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”.
Most of us are familiar with brown, white and “wild” rice. But, how about black-purple rice? Have you tried it yet? Are you interested in it because of the positive media coverage from the likes of Dr. Oz? By the end of today’s column, you’ll likely know more about it and you can decide for yourself if it’s something you ought to add to your diet.
Several weeks ago I was in the midst of one of the most stressful periods in my life. My wife and I were preparing for two moves (ours and my mother-in-law’s), while renovating an old townhouse that we all moved into together. Lots of changes, financial concerns and long days with a seemingly never-ending string of problems that needed solutions. In addition to the obvious stress of the circumstances, there were also many environmental insults (infuriated neighbors, earsplitting construction noise, endless dust, dirt, fumes, etc.). And, as a result, my diet wasn’t as “clean” as it normally is. A little more wine, some foods containing gluten and, generally speaking, a higher carbohydrate count were some of the highlights or lowlights of this recent period. Consequently, I began to notice an “angry” rash on my neck. It was inflamed, itchy, red and began to spread to my arms, chest and face. The severity of the rash worsened by the day. The next several weeks were downright miserable.
The word ‘prescription’ has become synonymous with medications that can only be prescribed by a licensed physician. In 2014, I’m going to do my part to reinvent the use of this word. Beginning today and continuing onward for each month of 2014, I’m going to prescribe a natural practice that may very well transform your current state of health for the better. The more “prescriptions” you adopt, the more your wellness is likely to improve.
For years, I’ve been telling my clients and physician friends that the current obsession with cholesterol levels is way out of focus. In my opinion, high LDL (aka “bad”) cholesterol is more likely than not a very small contributor to the current epidemic of cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, elevated triglycerides appear to be a far better marker for lifestyle choices which probably affect heart disease and stroke risk. Fortunately, a few, simple dietary changes can lower high triglycerides and significantly improve cardiovascular wellness. Best of all, lowering hypertriglyceridemia often doesn’t require any medications or supplements.
Eating healthfully requires more than just consuming fresh, whole foods. The manner by which you combine foods and how you prepare them also plays an important role. A case in point was presented at this year’s meeting of the American Institute for Cancer Research in Bethesda, Maryland.
A reader asks: “I’ve had recurrent bouts of tendonitis in my elbow and shoulder. When I go to see my doctor about it, he usually recommends Advil or Aleve to manage the pain and swelling. But, I don’t like to take these types of drugs. Are there are any natural remedies that I can use to reduce tendon pain and speed the recovery process?”.