Healthy AnniversaryDecember 1, 2009 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Today marks a rather momentous event in my life. It’s the one year anniversary of HealthyFellow.com. This site is my first real attempt at writing a professional blog. In the past I’ve kept a public menu blog as part of my weight loss journey and I’ve even dabbled in a smaller scale natural health site. But it wasn’t until late last year that I was contacted about being a part of something bigger. It was an uncertain time in my life. I was ending my long term employment with a major entertainment company and I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go from there. The one thing I did know is that I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the work I was doing. I’ve always loved film, but I didn’t feel as if I was contributing enough to the world around me. It was this confluence of events that lead to the development of this site. My goal, simply put, was to provide science-based, natural health information with a heart that was suitable for both patients and physicians. I think I’m succeeding in doing that, but I know I have a long way to go.
I think this might be a good time to update some of the varied topics that I’ve covered over the past year. In March I described several natural ways to mitigate the effects of GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease) and Barret’s Esophagus (BE), a potentially dangerous condition which involves stomach acids backing up and damaging/irritating the delicate tissues in the esophagus.
A study released on November 23rd, 2009 provides an inexpensive, natural option that may help blunt the harm caused by BE. 25 patients were given 1,000 mg of Vitamin C for 4 weeks. Esophageal tissue samples were taken pre and post supplementation via endoscopic biopsies. Levels of inflammation were also assessed using an “Evidence Investigator biochip array”. All of the participants demonstrated elevated concentrations of “pro-inflammatory cytokines and growth factors” at the beginning of the trial. However, by the end of the study, 35% of the patients exhibited reductions in said markers of inflammation due to the Vitamin C supplementation. This is the first study to specifically test the effects of Vitamin C in BE patients. But numerous previous studies laid the foundation for this current research. Most of those scientific inquiries discovered that people with BE have lower than average levels of important antioxidants such as selenium, various carotenoids and Vitamins C and E. (1,2,3,4,5)
It’s been almost one year since I first covered the topic of guided imagery. This is a powerful mind-body technique that is safe enough to use as an adjunct to almost any form of medical treatment. The December edition of the journal Archives of Psychiatric Nursing documents the latest success for this alternative therapy. “60 short-term hospitalized depressive patients” participated in the current trial. A portion of that group listened to a guided imagery CD once daily for a total of 10 days. Tests referred to as “The Psychiatric Inpatients Comfort Scale” and “The Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scales (DASS-21)” were administered before the guided imagery intervention and also at the completion of the trial. According to the authors of the study, “Repeated measures revealed that the (guided imagery) treatment group had significantly improved comfort and decreased depression, anxiety and stress over time”. Two other recent trials support the success of guided imagery in reducing tremors in patients with Parkinson’s disease and discomfort in children with “functional abdominal pain”. In both instances, the effects were deemed “superior to medical treatment only” and resulted in improvements that “were sustained over a long period”. (6,7,8)
Long time readers know all too well that I’m “nuts” about nuts (and seeds). It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sacha inchi or walnuts. I love them all. But more importantly, they love us back by providing a wide array of health benefits. In November, a study was published in the journal Obesity which examined the effects of walnuts on satiation. 20 men and women were asked to eat a standardized diet along with one of two shakes for breakfast: a) a shake containing added walnuts or b) a shake with the exact same nutritional profile that excluded walnuts. The duration of the experiment was 4 days. By the 3rd day, those receiving the walnut shakes demonstrated “an increased level of satiety and sense of fullness” as documented by questionnaires that were filled out prior to the meal that followed. But there’s more to the nut story than simply eating nuts. If you really want to get the most out the nuts you eat, buy them with their skins on. Recent laboratory research indicates that a good deal of the health promoting properties of nuts comes from the skins. For this reason, I always buy unblanched almonds and Spanish peanuts with their reddish covers. (9,10,11,12,13)
One of the most exciting and interesting parts of my job is foraging for new and relatively undiscovered research on exotic foods, herbs and spices. It’s true that I typically do this from the confines of my office, rather than in some remote, tropical jungle, but it still gives me a thrill. My plan for the years to come is to continue to find hidden gems in the scientific literature that may help improve our understanding of how and why natural medicine works. I believe this is an important key to bridging the gap between conventional and naturopathic medicine.
In September I briefly discussed an herbal tea known as yerba mate. In that piece, I mostly focused on its potential to improve cardiovascular health. But many supplement manufacturers also promote yerba mate as a weight loss aid. I’m rather cautious about promoting weight loss supplements because I think they’re unlikely to play a major role in weight loss programs for most people. But I also understand that it’s important not to get caught up in my own personal prejudices. A newly published, preliminary study (in rats) suggests that yerba mate may, in fact, deliver on its weight loss claims. Reductions in body fat and weight were noted in a group of 30 rats fed yerba mate over the course of 12 weeks. Brazilian researchers found that an extract of this shrub demonstrated “a modulatory effect on the expression of several genes related to obesity”. Another upside of this experiment is that several improvements were noted in various health markers, namely a decrease in blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the potential of yerba mate in the near and distant future. (14)
One of the very first columns I wrote was about a rather obscure berry known as amla or Indian gooseberry. A new trial published in the British Journal of Nutrition adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests that amla may one day become a potent natural medicine in the management of heart health. In this experiment, a group of lab rats were fed a diet rich in fructose for 2 weeks. A portion of the animals were also given a “polyphenol-rich amla extract”. Blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels were monitored pre and post trial. The rats supplemented with the amla extract exhibited significant reductions (34% and 25%) in liver concentrations of triglycerides and total cholesterol. Other markers of liver strain such as increased inflammation and oxidative stress were also diminished in the amla-fed rats. The Korean scientists who lead the research commented that “fructose-induced metabolic syndrome is attenuated by the polyphenol-rich fraction of amla”. If these results can be substantiated in humans, countless lives and an enormous amount of health care spending may be saved. (15)
I hate to get all sentimental after only one year “in practice”. But I do want to say that I truly appreciate the level of support that so many of you have graciously shared with me. I know all too well how busy life can be. That’s why I’m so appreciative of you spending a portion of your valuable time on this site. Your attention, comments and e-mails never go unnoticed and they genuinely help to fuel my passion for the objective that I hope to achieve. I sincerely hope that I’ve served you well in our brief history together. In that vein, please know that I’m entirely open to your suggestions about how I can make HealthyFellow.com better in the days, weeks, months and years to come. Your opinions and thoughts about this and anything health related are always welcome. Onward to year two!
Tags: Amla, Guided Imagery, Vitamin C
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Mental Health, Nutritional Supplements