·      Organic chocolate nibs (high in magnesium, no sugar, energy booster)
·      Maca root (root from the Amazon for hormonal function)
·      Organic stevia (natural alkaline sweetener)
·      Raisons (iron)
·      Cinnamon powder (lowers cholesterol, regulates blood sugar, memory)
·      Oatmeal (fiber, reduces toxicity, lowers cholesterol)
·      Brown rice -preferably short grain “yamani” rice (vitamins, minerals)
·      Millet (gluten-free, vitamins, minerals, alkaline)
·      Amaranth (super grain: protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals)
·      Quinoa (gluten-free, super grain: protein, amino acids, antioxidant)
·      Wholegrain bread
·      Apple butter

·      Assorted vegetables: green leafy, root, cruciferous
·      Sea weed: nori, haziki, wakame, etc
·      Garlic
·      Fresh ginger root
·      Organic first pressed virgin olive oil
·      Organic apple cider vinegar (highly alkaline)
·      Coconut oil
    
Alkaline fruits:
·      Lemons
·      Green apples
·      Apricots
·      Peaches
·      Grapes
·      Cantaloupe
·      Watermelon

·      Almonds (E, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, niacin)
·      Cashews (copper, magnesium, tryptophan, phosphorus)
·      Sesame seeds (manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, fiber, protein)
·      Sunflower seeds (E, thiamine, manganese, magnesium, copper, selenium)
·      Chia seeds (weight loss, blood sugar balance, Omega 3, anti-oxidant)

Essential spices: turmeric, cayenne pepper, sea salt, black pepper, cumin, a good curry powder (preferably homemade)

Loose Teas:
·      Horsetail (lots of silica for skin and hair)
·      Ginko Biloba (brain stimulant)
·      Milk Thistle (liver cleanser, diuretic)
·      Organic green
·      Organic red
·       
Make a mixture of these teas and drink throughout the day.

SOLE
Sole is an amazing drink made from Himalayan salt and pure water, with Fiji water being recommended.  Put several large chunks of the salt in a jar and cover with water by about two inches above the chunks.  When the salt can no longer dissolve, you have SOLE.  SOLE helps to remove parasites, is anti-aging, smoothes the skin, and much more.  Everyday before breakfast, on an empty stomach, take a tbs of SOLE in a glass of fresh water.  Wait a half hour and then have breakfast.  You will see what wonders it will bring!

RECIPES

Breakfast
Cook oatmeal with raisons, a pinch of stevia, a tbs of coconut flakes or powder, cinnamon

Add to cooked oatmeal: bunch of goji berries, tsp bee pollen, tsp maca, pinch of chocolate nibs, flax seeds (you have to grind them just before you eat them to get the most out of them.. or buy cold pressed flax oil and put this on your salads)

Optional: Add rice milk and half a banana

Lunch and dinner
Recipe 1:
Brown rice/millet/quinoa (add amaranth to all for extra protein)
Assorted steamed veggies

Recipes can be made as follows:
Grains with steamed veggies topped with flaked nori, olive oil, sea salt, cayenne pepper

Place coconut oil or other oil appropriate for heat in wok or pan.  Add turmeric, cayenne, cumin, curry, salt and heat for a moment to open up the spices.  Add onions, garlic, and grated ginger root and sauté.

Add leafy veggies and cook for only moments, not letting them lose their bright green color.

Or

Add cooked grains to the sautéed mixture and then place sautéed veggies on top along with cooked seaweed or dried nori flakes.

Recipe 2.
Fresh green salads with as many bitter leaves as possible: dandelion, arugula, etc. Fresh fennel is great.  Top with avocado, tomato, and cucumbers along with a handful of shopped cashew nuts.

Dress with olive oil and either apple cider vinegar or half a lemon. Salt and pepper to taste.

Snacking
Whole grain bread with apple butter is a great snack, as are alkaline fruits.

Almonds , sunflower seeds, raisons, goji berries and chocolate nibs make a great snack mix for maintaining energy throughout the day.  Fresh fruits are always good.  Blender drinks made with fruits or vegetables or a combination of the two are great ways to alleviate hunger between meals.  One of my favorites is:

·      A handful of spinach or parsley
·      A whole Bartlett pear
·      A slice of ginger
·      Half a lemon squeezed
·      A quarter cup of purified water

Blend it up at high speed and you have a vitamin/mineral packed pick-me-up that is absolutely delicious.

SUGGESTIONS
Any other recipes based on these simple themes are great.  The idea is to make your diet, especially for the first week or so, as high in alkaline content as possible.  Once your body has less acid and more alkaline, it will not crave sweets and will begin to re-align towards health.  This means you will:
·      Become less anxious
·      Your figure will become more streamline
·      You will not have cravings
·      You will be able to have a more acid meal upon occasion without suffering, as long as you return to the alkaline way.

Bicarbonate of Soda
If you  eat an especially high acidic meal, take one tbs of bicarbonate of soda with half a lemon in a glass of water afterwards. This will immediately alkalize your system.  It is especially good if you have been drinking alcohol.

I will be writing more in detail about the benefits of many of the foods mentioned here in future articles.  Stay tuned!


Sunday, November 28, 2010

More than a Few Words on Nail Health


A few days ago a friend asked me for advice on her seemingly unhealthy nails.  Brittle and dry, they were constantly breaking, which is a sign of missing nutrients that can come from poor eating habits, stress, or a toxic environment where necessary vitamins are not being processed in the body efficiently. 

Collagen and Keratin
One of the main culprits of poor nail health is the absence of collagen and keratin.  Without sufficient amounts of these essential elements, not only do our nails suffer, but so do our hair and skin along with muscles, ligaments, tendons, and the smooth muscles that comprise our organs.

Collagen is responsible for keeping our bodies youthful and supple. As we age, it becomes more difficult to manufacture collagen, which leads to brittle bones, less supple tendons, ligaments, and muscles, duller hair, and brittle nails. Because collagen contains a specific ratio of nitrogen-containing amino acids or proteins, which help to support general health, it is a major factor in providing our cells with the moisture they need to maintain flexibility. 

Keratin is a protein that is found in hair, skin, and nails. When our nails become dry and brittle, it is usually because the necessary amount of keratin is lacking.  When external layers of keratin are thin, nails have no way of protecting the living cells underneath. These living cells thus begin to die, causing nails to break as they become more brittle. As we supply nails with keratin, we are supplying them with protective moisture that keeps the living cells properly nourished. 



Sulfur
Most of keratin’s power comes from its sulfur content.  Known as the "beauty mineral,” sulfur is a powerful aid for adding flexibility to cells. According to the Natural Health and Longevity Center, sulfur helps nutrients to penetrate cells while also allowing toxins to be eliminated. Foods with a high sulfur content include garlic, onions, grains, sunflower seeds, cashew nuts, walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds, eggs, green leafy veggies, cruciferous veggies, cabbage, watercress, asparagus, alfalfa, burdock, cayenne, fennel, parsley, and thyme.

MSM
MSM, otherwise known as the unpronounceable methylsulfonylmethane, is an organic sulfur compound that helps to support connective tissue throughout the body. Considered a food, MSM is absorbed easily by the body, helping nutrients to flow easily into cells, moistening the cell membranes while removing toxins. In this regard, MSM is able to nourish nails, helping them to grow faster while making them stronger. According to an article in Nutrition Express focussing on a double blind study performed by Dr. Ronald M. Lawrence, subjects taking MSM supplements showed an increase in nail thickness, length, and general health, as opposed to those who took a placebo.

MSM has other positive effects on the body such as improving mental alertness, controlling acidity in the stomach, helping with inflammatory problems, reducing allergic reactions, alleviating muscle cramps, and scavenging for free radicals.  When taken in conjunction with vitamin C, MSM is even more effective in its contribution to general flexibility and strength.

MSM can be taken as a supplement and has no known counter-indications – however it is best to consult with your healthcare provider before embarking on a protocol.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids
In addition to a myriad of additional health benefits, Omega 3 fatty acids help to improve nail quality by adding moisture along with essential nutrients for growth, strength, and flexibility. Omega 3 fatty acids are also powerful sources for fighting free radicals, helping to soften the skin and smoothing out fine lines, reducing inflammation, lowering the risk of chronic ailment such as arthritis, cancer, and heart disease, improving cognitive function, and boosting energy.

Alpha-linolenic acid
Alpha-linolenic acid or fish oil contains an abundance of Omega 3, which is also recommended by the Mayo Clinic as an essential addition to a healthy diet. Because our bodies do not naturally manufacture Omega 3, it is important to eat foods that contain these fatty acids, such as sardines, herring, mackerel, sockeye salmon, blue fin tuna, walnuts, flaxseeds, linseeds, pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, soybeans, and olive oil.

 If you find that your nails are suffering, take a look at your diet to see if you are missing some of the foods that provide you with the above essential nutrients.  If you are, then expand your grocery list to include them and find creative ways to add them to your daily menu. 




Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Doing Your Skin a Favor with Flaxseed Oil


Lately when I make my salads (a delicious array of organic greens adorned with avocado, cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds, and the occasional dollop of goat cheese or sliced pears)  I add a high-quality cold-pressed flaxseed oil to the dressing.  Mixing a tablespoon-full with either a bit of organic apple cider vinegar or a half a lemon, along with a trickle of virgin olive oil, I know I am giving myself an extra boost of nutrients that help give my skin a healthy, youthful glow. 

The Omegas
Flaxseed oil is pressed from flaxseeds, and the result is a dark golden liquid that can be eaten or  topically applied.  Flaxseed oil gets its healing value from a myriad of nutrients, including a high percentage of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.  Because these fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, they help to soothe and lubricate the skin, which is especially good if your skin tends towards irritation.

Linoleic Acid and More…
One of the Omega 6 fatty acids is a substance called linoleic acid, which is abundant in flaxseed oil and plays a big role in keeping moisture locked in to skin cells.  A report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition regarding a study on women from 40 to 70 years old shows that  those consuming the most linoleic acid had the youngest skin.  This, along with flaxseed oil’s vitamin and mineral content, including vitamin B complex, magnesium, potassium, and iron, also helps to maintain skin cell structure as well as overall health. Vitamin E, lecithin,  flavanoids, and protein also contribute to flaxseed oil’s ability to soften and soothe wrinkles, while enhancing the complexion in general. 

Lingnans
Flaxseed oil contains naturally occurring compounds called lignans, which act as phyto-estrogens and anti-oxidants.  Their role is to help maintain hormonal balance,  contributing to skin health and fighting against free radical damage that leads to aging.

Encouraging the Skin
Flaxseed oil  asks the skin itself to join the party, encouraging the secretion of  natural oils that help diminish the appearance of those pesky fine lines that have no right to appear, but do so just the same.

Add flaxseed oil to smoothies, drizzle it over oatmeal, pasta, grains, potatoes, and steamed veggies.  Place a drop or two on your fingertips and massage into the skin.  However you prefer to take it, you will be doing your skin a world of good.

Note: Keep flaxseed oil in the fridge to avoid rancidity.  Also… be sure to consult with your dermatologist before applying flaxseed oil to the skin if you have a condition that requires specialized treatment.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Raw Truth


I recently eavesdropped on a debate about the benefits of raw  versus cooked foods, which turned out to be a steamy one… forgive the pun… as my raw foodist friend adamantly defended his five years of eating only fruit and vegetable salads, nuts, and seeds.  My vegetarian friend who eats her foods steamed, broiled, baked, sautéed, and any other way that her culinary tastes dictate, held her ground and in the end we all agreed that every body has different requirements, and that no one diet should be celebrated as the best.

That being said, there are many advantages of going on a raw diet, even if for a little while, to cleanse the system of built up toxins.  If not a lifestyle choice, it can be looked at as a sort of fast, where fresh, organic produce is made into salads and blender drinks to bring the body back to its optimum pH balance.  Going on a raw food fast for even just a week can bring amazing benefits to the system.

Advantages of a Raw Diet Fast
One of the big advantages of a raw diet is that the enzymes, vitamins, and mineral found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouts remain in tact.  When food is cooked above 118F, the heat kills these nutrients, leading to an internal acidic condition. When the body is overly acidic, it holds on to toxic waste, and because an acidic body is attractive to toxins, it is thus more susceptible to illness.  A raw food diet creates a more alkaline environment in the body, which helps the body get rid of the nasty excess acids and other toxins.  According to the US National Library of Medicine/National Institute of Health, alkaline foods also help to create more energy by keeping the system at a healthier pH balance.  

Maintaining Nutrients
Once food is cooked, it obviously cannot recover the enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and electrons it has lost.  When enzymes and other nutrients are destroyed, the body must work harder to produce what is needed to detoxify and fortify the body.
Raw food, on the other hand, maintains its vitamin, mineral, and electron content along with the digestive enzymes that help the body process and eliminate waste materials. 


 Cleansing Effects of Raw Foods
Sometimes a raw food cleanse can cause what seems to be an adverse effect where we feel dizzy, get headaches, lose energy, have bad breath and a coated tongue, and other distasteful symptoms.  The worse we feel, the more we may lose confidence in the benefits of raw food fasting, with that nagging feeling that we may be doing more damage than good. But hold on! These adverse sensations are part of what is called a “healing crisis,” which is natural when the body starts to eliminate toxins that have build up in the system over time. As these noxious wastes are being swept from the body it is normal to feel worse before feeling better. But better we will feel… giving way to a feeling of increased vitality along with a bevy of other benefits like glowing skin, healthier hair and nails, a perkier digestive system, and much, much more.  Drinking lots of water, meaning up to two liters a day, can help offset healing crisis symptoms, but more than likely you will feel some of the effects anyway during the cleansing process as environmental toxins as well as remnants of bad eating habits make their way out of the body. Be patient.  This too shall pass!

Goodbye Cravings, Hello Radiance
Once you’ve completed your raw food fast, you very well may choose to continue eating more raw foods than cooked as a lifestyle.  One thing is sure, your old cravings will be gone and you will have a renewed outlook on what feels right to put in your body.  Fresh, clean, organic foods will definitely be more attractive than ever before, and who knows, you may just say goodbye to your old bad habits in favor of your newly acquired radiance.


**********

I received some interesting reader responses via my Facebook posting of this article, making me very happy that my articles are opening up discussions on health and nutrition. It is true that every body is different, with varying requirements for optimum health:. 

First reader: You didn't really list the harmful effects of eating raw foods. Digesting raw food uses up a lot of energy (which could be good if you're fat I suppose but not if you're thin or sick). Raw vegetables are very harsh on your colon. And raw vegetables can contain harmful bacteria such as salmonella which cooking kills. So I guess my question is - how do you know when these risks on balance justify a "cleansing" and how clean is good?

Second reader response: well, here is another idea about it: raw food does not take energy to digest because it has live enzymes that self digest them so they use little energy. Raw vegetables can be harsh if you have colon problems. so you can blend vegetables and make raw soups and smoothies. ( see green for life by victoria boutenko). Also some cruciferous veggies can be lightly steamed. if you wash your veggies and you use organic vegetables grown with good practices and without manure your chances of getting salmonella will be lower.

First Reader (to me) : Thanks for your postings. There is a lot of blogging on the internet about health and diet and as with everything else, there are no simple answers. Each body is different. And extreme cures, diets, obsessions and trends are not good. Moderation and a Mediterranean-style diet seem best.










Sunday, November 14, 2010

Getting Your B from the Bees


What a beautiful way to get your Vitamin Bs, and more, by turning to the Bees! It is poetic, really.  Honeybees dive into a bevy of petals and the tiny little nodules that linger on the stamen of each blossom stick to their legs. Then the industrious little devils go about secreting enzymes and nectar into the pollen to thicken and nutrify the stuff, whereby we human harvesters collect it at the entrance of their hives.

Bee pollen has been used for centuries as a medicament.  The ancient Egyptians used it, as did the Chinese, to rejuvenate the body and to fortify the blood. Hippocrates, the famed Greek healer, used bee pollen over 2,500 years ago to nourish his patients.

Super Food Supreme
Bee pollen has been called the “fountain of youth” and is certainly considered a super food supreme.  Containing vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, co-enzymes, hormones, flavonoids, and antioxidants, bee pollen is one of the most nutritionally complete foods on the planet. Because of its extremely high B vitamin content, it is an excellent food for those deficient in this category, particularly vegetarians who do not get enough B12. It also contains beta-carotene, selenium, lycopene, as well as vitamins C and E.  Bee pollen contains 55% carbohydrates, 35% protein, 3% vitamins and minerals, 2% fatty acids, and 5% of other elements that support optimum health.

Weight and Digestion
Some of the highlights of adding bee pollen to the diet include helping to recalibrate balance in people who have weight problems. Due to its high lecithin content, it is able to flush toxins out of fat cells, while simultaneously dissolving fat. Bee pollen improves metabolism and reduces cravings.  It also helps to lower cholesterol and mitigate digestive problems.

Sexual Health
Bee pollen helps increase stamina, energy, and overall vitality.  According to Bee Pollen Health, bee pollen contains amino acids that are precursors to human growth hormone, as well as a hormone that mimics the human pituitary hormone gonadotropin. In this regard, bee pollen can also be used to improve the libido as well as overall sexual function. It is also helpful in the treatment of prostatitus, working to reduce inflammation of the prostate gland.

Immune System
Bee pollen helps to fortify the immune system and can help reduce ailments such as asthma, sleep disorders, and allergies. Bee pollen is also considered a cancer preventative as well as a powerful candidate for anti-aging.  It is additionally helpful with rectal and urinary disorders that may arise from radiation treatments.

Bee pollen is easily absorbed into the blood stream, with benefits increasing as we take it over time.  Though conventional research does not yet acknowledge the many powerful attributes of these golden pellets, non-allopathic healers the world over, century after century, continue to proscribe bee pollen for all of its sterling benefits.



Note: It is always best to consult with your healthcare provider to make sure no counter-indications will arise.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Not Just for Wearing: Silver and the Benefits of Colloidal Silver Salve


I wear from five to six silver rings on my fingers every day and love the feel of the many silver necklaces and bracelets I have in my collection.  There’s certainly something about the sheen and the weight of this beautiful metal, but I’ve always felt that silver contained other mysteries less tangible. 

When I began my research on natural products, I found out about the many, many benefits of silver as a healing agent.  I came late to this discovery, as our ancient and wise reporter on all things remedial, Herodotus, reported centuries ago that silver-lined jars were used by Persian King Cyrus, among others, to keep water fresh.  The early Greeks and Romans also drank out of silver goblets to keep their wine pure, and the early American pioneers would plunk silver coins in their vats of milk to keep the liquid from curdling.  Powerful stuff indeed!

These days we have what is known as colloidal silver, a liquid suspension of minuscule silver particles that can be ingested or applied topically to the body.  I will write more about the amazing curative properties of drinking colloidal silver later on in my column, but for now I want to talk about the precious and wondrous effects of silver salve that to me, far exceeds what conventional pharmaceutical salves can do.
  
Anti-Fungal/Anti-Bacterial
Colloidal silver contains two powerful anti-microbial and anti-fungal elements conducive to healing the skin: silver sulfadiazine and silver nitrate. In the 1970’s Dr. Carl Moyer, Chairman of Surgery at Washington University received a grant to develop colloidal silver as an anti-bacterial salve for use with burn patients. He found that the salve’s ability to fight germs by killing bacteria was a key function in healing not only burns, but also almost all types of skin wounds.

Because colloidal silver is comprised of tiny ions, its healing elements are easily absorbed by the skin, penetrating the cells to suffocate and destroy bacteria and fungus.  In this regard it can be used for treatment of ringworm and similar fungal infections as well as cuts, rashes, eczema, psoriasis, boils, acne, and sunburn, which all respond quickly to the healing properties of colloidal silver.  Additionally, colloidal silver can diminish the effects of stretch marks and scars due to its highly penetrative and restorative qualities.

Yeast and Fungal Infections
Infections caused by an overabundance of naturally occurring yeast can also be treated with colloidal silver salve.  Vaginal yeast infections, fungus on nails and skin, and rashes causing jock itch can be treated by applying colloidal silver directly to the area where it penetrates the cells, killing the source of the problem.

Gums, Canker Sores, and More
Because colloidal silver salve is a powerful topical antibiotic, it is also effective when applied to inflamed gums, and canker sores. An extra bonus is that it helps deflect bad breath and tooth decay by preventing germs from multiplying.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Home Remedies for Cleansing the Colon

We all know that our bodies are constantly exposed to toxins that accumulate in our organs, preventing nutrients from being properly absorbed and contributing to symptoms of physical distress. Keeping the colon free and clear of waste material is one of the key ways to eliminating bacteria, parasites, additives, and environmental toxins, which can be the cause of constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and other internal complications. The British Royal Society of Medicine says that 90 percent of all chronic diseases are due to infection of the gastrointestinal tract, with more than 65 different health problems related to a toxic colon. Many conventional doctors prescribe colon cleansing as a preparation for medical procedures such as colonoscopy.

There are many pre-mixed formulas for colon cleansing, easily found at your local health food store. If you want to make your own, there are many natural ingredients that can be effectively used as home remedies. Here are a few:

Psyllium seeds are an excellent source of soluble fiber. The husks contain mucilage that pulls toxins out of the colon when mixed with water. As they absorb moisture, the husks become sticky and expand. Fecal matter then adheres to the muscilage and is pulled out of the system as the material softens and is expelled.  Because expanded psyllium seeds can pull more than 10 times their weight, they really help to move toxins out.


Flaxseeds
Like psyllium husks, flaxseeds contain mucilage that helps to cleanse toxins from the system without irritating the organs. Because flaxseeds expand when they are mixed with water, they are able to adhere to metabolic waste and dried mucus containing bacteria and other contaminated elements in order to carry them out of the system. Flaxseeds are very high in fiber and also contain essential fatty acids, and protein. The fiber is responsible for helping to cleanse the colon, while the fatty acids and protein provide food for friendly bacteria in the intestines.

The way to get the most out of flaxseeds is to grind them in a seed grinder immediately before consuming them, as pre-ground flaxseeds lose their properties in a very short time. If you are using flaxseed oil, keep it refrigerated to avoid rancidity.

Bentonite Clay
Bentonite clay is a unique type of clay made of aged volcanic ash. Originally found in Fort Benton, Wyoming, it also contains a medicinal mineral called 'Montmorillonite,' which forms microscopic crystals that swell when they meet water, creating a viscous solution that sticks to the mucus lining the walls of the bowels. Toxins adhere to this material and are then washed out of the system with water. The clay can be taken in liquid, gel, capsule, or powder form, passing through the system without being digested.

It is best to take bentonite on an empty stomach one hour before or after eating. As with any home remedy, consult with your healthcare provider before using bentonite clay, especially if you are taking medication. Elderly people as well as pregnant women and nursing mothers are advised by medical experts not to use the clay.

Magnesium Oxide
Magnesium oxide is a naturally occurring mineral, which is sometimes used as a supplement to maintain adequate levels of magnesium in the body. When mixed with water, magnesium oxide helps to oxygenate and hydrate the system. By mixing magnesium oxide with water, the oxygen content is separated from the magnesium. Reacting with the hydrogen in the water, it softens fecal matter as it passes through the intestinal tract. Additionally, because toxic organisms cannot live in an oxygenated environment, elements such as bacteria and fungi are killed through exposure to the substance. As the waste products become liquefied, magnesium oxide gently sweeps away toxins as the bowels do their work. Magnesium oxide is a safe way to cleanse the colon and is best taken one hour before or after meals.

Before taking magnesium oxide, consult with your doctor especially if you have any other medical conditions or if you take other medicines or other herbal/health supplements. Magnesium oxide may not be recommended in some situations, such as if you have kidney disease or are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

Important Note:  Make sure you drink at least 2 liters of water a day while cleansing the colon.  This will sweep away more toxins and help ward off the occasional symptoms that come with colon cleansing, such as headache and fatigue.



Friday, October 29, 2010

Celtic Sea Salt and the Thyroid Gland



Though it is just a small gland that sits just below the Adam’s apple, the thyroid has a huge responsibility for maintaining many important bodily functions. Through its secretion of hormones, the thyroid affects the metabolism, cholesterol levels, heart rate, eyesight, skin, and memory. But… in order to manufacture a healthy amount of hormones, the gland needs to be in good working order. Celtic sea salt, a course gray salt found along the coast of Brittany, France, is an unrefined salt that contains over 80 minerals, trace minerals, and other essential elements. Due to its high mineral content, it can work effectively with the thyroid, providing healthful nutrients to the body.

Abundance of Minerals
Dr. David Brownstein in his online article, “Shattering the Myths about One of Nature’s Necessary Nutrients,” speaks about Celtic sea salt’s high mineral and trace mineral content, as opposed to table salt’s mere two elements: sodium and chloride.  He states that the use of unrefined salt provides a great benefit for optimum health. All Natural Information asserts that Celtic sea salt is able to eliminate excess acidity in cells, particularly the brain, while also balancing sugar levels and generating energy in the body as it works in conjunction with the thyroid gland. Celtic sea salt is also a great addition to the diet for its iodine content, which helps thyroid conditions like hypothyroidism.

Magnesium Salts
The presence of magnesium bromide and magnesium chloride boosts the metabolic processes by fortifying the thyroid.  According to All Natural Information, magnesium salts also help to drain excess sodium from the body, helping to address edema, high blood pressure, and other problems associated with high levels of sodium.

Additive Free
Because Celtic sea salt is free of additives and chemicals, it provides the body with the maximum benefit inherent in naturally occurring salt, according to Thyroid Guide. Celtic sea salt is sold without being processed, meaning that there is no application of heat, which normally removes minerals. Commercial table salt on the other hand, is the result of high-heat drying in order to keep salt granules from clumping together, with iodine often added after processing. Because the magnesium is removed from commercial table salt, the mineral is not available to perform its function as a nerve and brain cell stimulator, nor for metabolizing fats and sugars. Celtic sea salt, however, contains naturally occurring magnesium along with only 82% sodium chloride, as opposed to the 98% found in commercial salt.

Note: Be sure to consult with your health-care provider before embarking on a Celtic sea salt protocol, especially if you are suffering from kidney problems.




For information on the purity of sea salt given our polluted waters, here is an excellent response on the subject: http://www.saltnews.com/2010/08/on-the-purity-of-sea-salt/comment-page-1/#comment-24945



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Aloe Vera Plant: Super Plant



Aloe vera is a gorgeous succulent plant that a member of the Lily family.  It is easy to indentify by its thick, fleshy leaves that when gently sliced open, yield a medicinal gel. There are approximately 400 species of aloe, with the most curative being Aloe Barbadensis Miller. Aloe vera has been used for centuries for its medicinal value, whether applied topically or taken internally.  Because it is so easy to grow, having a plant or several of your own is an excellent way to keep this essential part of your medicine cabinet at hand. 

Vitamins and Minerals
Aloe vera contains over 20 amino acids and according to the Healthcare Information Directory, is high in B complex vitamins, especially vitamin 12.  This is especially good news for vegetarians, as B12 is hard to find outside of animal products. Aloe also contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, iron, silicon, sulfur, and essential fatty acids, all of which are essential for our health.

Gastro- intestinal Assistance
According to Aloe Vera Studies, juice made from aloe vera gel helps detoxify the system by working with the intestinal tract to help break down impacted food. Because aloe vera juice helps the body to release pepsin, an enzyme that assists in digestion, it can also reduce bloating and similar discomforts, including irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers. 

Boosting Immune Function
Because it contains phyto-chemicals, which help to fight free radicals, aloe vera helps to strengthen the immune system. It also helps to relieve symptoms of allergies such as asthma due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial qualities. Other attributes include reducing symptoms of bladder and yeast infections, leg cramps, arthritis, intestinal parasites, and hemorrhoids. With its anti-viral abilities, it also fights colds and other illnesses.

Studies on Aloe Vera
According to Nutritional Health Information, there have been several clinical studies to determine if aloe vera can assist in cancer recovery. In one, patients were given aloe along with MLT, a neuro-hormone, and the benefits were clear. In another study, 5,000 angina pectoris patients were studied over a period of five years as they took aloe vera and psyllium husk supplements. Improvements in cholesterol balance and reduced angina attacks along with a reduced need to use pharmaceutical drugs were observed, especially among those who also suffered from diabetes. The Mayo Clinic states that there is scientific evidence that aloe vera functions well as a laxative and may also improve skin conditions due to inflammation.

Aloe vera prefers a warm, dry environment in which to thrive. I bought several plants a number of years ago and they are now huge, gorgeous specimens of plant life whose gel goes into my blender drinks, on cuts and sores, or on my face to tighten the pores and enliven my skin tone.