The word bitter has become synonymous with negative imagery. “That was a bitter pill to swallow.” “The night manager was bitter and spiteful about the way his supervisor treated him.” “In life you must accept the bitter along with the sweet.” The same is true of modern culinary trends. Recipes often call for the addition of sweet ingredients to temper the natural bitterness of popular foods – think hot cocoa, lattes and green leafy vegetables. But, what’s frequently lost in translation is that the bitter phytochemicals in common foods and herbs sometimes impart medicinal and/or therapeutic activity.
The so-called “common cold” usually comes and goes in an expected, generic manner. You’re congested for a few days, you sneeze and your throat aches for a week tops. In most cases, it’s not a big deal and requires little or no medical intervention. But, for some, a lingering cough can stick around long after the cold exits stage right. There are several reasons why this typically occurs including bacterial infections, chronic irritation of the airways and/or overuse of nasal decongestant sprays – more than three days.
“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year”, Ralph Waldo Emerson. This is a goal I aspire to, but often fall short of reaching. Sometimes I feel down despite the fact that there is so much for which to be grateful. And, judging by the accounts of many clients, colleagues and friends, I’m not alone. Fortunately, there is a growing body of research indicating that natural practices and remedies can help those of us who are inclined to disproportionately experience darker moods.
A few weeks ago, I was listening to Dr. Wayne Dyer’s popular podcast on Hayhouse Radio. For the most part, Dr. Dyer’s programs feature content relating to psychological and spiritual matters. However, from time to time, he shares insights into his personal health care journey. On this particular occasion he revealed that he was enthusiastic about a time honored, natural therapy which supposedly cleanses and detoxifies the liver – coffee enemas. This is by no means a new concept in the field of holistic healing. That said, it has remained quite popular throughout the past several decades much to the scorn of the conventional medical establishment.
When consulting with clients, I frequently suggest adopting a low carbohydrate or, at least, low glycemic diet. Based on my experience and research, this way of eating tends to improve a wide array of health conditions ranging from metabolic syndrome to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). However, the key to the success of any dietary change is consistency. And, in order for that to occur, a variety of appealing recipes needs to be on hand.
Recently, a client inquired about the use of DHEA supplements as a means of counteracting male aging. Before I address that specific question, here’s a brief primer on DHEA. Dehydroepidandrosterone (DHEA) is an adrenal hormone which is considered “a reliable endocrine marker of aging because in humans and nonhumnan primates its circulating concentrations are very high during young adulthood, and the concentrations then decline markedly during aging”. This is of consequence because circulating DHEA is documented as having anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, cardioprotective and immune enhancing activity. However, controlled studies evaluating the efficacy and safety of DHEA supplementation have demonstrated inconsistent and mixed results. This begs the question: Is there a good reason to attempt to manipulate the predictable decline in DHEA in aging men?
Arguably, the reputation of cocoa (Theobroma cacao) is at its high point in history, that is, at least from a health perspective. These days, it’s not uncommon to hear esteemed doctors and nutritionists recommend a daily serving of dark chocolate as part of a comprehensive, health promoting diet and lifestyle. And, because of this positive word of mouth, you can now find the largest selection of high quality, organic cocoa products in modern times. But, up until now, the health benefits attributed to dark chocolate consumption and/or supplementation have primarily focused on the inner workings of the body – i.e. cardiovascular health, cognitive function, diabetes and oxidative balance.
If you consult with most primary care doctors about arthritis, overweight, poor bone density or post traumatic stress, you’ll likely walk out of their offices with a prescription and/or a referral to a specialist. A similar scenario occurs quite frequently if you visit your local health food store or holistic clinic inquiring about the very same health conditions. But, regardless of which form of treatment you choose, there’s an important asset that you should always bring to your appointments – information. Instead of simply expecting to be informed, be prepared to pose the types of questions that only informed patients can ask.
Recently, I saw an advertisement in the Los Angeles Times for a popular medication used to lower hemoglobin A1C, a long-term measure of blood sugar. The ad reads, “If you have type 2 diabetes, your A1C number may be going in the wrong direction. To help change it, ask your doctor if adding Tradjenta may be right for you”. Of course, if you read on you’ll also notice warnings about possible side effects, including cough, diarrhea, potentially life threatening inflammation of the pancreas, runny nose and sore throat. Still, lowering high blood sugar is a valuable endeavor for diabetics and pre-diabetics alike. So, what to do? To answer that question, here are a few suggestions by Dr. Richard Bernstein, a pioneering maverick in the field of integrative-diabetes care, and current studies from the medical literature.
My third and final installment of news from the Natural Products Expo West focuses on a category of products known as “functional foods”. Basically, these are beverages, ingredients or packaged foods that are fortified with nutrients, phytochemicals and pre- or probiotics. In essence, they’re a hybrid of dietary supplements and healthy foods. The idea is to take an already wholesome food and increase its therapeutic potential by adding ingredients that aren’t normally present.
One of the surprises at this year’s Natural Products Expo West was a relative lack of innovative supplements. Don’t get me wrong, there were hundreds of new products on the convention floor. And, certainly I didn’t have the chance to evaluate each and every one of them. But, when I applied my gold-standard test to the products I saw there, only one stood out as a new supplement that I would recommend to clients, family and friends.
What does it feel like to be surrounded by 67,000 members of the natural health community? On most days, I couldn’t possibly tell you. But, a little over a week ago, that’s exactly where I found myself – at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California. It’s quite an experience! There were over 2,600 exhibitors and dozens of educational presentations. Thankfully, I brought along my most comfortable walking shoes (Sanuks), a big appetite for all of the sampling and, most importantly, Team Healthy Fellow!
Last week, a column in the New York Times entitled, “How to Get Fit in a Few Minutes a Week” garnered quite a lot of attention. The idea of achieving physical fitness in such little time is appealing to just about everyone, myself included. But, is this claim supported by real science? Or is this a case of: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is?”
Nobody wants to be slowed down by a cold, flu or any host of infectious diseases we hear about in the news or meet firsthand in our daily lives. But, finding reliable information about natural ways to bolster immunity isn’t always easy. Conventional doctors are often clueless, and anecdotal remedies from family and friends can certainly be hit-or-miss. Fortunately, there really are some scientifically proven changes you can make to your diet, lifestyle and supplement regimen that can strengthen your resistance to communicable diseases.
Certain herbs and spices are widely acknowledged as possessing medicinal properties. Common examples include cinnamon extracts, echinacea tea and turmeric formulas standardized for curcuminoids. Others such as basil, coriander, dill, ginger and rosemary are primarily thought of as means of adding complexity to international recipes. And, while that is undeniably the case, it is not a complete representation of their potential.
During my recent health crisis, I began looking into new ways of getting more fresh fruits and vegetables into my daily diet. One option that immediately came to mind was eating salad. This isn’t my favorite way of enjoying vegetables, but, admittedly, it is a healthy and practical way to eat more of them. After a few days of having salad after salad, I began to wonder: Could I get more nutrition from similar ingredients if I blended them up? A crazy idea, I know. However, in theory, the end result could be something like a combination of a salad and soup. In practice, it became known as my “Super Salad Smoothie”.