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.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Melatonin for Reflux & Gastro-Esophageal Protection

The current issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine is full of great articles (read: articles that I'm interested in).

In the Case Report section, Melvyn R. Werbach, MD, writes about Melatonin for the Treatment of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. However, he first makes the case that too many people are on proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).

PPIs, while generally considered safe, are in fact associated with a 44% increase in hip fracture risk in folks over 50 (when taken for more than a year), a 50% increase in community-acquired pneumonia, and an increased risk of bacterial infections in the gut -- and also of getting that dastardly bug, clostridium difficile, which causes diarrhea and can even be life-threatening.

According to a McGill University researcher, "Gastric acidity constitutes a major defense mechanism against ingested pathogens, and loss of the normal stomach acidity has been associated with colonization of the normally sterile upper gastrointestinal tract."

In addition to negative side effects, because PPIs suppress gastric acid, critical nutrients are not absorbed properly, leading to deficiencies and cellular dysfunction.

Dr. Werbach makes the case that there's a "far safer approach to treating GERD" -- namely, melatonin. Yep, that little item folks use for jet lag or restful sleep and/or immune system support (melatonin is a powerful antioxidant in addition to being a diurnal rhythm regulator!).

What's interesting is that while most folks think of melatonin as being produced by the pineal gland, Werbach shares what professionals often don't know -- that much more melatonin is produced in the gut. He writes:

"In fact, the quantity of melatonin secreted by the enterochromaffin cells in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is 400 times that of the pineal."

If melatonin is secreted in the gut, there's a reason, and research continues to show that melatonin acts as a gastroprotective agent, proving in clinical trials to help with functional dyspepsia and also irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Abdominal pain has been reported to be significantly reduced for IBS patients on melatonin.

Melatonin also protects against esophageal damage. Turns out, esophageal lesions are associated with decreased melatonin secretion and thus decreased protection against harsh reflux acids.

Werbach article goes on to document a case of a 64 year old Caucasian female who received a variety of treatments for her GERD (both pharmaceutical and nutritional). Combination formulas, which included 6mg melatonin, were used to good effect, and then researchers decided to reduce and eliminate ingredients to see what ingredient(s) offered the most protection.

Interestingly, the pharmaceutical, Omeprazole, as well as the B vitamins, calcium, taurine, betaine and 5-HTP (a precursor to circulating melatonin) could all be dropped and even eliminated, but attempts to reduce the melatonin dose to 3mg caused the woman's painful symptoms to return.

Werbach's article concludes that "melatonin 6mg at bedtime may be an effective treatment for GERD with fewer and less serious adverse effects than acid-reducing medications so long as anti-GERD medications are (1) continued during the first 40 days of treatment and (2) resumed for at least 1 dose whenever symptoms recur. Further studies, including randomized controlled trials, are needed to validate and extend these early findings."

While some professionals are uncertain about melatonin's safety, Dr. Werbach cited a safety analysis study -- with 487 participants in 10 studies, 9 of which were randomized controlled trials-- that showed doses as high as 60mg melatonin daily were safe, with adverse effects at high doses being no different from placebo.

Dr. Werbach does caution that "due to its immunostimulating effects, however, melatonin should be avoided by people with autoimmune disorders."

Research on melatonin continues, and melatonin's potential for gastroesophageal protection is considered promising yet still preliminary by many professionals.

On a personal note, Melatonin is always in my travel bag. I like to take it with our B-100 Plus before bedtime. Many people say that B's would keep them up at night, but I find the combo works well when I am on the road, eating out a lot, enjoying espressos (caffeine depletes B's as well as disrupts sleep rhythms), and crossing time zones!