Saturday, December 27, 2008

Facials, Breast Health & Lymphatic Drainage

I've read about it off and on. Constriction or lack of flow in lymphatic drainage near a woman's breasts contributes to breast cancer.

When I was at Hippocrates Health Institute, their therapeutic esthetician quoted statistics regarding lower rates of breast cancer in women who get facials! I did a double take as I was ready to pass through the lecture hall room. I always like a good reason for bodywork of any kind.

Intrigued, I perched on the side of a brown leather couch at the back of the room, close to the counter where green juices are served three times a day. The esthetician went on to explain that a good facial helps lymph nodes in the neck and around the collarbone remove cellular waste from breast tissue and explains why women who get facials have less incidence of breast cancer.

While movement and massage helps congested lymphatic fluids drain, it is also important for women to consider ditching their bras, at least some of the time, as bras cut off tiny lymphatic vessels.

Did you know that women who wear bras more than 12 hours a day have a 1 in 7 chance of breast cancer? Women who wear their bras to bed (egad!) have a startling 1 in 4 chance of breast cancer. Conversely, women who generally go braless (those flat-chested or free-spirited women in the Western world and most women in the second and third worlds) have only a 1 in 168 chance of breast cancer (similar to the risk men face).

Thus, women who wear bras should not only do regular breast exams but may also want to consider regular lymphatic drainage massage as a valuable support for their immune system health and to save their breasts from the big bad ugly C.

However, women should be careful about trying to do this kind of work on their own as movements must be quite gentle, steady, and able to move lymph in the right direction to achieve proper drainage.

According to Dr. Bruno Chikly, who is trained in endocrinology, surgery, neurology, and psychiatry and specializes in the lymphatic system:

"Heavy pressure...and kneading may not only hurt but may destroy the few suspensory ligaments (Cooper's ligament) and elastic fibers which prevent sagging (mastoptosis). Additionally, since breast tissue is well-supplied with lymphatics but lacks sources of external compression (such as muscles or strong overlying fascia) to promote the natural lymphatic drainage found in most other body tissues, fluid has a tendency to accumulate in the breast. The light-touch specific approach of LDT provides an ideal solution to fluid stagnation."

If you're a man and used to think that facials and massages are optional time-outs from stress for women, you can give a new kind of gift (Christmas is over but Valentine's Day is fast approaching) and know that you're giving a gift of health and not just pampering.

If you're a woman, round up a friend or two and schedule a facial or a massage after any kind of workout (movement will get more bad stuff into the lymphatic fluid and the facial or massage will help unblock any places of flow that are congested).

If you're a bodyworker offering lymphatic drainage massage, you need to do more to educate the women in your community! I'm a dyed-in-the-wool deep tissue fan and thoroughly disdained the idea of a featherlight massage as being beyond the point of getting a massage. I just needed a little education.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Rebounding to the Beat for a Healthy Immune System!

I don't know why I share these things sometimes. It's after 9 pm on the day after Christmas and the most exciting thing in my life is rebounding to dance music.

Lately, I've been jumping and twisting on a mini trampoline to get my lymphatic system moving (otherwise known as rebounding). With an autoimmune diagnosis, I'm interested in all things that help my immune system function optimally, well beyond supplements and diet. By the way, I'm feeling great and I'm confident that all is going well and I won't have this diagnosis for long.

For those inquiring minds out there, here's a sample of what I've been rebounding (and dancing to) tonight. Smooth by Santana was one (Rob Thomas sings this hot hip-swinging classic). Love it! Another was Ramalama (Bang Bang) by Roisin Murphy, a fun, boisterous number. I played a bunch of other music, from Vampire Weekend to LCD Soundsystem to Madonna and Nine Inch Nails (I know, an odd combination, eh?).

But back to the main point--the connection between movement and a healthy immune system.

If the gym or running circles around a track (or your neighborhood) is not your thing, and even if you don't have a mini trampoline, crank up your favorite music, do a little gentle stretching and warm-up, and enjoy shaking your booty a bit more often.

Your immune system will thank you (remember, your lymphatic system doesn't have its own pump and needs you to move to move your cell-nourishing, waste-eliminating lymph)! So why not move to music?! :-)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Macro Greens Vegan Bars & Weight Loss Foods

By now, you all know I'm way more interested in live foods, which means raw vegetarian foods with live enzymes that support digestion!

Over the weekend, I had lunch up at Fairweather, a natural foods store with good vegan soups every day too. I scoured the store for food that had not only no dairy or gluten but also no eggs or soy or almonds. Not so easy if you want a treat or something to eat when on the run.

I found the Macro Greens raw food bars marketed as "raw antioxidant super food" and "all natural energy" food. With protein from Brazil nuts and none of the offending ingredients for which I have to scan these days.

I found in Macro Greens (I tried the Apple-Lemon-Ginger and the Chocolate-Cinnamon flavors) a whole lot of impressive ingredients like spirulina, chlorella, and barley grass powder, red raspberry powder, ginger, and licorice root powder and, and, and, so much more.

MacroLife Naturals, the company that manufactures these little bars, is committed to producing "non-allergenic, nutrient-rich superfood." Kudos to them, as so much of what passes for health food can still be allergenic. Interestingly, the company was founded by a mother who designed formulas to help her son lose weight.

Nourish the body more thoroughly and cravings can genuinely disappear.

My brother is on a new high-protein packaged food program that Mike Ciell (our favorite pharmacist-turned-clinical biochemist) designed for weight loss.

So far, so good for Stephen (he lost 9 pounds the first week and Donnaree, our shipper, lost 11 pounds, when women are more likely to lose 3-4 pounds per week). Even trim Teri lost 4 pounds on the program. Weight loss is probably the biggest draw for people (we do have a fair number of "fat cats" among our members), however, Mike Ciell promotes his program for dramatic improvements in blood sugar normalization and for helping people get off all sorts of meds.

I cannot be on Mike's program because of soy and other things to which I am allergic, so I have no personal experience, but I will get the kat to do an interview with Mike, who can tell the whole story in great detail!

Now inquiring minds at the Co-op want to know: Who among you is interested in Mike Ciell's high-protein packaged foods weight loss program? We do indeed have a pilot program going, which Teri is managing, so she says who gets to be "in" right now, so don't bother writing to me, write to Teri!

Meanwhile, for those of you who are more like me, with "sensitive systems," who among you would be interested in the Co-op offering low-allergen vegan food bars from MacroLife Naturals?! Somehow, I think this offering will come in a distant second to weight loss, especially right after a holiday season of feasting! :-)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Wheat Grass Farms in Austin & San Diego

One of our members wrote in asking about the "wheat grass farm in Austin" that I had mentioned in an earlier blog entry, as Austin was far closer to his home than West Palm Beach (where the Hippocrates Health Institute is).

And, the answer is...the Optimum Health Institute, which has locations in Austin and also in San Diego (although the Austin center is newer and supposedly quieter, nestled amidst acres of wooded property, but I have no direct experience).

The good news is that the programs at Optimum Health Institute are more affordable than the Hippocrates Health Institute, probably because they appear to have more group work and none of the individual sessions with bodyworkers and stress evaluations or the blood work assessments.

If you're considering a kick-start for your own healing or a revitalization from stress or everyday toxin build-up, then I highly recommend the very holistic wheat grass/raw foods/cleansing/mind/body/spirit approach! :-)

Let me know what you've done (or intend to do) for yourself for the New Year!

Buh Bye to Original Constant Health and Upcoming Study

A labor of love, the original Constant Health is now on clearance. We have the new inventory in with improved flavoring (no lo han guo, an acquired taste in no-calorie sweeteners, apparently), double the protein, double the fiber, and a long-handled scoop (the men complained about the short-scoop more than the women!).

I talked to my dear friend, Lynda St. Dennis, a big Constant Health fan, and she said that to save some money she decided to buy the discounted Rich Chocolate version of Constant Health, even though she far prefers the French Vanilla (she actually said, even though "I don't really like the chocolate, I bought three jars"). I told Lynda to contact Teri and ask for the single packet Constant Health in vanilla, as they are an even better deal for 28 servings. She was a happy camper.

Teri was surprised by the larger jar (how come we hadn't told her!?) and we explained that it took a larger jar to hold twice the protein, but Teri just laughed and said she had to see things in person!

As most of my readers know, Constant Health was inspired by my dad's health problems and recovery (for a time on a mix of products that inspired our all-in-one formula). As the first inventory batch goes buh bye, I think of him and wish he could have been here to see Constant Health become a successful product (he wanted me to name it "Lifesaver" but a certain candy seems to already have that name and it seemed a bit hyperbolic anyway).

We'll be starting our clinical study using Constant Health in Dr. Rodier's clinic in Draper, Utah in the New Year, so stay tuned on what we find out. For now, thanks to all of you who have used Constant Health and given us the feedback to improve our formula! And, buh bye to the old inventory.

On my side, I'll miss that caramely-flavor of the lo han guo in our original Constant Health, but at least the stevia we used is the no-aftertaste version (I hated most stevia products until this one, which is more expensive).

Low Glycemic Diets Trump Low Fiber Diets, etc.

I used to be all about the fiber. Just add fiber--for satiation, cholesterol control, and and slowing down digestion to reduce blood sugar spikes. While I'm still a big believer in fiber, I'm more interested in low-glycemic diets these days, and the research is bearing this out.

According to St. Michael's Hospital & University of Toronto research on 210 diabetic patients:

"Lowering the glycemic index of the diet improved glycemic control and risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD)."

According to lead researcher, Dr. David Jenkins of St. Michael's Hospital:

"Low-glycemic foods - beans, peas, lentils, pasta, rice boiled briefly and breads like pumpernickel and flaxseed - do a better job of managing glycemic control for Type-2 diabetes and risk factors for coronary heart disease than high-fiber diets, including whole grain breads, crackers and breakfast cereals."

For those of you who only vaguely understand the glycemic index or GI values, low glycemic foods are those that score below 50 on the glycemic index, with pure glucose scoring 100, and high glycemic foods scoring over 70.

Did you know that Cheerios, instant Cream of Wheat, and Shredded Wheat cereals are all over 70 in GI value? Did you know that Corn Flakes score 92 on the glycemic index?

Carrots and green peas are typically under the 50 point threshold, while pumpkin pushes up to 75 and parsnips are all the way up there at 97. Who knew about those less-than-flashy parsnips?!

Brown rice is around 55 points while glutinous sushi or "sticky" rice can score as high as 98 on the glycemic index. Yikes!

Anyway, my time at the Hippocrates Health Institute, with their focus on raw and highly-alkaline foods, also taught me a lot about a low glycemic diet.

For those of you following my flushing-rosacea blog posts (that bad Irish skin gene!), my flushing basically disappeared on a raw vegan diet that was highly alkaline and very low in glycemic index. Cabbage, onions, mushrooms, red peppers, and broccoli all score a measley 15 on the glycemic index.

At the Institute, we had fruit on occasion (as in once a week - I wasn't supposed to have any fruit but I did anyway, just limited my portion!). Cherries, which were served, are a reassuringly low 22 on the glycemic index, with apples and pears at 38, and bananas not bad at around 52. Note that ripe bananas are moderately alkaline while green bananas are moderately acidic (never did like those green bananas!).

So, more raw vegetables and fruits automatically give me more fiber, so now I concentrate on glycemic index values and alkalinity scores (check out this last link as it is rich with data about acid/alkaline foods)!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Enzymes, Raw Food & Omar's

What would we be without enzymes? Health and healing are all about the little enzyme workhorses that are responsible for metabolism as well as digestion.

Did you know that a lot of metabolic enzymes get shunted over to digestion when we eat the wrong foods (hard-to-digest meats, fried foods, and even soy products) and too few live foods (live foods are those that have never been heated above 104-118 degrees F and thus retain active enzymes).

Enzymes, you see, are a part of every living cell. Without them, vitamins and minerals would be inert. With enzymes, the work of converting raw nutrients into effective energy and information for the body's use is quite literally sped up.

Yep, even product marketers know that enzymes speed up chemical reactions. That's why so many cleaning products use enzymes--to speed up biochemical reactions required in cleaning. Think of food stains on clothing. Enzymes help break down the fats and proteins from food, just like they do in digestion.

Why am I so fascinated with enzymes of late? It was a big topic at the Hippocrates Health Institute, where the lectures emphasized how overtapped our natural enzyme production process is. When we overeat, eat bad foods, combine foods poorly, or eat constantly, we put huge requirements on our pancreas to produce enzymes for digestion. Basically, with a bad diet, we waste our precious enzyme (or "life-giving") resources.

Scientifically, here's a disturbing blurb from the Wikipedia entry on enzymes (bold type my addition):

Involvement in Disease
Since the tight control of enzyme activity is essential for homeostasis, any malfunction (mutation, overproduction, underproduction or deletion) of a single critical enzyme can lead to a genetic disease. The importance of enzymes is shown by the fact that a lethal illness can be caused by the malfunction of just one type of enzyme out of the thousands of types present in our bodies.

So, when the pancreas cannot deliver enough enzymes during digestion, the Hippocrates folks argue that white blood cells can even get enlisted to help out with digestion, taking them out of commission for immune system work. Sounds sinister, eh? Little immune system soldiers being deployed for dietary crossing guard duty means they are not able to conduct proper search and destroy activities against true invaders. I haven't validated this claim yet though.

As we age, our enzyme production naturally drops, so adding enzyme-rich foods (raw foods) seems prudent. Adding digestive enzymes also helps lessen the load on an overworked pancreas.

I'm eating more raw foods now that I'm back. I haven't committed to a fully raw foods diet but I did feel good on the raw diet while at Hippocrates. I'm also being really careful to add Pancreatic Enzymes (ours are vegetarian) before or with every meal these days. Can't be too careful when trying to heal the old gut and give my pancreas a little rest whenever possible!

Today, I experimented with menu items from a raw foods restaurant, Omar's Living Cuisine, in Sugarhouse (a neighborhood in Salt Lake City), run by a young Lebanese guy. I can highly recommend the raw "pizza" (it's more like a raw tostada of sorts, complete with perfectly-ripe avocado slices and delightful spices) and the hemp protein "milk" with its own chai spices!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blown Away by Live Blood Analysis at Hippocrates

I know, I know. A lot of web sites dismiss the value of live blood analysis. But I was blown away today by the analysis I received, which included assessment of today's blood draw, the original blood draw 3 weeks ago, and rings of blood indicating the last 3, 5 and 10 years in my life. The process is likened to reading the rings in a tree, assessing times of drought and stress and times of lush growth.

Usually, a healthy skepticism is never far from my mind. But the Hippocrates nurse correctly assessed how my health was back in 1998, when I used to juice veggies and fruits for breakfast every morning, avoided wheat and dairy products, got plenty of exercise and felt pretty happy in my life. She pointed to the balance of the blood and the protective layer around it and the density of red color. Her comment was that a little wisp on one side indicated that I was hard on myself but otherwise healthy.

Five years ago, my blood profile was still nice and balanced, but with allergies starting to show up (yep, I was starting to be careless and eating breads and dairy products).

Within the last three years, she said that a lot of emotional stress showed up, along with more signs of allergies, and parasites that were stealing vitamins and minerals from the supply chain.

Weird. Three years ago stress was way up in my business world. Two and a half years ago, my dad became critically ill and died almost a year and a half ago. A year ago, my mom fell and was not healing easily from her fall and I was flying back and forth to support her and her life and animals. This year, I've had a tough year emotionally for so many other reasons (I don't write about absolutely everything in this blog, although it may seem so at times!).

And all of this was visible in the live blood cell analysis. The body is a most amazing creation, with mind/body/emotions/spirit all showing themselves in a variety of ways, always integrated, if you know how to look and see what they are saying in their mostly non-verbal ways!

Today's blood draw showed cells that were "dancing" (moving easily and not stuck together in sticky masses). That's supposed to be very good. Yeah! She clucked a bit about some "old proteins" that were making some of the blood cells look like lemons rather than nice round skaters in the plasma. She said this was due to some old animal proteins that my body doesn't like.

Sheesh. I didn't tell her that I went off campus yesterday and had a lunch with salmon and veggies and a dinner with chicken and veggies. Oh yeah, and some fresh fruit. Saintly for most folks. I didn't even have a nibble of the bread plate (I've sworn off wheat). Nevertheless, my little outing with fish and chicken showed up in my blood draw today.

Some good news followed, when the nurse noted that the parasites are "resolving" and that my vitamins and minerals are in better shape (no more stealing by thieving parasites).

I know Dr. Rodier regularly does detoxification himself, including parasite elimination, given his international travel. I never thought of this as relevant--until now! I've been doing implants of vitamins and minerals and a microfine silver solution to address parasites and nutritional deficiencies.

Meanwhile, the nurse also commented that she saw a major purge of an emotional or mental nature (she interpreted this as letting go of something, perhaps even about being right about something). I told her that I had spent as much time journaling, breathing deeply, walking quietly, reflecting on things I had made too little time for when I was so busy in my life, as I did for anything else. She said it showed in my blood, that my blood shows no stress as of today, and that she doesn't usually see such a big emotional shift.

Okay, so I cheated with some animal protein, and it showed up, but I worked hard at being more mindful and peaceful, and this too showed up in today's blood draw. I have one more interpretation of my blood work with Anna Maria Clement, one of the directors of the Hippocrates Health Institute. We'll go over the quantitative numbers and I'll write about those separately.

For now, I find myself astonished by the miracle of life and the truly integrated nature of all things.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Getting Your Lymphatic System Circulating

Who knew how important the lymphatic system could be to health? I knew that swollen lymph nodes meant infection, but little more. I've been learning a lot more about this quiet member of the immune system's team.

Let's start with the fact that the lymphatic system is responsible for taking cellular garbage out. You can think of the lymphatic system as your body's filter, with lymph nodes filtering antigens of all kinds, bad bacteria, and foreign materials that don't belong in the circulatory system.

Efficient lymphatic filtering is critical to healthy immune system function, especially when it comes to standing sentry against colonizing cancer cells, who prefer to take up residence when lymph is sluggish and distracted by too much waste from faulty digestion and ingestion of toxins.

A simple antidote to sluggish lymph? A mini trampoline. It sounded silly at first but it makes sense. In health circles, they call the exercise "rebounding" -- you simply bounce or run in place on a mini trampoline, something anyone can do easily, and you perk up your lymphatic system in a hurry.

You get some nice side benefits, like increasing bone density (good for us gals who have some kind of mild osteopenia and don't want it to progress) and improving glow to older skin (yep, circulation of the blood helps, but getting the waste manager in helps skin too!).

It feels good even if you rebound (bounce, run, hop) for only 10-15 minutes. So think about a mini trampoline for someone you love this holiday season. Better immune function, better bones, better skin. How can you go wrong?!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Wheat Grass Protocols

I've been listening to a lot of lectures during my stay at the Hippocrates Health Institute. The big themes that keep coming up center on oxygen, enzymes, and alkalinity.

The Institute was founded by Ann Wigmore, who cured herself of cancer by doing what she saw her pets do when they were sick: eat grass. And she ate plain old grass, lawn grass, that is, and cured her cancer.

The way Wigmore chose wheat grass as the green to juice is interesting. She lined up a bunch of sprouted grains, including wheat, buckwheat, etc., and put her cat in front of the line of seven greens. The cat chose the wheat grass greens. Wigmore did the same with her dog and her dog also chose wheat grass. The wheat grass just tasted better, and that is why the Institute uses wheat grass as a main part of their healing program.

By the way, Wigmore believed that instinctually-based animals do not make mistakes and that we humans have lost our instinctual approach to healing.

The Institute's theory is that chlorophyl in wheat grass juice is the closest to hemoglobin in human blood, with the difference being the iron nucleus that defines human blood and the magnesium nucleus that defines green plant juice. Wheat grass is touted as being incredibly rich in enzymes and is ideally balanced in vitamins and minerals. Thus, it is ingested twice a day as a drink (some take it more like a "shot" to be endured-quickly!).

It's a grind -your-own kind of affair, with four wheat grass juicers in a cool room with a fridge full of the freshest wheat grass you've ever tasted. I know, I know, it's not that a lot of you are connosseurs of wheat grass, but trust me on this one.

The wheat grass grower, Michael, is known for his exceptional grass and sometimes trucks it out of town to places like New York City and makes a mint on his fine-tasting grass. Telling people what he does, is another story, as many folks like to reduce his grass growing to things like "oh, you're in the landscaping business, right?!" He tries to change the subject and only talk wheat grass to guests, who are interested in learning to grow their own wheat grass.

Anyway, back to the protocol, fresh wheat grass is also supposed to be implanted rectally, using a little bulb or syringe, twice a day to be absorbed by the hemorroidal vein, delivering oxygen, alkalinity, and vitamins and minerals into the body directly. It is supposed to stimulate metabolism, increase red blood cell count, protect against carcinogens, and detoxify the liver and blood stream.

That's a lot for a little green grass juice to do, but that's the premise here and they've been using wheat grass for over 50 years to help people combat cancer and all sorts of chronic diseases, so I am open and willing to embrace this no-side-effect little therapy.

Three flats of wheat grass are always growing in my house already, as grazing turf for my two indoor Siamese cats. Diva, the little 7 pound Chocolate Point cutie, literally mows the grass down at times. Interestingly, she's the one with the asthma, which was alleviated quite a bit by putting all bedding in hot water each week to get rid of dust mites!

So, growing wheat grass is not hard at all and with the right juicer, making shots of green magic each day is not so hard either. I don't even mind the taste, which is rather sweet.

Explaining the little implant process to folks might be rather uncalled for, as I myself would have been totally turned off by the concept prior to doing a 3-week program at Hippocrates! My mom and brother don't want to hear anything about this or the colon cleansing protocol either. I'll talk about that next time for those of you with more open minds than my family!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Choosing Hippocrates Health Institute for a Healing Journey

I am an impatient soul by nature. When I got the diagnosis of autoimmune disease (Sjogren's), which likely stems from a "leaky gut," I wanted to take action, right away. After all, my precious vision was at stake.

I did some research, and at Teri's prodding, I looked seriously at the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida. I remembered my friend, Gino Giglio, speaking highly of Hippocrates, so I was curious.

I went online and saw a testimonial from a woman whose unhealed broken bones finally healed after a standard 3-week raw foods and green juices program at the Institute. All the data overload from my research on many programs ended in that moment. With my own fractured ankle not healing (the doctor reading my third x-ray wanted me to go to an orthopedic surgeon and get assessed for a pin).

So, I wanted to learn more about this Institute with more than 50 years of track record in healing people. Alas, I didn't have the easiest time getting to someone who could quote me rates and availability. I called and waited for 2 weeks. I sent an email to their website and got no response. I was seriously looking at another "wheat grass farm" in Austin, Texas, and decided to give Hippocrates another shot.

I left messages on a Saturday, itchy as I was to make a decision and get flights booked, given the holiday season coming up. I left specific instructions about how long I would be at my home number and the need to call me on my cell phone if we somehow missed (I gave a 5-hour window during which I sat close to the phone expecting to hear from someone who could just tell me availability and rates).

No luck. The Hippocrates rep called my home number and left a message and we stepped into an annoying game of phone tag. I decided I didn't like her voice. Petty, I know, but I was frustrated. I finally gave one more try, asking to speak to a manager. Quickly, I was in the same phone tag game. Sigh.

Monday morning, I finally got to talk to someone from Hippocrates, and she sealed the deal. I signed up on that call. When I told friends that I was going on a 3-week healing retreat, they asked whether I was excited. No, I felt more of a sense of curious anticipation than excitement, as Hippocrates is not exactly a recreational spa environment. It caters to people with serious diseases, many of whom have gotten the word from their doctors to get their affairs in order because they are "terminal."

I arrived last Sunday, so I've gotten through the first week, which included two days of fasting on green juices (Wednesdays are fasting days, but I fasted on Friday as well). Everyone says the first week is the hardest, as shifting to all raw vegetarian foods is a major detoxification event for the body.

My energy is returning and I'm ready to start sharing what I've been learning, which is plenty. November 2008 is a turning point for me in how I see food, food combination, and the need for everyone to regularly detoxify in systematic ways.

By the way, I got an x-ray of my fractured ankle the day before I left for the Hippocrates program, and happily, it had started to heal finally, 3 months after I fractured it in August. I attribute this to my getting off eggs and almonds along with wheat and dairy, which allowed my intestines to start to heal from the allergen assaults and start to take in the mega nutrients I was taking.

The doctors who had taken the first three x-rays over a 2 month period and wanted me to get a pin were surprised yet visibly delighted. I don't think my sharing about allergies and diet changes made any impact, but I was more than happy to head out on my trip with permission to start running again!

At long last, I expect to be back on the tennis courts when I finish the Hippocrates program (yeah!).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Allergy Gremlins: Eggs, Almonds & Dust Mites!

At last, my allergy panels came in. The results were actually pretty good, with a couple of notable surprises.

I knew wheat and gluten would pop positive up on the food allergy panel. No surprise that they did. Interestingly, spelt, which I rarely eat, was more positive than even the whole wheat.

As I've mentioned before, I have those Irish genes that are so prone to gluten sensitivities. What many do not know is that Italy has an even higher prevalence of celiac disease than Ireland (perhaps because of the volume of gluten in their pasta-rich diet).

What surprised me were the US BioTek Standard Food Panel charts that had significant hits on eggs, particularly egg whites, almonds, and lima beans. I had eaten eggs for breakfast and grabbed a handful of almonds for a snack. Alas, when your system becomes sensitive, anything you eat can become an allergen.

So, for the next 6 months, I will be avoiding eggs and almonds along with wheat and dairy. Oh yeah, lima beans and cranberry, weirdly, popped up as important foods to avoid, but since I don't eat lima beans that often, that will be easy. Regarding the cranberries, I will just switch to pomegranate juice, which is all the rage as a non-alcoholic/non-caffeinated drink that brings similar antioxidant benefits to red wine and black tea.

The other little allergy gremlin for me to avoid? Dust mites. Egad, when you read about these little critters, it's enough to make you get rid of all your pillows and want to buy plastic casings for your mattress and get rid of all carpets.

Did you know that 10% of the weight of a 2-year old pillow is comprised of dust mites and their droppings. Eeeeew! I'm getting rid of my old pillows and cranking the washing cycle on bedding to "hot."

Maybe my little cat, Diva, will experience an easing up of her asthma in the process!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Put Your DNA in the Right Environment

I'm always interested in integrated approaches, whether applied to medicine, relationships or the environment.

I was browsing the most September/October edition of Alternative Therapies this afternoon and the following quote from Dr. Bethany Hays of True North, a functional medicine and healing arts center in Maine caught my eye:

"I believe that if your DNA is not expressing the human being that you really wish you could be, you've got to put your DNA in a different environment."

Dr. Hays, an obstetrician originally, is now committed to functional medicine, which is variously known as complementary, integrative, or natural medicine. Dr. Hays believes that when a patient does not like the way their body is functioning, it's time to start exploring what part of the patient's environment needs to change:
  • The physical environment of the air your breathe and water you drink
  • The nutritional environment, which includes the bacteria in your system
  • The inter-cellular environment where cells pass information and nutrients back and forth
  • The psychosocial/spiritual environment.
In the article, Dr. Hays went on to say:

"What we learned from the human genome project is that your life isn't written in your genes. It's written in the interaction between your genes and the environment. I can't change your genes, but I can help you change the environment if you're willing to make the changes."

Dr. Hays is a pretty smart doc, as she knows that patients are coming to a doctor to get the biochemistry--the lab tests that describe what's going on in their bodies. I just did that and wrote about it (scroll down to see my journey with lab testing of late). Dr. Hays gets her patients engaged in the education process long enough to help teach them to change the environment that they're putting their DNA in.

If you live up in the Northeast, you may want to check out True North and Dr. Hays. If you want to read the rest of the article, take a look. She has some interesting things to say about hormone replacement therapy and how hot flashes in perimenopausal women are likely to be more related to adrenaline or noaradrenaline and the adrenals and only secondarily to estrogen and the ovaries.

Dr. Hays makes the case Dr. Rodier makes all the time about cellular communication, namely that, in the example of hot flashes, all the little hormones talk to each other and are in relationship with one another and if you don't get the relationships, you can mess up Mother Nature's system rather rapidly with unwanted side effects.

The Brain That Changes Itself

Neuroplasticity -- it's the term scientists use to describe how the brain changes itself through experience. Thinking, learning, and taking new actions all change the brain's physical structure, organization, and capacity -- all the way into old age. Cool, eh?

Dr. Norman Doidge, a research psychiatrist at Columbia University, wrote The Brain That Changes Itself and according to an article in The Times of London:

"Doidge argues that the discovery that thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains--even into old age--is the most important breakthrough in neuroscience in 400 years. His collection of case histories is inspiring: people who have had strokes and been declared incurable have been helped to recover, learning disorders have been cured, IQs raised, obsessions and traumas overcome, and there are 80-year-olds whose memories have been restored to the function of people 20 years younger."

We've been running a Mindfulness & Health tele-series with Pam Weiss, an Insight Meditation teacher, and Pam spent time on a recent call talking about how meditation and mindfulness help change the brain through an ongoing practice of concentration. My mom has started to be a bit forgetful and she is in the course (and enjoying it), so the topic of neuroplasticity has been on my mind of late.

Dr. Doidge believes that brain exercises are often more effective than medication, connecting brain re-wiring to the building of new muscles in areas that are weak. He has seen kids diagnosed with ADD who are helped through learning sessions designed to increase connections between nerve cells. According to Doidge, connections between two cells might double from 1300 connections to 2600 connections with one learning session. The analogy to lifting weights is often made.

Particularly interesting is the notion that thoughts can turn genes on or off. Yikes...any of us dealing with health issues of undetermined nature may need to turn even more intensively to mindfulness activities-whether in the form of traditional meditation or learning a new game or profession, as highly-focused attention creates positive changes to the brain.

I came across a company, Advanced Brain Technologies, based out here in Utah, that offers learning programs for improving memory, listening, attention, and even sensory processing skills. The have music programs and also a Brain Builder program, which might be worth checking out if you're worried about your own memory or brain health.

Hmm. I could get the "kat" to do an interview with the CEO of Advanced Brain Technologies if enough of you are interested. Let me know!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Leaky Gut? How Can it Be?

I have some pretty good suspicions about what I should not eat. After 5 months of feeling less than vibrant, I have taken most of the usual suspects out of my diet: gluten, dairy, caffeine (sigh), chocolate (sigh), and refined sugars and carbohydrates. Okay, so far, so good, right?

Not exactly. I decided to have some allergy panels run (blood tests, which are more accurate than skin tests), including 96 common foods and an array of enviornmental or "inhalant" allergens. I will get my results next week, along with some tests on my hormone levels (the diagnosis of "adrenal burnout" is in play).

I've mostly enjoyed good health and a strong immune system, but a switch flipped this summer and I was suddenly allergic to weeds and who knows what in terms of foods. The whole topic of nutragenomics is all about the relationship between diet and genes, how the wrong diet can actually turn genes on and a reformed diet can turn errant genes off.

I was rolling the dice every time I had gluten products (bread, semolina pasta, pizza, etc., etc.). I knew it, as I sneezed every time I ate these things. Sure, I had the rice bread, rice pasta, and rice crust pizza in my house, but we, until recently, ate out a lot, and I resented being the lone spartan (ah, yes, I'll have three sides of vegetables) at a table of hedonists.

Not now. I always remember my friend, Dr. Hugo Rodier, saying that some patients simply weren't "suffering enough" to stick to his dietary recommendations. I guess I hit that point this summer. As strange symptoms started to crop up and the diagnostic path pointed to a leaky gut, resentment was replaced with re-committing myself to a gluten-free (and dairy and refined sugar and caffeine free) diet.

It was incredibly confronting. Me?! Leaky gut? My dry eyes (ocular rosacea, potentially Sjogren's) was related to a leaky gut? But, but, but....I couldn't believe as I wasn't eating junk food and I was supplementing with excellent nutrients. What was the deal?! In a word, stress and overwork had changed my body's chemistry (evil little chemicals come out during stress, especially bad when stress is prolonged). Sensitivity to gluten had flipped over to outright intolerance, creating cellular TOIL in my gut that no amount of supplementation could counteract alone.

When cells become toxic, oxidized, inflamed, or lacking in energy from nutrients, then the membrane of the intestines starts to leak as cells become more rigid and less able to connect with each other. The supplementary nutrition I took over the summer wasn't taking so well because stress had activated my fighting Irish blood genes that like to do unnecessary battle with gluten proteins.

With a leaky gut, my friendly bacteria had no place to colonize effectively, and calcium absorption was being minimized, affecting the healing of my fractured ankle. If the immune system is fighting undigested food molecules that leak from the gut into the blood stream, voila, there's a battle with the perceived antigens.

Drat. Human after all. Foiled by this thing called having a sensitive system and required to pay more attention--or else.

In retrospect, my family history is clearly rife with intestinal problems. At 18, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, but it turned out to be nothing more than a long-ruptured appendix, or so we thought back then. At the time, I was getting into health, eliminating dairy and refined foods, focusing on more vegetables, etc. and so I probably averted an early onset of GI problems.

My older brother, Jim, loved his Winchell's donuts, Coke, and junk food of all kinds. Under stress, when he was in "nuke school" (he was training to be an electronic technician for nuclear submarines), my brother fell ill and was diagnosed with, you guessed it, Crohn's disease.

Sadly, Jim never reformed his diet and died from a bad blood transfusion during a bowel surgery. Recently, Jim's son, Brandon (a handsome lad and excellent salsa dancer, by the way), who went through officer training at the Naval Academy, was, coincidentally, diagnosed with Crohn's disease.

And, as many of you know, my father died of a leaky gut (the doctors wondered about Crohn's and celiac and all sorts of diagnoses, but they all had to do with a bad gut). My dad ignored his symptoms for years, recovering briefly under Dr. Rodier's care, but returning to a junk food diet and a stress-filled life and dying of wasting and malnutrition, as his body could not absorb nutrients properly.

I'm grateful for all the resources and knowledge I have. Otherwise, I might be pursuing pharmaceutical interventions for my dry eyes (permanent prescription of antibiotics which play dreadful havoc on digestion not to mention making your skin ultra sensitive and vulnerable even during short periods of sun exposure). Otherwise, I might be on a fast track to end up like my dad.

Lab Tests - Round One

Long time, no writing. It's not for lack of topics, but I promised to do an update on my own status and I just haven't been motivated.

I got my first round of lab tests back on September 16th and was told, "I don't usually see results this good, with one exception, that is." I'll get to the exception later, but first the good news.

My cholesterol was good at a total of 173--with 56 points of the healthy or HDL variety and 96 of the unfriendly LDL variety. My cholesterol/HDL ratio was 3.1, which is also good, as it should be under 5.0.

C-Reactive Protein, or c-RP, a measure of systemic inflammation, was less than 0.1 mg/dl. Again, this is good as levels should be less than 1.8 mg/dl.

My triglycerides were 104, another good score, since you want to be under 150 for these bad boys.

I had lots of nods re good liver and kidney function results. My vitamin D was at 51 pg/ml, which is high on the reference range (15-60 pg/ml), but still considered too low to avoid chronic disease. My friend, Dr. Hugo Rodier, recommends aiming for at least 80 pg/ml to reduce disease potential, including allergies. His advice? Boost my D3 to at least 2000 IU per day and think about going up to 10,000 IU of D3 daily (that's what Dr. Rodier himself takes).

The exception to my good news was that my body puts out too much insulin to address high sugar loading. I did the 2-hour fasting glucose test, whereby you fast, get a blood test, then go have a super high sugar lunch and return for a second blood test. I don't tend to go for big sugary meals, so I didn't enjoy that test and did feel lousy after sugar loading. I was asked about my relationship with sugar and blood sugar swings. I talked about being hypoglycemic in college.

The assessment? Situationally, I am pre-diabetic, meaning under stress and less than ideal diets, I can lean toward diabetic. Since I'm usually pretty careful with my diet, that tendency is not always so obvious.

The advice? Watch carbs and sugar (which I mostly do and am more careful now) and also take alpha lipoic acid at 600mg per day and cinnamon at a teaspoon a day.

If you follow any of this advice, take the alpha lipoic acid with a meal as 600mg is a lot of acid on an empty stomach, especially if you have a sensitive stomach.

Further recommendations for me? Boost my omega-3s to at least 2 grams daily (I am taking 3 grams) as they are critical to cellular membrane health in the eyes (germane to my problem with dry eyes) and add resveratrol (also good for preserving and enhancing vision), and introduce DHEA at 10mg per day for adrenal support.

If you follow the link to DHEA at our company, please note that our DHEA is 25mg (designed more for men and post-menopausal women). This means I'll be chopping our DHEA pills in half and leaving crumbs behind, just like the asthma pill we have to chop up and give to our small (7 pound) cat, Diva.

Regarding the resveratrol, we'll have this in stock by the New Year in a formula called Immune Health (the new formula will also have beta glucans, n-acetyl-cysteine, quercetin, elderberry, and green tea).

So, for round one of testing, my results were pretty good. The problem is that I haven't felt as robustly well as my test results would lead one to believe.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Blood Work: Did My Body Get "Passing Grades?"

It was Thursday, and I was sitting in one of those clever lab chairs that allow the technician to draw blood from either arm. I cranked myself around and offered up my left arm as my "good arm." I was at the Pioneer Comprehensive Medical Clinic in Draper, Utah, where Dr. Rodier practices.

The lab technician wrinkled her brow and said, "That's your good vein?" Now, why do they say things like that?! I closed my eyes, ready for a bad poke, but she got it just right and emptied several vials worth of blood to send off for testing.

Why do this? I decided that I should have all the tests that the patients at Pioneer will have when we do the Constant Health study. So, the little vials will be assessed for:

  • Lipid Panel - cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • c-Reactive Protein - otherwise known as c-RP to test inflammation markers
  • Glycated Hemoglobin - 2-hour fasting glucose test for insulin resistance levels
  • Vitamin D - most people are low, which leads to all sorts of chronic disease
  • Celiac Panel - gluten intolerance antibody and malabsorption detection
  • Heavy Metals - many people are unexpectedly high in these toxins associated with disease
The carotid IMT, which is a non-invasive measure of inflammation that is more accurate than the c-RP, but it requires a trip to another facility.

But back to that lab chair. I was fine with the first blood draw. My job was then to scurry off to have an incredibly high carb/high sugar meal and start my stopwatch at my last bite and clock back into the clinic for a second blood draw at exactly the 2 hour point. The second stick was not as perfect, but still fine.

The technician told me to go eat pancakes and syrup or something like that, but since I'm watching all gluten intake of late, I canned that idea. I had white rice, saving most of the stir fried chicken and veggies for after my test.

I had some Hi-C "fruit juice" to ensure I boosted my sugar intake (weird to feel competitive about "testing" my system, but I did). I finished with an English toffee candy (the other sugar-laced dessert choices involved dairy and wheat, which I am avoiding).

I was satisfied that I had done the deed, ingested a boatload of sugar in one meal, without blood sugar-stabilizing portions of protein or fiber.

I felt fine, for the first couple of hours, long enough to get my blood drawn again. However, after I drove back to my office, I started feeling wired, like I had had coffee. I started flushing and feeling nauseous and it was clear my blood sugar had spiked and started to crash. I didn't feel well last night and woke up feeling wretched at 4 am on Friday morning.

I felt like I had just taken the SATs and flunked. I'm not sure why my body is so sensitive this summer. I have not had Hi-C in several decades and usually don't eat much artificially-colored, corn syrup sweetened foods. I wondered if my reaction was due to the additives in that red sugar water that kids seem to mainline.

Then, reading more about the 2-hour glucose test online, over and over, the guidelines said that patients are directed not to restrict carbohydrates in the preceding days or weeks before a test.

The reality is that with the ocular rosacea diagnosis this summer, I have eliminated all sorts of things (wheat, sugar, refined foods, in short, carbs). My hope is that this is why I was so affected by the sugar loading.

Anyway, like a kid who took a test, I am eagerly awaiting my results. Did my body get passing grades? I'll know more on the 25th, when I go in to see Dr. Rodier. More when I know more.

Resveratrol in Cocoa Powders

The industry is abuzz. Cocoa powder has the goods. Resveratrol compounds, that is.

Researchers have found in cocoa powder the flavan-3-ol polyphenol class of antioxidants known as resveratrol -- 1.85 micrograms per gram to be exact. Alas, that's less resveratrol per serving than red wine or grape juice but more than peanuts. Little known factoid, my friends.

Granted, the research was done by Hershey's Center for Health and Nutrition, but that doesn't automatically undermine the research results.

However, an important little tidbit to know is that many studies on the antioxidant value of chocolate don't tell you that "Dutched" or "alkalized" cocoa loses many of its antioxidants.

So, word to the wise. Ask for raw, non-alkalized cocoa if you want the most nutritional bang per serving. And, hey, why wouldn't you, as this cocoa offers antioxidants you can enjoy and not just take.

For inquiring minds, yes, we are using raw, organic, non-dutched cocoa powder in our new production of Constant Health -- a whopping 4 grams per serving, so some extra free radical combat duty from our "flavoring" agent!

As for me, I adore chocolate, but I'm staying away from it right now, as it's a "trigger food" for rosacea flushing. Once I get that figured out, perhaps I can rotate some of these trigger foods in and out. For those of you with better complexions, live it up!

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Gut, Nuts & Beta Glucans

Scanning my online news sources today, I saw a piece that made me think of a dinner party I threw a few years back. My neighbors up in Park City said they were fine with just about anything, except nuts because of a little problem with, ahem, diverticulitis.

How I could forget the one and only thing they asked me to remember? I'll blame faulty audio-processing neurons (I'm more visual/kinesthetic in my learning styles, alas).

Anyway, I made a dish with wonderful ground nuts. My guests were gracious and scraped the offending nut paste off their entrees. Ooops. I felt bad, idiotic even, and I can say that I never again forgot that nuts are a "no no" for people with worries about the linings of their colons.

Now, surprise, surprise. Nuts and seeds are now deemed healthy rather than deleterious for diverticulitis, with an 18-year study confirming that doctors had unfairly demonized popcorn, nuts, and seeds over the years:

"No associations were seen between corn consumption and diverticulitis or between nut, corn, or popcorn consumption and diverticular bleeding or uncomplicated diverticulosis."

Okay, what else? Right now, I'm not so interested in heavy science.

I'm more intrigued with stories, like this one: Victorian-age folks in England often lived longer and had healthier lives than we moderns. I kept reading.

According to medical pharmacologist, Dr. Paul Clayton, who recently published his findings in the Journal Of The Royal Society Of Medicine:

"'Victorian foods were either made or unknowingly 'contaminated' with yeasts that have recently been clinically proven in both animal and human studies to boost our innate immune function. Although mould and brown spots were often visible, these yeasts contain complex compounds called 1-3, 1-6 Beta Glucans which are beneficial to health. And if you have a sufficient amount of them in your diet, they help the immune system fight off invasion by bacteria or viruses."

Dr. Clayton argues that modern foods don't have these beneficial yeasts, due to refining and sanitizing efforts, and that our immune systems are the worse for it. He further argues that brewers yeast offers a manno protein (bad for folks who suffer from Celiac disease or gluten sensitivities, but otherwise okay).

Dr. Clayton states in a recent interview:

"Beta glucans are a great breakthrough in improving immune function - protecting us against infection, cancer and allergies."

Purified beta glucans are indeed potent immunomodulators, which are especially good for healing intestinal issues (where most of the immune system resides).

Beta glucans are also favored by our good friend and nutritional consultant, Bill Henderson, who is in the midst of updating his Cancer-Free book, by the way.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cancer Conference, Bill Henderson & Sprained Ankle

The Sheraton in Universal City. It's a big step up from the thriftier Holiday Inn we Co-op gals are staying in a few miles away.

We're sharing a booth at the 36th annual Cancer Control Society Convention with Bill Henderson, best-selling author of Cancer-Free: Your Guide to Gentle, Non-Toxic Healing. We're featuring Co-op products that Bill recommends in his book, specifically Heart Plus, Green Tea Extract, and Greens Plus (we have a few new products in the works that Bill likes to recommend, like Beta Glucans, but shhhh, that's a secret that the kat wouldn't share just yet).

Meanwhile, back to the show. Teri, Tess and I arrived just after 7 am and found our booth location a bit spare. Tess made friends with the handsome guy setting things up and he promptly brought the missing backdrop and table drape and some hooks for our Co-op banner (he needn't have done this, as we're supposed to bring these things, but he and Tess were buddies already).

Our table is at the bottom of the escalator, so Teri is calling ours the "greeting station." Good heavens, Teri is beyond chipper well before the sun comes up. She greeted everyone on our way out of the Holiday Inn, as Tess and I were still waking up. A guy in the lobby asked in reply, "And how are you?" Teri's rapid-fire and cheerful response was, "Great, but the day is early and I haven't had a chance to screw anything up yet!" He cracked up, as did we.

I told Teri I should follow her around and "learn some things" about one-liners that brighten others days. Teri responded quite earnestly, "That's why people love calling me, they know they won't get the same old, same old, and they'll feel better than before they called." That's Teri's mission in life, infusing her sunny outlook in others. Teri swears that if she doesn't do her yoga stretching in the morning that it would all be a different story. Hey, whatever works.

I have yet to meet Bill Henderson in person (however, I feel like we've met as we've done a videoconference call through Skype and several regular calls before). I'd know his resonant voice anywhere!

Alas, I'm nursing a sprained ankle. A moment of stupidity compelled me to play tennis on Wednesday morning bright and early with the wrong shoes. Everyone knows that you never but never play a start-stop, skid-into-a-stroke kind of game with running shoes, which grip a hard surface and offer a nicely-cushioned platform,from which to roll one's ankle over when racing to hit a backhand. Sigh.

I do my share of stupid things but sometimes life likes to remind me to notice that my choices or actions are indeed stupid.

I take my poor sprained ankle and its scary bruises as a reminder to slow down and remember to be more mindful. My hope is that today, as a result of reading this, you will too. Although you'll never know what misfortune you avoid by being mindful, you just might notice how all sorts of beautiful things show up when you're not rushing.

For me, sitting in the lobby of the Sheraton with my leg up on a gray ottoman, facing huge floor-to-ceiling windows graced by oyster-colored drapes with a large chrysanthamum motif , I'm enjoying the music playing. As someone who is more visual than auditory, I can miss really hearing "background" music.

Gazing outside, I see how the wind moves the leaves on the decorative pear trees and tall palm trees out in the courtyard and my eye follows two tow-headed little boys in bright red shirts, who are buoyantly hopping around the pool's edge not far from their mother.

Sprained ankle and all, this moment could not be more perfect.

If you are curious about Bill Henderson and his ideas on beating cancer gently, listen to Bill sharing his perspectives and recommendations in an interview we did earlier this year. You'll hear what I mean about Bill's deep voice! :-)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Curcumin Helps Some Advanced Pancreatic Cancer Patients

Curcumin is such an awesome spice (hey, it's even supposed to be good for pitta doshas).

Meanwhile, on a much more serious note, an encouraging study on curcumin and its effect on advanced pancreatic cancer was published recently in Clinical Cancer Research. Researchers noted:

"Twenty five participants were administered supplements incorporating a patented curcumin ingredient manufactured by New Jersey-based herbals specialist, Sabinsa, which was found to advantage pancreatic cancer sufferers despite the supplements demonstrating 'poor oral bioavailability.'"

While all patients did not respond the same way, given the non-toxic nature of curcumin (safe at levels up to 8g/daily for 18 months) and given the incredibly pessimistic statistics of recovery from pancreatic cancer (it's considered by the authors of the study as "almost always lethal"), curcumin's value for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer is promising.

According to a leading cancer researcher, Bharat B. Aggarwal, a Ph.D. biochemist who has studied curcumin for over a decade:

"The active component of turmeric turns out to be the best blocker yet of a natural chemical called TNF, or tumor necrosis factor, which contributes to cancers and arthritis and is resistant to chemotherapy drugs. You don't even need tens of thousands of dollars of TNF blockers. Turmeric does exactly the same thing."

Aggarwal, by the way, was second author on the recent study on using curcumin for treating advanced pancreatic cancer.

Here are some more links on curcumin's uses against cancer:

For health, consider adding more curcumin (turmeric), that bright yellow cooking spice that should be in your cabinet, to your meals at home, and order a lot more curry when you're out.

Nose Healing Nicely

For those of you who want to know the "rest of the story," my nose has been healing nicely, especially after yesterday. Alas, the dermatologist's assistant missed a part of a suture. I could see this little black spot and it didn't fizz up with the hydrogen peroxide I would dab on the wound twice a day.

I had Tess look at it yesterday, having become convinced a piece of a stitch was in there and needed to come out. She peered at my nose under a good light and agreed. However, it was too late to get in to the dermatologist's office (they don't work a full week down there!).

Tess said, "I can do it for you, I have all sorts of good tools!" I looked at her skeptically at first, but then took her up on it. After all, Tess used to be a vet tech in high school and early college and had assisted with all sorts of medical procedures.

We drove over to her house (also a home to two Siamese talkers who were indolently napping when we arrived). She worked on the spot for a minute or two and wondered at first if it wasn't a skin after all, then the aha moment came and she said, "It's teal. It's definitely a suture." She tugged with her little manicure scissors and finally freed a little tip and then said, "There's a knot in there."

I worried briefly that it would hurt to pull the knot out of my healing (almost fully healed) nose.

Tess got her fine tweezers out and finally got the little piece of teal plastic out. My skin was so happy, it seemed to make quantum strides overnight!

Thanks, Tess. You saved me a trip south and waiting around in the dead-dullest waiting room in the nation. :-)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hypochlorhydria & Nutritional Prescription for Rosacea

I had a note from a reader about rosacea and low stomach acid (known as hypochlorhydria) and did some research. I never worried about having low stomach acid (hydrochloric acid or HCl) before.

Now I am planning to do saliva tests for a few days to see whether my pH rises after eating (a good sign if it's going from say 7 to 9) or if my pH drops (a bad sign, especially if the reading is down to 6, 5 or 4.5 being really bad).

Back to my research. I found an older but still good article on hypochlorhydria by Judy Kitchen, published by the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients in 2001. She starts with the premise that:

"Because hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) is so common and yet leads to terrible degenerative diseases such as cancer, congestive heart failure, osteoporosis and even Alzheimer's, patients as well as doctors need to become aware of its causes and symptoms and how to respond to them."

Kitchen makes the case for how many deficiencies -- including lots of minerals, B vitamins, and critical antioxidants vitamins A, E, and C -- are caused by low stomach acid and lead to problems that include hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, deteriorating nails, blepharitis, cataracts, macular degeneration, rosacea, high blood pressure, and so on.

In another article, Ms. Kitchen talks about slow healing of injuries, muscle pain , asthma, and lung infections (not so much things I relate to, but it's important to note that hypochlorhydria can come on slowly and without much notice). In this article, she mentions a diet high in seeds and nuts (that would be mine) can inhibit enzymes important to digestion.

Meanwhile, as I was researching low stomach acid, a friend recommended that I look into a Pitta dosha diet. In ayurvedic medicine, there are three main doshas, and the pitta type is a mixture of fire and water. One description likened a pitta dosha to gasoline, a liquid that is not the fire itself but which can be the source of the flames. Flammable. How charming. There are some nice positives to pitta constitutions (for those of you who share the "fire and water" dosha), but the characatures seems so much more fun!

Anyway, as it turns out, a Pitta diet looks quite similar to rosacea diet recommendations (avoid spices, tomatoes, eggplant, spinach, bananas, citrus, yogurt, vinegar, etc.). Yet, there were some things that don't work for me (i.e., milk and wheat).

Not surprisingly, the Pitta dosha is aggravated and increased during summer and during hot, dry spells (practically the whole spring-summer-fall here in Utah)!

A little more research and I found a great little article on a nutritionl approach to treating rosacea by an immently credible naturopath, Dr. Joseph E. Pizzorno, Jr.

Here's what Dr. Pizzorno recommends for rosacea:

  • Add HCl 600mg - with each meal to ensure proper digestion and nutrient absorption. Once skin clears drop to 300mg - after 3-4 months supplemental HCl is probably not required.
  • Commit to regular Omega-3s (four servings per week of cold water fish or 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil).
  • Add pancreatic enzymes 350mg/10x - immediately before each meal (to digest omega-3s and other fats). If no benefit, increase by 100mg every 4 days until skin clears and then can drop enzymes unless flare-ups happen.
  • Less meat - limit meat and poultry to one serving a week and curb the dairy (all animal products have "an acid that your body converts to inflammation-promoting substances").
  • Watch troublesome items - completely avoid red wine and aged cheese until skin clears and reduce alcohol, hot beverages, and spicy foods.

Okay, so it's clear why I had some flushing flare up earlier this month. I was having dinner out with friends a lot this summer (okay, I'll confess, I was only too happy to share a bottle of red with my friends...I didn't pass up enough dishes with cheese...and I absolutely love spicy foods, so I not only didn't avoid them, I chose those spicy dishes, over and over again).

I was eating fish, but not always enough omega-3 rich fish (hey, what happened to the sardine filets on so many modern Caesar salads?!). Alas, I was not being diligent on supplementing with my omega-3 Fish Oil (something about enjoying summer that makes me lazy about taking all my supplements).

Once I boosted my omega-3's (and vitamin C), stopped drinking any caffeine or red wine or eating cheese or grains, and boosted my Pancreatic Enzymes, my flushing stopped -- in only a few days.

Now, I have a better regimen I can follow if I cheat a bit with some spicy Indian or Thai food or a fabulous red wine with friends with a nice dinner. :-)

I hope someone else with flushing skin (or a pitta constitution with sensitive skin) has some good results with Dr. Pizzorno's advice above. Let me know if you do (or what you do that's also helpful)!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Day 2 with a Nose Bandage from MOHS Surgery

It's a conversation starter, for sure. The owner of the next-door coffee shop, Toasters, made a joke about me getting into a fight. Enes, a Bosnian transplant to Salt Lake City, runs the Cheers bar of coffee shops -- the place where everyone knows your name -- and the banter is fit for sitcom t.v.! Enes's wife, Muberra, was far more empathetic and quite practical ("Good, at least it's all gone").

The bandage on my nose is about 2 by 4 inches. It's definitely worse for the wear on day 2. I can't wait to take it off (I can start changing it tomorrow morning). Fortunately, the pain is way down, unless I wrinkle my nose even the slightest bit that is!

The big question everyone asks? Did your surgeon do a good job? Dunno about the cosmetic result yet.

I'm sipping on a new (stable) Heart Plus powder (collagen producer that it is) and while we haven't found a fantastic flavor for a commercial product, I can tolerate spoonfuls of the formula with stevia and some agave nectar in water (easier than handfuls of tablets that can sometimes feel stuck halfway down even when they're not!).

We may go with a plain powder with some xylitol and let our members flavor it on their own or stash large amounts of Heart Plus in cottage cheese and flaxseed oil (otherwise known as the Budwig protocol, which Mike Ciell, R.Ph. and Bill Henderson endorse).

I tried my stash of Heart Plus powder in cottage cheese and with flaxseed oil today and thought it was quite tolerable. We'll see what the rest of the crew thinks, but I think only the most committed will try this particular combo.

Meanwhile, I'm just glad that blogging does not involve live video clips (not loving the bandaged nose look at all). :-(

Monday, August 4, 2008

Basal Cell Cancer Procedure - Ouch!

My dad used to talk about getting a face lift someday. After all he inherited the drooping jowels from his mother (I think Stephen and I got 'em too but Stephen got the more resilient olive skin and I got my mom's Irish skin).

Great. Jowels that will droop and skin that's prone to skin cancer. What a bonus! I have on occasion, and quite cavalierly, stated that I will plan on a face lift at some point.

I had a little basal cell cancer taken off my nose today (I had put it off for a year, I'm ashamed to say). I thought it would be a snap, but three slices later, after they got all of it, the medical assistant had to go and fetch a mirror and thrust it into my hand to see their handiwork. Egad! I did not need to see that! The hole in my nose looked like a crater to me! Vanity reared it's comparing mind (will the scar be horrible? will my skin heal more poorly than others? etc.).

The doctor recommended letting the hole heal from the inside out, no stitches, and then maybe a little skin graft. Eeew. Getting cut again? Clearly I wasn't thrilled. He then said he could, if I preferred, put a few stitches in underneath and on top. Bring 'em on, I said. A little scar with faster healing was okay by me.

This afternoon, I realize how many (many) faces I make during the day. Ouch. Wrinkling my nose hurts. Ouch. Raising an eyebrow hurts. Ouch, my nose hurts! In two days, I can take off the bandage. In a week, the wound should be healing up nicely (or so they say).

I plan to help out my little scar as much as possible, with plenty of our Heart Plus -- after all, vitamin C, lysine, proline, and bioflavonoids are handy collagen builders, Vitamin E, Arginine, and, of course, extra protein.

Meanwhile, if a little skin cancer removal hurts, how on earth do people live through rhinoplasty or full-on plastic surgery?! To cope, I think I'll put my feet up early tonight and try not to make faces for the next few days.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Recipes, Carrot-Chocolate, Acacia Fiber, etc.

We'll be sending out little cards with recipes for Constant Health soon -- with free samples of both the vanilla and chocolate travel packs (single serving size). So, I've been thinking about recipes of late.

This morning, when out for coffee this morning, I ordered fresh carrot-orange juice and got a plain carrot juice instead. I didn't want to go back so I took my carrot juice home and shook it up with what I thought was the French Vanilla version of Constant Health. I added some psyllium fiber too.

Lo and behold, I had taken a jar of Chocolate Constant Health home, and there it was, a carrot-chocolate shake. I tasted it and thought it was an interesting flavor -- with some of the spices in the formula, it tasted a bit like carrot cake, especially with the extra fiber thickening the drink!

I enjoyed my shake on my way to work, and I even enjoyed watching the deep orangey fluid stick to the shaker bottle - like some kind of melting pumpkin tapioca or abstract art piece. I know, not exactly of a good marketing image but we're all friends here, right?

Anyway, when I told Tess about my morning drink, she made a terrible face and let out a long "eeeeewwww." This made me laugh out loud. She shook her head repeatedly and said this is why I'm fired from any more taste testing.

By the way, I personally like acacia fiber better than psyllium, as it doesn't do such disgraceful things to the texture of a drink. But the psyllium was handy and I'm always looking for ways to boost my fiber, so in it went, but on the recipe cards, it will not go! :-)

Meanwhile, here are some interesting facts about acacia fiber:

Lastly, while on the topic of fiber, for those of you who are regular readers, I did look into the modified citrus pectin that I wrote about earlier this month. So far I have not found any reasonable pricing on raw material. Too bad, as modified citrus pectin shows much promise as a natural anti-cancer agent.

So, acacia fiber may end up in our product line much earlier than modified citrus pectin!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Farmed Salmon & Tilapia Cautions

Farmed fish has gotten bad press for having too many toxins from the farming process. According to a Cornell University study, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts Environmental Division, toxins in farmed salmon may be as much as 10 times higher than in wild salmon.

Of note, contamination levels vary according to the location of fish farms, with Chilean farmed salmon scoring lower in toxins than Scottish farmed salmon, which had the highest toxin levels! Scottish salmon sounds so cool (it's often marketed as "gourmet") but the research says otherwise!

Cornell researchers recommended:

"that consumers should not eat farmed fish from Scotland, Norway and eastern Canada more than three times a year; farmed fish from Maine, western Canada and Washington state no more than three to six times a year; and farmed fish from Chile no more than about six times a year. Wild chum salmon can be consumed safely as often as once a week, pink salmon, Sockeye and Coho about twice a month and Chinook just under once a month."

I so love salmon, and now I have to worry about which kind of wild salmon I'm buying too!

Meanwhile tilapia, that popular not-so-fishy-tasting fish, just got some bad marks for boosting the inflammatory cycle -- due to high levels of omega-6 fatty acids (and low omega-3 levels).

It's true. Tilapia offers few of the inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids that fishier-tasting fish offer (think: salmon, mackerel and herring). According to Wake Forest School of Medicine researchers,

"Tilapia has higher levels of potentially detrimental long-chain omega-6 fatty acids than 80-percent-lean hamburger, doughnuts and even pork bacon."

Tilapia producers must be wincing - worse than doughnuts and even pork bacon - ouch! Tilapia has long been the butt of jokes among fussy chefs, who consider tilapia as an inferior fish to work with (bland, pedestrian, basically for people who don't like fish!). Now, the Wake Forest researchers have flamed tilapia as the anti-heart healthy choice.

I know, for many folks, it seems crazy hard to keep track of what's good, what's not, and how to balance it all out. Just know that if you eat farmed fish, you may want to boost your detoxification regime. If you eat tilapia, which is farmed fish, you also may need to supplement with omega-3s to balance out those omega-6s.

When it comes to reliable omega-3 intake, strange as it may sound, fish oil supplements are likely safer than most fresh fish, as toxins accumulate primarily in fish flesh versus in fish oil. Good supplements rely on molecular distillation processes to eliminate trace toxins from fish oil (our Fish Oil product is molecularly distilled).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Iced Tea & Kidney Stones

Get rid of the soda and sugary drinks. Choose tea to boost intake of those heart-healthy antioxidants and otherwise beneficial flavonoids. We've all heard the good news about tea.

What is not so well known is that iced tea contains high concentrations of oxalates, which are chief culprits in creating kidney stones. Oxalates are found in many plant foods and are particularly concentrated in some foods: spinach, chocolate, nuts, strawberries, wheat bran, beets, rhubarb -- and tea.

For more information on diet, check out this University of Pittsburgh Medical Center article on the Low Oxalate Diet.

Meanwhile, a colleague recently had a most painful experience with kidney stones (she spent "ten grueling days" recovering from the pain of it all). Hearing her story was enough to make me want to give up oxalate-rich foods (some of my favorites are oxalate rich no-no's!).

The good news is that staying hydrated (lots of fresh water, ideally with fresh lemon, which brings kidney-stone busting citrates to the rescue) makes a huge difference. According to Dr. John Milner of the department of urology at Loyola University Chicago, Stritch School of Medicine:

"Lemonade, not the powdered variety that uses artificial flavoring, actually slows the development of kidney stones for those who are prone to the development of kidney stones."

In addition to drinking more fluids, Milner also advises people prone to kidney stones to ease up on foods high in oxalates, sodium, and animal proteins.

Jackson-Siegelbaum gastroenterologists in Pennsylvania also recommend a Kidney Stone Diet that includes insoluble fibers, which whisk unabsorbed calcium safely through the bowels versus the kidneys.

Alas, summer is apparently the worst time for kidney stones, as people sweat more, become more frequently dehydrated, and drink more oxalate-rich iced tea, especially in our southern states!

Right about now, some of you are perhaps thinking, " much lemon will it take to neutralize those oxalates in my beloved iced tea?" :-)

P.S. After I first posted this blog entry, my brother said, "I'm going to stop reading your blog." Apparently, he stopped drinking diet soda after reading Dr. Rodier's blog entry Diet Soda also Makes You Gain Weight - A Lesson in Sweeteners. Stephen switched to iced tea promptly.

Now Stephen is upset to learn that iced tea can lead to kidney stones. Stephen said rather sarcastically this afternoon,"Great. So it's all bad for you, right? Why don't you just tell people to stop breathing. Oxygen can't be so good for you if it oxidizes things!"

Teri and I had a good laugh. And, I told Stephen to go ahead and drink the tea, just drink more water with lemons too! :-)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Modified Citrus Pectin as Chelator & Cancer Fighter

Physicians at the University School of Medicine in Hangzhou, China reported encouraging news in their recent article: The Role of Modified Citrus Pectin as an Effective Chelator of Lead in Children Hospitalized with Toxic Lead Levels. According to the research team:

"Lead toxicity is an ongoing concern world wide, and children, the most vulnerable to the long lasting effects of lead exposure, are in urgent need of a safe effective heavy metal chelating agent to overcome the heavy metals and lead exposure challenges they face day to day...The dramatic results in this study show that modified citrus pectin could be such an agent."

I recently wrote about the role of lead toxicity in inner city children and the link to lives of crime (due to changes in brain development and associated neural circuitry for impulse control, etc.).

While not exactly looking out for heavy metal toxicity studies, I landed on the modifid citrus pectin research because of my interest in fibers and general detoxification (yep, that familiar TOIL or toxicity, oxidation, inflammation, and lack of cellular energy thing Dr. Rodier has drummed into my thinking!).

As it turns out, modified citrus pectin (MCP), which is derived from the white pulpy stuff inside a citrus peel, is typically considered residues or waste from citrus product processing. As an aside, I just love innovative uses for things formerly considered waste.

Meanwhile, research continues to show the value of MCP, which through molecular alteration becomes absorbable in contrast with regular pectins that are insoluble and thus cannot be absorbed.

Studied Benefits of Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP):
  1. Fighting cancer - in particular, prostate and breast cancer and melanoma, by reducing DNA damage, immune suppression, oxidative stress, and inflammation.
  2. Preventing cancer - according to an article by Paris Kidd, Ph.D., A New Approach to Metastatic Cancer Prevention: Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP), A Unique Pectin that Blocks Surface Lectins: "MCP's apparent safety and proven anti-metastatic action, and lack of proven therapies against metastasis, ould justify its inclusion into comprehensive orthomolecular anticancer regimes."
  3. Chelating heavy metals safely & cost-effectively - MCP treatments significantly reduce blood levels of mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic without the side effects associated with costly intravenous EDTA treatments. EDTA side effects can include depletion of essential minerals and worse -- redistribution of heavy metals into vital organs such as the brain. MCP treatment has the added benefit of far lower cost than EDTA treatments.
  4. Increasing friendly bacteria in the gut - the lead chelation study in China also yielded new understanding of how MCP "enhances the growth of health-promoting gut bacteria."

Hmm...I may have to add a modified citrus pectin product to our line-up, as it is generally pricey stuff that our members would not be so able to afford.

If you have used a modified citrus pectin product, let me know what your experience has been (or comment on this blog entry)!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dry Eyes - Omega-3 & Omega-6 Fatty Acids, etc.

Utah is tough on dry eyes. Dry air, heat, air conditioning, lots of sunshine and glare, and, unfortunately, poor air quality are all to blame.

I have always had underactive tear ducts and desert-dry Utah definitely makes them worse. Some kind of allergy, maybe due to the abundant construction dust being kicked up next door, also seems to have snuck in to peeve my eyes.

So, I started reading about dry eyes and these are the common things to avoid:
  • Allergenic food (yep, it's advised to stop sneaking things like wheat, dairy, corn, and nightshade vegetables into the diet)
  • Caffeine (those delightful double espressos have to go too?!)
  • Toxic fats (from red meat, dairy products, fried foods - not such a hard category for me to avoid)
  • Sugar (especially over 11 teaspoons a day -- let's see, if the coffee goes, so goes some of the sugar!)

Apparently, sugar and even artificial sweeteners are some of the worst offenders in making dry eyes worse.

For improving dry eyes, here are some things to include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids (1-2 grams DHA from flaxseed oil or fish oil)
  • Omega-6 fatty acids (GLA from borage, black current or evening primrose oils)
  • Glucosamine (500mg three times a day - when cornea damage is involved)
  • Multi-vitamins (vitamins A, C at 300-500mg, D3, E, B6 at 50mg, and Magnesium are all important)
  • Probiotics (5-10 billion CFU three times daily, especially for people with Sjogren's syndrome)
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine (200mg three times daily for Sjogren's syndrome , a more serious condition with a hallmark of dry eyes)
  • Turmeric (that fabulous curry spice that's anti-inflammatory as well as an antioxidant)
  • Water (8-10 glasses a day for plenty of cellular hydration)
  • Preservative-free eye drops (for lubrication and not to get the red out -- some recommend MSM eye drops, but I don't have any experience with them yet)
  • Humidity (a humidifier running all the time at work/home would help out here the arid intermountain West!)

My favorite encouragement from the opthamologist who checked my eyes out? Consider moving to a cooler, more moist, coastal climate!

Yeah! I've long had the Bay area in my sights, and now I have yet another reason to go to the coast -- where foggy days often prevail and dry desert winds blow far away! :-)

Postscript: I had an appointment at the Moran Eye Institute yesterday with a lovely opthamologist. He shook his head and said that I have rosacea eyes and need to be much more careful about my diet (and I love spicey food, citrus fruit, tomatoes, avocados, vanilla, chocolate, coffee --all of which are considered trigger foods) as well as some favored relaxation options (saunas, hot tubs hot baths -- again, all bad). I guess I'm destined to live on a pretty basic diet for life if I want to be symptom free. Sigh.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Endothelial Cells, Blood Pressure & Dark Chocolate

I love research that confirms the value of chocolate. Dark chocolate is my favorite, by the way, and a recent article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (July 2008) by researchers from Yale gives the nod to dark chocolate as improving endothelial cell function and reducing blood pressure in overweight adults.

For those of you who took biology many moons ago (or never), endothelial cells are critical to healthy vascular function and also play a vital role in the health and integrity of every tissue of the body!

The Yale study compared ingestion of 22 grams of dark chocolate -- either in solid dark chocolate bar form or in a drink form -- and included comparison of chocolate bars and drinks with and without sugar.

The good news? Dark chocolate bars and cocoa drinks were both associated with increasing endothelial cell function and reducing blood pressure. Sugar-free forms, incidentally, significantly boosted the health benefits of chocolate.

Yeah for chocolate, especially sugar-free forms! :-)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Healing Touch Taken to Heart

According to research conducted at HealthEast Saint Joseph's Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, "healing touch patients showed a greater decrease in anxiety scores when compared to visitor and control groups."

Barb MacIntyre, RN, was first author on the article, "The Efficacy of Healing Touch in Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery Recovery: A Randomized Clinical Trial."

Energy healing going mainstream. Yeah! Yet don't assume it's just the physical touch in healing touch that creates healing. According to MacIntyre's article:

"Healing touch is becoming more widely known at the bedside of hospitalized patints due to its roots in nursing via nursin theorists who have pioneered ideas regarding unified field theory. As such, it is not the technique alone that is important to the HT intervention but the rapport and partnership created with the patient going through a potentially life-transforming events. Practitioners of HT seek to facilitate the client's innate self-healing abilities, which may in part inspire consciousness--awareness, choice, acceptance, and balance."

Beautiful. After all, we are all entirely interconnected systems of energy -- and not just a separate broken heart or leaky gut or depressed soma.