Sunday, December 15, 2013

Try Breathing!

I've been lucky enough to have more time to meditate lately.  It sure is nice to be on vacation ;)  Yes, I know it may sometimes feels like there is not possibly enough time to sit and breathe, but you can start with 5-10 minutes a day and you may start seeing results.  To help you get started, I wanted to share Five Breathing Techniques that will give a point of focus and quell the "monkey mind", if only for a brief time:

1. Mindfulness Breathing:
This is a classic Buddhist meditation technique. Mindful breathing focuses on mere awareness of your breathing - not trying to change it in any way. You are not forcing breath to be any particular way, just simply observing it. What usually ends up happening, however, is that the longer you simply observe your breath, the more relaxed and slow it eventually becomes. Take a moment to become aware of the air coming in through your nostrils and traveling down, filling the lungs, abdomen and expanding your diaphragm muscles. Then notice the air returning up and being released.  Play a game with yourself and see how long you can observe your breath, before you become distracted. Each time your attention wanders, bring it back to a place in the body, where you can feel your breath most clearly.

2. 4-7-8 Breathing:
This technique can help reset the nervous system when it is overwhelmed by stress. Inhale through your nose while counting to 4, then hold your breath counting to 7 and breathe out through your mouth, counting to 8. Repeat this technique 5 or more times and observe its effects on the body. You are likely to experience an immediate release of tension and perhaps greater calm and balance.

3. Square Breathing:
Visual people usually enjoy the "square breathing" technique. Close your eyes and visualize a square. With each breath, imagine you are drawing one of the sides of a square. Inhale, count to four and imagine drawing a horizontal line, then hold your breath, count to four and imagine drawing a vertical line, next exhale, count to four and draw a horizontal line, and pause, count to four, complete your square with another vertical line.

4. Mantra Breathing:
If you like the mindful breathing technique (#1 above), but find it hard to center you mind enough to follow your breath, try using a mantra as a focus point. A mantra can be any word or a phrase that you will repeat quietly to yourself, in rhythm of your breathing. For example, you could say: "IN" every time you breathe in, and "OUT" every time you breathe out. Repeat this over and over then watch your mind becoming more calm and focused.  Counting the breaths is also a good way to focus the attention as you breathe in and out.

5. Alternate Nostril Breathing:
Alternate Nostril Breathing (also called "nadi shodhana") is a classic yoga (pranayama) breathing technique that can help you to calm the mind. Use your right thumb to close off your right nostril, inhale slowly through your left nostril, then hold your breath, while you close off your left nostril, and breath out through your right nostril. Pause for a moment, then breathe in through your right nostril and repeat the process.

I hope these techniques help get you started on the path to enlightenment.  Try to make a bit of time each day to sit and enjoy your breathing!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Eat the Yolk!

Reasons to Eat Your Yolks

It amazes me that people still eat eat egg white omelets.  I guess everyone isn't yet aware that the low-fat diet didn't work... and that cholesterol does not actually cause heart disease.  Egg yolks have so much to offer when it comes to health. Starting your day with whole eggs can help regulate blood sugar, so it is more likely that you will make good food choices throughout the day.  In addition, eating eggs anytime of day can help with weight management because eggs are an easy way to get satisfying protein and healthy fats into the diet. Always buy the best eggs you can afford preferably from organic, pastured chickens that do not eat soy (note that most organic eggs are from soy-feed chickens).

1. Egg yolks are a good source of  the essential mineral chromium which helps to maintain proper blood sugar levels, lower body weight, increase lean body mass, reduce triglycerides and cholesterol. (Murray,2005). Eating just two 2 eggs yolks provides nearly 400 mcg of chromium which is double the suggested amount needed per day. (Murray,1996)

2. Whole eggs are an excellent source of Vitamin K which is vital for strong bones and preventing osteoporosis. (Murray,2005)

3. A whole egg only has 65 calories 5.3 grams of fat, only 1.3 grams is saturated. One egg also has 6 grams of protein.(Murray,2005) Saturated fat is good for you but if you think it isn’t maybe this will convince you.

4. A study from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who eat four whole eggs per week had lower cholesterol than people who ate just one egg per week. (Murray,2005). Our hormones are made from cholesterol and it is a healing substance. Read more about the powerful benefits of cholesterol here.

5. Eggs yolks are rich in choline which is vital for healthy brain function. Choline has been shown be to be crucial for helping to prevent depression and Alzheimer’s.(Murray,1996) Whole Eggs are a good source of Vitamin B-12 and Folate which work together to protect the brain from degeneration and produce healthy red blood cells. (Murray,2005)

6. People who ate eggs rich in choline have 20% lower levels of inflammation than those who do not get enough choline. (,2010)

7. In a study of obese people lasting 8 weeks whole egg eaters lost double the weight of people who ate bagels for breakfast. They also lost 80% more inches and had more reported having more energy. (,2010)

8. Eggs rich in choline are important for heart health because choline regulates homocysteine which in excess can damage blood vessels. (,2010)

9. In another study children who ate eggs everyday for two months improved their LDL particle size which reduces their risk of heart disease. (,2010)

10. Egg yolks are a good source of Vitamin D and selenium  both of which can help prevent breast and colon cancer. (Murray,1996)

Why You Need Cholesterol

It was not until the 1960's that Americans started to fear saturated fat and cholesterol. Our grandparents ate lots of meat and saturated fat, and they were statistically more healthy. In the early 1900’s most Americans had a difficult time keeping weight on, while heart disease was not even on the radar. Compare this picture to the present day, where people are still obsessed with low-fat diets and cutting cholesterol.  Where is the reward for all of this low-fat living? This fat and cholesterol phobia has contributed to a national obesity rate of 35%, where one-third of all deaths are blamed on heart dis
ease.  And the problem seems to be getting worse...

Where did this fat phobia come from?  Dr. Ancel Keys performed research in the 1950’s, where he proposed that countries with a higher intake of saturated fat and cholesterol have increased rates of heart disease. The Seven Countries study had a lot academic critics, but it caught on like wildfire and was adopted by the public. What no one, including the US government and the American Heart Association, took into account was that he had left out data from the other 15 countries he surveyed, making his results useless. Yes, our fear of saturated fat and cholesterol is based on a flawed and cherry-picked study.

10 Reasons You Need Cholesterol

During the past 50 years this fear of fat has caught on, and rates of heart disease and obesity have surged upward, with no end in sight. Cholesterol is a natural healing substance that has many vital functions in the human body. If you are worried about cholesterol levels from a high fat diet, here are some reasons to put your mind at ease:

  1. Cholesterol is a vital structural component of every human cell membrane and it aids in communication between cells. It’s a necessary component in making new, healthy cells, and it gives us the ability to heal from illness or injury.
  2. Cholesterol helps reduce bloating by regulating the salt and water balance in the body.
  3. Cholesterol is converted into bile in the liver, which helps us to digest fats. Many people who have been on a low-fat diet will have trouble with fat digestion.
  4. You need cholesterol to make adrenal hormones, cortisol, and aldosterone, which help us cope with the stress of day-to-day living. A low-fat diet often does not supply enough substrate to make these hormones, which leads to adrenal fatigue, feelings of exhaustion, and belly fat storage.
  5. UVB rays from the sun interact with the cholesterol in your skin to convert it to vitamin D. Cholesterol helps the absorption of Vitamin D, which is vital for proper immune function.
  6. Many studies indicate that cholesterol may act as an antioxidant to heal free radial damage. The standard American diet (SAD) is full of oxidized vegetable oils and sugars, which are pro-oxidants. These non-foods wreak havoc on your cells and cause damage that contributes to heart disease. The body produces more cholesterol in response to these inflammatory foods in an attempt to heal the damage they cause in our blood vessels.
  7. Cholesterol helps in the formation of your memories and is crucial for proper neurological function. People with low HDL cholesterol can have impaired memory and are at an increased risk of developing dementia later in life.
  8. Elevated cholesterol is a sign that your body is making more to heal damaged cells. It is key to look for the true cause of the inflammation (ie: sugar, grains, vegetable oils), not kill the messenger by taking cholesterol medication with possibly dangerous side effects.
  9. Many times a high cholesterol test is your body trying to send you an important message, so listen up! Healing cholesterol is often produced in excess when there is a lack of thyroid hormone and/or there is an autoimmune thyroid attack. Normalizing thyroid hormone levels can help balance cholesterol levels, as well as following a lower carb nutrient dense diet.
  10. Cholesterol is very important for the communication between brain synapses, which make the feel good chemical serotonin. There have been many studies where people with abnormally low levels of cholesterol have tendencies toward violence or depression.

In Summary

Cholesterol is an essential building block for the steroid hormones which help control our moods, metabolism, inflammation, immune, and sexual functions. The human body needs cholesterol in order to function, and without it we would not survive. The liver will intuitively make more cholesterol when the diet does not provide enough.

Many studies have shown that low cholesterol is a bigger risk factor for heart disease and mortality than high cholesterol. Elderly people with low cholesterol died twice as often from a heart attack, when compared with elderly people with high cholesterol.  According to Dr. Mark Hyman, higher cholesterol predicts lower risk of death from heart disease.

When evaluating your own cholesterol levels do some critical thinking about what is best for you. Follow the money trail when your doctor advises you to take Statin drugs, and ask for some hard evidence on why they are recommending them for you.

Lifestyle interventions such as a low carb, Paleo diet can help people achieve optimal lipid panel markers, in a very short time, without any dangerous side effects. Use your best judgement when you hear how foods that kept our great grandparents healthy like grass-fed meat, raw cheese, and grass-fed butter, are to blame for new diseases.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

How to Avoid a Hangover

Some studies show that moderate alcohol consumption is beneficial for long-term health.  In fact, moderate drinking, defined as one to three drinks per day, is associated with the lowest mortality rates in alcohol studies.  This gives us all another reason to have an occasional drink (or 2) and enjoy the social life.  With that in mind, here are some simple ways to minimize any possible negative effects of alcohol consumption:

Step 1: Choose a clean alcohol with the least toxins.  Selecting a drink wisely will have the added bonus of causing less of a hangover.  Here the alcoholic beverages are, in order from best (cleanest) to worst (most toxins):
=> potato vodka (least toxic), grain vodka, gin, tequila, whiskey, other distilled spirits, champagne, dry white wine, white wines, red wines, dessert wines, beer (most toxic).

Step 2: Block the conversion of alcohol into aldehyde.  Aldehyde is the most potent hangover-causing metabolite that may also increase the signs of aging (especially in the skin).  To block this toxin, take one Vitamin C capsule (250 mg), along with N-Acetyl Cysteine before each drink.

Step 3: If you want even more protection, add Vitamin B1 and Alpha-Lipoic Acid before each drink.  Or, you can take this nutrient combo before your first and after your last drink.  For a final protective addition you can supplement lipoceutical glutathione.  This supplement is expensive, but very useful as it is the most powerful liver detoxifier available.

Step 4: Absorb any toxins with a binding agent.  To do this, take 4 capsules of Activated Charcoal after you’re done drinking.  If you chose beer or wine, you may want to take 1 capsule with each drink.  Activated charcoal works like a sponge to bind away toxins, including aldehyde, so you don't absorb them into the blood stream.

So enjoy the summer, drink in moderation, and have good tomorrow.  Cheers!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Coffee & Health: Pros and Cons

Ahh Coffee... such a wonderful way to wake up in the morning.  This little bean has literally transformed culture, trade and minds throughout history.  It is so powerful, in fact, that coffee is the second most traded commodity worldwide - second only to crude oil!   When it comes to the health benefits of coffee there is much to say.  The overall picture is a mix of positives and negatives, so this post will take a look at both sides so you can make an informed decision:

The Good:

  1. Coffee has a large dose of anti-oxidants.  For most Americans, coffee is the #1 source of antioxidants.  Coffee contains numerous antioxidants, and in addition, caffeine itself is an antioxidant.  The caffeine in cocoa, tea, and coffee is a powerful antioxidant that can even protect against Alzheimer’s.  Note that roasted coffee beans have a higher antioxidant content.
  2. In many lab tests it has been shown to improve cognitive ability in terms of memory recall and overall performance metrics.
  3. In some studies, coffee has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity (and therefore improves blood sugar).  Long-term coffee drinking is associated with a lower risk of type-2 diabetes.  The more coffee you drink, the lower the risk (however, coffee alone should not be relied on for this effect).
  4. Coffee has strong thermogenic properties, meaning it increases metabolic rate and stimulates movement.  It also increases fat mobilization and oxidation may promote fat loss.  

The Bad:
  1. Caffeine can cause anxiety and sleep disturbances for some people. Keep in mind that the alkaloids in coffee need 12 hours to be completely eliminated from your body.
  2. Coffee is a diuretic, causing increased urination and possibly dehydration as result.  Chronic dehydration can lead to a host of problems, including muscle aches and poor recovery after exercise.
  3. Coffee strongly stimulates the adrenals.  Over the long-term, the morning cup may deplete the adrenal reserves even to the point where the coffee no longer "works" like it used to.  This adrenal effect may also raise blood pressure, which can be a serious medical concern for some people.
  4. Many of the chemicals in coffee irritate the stomach lining.  The result may be an increase in stomach acid and eventually, chronic digestive disorders, including gastritis.
  5. Lastly, most coffee is contaminated with fungal toxins - some estimates say that 85% are contaminated.  These fungal or mold toxins are often the reason people feel jittery or have side other effects.  Good coffee should not have these side-effects.  The best approach is to buy a coffee from a single origin plantation, not a blended coffee that comes from multiple locations and suppliers.  Also, doing research on how the coffee was fermented and processed is important.

Tips for Choosing a Better Quality Coffee:
  • Avoid decaf.  The caffeine content protects the beans from mold.  In addition, the decaffeination process can add new organic toxins and increase molds. 
  • Never drink robusta (cheap, instant) beans. Robusta coffees have a higher mold content, which is why they are higher in caffeine too (as a defense against mold on the bush). Drink arabica.
  • Single estate coffees are generally the cleanest and highest quality.  Major brands often mix beans from many sources, and commonly any toxic molds are blended it into the coffee.

In summary, I encourage you to weigh the pros and cons and then go forth and enjoy whatever cup you brew!  And don't forget to drink tea.  The next post will cover the wonders of tea, which has a few more pros and cons...

Friday, March 15, 2013

Stress-Calming Foods - Naturally

Yes, food effects the way you feel!  This is especially true when it comes to managing stress and mood.  Refined sugars and carbohydrates will give a short-term high and then bring the inevitable long-term low in a matter of hours. This blood sugar roller coaster can influence so many aspects of performance including concentration, mood, energy and sleep.

When it comes to stress and mood, sugar metabolism is not the only factor at-play.  Nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, are essential for adapting to stress.  These nutrients are best absorbed through food sources - taken in the way that we were meant to absorb them.  Here are some great stress-lowering food choices:

Spinach contains plenty of Magnesium which helps to relax nerves and muscles.  Magnesium, along with hydration, also helps prevent muscle tension, muscle cramping and fatigue. Spinach is a magnesium powerhouse, and also a good source of Vitamins A, C, Iron and Folate (B9). Buy organic spinach because the conventionally grown version is relatively high in pesticides.
* Other foods high in Magnesium: halibut, basil, pumpkin seeds and peppermint.

Basil contains anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial for a variety of inflammatory conditions - from tendonitis to IBS. Boost the taste of your food by adding fresh basil leaves and you get a dose of iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and vitamin C.  Add basil near the end of the cooking to preserve most of its natural flavor.
* Other herbs that reduce stress: Lemon balm and chamomile.

Dark chocolate contains Tryptophan - an essential amino acid which is used by the body to create serotonin, a neuro-chemical that relaxes the brain and make you feel at-ease.  In addition, dark chocolate, contains heart-boosting antioxidants.  Choose a chocolate that is high in cocoa solid but low in sugar to get the maximum health benefit.
* Other foods high in Tryptophan: almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, nuts, oats and red meat.

Brazil nuts are high in Selenium.  A deficiency in selenium has been linked to higher rates of anxiety, depression and generalized fatigue. Selenium is only needed in small quantities.  Just a handful of mixed nuts, or 2 Brazil nuts each day will be enough to keep you feeling good.
* Other foods high in selenium: shitake mushrooms, tuna, cod, salmon.

Broccoli has a good dose of potassium.  Lower potassium levels in the blood can cause muscle fatigue and generalized fatigue can make you feel irritable and anxious. Broccoli is also high in beta-carotene, vitamin C and E which all work together to strengthen immune system.
* Other sources of potassium include: avocado, beet greens, banana, kale, cabbage, winter squash, and tomatoes.

Green Tea is a great source of L-theanine.  L-theanine is a naturally occuring amino acid mainly found in tea leaves.  Recent research has shown that this substance reduces stress, promotes relaxation and enhances mood by stimulating alpha brain waves (a calmer and more relaxed state).  In addition, green tea has been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, reduces blood pressure and promotes weight loss.
* Black tea and oolong tea also contain L-theanine and some of the anti-oxidizing properties found in green tea.

Kiwi and other fruits contain Vitamin C.  The human brain needs adequate amounts of vitamin C to convert tryptophan into serotonin. In fact, the brain has a specialized Vitamin C pump that pulls this vitamin out of the blood and pushes it into the brain.
* Other vitamin C-rich fruits include: strawberries, papaya, orange, grapefruit and guava.

Lastly, be sure to stay clear from moldy grains and legumes which contain some highly toxic, cancer-causing fungi.  Mold and fungus from grains and other improperly stored foods can quickly make you feel bad, causing symptoms like headaches, fatigue, poor concentration, etc.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Natural Mood Enhancers

Feeling good is all about chemistry.  Studies show that taking specific nutrients can enhance mood. The benefits of these suggestions below will likely be greater when you combine them with a good diet, a bit of exercise and more time in the sun (see Vitamin D, below):
  • Vitamin B-12 & L-Tyrosine (taken together) - The amino acid L-tyrosine is a building block of neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, which contributes to positive moods.  This effect if amplified with the addition of B-12 helps create neurotransmitters that influence your mood and sleep.
  • Vitamin B Complex - As a general function, B vitamins help convert protein building blocks into functional neurotransmitters;  In addition, they are involved with creating usable energy from carbohydrates. Vitamins B-3 (niacin) and B-6 (pyridoxine) have the most effect on mood.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids - The active components of fish oil are EPA and DHA. These fatty acids have been shown to support brain development and a positive mood.  Part of this effect is accomplished by  helping in the development of neurotransmitters and increasing the health of brain cell membranes, which all facilitates communication between cells.
  • SAMe - This natural compound which may help produce serotonin and other neurotransmitters. It also helps neurotransmitters work better, leading to healthier moods.
  • Vitamin D - New research shows that low levels of vitamin D may play a role in mood health, especially during the shorter days of fall and winter.  Not to mention that Vitamin D is also essential for proper immune function.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Pain Relief - Food as Medicine

With so many Americans in chronic pain, it only makes sense to consider foods that are helpful in reducing inflammation and pain.  Below is a list wholesome pain-relieving foods that are also delicious:

1. Cherries - studies have found that tart cherry extract is 10 times more effective than aspirin at relieving inflammation. Only two tablespoons of concentrated juice need to be taken each day daily for effective results. Sweet cherries have also been found to be effective.

2. Berries - A variety of anti-oxidants and anti-pain compounds are found in berries like blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries

3. Celery and Celery Seeds - The book "Green Pharmacy", lists more than 20 anti-inflammatory compounds in celery and celery seeds, including a substance called apigenin, which is powerful in its anti-inflammatory action. Celery seeds can be added to soups, stews or as a salt substitute in many recipes.

4. Ginger - Ginger has been shown to reduce pain-causing prostaglandin levels in the body and has been widely used in India to treat pain and inflammation. Multiple studies by Indian researchers found that ginger is an effective treatment for muscular pain. The recommended dosage of ginger is between 500 and 1,000 milligrams per day.

5. Turmeric - Turmeric (curcuma longa) the common orange/yellow spice has been shown to be a more effective anti-inflammatory than steroid medications when dealing with acute inflammation. Its main therapeutic ingredient is curcumin. Research shows that curcumin suppresses pain through a similar mechanism as drugs like COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitors (without the harmful side effects).  Dose a standardized extract with 1500 mg of curcumin content per day.

6. Omega-3s Fatty Acids - Many fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and herring contain Omega-3 oils.  These oils convert in the body into hormone-like substances that decrease inflammation and pain. According to the National Institute of Health, fish oil is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Fish oil acts directly on the immune system by suppressing 40 to 55 percent of the release of cytokines, compounds known to destroy joints. Many other studies also demonstrate that eating moderate amounts of fish or taking fish oil reduces pain and inflammation, particularly for arthritis sufferers.

If you are looking for additional help reducing pain, here are a few options:*
  • Proteolytic Enzymes
  • Vitamin D if your blood levels are low
  • Boswellia (Frankincense)
  • MSM, Glucosamine & Chondroitin
  • White Willow Bark (for short-term use)
* Discuss taking any supplements with your doctor before making any changes.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Magnesium is Amazing!

Amazing: Magnesium (Mg) plays a key role in over 300 biochemical reactions that take place throughout your body.  Its benefits are best known in promoting good bone health (when combined with Calcium & Vitamin D).  In addition to healthy bones, Magnesium:
  • Maintains normal muscle and nerve function
  • Keeps the heart beat regular & supports cardiovascular function
  • Promotes a healthy immune system
  • Maintains blood sugar and blood pressure within normal range
  • Promotes energy metabolism
In practical terms, there are 3 conditions that I most often recommend Magnesium for:
1.) For Muscle Cramps or Spasms:  Take Mg in electrolyte powder form for maximum absorption into muscle tissue.  Electrolyte packets (such as "Electrolyte Stamina") usually contain Magnesium Oxide or other easily absorbable forms.
2.) For Anxiety and Insomnia:  Use magnesium glycinate or magnesium maleate, twice a day for best effects.
3.) For Constipation:  Use magnesium citrate or magnesium oxide to bring more fluids in the digestive tract and gently support regularity.  Start with a low dose and gradually increase (two times per day).