Alcohol abuse is a major health care and societal issue in the United States and around the world. Fortunately, there is greater awareness about alcoholism than ever before. And, consequently, there are now many treatment options available for those who are ready to seek help. But, even willing alcoholics sometimes find that conventional therapies aren’t sufficient to keep them “dry”. That’s where evidence-based, alternative and complementary options can make a big difference.
The inspiration for today’s healing elixir is the “dog days” of summer. It’s been hot, muggy and, some refreshment is definitely in order! But, there’s a twist to this recipe: it can be tweaked ever so slightly to make it into a warm, soothing beverage for the frosty days of winter as well.
These days, many nutritionists are no longer recommending a low fat diet as the be-all and end-all for promoting health. I agree! It’s absolutely fine, and, even advisable, for most people to eat moderate to large amounts of healthy fats. Foods such as avocados, grass fed meat, nuts, omega-3 eggs, seeds and wild fish can be enjoyed regularly without any sense of guilt or lingering uncertainty. But, the thing to keep in mind is that the components of any given diet do not exist in isolation. The health effects of dietary fat are influenced by the composition of your overall diet. For instance, a potato chip snack which is high in carbohydrates and fat will affect your body much differently than avocado slices wrapped in prosciutto. A typical serving of the latter may contain an equivalent amount of fat, but is much lower in carbohydrates and a richer source of protein.
In part one of this column, I mentioned that Parkinson’s disease (PD) is in the news on a weekly basis. Since writing that first piece, several articles about PD have appeared in various publications. Time magazine reports that diabetes drugs “may offer hope for Parkinson’s disease treatment”. EurekAlert, an influential science news resource, describes mounting evidence supporting the use of low-dose lithium to reduce involuntary muscle movements – a common side-effect of carbi- and levo-dopa treatment. There’s even a story about how some PD patients are literally fighting back against the disease by taking part in non-contact boxing.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is in the news on a weekly basis. According to the National Parkinson’s Foundation, there are approximately 50,000 to 60,00 new cases of PD diagnosed each year in the US alone. And, currently, it is estimated that up to 6,000,000 adults are living with PD worldwide. Thankfully, a significant amount of research is being directed at finding a cause and successful treatment for Parkinson’s. Still, it’s widely acknowledged that there’s a long way to go before a cure can be claimed.
One of the fastest growing food categories is cow milk alternatives. By now, many consumers are aware of both animal and plant-based beverages that are targeted to those who need or wish to avoid conventional milk. On the animal side of the aisle, you can now easily find goat and sheep’s milk in health food stores and specialty markets. Plant-based “milks” aren’t actually milk at all. But, these fortified drinks made from almonds, coconuts, cashews, hemp and soy can and do substitute quite well for milk under some circumstances. The bottom line is that milk has become a major component in the modern diet, and that has spurred a rapidly evolving revolution in dairy and dairy substitutes.
Scientific publications dating back to 1872 document the medicinal properties of Paullinia cupana, also known as guarana. Today, however, this herbal extract is primarily thought of as a caffeine source commonly used in “energy drinks”. Unfortunately, this form of reductionism is all too common. Modern medicine often times focuses on a specific attribute of any given food or remedy. Oranges are a good source of Vitamin C. Red wine contains resveratrol, an age-defying antioxidant. Oats provide a cholesterol-lowering pop of soluble fiber. All of these assertions are valid, but leave a lot by the wayside.
Hormones play a pivotal role in sexual desire in both men and women. Perhaps the most recognizable examples are the changes that are precipitated during andropause and menopause. Prescription hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can address some of the symptoms of these processes. But, HRT is not without contra-indications and risks. One of the more interesting aspects of flibanserin, the so called “Female Viagra”, is that it addresses hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in older and younger women, whether premenopausal, perimenopausual or postmenopausual. And, flibanserin does so without affecting hormone levels.
Men with erectile dysfunction (ED) have access to several medical options to improve sexual function. Popular medications, including Cialis, Viagra and testosterone replacement top the list of medically-approved, male performance aids. What isn’t discussed as much is that many women also deal with a related condition known as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). Obviously, the mechanism involved is somewhat different. Nevertheless, the end result is similar: compromised sexual desire and enjoyment. This may soon change. Flibanserin, a medication intended to treat premenopausal HSDD, is on the brink of FDA approval. If approved, it is likely to become as big a blockbuster as its male counterparts.
Question: Here in Europe I’ve noticed many people Nordic Walking, especially in the countryside. Even some of my friends have joined clubs that do this exercise together as a group. I don’t know if it’s popular in the United States. Can you tell me if this practice is markedly superior to ordinary walking or other forms of aerobic activity? I prefer taking hikes or walks in nature. Though I would consider investing in Nordic poles and possibly joining a club if the benefits make it worthwhile.
These days, I don’t how many kids are familiar with old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. At some point in my own life, I heard it or read it and from that point forward, it was mysteriously ingrained in my psyche. That started me wondering about where it all started. Who said it first and why? According to Caroline Taggart, the author of the 2009 book entitled, “An Apple a Day: Old-Fashioned Proverbs and Why They Still Work”, the phrase originated in Pembrokeshire, Wales in the 1860’s. During that era, the phrasing was a bit different: “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread”. Many years later, I vividly recall attending a presentation by Dr. Julian Whitaker, the famed integrative doctor, in which he proclaimed an apple a day as one of his personal healing traditions. And now, once again, modern science is coming around to offer support for an old fashioned notion.
The consistent, rhythmic beating of the heart is something most of us take for granted. This is not a criticism or judgement. It makes perfect sense that we expect our hearts to keep pumping blood in much the same way as we predict our lungs will help us breathe day in and day out. Likewise, hair and nails grow without any consideration. Even muscles move without any meaningful cognitive incentive. It’s the body’s job to function in a predictable manner and it usually does. That is, until it doesn’t. Atrial fibrillation is just such an example, where the heart decides to occasionally beat to the rhythm of a different drummer.
I’ve been a long standing admirer of rosemary. Rosmarinus officinalis, an admittedly cool sounding name, is a hardy plant. It thrives in all but the most extreme climates and doesn’t require a lot babysitting. An occasional hosing down or rain shower usually does the trick. That’s why it grows so well in the wild. The scent is pleasant too, but not in an overly floral or cloyingly sweet way. This is more of a rustic, savory member of the herbal community. It’s no accident that it pairs so well with the boldest chicken and meat recipes. But, since this isn’t a culinary or gardening site, I guess I should probably mention that, in addition to all of this, the essential oil of rosemary possesses a multitude of medicinal properties as well!
Chronic gastrointestinal symptoms can be caused or worsened by a long list of suspects. Common culprits include food allergies or sensitivities, H. pylori infection, intestinal permeability, microbiome (gut bacteria) imbalance and ulcers. Furthermore, in some instances, the exact cause or contributing factors is not easily identifiable. When this occurs, medications are frequently prescribed based on the specific symptoms that present themselves. Two popular examples include proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to minimize gastric acid and tricyclic antidepressants to reduce abdominal pain. Physicians who veer towards the integrative side of medicine may also suggest certain dietary changes such avoiding dairy, FODMAPs, grains and/or heavily refined foods. Some doctors will even go so far as to encourage an “elimination diet” to methodically rule out any likely food-based troublemaker.
PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome is estimated to affect between 5 – 10% of girls and women of childbearing age. Signs of PCOS vary, but are typically characterized by several of the following symptoms: acne, abnormal menstrual cycles, hair loss and/or excessive body and facial hair growth, infertility, mood disorders, ovarian cysts, overweight and sleep apnea. The commonality among most of these symptoms is an overproduction of male sex hormones (androgens) emanating from the ovaries. Insulin resistance is another factor in PCOS. Therefore, the conventional treatment of this prevalent condition usually involves birth control pills to moderate sex hormone concentrations, diabetes medications to improve insulin sensitivity and fertility aids for women who have difficulty getting pregnant.
If you put any given food under the microscope, you’ll typically find some good elements and some not so great things. The proportions of each vary, but a mixture of both is to be expected. Coffee presents a fitting example of this gastronomic truism. On the one hand, some health authorities point to the supposed dark side of java. They note that coffee may contribute to and/or instigate cardiovascular complications, gastrointestinal symptoms, poor bone density and sleep disorders. On the flip side, coffee’s proponents proclaim that it’s one the leading sources of antioxidants in the modern diet. This inconvenient reality may explain why coffee drinking populations tend to demonstrate a lower risk for a number of diseases, including dementia and select cancers.