Monthly Archives: March 2014

How to make your immune system Smarter

I have been learning about vitamin D for years and one of the experts that has taught me the most is Dr John Cannell who founded the Vitamin D Council. In this short interview he talks about the role and power of vitamin D and on its role in optimising the immune system.

A "must watch" 🙂

 

To test your blood level of your vitamin D check out my Helpful Lab' Tests page and to check out my recommended vitamin D supplement which is a drop or 2 of vitamin D3 liquid  on Amazon click on the picture to the left

For a vitamin D3 capsule the best I could find is Garden of Life Vitamin Code RAW D3

vitamin D capsulesor go here to research for a selection of liquids, capsules and other forms of vitamin D such as this high potency vegetarian version made by Thorne Research

 

Vitamin D – Do you add the “Sunshine Vitamin” to Your Day?

sunshineAdding sunshine to your day is an attractive idea and in our ABC of vitamins we've got to vitamin D which is often called “The sunshine vitamin”.

Truth be told, vitamin D is not actually a vitamin but a hormone. That was not known in the early days when the vitamins were being discovered so now we have the slightly absurd situation where a vitamin is not a vitamin – it sounds like a teaser but it really is true.

That means that we can find vitamin D in foods and it does fight disease but because vitamin D is not really a vitamin we can actually get vitamin D from non-food sources.

That's where the sunshine comes in.

Just by allowing sunshine to shine on your skin we can make our own vitamin D. There are some caveats to this – the actual amount of vitamin D may be too small to be useful to you so in practise it is still important for some of us to take a vitamin D supplement – sorry! – and even to take a vitamin D test and more on both of these points below.

Vitamin D is the name given to a small group of naturally produced steroid like molecules. They are labelled as D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5. The 2 important to us are Vitamins D2 and vitamin D3.

Vitamin D2

Found in mushrooms exposed to a ultraviolet light

Vitamin D2, has a chemical name of ergocalciferol and has a similar effect in the body.

Vitamin D3

Made in the skin when it gets enough sunshine vitamin D3 called the Sunshine vitamin by most humans and “Cholecalciferol” by Chemistry geeks is the active version of the vitamin used in the body and is the form best suited when taking a Vitamin D supplement.

How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?

That depends on the amount circulating in your blood at present and the healthy level of circulating vitamin D is controversial. A simple pin prick blood test can tell you what your current level at and you can get that either through your family Doctor or direct from the websites I have listed below and on the Resources Page on this website.

The amount regarded as acceptable in the past is 20 ng/ml but this is now regarded as hopelessly deficient and a consensus is building around the 50 to 70 ng/ml region as being healthy levels of vitamin D in the blood. It is vital when receiving your blood test that you get to know the actual number and not let yourself get false reassurance by being told that your level is “Normal” because the population is generally deficient and the “Normal” level is much too low.

Dosage therefore must be decided after a blood test and all you can do without that information is make an educated guess.

My Educated Guess

Even in sunny countries like Australia many are deficient in the sunshine vitamin. Most people spend nearly all their time indoors and receive little sun exposure. In addition there is widespread superstition about sunshine giving you cancer and this adds to the problem.

The net result is that for all practical purposes I advise that we all take a vitamin D supplement. In the summer that should be a minimum daily dose of 1000 iu, in the Autumn and Spring 2000 iu and in the Winter a dose of 3000iu. These numbers look large but they are quite small and you may need double or treble this dosage – but you can only find that out with a blood test.

Blood Testing For Vitamin D

Being able to find out if your blood level of vitamin D is too low for your health can be a game changer. If you have had pain for years or another disability then your vitamin D status could throw new light on old problems. I have put some useful information on this on a new page on this site so please go here to read more.

Health Benefits of Vitamin D

Vitamin D came to light as a result of bone diseases such as rickets. One of the early discoveries was that vitamin D helps the body absorb more calcium from the food we eat and that leads to better bone structure and along with other vitamins such as vitamin C and vitamin K produces stronger bones.

Even more important in recent years is the discovery of the anticancer actions of vitamin D – especially against Breast and Colon cancers.

Far from being the bogey man that causes cancer sunshine which produces vitamin D now seems to be a major player in the body's ability to avoid cancer and perhaps we should be supplementing cancer patients with appropriately high levels of vitamin D.

For the rest of us here are some possible vitamin D supplements.

Tablets

I could not find a a high quality vitamin D tablet that was good enough to include here. If you know of one do please share in the comment section below or on my Facebook Page. Thanks 🙂

Capsules

vitamin d capsules vegetarian and 1000 iu per capsuleHere is a good brand, THORNE RESEARCH with 1000 iu per vegetarian capsule please click on the picture here on the right to read more.

Liquid

Lquid vitamin D supplement - drops of vitamins D3 and vitamin KIdeal for those who hate taking tablets and even prefer to avoid capsules – a few drops from the enclosed stopper either onto your tongue or into juice and you're done. You can get the dose you want by counting the number of drops you use.

 

 

Vitamin D Foods

And please don't skip healthy food sources either especially mushrooms – this lighthearted video of a Chef and a Dietician helps puts it all in perspective.

Photo credit Apollo1981

Trauma and Stress in Cancer

One of the early theories of the causation of cancer is the intrusion of a trauma into your life. Yes there are issues with pollution and toxins but without trauma and stress inhibiting your Immune system and detoxification system your body can handle the toxins – especially when you get proper dietary help from an expert.

In the video Chris Wark from Chris Beat Cancer and Dr Patrick Vickers from the Northern Baja Gerson Centre discuss this often neglected issue

The ABC of Vitamins: Vitamin A

In the ABC of the alphabet song, "A is for Apple" and in our ABC of Vitamins we can start with Apple too because it contains around 100 iu of vitamin A.

And while that does not make it a rich source of vitamin A it makes sense to talk a little about “iu” before we go any further into the story of the vitamins so let's briefly look at what an iu is…

International Units vs Milligrams

Measuring how much of a vitamin a food has does not seem like it would be a big deal but some Food scientists publish their results in iu or International Units and some in milligrams.

The reason is that the vitamins in a food have different forms in any particular food some of which are more active and effective than others. In those cases it makes more sense to publish the vitamin content in terms of “activity” which is measured in iu rather than just how much there is in mg.

Vitamin A was discovered to be essential for sight during animal experiments and found to exist in foods a number of forms such as the carotene version in vegetables and retinol in animal tissues.

The Carotene Family is huge because there are hundreds of different versions in plants, fruit and vegetables – a few commonly mentioned family members are beta carotene, lycopene and lutein.

Both beta carotene and alpha carotene ( and other carotenes) can be converted to retinol in the body and act as a storage tank in a way for this vital vitamin.

Beta carotene is sometimes called provitamin A or previtamin A to express the fact that beta carotene can be converted into Retinol when needed.

Beta Carotene vs Retinol

So you may be wondering whether we need to eat both the carotene provitamin A as well as Retinol?

The answer is no – because we can safely consume large amounts of carotenes in a healthy diet and only when the body needs retinol will it produce it by converting it from beta carotene. And since retinol is fat soluble it can build up in our tissues and particularly in the liver and potentially be hazardous.

Beta Carotene is Safer

That means that the plant forms of vitamin A are safer versions of this vital vitamin to include in your diet. They can build up in your tissues if your intake of sweet potato and carrots and kale is truly and madly gargantuan but all that happens then is a slight bronze or orange tint in your skin which may not even be noticed and which fades if your intake goes back to normal.

What Does Vitamin A do?

I mentioned in passing that we get vitamin A from sweet potato, carrots and kale so with such rich sources of the vitamin delivering many health benefits you can expect vitamin A to do a lot in the body.

It is most well known for its role in vision and in particular night vision. As far back as 1816 animal experiments done to find out why so many babies were dying in Paris found that scars on the cornea of the eye and then death occurred when something was missing from the diet. It took over a 100 years to work out that the missing something was vitamin A.

And it's not just visual acuity that we get from vitamin A – it contributes to the health of the skin and of what may be called our inner skin.

The power of vitamin A to heal skin lesions is well known and many commercial skin lotions and potions are based on it. Generally they will use a synthetic version of the vitamin rather than the natural version because they may have a patent for the synthetic version and will make a higher profit by selling.

No one makes money telling you to eat sweet potatoes!

But it is not just your skin that benefits from a diet rich in vitamin A – your inner health gets a boost too.

Starting at your lips and going right down the throat and windpipe and gullet right through your stomach and intestines there is an “inner skin” or mucous membrane.

And on this thin and delicate membrane rests the health of your body.

If this membrane is unhealthy we cannot absorb the nutrients we swallow, if this membrane is inflamed by allergens or toxic sprays on our food we struggle to get the nutrition we need.

And if the membrane that lines the windpipe and lungs is unhealthy and inflamed we may struggle to breathe and suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases.

This membrane – our inner skin – needs nourishment, it needs vitamin A for it's health ( and vitamin C too but we haven't got there yet 🙂 )

On the health of the inner skin rests our entire life – no kidding and no exaggeration because it is the mechanism for us to take in both food and oxygen. Without good delivery of both vital nutrients we decline in health and eventually die.

Knowing that vitamin A is a matter of life or death we ask an obvious question…

Where we get Vitamin A From?

We've mentioned a few already and they are the richest sources of beta carotene…sweet potato, carrots and kale. But there are lots of others and basically if you have a healthy diet, one with lots of vegetables you hardly need to bother about vitamin A even though it is so important.

Greens – Turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens and spinach are rich sources too.

Squash and Pumpkin – rich sources of beta carotene

Apricots – dried apricots and peaches are not just totally yummy they pack a punch of beta carotene too.

Tomatoes – a different carotene here – lycopene

How much Vitamin A do I need?

The RDA for retinol is 2300 iu for for adult females, 3000 iu for adult males but my recommendation is eat tons of healthy vegetables rich in beta carotene and forget the numbers. If you really want to take a supplement as a kind of health insurance then consider taking

Last Words on Vitamin A

Basing your diet on vegetables gives you much more than vitamin A, it gives you a sound foundation to be healthy and resist cancer, heart disease and diabetes as well as other chronic diseases that are common on poor diets. By all means take a good vitamin A supplement or a good multi-vitamin but help it along with a multi-vegetable dinner plate as well.

Beyond the ABC of Using Vitamins – Natural or Synthetic Vitamins?

abc of vitaminsIn the previous post we looked at the ABC of Vitamins, their odd sounding names, the dosage we should take and at the whole issue of Official recommendations for our health.

The next step is to get more details about the vitamins in our food and to do that we'll go back to vitamin C again.

You can buy this as a powder to mix with water or as a tablet. Powdered vitamin C mixes well with water or juice because it dissolves well in water. Once the powder is mixed with water it tastes just like lemonade, and is rather yummy in my view.

Not all vitamins mix like this, some like vitamin A and E will mix well and dissolve in oil and fat and not in water.

Which is best – water or fat soluble vitamins?

The body needs both types of vitamins because it is made from cells which have an oily cell wall and a watery interior and both parts of the cell need the protection that vitamins give.

The vitamins that mix with water are called “Water soluble” and those that mix and dissolve with oils and fats are called “Fat soluble”.

Of our ABC of Vitamins we find that vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble and vitamins B and C are water soluble.

Water soluble vitamins are going to be lost in the water used to cook foods with these vitamins if we throw the water away as most people do. Instead it is best to collect the water from cooked vegetables and either drink it with the meal – it is you might say, vegetable soup or keep it for stock.

Fat soluble vitamins may be in short supply in the average diet simply because people have been bombarded with so much wrong information about fats and oils being unhealthy that they risk not getting the vitamins in those foods! If you are persuaded to follow a low fat diet then don't be surprised that you are getting amounts of fat soluble vitamins too.

And that could be dangerous!

For example, the reason butter is yellow is because vitamin A in it gives it that colour naturally. With butter substitutes such as margarine, additives are used to give the impression that you are eating butter!

Butter and healthy oils like Olive oil carry fat soluble vitamins and adding them to foods makes it easier for the body to absorb and use the valuable fat soluble vitamins it needs

Different forms of vitamin C

Just in case you think that you now know all there is to know about vitamins we have one more slight complication!

And that is that there are several forms of each of the vitamins – each with their own pros and cons!

So vitamin C usually comes in the form called ascorbic acid but you can also buy it as calcium ascorbate or sodium ascorbate or…enough already! There's no need to list them all just to give you an idea of the complexity!

What to Buy

The major decision is around whether the version of the vitamin you are thinking of buying is a natural version or whether it is synthetic.

The difference may be dramatic.

There is a well publicised study of some smokers in Finland which has been interpreted by some Doctors as meaning that a vitamin supplement caused some of the smokers to die a little earlier than expected.

The problem lies in the fact, not revealed in the research paper that published the results that a SYNTHETIC molecule invented to mimic a vitamin was used rather than the natural form of the molecule.

It was not a vitamin that was used in the research – it was a manufactured “vitamin like” chemical made by the drug company that supported the research

So vitamins may be natural form or they may be synthetic and my advice is to avoid the synthetic versions.

We'll look at some of the details of this and other studies later in this series – I want to equip you as well as I can to choose and use the right vitamins to fill your needs, but I'm going to do it step by step!

OK 🙂 ?

Our next step is to look in detail at each of the vitamins and we'll do that in the next post in this ABC of Vitamins series with Vitamin A.

Do You Know the ABC…of Vitamins?

abc of vitaminsFunny enough, when we learn our ABCs we might say “A is for Apple, B is for Berry, C is for Cherry…but we don't learn about vitamins A, B or C until many years later, if at all. This means that we have only a hazy idea of how important they are to us or where they comes from or even what they are.

That stops here because today I want to fill in the gap left by our schooling and show you how important your ABC of vitamins really is.

What Are Vitamins Anyway?

Before we get to our ABC we need to clarify what vitamins really are.

Vitamins were discovered around 1900. One by one scientists found that there were unknown ingredients in food, something that was so important that animals and people die if it is missing from their diets.

Poor diets were found to lead to disease and death and one by one as the cases were studied the missing nutrient was found to be a vitamin.

Scientists found that there were several of these missing “somethings” and they then had to be given a name. The first name given was “vitamine” which was short for “vital amine” and then the letters of the alphabet were used so we ended up with A,B,C,D,E…all the way up to K.

Vital Amine?

And then the first major mistake was spotted! Vitamins were called “vital” meaning essential to life and that's correct but an “amine” is a member of the ammonia family and in a chemical formula looks like NH2 where N is for Nitrogen and H is hydrogen.

Problem is that vitamins are not amines so the very first step into Vitamin science was on quicksand and ended up with a quick correction.

A “political” correction was made – they kept the name and just knocked the final “e” of the word!

So now we call them “vitamins”.

Vital to Life

But food is vital to life – we know that without eating we get weaker, hungrier, lose weight and eventually lose consciousness and lose life.

Food supplies us with energy which we measure in calories and nutrients which we know as vitamins and other nutrients.

Scurvy is an interesting example of a disease we can get if we eat insufficient amounts of vitamin C. The disease was first described by Hippocrates who was writing hundreds of years B.C and yet 2,000 years later scientists were still unsure what the cause was. The cure was simple and had been proven many times and yet Doctors ignored the evidence.

And this was not a rare disease either as this quote from the Wiki shows “Between 1500 and 1800, it has been estimated that scurvy killed at least two million sailors ”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scurvy

And how to cure this awful disease? Easily according to Johann Bachstrom an 18th C Polish Pastor here is the cure…

“scurvy is solely owing to a total abstinence from fresh vegetable food, and greens; which is alone the primary cause of the disease ”

Which is of course, correct.

I could fill this entire blog post with similar cases, stories and proofs of how vitamins were found to cure disease.

And rather than do that I want to focus now on how much vitamin C we need – so we will look at a few numbers and see how they can help you know how much of the vitamins you need to not just avoid obvious disease but to healthy enough to thrive.

Not knowing this is why many people nowadays have scurvy – but more of that in a minute – we need some details to be able to use this information powerfully to boost our own health.

How Much and When?

We've seen that a major killer disease was found to be caused by a deficiency of a vitamin – in this case we are looking at vitamin C.

The next thing we need to know is how much vitamin C to use – how many milligrams of vitamin C do we need and does everybody need the same amount?

The surprising answer is that it all depends on where you live! Every government has a health and nutrition board that makes recommendations for the healthy functioning of its people.

Of course the people who get to sit on these boards are all Nutrition experts…oops that should be obvious but it does not quite work out that way. In fact the members of government committees are people who have the time and inclination for the paperwork and who are politically acceptable.

Very often the real experts don't fit into these requirements and the resulting recommendations show all the signs of official data they are out of date and ignore important scientific research.

In Canada, the US, UK, India and Australia – to mention the main English speaking countries the “Official” recommendations for daily vitamin C intake for an adult are…

Country Adult Dosage mg
Australia 45
Canada 90
India 40
United Kingdom 40
United States of America 60 to 95

 

In addition, just to show you that this is a political issue, there are values recommended by the World Health Organisation and the European Union which are 45 and 80 mg respectively.

Altogether then "Official" sources say that we should take an amount between 40 mg and 95 mg !

And remember we are only looking at vitamin C values, we will find a similar divergence of view with every other nutrient!

So who is right?

What is a person going to do here? Well the practical answer is,”Ask an expert!” and my definition of an expert is someone who is trained in Nutritional science and treatment and that answer will take you to people who use Nutrition with their patients.

That excludes the vast majority of Medical Doctors and includes Naturopathic Doctors and Nutritional Therapists and some Chiropractors and Herbalists.

It may surprise you that most Medical Doctors are not taught Nutritional Medicine but that reflects the situation. They are taught a lot of Drug Therapy and little to no Food and Nutritional Therapy.

Expert Opinion On Vitamin C

If my discussion on who is an expert does not quite convince you then let me refer you to the expert above all others on vitamin C; someone who is, you might say, the expert of experts…

And that is Dr Linus Pauling – yes the Linus Pauling with 2 Nobel Prizes. He recommended we take 2000 mg a day and that is what I take.

What I noticed in my time as a Nutrition student is that the more Nutrition people knew the more vitamin C they took. It was pretty common for us to take 4000 or 5000 mg a day and to do so for years.

I have taken these doses for decades now and have enjoyed almost perfect health.

A last word on the Official dosage.

Why do the officials get it so wrong? Part of the answer is politics and part is that they do not use Nutritional therapy on a daily basis with patients and simply do not base their recommendations on practical knowledge but on theoretical requirements about how much is needed for a white blood cell and how much is needed to help absorb iron in the diet and so forth.

Real practical advice for a adult seeking good health usually concludes with doses of 2000 mg upwards.

In the next post we look deeper into the ABC of Vitamins click here to read more.

Photo credits RubyGoes

Hot Yoga and Toxins

yoga on the beachI started reading about and then practising Yoga around 1966. At first I was intrigued by what to me looked like some pretty odd pictures and somehow got drawn in and did what every book tells you NOT to do which is learn the Yoga Exercises from the books. As time went by moved my Yoga Practise to Meditation but still did some asanas.

That's been the case ever since. When I heard of "Yoga in a Hot Room" I thought it absurd frankly. Yoga is balance it is a spiritual disciple and not a physical one. The only reason that Miellenia ago the exercises were created was to help those doing a lot of meditation every day a simple way to keep healthy. My attitude on this seems to be shared by some consumer organisations too.

This is a Detox blog and we discuss and share a ton of information on toxins. If Yoga was great for detox I would be shouting it from the rooftops. If hot rooms are your thing then do a sauna or a Turkish bath. Yoga is for keeping you cool!

photo credit tiarescott

Superfoods And Their Use To Treat Cancer

spoonful of the spice turmeric Superfoods got some attention today in the National Press. Seems that someone chose to follow a superfood diet rich in juices, salads and green leafy vegetables rather than take the cancer drug recommended by their Doctor! She got well – that was the story.

This is pretty common really so I'm unsure exactly why the newspapers featured her.

But rather than mull over the unique features of her case let's look at the whole superfood angle.

All foods have nutrients such as vitamin C or potassium in them but Superfoods like tea, tomatoes or turmeric either have special nutrients such as catechins, lycopene or curcumin respectively or simply large amounts of vitamin C such as Rose hips, Amla and Camu camu.

So if you are looking to diet as one of your mainstays to recover from an illness it makes sense to choose and use as many of these superfoods as possible.

Sadly it is quite hard for the average health conscious person to do this. They may turn to a Doctor or a Dietician but find that they may have less knowledge than they do of superfoods or even worse try to persuade them to follow a so called “healthy diet” composed of government approved foods!

However, Nutritionists should be able to help them and of course Naturopaths will help you plan a healthy plant based diet with suoerfoods as a focus.

Cancer Superfoods

In the case of Cancer there are a lot of superfoods that have special nutrients of direct use. Here are a few…..

  • Turmeric is one of the most obvious superfoods. It encourages the cells of some kinds of cancer to self-destruct and interferes with the replication process in other cancers.
  • Ginger also has been found to induce apoptosis, self destruction by some cancer cells as well as being a powerful anti-inflammatory remedy.
  • Garlic has many cancer studies under its belt. Large studies show effects at reducing colon and pancreatic cancers.
  • Greens such as Broccoli have several powerful anti-cancer properties and one that is obvious here is isothiocyanate which produces apoptosis (self destruction) of cancer cells.

We could go on and on with longer lists of superfoods and their use in fighting cancer and other diseases but the point I want to focus on today is that a superfood diet makes sense and is easy to follow.

Simply put – if you have any health problems go to a health professional who can help you plan your diet – but check them out first to make sure they really know what they are talking about and have appropriate qualifications.

You may also need herbal or other treatment but putting as many superfoods on your menu as you can is a simple safe and effective measure.

The original story that prompted this post is here

And a similar story is featured in the video by Chris Wark

Photo of a spoonful of turmeric by summertomato

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