Tag Archives: Health

Debating Titanium Dioxide

Element Titanium

Sometime ago, a young woman came into the supplement store looking for a titanium dioxide free iron supplement. She began telling me about the research on this ingredient and the reports that it was carcinogenic. She then went on to ask why a vitamin maker would use a whitening agent only to then turn around and dye the supplement another color. The absurdity behind this process was so conspicuous; I admittedly felt a little dumbfounded. I honestly had no answer for her other than the possibility of market research leading manufacturers to believe we consumers prefer pretty colored pills to naturally hued, and whitening a substance’s natural color probably allowed another color to take better. We both had to tilt our heads and roll our eyes as the words tumbled out and over themselves, but in that moment I decided to look into the meat of the issue and find out the deal with TD.

From the research I’ve read so far, much of the studies done on the carcinogenicity of titanium dioxide have been performed on rats, not unusual, and with powdered TD. Many of these studies did find that prolonged and excessive – six hours per day, five days per week, for two years- exposure of lab rats to TD dust did result in lung tumor development. And some of these studies did acknowledge the marked difference between the ways the body of a rat processes powders and dust particles in comparison to those of larger mammals like primates and humans. There are also studies, dating as far back as the 1960’s and conducted on larger mammals and humans, that tested the amounts of titanium dioxide present in the body after ingesting the substance through the diet over extended periods of time. These studies stated that no detectable amounts of TD were found in the urine, blood, kidneys or liver, giving way to the determination that dietary consumption of titanium dioxide did not lead to its absorption and thus accumulation within the human body.

So, surprise surprise, it’s a mixed bag. Findings like these enable the FDA to deem it safe for use and consumption. And boy oh boy is it used.

If you’ve become the diligent ingredient label reader I’ve encouraged, then you know what I’m talking about. TD can be found in everything from our multi colored multi vitamins to our body lotions and cosmetics. And because it occurs naturally in several minerals, it is widely used in mineral based make-up, especially the powdered foundations, bronzers, eye shadows and blushes.

So are there any benefits? Probably the more pointed question is whether the substance serves any function, has any use?

Titanium dioxide results from oxygenation of the widely present element titanium. Its strength and resistance to breakdown, along with its pigmentation make it a successful thickening and whitening agent for a variety of products like paints, inks, pills, toothpastes, cosmetics, foods and beverages. In addition, it is an able ultra violet light absorber and thus popular component of sunscreens and blocks. But is it truly, ultimately safe; and if so, then why the fuss?

Titanium_Dioxide_43Well it turns out that the nano-sized, ultra small particle form of TD is of concern to researchers. And many of them view the synthesized state as the real threat because this form is more susceptible to collisions/reactions with other particles and can potentially infiltrate otherwise protected areas of the body. It is these traits that make for an unpredictable agent with unforeseeable consequences, and thus no definitive answer to the question of long term safety.

Given the particular concern being powdered titanium dioxide and its impact on our lungs, the greater danger may be in our exposure to the inhalable forms and not the ingestible. Only time will tell for sure, but it is certainly our prerogative to play it safe. These manufacturers may provide some effective alternatives to their TD containing counterparts.

For titanium dioxide free mineral cosmetics: http://www.rejuvaminerals.com/store/titanium.html
For nanoparticle free sunscreens and blocks: http://mexitan.com/

As for ingestible products containing titanium dioxide, opting for clear veggie gel capped supplements or color free pills and tablets is a relatively easy adjustment. New Chapter, NOW and Source Naturals all offer TD free vitamin and mineral options in their supplement lines. Finding a medication that is free of titanium dioxide is probably more challenging; but when faced with the need for immediate care, healing in the now naturally takes priority over questions of future challenges. For those needing to take medications over an extended period of time, there should be no hesitation in asking about any additional ingredients or additives that cause concern. Let us remember that these are our bodies, nourished by our minds and without peace of that mind, health cannot truly be obtained.

Until next time…

Be Informed, Be Selective

BeWell

Sources

http://ezinearticles.com/?Titanium-Dioxide:-Toxic-or-Safe?&id=34675

http://www.eoearth.org/article/Nanoparticles

http://www.gcsescience.com/a37-nano-science-nanoparticles.htm

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Reinventing the Will

Walk to Health
Illness

Poor health resulting from disease of body or mind; sickness

March 6, 2012 began the most enduring healing process of my life, to date.
On that day I woke with symptoms I assumed were signs of the flu, and two mornings later I was greeted with the most excruciating physical pain I’ve yet to experience. Between then and now, I’ve worked with a fair share of doctors, visited quite a few medical facilities, underwent numerous assessments and confronted some frightening possibilities.
Eventually and thankfully, I was determined to have acute septic rheumatoid arthritis of the sternoclavicular joint, a torn rotator cuff and subsequent frozen shoulder. The infection slowly cleared, and the shoulder required no surgery, just a long bout of physical therapy. So by force or choice, I started removing the obstacles between my existing life and the elusive well life I needed and desired.

Heal

To set right; repair
To restore to health or soundness; cure
To become whole and sound; return to health

Why so long? I always thank my lucky stars and ancestors that I am a willful child, yet the gravity of both the blessing and curse of this trait was never as clearly laid out as it was during this time in my life. What I’ve experienced is a lot. But make no mistakes; I’m not playing my mini violin in search of sympathy. We all have our challenges to lament; some last for days or weeks, but for many, they last years. And while working to pull through the worst of mine, physically unable to throw the tantrum I so desired. I thought and wondered about those that suffered years, waited months for accurate diagnosis and went around countless times feeling ok, then not great, then a little better and then even worse than before. Members of my family, friends and loved ones, we’d had these conversations and I’d looked into their eyes as they shunned this round of that treatment with those potential effects and that other option’s predicted prognosis. Brave, obviously; faithful, probably; but willful, without a doubt.

Without our will, our willingness to pursue health at all costs, we are suspended in a state of vulnerability. But how many times have we set up unhealthy scenarios in our lives by that same shear will? Perhaps we were misguided by our ambitions, or what we perceived must be done to survive or sustain the ones that rely on us? These are the questions I’ve been mulling around lately. How do we assert our will to improve and secure our health? What exactly should this entail?

Wellness

The quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort
An approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasizing treating diseasesWell Wheel

In the science world there is the concept of dynamic equilibrium. This state is reached when the gains of a physical system stay equal to its losses. In wellness speak this is an ongoing pursuit of balance inside and out of the body, mind and spirit. Fittingly, it is often illustrated as a wheel with spokes that represent each area of our lives from physical activity to love, spirit and even finance. The goal is to keep a watchful eye on the state of each. It is both the proactive and creatively reactive participation of an individual in the design and construction of a life that promotes and perpetuates their wellness-wholeness, soundness. This is the true work. Work that acknowledges our reality that sometimes even the best efforts don’t prevent an illness, that a crisis when not avoided should then be quickly and effectively contained; and if our first attempts fail, then we must try again with more concentrated efforts. Of course this was not my thought process while sitting in the thick of it. By no means was I that objective or proactive. Hindsight is 20/20. And as I read my interpretation, it is “matteroffactish”, never mind debatable in its efficacy. But it does bring me straight to the heart of my question, perhaps even into the realm of its answer. How can we better use our will? How far back should we sit to gain perspective? How do we determine the direction in which we should steer?

Maybe it’s a matter of drafting a new outline, a new covenant that specifies the willingness to:
1. ask for help
2. go to the deepest root of the problem
3. set clearer health and wellness goals
4. objectively look at our ambitions, intentions, behaviors and subsequent choices
5. be honest about the impact of these choices on our emotional and physical wellness
6. let go and lose all things incongruent with our goals
7. follow the intrinsic flow and progression of our lives
8. commit to the process with persistence and patience
9. surrender the minutia of reaching those goals to a higher will
10. go through the growing pains that accompany progress toward our goals
11. adjust our pace and approach as needed
12. forgive our past mistakes
13. trust ourselves and our judgment

Will

To decree
A desire, purpose, or determination, especially of one in authority
The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action

Happy Easter, Happy Resurrection, and As Always…BeWell

Hopes for a New Breast Cancer Vaccine

English: pink ribbon

In closing out this month of breast cancer awareness I wanted to uncover some new developments in the area of prevention; and, lo and behold, I came across information on an actual breast cancer vaccine that is making good strides in the research and trial phases. Thus far, this vaccine has shown a promising ability to reduce the amount of disease recurrence, and it seems to be well tolerated by its recipients. Presently known as AE37, the vaccine teaches our immune system to identify the prominent tumor promoting cancer protein HER2 as a definitive threat warranting attack by the body.

Leading researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Department of Surgical Oncology believe the best way to develop the vaccine is to introduce it to women who have already had breast cancer. Like other vaccines, the AE37 actually contains a small portion of the offensive HER2 protein along with other proteins. And in studies the vaccine has been uniquely paired with an immune system stimulant that is rapidly recognized by the human body’s most aggressive defenders, the CD4+T cells, that ” prompt components of the immune system to seek and destroy tumor cells.”*

As with so many other clinical trials of experimental cancer treatments, the initial studies were done on groups where the disease had already progressed and metastasized. Though it was not expected to yield dramatic improvements in these cases, it could be an effective way to gauge the vaccine’s potential and limitations and determine any possible side effects. And in AE37’s case, as anticipated, it proved to be more beneficial as a preventive measure to disease recurrence than as a treatment for an active and progressing cancer. Subsequent trials supported this, with data results indicating a possible 40% reduction in the risk of disease recurrence along with the vaccine’s ability to be effective against various levels of the HER2 protein. Additionally, the side effects experienced were as minimal as pain and redness at the injection site and only as extreme as bone pain and flu-like symptoms.

These preliminary results are of the caliber needed to advance to the later phase trials and studies, and that certainly offers a ray of hope, not only to those researching ways to enhance cancer immunity, but for all current and future survivors. No doubt much work still needs to be done, but thankfully some very thoughtful and innovative science is being practiced so that the notion of preventing this disease may actually become a reality. It can never ease the pain felt as we reflect on the plight of those loved ones lost too soon; but maybe, when we find ourselves worn by the grief, it can pick our heads up and reset our sights on all that is still possible in the world of prevention and healing.

To read more about the progress of this and other potential breast cancer vaccines, please visit:

*http://www.mdanderson.org/newsroom/news-releases/2012/hybrid-vaccine.html

Until Next Time,

Be Hopeful and BeWell

Some Supplement Combos to Avoid

Recently I was asked to clarify which herbs could not be safely combined with other supplements. I thought, “sure, no problem,” knowing that there are literally hundreds of thousands of different herbs with countless compounds, properties and actions warranting another encyclopedia set’s worth of break down. And then it occurred to me that it would be of more benefit to just list some resources that I’ve relied upon to help me sift through the herbal options and determine the appropriate combinations to supplement.

Cover of "Prescription for Nutritional He...
Cover via Amazon

My most frequent go to are the books A Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch and Staying Healthy with Nutrition, published by Celestial Arts Publishing. The first provides both quick reference lists of select herbs and more detailed supplement recommendations for various conditions. Staying Healthy…is an A-Z guide of all vitamins and minerals plus a breakdown of different diets with suggested appropriate recipes. For a list of medications and their corresponding restrictions the Physicians’ Desk Reference is a must have, but make sure you are referring to the most updated edition as the pharmaceutical world is an ever-changing one.

As said before, a full list of supplemental conflicts could very well absorb your computer’s memory stores. Let me be clear though, not because they’re so many conflicts, just that many supplements. Generally speaking, herbs, vitamins, minerals and their active compounds are safe when used properly. But when used outside of their recommended dosages and durations, some issues can arise. And more often, these issues are not at all the same types of risks associated with the misuse of prescription drugs. Usually any risks associated with natural substances fall within the following categories:

  • Interference with the absorption of other vital nutrients
  • Development of allergic reactions due to over use and/or too prolonged use
  • Competition with, interference with, or duplication of the actions of other supplements or medications

Below is a brief list of common herbs, courtesy of A Prescription for Nutritional Healing, along with some corresponding condition, supplement, and medication combinations to avoid.

Astragalus fever (condition)
Burdock iron (supplement)
Chamomile other sedatives (medications)
Damiana iron
Dandelion diuretics (medications)
Don Quai diabetes (condition)
Echinacea auto immune disorders (condition)-for   prolonged periods of time
Ephedra anxiety, diabetes, glaucoma, heart disease, hypertension, thyroid   disease (conditions);monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor drugs
Fever Few blood thinners, pain killers (medications)
Garlic anticoagulants (medications)
Ginger anticoagulants
Ginkgo blood thinners, pain killers
Ginseng asthma, heart disorders, high blood pressure, hypoglycemia, insomnia   (conditions)
Hops antidepressants (medications)
Horsetail vitamin B1-Thiamine
Juniper iron and other minerals
Kava Kava alcohol, anti-anxiety, antidepressants (conditions and medications)
Lady’s Mantle iron and other minerals
Peppermint iron
Uva Ursi pregnancy (condition)

Though the above should certainly not be used as a means of self medicating, it can make designing an appropriate and supportive nutritional supplement program a bit easier. Let your physician and health care professionals do the heavy lifting but take some time to do a little extra fact checking on your own.

Until next time…BeWell

Fertile Ground-Love for the Ladies

Hanging with my girls at a recent BBQ, the topic of female fertility came up. As we marveled at a 50+ woman who looked decades younger we segued into the progress that has been made in the anti-aging industries and pondered what a relief it would be if we could preserve our reproductive health as gracefully as we potentially can our beauty. As thirty something women, no matter how accomplished or professionally focused we may be, it can be very hard to avoid what my friend calls the “no baby crazies”. And though we may not be ready at this very moment those proverbial biological ticks can, at times, dong as loudly as the liberty bell, trample over an otherwise relaxed encounter and bear down on a blossoming relationship like a souped up Mack truck.

Now I know the world of nutritional healing has both its share of long guarded secret recipes as well as new and innovative approaches to slow the aging process, so I immediately focused my hunt on if and how we women could preserve our creative capabilities. Certainly the overall state of our reproductive health has to be analyzed first. Our bodies are beyond complex and so many factors come into play when making that determination. But, as that is literally an encyclopedia set’s worth of information, we will start with the assumption of an already healthy and fertile system.

Laying the Foundation

A diet rich in anti-oxidant foods and supplements is extremely important to overall reproductive health. These nutrients counteract potentially damaging effects of environmental and metabolic toxins. Protective super-foods like vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables along with anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids and the absence of risky habits like cigarette smoking and heavy alcohol consumption (more than 1-2 drinks/day, 3-4 days/week) definitely provide ongoing nourishment to an already healthy system. Additionally, certain vitamins and minerals are especially significant to women.

B6 is believed to both regulate and extend the length of a woman’s Luteal Phase. The Luteal Phase is the portion of the menstrual cycle beginning the last day of ovulation and continuing through the first day of menstruation. The results are the formation of corpus luteum and the secretion of the progesterone hormone. The progesterone hormone prepares the uterine lining for implantation of the fertilized egg and helps to sustain that egg through the first trimester of pregnancy. Consequently, a healthy Luteal Phase is critical to both conception and full term pregnancy. 300 mg/day of B6 is a good supplemental amount; and as vitamin B6 is water-soluble (any unused amounts are excreted by the body) a sustained release version is preferred over the quicker forms.

Getting a Head Start

I’ve previously written about the importance of a good multi-vitamin supplement and that could not be truer than for those looking to conceive in the near or far future. Many health professionals recommend taking pre-natal vitamins in place of generic formulations to get more targeted nutritional support that provides appropriate amounts of those nutrients critical to both an expecting mother and her growing child. The prenatal vitamins will have at least 400 mcgs of folic acid to insure the full development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord and more modest amounts of vitamin A to protect against the birth defects that have been linked to the excessive intake of this vitamin.

Another extremely important nutrient to the baby’s brain formation and functioning is docosahexaenoic acid or DHA. This component of omega 3 fatty acid is obtained from cold water fish such as wild salmon, tuna and mackerel. Due to the risk associated with ingesting high levels of mercury when consuming large amounts of seafood, supplementing 300 mg of purified DHA per day may be the safest way to obtain adequate amounts of the nutrient.  Some prenatal multi-vitamins now also include DHA in their formulation.

Herbs for Her

It’s no surprise that my hunt uncovered two commonly used tonic herbs, Vitex or Chaste Tree Berry and Don Quai. Each of these has a long history of use by women to tone the reproductive organs and regulate hormonal activity. Consequently, both herbs are frequently recommended for female conditions ranging from PMS and menstrual irregularities to post partum care and menopause.

Studies on Vitex have revealed its ability to positively act upon the pituitary gland and thereby increase the duration of the Luteal Phase and resulting luteinizing hormone production and progesterone secretion. Did I mention we women were operating some complex machinery? In the simplest of terms, it can help enhance the processes and hormones that enable and sustain pregnancy while decreasing those that prevent it. Vitex should not be taken alongside fertility drugs and should not be used while pregnant. I currently take 400 mg/day and find it very helpful in regulating my cycle and soothing some of the discomfort experienced towards its end.

Don Quai or the so-called “female’s ginseng” has been used for centuries by traditional Chinese doctors to promote overall reproductive health and vitality, increase sexual desire and enhance energy. However, it contains certain compounds that act as estrogen does and may consequently increase risk levels and complications with estrogen related ailments like uterine fibroids, endometriosis and cancers of the reproductive system. Don Quai also contains the volatile oil safrole that may be cancer causing when taken for long periods of time. Therefore, it is safest to take a whole herb supplement or crude extraction instead of a highly processed and concentrated blend of the herb’s active chemicals. Crude preparations tend to keep a more volatile herb safe by maintaining the various compounds in proper proportion to one another, naturally protecting the consumers from danger. Studies have confirmed 3-15 grams/day of the crude herbal extract to be safe. I have personally experienced significant improvements from taking a daily 550 mg dose of the whole herb in capsule form. But because I do suffer with fibroids and adenomyosis, and have seen improvements in the latter condition, I will continue my supplementation at the lower level.

Like Vitex, Don Quai should not be combined with other fertility drugs and should not be taken by women who are already pregnant or nursing. Additionally, Don Quai contains the chemical coumarin that shortens blood clotting times and should therefore not be combined with aspirin or other blood thinning medications. My experience has also lead me to think that Don Quai has the potential to increase menstrual flow and should therefore be suspended in the days leading up to and on through a woman’s period. Both herbs are considered very safe when used as directed by the manufacturer or health care practitioner.

As I close out, I can actually feel my no baby crazies cooling down. Although I believe our bodies definitely do have a mind of their own, I also have faith in nature’s bounty, and think with her wisdom and our thoughtful application anything is possible. The following article may also be helpful.

http://www.conceiveonline.com/articles/pros-and-cons-fertility-supplements

Let’s keep caring for ourselves ladies! Until next time…

BeWell   

Sources:

Balch,Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healings. New York: Avery of
Penguin Putnam Inc, 2002.

http://thefertilityshop.com/fertility_herbs_vitamins.htm

My Favorite Edible Flower

They’re here!!! The May flowers promised to us by April’s downpours are here! We’ve gotten a taste already with the stately Cherry Blossoms and graceful Tulips, and there are so many more blooms to come like the glorious Magnolias and Lilacs. Certainly, these flower-full spectacles are a delight to the eyes and nose (pollen allergies aside), but they are fast becoming known as a delight to the palate as well. Wildflowers are especially regarded in this manner as they’ve long served as that “secret- ingredient” sneaked into our favorite soups, sauces and stews. And my favorite is no exception.

Thyme. Picture taken in 2003.
Thyme. Picture taken in 2003. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My beloved Thyme. For whatever the reason, I just can’t get enough. And I’m clearly not alone, for it has admirers spread about the globe with at least two dozen different countries indulging in its versatility. Native to North Africa, Asia and Europe, this perennial plant is a savored ingredient in Nigerian, Caribbean, Indian, French and Italian cuisine. Alongside its culinary praise lies a rich history dabbed with a few folkloric claims. In Egypt, the Ancients used it to embalm their deceased; and during the Middle Ages the Europeans employed it as a sleep aid and declared it a wartime good luck – charm.

In my home, thyme is key. I use it to season fish, poultry, lamb, root veggies, stuffings and sauces. And though I’m aware of its therapeutic and medicinal components, I must admit that my experience in those ways only barely scratches the surface of this herb’s reputed worth.

  • A topical astringent and soothing body rub
  • An oral antiseptic for gum and throat infections
  • An internal worm expellant

The volatile oil within thyme contains antispasmodic compounds like phenols, thymol and carvacrol with calming qualities that soothe joints, muscles and organ systems. These compounds not only aid in the relief of discomfort and pain for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, but also make thyme tea a recommended remedy for labored digestion and flatulence.

To make thyme infused massage oil simply place a full sprig of the plant in the oil of your liking and let it keep a few weeks before using. Agitating the infusion with a gentle shake or two per day will trigger a release of the plant’s volatile oils. This oil can also be placed in the bath to counteract muscle aches and made into an ointment to treat everything from minor skin infections to severe viruses.

Thyme tea is prepared by pouring a cup of boiling water over one teaspoon of dried thyme. Cover and let it steep for fifteen minutes before straining, use this same mixture as a gargle for sore throats and mouth sores.

Thymol and carvacrol are also antibacterial and anti-fungal, and thus act as expectorants, breaking up mucus and helping relieve symptoms of the common cold, whooping-cough and bronchitis. To prepare a cough syrup, pour one pint of boiling water over one ounce of dried thyme and let it cool to room temperature. Once cooled, strain the liquid and add one cup of honey and mix well. Store in the refrigerator and shake before using.

A general rule of thumb when working with herbs is to use more when they’re fresh and less when dried. This is especially true for cullinary use but also applicable for therapeutic  mixtures. Though I’ve gotten quite happy with thyme in many of my dishes, I have never felt that I went too far. So trust your palate, indulge and enjoy!

Til next time…

Be Bold and BeWell

SOURCES

Richard Mabey, The New Age Herbalist. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster,1988

Jude C. Williams, Jude’s Herbal Home Remedies. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2001

A Few Spring Forget Me Not’s

Though Mother Nature has seemingly been a bit torn between seasons here in New York, this week is looking to be more on the side of Spring, and today perhaps Summer, than Winter. Of course there may be an abrupt change of heart in future forecasts; but why not step in time with this moment, revisit some necessary to-do’s, and take a look at this season’s treasures.

1.       Cleanse

I know by now you are fully aware that cleansing is my top of the list recommendation during a change in season. And though I don’t advocate cleansing as a weight loss tactic, I’ll briefly jump on that bandwagon and point out some aesthetic benefits of the cleansing process:

  • It’s a great way to clean the slate and start a new eating plan or diet.
  • It often leaves the tummy noticeably flatter due to the removal of all that un-digested, let’s just call it “matter”, in the intestinal tract.
  • The eyes have been known to brighten and the skin to glow after cleansing.

2.       Replenish Your Allergy Kit

Truth is allergy sufferers have really not gotten a break since last Summer’s A season began. Remember that the warmer winter ushered in an early bloom of several flowers and plants; and my understanding is that we should buckle in for a long haul because those bloomers will not be shortening their stay to account for the early arrival. Just in case you’ve forgotten your natural anti-histamine options:

  • MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), found in seafood, meats and fresh fruit, has antihistamine capabilities that rival those of over the counter allergy meds. Taking 1000mg twice a day has helped me to sneeze and cough less over these last few weeks.
  • Honey, especially the locally harvested, increases your tolerance for the pollen floating through the air and can bring quick relief from allergy symptoms. A tablespoon or two taken at the first sign of a reaction should do the trick.

3.       Delight in Spring Fruits and Veggies

Eating with the season helps us to rotate foods and that not only keeps our diets fresh and diverse, but also helps prevent the development of food allergies. Nutritionally speaking, these spring treats have what it takes to keep us both strong and beautiful.

  • Beets are definitely a rooter to the tooter powerhouse. The green leafy tops are rich in fiber, Vitamin A, and other age defying anti-oxidants. The vegetable’s roots are not only highly regarded for their rich Iron and Vitamin C content; but they also contain the phytochemical Glycine Betaine that counteracts plaque promoting homocysteine and thus helps protect us from stroke and coronary heart disease. Eating beets raw or lightly cooked guarantees the fullest dose of nutrients.
  • Asparagus are definitely among the under-appreciated members of the vegetable family. Hopefully that ceases right here and now as they are excellent sources of several nutrients and therefore offer multiple health benefits. Asparagus contain significant amounts of folates, important to DNA synthesis, and are thus highly beneficial to expectant mothers. They are also rich in B- Vitamins and thereby capable of enhancing both metabolic function and energy production. Another understated asparagus gem is their Vitamin K content; one serving offers 35% of the recommended daily amount. Vitamin K helps our blood to clot, bonds calcium to our bones and may reduce our bodies’ susceptibility to bruising.
  • As delicious as they are, berries usually need no amen corner to boast their benefits. The commonly adored strawberry is not only low on the glycemic index, as all berries tend to be, it is also packed with antioxidants like Vitamin C and critical minerals like Potassium and Magnesium. And due in part to those assets, this celebrity berry is great for joint health. Apparently the high antioxidant content helps keep many arthritis and gout symptoms at bay. Making fighting degeneration, maintaining healthy joint fluid, and preventing toxic build-up all strengths of the strawberry.
  • Few may regard the apricot as the secret beauty weapon it is but that doesn’t change its worthiness of praise. Among many other nutrients, apricots happen to contain more beta- carotene than almost any other fruit. Beta-carotene is one naturally occurring, highly pigmented compound our bodies can use to make the biologically active Vitamin A. Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant associated with preventing premature aging of the eyes and skin. Additionally, apricots are high in fiber and consequently protective to the digestive tract, helping to ward off conditions such as constipation, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis. Enjoy apricots fresh, canned or dried without sulfur dioxide as its use has been linked to various health issues.

4.       Last But Not Least

Make time to feel the sun and smell the flowers. Tis the season of renewal and sometimes a moment of rebirth can be achieved by simply standing and savoring the day before us. Until next time, take a moment…

Be Still and BeWell

Sources

http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/beets.html

http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/health-benefits-of-strawberry.html

http://apricotfacts.com/apricots/Health+Benefits+of+Apricots/

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, I Pray the Soul My Body and Mind to Keep

Last Tuesday I awoke to the beginning of the most bizarre and cathartic healing process I’ve ever experienced. And because I am still recuperating, my ability to effectively research and write is limited. So, this was going to be the sorry I’m out sick un-post, but then I reconsidered. It dawned on me that though the meat of this blog has become nutritional healing, the greater point is still wellness. So, I’d like to share a little of my experience. It might come in handy for someone, someday.

As I said, when I woke last Tuesday morning something was terribly wrong. The first indication was an easily disregarded one. I felt really tired, like I had a few more hours of sleep in me, but that is a very normal Tuesday experience given my Monday work schedule. However the next sign was impossible to ignore-uncontrollable, non-stop shivering. This was disconcerting to say the least, but it was a really cold day here in NYC and the heat in my building was just starting to crank in, or so I rationalized. But the shivering continued even through a hot shower. ??Now the next clue was a symptom I loathe-vomiting. God I hate it! And I told myself if it happened more than that one time, I’d have to call out from work because I likely wouldn’t be able to make the train ride down without another incident. Well boy oh boy did “it” happen again; and not only it, but also “its” opposite end buddy. And then they commenced to toss me back and forth for a few rounds. Yep, it was time to call the job. I’d barely been awake for one hour, rough morning to say the least.

Between my bathroom breaks, I tried to backtrack and figure out what the hell I’d had or did to cause this and, equally important, what “this” was and needed to go bye-bye. Based on the weekend’s events and a Sun/Mon sneezathon, I determined my ailment to be the flu and started thinking about how I could get some medicine. By then I was weak, in crazy pain, and unable to stand upright; and going out in the cold to get the medicine could make it worse. Drug store delivery? No. Close by friend? Yes.

God love her because in the short time it took her to arrive with the day and night flu pack I’d gone a few more rounds with the V & S crew and could barely stand upright for more than moments at a time. I’m sure that leaving me there seemed the worst resort but I assured her that I simply didn’t do sick well, just needed sleep and medicine, and would call her and emergency assistance if things got out of hand. Ha! Because they were clearly under control at that moment. I tell you I marvel at my stupidity sometimes. Anyhow…

My plan was to start with the nighttime meds first and sleep off the pain, let the body heal, and reserve the daytime meds for the following workday.  A couple hours later I woke up feeling better. And the following day still better but with an oddly achey right shoulder, like I’d strained it or something. Nothing during my sleep, like a sharp pain or numbness, stood-out. And my life, and therefore work, had to go on. So I did what I was previously committed to that Wednesday -work at the store, train my client, and sub a dance class. I definitely at times felt and admittedly overtaxed my shoulder with that day’s line-up, but never did I think any of it would lead to the agony of the following day.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Early a.m.-Hell, Fire and Damnation! What the fcuk have I done to myself?!!?

Mid a.m.-Oh my gypsies, the pain is excruciating! I can’t move my right side from the waist up.

Late a.m.-The pain is still throbbing, it really hurts to inhale fully but there doesn’t seem to be any dislocation. God I hope I didn’t tear the rotator cuff.

Early afternoon-Ok, less throbbing but I can’t really bend over without a lot of pain. Making the bed took 25 minutes. And I can’t pick anything up from the floor. Even cradling my right arm doesn’t help with that one. I bet this is one way people start learning to cook and drive with their feet. I can only pick up chords and small round things with my toes.

Mid afternoon– I still can’t put any weight on it, but I can lift the right arm to almost shoulder level, either straight or bent. I can rotate it out to the side and back in. The left arm still has full range of motion but when I reach above head with it, the right side hurts. I’ll give it rest. I’ll give it heat then cold.

Evening– The heat feels great, but the cold is damn near debilitating. Now the pain seems to start just right of my sternum and pierce through the same point of my back. Like a stake through my chest. I can’t breathe past that point and God help me if I sneeze.

Bedtime-What if I sit down and swing my legs onto the bed-ouch, nope. Or maybe I can slowly lower onto my left side and roll onto my back, let my legs follow and then scoot over to the middle of the bed? Then I just have to find a position and angle to place my head and arm in…

That hurt but I finally made it. I can’t move from this position though so hopefully I’ll dose off soon.

Wee morning hours– I wonder how long it took me to get into bed. Who cares? At least you made it without your legs seizing up again. If that happened I honestly couldn’t handle it. I think I would die from all the pain. Last time it happened I could at least move my upper body, but this time. I, I…no I wouldn’t survive.

I feel like something is stuck, locked and waiting for release. Maybe this is a job for a chiropractor. Lying like this and staring straight up is like lying in a box. A coffin. Can you imagine the horror of being buried alive? If I do die, and you know I don’t want that, but if it were simply my time, as much I haven’t seen, I could accept it. I have much. Thank you. Honestly the whole mouse in the house episode doesn’t seem like much now. Thanks for that too. Oh! Please not the spasms, please! Ok, wiggle the toes. Bounce the legs. Pull in the navel. And breathe; try to breathe deep, past the pain, the sharp point. Keep your head aligned your ribcage down and breathe into your legs, all the way to your toes. Use your left hand to punch the thighs a little. It’s gonna be ok. But my head is tingling. Girl, that’s probably all that breathing. Don’t make me laugh.

When I woke Friday, I had to get ready for work as efficiently as possible. I tried to recall the methods I’d used before to get out of bed, bathe and dress myself. Every small task became deliberate in nature. Choreographed. But that only got me through my rituals. Navigating my environment required constant presence of mind, observation, anticipation of possible obstacles, and instantaneous problem solving. These are all skills employed outside of the home; but keeping those guards up inside was exhausting and when I slipped up, intensely painful.

Still, I took no meds because I didn’t want to unknowingly make my situation worse. Pain was my only barometer and it was localizing a little every day. I still didn’t know what I’d done to set the whole thing off, but the existing symptoms weren’t getting worse and new ones weren’t emerging. And even better, sometime during Saturday’s semi sleepless night I broke through my breathing barrier! As annoying as my allergies were, I swear I could’ve French kissed the pollen right then because finally I could sniff, blow my nose, clear my throat and even yawn without feeling serious pain. God bless the little things!

So, against my friends’ advice I opted not to go to the ER feeling confident that the issue was not with an internal organ but something muscular. However, as a customer stated and I would soon start to ponder, “…self diagnosis is the road to hell”.

On Tuesday, exactly one week after waking with what I thought was the flu, I went back to a full schedule. And the early part of the day went relatively well. I thought I made all of the necessary adjustments at work, but by the time I got to my client things were bad. During our session I started feeling pressure radiating up the thoracic and cervical parts of my spine into the back of my head and clogging my ears. It felt like a two ton truck sitting on me and I was terrified. This was a completely new symptom and I wasn’t taking any chances on possible neurological damage. Now I was going to the ER. And by the time I arrived, I was in tears and couldn’t even write with my right hand. The hospital’s admitting staff was working their job like an assembly line; so they ignored this response to their demand that I complete the admittance questionnaire. Another patient took notice and he wrote the necessary info down for me. I guess this caught the staff’s attention and they brought me in to take BP, heart rate and temperature. These were relatively ok and so I was instructed to wait. Naturally I became less anxious at the prospect of finally getting some clarity on the whole thing, even as the pressure persisted. At least I was under professional care.

By the time I got to see the actual doctor I’d be working with, I’d been asked four times by four different nurses and/or interns to recount from the beginning how the symptoms all began. I was exhausted by the redundancy, their sighs of boredom and their rolling eyes, especially given it was only at their request that I was retelling every little detail. They weren’t narrowing the process by asking specific questions and I didn’t know how I’d injured myself to give them the short version. I had to tell the doc my concern of spinal damage and paralysis for her to go beyond the strength and range of motion assessments to those testing for sensory response and nerve damage. Afterward, in a dry and slightly condescending tone, she informed me that I was having a muscle spasm. Thankfully, her assistant/ intern had osteopathic experience and offered to try and locate the center of the tension for me. She felt for and found a lot of hardness in the muscles of my upper right back. She asked the doc to feel. But the doctor couldn’t tell any difference. Never the mind, my greatest fears had been ruled out and poor bedside manner was a tiny price to pay.

I was given a shot to bring down any inflammation and a muscle relaxer for the pain. I was given prescriptions for Motrin and Codeine, advised to take some time off and instructed to follow up with my primary physician in a week. By the time I was released I felt a bazillion times better. And I actually got some real sleep. So, was it all worth it?

Though I would never advocate this approach for any of my clients or customers, for me it was necessary. It allowed me to conquer some long held fears and self imposed limitations, feel my body’s inherent healing power, gain a deeper faith in my higher self and/or the divine’s (however you call it) protection, and let go of the delusions that certain aspects of my lifestyle were still practical and working.

As I said before, I juggle a few different hats to make ends meet; and when they’re all up and moving, things are good. But if one of them or I fall, the whole house comes down. Regardless of what actually caused this, and I still don’t know, having to work through it and not having the means to take off and fully recover absolutely caused the deeper damage. I am fortunate that the “culprit” was ultimately what I figured it to be, and I am fortunate to walk away with more insight into how to navigate a healing process while living alone. The things most worthy of reconsideration:

  1. Know which of your friends and/or family members can get to you most quickly. Consider the distance between you and take into account your daily schedules. Have conversations and determine if and how you can help one another in cases of emergency.
  2.  Have a stocked first aid kit that includes basic medications for things like fever, inflammation or pain.
  3. Determine with whom you’d feel most comfortable making emergency medical decisions on your behalf. Again, have the necessary conversations and make the necessary agreements and arrangements (i.e. living wills, powers of attorney, etc.)
  4. For the partially or noninsured and those without sick pay, start saving at least one week’s earnings to allow room to take off from work and heal or recuperate when necessary.

Tomorrow marks two weeks since this ordeal started and the symptoms are steadily, albeit slowly, improving. There is still discomfort and sharp surges of pain, but it is much less intense and they are much less frequent. I decided against filling the prescription and just take Aleve as needed.  And since my pain free range of motion is still limited, I try to do simple head, neck and arm stretches throughout the day. I also massage the area to help loosen the tension and can even get in and out of bed with less drama and pain. And oh yes, I’ll be following up with my own doctor in a few days.

I have to thank my friends for their patience and faith in me. I know I narrowly escaped a group staged intervention, abduction and hospital drop off. And I also thank you for your support and reading of this post as I know it was no quickie. Though the hope is to never be in a position to need any of the above info, the reality of current times is that we at some point probably will. Better to be prepared and thus truly BeWell.

Until next week…

Meet the Mac, A Guy and Girl’s Best Friend

In my quest for truly effective energy enhancers that don’t overheat, over stimulate or become habit-forming to the system I happened upon Maca Root, or Lepidium Meyenii for the truly technical speakers. Now I’d passed this herb over several times because of its prevalence in men’s health and performance products; but it recently pulled me in after multiple female customers came in requesting it. So, I decided to give it a try. Let’s meet the Mac.

This herb hails from the Peruvian and Bolivian rainforests of the Andes Mountains. It is in fact a diet staple of those native to this region. Similar in size to a turnip, the Maca is a cruciferous root vegetable belonging to the potato family. It is able to grow in very cold harsh conditions where few others can survive, including potentially contaminating pests, which allows for a mostly organic cultivation of the plant.

The Reputation

Rumored to be the pregame fuel of the ancient Inca warriors, the root of the Maca plant is indicated for enhancements in strength, endurance, virility, sexual appetite and immunity. The roots are prepared as other vegetables of the kind-roasted, baked and/ or boiled, mashed and blended into porridge, but rarely if ever eaten raw. The leaves, less medicinally revered, can be eaten as a raw salad or cooked green. There are yellow, red, purple and black hued variations of the Maca, but the yellow seems to be the preferred food and the black may be the most healthful for the male reproductive system. All are apparently used to make Maca supplements.

Why it Works

The Maca’s reputation as a super herb is by no means unwarranted. For, its contents meet the majority of our nutritional needs. Richly diverse, it is a high carbohydrate food that still contains protein and approximately 20 different amino acids. It also houses some health benefitting fatty acids like linolenic, palmitic and oleic oils. And the vitamin and mineral contents surely contribute to its potency:

Lepidium meyenii maca
Image via Wikipedia

Energizing B Vitamins 1, 2 and 12

Blood building Iron and Copper

Bone nurturing Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphorous

Thyroid aiding Iodine

Immune Boosting Vitamins C and E with minerals Zinc and Selenium

Maca root also contains phytochemicals like tannins, saponin, beta-sitosterol and stigmasterol. Tannins are thought to help protect the body against viruses, infections and parasites. Saponins have shown the ability to help nutrients penetrate our bodies’ cellular walls, and beta-sitosterol is a type of plant cholesterol that helps reduce the bodies’ absorption of the less healthy animal based sterols. Stigmasterol, also a phytosterol, benefits us in the same way and is used by the body to make estrogen, testosterone and natural steroid type hormones that counteract inflammation and stress. All of these components combine to create an herb that is fully beneficial to both the ladies and gents.

What it Helps Most

Females                               Males                                    Both Genders

Anemia                                  Decreased virility                    Depleted energy

Menstrual issues                     Low sperm count & motility     Immune deficiency

Menopausal symptoms            Impotence                             Chronic Fatigue

Supplemental FYI

Maca powders are made from both the raw and dried roots. These are available for use in drink and smoothie mixtures, teas, capsules and liquid extracts.

Dosages may range from 100mg per serving for the pure powder to 500mg per serving for the encapsulated versions. Maca Root can be supplemented alone or formulated with other herbs and nutrients for specific health benefits. Always use a product as directed by the manufacturer’s label.

Current research indicates that supplemental Maca is generally safe; however, pregnant and nursing women are advised to consult with their physician beforehand for clearance. And anyone taking pharmaceutical meds should also speak with their doctor about possible negative interactions or interference with their prescriptions.

I’ve only been taking Maca Root capsules for a short time, but so far my experience has been good. I’m anemic, which is what really caught my eye with this herb, and it has made a positive difference in my overall energy levels and, therefore, mood. Many of my more mature female customers swear by it for hot flashes and hormonal balance. It is not a stimulant in the usual sense, so don’t expect to feel that caffeine like rush. The energy is more sustained and results in me feeling less worn through the day. If you’d like to give it a whirl, the following link has some great information and supplement options. Maca Root can also be purchased from your general health food and vitamin stores. Enjoy the new-found vigor! And until next week…

Be Happy, Be Strong and BeWell

Resources

http://www.wholeworldbotanicals.com/best-maca-root-product

http://www.ams.usda.gov/

Sources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lepidium_meyenii

Balch, Phyllis A. A Prescription for Nutritional Healing. NY, NY. The Penguin Group

The Substance of Love

Over the last few weeks we have learned about some lesser known nutrients that directly impact the functioning of the cardiovascular system and heart. But because healthy heart month falls in the shortest of the twelve, we couldn’t showcase all of the foods and herbs known to benefit our most important muscle. Here’s a quick review of the items we did cover.

As befitting as it gets, February is also the month of the infamous L-word; so, I could not let it pass without making mention of the substance most affiliated with this wonderful and wondrous emotion-love’s elder and offspring, Oxytocin.

oxytocin-neurophysin complex based on: "C...
Image via Wikipedia

Oxytocin is a hormone and neurotransmitter possessed by all members of the mammal family. Produced in the brain’s hypothalamus and secreted by the pituitary gland, it is actually composed of nine different amino acids-cysteine, tyrosine, isoleucine, glutamine, asparagine, cysteine, proline, leucine and glycine. One of its primary functions is to regulate the flow of information throughout the reproductive and central nervous systems.

In the reproductive system, Oxytocin helps trigger uterine contractions for childbirth, the mammary glands’ release of mother’s milk, and the transports of the sperm and egg. In the brain and central nervous system, Oxytocin receptors help regulate the behaviors associated with social connection such as identification, association, bonding, sexual pursuit and parental attachment.

Some mammals have Oxytocin receptors in their hearts, and it is currently thought to participate in the development of the human embryo’s heart. In addition to that critical role, Oxytocin is theorized to contribute to many other biological processes. Inflammation is reduced and healing is accelerated after Oxtocin’s release; fear and anxiety subside and feelings of emotional security and contentment are increased.

Our Bodies Hold the Patent

The body produces and releases Oxytocin in response to arousal, loving gestures and moments of intimate connection. And once the connection is made, the mere smiling face of that loved one can trigger the substance’s release. Because there are significant benefits to Oxytocin’s release, yes, scientists have cracked its code and manufactured synthetic versions. But Oxytocin is destroyed in the GI tract so when it’s not naturally produced, it must be injected or inhaled.   In the case of this hormone, once it is secreted by the pituitary gland it is not reabsorbed by the brain. Likewise, synthetic versions of the hormone do not live long in the bloodstream and, for the most part, also do not successfully penetrate the blood brain barrier. For this reason, nasal spray forms have been used in the majority of behavioral studies on Oxytocin; but the reviews of their influence on mood and emotional expression have been mixed. Intravenous forms have been more successfully used to induce labor and support the birth process. However manipulating and interfering with the body’s natural Oxytocin cycle is a tricky thing that can lead to some adverse reactions. Consequently, many health professionals are hesitant to recommend synthetic Oxytocin as treatments for behavioral and reproductive disorders. This leaves the ball in our court. We, more specifically the way we treat one another, are our best means of boosting and maintaining healthy Oxytocin levels. And the more we learn about this substance and its functions within the mind and body, the more we see just how necessary it is to the human experience and evolution.

A Balance Beam

The malfunctions observed by over or under medicating with synthetic Oxytocin mimic those experienced when there is an internal imbalance of the natural form.

Too Much                      Just Right                               Too Little

Cardiac arrhythmia         Lowered blood pressure               Increased anxiety

Pursuit of inappropriate desires   Sense of emotional safety    Emotional neglect

Obsessive emotional experiences     Healthy social bonds           Antisocialness

Additionally, balanced Oxytocin levels have been associated with increased learning capabilities, enhanced immune system function, increased pain thresholds, and reduced stress and cortisol levels.

Upping Your Oxy

There are many ways to boost the body’s Oxytocin levels and experience more of its physical and emotional benefits.   Hugging, cuddling, and kissing all trigger Oxytocin’s release, but that doesn’t mean that romance is the only way to increase this hormonal flow. Making eye contact with loved ones, showing appreciation for family and friends, and displaying empathy for other people all impact the body’s levels. Generously giving love and freely communicating your joy in receiving it are the very best ways to keep this substance flowing. Seems the romantics were right; we actually do come from love. And more apparent, we will not survive without it.

Until next time…

Take care, show you care and BeWell

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxytocin

http://www.oxytocin.org/oxytoc/love-science.html

http://www.delawareonline.com/