Category Archives: Healthy LIfestyle

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

 

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.

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

Agave Nectar – Is it The Sweetener For You?

agave necter praaised for its flavourAgave is a Yucca type succulent plant processed to yield the sweetener we hear so much about. Agave syrup also called nectar is presented as a natural product similar to maple syrup or honey. With so much bad news about sugar and high fructose corn syrup it is natural to look for a different sweetener and if it is healthy and vegan too then those are added bonuses.

Problems present themselves when you look a little deeper. According to the Wiki Agave nectar consists primarily of fructose and glucose. One source gives 92% fructose and 8% glucose; another gives 56% fructose and 20% glucose. These differences, it is presumed, reflect variation from one vendor of agave nectar to another.

Whether Agave is 56% or 92% fructose is the accurate number for the Agave on the supermarket shelf, it is a high fructose sweetener. Fructose used to be ignored as a contributor to a healthy diet. The point of view was that it is basically from fruit so it has to be healthy. This has been challenged lately especially by Dr Robert Lustig based on his clinical experience of treating obese children and from a deeper investigation of how fructose is processed by the body. It turns out that fructose is treated like alcohol and produces similar damaging effects in the liver.

And how much impact this has on you will depend on the rest of your diet and on how much Agave you consume. If you use it occasionally then I don't see any particular problem but if you use it daily then you may as well just use fructose.

Glycaemic Index

It may be useful here to say a little on The Glycaemic index, GI. This often causes much confusion. If the GI of a food is high then your blood sugar may well rise rapidly and conversely if the GI of a food is low then it does not challenge your blood sugar but that does not mean that the food is healthy. Merely that the food in question does not have that particular problem – that of causing a blood sugar spike.

For Agave the G.I. will depend on the brand tested but values returned by the University of Sydney Database are 10, 11 and 19 and for fructose the values are 11, 12 and 23 which are all low values.

Who is Agave For?

Certainly not for health conscious people. The GI numbers quoted in the previous paragraph show that Agave does not provoke a blood sugar spike but that does not mean that Agave is a healthy food.

Nearly all the commercially available Agave appears to be as processed as most foods on the Standard American or Western Diet. Quite possibly there may be some wild crafted sources of Agave with minimal processing that have some health benefits for us health nuts but Agave seems to be for the dieter who wants to avoid sugar and who finds the taste acceptable.

Personally I think they would be better off using Stevia or a high quality honey – what do you think? Have you used Agave as a sweetener? Or Organic Agave Nectar ?

The Rise of Detox and Its Role in Natural Therapies

detox and natural remediesThere is a large and rising number of Detox articles, diets and products nowadays so awareness and practise of detoxification is increasing. But to me a Naturopath using Detox as a normal part of everyday treatment, most of it appearing confused shallow and often totally wrong.

Time to ask some questions about detox and the first one is where does it fit when compared against Natural treatments and remedies.

Natural therapies have been all that we have had to turn to until relatively recently. So a little history may help put things in perspective follows.

It was the popularisation of antibiotics in the 20th Century that really “beat the drum” for drug based medicine, even though antibiotics had been used both in ancient Egypt and India and perhaps in other places too.

Mass markets were clamouring for products and a need for effective medicines to cope with injuries sustained in the Second World war. Added to that there was a Scientific mindset growing at the time that wanted to move on and move away from traditional choices.

The love for new things was such that even unhealthy practises like cigarettes were receiving popular and even professional support. Smoking was being popularised and Medical Doctors were recommending it as, “Good for the lungs”.

Our food choices were changing too. A whole world of technologically driven processed foods entered our stores and new appliances found their way into the home.

It was not just our medicine that was changing; a tide of change swept through Western and other societies and altered not just the practise of what we did but the underlying rational too.

A lot of this change was welcomed and many old methods abandoned happily. New understanding and research opened up new horizons even in staid subjects such as dietetics – what best to eat for our health.

Meals were then based on a rote formula like “Meat and 2 vegetables” and new data showed that this “default setting” was questioned by a, soon to be famous researcher, called Ancel Keys.

We are now into the 1950s and Public Health officials were looking at what large numbers of people were dying of. Blame started to accrue to smoking and many Doctors started to campaign on this issue. Decades were wasted and many innocent people died due to governments around the world resisting the unwelcome facts that so called “lifestyle” diseases were killing millions. Attention shifted to diet too and rightly or wrongly Keys pointed the finger of blame for the huge rise in deaths from Cardiac disease at the amount of cholesterol in the food.

All through this era Naturopathic Doctors were keeping their powder dry. None of the new drug discoveries or the diet changes impacted on their understanding of what a healthy diet was or on how the body heals. The tradition of Naturopathic medicine continued unabated in a low key way largely unheard of by the public.

But the public did hear from some renegade Doctors who ran into the facts that vitamins and some other food supplements are powerful enough to make a real difference to a seriously ill patient.

They heard from William Shute who pioneered the use of Vitamin E for Cardiac patients

They heard from Linus Pauling the Nobel Prize Winner who was a pioneer of the use of high dose vitamin C for various disorders.

And they heard from Abram Hoffer a trailblazer working with various nutrients such as Niacin.

Naturopaths did not really like this.

Pioneering Medical Doctors were not taking the whole caboodle from Naturopathy – they were picking and choosing the bits they liked and even paving the way for a new kind of therapy called Nutritional therapy that used a variety of vitamins, minerals and other natural substance found in food as medicines.

Hippocrates is always said to the “Father” of medicine but Medical Doctors pay no heed to his teachings and oppose and scorn Naturopaths who do follow them religiously.

The teaching of importance at this point is, “Let they food be thy medicine”. Food and diet is an absolute priority for Naturopathic Doctors and a matter completely ignored by Medical Doctors.

The new rebel Doctors pioneering vitamins came into the space between the medics and the Naturopaths and formed their own new kind of medicine called Orthomolecular Medicine, meaning medicine using the correct molecules – found of course in healthy foods.

Not drug molecules you understand but vitamin molecules. They pioneered Nutritional Medicine.

You'd think that this new take on the use of vitamins would delight the Naturopaths but they ignored it. They did not like the fact that the diet as a whole was not being optimised, they criticised vitamins being used “like drugs” and of course there were a lot of other Naturopathic techniques they knew that the new crowd did not know!

Not invented here? I think so!

Of course the old guard never invent anything; it is new people coming into the field not knowing what they are supposed to think that blunder into new discoveries.

Thanks to quite a lot of “blundering” we now have some distinct choices for somebody wanting natural treatment for a malady.

They can consult a Naturopathic Doctor or Naturopath; they can see a Nutritionist who may be trained in Nutrition and perhaps no other healing modality; or they could consult a Herbalist.

Other options are somewhat peripheral – acupuncture for example is part of traditional Chinese Medicine and is used when needed to boost the treatments of herbs and diet – it us not supposed to be a stand-alone therapy; homeopathy is not a natural treatment in my view but a different and less harmful way of using drugs. Osteopathy and Chiropractic can of course support someone in their healing journey but are both focussed on the muscles and joints and that is their strength and in a way their weakness.

So that is the therapeutic landscape or at least my take on it.

So where does detox fit?

It fits right in the middle of traditional Naturopathy.

Whether we look at traditional Chinese medicine used right across the Far East or Ayurveda and similar systems used in and around India or to the Naturopathy native to Europe and the West inspired by Hippocrates.

Naturopathy is based on a deep respect for the healing power of the body and assisted by the Naturopath as necessary using whatever works from modern science or from traditional techniques.

Detox is a part of all Naturopathic traditions used when patients needed it or as a seasonal therapy or as a maintenance therapy.

Detox has 2 faces; part of it is simple to understand and tends to be called “Cleansing” – an example of which is Colon cleansing, done with gentle fibrous ingredients such as psyllium or with enema techniques; the other more technical part of detox is much less understood even by Naturopaths and has much in common with a technique used in Toxicology used chelation.

This is the use of various chemicals that bond and bind to a poison such as molecules of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and their like. The body has no use for these industrial pollutants and no way to detoxify or excrete them without help from a detox chemical.

As detoxification methods were further explored and the exact steps that the liver takes to detox pollution products in the bloodstream Naturopaths began to incorporate nutrients that played a key role in the detox process.

Detox then or at least this intensive and specialised part of it, came to resemble nutrition in that it was accomplished with a carefully assembled tool kit of vitamins, minerals and herbs and any other healing ingredients that the body needed such as spices and some foods.

We don't now have to wait for a seasonal cleanse or detox, we can use detox foods and nutrients in any meal we wish. Simply by using garlic or turmeric we can help ourselves detox.

In the light of a deeper understanding we can say that Detox is nutrition and nutrition is detox when they are both informed of the science detoxification pathways in the body and the natural and healthy ways of eating.

 

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