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Monday, December 26, 2011

Laughter Therapy



















Laughter really is medicine and it doesn't only improve mood. Studies show that laughter can also prevent disease, stimulate the immune system, lower resting blood pressure, relieve stress, reverse depression, and reduce the need for pain medication.

A recent study shed some light on exactly how laughter works. Oxford researchers found that laughing triggered the brain to release endorphins, which are natural "feel-good" chemicals with opiate-like effects.

Through a series of six experiments, study participants viewed sitcoms or comedy shows before they were subjected to discomfort, like wearing a tight blood pressure cuff and squatting for long periods of time. Researchers found that 15 minutes of laughter increased their pain threshold by 10 percent.

However, results were dose-dependent. Deep belly laughs that caused people to run out of breath or feel physically exhausted made the most difference.

The best part? Laughter had no negative side effects.

References:

Bennett MP et al. The effect of mirthful laughter on stress and natural killer cell activity. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2003 Mar-Apr;9(2):38-45.

Dunbar RI et al. Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold. Proceedings, Biological Sciences, The Royal Society. 2011 Sep 21.

Fonzi L et al. [Laughter and depression: hypothesis of pathogenic and therapeutic correlation]. [Article in Italian] Rivista di psichiatria. 2010 Jan-Feb;45(1):1-6.

Fry W and Savin WM. Mirthful laughter and blood pressure. Humor - International Journal of Humor Research. Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 49–62, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: 10.1515/humr.1988.1.1.49, //1988

Mora-Ripoll R. The therapeutic value of laughter in medicine. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2010 Nov-Dec;16(6):56-64.

Lefcourt HM et al. Humor and immune0system functioning. Humor - International Journal of Humor Research. Volume 3, Issue 3, Pages 305–322, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: 10.1515/humr.1990.3.3.305, //1990

Rotton J and Shats M. Effects of State Humor, Expectancies, and Choice on Postsurgical Mood and Self-Medication: A Field Experiment. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 26: 1775–1794. (1996) doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1996.tb00097.x


Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Wild Table

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0670022268/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adifkinofdoc-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399369&creativeASIN=0670022268%22%3EThe%20Wild%20Table:%20Seasonal%20Foraged%20Food%20and%20Recipes%3C/a%3E%3Cimg%20src=%22http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=adifkinofdoc-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0670022268&camp=217145&creative=399369%22%20width=%221%22%20height=%221%22%20border=%220%22%20alt=%22%22%20style=%22border:none%20%21important;%20margin:0px%20%21important;

The Wild Table is a beautiful book. Stunningly photographed and expertly written, it's an excellent guide to gathering and cooking wild foods. The book is arranged by season and includes a wild calendar so you'll know when to look forward to fiddleheads, morrels and huckleberries. Also included is important information about identifying, selecting, cleaning, preparing and storing wild edibles.

Connie Green, a champion of wild foods, describes herself as "sitting squarely at the curious crossroads of the Stone Age and haute cuisine." In this book she takes us on a tour of foods we can forage for, including ramps, nettles and walnuts. Green includes unusual fare like cactus pads, persimmons, elderberry flowers and Douglas fir tips.

Some of the foods are even medicinal: Maitake mushrooms are used to treat infections and cancer. Fennel dispells intestinal gas. Dandelion promotes good digestion and helps protect us from environmental toxins. Rose hips and wild berries are full of antioxidants and
vitamin C. Wild foods are good for us.

Sarah Scott supplies the recipes. Personally, I'm looking forward to making the Savory C├Ępes Flan on page 184, Spice-Roasted Venison with Elderberry Port Sauce on page 230, and Stir-fried Dandelion Greens with Duck Fat and Garlic on page 284.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

DIY Home-Made Sea Salt Scrub

















Use this simple sea salt scrub to exfoliate and soften dry skin. It takes only three ingredients and one minute to make. 

For an easy and inexpensive DIY holiday gift, make a big batch and package it in decorative glass jars. Increase the ingredients as needed and always use two parts sea salt to one part almond oil.

I added peppermint essential oil because it feels festive and seasonal. You can substitute any essential oil you like, like lavender or grapefruit or juniper, or use a combination. But choose only pure essential oils, never perfume or fragranced oils.

1 cup sea salt
1/2 cup almond oil
3 to 5 drops essential oil of peppermint (or other)

Stir together the sea salt and almond oil, then stir in the essential oil. Store in an air-tight glass container at room temperature.

To use the sea salt scrub, stand in a bathtub or shower and scrub small palmfuls of the mixture over your skin. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and pat dry.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Home Detox Checklist


Harmful chemicals linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes permeate our air, water and food. They’re inside our homes, lurking in furniture, fridges, flooring and paint. We slather them all over our bodies in soaps, shampoo, moisturizers and make-up. And they silently escape from our mattresses, clothes and cleaning products.

Studies show that these chemicals aren’t only in the environment, they’re already inside our bodies. According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, residues of more than 400 environmental chemicals have been identified in human blood and fat tissue. And government agencies, academic institutions, and independent organizations have found up to 358 different chemicals in the cord blood of newborn babies.

We can’t escape them completely, but we can take the following precautions to minimize our exposure to environmental toxins inside our homes.

#1  Take Off Your Shoes

One of the easiest ways to prevent outdoor chemicals from becoming indoor toxins is to leave your shoes at the door. Insist that everyone else does too.

#2  Open the Windows

According to the Environmental Protection Association, indoor air pollution is more dangerous than outdoor air pollution, even in the biggest and most industrialized cities.

To help exchange and circulate the air inside your home, open your windows as often as you can. Individuals with indoor allergies or chemical sensitivities should also consider high-efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) air filters.

#3  Filter Tap Water

Activated carbon filters can remove chlorine, lead, mercury, copper, pesticides, solvents, radon, parasites, some volatile organic compounds, and bad tastes and odors from tap water.

In addition, reverse osmosis removes fluoride, cadmium, asbestos, bacteria, arsenic, barium, nitrates, nitrites and perchlorate. Reverse osmosis filters use thin membranes to remove 99.97 percent of contaminants 0.3 microns or larger, while ulta-HEPA filters reportedly filter out 99.99 percent.

Before you buy, check out the water filter buying guide from the Environmental Working Group. After you buy, change the filters regularly.

#4  Get the Plastic Out

Replace plastic food storage containers with glass, stainless steel or ceramic containers. Replace plastic beverage bottles and travel mugs with stainless steel or glass varieties.

Avoid foods and drinks that have been packaged in plastic containers, cans, and cartons unless they specify “BPA-Free” and “Phthalate-Free” (look for Vital Choice and Eden Organics).

Avoid foods that have been packaged in foam (polystyrene) materials like disposable cups, take-out containers and egg cartons. (Buy eggs in cardboard cartons.)

Replace plastic wrap with aluminum foil or parchment paper and eliminate your need for plastic bags by taking a reusable organic cotton bag with you to the farmer’s market and grocery store.

#5  Nix Non-Stick

Replace non-stick cookware with cast iron, stainless steel, copper, glass, or ceramic cookware.

If non-stick pans are your only choice, never preheat them when they are empty, use only low heat, never put them in the oven, and discard them as soon as the surface becomes scratched.

#6  Use Cleaner Cleaners

Replace chemical cleaners with essential oils, baking soda and vinegar. Pure essential oils are naturally anti-bacterial and tea tree essential oil is especially effective at removing mold and mildew (avoid synthetic and perfume oils).

Baking soda acts as an abrasive agent to remove residue and stains from glass, ceramic, stainless steel and silver. Add a few drops of water to make a baking soda paste for cleaning the stove, sink, counters, toilet and tub.

Use white vinegar to polish mirrors and wash windows and floors. Or use a steam mop to clean non-carpeted surfaces (steam mops use only water and steam to clean).

Remove rust stains by sprinkling salt over the area, squeezing fresh lemon juice on top and allowing it to sit for several hours before you wipe it off.

To unclog drains, first pour a quarter cup of baking soda down the drain, then pour in one cup of white vinegar. Wait for the foaming to reside, then flush with plenty of boiling hot water. Don’t forget to make use of drain snakes and plungers.

To polish wood furniture, mix three parts olive oil with one part freshly squeezed lemon juice and apply it with a soft cloth, rubbing briskly and allowing to air dry. (You may want to test a small area before you apply it to an entire piece of furniture.)

Non-Toxic All-Purpose Cleaner

1 cup of white vinegar
5 drops of tea tree essential oil
5 drops of pure lavender or orange essential oil (avoid synthetic and perfume oils)
1/2 cup of water 
    Add the ingredients to a clean glass spray bottle and shake to combine them. Label the bottle with the ingredients and date. Shake it again gently before use to re-distribute the essential oils. Spray the cleaner on dirty surfaces and wipe it off with a clean wet sponge. 

    For tougher cleaning jobs, omit the water and leave the solution a few minutes longer before wiping it off.

    Use this cleaner on counters, sinks, stove tops, appliances and tiles. Do not use it on wooden or delicate surfaces.

    #7  Avoid Dry-cleaned Clothes

    Find a cleaner who uses wet-cleaning, a water-based alternative to solvent-based dry-cleaning. Wet-cleaning uses biodegradable detergents and a humidity-controlled drying environment to preserve “dry-clean only” clothes.

    If you can’t avoid dry-cleaned clothes, store them in a well-ventilated spot away from your living area (like the garage) and each time they're treated, allow them air out for at least two days before wearing them.

    #8  Avoid Fragrances

    Get rid of air fresheners and all fragranced household products. Manufacturers are not required to disclose additives regarded as "fragrance," and a single fragrance can contain several hundred ingredients. Remember that “unscented” doesn’t necessarily mean fragrance-free (chemicals may have been added to cover odors).

    As an alternative to air fresheners, use pure essential oil diffusers. In the laundry room, replace liquid fabric softener with a half cup of white vinegar (mixed with 5 drops of pure lavender essential oil if you wish to scent your clothes) and substitute organic wool or silicone dryer balls for fragranced dryer sheets.

    #9  Research Your Personal Products

    According to the Environmental Working Group, the average woman uses 12 products containing 168 unique ingredients every day, while the average man uses 6 products daily with 85 unique ingredients, and most of them have not been tested for safety.

    Use the Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database to learn what you’re putting on your skin. Search by product, ingredient or company to read safety reviews and make good choices when selecting items like soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, eye drops, contact lens cleaner, bubble bath, skin creams, hair styling products, makeup, nail polish, sunscreen and baby products.

    #10  Use Plants to Clean the Air

    One six-inch houseplant per 100 square feet of living area can greatly improve indoor air quality. Several species have been shown to filter harmful chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene. These include the Boston fern, English ivy, moth orchid, dendrobium orchid, ficus tree, gerbera daisy, heartleaf philodendron, peace lily, pot mum, snake plant, spider plant and several species of dracaena.

    #11  Use Non-Toxic Building Supplies

    If you are planning refurnishing or remodeling work, or buying or building a new home, look for non-toxic building materials like pre-finished real hardwood furniture and flooring; stone, porcelain, glass or ceramic tiles; latex mattresses and mattress pads; and organic cotton fabrics, bedding and washable rugs. If possible, chose a home without an attached garage. Take precautions when removing toxic materials like old paint and carpet.

    #12  Reduce Your Exposure to Unnecessary Electromagnetic Radiation

    Remove unnecessary electronic gadgets from the bedroom and do not sleep next to wireless devices unless they are completely powered down. Keep all Wi-Fi transmitters away from where you work and sleep.

    Do not keep cell phones or other wireless devices in your pockets or next to your body when they are turned on. Use a headset, wireless headphone, or speaker phone whenever possible.  Keep calls short and when you don’t need to speak in person, send text messages instead. Use wireless devices only when the signal strength is strong and avoid using them inside spaces enclosed by metal, like elevators, subways, trains, planes and cars.

    Before you buy, check out EWG's Cell Phone Shopping Guide to learn about radiation risks associated with specific devices.

    #13  Test and Maintain

    Have your home tested for mold, radon, and lead. Install and maintain a carbon monoxide detector. Use furnace filters with a MERV 7-9 rating (minimum efficiency reporting value) and change them every six weeks. And don’t forget to clean out your air ducts and vents regularly. If you can’t do it yourself, hire professionals.

    References:

    Cancer Prevention Coalition. 2003. Carcinogens at home

    Environmental Protection Association. 2011. The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality.

    Environmental Working Group. 2008. Statement of Jane Houlihan on Cosmetics Safety.

    Enviornmental Working Group. 2009. Pollution in People: Cord Blood Contaminants in Minority Newborns.

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    My Annual Autumn Cleanse

















    I like to think of a cleanse as a tune-up for the body.

    Fall and spring are perfect opportunities for detoxification because they are natural times of transition. As the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer, our internal clocks are shaking off summer and anticipating winter. The weather isn't too hot or too cold, and fresh local foods are still available.

    I started my detox in mid-October, anticipating a 2-week program. But I've been feeling so fantastic that I plan to continue until the end of the year. I may ease the restrictions occasionally, making it easier to eat in restaurants and celebrate holiday meals, but for the most part I plan to keep up the routine: exercise, hydrotherapy, detox supplements, and food free of sugar, starches, grains and processed foods.

    Why is detoxification important?

    Every day we are exposed to toxins in air, water, food and our environment, from carpet and upholstery to shower curtains and personal products.

    According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, residues of more than 400 environmental toxins have been identified in human blood and fat tissue.

    The National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), routinely measures chemicals in people as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Their most recent report found environmental toxins in every single sample.

    Our bodies begin to accumulate these chemicals before we're even born. The Environmental Working Group analyzed umbilical cord blood from babies born in US hospitals in 2004. Researchers found 287 different chemicals including mercury, multiple pesticides, more than a dozen different flame retardants, and industrial pollutants called polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs. Most samples contained 100 or more different PCBs

    For most people, small doses of environmental toxins cause cumulative damage rather than immediate symptoms. Continued exposure and/or reduced liver function can compromise natural detoxification systems, causing the body to store toxins rather than eliminate them.

    Accumulation of toxins in the body can lead to general malaise or chronic health problems including hormone imbalance, metabolic disorders, decreased mental acuity, skin and digestive conditions, and food and chemical sensitivities.

    Clearing toxins from the body can relieve symptoms and renew wellness and vitality. Ask your naturopathic doctor if you would benefit from an autumn cleanse.

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    Aspirin: Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks?


    A recent article published in the Lancet reported that long-term daily use of aspirin can reduce the risk of colon cancer.

    A daily aspirin has also been promoted as a way to reduce the risk heart attacks and stroke, although a recent meta-analysis of randomized trials (a study of the best studies) found little scientific evidence to support this practice.

    But what are the risks of taking aspirin every day?
    •  Increased bleeding and bruising
    • Nausea, heartburn, vomiting, diarrhea
    • Allergic reaction, skin rash, difficulty breathing, seizures
    • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hearing loss
    • Lower levels of hemoglobin and increased risk of anemia
    • Gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers
    • Hemorrhagic stroke

    That's right: Aspirin may decrease the risk of an ischemic stroke, caused by a blood clot, but it can increase the risk of a hemorrhagic stroke, caused by bleeding in the brain.

    Additionally, a recent study reported that regular aspirin use can increase the risk of developing Crohn's disease, an inflammatory and autoimmune disease of the gastrointestinal tract. Researchers in the UK followed more than 135,000 European adults between the ages of 30 and 74, and found that a daily dose of aspirin was associated with six-fold increase in Crohn's disease.

    It's also important to remember that aspirin can have dangerous interactions when combined with certain medications and supplements including:
    • Alcohol
    • Warfarin (Coumadin)
    • Heparin
    • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
    • Corticosteroids
    • Some antidepressants (clomipramine, paroxetine)
    • Omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil
    •  Evening primrose oil
    • Policosanol
    • Ginkgo biloba

    Like aspirin, fish oil can prevent blood clots and fight inflammation.
    It can also reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, without the side effects of aspirin. And fish oil is a good source of healthy fat.

    Also like aspirin, fish oil can interact with medications and supplements. Before you start any new supplement, including fish oil, talk to your naturopathic doctor for individualized recommendations. 

    References:

    Berger JS et al. Aspirin for the prevention of cardiovascular events in patients without clinical cardiovascular disease: a meta-analysis of randomized trials. American Heart Journal. 2011 Jul;162(1):115-24.e2.

    Chan SS et al. Aspirin in the aetiology of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis: a European prospective cohort study. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2011 Sep;34(6):649-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2011.04784.x.

    Goldstein JL et al. Haemoglobin decreases in NSAID users over time: an analysis of two large outcome trials. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2011 Oct;34(7):808-16. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2011.04790.x.

    Rothwell PM et al. Long-term effect of aspirin on colorectal cancer incidence and mortality: 20-year follow-up of five randomised trials. Lancet. 2010 Nov 20;376(9754):1741-50.

    Sunday, October 30, 2011

    Flu Shot Alternatives

    A recent study published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet found that flu shots are not as effective as most people think. Infectious disease experts conducted a meta-analysis, which is a study of studies, and found that flu vaccines were only 59 percent effective overall in adults aged 18 to 65. Efficacy varied and fell as low as 35 percent.

    Healthy adults don't need the flu shot.

    Influenza vaccines never prevent colds and aren't always effective against the flu either. Furthermore, vaccines carry the risk of adverse effects and there is growing concern that their over-use is contributing to the increasing resistance of viruses.

    Instead, follow these 7 tips to stay well this winter:

    #1  Get More Sleep

    Adequate sleep is essential for a healthy immune system. Experts recommend 9.5 hours per night in the winter, when days are naturally shorter and nights naturally longer. If you can't get that much sleep, aim for at least 8 hours. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that healthy adults who slept at least eight hours each night had a higher resistance to upper respiratory infections than those who slept 7 hours or less.

    #2  Manage Stress

    Stress hormones activate the body's sympathetic nervous system responsible for "fight or flight" reactions. This natural response to stress prepares the body for instant action and inactivates functions that aren't essential for immediate survival, including immune surveillance, the body's defense against abnormal cells like viruses, bacteria and cancer.

    Stress can be unavoidable but if you manage it well, it doesn't have to suppress your immune system. Learn to manage stress through activities like breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, tai chi and qi gong.

    # 3  Exercise

    Studies show that regular exercise is associated with fewer upper respiratory infections and less severe symptoms. Aim for 2.5 hours each week and a combination of aerobic and strengthening activities. Don't forget to stretch, but do it only after your muscles have warmed up, and again at the end of your workout.

    #4  Wash Your Hands

    Viruses that cause colds and flu are transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces (and also by airborne droplets produced from coughing and sneezing). Reduce your risk of acquiring colds and flu by washing your hands several times each day, especially after touching shared surfaces and before touching your face. Rub hands together vigorously with soap and hot water for thirty seconds or more, and teach kids a song to sing while they wash to ensure a thorough job.

    Avoid anti-bacterial products because they aren't necessary (soap is naturally anti-bacterial) and can contribute to bacterial resistance.

    #5  Eat Your Vegetables

    A diet high in fruits and vegetables will provide nutrients necessary for a strong immune system. Onions, garlic, chili peppers and ginger root are especially helpful for cold and flu prevention, as studies have shown that these foods can stimulate immunity.

    #6  Consider Probiotics

    Studies show that having the right balance of healthy bacteria can reduce the risk of colds and flu. Include cultured and fermented foods in your diet like yogurt, tempeh and miso. Some people may benefit from a probiotic supplement.

    #7  Test Vitamin D

    Healthy levels of vitamin D are important for a strong immune system. If you don't know your number, ask your doctor for the simple blood test that will determine whether or not you need to supplement and, if so, how much you should take.

    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    Is Chemotherapy Effective?

    Shortages of chemotherapy drugs have led to great concern in cancer care. Experts predict that patients will die without access to these drugs, but the bigger question has gone unasked: How effective is chemotherapy anyway?

    While doctors and patients alike remain optimistic, the reality is that chemotherapy isn't very effective. A study published in the well-respected journal Clinical Oncology found that it made little difference in 5-year survival.

    Researchers in Australia analyzed results of randomized clinical trials (the gold standard for research studies) involving 22 different kinds of cancer. They found that "The overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in the USA."

    Overall, only 2% of cancer patients treated with chemotherapy were alive five years later.

    However, in some cases, chemotherapy was much more successful. For example, in the United States, 40 percent of patients with Hodgkins Disease (a cancer of the lymphatic system) treated with chemotherapy lived at least five more years. But in other cases, chemotherapy was even less effective. Less than 1 percent of patients with stomach cancer in the US were alive 5 years after chemotherapy treatment.

    For some people, chemotherapy can be a life-saving treatment. But in most cases, it doesn't lead to a longer life and can compromise the quality of life that patients have left.

    If you're considering chemotherapy, weigh both the benefits and the risks. Don't just ask your oncologist what treatments are available, inquire about their effectiveness as well.

    Reference:

    Morgan G, Ward R, and Barton M. The contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adult malignancies. Clinical Oncology 2004 Dec; 16(8):549-60.

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    Multivitamin Supplements: Friend or Foe?

















    The Archives of Internal Medicine recently released a new study, “Dietary Supplements and Mortality Rate in Older Women,” that suggested older women taking a multivitamin were at an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer.

    However, this was only an observational study and not a rigorous test (randomized clinical trials are the gold standard). From observational studies we cannot draw conclusions about cause and effect, so this study doesn't prove that multivitamins cause cardiovascular disease and cancer. Even the researchers concluded that “it is not advisable to make a causal statement of excess risk” based on the outcome of this study.

    It's true that some nutrients in multivitamins, including minerals like iron and copper, and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, can be toxic in high doses. So it's important to discuss dosages and potential interactions with a naturopathic doctor before starting any supplement, even multivitamins. (Naturopathic physicians are the
    only doctors routinely trained in nutritional medicine and nutrient-herb-drug interactions.)

    People who benefit most from taking MVMs include:
    • People who do not eat enough fruits and vegetables 
    • Growing children
    • Vegetarians and vegans
    • Athletes
    • Couples planning to conceive
    • Pregnant and breastfeeding women
    • Older adults
    • People who have an increased need for nutrients due to chronic medical conditions or prescription medications 
    Multivitamins and other nutritional supplements are never a substitute for eating a healthy diet rich in whole foods. With few exceptions, fruits and vegetables are the best sources of the vitamins and minerals our bodies need and adults should eat 4 cups each day.

    When it comes to selecting supplements, it's important to remember that product quality varies. Consumerlab.com found that "one out of four supplements either doesn't contain what it claims or has some other problems such as contamination or the pills won't break apart properly."

    To ensure that products have been tested by an independent lab, look for seals from independent organizations like
    • The United States Pharmacopeia
    • The National Nutritional Foods Association
    • Consumer Lab
    • National Sanitation Foundation International
    Certification guarantees that supplements contain what they are labeled to contain. However, it doesn’t ensure that manufacturers started with the highest quality raw ingredients or tested them in clinical trials. To cover these bases, ask your naturopathic doctor to recommend high-quality brands.

    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    Bottled Water Isn't Better

















    In the United States we drink nearly 9 billion gallons of bottled water each year and it costs us almost 12 billion dollars annually, according to the International Bottled Water Association. But there are other hidden costs, to the environment and to our health.

    The Environmental Protection Agency sets standards for tap water from public water systems, but bottled water is not held to these standards. Companies that produce bottled water are not required to disclose information about contaminants or inform customers where the water comes from, whether or not it is purified, and how purification is done.
     
    The Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested 10 popular bottled water brands and found chemical contaminants in every single sample, some exceeding legal limits. Researchers detected 38 chemical pollutants in total, with an average of 8 in each brand. They included:
    • Bacteria
    • Poisonous heavy metals like arseinc
    • Radioactive elements (isotopes)
    • Waste pollutants like caffeine and pharmaceutical drugs
    • Fertilizer residues like nitrates and ammonia
    • Industrial chemicals like solvents, propellants and plasticizers
    • Chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive problems like trihalomethanes and  bromodichloromethane

    Bottled water costs about 1,900 times more than tap water, yet studies show that the two are chemically indistinguishable. And in some cases, bottled water is actually tap water in a bottle. According to EWG, Walmart water was found to be bottled Las Vegas tap water.

    The transport of bottled water across the country and around the world burns massive amounts of fossil fuels, releasing carbon dioxide and other pollution into the environment. According to the United States Conference of Mayors, “the plastic bottles produced for water require 1.5 million barrels of oil per year, enough to generate electricity for 250,000 homes or fuel 100,000 cars for a year.” 

    And plastic water bottles are one of the fastest growing sources of garbage. In 2006, 36 million bottles of water were sold but only one-fifth of them were recycled. Those that weren’t ended up in landfills and waterways, further polluting the environment.

    Drink filtered tap water instead of bottled water. And if you have to take water with you, use a glass or stainless steel re-usable bottle.

    References:

    Environmental Working Group. Bottled Water Quality Investigation: 10 Major Brands, 38 Pollutants. October 2008. Available at http://www.ewg.org/reports/BottledWater/Bottled-Water-Quality-Investigation.

    US Mayors. 2007. The United States Conference of Mayors: Adopted Resolutions June 2007. Available at www.usmayors.org/75thAnnualMeeting/resolutions_full.pdf.

    United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2011. Ground Water and Drinking Water. Available at http://safewater.supportportal.com/ics/support/splash.asp?deptID=23015.

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    Clean Food

    Most of us should eat more plant foods, and  
    Clean Food is a great guide. Terry Walters uses exclusively vegan ingredients, but the healthy
    and hearty recipes satisfy vegetarians and omnivores alike.

    Walters explains basic cooking methods and demystifies ingredients like umeboshi (pickled plums), tahini (sesame seed paste), and shoyu (soy sauce made with wheat). Recipes are organized by season (there is also an "Any Time" section) and the ingredient index makes finding recipes for certain foods quick and easy.

    If you're new to tempeh or already a fan, try the Tempeh Salad recipe on page 76 and make it with home-made mayonnaise. Or try the Baked Maple Mustard Tempeh on page 180.

    If you're ready to incorporate more sea vegetables into your diet, make the Wild Rice, Barley and Arame Salad on page 188 or the Stir-Fried Broccoli with Arame on page 70.

    If green leafy vegetables are on your list, try the Kale with Pine Nuts and Currants on page 161 or the Warm Greens with Citrus Dressing and Pomegranate on page 159.

    Sunday, September 25, 2011

    The Diabetes-Alzheimer's Connection



    Alzheimer's disease is a chronic and incurable neurological disorder responsible for most cases of dementia. Eventually it progresses to personality changes, deterioration of intellectual function, problems with speech and language, coma, and death. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that more than 5 million people in the United States have the disease and the prevalence is expected to triple over
    the next 40 years.

    Diabetes, a disorder characterized by high levels of blood sugar, increases the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. When blood
    sugar levels are high, excessive amounts of advanced glycosylation
    end products (AGEs) and free radicals are formed. Free radicals are unstable molecules missing an electron and they readily react with other molecules in order to gain one, causing a chain reaction that triggers inflammation and cell damage. Free radicals and inflammation can also cause injury to the lining of blood vessels, initiating atherosclerosis and increasing the risk for stroke (death of brain tissue).

    Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the presence of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. Plaques are made up of dead and damaged cells and protein deposits which become bunched and tangled together. AGEs have been found in these plaques and tangles.

    A study published last year in the journal Neurology followed 135 people for 10 to 15 years, measuring levels of blood glucose and insulin, testing for insulin resistance, and monitoring for symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. After participants died, the researchers examined their brains. They found that high levels of blood sugar and insulin were associated with an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, independent of age, sex, body-mass index, smoking, exercise, blood pressure, cholesterol, and cerebrovascular disease. People with the highest levels of insulin had six times the risk of developing brain plaques compared to those with the lowest levels.

    In a study published in Lancet Neurology, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco found that up to half of all cases of Alzheimer’s disease could be prevented through modifiable risk factors. These include stopping smoking, being physically active, and treating other chronic illnesses including obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

    References:

    Alzheimer’s Association, 2010 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, Alzheimer’s & Dementia, Volume 6.

    Barnes DE and Yaffe K. 2011. The projected effect of risk factor reduction on Alzheimer's disease prevalence. Lancet Neurology 10(9):819-28.

    Matsuzaki, T et al. 2010. Insulin resistance is associated with the pathology of Alzheimer disease. The Hisayama Study. Neurology 75(9):764-70.

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Taking Time

    I live just a few blocks from Central Park and I usually walk there weekly. Sometimes I traverse the Great Hill on my way to the farmer's market, when I can spare an hour in the morning. Other times I loop around the Reservoir or the Harlem Meer. If I have more time, I stroll through the Conservatory Garden, my favorite piece of the park.

    Walking is an especially good form of exercise because it's aerobic, weight bearing, and easier on joints than running (swimming is even better in this regard). It's a work-out for your whole body, including your heart and blood vessels, and your muscles and bones.

    Walking in a forest or park is even better because green outdoor spaces have health benefits of their own. Studies have documented that spending time in nature can reduce stress, lower blood sugar, improve concentration, diminish pain and boost immunity. It can even have anti-cancer effects.

    This fall has been especially busy for me, and I've been letting my weekly walk slip. I was recently reminded how important it is to take time for yourself, and to do things that bring you joy and keep you active. So this week I made a new resolution to go for a walk in the park at least once each week.

    Now I'm reminding you to take time for yourself.

    You don't need to wait until the New Year to make healthy changes. As a time of transition, fall is the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate your goals and your daily activities, and make positive changes happen.


    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Detox Foods and Remembering 9/11



    After the attack on the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan
    on September 11th, 2001, more than 50,000 rescue workers were exposed to dangerous chemicals that have been linked to health problems like asthma and cancer.

    Environmental toxins are a growing concern for everyone as the evidence mounts against them. Even everyday, low-level exposure to chemicals in food, air, furnishings, personal products and household items can cause chronic illness.

    These dangerous chemicals aren’t just in our environment, they’re already inside our bodies. According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, residues of more than 400 environmental toxins have been identified in human blood and fat tissue. And when the CDC measured chemicals in blood and urine as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, scientists found toxic compounds in every single sample.

    Babies are even born “pre-polluted” according to a study by the Environmental Working Group. They found 287 environmental toxins in umbilical cord blood from babies born in US hospitals in 2004.

    We may not be able to avoid exposure to dangerous chemicals in the environment, but we can eat foods that help the liver eliminate them from our bodies:
    • Cabbage
    • Radishes
    Eat at least one of these vegetables every day.

    Because broccoli, spinach, kale and collard greens are among the most contaminated produce items, eat only the organic varieties. Cabbage, on the other hand, is one of the least contaminated vegetables, making it a good choice when you can't eat organic.

    And ask your naturopathic doctor if a detoxification program would be appropriate for you.

    References:

    Cancer Prevention Coalition. Carcinogens at Home, Household Products & Chemicals Q&A.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2011. Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Updated Tables, February 2011.

    Crinnion WJ. The CDC fourth national report on human exposure to environmental chemicals: what it tells us about our toxic burden and how it assist environmental medicine physicians. Alternative Medicine Review. 2010 Jul;15(2):101-9.

    Environmental Working Group. Budy Burden: The Pollution in Newborns. 14 July 2005.

    Wisnivesky JP et al. Persistence of multiple illnesses in World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers: a cohort study. Lancet. 2011 Sep 3;378(9794):888-97.

    Zeig-Owens R et al. Early assessment of cancer outcomes in New York City firefighters after the 9/11 attacks: an observational cohort study. Lancet. 2011 Sep 3;378(9794):898-905.