The Magic of Medicinal Mushrooms January 22, 2013Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: Cancer, Diabetes, Diet, Health, immune system, Mushrooms
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 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:
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.)
“Renaissance Mycologist” Paul Stamets walks us through the science, history and future of our world with mushrooms in this incredible TED talk.
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.
Neurogastroenterology: The Study of Our Second Brain January 1, 2013Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: Anxiety, Brain/Gut, Diabetes, Diet, Enteric nervous system, Gastrointestinal illness, Health, Neurogastroenterology
Early 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:
- Digestive enzymes
- Eliminate fatty foods and caffeine (try calming herbal teas, like chamomile)
- Stay hydrated
- Improve posture
What’s your gut feeling?
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)
The Road to Health July 19, 2012Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: Access to care, Health, Medical tourism, Surgery, Travel
The state of US healthcare looms near-crisis and unemployment levels remain steadily high. Over 16% of US citizens are without health insurance, and the rate is climbing. This combination will spur over 1.6 million Americans to seek affordable medical treatment abroad this year.
Granted, many of the procedures are elective: dental veneers, liposuction or breast augmentation. But some necessary treatments are plainly a better deal in other countries. A hip replacement will cost $43,000 in the US, but only $9,000 in India. The physicians are usually US or UK board certified, so quality of care is not necessarily compromised.
Medical tourism has grown so quickly that 50 countries now recognize it as a major national industry. There’s a Medical Tourism Association & Global Healthcare Congress, medical travel companies, and guided tours for travel companions.
And even if you’re not signing up for heart bypass surgery which is likely to cost $144,000 in the states, $25,000 in Costa Rica and only $8,500 in India, you may just pick up a few packs of antibiotics without prescription the next time you’re vacationing in Mexico.
Here’s a breakdown of treatments by country provided by mint.com:
Cardiology: India, where over 20,000 heart procedures are performed with a 98% success rate; South Africa
Cancer: Singapore Johns Hopkins at 40% discount.
Cosmetic Surgery: Brazil-for you or your pet!; South Africa where a “Surgeon + Safari” is popular.
Dentistry: Costa Rica, at a discounted rate of 70%; Mexico, which hosts 50,000 Americans each year.
Fertility/IVF: Barbados and Israel offer 50% savings.
Everything: Thailand accepts 400,000 patients each year for all the above plus transgender operations.
Don’t feel beholden to the US practices to provide optimum care. If you happen to be traveling anyway or want to combine a health treatment into your travels, it’s easy to do. A successful global free market will be created where competitive industries win. And contrary to popular thought, most people do not just travel for a better deal, but in search of the most advanced medical technologies, to receive better care, and quicker access to care, according to a McKinsey consultancy firm survey. Do a bit of preliminary homework and be wary of malpractice laws.
Assess Your Stress To Help Your Heart June 1, 2012Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: Anger management, Coping, emotional stress, Health, Heart health, Mental health, Personal Health, Soul searching, Stress management
Stress is the way our body reacts to change. This week, we are talking about emotional stress because it is something within our control, whereas physical stressors aren’t always. Our bodies are designed to adapt to stress but sometimes the way we react to that stress creates more of it. We have the power to choose our perceptions of and responses to any occurrence.
How does stress affect the heart?
Inflamed reactions and worry have more than just a passing physiological affect on the body. The instinctive “fight-or-flight” response increases the heart rate and blood pressure. Blood flow is re-directed to the muscular system releasing fats into the bloodstream to be used as energy, speeds breathing or makes it more difficult, and increases cortisol and triglyceride levels. Continued stress can lead to an abnormal heart rhythm, elevate your risk for heart disease, and cause a stroke or heart attack.
Your physical and mental well-being are worth getting control of emotional stress and anger. Stress is a normal part of life and dealing with it effectively decreases the risk of suffering from heart ailments.
5 Calm Coping Actions
An enlightened soul radiates love and light. And I mean radiates. This can be you! Here are five methods you can adopt to control your responses to emotional stress and do a little soul-searching.
1) Starting today, you have a clean slate! Give yourself permission to start anew and let go of what is weighing you down. Create your own moral code of conduct independent of religious virtues, which can occupy another space in your life. This tip is an exercise on living morally in this life so you are able to attain your maximum potential. Too worried to let go? That’s ok, move on to step 2.
2) “Seventy-five percent to ninety percent of all primary care visits are stress-related” (HealthMath). Knowledge is the first step to solving any problem. Identifying your particular stressors will enable you to tune in to methods of coping with them specifically. A good place to start is with this free, simple assessment tool from HealthMath. The tool measures perceived stress and reactions to life situations. Intrinsic and extrinsic variables are measured, and analysis is based on responses. Identification of stressors can help us tune in to our reactions, reign in the drama or the feeling of being overwhelmed, and develop new coping abilities. Helpful tips are based on your score.
3) Take care of business. Like my first car salesman told me, “You’re not gonna do it (make the loan payment every month) unless you have to.” This extends to all areas of life. Staying on top of chores, bills and other duties or commitments leaves you feeling responsible and self-sufficient, and frees up time to pursue other interests, including step 4.
4) Spend uninterrupted time on personal reflection. You may have to complete this step many times before you make any notable progress. Try journal-writing, free-association writing, meditation or prayer, or taking long walks by yourself for the sole purpose of soul-searching. If you can’t seem to find the time, schedule it on your calendar. Use this time to shut out external “noise” and self-talk, remain in a calm state, and open your mind to all possibilities. Allow your inner voice/the light within you/your true spirit to guide you in defining your purpose in life. This does not include all the “should do’s,” but ideas that enable your inner light to shine through you and outward to touch other people in a positive way. Where do your talents lie? About what are you passionate? What is unique about you? What feeds your soul and makes your spirit soar? The answers are already within you. When you finally find them, make a written plan addressing how you can incorporate them into action every day.
5) Respond to anxiety, rather than react to it. Choose what you will say or do to keep the situation in perspective. Avoid shouting or swearing as this increases tension and induces stress within the other people around you. Face your stressor(s) head on and do not settle on a compromise unless it leaves you feeling joyful.
Your heart health depends on your ability to manage stress. Managing stress is completely within your control. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” For heart’s sake, is it time to make a healthy change?
Journal of the American Medical Association, Chronic Stress and the Heart
Is The Food Pyramid Killing Us? May 21, 2012Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: Cancer, Diet, Forks Over Knives, Health, Heart disease, Nutrition, Plant-based diet, Public health, USDA
Hang in there with me for just a few minutes, folks.
The leading causes of U.S. deaths are heart disease, cancer, respiratory ailments and stroke. Right? In the vast majority of cases, these are attributed to poor nutrition, not genetics. What food groups do we as a nation consume the most? Meat and dairy. Consumption of which foods increases at the same rate as chronic disease and fatal illness? Meat and dairy. What are two of the main food groups the Food Pyramid encourages us to eat as part of our daily diet? Meat and dairy. Why would an agency of the federal government urge us to consume the two most unhealthy foods as part of each meal? (defended my 10-year old son).
Welcome to the Western diet, Western diseases and the cozy kinships within the USDA, a not unbiased agency which regulates and promotes their own interests. According to Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM),
The USDA’s statutory duty is to foster and assist in expanding uses in moving larger quantities of agricultural products throughout the private marketing system to consumers in the US and abroad. They compromise consumer health in favor of promoting specific food products.
The US spends more money on health care than any other developed nation, yet we have among the highest rates of preventable disease. Our convenient diets are nutritionally deficient, being high in fats, sugar, salt and animal proteins, as brilliantly researched by Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s famous 20-year China Study, and his subsequent work with the esteemed surgeon, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Forks Over Knives. Their independent and collaborative science illustrates that our bodies are engineered for optimum performance with plant-based nutrition.
For over a century, the USDA dietary guidelines have included meat and dairy as the primary sources of protein and calcium. A previous post, Calcium for Bone Health-Not What You Thought, details a direct correlation between animal-based calcium consumption and increased rates of osteoporosis.
The federal government is considering regulating our diets in an effort to tackle the obesity epidemic, especially in children, due to the amount of time spent and number of calories consumed during school hours. This is an appalling notion. There is obvious conflict mandating compliance with National School Lunch Program menus, and providing the very guidelines which promote obesity-related illnesses. Regular lunch entrees in my school district include corn dogs, breaded and fried chicken patties, breaded and fried chicken nuggets, fried mozzarella sticks, cheeseburgers and pizza. Always available: milk, ice cream, unhealthy snacks and drinks in vending machines. By contrast, a regular French school lunch in the town of Barjac, for example, consists of coleslaw, mussels mariniers, sautéed potatoes, and an organic, locally grown pear for dessert. Water and baguette are standard at every meal, of course. Karen LeBillon’s book, French Kids Eat Everything, details fundamental differences in their approach to school lunches. Menus are decided by regional school administrators and parents, there is no national food program, and there is a national ban on vending machines.
Each one of us is in control of our own health destiny. A plant-based diet not only prevents what’s killing us, but can reverse it. Dr. Esselstyn was shunned by the USDA after reporting his results, and the Food Pyramid still contains meat and dairy. In his TED talk, he explains our top killers are food-borne illnesses.
Your food choices are 100% up to you. What will you choose to eat today?
* * *
Forks Over Knives is streamable from Netflix. It just might save your life.
Control Your Diet to Control Your Alleriges March 28, 2012Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: Allergy, Asthma, Diet, eczema, Food, Hay fever, Health, Mediterranean Diet, Omega-3 fatty acids, Sinusitis
I spent the entirety of last weekend outside, one day at a 9-hour outdoor seminar and the other day at my son’s 3-game baseball tournament. Generally allergy-free, by the middle of the second day, I was sneezing, coughing, eyes watering like crazy, and had the worst nasal congestion I’ve ever experienced with runny nose. I used up 3 little packages of tissues in about 20 minutes. I couldn’t wait to get home to my remedies. Sound familiar? What do you do? Take Antihistamines? Visit your specialist for immunotherapy? Are you more likely to take a holistic approach to strengthen the immune system and avoid OTC medicine side-effects?
The Diet|Allergy Link
Many of the foods we eat produce a direct response from our bodies. What we put into our gut is processed by our liver. These two systems work well together even when dealing with all the unnatural foods and other odd “invaders” we send down or breathe in. Occasionally, they become overwhelmed and things they normally handle well, like pollen, become too big a job.
What To Eliminate From Your Diet
The milk protein, casein. One symptom of seasonal allergies is inflammation. We can usually feel the pressure in our heads, but it lingers around the rest of our body as well. It is often present in people with asthma, diabetes and other autoimmune disorders. Casein causes inflammation and produces mucus even if there is no dairy allergy present. Removing it from the diet completely is especially helpful for managing the common triad of allergies/eczema/asthma. Be wary of non-fat and non-dairy items and read the labels. Some cheese substitutes made from soybeans and almonds may still contain casein.
Protein. Vancouver’s Dr. Andrew Weil, who writes weekly for the Vancouver Sun, advises reducing the amount of protein consumed. “I believe that high-protein diets irritate the immune system in some people, aggravating allergies and autoimmune diseases. Because proteins are the components that make an organism unique, the immune system reads them to decide whether materials in the body are ‘self’ or foreign. When the immune system is overactive, as it is with an allergy, flooding the body with animal and plant proteins may confuse it further and may make resolution of these conditions less likely. I have found that low-protein diets can be helpful to people with chronic allergies and other immune-system problems.”
Sugar. Just 3 ounces of sugar can suppress the immune system within 30 minutes, and up to 5 hours. Given that the average American eats three times that amount in a single day, eliminating or even reducing sugar intake can significantly boost your immune system.
Gluten. Foods processed from wheat, barley and rye can produce excess mucus in the nasal cavity which is not drained from the nostrils. This stagnated mucus is a fantastic environment for encouraging fungi, viruses and bacteria growth resulting in sinusitis. Read labels and stay away from semolina, starch, bulgur, gram flour, bread crumbs, bran, spelt, couscous or high protein flour. [Note: it can take up to 4 weeks for your body to rid itself of gluten residue.]
What To Add To Your Diet
Cold water fish. Haddock, tuna, salmon, cod, trout, mackerel, sardines and herring are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Shellfish also contains these acids, but not as much. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and when consumed regularly can be effective in treating hay fever, sinusitis, hives, eczema. Asthma sufferers will notice an increase in open airways. [Note: avoid omega-6 fatty acids. These have the opposite and adverse effect of causing inflammation, and are found in sunflower oil, mayonnaise, prepared salad dressings, and fast foods.]
Vitamin C. This is actually an antihistamine in itself. The plus side, though, is that it does not damage the liver as OTC antihistamines can, and it can strengthen the immune system. Foods rich in Vitamin C are broccoli, shallots, yellow onions, oranges, kiwi, strawberries and bell peppers. Raw fruit smoothies are a great way to get more Vitamin C, especially if you make them yourself so you can be sure nothing is added which might hamper the benefits.
Local bee products. Honeybees pollinate all sorts of blooming plants and trees. Apiary products in your area will contain a minute amount of the specific pollens that you encounter every day. Eating 1-2 tbsp. of local honey or bee pollen daily will naturally build up your immunity to these flowering varietals.
In The News
Two interesting studies have linked diet with disease in newborns, or the likelyhood of disease developing during childhood. One study showed that an apple each day during pregnancy will significantly reduce the risk of wheezing and asthma developing. And a diet regularly including fish will dramatically decrease incidence of eczema, even from birth.
Another study in the same publication touts the benefits of a Mediterranean diet. This diet is heavy on fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, olive oil and fish, and extremely low in red meat. It was reported that children are 66% less likely to have itchy eyes and runny nose, and the incidence of asthma, at least on the island of Crete, is nearly zero.
Tags: Diabetes, Diet, Food Desert, Grocery, Health, Heart disease, Nutrition, obesity, Produce, Sugar Addiction
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.
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.
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:
What can your community do?
My Picks: Top 10 Superfoods for Disease Prevention February 3, 2012Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: Diabetes, Diet, Food, Health, Heart disease, Heart health, Personal Health, Phytonutrients, Superfood
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.
2) 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.
3) 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.
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.
7) 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.
10) 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!
HIV: Reaching Global Goals? December 1, 2011Posted by acroanmph in Global Health, Public Health.
Tags: disease prevention, Health, HIV-free, HIV/AIDS, politics, Search for a Cure, World AIDS Day
Thirty years of an infectious pandemic, drug research, public health education, and counseling have brought us to the point where we boldly announce the goal of an HIV-free generation in the next three years. This may seem attainable as HIV is a preventable disease. Personal behavior changes will determine the rate of infection. Assuming we will curb behaviors of all people who engage in IV drug use and unprotected sex, especially at a time when economies are struggling, is delusional.
Greece’s troubled economy has seen new infections rise by 52% in 2011, and that rate is expected to increase to 60% by the end of the year. (The US rate of increase is about 7%.) The rate of injected drug use is increasing because people can no longer afford other methods, and there have been heavy cuts to prevention in the form of free needles. The World Health Organization recommends 200 per year per user and Greece is handing out only three. Mobile testing units which frequently hit areas of high prostitution and drug use have ceased, in lieu of free-standing facilities in “posh neighborhoods,” out of reach of those who need them most. Drug therapy is becoming more unattainable, and according to Reuters and the National School of Public Health,
Antiretroviral drugs cost Greece at least 1,000 euros per patient a month. For the state to pay for all those people would cost just over 130 million euros a year. According to Christianna Rizopoulos, who collects data at the Hellenic Center’s HIV office, there is talk among health professionals that the government plans to cut its contribution for drugs to 600 euros per treatment per month, so patients would have to foot almost half the bill.
And this at a time when unemployment is up, hovering around 20%.
Outlooks for the US economy project at least a decade, maybe two, for recovery. Currently, there are over 250,000 Americans unknowingly carrying the virus. Fear of stigma prevents many from being tested, even though access to care is fairly good. Hillary Clinton’s hope of zero new infections by combining prevention techniques may work on paper, but realistically it’s a pipe dream until economies stabilize.
The government is not going to stop new infections. YOU are. David Scondras, CEO and Founder of Search For A Cure/HIV Treatment Advocacy, explains how you can protect yourself:
For confidential testing, find a site near you by entering your zip code. Pass it on.
SIDS Related to Serotonin Deficiency June 28, 2011Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: Child Health, Conditions and Diseases, Health, Infant, Research, SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
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Low Serotonin Levels Have Been Identified in SIDS Babies
New research shows low levels of serotonin in the brain tissue of babies who have died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
A study performed on the brain tissue of babies who have died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) show serotonin levels being 26% lower than in babies who died from other causes.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter secreted by the brain to regulate sleep and heart rate. Babies who are not getting enough oxygen during sleep are usually able to wake up and cry or move their heads to allow for increased oxygen intake. The babies with deficient serotonin levels are not aroused from sleep to make these adjustments.
Autopsies performed on SIDS babies have not shown conclusive evidence of cause of death until this study. The risk for SIDS lasts until a child turns one, according to the American SIDS Institute, and it is a diagnosis of exclusion, assigned only once all known and possible causes of death have been ruled out.
Researchers say they are still decades away from finding a physical marker of a brainstem problem, and currently there is no test to determine which babies may be at risk for low serotonin levels. But the new evidence will lead to further research to explain why this occurs in some infants.
Protect Your Baby
Incidence of SIDS has decreased by 50% since 1983, but still affects 2,500 infants annually in the United States. To ensure safety during sleep, practice these risk-reducing tips:
- Place babies on their backs on a firm crib mattress.
- Do not over-bundle them; overheating may increase the risk for SIDS.
- Remove blankets, pillows, bumper pads, stuffed animals, and positioning devices from crib.
- Keep the crib in the parent’s room until the baby is at least 6 months of age.
- Breastfeed whenever possible as breast milk decreases the occurrence of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, and studies show a lower SIDS rate among breast-fed babies.
- Put the baby to sleep with a pacifier.
- Turn a fan on in the baby’s room to circulate air.
- Do not smoke around the baby.
- Some parents highly recommend the Angelcare Baby Monitor which uses sound devices and under-the-mattress movement detection pads. An alarm is triggered when no movement or sound is detected for 20 seconds.
SIDS deaths do not usually occur with any symptoms or warning signs. Share these tips with all caretakers of the baby, and prevent the heartache of SIDS through education.
CJ Foundation for SIDS (accessed February 12, 2010).
National Center for Biotechnology Information. The Brainstem and Serotonin in the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (accessed February 12, 2010).
American SIDS Institute (accessed February 12, 2010).
First published Feb. 12, 2010 on www.Suite101.com
Guest Blogger Tom Crum: Mind Over Milkshakes June 21, 2011Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: Eating, Ghrelin, Health, Health psychology
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My guest blogger this week is Tom Crum — executive inspirational coach, keynote speaker, and ski instructor extraordinaire. I am acquainted with Tom through my father who was lucky enough to enjoy Tom’s Magic of Skiing in Aspen, CO this past February. I think you will appreciate the fascinating findings from a study conducted by his daughter, Alia, regarding the impact of mind over matter in our diets.
Sure, we want to eat healthily. But when given a choice between the french fries or the salad, which calls to us most loudly? An article in the May, 2011 issue of the Health Psychology Journal written by my daughter, Alia Crum, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist at Yale University, might shed some light.
Ali wanted to explore the role of mindset on food consumption and to find out if one’s mindset when eating influenced the body’s physiology beyond the actual nutrition and calories. She decided to measure ghrelin, a hormone released in the stomach in response to eating. While eating, ghrelin levels normally change, spiking downwards, basically speeding up your metabolism and telling you that you are full.
Ali gathered 46 volunteers (18-35 years of age) who were told that they were to evaluate the labeling and the taste of two milkshakes: one a “high fat, 620-calorie indulgent shake (“Decadence You Deserve”) and the other a “no fat 140-calorie sensible shake (“Guilt-free Satisfaction”). Each volunteer evaluated the labels and tested both drinks – one week apart. Each time they were given blood tests before and after drinking the shake to measure their ghrelin levels.
What the participants did not know was that they were actually drinking the same 380-calorie shake both times. One would think that the ghrelin reaction would be the same for each. Indeed, when volunteers tested the “indulgent” shake, they experienced a sharp decline in ghrelin, which is consistent with the body telling the mind that it is satisfied after the shake was consumed. (More specifically, the gut telling the brain that adequate nutrients have been digested and that it is speeding up metabolism to digest the nutrients present.)
But, bizarrely, the ghrelin levels did not drop when they consumed the supposed low-calorie “sensible” shake – an indication that their bodies did not signal a feeling of fullness or satiety. These findings offer insight into the power of mindset on food consumption. We can literally change the state of our body by changing the state of our mind. But what is more fascinating in this study is that the effect of the mindset is somewhat counter-intuitive. Consuming the milkshake in the indulgent mindset had the more appropriate response. This might tell us why so many healthy eating habits and diets fail: we think that these healthy options are not as satisfying and our gut reflects that mindset in its physiological response.
“People should still work to eat healthily,” suggested Ali on MSNBC. “But, do so with a mindset of ‘indulgence’ – believing that a food will be enough to satisfy and fulfill nutritional needs.
Wow! Eat healthy, but think indulgently. How do we do that?
Does that mean if we’re having a bowl of lentil soup and a salad for lunch that we need to work at feeling satiated? If it’s a mindset issue that dictates fullness, what might be a healthier form of “nourishment” that could fill us up? How about gratitude? How about getting centered and feeling thankful for nature’s continual abundance in our lives, for our daily nourishment, for the food harvesters and preparers? Perhaps we could fill ourselves up with the present moment – enjoying each morsel of food slowly and mindfully without the distraction of multi-tasking on our Blackberries or iPads.
I once met a Japanese woman who traveled frequently between Japan and the U.S. She would eat only one rice ball during the entire multi-hour flight – and take the entire flight to eat it!
Healthy eating might be far more satisfying when we add a pinch of mindfulness and a dash of gratitude.
STDs, Matchmaking, and Online Health May 10, 2011Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cervical Cancer, Health, HIV, Human papillomavirus, Public health, Reproductive health, Sexually transmitted disease, Vaccine
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***POST AND VIDEO NOT SUITABLE FOR SCHOOL OR CHILD VIEWING***
More people seek answers to health questions online than from a physician. It’s no surprise, really. If you or someone you care about may be afflicted with a health condition, why wait for an appointment and make your co-pay when you can instantly get answers from trusted medical sites for free? Today, 83% of online users have consulted the Internet regarding health issues – especially sexual health. Another reason: anonymity.
According to a CNN report from last October, three of the top five health searches are pregnancy, herpes, and STD. Frequently these searches are conducted from cell phones for reasons you can probably guess (often beginning with poor planning and ending in panic).
But that isn’t the only change in online health and lifestyle. The CDC states that each year there are 19,000,000 new cases of STDs in the U.S. That’s right: 19 M. Over one million of these have joined http://www.herpesmingle.com, a site devoted to matching infected people with other infected people. There are other disease-specific matchmaking sites, of course, each with their own quickly growing user base.
Regular testing every few months can detect a re-infection of chlamydia or gonorrhea. But many of today’s STDs evolve into new strains. Management of one strain will not treat or protect against a new strain. Re-infection incidence is likely to rise in correlation with the increased use of STD dating sites.
Achievable risk-reduction goals have been set and do tend to influence behavior. In addition to prevention counseling about STD/HIV, abstinence and partner management, pre-exposure vaccines for two types of human papillomavirus (HPV) are available to prevent the virus that causes cervical cancer and genital warts. A Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all unvaccinated, uninfected persons undergoing disease evaluation.
This video has shown to change behavior and prompt discussion of STD prevention with partners when shown in testing clinics:
Disease rates and evolution can be curtailed with extensive public health outreach. Find a local testing site here. STDs are preventable!
Hidden Hunger in the Heartland May 3, 2011Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: Bill Moyers, Food bank, Health, Hunger, Malnutrition, National Association of Letter Carriers, Nutrition, Poverty, Second Harvest, US poverty
American farmers produce food for our nation and several others, yet it is many of these very people who wonder where and when they will have their next meal.
U.S. households receiving food from a food pantry nearly doubled between 2007 and 2009, resulting in 14.7% food-insecure people, or over 40 million, the highest rate since 1995. One-third of these are children.
In many of these towns, lack of access to food and constrained resources create continued hardships for families. In the best of times, both parents are working long weeks but the income still places them below the poverty line. Childcare is hard to find and more expensive, transportation is poor, the cost of gasoline is prohibitive, rates of unemployment remain high and levels of education low. Daily, these families make the difficult decision of whether to buy food or pay for bills, medications, gas, or daycare.
The poverty-hunger-disease cycle exists not only in developing countries, but also in the rural US. The World Health Organization states that malnutrition is the gravest single threat to health, and the largest cause of child mortality. The affordable food is high in fat and otherwise not nutritious. This leads to an unvaried diet of poor sustenance high in simple carbohydrates resulting in increases in chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Overeating after skipping meals places a great deal of stress on the body, but is a common practice for parents who pass on two meals each day for the sake of their children.
Nutrition is most essential for the first three years of life. During critical growth periods, malnourished children have slower growth and inhibited brain development, greater susceptibility to obesity, lower academic achievement, a greater need for mental health services and inability to cope. These problems increase the likelihood of dropping out of school, inability to find a job, lack of health care and an increase in substance abuse.
Thousands of these farmers live on land which has been in their families for five or six generations. Often, their parents survived on food stamps so the way of life is familiar and hard to escape. Of course we can’t approach this subject without bringing up the Farm Bill. Here’s what David Beckmann says about it in an interview with Bill Moyers. Note this interview was conducted in 2008, during the middle of the spike of food bank usage, and before the new Farm Bill. The stated statistics are even higher today:
The National Association of Letter Carriers with Campbell Soup is sponsoring a Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive on Saturday, May 14. Leave food donations next to your mailbox to be picked up by letter carriers and taken back to the postal station where they are sorted and delivered to local food banks. This is the largest one-day national food drive, receiving 77.1 million pounds of food in 2010. America’s Grow A Row campaign encourages each family with a garden to plant an extra row of produce to donate to a food bank this summer as fresh food is in great demand.
Amid the recent weather calamities making life much more difficult than it already was for the heartland, let’s make helping those who grow our food a priority. Where would we be without them?
How to help:
SNAP (food stamp) eligibility site.
Calcium for Bone Health–Not What You Thought April 19, 2011Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: Calcium, Dairy product, Health, Horsetail, Osteoporosis
Keep drinking your milk, but don’t expect it to prevent bone loss. Calcium is an essential nutrient required for bone function, but it will not stave off osteoporosis (a decrease in bone density), or make weak bones strong. Michael Castleman, medical journalist, has compiled some surprising statistics relating calcium intake to bone fractures:
- Four worldwide epidemiological surveys show that the nations that consume the most calcium have the highest rates of hip fracture.
- One epidemiological study correlated hip fractures with the amount of animal and vegetable protein various countries consume. As animal food consumption increases, so do hip fractures.
- Since 1975, 136 trials have explored calcium’s effects on osteoporotic fracture risk. Two-thirds of these studies show that high calcium intake yields no reduction in the number of fractures—even if people begin taking calcium (with vitamin D) during childhood.
- In one study, Harvard researchers surveyed diet and hip fractures among 72,337 older women for 18 years. They concluded, “Neither milk nor a high-calcium diet appears to reduce [fracture] risk.”
- Another Harvard team analyzed seven trials that followed 170,991 women for several years and found “no association between total calcium intake and [reduced] hip fracture risk.”
- The people of Asia and Africa consume little to no milk after weaning, and their fracture rates are 70% less than those in the U.S.
The calcium our bodies require for strong bones does not come from dairy products or other animal proteins. In fact, it is these dietary items that cause many life-threatening diseases commonly plaguing Americans: heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, strokes. The proper form of calcium and other nutrients to support bone health come from fruits and vegetables which have low acid content. High protein diets, including all dairy products and meat, increase acid in the blood which draws nutrients and calcium from bones in order to make it more alkaline. This, of course, weakens bones resulting in osteoporosis and bone fracture.
This is an important issue, as half of all U.S. women over the age of 50 will suffer some type of bone fracture, most likely in the hip.
Imagine your plate divided into fourths. One fourth may have one serving of protein (the size of your palm or a deck of cards). One fourth may have one serving of carbohydrates, and the other half should be loaded with a variety of fruits and vegetables. The protein or carb portion of your plate may frequently be replaced with additional greens.
For an herbal bone strengthener, try horsetail. It is rich in silicone which promotes growth and stability of the skeletal structure. This is also helpful for healing bone fractures and not only preventing osteoporosis, but reversing it.
Also important for strong bones – Vitamins C, D, K and potassium.
Read about a non-protein, good source of calcium in Blackstrap: The Healthy Molasses.
Castleman, Michael, Building Bone Vitality, McGraw Hill, 2009.
Heinerman, John, Heinerman’s Encyclopedia of Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs, Prentice-Hall, 1988.