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?”.
One of the strengths of evidence-based, natural medicine is confidence. As a consultant, educator and writer, I have confidence about my positions because they’re backed by peer-reviewed, scientific evidence. Therefore, I’m not just one lonely voice making an impassioned argument. Rather, I’m part of a collective of voices that uses documented facts and findings to further the cause of natural health care. This very same philosophy can be used by individuals who have no particular interest in working in the field of medicine. In fact, it can work equally well for anyone who simply wishes to incorporate more natural remedies into their treatment program.
Recently, a reader asked for my opinion about so-called meat substitutes. Since the topic of vegetarian alternatives to meat is rather complex and nuanced, I’ve decided to write about my answer on this site. But, before I offer my perspective, I want to make it clear that I’m exclusively focusing on the nutritional aspects of the issue. I’ll leave the ecological and philosophical arguments for other commentators and forums.
There are very few trends you can count on in the field of modern medicine and nutrition. The “stock” of virtually every food and/or supplement tends to go up and down more erratically than the Dow Jones or Nasdaq. One day coffee is bad for you, the next it’s being touted as a preventative for Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and liver cancer. For years, doctors have been recommending supplemental calcium for just about everyone. Now, there’s a grand debate about potential cardiovascular side effects involving this essential mineral. And, the examples go on and on. However, if there is such a thing as a bankable food/supplement which has sustained its sterling reputation over the years, it is most certainly green tea.
It’s relatively easy to recognize when you’re not getting enough exercise, nutrition or sleep. In the case of exercise and sleep, deficiency symptoms are usually subjective – fatigue, mood changes, shortness of breath, etc. A lack of nutrients sometimes presents itself physically, but can also be detected and/or verified with the assistance of diagnostic tests. On the other hand, social connectedness, an equally important aspect of wellness, is often overlooked. And, ironically, it may be one of the most common deficiency states affecting mankind in the 21st century.
Yearly, almost 800,000 adults in the United States will suffer a stroke. Of those, approximately 77% will be first time strokes. The remainder are classified as recurrent attacks. While sobering, there is also some optimistic news to report on the stroke front. Between the years of 1999 and 2009, incidents of stroke have declined by 33%. According to the American Heart Association, this improvement is largely attributable to better management of blood pressure, diabetes and other modifiable risk factors, including smoking cessation and weight management. In addition, dietary changes can also play a valuable role in preventing so-called “brain attacks”. In a previous column, I offered my own dietary prescription for a “Stroke Protection Diet”.
Many of us have a basic idea about prudent dietary choices and the health effects they typically produce. For example, if you eat large quantities of low-glycemic fruits and non-starchy vegetables, it’s unlikely that you’ll develop constipation, diabetes and obesity. Conversely, if your diet is loaded with processed foods, your cardiovascular, digestive system and waist line will almost certainly suffer the consequences. But, what you may not know is that there are a few recently discovered, practical ways of applying these old nutritional adages to their greatest advantage.