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. 

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, 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. 

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.
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.

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.