Recently, a Persian reader of this site relayed a positive testimonial about a traditional drink from his homeland called “sour tea”. When I was listening to his account of how he used this tart, vibrantly colored beverage to avert diabetes and high blood pressure, I thought to myself – sour tea? It sounds sort of familiar, but I can’t place it. As it turns out, sour tea is the commonly used name in Iran for hibiscus tea. The next question that popped into my mind was whether this gentleman’s experience could be bolstered and substantiated by reviewing the medical literature.
For whatever reason, prunes are often viewed in a different light than other dried fruits. These days, dried apricots, cranberries and mangos are commonly added to desserts or snacked on alone or as part of trail mix. But, dried plums or prunes might as well be shelved next to laxatives and psyllium fiber in the pharmacy section of supermarkets. And, while it’s true that prunes are an effective way of addressing constipation, they’re also much, much more than that.
In the Los Angeles area, there’s a popular weekend radio problem hosted by a physician who specializes in a form of treatment known as prolotherapy. After hearing the show for the first time, a client inquired about the science behind this unconventional technique which involves the injection of a “sugar-water” solution into joint, ligament and tendinous spaces. How is it possible that injecting a mixture consisting primarily of dextrose and water can help improve inflammatory conditions such as low back pain, osteoarthritis and tendinopathy, while at the same time promoting a healing reaction? Admittedly, this sounds counterintuitive. Injections, in and of themselves, evoke pain. Dextrose, a high glycemic variety of sugar, is typically associated with ill effects. In prolotherapy, this combination is turned on its head. Research reveals that immediately following each injection, localized inflammation does, in fact, occur. However, as time goes on, this initial inflammation shifts to pain modulation and encourages the proliferation of new tissue via the induction of tissue growth factors
What if I told you that many seemingly healthy foods including apples, avocado, cauliflower and yogurt may be causing gastrointestinal problems in a sizable percentage of the population? If your reaction is one of disbelief, I don’t blame you. After all, these wholesome foods are a good source of dietary components (fiber, healthy fats, nutrients and probiotics) which are typically thought to benefit the digestive system and its function. However, in recent years, a group of researchers have come up with an unconventional theory that has been increasingly supported in the scientific literature. It now appears that otherwise healthful foods, which contain specific types of carbohydrates, may be largely responsible for digestive complaints that are often attributed or classified as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Specifically, I’m referring to foods rich in Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides and Polyols or FODMAPs.
Cheerio! I’m back in jolly old England to share some of the local healing tradition. The inspiration for today’s column comes courtesy of the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine (RLHIM). There, patients are offered the best of both complementary and conventional care in an outpatient setting. The RLHIM administers an impressive array of holistic healing modalities including aromatherapy, homeopathy and reflexology. Also popular at this healing institution is a form of bodywork known as craniosacral therapy or CST.
Sometimes solutions for modern day problems can be found be revisiting the past. For instance, the Incan and Roman empires were both well acquainted with an ancient food source collectively known as lupins. In North America, Native Americans also utilized lupin kernels as a traditional ingredient. Today, lupin based products are enjoying a resurgence because they supply certain dietary components which may be useful in managing diabetes, heart disease and obesity. What’s more, the spotlight on lupins has expanded beyond theoretical benefits. Over the past few decades, researchers have decided to scientifically test the health effects of lupin flour in various at-risk populations.
Twitter is one of the mediums I use to spread the good word about evidence-based natural medicine. There, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting people from all corners of the globe who share an interest in holistic healing. Recently, I was contacted via Twitter by Dr. Han Bok Kim of Hoseo University in South Korea. In our correspondence he was kind enough to share his ongoing research on Chungkookjang (CKJ), a fermented soybean extract that is well known in Korea, but relatively unheard of in the United States and elsewhere.
Red palm oil (RPO) has been in the news lately because of a positive expose on The Dr. Oz Show. In the segment entitled, The 13 Miracle Solutions of 2013, RPO was touted as a veritable “miracle oil” primarily because it’s a rich source of antioxidants, such as carotenoids and tocotrienols, which are a potent and rare form of Vitamin E. How might this benefit your health? According to Dr. Oz and his guest, Bryce Wylde, just two tablespoons of RPO daily reduces the risk of heart attacks and stroke by clearing away arterial plaque. They go on to claim that RPO also slows the aging process by protecting the brain from neurodegeneration and skin from damage caused UV radiation. As if that wasn’t enough, apparently RPO can also increase your calorie burning potential or metabolic rate. All this for around “$14 per jar”. What a bargain!
The terms “daytime sleepiness” and “mental exhaustion” creep into the lives of many people. In some instances, the cause stems from physical influences such as anemia, inadequate nutrition or sleep and, occasionally, hypothyroidism. Likewise, numerous psychological issues and stressors can drain ones energy. The first step in addressing fatigue of any kind is to try to establish the origin with the assistance of a medical professional. However, if no organic or psychological cause is apparent, natural remedies may help get you “over the hump”.
A primary tenet of my health care philosophy is that almost any action that improves your well being will likely benefit those around you. But, making inspiring, positive changes in your lifestyle goes far beyond obvious strategies such as changing your diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. Your attitude is at least as important. The trouble is that for many, a change in attitude seems even more formidable than giving up junk food, going to the gym or setting a consistent sleep schedule.
Over the years, several of my clients have expressed concern about borderline high levels of LDL cholesterol. In almost every case, the rest of their lipid profile (HDL or “good” cholesterol, triglycerides and VLDL or very low density cholesterol) were generally classified as acceptable to outstanding. Uniformly, my response has been that there’s nothing to be concerned about if they’re already leading a heart healthy lifestyle that avoids smoking and includes regular exercise, stress management and a nutrient-dense diet. Personally, I tell them that under the same circumstances, I wouldn’t use medications or supplements to lower my LDL cholesterol. However, on occasion, the largely unjustified fear that’s been instilled about LDL cholesterol persists and some sort of action is requested.
According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 19% of women report frequent postpartum depressive symptoms. Postpartum depression or PPD describes a broad set of symptoms which often include feelings of anger, hopelessness, inadequacy and overwhelment. The onset of PPD can occur almost immediately after giving birth and may extend as long as one year. Changes in hormone levels (estrogen, progesterone, thyroid) and various emotional and lifestyle factors, such as difficulty breastfeeding, poor sleep quality and psychological stress, have also been noted as probable contributors. In the conventional medical system, antidepressants, counseling and hormone replacement are the mainstay treatments. However, there are also several alternative and complementary options that ought to be considered.
It seems red meat is always getting a bad rap – everyone from the American Heart Association to environmentalists to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has something negative to say about eating beef. From a health standpoint, the cholesterol and saturated fat content of meat is still noted as grounds to avoid it. However, studies examining the link between red meat intake and cancer, cardiovascular disease and overall mortality have consistently yielded mixed results. What’s more, grass fed meat, which contains a significant amount of healthful omega-3 fats, is now quite common in the food supply. This adds yet another wrinkle to the current beef battle.
In my final column about Natural Products Expo West 2013, I’m going to focus on three unconventional items that may improve the quality of many lives. But, you might be surprised to learn that the products in question consist of a butter substitute, coffee for those with digestive issues and lavender oil that’s taken orally. On the surface, health conscious consumers understand that many buttery spreads contain unhealthy ingredients such as hydrogenated oils. Coffee is frequently regarded as a “no no” for anyone living with GERD or irritable bowel syndrome. And, while lavender oil is perhaps the most popular aromatherapy ingredient, it’s typically not intended for internal use.
A highlight of Natural Products Expo West 2013 was a spellbinding presentation given by Paul Stamets, the famed mycologist. The talk was originally intended as a discussion about the effects of medicinal mushrooms on immunity. However, by the time Paul stepped off the stage, he had covered a broad range of applications for mushrooms which included their utility as non-toxic insecticides, in the promotion of greater biodiversity and as natural decontaminating agents for use during nuclear fallout and oil spills. But, as the lecture came to an end, Mr. Stamets also touched upon the potential of select mushrooms in bolstering the immune system. What’s more, he went on to describe how his mom used a specific mushroom alongside conventional care to heal herself of stage 4 breast cancer.
Once again, team Healthy Fellow visited this year’s Natural Products Expo West. Beginning on March 8th and extending through March 10th, we attended a diverse series of lectures, sampled a wide array of health foods and stopped at any and every booth that seemed promising. In the next few columns, I’ll share some of the products found at Expo West that I believe are worthy of your hard earned money and time. To be clear, I don’t consult with or represent any of the companies mentioned. My sole intent is to spread the word about a select group of foods and supplements that I think represent the best and brightest of Expo West 2013.