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.
Recently, a book bearing the title “The Fast Diet” was released in England. Thus far, sales of the book, co-authored by Dr. Michael Mosley, have been brisk and are likely to follow suit in the US where it was just published a few weeks ago. The underlying message of The Fast Diet is that adopting a 5:2 eating plan, in which you eat regularly for five days and semi-fast for two days, will reduce overweight and various risk factors associated with advanced aging, diabetes and heart disease. In the medical literature, this style of eating is commonly referred to as “intermittent fasting” (IF). Since the media and public have taken an interest in IF, I thought this would be a good opportunity to review the most current findings about this practice and a related form of dieting known as alternate day fasting (ADF) which calls for a semi-fast every other day.
The clients I work with subscribe to a wide range of views about alternative and complementary medicine. Some are receptive to trying virtually any evidence-based modality I suggest. For them, I’ll sometimes recommend practices as diverse and unconventional as reflexology, Senobi breathing and Tai Chi. Other clients are more comfortable utilizing therapies that are generally accepted in the conventional model of modern health care. Progressive muscle relaxation, structured exercise routines and therapeutic diets fall into this category.
Holistic practitioners pride themselves in treating individuals based on their unique needs and requirements. However, even when dealing with a holistic physician, it’s still important to make sure that you are indeed receiving personalized care. For instance, the effects of any given supplement may have slightly or significantly different effects based on age, gender and medical history. In practice, this could mean that one form of fish oil is better suited for pregnant women and another for those trying to improve exercise performance.
By now, most health conscious individuals are at least somewhat familiar with “The Mediterranean Diet”. This eating style, popularized in countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain, emphasizes whole foods that are rich in dietary fiber, monounsaturated and omega-3 fats and overall nutrient density. Menu items such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, olives and olive oil, red wine and wild caught fish are commonplace in this region of the world. And, while this is an ancient style of eating, modern science has been studying it quite extensively over of the past few decades.
Cost is one of the most popular excuses used to avoid good health practices. In some instances, there’s a kernel of truth to the assertion that money assists with the promotion of wellness. A few examples include greater access to medical care and a wider array of alternative and complementary therapies. On the other hand, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep and stress management are usually completely free of charge. This past week, researchers from Kansas State University (KSU) added one additional, 100% free activity that just might save your life while, at the same time, lower projected health care spending. According to Dr. Richard Rosenkrantz, of KSU, “We know that with very high confidence that more physically active people do better with regard to chronic disease compared with less physically active people, but we should also be looking at reducing sitting”.
Every few weeks or so, a favorite hobby of mine is to slowly make my way down each and every aisle of a local health food store. I glance over the countless shelves waiting for specific items to grab my attention. On a recent visit to Whole Foods, in Venice, California, I spotted a line of crackers that go by the name of Skinny Crisps. Usually, I’d keep on moving since most crackers can’t exactly be classified as health foods. But, something about the simple, yet eye-catching package and label claim of “Low Carb & Gluten Free” slowed me down long enough to study the little white bags in more detail.
The ancient practice of yoga in its many incarnations is more popular than ever before. But, based on my informal assessment, it appears that there is a widespread perception that yoga is primarily useful for issues pertaining to mental health. And, while it’s true that yoga often promotes a more positive psychological outlook and clearer cognitive functioning, there’s much more to it. Lately, a series of well designed, clinical studies have illustrated the emerging role of yoga in addressing physical ailments and complaints as well.
Who are the healers of our day and time? In many countries, an image of physicians wearing white lab coats comes to mind. But, I’m here to tell you that if you’re exclusively counting on medical doctors and pharmacists to maintain your good health, you’re at a very big disadvantage. Optimally, healing and the promotion of wellness requires a much broader approach. From my vantage point, the person you see every time you look in the mirror is by far the most important contributor to your health status. But, eating right, exercising and managing stress is far from enough. While important, there’s more that you can and should be doing for yourself and those around you in the healing arena.
In the healthcare field, there is a myth known as the “magic bullet”. Essentially, it is the holy grail of all therapies, one that heals a disease or relieves symptoms without producing any adverse reactions. Both alternative and conventional therapies have been assigned this designation throughout the years. In the mid-1990′s, an extract from the root of the kava plant (Piper methysticum) was widely considered a magic bullet for mild-to-moderate anxiety. However, as the popularity of kava increased, so did the occasional reports of serious, liver related side effects. And, while these incidents appeared to be very rare, and were often disputed, the perceived threat was great enough for certain countries (Canada, England, Germany, etc.) to call for the removal dietary supplements containing kava from the market. Interestingly enough, the United States did not require that kava be removed from store shelves. However, the FDA demanded that all kava extracts sold in the US carry a warning about the possible liver risk associated with regular kava use. To this day, these very same warnings are carried on the labels of kava products currently available in the United States.
Over the last few years, coconut sugar has become a serious contender in the natural sweetener market. According to proponents, it’s an environmentally sustainable sweetener with several advantages over common “table” sugar. For starters, it’s a rich source of the essential mineral potassium. Beyond that, coconut sugar also prominently features inulin, a prebiotic carbohydrate with a very low glycemic index that may support digestive and immunological health.
If you’ve been following the news this past week, you probably came across the latest warning issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Apparently, there’s a new strain of the norovirus (or Norwalk virus) that has recently been causing digestive havoc in Australia, Japan and Western Europe. And, now, this so-called GII 4 Sydney strain of the norovirus is making a new home in the United States. Given this, you might be wondering if there’s anything in the natural health sector that can help protect you and yours from this highly contagious viral offender.
In recent years, scientists from esteemed institutes of learning have identified an apparent link between an optimistic mindset and physical wellness. The latest entry into this topic comes from the Harvard School of Public Health. An analysis of nearly 1,000 middle-aged men and women determined that higher levels of self-reported optimism were associated with greater concentrations of serum antioxidants (carotenoids). The reason is likely due to a bidirectional effect in which “optimists are likely to engage in health behaviors associated with more serum antioxidants, and more serum antioxidants are likely associated with better physical health that enhances optimism”. This newly observed antioxidant effect may also, in part, explain why greater optimism has been continually linked to a lower risk of cardiac events and strokes.