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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Multivitamins CAN Protect Against Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer

Three recent studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine questioned the benefits of multivitamin supplements and last week I debunked the one about brain function.

This week I take a closer look at the other two and explain why their flawed design led to questionable conclusions about cancer and cardiovascular protection.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Multivitamins ARE Good for Your Brain

More than half of adults in the United States take multivitamin supplements. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine disputed their brain benefits, but taking a closer look at this poorly designed research sheds some light on its questionable conclusions.

Published December 17, 2013, the study "Long-Term Multivitamin Supplementation and Cognitive Function in Men" looked at brain function in elderly men taking low-potency multivitamins.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Healthy Holiday Gifts

This season, give gifts that inspire good health. Here are my top picks for encouraging your loved ones to lead healthier lives, from reducing exposure to toxins and indulging in good-for-you treats to doing more home-cooking and making exercise easy and fun. You'll even find choices to fit any budget.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cooking Can Save Your Life

Amidst our busy lives, we do everything possible to spend less time on daily chores like cooking. But really we should be spending more time in the kitchen.

Cooking nourishing meals is one the easiest and most effective ways to keep ourselves and our families in good health. According to a study from the National Institutes of Health, people who cook at home live longer than people who don’t, regardless of their knowledge of nutrition and physical ability to shop for food and prepare meals (Chen et al. 2012).

Researchers found that people who cooked at home at least 5 times per week were almost 50% more likely to be alive 10 years later, but even people who cooked less frequently saw benefits. The more frequently they cooked, the longer they lived.

If you're new to cooking or simply seeking inspiration, consider these cookbooks. They're some of my favorites for winter-time cooking and they also make great gifts.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Top Ten FREE Apps for a Healthy Lifestyle

Smartphone apps can support healthy lifestyle choices, from picking produce and selecting seafood to analyzing exercise routines and finding non-toxic personal products. Best of all, many of them are FREE. If you're not already using them, check out these top ten apps.


The Dirty Dozen
When you can't buy organic, the Environmental Working Group helps you find the least toxic produce. This apps lists the Dirty Dozen Plus most contaminated fruits and vegetables and the Clean Fifteen least contaminated ones. You can also view the full list of all 48 foods tested to see how your favorites measure up.
Dirty Dozen app for Android
Dirty Dozen app for iPhone

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gratitude is Good For You


This Thanksgiving, take time to be grateful. It's not just a nice holiday tradition. It can actually improve your health.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis analyzed the effects of gratitude in a series of studies. In the first, participants were asked to keep a weekly journal and write about five events from the previous week. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups. One group wrote about things they were grateful for. Another group wrote about hassles they experienced. The last group wasn't given any direction on choosing positive or negative events.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Yoga For Colds and Flu

This cold and flu season, fight infections with yoga and meditation.
New research from Norway found that practicing yoga and meditation can cause quick changes in immunity. Study participants engaged in activities for 2 hours each morning on 4 consecutive days. One group practiced yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation while the other group listened to relaxing music and went on a nature walk. Every person participated in each group twice.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Environmental Toxins Linked to Prediabetes

http://www.prediabetesdetox.com/Prediabetes is a worldwide epidemic and in the United States alone it affects 79 million people, or 1 in 3 adults and nearly 1 in 4 adolescents.

Characterized by high levels of blood sugar and insulin, prediabetes increases the risk of 5 of the 7 leading causes death in the US including type two diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.

Fortunately, the condition is reversible and personal changes are the best prescription. A landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that changes in diet and lifestyle reduced the risk of diabetes almost twice as much as the diabetes drug Glucophage (metformin) and that the benefits were still apparent a decade later.

While diet and exercise changes are essential, there’s another piece to the puzzle. Now that research studies have linked toxic chemicals in the environment to an increased risk of developing diabetes, it’s time to recognize detoxification as an important part of permanently reversing prediabetes.

Toxins are chemicals in the environment that are harmful to our health. Most of the time, we can’t see or smell or taste them, but toxins are very real and we’re exposed to them every day. These chemicals aren’t only in the environment; they’re already inside our bodies. Almost 500 different chemicals have been found in human blood and fat tissue and studies show that the older we get, the more toxins we contain.

Chemicals that increase risk of developing diabetes are called diabetogens. Since 1999 the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has measured chemicals in the blood and urine of people taking part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The most recent report found diabetogens in every single sample.

That’s right: 100 percent of the 2,500 people studied tested positive for toxins that have been shown to increase the risk of diabetes.

These chemicals promote the development of diabetes through several different (and sometimes multiple) mechanisms. They may raise blood sugar levels or interfere with the ability of cells to use glucose in the blood. They may damage cells including those that produce insulin in the pancreas.They may act as endocrine disruptors, mimicking hormones made by our bodies, blocking hormone receptors, raising insulin levels, and promoting insulin resistance. Some can even influence the expression of genes that regulate metabolism, turning them on and off.

Diabetogens include
  • Dioxins
  • Bisphenol A (BPA)
  • Phthalates
  • Parabens
  • Perfluorinated chemicals
  • Brominated flame retardants
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Pesticides
  • Heavy metals 

Dioxins like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are produced by a variety of industrial processes and once they’re released into the environment, they contaminate soil and waterways and accumulate in drinking water and food. The greatest source for most people is contaminated fish and seafood and the highest concentrations are found in large predators living at the top of the food chain.

BPA and phthalates are found in plastics. They’re used to make water bottles, baby bottles, pizza boxes, plastic wrap, epoxy linings inside food and beverage cans, and plastic and polystyrene (StyrofoamTM) cups, takeout containers, and egg cartons. These chemicals also have multiple industrial uses. Along with phthalates, parabens are found in personal products like shampoo, deodorant, and lotion. Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics and they are also used to make certain food additives and prescription drugs.

Perfluorinated chemicals make materials stain and stick resistant. They leach into our food from nonstick cookware and food packaging like pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags, and fast food containers. They’re also found in fabric, furnishings, household cleaners, and personal care products.

Brominated flame retardants are added to furniture, electronic equipment, mattresses, and clothing. Because they don’t break down easily, they’ve become persistent and widespread in the environment.

Volatile organic compounds are chemicals used in manufacturing. They escape in the form of gases from building materials, office equipment, furnishings, household cleaners, and fragranced products like air fresheners and scented candles. According to the EPA, VOCs are up to ten times more concentrated in indoor air than in outdoor air.

Every year in the US we apply five billion pounds of pesticides to our crops. They soak into the soil where they’re taken up into plants through their root systems and distributed throughout, so we can’t just wash them off. Agricultural run-off that pollutes waterways causes pesticides to accumulate in drinking water and fish.

Heavy metals enter our diet primarily through drinking water, fish and seafood, and fruits and vegetables sprayed with herbicides or grown in contaminated soil. We can also be exposed to heavy metals from many other sources including antiseptics, dental amalgams, and cigarette smoke.

Whether we realize it or not, we come into contact with these chemicals every day and they can cause problems even in small doses well below acceptable levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Most toxins are fat-soluble and stored inside fat cells, although heavy metals can also accumulate in bones and organs (primarily the kidneys, liver, intestines, and brain) where their half-lives are measured in decades.

We’ll never be able to escape environmental toxins completely, but we can take steps to minimize our exposure and remove them from our bodies through detoxification.

A comprehensive detox program should promote the release of toxins from their storage sites and support the liver in changing them into water-soluble compounds that the body can easily excrete. This can be accomplished with a diet low in sweets and starches, regular exercise, stress management, good sleep, sauna therapy, and supplements that deliver the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids needed for detoxification.

If you’re interested in detox, see your naturopathic doctor for an individualized protocol or read my new book, The Prediabetes Detox: A Whole-Body Program to Balance Your Blood Sugar, Increase Energy, and Reduce Sugar Cravings.
  
References

Alonso-Magdalena P, Quesada I, and Nadal A. 2011. Endocrine disruptors in the etiology of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nature Reviews, Endocrinology 7(6):346-53.

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Updated Tables. [Web page]. CDC website. http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/. Accessed September 10, 2013.

EPA (Environmental Protection Agency. 2000-2001 Pesticide Market Estimates: Usage. [Web page]. EPA website. http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/pestsales/01pestsales/usage2001.htm. Accessed September 12, 2013.

Hue O, Marcotte J, Berrigan F, Simoneau M, Doré J, Marceau P, et al. 2007. Plasma concentration of organochlorine compounds is associated with age and not obesity. Chemosphere 67(7):1463-7.

Knowler WC, Barrett-Connor E, Fowler SE, et al. 2002. Reduction in the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes with Lifestyle Intervention or Metformin. New England Journal of Medicine 346(6): 393–403.

Lee DH, Steffes MW, Sjödin A, et al. 2010. Low Dose of Some Persistent Organic Pollutants
Predicts Type 2 Diabetes: A Nested Case-Control Study. Environmental Health Perspectives 118 (9): 1235–42.

Ornish D., Magbanua M.J., Weidner G., Weinberg V., Kemp C., Green C., et al. 2008. Changes in prostate gene expression in men undergoing an intensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 105(24):8369-74.

Ropero AB, Alonso-Magdalena P, García-García E, et al. 2008. Bisphenol-A disruption of the endocrine pancreas and blood glucose homeostasis. International Journal of Andrology 31(2):194-200.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Odd Bits

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/158008334X?ie=UTF8&creativeASIN=158008334X&linkCode=xm2&tag=adifkinofdoc-20In Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal, Jennifer McLagan encourages us to use the whole animal. She reminds us about all the parts we forget about in favor of the few prime cuts found on supermarket shelves.

With great expertise this award-winning author guides us through all of the different bits: ears, brains, cockcombs, cheeks, necks, livers, hearts, lungs, stomachs, thymus glands (also known as sweetbreads), kidneys, bone marrow, testicles, trotters, and even blood.

McLagan makes these odd bits sound delectable with recipes like Moroccan-Style Braised Heart, Ravioli of Brains and Morels, Spicy Tongue Tacos, Testicles with Caramelized Onions and Double-Smoked Bacon, and Whole Lamb Neck with Lemons, Olives, and Mint.

Adventurous eaters will appreciate the recipes for Heart Tartare, Twice-Cooked Pig's Ear Salad, Pistachio Brain Souffles, Terrine of Pig's Feet, and Chocolate Blood Ice Cream.

Personally, I'm looking forward to making Wild Boar Shanks with Cranberries and Chocolate (page 184), Bone Marrow and Mushroom Custard (page 193), Confit of Gizzards (page 149), and Boudin Noir (page 219).

Boudin Noir is also known as blood sausage and I was first introduced to it by my husband's family on the Caribbean island of Martinique. I was a vegetarian at the time, just starting to incorporate some seafood into my diet, but I wasn't eating meat. I didn't really know what boudin noir was, just that there was no meat inside, and never did I imagine it was made with blood. It's a good thing I didn't know because at the time it would have prevented me from trying it, and it was love at first bite.

I don't get the chance to eat boudin noir very often, but I do whenever I can. It's a popular dish in several cultures and every family has their own recipe. I've tasted it in many different countries but I've never better boudin noir than what we eat in Martinique, where it's made with a hint of cinnamon and it's soft enough to squeeze out of the casing. Now I'm excited to try making my own.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Maggots as Medicine

Experts estimate that we spend more than 20 billion dollars each year trying to treat non-healing wounds like pressure ulcers and diabetic foot ulcers. Each year there are more than 1.5 million cases of diabetic foot ulcers alone, and they're responsible for at least 70,000 amputations.

These non-healing wounds, along with the rise of antibiotic resistance and life-threatening infections, has prompted scientists and doctors alike to revisit an age-old therapy: maggots.

Maggot therapy, also referred to as maggot debridement therapy (MDT), larval therapy, or biodebridement, is the application of live, sterilized fly larvae to wounds. The larvae do not feed on live tissue and they do not reproduce. Maggots secrete an enzyme that disinfects the wound, dissolves dead tissue, and promotes healing. They've even been shown to be effective against MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection) and other resistant germs.

Controlled clinical and laboratory studies show that compared to conventional medical and surgical care, maggot therapy is safer, faster, cheaper, more accurate, and more effective. Patients who use MDT require fewer days of antibiotics and their wounds heal an average of 4 weeks earlier. And it's 100% natural.

Used as a last resort, maggot therapy has reportedly saved 40 to 50 percent of limbs that would otherwise have been amputated. Researchers attribute the limb-saving success to increased oxygen supply, cell regeneration, and tissue remodeling triggered by maggot secretions.

Maggot therapy costs about half as much as conventional therapy, and sometimes much less. A study in the UK found that treating a patient with maggot therapy cost £92 while treating a patient with antibiotics cost £319, making MDT almost three and a half times less expensive than antibiotic therapy.

Maggot therapy was so popular in the 1930s that hospitals kept their own insectaries, where they reared and sterilized their own larvae.  As antibiotics became available and surgical techniques improved, MDT lost popularity in the 1940s and virtually disappeared in the 1950s.

Now it's making a comeback. As of  2009, at least 24 laboratories supplied medical-grade maggots to doctors and patients in more than 50 medical centers in North America and more than 850 in the United Kingdom. Maggot therapy is being used in at least than 30 countries around the world. 

In the United States, maggots were the first live organisms recognized as medical devices by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004. MDT requires a prescription but it's reimbursable by Medicare and many insurance companies.

References:

Dente KM. 2007. Alternative Treatments for Wounds: Leeches, Maggots, and Bees. Medscape. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/563656.

Ryan R. Why maggots and leeches are good for your health. Daily Mail. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-130983/Why-maggots-leeches-good-health.html.

Sherman RA. 2009. Maggot Therapy Takes Us Back to the Future of Wound Care: New and Improved Maggot Therapy for the 21st Century. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology 3(2):336-44.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Can Daylight Savings be Dangerous?

Our circadian rhythms are dictated by the light and dark cycles in our environment. Every one of our cells has an internal clock that responds to changes in daylight. Special proteins called cryptochromes in our skin cells are sensitive to light’s blue spectrum, so whenever we’re bathed in light, our bodies get the message to wake up.

Light and dark cycles influence levels of key hormones like cortisol and melatonin that help regulate bodily processes including inflammation and immunity, which help determine our resistance to disease.

When the light and dark cycles in our environment suddenly change, even by only an hour, this change can disrupt the way our bodies work. It also slows reaction time and has been linked to an increase in traffic accidents.

Researchers in Michigan analyzed a decade of national traffic statistics and found that during the week before the daylight savings time change, 65 fatal crashes were reported. The week after the time change, 227 were reported. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety of Arlington, Virginia calculated that using daylight savings time year-round could save approximately 200 deaths each year.

References:

Plainis S, Murray IJ, and Pallikaris IG. Road traffic casualties: understanding the night‐time death toll. Injury Prevention. 2006; 12(2): 125–128.

Sullivan JM and Flannagan MJ. The role of ambient light level in fatal crashes: inferences from daylight saving time transitions. Accident, Analysis and Prevention. 2002;34(4):487-98.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Discussing Childhood Vaccines on Fox News


Last weekend I discussed the risks and benefits of childhood immunizations with Dr. Mark Seigel and host Carol Alt in a segment called "To vaccinate or not to vaccinate" on the new Fox News show A Healthy You. Amidst the excitement, I misquoted an important statistic. I meant to say:

In the United States we give kids 70 doses of 16 different vaccines during childhood and babies receive 26 doses during their first year of life.

Why is this statistic so important?
  • Because we give kids more vaccines than any other country in the world
  • Because we have the highest rate of infant mortality among 34 industrialized nations
  • And because research studies confirm that increasing doses of vaccines are associated with increasing rates of infant mortality (Miller 2011)

Countries with the lowest rates of infant mortality are also among those who give their kids the fewest immunizations, notably Sweden, Japan, and Iceland, where kids get only 12 shots total.

Instead of vaccinating more, we should be vaccinating more selectively. We should start with shots against the most dangerous diseases for babies, like Haemophilus influenzae type B, pertussis, and pneumococcal infections. Whenever possible we should delay vaccines that have a higher risk of adverse effects when given before the age of two, like hepatitis A, and those that are ineffective in babies, like injected live-virus vaccines. We should also consider delaying vaccines against illnesses that are rare in the United States, or rare in babies, or usually mild in babies, until infants' immune systems are more mature. In many cases, delaying vaccines also reduces the total number of doses required to achieve immunity.

We also need to practice harm reduction. Here are my top strategies to reduce the risks associated with childhood immunizations: 

#1  Weigh the risks and benefits of each vaccine on a case-by-case basis. 

#2  Avoid unnecessary immunizations by checking titers before giving MMR, varicella, and hepatitis A vaccines.

#3  Some vaccines are made by more than one manufacturer, so whenever possible, choose shots with the fewest additives. Ingredients of concern include mercury (in the form of thimerosal), aluminum, monosodium glutamate (MSG), antibiotics, and tissues from animals and humans. Fortunately, all childhood immunizations are available in mercury-free forms.

#4  Give vaccines in single doses rather than multiple doses whenever possible and never give more than one aluminum-containing shot at a time.

#5  Do not give live-virus vaccines to babies less than one year old. When they are administered, live-virus vaccines should be spaced at least 3 months apart with the exception of the MMR and varicella vaccines, which should be spaced at least 6 months apart.

#6  Before and after immunization, consider giving supplements to support a healthy immune response. Probiotics have been shown to increase the effectiveness of vaccines while reducing the risk of adverse events (Youngster 2011). Probiotics also minimize the chance of allergic reactions and make our bodies more resistant to disease.

#7  Keep kids healthy with a whole foods diet, daily exercise, outdoor play, and plenty of sleep. 

#8  Never vaccinate kids (or adults) with the following:
  • Previous serious reaction to a vaccine 
  • Signs of illness or infection during the past week
  • Autoimmune disease 
  • Developmental or neurological disorders
  • History of surgery, transplant, transfusion, or cancer treatment within the previous 3 months
  • Medications and treatments that suppress natural immunity like antibiotics, steroids, chemotherapy, and radiation

It's time to recognize that the current standards of care aren't working well enough and if we want to protect babies better, immunization schedules have to change.

Alternative vaccine schedules can minimize the risk of adverse events and increase compliance while keeping cases of dangerous diseases extremely rare. Offering options other than the current one-size-fits-all approach can actually increase immunization rates, especially among families who would otherwise opt out of vaccines altogether.

Talk to your doctor about the best immunization schedule for your child. If he or she isn't open to alternatives, find a "vaccine friendly" doctor on Dr. Sears' list.

References:

Miller NZ and Goldman GS. 2011. Infant mortality rates regressed against number of vaccine doses routinely given: is there a biochemical or synergistic toxicity? Human and Experimental Toxicology 30(9):1420-8.

Youngster I, Kozer E, Lazarovitch Z, et. al. 2011. Probiotics and the immunological response to infant vaccinations: a prospective, placebo controlled pilot study. Archives of Disease in Childhood 96(4):345-9. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Social Activity Impacts Longevity

Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world), Dubai

Having an active social life is good for you.

A study published earlier this year in the American Journal of Public Health found that social isolation can impact how long we live. Researchers studied almost 17,000 adults who took part in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that social isolation increased the risk of death as much as smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Back-To-School Checklist


This fall, help your kids start the school year right. Instead of dreading the back-to-school shuffle, take this opportunity to make positive changes that will set them up for academic success. Here are my top 5 strategies for good mental health and a school year to look forward to.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cooked

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1594204217/ref=as_li_tf_til?tag=adifkinofdoc-20&camp=0&creative=0&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=1594204217&adid=1776R8N0H25X8TYTDTFF&

"You want Americans to eat less? I have the diet for you. Cook it yourself. Eat anything you want - just as long as you're willing to cook it yourself."

This quote from Harry Blazer, food industry market researcher, in Michael Pollan's new book, Cooked, sums up a novel solution to the current epidemic of chronic disease in the United States.

Pollan points out that obesity rates are inversely correlated with time spent cooking: The more you cook your own food, the less likely you are to be obese and suffer associated health problems. So in an effort to cook more, Pollan explores the "previously uncharted territory" of his kitchen, along with the transformative powers of nature: fire, water, air, and earth.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Exercise Smarter with Interval Training


Interval training is the practice of alternating short bursts of high intensity activity with longer periods of lower intensity exercise that allow muscles to recover. Like biking up and over the George Washington Bridge.

It's a smarter way to exercise because research studies show that interval training increases exercise capacity and stimulates the body to burn more fat.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Girl Hunter


http://www.amazon.com/dp/0738216054/ref=as_li_tf_til?tag=adifkinofdoc-20&camp=0&creative=0&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=0738216054&adid=146DKMBQA6HKM8496CFV

"It is easy to live off the land when you have no other choice. In a way it is choice that plagues our modern food system, our expectation that there will be seven kinds of peanut butter on the shelves of the grocery store, and twelve brands of boneless, skinless chicken breast in the refrigerated aisle." -Georgia Pellegrini (page 35)

In her book, Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time, Georgia Pellegrini is on a journey to find local, organic, and sustainable food. She leaves the big city behind to hunt her own meat, traveling near and far from Texas hill country, the Arkansas Delta, and the Louisiana bayou to the English countryside.

Pellegrini writes with humor and wisdom. After detailing each adventure, she shares recipes for cooking what she hunted, including under-appreciated animals like rabbit, pigeon, and squirrel, and under-appreciated parts like deer heart and liver.

Pellegrini covers basic cooking techniques like rendering fat and making staples such as stocks, sauces, brines, rubs, and marinades. She also includes recipes that draw on more advanced techniques like Goose Proscuitto, Elk Jerky, Pheasant Tagine, and Venison Sausage. And she gives readers ideas for substitutions in you don't have the particular animal a recipe calls for.

Personally, I'm looking forward to making Duck with Cherry Sauce on page 120 and Elk-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls on page 86. If I can't hunt them myself, I can find farm-raised duck and elk at my local farmer's market.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The War on Bacteria



We’ve been waging war on bacteria ever since the moment we met them. We’ve won some victories along the way, securing safe drinking water and gaining better control of certain contagious diseases.

But there have also been significant losses. While we develop antibiotics, bacteria develop resistance. We sterilize our hands, our bodies, our homes, and our food, yet life-threatening infections and autoimmune illnesses are alarmingly on the rise.

Instead of working against the microbes in our environment, we need to start working with them. Some bacteria do cause disease but the overwhelming majority help prevent disease. It’s time to recognize the difference and cultivate the friendly flora that protect us from illness and infection.

Big Benefits

Research studies show that friendly bacteria benefit our bodies in several ways. They protect us from unfriendly bacteria that cause disease by forming a protective barrier along our skin and mucus membranes. They also secrete compounds that discourage the growth of disease-causing microbes and modulate the immune system, making our bodies more resistant to disease.

Friendly bacteria manufacture vitamins and break down environmental toxins. They reduce inflammation, metabolize excess hormones (like estrogen), and regulate the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). They help digest food, regulate appetite and satiety, and determine how we store fat.

Friendly flora have been found to shorten the duration of colds and flu and they minimize allergic responses like asthma, eczema, and hay fever. They have also been useful in preventing and/or treating other infections as well as anxiety, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. They’ve been shown to have anti-cancer activity and they can even turn genes on and off.

Antibiotics Abuse


Antibiotics have been the focus of our war on bacteria and they permeate our environment. They’re in the medicines we take when we’re sick, the food we eat, and the water we drink. Each year in the United States doctors write between eight and nine prescriptions for every ten people and experts estimate that half of them are unnecessary.

We also routinely give antibiotics to our animals. Eighty percent of all antibiotics sold in the US are given to cattle, pigs, and poultry, intended to speed growth and compensate for unsanitary living conditions. The antibiotics make their way into the meat and also into plant foods fertilized with manure from the livestock. Run-off from these farms pollutes waterways and antibiotics end up in drinking water.

Excessive exposure to antibiotics has strengthened disease-causing superbugs and weakened our ability to fight them. Seventy percent of the bacteria that cause infections in hospitals are resistant to at least one antibiotic and some are resistant to every antibiotic. As a result, we’ve had to use increasingly stronger doses of increasingly stronger drugs to kill them, dramatically increasing our exposure to medicines that kill friendly flora too. Without friendly bacteria to help defend us, we’re much more vulnerable to illness and infection.

Sterile Environments

In our quest for cleanliness, we carry around anti-bacterial wipes and bottles of hand sanitizer and we use harsh chemicals to clean our homes. But we’ve confused clean with sterile and dirty with infectious. It’s good to have a home free of dust, which can contain toxic chemicals from the environment (a study that sampled one hundred twenty homes detected sixty-six harmful compounds in household dust including hormone-disrupting chemicals like phthalates and pesticides), but it’s normal and healthy to live with bacteria.

Too little exposure to microorganisms in our environment has been associated with an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease and atopic illnesses like allergies, asthma, and eczema.

Deficient Diets

Not only have we done everything possible to wipe out the bacteria in our environment, but we make life difficult for friendly flora that do survive. We eat plenty of processed foods containing antimicrobial additives that kill off good and bad bacteria alike. Pasteurized and irradiated foods don’t replenish the friendly bacteria our bodies depend on. And diets low in fiber lack nutrients called prebiotics needed to support them.

Friendly Flora

Minimize the effects of our anti-bacterial environment, replenish friendly flora, and maintain a healthy microbial balance by following these five steps.

#1  Stop Sterilizing.

It’s always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and hot water before you eat or touch your face, but antibacterial products are unnecessary. Avoid commercial and chemical cleaners that sterilize your home. Instead use non-toxic cleaning agents like soap, vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils.

#2  Eat cultured and lacto-fermented foods every day.

Cultured and lacto-fermented foods are preserved by cultivating bacteria, not killing them. The friendly species of bacteria that dominate them naturally prevent the growth of disease-causing bacteria by maintaining a specific pH and secreting anti-microbial compounds.

These foods include vinegar, pickles, capers, olives, sauerkraut, kimchi (fermented vegetables), umeboshi (fermented plums, whole or ground into a paste), tempeh, miso (a savory paste made from fermented soy beans), tamari (soy sauce made from fermented soy beans), fish sauce, cacao nibs, red wine, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, and cheese.

Some store-bought items like pickles aren’t truly fermented; they’re merely marinated in pasteurized vinegar. Look for store-bought products that contain live cultures and have not been pasteurized, or learn to ferment your own foods (a good resource is The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz).

#3  Eat prebiotics every day.

Prebiotics come from polysaccharides found in fiber and they stimulate the growth of friendly gut bacteria. They’re found in onions, garlic, beans, asparagus, artichokes, and ground flax seeds.

#4  Resolve underlying issues.

Imbalances in gut flora like too few friendly bacteria or too many unfriendly bacteria can cause digestive problems that may not be solved with diet alone. If you experience gas, bloating, abdominal cramping, constipation, or diarrhea, talk to your doctor about stool culture testing to rule out intestinal infections and determine the levels of friendly microbes present in your digestive tract.

#5  Consider supplementation.

Many people benefit from taking probiotics to supplement friendly flora, especially those suffering from allergies, recurrent infections, metabolic problems, and digestive disorders. But some products are more effective than others. One study that analyzed fourteen commercial probiotic products found that only one contained what was written on the label. For a guarantee that products contain what they are labeled to contain, look for seals from organizations like the US Pharmacopeia, National Nutritional Foods Association, Consumer Lab, or National Sanitation Foundation International. Also look for probiotics free of additives like starches, gums, and maltodextrin. Ask your naturopathic doctor for individualized recommendations.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Introducing Solid Foods to Babies


In the past, doctors have cautioned parents against introducing certain solid foods to infants too early for fear that babies would be more likely to develop food allergies.

But recent research suggests that introducing foods early can actually reduce the incidence of allergic illnesses.

One Finnish study found that the lowest rates of atopic diseases like allergies, asthma, eczema, and hay fever were associated with:

  • Introducing gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, rye, and oats before babies were 5.5 months old
  • Introducing fish before the age of 9 months
  • Introducing eggs before 11 months
  • Breastfeeding for at least 9.5 months

When introducing solid foods to babies, avoid giving them foods they could choke on. Start new foods one food at a time and wait at least 3 days before introducing another new food to make sure there is no reaction. Symptoms don't always show up right away and may take a couple of days to manifest.

Symptoms of food sensitivities may include sneezing, runny nose, skin rash or diaper rash, changes in stool, or irritability. If any of these occur, discontinue the new food and wait until the symptoms have cleared before you to introduce another new food.

Never introduce new foods when babies are ill, especially they have symptoms of colic, cramps, diarrhea, or rash.

Reference:

Nwaru BI et al. 2013. Timing of infant feeding in relation to childhood asthma and allergic diseases. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 131(1):78-86. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2012.10.028.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Does Fish Oil Cause Prostate Cancer?


A recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that high blood levels of omega-3 fats were associated with a higher risk of developing prostate cancer (Brasky 2013).

It was a retrospective observational study, not a randomized controlled trial, so it didn't prove that taking fish oil causes prostate cancer.

There were several problems with this study:

  • The data was taken from a past study designed for a completely different purpose. 
  • The researchers did not take into account the recognized risk factors for prostate cancer like age, race, body mass index, PSA blood level, or rectal exam findings.
  • Researchers did not track how much fish and seafood the study participants ate or whether or not they took fish oil supplements. 
  • The conclusions are based on a single blood test that showed negligible differences in blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids between the men who had prostate cancer and those who didn't, only 0.2%. The actual levels of specific omega-3 fatty acids in the blood (like EPA and DHA found only in fish) were not reported at all.
  • The study participants were not all healthy. Some of the men, approximately 1 in 5, already had advanced prostate cancer. Some men had first degree relatives with prostate cancer. Some smoked cigarettes and/or consumed alcohol regularly. Most of the men (80%) were overweight or obese.
  • Blood levels of omega-3 fats are a good measure of recent intake but a bad measure of long term intake. Blood levels fluctuate from day to day, depending on what we eat, so long term intake should be based on the omega-3 index which measures levels of omega-3 fats inside cells.

This study also comes into conflict with several other studies which have found fish oil to be protective against prostate cancer. For example:

  • An Icelandic study that followed 2,268 men for 9 years concluded that "salted or smoked fish may increase risk of advanced prostate cancer, whereas fish oil consumption may be protective against progression of prostate cancer in elderly men. In a setting with very high fish consumption, no association was found between overall fish consumption in early or midlife and prostate cancer risk" (Torfadottir 2013).
  • A 14-year study of 47,866 cancer-free men in the United States found that "EPA and DHA intakes may reduce the risk of total and advanced prostate cancer" (Leitzmann 2004).
  • A 30-year study of 6,272 Swedish men concluded that "men who ate no fish had a two-fold to three-fold higher frequency of prostate cancer than those who ate moderate or high amounts" (Terry 2001).
  • In a meta-analysis of 24 studies, researchers found that eating fish was associated with a 63 percent lower risk of dying from prostate cancer (Szymanski 2010).

So don't change your consumption of fish or fish oil based on this study. Continue eating fish and seafood and taking fish oil if your naturopathic doctor has recommended it.

When you're selecting fish and seafood, choose smaller species that live low on the food chain. Use the Environmental Defense Fund's Seafood Selector to get the most up-to-date information on toxicity alerts and sustainability ratings.

References:

Brasky TM, Darke AK, Song X, Tangen CM, Goodman PJ, et al. Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2013 Jul 10. [Epub ahead of print]

Leitzmann MF, Stampfer MJ, Michaud DS, Augustsson K, Colditz GC, et al. 2004. Dietary intake of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids and the risk of prostate cancer. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 80:204-216.

Szymanski KM, Wheeler DC, and Mucci LA. 2010. Fish consumption and prostate cancer risk: a review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 92(5):1223–1233.

Terry P, Lichtenstein P, Feychting M, Ahlbom A, and Wolk A. 2001. Fatty fish consumption and risk or prostate cancer. Lancet 357(9270):1764-6.

Torfadottir JE, Valdimarsdottir UA, Mucci LA, Kasperzyk JL, et al. 2013. Consumption of Fish Products across the Lifespan and Prostate Cancer Risk. PLoS One 8(4): e59799.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Problems With Pesticides


According to the recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute, exposure to pesticides approved by the Environmental Protection Agency has been linked to the following forms of cancer:

  • Brain and central nervous system cancers
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Soft tissue sarcoma

Research studies have also linked pesticides to:
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Asthma
  • Birth Defects
  • Cancer 
  • Diabetes
  • Hormone-related problems
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Learning and developmental disorders

Still-developing babies and children are most susceptible to the adverse effects of toxic pesticides. A study published in the current issue of Pediatrics measured levels of pesticides in more than 1,100 children between the ages of 8 and 15. Researchers found pesticides in 94 percent of children and those with above average amounts had twice the risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Avoiding pesticides is best, but it's not always possible. When organic foods are unavailable or unaffordable, take some help from the Environmental Working Group and make informed choices about what to eat and what to avoid with their Shopper's Guide to Pesticides.

References:

Leffall LD, Kripke ML et al. Reducing environmental cancer risk: what we can do now. 2008–2009 Annual Report, President’s Cancer Panel. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute. April 2010, p. 45.

Bouchard M.F., Bellinger D.C., Wright R.O., and Weisskopf M.G. 2010. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and urinary metabolites of organophosphate pesticides. Pediatrics 125(6):e1270-7. doi: 10.1542/peds.2009-3058.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The 100 Year Lie

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0452288398/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adifkinofdoc-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0452288398%22%3EThe%20Hundred-Year%20Lie:%20How%20to%20Protect%20Yourself%20from%20the%20Chemicals%20That%20Are%20Destroying%20Your%20Health%3C/a%3E%3Cimg%20src=%22http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=adifkinofdoc-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0452288398%22%20width=%221%22%20height=%221%22%20border=%220%22%20alt=%22%22%20style=%22border:none%20!important;%20margin:0px%20!important;

In The Hundred-Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals That Are Destroying Your Health, investigative journalist Randall Fitzgerald debunks the promise of "better living through chemistry" and explains "how food and medicine are destroying your health."

Previously plagued by illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses, modern medicine is now struggling to manage chronic illnesses caused by chemicals in the environment.

Inside this book you'll learn which common food additives interact synergistically to cause nerve damage (aspartame, MSG, and food coloring), why up to 99 percent of ingredients in personal products can be excluded from labels (trade secrecy laws), why we'll never know the health effects of most chemicals in combination (testing only the most common 1,000 chemicals in combinations of 3 would require 166 million experiments), and why phasing out dangerous toxins doesn't end the problem (damage done by chemical exposure decades ago can be passed on to future generations).

Fitzgerald writes, "merely by choosing a diet of pure foods and a lifestyle free of synthetics, we can detoxify ourselves and initiate the healing of many degenerative illnesses and diseases." Reading this book is a good place to start.




Sunday, June 30, 2013

Naturopathic Medicine Prevents Cardiovascular Disease


A recent randomized clinical trial compared conventional medical care to a combination of conventional care and naturopathic care for people at risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Researchers randomly assigned 246 postal workers in Canada between the ages of 25 and 65 into 2 groups and followed them for 10 years, tracking their body weight, waist circumference, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure.

During the study, both groups received usual care from their family physicians. In addition, one group received individualized care from licensed naturopathic doctors, seven sessions per year, each one lasting 30 to 60 minutes. The naturopathic care included dietary counseling, lifestyle counseling, and/or the prescription of supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, coenzyme Q10, soluble fiber, and plant sterols.

At the end of the study, those who received naturopathic care had a significantly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, and excess body fat around the waist), compared to those who didn't.

The holistic and integrative approach used by naturopathic doctors is the most effective way to prevent, reverse, and manage cardiovascular disease.  

Reference:

Seely D, Szczurko O, Cooley K, et al. Naturopathic medicine for the prevention of cardiovascular disease: a randomized clinical trial. Canadian Medical Association Journal 2013; DOI:10.1503/cmaj.120567.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Meat: Rarer is Better


In most cases, the less you cook meat, the healthier it is.

Chicken should always be fully cooked, but duck, lamb, pork, beef, buffalo, and venison don’t need to be.

Cooking meat too much destroys nutrients like vitamins and antioxidants, and damages healthy omega-3 fats.

Cooking meat too much also creates toxic compounds like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and Heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These toxins have been linked to several kinds cancer including tumors of the gastrointestinal tract, lung, liver, skin, prostate, breast and blood (leukemia).

For perfectly done meats, cook them until they reach these internal temperatures:
  • Duck breast: 145 to 150ºF (medium rare)
  • Chicken and all other poultry: 165 to 170ºF (thoroughly cooked) 
  • Beef, buffalo, lamb, and venison: 115 to 120ºF (rare) or 125 to 130ºF (medium rare)
  • Pork: 140 to 145ºF (trace of pink)

At temperatures above 170°F, proteins in meat change shape and create new bonds between molecules that make meat tough.

If you need some practice, try this simple recipe for steak with a quick pan sauce:

The Perfect Grass-Fed Steak with Sauce Maison


 


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Why Vietnam Sets a Good Example

Quoc Tu Giam Park in Hanoi, Vietnam

Vietnam is a vibrant and beautiful country, from the soaring mountains, emerald waters, and majestic limestone islets in the north to the colorful landscapes carpeted with rice paddies and floating markets in the south.

During my recent travels to southeast Asia I was fortunate to spend some time in Vietnam. It's not a surprise that this eastern culture differs drastically from our own in the United States. Yet, we have many things in common. And we also have a few things to learn.

Food in Vietnam was one thing that struck me as different but better. Meals are made mostly of plant foods, including lots of green leafy vegetables like morning glory and bok choy, as well as fresh fruits and even flowers. Many a muggy evening I enjoyed a light and refreshing banana flower salad for dinner.

Also in Vietnamese cuisine, meat is used to flavor dishes but it isn't the main focus of meals. And "meat" may mean any part of an animal: tongue, brain, neck, heart, intestines, or feet. Nothing is wasted.

The Vietnamese also consume creatures at the bottom of the food chain, like snakes, spiders, and crickets. While I was there I ate them too. Snakes and spiders and crickets actually taste good and they're full of vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fat. And unlike the prime cuts of CAFO-raised livestock that we eat almost exclusively in the United States, they are a plentiful, affordable, and sustainable food source with a small environmental footprint.

In Vietnam I also observed that everyone is active, from the very young to the very old. Parks and other green spaces were always full of people exercising, even before 6:00 in the morning, and even when it was 90 percent humidity and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Playing badminton (without a net) was especially popular but people were engaging in all forms of exercise, from stretching and practicing Tai Chi to jogging to performing calisthenics. 

Exercise wasn't just common, it was an easy and fun part of everyday life. Simple exercise machines are installed along river walks and lake sides for anyone and everyone to use. And free group exercise classes are offered inside parks, complete with loud, rhythmic music and enthusiastic instructors leading the masses from elevated platforms. 

When I happened upon one by accident in the large park across from my hotel, it took me a few moments to understand what was happening, because it's something I had never seen before. What appeared to be hundreds of people of all ages were working out, wearing whatever outfit they happened to have on, wherever they had been sitting before the music started, next to a bench or a blanket full of children, or wherever they could find space when the music drew them in. This kind of exercise wasn't something that had to happen inside a gym or involve special clothing and high-tech gear. It was something to do on the way home, and it was free, fun, and accessible to everyone.

Upon my return to New York City, to fight the jet lag induced by 21 hours of flight time and an 11-hour time difference, I started getting up at sunrise and going outside to expose my skin to early morning sunlight because it stimulates the production of neurotransmitters that help regulate circadian rhythm. Like many Manhattanites who live in apartments and lack for green space, I think of Central Park as my backyard, so that's where I went walking.

Besides myself, there were a handful of other people walking around the Harlem Meer, plus a couple of joggers and a woman doing yoga on the grass. Coming from a culture where parks were overflowing with exercisers first thing in the morning, this one felt empty by comparison, even though it was a beautiful sunny morning, the humidity was low, and the temperature was a comfortable 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Admittedly, a lack of people in Central park doesn't necessarily mean that no one in New York was exercising. New Yorkers who pay a premium for gym memberships often choose to exercise indoors regardless of the weather conditions. But still, there are 8 million people who live here and only so many gyms. And there are big benefits to being outside.

Studies show that spending time in green spaces can reduce stress, lower blood sugar, diminish pain, improve concentration and immunity, and even have anti-cancer effects. Research has also uncovered benefits of having physical contact with the earth, including a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, better sleep, and lower levels of inflammation.

If everyone in the United States followed the Vietnamese example of eating more plants and less meat, consuming whole animals as well as creatures low on the food chain, exercising everyday and spending more time outdoors in green spaces, we would undoubtedly be better off. Vietnam sets a good example and we all should take note.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Real Risks and Benefits of Sun Exposure and Sunscreen


Widespread vitamin D deficiency has caused some experts to recommend spending more time in the sun, while others maintain that we should spend less time in the sun. To make matters more complicated, reports suggest that sunscreen products designed to prevent skin cancer can actually cause skin cancer. So before you head outdoors this summer, understand the real risks and benefits of sun exposure and sunscreen products, and learn how to use them wisely.

Sunscreen Safety

Sunscreen products can contain ingredients that may trigger allergic reactions, disrupt hormones in the body, and damage DNA. Damaged DNA doesn't always cause cancer, but does increase the risk of developing cancer.

Additives to be concerned about include sulisobenzone, ensulizole, octocrylene, octinoxate, methoxycinnamate, octyl methoxycinnamate, hemosalate, PABA and PABA esters, Padimate O, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, 3-benzylidene camphor, and benzophenone-2, -3, and -4.

Concerns have also been raised about nanoparticles which may be added to sunscreen products that use minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to protect skin from damaging UVA and UVB radiation. These ingredients give sunscreens a white color, which can give skin a white color too. To minimize this effect, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide may be used in the form of nanoparticles, which are so small, they're measured in nanometers. (It takes a billion nanometers to make a meter.) Their smaller size makes them invisible, so the sunscreens become invisible too.

Reports suggest that nanoparticles could interact with sunlight to increase the risk of skin cell damage but research studies have had mixed results. Lab studies using cell cultures show that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles exposed to UV radiation generate free radicals and damage DNA, while human studies have found no evidence that nanoparticles damaged DNA in the presence or absence of UV irradiation. And in 15 out of 16 studies, nanoparticles only penetrated the outer layer of skin, composed of dead skin cells, and never penetrated living skin cells.

While sunscreen products can prevent sunburn, they can't prevent skin damage from sun exposure and in most cases, they don't prevent cancer. Studies show that regular use of sunscreen can reduce the risk of one type of skin cancer, squamous-cell carcinoma, but it doesn't reduce the risk of the most common type, basal-cell carcinoma, or the most deadly type, malignant melanoma.

Because people who wear sunscreen are less likely to become sunburn, they are more likely to spend prolonged periods of time in the sun. More time in the sun means more cancer risk, so using sunscreen can indirectly increase risk of developing cancer, regardless of any potentially toxic additives.

Sun Therapy

Too much sun may be harmful but some sunshine is good for us. It sets off several beneficial biochemical pathways in the body which regulate our circadian rhythm, metabolism, and mood, and stimulate the production of vitamin D, which strengthens our bones as well as our immune systems.

If you don't spend enough time in the sun, or if you wear too much sunscreen, your skin doesn't make enough vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D are a risk factor for developing cancer. A Chinese study found that people who had more exposure to sunshine were less likely to die from cancer and suggested that higher levels of vitamin D played an important role in prevention. Sun exposure not only reduced rates of skin cancer. It was also associated with lower rates of most major cancers including those of the lung, breast, bladder, esophagus, stomach, liver, colon, and rectum.

Besides vitamin D, our bodies have another built-in mechanism for protecting us from the sun: melanin. It's a pigment in our skin that acts as an antioxidant and neutralizes unstable free radicals generated by ultraviolet radiation that can damage DNA and turn cells cancerous. People with darker skin naturally make more melanin than people with lighter skin. Melanin production is also higher in people who have regular exposure to sunlight. We call this a sun tan. More melanin means fewer free radicals, less DNA damage, and a lower cancer risk.

Sunshine Safety

Some sun exposure is just as important for good health as fresh air, clean water, and regular contact with the earth. Follow these five tips to sunbathe safely, get your vitamin D, and minimize your risk of cancer at the same time.

#1  Check the UV index and spend time outside when the sun's rays are least intense.

The UV index is a scale from 1 to 11 that estimates the risk of harm that the sun's rays can have on unprotected skin:
  • 1 and 2 = low risk
  • 3, 4, 5 = moderate risk
  • 6 and 7 = high risk
  • 8, 9, 10 = very high risk
  • 11 = extremely high  risk 
The UV index is highest in the summer and in the middle of the day. It's lowest in the winter and during early morning and late afternoon hours. When the UV index is low, it's safe to be outside without using sunscreen. When the UV index is moderate, wear sunscreen outdoors. When the UV index is high, stay out of the sun. If you can't seek shade, cover your skin with long sleeves, long pants, and a hat. Strong sun can also damage your eyes and increase the risk of macular degeneration, so it’s also a good idea to wear sunglasses, especially when the UV index is moderate or high.

#2  Choose non-toxic sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) between 30 and 50 that block both UVA and UVB light. 

Use the Environmental Working Group's Sunscreen Guide to find products free of harmful additives. Also opt for creams and lotions over sprays and powders, which can be accidentally inhaled and absorbed directly into the bloodstream. I don't recommend sunscreens with SPF higher than 50 because they can convey a false sense of security, enticing users to stay longer in the sun.

#3  Apply sunscreen liberally.

Use two to three tablespoons of sunscreen lotion every two hours and apply it everywhere including your hands, feet, and ears. Use lip balm with SPF protection as well.

#4  Be extra cautious at high altitudes and around water, snow, ice, and glass.

UV radiation increases with elevation, penetrates glass and water, and is reflected from glass, water and sand, which magnify its intensity. Be extra cautious when sitting on the beach, swimming and ice skating outdoors, participating in snow sports, spending time at high altitudes, and sitting next to windows inside planes, trains, and automobiles.

#5  Consume plenty of colorful, antioxidant-rich foods including berries, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables, and green tea (hot or iced).

Studies show that certain compounds found in fruits, vegetables, green tea, and herbs like rosemary can protect skin against damage from the sun's ultraviolet radiation without interfering with vitamin D production. These foods have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in the skin which minimize damage associated with aging and modulate the immune system, helping to prevent cancerous changes. If you don't eat them regularly already, start now.

References:

Afaq F. and Mukhtar H. 2006. Botanical antioxidants in the prevention of photocarcinogenesis and photoaging. Experimental Dermatology 15(9):678-84.

Aiyer H.S. et al. 2008. Dietary berries and ellagic acid prevent oxidative DNA damage and modulate expression of DNA repair genes. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 9(3):327-41.

Australian Government. 2009. A review of the scientific literature on the safety of nanoparticulate titanium dioxide or zinc oxide in sunscreens. Department of Health and Aging, Therapeutic Goods Administration. www.tga.gov.au/pdf/review-sunscreens-060220.pdf

Chen W., Clements M., Rahman B., Zhang S., Qiao Y., and Armstrong B.K. 2010. Relationship between cancer mortality/incidence and ambient ultraviolet B irradiance in China. Cancer Causes Control 21(10):1701-9.

Dennis L.K. et al. 2003. Sunscreen use and the risk for melanoma: a quantitative review. Annals of Internal Medicine 139(12):966-78.

Dinkova-Kostova AT. 2008. Phytochemicals as protectors against ultraviolet radiation: versatility of effects and mechanisms. Planta Medica 74(13):1548-59.

Evans J.A. and Johnson E.J. 2010. The role of phytonutrients in skin health. Nutrients 2(8):903-28.

Green A. et al. 1999. Daily sunscreen application and betacarotene supplementation in prevention of basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinomas of the skin: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 354(9180):723-9.

Offord E.A. et al. 2002. Photoprotective potential of lycopene, beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C and carnosic acid in UVA-irradiated human skin fibroblasts. Free Radical Biology and Medicine 32(12):1293-303.

Plourde, Elizabeth. 2012. The false promises of sunscreens: the real consequences of their use. Part 1. Townsend Letter 348:108-111.

Rizwan M. et al. 2011. Tomato paste rich in lycopene protects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo: a randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Dermatology 164(1):154-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.10057.x.

Stahl W. et al. 2006. Lycopene-rich products and dietary photoprotection. Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences 5(2):238-42.

Stahl W. and Sies H. 2012. Photoprotection by dietary carotenoids: concept, mechanisms, evidence and future development. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research 56(2):287-95. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201100232.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Chemical-Free Cleaning For Kitchen Sponges


Don't use toxic chemical-based cleaners to disinfect your kitchen sponges. Clean them with your microwave instead.

A study published in the Journal of Environmental Health found that microwaving kitchen sponges and scrubbing pads killed harmful bacteria like E. Coli after only 30 seconds. A two-minute treatment on high (100% power) totally inactivated 99 percent of all germs.

First, wet your sponges. They don't need to be dripping wet but there should be some moisture evaporation during the treatment. Once your sponges are moist, microwave them on high for 2 minutes.

While the microwave is working, maintain your distance. Electromagnetic radiation escapes from microwaves and prolonged exposure can be harmful. In The Healthy Home, doctors Wentz recommend staying at least 5 feet away from the sides of microwaves and at least 10 feet away from their fronts whenever they're in use. This is especially important for pregnant women and children because they are more sensitive to the effects of electromagnetic radiation.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Grow Your Own Food




Fresh Food From Small Spaces: The Square Inch Gardener's Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting by R.J. Ruppenthal is a great guide for city dwellers who want to grow their own food. He writes:

"Using this book, most urban residents can learn to grow as much as 10 to 20 percent of the fresh food their families eat from an average-sized urban condominium or apartment space." (Page xiii)

This book will inspire you to grow food in all kinds of places, from windowsills and countertops to balconies and rooftops, regardless of limitations like light or space or temperature.

Ruppenthal explains how to select plants based on their requirements for sun and shade and space, how to make self-watering containers, how to use trellises and walls to grow food, and how to garden vertically, which is ideal if you have more air space than floor space.

Other topics include using companion plants to deter insects naturally, cultivating mushrooms and sprouts, growing food in cold climates, raising chickens and honeybees in the city, composting indoors or outdoors, and making your own fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.

Growing your own fresh food is healthy and inexpensive, and it helps create a more sustainable future. This book will help you get started.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Food For Your Face: DIY Yogurt Honey Mask


It only takes two minutes and two ingredients to make this mask.

Honey helps moisturize skin and it contains minerals and amino acids needed for tissue repair and rejuvenation. Look for raw honey and avoid pasteurized products because treating honey with heat destroys many of its beneficial compounds.

One variety of honey in particular, Manuka honey, has proven medicinal benefits. It comes from bees that gather nectar from manuka trees in Australia and New Zealand. Manuka honey has been shown to stimulate skin cell growth, reduce inflammation, and demonstrate antibacterial activity against MRSA.

Like honey, yogurt helps the skin retain moisture.  It also has astringent properties, causing pores to constrict, and it supports the protective bacteria that live on the surface of your skin.

If you don't have yogurt or prefer not to use it, you can substitute mashed avocado in this recipe. However, you'll want to wipe the mask off with a damp cloth before rinsing, because unlike yogurt, mashed avocado could clog your drain.


Materials: 

1/4 cup organic plain whole milk yogurt (Greek or regular)
1 teaspoon manuka honey (or substitute any raw honey)


Directions:
  1. Mix the yogurt and honey until thoroughly combined.
  2. Apply it to your face and/or body.
  3. Relax for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse it off or climb into a warm bath. 
  4. Follow with a light coat of All-Purpose Healing Salve.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Earthing


Scientists have uncovered something in our environment that may be just as important for good health as sunshine, clean water, and nutrient-dense food. It’s physical contact with the earth, also called earthing or grounding, and sometimes even "vitamin G."

Strange as it sounds, we may be in danger of not getting enough. Instead of connecting to the earth, we're cutting down rainforests, living in skyscrapers, growing gardens on rooftops, and dreaming about space travel.

Few people in the United States live off the land the way their ancestors once did. We no longer spend most of our time barefoot and our homes no longer have dirt floors. For many people it’s actually rare to touch the earth anymore but new studies show that we may not be able to live well without it.

Reservoir of Electrons

Free radicals are unstable atoms or groups of atoms that have lost one or more electrons. They readily react with other molecules to get electrons back, and in the process, they can damage cells and DNA on contact, triggering inflammation and illness.

A certain amount free radicals are naturally produced as a by-product of metabolism and they’re normally neutralized by antioxidants. But too many free radicals can overwhelm our built-in capacity to contain them.

We accumulate excessive amounts of free radicals when we’re exposed to electromagnetic radiation, when we come into contact with toxic chemicals in the environment, when we’re under stress, when we suffer from chronic diseases, when we consume unhealthy fats and too much sugar, and when our diets are deficient in antioxidants. In our modern world, these things are happening all the time.

Our planet's surface has an abundance of negatively charged free electrons which are replenished regularly by heat from the earth’s molten core, radiation from the sun, and lightening. When we’re in contact with the earth, the exchange of electrons can neutralize the positively-charged free radicals in our bodies and help us maintain electrically stable environments.

Unstable electrical environments change the pH of body fluids and the way that enzymes function, which slows chemical reactions and causes an uneven charge distribution to build up inside cells and tissues. Physical contact with the earth brings stability, restores our natural electrical state, reduces inflammation, and helps prevent damage to cells and DNA.

Research Studies

The research studies on earthing have been small and preliminary, but the results have been impressive. So far they’ve uncovered several specific benefits:
  • Earthing can decrease the stickiness of blood cells which improves blood flow, prevents clotting, and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. (Chevalier 2012)
  • Earthing can improve heart rate and rhythm. (Chevalier 2011)
  • Earthing can improve sleep by reducing the secretion of stress hormones at night and resetting the body’s natural circadian rhythm. Sleeping grounded caused people to fall asleep more quickly, wake up less frequently during the night, feel less stressed, have more energy, and experience less pain. (Ghaly 2004)
  • Earthing can activate the parasympathetic part of our nervous system that helps us relax and deactivate the sympathetic “fight or flight” part of our nervous system that causes stress responses like increased heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. (Chevalier 2011)
  • Earthing can normalize thyroid function. (Sokal 2011)
  • Sleeping grounded can protect us from electromagnetic radiation. After thirty days study participants reported “significant relief from asthmatic and respiratory conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, sleep apnea, and hypertension.” (Ober 2011)
  • Earthing can improve the responsiveness of our immune systems. (Chevalier 2011)

A recent review of earthing studies confirmed these results and concluded that “emerging evidence shows that contact with the Earth—whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems—may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, ANS [autonomic nervous system] dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed HRV [heart rate variability], hypercoagulable [sticky] blood, and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease.” (Chevalier 2012)

Electron Transfer Technology

Ironically, earthing can be done artificially with electron transfer technology. A wide variety of conductive appliances are available to transfer the earth’s electrons from the ground to your body. These include grounded mattresses, bed sheets with conductive silver threads, mats for the bed or floor, carbon loaded rubber computer desk mats, electrode patches that can be applied directly to the body, and bands that wrap around the body, wrist, or ankles.

All grounding appliances should be disconnected in case of lightening storms and these devices can interfere with blood-thinning medications. People who use them may experience adverse effects like tingling sensations, muscle cramps, malaise, aches, pains, and other flu-like symptoms, which are usually temporary and may improve with increased water intake.

Earthing Naturally

Despite technological alternatives, the best way to connect to the earth is by going barefoot on surfaces that conduct electrons. These include
  • Grass
  • Sand
  • Dirt
  • Gravel
  • Concrete surfaces (like sidewalks or even a warm concrete floor in your basement)
Wet surfaces conduct electrons better than dry surfaces, and salt water conducts electrons better than fresh water, so activities like strolling on the beach or even walking in dew-covered grass deliver the biggest benefits. Painted concrete surfaces are not conductive, and neither are asphalt, vinyl, or wood surfaces.

Being barefoot is best. In some studies, symptoms of pain, stress, and tension started to improve in as little as thirty to forty minutes. If you can’t go barefoot, the next best thing is wearing shoes and sandals with copper alloy inserts that conduct electrons from the ground to the bottom of your feet. Leather-soled shoes conduct some electrons but plastic- and rubber-soled shoes don’t conduct any.

It’s time for us to reconnect with the earth and nothing could be more natural. To improve health and prevent disease, spend at least half an hour each day in contact with the earth’s conductive surface. Unlike electron transfer technology, direct physical contact has no negative side effects.

References:

Brown D., Chevalier G.T., and Hill M. 2010. Pilot Study on the Effect of Grounding on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness. Journal Of Alternative And Complementary Medicine 16(3):265–273.

Chevalier G., Mori K., and Oschman J.L. 2006. The effect of Earthing (grounding) on human physiology. European Biology and Bioelectromagnetics 2(1):600–621, 2006.

Chevalier G. and Sinatra S. 2011. Emotional stress, heart rate variability, grounding, and improved autonomic tone: clinical applications. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal 10(3):16-21.

Chevalier G., Sinatra S., Oschman J.L, Delaney R.M. 2012. Earthing (Grounding) the Human Body Reduces Blood Viscosity—a Major Factor in Cardiovascular Disease. The Journal Of Alternative And Complementary Medicine DOI: 10.1089/acm.2011.0820

Ghaly M. and Teplitz D. 2004. The biologic effects of grounding the human body during sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 10: 767–776.

Lee Y.A., Kang S.G., Kim S.H., Park S.J., Kim H.N., Song I.S. 2012. Assessment of lifestyle effects on the levels of free oxygen radicals in the Korean population. Korean Journal of Family Medicine 33(5):296-304. doi: 10.4082/kjfm.2012.33.5.296.

Ober C. 2011. Grounding the human body to neutralize bioelectrical stress from static electricity and EMFs. ESD Journal, available at: http://www.esdjournal.com/articles/cober/ground.htm (accessed 1/6/12).

Sokal K. and Sokal P. 2011. Earthing the human body influences physiologic processes. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 17(4):301–308.