Monday, January 25, 2010

Glutamine: Coming Soon

I just finished my blog on air pollution and thoughts about cellular detoxification. It occurred to me that I should also give a little update on glutamine, which is a potent cellular detoxifier and healer for the intestinal lining.

Glutamine is known particularly for detoxifying ammonia from the body, but its role in re-establishing the integrity of intestinal walls is also important. Breaks in the intestinal lining allow toxins as well as undigested food molecules to escape into the blood stream, where they can cause all sorts of trouble (including allergies and autoimmune responses).

Glutamine is also known for immune system support, helping stimulate the production of antioxidants (like glutathione) and fighting toxic free radicals (produced by air pollution).

The good news: we'll be adding glutamine powder before the end of the quarter, at long last!

I blogged about glutamine last September (Glutamine, Glutathione & Immunity & More on Glutamine, Immunity & Health) and received enough support to get production rolling. 

Salt Lake City: Worst Air in the Nation

Winter in Salt Lake City is both spectacular and dismal. Watching clouds part over freshly-dusted mountains always takes my breath away. However, "inversions" thrust Salt Lake City's air quality into the worst-of-the-worst during the winter months. Many people complain about sinus problems, itchy eyes, asthma flare-ups, and low-grade coughs that persist. It's not just pollen or dust; it's the air pollution.

Indeed, the American Lung Association's 2009 "State of the Air" report gave Salt Lake City an "F" in air quality, with our average of 55 "orange" days and 2 "red alert" days each year.According to Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, "Everyone assumes that Salt Lake City must be a clean place, but it's not -- it's counterintuitive."  If you're curious, take a look at the grades your region and your city received.

Cities with the highest seasonal spikes in air pollution (namely Pittsburgh, Fresno, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Birmingham, and Salt Lake City), not surprisingly, see corresponding spikes in emergency room visits for asthma attacks.

What may be surprising, however, is that the ultrafine particles in air pollution cause problems well beyond your lungs. Read more from an ABC News article on how air pollution can damage the heart and blood vessels:

"Studies conducted at the Heart Institute found that ultrafine air pollutants can cause an immediate drop in coronary blood flow and the heart's pumping function, and tend to cause arrhythmias to develop. Researchers have also found increased levels of air pollution are tied to emergency hospital admissions for heart attack, chest pain and congestive heart failure, and even to death from heart disease, arrhythmias, heart failure and cardiac arrest."

My friends, my cats, and I all suffer from the bad air in Salt Lake City. A lot of folks just try to grin and bear it, but I think it's vital to view air pollution as something that requires action. Sure, we can drive less and lobby for clean air standards, but those are long-term solutions.

A rather simple solution that gives us each a lot more control? Adding lots of houseplants - my favorites are the Boston fern and Peace Lily -- as 15-20 houseplants can create clean air inside an 1800 square foot house!

Another tactic is to regularly do internal cleanses to detoxify your cells of pollutants and other toxins. Many people swear by MSM as a nutrient that helps cells purge toxins. I've personally felt better this winter since I added MSM back into my diet. If you're interested in learning more, here's a resource to check out: MSM the Definitive Guide: The Nutritional Breakthrough for Arthritis, Allergies and More

Other people are committed to major annual cleanses (several weeks of eating simply and taking a variety of botanicals and supplements to aid their bodies in releasing stored toxins).

Dr. Rodier and the Hippocrates Health Institute are both big believers in regular saunas to release stored toxins.

I am interested to hear about your experiences. Drop a line below if you have a favorite approach.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Cold or An Allergy?

I was in Florida for more than a week, around people from all over the world, and when during the last few days I noticed that I was sneezing and my nose was running, I was not sure if I had caught a cold or if I was having an immune system reaction to something (in the air or in my food). I didn't have aches. I didn't have that foggy head syndrome I usually associate with colds. I didn't have a sore throat. However, I was blowing my nose constantly on Tuesday, sneezing, and I've had a bit of a cough off and on since then, more of an annoyance than any real discomfort though.

I decided to revisit the scientific differences between colds and allergies, and according to the WebMD article on "Common Cold or Allergies?" my symptoms are more likely to be caused by an allergy than a cold. Here's a reprint of the chart in the WebMD article:

Differences Between Colds and Allergies

3-14 days
Days to months -- as long as you are exposed to the allergen
Time of Year
Most often in the winter, but possible at any time
Any time of the year -- although the appearance of some allergens are seasonal
Onset of symptoms
Symptoms take a few days to appear after infection with the virus.
Symptoms can begin immediately after exposure to the allergen
Itchy, watery eyes
Sore throat
Runny or stuffy nose
Often; usually yellow mucus
Often; usually clear mucus

I was eating out a lot in Florida, and I wasn't entirely careful about avoiding wheat and dairy (thinking I was oh-so-healthy now and could "cheat" and have what everyone else was having). My scalp was a bit itchy and that typically signifies dairy in my diet versus an infection.

So back to avoiding appetizers like fried calamari. Back to pretending crème brûlée doesn't exist. Back to being "good" in order to feel better!

Anyway, if you feel like you have a "mild cold" and it lingers longer than a couple of weeks, you might want to do some detective work on potential allergies

Drop a line below if you have a personal experience to share!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dark Chocolate Bars Back in Stock Soon!

Our organic Grenada Dark Chocolate bars (71% dark chocolate content) disappeared in a hurry, and Teri has received many calls from people who missed out on our holiday special and have cajoled Teri into holding their orders until the new batch of chocolate bars arrive.

Even Tess and I sold our limited stock out in Utah to a friend, who is a sweet talker and likes our chocolate bars better than the ones for which he paid $8 at a gourmet grocery store in town. That made us feel special enough to let go of our stash. Teri doesn't even like dark chocolate but says that since the label is so pretty she wouldn't mind buying this chocolate just for the label. Funny thing is that she means it!

Meanwhile, one member called this morning and asked Teri what the caffeine content is for the dark chocolate bars. Our bars are 3 ounces and thus pack about 60 mg of caffeine per bar (a little over three times the amount in milk chocolate). If you eat an entire bar, you're getting the caffeine equivalent of a weak cup of brewed coffee. If you are sensitive to caffeine, like I am, you may enjoy the rich taste of our dark chocolate enough that a square (or a third of a bar at most) will satisfy your chocolate cravings without too much buzz!

With the enthusiastic response, we've decided to carry our Grenada Dark Chocolate bars for half the year (the cooler months from November to April). Our new stock will be in later this week.

As someone who looks forward to this inventory as much as any of our customers, all I can say is "Yum!" :-)

Paying Workers to Get Healthy?

I keep running across articles about companies that are paying their employees to "get healthy."  Programs are cropping up everywhere that incent employees to get annual physicals, quit smoking, lose weight, commit to physical fitness, etc.

The Palm Beach Post just ran an article on the Cleveland Clinic's wellness program, which gives employees incentives to "battle chronic medical conditions and lower the cost of care."  Six chronic conditions include: diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, asthma, excessive weight, and smoking.

The article featured a quote from the Cleveland Clinic's CEO, Delos Cosgrove, who said, "Over the last nine months, our employees have lost 112,000 pounds." The company has ditched deep fryers in the cafeteria and offers no junk food in vending machines. The company also employs nurse care managers that work with employees' physicians to manage chronic conditions with a bias toward supporting wellness and positive lifestyle choices versus treating diseases. More dramatically, job offers come with a required nicotine and drug test, with failure meaning no job offer possible for at least 90 days.

It's great that places like IBM and the Cleveland Clinic are investing in wellness programs with resources to support their employees in making significant lifestyle changes over time.

However, not everyone works at big companies and receives the benefits of such programs. I'll never forget one director of medicine, who was quite interested in integrative wellness and who said with resignation, "It's sad. Insurance will pay $50,000 to amputate a diabetic's foot but won't pay a few hundred dollars for preventive lifestyle coaching or to reimburse for nutritional supplements that could help."

Alas, real health care reform requires transitioning from a disease care model to a genuine wellness model. But we can start imagining a different future today. Since most of my readers are supplements fans, wouldn't it be nice if your annual supplement purchases counted as a legitimate health expense and income tax deduction? Maybe someday!