Archive for June, 2011

Making Food More Digestible: Soaking Seeds & Nuts

June 28, 2011

As wildfires are raging across New Mexico, filling the air I breathe with toxic smoke, obscuring the view, and adding another degree of hardship to the parched earth, I watch a mother Phoebe feed her 3 fledglings that are madly fluttering around the nest (which has been perched on my porch light for over 22 years). No matter what is going on, her job is to feed those babies…even after her mate was killed by a gust of wind that slammed him to the floor. That has given me food for thought as so much “bad news” is filling our lives. Focus on the difficult and depressing, or focus on how to keep feeding ourselves and our loved ones as best we can.

Nature has built-in designs for helping every species’ progeny continue. For seeds and nuts, part of the strategy is a family of chemicals called enzyme inhibitors, which help keep the seed from germinating too fast, and making it a bit less palatable as food since fresh raw nuts are often bitter-tasting. The ingestion of raw nuts is hard on humans’ digestive tracts because those enzyme inhibitors, well, inhibit digestion. We basically have 3 strategies for changing this situation: soak them in salt water, soak them in water with a little whey (beginning to ferment them), or sprouting.

Traditional people watched what animals did to learn more about how to live well. Squirrels eat a small amount of acorns raw, but they bury scads, and dig them up over the winter, and most of those acorns have slightly sprouted. Turns out sprouting (and this is just till the seed or nut has a beensy 1/4th inch sprout) removes enzyme inhibitors, increases the nutritional content, and takes away that bitter taste. Those sprout tops you can buy for mason jars work great, and it only takes a few days to sprout even large nuts.

I like to soak my seeds in whey water (add a tablespoon of whey from yogurt or kefir, {which is the liquid component that can be removed from any type of fermented dairy by use of a very fine sieve} to a half pint mason jar of nuts filled with water) overnight, dump the bitter-tasting brownish liquid the next morning, lay out the nuts to air dry for a day, and then when dry store in an open container in the fridge. This works well in low humidity situations.

Or we can emulate the Aztecs, who soaked their pumpkin seeds in brine and then dried them in the sun, by taking 4 cups of raw, hulled pumpkin seeds and adding them to a large bowl of water to which 2 tablespoons of sea salt and 1/4th to 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional) has been added. Let sit at least 7 hours in a warm spot, drain, and spread on a stainless steel cookie sheet. Place in a warm oven (no hotter than 150 degrees) for about 12 hours or overnight, untill crisp. Better yet, use a dehydrator set at 105 degrees and you basically have dried, crispy, salty raw seeds that are easy to digest and a fabulous healthy, delicious snack food. Store the dried seeds (or nuts) in an airtight (another mason jar) container.

PS Buy your nuts as fresh as possible, and store in the fridge until needed. This is especially necessary for walnuts with their high amount of omega 3 fatty acids that so quickly go rancid.

“Oximation:” a new concept that helps explain chronic disease

June 24, 2011

This blog is a synopsis (with some editorializing added) of Roby Mitchell, MD’s article “Hypothyroidism, Candida & “Oximation:” Toward a New Model of Chronic Disease” from the Winter 2008 issue of Holistic Primary Care. I found it fascinating, especially the artful way of combining disparate pieces of info into a holistic picture. As we age, we often see a variety of doctors/health care practitioners, have a variety of “diseases”, complaints, problems….what if they were all connected?

Inflammation is a common denominator of many degenerative and auto-immune diseases (partial list: diabetes, most cancers, hypertension, irritable bowel, allergies, eczema, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis…even obesity and autism). There is an apparent confluence of  chronic Candida/yeast overgrowth, hypothyroidism, and metabolic dysregulation creating various inflammation-related problems that many of us deal with, either in a low-level form or as a major impingement on our enjoyment of life.

There is cause to believe that microbial pathogens drive chronic inflammatory diseases…and our laser beam focus on bacteria and viruses has blinded us to the possibility of fungal overgrowth in our system (and all the antibiotics that are prescribed usually result in fungal overgrowth as they kill the “good” bacteria along with the “bad”).

The most powerful disease intervention at our disposal is our diet (and I would add herbs, as they can be both food and medicine). Regardless of the inflammatory disease state, there is almost always a positive impact when cow’s milk (especially pasteurized agribusiness dairy), red meat (especially corn-fed feedlot cows), grains (especially wheat, and other gluten-types, and even more so in bread), and sugar are reduced/eliminated. When this is combined with increasing intake of colorful vegetables, beans, and fruits, which just happen to be loaded with phytochemicals that are anti-fungal, well you can see where this is headed: starve the fungus and you reduce inflammation, and all sorts of problems can get better.

The connection between oxidation and degenerative disease goes back to the 1950’s when oxidative cell damage was observed after exposure to free radicals. A researcher named Denham Harman proposed that aging was due to an accumulation of these oxidative “hits.” Later research in immunology has shown that immune cells produce free radicals that attack and kill microbes, as well as create some collateral damage to healthy cells.

Oximation is Michell’s combination of the words oxidation and inflammation. His theory suggests that loss of cellular integrity (at 4 key sites: cell membranes, cell DNA, mitochondrial membranes and mitochondrial DNA) is the genesis of disease. As thyroid and other hormone levels decrease with age, local areas of hypoxia begin to form, which then invite fungal overgrowth. Eating a lot of carbs (which can become excess glucose in the body) feed the fungus. ENT specialists at the Mayo clinic found that in 96% of the cases of sinusitis, the baseline infection was fungal, not bacterial.

 Focusing on our internal environment rather than any specific disease may be helpful. Hydrochloric acid (which often decreases with age), garlic, brightly colored fruits and vegetables, resveratrol, Echinacea, olive leaf, oregano and other spices, and probiotics: all these are anti-fungal, and add other important nutrients to the diet. So eat your colors (and that goes for beans, too); try the pseudo-grains: quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth; and consider eating yams, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and plantains as bread substitutes.

Cathy’s Diet Journey (or how I spent 34 years trying to figure out what the heck to eat!)

June 15, 2011

It is sometimes said that folks teach what they most need to learn for themselves. I’ve been lecturing about diet and nutrition since 1984, and I can attest to the truth of that statement!…AND I’ve also discovered quite a bit of useful info along the way that I’d like to share with you, especially since almost everyone in all my classes has confessed to a confusion about what really is the BEST diet.

Guess what? There is NO one “best” diet. Different “diets” work for different people, and the trick is to match up the food choices to what each individual person’s body needs and prefers, NOT what our minds are convinced is “right.”

After trying SAD (the Standard American Diet that I grew up on), I became a vegetarian, then a vegan, that back to vegetarian only with food rotation…then while still mainly vegetarian I ate some fish, tried the Eat Right for Your Blood Type diet…and still something wasn’t “right.” So on to a truly radical departure: Aajonus’s Primal Diet (where all your food is raw, including vegetable juices, meat, eggs and dairy, all of which I ate in plenty) and again, after several years…Am I ever going to figure this out!? I was doing my best of combining everything I had ever learned: lots of raw foods (dairy, eggs, soaked nuts and seeds, and a little meat), 7 to 9 servings of fruits and veggies a day (mostly raw), some cooked foods (fish, whole food starches), fresh vegetable juices, home-made fermented foods and almost all my food organic….good grief, why don’t I feel good!?

Then just a few months ago I asked for help, from 3 different sources. I did a hair analysis of minerals (and ratios of minerals), went to a Chinese acupuncturist who also has a PhD. In Nutrition from Harvard, and went online to do Dr. Mercola’s metabolic typing test…and lo and behold they all (mostly) agreed! Shock! Turns out I’m (almost) back to where I started (minus the Velveeta, the white bread and the canned foods). I’m a mixed metabolic type who does better with more eggs, meat, fish, beans, seeds and nuts, and less grains and dairy. My constitution says yes to lots of fruits and veggies, but not very many raw, especially in the winter. Who knew? Raw is NOT always better. One can be TOO alkaline. The focus on low protein via The China Study has turned out to not be based on good science.

What I also learned was that just eating the best foods for your body type and constitution may not be enough. I am not just low in food enzymes (which I’ve been taking for years and which finally helped me digest fats), but also hydrochloric acid and pepsin. So now I can eat cooked meat and not have “problems.”

Interestingly enough, my 2 favorite books on diet and nutrition, Sally Fallon’s “Nourishing Traditions,” and Diana Schwartzbein, M.D.’s “The Schwartzbein Principle II; The Transition” have turned out to hold true over time for the most people. Add a dollop of metabolic typing (William Wolcott and Trish Fahey’s “The Metabolic Typing Diet”) and/or Dr. Mercola’s diets for each metabolic type), and defining one’s basic “constitution” (via a good Acupuncturist, Ayurvedic, or Naturopathic physician—though only the first of those worked for me) will give anyone the basic puzzle pieces with which to work out the details.

For the next several weeks I will focus on some basics that seem to hold true regardless of metabolic and/or constitutional “type.” Because of the amount of toxins (GMO, chemicals in food, water, soil, air) we are now exposed to, and the stresses of modern living, we all may find it harder to thrive on foods that aren’t the best we can afford. My dad’s mom lived to age 87 on a diet of (typical meal) pork chops cooked to shoe leather, canned green beans, instant potatoes, as well as 2 packs of unfiltered Camels a day, not to mention that she was an alcoholic who went through several pounds of candy a week….or my mom’s mom who lived to be almost 101 on the SAD, including a desert with every dinner. I think those days are gone for most of us. We really are going to have to pay more attention….and I hope to make that as enjoyable and tasty as possible!

Rethinking Cholesterol

June 8, 2011

I was at my Internist’s office yesterday discussing my shingles improvement, when he asked about my getting blood work–specifically a cholesterol test as mine was from years ago.  My answer was: the research I’ve done seems to support the fact that the numbers are not nearly so important as whether or not our cholesterol is oxidized, and if it is nice and plump or really small particles. He looked at me a moment and replied: we (the practice he is part of) discussed this very situation last year. Evidently there isn’t (yet) a decent blood test for that purpose. Can you imagine my shock at being heard with an alternative view…that maybe is not really so out in left field after all….we only have drugs when there is a test to prove we need that drug.

This does not mean that cholesterol is unimportant. Too much or too little (yes, you can actually have too little! Hormones and your nervous system and all cells need cholesterol) can certainly negatively affect our health. So here a few of the basics:

Solution #1 – Stop Forcing Your Liver to Manufacture Excessive LDL cholesterol     This is basically a 2 part process: first, remove the junk food from your diet (sugar, fried fats, fast food, ingredients you can’t pronounce), and secondly (and this one is the kicker) don’t overeat good food either.

Solution #2 – Decongest Your Stagnant/Fatty Liver     This step is about losing weight around our middle, eating more fiber, and de-gunking our liver (ooh, back to the detox section).

Solution #3 – Stabilize Cell Membranes, Reduce Inflammation      Here we are asking ourselves to do some serious stress management, eat more fresh food (especially leafy greens and berries), and look at how we can bring balance into our lives so that our over-all inflammatory markers stay down. All these steps, by the way, are from an article I will highlight at the end of this post. This article goes into greater detail about:  explaining cholesterol and how it works in our body and what strategies and supplements to use to assist us in following these steps.

Solution #4 – Restore Cellular Oxygen Utilization, Fix Thyroid Problems      We gotta keep moving! Exercise is not just about going to the gym…our ancesters didn’t have gyms. We worked. We walked and lifted, and moved around A LOT. Recently I read that for those of us who are sedentary (at that computer all day) were much more likely to have heart attacks because we weren’t moving around enough.

Solution #5 – Reduce Your Toxic Burden, Especially from Your Own Digestive Tract     We’re back to more detox, as well as adding plenty of probiotics to our diet. This can include yogurt and supplements, but also fermented foods like (unheated) sauerkraut and kim chi.

Piqued your interest? Want to get off statins? Want to address/ balance your cholesterol numbers? You can click  HERE to read the entire article. Any one who, after reading this article, would like to order any of the supplements mentioned, call me toll-free @ 877-286-2970, and we can talk about excellent quality at excellent prices.


June 2, 2011

Statin drugs, when taken after a first heart attack to prevent a second heart attack, have shown to be useful (if you wish to take a pharmaceutical drug in the first place). However, statin drugs, when taken to prevent a first heart attack, have come under increasing scrutiny, and basically the studies do not support its use for prevention  of a first heart attack. You can read a very good synopsis of the studies and data supporting this  HERE

And then there are the significant side effects: the GreenMedInfo folks have kindly collated a truly horrifying compendium of what can go wrong if “susceptible’ individuals use statins. For a detailed list (with references) visit this page before you use or continue using statin drugs. Oh, and what constitutes “susceptible”, you might ask? When you experience the side (meaning unwanted) effect, then you are “susceptible” to that (unwanted and usually negative)  effect.

If you are taking statin drugs, and wish to continue, then please take at least 50 mg of Co Q10, as statins severely deplete this nutrient…. which coincidentally helps our hearts….Also, the GreenMedInfo folks have compiled some interesting info on a natural alternative/Red Yeast Rice to statin therapy. You can read about it here.

Next week we’ll take a look at the daunting issue of cholesterol…which may be as much a friend as a foe.