vitamins, alternative medicine, antioxidants

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A Health, Nutrition, and Alternative Medicine Blog

Friday, June 27, 2008

St. John’s Wort -Uplifting and Natural!

Some days I just don’t feel quite ‘on’. I can’t tell if it’s the blues or what, but I am just not my cheery, energetic self. I feel a little slow, somewhat negative and even a little anxious and irritated at times. I know we all have those times, but mine seem to come in waves and last for a bit unless I do something drastic like a cleanse or a raw food diet for a couple of days. While cleansing and eating raw food are great, recently a friend shared that she takes St. John’s Wort for her mood. We talked about our moods, which sounded similar, and she raved about how great it is for her.

St. John’s Wort is an herb that can be found in tablet, capsule and tincture form. It can also be found as a tea. It is widely known across the world as a treatment for depression. While the US doesn’t condone herbs and natural treatments in the form of legitimate medicine, other countries such as Germany, prescribe the over-the-counter herb for clinical depression. In Ireland it is treated with much respect and requires and prescription from your doctor.

I decided to go buy St. John’s Wort tincture. It took a few days, but all of the sudden I did feel better, much better. I did wonder if it was the tincture or if it was only the passing of my low mood, but I kept taking it. My experience was that I felt great for a long time while taking it and then allowed myself to run out of the tincture without buying more. By the way, you can get it at most health food stores, such as Whole Foods or your local co-op grocery. I guess I felt so great that I figured I didn’t need it anymore. After just a couple of days I began to feel agitated again and my mood was definitely down. I immediately went to get more and my mood perked right back up.

I now take it every day. I go through a small bottle of tincture every week and a half or so. I take a dropper (or sometimes two) in water 2 or 3 times a day. Whether you buy tincture, tablets or capsules, there will be instructions for it’s use.

If you’re feeling depressed, low and just not quite right, I would recommend giving it a try. It has definitely worked for my best friend and I. It’s natural, not expensive and the results are quite noticeable.

If you do decide to try St. John’s Wort, or any herb really, remember to tell your doctor. Some herbs do not combine well with prescription medicines and your doctor should know everything that you are taking so that your allopathic medicine is in alignment with your alternative healing methods.









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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Big Breakfast = Small Waistline?

Well, mom was right. She always told me to eat a nice big breakfast in the mornings, followed by a lighter lunch and dinner, to keep my weight down as I got older. I always wanted to do the opposite. Now researchers are saying that a large breakfast, followed by a lighter lunch and dinner, is the recipe for weight loss. The older I get, the more I found out that mom was right about a lot of things. I’m not sure I like it.

The study involved 96 obese, physically inactive women and consisted of two diets: low carb and big breakfast. The low carb diet consisted of only 1,085 calories per day, most of which came from protein and fat, while the big breakfast diet allowed 1,240 calories, with a lower portion of fat and more protein and carbohydrates.

In addition, those on the low carb diet made breakfast the smallest meal of the day, while the big breakfast dieters made breakfast the largest meal of the day. The big breakfast looked a little bit like this in terms of calories:

Breakfast: 610 calories

Lunch: 395 calories

Dinner: 235 calories

This information is nice, but I really wish they would have told us in their research what people ate for breakfast. Most people I know can eat a big breakfast, but the contents of that breakfast may not be so healthy.

Four months into this diet, it appeared the low carb group was winning. They had lost around 28 pounds, while the big breakfast eaters had only lost 23.

Eight months into the diet the tables had turned! The low carb dieters had gained about 18 pounds back and the big breakfast eaters had continued on to lose an average of 16 pounds more.

I wonder if this was due to the low carb dieters cheating because they were hungrier. The study doesn’t say, but the researcher who conducted the study, Dr. Jakubowicz from Virginia Commonwealth University, did say that the big breakfast people reported feeling less hungry.

I have to say that when I eat a bigger breakfast I tend to feel full most of the day and can lose weight easier. Unfortunately, breakfast time is not when I am feeling the most hungry. I can be happy with coffee and a small breakfast bar or small bowl of cereal. Many mornings I can go without it altogether, except for the coffee. I do notice that by lunch time I am ravished and instead of grabbing a light lunch, I want something hearty and fulfilling. Since I’ve skipped breakfast, I feel justified to eat more calories and heavier food for lunch. I also eat it quicker because I’m so hungry.

This all makes sense to me. I might even tell mom I read about this. Then she can say, ‘I told you so!’

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Can Asthma Be Caused By Dairy?

Written by Tena Moore

Can asthma be caused by dairy? I never gave the idea a thought until my doctor wanted to put me on daily steroids for my asthma. After refusing the steroid prescription, I shared a pattern I had noticed with my doctor:

I used my inhaler almost every time I ate.

Of course, she wasn't happy that I had decided to refuse the steroids and let me know that if I didn't figure out what was causing the asthma, I'd need to start taking them. She also said she'd give me time to see if I could reduce my asthma by figuring out food allergies.

If you've ever had a food allergy, you know how difficult it is to figure out which food is causing the issue. After looking at my diet habits, I decided it might be dairy. I proposed the idea to a few friends who thought it was preposterous. They could believe it was the weather, my cat, poor air quality or the pollen, but not dairy. While all of those environmental allergens are likely to cause asthma, it didn't explain why I needed to use my inhaler within five minutes after eating cheesy Mexican food or pizza.

Having an allergy to dairy is unlike being lactose intolerant, although they are sometimes confused with each other. Lactose intolerance is an inability to absorb and digest the sugar in milk, known as lactose. Lactose intolerance results in gastrointestinal symptoms, such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain or bloating, diarrhea and vomiting.

Food allergies happen when the body identifies the food as harmful and produces antibodies against the food. In the case of dairy, the body identifies the casein or whey as toxic. A food allergy can involve the body's immune system, cardiovascular system, skin, gastrointestinal tract and respiratory system. A severe food allergy can cause anaphylaxis, swelling of the mouth, throat or airways to the lungs, and an inability to breathe. A less severe food allergy can cause a skin rash or hives, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and yes, wheezing and asthma.

I did quite a bit of online research and found a variety of opinions on the situation. Then I took the information straight to my doctor. She said that yes, it sounded like I had a dairy allergy and asked me to take dairy out of my diet to see if it helped. It did! She also told me to start taking calcium supplements.

When I came home from the doctor, I called my mother and said, "You're going to think this is weird, but at age 36 I think I have a dairy allergy."

My mom's response was, "Again!?"

I found out from mom that when I was about six months old they diagnosed me with a dairy and egg allergy after I broke out in hives and was rushed to the hospital. When I was about two years old my doctor asked her to start reintroducing me to dairy and eggs in small portions. Slowly, she gave me more milk, cheese and eggs (a source of lecithin), until it was 'normal' for me to eat again. After talking to several people about this, I've found that it's quite normal for babies to have dairy allergies.

In hindsight, I’m not sure that I ever got over my food allergies. I had asthma and allergies throughout my childhood and always sounded congested; perhaps I was just tolerating it and taking allergy and asthma medicine to combat the symptoms.

Without dairy, I am no longer bloated, flatulent or congested. I have hardly any mucus at all, which I thought was something that was 'normal' and the best news of all is that I don't have to start taking daily steroids.

Now, I am on a mission to find out if it is casein or whey that I am allergic to, because I just noticed that wheat gives me some of the same symptoms.

Has anyone else experienced dairy allergies in relation to asthma?

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Juice from Sea-buckthorn Berries

Sea-buckthorn Berries May Produce a Juice so Rich in Vitamins and Antioxidants That It may be Considered a Tonic For the Heart.

Most of us have never even heard of a sea-buckthorn bush let alone the fact that the berries of this plant are a potential tonic for our hearts. Well these berries do exist and they are filled with cholesterol reducing compounds that may prevent arteries from clogging.

Sea-buckthorn berries are found from the Atlantic coast of Europe to China, although sea-buckthorn bushes seem to thrive in the semi arid deserts of central Asia.

The juice of sea-buckthorn berries has long been used in China, Tibet, Mongolia, and Russia as a health drink. Due to the acidic nature of the berries, they are not pleasant to eat. However, when mixed with other sweet juices such as apple or grape they are much more palatable for our consumption. This juice is full of vitamin C, vitamin E, amino acids, and minerals that may prevent bad cholesterol from becoming oxidized thus reducing an individual’s risk of coronary artery disease.

Recently, a new process has been developed to extract the juice of the sea-buckthorn berry that allows forty percent of the original polyphenol, fifty percent of the flavonoids and seventy percent of the vitamin C to remain in the juice. The improvement in the extraction process may enable the juice to become more marketable for western consumers as a preventative tonic for the heart.








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Can Drinking Alcohol Increase Chances of Breast Cancer?

The two may seem completely unrelated, but researchers have found that drinking alcohol may increase chances of hormone-sensitive breast cancer in women. What’s more is that they are not just talking about chronic alcohol consumption or even having 2 or 3 glasses of wine with dinner each night. Though the risk does increase with the amount of alcohol one consumes, they are suggesting that even one single alcoholic drink per day, whether a light beer or a martini, is enough to significantly increase the chances.

The study began in 1995 and included statistics from over 184,000 postmenopausal women. By the year 2002, seven years later, over 5,400 new cases of breast cancer were reported in the participants. Their findings were quite dramatic.

They found that those who drank three or more drinks per day had a 51 percent higher chance of developing hormone-positive breast cancer than non-drinkers. That number decreased slightly to 32 percent for those drinking only one to two drinks per day, but was still 7 percent for women who drank less than a single drink per day.

Although the researchers aren’t completely positive as to why this is the case, they are hypothesizing that the alcohol affects estrogen metabolism in such a way that it elevates the risk of breast cancer.

The study was called ‘NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study’ and it was developed by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, along with the AARP, a non-profit membership organization for people over 50. They presented their findings at the 2008 annual American Association of Cancer Research meeting in April.








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Where are Germs Lurking?

Did you know that there is more germ contamination on a kitchen sink sponge than in a toilet? It’s true! According to Dr. Andrew Weil and microbiologist Charles Gerba, kitchen sinks have more germs than toilets. Dr. Weil’s self-healing newsletter suggests that kitchen sponges should be changed or sterilized often (sponges can be sterilized in microwaves by putting the sponge in wet for one minute or just pop the sponge in your dishwasher).

Outside the home, germs are everywhere and most of the time in areas that we do not think about. For instance, ATM buttons and elevator buttons are tied for germ contamination. Since there is no logical way for you to wash your hands when you are near these items, you could choose to carry an alcohol hand sanitizer.

We have all been in this next quandary as to germ contamination when you stay at a hotel or motel. Dr. Weil’s article suggests that the TV remote is far more contaminated than the hotel bedspread, since TV remotes are most often the first thing people (mostly men) touch when they enter the room. Once again, it is suggested that you use a hand sanitizer for your hands and the TV remote control. You will have to draw your own conclusions in this example. As for me...I am not so sure the remote is more contaminated with germs when compared to a hotel bedspread.

Now you head to your local grocery store to get some groceries, and you are wondering "where are the germs lurking?" Well think no more! Grocery store cart handles are contaminated with urine, saliva, and blood. About 55 percent of the cart handles tested were contaminated with urine and/or saliva, and about 21 percent even showed traces of blood.

Heaven forbid you have to use the restroom while out. However, if you find yourself in this predicament which stall should you use? You should use the first stall, since most people do not use the first stall in a public restroom, of course once you have finished using the first stall you should wash your hands thoroughly.




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Monday, June 9, 2008

Green Tea May Protect the Brain From Problems Stemming From Sleep Apnea

Individuals with obstructive sleep apnea suffer from loud snoring and gasping, caused by soft tissues of the throat collapsing intermittently during sleep. When the throat tissue collapses, the airway is blocked for a short period of time, and researchers believe these incidents cause oxygen deprivation. Oxygen deprivation may lead to a more serious condition known as oxidative stress within the brain which may result in cognitive and memory deficiencies along with other potential neurological problems.

Researchers from the University of Louisville conducted a study to determine if catechin polyphenols found in green tea may possibly protect the brain from oxidative stress caused by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). During the study, rats were subjected to oxygen deprivation and, of these, some were given green tea in their water while others were not. Amazingly, the results of the study showed that the rats that were given catechin polyphenols via green tea did not experience oxidative stress.

Catechin polyphenols (antioxidants) appear to render oxygen free radicals harmless, thus preventing oxidative stress within the brain.

Of course, this study is just a beginning and further human studies need to be conducted in order to provide conclusive evidence that green tea will prevent oxidative stress in human brains. However, the results are very promising; perhaps at some point we will see a cup of green tea per day being prescribed alongside the standard medical treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.









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Are Omega Three Fatty Acids Beneficial in the Treatment of Bipolar Disease?

With regard to Bipolar disorder, I am sorry to say that researchers at the University of Oxford have stated that there is not enough information to say one way or the other, although they go on to say that Omega three Fatty acids have no side affects and that they are recommended for a variety of other serious medical conditions such as heart disease and some immune disorders.

Researchers from the university reviewed five studies involving omega three supplements and found only one (a study of seventy-five patients) which had enough information to analyze. Researchers found most information to be varied and questionable, consequently the jury is still out as to the benefits of omega three fatty acids for individuals with bipolar disorder.

Researchers were quick to point out that omega three fatty acids should never replace established psychiatric treatment methods. However, if future studies indicate that omega three fatty acids are beneficial in the treatment of bipolar disorder and other mood disorders, they may become part of an established standard of treatment for these conditions.










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Friday, June 6, 2008

Do Sedentary Individuals Age Faster than Active Individuals?

Researchers from Kings College in London performed a study that involved over two thousand twins and found that individuals who had a more active lifestyle seemed to be biologically younger than their more sedentary counterparts. Kings College researchers studied DNA pieces known as telomeres and found that telomeres were much shorter in sedentary individuals. Researches believe that shorter telomeres may be linked to faster aging.

The study data seems to substantiate a link between an active lifestyle and biological youthfulness. In fact, the study findings indicate that most active individuals had telomere length that was comparable to the telomere length of inactive individuals who were a decade younger.

What does all this mean? Individuals who are active are less vulnerable to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, and study results seem to indicate that active individuals do not age as fast as sedentary individuals. In fact, study results pointed to a quicker aging process for inactive individuals.

King’s College researchers believe that their study proves that adults who exercise regularly are biologically younger than sedentary adults. However, not all physicians are sure of a direct link between a regular exercise and an anti-aging effect. Dr. Jack Gurainik, of the National Institute of Aging, believes that more research will be needed to prove a direct correlation between physical exercise and aging. He went on to suggest that there are other biological factors that may explain the differences found between active and inactive study participants.

All medical professionals seem to agree that regular exercise and healthy diet are important to overall health. Consequently, it does not seem impossible for a direct link to exist between a healthy active lifestyle and biological youthfulness.





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Can People can Live Longer in Spite of Being Overweight?

Yes! You can live longer even if you are overweight, however you need to follow four simple rules for healthy living. Recently, the Public Library of Science and Medicine released the results of a decade long study that involved twenty thousand individuals who were given these simple rules to live a healthy lifestyle.

The four rules are as follows: exercise regularly, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, do not smoke, and do not over indulge in alcohol consumption. Moreover, researchers concluded that an adult who followed these principles would have the same chance of dying at seventy-four as an individual who did not follow these healthy lifestyle rules would have at age sixty.

The results of the Public Library of Science and Medicine study showed that individuals, who were not successful in following the above rules, were four times more likely to have passed away during the ten year study than those individuals who followed these four simple rules. These findings held true even if the individual was overweight or poor, in fact social class or body mass index had not impact upon the benefits of living by these simple rules.

This study and many other studies have shown that regular exercise and healthy eating are key to living a long healthy life.






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Disclaimer: The information provided here is for informational purposes and is not medical advice. Individuals wishing to use supplements or alternative medicine therapies should consult with their doctor beforehand.

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