jump to navigation

The Magic of Medicinal Mushrooms January 22, 2013

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: , , , , ,
4 comments

The mushrooms you love so much may be better for you than you know.

Evidence of the curative effects of mushrooms dates to prehistoric times in Africa, Egypt and Mesoamerica, depicted by hieroglyphs and petroglyphs, and two types discovered in pouches found in 1991 on the body of a 5,000 year old European, Oetzi the Iceman. The West has acknowledged the powerful use of mushrooms as medicine, but most of the globe has worshipped–often literally–the fungi for millennia.

Medicinal mushrooms possess latent cancer preventive properties. Studies in Japan and Brazil strongly indicate that regular consumption over prolonged periods significantly reduces cancer incidence. One Japanese epidemiological survey over a period of 14 years revealed that cancer rates of workers at medicinal mushroom farms were 1 in 1,000 compared to 1 in 600 for the general population. A mixture of the active ingredients from different mushrooms maximizes the immune response by providing multiple stimuli to the body’s natural defenses. Cancer Research UK also found increasing experimental evidence that medicinal mushrooms demonstrate both high anti-tumor activity and restricting metastasis of tumors. They even reverse the harmful effects of radiation and chemotherapy.

Reishi mushroom. Photo by Eric Steinert.

Reishi mushrooms are the oldest in Traditional Chinese Medicine, still widely used today.
Photo by Eric Steinert.

Reishi has been rated the top medicinal herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2,000 years. So highly valued, it was traded for its own weight in gold and available only to Emperors. It is still the most important herb in Asia, where the focus is on preventive medicine as opposed to the West’s reactive. It contains over 200 active ingredients and unique compounds that are the most biologically active from any plant source. Reishi is normally taken as an extract because it is a very tough, woody mushroom and difficult to digest raw. Its dynamic antioxidant action and immune stimulating effects make it so treasured.

Nearly any type of common mushroom you choose to incorporate into your daily life will have a multitude of medicinal effects, most of them supremely positive. Raw mushrooms dried in the sun will multiply their stores of vitamin D for up to one year. Vitamin D deficiency accounts for many symptoms of decreased health including death from cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in older adults, severe asthma in children, cancer, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance and multiple sclerosis.

Fresh mushrooms are readily available and easy to incorporate into any diet. Exotic Asian varieties now normally found on supermarket shelves (shitake, maitake, oyster and enoki) have anticancer properties, lower cholesterol and strengthen the immune system. Common varieties such as button, Portobello and crimini contain some benefits (Portobellos have high potassium and B12 levels) but also naturally contain substances that in large doses may increase tumor risk in animals. These should always be consumed thoroughly cooked, broiled or grilled to decrease the toxins and ease digestion.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, natural medicine researcher and father of nutritarian eating, provides us with a longevity equation: H=N/C or healthy life expectancy is proportional to the lifetime intake of micronutrient diversity and quantity per calorie. His advocacy of micronutrient-rich diets is featured in Whole Foods Markets and inspired millions to consume anti-cancer foods as part of their regular diets. According to Dr. Fuhrman,

Mushrooms block tumor growth and have anti-estrogenic activity. Frequent consumption of mushrooms, approximately one button mushroom per day, has been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer by 60-70%. Mushrooms are thought to protect against breast cancer particularly because they inhibit an enzyme called aromatase, which produces estrogen. Mushrooms are one of the very few foods that inhibit aromatase, and several varieties of mushrooms have strong anti-aromatase activity, including the common varieties like white button and Portobello mushrooms.

Other North American mushrooms contain health benefits too. You may have seen these while hiking:

Cauliflower mushrooms contain chemicals which enhance the immune system and have anti-tumor properties. Photo by Nick Valdez.

Cauliflower mushrooms contain chemicals which enhance the immune system and have anti-tumor properties.
Photo by Nick Valdez.

shaggy mane

Shaggy Mane’s polysaccharides and triterpenes fight cancer and existing tumors, stabilize blood pressure and keep blood sugar even. It benefits asthma, anxiety, diabetes, hepatitis, and leukemia.
Photo by Nick Valdez.

Earth Star Mushroom

Earth Star mushroom spore dust is used in TCM and applied externally to stop wound bleeding and reduce chilblains. Also prohibits tumor growth and has spurned research interest for immunomodulatory and antitumor properties.
Photo by Nick Valdez.

chanterelle mushrooms health benefits

White Chanterelles, indicative of healthy, old-growth forests, contain protein, vitamins B and D, riboflavin, niacin and thiamine. Minerals include potassium, copper and selenium.
Photo by Nick Valdez.

Magic Mushrooms

Use of psilocybin or magic mushrooms is often found in ancient records of spiritual and shamanistic rituals. Unlike manufactured psychotropic drugs (LSD), these mushrooms do not technically cause hallucinations, but alter perceptions of objects and time. They are non-addictive but can quickly become tolerable, lessening the effects with increased use. They are not known for their health benefits.

Today, psychotropic mushrooms are foraged wild and easily cultivated. They are ingested raw, added to stews or sauces, or steeped into a tea, causing long-term feelings of well-being. A 2011 Johns Hopkins study found that just one dose of this created personality shifts in “openness,” abstract ideas, creativity and aesthetics lasting up to one year. Each participant in the study relayed this as a life-changing experience for the better. Mushrooms were administered in a hospital setting with two people acting as guards over a period of eight hours. This is breakthrough news, as it was previously thought that personality was a set determinant. In the study, 60% of participants were markedly changed with a single high dose of psilocybin. (Note that psilocybin is illegal, classified as a Schedule 1 substance by the DEA.)

Amanita,

Unlike psilocybin mushrooms, psychotropic Amanita muscaria is popular but not often consumed due to its toxicity and unpredictable psychological effects. Often brewed as a tea for entheogenic use, its personality effects can be depressant or ultimately positively life-changing.
Photo by Steve Childress.

“Renaissance Mycologist” Paul Stamets walks us through the science, history and future of our world with mushrooms in this incredible TED talk.

Warning

Research well whatever type of mushroom you eat and consult your doctor before making changes to your diet. Many varieties will react adversely with prescription medications. There are several types of lethal mushrooms, often ingested due to misidentification. White and yellow Amanita phalloides are responsible for the majority of mushroom deaths every year. Cooking poisonous mushrooms will not release their toxins and will remain deadly.

Related Reading

South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

North American Mycological Association

American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

“Healthy” Mushroom Recipes

About these ads

Neurogastroenterology: The Study of Our Second Brain January 1, 2013

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
5 comments

thEarly in embryogenesis our brains and our gut are formed from the same tissue mass with one half becoming the central nervous system and the other the enteric nervous system, connected by the vagus nerve. Half our nerves are located in our brain, and half in the gut which translates into a lot more than feeling butterflies in our stomach when we’re nervous.

This enteric nervous system is comprised of one hundred million autonomously functioning neurons, neurotransmitters and proteins with the ability to communicate with the central nervous system through the vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system. Coupled with the intestinal microbiome, it’s been coined our “second brain” by Dr. Michael Gershon, professor of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City in 1988. What we put into one brain drastically affects the other.

If we add the nerve cells of the esophagus, stomach and large intestine, there are more nerve cells in the gut than there are in the entire remainder of the peripheral nervous system. Nearly every chemical that controls the brain in the head has been identified in the gut, including hormones and neurotransmitters.

Flora, the microorganisms that typically inhabit a body organ, while plentiful, have not evolved enough to withstand processed and junk foods. Intestinal flora is also destroyed by considerable amounts of stress, alcohol, and antibiotics which will leave a body more open to infection.

Brain/Gut Disease States

Nearly 60 million people suffer from digestive issues, often resulting from poor management of the second brain. Many are temporary ill feelings, while others are chronic and debilitating. The brain/gut connection has spurned interest in new research and procedures.

Gastrointestinal: The gut produces 95% of mood-stabilizing serotonin. So when it’s not functioning properly, our moods will show it. Conversely, when brain chemistry is off-balance, the bowels will suffer. Nearly 90% of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and non-ulcerative dyspepsia suffer from some sort of mental anxiety (or worse). These patients also frequently encounter abnormal REM sleep and wake feeling fatigued. These sleep disorders are often treated with low-dose antidepressants, regularly prescribed to treat IBS, depression, PTSD and bacterial infections.

Diabetes: Now epidemic in many countries, diabetes’ side effects can be devastating to the body, and treatment and utilization rates are drowning health care resources. The race is on to find new methods to slow glucose production to decrease related morbidity. Clinical trials show that fats activate a subset of nerves in the intestine, signaling the brain, which then signals the liver, to reduce glucose production. This helps to slow the production of sugar in the body. Now the gut, instead of the brain, will be the target for new therapies.

Anxiety and Depression: Antidepressant drugs commonly cause gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, diarrhea and constipation. This is because they inhibit the uptake of serotonin, normally calming to the digestive tract. Morphine and heroin act on the central nervous system and attach to the gut’s opiate receptors, producing constipation. The gut also produces benzodiazepines, chemicals that relieve pain and are found in anti-anxiety drugs like Valium. In extreme pain, the gut over-produces these chemicals and sends them to the brain. Stress signals are sent to the enteric nervous system, slowing digestion while the intestines painfully contract.

GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or heartburn): Prevalence of GERD has increased 50% in the past decade, affecting 20% of adults. Stress, a common cause of acid reflux and chronic heartburn, excites areas of the brain that make esophageal pain receptors more active. These patients often have a drop in prostaglandins which coat the stomach lining and protect it from acid. Anti-inflammatory drugs reduce production of prostaglandins, which is why this class of drug commonly causes ulcers and nausea. Add alcohol to stress, and the increase in stomach acid weakens the esophageal sphincter allowing caustic acid into your upper GI tract.

Settle Your Stomach

Try incorporating these into your lifestyle for good gut/brain health:

  • Probiotics
  • Turmeric
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Kefir
  • Ginger
  • Eliminate fatty foods and caffeine (try calming herbal teas, like chamomile)
  • Stay hydrated
  • Improve posture

What’s your gut feeling?

Related Reading:

Lipman, Frank, MD, (2011) Revive: Stop Feeling Spent And Start Living Again.

The Gut-Brain-Liver Axis: A New Option to Treat Obesity and Diabetes? (www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com)

Foods that Fight Heartburn (www.LIVESTRONG.com)

Location, location, location! The high cost of living in a food desert. February 9, 2012

Posted by acroanmph in Global Health.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
4 comments
Food desert, Health, Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Grocery, Produce

Food Desert

How far do you live from a large supermarket? What if you only purchased foods you were able to carry either by walking or using public transportation? What if there was a McDonald’s one block over? How is your health affected?

These are questions posed around the communities of food deserts, areas in industrialized nations which are not close enough to any nutritional food retailer. In urban areas this is usually measured at one mile away, in rural areas, about ten miles. Existing stores in these areas carry high-priced, unhealthy options. In many cases, these are the only options.

Health Hazards

The high-fat and sugar content of the foods sold at convenience stores or small “grocers” (term used as loosely as possible) is causing an increase in disease in lower socio-economic communities where large supermarket retailers will not build for lack of profit. Consumers in these low SES minority neighborhoods show an increase in meat and processed foods, and much lower intake of fruits and vegetables, but are spending 37% more on food in general. This contributes to spikes in obesity, diabetes, sugar addiction, malnutrition, and heart disease.

As of 2011, the USDA underestimates about 2.4 million Americans living in food deserts. Factors not included in this measure are access to transportation, barriers for the elderly, food price, crime rate, and ethnic disparities, leaving the actual number of people at risk of food insecurity to be much higher. One study (Policy Link and The Food Trust, 2010) showed that in New Mexico, the same cart of groceries costs $85 for rural residents, and $55 for urban residents, a common disparity in relative costs. About a quarter of the people who qualify for welfare and food stamp programs live in food deserts. In fact, according to Mari Gallagher, founder of National Center for Pubic Research, USDA food stamp retailers provide more barriers to nutritious foods than fast food retailers.

Health, nutrition, diabetes, produce, obesity

Food Desert Locator

Food Oases

Several states are seeing community-level interventions which pair public and private finances to significantly undercut costs and losses to supermarket chains. Co-ops are useful in promoting local growers, and farmers’ markets, although costly, also increase access to food. Community currency has been shown to boost profits in both of these endeavors. Even community gardens strengthen community and social support while providing access to nutritious foods. About 20 grants exist to help individuals and communities afford healthy food projects.

Please click the link below to watch what Karriem Beyah has done for an urban food desert in Chicago’s South Side:

Urban Deserts: Fresh-Food-Free Zones TIME.com

What can your community do?

Related Posts:

Hidden Hunger In The Heartland

My Picks: Top 10 Superfoods for Disease Prevention February 3, 2012

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
8 comments

Scoot over broccoli, almonds and green tea! While we’ve always loved you for being healthy, you just don’t cut it anymore on my Superfood list.

Any search on the internet will include these foods among about 20 others, but my Superfoods qualified for the list by being either 1) rare [I love trying exotic foods]; or more importantly, 2) a whole food high in phytonutrients which not only act as antioxidants but are essential nutrients. Essential nutrients are required for normal body functioning, but cannot be synthesized in adequate amounts, and must be obtained from a dietary source. Processed or cooked foods have lower levels of phytochemicals and contribute to an increase in preventable disease. Your physician may be able to manage or treat disease, but prevent it in the first place by controlling what’s in your power–starting with your diet. So, in an effort to put your health in your own hands, try out my list of Superfoods for disease prevention.

1) Blue-Green Algae or Spirulina: Used since the 9th century, it’s about 60% protein, 7% lipids, and contains all essential amino acids. It’s better than meat or dairy products, and is superior to most plant products such as legumes. Photosynthesis in cyanobacteria produces oxygen. Cancer cells cannot thrive in oxygen-rich blood, or in alkaline conditions. Six species, however, are susceptible to toxic contaminants and may quickly grow into algae blooms, so be careful where you get yours, or use a supplement. Look for cyanobacteria.

alaskan salmon, superfood, weight loss, diet2) Wild Alaskan Salmon: Maximize your benefit by eating this at least twice each week. Not any Atlantic or farm-raised salmon, but fresh Alaskan salmon whenever you can find it. The omega-3 fatty acids are powerful for heart (reduces risk of heart disease by 38% and heart attack by 60%) and brain (decreased risk of Alzheimers, asthma and behavioral conditions present in children, and depression and other psychiatric disorders) function; perfect for pregnant moms for healthy development of fetal brains and retinas. It is always delicious. It is usually expensive. The alternative is paying for disease treatment, which is more costly [in dollars and quality of life] in the short- and long-term.

bee pollen, honey, superfood, allergies, health3) Bee pollen: My regular readers may already be familiar with a previous post on this topic, but the benefits were so extreme and numerous that I could not include them all without multiplying the length of my post by about 3. So, to recap — this is assimilated into the body naturally at the cellular level. It is the only existing compound which scientists have not been able to reproduce in the laboratory. It is 40% protein, is high in B-complex vitamins, as well as A, C, D, E; contains 27 mineral salts and over 5,ooo enzymes necessary for healing and digestion; and contains 96 known nutrients. It aides in so many health issues (strengthens capillaries, improves cholesterol and complexion, reduces risk of prostrate cancer and supports sexual and reproductive function, calms allergies, and even contains natural pheynlalanine which curbs appetite) and much more. This is one amazing Superfood. Get it. Eat it. Up to one tablespoon per day. Ask your doctor if it is safe for you, and try one grain of the pollen first to see if you suffer any anaphylaxic reaction. Where to buy: Bees In The Burbs.

4) Cacao: First used in Mexico, Central and South American cultures, the bean of this small evergreen tree is high in antioxidants and phytochemicals, fiber, iron, magnesium, chromium, zinc, vitamin E, and flavinoids. It does not contain vitamin C as previously thought. When the seeds are roasted, they lose some of their nutrients and this processed form is called cocoa. Most developed nations process it even further, reducing the health benefits and contributing to our overall fat intake. The Archives of Internal Medicine reported that cacao is 14 times better at lowering blood pressure than red wine, and 21 times more effective than green tea. It’s a natural muscle relaxer, especially for asthma, and has been used to treat edema or swelling from fluids. It increases oxygen in the blood so it reduces risk of heart disease and cancer, and increases blood flow to the brain. Where to buy: Theo Chocolates.

watermelon, superfood, health, diet

5) Watermelon: Not just a snack! Locally-grown is best. Otherwise, just know that this Superfood is one of THE healthiest fruits. It contains the highest amounts of lycopene. Yes – much higher than tomatoes! Lycopene is an antioxidant which fights against heart disease and cancer, especially prostate cancer, and inflammatory diseases such as asthma, diabetes, and atherosclerosis. It contains vitamins A, B6, and C for improving tooth and gum disease, and macular degeneration. It helps heal wounds and is a natural energy booster. Also high in potassium, watermelon can help control blood pressure and possibly prevent strokes. It relaxes blood vessels which contributes to a “Viagara effect.”

6) Kamut: Allergic to wheat? Kamut is a unique high energy grain reported now as “the wheat you can eat.” Athletes also prefer this type of wheat as it contains 65% more amino acids than common wheat, more lipids and fatty acids, and is 40% higher in protein content. It is a good souce of selenium, zinc and magnesium. Kamut has an interesting back story. “Following WWII, a US airman claimed to have taken a handful of this grain from a stone box in a tomb near Dashare, Egypt. Thirty-six kernels of the grain were given to a friend who mailed them to his father, a Montana wheat farmer. The farmer planted and harvested a small crop and displayed the grain as a novelty at the local fair. Believing the legend that the giant grain kernels were taken from an Egyptian tomb, the grain was dubbed ‘King Tut’s Wheat.’ But soon the novelty wore off and this ancient grain was all but forgotten. In 1977, one remaining jar of ‘King Tut’s Wheat’ was obtained by another Montana wheat farmer, who with his son, an agricultural scientist and plant biochemist, soon perceived the value of this unique grain. They spent the next decade propagating the humped-backed kernels originally selected from the small jar.” They are naturally resistant to insects and disease–if one stalk is effected, the others remain healthy. Kamut is a registered brand which is available as a cereal, in breads, pancakes, waffles, cookies, pasta, bulgar and couscous.

cinnamon, diabetes, obesity, sugar, superfood, health, diet7) Cinnamon: Nearly everything sold in grocery stores today, besides fresh produce and meat, has added sugar. This even includes low-calorie and low-fat foods and health food bars. Bagels. Campbell’s soup. The added sugar takes many forms–fructose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, lactose and maltose. This, imo, has lead not only to an increase in type 2 diabetes and obesity, but to a national sugar addiction. These added sugars instruct the body to hold on to fat instead of burn it, and have a disastrous effect on blood sugar and insulin levels. There is only one natural product to counter this – cinnamon! You may have been unaware of this and that is because it is not man-made and drug companies cannot profit from cinnamon. Studies show that even one gram (less than 1/2 tsp.) of cinnamon per day reduced blood sugar by 20%. The recommended amount is up to 6 grams which can reduce blood sugar by 63%. It mimicks all the positive effects of insulin and encourages uptake of glucose. Take cinnamon before, during, or after a meal when blood sugar levels are highest. Minimize or eliminate processed foods from your diet and use cinnamon regularly. You will see and feel the difference!

8) Maqui Berry: Originating from rainforests of Chile and Argentina, the composition of the purple Maqui berry (or Chilean Wineberry) has twice as many antioxidants as other berries, including the Acai berry. It promotes cardiovascular health, immune system, skin, bone and joint health. It is also a great detoxifier and will help jump start a weight loss regimen. The berry is available in many forms, so if you’re like me (which you’re probably not) and not fond of berries, look for it in supplement form from a knowledgeable practitioner as it is common to find weaker strains of the berry or supplements of less-than-optimum strength.

9) Quinoa: Often served at our table in place of rice, Quinoa is an ancient Incan grain which is a complete protein (contains all 9 essential amino acids) packed with phytonutrients. It is an extremely rich source of manganese and magnesium, folate and phosphorous, it assists the body to fight migraine headaches, diabetes and athlerosclerosis. It protects mitochondria from oxidative damage and is therefore recommended for reducing several types of cancer. When eaten in conjunction with fish, preferably wild Alaskan salmon, it can reduce by 66% wheezing and incidence of asthma, especially in children.

alliums, onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, superfood, diet, health10) Alliums: This is the onion group which includes shallots, leeks, scallions, garlic and chives. We often incorporate their pungent flavor in cooking, but how are they beneficial for health? They are high in antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral activity which reduces blood platelet aggregation and hyperlipidemia, and helps heal colds and coughs. The phytochemicals are released upon chopping or crushing. They enhance thiamin absorption and lower blood pressure. This group is occasionally contraindicated for people taking certain diabetic therapies, so check with your physician before regular use.

Some of my Superfoods are best locally purchased and not from major supplement stores. Ask a holistic health practitoner, or click on the links to some fantastic small business retailers, select wisely and eat purposefully. Bon appetit!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 106 other followers

%d bloggers like this: