Dr. Abraham Maslow, the famous and influential psychologist, once quipped: “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail”. If you go to see a doctor or health coach that has a particular specialty, they’ll usually make recommendations based on their personal training. And, if their “prescriptions”, whether allopathic or holistic, aren’t effective, the client or patient is left without a solution unless he sees another expert who offers a different perspective. Some of the people who don’t find solutions to their health concerns end up seeking out alternatives from consultants like me. Recently, a client in his late 70′s contacted me about natural methods of improving cognition and nervousness. But, as is often the case, this gentleman was already taking many positive steps to address his concerns – a reasonably healthy diet, adequate sleep, exercise, supplements, etc. Also, I was made aware that he wasn’t keen on the idea of daily meditation. He had tried it many times before and simply couldn’t or wouldn’t stick with it.
One of the keys to improving your diet is looking for practical ways to increase your intake of health promoting nutrients and phytochemicals. Ice cubes may seem like an unlikely way to further this cause, but that all depends on what you use to make ice cubes. By using coconut water or ginger and hibiscus tea, you can transform conventional ice cubes into flavorful and healthful additions to common beverages such as lemonade and mineral water.
In previous columns I’ve reported on the myriad of health benefits associated with turmeric extracts. Turmeric is probably best known as a component of curry, the traditional spice mix. However, among scientists, turmeric has been at the center of a love-hate relationship. In animal and in vitro studies, curcuminoids, antioxidant chemicals found in turmeric, have yielded very encouraging results in conditions ranging from autoimmune disease to dementia. Conversely, human trials have been far less consistent. Poor bioavailability is suspected as the primary culprit for the mixed findings in the human studies.
Homemade cashew milk is a valuable resource for anyone who’s interested in improving hydration, nutrient density and/or promoting weight gain. The first two objectives are fairly commonplace. Many people admit that they don’t drink enough water or eat enough whole foods. The issue of healthful weight gain isn’t as prevalent a concern. However, it does apply to a significant portion of the population for various reasons ranging from weight loss associated with disease states to eating disorders.
Many health experts, myself included, recommend exercising a minimum of several times a week. This “prescription” is challenging enough due to various factors ranging from lack of motivation to time constraints. But, some committed exercisers have an additional hurdle to overcome: DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness.
I’ve long believed that there is a psychological component that partially explains why natural therapies are met with resistance in the modern health care environment. The current medical paradigm is centered on advanced technology such as gene testing, nano-pharmaceuticals and stem cell treatments. Therefore, the idea that traditional practices, used by our distant ancestors, can be even more important than modern technology in promoting health is often perceived as impossible.
The issue of garlic supplementation is clouded by seemingly contradictory research. For instance, a current summary article in the esteemed Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews concluded that “evidence currently available is insufficient to determine whether garlic provides a therapeutic advantage versus placebo in terms of reducing the risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality”. A separate meta-analysis in the journal Science of Food and Agriculture notes that, in general, garlic consumption reduces total cholesterol and triglycerides. However, differences may be apparent based on the form of garlic used: aged garlic, garlic oil or powdered garlic. Nevertheless, the concluding remark of the latter review states that these effects “should benefit patients with risk of cardiovascular diseases”.
Staying informed about the latest health care news is clearly beneficial. Knowledge is indeed power. However, information is only as valuable as your ability and/or willingness to apply it. Presently, an example is found in the field of stroke research. Several current studies point to nutritional interventions which may reduce the risk of stroke. Implementing these delicious and simple dietary approaches could significantly reduce the burden that strokes inflict on individuals, families and the health care system. The key is to find practical ways of accomplish this objective.
A new study appearing in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine has the potential to change the way urinary tract infections are treated from this point forward. In the 12 month trial, specific probiotics (Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14) were compared with antibiotic therapy for the prevention of recurrent urinary infections. The test subjects in the experiment were a group of 252 postmenopausal women. The results of the research determined that supplemental probiotics were almost as effective as prescription antibiotics. By “almost”, I mean about -13.8% less effective. However, probiotic therapy features a significant advantage over antibiotic treatment – it doesn’t lead to antibiotic resistance. With antibiotic resistance, patients and physicians encounter difficulties managing both minor and serious infections. This is why preserving antibiotics for truly essential purposes is of the utmost importance.
In the course of my consulting work, many questions and answers emerge that I think would be of interest to readers of this site. Recently, a client inquired about an herbal extract commonly known as chasteberry or Vitex. Historically, Vitex agnus castus has been used to address irregular periods and symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). In modern times, concentrated and purified extracts of chasteberry have been subjected to some degree of scientific scrutiny. For the most part, the results of these controlled trials have been positive. However, it’s important to note that not all Vitex supplements are created equal. In fact, only a few products have actually undergone clinical testing and proven effective.
This past weekend I was combing through hundreds of current studies involving natural health. I came across five trials that I thought would be particularly useful for women of all ages. Sharing this information with family and friends could very well make a difference in the life of one woman or perhaps many. In addition, you’ll honor the hard work being done behind the scenes by countless scientists who genuinely hope to improve the quality of affordable, effective and safe health care for women throughout the world.
Last week a slew of studies were presented at the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure Research 2012 Scientific Sessions. Among them, was a trial funded by Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. – a leading manufacturer of cranberry juice. The details of the study reveal that the daily consumption of “low calorie” cranberry juice moderately reduces blood pressure (by about 3 mmHg diastolic and systolic) as compared to a placebo beverage. But, before you go out to the market to stock up on low-cal cranberry “cocktails”, consider the details that weren’t included in the mainstream press converge.
In recent years, a short term diet known as The Daniel Fast has made several appearances in the medical literature. Currently, there are best selling books, courses and even retreats that assist religious and non-religious dieters in following the tenants of this Biblically-inspired program. The duration of the diet, as commonly practiced and studied, is slightly shorter (21 days) than other forms of religiously-based dietary restriction such as Ramadan fasting (28 to 30 days). Thus far, the results reported in various scientific journals have been relatively encouraging. However, there appears to be at least one caveat that has not yet been successfully resolved. The Daniel Fast lowers HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
Most health conscious consumers know that soft drinks such Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola aren’t exactly healthy. Even the diet, sugar-free versions of these beverages are loaded with questionable ingredients. Nonetheless, if sales are any indication, a significant percentage of the population isn’t terribly concerned about the implications of drinking cola on a regular basis. This is, in part, due to the caffeine content. Taste is also a factor. However, not everyone knows that there are delicious, natural alternatives to conventional colas that provide a similar “kick” without the artificial ingredients.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed that I regularly post tips about how I promote wellness in my own life. When putting together my “tip tweets”, I try to share information that is practical in nature. One example is the way I sometimes use almond butter as a meal replacement.
Recently, an intriguing study published in the journal Circulation Research made headlines in the mainstream news. In the trial, a group of scientists from Barcelona, Spain compared the effects of conventional and de-alcoholized red wine in 67 men at risk for cardiovascular disease. The researchers also tested the impact of gin in a cross-over, randomized manner. The surprising results of the trial revealed that only the non-alcoholic red wine induced a significant reduction in blood pressure. Specifically, they noted a drop of 2 mmhg diastolic and 6 mmhg systolic blood pressure. In real world terms, this equates to an estimated 14% lower risk of coronary heart disease and 20% decline in stroke incidence.