A few years ago, I wrote a column entitled, “Natural Health for Dogs”. It’s a bit ironic that I focused on dogs first since I’ve always held a very special place in my heart for cats. Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve felt a unique affinity towards felines of all kinds. Something about them draws me in and inspires effortless feelings of joy and peace. Over the years I’ve had the good fortune of being a caretaker and companion to various cats. Today, in tribute to the many feline friends that I’ve known and loved, I want to share some information that can improve the lives of other cats that I will never know.
The majority of past events, even very painful ones, do not have to cause psychological distress in the present. On a rational level most of us understand this reality. However, sad and/or traumatic memories, whether fresh in history or dating back to childhood, still hold a great deal of power over many people. These hurtful, life-altering experiences often shape personalities and result in long term attempts at exorcising these mental images from the present mind. But, recent findings suggest that an unconventional form of treatment known as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing or EMDR may offer a brief, new alternative for shooing away hurtful recollections.
In today’s culture, muscle is frequently regarded as a characteristic of one’s appearance. However, if you describe muscle using the technical term “lean body mass”, the idea of toned bodies tends to exit the picture. Lean body mass (LBM) is often mentioned as a measure of weight gain or loss in scientific studies. For instance, weight loss trials commonly note the total amount of weight lost and the percentage of body fat and LBM loss. Naturally, in overweight individuals, it’s preferable to lose a significant percentage of excess body fat. At the same time, the goal is to preserve as much lean body mass as possible. The preservation of LBM becomes even more important as we age. Even in the absence of intended weight loss, older adults tend to lose muscle and strength as a “normal” part of the aging process. In some instances, age-related muscle and strength loss is even more pronounced and is classified as sarcopenia. This is of great importance because seniors diagnosed with sarcopenia are at greater risk of falls, fractures and a general decline in overall health and independence.
Recently, an old friend asked for some suggestions to protect her eyes from the “normal” visual decline associated with aging. Now, you’ve probably seen more than a few eye supplements at your local health food stores and pharmacies. And, most of these products contain similar ingredients such as beta carotene or pro-Vitamin A, copper, lutein, Vitamin C, zinc and so on. All of these nutrients and phytochemicals have been shown to benefit ocular function or health in one way or another. Having said that, some newer, far less common botanicals may provide additional protection. What’s more, these lesser known extracts are generally not found in nutraceutical formulas intended to support eye health.
Lack of adequate blood flow can affect many areas of the body. When insufficient circulation targets the legs, it’s frequently caused by a condition known as PAD or peripheral artery disease. In PAD, hardening of leg arteries and accumulation of plaque lead to a narrowing effect and diminished blood flow. Subsequently those with PAD often suffer from uncomfortable symptoms, including leg cramping, numbness and pain – especially during periods of physical activity. More importantly, a PAD diagnosis may increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and poor wound healing in the lower region of the body. Fortunately, emerging research indicates that certain foods and exercises can limit PAD symptoms and some of the associated risks.
Unless you have very high or low blood pressure, you probably don’t think a lot about the the blood pressure spectrum. As an example, a significant number of people have higher-than-normal blood pressure, but not high enough to treat with medication. This is typically defined as “prehypertension” and is marked by blood pressure ranging from 120-139 systolic and 80-89 diastolic. If you consistently have blood pressure in this range, you may well be a candidate for using a variety of natural options to drop your readings into the “normal” category of 120/80 mmHg or less. However, I want to point out that in some instances having higher than normal blood pressure may actually be advantageous. For instance, some research has found that higher blood pressure may actually reduce the risk of balance issues, dementia and all-cause mortality in seniors. So, when in doubt, consult with a cardiologist to determine what’s right for your unique circumstance.
Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease that affects up to two million adults and children in the United States alone. However, unlike many other autoimmune conditions, vitiligo is visibly apparent to those living with it and those around them. In most cases, the characteristic loss of skin pigmentation can’t be fully concealed with clothing or cosmetics. What’s more, conventional treatments used to manage vitiligo are often expensive, risky and not entirely successful in slowing its spread and/or repigmenting affected white patches. Thankfully, there is hope to found in the form of affordable, natural remedies with good safety profiles.
Sometimes we eat certain foods or ingredients and don’t even realize it. This is especially true when trying dishes that aren’t a common part of our diet. Take as an example, sumac berries. Rhus coriaria or sumac is a primary component of the Middle Eastern spice blend known as zatar. You’ll often find zatar added to couscous, chicken and fish entrees, or simply sprinkled on top of fresh feta cheese, hummus or sliced tomatoes. It can also be blended into extra virgin olive oil as a flavorful dip or dressing.
As 2014 comes to an end, I’d like to share some good news about supplements which hasn’t garnered much attention in the mainstream media. As a side note, a few of these items were recently featured on my Twitter thread as well. So, if you’d like to stay current on everything I post, which may or may not appear on this site, follow me on Twitter or review my Twitter profile on a regular basis. I find that it’s a great way to communicate a lot of breaking information on a daily basis.
There is often disagreement about the safety and validity of medical tests in the holistic, health community. Perhaps the best examples are the use of mammography to detect breast cancer and the PSA blood test to ferret out prostate cancer. However, colonoscopies tend to be less controversial for a number of reasons. Firstly, there really isn’t any alternative, stand alone test currently available. Secondly, the documented benefits of colonoscopies far outweigh the low risk of significant side effects. Lastly, as I stated in part one of this column, colonoscopies not only detect potential malignancies, they also remove questionable growths while still benign. For these reasons, integrative health experts such as Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Stephen Sinatra endorse this particular test.
Nobody wants to get a colonoscopy. But, much like going to the dentist, it’s a preventive care necessity. Unlike most other diagnostic tests, colonoscopies not only detect cancer, but can also prevent it by removing polyps which may develop into cancer. In fact, researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard recently concluded that colonoscopies are by far the most accurate tests to identify and reduce the risk of cancerous growths both in the distal (right) and proximal (left) sides of the colon.
A stunning new survey sponsored by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids reports that 20% of all college students and roughly 15% of non-student young adults abuse stimulant medications. The legal drugs in question, intended to treat ADHD, include best sellers such as Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse. The most commonly cited reasons for the noted abuse include a desire to enhance academic or work performance and to stave off normal feelings of nighttime sleepiness. What’s even more disturbing is that 28% of the young adults surveyed, aged 18 to 25, misrepresented the severity of their ADHD symptoms in order to attain higher dosages of these conditionally dangerous drugs. In addition, the practice of selling and/or sharing said medications with family, fellow students and friends is quite common.
By now, the health benefits of exercise have been fairly well established in the scientific literature. In fact, there’s very little controversy or debate regarding the general value of physical activity on everything from cardiovascular to mental health. Even so, research into the therapeutic effects of exercise is ongoing and continues to reveal intriguing, new applications. One of the more exciting findings of late is the role which aerobic exercise plays in the promotion of liver health.
It’s estimated that approximately 30%-50% of the population is affected by chronic halitosis or oral malodor, the technical terms for ongoing bad breath. In most instances, the cause originates in the oral cavity. Improving dental hygiene is sometimes enough to remedy the situation. In practice, this means brushing at least twice-daily and flossing prior to retiring at night. However, if proper oral care is already in place, then odiferous foods and substances (alcoholic beverages, cruciferous vegetables, garlic and onions, tobacco, etc.) and/or other factors, including diabetes, gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD), medication side-effects and metabolic disorders may be involved. When in doubt, it’s best to identify the cause with the assistance of a health care professional as any underlying medical condition should be addressed and not masked.
Many people aren’t getting enough magnesium (Mg) in their daily diets and through basic supplementation. Now, you might think you’re not one of those people. But, recent studies reveal that magnesium deficiency is surprisingly common. Sometimes it’s even present in otherwise healthy young adults and in those who take multivitamin/mineral supplements. What’s more, certain popular medications, including those used to treat gastric reflux or GERD often contribute to a lack of magnesium or hypomagnesemia.
For Mexican food lovers (myself included!) there is a simple approach to improving the health benefits and nutritional quality of Mexican-style meals. It really doesn’t matter if you’re eating out at Mexican restaurants or preparing it yourself at home. There are potential pitfalls in both instances which can be largely avoided by practicing a basic technique I call “crowding out”. The concept is that you crowd out most or some of the unhealthy foods and replace them with better options. In the realm of Mexican cuisine, this means minimizing your intake of chips, rice, sweetened beverages and tortillas and focusing instead on foods containing more fiber, healthy fat, nutrients and protein.