Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Flavor of the Week

If you watch the news you've no doubt seen the newest heading, "Fish Oil Supplements Are No Lifesaver".  Every week there seems to be yet another study about a food or a supplement or a new diet which only serves to leave people wondering what the heck they can eat or do.

Behind every study there is always a motive.  Why is a study done in the first place...Who is funding a particular study...What criteria were used in a study...??  This lead me to do some research on this particular study so that I can pass that information, as well as my own thoughts, on to you.

This study was lead by Dr. Evangelos Rizos and was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.  Why Dr. Rizos and his colleagues only chose 20 studies of 68,680 patients to be used in the analysis of existing trials when there are 3,635 papers available is one big question I have.  As well, I haven't figured out yet if these existing trials were from patients who already had a previous heart condition or not (I'm assuming yes). Dr. Rizos' study concluded that overall, omega 3 supplementation was not associated with a lower risk of heart attack, sudden death or stroke. Basically, his findings are neutral.

Of course its always best to obtain nutrients from food, after all this is how nature intended it to be.  Consuming 2 servings of an oily fish such as salmon each week is all that it takes.  Simple.  Yes?  In our house I try to do this but it doesn't always happen.  That's where supplementation comes in handy.  Ever since my kids were as young as a year old I have given them a liquid fish oil each morning with no complaints.  Really.  Well, maybe occasionally, but this is where quality comes into the story.

The diet of the people in this particular study is not known, nor were the brand names of fish oils mentioned. The Omega 3 oils that are found in fish oils is the PREFERRED food for the brain.  If the brain does not get this type of fatty acid, it will use other, less-preferred fatty acids such as Omega 6 and/or 9, etc.  Most people get way too much of the 6 and 9 and not enough of omega 3s which can, and does, cause health problems.  As well, the quality of the fish oils is very important - I personally will only use a couple of brands (Carlson and Nordic Naturals) and I use them in liquid form.  Fish oil should not smell bad - if it does, it is rancid and the oxygenation of it can cause more problems in the body.  If you do use the pill form break it open and smell it.  If it stinks, throw it out and purchase a better brand.

Fish oils are important in cutting blood fats, therefore reducing the risk of a blood clot.  But that's not all they do... Fish oils are also important for mental health (anxiety, depression, ADHD, seasonal affective disorder, etc.), arthritis (as someone who suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis I can speak personally on this one), beneficial for healthy skin, eyes, lung tissue, the immune system and, as I mentioned before, omega 3's are the brain's preferred food.  We NEED omega 3's in our body and, with processed foods and factory farms, we are finding less and less of this vital nutrient in our diets.  Unfortunately, Omega 3's are only found naturally in a few choice places: grass fed cows (meat and milk), walnuts, flax seeds (small amount), and oily fish such as salmon.

By the way, according to the Journal of the American Association of Physician Assistants, one author of this fish oil study disclosed financial ties to industry but no ties to companies that manufacture or market omega 3 supplements.  This begs me to ask the question of just what industry this was?  Pharmaceuticals?

Thursday, July 19, 2012


I have let the dog days of summer slip by on here.... I just realized how long its been since I've posted!  Summer is my favorite time of year but the busyness of it makes it go by way too fast.  During the next three weeks I'll be hanging out with my family and friends and so I will get back into my weekly blogging after that.

While my children have gotten positive things from me:  my love of reading, nature, hiking, sports, swimming and camping they have, unfortunately, also received the gene that is responsible for autoimmune diseases.  My oldest son has an auto-inflammatory disease called CRMO (Chronic Recurrent Multifocal Osteomyelitis - but is doing amazingly well) and my youngest son was diagnosed with Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE) a couple of months ago.  This is a condition in which the body thinks certain foods are the enemy and so sends an army of eosinophils (a type of white blood cell) into the esophagus to fight.  This in turn creates inflammation and much pain and nausea.  

After recently getting some comprehensive allergy testing done it turns out he has multiple allergies... Not nice.  However, I have found a doctor who performs NAET allergy desensitization.  The body wants to be able to eat food and SHOULD be able to consume food without this type of reaction.  NAET works with the body to basically reset the brain so that it, once again, accepts what should be our human right to be able to eat.  My son was treated for one of his main allergies, eggs, and will be retested in a couple of weeks to see if the allergy is gone!!  He is my test and I hope and pray that all goes well.  If this works, I will be letting y'all know!!

Take care and enjoy this beautiful summer.... Take each day, each moment, each breath as it comes and be thankful for all you have.  Enjoy!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012


What's the biggest health "fad" right now? We hear about it everywhere probably because so many celebrities are following it... What is it? A gluten-free diet.  Gluten-free foods have been hiding in the health food areas of most grocery stores for years but this sudden spike in sales has been bringing more and more potential vendors to the world of gluten-free.

Gluten is a protein-carbohydrate mixture that is contained in wheat, oats, barley and rye. Unless you have Celiac disease, IBD (Crohn's Disease or Ulcerative Colitis), or have a sensitivity or a true allergy to gluten, there is no reason not to eat it.  However, the problem is actually two-fold:  first off, North Americans consume way too much of it; secondly, the processing of wheat, oats, etc. is problematic and can lead to other health concerns.    What I have learned is that some diseases come from inflammation.  If we can lower and perhaps get rid of the body's inflammation we can help prevent or discourage certain diseases.  When a portion of the whole wheat is taken out and the remainder is  processed into white flour and consumed this can lead to inflammation in the body.  Try this test - eliminate all white foods (except for cauliflower of course!) from your diet for 7-14 days and see how you feel.  This would mean all white flour, white pasta, white rice, any color of sugar and anything processed (meaning it doesn't "remember" where it came from).  Even after only 4 to 5 days you may begin to experience things like less bloating, more energy and even less anxiety or depression.

Now, I'm not saying that you should follow a gluten-free diet... far from it.  Wheat and grains have been around  and consumed by people for thousands and thousands of years.  Grains are consumed without problems by most of the wold's population, are very versatile and are considered the "staff of life", a term often given to breads.  Although most grains are not a complete protein, paired with beans, a nut butter, or other sources of protein, they make a great meal. Whole grains provide fiber (very important to keep us regular!), most of the B vitamins and energy.  Gluten-free usually means lower fiber... check out the package of any gluten-free foods and be wary of anything low in fiber.  Brown rice, which is a staple in my house, contains about 2 grams of fiber per serving as opposed to whole wheat which can vary, depending on the brand, between 4-6 grams per serving. White rice, on the other hand, contains between .1 to .4 grams of fiber per serving! Not good.

What is all comes down to is this:  If a food makes you feel bad, don't eat it. Some signs would include headaches, brain fog, tiredness, achiness, irritability.  If you don't experience any negative side effects a good rule of thumb is to eat a variety of whole grains - both those that include gluten (like wheat, oats, barley and rye) as well as gluten-free choices such as brown rice, amaranth, quinoa and corn.  A whole grain that I absolutely love is spelt.  Spelt is a cereal grain in the wheat family that has been cultivated for thousands of years. It contains a small amount of gluten which is why it can be a versatile replacement for wheat in recipes.  Instead of using wheat flour I often replace it completely with spelt flour and it tastes delicious!  Enjoy!

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Truth About Parabens

When I was grocery shopping the other day I was shocked - very shocked - to see both methylparaben and polyparaben listed as ingredients on the bakery buns.  YIKES! I did know that parabens are found in many common cosmetics, skin care items, shampoos, deodorants and suntan lotions; however, the fact that some food manufacturers use it as a preservative in FOOD came as a complete surprise!

Parabens are a class of chemicals that, because of antifungal and antibacterial properties, offer the manufacturer a cheap means of preserving an item.  This is at the expense of us, the consumer.  Parabens mimic estrogen in the body, which is known to play a role in the development of breast cancer.  According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG - a group that works hard to educate the public on the dangers of many chemicals), parabens can disrupt the hormone (endocrine) system, and were found in the breast cancer tumors of 19 of the 20 women studied!  On top of this, parabens may affect the development and growth of babies and children!

Nearly all parabens are man-made and not found in nature (this should tell us something right there).  There are studies on both sides of this but I choose the precautionary route and try to avoid these as much as possible.  I would rather err on the side of safety when it comes to my body!  Again, let me stress the fact that parabens MIMIC ESTROGEN in the body.  Not good!!

The Breast Cancer Fund's website states this, "Measurable concentrations of six different parabens have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors (Darbre, 2004). The particular parabens were found in relative concentrations that closely parallel their use in the synthesis of cosmetic products (Rastogi, 1995)."  In an attempt to look younger and prettier, us poor women are bombarded with more and more chemicals that have the potential to create havoc in our bodies!  

What can you do?  Read labels - you'll be surprised by how many products contain parabens (since there are many different parabens, just look for ingredients ending with "paraben").  Thankfully, there are some wonderful manufacturers out there who choose to AVOID junk and instead choose healthier ingredients.  Jason Naturals and Burt's Bees are two of my favorites but there are many companies out there that choose to go this route.  If there is one product that you want to start out with I would recommend lotion.  Our skin is our biggest organ and anything that is put on it is absorbed into our bodies.  Lotion would include sunblock lotion as well, especially for children.  Jason Naturals has a great sunblock with an SPF of 45 called Jason Sunblock Family which we use and love.  

EWG offers a wonderful resource that you can check out (just click on the link below).  You can search for your favorite products and see what the "danger" rating is as well as find safer alternatives. And, as always, if you have any questions at all please let me know!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Healing Power of Phytonutrients

"Phytonutrients have the ability to halt a cell from converting to a cancerous cell."  - American Institute for Cancer Research.

Powerful words about an amazing immune system protector that is readily available in fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts.  The word "Phytonutrient" comes from the Greek word phyto, meaning plant.  The plant world not only provide high amounts of fiber, vitamins and minerals but also these essential phytonutrients.

Some examples of phytonutrients are: carotenoids, flavonoids, lycopene and beta-carotene (phytosterols, phytoestrogens and indoles are other examples but I will talk about these in a future blog). These are nature's powerhouses of nutrition and can pack a mighty punch against illnesses.  To ensure adequate protection from disease, we must eat 7 to 10 half-cup servings of fresh (organic when possible), fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts daily.  Food processing destroys phytonutrients (especially in seed and nut oils) and cooking reduces these nutrients.  The cooking water that is often thrown out contains the most important substances so its actually beneficial to drink this!  Freezing food releases certain enzymes that can destroy some of  the health-promoting substances so fresh is definitely best.

Flavonoids are phytonutrients that offer potent antioxidents that prevent the formation of free radicals.  They also decrease inflammation in the body and help the body to absorb vitamin C better.  Flavonoids are extremely important to the health of the immune system and have the ability to lower blood sugar levels.  Flavonoid-rich foods include broccoli, grapes, carrots, onions, peppers, green tea, tangerines, blueberries, apples, and all citrus fruits.

Carotonoids are right up there with flavonoids and, so far, there have been more than 600 different carotenoids identified!  Dark green, yellow, red and orange vegetables and fruits are rich in carotonoids and offer superior antioxidants activity that protects the body from skin damage, cataracts, macular degeneration and cancer.

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that stops the damage caused by free radicals.  Tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit are rich in lycopene.  Lycopene is a little different in that it works better in the body when cooked - for example, tomato sauce is richer in this antioxidant than raw tomatoes (although raw tomatoes still contain a great amount).  Since lycopene is a fat-soluble carotenoid adding a little flaxseed oil or olive oil will help the body absorb it better. As well, if you let a watermelon sit on the counter for a couple of hours at room temperature it too will be richer in lycopene.

Most people have heard of beta-carotene, found in carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, peaches, mangoes and apricots (its responsible for the orange or red color of fruits and vegetables).  Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body but, unlike vitamin A, consuming too much beta-carotene is not toxic (the only side effect is a yellowing of the skin!).  Including lots of carotene-rich foods in your daily diet can help to reduce the risk of developing cancers of the colon, esophagus, pancreas, throat and stomach.  Carotene also boosts the immune system.

Its so amazing to me all the wonderful nutrients that the plant world provides!  Scientists are constantly finding new phytonutrients and new benefits all the time.  It really doesn't matter to the average person what all these names are but simply that we eat these amazing immune boosters that God has provided to us in nature!  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Which Milk is Best?

This morning I had a very good question from a friend of mine asking about milk and which type of milk is the best.  There are a few choices out there in regards to milk ranging from almond milk, rice milk, soy milk, goat's milk and even sheep milk.  I personally limit my cow's milk to, at the most, once a day and instead drink water as my beverage of choice.  In my smoothies I use rice milk (I used to drink almond milk until I realized the correlation between almonds and my migraines).

Assuming that one is not lactose intolerant, or allergic to milk, or has any other problems such as female reproductive issues, it is fine to drink cow's milk in moderation. My friend's question was directed not to the source of the milk but to the type of milk and the homogenization process.

This may be a complete shock to a lot of readers but I recommend either 2% or whole milk.  We NEED the fat in milk to help in the assimilation of calcium from the milk to be better absorbed by our bodies.  The whole low-fat diet thing can lead to a lot of problems including, but not limited to, nutrient deficiencies (Vitamins A and D are two examples of fat-soluble vitamins and these are both found in milk).  As well, the sugar vs. fat ratio becomes too unbalanced and what's left is a surge in blood sugar.  Taking out the fat in milk also results in a 20% relative increase in protein, which makes the kidneys work harder.

Other great dairy sources include Buttermilk and Kefir.  My kids LOVE Kefir.  Kefir is basically a drinkable yogurt that has so many wonderful probiotics in it.

I also love milk that comes from grass-fed cows.  When cows eat what God intended for them to eat - grass and any accompanying weeds in the fields - they naturally consume the omega 3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).  This in turn means that not only will their milk contain these needed fatty acids but also their meat. Depending on where you live it can be more difficult to find grass-fed milk.  Whole Foods (my FAVORITE store) sells brands of milk that come from grass-fed cows (Snowville Creamery is one example and this brand also is not homogenized). Kroger sells a grass-fed brand in their natural dairy section as well. I usually buy either grass-fed or organic milk (if I can find an organic milk that is also grass-fed, even better!).

A note about the homogenization process: the theory is that homogenization, by breaking up milk molecules into smaller pieces, allows some substances to pass through the intestinal wall unchanged by the digestive process.  One of these substances in milk is an enzyme called xanthine oxydase (XO).  After passing through the intestinal wall it ends up in the bloodstream.  As it goes through the arteries it scratches and corrodes the inside of the arterial walls, casing small cuts.  The body tries to defend against this by depositing cholesterol over the cuts to avoid further damage.  This can, theoretically, eventually lead to hardening of the arteries.  Snowville Creamery, as I mentioned, sells non-homogenized milk and I'm sure there are other companies out there that do the same.

Milk is actually treated by the body as a food, not a drink, so consume in moderation. I always prefer my family to consume milk from cows that are not treated with bovine growth hormone, are fed either a grass diet and/or organic feed, and are antibiotic free. If you have any questions about this please let me know.  Below is a link to Snowville Creamery's website.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Those Sneaky Chemicals!

Well, since it already feels like I'm on a roll talking about food coloring and artificial sweeteners in previous weeks, I thought I would continue and talk a bit about a few other nasty chemicals that are added to foods.  These chemicals, along with sugar, food coloring and artificial sweeteners, are considered anti-nutrients and really should be avoided as much as possible.  What am I talking about?  MSG (monosodium glutamate), Nitrates, BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole).

These chemicals may have long names but they don't do a whole lot for a long, healthy life. They leave little room for life-sustaining building blocks such as proteins, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids which are all necessary for optimal health.  What's worse, these anti-nutrients have even been linked to serious diseases such as asthma, obesity, Type II diabetes and cancer.  Check out your boxed cereals, crackers, luncheon meats, processed breads and be very wary of these chemicals.

It is obvious in any grocery store that people are eating "far from the land". Think about it. How much processing is involved and how much "real" food is truly left in a boxed dinner?  The reason food manufacturers' have to add in the chemicals I mentioned is because the food really has no taste - so many good things have been stripped from the original food and replaced with junk.  MSG is added to things to make it taste good - it gives food a hearty, meaty type of taste.  Nitrates are used to preserve foods such as luncheon meats.  Historically, salt was used.  Nitrates are one of those chemicals that truly scares me.  Consuming too much of it can lead to stomach cancers and other problems.  BHT and BHA are used to add shelf-life to foods.  I don't know about you, but I would rather eat something fresh instead!

The side effects of MSG have been well documented and include: migraines, headaches, stomach aches, irritable bowel disease, panic attacks, heart palpitations, hyperactivity,  blurred vision, behavioral problems in children, difficulty focusing and fibromyalgia.  Food chemicals are a special concern for children whose growing bodies and smaller organs are more susceptible to its effects.  Like Aspartame, MSG crosses a safety net, called the blood-brain barrier, which separates the brain from the rest of the body.  There's also a strange phenomenon called "Chinese-Food Syndrome" that is related to consuming MSG that can cause tingling, chest pains, numbness as well as the other mentioned symptoms.  Yikes!  Manufacturers have also tried to get around the whole MSG stigma by using ingredients such as autolyzed yeast and hydrolyzed protein which are actually components of MSG in disguise.  Pretty sneaky, right?

Interestingly, there is a natural form of MSG that is found in soybeans, beets, seaweeds and, in small amounts, in beef.  However, this natural form is how God intended and not condensed and transformed into the chemical sense of MSG.

What can you do?  Eliminate food ingredients that you cannot pronounce!  Better yet, eliminate those that a 4th grader cannot pronounce!  There is no such thing as empty calories.  Every food eaten can help or hinder you and your children's health.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Effects of Aspartame

Most people have heard of the the artificial sweetener called Aspartame and the controversial arguments that seem to follow it.  Although aspartame is made from a mixture of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, which are both found in foods and used by the body as building blocks for proteins, it is not derived from natural sources but rather from hydrocarbons or from fermentation.  Since it is made from amino acids, aspartame will cross the blood-brain barrier.... scary stuff.  I personally don't recommend the use of aspartame at all and I feel that it isn't completely safe.

I could go into detail about my general health concerns regarding aspartame: that some investigations indicate that aspartame can damage the nervous system or brain, not only in rats but also in humans; that there are concerns that it can cause mood and behavioral changes, epileptic like seizures, insomnia, depression, headache and even menstrual disorders; and that its effects have been known to mimic Multiple Sclerosis in certain sensitive people.  However, there is truly not enough scientific evidence to support this.  I had a dear and very close friend who had breast cancer several years ago.  After she recovered she continued to drink diet soda daily and I warned her about my concern regarding a connection with aspartame and cancer but she said she enjoyed drinking it too much. Unfortunately, she developed bone cancer and passed away in a short time.... I would hate to think that the aspartame had anything to do with her recurrence of cancer but I really believe that it didn't help matters.

What HAS been scientifically proven is the fact that aspartame does NOT help people lose weight.  When we consume foods or drinks with aspartame our brain thinks that its receiving sugar (energy) but when the sugar energy doesn't come, the brain wants and craves more (sugar).  The end result is over-eating.  I have dealt with numerous people who are overweight and who consume a great amount of diet sodas daily.

Another concern I have is with children, whose smaller bodies and organs are more susceptible to the detriments of food additives such as aspartame.  Like food coloring, aspartame (as well as MSG) can cause problems for children who are sensitive to its effects.  Aspartame is a chemical and our bodies have to process this chemical--I wonder what a chemical like this can do to a child's small liver.

It is always better to eat the naturally sweet foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, to obtain an adequate level of vitamins, fiber and minerals along with that sweet flavor.  It also comes down to bringing our cultural "sweet tooth" into balance.  If you do want to consume a sweet drink, its better to go with the real thing, sugar.... something that our bodies already know how to break-down and digest properly. In moderation of course.  A better option is stevia, an herb that has been used by some cultures in the world for thousands of years.

 For more information on aspartame, please see a link to Dr. Mercola's website:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Terror of Tartrazine

There's something that can make my youngest son a complete terror.  It lurks and hides in inconspicuous spots such as ice cream and brightly colored processed foods.   My son jokes about eating it but really, it makes him feel angry and gives him an out-of-control feeling.  It also makes him feel ill and has even been known to cause an asthma attack.  What is it?  Tartrazine.  It also goes by the name Yellow 5.

Tartrazine is used in yellow-colored foods such as puddings, jello, soft drinks, ice cream, cereals, candy and even some brands of spaghetti.  I often wonder how many kids that are misdiagnosed with ADD, ADHD or other behavioral issues are actually sensitive to food colorings such as Tartrazine.  Red #3 (Erythrosine) is another big one that is on the "safe list" but there are legitimate concerns that it can cause gene mutations, cancers or changes in brain chemistry.  Since there is not enough clear evidence, the FDC keeps Red #3 on the safe list and does not have to be listed on labels except as "artificial color".

What bothers me most about the use of food colorings is that manufacturers DO have other, healthier, options. The problem is, these options are more expensive.  Natural colorings that are found in beets, carrots, blueberries, etc. can and ARE used by companies in the natural food business.  My favorite store, Whole Foods, will not sell any items in their stores that have artificial colorings.  YES!!

My son isn't the only one in our family who is sensitive to Tartrazine.  My sister experiences migraines and an overall sense of frustration after consuming it.  I also have a cousin whose daughter is affected by it as well.  I can't help but think that more people are affected than we realize.  Of course, Tartrazine (and any food coloring) is something that we try to avoid as much as possible!

Obviously, Yellow #5 and Red #3 are not the only food colorings out there.  Red #40, Blue #1, Blue #2, Green #3 and Yellow #6 are all used and, while some are considered "safe", there are definite questions about others.  I hope that more and more consumers push food manufacturers to replace their artificial colorings with other suitable, healthier options.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fingernails - A Picture of Health?

How healthy are your fingernails?  As an RHN I not only look at what's going on inside your body, I also pay attention to outward signs such as skin, hair and fingernails.  Fingernails can often give some vital clues about what is going on with a person's health.

Fingernails are hardened keratin, a tough protein that is waterproof and protects exposed skin surfaces.  While nails are translucent in color, because of the rich blood supply in the dermis layer, their color appears pink.  This is just one of the factors when differentiating disease: in someone with Raynauds, the nail beds lose all color due to the shut down of capillaries.  Bright red nail beds may indicate a temperature increase, as in fever. A blue tinge may indicate Cyanosis, which is low oxygen in circulation, or pneumonia. Some heart problems can be associated with bluish nails.

Take a good look at your nails - are there any white dots?  This can indicate a zinc or calcium deficiency.  Do they have noticeable lengthwise grooves?  This can indicate kidney disorder, iron deficiency or a tendency to have arthritis.  Lengthwise striations in the nails can also indicate malabsorption of nutrients, something I see quite often.  Someone may eat healthy, take supplements and work out but their body may still not be absorbing nutrients properly.  If our digestive system isn't working up to par, unfortunately, all that great work won't do our body a whole lot of good.

If the nail surface is rippled or pitted, this may be an early symptom of inflammatory arthritis or psoriasis. If you have pitting brown spots on your nails (nails resemble hammered brass) this can indicate psoriasis or alopecia areota and extra vitamin C, Folic acid and protein are needed.  Spoon shaped nails can indicate an iron deficiency, anemia or B12 deficiency.  Dry, brittle nails that crack or split easily have been linked to thyroid disease and cracking or splitting that is associated with a yellow tinge can indicate a fungal infection.

Dark lines or spotted brown or black discolorations that spread to fingers can indicate malignant melanoma - please see your doctor immediately if you have this.

Healthy fingernails should be smooth, without marks (such as white or brown dots or white streaks), have no indentations and have a little bit of a shine to them. They should also maintain a consistent pink color from the cuticle to the edge of the nail bed.

Although nail changes accompany many conditions, these changes are rarely the first sign.  Some nail abnormalities are just that - an abnormality.  If you've examined your fingernails and are concerned at all, please  see a doctor, a Naturopath or a Registered Holistic Nutritionist.  An RHN will work with you to improve your digestive system which can lead to an increase in overall health.  Be proactive with your body!  While the eyes may be the window to the soul, the fingernails are certainly a window to our health.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Immune Boosters

With all the colds and flu viruses that seem to be going around right now I thought I would write a little about how to rev up our own immune systems so that we can help our bodies to fight those nasty little germs.  Whenever I feel the beginnings of a scratchy throat, or are starting to feel the tiredness that can come on before an illness, the first thing I reach for is.... Vitamin A.

As well as consuming the foods mentioned, I take extra doses of this important immune-building vitamin for a few days. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin so, like other fat-soluble vitamins, you can take too much of it (the exception to this is Beta-Carotene as there are no known toxicity levels.... well, other than your skin turning orange. Really.). Its perfectly fine for a short time, such as a week or so, to take extra and so I take 1 or 2 pills (10,000 IU's) with breakfast and sometimes dinner as well (always take fat-soluble vitamins with food as to help your body absorb them better). I do this for a couple of days and then decrease to 1 or 2 pills/day for the rest of the week.  

Most everyone knows about Vitamin C and you can take this with or without food (water-soluble vitamin, if you take too much you'll pee it out).  I recommend taking Vitamin C complex (ascorbic acid is just one part of the complex) and make sure it includes Bioflavanoids to get the most out of it.  I usually take between 1,000-2,000 mg of this while I'm sick.  And I can't forget garlic - increase your intake of nature's antibiotic (anti-fungal, anti-viral as well) whether cooked, raw or in pill form.

A few other important points - decrease your dairy intake as well as orange juice.  While orange juice contains Vitamin C it, as well as all dairy, can be mucus-causing which is something you don't want more of when you have a cold.  Magnesium (which I've talked about in a previous blog) is also an important mineral for our immune system, as is drinking lots of pure water (herbal teas are fine as well), getting enough sleep and making sure you eat on time.  Avoid all processed sugar (and white flours) as sugar will demobilize our white blood cells (think fighter cells) for approximately 30 minutes after consumption.  We need to arm our bodies with the weapons (quite literally) that it needs to keep those germs at bay!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dirty Dozen

When checking out at the grocery store cashiers often strike up a conversation with me asking me about organic foods.  They've noticed my food choices and are curious if I think its worth it or not.  For me personally, as well as professionally, I definitely think this is a resounding YES.

There are a few caveats with organic, however, and the first one is that organic foods are usually more costly.  It can sometimes be hard to find a wide variety unless you are eating "with the seasons" (meaning, consuming certain fruits and vegetables when they are naturally in season).  Here is a list of the so-called "Dirty Dozen" list of produce that contain the most amount of pesticides so if you can, try and purchase these as organic.  Of course, not eating certain fruits and vegetables because they aren't organic isn't a good choice either.  Fruits and vegetables are GREAT for you no matter what.  Another plus?  No need to count calories when eating whole fruits and vegetables - fill up!!

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Strawberries
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Grapes (imported, especially from Brazil)
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Blueberries (domestic)
  • Lettuce
  • Kale/Collard Greens

When fruits and vegetables are consistently sprayed with pesticides, fungicides, etc. the produce itself lessons in its natural immune protection.  What this means for us is that this protection isn't passed on to us in such a strong force.  Just one example of this is Resveratrol, a phytoalexin (think HEALTH to our immune system), that is found in the skins of blueberries, grapes, and mulberries as well as in cocoa, dark chocolate, peanuts and hops.  Studies have shown that spraying these foods with fungicides lowers the natural amount of Resveratrol in the skins of these foods!  Of course, this would mean that when we consume these we're not getting the amount of this important cancer-fighting nutrient as God had intended for us.

Whether or not to eat organic is a personal choice; however, if you can avoid the "Dirty Dozen" and choose organic in these instances, all the better.  Some examples of produce that is considered "Clean" (by the Environmental Working Group) and therefore much safer to eat in its conventional form are:  Onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, domestic cantaloupe, kiwi and watermelon.

For more information on this, check out the EWG's website:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Time for a Little Spring Cleaning!

Ok, its that time of year again... time to start thinking, or perhaps starting, some spring cleaning. I'm talking about spring cleaning our bodies here, not our houses, although that's on my mind as well. Its a good idea to do some sort of "cleanse" at least once a year, if not twice. I usually recommend spring and fall and, just like in cleaning our houses, you can either do just a bit or really go all out. If you do a search on the internet for cleansing you will most likely be bombarded with hundreds of ideas as well as multitudes of products. You can use products if you like (I like the RenewLife line of cleanses); however, no need to. The simplest thing you can do is to give your body a break from sugar, caffeine and processed foods. Try eliminating these for a week (better yet, two weeks) and you will feel the difference. The first couple of days most people report symptoms such as headaches, nausea, light-headiness, and perhaps fatigue. These are all normal and will go away and most people report feeling really great later on. Its amazing how many people don't realize how bad they are feeling once they start feeling good!
A really simple way to boost your cleanse is to add lemon water. You can do this on a daily basis for as long as you want or you can do it as part of your spring/fall cleanse. First thing when you wake in the morning, squeeze the juice of a fresh lemon into a glass of room temperature water and drink. Do just start with a few drops of lemon juice and each day add a little more until you're at half a lemon. This works to help cleanse the liver and any bile that was produced during the night as you were sleeping. The liver plays a huge role in our body's natural ability to cleanse itself. As a Holistic Nutritionist the liver is generally one of the first areas that I would address with a client. Finally, you can go all out as well. I usually suggest the Brown Rice Cleanse which is a more stringent cleanse that eliminates all dairy, meat, sugar, processed foods and caffeine for 14 days. Depending on the client, I sometimes allow fish such as salmon. It really isn't as bad as it sounds... well, perhaps. If you would like more information on this type of cleanse, please feel free to contact me.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Inspired By Nutrition: The See-Saw Effect

Inspired By Nutrition: The See-Saw Effect

The See-Saw Effect

One of my favorite supplements to take is a Magnesium/Calcium powder that I put in a mug of hot water each evening and drink like a tea. The calcium in this is in a citrate form which is, in my opinion, the best absorbed form of calcium. To counter-balance it is magnesium (also in a citrate form).
Did you know that many minerals have a "see-saw" affect in the body? This means that if you take too much calcium, for example, magnesium levels will be depleted and vice versa. Calcium and magnesium work together just like a see-saw and the correct balance is needed. With so many people taking calcium supplements, poor magnesium is often left behind and this can have detrimental affects on the body. Almost all of our magnesium supplies come from the vegetable kingdom, although seafood has fairly high amounts. Most nuts, seeds and legumes have high amounts as do dark green vegetables, soy products and whole grains. Unfortunately magnesium, like other minerals, may not be present in high enough amounts in the soil that the plant is grown in. If this is the case, the plant will not have adequate amounts of this vital nutrient. As well, soaking and boiling foods can leach magnesium into the water (drinking this water can supply you with magnesium and other minerals). Magnesium elimination is increased in people who use alcohol, caffeine or excess sugar, or who take diuretics or birth control pills. For these reasons, and others, many people get insufficient magnesium from their diets. Magnesium helps me sleep! It also helps with leg cramps and muscle cramps in general. It is considered the "anti stress" mineral (which is probably the biggest reason I love it so much)! While calcium hardens things in the body - think teeth, bones - magnesium works to "soften" the muscles (remember, the heart is also a muscle)and helps things to run more smoothly (yes, like our bowels). It can help prevent kidney stones, PMS, hyperactivity, anxiety, fatigue, atherosclerosis, hypertension.... etc. etc. etc. It also is a great antidote to a hangover!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Being Thankful for Fat

Today I am thankful... I am thankful that my son is able to run, play sports (especially basketball, his favorite one), and is currently pain-free. My oldest son has a rare auto-inflammatory condition called Chronic Recurrent Multifocal Osteomyelitis or CRMO for short. This disease is so rare that it is estimated that only 1 in a million kids have it and it is even rarer for boys. As I watched him play basketball last night my mind went back to last year at this time when he was in so much pain that he limped and could barely walk up the stairs let alone run on the court. This is a child who has rarely been sick in his life and hardly ever missed school - he missed days and days of it during that time and basically missed out on the entire basketball season. He has been in remission since May and I pray that it stays that way. BUT... This is a disease of flare-ups and remissions... an auto-inflammatory disease that can strike again at any time without warning. And strike it can. Hard. Even things like falling on the court or getting shoved can exasperate this condition and it can flare up again. And so, as I watch him fall last night my stomach feels a bit sick and I pray that this won't be the start of it again. So far so good. But, I am THANKFUL. I thank God that He found us wonderful doctors and surgeons that diagnosed this rather quickly and that there is medicine that can help alleviate the pain and shrink the tumors. I thank God for giving me the wisdom to have studied natural health and nutrition so that I can use my knowledge to create a better life for my children and any other child that may have this disease.

While I was on a CRMO site on Facebook this morning I noticed a question posed by another mom of a child who has CRMO questioning the benefits of krill or fish oils. There is so much information out there and it can be hard for people to weed through what's really true and what's not. I cannot stress the benefits of fish oils enough - I have given them to my children ever since they were one year olds. I'm sure by now most people have heard of Omega 3 fatty acids.... Fish oils contain these but in the form of EPA/DHA. In simple terms, this means that this is the usable form of Omega 3's. As we consume Omega 3 fatty acids our bodies convert these to EPA/DHA - fish oils have the added benefit of already being coverted. I have seen benefits in both myself (I have had Rheumatoid Arthritis for 11+ years) and my son with his CRMO. Omega 3's work on the Prostaglandins in the body that DECREASE inflammation. Decreasing inflammation is a GOOD thing. On top of this, they are the preferred fatty acid for the brain, benefits the eyes, hair, skin and heart. By the way, I recommend a liquid, good-quality brand of fish oils such as Nordic Naturals or Carlson.

And so I am not only thankful for health I am also thankful for fat. GOOD fat like the Omega 3's. Have a blessed and thankful day!