Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dark Chocolate Bars Flying Out the Door

Our limited stock of Grenada Organic Dark Chocolate bars is disappearing fast. Within a few hours of our newsletter going out, a third of our inventory flew out the door. Of course, our price of $1.99 a bar (compare at $2.99-$3.99) makes our new 71% organic cocoa bars a very good buy.

Interestingly enough, Stephen and Teri were hesitant about adding a dark chocolate bar to our catalog, but voted in favor based on great research on dark chocolate and health. You see, our Florida office prefers sweeter milk chocolate confections, while Tess and I are dark chocolate fans at heart. Adding chocolate, specifically dark chocolate, was my idea, so I am quite happy to see fellow fans among our members.

Inventory-wise, it's probably just as well that the Florida office has to manage the chocolate bars, as Tess and I would be tempted to eat too much chocolate if the bars were allowed to whisper to us all day long! :-)

Drop a line if you have a favorite chocolate fanatic story!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dark Chocolate Bars for the Holidays

It's true. I love chocolate, dark chocolate, actually. I have convinced my brother, Stephen, to carry a trial run of dark chocolate bars for the holidays.  He would prefer milk chocolate, but we're going with the dark chocolate (71% cacao content) based on Tess voting "for" the dark chocolate. Teri was not particularly enthusiastic but is open-minded.

When looking for a vendor, I was clear that we should carry an organic, rainforest-friendly chocolate. I found a company that not only offers USDA Organic chocolate, but also uses solar power for their manufacturing process and produces chocolate in small hand-crafted batches. 

We're buying a limited quantity of high-quality 3 ounce dark chocolate bars for the holiday season and will see whether enough of our members are interested in dark chocolate or not.

Curcumin & Black Pepper May Help Prevent Breast Cancer

Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found that curcumin,  (derived from turmeric) and piperine (from black pepper) helped halt breast cancer cell proliferation without harming normal breast tissue cells. 

Here's a promising passage from the University of Michigan's recent press release with a quote from lead author, Madhuri Kakarala, M.D., Ph.D., R.D.:

The researchers applied a series of tests to the cells, looking at markers for breast stem cells and the effects of curcumin and piperine, both alone and combined, on the stem cell levels. They found that piperine enhanced the effects of curcumin, and that the compounds interrupted the self-renewal process that is the hallmark of cancer-initiating stem cells. At the same time, the compounds had no affect on cell differentiation, which is the normal process of cell development.

“This shows that these compounds are not toxic to normal breast tissue,” Kakarala says. “Women at high risk of breast cancer right now can choose to take the drugs tamoxifen or raloxifene for prevention, but most women won’t take these drugs because there is too much toxicity. The concept that dietary compounds can help is attractive, and curcumin and piperine appear to have very low toxicity.”

Interestingly, curcumin and piperine affect cancers that are not estrogen sensitive as well as those that are, while commonly-prescribed pharmaceuticals limit estrogen, known to be a "factor in most, but not all breast cancers."  

Low toxicity. Low cost. Potential prevention as well as treatment of cancer. It's a pretty good package deal for these two health-promoting botanicals, turmeric (curcumin) and black pepper (piperine).

When we formulated our Constant Health, with 250mg of turmeric per serving, we were advised to include 10mg of bioperine (a standardized extract of piperine) to increase the bioavailability of the turmeric (curcurmin is the primary active ingredient in turmeric). Our Constant Health has a whole host of other antioxidants, detoxifiers, vitamins and minerals, and fibers in a rice protein base. If you are interested in the white paper I wrote on Constant Health, with Dr. Hugo Rodier's review, here's a link.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Life Coaching - Part of the Co-op?!

Many of you know me as a tireless champion of integrative medicine and all things related to "health, nutrition & science." 

What most people don't know is that I am also trained as an Integral Coach, a form of coaching that works to integrate four domains of human life: mind, body, relationships, and physical environment.

As the economy continues to be challenging, it has occurred to me that the things I do for my coaching clients might be of real interest to our members.  And, at the Co-op, we see ourselves as a lot more than a purely product-based business. We're all from service backgrounds and consider it part of our job to take care of our community of members.

So here goes with something novel, a few offers that might help you in this tough economy (or with the stress of the holidays coming up).  

  1. Personal Branding: Positioning Your Real Value in Tough Markets -- I have done a number of workshops on this topic in the past few months and participants have consistently rated the workshop as one of the most valuable in helping them refine their personal vision and mission statements as well as packaging what differentiates them (or their products and services). This one is ideal for people in career transition or seeking to build their businesses.
  2. Difficult Conversations & What We All Want "More Of" -- This workshop is focused on moving from the language of complaints (what we can't stand and don't want) to what we want more of, for ourselves, for the other person, for our relationships, and for the future. This one is ideal for anyone with stressful holiday family gatherings ahead as well as people who just happen to be in business with "difficult people."  
  3. Centering as an Antidote to Stress -- This is more of a guided practice of centering oneself when under pressure. Over and over, my clients find that their stress is greatly reduced every time they practice "centering" in their bodies and stop paying so much attention to their worries.
  4. Mindfulness & Weight Loss -- I wasn't trying to lose weight but when I had to become mindful of everything I ate because of food allergies, I dropped about 15 pounds quite naturally. I attribute the weight loss to the healthier diet, yes, but also to the attention I gave to my emotions and the sensations in my body when (and after) eating different foods. We tried to do something on this topic before and had to cancel for lack of interest. Now that summer has passed and the holidays are coming fast, I thought this topic just might be of more interest right now.
We can support up to 50 people in a webinar (good for the first two topics, which include branding models and exercises to be shared).  Alternatively, I can also support up to 5 people in a very personal videoconference. The subscription for participants is free, as I pay for the ability to have up to 5 guests in my own private videoconferences.

If you are interested in any of these topics, please drop a line to me and let me know more about you and your interests. I can then tailor events of interest accordingly.  I hope to hear from you!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Great Response to Lugol's Iodine Introduction

Wow. We sold out of the trial order of Lugol's Iodine in one day. We'll have more product next week, but the response was dramatic, with lots of folks telling me their stories of using Lugol's (for decades in some cases and for various needs) in private emails.

Here's what our favorite pharmacist had to say in a note to the "kat" that writes our newsletter:

Hi Cindy, Mike Ciell here. Lugol's is a necessary supplement that ALL folks should take (especially women)...too many benefits to explain on my Blackberry...we've used this in our medical practice for over 5 years...clinical results so Impressive..we automatically prescribe it to all patients. Also we use "my formula" which gives about 12.5 mgs of iodine/iodide per 10 drops. Dr. Young (MD) always prescribes 15 mgs/day....if you want I can compound the exact formula for your "cats".  Glad you see the merit in this amazing nutrient!
Always my best,
Mike Ciell, RPh
Chief Science Officer and Vice-President of Clinic Operations
Ideal Protein of America, Inc

Here's  what another original member had to say:

Cindy,I have good news for you, I am a relative of the ones who invented Lugol's.  Dr. Jenner  (my Great Grandfather) & Dr. Lugol) came up with it in a research lab while looking for a better way to clean their peat-re dishes in a search for a cure to several very contagious diseases.  
They came up with a mild solution of Iodine and Iodide + distilled water, My Mother gave it to all us siblings every time something was wrong with us from the 1940's on. Her Dad used it on her family all her life as well. My Dad approved too and he was a Vet. Dr.

I love hearing from our members. Keep sharing your stories of using Lugol's.

Meanwhile, for those of you new to iodine supplementation, I strongly recommend working with a knowledgeable health care practitioner as iodine can be toxic when taken in too great of quantities. It's not like water-soluble supplements where you can take two, three, or ten times the amount and allow your body to flush what's not needed.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NAET for Allergy Elimination - Round One

The first step in the NAET allergy elimination process is to test for allergies. The process is quite simple. A Potential allergens (or allergen groups) are suspended in small vials of water. The practitioner hands one set of allergens at a time to the patient, giving the patient no knowledge of what is contained in each vial, and then conducts muscle testing to determine whether a given set of allergens are problematic for the patient.

Dr. Gary Olsen, a chiropractor, had me lay down on my back and extend my left arm and give resistance until he knew my "normal" resistance strength. He then started handing me different vials, with some substances clearly changing my ability to resist his pressure. I've been a bit skeptical of this process in the past but decided to try to participate with an open mind.

Turns out, a number of times when my arm weakened in response to pressure, I was holding a known allergen (eggs, grains, wheat, dairy proteins).  Interestingly, my arm also weakened on the B vitamin complex and a couple of other things that I don't remember.  After running me through the muscle testing, I rolled over on to my stomach and received some kind of vibrating stimulation to my spinal cord and then to various accupuncture points on my back and in my hands, knees, and ankles.  NAET works by stopping accupuncture meridians from having over-reactive responses to "allergic" substances that are normally harmless. 

The first session was all about challenging my body with at least 15 vials with common allergens. The next step  involves me wearing a vial of one of the allergens (or allergen groups) for 25 hours after the meridian treatment (I'm supposed to work on some of the accupuncture points every two hours also, which I'm behind on today). Apparently, 25 hours is how long it takes for the body to cycle new information about an allergen's "energy" and and enable all the organs to recognize former allergens as "safe."

Yes, I have a little vial taped to the inside of my leg, halfway between my knee and ankle. A little strange, yes, but I'm not planning to work out in shorts at my gym tonight, so no worries!

I know that my brother and business partner subscribes to my blog and he is undoubtedly shaking his head, as he has many times before, wondering whether this is just another of my many experiments in alternative and complementary healing.

My brother knows I inherited by far the most sensitive system in our family though, so he keeps a more open mind than he might otherwise. We have often joked that my sensitivities are all due to the fact that our mom was incredibly careful about what she ate and even avoiding smoke (back then, both of our parents were smokers) when she was pregnant with me.

Stay tuned, as I will continue to report my experiences with NAET for allergy elimination (and meanwhile here's a link to a research study on NAET results).  And, drop a line below if you have experience with NAET!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lugol's Formula on the Way with Your Help!

Lugol's is a form of iodine in a distilled water formula, which our favorite pharmacist, Mike Ciell, recommends to many folks. Upon Mike's recommendation, I started adding two drops of Lugol's iodine a day to my morning shake and my red, irritated "rosacea eyes" disappeared within a week or so.

We're going to get a small order of Lugol's in to test member demand. If you are interested in seeing the Co-op offer Lugol's, then weigh in below.

Maybe Mike and I are anomalies. Maybe not. Let us know with your comments below!

Alcohol Promotes Aggressive Cancer Cells

Alcohol kills brain cells, can cause liver disease, lead to malabsorption of nutrients, and so on.. These are well-known hazards of drinking alcohol.

But did you know that alcohol also promotes aggressiveness in cancer cells (whereby, with alcohol, less dangerous cancer cells morph into deadly metastatic cells, which spread aggressively in the body)?

According to research out of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, alcohol-treated cells not only can go from normal cells to cancer cells, they also lose close connection with their adjacent cells, thus allowing them to migrate to other parts of the body (as in metastasis).

This research correlates to other research that continues to come out about the links between alcohol and cancer. Back in February, the University of Oxford reported in its Million Women study that "Each additional alcoholic drink regularly consumed per day was associated with 11 additional breast cancers per 1000 women up to age 75."  The conclusion was that even moderate social drinking has major impacts on the incidence of cancer.

Regardless of what you do if you are cancer free, if you have any form of cancer, it seems wise to eliminate all forms of alcohol, as cancer cells seem to prefer being "under the influence."  


NAET - Treating Allergies in a Novel Way

I was just at Dr. Rodier's Pioneer Integrative Medicine Clinic in Draper, Utah yesterday getting my annual blood draw and a Myers cocktail infusion. I was interested in novel methods for treating allergies and one of the nurses talked about a new technique the chiropractor, Dr. Gary Olsen, had started offering at the clinic.

I ran into Dr. Olsen on my way out and asked him about his work on allergies. He confessed how skeptical he was about the method, which is called NAET (short for Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Techniques).  After experimenting with some tough cases, Dr. Olsen is now quite convinced that NAET works, and he encourages anyone who is interested to read NAET: Say Good-Bye to Your Allergies by Devi S. Nambudripad, an M.D. as well as a D.C. and a Ph.D. (Acu). 

I bought the book (a small pink cover with a clumsy piece of artwork - sigh, not the best marketing for the author, but that's another story). The author struggled with multiple allergies since she was a young child and writes: "There is no known successful method of treatment for food allergies using Western medicine except avoidance, which means deprivation and frustration."  Yes, indeed, deprivation and frustration have been my constant companions over the past year, especially when on travel and eating "out."   

The premise of NAET is that, using special techniques, a practitioner can help you reprogram your brain (central nervous system) to accept formerly allergenic foods that are beneficial and allow the body to react normally to various foods and environmental elements of life, thus reducing stress (deprivation and frustration!). 

I will have my first session tomorrow. The process is expected to take 15 sessions (hey, in a lifetime, that's not a lot of time if the sessions create a permanent relief from annoying and health-sapping food allergies!). 

I will keep you all posted on my progress. My brother is quite skeptical at this point, but I hope to have news that will convince even him (wouldn't that be great?!). 

If you have had an experience with the NAET process, please share your comments below or drop a line to me directly!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More on Glutamine, Immunity & Health

I hope you read my last posting on glutamine, glutathione, and immunity (and posted your "yes" to my question about adding glutamine as a new product).

Meanwhile, I decided to write a bit more about glutamine, for those of you who may be on the fence. First, a few notes about glutamine:

  1. Glutamine is concentrated most heavily in skeletal muscle (about 60% of your body's glutamine) and also in the lungs, liver, brain, and stomach tissues.
  2. Glutamine enhances the function of immune system cells and helps the body recover from inflammatory diseases.
  3. Glutamine protects against bacteria and infection by protecting the intestinal mucosa (remember, most of the immune system resides in the gut).
  4. Glutamine is used to help patients recover from surgery. Oral glutamine has, in fact, been shown to reduce hospital stays and also to improve survival rates after infections.
  5. Glutamine also protects the gut from radiation and chemotherapy. Many people with cancer have abnormally low glutamine levels, which leads to poor nutrient absorption from a damaged gut. Glutamine is slso considered to increase the effectiveness and reduce the side effects of some cancer drugs.
  6. Glutamine can aid in healing stomach ulcers and prevent inflammation of the stomach that is caused by chronic use of over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, including ibuprofen.
  7. Glutamine is depleted by stress and stress hormones like cortisol.
  8. Glutamine is considered safe, with no adverse reports for supplemental glutamine, even at high doses (therapeutic levels of glutamine can range from 5-15 grams a day in divided doses).
  9. Glutamine should be taken at room temperature or with cold foods or liquids as heat destroys glutamine.
  10. Glutamine should be stored in a dry environment, as moisture destroys
Okay, so how could we not want a separate glutamine product for our little Co-op?

If you're now convinced, please vote "yes" so I can convince the conservative element on our team that we really do need to add a glutamine product to our catalog!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Glutamine, Glutathione & Immunity

We did one of our member surveys this summer and I was hoping our members would vote for a glutamine product.

Dr. Rodier recommends glutamine all the time. My naturopath, Dr. Burnett, recommends glutamine all the time. While glutamine was not on our members' top wish list items, I keep hoping to get enough support from my readers to introduce a glutamine product, as I would like to stop buying glutamine in bulk from other providers when I run a supplement company! So here's my first lob into the game of bringing glutamine onboard at the Co-op.

First, glutamine is better known by body builders, who recognize glutamine as an important nutrient in muscle repair. However, did you know that glutamine is also involved in more metabolic processes than any other amino acid and is used by almost every cell in the body, including enterocytes, lymphocytes, and macrophages? Glutamine also contributes directly to production of glutathione, which is a critical antioxidant produced within your body.

Here's a sample from a review of glutamine research out of the Netherlands (emphasis added in boldface):

"Glutamine has a major impact on the functionality of the immune system. It has recently been established that glutamine not only has a protective effect on cells of the immune system, but also on other cells of the body, for instance cardiomyocytes. Evidence is accumulating for an effect of glutamine via glutathione, heat shock proteins as well as taurine. Another area of interest is the way glutamine enhances gut barrier function. More and more research is concentrating on the positive effect of glutamine on the gut-associated lymphoid tissue."

Incidentally, you should forget about oral supplementation of glutathione, as the research shows that large doses of oral glutathione do not raise the body's circulating levels of glutathione, but I digress.

While many supplement enthusiasts know that glutathione is important, many do not know that low glutathione levels are highly associated with cancers, cataracts, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, asthma, sub-optimal immune system response, and other disease states.

Higher serum levels of glutamine, especially in the elderly, are conversely associated with better health.

In addition to supporting glutathione production, glutamine protects against bacteria, fungi, and other toxins migrating across any breaks in the mucosal lining of your gut and into your bloodstream. These toxins stimulate cytokine and cortisol production, which further deplete your body of glutamine (and, thus, glutathione). A vicious cycle, indeed.

If you are worried about swine flu, then in addition to getting more sleep, consider adding supplemental glutamine to your routine--to enhance your immune system and also the integrity of your gut (keeping foreign invaders out of your bloodstream).

When I was working through my food allergies and (temporary!) autoimmune system diagnosis, my naturopath wanted me to take at least 2.5 grams of glutamine a day. A year later, my digestion and absorption of nutrients is much improved and my food allergies are way down.

Dr. Rodier co-authored a white paper on our Constant Health product, which has: 2 grams of glutamine in every scoop, along with a powerful combination of other glutathione boosters including glycine (2 grams), n-acetyl-cysteine (300mg), milk thistle (300mg), curcumin (500mg), and selenium (70mcg) per scoop.

While Constant Health delivers a powerful combination of ingredients, I believe that, because many of our members mix and match their supplements, having a separate glutamine product would be incredibly valuable--if only enough people could know about the healing benefits of supplemental glutamine! Liver protector, cellular hydrator, intestinal protector, immune system booster, and glutathione builder, glutamine is an incredible little amino acid.

Please weigh in with your comments on glutamine. Say "yes" if you want the Co-op to carry glutamine as a new product! If we get enough interest, we could have a new product out before the end of the year.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sleep Deprivation & Alzheimer's Plaques

Okay, I didn't plan to be doing a series on sleep deprivation and health but that's the theme that I keep landing on of late. Could it be that I'm in Europe for my a birthday week getaway with friends and am 8 hours ahead of my normal schedule? Maybe.

Regardless, here's another reason to get enough sleep: chronic sleep deprivation is correlated with earlier and more frequent Alzheimer's plaques in a mouse study!

My dad's mother died of Alzheimer's and it was unbelievably sad to watch her watching her own mind disappear. So Alzheimer's in the news tends to get my attention, as much as I don't really want to think about this disease having descended on someone so close to me.

The Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis (a big genetics research powerhouse) reported that while Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease are often linked to sleep disruptions, the new research is the first to show that chronic sleep loss can lead to these diseases.

Depriving mice of sleep generated a 25% increase in brain amyloid beta levels, and it only took 3 weeks for amyloid plaque deposits to accelerate.

Okay, anyone starting to believe you just might need more sleep than you thought to maintain your brain as well as your immune system? I hope so.

If you're having trouble falling asleep, then our Melatonin may be a good thing to add to your supplements cabinet. Inexpensive and valuable as an antioxidant, melatonin helps with sleep (melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, is produced by tryptophan).

Another product our older customers swear by is our Amino Enhancer, which includes GABA, another ingredient that supports rest (it inhibits "excitability" in the nervous system) and also "slow wave" sleep.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sleep As Protection Against Colds & Illness

In case you missed it (buried) in my last blog post, sleep is one of the most valuable preventive strategies for protecting yourself against catching a cold.

A recent study on sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that, "Poorer sleep efficiency and shorter sleep duration in the weeks preceding exposure to a rhinovirus were associated with lower resistance to illness."

The actual data might be startling to those of us who cram things into our lives and consider good sleep a luxury for weekends and vacations:
  1. Less than 7 hours of sleep makes us almost 3 times more likely to come down with a cold compared with people getting 8 hours of sleep
  2. If we are only 6% less efficient in our sleep patterns, we are 5.5 times as likely to come down with a cold compared with people who are 98% efficient.
That last little fact reminds me of the cliche comment about getting sick after the exam or the big stressor and "now my body can afford to be sick." Wrong. The stress and associated sleep disruption makes the body many times less resistant to bugs that are ever-present.

I think the article in the New York Times on September 21st said it well:

"Sleep and immunity, it seems, are tightly linked. Studies have found that mammals that require the most sleep also produce greater levels of disease-fighting white blood cells — but not red blood cells, even though both are produced in bone marrow and stem from the same precursor. And researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have shown that species that sleep more have greater resistance against pathogens."

So, if we are serious about avoiding illness this season, sleep is a most vital ally for immune system health.

Here's to setting and achieving the goal of getting a little more sleep. Our favorite "kat" would heartily approve. :-)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Beware of Flu Vaccines + Immune Boosters

Many people swear by their annual flu vaccines. This fall, swine flu concerns continue to make news and people will continue to line up for their flu vaccines. However, I'll confess, I'm not a big fan of flu vaccines.

My Zen teacher spent years fighting Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder affecting the peripheral nervous system, usually triggered by an acute infectious process (he recovered fully but at a huge cost and with enormous personal effort). Although rare, the effects of Guillan-Barre are devastating, as a spreading paralysis sets in to the legs and arms and face and cause death if not treated.

Did you know that Guillain-Barre can be triggered by a flu vaccine? It's true. And, plenty of physicians believe that the current swine flu virus is no more worrisome than the typical flu virus. To me, that means that if you are generally healthy, then the risks of the vaccine could very well be greater than coming down with the flu.

Likely that it's better to rev up your immune system with lots of hand-washing (perhaps a little boycott on hand-shaking, but what fun would that be?), a nourishing diet (more raw veggies and alkalinizing foods), immune-boosting supplements (see my notes below), and plenty of sleep (did you know that plenty of sleep protects against parasites as well as colds and flu?). I think sleep is one of the most undervalued of preventive measures for immune system health.

As someone who pays attention to supplements, I like to first boost my daily dose of Vitamin C, which is an especially essential ally and becomes incredibly valuable in high doses when you are under stress or exposed to viruses. Most people are chronically low on vitamin C, and so I recommend that all of you consider high-dose vitamin C as as an inexpensive and entirely non-toxic cold and flu prevention aid.

By the way, attempting a "cure" with vitamin C after you have come down with a bad bug leads to the faulty conclusion that vitamin C doesn't help. That's like saying that "adding oil to a burned-out engine that had its oil light on for many miles doesn't help."

A good antioxidant formula that includes zinc and selenium is another important ally.

Did you know that selenium has been found to protect against viruses mutating into more virulent forms? Regions of selenium-depleted soils in Asia, incidentally, are correlated with avian flu virus outbreaks.

Our Sam's Advanced Antioxidant has selenium, zinc (another powerhouse mineral that boosts immune system response), along with basic antioxidants; vitamins A, C, and E; along with vitamin D3, which has been in the press endlessly and also supports immune system health.

B vitamins are known for reducing stress loads on your cells and immune system, thus I cannot emphasize supplemental B vitamins enough, especially whenever caffeine or alcohol is a regular part of your social routine! Our B-100 Plus has a synergistic blend of B vitamins, which work in concert with one another to provide optimum benefits.

Finally, based on customer requests for a cold and flu season support product, we formulated Immune Health with the help of naturopathic experts to include:

  1. N-acetyl-cysteine - a powerful cellular detoxifier, free radical fighter, and also a mucous buster in the lungs.
  2. Green tea extract - a botanical known for its epigallocatechin gallate, the polyphenol that has been studied for its value in fighting bacteria as well as carcinogens
  3. Quercetin - studied for reducing bronchial infections in athletes as well as helping the body handle allergens.
  4. Elderberry extract - packed with anthocyanins and long used in naturopathic and European folk medicine to fight colds.
  5. Beta glucan - considered a powerful immune-modulator, it is also gaining in its reputation as an anti-cancer botanical.
  6. Resveratrol - this is one of the hottest botanicals on the market and is known for fighting bacteria and fungi attacks as well as providing anti-aging benefits.
Drop a line to me or post a comment below with your favorite cold and flu season preventives (I will talk about remedies in another post!).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Strange Neurological Issues

A dear friend of mine lives in Paris. I spent my birthday weekend with her and her little girl, who is now 5 years old and is just learning to speak English this month. My friend speaks English in this exhilarating and very-feminine Parisian accent. She is beautiful, wears oh-so-feminine skirts ad dresses, and has a lovely svelte figure. Her daughter is incredibly bright, friendly, lively, and curious about the world, a mother's joy. Her job is secure, and she can walk to work and allow her daughter to independently dance ahead on short walks to and from her school.

Life could not be better, friend is having strange neurological problems that her neurologist cannot explain. At one point, the right side of her face felt like it was a bit frozen and on fire, yet my friend could still move her facial muscles and talk just fine. At another point, shooting pains came up from her legs. And, while my friend tolerates pain with acceptance, is strong, and overcame a dramatic childhood illness that she was not expected to survive, what terrifies her is how she is noticing her memory not being as sharp as normal.

My friend is one of the most organized people I know and prides herself on tracking a person's conversation, no matter how winding. Now she notices that she "knows" things and yet forgets and has to ask about them, only realizing with the answers she gets that she already "knew" the answer. Telling the story is enough to create stress in her voice and bring waves of empathetic emotions to my body as a listener.

The neurologists keep saying that there's nothing wrong physically and have given my friend supplements, which have helped over the past few months. I hope she is getting exactly the treatment she needs, however, I wonder if there are pathways not yet explored or understood by her local physicians.

I hope to set up a call with my friend and Dr. Rodier, as he has such a broad as well as deep perspective on the root cause of disease and non-toxic, wholesome ways to heal. He says that none of the cognitive decline problems appear without what he calls "cellular TOIL" or some kind of cellular toxicity, oxidation, inflammation and/or lack of nutrients for mitochondrial energy.

When you're in this line of business, you can't help but want to give everyone you love all the possible resources that may help when they find frightening health problems emerging in their lives.

Right now, I am holding my friend in my heart and am grateful for the generous hospitality she showed me and for meeting the radiant little being she has brought to the world in her daughter.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Autoimmune Disease, Emotions & Beliefs

A recent news story highlighted how men who are seemingly healthy can still have an autoimmune disease:

"The recent report out of the Annals of Internal Medicine profiling President John F. Kennedy’s autoimmune disease surprised many Americans due to his appearance throughout his presidency of health and vitality."

Although women are much more likely to be diagnosed with autoimmune diseases (as was I last fall with Sjogren's), men also have autoimmune disorders, which are often not diagnosed properly due to seeming vitality and external indicators of health.

I've become increasingly interested in autoimmune diseases, learning about dietary and physiological starting points (i.e., how are difficult-to-digest food molecules, like wheat and soy proteins, interacting with a person's genes to create syndromes like "leaky gut" and related immune-system overdrive behavior?).

I'm equally interested in the cognitive and emotional components of autoimmune diseases. I have talked to too many people who had significant emotional events that preceded an autoimmune diagnosis and who; with mindfulness, emotional release techniques, and/or belief system revision; found themselves healed.

One friend was stressed out about leaving one job for another very different kind of opportunity, one that called for her to step up into her real calling. She did a 30-day meditation retreat and the professional issue she was "fighting herself" over cleared up. Her Lupus diagnosis also disappeared, like a morning fog subjected to warm afternoon sunshine.

Another friend was on thyroid medicine for five years. After going through a difficult separation from her husband, who had been cheating on her for years, she discovered Louise Hay's work on healing the body by understanding the emotional connection to the dis-ease in the body. My friend found that disorders of the thyroid are related to "humiliation" and decided to journal and journal and reflect on all the ways she had been ignoring the signs of her marriage being in trouble.

After a deep dive into her own subconscious and bringing her deepest emotions to the surface and into language, my friend "miraculously" healed and no longer needed any thyroid medicine. Her physician was astonished, believing that my friend's thyroid had become so dependent on medicine that it would not be able to function on its own again.

I spent years fighting myself over whether to stay or to leave my marriage. I finally left my marriage and a huge amount of my energy returned, almost overnight. My body became less reactive to certain foods that I had eliminated for over 8 months.

Still, I have a lot of beliefs about the "dangers" of wheat, dairy, and eggs, which are hidden in so many foods. I am suspicious when I feel sinus pressure or puffy eyes, wondering if it's food or environmental allergens. It's a kind of constant scanning for problems that will make my immune system overreact and go into the self-fighting-self mode of autoimmune disease.

Instead of living permanently on a highly-restrictive diet, I am eager to work on the vigilant emotions and beliefs around "allergens," all of which are basically unconscious at this point, and see if this kind of work can help me live a little more freely.

I have scheduled a Body Talk session tomorrow to explore ways to help tone up my immune system and also work with the emotions and beliefs that predispose my body toward reactivity against food molecules. I will perhaps schedule a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) session after that (NLP is known for having effective allergy-elimination processes).

If you have a favorite process for allergy elimination, please drop a line to me or comment here on my blog (below). Many of my readers will be extremely grateful for any extra support or pointers!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gum Disease Linked to Neck & Head Squamous Cell Cancer

I'm big on flossing and gum health and usually get good check-ups, except for a little scolding about not wearing my mouth guard at night (okay, I confess, I can grind my teeth if I've been drinking any kind of caffeine).

However, many seniors could afford to take better care of their gums. Bad breath is one sign of gum disease. Inflamed red gums are another (if your gums bleed during routine dental cleanings, you need to take more care of your gums). Periodontitis is the second most common disease in the world, leading to bone loss and ultimately teeth that get loose if untreated long-term.

Those of you with less-than-stellar dental hygiene know who you are--and may have resigned yourself to scoldings from your own dentist when you get your teeth cleaned--but now there's more at stake than just friendly breath and pretty gums.

Here's another good reason to take better care of your teeth and gums: preventing periodontitis can also help your prevent squamous cell carcinoma to your head and neck (yep, the body is all inter-related after all, so taking care in one place helps all sorts of other places stay healthy).

After having a basal cell skin cancer on my nose, I learned about the difference between basal, squamous, and melanoma cancers, with the former being slow-growing, not-so-mobile and the latter being the lethal kind that can move from the tip of one's nose from overexposure to the sun and end up migrating to the lungs, liver, pancreas, literally anywhere in the body.

Squamous cell carcinoma can also occur in multiple places on the body, usually those most exposed to sunlight, and while it doesn't have the same mobility or lethality of melanoma, it is one of the bad guys that can cause horrible disfiguration if unattended and surgery is required.

Word to the wise: take care of your teeth and gums and you'll be taking good care of your face and neck.

Kudzu Moves from Nuisance to Nutrient?!

My dad lived in South Carolina two times, once when I was just heading into my freshman year of college and at the end of his life. When I spent a semester at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, I became familiar with this fascinating vine that grew everywhere: kudzu, a plant native to China and Japan and introduced to the U.S. in the 1930s for "erosion control."

While kudzu chokes trees and causes problems with power lines with its astonishing growth--up to 4 feet a day in the summer--it's also an amazing plant, great for returning nitrogen to depleted soils (it's a member of the legume family), nutritious and appealing to livestock (although difficult to package up), and, now, also taking its turn as a promising superstar on the nutritional supplements red carpet.

Kudzu extract is being studied at Harvard to reduce alcohol cravings--perhaps through better metabolism of alcohol and changes to the rewards circuits in the brain. According to the Wikipedia entry on kudzu:

Kudzu also contains a number of useful isoflavones, including daidzein (an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent). Daidzin is a cancer preventive and genistein (an antileukemic agent). Kudzu is a unique source of the isoflavone puerarin. Kudzu root compounds can affect neurotransmitters (including serotonin, GABA, and glutamate.) It has shown value in treating migraine and cluster headache.[7] It is recommended for allergies and diarrhea.[8]

Research in mice models suggests that kudzu is beneficial in women for control of some post-menopausal symptoms, such as hypertension and diabetes type II.[9]

In traditional Chinese medicine, where it is known as gé gēn, kudzu is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs. It is used to treat tinnitus, vertigo, and Wei syndrome.

I saw a news release this morning that links puerarin from kudzu to reduced blood pressure, reduced blood cholesterol, and also to improved blood sugar regulation, a hugely interesting finding with all the diabetes and metabolic syndrome that modern diets bring. According to the researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, puerarin from kudzu steers blood sugar away from fat cells and blood vessels and toward muscles, where sugar can be used instead of stored.

Even better news is that the kudzu extract had no side effects on the rats that were tested over a 2 month period. And, if puerarin ends up being a genuine superstar, physicians could drop the dosages of insulin management pharmaceuticals by adding a natural supplement that appears to come without the side effects of pharmaceuticals.

Those of y'all living in the South just may have a gold mine in your backyard instead of a nuisance. Kudzu may be your newest best friend!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vitamin E, Omega-3s & Carnitine for Autism Spectrum Disorders

As a physician and researcher at Children's Hospital & Research Center in Oakland, Dr. Claudia Morris studies both kids and nutrition. Her most recent article is titled Syndrome of Allergy, Apraxia, and Malabsorption: Characterization of a Neurodevelopmental Phenotype that Responds to Omega 3 and Vitamin E Supplementation.

Phew, what a title, eh? Dr. Morris and her co-author Dr. Marilyn Agin found that with a variety of neurological disorders in children--including autism, attention deficit disorder, and dyslexia--involve deficiencies in vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and carnitine are common.

What caught my eye was the high incidence of gluten sensitivities: 68% of the children had high antigliadin IgA antibodies (meaning that they were reactive to the wheat protein) and 100% tested positive for a "gluten sensitivity" gene. Food allergies or asthma existed in 88% of the children. And, gastrointestinal issues existed in a full 83% of the children. Poor kids!

Alas, problems with concentration, coordination, and communication is a big burden for these kids and their families. Couple that with GI upsets due to wheat and other food allergies and potentially asthma and it's a nightmare to manage all the symptoms, especially when most treatments for autism spectrum disorders have primarily been behavioral (speech and occupational) therapies.

That's where Dr. Morris and Dr. Agin come in--with a novel metabolic and nutritional approach to treating verbal apraxia. They studied 187 children, giving them supplemental vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) and carnitine as needed. With high doses of these nutrients, children in the study experienced "rapid clinical improvement" in both speech and coordination!

With an additional focus on eliminating trigger foods (wheat, dairy, yeast, and other allergens specific to each child), GI tract problems started to clear up as well, enabling nutrients to be effectively metabolized for neurological functioning and general intestinal function as well.

Interestingly, 80% of the children in the study exhibited a carnitine deficiency (also common in celiac disease), and the researchers believe that:

"Low carnitine may be a cause rather than an affect of gut inflammation, as recent studies support an obligatory role for carnitine in the maintenance of normal intestinal function...Carnitine also plays a critical role in fatty acid transport into the mitochondria and (low carnitine) may contribute to abnormal fatty acid metabolism."

Morris and Agin believe that children with autism spectrum disorders have a faulty fatty acid metabolism that is remedied by high doses of vitamin E (800IU divided into two doses was typical) and omega-3's (DHA at 280mg and EPA at 695mg was typical).

Children experiencing the most significant recovery were those using doses greater than 2000IU/day of vitamin E, but this very high level was monitored carefully by their pediatricians. And, based on another study on high-dose vitamin E therapy, Morris's team reports that:

"Even at 3200 IU/day, vitamin E clearly still works as an antioxidant rather than the theorized potential to become a pro-oxidant."

Unfortunately, when supplementation stops, children regress. When children had viral illnesses, the need for supplements increased, as inflammation, whether triggered by food or illness, consistently compromised neurological function. The takeaway according to the researchers?

"Pediatricians need to recognize the early warning signs of apraxia, consider screening for common metabolic and nutritional abnormalities associated with this syndrome, and initiate a referral to a knowledgeable developmental pediatrician or pediatric neurologist to obtain an accurate diagnosis."

While most of my readers don't have young children in the home, with the numbers of children affected by autism spectrum disorders, someone not too distant probably does. Pass the word on this cutting-edge research on safe nutritional therapies that could make a huge difference in both a young child's life and the lives of his/her parents and extended family.

Meanwhile, if any of you have a history of gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, you may want to understand your own carnitine levels, as celiac may cause carnitine deficiencies, and carnitine is critical not only to muscle energy but also to the transport of long chain fatty acids like omega-3's!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Insulin Resistance & Breast Cancer - No Surprise

Elevated levels of insulin in post-menopausal women bumps the risk of getting breast cancer up. Women with insulin levels in the top third had double the risk over women in the bottom third.

Research was conducted at Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University and published in the International Journal of Cancer. According to their press release:

"Since insulin is known to promote cell division and enhance breast tumor growth in animal models, the Einstein scientists reasoned that relatively high insulin levels may contribute to breast cancer risk in women...(and)...Notably, the link between elevated insulin level and breast cancer was strongest among lean women and weakest among obese women (who, in general, have higher insulin levels compared with lean women). “This finding is potentially important because it indicates that, in postmenopausal women, insulin may be a risk factor for breast cancer that is independent of obesity,” says Dr. Kabat. However, because the number of lean women was small, this finding is preliminary."

The study included 5450 participants who were followed over eight years.

Meanwhile, the correlation between insulin resistance and any disease is not surprising. Insulin resistance has been correlated to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, cognitive disorders, and more.

There are supplements that are useful in maintaining glycemic health; however, in all honesty, diet and lifestyle changes are critical if we moderns (too sedentary, too many yummy treats available) are to avoid insulin resistance issues.

Diets high in protein and fiber help. And, exercise helps burn off stores of excess sugar in the old bloodstream. No wonder exercise is associated with maintaining mental fitness well into old age!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Swearing Actually Helps with Pain!

Researchers hypothesized that swearing would reduce tolerance of pain due to "catastrophizing." Lo and behold, 64 college students proved otherwise in a Keele University study in the U.K.

According to Dr. Richard Stephen's team of researchers:

"(T)he pain-lessening effect occurs because swearing triggers our natural ‘fight-or-flight’ response. They suggest that the accelerated heart rates of the volunteers repeating the swear word may indicate an increase in aggression, in a classic fight-or-flight response of ‘downplaying feebleness in favour of a more pain-tolerant machismo.’ What is clear is that swearing triggers not only an emotional response, but a physical one too, which may explain why the centuries-old practise of cursing developed and still persists today."

Not sure if those around you will approve of this particular form of therapy but if they object, you can just note the research that supports swearing as a form of pain management. They may not all see the humor in such a movet! But then again, they may, and if the word gets out, seniors centers all around the world just may get a tad bit noisier.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Attitudes, Emotions & Disease

Way back in 1952, the Department of Medicine at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center found that diseases and conditions ranging from eczema and cold hands to migraine and hypertension were correlated to particular attitudes and emotions.

Specifically, the researchers defined emotions as being "an attitude with its associated physiological changes." Thinking about carrying a certain weight actually increases electrical activity in appropriate muscles for carrying heavy loads. And, "sustained contraction of the skeletal muscles can be painful."

Here are some more of the findings from interviews with 128 patients:
  • Eczema, with associated vasodilation, is associated with frustration and may possibly represent heat loss by an organism which has abandoned its readiness for action.
  • Arterial hypertension occurred with a sense of vigilance, when an individual felt he must be constantly prepared to meet all possible threats.
  • Cold skin, the result of cutaneous vasoconstriction, is associated with an anticipatory response and occurs in individuals contemplating some kind of action, even if he doesn't know how to take such action.
  • Vasomotor rhinitis & asthma are both associated with feelings of wanting to have nothing to do with something (the desire to exclude, similar to how the respiratory mucous membrane reacts to noxious agents).
Mind affecting body. Not exactly new age, in fact, not new at all. And, at the cellular level, it's akin to proving Newton's Third Law of Motion (the law of reciprocal actions).

Sometimes, folks in the nutrition industry attend only biochemistry, specifically, how nutritional agents can help cells function and repair themselves. Necessary but not necessarily sufficient. What's often missing is a more integral approach that acknowledges that our cells are in communities, which function based on relationships. Emotions affect how cells coordinate action with one another.

To quote a 2009 article, "The Rebirth of Neuroscience in Psychosomatic Medicine:"

"The brain influences end organs through "information transfer systems," including the autonomic, neuroendocrine, and immune system."

So minding our moment-to-moment thoughts, our persistent attitudes, and our seemingly-mysterious emotions can yield critical insights to the root of our difficulties and paths to healing.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Visceral Manipulation for Adhesions & More

I wrote about a recent (short) hospitalization due to old surgeries and a web of scar tissue from them. My naturopath recommended that I get something called "visceral manipulation" from one of her Bastyr University colleagues, Dr. Victoria Sucher.

Visceral manipulation has been practiced since the dawn of medicine and was developed by Dr. Jean-Pierre Barral, an osteopath, who noticed the relationship fascia has to dysfunction in the body. Visceral manipulation is in fact a gentle form of bodywork to release the fascia that surrounds and protects our vital organs or viscera.

When organs cannot move freely within protective facia, circulation becomes restricted and dysfunction and pain can result, often in areas far removed from the source.

In my case, surgical adhesions in the area where my appendix ruptured, at least 2 years before anyone diagnosed me with a ruptured appendix, are apparently particularly bad. I was told that these adhesions were likely contributing to chronic tension in my right leg and were also contributing to my right shoulder being subtly pulled in, toward my rib cage.

The prescription? Visceral manipulation sessions (15-40 minutes in duration) twice a month for several months. Sigh. I'm committed to doing the whole series as prevention but it does take a real investment on my part (no insurance coverage and a fair bit of driving, at least until I find a practitioner who is closer).

My friend, Gino Giglio, who has studied light touch massage therapies such as cranial sacral and visceral manipulation, had this to say:

Visceral manipulation is well worth the effort. I have studied several levels.

All the internals have motion, orbits, paths and some spiral rotation. Your naturopath no doubt explained all this to you. If those glidings of fascial casings are inhibited in any way, eventually such dysfunction will take its toll.

As you must have noticed, the vogue 'tune' now is that 80% of your immune system in in your gut. And there's more to the gut than that, as Dr. Michael Gershon tells us in his The Second Brain.

Good idea to free-up as much inherent movement as possible, so the body is not forced into permanent compensatory movement patterns. The flow gotta go on. Or else

Wise words. If any of my readers live in South Florida or Manhattan, Gino practices in both cities. He is a gifted bodyworker, very intuitive, and highly-trained (having spent time at the Upledger Institute among others). Drop a line if you want me to introduce you.

Meanwhile, as such a disembodied culture, with ridiculous amounts of stress, bodywork is one of those genuinely kind gifts we can give to ourselves. I hope you get some "time on the table" some time soon!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Factoids from "Metabolic Cardiology" Article

Did you know that the heart consumes more energy per gram than any other organ? Did you know that it takes more energy to fill the heart up with blood than to contract and empty the heart chambers of blood? What about the fact that mitochondria are 25 times more dense in heart cells than in biceps muscle cells?

Where did these factoids about the heart come from? Dr. Stephen Sinatra's article, "Metabolic Cardiology: An Integrative Strategy in the Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure," in the May/June 2009 Alternative Therapies journal.

Sinatra covers the basics of cardiac energy metabolism, with a lot of talk about ATP (an energy transfer molecule), ADP and dephosphorylation pathways. He goes on to talk about energy starvation in failing hearts, with energy demand outstripping energy synthesis and heart failure being associated with "overstretched, thickened, and enlarged left ventricle" that "overtaxes the heart muscle with each contraction."

Sigh, I suffer through the charts and chemistry discussions, as I'm not precisely the target audience. My interest is often confined to the overview and summary of such articles, skimming the body for interesting concepts and facts about nutrition and prevention versus absorbing all the details of cellular chemistry and dysfunction.

Given the premise that congestive heart failure (CHF) is due to energy (ATP) deficits, Sinatra goes on to make the case for boosting cellular energy in the heart with three vital nutritional supplements: D-ribose, Coenzyme Q10, and L-Carnitine. He cites many research studies that have validated the use of these nutrients in reducing cardiac death as well as arrhythmia and angina. Sinatra ends his article with some imperatives:

"It is no longer enough that physicians focus on the fluid retention aspects of 'pump failure.' For instance, diuretic therapies target the kidneys indirectly to relieve the dequelae of CHF without addressing the root cause....Metabolic solutions, on the other hand, treat the heart muscle cells directly.'"

"Cardiologists must learn that the heart is all about ATP, and the bottom line in the treatment of any form of cardiovascular disease, especially CHF and cardiomyopathy, is restoration of the heart's energy reserve."

"D-ribose, L-carnitine, and CoQ10 act to promote cardiac energy metabolism...(and)...are recommended as adjunctive metabolic therapies in the treatment of heart failure and cardiomyopathy."

"An understanding of this metabolic support for the heart provides the 'missing link' that has been eluding cardiologists for decades. Metabolic cardiology offers hope for the future treatment of CHF, cardiomyopathy, and any other form of cardiovascular disease."

My dear friend, Dr. Hugo Rodier, loves to talk about all diseases being issues of "energy and information" at the cellular level.

Dr. Sinatra is singing from the same hymn book, identifying energy metabolism as a critical "missing link" in treating cardiovascular disease. You can buy the whole article if you want to share it with your cardiologist directly through Alternative Therapies. Just mention that you want "Metabolic Cardiology: An Integrative Strategy in the Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure" from the May/June 2009, Vol. 15, No. 3 journal.

While we don't sell D-ribose, we do provide highly affordable CoQ10 (50mg, 150mg) and L-Carnitine, all of which have been validated by an independent laboratory for potency.

Perhaps we should add D-ribose, but we won't know for sure until after our next member survey later this summer. If you don't subscribe to our newsletter, sign up to get notification of our upcoming survey, coupon for completing the survey, and other specials coming this summer.

Vinegar Promotes Less Fat Build Up

Apple cider vinegar has long been promoted as an aid to weight loss or prevention of weight gain. The ancient Egyptians have been credited with some of the earliest uses of apple cider vinegar for weight loss. Traditional concoctions have combined an ounce of vinegar with a teaspoon of honey in water before meals.

Given the widespread interest in weight loss and the many mis-marketed products in the weight loss category, I read the recent findings on ordinary vinegar as a natural fat fighter, published in the June 2009 issue of Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, with great interest.

A study I missed in 2005 reported that vinegar is an appetite suppressant that helps dieters reduce food cravings. For reference, the amount of vinegar used in the 2005 Lund University study was 2-3 tablespoons mixed with water as a before-meal drink.

The 2009 findings from Japan take research on vinegar and weight management a step further, identifying vinegar's impact at the genetic level. Vinegar's acetic acid suppressed body fat accumulation by about 10% in rats by genetically "increasing fatty oxidation and thermogenesis in the liver." Interestingly, high doses (a 1.5% solution) and low doses (a .3% solution) of vinegar created the same fat-busting results.

I used to think the vinegar for weight loss story was nothing more than an old wives tale, which handily promoted the infamous placebo response. Not that the placebo response is bad and especially when the agent of action comes without dreadful side effects or great cost.

Now it looks like there's a lot more to the vinegar-for-weight-loss story. Drink up. It costs next to nothing and the only side effect to worry about is balancing the acid with enough alkalizing elements (think: greens and minerals) in your diet!

Monday, June 29, 2009

High Vitamin D Correlated with Better Memory

Can the research get any more positive on the many roles of vitamin D in protecting health?

Immune system, heart, bone, muscular, and cellular health have all been found to improve with higher vitamin D levels, which seem to protect against everything from allergies and cancer to autoimmune diseases (MS, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.).

This year, an English study showed that men with high vitamin D levels performed better on memory and information processing tests. Vitamin D, it seems, is also good for the brain. Of 3,000 men, aged 40-79, those with highest levels of vitamin D performed the best and those with the lowest levels (35 nmol/litre or under) had the worst scores on mental agility.

Researchers are not sure about the mechanism, with theories ranging from vitamin D triggering protective hormonal activity in the brain to boosting antioxidants that detoxify the brain.

What's not up for debate is that seniors are often deficient in vitamin D. If you don't want wrinkles associated with sun exposure, then you'll want to look for vitamin D3, the more bioavailable form, in any supplements you may choose.

We offer an inexpensive Vitamin D3 (only $2.98 for 120 veg capsules/1000IU) that was most recently tested by an independent laboratory in February 2009 to ensure potency.

Wherever you get your vitamin D, you probably need a lot more than you realize though and the minimum of 400 IU is far too low to be optimally protective.

Personally, I try to take between 2,000-10,000 IU daily of vitamin D3 (little capsules, so easy to swallow), as I had much sun damage as a kid and prefer to stay out of the sun with my fair (Irish stock) skin.

Gonna be getting my bloodwork updated this summer and I will look forward to seeing how my vitamin D levels have changed since last year.

Meanwhile, with the sheer volume of positive information on vitamin D, I can just hear my father, now deceased, repeating one of his favorite sayings: "What next? Bringing dead people back to life?!" If only it could be so!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Eye Doctor Impressed - Interested in Iodine Drops

My eye doctor was impressed today. From dry eyes last year (and an opthamologist's prescription for a year's worth of antibiotics, which I opted to ditch) to the fateful tear evaporation test today was quite the journey.

Last year, my tears evaporated in about 2 seconds (no oils from my tear ducts to prevent them from evaporating too quickly). This year, it took over 10 seconds (which my doctor considered "normal"). I told him about the two drops of Lugol's iodine formula that I had been taking in a big glass of water each morning (recommended by my integrative pharmacist friend, Mike Ciell).

My optometrist was quite interested in the iodine, taking notes on where he could send his dry eye patients for Lugol's formula iodine. I told him they were available at my naturopath's office, around the corner from his office as well as on the Internet (my link above is to Lugol's packaged with a book on iodine by Dr. Brownstein available at

Meanwhile, during the vision tests, my eye doctor noted that my minor astigmatism in distance vision had disappeared. Pretty cool!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mindfulness & Weight Loss Support Group

We published a news item detailing how meditation and mindfulness helped obese women lose weight over the long term. The program helped them change their cortisol levels (that would be the stress chemical that creates all sorts of metabolic mischief) and body fat distribution (less cortisol equals less abdominal body fat).

We decided to check for interest among our members for a "mindfulness for weight loss" support group. We quickly had enough folks interested to make the group a "go."

So, here's the scoop. I'll be leading the group in a series of calls, facilitating mindfulness exercises, assigning readings, encouraging the group to support each other, and, overall, working to cultivate greater integration of mind, body, and emotions in support of weight loss. No silver bullets, just a whole lot of practice within a supportive environment each week! :-)

For those of you who want more information on my background as an coach (certified both as an Integral Coach and a Somatic Leadership Coach), check out my bio on my coaching web site.

If you are interested in participating, drop me a line to get on the list. We'll give an update of this program in our newsletter as well.

Meanwhile, if you're wondering "why all the interest in weight loss" of late, the answer is quite simple. Our mission is not just to sell supplements but to support our community of members, and some of our members are suffering tremendously due to problems with their weight. Other members are the picture of health but their family members need help with weight loss to achieve better health.

We still don't believe in magic pills, and you'll never find Our Health Co-op hyping weight loss fads. However, we've heard the pleas for help so often that we continue to look for meaningful ways to help while staying true to scientifically-grounded approaches to long-term health.

Detecting Digestive Cancers with Improved DNA Stool Test

It's Digestive Disease Week 2009 in Chicago. The wires are rolling with news releases relating to disease diagnosis in all sorts of uncomely organs, including an improved DNA stool test that helps detect wide-ranging digestive tract cancers as well as colon cancer.

Tess and I were just looking at The Human Body Book (from a Body World exhibit) and we were almost unnaturally fascinated with pictures of intestinal villi, cross-sections of the pancreas, diagrams of "liver architecture," layers of the colon wall, and so forth. Once upon a time, both of us would have gladly passed over "news" about a stool test with an "eeew" sound and a pinched brow.

Hmm. That image just transported me back in time. I remember my great-grandmother, Mimi, asking me to slice a thick callus off one of her toes with a razor blade. I was about 13 or 14 years old. She saw my face scrunch up and a sound of revulsion start to emerge and quickly cut me off with a matter-of-fact tone of voice and words: "This is life--and you can't pull back from real life if you want to grow up."

Sheesh. I felt dressed down. I steadied my hand to ensure I didn't cut too deep. I'll never forget that moment in my favorite grandmother's room, overlooking her garden, which was always filled with camelias, fuschia, and bird of paradise flowers in Santa Monica, California.

But I digress. Back to my story of digestive health. The Mayo Clinic announced that they have an improved version of DNA stool testing that supports diagnosis of all sorts of digestive cancers. Here's the deal (excerpts from their press release):

The researchers studied 70 patients with cancers throughout the digestive tract. Besides colon cancer, the study looked at throat, esophagus, stomach, pancreatic, bile duct, gallbladder and small bowel cancers to determine if gene mutations could be detected in stool samples. Using a stool test approach developed at Mayo Clinic, researchers targeted DNA from cells that are shed continuously from the surface of these cancers. Also studied were 70 healthy patients. Stool tests were performed on cancer patients and healthy controls by technicians unaware of sample source. The stool DNA test was positive in nearly 70 percent of digestive cancers but remained negative for all healthy controls, thus demonstrating the approach’s feasibility.

Stool DNA testing detected cancers at each organ site, including 65 percent of esophageal cancers, 62 percent of pancreatic cancers, and 75 percent of bile duct and gallbladder cancers. In this series, 100 percent of both stomach and colorectal cancers were detected. Importantly, stool test results did not differ by cancer stage; early-stage cancers were just as likely to be detected as late-stage cancers.

"It’s very exciting to see this level of sensitivity for digestive cancer detection in our first look at this test application,” says Dr. Ahlquist, “Historically, we’ve approached cancer screening one organ at a time. Stool DNA testing could shift the strategy of cancer screening to multi-organ, whole-patient testing and could also open the door to early detection of cancers above the colon which are currently not screened. The potential impact of this evolution could be enormous.”

Shifting cancer screening to a more holistic approach that supports earlier detection of digestive diseases (and earlier interventions--whether with pharmaceuticals, nutritional regimes, or integrative protocols) is really quite good news.

If you are over 50, check out some of the Mayo videos (high-speed Internet helps) and also consider asking your physician about the new and improved DNA stool testing. It could save your life!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Inflammation in the Gut = DNA Damage that Affects Whole Body

Inflammation bad. Protection of the gut good.

If you read my blog regularly, follow Dr. Rodier's work, or subscribe to our newsletter, you've gotten the spiel many times before.

Now, pathology, toxicology, and oncology researchers are getting hip to this concept. UCLA researchers just published in Cancer Research their findings that "local intestinal inflammation induced DNA damage to lymphocytes of the peripheral blood circulating throughout the body. This means that chromosome damage was not limited to the intestine, but involved tissues of the body distant from the site of inflammation." Research confirmed that the severity of colitis in the mice being studied correlated to levels of chromosome damage in the blood.

Alas, I know a little more than the average person about intestinal issues, from first-hand experience as well as through family members with first-hand experience.

I found the quote by Dr. Jonathan Braun, professor and chairman of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UCLA and one of the study's authors compelling:

"Patients come to us with abdominal complaints and we can’t tell if they are inflammatory, obstructive or a bacterial overgrowth. At present, the only way to diagnose the patients is to do full endoscopic examinations, which are both invasive and expensive.” Braun went on to say that a "biomarker blood test could replace the invasive endoscopic exam and allow physicians to identify smoldering inflammatory disease before it becomes full blown."

Why was I so drawn to this piece of research today? I just had a scare of my own, with a couple of days in the hospital from late last Thursday through Saturday afternoon. No need to worry, I'm back at work and feisty as ever after a couple of days on IVs and no food to allow a bowel obstruction to release (phew, escaped surgery, thank heavens!).

Although I've talked a lot about my autoimmune/leaky gut diagnosis last year and my dad's intestinal issues, I don't think I've ever told my readers about a bad surgery I had at age 18 that has caused no end of havoc with extensive surgical adhesions (including a miscarriage and two ecotopic pregnancies--I've been told there's a bit of a spider web of adhesions in my belly).

Besides my personal interest in intestinal health, I always love to see research with a bent toward prevention, especially prevention of cancer.

Even if conventional docs will use the new testing to prescribe anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals, integrative docs will have a new diagnostic to convince their sometimes-reluctant patients to change their lifestyles, diets, and environmental exposures to reduce intestinal inflammation, post-haste! A lot more is at stake than annoying irritation of the bowel.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gluten Sensitivities: Malabsorption of Nutrients Contribute to Issues of "Aging"

Since my 30's, I knew I was sensitive to gluten. It makes me sneeze within less than a half hour after eating offending foods.

What I never knew is how much eating wheat (and others foods containing gluten) affects absorption of essential nutrients. Eating bread, pizza, or pasta seemed like a trivial sin with a small price to pay, namely some sneezing and a slow start the following morning.

With an autoimmune diagnosis last fall, I've been on a gluten-free diet for close to six months, and I've continued to learn more about gluten intolerance and gluten-free living, even though I am not a celiac disease patient.

Turns out the seemingly minor sin of eating foods with gluten exacts a much higher price with malabsorption issues when one is sensitive to gluten. When tiny, finger-like villi responsible for absorbing nutrients in the small intestines become inflamed, due to immune system reactivity to gluten, nutritional uptake decreases.

Calcium and folate absorption suffers when gluten damage affects the upper part of the small intestine. Absorption of macronutrients-- like protein, carbohydrates, and fats--along with fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K becomes a problem when damage from gluten progresses further in the small intestinal tract.

Many conditions associated with aging start with some level of gluten intolerance, unbeknownst to those who suffer or their health care practitioners. For example, dyspepsia is twice as likely in celiac patients over the general population. Women with celiac disease have been found to have significantly lower bone calcium content than control subjects without celiac disease. Most people don't know that "osteoporosis is considered a relatively frequent atypical presentation of CD" (celiac disease). It makes sense though: an inflamed small intestine cannot absorb enough calcium or vitamin D to build bones effectively.

Dermatitis herpetiformis is clinically a form of celiac disease and is often misdiagnosed as eczema, contact dermatitis, or psoriasis, skin conditions which present as a rash on the elbows, knees, buttocks, and also on the neck, upper back, scalp, and hairline. I know, not a pretty picture, but many people you know could be helped by identifying gluten as the root cause of their itchy, inflamed skin.

Meanwhile, it's a vicious cycle story when malabsorption is in play. Supplementation may not even be so helpful when the small intestines have been damaged. Only healing the gut with a gluten-free diet will remedy long-standing nutritional deficiencies. Improvements can start within days with healing taking from 6 months to 2 years, depending on severity of damage.

It's not easy to go gluten free but it is getting easier with increased choices within the gluten-free foods category. If you decide to go gluten-free to improve your own uptake of nutrients, I am here to cheer you on, as I've found my own efforts quite rewarding!

Monday, May 18, 2009

DNA Damage Happens in as Few as 3 Days from Air Pollution

It's a not-so-well-known fact that Salt Lake City has really bad, polluted air. The worst cities for short-term particle pollution included Salt Lake City (#6) and Logan, Utah, a city to the north (at #8). Pittsburgh, PA (#1), Fresno, CA (#2), Bakersfield, CA (#3), Los Angeles, CA (#4), and Birmingham, AL (#5) were the cities with worse air than Salt Lake City.

Why such bad air in a state known for pristine snowpack (think: winter Olympics) and the haven of outdoorsy folks of all kinds?

Alas, nasty particulates from from the state's many coal-burning power plants (which release loads of mercury), the Kennecott Copper Mine and Refinery (which ranks among the dirtiest plants with respect to total environmental and cancer risk releases), along with sundry West Coast pollution (blown in and trapped by the Wasatch Mountains) all contribute to the bad air.

So, what does "short-term particle pollution" actually mean? According to reporting:

"Communities ranking high on this list have short-term spikes in particle pollution that can last anywhere from a few hours to several days. And it's these short-term spikes that increase the number of emergency room visits for asthma and other respiratory diseases, along with upping the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and early death among residents."

And, why is this so important to consider, especially if you don't live in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, or Salt Lake City?

When I read today that environmental toxins can damage cellular DNA in a little as three days, I gasped (yes, a deep breath of contaminated air here in Salt Lake City). Reports of bouts of allergies may, in fact, have a lot more to do with toxic particles in the air than pollen. And, short-term exposures, even in normally cleaner air communities, can be quite damaging.

According to research out of the University of Milan, after only three days of exposure to high levels of pollution, negative changes occurred in four genes that have been linked to tumor suppression.

It's crazy hard to keep up with what's affecting our poor bodies (soils depleted of trace minerals, foods contaminated with pesticides, air pollution, toxic fumes from carpets and glues off-gassin, and on and on).

My take these days (and my dear friend, Dr. Hugo Rodier's long-held view) is that our bodies need all the help they can get with detoxification. Simple things help--like drinking lots of water, eating lots of fiber, and eating cruciferous veggies (with I3C, a potent detoxifier) help. Saunas help, a lot!

And, supplementing with well-studied detoxifiers found in our Constant Health formula, like milk thistle, glycine, glutamine, n-acetyl-cysteine, curcumin, calcium-d-glucarate (another source of I3C), and soluble fibers like apple pectin and guar gum all support detoxifying the body.

New research on reversing DNA damage will inevitably focus on developing cancer drugs. That will take a long time and a lot of money and side effects will be unknown. Until then, consider protecting your cells against damage through nutritional early interventions.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Folate's Role in Regulating Inflammation & Allergies

Our customers have long gotten the value of folic acid (also known as folate), B6, and B12 for reducing homocysteine levels and protecting heart health, as our B-Trio Chewable formula is a consistent top seller.

It was interesting to read this morning that Johns Hopkins Children's Center researchers tracked the effect of folate levels on respiratory and allergic symptoms and on levels of IgE antibodies, immune system markers that rise in response to an allergen.

Scientists from Johns Hopkins believe their research supports growing evidence that folate regulates inflammation in the body. They found that people with higher blood levels of folate had fewer IgE antibodies, fewer reported allergies, less wheezing, and lower likelihood of asthma. They also found that:

  • People with the lowest folate levels (below 8 nanograms per milliliter) had 40 percent higher risk of wheezing than people with the highest folate levels (above 18 ng/ml).
  • People with the lowest folate levels had a 30 percent higher risk than those with the highest folate levels of having elevated IgE antibodies, markers of allergy predisposition.
  • Those with the lowest folate levels had 31 percent higher risk of atopy (allergic symptoms) than people with the highest folate levels.
  • Those with lowest folate levels had 16 percent higher risk of having asthma than people with the highest folate levels.
There's pollen in the air and more to come as climates keep warming up. For those of you with allergies who want to start taking supplemental folate, it's important to know that high intake of folic acid can mask vitamin B12 deficiencies, thus you'll want to consider the value of taking these two water-soluble vitamins together.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu & Immune System Protection

It's not difficult to recognize that familiar New Jersey accented voice that greeted me at the other end of the line this morning.

I was interviewing Mike Ciell, a registered pharmacist, who prefers to go by "clinical biochemist" and has the formal title of "Chief Science Officer"at his new company, Ideal Protein of America. In an upcoming newsletter, we'll be featuring my interview, which focuses primarily on how Mike's diet program helps people achieve healthy insulin levels, lose weight, and gain muscle mass. I won't spill the proverbial beans before the interview goes live but there is one thing I've been reflecting on since Mike and I talked.

When asked about the current swine flu, Mike noted that everyone is looking for a silver bullet but the real silver bullet is a healthy immune system. He said, "There is no man-made defense more sophisticated than the immune system."

Mike went on to talk about the standard American diet as being "crummy for the immune system" by creating too much insulin, too much sugar that binds to proteins, making the glommed proteins targets for unnecessary immune system responses. Alas, too many pro-inflammatory signals create a cascade of "friendly fire" and damage to tissues, organs, and cellular function.

When truly pathogenic organisms show up, the immune system is already overextended. Hence the importance of ditching the sugar (and that means carbs, as morning bagels or hashbrowns, sushi rice, orange juice, apples, beer and wine, and other carbohydrates convert directly into sugar).

It's valuable to remember a few statistics about pandemic influenza viruses (infectious diseases that spread widely across populations):
  • The Spanish flu of 1918-1919 killed up to 5% of the entire human population, while one in five people around the world were infected with the virus.
  • Almost 700,000 people died in the United States; some 17 million are believed to have died in India; while up to 100 million died worldwide.
  • The Spanish flu was identified as an H1N1 virus as has the current swine flu virus.
  • The Spanish flu was so virulent because it overstimulated the immune system (causing a "cytokine storm" and consequent damage to organs and tissues in the lungs).
Personally, I'm not so much of an alarmist. As a writer, I am simply addressing a topic that is in the news and that has already created a whole lot of anxiety.

Here's the bottom line. You can tune up you immune system. Harmful inflammatory cascades can be controlled by reducing your sugar intake (and reducing exposure to any allergens, which can trigger autoimmune responses and thus weaken your system in the face of pathogens).

Antioxidants help out further by scavenging free radicals, those highly reactive entities that wreak havoc by stealing electrons. My subscribers tend to know a whole lot about antioxidants, as many of our top products are antioxidants (Heart Plus, Green Tea Extract, Coenzyme Q-10, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Constant Health, Immune Health, and so forth).

A commonly overlooked member of the immune system is the lymph system, which essentially "takes out the trash," filtering lymph fluid of bacteria, cancer cells, and antigens of all kinds (real and imagined). Lymph fluid also transports white blood cells (lymphocytes) to help fight infection (think: swollen lymph nodes) and macrophages in the lymph nodes themselves devour foreign particles.

Exercise, jumping around, even flailing around, anything that gets lymph fluids moving helps your immune system function more effectively. Stalled lymphatic fluids are like fetid swamps in nature (just say eeew!).

It's spring. Throw out the excuses for not moving and help ward off infection by ditching refined sugar, adding supplemental antioxidants, and moving a whole lot more to get your lymph system in gear.