Archive for July, 2012

Who Owns Organics?

July 27, 2012

This nifty set of graphics show you exactly which brands are owned by whom….very interesting.

I’m enjoying going to my local Farmer’s Markets to supplement what I’m growing in my garden this summer. It’s fun, social (and if one gardens, there’s nobody like another gardener to talk about the latest success and/or fiasco), and helps me feel better on so many levels. It’s heartbreakingly easy to get upset and depressed by news and politics…and delightfully energizing to compliment people on their hard work and beautiful displays of yumminess.

Staying Cool

July 19, 2012

Here in Northern New Mexico we had our record-breaking temperatures in June; however, many of my friends and customers in other states are living with near constant scorching temperatures that barely go down by dawn only to pop back up into the high 90’s and above, with little relief. So this blog is a copy of a recent Rodale article that is very timely and chock full of great info. One thing I will add here: many of us eat lots of fruit in the summer, and many are cooling to the body; however, most non-organic fruit contains very high amounts of pesticide residue. So eat your fruit, but make sure it’s organically grown.

The Best All-Natural Ways to Stay Cool

Keep heat waves at bay with these natural, and sometimes surprising, cool-down secrets.

By Isaac Eliaz, MD, integrative health expert

Topics: summer safety

Water is only part of the story when it comes to surviving a heat wave.
Summer can be a very energetic time of year, a time when many of us head to the outdoors for increased activities during the longer, warmer days. But as heat wave records make headlines across the country, it’s critical to protect yourself by staying cool. While extra movement, time in nature and fresh air can do wonders for your health, it’s also vital to pay close attention to your body’s vulnerabilities as 2012 continues to heat up.

Summer and Fire In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), summer relates to the fire element—and on a physical level, TCM emphasizes the health of your heart and circulatory system during this season. As daylight increases, your energy and activity will naturally expand, reaching farther away from your core and calling on strong circulation to keep up with the increased demands. And as temperatures rise, healthy circulation and its anti-inflammatory effects become even more important.

Poor circulation creates a condition of stagnation throughout the bloodstream. This can be aggravated during the summer due to heat and dehydration, which makes our blood thick and sticky, and without enough fluids to keep circulation flowing smoothly. On a chronic level this is referred to in Western medicine as hyperviscous coagulation, or hyperviscosity. Stagnant blood in turn generates more heat, furthering a vicious cycle of chronic inflammation throughout the body. And as we know, chronic inflammation is the hallmark of a wide variety of illnesses, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.

Hyperviscosity of the blood is sometimes due to genetic tendency. Approximately 25 percent of the population exhibits one or more inherited “defects” which can be measured through cardiovascular blood screening. People with these genetic markers, such as elevated Lp(a) (Lipoprotein-a); PAI-1(Plasminogen Activation Inhibitor 1); or homocysteine, are more prone to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease as well as aggressive cancer and other chronic illnesses. But hyperviscosity can also be caused by unhealthy lifestyle, dietary habits, and infections or traumas. Together, hyperviscosity and chronic inflammation set the stage for a number of deadly diseases. But regardless of whether you are genetically predisposed to these issues, or whether your lifestyle is to blame, or both, there are a number of ways to prevent the damage, stay healthy and protect against disease.

Heat Waves and Heart Attacks During summer, the combination of hot weather, chronic inflammation, and lack of circulation can turn deadly, increasing the risks of heart attack, stroke, and other serious cardiovascular events. Additional summer health risks, such as heat stroke/heat exhaustion, burns, and dehydration, are all related to excess inflammation, causing our engines to “overheat.”

So the most important step you can take to protect your health during summer is to keep chronic inflammation in check. This degenerative process of continuous “overheating” degrades your body through wear, tear, and oxidative stress, serving as a primary function of the aging process—and of degenerative, life-threatening diseases.

Keeping Your Cool What can you do this season to make sure your heart stays strong and your body cool and hydrated? Here are some steps you can take to protect your health in the heat.

Take advantage of the increase in fresh produce available this time of year. Emphasize leafy greens, and rehydrating fruits and vegetables with high water and mineral content. These not only help replenish fluids, but they are very high in phytonutrients and antioxidants, things we need to combat inflammation and resulting oxidative stress. Oxidative stress in this case is mainly caused by waste from our cells’ mitochondria—the engines that power our cells—working too quickly in the heat. This excess cellular waste accumulates faster in conditions of poor circulation and inflammation. So if you eat a fresh produce diet that is high in antioxidants, phytonutrients, and ingredients that support the detox process, you help to get rid of the byproducts of mitochondrial “heat.” In this way, an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits help break the cycle of inflammation, hyperviscosity and heat damage.

Drink LOTS of fresh, filtered water (approximately 64 ounces a day). This will keep fluid levels at a maximum to help circulation stay strong, reduce inflammation and help clear mitochondrial waste products and other toxins.

Replenish electrolytes with a healthy electrolyte and mineral supplement. Potassium is an important electrolyte, as well as magnesium, calcium and trace minerals. Electrolytes support communication between cells and are critical to basic biological functions, but we lose them through sweat and dehydration. High-quality coconut water is a good natural choice.

Take cooling, anti-inflammatory supplements. When we have a lot of heat, we need to cool our systems, and for this we can use different anti-inflammatory supplements. There are three basic categories of supplements that can help reduce inflammation. Botanicals and nutrients directly reduce inflammatory reactions in the body. Other botanicals and nutrients also offer antioxidant support to prevent oxidative heat damage. Botanicals and nutrients that help circulation are also important because through increased circulation, chronic inflammation and “blood stickiness” is reduced. An excellent example is curcumin derived from turmeric root: It is an anti-inflammatory, it’s an antioxidant and it promotes circulation.

Slow down. On the level of physics, if you have more heat, everything moves faster—even our thoughts can move faster. So the natural balance is to slow down, by taking more time for sleep, relaxation and rest. Stress-relieving activities like meditation, art, listening to music and vacations in nature help to calm the system so that heat, inflammation and the resulting congestion is reduced. For this reason, it’s very important to take time off in the summer—something that seems to be lacking in the American culture. People often take only a two or three-day vacation, but it really takes six to seven days for the body to start unwinding from the daily grind.

Get adequate sleep. Regular sleep helps keep our body’s normal functions running smoothly, including repair mechanisms which are essential in hot weather.

Engage in gentle, regular exercise. Walking is especially beneficial (without overheating in the midday sun). Gentle exercise promotes healthy circulation and helps us to relax. Regular, rhythmic exercise is particularly valuable in helping to keep you calm yet energized, while boosting circulation and reducing inflammation. That’s the value of practices like yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong, which have a calming, rhythmic breathing element to them.

Slowing down and making sure that you allow your body to cool down, regulate internal temperatures, and regenerate fluids are necessary preventative measures for a long and healthy life. These simple steps are even more important for your health and vitality during periods of prolonged heat.

Botanicals and Nutrients Cardiovascular and circulatory health is a big focus in my clinical practice—and for my patients. Circulation-boosting botanicals and enzymes include: • Hawthorn berry • Ginger • Turmeric • Chinese salvia • L-carnitine • Omega-3 oils • Enzymes like nattokinase, lumbrokinase, and others.

Repairing Chronic Heat Damage We know from basic physics that heat is a manifestation of an increase in kinetic movement—and when you live a high-paced lifestyle with no time to relax, “cool,” rehydrate, and lubricate your body, your “engine” is going to heat up. Sometimes, this damage from chronic excess heat can be more serious, requiring replenishment not just in the form of extra fluids and electrolytes, but also “fluid-generating” herbs and botanicals that can help hydrate and maintain moisture in tissues and organs.

This type of heat damage can be addressed by a group of botanicals called “body fluid regenerators” (or yin regeneration herbs, as they are classified in TCM) that work on different parts of the body:

• Tian men dong (asparagus tuber) and mai men dong (Ophipogon tuber) work to promote blood and fluids in the heart, the lungs, and the stomach • Shu hu (dendrobium stem) helps maintain moisture in the lungs, the stomach, and the eyes • Zhi mu (Anemarrhena root) is another herb that’s very important for the stomach when you have severe dryness • Sheng di huang (Rehmmania) is also very important for nourishing the blood, which moisturizes all the organs.

So sometimes, you have to balance between clearing the heat and nourishing the body fluids.

A whole-foods diet rich in fruits, vegetables, unprocessed whole grains, and essential fatty acids (found in nuts and fish) is also a crucial part of a strong, healthy circulatory system. The antioxidants, fiber, and omega-3s this type of diet provides serve to minimize the effects of free radicals, promote healthy arteries, and soothe excessive heat.

Summer can be an exciting and rewarding time of year, offering more time in nature, opportunities for new adventure, an abundance of healthy fresh produce, summer celebrations, and more. If we take the right steps to promote our health in the midst of this season’s warmth and activity, we can reap the benefits of increased vitality and energy, rather than wilting away under the scorching heat.

Nutritious CAN Be Delicious

July 12, 2012

I’ve been making this desert for half a dozen years, and every year the sugar content goes down with no loss of sweetness….I’m retraining my taste buds!

Apple Crisp with Dried Fruit

this recipe is for a 13″ by 9″ by 2″ baking pan; adjust as necessary for smaller pans

The fruit part on the bottom:

4 lbs. of apples, cored and sliced (OR, any combo of fruit you like;  I’ve used cherries, peaches, mangoes, pears, plums & strawberries, sometimes alone, but more often in combinations)

1 and 1/2 cups of dried tart cherries ( or any dried fruit you enjoy: raisins, currants, blueberries, sweet cherries…)

1 T of xylitol (a type of sugar that is not cavity producing)

1 T of lemon juice (only if you are using apples and don’t want them to darken)

1 T of flour (this can be gluten-free; I use Bob’s Red Mill sweet sorghum flour)

2/4th tsp powdered cinnamon

Mix the above in a bowl (or just layer directly) and put into the buttered baking pan

The Topping:

1 and 1/2 cups of rolled oats

3/4 ths cup flour (the sweet sorghum is gluten-free and very tasty, but you can use spelt or whole wheat flour)

1/2 tsp powdered cinnamon

1/4 th tsp salt

mix these 4 ingredients together in a large bowl; then add the following:

1 stick of organic butter that is softened (rub in the butter to form a coarse meal); then add:

3/4 ths to 1 cup of chopped soaked nuts (the original recipe called for almonds, but I’ve also used Brazil nuts, pecans &/or walnuts)

1/2 cup of crystalized ginger (and here is your sugar!) chopped small

Mix it all together; spoon onto the fruit, and pat down so it covers the fruit; and place in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 40 to 55 minutes until the top is browned. At 7700 feet above sea level this dish is perfectly done at 50 minutes.

Serve warm or cold; plain or with yogurt. YUMMY!!! (and chock full of healthy carbs, fat and protein).

Health Care, American Style

July 5, 2012

I hope everyone had a lovely Fourth of July holiday. We got to celebrate with RAIN. And not a moment too soon in the droughty northern New Mexican San Luis Valley.

In all of the health care debate, including reams of paper generated about whether or not the Supreme Court would uphold the health care act, not too much has been said about the bill’s effect upon integrative (alternative, holistic) medicine. The issue for many of us was not whether or not the US should  have universal health care, but what kind of health care would be covered. If we were going to be mandated to purchase insurance, then we wanted that insurance to cover the health care that we think is beneficial. Also, many of us wanted the insurance companies out of the picture altogether, with a single payer option.

In my 30 plus years of talking with thousands of people about their health, I continue to be amazed and appalled at the low-level of health care most people receive from AMA and government sanctioned health care providers. With mandated government approved health insurance, we have no guarantees that anything holistic will be included. Some of the pricier policies include chiropractic, acupuncture and massage. But many of us will continue to pay out-of-pocket for what we believe is better health care than the mainstream offerings. And for many, the most important issue is: Will any of the new policies be just “catastrophic care” with higher deductibles? For a good article that goes into more depth on this issue, go HERE. 

As any alternative health care provider will tell you: prevention is better than trying to cure. Eat well; enjoy the fresh air; walk; laugh; hang out with friends; sleep 8 hours; drink lots of clean water; learn something new.